Blog Category: Apologetics



Can We Talk About Jesus?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our anxious world needs to know the peace of Jesus. His great love for each of us. His desire to walk daily with each of us, to buoy us with joy, strength, and wisdom. We’re not in this alone!

So why aren’t we excitedly telling people about Jesus? One reason is because it feels hard to bring Him up, given that the world so stridently asserts that God and the Bible are fiction. Too many Christians haven’t read the Bible with any depth, so they can’t push back the world’s false claims. Yet we should be reading God’s Word, as it answers our big questions about life and what follows after death.

This post is designed to help grow your knowledge of what the Bible says. You’ll find links to many of our previously published blog posts that focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. How do we know that Jesus was a real person, and that His disciples and many others interacted with Him after He rose? As you read the posts, you’ll discover that the Christian faith is rooted not in “blind faith,” as skeptics suggest, but vetted historical fact. If we can trust that Jesus is real, we can trust that God and His ceaseless love for us are real, too. That’s Good News! Read on.


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For 50+ years, Josh McDowell Ministry has been leading seekers into a deeper knowledge of God’s truth and power. We offer you our accumulated knowledge and research to help you find truth and encouragement to live a healthy and whole life in Christ.


Truth About Jesus and His Resurrection

> Does Historical Evidence Prove that Jesus Lived?

> An Investigation: The Lofty Claims of Jesus.

> Deity of Christ: True or False?

> Is Jesus’ Resurrection Fact? History Weighs in.

> Resurrection Theories Debunked: Christ Rose!

> Resurrection of Jesus: Pre-Resurrection Facts.

> Resurrection of Jesus: Code Critical.

> Resurrection of Jesus: Hoax or Truth?

> Does Science Disprove the Resurrection?

> The Resurrection Answers Three Big Questions.

Truth About The Bible

> Who Recorded Events in the Bible?

> Isn’t the Bible Full of Disagreements?

> Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?

> Are the Bible and Science at Odds?

> An Investigation: Who Decided What to Include in the Bible?

> Did the Bible’s Adam Really Exist?

> Meticulous Scribe, Trusted Manuscript.

> Did Scribes Faithfully Transmit Old Testament Manuscripts?

> Do Alleged Contradictions Skew Bible Truth?

> Archeology Helps to Confirm the Historicity of the Bible.

Truth About Christianity

> Is Christianity A Copycat Religion? Quick VIDEO.

> 3 Foundational Truths of Christianity.

> Three Ways the Resurrection of Jesus Can Transform Your Life Today.

> Hope: Not Wishful Thinking For Christians.

> Showing Christ Relevant to Our Whatever Culture.

> Does God Exist? Quick VIDEO with 5 Arguments.

> Christianity: Putting It All Together.

> Objective Truth: Christian Response to Postmodernism.


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Walking By Faith

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When a child is born, he is not expected to be able to walk until he is about a year old. But if he is not walking by the time he is around 2 years old, it’s clear that something is wrong. Learning to walk is a major turning point in the child’s life, as it ushers in other major developmental milestones. 

Have you considered what is involved in the process of walking? First, we must learn to support our body weight on our legs. Then we have to learn to balance, and stand without support. Finally, we must learn to momentarily place our full weight on one leg, and then transition that weight to our other leg. Only in mastering this transition do we gain the faith that we will, with practice, be able to easily walk on our own.

> Note what the Bible says about the process of walking. 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” As I studied this idea of walking by faith, I noticed three descriptive prepositions that accompany our spiritual walk.


walking by faith


> The first preposition is the word “in.”

Scripture tells us to walk in the steps of faith (Romans 4:12), in newness of life (Romans 6:4), in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), in love (Ephesians 5:2), in Him (Colossians 2:6), in the light (1 John 1:7, Revelations 21:24), and in truth (3 John 1:4). Just as a child learning to walk uses props to aid his balance, these give us balance to trust the Lord during our faith walk.

> The second preposition is the word “as.”

This word is used illustratively, revealing additional truth. 1 Corinthians 3:3 directs us to walk as mature adults; as followers of Christ who have long passed the elementary stages of just beginning to walk. Ephesians 5:8 directs us to walk as children of light, mature in our faith.

> The third preposition is the word “by.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 reveals the methodology of walking on the spiritual level. The Lord is represented by one leg, and you and I by the other. He carries the weight of responsibility and direction; we carry the weight of obedience and faith. We cannot move until He directs us, and He will not move without our obedience and faith.

Our first steps of faith are uncertain, our trust a new process. But as we begin to understand how God is developing us, we gain confidence and skill in walking in harmony with Him. This process is necessary to grow our faith, so that we do not remain undeveloped in His image and likeness. Without developing, we remain insensitive to the Lord’s voice, ineffective in our service, and unconscious of our spiritual existence. Simply put, we become salt that has lost its savor.


Hinderances

Christians often struggle with learning to walk in faith when they lack strong examples. Some don’t receive encouragement to grow, while others hold on to wrong teaching and other hindrances that stall their walk. It’s like they are only able to hobble. Hobbling, as a mode of forward movement, does not get us very far. And the energy it requires is impossible to sustain.

To walk by faith, then, we must trust in the Lord, not ourselves. And as we learn to trust Him to lead and empower us to do His will, we begin to see Him doing more and more through us. We find ourselves not just walking, but running to finish our race!


Guest blogger Vernon Ball, a retired pastor, is 75 years young. In his 50 years of preaching, Vernon pastored five churches and served as interim pastor of four others. He is the author of the book, The Mystery of Faith. A great-grandfather of 12, Vernon is currently involved in international ministries in Eastern Asia. His website: Ballministries.com.


Does the Bible Disempower Women? (Part 2)

Reading Time: 5 minutesIn my previous post I addressed the concern that the presence of women in the Bible is underrepresented. My conclusion was that the Bible tells of God’s interaction in history, and that this history took place within a male-dominated culture. I also pointed to many passages in the Bible that elevate women, despite the male-dominated culture. I sincerely hope that my previous post helps us to realize that the Bible affirms the importance of females in society — and certainly in God’s plans.

In this post I want to address three scriptural references that appear to devalue women. As God made males and females in His image (Genesis 1:27), we must start with the assumption that both are sacred in His eyes. Both, then, have extraordinary dignity, value, and worth. So how are we to view passages which seem to run counter to this?



Understanding Scripture Clearly

Genesis 2:18

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (ESV)

Someone recently asked me what we were created for. The implied question was, “What is my purpose in life?” Creation implies purpose. In the creation story of females, it might appear to you that their purpose is to live as  less valued assistants for males.

But let’s not be hasty in draw definitive conclusions about the social status of women using this verse. To take a more academically robust approach, we should look up the original Hebrew word for “helper” to see how it is used in Scripture. In doing so, we can compare how the word functions with clearer examples of social status.

The word for “helper” in Genesis 2:18 is ezer. It is used positively (“giving” help or “being” help) 15 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In 10 cases, it is God who provides the help. (Deuteronomy 33:7 and 29, Psalm 20:2, Psalm 70:5, Psalm 89:19, twice in Psalm 121:1-2, Psalm 124:8, Psalm 146:5, and Hosea 13:9.)

I would argue that “helper” in Genesis 2:18 is not a term meant to belittle or degrade the female role. God himself proudly bears that same title for His people. (See Hosea 13:9.)


Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (ESV)

Perhaps more than anywhere else, this passage is used to challenge the value of a women in a marriage relationship. There are even certain traditions where husbands will use this passage as leverage for power and to demand submission from their wives.

Evidently, these men missed the verses of this passage which come immediately after:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'” (Ephesians 5:25-31 ESV).

Notice that the passage on husbands is longer (likely because it was a much more radical statement for that culture). But even more to the point, notice how this passage is an even greater calling to a self-sacrificial position for men! Husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

How did Christ give himself up for the church? He died! This powerful metaphor has strong implications. We could simply say this: “Wives: Submit. Husbands: Die.” As Paul makes clear, this model of marriage maps onto the beautiful dance between Jesus and His beloved church, the so-called “bride” of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelations 19:7).

Submission is an interesting word in our time. We struggle with it because we have seen how easily it becomes distorted into ugliness, with the lowered status of the one submitting. But Scripture presents submission in a different light. Christ Himself submits to the Father (Mark 14:36, Philippians 2:5-11) as part of His divine role in the in the life of the Trinity.

Notice that husbands also are to submit to their wives, though it is in a different kind of way. Paul instructs the husband to give himself to his wife in a self-sacrificial way of love. That could also be understood a type of submission!


1 Corinthians 14:34-35

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (ESV)

This is one of the most puzzling passages in Paul’s writings. A first-impression reading seems to imply that women were instructed to remain totally silent during the entire church service. However, most interpreters would argue that the restriction is limited to a contextual situation. Not because they are trying to force the meaning into becoming more comfortable. But because earlier in this same writing, Paul gives instruction concerning proper decorum for women when they prayed or prophesied in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5).

As Paul recognized the prayers and prophecies of women in church, how should we understand Paul’s command for women to remain silent?

  • One suggestion is that women and men sat in separate sections of the church, and there was an issue within the Corinthian church where the women kept asking questions to their husband across the room. It created a noisy and distracting environment, and Paul is telling these wives to hold their questions until a later time.
  • A second suggestion is that Paul gives a prohibition for a specific kind of question-asking that was employed as a method of teaching. In Bible times, the teacher would often teach by asking questions, and Paul is instructing women to avoid that teaching role.
  • Another suggestion is that this prohibition relates specifically to the preceding section of Scripture regarding the evaluation of prophecies. Perhaps Paul limited this role to men?
  • A final, more appealing suggestion is that Paul’s statement that “women should keep silent…” was actually a quotation of what the Corinthians were saying about women, and Paul brings it up in order to rebuke the statement in verse 36. Biblical Greek did not use quotation marks, so the translator of Paul’s writing used contextual clues to determine when something is quoted.

My point in sharing these suggestions is not to solve this perplexing issue, but to show that we must be careful when we read it at surface value. We should not be hasty to use this passage as a prooftext that the Bible has an anti-woman bias.

The same must be said for other difficult passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and 1 Timothy 2:12. My suggestion is to invest in good commentaries, to help you clearly understand these passages.


Final Thought

There are essentially two competing views that theologians have when it comes to the roles of women. One view, complementarianism, believes that men and women have equal status as human beings, but different roles designed by God to compliment each other. The other view, egalitarianismbelieves that men and women have equal status as human beings and there is no differentiation between roles. Both of these views wholeheartedly affirm that men and women have equal status as human beings.

As males and females are made in the image of God, there is no difference in their right to receive the full benefit of the life offered in Christ (Galatians 3:25-28). If the value of women is denied, it is a grievous, heretical view that stands outside the boundaries of God’s global, ecumenical Church.


Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


It’s Okay to Not be Okay

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not okay to stay there.

I walked into Christian churches, concerts, and events for years with the goal of performing. As a pastor’s son, I thought I had an image to uphold, so I acted like I had my life together. I believed in performance-based acceptance. As long as I acted like I wasn’t sinning, everything was “good.” If my relationships with God and others were great, I believed that people would like and accept me. 

But I didn’t have my life together. I was incredibly lonely, sinning with pornography, and feeling distant in my relationships. I was terrified that if someone found out who I was, they would reject me and expose my sin. I believed Satan’s lie that I was not enough. Thoughts flowed through my head as I labeled myself “unloveable,” “unworthy,” and a “failure.” I not only believed these false labels in the context of my human relationships, but in my relationship with God Himself. 

I had hidden sin, in the place we are supposed to have the freedom to expose and confess our sin. But I felt like I needed to fake it, even in church, to be accepted. Can you relate?


Wholeness blog #hurthealedwhole


For 50+ years, Josh McDowell Ministry has been leading seekers into a deeper knowledge of God’s truth and power. We offer you our accumulated knowledge and research to help you find truth and encouragement to live a healthy and whole life in Christ.


Imposter Syndrome

I think that we are subtlety told through the media that we need to be perfect. We live in constant comparison with others, believing they are better than us. Men are told they need to be strong and tough. Women are told they need to support and be perfect. We follow others we look up to, assuming they have it all together. Instead of giving us motivation to become better, this comparison tears us down. It reinforces that who we are is not good enough, and never will be.

I have even seen this in the Church, and I’m sure you have, too. No matter how much I tried to perform and be like a pastor, or influential leader, I still failed. No matter how much I read my bible and prayed, I still sinned. The lie is that if we have a good relationship with Christ, we won’t struggle or fail. If we are thriving, we won’t be failing.

Have you ever heard the expression “Fake it till you make it”? It’s the Imposter Syndrome. It says, “Don’t let anyone find out who you really are, because you won’t make it if they know who you really are.” 

But here is the reality: we are not good enough on our own! This is why Jesus came.


Okay to Not be Okay

When we understand the grace we have been given, the true nature of the Gospel, it becomes okay for us to not be okay. We can understand our sin, but also understand the Savior who paid for it.  Check out my friend Matt’s article on the guilt we feel, even when we are forgiven.

Sometimes it takes confession to realize that it’s okay to not be okay. Through years of porn addiction, I had built up the belief that it was not okay to not be okay. But in a moment of brokenness fueled by hope, I reached out and trusted others with my sin. When I admitted that I was not okay, I was met with love, understanding, and acceptance. I wasn’t rejected, like I thought I would be. This is when I learned that I could share my struggles, and not be looked down upon for them.

But there was a second lesson I learned: It is empathetically okay not to be okay, but when that okay hinders us from something that may better us, it’s not okay.


Christ Calls Us To More

The initial moment of confession, expressing our brokenness to another person is huge. But it should not end there. This life will throw many problems and pains at us. Maybe it’s divorced parents, a pandemic, difficult people, or sin. When we begin to open up about our pain, and process it with others, we are taking the second step to not stay that way.

To grow to become the person Christ created us to be, we must first confess, then process our sin and pain. Christ promises forgiveness in 1 John 1:9. But stopping there often does not produce the relational and emotional healing we desire. James 5:16 promises healing when we confess and pray for each other.

Our sin has consequences that we must deal with. We need to process the pain, understand the root of the issue, and take steps to remove ourselves from the problem. It is always tempting for us to isolate in fear. But we should run to others, with the hope of being met with love. 


Dealing With Sin and Pain

To begin my journey of confession and repentance, I needed permission. It took following authentic people who told me that I could be real. I sat for years hidden in my shame and guilt, believing the lie that I was not good enough. I showed up to church weekly lying about my great life. But when the authentic people opened up around me, and told me that it was okay not to be okay, I gave it a shot. I confessed to God, confessed to others, and began to repent from my sin.

Practical steps for dealing with sin and pain:

~ Take it to God in confession. Be real and share your true emotion.
~ Take it to others in confession and conversation. Be honest.
~ Process it. Name the fears, the sin, and talk through it with others. This is repentance.

That initial moment of opening up was terrifying for me. And it might feel terrifying to you. But don’t let your fear stop you. Confession is your first step to freedom. Here is your permission: it’s okay not to be okay, but don’t stay that way.

Jesus has paid for your sin in full, and God looks at you through Christ’s death. When you accept that good news, you become as white as snow in His eyes. So confess, repent, and experience health and freedom. Take the first step of confession!


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AUSTIN IS PART OF THE SPEAKING TEAM AT JOSH MCDOWELL MINISTRY.


Does the Bible Disempower Women? (Part 1)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Some Ask, “Does the Bible disempower women?”

This question deserves a lot of care. For the typical 21st century reader, there is a striking amount of testosterone in the Bible. Men undoubtedly played a large role in God’s story of redemption. The patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) were all male. The monarchs (David, Solomon, etc.) were all male. The twelve disciples were all male. Noah, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Jonah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter… all male. Every identifiable author of Scripture is male. God self-identifies in the Bible with masculine terms.

The apparent “masculinity” in Scripture is a valid concern. But is there evidence that the Bible also speaks highly of women who played important roles in God’s grand story of redemption? Absolutely.



Did Males Matter More?

To answer this question, we must put ourselves into the mindset of Biblical times.

Back then, females were typically treated as the property of their fathers or husbands. Females generally lacked leadership roles. They were mostly confined to their homes for household chores. Their testimony was generally distrusted, and certainly carried no legal weight.1 We learn these things by reading ancient law and other ancient writings by those who commented on cultural practice. Bible background dictionaries and commentaries are helpful in locating these sources. Clearly, females did not hold equal societal status with males.

Yet it might surprise you to see how often a positive, empowering view of females appears in the Bible’s narrative. Women prophesied the words of God. Women played important roles in preserving God’s people. Women served alongside prominent male leaders like Jesus and Paul. Women held positions of leadership within the Church.

Specific examples:

  • Deborah was a female prophet and judge of Israel. In Judges 4 we learn that she successfully encouraged Barak to fight against Sisera for Israel’s freedom. Sisera fled Barak on foot and was killed by Jael, also a woman. Deborah had prophesied that the glory of the battle would not fall to Barak, because the God would give Sisera into the hand of a woman.
  • Other prophetesses in Scripture include Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3), Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and Anna (Luke 2:36-38).
  • God used a woman to punish Abimelech for his evil (Judges 9:53, 56).
  • Proverbs speaks highly of a mother’s teaching (Prov. 1:8, 6:20, 31:26).
  • The book of Ruth commends her exemplary faithfulness and trust in God. Ruth’s story is further honored by connecting her as a key player in the lineage of King David (Ruth 4:13-17).
  • The book of Esther focuses on God’s faithfulness at using a courageous woman to save His people.
  • A number of women traveled with Jesus alongside the disciples, and financially supported Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3).
  • Acts 17:4 tells us that many “leading women” were persuaded by the preaching of Paul and Silas.
  • Priscilla (also known as Prisca) and her husband Aquila became important companions of Paul in the formation of the early church. Interestingly, Priscilla is often mentioned first among the two, suggesting that she had a prominent role as a missionary.2 See the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary entry for Prisca. Interestingly, Adolf von Harnack went even further and argued that Priscilla was the author of Hebrews. A few other scholars have followed. There is some circumstantial evidence for this, but not enough to draw any confident conclusion.
  • In Romans 16:1-2, Paul commends Pheobe to the Roman church, instructing them to welcome her as a saint, and to help her with her requests.
  • In Romans 16:7, Paul compliments Junia as a woman “well known to the apostles.”
  • In Philippians 4:2, Paul asks for Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. The fact that Paul called these women out by name indicates that they had a prominent position within the Church.
  • In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul gives instruction for women who were praying or prophesying in the Church.
  • And let’s remember that it was a woman who was the first witnesses of the resurrected Christ!

These biblical examples clearly show that females held critical positions of leadership and heroism, which God used to further His plans. Still, we can’t ignore that some passages of Scripture seem to suggest that women held a lower value than men. In part 2 of this post, we will continue our study by addressing some of those key passages.


Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


What Happens to People Who Die Without Hearing the Gospel?

Reading Time: 3 minutesEphesians 2 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When we repent of our sin and accept Jesus as our savior, He restores our broken relationship with God, that we might live with Him forever.

But what about people who die without hearing about Jesus? Will they miss out?


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This important question goes back to the Bible itself

Consider Acts 17:26-28, in which the apostle Paul preaches, “From one man He [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Scripture appears to be saying that we are each ordained by God to be born exactly in the moment of history that gives us the opportunity to find Him. Some overlook this opportunity, some disregard it, and others eventually wholeheartedly accept Him.

Josh McDowell, for example, was brought up in an abusive family, which led to his pain … which led to his hate … which led to his quest to soundly disprove God … which backfired and led him to accept Christ as Lord. Josh had no idea he would make this about-face and step into his life’s purpose!

Because Josh chose to not cling to his wrong assumptions about God and Christ, God has used Josh over the past 50+ years to teach millions around the world about the historical and archeological evidence that supports the resurrection of Jesus and other claims of the Bible. 


Effectively sharing the Good News

No human really knows how God will deal with the souls of those who die without hearing about Jesus. So not a single one of us is qualified to judge or assert who will or won’t be in Heaven. (There are bound to be surprises!) But one thing we do know is that God is good and just, and will do what is just.

Our tension with this question should only serve to motivate us to readily share the Good News of Jesus.

Remember, patience and humility should be our default when we dialogue with people about Christ. Jesus never bullied, blamed, or shamed anyone into believing in Him or following Him. He was gentle and loving — even as He suffered on the cross.

If you find yourself angry at non-Christians because they won’t “see the light,” the attitude you need to adjust is yours. In His amazing grace, God offers each of us the complete freedom to accept or deny Him as Savior. We need to offer this same grace.

Some blog posts with helpful tips on sharing your faith with others, so they don’t die without hearing about God’s amazing love and grace:

Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 1
Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 2
5 Reasons Apologists Get a Bad Rap


NEXT STEPS

  • Want to watch the movie about Josh’s life? Click this link.
  • Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
  • Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
  • We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a Carpenter. This short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives!


If God Loves Us, Why Do We Face Persecution?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Religious persecution is alive and well in our world.

While we see this happening against numerous religions, perhaps the most persecuted group are Christians. Countless believers have been tortured and killed for confessing Jesus as Lord. Even in the Western world where we have the Constitutional right to freedom of religion, we experience subtle forms of persecution. With every passing year, additional pressure is being put on churches and individual believers to abandon or compromise their convictions.

Our response is telling. Some of us feel betrayed by God because things aren’t going well for us. But despite what some Christian preachers say, the Bible doesn’t promise a comfortable life. Many of are walking around feeling angry, weak, and defeated. Is God failing us, or could it be that we’ve bought into wrong Christian teaching?


Christian Persecution


If God really loves us, why do we experience persecution?

I can understand where this question comes from. Our diet in the Western world has been pleasure and comfort. When we divorce this privilege from our gratitude, we turn them into demands. So even the subtlest pricks of persecution sting like hornets.

We often connect God’s love with our own comfort. So when we follow God and discover that it actually costs us, we question God’s love and start flirting with the idea that Christianity isn’t “working out” for us.

But the real issue is not a failure on God’s part. The real issue is a theological gap in our understanding of suffering. Consider the following verses:

  • Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [Jesus].”
  • Romans 5:3: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”
  • Romans 8:17b-8:18: “We share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:5: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
  • Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”
  • Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:8: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

These verses are remarkable! What we learn from them is that suffering takes a different perspective in the Bible. As bizarre as this may sound to the Western ear, Christians don’t experience persecution in spite of God’s love. Rather, it is because of God’s love that by suffering we are privileged to share in the life of our glorious Savior who also suffered.

Many persecuted Christians assert that their closest moments with God came during their hardest times in life. You might not like hearing this, but it appears that our spiritual sense of God’s love is heightened when we suffer for Him. It is a grace that God gives us to endure these difficult times. But we often miss this, because we feel entitled to comfort.

To be clear, we should stand up for justice, even when it’s an issue of religious persecution. But we also must learn to expect persecution as a form of grace in our lives as we become more like Jesus.

Let’s take to heart the words of the apostle Peter in his first epistle:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” ~ 1 Peter 4:12-14


Next Steps:

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  • Do you want to have a relationship with God? Start here.
  • Print out these Bible verses about God’s goodness! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some!

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


How Do We Count the Number of Fulfilled Biblical Prophecy?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

How many biblical prophecies have been fulfilled? Do we have an exact count?

In this post Matt Tingblad gives a brief overview of the two types of prophecies, answering the question of whether the Bible continues to prove itself reliable. Read on!



Prophecy: Several Factors to Consider

Calculating the number of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible is difficult for two reasons. Here’s what I mean:

1. Not all prophecy is the same.

When most people think of prophecy, they think of predictive prophecy. That is, they think of prophecy that foretells the future. The prophecy predicts what will happen. Another kind of prophecy is called forthtelling prophecy. Forthtelling prophecy is when God speaks a word concerning the present hour.3See Playing with Fire by Dr. Walt Russell, Chapter 9

When we talk about the number of prophecies fulfilled, we are interested in predictive prophecies — prophecies that will be fulfilled in God’s timing.

Yet predictive prophecy is not always easy to identify. For instance, in Psalm 22:1 David writes, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” This doesn’t initially sound like predictive prophecy, but we see Jesus alluding to its fulfillment when He cried these same words from the cross (Matthew 27:46).

Prophecy shows us that God has a plan for this world. By the foretelling of persons, places, and events — even hundreds of years before they are fulfilled — Scripture gives a strong testimony to its own inspiration.

2. Not all fulfillments are the same.

Some predictive prophecies concerning Jesus can be easily understood. But many predictive prophecies about events after Jesus are difficult to understand. So scholars continue to debate whether these prophecies were fulfilled in the events of the late first century, are progressively being fulfilled across history, or are yet to be fulfilled in a cataclysmic event immediately preceding the return of Christ.

Regardless, we can say that a lot of prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled, with some of the clearest ones about the life and ministry of Jesus. The number of fulfilled messianic (Jesus-related) prophecies is over 300. This is truly remarkable, as Josh McDowell demonstrates in this video. Christians, as far back as the Bible authors themselves, have rightfully stressed these fulfilled prophecies to show Jesus to be the Messiah.

In addition to messianic prophecies, the Old Testament continually prophesies about events that have happened: Israel’s future into exile, nations that will be destroyed, Israel’s kingdom being restored, etc. These predictions further demonstrate that we can trust the Bible as truly inspired by God. 

The Bible itself gives the purpose of prophecy: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done… ” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NASB).


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Who Recorded Events in the Bible?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When significant events happen in our world today, witnesses record the stories through writing and video. This raises questions about how the Bible was recorded. Take these three events, for example:

  • How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc. when he was not there?
  • Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting their conversation?
  • How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between him and Satan?

Let’s address these questions!



To understand the formation of the Bible, we have to understand the world of the Bible.

Question 1: How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc., when he was not there?

The Ancient Near East was an oral culture; they passed down information through spoken word. Today we’re not good at this because we rely on print. But the ancients were very good at oral storytelling. Because of this, most books of the Bible simply used information that was passed down through the oral tradition.

For instance, Adam could have told his son Seth what it was like in the garden, and Seth passed it along to his son Enosh. Since the story was so significant and meaningful, it’s quite reasonable that an oral culture would preserve it until Moses committed the information into writing.


Question 2: Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting that conversation?

We don’t have much historical data on Job. The author and the date of writing of this text are unknown. But judging by the structure and message of the book, we understand that Job belongs in the category of “Wisdom Literature.” Thus, the narrator of Job is telling a lesson/story. This means we should read Job like a parable of Jesus. The story is created to teach us a lesson, not provide historical data. Even if the story of Job is a historical event, dialogue in the ancient Near East was understood as paraphrased conversation, not precise quotation. This would have made it easier for Job, or someone close to him, to recount the story and capture its essence.


Question 3: How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between Him and Satan?

This may sound like a difficult question, but it’s not difficult to propose a solution. Jesus probably shared the event with His disciples. He was their teacher, after all, and he taught with stories. Why not use one of His own?

Let us not forget that with this story and the others we addressed earlier, God helped the authors of Scripture to convey His message. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

As you now understand how this works, you can apply it other questions of similar nature.


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Is Apologetics Biblical?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is “Christian apologetics”?

It’s the activity of providing a rational basis for belief in the Christian faith.When we seek to demonstrate that God exists, that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, or that the Bible is historically reliable, we are doing the work of Christian apologetics.

Is Christian apologetics a good thing for Christians to be doing? If you’re reading this post and you know anything about what we do here at Josh McDowell Ministry, then you are safe to assume that we give a resounding “Yes!” Christian apologetics is good and important. But more than that, it is biblical.


The Word “Apologetics” In Scripture

The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which refers to a speech of defense, typically for one’s own self. The word appears eight times in the New Testament.

Sometimes it is used generally (Acts 22:1, 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Timothy 4:16), and other times it is explicitly connected to a defense of the Gospel (Philippians 1:7, 16; 1 Peter 3:15). Most notably in 1 Peter 3:15, when Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

In context, it is the means by which we honor Christ as Lord in the midst of holy suffering, and is demonstrated through our gentleness (1 Peter 3:13-18). Today, in a world where Christianity is viewed as intolerant and offensive, people are going to wonder why we continue to hold onto our faith. Are you and I ready to give them an apologia when they ask?

In 1 Corinthians 10:4-5, Paul seeks to clarify his mission with these words: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedience to Christ.”

Evidently, the act of demolishing arguments against the knowledge of God, done rightly, is a holy endeavor of divine power. But what does this look like?

Apologetics in Acts

The book of Acts gives us a closer look at Christian apologetics in action within the early church. Acts 17:2-4 says, “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” Verse 17 adds, “So [Paul] reasoned in the Synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”

The Bible mentions the value of public debate for the Gospel. In Acts 18:27-28, an evangelist by the name of Apollos “was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.”

Within these verses, we see the work of Christian apologetics as having evangelistic impact, as well as beneficial value for those who already believe. It is no wonder that Peter encourages Christians to always be prepared to give an apologia.

Apologetics in the Gospels

Jesus was always willing to help people believe, and occasionally used persuasive techniques to build His case as Messiah. For instance, Jesus used logical rigor against the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-45, showing how their own views lead toward absurdity. Note that it was an argument He initiated.

In John 5, Jesus appealed to the testimony of John the Baptizer (verses 33-35), His own testimony expressed in miracle-working (verse 36), the testimony of the Father (verses 37-38), and the testimony of the Scriptures (verses 39-40), appealing to all of this “so that you may be saved” (5:34).

We see the resurrected Jesus helping all of His disciples — not just Thomas — to believe (John 20:19-20), inviting them to see the holes in His hands and feet, to touch His body, and observe Him eating physical food (Luke 24:37-43). Jesus was privy to the fact that His own resurrection carried enormous persuasive power to confirm His identity as God (John 20:27-28).

Further, As theologian D. A. Carson argues, Jesus’ response to “doubting” Thomas was probably not a rebuke, as some translations erroneously suggest, but a confirmation followed by a beatitude (See Carson’s treatment of John 20:26 in the Pillar New Testament Commentary).

In Matthew 13:21, Jesus explains the parable of the sower, saying that the seed that fell on rocky ground is the Word of God which people received with joy. Yet because they had no root, persecution came and they withered away. The text isn’t clear, but I suspect that this “root” has something to do with a confident knowledge of God. Christian apologetics can help get us there. May we never forget this important piece as we seek to proclaim the whole counsel of God.


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Many Christians have shied away from apologetics, concerned that the use of persuasive reason trivializes faith, or that it gets in the way of God’s work. These concerns do deserve attention, because they can have a level of truth to them, especially if we don’t recognize the limitations of what apologetics is able to do for evangelism and for our own spiritual wellness.

  • I encourage you to check out this post, in which I engage with those objections. 
  • Need some tips and creative ideas for sharing your faith? Check out this post.
  • Looking for a way to share Christianity with your friends? You can purchase Josh’s apologetics classic, More Than a Carpenter, from our online store.

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why does God Keep Satan Around?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I recently received this very intriguing question: “Why does God Keep Satan Around?”

To answer this question, it helps for us to know about the story of redemption that God began writing since the creation of the world.



Somewhere in history (presumably at the fall, when Adam and Eve first sinned) Satan was given a “legal right” or “dominion” over the earth.

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul talks about Satan, calling him: “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”  

Certainly, God was still in control. But consider this:

In Luke 4:6-7, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and tempts Jesus with this offer: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Emphasis mine.)

I don’t think Satan was lying. If he were, Jesus would have known his bluff, and the temptation would not have been legitimate. But then everything changed! Jesus died and rose from the dead, destroying the powers of darkness (Colossians 2:15). He triumphantly declared, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Yes, Satan continues to exert power — but without authority. His power is illegal.


So why is Satan still around?

This brings us back to the original question: Why does God keep Satan around? Because a much greater plan is unfolding!

God has given the ministry of building His Kingdom to us, the Church. It’s our role, as His sons and daughters, to live for God and exercise His rule in the name of Jesus. Don’t miss this free Mp3 download of Josh’s excellent teaching on the authority God has given you!

Could God instantly end Satan’s power? Sure. But God is maximally glorified as we, His Church, exercise His authority in our fight against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). All authority has been given to us on heaven and on earth. We can be confidently fervent, knowing the power we hold because of Christ Jesus.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for us, Satan is already defeated! Let’s believe it and act like it.

Satan works hard to blind Christians to the authority they hold over him. The bold authority that God delegates to all believers upon their salvation.

We may likely experience great pain during this intense battle. But let your trials serve to heighten your ability to worship God now, and even more when you finally get to see Him face-to-face!


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Is God’s Goodness Evident Amidst COVID-19?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Would you have guessed that you and I would spend our 2020 spring season fighting a global pandemic?

COVID-19 has done serious damage to the fabric of societies around the world. Some of us are batting unemployment, anxiety, boredom, loneliness — or the virus itself. For many, the situation goes even deeper; we are battling with the question of whether God is still good during this difficult time.

We have the philosophical dilemma of thinking that a good God will always remove bad things. But we also have the emotional realness of this time. The struggle to believe in God’s goodness is certainly understandable, as we consider all that has happened to us in the past month. How can God really be good, we ask, when there is so much hurt?

Continue reading, or click here to watch video.


Bridging the Gap blog #hurthealedwhole


In What Do You Tether Your Faith?

We would do well to consider what we have allowed to influence our belief in God’s goodness. For many of us, our theology of God is based entirely upon our own experience of life. 

> If things go well, we think God is good.

> If things don’t go well, we think God is not good. 

We tend to reduce the God’s goodness down to what feels good in our own experience, and we tether our belief about God based on that. But when that thing is taken away, our faith goes away with it, and we start to question God’s goodness.

God’s goodness influences our world, certainly. And His goodness has no doubt stopped many, many horrible things from happening — things we never know about. But God does not promise us a pleasant life, nor does He promise that our experience of life is going to get better. These are false ideas about God that we have invented and wield as indictments against God when life gets tough.

Rather than seeing the goodness of God linked against the troubles of this world, the Bible calls us to see God’s goodness as the answer to the troubles of this world. 

God’s goodness transcends our present circumstances, and points to the things eternal, the things unseen. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” Jesus says in John 16:33,“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”


So What is the Blessing of God?

In Romans 8, the apostle Paul spends a great deal of time writing on the blessings of God. We might expect “blessing” to mean that our lives will be comfortable and work according to our plan. But this is not what Paul means at all.

Look at verse 35, which says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Paul goes on to quote Psalm 44, to affirm that hardships will indeed come. But then he says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” 

Notice that these trials are the exact circumstances by which we find victory! Today we struggle against the deadly coronavirus, yet it can’t overcome God’s love for us. In fact, the Bible promises that our eternal security in Christ will make us victorious through this virus.

> Even if it takes our homes.

> Our jobs.

> Our lives.

We can say this because of God’s goodness, not in spite of it! The fact that our world suffers, only goes to show how much greater God’s plan of redemption must be that He would allow bad things like COVID-19 to take place. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” God’s goodness is magnified in these times, not diminished!

You and I can continue to pray that COVID-19 will quickly pass; I think we should. But we also can be confident that God is fully good and fully in control of everything that happens in our world. As it says in Psalm 112:7: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” 


Next Steps:

  • Watch my video on dealing with anxiety during COVID-19.
  • We’d love to pray for you! Please send us a prayer request via this form.
  • Do you want to have a relationship with God? Start here.
  • Print out these Bible verses about God’s goodness! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some!
  • Catch up on our Bridging the Gap posts. Experience God in a deeper way!

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Sharing Your Testimony During the COVID-19 Pandemic VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute


For 50+ years, Josh McDowell Ministry has been leading seekers into a deeper knowledge of God’s truth and power. We offer you our accumulated knowledge and research to help you find truth and encouragement to live a healthy and whole life in Christ.


Who says your Christian testimony has to be huge for it to have value?

In this heartfelt video, Austin shares what our testimony is really intended to do in the lives of others: highlight Jesus, not ourselves.

Listen as Austin shares guidance on how we can share our testimony during this high-stress period of COVID-19. Your hope in Christ might be the very encouragement a friend or family member needs to hear to get through this difficult time.


How Can We Help?

  • Do you want to have a relationship with Jesus? Start here.
  • We’d love to pray for you! Please send us a prayer request via this form.
  • Print out these Bible verses about prayer! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some!
  • Catch up on our Bridging the Gap posts. Experience God in a deeper way!
  • We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a Carpenter. This short apologetics classic examines evidence about Jesus.

Austin is part of the speaking team at Josh McDowell Ministry.


Understanding Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic QUICK VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute


For 50+ years, Josh McDowell Ministry has been leading seekers into a deeper knowledge of God’s truth and power. We offer you our accumulated knowledge and research to help you find truth and encouragement to live a healthy and whole life in Christ.


What is Your Emotional Anchor For Dealing With COVID-19?

In this quick video, Matt spells out the truth: that life is uncertain, and where we place our trust and hope matters.

Listen as Matt encourages you to be steadfast in the only source stronger than pain and death itself: Jesus. Even if we lose that which we hold most dear, we have His assurance that He will always walk through our trials with us. Take comfort in the truth that nothing — not even COVID-19 — is outside of His sovereign hand.


Do you know Jesus?

  • Do you want to experience a life-changing relationship with Him? Start here.
  • We’d love to pray for you! Please send us a prayer request via this form.
  • Print out these Bible verses about prayer! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some.
  • Catch up on our Bridging the Gap posts. Experience God in a deeper way!
  • We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a Carpenter. This short apologetics classic examines evidence about Jesus and affirms that yes, He is Lord!

Matt is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why Did God Create Humanity?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

God knew that not all of humanity would accept Him, so why did He create us?

When God created humanity, He considered it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). God’s assessment can be difficult to understand, considering what people have done against God from the start.

You and I, as objects of His love, have been created to worship and enjoy God, who is worthy of all praise. Though God desires that every person would be saved, as it says in 1 Timothy 2:4, He leaves the choice to us. So why did God create us, knowing that many would reject Him?



The Right Question?

The reason God made us has less to do with his foreknowledge of our individual response, and more to do with His nature and His ultimate end to receive glory.

Allow me to explain. From cover to cover, the Bible is about God. Specifically, Scripture tells the story of God being glorified.

One of the primary ways that God is glorified is through His gift of salvation to humanity (Ephesians 1:4-6, 12). But we must recognize that salvation is just one side of the coin. Salvation is always delivery from something. This “something” is judgment. So for salvation to work, there must be a fork in the road: one path leading to salvation — and the other to judgment. Both options must be real, if God is to be glorified through our salvation (Romans 9:22-23).

Humanity Given Free Will

This is where our free will comes in. God gifted all of humanity with free will, so that every person could personally choose his or her salvation — or judgment. God knew that many would reject Him, certainly. But God also knew that many would cherish Him as their friend and Savior. Our free will also makes it possible for us to gift God with glorify as we worship. If we had no free will, our worship would be forced. It wouldn’t be genuine.

God receives the maximum glory for creating a world in which He became our salvation from judgment. If you have yet to receive Christ, take the next step below. If you received God’s merciful gift, give Him praise! You can live free from shame as you look forward to spending eternity in His presence!


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Has the Bible Been Altered Over the Centuries?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

To declare that the Bible has been “altered” over the centuries could mean a number of different things.

For instance, you could talk about how later scribes added punctuation markings, lower-case lettering, etc., as their Greek language evolved over time. But that is of little concern. When most people say that the Bible has been altered, they mean that the original written text has changed in content over many years, is now corrupted, and the original meaning lost.

It is very common these days to hear someone say that the Bible has been altered. This might come from a skeptic, but it also might come from followers of other religions that have spun off the Christian tradition such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam. In asserting that the biblical text became corrupted, they add that their religion’s holy writings have corrected the problem. And they use their holy writings to provide new spiritual insights that support their religious view.



Understanding the term “altered”

Despite certain anti-Christian motivations to challenge the Bible, we don’t have compelling reasons to believe that the modern Bible is wildly different from what was originally written. Even though we don’t have the original writings, we have many copies of these original writings which scholars call manuscripts.

These manuscripts have some differences, and this is to be expected because of human error. But there are enough existing manuscripts that we can compare and cross-check them to reconstruct what the originals would have said. With proper technique, we can do this with a very high degree of accuracy. We can see what was altered.

But what if the original text was changed before a bunch of copies were made? If this happened, then all of our copies would have come from a bad text, and we would never be able to know what was originally written!

Some believe that the text of the Bible was intentionally changed during its early development, perhaps motivated by political or theological reasons. At best, this is a borderline conspiracy story. One of the main problems with this argument is this: people wouldn’t have known which writings really counted as Scripture until after they became widespread across many churches. Indeed, the fact that the writings multiplied so quickly across churches helped believers to realize that the Holy Spirit was on those texts. By then, because the writings had already spread across the early church, it would have been too late for anyone to maliciously change them! 


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Could the Gospel Writers Know What Jesus Actually said?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

There was a long period of time between the life of Jesus and the composition of the four Gospels in the Bible. Even when we take conservative estimates for their dating, the earliest we typically see is the book of Mark, written around AD 55-70, about the time the apostle Peter was martyred.

We’re talking several decades. How were the authors able to remember what Jesus said and did after all that time? I can hardly remember what I said and did last week! 


How Do We Know the Gospel Writers Got it Right?

Let’s keep the following points in mind:

1. Unlike our own society, these authors lived in an oral culture that was strong on preserving information through spoken word. They didn’t rely on written material like we do. Their ability to memorize and retell stories accurately was well practiced.

2. Jesus mostly taught in stories and parables. These kinds of teachings are easy to remember, even for us today. And we must recognize that in an oral culture, people learned to be good listeners as their ability to recall information would have served them well.

3. We shouldn’t expect that the writers captured perfect quotations of what Jesus said, as though they had access to tape recorders. Quotations in that time were not intended to be as word-for-word precise as they are today.


The Gospels don’t provide a straight journalistic record. But the Gospel writers did not simply make stuff up. They were held in check by others familiar with Jesus; eyewitnesses who would have known if they did not record details accurately.  


4. Even if the Gospel authors weren’t writing about Jesus immediately after his departure, they were continually teaching about Jesus. This would have kept the information fresh in their minds.

5. It’s possible that Jesus’s disciples did write down details about Jesus, which they referred to in later years as they wrote the Gospels.

6. Christians believe that the Bible’s authors were guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). So while each brought their own method, style, and message to the readers of Scripture, each focused on God’s love for mankind, including salvation through Jesus.


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry, with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Isn’t the Bible Full of Disagreements?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

One common concern that skeptics have about the Bible is that it doesn’t line up. That it’s full of disagreements, which they say proves that it’s a man-made document, not inspired by God.

This question can lead to very murky conversations; however, because people mean different things when they discuss “disagreements” in the Bible. In fact, there are at least four different ways in which the Bible is accused of sharing disagreement!


Isn't the Bible Full of Disagreements


4 Different Ways the Bible is Accused of Sharing Disagreement


For the sake of brevity, I have supplied the above links that cover the first three types of disagreements. Let’s briefly discuss the fourth reason in this post.

Some people believe that the Bible has theological disagreements because they observe Christians disagreeing over theological issues — and using the Bible to support their stance. But these disagreements aren’t really because of clear-cut theological disagreements in the Bible, but because of these three reasons:

1. The authors of Scripture emphasize different events and subjects because of their natural mode of thinking and the audience they are trying to address. This, however, doesn’t mean that what they’re talking about contradicts itself. As readers of the Bible, we can’t take one passage in isolation without considering how it is informed by the rest of biblical theology.

2. Christians often take what is unclear in the Bible and convince themselves that they clearly understand its meaning. But Scripture itself recognizes that the meaning is not always apparent. Peter explicitly says that there are some things in Paul’s letters that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). And in Romans 14, Paul says that there are disagreements that we, as the Church, should learn to live with.

3. Even where the Bible is clear on issues, such as salvation and the deity of Jesus, the Bible is interpreted by people (including you and me!) who are flawed by sin. This isn’t to say that the theological task of interpreting Scripture is futile, but we have to be mindful of our own limitations. We inevitably bring subjective, personal views which, left unchecked, could twist its text to mean what we want it to say. 

With all this in mind, we need not be discouraged. Yes, there are many disagreements. This is expected when we are talking about the infinite God of this universe! But there is also remarkable agreement over the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Most Christians, for example, believe in salvation by grace. Most believe in the Trinity. Most believe in love and justice. Most believe in the second coming of Christ. In the midst of diversity, we have profound unity through the Holy Spirit.


Want to dive into this further? Watch this short video I created titled, “Why do Christians disagree about stuff?


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry, with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Breaking Out of the Christian Bubble

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Private evangelical Christian schools can be dangerous. I should know; I’m finishing my last semester at one as a seminary student.

It’s not that I don’t like them. I’m actually very grateful for the education I have received at my university. In fact, I would do it all over again! But there is risk involved whenever a Christian chooses to go the route of private evangelical schooling. Here, we call it the “Bubble.”


Bridging the Gap blog #hurthealedwhole


Life in My Christian Bubble

The meaning of the “Christian Bubble” is not hard to recognize. Students who attend these schools tend to live in a world where everyone is Christian, at least nominally. We create this utopian society inside a bubble, and have very little contact with people in the outside world. This hit me one day during my second year.

Here I was, studying in seminary with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I worked remotely for a ministry with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I went to church every week with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I had been living in Los Angeles for over a year, and I still did not know one person in the city who was not a Christian! Los Angeles!!

I do not blame the university for a moment. This was on me. I needed to realize that a private school was not going to spoon-feed me everything I needed to live faithfully as a Christian. After all, our purpose on earth is not just Bible studies and fellowship with other Christians until we go to Heaven.

God has called us to make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:19), to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus said that we are to be the “salt” of the world, and we dare not lose that quality (Matthew 5:13). He goes on to say that we are to be the “light” of the world, and we would be foolish to keep our light covered. 

There is a temptation to soak in all this knowledge of God and keep it for ourselves. There is a temptation to think that life inside our nice utopian bubble is the Christian life. But this is far from the truth. For students attending private Christian schools, we need to be even more intentional about our calling to live as ambassadors in a world that is not our home (2 Corinthians 5:20).


Breaking Out of My Bubble

Once I realized this, I grew desperate. I felt complacent on the inside, but biblically I knew that I needed opportunities to experience community with non-Christians. I needed to carve out a space in my schedule to interact with people outside of my Christian bubble.

As a full-time graduate student holding a part-time job and volunteering at my church, this was not easy. But I went online and searched for community groups in the south Los Angeles area. I discovered a website called Meetup, which connects people with local communities all around the world. I was shocked to discover how many different social communities exist in my area through Meetup!

I ended up joining a group that gathered to play board games that made it explicit that it is a safe space for people with same-sex attraction. I have never been huge on board games, nor do I have same-sex attraction, so this sounded perfect! People who were not like me! Admittedly, I was nervous on the first day I met with them. As they were friendly toward people with same-sex attraction, how would they respond to an evangelical seminary student?? As it turned out, they were very welcoming!

I learned a lot about same-sex attraction from these members, which helped me to understand their community. And I enjoyed building friendships with them, though I was only able to stay with the group for a couple of months, as shifts in my life pulled me away. I would have liked more opportunities to deepen these relationships and eventually share my faith more explicitly. But I believe God still used that time.

Sometimes we can be a light by simply sharing that we are Christians, and then not acting like it’s our job to fix people who simply need a loving friend.


Does Your Bubble Need Busting?

Many of you can relate to these Christian bubbles we inevitably find ourselves in, even if you don’t attend a private Christian school. I would encourage you to venture beyond your bubbles through Meetup or another social app. What are your hobbies or interests? There’s probably a group for them near you. Go for it! Get to know people. As you do, I believe God will create opportunities for you to show them Christ.

  • Read how the Bubble can be used as a positive force here.
  • Ready to get involved in your local community? You can create a Meetup account.
  • Need some tips and creative ideas for sharing your faith? Check out my earlier post.
  • Looking for an inexpensive way to gift a book about Christianity to your friends? You can purchase Josh’s apologetics classic, More Than a Carpenter, in a 6-pack or more from our online store.

>>I’d love to know your thoughts. Share your comments below!


Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Should Apologists Quote the Bible When Trying to Prove it?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There’s a common objection apologists hear from skeptics: “You can’t quote the Bible to prove the Bible.” 


The answer to that? Yes and no.

Sometimes people try to prove the Bible is true by using what the Bible says concerning itself. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, for example, says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. This is a useful verse for theological purposes, but we would spin into circular reasoning if we tried to use it as proof for the Bible’s authority. 

However, there is a right way to quote the Bible in order to make a case for it. It is the process used by apologists called internal evidence.


Should Apologists Quote the Bible


Internal evidence continues to vet the Bible’s historical reliability.


Imagine that you are in a courtroom, listening to an eyewitness provide testimony. The jury must determine if the man’s story is true, based (in part) on what he says. To help the jury reach a verdict, the lawyers on the case ask questions about his story, in search of internal evidence: Does the story contradict itself? Does the story contradict other stories? Does the story omit difficult details? Does the story mention people and places that can be verified? The man’s testimony is then compared to testimony provided by others, to ferret out the truth.

The same methodology can be applied to the Bible, particularly with the stories of Jesus provided in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These disciples were very careful to include details in their narratives that could be verified by people alive at the time the disciples were teaching.

Not even the Jewish leaders responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion rejected their teaching that Jesus died on the cross, or that He was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. Nor could the leaders produce His body, to stall the disciple’s claims that Jesus resurrected, when Jesus was reported to be seen over the next 40 days in His resurrected form.


Apologists Use Internal Evidence to Prove the Bible Reliable

Internal evidence assumes that any document is considered innocent until errors prove it unreliable. A bread recipe is trustworthy when it produces a delicious loaf of bread. An apology letter is sincere, until the apologizer repeats the offense. Similarly, the Bible’s historical details continue to be confirmed as legit.

Listen to Josh explain the process of internal evidence in these two short videos titled “Internal Evidence Test” and “Innocent Until Proven Unreliable.”

To place the Bible under scrutiny, we have to know what it says. You can get up to speed on how the Bible has proven its reliability by reviewing our blog series based on Josh’s apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

In order to speak with authority and power, we have to know what we’re talking about. For more reasons to confidently believe in the claims of the Bible, God, and Christianity, check out two reliable books by Josh and Sean McDowell: 77 FAQs about God and the Bible and Evidence That Demands a Verdict.


NEXT STEPS


Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why Believe in God if I Can’t Feel, Hear, or See Him?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s easy to believe in things that we can perceive through our senses. But the sensory things of this world aren’t the only things we believe in, right?


We believe in many things that can’t be felt, seen, or heard. Consider the following. We believe in:

    • Scientific theories, such as the Theory of Relativity.
    • Certain things about the future, including that the sun will rise tomorrow.
    • Certain things about the past, including that George Washington was our first president.
    • Mathematical proofs, such as 2+2=4.
    • Moral standards, including that racism is hurtful.

We believe in them because we recognize that not all knowledge comes from the senses. To add another item particularly relevant to God, we even believe in the existence of certain things we can’t sense, such as quarks or dark matter.


Why should I believe in God


Sometimes we believe in things because of logic or intuition. Sometimes because the evidence makes it likely or necessary. And sometimes because we trust the source or person speaking about them.


We can believe in God for similar reasons:

We may not be able to feel, hear, or see God, but we can still come to believe in God’s existence through many avenues of reason. The Bible touches on this in Romans 1:20, which states,

“For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

For more reasons to confidently believe in God and Christianity, check out 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell. To dive deep into the historical validation of Christianity, also study their apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.


NEXT STEPS

  • Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
  • Need prayer? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


The Bad News and Good News About Christmas

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This Christmas, there’s good news and there’s bad news!

Hi, I’m Alex McLellan with Josh McDowell Ministry.

Any Christmas that revolves around Santa comes down to this: are you on the nice list, or are you on the naughty list?

If you’ve been good – you qualify for the nice list – and get the reward! If you’ve been bad – you end up on the naughty list and miss out! It’s important for parents to help children understand decisions have consequences – both good and bad, …although without deferring to Santa as the source of moral authority [smile].

But, when it comes to the REAL reason for Christmas, there’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad news.

The Bible says, we’re ALL on the naughty list!

Ouch!

Jesus said, the thoughts we think are enough to know – and show we are broken people living in a broken world. There is an ultimate gift from God – a relationship with Him that lasts forever, but it’s out of reach, since we can never earn or deserve God’s favour.

You don’t see this on too many Christmas cards.

But here’s the good news that turns Christmas upside down, or I should say the right way up.

The Bible says, God loves every person – despite the fact we’re on the naughty list – so much that he was willing to do what was necessary to get us out of trouble.

In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life a broken man cries out to God when he’s burdened with a debt he can’t repay, until someone else steps in and saves the day.

In the movie, the story makes sense because he was a good man who deserved it.

In the real Christmas story- which is HIStory, God came to save people who didn’t deserve it. Jesus lived among us. He died for us – to pay for everything that ought to separate us from a Holy God. It’s got nothing to do with our goodness, it’s all about God’s grace.

Now that’s a real gift – the kind we don’t deserve and can’t afford.

And that’s why this message is celebrated around the world!

This is a gift you can unwrap this Christmas. How? Ask God to forgive you, trust in Jesus who died for you and believe that He rose again to conquer death, offering you new life that starts today and lasts forever!

Merry Christmas!

Alex


Join Alex here as he discusses how we can navigate through a broken and confusing life with HOPE!

Catch up: The introductory post to the Journey Together series.



Jesus Died for Me … So Why Do I Still Feel Guilt?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I remember years ago when I tuned into a message by a Christian speaker who was addressing guilt…

He asked the audience a simple question: “How many of you have trouble dealing with your past?” There was a pause. He continued. “You know why? It’s because you don’t believe it’s been dealt with already.” He was referring to the sacrifice that Jesus made to remove all of our guilt and shame.

guiltSometimes our guilt can run so deep, that this simple truth just doesn’t seem possible. We don’t feel any better. In fact, maybe statements like that make you feel even more guilty because it’s supposed to work.

I have nothing against these simple statements of truth, but in most cases it takes time to heal and to see yourself with a healthy self-image and identity. We must keep this in mind as we feed on a healthy diet of the Gospel message.

It helps to identify that there is a distinction between guilt and shame.

Maybe you have heard this before: Guilt is a feeling that you have done wrong and deserve punishment. Shame is feeling that you are wrong because of the things you have done. These feelings often mix together, though shame tends to be the bigger issue. Josh McDowell Ministry speaker Ben Bennett has written some helpful articles on shame here and here.


Allow me to offer three helpful tips specific to guilt:

1. You don’t need to feel not guilty in order to be not guilty.

The Bible tells us that guilt is a condition objectively true or false for a person, and is directly connected to sin. Those who sin are guilty of death (Romans 6:23). Guilt is not a feeling; it is a verdict. The judge is the one who decides, not you. We may experience feelings, but the reality is based on an objective standard, not our feelings.

The Bible is clear that those who have confessed their sins to Jesus are forgiven of their sins.

This forgiveness is not accomplished by our feelings, emotions, or the degree of our faith. It is because Jesus is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our judge has decided. Still, some people think that they have to feel not guilty in order to be right with God. That’s simply not true.

If you have confessed your sins to God and trust in the saving power of Jesus to remove your sins, you are washed, justified, sanctified, and set free from all of your sin and guilt (1 Corinthians 6:11). It is a bonafide fact of your reality in Christ, despite your feelings. This truth is the first step in finding freedom from feeling guilty.


2. Guilt is an invitation to abide with God who heals us.

Earlier I used a “judge” metaphor. God is the judge who has declared us innocent. This metaphor can be helpful, but it also creates a mental conflict: Nobody hears this and thinks, “Thank heavens! Now I can spend time in a wonderful and intimate relationship with my judge!”

Several months ago, a woman told me that she felt guilty for something she did in the past. She was desperate to get rid of her feelings of guilt. I appreciated her willingness to make things right, but I wondered if her sole motive was her desire to “get God off my back.”

We often think: As long as I don’t have a guilty conscience, I don’t have to worry about God and I can get on with my life.

This is wrong thinking on so many levels, but the idea can easily find life in the subconscious of many Christians. Instead of running to God — the only one who can heal us from guilt — we hide like Adam and Eve. The reality is that our feelings of guilt is a reason to press harder into our relationship with God. He is prepared to receive us in love and to help us along the way. He isn’t afraid of our mess.


3. Forgiveness with God is not the same as forgiveness with another person.

Sometimes we really do need to take steps to make things right. We are already right with God when we confess our sins, but what about our standing with others?

Our feelings of guilt may actually be conviction from the Holy Spirit to make things right. If you feel guilty because of something you did against another person, have you done your part to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness? Even if this person was 97 percent wrong, and you were only 3 percent wrong, God says you are still responsible to seek forgiveness for your part.

God calls us to live at peace with others as much as we are able (Romans 12:18). To seek forgiveness from another person is one of the hardest things you may ever do. But it can also be completely liberating. Even if the relationship is not fixed, you will know that you have done your part, and you can take joy in knowing that your actions have pleased God.

For more on knowing God personally, check out this really good info.

Need prayer? Contact us.



To Live Right, Shine the Light on Scripture

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we look at how we can shine the light on Scripture to counter claims that the Good News is “old news” that lacks modern relevance.


“The Bible is old-fashioned! Times have changed!”

Have you heard people express the view that Christians are out-of-date and out-of-step with the real world? That the Bible is just a dusty old book of fables? Instead of letting these claims close us down, let’s use them to start a conversation. As people hand us the opportunity, let us not hesitate to shine the light on the truth of Scripture.

If you’re familiar with the term Apologetics, you know that the word meanssharing what you believe, and why you believe it’s true.” Every Christian needs to know what the Bible says — and why it’s true. Every Christian needs to consistently read the Bible for themselves to gain first-hand knowledge of how God wants us to live, and why. God’s boundaries aren’t designed to keep us from having fun, but to protect us from unnecessary pain and drama.

Shine the Light on Scripture

When we shine the light on Scripture, it’s not you and I who have to carry the burden of proof — it’s God. Scholars continue to uncover “an avalanche,” as Josh puts it, of historical evidence. For more than 50 years, Josh McDowell has focused on teaching and publishing resources that educate Christians on this factual evidence that validates biblical dates and events — and, thus, the teachings of Jesus.

Because they have proven trustworthy, we can also have full confidence that God IS who He says. We don’t have to just “take it on faith.” Josh learned this truth first-hand, when he moved from skeptic to unwavering believer after his intensive research failed to disprove Jesus and Christianity. Josh shared that evidence in his Apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which he and his son, Sean McDowell, recently expanded.


To watch FREE, short videos of Josh answering basic Apologetics questions such as Is there such a thing as truth?and Is the Bible historically accurate?” scroll to the bottom of this page. You will gain knowledge and confidence to answer skeptics when they ask the same of you. Shine the light on Scripture and watch God show up!


Apologetics: Classical, Relational & Moral Emphasis

Josh McDowell Ministry now focuses on three aspects of Apologetics: classical, relational, and moral. Classical is the authentic historical evidence that validates the Bible. Why add relational?

Josh realized that relationship is critical to our sharing the Good News. Others don’t care what we know, until they first know we care. And they certainly won’t listen if we’re not walking our talk. But Josh also realized that how we view God plays a critical role in how we view ourselves and our purpose in the world. Why add moral?

In his research, Josh has discovered that the number one barrier keeping our young people from trusting God and the Scriptures is their view of morality. Our society presents a model of morality that mocks God’s standard as old-fashioned and limiting. Society encourages us to move outside of God’s healthy boundaries, while it glosses over the possible destructive consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases.


But even if we do find ourselves suffering these consequences, we find God ever-ready to pick us up to help us live our best life possible! How do we know this truth? By shining the light on Scripture and what its says about God’s love and grace for us.


Influence Youth to Choose God’s Standard

My husband, Alex, and I have three children. It’s been a privilege for us to have conversations with our kids about sex and morality, showing them the beautiful design of the Designer, and explaining why biblical standards have been set in place for their good and flourishing. God doesn’t want to see us used and abused! It breaks His heart.

Unfortunately, we grow up experiencing the brokenness of this world, because it’s all around us. But we can decide to walk in the freedom that comes from knowing and living in the light of Truth. We can discover that only God fully satisfies. Compared to His perfect love, the world’s promises are outed as cheap, momentary thrills that disappoint. That internal “God ache” never goes away because we don’t turn to Him to fill it.

Alex often speaks to huge crowds about their need for Jesus. But you and I can do the same within our small, intimate circles of influence, starting with our children. Our culture follows the tide of public opinion, but we can keep our young people from sinking. As parents, we can use apologetics materials to help anchor the hearts, minds, and souls of our children, so they choose the stability that flows only from the Word of God.


Parents, start the conversation and keep it going. Be ready to show your kids that Christianity has deep and vibrant roots. God is on the move! Take every advantage, in everyday situations and in everyday conversations, to guide your family to the Truth. 

To live right, we must shine the light on Scripture.
***Click here to watch Josh’s FREE Apologetics videos.


In our next blog post, let’s look at the epidemic sweeping our nation, both inside and outside of the church: porn addiction.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Josh McDowell: My 3-Pillar Approach to Apologetics

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post Josh explains his 3-pillar approach to Apologetics.

 


Click video to watch.

Many people ask me, “Josh, you’re an apologist. So why do you talk about sex and pornography?”

Here’s why: I believe the rapid decline of our society demands it. I am, indeed, a classical apologist. But I must now focus on relational and moral apologetics as well, if I am to fully share God’s truth. Let me explain these three pillars further:

Classical Apologetics

As an evidential apologist I share evidence that confirms the truthfulness of the Bible. The term “apologist” actually means “to set forth positive reasons why you believe.” I believe, with all that I am, that Jesus is who He says He is, because God’s Word can be trusted. Though I started out a disbelieving skeptic, it has been God’s call on my life, for the last 50 years, to share the evidence that supports both of these claims!

But here’s the problem: I recognized, years ago, that when we try to present truth outside of the context of relationships, it’s so often rejected. So I can’t just be focused on the evidence itself, but on whether people are in productive relationships — an established foundation of trust, openness, and acceptance — to have productive conversations about God.

Relational Apologetics

Here’s the phrase I created to express this: Truth without relationships leads to rejection. So I want to help people to build good relationships with each other. I especially want parents to have these relationships of trust with their kids, so our youth won’t disregard God’s truths. I call this relational apologetics.

Moral Apologetics

I also discovered that the number one barrier that keeps a young person from trusting Christ, God, or the Scriptures is morality. That’s why I launched the “Why Wait” campaign years ago. Today,  the greatest barrier to a person coming to Christ is pervasive internet pornography, which has become a huge societal problem — even inside the Church. We must address porn addiction head-on, if Christianity is to maintain a positive influence in society.

So, I hope you now understand why these three pillars are our current focus here at Josh McDowell Ministry. My team and I thank you so much for your support, both your prayers and your financial gifts, to keep our efforts going!

Josh


In our next blog post, we look at topic many parents would rather skip: talking to their kids about sex.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



What Are the Top Religious Philosophies?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

religious philosophiesA.W. Tozer, a famous Christian thinker, is known for penning the words, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He uses this statement to open his book Knowledge of the Holy. Even if you are not a Christian, there is much to be appreciated about Tozer’s statement.

Our lives are oriented around our belief (or lack of) spiritual things. No wonder, as religious philosophies concern what counts as ultimate reality, and pertains to our souls and the deepest questions of life. So what are the common religious philosophies today, and how should we view them? Let’s look at nine philosophies, in alphabetical order.


Agnosticism

Sometimes Agnosticism is not a philosophy at all; it is simply ignorance, or not knowing what to believe. But there is a particular kind of Agnosticism, a “hard” or so-called “ornery” Agnosticism, which teaches that we can’t know things pertaining to religion; that the search for religious truth is considered a hopeless endeavor.

Reasons for holding a hard form of Agnosticism vary, but it is not difficult to imagine why. There are so many different view and opinions about spiritual things, so many arguments and so many different claims to truth that are difficult to sort through. By taking the hard, “we can’t know” Agnostic position, a person is able to stay out of the mess and carry on with life as he or she deems fit. But is this really a wise approach to the most important questions of life?


Atheism

Some Atheists say, “I believe God doesn’t exist.” But many simply say, “I lack belief in God.” The distinction is that many of them don’t like to be associated with having beliefs of any kind pertaining to God, and they want to be clear that the burden of proof for belief is on the theist.

Typically, Atheism includes a lack of belief for anything pertaining to spirituality. Atheists operate under a naturalist worldview, where matter is all that there is, and everything — thoughts, feelings, consciousness, pain, suffering, etc. — can be reduced to chemicals in motion. There are no spirits, no seers, no reincarnation, no channeling, no karma, and no providence. The life you live now, is the only life you will ever experience.

Atheists are sometimes demonized in the minds of those who are spiritual/religious. This is unfortunate, as most Atheists care about people and the state of the world. They are concerned that spiritual/religious people believe through “blind” faith (which is sometimes true), which they would never do. They consider themselves students of Science and empirical evidence.

Atheism struggles to provide satisfying solutions to questions of purpose, meaning, destiny, and morality — at least, in any kind of absolute sense.


Buddhism

Buddhism is a popular Eastern religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the late 500s BCE. As the story goes, while sitting under a Bodhi Tree in deep mediation, Siddhartha became enlightened and was thus called a Buddha (often translated an “Enlightened one“). Siddhartha spent the remainder of his life teaching what he came to believe.

Buddhism recognizes reincarnation, but the goal is to get out of it and break from existence. The way of Buddhism is based on recognition and acceptance of these “Four Noble Truths”:

~ Life is suffering.

~ We suffer because nothing is permanent, and we are trying to hold onto things which are lasting.

~ We eliminate suffering by ending attachment to this life. We must break from desire in the cycle of life and reincarnation.

~ By following the 8-fold path (a set of moral guidelines to life), we are in a better position to understand the first three noble truths.

There is a psychological appeal here, as most people would agree that suffering is often (perhaps always) a result of something changing that we don’t want to change. The challenge for Buddhism is substantiating the rest of the system. What reason do we have to believe in reincarnation, and why should we believe the solution proposed by Siddhartha?


Christianity

Christianity teaches that there is one God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who loves and desires to be in  relationship with His creations. Yet all of humanity has done wrong in His eyes. This “sin” separates us from God, which He must punish, because He is holy.

But all is not lost, because God sent his son, Jesus, who willingly died on the cross as payment for our sin. Three days later He rose from the dead in bodily form, to offer eternal life as a free gift to those who confess their sins and receive Him for the salvation of their soul (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

Unlike most religious philosophies, the leading role is held by God, not people. God is the one who saves the day. In the Christian system, moral character is not the means to a relationship with God; it is a result of it.

It is also worth noticing that the central piece of Christianity is connected to an event in history. Christianity stands or falls on whether or not this historical religious figure named Jesus really existed, died, and resurrected. This event can be evaluated and weighed on historical grounds. We offer numerous resources on this website that answer these questions of history, to show why believers don’t simply rely on “blind faith.”


Hinduism

Hinduism is an Eastern religion with great diversity. Generally speaking, Hindus believe in karma, reincarnation, a caste system, and the Brahman, the absolute universal singularity in which everyone and everything is a part. The goal of life is to escape perpetual reincarnation by accumulating enough good karma over multiple lifetimes. Adherents tend to orient themselves toward on one of three divinities in the Hindu system: Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi. Oriented around a caste system, it is difficult to be a Hindu in a non-caste culture, especially if the culture values humanity having equal potential and freedom.

It’s a mistake to think of Hinduism as having a set doctrine. Many Hindu follow the Vedas, Upanishads, and/or the Bhagavad-Gita. Some forms of Hinduism involve gurus going into trance states, becoming possessed by various powers to provide specialized help. The culture of Hinduism varies by region, family influences, and other factors, and has a tendency to change or evolve. For this reason, Hinduism has often been called a way of life rather than a religion.


Islam

Islam considers itself the religion of Adam, Abraham, and Moses. Despite their similarities with Christianity, Islam theology differs dramatically in its view of God, Jesus, Scripture, and Salvation. Jesus was a great prophet, for example, but to call him “God” is a major abomination. Islam teaches that the Bible is corrupted, and that the prophet Muhammad provided the Qur’an, the only true word of God.

Of the most significant differences, salvation is a matter of moral character. This is largely determined by an adherence to Islam’s “five pillars”:

~ To confess, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

~ To pray five times daily.

~ To fast from sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan.

~ To make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your lifetime, so long as you are able.

~ To give at least 2.5 percent of your earning to the poor.

These pillars, along with adherence to the Qur’an, are imperative for the salvation of Muslims. They are left to hope that they have been good enough to earn Allah’s favor into eternal life.


Judaism

Jews trace their roots to Adam, Abraham, and Moses, similar to Christians. But Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah — because their Messiah has yet to come. The Jewish sacred text, what the Christian Bible calls the “Old Testament,” places special emphasis on the Torah, the first five books.

Judaism also developed an extensive oral tradition, which was written down as the “Talmud.” Judaism typically adheres to Rabbinic teaching and the Law of Moses. Adherents see themselves as belonging to the covenant of God, but they don’t share the New Testament view of God’s radical self-giving to forgive sinners and grant them full access to his presence.


New Age

New Age spirituality is one of the most diverse, and therefore most difficult, religious philosophies to succinctly define. Broadly speaking, this movement beckons followers to strip the different religions of their doctrine to fashion a spiritual smorgasbord from which to pick and choose.

It can be as simple as believing in your fortune cookie message, to being a full-fledged spiritual guru who performs healing therapy by channeling the energies with magic beads and crystals. Sometimes, New Age spirituality appears as a mystical movement that explores the idea of God consciousness within. Other times, it takes the form of a more magical movement with psychics, mediums, healers, and spiritual forces. As a whole, followers talk about enlightenment, about the exciting dawn of spiritual pluralism, and about helping  people awaken to their self-potential.

New Age spirituality has become popular in the U.S. because it promises a have-it-your-way non-judgmental path to spirituality — it serves to “catch” those who forsake their former religious upbringing but desire to remain spiritual. I discuss this movement in greater detail in this article.


Paganism

Modern Paganism is often called Neopaganism to distinguish itself from the old local village religions that we typically think of. Modern Pagans base their spirituality on nature, with an emphasis on practice, rather than belief. Their practices usually involve the use of magick (the “k” is used to distinguish it from fake “magic” tricks used for entertainment).

The most well-known form of Paganism is Wicca, of which there are variations. The basic form of Wicca worship involves creating or casting a circle somewhere, invoking or inviting deities into the circle, and using their powers to produce some kind of change. This can be concerning to any Christian friends, who understand that not all spirits are good ones.


Final Thoughts

I have not written this survey of popular religious philosophies without bias, but neither have I intended to mislead or deceive. Questions of God, spirituality, and religion are deeply important, both for daily life and eternity. At Josh McDowell Ministry, we have no doubt that the Christian faith is defensible and trustworthy. We know that Jesus is the Good News, and that God, alone, can address the needs of life over these other religious philosophies.

I invite you to spend time reading our online articles and resources, as well as Josh’s books, to learn about Jesus and the relationship He wants to have with you.

 

 

 



Showing Christ Relevant to Our Whatever Culture

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post, Josh shares nine ways he believes that Christians can show Christ relevant to non-believers in our modern “whatever” culture.

We can’t just claim, “Christ is truth” anymore, says Josh. We must provide historical evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible, but also share the deep and personal convictions we’ve gained through our committed walk with Christ.


Is Christ’s Truth Still Relevant? Yes!

Sadly, even inside the Church, most young people have bought into the secular idea that there is no absolute truth. But God’s standard of truth has not changed. What has changed is our tolerance for “situational” truth.

Yet when “truth” is based on situation, is it really truth? Vegetarians, for example, believe their “truth” that it’s wrong to kill animals for food. Nudists believe their “truth” that clothes are a hindrance. And scammers believe their “truth” that it’s perfectly acceptable to steal what belongs to another. Each defend their position, based on the “truth” of their subjective value system.

Tolerance used to mean respectfully acknowledging other viewpoints while not endorsing them. Now tolerance is defined as needing to respect all values, beliefs, and lifestyles as equal and valid — supposedly because there’s no “intelligent” way to discern which option is the best.

We conveniently push God’s absolute truth aside, viewing it to be old-fashioned and not applicable to a modern world. Or we decide there is no God.

But if there is no set truth, Josh reminds us, there are no answers. And if there are no answers, there are only questions. “People say, ‘I’m smart enough to create my own moral code,” says Josh. “But if we accept that norm, we justify even the actions of mass murderers.” Josh wisely notes that “truth” is not truth just because we believe it is.

Christians today are tasked with showing Christ relevant to a world that views Him as just one more option. How can we do so? Let’s look at Josh’s 9-step action plan.


Josh’s Nine Steps for Showing Christ Relevant to the World

Step 1: Create Community

Our society is full of broken people from broken homes suffering the fallout of dysfunctional relationships. How do today’s youth view success? One of the top rankings is a happy home life. People want to experience real love. You and I are to commit to loving so fiercely that people take note and wonder, “How is this possible?” We will sometimes fail  — but even in messy brokenness we can point to our source: Christ. Invite people into your life. See them as God sees them: as worthy and loved and cherished.

Step 2: Demonstrate Christ-like Compassion

Josh reminds us that it is only when we are convinced that another cares about us that we allow them to have influence in our life. Our churches should be known for their outreach ministries — but you and I need to be the ones signing up to participate to give these ministries life. We also need to minister in our personal lives. Are we good neighbors? Are we good friends? Are we willing to help a stranger, just for the opportunity to be like Christ? Ask God to help you live selflessly like Jesus.

Step 3: Context Truth Relationally

Bottom line: we must live out the truth of Christ through loving relationships. Do we allow others to take up our time when they need a helping hand or shoulder to cry on? Or do we live conditionally, only “serving” when we feel like it or because we think we’ll benefit? If you and I are to have the honor of showing Christ relevant in other people’s lives, we must do from a position of authentic relationship. We can build trust with people through grand gestures, but we build real intimacy by showing up, again and again, over time.

Step 4: Creatively Communicate Your Personal Testimony

Nothing will have more impact on showing Christ relevant to others than our effectively sharing our testimony. Can you confidently share ways that Christ has/is making a difference in your life? “Some people try to tell me they don’t have a testimony,” says Josh, “but I say, ‘Yes you do! You’re just being lazy. Set aside time to identify how your life was before Christ, how you came to know Christ, and how He’s changed your life.'”

It is because Josh has put in so many hours thinking about concrete examples to answer these questions that his personal testimony rings with authenticity and power. Because Josh KNOWS how Christ is relevant in his life, he is ever ready to share his testimony when asked. You and I should be just as prepared and hopeful at getting the chance to share ours. Start with this post about answering questions about Jesus.

Step 5: Demonstrate Caring Relationships

In our high-tech world, people crave caring relationships. As Josh puts it, “High tech calls for high touch.” The Church has the unique opportunity to meet this craving through loving community. But, again, entering a church can be an intimidating experience — especially for a non-believer who assumes s/he will be outed for not know when to sit, stand, pass the offering bucket, or even which book in the pew is the Bible.

People! We need to make sure we’re making it easy and comfortable for anyone to kick the tires of a church. That doesn’t mean we soften the message of our need for a Savior. It means we lead with caring. So the next time you go to church, don’t just say hi to the people you already know. Say hi to at least five people — especially those who look a bit anxious. Your friendly gesture of inclusion may be the single reason they decide to come back.

Step 6: Be Christ’s Love

It’s no big deal to love the lovable. But we enter a whole different ballgame when we show grace and patience and kindness to people who aren’t. The world is watching how you and I respond to the rude grocery cashier or jerky driver who just cut us off. The world is watching how we treat the homeless, convicts, and the adulterer next door that the neighborhood is having a field day gossiping about. “It’s loving the unlovable that will reach people’s hearts and minds to consider Jesus as the source of true love,” says Josh. “That’s the supernatural truth about the Christian faith.”

Beth Moore’s story about brushing a stranger’s hair in the airport always strikes me as the perfect example of showing Christ’s love. As Beth says, “When we are filled to the measure with the fullness of Christ, you cannot believe the needs we can meet. We can do what we know we can’t.” When we allow Him to, God can do through us what we simply can’t do on our own.

Step 7: Demonstrate Conspicuous Christ-like Marriage and Family

There can be no argument that America’s acceptance of easy divorce has severely handicapped the stability of the family unit. Why work hard on something that is just so much easier to leave behind? Kids suffer from the decisions of their parents on so many levels.

Today, most kids truly don’t know what the word “committed” really means. They throw away their water bottles, their barely used clothing, their gadgets — and their friends, when convenient. Because it’s the model they’ve been shown to follow. But you and I can make a difference by giving power and purpose to the word “committed.” We can demonstrate humility and selflessness and generosity. We can demonstrate sticking to hard stuff because it’s the right thing to do. We can demonstrate love. We can demonstrate the joy of living within God’s boundaries. “What has opened more doors for me to impact culture,” shares Josh, “has to do with the love I demonstrate for my wife and children.”

Step 8: Develop Credible Convictions

Before you and I can share our faith or testimony, we have to put in the work of growing the convictions we hold. As Josh mentioned above, some Christians have gotten lazy. To them, Christianity is a passive relationship, not an active, living/breathing relationship that gives their life peace and clarity and power. Some Christians have never even read the Bible!! People, how can we get in the game, if we don’t know the coach or the play book??

Here Josh gets very direct: If someone asks you why you take the truth of Christ at His word, and your reply is, “Because that’s what I was taught,” you prove the weakness of the foundation for your faith. Two other “dumb answers,” says Josh, are “Because I believe it” and “Because I have faith.” Ouch. But he’s right. Muslims have belief and faith. So do Mormons and Hindus and Buddhists and the New Age crowd. So how is your faith in Christ any different? “Faith,” says Josh, “doesn’t make something true.”

It’s a problem when the Church teaches a belief system without conviction. A conviction, explains Josh, is not just what you believe, but why you believe it, and how you’ve experienced it in your own life. Take the phrase, “Jesus saves.” In your own life, what does that mean? How has God showed you that 1) you matter to Him, that 2) He is changing you, and 3) That you can trust Him. Are you convinced, for example, that God is good, even when you don’t get what you want? The conviction that God is good, all the time, can only take root in our lives when we let go of how we think God should show up, and take Him at His word that He has a good plan for our life.

Step 9: Congregate Where People Are

Jesus didn’t check into a hotel in each town and tell the crowds to grab a number to visit with Him. What Jesus did do was make Himself accessible. He risked hanging with people that the religious leaders viewed so beneath them that interacting with them would soil both their fine clothing and their souls. But what they should have done, says Josh, is “throw the pearls, and let God decide who is swine.”

The point is to not set ourselves up as better than others, and to seek to create relationship with anyone needing God — even those that society disrespects or ridicules. Do you volunteer at church as a teacher or greeter? Have you served at a homeless shelter or food bank? Have you delivered meals to a shut-in? Have you participated in a prison ministry or a home for unwed mothers? Jesus loved loving on “sinners” because He felt compassion for the hurting. He was always on mission to draw them into loving relationship wth God.

Christ is extraordinarily relevant. We just have to get out there and show this truth to the world. God, alone, does the drawing of people to Him, so don’t feel like you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just keep to your lane — being a conduit He can use — and God will do what only God can do. 😉


In our next blog post, let’s look more at tolerance, and how society has derailed its traditional definition.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



If I Can’t See God, How Do I Know He Is Real? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



5 Attributes of God: Viewing God Correctly

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our fourteenth post in the year-long blog series we launched in January that we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we ponder five attributes of God. We can know Him!


God lives up to His promises because His character never changes. His faithfulnesses, as the Bible reminds us, is immeasurable. Click To Tweet

Why is it important that we view God as He really is?

A.W. Tozer, in his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy, puts it this way: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

What does Tozer mean by this? He means that if we are to truly experience the life-changing power of Christianity, we must hold the correct view that God is all-powerful, sovereign, holy, just, and merciful. Adds Tozer: “Man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”



God has shared numerous attributes about Himself, so that we can correctly view Him within the limited capacity of our human brains. Click To Tweet

Can We Really Know God?

How do we know what God is like? The Bible. The Bible is full of details on what’s important to God. In broad strokes it tells us what He loves (us!), and what He hates (sin). It gets nitty gritty on His guidelines for how we are to love and forgive others, and His stance on stealing, coveting, and killing. It tells us how to battle our pride. It even leaves us with no doubt as to His views on some of our biggest societal issues, including porn, abortion, and homelessness.

Quick question: Do you entertain “high” or “low” thoughts about God? Do you know Him as your Creator — or more as a cosmic genie? Do you have a daily relationship with God — or do you seek Him out only when you have a problem?

Let’s look at five attributes of God’s nature. Each of them points us to seeing God correctly: as good, gracious, and reliable. He is who He is, not who we try to make Him into. God loves us fiercely, but His justice is as concrete as His love.


God is All-Powerful

“O Sovereign LORD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power. Nothing is too hard for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17)

God enjoys unlimited power; absolutely nothing is too hard for Him. God can simply speak something into existence! Everything God wants to happen, will happen; nothing can thwart or prevent His plans. God even has power over life and death. None can challenge Him or His plans. Because God is good, His power reflects His good character. We can trust that God not only holds this crazy world in the palm of His hand — but our individuals hurts and fears and needs as well. We serve a BIG God.

Notes Tozer: “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.” 

God is all-powerful because He is sovereign.


God is Sovereign

“All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He has the power to do as He pleases among the angels of heaven and with those who live on earth. No one can stop Him or challenge Him, saying, ‘What do You mean by doing these things?’” (Daniel 4:35)

God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining. He has no need of anything, including us. Yet He finds it a good thing to work through us to accomplish His master plan. So why are we too often guilty of trying to define God, stuffing Him inside a box we label and think we control? As if! Let’s not kid ourselves. God has dominion over all, including our life and death. God’s power diminishes any we think we have!

“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms,” notes Tozer. “We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control.”

God is sovereign because He is completely holy and just.


God is Holy and Just

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

God is perfect. Thus His holy presence demands that He reject our sin. But because He loves us so fiercely, He sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we can stand in right relationship with Him. Think about that: only God’s holiness could cover the filth of our sin. But just as He fights for us, God will turn His back on us if we refuse to give up our sin. Because God respects our free will, He leaves the choice entirely up to us. Now that’s a gracious God!

“Justice is not something God has,” notes Tozer. “Justice is something that God is.” 

Because God is holy, He is pure love. 


God is Loving

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love, Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can not keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

God’s goodness stems from His loving nature. Not even our gravest sin minimizes God’s love for us! As Joyce Meyer frequently says, God separates our “who” from our “do.” We may have bad moments, but that doesn’t make us bad people in God’s eyes. Isn’t that amazing?! He instantly forgives us when we ask, and remembers our sin no more. He hears even our softest whisper of remorse!

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God,” notes Tozer. “He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”

Because God is fully loving, He extends unmeasured mercy. 


God is Merciful

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.” (Psalm 145:8)

God is omniscient; He knows the past, present, and future. He knows every thought and word and action we’ll take today, tomorrow, even next year. Yet He has promised to “never relent from showing mercy to His children.” Thus, he administers His justice to us fairly. God listens to our pleas for mercy, and washes away our transgressions.

“As judgment is God’s justice confronting moral inequity,” adds Tozer, “so mercy is the goodness of God confronting human suffering and guilt. Were there no guilt in the world, no pain and no tears, God would yet be infinitely merciful; but His mercy might well remain hidden in His heart, unknown to the created universe. No voice would be raised to celebrate the mercy of which none felt the need. It is human misery and sin that call forth the divine mercy.”

God promises to never relent from showing His mercy to us. It is instantly given, when we confess our sins. As a society, however, we have decided we don’t need mercy. Because, we’ve decided, that a loving, merciful God won’t eventually punish us by casting us from His presence. Tozer puts it like this: “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly, has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”


God is Who God Is, Not Who We Say He Is

The truth, of course, is just the opposite. God is who He is, not as we try to mold Him into being. He makes the rules, we don’t. That sounds harsh, until we finally begin to understand His utterly holy and just character.

So, we have a choice: accept and follow Him as He is, to eternally remain in His precious presence. Or refuse to love and follow God, and miss out. I personally can’t wait to be overwhelmed by the majesty and glory of God. 

This Tozer quote is utterly fab:

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”


Study the attributes above, until you begin to get a solid, truthful view of who God is. He’s kinda irresistible once you open your heart and brain to all that He is!


In our next blog post, let’s pay homage to great moms everywhere, by looking at how they reflect God’s love! 

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Three Ways the Resurrection of Jesus Can Transform Your Life Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Some of the greatest skeptics have been convinced by the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. These include literary geniuses (C.S. Lewis), lawyers (Simon Greenleaf), cold case detectives (J. Warner Wallace), historians (Will Durant), journalists (Lee Strobel) and many more.

As my father and I demonstrate in the updated Evidence that Demands A Verdict, the historical evidence for the resurrection is remarkable enough to persuade some of the greatest minds in history.

And yet the resurrection of Jesus is not merely a historical event from 2,000 years ago. The truth of the resurrection has power for your life today (Philippians 3:10).

Consider three examples:

 

1. The Resurrection Offers Answers for Doubters.

Doubt is not a sin. Even some of the apostles of Jesus doubted at his ascension (Matthew 28:17). Jude encourages us to be merciful towards those who doubt (1:22). I went through a period of significant doubt in my early twenties, and the evidence for the resurrection was significant in helping me maintain my faith. Part of what motivated Dr. Michael Licona to research and write his massive book on the resurrection, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, was to find answers to his own doubts. Knowing and experiencing the truth of the resurrection can help Christians who doubt.

 

2. The Resurrection Offers Hope for Grievers.

Like taxes, death is inevitable. We have all lost loved ones. As Christians, the resurrection offers us hope in our grief. The Apostle Paul writes:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

 

3. The Resurrection Offers Forgiveness for Sinners.

Guilt is a universal human experience. Naturalists try to explain it away as a vestige of Darwinian evolution. It is a trick, some claim, to get us to live in peaceful relationship for the sake of propagating the species. But the Christian has a different perspective: we feel guilty because we areguilty. Guilt is not illusory. We have wronged God, and we have wronged other human beings. The solution is not to deny the reality of guilt, or to rely upon human effort, but to embrace the forgiveness only Jesus offers. The Apostle Peter said:

 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)

The resurrection offers answers for doubters, hope for grievers, and forgiveness for sinners. If you are not a Christian, will you at least consider the evidence for the resurrection? You just might be surprised by its strength, but more importantly, how that truth can transform your life today.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 

 



3 Foundational Truths of Christianity

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our thirteenth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into three foundational truths of  Christianity.


What do Christians basically believe?

For starters, that God has a wonderful plan for humanity — though Adam and Eve mucked up the works pretty darn fast. Were the actions of these infamous first sinners a surprise to God? No. Because in creating us, God intentionally gave us free will. Just like He gave Satan. Despite knowing that we, too, would all too often choose sin over Him, God allows us the freedom to choose. God isn’t interested in robots, but messy people who sincerely love Him. 

Amazingly, God continually seeks to bring us back into right standing with Him. That’s true tolerance!

Let’s look at three foundational truths that committed Christ-followers find compelling enough to exclude all paths except Jesus.


foundational truths Christianity


Foundational Truth #1: Jesus Proved His Deity

During his 3-year ministry, Jesus repeatedly told His followers that He came from heaven to die for mankind’s sin, in order to reconcile us to God. In dying and resurrecting, Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophesies uttered hundreds of years before His birth.

But Jesus knows that talk can be cheap. So how did He make good on His claims? Through His actions.

Did Jesus demonstrate compassion, kindness, and acceptance? Yup! Jesus called out sin, but He foremost made it clear that He was motivated by the love that God the Father has for every single one of us. Did Jesus demonstrate incredible wisdom? Off the charts! He left even the most educated stumped. Did Jesus demonstrate miraculous power over nature, disease, demons, and death? Totally! Even over His own death, which validates His claim of the being the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Everything Jesus said AND did were congruent. Everything about Him, as I heard one scholar put it, “Hangs together.” It may still take quite the leap of faith for some of us to believe that God would come down in human form. But Jesus could NOT have done more to relationally prove God’s love.

Externally, Jesus appeared to be just a first-century Palestine peasant. But He proved His deity with His actions. Who can this be, asked His wowed disciples, that even the wind and sea obey Him? Click To Tweet


Foundational Truth #2: Christianity Changes People

The Bible clearly says that humanity’s woes stem from our collective sinful nature. Even our modern technology can’t save us from ourselves. Just look at the online porn footprint, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Despite the societal view that modern man has become “enlightened” by leaving God behind, we just can’t get beyond the pull of addiction, abuse, hatred, revenge, and other crippling, destructive behaviors.

Many people actually are looking for a “savior” — but they’re placing bets on the wrong ponies. It won’t be government intervention or subsidies, New Age philosophies, the media, the money of the super wealthy, or even the “right” president who will be able to “fix things.” Because they can’t address the real root of the problem: Us.

As Jesus notes in the Bible, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20)

It’s so frustrating to Christians that they don’t instantly become like Jesus the moment they accept Him as Lord. God might, of course, immediately release a person from an addiction or situation that had so painfully ensnared them. But to become the loving, patient, self-controlled person that Christ modeled, we must go through the daily (and sometimes painful) process of partnering with God to put ourselves second.

But here’s the good news: because God offers us complete assurance of His love, acceptance, and forgiveness, we can RUN to him and find His arms open to us every time we mess up. We need that grace so much!


Foundational Truth #3: The Bible is Historical & Reliable

The Bible is God’s Word to us. It’s very cool that God not only cares about the issues we’re struggling with, but that in His Word He provides answers to many of our questions about life and purpose. To critics who suggest that the Bible is outdated, irrelevant, and in no way applicable to modern society, I’d have to ask if they’ve actually read much of it. The Bible teaches us how to love, how to forgive, where to place our focus, even how to be great spouses, friends, and parents.

The Bible’s integrity, specific to both its historical and geographical record, continues to be supported by external sources and archeological discoveries. Critics like to claim that the Bible can’t be trusted due to the element of human error. But this just isn’t true. We have lots of blog posts that cover the reliability of Scripture that you can peruse. Just one notable confirmation of the authenticity of the Bible can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in a cave in Qumran only about 70 years ago.

Jesus fulfilled loads of Old Testament prophesy through His birth, death, and resurrection. Even today, the Bible continues to provide convincing prophetic accuracy. The Bible isn’t an ordinary, static book. It contains the Spirit of God!


“I’m just not sure that I can make the leap that Jesus is God. Or that He really cares about me.”

I totally get this! Because I had to overcome these mental hurdles, too. I hated that Christ died such a gruesome death; it took me years to gratefully accept that Jesus purposefully, willingly chose to hang there to express God‘s ceaseless love for ME. Because of that sacrifice — not my actions — I am deemed worthy to enter God’s presence without shame or guilt. That’s mind-blowing!

When Jesus said, “I am the Way,” he meant it. It wasn’t small talk, it wasn’t bragging, it was truth. 

Where else, in all of existence, can we find a restorative relationship based not on our do, but on our who? Show me! Among all world religions, ONLY Christianity offers grace and full acceptance of our messy insides — even if they resemble that ghastly Dorian Gray’s portrait. #yowza

The foundational truths of Christianity are based on the historical personage of Jesus. He lived, He died, and He resurrected, to intimately show us God’s amazing power and love. But the choice is up to us: Will we accept that we are so valued and wanted by the Creator of the universe?

Only through Christ can we receive the free gift of unconditional acceptance and love that we instinctively crave. This makes Christianity completely unique, and completely cool. Click To Tweet


In our next blog post, let’s look at five attributes of God. Wanna know God better? Don’t miss that post!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



What Makes the Bible So Special? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our twelfth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll look at two answers for the question “Why did Jesus have to die?”

Here’s why the “Why did Jesus have to die?” question is critical: if you and I don’t get clear on the need for Jesus’ cruel death on the cross, we’ll never fully grasp the full nature of God. And we’ll cheapen the significance of the cross — which I’ll admit I did for a whole lot of years. People, I was 100 percent disgusted by the cross. I hated hearing about it in church. And there was no way I was going to wear a shiny gold replica of it around my neck! Gross! As a young child I can remember thinking, “Poor grown-up baby Jesus!”

“Why did Jesus have to die?” Let’s look at two important reasons!



Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Because of Justice.

Why did Jesus have to die? Reason #1: So that God can welcome us into His holy presence.

Once humanity chose to sin, our sin separated us from God. Because God is completely holy. This might be hard for us to understand, so let’s use an analogy. Imagine a freshly shampooed carpet in our family playroom — and our muddy-pawed puppy racing toward it. We’d stall the puppy to prevent it from spoiling the carpet, right?

The torture that Jesus endured on the way to His death was shameful. Crucifixion, perfected under the oh-so-enlightened Romans, remains the most monstrous form of public execution ever devised. It is horrific, excruciating, and inhumane.

But when we isolate the words horrific, excruciating, and shameful, we get our first hints of the depth of sacrifice God was willing to make of Himself to reconcile us to Him. Click To Tweet

As a child — okay, even for a whole lot of my adult years — I missed the of Himself part. The phrase “God sent His son to die” muddies the reality that God and Jesus are one.

Author Max Lucado has been a tremendous influence in opening my eyes to just how up-close and personal God was during Jesus’ crucifixion. God wasn’t a distant bystander. Rather, because God and Jesus are interconnected, He also agonized over what needed to happen. He must have felt every slap, punch, and lash of the whip. He must have felt the jarring pain in each step to Golgotha. He must have felt the desperate overwhelm of suffocation of hanging on the cross. For sure, God felt the suffocating weight of our evilness and sin that draped heavily on Jesus. God or Jesus could have prevented the cross — but then again, no, if you and I were to be redeemed.

Jesus sweated drops of blood at the thought of what He was to endure. But He chose to willingly make that ultimate sacrifice, so that we can approach Him and the Father without obstacle, 24/7.

Dr. Andy Bannister of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries answers the question of “Why did Jesus have to die?” like this: The cross, he explains, is the cross-section of God’s mercy and justice. When true forgiveness or mercy is bestowed, someone has to pay the price for it. The cross offers true mercy and forgiveness, but not at the expense of justice. God, through Jesus, was perfectly unselfish. He stepped up to pay the exorbitant fine required for our sin. Notes Richard Cunningham in his excellent article on BeThinking.org: “We underestimate the significance of our sin — which is why the death of Jesus looks like gratuitous violence.” Bibleinfo.com adds, “…a just and perfect God could not simply sweep sin under the carpet and go on running a perfect universe.”

Because we can’t see our sin the way God does, we kinda think, maybe, that His standards are too high. That perhaps God should take a chill pill. But our perspective is wrong!

Christ's suffering was so terrible because it was equal to the seriousness of our sin. Click To Tweet

Here’s my prayer for all of us: that we begin to see how our sin hurts God — and that we gain the desire to truly honor Him wholeheartedly with our words, thoughts, and actions. To be as committed to reflecting the love expressed on the cross, as Jesus was in allowing Himself to be nailed to it.


Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Because of Love.

Why did Jesus have to die? Reason #2: To demonstrate God’s complete and utter love for us.

Why, asks Cunningham, did Jesus so deliberately co-operate with a series of events that took Him to a place of torture and bloody execution? It seems unnecessary. Except for the point we just made in Reason #1: That God Himself was in Christ, personally dealing with the sin.

“True love has the power not to ignore hurt, but to absorb it,” wisely notes Cunningham. God and Jesus absorbed the pain of our sin and digested it. And Christ, he adds, “plumbed the depths of His own divine heart for those inner resources which alone can quench God’s righteous anger.”

Bibleinfo.com’s view is spot on: “The cross is graphic enough to reach the most hardened criminal, but also the most sensitive humanist.” Jesus was willing to die brutally for us, to prevent our brutal punishment. Once we understand the depth of His sacrifice, we can’t help but be grateful.

Have you accepted Christ as Lord? The expiration date on His loving invitation ceases only upon your last breath. But why wait? Come feel His love now!


In our next blog post, let’s look at some of the foundations of the Christian faith. Christianity is based on truth!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



The Resurrection Answers Three Big Questions

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings—or it is the most remarkable fact of history.

My father has often shared these words to me in person, and he’s written them in his books. The older I get, the more I realize they’re unmistakably true. There’s no middle ground with the resurrection of Jesus. Either it is a colossal fabrication or the most important event in history.

Given that we are in Easter season, many people are thinking about the resurrection. Is it true? What does it mean? Why should I care?

In this short post, I have a modest goal: to persuade you of the monumental importance of the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, I consider three massive questions that the resurrection, if it is true, answers.

 

1. Does God Exist?

If Jesus has risen from the grave, and truly conquered death 2,000 years ago, then this seems to be powerful evidence for the existence of God. After all, a resurrection would require an enormous amount of power and an enormous amount of knowledge. Nature does not have the resources to account for a resurrection any more than a feather can account for a massive dent in a car (unless it’s a Chevy). There must be a supernatural explanation.

Commenting on Jesus’ claims to deity, Gary Habermas observes,

But were these claims true? To verify them, the Gospels assert that Jesus performed miracles as signs of his credibility. We are even told that he identified his resurrection and predicted in advance that this event would be the ultimate vindication of his message and his own claim to deity.

The sum of these teachings comprised Jesus’s personal belief in Christian theism. It makes sense that Jesus was in the best position to interpret the meaning of this event. And he claimed that God’s action in his resurrection would verify his teachings.

We need to entertain at least the possibility that Jesus was correct: that this unique historical event combined with Jesus’s unique claims might indicate that his theistic worldview was corroborated. [1]

If Jesus rose from the grave, then it seems to provide a positive answer to one of the most pressing issues humans ask—Does God exist?

 

2. Which Religion Is True?

If the resurrection actually took place in historical space-time, then all other religions and philosophies for coping with life fall short.

This doesn’t mean other religions are entirely false in everything they teach. Many religions offer profound insights about life. But it does mean that on core issues—the nature of God, salvation and the afterlife—Christianity is uniquely true. And on the flip side, as Paul observes, if the resurrection is not true, then Christianity is utterly false (1 Cor 15:14, 17).

Jesus encouraged people to believe in him because of both his teachings and his miracles (e.g. John 5:36-40; Luke 10:13-15). He seemed to view miracles as providing a divine seal on his own ministry. For instance, Jesus reportedly told the Jewish leaders that his miracles were proof that he was the Son of God (John 10:36-38). On another occasion, Jesus pointed to his resurrection as the greatest sign that would confirm his identity (Matthew 16:1-4).

Again, Gary Habermas observes:

In what the Book of Acts presents as its initial sermon, Peter reportedly declared that Jesus’s miracles, and especially the resurrection, were the chief indication that God had approved Jesus’s teachings (Acts 2:23-32)…By citing an early creed that utilizes at least three Christological titles, Paul proclaimed that the resurrection was God’s confirmation of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:3-4)…the resurrection would have been taken as God’s approval of Jesus’s message[2]

 

3. Is There Life After Death?

How could we really know if there is life after death? In the 1990 science-fiction thriller Flatliners (which was poorly updated in 2017), some medical students want to know if there is life after death. Instead of studying religion or philosophy, they decide to flatline one another’s hearts, resuscitate themselves back to life, and then give a report on what happens in the afterlife. While morbid, their thinking does make sense—if we want to know what’s on the other side of life, we should ask someone who has been there and come back.

If the resurrection is true, then Jesus has actually returned from the dead and can confirm that there is life after death.

In John 14:3, Jesus says to his disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (ESV). In other words, Jesus can testify about life after death because he has died, and then returned to life as a witness. Thus, if the resurrection is true, then life continues after death, just as Jesus taught.

Can you see how important the resurrection is? Again, either it is a colossal fabrication, or it is the most important event in history. There’s no middle ground.

If you haven’t really considered the evidence, then today should be the day. Maybe start by checking out Evidence that Demands A Verdict, the book my father first wrote trying to refute the Christian faith. He came to the opposite conclusion, and together we just completed an update with the most recent evidence for Jesus.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org

 

 


[1] Gary Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 66-67.

[2] Ibid., 91.



Josh Asks: Why Celebrate Easter?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our eleventh post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” 

As our excitement for Easter’s approach builds, I have a question for you: What should be our focus? The story of a chocolate-totting bunny? Or, maybe, the sweetest love ever?


Real Meaning of Easter


I don’t know why the Easter Bunny gets so much press at Easter. I’m pretty sure he’s not real. 🙂 I’ve found no historical record of him in the Bible. Not in the Old Testament, and definitely not in the New.

Okay, I’m kidding about searching for the mythical Easter Bunny in the Bible! But I do want to make this point: Easter isn’t about chocolate and jelly beans and colored egg hunts. It’s not about new dresses and fancy lunches and making a rare appearance in church.

Easter, friends, is about the personal, life-changing relationship God wants to have with each of us. No chocolate treat that you and I can receive or give this Easter has a smidgen of the sweetness of that amazing gift. 

I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Scripture is reliable and its very words are inspired by God. The Bible beats with God's heart. Click To Tweet

Yes, I Know It’s A Radical Story

You may not know this about me, but I once totally doubted God and the truthfulness of Christ’s deity. In fact, right after college, I set out to prove that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of distorted and unreliable records of historical and mythical events. Simply put, if I could prove that the Bible wasn’t a reliable document of history, then I could show that everything it says about God and the Christian faith is in question.

I REALLY wanted to do that. Because God’s existence did not jive with how I saw the world. Having absolutely no doubts that my worldview was correct, I assumed that discrediting God and the Bible was going to be delightfully easy. I couldn’t wait to expose God and Christ as frauds! So I traveled all over Europe, seeking out historical manuscripts and knowledgable scholars to not only validate my view — but to do so beyond any shadow of doubt.

Here’s the egg-on-my-face part of the story: Eventually I had to admit that the evidence for Christ being exactly who He said He is was overwhelming. To be intellectually honest, I couldn’t deny or ignore this truth. I had to accept it and adjust my worldview to align with this truth. It would have been an intellectual cop-out for me to say, “I simply refuse to accept this.”

It is a wise man who can admit when he has been intellectually lazy or wrong. Click To Tweet

Evaluating Life Via Our Worldview

I fully get that each of us views life through the lens of our personally constructed worldview. Some of us acquire our perspective through secular influences such as Darwinism, Postmodernism, or even Enlightenment philosophy. Some of us forge our worldview by the way people treat us. Some of us simply accept as truth whatever we’re taught by our parents, friends, or educators. (Ack! Please don’t trust and believe what you hear on social media!)

But I will say, boldly, that a true worldview explains the world as it actually is. Not as we choose to see it.

Some people find it nigh on impossible to believe that God is a personable being who keeps us on His mind 24/7. A delightful young man I met at a conference, for example, is attached to the idea that “God” is simply a massive energy force. So a “personal” relationship, he insists, is neither possible nor intended.

Hmmm… I’ll agree that God is supernatural energy. But impersonal? No way. An “energy force” who doesn’t hear my prayers, or dry my tears, or celebrate my wins can’t compare to the very personal, hands-on God I’ve come to know over the last 50 years. Friends, God is active in the smallest details of our lives. The Bible tells us so, and our own daily experience bears this out.

One reason I find the Bible so valuable is that it shows us who God is, and who we are in His eyes. Click To Tweet

Man-Made Construct?

“But your God and your Bible are man-made constructs,” argued my young friend, “All world religions are the same in this.”

In truth, Christianity is *nothing* like any other religion. Nor did it piecemeal itself together by borrowing from earlier religions, as some critics like to suggest. (This truth is self-evident, if you put in some study effort.)

The Bible gives us concrete knowledge of God’s loving yet holy character. It teaches us that God is an eternal being who is all-powerful, ever present, never changing, all-knowing — and crazy about us. The Bible is crystal-clear on one point: the personal cost God was willing to pay to prove His undying love for us.

The Bible affirms God's unyielding love for us, and the unique and special way each of us fits into God's universe. Click To Tweet

It’s Easter: Be Sweet Like Jesus!

My friend can’t yet see the value of Jesus’ sacrifice, nor the sweet, sweet joy we Christians have because of Jesus’ resurrection. So I asked him to do me a favor: To consider the truth of God with an open mind, like I did when I was his age. To at least question the validity of his worldview.  “Who knows,” he conceded, as we warmly shook hands in parting. “I might change my mind one day. In part because you were willing to discuss this so amicably with me.”

Friends, his comment pierced my heart as surely as Christ’s nails pierced His hands and feet! The resurrection story is the most amazing story ever. But if we don’t share the Good News with an attitude of love and respect and grace — in Easter speak: if we’re not sweet — we lose the opportunity to share our love for Jesus. We lose the opportunity to have influence. This Easter, let’s model the sweetness of Jesus!

This Easter season, when people are more open to hearing the Gospel message, let's model the sweetness of Jesus. #easter Click To Tweet

In our next blog post, let’s look more at why Jesus had to die for humanity. Some think His gesture unnecessary, some think it grotesque. What’s your view? How did you develop your view?

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Did you miss last month’s posts on Christ’s resurrection details?



Was the Resurrection of Jesus a Late Church Invention?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

 

To be a Christian today is to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. But what about the first Christians? Could belief in the resurrection have been a late church invention? If so, then Easter celebration is deeply misguided and Christians ought to reject the evidence for faith.

Critics often claim that there were a variety of “Christian” beliefs in the first and second centuries—some that embraced the resurrection of Jesus and others that rejected it. The resurrection party happened to “win,” and so contemporary Christians accept it.

The problem with this claim is that there is no early Christianity apart from belief in the resurrection.

Let me say it again—The earliest records we have all indicate that belief in the resurrection of Jesus was at the heart of the Christian faith.

Consider four points:

 

1. Early Christian Creeds:

Creeds are verbal proclamations that circulated before their inclusion in the New Testament (e.g., Romans 1:3-4, 1 Peter 3:18). They give us a glimpse into the earliest Christian beliefs. Perhaps the oldest creed comes from 1 Corinthians 15:3-5:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Notice two things.

First, Paul passes on a tradition that he had previously been given. Given the formulaic structure of this passage, most scholars agree that Paul is passing on material he received.

Second, the resurrection is of “first importance” for the faith.

 

2. Early Christian Preaching:

The book of Acts records the beginning and expansion of the church. Resurrection is mentioned in most of the speeches, which make up roughly one-third of the book. In the first speech in Acts, Peter describes how God appointed Jesus to do wonders but he was killed by lawless men, and yet “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).

 

3. Early Letters of Paul:

The epistles of Paul are filled with references to the resurrection. N.T. Wright observes:

Squeeze this letter [Romans] at any point, and resurrection spills out; hold it up the light, and you can see Easter sparking all the way through. If Romans had not been hailed as the great epistle of justification by faith, it might easily have come to be known as the chief letter of resurrection. [1]

 

4. Early Church Fathers:

Resurrection was a central theme for many of the believers shortly after the apostles. Affirmations of the resurrection can be found in Ignatius Letter to the Magnesians 11, Polycarp Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians 1.2, 1 Clement 42:3, and the Letter of Barnabas 5:6.

The centrality of the resurrection can be seen in the earliest Christians creeds, the first written documents, the first preaching, and in the apostolic fathers.

There simply is no record of early Christian faith divorced from the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus was not a late church invention. It was the heart of the earliest Christian faith and proclamation.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 

[1] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 241.

 

 

 

 

 



What is the Evidence Jesus Rose from the Dead? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Hope: Not Wishful Thinking For Christians

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into how our relationship with God infuses us with hope.

Hope over our missteps of the past, which God can redeem. Hope for our present. And hope for the future, on the glorious day we will see Him face-to-face. A Christian’s hope is not simply a desire for something possibly attainable. A Christian’s hope is certain, because God has guaranteed it. God loved us at creation, and sent Jesus to ensure our eternity with Him when we accept Him as Lord.

Bottom line: our hope gains us strength, rest, and contentment. Let’s look at three ways we can tap into this hope, and keep it with us on a daily basis.



—-Hope That We’re Special to God

Our value comes from one single source: God. Only what He says about us matters. Not what society says, not what our spouses say, not what our children say, not what our parents say, etc. God tells us over and over and over again in the Bible that He will never stop loving us, rooting for us, carrying us, and seeking after a relationship with us. Why? Because we are that special to Him.

If you’ve gotten the idea from your church that you’re not highly valued by God, you heard wrong. God may not like our behavior when it runs counter to His standards, but he never, for an instance, views us without love. That’s AMAZING grace, friends! The Bible tells us He CRAVES to be in relationship with us. Because He knows that if He can get our attention, He can tells us His love message over and over and over until it finally sinks into our souls and echoes with every heartbeat. Jesus covered all of our sins at the cross. God’s face is always turned toward us.

—-Hope That We’re Not Our Mistakes

I CANNOT tell you how much I love this one! We all want to be redeemed from our dumb choices, right?

On our worst days, we long for a Do Over button. The good news: one actually exists. God keeps His finger on it, ever willing to push it. Click To Tweet

God repeatedly tells us to drop our soiled baggage at His feet — and to stop picking it up again. Yes, it can be so hard to sometimes let go of the guilt and shame we think we have to keep punishing ourselves with. But God tells us to drop our load because He knows how much it hobbles us in moving forward. Anyway, He’s already forgiven it. The FIRST time we asked!

You might have been told, as a child, that you were a screw up. You might have been reminded last week by a family member, boss, or stranger, that you’re a screw up. You might even, at this very moment, be hearing voices in your head that you’re a screw up. BUT YOU ARE NOT. Trust me; I know how hard this can be to believe!

I was raised in a church that taught that God’s love for me was conditional. So it intentionally reminded me of my screwed-up nature every single Sunday. Family members also repeatedly told me that I didn’t measure up. So sometimes the negative self-talk in my head is downright vicious. That’s when I limp to God, to anxiously test if He’s still with me. My hope returns when in my soul I hear God assert, “Your who is NOT your do, beloved child of mine. You are redeemed because of my son, Jesus.” That renews my spirit!

Amazing grace. So hard to believe. But so necessary to believe if we're to love, trust, and wholeheartedly follow God. God's standards never deviate, but neither does His unceasing love. Click To Tweet

—-Hope That Our Life Matters

There is nothing worse than wandering through our days without meaning and purpose. Because without either we get antsy and depressed and start to think of ourselves as inconsequential. And then we begin to compare ourselves with others, which is never good, because we lose hope.

God’s Word tells us that HE distributes our gifts and talents. And that HE doesn’t view one person’s talents as more important than another’s. You might feel yourself a tiny minnow in a miles-wide ocean, but that’s not how God sees you. He sees you as the right person, in the right place, to do what He needs done in the right moment.

You might not be aware of it, but your words and actions have the power to change the trajectory of many other lives. Your bright smile might be the very nugget of hope that buoys another person. Your shared meal might be the small gesture of generosity that soothes another’s rejected heart. Your carving time out of your hectic schedule to sit with a hurting friend might plant seeds of hope that blossom and bear fruit that others get to gratefully gobble up. 😉

We’re all connected; Our actions matter because WE matter to our Creator!

So if you’re lying in a hospital bed right without hope, let this post remind you. If you’re having trouble finding a job and view yourself as worthless, let this post remind you to regain hope. If you’re going through a painful divorce and view yourself as unlovable, let this post remind of God’s great love for you. God says He’s with us through even our lowest of lows. Our hope shouldn’t be dependent on our circumstances, because the source of our hope is a solid rock.

Our hope in God's ceaseless love is grounded not in our wishing or fabricating, but in truth. The truth of God's Word. Click To Tweet

Accept it. Believe it. Live it. You matter, you are special, and you are loved no matter what. Allow Jesus’s sacrifice to spark hope eternal in you!


In our next blog post, let’s look toward Easter!!!!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



4 Misconceptions about Resurrection

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

 

Not long ago, I was invited onto a radio show to discuss the evidence for the resurrection with a Christian and a skeptic. The skeptical host pushed back on my argument for the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus. “Your claim is so obviously false,” he said, “Just look at all the resurrections of the dead in the Bible alone, including people like Lazarus.”

The host was certainly right that many other people have been raised from the dead in the Bible, but he was confused about the difference between rising from the dead and resurrection. This is a common misunderstanding. We are going to briefly consider four misconceptions about the meaning of resurrection, and then clarify the biblical idea.

 

1. Resurrection Is Not Immortality of the Soul.

Greek philosophers saw the body as the prison house of the soul. The material world was considered corrupt, fallen, and evil. Thus, the goal of salvation was to escape the physical realm and to be freed from its shackles. But in Hebrew thought, the material world is considered good. The soul without the body is incomplete. A human being is a body and soul in unity.

 

2. Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation.

Eastern religions teach reincarnation, the rebirth of the self (consciousness, soul, mind, etc.) after the death of the body. Reincarnation is considered a curse, not a blessing. Depending on the specific tradition, the goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnation and experience nirvana or personal annihilation. In contrast, the biblical view is that human beings live one life, and then are raised to be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27).

 

3. Resurrection Is Not Resuscitation.

As mentioned by the skeptic in the opening story, the Bible records many instances of people coming back to life. Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). Peter raised Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42). And Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). But here is the difference between these people and Jesus: They would each die again, but Jesus was raised to immortality and glory.

 

4. Resurrection Is Not Translation.

The Bible records at least two instances where people were taken directly to God without dying. Enoch lived 365 years and then was taken up directly to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). The prophet Elijah was taken to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). These are not examples of resurrection because there is no evidence either experienced death.

 

So, what is resurrection?

As my father and I state in the updated Evidence that Demands A Verdict, resurrection is a return to physical life. But it is not a return to the present physical existence with all its limitations. Resurrected bodies are transformed, incorruptible, and eternal (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Jesus was not resuscitated, reincarnated, or translated. And his soul did not escape to an immaterial realm.

Jesus was resurrected—never to die again. And since Jesus is the firstfruits of those who are yet to come, if we trust in Christ, we too will one day have transformed, resurrected bodies and be able to experience eternity with Christ and the Church in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21-22).

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 



Reason for Our Hope: Christ’s Resurrection

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, the ninth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post let’s explore the hope that buoys us because of Christ’s resurrection.

Life to death. The exact moment that our earthly constraints unchain and our eyes open to the majesty of what's next. Some won't be ready, others will be chomping at the bit! Click To Tweet

If we love Christ, that poignant moment will bring unbridled joy. Why? Because in proving His power over death, Jesus promised us the privilege of being in His presence for eternity. One of the tenet verses of the Christian faith, John 3:16, puts it this way: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

Let’s look at why stepping into Heaven is going to be the most amazing moment ever.



Are You Chomping at the Bit?

Dude! We will be ushered into His presence! The most glorious sunset can only dimly hint at how much this will blow our minds. #justsayin

My heart aches for people who confidently declare there's nothing after death. Too often, they have no basis for their view. Click To Tweet

Those who put their hope in Christ do so because they know Him to be real. And not just because His ministry, death, and resurrection have been historically documented. And not because they dutifully shuffle in and out of church every Sunday. It’s because in earnestly seeking after Him, they feel His presence.

Jesus promises that all believers shall experience eternal joy. Not because we’ve earned it — but simply because we call Him “Lord.”


What’s So Great About Heaven, Anyway?

Spoiler alert: Heaven will be great because God will be there. You think the universe is awesome? God will be a million times more awesome, because He's the Creator. Click To Tweet

When I was a child, I gotta admit: I was not impressed to hear that Heaven is full of mansions, streets of gold, and non-stop choirs of angels. Ho-hum, that sounded boring. Now, as an adult, I gotta be honest and admit that it still does. LOL. So I’m happy to report that Heaven is SO. MUCH. MORE:

~ In Heaven we’ll be reunited with our dearly missed loved ones — fathers, sons, grandparents, even pets (maybe?) — who have gone before us. Oh, happy day!

~ In Heaven we’ll finally get to experience the fullness of God, without the filter of sin that hangs so heavy over this world.

~ In Heaven we’ll finally get answers to our huge philosophical questions. You know, like, “Why was I born?” … “What was my purpose?” … “What was the meaning of life?” … “Why was life so hard?” … and “Did I make you proud, Lord?”


The Truth: Let’s Grab It!

I know it’s cool for some to say, “I’m looking forward to partying with the sinners in hell.” I’m hoping that’s only because they don’t understand that hell isn’t going to be anything close to Party Central. Whether it’s blistering fire and brimstone, or a darkness so crushing that it suffocates the soul, the worst part of hell will be separation from God’s holy, amazing presence. That’s like seeing the beauty of the VIP table, but being banned to the kitchen to wash dishes for the rest of the meal. #justkeepingitreal

Jesus took Hell seriously. It's why He paid the ultimate price to display His power over it. That's the truth of the resurrection! Click To Tweet

Heaven: the place we’d be foolish not to want to be in for all of eternity. It’s our hope, and our promise, our reward for committing to Him. Heaven is the wonderful home we crave deep in our soul. Can you hardly wait to get there?


In our next blog post, let’s look even deeper at our hope in Christ. Continue the journey with us!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Trusting in Christ’s Resurrection: The Disciples’ Reaction

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, the eighth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” Can we can place our trust in Christ’s resurrection?

What kind of person would take the blame for something he didn’t do? When you find the adjective, attach it to Jesus. He took the punishment we could not take, to offer the hope we cannot resist. Click To Tweet

Jesus Resurrection


The Wavering Became Rock-Solid Believers!

Let’s try to picture the arrest and death of Jesus from His disciples’ point of view: These mostly rough and tumble guys had walked away from their ho-hum lives to follow Jesus. In return, for the next few years, they got to bask in the notoriety of being Jesus’ inner circle. When they walked into a new town with Him, I bet they might have done so with a slight swagger. Because they knew what was about to happen: when Jesus showed up, He brought the miraculous. Can you just hear these guys saying, like it was no big deal, “Yeah, I’m just passing through. With Jesus.”

And then, BAM!

A deal was made, a disciple's dastardly kiss was completed, Jesus was arrested, and His disciples scrammed, proving themselves uncommitted. Click To Tweet

But, THEN! There’s no getting around the fact that something incredible happened to transform this motley crew from quivering cowards into red-hot evangelists! These men went from hiding behind locked doors to brazenly sharing the Good News. Did they let the threat of also being arrested, tortured, and possibly killed stop them? NO! (All but one were, in fact, murdered for the Gospel message). Why did they refuse to save themselves now?!

Because they now KNEW that every claim Jesus had made about Himself and God was true. Click To Tweet

For 40 days, you see, Jesus gave His followers the opportunity to engage with Him in community before He ascended into Heaven. He proved Himself in whatever ways they needed: He ate, drank, and spoke with them. He reminded them of where they had been, and where they were headed. He revealed to them how Old Testament scripture had been fulfilled by His grisly death and glorious resurrection. He even pushed back his sleeves and opened His robes to reveal His wounds to Thomas, the doubter on record who asserted to the other disciples:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” ~ John 20:25

Poor Thomas; he has no idea that history has forever pegged him to this moment! But let’s not judge Thomas too harshly; we can be just as bad with our faith requirements! Doesn’t the “I won’t believe it” argument get used regularly today?

Thomas did redeem himself a week later, when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Though Jesus did gently chide Thomas for trusting more in his eyes than in Jesus’ promises, it’s clear that Jesus wasn’t judging Thomas for his low moment of faith. Just as Jesus didn’t judge Peter when he faltered in walking on the lake toward Jesus, or when Peter publicly denied Jesus three times after His arrest. Rather, Jesus lovingly lifted Peter from his self-condemnation over doing so. God is all about our restoration!

The message I get from Scripture is that our Creator is generous with His grace when we question His existence and love. But He also points out the mental and emotional roadblocks we put up that stall our choosing to trust Him. God doesn’t demand blind faith; He asks for our trust:

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”~ John 20:26-29.

When Jesus showed up, He brought the miraculous. But when Jesus showed up, things also got real. Click To Tweet


Develop Your Own Confidence in Jesus!

So what’s it gonna take for you to believe that Christ is who He said He is?

Do we believe that our dining room chairs will hold our weight? Yes. Because we’ve tested them. Do we believe that lemons are sour? Yes. Because we’ve tested their acidic juice on our tongue. Can we likewise test the Bible, to believe that what it says about Jesus is true? Yes! Some of the ways of testing we’ve already discussed, including eyewitness accounts and confirmation of Bible facts via archeology and non-biblical historical texts. Want to read some of these facts?

These are links to blog posts that provide you with truthful, vetted facts about Christ’s resurrection:

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Code Critical
This post explains defines the term “resurrection,” and explains why Jesus’ rising is so significant for us today.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Pre-Resurrection Facts
This post shows that Christ was verified to be dead before they removed His body from the cross, historical context for Jewish burial practices, and physical details about Christ’s tomb.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Hoax or Truth?
This post looks at various theories scholars and critics have proposed over the centuries to debunk Christ’s resurrection. Ironically, we can debunk them using logic and science.

~ Is Jesus’ Resurrection Fact? History Weighs In!
This post looks at details of the empty tomb, discarded grave clothes, an12 distinct instances highlighted in the Bible in which Jesus appeared to individuals or groups of people after He rose.


Look, facts matter, even when it comes to Christianity. Because if Jesus isn't who He says He is, then we're all wasting our time here. Click To Tweet

But an important reminder: we can “fact ourselves to death” as I heard one person put it, as we seek evidence to support the Christian faith. Eventually, we must simply CHOOSE to trust in His resurrection. Christ’s disciples — men who had NOTHING to gain from their commitment to sharing the Good News — declare that Christ resurrected. Why shouldn’t we trust these eyewitnesses?


In our next blog post, we’ll look at the hope we have about the afterlife because our Lord defeated death. Please continue the journey with us. We’re just getting started!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Does God Exist? Quick VIDEO with 5 Arguments

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Has God Given Enough Evidence for Rational Faith?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

As a college student, I explored significant doubts I had about my faith. It bothered me that God didn’t make His existence more obvious. In fact, one skeptic made me wonder: Why doesn’t God write “Jesus Saves” on the moon or “Made by God” on each cell?

After carefully examining the evidence, however, I became convinced that God has made himself known (Rom. 1:18–21; 2:14, 15). He has not made Himself known exhaustively, but He has sufficiently.

Consider three prominent arguments for the existence of God:

 

The Cosmological Argument:

Both scientific and philosophical reasons help us conclude that the universe, at some point, had a beginning. Given that something can’t begin to exist without a cause, the cause must be outside the universe. Since matter, time, and energy simultaneously came into existence at a finite point in the past, the cause is plausibly timeless, immaterial, intelligent, powerful, and personal.

Simply put, the beginning of the universe points to a Beginner.

 

The Fine-Tuning of the Laws of Physics:

The laws of physics that govern the universe are exquisitely fine-tuned for the emergence and sustenance of human life. The slightest changes in any number of physical constants would make our universe inhospitable. The most compelling and reliable explanation for why the universe is so precisely fine- tuned is that an Intelligent Mind made it that way.

Simply put, the fine-tuning of the universe points to a Fine-Tuner.

 

The Moral Argument:

This argument reasons that since objective moral values exist, so must God. If God does not exist, then moral values are ultimately subjective and nonbinding. Yet we know objective moral values are real. Therefore, since moral values do exist, God must as well.

Simply put, the existence of moral values points to a universal Moral Lawgiver.

 

Much more could be said about these arguments. My father and I go into depth on each one of these (and more) in the updated Evidence that Demands A Verdict. And we also explore the historical evidence for the deity of Christ and his resurrection. There is evidence for those who want to consider it.

So, then, why doesn’t God make his existence more evident? Why didn’t God write “Jesus Saves” with the stars? This troubled me until I realized that it’s an absurd request.

After all, what language would God write it in? Hebrew? Arabic? English? And if he wrote it in a particular language, wouldn’t all the illiterate people throughout history object? What about all the blind people? Clearly the request for God to write “Jesus Saves” in the stars wouldn’t actually fix the supposed problem.

Remember: God is not interested in proving His existence, but in knowing mankind personally (John 17:1-5).

As counterintuitive as it may seem, there is no reason to believe that if God were to make His existence more manifest that more people would repent of their sin enter into a saving relationship with Him.

God revealed Himself tirelessly in the Old Testament by sending plagues to Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and destroying the enemies of Israel. Sadly, this didn’t produce lasting heart-change in the people. They continually rebelled and followed other gods.

And even in the New Testament, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, the religious leaders want to kill Lazarus and run Jesus out of town.

Therefore, even if God blazoned “Jesus Saves” in the stars, we would have little reason to believe this would generate lasting faith.

God is not interested in merely proving His existence. But for those with eyes to see, and ears to hear, God has made Himself known. He has offered sufficient evidence for rational faith.

The question is—Will we trust Him?

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 



If There is Such Good Evidence for God, Why Don’t More People Believe? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Deity of Christ: True or False?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our fifth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into whether Jesus claimed to be God.

Some Bible critics assert that Jesus didn't say He was God. Not true. In the Gospel of Mark alone, Jesus claimed His deity more than six times. I AM, He said. Click To Tweet

We look around at our majestic world and we ask, “Did this all really just occur through fortunate happenstance?” Or is this the work of a Creator, whose love of order and beauty and creativity extends also to us? To believe in God  doesn’t actually require all that much faith, because the clockwork intricacies of our world truly are astounding. Our souls yearn for a connection to Him. Yet some of us still fight so hard against believing in and trusting in God and the deity of Christ. Look, we can take our own explanations for life — or God’s Word. Which will you choose?



Did Jesus claim to be just a great spiritual guide — or God in human form? (Hint: the latter!)

Some skeptics like to assert that Jesus wasn’t God — and never claimed to be. So not true, people!! We should scratch our heads in confusion at these claims, because the Bible’s New Testament writers clearly wrote otherwise.

Take, for example, when the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replied, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

“Blasphemy!” cried the high priest, as he tore his robes to signal his condemnation of Jesus. “What further need do we have of witnesses?” he asked the assembled Jewish leaders. And with that, without a fair and just trial, these leaders decided to murder Jesus. He wasn’t just stealing their thunder, He was uncomfortably questioning their beliefs.

But here’s the thing: Jesus allowed them to kill Him. Jesus didn’t care about saving Himself. So He didn’t, in all of recorded Scripture, tiptoe around the issue of His deity. He was God and claimed to be such. He did so calmly. Assuredly. Without worry. Because Jesus knew He was fully in control of the outcome of this and every other moment. #truth

Jesus kept His focus on the mission He came to complete: dying to wipe our life slates clean. The Gospel of John records that Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”


~ With Humility, Jesus Boldly Claimed His Deity ~

John also records that Jesus said, without ego, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Yet at this claim to deity, the Jews grabbed stones to try to kill Him. Why? Because they knew that, according to Mosaic law, any person daring to make such a claim was deserving of death. An important point: We know, from their reaction, that they understood Jesus to be claiming His deity. You and I should arrive at the same conclusion. When critics say otherwise, they ignore the obvious.

Jesus claimed to be worthy of the same honor due God. And that to see Jesus was to see God. Surely only a fool would make such a claim… and yet, Jesus DID walk on water! And calm the storms! And heal the lepers! And send all demons scurrying! Could anyone but God do so?

Jesus said that He pre-existed with God before coming to earth in human form. John 17:5 reads, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In John 5, Jesus tells us that God the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.”

And in the Gospel of Matthew, in what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claimed to have higher authority than the sacred Old Testament law and established Jewish tradition. Jesus is recorded as gathering a group of His disciples in Galilee to tell them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Again, not to air a massive ego, but to simply assert His deity. To assure ALL Christ followers going forward that He holds the universe in His hands. We can trust Him!


~ And Humbly Displayed His Deity Via His Actions ~

Even in healing people Jesus humbly put His power and nature on display. He healed everyone — from the highest in stature to the lowest social outcast. Jesus wasn’t motivated by the highest bidder, but by His pure love. I adore that about Him!

As recorded in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus healed a paralytic brought to Jesus by four friends. Upon seeing the man, Jesus declared, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” “Blasphemy!” again cried the Jewish leaders. “Who but God can forgive sins?” As Sean McDowell explains in his post on the deity of Christ, “They believed the man was paralyzed because he had sinned against God, and yet Jesus had the audacity to claim that he could personally forgive these sins.” Because He WAS who He said He was, dudes! 

Jesus furthered His claim to divine authority by healing a man in the synagogue over the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. “Which is lawful on the Sabbath,” asked Jesus, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Scripture tells us His critics stayed silent, but plotted in their hearts to kill Him.

Rather than be floored by the miraculous, these hard-hearted Jewish leaders chose to besmirch Jesus’ deity and turn people against Him. Some even suggested that Jesus had power over demons simply because He, Himself, was a demon. Circular logic at its best! 


~ Yet Jesus Still Doesn’t Force the Issue ~

In His prayers to God, the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus used the Aramaic word Abba for father. It’s a word that suggested His closest possible intimacy with God. In claiming this unique relationship, Jesus calmly asserted His authority over Old Testament Scripture and the Jewish leadership. But His claims seriously upset the Jewish leaders’ apple cart.

Would you and I get just as mad at Jesus’ claims if He arrived today, declaring to be the Messiah and telling us to look to Him for life and answers? Quite possibly, if we similarly viewed Jesus through the lens of our selfish pride.

Yet Jesus had zero pride issues; He never moved beyond humility. Isn’t that freaking amazing?! He didn’t force people to believe in Him. He didn’t waste time chasing after people or trying to persuade them. He simply stated who He was, then got busy displaying the truth of His claims through His actions. Who but God has the power to control the natural world? Jesus performed the miraculous as easily as child’s play. He healed the sick just with a word or gesture. And salved the wounds of the hurting. And restored the lives of any who sought His help.

Though He possessed all the power of heaven, Jesus chose to die a criminal’s death to display the depth of His endless love for us. And through His resurrection, Jesus soundly settled the argument of His deity. But He gives us the freedom to choose whether we will trust Him on this.

So what say you? If you’re still hesitating to take Jesus at His word, I invite you to get up to speed on the historical evidence for Christ. You can start by reading through the year-long blog series we did last year, based on Josh and Sean McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Jesus proclaimed His deity, and humbly proved it through His love and actions. The evidence is plentiful, if we choose to see it. Will we believe? Click To Tweet


In our next blog post, let’s look at five misconceptions non-believers have about Christians. (One is that we have no fun. Whaaaaaat? LOL!)

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Why Are Stories Such Powerful Means of Communication?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

The first time I ever spoke at a student retreat, I asked my dad for some speaking advice.

He said, “Son, I have three words of advice for you: stories, stories, stories.”

In other words, if you want to be an effective communicator, tell stories. Now that I have been a public speaker for over two decades, I can see the wisdom in his suggestions with even greater clarity.

People remember stories and relate to them. Jesus is remembered partly because he told remarkable stories such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20). People have always loved stories. And they always will. As I wrote in a previous post, human beings are “storytelling animals.”

But have you ever wondered what it is about stories that makes them so impactful? Why do we enjoy a good story from a friend?  Why do we love movies so much?

In his excellent book Marching Off the Map, student culture expert Tim Elmore offers some fascinating insights from neuroscience:

Part of the answer, at least, is because our brains become more active when hearing a story. Consider what it feels like to listen to a presentation, where the speaker uses boring PowerPoint slides with lists of bullet points.

No doubt, it can engage certain part of our brain. The visual aid helps, but the data listed on the screen is limited in how much it harnesses our minds.

When we hear a story, however, things dramatically shift inside us, according to researchers in Europe. Not only are the language processing portions of our brain activated, but any other portion we’d use when experiencing the events of that story are as well.

If we hear about the sweltering heat of a summer day, the preoptic areas of the anterior hypothalamus portion of our brain lights up.

If a person tells us how delicious their lasagna was last night, our sensory cortex lights up.

When a friend describes how fast he was running on a track last week, our motor cortex is ignited.

In other words, the better the storyteller, the more portions of the brain are engaged. It can be far superior to relaying mere facts. In many cases, the listeners actually feel as if they are experiencing the story itself. It is an experience.

Simply put, a story can put your whole brain to work. [1]

Yes! God has physically wired our brains to respond to narratives.

We feel, experience, and sometimes even taste certain aspects of a story. That’s why stories are such powerful means of persuasion.

So, if you want to genuinely influence people, don’t give mere facts and data, tell good stories.

Want to be a good parent? Tell your kids meaningful stories.

Want to be a good salesman? Tell powerful stories.

Want to be a good speaker? Tell good stories.

In fact, for anyone who wants to make a real difference in life, allow me to close with three words of advice: stories, stories, stories.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

[1] Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak, Marching off the Map (Atlanta, GA: Poet Gardner Publishing, 2017), 141-142.

 



Is the New Testament Reliable? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Interview: Former French Atheist Becomes a Christian

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A couple years ago I posted this interview with Guillaume Bignon, former atheist who is now a Christian philosopher and theologian. The interview was so well received that I decided to repost it, just in case you missed it. In fact, this interview is so powerful that my father and I included it in the introduction to the updated Evidence that Demands a VerdictEnjoy!

 

Sean McDowell: How did you, as a French atheist, become a Christian?

Guillaume Bignon: I was in my mid-twenties, working near Paris as a computer scientist in finance, playing volleyball in national league and keyboard in a rock band, and hated the idea of God and religion.

It took quite a conspiracy of many improbable events for me to even hear the Gospel in such a secular culture as that of France: I met an American Christian on a random hitch-hike halfway around the world, we started dating and I read the Bible to disprove her silly beliefs, I was intrigued by the person of Jesus, then a timely and unexplained shoulder injury forced me off volleyball courts on Sundays, which allowed me to visit an evangelical Church in Paris (like I would visit a zoo to see weird animals), and there, when I tried to escape without speaking to anyone at the end of the service, I was struck at the door by a blast of chills in my stomach, leading me to turn around and walk straight to the head pastor. He and I met and talked regularly for hours at a time, wrestling through my questions, discovering that thoughtful Christians even existed, realizing the Bible was historically reliable, and starting to think the whole thing could be true.

At the same time, I came to commit some particularly immoral atrocity, was rather brutally struck with guilt, and got to finally understand the Gospel:

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my own sin; mine; the very thing that was killing me inside.

The Bible was teaching that Jesus took the penalty upon Himself, so that I might be forgiven for free, not by my good works, not by my religious rituals, but simply by receiving Him, placing my faith in Him for the forgiveness of sin. Amazing.

I did exactly that, experienced a spiritual rebirth, every trace of guilt departed, and I have lived with that freeing reality ever since. I then ended up moving to New York, studying in seminary for a Masters in New Testament studies, and eventually a PhD in philosophical theology. This is the very brief story of how God takes a French atheist who hates religion, breaks all his defenses, and turns him into a Christian theologian.

(The fuller version of the story can be read here.)

 

McDowell: What role did apologetics play in your conversion? Did you find any particular facts or evidences compelling?

Bignon: I didn’t have the language for this at the time, the word ‘apologetics’ never came up in my conversations with that Pastor in France, but we were clearly engaged in the process of asking thoughtful questions about the faith, and he was providing consistent answers from his biblical worldview.

An important piece I came to understand prior to my conversion was that my standard of proof was completely unrealistic. I wanted airtight proof before I could believe in God, and I came to realize almost none of the things I knew in life enjoyed this kind of support: my name, my date of birth, the reality of the outside world, the existence of other people, and a multitude of other things I was yet fully rational in believing. So my expectations about God suffered from a double standard. I discuss these ideas about God as a ‘properly basic’ belief on a radio show here:

Prior to my conversion, I also came to realize the existence of God wasn’t so conflicting with science as I had presupposed, and through my experience of immorality and guilt, I came to suspect an atheist worldview didn’t fit right with objective good and evil (I only later on came to learn this was called the moral argument for the existence of God).

Finally, apologetics was very present right after my conversion experience, to ground me in the faith, and think logically about my newly found Christian beliefs. It was all extremely helpful, even to understand what the Bible says, let alone providing reasons why it’s true.

 

McDowell: How was your life different after becoming a believer?

Bignon: As I mentioned, the Gospel meant that my guilt was gone. I felt a real freedom, a liberating joy of knowing that my past wrongdoing wouldn’t be held against me, and that the God who created the universe had revealed Himself to me, loved me while I was still a sinner, and saved me in spite of me. That was and still is amazing.

I also came to have an objective purpose in life. I knew I was called to share this good news with folks who, like I did before, have never heard it, or think this is intellectual suicide. I have seen God equip me to provide thoughtful answers. That is also another strange thing that happened: I used to hate reading. I never read a book in my life that wasn’t mandatory for school. And after my conversion, I couldn’t stop, and read all I could get my hands on, to learn about the faith, the Bible, philosophy, logic, history, anything related to questions or objections about God, and I was hooked.

Finally, of course, my view of morality changed on several important points, particularly about women, where I came to understand God’s purpose in marriage. That girl I had met turned out not to be meant for me, we broke up shortly after I moved to New York, and I eventually met a wonderful American Christian woman named Katherine, a multitalented fashion designer who had lived a year in France and met there while visiting my Pastor friend. We got married in 2010 and have now 3 babies aged 3, 1.5, and 3 month old. Life is busy but so good.

 

McDowell: What advice do you have for Christians to better engage their atheist or non-christian friends?

Bignon: There are too many things to say to be exhaustive, but let me give one tip: never assume that your hearer knows the Gospel. Between my French family and friends, and my work on Wall Street, I meet tons of people, grown ups, who have a surface level understanding of religions, but are absolutely clueless about what the Bible teaches in answer to the question “what must a sinner do to be saved?”

I myself lived through age 25 without ever having heard that the Bible teaches sinners are saved by faith and not by works. I was stunned, and it took me a while to even process it: Heaven is for free? Given as a gift to those who would just repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus? Amazing.

So here is my tip: early on in your conversations, make sure you say something like this: “let’s leave aside the arguments and reasons to think it’s true, I’m not yet trying to convince you that it’s a correct teaching, but let me explain to you very briefly what Christianity even teaches, what the Christian view is.” And proceed to tell them the Gospel (of course you need to be able to do just that, so prepare yourself to explain it clearly and Biblically).

I have done this over and over again, and have surprised more than a few listeners. And how do I know they get it? Because without fail, the first thing out of their mouth is Paul’s very anticipated objection straight out of Romans: “if salvation is by faith, why not go on sinning?” Proceed to answer that too, but rest assured that now, they get it; they get just how shocking the Gospel is, and you’re prepared to discuss its merits.

 

McDowell: What is your hope and goals for your country France?

Bignon: My hope is that the Gospel would come to be known, if not embraced. As I mentioned above, I spent 25 years in France without ever being told that salvation is by faith in Christ and not by works. And even that had to happen through a very unlikely set of circumstances. I want the French to be told this good news.

And then of course France will need apologetics. The French are generally thoughtful, and they will engage with thoughtful arguments. There is very little existing in French today, and one of my burdens is to help fix that. Write, speak, perhaps debate, bringing the best Christian scholarship into the French language.

There are dozens of William Lane Craig’s in the US, ready to do these things in English better than I could, but in the French-speaking world, not so much; so I am very happy to step up and offer what I can. The harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few. No, even fewer than that.

 

Contact info:

Twitter: @theoloGUI

Blog in English: http://theologui.blogspot.com

Association of French-speaking Christian scholars: www.associationaxiome.com

 

 



Is the Old Testament Reliable? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Can We Trust God?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our third post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into how our trusting God affects our everyday life.

So here’s the thing: many of us don’t trust God. I’ll go a step further: NOT one of us fully trusts God every single moment. (Or if you do, WOW! You’re amazing!) But if we don’t learn to trust God, we’ll never gain a firm foundation for our Christian faith. We’ll always be unsure if He sees us as loved and accepted and important. (He does!!!!)

If we view God as a genie, that’s not trust. If we view God as a grumpy guy we have to butter up, that’s not trust. If we merely hope when we pray, that’s not trust. So how do we learn to trust God, even when it feels like He doesn’t existWe can start with deciding that we can take His Word as truth. By reading the Bible, and choosing to believe what it says about how God sees us, we can begin to trust that He really is our loving, caring creator.

Overheard: If you don't have a relationship with God, it's quite possible it's because you don't open your Bible. Click To Tweet


In What Do We Trust?

When you think about it, we sure do trust a lot of man-made things that can fail us at any moment. Our cars, for example, and other high-tech transporters such as trains and airplanes. Think about the latter for a second. We willingly put ourselves in a metal can that hurtles through the sky at 500+ mph, at a commercial cruising altitude of 35,000 feet! That’s a long fall to the ground if the wing snaps or the engine fails!

We put our trust in stop lights. And stop signs. And the blinking “Walk” sign at crosswalks. We trust that the bank will return our money to us when we want it. The bank, itself, trusts us to pay off our credit cards and house loans. That trust isn’t always rewarded.

Too, we trust our well-being — if not our very lives — to other people. Every time we step into a new relationship, we open ourselves up to potential joy and chest-crushing pain. Even when we open our arms to offer a hug, we expose our hearts to rejection.

Some of us trust in philosophies so bizarre that they require not only our blind faith, but our total dismissal of reality. Critics like to say that Christians do both, but their claims lack truth. Christianity isn’t bogus; it’s based on vetted historical facts, and the very real personage of Jesus.

Lastly, most of us put a TON of trust in ourselves. We’ve been influenced by society to believe that our individual fates are entirely due to our own efforts. Say what?!


In God We Trust?

Have you ever looked at a United States coin or bill and wondered, “Why does it say ‘In God We Trust’?”

Though this motto currently remains on our national currency, I think we can all agree it’s now a minority view. Some are lobbying to have the statement removed, as it is a tangible reminder that the U.S. once respectfully acknowledged God. Will the replacement text be “In Ourselves We Trust”?

Primarily through our increasingly secular media and educational systems, we’ve been conditioned away from trusting God and toward trusting in the inherent power of humanity. We have no idea just how immoral we’ve become. As I overheard one person put it, “We don’t even know what immorality is anymore.” #ouch #truth

Many people simply can’t stand a biblical standard of morality, because it stops them from feeling good about their habits and behaviors. They believe it’s perfectly acceptable to blame God for what they think should be different in the world, and to use their view as justification for rejecting Him. Hold up! Do we seriously believe we have the right to judge and condemn God?!


God Is Trustworthy!

Friends, are you as tired as I am of the hamster wheel that society tells us to keep racing on to achieve our “best life”? In our frenetic chasing of power and wealth and popularity, we lose sight of our real purpose. We’re not here to amass the most toys, Facebook likes, and YouTube views. We’re here to live full lives made wonderful and satisfying through our focus of honoring God and serving others.

The Bible shares, in great detail, how we are to correctly view and respond to life. It tells us who we are! It teaches us how to love. It tells us how to forgive, and why it’s critical that we do so. It instructs us on how to deal with disappointment and failure and setbacks. And it assures us that God continues to pursue us to have a personal relationship with Him. How mind-blowing is it that the Creator of the universe wants us to know and love and trust Him?!

The very planet itself, as Sean McDowell points out, shouts, “God is real! See Him in the details!”

Sure, we can live by a lower standard than God wishes for us — but we only shortchange ourselves. Give God the chance to show you that trusting Him is worth it. You can start to develop that trust by opening His Word.


You are hereby challenged to take the 30-day Proverbs Challenge!

Instead of firing up Facebook first thing tomorrow morning, jump on over to the YouVersion app. It will take you just a few minutes to read the wealth of wise tips in the 31 Proverbs. Read a Proverb a day! Here’s one of my favorite bits of wisdom. #goodstuff

Double Dare: post a favorite verse on Facebook! You’re going to be known for something, right? Why not for being wise? 😉


In our next blog post, let’s look at why viewing yourself as God views you is a HUGE deal. It’s a game-changer, really.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Last week’s post: Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?



Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our second post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” Our aim in this post is to dive further into whether we can trust the Bible.

The contents of the Bible were written over a period of over 1500 years, by 40+ authors from every walk of life: kings, fisherman, statesmen, poets, philosophers — even peasants. Some wrote in the wilderness, others in dungeons, some in a palace, and others while on military campaigns. And they wrote from three different continents, and in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Wow!

Can a book so unique really be factually and historically true? Is the Bible, as some believe, merely a “man-made” work of fiction — or a book guided by the hand of God?

“The case for the reliability of the New Testament,” asserts scholar and prolific writer Dr. Howard Vos, “is infinitely stronger than that for any other record of antiquity.” Let’s look at why he can confidently say this.



Trusting Historical Testimony

Because you and I weren’t there to see it for ourselves, we trust that our knowledge of the past is based on verified sources: written, oral, and physical testimony. Written testimony is a written record of what happened. Oral Testimony, the primary way in ancient times of faithfully passing history from one generation to the next, relied on meticulous storytelling. Physical testimony is tangible evidence, such as a fingerprint, photograph, clay pot, or manuscript.

Let’s apply these testimonies to just two events that we’re all at least vaguely familiar with:

~ How do we know that in 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan? Because of details and facts from all three forms of testimony. Eyewitness testimony for the event is especially compelling. Recounts one 14-year-old boy: “Night came and I could hear many voices crying and groaning with pain and begging for water. Someone cried, ‘Damn it! War tortures so many people who are innocent!’ Another said, ‘I hurt! Give me water!’ This person was so burned that we couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. The sky was red with flames. It was burning as if scorching heaven.”

~ How do we know what the Nazis did to Jews during World War II? Because of the horrific testimony that can’t be denied by those willing to look at the facts. Credible eyewitness testimony is critical to our understanding of what really occurred in the past.

So why do scholars have to admit that Jesus really did live and die? Because evidence, even from non-biblical sources, claims that He did. Why do Christians believe Jesus also resurrected? Again, because of compelling eyewitness testimony. 

The Bible’s Book of Acts, for example, is full of eyewitness testimony. Verse after verse emphasizes that people personally saw and interacted with Christ over a 40-day period after He resurrected. We’re not talking a period of four days, or forty hours! We’re talking forty days, people! Some examples:

Acts 2:32: “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.”
Acts 3:15: “You killed the author of life but God raised Him to life and we are witnesses to this fact.”
Acts 4:20: “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

We can trust that the Book of Acts is legit. Or can we???


You Can’t Prove That!

You might be thinking that historical testimony isn’t necessarily reliable. Because we all know that sometimes people lie. And sometimes they intentionally skew the truth. Maybe, you’re thinking, their memory was faulty. Or maybe the disciples just wanted to make themselves seem important or grab power!  

Sorry, those aren’t reasonable suggestions. Why? Because not only were the writers of the New Testament eyewitnesses — or faithfully recorded eyewitness accounts — they appealed to the knowledge of their listeners concerning the truth about Christ. They confidently assert: “You were there. You saw Him do that. You heard him say that. You were there when He did that!” The apostles throw the whole arguments of what Jesus said and did back onto the laps of their audiences by saying, “You know as much as we know of what Jesus said and did.”

Don’t miss this critical point: the apostles presented their facts in the presence of knowledgeable, hostile people who would have immediately known if they were presenting false information.

The eyewitnesses of the events in question were still alive when the traditions were being completely formed about Christ! Even better: among those eye witnesses were bitter enemies of this new religious movement who would have contested and exposed any false statements the apostles tried to concoct or spread! That, in itself, is authentication.

The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracy or to make stuff up, if their goal was to have people believe in Jesus. Click To Tweet


Testing the Authenticity of a Manuscript

There are two standard tests exist by which all historical documents can be vetted.

The first test is called a historiography. The second is the external evidence test. There, scholars ask, “Is there external evidence totally apart from the book under investigation that confirms its inner testimony or accuracy?”

We’d start our testing by examining the paper and ink used to record the manuscript. Then we’d study its timeline — how far the manuscript is removed from the original (autographa). Next we would determine the manuscript’s approximate date. We could use clues such as ink color, letter size, punctuation, ornamentation, and even text division.

Want to know what scholars find when they examine the Bible’s timeline? That they can date the earliest version of the written New Testament to within fifty years of Christ’s death!

You might be thinking that’s a long gap, but let’s put the gap into perspective. The closest version we have of all other non-biblical historical documents is closer to hundreds of years. There is a 50-year gap between the New Testament and the autographa — but a 500-year gap with the Iliad! 

We also can test a document via archaeology. Non-biblical historical literature verifies certain facts about Christ. We know that He lived during the time of Tiberius Cesar. That He lived a very virtuous life. That He performed miracles. That He was acclaimed to be the Messiah. that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the eve of the Jewish Passover. That darkness and an earthquake occurred when He died from crucifixion. That His disciples interacted with Him for 40 days after He rose. That His disciples were willing to die for their beliefs. And that Christianity spread rapidly, as far as Rome.

Another benchmark scholars consider: how many copies of the original text exist? The more copies available to review, the easier it is to reconstruct the original document. Again, let’s compare the number of manuscripts of  literature of antiquity.

Many people consider the Roman historian Tacitus to be Rome’s most important historian. Yet there are only twenty manuscripts that remain of his annals. Of Pliny the Younger, only seven manuscripts survive. Of Aristotle, only 49 manuscripts. Of the Greek historian, Herodotus, only eight manuscripts survive. Of the Iliad, 643 manuscripts exist. But of just the New Testament, scholars have confirmed the existence of 24,633 manuscripts! 

The evidence for New Testament writings is so much greater than the evidence for writings of other classical authors.

Notes Josh McDowell, who once thought Christianity completely bogus until extensive research convinced him otherwise, “We can hold the New Testament in our hands and confidently say, ‘Jesus really said and did what it says.'”


In our next blog post, let’s look further at the tension between our trust and the Bible. (Hint: it often starts with our inability to trust in God.)

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Last week’s post: Meticulous Scribe, Trusted Manuscript.

To view videos of Josh speaking on the topic of the trustworthiness of the Bible, click here.

 



Meticulous Scribe, Trusted Manuscript

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome to the first post in this series we’ve titled “Journey Together!”

Each week we’ll look at our Christian beliefs, and whether they help us to answer these four important questions: “Why am I here?,” “What is truth?,” “Why should I believe this truth?,” and “How does this truth affect my every day life?” Can we, by daily applying God’s standards to our lives, really live the best version of life God wants for us? Let’s Journey Together to find out!

To get us started, below I share why I’m so excited about an ancient text, the Lodz Torah, which I had the amazing honor of acquiring. I named it in memory of the Jews who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis during WW II.

The rare scroll showcases the strict standards historical scribes followed to ensure they faithfully copied older biblical texts. What these strict standards mean, of course, is that we can trust the validity of the Scriptures! We can open up the Bible and pretty confidently say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.”


“Baruch, it is certified!” Moshe exclaimed, as he burst through the door of his friend’s home. “I could not wait to tell you.”

Baruch immediately grasped Moshe’s elation, feeling it flood his own heart. Moshe was bringing the news he had been hoping to hear for many weeks now: that the rabbi had certified the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) that had taken Baruch a year to painstakingly copy onto a new scroll.

Meticulous Scribes, Trusted Manuscripts

It’s easy for me to visualize the above scene, because I, too, now 550+ years later, am overwhelmed as I touch the edge of this ancient text prepared by a dedicated Ashkenazi scribe.

The scribe undoubtably followed the strict requirement of preparing the skins and ink, as well as the traditions of precisely copying the Scripture. He certainly was rigorously trained, and highly skilled, a respected religious scholar in his community. To be certified as a scribe, this professional scribe had to memorize 4,000 different laws and principles dictating how to copy Scripture. Wow!

His work was eye-straining and back-breaking, as he worked hours on end hunched over a table, slowly and meticulously copying Scripture in a room dimly lit by candles or an oil lamp. Let’s follow his process.

Exacting Process

To begin, the scribe obtained ceremonially clean animal skins from a Jewish butcher, and created the panels for the scroll. Next, he carefully soaked the animal skins in water mixed with his barley leaves. For this particular scroll, he soaked five skins. The soaking softened the skins, making it easier for him to scrape off the hair and fibers.

Then came the critical task of ensuring that he copied every letter clearly and straight. Using threads as guides, the scribe took a dull knife that would not cut through the skin and carefully scored the surface horizontally. This indented the skin slightly to form a distinguishable line. He repeated the same process vertically, creating a perfect cross-pattern grid on which to copy each and every letter of God’s written Word. The scribe believed, like all the Jewish scribes before him, that he had a solemn responsibility to reproduce every letter perfectly and clearly. Writing his letters on the grid aided him in accomplishing this goal. He knew that miscopying what God said could mean misreading, mispronouncing, and worse, misinterpreting and misunderstanding what God wants his people to know about him and his ways.

In following typical Jewish tradition, this scribe would have dipped his new quill in the freshly prepared ink and uttered each word aloud before he wrote it. “In the beginning…” he would have recited, as he painstakingly formed the letters. But he would have stopped before completing the last letter of the word just before the word “God.” Because, according to tradition, he would need to put down his quill and ceremoniously wash his hands. It was critical to purify himself and sanctify the ink that would pen the name of God.

With 304,805 letters to write — and not a single one allowed to touch another — the scribe’s task was daunting. His meticulous care and deliberation is why it took him over a year to complete this very old Torah.

When finally finished, the scribe’s manuscript had to be certified as having been transcribed correctly. Some traditions required three separate rabbis to check the accuracy! This meant these persons had to completely unroll this 72-foot scroll to check and count every single word and all 304,805 of the letters. They had to be sure there was the same number of letters in this scroll compared to the Torah from which it was copied.

Not only that, when they counted the words, they knew the center word was found in Leviticus 13:33. If the center word of the new scroll did not fall exactly within verse 33, it could not be certified. They did the same thing for every letter. The center letter was found in Leviticus 11:45. If the center letter in the new scroll was in verse 45, they could be confident they had an exact replica of the previous Torah.

Proving Reliable

It is overwhelming to realize that God has superintended the writing and passing down of his words from generation to generation so that you and I can have an accurate revelation of him! He has gone to extraordinary lengths to restore the intimate relationship with us that he once had with Adam and Eve in Eden. And he has chosen the Bible as the means to reach out in human language, reveal the essence of his relational heart, and share the Good News of Christ as our salvation.

In Deuteronomy 10:20, Moses instructed the children of Israel “to fear the Lord your God and worship him.” To fear meant to be in awe of God, to revere him and worship him as the Almighty God who shows mercy and grace to his people. That awesome reverence is clearly evident as each scribe performed his solemn duty to pass down the Scripture from one generation to another with such accuracy and exactness.

Now I hope you can understand why I felt such strong emotion when I held this centuries-old medieval copy of ancient Scripture in my arms!It is a tangible embodiment of the scribe’s dedication, skill, and painstaking labor, and the work of all such committed scribes to ensure the preservation of God’s message of love to us!

Stay with us as we continue this blog series. Let’s  journey together!


The full version of this article by Josh McDowell can be found here. To visit the introduction page of this series, click here. Click here to read next week’s blog.  

Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell, founder of Josh McDowell Ministry, is passionate about “Serving others until the whole world hears about Jesus.” Blog content from Josh is based on extensive works and research he has done over the decades.



Can Science Explain Morality?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Human beings have a universal belief in right and wrong. As C.S. Lewis has observed, moral codes from cultures throughout world history vary over what specific behavior they consider moral, but there is an underlying agreement that objective moral values and duties exists.

As my father and I state in the introduction of the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict, any adequate worldview must be able to explain this feature of reality.

 

Science and Morality

In his book The Moral Landscape, atheist Sam Harris claims science can provide a basis for objective morality. But in his recent book Stealing from Godmy friend Frank Turek has written a piercing response:

Science might be able to tell you if an action may hurt someone—like giving a man cyanide will kill him—but science can’t tell you whether or not you ought to hurt someone. Who said it’s wrong to hurt people? Sam Harris? Is his nature the standard of good? [1]

In other words, science is a descriptive discipline, but morality is a prescriptive discipline.

Science can describe how things work, but it can never tell us how we ought to behave.

Another popular explanation for morality is evolution.

 

Evolution and Morality

A few years ago, I participated in a public debate on the question of God and morality. My opponent argued that evolution explains morality better than God. But this explanation also fails too. Frank Beckwith and Greg Koukl offer two reasons:

First, evolution doesn’t explain what it’s meant to explain. It can only account for preprogrammed behavior, not moral choices. Moral choices, by their nature, are made by free agents. They are not determined by internal mechanics.

Second, the Darwinist explanation reduces morality to mere descriptions of behavior. The morality that evolution needs to account for, however, entails much more than conduct. Minimally, it involves motive and intent as well. Both are nonphysical elements that can’t, even in principle, evolve in a Darwinian sense.

Further, this assessment of morality, being descriptive only, ignores the most important moral question of all: Why should I be moral tomorrow? Evolution cannot answer that question. Morality dictates what future behavior ought to be. Darwinism can only attempt to describe why humans acted in a certain way in the past.[2]

Science and evolution simply cannot adequately explain the origin of right and wrong. They are both incapable of offering a robust account for why humans have moral obligations.

And yet theism offers a much more natural explanation. Think about it: Valuable human beings don’t come from purposeless, random processes in nature.

Rather, they come from a personal, good God. God Himself is the source for right and wrong, and we ought to follow His guidance because He is the one who created us.

Even those who don’t believe in God, still believe in objective morality, because the moral law is written on their hearts (See Romans 2:14-16). Belief in objective morality is ultimately inescapable.

Science can explain many things. But it will never be able to adequately account for morality.

To explain real right and wrong we need a source beyond human efforts – namely, God.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 

[1] Frank Turek, Stealing from God (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 100.

[2] Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 164.

 



Journey Together

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome, friends! We’re so excited about this Journey Together blog series! We’re thrilled to have you join us!

Life! So full of questions and fears! You know it’s ok to have doubts, right? And to ask questions — even of God?

As humans, we have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding that we daily try to fill. We want to understand our surroundings, our experiences, and the mysteries of life. We also want to enjoy life — and to live fully, with purpose. Deep down we yearn to be amazing people, right?

But how do we get there? Can we really know and trust that God exists and cares? Can we trust that what He says is true? And that when we apply His standards to our lives, we really can live our best life possible?

Let’s journey together and find out! My team of bloggers and I would like to walk with you through a year-long journey … a quest, really, of discovery … together. Think of it as a treasure adventure!

We’ll start at the beginning. And we’ll do so without using a lot of deep church lingo. We’ll dig into subjects that our founder, Josh McDowell, has researched and taught for decades, as well as stories from other people that will help us to make sense of life, so that we can live fully — and effectively encourage and share our faith with others.

Here’s a preview of our weekly blog lineup:

Belief Basics (January – April)

Our journey will begin before the compilation of our modern Bible. In our next blog post, for example, Josh shares why he finds it so emotional to hold a centuries-old Torah scroll in his hands. Each week, as we journey through historical facts, we will determine whether our belief in Christ has merit, and why we should allow our Christian beliefs to influence every aspect of our lives.

Belief Affects Our Relationships (May – July)

What we believe at our core affects everything about us, from our self-image and self-worth to the relationships we have with others. In an increasingly secular world, we desperately need a Christ-based perspective when it comes parenting and marriage.

Belief Affects Our Morals (Aug – Nov)

Whether we’re struggling with issues related to tolerance, religion, morality, sexuality, or love, our belief structure decidedly influences our choices and how we respond to culture.

A Life of Freedom (Nov – Dec)

Life is hard, but we can live fully — and in freedom. Let’s experience the wholeness and solutions to be found in living as God asks of us. Let’s live lives fueled by strength of character, purpose, and meaning!

As we journey together this year, we’ll keep asking and answering these four questions:

  • “Why am I here?”
  • “What is truth?”
  • “Why should I believe this truth?”
  • “How does this truth affect my everyday life?”

This is going to be fun! We’re thrilled you’re taking this journey with us! Feel free to contact us, at any time, with questions you might have about the content we cover!

Christina Gordon

Christina (Hleboff) Gordon is Josh McDowell Ministry’s Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband and four kids and enjoys all sorts of adventure.



Is Being Good Enough to Get to Heaven?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Some time ago, I had an in-depth discussion with a college student about the morality of hell. Even though I provided every philosophical and theological justification I could muster, he simply couldn’t accept that a loving and just God would send anyone to hell.

After about an hour of conversation, it finally dawned on me. His primary problem was that he believed in the essential goodness of mankind. From his perspective, hell seemed like total overkill for basically good people who commit a few small indiscretions.

In one sense, he’s right. If hell were the consequence for small missteps, it would seem remarkably unjust. However, in The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis has rightly observed, “When we say that we are bad, the ‘wrath’ of God seems a barbarous doctrine; as soon as we perceive our badness, it appears inevitable, a mere corollary from God’s goodness.”

 

Human Nature in the Bible

The Bible has a very stark view of human nature (Ps. 14:3Rom 7:18Titus 1:15Mark 7:20-23). While human beings are the most valuable creation of a loving God, we have utterly rebelled against our Creator. We are deeply affected by sin. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem explains:

“It is not just that some parts of us are sinful and others are pure. Rather, every part of our being is affected by sin—our intellects, our emotions and desires, our hearts (the center of our desires and decision-making processes), our goals and motives, and even our physical bodies.”

Thus, from a biblical perspective, God doesn’t send good people to hell; there is no such thing as a good person. And that includes you and me.

 

Human Nature in History

This depiction of human nature can be confirmed by looking at the history of humanity. My colleague Clay Jones has spent decades studying the problem of evil. He closely examined the evil perpetrated in the twentieth century by Nazis in Germany, communists in Russia, China, and Cambodia, the Japanese in World War II, and other nations including Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, and the United States. After immersing himself in these human tragedies, Jones concluded:

One day I was reading The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, in the course of reading about one sickening rape or torture or murder after another, suddenly I was struck by the fact that horrendous evil is human and that most books on theodicy didn’t go far enough. Those who do genocide are not inhuman monsters—they’re all too human. They are precisely human. Genocide is what the race of Adam does.[1]

Human fallenness makes the gospel powerful: we can only appreciate the extent of the work of Christ when we understand the evil and corruption we and the world truly contain. This does not mean unbelievers cannot do some good in society—of course they can! However, sin has separated us so deeply from God that we have no power to save ourselves apart from God’s grace (Eph. 2:1, 2).

 

Why Jesus Came

This is why Jesus came, and this is ultimately what we are celebrating this Christmas season. Although Jesus was (and is) fully God, he humbled himself to take on human flesh (Phil. 2:5–7) and experience the death that humans deserve. As a result, we can experience forgiveness for our sins and come to know God personally (John 17:1–5). Jesus explains:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

So, is it enough to be a “good” person? It’s true that many people may live outwardly good lives, but for Jesus evil is a matter of the heart. According to Jesus no one is good (Mark 10:18). Anyone who honestly reflects upon his life, and sincerely probes his heart, knows that this is true. Our only hope is found in Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

*This article was adapted from the updated and expanded Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

[1] Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2016), 48.

 

 



Is Christianity A Copycat Religion? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



3 Failed Naturalistic Attempts at Explaining Consciousness

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

The existence and reality of consciousness present one of the most pressing challenges to metaphysical naturalism (the view that only physical things exist). In naturalism, everything that exists should be describable in physical terminology, including properties such as weight, size, and location.

But we all experience certain subjective aspects of the world that resist such explanation.

In his book Mind & CosmosAtheist philosopher Thomas Nagel explains why consciousness poses such an intractable problem for naturalism:

Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science. The existence of consciousness seems to imply that the physical description of the universe, in spite of its richness and explanatory power, is only part of the truth, and that the natural order is far less austere than it would be if physics and chemistry accounted for everything. If we take this problem seriously, and follow out its implications, it threatens to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture. Yet it is very difficult to imagine a viable alternative (p. 35).

Naturalists have offered a variety of explanations for consciousness. In the introduction to the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdictmy father and I offer responses to three of the most common ones:

 

Naturalistic Attempt #1: Behaviorism:

Essentially, behaviorists reduce mental attributes to some observable behavior.

Nagel offers a cogent response:

It is certainly true that mental phenomena have behavioral manifestations, which supply our main evidence for them in other creatures. Yet all these theories seem insufficient as analyses of the mental because they leave out something essential that lies beyond the externally observable grounds for attributing mental states to others, namely, the aspect of mental phenomena that is evidence from first-person, inner point of view of the conscious subject: for example, the way sugar tastes to you or the way red looks or anger feels, each of which seems to be something more than the behavioral responses and discriminatory capacities that these experiences explain. Behaviorism leaves out the inner mental state itself. (p. 38)

 

Naturalistic Attempt #2: Evolution:

On this view, consciousness emerges from the process of natural selection, acting upon random mutation, and offers survival advantages to species.

In The Mysterious FlamePhilosopher Colin McGinn explains why evolution fails to explain consciousness:

But in the case of consciousness the Darwinian explanation does not tell us what we need to know, for the simple reason that it is unclear how matter can be so organized as to create a conscious being. The problem is in the raw materials. It looks as if with consciousness a new kind of reality has been injected into the universe, instead of just a recombination of the old realities. Even if minds showed no hint of design, the same old problem would exist: How can mere matter originate consciousness? How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine of consciousness?

 

Naturalistic Attempt #3: Identity:

This approach claims the mind and brain are simply two different terms that refer to the same physical reality.

But the problem with this attempt is that physical objects have different properties than mental objects. Mental objects do not have extension in space, weight, or location. And unlike mental states, physical objects cannot be of or about anything. They just are. Therefore, mental states are not identical to physical states.

 

Consciousness as Evidence for God

There are other naturalistic attempts to explain consciousness, but the reality is that naturalism has no plausible way to explain the emergence of mental properties.

And yet the existence of consciousness makes sense within the theistic worldview. If God is a supremely conscious being, and he has created us, then it makes perfect sense for human beings to be conscious agents who experience the world. God has both the power and incentive to create conscious beings.

The existence of consciousness does not prove God’s existence. But it is undeniable feature of reality that fits a lot more naturally into the theistic worldview.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 



Why Does God Allow Natural Evil? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Should Christians Practice Apologetics?

Reading Time: 5 minutesAt Josh McDowell Ministry, we focus a great deal on Christian Apologetics. In other words, we work hard to defend Christianity, providing reasons to help people confidently believe in Jesus and the Christian message.

In another one of my articles, I sought to defend the biblical case for apologetics. Peter, Apollos, Paul and Jesus all modeled or spoke about apologetics at some level in a positive light. This provides plenty of reason for Christians to be engaged in that kind of work. However, there are still some objections against the practice of Christian apologetics which are worth mentioning. Although I reject these objections, they often contain valid concerns which any Christian apologist should bear in mind. Because of this, I encourage all of my readers to work through these points no matter where you stand on this issue. I will address three different concerns. Here they are:

1. “You don’t need to defend God.”

Perhaps you have heard it said against apologetics: “God is a lion. You don’t need to defend a lion. Just open the cage!” The idea is that God doesn’t need our help. He doesn’t need a lawyer or an attorney. This illustration originated from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon. In one of his sermons from 1986, he writes:

A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out!4C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ and His Co-Workers,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 42 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896), 256.

Unfortunately, this quote is sometimes presented without the first sentence. Spurgeon is not opposed to defending the gospel; he says that “it is a very proper and right thing to do.” His concern in when apologetics is used in replacement of the proclamation of the Gospel, which, by the way, is very very bad! Apologetics is meant to serve the Gospel; it does not exist for its own sake. If your apologetics does not move toward the proclamation of the Gospel, you better think long and hard about what you are trying to use it for!

Regardless of what Spurgeon thought of these matters, isn’t it still true that God doesn’t need our help defending Him? Certainly. In fact, it could be said that God doesn’t need us to open up His cage, either! It could even be said that God doesn’t need us at all! But it’s plain in Scripture that God has chosen to create us to and to use us to proclaim His Gospel (2 Tim. 4:2) and to demolish arguments against God (2 Cor. 10:5). So it’s not like apologetics, in itself, is some idea foreign to the Gospel, distracting us from what God is trying to do. Apologetics, through human agency, was in God’s program all along!

2. “You can’t argue a person into Christianity.”

I agree. Apologetics was never meant to argue a person into Christianity. If you think that apologetics can be used to argue people into Christianity, then you are misusing apologetics and it won’t work. Again, apologetics is meant to serve the Gospel. If you are familiar with Josh McDowell’s story coming to faith in Christ, you know how he tried to disprove Christianity but ended up being faced is an overwhelming supply of evidence in favor of the Christian faith. However, Josh will tell you that apologetics didn’t save him. It didn’t get him onto the other side of the cross. It simply cleared the way.

I am happy to submit that apologetics is not the only path by which God reveals Himself to the unsaved. Take a look at the different salvation stories of the New Testament. For some people, all it took was to simply look at Jesus and to marvel at His saving power (the second criminal on the cross, Luke 23:39-43). For others, they came to believe when scripture was explained to them (Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8:27-38). Others became followers after being persuaded through the work of apologetics (Paul in the synagogues, Acts 17:1-4). Others came to faith after witnessing divine miracles (Pentecost, Acts 2). Most of these stories include a presentation of the Gospel, which is so important. All of them include the work of God who showed up and opened their hearts, which is absolutely imperative! So, apologetics is not everything. But it is something. As evangelists, our tool belt should be equipped with every tool God has given us. Apologetics is one of those tools, and it must find its proper place within God’s action to seek and save the lost.

3. “Apologetics ruins faith.”

One of the concerns about apologetics, particularly when it is presented among fellow Christians, is that it is antithetical to faith. If you know why you believe something, what is the point of faith? Why is faith even needed if we are convinced in our minds that something is true?

This objection against apologetics seems to understand “faith” as a blind faith, a non-intellectual acceptance of Biblical data where we embrace the truth of God without any good reason for doing so. Proponents of this objection may cite Hebrews 11:1 which speaks of faith as a “conviction of things not seen.” The worry is that once we introduce reasons for embracing God’s truth, faith is lost and replaced by reason.

It is true that Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” but this is not blind faith at all. Just keep reading! Multiple examples of faith are presented to us. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark” (v. 7). “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (v. 8). “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 23-24). In these examples, faith is belief in action. It is a forward-looking trust in God and a posture of obedience. Faith looks like something! Since apologetics doesn’t do that for us, it does not disrupt faith. Further, if you look up the word “conviction” from the phrase “conviction of things not seen” in our best Biblical Greek dictionaries, you will find that it is understood as “the act of presenting evidence for the truth of something” (BDAG) or “the evidence, normally based on argument or discussion, as to the truth or reality of something” (Louw and Nida). So you cannot argue that faith is blind using Hebrews 11:1.

To be clear, I think apologetics can disrupt our walk with God if we are not careful. Sometimes we think ourselves pious if we can win an argument, but we don’t even have a prayer life and we read the Bible as a textbook to be mastered rather than as the word of God meant to cut us to the soul and discern the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts (Heb 4:12). We may hide ourselves in apologetics rather than in God, and we may wield apologetics as a way to attain a worldly form of power. None of these things are good, but this the misuse of apologetics. In fact, almost any form of Christian spirituality can be used to “manage” God rather than to help us draw near to Him. Let us strive to avoid these temptations as we pursue our life with God!



Does Christian Hypocrisy Undermine the Reasonability of the Faith?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Christian hypocrisy has done massive damage to the Christian faith.

According to author and social critic Os Guinness, the challenge of hypocrisy is second only to the problem of suffering and evil, and is one of the main reasons people duck the challenge of the gospel.

Hypocrisy is such a massive challenge, says Guinness, because Christians are called to be God’s witnesses to the world (Isa. 43:10; John 3:28):

 

“In other words, before we are asked to preach, proclaim or try to persuade people of the claims of Jesus and his Father, we are asked simply to be witnesses for him—to provide an honest and factual account of what we have seen and heard objectively, and what we ourselves have experienced (‘Once I was blind, but now I can see’)—and to live lives that support what we say.”[1]

 

It is tempting for Christians to respond by pointing out the hypocrisy in other people and worldviews.

For instance, the voices of tolerance and inclusiveness are often remarkably intolerant and non-inclusive of people with traditional values. Such hypocrisy should be rightly pointed out. But this doesn’t get Christians off the hook. After all, James said, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Christians are called to a higher standard. Whether we like it or not, people will judge the truthfulness of Christianity by the lives of its adherents.

As with the charge that the church has caused injustice in the world, Christians should first look inside and see if there is any merit to this claim. Have we been hypocritical in any way? Have our lives betrayed our principles? Have we contributed to this narrative?

Rather than blame others, we need to take an honest look inside, identify our own hypocrisy, repent of it, and then admit our shortcomings.

As for the claim itself, it is an example of a “genetic fallacy,” which is a claim that is dismissed because of some perceived fault in its origin (its genesis).

Guinness explains,

 

There is an important difference between the source of a truth claim and the standard by which it should be assessed. It is therefore wrong to reject a claim just because of the character and condition of its source. . . . The issue is always truth, and truth is not a matter of where someone is “coming from” or how oddly or shabbily they have behaved in the past before making the claim. . . . If the Christian faith is true, it would still be true even if no one believed it, or if all who did were hypocrites; and if it is false, would still be false even if everyone believed it and there was no apparent hypocrisy in their behavior (196).

 

If you are upset about hypocrisy in the church, then you are in good company—Jesus felt the same way.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy, calling them blind guides, snakes, and even killers of the prophets (Matt. 23). He condemned them for not practicing what they preached. If hypocrisy troubles you, then you’re on the side of Jesus.

If you are not a believer, and have been dismissing Christianity because of the failure of Christians, I am sorry that Christians have let you down. But Jesus never will. Maybe it’s time to consider the message of Christ himself.

Have you considered the evidence that he is actually God in human flesh? If Jesus is not God, then Christianity is certainly false. But if he is God, then everything changes. That’s why Jesus said that the most important question is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


[1] Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), 188.

 



Christianity: Putting It All Together

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What’s the point of all this “Follow Jesus” stuff?

Wow! With this blog post, we complete a full year of blogging about the evidence for Christianity — from its historical roots (Jesus really lived!), to why Jesus calls us into relationship with Him.

The purpose of this year-long series has been simply this: to give you historically accurate information about Christianity, so that you might comfortably and knowledgeably share your love for Christ with others.

As we stated in our very first post, being a Christian is NOT about blindly following the teachings of our clergy. It’s about putting in the time and effort to become personally familiar with God and Jesus in order to build a relationship of depth with them. (Hint: to do so, we need to crack open our Bibles, people!


~ It Ain’t About “Blind” Faith ~

“Blind faith” is a criticism often tossed at Christians by non-believers — and they’re not wrong to raise it as a red flag for our lack of knowledge. Look at it from the non-believer’s perspective: If a Christian’s go-to answer is, “Just have faith,” it’s not particularly convincing that the Christian knows all that much about God, the Bible, or the history of Christianity. Why call yourself a “Christian,” if you’re not going to put any skin in the game? We need to dive into this “Follow Jesus” stuff with intent, friends. Only then can we really decide if Christianity makes sense to us — and if we’re willing to put in the commitment Christ desires of us.

I hope this blog series has shown you that Christianity is based on historical facts and evidence — not blind faith. And that’s a good thing, because if Christianity can’t be proven to have legitimacy, none of us should be following it! We’ve answered many of the challenging questions that skeptics tend to ask, such as, “But the Bible was written by lots of people over a hundred years. How can it be authentic?” and “Christianity appears to be a copy-cat religion. Can you prove otherwise?”

But there are many more. Let’s recap other questions typically asked by skeptics, to remind ourselves of what we may need to learn in order to have a productive conversation. The point is not to “win” a discussion, but to humbly step into each “God moment,” hoping that it may lead to another’s heart opening to the possibility of Christ. 😉


~ Christianity Pop Quiz: Know the Answer? ~

My truth is my truth, your truth is your truth. How can you say otherwise?

Why does Jesus consider me a sinner?

The Bible was created to manipulate people. How can you be okay with that?

How can you possibly believe in miracles?!

The Bible is full of contradictions. Doesn’t that make it silly to say it’s the Word of God?

You want me to believe that all the scribes that copied the Bible over the centuries got it right?

If you believe in the Bible, you think Science is all wrong, right?

How do you know that Jesus really lived?

What makes you believe that Jesus really resurrected?

How can you believe that God exists?!

You expect me to believe that we all originated from Adam and Eve?!

The Bible is just moral stories. Why do you think the stories are real?

How could a loving God send people to hell?!

Why do I need Jesus?


 ~ Authentically Share Your Love for Christ! ~

You may never get asked most of the above questions, but you might as well keep the information handy. That last question, though — “Why do I need Jesus?” —  is definitely one you DO need to be able to answer.

My answer is here. Your answer will also be subjective, based on your life experiences. We all have our unique reason(s) for responding to and loving Jesus. Check out this guy’s very authentic answer! Just one tiny paragraph of his powerful testimony:

So, Why Am I A Christian?

Because I know I’m a train wreck in a dumpster fire. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now, in the midst of the burning carnage that is often my life. I know that if I were to stack up my cards against most church people, I’d fold every time. I’m not that good at following rules, and I run my mouth a lot. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, he sees opportunity for growth. Where I see addiction, he sees an opportunity to take a step. Where I’ve given up, he whispers, “You can make it.

Man, I love that! But don’t miss that this guy found Jesus not in perfect people (or those pretending to be perfect), but in regular “sinners” committed to daily following and resembling Christ. In their own messy way, in their own messy style, and God’s okay with that!

How awesome is it that we serve a God of second — heck, 70 x 7 — chances! Perhaps that’s the point of all this “Follow Jesus” stuff. To KNOW, beyond a show of a doubt, that the Creator of the universe cares so much about us that He sent Himself in human form to clearly show us His nature. That despite the roller coaster of our life choices, we can trust that God is in the seat next to us. God’s love is constant! That should make us want to be “all in” when it comes to Christ!

 


why need Jesus

 

 

 

 


Evidence book cover Apologists

 

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



What’s Keeping You From Loving God?

Reading Time: 9 minutes

What Keeps You From Loving God

If we don’t love God, we have a reason: our skewed view of God’s nature, our deciding we don’t “need” Him, or even that He doesn’t exist. The struggle is real to clearly see God’s nature — and to steadily move toward Him.


In surfing the Internet recently, I ran across a personal blog in which the writer explained why she doesn’t believe in God. She shared that as a child, she heard the Genesis story of Adam and Eve’s sin, and its ramifications for all of mankind.

To this day she can still feel, from that decades-old encounter, the condemnation heaped upon her. With a “triumphant smile,” she writes, her church teacher declared to the assembled class of youngsters, “YOU, too, would have sinned because human nature is sinful. If it happened to be YOU in the Garden, each of YOU would have disobeyed.” (I added the caps for emphasis.)

“Thus two doctrines got established before the end of our first religion lesson,” she writes, “our innate wickedness, and God as a punitive parent.”

Aghast at the guilt heaped upon her, she shares that she grappled with these doctrines for years, finding the question of God’s existence to be a source of “ultimate terror and agony.” She decided, by her mid-teens, to reject a god that would send her to hell for not following Him. It certainly was unacceptable to her that God would send her dad, who happened to be a “very loving atheist,” to hell as well.

This writer’s current view of God? That God’s existence makes absolutely no difference to her. Even if she knew for a fact that He exists. “Happiness” has become her god of choice; her religion that “God is a happy state of mind.”

I hear this viewpoint echoed a lot today. But there are other reasons people choose to reject God. Let’s look at some of them.  


~ Is God Really Trustworthy? Does He Care? ~

It is a challenge to look at our hurting world and still see the hand of a caring, intimately vested Creator. Which can make it so easy to decide, from our limited, subjective perceptive, that He doesn’t exist. That He can’t exist, if God is supposed to be so loving and good.

In his article Not Even God Could Make Me Religious, for example, atheist John Shook admits, “I’m not that open-minded about God.” Not if we are talking about God, he adds, “of the sort worshipped by billions nowadays. You’ve heard of this God: entirely supernatural, infinitely powerful, perfectly intelligent, etc.”

Snook’s burning question: Why would a God, if one exists, expose itself to looking unworthy?

Adding that he’d “be an atheist in heaven” — yowza! — Snook declares God to be a rather lousy creator and benefactor. A “good” god, he suggests, wouldn’t sit idle in a world filled with hate, war, death, and ugliness. “What does this atheist say if brought before God?” asks Shook. “‘Not worthy enough, God, not worthy enough.’” Harsh words! But I’m not sure that God has a problem with Snook’s questions — only with the condition of his heart. As Snook himself says, he’s not open to giving God a chance. His judgment of God is firmly cemented. End of story. Move on.

Hmmmmm …. I’m not gonna lie; there have been times when I, too, have questioned whether God is really at the helm of our ball of spinning mass. “Prove yourself to me!” I’ve begged, while basically informing God that the least He could do — if he’s really entirely supernatural, infinitely powerful, and perfectly intelligent, as Snook puts it — is to give me some small sign that He not only exists, but that He sees me and cares. I can honestly tell you that He has stepped up to respond, but often in a quiet, soul-level whisper that I have to get really still to hear.

The Lesson in Painful Moments

Ed Hager, a retired pastor, shares how God showed up in his darkest hour. In one of his blog posts for Chase Oaks Church, Hager talks about the overwhelming depression he endured when his wife of 20+ years left him for another man. Hager’s faith faltered, and he gave up his pastoral position. “After having begged God to save my marriage and ministry,” he shares, “I was blinded to His presence by my focus on all I perceived I had lost.”

As his depression threatened to engulf him, Hager desperately cried out to God — and God faithfully met him. “It was in those desperate moments,” writes Hager, “that I heard, not audibly, but with crystal clarity, ‘You haven’t lost everything because you haven’t lost Me and I’m all you need!‘”

Though this long period of pain was difficult to endure, Hager is quick to admit that the years he spent in this season of his life taught him to “never doubt in the darkness what I know to be true in the light.” And that “there are insights and understandings that can be gleaned from pain that can be learned in no other way.” I so agree with that. It is often when God is all that we have, that we find Him to provide all that we need.

Could it be that the pain of this world, then, is an important part of our development? Even though we instinctively fight against the notion of another suffering for our benefit? #christ


~ Are We Worthy of Receiving His Love? ~

I can say with complete confidence that I believe there to be no deeper hurt than feeling unloved, unwanted, or unloveable. As the saying goes, “Been there, done that, got the gosh darn T-shirt.”

My own religious upbringing demanded that I view God with trembling fear. In faithfully reading my illustrated children’s Bible, I learned to view God as the wrathful deity of the Old Testament who seemed to enjoy making people suffer. Why? Because we’re horrible, rotten creatures who will always disappoint him — and He’s pissed off about it! At least that’s the message that buried itself in my heart and mind. Don’t even get me started on how much I came to hate Eve for listening to that stupid, lying snake. I hated Eve because she caused me to hate myself.

It has taken me decades to finally choose to accept the free gift of God’s grace; to change my perspective from seeing my every slip up as proof of my defectiveness, to just one more opportunity of growth to get it right. And that God is okay with the process. (The Dude has patience!!) As Christian speaker Beth Moore puts it, “You cannot be free to return the love of God unless you first accept it. You can’t love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength unless you believe God loves you.”

Bottom line: as long as we hate that part of ourselves that is so easily led to choosing self over God, we will have a desperate time accepting that God truly does see us as anything but unworthy and unloveable.

Our love for God, adds Moore, opens our eyes to see Him at work. Our love for God gives us the desire to truly want to please Him. Our love for God helps us to crawl, if necessary, through troubling times. “The number one motivation you’ll have for persevering through the most difficult trials of your life,” she says, “will be the unabashed love of God. It is not determination, dedication or will that is going to get you through the bad times. It’s that you know God loves you, and you love him.”


~ But Do We Really Need God? ~

Oh, boy, we’re going deep now! So many people park right here and never budge. “I’m doing just fine at this life thing,” we think. “I don’t need God to feel happy, be a good person, or to live a meaningful life!”

Natasha Crain wrote an article on this very topic. When we begin to ask ourselves whether we really NEED God for those three areas of our life, she writes, it’s soooooo tempting to admit that we can, for the most part, live a productive, happy life without God being at the center of it.

If He’s just the Cosmic Dude we sleepily say hello to in church on Sunday mornings, for example, He won’t have much of an impact on our daily choices. Our choosing to be good, then, doesn’t depend on God being in our life. The truth is that a non-Christian can demonstrate a higher standard of moral living than a Christian, if he or she so chooses. “Christians” don’t get to claim the market on goodness. Some, indeed, earn the “hypocrite” label tossed at them.

And the Church should be humble about putting out the message that only Christianity can give life meaning — though knowing God, suggests Crain, helps us to discover our eternal purpose. 

Ryan Bell, a pastor for 19 years in the Seventh-day Adventist church, now has a new gospel he teaches: that being a Christian actually makes life less meaningful for people. Not only did Bell walk away from the pulpit, but he now claims to be an atheist. And boy, is he HAPPY about it.

“Life does not need a divine source in order to be meaningful,” he writes in just one of his “no God needed” articles. “Anyone who has seen a breathtaking sunset or fallen in love with another human being knows that we make meaning from the experiences of our lives; we construct it the way we construct any social narrative.”

His appreciation for life and its potential, he adds, increased when he stepped away from his faith. But we need to understand Bell’s view of God to properly analyze his statement.

Making Sure We Have the Right View of God

Somewhat akin to my own upbringing, Bell embraced the idea that being heaven-focused is super important, but daily life merely a struggle to endure. “Ironically,” he writes, “my Christian upbringing taught me that ultimately this life doesn’t matter, which tends to make believers apathetic about suffering and think that things will only get worse before God suddenly solves everything on the last day.”

Yuck. This is so not the view God wants us to hold for life. We’re to give this life our all, for His glory, not squander it despising “sinners” and trying to not rub shoulders with them.

Christians who live out Bell’s skewed theology not only live royally ticked off about the daily pains and obstacles of life, they want to insulate themselves as much as possible. They hold the yucky world at arm’s length, lest it dirty their halo and/or muck up their chances of residing in a heavenly mansion. (I was actually raised to think like this.)

Dr. William Lane Craig, a research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, points out that Bell has merely swapped one subjective construct for another. To reject the constraints of his skewed theology, it’s clear that Bell believes he has to reject even its source: God. Craig explains why he doesn’t think Bell “gets” that atheism isn’t a better choice than Christianity, just different. To live “happily,” explains Craig, we each construct a personal value system to bring meaning to our life:

“You construct a set of values. You invent a purpose for your life. This is the only way in which you can live tolerably with atheism. So when he says that he has found that now, as an atheist, life is more meaningful to him and more precious and so forth, this only shows that he hasn’t understood that the claim is about objective meaning, value, and purpose. All he is saying is that as an atheist he finds more subjective meaning, value, and purpose to his life. That doesn’t in any way refute the argument that atheism implies the absurdity of life without God or nihilism. One isn’t talking about subjective attitudes. One is talking about the way the world really is independently of your attitudes.”


~ The Choice is Ours ~

Until we someday meet Him face-to-face, we will never understand why God has given us so much personal freedom to accept or reject Him. But that’s one of the things I love about Him. That He wants me, but won’t force the relationship. That, as the Bible says, He knows me so intimately, even the numbers of hairs on my head, but isn’t put off by my sins, fears, and selfishness. That He loves me and patiently waits for me to inch ever closer to Him.

For me NOW, loving God is a no-brainer. But as I mentioned earlier, for most of my early adult years I hoped to just skate by unnoticed, so He wouldn’t have an opportunity to merit out punishment. I feared God’s disappointment and wrath so much, that any desire I had to please Him came from a place of fear, not worship. But here’s the truth: neither height nor death, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! And with that assurance, I can freely love Him back. I continually fall more in love with Jesus, the closer I get in relationship with Him.

Where are you in your love for God? Are you hot or cold — and why is that?

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



If God is Love, Does Our Sin Matter?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

God is loveIf we view God as “always loving,” can we be nonchalant about our sin?

MercyMe, one of my favorite contemporary Christian bands, is known for penning a number of songs about God’s grace covering sin. “Smile like you just got away with something,” croons the band. “Why? ‘Cause you just got away with something. Ever since, ever since grace got you.”

In another song, they sing, “No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars, still the truth is the cross has made, the cross has made you flawless. No matter what they say or what you think you are, the day you called His name He made you flawless.”

I love the celebration of God’s amazing grace in these jaunty tunes. Yet we must keep the lyrics in proper context. MercyMe isn’t suggesting that sin doesn’t matter, but rather that despite our sin, God continuously desires for us to be reconciled to Him. Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t give us a free pass on our behavior. Our sin is still a HUGE deal to God.


~ C’mon, Does My Sin Really Matter? ~

God LOVES US fiercely — so wide and high and deep that we can’t fathom it — but He also hates our sin. Grappling with sin isn’t easy. On Christianity.net, I found the following question about sin. The poor punctuation and grammar doesn’t stop us from clearly seeing the condition of the heart of the person posing it:

repeating sin

This person wants to honor God, but temptation has the upper hand. This poster received the following answer, which I’ve condensed just a bit:

“That you continue to sin in the same way should indicate to you that you need to work particularly hard in that area not to sin. Try to work out what situations, decisions, activities or friends lead you into this sin, and then take steps to avoid them. And if you fall into sin, turn back to God and ask for forgiveness and then keep trying — remembering that a day will come when it will no longer be a problem. God is always ready to forgive, but we must never get complacent about sin and think it doesn’t matter. Rather, we do whatever we can to avoid temptation and deal with sin when it happens.”

What is our proper response to sin?


~ God’s Focus: Our Transformation ~

The first step, clearly, is agreeing with God that we have sinned. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “I’m not really sure whether I’ve sinned or not. I mean, my church never talks about sin.”

Many churches do now choose to sidestep addressing sin, so it can be hard to get a handle on which thoughts and behaviors God considers sinful. In his article The Fundamental Divergence: The War Between Biblical Christianity and Popular Thought, Dave Miller, a pastor, notes that many churches and pastors have wholeheartedly adopted the gospel of affirmation, which teaches that God loves and accepts as we are. Indeed He does, asserts Miller. But churches also must proclaim the accompanying gospel of transformation. God never wants us to stay in sin; He wants to partner with us so that we transform into better reflections of Christ.

Bottom line, says Miller: If we preach the gospel of affirmation without the gospel of transformation, we are basically saying that Jesus endured torture and death for nothing. Think about that: would it make sense for Jesus to have gone to such painful lengths, on our behalf, if God was lax about sin??? #nope

As we’ve said many times during this blog series, what Jesus did on the cross MATTERS. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to die, adds author and speaker Rick Thomas. “He had a higher vision.” Jesus wants us to follow His example; He wants us to get to the point where we, also, willingly die to self because of our love for Him.


~ Evidence of Our Heart ~

True change, adds Thomas, manifests itself as a penitent person actively pursuing these five attitudes and behaviors:

  • One: You actively put off your former life.
  • Two: You actively renew the spirit of your mind.
  • Three: You actively pursue true righteousness and holiness.
  • Four: You actively live these out.
  • Five: You motivate and sustain your behavior because you love Christ.

Thomas reminds us that the apostle Paul “perceived the saint/sinner tension,” and understood that Christians do sin (1 John 1:7-9) because of our fallen nature. But he encourages us toward change (Romans 2:4).

Another question posted to the Christianity.net website gripped my heart as well, as I’ve had similar thoughts about whether God really offers me continual grace. (Have you?)

stop feeling guilty

Wouldn’t it be utterly fantastic if our transformation to being like Christ instantly took place when we accepted Him as Savior?!

Unfortunately, our transformation is more typically a day-to-day, life-long process. And therein lies the rub: sometimes we choose to circle the mountain (repeat our sin) numerous times until we finally get tired of the result and finally decide to cease doing it. Even addicts have to reach rock bottom before they’re ready to ask for help. But God says it’s never too late for us. “Too much damage” already been done? No way, no how! #godsgotthis


~ Understanding His Love ~

In his article 10 Things You Should Know About the Love of God, Garry J. Williams reminds us that we tend to quickly leap to the wrong conclusions about God’s love. This comes out very clearly, he writes, “when someone says something like, ‘If I were a God of love then I . . . ‘ The reasoning that follows is usually untethered from God’s wider portrayal of himself in Scripture. When we do this God becomes, in effect, just a massive projection of our own selves, a shadow cast onto a screen behind us with all of our own features magnified and exaggerated.”

Williams’ point: We are not free to pick up the ball of “God is love” adds and run with it wherever we will. “The statement,” he writes, “must remain tethered within its immediate context in 1 John 4, within the broader context of John’s writings, and within the ultimate context of God’s entire self-description in Scripture. The local context immediately reminds us of the connection between love and propitiation, which requires that we understand God’s love alongside his justice and wrath.”

When temptation beckons, it can feel so hard to live within God’s parameters. But we must remember that though we are sorely tempted by people, objects, and especially our own bad habits, God desires more for us. He promises us, in His Word, that if we are faithful to His standards, we will avoid so many of the life issues that derail, if not defeat lives.

It comes down to this: do we trust that God’s plan for us is better than what tempts us to sin?

In constantly encouraging us to “Be You!”, society pretends to have the power to validate our freedom to live within our personal view of “truth.” So it also demands that we accept and affirm the lifestyle choices of everyone — or it labels us judgmental and close-minded. But there is no equating society’s standards to God’s standards. God’s Word tells us that every single one of us is in need of repentance and transformation because of sin. What God says matters way more than what society deems to be appropriate. Here’s the thing: society’s standards continue to decline; God’s standards stay constant. And His standards, which are designed to protect us, stem from His LOVE.


~ Mirroring That Love Back to Him ~

Once we’ve gotten to where we’ll acknowledge our sin, we have to figure out a way to overcome it.

The right mindset, writes John Piper, requires us to move our motivation from trying not to mess up with sin, but to not sinning because of how deeply we love Jesus. Our loving Jesus becomes deep and foundational and transformative, as we begin to treasure Him above all things. “Christianity,” adds Piper, “what Jesus demands from us, is not most deeply and most fundamentally decisions of the will. That comes later. Deeply and most fundamentally Christianity is a new birth — a deep, profound transformation of what we treasure, what we love.

God reminds us to “put on the armor of God” — truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, God’s word, prayer, alertness and perseverance — to keep our love and desire to please Him FIRST. We have to spend time in the Bible to stay connected with Jesus. The Bible is our life manual. (It’s really not the irrelevant, out-of-date history book you might think it is. It’s power! Open it!)


Warning: mentally dwelling on our temptation only serves to cement our desire for it!


Picture sin as a slice of delicious chocolate cake. Got the image in your mind? Okay, now really examine the cake’s details. The spongey texture of the cake. The glistening of the gooey icing. The decadent aroma of chocolate. Now imagine how good it’s gonna taste in your mouth. You’re starting to salivate, right? Shoot! Now you’re full-on drooling! As you helplessly grab a fork, you fall, hard, into “But I couldn’t help myself from sinning!” mode.

But there’s a way to thwart this cycle: SLAM ON YOUR MENTAL BRAKES! With that first thought of cake, SHOVE the image out of your head like it’s a head of slimy broccoli that reeks. Ewwwww! We CAN develop this auto-reflex with practice. Baby steps can become big steps — even if the journey includes some painful falls. And God is right there in the process!

Sin. It gets into our brains, excites our emotions, then makes a mess in our life. The good news: God sees it all, but never tires of encouraging us to turn to Him for the strength to overcome. “With my help,” God says in His Word, “you got this.” Now that’s amazing grace!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Clearing the Fog: Is Christianity Blind Faith?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Many atheist critiques of Christianity claim that faith is blind, irrational, stupid.

In his book The God Delusionleading atheist Richard Dawkins asserts that faith opposes reason, and calls faith a “delusion,” which he describes as “persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence” (p. 28).

A common example used to show that the Bible denigrates evidence is the story of doubting Thomas. In The Selfish GeneDawkins writes, “Thomas demanded evidence…. The other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation” (198).

Was Jesus repudiating an evidence-based faith?

In the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict, my father and I point out three problems with this assertion by Dawkins:

First, Jesus predicted his resurrection on multiple occasions in the presence of the disciples. Thomas should not have been surprised at the return of Jesus.

Second, Thomas heard eyewitness testimony (evidence) from the rest of the disciples and yet still refused to believe. (The vast majority of scientific knowledge we possess depends upon trusting the conclusions of other scientists, which is true for virtually all disciplines.)

Third, Jesus did many miracles during his ministry as proof of his identity. In fact, right after the story of Jesus scolding Thomas, John said the miracles of Jesus were recorded “so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31)

 

Christianity Values the Life of the Mind

Despite what Dawkins claims, Christianity values the role of the mind, which includes the proper use of reason and argumentation. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). The Lord said to the nation of Israel, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18).

Scripture and church history emphasize the importance of the role of the mind in discipleship and evangelism.

In the Old Testament, God showered Egypt with miracles before inviting Israel to follow him into the wilderness. Rather than asking Israel for blind allegiance, God’s miracles through Moses gave them good reasons to trust him. Exodus 14:31 makes this clear: “Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” Miracles preceded the call to belief, laying the foundation for a rational step of faith.

 

Faith Is Not Blind

Even so, many Christians use the term “faith” to mean “blind faith” rather than biblical faith. But Christianity itself does not demand blind faith.

In fact, quite the opposite: when Jesus Christ and the apostles called upon a person to exercise faith, it was not a “blind faith” but rather an intelligent faith.

The apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12, emphasis added). Jesus specifically performed miracles to show who he was, and, as a result, many confidently placed their faith in him. During a trip to Capernaum, Jesus healed a paralytic. After forgiving the man’s sins, Jesus said to the crowd, “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed and go to your house’” (Mark 2:10, 11). Jesus healed the man so people would know he spoke with authority from above.

Christians are often accused of taking a “blind leap into the dark.” However, my father Josh set out to disprove the Christian faith historically, but instead found the evidence powerful and convincing.

So, when he became a Christian, it wasn’t a blind leap into the dark, but a knowledgeable step into the light.

He placed the evidence onto the scales, and in his estimation, it tipped in favor of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, resurrected from the dead.

You may be convinced by the evidence. On the other hand, you may find it wanting. But the claim that “faith is blind” simply ignores the biblical and historical evidence.

In fact, only someone who hasn’t truly weighed the evidence could make such a claim. If you haven’t considered the evidence yet, maybe now is the time.

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



“But Why Do I Need Jesus?”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Every Christian needs to know why they need Jesus.

Last week I spent a good bit of my time with a fabulous young person who was gracious, humble, and open — one of those special people who light up a room simply by entering it. During one of our frequent conversations, we touched on our spiritual beliefs. I shared that I have chosen to follow Jesus. He shared that he views Jesus to be an attractive role model, but considers him just “one of many teachers” offering truth and wisdom.

“All paths lead to God,” he added, his lovely smile wide and warm. “God is in everything and everywhere. We’re already at one with Him. We don’t need to limit ourselves to one religion.”

“So who do you think God is?” I asked him. My new friend’s smile widened. “He’s energy,” he replied. “And pure love.”

I’ve heard this response before, of course, stated with similar confidence. I don’t disagree with the answer, but I always find it interesting that a person who has not spent much time seeking to know God’s character can be so confident about who/what God is. I’ve been a dedicated Christian for 30+ years, but still feel inadequate at describing God. The more I try, the bigger He expands! But I definitely view God as much more than the ultimate energy field. To my mind, God has to be an intelligent, compassionate, holy, and intentional entity if He exudes perfect love.

“So,” I asked my new friend, “Do you think God will do what He says He’s going to do someday — namely, separate believers from non-believers and forever banish those who refuse to accept Jesus as savior?” He looked at me solemnly for a moment, then replied, “Is that really why people need Jesus?”

why need Jesus

 

 

 

 


~ We Need Jesus Because …. ~

There are lots of reasons we might list to suggest why we need Jesus.

Before answering my new friend, I paused to mentally sort through the standard biblical answers I’ve heard for this question. Did any of them adequately explain my own need for Him?

Perhaps one standard answer is that we need Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross; that without His death and resurrection, every single one of us faces eternal separation (damnation) from God. The Bible tells us that to not accept Jesus as Lord, is to forever suffer in the fiery furnace of hell. This answer offends some people, but appeals to others. I have one Christian friend who believes that “Jesus died for those who feel the need to be punished.” Trust me, this statement leads to some very deep philosophical discussions!

Specific to hell itself, R.C. Sproul suggests that it is “an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief.” It sounds ghastly — and definitely not a place I want to visit. As a child, my Christian educators seemed to relish in recounting the horrors of hell: The flames. The smell. The gnashing of teeth. The screams of the tormented. I became so anxious about hell, in fact, that as soon as I walked into church (typically twice every Sunday and again on Wednesday nights), I fervently prayed that my own salvation hadn’t somehow managed to void itself. I may have needed Jesus to skirt an eternity of agony, but I didn’t love Him for it. I was too busy fearing God’s wrath; I had no bandwidth left to “find rest in the arms of Jesus.”

So if you’d asked me 20 years ago, “Why do I need Jesus?” my answer would have had a LOT to do with covering my butt — but very little to do with my delight in knowing Jesus. Today that makes me sad. Because I recognize that so many of us are still stuck right here.

Thankfully, over the years, God has worked on me to trust that His grace and unconditional love really are constants. To sin is not to easily slip from His grace. I am thankful to be reminded that even King David sinned — ROYALLY, I might add — by sleeping with another man’s wife and then murdering her husband to try to cover up his actions. Yet God was good: When David finally acknowledged his sin, God was quick to forgive him. He fully restored His relationship with David — even though David, like me, was far from perfect.

So last week I answered my new friend’s question like this:

I need Jesus because He has demonstrated, with every word and action, that His free gift of love is so wide and high and long and deep that it’s impossible for me to even comprehend it. I NEED and crave getting as close as possible to the source of that much love! I am amazed — and so grateful — that there is nothing I can do to cause Jesus to stop loving me. As God did with David, so God will do with me: stand firm on His promise of an enduring connection. Jesus not only “gets” my mess — my temptations, hot buttons, quirks, and fears — but actually delights in daily walking with me to manage and overcome them. I NEED Jesus to help me there; I’ll only muck it up on my own.

My young companion thoughtfully considered my answer, but I could tell he was only able to process it intellectually. And that’s completely understandable, as I doubt it’s possible for anyone to really understand the love Jesus has for them until they run smack dab into Him.


~ Responding to the Question With a Personal Answer ~

Curious, I queried a few friends as to why they need Jesus. One told me it’s because it’s so clear for her to see Him at work in her life. “There have just been too many times He has answered my prayers and showed up for me,” she said. “My experience goes way beyond coincidence.” Another told me that she needs Jesus because, without His presence, she’d “feel lost in an ocean without a life raft.” A third friend told me that of all the avenues of “truth” available to her, only Jesus had managed to “fill the clawing, empty hole” inside of her. “His filling me,” she added, “put an end to all my searching for meaning and happiness.”

So what’s your personal reason for why you need Jesus?

Is it, perhaps, because you see yourself in His healing of the bleeding woman or His forgiveness of the harlot? Or in His freeing the Samaritan woman from her shame, or in His restoration of Peter? Or perhaps, like me, you need Jesus to daily wash you clean, so that every day can be a fresh start? As Erik Segalini wrote in his article Why Do I Need a Savior, “I know what I need, like it or not. I need a Savior. Because my dark side lurks. And so does yours.”

Why do I need Jesus?” is not a question to answer superficially. Because a superficial answer outs us as having a superficial relationship with Christ. Rather, the question should elicit from us a personal reply that demonstrates what Jesus means to us. Consider it a God moment if you are asked this question so directly. Step into the moment prepared with an answer. Who knows? Your heart-felt words might carry more weight than you can possibly imagine and having a lasting impact.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



God’s Origin Story: Guest Blog

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

Along with my regular posts at SeanMcDowell.org, I am now featuring some of my former students in the Biola Apologetics Program. This post is by my friend Timothy Fox, who helped me with both the Awana Advocates curriculum and the updated and revised Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He also blogs at Free Thinking Ministries and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox. Enjoy!

 

God’s Origin Story

By Timothy Fox

 

In my last article, I compared superhero origin stories to the beginning of the universe. Every superhero needs an origin story, and so does the universe. We need a reason why it exists. I argued the best explanation is a God who caused the universe to come into existence. But doesn’t that just push the origins problem back one step? What is God’s origin story? Why is he here? That’s the focus of this article.

Whenever cosmic origins are discussed and God is offered as the explanation for the beginning of the universe, the skeptic is near certain to object “Yeah, well, who created God?” as the ultimate refutation. But this just shows the skeptic doesn’t understand who God is.

 

God and Shazam

When Billy Batson, an ordinary boy, says the word SHAZAM! he is transformed into the superhero Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel – it’s complicated). Shazam has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the willpower of Atlas, the lightning blasts of Zeus, the invulnerability of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. (An alliteration of all of their names spells Shazam.) That’s a pretty awesome list of superpowers, isn’t it? But even with all that, Shazam still isn’t God.

In fact, superheroes aren’t even in the same league as God.

God isn’t just really strong; he is infinitely powerful.

God isn’t just smart; he has infinite knowledge.

God isn’t just good; he’s morally perfect.

Take everything that makes superheroes great and crank it up to infinity. That’s God. God isn’t just great; he’s a Maximally Great Being. God can’t be beaten; he can’t be killed; he can’t not exist. He lacks nothing, needs nothing.

God is the standard of goodness.

 

God Is Maximally Great

Now look at how silly the question “Who created God?” is.

If something created God, that thing would be greater than God. But nothing could be greater than a Maximally Great Being; therefore, nothing could have created God.

But couldn’t there be two Maximally Great Beings? No, as then neither one would be maximally great; it would be a tie. Which one would win an arm wrestling contest? Which would beat the other in a race? Which one would win at chess? Each might be a great being, but neither would be maximally great. Thus, there can only be one Maximally Great Being.

Last time we saw there were only two options for the existence of the universe: either it has always been here or it came into existence at some finite point in the past. If it came into existence, it needed a cause.

God never came into existence; therefore, he doesn’t need a cause. He is what Aristotle called the First Cause, or Unmoved Mover. God set the universe into motion.

 

God’s Origin Story

I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but God has no origin story. He simply is. God is eternal. As the Bible describes: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). God is a Maximally Great Being, having every great-making property to the maximum.

Superheroes are strong. They’re brave. They’re fun to read about and watch.

But God is no mere superhero. God is the greatest being in the universe, and as such he is the only one worthy of our worship.

 

“Who among the gods

is like you, Lord?

Who is like you—

majestic in holiness,

awesome in glory,

working wonders?” – Exodus 15:10



Who God Says Who YOU Are

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Who God Says You AreIt’s What God Says About You That Matters, Not What the World Says

We’ve spent a lot of time in this blog series demonstrating why the Bible, and thus the Christian faith, can be historically vetted and believed. If we accept that the Bible is real, then we can accept that Jesus lived — and that what God says about Himself and God is true. God says we’re family!

Bottom line: the Bible gives us the basis for believing that God exists, that He purposefully made each of us, and that He invites us to pursue a relationship with Him. 


I don’t know about you, but that makes the Bible an important book that I want to get very familiar with. I want to see, for myself, what it says about who God says I am. I find it really odd when I hear Christians say that they “don’t have time” to read the Bible. That’s like saying you’re enrolled in college, but you don’t plan to open your books. Why short yourself like that?

The world does its best to tell us what we are, often in terms of what we lack: too fat, too skinny, too loud, too dumb, too close-minded, too uncool, blah, blah, blah. But when we choose to believe what God says about us, it puts the world’s labels in perspective. And why, might I ask, do we allow the world to tell us who we are, or to steal our joy?

The joy that is firmly rooted in the knowledge that the God of the Universe says we’re unconditionally understood, wanted, and loved! We just have to choose to believe in Him, and allow these truths to become the core of our identity.


~ Who God Says YOU Are ~

Just a few of the many Scriptures that tell us how God sees us:

  • YOU possess His strength!

    Philippians 4:13 –  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


  • He sees YOU with grace!

    1 Corinthians 1:4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.


  • YOU are God’s handiwork!

    Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”


  • God pursues YOU!

    Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


  • YOU are loved!

    1 John 4:10 – Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


  • YOU are forgiven!

    1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


  • Christ calls YOU friend!

    John 15:15 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.


~ The “God Hole” That Draws Us ~

So, here’s the thing: We all seek love and validation from the world. But the truth is that God designed us with a hole in our heart to draw us to seek Him. Our spouses can’t fully fill the void we’re born with. Our parents can’t fill it. Not even our best friends can be what we need and want them to be 100 percent of the time. But God can. It’s the role He designed for Himself!

Only by accepting God’s love are we able to deal with feeling unloved and unwanted by others. Even better: when we accept His love, we’re able to then authentically love others! Our worth is not determined by the world, but by Him. God says that we’re worthy of His love and of loving ourselves. End of story. Case closed. Always and forever. #truth #getit

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Did Jesus Really Claim to be God? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Tips for Selflessness; Let’s Be Like Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

There was once a nymph named Narcissus,
Who thought himself very delicious;
So he stared like a fool
At his face in a pool,
And his folly today is still with us.*



One of the reasons we’ve spent so many weeks blogging about the evidence for Christ and the historical roots of Christianity, is to remind us that we don’t serve a mythical God. Rather, we serve the Almighty Creator — who is very real, very present, and very much cares how those of us who claim to be “Christians” think and act. We’re supposed to be striving for selflessness, like Jesus. Me too. #belikeJesus

People, let’s be real: the constant tug we feel to wallow in self-worship is relentless! We most definitely need God’s help to battle it. 

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. But in doing so, He places the emphasis on treating others as well as we, ourselves, would like to be treated. Agape love, the kind of love Jesus perfectly modeled for us, seeks to notice and act on the needs of others. Easier said than done? Too often! Our pesky human nature loves to focus on self. 

Thankfully, God knows that our developing the habit of selflessness is a daily, life-long process. That in some moments we’ll hit the mark, and in others we’ll utterly fail. God “gets” that it’s impossible for us to be selfless 100 percent of the time — though Mother Teresa may have gotten close! The truth: We’ll only be perfected when we get to the other side. But we can commit to allowing God to work on our selflessness now.

We must get past our own interests, if we’re to interest our self-absorbed world in the transforming love of Christ.


~ Does “Selflessness” Mean I Must Ignore Myself? ~

Nope…though some Christians have gotten the idea that, in “taking up Christ’s cross,” they must meet everyone else’s needs before their own. That only leads to resentment and burnout, people! And some Christians think they have to live in abject poverty to be a “good” Christian. Say, what???? The Bible clearly shows us that God enjoys blessing us. Money is not evil, people! It’s the love of money that gets us into trouble. That’s why the Bible tells us to guard our hearts.

And far too many Christians walk around thinking they have to think badly about themselves in order to stay humble. Yikes!! Where does the Bible tell us to repeatedly kick ourselves — as if we’re unloved, unwanted, and unacceptable? It doesn’t! The Bible repeatedly affirms that we are infinitely loved, and fully understood and accepted by God! That He has engraved us on the palms of His hands, that we are always on His mind!

Because we have this assurance of His faithfulness, even when we mess up, we can live with a spirit of grace, with our hearts and hands open. But don’t miss this truth: we must *accept* God’s grace and love for ourselves before we can cultivate the habit of being selfless. I think a lot of people walk around trying to amass and hoard stuff because they don’t know God has their back.

I love that Joyce Meyer, a popular Christian speaker and author with a global ministry, once grappled with accepting that there was anything lovable about herself. One day she decided to write “God loves me” on her bathroom mirror — and to repeat the phrase, aloud, for as long as it took for her to believe this truth. The day finally arrived! Joyce found her heart leaping for joy as the words rolled off her tongue.

Note: It wasn’t merely repeating the phrase that convinced Joyce, of course. It was God. In daily digesting the phrase, she gave God the focus and space to rewire her thinking.

Joyce never doubts God’s love now. Because she knows that she knows that God is consistent. And in becoming secure in His love and acceptance, Joyce began to desire to share it with others. Many of her world-wide ministry activities now significantly help to address the pain and needs of many.

When we willingly set aside our plans and desires, and pursue being of service to others, we are being selfless in the way the Bible asks us to be. “Love cannot remain by itself, it has no meaning,” noted Mother Teresa. “Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” 


~ Demonstrating Selflessness, Like Jesus ~

Mother Teresa put it exactly right. We can’t “hope” or “envision” a better world, or even “send good thoughts into the universe,” and expect the world to right itself. Positivity and hope and vision don’t accomplish anything unless they’re accompanied by action. And action without love doesn’t really represent Jesus.

Our perfect role model, Jesus gave of Himself extravagantly. He went out of His way to be inconvenienced, to be compassionate. He treated the marginalized and ignored with kindness and respect, and in so doing reminded them that they DO matter. Every single one of us is so important to Jesus that He died to make it crystal clear.

Wanna mirror Jesus’ selflessness? Me too!

To develop this habit, we might give these three tips a whirl:

>>> 1. Let’s study up on verses in the Bible that ask us to serve. Like, Joyce, we’ll find that meditating on them will drive them deep into our hearts. And where our heart goes, so do our thoughts and actions.

Here’s just one verse, found in 1 John 3:16-18“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

>>> 2. Let’s choose to go about our day feeling grateful for what Christ has done, and continues to do, for us.

Again, this is way different than purposing to have a “positive mindset.” Positivity too easily evaporates when we step into our own bad circumstances. But when our joy is based on our trusting God’s goodness, even in dire circumstances, our positive outlook has staying power. “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” go the song lyrics. I don’t know about you, but even humming that song puts me in a joyful mindset. When we’re joyful, we’ll naturally drizzle joy on others.

>>> 3. Let’s ask God to open our eyes to the needs of others.

And when our eyes are opened, let’s ACT. Again, some days we will utterly fail. But let’s dust ourselves off, get back on the horse, and ask for another chance to serve as the solution for another’s need. 

Hey, wouldn’t it be GREAT if, when we accepted Christ, we really were able to “go and sin no more?” Unfortunately, most of us have a lot of baggage and bad habits that God needs to work through before we’re able to hit that target. John R. W. Stoutt, in his book The Cross of Christ, captures our ongoing battle with self perfectly:

“There is, therefore, a great need for discernment in our self-understanding. Who am I? What is my ‘self’? The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having both dignity because I was created and have been re-created in the image of God, and depravity because I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God, and yet sometimes yielding obsequious homage to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me.”

Indeed! Christ was crucified, died, and resurrected to prove His great love for others. To demonstrate our selflessness can change the world. When we share His amazing love, even in tiny drops, it spreads around the globe! Let’s have more Me Too moments!! #changetheworld #belikeJesus


Love, wrote Mother Teresa “is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”


Evidence book cover Apologists

 

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



5 Reasons Christians Must Read the Bible

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Bible Tell Us How to Live

The Bible is your daily life playbook, not an outdated relic to be kept on a shelf.

According to LifeWay Research, more than half of Americans have read little to none of the Bible. About 30 percent look up things in the Bible only when they need to. And less than a quarter have any kind of systematic plan for reading the Bible on a daily basis. Some, about 17 percent, simply flip it open to read a passage at random. 

Okay, I have to admit that some days I am among that last statistic. Worse, I sometimes hurry through a passage, just so I can check “Read Bible” off my to-do list. I might momentarily feel good, but I’m not fooling myself or God. When it comes to the Bible, we get out of it what focus we put into it.

Am I suggesting that we have to spend hours (or even a half-hour) reading the Bible every time we open it? Nope. Five minutes of quality, focused time might reap more benefit than reading for longer stretches distracted. It’s like praying, right? Some of us struggle to keep focused after saying, “Hey, God, it’s me again…” Fortunately, God looks at the condition of our hearts. 

Here’s the bottom line: When we forgo reading the Bible, what we’re really saying to God is that we’re too busy to put in the work of really knowing Him. That we’re good with having a distant relationship with Him. That we sure are happy that He’s just a prayer away — but please don’t ask us to read “that boring, irrelevant book.”

And right there we smack hard into the issue: our perception of His Word.

If we view the Bible as a relic with limited application to modern life, of course we’re not going to value it or want to read it. But if we view the Bible as God intended — His showing us His heart, His plan for mankind, and the sacrificial gift of Jesus that brings us into right standing with Him — we will afford it the respect it is due. Because when we value God’s Word, we will work to grow our knowledge of it. 

Let’s consider five reasons Christians should read the Bible. Not because it gains us brownie points, but because it gives strength and depth to our relationship with God.


~ The Bible Helps Us To… ~

1.  See who God is and how much He loves us. 

It is through the Bible that we learn that God is our loving creator and constant wooer. God tells us in His Word that His love for us is deep, vast, and unchanging. The truth: He desires to be in close relationship with us, and has specifically designed us with gifts and talents that glorify Him. When we correctly view ourselves through God’s lens — we are so very loved, wanted, and valuable — we can push back on a secular world that says otherwise. The good news: Only God’s view matters! 

2.  Understand why the death of Jesus is such a big deal. 

The Bible, ultimately, points us to Jesus. We are to read the Bible to learn about Jesus, why we should want to follow Him, and how His death empowers us and gains us a heavenly home with Him forever. We can, with confidence, tell people, “Jesus loves you!” because of what the Bible says about His life and death. His love and sacrifice for all of humanity is shared with us via Scripture. Jesus points us to the truth, but neither forces nor manipulates anyone into accepting His open invitation.

3.  Know God’s truth, so our lives honor and please Him.

The Bible shows us how to measure “success” — it’s not fame and riches, like the world tells us — and to clearly see what matters. When we build our lives solidly on Jesus, the world can’t manipulate us with its shifting views of “truth.” The Bible is still applicable to our modern lives because God’s nature and standards do not change. The ten commandments are as relevant now as they were two thousand plus years ago. Treating others with kindness is still in fashion with God, and always will be. His greatest commandment? Love God and love others.

4.  Gain a “God mindset,” which will guide our thoughts and actions.  

Though Satan loves to whisper in our ears that we’re screw ups, mess ups, and unlovable mistakes, that’s not what the Bible says. So let’s ignore Satan and stick with the source of truth! The Bible shows us that God knows we will fail to be perfect. Good thing He doesn’t demand perfection! But He does ask that we purpose in our hearts to daily follow and honor him. God’s grace, when we ask for forgiveness, is guaranteed. The Bible assures us that God never withholds forgiveness when asked. Wahoo! Blessed assurance! God is our loving father. Like an earthly father, He seeks the best for us. His standards and truth serve as healthy boundaries to keep us from the pain of sin.

To read the Bible is to immerse ourselves in stories that show us how God interacted with His people. Tip: A fun way to read the Old Testament is to start with an illustrated children’s Bible. The stories include wisdom we can learn from today. The story of Samson, for example, teaches us the perils of being hot-tempered and vain. In the story of David and Goliath we learn that it is God’s strength, not man’s, that should make us quiver in our boots. And after David had an affair with Bathsheba, even going so far as to murder her husband to cover his sin, we learn of the consistency of God’s forgiveness and the sweet relief of being reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, we see Christ’s actions modeling selfless living. Psalms can be used to jump start our prayer life, and Proverbs contains rich nuggets of gold on becoming a better friend, spouse, parent, and even how to respond to our enemies

5.  Live courageously in our dark, secular world.

It’s hard being a person who seeks after God when we live in a secular world. I don’t particularly like being called a “dimwit” who needs a “crutch” to get through life. But I have to laugh when I hear those labels slung at Christians. Because compared to God, I am a dimwit. And I can think of no better crutch that Jesus, because leaning on Him guarantees me strength. My relationship with Jesus allows me to live with authenticity and consistency. I don’t have to play the game of pretending to have it all together, for one thing. And when I am worried about something, I can hand that fear to Him and know that He’s working on it. The Bible, over and over, promises us God’s peace when we rely on Him. God is in control! 


~ The Bible is a Worthy Investment of Our Time ~

As Sean McDowell reminds us, “The Bible has shaped western civilization more than any book ever written. No other book even comes close.” So, clearly, a lot of people have found the Bible worth reading over the centuries.

But finding the time to read it in our speedy, modern world isn’t always easy. We have so much clamoring for our attention, including television and social media. How many of us, for example, have opened Facebook, “just to check for messages,” and found ourselves, an hour or two later, still scrolling through our feed? Ack! 

So how might we carve out time to read the Bible? One way might be a consistent reading time every day. You might try reading a Psalm or Proverb while you eat breakfast, for example. Or if your family eats dinner together, try adding it to your meal. What a great time to discuss the reading while you’re all still seated at the table! To help guide your Bible readings and discussion, consider signing up for our daily devotional emails. If reading together is initially difficult, try adding a Bible-based activity to family time. Who’s up for a game of Bible bingo or trivia

 A stat to digest: research done by Barna Group shows that less than 10 percent of all Christian families read the Bible together. How sad is that? Worse, what message might kids take from this? Most likely that the Bible isn’t all that important. And that’s simply not true. The Bible is our very foundation. The bottom line: Every Christian NEEDS to know what the Bible says. The Bible is our playbook for life. It outlines the plays as we move the ball down the field. So let’s read it, and in doing so invite God to join our team! Our reading the Bible gives God opportunities to profoundly change us.

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and to joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of your heart (Hebrews 4:12).

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



10 Biblical Reasons God Allows Suffering

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

The existence of human suffering is arguably the most common and difficult problem raised against the existence and goodness of God.

It is a particularly thorny issue because people experience it both emotionally and logically.

The problem of suffering has been with us since the Garden of Eden and it will be with us until Christ comes back. But suffering is not just a problem for Christians. Every belief system has to account for suffering in some fashion or another.

The purpose of this post is not to attempt a theodicy, that is, a defense of why God allows suffering. Many fine books have done this, including the classical book The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis or Why Does God Allow Evil? by Clay Jones. Rather, I simply want to highlight ten ways the Bible addresses suffering.

These answers are not exhaustive, but they provide some biblical perspective for the inquisitive believer and non-believer:

1. Suffering is the result of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God (Genesis 3). Mankind chose to reject God’s one command, the world became corrupted by sin, and humans have suffered ever since.

2. God’s chosen people (the Hebrews) suffered when they disobeyed the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 28).

3. People sometimes suffer from the wrong choices of other human beings, even though God uses the resulting suffering for good (Genesis 50:20).

4. Suffering brings faithful believers into deeper understanding and relationship with Him (Job).

5. Believers suffer because of the jealousy and hatred of certain people who reject the Christian faith (Acts 7:54-60).

6. Believers suffer as a testament of faith to others (Hebrews 11).

7. God allows people to suffer so they will turn to Him in repentance and not perish for eternity (Luke 13:1-4).

8. Christians suffer so they can be conformed more closely to the character of Christ (Romans 8:28-30, James 1:2-4).

9. Believers suffer so they can know Christ more fully (Philippians 3:10).

10. To prepare followers of Christ for the glory of Heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Each of these points deserves much more explanation. And each point raises further questions as well. Remember, there is no single answer to suffering.

But wrestling through these passages, and others, can help provide a biblical perspective on suffering.

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 



Is History Knowable? Implications for Christianity

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Is History KnowableThe accuracy of history is critical. Even for Christianity.

We can look at this photo and make some subjective judgments. We might deduce that the child is somewhere cold. We might also suggest the child’s age, if not also his or her nationality, healthiness, and socioeconomic status. In effect, we’re self-determining this child’s history.

Historians, too, might start with a single photo in their attempt to piece together some aspect of the past. The question we should ask upon their completed puzzle is, “Did they get it right? Is their version of history reliable — or skewed by subjectivity?”

It’s a valid question, as history has a history of being written or adjusted to match a personal bias. Both Hitler and Stalin, for example, revised “history” to justify their politics. Tweaking of history is a common practice; too often we don’t realize that its telling lacks truth or objectivity. Ask American adults, for example, what caused the Civil War, and their replies might overwhelmingly point to whether they were educated in the North or the South.

In this post, let’s look at the burden that rests on historians, including some of the criteria they should employ as they determine historical “truth.” Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of this post: History isn’t true “history” unless its facts are presented objectively. Otherwise it’s skewed storytelling, if not outright propaganda.

Religion is one area in which truthful, objective history is critical to distinguish between fact and fiction, myth, and legend. Christianity makes historical claims that historians continue to study exhaustively. Some scholars do a great job of being objective; others are unable to get past their personal biases.



~ History Demands Objectivity ~

“A historian,” writes historian David Fischer, author of Historians’ Fallacies, “is someone (anyone) who asks an open-ended question about past events and answers it with selected facts which are arranged in the form of an explanatory paradigm.” In short, asserts Fischer, history is a problem-solving discipline. So a historian might ask, “Was Jesus was a real, historical person?” (Here an atheist says no, countered by a pro-Christ response.)

Fischer suggests the following seven rules should guide a historian’s methodology:

1.) Historical evidence must a direct answer to the question asked and not some other question.

2.) The historian must provide not just good evidence, but the best relevant evidence.

3.) This evidence must always be affirmative.

4.) The meaning of any empirical statement depends upon the context from which it is taken.

5.) An empirical statement must not be more precise that its evidence warrants.

6.) The historian must best determine the probability of A in relation to the probability of alternatives. As historian Richard Evans notes, “No historian really believes in the absolute truth of what they are writing, simply in its probable truth, which they have done their utmost to establish by following the usual rules of evidence.”

7.) The burden of proof rests upon its author.


Apologist and historian Michael Licona suggests six additional guidelines for the historian, in order to minimize bias and horizon (worldview) and arrive at the most accurate judgment possible:

1.) Pay close attention to historical methodology, including how competing hypotheses are compared and tested, and the manner in which data is collected, analyzed, and contextualized.

2.) The historian’s horizon and method should be public. He should be clear about his guiding presumptions.

3.) Employ peer pressure. Peer critique and analysis can help minimize and check bias.

4.) Submit ideas to unsympathetic (critical) experts for review and feedback to help gain accurate conclusions.

5.) Account for the relevant historical bedrock. Some facts are so firmly established, that any reputable theory must be incorporated or built upon them.

6.) Historians must detach from their biases. They must willingly confront data and arguments that run contrary to their preferred hypothesis. 



~ The Bias of Relativism, Revisionism, and Subjectivity ~

If objectivity is critical to discerning truth, why are historians often willing to slide into subjectivity, relativism, and revisionism? In part because of the influence of noted philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant, as well as historian Charles A. Beard.

Hume (1711-1776) taught that reality isn’t provable, so one should be skeptical of rational claims of  knowledge. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued that the only world knowable is the world we create within our minds. In other words, what’s important is how our minds understand and interpret things, not the way things really areBeard (1874-1948), heavily influenced by both thinkers, asserted that we can’t expect to know, with certainty, that a historical event actually happened.

Let’s look at Beard’s objections to the “knowability” of history:

1.) History is not directly observable. Beard contends, “The historian is not an observer of the path that lies beyond. He cannot see it objectively as the chemist sees his test tubes and compounds.” Beard is saying that, because historians didn’t see an event for themselves, they can only subjectively view it through the lens of others.

Rebuttal: That’s interesting, given that The Big Bang was theorized by scientists based on evidence without direct access to its occurrence. Noted contemporary philosopher Lane Craig reminds us that it is “naive to think that the scientist always has direct access to his objects of study,” especially in highly theoretical fields like physics.  Historians need not be held to this standard, when archeological data amply furnishes historians with direct access to the past.


2.) The fragmentary nature of historical accounts. Asserts Beard, “The documentation (including monuments and other relics) with which the historian must work covers only a part of the events and personalities that make up the actuality of history,” so therefore a historian can’t make final conclusions.

Rebuttal: Licona pushes back on this. “If we think of history as an exhaustive description of the past, then history is certainly unknowable,” he says. “However, if we regard history as an adequate description of a subject during a specific period, we are in a position to think that history is knowable to a degree. Although incomplete, adequate descriptions provide enough data for answering the questions being asked.” Fischer adds that the suggestion that a historian can’t know anything until he know everything is both impossible and absurd. Science certainly doesn’t hold itself to that standard. Scientists use fossil remains, which represent but a tiny percentage of past life, to reconstruct an objective picture of geological history. Dinosaurs, anyone?


3.) The problem of selection of documentation. Beard says, “Not only is the documentation partial, in very few cases can the historian be reasonably sure that he has assembled all the documents of a given period, region, or segment.” The selectivity in methodology, he asserts, renders history nonobjective.

Rebuttal: Yet, as contemporary philosopher Norman Geisler reminds us, jurors, in courtrooms every day, make judgments “beyond reasonable doubt” without having all the evidence. He adds that if the historian has the relevant and crucial evidence, it is sufficient to obtain objectivity.


4.) Every historian is a product of his time and worldview. Asserts Beard, “Whatever acts of purification the historian may perform he yet remains human, a creature of time, place, circumstance, interests, predilections, culture.”

Rebuttal: But just because the historian is a product of his time, it does not follow that his history is also a product of the time. Geisler notes that this confuses the content of knowledge and the process of attaining it. It confuses the formation of the view with its verification. Fischer gives us this example: “An American historian may chauvinistically assert that the United States declared its independence from England in 1776. That statement is true, no matter what the motives of its maker may have been. On the other hand, an English historian may patriotically insist that England declare its independence from the United States in 1776. That assertion is false, and always will be.”


5.) The historian can’t avoid value judgments. Beard writes, “Into the selection of topics, the choice and arrangement of materials, the specific historian’s ‘me’ will enter.” So Beard concludes, “The historian’s powers are limited. He may search for, but he cannot find ‘objective truth’ of history, or write it, ‘as it actually was.'”

Rebuttal: As N.T. Wright notes, “The fact that somebody, standing somewhere, with a particular point of view, is knowing something does not mean that the knowledge is less valuable: merely that it is precisely knowledge. … It must be asserted most strongly that to discover that a particular writer has a ‘bias’ tells us nothing whatever about the value of the information he or she presents. It merely bids us be aware of the bias (and our on, for that matter) and to assess the material according to as many sources as we can.”

Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler put forth that there’s a difference between self-evident truths and historical knowledge: “On the one hand we have self-evident truths that have certitude and incorrigibility; and we also have truths that are still subject to doubt but that are supported by evidence and reason to a degree that puts them beyond reasonable doubt or at least gives them predominance over contrary views. All else is mere opinion — with no claim to be knowledge or having any hold on truth.”



~ Implications for Christianity ~

Many skeptics and historians claim that there is no historical proof for Jesus or His resurrection outside of the Bible. Some disregard Christianity’s historical credibility because they find its historians biased, which is a really wonky argument for the New Testament, whose authors spent a lot of time reminding readers of facts and eyewitnesses that validated their claims about Jesus.

These skeptics also reject the Bible because it embodies the miraculous. The Red Sea parting? Impossible. Jesus walking on water? Impossible. Jesus resurrected as Lord? Impossible! Miracles are a theological construct, they assert, not a historical one, so the Bible holds no authority for objective study.

But we can logically assume that if a historian flat out refuses to acknowledge the possibility of the miraculous, that even if biblical miracles were repeated before their very eyes they would refuse to abandon their anti-miracle bias. If, like Hume, a person believes miracles to be logically impossible, then admitting a miracle becomes impossible for that person. In effect, they box themselves in, in order to hold onto their view. But it should matter more to arrive at the truth, right?


~ Historical Truth is Knowable ~

Hume, Kant, and Beard would have us believe that nothing is knowable. Well, I suppose we can debate their arguments until cows start milking themselves. But in the real world, their arguments simply don’t hold up. Real truth can be discovered and known, if we seek and test it objectively. Too, we don’t have to know everything about an event, as Beard asserts, to know that it did, in fact, happen. Common sense and real-world experience affirm this, even if philosophical pondering leads us to question even the possibility of reality or objective truth.

Hume, Kant, and Beard are wrong about the impossibility of knowing historical truth. There are very good reasons to conclude that careful historians can make accurate assessments of the past, including events considered miraculous.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



How Can We Know Heaven Exists? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 2

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Tips for Talking with a Skeptic “Prove Your God Exists!”

Last week, in Part 1 of this topic, we talked about the importance of our having a right attitude when interacting with skeptics.

I reminded you to let go of the “fight” mentality when challenged on your beliefs; to instead view these encounters as God-ordained opportunities to demonstrate the truth and love of Christ.

We also talked about the need to identify whether a skeptic is genuinely interested in having a productive conversation with us, or if their intent is to simply derail our faith. (There’s no point, in my mind, for entertaining the latter. Would you try to sell a car to a person who was committed to buying a bike?) 

Lastly, we talked about the important of asking questions, to help identify why the skeptic holds his views. Is their beef really with God…or humans?

Here, let’s identify some of the questions skeptics tend to ask, because we really need to have thoughtful answers ready when they posed to us. Then let’s observe two conversations between a Christian and a skeptic, to rate the Christian’s overall effectiveness. Role-playing is a great way to prepare for real conversations.


~ Common Objections You Should Learn to Answer ~

So what are some of the common objections raised by skeptics? Natasha Crain does a great job of identifying a good number of them in her blog post titled 65 Apologetics Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer.

A sample:

~What key arguments are there for (and against) God’s existence?

~Why would a good God allow evil to exist?

~How can a loving God send people to hell?

~How can Christians say Jesus is the “only” way?

~Am I good enough to go to heaven?

~Is Christianity a less intelligent worldview than atheism?

~What evidence exists outside the Bible that Jesus existed as a historical person?

~How were the books of the Bible selected?

~Does Science disprove God?

~Is Christianity “responsible” for millions of deaths throughout history?

~Why does Christianity say objective truth is the only “real” truth?

 

Another good place to research questions and answers is in the books and websites of today’s top Christian apologists. In this blog series we discuss Josh and Sean McDowell’s revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. But you also can learn from Ravi Zacharias, J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, Gary Habermas, and Natasha Crain.

As you research and become practiced with answering these questions, don’t make it your goal to “win” against skeptics. Rather, make it your goal to help them understand why your belief in Christ isn’t based on mindless “blind faith,” but substantial, historical evidence. Always strive to be kind, open, and gracious as you argue chat with skeptics.


~ Three Must-Dos To Prepare for Skeptics ~

>>> 1: Develop the habit of critical thinking. This goes way beyond knowing Bible stories and memorizing Bible verses.

We need to know why we believe what we believe. We need to be able to make connections between things Jesus taught and how they’re still applicable for our modern lives. We need to be able to explain why a particular scientific theory doesn’t hold up, and why it might not really be all that important whether He created the universe in six days or 6 million years. We need to know what archeologists have proven historically about the Bible.

>>> 2: Remember that not every claim or fact uttered by a skeptic is true, particularly when it comes to the historicity of the Bible, or a scientific “fact.” 

We have the right to be just as skeptical as the skeptic, and to ask for objective proof. A common argument used by skeptics is that Christianity “borrowed” its theology from other religions. But when we research that claim, we see that the facts show that it’s the other way around.

Too, it’s NOT on us to prove God’s existence, and here’s why: no skeptic or atheist has yet been able to disprove God’s existence. So when atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “If you want to believe in…unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh, the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not,” his argument doesn’t hold up.

And when we read books by atheists and skeptics, we have to expect bias. The content in Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, for example, might sound convincing — until we also read books that dismantle his case against God. I love watching debates, because I get to see both sides of an argument. Here’s just one debate I found interesting: William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist?.

We have to learn to recognize whether the skeptic challenging us is coming with an open mind, or is simply seeking to waste our time. I am happy to talk about God with people who truly want to have an authentic conversation. But if a committed atheist wants to chat for her entertainment or agenda, I’ll pass.

>>> 3: Commit to having a humble attitude when dialoguing with skeptics.

Even if we’re mocked, even if we’re told we’re stupid, we get to choose how we respond. Christ left His ego behind, and asks us to do the same. Witnessing isn’t about winning. It’s about showcasing Christ. Truly, if we’re not evidencing the nature of Christ in our lives, what’s the point of even trying to share out faith with people?


~ Role-Playing to Practice ~

Let’s look at two sample conversations between a skeptic and a Christian, to see how the Christian does at being respectful, and having knowledgeable answers.

Conversation 1:

SKEPTIC: “How can you Christians believe the Bible to be true? All you have to go on is faith.”
CHRISTIAN: “Faith is a good thing.”
SKEPTIC: “Have faith in Science, then! It’s real, unlike your Bible.”
CHRISTIAN: “The Bible is God’s Word. It’s totally real.”
SKEPTIC: “The Bible was written by 40 people, over 1,000 years. No way is it a sacred text!”
CHRISTIAN: “You made that up.”
SKEPTIC: “Have you even read the Bible?”
CHRISTIAN: “Of course!”
SKEPTIC: “All of it?”
CHRISTIAN: “I’ve read the most important part: John’s Gospel, where Jesus beats death and rises!”
SKEPTIC: “Resurrection. Now there’s a fairytale for you.”
CHRISTIAN: “You clearly lack the faith needed to be a Christian.”
SKEPTIC: “I don’t need faith to believe in a fairytale. Unless you have proof that God exists?”
CHRISTIAN: “The proof will be your burning in Hell!”

How do you rate the Christian? Give 1 star for low, 5 stars for high.

———————————————————————–

Conversation 2:

SKEPTIC: “How can you Christians believe the Bible to be true? All you have to go on is faith.”
CHRISTIAN: “Faith is a good thing.”
SKEPTIC: “Have faith in Science, dude. It’s real, unlike your Bible.”
CHRISTIAN: “Why don’t you think the Bible is real?”
SKEPTIC: “Because Science has proven the Big Bang Theory. Your Bible says God made the world.”
CHRISTIAN: “Who’s to say He isn’t the bang behind that possible Big Bang?”
SKEPTIC: “Are you that clueless? The universe isn’t due to some mythical, supernatural creator!”
CHRISTIAN: “Well, would you agree that Science has no clue, or proof, as to what started the universe?”
SKEPTIC: “It certainly wasn’t the God of your made-up Bible.”
CHRISTIAN: “There’s actually a lot of historical evidence that authenticates the Bible.”
SKEPTIC: “The Bible was written by, like, 40 people, over 1000+ years. No way is it authentic!”
CHRISTIAN: “You’re right about those numbers. But can I show you some of that historical evidence?”
SKEPTIC: “Only if you buy me a coffee. I’m going to need major caffeine to endure that torture.”
CHRISTIAN: “Coffee it is! I even promise to keep the torture session to a half-hour!”

How do you rate the Christian? Give 1 star for low, 5 stars for high.

—————————————————————————

My scores:
Conversation 1. I give the Christian one gold star, for being minimally effective. The Christian clearly isn’t familiar with the Bible, is condescending, and pronounces judgement on the skeptic. Yowza! How does that help to keep that skeptic open to further conversations?

Conversation 2. I give the Christian five gold stars, for being very effective. The Christian appears to be informed, respectful, and sincerely interested in having a pleasant conversation.


~ But I Don’t Wanna Talk to Skeptics! ~

Trust me, I get it. Too many days it feels like my brain is a sieve, and I worry that I won’t be able to utter any reasonable replies about my Christian faith!

I have found it helpful to create a little apologetics notebook that I can refer to as an ongoing refresher. I’ve also found it helpful to create a computer document of links, that I can go back and peruse or print out. You’ll have to figure out your own system for having ready access to info. Having that resource in place will give you a lot more confidence. But it should also help you to relax so you enjoy telling people about Jesus.

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect in our defense of Him — but He does expect us to know what we believe and be ready to share it. It’s an honor to be used for His purposes. 

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 1

Reading Time: 5 minutes

skeptics “Prove Your God Exists!”

When we Christians hear that, most of us start sweating. As if the entire weight of proving the truth of Christianity rests on our puny shoulders! But we also start sweating because we feel our egos to be on the line. To be a Christian, we’re told by skeptics, is to be feeble-minded, if not stupid.

Let’s collectively exhale a long, calming breath and view a skeptic’s challenge with the right perspective: that we’re simply stepping into a God-ordained opportunity to demonstrate to this person the grace and love of Christ.

We’re not answering a question, but a questioner, suggests Ravi Zacharias, a world-famous apologist known for the disarming, respectful manner in which he dialogues with skeptics. What should come through loud and clear, he stresses, is our love for people and God. Zacharias wisely notes, “A word in season can bring to fruit that which only God can nurture and nourish.”

In this post, let’s talk about why our attitude is critical as we interact with critics. In next week’s post, Part 2, we’ll identify some of the questions skeptics tend to ask, and how you can get up to speed on knowing the answers.


~ Simple Faith, Little Knowledge ~

It’s important to recognize which category of skeptic is challenging us. There are only two: skeptics who are honestly seeking to know what we believe, and why, and skeptics who are simply looking to derail our faith.

Many Christians, sadly, are easily persuaded to forsake their Christian beliefs because they don’t have much depth to their faith. I am reminded of a friend who told me that he decided Christianity was bogus after reading the novel, The DaVinci Code. It blew my mind that he allowed a single work of FICTION, a novel containing very few correct facts about Christianity, to turn him from God.

Research shows that many kids who grow up in “Christian” homes easily lose their beliefs after a college professor mocks and challenges them. Christian blogger Natasha Crain shares how her own faith wobbled after encountering skeptics at college.

“After 18 years of going to church,” she writes on her blog, ChristianMomThoughts, “I left home with approximately the following understanding of the Bible: Jesus is the son of God and died for my sins, I need to believe in Him in order to be saved and spend eternity in heaven, God created the world, Moses parted the Red Sea, Daniel was saved from a lion’s den, and somewhere along the way Jonah was swallowed by a whale.”

Crain thought her faith solid, but quickly realized that while she was well acquainted with stories in the Bible, she knew zip about the Bible itself. And even less about Church history. So she couldn’t knowledgeably discuss either when pressed.

She needed solid, credible answers for questions like “Who wrote the books of the Bible?” … “Why believe what the New Testament writers said about Jesus?”… and “Has the Bible been reliable translated and thus credible?” Critical questions, she admits, that previously “never even crossed my mind.”


~ Say What, Skeptic? ~

One skeptic told me that he finds it “satisfying” to watch a Christian’s beliefs crumble.

In part, because it justifies his own position. But also because he simply enjoys the game of mental manipulation. Not every “fact” he tells Christians is true — but they don’t know that. How many skeptics have told you something you took at face value?

“My job,” another atheist told me, “is to show you that your God is nothing more than a crutch. He doesn’t exist, and you’re stupid to believe in Him.” Later, by the way, I learned that this guy despises God because of the legalistic church he was forced to attend growing up. His beef wasn’t really with God, but humans.

So when skeptics tell us to “Prove God exists,” we have to remember that sometimes their reasons for being anti-God are based on their personal experiences and negative interactions with “Christians.” The Church isn’t perfect; it’s full of messy people in various stages of becoming like Jesus.


~ Listen More Than You Talk ~

What typically causes conversations between Christians and skeptics to go wrong?

Well, beyond our possible defensiveness, it’s that we do a lot of jabbering before we learn what — and why — the skeptic believes as he does. Rather, we should be quick to listen, suggests Donald Johnson, author of How to Talk to a Skeptic: An Easy-to-Follow Guide for Natural Conversations and Effective Apologetics.

“Too many religious conversations,” says Johnson, “involve people talking past each other because they haven’t taken the time to find out what the other person actually believes. The result is that each side tries to knock down a straw-man version of the other’s position. The skeptic argues against a version of Christianity that the believer does not hold, and the Christian attacks an atheistic worldview that the unbeliever does not hold. Then they wonder why the conversation never gets anywhere.”

What are some of the “good, probing” questions Johnson suggests that we ask?

>>> “Do you have a background in Christianity or some other church or religion?”

>>> “Have you always been a skeptic? If not, how did you arrive at your position?”

>>> “I understand that you think that Christianity offers false answer to life’s biggest questions, but what do you think are the right answers?”

>>> “Could you share what you believe to be the Christian message?”

>>> “What is the story of the Bible, as you understand it?”

Asking questions also gives us the opportunity to discover if the skeptic holds incorrect Christian theology. Here we can gently point out where they are in error. Obviously, we have to know correct Christian teaching ourselves in order to be of help there.

But don’t be that “know-it-all” Christian that everyone avoids when they see you coming. We don’t need to fit God into every conversation…especially if we’re doing a great job at mirroring Jesus in our daily life.

Non-believers, Johnson reminds us, won’t be open to hearing the Good News, if they don’t see it in action in our lives. Perhaps the proof they’re really seeking is not facts, but the real power of seeing a life transformed.


As we talk to anyone about Jesus, let us not be thinking of “winning,” but of being productively used by Him to nudge their hearts and minds a bit more open to His existence and love for them.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion in our blog post next week!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



How Could A Loving God Send a Good Person to Hell? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Does Science Disprove Miracles?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

miracles

Photo by Quino Al

Science says the universe operates only within its natural laws. True or false?

Science says that when a person dies, they stay dead. So how do Christians find it possible to believe that Jesus rose after His death on the cross? Because of the supernatural — miraculous — component of His death. That singular, seemingly improbable event becomes a possibility for anyone open to the possibility that God does exist.

David Hume, a Scottish philosopher from the 18th century, strongly influenced modern skepticism and naturalism. He asserted that though humans are influenced primarily by feelings, reason will always weigh strongly against miracle. Anyone who believes in miracles, he added, is both gullible and biased by their religious beliefs. But another influential thinker, Augustine of Hippo, argued that miracles are made possible by hidden capacities in nature placed there by God. That nature itself partners with God to produce the miraculous. 

The Bible highlights numerous miracles performed by God, Jesus, and His disciples. Some Christian teachers assert that miracles no longer occur, that they ceased with the death of Christ’s last apostle. Yet those who have personally experienced or witnessed a true miracle know that God is still very much in the miracle business.

Should we be skeptical when we hear report of a miracle? Absolutely, as we humans are easily fooled. In the words of magician Justin Willman, right before he ran an experiment to see if two people could be convinced that they’d become invisible, “If the tiniest bit of evidence will make us believe the unbelievable, what would I have to show someone to make them believe the impossible?”

Great question. Let’s take a look at seven characteristics of true miracles.


~ Seven Characteristics of Miracles ~

Miracles Are Supernatural, Immediate Events

By definition, miracles are events produced by an infinite power. That there is some great, external agent who brings about the event in our natural world. In the Bible, miracles come from the hand of God; they are immediate, and they are always successful. When Jesus commanded the invalid to “Arise and take up your pallet and walk” for example, the man immediately became well (John 5:8). When Jesus told Lazarus to step out of his death tomb, Lazarus immediately shuffled forward in his burial cloth. When Jesus told demons to beat it, they reluctantly exited. When Jesus decided to walk on water, it immediately carried His weight. When Jesus told the stormy winds to cease their fury, they instantly calmed. Bottom line: God always accomplished what He intended to accomplish, for His glory.


Miracles Are Rare and Unpredictable Events

Miracles are exceptions to the normal rhythm of life. But that’s what makes them miraculous. There is no “magic” formula that produces a miracle. Mankind has no say in whether they happen, though the Bible tells us that our prayers reach God’s ears. God doesn’t grant a miracle because we’re “good enough” or “spiritual enough.” He doesn’t grant miracles because we’ve successfully bribed Him. Rather, he chooses when and where to supernaturally move in our natural world, according to His plans. To heal, or not to heal, much to our consternation, lies solely in His hand.


Miracles Hold No Contradictions

God always works within scientific natural law, in keeping with the world He created. Yet there is nothing logically contradictory about some events considered physically impossible. Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli put it this way: “A man walking through a wall (as Jesus did) is a miracle. A man both walking and not walking through a wall at the same time and in the same respect is a contradiction. God can perform miracles but not contradictions — not because His power is limited, but because contradictions are meaningless.”


Miracles Are More Than Astonishing and Glorify God

Who doesn’t love a magic shows? A magician’s slight of hand mesmerizes us, delighting us with the seemingly impossible. But though a magician can perform an astonishing act, he or she can’t perform a supernatural event outside of natural means. Willman, for example, didn’t really make those two people invisible. When God performs a miracle, our minds are legitimately blown. When a 110-pound woman finds the strength to lift a car off of her child, is that a miracle? Science says no, that perhaps a huge spike in adrenaline produces momentary super strength. But could the reality be that God sent an angel to assist her?


Miracles Aren’t Testable By Scientific Means

True miracles can’t be tested via scientific inquiry, as they lack predictive value and can’t be replicated. Still, Science can’t exclude the possibility that God does unprecedented things. As Augustine wrote, “For Him, ‘nature’ is what He does.”

The usual argument against miracles, adds Oxford mathematician John Lennox, is that they go against the natural laws that Science has discovered. Lennox disagrees. Science proceeds on an assumption of cause and effect, he agrees, but its natural laws are not, themselves, causal. “No billiard balls have ever been set in motion by Newton’s Laws of Motion,” adds Lennox. “People wielding billiard cues set billiard balls in motion. But Newton’s Laws of Motion will describe the way in which a billiard ball moves once its set in motion.”

In his article posted to PhilosophyTalk.org, John Perry asks, “Should a sane, rational person ever believe in miracles?” No, he replies, unless you’ve ruled out all the non-miraculous first. My question: How far does one have to go to meet that requirement?

Suppose, adds Perry, that “I see you walking across the water — just like Jesus. There are no hidden walkways lurking below the surface. You’re not wearing inflatable shoes. You’re not being supported by gossamer rope tied to a helicopter. You haven’t learned to wiggle your toes rapidly enough to keep you afloat. Shouldn’t I conclude that the laws of physics have been locally suspended and we’ve got a genuine miracle on our hands?”

No, says Perry, because it’s more likely that we’ve still missed some other scientific alternative. “Look,” he asserts, “as soon as one is tempted to think he’s witnessed a miracle, he should stop and think again.”

Why is that?

Perry’s holdout: the “highly improbable” yet supposedly “possible” suggestion by scientists that the water molecules could, “completely by accident,” collect under our feet as we walk, bonding together strongly enough to form a kind of traveling bridge. “So maybe you can walk on water,” writes Terry, “but there are no miracles.”

Wait, what? An accidental, highly improbable traveling bridge of water doesn’t seem miraculous?

Perry may be among those who believe that the Bible story of the Red Sea’s parting, which allowed the Israelites to flea from Egypt’s fast approaching army, was due to a strong wind, not the hand of God. So, then, it was mere coincidence that the parted sea walls snapped shut, to drown Pharaoh’s army, only after the last Israelite stepped safely out of the water? Perhaps, except that the event happened just as God said it would.

In describing existence as an “open system,” Lennox adds that the natural laws serve to describe what Science has so far observed to happen, which become the basis for future prediction. But these man-made laws, he asserts, can’t “forbid God from feeding a new event into nature.” If God is the designer of the system, He can’t be held its prisoner.

Just because we hunt for a natural explanation doesn’t mean God wasn’t involved! It is flawed thinking to assume that because a miracle is unprecedented, its probability must be zero. 

Scientific observation can make miracles very improbable, agrees Lennox. But we have to stop pretending that Science isn’t handicapped by its inability to definitively prove theory — including the origin of the universe. Science claims evolution to be “fact” — when, in truth, is it merely its best current guess. Neo-Darwinian Evolution remains theory falsified by evidence, as a writer on EvolutionNews.com puts it — despite the scientific community adamantly asserting otherwise.


~ To Believe or Not to Believe ~

“Perhaps the universe is a pretty dull place,” posted a commenter anonymously on Perry’s post. “But, as a realist, I find that somehow comforting.”

I get his point, truly. The comforting makes us feel somewhat in control of things. But my response would be to simply ask, “What is it that keeps you from being open to acknowledging the miraculous?” 

Deep minds, such as Lennox and Richard Dawkins, continue to debate the existence of God. Dawkins says Science disproves the existence of God, whereas Lennox views Science to be a reflection of God’s nature. Skeptics, atheists, realists, and others who want God exiled from reasonable thought have personal reasons for their position. But it’s not from knowing with full certainty that God is just myth. And to use the excuse that they can’t believe until God is proven with 100 percent certainty is a flimsy argument. Closing our minds to the miraculous doesn’t in any way negate its existence.

For Christians, the basis for believing in the miraculous goes back to the biblical conception of God. Says the very first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “If He has the ability to do this,” shares Abigail Biggs, “then a virgin birth, walking on water, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and the other biblical miracles become not only possible but expected.”

Hume argued that it is always more rational to disbelieve the testimony of a miracle than to believe in the miracle. But if there really is a God who created the world and designed its laws, He showed His ultimate mastery by raising His Son.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



What is the Most Powerful Evidence for the Christian Faith?

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

 

 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

For the past three years I have been helping my father update his classic book Evidence that Demands a Verdict. There is no doubt that the evidence for Christianity has grown substantially since the book first released in 1972.

Since I have been working on this book people have been increasingly asking me, “What do you think is the most powerful evidence for the Christian faith?”

While I do think the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the textual evidence for the reliability of the Bible, and the scientific evidence for a designer are persuasive, these are not the most powerful evidences.

So, what is it? At the beginning of Evidence, my father and I are clear that we believe there is a more powerful apologetic—

a clear, simple presentation of the claims of Christ and who he is, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here is how my father explains it in the introduction:

For my (Josh’s) philosophical apologetics course at Talbot Theological Seminary, everyone had to write a paper on “The Best Defense of Christianity.” I found myself constantly putting it off and avoiding writing it, not because I didn’t have the material but because I felt I was at odds with what the professor was expecting (an expectation based on the ream of my lecture notes from his class).

Finally, I decided to voice my convictions. I began my paper with the sentence, “Some people say the best offense is a good defense, but I say to you that the best defense is a good offense.” I proceeded by explaining that I felt the best defense of Christianity is a “clear, simple presentation of the claims of Christ and who he is, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Then I wrote out the “Four Spiritual Laws” and recorded my testimony of how, on December 19, 1959, at 8:30 p.m., during my second year at the university, I placed my trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. I concluded the paper with a presentation of the evidence for the resurrection.

The professor must have agreed with my approach that the best defense of Christianity is a clear and compelling presentation of the gospel, for he gave me an A.

William Tyndale was right in saying that “a ploughboy with the Bible would know more of God that the most learned ecclesiastic who ignored it.”

In other words, an Arkansas farm boy sharing the gospel can be more effective in the long run than a Harvard scholar with his intellectual arguments.

 

Although it may surprise some people, since my father is known for presenting “evidences” for the faith, he has always lived by this principle. I have seen him present the evidence for Christianity on countless occasions, but his goal is always to bring it back to the gospel.

After all, it is the gospel that has the power to set people free.

We hope you enjoy the updated Evidence. But just remember: It’s not the evidence alone that changes lives.

Apologetics is one critical tool God can use to draw people to Him. We are to be ready with an answer for our faith (see 1 Peter 3:15).

But when it is all said and done, the most powerful apologetic is a clear and compelling presentation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 



Doubt: When It’s Beneficial for Christians

Reading Time: 7 minutes

doubt god

Photo by Steve Halama

Doubt Can Be the Catalyst for Real Faith.

Do “real” Christians have the freedom to doubt the existence of God, Jesus, and the truths of the Bible? Or should we feel guilty when our faith wobbles like Jell-O?

Says Paul Tillich, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” I happen to agree with him.

God knows that we will have questions and doubts because we can’t see the big picture like He does. That’s why He repeatedly tells us, in His Word, to trust and chill (“Do NOT fear!”). But God also tells us to pursue the development of our faith. Doubt is a great motivator to fuel this pursuit.

God is not offended by our doubt. God designed us to seek truth, that we might grow in our knowledge of Him. So why do we feel that it’s bad, if not wrong, to question God, the Bible, and even our particular church’s stance on an issue?

We can all come up with lots of reasons for not wanting to ask the big questions, says Ann Sullivan, the author of Permission to Doubt: One Woman’s Journey into a Thinking Faith. We don’t want to appear vulnerable or confused. We were taught that our inquiries are a sign of disrespect or unbelief. We are afraid our faith will buckle under the bright lights of interrogation. And some of us, she adds, sidestep investigation altogether, just to make sure God doesn’t get mad at us. “But if God is really God,” she queries, “how could He ever be threatened by us? If our faith is rooted in truth and our ability to reason is a gift from God, shouldn’t He be able to handle any question we come up with?”

Her question gets at the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? Some of us hide or ignore our doubts because we’re not sure God can handle our daring to ask questions. Trusting God is rough stuff for people taught that God is easily angered and delights in thumping them on the head. 

I like the clarity that Pete Enns, a noted college professor, provides when he suggests, “Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind, but we are only leaving behind the idea of God we like to surround ourselves with—the small God, the God we control, the God who agrees with us. Doubt forces us to look at who we think God is.”

If faith and doubt are expressed as a mathematical equation, adds Christian writer Ed Cyzewski, it would look like this: A little faith > a lot of doubt. Doubt, he’s saying, doesn’t cancel out our faith. Because the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but unbelief.


~ Skeptical Versus Skepticism ~

The definition of skeptical is “having an attitude of doubt.” As a philosophy, Skepticism goes so far as to question whether it’s even possible for humans to attain knowledge. “Can we ever really know anything?” ask these thinkers. “Does this chair really exist, or do I merely think it exists?”

Pyrrhonian Skepticism, developed in ancient Greece, even declines to make definitive judgements on the truth or untruth of any belief. So don’t ask these thinkers if the chair exists, because they will only argue both sides. Some even propose that our individual human “reality”—the lives that you and I think we’re living on a daily basis—is nothing more than mental fantasy generated by an evil genie or super-computers. (Cue the Matrix movie trailer, please.) 

John Ortberg, Jr., in his fabulous ChristianityToday.com article titled Slaying Spiritual Skepticism, asserts that the more destructive form of skepticism is a disease not so much of the intellect, but of the will. “It is not the doubting of Thomas that leads to a search for the truth,” he writes, “it is the doubting of Pilate (“What is truth?”), which is less a question about truth than an affirmation that truth cannot be found, an excuse to wash my hands of the whole thing and simply pursue my agenda.”

Here’s a question: if even philosophers think they can’t know anything with complete certainty—and be perfectly fine with holding that view—why do we Christians begin to sweat buckets when a skeptic demands that we prove, 100 percent, that God exists? Ahem! If they’re going to make that assertion, they first should prove by the same measure that He doesn’t.

Writes Lenny Esposito in his powerful article on ComeReason.org, “It seems that many people who object to Christianity want the Christians to do all the work and provide an answer for every nuance of their belief system, but don’t feel they are obligated to do the same. What bothers me is many Christians accept that premise and do a lot of work when the person objecting really wasn’t interested in the truth to begin with. Now, some people are sincerely seeking answers, and we should be able to give them good reasons for believing why we believe. But if the skeptic feels it important for you to have reasons for your faith, then they should be equally accountable.”

Dudes! Stop thinking you have to be a Christian encyclopedia, or that Christianity will crumble if you can’t answer every question! You’re not God (right?); you won’t have all the answers for this crazy thing called life while you’re still living it.


~ What? Even Mother Teresa Doubted? ~

Surely doubt plaques only “weak” Christians, right?

Heck, no! Doubt plagues even the major players!

Many noted Christian teachers and leaders have publicly acknowledged their doubt—among them Pope Francis, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Spurgeon. Closer to home, Sean McDowell has shared that his nature leads him to be a “consistent doubter.” He doubts, for example, his purchases, his daily choices, and yes, his spiritual beliefs. McDowell has said that his doubts can feel “crushing.” (Can you relate?) But he doesn’t view doubt to be a shameful weakness, as it pushes him to study, think, question—and share his findings to strengthen the faith of others.

The amazing Mother Teresa also had crushing doubts, as the world learned when her private letters were published. The secular media promptly labeled her a “fake,” “liar,” and “pretender.” Yet in this story by Enns, we gain insight into her deep faith:

“In 1975, the Jesuit philosopher, John Kavanaugh, went to work for three months at the ‘house of the dying’ in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. He was searching for an answer to some spiritual struggles. On his very first morning there, he met Mother Teresa. She asked him, ‘And what can I do for you?’ Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him. ‘What do you want me to pray for?’ she asked. He answered with the request that was the very reason he traveled thousands of miles to India: ‘Pray that I have clarity.’ Mother Teresa said firmly, ‘No. I will not do that.’ When he asked her why, she said, ‘Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.’ When Kavanaugh said, ‘You always seem to have clarity,’ Mother Teresa laughed and said, ‘I have never had clarity. What I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.’”

The world might label us “fake” Christians when doubt pulls at us to question our faith. But in actuality, admitting our doubts places us squarely in the Authentic Zone. And that’s right where God can begin speaking clearly to us. (All He might say there, by the way, is, “Teresa, you don’t need to know that right now. Just trust.”) 


~ Face Your Doubt, See Where It Leads ~

So what’s your deal with doubt? Do you pretend, like many church leaders, that your faith never falters? 

I’ll admit that I sometimes doubt that God is working for my good. There are things I pray for, you see, that He is not providing. In those moments, I have to remember my limited view. Like Mother Teresa, I also often question why a great and powerful God would allow so much evil and pain in this world. I have only two choices: take the easy route—simply decide that God is neither great nor good (or possibly asleep at the wheel)—or decide to seek answers to understand His nature and what He says about our free will and the consequences of sin.

Still, doubt can be paralyzing. But it’s important that we press on, because in pressing we find answers and strength.

I love the song “Even If” by the Christian band, MercyMe. It captures the direction I think every Christian should be headed: to faith, despite the doubt. Just a few of the song’s lyrics: “They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Well good thing, a little faith is all I have right now. God when you choose to leave mountains unmoveable, give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.” Another MercyMe song equally impactful: You Are I Am.

So how do we constructively handle doubt? First, by identifying reliable sources. And lastly, by recognizing when to “Let go and let God.”

But while we’re on the hunt for truth, we must develop our ability to think critically, with rational and logical thought. We need to recognize where we are seeing others’ biases and assumptions instead of the truth. And then we need to admit our own biases. It’s okay to challenge everything, as buying into the crippling lie that Christians must live with “blind faithdoesn’t actually produce faith of substance.

Pastor Timothy Keller uses a helpful analogy to show why it’s critical that we view doubt in the right light:

“A faith without some doubts,” he says, “is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.”

Go ahead, admit your doubt. Just don’t stop there. Take action. Tell God your doubts and ask His help in finding truthful answers. He’s gonna love it. Just like He loves you.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Does Truth Even Matter? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Objective Truth: Christian Response to Postmodernism

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Objective Truth Christian Response to Postmodernism

Conveniently Ignoring Objective Truth.

“If you are anything like me,” says noted Christian author and speaker Lisa Bevere, “you want to love the broken people around you.”

But so often Christians are told they’re being judgmental and hateful if they don’t accept the false version of love that accepts everything — no matter how destructive it is to people’s lives.

“In a wavering world,” adds Bevere, “I believe we can be people who stand like a rock, embodying both grace and truth. Real truth is not a river. It’s a rock.”

Lisa’s comments have been reverberating inside my brain ever since I heard them. Because she’s spot on. In rejecting objective truth, society is wooing us to believe that truth is a river; that it ebbs and flows with the trends, and that we each get to define and live out our personalized version of it.

Park a minute at this comic strip by Adam Ford called “Anti-Choice Judge.” It masterfully shows how subjective truth can warp a person’s view of themselves and the world. We need objective truth — God’s truth — to keep us from spiraling into total narcissistic self-absorption! We need God’s truth to keep things real.


~ Please Don’t Feel Judged or Offended ~

The Church is supposed to be full of Christians who are salty beacons of light. We’re supposed to lead people into an authentic relationship with Christ. Many churches — filled with messy people in various stages of sanctification (Duh! That’s what church is for!) — take this directive seriously and do their best to evidence Christ in their thoughts, words, and actions.

But just as many churches seem to be confused about their purpose.

In their attempt to demonstrate how “loving” they are, many now choose to dilute, if not ignore, God’s objective truth when it comes to hot potato issues such as abortion and sexual identity/behavior. Some churches no longer even use the words “sin” or “sinner,” for fear that someone might be offended and not return to fill the seats and budget. But these churches are failing to remind people of their desperate need for Christ as Savior. 

Shall we present Jesus’ cruel, excruciatingly painful sacrifice as unneeded or trivial, just so people will feel little — or no — conviction about their life choices? Shall “church” come to mean nothing more than weekly self-esteem rah-rah sessions for “good” people to “claim their blessing”?

Theatrical worship experiences, amped by pulse-pounding drums and guitars, fog smoke, and strobe lights are thrilling in the moment, but don’t stay with us after we walk out. Hey, Jesus, didn’t you just LOVE that mountain-top rock concert?!

Warm, fuzzy, funny sermons make us feel good, but did they lead us to a raw encounter with Christ? What about all the gimmicks many churches now use to entice people through their doors? Jesus, weren’t you just AWED at how clever we were to incorporate helicopter egg drops at Easter and glow-in-the-dark acrobats at Christmas? They will bring people to you, Jesus, we just know it!!! 

But do people leave talking about Jesus — or the helicopter?

When we become so hip and cool in the eyes of secular society, will the Church still have impact? Or will it become just another outlet for momentary feel good entertainment?

Jesus isn’t interested in our feeling comfortable. He’s interested in movement and growth. He wants to break all the chains and junk that keep us from Him.

Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” There is a huge difference between the person who is apologetic about his sin and the person who is repentant about his sin. In the first, a person continues to sin, knowing God is gracious to forgive. In the second, a person refuses to continue in his or her sin because s/he wants to please Christ.

In a secular blot post I read yesterday, the author stated that Christianity will “finally be of help to people” once society is able to remove its attachment to the supernatural. Sigh. Whenever I hear comments like this, which are typically expressed by atheists and angry ex-Christians who feel failed by the Church and God, I shake my head at their clueless arrogance. Yes, the Church is messy and flawed, and sometimes downright sinful, but it holds incredible life-changing power when it dies to self and allows Christ to reign.


~Moralistic Therapeutic Deism ~

Fortunately, God is at work even in churches that have embraced Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

“What the heck is that?” you ask.

Basically, it’s a feel-good theology in which God is a teddy bear. The term was coined by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in 2005, after they conducted a nationwide telephone survey of Christian teens to learn how they viewed religion.

Moralistic Therapeutic DeismObjective Truth Christian Response Postmodernism, writes Ford in another of his cool cartoons, “happens to be a preferred religion of Western culture, which usually (and tragically) goes by the name Christianity.” In it, God is a cosmic therapist and divine butler. Though He exists, it isn’t necessary to actually make him part of our daily life — unless we have need of Him.

God is simply at our beck and call, like a personal genie.

Adds Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism “offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging people to do good, feel good, and keep God at arm’s length.”

The bottom line: every “Christian” gets to heaven by being “good,” rather than submitting to Christ. Being a “good” person, you see, is the golden ticket to get into heaven. And anyway, God is a loving God, so He won’t really send anyone to Hell, you know! That would just be soooo mean! 

Dale Partridge, the founder of the RelearnChurch.org, which seeks to reconnect churches to the Bible, holds this view:  “We want costless Christianity,” he states. “We don’t like participatory Christianity that has a cost.”


~ Sin? What’s That? ~

Society asserts that God can’t be real, so objective truth can’t be real, either. So neither is the notion of “sin.” As Bevere notes, we’ve become a society of opinionated, rather than convicted, people.

But being a Christian isn’t about consensus morality determined by society. It’s morality based on the Word of God. The person who minimizes and justifies sin with a “Don’t judge me!” response, adds Ford, knows very little of the Bible.

Clearly, a lot of Christians aren’t reading the Bible.

Objective truth BibleA 2016 study of 1,000 Christians, conducted by LifeWay Research, showed that ONLY 11 percent of those surveyed had read the whole Bible. Ten percent of those surveyed had read NONE of it! A whopping 13 percent had read only a few sentences. How can Christians know the objective truth of what God considers sin, if they haven’t read His messages to them?

For many years I was a superficial Christian, determined to keep Jesus at arm’s length because I hated the gruesome cross story. But when I did start to seek Him — in part by reading the Bible, which society asserts is just a dry, useless book — this is what I discovered: that Jesus isn’t just “that cool dude who went around loving and healing people.” He’s our mind-blowing God who deliberately took human form to show us that He fully identifies with our every thought and struggle. He “gets” our temptations and our failings and our messy bits and our dark corners — and FULLY accepts and loves us — like no other person or organization or group ever will.

To know Jesus is awesome. To only know of Him is to seriously miss out.

Many who reject Christ hold a melioristic viewpoint: that the world is made better by human effort. That humans have an inherent tendency toward progress or improvement. That the perfectibility of man is entirely possible, above the control of every power that would impede it. Among those “powers,” they list religion.

But Jesus isn’t “religion.” Jesus is raw, real, authentic truth and love. He is our very needed savior. Our souls clamor for Him, even as we adamantly turn to other sources to fill our need for love, acceptance, control, and connection. Our seeking objective truth leads us to Jesus. Personal truth just leads us to an endless fascination with our bellybuttons.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Postmodernism: Faulty Truth, False Reality

Reading Time: 5 minutes

PostmodernismPostmodernism robs society of objective truth and reason. Are we doomed?

One of the most popular phrases today around the globe is “You have your truth, I have my truth, and nobody knows the truth.” If one looks at that statement objectively, however, it is immediately obvious that as a guiding philosophy it’s a major fail. This supposedly inclusive view can only work in La-La Land, not in real society.

What, you ask, is Postmodernism? I’d love to hand you a simple definition, but I can’t. Because no one actually can agree on its tenets; it’s so subjective and slippery. But, at its bare bones, postmodernism is a way of analyzing life. It rejects logic, fact, objective truth, and objective moral values. Perhaps you’ll find this short overview video of postmodernism helpful.

Postmodernism says that truth is inaccessible, and that everything is interpretation. That no interpretation is final. That language only has the meaning we give it. That there is no absolute truth outside our own unique perspective. That there is no single origin of morality. That reality cannot be known nor described objectively.

Though society has been influenced by the sloppy reasoning and false narratives of postmodernism for more than 50 years, making inroads even in the Church, it is our young people who have fully embraced postmodernism as the correct lens through which to view life. Gone are black and white, replaced by an endless selection of grays.


~ You Don’t Get to Judge My Reality ~

In a 2000 article by Christianity Today, Postmodernism was defined as “anything, everything, and nothing.” Today, people are demanding societal respect for their desire to live in the “safe bubble” of their personally crafted identity. The list of subjective identities continues to mushroom, as society spirals deeper into individual focus and narcissism.

As Lonny S. Jarrett writes in his article Narcissism: A Postmodern Epidemic, “Einstein’s theory of relativity, that all perception is relative to the perceiver, has become distorted into the perspective that each individual is living in his own universe, a universe that is a projection of his own mind with no external reality having its own independent existence, validity, or truth.” He adds, “Narcissism is present when one’s attention is focused relatively more on the voice in his own head than he is on the words coming out of the mouth of the person he is listening to.”

Having been brought up to expect acceptance of their personal lifestyle choices, many college students believe it perfectly acceptable to verbally or physically attack anyone they feel is disrespecting or judging their subjective truth. It’s their rage (easily triggered by self-perceived “micro-aggressions“), rather than the soundness of their arguments, that has gained them ground. The media, heady on the sensationalism of these “Social Justice Warriors,” has happily amplified their antics.

Per the Urban Dictionary, a Social Justice Warrior is someone “who uses the fight for civil rights as an excuse to be rude, condescending, and sometimes violent for the purpose of relieving their frustrations or validating their sense of unwarranted moral superiority.”

In a YouTube video I recently viewed, an angry young woman asserted that she considers it “an act of violence against her” if another person refuses to use the pronoun “They” when referencing her. Though her genetics identify her as female, she is offended by the label “She.” Not only did my jaw drop at her take-no-prisoners attitude, but at the logical implication of her statement. An act of violence — which typically leads to legal consequence — for not using the “right” pronoun?

“No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or what they believe,” stated Paul Alivisatos, UC Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor, in defending the school’s decision to beef up security and offer counseling to students “offended” by the visit of guest speaker Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator and author of Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth. Yet, clearly, it didn’t matter to them if Shapiro likewise felt harassed or offended.

Many SJWs believe a societal utopia can be achieved, but only through the removal of all judgements potentially lurking in objective truth and morality. “Subjectivity is comforting,” says Shapiro, “because you can never be wrong.” He adds that society — college campuses included — signal to all of us that there is virtue in being offended. That my being offended is enough for me to outright dismiss your view — and attack you for having it.

In raising our kids with the message “Feel free to be you!”, we’ve paved the highway of endless subjectivity. And having bought into this view, many of us are subtly and overtly pressuring others to vigilantly monitor that their views don’t offend another. Free speech is labeled “hate speech” when it does offend someone.

In a YouTube video I viewed, a young woman taunted an invited speaker. It was clear that she thought herself incredibly clever. Perhaps in her mind her scathing words and condescending tone imbued her with power. But in actuality, she came across as a bully. Her heightened sense of self-importance only served to amplify the obvious: she seethed with intolerance for any contrary view. In another video, in which Shapiro addressed a crowd of college students, a small group of students continued to interrupt him by chanting when he tried to speak. I had to agree, wholeheartedly, when he quipped, “You’re so boring.”

Shapiro was asked, “Why does your right to free speech trump my right to be offended?” His response, “Because if it doesn’t, there is no right to free speech.”


~ Postmodernism: Provocative Idea, Useless Model ~

Two mandates of Postmodernism are “openness” — which rejects reason — and “tolerance” — which rejects moral absolutes. It’s a reinterpretation of what is knowledge, and what should be viewed as knowl­edge. The standards of right/wrong and good/bad are just “social constructs” to be challenged or simply ignored.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the noted German atheist and philosopher, asserted that truth is just illusion. Ironically, Nietzsche, who was declared clinically insane the last decade of his life, had a huge impact on Western thinking and Postmodernist philosophers. It’s hard to understand why, when even his claim, “There are no facts, only interpretations,” gets instantly nullified because he states it as fact.

I am endlessly amused by philosophers, especially when they ignore the obvious and/or concoct theories that require a total rejection of logic. But I’m not convinced that living in a world fueled by subjective truth and subjective reality isn’t going to be really frustrating. Real truth matters.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



What about Atrocities Committed In the Name of Christ? Quick VIDEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



Can We Know God Really Exists?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

God really existsIs it possible to know if God really exists, or do we each get to decide His existence for ourselves?

When it comes to God’s existence, some contemporary philosophers deny that we can know for sure. No one, they say, can really know, because His existence isn’t provable. God, they say, is the stuff of legends, tall tales, and delusional thinking — because, to them, He hasn’t offered the right proof that He’s real.

But here’s the thing: there is a truth and reality about God’s existence, even if we choose to disregard it.

I like what the great philosopher Mortimer Adler once said; that “there is a reality that is independent of the human mind, to which the mind can either conform or fail to conform. In other words, what we think does not create or in any way affect what we are thinking about. It is what it is, whether we think about it or not and regardless of what we think about it.”


~ Beyond a Reasonable Doubt ~

Can we say with 100 percent certainty that God really exists? No. But the key is not a perfect or absolute certainty, as skeptics assert, but a standard of proof that answers the question beyond a reasonable doubt. For skeptics to claim, “God can’t be proved,” doesn’t then make their assertion that “God isn’t real!” true.

“When a judge charges a jury,” says Josh McDowell, “he or she tells them to decide based on probability, not certainty; based on the evidence presented, not the certainty of having viewed the crime. If jury decisions were delayed until 100 percent certainty existed, no verdict would ever be rendered. Skeptics demand absolute certainty in religious matters, yet they don’t apply the standard of absolute certainty to anything else of major importance.”

Atheists, he adds, can’t even be 100 percent certain of their own belief that God doesn’t exist. And to deny the existence of God necessitates admitting the possibility that He does exist. The real struggle for most skeptics isn’t that they can’t believe, it’s that they’ve decided to refuse to believe. And many skeptics, if you ask them what definitive proof they need to believe, can’t tell you. They would rather cling to their assertion that God is a “delusional crutch” for otherwise possibly intelligent people. That dig is so silly it doesn’t even hurt. 😉

Does their unbelief make God nonexistent? Nope. Belief does not create truth; truth is independent of belief.

In pondering the concept of reality, business guru Seth Godin recently wrote this amazing statement:

“It’s ever easier to weave our own reality, to find a bubble and to reinforce what we believe with what we hear. We can invent our own rules, create our own theories, fabricate our own ‘facts’. It turns out, though, that when your reality is based on actual reality, it’s a lot more stable and resilient, because you don’t have to be so vigilant about what you’re going to filter out.”


~ Christianity Is, In Fact, Provable ~

I agree with skeptics on one point: people shouldn’t believe in God because simply they were taught to do so. God calls us to a deeper knowledge of Him than blind faith. (Nor should we accept all teaching as truthful Christian doctrine, without researching that its biblically sound.) Rather, God invites us into a relationship with Himself. He desires that we learn about Him, and learn to trust and love Him. So He continues to show us who He is.

Christianity is based on fact, not just faith.

Despite what critics say, Christianity has proven to be grounded in strong evidence. It has a high degree of probability for its claims of truth. We see evidence of God’s existence in our amazingly intricate world. DNA itself shouts of a deliberate designer who not only created the world but keeps it going! Marilyn Adamson writes in her article on EveryStudent.com:

“How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable? The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, ‘Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.'”

In His Word, God tells us about His nature and His plan for mankind. God has also proven His existence through Jesus. No one in human history has made the claims Jesus made and been able to give rock-solid proof to back them up. Jesus had power over sickness, nature, sin, and even death. And Jesus repeatedly redirected human focus back to God.

In another article on EveryStudent.com, the writer uses the analogy of a college student charged with a crime to showcase the critical role Jesus willingly played for us:

“The judge sentences her to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. The student can afford neither the time nor the money. The judge, knowing this, takes off his robes, walks to the front of the bench, and with his own checkbook pays the fine. Why? Because, as a just judge, he cannot overlook the offense. But, because he is the student’s father, he chooses to pay the penalty on her behalf. This is exactly what Jesus did for each of us on the cross. He made the great sacrifice of being beaten, humiliated, whipped and crucified on our behalf. He now asks us to respond to his sacrifice by inviting him into our lives.”


~ Fighting God’s Knock? ~

I have often wondered why some atheists are so determined to belittle and smear Christianity, to debunk that God really exists. This quote by Adamson, herself a former atheist, opened my eyes to one possibility:

“I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God’s existence, my prayer began with, ‘Ok, you win…’ It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.”

Adamson adds that author C.S. Lewis, who also lost his battle to ignore God’s knocking at his soul, said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Lewis had enormous influence on the world. Imagine the loss to the world if Lewis had not penned the Narnia novels as well as his numerous other books that are now considered Christian classics.


~ Choice, Not Truth, is Entirely Up to Us ~

Does God exist? As Dr. William Lane Craig notes, this could be the most important question a person can consider. Our individual choice, to believe in or reject the existence of God, has enormous implications on how we view of life, morality, and humanity. Yet some of us are waiting for that one piece of definitive proof before we’ll believe — all the while ignoring God’s activity all around us.

The thing is, God is attempting to get our attention all the time.

With every sunrise and sunset. With every bird’s chirp. With every baby’s laugh. With every beat of our heart. Satan has done a great job of ensuring we have plenty of noise around us 24/7 — TV, internet, texting, Facebook, etc., — not to mention the daily demands of work and family, which helps to dull our ears to God’s voice.

So, to hear God, we might have to get really quiet.

Granted, leaning into the silence feels really weird — and unproductive — to people grown long accustomed to constant bombardment of interruption and noise. We’re a society accustomed to proving our worth by our level of busyness. And we instinctively shrink from the heaviness of silence, because it is in its pin-drop quietness that we just might realize how hard we have been working to deny our need for God.

Psssssst: God really exists. We all know this in the deepest recesses of our hearts.

But we must choose to open our minds to His showing us that He is present and actively working in the world to accomplish His purposes. That He cares, even when life really, really hurts. Bottom line: We can choose to fight Him or follow Him. God, in His graciousness, leaves the choice entirely up to us.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



The Old Testament Is Embarrassing

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

 

This summer, I have been studying the book of Exodus. As I have been paying attention to the story of Moses and details of the Mosaic Law, it has become clear to me that the Old Testament is embarrassing. It is chalk full of embarrassing material.

Let me explain.

One of the criterion New Testament scholars use to weigh the reliability of an ancient saying or event is known as the principle of embarrassment.

As my father and I explain in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, the principle of embarrassment is a criterion that looks at ancient writings to see if there are hard, embarrassing, or unfavorable details about the author(s) or with the story’s purpose.

If such details exist, positive conclusions can be made about the integrity of the author(s).

Using this criterion, even many critical scholars conclude that a number of events in the New Testament are likely true, such as the disciples not understanding the teachings of Jesus (Mark 4:1-12), the three disciples falling asleep at Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46), the crucifixion of Jesus as a criminal (Mark 15:21-41), and women discovering the empty tomb (John 20).

The fact that these hard, embarrassing, and unattractive stories exist in the New Testament indicates that the authors were more interested in accuracy than reputability.

The criterion can also help establish the reliability of the Old Testament, which is filled with embarrassing material.[1]

Consider three brief examples:

 

1. The Hebrew people came out of slavery

(Exodus 12-14). Why invent such a lowly origin story if it were not true? This is unique to the Jewish people. Of course, people could argue that the entire story was fabricated. But this fails to address the issue: Why even fabricate it in the first place?

 

2. The daughter of Pharaoh is the one who saves the life of Moses.

In a twist of irony, Pharaoh’s daughter rescues Moses from certain death (Exodus 2:1-10). Why invent a story about the daughter of Pharaoh—who enslaved and tried to kill the Hebrew people—heroically rescuing the savior of Israel? This is similar to the New Testament story of Joseph of Arimathea. Many scholars trust the account of the burial of Jesus because it seems unlikely the Gospel authors would invent an honorable burial for Jesus from a member of the Sanhedrin who condemned him to death.

 

3. David, the man after God’s own heart, is deeply flawed.

Along with Abraham and Moses, David is one of the most important figures in the Old Testament. The Messiah was to be from the lineage of David. And he was considered “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet he is a profoundly flawed character who commits both adultery and murder. Why invent such a defective character as David? Why not make him more honorable and faithful? Why not try to cover up his flaws, as the LDS Church as done with Joseph Smith?

These examples are only the “tip of the iceberg.” From the Torah to the Prophets, the Old Testament is filled with embarrassing material. And that’s one reason I trust it.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, the National Spokesman for Summit Ministries, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

[1] These examples came to my mind as I was reading The Rational Bible by Dennis Prager.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]



Relativism: Does It Contain Any Truth?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

truth relativismDoes our personal version of “truth” (relativism) trump God’s objective truth?

In our current “Truth is what I say it is” culture, we have to ask if the issue of truth really matters. I mean, we all seem to be doing okay in life with our own version of truth, right?

Actually, no. When a society embraces a slippery slope of “truth,” its foundation turns from firm to shaky. A culture’s attack on truth ultimately affects the culture itself. People may hate the supposed strictness of God’s objective truth, but we have only to look around to see that societal morals that were once black and white have muddied to endless shades of gray. To ignore the negative side effects of this is to certainly put one’s head in the sand.

Like Neo in the Sci-Fi thriller The Matrix, our human nature prompts us to choose the pill that gains us a truthful reality. We’re hard-wired to seek out truth. And we instinctively know when we’re deviating from God’s objective truth, even if we ignore it or try to erase it as the standard to which we should be living.

Let’s look at three truths about truth, and why the assertion that “truth is relative” is completely wrong. Real, objective truth matters. In every area of our lives. 


~ The Truths About Truth ~

Truth Is Logical

Logic presupposes that truth is real, and that “first principles” are truths that cannot be denied, because they are self-evident. Logic applied to reality is a key example of a first principle. All logic can be reduced to a single axiom: the law of noncontradiction. This law says that no two opposite statements can both be true at the same time in the same sense. Logic must apply to reality. And because of that, we can use logic to test truth claims about reality.

Truth Is Objective

Though we can make subjective claims based on personal preferences — for example, “Chocolate ice cream is the best flavor in the world!” — this makes the claims only “true” for us and anyone who agrees with us. The statement is only true because we believe it to be true. These statements of “truth” can easily change, based on our current preferences.

But objective truths are true no matter what we believe about them. They do not change because of our thoughts of whims. They are mind-independent and depend on the object itself. 

“Objective truths, as opposed to subjective preferences, are based on the external world,” states apologist Sean McDowell. “They are related to the world independently of how we think or feel. For example, the sentences ‘1+2=3’ and ‘George Washington was the first president of the United States,’ and ‘Sacramento is the capital of California’ are all objective truths, that is, they are accurate statements even if we don’t believe them.”

Truth Is NOT Relative

We are free to have all the subjective preferences we want — from religion to politics to morality — but objective truth is not swayed by our personal views or even the collective view of society. So those who argue that all truth is subjective are espousing a form of relativism.

Relativism creeps into our vocabulary in statements like, “Well, that’s true for you, but not for me.” Unfortunately for those who champion relativism, the concept fails for two main reasons, which I outline below.


~ The Failure of Relativism ~

The first failure of relativism is that it is self-defeating. The second is that relativism leads to absurd logical outcomes.

To be consistent, the relativist must say, “Nothing is objectively true — including my own position. So you’re free to accept my view or reject it.” But here’s the reality: when a relativist asserts, “Everything is relative,” he expects his listeners to embrace HIS view of reality. And he expects his statement to pertain to all statements EXCEPT his own.

Norman Geisler puts it this way: “The only way the relativist can avoid the painful dilemma of relativism is to admit that there are at least some absolute truths. As noted, most relativists believe that relativism is absolutely true and that everyone should be a relativist. Therein lies the self-destructive nature of relativism. The relativist stands on the pinnacle of an absolute truth and wants to relativize everything else.”

The point not to miss: One can’t hold to relativism and insist that others do so as well. It’s a contradiction.

Relativism is a popular idea because, on the surface, it sounds accepting, inclusive, and easy-going. But it is only when we think through its implications, and apply them rigorously to life, do we see the pitfalls of being so accommodating.

As philosopher Paul Copan notes:

“Truth’s elusiveness in some areas of life is a major reason people believe something can be ‘true for you, but not for me.’ Looking around, the relativist comes to one firm conclusion: Too many people genuinely disagree about too many things for use to know truth. Significant — almost irreconcilable — differences in vital dimensions like religion, morality, politics, and philosophy can make it seem rash or even arrogant to say one perspective is true or mostly true and others are totally or partially wrong. Supposedly, then, the sensible conclusion to draw is that relativism must be true.”

In actuality, however, the only part of relativism that is true is that our perspectives do change the way we view events.

So while social and personal relations