apologetics

Does the Universe Have a Wonderful Plan for My Life?

Is there an overarching plan for your life, the universe and everything? And if there is, just whose plan is it anyway? It has been popular in recent years to personify "the Universe," as though the matter-and energy, space-time reality we inhabit is somehow personal and even governs our lives in some way. In this episode I discuss that trend and how the personification and even deification of "the Universe" is a cheap substitute for the biblical presentation of God as the sovereign Lord over his creation (including us and the universe too).

During the time that I was a pastor at a local church (actually at a couple of local churches), I used to blog on my personal Wordpress site, Settecase.Wordpress.com. I got a lot of traffic over there, and I still do (at least by my standards), but now I write exclusively on the Think Institute site, Truthinconversation.com, so I’m faced with a dilemma. I want to preserve that blog, but I also want to deliver that content to the folks I'm serving through the Think Institute, yet without simply reposting the article onto the T. I. blog.

How do I introduce the articles, resources and content from my personal blog to the new audience of the Think Institute, and the churches I want to partner with for equipping, engagement and encouragement in Gospel ministry?

The answer is this: I’m taking some of my most popular articles from my personal blog and bringing them over to the Think Institute in audio format--i.e. as podcast episodes. I did that already with "30 Questions for Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, which was one of the articles on my personal blog that had gotten the most hits. And now I’m doing it with this article. I hope it's helpful and "I hope it makes you think."

Take your study further:

  • Ravi Zacharias on the four questions of a coherent worldview: https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/a-coherent-worldview

  • Cornelius Van Til on God’s Transcendence and Immanence: https://corneliusvantil.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/transcendence-and-immanence/

  • A helpful diagram of God’s Lordship Attributes (John Frame's concept) by Neil Robbie: https://transforminggrace.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/john-m-frame-on-the-lordship-attributes/

  • “One or Two?” by Peter Jones: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/one-or-two/

  • “The Universe Has A Plan, Kids” – a blog post by Virginia Pasley that helped inform this post: https://thoughtcatalog.com/virginia-pasley/2013/11/the-universe-has-a-plan-kids/

  • Read the original article on Joel Settecase’s personal blog: https://settecase.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/does-the-universe-have-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/

#20 - How Should Christians View the Law of Moses? with Dan Osborn

When did Christianity really begin? The church began at Pentecost in or around the year 33 A. D....right? It was then that God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. Yet the church's roots go back much further; it is also the continuation of the special relationship with God that believers enjoyed for thousands of years before Christ.

Those B. C. believers put their hope in the same Messiah that A. D. believers (i.e. Christians) hope in today. They were looking forward to his first coming, whereas we look back on his first coming and forward to his second coming. There is continuity between the Church of Jesus Christ and the believers who came before (as a particular example, Christians are said to have the same faith as Abraham).

Enter the Old Covenant Law (A. K. A. the Law of Moses). The nation of Israel, the covenant people of God in the B. C. era, were given 613 laws and told to obey them in order to maintain the terms of their covenant with God.

As believers today, this side of the events of the life, death, resurrection and reign of the Messiah, how should we view those commands? Should we obey them all? Is that even possible today? Should we keep some but not others? Should we unhitch from them all? And how do we know? In this episode, Dan Osborn and Joel Settecase sit down to address the question of the Law of Moses and Christians today. We hope it makes you think.

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The Story of the Cosmos with Daniel Ray

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.

So it sounds like the more we study the heavens, or outer space, the more we ought to come to glorify God. We might expect modern scientists to be the most devout Christians, and yet many of the scientific fields are dominated today by atheists and unbelievers.

My guest today wants to change that situation and show everyone how astronomy and astrophysics, which unravel the mysteries of the universe, bring glory to God.

On this episode of the Think Podcast I speak with Dan Ray. Dan is a former schoolteacher and lay astronomer. He earned his Master’s in Christian apologetics from Houston Baptist University and his thesis explored the contemporary relevance of C. S. Lewis’s cosmological imagination in the Chronicles of Narnia. He also hosts an excellent podcast called “Good Heavens.”

This was an important discussion because of the nature of Dan’s book, the Story of the Cosmos, which recently debuted on Amazon and made a big splash. It’s a new book that brings over a dozen different scientists, apologists and thinkers together to answer the question, what do the heavens teach us about the glory of God?

Over the next hour you’ll hear us discuss: how the book came together, the Hubble Deep field photographs, which amazed me as a kid, the awe and wonder of looking up at the night sky filled with stars and realizing how truly tiny we are, human significance… or is it insignificance? (we get into that), the meaning and purpose of stars from a biblical perspective, the importance of connecting various fields of study and “taking every thought captive” and the unity of the church as we examine the glory of the heavens and unite around the truth, and we even delve into spiritual warfare and how cosmological studies play a role in that.

We also bring up the founders of modern science, men like Kepler, Brahe, Galileo--and how their faith contributed to their pioneering scientific efforts.

Before our dialoguoe ended we did get into some apologetical argumentation, using the Cosmos as our jump-off point, talking about how modern science, at least when done naturalistically, assumes the intelligibility of the universe w/o a reason. And we talked about how this led to a dilemma for Albert Einstein.

Dan ended with recommending to our listeners the value of having a personal encounter with nature, of just Looking up at the night sky in a dark sky park, and he might even motivate our listeners to invest in a telescope. I know I’d be considering it if I didn’t live in the light-polluted metropolis of Chicago.

He makes some really valuable recommendations for those who want to take their study of the night sky further, so make sure you listen all the way through.

Follow Dan Ray:
https://thestoryofthecosmos.com/
Podcast: “Good Heavens! A podcast about the universe with Wayne and Dan.” https://www.patreon.com/GoodHeavens

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30 Questions to Ask Your Atheist, Agnostic & Skeptical Friends & Family

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

This post is designed to go along with episode 17 of the Think Podcast. You can listen to the Think Podcast here on this site or find it on your favorite podcast app by going to this link.

The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own. Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message.

We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own. After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview.

The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through. Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

What follows is content, slightly modified, that originally appeared on my personal blog.

Christians are constantly confronted with questions about the Christian message.  We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The Questions

Now, here are 30 questions for atheists, agnostics and skeptics (I go into these in greater detail in the podcast episode).

  1. Are you certain that God does not exist, or that you can’t know whether He exists?

  2. How do you know that?

  3. Did you use your five senses to come to that decision?

  4. Given that God is by definition a Spirit, how much sense does it make to decide whether He exists using your five physical senses?

  5. Did you use your reasoning to determine God does not exist?

  6. How do you know your reasoning is working correctly?

  7. Did you use your reasoning to determine your reasoning was working?

  8. Do you see the problem with that?

  9. The Bible says that skepticism about God is the result of a mind suppressing what it knows to be true. Have you ever tried doubting your doubts about God?

  10. The Bible contains hundreds prophecies fulfilled hundreds of years after they were written. How would that be possible without God?

  11. The Bible says that objective moral values are based in God’s morally perfect nature. Without God, what do you think they are based in?

  12. Jesus’ disciples went from being terrified of death, to being willing to die for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise, what do you think changed their mind?

  13. There are hundreds of varieties of unbelief. How do you know yours is the right one?

  14. Archaeology is constantly confirming the details of the accounts in the Bible. Why do you think that is, if the Bible isn’t true?

  15. There is more evidence that Jesus Christ lived, died and came back to life than for just about any other event in ancient history. If God did not exist, or Jesus’ claims to be God were not true, then how would you explain his resurrection?

  16. What do you think makes so many Christians able to live radically different lives from the way they used to live prior to becoming Christians–even to the point of forgiving their abusers for terrible crimes?

  17. One of the most basic principles of philosophy, confirmed by science* is ex nihilo nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”). Without God, how do you think everything came into being?

  18. The Bible says that we were created to live forever, and that death is an unnatural enemy, brought about by sin. If you are a naturalist who believes death is simply part of life, how do you explain why we feel like we ought to live forever, and why pain and death feel so unnatural and wrong to just about everyone?

  19. If your brain is merely the unplanned result of evolution by natural selection, aimed at survival and nothing else, what makes you think you can trust your reasoning to discover the truth, rather than just whichever belief is best for survival?

  20. If no God, why would anything objectively matter?

  21. If no God, why is there so much good in the world?

  22. If no God, how did our DNA get programmed with such incredibly complex language and instructions?

  23. Is everything in the universe really just matter and energy?

  24. If you just thought, “Yes,” was that thought made of matter and energy?

  25. The Bible says every good and perfect gift is from the Father above (i.e. God). To whom are you grateful for the good things in your life?

  26. Where do you think the laws of logic come from?

  27. Are the laws of logic made of matter and energy?

  28. What evidence would actually convince you that Jesus Christ is God, the Lord, and the only Savior?

  29. How much do you know about the heart of the Christian message, AKA the “Gospel” or good news?

  30. Are you ready to learn more about Jesus? Start here with the Gospel of John.

Note:

In the comments on the original article, someone objected that this is a philosophical, rather than a scientific principle. Yet science corroborates it and even relies upon it. Scientists such as Lawrence Krauss and others have proposed that the universe could have popped into existence from “nothing,” but they define “nothing” as an energy-neutral quantum field. If you have to redefine nothing, you’re no longer talking about nothing. The principle of ex nihilo nihil fit, therefore, turns out to be as true in science (excluding God, of course) as in philosophy. Can you imagine how useless scientific hypothesis and inquiry would be if we expected things to suddenly, causelessly, just come into being from nothing?

How to Use the Bible to Witness to Muslims

By N. G. / 5-minute read

Sharing your faith with Muslims can seem very intimidating, however, by using the commonly shared prophets between the Bible and the Quran, we can easily show the authority of Christ and start having Gospel-centered conversations with our Muslim friends.

Listen to N. G. talk about how he brings the Good News to Muslim people on Episode 10 of our podcast.

An Important (but Complex) Question

“We all worship the same God. Can’t we just get along?” 

This is a question I have been asked several times, by many people. Muslims, Christians, and even observers who would say they do not really belong in either group. The answer to this question is not nearly as straightforward as some may think, mostly because there are actually two parts to it we need to address. 

The first half of the question, although it is not phrased as a question, carries many implications which need to be addressed. It is true; there are many similarities between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the Quran, however, there are many differences as well, which need to be explored. The approach I take to this revolves around a path of prophets whom the Bible and the Quran share. It goes a little like this:

Adam and Abraham

We see Adam in the garden, and I emphasize the promise God gave the serpent after the fall, where the seed of women will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise His heel (Gen 3). Following that, we talk about Abraham who was promised descendants who would become a great nation, through whom the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12). Abraham then established this covenant with God, but only God passed through, meaning that, if the covenant were ever broken, only God could be held accountable (Genesis 15). 

The Psalms help us elaborate, teaching that there would specifically be a high priest from Abraham’s line, who would be the one to bring the blessing (Psalm 110). 

Moses

Next comes Moses, a prophet who was described as carrying more authority than all the other prophets (Deut 34:10). In studying his life, I really go through the plagues and talk about how powerful the one true God showed Himself to be over all the false gods of the world, especially over such a powerful kingdom as Egypt. Then I like to bring to their attention to Deuteronomy 18:15, which states that there would be one other prophet like Moses, and to Him all the people must listen. 

King David

Next we follow Israel’s greatest king, David. He became king at a time when the nation was accepting all the idols from the surrounding nations. He ridded the nation of the idols and brought worship to the one true God. Because of this, God promised there would be an eternal King to come through David’s line (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

With all these prophets, I think it is so important to emphasize their role in proclaiming that there is only one God. Muslims believe Christians are polytheistic. When sharing our beliefs, tell them we are not. A person cannot say you believe something when you are blatantly saying you don’t believe that; it just does not work.

John the Baptist

This next prophet holds a role in paving the way for the Messiah which, I believe, is the most important. This is John the Baptist. You see, so many people had been waiting for such a long time for this Messiah to come, liberate them from their oppressors, and rule the world. They were waiting for a strong military leader. They were waiting for Muhammad (so to speak). However, Muhammad did not come, somebody else did. John the Baptist carried the most honorable role; he told the world here He is, don’t miss Him!

Jesus

Spend as much time as you possibly can with your Muslim friends studying the life of Jesus. Every story if you can. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John does not consist merely in the final chapters they each wrote. The Gospel is the entire life of Christ. So don’t just share Jesus’ wounds. Share Jesus’ ways, His words, His worth, and His wounds.

This is what the Gospel is composed of. It is the power of Christ to set us free from sin and restore our relationship with Him. The death and resurrection is so important, but it is not solely important. Share Jesus’ whole life. He is the one the world waited for, and we cannot miss Him.

Muhammad

I do also tend to speak of Muhammad. I will say he came about 600 years after Jesus in a time and place where many people worshipped many gods. He told them there is only one God (notice a trend?) and in his teachings (recorded in the Quran) he says to “follow the signs” several hundred times. Well, what are the signs? They are the seed of women, the priest in the order of Melchizedek, the prophet like Moses, and the eternal king in the line of David. “Well, all signs point to Jesus! Would you like to know this Jesus?”

So, Can We Just Get Along?

As for the second half of the question, “Can’t we just get along?” I think the answer is yes. We should strive to be friends with those of other faiths--in fact Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

However, the best way we can love them as we love ourselves is to always remember our duty to them, which is to share the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ, which is the Gospel. 

Do Christians "Need to Calm Down?"

Taylor Swift's new single calls out conservatives (and, apparently, Bible-believing Christians) for supposedly opposing the freedom and dignity of her friends. We look for the presuppositions being brought to the table and what kind of worldview best supports the values she promotes in her song, then we commend the biblical worldview and the Gospel. The hope with this episode is that believers will be encouraged to talk about these issues with their non-Christian friends, and that nonbelievers who listen would hear the truth, that sin is a serious matter, but there is true freedom and abundant life with God, through Jesus.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 4: What Is Man?

By Joel Settecase / 8-minute read.

Man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. While having been initially created good, mankind has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

Why This Question Matters

We start this section by asking why we need to ask this question at all. That is, why do we need a definition of man at all? After all, we are human beings. Shouldn’t it be obvious to us what we are?

The fact is, the answer to “What is Man?” is not obvious. Or at the very least, there is no shared definition of humanity across all worldviews. Therefore, if we want our thinking to be shaped by the Bible, we must ask this question and see how the Bible answers it. (It is also important to note here that we are using the term “man” in an inclusive way to refer not just to adult males but to male and female human persons of all ages. This usage is biblical and theologically significant in ways which we won’t expound on here, but which will perhaps become clear as we go on).

Some Alternative Views

worldview views o f man.png

We mentioned above that there is no unified way that all worldviews answer the question of mankind or human nature. Here are a few samples of the various answers out there:

  • Materialism: Man is a complex machine or evolved animal, the product of an unguided process of evolution by natural selection over millions of years.

  • Mormonism: Man is a spirit child of Elohim, the Heavenly Father, who himself is an exalted or deified man. As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become.

  • Hinduism & New Age: In Hinduism, “Atman” (man) is “Brahman” (ultimate reality or the cosmic soul). Man is one with the universe, though he may not be aware of this. New Age thought is similar, in that the self is god.

  • Postmodernism & Intersectionality: Man’s nature is debated, but generally seen as being without any objective definition or essential nature (a Postmodernist would likely object to my use of “man” to describe humanity!). Neil Shenvi says, “As a non-theistic worldview, critical theory believes that our identity is not primarily found in our vertical relationship to God but in our horizontal relationships to other people and other groups.” On this view, individuals define themselves and relate to one another and society according to an intersecting network of sub-groups, each with various levels of “privilege” and “oppression.”

Then there is the question of the moral status of human nature: is man basically good, basically bad, more good than bad, more bad than good, or fundamentally broken? There are diverse answers to this question as well.

The Biblical Teaching

So what does the Bible teach? What does man’s Creator have to say about his creation? According to the Bible, man is:

  • Persons bearing God’s own image (Genesis 1:27).

  • Designed as an expression of unity-in-diversity, male and female each with their own roles and both equal in value and personhood (Genesis 2:18; 5:2).

  • Created to procreate and exercise dominion over the animals and the natural world (Genesis 1:26).

  • Valuable and possessing of dignity from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5; 139:13; cf. Exodus 21:22-25; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41).

The first humans were a married couple, specially created by God (the husband from the soil and the wife from the side of her husband) (Genesis 2:7, 21-22). All humans since that time are descended from the same married couple (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26) and so are rightly considered a single race.

Man is the only “animal” given personality, and as such people are more like God than anything else in nature and enjoy a status infinitely higher than animals, plants and machines. However, unlike God, who is infinite, man is finite. As such, he is infinitely lower than God and is dependent on him (Matthew 4:4).

Adam, our first father, sinned, an event we refer to as the Fall, recorded in Genesis 3:1-7. As the father of all mankind, Adam was also our representative. As a result of his Fall, sin and its consequences (death and hardship) spread to all mankind, who all became sinners (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12).

So man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. That brokenness is both given to us (by virtue of our shared ancestry, according to Psalm 51:5) and chosen by us (by virtue of our own individual sins). We should not think of ourselves as victims but rather as villains. In man’s natural state he is utterly sinful (“totally depraved,” as the Reformers put it) and enters this world under God’s judgment. Ephesians 2:3 describes our state apart from God’s grace as living “in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts,” and being “by nature children under wrath.”

Sin broke all human relationships--to God, to society and the world, and even to oneself. Although man was originally created to exist in perfect relational harmony (similar to how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to one another), since the Fall man’s default is interpersonal strife and jealousy (action that the Apostle Paul calls “merely human” in 1 Corinthians 3:3). Left to our own devices, we would become more and more sinful, and earn more and more of God’s wrath and judgment. The final state of an unrepentant, sinful person is everlasting punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 21:8).

Yet while man’s nature is broken, his dignity as being God’s image bearer has not been completely destroyed. Human life is still valuable and dignified (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9-10). Furthermore, mankind is not a lost cause. It is possible for sinners to be reconciled to God and reborn, given new life and adopted into God’s family as his children (John 1:12; 3:7).

So we see that man, while having been initially created good, has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

There has only ever been one human being who did not sin, namely Jesus Christ, who is both fully human and fully God (Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, Jesus both flawlessly exemplifies what it means to be human, and perfectly provides the means by which broken and sinful humanity may be “fixed” and forgiven.

Notes:

For a comparison of different worldviews’ answers to the question of humanity, cf. the “Theory Comparison Chart (Santrock Chapter 2)” Christinao.wordpress.com, accessed on June 18, 2019, https://cristinao.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sire-cristinao.pdf.

See also: James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 156-209, especially page 200.

On the issue of ethnicities and race: although the Bible recognizes many ethnicities, it presents only one “race.” That is, human beings of every ethnicity share the same primeval parents, Adam and Eve. However, biblically speaking there are really two “races,” the race of Adam (unregenerate sinners still under Adam’s headship) and the race of Christ--those who have been reborn and brought into God’s family (John 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9), who have Christ as their representative or head.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 3: What Is True?

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read.

Reason, science and intuition are invaluable truth-seeking faculties, but each one is insufficient on its own. We need a unifying principle tying them all together and giving us epistemological warrant for using all three. Moreover, we need a basis for trusting them in the first place. Scripture provides that unity and basis.

The question, “What is true?” is one of the seven questions we have identified as being essential to every worldview. This question is best addressed in two parts. I’ve already discussed the nature of truth here, so this article will focus exclusively on knowledge.

The Study of Knowledge

The study of knowing, or the theory of knowledge, is called epistemology. Epistemology deals with the questions above. While we take the fact that we know things for granted, we really should not. After all, why should we think that we can know anything? Why should we think that we can have knowledge? Come to think of it, what is knowledge?

Knowledge is classically defined as “justified, true belief.” The word “justified” has led to much debate, and in recent years philosopher Alvin Plantinga has offered the definition “warranted, true belief.” We may say that Bob has knowledge when he believes a true proposition to be true, and his truth-seeking faculties (his mind, his reason, his five senses, etc.) are functioning properly and in a favorable environment. In this case there is alignment between the truth of the proposition, the belief that Bob has, and the warrant that Bob has for believing it.

Three Views of How We Come to Know Things

So how do we arrive at knowledge? How do we come to know? And how do we know that we know?  

Philosophers (and others who spend their days pondering such questions) have developed many epistemologies, but these can be roughly divided into three categories.

  1. Empiricism: knowledge is based on the five senses. True knowledge begins with the scientific process of collecting data from the world, analyzing it, and drawing conclusions based on those observations. Man’s reason can be deceived, but cold, hard facts don’t lie. Example: William Clifford said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

  2. Rationalism: knowledge is based on certain principles, which we know apart from what we experience through our senses. These rules govern our thinking. Laws of logic are examples of these rules. When we know these rules, we can reason our way to all true knowledge. This view places high value in human reasoning and distrusts sense data, because after all, our eyes may deceive us! Example: René Descartes started with the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” and developed a system of knowledge from there.

  3. Subjectivism: knowledge of any absolute truth is impossible. All we can know is what is true “for ourselves.” We come to know these truths through processes that are completely internal and not necessarily verifiable by reason or science. Reason can be muddled, and our senses can deceive us, but there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we “just know.” Example: Walt Whitman said, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” Intuition relies heavily on experience. One example of intuition is when we assume that the future will be like the past. This is not a conclusion based on reason (there’s no logical requirement that the future be like the past) nor sense experience (we have no sense data of the future!), but it “makes sense to us” to believe it.

False Epistemologies.png

Philosopher and theologian John Frame has pointed out that no one has really been able to consistently hold completely to any of these three perspectives. Instead, the very best philosophers and thinkers have rather tried to combine these three approaches. This is because, at the end of the day, it is obvious that each one has merit.

As Christians we can affirm aspects of all three. We agree with the Empiricists that science is a valid way of gaining knowledge (in fact the first scientists were all Christians!). We further affirm with the Rationalists the importance of logic and sound reasoning. And we join with the Subjectivists in saying that, by golly, there are some facts that we just know to be true, even if we can’t verify them scientifically or account for them logically (though they do not contradict science or reason.

Each of these three epistemologies focuses on its preferred truth-seeking faculty to the (unsuccessful) exclusion of the other two. While each one fails on its own, if there were a way of unifying them, we could approach a holistic view of how we really arrive at knowledge. As it turns out, God’s revelation is the key to that unification. In fact, as believers we can look at all three of these epistemologies as perspectives on the truth.

The Role of Revelation in Epistemology

The world does not interpret itself. God, the Creator of the world and everything in it, is the Creator who speaks. He has spoken to us in an authoritative way, and by that speech he has revealed to us the truth about himself, the cosmos, and ourselves. He has not given us exhaustive knowledge, but the knowledge he has given us is true. True knowledge begins with a proper attitude toward God and a willingness to hear what he has to say. As Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

God reveals himself in two ways: by his works and by his word. We call the former “General Revelation” and the latter “Special Revelation.”

General Revelation is accessible to all men, through observing the “outer world” of the cosmos and analyzing the “inner world” of the self (Romans 1:18-20). For example, both the law of gravity governing the movement of physical objects, as well as the laws of logic governing our thoughts, point to the existence of God.

Special Revelation is God’s supernaturally revealing truth to us, which today is recorded in Scripture, the Bible. The Bible is “breathed out by God,” and was written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible provides the basis for certain knowledge, and validates the three ways of knowing we referenced earlier. When we think biblically, we see that Rationalism is a false view, but the use of reason is good (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15). Empiricism is false, but empirical science (based on sense data analysis) is good (Psalm 111:2; Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 94:9). Subjectivism is also false, but God has given us intuition, and truth is very personal (Job 38:36; Romans 2:14-15).

Epistemology united by Scripture.png

When unified by God’s revelation, the core truth-seeking faculties of each of the three epistemologies are not in conflict but work together. We have a basis for using all three—reason, senses and intuition. This article examined three perspectives on knowledge, but it would equally apply to any others that could hypothetically be brought up. So we have seen that knowledge is possible and uniquely accessible to those who hold to the biblical worldview, because of our faith in the Bible, which unifies our truth-seeking faculties and provides the basis for trusting them as reliable, when used appropriately.

Of course, the same Bible that validates these three methods of gaining knowledge also warns us about the effects of sin on our ability to know. We will discuss this in a future article, when we talk about the nature of man.

Notes:

Francis Schaeffer poses the question, “How do we know that we know?” and discusses its implications in Chapter 3 of his book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1972), 37-60.

For the three approaches to epistemology I’m drawing heavily on the work on John Frame and specifically from his article, “Epistemological Perspectives and Evangelical Apologetics,” Frame-Poythress.org, May 17, 2012, Accessed June 12, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/epistemological-perspectives-and-evangelical-apologetics/. In this article he also points out that no one has been able to hold consistently to any one of the three epistemological positions discussed here, i.e. Rationalism, Empiricism and Subjectivism.

John Frame has written extensively about “Triperspectivalism,” the concept that three ideas seemingly in conflict are actually perspectives on the same reality. For more see, Frame, John, “John Frame on the Trinity,” Frame-Poythress.org, November 21, 2016, Accessed June 14, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/john-frame-on-the-trinity/.

To the point that God has given us true—yet not exhaustive—knowledge, James Sire describes Francis Schaeffer as having made this point. Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 130.
I credit Dr. Jason Lisle with the insight that intuition relies on experience. He makes this point in The Physics of Einstein: Black holes, time travel, distant starlight, E=mc² (Aledo, TX: Biblical Science Institute, 2018), 61-62.

10 Ways Apologetics Benefits the Local Church

By Chaseton Hahn (with Joel Settecase) / 22-minute read

Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer. The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Challenge Ahead

The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation. 

Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. In days gone by, church attendance and Christian nominalism and virtue reigned supreme; this is hardly the case anymore. In fact, in a 2016 research study Barna Group identified Generation Z as the “first truly post-Christian generation,” in which the percentage of atheists doubles that of the Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, or Elders generations.

 How are believers to respond? Should we hang our heads in defeat? Absolutely not! Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” and his words are just as true today. The increasing expression of godlessness is clear. The work ahead is difficult. The opposition is fierce. Churches must be more willing than ever to equip their membership with the tools to make Christ shine brightly before a spiritually dark world. Enter apologetics.

The focus of this article is to show 10 benefits of incorporating apologetics training into your church’s discipleship programs. 

1: It Is Faithful to Scripture

The call to join in the field of apologetics is found first upon the pages of the Bible itself. Apologetics simply means to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview, and the Bible contains many examples to follow. Peter the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs believers to “…always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15b).

Among the numerous examples in the New Testament of people confidently defending the faith is none other than the Great Apologist, Jesus Christ. Jesus being the Divine Logos is a master of logic and rhetoric, often turning the accusations of his opponents on their ear with silky smooth repose.  

Not only is Jesus a skilled apologist, but in Luke 12:11-12 he promised his disciples that they too would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to defend themselves before, “the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities….”

You also have instances recorded such as Peter and John boldly standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, and Stephen making a courageous charge against the Jewish council before his martyrdom in Acts 7. Then there is Paul who famously addresses the Epicureans on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and later makes his case to Roman Procurator Felix in Acts 24. These are a few of the many occasions of apologetics documented in Scripture for us to emulate. Because the church itself is a Scriptural organization, anything that makes the church more in line with Scripture may rightly be called a benefit!

2: It Guards the Trustworthiness, Sufficiency, and Authority of Scripture.

Along with its scientific and technological advances, the Modern era brought a new wave of skepticism, specifically toward the claims of the Bible.

At every turn, there seems to be a new attempt to smother the truth of Scripture, relegating it to the ash heap of history as baseless, ancient mythological nonsense. Where the Bible was once respected, it is now counted irrelevant and unreliable. The church must therefore be furnished with Christians who are ready to face such indictments upon the Word of God. The rise of secularism with its control of the media and its grip upon the academy poses a serious threat to the faith of those who are not trained to stand in defense of the truth of Scripture.

Scripture testifies unabashedly to its enduring truth. Take heed of the Psalmist who proudly proclaims, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Or take for instance the Prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8). Jesus himself upheld its authority when he said, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Lk. 16:17). The Apostle Paul describes all Scripture as being “breathed out by God” and sufficient for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Sure, the Bible says these things, but then there exist textual critics and liberal scholars asserting that these words should not be trusted at all.

Therefore, one of the primary aims of apologetics is to defend against such arguments and uphold the biblical testimony. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity rests upon the truthfulness of Scripture in which believers must be confident.  

3: It Strengthens the Faith of Individual Christians

When I was a freshman in college, I encountered a challenge against my belief in the Bible for the first-time . The class was Western Civilizations, taught by a man named Dr. Baldwin. He had reputation around campus of being especially militant in his atheism – even causing people to renounce their belief in God! Being the stubborn 18-year-old that I was, I enrolled without a second thought, thinking to myself, “He can’t be that bad.” The first day of class, I sat down for the lecture and Dr. Baldwin immediately opened with a booming voice, “Alright class! Since we will be learning about the emergence of Western civilization, it is important we talk about Christianity.” He continued, “But first, let’s talk about all the contradictions in the Bible.” The murmurs and whispers of the other students almost instantly came to a halt as we all sat in wide-eyed shock from what we just heard.

At the end of the presentation, my head was spinning. The information I had just ingested was tremendously confusing and troublesome. I thought to myself, “Is everything I believe really just a child’s fairy tale?” This is what many of our young people face today in secular academia. What the professor unknowingly did was spur me to study the Word of God with greater intensity, digging deeper than I ever had before. I decided, if I am going to be a Christian, I must be completely sure that it is true.

During that time, I came across various apologetics ministries that provided the resources to satisfy the very questions that Dr. Baldwin raised; my faith was inevitably strengthened. I was shown that the Word of God is true even when put under intense scrutiny.

Many people seem to characterize faith as believing in something without evidence. This is not how Scripture describes faith at all. In the biblical sense, faith should not be blind or irrational. Instead it is a confident trust in the promises of God. Faith is a trust that is graduated from knowledge about the word of God! Apologetics aids in the discovery of answers to the hardest questions pointed against our belief in Christ.

When these problems are shown to have solutions, a greater trust in the promises of God is the result, so we may say along with the psalmist: “The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).

4: It Helps the Church Love God with all her Mind

Many Christians seem to hold to the opinion that since the matters of religion are mostly concerned with the spiritual, then the worship of God should be confined to the emotional and experiential. The emergence of revivalism through the Second Great Awakening and its overemphasis of spiritual encounters (seen notably in the ministry of Charles Finney) gave rise to the rampant anti-intellectualism that is alive in many sectors of the church today, leaving the people of God unable to shield themselves from the criticisms by the secular elements of the culture.

Unfortunately, skeptical members of our society have therefore concluded that Christians do not care about knowledge and thus that belief in God requires low intelligence. This is not how Scripture teaches believers to approach their faith.

Jesus, as he details the Greatest Commandment, says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…and mind” (Mt. 22:37 emphasis added). To be educated apologetically is to sharpen the mind – the cognitive faculty of reason and understanding.

Believers should know not only what they believe, but why they believe—and how to articulate this with confidence. Indeed, to pursue godly wisdom is to be more like our Creator, whose image we bear (Gen. 1:26-28). God, the supreme intellect, himself possesses a rational mind. God is the one who crafted science and mathematicsFrom the inconceivably complex composition of DNA to the immense structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, all of creation displays his intelligence. Therefore, we should desire to learn with and exercise our minds for the good pleasure of our Creator - especially in the mastery of his Word.

5: It Corrects Doctrinal Error

Apologetics is not only effective in defending against arguments from unbelievers outside of the church; it is useful for correcting error within the church. False teachers are running rampant, leading many millions of people into apostasy. Indeed, apologetics training aids Christians to cultivate their knowledge of the truth so that they may reach maturity of faith; able to “distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Consider the numerous cultural and social philosophies that war against the teachings of Scripture, even seeping into the lives of the membership. Apologetics is vital in preserving fidelity to the biblical message, protecting the sheep from falling prey to the destructive doctrines of the world.

Numerous passages warn of false prophets and false teachers who will appear among the saints seeking to lead them into destructive doctrines and heresy (2 Pet. 2:1; Mt. 24:24; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:28-30).

Look for example at many of the popular “evangelists” that are featured on major television networks. Many meet the qualifications of what is being warned about in the Bible, yet unsuspecting Christians fall right into their trap. Apologetics helps prevent such tragedies, keeping the believers sober-minded, and able to clearly spot heterodoxy and warn others about it.

If or when someone begins to teach doctrinal error in your church, you will be able to defend biblical truth and drive out any error before it takes root in the congregation.

6: It Strengthens Unity around Truth

 Having a singular focus upon a clear objective is fundamental for success of any movement, whether it be a sports team or a board of directors of a major corporation. This is no less true for the body of Christ. While the goal of the church is not collecting championship rings or sustaining financial growth, it shares in common in the pursuit of an important principle: unity. The truth of the Gospel is the unifying principle of the church. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was especially concerned with the cohesion of the believers around the message of Jesus Christ:

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27-28).

 Apologetics assists the church to be so oriented, that the believers have an impenetrable resilience based in the core doctrines of the faith.

Undeniably, with a constantly shifting culture it is critical that the church be prepared for any objection or affront to the Gospel. When believers become more mature in their knowledge of Christ, they will no longer be susceptible to “every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). It is when members of the church are confident in their knowledge of biblical truth that spiritual flourishing will happen.

Wherever Christians are unified in truth, there the Gospel message can be propelled with all fervency and conviction. The church unified becomes an unstoppable machine, individuals acting as cogs and wheels mutually rotating for the glory and honor of Christ.

This solidarity among the saints cultivates such fellowship, whereby every act is one of worship and celebration of the truths of God in his word, the very foundation for Christian faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A community of believers who encamp around the truth of Christ ultimately fosters a bond of love in fulfillment of the prayer of our Lord: “That they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21).

7: It Injects Enthusiasm into the Church

When I was first exposed to apologetics and how it helped find satisfying answers to the objections against my faith, I was simply ecstatic. This is the testimony that many others report when they too discover that the Bible and what it teaches can stand against the daunting opposition of our unbelieving culture.

Apologetics should be exciting. What we believe is true, and that is worthy of rejoicing over! The wonderful mysteries of God have been revealed to us, and learning that these can stand against the staunchest opposition, that not even the Devil or the flames of Hell can overcome them, should cause your heart to race with excitement.

Not only this, but the principles of apologetics is for all believers to enjoy, not just the academics or intellectuals. Young and old, men and women of any social standing, can all enjoy the confidence that is cultivated through the learning and wielding of God’s Word through apologetic training.

8: It Reaches the Lost

The purpose of apologetics is never to win an argument or to make yourself appear more intelligent. Instead, apologetics should be viewed as an evangelistic tool for the spreading of the Gospel.

Whenever you share the message of Christ with an unbelieving individual, it is almost guaranteed that there will be objections or questions about what and why you believe, even if these interactions are completely amicable. Apologetics arms the believer with the proper instruments to give an adequate rebuttal to most concerns that are raised. For instance, take Paul when he addressed the Athenians and the philosophers at the Areopagus as recorded in Acts 17. Paul was provoked by the Holy Spirit because he, “saw the city was full of idols.” So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (vv. 16-17).

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers approached him because he was preaching the resurrection; something very foreign to their minds. Paul was not bent on humiliating these men for their beliefs (remember, principles of gentleness and respect are vital for apologetics according to 1 Pet. 3:15b), but he was interested in persuading them to believe the Gospel.

If you examine this discourse given at the Areopagus, you see that Paul deconstructs the worldview of the philosophers, exposing their flawed perspective of God. The result of the speech was that “some mocked,” however, some were inspired and, “…joined him and believed” (vv. 32-34). The response will not always be favorable, but the interaction may prove to remove roadblocks that have been preventing the person from believing the Gospel!

You see, the point in evangelistic apologetics is to give a rational defense for the Christian worldview, showing that faith in Christ is satisfying, not only spiritually but also intellectually.

Through apologetics, the church can demonstrate to the unbelieving world that Christianity is the only thing that can make reasonable sense of the universe in which we live. Indeed, there are several notable people who, through their encounters with the claims about Christ, have turned from stark skepticism to Christian faith when they finally realized the claims of the Bible were in accord with real history! C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel come to mind, and there have been many others.

Reason #9: It Answers the Demands of a Changing Culture

The culture of our time is organic. It is living, breathing, growing, and constantly changing. What was publicly despised 30 years ago seems be venerated today. The rapid exchange of information with the advent of the internet allows minority viewpoints and philosophies to be exposed to a much larger audience. Now, this can be a great thing! The sharing of ideas through instant methods of communication has revolutionized science and technology, resulting in mass innovations in nearly every area of life. For the Christian, sharing the Gospel with people across the globe has never been easier. However, there is a great downside as well, because false and even harmful ideologies travel and spread just as effortlessly.

Apologetics is essential in our age where culture is moving in greater and greater rebellion against the unchanging Word of God. We see issues of shifting sexual ethics, where that which God forbids is now the societal norm. Postmodernism has permeated into every area, resulting in the questioning of everything that was generally considered settled, objective, knowledge. In addition to this, religious pluralism is running rampant, all claiming equal share of the truth. How in the world do Christians answer such cultural mandates? Thankfully, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Apologetics helps believers grapple with and topple the beliefs that stand against the Word of God. Your church needs to be primed and ready to take on the battle that is being waged in our culture today. Apologetics helps shield the flock, while arming them with the sword of the Spirit (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), to slay the dragon of the prevailing customs which are under the rule of Satan (Eph. 2:2, 6:12), capturing and crushing them into submission before the King of Glory (2 Cor. 10:5).

Reason #10: It Glorifies Jesus Christ

As we have demonstrated, incorporating apologetics into your church’s ministry functions is internally beneficial for facilitating spiritual maturity, and it is externally beneficial by aiding in the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet we should recognize that the ultimate reason to participate in apologetics is simply that it glorifies Jesus Christ.

In the foundational verse for apologetics, the Apostle Peter writes, “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Pet. 3:15). The most important aspect of this verse is right at the beginning: “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” This is the true heart of apologetics.

You see, many people seem to believe that the objective is to give arguments that humiliate the opponent by eviscerating their worldview. This is not the case at all. What Peter encapsulates here is the attitude all should bring to any discussion involving our hope in Christ and the Gospel.

It is when we contemplate upon Christ’s loveliness, his goodness, perfections, and holiness, that we cannot help but honor him in everything we say and do. We are to move the eyes of those whom we come across from us and our works or eloquent speech upward,helping them instead to fix their gaze upon the glorious face of Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).

Final Thoughts

Apologetics is much more than a participation in a formal or scholarly debate. Instead, believers should see it as a necessary discipline for standard church ministry. Every Christian should be trained as an apologist because of the examples given in Scripture, including that of Jesus Christ, the Great Apologist, who regularly incorporated apologetic principles in his earthly ministry.

It is through apologetics that believers can sharpen their knowledge of Scripture, as well as learn how to answer the numerous objections raised against its truthfulness, which ultimately builds faith in the promises of God!

Learning apologetics will help your congregation correct and defend against doctrinal errors that ever attempt to trickle in.

Apologetics is valuable in evangelism by providing answers to doubts or skepticism, removing barriers that may be preventing people from believing the Gospel.

Our culture is constantly changing and finding new opportunities to rebel against the objective truth of God’s word. Apologetics helps build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated, that the Christian can be thoroughly prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.

The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that we do in faith and zeal should be done, not that others see us, but to see Jesus more clearly.

How to Destroy Every Argument Against God

It's the premier of the SONS OF THUNDER, a podcast-within-a-podcast that has been years in the making.

In this "unnecessarily inflammatory" (and much longer than usual) episode, Joel and Parker Settecase lay down the groundwork for talking about apologetics--the defense of the truth of the Christian faith. They get into how to get apologetics wrong and how to do it right--in a way that stays true to Scripture and honors Christ. This episode delivers way more content than "This Is Apologetics" typically goes, but sometimes it's fun to drink out of a firehose (or so they tell me).

How to Raise Kids Who Can Defend Their Faith

How can you prepare your children to have the kind of faith today that will answer tomorrow's challenges? We look at three keys: Principles, Practice and Prayer.

A shorter episode tonight, but packed with a lot of really practical recommendations.

A sampling of them:

Catakids (Kindle): www.amazon.com/dp/B07SW1SQ9F

The Rizers (YouTube): www.youtube.com/user/therizers

Dana Dirksen (Amazon Music): music.amazon.com/artists/B0014B30…Id=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Evangelistic Apologetics In A Nutshell: Three Principles You Should Know

By Chaseton Hahn / 8-minute read.

Christians that I have engaged with have often either never heard of, or have a misunderstanding of the discipline of apologetics. For many, the term even carries a derogatory connotation. What must be shown is that apologetics is a necessary practice that all Christians should have within their evangelistic arsenal. In this article we will look at evangelistic apologetics in a nutshell, based on three biblical principles.

What Is Apologetics And What Is It For?

The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which appears only 8 times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1, 25:26; 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). Apologia literally means “a reasoned defense or argument.” Apologetics should be understood as a sort of legal verbiage – picture a lawyer giving a defense before a judge in a courtroom. Therefore, to participate in apologetics is to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview.

A mistake that is frequently made is the assumption that apologetics is reserved for debate settings – not so! The purpose of apologetics is not simply winning arguments. Instead, apologetics should be seen as a helpful tool for answering the objections that skeptics may have against Christianity, but with the ultimate intent of leading them to believe the Gospel.

Principles of Evangelistic Apologetics

The Scriptures contains the essential instructions for the Christian to properly exercise his faith in an expression that is consistent with the manner of Christlike behavior (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This is true as well for how one should engage in an apologetic conversation that is compelling and God-honoring.

Answering the skeptic requires the patience and love of Christ along with the confident delivery of the relevant information – the former qualities being sorely forgotten by many of those who participate in apologetics.

Again, the purpose of all this is not to win an argument or crush the opponent – the aim is to point the lost to Christ.

Apologetics with Peter

Peter the Apostle wrote the first epistle that bears his name, for the purpose of encouraging believers who were facing intense persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6). Peter calls Christians  to rejoice in their suffering because of the great inheritance of eternal life that awaits them, even in the midst of great trials that are being used to test and refine their faith in Christ (1:4-9). In the third chapter Peter explains the importance of maintaining a holy composure even when reviled for one’s faith (3:9). It is here in chapter three that is contained what many consider the heart-cry of Christian apologetics:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Let us examine the three important principles of apologetics that Peter reveals.

1. Honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Peter, who is (specifically in the context of suffering) borrowing language from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 29:23), makes clear that at the point of contact with unbelievers, we must maintain the supremacy and holiness of Christ. The foundation of our faith is Christ (Is. 28:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:6; Eph. 2:20), his greatness being worthy of  our constant reverence and being the driving force behind our interactions with the world. Our apologetic framework is to be rooted deeply in our theology and knowledge of the person of Christ.

How is this attitude toward Christ attained? By the constant study and meditating upon the Word of God – which cultivates  our affections and renews our minds to the ways of Christ (Rom. 12:2). The esteeming of Christ is the motor by which the vehicle of apologetics must intimately conjoined, as will be addressed below.

2. Always be prepared to make a defense.

In our response to the holiness and wonders of Christ, it is from here that the apologist may properly “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”

Being prepared to testify about the doctrines of Christ requires that the believer dwell upon the Scriptures, the source of our intimacy with God. The purpose of verse 15 is not so much about preparing intellectually for the interaction, but to be prepared spiritually.

When dealing with those who do not believe (especially those who persecute us), we must allow the beauty of Christ and our attitude toward him to remain central in order to determine our attitude toward one whose demands may be especially scornful of our faith. The hope we have is Christ, the Holy One of God, who humbled himself to become a servant so that our sins may be forgiven through his death and resurrection (Phil. 2:4-11). Capture this image of Christ and allow this to maintain the proper focus of your apologetic. Indeed, this leads to the third point…

3. Be gentle.

Anytime we are presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with others, it is imperative to preserve a level of respect and gentleness for the one we are communicating with. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

To be gentle with others does not mean to be fragile or weak ourselves. Instead, the act in gentleness is to restrain from harshness in exchange for humility, love, and kindness – even if the person is exhibiting hostility toward us.

Christ, being God, had every opportunity and right to deal severely with us in our disobedient and unregenerate state. Thankfully, God who is rich in mercy, was patient with us in our rebellion and loved us despite our sinfulness and depravity, restoring us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:4-10).

This does not mean we are not to share truth with confidence (and the message of the Gospel much of the time results in aggressive opposition), but we are to share the truth with the disposition of Christ, with a desire to heal with the good news of the Gospel. If we act in accordance with the gentleness of Christ, we can have a good conscience (v. 16), no matter the result of the conversation.

Conclusion

Apologetics (apologia) is the reasoned defense of the Christian worldview. Many of us are presented with many occasions on which we can share the Gospel with others. Unfortunately, apologetics is greatly misunderstood because of its frequent abuse. If you are active on social media, it is not uncommon that you will  come across a well-meaning Christian who is discussing his faith with a skeptic. More times than not, I notice, even though the Christian is presenting good argumentation for the truthfulness of Christianity, they do not appear to be offering the arguments with the correct intentions. They are more interested in winning an argument than winning the soul of someone who is lost.

Apologetics is far more than defeating our opponents – it is to be an instrument of evangelism for the sake of the Gospel. We should hold close the words of Peter, remembering we are dealing with real, flesh and blood bearers of the Imago Dei. We should approach apologetics as a means to reach the lost, holding Christ in the highest regard. This will allow us to deliver the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and kindness that God showed us, when we too were lost.

Chaseton Hahn is a public servant and a seminarian at Liberty University, studying to complete an M.Div in Christian Apologetics.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 2: What Is Good?

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read.

The Bible, and the God who has revealed himself in its pages, provides the only adequate basis for morality.

In Part 1, I explained that there are only three possible answers to the most basic question any worldview must answer, “What is real?” We saw that God is both ultimate (or infinite, a world which I might like even better) as well as personal, and that in relation to his creation he exercises the “Lordship Attributes” of Authority, Control and Presence.

Now we are close to having a basis for answering the second question every worldview must answer, “What is good?” I say we are close, but not quite there yet, because there is one further attribute of God’s nature that we must consider, the attribute of being relational, about which more in a minute.

There are various fields of study bound up with this question, from morality (right and wrong thought and action), to axiology (values), to aesthetics (judgments of beauty). These are all concerned with the question of absolute goodness (if such a thing as absolute goodness does in fact exist).

When we have answered the ultimate question of goodness, we will know if it is possible to also ask, “What are our moral duties and how do we know?” as well as, “What does it mean to violate the absolute standard of goodness?” Is beauty objective or merely in the eye of the beholder?” If there is an absolute standard by which we may make sense of morality, then we may also make sense of related fields of study.

Absolute, Relationsl Moral Standards Need an Absolute, Relational Basis

Morality cannot be subjective. If it were, we would only be talking about preferences, not morality. There would only be what is, meaning there would be my preference, and your preference, and their preferences, but no bridge between them and no scale on which to weigh them, no way to judge between them.

So morality must be objective, which is to say it must be absolute. Absolute morality requires a basis in an absolute prime reality. This prime reality must be absolute as well as personal. This is because moral duties are laws, and laws require a lawgiver. A lawgiver cannot be an impersonal force (e.g. gravity) or abstract object (e.g. the number four) but must be personal, someone who can make the pronouncement, “This is how things ought to be.” Absolute, unchanging laws require an absolute and unchanging Lawgiver. Certain non-biblical worldviews, which present a concept of God that is unitarian (absolute oneness) could perhaps account for absolute, unchanging laws, if they merely applied to an individual person interacting with himself.

Yet moral principles do not just deal with individuals but also govern relationships between individuals. Much of morality covers how people ought to treat one another. In the study of morality we are concerned not merely with unity but also with diversity. We are concerned with how individuals ought to treat one another in their relationships and interactions with each other. This is a question not merely of absolute unity but of diversity too.

In order to account for the existence of absolute moral standards that govern interpersonal relationships, the prime reality in which they are grounded must also be absolute, personal and interpersonal. There must be a relational attribute to God, or else any of moral standards for interpersonal relationships would merely be arbitrary.

For example, if God were a monad, as the unitarian religions (Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, etc.) believe, then prior to him creating, there would have been no interpersonal relationships at all. Any moral requirements such a God would have decreed would be the creations of his mind, but would not have been rooted in God’s own relational nature, since prior to creating God would have had no relationships.

It follows that, for absolute interpersonal moral standards to be absolute, they must be rooted in a prime reality (God) who is infinite without division (unbroken oneness), personal, and yet also interpersonal or diverse in itself. God’s nature, as revealed in Scripture, is such a prime reality.

There are many worldviews, religions and philosophies in the world, yet only one worldview that has such a concept of God, and that is biblical Christianity. As Francis Schaeffer has said, the Christian answer is not merely a good answer, it is the only answer. This Venn diagram shows a sampling of the world’s religions and worldviews, and how they account for (or fail to account for) unity, diversity and personality:

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Only biblical Christianity accounts for all three.

God’s nature is the basis for absolute morality

The God who has revealed himself in the Bible is absolute unity, absolute personality, and absolute diversity. He is one (united) in his essence and yet is three (diverse) Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

These three share a name (meaning they share authority and Lordship), and yet each one is distinct from the others. These three have known and loved one another perfectly forever in perfect, infinite oneness, so it makes sense when Scripture says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His very nature is love. His loving nature is the basis for how the three Persons of the Trinity relate to one another, and it forms the basis for his moral commands to his creatures.

Therefore God’s moral commands are not arbitrary, nor does he appeal to some standard beyond himself. The Greek Philosopher Plato wrestled with this, because he only knew the gods of mythology. Yet God is not like those “gods.” God’s very nature is the definition of goodness. He is magnificent, glorious and eminently praiseworthy, and he commands that his creatures live by his glorious standard (Mark 10:18). God’s goodness was reflected in his creation as he originally created it (Genesis 1:31).

Only the biblical worldview can account for absolute morality

Recall that God’s nature is personal, infinite, and diverse within himself (we might say “tri-personal”). This provides the basis for absolute morality. Because he is personal, he has a will. Because he is infinite, his will applies to all people, everywhere and at all time. And because he is tri-personal, it is in his nature to communicate; he has communicated his will to his creatures, in the Bible.

We may say confidently that the biblical worldview is totally unique in this regard, because it is the only one that can sufficiently account for unity, diversity and personality in its concept of prime reality. God, the infinite, tri-personal, relational God who is love, is perfectly moral, infinitely valuable, and gloriously beautiful. All the fields of study related to goodness find their basis and ultimate reference point in him; things are good, valuable and beautiful insofar as they are like God, who is all good, valuable and beautiful to the nth degree.

God has revealed mankind’s moral duties in two ways

God’s creation communicates his glory (Psalm 19), to the extent that men have enough knowledge about God to glorify him and give him thanks, and therefore we are without excuse for failing to do so (Romans 1:18-24). Failing to fulfill even this basic requirement, man goes on to sin in various ways throughout life, falling short of God’s glorious standard in every area of life (Romans 3:23). Although man was originally created good, the first man sinned, and all his children have been sinning ever since, suppressing what can be known about God from the world without and the moral sense within. However the moral sense, the conscience, does remain. The Bible says the “works of the law” are written on the heart of all people, and their, “competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).

The second way God communicates his absolute moral standards to us is by the Bible. The Bible teaches that creation’s greatest purpose is to praise God (Ps. 148:1-14), and man’s highest moral duty is to love God (Mt. 22:38; Jn. 14:15), followed by the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt. 22:38-39). The Ten Commandments were a baseline summary for the nation of Israel, and Jesus Christ deepened and expanded God’s moral teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and elsewhere.

The teachings of Christ are impossible to fulfill in man’s current sinful condition, which is bleak indeed. Because God is good, he must give sin what it deserves.

Immoral man’s predicament

The “wages” of sin, the Bible teaches, is death (Romans 6:23). Man’s predicament, then, is that by living life in disobedience to God, he is choosing death. There there is such a deep disconnect between God’s perfectly good nature and law, and man’s current immoral state, that it would be completely impossible for man to be restored to a right relationship with God apart from divine intervention. He is in the predicament of having an inner moral sense which drives him to desire moral goodness, while at the same time being morally incapable in his nature of choosing the good and pleasing God (Romans 8:8).

We will get into the solution to man’s predicament later in the series. However, before we do that, we must address the question of truth. After all, we are drawing our answers to life’s biggest questions from the biblical worldview—the perspective taught by the Bible. How can we know that the Bible is the best place to get those answers?

Catch "This Is Apologetics" on Facebook Live Every Monday Night

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Got any plans for Monday night? Why not take an hour and bone up on your defense of the Christian message? Not a believer? This is a great chance to entertain new ideas and see how well your objections stack up to the Bible’s teachings.

Every Monday night for the last seven weeks or so, Joel Settecase has been going live to answer objections to biblical faith. Past topics have included,

  • Is Christianity illogical?

  • How do we know the Bible was written by God?

  • If God is good, why did he let this happen to me?

  • Prophet? Liar? Son of God? Who is Jesus really?

  • What about the Bible’s :”crazy” stories?

  • How to start spiritual conversations

Most of the time Joel flies solo, although from time to time he brings on a guest, whether a pastor or thinker, for a lively conversation. And you are encouraged to join in the conversation too.

These videos become the “This Is Apologetics” podcast, so this is your chance to hear it first and interact with Joel, his guest, and the topic of the week.

So check out “This Is Apologetics,” the live show on Facebook Live, tonight and every Monday, at the Think Institute Facebook page. See you at 9 p.m.!

The Very Concept of Truth Is Impossible Without God

By Joel Settecase / 12-minute read

Much ink has been spilled by apologists over the centuries, demonstrating that the Christian worldview is true. But what if the very concept of truth were impossible without first believing in the Christian worldview, in the truth of Scripture and the God revealed therein?

This article was originally published as a four-part series on Joel Settecase’s blog.

*****

I have been seeking out conversations with atheists on Twitter lately (though they usually find me), and a recent one got me thinking. In speaking with this chap, I made the point that truth presupposes God, and that faith in God is the necessary precondition to any truth-seeking endeavor.

He asked me why, and in the course of elaborating, I asked him if he believed in absolute truth. To that, he replied No, he did not.

This raised two questions that I realized I needed to do some more thinking about:

First, why does truth presuppose God? (I’ve written before on why scienceand logic presuppose God, but why truth?) I believed this was the case, but could I articulate it?

Second, is it an appropriate dodge on the part of the atheist to simply declare he doesn’t believe in truth, or absolute truth, and therefore avoid belief in God? Again, I knew this couldn’t be the case, but could I express why that was?

Jesus says that truth is essential for freedom (John 8:32), and here this guy was denying the truth–and therefore the possibility of his own freedom. As a follower of Jesus, I wanted him to be free. To help me communicate that (to him and others), I wanted to be able to explain what truth is, and how truth connects to God.

So I undertook the task of defining what exactly truth is, and why belief in God is the necessary precondition for truth–and why simply saying that truth doesn’t exist isn’t an effective move.

The Difficulty of Definition

We must begin with a definition of the word truth, without just defining it by itself. This is harder than it would seem. Truth is one of those words that we use all the time, but we don’t really think about what it meansbecause it seems so self-evident: “Truth is… what’s true.”

Webster’s says truth is “the state of being the case.” But then, this feels incomplete. What is in the state of being the case? What case? What sort of thing can be true? Can a rock be “true?” No, truth is a quality of propositions, it cannot be possessed by things. A rock cannot be true, but the statement, “the rock is on the table” can.

For the purposes of this article, then, we will build a more complete and useful definition of the word truth–a true definition–and then demonstrate that truth is an impossible without God.

Truth and Language

So we have seen that truth is an attribute of propositions, and propositions are by definition linguistic; they are statements made in a particular language, whether English, French, Koine Greek or something else. Propositions, being a function of language, only make sense if they accord with the laws of language (grammar and syntax, etc., but also they must contain real words that are meaningful within that language).

It makes sense to say in English, “The rock is on the table,” but not “The rock fleurglob table the.” That’s nonsense, not English. Language isn’t freeform, it has rules. That collection of “words” doesn’t follow the rules of the language and therefore it’s incomprehensible, meaningless. Such a “proposition” really isn’t a proposition, and it makes no sense to ask whether it is “true.”

So the first criterion of truth is that a proposition accords with the rules of language. It is comprehensible.

Truth and Logic

Next, for any proposition to be sensible or possible, it must accord with the laws of logic. I have written about logic before, but in short, a logical proposition must not contradict itself (the Law of Noncontradiction). It must refer to what it refers to (the Law of Identity). It must affirm a state of affairs or its opposite, but not both (the Law of Excluded Middle).

These logical laws govern all thought and language. They are transcendentals, in that they transcend any one particular language or culture. Whereas vocabulary, grammar and syntax change from language to language, the laws of logic are unchanging. They are also immaterial, universal, and knowable.

A proposition (in any language) that contradicted itself or otherwise violated logic could not be meaningful, let alone true.

The second criterion for truth, then, is that a proposition accords with the laws of logic. It is coherent.

Truth and Reality

Finally we come to the third criterion, and this is the one most people think of when they think of truth. A true proposition is one that describes the actual state of affairs. It affirms the real world the way the real world actually is.

In this, it is necessary to believe that there actually is such a thing as “the real world.” More on this in a minute.

Therefore the third criterion for truth is that it accords with reality. It is correspondent.

All Three Criteria Presuppose God

We may now define truth as the quality of a proposition that is comprehensible in terms of language, coherent with regard to logic and correspondent to actual reality.

Now we can move on to why truth presupposes God. This is the case because all three criteria individually require God in order to be meaningful or real.

Comprehensibility Presupposes God

How does language presuppose God? Language presupposes God because it assumes that minds are designed to communicate and understand ideas. Further, the use of language assumes the uniformity of nature, that the future will be like the past.

That is, the speaker (and the hearer) must believe that words will mean the same thing in five seconds that they meant five seconds ago. “Is” will always mean “is” and never “is not.” This requires a stability to the universe that can only be explained by the faithful, unchanging, good God of Scripture.

Coherence Presupposes God

What about logic? Logic presupposes God because it assumes that there are true, immaterial, unchanging, good, universal and knowable laws that govern thought and speech. God is all of these things. If you believe in God and the truth of the Bible, it makes sense that the universe would be governed by such laws. It also makes sense that human beings, created in the image of God, would think and speak logically.

Could an atheist still affirm belief in logic? Of course! Atheists do this all the time. The question is, can they do so consistently? No.

Unbelief in God makes belief in logic simply a matter of random, subjective opinion (not possible).

Worse yet, an atheist evolutionist, who believes that his mind (which is just his brain) is the product of time + chance + millions of years and merely “aimed” at survival and reproduction (unrelated to actual truth-seeking), must believe that his own belief in logic is determined solely by his genes. Belief in logic isn’t rational; by believing in logic he’s merely dancing to his DNA. A mind evolved by chance could never “step outside itself” to analyze its own conclusions, including its conclusions about logic. On such a worldview there is no reason to believe in logic.

Correspondence Presupposes God

Belief in reality presupposes God because it assumes there is a state of affairs external to one’s own mind. There is a world which is objectively “out there.” That world is intelligible; it is capable of being known.

Similarly, this also presupposes that one’s mind is able to know something about the external world. In order to be able to make correspondent propositions about the world, the human mind  must also correspond to the world in such a way that knowledge about the world is possible, and conclusions about the world may be correct. 

The Bible teaches that God created man in his image, with the ability to study the world and gain true knowledge from it (see these verses related to the intelligibility of nature). Without God there’s no reason to believe this.

So far we’ve defined truth according to three criteria, defined those criteria and seen how each of them presuppose God. Now let’s examine why truth is a problem for those who deny God’s existence.

The Atheist’s Problem With Truth

However you look at it, truth presupposes God.

Atheists then have a huge problem. This brings us back to my Twitter discussion partner–the one who denied the existence of absolute truth.

To affirm the existence of truth is to presuppose the existence of God and the truth of what the Bible teaches about God, the world and humanity. 

On the other hand, to deny truth is to deny the possibility of saying anything is “true.” This also precludes anyone from saying that it is true that God does not exist. If there is no truth, than the fundamental proposition of atheism, “God does not exist,” cannot be true.

And what about the dodge that my discussion partner made, by denying absolute truth? He didn’t take it this far, but I will make the argument for him. What if truth exists, just not absolute truth? Is that possible?

Absolute truth is just truth that is true universally and unchangingly. Without getting too deep into the weeds, every true proposition is universally true, given enough details.

As an example: “Joel Settecase is a 13-year-old boy” was true, but it is no longer true. However, it is absolutely true that on October 21st, 1996, I was a 13-year-old boy. That statement is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true that I just typed that. And it is absolutely true that you are reading these words at the current moment in time.

So then, truth exists, and absolute truth exists absolutely. There is no way around this.

Back to that Twitter Conversation

I had affirmed to my discussion partner that faith in God is necessary in order to pursue absolute truth. He asked me why, yet he asked this while denying the very existence of absolute truth.

He perhaps couldn’t see how his own worldview made his question incoherent.

On his worldview, it was true that truth didn’t exist. Truth both existed and didn’t exist–a logical contradiction. And he wanted to know how belief in God was necessary to pursue truth according to that definition. But this is a logical impossibility. I was not interested in defending the pursuit of a logical impossibility. I therefore wanted to establish that truth only made sense from the biblical worldview in the first place.

When I pushed him on whether it was absolutely true that truth does not exist, he told me that I apparently wasn’t interested in having a conversation, and he ended it.

Truth Presupposes God

None of the above proves that atheists and unbelievers can’t know anything true. They know all sorts of true things. Truth is inescapable. Rather, all this shows that atheism cannot account for the existence of truth.

The Bible, on the other hand, is full of truth, and it centers on the One who is the embodiment of truth himself: the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). To know him is to  is to know truth. That knowledge is bound up with obeying him as Lord. And then, Jesus says, “the truth will set you free.”

This is apologetics; I hope it made you think.

How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations

Talking to strangers can be a scary thing. But for Christians, it can be a very rewarding endeavor. Joel Settecase introduced what spiritual conversations are and why we ought to seek them out. Then he looked at some biblical examples and two or three examples from my own life. Finally, he shared two stories of spiritual conversations I had recently, both on airplanes and discussed the benefit of having a "captive audience."

Liar? Prophet? Son of God? Who Is Jesus?

Pastor Dan Osborn (Park Community Church, Forest Glen, Chicago) has been teaching through the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the John's Gospel.

He joins Joel Settecase to discuss the biblical identity of Jesus and challenges to that identity. Could Jesus have been a mere prophet? Was he a great moral teacher but nothing more? Was he in fact a liar or perhaps delusional? And what do we do with all those fantastic claims he made about himself? Check out this episode and find out!

If God Is Good, Why Did He Let This Happen to Me?

Joel Settecase gets personal in this episode of This Is Apologetics, sharing his story of his son Lukas, who has been battling leukemia and recently heart failure. Why does the good God allow bad things to happen to his people? This is one Christian’s response.