Can apologetics get in the way of your witness?

chessChristian apologetics, a term that comes from the word apologia, meaning “defense,” is giving answer to those who question our faith.  It’s something I believe is part of what 1st Peter is talking about when it says we should be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks for a reason for our faith, although I think the scripture is referring to far more than logic, epistemology and debate like we see on social media.

While I think apologetics is interesting and important for Christians, I also see a danger if one focuses too much on this endeavor. This may seem like an odd statement from someone on a station that has so many features that focus on apologetics.  But I mention it here because of something very important: Faith that leads to salvation is a gift from God.  No one is saved because they concluded something through some formula.

Ephesians tells us saving faith is a gift from God, not of works, so that no one can boast of something they did.  Too be clear: I believe this means when we seek God, and ask him for salvation, we receive a faith that leads to salvation.  One does NOT receive this faith by some lab experiment. Philippians tells us salvation leads to the peace of God, which “surpasses all understanding;” it’s certainly not from epistemology.

When you witness to non-believers, or discuss our faith with anti-theists, do you do so with meekness, or ego of your own intellect?

What are your thoughts?

Is it possible my faith isn’t as strong as I thought?

beanie-2562646_640

A self-proclaimed “exvangelical” made a candid social media post questioning why people are surprised that atheism is such a big part of his self-identity.  He said he was never asked why faith in God was an important part of his identity when he identified as Christian. He also wanted to know why Christians found it odd that he would talk about his disbelief so often.  The answers to his questions depend on several things. Is atheism non-belief and nothing else? Is there a premise hidden in the “exvangelical’s” questions of which even he is unaware? Can one discuss his or her faith often without anyone asking questions?

 There are atheists who simply have no belief; that is, to them, atheism is nothing beyond not being convinced that God exists.  This group has no motivation to “prove” God’s non-existence; therefore, they have no position to defend or one they wish to prove wrong.  The “exvangelical’s” question implies he is not among this group of atheists because opposition to belief in God would not an important part of their identity.  There are other non-believers who proselytize for atheism. They make it a point to bring up the topic of disbelief often and even try to get others to abandon their faith. This group goes beyond saying, “I don’t know.”  They take the position there is no God. Would it make sense to say I don’t know if God exists but I oppose belief in Him? The “exvangelical’s” question is based on the idea that non-belief is part of his identity and that he is part of this group.

 God is part of a Christian’s identity by definition.  Christians believe the scripture that says if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old one has gone.  Christians accept The Great Commission; the command to tell others about Christ. It should not come as a surprise that someone who believes they are commanded to spread the Gospel would do so. Wouldn’t these things make being a Christian a bigger part of one’s identity than something about which the individual has no belief?

 Consider, I don’t know if life exists anywhere but Earth. While it may exist, I have not seen evidence sufficient for me to form a belief on the matter.  But my non-belief in extraterrestrials is not part of my identity. I don’t go out of my way to find people who believe in ET so I can debate the issue, and I don’t mock those who believe life is out there. I’ll wait for explorers to answer that question before I form a belief.  The point I’m making is this: If a person has a strong belief, it is only natural for it to be a part of his or her identity. If a person has no position to defend, why would it be part of their identity any more than non-belief in exterritorial life? 

 The words on this page should not be taken as a slam of the “exvangelical.” He wrote a very frank description of his experience as an atheist.  If anything, this is a warning to Christians to constantly turn to God for self-understanding. The “exvangelical” has no doubt that he was a committed Christian who has now abandoned his faith.  But do you know any person who regularly talks about his or her faith who hasn’t been questioned about it? How often on social media have you seen someone reference their faith on a public post without an anti-theist chiming up?  Yet the “exvangelical,” who believes he had strong self-identifying faith when he was a Christian says he was seldom questioned. Doesn’t this at least imply he was wrong about his own commitment to Christ?

 The Bible tells us there are those who believe strongly in their own faith.  They will tell God that they prophesied, drove out demons and even worked miracles in God’s name; yet they never had a relationship with God even though they had a very strong false self-image of someone firmly grounded in faith.  The “exvangelical” obviously felt his own Christian faith was so strong others should have taken note, yet the questions he posted are grounded on his observation that no one gave his faith a second thought.  

Isn’t this a good reason for Christians to ask God to help us understand our own motivations and open our eyes to any self-delusion we may have?

Does Christianity really cause criminal behavior?

Only 0.1 percent of U.S. federal inmates are atheists; a much smaller percentage than the country. Doesn’t this mean that religion causes people to be criminal; or at least that criminals tend to be religious?  This question, or some form of it, is often presented by atheist debaters seeking to win a debate rather than arrive at truth. It cites a correlation and asks the non-atheist to draw a conclusion based on very limited information. It plays on the problem of rival causal factors. These are the things a researcher has not considered that could affect the outcome of an experiment or study.  My eyes were opened to this when I took criminal justice research in college.  Data alone may be an indicator, but why it is not proof?

Is it possible that marginally religious people turn to their religion when they get in a pinch?  Is it possible that some atheist inmates will claim religion to gain sympathy? I could go further with this line of questioning, but the point is, outside of assumption or special pleading, one cannot draw the conclusion that the causal factor of criminal behavior is religion without ruling out other probable causes not shown by raw data.  Too, if the atheist debater has drawn this conclusion, it is up to him or her to provide evidence.  It is not true simply because someone else doesn’t have information ready to demonstrate the conclusion to be false.

By the way, if you are rolling your eyes because you are convinced that data alone is enough to draw this kind of conclusion, you might want to check out military intelligence analyst Tyler Vigen’s book Spurious Correlations.  He uses correlating data in a hilarious way to show just how silly it is to draw such conclusions.  For example, he has data to show the number of people who drowned in a pool actually DOES correlate with films featuring Nicolas Cage released in the same year.  He also found that the per capita consumption of margarine correlates with the divorce rate in Maine. Do you really thing the causal agent in these two correlations can be decided without further study to find the real causal agent?

Why do you think some people who are otherwise logically-thinking individuals concerned with numbers and statistics, etc., seem to want to find malice in Christianity, even when it means abandoning very basic concepts of research?

What are your thoughts?

Why do Christians die even after praying?

Pray2Is a Christian’s death from terminal illness proof that prayer has no meaning?  Is it proof that there is no God? The questions are fair, and to answer them we should consider why we pray, and how we are told to pray.

Prayer is about communion with God. He wants us to bring our concerns, worries, and feelings to Him. We share these things with our family, for example, because that’s what you do with people you care about. Sharing our cares with loved ones bonds us together, and bringing our cares to God brings us closer to Him.  So, why do people sometimes die even when they ask God to spare them?

Romans tells us, “…sin entered the world through one man….and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” And Hebrews tells us man is appointed once to die.  If a Christian prayed that he or she would never die, they would be asking God to go against Bible. Consider that Luke tells us when Jesus prayed before his execution, he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” Yet Jesus was executed anyway.  He brought his cares to God the Father for communion, not to place an order.  He didn’t ask for his desire without concern of God’s will; he asked for only what is in the will of the Father.

Christians pray to have communion with God.  All people, even Christians, die because we live in a world made imperfect by sin, and their deaths are certainly not proof there is no God.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

Inferences based on the Bible are not scripture

Why do so many in what’s been called the ‘new atheist movement’ promote the myth that science and faith are in conflict? How can the two contradict when one deals with man’s relationship with God and the other deals with understanding God’s creation?

Proponents of the alleged conflict idea quite often point to data that contradicts inferences made from scripture. This comes up so often, I think it’s something we as Christians need to consider when we share our faith.

I need to be very clear about two things.  An inference about science based on scripture is not the same as scripture.  Presenting it as such serves only to push people away from God when they think they have to choose between the inference and science.  Secondly, I am not suggesting we should change our faith in God based on scientific data. I have yet to see any lab experiment that has proven anything about God, only about His creation.

Every Christian should ask his or herself this important question:  When you begin a sentence with “The Bible says…,” do you finish the sentence with scripture every time, or are you guilty of ending it with something based on God’s word, but not actually God’s word?

What are your thoughts?

Do Christians fear debate?

debateWhy would a pastor encourage his congregation to avoid engaging atheists?  Doesn’t 1 Peter 3:15 tell us we should, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”? This question, or a variation of it, is often used by crafty people trying to goad Christians into a fight. It’s also been used as “proof” that Christians are people who don’t think.  Is this a fair complaint?

We are told in 1 Peter to be ready to give answer.  But it doesn’t tell us to throw our pearls before swine.  And there is a very big difference between engaging someone in respectful discussion and entertaining someone whose goal is conflict. Jesus made it clear how we are to act when someone refuses to hear the word.  He said in Matthew 10:14, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Scripture after scripture records Jesus giving answers to those truly seeking answers, but not so much attention to the trolls of his day.

Jeremiah 29:13 tells us anyone who seeks God with all their heart will find Him. God gives us the choice.  We can also choose to reject Him and, as Second Corinthians says, have our eyes blinded to the truth.  Those who claim to have no position, yet spend hours condescending Christians and misrepresenting scripture to “win” an argument are not seeking truth, but picking a fight.

God’s gift of redemption is never forced on anyone.  Will you accept His offer?