Apologetics


You can always tell when someone believes something based on their emotions/will rather than their reason: They resort to name-calling, yelling, violence, shame, intimidation. They want to silence the opposition rather than respond to them. I heard it said that you know someone doesn’t have a good argument when they resort to hitting people with blunt objects to make their case.

Many Christians would disavow such things, but they have another way of responding to challenges to their ill-founded beliefs. When they don’t have good reasons to support their claims or to challenge your arguments, they trump you with spirituality. They will say the Holy Spirit told them that X is true, or that the only reason you believe X is because you are not spiritual. Don’t fall for the bait by shifting the focus to your own spirituality. Shift the focus back to the argument by responding, “Ok, so I’m carnal. Can you tell this carnal brother of yours why I should believe you are right (or conversely, why I should believe I am wrong)?”

Certainty is a state of mind. One who is certain is one who does not doubt that some X is true. Having certainty regarding X does not guarantee that X is true, but merely that one believes X is true and has no doubts regarding its truth. Someone who seeks certainty regarding some X, then, seeks to justify belief in X to such a degree that they no longer have doubts regarding the truth of X.

Many post-modern types decry the desire for certainty as an “Enlightenment ideal,” preferring questioning and doubt instead. This is wrong. The desire for certainty is a basic human desire that has manifested itself in every generation. Humans want to know that what they believe is true. While certainty is not required to have knowledge (and philosophically speaking, not possible for most things), and while certainty is not required for everything we believe, and while an inordinate desire for certainty can be bad, the desire for certainty is natural, good, and obtainable in some matters.

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People’s perception of Christianity is often shaped more by their church experience than by Scripture. If your experience of Christianity was in a Catholic church, you may think of Christianity as solemn and reverent, but ritualistic and largely irrelevant to daily life. If your experience of Christianity was in a Baptist church, you may think of Christianity in terms of moral behavior and Bible study. If your experience of Christianity was in a Pentecostal church, you may think of Christianity as wild and crazy, where emotions and the supernatural are top priority. Whatever your experience may have been, that is what you associate with “Christianity.” For you, that IS Christianity.

So when you invite a former Christian to rekindle their former Christian faith, they will naturally think you are trying to convert them back to the same church experience they had in the past. And for many people, it was their church experience that caused them to leave the faith. Why on earth would they ever want to go back?!

That’s why it’s a good idea to ask them about their church experience. What was their church community like? What did they believe? What were their negative experiences? It’s also good to ask them what they think Christianity is all about. In my experience, most people’s understanding of Christianity is very thin, if not warped. Once you know more about their view and experience of Christianity, the better you will be able to share with them the true gospel. Once they see the difference between what they came from and what you are inviting them to, they might be willing to give Christianity – the real Christianity – another shot.

When it comes to contentious issues, we rarely have genuine conversations regarding them. Most “conversations” are just opportunities for each person to express their own point of view. Neither person does much listening to the other, and neither expects to learn anything from the exchange. Their only goal is to declare their point of view, and perhaps convince the other person in the process.

This is not a good approach. We should come to every conversion believing that the other person has something to offer. We should be listening, not just making points. After all, we could be wrong in what we believe, wrong about particular facts, etc. Our “opponent” may actually have insights that we could benefit from, so we should be open and ready to be corrected if necessary.

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When we hear something that fits with what we already believe, we are apt to adopt it without much reflection or critical thinking. Instead, we should be asking ourselves what the opposition might say regarding the information. We should subject our beliefs to critique – critiquing them as though we want to prove them false. This will help us to see how solid the evidence actually is and avoid confirmation bias.

Sometimes we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Let me give you two examples where Christians cannot seem to win with non-Christians.

Non-Christians will often complain that Christians are hypocrites, by which they mean we do not live up to our own moral codes. While we say people should do X, we ourselves fail to do X. And yet, these same people will complain when one Christian calls out another Christian for their immoral behavior. Now the complaint is “you shouldn’t judge” (not recognizing that they themselves are making a judgement when they say “you should not judge” – and thus being hypocritical themselves – and that they make a judgment when they say Christians are hypocrites). So let me get this straight. Christians are damned if they fail to live up to their own moral standards, and they are damned if they try to encourage each other to live up to their own moral standards. Can we win?

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We’re living in a time when people tend to isolate themselves intellectually. Not only do they not take it upon themselves to search out viewpoints that differ from their own, but they actually shun people who do not agree with them. We see this all the time on social media. You post something that person X does not agree with. Rather than reading what you have to say and starting a dialogue regarding your differences in hopes of helping each other discover the truth, person X ignores the post, or worse yet, unfriends you.

This sort of behavior is consistent with our cancel culture, but frankly, it is childish and foolish. I use these words advisedly, not as a smear. This is childish because only children plug their ears when they don’t want to hear what you have to say, not sensible adults, and thus when adults engage in this kind of behavior they are literally acting childish. This is foolish because this sort of behavior makes it impossible for one to grow intellectually. Everyone has false beliefs. The only way to discover which of our beliefs are false and correct those beliefs is to be open to listening to alternative viewpoints. If we ignore alternative viewpoints and shun those who hold to them, we stunt this process, guaranteeing that we will not grow in our knowledge of truth and wisdom.

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Personal experience is valuable and powerful, but it is of little value for determining the truth or what reality is like for other people. Personal experience is anecdotal in nature. We may know what we experienced, but how could we know that others have experienced the same? Even if we found three people who shared our experience, at best, we could conclude that four people have experienced what we have. We can’t simply extrapolate from our experience that everyone else has the same experience/perspective as we do. We can’t just assume that our experience is representative of other people’s experiences.

To know how widespread and representative our experience/perspective is, we need more than anecdotal data – we need hard data. Polling and statistics serve this purpose. They seek to determine how common certain experiences and perspectives are in the general population. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that my experience was common, only to find out from polling data that it isn’t; or how many times I have believed some X to be uncommon in society, only to find out that it was quite common (or vice-versa).

We should not place our personal experience above the facts when determining the truth. Personal experience is a factor, but it’s just one factor. If my personal experience leads me to believe that X is true, but the data shows that X is not true, then I need to correct my perception. My experience is still my experience, but I need to recognize that my experience is not necessarily the norm and should not be used to color my perception of reality. Perceptions should be based on facts, not anecdotal experiences.

P.S. As a public service announcement, for the sake of all mankind, please don’t use the phrase “lived experience.” Adding “lived” before “experience” adds no additional meaningful. It’s like saying “sufficient enough.” Every experience is a lived experience because the dead do not have experiences. ‘Nuf said.

Some claim that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure – just the removal of some tissue from a woman’s uterus – and thus no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. However, I’ve never known anyone who experienced angst when contemplating the decision to remove a tooth. They’ve never talked about how difficult the decision was for them, or wondered whether it was the morally right thing to do. They never experience depression after the procedure, and none of them have ever claimed that it was their biggest regret.

Clearly, there is a moral difference between abortion and other medical procedures, and everyone knows it. Abortion doesn’t remove tissue from a woman’s body – it kills an innocent human being who is developing in a woman’s body. That’s why people struggle with the decision. They understand the moral weight involved.

Abortion is a very simple issue, morally speaking. We should not kill innocent human beings. Abortion kills innocent human beings. Therefore, abortion is wrong. We can do better. Let’s protect the most vulnerable human beings among us. Let’s be pro-life.

 

All of us would like to have certainty regarding knowledge, and yet, certainty is rarely afforded to us. Most of what we believe to be true, we believe on the basis of probabilities. Unfortunately, many people, being too desirous of certainty, are led in one of two bad directions: skepticism, dogmatism.

An inordinate desire for certainty leads some down the skeptics’ road, always doubting everything and never willing to make a knowledge claim that falls short of certainty (or something very close). For others, their desire for certainty leads them down the road of dogmatism, closed-mindedness, and intellectual dishonesty. In their quest for certainty, they are unwilling to entertain any ideas that would call their current beliefs into question. They respond vehemently against anyone who holds to a view contrary to their own. They argue, not to discover truth, but to defend their dogmatic certainty.

While the desire for certainty is understandable, we cannot allow it to lead us in either of these directions. We must be willing to take a position based on the evidence we have, while recognizing that we could be mistaken. We also need to be willing to consider other evidence and other points of view, and be willing to change our opinions if the evidence warrants it. In many cases, we should be less dogmatic, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our view. For example, I hold to Premillennialism, but I’m not anywhere near certain that it’s true. As a percentage, I’m only ~65% convinced that it is true. That’s enough for me to claim it as my view, but not enough for me to be dogmatic about it. While I would love to have certainty regarding all of my beliefs, certainty is rarely afforded to us. In light of that, we need to do our best to form our opinions based on the evidence available to us, but always be open to revising our opinions if the evidence warrants it.

A hypocrite is not one who fails to live up to his own ideals, but one who falsely proclaims to have such ideals in the first place.

 

See also “I’m not a Christian because there are too many hypocrites in the church

If humans have value, then abortion must be immoral. Here’s why:

Value is either intrinsic (part of the nature of the thing itself) or extrinsic (conferred on a thing by an external source). If value is intrinsic to human beings, then humans are valuable the moment they come into existence. Since it is a scientific fact that human beings come into being at conception, then unborn humans have the same value that you and I have from the moment of their conception. As such, it would be just as immoral to kill an unborn human as it is a born human. So if you believe humans have intrinsic value, then you should be opposed to abortion.

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“Abortion” is a euphemism. “Abort” means to stop. What are we stopping? The life of a human being. If I kill my neighbor, we would say I murdered him. So why do we have a different term to describe the killing of unborn human beings? It’s simply to disguise what we are doing. Abortion could rightly be called preborn murder, fetal murder, embryonic murder, etc., but it is murder and we should call it such.

The euphemisms for preborn murder don’t stop at “abortion.” The list of euphemisms also includes “choice,” “women’s health,” “reproductive freedom,” etc. Abortion is not about choice, health, or reproductive freedom. Abortion is about the killing of a preborn human being because it is convenient for us to do so.

Abortion is the greatest moral atrocity of our day. One day, future generations will be just as shocked to hear that abortion was legal in this country as we are shocked today to hear that slavery was once legal in this country.

In the abortion debate, pro-choice advocates often argue that no one should have the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. I agree. No one has that right. But this is a red herring because pro-life advocates are not telling women what to do with their own bodies, but rather what to do with someone else’s body.

While an abortion takes place within a woman’s body, the act of abortion is targeted toward the body of a separate human being. The goal of abortion is to end the life of that human being – often by cutting his/her body into pieces. Since it is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being, the act of abortion is morally evil.

The bodily autonomy argument makes as much sense as saying “You don’t have a right to tell me not to murder someone.” All homicide laws aim to take away our right to murder another person. Pro-life advocates are merely applying this same logic to abortion since the object of the abortion is also a human being.

The pro-life argument in a nutshell: It is a scientific fact that a new human being comes into existence at fertilization. It is a moral fact that it is wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. Abortion intentionally takes the life of an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong.

Here’s a question to ponder: How many of the positions that you subscribe to today related to theology, economics, politics, etc., do you subscribe to because you researched the competing perspectives, weighed the merits and demerits of each, and then adopted the best position? If you are a typical human being, chances are that the number is very small. Most of the positions we subscribe to we simply inherit from our family or community, unquestioned. When we do question those positions, we often seek out evidence to shore up what we already believe rather than seeking evidence both for and against our position.  Given this proclivity of human nature, and given the multiplicity of positions, there’s a high probability that we are mistaken in a number of positions we subscribe to.  After all, it would be highly unlikely that one just happened to be born into a family/community who just so happened to subscribe to all of the right positions in theology, politics, economics, and the like.

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Archaeologist Eilat Mazar has made another discovery confirming the Biblical record. A portion of the remnants of ancient walls that once surrounded Jerusalem were previously dated to the Hasmonean period (2nd century B.C.), but new evidence discovered by Dr. Mazar has led her to re-date the wall to the mid 5th century B.C. and identify it as a portion of the wall that Nehemiah built to protect the Jews who returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon.

Theists argue that God is the best explanation for objective moral truths.  Atheists typically appeal to the Euthyphro Dilemma (ED) to show that God cannot be the foundation for morality.  The ED asks whether something is good only because God wills it as such, or if God wills something because it is good.  If something is good only because God considers it good, then goodness seems arbitrary and relative to God’s desires.  If He had so chosen, murder could have been right and truth-telling could have been wrong. On the other hand, if God wills the good because it is inherently good, then goodness would be a standard that exists outside of God.  He is subject to the moral law just as we are.

So either goodness is arbitrary or it is independent of God.  Either God arbitrarily declares what is good or He recognizes what is good based on some standard outside of Himself.  If the good is an arbitrary expression of God’s will, then the good is subjective rather than objective.  While God may serve as the foundation for His subjective morality, He cannot serve as the foundation for objective moral truths.  On the other hand, if God wills something because He recognizes it is objectively good, then something other than God is the standard of objective moral truths.  He may inform us of those moral truths, but they do not depend on God for their existence.

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When something bad happens, it’s common for people to offer the encouragement that “everything happens for a reason.”  Is it really true, however, that everything that happens, happens for a reason?  To answer that question we need to explore what we mean by “everything,” “for” and “reason.”

Let’s start with “reason.”  What do we mean when we say something happens for a reason?  It means there is some intelligible and discernible relationship between two events, and that this relationship was purposed by an intelligent agent.  For example, the reason I give money to the checker at the grocery store is because I want to buy food.  There is a rationality to my action that links the events of giving money and receiving food.  One is done for the reason of the other.  In a similar manner, there is a discernible and intelligible relationship between bad and good events in our lives that was purposed by God.

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The resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith, but why does it matter?  Why think of it as just another of many miraculous/supernatural events?  Why not see it as a mere historical oddity?  Why does it matter so much to Christianity?  What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?

Here are just a few reasons it is significant:

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