Apologetics

Intellectual and Moral Cowardice

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I purchased a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion* the other day. I teach an apologetics class at my church and wanted to actually read what one of the so-called “Four Horseman of New Atheism” had to say on the matter. My wife was horrified when I opened the package and held the tome aloft—she accused me of enriching a godless heretic who seems content to remain on a path leading inevitably to the fires of hell. I supposed she had a point, so I retreated to pragmaticism—how can I know what the man says unless I buy the book? My wife reluctantly agreed but was still suspicious, and ordered me to banish the text to a distant bookshelf, far from the reaches of our children.

Reading the first few chapters, I stumbled across a disturbing passage written by a well-meaning but ill-informed Christian to Albert Einstein. The missive was a response to a paper Einstein wrote in 1940 about why he did not believe in God. Dawkins evidenced contempt and scorn for this little letter, and I must agree he is justified in doing so. Here it is:

We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith, not knowledge. Every thinking person, perhaps, is assailed at times with religious doubt. My own faith has wavered many a time. But I never told anyone of my spiritual aberrations for two reasons: (1) I feared that I might, by mere suggestion, disturb and damage the life and hopes of some fellow being; (2) because I agree with the writer who said, “There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another’s faith.”…I hope, Dr Einstein, that you were misquoted and that you will yet say something more pleasing to the vast number of the American people who delight to do you honor. (38)

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Book Review - 7 Truths that Changed the World

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As a pastor of a church plant with many new Christians, I found 7 Truths that Changed the World by Kenneth Richard Samples, to be a great foundation for a sermon series on the simple foundational truths of Christianity. The author does a great job of taking very complex subjects and making them palatable for the common reader like me. The book is not overbearing with the amount of information, nor is it too weak in defending the truth. It is a perfect balance between the academic and practical.

The book is built around the seven truths, with a section devoted to each of them.  Samples articulates and defends the specific truth and also explains the positions of other prominent worldviews.   This review will focus on a brief summary of the author’s explanation and defense of each of the seven truths.

Dangerous Idea #1: Not All Dead Men Stay Dead

The hope of Easter is defended quite well by Mr. Samples.  Samples deals with the following seven historical facts: the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, the short time frame between actual events and eyewitness claims, the extraordinary transformation of the apostles, the greatest conversion in history, the emergence of the historic Christian church and the emergence of Sunday as a day of worship. Each of these points are summarized and a fundamental defense of the resurrection of Christ is advanced.  Read more about Book Review - 7 Truths that Changed the World

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Book Review - Come, Let Us Reason

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Image of Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics
by
B&H Academic 2012
Paperback 336

Since the first century, the church has been involved in one way or another in the ministry of apologetics. Within the last few decades, as atheists have seemed to ramp up their religious efforts to discredit and eradicate the belief in God and Christianity more specifically, Christians have ramped up their apologetical focus with matching intensity.

Among the many contemporary apologists Paul Copan, current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and William Lane Craig, perhaps the most well-known and active Christian apologist and debater, have teamed up to edit a series of books that seek to address many of the contemporary issues within Christian apologetics. Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Christian Apologetics and Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors were the precursors to the third book in the series Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. All three books are edited by Copan and Craig and include a host of different contributors.

As its subtitle indicates this book is a collection of a variety of essays (sixteen in all). The essays focus on the following five areas: 1) apologetics, culture, and the kingdom of God 2) the God question, 3) the historical Jesus and New Testament reliability, 4) Ancient Israel and other [ANE] religions, and 5) Christian uniqueness and other religions (such as Islam). Since there is no one theme that is developed throughout the book this review will provide some general thoughts on the book overall with some comments on specific chapters. Read more about Book Review - Come, Let Us Reason

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Book Review - The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

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While there may be disagreement over the fullest understanding of Scripture’s term “the people of God,” there is no disagreement that at minimum it includes the people of Israel as an ethnic group. This is certainly how Joseph would have understood the words of the angel of the Lord when he said, “She will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21, ESV).” But as the Gospels and subsequent history reveal, the people of Israel have largely rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior from their sins (as well as others).

With a desire to provide a robust, thorough and evangelistic tool to aid in the evangelism of the Jewish people, Chosen People Ministries leader Mitch Glaser has teamed up with Darrell Bock and a solid line up of evangelical scholars to produce The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology. As Glaser states, “This book was written to help readers to utilize the truths of this magnificent chapter in bringing the Good News to those who do not yet know Jesus,” with a desire to “deepen their understanding of Isaiah 53 and to better equip the saints for ministry among the Jewish people” (p. 21). Read more about Book Review - The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

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Book Review - Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?

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Do historical matters matter to faith? This is an intriguing question. Though the answer may seem obvious to many it is not so to others. To many evangelical Christians, Scripture, among many things, is an historical book that gives us a window into a time gone by in world history. There are events, places and people it gives an account of that only it gives us an account of. To those who would answer “no” to the beginning question, these historical discrepancies leave them questioning the historical accuracy of the text and sometimes abandoning it all together. For those who answer “yes,” they either have to say Scripture is plain wrong as a historically reliable witness to these things, or they must argue that it is the only record we have of them and should be trusted as much as any other historical text that stands as a single witness to the past. What are Bible believing Christians to make of this?

Background

For decades, this discussion has been raging but it seems to have picked up steam more recently with the work, among others, of Kenton Sparks and his book God’s Word in Human Words. In short, Sparks calls into question the inerrancy of Scripture in regards to its historical reliability. To Sparks, Scripture is no less authoritative in its theological assertions and worldview even if the historical references it makes are tied to those theological assertions. To many evangelical Christians who hold to the traditional understanding of Scripture’s authority and inerrancy, this is problematic. Read more about Book Review - Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?

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Book Review - Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Christian Faith

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Image of Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith
by Douglas Groothuis
IVP Academic 2011
Hardcover 752

It is probably not a stretch to say that the task of Christian apologetics has been necessary since the Fall. Fallen man rejects God and in his rejection casts doubt on the validity of Christianity. If you need evidence for this then just pick up any recently published book from the “new atheists” (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris). If reading any one of these authors does not impress upon you the necessity of apologetics then not much will.

Throughout the history of apologeitcs, and more so within the last 50 years, there have been many formidable Christian apologists. These defenders of the Christian faith have serviced the church and any inquiring unsaved minds with many written apologetic works. Many of these works deal with single issues within the field of apologetics such as methodology, defending its importance or necessity, dealing with specific issues like the resurrection of Christ or the five theistic arguments from natural theology, addressing and answering Old and New testament issues and a host of other related subjects.

Douglas Groothuis is a long time Christian apologist, author and professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and Metropolitan State College of Denver. He has recently written a new book on Christian apologetics titled Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Groothuis does something that few if any other apologetic works have ever done. As the subtitle indicates, Groothuis has written a truly comprehensive book on apologetics, weighing in at 730 plus pages. Granted, given the vast field of apologetics, what is covered in this book is not exhaustive nor is it intended to be. However, Groothuis has provided us with a magnificent introductory work on Christian apologetics that will serve the laymen, pastor and student alike. Christian Apologetics is a go-to guide for not only the beginning student of apologetics but the more seasoned apologists among us. Read more about Book Review - Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Christian Faith

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