Apologetics

Book Review - Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists

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Image of Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
by Sean McDowell, Jonathan Morrow
Kregel Publications 2010
Paperback 304

Is atheism making a comeback? Authors Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow say it is and seek to respond to this very vocal movement in their new book, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists. Recent books by contemporary atheists include titles like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. The recent proliferation of these books speaks to the reality that atheism is back—with a vengeance. These four vocal atheists have been duly named “The Four Horseman” by Al Mohler.

To say that atheism is back is somewhat inaccurate: atheism has been around since the fall (Gen. 3). Throughout history there have been moments of intense effort by atheists to undermine or overthrow Christianity. This is one of those intense moments. There is no denying that these New Atheists are making a public scene in their quest to rid the world of religions— especially Christianity. Read more about Book Review - Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists

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Book Review - Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader

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First Peter 3:15 states, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Apologetics is the formal study of how we are to “give an answer.”

William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, professors of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, have done a great service to the Church in compiling a collection of writings from the New Testament era to AD 1500. This collection shows how writers from different eras, facing different challenges, have sought to defend the faith.

The volume here reviewed is the first of what originally was to be a two-volume set, and has 486 pages plus an 11-page index. In communications with someone working on volume two, I learned that the volume had grown to over 1,000 pages, and there is a possibility they will split the material from AD 1500 to the present into two volumes. If the second volume is of the same quality as the first, I hope that no material will be deleted in an attempt to limit the series to two volumes.

Making an anthology is like carving a statue. The editors, like the sculptor, must make many decisions regarding what to include and what to chisel away. In my judgment, Edgar and Oliphint have made very good—and in one case surprisingly good—selections from the material available. This book provides an excellent introduction to how believers have fought for the faith against pagans and atheists as well as against heretics and false religions.

The book begins with an excellent introduction to the overall project, providing both a short review of the state of apologetics today and the criteria for making the selections included. The editors state, “The twentieth century saw both significant development in apologetics and a measure of decline.” (p. 1) They cite the “onslaught of the Enlightenment, followed by Romanticism” (p. 2) as making both reason and faith independent of Scripture, calling for a need to develop new ways to explain our hope to the world around us. In our day, when many now associate taking religion seriously with violence, there are new challenges as well. Read more about Book Review - Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader

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Apologetic Methods: What Are They and Can't We Agree?

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Reprinted with permission from Paraklesis (Spring, 2009) courtesy of Baptist Bible College

As Christians today, we face a daunting task. More than ever the people who surround us follow the gods of other religions, materialism and secularism, or the Christian God only nominally. The task of making a case for Christ is greater than ever.

But when we turn to books on defending the faith we wonder at all the disagreement. How can believers who agree on so much doctrine disagree so vehemently over apologetics? We in the ministry have to understand the issues ourselves so we can help our people interact with apologetic writings and defend their Christian faith. If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will certainly be a fog in the pews.

Defining Apologetics

Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. But how should we do it? Should we go positive or negative? Negative apologetics refutes charges against our faith, while positive apologetics makes a case for our faith. Should we be hard or soft? Can we prove our case for the faith (hard), or only show it probable (soft)? Consequently, can a person rationally reject Christ (soft), or is he being irrational (hard)? Is apologetics simply evangelism, or can it include “pre-evangelism”—removing obstacles and preparing the way for the gospel? Is apologetics just for unbelievers, or also helpful for believers?

These are a few areas of debate among apologists. If we don’t understand these issues we’ll be lost when we try to interact with books on apologetics. A recent book examines five apologetic strategies (Steven B .Cowan, ed., Five Views on Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), but we can put them in two broad camps: evidentialism and presuppositionalism. Read more about Apologetic Methods: What Are They and Can't We Agree?

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An Interview with Dr. John C. Whitcomb

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On Saturday, November 21, I attended what is something of a rarity these days—a prophecy conference. Dr. John Whitcomb spoke from the book of Daniel, focusing on the prophetic visions of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel himself. I was there because I wanted to interview Dr. Whitcomb and the conference location was just a few hours from where I live. So the event itself wasn’t the main draw. Like many these days, my attitude toward a prophecy conference tilted noticeably in the “been there, done that” direction.

But I’m delighted to have been there for the conference and to have the opportunity to commend Dr. Whitcomb’s ministry. Even if you are firmly committed to a non-dispensational approach to Scripture or non-premillennial eschatology, I strongly recommend that you go out of your way to hear Dr. Whitcomb speak from the book of Daniel. If you do, you’ll probably discover for yourself what I did.

1. A prophecy conference does not need to be a cold, intellectual excercise in analysis of chronological details. Dr. Whitcomb’s love for—and walk with—the God behind the prophecies carries more weight than his analysis of the prophetic data. His talk is peppered with spontaneous prayers along the lines of, “And I say thank you, Lord, for Your great wisdom.” At first, Dr. Whitcomb was so frequently moving in and out of prayer I had difficulty deciding when I should bow my head. After a while, I realized this man prays without ceasing and gave up.

2. A prophecy conference does not need to be a fever-pitched survey of recent news bites and how they all suggest Jesus is going to return “very soon!!” Dr. Whitcomb’s work is expositional. Granted, many believe the dispensational assumptions that inform the exposition are deeply flawed—and yes, there are charts—but it’s impossible to miss the fact that Dr. Whitcomb devotes nearly all of his presentation time to reading, comparing and explaining biblical texts. Anyone who listens with an open mind sees that the charts do not interpret the texts, but rather the texts build the charts.

3. Regardless of the details, the great themes of prophecy are potent stimuli for the believer’s heart: the vanity of the kingdoms of this world, the infinite and often inscrutible wisdom of God’s sovereign plans for the world (and each individual), the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom despite the worst Satan and his cosmos employ against them. Read more about An Interview with Dr. John C. Whitcomb

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All You Need is Love, but...

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Article first appeared on SI November 20, 2006

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
-Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 22:37–39, KJV)

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
-The Beatles (“All You Need Is Love”) 1

Were John, Paul, George, and Ringo, 1900 years after Jesus of Nazareth, reiterating His message to a new generation? Is this similarity evidence that the same basic message underlies all world religions and worldviews? That after we strip away all the external, all the ceremonial, all the legal, all the theological and metaphysical considerations, every religion pursues the same basic values, usually including “love”?

That all religions are basically the same is an idea held both by the man on the street and in the halls of academia. Consider what Paul Tillich wrote:

In the depth of every living religion there is a point at which the religion itself loses its importance, a point at which it breaks through its particularity, elevating it to spiritual freedom and with it to a vision of the spiritual presence in other expressions as the ultimate meaning of man’s existence.2

Eavesdrop on an ecumenical gathering or an international peace talk, and you’ll hear the participants competing for the most-flowery-love-peace-mutual-respect-talk award. In the end, it all sounds very much alike. But even if it could be shown that every world religion includes a basic imperative to love, are they somehow more alike to each other for it? Hardly. The idea that the closer one approaches the center of a religion, the more general and universal it becomes, is undiluted hogwash, the antithesis of the truth. The closer one approaches the center of a religion, the more particular and specific it becomes.

So what about the particulars of love in Christianity? What does Christianity say about love that other world religions simply cannot say? Would John, Paul, George, and Ringo, still sing the same song if the Bible defined “love”? Read more about All You Need is Love, but...

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