Northwestern Theological Seminary Course Assignment #1 Summary, Interpretation and Conclusion Introduction to Apologetics as presented by Dr. Bert Thompson October 29, 2010
Northwestern Theological Seminary Course Assignment #1 Summary Introduction to Apologetics as presented by Dr. Bert Thompson
Dr. Thompson opens his dissertation with an explanation of ―free will‖ and our ―freedom of choice‖ that God has bestowed upon the human race.
As author Peter Ward states in his paper, Freedom of Choice, ―All of life is a choice. Every day we choose between tea and coffee, we choose whether to get up or stay in bed, we choose whether to read the newspaper or watch television. In our democratic countries we even have to choose our elected representatives in government. We constantly make choices. We should be thankful that we have this incredible freedom of choice.‖
The positive Word of God has much to say about our ability to choose. The tremendous power available to us specifically to make choices relative to our lives in beyond comprehension at times. We have the freedom as individuals to determine where our life is going and how we can make it productive for God’s glory. My question, often times is ―why would God do this?‖ It is my belief that Dr. Thompson give us an excellent explanation, using several passages and quotes, of the fact that God gave us this freedom and it is a very powerful introduction to Apologetics.
... to choose- we, human. Can decide what we will do in this life- follow the ways of God- or sin? We have freedom. And ... here is the question of this essay: GOD- FREEDOM OR SALVERY ... receive a meaning for lives- not because he wants to: Conclusion: The question of this essay is: GOD- FREEDOM OR SALVERY? My conclusion ...
One of the basic distinctions of the Christian message is that individuals are not robots in the hands of an omnipotent Dictator; we are not pawns upon the chessboard of life. We always have the freedom of choice.
Even in Old Testament times, He reminds His special people, for whom He has already done so much, that they still had a choice. The theological term for this is “free will”. Every person has free will; God has to encourage us to exercise our will to follow His will for us. Perhaps you have seen those signs in the boss’s office, “Be reasonable, do it my way!” That is what God is saying. The nation was being asked to think logically of the end result of choosing either a dead god and worshipping an image of some kind, or choosing the care, love and attention of a living God.
In Proverbs is a verse that is often seen on illuminated plaques in the homes of Christians. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).
Our part is to acknowledge Him; His part is to give direction. The Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the Greek translation, renders it this way, “He shall rightly divide your paths.” The word picture is that of a traveller coming to an unknown fork in the road, and he has to make a choice.
When you acknowledge the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as our God, “in all your ways”, then He will tell you which fork to take, either to the left or the right. It is again a question of choice, but here we have the promise of God’s specific direction for our lives.
If you will look to God first in your thinking, if you will consult Him before you consult your bank manager or your stockbroker or your lawyer, He will direct your path, telling you which fork of the road you should take.
There is always a choice. The freedom of choice is a tremendous power. In all of life’s situations I can make a choice. “Do I choose to experience peace of mind, or do I choose to experience conflict? Do I choose to experience love or fear? Do I choose to be a love-finder or a fault-finder? Do I choose to be a love-giver or a love-taker?” We always have a choice. When life gets difficult, say to yourself, “I could choose peace instead of this.”
Most rational, reasonable people would agree that actions have consequences. If a man commits a crime, is pursued and apprehended by law enforcement officers, tried by a jury of his peers, and sentenced to life in the penitentiary or death in the electric chair, who is responsible? When an individual decides to act, is it not true that ultimately the consequences of those actions fall squarely on his or her shoulders? Indeed, actions do have consequences.
... investigated. Through the sampling of different substance in the choice chambers, it was found that the flies found ... to use two bottles to allow the flies to choose which side they want to go to, depending ... The fruit fly preference can translate to a real life product by, for say in a restaurant they ... How might fruit fly preference translate to a real life product? This lab can be applied to the real ...
But so do beliefs and ideas. Dr. Thompson reviews, in his dissertation, the various beliefs and ideas that are available to every human. Is that not one reason why the spoken word is so powerful. The ability to elucidate an idea via a speech, lecture, or other oral presentation can produce astonishing consequences.
Think, for example, of the late president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who inspired Americans with his ―Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country‖ inaugural speech. On the heels of his idea, presented so eloquently by a dashing, young, newly elected, and extremely popular president, volunteerism in American grew at an unprecedented rate. Or, reflect upon another presentation in our nation‘s capital by the late, slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. The moving oratory in his ―I have a dream‖ speech captured the attention of an entire nation, and culminated in legislation aimed at protecting the rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnic background, skin color, or religious beliefs.
Dr. Thompson, in Chapter 3, summarizes Apologetics in various ways including, but not limited to, Parents and Upbringing, Education, Pride Immorality Scientific Materialism and Intellectual Intimidation. All these have one thing in common and that is there is a theme of logic throughout. Logic is typically very important in apologetics. To defend the faith, the Christian must use truth, facts, and reason appropriately and prayerfully. The Christian should listen to objections and make cogent and rational comments in direct response to the issues raised. Logic is simply a tool in the arsenal of Christian apologetics. Logic is a system of reasoning. It is the principle of proper thinking used to arrive at correct conclusions.
Of course, some people are better at thinking logically than others, and there is no guarantee that using logic to the best of one’s ability will bring about the conversion of anyone. After all, logic is not what saves a person. Jesus does that, and we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).
... act like I do not believe in God, will that belief also manifest? This logic reduces your belief to a mere product of habit ... his mind while at the same time holding to the belief that God exists, does that person stand a better chance at ... criteria put forth by Pascal that a sincere decision about belief in God would be impossible. By sincere decision I mean a ...
Therefore, the proper use of logic in apologetics is to remove intellectual barriers that hinder a person from accepting Jesus as Savior. Logic is not to be looked at as the answer to every problem facing Christianity nor every objection raised against it. Logic has its limits. It cannot guarantee wisdom. It cannot prove or disprove inspiration or love. It cannot replace the intuition gained through experience, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, nor the clear truth of God’s word. Nevertheless, logic is still very valuable and can be quite powerfully used by people, both saved and unsaved. Dr. Thompson seems to have accomplished what he set out to do and that is to publish a sound, discerning and logical dissertation defending Christianity.
1. 2. 3. 4.
www.peterward.com www.apologetics.org www.cslewis.org www.leestrobel.com
Northwestern Theological Seminary Course Assignment #1 Interpretation Introduction to Apologetics as presented by Dr. Bert Thompson
Dr. Thompson begins his dissertation with a thorough review of the differing beliefs in the world today. He uses an excellent analogy of ―Atheist‘s sitting on the godless side of the religious fence.‖ His use of Bruce Lockerbies‘ ―Dismissing God‖ is good use of the word ―evidence.‖ I would add the following to that evidence. Atheist positions seem to fall into two main categories. The first is the lack-ofevidence category where the atheist asserts that the supporting evidence isn’t good enough for him to affirm God’s existence. The second is the category where the atheist believes that the idea of God’s existence is illogical and contrary to the evidence at hand. To simplify, one position says there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that God exists, and the other position says the evidence is contrary to God’s existence. For those atheists who simply lack belief and exercise no energy in the discussion, neither category applies because they are not involved in the debate. But, some of those who claim to lack belief in God are often involved in discussions where they are arguing against God’s existence. A typical argument posed by an atheist to show why God does not exist is as follows: God is supposed to be all good and all powerful. Evil and suffering exist in the world. If God is all good he would not want evil and suffering to exist. If He is all powerful then He is able to remove all evil and suffering.
... reason, agnosticism may be seen as non-commitment to religious beliefs. Atheist reject all knowledge which is not scientifically proven. To the atheist, belief in ... , he says God’s existence is a logical impossibility in this universe. Atheists view science as the truth. The lack of prove in ...
Since evil and suffering exist, God is either not all good (which means he is not perfect and not God), or he is not all powerful (and limited in abilities and scope).
Since either case shows God is not all good and powerful, then He does not exist. Of course, the problem is that the criticism is a false dichotomy. In other words, there are more than two possibilities; namely, God might have a reason for allowing evil and suffering; man’s freedom might require the allowance of evil and suffering, etc. Presuppositions are important to us all. We look at the world through them. The atheist has a set of presuppositions, too. As I said, there is no definitive atheist organization that defines the absolutes of atheism, but there are basic principles that atheists, as a whole, tend to adopt. I’ve tried to list some of them below. Pease note, however, that not all atheists accept all of these tenets. The only absolute common one to which they hold is that they do not believe in a God or gods. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. There is no God or devil. There is no supernatural realm. Miracles cannot occur. There is no such thing as sin as a violation of God’s will. Generally, the universe is materialistic and measurable. Man is material. Generally, evolution is considered a scientific fact. Ethics and morals are relative.
For the Christian, atheism clashes with many aspects of our faith. Some atheists openly attack Christianity, citing apparent contradictions in the Bible, perceived philosophical difficulties related to God, and what they consider as logical evidences against God’s existence. The statement “I lack belief in a god” is a common position of atheists. In discussions with them, they tell me they lack belief in God the way they lack belief in invisible pink unicorns. In other words, they have no position, take no intellectual action, and have no belief or unbelief on the matter concerning God. To them it is a non-issue. Though this may sound sensible to some, the problem is that once you are introduced to an idea, you cannot stay neutral about it. You invariably make a judgment about an idea once it has been introduced to you. You can brush it off as ridiculous, ponder its possibility, accept it, reject it, or do something in between. But you cannot return to a lack of belief position, if lack of belief is defined as a non-intellectual commitment or non-action concerning belief. Though I admit that an atheist can claim he lacks belief even after being exposed to an idea and contemplating its rationality, I still assert that a position of some sort is required.
... much of a contradiction to think of God, a supremely perfect being, lacking existence, or lacking perfection, as to think of a mountain ... opposite beliefs that I have originally believe in. In school and in ... , wiser, and take philosophy classes, I have heard about different beliefs that could of possibly persuaded me to lean towards the ...
Let’s pick a baby that has no awareness of the concept of invisible pink unicorns. Later in life, when the baby is mature and is introduced to the concept, he accepts the existence of invisible pink unicorns, rejects them as a ridiculous notion, chuckles about it and dismisses it, becomes unsure about them, holds off judgment until later, etc. Either way, he develops a position on the concept of invisible pink unicorns. He has to do something with the concept once he’s been exposed to it. He doesn’t continue in a lack-of-belief or lack-of-awareness state of mind because the fact is, some sort of intellectual action must occur regarding it. He cannot become unaffected by the concept. Nevertheless, some might say that to hold off judgment until later is to be “atheistic” concerning pink unicorns, and therefore support the atheist position of “lack of belief.” But as I said earlier, after being exposed to a concept, a decision is made about that concept even if it is to withhold judgment. In other words, a position is taken. This is not the same as going back to a state of unawareness. To suspend belief on a subject is to hold off judgment until more information is acquired. This is agnosticism, not atheism. It is an admission that not all information is acquired, thus logically requiring the possibility of the existence of the thing being considered. This is something atheists do not do by definition; rather, agnostics do this. Agnosticism is the position, in part, that “suspension of belief” is maintained until further information is acquired.
If I said there was an ice cream factory on Jupiter, what would you think? Would you entertain the idea as a serious possibility? Would you quickly dismiss it as an outlandish absurdity? Would you request evidence for it? Or, did you suddenly have a desire to go to Jupiter for some Jupiterian Swirl? Of course, an ice-cream factory on Jupiter is ridiculous, and we automatically know this so we naturally make a judgment on it. Thus, we cannot remain in a state of lack of belief concerning the concept once we’ve been introduced to it. We assign it to the that-is-ridiculous category. This is why the “lack of belief” defense we hear from atheists is not logical. It ignores the reality that people categorize concepts anywhere in the range of total acceptance to total rejection. It is our nature to do this. We do nothing with information. In my opinion, lack of belief is really an attempt by atheists to avoid facing and defending the problems in their atheistic position. You see, if they say they have no position by saying they lack belief, then their position is not open to attack and examination, and they can quietly remain atheists. The problem for atheists, however, is that atheism is coming under more serious attack by Christians and others who recognize its problems and are exposing them. Without a doubt, there are far more people in the world who believe in God (or a god) than don’t, and more and more Christians are tackling atheism as an untenable position.
... this single verse frames the core fundamental principals of the Christian faith, and provides the practical path for our lives. Non-physical ... the absence of an individual presence and personal connection to God through faith, how could anyone expect to be capable or willing ... both heavenly and earthly love. Through His written word and through His son, God explicitly teaches us that love and joy are ...
If the majority believe, that doesn’t make it right; but the increase in examination of atheism has made it more difficult for atheists to defend their position. This also explains why atheists, it seems, are becoming more aggressive in their attacks on theism in its different forms. There is an intellectual battle being waged, and both defensive and offensive measures are being taken on both sides. In the end, the truth will be known and atheism will become extinct. Dr. Thompson continues with a basic introduction to Agnosticism using British scientist, Thomas Henry Huxley, who developed the word ―agnostic,‖ as his model. To me, Agnosticism is a philosophical position that the existence of God is not knowable. The word ―agnosticism‖ comes from the Greek ‗a‘ meaning without and ‗gnosis‘ meaning knowledge. It literally means “without knowledge,” but is usually applied to the topic of God. Agnosticism is really a subdivision of atheism, and Dr. Thompson does an admirable job of pointing this out in his dissertation. Since atheism denies the existence of God, agnosticism does the same thing by not affirming God’s existence. Weak agnosticism says that God is simply not known if he exists at all. Strong agnosticism says that God cannot be known. According to Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, agnosticism, more specifically strong agnosticism, is reasoning that limits and contradicts itself in claiming the power of reason to know scientific truth, but not religious or philosophical truths.
He blames the exclusion of reasoning from religion and ethics for the dangerous pathologies of religion and science such as human and ecological disasters. ―Agnosticism,‖ said Ratzinger, ―is always the fruit of a refusal of that knowledge which is in fact offered to man the knowledge of God has always existed.‖ He asserted that agnosticism is a choice of comfort, pride, dominion, and utility over truth, and is opposed by the following attitudes: the keenest self-criticism, humble listening to the whole of existence, the persistent patience and selfcorrection of the scientific method, a readiness to be purified by the truth. According to some theistic scholars, agnosticism is impossible in actual practice, since a person can live only either as if God did not exist (etsi Deus non daretur), or as if God did exist (etsi Deus daretur).
These scholars believe that each day in a person‘s life is an unavoidable step towards death, and thus not to decide for or against God, whom they view as the all-encompassing foundation, purpose, and meaning of life, is to decide in favor of atheism. Regarding Dr. Thompsons‘ discussion of ―Skepticism,‖ I would add that contemporary skepticism (or scepticism) is loosely used to denote any questioning attitude, or some degree of doubt regarding claims that are elsewhere taken for granted.
The word skepticism can characterize a position on a single claim, but in scholastic circles more frequently describes a lasting mind-set. Skepticism is an approach to accepting, rejecting, or suspending judgment on new information that requires the new information to be well supported by evidence. Individuals who proclaim to have a skeptical outlook are frequently called skeptics, often without regard to whether it is philosophical skepticism or empirical skepticism that they profess. Religious skepticism is skepticism regarding faith-based claims. Religious skeptics may focus on the core tenets of religions, such as the existence of divine beings or reports of earthly miracles. A religious skeptic is not necessarily an atheist or agnostic. In religion, skepticism refers to ‘doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation).’ (Merriam–Webster).
Often skepticism is confused with agnosticism for the reason that the skeptic usually is also an agnostic. Skepticism can often times interfere with our Faith and I would like to add to Dr. Thompson‘s dissertation to add this. The scriptural concept of faith is, as the author of Hebrews writes, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen.” Faith, in Biblical terms, is all about evidence and conviction.
It is about the link between the past and the future. And it has an element of personal commitment, either to the chair in which you intend to sit, the spouse to whom you are married, the God who calls you to faith.
The message about Jesus was always tied to evidence. The early Christians realized the message that Jesus died to forgive sins and rose from the dead to assure eternal life to those who believed was, admittedly, an unusual message, easily doubted. So that is why the early Christians, knowing that doubt could lead to belief or to denial, presented corroborating evidence: Paul linking the resurrection to many eyewitnesses, and later telling King Agrippa that “these things were not done in a corner”, Peter reminding his readers that “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming or our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Skepticism, doubt, or not believing, is more like an interval than a state of being, which faith can be. This assertion may not win instant assent in an academic environment that applauds permanent doubt as a necessary part of intellectual investigation. In our seemingly rational post-Enlightenment world, there are those who claim the ability and even responsibility to doubt all things, always to be skeptical, to maintain skepticism as a world view.
But I maintain that is an impossible position, at least in terms of religious belief or doubt. To doubt something requires you to be certain of something else, to have faith in something else. So doubt must always lead to the denial or reaffirmation of the assertion, or person, doubted. In other words, skepticism needs to lead forward to new faith or back to an old faith. While I believe one can live a life of faith, I don’t believe one can make a career out of skepticism. I was intrigued with Dr. Thompson‘s description of the infidel‘s and how they weaved their way into history. The word infidel has certainly become a recognizable term in modern times and bares further discussion.
I ran across a joke on one site that poked fun at Arabs by telling readers where to be safe from infidels and how to spot them: “Generally, living in the Middle East, you will not encounter infidels. This is because Allah the merciful, the compassionate, the loving, has set apart the sandiest, hottest, most uncomfortable place on earth for his chosen people.
Occasionally however, you may spot one purchasing oil for his nation, America. A way to know if the man you see is an infidel, is to look for white skin, blond Hair, calm attitude, lack of turban, lack of suicide bomb, crucifix necklace, and enjoyment of bacon.”
Today‘s politically correct world no doubt frowns on such humor. For some reason no one can explain, humor involving fun-poking at religious, ethnic, or homeland content other than when directed at Christianity, Caucasians, and America, is considered bad form at best, and hate speech at worst.
In doing some research, I looked up several simple phrases that contained the key word “infidel.” I was never able to find a single page written by a Christian who used the word “infidels” to describe the lost world.
When most Americans hear the word “infidel,” they usually think of terrorists using the term to vent their hatred on Westerners. But, as part of the American media‘s bully tactics of using invective against anyone who brings up matters involved in profiling the non-white people of the world, looking at them as potential terrorists, those doing so are publicly castigated as bigoted and dangerous. So, Christians aren‘t allowed to use such harsh terms as ―infidel‖ when speaking of, for example, Islam.
Islam divides the world into the Dar-al-Islam (House of Islam), where the faithful rule, and the Dar-al-Harb (House of War), ruled by infidels. The Moslem belief is that the latter should become the former. These “houses” are in a permanent state of war interrupted only by temporary tactical truces (Hudna).
There is no question as to whether actual war should be waged. The only question is when, and the answer to that is a purely tactical one. Everyone who is not within Islam must die is the unalterable tenet of the Islamic belief. The intention is to get rid of every ―infidel.‖
The truth is, however, that an infidel is not just someone who denies Allah or the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Its basic definition can be applied to anyone who doubts or rejects central tenets of any religion.
Here are some definitions of the term from the American Heritage Dictionary:
Infidel – One who is an unbeliever with respect to some religion, especially Christianity or Islam. adjective 1. Of or relating to unbelievers. 2. Having no religious beliefs. 3. Not believing in a particular religion, especially Christianity. (Middle English infydel, from old French infidel, from Latin infidelis, infaithful.
An infidel (literally, “one without faith”) is an English word meaning one who doubts or rejects central tenets of a religion, especially in reference to Christianity or Islam. When used in an Islamic sense it serves as a translation of the Arabic word kafir (literally “one who denies the blessings of God”) referring to all non-Muslims.
First used in Middle English c. 1460 (adj., n.), from the Middle French infidèle, and from Latin infidelis “unfaithful,” later “unbelieving,” In the 15c. meaning “a nonChristian” (especially a Saracen); later “one who does not believe in religion” (1526).
Also used to translate Ar. kafir, from a root meaning “to disbelieve, to deny,” strictly referring to all non-Muslims but virtually synonymous with “Christian”; hence, from a Muslim or Jewish point of view, “a Christian.”
In Roman Catholic Christianity, the term “infidel” is an ecclesiastical term referring to one who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus or one who has not been baptized. A heretic, in contrast, is an individual who believes in the divinity of Jesus, but also knowingly holds beliefs that contradict Catholic dogma, while a schismatic is an individual who does not hold beliefs contrary to Catholic dogma, but denies the authority of the Catholic Church.
In Islam, the Arabic word kafir refers to a person who inwardly or outwardly denies Allah and/or the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the term is considered derogatory. The term is usually translated into English as “infidel” or “unbeliever.” The Turkish equivalent of “kafir” is giaour. Here are three examples that show the word ―infidel‖ in its usages throughout its diverse history.
1613, Purchas, “The Meizin… prayeth God to inspire the Christians, Jewes, Greekes, and generally all Infidels to turn to their Law.”
1704, Hearne, “Of their Skill in Magic much is spoken in Ancient Writers, but for our Part we are Infidel as to that Power, and therefore shall pass it over.”
1715, Addison, “A Tory, who is the greatest Believer in what is improbable, is the greatest Infidel in what is certain.” Islam has not cornered the market on the word ―Infidel‖:
Since the word is not connected to any religion, Muslims should be looked at as infidels in the eyes of the Christian world. The Bible is not shy about labeling non-believers as infidels. Scriptures from God‘s Word make clear the Lord‘s view of all who reject His instruction manual for man, the Bible.
2 Corinthians 6:15: “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
1 Timothy 5:8: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
There should be a two-way street regarding the term, but somehow a gross disparity has developed over the years. Muslims are allowed to assail everyone else as infidels, in a derogatory sense, and Christians seem to be prohibited, through societal pressures, from asserting the right to claim Jesus as the one true Savior.
Christians by and large lack boldness. There is a general sense, when it comes to standing firm in the fundamentals of faith, that we need to be doormats for all who hate the truth that Jesus is the only way, truth and life, the only way to God the father and heaven.
Christians have allowed themselves to be marginalized; they are usually accommodating even to the point of compromising their own faith. We are living in a day and age where it is, from the world‘s point of view, acceptable to embrace every false god and sin under the son. But if Christian dares to speak the name of Jesus, we are ostracized and everyone looks at us like we are a most aberrant type of freak.
In the early Middle Ages, Jews were forbidden to have Christian slaves; the laws of the decretals forbade Christians to enter the service of Jews, or Christian women to act as their nurses or midwives. Moreover, Christians, when ill, were not to have Jewish physicians. Jews were ordinarily restricted to certain definite quarters of the towns into which they were admitted, and had to wear certain dress by which they might be recognized.
The reason Jews had these types of rules set against them, terrible enough to make Hitler proud, was because they were viewed as infidels by Christian society of the time. This approach is wrong because it was motivated by hate, and the isolation of the Jews kept them from receiving the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ.
Christians are light to the world. They greatly influenced the pagan Roman Empire by sharing the faith with all who would hear the good news. In the book of Acts, the apostles are encouraged over and over to speak and act courageously, frankly, openly.
The single exhortation that is used most frequently is the command to speak of Christ with ―boldness.‖
There is a limit to our love for infidels. If non-believers are not willing to coexist peacefully in a Christian society, they should go live somewhere else. Many Moslems living in Europe feel they have a right to use violence to compel the greater society to bow to their god.
If you are an “infidel,” living a “wicked” life by rejecting God’s provision for your salvation along with other “heathen,” the truth is supposed to prod your conscience in order to motivate you to “repent.” Then God will be “faithful” and just to forgive you of your sins, and God will enable you to be “righteous” by the power of His “Holy” Spirit. In his chapter on Deism, Dr. Thompson uses his dry wit when he states, ―the deist begrudgingly acknowledges that God exists, and even grants that God created the Universe and its inhabitants. But deism insists that since His initial miraculous act of creation, God has had nothing whatsoever to do with either the Universe or mankind.‖
Deism is the teaching that God exists, that he created the universe and everything in it, but that he stopped being involved in the universe and in people’s lives after he made the universe.
Another way of looking at it is to say that God created the universe with everything in it and is letting everything go its natural course without any further intervention on his part. Deism teaches that there are no more miracles, and that the Bible is not inspired of God. ―Deism is the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature and the universe, perpetuated and validated by the innate ability of human reason coupled with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions of having received special divine revelation.‖ Deism is unbiblical since Scripture clearly tells us that God is involved in the world and has intervened in it many times. Consider the flood, or the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt, and other miracles. Of course, the most profound example of God’s involvement in the world is found in the incarnation of Christ who performed many miracles, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. The main problems with Deism are: First, it denies the person of Christ as the only means of redemption.
Second, it is man-centered because there is no revelation of God or his divine will. Any religious doctrines developed without God have to originate with man‘s understanding and preferences. Therefore, it cannot be God-centered.
Third, morality cannot be derived by watching nature. Animals kill, eat each other alive, and are brutal.
Fourth, all reason from a deistic mindset is subject to human limitations and failures. Without divine intervention and clarification, people will do what is right in their own eyes, and this subjective system of reason leads to confusion and inconsistency.
John Earwood has written a concise description of a typical Deist’s approach to deity, humanity and the rest of the universe:
“Deism rejects all of the religious scriptures and dogmas created by fallible humans, as sources of final Truth. Instead, Deists try to avoid unwarranted assumptions, and focus on what is obvious.
The world of Nature is where we live and breathe and have our being. But it does not seem to be eternal, so someone, or some thing, must have created it. Since the Creator, whoever She is, does not reveal Herself to us directly, we have no way of knowing what Her intentions for us were. So, as the dominant creatures on earth, we must work together to make our own way in the world.
The philosophy of Deism is based on a single, axio-matic premise: that some preexisting Prime-Mover made us a physical, spherical home, then wound it up, and turned it loose to evolve its own path through space and time. This reasonable inference is not a fixed point of faith, however.
It is just a convenient place to start our philosophical journey, because it leaves us free to deal with reality, without falling into the trap of logical conclusions derived from unwarranted assumptions.”
There is no central authority that defines Deist beliefs and practices, as is the case, for example, in the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, Deists vary considerably in their beliefs. One core belief shared by essentially all Deists is that God created the universe, established its natural laws, “wound it up” and then disassociated himself from creation. Some commentators refer to Deists as believing in a God who acts as an absentee landlord.
Dr. Thompson, in the chapter on Pantheism, uses a wonderful analogy when he describes Shirley MacLaine stating, ―I am God.‖
A huge problem with pantheism is that it cannot account for the existence of the universe. The universe is not infinitely old. It had a beginning. This would mean that God also had a beginning, but how can something bring itself into existence? This is impossible, so this leaves us with the question of where God and the universe came from. Pantheism cannot answer this question and it naturally leads to absurdities. When Dr. Thompson states, ―If pantheism is correct, then there no longer is a need for we humans to ―look beyond ourselves‖ for solutions to whatever problems it is that plague us. Instead, we simply may―look within. ―We, being God, are our own source of truth.
We, being God, can decide what is right and what is wrong. All the power that we need to cope with life and its vagaries lies within the untapped reservoir of human potential we call ―self,‖ he, in my opinion is simply saying, ―What are Pantheists thinking???‖ It really makes no sense or logic. Pantheism (Greek ‗pan‘ which means all, ‗en‘ which means in, and ‗theos‘ which means God), on the other hand, is the position that God is greater than the universe, that the universe is in God, that he permeates every part of nature, is part of nature, extends beyond nature, and is also distinct from it. Panentheism should not be confused with pantheism which says God and nature are the same and cannot be distinguished. However, panentheism maintains that God is changing. Panentheists think of God as a finite, changing, director of world affairs who works in cooperation with the world in order to achieve greater perfection in his nature…they believe the world is God’s body. Panentheism maintains that God has two “polls:” actuality and potentiality. God’s actual existence and nature is changing, but his potential, what he can become, does not change. Panentheism is unbiblical since it denies God‘s transcendent nature, says that God is changing, confuses creation with God, denies miracles, and denies the incarnation of Christ along with the atoning sacrifice.
In Chapter 3, Dr. Thompson gives a detailed description of Unbelief and it‘s causes. He skillfully directs us through the various reasons why we do not or will not belief in God. In addition to Dr. Thompson‘s effective reasoning, I would add: Unbelief is a spirit which causes people to reject what God says is true.
The more we can get unbelief concerning God’s promises out of our own hearts, the more we will be effective in destroying it in those who do not yet believe. Unbelief binds the hand of God. It is one of the worst enemies to deal with. It is a choice to reject God’s Word, which then becomes a mental habit and spiritual bondage – and something which people are not at liberty to walk away from. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because He who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
The spirit of unbelief is deadly because it cuts people off from receiving the very thing which is fundamental to their own salvation. All atheists and most agnostics have a spirit of unbelief in them which has a grip on their mind, and causes them to be in many cases unable to believe the truth and be saved.
Much unbelief is rooted in the doctrine of evolution. The doctrine of evolution is something that people vainly seek to prop us with science. It is not science, it is a philosophy, promoted by an evil power, which blinds people to the spiritual world in most cases. The philosophy of evolution is an a priori commitment to the idea that there is no God, therefore everything must have evolved for no reason at all. It doesn’t matter whether anyone saw it, whether transition fossils exist or not, or whether it seems statistically likely given the finite age of the Universe.
To those who accept this philosophy, ―it must be so.‖ The alternative is unthinkable to them. And when you check it out, no scientist can prove this theory. They always assume that scientists in other disciplines have proven it. This is true for all scientists who subscribe to the theory of evolution, no matter what discipline they are in – be they physicists, biologists, geologists, chemists, botanists, palentologists or whatever.
The education system in the western world which teaches this lie, and others like it, is feeding the spirit of unbelief. Closely associated with this view is the philosophy which states, “if you can’t measure it, it isn’t real”. There is no way that scientific research can prove statements like this.
They are nothing but a priori assumptions, which people take on board uncritically in most cases, and often are not even aware of. They may consider that they have thought things out, but actually, the conclusions they draw follow from assumptions which were never critically analyzed in most cases. And what is giving these assumptions such a powerful grip on the minds of so many, is the spirit of unbelief.
Unbelief is also promoted by other philosophies and also religious movements which are popular today. To tear down these strongholds, we don’t always have to attack these beliefs directly. All that is really needed in most cases, is a strong and personal revelation of Jesus Christ to come to the person who is captive to unbelief. This can happen when we really pray.
There are people today who are so dominated by the spirit of unbelief that they are unwilling to talk about God. They are just “not interested”. That is their polite way of rejecting the gospel before it is even shared with them. It will take an extraordinary commitment on the part of believers to get through to such people. In many cases, friendships must be built before people will even listen to a different idea. Extraordinary prayer and usually fasting is necessary to set these captives free.
All unbelievers will be thrown in the lake of fire, unless they repent of their unbelief. God is not impressed with their reasons for unbelief, because God knows that every single unbeliever that ever lived has had enough light and revelation of God made real to them, which they have willfully surpressed.
Romans 1:18-20 states ―For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
John 1:9 states unequivocally: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Unbelief begins as a choice to reject God’s light, and ends as a state of mental captivity and enslavement to a spirit whose purpose is to grip the soul and prevent saving faith from ever taking root.
God’s remedy for unbelief is to find someone who really believes, and whose faith can stand up to some serious tests. Because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) the exposure of people to the Word of God is a major key to destroying the power of unbelief in people’s lives.
It is not just the reading of the Bible that produces faith. It is the spirit with which the Bible is communicated. A preacher who is full of faith is much more likely to engender faith in his hearers than one who preaches the word of God with a tone of voice and body language which suggests that he doesn’t really believe a word of what he is saying.
The Word of God has the capacity to “break the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29).
The hardness of heart associated with unbelief can be destroyed if a person hears the anointed preaching of the Word of God. Faith comes in this way. However, this method does not always work, and God has more weapons at his disposal to cast down this particular spiritual enemy.
Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”
People who hang around people of faith are much more likely to get real faith in their hearts than those who hang around unbelievers, especially those who are very skeptical, cynical and hardened in their attitude towards the things of God. This is why building a friendship with unbelievers is such a key factor in evangelism in places like Australia, which I’m sorry to say are filled at the present time with the spirit of unbelief.
Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (John 4:48) Signs and wonders follow those who believe (Mark 16:17,18,20; John 14:12).
Unbelievers who are exposed to these signs personally can be affected in such a way as to open their hearts up to the Lord, or at least to question their previous hardened stance of unbelief.
In the John 4 verse, Jesus was stating a fact. He was not criticizing signs and wonders. If we want some people to believe, they are only going to believe if they see signs and wonders.
Therefore we should be committed to so believing and acting that signs and wonders do follow us. We need be filled with the Spirit of God and start acting like we expect God is going to back us up and do something. This helps destroy the power of unbelief in others.
Some Christian people say that reasoning with people is of no value, but when combined with a knowledge of other principles of spiritual warfare, reasoning can be a powerful tool. The apostle Paul used it frequently in his missionary endeavors.
Acts 19:8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
Not all reasoning is good. The Scribes and Pharisees reasoned in their hearts against Jesus. But if the right premises are accepted, reasoning can lead to some good conclusions. God will sometimes use a certain train of thought to awaken an unbeliever out of his deathly prison cell of the mind.
Concerning reasoning, even God Himself said to his people one day, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
So if God, the one who gave us the capacity to reason, Himself reasons with us, we should be willing to use this capacity for his glory. Even so, we must not trust in our own reasoning capacities, we need to put our trust in the Lord. It is the conviction of the Spirit that makes the difference in our reasoning with people.
The Holy Spirit will speak to people in their heart, urging them to believe the things we speak, when we speak according to the Spirit of Truth. It is also my belief that there is a psychological effect to unbelief.
A person often chooses a belief, or philosophy, or ideology, not because it is true or even rational, but because it brings him some sort of psychological benefit. His ideology is self-serving and brings him pleasure in some form.
It may make him feel good about himself that he is a good person who deserves good things. It may give him permission to live his life his way selfishly without worrying about personal responsibility or eternal consequences. It may cause him to feel that he is in control of his life or must achieve control to make things go his way.
It may allow him to go his own way without submitting to a moral authority outside of himself, especially to God. It may give him permission to hold a grudge and be critical, angry, and vindictive for guilt or pain in his life. It may make him feel holy, deserving respect and honor. A person may reject Christianity because of the psychological benefit gained from a godless world view.
A person with a false religious belief holds to his belief basically because it brings him something of significant values that he has not found outside of his belief:
– It can be something very real, such as social benefits, companionship, love, acceptance, attention, excitement, and perhaps prestige, power, or profit
– It can also be something unreal, such as a promised benefit for life after death.
He may hold to the belief without actually caring whether the promised future benefits are true, because the present social and psychological benefits are so great for him.
As a result, even brilliant people make claims or decisions that are irrational or have strong negative consequences because the decisions are based on emotion and not on clear reason. Strategic questions are designed to reveal a person‘s underlying motives or attitudes that lie behind his false belief or resistance to the Gospel. When a person holds strongly to a false belief, strategic questions can be used to help weaken his hold on his present belief and lead him to be more open to God‘s authentic truth from the Bible alone. These are questions that you keep in mind without asking directly for guiding your conversation to obtain information needed for correcting his false belief.
Here are five strategic questions. Use your exploratory questions and reflective listening skills to discover and/or verify the answers to these questions
1) What is the source of his belief? The source of a person‘s belief needs to be brought out into the open so that its objectivity can be examined. The source of his belief can be religious organization, person, book, popular opinion, an experience, or his own ideas. Discovery of the source will prepare you for showing the unreliability of the source.
The possible questions you may ask are these: ―Where did you get this idea? Did you hear someone say this, or did you come up with this idea yourself?‖ If the source is a false religion, ask, ―Where do you think they get their belief?‖
If he refers to a certain source for his false belief or opinion about Christianity (such as a person, book, television program, or religious organization), say, ―Well, there are many divergent views of the Bible in the world. How do you decide what to believe – what is true? The answer is that you make an objective investigation for yourself of the primary evidence. Have you ever made an honest, objective investigation of the Bible yourself?‖
2) What are some of the essential details of his belief? What does it offer?
The essential details of his belief are: his view of Christianity, God, Jesus Christ, sin, salvation, heaven, and how to get there. A person with a false belief has a false view of one or more of these. And discovery of what he sees that his belief system offers to him will give you some idea of what attracts him to it. The possible questions are: ―What do you think God is like?‖ ―Where do you get your ideas about God?‖ ―Do you think there is a heaven?‖ ―Do you think you will go there some day?‖ ―Why do you think God will let you into His heaven?‖
3) Why has he chosen to believe what he believes, instead of some other belief? What is his evidence that it is true?
What attracts him to his belief will help you to contrast the subjective reason behind his belief with the objective reason of coming to God, God‘s way. Asking about the evidence that a person‘s belief is true will reveal what is the basis for his belief. If his basis is not the Bible alone, the foundation for his belief is flawed. This prepares you to present evidence that the Bible is God‘s only authenticated revelation of His way. Possible questions you may ask are: ―Some people believe as you do, and some believe differently. What has led you to accept that your belief is true and not some other belief? Have you examined all the evidence and concluded this? Or did you accept what someone told you?‖ ―Do you hold this belief because you have verified it yourself, or mostly because your friends and family hold to it, or because your temple, mosque or church teaches it?‖ ―Are you interested in whether your belief is actually true?‖ ―Why is it so important to you that your belief be true when you have no objective evidence that it is true?‖
4) What is a hidden purpose or psychological benefit to him of holding to his belief, outside of any promised benefit for life after death?
His psychological benefits are what tie him to his false beliefs. To expose a hidden purpose or psychological benefit behind a person‘s belief, seek to discover the primary social and personal benefits to him of holding to his belief. When you discover these benefits, lead him to acknowledge them through the use of a reflective listening statement.
Then acknowledge the reality of these benefits and show that you accept them as real for him. This will help reduce his defensiveness and show that you are seeking the truth, and not merely being hostile to his belief.
Most people with false beliefs or a resistant attitude have a hidden purpose behind their belief that they may not be aware of themselves. This will often cause them to give conflicting or duplicitous answers to some of your questions, and to argue irrationally for their belief and against your belief. Exposing a person‘s psychological benefit or hidden purpose behind his belief will help disclose, both to you and to him, why he is responding the way he is about his belief and will help weaken his hold on his belief. 5) Is he open to biblical teaching as God‘s only authenticated source of information about His plans and purpose for people? If not, why not?
His answer to this question will expose how objective he is in seeking real truth. If you can lead him to hear God‘s message, this will help him to understand and respond from true facts and not from false ideas he now has.
If he is not open to hear, his explanation of why not may reveal something of what lies behind his resistance to the Gospel. Ask, ―Are you willing to look at the evidence yourself (the Bible) to see what it says for itself instead of just accepting what other people say about it?‖ If he resists the idea of God or the Bible, ask, ―If I could show you evidence that a living God created the universe for purpose, and that the Bible is God‘s words revealing His plan and purpose for people, would that be of any interest to you?‖
Many people merely assert that their beliefs are true without objective foundation. Simply showing the lack of objective foundation for the truth of the other person‘s belief undermines its credibility and demonstrates that it is merely a human fabrication. Showing the objective foundation for the truth of the Bible establishes its credibility and demonstrates that the Bible alone is from the living God.
With the information you gather through your strategic questions, seek to correct his false belief by taking five steps, as follows:
1) If he includes the Bible in his belief system, show that his belief is inconsistent with the Bible in some fundamental way, such as who God is, or who Jesus is, or what is God‘s plan of salvation. This will show the internal inconsistency of his belief.
2) Show that his belief is not based on objective evidence of truth, but on unfounded claims by people. This will expose the vulnerability of his belief to fantasy ideas made up by people, even if his belief is from an organized religion. Lead your friend to see the importance of having objective evidence of the truth of his belief. Show that the Bible alone has objective, external evidence that corroborates the Bible‘s contents and demonstrates its truth from God.
3) Show that there is a hidden purpose or psychological benefit behind his belief that supports it and holds him to it. Explain that these psychological benefits are the real reason for his holding to his belief, and not for any objective evidence of its truth. This will show that his belief is based on personal desires, not on objective truth.
4) Give warning that he is headed for spiritual disaster if he is wrong. Explain that his belief cannot ultimately deliver what it offers even though he has a strong emotional incentive to continue in it. Show that his belief cannot deliver what he expects from it because objective evidence confirms that his belief is based on ideas made up by people, or is incomplete or false. This will highlight the danger of holding to his belief. 5) Present God‘s message of salvation from the Bible, This will expose him to objective truth for his eternal welfare from God‘s only authenticated source of information, and will give him a chance to respond.
Dr. Thompson gives an overview of Darwin‘s theory of evolution in which he denotes the ―one‖ incident in Darwin‘s life that completely changed his belief and that was the death of his daughter Anne, in 1851. Darwin‘s whole life changed after that and his Christian beliefs went out the window. He felt as if he had ―lost the battle.‖
In his 2010 paper, The Case Against Darwin, Dr. James Perloff of WorldNetDaily.com states, ―Mainstream Americans have been losing the values battle for many years. Presidential candidates who run on resolutely moral platforms earn only single digits in polls, and often the best we can hope for are “establishment Republicans,” whose commitment to values rarely seems to go much beyond their speeches.‖
Like other Americans, I watched as one scandal after another broke about Bill Clinton during his eight years in office. Each time, I said to myself, “This one will be his downfall.” But the fall never came, even though any one of those scandals would have ruined a president 40 years ago. Although the major media were sympathetic to Clinton and did their best to downplay the stories, it was evident that American culture has changed.
Clearly, before we can get the right kind of candidates elected, there must be a transformation in the hearts of the electorate.
A glance at the rates of divorce, drug use and teen suicide tell us that America is in a serious moral decline. What happened at Columbine High School would have been unthinkable in the ’50s, when no one dreamed that school entrances would ever require weapons detectors.
The question is: What is at the root of the decline? Many would say, “Well, we’ve lost our respect for traditional moral values.” OK, where do “traditional moral values” come from? They come mostly from the Bible, which, at least until recently, had been Western culture’s central guiding document.
So why have we lost our respect for the Bible? I believe it is no exaggeration to say that it was the widespread acceptance and teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as “fact.”
Darwinism teaches that man came not from the hand of God, but from ape-like ancestors through chance mutations, and that life itself is not from God, but resulted from the chance concurrence of chemicals in an ancient ocean. When this is taught as fact in public schools, God and the Bible become irrelevant in the minds of many children, and there begins the fall of morality.
Evolution was not heavily underscored in American public schools before the 1960s. But in 1959, the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, granted $7 million to the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, which began producing high school biology textbooks with a strong evolutionary slant.
If a person is not raised religiously once sold on the “fact” of evolution, faith will stand no chance. And there is a reason why the baby boomers, bought evolution so easily.
Teen-agers usually aren’t too hot about biblical morality to begin with. But here was teacher saying the Bible was an old myth. Well, to us that meant the Ten Commandments were a myth. We could make up our own rules! For rebellious teens, that message wasn’t too hard to take.
Historically, Darwinism has had some deadly effects, especially beyond our shores. Karl Marx said: “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.”
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin murdered millions. In 1940, a book was published in Moscow entitled “Landmarks in the Life of Stalin.” In it we read:
At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist.
While Marx and Stalin saw the “struggle for existence” as between classes, Hitler saw it as between races, and sought to evolve a “master race.” As German philosopher Erich Fromm observed, “If Hitler believed in anything at all, then it was in the laws of evolution which justified and sanctified his actions and especially his cruelties.”
Sir Arthur Keith, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, wrote in the 1940s: “The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.” In his demented way, Hitler was fulfilling this prediction Darwin made in his book, “The Descent of Man”:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. … The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian Aborigine and the gorilla.
This is not in any way to imply that today’s evolutionists are racists; and certainly, Hitler’s atrocities would have revolted Charles Darwin. But there is no denying that the Darwinist worldview, which sees man as an animal and God as an irrelevancy, has had a profoundly negative social impact.
Will Durant, author of “The Story of Civilization,” was one of the preeminent historians of our time. “By offering evolution in place of God as a cause of history,” he opined shortly before his death, “Darwin removed the theological basis of the moral code of Christendom. And the moral code that has no fear of God is very shaky. That’s the condition we are in.”
People who make such comments are unaware of two things:
1) that the current moral climate, which tolerated Bill Clinton, is largely rooted in Darwinism’s denial of moral absolutes. 2) ) that overwhelming evidence has arisen in recent years discrediting Darwin’s theory.
Americans adhering to traditional values continue to oppose many things, abortion, pornography, the radical homosexual movement, etc. are constantly losing ground. They are losing ground because these issues are peripheral. These movements do not budge because they are rooted in something deeper: disbelief in God, which leads to moral relativism on all issues.
And unbelief is largely stemming from children being massively indoctrinated in the “fact” of evolution. Students are taught that they are simply animals, the products of chance mutations from an ancient slime, which implies that life is meaningless.
Why should we care about Clinton’s scandals? After all, morality itself evolved by chance, therefore, there are no moral truths.
But there are truths, and one of them is: Charles Darwin’s theory is crumbling under contrary evidence. Americans need to be aware of this, because until the scientific case against Darwinism becomes widely known, our nation’s political prospects, like its morality, will continue to decay.
Within Chapter 3, Dr. Thompson‘s compares parents bringing up their children with biblical truths but then asks the question, ―what results might inaccurate instruction, a lack of discipline, and an improper example coupled with unfaithfulness produce?‖ This, I believe, is one of the most important parts of Dr. Thompsons dissertation because of the overwhelming effect teaching ―slanted‖ or untrue doctrines to children dooms the future of Christianity.
Dr. Thompson uses the example of Stephen Jay Gould, the renowned modern day atheist. He uses Gould‘s Jewish, and the fact his parents had rebelled against Judaism, as a dominant reason for his unbelief. This is an excellent example of parents failing to use the Bible as a family foundation.
For many in church today the Proverb 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” has wrongly come to mean ‘dump your child in Sunday School, or in a ‘Christian’ youth group. But Ephesians 6:4 does not command the church or youth groups to train up your children but for “Fathers” to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
The Bible is not silent or vague in its instruction on how we should raise our children. So neither should we be. The Bible should be our thinking in every area, and we should not follow the ways, psychology or morals of the world in this great responsibility of raising children, but instead be hearers and doers of the clear instruction the Lord has given us in His Word.
Psalms 123 states, ―Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him,‖ which, to me, demands that, as Christians, we raise our children in The Word, truthfully, and as stated in Revelation, not adding to taking from The Book. This is a natural and necessary part of their education in life.
Dr. Thompson uses the case of biblical scholar William M. Smith, in his discussion of pride as Smith boldly states, ―As pride increases, humility decreases, and as man finds himself self-sufficient he will discard his religious convictions, or having none, he will fight those of others‖ I believe a truer statement has never been made regarding man and his pride.
I say, ―Watch out for pride.‖ Pride is seeing yourself or your opinions as more worthy than another’s. When we get right down to it, which of us knows who is more worthy? So you have the Bible to tell you when God is in agreement with you but how many times is your right hand doing the work of God while your left hand is an advocate of the devil?
Why would God give us the story of Johah? I mean, doesn’t it make God sound harsh and unfair? Was it to show us what pride does? Was it a story to demonstrate the results?
God’s prophets never got on their knees and begged to be made a prophet. There are things far beyond our understanding going on in the heavens. We see the results here without knowing where the beginning was. A prophet is a prophet for reasons we don’t understand but not without the consent of the human himself. They can say, “I didn’t ask for this” but somewhere down the line there was an agreement.
Jonah knew the score, he knew God was much bigger than himself and yet he acted out of stubbornness anyway. One is left to wonder how many years this discussion went on, between Jonah and God, concerning Nineveh. “Go tell the drunks on the corner that if they don’t straighten up by next Monday, I’m going to lay them all out on the sidewalk for burial.”
We say, “They asked for it! I’ve been there before and those people can’t even hear, much less care. Now you want me to waste my time again? I don’t think so”. Six months later, “Go down to the corner and do what I told you to do”. Your reaction? You get busy with the Sunday School Class instead. Sound familiar?
A prophet knows he or she is an ambassador of the Lord. If it were a paid employee for some company and we don’t obey, how long will that job last? And yet we do this to God Himself.
You have a dream about a woman in the church and that dream points out that there is something troubling her walk. You, knowing that you are one of God’s dreamers, worry and ponder over the dream, wondering why the Lord would tell you about such a thing. You come so close to sharing the dream with that woman but never quite get that far. Why?
You say, “I’ll be ostracized. They’ll call me a witch because of the dreams”. Are we working to be popular or are we working for Him? It’s true that some dreams are simply motivating us to pray for that person. You will need to talk to the Lord about that.
My point is this. Are we about as willing as Jonah, to carry out direct orders? Are we caught up in the social life of church instead of acting as His employee?
Has anyone noticed the damage Jonah brought on those around him, by being so disobedient? Are we, the prophets, doing that to our families and neighbors? Are the winds about you, tearing up lives? If they discovered where the troubles were coming from, would they toss you out to sea? Remember those shipmen were idol worshippers. They didn’t have to believe in Jonah’s God, to be affected by Jonah’s actions. Remember Jonah’s story ended with him still loved by God but his reward was appropriate. His reward was a demonstration.
Dr. Thompson gives an excellent example of one of largest problems Christians have in today‘s world, that of intimidation by the secular or non-Christian population.
Christians once dominated the world of thought, education, ideas, and research. Think Milton, Herbert, Chesterton, Eliot, Donne, Greene and Endo in the world of literature; Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm in philosophy; Handel, Brahms and Bach in music; Newton, Kepler, Pasteur, Faraday, Maxwell and Carver in science. The sheer excellence of their intellect set them apart and commended the Christian worldview to an unbelieving world.
But in the succeeding era the influence of great Christian thinkers faded to the point that in 1963 Harry Blamires lamented, “There is no longer a Christian mind.” He pointed out that there remains a Christian ethic, a Christian practice and a Christian spirituality but “…as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization.”
The reasons for this surrender are many but the solution is found in reclaiming the lost aspiration of intellectual development. God makes it very clear that Christians are called to nurture the life of the mind. The greatest command is to love God with our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37).
We escape conformity and become transformed by the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).
In fact, being renewed in the spirit of our minds is the preliminary step to “putting on” Christ as new creations (Eph. 4:22-24).
Criticism is by no means identical with intellectual criticism. There are many other forms of criticism. Religion, for example, is criticized not only by intellectual critics: it is also criticized by religious critics. For instance, it is criticized most harshly and radically by the prophets who turn against the traditional religious system which is maintained and preserved by priestly tradition and is distorted in the course of history.
The prophet criticizes, but his is not intellectual criticism. It is through the ultimate power of the religion which he criticizes that he tries to separate the good from the evil in it. This was the case with the Reformers who criticized hierarchical distortions in the Roman Church on the basis of the ultimate principles, turning against the distorted forms which they found and, where they had to, separate the good from the bad, the true from the false, and the beautiful from the ugly.
What is intellectual criticism? Of first consideration is the nature of intellectual criticism of religion. Intellectual criticism is argumentative. It gives reasons. It attacks the claim of religion to be true; the claim that it has validity in an ultimate sense of human nature and the human predicament; the assumption that it is necessary as an expression of the human situation within the world. Intellectual criticism of religion attacks this claim, either completely or in special manifestations of religion. Of course this intellectual criticism can be combined with political, emotional, and religious motives, but things which cannot be separated often must be distinguished.
What is the root of intellectual criticism? It is man‘s intellectual power. “Intellegere” means literally “to read between,” being able to read between the facts and perceptions of our daily life. “Reading between” is understanding these facts, what they mean, how they are related, what their causes and their effects are. “Intellectual” means “arguing” on the basis of facts but transcending them. It means knowing, taking in as knowledge, and sometimes as certainty, something into the meaning of which we have looked.
This intellect which “reads between” is always critical. It belongs to its very essence to be critical, if it follows its own nature, never accepts anything without asking a question about its nature and validity. This is something universally human. But intellectual critics are people who, in a special sense, question religion on the basis of intellectual reasons.
They may be driven by emotional remembrances of their adolescence, by religious motives unaware of the distortion of religion, or by political ideas, but they use reasons. They are intellectual critics. This leads me to the second consideration – characteristics of the intellectual and the conflicts with religion arising from these characteristics. The intellectual, as intellectual, questions everything which he encounters. He does not take anything whatsoever, at least not consciously and not intentionally, without asking a question about it. Let us not despise the human possibility to ask questions.
Asking is one of the great expressions of human freedom. Asking means that we are not identical with the reality which we are and in which we stand and which surrounds us. We have it, but also do not have it. We ask for it. Asking always means some identity with and some separation from what we have. And if we want to understand what man is, there is perhaps no better door of entrance into his nature than an analysis of what “asking” means. It is one of the most ordinary and most profound appearances in all reality. The intellectual is he who asks. The function which is universally human – to be able to ask questions – becomes in the intellectual a special function, the function which forms his character, the dominant function of his intellectual life. But if this is so, if asking becomes the dominant function of the intellectual, then a tension arises between the intellectual‘s radical will to ask and the immediate, blessed certainty of the religious man and woman in their religious experiences, traditions, and symbols. This conflict cannot be avoided. The intellectual also subordinates the religious reality to the function of asking – asking questions – and that means having distance and detachment from the religious reality. The religious man cannot admit this. The religious man subordinates everything else to his encounter with that which is his unconditional concern, his ultimate passion.
Still another characteristic of the intellectual is that in him the function of asking is necessarily skeptical. He doubts everything. There are two forms of the intellectual doubt.
The one is a merely technical, methodological way of doubting, as the great philosopher Descartes described it when he started his meditations and founded modern philosophy in doing so.
He doubted in order to establish a new system of rational insights: if possible, certain. ties; if not possible, at least high probabilities. But doubt can be something more serious than a methodological trick which every thinker and scientist must use. It can become an attitude, an attitude which makes any certainty impossible, which doubts even probabilities and thus loses the content of life and is driven into a feeling of emptiness which may or may not end in despair. In both cases there is an obvious conflict with the unquestioned certainties of an immediate unbroken religious belief. The skeptic is regarded as a danger, and he is even attacked on religious and moral grounds.
A third characteristic of the intellectual is his anti-authoritarian character. This has already been mentioned with regard to emotional terms, but now we come to it in terms of a rational attack on any possible authority. The intellectual does not deny factual authority, of course. If he is a scientist, he knows that he is dependent on the historian and vice versa.
This kind of factual authority is present in every human being. But the intellectual does not accept authority in principle, namely, a place or a person in whom authority is invested. When religion says that its contents are based on revelation, then it has an authority which is authority in itself, authority in principle, authority which cannot be doubted, and so the intellectual rejects it.
A further characteristic of the intellectual is his discipline in the clarity and the consistency of his thinking, in the well-thought-out base of verification of every statement, in his infinite caution in making any statement whatsoever. And this, of course, produces a conflict with the ecstatic, unverifiable, daring anticipation of faith.
There is a last and negative characteristic of the intellectual: he often, or almost always, lacks sufficient criticism of the predominance of the intellectual function. Many intellectuals, perhaps most of them, many scientists, and many philosophers exercise a kind of naïve imperialism with respect to the intellectual function . They want to make this function all-controlling.
And in spite of their radical, skeptical seriousness and discipline, they are naïve at this point. They have the naïve presupposition that reality as a whole is open in this way alone. If they are profoundly skeptical they say that reality in its deeper levels is completely shut off from man and cannot be reached by any kind of thinking and that the intellectual should be satisfied if he deals alone with the forms and structures of thought and matters of science. Everything else he should leave to the emotions.
In doing so, he negates any other key to reality and to our own being except the key of intellectual asking. But if this is so, then religion which claims to be a key to the ultimate reality is no key at all, for it does not approach reality with the intellectual function but with another function which we call the experience of the holy. Such a function is denied by the imperialism of the intellectual.
What are the concrete problems, the specific points in the intellectual attack on religion? There is a first group containing conflicts about factual statements made both by science or philosophy and religion. Such a conflict was the one which was symbolic for our whole modern time between the astronomy of Copernicus and Galileo and the statements of the traditional ideas and symbols of Bible and church about the structure of the universe.
Another was the fight about the biological development of men which came into being through the Darwinistic movement and which produced the legal trials when the church wanted to defend the nonbiological origins even of man‘s bodily existence. Finally one which is most actual today, the conflict concerning historical research of biblical literature, so-called “biblical criticism,” which deals with the Bible and its records as it would deal with any other book, namely, using the serious and honest historical criteria which every historian uses everywhere if he interprets documents of the past. This conflict is still going on and has not lost its sharpness after these two hundred years of struggle. This is one group of those who attack the intellectual on religion.
There is another group. It represents the attempt to explain religion by explaining it away, namely, explaining it away in nonreligious terms. It is the psychological and sociological explanation of religion represented by three names. One declares that religion is a projection of man‘s infinite desires for life and love into the heaven of the absolute. The man who did this was Feuerbach.
Another who followed him and who did it in more complete psychological terms, saying that religion is based on the projection of the father-image into heaven, is Sigmund Freud. And the third, probably the most successful, said that religion is based on a projection of the social ideal into the earlier imagination of a transcendent heaven. This was Karl Marx. When I look at the history of Christian thought and defense, I think that these three attacks were and are the three most powerful ones. They have an extreme power of impressing themselves on the human mind. Much secularism, much negation of religion, is based on these three powerful, intellectual attacks and criticisms of religion.
There is a third more positive way. The intellectual establishes systems of thought which, with respect to religion, either transform it or deny it. The way in which religion is transformed by systems of intellectual thought is usually called idealism. Many a Christian as he hears the word “idealism” thinks, “Now we are saved; this man is an idealist.” But they are not saved at all, as the history of Christian thought has shown.
Idealism means taking religion as an element into a rational system of the world as a whole, and eliminating those elements of religion which we usually call the paradoxical character of the religious experience. And then the other system which is established by intellectual critics of religion is naturalism, which removes religious contents for the sake of a united world which has the characteristics of nature, whether in subhuman nature or in man.
My judgment is that this second, more radical, attack is less dangerous than the former, less radical, and often very compromising attack.
Now I come to my fourth and last consideration, namely, the justification of intellectual criticism and the possible answer of religion. The first and general justification of the attack of the intellectual is that man as man is an image of God only because he has the rational power to transcend the given, to criticize everything which he encounters, and he has this right also, as the image of God, to criticize that realm which deals directly with divine things, the realm of religion.
Even more, he must accept this criticism as a religious necessity, and he never should use the arrogant attitude of calling this criticism, as such, human arrogance. This is the general justification of the intellectual criticism of religion, which must be accepted religiously in the name of man as free.
Then, the second justification of the intellectual criticism against religion is the way in which religion competes with scientific work in factual statements about nature or about history. In the moment in which this is done religion demands the human intellect to become dishonest in order to accept religion.
This is one of the most serious points. In the name of religion, religion must accept the autonomies, the freedom of scientific research in all realms according to the scientific methods which are the best ones in a special period, which may change, but which can change only through better insights of the scientific mind itself.
Religion never should go down into the arena in which the sciences fight – be it in natural sciences, be it sociology, be it in psychology (which is very important today), or be it in history. Religion qua religion does not belong in this arena.
Third, religion has far too often been transformed into a system of statements which look like statements about the finite world of time and space. For instance, if somebody discusses the question, “Does God exist or does God not exist?” then he makes God into a being in space and time and asks a question as if he asked, “Does another galaxy exist or does it not exist?”
God is blasphemed if his existence is discussed because he is beyond existence, as all classical theology knew. Here again, religion has to make it clear that it is not the same dimension in which religion experiences truth and in which people who deal with the world of the finite in time and space deal. Existence belongs to the world of time and space and not to the dimension of reality which we call the holy or the divine.
Another justification for intellectual criticism is the literalism which is still in the minds of some educated people as it justly is in the mind of primitive people now and in former centuries. People who know the difference between the objective world of time and space and the meaning of religion sin against religion if they take its symbols literally because then they provoke inescapably the asking mind, the mind of the intellectual, its criticism, its skepticism, and its radical wrath.
What religion has to do and is doing now, largely in the theological world, is to rediscover that everything religious is symbolic. Symbolic does not mean unreal. It means more real than anything real in time and space. Therefore, intellectual criticism cannot destroy it, nor can intellectual defense protect it. This is also true of biblical symbols which are absurd and blasphemous if taken literally, but which are the adequate expressions of truth if taken symbolically.
Religion should also accept one of the most powerful criticisms of the intellectual, namely, that the symbolic material is changing because the relationship to the ultimate is changing. Not the ultimate concern about God himself is changing, but the concrete forms are changing. And when you ask, “Is that valid also of the Christ?” then I would say, “It is not, because the Christ in sacrificing his temporal and special existence did not bind us to any special forms of symbolism but transcended them and became the spirit on which the church is based.”
Theology must accept the problem of verification. Why is something which religion says true? The intellectual says, “We need detached observation.” Religion answers, “You need that; we need it in some respects; but we need first of all, something else, namely participation and risk.” Religion is always risk, and verification in religion is never the verification of physical experiment, but it is always the verification of a life risk.
Somebody says, “I surrendered; I devoted my life; I accepted this; and I took a chance. It was not, by any means, scientifically verified, but perhaps the risk failed.” Or, “The risk was right,” but it is impossible to know this beforehand. Now this is the verification of religion – spirit and power as it is called in the New Testament. This is the pragmatic element of risk which we need against any dogmatic absolutism.
The most important thing religion can do about the intellectual critic is to take him into the religion itself, to take him into the totality of the religious life. That was done by the early church and has been done ever since in the churches. And the name of this man who is an intellectual and is taken into the totality of the religious experience is “theologian.”
And from this follows the meaning and the significance of the theologian. The theologian is both . He is the intellectual critic, and he is the representative of what he criticizes. The theologian is he who represents in himself the whole conflict, the whole weight and difficulty of the conflict which I have been describing. This is his misery and perhaps sometimes his glory.
There are different ways in which different religions accept this situation. In the Roman Church the theologian has been, in the course of the two thousand years of the development of this church, more and more subjected to the tradition and the authority of the church. He has, as a Roman Catholic theologian, lost the possibility of radical questioning, of asking in a radical and uncompromising sense.
The Protestant has rediscovered the theologian as somebody who, although he stands within the whole of religion, is able to accept the criticism which he has in himself in all the different forms which I have described. And it is the greatness and the weakness of Protestantism that it is able to have the intellectual critic of religion in its own midst, but perhaps, in the long run, this is the only way in which the relationship of these two human possibilities can be ordered. Our country is in a situation in which the intellectuals are, generally speaking, under attack.
Many church people are happy about this removal of the intellectuals from public influence and from the permission to ask the radical questions. But do not be happy about this in the name of religion. It is a fascist form, to use this general word, which always, and I can speak out of experience from Nazism, first turns against the intellectuals because radical questions should be excluded. But even more important than this political danger is the spiritual danger of the fight against the intellectual critic, namely, the danger that religion become superstition. Every religion which cannot stand ultimately the radical question that is asked by the intellectual critic of religion, is superstition.
As we tackle the huge challenge of confronting issues in the public square, we must retool for intellectual growth at the personal level. But first, we need our bearings.
True intellectual growth is not merely accumulating more data. The emphasis on simply knowing facts reduces learning to trivial pursuits. There is a real danger in becoming like those who are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
True intellect is making connections, seeing the worldviews and values behind ideas and behavior in the world around us. It is knowing what we believe and why. It is also knowing what others believe and why. Where are the points of contact? Where are the points of conflict?
Thinking deeply and broadly is not highly prized in society as a whole or among Christians in particular. What keeps us from developing intellectually? I have heard and read many theories:
“Mediocrity is celebrated, and hard work is seemingly not appreciated. There is an attitude: Why strive for more academic achievement, when I can achieve my dreams where I am at right now?”
“Intellectual growth isn’t valued in our culture. One who attempts to learn and grow is often ridiculed.”
“Biases and presuppositions, and being unwilling to challenge your own views.”
“Barriers to intellectual growth? TV.”
“I have found that one of the big barriers to intellectual growth is that life is so ‘daily.’ I would love to have time to pursue interests and take a college class or finish my degree, but life as it is for me right now requires that I work to contribute to the family income. Our brains do get tired, and we have a hard time pursuing intellectual growth after a long, hard day.”
“Our society has created and encouraged quick solutions.”
“We may find ourselves setting our sights so intently upon our dream job or perfect future that we forget the importance of having a beautiful, fully-developed mind.”
These responses highlight what I consider the five major barriers to intellectual growth. These factors are interrelated and arise from personal and cultural values.
This factor has two forms. The first is too much information. We are overwhelmed with so much information that we cannot sort through its meaning or its importance.
Current research has discovered that each year over 5 exabytes (5 x 1018 bytes) of new information is created. That’s over 800 megabytes of information for each person in the world. Just the amount of electronic information produced each year would fit into 37,000 Libraries of Congress if it were published in book form.
This flood of information is so overwhelming it is disheartening and causes many to give up even trying to learn. Like drinking at a fire hydrant, it does not seem worth the effort.
The second form is too little information. Indoctrination replaces education. Some believe all we need to know is a little slice of information: that slice that explains or supports my own view of the world. Why should I waste my time with what I believe to be false?
Many Muslims believe that all they need to know is the Koran and Islamic interpretations of culture, just as many Christians believe all they need to know is the Bible and Christian literature. This silo approach to learning limits our contact to ideas and interpretations that actually might be helpful.
Overcoming the information barrier requires a commitment to true learning and an admission that we cannot know everything. Almost everything taught in school today can be accessed free. Teachers realize that their role is less about passing on information and more about helping students organize and evaluate the information they receive. How they make sense of it all is the crucial component in growing intellectually.
Thinking world view helps us see broadly and deeply. As a result, there is no fear of “out there” because exposure to the world of ideas allows us to understand our own views in context, just as studying a foreign language helps us understand English grammar and syntax.
An interesting example of this is seen in a story from the life of Major John Skidmore during a time when he was struggling with his own intellectual development. He asked his good friend, Oswald Chambers, for help.
“What do you read?” Chambers asked him.
“Only the Bible and books directly associated with it,” Skidmore replied.
“That’s the trouble,” Chambers said. “You have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use.”
Later, Chambers wrote to him, “My strong advice to you is to soak, soak, soak in philosophy and psychology, until you know more of these subjects than you ever need consciously think. It is ignorance of these subjects on the part of ministers and workers that has brought our evangelical theology to such a sorry plight.”
The ideal is to be like Daniel and his friends in Babylon to whom “God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning” (Daniel 1:17).
This knowledge not only emboldened their commitment to God but it gave them a leg up in the secular palace: “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (Daniel 1:20).
Much of contemporary culture prizes the shallow values of appearance, fashion and fads. The path of intellectual growth has (unsurprisingly) few benefits in society at large. Peer pressure can be devastating to intellectual pursuits.
What others think of us often directs us away from behaviors that are not held in high regard. Not long ago I heard a young woman refer to someone as, “…really smart, but he’s not a geek.” She made it sound as though he was an anomaly. Who wants to be smart if it marks me as a geek?
The only way to overcome this barrier is to celebrate and value intellectual pursuits. This, of course, begins in the home and must be confirmed at school. But to take root as a cultural value, it must also be embraced by peers. Creating an environment where there are significant rewards for intellectual pursuit‘s helps youth encourage each other and develop the motivation to invest in what it takes to learn well.
Sometimes life is just too busy and we are easily diverted from intellectual pursuits. Leo Tolstoy recalled his early married years as such a distraction: “The new circumstances of a happy life completely diverted me from any search for the overall meaning of life.”
Beyond the cares of life, the noisy background of an entertainment saturated society can drive us to distraction. Expressions in popular culture are usually visceral, appealing to our hearts rather than our heads. With hundreds of television channels, iPods, cell phones and the internet, there is never a moment when we are without entertainment and conversation unless we choose. Teenagers spend on average 8.3 hours everyday accessing information technology.
Growing up does not change us much. Studies show that each month the average American adult:
Watches television over 130 hours Listens to the radio 90 hours Talks on the telephone over 16 hours
Adults who are on the internet (over half of the population) average over 120 hours a month on-line.
But these diversions are only a symptom because the intrusion factor cannot be blamed on technology. Such distractions have always been our experience. In the seventeenth century, Pascal described certain people who were, “…diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation which takes their minds off it or by some novel and agreeable passion which keeps them busy, like gambling, hunting, some absorbing show, in short, by what is called diversion.”
The reality is that all expressions in culture – movies, songs, television programs, books – have at their very core a worldview. “Test everything” the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
By constantly engaging our culture with an active mind (1 Peter 1:13), what was once a diversion can become a catalyst for growth a broader view and a deeper understanding.
This is the real fear factor. Outside information is an enemy to be fought or avoided. Terrified of ultimate questions and overwhelmed by a sense of meaninglessness, some people will choose to avoid the search and seek out entertainment. Still others are afraid to learn something that might disturb what they believe to be true. I have heard, for example, several people say, “I don’t want to see The Da Vinci Code movie because I am afraid it will hurt my faith.”
This is the fear of the unknown. Ignorance is a better, easier life. Philosopher Thomas Morris summarizes, “If you are afraid of what might be out there, you may not want to peek out from under the covers at all.” Or, as John Lennon sang, “Living is easy with eyes closed.”
Many people feel the need to limit the type of information they are learning or else they will experience a loss of control. The idea is that I have already decided what I’m going to believe and I don’t need any more information. Why waste time learning?
Many lack confidence in their ability to process ideas and concepts antagonistic to their own beliefs. They are unable to give an answer for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).
Like other types of fears, this fear can be overcome by confronting the reality of the source and recognizing that we are not alone in our struggle for truth. Living is not easy with eyes closed and true life only begins when fear is overcome by confidence and truth; or, better, confidence in the truth.
Reading good books and listening to speakers who discuss the challenges to Christianity can provide direction in thought, and instill a sense of confidence and awareness.
Indifference is the factor we should fear the most. It is not only at the root of all the others but it is a symptom of a pervasive ennui that has no convictions and shrugs off all commitments.
“Who cares?” is the answer to the ultimate questions.
To be indifferent to important issues is actually praised in American culture. An attitude of detached uncaring is cool and courageous. There is even a popular rock band known as “Maximum Indifference.” As Bon Jovi sang in their 2000 anthem to passionate indifference:
It’s my life And it’s now or never I am not gonna live forever I just want to live while I’m alive It’s my life.
This is no small matter. Pervasive indifference to the issues that make us human has the potential to erode civilizations. Nobel laureate and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel declares:
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
There are no guarantees to overcoming the barrier of indifference. No one can make another person care for anything. It is a personal choice and I choose God. In his Chapter on Scientific Materialism, Dr. Thompson delves into the ―other‖ side of religion. He uses the term ―holy of holies‖ when describing science and what it has become today. Using a statement from Dr. Russell Artist, ―In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth, is the cornerstone for scientific study,‖ Dr. Thompson describes how ―giving credit where credit is due,‖ is paramount when coming to terms with the scientific/religious debate.
Christianity is not a blind faith. It is the only religion that can prove itself, and a main source of that proof is the Bible. Although it is becoming less common, there are still people who tell others that they follow Christianity ―because it feels right‖ (or use wording like that).
This is unfortunate, since there is a lot of evidence supporting Christianity. The existence of all that evidence is one reason we started this site. We want people to learn about the solid evidence that supports their faith, and have a place that collected that evidence so they can show it to others.
There is a great deal of scientific evidence that supports the Bible. One of the strongest arguments for the accuracy of the Bible is its 100% accuracy in predicting the future. These future predictions are called ―prophecies.‖ The Old Testament was written between approximately 1450 BC and 430 BC. During that time, many predictions of the future were recorded in the Bible by God‘s prophets. Of the events that were to have taken place by now, every one happened just the way they predicted it would. No other ―sacred writing‖ has such perfectly accurate predictions of the future.
Of these prophecies, the most striking examples are the predictions about an ―anointed one‖ (―Messiah‖ in Hebrew) who was to arrive in the future. About 4 BC, a miraculous event occurred—a boy named Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary. You can read His story in the book of Luke. Starting at age 30, Jesus fulfilled more and more of these prophecies written about the Messiah.
His fulfillment of these prophecies was very spectacular: Jesus gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cured those who had leprosy, gave the deaf hearing, and raised people from the dead! These miracles and others were done many times in front of thousands of witnesses for three years. About 30 AD, Jesus was crucified (a prophecy) and died (a prophecy).
Three days later he rose from the dead (another prophecy), after which He was seen by over 500 witnesses. Since these prophecies were written down at least 400 years before they happened, there is no doubt that the Bible‘s writers were inspired supernaturally, by God.
There are many prophecies that can be proven through archaeology, especially prophecy dealing with entire nations. Typically, when God declared judgment on a nation, He would send a prophet to announce to the citizens why He was judging them and what He was going to do to them if they continued their evil behavior. On occasion, God would also tell the citizens how He would reward them if they started doing what was right.
The book of Jonah records a case where the Assyrians stopped doing what was evil as a result of Jonah‘s short prophecy. This is what God wanted, and God did not punish them as a result of their change of heart. However, most often the people would jeer at God‘s prophet and continue their bad behavior, later becoming recipients of the exact punishment that God threatened.
Like other prophecy recorded in the Bible, these predictions support the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. The prophecies recorded in the Bible came true in such a detailed way that they could not have been predicted by chance. Further, archaeologists have evidence that these prophecies were written down many years before they were fulfilled, proving that they were not falsified documents claiming to be prophecies that came true. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls stopped the majority of that talk.
Both the Old and New Testaments are strongly supported by manuscript evidence (the evidence of early hand written copies).
The famous Dead Sea Scrolls are one example of the Old Testament evidence.
These documents came from the ―library‖ of a settlement founded at Qumran before 150 B.C. and abandoned about 68 A.D. Some of the manuscript copies were made during that period, and some were written earlier (third century BC) and brought to the settlement. Ignoring spelling-oriented (orthographic) changes and similar small differences, the Dead Sea Scrolls match the Hebrew text behind today‘s Old Testament, in spite of the passage of over 2,000 years (where one would expect errors to creep in).
Over 20,000 known manuscripts document the New Testament text. This makes the New Testament the most reliable document of antiquity (a document written before the printing press).
These manuscripts vary in size from a part of a page to an entire Bible (Old and New Testaments).
The earliest New Testament manuscripts date from the second century (100-199) AD.
These manuscript copies were written in different languages by people of different nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds. In spite of all those differences between them, the New Testament texts all agree. (That is, those differences that we do observe between these hand written documents are occasional changes in the spelling of names or isolated cases of missing or changed words. Still, since we have so many copies, it is obvious to anyone but the hardened skeptic can that they all represent the same text.)
Special proof exists for the New Testament, since Christians were strongly persecuted by both the Jews and the Roman government. If the New Testament writings were false, these two groups would have produced a great deal of evidence to stop the growth of this ―sect.‖ None exists. Further, the New Testament writings, before they were assembled into the ―book‖ we call the New Testament, circulated during the lifetimes of thousands of people who had actually seen Jesus‘ miracles and other historic events. No one ever refuted the New Testament writings as ―fairy tales.‖ In his final pages, Dr. Thompson delves into ―Hypocrisy and Misconduct by Believers,‖ and ―Unjust Acts Committed by Believers.‖ Herein lies the crux for much of the criticism of Christians in today‘s world. Many people in today‘s society, I believe, have a misconception of the word ―repentance‖ as it is described in the Bible. The root of repentance in the Bible means a change of mind. The Bible clearly teaches that repentance is necessary for salvation, (Acts 2:38).
It is impossible for anyone to be saved without repentance. But what exactly is repentance in the Bible? Dr. Harry Ironside stated, ―repentance is the recognition of m sinnership, the owning before God that I am as vile as He has declared me to be in His Holy Work.‖
To be save, we must come to the Christ as a sinner, (1 John 1:8-10).
If you are not a sinner, then why would you need a Savior? It would not make any sense at all for the self-righteous person to ask Christ for forgiveness.
My point is that we must turn from our good image of ourselves and confess to God our sinful condition.
The unrepentant man wants nothing to do with God or His Word, (John 3:20).
When a person repents, whereas they were living in the pleasures of sin, away from God, now they are in agreement with God that their sins are wicked and they turn to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of those sins. This is Biblical repentance.
Most people reject Jesus as their personal Savior and continue downward spiral in hell. But a few people, and only a few (Matthew :13-14), decide to come to Christ. It is at the very moment that they decide to turn to Jesus that repentance has taken place.
Some false prophets teach that a person must stop committing sin, or be willing to stop committing sin, in order to qualify for salvation. This type of teaching negates the gift of God. Jesus paid for our sins so we would not have to. All a person needs to do to be saved is to acknowledge their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19) and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be forgiven (Acts 10:43).
Mankind has a sinful tendency to rationalize evil into good. Jesus foretold the time when the unsaved will murder Christians, thinking they are doing God a favor (John 16:2).
Our churches are filled with unsaved religious hypocrites who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
They have made commitments to serve God, have joined churches and many claim to have prayed the salvation prayer, but they are as lost as the Devil himself. They have never trusted upon the name of Jesus to forgive their sins.
I am convinced that this type of person is a liar, because there is no evidence of salvation. Repentance is supposed to bring forth a changed life, (1 Corinthians 5:17).
A changed life is the fruit of genuine repentance, but not a part of saving faith. I would not support any believer‘s testimony who attempts to justify abortion, homosexuality or other sins, but does that mean they are not saved?
The bible is filled with examples of believers who sinned horribly, Jacob, David, Noah, Samson, Jonah and Solomon. They all sinned horribly at times, yet they were saved. It is important to notice that of all the believers who sinned in the Bible not of them attempted to justify their sins. The bible instructs us, as believers, to judge ―righteous judgement‖ (John 7:24).
We are to separate from carnal believers who indulge in sinful living, and from those who attempt to justify sin (1Corinthians 5:11).
Certainly, we are not wrong to question the salvation of those who live contrary to the Scriptures.
Does an individual need to stop living in sin to be saved? No. We know that a person must realized their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19) and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, but does a person actually have to forsake those sins to be saved? Again, no!
True Biblical repentance is acknowledging your guilt of sin before God, (Romans 3:19) and turning to Jesus Christ by faith to be forgiven. The turning is not from the act of sin itself, but rather ―turning to the Lord‖ to be forgiven from the condemnation which sin brings. Repentance is more than just realizing that we have done wrong, it is acknowledging our guilt and asking Jesus Christ to forgive us. No one has God‘s permission to live in sin, however the Bible teaches that God only requires a simple childlike faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and eternally secure. To those false prophets who would add holy living and works as requirements to receive the gift of God, you are the league with the Devil. No person can be saved by good works and no man can be lost by bad works. Salvation cannot be by God‘s Grace AND works, (Romans 11:6).
The Bible declares that is through a person‘s faith by God‘s Grace that we are saved, (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If you add ―works‖ to your faith, then it is not faith at all and we are still bound for Hell in our self-righteousness. We do not have to live above sin to be saved. No one can live above sin, no matter how close we get to God, we will always sin as long as we are in the flesh.
Only when we, as believers, walk in the Spirit of God, can we live righteously. The Christian life is not hard to live, it is impossible! Jesus wants to live the Christian life through us. We just have to let Him. Unfortunately, we do not walk in the Spirit all the time. We are still cursed by the flesh. We should not sin, but as long as we are in the flesh, we will sin at times.
It is dangerous to teach, as some do, that a person needs to maintain good works to keep their salvation. It is a lie of the Devil. No believer has God‘s permission to sin and God promises to chastise those who do live in sin, (Hebrews 12:6-8).
Nevertheless, our salvation is not condition upon our works, good or bad. Salvation is the unconditional gift of God, paid for by Jesus redeeming blood, (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Sources: 1. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
“World View: Deism,” at: //www.iwriteiam.nl/
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
The United Deist Church of Asheville, at: //www.geocities.com/ “Scott,” “The Symbol of Deism,” 2008-NOV-19, at: “Symbol/deism,” Dynamic Deism Fellowship & community Forum, at: //www.celestiallands.org/ “Mobius Magic,” Mobius Products and Services, at: //www.mobiusproductsandservices.com/ The symbol of the United Deist Church of Asheville is also a Mobius strip. See: //www.geocities.com/ “Possibility,” The Church of Sunny Deism,” at: //www.freewebs.com/ The Deist Alliance is a cooperative venture among a number of Deist groups. See: //deistalliance.org/
10. “The Christian Deism Symbol,” at: //www.christiandeism.com/ The home page itself does not appear to be online. 11. “One Deist,” “Why Phi? Not WiFi,” Deism Today blogspot, 2008-APR-26, at: //deismtoday.blogspot.com/ 12. John Earwood, “The Elusive Deity of Deism. ‘What in god‘s name do you believe?’,” 2005-FEB-03, at://godvsthebible.com/ 13. www.Wikipedia.com 14. Geisler, Norman. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000, p. 576 15. The Humanist, E.O. Wilson, 1982 16. McDowell, J., Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Here‘s Life Pub., 1988 17. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls; Qumran in Perspective, Fortress Press, 1988 18. Pfeiffer, C.F., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, Baker Book House, 1991 19. Geisler, Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1968 20. Daniel, O.E., The Harmony of the Four Gospels, Baker 21. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum, British Museum Pub. 1988 22. 23. 24. Hinrichs, S., Hostile Witnesses Provide Key Testimony for the Resurrection of Christ Secular Web, //www.infidels.org/library/modern. Blomberg, Craig, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Intervarsity Press
Northwestern Theological Seminary Course Assignment #1 Conclusion Introduction to Apologetics as presented by Dr. Bert Thompson
Dr. Thompsons paper, in short, was one of the most inspiring documents I have had the pleasure of reading. Coming during a time when it is questioned whether Apologetics is needed or even wanted in todays ―modern‖ world, it proved, to me anyway, just how much we do need apologists today.
Thompson answers several questions that are very meaningful. How relevant is apologetics today? How big a role should apologetics play in a Christian’s witness? And, above all, is apologetics biblical? To see just how relevant apologetics is today, we need only take a quick survey of the world around us. Whether we look at the world on a global scale or merely peek into our own little “neck of the woods,” it certainly doesn’t take long to realize that we are literally being inundated with a plethora of beliefs and ideologies. From secular humanism to New Age mysticism, people everywhere are being bombarded with an onslaught of false ideas and worldviews. (A “worldview” is simply an interpretive framework through which or by which one interprets the world around him.) What makes these false worldviews so appealing is their apparent capacity to make sense of the universe in which we live. Each respective worldview purports to give the correct account of reality, thereby giving people some point of reference by which to order their lives. And it’s fair to say that worldviews affect practically every aspect of a person’s life.
Consider, for example, a person with a humanistic/atheistic worldview. Since such a person considers mankind to be “the measure of all things,” he or she generally believes that we need only turn to human ingenuity and wisdom to supply every needed answer. Transcendentally important issues dealing with the purpose and meaning of life are relegated purely to human thoughts on the matter; ethical and moral dilemmas are consigned to mere individual or cultural opinions; and the absolute foundation of truth is reduced to a rubble of relativism. Now, while some may hold this worldview to be reasonably sound and personally satisfying, the fact remains, as Dr. Thompson points out, that it is ultimately a road leading to eternal destruction (Prov. 14:12).
Dr. Thompson brings out the reasons why it is the Christian’s responsibility in the face of these competing worldviews. Certainly most Christians are aware of their responsibility to reach a dying world with God’s message. No less an authority than Jesus exhorts us to proclaim the Good News (Matt. 10:27) and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).
However, the same Bible that compels us to preach the Good News urges us to contend for the faith as well (Jude 3).
Thompson‘s paper also shows it is thus not a mere option left to the believer. Rather, it should be an essential element of the believer’s life.
Writing in a world steeped in mystery cults, the apostle Peter admonished believers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV).
Only by meeting honest objections with biblical answers can we “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
It was in this spirit that Paul vigorously defended the gospel (Acts 26:1-2; Phil. 1:7, 16), charging Timothy and Titus to do the same (2 Tim. 2:23-26; 4:2-5; Titus 1:9-14).
In the Book of Acts, we find the early Christians presenting reasoned answers to a variety of charges made against Christianity. To the Jews the church pointed out that Christ was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 3:17-26).
To the Gentiles the church argued that God was calling them to turn from superstitious religions to the true God revealed in Jesus Christ (19:1-22).
In all their apologetics, the early church emphasized the undeniable event of the resurrection of Christ (4:10; 17:31).
And, unlike some Christians today, the early church was not plagued by the disease “do not-rock-the-boatitis”; indeed, the early Christians defended the faith whenever and wherever the opportunity arose. We must commit to doing the same. Far from being some abstract discipline or quaint pastime for a select few (such as theologians and ministers), apologetics is in reality an immensely practical tool for every single member of the body of Christ. And the need for apologetics today is critical.
Believers must realize that we are living in a post-Christian era, with a host of religions, cults, and occultic systems vying continuously for people’s commitments and, indeed, for their very lives. Dr. Thompson shows why we must face these challenges head-on. Dr. Thompson shows why, using apologetics, equipped Christians can show that the Christian worldview is consistent, coherent, and corresponds to reality over and above all other competing worldviews. Thompson, through his paper, also shows that Christianity is both spiritually and intellectually fulfilling, and that Christianity is nothing less than the truth (John 17:17).
The fact that Christianity has an intellectual or rational element is clear in Jesus’ words about loving God not only with all our heart, soul, and strength, but also with all our mind; Mark 12:29. The number of people hungry for sound answers is anything but diminishing. And because of this, we should be more committed than ever to uphold, defend, and promote the historic orthodox Christian faith, through which alone salvation is offered to humanity. Is apologetics still relevant today? I believe Dr. Thompson proved apologetics has never been more relevant than it is today. And all of us should deeply thankful for the numerous men and women worldwide who are willing to stand with us in the battle of defending the faith against all competing truth claims.