Apologetics & Evangelism – Part V

  • Over the past few weeks we’ve been examining some of the flawed views on apologetics and evangelism that are sometimes embraced within the church. Today we are going to look at one final position we call the Defeatist approach.
  • Sadly, there are some Christians today who have simply given up in attempting to reach the world with the Gospel.
  • A common viewpoint with those who hold this position is that the state of our culture and world today is so bad that none of our efforts will change anything.
  • Furthermore, many justify this position by declaring that we are obviously living in the last days and Jesus told us the world would just keep getting worse as we moved closer to his return.
  • The problem with this Defeatist approach however, is that while it may be true that we are living in the last days, we cannot know this for sure. Jesus also told us that no man knows the day or hour of his return (Mt. 24:36).
  • Therefore, since we don’t know the Lord’s timing, we must continue to be faithful in carrying out his final instructions to the Church given in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20).
  • The Lord has never rescinded the Great Commission. Therefore, regardless of the extent of the cultural decay around us, it is biblically unjustifiable for any Christian to abandon our duty to continue to work for the advancement of the Gospel in our world today.

For more information on reaching today’s culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please check out Jason Carlson’s newly released CD series, Answering the Challenges of a Post-Christian Culture, available in our online store.

Apologetics & Evangelism – Part IV

  • In our current Fast Facts series on apologetics and evangelism we have been examining some of the flawed views on outreach to non-believers that are sometimes found within contemporary Christianity.
  • Today we will consider another flawed view on outreach called the Devotional approach. This view argues that the best approach to evangelism is to simply share our personal stories about what Jesus has done for us.
  • The Devotional approach focuses on highlighting our own personal experience with Jesus and sharing our stories of how he has changed our lives.
  • Now, sharing our personal stories of how Jesus has changed our lives is certainly a helpful tool in our evangelistic outreach. However, we must remember that there are other people in our culture with stories of changed lives too; and for many of them, it wasn’t Jesus who did the changing (I’m reminded of a young woman I met recently who raved about the difference that Zen Buddhism had made in her life).
  • The fundamental flaw with a pure Devotional approach to evangelism is that salvation must ultimately be based on truth and facts, not simply on subjective personal experiences.
  • Remember, Satan is the great deceiver (John 8:44) and he is more than happy to lead someone into a positive transformational experience if it takes him or her further away from Jesus.
  • Sharing our stories is helpful, but ultimately we must provide a rational explanation of the Gospel (Rom. 10:2-3, 14-17), reasonable answers to honest questions (1 Peter 3:15), and a defense of the truth as opposed to heresy and fallacy (Jude 3).

For more information on sharing your faith with those caught up in false religions and philosophies, please check out Dr. Carlson’s book, Fast Facts On False Teachings, available in our online store.

Apologetics & Evangelism – Part III

  • Last week we looked at why some of the popular postmodern views on evangelism and apologetics are flawed in light of the biblical admonitions on these topics.
  • However, there are other flawed beliefs about apologetics and evangelism within the Church today, such as the Defensive approach, where some Christians believe we should not proactively engage the non-Christian world, but we should insulate ourselves from the culture around us.
  • The Defensive approach creates a barricade mentality or a Christian subculture in order to avoid being influenced or corrupted by the non-Christian world around us.
  • This Defensive approach to the Christian faith is flawed though in light of biblical truth. For example, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us that our spiritual warfare is not defensive in nature, but offensive. This is echoed in Ephesians 6:10-18 where the apostle Paul tells us that the spiritual armor of the believer is also offensive in nature. Notice, there is no armor mentioned there to cover our backsides!
  • In order to fulfill the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) the Christian cannot embrace a Defensive approach to the world around us. We must be proactively engaged in contending for the faith.

For more information on apologetics and evangelism please check out the book, Apologetics For A New Generation, available in our online store.

Apologetics & Evangelism – Part II

  • While apologetics has always been an essential tool for Christian evangelism, sadly, many in our postmodern world today are beginning to question the relevance of contending for the faith with rational argumentation.
  • Some common ideas on evangelism, which are held by many Christians today, are things like: “People aren’t looking for rational arguments, they want to hear your story”; “People don’t need evidence for the faith, they just need us to be authentic”; and “Conversion is about the heart, not the intellect”.
  • Many Christians today seem to prefer experiencing Christianity to thinking about or explaining it.
  • This postmodern vision of Christian evangelism and apologetics, however, falls far short of the Bible’s admonitions on this subject, as well as its counsel and examples on how the faith is appropriately transmitted.
  • Scriptures such as Mt. 13:23; Acts 8:30-31; Acts 18:4; Acts 19:8-10; Romans 10:17; and 2 Cor. 5:11 are all evidence that reason and rational argumentation are at the heart of the New Testament model for evangelism and apologetics.
  • Can there be saving faith without understanding? Can there be understanding without reasoning? The Bible would appear to say “No”.

For more information on apologetics and evangelism, please check out The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, available in our online store.

Apologetics & Evangelism – Part I

  • The primary mission Jesus Christ gave the Church was to go into the whole world and make disciples of him (Matthew 28:19-20). Apologetics is an essential tool in fulfilling this mission.
  • Apologetics is the science and art of defending the Christian faith. The word apologetics comes from the Greek legal term ‘apologia’, which means ‘to give a defense’.
  • Having an ability to practice apologetics is necessary for believers as we are called to proactively ‘contend’ with non-believers and false worldviews (Jude 3).
  • The skill of apologetics is also helpful as Christians are called to be ready always to provide answers to those who ask us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15).
  • However, having answers alone is not enough. The manner in which we as believers do apologetics is as important as the words we express (1 Peter 3:15).
  • Remember, you can win the intellectual battle yet lose the war for a person’s heart!

For more information on why and how we should engage in Christian apologetics, please check out the book, Apologetics for a New Generation, available in our online store.

The Skeptics’ Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus – Part III

  • A third argument raised against the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is called the Swoon Theory. This argument posits the idea that Jesus never really died as a result of his beatings and crucifixion, but rather, Jesus was mistakenly declared dead and then placed in the tomb. After 3 days in the cool air of the tomb, Jesus awoke from his coma, emerged from the grave, and convinced his followers that he had risen from the dead.

There are a number of problems with the Swoon Theory:

  • First, the Romans were expert executioners; and the executioners presiding over Jesus’ crucifixion made certain he was dead. The Gospels record that the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus had their legs broken to hasten their deaths. However, when the executioners examined Jesus they found no reason to break his legs, as he was already dead (John 19:33).
  • Second, the Roman executioners jabbed a spear through Jesus’ side to assure he was dead (John 19:34). The Gospels record that blood and water spilled out of this stab wound, indicating death by traumatic shock and acute heart failure.
  • Furthermore, even if we assume Jesus survived the crucifixion, there are still numerous challenges for the Swoon Theory to overcome. For example: How did Jesus escape the mummy-like grave clothes he was buried in (John 19:38-42)? How did a barely alive Jesus move the large stone blocking the tomb’s entrance (Matthew 27:60)? How would Jesus have gotten past the guard unit commissioned by Pilate to make the tomb secure (Matthew 27:65)? How did a bruised and battered Jesus convince his followers that he was the risen Lord who had triumphantly conquered the grave? And lastly, what happened to Jesus if he wasn’t God incarnate, risen, and ascended into Heaven? Are we to believe that someone of Jesus’ acclaim just disappeared from history, never to be seen or heard from again?
  • The Swoon Theory is ultimately a desperate attempt to explain away the overwhelming historical evidence for the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus.

For more information on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, please check out Dr. Carlson’s lecture, The Resurrection: Fiction or Fact?, available in CD or MP3 in our online store.

The Skeptics’ Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus – Part II

  • Another alternative proposed by skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “Stolen Body Theory”. This option states that Jesus did not physically rise from the grave, but rather, his disciples stole his body from the tomb, disposed of it elsewhere, and then declared that Jesus had been resurrected.

There are numerous problems with this option, however:

  • First, Jesus’ tomb was protected by armed guards- either a Roman guard unit or a Jewish temple guard unit (Mt. 27:65-66). In either case though, you have to explain how Jesus’ disciples, average men with no military experience, got past trained warriors who had been instructed to make the tomb as secure as possible.
  • Second, you still have the problem we discussed last week, what would be the disciples’ motive for taking such a risk and then making up the story of the resurrection? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose.
  • Third, a stolen body doesn’t account for the eyewitness testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus. Scripture reports that over 500 people saw Jesus physically alive following his crucifixion and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Skeptics may argue that these people were all lying, but to get that many people to agree to the same falsehood, stick to their stories, and many even go to their deaths for it; that is hard to believe. And if Paul was lying about these eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15), why did he state that most of them are still living (v. 6), as if to say, “If you don’t believe me, go ask them!”
  • Fourth, and related to the last point, as was mentioned last week, how do you account for the rapid growth of the early church in a hostile, 1st century context where neither the Jews nor Romans wanted Christianity to succeed? The only thing that can explain this growth is that there were just too many firsthand, eyewitnesses to the resurrection for people to simply dismiss this as a made up story.
  • Lastly, the stolen body theory cannot account for the radical change we see in the life of Saul (Paul). Saul was a zealous persecutor of the early Christian church and a Jew with impeccable credentials (Acts 8:1-3; Philippians 3:4-6); and yet, he ultimately became the most influential evangelist in the history of Christianity. What accounts for this dramatic life change if not the reason Paul himself gives, that he had seen the risen Jesus (1 Cor. 15:8)?

For more information on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, please check out Jason Carlson’s CD album, Answering the 3 Great Questions of Life, available in our online store.

The Skeptics’ Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus – Part I

  • One of the common arguments raised against the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “Conspiracy Theory” option. This argument posits the idea that Jesus’ disciples made the whole story up. There was no resurrection, Jesus died, was buried, and the disciples simply began promoting the claim that he had risen.
  • In response to this charge, one must ask, what would be the disciples’ motivation for inventing such a story? In a hostile, 1st century Jewish religious culture, paired with the political oppression of the Roman Empire, the disciples had nothing to gain by advancing the resurrection story and everything to lose. In fact, all but one of the disciples would be martyred for their profession that Jesus was the risen Lord.
  • The conspiracy theory option must also explain the radical transformation evidenced in the disciples’ lives shortly after Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. The Gospels report that when Jesus was arrested the disciples fled, went into hiding, and denied knowing him, fearing they might be next (Mark 14:50, 66-72). And yet, shortly after Jesus’ execution, the disciples are boldly and publicly proclaiming him to be the risen Lord (Acts 2:14; 4:8). What could inspire this dramatic change if Jesus had not truly risen?
  • Along with the above problems for the conspiracy theory option, the skeptic who holds this position must also explain why Jesus’ tomb was empty, the eyewitness testimonies of the risen Jesus, the rapid spread of the early church in a hostile 1st century context, and the conversion of hardcore skeptics and persecutors of the Christian faith like Saul (Paul). We’ll explore each of these problems for the various skeptics’ accounts of the resurrection in our upcoming Fast Facts.

For more information on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, please check out Jason Carlson’s chapter, Jesus: Risen for a New Generation in the book Apologetics For A New Generation, available in our online store.

Worldviews – Part X

  • Over the past 10 weeks our Fast Facts series has explored the various worldviews that have influenced Western culture over the past two centuries.
  • The primary lesson to be learned in humanity’s spiritual journey these past two hundred years is that apart from an embrace of God’s revealed truth in Scripture, societies are destined for disaster. This is the lesson we learn from history, but it’s also what God’s word has revealed to us for over 2,000 years (Romans 1:18-32).
  • Culture is simply worldview externalized. What an individual, a nation, or society thinks and believes about God will directly impact all areas of life. Thus, for true societal transformation to take place, it must begin with heart transformation.
  • For us as believers who are concerned with the direction our culture is heading today, what this means is that our primary motivation must be for declaring the Gospel and calling people to repentance and making Christ the Lord of their lives. Apart from genuine heart transformation, all of our other social ministry endeavors will simply be temporary band-aids masking humanity’s true need.
  • The most important message we can share with the world today is that single most important truth expressed by Jesus Christ, himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

For more information on sharing the Gospel with those caught up in false worldviews, please check out the book Apologetics For A New Generation, available in our online store.

Worldviews – Part IX

  • In the past two weeks we’ve been exploring some of the manifestations of Postmodern thought; and specifically, we’ve looked at Postmodern Existentialism and Postmodern Spiritualism.
  • A third manifestation of Postmodern philosophy in our world today is what is called Postmodern Secularism. As it’s name implies, it rejects the spiritual realm that is embraced by Postmodern Spiritualism. However, it also rejects the overt pessimism of Postmodern Existentialism. In the end, however, the logical end of Postmodern Secularism is no better for humanity than either of the two previously explored options.
  • Postmodern Secularism is essentially a renewed Humanism harkening back to Nietzsche’s philosophy of the 19th c.
  • The basic belief of Postmodern Secularism is that humanity is basically good. People are not guilty of violating any actual moral law (as absolutes do not exist), but rather, we’re simply guilty of our guilt.
  • Postmodern Secularism declares that institutions, and particularly organized religion, create evil and guilt by limiting personal freedom through the invention of false systems of morality. For the Postmodern Secularist, the freedom to follow your heart, discover personal fulfillment, and achieve self-actualization are the highest goal.
  • The most obvious expression of the above goal in our contemporary culture is in the area of sexual liberty, where our culture has increasingly turned it’s back on God’s standards. With this, we’ve seen the institution of marriage come under attack – both in regards to our culture’s devaluation of marriage (cohabitation, divorce, etc.) and in it’s redefinition of marriage (gay marriage currently legal in 9 states throughout America).
  • The Christian worldview teaches that there are absolutes in the areas of truth and morality; and therefore, following God’s norms, not our sinful hearts, is what ultimately leads to true fulfillment in our lives and society. This message convicts the inherent ‘idolatry of the self’ found in Postmodern Secularism, which is why Christianity is being increasingly marginalized in our culture today.
  • The hedonistic goals of Postmodern Secularism may appear to be based on freedom and personal liberty, but ultimately, pursuing freedom apart from God produces not liberty, but bondage. The further a society moves away from God’s standards of truth, the greater the sin and moral anarchy that will result (Rom. 1:18-32).

For more information on the implications of Postmodern thought for our culture today, please check out the book Answers For A Confused Church, available in our online store.