Archives For Apologetics

A while ago, I reading Acts 4 when I noticed something I hadn’t seen before and I thought I would share with the fantastic Cripplegate readers. Acts 5:14-21 is a great little text that gives a wonderful example of the noetic effects of sin; how sin affects the mind and the rational process.  The unbelieving mind is anything but neutral regarding facts and their relationship to God, and Acts 4:14-21 displays that in rather stark language.

Thinking

Acts 4 follows Acts 3, where Peter and John heal a lame man who’s more than 40 years old (Acts 4:22).  He’s lame, asks for money, they command him to rise up and walk, and he does (Acts 3:1-9) in full view of many people in the Temple and thousands had heard about it almost immediately (Acts 4:4).  Everyone knows the guy because he’s been lying on his mat for a long time(Acts 3:10) and then Peter preaches the good news of the resurrection of Christ in the temple (Acts 3:11-26).  Then, in Acts 4 Peter and John are called before the Sanhedrin the next day and the Sanhedrin read them the riot act (Acts 4:4-13)  Then, comes this passage: Continue Reading…

JusticeLast Friday, I posted some selections of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” since last Tuesday was the 273rd anniversary of the greatest sermon preached on American soil. If you haven’t read that post, I would invite you to read America’s greatest sermon for America’s greatest need.

However, because I was on vacation last week, away from a computer, I wasn’t able to participate in the very disappointing comment thread that followed that post. The discussion was immediately derailed by objections to the doctrine of hell as the eternal conscious torment of the wicked who die outside of Christ. So because I wasn’t able to respond then, and because the objections presented are very common from our increasingly-secular, anti-biblical, and Christianity-intolerant culture (and so are objections you will need to respond to as you engage your “world” with the Gospel), I wanted to respond to those objections today.

Continue Reading…

200wordsIn early church history, one of the biggest theological debates centered on the deity of Jesus Christ. There are still groups that deny His deity today, from Muslims (who say Jesus was merely a prophet) to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who insist that He is not equal to the Father).

If I were asked to defend the doctrine of Christ’s deity, in 200 words or less, this would be my response. (Note that my word count does not include Scripture references).

I believe that Jesus is God for at least the following eleven reasons: Continue Reading…

200wordsIf the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, then why do Christians believe in God’s tri-unity? Here is my attempt to answer that question in 200 words or less. (Note that I did not include Scripture references in my word count.)

Although the term Trinity does not occur in Scripture, the concept is inherently biblical. The Trinitarian nature of God was revealed implicitly in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New Testament.

The doctrine of the Trinity is founded on two fundamental theological realities: (1) There is one true God. (2) The one God has eternally existed as three distinct Persons, each of whom is equally and fully God.  Continue Reading…

200wordsBaptists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three claim to believe in Jesus. Yet, only one of these groups can be rightly classified as a denomination rather than a false religion.
With that in mind, the question we are asking today might be stated as follows:

What are the marks of cult groups and apostate forms of Christianity that identify them as false religions—such that we can and should label them as heresies, rather than simply classifying them as different denominations?

Here is my attempt to answer that question in 200 words or less:

The New Testament articulates three fundamental doctrinal criteria by which false teachers (and false religions) can be identified: Continue Reading…

200wordsIf someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5; Lev. 26:1; Acts 10:25–26; Rev. 22:8–9). Continue Reading…

June 10, 2014

Upon This Rock

by Nathan Busenitz

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Simon, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Roman Catholics interpret Matt. 16:18 to mean that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built. That interpretation then becomes the basis for the doctrine of papal succession. If Peter is the rock on which the church is built, and if the bishops of Rome are Peter’s successors, then it follows, they say, that the papacy remains the foundation of the church.

But that is not at all what Matthew 16:18 teaches.

The name “Peter” was a nickname given to Simon by Jesus, all the way back in John 1:42 when Peter first met Jesus. Coming from the Greek word petros (or the Aramaic word “Cephas”), the name Peter means “Rock” or “Stone.” To use an English equivalent, Peter means “Rocky.” Continue Reading…

Clement of RomeClick here to read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

The gospel of grace was both proclaimed and preserved in the earliest decades of church history. It was overwhelmingly affirmed by the apostles at the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15), such that Paul could later tell the Ephesians, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

Shortly after the Jerusalem Council, Paul wrote a letter to the churches he had planted on his first missionary journey. That letter, known as the book of Galatians, admonished its readers not to acquiesce to the works-righteousness of the Judaizers. To do so, Paul stated, would be to embrace another gospel—one which was not really good news at all (Gal. 1:6–9). The apostle went on to clearly explain that justification is not based on keeping the law, but is only granted by grace through faith in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:1–14). Given the theme of that epistle (justification by faith vs. justification by works), it is not surprising to learn that Galatians was Martin Luther’s favorite book of the New Testament, because in that text he found the gospel of grace so clearly revealed.

The New Testament emphasis (on a gospel of grace apart from works) became the foundation for the Protestant Reformation and its central tenet of sola fide. The biblical teaching on that issue remains the authoritative basis on which an evangelical understanding of the gospel is built. But while modern evangelicals rightly conclude that the doctrine of sola fide is founded in Scripture, many wrongly assume that there is relatively little support for that position in pre-Reformation church history. Nothing could be further from the truth. Continue Reading…

File:Paul Apostle.jpgClick here to read Part 1 or Part 2.

When we talk about “the gospel in church history,” it is necessary to start at the beginning of church history—in those initial decades recorded for us in the book of Acts. Significantly, the essence of the gospel was the central issue at the first major council in church history.

The Jerusalem Council met around AD 49 or 50, nearly twenty years after the church was established on the Day of Pentecost, and 275 years before the next major church council—the Council of Nicaea (which convened in 325). The Jerusalem Council, which is recorded in Acts 15, assembled to answer one primary question: “What is the essence of the gospel?” But to fully understand what was at stake, we need to begin with Paul’s first missionary journey, found in Acts 13–14.

The Proclamation of the True Gospel (Acts 13–14)

In the first few years of church history, immediately following the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the church was composed entirely of Jewish Christians. It wasn’t until the conversion of the Samaritans (in Acts 8) and Cornelius (in Acts 10) that non-Jews began to be incorporated into the body of Christ. After highlighting Cornelius’s conversion, Luke detailed the spread of the gospel into Gentile lands (in Acts 11:19–24), culminating in the formation of a predominantly Gentile church in Syrian Antioch.

The inclusion of Gentiles into the church represented a major paradigm shift for Jewish Christians. For the previous 1500 years of Israel’s history, since the time of Moses, God had been specifically working through the nation of Israel. But now, in the church, Gentiles were being saved without having to first become Jewish proselytes. Of course, God had prepared the apostles for this by saving Cornelius while Peter was present. Continue Reading…

File:John Wycliffe at work.jpgClick here to read the first installment in this series.

Many people think of the Reformation as something that started with Luther in 1517. But the reality is that the Reformation was a movement that had begun to gain momentum much earlier than the sixteenth century.

Back in the 1100s, 350 years before Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, a group known as the Waldensians began to teach that the Bible alone is the authority for the church. They defied papal authority, committed themselves to preaching the gospel, and even translated the Word of God into the common language of the people. They were severely persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church, and as a result often found themselves hiding in the Alps. In the sixteenth century, during the lifetime of Calvin and Knox, the Waldensians officially joined the Reformed Movement; because they recognized that the sixteenth-century Reformers valued the same truths that they had been committed to all along.

In the 1300s, still two centuries before Luther, an English scholar named John Wycliffe began teaching that the church was in desperate need of reform. Wycliffe has been nicknamed the “Morning Star of the Reformation” because he affirmed essential Reformation doctrines like sola Scriptura and sola fide; he was also the first to translate the Bible into English. The Oxford scholar opposed the papacy, calling the pope the “antichrist.” Instead, he taught, Christ alone is the Head of the church. Wycliffe denied baptismal regeneration, opposed the mass, criticized indulgences, and taught that the clergy should be able to marry. The Roman Catholic church became so angry at John Wycliffe that, after he died, they dug up his bones and burned them in effigy. Continue Reading…