When Christians think and speak about apologetics—about defending the Christian faith against the attacks of unbelievers—it can sometimes be the case that Scripture itself is one of the furthest things from their minds. When endeavoring to defend the faith, many of us think immediately of archaeology, of philosophical arguments, of scientific proofs and rebuttals, of canonicity and textual criticism, and of refutations of classic atheistic arguments. While all those things have their place in a well-rounded, robustly prepared defender of the faith, it’s unfortunate that Scripture can be one of the last places we think to inform our apologetic methodology. But in point of fact, there are many passages in the Bible that teach us much regarding issues of defending the faith and reasoning with unbelievers. I’d like to explore some of those lessons today.
Archives For Apologetics
Last week I confessed my moment of stage fright when a couple of smiling Jehovah’s Witnesses unleashed a series of propositions that momentarily rattled me. But in the conversation I asked a question that seemed to hit a nerve: “In your faith, would I get to go to Heaven to be with Jesus?” No, they admitted. Only 144,000 go to heaven and the chances one of them would be me were on par with the chances of my shower song repertoire securing me a spot on American Idol (pretty much zero; since I am not American).
But as a consolation prize I’d get to live in the New Earth, which sounded appealing, except for one thing…no Jesus. I don’t care how idyllic their pamphlet’s pictures of the Utopian New Earth are, if I don’t get to be with Jesus, it’s got nothing to offer me. I asked them if they believed they were part of the privileged 144,000. They admitted somberly that they didn’t believe they would be included.
Wow. What a hopeless faith. According to their belief, the worst that can happen to the ungodly is an eternal rest of annihilation, and the best is an eternity on an upgraded earth, sans Jesus.
I shared the good news of the gospel that they could be saved from their sins and live forever with Jesus in Heaven and explained that they didn’t need to do anything to gain this salvation, it was already accomplished on the cross. Sadly, they suggested we simply agree to disagree, and left. As they were walking away, I called after them, “I’ll pray for you,” to which one replied “Please don’t.” Tragic. (I prayed anyway).
Once you realize that Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses do NOT believe the same thing–any more than the Taliban and the Republican Party share ideals–you need some ammunition for your defense.
Here are some silver bullets on Christ’s deity… Continue Reading…
“Expelled” is a documentary where comedian/actor/presidential speech-writer Ben Stein makes the case that scientists are suppressing evidence that shows that life has an intelligent designer. While the movie is a few years old, the point it makes still stands: evolution is a theory with more problems than answers, chief of which is that it is too unclear to be helpful. Nevertheless, the scientific community is so defensive of evolution that any evidence to the contrary is simply not allowed to be heard. Instead, those that dare do research that support intelligent design (ID) are expelled from the academic community.
The circular argument made by the scientific community and exposed by the movie is simple. ID is not science because no research backing it appears in peer-reviewed journals. Moreover, no scientist can do research pointing to ID or publish any articles defending it because it is not science. The circle is both complete and impenetrable.
“Who’s there?” comes the Pavlovian response. But instead of a quippy reply I encountered a rehearsed sounding question: “Do you have time to talk to us about the future?”
An intriguing enough request. Life insurance broker? Fortune teller? Eschatologist? I opened the door and was accosted by the glazed smiling faces of two middle-aged men, donned in cheap black suits, each holding a book. Not salesmen–per se. They wanted to talk to me about Jehovah. I confessed apologetically that I already believed in God, and would not be swayed. Instead of a gracious rebuff, they took that as an invitation to keep proselytizing: “Me too” one of them said, smiling.
“Oh, I mean I believe in the God of the Bible,” I clarified.
“No, I mean I believe in Jesus.”
“I mean I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Ok, time to bust out the seminary training here.
“I believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, uncreated, pre-existent God, incarnated in human flesh, the second person of the Trinity, co-equal in essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit,” I rattled off, grateful for that quiz on creeds I crammed for in Theo 101. I know I left out about six points, but I was confident that this clip of ammo would be enough to shut off the dripping faucet of “me toos.”
Silence…they’re regrouping…I’m gloating (inwardly only, mind you).
I thought I had stumped them. But then, like a gatling gun came a rapid fire flurry of retorts I was not prepared for: Continue Reading…
What Roman Catholics refer to as “the Dogma of Papal Infallibility” is one of the most stunning of all of RCC doctrine. According to this dogma, the Pope—when he speaks on matters concerning the church—is protected from the possibility of error. Note that it is not that what he says is always true, but something more radical is claimed: there is not even the possibility of him speaking something untrue.
When this dogma was first codified (the first Vatican Council in 1870) they obviously defined it in more constrained terms than it had been practiced through history. Now, it only applies to matters concerning “faith and morals,” and when the Pope binds “the whole Church” to the declaration. While it was codified by the First Vatican Council, it in effect has been practiced throughout much of Roman Catholic Church history.
In Romans 11:6, Paul says of salvation, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
By contrast, Roman Catholicism finds itself in the impossible position of advocating a gospel in which salvation is offered both by grace and also on the basis of works. The Catholic church promotes a synergistic sacramental soteriology in which human good works, along with God’s grace, contribute to the sinner’s justification.
This is in distinct contrast to the evangelical understanding of the gospel, in which salvation is received by grace through faith alone.
Despite the eccumenical efforts of some, the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Evangelicalism is one of substance not merely semantics.
Today’s post is intended as a summary of Roman Catholic teaching with regard to the essence of the gospel (in order to demonstrate how it strays from the biblical message of salvation). Catholic sources are included under each of the following points.
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I. According to Rome, salvation is not by grace through faith alone; it does not come through the sole imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner.
Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9: “If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified . . . let him be anathema.”
Council of Trent, Canon 11: “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favor of God, let him be anathema.” Continue Reading…