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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Monday, September 07, 2015
The Trinity is the central doctrine of Christianity and the one belief that separates the Christian view of God from all other faiths. This class will help believers defend critical challenges against the Trinity such as the clam that it's a logical contradiction, the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and the Trinity is too mysterious and unintelligible for us to understand.
Sunday, September 06, 2015
August was another month of growth for the blog. We saw more visitors than ever as people looked to build their faith. Interestingly, this is the first month where two featured videos made the top five posts, both focusing on some of the evidence archaeology provides the Old Testament.
Beyond those, we saw how an atheist's misunderstanding of what counts for evidence gave me a chance to explore the concept of inference to the best explanation as logically valid support for God's existence, how the problem of suffering doesn't prove atheism, and how Christianity relates to Judaism. Here are the top five apologetics blog posts for August.
Saturday, September 05, 2015
What really defines Christianity? Mormons claim that they are Christians, simply another denomination. So do others who differ on Jesus' identity. What are the essentials of the Christian faith and how can we identify orthodox beliefs from heterodoxy or heresy?
In this short video, Lenny demonstrates why it's crucial for all Christians to be able to know what are the essential beliefs of Christianity and the dangers of being misled.
Watch part 2 here!
Friday, September 04, 2015
Every person has many beliefs. Beliefs are central to our worldview and we can't function without them. Still, people don't understand what beliefs are and why we should hold them. They think beliefs are merely personal things, something that gives us comfort or assurance. The concept of belief has been twisted and contorted to a point where most assume they are preferences akin to ice cream flavors—which ever one you like, you should choose.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a Jehovah's Witness that came to my door several years ago. Upon answering, I complimented him on his dedication to his faith. Here he was, not watching football on a Saturday morning, but trying to discuss his faith with others.
I then asked him, "Tell me, in going door to door, you must've heard a lot of reasons why people believe what they believe, right?This one conversation shows how much we've confused the motivations for why believe something with good reasons for believing. There is only one good reason to believe anything and that is if it is true. We may not be 100% certain of the truth, but we can still be reasonable in holding to one belief over another. Just don't confuse feeling s or desires for reasons. One supports a belief. The others don't.
"Oh, absolutely!" re responded.
I offered some examples: "Have you heard things like 'Well, This is the way I was raised' or 'I'm really comfortable in my beliefs' or 'I'm an American, so I have to be a Christian?'"
He smiled and said, "I've heard all those, and more, too!"
I replied, "Can we both agree that those are terrible reasons for believing in something? I mean, there's only one good reason to believe anything."
"What do you mean?" he asked inquisitively.
I explained: "The only good reason to believe anything is if it's true. Beliefs must be true, even if they are what some would call 'harmless' beliefs. Take the idea of Santa Claus for instance. It's a nice belief and it makes kids happy. And they have some reasons to hold to it, right? Their parents have told them about him. It benefits them since on Christmas morning there are presents and there's empirical evidence; the cookies are gone and the milk is drunk. It's a nice belief that doesn't hurt anyone."
He chuckled as I continued: "But what would you think of a 37 year old man who still believes in Santa Claus? Would you want to spend a five hour plane flight sitting next to him? Of course not! Not because his belief is dangerous, but because it isn't true. We should only believe what is true."
The man agreed with my foundation for belief and stated that the Jehovah's Witnesses have the truth of God. I went on to explain that I have also studied the Watchtower's history and its beliefs. For example, they held that Jesus was coming back many times, including 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1942, and 1975."1
At this point he interrupted me. "You must realize that those dates are coming from men and men can be fallible."
"I agree with you," I said. "However, these same men also claimed that Jesus is not Jehovah God, but a lesser being created by God. What if in 100 years, they reverse themselves on this issue like they have with the prediction of His return? Now, we are talking about something that is crucial to the salvation of you and me. What happens then?"
He dismissed the idea quickly. "I don't think that would ever happen!"
"But what if it does?" I countered. "What if I could show you from the Bible right now how the Watchtower is wrong on this issue? Would you abandon your belief in the Jehovah's Witnesses?"
The man denied that it's possible, but I pressed again. "If I could conclusively show you that Jesus must be the eternal God, would you stop being a Witness?"
He thought a second and answered honestly. "You know, I've been a Witness for some seventeen years now. I've never found more meaning and satisfaction in my life except by being a Witness, so no, I don't think I would."
I looked right at him and said, "Wait a minute! Didn't we both agree that is a terrible reason for believing something?"
The words hung in the air as the man took a step back. His eyes worked back and forth as he tried to process the discussion. He seemed to think that I had played some kind of word trick on him, but he had no way of getting out of it. Finally, the man wished to go and I asked him to come back next week so we could continue our discussion. He never did.
Thursday, September 03, 2015
Sometimes it's good to get an outside perspective on history. Vishal Mangalwadi was raised a Hindu in his native India, but he couldn't find spiritual and intellectual satisfaction until he discovered the teachings of the Bible. In his book The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization he does a masterful job demonstrating how the Christian worldview is singularly responsible for the elevation of humanity.
One example is how Mangalwadi looks at the concept of colonization, something with which Indians are very familiar and passionate about. He writes:
Some people think that chance happenings of history, such as guns, germs, and steel, were the keys to the West's ability to colonize the world. Their materialistic perspective overlooks the fact that Catholic nations like Portugal, Spain, and France were the leading naval powers during the sixteenth century. What enabled much smaller Protestant nations such as England and Holland to beat their Catholic rivals?Mangalwadi's conclusions were confirmed by the painstakingly thorough research of sociologist Robert Woodberry. Woodberry's findings were published in the American Political Science Review journal where he reports:
Cedric B. Cowing, professor emeritus of history in Hawaii, studied the impact of the eighteenth-century biblical "Revival" in England and the "Great Awakening" or "New Light" in America. He concluded that the primary factor that propelled the English-speaking nations ahead of their Catholic rivals was the peculiar relationship between biblical spirituality and intellectual awakening.
The fact that God had communicated his Word motivated people to learn reading and writing. The Bible was already a library—a collection of sixty-six books. On top of that, John Wesley urged his converts to study fifty selected titles. In America the awakening had begun under Jonathan Edwards, America's first philosopher. The attempt to master his books, the recommended books, and the Bible motivated believers to develop a number of learning skills. Cowing said that as a result of these spiritual revivals,
in Britain, many of the converts of Whitefield and Wesley were motivated to learn to read [the Bible] and write, but in the northern colonies [e.g., North America] where people were already literate—except the Indians and Negroes—the energies and discipline released by the New Light were the inspiration needed to master abstract religious material. In comprehending theological as well as devotional printed matter, the emotions [stirred up by Revivalists] aided the development of cognitive skills. The novices in focusing on the stages of conversion were studying a process analogous to the still mysterious secular sequence of gathering data, altering hypotheses, and somehow relying upon intuition to synthesize the conclusions. This type of thinking would have a more general utility later. The Great Awakening induced a grass roots intellectualism that ultimately spread in every direction, from belief in God's sovereignty all the way to agnosticism.These spiritual revivals led to the mass awakening of reason. People were seeking and receiving the promised "Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord"—which is "the beginning of knowledge." By producing an unprecedented hunger for the knowledge of truth, biblical revivals lifted Protestant countries out of the poverty that was chronic worldwide.1
In particular, conversionary Protestants (CPs) were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, most major colonial reforms, and the codification of legal protections for nonwhites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These innovations fostered conditions that made stable representative democracy more likely—regardless of whether many people converted to Protestantism. Moreover, religious beliefs motivated most of these transformations. In this blunt form, without evidence or nuance, these claims may sound overstated and offensive. Yet the historical and statistical evidence of CPs' influence is strong, and the cost of ignoring CPs in our models is demonstrably high2 (emphasis added).Here is yet another example of how the Christian worldview measures up to others. Christianity offers real-world benefits here and now to people. It elevates living conditions even for those who don't convert because it upholds reason as profitable and human knowledge as an intrinsic good. In the marketplace of ideas, Christianity has proven itself to be reliable.
References1. Mangalwadi, Vishal. The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011. 88-89.Print.
2. Woodberry, Robert D. "The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy." American Political Science Review 106.02 (2012): 244-45. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
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