“People Do Not Come to Faith by Arguments!” 4 Objections to Apologetics

Some time ago, I was in a meeting with pastors and other church leaders from various backgrounds discussing a potential ministry opportunity. I noted the importance that apologetics plays in the realm of collegiate ministries, especially with the mainstream attacks on Christianity from ultra-liberal voices. For instance, the collegiate ministry known as Ratio Christi has held a profound positive influence on the intellectual and spiritual lives of college students across the nation. To my surprise, one particular ministry leader said, “It’s my experience that people are not brought to faith by arguments.” The statement was shocking enough. However, I was even more bewildered by some who seemed to agree with him. I replied, “What do you say of Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace who were former atheists and became believers because of the evidence for the Christian faith?” The conversation quickly moved to a different topic.

I do not tell this story to demonize or demoralize anyone. The denominational worker who voiced opposition to apologetics was a good, caring individual who loves the Lord and the people he serves. However, we must engage the question he presented. Do logic and argumentation bring people to faith or are such disciplines useless endeavors? The mission statement of Bellator Christi is that it exists to take up the sword of Christian theology and the shield of classical apologetics in order to take Christian truth into the arena of ideas. But if people are not argued into the faith, this ministry would seem a bit futile, at least in the latter portion of the mission statement. So, are apologetic argumentations necessary? This article will review 4 common objections given to apologetics by the modern church. Each objection will contain an explanation and an appropriate reply.

Objection #1: Arguments do not bring people to faith.

The ministry leader I mentioned posed the first objection against the use of Christian apologetics. This objection claims that arguments do not really bring people into faith. Faith is a matter of the heart, not of the mind.

Reply:

One could provide several replies to the first objection. To keep the post brief, I will present only two. First, objection 1 is in reality a self-defeating statement. How so? Well, the objector is presenting an argument to persuade others that arguments do not persuade. The objection is much like someone claiming to be a married bachelor or saying “I cannot speak a word of English” in English.

Second, the Bible presents several examples where people came to faith or were persuaded to faith by various argumentations. For instance, the miracles and teachings of Jesus provided a case for His claim to be Messiah. The miracles served as a sign. Why were such signs offered? Signs were provided to present an argument for the Messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus argues that “the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36). In addition, Jesus challenged His adversaries to “search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Other examples could be offered such as Paul’s defense of the faith before various groups of people, including the Athenians. Consider Philip’s argumentation to the Ethiopian that Isaiah 53 referred to Jesus of Nazareth. All such arguments were used to bring people to faith.

Objection #2: The Holy Spirit brings people to faith, so argumentation is useless.

Some people have objected to the use of Christian intellectual arguments due to the assumption that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. If the Holy Spirit leads people to faith, then why should one worry about intellectual argumentation.

Reply:

Let me first say, I wholeheartedly agree that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. Jesus noted that when the Holy Spirit comes that He would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because you do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). While the Holy Spirit convicts, we are told that we have a part to play in the evangelism process. Jesus also told the disciples before His ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). One could argue; If the Holy Spirit brings people to faith, then why evangelize? Christians evangelize because God commanded us to do so. Through the preaching of the Word, people are convicted by the Holy Spirit to come to faith. The Holy Spirit uses our evangelistic efforts to save people. The same is true for apologetics. Intellectual argumentation is often used by the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith. While the majority of Athens did not follow Christ after hearing Paul’s intellectual defense of the faith, the Book of Acts states that “some men joined him and believed, among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:34).

Another problem I have with this statement stems from the spirit of laziness that exists in some Christians today. I heard a person tell a pastor, “You don’t have to study to preach. Just follow the Holy Spirit.” While I wholeheartedly agree that a person should follow the Holy Spirit, I also accept that the Scripture tells us the “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). How does a person test a spirit? One tests a spirit against the Word of God. Testing spirits require study. I truly believe that it is the increased biblical illiteracy and lack of study that has led the modern church into many great heresies.

Objection #3: No one has ever come to faith through argumentation.

Anti-apologetic apologists argue that no one comes to faith through intellectual argumentation. Why bother if no one comes to faith through argumentation?

Reply:

This is an easy objection to answer. The claim is false. Many have come to faith through intellectual argumentation for the faith. Among such converts include: C. S. Lewis (famed English professor and writer), Josh McDowell (author of countless Christian books), Lee Strobel (former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, atheist turned Christian pastor and writer), Fazale Rana (Christian biologist), and J. Warner Wallace (former Los Angeles cold-case homicide detective turned Christian apologist). These individuals only scratch the surface of those who have come to Christ because of the evidence for Christianity.

Objection #4: If someone is argued into faith, then someone could be argued out of faith.

Lastly, objectors to Christian apologetics often claim that if it is by evidential argumentation that one comes to faith, then one could be easily led astray by some other persuasive argumentation.

Reply:

This objection holds two problems in my estimation. 1) The objector does not understand the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christianity is true and a person comes to faith in Christ, then the Scripture states that the Holy Spirit will abide with the repentant person (John 14:15-16). Jesus notes that the Holy Spirit would lead a believer in truth (John 15:26-27). Thus, it would appear that the objector places less value on the power of the Holy Spirit than the advocate of Christian apologetics.

2) In addition, the objector must consider the following point. If Christianity is true, then it will always remain true. The truthfulness of Christianity will never change. Truth is unchangeable. Thus, if a person is truly convicted of the claims of Christianity and truth does not change, then the person (although doubts may come) will not leave the faith due to the truth claims.

Conclusion:

While I respect the objections made and the people who make them, it cannot be said that such objections hold any merit or value. Christianity is true. Period. If Christianity is true, then it is worth defending. If Christianity is true, eternity is at stake. Some people do come to faith when they are met with the evidences for Christianity. It may be true that some people do not require the same level of evidence that other people require. But, refusing apologetics to the one who needs it is like refusing insulin to a diabetic because not everyone needs insulin. It is, to a degree, a categorical mistake. Remember, Peter tells us, as has been noted several times before, that we must “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Check out this video by Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason as he engages this issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cS2xGUj5KQ

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

© August 30, 2016. Brian Chilton.

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Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1] Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.

Trusting God in an Anxious World

Today, I read about the United Kingdom’s decision to pull out of the European Union. Without engaging in whether such an idea was good or bad (I’ll leave that to the political pundits), many fear that the global economy could suffer because of England’s decision.[1] It seems to me that every time I turn on the news there is something even more shocking than the day before. For many, the looming thoughts of a global World War III seem more and more like a possibility. How does the Christian remain calm and peaceable in such a tumultuous time? Let me suggest a few points.

  1. The Church has previously endured similar circumstances and survived.

Solomon notes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).[2] While technology increases in complexity, people never change—both good and bad news. The gospel message remains the same. The Church has endured the persecutions of the Roman empire. The Church made it through the dark ages. The Church has survived times when people thought that the gospel message would die.[3] Church, we will make it through by God’s grace. Yes, we may have to use different tactics and methodologies, but the message of Christ will never change.

2. God is sovereign: He knows what we do not.

God is sovereign. This means that God is in control. Grudem associates sovereignty with God’s power in noting that “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.”[4] When the prophet Jeremiah asked for understanding pertaining to the events of his day, God inquired, “Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)? The obvious answer is, “No.” When I have questions and concerns (which I have in recent days), God keeps assuring me saying, “Trust Me! I have this under control.”

3. Jesus never promised an easy road; He just promised His presence.

The Church has largely become spoiled. This is not true of those in the Eastern church and certainly not true of those in the Southern Hemisphere. But in the Western church, false promises of an easy life have overwhelmed the message of Christ. Instead of proclaiming, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), the Western church has proclaimed, “God wants you to be a multi-millionaire and live an easy life.” It may be that some would enjoy such pleasure, but such has not been the case for the majority of Christians throughout time. In the end, we must be reminded that Christ never promised an easy road, rather He promised His presence. For He reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

4. Each day is a day closer to Christ’s return.

As a futurist, I believe that the Book of Revelation gives a description of what will take place in the end of human history. I will not speculate as to when Christ will return. It is impossible to predict Christ’s coming for He has told us, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). While it is impossible for one to postulate when Christ will appear to redeem the Church, it is with certainty that one could claim that each day is one day closer to that time. Rather than become depressed at the current status of the world, we need to remember the work that is set before us. We may not have much longer before God calls the Church home.

5. The joys of a heavenly eternity far outweigh the problems of today.

The apostle Paul reminds us that “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).[5] The eternity that God has prepared for those who love Him far outweigh the problems that we may encounter today. If you are depressed about the events of today, focus your attention on the joys of eternity that await you. Some may argue, “Doesn’t this place less attention on the here and now?” Certainly not! When a person lives with the hope that is found in heaven, the person is able to look beyond oneself and see the larger picture.

Conclusion

The world is currently unstable. Chances are highly likely that it could become even more unstable before it gets better. Nevertheless, Christians have the opportunity to “step up to the plate.” We speak of the trust found in God. Such times allows such trust to be seen in a vivid fashion. While the world becomes an increasingly dark place, the Church has the opportunity to illuminate the light of Christ even more vividly than before. Will you succumb to the darkness of worry and anxiety or will you stand and say, “Let the floodwaters come! I will not be moved from the Rock of my foundation, the Lighthouse shining forth in an ocean of darkness—that Rock, that Lighthouse being Jesus Christ!!!” Christian, what will your response be?

Notes

[1] See Griff Witte, Karla Adam, and Dan Balz, “Britain Shocks World: Breaks with European Union, British Leader Steps Down,” MSN.com (June 24, 2016), retrieved June 24, 2016, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/britain-shocks-world-breaks-with-european-union-british-leader-steps-down/ar-AAhznhT.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Take for instance the proclamation of Voltaire who predicted that no one would read the Bible in 100 years. Voltaire lived in the 1700s.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 216.

[5] Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

© June 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.

7 Questions the Bible Answers about Miracles

On May 8th, 2016, the final episode of Morgan Freeman’s documentary The Story of God: The Story of Us aired on the National Geographic channel. The final episode of the series dealt with the issue of miracles. From the episode, 7 questions emerged. As we have done since the beginning of the show, we will examine these questions from a biblical perspective.

  1. Does God work miracles or is everything merely random?

Freeman frequently asked the question, “Is God providentially working or is life completely random?” Freeman poses an excellent question. The answer to the question depends on how one views God. Does God exist? If so, then the possibility of God working a miracle becomes at least possible. Does God care about the world? If so, then the probability of God working a miracle increases exponentially. The mere notion that everything is merely random stems from a naturalistic assumption that God is non-existent or is uninvolved.[1] The moment, however, that one miracle occurs disproves such a notion. That there are hundreds of miracles, if not thousands,[2] demonstrates that the world is not a sterile collection of random molecules in motion, but rather the world is a wondrous lush garden of divine providence.

  1. Why does God work miracles for some and not for others?

This question is more difficult to answer, mainly because we cannot know the mind of God. God can perform miracles for any person at any point in time. However, it is apparent that God intervenes in some cases but not in others. At the time I am writing this article, God worked a miracle in the life of my grandfather. He has severe COPD. He also suffered a blockage in his intestines which would have been fatal had his intestines ruptured. In addition, he suffers from other medical conditions that complicate any surgery. The doctors were unsure if he would make it through. God saw fit that he did. In addition, he was placed on a ventilator. The doctors were unsure if he would be able to come off. He came off the day I wrote this article. God performed numerous miracles with my grandfather. I told my mom, “Either Grandpa is Iron-Man or God still has some great things in store for him.”

But why does God not perform the same kind of miracles for everyone? Truthfully, I cannot answer this question. Neither can anyone. We can know that God has a plan for each person, especially for His children. Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).[3] The promise of Romans 8:28 does not presuppose that God will make every event in life good, but that everything will work together for good. Much more about this issue could be said, especially that each person has a date with death (Hebrews 9:27). However, we should probably leave this issue for now as it deserves deeper treatment.

  1. Can we understand the will of God to perform miracles?

No. We can know the will of God to save (Matthew 28:18-20). However, we cannot know how God is going to move or work. Faith is a vital element. Faith, biblically speaking, means trust. Thus, we must trust God to do what is right, even when we do not understand what God is doing.

  1. Does probability override the possibility of miracles?

No. On the episode, it was debated whether probability overrides the possibility of the miraculous. However, this cannot be the case. Why? Even if there is a 1 in 10 billion odds that a miracle could occur, when we discuss miraculous healings and divine intervention, the probability is zero percent if God does not exist. If God does exist, then it is impossible to gauge the odds in how much or how little God would act and respond in a miraculous fashion. God could defy the odds and perform a miracle every day of the week. Then again, it may be that God would choose not to perform a miraculous deed at any time in a given year. It seems to me that the idea of probability does little to settle anything as it pertains to miracles.

  1. Is life fatalistic or free?

When I say fatalistic, I mean to say that everything is predetermined. That is, everything is a matter of fate. How much is life predetermined and how much in life is free to choose? Such is a philosophical question that has resounded for ages. The Bible seems to suggest a congruence between God’s sovereignty and human freedom.[4] For instance, the book of Proverbs states that “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (Proverbs 16:33, NLT).[5] The text demonstrates that humans have the freedom to choose certain options, but God’s sovereignty uses human decisions to direct and guide. Thus, human freedom and divine sovereignty are congruent. So, God can and does work in this work in miraculous ways while remaining sovereign over His creation.

  1. Does faith in miracles matter?

God can work miracles regardless of faith. However, it appears that faith (i.e., trust) does matter and makes a difference in the working of miracles. James notes that the “prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up…Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:15, 16b, HCSB).[6] Mark notes that in one particular instance that Jesus could “do no miracle…except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6a). Miracles come from God. However, it is important that the one asking for a miracle trust in God’s ability to perform the miracle. Even still, one should note that even those who had the greatest faith (i.e., Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc.) often suffered. So, no one should suppose that faith will cure every physical ailment. God may have a purpose behind a person’s suffering. Therefore, individuals who claim that a lack of healing stems from a lack of faith are greatly in error.

  1. Do miracles come from us or do miracles come from God?

While faith is vital, miracles stem from God. God can work in ways that we cannot. It is a common assumption to believe that if we have enough willpower, we can overcome any odds. Yet, a person cannot bring oneself back from the dead. A person cannot overcome cancer by just the sheer belief that he can overcome. Often, healing requires an outside force working in a person’s body. I believe God works through the implementation of medicine. Thank the Lord for those in the medical field who seek to help the sick and suffering. But, I also believe that God can heal a person in any way He chooses. God holds the copyright on our DNA and our being. God can and does choose to heal at His discretion.

Morgan Freeman’s series entitled The Story of God: The Story of Us was incredibly fascinating. Freeman brought forth some interesting and serious questions front and center. As we have engaged the issues, I have personally found great satisfaction in the answers found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We may, and in fact most certainly will, find more questions to add as we journey through this life. I have no doubts that the Bible will rise to the occasion to answer any further questions that we may possess, as well.

© May 9, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Deists accept God’s existence but deny God’s involvement in the world. Thus, they would, like the atheist, accept that life is merely random.

[2] See Craig Keener’s two-volume work Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[4] As I have noted in previous articles, the harmony between divine sovereignty and human freedom is called “congrusim” as so termed by Millard J. Erickson in his book Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 385.

[5] Scriptures marked NLT come from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

[6] Scriptures marked HCSB come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003).

Will Your Faith or Fear Define You?

This past Friday, the world was rocked with the news that the people of Paris, France had been attacked by an organized group of terrorists. Most of us hugged our families a little tighter. Prayers were lifted. Songs were sung. People were eulogized. But, the underlying question that lingered in everyone’s mind was, “Could it happen here?” Fear has a way of motivating people to do certain things. Fear could motivate one negatively by attacking individuals who had nothing to do with the events that caused the fear. However, faith can motivate one to do positive things. Fear should not be the motivating factor behind one’s life. There is a greater motivator for believers–faith.

A great example of how faith could drive a person is found in the three Hebrew men known as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but more popularly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To give a background on the situation, the Hebrew people had been taken as exiles into Babylon. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that all people bow down before an idol that was set up to propagate fear into the heart of the exilic people. However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to cave in to their fears.

Were they scared? Of course they were!

Did they cave in due to their fears? Absolutely not! Because, they had faith.

Their fear would not define them. Rather, their faith would define them! When the king ordered them to cave in and bow down to his idol or else be thrown into a fiery furnace, the Hebrew three said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this manner. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).[1] These three men refused to give in to fear. Rather, they gave in to the power that comes by faith in a Sovereign, loving God.

In the end, the three Hebrew men were thrown into the fire. However, something powerful happened. Instead of seeing three men, the king noticed that there were four! The king said, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire? …But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:24, 25). The king then ordered the men out and ordered that everyone pay homage to the God of all creation.

We face uncertain days. We may face the fires of trials and tribulations. But the principle of this story is that we have one walking in the fire with us. For those who have a personal relationship with God, we know that we have a friend walking with us in good times and in the bad. God is with us in the depths of death every bit as much as he is with us in the peaks of life. With Jesus, we have the power to find courage even in the pits of fear and despair.

Don’t let fear define you. Let the love and grace that comes through faith define you. A good modern example is found in Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During a time of silence for the victims of Paris, a fan shouted a disparaging remark. Rodgers said during a press conference that “It is that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today as a world” (Wilde 2015). Rodgers refused to be defined by fear, he would be defined by his faith.

Every generation has had to face some form of evil whether it was Moses facing the Egyptian slavery of his people, the Hebrew three mentioned earlier, the Allies facing the Nazis and the Axis coalition of World War II, desegregation of the 1960s, and terrorism of the current age. Ultimately, the greatest example of faith under fire is found in Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior. He faced his fears head on and won…and will ultimately win. Miles Custis reminds us that the phrase “‘do not fear’ (אַל־תִּֽירְאוּ; ʾal-tîrāʾ) occurs often as an encouragement or a call for courage” (Custis 2014). Jesus gives us great comfort in saying, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So each of us faces a crossroads.–a fork in the road if you will. Are we going to be defined by fear or by faith? Fear moves us in a certain direction. Faith moves us in an opposite direction. Which will be the defining motivator in your life?

May we all find the courage that comes by a compassionate faith in our Lord.

Praying for the people of Paris and all of those who face the horrors of terror.

Sources Cited

Custis, Miles. “Fear.” Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series. Douglas Mangum et al., eds. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Wilde, Jason. “Aaron Rodgers Upset by ‘Prejudicial’ Shout During Lambeau Moment of Silence.” ESPN.com (11/16/2015). http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14140862/aaron-rodgers-green-bay-packers-upset-prejudicial-shout-moment-silence-lambeau-field.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

The Greatest Danger for the Christian

For the past couple of years I have written about the top challenges that face the church for the year ahead. God-willing, I plan to do the same at the end of this year also. However, this week during our revival services, it dawned upon me that there is an even greater danger to the modern Christian than those that have been listed in years past. This danger is not found in terrorism, politics, or national threats. Rather, this danger is found in nightmares, the what-ifs, and what-could-be’s. This danger in which we speak is that of fear. Fear can cause individuals to do radical things. Fear makes us shrink back, step aside, or even stick our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich…although it has been said that ostriches do not practice such. Furthermore, fear is a weapon of Satan.

The Bible makes it clear that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).[1] Fear is dangerous for three reasons alluded to in the previous passage of Scripture.

Fear forgets the power of God.

When threats abound and dangers emerge, it is easy for the believer to become panicked. Thoughts abound as to what may ensue in the days and weeks ahead. Could there be a nuclear holocaust? Will there be an outbreak of some unknown disease? Perhaps one’s fears are more simple. What will happen when my son begins to drive? Will my daughter be in danger when she begins to date? When thoughts like these come our way, the enemy takes our eyes off of God and places our minds upon the what-ifs and what-could-be’s. Most of the things we worry about will never come to pass.

Nevertheless, it is important for the believer to keep in mind that God is still sovereign. Even if we face the fears that we hold, God has promised that he will “never leave us or abandon us” (e.g. 1 Kings 8:57; Matthew 28:20). God has an order behind what appears to be chaos. Wait upon God’s plan. It may be that you will not see the full perspective of God’s working in your life until you reach eternity. Even still, don’t be consumed with fear. Be consumed with faith.

Fear forgets the command to love.

Rod Sterling was a genius in the genre of storytelling. His series The Twilight Zone often captured the effects of what fear can do to individuals and to a society. On the show “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” aliens were able to destroy an entire community. The destruction came not by an invasion, but rather by planting seeds of doubt amongst each of the neighbors until the entire community was ready to tear itself apart. The enemy does much of the same. Fear masks the humanity of a person to the point that the person is no longer seen as a person, but an object to be destroyed.

Jesus told his disciples something far different. He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus even noted that the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity would be that of love as he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Don’t be consumed by fear. Be consumed with love.

Fear forgets the importance of service.

When fear is left unchecked, people will not seek to help others. Instead, fear leads people to hide away. Perhaps one is tempted to flee to the desert or to take a one-way flight to Antarctica. The Essenes were an important sect of Judaism in the first-century. Some believe that the Essenes may have been the legitimate heirs to the priesthood but were cast out by the Roman sympathizers, the Sadducees. It is possible that some of the early disciples were of the Essene sect, although this is a hotly debated topic in New Testament studies. Nonetheless, the Christians were not to hide away. Rather, they were to be about serving others in the name of Christ. Do not be consumed by fear. Be consumed with service.

Conclusion

Fear leads to bizarre behaviors. However, the Christian is not to be filled with fear. Jesus often told his disciples, “Fear not, it is I.” I think that Jesus is saying the same thing to modern Christians as well. I think he is saying, “Do not fear. I am still in control. Keep serving until I call you home.” Instead of looking to the stars and to the heavens for signs of Christ’s appearing, maybe we should look to the plow because the fields are ripe for harvest.

Do not be consumed with fear. Be consumed with Christ.

© October 29, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

5 Parameters of Genuine Christianity Found in 1 John

Parameters are limits that constitute the nature or definition of someone or something. If one were to describe the parameters of an unused composition notebook, then one would set the following parameters: a book with lined pages so as to allow the owner to write in it, holding no writing on those pages. If any one of the previous parameters were changed, a person would not possess an unused composition notebook. If there is a printed text from a publisher, then one would have a book (perhaps Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn) but it would not be a composition notebook. If someone wrote on the pages of the notebook, it would still be a notebook but not an unused notebook.

Parameters are set for everything in life. Christianity is no different. What constitutes the core parameters of one who claims to be a Christian? C. S. Lewis wrote about Mere Christianity, that is, Christianity at its most basic form. But what about the mere Christian? What are the core fundamentals that constitute the life of a Christian? The apostle John answers that question in his first letter. Within the text of 1 John, the reader will find five parameters of Christianity: holiness, love, truth, perseverance, and testimony.

Parameter of Christian Holiness (1 John 3:9; 5:18).

The first parameter that John sets is that of holiness. John writes, “No one of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).[1] Some have misinterpreted this text to claim that the Christian will never sin. Popular antitheists seek out a mistake in a person calling oneself a Christian. When the antagonist finds a fault, which they are sure to do, they will claim, “See! You did wrong! You are a sinner, not a saint!” However, John does not claim that a Christian will never fall or make a mistake.

John teaches that the Christian will seek to live a righteous life and will not be seek a life of rebellion. Daniel Akin notes that “The perfect participle (gegennēmenos) implies not only a single past act of spiritual new birth but also the ongoing effects of being born of God” (Akin 2001, 147-148). This falls in line with John’s use of the term seed. “The seed refers to one of three options: (1) the Word of God, (2) the Holy Spirit, or (3) the regenerate spirit when one is born again” (Walls and Anders 1999, 195).

Therefore, a true Christian will not live a life of rebellion against God. Rather, the genuine Christian will embrace God’s standards and God’s ways. For such a one realizes that God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than their own (Isaiah 55:9).

Parameter of Christian Love (1 John 4:7).

John provides another parameter of the genuine Christian, that of love. John writes that “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). What is the basis of such love? John notes that “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The Christian has experienced the love of God. Therefore, it is expected that the Christian demonstrate that same kind of love to others. A person’s vertical relationship with God should affect the person’s horizontal relationship that they hold with others. Kruse states that “When the author says that ‘God is love’, he is not making an ontological statement describing what God is in his essence; rather, he is, as the following verses (4:9–10) reveal, speaking about the loving nature of God revealed in saving action on behalf of humankind” (Kruse 2000, 157). I disagree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s benevolent ontological nature of God. For the basis of a believer’s love is based on the nature of God’s love and the demonstration of God’s love to the believer. Nevertheless, I do agree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s emphasis on God’s saving action on behalf of humanity. Thus, the genuine believer must possess a love for others. Obviously that love may be tested and there will be those who are difficult to love. This love is a choice, a choice based on one’s obedience unto God.

Parameter of Christian Truth (1 John 5:1).

Third, John provides the parameter of truth. John notes that “Everyone believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1). As has been noted ample times by this author, theology matters. What a person believes shapes the way the person lives. John boldly proclaims that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:1-2). Going back to Peter’s confession, Peter noted of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Thus, the core fundamentals of Christianity must be accepted by the Christian to still be considered a Christian. Those core fundamentals are found in the Apostle’s Creed:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church (meaning universal church, not the denomination), the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen” (Apostles Creed).

This constitutes mere Christianity. If these core fundamentals are not held, then one is found outside the theological boundaries of the Christian faith.

Parameter of Christian Perseverance (1 John 5:4).

John also notes that the Christian will be found within the parameter of perseverance. John writes, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). In his Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes the true Christian as one who has heard the gospel, accepted the gospel, and one in which the gospel has taken root. The true believer will persevere. A person who remains wishy-washy in the faith is one whose legitimacy could be questioned. A person who says one day, “I wish to follow Jesus” and the next “I wish to live only for myself” is not one who will persevere and is rather one who is indecisive in their discipleship. The believer will come to accept Christ and follow him with steadfast perseverance. This is not to say that one cannot backslide, as I myself have done. But, rather one’s overall life will be a story of an overarching faithfulness from the point that the person met Christ until the day of that person’s death.

Parameter of Christian Testimony (1 John 5:9-10).

Finally, Jesus notes that the Christian will have evidence of a Christian testimony. John writes, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:9-10). What is the “testimony of God?” Different scholars hold differing perspectives. Kruse writes that “it to be identified with the testimony of the eyewitnesses, God speaking through them. This last alternative is preferable because the content of God’s testimony described in 1 John 5:11 is that God has given us eternal life in his Son, which is the central feature of the testimony of the eyewitnesses alluded to in 1 John 1:1–4” (Kruse 2000, 181). Daniel Akin thinks that “The most likely answer is that John is referring back to the threefold testimony in v. 8. This interpretation fits with the perfect tense of the verb (memarturēken, “he has testified”). God has testified concerning his Son in the past through the Spirit, water, and blood, and this testimony is still valid today” (Akin 2001, 200). I agree with Akin, however I would emphasize that the “testimony of God” refers more to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Going back to the testimony of Simon Peter, Jesus said after Peter’s proclamation that “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Seeing that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and compels people to faith (John 16:8ff), then I would say that the “testimony of God” refers to this inner witness of God through the Holy Spirit. Thus, a believer should have the testimony of God in one’s life.

Conclusion

Christianity holds particular parameters. A lot of people can claim a lot of things about themselves. However, there are certain truths that must exist in a person’s life to legitimately be considered a child of God. A person must strive to live a life of holiness before God. It is impossible for one to do so on their own merit, but only through the empowerment of God. Secondly, a person must be filled with compassion and love. Third, a person must stand upon the truth of God’s word. Fourth, a person must not hold a flimsy, whimsical sort of faith. Rather, one’s faith must be a decisive, steadfast kind of faith. Lastly, one must have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. While we all fall and falter every day, it must be remembered that these attributes are those that are examined over the course of a person’s life. John’s parameters serve as a good test for all of us to gauge how close we are to the person that God has called us to be.

Bibliography

Akin, Daniel L. 1, 2, 3 John. Volume 38. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000.

Walls, David, and Max Anders. I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude. Volume 11. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this article comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Does Paul Condemn Philosophy in Colossians 2:8?

Philosophy is defined as the “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence” (Soanes and Stevenson 2004). Advocates of Christian anti-intellectualism will criticize the use of philosophy within Christian circles due to Paul’s supposed admonition against philosophy. Such individuals charge that philosophy is antagonistic to the faith due to Paul’s so-called warning against philosophy in Colossians 2:8. But what exactly does the apostle claim? In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he warns the Colossians that they should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).[1] According to philosophical antagonists, Paul’s warning against philosophy should dissuade anyone from participating in a philosophical endeavor. However, one should ask, is Paul actually condemning the use of philosophy or is Paul using the term “philosophy” to address another issue?

A closer examination of the Colossians text affords one the opportunity to evaluate Paul’s actual intention. When one examines the text, one will find three reasons why Paul does not discredit philosophy as it is popularly understood in modern times. Rather, one will discover that Paul actually advocates the use of good philosophy.

Paul’s Intention Behind the Word “Philosophia.”

As I was preparing this article, I had the chance to discuss the issue of Colossians 2:8 with Dr. Leo Percer. Dr. Percer is a New Testament scholar who teaches Greek, Hermeneutics, and New Testament studies at Liberty University. Dr. Percer stated, “‘Philosophy’ in Colossians is probably a reference to religious ideas more than what we mean by the word today. If memory serves, Josephus uses the word to describe the various views of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and such” (Percer 2015). Is Dr. Percer correct? It appears so for two particular reasons.

First, Louw and Nida note that “φιλοσοφία (philosophia) may be rendered in some languages as ‘the way in which people are wise’ or ‘the way in which people understand things’ or ‘the manner in which people reason’” (Louw and Nida 1996, 384). Paul’s use of the term philosophia does not indicate that he is speaking of philosophy the way modern individuals understand the term. To understand what a writer is saying, one must not force the writer into one’s time-frame, but must rather examine the writer’s literary style during the period in which the author pens their work. This leads us into another defense for Percer’s claim.

Second, while looking into Percer’s claim pertaining to Josephus’ usage of the term “philosophy,” I discovered an example of what Dr. Percer was saying in Josephus’ writings. Josephus, in the first-century, writes, “The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.11). Note that Josephus uses the term “philosophy” to describe the religious viewpoints of three religious groups: the Essenes, Sadducees, and the Pharisees. This is not the only time Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious ideas. Josephus also writes, “But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord” (Josephus, Antiquities to the Jews 18.23). Again, Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe a religious viewpoint. If this is the case, could it be that Paul uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious groups and religious ideas rather than philosophical concepts? To answer such a question, one will need to consider the theme of Colossians chapter 2.

Paul’s Theme in Colossians 2.

Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae was written to combat heretical viewpoints in the area. In chapter one, Paul presents what is normally recognized as an early Christian formulation denoting the incarnation of Christ (that the divine God had took on fleshly imbodiment) in writing that Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:15-18).

Paul then in Colossians 1:24-2:5 speaks of his persecutions and how through them God made his presence known to the Gentiles. In that passage, Paul writes that “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Note that Paul indicates the importance of teaching individuals the truth with wisdom. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Paul then turns his attention to the importance of one’s “knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2). Paul says that he notes this so that “no one may delude you with plausible arguments” (Colossians 2:4). How does one decipher plausible arguments from implausible arguments? It comes from knowing the truth (theology) and knowing how one can know the truth (philosophy).

It is after such a discussion that Paul then writes that the Colossians should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Instead of warning the Colossians against philosophy, Paul is actually warning the Colossians against well-argued false doctrines. Ben Witherington argues that “In v. 8 Paul characterizes the false teaching not only as “philosophy,” which in itself would not be a problem, but as philosophy built on merely “human tradition” and on what Paul calls “empty deceit.” The verb sylalageō is rare, found only here in biblical Greek, and means “kidnap” or better “carry off as booty” (Witherington III 2007, 154). Douglas Moo would also agree as he notes that “The word ‘philosophy’ was applied to a wide range of belief systems in the ancient world, so it tells us little about the origin or nature of the teaching. It does suggest, however, that the teaching involved a somewhat coherent system” (Moo 2008, 50). Thus, Paul’s warning is not against philosophy. Rather, Paul’s warning is against cleverly argued false doctrines. Instead of negating philosophy, proper philosophy seems to be promoted by Paul due to the incredible way Paul argues in favor of the truth.

Paul’s Use of Philosophical Argumentation.

Paul was not only a master theologian; Paul was a master philosopher, as well. Paul was a master rhetorician. In fact, Douglas Moo writes, concerning Colossians 2:8 and following, that “This key paragraph begins with a warning about the false teachers (v. 8) but is then dominated by a theologically rich explanation of why the Colossians should reject this teaching (vv. 9–15)” (Moo 2008, 184). Witherington explains that

“Paul is speaking into a rhetorically and philosophically saturated environment. When someone puts those two things together and the philosophy is false, there is a grave danger to Christians who are prone to listen to such powerful persuasion and to be influenced by it. Paul therefore is in the awkward position of not being able to speak directly and in person to his audience, thus losing a good portion of the rhetorical arsenal (gestures, tone of voice, etc.). Yet still he must offer an even more powerful and philosophically substantive act of persuasion than is given by those who are beguiling the Colossians” (Witherington 2007, 154).

Thus, Paul is using philosophical methods to argue in favor of the truth despite being at a disadvantage as he is unable to physically deliver his well-argued and well-reasoned defense for the Christian faith. Paul is not dismissing philosophy. For it was Paul who was able to hold his own defending the Christian faith to the intellectuals at Athens. So what can we take from this study?

Conclusion

Does Paul condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8? The short answer is “no.” Paul does not demerit or condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8. Rather, Paul eloquently warns the Colossians against false philosophical and false theological concepts. Such false concepts were considered by Paul to be teachings that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23). So what was the false philosophy being presented to the Colossians? It appears that the likely problem for the Colossians was a form of syncretistic doctrine, similar to the modern day New Age movement,that blended Christianity with Jewish mysticism and pagan religions into a systematized form of belief.  Instead of condemning philosophy in general, Paul instead argued that the Colossians needed a stronger Christian theological and philosophical construct to stand against the cleverly devised falsehoods being purported in their town. Such a warning needs to be heeded among modern Christians as well.

Sources Cited

Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

Percer, Leo. Interviewed by Brian Chilton. (Thursday, September 10, 2015). Online Interview. Information used with permission.

Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007.

© September 13, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

3 Attributes Critical for Effective Persuasion

Aristotle, the famed ancient Greek philosopher, wrote On Rhetoric in the 4th century BC. Aristotle writes on how one can build a strong case that will be coherent, persuasive, and winsome. In Christian apologetics, it is imperative that one build a strong case for Christianity. Often, apologetic antagonists will claim, “No one was argued into the kingdom.” Yet, it seems that more and more people are being illuminated by the Holy Spirit through the use of arguments stemming from the apologetic renaissance. In fact, the pages of Scripture, one will find Christian case-makers arguing for the truths of Christ.

In On Rhetoric, Aristotle provides three important aspects of persuasion. These three aspects are called the ethos, pathos, and logos. Interestingly enough, Jesus himself demonstrated these attributes as he led people to faith. This article will examine Aristotle’s three attributes of persuasion and will show how Jesus used these attributes to powerfully argue for his identity as Messiah.

Ethos: Having Character Persuasion

The first attribute of persuasion is that of ethos (literally “character”); that is, the moral integrity of the speaker. English contrives its word “ethic” from the term “ethos.” Aristotle writes that the “orator persuades by moral character when his speech is delivered in such a manner as to render him worthy of confidence; for we feel confidence in a greater degree and more readily in persons of worth in regard to everything in general, but where there is no certainty and there is and there is room for doubt, our confidence is absolute” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.4).

To have value, the speaker must demonstrate authority and character. These two attributes are found in one simple term—integrity. By what authority does the speaker present his/her case? Why should I listen to such a person? Does a person live by what he/she speaks? Many a great communicator has lost value because their ethos does not support their theses. In this regard, a persuasive speaker must have authority to speak on the manner in which they address and they also must have the moral character that supports their speech. Carter and Coleman note Aristotle’s categories of ethos in that of “Phronesis—practical skills and wisdom. Arête—virtue and goodness. Eunoia—goodwill toward the audience” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 67). In this regard, the audience determines the ethos of the teacher.

In this regard, Jesus demonstrated ethos par excellence, although his adversaries chose to disregard this aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus exemplified phronesis as he consistently outsmarted his opponents. Zuck writes that “Jesus knew the minds of three groups: inquirers, his disciples, and his enemies” (Zuck 1995, 51). Jesus was so good at answering his opponents that after a certain point, “no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).[1] Jesus also demonstrated arête. Jesus did not provide a commandment which he did not himself keep. He told his disciples to “love their enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus exemplified this commandment as he prayed while being crucified “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus also demonstrated great eunoia by the multiple healings provided to the sick and helpless.

If one is to have an impact for God’s kingdom, then such a person will need to demonstrate a strong ethic. A person must have integrity. Without it, nothing that is said will leave an indelible mark on anyone. A great communicator without a strong ethos will fade into the shadows of failure.

Pathos: Having Connected Persuasion

The second attribute is that of pathos (literally “suffering,” “experience”); that is an emotional connection with the audience. English contrives its words “sympathy” and “empathy” from the term “pathos”. Aristotle writes, “The orator persuades by means of his hearers, when they are roused to emotion by his speech; for the judgements we deliver are not the same when we are influenced by joy or sorrow, love or hate; and it is to this alone that, as we have said, the present-day writers of treatises endeavor to devote their attention” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.5).

While it seems that many have been captivated more by emotionalism rather than intellectualism in modern times, emotionalism is still important. On a side note, let it be known that many a danger has come by speakers who manipulate the emotions without demonstrating the other two components. Hitler, Mousseline, and others have persuaded by appealing to negative emotional aspects (i.e. racism, nationalism, et. al.) without adhering to the other two cornerstones of effective persuasion. That being said, it would behoove the speaker to note the great power found in one’s emotions. If one is to connect with the audience, they must be willing to connect with the listeners emotionally.

Much could be said of Jesus’ use of pathos. However, such a treatment extends beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, Jesus’ use of pathos is demonstrated most clearly through his use of shared artifacts. “Jesus often made use of shared artifacts by utilizing his knowledge of Scripture, geography, and Jewish history” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 26). If the speaker is to connect with the audience, he/she must find a point of contact just as Jesus did through his parables and Paul did through his missionary ventures. If there is no connection, the most throughout intellectual treatment of a topic may fall on deafened ears. Never negate the power of a good illustration.

Logos: Having Coherent Persuasion

For the Christian who knows his or her Bible well, the third term will strike a chord, for it is the “logos” (literally “word,” or “from which a thought is expressed or delivered”). English contrives its word “logic” from “logos”. The third attribute considers the logic of an argument. Aristotle writes, “Now, since proofs are effected by these means, it is evident that, to be able to grasp them, a man must be capable of logical reasoning, of studying characters and the virtues, and thirdly the emotions—the nature and character of each, its origin, and the manner in which it is produced” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.7).

Here again, a full treatment is not possible in this article. I would suggest one interested in this topic pick up a copy of Carter and Coleman’s book which is referenced in this article. However, it should be noted that those who argue against logic will be surprised at the great use of logic used by Christ. Consider Jesus’ use of the following forms of logic:

Enthymene: an incomplete syllogism made to allow the “audience to ‘connect the dots’ and discover the insight on their own” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 49). Example found in Matthew 10:40, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).

Syllogismus: “the use of a remark or an image that calls upon the audience to draw an obvious conclusion” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 52). Example found in John 3:14-18, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only Son of God” (John 3:14-18).

A fortiori: (Latin: “to the stronger”) the use of a commonly held truth to argue for a stronger truth. Exemplified in Jesus’ defense of his healing on the Sabbath, “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day” (Luke 13:15-16). Also exemplified in Matthew 18:12-14.

Reductio ad absurdium: “a type of logical argument where one assumes a claim for the sake of argument, derives an absurd or ridiculous outcome, and then concludes that the original assumption must have been wrong, as it led to an absurd result” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 55). Jesus’ rebuttal to his adversaries considering him demon-possessed is an example of reductio ad absurdium. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand” (Matthew 12:25-26)?

Appeal to Evidence: noting the evidence supporting one’s claims. This is incredibly important for apologetics. Jesus used this type of logic masterfully. Jesus would say, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) then go out and raise the dead to prove his statement (as he did in the case of Lazarus). Jesus appealed to several pieces of evidence in John 5: the evidence from the Father (John 5:30-31); evidence from John the Baptist (John 5:32-35); the miracles performed by Jesus (John 5:36); God the Father’s witness (John 5:37-38); and evidence from Scripture (John 5:39-47).

As I have noted several times on this site, one must hold intellectual reasons for holding to the faith if one is to be effective in communicating the gospel. This comes by knowing WHAT one believes and knowing WHY one believes it.

Conclusion

This somewhat lengthy article has noted three important attributes that should accompany one’s presentation of the truth. One must hold a strong ethos (character), pathos (emotional connection), and logos (coherent argument). It may be possible that one can influence another without all three in place. For the one who holds character without the other two may be a beloved person whose beliefs are held because of the person’s character. Yet, such adherents will not hold a strong connection with the beliefs themselves. They simply inherited the beliefs. One may influence another by strong emotionalism to the detriment of the other two. This is most dangerous as the person may captivate a crowd by one’s charisma. Yet, the adherents will not have a defense for their position and, if the speaker is of low moral virtue, may be captivated by what could quickly escalate to dangerous cultic practices. One may also have high intellectual prowess and may convince others. Yet, without a strong ethos and pathos, the speaker may come across as cold and calloused. A blend of all three attributes is necessary if one is to be both persuasive and winsome in their approach. As noted, Jesus was a master of all three.

Sources Cited:

Aristotle. On Rhetoric. Acheron Press. Kindle.

Carter, Joe; and John Coleman. How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. Wheaton: Crossway, 2009.

Zuck, Roy B. Teaching as Jesus Taught. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1995.

© August 30, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

8 Ways that Anti-Intellectualism is Harming the Church

When asked to identify the greatest commandment in all of the Law, Jesus answered the inquiry by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command” (Matthew 22:37-38).[1] It seems that one aspect of this commandment has eluded the modern church. Yes, the church notes the great need to love the Lord with the heart, that is the will and emotions. The modern American church also focuses on the love that one must hold for God with one’s soul, that is, one’s conscious being (life). However, the third aspect of the great commandment seems to have escaped the modern American church. The Christian is also commanded to love the Lord with his or her mind. Extreme fideism (believing that the Christian life is only about faith without reason) has led the church into a state known as anti-intellectualism. Anti-intellectualism is defined as the state of “opposing or [being] hostile to intellectuals or to an intellectual view or approach” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). In this case, the intellectual approach is the intellectual approach to the Christian faith. Anti-intellectualism not only hinders one from keeping the great commandment, but such an attitude is also damaging to the church. This article will present eight ways that anti-intellectualism harms the church.

1. Anti-intellectualism harms the church theologically.

By theologically, I simply indicate how the church views God. Dr. Daniel Mitchell, one of my theology professors from Liberty University, once said, “The more you study God, the bigger God becomes.” His statement proved true. So often, anti-intellectuals limit their scope of God. Because anti-intellectuals fail to examine, research, and contemplate, they miss out on the vast nature of God. While the Christian may understand the basic fundamentals of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, one who allows oneself to contemplate and study these attributes of God will be left in great awe of the greatness of God Almighty. We love God with our minds when we study God. “Search for the LORD and for His strength; seek His face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

 2. Anti-intellectualism harms the church doctrinally.

By doctrinally, I simply indicate how the church views God’s interactions with humanity. How does the church view salvation? How does the church view humanity? The modern church has allowed pop culture to dictate these issues according to social fads and the like. The anti-intellectual will relish in having loads of moving music, will jump with excitement with the latest form of entertainment, but will be left with no basis for examining whether such songs and activities fit within the parameters of orthodoxy. So often, modern Christians leave their churches feeling great excitement, yet are left without any solid foundation for knowing what the church stands for and why it stands for certain things. Issues of salvation have become universalized, issues of eternity have been compromised, and issues concerning humanity have been radicalized because many modern Christians fail to love the Lord with their minds.

 3. Anti-intellectualism harms the church apologetically.

Those who know my testimony knows that I left the ministry for seven years and nearly became an agnostic. Why? My faith was shaken by the Jesus Seminar. When I asked Christian leaders why it was that I could trust the Bible, they responded by saying such things as, “Because it’s the Bible;” “the Bible says we should believe the Bible;” and “you shouldn’t ask such things!” It wasn’t until I came across the works of Christian apologists like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and many others that I began to realize that there were good reasons for why I should believe the Bible. Many of those evidences came from outside of the Bible (e.g. archaeology, manuscript evidence, and et. cetera). Had I been given this information earlier, I would not have left the ministry. Anti-intellectualism is killing the church today because we are left with no defense from the attacks arising from secularists and the like. We must remember that we are instructed to “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). To do otherwise is to neglect the love that we have for God with the mind.

4. Anti-intellectualism harms the church emotionally.

The fourth statement may sound counter-intuitive. Often when a case is made for intellectual Christianity, emotionalism is invalidated. However, emotions are important for human beings. Yet, emotions can lead us astray. Anti-intellectualism, such as is found in movements like the prosperity gospel and the like often lead to far more emotional damage than intellectual Christianity. A proper understanding of theodicy, suffering, and the problem of evil will help the believer in times of great distress. Proponents of anti-intellectualism are far less equipped to deal with times of tragedy than those who have a solid understanding of such topics. In fact, I have personally witnessed pastors who advocated anti-intellectualism fall into times of far greater distress and doubt when they are met with times of suffering and stress. Their doubt and stress is at a far greater degree than those who are grounded with an intellectual faith. An intellectual faith grounds the emotions and demonstrates how a person can love God with the mind.

5. Anti-intellectualism harms the church philosophically.

Philosophy and theology are intertwined to some degree. Theology is a branch of philosophy. Philosophy, simply put, is “a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology” (Merriam-Webster), or the “pursuit of wisdom” (Merriam-Webster). How do we see the world? How do we see society? What is the meaning of life? These are questions that everyone must answer. Different people come to differing conclusions. In a culture where every opinion is held to equal value, it is important that the believer understands such concepts as truth, logic, and value. Otherwise, the believer will be led by everything thrown their direction or, in contrast, oppose everything that may have some value. Some oppose philosophy because of Paul’s statement to the Colossians saying, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition” (Colossians 2:8). A closer examination of Paul’s statement will reveal that Paul is not dismissing philosophy, but rather Paul is dismissing bad philosophy. In addition, Paul’s statement on philosophy is a philosophical statement. Thus, it would seem that quite the opposite is being promoted by Paul. One should not avoid philosophy. One should avoid bad philosophy. How does one know bad philosophy? They know bad philosophy because they know good philosophy. Possessing good philosophy is another way that the church loves God with the mind.

6. Anti-intellectualism harms the church socially.

It seems that many are led more by politics rather than their religious convictions. The opposite should surely be the case. When one allows political parties and nationalistic fervor to dictate their beliefs, one may well be found favorable among the populace while being very unpopular with God. Anti-intellectual Christians will find themselves more easily swayed by the great influence of politics. The intellectual Christian, one grounded in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, will understand the great value of all lives despite race, nationality, or gender. Intellectual faith remembers and realizes the truthfulness of Paul’s statement in that “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). When intellectual faith realizes and actualizes Paul’s statement, then one will truly love God with the mind…and will be moved to love their neighbors as themselves.

7. Anti-intellectualism harms the church evangelistically.

While in prison Paul wrote that “what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel…I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, 16). How would Paul have been able to know how to defend the gospel if he did not know why one should believe the gospel? Many anti-intellectuals hold a limited if not unbiblical view of faith. Anti-intellectuals often consider faith to be the acceptance for which no evidence exists. Or, some may view faith as simply an emotional crutch. Faith is not demonstrated in such a way in the Bible. For instance, consider Jesus’ use of miracles. Jesus did not ask for blind faith. Jesus would back up his claims with a demonstration of power. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5) and then provided the light of physical sight to the man at the pool of Siloam. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus told Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus) as well as everyone else “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live” (John 11:25). Bold words to say at a man’s tomb, don’t you think? Yet, Jesus demonstrated that he was the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus back to life. Jesus backed up his claims. It behooves the modern Christian to know the evidences for the faith. This will provide great strength to one’s evangelistic efforts. Know what you believe, know why you believe what you do, and know the One in whom you are believing, so that you can tell others about the One you serve. Doing such demonstrates a love for God with the mind.

8. Anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually.

Finally, anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually. How one might ask? Anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually in many ways. I will list only two for the purpose of this article. 1) It harms one’s view of salvation. Some have added to or taken away from the gospel message because of an unexamined view of salvation from the Bible. False professions have been made without understanding the submission required for salvation, that is to say one’s submission to Christ as the Lord of one’s life. 2) It harms one’s spiritual walk. Sometimes anti-intellectuals will allow things into their lives which should not be present. When confronted, the person will say, “I have faith and that is all that matters.” Such a view stems from a bad interpretation of faith. If a person had studied their Bibles, researched passages, and held a true love of learning about God, then one would be willing to submit themselves to God fully and completely. Perhaps some of the problems of integrity in the modern church stems from the laziness which is so boldly exhibited in the anti-intellectual movement. Such can be protected at least to some degree by loving God with the mind.

Conclusion

Socrates is noted as saying that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates is right. However, one could stretch the philosopher’s statement in saying that “an unexamined faith is not worth having.” Biblical faith is enmeshed with reason. We should know why we believe in God and why we believe in Christ. If one simply accepts Christ because their family or friends did, is their faith truly legitimate? The Christian should not be afraid of loving God with the mind. One need not leave their brain at the door of faith. In fact, reason and faith are complementary because we serve a real God who provides a real trust. Anti-intellectualism is harmful for the church. It is a trend that must be reversed. Charles Bugg puts it best in saying,

“There is no excuse for preaching that requires people to leave their head outside the church. In the Great Commandment, Jesus taught His disciples to love God with all of their mind, heart, and soul. Some preachers make their living by attacking education or by riding the horse of anti-intellectualism. The result is a kind of demagoguery that creates unwarranted suspicion toward education. Ministers need to use the minds God has given them and to love God with all of that mind. Likewise, they need to call their listeners to love God with all of their minds” (Bugg 1992, 125-126).

Sources Cited:

Bugg, Charles B. Preaching from the Inside Out. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992.

Mish, Frederick C. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

 

© August 24, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quoted in this article comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

Answers to Arian’s Agnosticism

Recently, Arian Foster, a running back for the Houston Texans and NFL star, exposed a secret that he had been hiding for quite some time. Foster admitted that he was an atheist. Actually in an interview with Openly Secular which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrLZkwMP8kk, Foster’s belief is far more in line with agnosticism—the confession that one does not know whether God exists—rather than atheism. From the outset, it must be acknowledged that Foster was very cordial and was not aggressively opposed to a person’s belief in God. In addition, Foster was still open to the belief that God could exist. Therefore, it is completely possible that Foster could change his mind. It is with that notion in mind that I would like to present four answers to Foster’s agnosticism.

Strong Scientism

In Foster’s interview, he seems to demonstrate a form of scientism. Scientism is the belief that science holds all the answers for life’s questions. Norman Geisler describes scientism as the “belief that the scientific method is the only method for discovering truth” (Geisler 1999, 702). However, one must inquire if science can truly answer all that scientists suppose that it can.

If one is truly devoted to find the truth of what is and what may exist, one must understand the limitations of science. Geisler notes that “Even empirical scientists recognize the limitations of the scientific method…since it can only deal with observable phenomena. It begs the question in favor of materialism to assume that there is nothing beyond the observable. Other aspects of reality cannot be captured by the scientific method…Some are known intuitively (see First Principles), others inferentially (see Causality, Principle of) or transcendentally (see Transcendental Argument), and some only by special revelation (see Revelation, Special)” (Geisler 1999, 702). Before one criticizes the notion of special revelation, one must understand that science may be able to read the brainwaves of a person thinking, but scientists cannot know the thoughts of a person unless the person reveals such thoughts to the scientist—yet another limitation of science.

 William Lane Craig answers Peter Atkin’s scientism by describing five areas that science cannot prove. The full video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQL2YDY_LiM. Craig notes that science cannot attest to the following: “1) logical and mathematical truths cannot be attested by science. Science presupposes logic and mathematics…2) Metaphysical truths like there are other minds other than my own and that the external world is real cannot be proven by the scientific method…3) Ethical beliefs cannot be proven by the scientific method…4) Aesthetic judgments cannot be proven by the scientific method…5) Science itself cannot be proven by the scientific method…For instance the Theory of Relativity hinges upon the assumption that the state of light is constant in one direction from point A to point B” (Craig, YouTube). Therefore, Foster and other adherents to scientism should understand that their beliefs are severely limited if one’s worldview only allows observable realities limited by the scientific method as the means to their understanding.

For further references on this issue, see William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith and John Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

 wlc reasonable faith Lennox Gods Undertaker book

Victimized by Syncretism

Foster states in his interview that his father was a Muslim and his mother was a Catholic. Foster has read the Quran and the Bible extensively. Yet, Foster claimed that his father was a freethinker. This brings forth some questions. Did Foster’s father profess atheism while practicing Islam? Or was Foster’s father faithful and Foster remained confused? Only Mr. Foster could answer those questions. However, it does seem that Foster may be confused by the ideological and philosophical differences between various world religions. It may have been simpler for Foster to claim neutrality. Nevertheless, if Foster is truly committed to finding the truth, he must examine the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, examine the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, and the impact of the Christian message. If Jesus is who he proclaimed to be, then everything changes.

For further information on this issue, see Ravi Zacharias’ book Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message and Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, as well as Gary Habermas and Michael Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold-case Christianity, and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. 

Zacharias Jesus Among other Gods bookqureshi seeking allah finding jesus    the case for the resurrection of jesus book image   cold case christianity  Case for Christ

 

Hypocritical Behavior by Christians

Another issue that seems to have plagued Foster is the unChristlike behavior by those professing to be Christians. Hypocrisy is a classic excuse used by individuals who refuse to come to Christ or who refuse to attend church. However, while Christians can never act perfectly on earth, at times Christians harm their message by becoming “super-spiritual.” Some professing Christians live as if they could never associate with those who are unbelievers or those who live lifestyles outside their acceptable boundaries. Yet, the Christian must remember that Christ associated himself with sinners. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do…Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’” (Matthew 9:10-13, NLT).[1] The apostle Paul notes several sins to the Corinthian church. Yet, he ends by saying, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV).[2]

What does this mean? To Mr. Foster and those who have avoided Christianity by the bad actions of those professing Christ, understand that truth is not determined by the actions of those professing truth. It could be that a person could speak the truth and act harshly and still be correct. Also, it could be that someone behaves kindly but professes a lie. The most important issue is to discover the truth.

To the Christian, this should be a reminder that people will not hear your message if your behavior does not back up your message. If you sing “Oh how I love Jesus” and behave like you should be singing “Oh how I love myself,” then do not be surprised if the skeptic does not take your claims seriously.

For further information on this issue, see Josh McDowell’s book The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Craig Groeschel’s book The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist.

Mcdowell New Evidence bookChristian atheist

One-sided Research to Search

Foster noted that he had conducted his own private research. However, he noted that he was inspired by individuals like Bill Maher, Penn and Teller, and Richard Dawkins. One must question how balanced Foster’s search for truth truly was. In Foster’s defense, he may have not known that other resources in defense of Christianity existed. It is for that reason that I have listed resources for further study in this article. A good case can be made for God’s existence. J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist and cold-case investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department and current Christian apologist writes the following,

“I identified and listed four categories of evidence for consideration: 1. Cosmological Evidence, a. Our universe had a beginning, b. Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life; 2. Biological Evidence, a. Life in our universe emerged from non-life, b. Biological organisms appear to be designed; 3. Mental Evidence, a. Nonmaterial consciousness emerged from unconscious matter, b. As humans, we are ‘free agents’ in our otherwise ‘cause and effect’ universe; 4. Moral Evidence, a. Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe, b. Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts” (Wallace 2015, 24).

Good, strong reasons exist for one to believe in God. It is not a mere knowledge of the heart. It is a knowledge of the mind as well.

For more information on this issue, see J. Warner Wallace’s book God’s Crime Scene and Robert J. Spitzer’s book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.

J Warner Wallace Gods Crime Scene Spitzer

 Failure of Church to Engage in Apologetics

According to Foster’s interview and a report on ESPN, Foster had engaged Christians. However, no one could offer Foster a reason for the hope they held. No one. According to Foster, his mother was not allowed to ask questions as a Christian. No one in college could answer Foster’s objections. Instead of offering a defense for the faith that they held, many Christians would simply avoid engaging Foster on such issues. In this regard, Foster’s quest for truth hit the same kind of snag that I did. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I had asked individuals questions pertaining to the reliability to the Bible. No one could offer a defense. No one. For those of faith, we MUST remember that we are required to be ready “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).

Conclusion

What if? What if Arian Foster had accessed Christian apologetic resources? What if Arian Foster had the opportunity to engage with Christian apologists? What if the church was prepared to answer such objections? Would Foster still remain a skeptic? Perhaps, but if Foster is open to seek the truth, then one must think that Foster may be willing to rethink the truth claims of Christianity. That is my prayer for Arian Foster. I was in the same position as Arian Foster is today. No, I did not have the notoriety and fame that Foster does. No, I do not possess the physical talent that Foster holds. However, I did hold some of the same questions that Foster has. I did have some of the annoyances towards those who professed Christ and did not live according to their beliefs. By the grace of God, I was led towards the reality that the truth was found in the Christian message. It is my prayer and hope that Foster will find the same. Instead of rebuking Foster for his doubts, I encourage others to pray that Foster will find the answers to life’s most pressing questions.

 Sources Cited:

Craig, William Lane, and Peter Atkins. “What Science Cannot Prove.” Video. YouTube. Accessed August 9, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQL2YDY_LiM.

Foster, Arian. “Arian Foster—Openly Secular.” Video. YouTube. Accessed August 9, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrLZkwMP8kk.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Wallace, J. Warner. God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015.


© August 9, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Scripture noted as NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

[2] Scripture noted as ESV comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Why Not You?

Recently, I had a powerful encounter with God. Some members of my family had been facing a difficult time in recent days. During my prayer time, my mind drifted somewhat and I began to ask, “Why can’t someone help them?” I have encountered that so-called “still small voice of God” on countless occasions. This was one such occasion. After asking the question, “Why can’t someone help them” that still small voice said to me “Why not you?”

I tried to dissuade God from leading me to help. I prayed, “God, I am too busy! I have a church to pastor!”

I will help you,” that voice said.

God, I a ton of school work I must do!”

I will help you,” that voice said again.

Every objection I offered was blown out of the water by God. Then, God delivered the clincher…the proverbial “nail in the coffin,” so to speak…the finishing move as they would say in professional wrestling. My mind was directed to a passage of Scripture in James in that, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, paraphrased). James continues that thought in saying that “someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:18-19). James completes the thought by saying, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

It seems so easy to find problems in this life. It is also easy to lay blame upon another for not doing something that needs to be accomplished. We may find ourselves angry at co-workers, employers (or employees), family members, national leaders, and fellow church members. But this encounter challenged me to ask, “Why not me?”

The prophet Jeremiah had a similar encounter with God. God came to Jeremiah and said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). What a powerful encounter! Yet, Jeremiah, like the rest of us, said, “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah, like myself, was playing Battleship® with God. You know the game where one has a set of ships and the other has a set of ships and you call out numbers trying to sink the other person’s ships. It doesn’t work too well.

God said to Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). Jeremiah listened to the call of God and prophesied in a powerful fashion.

You may find yourself distraught and concerned about particular things in this world. However, the burden laid upon you may be a call to action. Maybe God is calling you to do something positive and powerful with the greatest of passion. You say you have faith in God. Well, put it to the test! James, the brother of Jesus, had it right. Faith is exemplified through one’s works.

Do you have a burden? Do you want to see a difference made? The call of God says to the faithful, “Why not you?!?”

 

® Battleship is a registered trademark of Hasbro.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Copyright April 2015. Brian Chilton.

Is Your Theology Influenced by Subjective Persuasions or Objective Truth?

Theology is at the epicenter of a person’s worldview. In fact, the way a person views God affects the way the person evaluates everything in life—from politics to science. Facing this task has been challenging; in that one must evaluate how one views God. N. T. Wright was correct when he stated that “all talk about God is necessarily self-involving and that the mode of this involvement will vary according to what is being said, or at least what is being meant, about God himself.[1] Paul Froese and Christopher Bader further challenged this assumption as they presented evidence that suggests that Americans view God in four different ways: “Authoritative (immanent and judging), Benevolent (immanent and loving), Critical (distant and judging), and Distant (distant and loving).[2] The question must be asked; how much of our knowledge of God is based upon subjective opinion as opposed to objective fact? Where does one find these objective facts concerning God?

Specific Revelation

One such way a person can find objective information concerning God is in the disclosed revelation of God: namely, the Bible. It is agreed with Gerald Bray in that “the Bible is an exhaustive source of theological knowledge.[3] To reduce one’s subjective reasoning pertaining to biblical objective principles concerning God, one must practice good hermeneutics in interpreting Scripture. Great theological problems have emerged throughout church history when an interpreter seeks to justify one’s personal perceptions of God as opposed to the attributes of God presented in Scripture.

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

General Revelation (aka. Natural Theology)

Secondly, objective information about God can be obtained by God’s natural revelation; or the attributes of God revealed by God’s creation. While much is agreed with Gerald Bray’s book The Doctrine of God, Bray’s assumptions that the natural theologian’s “attempts to rescue God from oblivion…are best described as pathetic[4] are completely rejected. With the great success of Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Norman Geisler, and Gary Habermas, who all to a degree employ tactics found in natural theology; this writer must strongly disagree with Bray on this matter. For it was Paul who wrote that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.[5] Thus, God has revealed Himself through His creation. Truly the psalmist was correct in stating that the “heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.”[6] Hence, natural theology has its place and demonstrates many of the objective attributes of God (i.e. God’s omnipotence).

In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that one bases one’s knowledge of God upon what God has revealed about Himself through specific revelation (the Bible) and natural, or general, revelation; termed natural theology. The Christian leader must consider whether their viewpoints concerning God are based upon God’s revelation or upon personal preference. In addition, the leader would do well to lead the congregation into a proper understanding of the Creator based upon the Creator’s revelation, as well.

Addendum

It should be noted that theology influences every other walk in life. As the following chart demonstrates, a person’s theology, or lack thereof, influences how one views humanity (anthropology), Christ (Christology), the Spirit and spiritual dimension (pneumatology), the church (ecclesiology), salvation (soteriology), and the end times (eschatology). In addition, Paul Froese and Christopher Bader note, in their book America’s Four Gods, that how one views God influences how one views politics, religion, governmental affairs, ethics, and just about everything else. In their book, they describe four ways that a person views God:

Authoritative (one who views God as immanent and judgmental),

Benevolent (one who views God as immanent and loving/non-judgmental),

Critical (one who views God as distant and judging),

and Distant (one who views God as distant and loving/non-judgmental).”[7]

One must note that all four viewpoints are lacking. The authoritative and critical viewpoints are correct in thinking that God will hold each person responsible for his or her actions. However, those who hold such views may forget that “love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” [8] Those who hold to the benevolent and distant views may hold a correct view of God’s love, but may fail in their understanding when they find that God holds people accountable for their actions. For the writer of Proverbs states that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”[9] In addition, those who hold to the authoritative and benevolent viewpoints understand that God is very close to the actions of the world. Yet, they may lose the majesty of God’s transcendence and the importance that God places on individuals to take responsibility for their lives. As Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”[10] Jesus placed an emphasis on a person’s responsibility to the Father and Him. Also, the advocate of the critical and distant views may have a correct interpretation on God’s majesty and power. Yet, they may fail to see that God is nearer to the actions of the world than they may fathom. For Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”[11]

Thus, it is important for each individual to evaluate their own theology. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said that each Christian should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”[12] Each Christian needs to evaluate his or her beliefs. Are their beliefs driven by the objective revelation of God? Or, are their beliefs driven by personal persuasions and wishes? In the end, it should be the goal of every believer to focus their attention on God and not themselves…especially when it comes to theology. For “theology” is a study (logos) of God (theos).

Notes:

Note #1: The following was a journal entry posted by the author of this site for credit at his university. Therefore, any information used in this article must be correctly documented for class projects or the user may be found guilty of plagiarism at his or her respected school.

Note #2: For the next eight weeks, I will be engaged in an upper-level theology course called “The Doctrine of God.” Therefore, the following eight posts, including this post, will provide information that has been learned through the process of study.

Chart is not original to Pastor Brian. All rights belong to credited author.
This chart is not original to Pastor Brian. All rights belong to credited author.

 Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Bray, Gerald. The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology. Downers Grove: InterVarity Press, 1993.

Froese, Paul, and Christopher Bader. America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God–& What That Says About Us. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Scripture noted as “NKJV” comes from the New King James Version. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1982.

Wright, N. T. “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” In Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives. Edited by Bruce L. McCormack. Grand Rapids, Scotland: Baker, Rutherford House, 2008.

——————————————————-

[1] N. T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Question of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives, Bruce L. McCormack, ed (Grand Rapids, Scotland: Baker, Rutherford House, 2008), 23.

[2] Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God–& What That Says About Us (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 24.

[3] Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarity Press, 1993), 18.

[4] Ibid, 109.

[5] Romans 1:20.

[6] Psalm 97:6.

[7] Froese and Bader, 24.

[8] 1 John 4:7-8, NKJV.

[9] Proverbs 15:3.

[10] John 15:10, NKJV.

[11] Matthew 28:20, NKJV.

[12] Philippians 2:12.

 

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

33 Logical Fallacies Everyone Should Know

Logic is a proper way of thinking. Norman Geisler writes that “Logic deals with the methods of valid thinking” (Geisler 1999, 427). Logical fallacies, then, are errors in the way one thinks or presents an argument. Logic and logical fallacies are important for everyone to know, but it is especially important for Christians to know since they are called to promote truth. Paul writes that the Christian should be in the practice of “laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25, NASB). So, the Christian should know how to speak the truth and to avoid any fallacy of thinking. Unfortunately, many sites devoted to logic promote an atheist agenda. One might think that the atheist has a stranglehold on logic, but nothing further could be the case. Therefore, this article will provide 33 logical fallacies that every Christian, in fact every person, should know.

philosopher-socrates

Ad Hominem:  This fallacy means literally “against the man.” This is a classic debate tactic. Instead of attacking an argument’s validity, the debater will instead attack one’s opponent. For example: some atheists have attacked the character of William Lane Craig instead of dealing with Craig’s cosmological arguments. This is an ad hominem fallacy.

Ambiguity:       The fallacy of ambiguity is used when the debater uses vague language that could be taken in a variety of ways. This is also known as someone speaking “out of both sides of one’s mouth.” Politicians are normally the worst culprits of this fallacy. When posed with a particular problem, the politician may claim that he or she may not have known about the issue when it is clear that the politician did. Or, it could be demonstrated by a politician presenting a bill without directly expressing the contents of the bill.

Anecdotal:       The anecdotal fallacy is found when one uses one’s experience instead of a sound argument when making a case. For instance, one could argue that one person benefited from taking a particular medicine; therefore everyone should take that medicine. It could be that not everyone would benefit from that kind of medicine due to the differences in each person’s body. It is for this reason that the Christian should not only rely upon their experience with Christ when making a case for Christianity, but provide the evidence for Christianity in addition to providing one with their experience. If one relies only on their experience, one could be found guilty of committing the anecdotal fallacy.

Appeal to Authority:    This fallacy is often used in the atheist community, but is often used in the theist community, as well. The appeal to authority fallacy is committed when one uses the beliefs of one in authority (scientist, archaeologist, theologian, philosopher, etc.) instead of dealing with the argument itself. It may be that the authority in question is correct. However, just because one is in authority does not make the authority figure correct. Consider the fact that at one time; most scientists and theologians believed that the world was flat. Thus, an appeal to authority would have been flawed in those days.

Appeal to Consequences:        In this fallacy, one uses consequences without providing any real evidence that a consequence would follow the antecedent. Mothers forgive me. But this is normally used by mothers when they tell their children that if they do not eat their Brussel sprouts they will not grow up big and strong. It may be that the children will grow up big and strong without eating Brussel sprouts. The mother has not provided a clear link between the consumption of Brussel sprouts and growing up big and strong. (Note to children: I would not use this against your mothers or you may find yourself the victim of the appeal to force.)

crying_baby-1680x1050

Appeal to Emotion:     This fallacy is found in the classic “guilt trip.” In this fallacy, the debater will manipulate an emotional response from the listener without providing any clear evidence for the debater’s claim. For instance, atheists will appeal to the atrocities performed by Christians as an argument against the resurrection of Christ. It could be that Christ has risen and that Christians have performed atrocious acts, but the atrocities do not deny the validity of Christ’s resurrection. Grandparents are good at the “appeal to emotion.” For instance, a grandmother may claim, “You never come see me. You must not love me anymore.” In fact, it could be that the grandchild loves the grandparent very much, but is not able to see the grandparent as they wish they could. Nonetheless, this is an appeal to emotion.

Appeal to Force:         The appeal to force is also known by its Latin name argumentum ad baculum. This fallacy is found when a person, or institution, forces their beliefs upon another by issuing threats. The person or institution has not proven its case but forces others to believe by force. For instance: in certain regimes of the past, if one did not become an atheist and adhere to the government’s new system of control, the person could lose his/her occupation, could be ostracized, or could be executed.

Appeal to Nature:        This fallacy claims that just because something is “natural” it must be good. For instance, some will argue that men are drawn to have multiple relationships with other many other women, so infidelity must be okay. One can find the falsehood in such a claim. Just because something comes “natural” does not make it right. Unfortunately, this fallacy is made by many trying to cover up their misdeeds.

Appeal to Novelty:       This fallacy assumes that just because something is new that the thing, or idea, must be better. For instance, many believed that Windows Vista was going to be better than Windows XP because it was newer. It was later found that Windows XP was far better since Vista had many programming flaws. Therefore, just because something is new does not make it better unless it is demonstrated to be better.

Appeal to Poverty:      This fallacy occurs when one assumes that just because a view is held by the poor that it must be true. This is the opposite of the appeal to wealth fallacy. It may be that most poor people believe that the government is oppressing them. The view may or may not be true. However, such a view cannot be accepted on the merits that the poor hold it without any other evidence.

Appeal to Tradition:    This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to novelty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds that just because a viewpoint is old that it must be true. For instance, some Calvinists will hold that their view is true because it correlates with the view held by Augustine. It could be that the view is true. However, one cannot claim the accuracy of the view by its antiquity alone.

Appeal to Wealth:        This fallacy is opposite of the appeal to poverty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds a view as true because its adherents are wealthy. For instance, one might claim that Al Gore is correct about global warming because Gore is wealthy. The merits of global warming have nothing to do with the wealth of one of its advocates: Al Gore.

Bandwagon-Lesson-1

Bandwagon Fallacy:   This fallacy is based upon an appeal to popularity. One claims that something is good based only on the fact that everyone else thinks that it is good. For instance a young lady may ask her parents if she can have her tongue pierced because all of her friends are piercing their tongues. The problem is that a view can be popular and be incorrect. Therefore, the bandwagon fallacy should be avoided.

20070926_circularBig

Begging the Question/Circular Reasoning:    Circular reasoning is performed when the conclusion is presented in the argument. For instance, a Christian may be asked, “How do you know that the Bible is true?” The Christian responds, “I know the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true.” This is providing absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Such a form of defense should be wholeheartedly rejected.

Black or White:           This fallacy is committed when only two options are presented when more options may be available. For instance, some claim that one can only have faith or reason. However, it can be that one can hold faith and reason.

Burden of Proof:         This fallacy is committed when one assumes that they do not have to provide evidence for their claim and that the burden is upon the one trying to prove them wrong. For example, the atheist may desire to have 100% certainty that God exists in order to believe. Therefore, the atheist will declare that the Christian must provide this level of evidence or the Christian’s view is wrong, or vice versa. Therefore, it could be said that a person that desires more evidence than is necessary to believe/disbelieve.

Composition/Division:            The composition fallacy assumes that what is true of a part is true of the whole. The division fallacy assumes that what is true of the whole is true of the parts. Someone might claim that since North Carolina has islands offshore and is one of the states of the United States of America, that all states in the United States of America must have islands offshore. This is impossible since many states are not aligned along an ocean. Therefore, this is the composition fallacy. Someone could also claim that since the United States is one nation, all the states of the nation must experience the same weather. This would be considered the division fallacy.

False Cause:               This fallacy occurs when someone finds a correlation and assumes a cause. For instance, one may view a chart to find that the crime rate in a particular community is rising while the immigration rate in the community is also rising. One may assume that the immigration rise was causing the rise in crime. There may be other causes afoot than just the rise in immigration.

Gambler’s Fallacy:     This fallacy has ties to Las Vegas. This fallacy occurs when one attributes a run of events to independent events. For instance, a gambler may claim to have a “run” on the roulette wheel. In fact, there is no run but a series of independent events. For instance, assuming that since 9 red cards have been consistently taken from a card deck that a black card will be drawn next is committing the gambler’s fallacy.

Genetic95

Genetic Fallacy:          This fallacy is committed when one’s argument is considered good or bad only based upon the advocate’s ancestry. For instance, a theologian from Nigeria may not have his arguments taken seriously because he is dark-skinned and comes from a third world nation. The guilty party would have committed the genetic fallacy. Or, a Christian scientist may not have her experiment considered because she is a Christian. This is also a genetic fallacy.

Loaded Question:        This fallacy is committed when one asks a question with a presumption built into it. This is performed in order to side-track the particular person in question. For instance, one may ask a Christian apologist, “Since a belief in God is primitive and superstitious, wouldn’t that make your arguments primitive and superstitious?” Or if one were to ask another, “Do you need help with your drug problem” when there is no evidence of a drug problem; this would be an example of a loaded question.

Middle Ground Fallacy:         This fallacy assumes that a “middle ground” between two extremes is always true. Or, this fallacy can be conducted when assuming that a middle ground exists when it does not. For instance, some may try to find a middle ground in the debate on the existence of God. However, there are only two options: God exists or God does not exist. No middle ground can exist in such a case.

Moralistic Fallacy:      This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to nature fallacy. In this fallacy, one assumes that because something should be a certain way, something is that way. For instance, one may claim that all parents will take care of their children because all parents should take care of their children. Unfortunately, not all parents do take care of their children.

RobRoyLiamNeeson_6135

No True Scotsman:     This fallacy is somewhat difficult to describe. To simplify, this fallacy avoids criticism by changing the dynamic of the argument so present the case unfalsifiable. The tenets are changed to avoid scrutiny. On http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com, a good example of this is presented, “Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge” (https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/no-true-scotsman).

Personal Incredulity:   This fallacy is committed when one passes off difficult concepts as inherently false because one does not understand the concept. For instance, Jimmy does not think that Thomism is a valid theological system because he does not understand the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Or, Betty does not believe in the distance of light-years because she cannot understand how light can travel at 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, a light-year must not exist.

Post Hoc Fallacy:       This fallacy is committed when one assumes that things happen after an unrelated experience. For instance, athletes participate in certain rituals before they take the field. They believe these rituals will help them perform in the game. In reality, there is no correlation. Note: some sites have claimed that the efficacy of prayer is a post hoc fallacy. However, this claim is committing several fallacies including the anecdotal and black-or-white fallacy. The author who claims that prayer is superstitious is abiding by their own preconceived notions that God does not exist. If God does exist, then it is entirely logical to expect an answer to one’s prayer. It is just as logical as expecting a person on the other end of the telephone line to respond to one’s question. Beware of sites that promote a genetic fallacy in designating that people of faith are automatically wrong because they believe in the power of God.

red-herring

Red Herring:   The red herring fallacy came from fox hunters who sent out their dogs to chase foxes only to find that their dogs were distracted by red herrings (perhaps purposely placed by opposing hunters) which led them off the trail of the fox. This is a tactic used to get a person off their point. For instance: a Christian apologist is addressing the evidence for God’s existence. Someone then asks, “What about the crusades? Don’t the evil acts performed by the Crusaders in the name of God negate God’s existence?” Obviously, the Crusades have nothing to do with the plausibility of God’s existence.

slippery slope

Slippery Slope:            This fallacy assumes that just because a person does one thing that the person will eventually do something else. For instance, some would claim that if one listens to rock music then one will become a delinquent. Or others assume if one reads any other translation other than the King James Version, one will become a flaming liberal. Obviously, the consequents do not proceed from the antecedents with the slippery slope fallacy.

Special Pleading:        This fallacy is similar to the No True Scotsman fallacy. In this fallacy, one refuses to accept that one is wrong by inventing ways in which to hold to old notions. For instance, it has been demonstrated that the Alexandrian codex is a better than the Byzantium codex for use in translating the Bible. However, for those who desire to hold to the Byzantium texts, one will claim that the Alexandrian texts were modified by cults when there is no evidence to back up such a claim. If science demonstrates something to be true, one will claim that science is faulty. These are cases of special pleading.

Straw man newspaper

Strawman:       Strawman fallacies are among one of the more popular fallacies that are employed. This fallacy misrepresents someone’s argument to make the argument easier to attack. Unfortuately, this happens far more than this writer would like to imagine. For instance, Bill might claim that Sally is a tree-hugger because she believes in global warming. Or, Brent makes Hugh out to be a Darwinist because Hugh believes in an old-earth interpretation of Genesis. These are examples of the strawman fallacy.

The Fallacy Fallacy:   This fallacy accuses a claim to be false because it is poorly argued or another fallacy has been committed. In other words, the claim is not evaluated on its own merits but by the way it was presented. Since Susan presented a poor presentation on the nutritional value of blueberries, Barbara believes that blueberries should never be eaten. Barbara has committed the fallacy fallacy.

texas-sharpshooter-by-mahbsol

The Texas Sharpshooter:        This fallacy gets its name from a sharpshooter who shoots holes in a barn and then paints a bullseye around the majority of bullet holes (Richardson 2012, http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com). The person committing this fallacy will choose data that only suits his argument or presumption. For instance, a drug company may only choose positive data that supports a drug that they are promoting without considering the negative data. Or, Zane, a statistician, evaluates the educational systems of various states. He only chooses the best schools to evaluate in his state, while choosing the worst schools in other states, in order to demonstrate that his state’s educational system is better than any other system. Zane has committed the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

tu-quoque

Tu Quoque:     Pronounced (too-kwoo-kee), this person committing this fallacy turns criticism back upon the critic instead of dealing with the criticism itself. It’s also called “passing the buck.” For instance, Christine’s theory is challenged by Cassandra because of a mathematical error. Christine retorted, “Oh yeah, well your last theory had two mathematical errors in it and you didn’t hear me say anything about it.” In this case, Christine was guilty of the tu quoque fallacy because she did not deal with the criticism but instead dealt with the criticism by offering criticism.

Conclusion

One may find that they have engaged in these fallacies more than on one occasion. While these logical fallacies are certainly not the unpardonable sin, they should be avoided by the one promoting truth. The Christian’s faith is built upon fact and reality. The Christian has nothing to hide. Therefore, these fallacies should be avoided as much as possible. Remember the words of Paul, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).

 

Bibliography

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Richardson, Jesse. (2012). http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com. Accessed July 28, 2014.

Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Some information taken from www.logicalfallacies.info. Accessed July 28, 2014.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Being Skeptical of Hyper-Skepticism

A healthy dose of skepticism is a good trait to possess. This helps us to discern fact from fiction and keeps us from being someone’s pawn. The Bible shows that discernment is necessary. John writes that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, ESV). Therefore, one should not trust everything that comes along life’s way. However, when one becomes overly skeptical, it is easy for one to become just as easily duped. In fact, it may be said that extreme skepticism (henceforth termed “hyper-skepticism”) can lead one to a point that nothing can be accepted.

Hyper-skepticism is a growing problem. In fact, I recently conversed with an individual on the issue of hyper-skepticism. Throughout our conversation, I discovered three enormous problems with hyper skepticism.

 skepticism_question everything

Problem 1.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in experience.

The first problem that comes from hyper-skepticism is a lack of trust in experience. In fact, the conversation I held with the individual began in this realm. The antagonist did not believe that one could believe in religious experiences. However, I provided data that corresponds not just with one person’s experience, but the experience of countless others. For example, one cannot deny the incredible testimonies of Muslims who have had experiences with Christ which have led them to convert to Christianity despite the threat of execution. This was not good enough for the skeptic. This led me to ask how one could trust their experience in anything. Surprisingly, the antagonist agreed. This leads to further problems which will be dealt with in a moment.

When skepticism gets to the point that one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how can one learn anything about life and reality? The experiences of life mold one to become a better person. I would argue that one of God’s greatest teachers in life is that of experience. Solomon wisely writes that “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1, NASB). Life provides such reproof, or correction. Solomon rightly states “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11, NIV). This is the problem with hyper-skepticism. If one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how does one ever learn? Furthermore, it would seem that the lack of trust in religious experiences stems more from an anti-theological bias rather than intellectualism. How intellectual would it for the skeptic to resist God’s extension of grace towards the skeptic? In such a case, hyper-skepticism has little to do with intellectualism and more to do with a heart of rebellion.

 skepticism-sm

Problem 2.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in empirical data.

The second problem of hyper-skepticism emerges from the first. If experiences cannot be trusted, then how can empirical data be trusted? Wait Pastor Brian!!! Empirical data is outside of one’s senses, isn’t it? Then how does this relate to one’s sensual experiences? Consider this: one must use their senses to evaluate empirical data. As you are reading this article, you are evoking at least one of your senses: sight. Therefore, you are reading the empirical data (the words) by your sensual experience (sight). The same is true for the scientific method. When a scientist evaluates a claim, she may write down particular formulae. This uses sight and touch. She will then test her theory. The testing may include a wide variety of senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, and perhaps tasting). Therefore, if one cannot trust one’s experiences (sensual data), then empirical data is out of reach. The scientific method collapses from hyper-skepticism.

The apostle Thomas has been dubbed with the title “Doubting Thomas.” This is due to Thomas’ claim that he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he saw the risen Christ for himself. Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it into my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27, ESV). Thomas responded by proclaiming “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)! Thomas believed the data that was in front of him. In fact, Thomas was no longer a skeptic. Thomas was a believer. Thomas’ belief in the risen Jesus led him to eventually suffer martyrdom in Madras, India as identified by ancient testimony (see the article “Embarrassing Details Concerning the First Easter” here at pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com for more information concerning Thomas’ martyrdom at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/top-5-embarrassing-details-concerning-the-first-easter/). What if Thomas had not believed his experience? Thomas certainly would not have suffered martyrdom. Thomas would have said to have been foolish in such a case.

The skeptic I debated conceded the point that nothing could be known with hyper-skepticism and made the claim that certain experiences can be trusted. But this opens up the gate to all experiences. If someone is sick, would they deny their symptoms and pretend like they were not sick? How foolish! The sick person would seek medical treatment due to the experiences they were having. Should one pick and choose what experiences in their daily life is valid and which ones are not? No one lives life like this unless one is on some form of hallucinogenic drug. But religious experiences are not based on hallucinogens as argued by the debater. Why deny religious experiences if there are good reasons for believing their authenticity? It is true that some who have claimed to have religious experiences had other motives behind their claim. Some skepticism is healthy; however, for the skeptic to devalue all religious experiences when those experiences are held by those who certainly do not meet the standard of schizophrenia, or subject to hallucinations, due to an anti-theological bias is absurd. It leads towards the hyper-skepticism that has been evaluated in this article.

 conviction

Problem 3.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of knowledge in existence.

Finally, if one cannot trust one’s experiences or empirical data, then nothing is knowable. Even Rene Descartes “cognito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) collapses with hyper-skepticism. How then can one even trust one’s existence? If nothing can be trusted, then not even one’s own existence is safe. Perhaps the person is just a delusion. Perhaps all existence is a delusion. Again, this leads to absurdity. Descartes’ point is that one can know one’s existence and that person’s existence lends itself to the ultimate existence of a Creator. However, with hyper-skepticism, such cannot be said. In fact, hyper-skepticism lends itself to nothingness. Yet, the conscious, thinking, observer clearly knows that “nothing” is “no-thing.” We do not live in a world of “no-things,” we live in a world of existent realities. Therefore, hyper-skepticism should be devalued and rejected wholeheartedly by any truth-seeker.

Certainty-in-Marketing

Conclusion

Luckily, things are knowable. Some certainties do exist. Norman Geisler in his book The Big Book of Christian Apologetics lists five certainties:

“Logical Certainty. Logical certainty is found largely in mathematics and pure logic…

Metaphysical Certainty. …For example, I know for certain that I exist. This is undeniably so, since I cannot deny my existence without existing to make the denial…

Moral Certainty. Moral certainty exists where the evidence is so great that the mind lacks any reason to veto the will to believe it is so…In legal terms, this is what is meant by ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’…

Practical Certainty (High Probability). Practical certainty is not as strong as moral certainty. Persons claim to be ‘certain’ about things they believe have a high probability of truth…

Spiritual (Supernatural) Certainty. If we grant a theistic God’s existence, he could give supernatural assurance that something is true. Likewise, if God speaks directly to a person…, then that person could have a spiritual certainty that transcends other kinds of certainty, because it comes directly from God…” (Geisler 2012, 74).

There are indeed things that can be known with a great deal of certainty. Religious experiences allow for a certainty that God not only exists, but is actively involved in creation and in the lives of human beings. Unfortunately, the hyper-skeptic may never be able to experience such a certainty, or any certainty for that matter, while they hold to their unjustified hyper-skepticism.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture marked (ESV) comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

All Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

All Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Geisler, Norman. The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.