Integrated apologetics

I’m a big fan of apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith), but I don’t think we should always treat it as a separate enterprise.  It is good to have whole sessions on apologetics, especially because it is so often ignored in churches, and I’m a huge fan of sites like Apologetics315 and people like the Wintery Knight.  But I prefer to integrate it into most of my lessons so people can grasp the basics and see that it is part of the fabric of our message.

We may not all have the job of evangelist, but as 1 Peter 3:15-16 notes, all Christians are to be apologists.

but in your hearts 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

But that doesn’t mean apologetics can’t be a regular part of our lessons and sermons.  For example, when teaching anything in church, or even in general conversations as appropriate, I aim to reflexively weave in basic apologetic themes.

  • The minimal facts: “Virtually all historians agree on key facts about Jesus and his followers, such as Jesus death on a Roman cross, his followers’ belief that He rose from the dead, and Paul’s conversion and his authorship of key books attributed to him such as Romans.  We have good reasons to infer that Jesus rising from the dead is the best explanation for these facts.”
  • Distinctions about biblical faith: We don’t have blind faith; we have a faith grounded in evidence.  See how the Gospel was shared in the book of Acts.  Over and over it was based on references to Jesus’ resurrection, not appeals to believe without evidence or reason.”
  • The robust transmission process of the texts: “Even atheist textual critics will concede that we know what the original writings of the Bible said to 99%+ accuracy, and 100% on major doctrines.”
  • Our simple claim: “The original writings of the Bible turned out exactly the way God and the writers wanted them to.  Yes, men can make mistakes, but they don’t always make mistakes.  Our biblical claim is that God directed the process.”  You can go on at length about the Bible being inerrant, infallible and inspired — and I agree with all of those — but I’ve found that the simple summation gets people to realize that if God can do anything He can surely communicate his original texts to us the way He wanted to.

Note how simple and brief those are.  They can lead to deeper conversations, but those alone can help change people from the errant “blind faith” mindset and get them to think more carefully about apologetics.

I do the same thing with the basic Gospel message.  No matter what I’m teaching, I try to note how we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works.  This needs to be a constant reminder.

I urge you to weave these simple apologetic and Gospel concepts into your lessons and conversations.  Even if it doesn’t lead the hearers to deeper apologetics studies, at least they will have clear reminders of the basics and will hopefully keep them from saying incorrect things.

What simple themes do you seek to work into lessons and conversations?

Where do they get these things?

A theological liberal made the following comment on this massive thread:

As to the documents, I prefer the oldest and assumed to be the most authentic of the 4 gospels, Mark, from which the others drew a lot of material. It was placed second in order behind Matthew, however, by the patriarchs, in hopes that it would be less often read, and it has worked out that way. Because as you know, it ends with the execution of Jesus for threatening the state with his teachings–there is no resurrection. That part was added at a later time.

I responded with the following points.

1. Christians know that all the Gospels are authentic.

2. If the early church was trying to hide the Gospel of Mark, they would have left it out, not “hidden” it behind Matthew.

3. The resurrection is in the earliest manuscripts of Mark. The potentially late additions are verses 9-20 (just check your footnotes).

And He didn’t threaten the Roman state with his teachings.  He was brought to the Romans by the Jewish leaders.

Regarding Paul, she said:

To his credit, he never even claimed to have known Jesus, only to have had visions about him during his mysterious spasms.

Where does she get her biblical information?  Does she have documentation for her claim that the patriarchs were trying to hide Mark, or is that just groundless speculation?

It is sad that she has been so wildly misinformed. I encourage her and others to actually read what the Bible says instead of just repeating sound bites from their “pastors.”

Governor stops abortions in Oregon, calls system ‘compromised and inequitable’

Oh, wait, he did that with executions, not abortions.  Never mind.

See Gov. John Kitzhaber stops executions in Oregon, calls system ‘compromised and inequitable’

But just imagine if the headlines read, “Gov. John Kitzhaber stops abortions in Oregon, calls system ‘compromised and inequitable'” instead.  The Left would go wild.

Or what if President Bush had pre-emptively not enforced Roe v Wade in the same way that President Obama decided not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act?

After all, the rate of abortions in the black community is 3x that of whites, so the system must be racist. And the Roe v Wade opinion noted that if we knew when life began then it would matter (even though they should have erred on the side of life!).

Well, all the scientific texts tell us that a new human being is created at conception, so the Governor (or even the President) would be well served to start saving innocent lives today.

Did your media inform you of these stories?

microphone.jpgIf not, you should consider expanding your horizons.

One of the best time-savers when discussing politics with Liberals is to ask what conservative media they consume.  Typical answer: [Crickets chirping].  Then you politely note that you consume plenty of media from both sides and then form your opinions.  That isn’t what makes you right (well, it makes you Right but not necessarily correct), but it does mean you have examined the issues from both sides while they probably haven’t.  (Yes, they could pose the same question to you, but I don’t know anyone who can only consume conservative media.  The Leftist mainstream media is very, very hard to avoid.)

This week’s examples

1. Have you heard how racist the OWS movement is?

African Americans, who are 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, make up only 1.6 percent of Occupy Wall Street.

Why isn’t the media up in arms over the “obvious” racism in OWS? After all, that was their conclusion with the seemingly low % of blacks in the Tea Party movement (please ignore the great popularity of Herman Cain — it hurts their racist meme!).

And the OWS movement has already tried to do some “affirmative action” and they still have a rate that low.

I’m not saying the OWS is racist, just that the theological liberals are racist for playing the race card against Tea Partiers while ignoring the elephant in the room for the OWS.

2. Climategate 2.0: New E-Mails Rock The Global Warming Debate – this is as big as Climategate 1.0.  This is the same trustworthy establishment that brings you Darwinian evolution.

Three themes are emerging from the newly released emails: (1) prominent scientists central to the global warming debate are taking measures to conceal rather than disseminate underlying data and discussions; (2) these scientists view global warming as a political “cause” rather than a balanced scientific inquiry and (3) many of these scientists frankly admit to each other that much of the science is weak and dependent on deliberate manipulation of facts and data.

3. The European Media Describes the Occupy Movement as “Anti-Capitalist,” Why Doesn’t the US Media?  Free markets have reduced more poverty than any government program ever has.

4. Leftist ABA rates record number of Obama judicial appointees “not qualified” – Appointing judges is one of the most important things a President does, yet most campaigning and media coverage address things that mean little.  We saw this coming: Obama said he would appoint “empathetic” judges and McCain said he appoint them based on the ability to understand the law.  An 8th grade student could see which view was accurate and Presidential.

President Obama’s quest to transform federal courts by appointing unqualified leftist ideologues is worse than previously imagined, according to a mainstream newspaper that reports the notoriously liberal American Bar Association (ABA) has rejected a “significant number” of potential judicial nominees, most of them minorities and women.

This is hardly earth-shattering news considering Obama’s judicial appointments so far. However, the ABA rebuff sheds light into the magnitude of the president’s crusade to stockpile the federal court system, where judges get lifetime appointments, with like-minded activists. In fact, Obama has made it an official policy to “diversify” the federal bench when it comes to gender, race and even life experiences.

The Isle of Deserta exercise, or how a bunch of 7th graders are better at setting up a society than our politicians

For 12 years, I taught Junior Achievement classes to nearly every grade from K-12, but the Junior High classes were my favorites (I was as surprised as you are).  They weren’t too cool to take part and had a lot of energy.  They were quick to pick up business concepts such as supply and demand and even the elasticity of supply and demand (e.g., insulin has inelastic demand because no matter how low the price goes non-diabetics won’t buy it, but iPods have elastic demand because the lower the price the more people will buy).  Even the non-egghead kids understood the concepts and actively participated in the lessons.

One of my favorite exercises was the Isle of Deserta.  The kids pretended that they had won a trip to an exotic vacation paradise and would describe what they would pack.  Once they got there they discovered that the island was deserted and they had to figure out how to survive (the exercise predated the Survivor TV show but had a similar concept).

They always created a consistently logical and workable society, but with the proper controls to ensure that it was sustainable.  They realized that it was better to split up jobs to those most qualified and interested, such as some doing the fishing / gathering and others doing cooking and cleaning, as opposed to having everyone fend for themselves.

When asked what they would do for those who could work but refused to, the immediate reaction was something like “Make them shark bait!”  But what about an injured person who couldn’t help?  “We’ll take care of them and give them food anyway.”  What if the person gets better but doesn’t want to work? “Shark bait!”

They intuitively knew that a society should care for the weak and needy, but that it couldn’t survive if able-bodied people shared in the benefits but not the workload.

Even the Bible notes that, although the false teachers pretend this verse isn’t there or isn’t from God:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

One of my favorite moments was when a girl went against her peers and insisted that everyone should get the same food and benefits regardless of how hard he or she worked.  She was most adamant about this point, so I let her share her minority view.

But at the end of the lesson when I went to pass out some candy for their overall good behavior (Jolly Ranchers, the official candy of Junior Achievement), she pleaded for extras because she had participated more than the others.  At first I thought she was kidding, but she didn’t catch the irony of her request.  I didn’t want to embarrass her, but it was a teachable moment to point out that she was now proposing a system that was the opposite of her previous submission.  I hope the lesson wasn’t lost on her, and that I cured her of her liberal inconsistencies!

The 7th graders intuitively understood the basics of human nature, especially when the situations were stripped of politics and sound bites.  It is noble and right to help the truly weak, such as widows, orphans and the disabled, but a system without controls and accountability is doomed to fail.  And a system full of entitlements, political payoffs and incentives not to do your best is doomed to fail more quickly.

Anti-capitalists choke on this simple example.  How do they plan to force people to provide goods and services to others — even those who are able to work but won’t?

I say with all seriousness that our country would be much better off if everyone, including every elected official, had to take Junior High level Junior Achievement classes.

False teacher follow up

As I noted in The Westar Wolves broke my irony meter, false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie used the Huffington Post to market the false teachers at the Jesus Seminar in The Bible Seminar: Rescuing the Text.  I made a comment that actually got through the far-Left leaning editors there.  I was merely pointing out that Chuck’s group believes the opposite of what authentic Christians do:

Just check out what Wikipedia says about these “Christian­” Jesus Seminar scholars: They deny the resurrecti­on, the deity of Christ, the exclusivit­y of Christ for salvation (even though the Bible teaches over 100 times that Jesus is the only way to salvation)­, the inspiratio­n of the Bible (they claim it is just written by men, though it claims to speak for God over 3,000 times), and more.

They are welcome to their views, of course. I respect religious freedom and wouldn’t want anyone to stifle that. But I find it completely dishonest for Chuck and the Jesus Seminar to claim to be Christian when they disagree with so many essentials of the faith.

And then there is the hypocrisy: Their politics-d­isguised-a­s-religion is the same thing they claim to oppose. They twist the Bible to say that Jesus is fine with abortion, same-sex marriage, having the government take from neighbor A by force to “give” to neighbor B and calling it charity on your part, etc.

Usually Chuck knows enough to ignore me, because he can never back up his points and can only resort to personal attacks.  But he slipped and actually responded to me.

Note how he completely ignored my assertions and just resorted to personal attacks.  (BTW, I know that he probably thinks I attack him, but if you read carefully you’ll see that I always point to his content and errors and I back up my claims.  I don’t just say, “Chuck is ignorant.”  If I say he lied, I show where and how he lied.  If I say he got a Bible verse wrong again, I show what he got wrong.)

Perhaps the biggest symbol of ignorance is using Wikipedia as a source of informatio­n on theology. There is a reason middle school and high school teachers won’t let students use it as a source for papers.

But I’m not surprised this reference showed up here. It happens all the time. We need more than a third grade theologica­l education to debate these important issues and that is what is clearly missing in theologica­l debates over the meaning of the Bible.

You’ve illustrate­d the point that Biblical literacy is important.

- Rev. Chuck Currie

That was sweet of him.  Note how he implied that Wikipedia was wrong and used the entire comment to just attack me.  Here’s my response:

Chuck,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I’m puzzled by the content.  I’m familiar with the limitations of Wikipedia, as most people are (including the fact that it leans Left), but I wouldn’t personally attack someone who referred to it as being the “biggest symbol of ignorance” and implying that he is biblically illiterate.  I would tend to dig deeper before making such claims.

Since you are an Associate Director at Westar, I figured you would be interested in what Wikipedia said about your organization and would want it to be accurate.

I think most readers will see that you implied that the Wikipedia information was incorrect.  Therefore, perhaps you can clarify a few things for us:

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the physical resurrecti­on of Jesus?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the deity of Christ?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the exclusivit­y of Christ for salvation?   (Note: It is public record that Chuck directly denies it.  He did a whole sermon on why Jesus is not the only way to salvation, even though the Bible teaches over 100 times that Jesus is the only way to salvation­.  I’m sure he’d be glad to link to the sermon here.)

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the divine inspiratio­n of the original texts of the Bible, just as the writers claim?

If you can confirm that the Jesus Seminar affirms all those things and point to documentation of it, I will gladly retract my reference to Wikipedia.

This is a great opportunity for you to clear up some confusion.  After all, if all the Wikipedia claims are in error, as you implied, and if Westar is all about increasing biblical literacy, wouldn’t you relish the opportunity to set the record straight about Jesus being divine, the only way to salvation, etc.?  I know the Bible teaches those things to be true.  I’m encouraged that your response implies that you do as well.

After a day he hadn’t responded, even though he was very active on an Oregon Live thread (so I know he was at his PC).  So I left this comment:

Chuck, are you going to respond? As a Westar Associate Director on a mission to “rescue the text” of the Bible I figured you’d welcome the opportunity to clear things up.

To recap, you implied that Wikipedia was incorrect about the Jesus Seminar beliefs. Wouldn’t this be a great place to clarify those?

You ignored my comment and insisted that I was ignorant for daring to refer to Wikipedia. Of course, I just used that reference out of convenience, because it mirrored everything I have ever heard from the Jesus Seminar.

So I ask again:

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the physical resurrecti­­on of Jesus?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the deity of Christ?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the exclusivit­­y of Christ for salvation, even though you preach the opposite?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the divine inspiratio­­n of the original texts of the Bible, just as the Bible writers claimed?

If you can confirm that the Jesus Seminar affirms all those things and point to documentat­ion of it, I will gladly retract my reference to Wikipedia. You’ll want to set them straight as well. That’s how Wikipedia works.

Three days and still no reply from Chuck.

Kudos to HuffPo for not censoring my comments.  Yet.