Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 7

What’s it like for someone falling away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, we return to Sophie and her testimony. I really don’t want to speak ill of her at all. If anything, I have sympathy for her, especially since I think she was sold a false bill of goods on what the Christian experience was to be like. A lot of that will be in the conclusion. For now, let’s see what all she has to say. This one is about the dealbreakers.

With regards human suffering, Lane Craig and other theists on the Unbelievable? show, ultimately concede at some point, that we don’t know why there is so much horrendous suffering in the world but that it must be justified to some extent, as in God must have his reasons, or at the very least, things will be made right in the future. This, of course is conjecture, rather than any type of evidence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yet how is this conjecture? If you accept that for the sake of argument there is a God who has the omni traits, then yes, there has to be a good reason why He allows this evil. It is up to the skeptic to show that there is no good reason, and that’s a hard sell to do. Not only this, but what do you gain in the problem of evil if you remove God? The evil is still there. You’ve just removed the solution. How is this a help?

Epicurus puts it best with his idea rejecting the notion of evil with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. It can of course apply to suffering too. If God willing to prevent suffering, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
If he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
If he both able and willing? Then why is there suffering?
If he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? No amount of books, explanation, sermons and teaching will ever make theodicy go away for Christianity, nor can it, or the issue would be put to bed by now. It’s a continual stumbling block to belief, which is never truly answered, much less an explanation given as to why it has arisen in the first place. And this brings me to my next deal breaker.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except it has as even atheists will admit. This is the logical problem of evil and it hasn’t really been used since Plantinga wrote his work on the topic. There are still other versions of the argument from evil, but this one is not really used anymore except on the internet.

With no Satan, hell or human fall, there is no real explanation as to why evil and suffering exist. Even, the free will argument which somewhat relies on these constructs, and states, that if there is no possibility to sin, you cannot have free creatures who liberally come to love you, doesn’t work. This argument, often brought up on the show, completely misses the fact that God can in fact arrange paradise, with free will and exempt from suffering, pain and the devil. It’s called heaven.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But everyone who is in the blessed presence of God is there by choice. That is a huge distinction and it is one atheists meet regularly. The first time I ever encountered this question was in a systematic theology class when a student asked it and that was over 20 years ago. I thought of the solution then and have spent more time refining it and I still haven’t seen a response to it.

Besides, like human parents, let’s be honest, God could just choose to forgive us. There is no need to murder anyone. It was making less and less sense.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And again, questions like this have already been answered.

The gospels were oral traditions written decades after the death of Jesus with the earliest being Mark dated at around 70CE and ending with the discovery of the empty tomb, and the latest gospel being John, possibly as early as 90CE. They are all of anonymous authorship and certainly the earliest manuscripts didn’t include the title by which we know them today. They do not claim to be authored by eyewitnesses to any of the events they describe. They are not written by people who knew Jesus. We do not have the originals, only copies of copies of copies of copies of copies. They are written in Greek by educated people living in a different country to Palestine. Jesus’ disciples would have spoken Aramaic, were quite possibly illiterate and were living in Palestine. Jesus himself, other than some writing in the sand, leaves no written record (which would have been very helpful), nor did He ask anyone to make notes as they went along. In addition, major events are undocumented by other sources, such as when the graves spill out their dead onto the streets after the resurrection mentioned only in Matthew. If these are in fact gross error or made up, how are we to distinguish what else is or isn’t invented or erroneous in the text?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot here and I have written plenty on it elsewhere. Does Sophie know the dates of when other books in the ancient world were written and when the earliest manuscripts are and how far apart the events are from the writing? The Gospels are a goldmine by comparison to most ancient literature.

The books were supposedly anonymous. Are we to think that no one knew who the books came from? Someone delivering the scrolls would say who they were from. We only know who wrote Plutarch because one of his descendants tells us. Other sources are also silent on major events, such as the eruption of Vesuvius and that TWO towns were destroyed in the blast. I plan on doing a series on the Gospels eventually so I will save this for then.

There is a lot of stuff I am going to skip over as I have addressed it elsewhere, but I want to say something about this:

And, it doesn’t even begin to explain why God would prefer to continue hiding when He is apparently desperate to have a relationship with us.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This is a great reason why I oppose the personal relationship model in that Christianity is about Jesus wanting to have a personal relationship with you. Christianity is about Jesus being king. There is not a lonely God out there who is desperately seeking to find someone to love.

I hope Sophie finds out sometime soon more information than the atheists have sold her. It’s a shame there weren’t better-informed Christians in her life.

Brace yourselves because next time it’s David Johnson again. *Groan*

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



Apologetics And Personal Testimony

What role does my testimony play in apologetics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’ve been talking about the basics of apologetics. I think that for many people, the main form of apologetics they have is their personal testimony. This is not without use today, but at the same time, there can be a danger to it. I’d like today then to advise you of how and when to use your personal testimony.

One problem today is that everyone has a testimony. There are Muslims and Mormons and Buddhists and Hindus and even atheists that can tell how their worldview changing changed their life. Why should your testimony be given credence over theirs? You could say “Well mine is based on facts.” Okay. What facts? If you say the resurrection of Jesus, then it comes to “How do you know that’s a fact?” If you say “My testimony” then you’re begging the question. You know your testimony is true because Jesus rose. You know Jesus rose because that’s what makes your testimony true. This is where apologetics comes in.

Another danger is something a pastor once pointed out that I heard on a radio broadcast. Sometimes you can make it that your life before Christ sounds better than the one after. “Yeah. Before Christ, I was out drinking regularly. I was partying with my friends. I was sleeping with a different woman every night. I had all the cash and fast cars that I wanted. I just felt empty. Today, I attend a Bible study most every night and I don’t watch a number of TV shows and I don’t sleep around.”

I could go on with that. Now keep in mind I’m not encouraging the prior kind of lifestyle, but if you’re wanting to evangelize to someone, do you really think they’d want the lifestyle you describe now instead of the other? Of course, few of us will come out and say it just like that, but we have to watch ourselves because this does happen.

If these aren’t the times to use a personal testimony, then when do you do so?

I recommend that you do it after you’ve made your apologetic presentation. C.S. Lewis said once that if you go out evangelizing with a church group, send your arguers forward first. They’re the ones who will break down the intellectual barriers. After that, then have your people come forward with the testimonies. In other words, you make your presentation first for why Christianity is true and then you have someone come forward with what a difference it makes.

Still, I hesitate to use the method at all because you do not believe in Christianity because it brings about a good in your life or because it works or something like that. You believe in it because it’s true. Now it could be that it could make you feel good or it could “work” as it were, but that is not the reason to believe it. That’s just a nice benefit from it. (And for what it’s meant to do, it most definitely works.) When we emphasize our testimony, we’re pointing away too often from the truth question and to the pragmatic question.

One exception to this could be a bona fide miracle. If you have eyewitness testimony of a miracle that you have seen, that is something valid. It doesn’t mean it’s true of course, but I am open to people sharing that. That’s in fact an apologetic in itself of something quite objective.

I look forward to the day when people have more reason to believe than just what they feel and experience. They believe because there is good evidence Jesus rose from the dead. If we know this evidence more and can share it, we give people something real they have to deal with. They could try to use psychology to explain away our experience, but dealing with actual history is something different.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Core Facts

What do I think of Braxton Hunter’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Braxton Hunter is a professor of Christian apologetics who holds a PH.D. in the same field. He’s recently written a book called “Core Facts” written to not just give a good start to apologetics, but it also is a kind of teaching guide to help others learn how to do apologetics.

The presentation that Hunter presents surrounds his “core facts.” The list is as follows:

C – Cause of the universe
O – Order of the universe
R – Rules of morality
E – Experience of God

F – Fatality of Jesus’s death on the cross
A – Appearances of Jesus to the disciples.
C – Commitment level of the disciples
T – Testimony of the disciples
S – Salvation taught through the Gospel.

Now granted there are some here that I would not use. At the start with the cause and order of the universe, the scientific arguments are cited, but this is something that gets me wondering at times. Is it because I am opposed to science? Not at all! Is it because I am opposed to scientific apologetics? Again, not at all! It is because I have this fear that too often we make the case scientific and I want to make sure that those of us who do have taken the time to learn the sciences not just for apologetics purposes but general purposes. This is the reason why I do not use scientific apologetics. I am not a scientist (And I don’t play one on TV) and I do not want to speak in a field that is not my area.

I also am cautious about the idea of the experience of God. The problem is that experience is not an on-demand kind of thing and to this day, when Bill Craig gives his fifth way in a debate of knowing that God exists, I still cringe.

For the last group, I think in this day and age I would replace fatal with something like “Fact of Jesus’s existence.” There are more people who are Christ-mythers today than there are people who hold to the swoon theory.

For C, I would have probably gone with the idea of conversion, such as that of James and Paul. Why is it that those who were skeptical of the faith were the ones who later on joined it? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. After all, C and T sounded awfully similar to me at times.

And as for S, an excellent ending would have been shamefulness of Christianity. It is too often overlooked that in the honor-shame context of the ancient Mediterranean world, Christianity was a shameful belief and that that belief not only survived in the face of persecution and shaming but also came to dominate is something that needs to be explained.

Still, the areas that Hunter does present, he does very well on. I was also pleased to hear him say that evolution is not a battle that we have to fight. Very few apologists make such a statement, but I agree entirely with Hunter. I would not argue it unless one was skilled in the sciences and making a purely scientific argument for or against. I only wish he’d gone further on this point and said that we can also go with an eternal universe or a multiverse and Christianity is still safe.

A bonus also is that Hunter does have tips at the end of each section for how to transition the material to a teaching presentation. This makes this kind of book ideal for a leader to use when teaching a class. There are several sidebars as well that provide more detailed information and Hunter has indeed read both sides of the issue.

If there’s one section though that contains poor argumentation, it’s the last one where Hunter has a debate that he did with the owner of an atheist forum who simply goes by the name “Will.” To be sure, the poor argumentation is not on the side of Hunter. It is on the side of Will. As I read this section I found myself repeatedly face-palming. It is embarrassing to see the arguments so many atheists use. Will uses everything from an insistence on YEC and Inerrancy, to a lack of understanding of biblical texts (Judges 21 has God commanding rape? Please find the command from God in there! It’s in fact showing what it was like when Israel was NOT following God.), to a Boghossian understanding of what faith is, and then going so far as to be a Christ-myther. (It should sadly be for the atheist community that they would want to get the Christ-mythers to be quiet. Instead, they champion them. Reality is there are more Ph.D. scientists who hold to a young-earth than there are Ph.D.’s in ancient and NT history that hold to the Christ myth theory. I also for clarification am not a YEC.)

Hunter answer very well, but the fact that Will is a preacher’s kid shows how bad a job is being done in educating the youth of our church. That anyone would think that these are serious arguments being put forward is a travesty. Now of course there are serious arguments atheism can put forward, but many used today are ones that should not be given the time of day. (And of course sadly, the same applies to many Christian arguments.)

In conclusion, while I don’t agree with everything Hunter says, naturally, I could recommend his book as a good resource to a starting apologetics class at a local church. It will become one that can easily be taught and easily discussed and the debate at the end should show how well the Core Facts can stand up to scrutiny. It is a work I could use myself. Braxton Hunter’s “Core Facts” has my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters