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Atheism and Apologetics II

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Question #1:   

As for me personally, I have recuperated from my problems regarding ____. So you can take me off the prayer list for that. However, increased theological confusion from reading a plethora of writings from alleged Christians, even respectable teachers, has had a negative effect on my faith.

Response #1: 

Great news on the former – I have been praying for this.

As to "a plethora of teachers", normally I would try to warn someone with this complaint off of what I call "Smorgasbord-itis", that is to say, the inevitable spiritual "indigestion" which comes from listening to discordant teaching – some of which has to be wrong (and with the way things are these day most of which is usually wrong).

In your case, however, since you are preparing for an apologetics ministry, you do need a measure of exposure to and inoculation from false teaching well beyond what would be healthy for others. But as in the analogy, if you're getting too many shots too close together and it's making you sick, try and spread them out a bit.

Here are some links on apologetics:

Cults and Christianity

Apologetics, Legalism, Cults and Philosophy

Apologetics

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ I

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Atheism and Apologetics

Proving the Existence of God

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

The good news is that I've landed a job as a teaching assistant.

The bad news is that I am completely confused theologically and not getting the same joy from reading the scripture anymore.

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

It's a common phenomenon to get seriously bad spiritual indigestion from taking in "food" from all manner of questionable sources (just as eating from a series of "greasy spoons" one doesn't know well can result in a case of ptomaine). Still, as a budding pastor-teacher and/or apologist for the Word, some of that inoculation is salutary in the long run. My advice is to set aside some time for yourself, preferable first thing in the morning, when you can work your way through the Bible in a systematic way without any preconditions except to listen and learn. Memorizing passages which especially speak to you is also not a bad idea. We all get knocked back on our heels spiritually from time to time. Getting to where we want to be in this regard requires that we learn how to recover quickly, refusing to give up.

Don't let a bad day throw you off – especially not one on which the Lord has blessed you in this gracious way.

Congrats on your job and entrance into grad school!

Your friend in Jesus Christ who is our all and our everything.

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Here is what a redditor has to say about my "style":

"Actually I agree with you about holding atheists and other critics feet to the fire intellectually. They are the ones who hold Reason Rallys to "stand up for reason" so hold them to the standard they set for themselves even to the point of using satire to make a point. I'm not advocating just ripping people to shreds but some do seem to need a metaphorical slap to wake them up. And if you think satire and ridicule isn't Biblical then check out A Serrated Edge where it's shown that Jesus, Proverbs, the OT prophets, and Paul all used satire to get their point across to those who've closed their minds."

Response #3: 

Apropos also of your blog post, there is an allowable tone and style for an apologetics ministry which is directed towards hostile unbelievers versus ministries dedicated to teaching fellow Christians. However, I'm not sure I see that much sarcasm from the prophets, Proverbs, Paul, and certainly not from our Lord. Some things are sarcastic, but again that tends to be a very sanctified brand of the same. If you are going to minister to other Christians as your primary work for the Lord, please keep in mind that a great many of them will be put off entirely by language which is over the edge, and heavy sarcasm certainly fits into that category. And to what purpose? I can't see a good one – if we are talking about believers. Evangelists and those engaged in apologetics do need different "tactics", but it is still the case that we don't want to say or do anything that might possibly bring the slightest reproach to our Lord and to the gospel of life. Taking on any ministry is thus a great responsibility and we are accountable to the Lord for the way we handle them in every respect.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Apologizing to a Jewish person for the deity of the Messiah:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/04/five-proofs-preview.html?showComment=1493280873201#c4775762951773024296

What's interesting is that this particular individual censors Jesus' name in the same way that he does for God.

Response #4: 

This is nice work. I appreciate the way you answered with scripture and walked a tightly balanced course between the truth and dealing with this person from his own frame of reference. That is what Jesus did too, after all.

Also, good "tone".

Keep up the good work, my friend!

In my prayers daily in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Hi Bob,

I have had a very nasty relationship with hypercalvinists online. It's very frustrating to debate and argue with them because they often mock and jeer and say that you're not given the divine wisdom to see the truth of hypercalvinism, so you're viewed as a reprobate false convert and become an object of hatred. I have never seen such a more self-righteous, proud, and vitriolic group of people. However, the threats of reprobation combined with the ridicule that makes you feel like a total idiot for daring to disagree with them is very psychologically effective.

Response #5: 

Well, you can't fix everyone.

There are times to part company.

One thing to note though is the persuasiveness of zeal. Most people find zeal impressive. For that reason, the more outrageous the belief or political agenda, the more important being rabidly committed is: it's the only way to get followers (since the facts and a rational assessment won't be able to do it).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Robert

Time for any thoughts?

Brothers : Our study on Salvation - We did read that it is as easy as believing. (some say over 175 ways to salvation) Recently we were listening to an RC Sproul cd on salvation

He began to talk about this but we did not finish.

I Never Knew You

21 "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Today I found these, very challenging, thoughts - Probably worth a long discussion -

Does this come close to understanding the Narrow Road?

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches." (vs. 31-32)

Here Jesus described the kingdom not just as a seed, but as the smallest seed. Jesus is not describing a kingdom that arrives in a blaze of glory—he is describing a kingdom that begins very small. This is not what the Jews expected, but this is the kingdom that Jesus said was near. The kingdom is a story about gradual growth.

Response #6: 

I think anyone reading your attachment who was squishy in their knowledge and/or faith would be motivated to want to find out more – if they were inclined to be motivated, that is. That is what genuine Christian apologetics is all about.

As to the details in the attachment you provide, in terms of doctrine, since this is not dispositive, I won't comment on impressions left. We are of course safe and sound in Jesus Christ – as long as we believe in Jesus Christ. Lack of growth and a lukewarmness to the truth creates vulnerabilities and leads to steering away from Him or caring about Him and His truth . . . and that is what opens the door for apostasy, the loss of all faith.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Hi Bob,

There are many challenges to my faith coming from many angles, sometimes I don't know whether or not I'm guaranteed to survive them. There's this one charismatic "theologian" who teaches that:

(1) To deny "name it and claim it" healing is the same as rejecting the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

(2) God is the author and source of all evil, but no way responsible for it, because he's all powerful.

(3) Cause and effect don't exist, but rather God causes things to happen "on the occasion." (aka. occasionalism).

He yells that anyone who denies all three of these points has blasphemed the Holy Spirit and will burn in Hell. The problem is that this lunatic is very near to impossible to beat in debate, and appears to use impeccable logic to back up these insane points. It's basically a form of gaslighting that makes me doubt my own reasoning and sanity, thereby questioning my faith.

I eventually lost my temper and emailed him this:

I have two final words for you: darkest blackness (Jude 1:13)

*blackest darkness (Jude 1:13)

. . . because I had lost all interest in playing his insane rules of debate.

Response #7: 

I have great confidence that you will not only get through this life with your faith intact, but will also grow in your ministering to others so as to win a wonderful reward before the judgment seat of Christ.

As to a person who demands strict obedience to flawed teaching on the pain of hell-fire, I don't know a better short definition for a cult – which by definition will have nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus Christ.

To the substance, many people seem to have trouble doing the simple "math" on this: the Father sent Jesus to die for all; Jesus died for all; God is love; God wants all to be saved; God pleads with all to be saved; God did all that all could be saved . . . but a person is lost because of some technicality? God forbid! All who go to hell choose to go there by choosing not to have anything to do with a God who did everything for them. So this person's approach is merely a guilt tactic to gain and hold followers – but it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ or the truth.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Professor,

How have you been? I hope things are well with you, spiritually and otherwise.

I'm now working on another text - on the cult of Mary. Now I can plainly see why you don't consider apologetics a part of your ministry. One spends a long time referring to and refuting unbiblical falsehood and we know that if someone really seeks the truth, they will understand that Mary shouldn't be worship and that a host of Catholic dogmas on her (Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity or her Assumption) is just man-made nonsense and of such calibre that writing about it really is a test of patience. I have begun now and I will complete it, but I also wouldn't consider apologetics the main thrust of my own future ministry.

As I have been debunking the false teaching of Mary's sinlessness and writing about true sinlessness of our Lord, a question appeared to me as to why Mary had to be a virgin. I know that the sin nature is passed on through the male line and that explains why the Holy Spirit had to cause a woman to conceive, but I realised I'm not sure why it had to be a virgin?

In our Lord,

Response #8: 

I'm doing very well at present – thanks for asking!

As to virginity, in terms of a birth that was not contaminated by the sin nature, that was not necessary. In terms of fulfilling prophecy, and for Christ to be the first born, and to put aside all human speculation and innuendo, it was absolutely necessary.

I'd love to have a look at your piece when you are done.

I hope that things are going well for you too. I'm keeping you in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

"Some have great confidence in skeptical scholarship, and I once did, perhaps more than anyone else. If anyone thinks they are assured in their unbelief, I was more committed: born of unbelieving parents, never baptized or dedicated; on scholarly credentials, a PhD from a secular university; as to zeal, mocking the church; as to ideological righteousness, totally radicalized. But whatever intellectual superiority I thought I had over Christians, I now count it as sheer ignorance. Indeed, I count everything in my former life as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing the historical Jesus who is also the risen Lord. For his sake, I have given up trying to be a hipster atheist. I consider that old chestnut pure filth, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a CV that will gain me tenure at an Ivy League school, but knowing that I’ve bound myself to Jesus—and where he is, there I shall also be."

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april-web-only/how-god-became-jesus-and-how-i-came-to-faith-in-him.html

Response #9: 

A nice paraphrase of Philippians 3:4-10 – one that reminds us that Paul started out as an unbeliever but turned to the Lord . . . and this person did too, despite (in both cases) the seeming impossibility of that based on pedigree.

Some links on atheism:

Atheism and Apologetics

Confronting Atheism

Proving the Existence of God

Unbelief and its Consequences

Dealing with Atheism in the family

*Atheism: Putting Truth to Death

Atheism in spiritual warfare

Atheism and Gnosticism: Denying the Truth about God

Proving the Existence of God

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

What I wrote to an atheist.

The five points of atheism:

(1) Total Depravity: all of mankind is inherently bound, without the sovereign grace of historical progress, to be trapped by the superstitious beliefs of the culture and era of their birth.

(2) Unconditional Election: only those who were fortunate enough to be born in the enlightened era can be an "intellectually satisfied atheist" (in the words of Richard Dawkins) and therefore elected to be holders of the truth, without any respect to intelligence, good works, or virtue.

(3) Limited Atonement: Darwin's theory of evolution alone is effective in awakening a full appreciation of materialism, but only to those who have been elected to enlightenment.

(4) Irresistible Grace: Those who have escaped the clutches of the superstition of their culture/era and fully understand evolution are forced against their natural will of superstition to believe

(5) Preservation of the Saints: any who have truly escaped will abide with their lack-of-faith faith for the rest of their lives, and those who fail to do so never came to realization of the Truth to begin with.

Response #10: 

Very nice – but it'd take a lapsed Calvinist atheist to fully appreciate it (or rather to be riled by it).

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #11:   

Dialogue with an atheist about Jesus:

Him: There are no contemporary historians (eye witnesses or any writer alive at the same time as Jesus, who wrote about Jesus. Not a single one) You need to do some research yourself.

Me: Homer also doesn't have a single eye-witness account of his existence. That doesn't mean he didn't exist.

Him: We have Homers written work. We do not have anything written by Jesus. Try again.

Me: Homer was blind and thus couldn't have written anything in those days. Poetry was first and foremost an oral artform, and what we have is the result of someone transcribing what he wrote. Also, if we were consistent with your standard, we would have to say that Siddhartha Gautama (aka Buddha) didn't exist either, seeing that he also didn't write anything.

Response #11: 

What's the difference between a "historian" of the Greek world and the writers of the gospels? The second biggest one I know is that ancient historians were seldom eye witnesses to the extent that the gospel writers were (even Thucydides and Xenophon didn't see most of what they wrote about). But John, Matthew and probably Mark were there for all of it – and Luke as Paul's companion was in a position to interview countless eyewitnesses. But of course the biggest difference is that the Holy Spirit produced in all four cases the perfect and flawless message of God.

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

People who deny God think they're wise, but their thinking is really superficial and childish (Romans 1:22). Without God, everything you do is superficial, foolish, and far from your grasp of comprehension. This is the real reason why atheism is so irrational and stupid.

Response #12: 

The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when [God] fetters them, they do not cry for help.
Job 36:13 NIV

The above is the essence of the problem: the godless (atheists or not) want nothing to do with God, even though He is their only hope of deliverance and has in fact provided for their salvation from sin and death at the highest cost: the death of His own dear Son Jesus Christ on the cross for them.

Yet they say to God, "Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways."
Job 21:14 NIV

They said to God, "Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?"
Job 22:17 NIV

Question #13:   

New blog post:

http://godsphilosopher.blogspot.com/2016/07/occams-razor-objection-against-gods.html

Response #13: 

Nice job.

I'm not much on formal logic (or math) as you know. But it does strike me that Occam's razor is a bad argument in any case. Why? Because as in the textual critical principle of lectio difficilior it can only be a rough guide at best. When it comes down to cases which are disputable (as most important cases are) it's a weak indication of truth. Even if we gave it two to one value, I wouldn't accept those odds in Russian roulette, would you? And what we are dealing with here is even more important.

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ our Lord!

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Hi Bob,

There are some people who are not Christian but nonetheless excellent responders to natural revelation, who unfortunately get thrown into a loop by propaganda. I encountered the following person on Reddit:

Background: I'm a theistic Unitarian Universalist, was raised in a Lutheran church, was a UU for awhile, the a Presbyterian, then a UU again, and I was happy there. Oh, I believed in God, and held Jesus in high regard. But then I did the stupid thing and looked up proof of God on the Internet. There, they waited for me: the New Atheists. I'm a person with a rather easily hurt mind at the best of times. Imagine trying to sort this all out on the Internet..... Plus, I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics and they gave me prednisone. I was SHATTERED...... I clung onto the most basic arguments. I looked everywhere but found little comfort. I looked for any sort of proof of an Afterlife. Slowly, I got better. I went to a psychologist, I went to my minister at the UU church. He gave comfort but it was more a bandaid where a tourniquet was needed. I read up on the latest NDE research and there came things that science has trouble explaining. But then the materialist rebuttals came. Quite few made sense initially, but they began to show their flaws. It's been 18 months since it happened, and I'm still recovering. Today, I was in a bookstore, looking for information about animals. I love science, I truly do. It's awesome. It brings us so many answers to questions about the universe. But I've always left room for God, Miracles and everything that can't be explained. But there were so many books there trying to sell me that science and naturalistic explanations were the end all, be all explanation to all the BIG WHY questions. And I was triggered. Why do people feel a need to push that sort of thing when one's just looking for a good book on science? I love most of science. I really do. It's just these guys are making it very hard to get to for me. Thoughts? Experiences? Was anyone here a very VERY hardcore atheist at one point? What people in high scientific esteem also have faith? Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu, Theistic Agnostic? Any will do.

I responded with the following:

The New Atheists think they're all that, but they're not. For every reason they give to disbelieve in God, there's an equally good reason to believe in him. In fact, I am being overly charitable: they're not just equally good, they're better.

He appreciated the encouragement. How sick the world is, where even the most basic and innocent conceptions of God are under attack!

Response #14: 

Good work my friend!

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Psalm 8:2 NIV

As this verse indicates, even little children acknowledge in wonder the existence and majesty of God from what He has made – a fact that refutes the wisdom of the wise . . . who in fact have merely substituted a lie for the truth because they did not wish to accept the truth.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

"Heaven is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark." ~ Hawking

"Atheism is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the light." ~ Lennox

Response #15: 

Nice One!

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
John 3:19 NIV

Question #16: 

More new posts on atheism:

http://godsphilosopher.blogspot.com/2016/08/analyzing-richard-dawkins-on-why-he.html

http://godsphilosopher.blogspot.com/2016/08/biblical-criticism.html

Response #16: 

These are very well done! I'm very favorably impressed by your reasoning. I also want to congratulate you on your tone. I think you are definitely finding your apologetic "voice", as well as an appropriate approach for teaching the Word.

I will definitely be including these links the next time I post anything on atheism.

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ!

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hi Bob,

A Native American Proverb: You can't wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep.

I was thinking about this, but what if sleep is an evangelistic tool?

A nearly universal "white lie" that is told to children when someone dies is that he is "only asleep." This is because there is a very strong metaphor between sleeping and death. Perhaps God makes sleep necessary as a "hint" to all of humanity that just as one can wake up a sleeper by a loud voice, perhaps one can be "woken up" from death by a similar voice.

Response #17: 

Let me reply to this in regard to the proverb you shared. I would like to compare sleep to a person being unsaved. Believers are awake – we get it. But many are still asleep and need to be awakened to the truth. However, there are also many who are only pretending to be asleep; they have already heard the gospel and have already rejected it, and are so self-satisfied with being their own god that they are intolerant of anyone suggesting that they are not in control of their eternal destiny, even going so far as to pretend that the real God doesn't exist. It's pretty hard to wake someone like that up, because the problem is not that they don't know the truth – which is to say, they're not really asleep, merely pretending.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hi Bob,

I noticed that you said on in one of your emails that you consider it very probable that Dostoevsky was an unbeliever. Well, here is how literary critics describe the themes of his novels:

"Another reason for hope is the power of the gospel itself. Dostoevsky does not despair of the gospel touching the heart, even of the atheist who thinks man has invented God. The key to reaching such a person is to announce the gospel from personal experience of the Church's faith, thus showing that faith is not just words. The Christian must speak of his meeting with Christ, telling what he has seen and speaking of eternity. This might touch the heart of the atheist, who being really more idolater than atheist, is searching for someone to worship. Through contact with true Christians who preach the gospel by their lives as well as by words, the atheist might be converted and enter into the spiritual world, the gate of which is guarded by the mystery of Christ."

These do not sound like the words of an unbeliever to me personally. If so, then he was, like Cornelius, an exceptionally God-fearing unbeliever.

Response #18: 

I'm not a Dostoevsky buff, but I note that this quote is not from him. What I do know suggest to me that he was highly religious, but that does not make him a believer in Christ. Many Eastern Orthodox, many Roman Catholics, many old line Protestant, and indeed many Buddhists, Muslims, animists are highly religious, but that doesn't make them born again. In fact, religion, the ritual placating of the divine, most often militates against their desiring of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone – they've already done so much "work", after all, why would they have any need of grace?

As in the case of many on the margins, we'll have to wait until the other side to find out for sure.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

It's been a while, but here's a new atheism post:

http://godsphilosopher.blogspot.com/2017/03/argumentum-ad-cabbala.html

Response #19: 

This is very helpful for anyone doing apologetics who doesn't have your mathematical and academic background. It's a pleasure to see how you and your ministry are developing so well.

One minor point has to do with tone. You've gotten a lot better at that too, mind you. And if I were sharing this with my USMC buddies, no issues. However, this is out there for all to see. So I would suggest dropping the (admittedly humorous) references to questionable practices because they undermines the seriousness of this extremely valuable piece (among other things).

There's nothing wrong with writing like this, if one is a humorist, for example. But I'm reminded of this advice that Paul gave Titus:

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 NIV

Enough said. Humor is always dangerous. I use it in my teaching a great deal and think that I have learned how to steer clear of rocks and shoals. But as we were once advised by a deputy provost, "think twice before you tell a joke – any joke".

Again, I don't want to lose the main point that in my humble opinion this is excellent work, and I'll be sure to post the reference the next time I do something on atheism or apologetics.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

It's always interesting to hear atheists talk about how "empirical" they are when the Bible says it is because of what we can see that we know that God exists. Psychologists may have been right about psychological projection being the way of how the primitive mind copes with his own insecurities.

I think any atheist's argument is just going to sound unbelievably stupid on judgment day. There will be no need for God to present an apology.

PS: I may have a chance to speak with Stephen Hawking privately and in person.

Response #20: 

Thanks for all your recent emails. We are about to start spring-break here and it is much needed. I hope that you are about to get some respite there as well.

I heartily concur regarding "the end". That is the most important perspective to keep in mind whenever we are talking with others about the truth and they are reluctant to accept it. It's God's opinion that counts . . . and in the end that will be made clear to all:

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Romans 14:11-12 KJV

Interesting news. From what I have heard of the man, there doesn't seem to be any hope of making a dent in a heart as hard as adamant – but only God truly knows the heart.

Best wishes for this and for all your good efforts for the Lord and for the truth.

Bob L.

Question #21:   

Dear Bob –

Our church asked me to preach a sermon one Sunday. I initially resisted accepting the invitation, but my wife enthusiastically encouraged me to say - Yes.

The theme I chose for the event was "The Time is Now"- a storytelling adventure relating to Heaven explaining the principle of "quantum faith" - I didn’t quite know what this meant when the idea can to mind. The event evolved far beyond my capacity to anticipate, imagine, or dream as I said "yes" to preach a sermon initially at some "future" date, that rolled fast forward to the Sunday after Easter. It turned out to be, of course, the way the Holy Spirit is at work/play all the time - "BLESSED."

Response #21: 

Thanks for the "share"!

It's a wonderful principle, and one I think that anyone interested in Christian apologetics should grab hold of: "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed"; the unbelieving world "believes" all sorts of things it hasn't seen – and physics is a great example of that - so why the disdain for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ though we have not set physical eyes on Him? Quantum faith indeed.

For [Moses] grew strong by seeing the One who cannot be seen (i.e., by keeping his mind's eye on the invisible Jesus Christ).
Hebrews 11:27

Keeping you in my prayers daily, my friend – for ministry and for your memoirs.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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