I am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler: A Festschrift in His Honor

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I Am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler:

A Festschrift in His Honor

Edited by Terry L. Miethe

Pickwick Publishers | 2016

480 pages

Order at Wipf&Stock and use “Geisler” as a 40% off coupon code!

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Contents

Preface by Ravi Zacharias · xi

Introduction by Terry L. Miethe · xiii

Tributes to Norman L. Geisler

Thanks for the Memories by William E. Nix · xxi

A Tribute to Norman L. Geisler by Patty Tunnicliffe · xxiii

A Personal Story by John Ankerberg · xxvii

Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Personal Reflections on a Favorite Professor

by Timothy Paul Erdel · xxix

A Tribute to Dr. Norman L. Geisler by Mark M. Hanna · xxxii

Personal Experience with Norm by Grant C. Richison · xxxiv

Biographical Reflections about Norm Geisler by Winfried Corduan · xxxv

Norma Turbulenta: “Stormin’ Norman” by Donald T. Williams · xxxvii

Apologetics

chapter 1: Using Apologetics in Contemporary Evangelism by David Geisler · 1

chapter 2: Distinctive Elements of a Judaeo-Christian Worldview by William E. Nix · 22

chapter 3: Our Faith Seeks Their Understanding: Evangelistic-Apologetics & Effective Communication by Ramesh Richard · 57

Biblical Studies

chapter 4: Beware the Impact of Historical Critical Ideologies on Current Evangelical New Testament Studies by F. David Farnell · 76

chapter 5: Building Babel: Genesis 11:1–9 by Thomas Howe · 99

chapter 6: The Task of Bible Exposition by Elliott Johnson · 122

chapter 7: God’s Ultimate Purpose for Creation by Grant C. Richison · 135

chapter 8: Text Versus Word: C. S. Lewis’s View of Inspiration and the Inerrancy of Scripture by Donald T. Williams · 152

Philosophy

chapter 9: Some Features of Finite Being in St. Thomas Aquinas by Winfried Corduan · 169

chapter 10: Unamuno and Quine: A Meta-Philosophical Parable Concerning Faith, Reason, and Truth by Timothy Paul Erdel · 192

chapter 11: Open Theism, Analogy, and Religious Language by Joseph M. Holden · 204

chapter 12: Defending the Handmaid: How Theology Needs Philosophy by Richard G. Howe · 233

chapter 13: Aristotle: God & The Life of Contemplation, or What is Philosophy & Why is it Important? by Terry L. Miethe · 257

chapter 14: The Enlightenment, John Locke & Scottish Common Sense Realism by Terry L. Miethe · 281

Ethics

chapter 15: Big Data, Big Brother, and Transhumanism by J. Kerby Anderson · 297

chapter 16: Using Expository Preaching to Address Ethical Issues in Our Day by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. · 307

chapter 17: Moral Absolutes and Moral Worth: A Proposal for Christian Ethics Inspired by Norman Geisler by Richard A. Knopp · 317

chapter 18: A Christian Response to Homosexuality by Patty Tunnicliffe · 346

Other Religions & Cults

chapter 19: Why They Blow Themselves Up: Understanding Islamic Suicide Bombers from a Christian Perspective by John Christian · 370

chapter 20: A Theological and Apologetical Assessment of Positive Confession Theology by Ron Rhodes · 382

Norman L. Geisler’s Impact

chapter 21: The Impact of Norman Geisler on Christian Higher Education by Wayne Detzler · 400

chapter 22: A Detroit Yankee in King Cotton’s Court: Love Expressed in the Thought and Writings of Norman Geisler by Paige Patterson · 417

Tabula Gratulatoria: Testimonials to Dr. Geisler’s Impact on our Time · 427

“Geislerisms” · 431

About Norman L. Geisler · 433

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Advice to Aspiring Apologists and Philosophers

Here are some of the recommendations Dr. Geisler has made over the last few years when various students requested his advice on becoming more effective Christian apologists and/or Christian philosophers.


 

Only one book, the Bible, I read to believe. All other books I only consider.

Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.

I recommend earning a Master’s degree in either philosophy or apologetics from a solid Christian School.  I recommend Veritas Evangelical Seminary (http://VES.edu) and Southern Evangelical Seminary (http://SES.edu). I co-founded both and still teach at both.

I would take the courses in this order:  Apologetics, Cults, World Religions, Logic, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy. Just apply for admission on the VES.edu web site.  Then ask for one course at a time.  Listen to the lectures, read the texts, write the papers, pass the exams.  When you finish, you will have a good handle on the core apologetics courses.  I guarantee you will be better prepared to do apologetics.

Take a course in logic at your University.  We teach one by extension at VES. You can also purchase MP3 versions of my lectures from a logic course I taught by visiting http://NGIM.org [they’re not there as of Feb. 2016 but they should be there soon]. You can get a twelve minute sample of that course here. Also read our companion book Come Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking.

After getting a foundation in logic, start reading books by Joseph Owen, James Collins, and Etienne Gilson.  I thought I had I discovered Joseph Owen’s An Elementary Christian Metaphysics is a good place to start. Then read Etienne Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers.

The rest of what you need we teach at VES.edu, namely, metaphysics, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. VES.edu uses my two volumes on the history of philosophy in their courses. You can find the same books here:

Scroll down on http://normangeisler.com/about/ to see a list of all the 100+ books I’ve written. In particular, master the “twelve points that show Christianity is true” schema. At VES the “Introduction to Apologetics” course focuses on the twelve points. There is an inexpensive e-book on the twelve points here and there are lectures that go with it here. Our books I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Geisler and Turek) and Reasons for Belief (Geisler and Tunnicliffe) also are built on my twelve point framework. Also be sure to get Introduction to Philosophy, Christian Apologetics,  Philosophy of Religionand either The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics or The Big Book of Christian Apologetics. Also you can find many of my e-books at a very inexpensive price at http://bastionbooks.com.

Also master my chapters on the preconditions of doing theology. They’re found in the prolegomena of my Systematic Theology. If your approach to understanding the Bible is aberrant, your theology is going to become aberrant. That’s why it’s important to understand God as the metaphysical precondition, miracles as the supernatural precondition, revelation as a precondition, logic as the rational precondition, meaning and the semantical precondition, truth and the epistemological precondition, exclusivism and the oppositional precondition, language and the linguistic precondition, interpretation and the hermeneutical precondition, historiography and the historical precondition, and the methodological precondition. These preconditions are at the heart of the defense of the gospel and the biblical faith. They overlap with my twelve point apologetics schema. Many of the theology courses at VES use my systematic theology as the primary text. Their “Prolegomena and Bibliology” course covers these preconditions.

Read my booklet Beware of Philosophy. I wrote this as a warning to biblical scholars and delivered it to the Evangelical Theological Society when I was its president. It’s just as applicable to apologists and philosophers as it is to biblical scholars. [Note: you can get this book for free by using “beware” as the coupon code upon check-out.] Similarly, read the booklets Explaining Inerrancy by R. C. Sproul and Explaining Hermeneutics by me. We put both books together in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy. [Note: you can get this for free by using “Free-EBI” as a coupon code when checking out.] Explaining Inerrancy and Explaining Hermeneutics will help keep you in the historical, orthodox, evangelical camp and help prevent you from drifting into the neo-evangelical and neo-orthodox camps.

I also recommend that you read all of C.S. Lewis’s major apologetics books–Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, and God in the Dock.

Every great idea I ever had I later discovered had already been stated by Aquinas.

Read all the classics first: Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Hume, Kant in philosophy. Then study Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Francis Turretin, C. Hodge, and C.S. Lewis. Then, if you have time, read the best secondary sources on these men.

The Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your heart.”  You won’t be happy or fulfilled outside of God’s will.  And God’s will is for you to use your talents and abilities to live according to God’s Word in the context in which he has placed you.  But even God cannot steer a parked car.  You have to be moving before he can direct you.  Also, “In the multitude of counsel there is wisdom.”  Ask yourself: what do godly people who know you best (starting with your spouse) think you ought to do?  Spurgeon said, God’s call on your life consists of four things: 1) Do you have a strong desire to do it? 2)  Do you have the ability to do it?  3) Do you have success when you do it?  And 4) do other people recognize you have the ability to do it?

Remember that God has four answers to prayer: Yes, No, Wait, or “Here is something better.”

 

For Christian thinkers who start to appreciate Thomistic philosophy and want to go deeper into Thomism, I have additional recommendations. I already recommended the reading of books by Joseph Owen, James Collins, and Etienne Gilson.  I’ll add Jacques Maritain, Alasdair, MacIntyre, and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange to that list.

First, read my updated book on Aquinas. It was originally titled Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal. The updated and expanded revision is better and is titled Should Old Aquinas be Forgotten?

Second, I recommend Etienne Gilson the most because he is the most scholarly. Some find him easier to read than Joseph Owen. After reading Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers, read his God and Philosophy. This is so brilliant because of making the connection between God and being.  God is being! This is the genius of Christian philosophy that the Greek philosophers did not have.

Third, read Jacques Maritain books. They’re very good and eloquent, but not as good as Gilson.
Fourth, read Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange’s books.
Fifth, read Joseph Owen’s An Elementary Christian Metaphysics and A History of Ancient Philosophy.
At some point you will want to read Aquinas’ own writings!
Get the translation by Maurer of Aquinas’s On Being and Essence.  It is the most
readable. Also read Aquinas’ Summa contra Gentiles. It is easier to master than the Summa Theologica.
Medieval Philosophy: A History Of Philosophy Hardcover – August 26, 2011
by Armand A. Maurer (Author), Etienne Gilson (Editor)
James Collins. Everything he wrote is good but especially consider his A History of Modern European Philosophy.
The Principle of Analogy in Protestant and Catholic Theology by Battista
Mondin

Mortimer Adler’s books, especially Six Great Ideas.

 

 

Interviews with Dr. Norm Geisler

 

An Interview with Dr. Geisler by Apologetics315


 

Another interview with Christian Book Previews:

 

CBP:  I don’t think a lot of people know your background; what’s your testimony?  Would you like to share that?

Norm:  My testimony is that I was reared in a non-Christian family.  My parents were anti-religious, my father was an ex-Roman Catholic, my mother was an ex-Navajo Lutheran.  The priest wouldn’t marry them in those days.  Finally a priest asked my father for a $500 bribe to marry them and break the rules.  My father told him to go and jump in a lake, and he never went back to church.

So I was reared in kind of a bitter ex-Catholic, non-religious family.  My relatives on both sides — I have about a hundred first cousins.  My father had ten in his family, my mother eight.  So I have over one-hundred first cousins.  They’re all Roman Catholic.  My favorite uncle was an atheist.  He was kind of a lone ranger on my mother’s side.  And when I was nine, the first time I remember going to church was at a funeral, and I saw a picture on the wall, and I asked my mother if that was Santa Claus.  It was Jesus.  I didn’t know the difference between Jesus and Santa Claus.

Shortly after, a little Sunday school picked me up for Vacation Bible School.  A little community church, Bible church, and I heard the gospel, I knew it was right and I knew I should be saved, but I rejected.  They picked me up on the Sunday school bus 400 times; every Sunday for eight years, till I was 17.  And I’ve often thought, 398 times and this kid shows no hope whatsoever, let’s give up on him.  They came back and I had a youth director come to the church and he spoke in Sunday school class, and I was so convicted.  I went home got down on my knees by my bedside – I was a senior in high school then – and committed myself to Christ.  It was kind of a 180˚ revolutionary thing, given my background and given my years of rejection.

So when I became a Christian on Sunday, Monday they took me door to door – these were very zealous people that discipled people quickly.  Tuesday I did cold turkey street meetings, Wednesday was prayer meeting, Thursday was jail service – I met my wife in jail, she was playing the pump organ in the middle of church, and I was giving my testimony – Friday was city rescue mission, and Saturday was Youth for Christ, and Sunday was church.  That was my week.  I thought that everybody gave 100% of their time for the Lord.  I thought that’s what Christians did.  That’s what everybody I knew who was a Christian did.

A few weeks later, I was in what was called “skid row,” the ghetto we call it now.  Downtown Detroit, where I’m from, and I was witnessing — had my Bible – and a drunk staggered up to me and this is what he said, “I’m a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and you’re not supposed to be doing this.”  And I said, “What?”  “Telling people about Jesus.”  He grabbed my bible – it was a red-letter edition – pointed, the guy said, “Read that.”  Jesus said, “Go and tell no man.”  He said, “Now, get out of here.  Jesus doesn’t want you to do this.”

I had no idea what that verse meant.  But it had already been twisted by Jehovah’s Witness, and Mormons, and I had to make a decision.  I was making a fool of myself out there because I couldn’t answer anybody’s questions.  All I knew was I was saved and John 3:16.  I was either going to have to get answers or stop witnessing, so I decided to get answers.

And so I spent the next 20 years going to college and graduate school getting two Bachelors’, two Master’s, and a Doctorate degree, and this is my 45th year of teaching now.  Teaching others – of course my passion is apologetics – so the rest is history, as they say.

CBP:  Now, based on what you did, going to school to learn about God so that you could respond to people, what do you think the average Christian’s responsibility is to know the Word.  How far should we go, should we all get Master’s and Doctorate’s?

Norm:  No, but we should all get answers.  Not everybody has to get a Master’s degree but they can get answers.  I Peter 3:15 was not just written for people who are ministers or teachers.  It says that every Christian should set aside the Lord in our hearts and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason of the hope that’s in us. And Colossians 4:6 says, “Let you speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

So, everyone needs to get answers and get equipped.  I had the raw material when God picked me, I was way behind you.  I couldn’t read, I was a senior in high school, I had never read a book.  I made it all the way through high school without ever reading a book.  I got kicked out of literature class in the 11th grade because the teacher asked me, “How did the Tale of Two Cities End?”  And I answered, “With a period.”  And she had no sense of humor, the period ended for me, I was sent to the principal’s office.  So that was me before I was a Christian.  I was in remedial reading class in the 11th grade; I went to school for two reasons and two reasons only, sports and girls.  If it hadn’t been for sports and girls, I would have never made it through school.  But I did.  I made it through.  Sports kept me there, and then in my senior year I started getting serious and made better grades that last semester, and then from then on, as they say, the rest is history.

There was a Bible school nearby – and the Bible is God’s Word.  I just got saved, and He wrote this whole thing for us, what else do you do?  I didn’t make any decision about going, that’s just the thing to do.  And from then on I went to Bible school, I finished college, I went to Wheaton College, went to graduate school, University of Detroit, Northwestern University, Loyola University, I went to six schools in 20 years;  one wife, six children and five degrees later.  So if God can do it with me, He can do it with anybody.

CBP:  That’s quite a story.  Now you have a set of volumes about Systematic Theology, what are they focusing on?

Norm:  Well, it’s a four-volume set.  It’s really two volumes in one – it’s really an eight volume set.  The first one is introduction and Bible program, bibliology.  The second one is God and creation, and the third one is sin and salvation, the fourth one is church and last things.  And that’s written, but it takes a full year to process it because each volume was a thousand-pages-long manuscript, so I’ve written a thousand pages a year for the last four years, which keeps me off of drugs and off the roads –

CBP:  We’re all grateful for that, too.

Norm:  And before that I wrote the encyclopedia for apologetics and that was three-thousand pages, and I did a thousand pages a year for three years.  That boils down to about four hours a day, five or six days a week for seven years just for those five books.

CBP:  So, is it a culmination of all the study you’ve had?  Because if you’re writing steadily that much, then you’re not doing a lot of research I would think.

Norm:  I am, I am.  I’m doing research and writing at the same time.  It’s equivalent of writing a 15-20 page term paper every day for seven years.

CBP:  And somebody has to go through and edit that too.

Norm:  My dear wife is – I’m good at big ideas and she’s good at getting the details.

CBP:  Well, how do you recommend to someone who is a believer and knows the basics, to educate themselves better?  

Norm:  What motivates me to get up in the morning is ignorance.  I have an insatiable desire to learn God’s truth.  I just love truth, I love the Bible, I want to know, and I want to share.  It boils down to motivation.  They have to be motivated first.  They have to see some reason and purpose for it.

Where to start – when I started out, that was 1950, so I’ve been really, for all intents and purposes, full-time ministry since the day I was saved, which is 54 years ago now – and literally full-time pastoral ministry, I was ordained in 1954.  When I started out, I didn’t know much either, but you just have to keep reading and keep learning.

The key to that to me is the old IRA , impression, repetition, association.  It’s got to impress you.  If the Word of God doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what’s going to impress you.  Repeat:  You’ve got to share it over and over with other people.  Association:  I memorized hundreds and hundreds of verses when I was first saved.  It’s what the people around me did.  They say you’ve got to memorize the Bible, know verses that you can give to people.  And I associate them with things, you know, verses on sin, verses on assurance, verses on whatnot, so that’s the key.   To get motivated, repeat it over, use it, share it.  A few verses that I haven’t used much I’ve forgotten, the rest of the verses I use, I remember.

CBP:  That makes sense.  It’s just like speaking a language, if you don’t speak it then you lose it.

Norm:  If you don’t use it, you lose it.

CBP:  Well now, who do you think is going to read A Systematic Theology, being almost a thousand pages?

Norm:  Well, everybody because everybody needs to know who God is and how we relate to Him, and how He relates to His universe, and that’s what it’s all about.  It’s the theory of everything.  Everybody has a world view, and if they’re a Christian they have some kind of Christian world view for better or for worse.  And A Systematic Theology is what puts it all together.

What I would say to the average housewife, the average whatever it is ninth grade housewife who’s listening to Dobson doing the dishes, and reads all the books out there – everything in your kitchen, you have all the plates in one place and all the cups in another place, and all the glasses somewhere else, and all the silverware drawer, you have all the knives, forks and spoons all organized, right?  You don’t just go in the kitchen and they’re all piled together.  Well, that’s what A Systematic Theology does; it puts it all in categories:  there are all the verses about God, here’s all the verses about sin.  It may be a big two words – Systematic Theology—it’s just organizing God’s truth so that you can categorize it and understand it better.

CBP:  Do you think people use it as a reference, or as something that they can read straight through?

Norm:  Well, actually it’s good for insomnia.  Fifteen minutes before bedtime, it’s a sure cure for insomnia.

There are people who just sit down and read it.  They read so much – like my assistant at school is an avid reader.  She reads the encyclopedia straight through at bedtime.  Yeah, I think they can use it as a reference book.  And they can look up – it has an index, it has verses in the back, you can find anything you want to find and find out how it fits together and how to explain it, you can look up topically.  It’s an introduction and Bible.

CBP:  Well, speaking of salvation, because I know that you’re also talking a little bit about your book about being chosen –

Norm:  Chosen but Free?

CBP:  Chosen But Free, sorry.  I have the book and I actually bought it myself.  What do you think the major misconception is about salvation that you run into?

Norm:  Of course on the broad scale people think that somehow our works have something to do with salvation, they don’t.  It’s God’s grace.  It’s by grace alone, through faith alone, through the finished work of Christ alone, based on the Bible alone, for the glory of God alone.  There’s a lot of “alones” there but they’re very important in the thing.  But on a more popular scale, I think people don’t realize how comprehensive it is.  Salvation is a total process from the day – from before you’re born actually.  God choosing us in whom before the foundation of the world is working on us by the Holy Spirit.  Is reaching and convicting us of our sin, it regenerates us.

The three stages of salvation:  Justification, sanctification, glorification.  Those are big words but it boils down to be saved from the penalty of sin, the moment you trespass, that’s a lifelong of being saved from the power of sin, and then you’re finally saved from the presence of sin.  And I think most people have no idea how big it is.  They think, “Well, I got saved.”  They think in the past tense.  Throughout 1950 I was saved.  You got started on the process of salvation – it’s a big thing.  From here to eternity you’ve got the rest of it.

CBP:  Well, that being the case then, is it consistent to say that you can have Christians that are alcoholics, or addicted to pornography, or something like that.  Because we read that we are no longer slaves to sin, we are slaves in righteousness in Christ.  

Norm:  Well, you can have Christians who are that, but they’re not good Christians, they’re not consistent Christians, and they’re Christians who might have been saved, but they’re not being saved.  The present tense of their salvation is getting robbed by the fact that they’re yielding to sin rather that getting the victory over it.   They’ve accepted Christ’s victory over the penalty of their sin, now they need to accept Christ’s victory over the power of their sin.  In Roman’s 7, The lamb who so delivered me from the body of this death, praise God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  And that’s right in the middle of the sanctification section in Romans.  So they need to look at Romans 6 – it’s not 12 steps AA, it’s 3 steps:  know, reckon, yield.  They know Christ did it, they’ve got to count it so, and they’ve got to yield their members as members of righteousness to get that victory.

CBP:  I’ve read that section that you’re referring to in Chapter 7 is more allegorical than it is about Paul, because

it says that he was more righteous than any of the Jews at the time, and yet he was still lost in sin.

Norm:  He says as touching the law he was totally righteous.  In other words, from a legalistic, technical, outward standpoint, but when he looked inside his heart, he saw the two natures struggling just like the rest of us.

CBP:  So you think he was really talking about himself.

Norm:  I do.  I think he was talking about himself and he was talking about a post-conversion state, not a pre-conversion state.  There are two views on that.

CBP:  Why is theology so important?  

Norm:  I’ll tell you why it’s so important.  Did you see that survey that came out a while ago about how many born-again Christians have a Christian worldview?  Absolute crying shame because it was a pretty good definition of a born-again Christian, so it wasn’t nominal, and it was a pretty good definition of a Christian world view, you know, believing in moral absolutes.  And to think that something like 8% of born-again Christians have a Christian worldview, that’s absolutely ridiculous to think that it’s that low, and some people it’s as low as 2%, that’s because they don’t study theology.

Theology is what gives you a worldview.  Putting it all together and thinking about every area of life Christianly.  Thinking through a Christian perspective, not just being a Christian personally, and then intellectually, morally, and socially, you’re totally pagan.  I used to think of Romans 12:2 when I grew up which was kind of a semi-legalistic context of all the things you don’t do.  I don’t smoke, drink, or chew or associate with those that do.  But Romans 12:2 don’t be conformed to the world or as Phillips translates it, don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold, is exactly what the survey is about.  We don’t have a Christian world view.

CBP:  Do you think it is the responsibility of the church to train people, or is it the responsibility of each believer to seek that information out for themselves?

Norm:  Well, that’s a good question.  I don’t think it’s an either or, but it’s definitely the responsibility of everyone – everyone’s responsibility boils down to their own choices.  Everyone is going to stand accountable before God alone.  But the church has failed miserably in providing that education for people.  Even if they wanted it, they sit there every Sunday and hear the same basic sermon.   Some churches you hear you must be born again every Sunday – well, you only have to be born again once according to my belief.  I’ll give you something else I think – you asked the wrong question –

CBP:  Rephrase my question.

Norm:  The church today, in general, especially the contemporary church movement, is geared to make people feel better, not to make people be better.  The contemporary church movement is built around entertainment, not around edification.  There is a great article by Charles Spurgeon – must be over 100 years ago, it’s on the internet – it’s entitled “Feeding the Sheep or Amusing the Goats.”

What we do in the contemporary church is we amuse the goats, not feed the sheep.  If he came back today, he would be absolutely shocked because nothing like what’s going on today was going on in his day.  And we’ve got to stop amusing the goats and start feeding the sheep.

CBP:  Do you see ministries out there that are feeding people, that are feeding the sheep?

Norm:  Absolutely.

CBP:  Who do you think is doing a good job?

Norm:  I just came back – on the youth level, I just came back from the best one in the country.  Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs.  Dobson’s son was wandering around aimlessly until he went there and it totally changed his life.  Dobson told the story on his radio program, and they’ve had a waiting list ever since.  Eight hours a day, they’re in classes studying theology, philosophy, apologetics, they take tests — this is summer camp, two weeks.

CBP:  It’s for high school?

Norm:  Senior and junior high school and freshman, sophomore college age.  They’re doing a great job; churches are doing a terrible job.  I was in Vienna speaking to a group of Christians over there once, and they said, “How is Christianity in America?”  I said, “About three-thousand miles wide and about an inch deep.”  It’s very shallow.  Who is doing a great job?  If you look at that survey the percentages went up — Baptists were doing better than Presbyterians, Catholics were the worst as I recall, less than 2%, and the best were independent churches like Bible churches where they still teach something of theology.

An eight-year-old kid came to me, granted his father is a seminary student, he was taught well.  I preached on the immutability of God.  He said, “Pastor, you said God can’t change, but the Bible says He can do anything.  If God can do anything, He can change if He wants to.”  Now, most adults aren’t smart enough to think up that question, let alone answer it.  And I said to him, “God can do anything that’s possible, but he can’t do what’s impossible.  He can’t make a square a circle, He can’t stop being God, and it’s impossible for Him to change.”  And he said, “Oh, thank you very much.”  He went over to his mother and she told me later that he said to her, “Mother, I’m going to like this church because they answer my questions.”

A typical church would have said to that little kid, “You don’t ask questions like that.  Just believe.”  And that starts them on the road to unbelief because they think there are no answers.  We’ve got a church full of teachers who know apologetics, who know philosophy, who can answer little kids’ questions.  We’re teaching them apologetics in grade school level, let alone junior high and high school.  One of my books is for high school level apologetics, called “Living Loud,” published by Broadman & Holman.  It’s an apologetics text on a high school level.

CBP:  Is that a newer one?

Norm:  It’s been out for a year.  I’ve got so many books, even I can’t keep up with them.  I think I’ve written 60 books now.

People – the Puritans – they taught this from the pulpit.  These people used “dumb farmers”  back then – you read Jonathan Edward sermons and, you know, he’s teaching Romans I, and he’s giving cosmological arguments for the existence of God when he gets to verse 19 about invisible God known through a visible world.  It’s real stuff.

Brief Comments on Logic

Here is a short clip of Dr. Geisler teaching on the graduate level about and defending the Laws of Logic.

 

The full course on Logic should be available for purchase at http://NGIM.org soon.

Also consider Dr. Geisler’s book/e-book titled Come, Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking from here

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Closing the Back Door: The Need for Christian Education

Closing the Back Door: The Need for Christian Education

 by Dr. Randy Douglass
October 21, 2009

 

 

Part One

About the Author

Randy Douglass is Adjunct Professor of Religion at Charleston Southern University as well as a Bible teacher at Palmetto Christian Academy in Mount Pleasant, SC.  He has a Doctor of Ministry degree and is currently working on the Doctor of Education degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  He is the coauthor of two books with Dr. Norman Geisler:  Bringing Your Faith to Work: Answers for Break-Room Skeptics (Baker Books, 2005) and Integrity at Work: Finding Your Ethical Compass in a Post-Enron World (Baker Books, 2007)

The Back Door is Open

In my World Religions class at a Christian university, I had an interesting cast of characters for students. About one-third of the students were solid in their Christians faith.  The next group was somewhere in-between, trying to decide if the Christian faith they were raised in was the faith they now wanted to live by.  The last group was definitely not Christian in thought and practice.  In fact, two of these students were Wiccans. 

After class one day, I was talking with Kathy, one of the Wiccans.  She told me that she was raised in a good Southern Baptist church.  However, she had many questions about the Bible that no one could answer.  Was it really the Word of God or just of man?  What about all of the errors she heard about?  Aren’t there other ways to God than just through Jesus?  On the outside she conformed, but on the inside she was full of doubts.  Her college roommate, who was a Wiccan, convinced her that Christianity was not true.  Eventually, Kathy walked away from Christianity and became a Wiccan convert.

I told Kathy that Christianity is the one credible faith and that no other religion could stand up to it in terms of logic and evidence.  I asked her to listen in class with an open mind, and let the evidence alone convince her.  She agreed to do that, and I committed to answer her questions in class.

Sadly, Kathy is not alone in her departure from the church.  The hard truth is that we are seeing a large number of our adolescents walk away from the church and abandon the faith by the time they leave college. Many of these will never return.  Why is this happening and what can we do to stop this mass exodus?  These articles have been written in answer to these questions. In the first article, we will examine the reality of adolescent church dropouts and look at why this is occurring.  In the second article, we will explore the more important question of when these adolescents are leaving, and conclude with some solutions to this problem.

Christian Adolescents are Going AWOL

Recent studies reveal the staggering number of young people who are dropping out of church. In a study done in 2006 by George Barna, he found that six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in church during their teen years no longer attended church.  The survey showed that 20% who were churched as teens remained spiritually active at age 29.  19% who were never churched as teens remained unconnected to a church.  61% who were churched as teens became disengaged by the time they were 23.  Most of these 20-somethings who leave the church never return.  The Barna research showed that the religious activity of teenagers is not translating into spiritual commitment as adults in their 20s and 30s.

A 2007 USA Today article discussed a LifeWay Research survey, which showed that seven in ten Protestant teenagers stopped attending church for at least a year by age twenty-three.  This survey was conducted of 1,023 adults aged 18 to 30 who regularly attended church in high school.  34% had not returned by the age of thirty. “This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry,” says Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why are Church Adolescents Dropping Out?

College:  Bias against Evangelical Students

There are at least five reasons that adolescents drop out of church. In a recent survey of 1,269 faculty members across 712 different secular colleges and universities, 53% of respondents admitted to harboring unfavorable feelings toward evangelical students.  This survey was conducted by Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.  The professors’ defense was that the anti-evangelical bias did not translate into acts of classroom discrimination.  Can that really be true?  The rule of thumb is this:  where there is smoke, there is usually fire.

Intellectual Skepticism:  Angry Tribe of Opinionated Educators

As a college professor in a secular university (University of Texas), J. Budziszewski sees firsthand the bias of secular professors against Christianity in the university classroom.  He labels them as the “angry tribe of opinionated educators.”  Budziszewski believes that college is a war zone for young believers who are not prepared for the battle of their faith.  He states,

Modern institutions of higher learning have changed dramatically in the last half-century, and from the moment students set foot on the contemporary campus, their Christian convictions and discipline are assaulted.  “Faith is just a crutch,” they hear from friends and teachers.  “The Bible is just mythology.” “Christianity is judgmental and intolerant.”  “Morality is different everywhere.”  “Everyone must find their own truth.”  “I can be good without God.”  “Jesus was just a man who died.”  No wonder so many lose their faith!

Sadly, Budziszewski is correct in his assessment.  The problem is that we are seeing an alarming number of young Christians walk away from the faith by the time they finish college.

Surface Answers: Lifestyle Changes

LifeWay Research wanted to know why young people were abandoning the church.  They found that 97% of the “dropouts” listed life-change issues as a reason they left the church.  With a shrug of their shoulders, their reasons were as follows:  “I wanted a break from church” (27%); “I moved to college and stopped attending church” (25%); “work responsibilities prevented me from attending” (23%); or “I moved too far away from church to continue attending” (22%).

 

Digging Deeper:  Doubts then Departure

1,000 Church Dropouts:

·         20-29

·         No longer attend church

·         Attended conservative churches

However, there must be something else going on. Secular college and lifestyle changes cannot explain away the large exodus of young people from the church.  Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group was commissioned to find out more about those who are leaving the church as the surveys of LifeWay Research and Barna discovered. Beemer felt that those answers were too shallow to explain the massive loss on our hands.  Not content with the surface answers, he decided to dig deeper.  He surveyed 1,000 people with three criteria:  ages 20 to 29; those who said that they attended church nearly every week when growing up, but never or seldom go today; and those who attended conservative and evangelical churches. 

Why did these young adults who regularly attended church growing up, seldom or never attend today? Beemer received the usual surface answers of “lifestyle changes,” so he dug deeper.  Is biblical belief at the root of the exodus from the church as it was for Kathy?  Interestingly enough, the majority of these dropouts held to a strong belief in God.  86% believed that God exists and created the world.  When he asked if they believed they were saved and would go to heaven upon death, 66% said yes, 14% said no, while 20% were not sure.

Why doubt the Bible:

·         Written by men (24%)

·         Not translated correctly (18%)

·         Contradicts itself (15%)

·         Evolution proves Bible is wrong (18%)

·         Bible has errors (11%)

·         If God, why suffering (7%)

·         Hypocrites (6%)

However, when it came to the Bible, the majority of them felt that it was not a credible document.  Consider the following questions about the veracity of the Bible:  When asked if they thought the Bible contained errors, 40% said yes, 30% did not know, while only 30% said no.  When asked what made them begin to doubt the Bible, the answers given were in the chart at the right: 

Now we are finally getting somewhere!  The primary reason adolescents are abandoning the church is not a matter of lifestyle changes.  Lifestyle changes simply provide them with theopportunity to walk away from church with few questions asked. The primary reason adolescents are going AWOL is because of a deep distrust in the Bible.  These adolescents had questions about the Bible that were not sufficiently answered.  But wait a minute? Didn’t the majority of these young people go to Sunday school? Would this not be the place for teaching doctrinal truth?

Sunday School—Taught but Not Caught

Beemer had assumed that Sunday school was effectively teaching these young people.  Of the 1,000 interviews, 606 of these 20-somethings were Sunday school students.  Three out of five attended Sunday school when they went to church.  That is very surprising when one considers the answers to the questions in the following chart. 

Sunday School Questions

Attend SS

No SS

1.  Regularly attend Sunday School?

Yes 61%

No 39%

2.  Good people do not need to go to church?

Yes (40%)

Yes (29%)

3.  Church relevant to you now?

No (46%)

No (40%)

4.  Become more anti-church now?

Yes (39%)

Yes (27%)

The numbers showed that attending Sunday school did not help these young people develop a Christian worldview.  One would think that those who regularly attended Sunday school would have deeper religious convictions than those who did not.  However, the survey found the opposite. The causes for the church teen dropouts are many, but one thing is certain: Sunday school is not solving the problem. 

Putting it All Together

We have seen the hard reality that between 60-70% of our churched teens are dropping out of church when they reach college.  When we asked why, we saw that college professors, the atmosphere of intellectual skepticism, as well as life changes were most commonly given as reasons.  However, in a survey of 1000 church dropouts, it was revealed that before the departure, there were doubts.  The primary predictor of departure was when an adolescent had doubts in the veracity of the Bible.  Now we understand that lifestyle changes simply provided these teens with the opportunity to leave the church. 

In the next article, we will discover the answer to the most important question of when are these teens truly departing from the faith?  We will conclude with giving some practical, doable suggestions for the church as well as for the parent.

 

 

Part Two:  When are Church Adolescents Dropping Out?

When are we losing this group of young people?  In our last article, we saw that Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group surveyed 1,000 young people aged 20-29, who regularly attended church while growing up but not today, and attended conservative or evangelical churches.  Beemer dug deep to ask them why they no longer went to church.  He discovered that the majority of these dropouts doubted the veracity of the Bible.  But when did these doubts develop?

Beemer’s study went on to reveal the answer.  He discovered not only why young people were leaving the church, but also when.  He discovered of all the 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals who attended church regularly but no longer do so:

·         95% attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years

·         55% attended church regularly during high school

·         11% were still going to church during college

These findings are both revealing and startling.  Most people assume that we lose our young people in college.  However, this most recent survey shows that 89% have begun to walk away from the church by the time they entered college.  Why is this occurring?  He found that in the hearts and minds of these churched young people, there was a delayed reaction going on.  First came the doubts, then came the departure.  Many students did not begin doubting their faith in college; they just departed by the time they went to college. 

As we will see, high school was when we lost nearly half of this group.  A large group was lost even earlier in middle school due to doubts about the accounts and stories in the Bible being true.  Of those who doubted the veracity of Scripture, four in nine said they had their first doubts in high school.

Beemer wanted to ascertain where these young people went to school.  When asked what type of high school they attended, they answered public (86%), Christian (7%), home school (3%), and other (3.6%).   Therefore, the primary place of schooling for these dropouts was the public school system.

The next two questions were even more eye opening.  When asked at what age they began to question contents in Bible, the answers were early college (11%), high school (46%), and middle school (42%).  This number comes from a combination of grades 7-9 (29%) and grades 4-6 (13%).  When Beemer asked them if this questioning was beginning of their doubt in the Bible, 56% said yes, 31% said no, while 13% were not sure.

What this means is that by the time our adolescents get to college, most are already gone!  Their hearts are fertile soil to the seeds of doubt.  Make no mistake about it.  College professors are not the primary casters of the seeds of doubt.  They are simply the harvesters of the fruit of doubt that was placed deep in the hearts of these people when they were in high school and middle school.

Effective discipleship must address these doubts in the hearts of our young people before they go to college, not afterwards.  By then it is too late.  What can be done to stem the loss of our adolescents who are dropping out of church?

Solutions to Close the Back Door

Southern Baptist Convention researcher Ed Stetzer noted:

There is no easy way to say it, but it must be said. Parents and churches are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church. We can take some solace in the fact that many do eventually return. But, Christian parents and churches need to ask the hard question, “What is it about our faith commitment that does not find root in the lives of our children?”

Remember that belief in the Bible is a major predictor of whether a young person will leave the church and whether he or she will one day return.  However, let us not lull ourselves into complacency by thinking that most of these dropouts will one day return when they have children.  When asked if they expected to attend church regularly after they had children, only 38% said yes, while 32% said no, and 30% did not know.  These numbers do not provide a lot of “solace” for the majority will not return even after having children.

We have seen that a full 62% of these 1,000 absentees did not believe all the accounts and stories in the Bible.  What should the church do about this problem?  How can we begin to stop the flow of our adolescents who are dropping out of the church?  The answer is to recognize that the primary reason for their abandonment is distrust in the Bible and to answer those questions and show them that the Bible is credible.  We must answer their questions before they go to college while there is still time.  To accomplish this, we must do three things:

1.           Teach apologetics.

What is apologetics?  1 Peter 3:15 is the classic text for apologetics which says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”   The phrase “give an answer” is from the Greek wordapologia from which comes our English word “apologetics.” 

Apologia was a Greek legal term, meaning among other things: an answer, or a verbal defense.  An apologetic is a defense, or a statement of a position one holds or wants to defend or prove. In this case, the cause is Christ and Christianity.  Apologetics does not mean an excuse or apologizing for what you believe. Rather, apologetics is the presenting of Christian evidence and logical arguments or reasons why a person ought to believe in Christ. 

Unbelievers have good questions, but we have good answers.  Rational people, including adolescents, want evidence for the claim that Jesus is the Son of God before they place their trust in Him.  Remember that these 1000 dropouts departed from church because they had many questions, especially about the Bible.  We must be prepared to answer such questions as:  where does the belief in a God come from?  Are all religions true?  How do you know God exists?  If there is a God, why is their evil and suffering in this world?  Is the Bible alone the Word of God?  What about all of the errors in the Bible?  Is Jesus really the Son of God?  Is there only one way to heaven?  These questions must be answered or our adolescents will one day walk out.  

“The objections that unbelievers raise are not trivial.  They often cut deep into the heart of the Christian faith and challenge its very foundations.  If miracles are not possible, then why should we believe Christ was God?  If God can’t control evil, is He really worthy of worship?  Face it:  if these objections cannot be answered, then we may as well believe in fairy tales.  These are reasonable questions which deserve reasonable answers.”

 We must prepare our children for the questions and objections to the Christian faith.  Too many Christians go out into battle ill equipped for the war.  The war zone for the Christian begins in middle school and into high school.  It continues on to the college campus, which even may include the Christian college campus.  For the disciple after college, the war zone moves into the workplace, which is filled with different worldviews and religions. 

“Most skeptics have only heard the questions and believed that there were no answers.  But we have some great answers to their questions.  Christianity is true.  That means that reality will always be on our side, and we just need to find the appropriate evidence to answer whatever question is asked” (Ibid, 11).

 2.          Apologetics in the Pulpit.

Back Door Solutions

1. Teach Apologetics

2. In the Pulpit

3. In Sunday School

What should the church do about this problem?  We must make apologetic & worldview training a core part of our discipleship process, all the way from Sunday school to the pulpit.  The pulpit is the primary means of teaching God’s Word to the gathered congregation.  All week long, those who attend the church are bombarded in the school, workplace and media by messages that undermine the authority of God’s Word.  Apologetics is one of the most life-giving things that a pastor can inject into the veins of his church.  Believers need to hear not just sermons from the Bible but also on the Bible.  Is it credible and relevant to our lives and world?  We must defend the Word in this post-Christian world.  We must make the connection between fact and faith so that the Bible again becomes authoritative and relevant in the church.

There is also an opportunity of which we must be aware.  When Beemer asked those who are no longer attending church if they plan to come to church during the Easter and Christmas holidays, 49% said no, but 51% said yes.  The church is always full on these most important Christian celebrations.  Many of these absentee adolescents will be in church on these two days.  Since this is true, the pastor must become intentional and preach apologetically to those who come to church on Christmas and Easter.  Instead of having a Christmas play with children in bathrobes on Sunday morning, preach about how we know that God really did become a man.  Instead of having a choir cantata on Easter Sunday morning, preach about how we know that a man named Jesus actually lived, died on the cross, and three days later, His tomb was empty!  Use this opportunity to speak to the questions of these dropouts on the credibility of Christianity and the Bible.

 

 

3.           Reeducate Sunday school.

Churches need to evaluate the teachers who are teaching Sunday school and ensure they know how to answer the skeptical questions about their topic.  Students are not being taught how to defend their faith, and how to answer skeptical questions.  Many teachers have not been trained in apologetics themselves.  It is possible that some teachers may even harbor some doubts themselves.  Every church should provide apologetic training for their teachers from at least middle school and up.  Our teachers must not teach Bible stories as moral “tales” but as historic fact…and then be able to give the evidence to back it up.

Sunday school curriculum from middle school through adults needs to include a steady diet of apologetics. Our entire culture (including secular schools) is aggressively teaching the apologetics of evolution and secular humanism.  They indoctrinate our students in the humanistic worldview, and they model that worldview.  At the same time, our churches and Sunday schools are teaching Bible stories that may seem nothing more than fairy tales to these young people.  They are not connecting the Bible to the real world.  Our young people are not being taught how to defend their faith—and we wonder why we are losing them. 

4.           Restructure Youth Ministry

Many youth ministries seem to be nothing more than entertainment systems.  As long as we keep our teenagers busy, the youth minister must be doing his job.  Instead of evaluating the effectiveness of a youth ministry by the number of events and all-nighters it had, maybe we should rather evaluate how many of the high school graduates stayed the course for Christ one, two and more years after high school. 

Youth ministers must become passionate about learning and teaching apologetics.  Teens are about to step out the door, and approximately 60-70% of them will not come back after they leave the youth ministry. Teenagers will be more likely to ask the youth pastor a question about their faith than their parents.  The youth minister has one hour every Sunday with his flock while the school, friends and media have the rest of the time. A godly youth pastor will make the most of his time. 

Back Door Solutions

1. Teach Apologetics

2. In the Pulpit

3. In Sunday School

4. In Youth Ministry

5. In the Home

5.           Apologetics in the Home

Parents must commit themselves to the study of apologetics as well.  It is normal that teenagers will ask questions about their faith as they begin to develop their own personal worldview.  When the parent is asked one of these apologetic questions, the response could very well set the tone for the child’s future spiritual development.  Many teenagers hear their parent reply, “That’s a good question (meaning=I don’t know).  Go and ask the pastor (meaning=I don’t care to find out).”  Many adolescents will conclude that either there is no answer to their question, or it is not important enough to find out.  The seeds of doubt have now been sown in the mind of the adolescent, but not by an atheistic college professor but by the Christian parent!  In reality, the college professor is the one harvesting the crops of doubt, not the one casting the seeds of doubt.  No, the seeds of doubt were sown in the mind of the teenager years earlier.

 

 

6.           Walk away from the Public School

This is a hard recommendation for me to make, for I have long been an advocate of remaining in the public school system to keep a Christian presence there.  However, the data is now overwhelming.  Yes, there are many fine Christian teachers in the public school system, but I find that many of them send their own children to a Christian school to be educated rather than in the one in which they teach.  What do they know that we don’t know? 

In the public school system, the Christian worldview is not taught, not allowed to be taught, and will actually be taught against.  For example, the average public school is pro evolution, pro abortion, and pro homosexuality.  The effect of this anti-Christian worldview has left its mark on our church adolescents.  I used to think that the war zone for the Christian young person began on the secular college campus; the hard facts now tell us that the war zone begins in the middle school and high school.  Remember that 86% of these church dropouts attended a public high school.  We can no longer ignore this negative impact of the public school system on our children.  If possible, the parent should do everything possible to remove their child from this atmosphere of poison. 

Back Door Solutions

1. Teach Apologetics

2. In the Pulpit

3. In Sunday School

4. In Youth Ministry

5. In the Home

6. No to Public school

7. Yes to Christian school

To the parent who chooses or must keep their child in the public school, the onus is on you.  You have been warned.  Your job in raising your child is now much more difficult and you must be up to the task.  My suggestion is that every night you “debrief” your child from their training at school.  Ask your child what was taught in their various classes, and then teach the Christian worldview to these ideas.  This must become your sacred task for the spiritual health of your child.

7.           Choose a Christian School with a Proper Worldview

It falls upon the Christian school to provide the student with an education that is not only excellent, but Christ-centered and apologetically focused.  Christian schools offer a Christian environment unlike that found in the public school system.  They also offer committed Christians who are trained teachers and experts in their field. 

Beyond this, we must choose a Christian school that has a Christian worldview and teaches it.  Having teachers who are born-again and pray at the beginning of class is good, but that is not enough.  These teachers must bathe their subject in a Christian worldview.  For example, the science teacher should be teaching evidence against evolution and for creationism.  The English teacher should be training the students how to identify the worldview of the literature they are reading.  The math teacher must teach the math courses from a Christian perspective…yes, that is important.  The history teacher should be unveiling the work of God in the history of the world.  Sadly, just because a school has the name “Christian” in front of it does not mean that they are teaching from a Christian worldview.

The Christian school should also train these teachers how to answers questions about their faith.  Many questions are asked questions about and have comments made in class that pertain to spiritual things.  Once these teachers are trained in apologetics, they will be more confident in their faith, understand what questions their students are asking, and look for opportunities to share these answers. 

A strong Christian school will also provide a curriculum that includes classes on apologetic subjects, such as Bible study classes, world religions and cults, and Christian evidences.  If a Christian school can produce a curriculum and faculty that are grounded in apologetics, this will provide the parent with an opportunity to ensure that their child will at least be taught the Christian worldview, if not develop it as well.  My own experience in teaching apologetics at both the college and high school level for the past three years substantiates this concept. 

The parent should place the child in the Christian school as early as possible, at least by the middle school years.  This will ensure a smoother transition for the adolescent into the Christian high school and help to develop a more substantial Christian peer group, which is essential for the teen years.  There is another reason for placing the child in the Christian school as early as middle school.  Remember we have learned that it is in the middle school where 42% of the church dropouts began to have doubts about their faith.  View the chart on the right that was shared earlier.  When asked at what age the 1,000 church dropouts began to question contents in Bible, the answers were early college (11%), high school (46%), and middle school (42%).  When Beemer asked them if this questioning was beginning of their doubt in the Bible, 56% said yes, 31% said no, while 13% were not sure.  The Christian school must be aggressive about apologetics not just in high school, but beginning in middle school as well.

While it is true that a Christian school is expensive, there is a cost to the public school as well.  A parent once told me, “Why should I pay to send my child to a Christian school?  The public school is free.”  The evidence now shows us that the public school is not free, for there is a cost.  The cost is the spiritual life of our children. The reality is that we will pay for it now (Christian school) or we will pay for it later (church dropout).   For those parents who desire to send their children to a Christian school, but cannot afford it, there may be other options.  Make it a matter of deep prayer and talk to the Christian school administrators.  There may be other avenues available, such as scholarships.  It is possible that after reading these articles, God will lay it on the heart of a wealthy Christian who wants to help to stop the church adolescent dropout rate.  Giving a donation or setting up a scholarship at a Christian school such as PCA will help many who would love to attend but cannot because of finances.

We need to make hard decisions and we need to make them now.  Our children and the future of the church are at stake.  We must declare war and reclaim our children whom we have voluntarily handed over to many who do not have our worldview, our attitudes, our faith or our Christ.  This solution is not only doable; it is also available.  We do not have to start a Christian school where one does not exist.  Good Christian schools already exist which offer an excellent education, a Christian environment, and committed Christian teachers.  A few Christian schools even have an apologetic worldview in its curriculum.  What are you waiting for?

8.            Teach apologetics in a way the adolescent can comprehend.

Many Christians have the perspective that apologetics is only accessible to the highly intelligent.  Who can understand all the issues that are involved in apologetics?  How could an average Christian debate subjects such as evolution versus creationism or Jesus versus Muhammad?  I have had people tell me that they have read some books on apologetics but were now more confused than before!  No, only those geniuses with Ph.D.’s are equipped to handle such deep subjects that apologetics deals with.

We are blessed in our time to have some great evangelical minds in the field of Christian apologetics who have written many books on the subject.  Contemporary examples would include such men as Norman Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, and Lee Strobel.  With all of the material available both in book form and on the internet, one has to wonder what else needs to be done.  If a teenager has a serious question about God, Jesus or the Bible, then just read a book on it.  Nevertheless, all of this wealth of information on apologetics has not made a dent on the church adolescent dropout rate.  Is it simply a matter of “you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink?” 

Back Door Solutions

1. Teach Apologetics

2. In the Pulpit

3. In Sunday School

4. In Youth Ministry

5. In the Home

6. No to Public school

7. Yes to Christian school

8.  Teach Apologetics to Mind of Adolescent

The problem is that there seems to be a fundamental flaw in our apologetic teaching materials.  These materials are written at a level beyond the reading ability of the average adolescent.  For example, what happens when a teenager asks the question, “How do we know there is a God?”  The standard apologetic answer is the cosmological, teleological, and anthropological arguments for God’s existence.  I tested the readability level of different articles written by well-known apologists on the “Teleological Argument” for the existence of God.  The readability score of one of these articles according to the Flesch-Kincaid was 12.27, or well above a 12th grade reading level.  In fact, it was at the beginning a college level.  Consider that the 1040EZ tax code is at 10.50 readability level.  Therefore, this article is more difficult to read than the tax code!  My examination of the other apologetic articles revealed that the readability level of these writings to be consistently high. 

These apologetic materials, while well written, are far beyond an adolescent’s scope in reading and comprehension.  Consider that the Flesch reading ease number for the average American is 65.  The one article in question that I tested had a reading ease number of 47.  The SMOG readability test graded this article at an even higher level, being 14.95. 

National literacy surveys have shown that the average adult in the U.S. reads at the 8th-grade level. Many students read “below grade level”. For example, it is well known that many college graduates read at the 10th-grade level, many high-school graduates read at the 8th-grade level, and many eight graders read at the sixth-grade level (DuBay 2006, National Assessment of Adult Literacy).  Nearly all of today’s blockbuster writers write at the 7th-grade level, including John Grisham, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Dan Brown.  Experts today recommend writing legal and health information at the 7th-grade level.

We must examine our apologetic material from the reading and comprehension level of an adolescent. This material then must be rewritten at a level that the adolescent can comprehend.  At the same time, this apologetic material must not be watered down or diluted from its biblical wisdom.  When that happens, we will have ammunition in this battle for the hearts and minds of our church adolescents.  Writing apologetic material at a level the adolescent can comprehend will be the focus of my Ed.D. dissertation.

These articles began by examining the large number of adolescents who are dropping out of church, many of whom will never return.  It revealed that the primary reason was a distrust of the Bible.  The seeds of doubt in the Bible and Christianity began in middle school and grew in high school and bore fruit in the college years. It was stated that apologetics must be brought to the forefront of the disciple-making ministry of the church, and suggestions were offered in how to do this.  Finally, it was clearly seen that our apologetic material must now be written on a level that the adolescent can comprehend.  It is my belief and prayer that when these suggestions are put into practice, we will begin to see our discipleship efforts rewarded with the most important group of all…our children!

 

“I’m Back”

It was Monday, the day after Thanksgiving break and I was in my classroom setting up for class.  Kathy, the girl mentioned at the beginning of the first article, came up and said, “Hi, Dr. Douglass.  I’m back!”  I looked up and smiled, and said, “I see that.  Welcome back.  Did you have a good Thanksgiving?”  “Yes, I did,” replied Kathy.  “But that is not what I mean.  I’m back.”  I was puzzled.  “I don’t think I understand what you mean, Kathy,” I said.  With a smile, she replied, “On Thanksgiving evening, I had a long talk with my parents.  On Friday, afternoon, I had a good talk with my pastor.  And yesterday, on Sunday morning, I went forward and rededicated my life to the Lord.”  I was thrilled!.  “That’s great!” I exclaimed.  “What happened?”  With tears running down her cheeks, she said, “You know how you so often say that unbelievers have good questions, but we have good answers?  I had good questions but I didn’t know the answers.  Now I do know the answers and they’re my answers.  I’m back!”

In high school, many parents are passionate about getting their child into college.  These parents must now become just as passionate about helping their child to spiritually survive college.  Remember…unbelievers have good questions, but we have good answers.  We must know them and share them with our children, before it is too late.

 

Bibliography

Barna, G. (2006, September 11).  “Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited   About Christianity”.Barna Research Online. Retrieved on September 12, 2009, from

www.barna.org/…teensnext…/147-most-twentysomethings-put-christianity-on-the-shelf-following-spiritually-active-teen-years .

Barna, G. (2001). Growing True Disciples. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press.

Bergin, M. (2007, August). Tenured Bigots. Free Republic.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1880406/posts

Budziszewski, J. (2008). Ask Me Anything 2. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Budziszewski, J. (2004). How to Stay Christian in College. Colorado Springs: Think, NavPress.

Geisler, N. (1990). When Skeptics Ask. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Grossman, Cathy Lynn. (2007). Young Adults aren’t Sticking with Church, USA Today.Retrieved on September 20, 2009, fromhttp://www.usatoday.com/printedition/life/20070807/d_churchdropout07.art.htm.

Ham, K. (2009). Already Gone. Green Forest: Master Books.

MacArthur, J. (1989). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24-28. Chicago: Moody Press.

Railsback, G. (1994, 2001). An Exploratory Survey of the Religiosity and Related Outcomes Among College Students. Doctoral dissertation , University of Cailifornia at Los Angeles, Dissertation Abstracts International, 55, 03A.

Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler. (2003). Who Made God? Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Stetzer, E. (2007). LifeWay Research Uncovers Reasons 18-To 22-Year-Olds Drop Out of Church. Retrieved on September 22, 2009, from

http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page/0,1703,A%253D165951%2526M%253D201117,00.html

Zacharias, R., Geisler, N. (2003). Is Your Church Ready? Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

*Randy Douglass is Adjunct Professor of Religion at Charleston Southern University as well as a Bible teacher at Palmetto Christian Academy in Mount Pleasant, SC. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree and is currently working on the Doctor of Education degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He is the coauthor of two books with Dr. Norman Geisler: Bringing Your Faith to Work: Answers for Break-Room Skeptics(Baker Books, 2005) and Integrity at Work: Finding Your Ethical Compass in a Post-Enron World (Baker Books, 2007)

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

Of possible interest:  Preparing your Teen for the Intellectual Challenge of College

 

An Apologetic for Apologetics

An Apologetic for Apologetics
by Norman L. Geisler

Introduction

Christianity is under attack today, and it must be defended. There are attacks from within by cults, sects, and heresies. And there are attacks from without by atheists, skeptics, and other religions. The discipline that deals with a rational defense of the Christian Faith is called apologetics. It comes from the Greek word apologia (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) which means to give a reason or defense.

I. Objections to Defending the Faith: Biblical and Extra-Biblical

Many objections have been offered against doing apologetics.  Some offer an attempted biblical justification.  Others are based in extra-biblical reasoning.  First, let’s take a look at those based on biblical texts.

 A. Objections to Apologetics from Within the Bible

 1. The Bible Does Not Need to Be Defended

One objection to apologetics often made is the claim that the Bible does not need to be defended; it simply needs to be expounded. Hebrews 4:12 is often cited as evidence: “The Word of God is alive and powerful…” (NIV).  It is said that the Bible is like a lion; it does not need to be defended but simply let loose. A lion can defend itself. Several things should be noted in response.

First, this begs the question as to whether or not the Bible is the Word of God. Of course, God’s Word is ultimate, and it speaks for itself. But how do we know the Bible is the Word of God, as opposed to the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, or some other book? One must appeal to evidence to determine which of the many conflicting books really is the Word of God.

Second, no Christian would accept the claim of a Muslim without question that “the Qur’an is alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword….” We would demand evidence.  Likewise, no non-Christian should accept our claim without evidence.

Third, the analogy of the lion is misleading. A roar of a lion speaks with authority only because we know from previous knowledge what a lion can do. Without the tales of woe about a lion’s ferocity, its roar would not have the same authoritative effect on us. Likewise, without evidence to establish one’s claim to authority, there is no good reason to accept that authority.

2. Jesus Refused to do Signs for Evil Men

Some argue that Jesus rebuked people who sought signs. Hence, we should be content simply to believe without evidence. Indeed, Jesus did on occasion rebuke sign seekers. He said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” (Matt. 12:39 cf. Luke 16:31). However, this does not mean that Jesus did not desire people to look at the evidence before they believed for many reasons.

First, even in this very passage Jesus went on to offer the miracle of His resurrection as a sign of who He was, saying “But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 12:39-40).  Likewise, Paul gave many evidences for the resurrection (in 1 Cor. 15).  And Luke speaks of “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3) of the resurrection.

Second, when John the Baptist inquired whether He was the Christ, Jesus offered miracles as proof, saying: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt. 11:5). When replying to the Scribes, He said: “`But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ He said to the paralytic, `I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home'” (Mark 2:10-11). Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).

Third, Jesus was opposed to sign-seeking or entertaining people by miracles. Indeed, He refused to perform a miracle to satisfy king Herod’s curiosity (Luke 23:8).  On other occasions He did not do miracles because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:58), not wishing to “cast pearls before swine.” The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was apologetic, namely, to confirm His message (cf. Ex. 4:1f; Jn. 3:2; Heb. 2:3-4). This He did in great abundance, for “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him…” (Acts 2:22).

3. Paul Was Unsuccessful In His Use of Reason on Mars Hill and Later Discarded the Approach

Opponents of apologetics sometimes argue that Paul was unsuccessful in his attempt to reach the thinkers on Mars Hill (Acts 17), discarding the method and later telling the Corinthians that he wanted to “know Jesus and Him only” (1 Cor. 2:2). However, this interpretation is based on a misunderstanding of the text.

For one thing, Paul did have results on Mars Hill. For some people were saved, including a philosopher. The text says clearly “A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others” (Acts 17:34).

Second, nowhere in either Acts or 1 Corinthians does Paul indicate any repentance or even regret over what he did on Mars Hill. This is reading into the text what simply is not there.

Third, Paul’s statement about preaching Jesus and Jesus only is not a change in the content of Paul’s preaching. This is what he did everywhere. Even to the philosophers “he preached Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18 cf. v. 31). So there was nothing unique about what he preached; it was simply how he did it. Paul tailored his starting point to where the audience was. With the heathen at Lystra he began by an appeal to nature (Acts 14) and ended by preaching Jesus to them. With the Jews he began with the OT and moved on to Christ (Acts 17:2-3). But with the Greek thinkers Paul began with creation and reason to a Creator and on to His Son Jesus who died and rose again (Acts 17:24f).

 4. Only Faith, not Reason, Can Please God

Heb. 11:6 insists that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” This would seem to argue against the need for reason. In fact, it would appear that asking for reasons, rather than simply believing, would displease God. In response to this argument against apologetics two important points must be made.

First of all, the text does not say that with reason it is impossible to please God. It says without faith one cannot please God. It does not eliminate reason accompanying faith or a reasonable faith.

Second, God in fact calls upon us to use our reason (1 Pet. 3:15). Indeed, He has given “clear” (Rom. 1:20) and “convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3 NASB) so that we do not have to exercise blind faith.

Third, this text in Hebrews does not exclude “evidence” but actually implies it. For faith is said to be “the evidence” of things we do not see (Heb. 11:1 NKJV). For example, the evidence that someone is a reliable witness justifies my believing his testimony of what he saw and I did not. Even so, our faith in “things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV) is justified by the evidence we have that God does exist which is “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Rom. 1:20).

5. Paul Said God Can’t be Known by Human Reason when he wrote, “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21 NKJV).

However, this cannot mean that there is no evidence for God’s existence, since Paul declared in Romans that the evidence for God’s existence is so “plain” as to render even the heathen “without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). Further, the context in 1 Corinthians is not God’s existence but His plan of salvation through the cross. This cannot be known by mere human reason but only by divine revelation. It is “foolish” to the depraved human mind.

What is more, the “wisdom” of which he speaks is “the wisdom of this world” (v. 20), not the wisdom of God. Paul called a sophist the “disputer of this age” (v. 20). Sophist could argue for argument’s sake. This leads no one to God.
Further, Paul’s reference to the world by wisdom not knowing God is not a reference to the inability of human beings to know God through the evidence He has revealed in creation (Rom. 1:19-20) and conscience (Rom. 2:12-15). Rather, it is a reference to man’s depraved and foolish rejection of the message of the cross.

Finally, in this very book of 1 Corinthians Paul gives his greatest apologetic evidence for the Christian Faith–the eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ which his companion Luke called “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3 NASB).
Indeed, even though man knows clearly through human reason that God exists, nevertheless, he “suppresses” or “holds down” this truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).  Thus, it is the presence of such strong evidence that leaves him “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

6. The Natural Man Can’t Understand Spiritual Truths

Paul insisted that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God…” (1 Cor. 2:14). They cannot even “know” them. What use, then, is apologetics? In response to this argument against apologetics two things should be observed.

First, Paul does not say that natural persons cannot perceive truth about God, but only that they do not receive it (Gk: dekomai, welcome). Indeed, Paul emphatically declared that the basic truths about God are “clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20). The problem is not that unbelievers are not aware of God’s existence but that they do not want to accept Him because of the moral consequences this would have on their sinful lives.

Second, 1 Cor. 2:14 says they do not “know” (Gk: ginosko) which can mean to know by experience. In other words, they know God in their mind (Rom. 1:19-20) but they have not accepted Him in their heart (Rom. 1:18). The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, `There is no God'” (Psa. 14:1).

7. Only the Holy Spirit Can Bring Someone to Christ

The Bible says that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. He alone can convict, convince, and convert (John 16:8; Eph. 2:1; Titus 3:5-7). This is certainly true, and no orthodox Christian denies this. However, two things must be kept in mind.
First, the Bible does not teach that the Holy Spirit will always do this apart from reason and evidence. It is not either the Holy Spirit or Reason. Rather, it is the reasonable Holy Spirit using good reason to reach rational people.  God is always the efficient cause of salvation, but apologetic arguments can be an instrumental cause used by the Holy Spirit to bring one to Christ.

Second, apologists do not believe that apologetics saves anyone. It only provides evidence in the light of which people can make rational decisions. It only provides evidence that Christianity is true. One must still place his faith in Christ in order to be saved. Apologetics only leads the “horse” to the water. Only the Holy Spirit can persuade him drink.

8. Apologetics is not Used in the Bible

It is objected that if apologetics is biblical, then why don’t we see it done in the Bible? There are two basic reasons for this misunderstanding.

First, by and large the Bible was not written for unbelievers but for believers. Since they already believe in God, Christ, etc., they are already convinced these are true. Hence, apologetics is directed primarily for those who do not believe so that they may have a reason to believe.

Second, contrary to the claim of critics, apologetics is used in the Bible. 1) The first chapter of Genesis confronts the mythical accounts of creation known in that day. 2) Moses’ miracles in Egypt were an apologetic that God was speaking through him (Ex. 4:1-9). 3) Elijah did apologetics on Mt. Carmel when he proved miraculously that Yahweh is the true God, not Baal (1 Kings 18). 4) As we have shown in detail elsewhere,  Jesus was constantly engaged in apologetics, proving by signs and wonders that He was the Son of God (John 3:2; Acts 2:22). 5) The Apostle Paul did apologetics at Lystra when he gave evidence from nature to the heathen that the supreme God of the universe existed and that idolatry was wrong (Acts 14). 6) The classic case of apologetics in the NT is Acts 17 where Paul reasoned with the philosophers on Mars Hill. He not only presented evidence from nature that God existed but also from history that Christ was the Son of God. Indeed, he cited pagan thinkers in support of his arguments.

B. Objections to Apologetics from Outside the Bible

These objections against apologetics are geared to show either its irrationality, inadequacy, or fruitlessness. Many come from a rationalistic or skeptical point of view. Others are fideistic which denies reason should be used to support ones faith.

1. Human Reason Can’t Tell Us Anything About God. Some critics assert that human reason cannot give us any information about God.

First, it says that reason doesn’t apply to questions about God. But this statement itself is offered as a reasonable statement about the issue of God. In order to say that reason doesn’t apply to God, one has to apply reason to God in that very statement. So reasoning about God is inescapable. Reason cannot be denied without being employed.
Second, purely hypothetical reason itself does not tell us anything exists, including God.  But since something undeniably exists (e.g., I do), then reason can tell us much about existence, including God.  For instance, if something finite and contingent exists, then something infinite and necessary must exist (i.e., God).  And if God exists, then it is false that He does not exist. And if God is a necessary Being, then He cannot not exist. Further, if God is Creator and we are creatures, then we are not God. Likewise, reason informs us that if God is omnipotent, then He cannot make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it. For whatever He can make, He can lift.

2. Reason is Useless in Religious Matters

Fideism argues that reason is of no use in matters that deal with God. One must simply believe. Faith, not reason, is what God requires (Heb. 11:6). In response to this several points can be made.
First, even from a biblical point of view God calls on us to use our reason (Isa. 1:18; 1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 22:36-37). God is a rational being, and He created us as rational beings. God would not insult the reason He gave us by asking us to ignore it in such important matters as our beliefs about Him.

Second, this position is fideistic and is self-defeating. For either it has a reason that we should not reason about God or it does not. If it does, then it defeats itself by using reason to say we should not use reason. If fideism has no reason for not using reason, then it is without reason for its position, in which case there is no reason why one should accept fideism.
Furthermore, to claim reason is just optional for a fideist will not suffice. For either the fideist offers some criteria for when we should be reasonable and when we should not, or else his view is simply arbitrary. If he offers some rational criteria for when we should be rational, then he does have a rational basis for his view, in which case he is not really a fideist after all. Reason is not the kind of thing in which a rational creature can choose to participate. By virtue of being rational by nature one must be part of rational discourse. And rational discourse demands that one follow the laws of reason.

A major contribution made by the late Francis Schaeffer was his emphasis on the need for a reasoned approach to apologetics.  In his Escape from Reason he showed the futility of those who attempt to reject reason.  He constantly chided those who make a “dichotomy between reason and non-reason.” He also criticizes those who forsake reason for a  “lower story” materialism or an “upper story” mysticism.

3. You Can’t Prove God or Christianity by Reason

According to this objection, the existence of God cannot be proven by human reason. The answer depends on what is meant by “prove.”

First, if “prove” means to demonstrate with mathematical certainty, then most theists would agree that God’s existence cannot be proven in this way. The reason for this is because mathematical certainty deals only with the abstract, and the existence of God (or anything else) is a matter of concrete, real existence.  Mathematical certainty is based on certain axioms or postulates that must be assumed in order to get a necessary conclusion. But if God’s existence must be assumed in order to be proven, then the conclusion that God exists is only based on the assumption that He exists, in which case it is not really a proof at all. Mathematical certainty is deductive in nature. It argues from given premises. But one cannot validly conclude what is not already implied in the premise(s). In this case one would have to assume God exists in the premise in order to validly infer this in the conclusion. But this begs the question.

Second, if by “prove,” however, we mean “give adequate evidence for” or “provide good reasons for,” then it would seem to follow that one can prove the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. Indeed, many apologists have offered such proofs and people have become Christians after reading their writings.

4. No One is Persuaded of Religious Truths by Reason

According to this argument, no one is ever persuaded to accept a religious truth by reason. Psychological, personal, and subjective factors prompt religious decisions, not rational arguments. But this objection is patently false for many reasons.
First of all, who ever became a believer because he thought it was irrational and absurd to do so. Certainly, the vast majority of people who believe in God or accept Christ do so because they think it is reasonable.

Second, this objection confuses two kinds of belief: belief in and belief that. Certainly, religious belief in God and in Christ is not based on evidence and reason. But neither is it done without them. Every rational person looks to see if there is evidence that the elevator has a floor before he steps in it. Likewise, all rational people want evidence that an airplane can fly before they get in it. So belief that is prior to belief in. Apologetics deals with the former. It provides evidence that God exists, that Christ is the Son of God, and that the Bible is the Word of God. A religious decision is a step of faith in the light of the evidence, not a leap of faith in the dark–in the absence of evidence.

II. The Reasons for the Need to Defend the Faith

There are many good reasons for doing apologetics.  First of all, God commands us to do so.  Second, reason demands it.  Third, the world needs it.  Fourth, results confirm it.

A. God Commands the Use of Reason

The most important reason for doing apologetics is that God told us to do it. Over and over the New Testament exhorts us to defend the Faith.  1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts acknowledge Christ as the holy Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to every one who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This verse says several important things.
First, it says that we should be ready. We may never run across someone who asks the tough questions about our faith, but we should still be ready just in case. But being ready is not just a matter of having the right information available, it is also an attitude of readiness and eagerness to share with others the truth of what we believe.


Second, we are to give a reason to those who ask the questions (cf. Col. 4:5-6). It is not expected that every one needs pre-evangelism, but when they do need it, we must be able and willing to give them an answer.


Finally, it links doing pre-evangelism with making Christ Lord in our hearts. If He is really Lord, then we should be obedient to Him by “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and … taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). In other words we should be confronting issues in our own minds and in the expressed thoughts of others that are preventing them from knowing God. That is what apologetics is all about.


In Philippians 1:7 speaks of his mission as one of “defending and confirming the gospel.” He added in verse 16, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Phil 1:16). And we are put where we are to defend it as well.


Jude 3 declares: “Beloved, while making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt it necessary to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith once for all given over to the saints.” The people Jude was writing to had been assaulted by false teachers and he needed to encourage them to protect (literally agonize for) the faith as it had been revealed through Christ. Jude makes a significant statement about our attitude as we do this in verse 22 when he says, “have mercy on some, who are doubting.” Apologetics, then, is a form of compassion.


Titus 1:9 makes knowledge of Christian evidences a requirement for church leadership. An elder in the church should be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”


In 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Paul declares that “the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” Anyone attempting to answer the questions of unbelievers will surely be wronged and be tempted to lose patience, but our ultimate goal is that they might come to a knowledge of the truth that Jesus has died for their sins.

Indeed, the command to use reason is part of the greatest command. For Jesus said, “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).

B. Reason Demands It

God created us with human reason. It is part of His image in us (Gen. 1:27 cf. Col. 3:10). Indeed, it is that by which we are distinguished from “brute beasts” (Jude 10). God calls upon us to use our reason (Isa. 1:18) to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6); to determine  right from wrong (Heb. 5:14), and to discern a true from a false prophet (Deut. 18:19-22).
A fundamental principle of reason is that we should have sufficient grounds for what we believe. An unjustified belief is just that–unjustified. Being created rational creatures and not “unreasoning animals” (Jude 10 NASB), we are expected to use the reason God gave us.  Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Likewise, the unexamined faith is not worth having. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Christians “to give a reason for their hope” (1 Pet. 3:15). This is part of the great command to love God with all our mind, as well as our heart and soul (Matt. 22:36-37).

C. The World Needs It

Many people refuse to believe without some evidence, as indeed they should. Since God created us as rational beings He does to expect us to live irrationally. He wants us to look before we leap.  This does not mean there is no room for faith. But God wants us to take a step of faith in the light–in the light of evidence. He does not want us to leap in the dark.
We should have evidence that something is true before we place our faith in it. For example, no rational person steps in an elevator unless he has some reason to believe it will hold him up. Likewise, no reasonable person gets on an airplane that has a broken wing and smoke coming out the tail end. Belief that is prior to belief in. Evidence and reason is important to establish belief that. Once this is established, one can place his faith in it.  Thus, the rational person will want some evidence that God exists before he places his faith in God. Likewise, rational unbelievers will want evidence for the claim that Jesus is the Son of God before they place their trust in Him.

D. Results Confirm It

There is a common misnomer among many Christians that apologetics never helps to bring anyone to Christ. This is a serious misrepresentation of the facts.

1. The Conversion of St. Augustine

There were several significant rational turning points in Augustine’s life before he came to Christ. First, he reasoned his way out of Manichaean dualism. One significant turning point here was the success of a young Christian debater of Manicheans called Helpidius.


Second, Augustine reasoned his way out of total skepticism by seeing the self-defeating nature of it.
Third, were it not for studying Plotinus, Augustine informs us that he would not even been able to conceive of a spiritual being, let alone believe in one.

2. The Conversion of Frank Morrison

This skeptical attorney set out to disprove Christianity by showing the resurrection never occurred. The quest ended with his conversion and a book titled Who Moved the Stone? in which the first chapter was titled “The Book That Refused to be Written”!  More recently another unbelieving attorney had a similar journey.

3. The Conversion of Simon Greenleaf

At the turn of the century the Professor of Law at Harvard, who wrote the book on legal evidence, was challenged by students to apply the rules of legal evidence to the New Testament to see if its testimony would stand up in court. The result was a book titled The Testimony of the Evangelists in which he expresses his confidence in the basic documents and truths of the Christian Faith.

4. The Results of Debates

Many people have been led toward or to Christianity as a result of debates we have had with atheists and skeptics. After debating Berkley University philosopher Michael Scriven on “Is Christianity Credible?” the University of Calgary audience voted three to one in favor of Christianity. The campus news paper report read: “Atheist Fails to Convert Campus Christians!”  Following a debate on the rationality of belief in Christianity with the head of the philosophy department at the University of Miami, the Christian student leadership held a follow-up meeting. The atheist professor attended and expressed doubts about his view expressed at the debate. It was reported that some 14 people who had attended the debate made decisions for Christ.


After a debate on the Moonie religion at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a Moonie girl asked some questions about Christianity. I could see that she had been convinced that the Unification Church was not teaching the truth. After talking with her briefly, I introduced her to a female seminary student who led her to Christ.
When sharing the gospel with Don Bly, he informed us that he was an atheist. After reasoning with him from atheism to open-minded agnosticism, he agreed to read Frank Morrison’s book. The evidence for Christ’s resurrection convinced him and we had the privilege of leading him to Christ. He has subsequently raised his family for Christ became a leader in a church south of St. Louis.

5. The Results of Reading Apologetic Writings

I have received a number of letters and reports of people who have been converted to belief that God exists or to belief in Christ after readingApologetics works. God used its arguments as an instrument to bring people toward and to Christ.
The world’s most notorious atheist wrote, “Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called super- natural or miraculous.  In short, my discovery of the divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith.”


Noted former atheist Francis Collins said, “After twenty eight years as a believer, the Moral Law still stands out for me as the strongest signpost to God.  More than that, it points to a God who cares about human beings, and a God who is infinitely good and holy.”


A college student wrote, “God sent me your book ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’….  I opened the book thinking I would rip it apart with my superior viewpoint and about one quarter of the way through I ended up apologizing to God and accepting him into my heart.  I have since grown exponentially in Christ, and I thought I would thank you for your inspiring book.”


“I just got done reading Why I Am a Christian, and I was blown away.  It is perhaps the most powerful and influential Christian book I’ve ever read.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  It provided the answers to the roadblocks that were guarding against my faith…. Your book pressed the red button setting off the nuclear bomb of my faith.”

Conclusion

Christianity is under attack today and must be defended against attacks from within by cults and heresies and from without by skeptics and other religions.  We have a reasonable Faith, and the Bible has commanded that we give reasons for it. As perhaps the greatest apologist of the twentieth century, C. S. Lewis, said: “To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their ground–would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” The reason we need to defend the true religion is because there are false religions. The reason we need to stand for authentic Christianity is that there are counterfeit forms of Christianity.


*This article is a revision of a previously unpublished article called “The Need for Apologetics.”


**Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from the Bible are taken from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV).

Sources

Bush, Russ L., ed., Classical Readings in Christian Apologetics

Clark, Gordon H., Religion, Reason and Revelation

Corduan, Winfried, Reasonable Faith.

Geisler, Norman L., Christian Apologetics

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald Brooks, When Skeptics Ask

Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Lewis, Gordon R., Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims

McDowell, Josh, Evidence That Demands A Verdict

Montgomery, John W., Faith Founded on Fact

Moreland, J. P., Scaling The Secular City

Smith, Wilbur M., Therefore Stand

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

Crossway Books, 2004

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Translations available:  Dutch, Korean, Portuguese and Romanian

Translation in Brazillian Portugese: Não tenho fé suficiente para ser ateu

Não tenho fé suficiente para ser ateu

Norman Geisler

Editora Vida

Idéias com o objetivo de destruir a fé cristã sempre bombardeiam os alunos do ensino médio e das universidades. Este livro serve como um antídoto excepcionalmente bom para refutar tais premissas falsas. Ele traz informações consistentes para combater os ataques violentos das ideologias seculares que afirmam que a ciência, a filosofia e os estudos bíblicos são inimigos da fé cristã.

Antes de tocar a questão da verdade do cristianismo, essa obra aborda a questão da própria verdade, provando a existência da verdade absoluta. Os autores desmontam as afirmações do relativismo moral e da pós-modernidade, resultando em uma valiosa contribuição aos escritos contemporâneos da apologética cristã.

Geisler e Turek prepararam uma grande matriz de perguntas difíceis e responderam a todas com habilidade. Uma defesa lógica, racional e intelectual da fé cristã.

from http://www.apologia.com.br/?p=33