03 October 2006

Leaning on Jesus (apologetically)

by Dan Phillips

To overgeneralize grossly, there are two respectable approaches to apologetics.

(I say "respectable," because dodging, avoiding, feigning a stroke, pretending not to speak English, copping out, or simply trading insults or slogans don't really count.)

One approach is that of the Triablogue guys, God love 'em. These brothers apparently never met a pagan blurt, no matter how cut-'n'-pasted and hackneyed, that they didn't have the time, patience, energy and smarts to respond to -- line by line, syllable by syllable, punctuation-mark by punctuation-mark. There's a real need for that sort of approach. It's in the same continent as J. Gresham Machen's still-classic Virgin Birth of Christ and John Owen's... well, Owen's anything. ("What time is it? Well, sonny, first men mine ore from the mountains, then they smelt the ore, and from it they form tiny working parts by....")

Another approach is called for on other occasions, for which one might coin the phrase "leaning-on-Jesus" apologetics. It goes something like this.

Bob Unbeliever makes some billowy assertion. It could be any of a million. It's been heard and dealt with a thousand times before lunch last Tuesday. It's always announced with the air of a fresh word from Sinai.

  • "I just can't believe that God would send anyone to Hell simply because he doesn't believe this or that dogma"
  • "I have a very personal relationship with God, and don't need any books, churches, or saviors"
  • "Genesis is a myth borrowed from Chaldean legends"
  • "All religions are basically the same"
  • "The Bible is a storybook"
  • "Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher. No more"
  • "You should worship God. Not Jesus"
  • "It doesn't matter what anyone believes, so long as he's sincere"
  • "The most important thing is how people treat people, not what their doctrine is"
  • "There are many paths to God"
  • "God speaks in every religion"
...and on and on. Doubtless you could multiply the list by a factor of ten.

Now, there's a real point to going Triablogue on these chestnuts. But the thing is, every one of them has been decisively Triablogued (or the equivalent) a hundred times already. More. And that's good. But sometimes, another approach might be more effective.

Here is my suggestion for that other approach. It can be put in eight words. Are you ready for them? Here they are:

"Why should I believe you instead of Jesus?"

(Alternate nine-word form: "How did you get so much smarter than Jesus?")

Why do I suggest this?

First, it is true that sometimes a fool has to be given a long, complex, wise, devastating tour de force response (Proverbs 26:4). But other times he just has to be set back on his heels (Proverbs 26:5). And anyone who doesn't believe Jesus is some kind of fool (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 1:22; Titus 3:3).

Second, because we should never forget that Jesus is our real focus, and holding Him forth is our real burden. We want (or should want) to preach Christ to our unbelieving friends, relatives, acquaintances (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:3; Colossians 1:27-28).

Our real primary goal isn't to convince everyone that evolution is folly, homosexuality is a sin, paganism is false, there is a god, abortion is murder, or even that the Bible is unique and inspired. There will be a lot of people in Hell who have right opinions on all those subjects. Nobody ever went to Heaven simply because he held a correct view about any or all of them. The correct answer to the question, "What can wash away my sin?" is not "Nothing but the accurate dating of the Pauline corpus."

The correct opinion about human origins, or world religions, or homosexuality, or private property, does not save. Jesus saves. Therefore, we want to preach Jesus.

So why not cut straight to Him? Why not make The issue the issue? After all, isn't it the truth that all these other errors are best addressed, once the matter of Jesus' Lordship is addressed?

Third, because Jesus can carry the weight. I'm convinced of that. You could say that I am a Christian because I am convinced of that fact; you could equally say that I am convinced of that fact because I am a Christian. It goes both ways.

My apologetic point is not that I'm smarter than Wellhausen or Winfrey, Hick or Hawking, Crossan or Campbell, Darwin or Donahue. My apologetic point is that Jesus is literally infinitely smarter than any of them -- or than I, for that matter. I don't primarily want to convince them that Chopra is wrong. I primarily want to convince them (God doing His miraculous work above, beyond, through, and in spite of me) that Jesus is right.

Now, I hasten to add two caveats:

First, though I've tried with my usual pathological obsessiveness to word myself carefully, I know someone is going to say I'm putting the thoroughgoing-type guys down. (Frank Turk: "Food fight! Phillips and Triablogue!") Or someone will suggest that I don't think the issues I've mentioned matter. Neither is even remotely the case. That approach to apologetics is needed, and those issues need to be dealt with. I am only saying that it is neither the only approach, nor always the most effective. And I'm saying, one thing at a time -- and at least sometimes let's start with the linch-pin issue.

Second, let me warn anyone away from thinking, "Oh, Cool! I love that! I just play the Jesus-card, and I'm done! Whew! I don't have to study or think or...." Wrong.

To do this right, you've got to know your Jesus, if I may put it that way. You had better be prepared to give a reasoned defense for the hope you have in Jesus (1 Peter 3;15). You had better be ready to explain what Jesus has to do with the subject at hand. You had better be ready to explain why you place unhesitating and absolutely confidence in Jesus.

In other words, you had better be ready to preach Jesus.

Above all, it will take a knowledge of Jesus as it is gained from Scripture alone. You'll need to know what He said, Himself, about Himself; and what the Holy Spirit said about Him through the prophets; and what He told the Holy Spirit to say about Him through the apostles. It's the word of Christ that brings saving faith (Romans 10:17). Above all, know that word.

But to some degree you should know at least some of the reasons why it is only rational to place confidence in the Gospels. Here's where a book like Reinventing Jesus can be very helpful.

The most important reasoned conviction an apologist/evangelist needs to have is that Jesus is the answer. The suggestion here is simply that it may often be wisest to cut straight to Him, rather than be drawn into a seventeen-movement ballet on the way there.

Because the trouble with these seventeen-movement verbal ballets is that they often break down on the first movement.

And what's the point of that?

AFTERWORD: my little Why I Am (Still) a Christian is one attempt to implement this approach at greater length, apologetically.

Dan Phillips's signature


83 comments:

Brad said...

This was very encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

Tom said...

For someone who has been frustrated and saddened by the direction some of my apologetic conversations have taken (read: we never got to Jesus), this is a wonderful antidote.

I wonder - do you think there are 'types' of unbelievers this would be more effective on than others?

Thanks for sharing this - the more I think on it, the more I know this will be used profitably by God in my life.

DJP said...

Tom, that's a great question.

First I feel constrained to say that NO apologetic is effective apart from the sovereign grace of God (Acts 16:14). But the Lord does work through means, and specifically through the means of Gospel-proclaimers (Romans 10:14-17).

Having said that, I'd observe that both Proverbs and the Gospels/Acts indicate that the Lord Himself both recommends and models different approaches to different folks, whether preaching, apologetics, or evangelism. He seemingly rebukes the Syrophoenecian woman, and thus draws out her faith; He makes requests of the woman at the well; He body-slams the rich young ruler; and so on. Paul takes one path on Mars Hill, another in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch.

So yes, what I'm suggesting here is that, while some folks might best be reached by a ten-hour start-with-first-principles approach -- others won't be. With others, that approach just flatters and confirms their arrogance, and allows them to remain circling comfortably in the suburbs of Polulogia.

With them, it may be most blest simply to say IN EFFECT, "You don't realize what an arrogant stand you're taking: here's what you're up against."

BTW, that is the approach, though done within my heart by the Holy Spirit, that led to my conversion.

donsands said...

I needed that. Thanks for the good words.

One thought. Relatives seem the most difficult for me. I have shared the good news with them about Jesus, but it hasn't been rewarding very often.

Is it true for us, as it was for our Lord, that we will not be accepted with our own kin? Mk. 6:4

Thanks again for the uplifting post.

Kim said...

I really liked this post, and I really like this comment:

Dan, do you think that the more "academic" type of unbeliever is more responsive to a more ten-hour start-with-first-principles approach because simply focusing on Jesus seems to "easy" for them?

This is what I found when I was in university. The unbelievers around me dismissed Jesus immediately, and wanted to focus on "proof."

Kim said...

Oops, you can ignore the first part of my comment. I was a poor editor of my comment. Get out your sword, Dan.

DJP said...

Not necessarily, Kim. If you've read Pilgrim's Progress, you'll understand what I mean when I say there are a lot of "Talkatives" out there. A longer approach can simply be more flattering to his deluded self-image.

But if someone's real need is more information and more epistemological ground-clearing, this approach will get there too.

4given said...

I did that Mr. Dan... almost word for word with the "Why should I believe you over Jesus?" because I have, quite honestly, never seen, in one particular instance, the utter mutilation of God's Word... and then the name-calling and accusations and hate mail flooded in. Mostly from a 70 year old woman who kept telling me she was 70 and that she was a Calvinist just like me. This was after many e-mails and comments on my blog. ... and quite a few comments that had to be deleted. Topic? Submission to my husband. Do I have it all perfectly right? Not likely... I have alot to learn.
THis is just a quiet warning to those who think this will nip things in the bud. It actually creates a whirlwind of fury even if you write those words with a tearful heart... there are times when in the midst of that fury, you have just got to "walk" away (and there are times my husband and pastor have had to help me discern that)... I do not have time to wipe bottoms. I even began to provide links to Scripture and sermons by people who have said it and defended it way better than I have in my posts as I continued to receive e-mails telling me to "release my fear". Blogging is not for the faint-hearted, no. But I have stepped in quick sand more often than I should have and it has been quite a learning experience. Very pride-stripping and humbling learning experience. And yes, I have much to learn... therefore I read and study the Word of God because I love His Word, I pray for His guidance and wisdom because without it I will be stuffing my head with knowledge without living it out... and I blog because I learn better by being able to articulate in written words what the Lord is teaching me. And I am held accountable, which is the biggest key to all of this, by my husband, pastor, and others that are grounded in the Word of God so that if or when I write in error, I am shown why.

DJP said...

True, Lisa. But don't you think that, at least in part, it's because you're getting straight to the real issue?

Isn't it maybe a bit like a doctor, dealing with a patient, and saying, "OK, here's something for all your headaches; and here's something for all your joint pains; and here's something for your energy; and here's something for your backache; and here's something for your depression; and here's something for your muscle fatigue...."

...when what he really needs to say, "You know, have you thought that maybe what's causing all this is you're 55 years old, five feet tall, and you weigh 325 pounds? Can I help you with that?"

C. T. Lillies said...

Exactly. There's no sense in giving them Pepto when they've got stomach cancer.

Is that where they got the term apologetics? Because you spend so much time saying, "I'm sorry, but..."

Much Grace
Josh

Tim Brown said...

Great article Dan!

To my own folly (or not, who knows but God ultimately) a few years ago, I used to spend alot of time uploading Christian graphics that I created to a Linux oriented website (kde-look.org). Well, I eventually found that the place was highly populated by all manner of people who would go to any lengths to remain in unbelief.

I debated everyone. And I mean just about everyone. One work I did had to do with Orion and the Pleaides from Job. The person I was debating with there ended up arguing against NASA. After that, he quieted down a bit. But through it all, I got some wisdom and a thickened skin.

Actually, I think some of my posts got a few people thinking. And the big bonus was I learned to better research and defend the Biblical faith.

Anyway, I've been there. I appreciate your approach as a primary response -- "So Why should I believe you instead of Jesus?"

Of course we should always be ready to "give an answer" but I prefer to cut to the chase and get to Jesus!

Gordon Cloud said...

Great post, Dan. I'm not sure how that picture of the hamburgers was relevant to the topic, but they sure did make my mouth water.

4given said...

You are a gifted articulator of truth. Libbie wrote about you and the whole TeamPyro in her post called "Theology is Rubbish". (Well, sort of.) She wrote I have great, great respect for those of my brothers and sisters who have and are studying theology. I believe they are vital to the continued health of the church as a whole. But the deepest of theology only requires a good communicator to unlock it to a different mind - else I fear you have created a new gnosticism of 'hidden' knowledge for the few.
I have much to learn and the Lord has often used this blog to challenge me in Truth and cause me to want to dig deeper into His Word.

Sharon said...

OK, obviously I missed something here. Who is Bob Bixby??

DJP said...

See the item referencing Bob Bixby here, Sharon.

DeathRowBodine said...

Thank you for reminding us that our end goal, where are eyes should be fixed, is upon Jesus Christ. We sometimes forget where we are going and begin to concentrate more on the path rather than upon where the path is going.

One thing that I feel compelled to mention is that just as God calls come to be teachers, pastors, evangelists, etc. to comprise the entire Body of Christ; He also gifts different people with natural abilities for different “styles” of apologetics. Some plant, others water, and yet others harvest. If we all are obsessed with being “harvesters” then we may not be working as God has gifted us. We become more interested in “winning souls” and putting notches in our belt than trusting that God is using us to bring about His ends.

I have on only a few occasions been near, even within the span of weeks, when someone who I have “witnessed” to submitted themselves to Christ and began to follow Him. I have, however, experienced the great joy that comes when someone calls me years later and said to me, “You remember when you said…. Well, that has had me thinking…. and I just want to say Thank You and let you know that I am now a believer.” Usually, these “calls out of nowhere” are followed by questions about theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Sometime the Lord uses me to plant, sometimes to water, rarely to harvest, but almost always grants me the opportunity to disciple those who he put me into contact with.

Nonetheless, it was refreshing to be reminded of the goal of apologetics, Thanks.

DeathRowBodine said...

Bob Bixby... He's the Incredible Hulk! Remember? (Please, please, let me see a PyroManiacs graphic with the 1970s style Hulk.)

[Bill, Bob... what's the difference in a few letters?]

DJP said...

Very good point, DB. Sometimes you plant, sometimes water, sometimes harvest. A dear friend has tirelessly and patiently and at length witnessed to countless cultists and others, and very seldom seen fruit. But I've no doubt that there's no problem with the way he's doing it.

REM said...

Booyah.

This made me want to be accused of being Christocentric and not issues centered. Way to swing for the fence, djp.

jeff said...

You know, as Christmas is right around the corner, I couldn't help but think of that little "Christian" slogan - "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Your post remined all of us that Jesus is the reason for EVERYTHING, and in HIm we find all of the answers for the profound dilemmas and issues of life. Thank you for that reminder, Dan.

SolaMeanie said...

I am reminded of the debate that surfaces from time to time between those of the evidentialist school vs. those of the presuppositional school.

I use both depending on the situation. I believe it was F.F. Bruce who stated that approximately 40 percent of the New Testament was apologetic in nature. Apologetics is commanded, but we need to remember ultimately that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate convincer.

SolaMeanie said...

As an aside, I also grow weary with those i.e. Paul Crouch who deride apologists as "heresy hunters" or as "the doctrine police."

It is true that some engaged in apologetics can do so for less than biblical motives and with little charity. However, I don't believe that is the case with most. To those whose doctrine was purchased at Bargain Junction, ANY critique however mild will be anathema. One needs look no further than the Emergent Church debate to see this.

centuri0n said...

You may be stunned by this, Dan-o, but I think you're smarter than Crossan, Campbell and Winfrey.

And as a side note for the readers, the accurate dating of the Pauline corpus may not wash away sins, but it is a marvelous presoak.

centuri0n said...

tom: I think there are plenty of people who will foam like Mentos and Diet Coke if you say this to them.

That doesn't make it ineffective or wrong.

étrangère said...

Hm, certainly often questions get to the real point rather better than trying to supply the 100 page dissertation on the point raised. And a good question will be pointed in the direction of talking about Jesus. I doubt one size fits all though. Newman's book Questioning evangelism is very good on this.

Vile Blasphemer said...

I've noticed that Triablogue's arguments usually boil down to- "I don't care what your point is; I'm right because of the Bible" or "my opinion is more valid then yours."

I don't find many of their members encouraging in the least as the logic for all of their arguments demands a Christian perspective- whenever I've read their material, I haven't seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for their claims.

Sure, they may be persistent and nit-picky, but surely there are better out there.

evanmay said...

Dan:

Good thoughts.

I'd also note to the reader that Dan has done his share of Traibloguing in the past as well! ;-)


My pal, Mr. Vile:

I've noticed that Triablogue's arguments usually boil down to- "I don't care what your point is; I'm right because of the Bible" or "my opinion is more valid then yours."

Could you give me an example of where we have done this?

I don't find many of their members encouraging in the least as the logic for all of their arguments demands a Christian perspective

We mustn't confuse internal and external critiques. When someone mounts an internal critique of the Christian faith (telling us that Christianity as a worldview is self-contradictory--which most of the arguments made against Christianity are internal), then, of course, the one making the objection must not be ignorant of the worldview he is critiquing. If he tells us "these two points are contradictory," but cannot correctly portray either point, then his argument falls.

but surely there are better out there.

I'm certain there are better out there.

DeathRowBodine said...

I have found that the best apologetic method to be used on those of Mr. Vile's ilk is the lock-them-in-the-moonshine-shed-for-a-couple-of-weeks method. It works wonders. Of course, you have to be miles from any neighbors so they don't hear the pleas for help AND you have to be willing to give up a little of your 'shine for the cause.

I've never seen one yet that wasn't praying to Jesus when I set them free and started shooting.

[Never seems to last tho'... I need to work on that. Maybe sightin' in my rifle would do the trick. Hard to lose your salvation when you are in the process of prayin' when you meet the Maker.]

DJP said...

Version of this entire post, comment-thread, and exchange that will appear on some boilerplate happy-2b-a-pagan site:

"...and ONE of them threatened to KILL me!"

Rick Potter said...

Hi Dan,

Something that impressed on my mind as I read your article was the relationship between apologetics and polemics. I use the term polemics to describe the internal and ongoing 'opportunity for discussion' among Christians. Have we apprehended Jesus to the point of 'selling all we have' to follow him? If not, how much weight does our context of "external" apologetics bear upon those who see discrepancies from within our apology. Here's a pratical question: Why is there even a need for someone like Frank Page to make the comment like "...we're on the same team" concerning Al Mohler. If, as your article suggests, that Jesus should be our starting place (I agree) - why is it that we haven't gotten it right yet? Do these questions fit the context of your post? I beleive your analogy about the doctor and the obese person right on! My agreement lies in the fact that I need to recognize that what is being reflected back at me is a discrepancy of my polemical mindset. And when that reflection reveals any corpulence, I must immediately "sell it off" for the sake of my apologetical outlook. Maybe then, the unity that I so desire with my pastor and my larger congergational family will come to fruition.

TheBlueRaja said...

Good post. It illustrates how the quality of the person making the argument matters as much as the argument (because their arguments are inextricably connected to their own agendas and motives).

. . . the accurate dating of the Pauline corpus may not wash away sins, but it is a marvelous presoak.

Dude, it's not even a moist-towelette!

Vile Blasphemer said...

"Could you give me an example of where we have done this?"

Okay.

"My contention is that, apart from the truth of my worldview, there is no such thing as "morally correct.""

Furthermore, my argument against is not internal; although for some odd reason I'm sure you'll imagine it as such.

I knew I'd draw one of you guys out here. ;)

centuri0n said...

Vile:

You're vile, man. Nice work.

Now, what's your point? Physical evidence? You mean in a test tube, or something someone who saw the fact can report to you like all the other facts you rely on every day and accept?

evanmay said...

Vile:

I figured you would cite that as an example. But this hardly establishes your point:

1. My comment, as you know, took place not in a debate over whether or not the Christian worldview is true but simply a discussion on what the Christian worldview believes about the pictures you posted.

2. My statement wasn't an argument. Though, it hinted at what my argument my be if I would make one. But it wasn't an argument.

So, was my statement really an "argument" that boils down to "I don't care what your point is; I'm right because of the Bible"?

Vile Blasphemer said...

centuri0n, I fail to see what was so amazing about that statemnt that you italicized the end of it.

Evan, nice rhetorical dodge.

Tim Brown said...

Vile:

A few posts back, you ascribed the following to Tribalogue:
**"my opinion is more valid then yours."*

From this, I can only assume that you are of the opinion that all opinions are equal...or am I mistaken? In other words, there is no heirarchy in what is true.

Regardless of why this was said, or what was meant by it I have one simple question...and please correct me if my premise is wrong:

Regarding the opinion I believe you hold, what is your objective, physical proof?

evanmay said...

Evan, nice rhetorical dodge.

Right back at ya, slick :-)

centuri0n said...

Vile:

The italics at the end are for effect -- we have HTML here and we like to use it.

Were you going to answer the question put to you, are is that all you have to say about your demand for evidence?

Vile Blasphemer said...

Tim Brown, you can only assume what I believe from the content of my argument- you'll find no where on the internet where I state what I believe. I know you like control (turning my own inquiry back on me and all), but I'll just be patient until you answer. Don't make me wait to long- I might get hit by a car tommorow.

Evan, as with Tim here, I'll just wait until you answer.

"Were you going to answer the question put to you, are is that all you have to say about your demand for evidence?"

Look, centuri0n, I know HTML too! I was being snarky. As I said before- why should I answer a question I first posited that has been restated to me without an answer to it? I'll be waiting as patiently as I wait for the others.

Any time now.

Tim Brown said...

Well, I just think that the "hard evidence" statement goes both ways, wouldn't you agree?

And I did ask you to correct me if my understanding was not correct.

Was I wrong in my deduction?

As far as questions to answer, sir, you never asked me one. So I wait for you to answer mine.

Tim Brown said...

Sorry, I forgot.

*tag* -- You're it.

Robin said...

Grace, folk.

C. T. Lillies said...

Vile while I'm not in the same league as these folks for arguing about this or that iota of the gospel for some reason this struck me as funny "Don't make me wait to long- I might get hit by a car tommorow." Or today for that matter. Maybe it'll be electrocution or anthrax in your mailbox or an undetected cranial aneurism--could be almost anything.

Doesn't seem like you're all that worried about it.

Much Grace
Josh

sf said...

Thank you Dan, this is very good stuff.
Also, the comments are always very interesting on this blog.
:)

keeper(GRPL)

slf

Taliesin said...

VB: I haven't seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for their claims.

VB: you'll find no where on the internet where I state what I believe.

In other words, you want to hold others to a standard (they must "prove" their beliefs) to which you will not submit yourself (because you will not allow your beliefs to be examined). Nice double standard.

Vile Blasphemer said...

Tim, ask me something rather than restating my own question and I might consider it a valid inquiry- you don't always have to hold the ball.

"Doesn't seem like you're all that worried about it."

C.T., Nope, certainly not in the least.

Taliesin Stephen King Fan, was that intended to invoke some kind of pity response?

centuri0n said...

Vile:

What question? There are no questions in your first post -- which was the place this exchange started. If you can't start this productively unless you ask the first question, I say ask your question and I'll answer it.

That sound fair?

Vile Blasphemer said...

centuri0n, well met- this entire exchange really is about a contention intended to draw criticism and argument against. It did, for the most part, do as it was intended, yet instead of defending against the contention, as it were, you've simply turned the statement back on me in its interrogative form. That said- I would rather you simply answer the assertion than awkwardly force it interrogatively back.

PS- your avatar looks like Neil Diamond promo art. ;-)

Mike Morrell said...

I like this. The quip could be seen as a tad smart-alecky, but if there was a way to do it with humility, this'd be a great route.

Mike

striving... said...

Hey Vile, I am just wondering what the whole point was. You just want to pick a fight with someone. I think it boils down to, you either got Jesus, or you don't. I could be wrong, Jesus could have you and you are just rebelling. And your issue is eternal, you do not understand christianity because you do not open your bible and study and pray about what you read. I do not think it is that hard. If I can read and understand most parts of the bible, though I am no theologian, I am sure someone like you could do it too. Sorry I just get a real bad vibe from you. How about I say a whole lot of prayers for you. God can work in your heart too.

striving... said...

CenturiOn, Any update on your t-shirt contest?

GeneMBridges said...

I don't find many of their members encouraging in the least as the logic for all of their arguments demands a Christian perspective.

Speaking for the arguments at, say, Debunking Christianity, I would say that "I don't find many of their members encouraging in the least as the logic for all their arguments demands an atheistic perspective."

One of the common problems with many of the interlocutors these days @ Tblogue is that they think that 's alright to assume metaphysical naturalism and that this is somehow "neutral." By "assuming a Christian perspective" we are only answering them on their own level. Indeed, we're taking a page out of their own rulebook, by beginning with a particular presupposition. Our interlocutors begin from a posture of unbelief. We begin on the other end. We can justify our worldview; they have yet to successfully do this.

Indeed most of them think that "it's all about them" when we respond. However, we keep in mind that we have readers who are not Christians and would like to see how these arguments work within the Christian worldview itself. So, while answering them, we write with this in mind.

Evan, nice rhetorical dodge.

Notice that this was the reply in response to a pointed question. Vile, Nice rhetorical dodge. Apparently, you're willing to ask others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself. After all, you're the one that states that there is nowhere on the internet where one will find a statement from you about what you believe.

you'll find no where on the internet where I state what I believe.

Uh-huh. Like I stated above, we can justify our worldview and have done so many times. You have yet to do so.

I haven't seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for their claims.

This is a basic category error. It conflates the nature of a historical claim, a physical claim, and the nature of a metaphysical claim.

Claiming that the Resurrection occurred is a historical claim. All we need is reliable testimony. Ditto for miracles. Oh, and, yes, before you bring up Fatima, as all atheists these days like to do, I'll repeat this one more time: each claim is unique and individual, with different qualities and quantities of evidence. One doesn't need to prove supernaturalism in order to prove a Resurrection. One needs only to prove that a resurrection occurred, given the nature and availability of the evidence at hand, and that resurrection is the one described of Christ in Scripture. Sure, it helps to be a theist, but that's not necessary for the argument's own validity. That, incidentally, is why atheists argue less about the Resurrection and more about the alleged defects and unreliability of the text.

Claiming that plants photosynthesize and convert CO2 to O2 is a physical claim, tested by physical evidence. Likewise, JasonE is discussing Eusebius and his writing at the moment. There's physical proof for his argumentation to be found, namely, Eusebius' history. Let's compare this to Richard Carrier and his "pagan copycat thesis." Where is the physical proof that Christianity borrowed from paganism? Let's stack up Mithraism or Osiris worship with Christianity and actually name the exact parallels.

Claiming that God exists because logic exists, a grossly oversimplified, but useful example, is a metaphysical claim. These are abstractions. What's more, God is defined as acting in the universe but not being of the universe. He is not a physical object. Theism is not pantheism or physicalism. So, all the skeptic is doing in requesting physical evidence for the existence of God is assuming a physicalist/naturalist posture, contrary to the claim that he begins from a "neutral" position. So, the reality is that evidence(s) does not/do not select for the worldview in which it/they are interpreted, because there is no such thing as a value free posture. The atheist begins from a posture of unbelief at worst, and unargued naturalistic premise at best. The Christian begins on the other end. Then there are those who range on the continuum in between. What is persuasive to one person is an individual phenomenon. What either person has to establish is that the worldview through which you interpret the evidence put before you has the metaphysical horsepower to back up its claims.

Thus, in light of this, to answer you at your own level, where is the physical proof for metaphysical naturalism? How can physicalism account for the existence of abstractions? Where can you observe the physical evidence for a thing not bringing itself into existence in order to prove the law of non-contradiction? I've not seen any physical proof for the existence of the laws of logic, but it's the atheist that argues for naturalism, so the onus is on him to produce the physical evidence to ground the abstraction. So, can your worldview withstand the standard your own standard of measurement?

I would rather you simply answer the assertion than awkwardly force it interrogatively back.

Assertions require real arguments in order to be answered. Thank you for admitting you are offering an assertion with no argument. You have done us all a great service.

Jon from Reidville, SC said...

Dan:

Thanks for the great post. We often get into the big philosophical discussion to puff our own ego as well as allowing it to puff up the other person in their unbelief. Often the best approach is to follow Paul and "preach Christ crucified!"

I posted today on the Ten Commandments and using them to witness. I think that with many people we need to follow the ol' KISS principle!

Thanks for another great post!

Scott said...

Jon, I agree with you, we often get tangled into a debate with other people and the result is a kick or in some cases a hit to our ego. I find that we as Christians often would prefer to hit the unbeliever’s ego rather than actually lead them to Christ...that's troublesome.

Regarding your KISS comment, if you really want to keep it simple why go with the 10 commandments, why not go with the two axioms Jesus embraced, love the lord your God and love your neighbor...Two is simpler than one!

centuri0n said...

My answer to your assertion, which I have already made once, is this:

I think you have a phony standard of evidence.

That said, I ask my question:

When you ask for evidence, do you mean in a test tube, or do you something someone who saw the fact can report to you like all the other facts you rely on every day and accept? [italics removed]

Doesn't it bother you at all that there has to be this much quibbling in order to have the most basic dialog? It seems to me, as a former atheist, that if you were asking questions or raising objections that were as powerful as you seem to think they are, they'd be more like a wreking ball than a butterfly.

Let me give you and example. I tell you, "my great-grandfather was a peasant farmer in Hungary."

You tell me: "Oh, horsefeathers. I'm sure you had a great-grandfather, ut I am also sure that, like me, you can't know who he is because you father, like mine, was an orphan -- abandoned at birth."

I reply: "No seriously -- My dad has extensive stories about him, my grandfathe told me all about him when I was a lad, and my father's brothers rave about him. He was real."

The testimony of the witnesses -- even decades after the fact -- is a wrecking ball.

If you come back with, "Yes, but do you really trust your father or his ne'er-do-well brothers? Or that grandfather of yours who has an agenda that includes the historical revision of your grandfather?" You have demonstrated something about yourself: you are willing to say anything in order to disprove a historical fact.

When you ask for evidence, do you mean in a test tube, or do you something someone who saw the fact can report to you like all the other facts you rely on every day and accept? [italics removed]

Have at it.

And I'm much better looking than Neil Diamond.

centuri0n said...

Gene:

I think you overlook the force of the historical evidence in the person of Jesus Christ.

That's my opinion, but there you go.

Vile Blasphemer said...

Striving, does that mean I can say that you don't understand Islam because you don't pick up the Quran and pray to Allah? I guess so.

Gene Bridges, LOL- okay, keep trying. More than your assumption that I'm an atheist, I especially like the silly little dig at the end.

Neil Diamond, that wasn't an argument against. Support your position against the assertion.

centuri0n said...

That's what I thought, VB.

Nice to meet you. Enjoy reading this blog.

When you stop chasing butterflies, I'll be glad to continue this conversation.

4given said...

I left a comment on this post earlier that mentioned being a good communicator (the deepest of theology only requires a good communicator to unlock it to a different mind ).
Let me define good communicator.
It isn't always someone with a great speaking voice, or an engaging personality or even someone who has the ability to write well. To me it is someone who has a heart for truth and bringing glory to God who takes this truth and lives it out (living it out, being the ultimate communication of truth).
In other words, "Theology is a lived discipline--we LIVE what we BELIEVE."--Al Mohler
That, as you know, is only by the grace of God alone... and then there is, of course, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Isn't it amazing that the Lord has chosen to use feeble men to proclaim His holy truth? and how carelessly we take that for granted.
All that said, your physician illustration was dead-on. I told my husband about it and he said, "Yeah, exactly." (he is a physician and a godly man)
Another approach to apologetics that I have probably failed at more often than what I would like to admit is that approach that requires a brokenness, a contrite spirit, a sincere prayer for humility when defending the precious Truths of His knowable and applicable Truth.
Excellent post that I have been obviously chewing on since I first read it.

Vile Blasphemer said...

centuri0n, I see you've given up- that's too bad; I'll always wonder how you would have answered my assertion. However, I do so relish seeing your frustrated irritability with giving a real answer. If you don't wish to address the assertion, I'll enjoy your sputtering disavowal.

If a "lost soul" questioned you in the same manner while you were out witnessing, would you react in this same fashion? Not exactly an effective act to winning souls for the Lord, is it?

centuri0n said...

yeah: did answer it. Your request for and defintion of "evidence" is phony.

That's my response -- and your replies here are evidence of that.

Nice to see you. Come back soon.

Vile Blasphemer said...

centuri0n, not much of a response- a bit spare to be adequate and you didn't even address the issue. You simply made an evaluative claim about the question itself- that didn't accomplish anything but to give yourself the air of an obstinate child. I can't imagine how your impatient paranoia plays out when you're witnessing in the community. However, I'd be willing to forget all that if you tell me what makes you think it's "phony" and how you define "phony"?

Paul Manata said...

Vile and I go way back, so to me I call him: Vile Sinner.

Anyway, VS had said:

VS: "I've noticed that Triablogue's arguments usually boil down to- "I don't care what your point is; I'm right because of the Bible" or "my opinion is more valid then yours."

I don't find many of their members encouraging in the least as the logic for all of their arguments demands a Christian perspective- whenever I've read their material, I haven't seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for their claims.

Sure, they may be persistent and nit-picky, but surely there are better out there."


PM: It looks like you don't care what our point is enough to characterize it correctly. But that's probably because your opinion matters more than ours.

Now, why is it wrong to say "I'm right because of my Bible?" What if you said that in the Bible it says that Jesus rode in to town on a stallion. I would point you to, say, Matt 21:1-11. And, guess what? I'd be "right because of my Bible."

So, it's unclear what you mean here.

Furthermore, let's say that the Bible is never in error. Then, to resort to quoting what something not in error says, would be to say something true, regardless of what you think.

So, you must be assuming that the bible is in error.

Funny, I've not "seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for your claims."

Now, what could it mean that you're not encouraged? Do you want the T-bloggers to blow sunshine up your skirt and tell you that everything will be okay?

The bottom line is that sin makes people stupid. Repent! In Jesus you will find salvation -for your moral as well as your intelelctual failures.

If you do not repent, then things look pretty bleak for you. There's nothing encouraging about spending everlasting life .... in hell. But be encouraged that there is an escape for you. It is found in Jesus Christ.

Did you mean by encouraged that you want us to tell you that you've really made some good arguments! And tell you that you're smart? Well, what if we don't think so? What do you want: encouragment or lies?

Lastly, according to the law of excluded middle, one either makes arguemnts from a Christian perspective, or one does not. So it appears that what you would like is if Christians would make arguments from *non-Christain* perspectives. Okay. I'll do that if you promise to make your arguments from a *Christian* perspective! ;-)

Have a good one, Vile.

Vile Blasphemer said...

O no! It's Paul and his allusive nomenclature!

"Repent! In Jesus you will find salvation -for your moral as well as your intelelctual failures."

LOL- you spelled intellectual wrong- best irony all day.

"Funny, I've not "seen a single shred of objective, physical proof for your claims.""

And what claims have I made about Christianity or the existence of God?

"Lastly, according to the law of excluded middle, one either makes arguemnts from a Christian perspective, or one does not."

Tsk Tsk, Paul, you've just created a false dilemma. There is more than your one assumed Christian perspective. Anyway, until you can get all philosophers to agree that the "law of excluded middle" is completely valid across all systems of logic, then maybe I'll consider your point.

I'm really asking you to do a simple thing- why do you all refuse?

Paul Manata said...

VB: "O no! It's Paul and his allusive nomenclature!"

PM: Oh no! It's vile sinner and his allusive responses!

VB: "LOL- you spelled intellectual wrong- best irony all day.

PM: Ahha! So this is what you were talking about when you claimed that the T-bloggers didn't offer substantial critiques - we don't point out other peoples typos.

Yes, you're right vile sinner, we give horrible critiques. We actually have the nerve to think that refuting substance is more important that refuting typos and mistakes in grammar.

VB: "And what claims have I made about Christianity or the existence of God?

PM: Well, if you would have quoted the context, it was obvious. You said there was a problem "using our Bible's to declare what was right." But, if the Bible is infallible, then we can use it. So, you assumed that the Bible is not a trustworthy guide to turn to. Thus you assumed that it's in error. Therefore you should back that assumption up.

You mentioned our lack of logical rigor. But the above is a logical inference from your claims. So, what do you want? Should I use logic or no?


VB: "Tsk Tsk, Paul, you've just created a false dilemma. There is more than your one assumed Christian perspective."

PM: Care to actually substantiate your charges? By acting like this, you're acting like someone who wants to join T-blog! Remember, you said we just assert things without benefit of argument. So, it looks like you started all of this just so we'd give you a spot on the team!

Anyway, I know there are other positions than Christian. They are, "non-Christian." That's just a tautology. Therefore, if you're not using a Christian perspective, then you're using a non-Christian perspective. So, again, if you don't want me to use a Christian perspective then I'll expect that you'll not use a non-Christian perspective. Since all men have some sort of perspective (neutrality can't be a third perspective since it is anti-Christian and, hence, not neutral), then there are two perspectives (ultimately): Christian and non. You're either for Jesus or against Him. Now, there are *different ways* to be against Jesus, but it's still against Jesus nonetheless.


VB: "Anyway, until you can get all philosophers to agree that the "law of excluded middle" is completely valid across all systems of logic, then maybe I'll consider your point."

PM: Would that make it true? Ad populum? Anyway, when you can get all the philosophers to agree that T-blog has been illogical, then maybe I'll consider your point. ;-)

Scott said...

Fist fighting in the name of Jesus would make more sense than this!

Vile Blasphemer said...

"Oh no! It's vile sinner and his allusive responses!"

Either that was a cleverly crafted pun, or it was an unfortunate comprehension mistake.

"You said there was a problem "using our Bible's to declare what was right." But, if the Bible is infallible, then we can use it."

Now Paul, you misunderstand the question- obviously the Bible is infallible to those who already believe in it; how do you prove the Bible is infallible to those outside your worldview?

"Anyway, I know there are other positions than Christian. They are, "non-Christian." That's just a tautology. Therefore, if you're not using a Christian perspective, then you're using a non-Christian perspective."

Paul this is the third time in my memory that you either purposely responded pedantically to or simply didn't understand one of my comments. Of course non-Christian perspectives are non-Christian. I was referring to the several known denominations claiming Christianity, but differing in their activity- thus false delimma. If I was not annonymous, I'd pay for your reading comprehension courses, but since I'm not, please don't browbeat us with your reading miscues.

striving... said...

Scott, Amen to that.
VB, No you cannot make the comparison. Quran is not true. My Bible is true words from the one and only God. All other gods are of man and hence do not matter to me. I believe what I believe. It will not be me who convinces you of the truth. If you are one of Gods chosen he will show you in due time. Be patient, it may come. God Bless you.

Vile Blasphemer said...

Okay then, Striving, this means you have total knowledge of Islam without having read the Quran or anything about it, right?

I suppose you might also tell me that you know how to perform an EndoVasc stent graft on a TAA without any prior residency?

striving... said...

VB, I have no exstensive knowledge except that God has said, no other Gods before him. It is all about faith man. My faith lies in My God, My creator. and as I said nothing I say will change your mind, or heart. God will change your heart, and your mind kind of goes along with it. God, God, God, God, God, God, God. :) So TTFN. I am done playing your game too, you could keep going and going, you should be EB (energizer blasphemer) :)

4given said...

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [Greek: apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" --1 Peter 3:15

4given said...

...the most compelling apologetic argument the believer can make is his godliness. It is our godliness that most clearly demonstrates our other-worldliness...Unfortunately, the practice of apologetics has become an academic enterprise. The Kingdom of God is not advanced by winning a debate, but by losing your life. This is the foolishness of the cross. An a(pologi/aof the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15) is a witness to the truthfulness of the gospel-event. It is not a defense of our subjective feelings of hopefulness, but a defense of the objective hope into which we were broght, the living hope which is Christ resurrected from the dead (1 Pet 1:3). If we investigate this text in 1 Peter we are brought to realize that the subject of apologetics arises in the midst of our suffering for righteousness' sake (3:14) and the apologetic of godliness (3:13). It is specifically our patience in suffering for righteousness' sake which bears witness to our eschatological hope (not-yet other-worldliness) as it demonstrates our union with our Saviour (other-worldliness already) who alone truly suffered for righteousness' sake and that with perfect patience. As it is written, "As a lamb led to slaughter He did not open His mouth." And lest we should grow triumphalistic in our apology the imperative is modified by "with gentleness and fear."---Two-Age Apologetics

Vile Blasphemer said...

Striving, so you admit that you aren't qualifed to critique anything outside of Christianity? Very rounded of you.

4given gets the point... she would illuminate more souls for Christ than any professional apologist with years of studied experience. Her approach is hopeful, tailored to enhancing life with Christian religiousity, not in crushing unbelievers with admonishments.

So sad, Paul, Gene, and centuri0n for failing this little test. In your years long armoring for rhetorical battle, you've forgotten that a Christian's strongest spear is made of compassion, love and patience, not of academic rigor. You prepare for unbelievers as if you were at Jahaz and not before the cross- you forget the new covenant.

Unfortunately, in your old covenant impatience, you have abandoned this forum and will miss the message. A terrible loss for your cause, but at least 4given gives some kind of hope to fence sitters.

Congratulations, 4given.

Jerry Morningstar said...

Great post Dan, and lively discussion to follow. I guess it's time to shake the dust off of the feet and move on

4given said...

VB: I have an immense amount of respect for the men you have named. Your responses are neither gentle or respectful and it is, I imagine, quite challenging to respond to them without wanting to get frustrated. We all fail... I have failed so often my knees are worn out from having to repent. So Please, my intention was not to point fingers. If anything they should be pointing back at me.

Vile Blasphemer said...

"Your responses are neither gentle or respectful and it is, I imagine, quite challenging to respond to them without wanting to get frustrated."

You may not believe this, but I'm not frustrated... just very practiced in getting the responses I want.

4given said...

VB: Just know that I am not trying to intentionally hurt anyone. My father use to say, "Lis-, when you are pointing that finger just remember there are 4 pointing right back at you." It's that get the log out of your own eye thing.
Regardless of whether or not anyone is frustrated, there appears to be an agenda to ruffle feathers just for the fun of it and I really do not understand... and I really don't want it explained to me.

Vile Blasphemer said...

4given, it's not a feather ruffle for entertainment, but a coaxing forward of genuine, hidden attitudes for public display.

Jerry Morningstar said...

Vile - 'a coaxing forward of genuine, hidden attitudes for public display'

And that is for what purpose?

Vile Blasphemer said...

Why, Jerry, for public display, of course. Didn't you want that?

Tim Brown said...

VB:

After my first few posts to you, I decided to sit back and abstain from further comment because I could see that you weren't interested in honest discourse.

Having seen things transpire, I can see all too plainly that my convictions were correct.

You were manipulating things because you can. That's it. That's all the excuse you need.

I'm not expecting this post to impress you, make you think, or anything else. But I can't just walk away from you and this thread -- yet. Because I owe you something.

Here are the facts, point blank and without apology. I pray you take them to heart. Maybe one day you will. All I'm doing is hopefully planting a seed that will later bear fruit.

You said something about evangelism in an earlier post. That is what I owe you.

We are all sinners. We don't measure up to what God expects from us. We don't keep His commandments. We break every one of them, either in letter or in spirit.

The law of God is a mirror that shows us how far we fall short. It was never intended to be kept; it's too perfect. But it shows us our sinful state before God.

Ever stolen anything? I don't care how small). If so, that makes you a thief, as it would me. Ever been angry at someone? God calls that murder. Ever wanted something that belonged to someone else? That's coveting and it's a breaking of God's law. If you've ever told a lie, that makes you a liar just as it does me.

Ever wanted someone's spouse? That is called adultery.

So, without discussing all ten commandments, you are already a lying, thieving covetous adulterer and coveter at heart. And God says that these kind of people don't enter heaven. Read 1 Corinthians 6.

So what are you going to do about it? simply ask God to forgive you? He can't any more than a judge can forgive a criminal for some crime committed. SOmeone has to pay for the crime.

Jesus Christ, God's Only Son, paid for your sin and mine. God's justice and righteous anger was poured out on Him even though He never sinned. Why? To pay your debt and mine.

So in this case, the judge has come around to your side of the bench and taken the punishment for you. THe only question is, will you repent and accept payment?

One day, you will stand before a very holy God and he will be your Judge. You won't be able to manipulate words and play cute games with him. You won't have a chance to. You will be too busy falling on your face before Him, whether you have trusted Christ or not.

So, the question isn't will you stand before God or will you bow the knee to Him. You will.

The question is, will you have trusted in the death of His one and only Son as payment for your sin-debt or are you wanting to bear it for eternity in Hell?

I perceive that you are an intelligent person, and I pray that the Lord will open your eyes.

That's it. That's all I have to say and my debt to you is paid.

Vile Blasphemer said...

"...because I could see that you weren't interested in honest discourse."

Tsk, Tsk, that isn't true- I just wanted more honesty than superficiality. Sometimes it takes a bit extra prodding.

"You were manipulating things because you can."

No one is manipulated unless they allow themselves to be. Alas, an enormous will consumes the weaker. Besides, I see no manipulation.

"Here are the facts, point blank and without apology."

You still address me as if I share your Christian worldview. Let's assume that I don't- what objective, physical proof do you have for me that can be considered validly well reasoned in any worldview?

"So, without discussing all ten commandments, you are already a lying, thieving covetous adulterer and coveter at heart."

Not really.

"I perceive that you are an intelligent person, and I pray that the Lord will open your eyes."

Exclusively independent phenomena- intelligence =/= religiousity.

"...my debt to you is paid."

In what way? I don't see how- I think I'd like a different credit card.

4given said...

VB: My heart aches for your soul. Life truly is too short to play such games.