An Evening with Atheists

Christians love talking about atheists. Generally, however, we’re less excited about talking to them. 

Well, one night last winter I set out to change that, at least in my own life. I attended an atheist gathering in my neighborhood.

But first I had to go online and join their “meet-up” group.

I remember my hand freezing on my computer mouse, unable to click the “join us” invitation. For a moment the cursor hovered over the button. Did I really want to do this?

I had already interviewed dozens of atheists for the book project I was working on, but most of my interviews had been conducted over the phone or via email. Somehow the prospect of sitting face to face with them was more intimidating. I wasn’t afraid of an intellectual assault. Yes, there would be plenty of God-bashing in these meetings, but I wasn’t likely to hear anything new. Thanks to my peculiar habit of reading reams of atheist literature, I’d heard most of the arguments against Christianity before, and all from the movement’s most eloquent spokespeople.  
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Ex-Christians 101

"Why are young people leaving the faith?"

Since I began writing a book on the topic of reaching young ex-Christians, I’ve faced this question repeatedly. The embarrassing truth is that I can’t answer it. At least not simply.

Ask most Christians the question, though, and the answer is easy: they leave because of moral compromise. A teenage girl goes off to college and starts to party. A young man moves in with his girlfriend. Soon the conflict between their beliefs and behavior becomes unbearable, and they drop their faith commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but don’t be fooled. These are just excuses, smokescreens designed to hide their real reason for going astray. “They change their creed to match their conduct,” as my parents would say.

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Frank Pastore "Shattered" Livestream

Here is the Livestream interview with Frank Pastore direct from the KKLA studio. Frank is the host of The Frank Pastore Show, the most popular Christian talk show in the country, and the author of Shattered: Struck Down, But Not Destroyed (Tyndale House Publishers).

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Hitchens' Presumption of Meaning

Even though I don't agree with his ideas, I must admit Christopher Hitchens is a talented writer.  Here he writes an interesting account of his battle with cancer

What I find highly interesting, and inconsistent, is Hitchens' presumption of meaning.  Hitchens is an atheist.  In his worldview, any objective transcendent meaning to life or its events is utterly illusory.  No purpose here.  Just a random collision of atoms in this cold dark universe we call home.  Hitchens implies as much:  "To the dumb question 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply:  Why not?"  "Why me?' is indeed a dumb question when there's nothing or no one to answer.

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Why Naturalism Is False (And Why It Matters) Part 2

In this concluding lecture, Dr Ordway reviews the concepts of naturalism and theism, and provides more reasons why it is rational to believe that theism, rather than naturalism, is true. (A teaser: mystery novels point to the existence of God -- and not in the way you might expect!) She concludes by reflecting on some of the negative consequences of naturalism as a worldview. Bad consequences do not themselves disprove naturalism, but they give a compelling reason why we should ask tough questions about naturalism rather than just accepting it without question. The truth matters.


Why Naturalism Is False (And Why It Matters) Part 1

According to the naturalistic worldview, God does not exist, miracles are impossible, and the entire created world just "happened" by random chance. Many people today accept naturalism -- often unknowingly -- but in fact it is completely false. In this talk, Dr. Holly Ordway explains the difference between naturalism and theism, and shows that there is a philosophical and logical argument for theism as opposed to naturalism. This lecture (and its second part) provide a foundation of apologetic argument for the existence of God that is based on what everyone can observe in the physical world around them.


Reality of the Resurrection -- Part 3

What do these facts point to?  That Jesus Christ is no longer dead.  His resurrection explains all five facts very well.  The minimal facts give us solid evidence He has risen indeed.  However, that won’t stop the skeptic from offering other explanations.  When you encounter one, remember this:  just because an alternative explanation is possible, it does not make it probable.  Anyone can give a different explanation but we want one that best fits the facts.  

For example, some scholars suggest the disciples stole Jesus’ body.  Does that fit the facts?  No way.  It doesn’t explain the resurrection appearances of Jesus.  It doesn’t explain Paul or James’ conversions.  Indeed, if the disciples stole Jesus’ body then they knew his resurrection was a hoax.  But why would they die for something they knew was false?  They wouldn’t and thus, we can discard this possible explanation.
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Beauty Points to Truth

One of the most memorable lines in English poetry appears in John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which the poet has his imagined Grecian vase speak directly to the reader, saying “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

That vase was on to something.

Beauty is not just... well, nice to look at. It’s important in a larger sense, because it points toward truth.

I live in Southern California, and my church, St. Michael’s by-the-Sea is named quite literally: you can see the Pacific Ocean from the church campus.

One particular morning I arrived at church as usual, pulled into the parking lot, got out, grabbed my purse, slammed the door shut, all on automatic pilot.

Reality of the Resurrection -- Part 2

Do we have any facts that support the historical resurrection of Jesus?  Absolutely.  And we won’t just use arguments from guys on our side.  To make the strongest possible case, we’ll rely on those facts that virtually all scholars who study this subject agree upon, including critics of Christianity.  Resurrection scholars Gary Habermas and Michael Licona call this the “minimal facts” approach.  

Notice, this approach does not require us to defend an error-free Bible.  It does not require us to show the Bible is the inspired word of God.  Although important issues, inerrancy and inspiration are not essential to our case for the resurrection.  Instead, the minimal facts approach lets us build common ground with the critic.  Basically we’re saying to the skeptic, “You show me your historical facts and I’ll show you how they are evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus.”  

So, what are the minimal facts?  Habermas and Licona list five:  

FACT #1:  Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.  
Not only is Jesus’ crucifixion recorded in all four gospels, but non-Christian sources report the event too.  Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus are just a couple of those sources.  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #2:  The disciples believed they had seen the risen Jesus.
Scholars recognize two important pieces of evidence for this fact.  First, the disciples claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.  Paul lists the eyewitnesses in I Corinthians 15:3-8:  

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

By the way, it’s legit to cite the Bible here.  Even critical scholars believe I Corinthians is an authentic letter written by Paul.  At this point, we’re simply using it as a source of ancient history, not as an inspired book of the Bible.  Thus, we have a reliable list of people who believed they saw resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Second, the disciples really believed they had seen Jesus such that it totally transformed them.  Jesus their leader had been brutally killed before their eyes.  Understandably, they split.  Peter even denies Jesus three times.  But something happened, transforming them from cowards who abandoned Jesus to courageous men who risked life and limb for His message.  They didn’t just claim Jesus rose, they really really believed it.

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #3:  Saul of Tarsus (Paul), an enemy of the church, converted because he believed he had seen the risen Jesus.  
Before his Road-to-Damascus experience, Paul tried to destroy the Christian church.  He beat Christians, imprisoned them, and killed them.  But suddenly, he converts to Christianity.  Why?  Paul and Luke both report it was because he believed the resurrected Jesus had appeared to him.  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #4:  James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, converted because he believed he had seen the risen Jesus.  
The Gospels tell us James was skeptical of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21; John 7:5).  He was unconvinced.  However, James eventually converts and is even martyred for his faith in Jesus.  What transformed this skeptic into a believer?  He believed he saw the risen Jesus.  Remember the eyewitness list in I Corinthians 15?  Verse 7 tells us “[Jesus] appeared to James.”  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #5:  The tomb of Jesus was empty.
Where was Jesus publicly executed?  In Jerusalem.  Where did the disciples start proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection?  In Jerusalem.  Think about those two facts, together.  How does Christianity get started if Jesus corpse is still in the tomb?  It doesn’t.  Jewish and Roman leaders simply pull out the dead body and game over.  But that didn’t happen.  The disciples preach the resurrection in the very city Jesus is crucified.  That’s only possible if the tomb is empty.

This is the one fact not accepted by “virtually all scholars.”  However, Gary Habermas found that about 75% of scholars buy this one and that’s still a large majority.

There you have it—five historical facts that need an explanation.  

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Reality of the Resurrection -- Part 1

Last Sunday millions of Christians celebrated Easter.  But if the bones of Jesus were found tomorrow, would you walk away from Christianity?  You should. 

Why?  Because faith in a dead Jesus is worthless.  Even the Apostle Paul says so.  In I Corinthians 15:14, he writes, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  Did you catch that?  The bones of Jesus would make our faith useless.  

C’mon Paul, isn’t that kind of harsh?  No and here’s why.  Imagine a group of people who have dedicated their lives to Peter Pan.  They construct a beautiful building to gather in celebration of Pan’s life.  They sing songs to him and tell stories about his wonderful deeds.  What would you think about such a group?  What a waste of life.  Peter Pan is a fairytale.  We should feel sorry for such people.

Well, if Jesus did not rise bodily from the grave, then Christianity is a fairytale.  Just like Peter Pan, it’s make believe and Christians are wasting their lives.  And what should people think about us?  Paul concludes that if Christ hasn’t been raised, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (verse 19).  

So, when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, what’s at stake for Christians?  Everything.

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