Why It’s Important to Ask the Right Questions as a Religious Seeker

Many years ago, as an undergraduate student, my astronomy teacher used an illustration with our class to demonstrate the importance of specificity when asking a question. He cleverly told us about a dispute he had been called to settle between a professor colleague and a student (in fact, he was merely repeating what has become known as the infamous “Barometer Question” popularized by American test designer and professor Alexander Calandra). My astronomy professor claimed his colleague had asked the following question on a test: “If I led you to a tall tower, and asked you to take a barometer to the top of the tower, how would you use the barometer to calculate the height of the tower?” The professor was looking for a specific answer estimating the height of the building in proportion to the difference between the barometer readings at the bottom and at the top of the structure. But the student, capitalizing on the professor’s lack of specificity, offered a variety of answers without using the barometer as the professor had hoped:

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Do We Need Another Youth Conference?

"Do we really need another youth conference?"

Well, our Rethink Student Apologetics Conference preregistration numbers suggest we do. With over 400 students, youth leaders, and parents already signed up, we have further evidence that youth are hungry for this kind of conference.  Why? Because it's not the typical youth camp or conference, where students may be entertained, may have alot of "fun," may be wowed with bells and whistles, but who may not walk away equipped with anything more than a temporary hyped-up experience. 

Students want parents and church leadership to step up their training.  The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding (CPYU) conducted interviews with students who had grown up in the church and were now in college. This is the kind of thing CPYU heard again and again:  

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Do Christians Worship Three Gods?

The idea that God is three in one has confused many people. Just what does it mean that God is a Trinity?

 

The Bible teaches there is but one God. This is called monotheism. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 niv). Jesus quoted this scripture in Mark 12:29, confirming that there is just one God. So how is it that people call God a Trinity—how, some people ask, can there be three Gods, yet one?

 

God being a Trinity does not mean there are three Gods. God exists as three persons, yet he is one being. Each person of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—has a separate identity while yet possessing the full nature of God.

 

Jesus is the divine Son of God. This does not mean that Jesus was created by God. In fact, Scripture tells us plainly that he has always co-existed with God (see John 1:1-3). Jesus himself declared he had eternally co-existed with his Father. And on the basis of that declaration the Jewish leaders plotted to kill him, saying, “He called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God” (  John 5:18). Paul the apostle declared Jesus to be deity. “Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 9:5). The writer of Hebrews says, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Hebrews 1:3).
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Do the Non-Canonical Gospels Challenge the Historicity of the New Testament?

A recent press release announced an upcoming conference in the United Kingdom in which two “scholars” are going to argue the story of Jesus was “actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar” in an effort to keep order amongst the citizenry of Rome. The new reinterpretation of Jesus is apparently based on a re-reading of Josephus’ War Of The Jews. This sort of thing is becoming more and more common, especially in an era of profitable television documentaries and book deals. Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson are also about to release a new book arguing for a reinterpretation of Jesus, this time based on what they call “The Lost Gospel,” a 6th Century Syriac manuscript “translated from much earlier Greek writing” (in other words: “Yes we realize this text first appears 500 years too late to be credible, but we’d like you to believe it can be dated to the 1st Century”). We are increasingly deluged with pseudo-academic efforts to discredit the classic Christian version of Jesus. Skeptics would like us to believe the canonical Gospels aren’t the only 1st Century stories about Jesus. They claim there are a number of ancient Gospels describing a version of Jesus very different from the one we accept today. If this is the case, how can we know which versions of Jesus are the truth and which are lies?

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Am I a Christian Simply Because I Was Raised in a Christian Culture?

People who are unfamiliar with my journey of faith sometimes seek to explain my conversion from atheism on the basis of geography. The objection sounds something like this: “Christians believe Christianity is true simply because they were raised in a Christian culture. If they were raised in a Muslim culture, for example, they would believe Islam is true with the same passion and certainty.” While it is true that cultural and geographic influences often favor a particular point of view or behavior, our personal experience demonstrates that individuals often make private, independent choices in spite of the accepted beliefs of our culture. As an example, many of us are vegetarians in spite of the fact the culture is predominantly carnivorous. The history of Christianity also confirms the vast majority of Christian converts concluded that Christianity was true in spite of their geographic location or cultural background:

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Most Parents Aren't Ready to Train Their Own Kids

I’ve never had someone cry after my atheist role-play.  Until now.

In September, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents from Village Academy Christian School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Earlier in the day, I taught the junior and senior high students at chapel and spoke to three different twelfth grade classes.  I role played an atheist with the seniors, to give them a glimpse of the intellectual challenges awaiting them at college, and decided to give the parents, who had come out for an evening lecture, a glimpse in the same way.

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The Danger of Belief “In” Without Belief “That”

I’ve been writing lately about the difference between belief “that” and belief “in,” following a recent radio interview with John Stonestreet for the BreakPoint Radio program. As I’ve described in previous posts, I came to belief that the gospels were a reliable record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus on the basis of the most reasonable inference from the evidence. But at that early point in my investigation, I still didn’t understand the Gospel message of Salvation. As a result, I hadn’t yet placed my trust in Jesus as my Savior. I had belief that, but not belief in. There’s a big difference between rational assent and reasonable trust. Years later, I now appreciate the difference between these two states of mind and the important relationship they have to one another. In fact, I’ve come to realize belief in, without belief that, can be quite dangerous.
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May the Force Be With You

When we think of God, we may imagine the powerful Creator sitting on his throne in heaven. We may think of him in human form as Jesus, the Savior of the World. But do we view him as the Holy Spirit? Just who is God in the person of the Holy Spirit?

Some people believe the Holy Spirit is simply the influence of good—like the “good force” of the universe. But the Holy Spirit is actually a person—the third person of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Jesus referred to the Spirit as a person when he said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (  John 14:16-17).

The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of God. He has a mind and feelings. He makes choices. Scripture says, “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8:27 niv). Scripture also tells us that the Spirit can feel. We are not to “bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Ephesians 4:30). He makes choices as to who will receive what spiritual gifts. “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes these gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Also, the apostle Peter told a man named Ananias, “You lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). Ananias wasn’t lying to an influence; he was lying to a person. Peter added, “You weren’t lying to us but to God” (Acts 5:4).

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How Could John, a Poor, Uneducated Fisherman, Write the Gospel of John?

A fellow Christian Case Maker I met at Frank Turek’s CrossExamined Academy is teaching a church group about the reliability of the New Testament. A question was raised about the Apostle John: “How could John, an uneducated fisherman, have written such a literate and theologically rich gospel account?” After all, John was just a fisherman; was he educated enough to accomplish something this sophisticated? Irenaeus, certainly thought so. This historic Bishop of Lugdunum, was the student of Polycarp and Ignatius (two men who were taught directly by the Apostle John). Irenaeus identified the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel, reflecting the historic understanding of the earliest Christians. In spite of this, many skeptics are eager to dismiss the authorship of John (often in an attempt to further discredit the supernatural New Testament claims related to Jesus) by doubting John’s level of education and degree of literacy. There are, however several good reasons to resist the notion that John, the son of Zebedee, was too illiterate to have written the fourth Gospel:
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Is God Male or Female?

To ask the question, “Is God male or female?” is somewhat like asking if God is right- or left-handed. Or is his first language English or Spanish? Truth is, he is not confined by our human or material world. He created us in his image, but he is unlike us in many, many ways.

Jesus said, “God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (  John 4:24). It is true that God took on human form in the person of Jesus, who of course was male, yet God does not exist as a material or physical being. So in that sense he is neither male nor female as we know the human sexes.

At the same time, God has chosen to create and use imagery of himself that is both masculine and feminine. Of course he refers to himself as Father and Jesus as the Son of God, which are both masculine imagery. Yet Jesus spoke of himself in feminine imagery when he said, “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Matthew 23:37).

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