How to Avoid An “Atheist Ambush” in University

If you’re a Christian, you already know the sad truth. Someone in your family (a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, or nephew) has already walked away, in spite of all the years you spent raising them in the church. I believe we can change this alarming trajectory, but we have to be willing to address the problem head on. If we are willing to do what it takes to respond to the trials facing the poor, the hungry, and the homeless, why won’t we do what it takes to respond to the challenges facing our own Christian family?

I write about the evidence for Christianity several times a week and post these articles (along with videos and podcasts) on my website (www.ColdCaseChristianity.com). I often get email from readers. One young man named Andrew Deane recently sent this message:

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If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?

In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?

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Why Make the Case for Christianity, If God Is in Control?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith and accept their duty to become Christian case-makers. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this call to become better case makers, have asked, “If God calls His chosen, can’t He achieve this without any case-making effort on our part?” I also pondered this question as a new Christian, and I think the following analogy is helpful, although certainly imperfect.

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What Does It Mean to Possess A Forensic Faith?

We have a duty to know what we believe and why we believe it so we can give an answer, contend for the faith, and model Christian case making for the next generation of believers. Are you ready? If someone challenged you with a few simple objections, could you make a case for what you believe?

The adjective forensic comes from the Latin word forensis, which means “in open court” or “public.” The term usually refers to the process detectives and prosecutors use to investigate and establish evidence in a public trial or debate. You seldom hear the word attached to our traditional notions of “faith,” but given what I’ve already described in this chapter, it seems particularly appropriate when describing the kind of faith Jesus expected from His followers. Jesus did not affirm the notion of “blind faith,” and He didn’t ask us to believe something unsupported by the evidence. Consider the following definitions of “faith”:

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Christian Worldview: What Does It Mean to Be “In the World” but Not “Of the World”?

Some time ago, my wife and I watched an episode of a comedy series hosted on Netflix. Within a few minutes we became increasingly uncomfortable with the language and content of the humor. Don’t get me wrong, it was hilarious, and as a cop, crude, vulgar humor has been a part of my everyday experience for over two decades. But as we sat there watching this particular episode, we both had a growing sense that the show was somehow “desensitizing our sensibilities”. We started to feel… “dirty”. We turned off the laptop; watching any further only demonstrated our tacit approval and we wanted to stop before our worldview had been permanently altered.

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Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity (refer, for example, to the ongoing research of the Pew Research Center, including their 2015 study entitled, America’s Changing Religious Landscape). When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning. The brilliant thinker and writer C. S. Lewis was prophetic when he called for a more intellectual church in 1939. On the eve of World War II, Lewis drew a parallel between the challenges facing Christianity in his own day and the challenges facing his country as war approached:

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God’s Hiddenness Is Intended to Provoke Us

Many of us have moments in our life when God’s presence and providence seem obvious, but there are also many times when God seems far away and “hidden”. In fact, the “hiddenness” of God is a common objection to His existence. As a skeptic, I often wondered why God didn’t make Himself known in a visible, tangible way. Why doesn’t God appear to us in a public setting to end all doubt about His existence? I’ve written about this objection, and I believe the answer lies in God’s desire to provoke us; His desire to elicit a true, loving response from His children. This goal of producing something beautiful (a genuine, well-intentioned, loving response), requires Him to hide from us.

Let me try to offer an analogy. Most of us, would be offended if someone described us with the colloquial term: “gold digger.” This expression is typically used to describe “women (predominantly young and attractive), meeting wealthy men in hope to get monetary gains and increase their social status.” When someone uses this term, it is nearly always as a pejorative; it’s not good to be a “gold digger”. Why is this the case? Because “gold diggers” are in relationships for the wrong reasons. Rather than truly loving the men whom they’ve married, they love the wealth, power and position these men can offer. If I were a wealthy, powerful, or famous man, I would be very careful when selecting a mate. I would hate to find myself asking questions like, “Would she want me if I was just another ‘average’ guy? Would she still love me as a person if I hadn’t overwhelmed her with my money and fame?” I bet powerful men occasionally wonder about such things.

God knows all of us can be similarly misguided in our affections, even when it comes to our love of Him. He also understands the degree to which He is “powerful, wealthy and famous,” and He doesn’t want us to be in a relationship with Him for the wrong reason. The Bible provides several examples of men and women who have been in the presence of God, only to realize His true power, majesty and glory. In fact, in every case, those who were exposed to God, even for only a moment, were overwhelmed:

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Rapid Response: “We Don’t Need God to Explain the Origin of Life”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Christians believe God created all the life here on earth, but science has a better explanation for the origin of life.” How would you respond to such a statement? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“The origin of life is a critical question and an important piece of evidence in our universe. When detectives attempt to answer such a question, we typically try to ask the same kinds of questions one might ask when writing a good essay: the What, Where, When, Why, and How questions. If you ask those same questions about the origin of life, you begin to see the problem with the naturalistic scientific answers from those who attempt to explain the origin of life without invoking God.

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Four Ways to Strengthen Your Kid’s Faith

Those of us who are interested in Christian Case Making (aka “apologetics”) are aware of the challenges facing young Christians in their teens and twenties. It’s a simple fact; most young Christians will walk away from the Church in their college years. Like other Case Makers, I’m animated to work as hard as I can with this age group; young people need Christian Case Making more than any other demographic within the Church. Following a recent presentation at a church, I was approached by a mother who was concerned for her high school aged children. We began discussing several ways parents can prepare their kids before sending them off to college. Here are four simple guiding strategies:

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Is the Church too focused on the youth? Part 2

There are greater points of similarity between the Barna Group and what Smith call’s “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”  George Barna himself commented on the results of the Barna Group survey concluding  “most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of their Bible, (yet) less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions.” ( www.barna.org. “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years”, March, 6, 2009) 

As for the Millennial generation Smith researched he came to a similar conclusion stating “for most U.S. teenagers, their claims to religion’s importance notwithstanding, religion actually appears to operate much more as a taken-for-granted aspect of life, mostly situated in the background of everyday living, which becomes salient only under very specific conditions.” (Smith, 130) 

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