Ten Verses to Defend Your Faith

For the past few days I have been trying to think of the top ten verses that would be most helpful to apologists and evangelists. I have reflected on my own experience and also gotten feedback from many of you on Facebook and Twitter. So, here are my top ten verses to defend your faith (in no particular order):

1 Peter 3:15: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”   As an apologist you may find yourself having to defend the purpose of apologetics. This is the classic verse indicating that everyone is to be prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect.

John 1:1-3: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  This is one of the most compelling and clear articulations of the deity of Christ. It shows that Christ is the eternal creator and is one with (although distinct from) the Father.

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Christians Need Apologetics

“Just some ordinary conversation over dinner.”  At least, that’s how my host described this event.  In January, I was invited to have dinner with a couple of dads and their sons to facilitate a discussion on the problem of evil.  It was a spur-of-the-moment request and details were a bit fuzzy, so I met my host Jon 30 minutes prior to talk specifics.  He informed me that not only would Christian dads and sons participate, but his 60-year old parents, both skeptics of Christianity, would join us as well.  That night’s conversation turned out to be exceptional.  Why?  Because of apologetics.  

For too long, apologetics has been given a bad rap.  Too many Christian voices point to a few poor apologetic examples, extrapolate them to every apologist and apologetic encounter, and then dismiss the entire enterprise.  But in doing so, Christians abandon one of our greatest tools to engage the world for Christ.  My recent conversation demonstrates why.

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Who Made God?

Shortly before Christmas I received an email from Edgar Andrews, Emeritus professor from the University of London. He asked if I would be willing to review his book Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. While I’ve read many books presenting the scientific evidence for God, I thought it may be interesting to get the perspective of someone outside the traditional apologetics community. I was right!

If you enjoy the contemporary debate about the existence of God, then Who Made God? is a book you will want to have in your library. Andrews provides fresh and strong critiques of Dawkins, Victor Stenger, and other prominent atheists. He even debated Richard Dawkins a few years ago.

Probably the most controversial thing Andrews claims is that there are four scientifically inexplicable things: (1) the origin of the universe; (2) the origin of the laws of nature; (3) the origin of life; and (4) the origin of mind and thought.

Heaven on Earth

My wife and I recently bought Disneyland passes.  It was the big gift we hoped for at the top of our Christmas wish list this year.   Though she and I have had them at various times, we have never had them together in our 9 or so years of knowing each other.  I remember as a kid going to Disneyland and feeling happy.  Disneyland has this kind of happiness in spades, built from the ground up not on thrilling rides, but instead on nostalgia and environment.  Everything in the park exists to make you smile and be entertaining.  It is my child self’s version of paradise.

Yet, after visiting the park over and over again (a luxury I surely don’t mean to diminish), there are times when the tricks of the park begin to lose steam.  This is true of any number of life’s pleasures – yearly holiday traditions, visits to favorite locations, or favorite films that may initially be funny but lose charm with repeated viewings (I’m looking at you “Elf”)

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Christ -- The Sign for All People

Luke 2:12 & 34

December 25, 2011

 

Christ -- The Sign for All People

I like everything about Christmas - the lights, decorations, trees, and festivity of almost every public space.  I like finding gifts that express my great love and thanksgiving for those in my life.  I like Christmas movies (especially Charlie Brown), cookies, cards, and the general sentiment that something is different.  There is a communal anticipation, a hope, a looking forward to the morning of Christmas.  For a moment, the world seems to pause and everyone is aware that the day is different.   

And every year I read The Story (Luke 2) and am re-amazed by the obvious fact that the single greatest birth story of all time is covered in about two pages of text.  Every year I want more, I want to ask the Shepherds questions and find out how Joseph really felt seeing his young love, Mary, go into labor in the most inhospitable of places.  I want the text to give me something – and this year it gave me the word “sign” and it gave it to me twice.

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Rethinking Education for Pastors: Why I am Underwhelmed

To start this post, let me begin with several qualifications: First, I think that theological education has some serious meditation to do concerning its task. Second, I think the overall model / approach upon which we’ve built is flawed. Third, I am excited about virtually anything that seeks to think creatively about this. In comes Mike Breen. Mike Breen, who I know little about but have heard good things, posted this back in November. It is a wholesale engagement with the kinds of worries I have. In light of that, let me again state some qualifications: First, I know nothing about this other than this post. Second, if I saw this right when I graduated seminary I probably would have called him up and said, “Sign me up and tell me what to do.” Third, I have some doubts about some of the statistics in the video, but for the purpose of this discussion lets assume they are true.

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Trusting God Instead of Self

In my book, Why Trust Jesus?, I refer to Augustine’s journey and wrestle with trust, but as I have been taking a course this semester at the University of Dallas with Dr. William Frank, I decided to come back and revisit that theme of trust. I still agree with what I wrote in my book, Why Trust Jesus? but I wanted share another one of my short papers that I wrote for this class. I will eventually submit a couple more papers on this Conversant blog about Augustine.  If you have read the Confessions multiple times or are brand new in studying Augustine, please write your comments and let me know what you have observed in the text.

In Book VIII of Confessions, Augustine recollects the experience of internal turmoil, indecisiveness, self -knowledge, and temptation of old memories and habits. Augustine encounters Lady Continence, urging him to trust God. Throughout this eighth book, we see multiple pictures and stories, each in its unique way, reinforcing one of this book’s main themes of trusting God rather than self. As Continence speaks, trust seems to be such a simple act, but complex emotions including fear, lust and pride are at stake. Continence challenges, Augustine, "Why do you stand on yourself, and thus stand not at all? Cast yourself on him. Have no fear. He will not draw back and let you fall. Cast yourself trustfully on him: he will receive you and he will heal you.”[1] Trusting God, specifically through Jesus Christ, was included in the final passage that brought a peaceful light streaming into Augustine’s soul. “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in strife, and envying; but put you on the Lord Jesus Chris, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscence.”[2]

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The Metaphysical Nature of Sin in Augustine’s Pear Theft and Theater

In Book two, of the Confessions, Augustine recollected the evening in which, late one night, he and his buddies stole pears from his neighbor’s vineyard. At first reading, this does not seem like too big of a deal. Obviously, most ethical theories understand that stealing is wrong, but do not most boys steal at some point in their lives? Why would stealing fulfill Augustine’s deep description of depth of foul lust and carnality in the opening in this book: “I wish to bring back to mind my past foulness and the carnal corruptions of my soul.”[1] Augustine wrote, “For in my youth, I burned to get my fill of hellish things. I dared to run wild in different ways of love.”[2] Burning to get his fill of hellish things, does not seem to describe a few young teenagers stealing pears from a neighbor’s orchid and feeding them to pigs.   But Augustine’s aim is not merely autobiographical, to tell stories of his hell raising pear theft, but to allow the reader to see the metaphysical nature of sin.  Carl Vaught reminds the reader, “The pear-stealing episode is not simply Augustine’s story, but also our own.”[3]
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Israel's Struggle: A Historical Perspective Pt. 1

Genesis 32:28 records Jacob, the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, having his name changed to Israel.  Why?  The text tells us it is, “because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”  What a prophetic word, with a promise. 

The context of the passage shows us that it was Jacob who wrestled the angel and won, but the message from the angel and name Israel takes on much more theological significance than we may typically think.  To understand this more it will be helpful to take a macro view of the Israelites heritage through the Old Testament.  

Moses and Elijah are two Old Testament heroes of the faith who were worn out by the lack of faith and depravity possessed by God’s chosen people.  In 1 Kings 19:10 Elijah communicates his plight to the Lord of how the Israelites have rejected God’s covenant (Mosaic) and put the prophets to death.  Elijah saw himself as next in line the line of fire and was wondering where hope for Israel was to be found.  God replied that he had reserved seven thousand in Israel. (1 Kings 19:18) 

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

Is the Bible intolerant?  That was the question Nathan Hansen asked me to answer for hundreds of students and adults recently.  Three years ago, Nathan, Snohomish Community Church’s innovative youth pastor, created Jesus University, a five-day youth conference in the Seattle area.  During the day, students serve their community.  At night, the community is invited to come hear top Christian bands.  

But before the bands play, Nathan has a Christian apologist address a tough question for an hour, followed by 30 minutes of Q & A.  The big-name bands draw thousands of people throughout the week, but Nathan ensures they’re given more than music.  They get an intelligent yet gracious defense of Christianity.  And our culture desperately needs some clear thinking when it comes to the topic of tolerance.

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