From True Belief to Confident Knowledge

I don’t want students to merely believe true things.  That’s a start, but it’s not enough.  I want students to know true things.  So what’s the difference?

What would you think if I said I know it’s raining outside, but I didn’t believe it was raining outside?  You’d be puzzled.  It doesn’t make sense to say I know something that at the same time I don’t actually believe.  All the facts we think we know are also facts we believe, so knowledge includes belief. 

What if I said I know it’s raining outside, but it’s not true that it’s raining outside?  Again, you’d be confused and wonder, “How can you know something that’s not true?”  You can’t.  A belief is true if it matches reality and it’s false if it doesn’t.  So to say someone’s belief is false means they don’t know.  Therefore, knowledge not only includes belief, but truth as well. 

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Is There Proof that Jesus Was Born of a Virgin?

You don’t have to know much about the “birds and the bees” to know that virgins don’t have children by remaining virgins. Human reproduction requires that a female’s ovum (egg) be fertilized by a male’s gamete (sperm) to achieve human conception. There simply is no other option short of a miracle. So what proof is there that Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin?

Those who don’t believe in miracles of course dismiss the virgin birth. In fact, Mary, Jesus’ mother, questioned the whole concept herself when the angel Gabriel announced it to her. “Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin’ ” (Luke 1:34). The angel explained that the conception would happen by the Holy Spirit, “so the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The angel acknowledged that all this was miraculous and added, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). God does perform miracles, and in this case he caused Mary’s pregnancy.

A Mistranslation?
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Are Bible Chapters and Verses Inspired?

David Capes, one of the scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word, answered a question about Bible verses and chapters. Are they inspired?

We recently had a fan of The Voice Bible email us to say that we had left out a verse.  He told us to look at Acts 19 and see that there was no verse 7.  My first thought was, “that’s impossible.” You see we had about a dozen people checking and rechecking those kinds of things.  At one point I counted 14 levels of review from start to finish.  My second thought was, “I better check this out!”

Well, I have slept several times since we finished Acts and couldn’t remember exactly what we had done.  Frank Couch and I looked at the text—we were together at the Justice Conference in Portland at the time.  As I turned to Acts 19, it became clear to me what we had done.  We combined Acts 19:1 and 19:7 because there is a single detail in what is traditionally known as verse 7 which makes better narrative sense early in the story. Note too that we put a footnote at the bottom of the page to indicate why we made that editorial decision.

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Why God...He in Scripture?

David Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. Recently Dr. Capes was asked why the translators of The Voice used masculine pronouns to refer to God?

When it comes to pronouns, English provides three options: masculine, feminine, and neuter.  Think of it this way.  It is either God…He or God…She or God…It.

Well, you can rule out the 3rd option because “it” is used with impersonal antecedents. We don’t use “it” to refer to persons; we use “it” to refer to things. Remember too our theme is built around the idea of “the voice” that has been and continues to speak. Things might make a sound but they don’t have a voice. Only a person has a voice and the Christian Scriptures are clear that God is not an impersonal force or thing; God is a person.

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Who Are You To Judge?

Drinking.  Premarital sex.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Same-sex marriage.  Christians have so many hang-ups with the behavior of non-Christians, don’t they?  It all seems so judgmental.  Christians have enough problems of their own, so why worry about others?  And even Jesus warned against this.  “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).  Who are Christians to judge others?

This common objection to Christianity packs some punch.  But why?  First, we’re swimming in a sea of moral relativism that prohibits any moral judgments (that is, if you want to be a consistent moral relativist).  Against this relativistic backdrop, to identify some behavior as morally wrong is itself wrong.  Hopefully you see the self-contradictory nature of this claim, but sadly, many do not as the muddled thinking of relativism blinds its adherents.

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The Success of the Cross

The death of Jesus on the cross on behalf and in place of sinful humankind has been the centerpiece of Christianity for two thousand years. Of course, without the resurrection, the cross would be a waste, but without the cross, there would be no resurrection. Jesus had to die before he could come back to life. Even more, to get to the reason for the cross, Jesus had to die so that we might live.

This view that Jesus died so we don't have to is called "substitutionary atonement," and it's best expressed in Scripture in Isaiah 53:4-6. Substitutionary atonement troubles some believers, in particular young adults who are troubled by "religiously motivated violence." On a personal level, they struggle with a God who would subject his own son to the violence and horror of the cross, something Tony Jones refers to as "divine child abuse."

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The Delusionals Are Ruining the Fun

We’ve all met the delusionals and the crazies in religion, or at least seen them on TV or YouTube. The way that they affect Christianity reminds me of what happens in work environments: One person does something stupid or abuses the system, and suddenly there is an additional code or protocol that everyone else has to follow. One person’s folly becomes everyone’s regret. Among Christians, it seems that our reaction to the loonies has made us all act a little crazy. Rather than seeking to distinguish between the spirits of good and evil, and sane and insane, we’ve generally abolished anything that seems a little odd or difficult to rationalize.

But there is comfort to be found in what Paul tells us about how spiritual gifts come into play, and how they should be used. He addresses the problems we’re dealing with head on.

Faith over Intellect? Intellect over Faith?

Mind over matter. Faith over intellect. Wisdom over knowledge. We’re convinced that the alternative is better: that one of these is better than the other. But Paul says that knowledge is a gift. It’s not something to be set aside when you start believing, but incorporated.

Intellect itself convinces us that some people are more gifted with knowledge than others. We’ve been in classes with these people, and we all know the stories of the most gifted among them (e.g., Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison). But Paul is talking about a different kind of knowledge. It’s not just one about facts and numbers. (Although the type of people gifted with the type of knowledge Paul is referring to would likely be good with that as well.)

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

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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