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Showing posts with the label #Apologetics

God, the unmovable first mover.

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When Christian apologists try to argue in favor of God’s existence, one of the more popular arguments is the “first cause” idea. If you’re not familiar with that name, it’s because all sorts of people refer to it by all sorts of terms. “Prime mover,” “unmoved mover,” “unmovable mover,” or “first mover”; “first cause,” “final cause,” “uncaused cause,” “universal cause,” or “universal causation”; “causal argument,” “argument from motion,” or “cosmological argument”; or simply “nothing comes from nothing.” Formally it’s the cosmological argument. Sometimes it’s called “the Kalam,” which is short for “the kalam cosmological argument.” Which is a lousy abbreviation for the idea: Kalam is short for عِلْم الكَلام / ‘ilm al-kalām , “the science of words,” i.e. Muslim apologetics. The kalam cosmological argument is simply the way Muslims phrase the first cause idea. It’s grown popular because apologist William Lane Craig likes to use it. Hey, truth is truth, whether we get it from Mus

God’s existence. In case you don’t consider it a given.

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The existence of God, and proving it, isn’t really a theology subject. It’s a Christian apologetics subject. Theology is the study of God—and it takes God’s existence as a given. Of course he exists. Duh. Otherwise what’s there to study? The bible likewise takes God’s existence as a given. Genesis 1.1 KJV In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.   John 1.1 KJV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The authors of the scriptures had to explain Jesus’s existence, but they never do explain God’s. Because he’s just there. Existing. Creating. Not battling the universe, nor Titans and other gods, so he could reign over them and control the elements: He created the universe. Humans and devils might stand against him from time to time, but it’s no contest as to who’s right, and who’s gonna win. So we don’t have to argue God’s existence to fellow Christians. Should have to, either. If a Christian doesn’t believe in

You realize other religions have their own apologetics, right?

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About three years ago, on a Friday, I was walking to work when I was stopped by a street preacher. He wanted to say hi, strike up a conversation, find out a little about me… and invite me to synagogue that night. Yeah, synagogue . He’s Jewish. I was just walking past his synagogue. He’s hardly the first evangelist from another religion I’ve encountered. I meet Mormons all the time; I walk a lot, and they bike past me, and sometimes they stop and chat. When I lived in Sacramento, the Muslims were mighty active in my neighborhood, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses came calling every Saturday morning. I had a Buddhist roommate for a few years, and picked his brain about Buddhism. (Then led him to Jesus, ’cause I do that.) I have a Buddhist coworker and pick his brain now. I’ve had Wiccan coworkers; same deal. I would’ve had a long interesting discussion with the Jew, but I hate to be late to work, so maybe some other time. I realize certain Christians are gonna be outraged I dared l

Why must Christian apologists argue?

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To argue means to give reasons or cite evidence in support of one’s ideas, actions, or planned actions. Like when you argue your case in court: You’re trying to convince the jury, judge, or justices to take your side, and giving good reasons why they oughta. Sometimes they’re gonna challenge those reasons with reasonable questions, and we oughta be able to reasonably answer those questions. If we can’t, we lose. Then there’s the other definition of “argue”: To fight. With words, although in these types of argument, what they’re really going for is a win. By any means necessary. Reason has little to do with it; in fact they’d much rather hurt your feelings than offer a reasonable response. The biggest problem in Christian apologetics is the temptation to stray from reasonable arguments, and start fighting. ’Cause once we do that, we lose. Fighting turns the person we’re just talking with, just having a discussion with, into the enemy . Now we’re no longer trying to win them

Lying so we can win the debate.

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Christians lie. No we’re not supposed to. There’s a whole teaching about this. It’s actually not the “don’t bear false witness ” command, Ex 20.16 which has to do with perjury. It’s the one about how Christians need to be rid of lying, and tell the truth to one another. Ep 4.25 But we lie just the same. Usually to get out of trouble. Sometimes to defraud. And sometimes when we debate with antichrists, and wanna score points, we borrow a rather common tactic we see in politics: We ignore whether our “facts” are all that factual. Oh, we wish they were factual, ’cause they really help our case. We’ll psyche ourselves into believing they’re factual. We’re willing to dismiss any evidence which says it’s false knowledge. We’re totally willing to perpetuate fraud. Yeah, it’s fraud. There’s a command against that too. Mk 10.19 But Christians dismiss this particular sin, ’cause we figure it’s so important to win these arguments, score victories for Jesus… and really stick i

Some people don’t wanna argue. And they’re entirely right not to.

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Back in 2017 an acquaintance of mine started an “apologetics ministry.” It’s kinda defunct now. Initially it consisted of his blog, his Twitter account, and a whole bunch of his spare time. (You know, like TXAB —except I don’t do apologetics.) Except he also created a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, got some friends to be his board members, and solicited donations. He was hoping to turn it into a full-time job… and got really irritated at me for calling it “getting paid to sit in his pajamas all day and argue with strangers on the internet.” But that is what he was doing. In his mind, he was doing it for Jesus. He figured apologetics is a vital, necessary ministry, and there simply aren’t enough Christians out there… arguing with strangers on the internet, whether they spend all day in their jammies or not. Like I said, his “ministry” is defunct now. He’s taken to arguing politics. Political organizations aren’t allowed under the 501(c)3 tax code, so I’m pretty sure he’s ei

The odds of Jesus fulfilling prophecy.

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Round Christmastime you’ll hear all sorts of sermons about Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. I certainly have. Hear ’em every Christmas. Frequently way more than one sermon: I regularly go to the live nativities my city’s churches put together, and the Christians there are gonna preach about Jesus’s birth yet again, just in case anyone doesn’t already know the story. (Nevermind the fact live nativities keep getting elements of the story wrong, like magi at the stable. ) The sermons are frequently from the Luke point of view, which has his actual birth in it. But occasionally preachers will bring up Matthew’s bit about the magi, because it specifically refers to the prophecy Messiah’s to be born in Bethlehem: Micah 5.2 NASB “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” A previous Messiah, David ben Jesse,

Why are people nontheist? No, it’s not bad Christians.

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Nontheists are people who live their lives with zero concern for God. They don’t believe he even exists, or doubt his existence enough to act as if he’s not. They won’t always call themselves atheists or agnostics, ’cause those guys tend to be antichrists and jerks: They’re not anti -religious. They’re simply not religious. Why are people nontheist? Simple: It’s how they were raised. They had nontheist parents. Like my dad: My grandparents never outright said they didn’t believe in God, but nothing they did ever indicated any belief, and that’s what they passed along to their kids. My aunts and uncle went other routes, but Dad decided upon atheism. Now what about people who weren’t raised nontheist? Well, Brennan Manning, a former Franciscan priest who became a popular author and public speaker, had a theory that’s become very widely accepted among Evangelical Christians. The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with t

Nontheism: When pagans don’t believe in God.

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NONTHEIST 'nɑn.θi.ɪst adjective . Believes no such thing as God, gods, a universal spirit, a universal intelligence, nor a supernatural higher power, exists. (A catchall term for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and others who are skeptical of God and religion.) [Nontheism 'nɑn.θi.ɪz.əm noun .] Y’know, for the first couple centuries of Christianity, we Christians were called atheist. See, Greco-Roman pagans believed in gods. Lots of gods. Not just their own gods—and the titans, demigods, and daemons in the Greco-Roman pantheon. They also accepted the existence of the gods of other pantheons. They didn’t presume they knew them all. So whenever they encountered an unfamiliar god, they accepted it. Even added it to their pantheon, which is why they had multiple gods of the sun (Apollo, Helios, Hyperion) and war (Ares, Athena, Enyo, Polemos). Sometimes they figured it was just one of their gods with a different name: The Latins worshiped a Deo Pater /“Father God” (

Christian apologetics: Kicking ass for Jesus. (Don’t!)

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APOLOGY e'pa.le.dzi noun . Justification for one’s behavior, theory, or religious belief; usually in form of a logical argument. [Apologetic e.pa.le'dzet.ik adjective , apologist e'pa.le.dzist noun .]   APOLOGETICS e.pa.le'dzet.iks noun . The study and use of logical arguments to defend [usually religious] beliefs. Years ago a pastor introduced me to a visitor to our church thisaway: “He knows a lot about apologetics.” “Well, theology,” I corrected him. ’Cause at the time this pastor didn’t really recognize much of a difference between theology and apologetics. In fact a lot of Christians don’t. Theology is what we know about God. Apologetics tends to be based on those beliefs, and regularly argues in favor of them. But ’tain’t the same thing. Yeah I actually do know a lot about Christian apologetics. Before I studied theology, it’s what my church taught me. Started in high school. My youth pastor (same as a lot of undereducated youth pastors wh

On trusting the bible—but first trusting God.

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Whenever Christian apologists write a book on their favorite subject, they either begin by explaining how they know God exists, or why the bible is absolutely trustworthy. It kinda depends on which of the two they consider the higher authority: God, because he inspired the bible; or bible, because it informs us about God. Custom dictates God should come first, so he does come first in most apologetics books. But not all of ’em, ’cause not every apologist hews to custom. And to be blunt, a number of apologists are total bibliolaters, so they insist it’s vital we establish the bible as an absolute before we can even quote it as an authority. Thing is, how do we prove the bible’s absolutely trustworthy? Well, here are the answers one apologist offers. Look how many ancient copies of the bible there are! Way more than other books, or contemporary books. That’s gotta mean something. Lookit all the statements the scriptures say about themselves, or other scriptures. Looki

Relativism. (’Cause we aren’t all that absolute.)

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RELATIVISM 'rɛl.ə.də.vɪ.zəm noun. Belief that truth, knowledge, and morals are based on context, not absolutes. [Relative 'rɛl.ə.dɪv adjective , relativist 'rɛl.ə.də.vɪst noun .] Relativism is a big, big deal to Christian apologists. I’ll get to why in a minute; bear with me as I introduce the concept. Some of us were raised by religious people, and were taught to believe in religious absolutes: God is real, Jesus is alive, sin causes death, love your neighbor. Others weren’t raised religious, but they grew up in a society which accepts and respects absolutes. Like scientific principles, logic, mathematics, or a rigid code of ethics. The rest— probably the majority— claim they believe in absolutes, but they’re willing to get all loosey-goosey whenever the absolutes get in their way. They might agree theft is bad… but it’s okay if they shoplift every once in a while. Murder is bad… but dropping bombs on civilians during wartime is acceptable. Lying is bad

When people believe Christianity is a myth.

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Christianity is an historical religion. It’s based on a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who lived and breathed and died in the first century of our era. He proclaimed God’s kingdom and described what it’s like, informed us no one could get round him to the Father, Jn 14.6 and despite being crucified by the Romans, physically came back from the dead and sent his followers to proclaim this kingdom on his behalf. If none of this stuff literally happened—if it’s pure mythology , a fiction based on cultural archetypes instead of true events, which reflects humanity’s fondest wishes, meant to teach greater truths and bigger ideas instead of being taken as fact—then we Christians have a huge problem. See, when we join God’s kingdom we’re kinda expected to change our entire lives based on its principles. We’re also promised Jesus is gonna come back to personally rule this kingdom. But if Christianity’s mythological, then Jesus won’t do any such thing, ’cause he’s dead. Oh, and if he’s

“The fool says there’s no God around.”

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Psalm 14.1, 53.1. The New Living Translation renders Psalm 14.1 and 53.1 exactly the same: Psalm 14.1, 53.1 NLT Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! It’s because Psalms 14 and 53 are actually the same psalm. David ben Jesse wrote it five centuries before Psalms got put together—and Psalms is actually made of five different psalters. The first book Ps 1-41 had it, and so did the second Ps 42-72 —so yep, it’s in there twice. For fun, you can compare the two psalms for the differences which slipped into the psalm over time. It’s kinda like different hymnals which have alternate verses to your favorite hymns. (“Amazing Grace,” fr’instance, is a bit different from the way John Newton originally wrote it.) Differences the NLT actually muted. ’Cause it translated two different words as “actions.” Psalm 14.1 has עֲלִילָ֗ה / alilá , “a doing,” and Psalm 53.1 has עָ֝֗וֶל / avél , “

Historical Jesus. (Who ain’t all that historical.)

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So here’s a little transcript of a discussion I once had with a skeptic. Slightly abridged. HE. “Jesus never said that.” ME. “Sure he did. In Mark 16.52 he clearly states….” HE. “No, that’s what the bible says he said. I’m talking about what he actually said. Not what some Roman Christian, centuries later, claims he said.” Where’d he get the idea the gospels aren’t historical?—that the Jesus we Christians believe in, is just ancient Christian fanfiction? This, true believers, is what we call the Historical Jesus hypothesis. When he wasn’t staying in the White House, Thomas Jefferson used to spend his evenings at home in Virginia with four bibles (two copies each, so he could get the text from either side of the page), scissors and paste, splicing together a private book he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth . Nowadays we call it “the Jefferson Bible.” In Jefferson’s version of the story, Jesus does no miracles (except one or two, which Jefferson left

Are Mormons Christian?

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I’ve written more than once that we’re saved by God’s grace —which means we’re not saved by our orthodoxy. There are a lot of Evangelical Christians who’ve got it into our heads that we’re saved only once we have all the correct beliefs; a situation I call faith righteousness . Faith righteousness is easily disproven by the fact God saves new Christians. Does any newbie hold all the correct beliefs about God? Of course not; they don’t know anything yet! None of us did. (Some of us still don’t.) But we’re pursuing a relationship with God, and as we screw up time and again, God graciously forgives our deficiencies. Might be moral deficiencies; might be doctrinal deficiencies. Makes no difference. Grace covers all. Of course, when I teach this, people occasionally wanna know just how far they can push God’s grace. They wanna know just how egregiously they can sin before God finally says, “Nope; you’ve gone too far; you’re going to hell.” Not necessarily because they wanna sin

The flood story and theodicy.

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As I said yesterday, when skeptics ask me about the flood story, primarily what they wanna deal with is the idea of a global flood. Earth doesn’t have enough water to cover all the landmasses, and the young-earth creationist explanations for whence and whither the water, generally sound stupid to them. Pointing out how Genesis states the land was flooded, not the world , quickly sorts that out to their satisfaction. I have yet to run into a non-Christian skeptic whose problem with the flood story is that God flooded the world. I have met Christians who struggle with it though. Generally their problem comes from their Pelagianism. Y’see, Pelagius of Britain believed humans are inherently good. ’Cause we were created good, y’know. Ge 1.31 But sin bollixed all that, and now humanity is inherently selfish and corrupt —but Pelagians can‘t believe that. After all, they know lots of good people. And optimistically figure all most people need is a nudge in the right direction, pr

The flood story.

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In Genesis there’s a story about a massive flood. Rain for a month and a half; waters which covered every hill in the area, and killed every living thing. It was, states the author of Genesis , God’s way of getting rid of the violence in the land—by getting rid of everybody but one righteous (well, righteous enough) family. Starts like this. Genesis 6.11-21 KWL 11 To God’s face, the land was ruined. The land was full of violence. 12 God saw the land. Look, ruin!—all flesh ruined its way in the land. 13 God told Noah, “To my face, the end of all flesh is coming: They fill the land with violence before them. Look, the land is ruined! 14 Make yourself a box of cypress trees. Make living spaces in the box. Plaster it from the inside to the outside with asphalt. 15 This is how you ’ll make it: A box 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high. 16 Make a window in the box, a cubit from the top. Make a doorway in the box’s side. Make bottom, second, and third fl

The bible is a way different book.

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Christian apologists —especially when they kinda lean towards biblolatry —make a great big deal about how unique the bible is. To them, it’s a powerful argument why people ought not dismiss it as just another ancient book by dead white brown guys. The bible’s a distinctly, profoundly different book. It’s very unique. Only the most ignorant of skeptics would claim otherwise. And then they go listing all the ways it’s totally unique. I’ll list a few in this article. But the big pile of ways the bible’s different, is meant to really impress someone that the bible is important and valid. Which is a basic logical flaw: Unique doesn’t automatically mean important and valid. Fr’instance let’s say a space alien came to earth, and presented us with his book of the best recipes for blergsperken. What’s blergsperken? I dunno. And none of the ingredients match anything we know about; what on earth is “raw sperkburf?” For all we know, the alien could be its planet‘s very worst cook.

“The bible says…” and people who have their doubts about the bible.

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The written word is not authoritative. I realize that’s an ironic thing to write . S’true though. People don’t believe everything they read. There’s this myth they did once; centuries ago, when the only stuff committed to print was important stuff, and therefore everybody figured people should believe everything they read. But of course it’s not true, because writers back then felt entirely free to challenge, critique, or refute the written word. Always have. For the most part it’s non-readers, or people who only read their bibles, who think the written word has some sort of special value. The rest of us read the internet, and know full well there’s a lot of rubbish out there. And when it comes to sharing Jesus, Christian apologists will regularly make the mistake of forgetting: We consider the bible authoritative. Pagans do not. To them it’s another religious book among thousands. To them it’s another centuries-old book written by dead white men. (Certain liberals are sl