RSS

Category Archives: Apologetics

Apologetics (Greek, apologetikos), means “suitable for defense.” The endeavor of apologetics is to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.

Book Review of Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson’s “Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection”

517351.jpg

Why the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is The Bull’s-Eye of The Gospel

By Dr. David P. Craig

Pastor’s Dodson and Watson write two chapters each in this short, yet powerful book, reflecting on what they call the “bull’s eye of the gospel.” They referring to Paul’s substantial treatment of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. A big part of the focus on this book is that it is much easier to embrace the reality of the death and burial of Jesus Christ than it is his resurrection from the dead. They demonstrate that believing in the resurrection was just as difficult 2,000 years ago as it is today.

The author’s deal cogently and honestly with how both Jews and Gentiles struggled with the idea of a bodily resurrection when Jesus lived. During the time of Christ there were many doubters–Jesus’ friends, contemporary Greeks and Romans, and countless Jews. They go on to show why they doubted the resurrection and demonstrate that “if you doubt the resurrection, you are in good company. Jesus understands your doubts, and he welcomes them. To those who are skeptical and struggling with belief, Jesus remains ready to receive your questions. He will listen to your doubts.”

This book wrestles with the historical evidence of the resurrection, addresses the doubts related to the supernatural event of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead (both ancient and modern), and gives in clear and concise answers some of the best reasons to believe that the resurrection of Christ really happened historically. There are also some wonderful applications of this book about how to live the resurrected life in Christ. The resurrection changes everything and this book marvelously makes a case for the practical ramifications of the gospel.

I highly recommend this book to strengthen the faith of believers, and start the journey on the way to faith for non-believers and skeptics. This is a good introduction in answering why millions of people around the world continue to follow Jesus and are convinced in the historical realities and ramifications of his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

 

Tags: , , ,

Book Review of J. Warner Wallace’s “Alive: A Cold-Case Approach To The Resurrection”

707444.jpg

Great Easter Give-Away

Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

J. Warner Wallace was once an Atheist and a Cold-Case Detective. He is now a prolific author and speaker on presenting evidences for the cogency of the Christian world-view. What sets Wallace apart from other modern apologists is that he really puts the “cookies on the shelf” for the general reader to be exposed to great evidence in an understandable and interesting manner.

In this short book – one designed to be cheap and as a giveaway for Easter – Wallace approaches the subject of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection the same way he would investigate a homicide. The minimal facts that Wallace investigates are the following: (1) Jesus died on the cross and was buried; (2) Jesus’ tomb was empty, and no one ever produced His body; (3) Jesus’ disciples believed that they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead; (4) Jesus’ disciples were transformed following their alleged resurrection observations.

Next, Wallace proceeds to tackle the skeptical explanations that deny the above facts: (1) The Disciples were wrong about Jesus’ death; (2) The Disciples lied about the resurrection; (3) The Disciples were delusional; (4) The Disciples were fooled by an imposter; (5) The Disciples were influenced by limited spiritual sightings; (6) The Disciples observations were distorted later – with each of these six skeptical views Wallace demonstrates how each of these views contains at least four to six inherent problems tied to the argument.

The most logical explanation requires a belief in the supernatural: a belief that Jesus had the supernatural power to rise from the dead and thus Wallace defends the position that The Disciples were accurately reporting the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. Wallace concludes his examination of the evidence with a very important point: “Moving from the most reasonable inference to a decision of trust…It’s one thing to ‘believe that’ Jesus rose from the dead and is who He said he was, but it’s another to ‘believe in’ Him as Savior. Every one of us, at some point in our investigation of the claims of Christianity, has to move from ‘belief that’ to ‘belief in.'”

Wallace’s little book is a great way to get the essence of the Christian message in the hands of the curious and skeptics alike. This is a short book that deserves a wide reading and should be bought in bulk as a giveaway – especially during Easter as we celebrate the great hope of the world – the One who lived, died, was buried, and raised so that we might have salvation by Him and through Him – the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Tags: , ,

Book Review of Ron Rhodes’: The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say To A Catholic

512c5LD0vjL._AC_US320_QL65_.jpg

Explains Key Differences Between Catholicism and Protestantism 

Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

I have a deep love for those who have been raised in the Catholic Church. As a Protestant we share many cherished beliefs and values. However, we have some significant differences of belief as well. In this book Rhodes tackles nine of the major areas where Catholics and Protestants disagree.

Here are the nine areas of conflict addressed by Rhodes: (1) Catholics believe that the Apocryphal Books should be included in the biblical canon – Protestants do not; (2) Catholics believe that tradition is authoritative for belief and practice, whereas, Protestants believe the Bible alone is authoritative for faith and practice; (3) Catholics believe that Peter was the first Pope, Protestants on the other hand hold that he was a great apostle (among various apostles in the early church); (4) Catholics hold to the infallibility of the Pope, the Bishops, and the Magisterium of the Church; whereas Protestants hold to the Bible as being infallible, but not the human leaders of the Church; (5) Catholics venerate Mary as a co-redeemer and mediatrix, a perpetual virgin, and various other views that conflict with Protestant views. Protestants simply view Mary as simply the godly mother of Jesus and nothing more. (6) Catholics mix justification and sanctification – adding human merit/works to one’s salvation; whereas Protestants view salvation as solely and entirely by grace through faith in Jesus – justification is instantaneous and once and for all. (7) Catholics and Protestants have a very different view on “mass” or the “Lord’s Supper.” Catholics hold to transubstantiation whereas Protestants hold to consubstantiation or the memorial/symbolic view. (8) In Catholicism Penance must be done to absolve sins, in Protestantism Confession of sin is to be made to God, not a human priest. (9) Catholicism believes in Purgatory (second chance after death); Protestants hold to no second chances after death.

For each of these views Rhodes offers the Catholic argument first, followed by a Protestant rebuttal and defense. The chapters are short and only the most salient points are made. For each chapter Rhodes uses different icons to identify points made by Catholics and Protestants. Each chapter contains points to use with caution, helpful witnessing points, and supplementary and more detailed material that can be found in Rhodes’ larger book entitled “Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics.” As of this review Rhodes has written a few other short books of this ilk on Creation and Evolution; Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, and Masons.

I highly recommend this resource. It’s short and to the point, and yet delineates some key points to help Protestants share the good news with their Catholic friends.

 

Tags: , ,

Book Review on Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism

26510eb.jpg

Engaging People Like Jesus

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

As world views become more polarized in the twenty first century we find ourselves as Christians constantly trying to find more effective ways to build bridges with non believers. Randy Newman has written a wonderful resource to help in this very important endeavor. Newman organizes his book into three primary sections: Part 1: Why Ask Questions?; Part 2: What Questions Are People Asking?; and Part 3: Why Aren’t Questions and Answers Enough?

In Part 1 Newman tackles three objectives to help one become more effective in evangelism: (1) He exhibits why questions are more effective than just giving answers; (2) He gives examples from the book of Proverbs in what he calls “Solomonic Soulwinning”; (3) He articulates how questions pave the way for answers.

In Part 2 the author does an excellent job of showing how to maintain an ongoing dialogue with those who ask us the following questions (by devoting a whole chapter to each): (1) Why are Christians so intolerant?; (2) Why does a good God allow evil and suffering such as Columbine and AIDS?; (3) Why should anyone worship a God who allowed 9/11?; (4) Why are Christians so Homophobic?; (5) What’s so good about marriage?; and (6) If Jesus is so great, why are some of His followers such jerks?

The last section in the book hones in on why its important to have more than just good questions and answers in evangelism. He addresses why having real compassion, empathy, and when knowing when to “shut up” are extremely important. Also, in the back of the book there is a helpful section entitled “Unanswered questions” and a study guide for each chapter in the book for group study.

I highly recommend this book for 4 reasons: (1) Newman writes by example. He has been sharing the gospel on University campuses for many years. He gives tons of personal examples of both how, and how not to, begin conversations with skeptics of all stripes. (2) Most of the questions Newman brings up are helpful – he gives lots of scenarios that most ambassadors of Christ will actually encounter in the real world. (3) This book will equip you to grow in the important skill of what Newman calls “dialoging” the gospel. (4) This book will give you more boldness and confidence in establishing meaningful conversations with nonbelievers that are friends, as well as strangers. It will give you various “lead ins” that you can use with confidence and bring naturally into everyday conversations.

Evangelism has always been challenging but this book will make dialoging the gospel more pleasurable. Personally, I’ve already used much from the book in dialoging with skeptics and have found these conversations stimulating, and look forward to more opportunities to share with others what I’ve learned. Most importantly, Newman reminds us to be more like Jesus in our character, the way we ask questions, and share the gospel – and that’s a very good thing indeed!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Greg Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions

282921.jpg

How To Winsomely Build Bridges With Non-Believers

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Living in one of the least churched areas in the USA (Bay Area, Northern California) I am always looking for better ways to build bridges with non-believers. I have found that many of the old ways I was trained in (e.g., 4 spiritual laws, and various tracts) assume a common world-view. However, we aren’t “in Kansas” anymore as the saying goes. Times have changed and are ever changing rapidly. In our cultural climate we can either retreat or engage. Tactics is a tool for those who wish to engage – and a very helpful tool it is indeed.

What I love about this book is that it helps Christians (of all stripes) engage non-believers in a very simple manner. Koukl helps you become a better engager by looking for opportunities, asking good questions, and listening well so as to build bridges toward understanding, and ultimately truth. All truth is God’s truth and Koukl gives examples of how to arrive at moral truth, philosophical truth, scientific truth, and religious truth.

One of the strategies Koukl highlights in his book is letting the other person defeat their own view by asking them to share what they believe. If what the person believes is false it will manifest itself as false eventually through our questioning (essentially they end up shooting themselves in the foot). At this point they may want to consider the truth claims of the Christian worldview. He gives many examples of how to do this from his own experiences in conversations and debates with non-believers.

One of the key illustrations used over and over again in the book is that of the beloved Lieutenant Columbo (the homicide detective played by actor Peter Falk). Columbo would always solve murder cases by asking good questions, being a good listener, and controlling each case (usually unbeknownst to the murderer) until the case was solved. Koukl uses a plethora of examples to drive the “Columbo method” home.

Koukl masterfully weaves case scenarios throughout the book and demonstrates how we can utilize the tactical methods of Columbo to gain a hearing and build bridges with anyone. I highly recommend this book for Christians who are interested in evangelism and apologetics. It’s also filled with ethical examples as well.  I will continue to personally use principles from this book and train those I disciple to do likewise. Koukl has blessed followers of Christ with a wonderful resource to help all believers be better equipped to strategically and effectively influence those of differing views to consider the cogency of the Christian Worldview.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Book Review on Scott Klusendorf’s: The Case For Life

503207.jpg

A Compelling Case For The Pro-Life Position

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

It’s hard to fathom that somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million babies have been legally killed since the historic Roe v. Wade decision made on January 22, 1973. In this book Scott Klusendorf brilliantly and graciously marshals a sound case for the pro-life position; namely, that the unborn are “distinct, living, and whole members of the human species regardless of size or location.”

In Section One Klusendorf clarifies the issue by honing in on the key issue in the debate that divides the pro-choice abortion and the pro-life position. The key issue is “What is the unborn?” He makes a strong case from the science of embryology and from philosophy that the unborn are indeed human and thus valuable and worthy of protection in the womb.

In Part two the author frames the abortion issue around whether or not life has meaning. Are we merely randomly evolved or are we endowed with value because we are God’s special creation. He makes a great case for the existence of God; the cogency of the Christian faith; and the purpose for which human beings are made to worship and bring glory to God.

Part Three gives a plethora of excellent and carefully articulated answers to six of the most used objections from the pro-abortion choice position. Each question is taken up by a whole chapter and in my opinion Klusendorf makes an extremely good case for the pro-life position in answer to each objection.

Part Four is extremely encouraging. All four chapters are full of hope for the days ahead. Filled with practical ways that pro-lifers can work together to bring about an eventual end to the travesty of legalized abortion.

Klusendorf has written a tour de force indeed. This book will encourage pro-lifers with tremendous evidence for their position. It is also encouraging because it seems that the tide is changing – just like it did with slavery earlier in our countries history. There are great resources in this book: review questions for group study; an appendix filled with training resources; and the way that the book is written – scholarly, yet non-technical; practical, and scientifically, theologically, and philosophically sound. Reading this book is like taking a graduate level course on the topic from a distinguished professor. I highly recommend this book and hope that it gains a wide audience and influences the convinced and non-convinced on this crucial issue.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Christianity is About a Relationship with Jesus

Receiving The Resurrected Redeemer

42951_w185

Every single person who has ever lived on Planet Earth will be resurrected—some to eternal life and some to eternal torment. In the Lord’s own words, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). Everyone reading these words is in one of these two categories.

Relationship

The distinction between religion and relationship makes all the difference in the world. Religion is merely man’s attempt to reach up and become acceptable to God through his own efforts—living a good life, attempting to obey the Ten Commandments, or following the golden rule. Some religions even teach that this cannot be accomplished in one lifetime. Thus, you are reincarnated over and over again until you become one with nirvana or one with the universe.

The problem with the answer provided by religion is that the Bible says that if we are ever to become acceptable to God, we must be absolutely perfect! As Jesus put it in His Sermon on the Mount—one of the most famous literary masterpieces in the history of humanity—“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Obviously no one is perfect; therefore, if we are ever going to know the resurrected Redeemer here and now, as well as rule and reign with Him throughout the eons of time, there has to be another way. And that way is found in a relationship.

Relationship is what the Christian faith is all about. It is not primarily a set of dos and don’ts. It’s a personal relationship with God. That relationship does not depend on our ability to reach up and touch God through our own good works, but rather on God’s willingness to reach down and touch us through His love.

By way of illustration, if I wanted to have a relationship with an ant, the only way I could do so is to become one. Obviously I can’t become an ant, but God did become a man. The Bible says that God in the person of Jesus Christ “became flesh” and lived for a while “among us” (John 1:14). He came into time and space to restore a relationship with man that was severed by sin.

It is crucial that you understand the problem of sin. If you do not recognize that you are a sinner, you will also not realize your need for a Savior.

Sin

Sin is not just murder, rape, or robbery. Sin is failing to do the things we should and doing those things we should not. In short, sin is a word that describes anything that fails to meet God’s standard of perfection.

Thus, sin is the barrier between you and a satisfying relationship with God. As Scripture puts it, “Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2).

Just as light and dark cannot exist together, neither can God and sin. And each day we are further separated from God as we are further separated from God as we add to the account of our sin. But that’s not the only problem. Sin also separates us from others. You need only read the newspaper or listen to a news report to see how true this really is. Locally, we read of murder, robbery, and fraud. Nationally, we hear of corruption in politics, racial tension, and an escalating rate of suicide. Internationally, we constantly see wars and hear rumors of war. We live in a time when terrorism abounds and when the world as we know it can be instantly obliterated by nuclear aggression.

All of these things are symbolic of sin. The Bible says that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no accept ions to the rule. The problem is further compounded when we begin to understand who God is. Virtually every heresy begins with a misconception of the nature of God.

God

On one hand, God is the perfect Father. We all have had earthly fathers, but no matter how good—or bad, as the case may be—none are perfect. God, however, is the perfect Father. And as the perfect Father, he desires an intimate relationship with us. In His Word, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Yet the same Bible that tells us that God loves us and wants a relationship with us as our heavenly Father also tells us that He is the perfect Judge. As the perfect Judge, God is absolutely just, righteous, and holy. The Bible says of God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Herein lies the dilemma. On the one hand, we see that God is the perfect Father. He loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us. On the other hand, He is the perfect Judge, whose very nature is too pure to tolerate our sin. The dilemma is brought into sharper focus by a story I heard many years ago.

A young man was caught driving under the influence of alcohol after having committed several crimes. He was brought before a judge nicknamed the “hanging judge.” Although the judge’s integrity was beyond question, he always handed out the stiffest penalty allowable by law (to wit the nickname, “hanging judge”). It turns out that the judge was the young man’s father. As you can imagine, everyone in there courthouse that day waited with bated breath to see how the judge would treat his own son. Would he show him favoritism as a father, or would he, as always, hand out the stiffest penalty allowable by law?

As the spellbound courtroom full of spectators looked on, the judge, without hesitation, issued the maximum financial penalty allowable by law. Then he took off his judicial robes, walked over to where his son stood, and paid the penalty his son could not pay. In that one act, he satisfied the justice of the law and yet demonstrated extraordinary love.

That, however, is but a faint glimpse of what God the Father did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus Christ—God Himself—came to earth to be our Savior and to be our Lord.

Through His resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers with Buddha, Mohammed, or any other founders of world religions. They died and are still dead, but Christ had the power to lay down His life and take it up again.

Jesus Christ

As our Savior, Jesus lived the perfect life we cannot live. Earlier I pointed out that Scripture says in order to be acceptable to God we need to be perfect. Well, Jesus Christ came into time and space to be perfection for us. As the Bible puts it, “God made Him [Jesus Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

This is the great exchange over which all of the Bible was written. God took our sins and placed them on Jesus Christ, who suffered and died to pay the debt we could not pay. Then, wonder of wonders, He gave us the perfect life of Jesus Christ. He took our sins and gave us His perfection as an absolutely free gift. We cannot earn it or deserve it; we can only live a life of gratitude for this gift that God freely offers us. But that’s not all. Jesus not only died to be our Savior; He also lives to be our Lord.

As our Lord, Jesus Christ gives our lives meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. This is a particularly exciting thought when you stop to realize that the one who wants to be your Lord is the very one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. He not only made this universe and everything in it, but He made you. He knows all about you, He loves you, and He wants you to have a satisfying life here and now and an eternity of joy with Him in heaven forever.

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The resurrection of Jesus is an undeniable fact of history. Through the immutable fact of the resurrection, God the Father vindicated Christ’s claims to deity, thus demonstrating that Jesus was God in human flesh. To receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, one need only take two steps. The one step is repent, the other is receive.

Two Steps

The first step involves repentance. Repentance is an old English word that describes a willingness to turn from sin toward Jesus Christ. It literally means a complete U-turn on the road of life—a change of heart and a change of mind. It means a willingness to follow Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord. In the words of Christ, “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

The second step is to receive. To demonstrate true belief means to be willing to receive God’s free gift. To truly receive God’s gift is to trust in and depend on Jesus Christ alone to be the Lord of our lives here and now and our Savior for all eternity.

Receiving God’s free gift takes more than knowledge. (The devil knows about Jesus and trembles.) It takes more than agreeing that the knowledge is accurate. (The devil knows that Jesus is Lord.) True saving faith entails not only knowledge and agreement, but trust. By way of illustration, when you are sick you can know a particular medicine can cure you. You can even agree that it’s cured thousands of others. But until you trust it enough to take it, it cannot cure you. It like manner, you can know about Jesus Christ, and you can agree that He has saved others, but until you personally place your trust in Him, you will not be saved.

The requirements for eternal life are nit based on what you can do but on what Jesus Christ has done. He stands ready to exchange His perfection for your imperfection.

To those who have never received Him as Savior and Lord, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus knocks on the door of the human heart, and the question He asks is, Are you ready now to receive me as Savior and Lord?

According to Jesus Christ, those who repent and receive Him as Savior and Lord are “born again” (John 3:3)—not physically, but spiritually. And with this birth must come spiritual growth.

Growth

First, no relationship can flourish without constant, heartfelt communication. This is true not only in human relationships, but also in our relationship with God. If we are to nurture a strong relationship with our Savior, we must be in constant communication with Him. The way to do that is through prayer.

Prayer is the way we talk to God. You do not need a special vocabulary to pray. You can simply speak to God as you would to your best friend. The more time you spend with God in prayer, the more intimate your relationship will be. And remember, there is no problem great or small that God cannot handle. If it’s important to you, it’s important to Him.

Furthermore, in addition to prayer, it is crucial that new believers spend time reading God’s written revelation of Himself—the Bible. The Bible not only forms the foundation of an effective prayer life, but it is foundational to every other aspect of Christian living. While prayer is our primary way of communicating with God, the Bible is God’s primary way of communicating with us. Nothing should take precedence over getting into the Word and getting the Word into us.

If we fail to eat well-balanced meals on a regular basis, we will eventually suffer the physical consequences. What is true of the outer man is also true of the inner man. If we do not regularly feed on the Word of God, we will starve spiritually.

I generally recommend that new believers by reading one chapter from the Gospel of John each day. As you do, you will experience the joy of having God speak to you directly through His Word. As Jesus put it, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Finally, it is crucial for new believers to become active participants in a healthy, weal-balanced church. In Scripture, the church is referred to as the body of Christ. Just as our body is one and yet has many parts, so the body of Christ is one but is composed of many members. Those who receive Christ as the Savior and Lord of their lives are already a part of the church universal. It is crucial, however, that all Christians become vital, reproducing members of a local body of believers as well.

Scripture exhorts us not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together, as is the custom of some (see Hebrews 10:25). It is is the local church where God is worshiped through prayer, praise, and proclamation; where believers experience fellowship with one another; and where they are equipped to reach others through the testimony of their love, their lips, and their lives.

Application

I began by pointing out that Christianity is not merely a religion; rather, it is a relationship with the resurrected Redeemer. You can know of Him through historical evidences, but you can know Him only by the Spirit of God. Even now, if God’s Spirit is moving upon your heart, you can receive the resurrected Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Simply pray thus prayer—and remember, there is no magic in the words; God is looking at the intent of your heart.

Prayer to Pray

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You have provided a way for me to have a relationship with You; I realize that I am a sinner; I thank You that You are my perfect Father; I thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior and Lord; I repent and receive His perfection in exchange for my sin; In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Assurance

The assurance of eternal life is found in these words from the resurrected Redeemer: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Adapted from Hank Hanegraaff (Appendix A) – Resurrection The Capstone in the Arch of Christianity. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2000.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: