The Use of Evidence in Defending the Faith–A Comparison

A good friend of mine at The Domain for Truth blog writes a lot about presuppositional apologetics. Below is a really good comparison between two schools of apologetics concernnig the use of evidence in defending the faith.

Presuppositional Apologetics Believes in Evidence: Yet Five Ways its Different than Evidentialism

I hear too often people say Presuppositional apologetics don’t believe in evidence.  That’s not true.  Presuppositional apologetics does believe there’s a role for evidence in Christian apologetics.

But first off some might need to know what is Presuppositional apologetics in the first place.  It might be helpful to listen to various different lectures on Presuppositional apologetics; check out our “Ultimate Collection of Free Presuppositional Apologetics Lectures.”  Among the many lectures the ones I recommend would be Greg Bahnsen’s Van Tillian Apologetics and Jason Lisle’s one shot “Jason Lisle “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” Lecture at The Master’s Seminary

Yet if Presuppositional Apologetics believes there’s a place for evidence how is a distinctly Presuppositional Apologetics’ approach different than the typical Evidentialism?

I can think of five ways.

Difference 1: There is no neutrality.  This is a distinctive of Presuppositional apologetics: There is no religious neutrality.  I’ve argued for this point in our “A BRIEF OUTLINE AGAINST RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY.”  I’ve met some traditional evidentialist or proponents of Classical Apologetics asserting that they approach the defense of the faith in a neutral fashion.  Even before I was into Presuppositional Apologetics I felt that this might not always be true in practice; the apologist does have a bias of believing in the Bible.  Yet when the skeptics say the Christian is bias in handling the evidences the Presuppositional apologists can point out the skeptics are also bias.  They are not neutral.  Far from it.  In their state of not believing God’s Word they are rebelling against God our Creator.   A Presuppositionalist talking about evidence with an unbeliever will expose the skeptics’ pretended neutrality in how they handle the evidence.  Yet when a skeptic merely dismiss a Christian handling evidences as being bias the Presuppositionalist can argue that there is no neutrality.

Difference 2: Philosophy of evidence matters more than evidence per se.   In the past I have mentioned this point in our blog that one’s philosophy of evidence matters more than evidences per se.  That is because one’s philosophy of evidence will shape how one interpret the evidence.  In other words one’s criteria of evidence will either dismiss something as evidence or accept something as evidence.  If someone has a messed up criteria of evidence it might be better to first deal with the philosophy of evidence before you present any evidence.   See Van Til, Evidence, and Philosophy of Evidence.

Difference 3: Even the prerequisite for talking about evidences such as the laws of logic, uniformity of nature, nature of truth, etc., requires the existence of God. This is a powerful argument.  It is also a big claim.  I am aware of that.  Space doesn’t permit me to talk about this as much as I would like but I highly recommend Jason Lisle’s “Jason Lisle “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” Lecture at The Master’s Seminary” that develop this point further.  An apologist conscious of Presuppositional apologetics when talking with an unbeliever about evidences will be on the look out for self-refuting presuppositions that makes nonsense of the tools necessary for discussing evidences.   An apologist conscious of Presuppositional apologetics will also make a powerful argument that the skeptics’ own reasoning ability requires the existence of God.

Difference 4: Presuppositionalism believes in more evidences than the evidentialists.  This is rather ironic.  For instance the Presuppositionalist looks at the Bible and discover that Scripture is self-attesting according to Luke 16:31 and is thus another “evidence.”  Actually the Bible is “the” evidence(s).  Scripture also talks about the doctrine of the self-authorizing Christ.  So instead of dismissing anything that is self-evidencing the Presuppositionalist sees these self-evidencing evidences must be in the apologist’s aresenal. That’s because that which is self-evidencing still has evidential value!

Difference 5: Presuppositionalism believes Romans 1:18 onwards that all people already know God but suppresses the truth. Which means the Presuppositionalist is not naive in how he handles evidences and is aware that very likely the skeptics will not accept Christian evidence as evidence.  Instead when a Presuppositionalist discusses any evidences with a nonbeliever he will presents the argument in a stronger and more robust Presuppositional fashion.  One should read “A Proposal on the Occasion and the Method of Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework” that is linked in this post “Van Til, Evidence, and Philosophy of Evidence.”

Used with Permission.

To read The Domain For Truth blog, go here. If you want a simpler look at the topic of apologetics, go here.

Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti

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I saw a Facebook post this morning that contained a short video clip, apparently taken from a Joel Osteen sermon, advertising Joel’s Podcast (available from iTunes). The above quotation is what he told anyone listening to the clip.

“On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good. Not some things, the good breaks, the promotion, but even the loss, the disappointment. The person that walked away, it wasn’t random, it was ordained by God.” – Joel Osteen

Although he didn’t quote any actual scripture passage, the obvious reference is to Romans 8:28, which claim that “all things work together for good.” Joel would have you believe that “If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.”  Now that’s a nice thought, and a positive attitude (what Joel is teaching) helps, but is that what is actually taught in the Roman text? Let’s take a look, shall we?

 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

Joel maintains that:

1.  ALL things will work for your good and “the next level of your destiny” is the “good” (goal) for which all things work.

2.  All things are ordained by God, even the bad things.

What is true in the above? That all things work together for good and that God ordains all things.

What is NOT true? Well, just a couple of things.

1.  Joel is speaking to a very large audience, to every individual sitting in the former basketball arena turned into a ‘church’ (I use the term loosely), outlying ‘campuses’, as well as television/digital media viewers. The author of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, was speaking to a particular group of people, the Christians in Rome. He also spoke about a specific group of people, those who “love God and are the called according to His purpose.”  2. Joel defined the “good” in the “all things that work together for good”, as the next level of your destiny, even implying that since God ordains all things, He has ordained for you some sort of divine destiny, a concept NOWHERE taught in scripture.

He has a lot of company in that regard. There are countless faux preachers and teachers who make the Christian life all about us, and our personal aspirations and dreams for life in the here and now.

Scripture, however, tells us it is those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35), that the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20), and that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must DIE to self (Luke 14:27). Dear friends, these passages teach the exact opposite of searching for some personal ‘divine destiny’!

Sadly, the ‘divine destiny’ lie might be the most dangerous cancer eating away at today’s church. And it’s really not a new teaching at all. I think the journey to where we are now on began over 15 years ago with a book by a portly West Coast Pastor that was about finding your unique purpose in the world. That book began by saying “It’s not all about you,” but then talked ALL about you for the rest of the book! The mantra for much of American evangelicalism.

So what’s Romans 8:28-30 really about? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at it again.

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

These passages are about God’s eternal purpose, NOT our temporal destinies! And anyone who teaches or preaches this dream destiny lie turns God’s eternal purpose on its head and has tricked thousands, if not millions of professing believers into dedicating their lives as Christians to pursuing their earthly ‘destinies’, and remaining trapped in this world, even as they are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom and recipients of countless heavenly blessings!

Pray for all those who have been deceived. Prey also for Joel Osteen and all prosperity gospel preachers. They WILL be held accountable.

The Gift of Tongues – Is it Real?

This is an excellent and well written article explaining one side of the debate. There is much more that can, and has been said in favor of this argument. My library will attest to that and so will  a good search engine. There is a personal note at the end of the article.

Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues

by Eric Davis The Cripplegate

From time to time pastors are asked about a phenomenon common to Christianity in the past one hundred years called “the gift of tongues.” The phrase generally refers to a spectrum of experiences, ranging from a supposed private, non-earthly prayer language spoken between the believer and God enabled by the Holy Spirit, to an angelic, non-earthly prayer language by the believer in prayer and worship, to an ecstatic non-earthly utterance enabled by the Spirit spontaneously in the believer in private and/or public worship.

Understandably, the phenomenon has created much excitement and inquiry since its rise in the early 1900’s. Professing Christians who experience it often testify to things such as the encouraging feeling it brings, comfort in the Christian life, and joy. Notwithstanding these, and many other experiences, God’s people must evaluate all things claimed to be of God by proper interpretation of Scripture. When done so, it becomes apparent that this phenomenon cannot be justified from the word of God. Having said that, Scripture does teach that there existed a miraculous gift of languages during the foundational, apostolic era of the New Testament church. As clear from Scripture, this was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others on earth for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others, while pronouncing judgment on Israel. This was a critical gift for laying the foundation of the church, and, as such, has ceased. However, phenomena as previously mentioned and beyond the biblical gift of languages cannot be justified from Scripture. Briefly, here are eleven reasons why there is no gift of tongues.

1. The meaning of the word “tongues.”

“Tongues” is an unfortunate rendering of the Greek word γλῶσσα. The word refers either to the tongue organ or spoken human languages understood by other people groups on Earth. Thus, references both in Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14 refer, not to a private prayer phenomena, but a gift of languages, involving human earthly languages.

2. The definition of New Testament spiritual gifts.

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the gift of “tongues,” or “languages,” is referred to as a spiritual gift. There, the apostle Paul teaches that a spiritual gift is an enabling of the Holy Spirit given to regenerate individuals to exalt the lordship of Christ, serve the common good of others, to be used in love for others’ edification, and exercised in an orderly manner. Therefore, the idea of an individualized, private communing contradicts the meaning of New Testament spiritual gifts and renders a gift of tongues as unsubstantiated from Scripture.

3. The transitional nature of redemptive history in the first century.

Tragically, Israel had spurned Yahweh for centuries, culminating in the rejection of her Messiah. Consequently, God judged Israel in faithfulness to his word and covenant warnings. In part, this judgment involved setting Israel aside for the sake of the church. God would no longer center his redemptive plan on the ethnic nation of Israel, but a spiritual nation; the church. Acts records this glorious transition, as the Spirit empowered believers to make disciples from and among all nations. The idea of an individualized private prayer language contradicts the redemptive historical purpose of the gift of languages in the transitional time of Acts.

In a very vivid way, the God of the nations showed with the gift of languages that one need not immerse themselves in Israeli ethnicity to enter his favor. Believers need not speak Hebrew and become a Jewish proselyte. Instead, God miraculously enabled people to speak the languages of the nations in order to speak the good news of Christ to the nations. Thus, the transitional nature of salvation history in the first century forbids the idea that this gift was a private prayer language. In no way is it a private phenomenon, but a corporate marvel for the nations and in judgment of Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 14:21).

4. Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:7.

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus teaches Christians how to pray:

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7).

The word translated “meaningless repetition,” is from the Greek verb, battalogeo. Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or chattering,” “empty repetition.” John Nolland says it’s the idea of the repetition of either intelligible or unintelligible sounds in order to multiply effectiveness (Osborne, Matthew, 226). Many commentators agree that the prefix, “batta,” is onomatopoetic. In other words, the prefix sounds similar to the thing it describes; prayers sounding something like, “batta, batta, batta.” Being onomatopoetic does not mean that the word exhaustively covers everything which it describes, but the general idea.

Christ forbids praying this way for two reasons. First, because it is characteristic of Gentiles (Matt 6:7). Praying in a way that piles up language, or non-language, unintelligible, or babbling sounds is prayer characteristic of those who do not know God. Second, our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we think to pray about it, thus we need not pray or worship in a non-earthly linguistic, unintelligible way (Matt 6:8). Therefore, Christian prayer must consist of simple, earthly languages to our God.

5. The context of 1 Corinthians 14.

clip_image003Proponents of the gift of tongues often refer to 1 Corinthians 14 to support their position. In that chapter, the apostle Paul corrects the chaotic frenzy which characterized Corinthian church gatherings. The purpose of the chapter was not to give details on the practice of non-language utterances and trances (whether private or public practice), but just the opposite: intelligibility and orderliness must characterize Christian worship gatherings.

Paul is correcting error with respect to what a spiritual gift is and how things ought to operate in the corporate gathering. In the Corinthian congregation there appears to have been a frenzy surrounding this spiritual gift.

The Corinthians seemed to be erring by: 1) using the spiritual gift of languages in a disorderly, unedifying fashion, with no translation happening and 2) were engaging in the popular Greek pagan practice of non-language ecstatic frenzied utterances which were meaningless noises. Though it may have delivered a spiritual high, a feeling of elevated spirituality, and a feeling of superiority in the culture and above others, Paul rebukes them because it was disorderly and absent of edification. He will argue for intelligibility and order in the worship service, since that is the prerequisite to edification, which is the goal of gathering (1 Cor 14:12, 40). Thus, 1 Corinthians 14 does not validate the practice of a tongues phenomenon.

6. The similarities between Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.

It is often proposed that Acts 2 speaks of a gift involving earthly languages, but 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of a different kind of phenomenon, thus, justifying a personal gift of tongues. But this understanding of the two passages will not do. Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 both use the same Greek word, γλῶσσα, which means “languages.” First Corinthians 14:10-11 and 21 all refer to earthly foreign languages. Further, in both Acts and 1 Corinthians 14, the gift of languages is said to have served as judgment upon Israel, demonstrating that God was now working through an ethnically mixed church. Consequently, Scripture does not teach that there exists a heavenly prayer language/utterance enabled by the Spirit on the grounds that Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 teach different phenomenon.

7. The meaning of “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13:1.

Some proponents of the gift of tongues teach that 1 Corinthians 13:1 suggests that there exists a heavenly or angelic language enabled by the Holy Spirit. However, the passage is a use of hyperbolic extremes.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-2).

To remove mountains, know all mysteries, have all knowledge, and possess all faith are not possible. We are not omniscient nor omnipotent. More to the point of the passage, the purpose is to teach that even the greatest manifestation of a spiritual gift is worthless without love. Even more, the passagep teaches that gifts are to be used in love towards others, while expressing the eternal nature of love and temporal nature of spiritual gifts. So, “tongues of angels,” better rendered, “languages of angels,” is hyperbole to serve the point.

Further, it should be noted that throughout history, when angels spoke, they did so in intelligible earthly languages without the need of an interpretive gift (e.g. Gen. 19:2, Jos. 5:14, Isa. 6:3, Luke 2:30-33, Rev. 21:9). Of all the times angels spoke, not once did they do so in ecstatic utterances. Therefore, there is no such thing as a gift of tongues which is a heavenly/angelic language.

8. God’s provision of 66 books containing intelligible words by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The existence of the Bible is an utterly extraordinary thing. By God’s doing, we have the pure, eternal words of the Creator and Redeemer. The Bible is pure and special revelation from God. Without intending to insult anyone’s intelligence, the Bible is a book of words. The words are human words; words of earthly language. The Bible is not a book of unintelligible words which require a special endowment to comprehend. What does that say about God? And what does that say about God’s desire for our fellowship with him? It involves simple, intelligible words featured in earthly languages.

Furthermore, the Bible is the work of the Holy Spirit. He carried men in profound acts of providence to perform a great work. The result is 66 books of logical, orderly earthly language. Since the Bible is the pure word of God, it’s safe to conclude that there exists no higher form of communication with God than that which is based upon his word. There exists no spiritually superior form of interaction or communication that that which is observed in the word of God. And, in all of the prayers, praises, letters, psalms, and books of the Bible, we observe common earthly language. There is nothing more profound or spiritual than the language of the Psalms or Jesus’ intelligible prayers in John 17 or the Garden of Gethsemane, for example.

If someone desires to pray and speak lofty, spiritual words to God, we have the Psalms, for example, which contain profound expressions of worship. On top of that, every single word in the 150 Psalms was inspired in an intelligible language by the Holy Spirit (normal intelligibility, with noun-verb-object, structure). Furthermore, when we observe the prayers of Scripture (e.g. 1 Kings 8, John 17), in every instance, whether Christ or others, individuals are praying in normal, human intelligibility.

The existence and content of the Bible teach us that the most profound expressions of worship to God are to be done in God-given, human languages with normal intelligibility.

9. The biblical scenes of Heaven.

At times, advocates of the tongues phenomenon suggest that the practice is a higher, more spiritual, or superior experience. Believers who do not seek or experience it are missing out or settling for less.

clip_image005One way to evaluate the claim is to observe the biblical scenes of heaven. What type of communication do we observe in heaven? What type of worship? Fellowship? Praise? Certainly, a God as great as ours would showcase the highest forms of communication, worship, and praise in his holy word. And, as heaven is the place of glorified, perfected individuals, we could expect the most superior, spiritual phenomena. What do we observe?

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we are given several glimpses of Heaven. There are things like singing, speaking to the Lord, worship, adoration, and lament. In each scene, they are speaking intelligible language and not ecstatic chances are private prayer language (e.g. Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:5, 9-10, 12-14; 6:6, 10; 15:3-4; 16:7; 18:2-4; 19:1-6). Not once are individuals experiencing a phenomenon similar to that of tongues.

10. Pagan religious practice.

As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7, non-linguistic utterances are characteristic of pagan religious practice. In fact, even today, tongues-type phenomena is quite common in false religion.

For example, the type of repetitive prayer phenomenon prohibited by Jesus is common in Buddhist prayer wheels, the Roman Catholic practice of prayer candles, Ave Maria’s and Pater Nosters, and prayers of the Rosary. Tongues phenomena was common in ancient Greek culture (partly what the apostle Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 12-14). At various points in Phaedrus, for example, Socrates praises the idea of ecstatic mania. A form of non-language, ecstatic prayer was reported to have been practiced through out-of-their-mind, ecstatic oraclers at Delphi and Dodona. (http://sparks.eserver.org/books/plato-phaedrus.pdf, 7). Many more examples could be cited of ancient and contemporary pagan practice.

11. The predominant position of the church.

Up until the early 1900s, the church did not adhere to the contemporary position of tongues. A large number of sound Christian scholars held to a language interpretation, dating back several centuries: John Chrysostom (4th century), Augustine (4th), Theodoret of Cyrus (5th), Martin Luther (16th), John Calvin (16th), John Owen (17th), Thomas Watson (17th), Matthew Henry (17-18th), John Gill (18th), Jonathan Edwards (18th), David Brainerd (18th), R.C. Sproul, Ian Hamilton, and Iain Murray (contemporary).

Some of these points are sufficient on their own to demonstrate that the contemporary tongues phenomenon cannot be substantiated from Scripture. Taken together, we conclude that the “gift of tongues” was the foundational-era gift of languages. This was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned earthly language for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others. It served as a loud statement at the birth and foundational time of the church to declare that God’s plan of redemption is no longer restricted to one nation, but all nations, while proclaiming God’s judgment on Israel. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the NT church foundation was established.

The question is frequently asked, “Then what is this tongues phenomena which many Christians claim to experience?” I do not know. What we do know, however, is that one cannot justify the experience from Scripture, and, therefore, the practice must not be sought, practiced, or propagated by Christians.

___________

Eric Davis is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. He has been married for 16 years and has 3 children.

___________

DAN’S NOTE: Years ago, as a young prodigal who had just returned home, I was in the charismatic camp. Like many young and enthusiastic believers I wanted everything God had for me. I read everything I could get my hands on about the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as the gifts of the Spirit. I shared my desire with a Pastor from a Pentecostal church. I spoke in tongues the day I was baptized in water as a repentant believer and received what I thought was a valid second blessing (Holy Spirit baptism) during the same service. Over the years, as I grew in faith and continued daily Bible reading and study, I saw that much of what I had been taught and believed was in error. Equally important was the growing feeling that the charismatic ‘experience’ was more about ‘me’ getting from God than anything else.

That’s the short story and I share it so that anyone reading this article won’t think I’m just a hard headed anti-Pentecostal.

How to Honor Christ in our Apologetics

How to Honor Christ in our Apologetics

Posted: 20 Mar 2018 01:01 AM PDT

@ The Cripplegate

There was a man who thought he was dead.  In fact, he told all his family members that he was dead. Finally, after months of being unable to convince him, they dragged him to a doctor. The doctor, also unsuccessful, finally asked him, “Do dead men bleed?” The man responded, “Of course not!” The doctor promptly took out a knife and cut the man’s finger, and as the man watched the blood run down his hand he exclaimed, “Wow! I guess dead men do bleed!”

This man had presuppositions he brought with himself to that doctor’s appointment. He believed that he was dead and no evidence was going to change his mind. In a similar way, every one of our evangelistic encounters happen with someone who has preconceived notions and presuppositions.

Understanding why people don’t believe the Gospel is key. Either they lack the evidence and are just waiting for the perfect argument to come along or they are blinded by their sin and need the Gospel. As believers, we are called to make a defense. 1 Peter 3:15 gives us our calling. Peter says,

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”

This verse gives us three keys on how to do apologetics that we should apply in our everyday conversations as we “make a defense” with unbelievers.

First, make a defense that honors Christ as holy.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…

Honoring Christ is our priority in evangelism and apologetics. Too many times we are concerned with honoring the unbeliever, and sometimes, when we are so focused on this, we end up dishonoring Christ.

One way we dishonor Christ is by not trusting what the Bible says about unbelievers. The Bible tells us in Romans 1 that all men know God exists but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. As we talk to unbelievers, we should not grant to them that they do not believe in God. I’m not saying that we should point at them and scream “liar.” But we must gently and carefully, but boldly, show them in Scripture that the Bible says that all men believe but suppress the truth because they love their sin. When someone says that they would believe in God if they could only have some evidence, we know that, biblically, this simply isn’t true. The Bible is the only evidence that people need. Whether it is Romans 10:17, or the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the Bible proclaims itself to be the only evidence people need in order to have faith. Jesus, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, goes as far as saying that a resurrection wouldn’t be enough to convince someone. The Bible is enough, and it is the only power unto salvation. Besides, presenting evidence to an atheist would mean that you are the lawyer, they are the judge and jury, and the judge of the universe–God, Himself–is on trial! That is flipped, messed up, and dishonoring to Christ.

Another way we dishonor Christ is by the way we talk about the Bible. Saying things like “if the Bible is true,” or “I could be wrong,
or “give Jesus a try!” may seem humble, but, ultimately, they dishonor Christ by acting as if it isn’t certain that He is the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

A third way we dishonor Christ is by thinking that our words will convince unbelievers of the existence of God. Whether it is through our persuasion, or thinking that we can come up with the perfect evidence, when we go away from Scripture we are trusting in our own devices.  We are practically saying that we can reason someone to believe in God, when Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:25 that it is God who must grant someone repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth. First comes repentance, which is granted by God Himself, then comes truth, in that exact order. People don’t need reason, they need repentance.

Second, make a defense for the hope that is in you

…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…

Something happened to you that has transformed you. You actually believe in absolute truth. There is no question in your mind that Jesus is God. There is no question in your mind that you will spend eternity in Heaven with Him. You are ready for the Day of Judgment, and are not afraid to die.

On the other hand, unbelievers don’t have this hope. They have constant doubt. Their salvation is dependent on the way they live. They have no idea whether God will accept them one day. They are not ready for the Day of Judgment, and most are afraid to die, or at least they should be. Most question the idea of absolute truth.

Most atheists out there know only one thing for sure:  that there is no such thing as absolute truth. When you ask them if that is absolutely true, they say yes. They live in what is called an infinite regress. A is true because of B. B is true because of C. C is true because of D and so forth. This doesn’t end at Z, but continues on in infinity. In other words, they can’t know anything. The only way to solve this regress is if you know the One who can see the whole thing.  That is God, Himself, who knows all things and can let us know some things for certain. God has done this with general and special revelation.  On top of that God has given you supernatural faith, and you can make a defense because you have the hope that He’s given you. Your evangelism and apologetics should reflect this.

Third, make a defense with gentleness and respect.

…yet do it with gentleness and respect.

I wrote a lot about this last week. But I cannot stress enough the fact that our words should reflect the transformation that has happened in us. You simply cannot be a jerk and get angry in evangelism. Believers exhibit the fruit of the spirit not only while speaking to other believers, but especially in talking with unbelievers. Stephen, while being martyred in Acts 7, is an incredible example of gentleness, calmness, and forgiveness. Of course, Jesus is our Master Teacher of how to face persecution in a way that exalts God.

There was a pastor who went to visit a student on a college campus. This student wanted the pastor to talk to his roommate. The roommate, upon seeing the pastor, immediately stated, “I could never believe in a book that says that a man survived after being swallowed by a whale!” The pastor wisely asked if he could just share his testimony and tell him what the Gospel was. The roommate says yes, and after about an hour he trusted in the Lord and was saved.  About two hours later, the pastor remembered his initial objection and asked him if he wanted to talk about Jonah. The young man replied, “I guess not. If it’s in the Bible I believe it.”

The young man had an issue with God’s Word because he loved his sin. The minute he repented, he instantly trusted the Truth. A lot of times in our evangelism, we can put our trust in our methods instead of putting our trust in the Lord to do the work of saving souls. We must remember to honor Christ in our evangelism.

Apologetics is a wonderful tool that the Lord has used to encourage so many believers in their walk. But, ultimately, it is a powerless tool to bring someone to Christ. It can be a tool God uses to open an ear to the Gospel, but on its own it cannot save. We must always remember to preach the Gospel and to quote Scripture as we do so. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Christian Hospitality Toward False Teachers

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.“ – 2 John 1:10 (ESV)

The above passage has been used to assert that Christian apologist James White violated scripture by taking part in a dialog in Memphis with Yasir Qadhi, a Muslim, that was intended to demonstrate similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, and in fact did so admirably. Here are four respected commentaries concerning that passage, followed by a few observations from yours truly.

Commentaries

John Gill

If there come any unto you,…. Under the character of a preacher;

and bring not this doctrine; or does not preach the doctrine of Christ, as before explained, but despises it, and preaches a contrary one:

receive him not into your house; neither into the house of God, suffer him not to preach there; nor into your own house, give him no entertainment there: false teachers always tried to creep into houses, where they served their own turn every way, both by feeding their bellies, and spreading their pernicious doctrines; and therefore such should: be avoided, both publicly and privately; their ministry should not be attended on in the church, or house of God; and they should not be entertained in private houses, and much less caressed:

neither bid him God speed; or give him the usual civil form of salutation, as a good day to you, all hail, all health and prosperity attend you, the Lord be with you, and the like. The word used by the Jews was אישר, which signifies “happiness”; so it is said (i), what do they salute with? אישר, “God speed”; which was forbidden to say to one that was ploughing in the seventh year. The meaning is, that with such no familiar conversation should be had, lest any encouragement should be given them; or it should induce a suspicion in the minds of other saints, that they are in the same sentiments; or it should tend to make others think favourably of them, and be a snare and a stumblingblock to weak Christians.

(i) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 35. 2. Vid. Taanith. fol. 64. 2.

Albert Barnes

If there come any unto you – Any professed teacher of religion. There can be no doubt that she to whom this Epistle was written was accustomed to entertain such teachers.

And bring not this doctrine – This doctrine which Christ taught, or the true doctrine respecting him and his religion.

Receive him not into your house – This cannot mean that no acts of kindness, in any circumstances, were to be shown to such persons; but that there was to be nothing done which could be fairly construed as encouraging or countenancing them as “religious teachers.” The true rule would seem to be, in regard to such persons, that, so far as we have contact with them as neighbors, or strangers, we are to be honest, true, kind, and just, but we are to do nothing that will countenance them as religious teachers, We are not to aid their instruction, Pro_19:27; we are not to receive them into our houses, or to entertain them as religious teachers; we are not to commend them to others, or to give them any reason to use our names or influence in propagating error. It would not be difficult to practice this rule, and yet to show to others all the kindness, and all the attention in circumstances of need, which religion demands. A person who is truly consistent is never suspected of countenancing error, even when he is distinguished for liberality, and is ready, like the good Samaritan, to pour in oil and wine in the wounds of any waylaid traveler. The command not to “receive such an one into the house,” in such circumstances as those referred to by John, would be probably understood literally, as he doubtless designed that it should be. To do that, to meet such persons with a friendly greeting, would be construed as countenancing their doctrine, and as commending them to others; and hence it was forbidden that they should be entertained as such. This treatment would not be demanded where no such interpretation could be put on receiving a friend or relative who held different and even erroneous views, or in showing kindness to a stranger who differed from us, but it would apply to the receiving and entertaining “a professed teacher of religion, as such;” and the rule is as applicable now as it was then.

Neither bid him God speed – Καὶ χαίρειν αὐτῷ μὴ λέγετε Kai chairein autō mē legete – “and do not say to him, hail, or joy.” Do not wish him joy; do not hail, or salute him. The word used expresses the common form of salutation, as when we wish one health, success, prosperity, Mat_26:49; Act_15:23; Act_23:26; Jas_1:1. It would be understood as expressing a wish for success in the enterprise in which they were embarked; and, though we should love all people, and desire their welfare, and sincerely seek their happiness, yet we can properly wish no one success in career of sin and error.

Jamiessn- Fausset- Brown

If there come any— as a teacher or brother. The Greek is indicative, not subjunctive; implying that such persons do actually come, and are sure to come; when any comes, as there will. True love is combined with hearty renunciation and separation from all that is false, whether persons or doctrines.

receive him not … neither bid him God speed— This is not said of those who were always aliens from the Church, but of those who wish to be esteemed brethren, and subvert the true doctrine [Grotius]. The greeting salutation forbidden in the case of such a one is that usual among Christian brethren in those days, not a mere formality, but a token of Christian brotherhood.

Adam Clarke

If there come any unto you – Under the character of an apostle or evangelist, to preach in your house; and bring not this doctrine, that Jesus is come in the flesh, and has died for the redemption of the world.

Receive him not unto your house – Give him no entertainment as an evangelical teacher. Let him not preach under your roof.

Neither bid him God speed – Και χαιρειν αυτῳ μη λεγερε· And do not say, Health to him – do not salute him with Peace be to thee! The usual salutation among friends and those of the same religion in the east is, Salam aleekum, “Peace be to you;” which those of the same religion will use among themselves, but never to strangers, except in very rare cases. This is the case to the present day; and, from what John says here, it was a very ancient custom. We have often seen that peace among the Hebrews comprehended every spiritual and temporal blessing. The words mean, according to the eastern use of them, “Have no religious connection with him, nor act towards him so as to induce others to believe you acknowledge him as a brother.

Observations

1.  The letter is addressed to an ‘Elect Lady’, which we are told could be a specific person, or a local church that met in a home. We don’t know for sure which of those John meant.  One part of the Memphis dialogues took place in a church building on a Tuesday evening, was not a church ‘service’. Using the church building was convenient for matters of logistics and cost.

2. While ‘anyone’ in the passage might refer to anyone at all, there is a direct connection to the ones ‘who went out from us because they were not of us’ mentioned in 1 John 2:19. The ones who ‘went out’ had professed to be believers. Yasir Qadhi has never, nor will he ever (short of divine intervention – not an impossibility).

3. While these false teachers were not to be received or hospitably entertained, nothing is said of confronting them directly as to their errors concerning Christ. In addition to not receiving them they were not to be sent away with God’s blessings.

Dan’s ‘opinion’ concerning using 2 John 1:10 as the undeniable absolute ‘proof’ that James White, by talking about religion with Yasir Qadi, was in serious violation of scripture? 

Exegetically, you can’t make the case.

And again,in case you are new to all this about Memphis, I am NOT defending James White,nor am I condemning him. 

What is the relationship between apologetics and evangelism?

Easy, you say. Evangelism is sharing a specific message that Christ died for the sins of men, while Christian apologetics is defending the Christian faith against all comers. 9Marks offers an excellent summary of this relationship.

  • Difference 1: Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.
  • Difference 2: Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.
  • Difference 3: Another difference between apologetics and evangelism is that apologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian—even a brand new Christian—should be able to do.
  • The link: However, the two can be closely linked. Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel. And evangelistic conversations will often lead to apologetics when non-Christians respond with questions or criticisms that require a reasoned response.
  • Bottom line: So, while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Although I might be ‘preaching to the choir’ with this post, I thought a good reminder might be in order, based on recent experiences with a Facebook group I came across a few weeks ago. The purpose of group is stated as sharing the gospel and defending the faith (evangelism & apologetics) – both noble endeavors. Group members are encouraged to share their witnessing encounters with other faiths and encouraged to provide their favorite questions for challenging specific faiths/religions, i.e., Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

My main contribution to the group was that I share Christ with lost sinners in pretty much the same manner, irrespective of the religious persuasion. Begin or enter an ongoing conversation about spiritual matters, steer the discussion to the issue we ALL have with sin, and offer God’s solution through Christ. And of course I need be ready to engage in apologetics to defend the Christian faith. The gospel message is paramount, with apologetics running a close 2nd. That’s how I became unpopular with this particular group, whose zeal is to be commended! It seems that (I was told by the group ‘owner’) we need to refute the lies of other faiths to be able to share Christ

This morning I listened to a 45 minute encounter between a member of this group and a couple of JWs at a college campus (it sounded like one), in which the table manned by the JWs were offering free literature, and engaged the JWs in conversation. He went straight to the task of refuting JW teachings and was met by some excellent rebuttal from the JW viewpoint. In fact, if I were asked to ‘judge’ the quasi debate as an outsider, I would have to say that the JWs won. They were more articulate quicker with their Bible verses than our evangelistic brother was.

The whole thing was difficult to listen to due to it being a noisy campus venue, but I stuck it out for one main reason. I was waiting to hear something concerning the way manner in which a person finds salvation as a JW, compared to Christianity. In case you are wondering, the JW teaching is that salvation is based on faith plus works, while Christianity teaches salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. That is what I was waiting for, but it never surfaced. There was an amiable parting of the ways at the end of the encounter.

False religions all have an element of works for salvation, so going to the issue of how anyone is saved is a good principle to follow. My own most memorable experience with JWs was when a couple came to the door of our apartment when we were stationed in Italy. I let them tell me about ‘The Kingdom’ and how to enter it according to their church and when the time seemed right I gently interrupted and told them I wanted to see if I understood them correctly.

“According to what you are telling me, I can make it to the Kingdom if I believe the right things and do the right things?” They were thrilled! Then I asked them to read, out loud, Ephesians 2:8-9, from their Bible ( I knew those passages had not been corrupted because I had a copy of their ‘New World Translation.):

8By this undeserved kindness (grace) you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.”

That was it. They had absolutely no response. They had controlled the conversation, I asked them if I was understanding them, and then asked them to read to me from their Bible. The very passages they read out loud to me contradicted what they had been telling me. Hopefully, their silence and calm departure from my door meant that the Holy Spirit had begin to go to work.

So there you have two different encounters between Christians and Jehovah Witnesses. I hope they have been instructive. Let us hit the streets, travel the highways and by ways, share our faith with whomever God gives us the opportunity! And let us always endeavor to keep the simple the main topic of conversation!

Have a blessed day!

Indictments Against the Church

by Pastor Josh Buice

The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism. The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment. That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern. When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity…The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. [4]

A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today. Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack.  If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it. Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.

Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.

____________

TGhe above remarks are part of a longer and well written article by Pastor Buice concerning The Shack. You can read the entire article here.