Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Abolishing Fallacious Arguments Against The Truth

When I first gave my heart to the Lord, I was enrolled in two college level Philosophy courses; Critical Thinking and World Religions. You can probably guess that my faith was heavily attacked (at least intellectually) during that period of time. I was a brand new Christian, and there I was in the most hostile environment for a neophyte (novice) Jesus freak.

In my personal time with the Lord, I remember my faith being unusually strong. I never doubted my newfound conviction even in the face of anti-Christian arguments. There was something sweet about those first few weeks as a born again Christian. While my home devotions were reaching uncharted depths in the Lord, I was encountering the most fiercely atheistic and anti-Christian verbal abuse I would come into contact with even years later to this day. Satan was really working on me, but God had something else in mind (as he almost always does), “for he who is in you is greater then he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4.

After listening to my professors give lecture after lecture on the “absurdity” of an all-powerful God, and watching my peers around me nod in agreement like lemmings, I knew I had to do something. With every cutting remark my ears would start burning, my heart would begin to pulse abnormally, my veins would flood with adrenaline and I would feel something like a currant flow from my toes through my body to my head. It’s interesting to note that the Greek word used in the New Testament for the third person of the trinity, the “Spirit,” is ‘pneuma.’ It can also be translated as “a current.” I do not overlook this fact; I truly believe God’s Spirit moves most palpably through me when I come into contact with antagonistic atheism.

My college bible study pastor gave me R.C. Sproul’s Reasons to Believe, and Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict to help me answer some of the questions I had from class; my life changed forever. That was my introduction to, and what would eventually become my infatuation with the art of apologetics. Apologetics comes from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ which is translated, “to give a defense.” This word is most famously used in the bible verse that has been most influential in my life; “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” 1Peter 3:15.

I read Lee Strobel’s, The Case For Christ, The Case for a Creator and The Case for Faith, then Norman Geisler and Frank Turok’s I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist, then Dinesh D’souza’s What's So Great about Christianity. I was hooked and I needed more, I needed stronger arguments. Then I found William Lane Craig. To put it simply, Craig is the atheist’s worst nightmare. Outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens, and author of the book, God is not Great, said of Craig in an pre-debate press conference at Biola University, “I can tell you that my brothers and sisters and co-thinkers in the unbelieving community take him (Craig) very seriously. He’s thought of as a very tough guy, very rigorous, very scholarly, very formidable. I say that without reserve... Normally I don’t get people saying, ‘Good luck tonight!’ or ‘Don’t let us down!’ But with him I do.”

William Lane Craig has become a sort of mentor to me. His books such as Reasonable Faith, Time and Eternity, and Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (which he co-authored with J.P. Moreland), have become staple readings I frequently refer to.

Apologetics is rooted deeply in philosophy. One must understand the basic laws of logic such as the law of identity, the law of no-contradiction and the law of the excluded middle (which are ideas we unknowingly accept and use every day) in order to fully comprehend apologetic augmentation. Once these simple axioms are understood, apologetics become very organic to the mind. Some of the more powerful Christian apologetic arguments are the Moral Argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, and the Teleological Argument. If you make these your own and learn how to effortlessly inject them into daily conversation, they become deadly to non-Christian debaters. Every worldview other than the Christian worldview is fallacious and easily debunked if you spend just a little time in the woodshed studying apologetics and philosophy.

I believe that all Christians are called in scripture to be apologists. There is of course the aforementioned 1 Peter 3:15 which simply says to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” But there are a slew of verses in the bible that ask Christians to bone-up on their apologetic skills; Jude 1:3 tells us to “contend for the faith.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5-6 that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

It seems we are also called to be philosophers. I mean this of course in the simplest sense of the word. ‘Philo’ in Greek means “a noble or brotherly love,” and ‘sophia’ means “wisdom.” A philosopher is someone who loves wisdom. In Colossians 4:5 Paul urges us to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders.” Proverbs 4:5-13 says “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown. Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” Finally, Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 to “love the Lord your God with all your mind.”

After much study, I was able to participate in arranged debates in my philosophy classes and know that I had the upper hand. I was able to show where my atheistic opponent’s arguments fall apart and become contradictory or hypocritical. This is the flaw in every non-Christian worldview. The problem is that most non-Christians don’t know or understand where their worldviews become absurd. When the Christian points it out, the non-Christian normally becomes angry and falls into ad hominem attacks (making fun of the Christian in stead of making a real point).

But attacks should never dissuade the Christian apologist. Rather, it should demonstrate the weakness of the non-Christian position. It reveals a terrified soul behind the curtain beginning to see the truth. There are implications that follow the fact the theism and Christianity are really true. Namely, that there are consequences to our actions. When the non-believer sees the truth and power in Jesus they predictably resort to what I call “the possum effect.” When a possum is backed into a corner or feels it’s life at stake, it will hiss and snarl bite and foam at the lips. Romans 1:18-22 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…

We have an omnipotent, all-loving God on our side urging us to interact with non-believers and test their beliefs while demonstrating the truth of the gospel message. We must do our part by studying apologetics and not be afraid to stand up to non-believers so as to declare the truth of our faith, “for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

- Jon Fleetwood


Anonymous said...

Great post! Thank you for the resources and Scriptures you mentioned. I have only read "More Than A Carpenter" by Josh McDowell, but I also very interested in apologetics. I go to a very secular school and so I constantly have to defend my beliefs. However, I tend to get nervous and doubtful when non-believers "attack" Christianity. This post has been a wonderful encouragement to me.


Camden said...

Dude, you know how to unload it! =) Apologetics has always been something that Christians have used in the face of opposition. From the days of Apollos to today, God has given us a way to defend our faith. Thanks for encouraging me to not only know why I believe what I believe, but to not be scared of defending the Truth.


Acts 18:28

For he (Apollos) powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.