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The Forum - Debate Religion > Apologetics 101: What would you do?

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message 1: by Clark (last edited Sep 23, 2012 06:17AM) (new)

Clark Goble (cdgoble) Hi all ... I thought I would introduce a topic that was based solely on apologetics. I know we all love discussing theology and it is evident our group is diverse theologically speaking. So I thought it would be interesting to how each of us would respond in a practical situation that involves apologetics. It might be a chance to learn from one another and, if nothing else, should be entertaining. The main purpose of the thread, however, is to equip us to always offer a defense of our faith in a given situation.

I'll introduce a scenario and then people can share how they would respond. Apologetic methodology and theological concerns are all on the table here. Some scenarios might be extreme and others may be more subtle.

Here we go ...

Scenario 1:

You are involved with a Bible study group that meets in a local coffee shop every Tuesday evening. On one particular Tuesday a group member brings a friend we'll call Joey. Joey shares that he doesn't believe Christ ever existed and was merely fabricated by early Christians to support their religious movement. How do you respond?


message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments I respond that while we would have a hard time proving anything about the Christ of Faith, we do indeed have a great deal of evidence about the historical Jesus. I think a starting point is the writings of Paul, which forms the foundation of many "Christ myth" proponents, but really supports the other side pretty strongly. We'd go through that, and we'd look at some of the convincing texts (such as John the Baptist, a clear historical figure, baptizing Jesus for his sins...why on earth would an embarrassing story like that one be written into the Jesus story if it wasn't true?) and we'd trace the Jesus story backward from the more advanced Christology of some N.T. writings to the more human pictures of Jesus, showing how the New Testament writings themselves progress backward toward a picture of a living human being. Then, finally, we'd look at early historians, which is in itself evidence enough to commonly convince historians of similar historical figures.

I know we couldn't do that in the course of one evening, but I would offer to do it in installments.


message 3: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle This should be fun Clark. Great idea.

If it was a Catholic Christian Bible study then we could do a Sir Thomas More on blasphemer Joey. If the Pope supports Starbucks then I assume a scourging and burning would be acceptable in most countries. :D

Just kidding. Weird eh.
"Thomas More was made a saint of the Roman Catholic church in 1936 and on Reformation Day in the year 2000, the Pope made him the patron saint of politicians."
That's like putting Hitler incharge of your nursery school.
__________________________________________________

But on the serious side:
I would ask Joey where he got this information? Why does he trust it? Why does he trust any historical account EVER? Then look at the impact this IMAGINARY Jesus has had on religions all over this planet for 2000 years.
Then ask Joey the skeptical genius if he believes in Good and Evil. Then ask him Why? Then apply Joey's good and evil to Jesus life and teachings.

At this point Joey will probably say something stupid like: "But that's just your opinion - i'm in my first year of College and I know everything, I read it in a book once by some guy with a PHD in stuff!"

Absolutely nothing we say will win Joey over at this moment (unless there's a cute girl there that he's trying to impress!)
If we had more time and more Bible studies we could prove that the Bible was not written by shepherds and goat herders. That historically and geographically the Bible is incredible brilliant. That the Bible mentions a great deal about Israel being God's people - and now we miraculously have Israel back in politics and in the news.

Fun eh? The joy of apologetics.


message 4: by David (new)

David I don't really have anything to add. If you refuse to believe Jesus even existed, in the face of even the best skeptical scholars, then what can you possibly believe historically? The case for Jesus' existence is strong, I'd point to that (as Lee already mentioned). Maybe I'd recommend Bart Ehrman's book on the subject.

I'd also ask, assuming he states it as you put it, that Jesus was "fabricated by the early Christians..." how there could be "Christians" if there was no Christ? How such a movement started with no initial figure? How do you explain the beginnings of Christianity without Jesus?

We can find all sorts of crazy 4th century texts about Jesus having a wife and all that, yet no one found a text where Peter and John are like, "dude, we fooled everybody...and now they want to kill us! Woops."


message 5: by David (new)

David Let's keep this thread going!

Scenario 2: You have a friend who is an atheist and whose parents and grandparents were also atheists. As you meet with this friend, she becomes interested in Jesus of Nazareth. Eventually she concludes Jesus really was the Messiah, center of history, Savior of world. But she also picks up on traditional Christian teaching on hell. She asks, "Does this mean my parents and grandparents are in hell? If I become a Christian, how could I enjoy heaven knowing those I love most are suffering for all eternity."


message 6: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments I would simply assure her that there are multiple valid viewpoints about Hell within the Christian family. If she would like a feel-good book, I'd point to Rob Bell's "Love Wins" (hooray, everybody gets to go to heaven!) If she wants to dig deeper into the theology, I'd point to "Hell Yes/Hell No" by John Noe, which is a very fair treatment of the issues. If she merely wants some encouragement, a quick study of the four words which have been translated into "hell" in our Bibles would help (they are Gehenna, Sheol, Hades, and Tartarus).


message 7: by David (new)

David Nice. I should have commented on your review of Bell's book. My impression was not that he says "hooray, everybody goes to heaven" as much as he hoped that were the case (in other words, I saw him echoing the hope that all people would be saved but not coming out and saying with certainty it would happen). I saw Bell as emphasizing freedom to the point a person can freely choose to reject God forever.

Anyway, good answer.


message 8: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I would tell her the Truth. The Bible talks alot about Hell - maybe there's a reason for that?

Luke 14:26
"“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

jOhn 14:6
"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
___________________________________________________
Her important question:
" If I become a Christian, how could I enjoy heaven knowing those I love most are suffering for all eternity."

You can enjoy Heaven because you are with Jesus. Others would not enjoy an eternity with Jesus - that is sad, but not your problem. Also I don't believe they are being tortured or burned alive...God is not cruel.

Luke 16:19-31
"And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

Hell sucks, but you can still talk, think, reflect, regret...and not lose your selfish nature. Your relatives should be okay. :D


IF her Christianity is so easily adjustable then it's not worth having. (find a better religion). Sorry but compassion is not my gift. I prefer truth. I doubt i would make a popular evangelist. :(
Jesus did not die a horrible nasty death on the cross so that people could have a nice easy soft view of judgement and salvation that comfortably includes everyone.

But like the thief on the cross - maybe some people make a last minute change of heart. But being scared of death is not a good assurance that someone is heaven bound.

"I find it strange that no one asks me to volunteer at their hospice centers. Hmmmmmm?!" :D


message 9: by David (new)

David Thanks Rod...and no, it is not surprising no one asks you to volunteer in hospice :)

I think I would point them to the diverse views of hell and on the destination of the "unsaved" (I kind of hate that word). In other words, Jesus' grace and love is big and I believe all who truly seek it will find it. Whatever hell is, it is not a place to just be tortured for having the wrong beliefs. I am not saying the hypothetical person's family is not in hell, I am just saying we cannot know anyone's destiny.

I would also talk about the annihilation view of hell, which makes a lot more sense of much of scripture.

And, I would say that if you look at why people are called to follow JEsus in Acts, it is not avoidance of hell - it is because Jesus is risen. Believe it because it is true, or don't believe it, but fear of hell is not a good motivator either way.

Next question anyone?


message 10: by David (new)

David How about this:

A rape victim says:
"I heard some politician say that babies born of rape are God's plan. Are you saying God planned for me to be raped? Did God put the idea in the rapists head? I could never worship a God who rapes innocent women."


message 11: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments lol


message 12: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Good question David. Nasty too!

Has God ever personally raped anyone? NO. Never trust a politician to tell the truth.

Does God plan for people to be raped or abused? Yes, sometimes he does. If you are being disobedient God might go all Old Testament on you and allow your enemies the freedom to fulfill their evil desires on you. (Read Jeremiah) But God also looks after his own when they turn to him.

Rape victim quote:
" I could never worship a God who rapes innocent women."

According to God there are no innocent people. The only one we know of suffered alot more than just rape. Yes, God understands your pain.


message 13: by An (new)

An Clark wrote: "You are involved with a Bible study group that meets in a local coffee shop every Tuesday evening. On one particular Tuesday a group member brings a friend we'll call Joey. Joey shares that he doesn't believe Christ ever existed and was merely fabricated by early Christians to support their religious movement. How do you respond?"

I would show him this:
http://www.sowhataboutjesus.com/exist...


message 14: by An (new)

An David wrote: "Scenario 2: You have a friend who is an atheist and whose parents and grandparents were also atheists. As you meet with this friend, she becomes interested in Jesus of Nazareth. Eventually she concludes Jesus really was the Messiah, center of history, Savior of world. But she also picks up on traditional Christian teaching on hell. She asks, "Does this mean my parents and grandparents are in hell? If I become a Christian, how could I enjoy heaven knowing those I love most are suffering for all eternity."
"


We don't know the destiny of our dead until we are dead ourselves.


message 15: by An (last edited Nov 15, 2012 01:26PM) (new)

An David wrote: "A rape victim says:
"I heard some politician say that babies born of rape are God's plan. Are you saying God planned for me to be raped? Did God put the idea in the rapists head? I could never worship a God who rapes innocent women."
"


God never wills evil to happen, but in His mercy, He brings good and healing out of bad things. We bring evil upon ourselves when we choose sin, and get faced with the consequences.

God loves a child concieved in rape, as well as the mother, and He longs for the rapist to repent. He wishes all to allow Him to let peace into their hearts.

I would also mention Rebecca.
http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/index...


message 16: by David (new)

David Good answers Bryn. I like it.


message 17: by An (new)

An David wrote: "Good answers Bryn. I like it."

Thanks! :D


message 18: by An (new)

An Ok, Scenario 4. Your unlce anounces he is no longer a Christian at thanksgiving, saying he found out the truth about Christianity from Dan Brown's Davinci Code.


message 19: by An (new)

An Bryn wrote: "Ok, Scenario 4. Your unlce anounces he is no longer a Christian at thanksgiving, saying he found out the truth about Christianity from Dan Brown's Davinci Code."

I would show them several sites:
http://www.ignatius.com/promotions/da...
http://www.catholic.com/documents/cra...
http://insightscoop.typepad.com/davin...
http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blog...

and then proceede to ask exactly what 'truths' Dan had 'reveled' to him, so that I can know how to attack whatever has him convinced.


message 20: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I would ask my Uncle if he could pass his Bar exam by reading John Grisham novels? Why not?

Because it's only a NOVEL.

Of course if he really wants to believe its the truth: He has that right. Enjoy!


message 21: by An (last edited Nov 17, 2012 12:49PM) (new)

An Rod wrote: "I would ask my Uncle if he could pass his Bar exam by reading John Grisham novels? Why not?

Because it's only a NOVEL.

Of course if he really wants to believe its the truth: He has that right. E..."


Uncle: "Christian fiction with your idead of real truths is only a novel also. Truth is in a fiction novel, just not 100% truth. Prove to me Brown's arguments are faulty."


message 22: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I would say:
"Read Brown's book...now read God's book. See the difference? If you like Brown's book better; then follow it. See where it leads you."

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."


message 23: by Bob (new)

Bob Mccullah | 25 comments "Joey shares that he doesn't believe Christ ever existed and was merely fabricated by early Christians to support their religious movement. How do you respond? "


I would refer to the third party references of Jesus, John the Baptist and the disciples.
Also, I would ask what the disciples would have to gain considering the terrible persecution they went through for several hundred years.


message 24: by Bob (new)

Bob Mccullah | 25 comments Scenario 2: You have a friend who is an atheist and whose parents and grandparents were also atheists. As you meet with this friend, she becomes interested in Jesus of Nazareth. Eventually she concludes Jesus really was the Messiah, center of history, Savior of world. But she also picks up on traditional Christian teaching on hell. She asks, "Does this mean my parents and grandparents are in hell? If I become a Christian, how could I enjoy heaven knowing those I love most are suffering for all eternity."


I would share the story of Lazarus and the rich man, and how the rich man wanted to go back and warn his brothers to repent.
I would assure her that her parents and grandparents would also give anything to come back to warn her not to follow their example but to accept Christ and spend eternity with him. And, that her life would be a positive example that could lead others to Christ, including her children and family, or it could be a negative example.


message 25: by Bob (new)

Bob Mccullah | 25 comments Rape victim

I think Bryn did a good job of answering that in post 15


message 26: by Bob (new)

Bob Mccullah | 25 comments Ok, Scenario 4. Your unlce anounces he is no longer a Christian at thanksgiving, saying he found out the truth about Christianity from Dan Brown's Davinci Code.

Probably find out what specific points convinced him and go after each one of those.


message 27: by An (new)

An Bob wrote: "Rape victim

I think Bryn did a good job of answering that in post 15"


Thank you! :D


message 28: by Kris (new)

Kris (khart17) | 128 comments Scenario 3: Bryan, I'm diggin your answer. God is all about taking a bad/evil situation and turning it for His good. His purposes, The Kingdom's purposes. Look at Everything Jesus went through. Satan was able to convince the people that even though all Jesus ever did was be an Amazing example for us all, heal, cast out demons, raise the dead, forgive sins and save souls, He Deserved to Die. They Wanted Him dead. And they killed him. Brutally. Shamefully. God turned that into mankind's Salvation. He does that with everything Satan has up his sleeve. Man was given free will. We can Choose to live as we wish and Satan is free to deceive us as he wishes. That does not mean that God is not there. We do reap the consequences of our decisions. Our Father is a Good Father. He punishes His children when they make mistakes, but He still loves us unconditionally. He's there to pick us back up and lead us in the right direction if only we're willing to follow.

So, in the case of the rape victim... Yes, God did allow for the rape to happen. His children have free will. That rapist chose to make that evil decision and hurt the poor girl. Thankfully, God is So good, that He is able to create life from it. This life is precious. This life is not evil. The act of the rapist is evil. The Kingdom will have a testimony, a purpose for this new life. Who's to say that that is evil?


message 29: by Kris (new)

Kris (khart17) | 128 comments Scenario 2:

I find this a fascinating question because this is something we all, as Christians, should be worried about. This is whole reason for the great commission!
Matthew 28: " Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” "

I am afraid one reason why so many shy away from Christianity is because We all DO have a responsibility to each other. We have to tell folks about Jesus. Granted, it is not in our power to save souls, but we do have Christs lead. We do as He asks, and He does, through the Holy Spirit, put His purposes into motion through us. It is true. If you do not know Jesus as your person savior, you do not enter the Kingdom of heaven. That should be terrifying, but at the same time Encouraging! How much would you have to hate your neighbor to deny him heaven? Only the Holy Spirit can awaken that desire for Jesus, but you may be the voice to get that ball rolling in that person's life. We tell, he Saves.

The fact that others may already be in hell should by no means keep you from desiring Jesus. He is our goal. Heaven is the bonus. And like Rod pointed out, Our loved ones in hell would PLEAD with us to not follow their lead. Find Jesus. Hell (according to Matthew 13) will be a fiery furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth... in other words... Eternal Torment. It will be no pic-nik.

I will say that I like Rod's style in that he goes for the facts. I prefer to get my facts from The Word. If an atheist asks me about hell, I'll tell him or her the truth. I may not be quite as harsh as Mr. Rod, here, but Jesus gives me the truth. I am happy to pass that on to others.


message 30: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Thanks Kris, :D

It's very interesting how many Christians try to soften everything so that no-one is offended by Truth.

Yet the more I read the Words of Jesus and Paul (and Moses etc.) I realize these people never backed down from the nasty truth. Compassion should always be a part of God's truth - but there is a limit. Read 2nd Kings 2:23-24: Elisha and the 42 half eaten youth (that was a day of Truth - not so much compassion and forgiveness.)


message 31: by David (new)

David Tony Jones, a popular blogger, author and speaker, has been doing a series called "Questions that Haunt". He has tackled some great questions. I recommend checking it out. He comes at the answers quite differently then the traditional ways; by that I mean...well, feel free to just check it out:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjone...


message 32: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I found that Tony Jones blog site occasionally confusing and misleading. (please notice I said "OCCASIONALLY")

It's often hard to tell exactly what that guys stance is on certain subjects. Maybe he spends too much time trying to be hip and cool. I'm probably guilty of the samething?! No one goes around trying to be awkward and emo now do they? Actually yes!


message 33: by David (new)

David Anyone want to suggest any more scenarios? I think this is one of the better threads we've had.


message 34: by Guillermo (new)

Guillermo  | 99 comments Scenario: You meet someone who says they don't believe in God because of all the suffering in the world.


message 35: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments I would say they have unrealistic expectations of God. What makes them think God could or would prevent any suffering?


message 36: by Pavlo (new)

Pavlo (pavlindrom) | 59 comments Well, they would answer that God, if He existed as described by Christianity today, would be able and should be desiring (as He is love) to make everything perfect. So He would.


message 37: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Oh that troublesome Adam fellow, he did open up a real veil of tears didn't he? But, no explnation of God is complete without the Original Sin talk (sort of like the facts of life to a teenager!)


message 38: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments No atheist would find any sense in the Original Sin talk, and the problem of evil is considered by some to be the greatest obstacle to belief. My answer is to seek the truth about God through personal experience, rather than blindly trusting the unsubstantiated claims of others.


message 39: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments I'm sure everyone will turn to GOD IMMEDiATELY after you relate your personal experience. I know I would. Who could resist such a riveting account? Why didn't I think of that? Who needs a Bible anyway? I'll just tell potential converts Lee's life story and they will all begin to quake and run around speaking in tongues.


message 40: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Grow up, Robert.

There is no possible way a person can be convinced of God's existence through logic, especially in the face of the problem of evil. Talking about original sin is the quickest way to sound like a two year old.

If a person has no personal experience, there is nothing to believe in. Therefore...baby steps first! Don't try to convince an atheist of something extraordinarily impossible; let the atheist grow slowly in recognition of something sacred and special. There is just no need to try to convince someone of the impossible. They'll get there if it's meant to be.

Baby steps will carry each person to the level of belief they are most comfortable with and that serves them best.


message 41: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments You don't believe in the God, the Savior, or the Holy Book their dictates are outlined in and you have the temerity to lecture me on how to spread the Word. Madre de Dios! Lee you don't have the character or conviction to convert anyone to anything except your earthly desires kingdom where any behavior, no matter how perverse, is accepted as long as it is done with some mysterious expresion of "love".


message 42: by Lee (last edited May 21, 2013 08:00PM) (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Robert, I wouldn't wish your evil anti-Jesus religion on my worst enemy. Nor am I in the business of converting anybody.

I look at this topic like this. Mark tells the story of how Jesus could not heal people because of their lack of faith. Matthew, disturbed by the idea that Jesus failed, rewrote it to say Jesus refused to heal people because of their unbelief. So, he left them to suffer.

My feeling about evil is the same. Is God unable to prevent evil, or is he able but simply would rather let us suffer? I am not interested in the latter kind of god, and I suspect most atheists are not either. So it's just a hindrance to them to try to convince them of an omni-everything God...they'll just hate him all the more.

Forget trying to preach that kind of God. If they get to that level, that's cool. But baby steps first.


message 43: by Pavlo (new)

Pavlo (pavlindrom) | 59 comments Lee, how is the original sin a problem? I can't see that so well. I don't see how I would ever bring it up, but then I don't get asked that.

On the other hand, how could a story like that (remember, the person doesn't believe) bring conviction of personal sin to a person? Seems more like a Christian belief dump.


message 44: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments A Christian belief dump, exactly. Try reading it from an atheist perspective.

Original sin: Adam and Eve were two real people, living about 6,000 years ago, who talk to a snake. Eve ate an apple so everybody from that point on is an evil sinner. Therefore God murdered his son to save you because you are a sinner.

The story just makes no sense at all to an atheist. It's a silly way to lead.


message 45: by Guillermo (new)

Guillermo  | 99 comments Pavlo,
As an atheist I can answer that. Any fundamentalist interpretation of scripture is automatically going to be dismissed by an atheist. Quite frankly, from my point of view, I have a hard time even understanding how some people can have a literal interpretation of scripture and the stories in the Hebrew Bible (OT). I even once did literally believe in the stories of Adam and Eve, and Noah's ark, and I look back and have a hard time understanding how I could ever think that way.


message 46: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments We are all painfully aware you're not in the business of converting anyone, unless it's downward to your earthly desire's pleasure pit. It's a nice diversion tactic to worry about evil in the world rather then the individual sin the unbeliever perpetrates. Without desire to be relieved from the consequences of that sin, you're right, who would be moved to change lifestyles? I, Robert, personally, am not offering anything but the unvarnished Word the Lord commanded me to spread. Take it, get redemption, be relieved from sin's sting, and attain eternal life or stay outside the Calling and wring your hands all day long over evil in the world.


message 47: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments I don't bore them with the whole Adam and Eve thing, just how all of mankind are sinners from the disobedience in the Garden, all fall short of the Glory of God, all needed to accept His Son's sacrifice to overcome their idolatry of sin. If there in enough pain, they might consider - then or later. I don't waste my time on serial atheists, that's for the squishy apologetics on this board.


message 48: by Pavlo (new)

Pavlo (pavlindrom) | 59 comments The way I approach the Bible is to believe what it says, not blindly but because it is authoritative (as God's Word, which I still hold strongly) or because I don't know any better and believing it doesn't contradict life. That story I believe because there is no way I could find it contradictory to my life, and I have no valid way to test its truth. I know that some here believe in evolution, which would follow into dismissing the origins explanation in the Bible. But I am still a creationist at heart and I even find the Genesis account as logical due to that. It is an pre-belief to the Christian belief that decides what part of Christianity is believed.

So unless you are reading in terms of evolution, the Original Sin is believable. Having said that, I still don't think that sharing it will result in a conviction of God's existence.


message 49: by Guillermo (new)

Guillermo  | 99 comments I haven't met an atheist yet who didn't believe in evolution.


message 50: by Pavlo (new)

Pavlo (pavlindrom) | 59 comments Okay, Robert, that makes sense. You would base your argument on the original sin, but would say that all are bad in God's sight. What does that say to the person who can't believe in God's because there's too much evil in the world? Whatever that should change for them to get them to reevaluate their thinking?


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