Entries tagged with “apologetics”.

What does it mean to “love the Lord our God with all our minds”? That’s the question that sits behind the most recent (July/August 2012) issue of The Canadian Lutheran. This issue features articles on being thinking Christians, on the spirituality of ordinary life, and on apologetics. As usual, I try to set the stage for the issue in my Table Talk column.

My column this time is entitled “By the renewing of your mind,” and you can get a taste of it below:

Sometimes as Christians we assume we’ve learned all we need to know. We’ve done our time in Sunday school and Confirmation, and now we’re finished. We’ve “graduated,” as it were. But the fact is, when we stop trying to understand more about our faith, we inevitably begin to forget even the basic things we once knew. We stop looking daily into God’s Word. We stop spending time in prayer. Bit by bit, we let the cares of this world choke out the seed of faith. And though we may spend our entire lives in the Church, we suddenly find ourselves in need of the same criticism: by this time we really ought to be teachers of the faith; instead, we need a refresher on the very basics of Christianity…

As we seek a deeper knowledge of Him, we will find that the false teachers of this world become less appealing: we will learn to “discern good from evil,” as the Holy Spirit renews our minds. Then the central tenet of our faith will rise up in our mind’s eye: a cross standing high on a hill above every lie. We will learn to see the world with Christ as its focus, with Christ as the Answer to its every question, and with Christ as the only Salvation for its sin-stained brokenness. We shall see Truth. And the Truth shall set us free.

Check out the article here. Or, if you’d rather read the whole issue, download the July/August issue pdf here.

In other news, a certain fiancée of mine worked on the cover art for this one. Chances are she’ll read this: so let me say this: I love you, dear heart, and I thank you for the help you give me on many things, including the art work and column-refinement you helped me with on this issue. But mostly, just thank you for you.

“But in your hearts honour 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” (1 Peter 3:15). You’ve probably heard the verse before. There is perhaps no clearer, more succinct description of apologetics in the Bible. Whenever we are asked to explain our hope in Christ, we are called to give an “apology”, a Greek term for “defense” or “answer”.

But while many of us know that quotation by heart, few of us seem to realize that the sentence doesn’t end there. “Yet do it with gentleness and respect,” Peter continues. Gentleness and respect: two words seldom associated with Christian apologetics in our day and age. For too many of us, the major concern seems to be on winning the argument rather than winning (by God’s grace) the person for Christ.

Back at the beginning of 2010, I led a weekly study group on apologetics for the local Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship chapter at the University of Regina. In my preparations for the series, I came across John G. Stackhouse’s 2006 work Humble Apologetics. In the introduction to the work, Stackhouse tells the true story of a Christian attending a public apologetics event at his university. The story was so compelling, I made sure to read it at the introductory meeting of the apologetics study group at the UofR. It’s worth sharing with you here as well.

Stackhouse recounts how the Christian,  a student named Bob, entered the auditorium that night with great fears as to how well the apologist (his name is changed to “Dr. Ward” in the text) would do. But his fears were alleviated as, through the course of the talk, it became clear that Dr. Ward was was an excellent rhetorician, well-capable of making a case for the existence of God.

At the end of the talk, students had the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers. When the very last speaker rose to talk… well, it’s best to just let Dr. Stackhouse tell the story.

His question went on and on, and the student’s voice rose higher and higher as he began to rail against the Bible, Christianity, and finally Dr. Ward himself. Bob stared at Dr. Ward to see if he could possibly endure such an onslaught, and indeed Dr. Ward’s smile had become somewhat tight. At last, however, the student concluded his tirade, and Dr. Ward began to answer.

He replied by asking the student… if he would first make clear whether he meant option A or option B of the two possibilities Dr. Ward suggested were implied by his question. The student, a bit nonplussed by this distinction that obviously hadn’t occurred to him, hesitantly replied, “Option A.”

“Well, then,” Dr. Ward continued, do you then mean either option A1 or option A2?”

The student was now evidently a bit distressed, and a murmur swept the hall. “Uh, I guess I mean option A2.”

“Fine,” replied Dr. Ward. “Then do you mean option A2-alpha or A2-beta?”

The student suddenly realized, as the entire audience realized simultaneously, that Dr. Ward had set up these three pairs of distinctions to box the student in. He now could select no option without contradicting his own case. He stood helplessly for another moment at the microphone while Dr. Ward’s smile looked bigger than ever. Finally, the student said, “I don’t know.”

“Quite,” said Dr. Ward, and turned magnificently to the student emcee, who was patently in awe of what he had witnessed.

Bob felt a serge of triumph. God’s chosen messenger had, it seemed, done what Paul described of himself: “destroy[ed] arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). But then – and there must always be a “but then” – as Bob began to leave the auditorium, he found himself behind two women trying to exit as well. And he heard words which crushed all his previous joy: “I don’t care if the son of a bitch is right,” said the one, “I still hate his guts.”

Apologetics is not just about making compelling arguments because, frankly, people are never reasoned into the kingdom of God. Dr. Ward might have successfuly countered the “argument” of the student questioner – but what he had not done was treat the man with gentleness and respect; had instead completely humiliated him. Moreover, he had reacted solely to a symptom while completely ignoring the underlying problem. The student’s vitriolic attack was clearly not a well-reasoned argument; what it showed instead was a broken man, angry at God. And what he needed was not shaming; he needed to hear the Gospel.

When Peter writes that we are called to give a “reason for the hope” that is in us, we are not being called to simply refute arguments; instead, we are being called to share with the questioner the reason for our faith that she or he might come to have the same hope we have. When we are challenged, we must remember that we are not called to do battle with our “opponents”; we are called to share with them the Gospel.

In the weeks following the introductory session of the apologetics group at the UofR, we critically engaged with many of the major areas of apologetics: classical (and contemporary) arguments for the existence of God, the subject of creation/evolution, the problem of evil, the historicity of Scripture (especially regarding the person of Christ and his life, death and resurrection), and so forth. But through it all, there was an overarching recognition that, when it comes down to it, apologetics is about much more than being able to debate the logical merits of this or that argument. It’s about sharing hope. It’s about encouraging faith. It’s about the Gospel.

Much is made these days of multiverse theories as a method of explaining the anthropic tendencies our universe displays. It is granted that the universe is admirably suited – finely tuned, some might say – to allow the existence of life. The underlying fundamental constants or laws which make reality work the way it does (eg, the gravitational constant) are such that elements heavier than hydrogen and helium can form, matter can coalesce, and ultimately, life forms can arise. Such an admission can, to some, seem remarkable evidence for the purposeful design of the universe. To negate such claims, certain physicists have postulated the existence of the multiverse – a larger universe, if you will, containing numerous smaller universes (including our own). Our universe is “finely tuned” for life by chance, it is thus concluded. Some of the numerous universes which exist in the multiverse must allow the possibility of life. Ours just happens to be one of them. Thus, there is no need to postulate a god to explain the existence of life.

Certain of the hypotheses proposed suggest that the multiverse itself must be infinite in scope. It did not begin; it will not end. This universe generating machine must thus produce an infinite amount of universes – all possible universes, in fact. Moreover, it must thus produce all possible universes an infinite amount of times. Thus, in countless other universes, an entity identical to myself has already written this identical article and an identical you, my dear reader, have already read it. And in countless universes to come, the same reader-writer relationship will be repeated. Thus are the implications of infinity.

But there is one greater implication which has not, I think, been considered: If, indeed, infinitely possible universes must arise in the multiverse, then surely there must have already arisen (in the infinite past) universes where “gods” began to exist. And surely, in the infinite possibilities of the past, some of these gods must have discovered a way to not only control their own universes, but further to leave the confines of those universes and enter consciously into the multiverse. Moreover, in the infinite past, one of these gods now observing the multiverse must inevitably take control of the multiverse itself. And at that point, the multiverse would cease to be infinite; it would become a machine, operating under the orders of one particular entity.

The infinite nature of the multiverse tells us this must have occurred sometime in the infinite past. And as such, our present universe must thus have been allowed, dare I say designed, to exist by that deity which took control of the multiverse. Thus, the hypothesis designed to discredit the necessity of a god logically leads to the conclusion that a god must exist. This argument, of course, is not intended to prove the existence of God as Christians understand him. Rather, it is intended to demonstrate the logical inconsistency that arises when one invokes multiverse theories as an argument against the existence of God. If God did not exist, a multiverse must certainly give rise to one.