Answering the Question – “Why Should I Trust The Bible?”

*#7 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – November 2, 2020 – Pastor David Craig 

USING THE ACRONYM: “H.I.S. L.A.W.S”

(Acronym adapted from Pastor Bob Sears)

HarmonyThough written over 1600 years by 40 plus authors on 3 different continents and in 3 different languages about scores of controversial subjects, the Bible’s teachings are supernaturally harmonious from cover to cover.
ImpactCountless millions of people from diverse cultures all over the world have had their personal lives changed forever for the good and found spiritual meaning in life from the message of the Bible.
SeersThe Old and New Testament prophets (“seers”) spoke dozens of general and specific predictions which have been historically fulfilled. Among the most significant are Isaiah 53 (O.T) and Matthew 24 (N.T).
LongevityIn spite of repeated attempts throughout history both to destroy and discredit the Bible, it still exists in virtually its original form and is still revered and circulated more widely than any other book on earth.
AccuracyThe Bible’s detailed record of historical data has been repeatedly shown (by other writings and archeological discoveries) to be accurate to an exact degree. This testifies to its writers’ reliability.
WritersThe biblical writers obviously meant their readers to accept their writings as a message from God (e.g.: O.T.: the repeated instances of “Thus says the LORD…” N.T.: 1 Th. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Son of GodJesus, reported to be the authoritative Son of God by the biblical writers, plainly taught the full inspiration of both the Old and New Testaments (e.g.: O.T.: Matthew 5:17-18. N.T.: John 14:23-26, and 16:13).

The Case for the Infallibility of the Bible

(R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, pp. 30-31)

The case for the infallibility of Scripture proceeds along both deductive and inductive lines. It moves from the premise of general trustworthiness to the conclusion of infallibility. The reasoning proceeds as follows:

Premise A: The Bible is basically a reliable and trustworthy document.

Premise B: On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Premise C: Jesus being the Son of God is an infallible authority.

Premise D: Jesus teaches that the Bible is more than a generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God.

Premise E: The Word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.

Conclusion: On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus, the church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy, i.e, infallible.

Helpful Resources:

Ankerberg, John & John Weldon. The Reliability of the Bible.

Blomberg, Craig L. Can We Still Believe The Bible?

Cowan, Steven B. and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of The Bible.

Jones, Timothy Paul. Why Should I Trust the Bible?

Lutzer, Erwin W. Seven Reasons You Can Trust The Bible.

McDowell, Josh. Is The Bible True Really?

Answering the Question – “Does God Exist?” – Part 1

*Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – October 19, 2020 – Pastor David Craig 

(Notes Adapted from Dr. William Lane Craig)

Does God exist? Here are 5 Good Reasons to Believe That God Exists:

  1. God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
  2. God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
  3. God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
  4. God makes sense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  5. God can be immediately known and experienced.
  • C. S. Lewis once remarked that God is not the sort of thing one can be moderately interested in. If God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God does exist, then this is of uttermost importance.

3 Reasons Why God’s Existence Makes A Difference

Reason 1: Life is Ultimately Meaningless Without God

  • If God does not exist, life is ultimately meaningless. If your life is doomed to end in death, then ultimately it does not matter how you live. In the end it makes no ultimate difference whether you existed or not. Your life might have a relative significance in that you influenced others or affected the course of history. But ultimately mankind is doomed to perish in the heat death of the universe. Ultimately it makes no difference who you are or what you do. Your life is inconsequential.
  • Thus, the contributions of the scientist to the advance of human knowledge, the research of the doctor to alleviate pain and suffering, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the sacrifices of good people everywhere to better the lot of the human race—ultimately all these come to nothing. Thus, if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless.

Reason 2: Without God We Live Without Hope

  • If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence. For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil. If there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death. Although it may be hard for you as who are younger to contemplate, the sober fact is that unless you die young, someday you—you yourself—will be an old man or an old woman, fighting a losing battle with aging, struggling against the inevitable advance of deterioration, disease, perhaps senility. And finally and inevitably you will die. There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.

Reason 3: If God Exists, You Can Know His Love Personally

On the other hand, if God does exist, then not only is there meaning and hope, but there is also the possibility of coming to know God and His love personally. That the infinite God should love you and want to be your personal friend! This would be the highest status a human being could enjoy! Clearly, if God exists, it makes not only a tremendous difference for mankind in general, but it could make a life-changing difference for you as well.

Now admittedly none of this shows that God exists. But it does show that it makes a tremendous difference whether God exists. Therefore, even if the evidence for and against the existence of God were absolutely equal, the rational thing to do, I think, is to believe in Him. That is to say, it seems to me positively irrational when the evidence is equal to prefer death, futility, and despair over hope, meaningfulness and happiness.

5 GOOD REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS:

(1) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE

  • Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions.
  • For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, states, the infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea (David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964], pp. 139, 141).
  • But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist. This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • In one of the most startling developments of modern science, we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning about 13.8 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang. What makes the Big Bang so startling is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang.
  • As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing” (ABC Science Online, “The Big Questions: In the Beginning,” Interview of Paul Davies by Philp Adams, http://aca.mq.edu.au/pdavies.html.).
  • Of course, alternative theories have been crafted over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Vilenkin pulls no punches:
  • “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Alex Vilenkin, Many Words in One: The Search for Other Universes [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p. 176).
  • That problem was nicely captured by Anthony Kenny of Oxford University. He writes, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing” (Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence [New York: Schocken Books, 1969], p. 66).
  • But surely that doesn’t make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  • Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless—at least without the universe—because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and be immaterial, not physical.
  • It must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect.
  • For example, the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0˚ Centigrade. If the temperature were below 0˚ from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze just a finite time ago. So if the cause is permanently present, then the effect should be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions.
  • For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
  • Isn’t it incredible that the big bang theory thus confirms what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Which makes more sense: that the Christian theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing?

(2) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE 

FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE.

  • During the last 40 years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. Scientists once believed that whatever the initial conditions of the universe, eventually intelligent life might evolve. But we now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge. The existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine-tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable.

This fine-tuning is of two sorts:

First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants.

Second, in addition to these constants there are certain arbitrary quantities which are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.

  • For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120.
  • Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 10 10 (123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010 (123)” (Roger Penrose, “Time-Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], p. 249).   And it’s not just each constant or quantity which must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. Now there are three possibilities for explaining the presence of this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design.
  • The first alternative holds that there is some unknown Theory of Everything (T.O.E.) which would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.
  • By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life.

Which of these alternatives is the most plausible?

  • The first alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. There is just no physical reason why these constants and quantities should have the values they do. As Paul Davies states,
  • “Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn’t follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about ‘laws of initial conditions’ remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it. . . . . . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise” (Paul Davies, The Mind of God [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992], p. 169).
  • For example, the most promising candidate for a T.O.E. to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe.
  • In fact, string theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different universes governed by the present laws of nature, so that it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary.
  • So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance?
  • The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they cannot be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable.
  • Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in one’s driveway.
  • Some people have tried to escape this problem by claiming that we really shouldn’t be surprised at the finely-tuned conditions of the universe, for if the universe were not fine-tuned, then we wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it!
  • Given that we are here, we should expect the universe to be fine-tuned. But such reasoning is logically fallacious. We can show this by means of a parallel illustration. Imagine you’re traveling abroad and are arrested on trumped-up drug charges and dragged in front of a firing squad of 100 trained marksmen, all with rifles aimed at your heart, to be executed. You hear the command given: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” and you hear the deafening roar of the guns. And then you observe that you are still alive, that all of the 100 trained marksmen missed!

Now what would you conclude?

  • “Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed. After all, if they hadn’t all missed, then I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Given that I am here, I should expect them all to miss.” Of course not!
  • You would immediately suspect that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set-up, engineered for some reason by someone. While you wouldn’t be surprised that you don’t observe that you are dead, you’d be very surprised, indeed, that you do observe that you are alive. In the same way, given the incredible improbability of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, it is reasonable to conclude that this is not due to chance, but to design.
  • In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered universes composing a sort of World Ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part. Somewhere in this infinite World Ensemble finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be one such world.

There are, however, at least two major failings of the World Ensemble hypothesis:

First, there’s no evidence that such a World Ensemble exists. No one knows if there are other worlds. Moreover, recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too. Therefore, since the past is finite, only a finite number of other worlds can have been generated by now, so that there’s no guarantee that a finely-tuned world will have appeared in the ensemble.

Second, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite World Ensemble, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe.

  • Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form by the random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist. (Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison in The Road to Reality [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], pp. 762-5.) So if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing a universe no larger than our solar system.
  • Or again, if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since such things are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.
  • Observable universes like those are much more plenteous in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble.
  • So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.

We can summarize this second argument as follows:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

*You can subscribe to Valley Baptist Church San Rafael on YouTube to hear the Apologetics lectures from the series: Knowing What and Why You Believe, as well as Pastor David Craig’s sermons on the book of Daniel in the Series: Going Against the Flow of Culture.

Resources On Apologetics From Dr. William Lane Craig

Dr. William Lane Craig’s website: www.reasonablefaith.org

Cowan, Steven, and Stanley N. Gundry, eds. Five Views On Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. (W.L. Craig presents the case for the Classical View).

Craig, William Lane, and Joseph E. Gorra. A Reasonable Response: Answers To Tough Questions On God, Christianity, And The Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013.

Craig, William Lane. Does God Exist? Pine Mountain, GA: Impact 360 Institute, 2014.

Craig, William Lane, & Meister, Chad. God Is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009.

Craig, William Lane and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,. God? A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

_______. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

_______. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010.

_______. The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Eugene, OR: Wipe and Stock Publishers, 2000.

Book Review on Bryan A. Follis’ “Truth and Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer.”

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Evangelistic Help for the 21st Century

Book Reviewed by David P. Craig

One wouldn’t think that a person who ministered and died in the mid to late 20th century would be one of the most helpful models for apologetics and evangelism in the 21st century, but in this book Follis makes a compelling case for Francis Schaeffer being an excellent model for us in these key areas of living out the Christian life.

Though Francis Schaeffer has been both lauded and attacked as a Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. He never claimed to be a proponent of any of these monikers. Schaeffer did not consider himself an academic or even an intellectual. When Schaeffer was frequently asked what he was he would say repeatedly (according to James Sire and others who knew him well) that he was not in “academic apologetics but his interest was in evangelism.”

When you read the works of Schaeffer, in particular what he classified as his Trilogy:  The God Who Is There; Escape From Reason; and He Us There, And He Is Not Silent” you would think he is actually an outstanding Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. However, all of Schaeffer’s writing (beginning at the age of 56) was really from his ministry of listening to, teaching, and counseling of a wide variety of humanity (from disillusioned Viet Nam veterans to hippies, from blue collar workers to white collar intellectuals. Schaeffer was primarily interested in the Lordship of Christ and that he would make a compelling case with others of how a relationship with Jesus was the center of everything.

The center of anyone’s life – if it is not filled with Christ – is ultimately a meaningless or empty center. Therefore, in this book Bryan Follis demonstrates how the writing, speaking, ministry, and lifestyle of Francis and Edith Schaeffer was so impactful because it was full of genuine love for humanity (as made in God’s image – and thus extremely valuable) and wrapped in objective truth in propositions and principles that emanated from the Bible.

In the final analysis what the Schaeffer’s modeled was a ministry that was balanced powerfully with a leaning into the supernatural reality of the Holy Spirit that resulted in genuine love and compelling truth. Christians that emphasize either truth without love, or love without truth will have a hard time in apologetics or evangelism. The Schaeffer’s are a wonderful model for all Christians for all time. They showed tangibly how to love God with all ones mind, heart, soul, and strength and in the process loved many “neighbors” as themselves into the Kingdom of God.

Follis has provided an excellent overview and guide into lessons that we may glean so that we too may be effective evangelists for Christ in the 21st century and beyond.

Book Review of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

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“Insightful Thoughts From a Beautiful Follower of Jesus”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (what a beautiful name) has written a delightful book highlighting her conversion to Christ and instruction on many topics that are thought provoking and insightful. Among the variety of topics covered in this book are evangelism; hospitality; education; homosexuality; church planting; male and female roles in complementarity; hermeneutics; dating; marriage; parenting; foster care; adoption; and worship.

The author writes in an entertaining way, and yet shares insights with tremendous depth and cogent logic. My wife and I have both enjoyed discussing the variety of topics brought forth by Butterfield and are grateful for her wisdom and biblical insight. Though we don’t agree with all of Butterfield’s conclusions we especially appreciated her honesty; critique of Christian legalism; and insights into reaching out to those who identify themselves in any way other than “Christian.”

As a pastor in a very secular community I was given many illustrations that will help me become better at reaching out to those who are “outsiders” of our church community. I am grateful that Rosaria has shared her “secret thoughts” publicly. As a result I think that my wife and I have been equipped to be “salt and light” in our community and will be more effective in our outreach to those who desperately need Christ (as do we) in our community.

Rosaria is to be commended for her service to our Lord as a Christian wife, mother, educator, evangelist, and disciple maker. Any follower of Christ would be encouraged in their pursuit of Christlikeness and better reflect His inner and outer beauty as a result of reading and practicing the wisdom articulated in this delightful book.

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

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Explains Key Differences Between Catholicism and Protestantism 

Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

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

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

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

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

Book Review on Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism

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Engaging People Like Jesus

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How To Winsomely Build Bridges With Non-Believers

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. J.I. Packer: What Are The Essential Ingredients of The Gospel?

Dr. J.I. Packer: What Is The Gospel Message? 

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4 Essential Ingredients of the Gospel

In a word, the evangelistic message is the gospel of Christ and Him crucified, the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a message made up of four essential ingredients.

1. The gospel is a message about God. It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, and what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us that we owe our very existence to Him; that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye; and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory. These truths are the foundation of theistic religion; and until they are grasped, the rest of the gospel message will seem neither cogent nor relevant. It is here with the assertion of man’s complete and constant dependence on his Creator that the Christian story starts.

We can learn again from Paul at this point. When preaching to Jews, as at Pisidian Antioch, he did not need to mention the fact that men were God’s creatures. He could take this knowledge for granted, for his hearers had the Old Testament faith behind them. He could begin at once to declare Christ to them as the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. But when preaching to Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Old Testament, Paul had to go further back and start from the beginning. And the beginning from which Paul started in such cases was the doctrine of God’s Creatorship and man’s creaturehood. So, when the Athenians asked him to explain what his talk of Jesus and the resurrection was all about, he spoke to them first of God the Creator and what He made man for. “God…made the world…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made…all nations…that they should seek the Lord” (Act 17:24-27). This was not, as some have supposed, a piece of philosophical apologetic of a kind that Paul afterwards renounced, but the first and basic lesson in theistic faith. The gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that He, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us. Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is, and only when we see what sin is can we understand the good news of salvation from sin. We must know what it means to call God Creator before we can grasp what it means to speak of Him as Redeemer. Nothing can be achieved by talking about sin and salvation where this preliminary lesson has not in some measure been learned.

2. The gospel is a message about sin. It tells us how we have fallen short of God’s standard, how we have become guilty, filthy, and helpless in sin, and now stand under the wrath of God. It tells us that the reason why we sin continually is that we are sinners by nature, and that nothing we do or try to do for ourselves can put us right or bring us back into God’s favor. It shows us ourselves as God sees us and teaches us to think of ourselves as God thinks of us. Thus, it leads us to self-despair. And this also is a necessary step. Not until we have learned our need to get right with God and our inability to do so by any effort of our own can we come to know the Christ Who saves from sin.

There is a pitfall here. Everybody’s life includes things that cause dissatisfaction and shame. Everyone has a bad conscience about some things in his past, matters in which he has fallen short of the standard that he set for himself or that was expected of him by others. The danger is that in our evangelism we should content ourselves with evoking thoughts of these things and making people feel uncomfortable about them, and then depicting Christ as the One who saves us from these elements of ourselves, without even raising the question of our relationship with God. But this is just the question that has to be raised when we speak about sin. For the very idea of sin in the Bible is of an offence against God that disrupts a man’s relationship with God. Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all. For sin is not a social concept; it is a theological concept. Though sin is committed by man, and many sins are against society, sin cannot be defined in terms of either man or society. We never know what sin really is until we have learned to think of it in terms of God and to measure it, not by human standards, but by the yardstick of His total demand on our lives.

What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not at all the same thing as conviction of sin. It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself, your failures, and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith if a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, and cheer him up, and make him feel confident again. Nor should we be preaching the gospel (though we might imagine we were) if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a man’s felt wants: “Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; He will meet your every need”—as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother or a super-psychiatrist…To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one is an all-round flop, but to realize that one has offended God, and flouted His authority, and defied Him, and gone against Him, and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One Who through His cross sets men right with God again…

It is indeed true that the real Christ, the Christ of the Bible, Who [reveals] Himself to us as a Savior from sin and an Advocate with God, does in fact give peace, and joy, and moral strength, and the privilege of His own friendship to those who trust Him. But the Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ—in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation. We must be on our guard, therefore, against equating a natural bad conscience and sense of wretchedness with spiritual conviction of sin and so omitting in our evangelism to impress upon sinners the basic truth about their condition—namely, that their sin has alienated them from God and exposed them to His condemnation, and hostility, and wrath, so that their first need is for a restored relationship with Him…

3. The gospel is a message about Christ—Christ, the Son of God incarnate; Christ, the Lamb of God, dying for sin; Christ, the risen Lord; Christ, the perfect Savior.

Two points need to be made about the declaring of this part of the message: (i) We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work. It is sometimes said that it is the presentation of Christ’s Person, rather than of doctrines about Him, that draws sinners to His feet. It is true that it is the living Christ Who saves and that a theory of the atonement, however orthodox, is no substitute. When this remark is made, however, what is usually being suggested is that doctrinal instruction is dispensable in evangelistic preaching, and that all the evangelist need do is paint a vivid word-picture of the man of Galilee who went about doing good, and then assure his hearers that this Jesus is still alive to help them in their troubles. But such a message could hardly be called the gospel. It would, in reality, be a mere conundrum, serving only to mystify…the truth is that you cannot make sense of the historic figure of Jesus until you know about the Incarnation—that this Jesus was in fact God the Son, made man to save sinners according to His Father’s eternal purpose. Nor can you make sense of His life until you know about the atonement—that He lived as man so that He might die as man for men, and that His passion, His judicial murder was really His saving action of bearing away the world’s sins. Nor can you tell on what terms to approach Him now until you know about the resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session—that Jesus has been raised, and enthroned, and made King, and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge His Lordship. These doctrines, to mention no others, are essential to the gospel…In fact, without these doctrines you would have no gospel to preach at all.

(ii) But there is a second and complementary point: we must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: “Believe that Christ died for your sins.” The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Savior Who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made atonement. We must not, in presenting the gospel, isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ Whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Savior. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” said Paul (Act 16:31). “Come unto me…and I will give you rest,” said our Lord (Mat 11:28).

This being so, one thing becomes clear straight away: namely, that the question about the extent of the atonement, which is being much agitated in some quarters, has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point. I do not propose to discuss this question now; I have done that elsewhere. I am not at present asking you whether you think it is true to say that Christ died in order to save every single human being, past, present, and future, or not. Nor am I at present inviting you to make up your mind on this question, if you have not done so already. All I want to say here is that even if you think the above assertion is true, your presentation of Christ in evangelism ought not to differ from that of the man who thinks it false.

What I mean is this: it is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement, “Christ died for every one of you,” made to any congregation, would be unverifiable and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his gospel preaching. You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon. But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say or ever has reason to say when preaching the gospel. For preaching the gospel, as we have just seen, means [calling] sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Savior, Who, by virtue of His atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all…The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him.

The gospel is not, “Believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore for yours,” any more than it is, “Believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not for yours”…We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement. Our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him…This brings us to the final ingredient in the gospel message.

4. The gospel is a summons to faith and repentance. All who hear the gospel are summoned by God to repent and believe. “God…commandeth all men every where to repent,” Paul told the Athenians (Act 17:30). When asked by His hearers what they should do in order to “work the works of God,” our Lord replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:29). And in 1 John 3:23 we read: “This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ…”

Repentance and faith are rendered matters of duty by God’s direct command, and hence impenitence and unbelief are singled out in the New Testament as most grievous sins. With these universal commands, as we indicated above, go universal promises of salvation to all who obey them. “Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Act 10:43). “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). These words are promises to which God will stand as long as time shall last.

It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling. Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man…faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ Who gave those promises. Equally, repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place…Two further points need to be made also:

(i) The demand is for faith as well as repentance. It is not enough to resolve to turn from sin, give up evil habits, and try to put Christ’s teaching into practice by being religious and doing all possible good to others. Aspiration, and resolution, and morality, and religiosity,[15] are no substitutes for faith…If there is to be faith, however, there must be a foundation of knowledge: a man must know of Christ, and of His cross, and of His promises before saving faith becomes a possibility for him. In our presentation of the gospel, therefore, we need to stress these things, in order to lead sinners to abandon all confidence in themselves and to trust wholly in Christ and the power of His redeeming blood to give them acceptance with God. For nothing less than this is faith.

(ii) The demand is for repentance as well as faith…If there is to be repentance, however, there must, again, be a foundation of knowledge…More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 16:24-25). “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also (i.e., put them all decisively second in his esteem), he cannot be my disciple…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:26, 33). The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims that He may make on their lives…He had no interest in gathering vast crowds of professed adherents who would melt away as soon as they found out what following Him actually demanded of them. In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything; or else our evangelizing becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.

Such is the evangelistic message that we are sent to make known.

Excerpt From Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God  by J. I. Packer.

Book Review of Dodson and Watson’s “Called Together: A Guide To Forming Missional Communities”

Outgrowing The Ingrown Church

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

One of the most difficult things for churches to do is to stay missional when they are established or become missional when they are plateaud or declining. For years theologians and pastors have asked the question: “How can we outgrow the ingrown church?” Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson have planted thriving churches that are missional and constantly reaching out in the context of community in their respective cities: Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon. There are many ways to be missional as a church, but perhaps one of the most simple, flexible, and successful ways is via small “missional” groups. This book is written as a guide or handbook on a proven and effective way to reach out in your community without compromising the Gospel, edification, or fellowship.

The error that most churches fall into is establishing small groups that are ingrown – what I like to call “holy huddles.” These are groups that are inward (people already in the church) focused. There is nothing wrong with care groups or specialized groups for individuals that are focused on certain needs. However, churches also need to have groups that are outward focused and missional if they are going to keep the gospel alive and thriving in their communities. In this guide the author’s model and teach how this can be done in your own church context and community.

The goal of this guide is to establish and equip missional communities so that the church can be outreach oriented, focused, and intentional. The author’s define a missional community as “a group of people who are learning to follow Jesus together in a way that renews their city, town, village, hamlet, or other space. They aren’t fancy. In fact, they can be a messy community of everyday citizens who are devoted to Jesus, to one another, to their neighbors and their city.” In writing this guide the authors will help you “imagine and form a missional community that is true to your calling” of being salt and light in your community. Crucial to the success of a missional community is in its intentional application of the following: (1) sharing life together; (2) a focus on the gospel and its daily application of faith and repentance; (3) care for your city; (4) caring for your neighbors/hood; and (5) making and multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The guide is divided into three parts designed to be studied and applied by a small “missional” community group. Each week the session consists of a biblical theme with handouts composed of key themes, verses, and applications and ideas for next steps for missional endeavors in your community. The appendix contains weekly handouts; leadership role distinctions (each group is composed of a host, discussion facilitator, prayer coordinator, meal coordinator, and missional leader – the qualifications and roles for these individuals are described in detail at various points in the guide). Missional communities invite people into a community that “isn’t centered on their needs, hobbies, or passions but the gospel of Jesus and His mission (essentially the opposite of most small groups).

Part One consists of four sessions/weeks on the Gospel: (1) What is the Gospel? (2) The Gospel is Personal. (3) The Gospel is Missional. (4) Living the Gospel. Crucial to the success of a missional community is its understanding of, implementation of, and application of the gospel which they define as: “the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us.” The gospel is essentially composed of three aspects: (1) The gospel is doctrinal: it changes what we believe about ourselves and Jesus. (2) The gospel is personal: it changes who we are by transforming us into the image and likeness of Jesus; (3) The gospel is missional: it changes where and how we live for the sake of Jesus and His glorious Kingdom. The focus of these four sessions is that the gospel ceases to be something you agree with or can recite and rather becomes something you live in community with your missional community. This bucks against the individualism of western culture and is actually a return to the model that Jesus set for His own disciples – “missional community.”

In Part Two the focus of weeks five and six are on how the gospel of Jesus is at the center of community by reminding one another of the gospel. Community is based on the early church model from Acts 2:42-27. Both what makes for biblical community and what does not make for biblical community are studied and discussed with great ideas for the application and implementation of true biblical community centered in the gospel. The focus is very much on meeting needs in your neighborhood and with your neighbors as you live out the gospel in community together.

Part Three is composed of what it means to be a “missional” community and how to be missional “together” in your community. The last session (9th week) talks about the commitments that the missional community will make with one another. These commitments are based on what the missional community will do “by God’s grace.” The authors give multiple ideas for the application of what it means “specifically” and “intentionally” to live out the gospel in community. There are many examples of ways that missional communities can attempt to be outreach oriented in their respective cities.

I can’t recommend the concept of “missional communities” highly enough, and this book is a wonderful place to start to launch your own missional communities wherever you are. I hope and pray that this book will be the first of many guides in helping outgrowing the ingrown churches of America and beyond. I personally want to thank Jonathan and Brad for writing this book and hope it’s the first of many to be written as a  very practical guide to help churches make and multiply disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matt Mantry on Evangelism and The Church of Darwin

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Evangelizing the Church of Darwin

Neo-Darwinian materialism [1] prevails as the orthodoxy of science and secularism that reigns supreme. Neo-Darwinian materialists tend to believe that the miracle of consciousness and subjectivity can simply be explained by material causes that arose during the evolutionary processes without any divine intervention. Physical matter is all that there is. Scientific naturalism is seen as Sacred Doctrine that cannot be challenged. If you even dare to utter anything that contradicts current neo-Darwin materialism, be prepared to face excommunication from the Church of Darwin. Prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel once dared to question Darwinian papal authority, and he was declared to be a heretic, blasphemer, and shoddy reasoner. Questioning the Church of Darwin can lead you down a one-way street to becoming an apostate. It is clear that Darwinian dogma promotes a worldview that makes much of materialism, humanism, and free-thought.

With this in mind, Christians must now ask themselves:

– How can we infiltrate the walls of the Church of Darwin and establish a voice in promoting the gospel of Jesus?

– How can Christians evangelize to those who are neo-Darwinian materialists?

– Is there a common ground that needs to be found?

– Or does each side need to double-down on their beliefs, and get comfortable in their doctrinal trenches?

In this article, I am going to try and give a few suggestions to Christians on how to evangelize to those who attend the Church of Darwin.

1. OPENLY DISCUSS THE CONFLICTING WORLDVIEW

There is no doubt that Christians and neo-Darwinians do not see eye-to-eye on the origin of species. However, there are also a number of other conflicting beliefs that need to be discussed. For example, Christians believe in a material and spiritual world, while neo-Darwinists only believe in the material world. According to neo-Darwinists everything that exists has come to be through a mindless process, whereas Christians believe that God has created everything that we see in the world. Neo-Darwinists believe that the chief goal of man is to create his own purpose and find his meaning through human autonomy, while Christians believe that the chief goal of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The list could go on and on. However, the main point is simply the fact that the way that Christians and neo-Darwinians see the world is extremely different. With that in mind, it is clear that Christians must try to begin building bridges with neo-Darwin materialists by openly discussing their different worldview. This will encourage helpful dialogue, and perhaps open the door for the gospel message to be proclaimed.

2. POINT OUT THE FATAL FLAW IN THE NEO-DARWINIST DOCTRINE

I want to distill a brilliant argument by philosopher Alvin Plantinga and make it accessible to laymen. His evolutionary argument against naturalism is cogent and effective argument. It is a philosophically rigorous argument and it points out a fatal flaw in the reasoning of neo-Darwinians.

It is important to understand evolution. What does evolution entail? Philosopher Patricia Churchland once said:

“A nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. . . . A fancier style of representing [the external world] is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”

What I want Christians to take away is that the evolutionary process is not concerned with forming true beliefs. It is only concerned with survival. Therefore, why should  neo-Darwinists expect (if human beings are the product of a mindless evolutionary process) their cognitive faculties to produce true beliefs? Our minds have simply developed through an accidental process. Why should a Christian believe anything that a neo-Darwinian claims to know? What Plantinga demonstrates is that believing in both evolution and materialism is simply irrational. Christians must remember to always point out this chink in the neo-Darwinian’s armor.

3. PUTTING DARWIN ON TRIAL

Perhaps one of the most important things Christians can do when evangelizing neo-Darwinists is to simply conduct a trial and place Darwin on the stand. Here’s what I mean. Does evolutionary naturalism answer the most important questions about life? Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is my purpose? Can a neo-Darwinist explain why human beings have such longings for transcendence?

Asking pointed questions demonstrates to the Darwinist the inadequacy of his views. Of course, you can also give reasons as to why Christianity is the supreme philosophy during your interactions as well. Tell the irrefutable story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Explain what it looks like to live a gospel-centered life. Go into detail about how God brought you from death to life. Above all, make sure that you make much of Christ, and trust the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to say. Do not let Darwin off the stand without first conducting a thorough examination of his presuppositions and failures at answering the big questions.

CONCLUSION

It is important for Christians to have a game plan when evangelizing the Church of Darwin, and I hope I’ve provided a few launching points to utilize when conversing with neo-Darwinians. Evangelism must always be contextualized to fit the particular individual and situation. However, there is a certain foundation that all evangelists must have before entering into discussion with neo-Darwinists. My hope is that the Lord will continue to open up the eyes of Christians to the need of evangelizing at the Church of Darwin and remove the fear in pursuing disciples in this context.

[1] Neo-Darwinian materialism can be defined as a belief that all species evolved by natural selection acting on random genetic mutation. Everything that exists can be explained by material manifestations and there is nothing immaterial that exists.

About the Author: Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net. This article was adapted from: http://gcdiscipleship.com/evangelizing-the-church-of-darwin/