Feb 272015
 

Jesus and apologeticsLast week we looked at the use of logic in apologetics. We have a reasonable faith and so therefore it should be understood using logic and reason. Just in case you are still not convinced I thought it would be fun to look at how Jesus, the most brilliant thinker in history, used logical arguments to refute His critics and establish the truth of His views. If Jesus used these methods, and we are followers of His, then logically we should do the same.

Jesus’ use of persuasive arguments demonstrates that He was both a philosopher and an apologist who rationally defended His worldview in discussions with some of the best thinkers of His day. This intellectual approach does not detract from His divine authority but enhances it. Jesus’ high estimation of rationality and His own application of arguments indicates that Christianity is not an anti-intellectual faith as opponents frequently portray.

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). Word translated here in Greek is Logos and it is from this word that the word logic derives.

As an apologist for God’s truth, He defended the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as His own teachings and actions.

Presenting Jesus as a worthy thinker can be a powerful apologetic tool to unbelievers who wrongly assume that Christian belief is a matter of blind faith or irrational belief.

Jesus didn’t use logic to win arguments, but so that his listeners would understand and gain insight. It wasn’t about scoring intellectual points, as many of the so-called intellectuals didn’t ‘get it’ and yet everyday people and even children did.

We see in the gospels a number of occasions where the religious authorities tried to trap Jesus and we are then treated to a masterful demonstration of Jesus defeating their arguments through logic. For example in Matthew 22:23-38

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, hoping through their questions for Jesus to change His mind and admit that the resurrection was absurd. They tried to corner Him to admit that either there was no resurrection or that heaven allowed for monogamous marriages.

Jesus, using logic, showed they were basing their arguments on false premises. He then skilfully used their own beliefs to show them why they were wrong.

This is quite a common device used by opponents to Christianity. Their arguments will appear logical but will be based on false or misleading statements and premises.

Jesus was fond of using logical arguments which are called ‘a fortiori’ (Latin: “from the stronger”) The basic form of this argument is as follows

1. The truth of idea A is accepted.

2. Support for the truth of idea B (which is relevantly similar to idea A) is even stronger than that of idea A.

3. Therefore, if the truth of idea A must be accepted, then so must the truth of idea B.

Consider Jesus’ argument against the Pharisees concerning the rightness of His performing a healing miracle on the Sabbath:

Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:21–24)

Jesus’ argument can be laid out simply:

1. The Pharisees endorse circumcision, even when it is done on the Sabbath, the day of rest from work. This does not violate the Sabbath laws, because it is an act of goodness.

2. Healing the whole person is even more important and beneficial than circumcision, which affects only one aspect of the male.

3. Therefore, if circumcision on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath, neither is Jesus’ healing of a person on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ concluding comment, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” was a rebuke to their illogical inconsistency while applying their own moral and religious principles.

Jesus argued in a similar form in several other conversations regarding the meaning of the Sabbath. In Luke 13 after He healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler became indignant and said, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Jesus reminded him that one may lawfully untie one’s ox or donkey on the Sabbath and lead it to water. “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus’ argument looks like this:

1. The Jews lawfully release animals from their confinement on the Sabbath out of concern for the animals’ well-being.

2. A woman’s well-being (deliverance from a chronic, debilitating illness) is far more important than watering an animal.

3. Therefore, if watering an animal on the Sabbath is not a Sabbath violation, then Jesus’ healing of the woman on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath.

Luke recorded that Jesus “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.” (Luke 13:17).

A wise apologist will make good and repeated use of ‘a fortiori’ arguments. Here is an example from comparative religion: Many reject the Gospels because they are ancient documents that are supposedly historically unreliable. Many of these same people, however, trust ancient Buddhist and other Eastern religious documents, which have far fewer manuscripts

Jesus would often appeal to strong evidence to back up His teachings. When John the Baptist sent word from prison asking if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus answered him

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (John 11:4-6)

Jesus’ logic was as such:

1. If one does certain kinds of actions (according to the scriptures), then one is the Messiah.

2. I am doing those kinds of actions.

3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Let’s look at one more logical tool Jesus used in His arguments. He used a common tool used by Philosophers and other debaters calledreductio ad absurdum’ arguments. The term means “reduction to absurdity.” When used successfully, powerfully refutes an illogical position

Let’s see how Jesus used this argument in Matthew 22:41-46

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus’ argument can be laid out as follows:

1. If the Christ is merely the human descendent of David, David could not have called him “Lord.”

2. David did call the Christ “Lord” in Psalm 110:1.

3. To believe Christ was David’s Lord and merely his human descendent (who could not be his Lord) is absurd.

4. Christ, therefore, is not merely the human descendent of David.

Jesus’ point was not to deny the Christ’s ancestral connection to David, since Jesus Himself is called “the Son of David” in the Gospels (Matthew 1:1), and Jesus accepted the title without objection (Matthew 20:30–31). Jesus rather showed that the Christ is not merely the Son of David. Christ is also Lord and was so at the time of David. By using this reductio ad absurdum argument, Jesus expanded His audience’s understanding of who the Christ is and that He himself is the Christ.

Jesus employed another reductio ad absurdum when the Pharisees accused Him of driving demons out by Satan himself in Matthew 12:22-32. In reply to them He said:

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? (Matthew 12:25–27)

Let’s look at Jesus’ logic step by step:

1. If Satan were divided against himself, his kingdom would be ruined.

2. Satan’s kingdom, however, is not ruined (since demonic activity continues). To think otherwise is absurd.

3. Therefore, (a) Satan does not drive out Satan.

4. Therefore, (b) Jesus cannot free people from Satan by satanic power.

A bit of a longer blog today but I hope you have found it useful. Hopefully you will start to see how arguments are broken down into a set of statements and analysing these statements will show you where the errors occur (if any) Next time we will continue our look at apologetics and we will see some more examples of logic.

 February 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Feb 202015
 

Logic in apologeticsThe use of logic is very important when defending the faith. God has given us all logic and reason as a gift so that we can think straight. It originates from Him.

We can be very confident in what we believe in, but we should be able to explain why we believe what we do. And a good way of explaining ourselves is through logical arguments.

Logic is a system of reasoning, it is the principle of proper thinking used to arrive at correct conclusions.

It is worth bearing in mind that it is not logic that saves anybody and sometimes, people are so dead-set against Christianity that they are prepared to dispense and abandon reasoned logic.

Logic is used to remove intellectual barriers that hinder people coming to Christ. It can be used powerfully by Christians (and non-Christians) but it does have its limits.

Logic, as you might imagine has a number of principles and laws that govern the validity of its arguments.

  • The first law of logic is the law of identity. This simply states something is what it is and not what it is not. e.g. a dog is a dog, it is not a cat!
  • The second law of logic is the law of non-contradiction. This means that something cannot be both true and false at the same time (and in the same way) In other words, two contradictory statements cannot both be true. e.g. my only pet is a dog, my only pet is a cat.
  • The third law of logic is the law of excluded middle. This is simply that a statement is either true or false. e.g. My name is Adrian is a true statement, I am a girl is a false statement.

To be able to utilise these laws we need to take careful note on what people are saying to us, making sure we fully understand what they are saying and the arguments they use. Sometimes they argue from what is called a ‘false premise’ this is where they state something which isn’t actually true. we need to be aware of these because they are very common. It can help to repeat back to the person what we understand they are saying to avoid any amibiguity. When we are satisfied we have understood them, we can then respond with reasoned and rational comments.

As I cover a few tough questions over the coming weeks, you will see logic quite often comes into play.

Let me leave you with a problem some people try to trip Christians up with, which appears quite clever on the surface but actually breaches a fundamental law of logic. Have you ever heard the question: “Could God make a rock that is so big that He couldn’t lift it?” This is actually an absurd statement and contradicts the second law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. God by definition is infinite. In that statement you are also saying He is finite (limited). He cannot be infinite and finite at the same time. It is a logical fallacy and therefore an illogical statement. To put it simply you are saying that God is God and not God at the same time.

If you want to test how logically you think, here is a website you can test yourself on

http://www.think-logically.co.uk/lt.htm

Lastly as I was researching this subject I found a really engaging, funny and informative youtube video on logic and so I have posted it below

 February 20, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Feb 132015
 

Apologetics part 2Last week we started to look at the subject of Apologetics. We saw it was not an apology for Christianity but a defence of the faith. There were a number of verses charging all Christians to defend and contend for the faith. We should do it on the offensive (Offering positive reasons for the Christian faith) and the defensive (Refuting objections against the Christian faith) and we also saw that it was not just for ‘clever’ Christians but we could all do it; with the help of the Holy Spirit and through diligent study of the word. We shouldn’t be lazy.

There are 5 main reasons why we should do it:

(1) It strengthens the faith of Christian believers

(2) It removes obstacles to faith (for the seeker)

(3) Enables us to communicate the gospel to non-believers

(4) Challenges pre-suppositions and worldviews that need to be addressed

(5) It is commanded in scripture (1Peter 3:15, Jude 3, Titus 1:9)

How do we do it?

People have what is called ‘plausibility structures’ we need to get through. Whatever we say, they are processing in their mind whether it is plausible or not. These could be doubts like ‘Does God actually exist?’ or ‘Was Jesus really a historical person?’ etc. These structures can be built through various life experiences, education, evidence and influence from people such as parents, teachers etc. What this basically means is that people won’t believe you until you acknowledge and dismantle these structures. This can be done in a variety of ways such as using evidence, exposing false ideas and using logic.

When you preach the Gospel to people, they also have defeater beliefs. According to Tim Keller, there are 6 basic defeater beliefs pervasive in modern western culture:

1) Other religions – there can’t only be one true religion

2) The problem of evil and suffering

3) The Sacredness of Choice

4) The Record of Christians

5) The Angry God

6) The Unreliable Bible

Now I hesitated to say all that because all the theory and technical stuff can be a bit of a turn off. It all sounds very confusing. Maybe you are a bit nervous about doing it and perhaps a bit fearful that you will be tied up in knots by persuasive people. What I have found though is that God will help you, even when you stumble, get all tongue –tied and are lost for words. God just wants us to be open and prepared to speak. He will help our feeble efforts.

Hopefully my own testimony can give you some encouragement. I became a Christian at a young age but never really spoke about Jesus to anyone until I left home. I moved up to London just before my 18thbirthday to work at the Ritz hotel as a waiter. It was then, living away from home, that I would sink or swim in my Christian faith. Thank God that He was looking out for me. A fellow waiter found out I was a Christian and on a daily basis would ask me every tough question you could imagine about Christianity. I didn’t know the answer to any of the questions, but would go away and study and come back with an answer that I was satisfied with. This served two purposes; It strengthened my faith and after 3 years my friend became a Christian (despite my sometimes quite feeble responses!!). So Arthur, if you are reading this, thank you. You helped me in ways you will never know.

God used that friendship and those questions to strengthen my faith and grow as a Christian and He will help you too.

I will be covering this subject for a few more weeks, when we will be considering some more questions and problems people have with the Christian faith and how we might respond to those problems. If you have a difficult question posed and would like me to tackle it, why not leave a comment at the bottom of this post or contact me on the contacts page? More next week.

 February 13, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Evangelism No Responses »
Feb 062015
 

ApologeticsWe have been looking for a number of weeks now at bible difficulties and I have attempted to give an answer to many of the common objections people have to the bible and in fact the existence of God Himself. As you can imagine, opponents to Christianity are always trying to find fault and so it is important to bring a strong defence to what we believe.

This defence of the faith is called ‘apologetics’. It is not as the name might suggest apologising for the faith, but it is based on the Greek word ‘apologia’ which means ‘a verbal defence’. The term was used commonly in the Greek courtroom. In its essence a definition would be ‘A reasoned defence of the Christian faith against objections.

The 4 main bible verses that ‘apologists’ quote for using this form of defence are as follows;

always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect     (1 peter 3:15)

contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5)

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,  explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead (Acts 17:2-3)

It is important to mention though that these verses aren’t just for the elite few who are clever at debating. No, we should all know what we believe and give a reason for it. The trouble is, we live in a world where we see the church leader as professional. He is the one who will win all our arguments for us. If we could only get the people asking them to come to church.

I love the Alpha course, but one of its main drawbacks is we hand over our own responsibility of explaining the faith to our friends and relatives to the people who are running the course. Our culture has become used to being spoon fed information, and this can make us very lazy in studying for ourselves.

Apologetics can be defensive and offensive.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7)

The 2 Corinthians 5:7 passage I quoted earlier gives an example of the offensive side. But it is not about winning arguments. An important aspect, mentioned in the 1 Peter passage above is the way we debate and talk to people who oppose us. It is so important that every conversation is respectful and gentle.

A gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1)

When we discuss things in a winsome way we leave the door open for further discussion. There is no point in winning an argument if the way we win it completely turns off the other person because we have been rude or aggressive.

Apologetics has many forms, including studying and debating subjects such as; philosophy, biology, evolution, and logic. But it can also consist of simply giving an answer to a question about your own faith and why you believe and you don’t have to read a ton of books to do that. You certainly don’t have to be highly intelligent to engage in apologetics. Remember, in the New Testament the majority of the key leaders are pretty uneducated. It is only really the Apostle Paul who was really clever. The key is being filled with the Holy Spirit and diligent studying of the bible. God will guide your words when you stand for Him. A bible verse that gives me great strength is in Matthew 10:19-20 speaking about what will happen when we are dragged before rulers and authorities

do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Why not give it a try? See who you can start a conversation with this week?

Next week I will be looking at this subject a little further and giving my own testimony of how responding to a questioning friend helped me in my own faith.

 February 6, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »