Category Archives: Church & apologetics

The battle for apologetics in Christian thinking

(The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why would a group of Christians want apologetics and theology be seen as parallel disciplines. I challenged this combination of ‘Apologetics & Theology’ on Christian (CFnet). They are in some ways related but in other primary ways are different disciplines? The following enumerates how I pursued this encounter with the moderators of this forum.

What is ‘apologetics’? William Lane Craig defines apologetics as ‘a theoretical discipline that tries to answer the question, What rational defense can be given for the Christian faith? Therefore, most of our time must be spent in trying to answer this question…. The use of apologetics in practice ought rather to be an integral part of courses and books on evangelism’ (Craig 1994:xi).

Edward John Carnell integrates apologetics with theology: ‘Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which answers the question, Is Christianity rationally defensible?’ (Carnell 1948:7, emphasis in original). Norman Geisler, an active apologist, exegete and theologian, provided this definition: ‘Apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith’ (Geisler 1999:37, emphasis in original).

How is ‘theology’ defined? Theologian Henry Thiessen considers that ‘theology is used in the narrow sense of ‘the doctrine of God’ and ‘the broad and more usual sense …, all Christian doctrines, not only the specific doctrine of God, but also all the doctrines that deal with the relations God sustains to the universe’ (Thiessen 1949:24).

A more recent theologian stated that ‘systematic theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?” about any given topic’ (Grudem 1999:17, emphasis in original). Millard Erickson defines theology as ‘that discipline which strives to give a coherent statement of the doctrines of the Christian faith, based primarily upon the Scriptures, placed in the context of culture in general, worded in a contemporary idiom, and related to issues of life’ (Erickson 1985:21).

I suggested to one of the moderators of CFnet that ‘Apologetics’ should become a separate discipline to ‘Theology’ on that forum and he suggested discussing it in an open forum of ‘Questions & Suggestions for CFnet Staff’. Therefore, I began a topic, ‘Separate apologetics from theology’.

That really got the juices flowing after I began the topic with this entry:[1]

No need to quote Scriptures in apologetics

Since I’m an active Christian apologist in the Australian secular world, I would like to ask a few questions about the ‘Apologetics & Theology’ directory in which Scriptures are to be given in responses, to follow CFnet guidelines. This is not possible in the apologetic world in which I engage people because these sceptical Aussies do not want Scripture quoted as many of them don’t believe the Bible. They want engagement at a different level because of the nature of their questions or comments:

  1. ‘Your Bible is nonsense; it’s nothing more than a fairytale, myth from the Iron Age’ – quoting Scripture will not answer this issue. I need to engage with them on how to determine the accuracy and dependability of any document from history. Quoting Scripture doesn’t help them on this part of the journey.
  2. ‘It’s foolishness trying to convince me of your god when there are so many gods in the world, including Allah, Buddha and thousands of other deities. Promoting your one God is nothing more than giving me your indoctrination’. This means I have to begin this discussion way before reaching the Bible.
  3. The occasional more informed person raises issues such as: ‘Your Reformation hero John Calvin agreed to the slaughter of the Geneva Reformer Michael Servetus who was burned to death for heresy. One of your leaders is as guilty as the ISIL terrorists in killing those who oppose them’. Therefore, this is not the point to begin by quoting Scripture. I have to begin way back before I can come to Scripture.

I would like to encourage CFnet to separate apologetics from theology and not to require the quoting of Scriptures for every post that starts or continues an apologetic topic. Even in theology there are topics that may encourage starting or continuing with a discussion that doesn’t directly cite Scripture at the beginning. I’m thinking of the way that postmodernism is influencing theology. A refutation of postmodern theology (which Millard Erickson has done magnificently in the latest edition of his Christian Theology) may not involve the quoting of Scripture in various aspects as responses.

I urge you to broaden your view of Apologetics so that you can equip believers to engage with the secularist who is raising strategic issues that need to be addressed by the Christian community. A requirement to quote Scripture is not always the best starting point when we are finding common ground. If we do this, CFnet can be more actively involved in equipping apologists for the challenges of the secular world.

I do hope you will give positive consideration to these matters I’m raising here.

Here is a sample of responses:

Change it to ‘Christian apologetics’

One of the administrators wrote:[2]

We have actually discussed this a bit among ourselves. One thought has been that maybe we should change the title of the forum to “Christian Apologetics and Theology” rather than “Apologetics and Theology.” Adding “Christian” to the title might be more accurate because the rules here at CFnet do not allow non-Christians to attempt to undermine our beliefs therefore, using the Bible as the source of our defense is appropriate. Very few non-Christians debate in this forum and I suspect this is partly why.

Mars Hill as an example

(Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul‘s Areopagus sermon, courtesy Wikipedia)


Another quoted from the website:[3]

The biblical significance of Mars Hill is that it is the location of one of Paul’s most important gospel presentations at the time of his visit to Athens during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:16–34). It was where he addressed the religious idolatry of the Greeks who even had an altar to the “Unknown God.” It was this altar and their religious idolatry that Paul used as a starting point in proclaiming to them the one true God and how they could be reconciled to Him. Paul’s sermon is a classic example of a gospel presentation that begins where the listeners are and then presents the gospel message in a logical and biblical fashion. In many ways it is a classic example of apologetics in action. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them.[4]

This is well said.[5] We can expect that what Paul said on the Areopagus to the people of Athens is not detailed in full in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV), however there is enough here to indicate that he started with common ground:

  • He ‘observed the objects of your worship’ (v 23);
  • ‘I found also an altar with this inscription, “To the unknown god”‘ (v 23);
  • Then he moved to the known ‘God who made the world and everything in it’, etc.

This is the kind of passage with emphases what we face in post-Christian societies where we have to deal with non-Christian issues that people use as blocks to consider Christ. I am convinced that we need to clear the debris before we get to the Gospel presentation. Paul did that on the Areopagus.

Please don’t remove the Scriptures

Another moderator:[6]

One thing I wouldn’t want to see is any removal of the scripture requirement from the guidelines of the forum that we have now. Even though this has created a lot of editing work and drawn terrible fire from some members against the mods (yours truly in particular lately! clip_image001), it has also done a lot to stop the horrible fighting and verbal abuse that had been taking place there at one time. To me it’s worth the time and effort, so perhaps there are some ways we can make it even better now.

For me, the issue is not that of removing the Scripture in a discussion. It is a matter of separating the topics of two separate disciplines. At times on this forum,[7] I do not see the rules facilitating the ministry of apologetics when there is a mix and mash with theology. We can have people squabbling over Arminian vs Calvinistic views of election and another thread dealing with the existence of God – all in the same directory.
I’m of the view that having a separate apologetics directory would allow specifics of apologetic topics to be pursued with vigor and focus. Then the controversy of Arminianism vs Calvinism could be placed in another directory that has nothing to do with apologetic topics – a theology directory.

What is apologetics?

Steven B Cowan is the general editor of Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Publishing House 2000). In his introduction to this book, he wrote on ‘the nature of apologetics’:

‘Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity. Indeed, the very word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, which means “defense.” It was a term used in the courts of law in the ancient world. Socrates, for example, gave his famous “apology,” or defense, before the court of Athens. And the apostle Paul defended himself (apologeomai) before the Roman officials (Acts 24:10; 25:8). As it concerns the Christian faith, then, apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct way s. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. This apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purposes is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter, called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these. Of course, some apologists, as we will see, contend that such arguments are unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to Christian faith. These apologists focus primarily on the negative task and downplay the role of positive apologetics. Nevertheless, most, if not all, would agree that the apologetic task includes the giving of some positive reasons for faith’ (Cowan 2000:8).

That is an especially useful format for a book on apologetics. It provides expositions on 5 different methods:

  1. The Classical Method, William Lane Craig;
  2. The Evidential Method, Gary R Habermas;
  3. The Cumulative Case Method, Paul D. Feinberg;
  4. The Presuppositional Method, John M. Frame; and
  5. The Reformed Epistemological Method, Kelly James Clark.

I enjoy this format because following the exposition of each method, the other 4 apologists provide their responses.

Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler have edited a very practical volume to address issues at the local church level, Is Your Church Ready? Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life (Zacharias & Geisler 2003).

Apologetics for reaching non-Christians

One moderator was onside with me in this kind of comment:

Since apologetics is mainly for reaching non-Christians and is quite different than mere theological discussion, it makes sense to have the two as separate forums. Even Other Religions and the Science forums could be grouped under an Apologetics forum. The point being that while apologetics does make use of theology, it also makes extensive use of philosophy and other disciplines to make a good and proper defense of the Christian faith. As such, not all of it can necessarily be directly supported by Scripture.[8]

This moderator explained further that, even though apologetics is grounded in Scripture, there are apologetic arguments that use philosophy and extrapolations from Scripture. For this kind of defense, using direct statements from Scripture is not necessary or advantageous. When unbelievers dismiss the Bible outright – not caring what Scripture says – we can appeal to their reason to demonstrate how their arguments are weak and don’t work. This is designed to gain their ears. With other discussions there may be situations where we use Scripture extensively. This is especially so with those from other faiths and the cults. He reinforced my view that with theology, it is generally a discussion among Christians where it is necessary to use Scripture. His view was that apologetics defends our theology but goes beyond it because of apologetics’ outward focus.[9]

My issue[10] relates to the discipline of apologetics and how one interacts with non-Christians who ask penetrating questions for which the initial point of contact is not for an answer from Scripture. I have a very high doctrine of Scripture, so the issue is the nature of apologetics. People ask me these kinds of questions or assert these kinds of things:

  • Who created God?
  • Why your God and not Allah?
  • That Bible of yours is from the Iron Age and is nothing more than a fairytale.

For these kinds of questions, I do not start with the Scripture, but I eventually get to the Scriptures and their reliability.

My challenge to one of the forum moderators was: Please help me to understand how you will use an apologetic response, with your requirement for quoting Scripture, to answer the statement from a non-believer, ‘Your Bible is junk. It’s from the Iron Ages and is a fairytale. You can’t rely on anything in the Bible’.[11]

Here is one of the issues in a secular society:[12] I invite you to come Down Under and begin discussions on biblical topics on one of the commons in the centre of the city or go to any university campus and you’ll find that there are many non-believers who are biblically naive and ignorant of the Scriptures, but they have significant antagonism towards religion and especially the Christian faith.

Apologetics is not theology

(Acropolis of Athens view from Areopagus hill, courtesy Wikipedia)


The issue I raised on this forum[13] was the difference between apologetics and theology. They are two separate disciplines. Apologia is Greek for a defense; in this circumstance it is a defence of the Christian faith. However, many people in Australia and other parts of the world are a long way from discussing Scripture and as a proactive apologist in my country, I find I have to start way before citing Scripture – like Paul did on the Areopagus, recorded in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV). But CFnet in its current format won’t allow me to do that because of the requirement to quote Scripture.

I also have a very high view of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I’m not debating the authority of Scripture. My discussion surrounds the differences between the ministry of apologetics and the ministry of theological explanation. I’m suggesting that Apologetics becomes a separate directory from Theology and that there not be a requirement placed on those in the Apologetics directory to cite Scripture always.

I asked a moderator: How would you answer the question, ‘Who made God?’, when discussing with a non-Christian who raises this topic.

I understand the Lord is affirming an approach that seems to be foreign with verses such as:[14]

  • Isa 1:18 (ESV): ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’.
  • Eph 4:23 (ESV): ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds‘.

However, my experience with evangelicals through over 50 years as an evangelical Christian is that reason seems to be forbidden fruit with some evangelicals.

I expect[15] that apologetic questions should go in an Apologetics forum and not in ‘Questions for Christians‘. The issue could be easily addressed with a separate Apologetics forum, but with strict requirements for posting (flaming/goading is prohibited), but there is no requirement to quote Scripture. If I were to interact in an Apologetics forum, I would eventually get to Scripture because I’m convinced that the Christian world and life view fits like a hand in glove with reality.

Therefore, I’m suggesting establishing:

  1. A separate Apologetics forum;
  2. That deals only with apologetics topics and not inclusive of theological topics;
  3. A separate Theology forum;
  4. Maintain strict requirements for manners and etiquette in how people interact. I would not use the word ‘guidelines’ but would make them ‘requirements’.

I would expect that ‘Questions for Christians’ could include some apologetic type questions, but its breadth of questions would be much wider than apologetics.

Rules and legalism are not Christian

In the above kind of discussion, it wasn’t long before this kind of comment arrived: ‘More rules, more legalism, less Christianity. Doesn’t sound like a Christian forum to me’.[16] That is not what I’ve been advocating but it is how he is interpreting the moderators’ responses.

I replied:[17]

All conversations need rules. It’s not legalism, but a requirement for healthy dialogue. I can’t and wouldn’t use bullying tactics of swearing at a fellow employee on the job. I have boundaries for conversation at work and at church. On this forum, it should be no different.

Imagine what it would be like if there were not fundamental rules for the playing of football, tennis, cricket and baseball. I have to abide by the rules of driving on Australian roads, for obtaining a driver’s license and then the speed and boundaries of driving on the road.

‘More rules’ do not necessarily lead to ‘more legalism’. Rules are at the core of Christianity. John 14:6 (ESV) and Acts 4:12 (ESV) could be defined as ‘more rules, more legalism’ but it is core Christianity. There are some very definite rules in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).

It is most definitely a Christian forum if rules are required because boundaries (rules) are necessary for disciplined Christian living, an example being, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless’ (James 1:26 ESV). So the legalism of bridling the tongue is a demonstration of religion that is worthwhile before God.

His retort was: ‘You might find yourself in a forum all by yourself’.[18] He has obviously missed the point of my discussion in raising and continuing with this topic.

So, apologetics is really evangelism?

This is how one person viewed this topic of apologetics:

Perhaps I’m incorrect here, but Apologetics, imo, is believers defending their beliefs and differing ideas in a theological discussion using the Bible to “prove” their point.
Evangelism is what comes to mind for me when I read the OP [original post], this is dealing with non believers, witnessing to them and talking to them about our faith. Instead of changing A&T [Apologetics & Theology], perhaps an Evangelism section would be better suited, this way we all learn how to approach those non-believers when they ask questions similar to those presented in the OP.[19]

My response was:[20] Since I live in a very secular, post-Christian country, I find that sharing the Gospel will lead almost immediately into non-Christian challenges that can be quite inflammatory at times, like:

  • ‘That’s garbage (and followed by a string of expletives)’;
  • Myth! Trash! Nonsense!
  • Science has proven your creation myth to be to be just that – myth – that is found in many of the stories of mythology.

If you were here, I wonder what kind of response you would get by using the Bible to prove your points. These antagonists do not believe the Bible and my experience tells me that quoting it won’t engage them in conversation.

This afternoon I travel by train to the inner city Town Hall for a meeting of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll engage the person beside me on the train in conversation and I’ll try to get onto a Christian topic, but I don’t plan on engaging that person by quoting the Bible. They are way back further than that in initial contact.

No need for quoting Scripture in apologetics

Bible Open To Psalm 118One administrator was persistent: ‘So if I understand you correctly, by applying the guidelines the way we have, you are saying we have eliminated apologetics from the A&T [Apologetics & Theology] forum to the point that it is now just a theology thread’.[21]

How should I respond?[22] That is the case, generally, where I live. By requiring me to address apologetics topics on CFnet by insisting on the quoting of Scripture, we have moved into theology when I would like to deal with apologetics with resistant or antagonistic people. You and I know that it will take a compulsory ministry of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s heart.

I agree with the application of rules but it is the requirement or guideline to use Scripture that I find unnecessary in finding common ground with post-Christian secularists.

For example, some non-Christians and even Christians on CFnet use logical fallacies in their responses. I find it necessary to show what the fallacy is and how they use it by linking to a logical fallacies’ site, but to do this does not need a Scripture reference.

Another moderator who said she did not have much education and was intimidated by members who were smarter than she was,[23] told us how fed up she was: ‘I really do not understand why there are 4 pages here of some one trying every avenue possible to not want to use scripture in a Christian forum…in the only forum on the site that requires them’.[24]

This was like a red rag to a bull to me.[25] You have misread what I’ve written. I am NOT promoting the view NOT to use Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m addressing the ministry of apologetics which deals with objections to the Christian faith. To begin or continue an apologetic discussion with somebody objecting to some dimension of Christianity, it often is not helpful to begin with a ‘thus says the Bible’ answer. I’ve given a good number of examples in this thread to demonstrate that some objections to the faith do not require us to start with the Bible. Please go back through this thread to see the specific examples I have given.

I do not appreciate it when you misrepresent what I said. I am most definitely NOT advocating the elimination of Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m advocating that Apologetics is a separate discipline to Theology and that Apologetics needs to be more open. It does not need a requirement or suggestion to always use Scripture.

By the way, I have a very high view of Scripture and quote Scripture often in the forums on which I participate on CFnet. The issue is Apologetics and not needing to always quote Scripture.

Apologetics and theology differ

At least one moderator got the emphasis I was trying to convey. However, he lives in Canada, a country with a similar secular environment to Australia. He wrote:

The two main issues are these, as have been stated several times in this thread:

1. Apologetics and theology are two different subjects, and both are fairly large subjects at that. They should never really have been made into one forum in the first place. Having a separate Apologetics forum would allow for arguments to defend the faith to be gathered in one place, and therefore be effective in helping train those who are interested in defending the faith.

2. Not all apologetic arguments rely directly on Scripture. Defending traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life can be based on both arguments from Scripture and arguments not at all based on Scripture; the problem of evil is largely argued without Scripture; some of the arguments for the existence of God are not base[d] on Scripture; etc. Not to mention the fact that many non-Christians dismiss the Bible and won’t listen if one only tries to argue from Scripture. That’s just a fact of the world we live in. One of the main points of apologetics is to get people to a point where they will be willing to listen to Scripture. More often than not apologetics is a necessary component of evangelism these days. It would be of great service to the Christian community to have a place where Christians can learn and get trained.[26]


This discussion among Christians, especially by moderators who want Scripture to be quoted every time on an apologetic topic, was pointless – apart from the assessment by the last moderator quoted. He was able to conclude that apologetics is designed to answer people’s objections with the hope of bringing them to consider the message of Scripture.

As for the others, I was simply spinning the wheels and going nowhere. They are so fixed in the view that the topics of apologetics and theology on this Christian forum require that Scriptures be quoted. In 86 posts, there was no movement by the overall tone of the moderators to move the goal posts to separate apologetics from theology. One was on side with me.

My view is that a Christian is to find common ground with a non-Christian and begin where that person is, to answer questions applicable to that unbeliever. Most often that does not start with the Scriptures here in Australia.

See my other articles relating to this topic:

clip_image003 Why is apologetics in such low demand in the church?

clip_image003[1] Christians stuck for answers

clip_image003[2] When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy

clip_image003[3] Did God create evil?

clip_image003[4] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image003[5] Secular assaults on the Bible: The inerrant Bible battles

clip_image003[6] Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

Works consulted

Carnell, E J 1948. An introduction to Christian apologetics: A philosophic defense of the trinitarian-theistic faith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Cowan, S B (gen ed). Five views of apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Craig, W L 1994. Reasonable Faith: Christian truth and apologetics. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.[27]

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Zacharias, R & Geisler, N (gen eds) 2003. Is your church ready? Motivating leaders to live an apologetic life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.


[1] Christian 2015. Questions & suggestions for CFnew staff, ‘Separate apologetics from theology‘, 21 July, OzSpen#1. Available at: (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[2] Ibid., WIP#2.

[3] Ibid., Deborah#3.

[4] GotQuestions?org ‘What happened at Mars Hill in the Bible?’ Available at: (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[5] CFnet, ibid., OzSpen#32.

[6] Ibid., Obadiah#4.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#34.

[8] Ibid., Free#11.

[9] Ibid., Free#17.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#40.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#41.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#43.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[16] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#59.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[18] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#64.

[19] Ibid., Abigain123#65.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[21] Ibid., WIP#72.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#73.

[23] Ibid., Reba#74, Reba#76.

[24] Ibid., Reba#76.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#80.

[26] Ibid., Free#79.

[27] This is a revised edition of the original edition published in 1984 by Moody Press.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 November 2015.


Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic


By Spencer D Gear

What would you say to someone who said the following?

clip_image002 Of the supreme God of the universe, ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out – it doesn’t require education, or deep thinking, just an unquestioning adherence to cultural traditions, and a clownishly arrogant willingness to explain the unknowable as if it were known’.[1]

clip_image002[1] Is the Christian faith superstition? ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.[2]

clip_image002[2] ‘I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc’.[3]

clip_image002[3] ‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.

Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015’.[4]

clip_image002[4] ‘An average student today knows more about the nature of the universe and of this world than the most learned sages of the Iron Age’.[5].

clip_image002[5] ‘Christianity relies upon Iron Age understandings of man’s origins and the nature of the world.

It would be preposterous for us to apply that same primitive thinking to other areas of modern life (medicine, architecture, human rights), though some religious people attempt to in some areas’.[6]

clip_image002[6] ‘Christianity comes out of that primitive era, and unlike other fields of endeavor, philosophy, social systems, science – remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking’.[7]

clip_image002[7] ‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.[8]

There you have a sample of an anti-Christian antagonist who has chosen to grace himself on a Christian Forum. Why would an anti-Christian want to even join with a group of Christians to stir the pot with his hostility towards and ridicule of the Christian faith?

My posting on Christian forums over the years has taught me that they seem to do it for at least three reasons:

(1) They enjoy scoffing at the Christian faith to try to demonstrate their supposed superior knowledge,

(2) They love showing up Christians who don’t know their product as well as they should.

(3) For some, there is a considerable amount of arrogance displayed in trying to challenge Christians on what they believe. That’s what you’ll see in David’s responses if you care to follow that thread on the Internet.

A. Notice what he does

What do the above examples show us about David’s enmity towards Christians and Christianity? Let’s look at two examples:

1. Christianity is superstition

One of his examples was: ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out’. David’s starting point is that belief in the supreme God is ‘superstition’. So what is his concluding point? He was asked that by Cheryl, ‘Is it your opinion that the Christian faith is superstition?’[9]

What do you think he would conclude? Here it is: ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.[10]

What is he doing here? He could be trying at least two possible activities:

(1) He has done a lot of investigation and concluded that Christianity is ‘superstition’. Or,

(2) He assumes it is superstition and therefore concludes that it is superstition.

#If he uses the second approach (which seems to be his demonstration in the first few posts), he is committing what is known as a question begging logical fallacy, which is also known as circular reasoning. It is circular because if one starts (belief in God is superstition) where one finishes (‘Superstition is not “complicated”’), one has gone nowhere except around in illogical circles. It has not dealt with the evidence about whether or not there is a supreme God.

This fallacy has been explained this way:

Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of “reasoning” typically has the following form.

a. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).

b. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious [logically unsound] because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion. Obviously, simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Begging the Question).

So when David begins with a statement that belief in the supreme God is belief in superstition, he is not going to conclude differently unless he seriously addresses the evidence for the existence of the true God or no god. He has not demonstrated that in the Internet thread. He chooses not to engage with the evidence but to label it as ‘superstition’. This is a deceptive way to avoid getting into discussion about the evidence for God and Christianity. It’s a misleading way to avoid dealing with the evidence.

2. god is a major league tyrant and sadist

A second of his examples above was: ‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.

Note his emphases:

  • ‘the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions’;
  • ‘just as … the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’;
  • ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.

Again, he is using a question begging logical fallacy because he commences with god, ‘the imaginary tyrant’, moves to the parallel with the Greek gods and Greek mythology’ and ends with god labelled as ‘a major league tyrant and sadist’. He has provided not one piece of evidence to support his claims except using the throw-away line, ‘based on biblical descriptions’. He gives not one example in that post of any description from the Bible.

However, Cheryl picked him up on this:

‘Quoting Dawkins’ claim about God and agreeing with it does not prove that his (or your) description of God of the OT is accurate. Please give us examples from the Bible (chapter and verse) on how each of these words apply (sic) to the character of God and we can discuss those passages in context to the entire Biblical narrative. Otherwise, Dawkins’ (or any other atheist’s) opinion about the Biblical God carries no weight in this discussion, at least with me’.[11]

However, David used another technique in these examples to avoid dealing with the evidence. He engaged in ridicule of the faith: ‘Imaginary tyrant’ who is in parallel with ‘the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’. AND, the ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’. He is scoffing at the Christian’s God. He is engaging in ridicule. He has committed the appeal to ridicule fallacy, which is also called the appeal to mockery or horse laugh. Here is one explanation:

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).

2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!” (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Appeal to Ridicule).

Keep a watch out for the use of logical fallacies to derail an argument. It happens online, in personal conversation, and can be used by public speakers and those in the mass media. An excellent overview, with examples, of some of the major fallacies used to promote illogical answers is in The Nizkor Project: Fallacies. I urge you to review them and be able to identify them. I recommend that you learn to recognise these fallacies by name.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

B. The illogic of logical fallacies

As I respond to some of David’s replies, you will note that I try to identify his use of logical fallacies. What is a logical fallacy?

‘A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support’ (Labossiere 1995).

Why should we even be concerned about people using logical fallacies in conversation or when they write? What is your response when a person doesn’t deal with the issues you are raising? They may give you the flick pass of avoidance, change the topic, reach a conclusion that is unrelated to the flow of the conversation, and may abuse you. Does that cause you to want to engage in discussion with them? Is it possible to have a rational conversation with people who do this? Politicians who face the media are experts at not answering the question asked and only giving the party line for that topic. What kind of fallacy is that?

When someone uses such a fallacy, it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation with the one who is committing a logical error. He or she is being illogical in the discussion. When discussions become irrational – because of false logic – there is no way to get back on track until the matter is addressed.

C. Tactics that fail

Let’s check on David again to see what he is up to. How does he attempt to derail a thread by other tactics?

1. Unthinking, primitive Iron Age religion

David wrote: ‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts. Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015’. I replied: ‘That’s a question begging (circular reasoning) fallacy, David!’[12]

How would you expect him to reply? ‘How so, Spencer?[13] My response was:[14]

You started with this premise:

‘Stand to reason? No. If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.

Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015.

You start with ‘recorded in primitive Iron Age texts’ and then conclude, ‘Imagine if we did that in other areas of life’. That’s circular reasoning, a question begging logical fallacy. When you conclude with your premise that’s the essence of this kind of fallacy and you committed it. We cannot have a rational conversation when you do this. It’s a fallacious understanding.

2. Least educated children know more than Christians

David was up to his circular reasoning tricks, plus another one:[15]

‘Evolution was not recorded in Iron Age texts. Science does not rely upon the superstitions of ancient primitives, but religion often embraces them.

“Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion” (Christopher Hitchens)’.

My response was:[16]

Here you are promoting another question begging logical fallacy.

Christopher Hitchens also uses this fallacy but also uses a fallacy of ridicule with his use of language such as,

  • ‘bawling and fearful infancy’;
  • ‘babyish attempt’;
  • ‘infantile needs’;
  • ‘least educated of my children knows more … than any of the founders of religion’.

Both David and Hitchens have used logical fallacies that inhibit reasonable conversation. David’s response to me was:

I see. Unless we redefine language in a smokescreen of tangled and tortured academic rhetoric, to the point of meaninglessness, “reasonable conversation” is not possible.

I reject that notion. I’m sure that brand of mental gymnastics will go over well — and is even necessary — in defending a dissertation about the historicity of miracles in mythology, but in this casual setting, you might consider simply attempting to mount a plainly-worded counter-argument. If that’s possible.[17]

He’s scoffing at me and my replies (I’m only a couple of weeks away from defending my PhD dissertation and have mentioned it on the forum). He’s engaging again in the fallacy of ridicule. He’s not dealing with the issues I raise but ridiculing my views. Logical discussion cannot be pursued when a person does this and he needs to be challenged with the naming of his fallacies and showing how false illogic cannot be pursued to maintain a reasonable conversation.


3. Clownish arrogance

David is up to it again!

I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc.

I believe that mankind has some answers, and some partial answers, and that many things remain a complete mystery due to the infantile state of our science, and our still-feeble understanding of human psychology.[18]

How would you reply? This was my retort:[19]

Your ‘clownishly arrogant’ accusation (appeal to ridicule) and your other statements in this post indicate that your answers are restricted by your commitment to naturalism which you say includes ‘the infantile state of our science’.

When you start with naturalism, that also includes ‘our still-feeble understanding of human psychology’ (your language), you will not include that which will open up mysteries of the naturalistic unknowable, life after death, eternity, etc.

It will not allow you to consider how you can experience eternal life now and in the life to come. That needs you to be open to revelation from God through Scripture. That includes the testing of Scripture by the tests you apply to any literature to determine its reliability.

More implications flow from your belief about God than from any other subject. If you would reject your commitment to naturalism and be open to God’s revelation, you would find a remarkably new world that,

(1)  Shows from where you and the whole human race came;

(2)  That will lead you to understand who you are and why you are here on earth.

(3)  It will tell you the rights and wrongs of values. How you should live morally will come from this openness to God and his revelation.

(4)  And have a guess what? This will tell you where you are going. There is life after death because God has revealed it as so.

When you give up your naturalistic worldview (which does NOT require rejection of science), you will find that the revelation of the nature of the world through Scripture, fits like a hand in glove with reality.

If there is no God and He has not revealed his plans for you, me and the universe, there is no ultimate reason for living. I find no meaning and purpose in life; there is no right or wrong in life except my shaky opinion. Then it doesn’t matter how you or I live. We can eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

However, I urge you to consider the implications of your naturalistic worldview. It doesn’t prepare you for the Final Judgment (read about it in Matthew 25:31-46).

I know you won’t like what I’ve said here, but your commitment to the restrictive world of naturalism, leaves a big hunk of your world blank.

Thank you for considering these matters.


D. A worldview of a difference

A thoughtful person wrote:

‘I consider this discussion an example of contrasting worldviews – in this case, Naturalism vs Theism’. If we can’t agree on whether we live in an open system where there is a spiritual element or a closed system where there is no spiritual dimension, there will be no agreement.

Here is a chart of 5 worldviews which may help anyone reading this thread:’.[20]

This one hit the mark and I replied:[21]

Thank you for a thoughtful post.

Yes, this is a worldview issue of naturalism vs theism in this case between David and me.

However, there is another dimension: Each worldview needs to be checked against the evidence. Or, to put it another way: How does a worldview compare with the comprehensive reality available to us?

I consider that a major difference between David and me is that I want to examine the evidence available to me to reach a decision on whether that worldview matches reality.

I’ve checked out naturalism, theism, pantheism, panentheism, atheism and agnosticism and I’ve found that the most comprehensive understanding of reality is Christian theism. I have an open approach to considering evidence. I don’t exclude any of these -isms, but I compare their content with the evidence.

The Christian worldview answers prominent issues relating to:

1. The origin of the universe with its design;

2. Why there is evil in the world and how to deal with it.

3. Purpose for life;

4. Hope in life that prepares one for death.

I have not found acceptable answers to these 4 questions in the other -isms. The Scriptures confirm two areas for obtaining information about our world and human life: (1) Creation – the created universe (see Romans 1:16-32; Psalm 19:1-6), and (2) Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

E. Rational worldview – give up logical fallacies

David now decided to attack my exposing his logical fallacies with this post:

You will never be able to handle the Rational worldview until you give up your logical fallacies of (1) superstition dressed as history, and (2) sophistry.

It matters not at all to me whether you choose to participate in a rational examination of religious beliefs. But it’s unreasonable for you to assume or expect that rational people will redefine the language to accommodate your personal beliefs.[22]

My rejoinder was:[23]

Those are not logical fallacies that you mentioned. They are your presuppositions that you are imposing on me.

We cannot have a rational discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies such as the one you use regularly here – the fallacy of ridicule.

You have this added issue: ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).

You will continue to ridicule Christians because you will not accept these things until Jesus changes you through repentance and faith in Jesus. I will continue to pray that the Lord will draw you to consider a holistic worldview that includes the dynamics of spiritual reality.

I continued:[24]

In case you have forgotten, David, the ‘Fallacy – Appeal to Ridicule’ (Michael C. Labossiere 1995, in The Nizkor Project), which you use regularly against me, other Christians, Christianity, and Christian beliefs, means:

Also Known as: Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh.

Description of Appeal to Ridicule

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).

2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”

You use this fallacy of ridicule throughout your responses to me with statements such as,

  • ‘superstition dressed as history’;
  • ‘sophistry’;
  • ‘Your view of life strikes me as desperately sad, and wasted if it requires a crutch as unimaginative as that offered by organized religion’;
  • ‘To manufacture an artificial “purpose” oriented toward a fantasy life’;
  • ‘subservient to the imagined demands of some “loving” (but frankly, ugly) tyrant’;
  • ‘The childish belief that we need religion in order to have morality, to know right from wrong, is deeply flawed and erroneous’;
  • ‘You talk about the afterlife as if it were a known fact, because, God revealed it to us”;
  • ‘The bible is the word of God, because God has revealed to us that it is. Where did he reveal it to us? In the bible. ‘
  • ‘It’s lazy to reject all of science – a work in progress — in lieu of a magical story’ [This is not only part of David’s fallacy of ridicule but it is a false allegation. Not once have I stated that I ‘reject all of science’. I have said to the contrary that I accept the scientific enterprise. Go read my posts with accuracy.]
  • ‘If one needs the bible for morality, they have bigger problems than knowing right from wrong. ‘
  • ‘Your list above would only be remarkable if Christianity didn’t provide answers to all of them’;
  • ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, and
  • ‘Once emancipated from the crippling entanglements of Iron Age religions, humans are genuinely free to explore the answers to those 4 issues in a rational, more honest, more fulfilling way’

This is fallacious reasoning for the reasons given above and you do it constantly against me. When will you wake up to what you are doing? I don’t fall for fallacious reasoning.

When you make a statement like, ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, you are displaying your presupposition as your conclusion. Thus you are using a Begging the Question Fallacy.

I hope that you will get to the point of giving up your use of logical fallacies against Christians and deal with the evidence for their beliefs.

F. You have not called my bluff

At one point I decided to leave the conversation because of David’s constant use of logical fallacies. Reasonable discussion, dealing with the evidence of Christianity, is impossible with someone who refuses to acknowledge what he does with fallacious reasoning. So I came back with this response:[25]

Let’s get something clear. You have NOT called my bluff. I’ve called you for your regular use of logical fallacies against me. But you won’t admit to what you are doing.

For there to be ‘a reciprocal exchange’, there has to be an acknowledgement by both of us when we use illogical reasoning.  Logical fallacies, which you use, are false reasoning. You won’t admit what you do when you are called on the specifics.

I base my calling you for fallacious reasoning on the evidence you present. If you can agree to not use logical fallacies against others and me, we can have reasonable conversations. Up to this point, you have not admitted to this and your regular logical fallacies committed in your responses to me continue.

Will you agree to quit doing that so that we can discuss the evidence rationally? This especially includes quitting your ad hominem fallacies and fallacies of ridicule against the Christian faith and me. Can we agree to not use logical fallacies and call each other on them when we use them?

It seems to me that you are in such a habit of putting down the Christian faith by your use of logical fallacies that they come from you naturally without your giving too much thought to what you do. I could be wrong. Are you doing this, knowing what you are doing, to denigrate the faith of believers?

This is part of David’s response. He will not admit to what he does with his use of logical fallacies. He blames me. Take a read:

It’s absurd for you to predicate all “logical discussion” here on me pre-emptively “admitting” your charges. I don’t admit to your all-inclusive list of fallacies because it is a wholly-subjective and self-serving means for you to discount the very essence of my arguments without addressing them.

In other words, your litany of fallacies is not a reasonable critique. It is a rhetorical smokescreen to mask your unwillingness to engage on issues you presume to already know the truth about….[26]

He doesn’t like being challenged with his use of fallacies and accuses me of not giving ‘a reasonable critique’. I’ve been very reasonable with him. I know of many people who would have verbally assaulted him for what he is doing to me. However, it does affirm that it’s impossible to have a rational conversation with him.

I replied:[27]

‘[Logical] Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim’ (20WL Purdue University, Logical Fallacies).

Here you have resorted again to the Fallacy of Appeal to Ridicule against me.

You also did it in your statement to Noelle,

‘No. I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology.’

You don’t seem to be aware of how you shipwreck discussion with others and me by your use of logical fallacies.

# G. Straw man argument

David wrote:

Luke was not an eyewitness, and if he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing. In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.

An effectively anonymous second-hand (at best) account of supernatural events is not “evidence” that satisfies legitimate historical scholarship, and so cannot be considered a refutation of anything.[28]

I replied:[29]

Here you are responding with a straw man argument. Nowhere did I state that Luke was an eyewitness. That’s your invention – your straw man. This is what I did say:

Luke refutes your view:

‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4 NIV).

Luke has eyewitness accounts available to him. He had carefully investigated the issues and wrote an orderly account.  So your view that they ‘are unsubstantiated’ is refuted by Luke’s evidence.

You state: ‘If he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing.’ Again, this is a false assumption. We have the same way of knowing as we do with any other person from history. There are distinct methods of historical investigation by which we check historical reliability:

(1) The transmission of the MSS;

(2) External evidence, and

(3) Internal evidence.

There are criteria that historians use to determine historical veracity. When these are applied to Luke’s Gospel, they stack up well.

Craig Blomberg has articulated these and tested them in his publication, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Blomberg 1987). His conclusion was:

‘The gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said. One cannot hope to prove the accuracy of every detail on purely historical grounds alone; there is simply not enough data available for that. But as investigation proceeds, the evidence becomes sufficient for one to declare that what can be checked is accurate, so that it is entirely proper to believe that what cannot be checked is probably accurate as well. Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’ (Blomberg 12987:241).

It seems to me that Blomberg has hit the mark with assessment of your views. They ‘seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’. You start out as a skeptic of the truth and reliability of the Gospels and that is where you conclude. It’s a question begging fallacy.

You claim: ‘In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.’

That is partly true. The Gospel originally was anonymous but from the latter half of the 2nd century and onwards it has been identified with Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ (Col 4:14) and the Apostle Paul’s companion.

As for the date of writing, there are indicators. I Howard Marshall who has devoted extensive study to the Greek text (see his Greek Text commentary on Luke, Eerdmans1978) stated that Luke’s writing the Book of Acts before AD 70 (the fall of Jerusalem) indicate that ‘on the whole a date not far off AD 70 appears to satisfy all requirements’ for Luke (Marshall 1978:35).

Other historians have indicated that Luke is a first-class historian. Here is some of the evidence summarised:[30]

How reliable was Luke as an historian in his Luke-Acts documents? Others have gone before us who have assessed this.

See, ‘Luke the historian in the light of research‘ (Dr A T Robertson).

Here is a summary of some of the challenges to ‘Luke the Historian‘ (Stringer 2015) and the results:

Luke’s accuracy in historical and geographical matters is so thoroughly established that to deny it would be pure folly. This fact has not always been recognized.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a scholar named Eduard Zeller launched a severe attack on the historical accuracy of Acts. Among those who accepted his flawed conclusions was an eminent Scottish archaeologist named Sir William Ramsay. In fact, Ramsay led an archaeological expedition with the intention of proving that Acts was the error-filled product of a 2nd-century writer. It turned out, however, that Ramsay proved the opposite of what he had set out to prove. His years of research compelled him to describe Luke as “among the historians of the first rank” (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, p. 4). In 1897 he published his conclusions in the famous volume just referenced, in which he defended the proposition “that Acts was written by a great historian” (p. 14).

Today, Luke is widely accepted as a remarkably accurate historian. The distinguished Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White states: “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted” (Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament, p. 189). Colin Hemer’s comparison of Luke with the well-known historian Josephus is telling: “The work of Luke is marked by carefulness but that of Josephus by carelessness” (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, p. 219).

Luke wrote of events that occurred over a geographical area ranging from Jerusalem to Rome, including such vastly diverse regions as Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. His history spans a period of about 30 years in which the political and territorial situations were always changing. Boundary lines and political offices were in a constant state of flux. And Luke did not write in generalities; he did not omit technical details so as to avoid mistakes. Yet, his detailed references have proved to be accurate. Rackham observes that such accuracy as is found in the book of Acts would have been impossible for one writing 50 years later (The Acts of the Apostles, p. xliii).

Critics have challenged Luke’s accuracy, but archaeological discoveries have overturned the challenges. One such instance was the charge that Luke erred in the term he used to designate the ruler of Cyprus in Acts 13:7. The term Luke used (translated “deputy” in the KJV) means proconsul. For many years critics argued that Luke should have used the term procurator because, they explained, Cyprus was an “imperial” province, and imperial provinces were ruled by procurators. Archaeology, however, has proved Luke to be right and his critics wrong. Cyprus was indeed an imperial province, and therefore governed by a procurator, when it first came under Roman jurisdiction. However, what Luke’s critics did not know was that in 22 B.C., Cyprus was made a “senatorial” province, and senatorial provinces were ruled by proconsuls. In fact, archaeologists have found coins and inscriptions on Cyprus using the term proconsul as the title of its rulers. According to Luke, the proconsul ruling Cyprus when Paul visited the island was named Sergius Paulus—an interesting point in view of the fact that an inscription discovered on the north coast of Cyprus included the words, “in the proconsulship of Paulus.”

A similar example is found in Luke’s account of events in Thessalonica. The word Luke used in Acts 17:6 for “rulers” is a specific title: politarchs. This word is not used as an official title anywhere else in Greek literature. Consequently Luke was charged with using the wrong title to refer to these city officials. However, once again, Luke has been proved right and his critics wrong. Archaeologists have found a number of inscriptions that unquestionably prove that the term politarch was an official title of certain city officials in ancient Macedonia. One of these inscriptions was found on the ancient arch that spanned the famous highway leading into Thessalonica. On this arch there is a listing of seven names of magistrates who wore the title politarch.

Luke’s historical accuracy has held up under the most intense and zealous scrutiny. All attempts to discredit this inspired author have themselves been thoroughly discredited’.

David is out of step with the research on Luke and his credibility as a historian. His philosophical and anti-Christian scepticism are coming through. I’m going with the evidence and not with his presuppositions.

H. Conclusion

This interaction with David has taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. Watch for the logical fallacies that opponents use to try to disrupt logical discussion. This means that …
  2. You need to know these fallacies and call them by name.
  3. There is a significant need among Christians in a declining Christian culture to know their product – the Scriptures and Christianity. I urge you to call upon your church to establish courses in apologetics to address issues that you are likely to find at work, university or in the market place. As a good starter, try Norman Geisler & Frank Turek, Is Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (2004). Apologetics courses deal with some of the major issues antagonistic to the faith. These include: (a) What is truth? (b) How do I know there is a God? (c) Why is there so much evil in the world and why doesn’t God stop it? (d) Is the Bible credible and reliable? (e) Why was it needed for a good man, Jesus, to die for sins? Why couldn’t God do that without the shedding of innocent blood?
  4. Please remember that it is only Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, who changes people from the inside out. Jesus saves! Human beings cannot save themselves and they need a proclamation of the Gospel in person or in a group. There is an urgent need to engage in proclamation of the Gospel.
For further discussions on logical fallacies, see also:

clip_image003Logical fallacies hijack discussions (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[1]One writer’s illogical outburst (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[3] Christians and their use of logical fallacies (Spencer D Gear)

I have concluded that David fits into this category. He’s an ornery [stubborn], resistant, agnostic sceptic who responds like this:

Unwanted Truth

(Courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Blomberg, C 1987. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Labossiere, M C 1995. Fallacies. The Nizkor Project (online). Available at: (Accessed 8 June 2015).

Marshall, I H 1978. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Stringer, J 2015. ‘Luke the Historian,’ in Answering Religious Error, April 3, Available at: (Accessed 20 June 2015).


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Public Affairs, ‘Superstition Vs. Eyewitness/Faith/Historical Document’, David Woodbury#1, June 1. Available at: (Accessed 29 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., Woodbury#3.

[3] Ibid., Woodbury#11.

[4] Ibid., Woodbury#21.

[5] Ibid., Woodbury#29.

[6] Ibid., Woodbury#35.

[7] Ibid., Woodbury#37.

[8] Ibid., Woodbury#73.

[9] Ibid., Cheryl#2.

[10] Ibid., Woodbury #3.

[11] Ibid., Cheryl#75.

[12] Ibid., ozspen#22.

[13] Ibid., Woodbury#24.

[14] Ibid., ozspen#31.

[15] Ibid., Woodbury #32.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., Woodbury#36.

[18] Ibid., ozspen#42.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., Cheryl#34.

[21] Ibid., ozspen#45.

[22] Ibid., Woodbury#47.

[23] Ibid., ozspen#51.

[24] Ibid., ozspen#52.

[25] Ibid., ozspen#69.

[26] Ibid., Woodbury#71.

[27] Ibid., ozspen#74

[28] Ibid., Woodbury in ozspen#98.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., ozspen#99.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Christians stuck for answers

lightning icon clip artBy Spencer D Gear

Why are some Christians overpowered by non-Christians with difficult questions? I have met some of these Christians on Internet Christian forums. Whether these questions are genuine or to stir up Christians will unfold only as the discussion proceeds.

I’ve noticed that Christians can be overcome by questions about:

3d-red-star-small The talking serpent that tempted the first woman(Genesis 3:1-5);

3d-red-star-small Why Christianity and not Islam?

3d-red-star-small How did the canon of Scripture come to be formed?

3d-red-star-small Why doesn’t God stop all of the evil in the world?

3d-red-star-small Who made God?

3d-red-star-small John Calvin supported the killing of an opponent. Why?

A. Non-Christian questions for believers


On a Christian forum, I interacted with an unbeliever who had questions about a number of Christian subjects. He wrote:

Any number of topics interest me: the authorship of the gospels; how the books of the Bible came to be chosen and why certain others were not included; the nature of morality,; the way the three Abrahamic religions split into three very different, distinct religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity); Biblical archaeology; comparing the flood story in Genesis with the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh; how Jesus has been interpreted and misinterpreted (thinking of books like Wills’s fascinating, What Jesus Meant, and Aslan’s, Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which I am currently reading). I enjoy studying history and literature, and the Bible is one of the books that underpins Western Civilization — that’s why I have enjoyed studying it.[1]

A Christian responded:

Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum. I suggest you check with seminaries to see if there are discussion forums attended by scholars who have done the research to answer you with authority. I suggest that you investigate both liberal and conservative sources. (Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Ca. And Dallas Theological Seminary perhaps.)

If you are looking for scholarly responses to your inquiries then you need to consult scholars with expertise in the areas which interest you. Looking for that level of expertise in specific areas of Christian theology in this forum is a bit like asking the mailman for a diagnosis of an illness.[2]

The non-believer did not like that response as his reply indicates:

You replied to that with the astonishingly elitist comment, “Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum.”

You dodged my follow-up questions. Why do you think those topics are only to be tackled by experts? You really don’t think the membership here is up to discussing how Jesus has been interpreted or misinterpreted?[3]

Another non-believer jumped in:

I have brought up many of those same topics and others and I didn’t have any better luck than you seem to be having. Some people just feel like these topics are threatening to their faith, but these discussions are important and can be fruitful. I wish that I could have an open discussion with someone who didn’t ignore my remarks and hurl insults at me when I didn’t agree with them. But sadly that is just the way things are. So don’t take it personally when you find it difficult to have a discussion about who you believe wrote the Bible or the Flood, or any other topic. There are Christians who can easily have such discussions and there are those who can’t. 🙁

This is a Christian forum so it is understandable that there might be some resistance, but still…[4]

My response was[5] that I agree with Melissa that it is a shame when she and others raise topics for which it is difficult to have a discussion with Christians on this forum.

B. Many Christians are not equipped for apologetics

Leap of Doubt

(image courtesy ChristArt)

As a Christian, this is no rationalisation of what happens, but I think I can understand why the laity on Christian forums on the Internet are not responding to difficult questions posed by non-Christians. When unbelievers antagonistically attack unbelievers or try to expose holes in Christianity, I can comprehend why some Christians duck for cover. Here’s some of my assessment:

1. Many churches have not equipped their people with answers to some of the apologetic questions you are asking – valid questions. I’ve had to educate myself in these areas. Therefore, many Christians will not respond or give glib answers when they don’t know the answers themselves. Don’t expect them to give in-depth answers. It would be like asking me to give reasons for the nature and need of JavaScript for computers (my son is an IT professional and he gets rather frustrated with his Dad’s inability to understand geek language and concepts).

2. For many Christians whose lives have been changed by the Christ who lives in them, topics like the intricacies surrounding Noah and the Flood, historical origins of the canon of Scripture, the Gilgamesh Epic, etc are not of interest, so they avoid these topics or give light-hearted responses.

3. For me, I don’t have the time to get into details about some of these topics, so I tend to refer to other resources. I contribute on 2 Christian forums on the Internet and if I replied to all of the difficult questions addressed to me, I’d be at this computer for much of the day. I am helped by the fact that I took one of my wife’s touch-typing courses at college many years ago so am a touch typist. That helps me zoom through the typing.

4. So when it comes to historical reasons for the resurrection of Jesus, I refer to substantive research publications such as N T Wright, The resurrection of the Son of God (2003 Minneapolis: Fortress Press).

5. For research on the reliability of the OT and NT, I refer to:

(a) Walter C Kaiser Jr 2001. The Old Testament documents: Are they reliable & relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press;

(b) K A Kitchen 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company;

(c) Craig Blomberg 1987. The historical reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

6. In addition, there are considerable numbers of issues on apologetics topics that can be pursued. I can refer you to some resources if you are interested. For quality research on the text of the New Testament, see Bruce M Metzger 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration, 3rd edn. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

7. For information on the formation of the canon of the Scripture, see F F Bruce 1988. The canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House.

8. However, some Christians find non-Christians come onto Christian sites to be argumentative and they don’t want to go down that route.

9. For me, I would love to provide replies to some of the penetrating questions concerning the Christian faith and engage in a back and forth, but when I get to be a really old man (instead of just an old man), I might be able to do that for only then might I have the time.

10. I urge non-Christians to please be patient with those who don’t have the depth of answers for the depth of questions asked.

11. To this person on the forum, I stated that Jim, the Christian, was telling the truth. Most of the topics the non-Christian wanted to discuss were out of the league of the laity. They are specialist subjects in the Christian community. Please contact a Christian seminary or university with these questions. Why don’t you try these topics on faculty at Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL? Please ask for a faculty member with the expertise dealing with your inquiry.
Most of the laity in my church would not be equipped to answer your questions, nor have the interest. Therefore, if you are serious, I urge you to contact a Christian specialist in these fields. TIU would be a good starter.
Please let us know how you got on when you contacted TIU.

12. There is a further issue that this non-Christian has demonstrated on this forum with some of his answers. Even if I or another provided answers to questions that he asked, there is every possibility he won’t like what I write. But we could at least enjoy the interaction.

C. Churches need challengingWarning

Vehicle equipment construction backhoe






It’s time for churches to wake up. Equip your people for apologetics or they will drown in the quagmire of questions and allegations by secular folks. This will happen at school, university, on the job, and even at church. Many sit in the pews who have significant issues with the Christian faith. I have met and spoken with them.

There are exceptions to this. Take a read of schedules by apologists Norm Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Steve Kumar, and Ross Clifford[6]. They do include speaking and training at churches.

This whole discussion is a sad indictment on the evangelical churches especially. They have not equipped their people to answer some of the difficult questions that arise from the Bible – questions of interpretation and of dealing with issues in the real world. I’m thinking of these kinds of questions:

  • Is the Book of Genesis a reliable document in a world dominated by the Darwinian paradigm of evolution?
  • Science mutilates the Bible.
  • You can’t trust the Bible.
  • Why Christianity and not Islam, Hinduism or the occult?
  • Christianity is promoting nonsense.
  • ‘When you die you rot’ (Bertrand Russell). There is nothing after death.
  • You can’t trust anything from history. There is so little information about Jesus. To believe in him is to practise irrationality.

In my approximately 50 years as a Christian believer, I have never attended any church in Australia (or Canada & the USA where I lived for 7 years) that equipped its people in apologetics topics. I’ve had to obtain training in this area from Christian institutions of higher learning.

D. It’s a shame

smiley embarrassed clip artIt’s a disgrace that youth face topics that attack their faith in high school and especially university, but the local church is not equipping them. Well, that’s my experience in 50 years as a Christian. It’s still the problem in the churches in my region. I’m raising awareness among them.

I’m of the view that training in apologetics is neutered by distance education. Apologetics needs the argy bargy of classroom debate as well as input in areas of need. Classroom and workshops are the place for apologetic training.

I refer you to my articles:

I’d also recommend that Christians become competent public speakers and debaters by joining public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters and Rostrum. Since I’m an Aussie living in Queensland, those are Australian links.


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Why I avoid discussing life after death’ (online), David Woodbury#121, January 18 2014, available at: (Accessed 29 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Jim Parker#128.

[3] Ibid., David Woodbury#183.

[4] Ibid., Melissa#184.

[5] Ibid., ozspen#194.

[6] Because Rev Dr Ross Clifford is president of Morling College (Baptist), Sydney, Australia and is an active apologist, apologetics subjects are available for pastors in training as a week-long intensive. See: (Accessed 30 January 2014). I’d be interested to see how that apologetic training translates into the local Baptist churches through these pastors and others who attend the intensive.


Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 July 2016.

Why is apologetics in such low demand in the church?

Seeing Eyes

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was in a discussion on a Christian forum on the question, ‘Is Jesus God?’ A fellow responded:

I have the Bible to do that. If they don’t believe the Bible why woud [sic] they believe what some man says? You and I cannot convince anyone that Jesus was God. Only God’s Holy Spirit can lead people into the truth.[1]

Why was the ministry of apologetics dismissed in this response? My observation of churches in Australia and especially in my region of northern Brisbane suburbs, is that apologetics is rarely ever mentioned. I have been to Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Baptist, Churches of Christ and Pentecostal churches and none of them has apologetics as a core platform of ministry in this very secular Australia.[2] Why is this?

Our pluralistic world

The Areopagus (viewed from the Acropolis)

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Could you imagine the apostle Paul on the Greek Areopagus (Mars Hill) taking the approach of most Aussie churches and not teaching its people to defend the faith in a secular society? Notice the apostle Paul’s approach according to Acts 17:

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:22-24 ESV).

Notice these points that I make quickly:

clip_image002 He addressed the false religion of the day, ‘in every way you are very religious’ and that religion was focussed, ‘To the unknown god’ (17:22-23).

clip_image002[1] In exposing this false religion he proceeded to tell them about the one true God and his actions. Take a read of Acts 17:24-28).

clip_image002[2] Then he corrected some of their false doctrine (Acts 17:24-31). Notice what he includes: (a) the divine being, God, was not made of thinks made by a person’s hands. He made the world and he is Lord of heaven and earth; (b) He made all human beings in all nations from one man (wow! He believes in creation without evolution); (c) People should seek God, the one true God, in hope of finding him – and he is not far from every one of us; (d) For all of life, we depend on him; (e) It is time for ignorance to end; God commands all people to repent, and have a guess what? (f) All people will be judged according to the absolute standard of justice/righteousness (God’s justice/righteousness). By inference we can gather that this is not the justice of the secular law courts, and (g) The assurance of this absolutely righteous judgment is demonstrated by God’s raising Jesus from the dead and have a guess what? Jesus will be the judge of all people.

How did the secular people on the Areopagus respond? They reacted in a similar way to today:

  1. Some mocked the very idea of the resurrection from the dead;
  2. Others wanted to hear him again;
  3. Some responded to the gospel and believed in Jesus for salvation. These included ‘Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them’.

We can expect a similar response in secular Australia or among secularists anywhere. Some will scoff, others want to hear more, and some will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and responds in faith to Jesus and be saved.

How dare we not equip our people for this? After all, that is what the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers continues to be. God wants these continuing ministries for these reasons:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers,[b] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV).

To equip believers for the role of ministry, including the ministry of apologetics, is the role of the ministry gifts of Christ to the church, articulated in Ephesians 4. Where are the pastors and teachers in local churches who are committed to engaging in apologetics and equipping believers for that task? I cannot imagine a pastor-teacher who equips people for apologetics and is not engaged in such a ministry himself/herself.

Now back to that fellow

How should I respond to the fellow who claimed that we only need the Bible and if people don’t believe the Bible, they won’t believe what any person says. Besides, he clamed that no person can convince anyone that Jesus is God, only the Holy Spirit can lead a person to that truth.

I responded as follows:[3]

We live in a world that also has the Muslim Quran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, etc. How are you going to convince peopel that they ought to listen to the Gospel from the Bible?

The Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ [‘your bosom will burn within you’] that awakened them to the ‘truths’ of Mormonism. How will you convince them that the Holy Spirit leading you into the truth is different from the burning in the bosom and that you have the truth?

Should we proclaim to unbelievers, ‘Just believe’?

How would this person respond?

I can’t convince them. It is not my job to convince them. If given the opportunity all I can do is tell them what I believie [sic] and why I believe it. Then they are God’s problem….

All one can do with Mormons is show them where some things in the other writings, the BOM for example, contradict the Bible and wher [sic] some of the prophecies of past leaders did not happen.

Again I canot [sic] convince them of anything. All I can do is tell them wht [sic] I believe and why I beleive [sic] it. Then it is up to God.

I am in sales not management.[4]

This is an example of why the church is in such a sorry state with its ministry of pre-evangelism, known as apologetics. This ‘just believe’ mentality that it is not the Christian’s responsibility to convince anyone of the Gospel and to clear up difficulties with the Gospel, is expressed here as, ‘all I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it’ and the rest ‘is up to God’. This ‘just believe’ mentality is very damaging to the Christian’s and the church’s responsibility to exercise the ministry of apologetics when people have objections to the Christian faith.

The problem with ‘only believe’ and apologetics

Unwanted Truth

(image courtesy ChristArt)

The main problem is that it contradicts what the Scriptures state about what Paul did in Rome: ‘And some were convinced by what he [Paul] said, but others disbelieved’ (Acts 28:24). So the authoritative Scriptures state that Paul was engaged in the ministry of convincing people of the truth of Christ and the Gospel. See also Acts 14:4; 17:4-5 (here the language is, ‘some of them were persuaded’); 19:9 (here Paul was ‘reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus’); and 23:7.

My response was as follows.[5] The problem with this fellow’s comeback is that it contradicts a command of Scripture, which is the primary reason for doing apologetics with people who have questions about the Christian faith, including questions about the reliability of the Bible.

This is what I find in the command of the fundamental statement of 1 Peter 3:15,

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, 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 (ESV).

What is commanded of all Christians?[6] The command in the Greek language is translated at ‘honour’ in the ESV. Other translations have the meaning as:

  • ‘sanctify[7] Christ as Lord’ (NASB; NRSV; NAB);
  • ‘sanctify the Lord God’ (NKJV);
  • ‘revere Christ as Lord’ (NIV);
  • ‘you must worship Christ as Lord’ (NLT);
  • ‘set Christ apart as Lord’ (NET);

So Christians are commanded to honour, sanctify, revere or set apart Christ as the holy Lord and they do that by being ready/prepared to make a defence of the faith to anyone who seeks a reason for the hope that Christians have. They must always be prepared for an apologia (a defence of the faith). How is this to be done? It is delivered with gentleness and respect.

The exhortation here is that all Christians must honour Christ by being ready to do this. Whenever we come across someone who asks tough questions about the Christian faith, including penetrating questions such as, ‘Surely you are not telling me that you accept that Bible crap? (which someone said to me)’, we have to be ready to give a defence (an apologetic). What was this fellow recommending? His statement was that ‘it is not my job to convince them’. That is far from the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15. All Christians, including this fellow, are commanded to give a defence of the biblical perspective. I found him to be diluting – even running away from – the biblical exhortation to be engaged in the pre-evangelistic ministry of apologetics.

Apologetics is pre-evangelistic in the sense that it is an attempt to provide answers to objections to the Christian faith that may be in the way of a person receiving the Gospel message. These are some of the primary objections I have struck over many years of proclaiming the Gospel and defending the Christian faith and have addressed them on this homepage.

3d-red-starThe existence of God.

Some of my other articles examine this topic:

clip_image004[1]  A biblical theist responds to an atheist;

clip_image004[1] Evidence for the existence of God; and

clip_image004[2] What is a biblical method for defending the Christian faith (apologetics)?

3d-red-starThe trustworthiness, integrity and accuracy of the Bible.

See my articles:

clip_image004[3]Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image004[4]Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image004[5] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image004[6] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

3d-red-star The problem of evil and suffering.

See my understanding in these articles:

clip_image004[7] September 11 and other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

clip_image004[8] Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

clip_image004[9] Did God create evil?

clip_image004[10] Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

clip_image004[11] ‘I will beat the hell out of God’;

clip_image004[12] Can God do anything and everything?

We may never come across anyone who doubts the authority and integrity of, say, the Bible, but we must be ready – prepared – to respond if someone asks. This is not being ready with this person’s remark, ‘All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem’. That is fobbing off our biblical responsibility.

Yes, we need to be ready to share the truth of what we believe, but we are to give a reason (an apologetic) to those who ask questions – even penetrating questions like, ‘You Bible people don’t seem to have an answer for all the garbage that is happening in the world like Syria, the Sudan, Afghanistan, 9/11, the Japanese tsunami, etc.’

Not everyone will need this kind of pre-evangelism, but when they do seek answers, we must be ready, willing and able to give an answer. This includes being prepared to reply: ‘Wow! That’s a penetrating question and I’ll have to think further about it. Can I get back to you?’

Heart faith and defence faith

Heart Guage

(image courtesy ChristArt)

What is interesting and critical about 1 Peter 3:15 is that it links heart faith with defence faith. Those who honour Christ the Lord in their hearts are also those who are ready and prepared to engage in apologetics for the Christian faith. This is not a, ‘Just believe’, or ‘I tell them what I believe’, kind of response.

If Jesus is truly our Lord, we will want to be obedient to the command of 1 Peter 3:15 and not fob somebody off with, ‘This is what I believe and this is why I believe it’. Instead, we will be eager, prepared and ready to ask: ‘What questions do you have about the Christian faith? Let’s see if we can dialogue to find answers for you and if I don’t know the answers, I’ll seek them out and get back to you’.

First Peter 3:15 goes hand in glove with our biblical requirement in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (ESV).

This requirement is that we, as Christians, not only confront the issues that trouble our own thinking, but also deal with the ‘lofty opinions’ of others that are raised against knowing God, the Bible and other aspects of the Christian faith.

This is some of what the ministry of apologetics involves, but this fellow on the forum fobbed it off with his statement: ‘Again I cannot convince them of anything.  All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then it is up to God. I am in sales not management’.

Biblically, I find this to be a false perspective. He is in sales so he knows that there will be those who object to some features of the product and, if he is pressing for a sale, he will deal with the objections. It is his responsibility to give an apologetic for the Christian faith – he is commanded to honour Christ the Lord and to do that requires that he provide an apologetic response to questions about the faith.

Of course God is involved in convincing people of the truth of the Gospel, but that does not exempt him from engaging in pre-evangelism. He is commanded to engage in apologetics with everyone who seeks answers for their objections to the faith.

Will he become ready and prepared to do this with gentleness and respect? Or will he continue to fob off this responsibility?

Resorting to use of a logical fallacy

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)


When I shared some of the above material with the fellow mentioned, these were some of his responses:[8]

  • ‘I can and do answer such questions but I cannot convince them they are true and neither can you. Does everyone you explain the Scriptures to fall donw [sic] and worship God? There is no command to convince anyone that the Scriptures are true. Only God the Holy Spirit can do that’.
  • ‘I am prepared to do that and do when somone [sic] asks me to, but I have not convinced many that what I beleive [sic] is true’.
  • ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’.

[9]Telling people what you believe and why you believe it is not the ministry of apologetics of 1 Peter 3:15. Apologetics is not declaration, but an endeavour to wipe away the cobwebs of doubt that are presented to us. It is pre-evangelism.

I told him that if his response to me is any guide, he doesn’t seem to be convinced of the need for the ministry of apologetics, so why would he want to give them an effective apologetic answer? I suggested that he become exposed to more of the teaching of Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler on apologetics. Geisler’s book, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Books 1999) is a marvellous resource for so many aspects of an apologetic ministry with an evangelical Christian response.

When he stated, ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’, he was using a straw man logical fallacy. At no point have I ever stated to this person or anyone else on Christian Fellowship Forum that I’m 100% effective in convincing people. Here he has used a straw man fallacy.

What’s a straw man logical fallacy? Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, professor of philosophy, Florida A&M University, gave this definition:[10]

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version  of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

When a person uses logical fallacies, it makes it extremely difficult to have a logical conversation. Therefore, I find it necessary to expose the use of logical fallacies. I have engaged in discussions on other Christian forums in which I found it necessary to draw attention to such fallacies.

I often find that in TV and radio interviews, politicians are experts at using the red herring fallacy. No matter what question is asked by the interviewer, the politician has a political agenda he/she wants to push and will promote it, no matter what the question that was asked.

In this person’s response to me, there were also elements of a red herring logical fallacy. Dr. Lobossiere explained: ‘A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’.[11]



(image courtesy ChristArt)

The blind faith brigade – the ‘only believe’ folks have contributed to the downgrade of apologetics in the local church. However, this tends to be associated with what is preached from the pulpit, taught in Sunday School classes, and what is shared/taught in Growth Groups/Life Groups associated with the church. We are reaping the harvest of this in the demise of apologetics at the local church level. Apologetics has reached a very low level of importance in the evangelical church, in my view, for these reasons:

  1. ‘To equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Ephesians 4:12) is not high on the agenda in many of these churches. Getting a handful of leaders to do the ministry is standard fare. So equipping other believers is not a strong suit for pastors and teachers.
  2. Learning to defend the faith, using apologetics, seems to be left to leading public apologists for the Christian faith. A pastor said to me recently, ‘Whenever I have people with questions about evolution and creation, I refer them to Creation Ministries International. They have lots of pertinent responses. I’m not equipped to do that’. Amazing! A pastor who doesn’t want to equip himself to an adequate level to be able to provide a ready apologetic for those who question creation.
  3. When one has a presuppositional approach, ‘Just believe’ and ‘I cannot convince you’, which is being defended in some churches, then evidential apologetics will not be considered a necessary ministry.
  4. I attended an evening presentation in 2013 by leading Indian cultural apologist, Vishal Mangalwadi, ‘What GOOD is Christianity?’ At question time I asked him, ‘Why is the ministry of apologetics given such a low priority in today’s evangelical church?’ He pointed to the contemporary emphasis in churches on telling stories about the faith and this does not harmonise well with the nature of apologetics. I found this to be a pointed and true observation. See Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011. Nashville: Thomas Nelson).
  5. I consider that there is an additional problem: Thinking Christianity is in short supply. In churches that place such a strong emphasis on the experience of knowing Jesus and the charismatic gifts (I am a supporter of such gifts), there is a problem integrating a warm Christian faith with logical, thoughtful, apologetic ministry. That’s why it’s important to emphasise 1 Peter 3:15 as these two ministries go together. They are both needed for the health of the Christian Church. However, there is a necessary biblical emphasis on the need ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph. 4:23) and Christians ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col 3:10).
  6. I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon by a regular pastor of a church on the need to be a thinking Christian who engages in logical discussions, exposes logical fallacies, and uses discernment in knowing when to stop a conversation in pre-evangelism when it becomes argumentative.

If this minimising of the ministry of apologetics is not rectified, there are grim consequences for Christian upper high school and university students who have their faith challenged in these places of learning.

To help equip you for giving a defence of your evangelical faith, seek out these Christian apologists:

# Ravi Zacharias

# William Lane Craig

# Norman Geisler

# John Warwick Montgomery

# Lee Strobel

# Josh McDowell

It is urgent for Aussie evangelical pastor-teachers (and pastor-teachers around the world who are convinced of the authority of Scripture) to be engaged in equipping their young people especially to defend the faith. In learning to defend the faith, God’s people gain a deeper understanding of their own faith and learn to grow up in the grace of God.


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is Jesus God?’, Kermit, who responds sometime as ‘k’ for kcdavis222, #9, available at: (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[2] See the articles: (1) Graeme Innes 2009. ‘Are we really the secular nation we think we are?’ (The Punch, 20 November 2009), available at: (accessed 25 September 2013); (2) ‘Australia: A Secular Country?’, Religion and Society, 6 June 2012, available at: (Accessed 25 September 2013). (3) Chrys Stevenson 2012. ‘Faith in schools: The dismantling of Australia’s secular public education system’, 22 October. ABC Religion and Ethics, available at: (Accessed 25 September 2013), and (4) Helen Irving 2004. ‘Trespasses in the name of heritage’, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June. Available at: (Accessed 25 September 2013).

[3] Ibid., ozspen #14.

[4] Ibid., ccdavis222 #16.

[5] Ibid., ozspen #20.

[6] For some of the following content, I used material from Norman L Geisler 1999. Apologetics, Need for, in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 37.

[7] The footnote was ‘set apart’.

[8] kcdavis222 #21, loc cit., available at: (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[9] This is my answer at ibid., ozspen #24.

[10] The Nizkor Project 1991-2011, Fallacy: Straw Man, available at: (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[11] This quotation is courtesy of The Nizkor Project, ‘Fallacy: Red Herring’, available at: (Accessed 25 September 2013).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 March 2017.