Apologetics Lecture 1 Introduction

“Apologetics”

Defending Ancient Unchangeable Truths in Modern Times

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What is the most serious challenge to Christianity in your city/NA/World today?

 

What nonevangelical religions are you in contact with?

 

Be sure to ask questions along the way if you don’t understand something!

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Topics:

 A Biblical Theology of Apologetics
 Crash course in logic (pure fun…no really!)
 relationship between faith and reason
 How to Know Truth and Evaluate Worldviews
 Different approaches to doing apologetics
 Biblical Authority: Support for the Reliability of the Bible
 Arguments for the Existence of God
 Person and Work of Christ: Fulfilled prophecies; liar lunatic lord; validity of Christ’s miracles; rebutting various theories of the resurrection
 Miracles in general
 The problem of evil: How can God be all powerful and all good and still allow evil to exist?
 Practical Methods of Apologetics: Examples

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Definition: What is Apologetics?

From the word itself (apologetics), you would think that we should be sorry about something. But actually, it has nothing to do with apologizing. Based on the 1 Peter 3:15-16, Christian apologetics is the discipline that instructs believers concerning how to always be ready to give an answer concerning your Christian hope. The Greek word in 1 Peter 3:15-16 (avpologi,a) refers to a “defense.” The word itself could mean a verbal defense, a speech in defense of what one has done or of truth which one believes.

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It’s a branch of Christian theology by which we offer rational justification for the truth claims of Christianity. If someone were to ask you, “What arguments can you give for the truth of Christianity?” What would you say?

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No worries, you’re in the right class!

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Your Point: What is the Christian Apologists Argument?

Your point in doing Christian apologetics could be stated: The one true God, whose name is YHWH, who is infinite in wisdom, love, and power, has revealed himself naturally, and supernaturally, and scripturally in the Old and New Testaments.

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The Types of Apologetics

1.Christian apologetics presents proof for the Christian faith

In order to receive the Christian message as absolute truth, people should require evidence. [if someone came to me with the gospel for the first time today … never having heard it…with my present brain, I’d need evidence. I’d ask questions like, “Where did you get that book?”]

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2.Christian apologetics is a defense of the Christian faith

In order to receive the Christian message as absolute truth, people need answers to their objections about the Christian message.

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3.Christian apologetics is also an offensive attack against the foolishness of unbelief.

In order to receive the Christian message as absolute truth, unbelievers need to have the foolishness of their worldview[1] exposed.

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To Whom Do We Apologize?

Since times, places, and people change, so also should the methods by which we do apologetics. In order to properly defend the Christian faith, we need to understand the issues of our day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country

Canada: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/01/5-facts-about-religion-in-canada/

For example, if you were to be a missionary in Egypt and argue for the existence of God, you would likely be wasting your breath, because nearly everyone there believes in the existence of God. Thus, your apologetic approach must be different there than in say, Estonia.

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So in order to be appropriate and effective, the gospel must be contextualized. We need to have a culture-specific approach to doing apologetics in order to be effective. Of course, the gospel message transcends every culture and every cultures values, but we must be equipped to address problems and questions that a given people group might have.

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What are the cultures and subcultures of North America or wherever you are or will minister? What are those people’s questions and spiritual problems?

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The Christian apologist, which is every Christian, must be aware of how people live and how their belief system is applied to their everyday life.

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For example, are you dealing with a modernist (truth is knowable)[2]? Most people I meet fall in this camp somehow. You’d want to present arguments and evidences. Or are you dealing with a postmodernist (truth is relative)? You’d have a different approach.

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For the most part, we live in a modernistic society, but perhaps it’s somewhat postmodern[3] with reference to religion and ethics; modernist in every other aspect of life. So, the traditional evidential apologetic when it heavily emphasizes logic and evidence, may be rejected by many in our generation, which says all religions lead to God. We need to know how to combat that thinking.

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Witnessing to a postmodernist is a little different than when witnessing to an atheist, who is more concerned with science, reason, and logic.

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My point is that we need to formulate an apologetic that is sensitive to the various subcultures which are all around us.

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Therefore, the apologetic encounter with an individual may not merely be a series of rationalist arguments. It may also include conversation concerning subjective experience, narrative, poetry, media, literature or other hot topics of the day. Sometimes, it may also be personal, as in the case of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4.

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The point here is that apologetics in the 21st century, or any century, should be culturally relevant[4] and not culturally ignorant.

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Why Should We Study and Practice Apologetics?

It’s biblical.

It’s commanded: 1 Pet. 3:15-16. You need to know how to do this!

There are examples that proving the message is biblical.

 Jesus: Miracles authenticated Christ’s claim. E.g., Mark 2, “Your sins are forgiven” then he heals him; John 20:30-31
 Luke knew that eyewitness testimony and careful history would help Theophilus know for sure that the things he learned about Jesus were true. That’s why he wrote both the Gospel of Luke and Acts (Luke 1:1-4). Luke/Acts is one big apologetics book.
 Jude 3: Contend for the faith.
 Paul argued, reasoned, and explained in Acts 17.
 Doubting Thomas saved after presented with evidence (John 20).
 It removes barriers: I myself was put on a theistic track after studying arguments for God’s existence.

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The Power of the Practice

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Apologetics plays an important part in shaping culture, strengthening believers, and evangelizing unbelievers.

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Shaping culture

As has been discussed, we need to understand the culture in order to best reach the people in this culture. Western culture, for the most part, is post-Christian. Because of the impact of the Enlightenment, Western intellectuals believe that theological knowledge is not possible. Therefore, theology, they conclude, is not a source of genuine knowledge nor is it a science. Therefore, reason and religion don’t go together. They are not compatible, so they would say.

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The authority today is science. Many in this field believe that knowledge is only attainable if it can be observed. Thus if someone is truly reasonable, they will be pursuing genuine science and follow the naturalistic mindset. This path often leads to atheism or agnosticism, and maybe even to the conclusion that matter is eternal.

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This is all important because for the secularized person who has followed the naturalistic mindset of the day, you might as well be asking him to believe in fairies and leprechauns!

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With many Western cultures down the path of secularization and rejection of the truth claims of the Bible, it is crucial that we present the claims of Christ and the Bible as a viable intellectual option. Our task as apologists is never to make Christianity seem unreasonable; nevertheless, we need to make sure that we are also totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit for the salvation of others. God is the author of the laws of logic and the gospel reflects that.

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The point here is that the value of apologetics is not just within a single evangelistic encounter. By contributing to the reasonableness of the Scriptures and presenting Christ in a palatable way to intellectuals and to those not so intellectual, we’re more likely to succeed in the long run keeping the door open for others, not just them, to receive Christ. The more believers rightly practice apologetics, the more likely others down the road will receive Christ as well if we rightly influence culture.

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Strengthens Believers

A second benefit of Apologetics apart from evangelism is that it strengthens believers. Your son or daughter or someone in your church might have an intellectual question about the Christian faith and might require an answer to get saved or go on for the Lord. For example, if someone asks, like I did…”it just seems like wherever you are in the world, you adopt the predominant religion there.”

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Young people today are bombarded with false teaching and the evolutionary mindset.[5] We need to at some point begin move away from mere Bible stories and begin real powerful Bible study, personal, family, and in churches!

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You need to know how to support the people in your ministries. We live in a time when it’s no longer good enough to merely present Christian values to even Christians. And what about that poor brother who has been reading books that attempt to disprove the reliability of the Gospels?

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People like this are in danger of abandoning the faith. We need to be able to present truth to them to help them persevere in the faith. However, apologetics does more than just deliver “believers” from departing from the faith, it also helps to build up those “believers” who are neutral. These believers have not engaged their thinking along the lines of Christian apologetics and the rationality of the Christian faith.

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Many Christians are experiencing the Christian faith merely through subjective emotion. Little do they realize the riches awaiting them when they discover that the Christian faith is actually logical and it fits the facts of history and present experience. What could this mean to someone who, for the first time, realizes that the Christian faith, their faith, is objectively certain?

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When Christians understand that the Christian faith is intellectually defensible, and not only that, but the actual truth and that it’s intellectually superior to other worldviews and that all other worldviews are false, they will have much more confidence in being able to speak out for the cause of Christ.

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If you were so confident that the Christian faith were objectively true and you knew how to discuss that with anybody, no matter their cultural experience, your only issue would be to make sure that you keep the Christian faith palatable in the way that it is presented. That would give you great confidence! Apologetic training is a key to being able to evangelize without fear and with gentleness.

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A Biblical Theology of Apologetics

Presented here is the biblical theological statement of apologetics. “Theologizing” some verses, the following statement emerges.

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Always be ready to contend for the faith (Jude 3) and give a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15-16). To do so, use divinely powerful weapons, not human weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4) and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), both yours and those who have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and have worshipped created things instead of the Creator (Romans 1). Do this with gentleness and reverence (1 Pet. 3:15-16). [6]

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In Detail 1 Pet. 3:15-16

 What is the sociological/historical/what’s-going-on-the-background-with-these people context about?
 What does it mean to sanctify the Lord God in your hearts?
 What are the limits of the timing regarding our ability to give an answer?
 What are the limits of the type of people to whom we should be ready to give an answer?
 What is the hope that is in you in this passage? Especially, in light of persecution.
 Are intellectual answers good enough? Words: meekness, fear, conscience relates to conduct.

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In Detail: Acts 17:16-34[7]

 How would you describe the people to whom Paul is apologizing?
 How does Paul’s approach correspond to their context?
 Introduction with their altar, v.23 (start with their religious beliefs)
 Combats false conceptions (v24, “does not”)
· V.27. Likely combating stoicism and Epicureanism (17:18), which focused on the best way to live, Paul seeks to argue that it’s not a way of life, but seeking the giver of life that’s important.
· Thus, Paul shows non-Christian worldviews to be inconsistent, as failing to correspond to reality in key areas. He deconstructs their beliefs.
 Quotes their poets as argument for his position. [knowledge of appropriate contemporary events, places, media, literature is a plus]
 What about the Christian worldview is assumed/preached in Paul’s presentation?
 The nature of God: Transcendence[8] (24b); immanence[9] (27b); God’s self-disclosure in general as well as special revelation (creation of man v.26).
 Emphasized common ground
· Ontological common ground: 1 creator, etc.
· Epistemological common ground: Shared criteria in determining truth, viz. logic.

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 How does Paul lead into the gospel?
 Moves from creation, at which time the light might have turned on for them. The nature of God, then he proclaims repentance, judgment, and the resurrection.

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 What was the audience’s response?
 Rejection (v32)
 Reconsideration (v32)
 Repentance (v34)
 What’s the difference between how Paul witnessed to Jews in 17:1-4 and non-Jews in the rest of the passage?
 Jews: he argued from their authority, which was the Old Testament.
 Non-Jews: he argued from their authority: media (poet), pop philosophy, logic.

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Analyzation

Paul moves from natural theology through ultimate authority to resurrection

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17:23-29 natural theology. Paul discusses creation and the nature of God. This forms a credible basis for his argument of the ultimate authority, which is God. If God created everything, it naturally follows that he has the ultimate authority over everything.

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17:30-31b ultimate authority. Having argued that God created everything, he can now assert that this same God is the ultimate authority. This ultimate authority is expressed by

 God’s command that everywhere everyone should repent and that
 He himself has appointed a judge.

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If God is the ultimate authority, he can appoint the judge whom he wishes. This naturally leads to the identification of this judge and the authentication that this one whom Paul is preaching is indeed the judge.

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17:31b resurrection. This verse proves that Jesus is the judge, because he was raised from the dead. It demands an investigation of the evidence for the resurrection, which we will do later.

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Detail: Romans 1

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[10]Part of our task as apologists is to make our presentation relative to the situation. Not only does this include information about their worldview, but it also demands that we understand what they already know. Specifically, what they already know about God. Do non-Christians and even atheists have any knowledge of the one true and living God?

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Yes!

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Read Romans 1:18-32. What has God revealed to unbelievers?

1:18, His wrath

1:21, they knew Him

1:19, truth about himself is “clearly perceived” 1:20.

1:32, absolute right/wrong and morality, God’s judgment of wickedness.

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They really know God!

Obviously, unbelievers do not know the way of salvation through creation, but they know God. It’s not that they just know about God, but they have personal knowledge of Him (Ro. 1:21).

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They suppress knowledge of God

However, they do not properly use this clearly revealed knowledge. Romans 1:18, they suppress the truth by/with their unrighteousness. All the unrighteousness(es) that can characterize a human being is used by human beings in order to hold down or keep the truth from becoming more readily apparent.

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Instead, they turn to idols

Read Romans 1:21-23. Paul views idolatry as wilfully turning away from clear revelation of God. It is not an innocent search for God. It is foolishness it is an exchanging of the glory of God for images, truth for a lie, Creator worship for creature worship (1:24-25).

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Result: Serious sin and judgment

As a result of their wilfully turning away from God’s clear revelation of himself, He “gives them up” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) to serious sin, particularly sexual sin. Nevertheless, the revelation of God that they have received and suppress still serves. It serves as a “judgment”; they are “without excuse” (1:20, 32).

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We should proclaim to them what is already in their hearts reminds them of the truth they are suppressing through their sin.

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http://www.answersingenesis.org/aftereden/cartoons/printcolor/20030428.jpg

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So unbelievers know God in the sense of being confronted by his revelation through creation. We also know from other Scripture that this revelation is also found within their very person, having been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This may also include the conscience, Ro. 2:14-15.

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Through revelation, unbelievers know that they are alienated from God. Although when you speak to them, this knowledge will exist in varying degrees due to their suppression of the truth. So when it says that the unregenerate know God, they know God exists and that He has standards for right and wrong and that He will judge those who violate his standards.

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But this is by no means adequate for salvation. If an unbeliever responds rightly to general revelation (above) and does not suppress it, he will articulate his belief that God exists, that God has moral obligations for humanity, and that he will be judged based on those standards. But this leaves him in a state of hopelessness!

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It’s only once a person receives Christ, that special revelation acts as the glasses by which he understands general revelation. And it’s not that the unbeliever needs more information. He needs his understanding totally and radically reoriented. As apologists, we do not have information; we take every one of his thoughts captive in order to get him to see his need to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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In order to do this, we will question his worldview. In order to question his worldview appropriately we need to understand three things.

1.How do the unregenerate come to know God before they come to Christ?
2.How are they suppressing that knowledge?
3.How does this knowledge continue to function, in spite of the fact that they suppress it?

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1.How do the unregenerate come to know God?

It is clear from Romans 1, that the unregenerate know God [not in a saving way] through creation, “in the things that are made.” This is clearly universal knowledge; everyone knows these things because everyone has experienced in some way, shape, or form, the “things that are made.”

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This would include the blind, deaf, mute, and lame. So how do the unregenerate obtain knowledge of God? Answer: The unbeliever comes to know God when…

 His rational faculties are operating sufficiently as God intended.
 His environment is conducive to proclamation by general revelation as God intended.

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2.How do they suppress that knowledge?

Unbelievers do not suppress psychologically, as if they were presented with a fact and they reject it. The biblical picture is that the unbelievers hold down, suppress or deny their knowledge of God ethically, through ethical rebellion.

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So the difference between unbelievers’ knowledge of God and the believers’ knowledge of God is ethical. The way that the human spirit works is that knowledge of God is suppressed when the unbeliever disobeys God.

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Therefore, as an apologist, you should understand that the unbelievers’ problem is primarily ethical.[11] He rejects the intellectual arguments for Christian theism because of the fact that he disobeys the one true and living God’s ethical standards.

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It’s not the other way around. It’s not that he rejects the intellectual arguments and because he rejects the intellectual arguments for Christian theism, he, in turn, disobeys God’s ethical standards. No, it’s that he disobeys God’s ethical standards first, and then, because of his suppression of the knowledge of God, he intellectually escapes from Christian theism.

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This is irrational, to know God’s “eternal power” and choose to rebel against him. This explains why Satan, though one of the most wisest and intellectually astute beings in all of God’s creation, can know the prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament (Isa. 53:5, that the Messiah would shed his blood, thereby cleansing believers) and still devise the plan in order to crucify Christ (Lk. 22:3). Did he think he could thwart the plan of the Almighty? So the arguments from the non-Christian are, on the surface, intellectually impressive. However, at a deeper level, they are absolutely ludicrous.

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3.How does this knowledge continue to function, in spite of the fact that they suppress it?

Because human beings continue to retain the conscience and the image of God, unbelievers’ knowledge of God will continue to surface at times in his own consciousness as well as his speech, even though he attempts to suppress that knowledge by unrighteousness.

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How does this happen?

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Ethically, unbelievers reveal a knowledge of God’s law, as it states in Romans 2:14-16. Unbelievers will exhort other unbelievers to “play fair” or “don’t murder.” They will talk to each other and tell each other to “be faithful to your spouse” and “take care of your family.” Unbelievers protect other unbelievers from graphic violence and immorality through movie rating systems.

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This shows their knowledge of God. And when they violate these principles and then they make excuses for having violated them, it also shows their knowledge of God. They may not even need to talk to anyone about it, but in their own mind when they feel guilt, they make excuses to themselves.

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On the flip side, they will also accuse other people of violating the same principles for which they make excuses themselves. Beyond this, complete depravity, I suppose, would be what we would call the situation in Romans 1:32. Romans 1:32 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

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People treat moral law as just that, law. You could theorize that what most people call “moral laws” are social conventions, but

 Accusing others of violating those social conventions and ….
 Making excuses in your own heart for why you violate them…

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proves that nobody really believes that moral laws are social conventions. We will further investigate “the moral argument for the existence of God” later that touches on this.

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Application

In apologetic encounters therefore, we should draw upon this knowledge that every unbeliever has. If this is true, then there is a sense in which we do not have to argue that these things are indeed true, but we should say certain things or present certain arguments so as to allow the unbeliever to observe that he is indeed suppressing the truth and help him not to suppress the truth. This can take many forms. You will either attack his worldview or articulate certain truths.

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But what you don’t want to do is form up a bunch of logical fallacies….and we need to know when our friend is making logical errors so as to help correct his thinking.

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from Apologetics Lecture 1 Introduction

Go to Theology Main Page

Go to Apologetics Lectures Main Page

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  1. Worldview: A framework of your convictions that influences how you understand and interpret the world.

  2. “Traditional, naturalistic secular humanism. Modernists see reality as possessing universal and absolute truths. Human reasoning is the key to apprehending these truths, and it depends on the laws of logic. Hence, logical inferences are valid, legitimate, and trustworthy; truth is objective and attainable.” Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense: Responding to the Beliefs and Assumptions of Spiritual Seekers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 159.

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  3. Postmodernists, on the other hand, see truth as wholly pluralistic and relativistic. They reject the concept of a universe where reality can be apprehended entirely through rational processes—human reasoning. There is no universal or absolute truth in any area of knowledge, including science, history, psychology, sociology, ethics, and religion. Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense: Responding to the Beliefs and Assumptions of Spiritual Seekers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 159.

  4. This does not mean that we should be worldly and pursue the things of this world so as to be relevant.

  5. Read and respond to the scientists below. Whatever field people are experts in tend to assume that their field answers the most questions of our existence without, shall we say, proper scientific analysis! Narrow minded! Let’s man up and be willing to admit that science can’t answer the “God” question. It’s not a scientific question. There are other ways of determining what is true. See Greg Bahnsen debate. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/29/post-secular-evolution_n_6571154.html

  6. Modified from Oliphint.

  7. Adolf Deissmann says Acts 17 is “the greatest missionary document in the New Testament.” Light from the Ancient Near East (New York: H. Doran, 1927), 384.

  8. Though omnipresent, God is distinctly separate from creation. Ephesians 4:6 (NASB) one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

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  9. Though transcendent, God is also present in, involved with, and close to creation. Ephesians 4:6 (NASB) one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

  10. My notes and thoughts from http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2005Unregenerate.htm

  11. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/15/the-atheist-daughter-of-a-notable-christian-apologist-shares-her-story/. Rachel’s issue is obviously moral, boyfriend issue, not intellectual. The OT/NT issue is easily answered. Her dad could answer it. Dorm room theology should be held lightly. Her intellectual conclusion was merely what revealed what was already there, unempowered morality. http://www.rightreason.org/2013/how-to-exploit-a-family-falling-out-for-the-sake-of-ideology

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