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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

                                                                                 
                                                                                   by Dr. Brad Swiger

“That’s not right!  Why would you believe such a foolish thing?”

“If you had checked your facts before you spoke, then maybe you wouldn’t have embarrassed yourself.  How pathetic!”

As Christians, many of us have probably heard these kinds of remarks before.  However, non-Christians are not the only ones guilty of such rude behavior.  We have also leveled similar comments against them as well.

Books and internet articles abound as to why many people reject Christianity.  One of the top reasons routinely given is that Christians are hypocrites and/or arrogant.  This reason is irrelevant as to whether Jesus is the Son of God or whether we are to stand in God’s presence one day for judgment, but that does not mean that we should ignore it.  We ought to be humble, not arrogant, in our relationships with others.

Unfortunately, Christians can be tempted to be arrogant when discussing apologetic issues with people.  This temptation arises when we think we know more than the person with whom we are engaging.  When we are discussing a favorite topic, it can be difficult to exercise restraint.  We want to say everything possible to make our case, often without consideration for the other person.  Be on guard against such behavior, the urge to be a condescending know-it-all can happen to anyone.

My advice is to listen more than you speak (James 1:19).  When you do speak, spend more time asking questions rather than simply “lecturing” somebody.  Asking leading questions can help us get our point across without seeming too rude.  For instance, if someone told me that they thought that Christianity was for people with weak intellects, then I would respond with a question.  I might ask, “Why do you think that Christianity is only for the weak-willed?  It seems to me that people such as Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes, Jonathon Edwards, and James Clerk Maxwell (to name a few) were all extremely intelligent individuals.  How did you come to such a conclusion?”

This kind of interaction tends to diffuse more hostility than it generates.  The individual will often appreciate being allowed to defend her beliefs and will usually feel as though she is being given proper respect.  Notice that I did not avoid the content of the person’s statement.  I merely attempted to engage the individual’s argument by asking a question rather than offering a straight forward rebuttal.  For a deeper discussion regarding the use of questions, see Greg Koukl’s Tactics:A Gameplan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.

Regardless of the methods we use to engage others in meaningful discussion of the Gospel, it is imperative that we remember to do so with the utmost humility and respect for others.  Paul said something similar to Timothy:

“The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

This concludes my series on apologetics and the Christian mind.  I would like to encourage you to pursue an active thought life for Christ.  Today is a great day to begin.  Apologetics is currently experiencing much interest among believers, especially in our great state of Alabama.  If you are interested in learning more about apologetics, there are several options available.  For instance, I am the chapter director here at the University of Mobile for Ratio Christi. Ratio Christi is a movement of campus apologetics aimed at restoring the Christian mind among college students.  Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.  Also, with such organizations as Tactical Faith and the Apologetics Resource Center, the Yellowhammer state is actively sending out laborers for the harvest.

I would like to ask that you pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out even more laborers.  Maybe within another generation, the Christian mind would be resurrected not only among scholars, but also the community at large.  Then the Church would once again be at the forefront of cultural influence.


About the Contributor

Dr. Brad Swiger is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Mobile.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  His interest in Christian apologetics has led to involvement with several apologetics organizations such as Tactical Faith and Ratio Christi.  He is currently the Mobile affiliate of Tactical Faith and the director of the UM chapter of Ratio Christi.  He and his wife, Candice, have two sons, Micah and Will, and a daughter due in December.
 

Posted by: Brad Swiger AT 08:31 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 12 September 2013


by Dr. Brad Swiger

Previously, I discussed how a Christian can use apologetics as a method of evangelism.  Now I would like to turn our attention to the role of apologetics in the believer’s faith.  We can think of it as a lesson in spiritual growth and maturity.

Everyone who believes in God has likely thought of questions that seemed impossible to answer.  Why does a good God allow evil and suffering, especially of children?  What happens to people who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus?  

Christians may have also encountered people who asked questions that were meant to derail their faith.  Does historical evidence indicate that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child as the popular novel and movie, The Da Vinci Code, suggests?  Did the early church fabricate the doctrine of the Trinity?

When we hear new ideas that challenge our deeply held beliefs, we can become confused and wonder how it should be handled.  One person may try to ignore the argument, while another may search it out.  I think the wise person will search it out (Proverbs 25:2).  Having just mentioned The Da Vinci Code, let me use it as an example.  

A couple of years after I became a believer, I found myself in the middle of a conversation regarding the historical religious content of Dan Brown’s best seller.  As my colleagues discussed the ideas that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child, that the Emperor Constantine decided which books to include in the Bible, as well as other historically unorthodox issues, I became overwhelmed with confusion.  I wondered if I had been mistaken in my core beliefs.  I wondered if I had put my faith in the wrong place.

Thankfully, I decided to research these ideas to see what Christian scholars had to say about them.  I found several responses, but one really served to disarm my apprehension and it just so happened to be written by an apologist.  James Patrick Holding had just published an online review of Brown’s novel entitled Not InDavincible.  For interested readers, his article is still available here.  Mr. Holding systematically refuted every major argument that had previously shaken my faith.  What convinced me about his article was that his refutations were more than mere assertions; they were supported with evidence.  

Apologetics can be valuable in discipleship and in strengthening the faith of those who have already placed their trust in Jesus.  When we have doubts about the Christian faith or when we are given a difficult argument from a person who does not believe in Christianity, we should not throw our hands up and give in immediately.  Instead, we ought to seek what other believers have already said about the issue in question.  Chances are that somebody has already addressed that problem.

Just remember:

“The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.”  (Proverbs 18:17)

Always be sure to investigate a rival claim.


Below are some useful resources:
Stand to Reason (www.str.org)
Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (www.carm.org)
Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministry (www.tektonics.org)
Answers in Genesis (www.answersingenesis.org)
Reasons to Believe (www.reasons.org)


About the Contributor

Dr. Brad Swiger is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Mobile.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  His interest in Christian apologetics has led to involvement with several apologetics organizations such as Tactical Faith and Ratio Christi.  He is currently the Mobile affiliate of Tactical Faith and the director of the UM chapter of Ratio Christi.  He and his wife, Candice, have two sons, Micah and Will, and a daughter due in December.
 

Posted by: Brad Swiger AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 23 August 2013

                                                                      
                                                                              by Cindy Marshall

 

Recently, I felt God speaking to me during my devotion time.  The phrase came to mind, "value added." God came at the phrase from two directions: He adds value to each person He creates and He gives us the privilege to add value to others.

It was the first direction that most impacted my thoughts. He began to speak to me in almost "Job" type terms. "Do you know the value that I place inside each creation I make? Where were you when I created this person or that person and placed a hidden value deep inside?"

Obviously these were questions designed to show me I had no answer.  When was the value placed in each of us?  Psalm 139:13-16 talks about how God "formed my inward parts" and "did weave me in my mother's womb."  He placed a measure of value in each of us at the time of our creation.

God then encouraged me to ask to see value He placed in the people with whom I would be connected.  The picture He gave me was of a "spiritual scanner."  If I would ask He would reveal to me a value for each person and it would change my perspective. As the house parent at a home for teenage girls, this lesson would become invaluable.  The Lord has shown me something special and unique about each girl.  During the times when their behavior is less than stellar, I often remind myself they are not living up to the value and purpose for which He designed them.   

As the new school year begins and you receive your class roster, I encourage you to pray over each child.  Ask the Lord to show you something unique about each one.  Let Him run the "spiritual scanner" over each name and give you a glimpse of the value He placed in each of your students.  On those days when you think you can't see any outward sign of  value, remember that there is value hidden deep within and ask the Lord to give you a renewed vision of that value.  Consider that perhaps each child has been placed in your classroom because God knew He could trust you with His valuable creations!

About the Contributor
Cindy Marshall is a retired educator and school counselor. Since her retirement, Mrs. Marshall has worked as a consultant with a local testing software company and in the Care Ministry department at her local church.  She and her husband have most recently been helping organize a new ministry for troubled girls where they will serve as house parents.

Posted by: Cindy Marshall AT 03:13 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, 21 August 2013

                                                                           
                                                                             by Dr. Brad Swiger

 

The words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28 and verses 18-20, have become known as The Great Commission.  In this passage, the apostles were charged with making disciples.  They were to go out into all the world preaching Jesus and baptizing new believers.  Though it is discipleship that is addressed in this passage, evangelism is certainly implied.  After all, one cannot strengthen another’s faith in Jesus (discipleship) unless he first spreads the message of Jesus (evangelism).

In the United States, it is incredibly easy to find a variety of people who do not believe in the core tenets of Christianity.  As a country of religious tolerance (in the true definition of tolerance), the U.S. hosts adherents of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, deism, and even atheism.  Reaching each group with the truth of Christ can require a different approach.  For Hindus, we must convince them that only one God exists because they believe in many gods.  Since Muslims believe in only one god, we do not need to take the same approach that we would with Hindus.  Instead, we would want to start by showing that Jesus was not just a great prophet, but the very Son of God.  When discussing with an atheist, neither of these starting points would likely be appropriate.  Rather, we would need to start at the very beginning by demonstrating that it is necessary that God even exist.

Using atheism as an example, I would like to show how apologetics can be a useful tactic in evangelism.  The first step in helping the atheist embrace faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is to demonstrate that God is necessary for the universe to exist.  There are many ways to do this, but I will only demonstrate one of them.

Centuries ago, philosophers and theologians of both Christianity and Islam recognized the necessity of God to explain the existence of the universe.  This led to the development of an idea that has become known as the kalam cosmological argument.  It is a very simple argument consisting of two premises and a conclusion.

1.  Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2.  The universe began to exist.
3.  Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Very few people, atheists or otherwise, are willing to dispute the first premise.  It is rather obvious that something with a beginning had a cause.  Nothing that began to exist can cause itself to come into existence; in order to cause anything, existence is a necessary prerequisite.

Modern science has given us data to corroborate the second premise.  The discovery of things such as the expansion of the universe and the laws of thermodynamics strongly imply a beginning to the cosmos.  Since the universe – nature itself – represents all that exists to an atheist, he has a problem.  How can the very beginning of nature have a natural cause?  The answer is simple.  The universe did not have a natural cause.  Rather, it had a supernatural cause.  
As powerful and simple as the kalam cosmological argument is, it is only one step towards the God of the Bible.  This argument only demonstrates the necessity of a supernatural element.  It does not identify that element.  Further apologetic work is needed to demonstrate that the triune God of the Bible is the cause of all that exists.  Such arguments are beyond the scope of this article, but may include the moral argument for God, the reliability of New Testament documents, and the historical probability of Jesus’ resurrection.

In this essay I have shown how apologetics can be a useful evangelistic method to reach the lost.  It is especially useful when dealing with people who have intellectual obstacles to belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  In the next essay I will demonstrate how studying apologetics can also be beneficial for strengthening the faith of believers.


About the Contributor

Dr. Brad Swiger is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Mobile.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  His interest in Christian apologetics has led to involvement with several apologetics organizations such as Tactical Faith and Ratio Christi.  He is currently the Mobile affiliate of Tactical Faith and the director of the UM chapter of Ratio Christi.  He and his wife, Candice, have two sons, Micah and Will, and a daughter due in December.
 

Posted by: Brad Swiger AT 07:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 25 July 2013

  
    by Dr. Brad Swiger



It has been a sour topic within most denominations, including both evangelical and mainline Protestant traditions.  The youth of our churches are abandoning their faith at a troubling rate.  A recent book published by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer suggested that approximately two-thirds of young adults walk away from their faith during college. 

One of the reasons for this departure is that the students believe that religion is irrelevant to their lives.  Though Sunday school stories might seem to teach a basic morality, today’s youth do not understand how faith plays a part in their day-to-day lives.  They believe that most of Christianity is irrelevant to the modern culture.  I believe that this epidemic departure, which is based on their view of irrelevancy, can be summed up through one of the biblical prophets:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6)

Students are not being taught how to integrate their faith into the various spheres of their lives.  For years within the academic sphere, an insidious philosophy has been eroding the Christian foundation that once was responsible for most of the serious scholarship.  This philosophy is called naturalism.  Put simply, naturalism is the belief that the universe is governed by natural laws and only by natural laws.  In other words, matter and energy are all that exist; there are no supernatural elements.

Think about the implications of this philosophy.  If supernatural elements are discarded, then the Christian faith is bankrupt.  In fact, the very Resurrection upon which we base our hope would be impossible. The apostle Paul understood the importance of the miraculous, bodily Resurrection when he said, “…if Christ has not been raised, [our] faith is futile…” (1 Corinthians 15:7).  If naturalism is true, then Christianity is not.

After the Enlightenment, naturalism began to creep into all academic disciplines, especially philosophy and the natural sciences.  Slowly, Christian scholars began to embrace naturalism themselves.  The result was a liberal theology which rejected core miraculous doctrines such as the Virgin Birth of Jesus and his physical Resurrection.  Faith began to be seen as an opponent of reason, the god of the Enlightenment.  The Christian mind began to disappear from both the University and the church.  It did not disappear completely, though.  Certain men made sure that the Christian intellect did not become extinct.  Among them are some names that are easily recognizable and some that are not:  Blaise Pascal, William Paley, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, John Warwick Montgomery, Greg Bahnsen, R.C. Sproul, Greg Koukl, William Lane Craig, and many others.

These men were, or are currently, involved in Christian apologetics.  Apologetics is a branch of any belief system that is devoted to offering a defense of its validity.  Christian apologists use information from various academic disciplines, such as science, philosophy, and theology, to demonstrate that Christianity is true and is the best worldview to explain the human condition.

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring reasons for why apologetics is needed in the church today.  The two main ideas that I will discuss are that apologetics can be useful as an evangelistic tool to reach the lost and that it can be used to strengthen the faith of believers.  I will also address how apologetics can be misused so that we may avoid such errors in our own lives.


 

About the Contributor

Dr. Brad Swiger is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Mobile.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  His interest in Christian apologetics has led to involvement with several apologetics organizations such as Tactical Faith and Ratio Christi.  He is currently the Mobile affiliate of Tactical Faith and the director of the UM chapter of Ratio Christi.  He and his wife, Candice, have two sons, Micah and Will, and a daughter due in December.
 

Posted by: Brad Swiger AT 11:09 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
 

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