Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Argument from Special Revelation: Jesus Christ (Part 6)

Note: see parts one, two, three, four, and five.

So how do the two most likely naturalistic explanations of the facts surrounding the resurrection hold up under scrutiny? Remember, the facts we are considering—agreed to by nearly all historians, Christian or not—are 1. the empty tomb, 2. the appearances of Jesus after His death, and 3. the belief of Jesus’ disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead. And again, the criteria we are using to evaluate these explanations are listed in Part 2, linked above.

The Legend Hypothesis

The legend hypothesis says simply that there were no resurrection claims, at least not originally. Much like the childhood game “Telephone,” rumors of Messianic expectations grew rapidly until, before you know it, there were full-fledged resurrection claims, which were then promptly written down and preserved in the New Testament. This hypothesis obviously explains present data and so passes criterion (1), but what about the rest?

Its scope (2) is limited to the appearances of Jesus after His death and the disciples’ belief in the resurrection; it does nothing on its own to explain the empty tomb. Regarding how well it explains the first two (3), it must maintain that the disciples’ belief in resurrection was based on the rumored appearances, which were themselves either just mistaken or invented. However, given the extreme implausibility of the resurrection accounts being simply mistaken (they claim not just to have “heard,” but to know—some of them even claiming eyewitness status), the defender of the legend hypothesis is left claiming that they were invented. This hypothesis thus easily reduces to the conspiracy hypothesis (already discussed), and so suffers all the problems of that one as well.

The legend theory is also highly implausible (4) on its own. First, Jews were inherently resistant to legend, particularly about a divine man; 1st century Palestine would have been entirely the wrong environment for such a legend to grow. Second, there was simply not enough time for legend to grow. All the evidence suggests that from the very beginning, the disciples preached the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Our earliest accounts date back possibly to within 5 years (or even earlier) of the crucifixion itself, and even the very latest are still within the lifetime of eyewitnesses and those who knew them. Third, legends generally reinforce the values of the culture in which they are birthed. The resurrection “legend” did not do this, but rather created a brand new concept of resurrection, defying all Messianic expectations. Finally, legends tend to make heroes of their founders (think Muhammad or Joseph Smith). The five accounts that we have of the resurrection do not do this; they even rely on the testimony of women, which as we have seen, was virtually without value at the time.

The legend hypothesis avoids being overly ad hoc (5), unless of course it reduces to the conspiracy hypothesis, in which case it will need all the same assumptions to function. It is also disconfirmed (6) by our knowledge of Jewish culture and Messianic expectations.

The Hallucination Hypothesis

Interestingly, this hypothesis is probably the most common among non-Christian scholars. In that sense then, it represents the best explanation we have of the facts in question, other than the Christian claim.

As usual, this hypothesis meets the first criteria but then immediately has trouble. Its explanatory scope (2) is rather narrow, since it is really only useful as an explanation of one of our facts: the appearances of Jesus after His death. Neither the empty tomb nor the origin of the disciples’ belief in the resurrection is explained, so this hypothesis would need to be paired with another for its full strength. But even considering the appearances of Jesus post-crucifixion—the fact the hallucination hypothesis is supposed to explain—many holes remain. For example, how can hallucination account for the variety of appearances that are claimed? Perhaps if only one or two of Jesus’ closest followers had ‘seen’ Him risen once, then some sort of psychological phenomenon might be sufficient. But the accounts we have are from multiple, independent sources, and take place in different locations at different times. It might be tempting to claim some sort of connection between the claims, so that only one actual hallucination is needed, and the rest of the disciples merely picked up the story. Such a theory, however, ignores the fact that some of the claims come from skeptics, namely Paul and James, and it also does nothing to account for the diversity within the reports themselves. So much for explanatory power (3).

Regarding plausibility (4), it must rely on either highly suspect psychological theories and read a great deal into the text, or it must again assume that what the disciples are describing are mere visions, a category of experience that we have already shown in the last post would be clearly distinct from a bodily resurrection to a 1st century Jew. Also, we know from years of case studies that hallucinations tend to reinforce expectations (however delusional); however, as we have seen, no Jew expected a resurrection of the sort described. So, as William Lane Craig puts it, “with respect both to its psychoanalysis of the witnesses and its reduction of the appearances to visionary experience, the Hallucination Hypothesis suffers from implausibility.” *

The hypothesis is also ad hoc (5), in that it must invent out of thin air complex psychological explanations of the disciples’ straightforward claims, in order to provide reasons for such powerful hallucinations. Given its reliance on outmoded theories, and its ignorance of the relevant cultural data, the hallucination hypothesis also fails criteria (6), disconfirmation by accepted beliefs.

For all these reasons, it is at best only slightly more plausible than any of the other naturalistic theories. And of course, we have not yet reviewed the Christian explanation.

* William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 386-7.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Women in Apologetics (Part 7): Having a Heart for the Mind

The following is Part 7 of the series on women in apologetics from Apologetics 315. See parts one, two, three, four, five, and six.

Apologetics and Women's Ministry: Having a Heart for the Mind - Sarah J. Flashing

Knowing what you believe and why should be a requirement for everyone, no matter their worldview. And as Christians, there is a direct correspondence to the gospel we proclaim and the components of the worldview we say we represent. So as a young mother over 13 years ago, struggling with all kinds of trials, I found myself no longer satisfied with the very sincere and genuine consolations that “God knows your struggles” or “Jesus loves you” or “I’m praying for you.” Of course, I appreciate such affirmations and continue to do so today, but these were statements that, when left unpacked, made a little impact in my spiritual growth. For instance, without or with little understanding of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, “Jesus loves you” offers little more solace than being told by a friend that she loves you.

As I began to probe deeper into the depths of the theological meaning of my faith, I began to ask other questions, like “why Christianity?” “What makes Christianity the superior worldview?” It was from this point of inquiry that I launched into the field of apologetics, the first year or so gathering information while investigating. This was a search for truth, not so that I could feel good about myself but so I could be confident about what I was claiming to know.

The struggles I faced in my life were not unique to me, nor were they the worst possible thing I could experience. But my relationship with God was seriously lacking substance, and over the years as I have learned to give an answer for the hope within, it has helped me in my ministry and friendships with other women. As a ministry leader, I offer no pretense of a “charmed life” and find myself shocked by very little these days...

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Women in Apologetics (Part 6): An ApoloWhat?

The following is Part 6 of the series on women in apologetics from Apologetics 315. See parts one, two, three, four, and five.

An ApoloWhat? - Judy Salisbury

I think most of us will agree that men dominate the Christian apologetics ministries. I am perfectly comfortable with this fact, and I thank God for these wonderful gentlemen. They produce excellent materials so that many of us can stand on their shoulders in our attempt to lead people to Christ.

Yes, most apologetics ministries are predominantly male; so when a woman states that apologetics is the focus of her ministry, folks scratch their heads and ask, “How did you become an apologist?” I chuckle when people ask me this question since I never set out to become one. It happened by listening to one of the best apologists as he offered not simply an answer, but the answer to my greatest question and obstacle to conversion: Was Jesus truly God?

I must return to 1991 when I traveled as a salesperson and spent considerable time on the road. Driving and surfing through various radio stations one afternoon, the Lord used one radio broadcast in particular to pique my curiosity and settle that longstanding question. The answer became clear as I heard the late Dr. Walter Martin’s debate with a cultist. It was an embarrassing defeat for the cultist, but it was a big win for me as I finally heard evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ.

Back in my hotel room, I immediately reached for the Gideon Bible tucked in the nightstand drawer. It was late in the afternoon when the Lord – in His grace and mercy – led me to the book of 1 John and revealed my lost condition. At that very moment I fell to my knees and gave Him my life, my ambitions, my dreams, my sin—everything. By the time I got home, my husband had a brand new wife… and a year later, the Lord gave us both a brand new baby girl. Goodbye corporate world – hello full time, stay-at-home mom!

During that first year of my spiritual infancy, I devoured the Bible along with tapes and CD’s from learned apologists, Bible teachers, and other resources. What struck me the most was the fact that there were actually answers to the questions that plagued me. Nagging concerns were finally settled in my mind; questions that others were previously unable or unwilling to address were now answered. I rejoiced to know that when my daughter would eventually have spiritual questions of her own, I would be able to answer them. In fact, that was the main reason I became equipped: I did not want some neighborly cultist (or occultist) to beguile my little girl with a lie – promising her a good life that would actually lead to her spiritual death.

By April 1993, the Lord gave me an opportunity to share a talk with my local congregation during a Sunday evening service. My presentation was based on 1 Peter 3:15 and the basic evidences for Christianity. Yes, my first speaking opportunity as a Christian was as an apologist.

About a month after my apologetic talk, I went to our local Pregnancy Resource Center to donate baby clothes and to see if there was a way I could serve them. I met the director at the door with my bag of blessings and confessed, “Not long ago the Lord Jesus Christ saved me from my sins and from myself. Silver and gold have I not, but maybe you need someone to clean your toilets?” She gingerly informed me that they already had a person who handled that; then she suggested I attend an upcoming counselor training seminar. Through that training, I learned so much about those wonderful ministries – the women who serve in them and what they are up against. The Lord also showed me that I was not to become a PRC counselor; instead, I would train individuals who had a desire to educate their communities on matters of human life. My work would be to help impart skills that would equip them to communicate their message effectively, powerfully, and with love...

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Women in Apologetics (Part 5): Implementing Apologetics in Women's Ministry

The following is Part 5 of the series on women in apologetics from Apologetics 315. See parts one, two, three, and four.

Implementing Apologetics in Women's Ministry - Mary Jo Sharp*

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus replies to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” His reply is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Though Jesus’ words here mean to love God with our whole being, he specifically emphasizes three aspects. The last aspect is to love God with all of our mind. Are we, as ministry leaders, providing opportunities for the women in our church to love the Lord with all their mind? Women need to be challenged in the area of growing in knowledge of the Lord.

When I speak at a women’s conference, I sometimes ask the audience to share with me how much time they spend in learning Biblical truths or in answering difficult questions about faith in God (through discussion, bible study, reading, but not including time spent at church). The average response amounts to 1% to 3% of a typical day spent thinking on and learning about truths from the Word of God. So, a majority of the day is wrapped up in secular activities. While there is nothing inherently wrong with many worldly activities, women need to keep in check the messages consumed as they go about their day. When a woman turns on the television, reads a newspaper or magazine, surfs the internet, listens to the radio, goes to the movies, goes to work, or even just goes shopping, she will most likely encounter untrue messages about the Christian faith. Some of these messages include that science is the only way we can know truth, religion is the root of all evil, and that religious people are not smart. How are we combating these false messages in our ministry to women?

It is vital to the spiritual growth of our women to address their doubts. If a woman doubts God’s existence or has never investigated her reasons for belief, she cannot reasonably be expected to grow in knowledge of God, find a study of the Word as a priority in life, or share what she believes is the truth about God with the world. However, if a woman has confidence in her belief in God, she can place her trust in God as a real being who can really affect her life.

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

It is especially important for women to have a safe, loving environment such as a women’s ministry in which to share their doubts and ask questions. In my experience, women are more hesitant to do this in an environment in which men are present. There could be many reasons for their hesitation, but I have found - in candid moments one-on-one - that some women generally do not want to come across as “dumb” in front of their Christian brothers. These ladies will not ask very many questions in the presence of men, if any at all.1 I have also found many women do not feel it is acceptable in the church to have doubts about God. An apologetics element in our women’s ministries would help alleviate these fears while combating untruths assaulting our women’s minds, enabling them to be emboldened in their faith in God.

Three Goals for pioneering this field in women’s ministry:

1) Establish the Need
2) Create an Environment
3) Find/Create a Study...

Read the rest here.

* See Mrs. Sharp's website, Confident Christianity, here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Women in Apologetics (Part 4): Women Called to the Front Lines of the Faith

The following is Part 4 of the series on women in apologetics from Apologetics 315. See parts one, two, and three.

Women Called to the Front Lines of the Faith - Tricia Scribner

I was a 20-year-old newly married woman when a Jehovah’s Witness boldly informed me that the word “Trinity” was nowhere in the Bible. Though I had been a believer in Jesus Christ since childhood, I stood mute with no response. This would not be the last time I would be caught off guard by those with other worldviews who seemed much better equipped than I to discuss the evidence for their faith.

Within my profession of nursing I learned that my Christian beliefs were at odds with the prevailing psychology that humans were essentially good and that I needed to be tolerant (accepting as also true) of other people’s beliefs. In anatomy and physiology classes the evolutionary model of the origin and development of complex life forms dominated, and the biblical account was criticized as immature and backward.

I’ve learned that my experience was not unusual. We as women are on the front lines spiritually in every facet of our lives. We weep to hear our college-aged children whom we raised to love the Lord spouting the views of professors who think Christians are weak-minded people who use faith as a crutch because they cannot bear the truth that this life is all there is. As Christian wives we experience divorce at about the same rate as non-Christians. At work we have shut down and shut up about our faith to avoid judgment. We save our faith for Sundays, compartmentalizing our thinking into the sacred and secular, and living spiritually schizophrenic lives.

How the Christian Community Has Not Helped

Churches often provide women’s conferences with sound biblical teaching, fellowship, and worship, but we sometimes fail to equip women to re-enter the battle zones they encounter the moment they return home. Imagine that Wanda returns home from a church conference to an agnostic husband who mocks her for wasting a day worshiping a God no one can be sure even exists. Zoe returns to the college dorm where her roommate Aja, a Muslim, shows where the Bible prophesies the prophet Muhammad is coming. Gina returns home to her 18 year-old who is headed to college where his professor of religion teaches the New Testament is a myth developed by second to third century church leaders. Will the memories of warm fellowship and a spiritually affirming worship experience be enough to strengthen them spiritually so they can stand and arm them with the truth they so desperately need?

What God Says About Women Doing Apologetics

God has commanded us as women not only to share that we believe in Jesus Christ but also the reasons why. Here are some evidences in scripture that God has called women to think, study, and share the reasons for believing in Christianity...

Read the rest here.

Women in Apologetics (Part 3): Argument and the Woman Apologist

The following is Part 3 of the series on women in apologetics from Apologetics 315. This one is particularly good. If you missed parts 1 and 2, see them here and here.

Argument and the Woman Apologist - Dr. Holly Ordway

Why are there so few Christian women apologists and intellectuals?

They do exist; I should know, I’m one of them. But it’s a small sisterhood. I see women’s ministry leaders, yes; writers of Christian fiction and devotionals, yes; but active apologists and scholars, not many.

Furthermore, in my own experience, I find that my most interesting and stimulating conversations about books and ideas are usually with men rather than women. Yet my female friends are just as intelligent and thoughtful as my male friends. What’s going on?

Of all the possible ways to approach this question, I am going to develop just one particular line of thought here.

I believe that there are different modes of intellectual engagement, and that we often fail to appreciate the way that these modes function. What we often take as a tension between the intellectual life and femininity may really be the product of a mismatch between an individual woman and the mode of argument in which she’s attempting to work.

If we can better understand the different modes of argument, we can better equip both men and women to be effective apologists – serving Our Lord with their unique gifts in the fullest capacity.

I will present these three modes in terms of images: argument as Fight, as Exploration, and as Dance.

Our first image is that of the Fight. In this mode, argument is structured as conflict. In the Fight mode, an argument has a clear winner and a clear loser. Debates are a classic form of Fight argument: the debate opponents have distinct, contrasting or conflicting views, and they take turns striking as hard and effectively as possible, and parrying the rhetorical blows of the opponent. Debates are scored and a winner or loser is declared; the success of a debater lies in his ability to take apart the opponent’s logic or rhetoric and make points that cannot be defended against...

Read the rest here.

Women in Apologetics (Part 2): Heads for Men and Hearts for Women?

Note: see Part 1.

Heads for Men and Hearts for Women? - Mary Decker

The trend

If you like to potter around apologetics blogs on the internet (my guess, if you’re reading this, is that you do), or if you attend apologetics events, you’ll notice that the ratio of men to women is skewed somewhat towards there being a lot more men involved in such things than women.

Now before anyone thinks this is going to be a feminist diatribe about glass ceilings and male domination, hear me out. I have no problem with there being plenty of men in apologetics. I want every Christian I can get to take an interest in apologetics – male or female. Moreover, I’m a pretty traditional Christian woman who believes in male leadership in the home and church, so a radical feminist agenda is most definitely not my aim. My aim is not to discourage men from taking part in apologetics, or to advocate for any artificially imposed gender balance, but to encourage more women to get involved in apologetics.

To do that, we need to consider why this imbalance exists to the degree that it does.

The demands of motherhood

Not all reasons for an apparent imbalance in this area are inherently bad. More specifically, there are good reasons why there probably should be more men involved on a full-time, paid basis in apologetics work. The sort of work done by William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl, or Mike Licona is a full-time job. Many women will very reasonably realize that the job of being a mom (yes, it is a job!) is a demanding one that doesn’t allow them to put in the same amount of formal apologetics work as their male counterparts. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I will elaborate as to why I think so later.

False dichotomies and misunderstandings

However, there are some reasons for this imbalance that are not healthy. In particular, there is a perception in some circles that apologetics is for men, but not for women. This perception ¬has its roots in a false dichotomy between head and heart, or reason and emotion, as well as a misunderstanding of the nature of men and women. It manifests in an association of head and reason with the male and heart and emotion with the female which does neither sex much good because it denies male emotions and female reason...

Read the rest here.

Women in Apologetics (Part 1): The International Society of Women in Apologetics

Brian Auten over at Apologetics 315 has kindly given me permission to re-post a series he is doing this week on women in apologetics, each written by a different woman apologist. I will post the first third or so of each post here and then provide the link to the rest. Or, you can simply follow the series from his site. As I am already two posts behind, the first two will be in rapid succession. I should also note that I am in no way endorsing any of the views represented in these posts, and it should not be assumed that I agree with everything each author is saying. In fact, I do not. However, women's rights is an issue that is near to my heart, and I believe that greater awareness of it at nearly any level is a good thing. I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to increase this awareness when it comes from my own field. That said, on to the first contribution:

The International Society of Women in Apologetics - Sarah Ankenman


Most often, while sitting at the ISWA table at Apologetics conferences, I get quite a few women who come up to me and ask me the same three questions. First, “why does there need to be something special just for women in the field of apologetics?” Second, “why apologetics at all?” which is usually followed by the statement, “all I need is the Word of God”. Finally, I get the million-dollar inquiry of, “can women even do apologetics? What about Paul saying that women need to keep silent in the church?” In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to answer those questions.

First, let me explain ISWA’s purpose. We are not inventing some new apologetic just for women. When you come to an ISWA event, or read an ISWA article, or watch a DVD of an ISWA member, you are getting the same apologetics any man would get at an apologetics conference. All of the women who teach or write for ISWA have all gleaned from, or have personally sat under, the teachings of great apologists like Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Gary Habermas, Greg Koukl, Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Ron Rhodes, Dr. Win Corduan, etc. I love apologetics and fortunately, God has called me into the very field I love, because through His grace He gave me one of the desires of my heart. However, I am also the mother of an energetic three-year-old. I realize that not every woman who enjoys going deeper in her studies, and loves apologetics, has the time to go to seminary. It’s difficult for even myself, and so somewhere along this journey, I realized that there needed to be something for today’s busy woman.

If you have done any apologetics at all, you have probably noticed that the conferences tend to last all day, if not a few days, and the average apologetics book is longer than the time you have to read it. Also, they tend to filled with ideas, theories, and words that are over the average person’s head, my own head included. I often refer to a dictionary or Google when I am doing research or reading, and I have been studying for nine years now. Also, even though I love theology and apologetics, if I have been up all night with my son, the last thing I want to do is sit down and read a book and try to comprehend Metaphysics. I realized that there needed to be something that teaches apologetics, but in an easy to understand manner and in smaller bites...

Read the rest here.