Monthly Archives: February 2015

Personal Discipleship: Apologetic Reasoning

Week 4, Apologetic Reasoning

Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

For those attending or following our personal discipleship class, here are the slides from this week’s session on apologetic reasoning.

The slides contain hyperlinks to videos and related material. In terms of resources, the most useful item might be the link to the 2015 Veracity’s Top 10 Scorers List. If you want a good grounding in apologetics, study these apologists, professors, theologians, philosophers, and authors.

Veracity’s Top 10 Scorers, 2015 Edition

Veracity's Top Scorer Award

It’s time again for that most prized of all personal discipleship honors, Veracity’s Top 10 Scorer Awards. (I know, I know…I can hardly stand the excitement either!)

There are lots of great resources for personal discipleship on the web and in bookstores, but these are the sources Clarke and I cite most frequently, and for good reason. They are the players who consistently “put the puck in the net.” No skating around the issues—just on-target discipleship. We listen to their podcasts, read their books, watch their debates, and benefit greatly from their teaching and personal examples. We don’t agree with everything each of them says or believes, and they wouldn’t want us to. But we are blessed by having studied them. They are, in our opinion, among the most influential proponents of the Christian faith today.

This year’s list includes pastors, philosophers, professors, theologians, apologists, an astrophysicist, several world-class scholars, some exceptionally gifted teachers, and a cop. (As in the past there are more than 10 winners on our Top 10 Scorers list because they all deserve the award.) Continue reading

Were the Crusaders Medieval Terrorists?

Beheadings. Torture. Kidnappings. Execution-style murders. Unspeakable acts of barbarism. Rape as a weapon of war.

Today’s headlines are filled with atrocities, many of them associated with radical Islam. For example, my initial reaction is that the masked faces behind ISIS are clearly the “bad guys”and people in the West are the “good guys.” And then something mind boggling like the execution-style murders of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina happens. It can get really confusing.

Examples of violence in history across the religious spectrum are invoked by journalists and political leaders in order to give us perspective. For many, the actions associated with extreme Islamic jihad are comparable to the aggressive militancy of the Crusades waged by Western Europeans in the Middle East during the medieval era. Countless readers of history, both from Christian and Islamic backgrounds, accept the narrative made famous by 20th century medieval historian Sir Steven Runciman that the Crusades remain the classic example of unprovoked, religious intolerance and unbridled fanaticism.

So, is this a fair comparison? Did the offensive actions of those medieval Crusaders provoke modern day extreme Islamic jihad? Or were the Crusades primarily intended to be an act of defense against the juggernaut advance of militant Islam over the preceding centuries?

Let’s face it. History can get really complicated, particularly when talking about violence, especially religiously motivated violence. How do we sort these things out?

Thomas F. Madden is a professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University. He is one of the leading academic historians on the Crusades. Many of the things Madden talks about regarding common misunderstandings of the Crusades may surprise you. Madden gave the following talk before a Catholic audience (here is a summary of his main points):

What is Lent?

I just came home from our church’s Ash Wednesday service, with some charcoal on my forehead, reminding me and others around me of our own mortality.

I know that many evangelical Christians do not celebrate Ash Wednesday, or the season of Lent, for that matter, because it is not directly taught within the Bible. I can understand that, but the unfortunate rumors that the season of Lent has pagan roots is without foundation. Instead, the practice of Lent is thoroughly grounded in a tradition begun in the early church, for which traditionally-minded liturgical churches continue to celebrate, along with a growing number of evangelical churches. So while the specific practice of Lent is not mentioned in the Bible, the concepts of repentance and self-examination as we prepare our hearts to meet the crucified and risen Christ celebrated on Easter Sunday are most definitely grounded in Scripture.

For more on the history of Ash Wednesday and Lent, see this Veracity posting from last year. Columbia Publishing House, an arm of the Missouri-Synod Lutheran Church, produced the following video, a short under-3-minute introduction to what Lent is all about:

HT: Gene Veith’s Cranach blog at


Stephen Colbert’s Approach to Skepticism

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert (Photo Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

 In 1974, when Colbert was 10, his father, a doctor, and his brothers Peter and Paul, the two closest to him in age, died in a plane crash while flying to a prep school in New England. “There’s a common explanation that profound sadness leads to someone’s becoming a comedian, but I’m not sure that’s a proven equation in my case,” he told me. “I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so.” He added, in a tone so humble and sincere that his character would never have used it: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Charles McGrath, “How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?” (New York Times, January 4, 2012)

In Clarke’s post on today’s most influential skeptics, he listed Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bart Ehrman and Bill Maher as models of certain types of skepticism. All of them have wide spheres of influence gained through publishing and/or media exposure. Three of them have hosted their own television shows. All of them are intelligent, most are witty, and some have intellectual adversaries. But before we see how Daniel B. Wallace refutes the theories of Bart Ehrman, or how William Lane Craig can give Richard Dawkins a dressing down, let’s see what Stephen Colbert can do with them.

Huh? Stephen Colbert? Really? Okay…cards on the table—I’ve never watched the Colbert Report, probably because sarcasm has never been one of my favorite flavors. But in looking for online material about today’s most influential skeptics, I tripped across several Stephen Colbert video interviews where he took on these very skeptics. Colbert’s comedy can go blue in an instant, and his language at times is inappropriate for genteel company, but his wit is undeniably sharp. And as you may infer from the New York Times excerpt at the beginning of this post, there is a lot more going on with Stephen Colbert than his on-air persona might indicate.

Anyway, here are some cleverly complex interviews where Colbert takes on the skeptics. There is real tradecraft here—he confronts the skeptics boldly without humiliating them. Most of these guests show up for multiple appearances (he interviewed Richard Dawkins and Bart Ehrman twice, and Neil deGrasse Tyson nine times). Some of his quips poke fun at shallow arguments for the very epistemology Colbert seeks to support, while demonstrating an insightful appreciation for apologetic arguments and contemporary skepticism. As W.C. Fields once quipped, “Comedy is serious business.” (Click through to start the video clips, and sensitive ears may want to opt out at this point.)

HT: Stephen Colbert, Clarke Morledge

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Interview

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Interview

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth Interview

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus Interview

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus Interview

Bart Ehrman, yyy

Bart Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted Interview

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