Tag Archives: Resurrection

Andy Stanley and Jeff Durbin: An “Unbelievable” Discussion About Apologetics

Veracity readers will know that I have posted several times about Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. Last month, my wife and I attended the Buckhead branch of Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta, Georgia. Though pastor Stanley was not preaching that week, it was eye-opening to experience how Stanley’s NorthPoint community network of churches function, to reach a large city like Atlanta.

Andy Stanley has become rather “infamous” for coining the phrase that Christians should “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament, a theme present in his bestselling book Irresistible. Despite what one might think of this controversy, Andy Stanley is more fundamentally known as a preacher who engages in what is called evidentialist apologetics, in an attempt to reach the non-believer with the Gospel. Evidentialist apologetics is a way of establishing common ground with a skeptical non-believer, seeking to share the Truth of Christ, by making an appeal to scientific and historical evidences that support the validity of the Christian faith. Some good examples of Christian apologists who make use of evidentialist apologetics include J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, Michael Licona, and the most well-known of them all, William Lane Craig.

In Andy Stanley’s particular approach, Andy Stanley says we should not start with the Bible, but rather start with the Resurrection of Jesus. We build our case for Christ by making a series of arguments in sequence, beginning with the reality of Christ’s resurrection, which leads to establishing the divine authority of Jesus, which then leads to the authority of the Bible, and its salvation message. The simplest way to put it is that it is the event of the Resurrection that gives us the text of the Bible, as we have it today, and not the other way around.

So, I was really excited to learn that Justin Brierley, of the British apologetics podcast, Unbelievable?, was able to get Andy Stanley together with presuppositionalist apologist Jeff Durbin, in order to discuss the nature of apologetics. In contrast with evidentialist apologetics, presuppositional apologetics takes a different approach, whereby you begin with the self-attestation of the truthfulness of Scripture first, and only then speak of the various doctrinal claims of the Christian faith, including Christ’s resurrection. Jeff Durbin himself is a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, who has been mentored by perhaps the most influential presuppositional apologist, of a Calvinist persuasion, of our day, James White, of Alpha Omega Ministries, also headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Durbin, a popular YouTube Reformed apologist, has the unique distinction of being cast in several martial arts movies.

While I do believe that presuppositionalist apologetics does have its place, I am more of an evidentialist. Perhaps that is because that is how God reached me with the Gospel. I tend to differ with Durbin’s brand of apologetics, as presuppositionalist apologetics often begs the question: How do you build a case for Jesus, based on the Bible, when the non-believer does not believe the Bible to be trustworthy in the first place?

Sure, you could begin an evangelistic discussion by asking your listener to pretend that the Bible is reliable and true. But there is a big gap between pretending to believe the Bible, versus actually believing the evidence that exists, to support the authenticity of its message.

Even Christians often come to the Bible with their own negative judgments. An evidentialist approach seeks to build a bridge, that can help the skeptic or puzzled Christian to rethink their own reason for looking down at the Bible, or certain parts of the Bible. A presuppositional approach works great, if the person shares the same presuppositions. But a purely presuppositional approach tends to lead people to talk right past one another. In the worst cases, the presuppositional approach blows up bridges instead of building bridges, in our evangelistic or discipleship conversations.

A more troublesome question for presuppositional apologetics is this: Why start with the Bible? Why not the Book of Mormon? Or the Koran? Or the Bhagavad Gita?

Even if you start with the Bible, as opposed to starting with the evidence for the Resurrection, you still have to figure out which systematic view of the Bible you plan to go with: A Calvinist view? An Arminian view? A dispensationalist view? A charismatic view? Which one?

Andy Stanley’s particular approach does have some problems, as I have discussed before, so it is great to have someone like a Jeff Durbin, with whom I still have more disagreements with, on the other side of the debate, to challenge him. In the end, it is quite clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to Christian apologetics that works for everyone. The discussion between Stanley and Durbin is great way to figure out where you stand, with respect to how you defend your faith, when engaging a skeptical non-believer. A riveting 90-minutes. This really is an amazing discussion!!


Why the New Testament Did Not Give Us Christianity (In 90 Seconds)

The New Testament did not give us the Resurrection; the Resurrection gave us the New Testament. Some Christians strangely think this is controversial. But this is spot on. Thanks, Frank Turek. It all comes down to the Risen Jesus.

Praise the Lord! HE IS RISEN INDEED!!


Resurrection Day!!

St. John’s Church in King William County, Virginia, one of the many historic, colonial era churches, where the altar always faces East.

If you drive around parts of rural Virginia, the state where I live, you will find a number of churches built in the pre-Revolutionary War era. Nearly all of these old churches have one thing in common: the church altar faces east. The great, historic cathedrals of western Europe do the same.

Why? In Mark 16:1-2, we read that Jesus’ women disciples went out to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus with spices, at sunrise, only to find out that Christ had already risen. As a result, Christians have historically associated the Resurrection with the sun rising out of the east, in hopes that believers will one day share in that very same Resurrection that Jesus experienced, some 2,000 years ago. Many churches even today continue this tradition by having sunrise services on Easter morning. In fact, the word for Easter has the same root from which we get the English word for east.

Now some try to overly complicate this by associating Easter with having pagan origins, a tale which can be easily debunked (see here, here, and here). But, if it makes people feel better, just substitute the Scriptural Greek word pascha, transliterated from the Hebrew word for passover, as used by the Eastern Orthodox, or call it “Resurrection Day.” Whatever.

The point is: Do not get hung up on a word like Easter. Instead, please focus on what the concept behind the word means. Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, because it gives us the great hope, that one day, we too will inherit Resurrected bodies. For a quick five-minute summary on the meaning of Resurrection Day, Easter, or Pascha, here is Bible scholar Ben Witherington.

In the meantime, let us celebrate remember the meaning of Resurrection Day: HE IS RISEN!


The Case for Christ: Easter for Believers and Skeptics

Leslie and Lee Strobel, 1972, back when they dismissed the Resurrection as a fraudulent delusion.

“He is Risen!” Historical event or fraudulent delusion?

If you are the type of person who has had questions about the veracity of the Christian faith, then go see this movie. Better yet, take an open skeptic with you.

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of an atheistic journalist, whose life is turned upside down when his wife becomes a follower of Jesus. Lee Strobel, an accomplished reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a “just the facts, ma’am,” type of guy, is desperately afraid of losing his marriage and family, so he begins a long journey to try to disprove Christianity in order to “save” his wife from the error of her ways.

The Case for Christ is a major, major step up from movies like God’s Not Dead, that ambitiously relies on the composite characterizing of atheists, unnecessarily fueling the fires of culture war rhetoric. Furthermore, unlike other recent film offerings, The Case for Christ does not get distracted by the logic of false dichotomies either. Instead, The Case for Christ, focuses on two themes: (1) making the case for the Resurrection of Jesus, based on the minimal facts argument, built on the consensus of evidence found in secular, historical scholarship, and (2) exploring how human prejudices interplay with the tension between faith and reason.

The Case for Christ is not for everyone, and I can think of two, very different types of people who fit within this category. First, if you are a skeptic, and you are completely opposed to considering the evidence for the Resurrection, The Case for Christ will absolutely frustrate you. But you probably will not like any other Christian-themed movies either.

Secondly, The Case for Christ will underwhelm the Christian who feels like they already have all of the answers, and who never wrestles with doubts. The film simply leaves open the question of why the different Gospel accounts are not 100% agreed upon the discrete events surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Many a Christian evidentialist would reason that the existence of discrepancies between the Gospels enhances their historical credibility, instead of taking away from it, an argument that makes good sense to historians, but that will unsettle the most strict, biblical inerrantist. The evidence from textual criticism, that upholds the reliability of first century New Testament documents, will annoy the Christian who merely believes that the English Bible in their hand simply dropped straight down right out of heaven. But for believers and non-believers who are willing to ask penetrating questions, The Case for Christ is right for them.

The Case for Christ is not perfect, by any means. For example, as this Forbes magazine reviewer observes, the discussion about the Shroud of Turin was not very convincing. Plus, there is only so much you can do in a two-hour movie, as this review at The Gospel Coalition points out (check out these “The Case for Easter” resources). Because of the limitations of the medium, the events surrounding Lee Strobel’s journey towards faith and overcoming skepticism have been tightly compressed in the film, and this might confuse some. Strobel’s interviews with experts happened after his conversion to Christian faith, and not before, as depicted in the movie.

But overall, The Case for Christ does a very good job with making an apologetic argument for the Christian faith, based on evidences, within the context of a believable narrative, without getting too bogged down with the details. Get the book that the movie is based on, if you want to go to that level. If I had to recommend one movie that you can take a non-believing friend to see, without embarrassment, The Case for Christ would be it.


The Fear of Death

Bruton Parish Church courtyard... where my parents remains are buried.

Bruton Parish Church courtyard… where my parents remains are buried.

There is …a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance (from Ecclesiastes 1:1-8).

Over the past year, I have lost both of my parents to death. Less than a month ago, my dad died. It has been very interesting, watching the reactions of people who hear the news. Cordially, everyone is sorry for my loss. But it is astonishing how many folks will then gloss over the reality of death in their efforts to be nice to me.

For example, I am quite frank in saying that my father died. But most people I run into would rather talk euphemistically about someone’s passing instead. I am sure it is a desire to be polite and not offend a grieving person, but when someone passes, what does that really mean? Does that really tell the truth about death?

Here is a list of some sentiments that have been expressed to me over the past month:

“At least there is an end to your dad’s suffering. There is too much suffering in the world.”

“Your dad is in a better place. He is with your mother now.”

“Your dad is looking down upon you now… and smiling!”

All of these are quite bold statements, if you think about them. How do we know there is no suffering after death? How do we know that a loved-one is in a happier, better place, with others that are also loved… and smiling? Are any of these assertions true?

A curious one is that both my mom and dad are together now, implying that they are still married in the afterlife. But according to classic Bible teaching in Matthew 22:23-33, the bonds of matrimony are terminated upon death. Mormons, however, do believe that marriage goes on into eternity, but my parents were never Mormons, though we did have some Mormon missionaries knock on our door once back in 1978. I think they gave my mom some kind of pamphlet while my dad snuck out the back door to go cut the grass.

So, what then is the basis for the truthfulness of any of these assertions? Is scientific substantiation possible? Is it through some sort of revelation from a divine being, an intervention into human history? Or is it through the speculation offered by one’s own wishful thinking? How reliable is that? Could it be, that such sentimentality is a type of coping mechanism designed to take our minds off of what we fear the most?
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