Wish I’d been there for this event.
HT: Reasonable Faith
Wish I’d been there for this event.
HT: Reasonable Faith
Poll results consistently show that approximately three-quarters of American adults believe in God, with some polls reporting more than 90 percent belief. Given such a strong majority, what is the value of studying arguments for the existence of God? Far fewer people believe that Jesus is the only way, or that the Resurrection was an actual, historical event. Why not concentrate on apologetic arguments targeted at religious pluralism or historical evidence for the Resurrection?
Simply this. There are powerful arguments for the existence of God, and the value of learning these arguments is not limited to being able to defend theism against the minority of adults who believe atheism is true. Studying these arguments can produce strong reinforcement of the Christian faith, and a much deeper appreciation for the nature, power, and character of God.
A more insightful question might be, “Why are there so many Christians who have never heard or considered the classical arguments for the existence of God?” Continue reading
One of the most well-known liberal critics belonging to the Jesus Seminar died on January 21, 2015, Marcus Borg. Marcus Borg was an influential writer in liberal Protestant circles, such as in my late father-in-law’s church in the last years of his life, but with respect to Borg’s conservative evangelical critics, like Dallas Seminary’s Darrell Bock, Borg was a respectful and friendly dialogue partner.
My first encounter with Marcus Borg was in a highly recommended book he co-wrote with Anglican scholar N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. N.T. Wright defended an evangelical orthodox position affirming the virgin birth of Jesus, the divinity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of the Lord. Marcus Borg denied ALL of these doctrines of the faith, but he nevertheless endeavoured to identify himself as a Christian, something that most evangelicals find incomprehensible. Borg aligned himself with the Jesus Seminar, which was notoriously known to gather together regularly to “vote” on which statements in the Gospels were actually authentic or inauthentic. Evangelical critics of the Jesus Seminar noted that was basically like using a democratic system of decision-making in order to establish what is true versus what is false, relying on the wisdom of man as opposed to the wisdom of God as revealed in inspired, sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, Borg was always rather cordial in his disagreements with his conservative evangelical dialogue partners.
Gospel Coalition author and blogger Derek Rishmawy best describes the Protestant liberal mindset as of “those who can at best recite the creeds with their fingers crossed. Having embraced the various presuppositions of Enlightenment and postmodern thinking, they are skeptical of supernatural claims and often doubt the very idea of objective truth.” Those who identify themselves as “liberal Christians,” like Marcus Borg, can say that they believe in Jesus, but when honestly challenged, their doubts regarding the supernatural get in the way of them having a full confidence of the genuine reality of a personal Lord and Savior in their lives…well, maybe the theologically sophisticated like Marcus Borg can somehow convince themselves, but in my experience the typical pew sitters in a liberal congregation under the influence of Borg and his followers find it difficult to overcome their doubts.
I, on the other hand, contend that there are other ways to address the question of doubt, as opposed to the way Borg sought to do it. While I am sympathetic that doubt is always something that challenges us in our faith, we can nevertheless move through our doubts and have the confident assurance that “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirt who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) … and this is no mere “spiritual” resurrection. It is bodily full and real! Seeking to move through our doubts is part of the journey of personal discipleship behind the purpose of this Veracity blog.
In honor of this friendly liberal critic, it might be worth observing this classic debate between William Lane Craig and Marcus Borg on the topic, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” Though I do not agree with Marcus Borg, it is nevertheless important to learn from this exchange how to challenge this way of thinking in a manner that is gentle and respectful.
John’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed). I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.
John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).
But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics. Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!
Last weekend Marion and I drove to Atlanta to visit our son and daughter-in-law. On the long drive down we listened to William Lane Craig’s podcasts, specifically his Defenders series.
Dr. Craig is one of the premier voices in contemporary Christianity and is quite likely the strongest debater to oppose atheists around the globe. Whether you agree with his views or not, he cannot be dismissed offhand. He has published scores of books, teaches in seminaries, is routinely interviewed in national and international media, and has debated many of the world’s most popular atheists. So it’s somewhat surprising that with all he has got going on he has made a sacrificial time commitment to teach a Sunday school class.
Marion and I popped over to Marietta to sit in on the class and were welcomed by everyone in attendance, particularly by Jan Craig, who is a vital part of her husband’s ministry. We had a warm discussion after the class about how Reasonable Faith functions. It really is remarkable how much they are able to accomplish. The time and financial demands are enormous, so please pray for them and their ministry.
Dr. Craig’s material, including the entire Defenders series, is available at ReasonableFaith.org. The audio files are loaded within a day or so of the class, and the videos are loaded about a month later. There is a large catalog already available online.
If you’ve tried listening to Dr. Craig’s podcasts before, you may have come across some very heady philosophy. After all, he is a professional philosopher. But these Sunday school classes are disentangled—aimed at a target audience of intelligent Bible students, not the academic intelligentsia.
Dr. Craig has been producing his current Defenders series since 2009. This series on Christian doctrine and apologetics has become an epic work. The material is quite refreshing. He presents both sides of opposing doctrinal views fairly and respectfully, without sidestepping his positions. Those of us who have studied under Dick Woodward will find Dr. Craig’s Defenders series to be the perfect complement to Dick’s Mini Bible College series. Dick used to say his goal was to, “Put the cookies on the bottom shelf,” and he was masterful at doing so. If you have studied the Mini Bible College, you might think of the Defenders series as graduate school.
Did I ever imagine I would be interested in Christian doctrine? Nope, never—not many people are, really. But the more I read and study, the more I realize how vitally important sound doctrine and theology are to biblical understanding. Dr. Craig’s Defenders series is not some esoteric exercise for eggheads and theologians, but a profound labor of love that puts the Christian faith within reach of those who are willing to study and think.
If we want to share the Christian faith we must first understand what that faith really is—and we have to be prepared to defend it. The apostle Peter exhorted us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Doctrine and apologetics…a powerful combination.
HT: Jan and William Lane Craig