Part 3: New Issues in Apologetics
Chapter 16: A Christian Political Apologetic: Why, What, and How
Jennifer A. Marshall notes how political debates are increasingly intertwined with what the Bible teaches about human existence. Christians should not disengage from politics, particularly in a free society where the people are given a great deal of responsibility for what happens in government. Rather, “A biblical worldview should shape our diagnosis of the problems politics seeks to address and our vision of how to resolve them.” The Bible has plenty of resources for understanding the make up of human beings and their orderly interactions with one another. Human flourishing is one of many major biblical concepts with a direct bearing upon society.
The Bible teaches that individuals are created in the image of God, male and female, made for each other, more than material beings. The Bible also gives insight into the nature of authority and the roles and responsibilities of various institutions – like family, church, and government. A biblical worldview has quite a bit to say about justice, and one way to summarize it is right relationships among institutions and individuals. Scripture also makes clear the existence of transcendent truth and morality. These ideas about individuals in a community and the persistence of the moral order should make a difference in a Christian’s convictions about the common good.
Scripture is not silent about family, marriage, the church, or moral law, all of which relate to politics. Marshall offers an example of a Christian politic by applying Scripture to the problem of poverty. She concludes by saying that Christians should seek human flourishing for the sake of their neighbors, not selfishly guided self-interest.
Chapter 17: An Assessment of the Present State of Historical Jesus Studies
Michael Licona discusses the Jesus of history, the real Jesus, and the Jesus of the Gospels, although he does not believe the three are in conflict. Licona sets forth a number of criteria for historical Jesus studies and claims that demanding certainty from such principles is simply a misunderstanding of how historical research works. He then addresses the phenomenon of Jesus “mythers,” those who claim Jesus never existed, but are easily discredited. He concludes that in a world where more sophisticated skeptical arguments are readily available through the Internet, and people are easily offended, we should adjust our apologetic presentations to appeal more to them.
Chapter 18: How to Question the Bible in a Post-Christian Culture
The Bible is no longer widely accepted as the authority it once was. Christians must realize that it’s okay to come to the Bible with questions, seeking to deepen our faith rather than destroy it. Christians should have ready answers to common objections about the Christian faith, such as the idea that Christianity was invented, and the idea that the Bible is morally suspect, outdated, and perhaps wicked. Questioning the Bible means a person is searching for the truth, which the Bible leads to, or searching for something else altogether different. The latter produces questions which Christians cannot answer.
Chapter 19: Entrepreneurs: An Economic Apologetic for the Faith
Jay W. Richards posits the explanatory value of Christian theology in other fields as an apologetic. Describing how this apologetic works out, Richards writes, “the apologist treats a concept drawn from theology as a hypothesis or heuristic, and attempts to show that the theological concept explains some fact in another field better than the alternatives.” While many works have sought to integrate theology and economics, few have likewise discussed the relationship between economics and apologetics. Economics are virtually all-encompassing as they involve “trading, buying, selling, innovating, creating, risking, competing, and cooperating for goods, services, and information.” Since the fields of apologetics and economics are so large, Richards focuses on one aspect of economics, entrepreneurs, to provide an example of his apologetic. He explains, “What is needed is a theory that fully accounts for what we know about real entrepreneurs.” Economists debate whether entrepreneurs are born or made but typically disregard the Christian teaching that humans are created in the image of God. This doctrine accounts for the creative causal power of entrepreneurs who are unpredictably innovative and depend less upon the materials they use than they do upon their resourcefulness as human beings.
Chapter 20: Telling the Truth About Sex in a Broken Culture
John Stonestreet writes about several broken approaches to discipling students about sex, including using fear, using rallies, and making up romanticized marital endings for those who save sex for marriage. Stonestreet labels this last approach “Princess Theology” and rejects it because the Bible does not teach it, it is inconsistent with human nature, and it is unsustainable in our current culture. In light of the failure of these three approaches to human sexuality and our sexually broken context, Stonestreet suggests rethinking how biblical sexuality is communicated by the church. Sexuality tends to be experienced by younger and younger children as the result of predatory pornography. Private and unfettered access to sexually explicit material is readily available without public accountability. Stonestreet suggests churches disciple their people in the biblical understanding of sexuality and counter wrong views of themes associated with sexuality within our culture. As Christians, we can offer hope, healing, and forgiveness to the sexually broken through the gospel.
Chapter 21: Being Authentically Christian on the LGBT Issue
Glenn T. Stanton starts his chapter off reminding his readers of the need to be both gracious and truthful. He writes, “As much as possible, always deal with the person in grace and the issue itself in truth.” Stanton encourages making friends with “at least one same-sex identified person outside of your own family.” This allows one to work for fairness in representing and talking to others and also allows for opportunities to discuss what Christ has done. Stanton says “The LGBT issue for the church is not about same-sex sexuality. It’s not about the gay lobby. It is truly all about the authority and integrity of divine Scriptures and the lordship and teaching of Jesus himself. These two things are what really matter, and any effort to challenge them must be resisted.” Christians must come to a sturdy understanding of biblical anthropology if they are to have a solid grasp of biblical sexuality. Jesus indirectly addressed homosexuality when he addressed human sexuality from the foundational principles on marriage and sexual unions set forth in the book of Genesis. Stanton argues “we must apologize for our genuine mistreatment of others, but we should not assume or necessarily believe the rhetoric that the Christians are the mean, abusive ones.” The complexities of sexuality do not lend themselves well to the claim that people are “born gay,” and Stanton discourages anyone from accepting that lie, especially since it tends to reduce somebody’s identity to sexuality alone. Likewise, the comparison of Christians to racists of the Jim Crow era is an unacceptable falsehood that is insulting to anyone who understands the injustice African-Americans fought for so many decades. Further, male and female are not optional for the family. Finally, we must not falsely assume that our LGBT friends are not looking for something better than what they have.
Chapter 22: Transgender: Truth and Compassion
Alan Shlemon argues that a biblical and scientific knowledge about transgender people will make us increasingly compassionate toward them. Shelmon summarizes biblical principles and scientific observations that pertain to transgenderism before explaining biology, gender, and transgenderism in depth. Shlemon recommends prioritizing friendships with transgender people, applying expectations to them consistent with whether they claim Christ or not, and focusing on the gospel.
Chapter 23: An Apologetic for Religious Liberty
James Tonkowich claims religious freedom in America is in danger. Freedom of religion is distinctly different from “religious toleration” and “freedom of worship.” Freedom of religion stems from the freedom of choice God grants us with respect to religion and is recognized by governments that practice justice. Tonkowich writes, “Take away the right to make up our own minds about matters relating to life, morality, and God and what is left is servitude, not freedom. If the government can control our thoughts, convictions, and consciences, we are in bondage of the worst sort, and living in bondage is contrary to the gift of freedom that goes with our human nature.” Tonkowich anticipates an objection to freedom of religion that paints the doctrine as nothing more than an excuse to get away with anything. Laws protecting freedom of religion do not operate in such a way as to allow a religious excuse for just anything. Tonkowich closes his chapter by pointing out religious freedom is for everyone, and “The most important religious freedom to protect is not the freedom of the majority but the freedom of minority religions, unpopular religions, and religions that challenge conventional ideas.”
Chapter 24: Advocating Intelligent Design with Integrity, Grace, and Effectiveness
Casey Luskin makes the case for utilizing apologetic arguments from Intelligent Design. Luskin writes, “Intelligent design is a scientific theory that holds that many features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection. ID aims to discriminate between objects generated by material mechanisms and those caused by intelligence.” Both biology and physics provide evidence for the ID advocate. The main question asked in ID pertains to where new information comes from. Luskin claims, “When ID critics do offer evidence-based rebuttals, they typically fall into one of three categories: inadequate, wrong, or they unwittingly confirm ID.” By way of example, Luskin evaluates a number of common responses to ID arguments and shows where they go wrong. Luskin notes some of the quality research carried out in the area of ID and describes how to graciously handle heated replies to ID arguments before commenting on a court case in 2005 where ID was incorrectly defined and dismissed by the court as religious when in fact ID does not merely target evolution and does not posit supernatural causes of design in instances of complexity. For these reasons, ID is worth defending and worth distinguishing from creationism, which attempts to reconcile Scripture with science, and theistic evolution, which posits a universe the ‘creation’ of which was apparently unguided, a premise completely opposite that of ID.
Chapter 25: The Scientific Naturalist Juggernaut and What to Do About It
Scott Smith writes on the view known as naturalism, “the view that the natural or physical/material is all that exists. There is no supernatural realm nor are there any immaterial beings or any nonphysical ‘essential natures,’ like a human soul that all humans universally have in common. There are only particular bits of matter in particular combinations.” Naturalism entails that the mind is the same thing as the brain, that religious and moral values are relative, and that the nature of a thing is never essential. Smith offers numbers, moral laws, free choice, and rationality as difficulties to a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism has crept into churches because evangelicals sought to demonstrate the scientific respectability of Christianity, began to view the world as a closed system of laws, revered Francis Bacon and his inductive methodology, and believed certainty possible through the powers of reasoning alone due to modernity. These developments have driven Christians away from a more supernatural understanding of the Christian faith that is consistent with Scripture.
Chapter 26: Water that Satisfies the Muslim’s Thirst
Abdu Murray tells a story of entering a mosque to speak on the topic of the Word of God. Working from Colossians 4:5-6, he states up front that apologists are called to answer people, not necessarily questions. He writes, “I’m convinced that the key to apologetics today is to identify what non-Christians thirst for most and show how the Christian faith alone can slake that thirst.” Murray goes on to tell more of his story about speaking in the mosque, explaining how he identified beliefs about the nature of Allah and the nature of God that are similar before moving on to demonstrating that the Qur’an would lead Muslims to receive the Christian Bible as reliable. He continued his presentation by looking at the manuscript evidence corroborating the textual reliability of the Bible. His Muslim audience was left with few options, for if God was great as they supposed, then he could preserve his word. If God was trustworthy as they supposed, then he would preserve his word. Murray explains that his hope and goal was to offer his Muslim audience satisfaction for their thirst in the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully recorded in the Christian Bible. That hope comes through the highest ethic of self-sacrificing love found in Christianity alone.
Chapter 27: But… What About Other Religions?
Tanya Walker addresses some of the difficulties of religious pluralism. She seeks to answer concerns arising from “errors of logic, concerns about character, and the question of destination.” Walker notices several logical problems with pluralism, since it supposedly affirms all religions as true while at the same time and in the same respect precluding the truth of religions with a claim to exclusivity. Meanwhile, denying truth altogether is only possible if one affirms some ‘truth,’ namely, the ‘truth’ that there is no truth. Still others conflate certainty of faith with arrogance, when the two are not the same. Still, we must make sure of the truth of what we are saying, the content we set forth, and the manner in which we share it. Interacting with those of other religious faiths also reminds us not only that Jesus is the only way to God, but that speaking of every religion leading to God is vacuous, especially since not every religion even claims for itself that it leads to God.