Apologetic Resources

Here are just some of the great resources I’ve found over the years, and here they are in no particular order (compiling this short list here does not necessarily mean I wholly subscribe to all the associated groups or persons’ theology, just that they have some very important things to say that are nevertheless, worthwhile and valuable):

mdaxresdefault (1)John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, is an internationally renowned speaker on the interface of science, philosophy and religion. He regularly teaches at many academic institutions including the Said Business School, Wycliffe Hall and the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, as well as also being a Senior Fellow with the Trinity Forum. He has written a series of books exploring the relationship between science and Christianity and he has also participated in a number of televised debates with some of the world?s leading atheist thinkers.

 

resources-hero

Here is John Lennox debating with Richard Dawkins – you’re going to need to get comfortable with a drink and a biscuit to listen to this:

 

World-class apologist William Lane Craig at Reasonable Faith.  This site aims to  about-img-2provide in the public arena an intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious Christian perspective on the most important issues concerning the truth of the Christian faith today, such as:

the existence of God

the meaning of life

the objectivity of truth

the foundation of moral values

the creation of the universe

intelligent design

the reliability of the Gospels

the uniqueness of Jesus

the historicity of the resurrection

the challenge of religious pluralism

I particularly enjoyed Protestant Craig’s recent 2018 discussion with the really excellent Catholic evangelist and scholar Bishop Robert Barron:

 

Alistair McGrathAndreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford 

846University; Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford; Author of some of the world’s leading textbooks in Christian theology; Extensive research interests in the field of science and religion, is a well known theologian and apologist, has a website with all sorts of resources here.  I recently welcomed him into his parking space at London School of Theology for an evening talk he gave on C. S. Lewis and evangelism.

 

20180515_160218

Don’t even ask me where I had to park my car!

 

Closer To Truth presents the world’s greatest thinkers exploring humanity’s deepest questions. Discover fundamental issues of existence. Engage new and diverse ways of thinking. Appreciate intense debates. Share your own opinions. Seek your own answers.

Closer To Truth’s resource-rich website features over 4,000 video interviews with world-renowned scientists and philosophers searching the vital ideas of existence. It is the definitive source for cosmos, consciousness and meaning (God), exploring profound questions of universe, brain/mind, religion, and the search for ultimate reality and purpose.

 

Catholic apologist Brandon Vogt has a great site called Strange Notions.  Vogt tells us this is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It’s built around three things: reason, faith, and dialogue. You’ll find articles, videos, and rich comment box discussion concerning life’s Big Questions. . . . We’ve all seen the nastiness and anger that plague most religious discussions online. It’s unavoidable. Myriad sites exist solely to bash Christianity—specifically Catholicism—and other [Christian] sites take aim at atheists. So if you’re looking for an echo chamber, or a good laugh at someone else’s expense, you have plenty of options.  He also writes under his own name here.

download

Brandon Vogt is associated with Bishop Robert Barron, founder at Word on Fire ministries, again a fantastic evangelical Catholic resource with the highest quality teaching on theology, atheism, the contemporary world and tons of other stuff.  Bishop Barron also has a very popular YouTube channel here.

 

 

Justin Brierley hosts the excellent podcast and website Unbelievable?  Asking questions such as:

  • Is there evidence for God? Can we trust the Bible? Did Jesus rise from the dead?
  • Justin tackles these and other issues, on a show that gets Christians and non-believers talking to each other.

Unbelievable-Show-Image-Main_article_image

 

UK evangelist Glen Scrivener has a missional website called Speak Life with all sorts of things to help equip Christians, including these great videos.  Here’s the excellent 3-2-1 film Glen produced a few years ago, also check out his Christmas and Halloween vids too – great!

 

No-one can accuse Peter Hitchins of being gullible!  Over at Premier Christianity he explains his journey from atheism to Christian faith, the account of which is told in his excellent book:  The Rage Against God.

 

I bumped into him crossing a zebra crossing a couple of years ago in Oxford.  No one was hurt!

 

David Bentley Hart is an American Eastern Orthodox theologian of the highest order.  He’s all over the internet, especially First Things and YouTube.  He has authored many outstanding books including Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God.  

 

 

Below is an interview in which he discusses atheism’s best arguments.  This Thomist line of enquiry is so important today because it is rare indeed that much of what passes for “atheism” even knows what it is opposing or rejecting when attempting to challenge “Christianity.”

 

C. S. Lewis was influenced by G. K. Chesterton and both intellectuals came to Christian faith – Lewis Anglican and Chesterton Catholic – and they each wrote now famous accounts of the why and wherefore of Christianity.  Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy – both masterpieces in their own right.

 

 

Below is a very clever YouTube clip of C. S. Lewis wring about Religion and Science, from his book God in the Dock.

 

The psychologist Jordan Peterson is now very well known for his biblical lectures, which can all be found free online.  It is the way he narrates the ancient biblical text into his methodology, taking it with far more seriousness and credibility than most of what passes for atheism today; a pop-culture atheism that shows time and again it is out of its philosophical and theological depth.  Below is a great analysis of Peterson by the above named Bishop Robert Barron:

 

From the Reformed evangelical tradition comes the Theology Network site, a product of the UCCF, a UK based inter-denominational Christian education ministry.  From their website we read:  “Such is the vision of Theology Network: to unleash the best biblical teaching so that students and all users might come to know and love the Lord Jesus in deeper, life-changing, mission-igniting ways. We’re inviting you to read and listen, to engage your head, your heart, and your will. We’re inviting you to our little gospel centre that you might know God better, love Jesus more, and join the revolution that is doing theology.”

theologynetwork

 

Josh McDowell’s ministry was probably the first I ever came across as a young, bewildered adult Christian (I remember my dad devouring his book ‘Evidence That Demands a Verdict’ soon after he came to (mid-life) saving faith in the 1980’s).  The Apologetics section of Josh McDowell’s website josh.org is packed with great resources.

When I lived in Cairo, Egypt, I attended a great talk by Josh at the big Evangelical Egyptian Church Kasr El-Dobara in Downtown Cairo (the City Centre, if like me, you’re a Brit).  My youngest child Samuel, then 8 years old (2005), was with me and because we were all new to the missionary/Cairo scene was on my lap the whole time (about two hours of lecture).  Afterwards Josh was kind enough to commend me for “the lovely nurturing of my child” – something I’ve never forgotten – so thanks!

He has also authored a great PDF resource called the ‘Bibliographical Test‘ that I’ve used in teaching:

“The bibliographical test examines manuscript reliability and for more than a generation, Christian apologists have employed it to substantiate the transmissional reliability of the Bible. The bibliographical test compares
the closeness of the Old and New Testament’s oldest extant manuscripts to its autographs (the date each book was originally penned) and the sheer number of the Biblical extant manuscripts with the number and earliness of extant manuscripts or other ancient documents like Homer, Aristotle, Herodotus and so on. Since the Bible outstrips every other ancient manuscript in sheer number and earliness to the autograph, then the
Old and New Testaments have a solid basis to evaluate how accurately they have been transmitted.”

 

Over at Ben Myers blog Faith and Theology, Kim Fabricius offers ten thoughts on the new-atheists, and invites “them” to consider certain matters that might otherwise have been ignored or overlooked.  In fact his entire set of Propositions have been published and are a most excellent and edifying read.

Faith+theology+banner+4

Ten propositions on Richard Dawkins and the new atheists

Here’s a snippet of one of his “Propositions”:

“…Professor Dawkins is not just angry with Christians, with particular dismay at scientists who are Christians, who, of course, are huge flies in his ointment (at the word “Polkinghorne” he grinds his teeth). Dawkins also gets angry with fellow scientists on scientific matters. One of his most bitter and public altercations was with the late Stephen Jay Gould, the famous Harvard palaeontologist. The religious affairs correspondent Andrew Brown wrote a book documenting this rabies biologorum: it’s called The Darwin Wars. So you’ve got to be fair to Dawkins, he is evenly balanced: he has a chip on both shoulders.”

Postscript:   Whilst editing this post ready for publishing, I heard that Kim had unexpectedly died.  Our deepest sympathies to his family and his army of followers whom he strengthened with genuine theological education and a mass of humour!!

 

thinkgodMy former tutor and Vice-Principal at Bristol Baptist College, Rev. Dr. Ernest Lucas is a scientist and a biblical scholar.  He has written an extremely accessible conversational style book on Christian faith and modern science called ‘Think God, Think Science’ and can be purchased for the price of three Flat Whites brand new, or for second hand, with whatever you can dredge from the sofa!   Here is a paper he has written entitled ‘The Bible, Science and Creation‘.

 

Atheists Take Note (this Easter)…

Gralefrit Theology

Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter

church

This is a re-post of Dr John Dickson’s excellent challenge to Atheists to up their game in their critique of Christianity:

There is a dissonance between Christ’s “love your enemies” and Moses’ “slay the wicked”.

Atheists should drop their easily dismissed scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity, and instead quiz believers about Old Testament violence and hell, writes John Dickson.

As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism. So it’s only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

In the interests of a more robust debate this Easter, I (Dr John Dickson) want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith. I’ve got some advice on arguments that should be dropped and some admissions about where Christians are vulnerable.

Tip #1. Dip into…

View original post 1,925 more words

I bumped into a JW…..

I bumped into a JW…..

…..and it didn’t hurt.  They were a trio of lovely people.  One of whom I had met several times until, I suspect, she (a 70+ Italian living in England) was banned from visiting me; I can only assume that was the case, since her frequent visits stopped so suddenly.  It may have been my poor tea making ability, but in all honesty, I do pride myself on making pretty dang good tea!

Anyhoo, the trio were loitering around the cliffs of Devon whence I came upon them.  I have a love for these people “of faith” and tried to convey as much.  As soon as it was revealed, like a dirty secret on EastEnders, that I was a “Christian”, and worse, a “Baptist minister”, well, all manner of gehenna and rotten-exegesis broke loose.

I wanted to go down the relational, friendly, understanding, “liberal”, loving route, but was thwarted by the doctinaire police from the school of eisegetical proof-texting sloganeering.  I really wanted to love these beloved personages towards the love of God, but they seemed intent, bent…..hell-bent on bringing to the fore an apocalyptic Hebrew Scriptural Hermeneutic that astounded, but sadly, didn’t surprise me.

What do I mean, I hear you sigh?  Well, for one, the strength of their apologetic was rooted in an Old Testament apocalyptic rhetoric of judgment and retribution.  I know full well there are Pslams (other genre are available) that betray a particular aspect of sin and judgment and wotnot.  But, for the love of God, the love of God was not so much a silent witness, as more a total absentee; more AWOL than anything else (“You weren’t there man!”)

When asked what the primary message of Jesus was, it turned out to be a revenge attack on the wicked and immoral.  I asked, in all seriousness, with a straight face, “Did the coming of Jesus make any difference?”  “Yes!” they replied, before quoting extensively from the imprecatory Psalms.

My heart sank, whilst my eyebrows rose and my toes curled.  Jesus didn’t make a difference from a pre-Gospel; pre-incarnation; pre-logos-becoming-flesh text.

“Didn’t Jehovah say we will be his witnesses?”  Indeed my ill-learned friend, he did (Isaiah 43:10).  But why fixate on an Old Testament text when you could fixate on a New Testament text:  “…and you will be my (Jesus’) witnesses in Judea, Samaria….everywhere…”  (Acts 1:8).  Jehovah’s Witnesses-Jesus wtnesses….oh my brain can’t cope with this theological explication! 

What a great eye-brow was raised that day!  Like I’d invented the verse.  Anyway, that’s (not) a moot point.  The point is this.  Given the apocalypyical legerdemain, I thought I’d ask a simple question to my three friends, the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

“Where are the Jehovah’s Witness between AD 100 and when Charles Taze Russell decided to have a go in the 1870’s?”

Continue reading

Atheists Take Note (this Easter)…

Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter

church

This is a re-post of Dr John Dickson’s excellent challenge to Atheists to up their game in their critique of Christianity:

There is a dissonance between Christ’s “love your enemies” and Moses’ “slay the wicked”.

Atheists should drop their easily dismissed scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity, and instead quiz believers about Old Testament violence and hell, writes John Dickson.

As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism. So it’s only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

In the interests of a more robust debate this Easter, I (Dr John Dickson) want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith. I’ve got some advice on arguments that should be dropped and some admissions about where Christians are vulnerable.

Tip #1. Dip into Christianity’s intellectual tradition

This is the 1,984th Easter since 7 April AD 30, the widely accepted date among historians for the crucifixion of Jesus (the 1,981st if you find the arguments for 3 April AD 33 persuasive). Christians have been pondering this stuff for a long time. They’ve faced textual, historical, and philosophical scrutiny in almost every era, and they have left a sophisticated literary trail of reasons for the Faith.

My first tip, then, is to gain some awareness of the church’s vast intellectual tradition. It is not enough to quip that ‘intellectual’ and ‘church’ are oxymoronic. Origen, Augustine, Philoponus, Aquinas, and the rest are giants of Western thought. Without some familiarity with these figures, or their modern equivalents – Pannenberg, Ward, MacIntrye, McGrath, Plantinga, Hart, Volf – popular atheists can sound like the kid in English class, “Miss, Shakespeare is stupid!”

Tip #2. Notice how believers use the word ‘faith’

One of the things that becomes apparent in serious Christian literature is that no one uses ‘faith’ in the sense of believing things without reasons. That might be Richard Dawkins’ preferred definition – except when he was publicly asked by Oxford’s Professor John Lennox whether he had ‘faith’ in his lovely wife – but it is important to know that in theology ‘faith’ always means personal trust in the God whose existence one accepts on other grounds. I think God is real for philosophical, historical, and experiential reasons. Only on the basis of my reasoned conviction can I then trust God – have faith in him – in the sense meant in theology.

Tip #3. Appreciate the status of 6-Day Creationism

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Kraus have done a disservice to atheism by talking as though 6-Day Creationism is the default Christian conviction. But mainstream Christianities for decades have dismissed 6-Day Creationism as a misguided (if well-intentioned) project. Major conservative institutions like Sydney’s Moore Theological College, which produces more full time ministers than any college in the country, have taught for years that Genesis 1 was never intended to be read concretely, let alone scientifically. This isn’t Christians retreating before the troubling advances of science. From the earliest centuries many of the greats of Judaism (e.g., Philo and Maimonides) and Christianity (e.g., Clement, Ambrose, and Augustine) taught that the ‘six days’ of Genesis are a literary device, not a marker of time.

Tip #4. Repeat after me: no theologian claims a god-of-the-gaps

One slightly annoying feature of New Atheism is the constant claim that believers invoke God as an explanation of the ‘gaps’ in our knowledge of the universe: as we fill in the gaps with more science, God disappears. Even as thoughtful a man as Lawrence Kraus, a noted physicist, did this just last month on national radio following new evidence of the earliest moments of the Big Bang.

But the god-of-the-gaps is an invention of atheists. Serious theists have always welcomed explanations of the mechanics of the universe as further indications of the rational order of reality and therefore of the presence of a Mind behind reality. Kraus sounds like a clever mechanic who imagines that just because he can explain how a car works he has done away with the Manufacturer.

Tip #5. “Atheists just go one god more” is a joke, not an argument

I wish I had a dollar for every time an atheist insisted that I am an atheist with respect to Thor, Zeus, Krishna, and so on, and that atheists just go ‘one god more’. As every trained philosopher knows, Christians are not absolute atheists with regard to other gods. They happily affirm the shared theistic logic that there must be a powerful Mind behind a rational universe. The disagreements concern how the deity has revealed itself in the world. Atheism is not just an extension of monotheism any more than celibacy is an extension of monogamy.

Tip #6. Claims that Christianity is social ‘poison’ backfire

Moving from science and philosophy to sociology, I regard New Atheism’s “religion poisons everything” argument as perhaps its greatest faux pas. Not just because it is obviously untrue but because anyone who has entertained the idea and then bumped into an actual Christian community will quickly wonder what other fabrications Hitchens and Dawkins have spun.

I don’t just mean that anyone who dips into Christian history will discover that the violence of Christendom is dwarfed by the bloodshed of non-religious and irreligious conflicts. I mean that those who find themselves, or their loved ones, in genuine need in this country are very, very likely to become the beneficiaries of direct and indirect Christian compassion. The faithful account for an inordinate amount of “volunteering hours” in Australia, they give blood at higher-than-normal rates, and 18 of the nation’s 25 largest charities are Christian organisations. This doesn’t make Christians better than atheists, but it puts the lie to the claim that they’re worse.

Tip #7. Concede that Jesus lived, then argue about the details

Nearly 10 years after Richard Dawkins says that “a serious historical case” can be made that Jesus “never lived” (even if he admits that his existence is probable). It is astonishing to me that some atheists haven’t caught up with the fact that this was always a nonsense statement. Even the man Dawkins cites at this point, GA Wells (a professor of German language, not a historian), published his own change of mind right about the time The God Delusion came out.

New Atheists should accept the academic reality that the vast majority of specialists in secular universities throughout the world consider it beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus lived, taught, gained a reputation as a healer, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and was soon heralded by his followers as the resurrected Messiah. Unless sceptics can begin their arguments from this academic baseline, they are the mirror image of the religious fundamentalists they despise – unwilling to accept the scholarly mainstream over their metaphysical commitments.

Tip #8. Persuasion involves three factors

Aristotle was the first to point out that persuasion occurs through three factors: intellectual (logos), psychological (pathos), and social or ethical (ethos). People rarely change their minds merely on account of objective evidence. They usually need to feel the personal relevance and impact of a claim, and they also must feel that the source of the claim – whether a scientist or a priest – is trustworthy.

Christians frequently admit that their convictions developed under the influence of all three elements. When sceptics, however, insist that their unbelief is based solely on ‘evidence’, they appear one-dimensional and lacking in self-awareness. They would do better to figure out how to incorporate their evidence within the broader context of its personal relevance and credibility. I think this is why Alain de Botton is a far more persuasive atheist (for thoughtful folk) than Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Kraus. It is also why churches attract more enquirers than the local sceptics club.

Tip #9. Ask us about Old Testament violence

I promised to highlight vulnerabilities of the Christian Faith. Here are two.

Most thoughtful Christians find it difficult to reconcile the loving, self-sacrificial presentation of God in the New Testament with the seemingly harsh and violent portrayals of divinity in the Old Testament. I am not endorsing Richard Dawkins’ attempts in chapter 7 of The God Delusion. There he mistakenly includes stories that the Old Testament itself holds up as counter examples of true piety. But there is a dissonance between Christ’s “love your enemies” and Moses’ “slay the wicked”.

I am not sure this line of argument has the power to undo Christian convictions entirely. I, for one, feel that the lines of evidence pointing to God’s self-disclosure in Christ are so robust that I am able to ponder the inconsistencies in the Old Testament without chucking in the Faith. Still, I reckon this is one line of scrutiny Christians haven’t yet fully answered.

Tip #10. Press us on hell and judgment

Questions can also be raised about God’s fairness with the world. I don’t mean the problem of evil and suffering: philosophers seem to regard that argument as a ‘draw’. I am talking about how Christians can, on the one hand, affirm God’s costly love in Jesus Christ and, yet, on the other, maintain Christ’s equally clear message that those who refuse the Creator will face eternal judgment. If God is so eager for our friendship that he would enter our world, share our humanity, and bear our punishment on the cross, how could he feel it is appropriate to send anyone to endless judgment?

This is a peculiar problem of the Christian gospel. If God were principally holy and righteous, and only occasionally magnanimous in special circumstances, we wouldn’t be shocked by final judgment. But it is precisely because Jesus described God as a Father rushing to embrace and kiss the returning ‘prodigal’ that Christians wonder how to hold this in tension with warnings of hell and judgment.

Again, I’m not giving up on classical Christianity because of this internally generated dilemma, but I admit to feeling squeamish about it, and I secretly hope atheists in my audiences don’t think to ask me about it.

***

I doubt there are any strong scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity. Most of those in current circulation are nowhere near as persuasive as New Atheism imagines. Contemporary sceptics would do well to drop them. Paradoxically, I do think Christianity is vulnerable at precisely the points of its own emphases. Its insistence on love, humility, and non-violence is what makes the Old Testament seem inconsistent. Its claim that God “loves us to death” (literally) creates the dilemma of its teaching about final judgment. Pressing Christians on this inner logic of the cross of Christ will make for a very interesting debate, I am sure. Believers may have decent answers, but at least you’ll be touching a truly raw nerve of the Easter Faith.

Dr John Dickson is an author and historian, and a founding director of the Centre for Public Christianity.

 

Postscript:

In a separate “incident” within this whole debate, David Bentley Hart recently produced a scintilating reply to Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker that kind of makes the point of this post – the debate, if you can call it that, between materialists/atheists and those of faith.  Hart writes,

“Simply said, we have reached a moment in Western history when, despite all appearances, no meaningful public debate over belief and unbelief is possible. . . . Precisely how does materialism (which is just a metaphysical postulate, of extremely dubious logical coherence) entail exclusive ownership of scientific knowledge?”

And as a final foray on my part into Hart’s reply, he lays out as plain as he can, why we have this horrendous if not infantile situaltion today,

“The current vogue in atheism is probably reducible to three rather sordidly ordinary realities: the mechanistic metaphysics inherited from the seventeenth century, the banal voluntarism that is the inevitable concomitant of late capitalist consumerism, and the quiet fascism of Western cultural supremacism (that is, the assumption that all cultures that do not consent to the late modern Western vision of reality are merely retrograde, unenlightened, and in need of intellectual correction and many more Blu-ray players). Everything else is idle chatter—and we live in an age of idle chatter.”

I encourage you to read Gopnik’s post and Hart’s response – it is breathtaking and brutal!!  You can feel Hart’s irritation even if he doesn’t really get out of theological first gear!