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THE CELL LEADER’S MANUAL

An Apologetics Primer:

Conclusions & Discussions

GEM ’85, this rev. Aug. 2002a

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect . . ."     (1 Peter 3:15)



CONCLUDING REMARKS: The above survey is desperately compressed — libraries have been filled with books on just a few of the themes touched on.  However, more or less, we have covered enough ground to give us an idea of issues and approaches; we have also seen the vital importance of the life of the mind to credible Christian witness, life and leadership in our region.  To fulfil this challenge, further reading, discussion, and much thought are clearly necessary.  To help in this ongoing exploration, I therefore append a list of useful books and some questions for discussion.  For, it is only by investigation, thinking, discussion and, yes, argument, that we will be able to adequately handle the issues we must face as we go out with the gospel into our region.  Then, we will be able to properly understand our past, act wisely in the present and thus help to positively shape the Caribbean’s future under God.


 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.     Is it true that we Christians are often unsure of what and why we believe?

2.     Luke commended the Bereans for their open-mindedness.  Should we, as Christians, be open to change what we believe?

3.     Nearly everything we believe is hotly contested.  How should we decide to accept or reject the claims and counter-claims we will meet?

4.     Is the idea that we all live by one faith or another true?  Does this mean that all such commitments are equally acceptable?  Why?  Or why not?

5.     Read 1 Cor. 15:1-8, 12-19, 32.  Paul claims that the resurrection of Jesus is decisive in validating Christianity.  In light of Luke 1:1 – 4, Acts 1:1 – 11 and 26:1 – 32, can the reports stand up to scrutiny?

6.     Read 2 Peter 1:12 – 2:3 & 3:3 – 18.  What are the key marks of the Bible’s authenticity?  In light of the last days scoffing at the miraculous power of God predicted by Peter in 3:3 – 7, how will/do false teachers seek to undermine the credibility of the Word of God?   How will/do their teachings affect their own behaviour and that of their followers? Based on 3:8 – 17, how can we detect and escape their snares?

7.     It is also often claimed that one can "prove anything" using the Bible.  In light of the above and 2 Tim. 2:14 – 26 & 3:14 – 17, how would you respond to such a claim?

8.     List ten major alternatives to the historic, New Testament Christian faith in the Caribbean.  What are their basic claims?  What are their strategies for penetrating our region?  Is there a common pattern? How should we respond?

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USEFUL BOOKS AND WEB LINKS

1.     World on the Run, Michael Green, IVP, 1983.  A very readable overview of issues from a vigorous Christian perspective. (The best simple introduction I have seen.)  For those needing a more in-depth overview, Ronald Nash’s Faith and Reason (Zondervan, 1988) is an excellent, undergraduate level introductory text.  His Worldviews in Conflict (Zondervan, 1992) gives good supplementary information on worldviews. This site's introductory course in philosophy will also be helpful.

2.     More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell, Tyndale, 1979.  A simple, thought-provoking look at the life of Jesus. His Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vols. I and II, is a compilation of research notes that gives more details.

3.     Knowing Scripture, R. C. Sproul, IVP.  A good introduction to Bible study, giving details on the inductive approach outlined in this Primer.  Cf. the assessment of the reliability of the Bible at http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bib-docu.html , and a similarly non-technical assessment of the Jesus Seminar’s claims at http://jesus.com.au/library/jesus/seminar/index.html.  Bishop Spong’s proposed “reformation” of Christianity, along atheistic lines, is posted on the web at http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/jsspong/reform.html,  and a response is at http://www.starcourse.org/spong/ .

4.     How Should We Then Live?,  Francis Schaeffer, IVP and Crossway.  An overview of the intellectual currents of our civilization.  His A Christian Manifesto  is a call to political action in the light of this analysis, with historical and theological roots in works such as Duplesis-Mornay’s Vindiciae, Rutherford’s Lex, Rex, and the Dutch and American Declarations of Independence (1581, 1776).

5.     The End of Man, John W. Whitehead, Crossway, 1986.  Extends and updates Schaeffer's analysis, providing an extensive bibliography.  Chs. 6 - 9 provide an important perspective on technology, including AI.

6.     Christian Apologetics in a World Community,  William Dyrness, IVP.  Dealing with major intellectual challenges from various perspectives in today's world.  A bridge to the Postmodern era. 

7.     Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions.  Kreeft, Peter, & Tacelli, Ronald.  (Crowborough, E. Sussex: Monarch Publications, 1995.)  A “summa” on conceptual, logical, factual and values issues relating to Christian faith.  Very helpful as a quick first reference on questions, or as a good short resume of the field of intellectual challenges to the faith and typical informed responses.

8.     General Philosophy, D. Elton Trueblood, Baker, 1981.  An excellent overview of and introduction to Philosophy from a Christian perspective. 

9.        Contours of a World View.  Holmes, Arthur F.  (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983.)  A survey of general world view concepts, issues, options and implications for life; including those tied to ethics.  A basic primer for thinking through the underlying (hidden?) assumptions and agendas associated with ideas, ideals, academic disciplines and schools of thought, the arts, socio-cultural movements, policies and politics.

10.     Epistemology, the Justification of Belief.   David L. Wolfe, IVP, 1982.  A look at the basic philosophical issues related to knowledge, reasoning and world views.

11.     Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation. Moreland, J[ames] P.  (Grand Rapids, MI: 1992.)  Perhaps a tad more than introductory, but this is such a path-breaking analysis of Science, its methods, strengths and limitations that is a necessary foundation for any serious reflection on matters linked to the Sciences.  Also, a necessary backdrop for informed critical reflection on Naturalism. Every Science major, every Science or Technology Educator, and everyone concerned with scientifically linked policies should read it.   Dembski’s The Pragmatic Nature of Mathematical Inquiry [http://www.designinference.com/documents/2002.07.Math_Inquiry.pdf ] addresses the parallel limitations in Mathematical thinking, in light of Godel’s famous incompleteness theorems.  His Is Intelligent Design a Form of Natural Theology [http://www.designinference.com/documents/2001.03.ID_as_nat_theol.htm] addresses the question of the project of Natural Theology and its distinction from ID: “What if the methods for identifying intelligence tell us that Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical machines are in fact designed? What if careful analysis of such systems shows that natural causes (like the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random variation) are in principle incapable of generating such systems? In that case to charge intelligent design with trading in arguments from ignorance or invoking a god-of-the-gaps is no longer tenable. In that case gaps in naturalistic explanations for such systems are not gaps of ignorance about underlying natural causes but rather gaps in the very structure of physical reality.”

12.     Darwin on Trial, Philip E. Johnson, IVP, 1991.  A Lawyer's expose of the manipulative rhetorical devices used by evolutionary materialists.  Eye-opening reading!  His Reason in the Balance (IVP, 1995) exposes case after case of Machiavellian political, academic and legal manoeuvrings (often including the unjustified breaking of careers) in the interests of the continuing secularist control of the commanding heights in the battle for the ideas and ideals that will guide the future path of western culture.  More general intellectual issues linked to philosophical Naturalism may be considered at http://www.leaderu.com/menus/apologetics.html.  Cf. the Discovery Institute’s web site at http://www.discovery.org/crsc/index.php3.

13.     Shattering the Myths of Darwinism.  Milton, Richard.  (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1997.)  A critique of the scientific foundations of contemporary Darwinism, by “an inquisitive reporter,” on the premise that since knowledge is “justified, true belief,” the justification of those beliefs should be open to public inspection.  However, Milton reports that biologists and medical men who have made discoveries bearing on evolutionary biology “have sought to publicize these discoveries in journals such as Nature but have been universally rejected because their discoveries are anti-Darwinian in implication and hence counter to the ruling ideology in the life sciences.  They have appealed to me ¾ a nonscientist ¾ to help them gain publicity.”  [Pp. ix, x.]  A devastating claim, indeed, and an independent, corroborating witness to Philip Johnson’s similar claims in his books.  

14.     The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom, Robert A. Morey, Bethany, 1986.  A primer on how materialists put their case, its flaws and damaging implications for freedom.  It also illustrates how to respond effectively.

15.     The Challenge of Marxism, Klaus Bockmuehl, IVP. An introductory look at Marxism, a key case illustrating the implications of evolutionary materialism.  For economic issues, see Mark Blaug's Economic Theory in Retrospect, Cambridge, 1978, (3rd  edn.), especially the chapter on Marxian economics and the introduction.

16.     Capitalism and Progress. Goudzwaard, Bob.   (Carlyle, UK: Paternoster Press, 1997.)  A groundbreaking study of the rise of modern economies as the medieval worldview broke down, and an elaboration of its challenges and prospects.  The discussion of the contrast between oikonomia and chrematistike [roughly: stewardship in the interests of all stakeholders of an enterprise vs. greed and exploitation], pp. 211 – 216, is a telling critique of modern market economies, in the interests of truly sustainable economics.  More relevant today than when it was published in 1978, in Dutch.

17.      A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Islam, Patrick Sookhdeo, Christian Focus/Isaac, 2002.  A short and well-documented, evangelistically oriented summary of Islam for Christians by a Theologian who is familiar with Caribbean islam since his upbringing in his native Guyana.  Colin Chapman’s Cross and Crescent (IVP, 1995) provides more details. (The web site, http://www.answering-islam.org.uk/ is an online dialogue of Christians and Muslims.  The Christian Resources section is very useful, and includes good training materials.)



NOTICES: This course module was originally created by Gordon Mullings, in 1985, for use as part of a manual for Cell Group Leaders for the UCCF, in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. It has been subsequently revised and developed, to date. (DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on factual errors and/or gaps or inconsistencies in reasoning are welcome.) FAIR USE: The contents of this module are intended for use as a support for learning about responding to the typical intellectual challenges to the Christian Faith and gospel that are commonly encountered in the Caribbean, especially in tertiary education and in commentary in the regional and international media. Permission is therefore granted to link to this page for fair use under intellectual property law, and for reasonable citation of the linked content on this site for church- or parachurch- group related training and/or for personal or academic use; this specifically excludes reproduction, linking or citation for commercial, controversial or media purposes without the Author's written permission -- especialy where matters relating to the validity and value of Faith/Religious/Atheological Commitments and Truth-Claims are being debated or disputed. PDF version available, under similar terms. COPYRIGHT:GEM 2002. All rights are reserved.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Cf. Aristotle’s The Rhetoric.  “Fa s” is used to distinguish perceptions or claims from established facts.  (NB: One has a right to believe that one’s direct sense perceptions, memory etc. are typically accurate, but are subject to the possibility of error.) 

[2] If, granting premises P, then a conclusion Q must necessarily be true, Q follows logically from P: P => Q.

[3] Not least, because none of us has the time or wisdom to prove for him- or her- self the accumulated learning of the ages.

[4] Therefore, we should humbly face the possibility that we may be in error, but insist on good reason for accepting “corrections” to important beliefs.  Cf. Trueblood, General Philosophy, pp. 47 – 52, ff.

[5] Say, a cat.

[6] In a valid implication, P => Q, P is a sufficient condition for Q and Q is a necessary condition for P.

[7] Charles S. Peirce called this process of argument by proposed best explanation/model/theory “abduction.”  In deductive arguments, one reasons from “facts” to their logical implications, which are thus “proved” from the “facts.”  By contrast, in Science we argue that if certain hypotheses were true, then certain observed (and/or predicted) “facts” would follow as direct implications. Thus, the observed/predicted “facts” provide “support” — but not actual proof — for such hypotheses/explanations.

[8] The case also strongly shows that the power of a theory/model to explain/predict observations (and even to guide us in developing technologies to control or influence events) cannot be a proof of its ultimate truth. 

[9] Newtonian Dynamics has been retained as a relatively simple model for the motion of large, slow moving bodies.

[10] Logical inconsistencies affirm and deny (usually implicitly) the same claim, resulting in confusion.  For example, the claim “there are no absolute truths” is itself an absolute truth-claim.  It therefore refutes itself.  No good comes of such confusion, so we must purge our thinking of contradictions.

[11] Cf. UCCF Statement of Faith, or similar creedal statements, for specific Scripture references.

[12] See the companion paper, Fulnss and our Mandate, for an expansion of this theme, with a strategic framework for its application to the reformation and sound development of the Caribbean.

[13] For that matter, the gospel yet changes lives, and many miracles in the name of Jesus have continued to happen down through history, right up to our own time.  [Cf. Acts 4:7 – 12, and Acts 9:1 – 38 (nb. 24:1 - 26:32, esp. 26:4 - 8, 9 - 23).]

[14] Sin is at its root an offense against God, so indeed it is God who ultimately must forgive it.

[15] Indeed, it was on the charge of blasphemy that Jesus was put to death [John 5:17 – 30; Mark 14:53 – 64], and Christians have always viewed the resurrection as a vindication of his claims to be the Son of God [Acts 2:31 – 41; Rom. 1:1 – 4]. (The Talmud, written by later Jewish leaders, is inadvertently consistent — it accepts that Jesus indeed performed miracles in First Century Palestine, but explains them by accusing him of deception and magic. And even these accusations confirm the Gospel reports: cf. Luke 11:14 – 28, Matt 12:1 – 45, John 10:22 – 42, nb. Jesus’ challenge in vv. 37, 38.)  

[16] Often called “Naturalism.”  Evolutionary Materialism is used here because it is a more descriptive phrase.

[17] See the references at the end of this module.

[18] In Darwin’s day, it was confidently expected that the “gaps” would be filled in, hence the search for “missing links.”

The persistence of the gaps in the fossil record — though often denied in debate — is sufficiently serious that the late Steven Jay Gould (of Harvard), Niles Eldredge et al proposed an alternative to Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory: Punctuated Equilibrium.

[19] NB: Much more could be said on this topic, and the above is, due to the short space available, almost over-simplified.  It should be clear, however, that the materialist rebellion against God has led to many of the characteristic problems of the modern world.  I urge you to read widely in this area.  It would especially be useful to consult the second edition of C. S. Lewis' Miracles, Ch. 3, and Ronald Nash’s Faith and Reason, Ch. 18, which are the basic sources for the above argument about the self-defeating nature of materialism.

[20] In 399 BC; cf. for instance Ross’ Commentary on the Apology of Socrates at http://www.friesian.com/#contents .  At least, with Paul, the issue seems to have been intellectual frivolity, rather than the proverbial cup of hemlock given to Socrates.

[21] Drawn from several recent academic papers, newspaper articles and exhibitions by Dr. Sultana Afroz of UWI, and others. Cf. Prof. Maureen Warner Lewis’ devastating response: http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20021020/focus/focus3.html

[22] The OED notes: (1) Moor: a member of a Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arab descent, inhabiting N W Africa”;  (2)Berber: a member of the indigenous mainly Muslim Caucasian peoples of N. Africa”; and (3) “Arab: a member of a Semitic people inhabiting originally Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring countries, now the Middle East generally.”  For, arising from the Islamic conquest of The Middle East and North Africa in the seventh century, and from a process of conversion to Islam and intermarriage, the Moors emerged as a new people.  They played a major role in the Islamic invasion of Europe from 711 - 714 AD on, and ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula (making significant cultural contributions to Iberia and to Europe as a whole) until the Reconquista was completed when the Moorish Kingdom of Granada was defeated by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1491.  There was an infusion of black, sub-Saharan Africans into the Moorish mix, largely due to the Islamic slave trade.  Trade and travel  into sub-Saharan Africa also led to the penetration of Islam East, Central and West Africa. However, the predominant religions and cultures of sub-Saharan Africa continued to be animistic until quite recent times, with the rise of the Christian Missionary movement — in which Jamaicans (especially the Baptists) and other Caribbeans played no small part from 1839 on.

[23] Afroz, S.: “The Jihad of 1831–1832: The Misunderstood Baptist Rebellion in Jamaica,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2001, p. 227.  In short, the Afroz claim is that Afro-Jamaican slaves were predominantly Islamic.

[24] NB: Highly unlikely, as such  Anglican rectors as a rule frowned on non-conformists, especially Baptists — “immersionists.”

[25] Similarly, Nanny is far more readily understood as an adept of African Religions than as a miracle-working Sufi Saint.

[26] Over the past five centuries, once the Scriptures were put in the hands of the ordinary man, Christianity has frequently played a leading prophetic role in cultural and social reformation, not least in the abolition of slavery.  Even the modern democratic nation-state is largely a heritage of the Protestant Reformation.  [Cf. The Dutch Declaration of Independence, 1581, Duplesis-Mornay’s 1579 Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, and Rutherford’s Lex, Rex as well as the second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.]

[27] Summarised fom various sources, especially Chapman’s Cross and Crescent, Cooper’s Ishmael My Brother, Sookhdeo’s A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Islam, the Caner’s Unveiling Islam and the Web site http://www.answering-islam.org.uk/ .

[28] That is, Islam traditionally seeks territorial control as a legally established religion, through state power.

[29] As a false prophet teaching doctrines contrary to the Jewish and Christian traditions and Scriptures.

[30] The Crusades, strictly speaking, were therefore counter-offensives; however despicably carried out in contravention of the letter and spirit of the Gospel.  They were apparently initially provoked by the harassment of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land — e.g., in 1064-5, seven thousand German pilgrims were ambushed, with much slaughter.  [Cf. the Caners’ Unveiling Islam (Kregel, 2002) pp 73 -5, and the Internet Medieval Sourcebook article at http://www.fordham.edu/halshall/source/1064pilgrim.html.]

[31] This is why in many African nations in the band from say the Ivory Coast and Nigeria to Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, there is a consistent pattern of an Islamic North, and a Christian and/or Animist South.  (The strong Christian presence in sub-Saharan Africa is in the main due to the modern Christian Missionary movements of the past three Centuries.  That in Northern Africa is due to the strong base of early Christianity in the African provinces of the Roman Empire.)

[32] Originally, the Kaaba was a Pagan shrine, reportedly dedicated to 360 gods, including Allah.  The three goddesses, Al Lat, Al Uzza and Manat — who in the “Satanic Verses” Muhammad allowed prayers to be directed to — were apparently traditionally identified as Allah’s three daughters, in the native pagan religion.  (Cf. Sura 53:19 – 23, subsequently abrogated and modified to read very differently in the current version.)

[33] The root meaning of the word “Islam” is submission; such submission to Allah then results in “peace.”  A “Muslim” is one who has submitted, and thus has found peace.  This contrasts with the Christian/Hebraic message that there is a radical alienation from God due to sin and guilt, which must be expiated.  [Cf. Rom. 5:1 -11, 7:14 – 8:19.]

[34] For instance, their testimony in Court is regarded as not credible relative to that of a Muslim.  This sharply restricts the ability of dhimmis to engage in commerce with confidence, to own property or to hold responsible positions.  Thus, since this condition is deeply rooted in Islamic tradition, even where it is not officially the law of the land, it leads to a distinct second class citizen status for such dhimmis. Cf. http://www.dhimmitude.org/archive/by_lecture_10oct2002.htm for Bat Ye’or’s detailed review.

[35] The consensus of the four main schools of Islamic law, Hanifi, Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali, is that adult males who leave Islam are subject to the death penalty.  Even where this is not enforced through the state, such converts are often isolated from their families, sometimes under threat to their lives, and need the understanding and ongoing support of the Christian community.

[36] Islam regards deception in war as religiously justifiable.  Thus, Muhammad’s treaty with Mecca reportedly set the precedent for Takiya, described as “the right to fake peace when you are weak for the purposes of defeating your enemy when you are stronger.”  [Cf. Farah, The lesson of al-Hudaybiyah, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27712, and the eye-opening, frank opinion of Shaykh `Abdul Rahman `Abdul Khaliq on the validity of treaties with the Jews, at the Islamic web site http://www.islaam.com/Article.asp?id=255.]

[37] Others assert that the Meccans provoked Muhammad’s assault by attacking his allies.  (It should be noted that such disputes over who first started hostilities are common.  But the most salient points for our attention are that: (1) what may constitute a “provocation” in Islamic eyes is extremely flexible, and (2) “temporary truces” is a clear Islamic model for dealing with powerful opponents in the short term while preparing for renewed hostilities at a more favourable time.  For, in Islamist eyes, true peace is only possible when the world is reduced to submission to Allah — the root meaning of “Islam.”) 

[38] The ambivalence in the commitment of Islamic nations to the UN Charter on Human Rights is a most important case in point.

[39] Thus, attempts to use NT or OT texts to demonstrate the Deity of Christ will often be dismissed as instances of corruption of the text.  The secularist-influenced biblical criticism of the past several centuries may also be pressed into service to support such claims, compounding the argument.  Although the historical and textual critical evidence, in fact, do not support such a corruption thesis, the issue rapidly becomes one of the Authority/Credibility of Muhammad as God’s final Prophet, and so it is very hard for the evidence to be heard.  Thus, relationship and trust must come before argument and debate: the truth, in love.

[40] See Surah 4:48 and 171, and 5:116.  Shirk is viewed as the most deadly of all sins, 4:48 describes it as unpardonable: “Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else.”  However, the Islamic view on the Trinity reflects Muhammad’s encounters with heretical sects in Arabia rather than the biblically rooted orthodox Christian understanding of the Tri-unity of the Godhead.  [Especially see Heb. 1:1 – 14, John 1:1 – 14, Phil. 2:5 – 11, 1 Cor. 12:2 – 6, Acts 5:3 - 4.] The historic Christian teaching asserts that God is One, a complex unity: a unity of Eternal being, integrated with a diversity of personal manifestation: Father, Son and Spirit.  (It bears noting that Son, here, is not used in the physical sense; the incarnation is not at all parallel to the pagan tales of gods and their proclivities for pretty girls.)   Thus, the tension between unity and diversity in the cosmos finds its resolution in the inherent nature of the Godhead.   This is mysterious, but it is not contradictory, for even water, ice and steam share a common nature while being vastly diverse as to manifestation.  More profoundly, “God is Love” [1 John 4:8] — an interpersonal, relational concept — is viewed by Christians as integral to the essential nature of God.  

[41] Cited, Patrick Sookhdeo, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Islam [Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2002], p. 39. 

[42] Cf. Gal. 5:1 – 6:10.

[43] Cf. Rom. 9:30 - 10:21, Gal. 3:1 – 14 & 5:13 – 6:10, Eph. 4:17 – 5:21 and Col 2:8 – 3:17, esp. 2:20 – 23.

[44] Philippians 3:5 – 6.

[45] Rom 7:14 – 15; 21- 24.

[46] Rom 8:1 – 14.

[47] Gal. 3:10 – 14; Cf. Rom. 9:30 – 10:21.