Apologetics Workshop with Raymond and Isaac

Thanks to Mr. Tim Halim for providing his notes!

 

Understanding your opponent, the nature of the sinner, is more important than knowing all the theories.

  1. Anthropology (Romans 1:18-23)
    • They know who God is, that He exists. We are not proving that God exists.
    • V. 21-22 the sinner does not honor God as God.
    • These non-believers are fools (Biblically a fool is someone who disregards God’s Word). Man knows God exists, they can perceive what is around them. It is the fool that suppresses the truth that God exists.
    • Romans 3:10-18
      Total description of man’s natural state.
    • Ephesians 2:1-3
      Sinners are dead in their trespasses and sin. Exact opposite of a Christian
    • 1 Corinthians 2:14
      Things that are spiritual can only be discerned by those are spiritual, yet sinners are dead in their sins, they
      cannot understand the spiritual things. There is a large gap between man and God, and when we share the Gospel, we are not pushing them away from Christ since they are doing it themselves already.

  2. Myth of Neutrality – We need to meet nonbelievers on neutral ground.
    •  “We should not back up our arguments with Scripture”; this is a myth: Scripture is ultimately our authority, whereas the nonbeliever uses reason and logic as their authority. There is no reason we need to give them the ‘home’ advantage. If Christ is at the center of our hearts, shouldn’t we be sharing the Gospel to everyone?
    • Colossians 2:2-3, 6-8
      Wisdom comes from Christ. This means there is reason to have Scripture as our authority when arguing. As Christians, all things happen with Christ in our lives, why is evangelism any different? We should not discount the power of Scripture when arguing or giving a defense of the faith. To make a case for Christ, why do we not use Christ as our authority?
    • Futility of Evidence.
      • Even if we intellectually argue every point the nonbeliever has, the nonbeliever’s sin is suppressing the truth. We instead show them how their sin is suppressing the truth of the Gospel.

  3. Foolishness of Non-Christian Worldviews (Psalm 14:1)

    • The description of their thinking is foolish and irrational. The Bible anticipates the nonbeliever to be irrational in thinking, because they are denying God’s existence. Three characteristics in how nonbelievers may be irrational are seen below.
    • The first is their Basic Beliefs of Reality.
    • Environment vs. Justice: The bad things people do are a product of their environments (“We are all victims of circumstance”). This contradicts with justice because with the justice system each person is held accountable for themselves, not because of their circumstance (prison, or any kind of execution of justice).
    • Matter vs. Logic: Some atheists argue that matter in the universe and everything is random & chance. Nothing is immaterial in the universe. Laws of logic are immaterial, but people cannot sense logic (“rules that people generally abide by”). Tension between what these nonbelievers say and how they live. It is not irrational for Christians to believe this since they understand and believe in God. The nonbeliever is always borrowing ideas from the Christian faith, whether he knows it or not.
    • The second is their Basic Beliefs of Human Knowledge.
    • Absolute truth is impossible to find; everything is relative, Both are two statements that are very circular. Aren’t those statements pretty absolute?
    • The third is their Basic Beliefs of Human Ethics.
    • Pleasure vs. War/Rape: If pleasure is king in the human life, then humans are justified in all things they do.
    • Residue of God’s Image.
    • There is residue of God’s attributes, because God is ultimately all these things (logic, morality, justice). The non-believer has been made in the image of God, whether he likes it or not.
    • Romans 1:18
    • They do know the ultimate truth, but disregard it making them fools in their sin.
    • When sin occurs, it is because they love the sin and do not want to give it up.
    • As Christians we are to help them see the tension in their lives. We can do this by threatening their sin. They will get angry and frustrate but this will get them to think.
    • John 3:19-20
    • The light in the passage is representative of Christ. The reason they reject Christ is because they love their sins too much, they love darkness and hate the light (hate Christ).
    • Romans 8:7-8, 5:10
    • There is a direction the nonbeliever is headed: the opposite direction of God because they are at war with God. Sinners are not in neutral, they are running headlong into sin (constantly moving). This is the reality that Scripture reveals to us, that we are moving either toward God or toward sin and death. Some may say that they are “not as bad as other people”: God knows every thought and deed. To say that they are not as bad from their human perspective with human standards. Our feelings do not matter ultimately when God is the one who is judging them in the end.

     

  4. The Gospel
    At best, make the non-believer pause and think about their sins. We are not going to make them love the things of God.

    Romans 1:16
    The power of God is not your personality, coziness, or anything, but rather the power of God and salvation is the Gospel itself.
    It is a petition to someone to turn away from the things of death.

    1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 2:1-4, 3:18-23
    When people mock the Gospel, it is expected because it is foolishness to them. To us, those who are saved, it is the power of God, the message of the cross is not foolishness to the elect.
    Paul was aware that his ministry was not to impress the philosophers, but trusted in the sovereignty of God that the Word could be applied to save sinners (1 Corinthians 2:4).
    You cannot boast in anything but the message of God (1 Corinthians 3:18-19). There is always the temptation to appeal to the pagan, to sound smart and eloquent, but don’t dilute the message which is simply calling sinners to repentance. It is not enough to appeal to the human will to turn them to Christ, they will not listen

    John 16:7-11
    Ministry of the Holy Spirit: to convict the world of sin. The Spirit will show that God is righteous and they are not so that sinners will be convicted that sin leads to death.
    These three issues are important when preaching the Gospel: sin, righteousness, and judgement. If you focus outside of these things, the Holy Spirit is not in your message.

    If you only had five minutes with someone, here is a simple acronym to guide you in sharing the gospel: (LEJ) Law, Exclusivity (John 14:6), Judgement
  • The high wall of the law: the law and their sin, it warrants punishment to those who don’t believe
  • The exclusivity of the Gospel: there is a substitute that is needed, Jesus Christ the perfect God-man is the only substitute
  • The ultimate destination of sin: this is hell, and I love you to tell you of these things, the urgency of time

    Luke 5:31
  • There is nothing you can offer in terms of forgiveness to other people.

    Acts 17:29
    Paul is condemning the Gentiles for their sin, their idolatry. The rhetoric is rather similar to that of the Jew, creating gods and idols of their own. They do not have a free pass because they did not read the Scriptures.

 

Do not remain silent (Esther)

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14 ESV

The book of Esther has an unknown author and is one of two books named after women (Ruth being the other). And unlike almost all of the other books in the Biblical Canon (aside from Song of Solomon) there is no mention of God or of a covenant. This of course leads some to unnecessarily doubt its inclusion as such as well as its authenticity. But to me, Esther is a pretty fascinating book.

On the surface, this book is a dramatic play. The plot of the story  is that a Jewish woman becomes queen of Persia and saves her people from destruction. Within the story we see the constant back and forth between Mordecai and Haman and it is quite thrilling. And we see 4 main characters:

Esther is the heroine. She is of Jewish decent but keeps her heritage secret when becoming queen.

Mordecai is Esther’s cousin although he adopts said cousin so she sees him as a father figure. He is constantly advising and informing Esther through the story. Mordecai is also one part of the central conflict of Esther between himself and Haman.

Haman is enemy of the Jews. Haman rises to power in Susa and  Mordecai refuses to bow to him. Haman is called an “Agagite,” which is likely a reference to King Agag the Amalekite seen in 1 Samuel 5:18. The Amalekites themselves had opposed Israel for hundreds of years as seen in Deuteronomy 25:17-19.

King Ahasuerus is the final of the four main characters. King of the Persians, King Ahaseurus is seen as an easily swayed character. For example he goes along with Haman’s plot and he allows Esther and Mordecai to write their own counter-laws and enact their own feasts. Quite ironically, the king of such a large nation is easily the weakest of the main characters.

And then of course we have some of the supporting cast: Queen Vasti who King Ahaseurus deposes for not submitting to him, Hege who is the king’s chamberlain and the pair of Bigthan and Teresh who are also chamberlains that plot to kill the king.

After being introduced to the characters, let’s look at the various acts of the drama.

Act 1 is seen in the first two chapters of Esther and is when King Ahasuerus holds a feast, selecting Esther as his queen.

Act 2 is when Haman plots to destroy the Jews and we can break this up into three sub-acts. First King Ahasuerus promotes Haman in chapter 3. Then Esther must risk her life on behalf of her people in chapter 4 all the way to verse 8 of chapter 5. Finally we see Haman plotting to kill Mordecai in the rest of chapter 5.

Act 3 has Esther foiling Haman’s plan. Also with three sub-acts, King Ahasuerus has Haman honor Mordecai instead in the first. This is seen in chapter 6. Chapter 7 is the second where Esther intercedes for the Jews and Haman is killed. Finally in Chapter 8 King Ahasuerus promotes Mordecai and Mordecai saves the Jews.

Act 4, the final act of this drama is seen in the last two chapters of the book when Esther and Mordecai institute the feast of Purim.

It reads quite like a Shakespearean play does it not? But if we take this book in context with the rest of the Old Testament, specifically the theme of God’s covenant love for Israel, we see that Esther is really about a courageous faith. Throughout the book, Esther and Mordecai seem to have a certainty that the Jews will be saved, that someone will intervene for their people. And that type of faith carries the story to completion with the prosperity and deliverance of the Jewish people.

The book of Esther gives us a picture of what a strong faith looks like and should challenge us in our own faith. We cannot help but ask the question: have we been displaying a strong and courageous faith like that of Esther and Mordecai?

Christian, Rejoice! (Philippians)

Anyone familiar with the book of Philippians can tell you that the theme is joy. Paul commands Christians to rejoice or to have joy no less than 15 times in just four chapters! Here’s a short overview of the entire book.

Chapter 1 is about rejoicing because Christ is our life. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 ESV

Chapter 2 is about rejoicing because Christ is our example. The rather large chunk of Scripture in Philippians 2:1-11 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Chapter 3 is about rejoicing because Christ is our glory. We see this in Philippians 3:3 when we are called to glory in Jesus Christ and to put no confidence in the flesh. We see this in Philippians 3:10 when Paul says that he wants to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection, becoming like Him in His death. And We see this in Philippians 3:21 when speaks of Jesus giving us glorified bodies.

Chapter 4 is about rejoicing because Christ is our strength. Just in the first verse Paul calls us to stand firm in Him! And then of course we have one of the most popular out-of-context verses in the Bible: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. However, the previous two verses reveal Paul’s mindset. Philippians 4:13 is not about being able to “achieve your dreams” or “giving a hat tip to heaven when life is going well” but Paul is reminding us that we can endure not matter the circumstances. Pairing it with Philippians 4:11, Paul is saying that he can be content in any and every lot of life.

For the Philippians, it was probably pretty hard to rejoice. Paul was in prison. One of their key members, Epaphroditus was ill. They were persecuted daily for their faith. Yet they rejoiced because God is always at work. The gospel of Jesus Christ was advancing. And God was going to complete the good work He began in them.

If you’re finding it hard to fight for joy this week, or ever, go through the book of Philippians. Pray for the Spirit to grant you understanding and conviction as you read it. And rejoice always.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

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