Christian Apologetics: Giving Reasons to Believe

Here at Orthosphere.org, several commenters who are sympathetic to Christianity but still unbelievers have asked “Why should I believe Christianity?”  The discipline of Christian apologetics exists to answer this question.

The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek word “apologia,” meaning “speaking in defense.” Christian apologetics is the discipline of giving reasons why Christianity is true, and responding to arguments against Christianity.

The “man in the street” may be surprised to find that there is much evidence for Christianity. Most non-Christians probably think of Christianity as just a tradition that its followers receive without thinking about its validity, but scientific, philosophical and historical evidence for Christianity exists in great abundance.

The field of Christian Apologetics is vast, because the reasons men disbelieve are legion. If you are sympathetic to Christianity but unable to believe, Christian apologetics can help you.

Becoming a Christian, to be sure, requires more than a belief in the tenets of Christianity. A Christian in the full sense is one who has repented of his sins and has faith in Jesus Christ, especially the faith that Christ’s death on the Cross has atoned for his sins.

To repent is not to stop all sinning. It is to turn one’s inner orientation away from the vanity of the world and toward God. And faith in Christ is knowledge of God, assent to this knowledge, and, most importantly, trust in God.

Christian apologetics, then, will not (directly) help you to repent or to have faith in Christ. Only God’s Spirit can do that, usually through the external means of you hearing God’s Word, that is, the words of the Bible. But God can also use apologetics to help you clear away intellectual and emotional impediments to faith, so that you can receive the message of Christ rather than rejecting it.

It is possible for any non-Christian, even the most hardened atheist, to become a Christian in a sudden flash of insight. But for most people the process of conversion is gradual, as false beliefs are slowly replaced with true ones. It is here that Christian apologetics is especially helpful.

Apologetics is also valuable for those who already believe. Even those who know and trust Christ are sometimes assailed by doubt. And Christians are called to bear witnesses to Jesus Christ so that others may come to faith also. The discipline of Christian apologetics is a great help for those beset with doubt and for those who wish to make a better case for their faith.

It is the intention of this post only to give a brief introduction to the vast field of Christian apologetics. It is primarily intended to give an answer to those who ask where they can find solid arguments for Christianity.


Resources

Below are some especially noteworthy resources for Christian apologetics, generally arranged by topic. After a summary of each topic comes a list of books and other resources on that topic. If a book’s title contains an embedded link, it is to a page giving further information about the book. If that page is at amazon.com, it is not for the purpose of facilitating your purchase there, but rather because Amazon had the most informative page we could find.

We have attempted to provide resources both basic and advanced, both popular-level and sophisticated, but without flooding the reader with too many choices.

[Since the principal author of this page is Protestant, most of the works listed below have Protestant authors. They are the works with which he is most familiar. But this page is a work in progress, so more works originating from Catholicism or Orthodoxy will undoubtedly be posted soon. We will generally exclude works which have as one of their major functions arguing for one of the specific Christian traditions, for the focus here is on “mere” Christianity. But a serious Christian work will, of necessity, sometimes argue for things that are specifically Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.]

After the topic list is a list of good Christian apologetics websites and broadcasts.

General Apologetics

For the person whose doubts are not sharply formed, a good place to start is with a book that gives an overview of the arguments for Christianity.

What’s so Great About Christianity  by Dinesh D’Souza. Despite not arguing for any specifically Christian doctrines (such as the Trinity or the Atonement), this book does a good job of presenting what might be called the general case for Christianity and refuting the most basic arguments against Christianity.

Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions By Kenneth Samples. A solid, popular-level presentation.

The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. Another good popular-level work, written by an ex-atheist and journalist.

The Existence of God

Although most people do not doubt the existence of some sort of god, the question of the existence of the God of the Bible is of prime importance for establishing Christianity. There are two basic approaches to proving God:

Presuppositionalism, in which we presuppose the God of the Bible and then show that all other systems of thought are inferior. As a formal proof of God, this is often called the “Transcendental Argument for God.” This approach is based on the recognition that the ultimate truths must be presupposed, not proved. For if they are not presupposed, they will have to be proved, and any proof will require other truths that are consequently more ultimate than the “ultimate” truths we are proving. All thought requires presuppositions that are not proved formally. Presuppositionalism also acknowledges that if God exists, and the Bible is God speaking to us, then no human authority can stand in judgment over God and His Word. One strength of this approach is that it starts with a strong position of belief and does not pretend to a neutrality that is impossible in any case. Another strength is that it necessarily takes a comprehensive approach to apologetics and the proof of God, and failure to see the big picture is often an inpediment to faith. One weakness of presuppositionalism is that it requires a great deal of intellectual sophistication; philosophically unsophisticated people generally find it baffling. Also, as most presuppositionalists would agree, since man is not omniscient he could be mistaken, and consequently he needs evidence before he can believe. Some evidence is necessary.

Evidentialism, in which we give evidence for God.  This evidence can be philosophical, empirical, scientific, historical, even subjective. By “evidence” we mean anything that validly points to something else; in this case, to God. (Atheists like to define “evidence” in such a way that evidence for God is automatically disqualified, but in this they are dishonest.) The strength of this approach is that man, not being omniscient, needs evidence. The weakness of Evidentialism is that the hearer’s presuppositions may make him unable to acknowledge the valid evidence placed before him. Some reference to presuppositions is necessary.

Each of these two broad schools of thought is divided into other schools, each believing their approach to be the best—or, in some cases, the only valid—method of arguing for God. Some schools (the Thomist approach favored by Catholics or the presuppositional approach favored by many Calvinists, for example) require a great deal of sophistication. Others are understandable, at least in outline, by the man in the street. While every approach is basically valid, the best general advice is this: Any line of reasoning or school of thought that helps you know that the God of the Bible exists is good. Find the approach that works best for you, but know that the other approaches are also valid.

Arguments for the existence of God are generally contained within works that are wider in scope, typically works arguing for the truth of Christianity in general. This is to be expected: salvation requires not just any old god, but the Living God of the Bible. The following references will therefore necessarily overlap somewhat with other categories listed below and, conversely, some books listed in other categories will contain arguments for God.

Resources

Presuppositional Books:

Trilogy (The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent.) by Francis A. Schaeffer. Schaeffer saw himself as a pastor rather than an apologist, yet he was arguably second only to C.S. Lewis among the Twentieth Century’s most important Christian apologists. His specialty was showing how Christianity responds to man’s actual needs. Available from Google Books here.

Apologetics to the Glory of God  by John Frame. “[Frame’s] goal in this book is to provide the framework into which all other arguments or lines of reasoning will fit, and he does so masterfully.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]

Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith By Greg Bahnsen. “Most readers will likely be drawn mainly to Bahnsen’s exposition of a presuppositional approach to apologetics (section one). However, section two provides a rich resource of practical answers to the most common attacks on Christianity.”  [From the review at Apologetics 315.]

Evidential Books

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. One of the greatest arguments for Christianity. Available through Google Books here.

Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas. The magnum opus of theology. Contains Aquinas’ celebrate “five ways,” or proofs, of God. Available online here.

Natural Theology by William Paley. Contains his famous “watchmaker” argument for God. “Natural theology is the practice of inferring the existence of God from the design and beauty found in nature.” [from Apologetics 315]

Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler.  Focuses on proving God, the validity of the Bible and the truth of the traditional description of Jesus Christ. One strength is that it builds an adequate test for truth before turning to the evidence.

Scaling the Secular City by J. P. Moreland. Written by a Christian who is also a professional philosopher, Scaling provides an excellent and challenging introduction to some of the high-level philosophical issues in the defense of the faith.

Theology

Theology is the intellectual discipline of understanding and organizing our knowledge of things pertaining to God and it is therefore not, strictly speaking, a branch of apologetics. But theology can be a stumbling block to faith, as when the individual finds that he cannot believe in a key doctrine such as the Trinity of God or the Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus of Nazareth.

Resources

Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. A protestant Summa Theologica. Available online here.

Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas. The magnum opus of theology. Contains Aquinas’ celebrate “five ways,” or proofs, of God. Available online here.

On the Incarnation of the Word of God  by Athanasius of Alexandria (ca 297—373 AD). Written by one of the early Church Fathers, Incarnation is still one of the best defenses of basic, “mere” Christianity. Full text available here.

The Forgotten Trinity by James R. White. A thorough introduction to that most difficult of theological concepts, the Trinity of God.

Jesus Christ, Especially His Resurrection

It is a truism that Christianity stands or falls on the validity of the biblical account of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not simply a prophet or lawgiver, He is God the Son incarnated who lived a sinless life and suffered a death that atones for our sins, if we have true faith in Him.

To put it succinctly: No Jesus, no Christianity. And if Jesus is redefined, we get different Christianities, containing Jesuses who cannot save us. (Since salvation requires faith, and faith requires knowledge, and since one cannot know a falsehood, faith in a false Jesus cannot save.) For example, the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the last couple of centuries, enemies of Christianity (many of whom operate within the church) successfully established the idea that we cannot know anything about Jesus of Nazareth unless our knowledge has been validated by the methods of skeptical, secular scholarship. The result, naturally, is a picture of Jesus as an enigma who varies with the latest academic fads.

But this is foolishness. We can know that the Biblical accounts are accurate, and that Jesus is as described therein. There is overwhelmingly more ancient manuscript evidence for Jesus, the Apostles and the Bible than for any other persons or works of antiquity: If scholars do not doubt that we have essentially correct views of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, they will, if they have integrity, have to admit that we have a thousand times more evidence for Jesus of Nazareth and His religion.

As for the Resurrection of Christ, only the general assumption that resurrections are impossible could nullify the plentiful evidence. Once you acknowledge the existence of God, resurrections become possible, and you can examine the evidence with an open mind.

Resources

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. A former atheist and journalist questions the experts about the reliability of the Bible, the historicity (i.e., reality) of the Resurrection, and the general reliability of the biblical portrayal of Jesus. An excellent popular-level introduction to the topics it covers.

The Historical Jesus  by Gary Habermas. “What sets this book apart for this reviewer is its straightforward approach. Habermas does not try to read between the lines, redefine, or reinterpret history. He just plainly presents evidence after evidence that all attest to the historicity of the life of Jesus. …. The plain facts make a powerful argument for the New Testament as the most reliable historical record of the life of Jesus Christ.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]

Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus  Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland, general editors. Ten Christian scholars present evidence for the reliability of the traditional picture of Jesus.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Taking a “minimalist” approach, the authors focus on five undisputed facts about Jesus and show how these constitute solid evidence for the Resurrection.

The Resurrection of the Son of God  by N. T. Wright. Wright is liberal on some issues, but this is the most thorough work vindicating the Resurrection.

The Reliability of the Bible

Enemies of Christianity have also successfully established the belief that we cannot know who wrote the various books of the Bible, or what their original manuscripts said, or whether what they said is correct. One specific example of this is the belief, held by virtually all enemies of Christianity, that Paul and the other Apostles changed the religion taught by Jesus.

Again, this is foolishness. Scholars have, for the New Testament, approximately one thousand times more ancient manuscripts than for the average book of antiquity, and there are thousands of manuscripts of the writings of the early Church Fathers that collectively contain almost the entire New Testament as quotations.

Furthermore, the vast majority of the differences among the various manuscripts (the “textual variants”) are utterly trivial: changed spellings, single words obviously skipped, etc. And none of the variants challenge Christian doctrine. Scholars who do not have a vested interest in denying it acknowledge that we know what the original manuscripts taught, even if there is some doubt about the exact wording in a few places.

And the belief that the Apostles were innovators can be dispelled by a careful reading of the Gospels. Although, for example, the gospels never record Jesus saying [quote] I am God [unquote], they record Him making statements that mean exactly that.

Resources

Dr. Timothy McGrew (husband of Lydia McGrew) on the validity of the Gospels (Audio and PowerPoint slides from Youtube.)

Who Wrote the Gospels?

External Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels

Internal Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg. “If only one book could be recommended as a thorough overview of the historical reliability of the gospels, Blomberg’s would be it. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has a large scope, it covers a wide variety of objections and apparent contradictions, and is an excellent history lesson on textual criticism.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]

The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? By F. F. Bruce. A relatively brief, non-scholarly yet solid introduction to the basic arguments for the reliability of the Bible.

The Origin of Paul’s Religion By J. Gresham Machen. Available through Google Books here. Demonstrating that Paul was not an innovator, but instead taught what Jesus taught.

General Introduction to the Bible by Norman L. Geisler and William Nix. A thorough discussion of all aspects of the writing, preservation and translation of the Old and New Testaments. Not primarily a work of apologetics, this book nevertheless builds a strong case for the reliability of the entire Bible.

The Truth and Goodness of Christianity

The existence of the God of the Bible, the validity of the biblical portrait of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible are summarized in one saying: Christianity is true. So how can we prove it?

One possibility would be to try to give independent proofs of all the various doctrines of Christianity such as the Trinity of God, the incarnation of God the Son in Jesus of Nazareth, original sin, and so on. Aside from the extreme length of such an attempt, we have the problem that many doctrines concerning God cannot be known to us through purely human effort. These truths can only be known if God reveals them to us and if we believe what He has said.

It is true that Christianity is consistent with what we know from extra-biblical sources of knowledge, and we can show that Christianity does not contradict valid knowledge. But it is best to prove Christianity by pointing to the one Man Who has the authority to validate the faith: Jesus Christ. If Jesus is Who the Bible says He is, then He has the authority to validate both the Old and New Testaments. The ultimate proof of Christianity is to believe what Jesus has said, through direct quotes in the Gospels, the words of His Apostles, and the words of the other prophets as recorded in Scripture.

Resources

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. One of the greatest arguments for Christianity. Available through Google Books here.

Pensées by Blaise Pascal. Pascal intended to write a treatise in defense of Christianity; he died before completing the task, and the Pensées (literally “thoughts”) are his preliminary notes. “In addition to providing deep, probing insights into the nature of man and his need to seek God, Pascal also presents a case for the truth of Christianity through scripture, fulfilled prophecy, and the person of Jesus Christ. Filled with profound thought and perspective, Pascal’s Pensées is a treasure of a book that is sure to challenge and enrich.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]  Complete text available online here.

Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. A comprehensive argument for Christianity, written by one of the best contemporary Christian apologists.

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton.  An idiosyncratic, masterful and entertaining argument for Christianity. Available online here.

Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age by Father Seraphim (Eugene) Rose.  A fundamental analysis of society’s descent into madness as a result of rejecting God. Available online here.

The Problem of Evil

It is said that because so much evil exists, God cannot exist, or at least that the god who does exist is not worthy of worship. We may call this the argument from evil, and many people find it to be “emotionally persuasive” in the sense that it makes the existence of God feel absurd. But although the existence of evil causes anguish, it is not a valid disproof of God.

That is, there are at least three “problems of evil:”

  • The apologetic problem of evil: Evil as an alleged disproof of the God of the Bible.
  • The theological problem of evil: Given that Christianity is true, how can we reconcile God’s goodness with the widespread existence of evil?
  • The psychological problem of evil: How can we deal with the personal anguish caused by evil?

Problems two and three are legitimate, but not problem one.

Resources

The Problem of Pain  by C. S. Lewis. “The Problem of Pain answers the universal question, ‘Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?’ Master Christian apologist C.S. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. In truth, by asking for this, we want God to love us less, not more than he does.”  [From the review at amazon.com.]

Miracles

 

A great deal of sophistry attempts to disprove the possibility of miracles. Since Christianity is based on miracles (most importantly: the Exodus from Egypt, the Incarnation of God in a man, and the Resurrection), a specific response to this challenge is needed. The basic answer is that if God exists, miracles are certainly possible.

Resources

In Defense of Miracles by R. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas. “Rumors of deception have surrounded claims of Jesus’ resurrection ever since the soldiers appointed to guard his tomb made their report to the Jewish authorities. But no one has led the philosophic charge against miracles quite as influentially as David Hume with his 1748 essay ‘Of Miracles.’ …In response, Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas have assembled a distinguished team of scholars to rebut the objections and set forth the positive case for God’s action in history…” [From the review at amazon.com.]

Miracles by C. S. Lewis. From the back cover: “ ‘The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.’ This is the key statement of Miracles, in which C. S. Lewis shows that a Christian must not only accept but rejoice in miracles as a testimony of the unique personal involvement of God in his creation. Using his characteristic lucidity and wit to develop his argument, Lewis challenges the rationalists, agnostics, and deists on their own grounds and makes out an impressive case for the irrationality of their assumptions.”

Science “versus” Christianity

It is popularly believed that science, especially Darwinian evolutionary theory, has disproved God. Of course it has done no such thing, but the challenge from organized atheistic science must be met on its own terms. Christianity is also rendered more credible if it can respond effectively to a variety of challenges.

The basic response to the challenge is that the science which believes it has disproved God has only presupposed an absence of God. It assumes the results it thinks it has proved. Under the assumption of atheism, Darwinian evolution is more credible than the creation of life by an intelligent Designer. But of course, if the presupposition is false, then so is any conclusion based on it.

And science is not even qualified to investigate the question of whether or not God exists. It can supply some of the evidence, to be sure, but it cannot make the final call, because philosophical questions, especially questions of the ultimate nature of reality, are outside the proper domain of science.

Resources

Christianity and the Nature of Science: a Philosophical Investigation by J. P. Moreland. To quote from the linked review, “…persons interested in these important topics should not miss Moreland’s valuable contribution. No other Christian text is as current or has the relative depth as this text.”

Pseudo-Christian Cults

The Bible, common sense, and the testimony of the historical record all show that there are false Christs, that is, false religions that claim to be Christianity. An important part of the task of apologetics, then, is to warn Christians about cults, that is, organized groups of heretics.

While a Mormon, for example, can be a good neighbor or even a supporter of the reactionary agenda of the Orthosphere, he cannot (unless he is unfaithful to Mormon teaching) be a Christian, for his creed requires him to deny important truths about Jesus Christ. Indeed, (small-o) orthodoxy has always excluded anti-Trinitarian groups such as the Mormons. We do not bear ill will toward the Mormon (or any other pseudo-Christian), but we must uphold the historic boundaries of Christianity.

[A Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness could be called a Christian according to a lower standard: “A member of a body that regards itself as Christian,” for example, or “A supporter of Christian civilization.” But by the historic standards of orthodox Christianity, these bodies are not Christian. If we want to steer an individual toward salvation, we must warn him to stay away from the cults.]

Why exactly is it sinful to deny, as Mormons and many others do, that Jesus is Jehovah?  Because only God could incarnate himself in a man, or live a sinless life so that he could be a spotless sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, or be big enough to take on himself all the sins of the human race. It is not theological nitpicking to reject false teaching if that teaching makes Jesus unable to be our Savior.

Resources

The best resource when dealing with non-Christian religions is a good knowledge of orthodox, Bible-based Christian teaching. But it is also useful to be familiar with the basic errors of the various non-Christian religions. Indeed, knowing why they are errors can build one’s faith in Christ.

Kingdom of the Cults by Dr.Walter Martin and Ravi Zacharias. Although not officially labeled as such, the linked version is the third, most up-to-date, edition. An encyclopedic compendium of the teachings of major non-Christian religions, along with demonstrations from Scripture of the errors of these beliefs.

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen.  One could argue that Christian (theological) liberalism is the one of the world’s largest pseudo-Christian cult. Available through Google Books here.

The Maze of Mormonism Audio by Dr. Walter Martin. Part 1 here, Part 2 here.


Christian Apologetics Organizations

There are hundreds of such organizations; below are some that are particularly worthy:

Apologetics 315  The best Christian apologetics website; covers all aspects of Christianity and apologetics. Note especially, in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage, their list of “must-visit pages.”

Ligonier Ministries Primarily the teaching of Dr. R. C. Sproul; his broadcast Renewing Your Mind covers philosophical as well as theological and apologetic topics. Sophisticated Protestantism.

Stand to Reason  Another excellent resource for general apologetics.

Apologetics Index  A comprehensive database and hyperlinked glossary of information on all aspects of apologetics.

Theopedia  Wikipedia for Christianity.

Reasons to Believe  Showing that Christianity is compatible with mainstream science (i.e., taking the old-Earth position.) Founded by Dr. Hugh Ross, PhD in astrophysics and ordained Protestant pastor.

Christian Internet Broadcasts

Thru the Bible J. Vernon McGee. Five-year radio series reading and commenting on the entire Bible. A unique resource.

Renewing Your Mind R. C. Sproul. Sophisticated and devout Reformed Protestantism.

Fighting for the Faith Chris Rosebrough. Defending Protestant orthodoxy primarily by commenting on bad sermons and other manifestations of pseudo-Christian foolishness. Entertaining and edifying.

Truth for Life Alistair Begg. Solid Protestant biblical exegesis.

The White Horse Inn Michael Horton, Rod Rosenblatt, Kim Riddlebarger, Ken Jones. Panel discussion of Christian issues from a Confessional Protestant (Reformed and Lutheran) point of view.

Stand to Reason Greg Koukl. Defending classical Protestantism, “mere” Christianity and classical Christian values in an irenic format.

Special Mention

Christian Classics Ethereal Library  Classic Christian books online. A must for scholars.

51 thoughts on “Christian Apologetics: Giving Reasons to Believe

  1. Pingback: Christian Apologetics: Giving Reasons to Believe « The Orthosphere

  2. “Why exactly is it sinful to deny, as Mormons and many others do, that Jesus is Jehovah?”

    Mormons do not deny that Jesus is Jehovah. Their heretical belief is that Jehovah has a Father.

    • While I wasn’t aware that Mormons use the name Jehovah to refer to Jesus, I was using the phrase “Jesus is Jehovah” as a shorthand for the biblical testimony about God, especially that Jesus is one of the Persons of the triune Godhead.

      And Mormons don’t just say that Jehovah has a father, they have a whole set of bizarre views about gods: that there are an infinite number of them, that they have physical bodies, that they were once men like us but achieved godhood, that Jesus is the first physical offspring of planet Earth’s god whose proper name is Elohim, and so on. As a shorthand for the Mormons denying the biblical testimony about God and substituting their own views, I summarize by saying “They deny that Jesus is Jehovah.”

    • To believe that YHWH has a Father is not heretical. His father is the Father, El Elyon, God in the Highest. YHWH the Logos is El Elyon’s only begotten son. The other angels are his sons, too, but they are created, not begotten.

      • Forgive me for responding several months late! YHWH is God, and God is a Trinity: God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of the three is YHWH (also called Jehovah or Yahweh.)

      • Deuteronomy 32:8-9 has YHWH as one of the sons of El Elyon (“God of gods” or “God in the Highest”):

        When the Most High (‘elyon’) gave to the nations their inheritance,
        When He separated humanity,
        He fixed the boundaries of the peoples
        According to the number of divine beings.
        For YHWH’s portion is his people [Israel]
        Jacob his allotted heritage.

        So YHWH was the ba’al – the bar El, “son of God” — of Israel, while, e.g., Addu was the ba’al of Ugarit, and Moloch the ba’al of Tyre. The “gods of the nations” (a familiar phrase in scripture) are also often called “shepherds.”

        Early in Israel’s history, YHWH was understood as separate from El. Later they were assimilated to each other, but from the start YHWH was the son of the Father. Many of the more perplexing utterances of Jesus are much easier to understand if we remember that he is the incarnation of YHWH the Son, and that there are two other Persons of the Trinity operating in concord with him – the Father, and the Spirit of Truth.

        This does not of course disagree with the wider point that in referring to any of the Persons of the Trinity, we refer implicitly to all three. Where any one of them operates, all do.

      • Kristor, you say “Early in Israel’s history, YHWH was understood as separate from El,” and “Deuteronomy 32:8-9 has YHWH as one of the sons of El Elyon” If so, the early Israelites were mistaken. And the biblical passage you give as saying “according to the number of divine beings” is not the only possible reading:

        KJV: according to the number of the children of Israel.
        NASB: According to the number of the sons of Israel.
        ESV: according to the number of the sons of God. But the footnote says “Masoretic Text: Sons of Israel”

        Let’s not stray from orthodoxy: There is one God, in three persons.

      • But I don’t understand how it is unorthodox to characterize the second Person of the Trinity as the Son of the first. Jesus identified himself as that Son; the Creeds agree, as do the Fathers and the whole Church.

        The only reason what I have said about YHWH being Jesus seems tricky at first glance is that most Christians, without ever having given the matter much deliberation, think of YHWH as the Father. But scripture does not support this view. The Masoretic text that has the Deuteronomists saying that God numbered the nations according to the number of the 70 sons of Israel who went down into Egypt is a very late development of the Hebrew scribal tradition (somewhere between 500 and 1000 AD). It disagrees with the much older Septuagint, and with the far, far older Qumran text. Both the latter use terms aptly translated to English as “divine beings.” The Septuagint translates the phrase in question into Greek as aggelon theou, “angels of God;” in some manuscripts, it uses instead huion theou, “sons of God,” a direct translation of the Qumran text, beney ‘elohim. It is apparent that to the scribes of Egypt and of Qumran, “angel,” “god,” and “son of God” were equivalent terms.

        And angels are *totally* orthodox. It is I admit a bit startling to think of the Second Person as himself an angel among the angels, a god among the gods, even if we remind ourselves that he is the King of Heaven, the very God of the angels, whom they worship. But I submit that this is easier to encompass than the totally orthodox notion that the Second Person reigning over Heaven is a Galilean builder who enjoys a nice meal of fish from time to time.

      • I had missed your earlier comment “To believe that YHWH has a Father is not heretical. His father is the Father, El Elyon, God in the Highest. YHWH the Logos is El Elyon’s only begotten son.”

        Are you saying that YHWH is Jesus (God the Son) and El Elyon is another name for God the Father?

        According to my understanding of Christian theology, there is only one God, sometimes called YHWH, or Yahweh, or even Jehovah. This one God consists of three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and therefore it is appropriate to use the name YHWH (or an equivalent) to refer to any of these persons.

        Which works of theology or which of the creeds uses the name “El” to refer to God the Father?

      • I am saying that YHWH is Jesus, and that El Elyon – or El for short – refers to his Father. But while YHWH is a proper name, El is a title, as “king” is a title rather than a proper name like “Peter” or “Edmund.” El, “God,” is used to refer to the Father just the way that we would say, “the King,” to refer to King Peter. El Elyon, “High God,” likewise, is used the way we would use “the High King” to make it clear that we were referring to High King Peter, rather than his brother King Edmund. The Hebrew scriptures use the general term “el” to refer to all the angels and gods of the nations, just as we would use “king” to refer to any king.

        El is the title of the Most High God of ancient (pre-Israelite) Ugarit, and is still in use today to refer to the Most High God, by both Muslims and Christians, in its Arabic cognate, Allah. El Elyon appears in Genesis 14:18-19 as the God of Melchizedek the Priest at Salem (Jerusalem) to whom Abraham sacrificed and tithed, and in whose eucharist he partook; whose Great High Priest is Jesus, and to whose priestly order, prior and superior to the Aaronic priesthood, all Christians are ordained forever (baptism being the rite of ordination to this priesthood).

        With the doctrine of the Trinity, this does indeed get tricky. El and YHWH are different persons, but the same essential being: they perfectly implement exactly the same Nature. They are not a single entity, that appears to us under different species, or aspects, depending on what face (Greek prosopon, Latin persona) it presents to us. That notion, simpliciter, is the heresy of modalism. But, compliciter, it is orthodox, because the Persons perichoresce: whatever is true of El is true also of YHWH and of the Holy Spirit. Thus each of the Persons is an aspect of the other two.

        Perichoresis is a most useful term from Patristic theology, used by the Greek Fathers to refer to the relation of the Persons. It means literally “dance-about.” When square dancers join hands and dance coordinately in a circle, they perichoresce. The Latin fathers translated the term as circumincession, which captures a different aspect of what the Greek fathers were getting at in using the term perichoresis: circumincession means literally, “about-in-going.” In the dance of the Trinity, there is complete fluxion from each Person to both of the others; all of them perfectly inform each of them. Unlike human square dancers, then, the Persons of the Trinity dance in perfect accord. They are as one, and form a substantial unity; but they are different from each other (this being the only way they could have a relation in the first place).

        The time-honored formula for keeping this clear – for avoiding both the error of unitarianism on the one hand and the error of polytheism on the other – is memorialized on God’s coat of arms, the Shield of the Trinity, which is also a fitting depiction of perichoresis.

        Shield of the Trinity

        Note that the graph of the Trinity on the Shield is the plan of a solid: a tetrahedron, of four vertices. Thus the Shield works also as a depiction of the solidarity of the three Persons. The central, topmost vertex would be the Supra-Personal Godhead of Dionysius the Areopagite, the essence that all three Persons perfectly manifest in actuality.

        What is true then of God is true of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So in speaking to Jesus, we are speaking to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, to the whole Trinity; and when any one of the Persons speaks, or acts, all of them do. So Jesus prays to his Father; yet he insists also that he and his Father are one. So likewise we hear in Samuel 22:14 that “YHWH thundered from heaven, and Elyon uttered his voice.” So likewise in Psalm 97:9 we sing, “For you, YHWH, are Elyon over all the earth; you are raised high over all the elohim,” and in Psalm 78:35 that, “they remembered that Elohim was their rock, and El Elyon their redeemer.” So likewise El Shaddai appeared to Abraham at Mamre as three angels, who spoke as one who is on the one hand agent and ambassador of YHWH, and on the other is YHWH himself. God is a One who is a Many. He is Elohim: literally, “gods.”

        But out of all the elohim, YHWH is the proper name of the el who is the only begotten Son of El Elyon. Sozomen (fl. 400 – 450) wrote of the ancient annual festival at Mamre:

        The feast is celebrated by a very big congregation of Jews, since they boast of Abraham as their forefather, of heathens since angels came there, of Christians since he who should be born from the Virgin for the salvation of humankind appeared there to that pious man [i.e., to Abraham].

        So, Sozomen took it for granted that YHWH, who appeared as three angels at Mamre, was the Son who was later incarnate in Jesus.

  3. Alan, it’s not just a name. Mormons believe that Jesus is the same being as the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They believe that Jesus was God incarnate, in the sense that he was the physical incarnation of the same spiritual Being that the Jews had always worshiped. However, they believe that when Jesus talked about “the Father” he did not mean Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, but rather another being, whom Mormons usually refer to as Elohim or Ahman. (And, yes, they do have a whole suite of bizarre beliefs about the Gods in addition to this.)

    Kristor, that is very close to what Mormons believe, and it surely is heretical. “I am YHWH thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” If you believe that the Most High God is YHWH’s father rather than YHWH himself, how are you not in violation of this commandment?

    • Wm. Jas: Sorry, just now saw your comment of 4.3.12. In my comments of July 2012 above, did I succeed in clearing away any notion that the doctrine that Jesus is YHWH and El Elyon is his Father is heretical? They are not two Gods, but one; yet they are two different Persons.

  4. Pingback: Father Knows Best: Holy Week Edition « Patriactionary

  5. I’ve got to recommend Ed Feser’s ‘The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism’. It’s the single best book I’ve found for showing why Aquinas is relevant to the 21st century.

  6. Pingback: Why You are Demoralized and What You Must do About it « The Orthosphere

  7. Pingback: The Futility of Liberalism and the Hope of Traditionalism | The Orthosphere

  8. I read your article above, the problem with apologetics is they are liars about much of what they claim. And no matter how much evidence and proof you give them they always claim they are correct and everyone else is wrong. One thing you lie about is that you have evidence and proof of a historical Jesus. Actually there is no, ZERO reliable proof of Jesus as a historical person. Not a single historian or philosopher contemporary with Jesus knows anything about a miracle worker, crucified and resurrected from the dead Jesus. Second century claims are worthless proving a historical Jesus, because they could only be repeating Christian heresay. Plus claiming just the mention of Christians and not the name Jesus only comes from Pauline Christians.

    You are incorrect that there is much evidence for Jesus, there is none that is reliable. The 4 gospel writers were not Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, the gospel writers are anonymous writers and nowhere in them do the writers claim they themselves were eyewitnesses, they got their tales from heresay. And none of the 4 are in agreement with each other about the happenings surrounding the crucifixtion and supposed resurrection. Actually Christianity did not defeat paganism, it became the new paganism. It kept the holidays of sun gods, Christmas, Easter, the Eurichrst (communion, lord’s supper) the cross, earlier dying and resurrecting Savior sun gods, the idea of going to heaven, hell fire, SUN-DAY for a worship day and much more was done by earlier than Christianity sun gods. Apologetics learn to lie about biblical contradictions, and lie about the Bible being inerrant, infallible and god inspired, then they twist ancient writings that show christiany is nothing but a copy-cat of paganism. Your Jesus was not a historical person,he was developed by the Roman Empire and later the Roman Catholic church. That’s why he hasn’t returned in 2000 years and never will. Try researching for truth, not from biblical mind control, biblical brainwashing and blind faith.

    In Real Truth,

    Jay Osborne

    • Mr. Osborne,

      You seem to think that what you wrote is somehow original, or noteworthy.

      It is neither.

      If you had read the links in this article, especially those in The Reliability of the Bible section, then you would know that Every. Single. One. of your objections has been raised, and answered, on numerous occasions, by multiple authors.

      You also raise the bar for evidence far, far above reason when it comes to the Bible, saying, in essence, that only direct eyewitness accounts are acceptable. Is this true for anything else? I’m sure you believe the majority, perhaps all, of the facts in an encyclopedia, or in science texts. Are you sure that every single fact in those books was directly observed by those writing about them? How about history? By your standard, much of history is a lie—not just wrong, or misguided, but a deliberate lie (your word)—because for events presented in history books, “[n]ot a single historian or philosopher contemporary” to those events left behind eyewitness accounts. Are you sure this is a reasonable position?

      You exhort us to research for truth, yet everything you wrote was boilerplate anti-Christian propaganda, much of it untruthful. Perhaps if you could let go of your prejudice, you might see that the Bible, the single most-read and most-studied book in history, has never been contradicted by external evidence, or been found internally inconsistent. Yes, there are difficult and challenging passages, and yes, parts are hard to understand, but that does not equate to “wrong.”

      The truth shall indeed set you free. Are you willing to face it?

  9. Since you do not link or send me an email to my address I just accidently ran across your weak supposed answer to me above.I will answer your last question first that being the truth shall set you free,are you willing to face it?I spent 32 years of my life in Christianity,until one day over 20 years ago when I decided to prove all things like 1 Thess.5:21 tells anyone to do “Prove all things,hold fast that which is good”.When I started out to really prove the Bible the whole thing fell by the wayside piece by piece.I never said what I wrote was original ,what would be original would be to convince apologetics and Christians that you are incorrect.People like you are so biblically mind controlled,biblically brainwashed with pure blind faith you deny real truth.
    I have read hundreds of things apologetics write such as what you claim is in your section you call “Reliability of the Bible”it never could and never will approach the real truth,apologetics twist and lie like dogs trying to cover up the real truth.My or other people’s objections to your claims are never answered in real truth.I have written to hundreds of apologetic sites and none have been able to answer my objections.So it’s a lie for you to claim they have been answered on numerous occasions.Your N.T.or the whole Bible are not historical documents they are religious works,do you believe Muslim,Buddism,Hindu supposed holy books,so why do you believe your Bible which was written by sheep herders and tent dwellers?Just because your Bible mentions cities and town’s and a few people that may or may not have existed does not mean the Bible is true.Even fiction writers use known towns and cities and sometime realpeople in their stories.
    Jesus was not like some people who are barely in history,he is claimed to have done miracles,was crucified and resurrected from the dead,your N.T.claims he was known far and wide,multitudes followed him around,he supposedly fed 5000 people at one time,it takes an idiot to think that no historian or philosopher would write about such an earth shaking event.And there were plenty of historians and philosophers living and writing during Jesus supposed time,some lived right around Jerusalem and in Galilee,but yet they write nothing,ZERO about a miracle worker,crucified or resurrected from the dead Jesus.What I wrote might be Anti-Christian but truth is truth no matter who the liar is.Your Bible has been shown to have hundreds of contradictions,i’ll be happy to list some for you that are not normally even brought up.
    You can call what I wrote propaganda but what do you think what you claim is,it’s propaganda for Christianity.What I wrote was not untruthful but what you claim is not only untruthful the whole thing is based on lies.There are dozens of ways to prove Jesus was not a historical flesh and blood person.Do some real investigation and research.
    In Real Truth,
    Jay Osborne
    P.S.IF YOU PUT OUT A REFUTE OR ANSWER HOW ABOUT LETTING ME KNOW AT MY EMAIL ADDRESS,LIKE IT SAYS BELOW NOTIFY ME.

    • We don’t publish the email addresses of commenters. If you want to participate in the discussion here, just check back from time to time. Or subscribe for notification.

      If you do decide you’d like to continue the discussion, please read our comments policy first. We don’t tolerate insults to God or Jesus – sorry for the redundancy there – or to other writers at the site, whether contributors or commenters. So if you want a comment to survive the editorial scythe, you’ll want to be careful about such things as characterizing us all as lying dogs.

    • Mr. Osborne,

      You say that you set out to test Christianity. That’s admirable. But if you apply the wrong criteria, you will reach the wrong conclusions.

      In your statements, you don’t make it very clear what your criteria are. Apparently you think that what the Bible says must be corroborated by other sources in order to be valid, and you also apparently think that there is no such extra-biblical corroboration.

      But if the God who is described in the Bible exists, then inadequate corroboration is irrelevant. If God is who the Bible says he is, then the Bible is trustworthy because it comes from God, not because secular scholarship vindicates it. After all, secular scholarship, if it is non-Christian in its premises, has already decided the issue by its presuppositions before it even looks at the evidence. That’s not honest reasoning.

      When one is discussing ultimate reality, there are no glib answers that are valid. You cannot just say “The Bible has very weak extra-biblical corroboration, therefore I can dismiss it.” God is not obligated to give you evidence of exactly the sort that you ask for.

      Can you really be so confident that God does not exist?

  10. Mr.Roebuck,
    If you apply the wrong criteria to Bible belief you are in the same shape you try to accuse me of..And therefore you come to a wrong conclusion.To have proof of the Bible you must have corroborating proof or all you have is blind faith.Do you actually believe a snake (serpent)spoke the Hebrew language,that an ass (donkey)spoke the Hebrew language,that a burning bush talked,that a staff turned into a snake,that the sun stopped to cause a long day,this writer thought the earth flat and that the sun was moving under the earth to cause a long day.Your Bible is full of ancient legends,myths,fables and tales and if you believe all that and much more you have my sympathy.
    In 1633 the Catholic church used Ps.93:1,Ps.104:5,1 Chron.16:30,and Eccl.1:5 to attack Galileo’s theory that the earth orbits the sun and that the earh is not the center of the universe.The Catholic church and your Bible was later proved wrong,liars.Your O.T.says over and over that the earth can not be moved(thinking it flat)the earth moves 24 hours a day 365 days a year it never stops moving.Your Bible also claims the earth has foundations,the writers still thinking the earth is flat.We now know those scripyures and many,many more are lies.So yes things stated in the Bible must be corroborated,otherwise you are believing in fairy tales.It has now been proved the town of Nazareth did not exist in the first century,it is a town beginning in the second half of the second century and on into the third century.Without the town of Nazareth in the first century there could have been no Jesus of Nazareth in the first century.
    I reaiize Christian apologetic sites still claim Nazareth existed in the first century,but honest archaeologists have proved them liars.They have proved the Exodus never happened it’s another myth and fable in your Bible,when you find all the above things I mentioned are fables and there is much morer,why be ignorant and claim the Bible is inerrant,infallible and god inspired.?I never say there is no god,i just know if there is a god it is not the god of the Bible,or the god of any other religions of this world.I suggest Mr.Roebuck that you do a lot better investigation and research before claiming such biblical absurdities.
    In Real Truth,
    Jay Osborne

    • You are confident that the God of the Bible does not exist, but how do you know it? Claiming that the Bible contains errors proves nothing, because your confidence that the Bible contains errors is based on an assumption that God does not exist rather than actual evidence that He does not exist.

      I repeat my challenge: Please explain how you can be so confident that God does not exist?

  11. Mr. Osborne,

    You claim to have left comments on hundreds of apologetic sites. Why do you spend your time assaulting the beliefs of strangers?

    It is clear that you are deeply unhappy. About what? Surely no one at this site can be at fault for that. Perhaps you should address the people and issues that disturb you, rather than insult people you have never met.

    I sincerely hope you find the peace you so desperately lack.

  12. To Mr.Roebuck and Mr Lewis,
    Mr.Roebuck,your Bible and Christianity claims the Bible is god inspired,most claim it is infallible so I ask you how could this be when I pointed out lies in it in the other email?So hoiw could the lying god of the Bible exist for anyone to believe in?I barely touched on all the lies in your Bible,i could send a long list.A true knowledgeable loving god would not send a book(the Bible)so full of easily proved lies to his supposed creation.That’s one reason I know the Bible god does not exist.The real truth is you can not prove god exists and I can not prove that no god at all exists,it’s hard to prove an invisible,inaudible entity exists or does not exist.The God of the Bible according to Christianity gave 10 commandments for man to do if you read your Bible closely you will find this supposed god broke everyone of those 10 commandments himself and many times had the Israelites break them.
    This is not an assumption by me it’s right in your Bible.The Bible god did not create man in his image,man created his god in man’s image.That’s why the Bible god claims he has a heart,arms,legs and the body parts of man.I am confident the Bible god does not exist because the book you claim he sent is full of ancient legends,myths,fables and tales which are easily proved lies.Isiah 7:14 was never,ever a prophecy of a virgin birth of Jesus some 700 years later,so your N.T.begins based on a lie.
    Now to Mr.Lewis.I spend my time writing to apologetics because I hate liars who deceive others with the same lies they have stuck in their heads.You are completely wrong about me being unhappy once I dis-proved the biblical tales then I really felt liberty and peace of mind,the Bible belief is the biggest conspiracy ever put over on the human race.Much of the Bible claims especially in Genesis has now been dug up by archaeologists on clay cunciform tablets from the Sumerian and Babtlonian cultures and was about their SUN GODS,the Hebrews (Israelites)merely copied their one nation god off of earlier Sumerian and Babylonian sun god beliefs.Read Ps.84:11 there it says the O.T.God is the sun.Most Christians if not all think Malachi 4:2 is about Jesus notice there he is called the “SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”not “SON”
    The heading of your site says “Christian Apologetics:Giving reasons to Believe”then lists resources,i am not trying to insult anyone at this site but you put this stuff on the internet to the public so I have every right to refute it.I do have real peace because I know the “Shall NOTS”in your Bible are written by ancient man to control the lesser population,your Bible is nothing but a mind control book.
    In Real Truth,
    Jay Osborne

    • Mr. Osborne,

      You said

      The real truth is you can not prove god exists and I can not prove that no god at all exists, it’s hard to prove an invisible, inaudible entity exists or does not exist.

      So you’re saying that you can’t justify your position that God does not exist, other than to point to the alleged errors of the Bible.

      But if God exists then all of these objections can be overcome. If God exists, then the Bible is his work and therefore error-free. And the alleged errors of the Bible only count against God if he doesn’t exist. You’re begging the question.

      So we have to return to my question: Can you justify your position that God does not exist? After all, an awful lot is riding on the answer to this question. A person should not be content with shallow clichés when deciding this issue.

      And the shallowest of all is the cliché that it is impossible to prove God. It’s only impossible if you don’t let yourself think clearly.

      You have to answer my question if you want this conversation to continue. For the time being, at least, I’ll edit out from your comments anything not bearing on this question.

  13. Mr.Roebuck,

    [AR: As promised, I have deleted the parts of this comment which simply repeat what you have said before.]

    With a little thinking on your part there should be plenty of reasons to justify me for not believing in your Bible god.You should know that no one,ZERO can reliably prove there is a god.All you have is faith,the definition for faith is:FAITH IS A BELIEF DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY.That’s just about the way your own Bible defines faith,in Heb.11:1 it states “FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR,THE EVIDENCE FOR THINGS UNSEEN.So it is what you hope for but is not seen.I don’t base my life on things hoped for or something unseen I prefer proof and evidence for whatever I believe.You have ZERO proof or evidence […]
    In Real Truth,
    JAY OSBORNE

    • Things not seen with the eye can nevertheless be real. Faith is not evidence without belief, it is trust based on evidence that is good but not overwhelming. You misunderstand these concepts. Try again.

      There is plenty of evidence for God. But if you cannot think accurately about God, the evidence will do you no good.

      You continue to assert that nobody can know God. But your assertion is not a proof. I challenge you to give actual evidence, not mindless cliches, why God does not exist.

      I don’t think you have any such evidence, other than your list of complaints about the Bible, which are irrelevant. Prove me wrong. Show me some real evidence and reasoning.

    • FAITH IS A BELIEF DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY.

      First, please stop yelling. If you don’t know how to use HTML, and don’t want to learn (it’s not that hard), then please show emphasis by using asterisks.

      Second, this is not the definition for faith; it is the definition for delusion. You conflate the two, when they are separate.

      A quick dictionary look-up will show that the definition of faith you are misrendering is, “belief not based on proof.” Love, for example, is something we take on faith: while we can take someone’s actions and words as evidence of their love, we can never know their hearts.

      Does love exist, Mr. Osborne? If your answer is “yes,” then you have faith.

      In any case, it is clear that many of your talking points, like this one, are based on distortions and misrepresentations. Either you do not know this, or you are not arguing in good faith. Which is it?

  14. Mr. Osborne,

    Your writing is hard to follow for a couple of reasons. One is simply orthographic: you do not put spaces after punctuation. If you want people to read what you write, then it’s better to make it easy for them by following standard conventions. Otherwise, some will give up: if you don’t care enough about your readers to follow the usual forms, why should they care enough about you to read what you wrote?

    Another is that you jump from claim to claim without any real argumentation. You have points, but they are unsubstantiated. Please make convincing arguments, not simple claims.

    Finally, your hostility and dismissive attitudes turn people away from you. You do know that, don’t you?

    I will take one of your myriad talking points, and show it mistaken. In the process, I will not call you a liar, nor will I insult you by attacking your beliefs. Furthermore, I support my position via apposite examples. You wrote,

    .It has now been proved the town of Nazareth did not exist in the first century,it is a town beginning in the second half of the second century and on into the third century.

    One cannot prove the non-existence of something. The most that can be said is that there is insufficient evidence to support the position that a certain thing exists (or existed).

    Pace your claims that Nazareth was first settled in the first half of the second century, Nazarene history goes back about 9000 years. The earliest site was about three miles from the current site. There are gaps in the archaeological record, but this is expected: all historical investigation involves insufficient data. A a recent (2009) dig in Nazareth uncovered evidence for the presence of a Jewish town there in Biblical times. It’s not certain yet, but that is the nature of historical investigation: we don’t have all the facts, and never will.

    Communities may move and shift over time. We see this even in the modern day. Some American towns, located in areas frequented by natural disasters, have picked up and moved. Another example is Detroit, which has sections that are now abandoned and decaying. These are well-known phenomena in archaeology: a site may show signs of settlement, abandonment, re-settlement, shift to a nearby location, and more. The ancient city of Troy is a good example of this.

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It was once thought that because there was no evidence for Troy, Troy never existed, and the events recounted in the Iliad were just a fable. Then Troy was found, and now the Iliad, though involving supernatural elements, is thought to be based on a conflict that actually happened.

    In the same vein, 19th-century critics of the Bible sometimes seized upon the Hittites as an example of the Bible not agreeing with external evidence. The Bible can’t be right, they said, because these so-called “Hittites” never existed. Indeed, there was no evidence for them—until that evidence was unearthed. Now much is known about the Hittites, and the Bible has been shown, again, to be one piece in the historical puzzle.

    So the most we can say about Nazareth in Biblical times is that there is, as yet, no definitive evidence. However, since the Bible has yet to be refuted by archaeological evidence, and since archaeological evidence supports, in broad strokes if not always in detail, Biblical accounts, we can reasonably assume that Nazareth existed.

    See how easy that was? Not once did I need to call you a liar, or insult you. I marshaled some facts, put them together, and came to a conclusion based on them. I also showed that your position was based on a logical fallacy, which means that it cannot be correct.

    I will not do this for your other talking points. There are too many of them, and I admit insufficient knowledge in some of the areas to be able to respond adequately. However, since I have shown one of your positions to be based on false assumptions, faulty reasoning, and a misunderstanding of history, one cannot help but wonder: how many more of your talking points suffer from similar flaws?

  15. Mr.Roebuck.
    The reason i repeated some things you deleted was because you evidently could not understand what i was saying.sp i repeated.I do not appreaciate your deleting what you can not seem to understand in the first place. And you still can not understand it,that’s not my fault evidently it’s your reading problem.JAY

    • You’re our guest here, so you have to abide by our rules. I’m not going to let you keep repeating your irrelevant comments. You have to respond meaningfully to our questions if you are going to continue in this conversation.

      To repeat, my question was: Can you come up with plausible reasons why you are confident that God does not exist?

    • By the way, I understand exactly what you are doing when you criticize the Bible. Assuming that atheism is true, you interpret the evidence very selectively to draw the conclusion that there are many errors in the Bible. But since you are assuming no God, your reasoning is entirely useless as a disproof of God. It’s called circular reasoning.

      That’s why I am not paying attention to your alleged biblical errors. There is a more important issue here. You need to be able to think correctly about God.

  16. Mr.Lewis.Answer to your first short post above.I yell because you and Mr.Roebuck can’t seem to understand the English language very well,so by yelling i hope you will take better notice.I should yell about this ,you claim faith does not mean what i said,that it means you did not look it up in the dictionary and did the same thing as calling me a liar.Websters dictionary says this:Faith is a belief without evidence,just exactly what i said.The Free dictionary says:Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material,again just exactly what i said.This is the same way you study your Bible read it and make it say what you want it to say without looking up evidence and proof whether it is so.So is it any wonder i yell you read right over my points and then try to claim i am incorrect.Then you ask the silly question,Does love exist?Then you say if i answer yes i have faith.And i say (pardon me)what a stupid way to approah this.Sure i can love a person but i can’t love a sky god that is invisable,never speaks and no one can prove he(dhe)even exists.The best evidence is that he doesn’t exist,take back in the second Word War American mothers were praying to the christian god that their son’s would be protected aND come home alive German mothers were praying to the same christian god that their sons would be protected and both mothers were praying for the war to end your god answered neither of them,the war was only stopped because of the atomic bomb that thankfully we got first,and 2 bombs killed over 2000,000 people.Your god did nothing,even letting 6 million Jews who were praying to the same god be exterminated.
    What is clear is that your talking points are based on distortions and misrepresentation,like you accuse me of.You are like all apologetics and most christians you think only you could be correct.It’s your way or hit the road,that is the way to never prove anything.
    JAY

    • Perhaps you did not notice the differences between your first definition and your second, so I will point them out.

      First, you said that faith is “belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary” (emphasis added). Then, more or less in agreement with the definition I gave (“belief not based on proof”), you said it is “belief without evidence,” which, regardless of your claims to the contrary, is not “exactly what [you] said.” (You then quoted another dictionary, to agree with me completely: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof.” Thank you for acknowledging my point.)

      However, I would deny that “not based on proof” is the same as “belief without evidence.” I have evidence that my wife and children love me: they say so, and they behave lovingly towards me. However, I cannot prove what the feelings in their hearts are. A minor point, perhaps, but an important one. And this is why my example with love is appropriate: the nature of the evidence we accept for love is similar to that we accept for faith: not provable in a scientific sense, but demonstrable nonetheless.

      On to other items.

      I did not call you a liar, nor did I imply it. All I said was that your definition was wrong. That doesn’t make you a liar; it makes you ignorant, or misinformed, or perhaps both. You’re only a liar if you knew that you were misdefining the word. Were you?

      If my approach to attempting to make a point is inadequate, why not point those inadequacies out? Why not show me wrong? Calling my approach “stupid” only demonstrates the paucity of your ability to mount a counterargument.

      Your WWII example is inapposite. It shows you have incorrect assumptions about both the nature of our world and the nature of God. Yes, the existence of all kinds of pain and suffering, including war, is challenging to reconcile with a loving God; however, the existence of pain and suffering and war do not show that God does not exist. If you reject the arguments that show the compatibility of pain, etc. with God, then please demonstrate them wrong, rather than fulminate about them.

  17. Mr.Lewis Answer to your second post.I type like i want to type,not just to suit your supposed orders,Are you from a foreign nation?My posts are simple and like i said before i have writen hundreds of apologetic sites without any typing complaints.I think you are just a picky person.Why don’t you or Mr.Roebuck make convincing arguments, send me contemporary evidence that Jesus the miracle worker,crucified and resurrected from the dead ever existed as a flesh and blood person.Notice i don’t say just any Jesus,because there were many Jesus’es(people named Jesus) in the first century,I write biblical scholars,biblical nistorians and apologetics as soon as i make it clear i only want proof of the 4 gospel Jesus not just any Jesus they all shut up and stop corresponding..My dad taught me to say what i mean and mean what i say,if plain talk bothers youto bad.

    Your garbage about Nazareth above is nothing but slick double tongue talk and does nothing to prove your point.The fact is archaeologists have dug in the area where Nazareth was supposed to be for over 100 years and not one artifact from the first century has ever been found.Yes Catholic supposed archaeologists who dug with a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other hand claimed to have found proof of a first century Nazareth,but then honest archaeologists came along and examined the very same artifacts and found they were pre dating and post dating the very same artifacts.Yes back in the Bronze age there was town in the area but it was not called Nazareth,from sometime in the late B.C’S there was a town there but from the B.C.time to the second century there was no town there.Nowhere in the O.T.was there a town called Nazareth,neither is it in the Talmud until the 3rd.century,Josephus names 63 Galilee towns but he knows nothing of Nazareth when he wrote about 90 .A.D.Several times it has been claimed things supporting a Nazareth in the first century but when they do deeper investigation so far there is none.Just a few years ago it was claimed they found a house from the first century,that’s probably what you are refering to above,but it has sice been found not to date from the first century.Lying apologetic sites still claim proof of a first century Nazareth,but they are lying at this time after over 100 years of digging there no proof of a first century Nazareth.So do your research instead of believing christian apologetic sites.Remember i speak plain so i call them liars,not just incorrect.Your site won';t let me type more,not even my name.

    In Real Truth,
    Jay Osborne

    You say abseb

    You say absence of evidence

    • Mr.Lewis Answer to your second post.I type like i want to type,not just to suit your supposed orders,Are you from a foreign nation?

      Actually, I was not ordering you; I was suggesting that you do what more or less everyone else does. I hate to have to say it, but your refusal to follow simple conventions like “put a space after punctuation” makes you look uneducated. Also, as I said earlier, it shows a certain disregard for the reader. As a reader, when I see poorly written text (and I mean poorly written from a formatting point of view), I think to myself, why should I bother to make the effort to read this when the author couldn’t be bothered to write normally?

      From a foreign nation? If anyone around here types like a foreigner, certainly it is you, not I.

      As it so happens, I am a native speaker of American English; have a Ph.D. from an American university; am a published author; and have worked as an editor for both commercial and scholarly outlets. Had anything of yours come across my desk as an editor, I would have returned it, unread, with the comment “use standard orthographic conventions.”

  18. One more point Mr.Lewis to what you claimed above,that i couldn’t answer in the other email because it kept erasing it.You claim absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,this is another apologetic wowd trickery and not so.The absence of no contemporay historian or philospher knowing anything about a miracle worker,crucified or resurrected from the dead Jesus SCREAMS LOUDLY at christianity no matter if you use silly word plays.
    jay

    • Actually, I learned “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” in a secular setting. It’s a phrase that people in my academic field sometimes use in teaching, and sometimes, to help themselves.

      Regardless of your protests otherwise, it remains true. Even St. Carl of Sagan said so!

    • Mr Osborne has proven himself to be a troll. He only insults, never engaging in rational or at least semi-respectful discourse. Unless someone can point out a good reason not to, I am therefore unilaterally ending his visit here. Any more of his posts will be summarily deleted.

      As the civilized reader can observe, Mr. Osborne refused to respond in even a semi-serious way to my challenge that he identify serious reasons why he rejects God. All he did was sputter and fume.

      As Christians, we are not obligated to waste our time on hostile interlocutors. The Lord Himself spoke of the futility of casting valuable things at persons who do not value them.

      Mr. Lewis, if you wish to continue your conversation with Mr. Osborne, let me know and I’ll consider letting the two of you converse. At least for a short while.

      • Thank you for the kind offer, Mr. Roebuck, but I have no further need to talk to this particular wall.

  19. Hello! I am actually currently trying to learn apologetics in response to Islam’s claims against Christianity. I get thrown a ton of claims by Muslims I know. Most I can dispute, but some I can’t find information on. I’d actually like to learn from an actual apologetic personally. Do you know anyone that would be willing to teach and disciple? Thank you and God bless!

  20. Pingback: Reader Requests Help Learning Apologetics | The Orthosphere

  21. Recently, I spent a lot of time reading about church history. It turns out that most of what I knew about Catholicism is false (whore of Babylon and all of that). I find Catholicism compelling, but I am afraid of making a false move. Especially wary of anything smacking of witchcraft. Either I am misunderstanding Mary and the saints and why praying to them is not actually sinful, or the papacy has lost infallibility regarding this issue, or the answer is in the deuterocanon (which I have not read and am also confused about- is it wrong for me to read them?)? I apologize for the lack of organization in my thoughts here. Could you point me towards a good book or resource about praying to Mary & the saints for people from a protestant background?

    I look around the US and see that we have an authority problem, magnified with more resounding clarity daily, possibly because we do not understand what legitimate authority is, what it does, what its purpose is, what its obligations are, and what our obligations are to it. We are afraid of authority: terrified of submitting ourselves to someone who will misuse our authority, abuse our submission, dehumanize us. So everyone does what is good in their own eyes and backs it up with a Bible verse or concept. The cult of the individual – can it be pleasing to God? Can the disorder resulting from each man creating his own religion be pleasing? So I accept the need for church hierarchy to drive out error so people know what “Christian” means and requires. But I cannot accept certain concepts without proofs or reasons because it goes against everything I have come to understand about what witchcraft means. What am I missing?

    • Stasia, one quick point of clarification that might help you. Catholics don’t pray to Mary or the saints as if they were gods, but only fellow creatures. E.g., “Mary, I pray that you pray for my salvation,” rather than, “Mary, I pray that you save me.” As I said recently somewhere at the Orthosphere, it’s more like my praying, “Proph, my friend, pray bring me a cup of that coffee,” than it is like my praying, “Proph, pray grant me eternal life with God.” Proph really can bring me a cup of coffee, and Mary really can pray for me. But neither of them can grant me eternal life with God.

      Hope that helps.

      • KRISTOR,
        I wish to disagree with you (by the grace of God). Firstly you pointed out one important point:

        “Catholics don’t pray to Mary or the saints as if they were gods, but only fellow creatures”….

        Firstly, I wish to say that there is nothing wrong with honouring Mary as the earthly mother of Jesus. The Bible describes Mary as “highly favoured” by God (Luke 1:28). At the same time, there is no instruction in the Bible to revere those whom have gone to Heaven or those who have died. We are to follow their example, yes, but worship, revere, venerate, or pray to? no!
        Mary died and she did not resurrect. So there is no way we can pray to her to pray for us. There is no part of scripture that tells us to pray to Mary, or to the Disciples.

        ACTS {10:25} And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet,
        and worshipped him. {10:26} But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. HERE WE READ THAT PETER REFUSED TO WORSHIPPED.

        ACTS {14:13} Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. {14:14}[Which] when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard [of,] they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,{14:15} And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein”. HERE, WE READ CLEARLY THAT PAUL AND BARNABAS REFUSED TO BE WORSHIPPED WITH SACRIFICES.

        When forced to admit that they do, in fact, worship Mary, Catholics will claim that they worship God through her, by praising the wonderful creation that God has made. But the problem with this is that God explicitly commands against worshipping Him through created things. We are not to bow down and worship anything in the form of heaven above or earth below (Exodus 20:4-5). Romans 1:25 could not be more clear, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.” Yes, God has created wonderful and amazing things. Yes, Mary was a godly woman who is worthy of our respect. No, we absolutely are not to worship God “vicariously” by praising things (or people) He has created. Doing so is blatant idolatry.

        Another way Catholics “venerate” Mary and the saints is by creating statues and images of them. Many Catholics use images of Mary and/or the saints as “good luck charms.” Any cursory reading of the Bible will reveal this practice as blatant idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:1-2; 1 John 5:21). Rubbing rosary beads is idolatry. Lighting candles before a statue or portrayal of a saint is idolatry. Burying a Joseph statue in hopes of selling your home (and countless other Catholic practices) is idolatry.

        The Bible nowhere instructs us to revere, pray to, rely on, or “idolize” anyone other than God. We are to worship God alone. Glory, praise, and honour belong to God alone. Only God is worthy to “…receive glory and honour and power…” (Revelation 4:11). God alone is worthy to receive our worship, adoration, and praise (Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 15:4).

        MAYBE THERE ARE PARTS OF THE SCRIPTURE THAT SUPPORT THESE ACTS OF CATHOLICISM, I WOULD APPRECIATE IF YOU SHARED THEM WITH ME. THANK YOU AND STAY BLESSED.

      • Aggrey, thanks for your engagement on this topic. You make good points, but you are tilting at other targets than you suppose. In the first place, Catholics just don’t worship Mary or the saints. Mary and the saints are worthy of our admiration and imitation, and we honor and venerate them the way we would any great authority in his own area. For example, if we were trying to be good physicists, we might take Richard Feynman as our model, honoring and venerating him. We might even treasure something that was once his, like a slide rule, or put his picture on the wall of our study. We might own and ponder his works, seeking wisdom. But we wouldn’t worship him. Likewise for a musician, venerating Bach, or a painter venerating Caravaggio, or a playwright venerating Shakespeare. To revere a creature is not to commit idolatry, so long as one is clear in one’s own mind that it is not God. If Catholics offered sacrifices to Mary or the saints, then it might make sense to say that they were engaging in idolatry. But they just don’t. They offer sacrifice only to God.

        In the second place, you argue that the Bible “nowhere instructs us to revere, pray to, rely on … anyone other than God.” Now, that’s simply untrue; check the Decalogue, and Paul’s instructions that we are to honor and respect our political masters. But even if it were true, notice that the Bible nowhere instructs us to drive Chevrolets, use the internet, or derive longitude using chronometers. But that does not mean those activities are banned. The Bible does not tell us *not* to pray to Mary.

        It does tell us not to worship her. But then, as I said, we don’t. Praying to Mary is no different than praying to your friend that he do some favor for you. It is still common parlance to say such things as “pray tell,” a relic of the day not so long past when it was normal to say such things as, “pray open the door for me, there’s a good fellow.” When we pray to a saint to help us with this or that practical difficulty, it is no different. When Catholics pray to Mary, likewise, we ask her to do us the favor of praying for us to God, in the same way that we offer intercessory prayers to God for our fellow creatures: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

        As for rosary beads, statues, images, crucifixes, sacramentals, theology, creeds, stained glass windows, icons, crosses, sacred architecture, vestments, habits, liturgies, holy days, the church calendar, the lectionary, sacred music, organs, sermons, formal prayer, monastic institutions, ascetic disciplines, seminary and university buildings and their books and equipment, automobiles owned and used by clergy or religious, photocopiers in Diocesan offices, and so forth, these are all *instruments* of faith rather than *objects* thereof. We don’t worship rosary beads, any more than we worship the Ford that Father uses to get to the hospital for pastoral visits. That would be like an astronomer thinking that the object of his science was telescopes.

        Finally, it is not the case that only those who have died and been resurrected can be prayed to. In the first place, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit never died or were resurrected, and it is perfectly possible to pray to them. In the second, I can pray to you that you do me the favor of considering my arguments charitably and honestly, and you never died or were resurrected. All that is needed for us to be able to pray to another being is that it have the capacity to respond to our prayer.

    • Stasia,

      To answer from the other side of the aisle, as it were (that is, a Protestant perspective), the Bible is our infallible and unerring guide. God has made it clear how He is to be worshipped, and certain Roman Catholic practices are not found in the Bible. This is why Protestants reject those practices and do not engage in them.

      I’m sure you have found certain misunderstandings about Roman Catholicism propagated by Protestants, just as you can find misunderstandings about Protestantism propagated by Roman Catholics. I’m afraid neither side has a monopoly on misunderstanding the other! However, you need to determine, from their own positions and not someone else’s interpretation thereof, which group is more faithful to God’s word as revealed in the Bible. This should lead you to your home in faith.

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