Calvary Road Baptist Church

“IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU”

 

 

Let me read a short article to you from the July issue of Christianity Today that I think you will find interesting, especially at the very end. Before I begin, let me define a word for you that is used in the article. The word is apologetics. Though the word sounds like apology, since it is derived from the same Latin word, apologetics does not mean to apologize as in asking forgiveness or saying you are sorry. Apologetics refers to “the formal defense of the Christian faith.”[1] I read the article by Troy Anderson, who is a reporter for The Los Angeles Daily News:

 

DESPITE ALL the recent attacks on faith—or, perhaps, because of them—these are definitely the best of times for Christian apologists such as Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington III, Darrell Bock, and J. P. Moreland. They are making documentaries, writing books, giving media interviews, attending debates and conferences, and presenting the public with what they say is a growing mountain of scientific and archaeological evidence documenting the truth of Christianity.

“There has been a resurgence in Christian apologetics as a direct result of the challenges Christianity has faced in the form of militant atheism in college classrooms, on the Internet, and in TV documentaries and best-selling books,” says Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and most recently the author of The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ.

Dinesh D’Souza, who wrote What’s So Great About Christianity? (CT, March 2008), says the New Atheists are raising new types of questions requiring “21st-century apologetics.”

“The apologetics of the 1970s and ‘80s are useful if you are teaching in a church camp, but it’s not that relevant to the claims the New Atheists are making, which are very different,” D’Souza says. “The New Atheists are really surfing the waves of 9/11, equating Islamic radicalism with Christianity. These are not questions addressed by C. S. Lewis or Josh McDowell.”

This spate of attacks has also kindled an unexpected surge of interest in apologetics among youth.

“It wasn’t too many years ago that scholars were writing off apologetics because we live in a postmodern world where young people are not supposed to be interested in things like the historical Jesus,” Strobel says. “The biggest shock is that among people who communicated to me that they had found faith in Christ through apologetics, the single biggest group was 16- to 24-year-olds.”

Last summer, hundreds had to be turned away from a Focus on the Family—sponsored apologetics conference for teenagers that drew an overflow crowd of 1,500. Meanwhile, the hotbeds of apologetics education—Biola University and its Talbot School of Theology (CT, June 2003), Southern Evangelical Seminary, and Liberty University—are crammed with students pursuing graduate degrees in philosophy and apologetics.

As this fascination with the evidence for Christianity has piqued the popular mind, Craig, D’Souza, and others are debating some of the principal atheist philosophers and liberal Bible scholars at universities and other forums in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. These debates often draw thousands of college students. Young people are curious whether Christianity can be rationally defended. Last year more than 2,000 students packed Central Hall in London to hear Craig debate biologist Louis Wolpert on the topic, “Is God a Delusion?” The moderator was BBC commentator John Humphrys, whom Craig calls the “Mike Wallace of Great Britain.”

“He was stunned,” Craig says. “He said, ‘As I look out at this sea of young faces before me, whether or not you believe in God, something is going on here. I have never seen this kind of interest before in religious things in Britain.’ Everywhere we go the reaction has been that people want to hear both sides presented. And when [they are] they will come out in droves to hear a discussion of the existence of God or the evidence for Christianity.”

John Bloom, a physics professor at Biola, moderated what was billed as a “wild head-to-head debate” on Intelligent Design and Darwinism. Bloom says the recent challenges to Christianity coincide with celebrations of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

 

RECLAIMING JESUS

Then there are the attacks on the New Testament’s picture of Jesus as the Son of God. Witherington, a New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, says the claims made by the Jesus Seminar and others have set off alarms among orthodox Bible scholars. Darrell Bock is a research professor in New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and author of Dethroning Jesus. Bock speaks at forums nationwide about the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas, which are used to argue that the Christ of Christianity is contrived and the real Jesus is a less divine figure.

“A cottage industry has developed to debunk the Bible,” Bock says. “Their goal has been to take this more skeptical reading of the Bible out of the ivory tower and into the public square.”

Christian apologists are beginning to make headway in telling the other side of the story. D’Souza, a former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, has received international media exposure debating atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens, Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer, and others.

And although Strobel and others are appealing primarily to the intellect, people are responding with their hearts. Strobel says the recent aggression against the faith has provided a great opportunity to present Christ to non-Christians. Strobel is convinced apologetics helps bring people to God. He notes that more than 700 made professions of faith during his last book and speaking tour. Many people have a spiritual sticking point—a tough question about the faith. And once they find an answer, Strobel says, it often turns out to be the last barrier between them and God.

One of those people was Evel Knievel, the motorcycle daredevil who died in November 2007. Earlier that spring, Knievel called Strobel after a friend gave him a copy of The Case for Christ. Knievel said the book was instrumental in his conversion from atheism to Christianity. Strobel, a motorcycle fanatic since childhood, and Knievel became friends, speaking weekly over the telephone.

“He just transformed in amazing ways,” Strobel says. “I know his last interview was with a macho men’s magazine, and he broke down crying, talking about his newfound relationship with Christ. He was so grateful. He knew he had lived a very immoral life and regretted that. He told me many times how he wished he could live his life over for God, and yet God reached down in his last days and dragged him into the kingdom. He was so overwhelmed by God’s grace. Here was this macho daredevil who became this humble, loving, and sincere follower of Jesus. It was an amazing thing to behold.”[2]

 

I read the whole article to you so that you will grasp that what is really at stake in this monumental struggle for and against the Christian faith are the souls of individual men and women, boys and girls, with some more sinful and some less sinful, but all doomed without Jesus Christ.

Evel Knievel was a notorious man in his heyday, drinking and drugging and carousing, all the while mocking God and the risks he was taking with his stunts. I remember him once responding to a questioner who asked him if he wasn’t scared of getting killed during a stunt and going to Hell. He responded that he had no concerns about going to Hell when he died, since his plans were to spend his time in Hell drinking beer with his buddies. Obviously, Christian apologetics and seeing the Christian faith that he had mocked ably defended by an informed Christian was used by God to humble him and bring him to the Savior.

Though my message from God’s Word this morning is not a sermon on Christian apologetics, in that I am not presenting a formal defense of the Christian faith, I do want to set before you in fairly simple terms the great issues that are involved in this monumental struggle for the hearts and souls of men. To greatly simplify the marketplace of ideas we find ourselves in to serve as a starting point, allow me to posit that there are two competing worldviews. “A worldview is how one views or interprets reality. . . It is a framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a world of difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny.”[3] Just as a mother does not get into the complex details of biology to answer her five-year old’s question about where babies come from, but gives an age appropriate answer that is truthful without being technical when she says “From mommy’s tummy,” I want to set before our young people two basic ways of looking at the world, as a starting point to build on and refine as they get older:

 

First, THE ATHEISTIC, EVOLUTIONARY, BIG BANG, VIEW OF OUR EXISTENCE

 

This is the lens through which the mainstream print and broadcast media looks at things, the lens through which most public school teachers and university professors look at things, the lens through which most politicians and people who are involved in government look at things, and the lens through which most who are involved in the entertainment industry (music, theater, Hollywood, MTV, etc.) look at things. In other words, the atheistic, evolutionary, big bang theory, view of our existence occupies the dominant position in the intellectual life of not only our country, but the entire world in which we live.

The question, of course, is what do people with this worldview believe, where the rubber meets the road, where day to day living occurs? Rather than overwhelming you with details and complexities, and recognizing that there is wide variation when it comes to the specifics of each person’s particular beliefs, I want to paint with broad-brush strokes the notions that are consistently held by those who embrace the opposing worldview in three general areas:

First, in the area of spirituality. Keep in mind that this dominant worldview is materialistic. That is, when they are truthful and honest to disclose what they really believe, those who hold this view do not believe there is such a thing as spirituality, or that there is a part of mankind that is not physical, or that there are such beings as God, the Holy Spirit, or angels, and demons. Of course, you would expect this of those who are antagonistic toward Christianity, who are opposed to prayer in schools, who think the right to murder her unborn child is every woman’s right, and who thinks we ought to be free to redefine marriage to being anything we want it to be, be it man to man, woman to woman, or even more strange and degraded combinations. These believe there is no divine plan, no God of wisdom and order, and no essential meaning or purpose to life. On the contrary, they believe that all is ultimately spiritual chaos and moral anarchy, with no absolute basis for right and wrong. No wonder the advocates of such a worldview are responsible for the carnage and bloodshed seen throughout the 20th century in Europe, in Russia, and in China, with millions killed because of such beliefs.

Next, in the area of biology. Since they say there is no God, those with this worldview deny the creation of life in the universe. Instead, they embrace the far less likely notion of the spontaneous generation of primitive life forms, followed by the evolution of lower life forms to the various species we see in the world today. However, without a divine plan for life on earth, those with this worldview are committed to the notion that not only has existence always been a brutal life and death struggle for supremacy between different species, with the superior animals savagely ripping weaker and slower and smaller animals apart to feed themselves and their young, but that is the way it should be. Survival of the fittest is their credo, with no quarter asked for and no quarter given anywhere in the world. While they insist that their philosophy is not the ultimate rational behind the killing fields in Cambodia and the carnage in Darfur, they are at a loss to explain away those rapacious business tycoons of the 19th century who embraced the survival of the fittest business tactics as being the economic counterpart of biology’s Darwinism. Is it any wonder those with this worldview raise dogs instead of children, volunteer to spay and neuter cats while turning a deaf ear to orphans, and organize and picket to save the baby seals and whales while defending their right to murder unborn children?

Finally, with respect to physics. Physics has to do with the sciences that deal with matter and energy.[4] Thus, physics has to do with the natural laws that govern this universe in which we live, and has never been observed to be in conflict with the laws of logic and reason. However, do you realize that those who favor this worldview violate the most fundamental tenet of reason? Please do not think that because you are not a scientist you are not fully qualified to make use of the logical and rational skills you were born with and have developed throughout your life. Consider that those who embrace this worldview believe our universe came into existence by means of a big bang. Whatever the big bang is (and you have no need to understand it), it is the most fantastic result that ever occurred, if it actually occurred. I say, “If it occurred,” even though cosmologists and astronomers and physicists insist that it must have happened, though no one ever saw it. However, how could it have happened, since if it did happen it was the first thing that ever happened? Think for a moment, people. The big bang was a result. These scientists are trying to convince themselves and us that the first thing to ever happen was a result. The only problem is that no one in the history of the human race has ever observed a result without a cause. It is fundamental to logic that effects must have causes, and no exceptions to this rule have ever been observed in nature or explained by physicists. Yet this worldview expects us to violate logic, to trash everything everyone knows about science, and simply believe that the first thing that ever happened was a result without a cause. I am not overstating the situation. If you embrace this worldview, you deny all that is spiritual, along with the moral anarchy and the degenerative confusion that accompanies it, accept as normal and proper the savage and bloodthirsty state of affairs that exists in the animal kingdom at present, and swallow whole the notion that everything that exists got its start from a result that had no cause! Let me tell you, if that is not a case of building a house upon sand, I don’t know what is. Yet the dominant worldview insists that all real science must agree with them that the first event was an effect which had no cause.

 

On The Other Hand, THERE IS THE INFINITE & ETERNAL GOD VIEW

 

This view embraces the notion that there a spiritual reality and that the physical universe which is comprehended with the five senses is not all there is, is not the complete picture of things, and that there is something is that exists beyond mere stuff. This worldview subscribes to the notion that the heavens really do declare the glory of God, and that the firmament really does show God’s handiwork.[5] Further, this view recognizes that people are more than their bodies, that each of us is in some way spiritual, with a god-likeness in each of us. As well, there is also a whole category of life that is beyond what can be seen, a spiritual plane occupied by beings who see us, but who cannot usually be seen by us. Though we are often confused and frustrated by events beyond our ability to manage, we subscribe to the notion that God is Creator, that He is sovereign over all and infinitely powerful and wise, gracious and good, fulfilling His intelligent plan in a way that we would approve of were we wise enough to understand it.

As for the brutality that we see all living creatures experiencing, we admit that this world is greatly troubled. Have you ever stopped to consider that no animal in the wild dies a peaceful death in old age, but is always violently slain by bloodthirsty predators? It was not always this way. When God created life on earth, He pronounced His creation to be very good. Man and animals lived together in harmony and peace, before death was brought on by sin. The world we see today is not the world God created, wonderfully reflecting His goodness. The world we live in today is ravaged by sin, with mankind soiling our own nest, with animals ripping and tearing at each other for dominance, and with men not only ripping up the place we live instead of intelligently subduing it, but spilling the life’s blood of other men and unborn children with technical efficiency. God is not responsible for this carnage, but mankind with our sin is. We have such appetites. And what do we crave the most? Convenience! Is there a hard working owner between a car jacker and a beautiful Lexus? Pull her out of the car shoot her. Is there a lovely stream between me and my destination? Damn it up or build a bridge over it. Is there a beautiful woman between my urge and my wife? Seduce her and my family be damned. We crave convenience! I will serve God if it is convenient. I will give to His cause if it is convenient. I will treat others with respect if it is convenient. I will show up on time if it is convenient. I will work to buy a vacation home rather than evangelize because I find it convenient. I will stampede 100 buffalo off the cliff so that I might butcher one because I find it convenient. Yes, it is a nasty and vicious world we live in. It is brutal and bloody. However, we do not believe it should be this way, nor do we believe that it has always been this way. God created this world good, and we made this world the way it is today. Yes, it is chaotic and anarchic, but it has not always been this way, and it will not always be this way. Someday my Jesus will come back, and He will raise every valley and flatten every mountain. He will make the lion to lay down with the lamb, and enable the little child to play with the poisonous snake with no fear of harm. This crucified, risen, and coming again King, this eternal Son of the living God, this Savior of sinful men’s souls, will make things right.

What about physics? What about the stars? What about the beginning? Unlike the other worldview, we insist that what was first was not an effect, but a cause. What was the First Cause of existence, of being? God. Unlike the other worldview that is embraced by many scientists, our worldview does not violate either the laws of physics or the laws of logic and reason, since we believe there is no effect without a cause. We insist that there was a cause of this all, the First Cause, God. Genesis 1.1 opens, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Psalm 33.6 reads, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Jeremiah 10.12 asserts, “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” So you see, while the other worldview embraces the nonscientific and completely illogical notion that what happened first was the effect of this universe coming into existence, we subscribe to the scientific and logically consistent position that God created the heavens and the earth, that He (the First Cause) is responsible for the effect.

 

I know. I know. It can be frightening and potentially embarrassing to think about disagreeing with really smart people about something like this. However, you are more likely to be correct when you are logical than the smartest guy in the world when he is illogical. It doesn’t feel right to insist that what we see is all there is. It doesn’t feel right to insist that savagery and bloodshed is the way it has always been and the way it is supposed to be. And it is simply illogical to think that there has ever been an effect without a cause.

For those reasons, I think the worldview that is based upon the existence of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, simply makes more sense, is logical, and is reasonable. Yes, I know that some people object to the notion that there is a God, because they object to the idea that there is a unique Being who is All-Important, and that All-Important being is not them.

However, consider the other worldview for just a moment longer. If we live on a speck of dusk, in a remote district, of a small galaxy, in an isolated region of a vast and ever-expanding universe, and that is all there is to it, then you are nothing and I am nothing, you are a worthless piece of biological matter and I am a worthless piece of biological matter. Do you realize that no matter which worldview is the correct one, it’s not all about you? If the opposing worldview is the correct one, it’s not all about you, and there is really nothing anything is about.

If the God-centered worldview is true, and I have given some reasons to show that not only is it true, but that it is consistent with science and logic, though it is still not about you it is about something, and that something is worthwhile, because what it is all about, Who it is all about, is God.

Go outside at night and look up into the sky. Look through a microscope and the life that exists in a drop of pond water. Look at pictures of a baby developing in his mother’s womb. Look at the person next to you. Admit to yourself that this cannot be a heartless, soulless, unplanned, cosmic accident without meaning.

God is back of all this.



[1] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), pages 13-14.

[2] Troy Anderson, “A New Day For Apologetics,” Christianity Today, July 2008, pages 28-29.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), pages 785-787.

[4] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1353.

[5] Psalm 19.1



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