A letter from the Think Tank (www.Christianthinktank.com)
The difference between Tough Questions and Tough Problems
2. Why is this issue a problem?
Questions as temptations to create rival gods and rival universes
Questions as assaults on our faith and celebration (incite to despair, bitterness, doubt)
Questions as challenges from God as incitements to growth and learning
3. Who will ask you Tough Questions
4. Some basics about God...
He is Good and Fair and Just (avoid the slander of Gen. 3 and live inside the trust in Gen. 18.25!): "Far be it from you to do such a thing -- to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? "
He has a 'privileged epistemic position'-- He knows more than we!!! (cf. Ezek 18.29: Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just. 'Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? )
He is not embarrassed about a single verse in His word.
He is committed to truth (both His and ours! --cf. John 4.23f: " Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. "
He "hides" from the world (sorta) progressive disclosure (cf. Proverbs 1.23: "If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. " and Proverbs 3.32: "for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. ")
He is trying to build community in us.
He provides for our "operadonal" needs primarily (2 Pet 1.3: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. ")
He is into the 'daily bread' thing--we only get resources as we need them (and, fortunately, our accountability is also limited thereby!)
5. Some basics about us...
We have a mixed character about us
We give up too easily and too quickly
We are overestimate Goliaths, and underestimate God
We sometimes try to play God--we try to hold the Rock up, instead of letting Him hold us up.
We settle for less too often
6. Some basics about questions
More get answered every year through archeology and history (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls)
Even the philosophical ones are getting easier (e.g. the Problem of Evil)
There are plenty of good answers to all the 'contradictions'
There were contradictions in Jesus' day that were answered by His life
Bethlehem vs. Galilee?
Son of David vs. David's Lord (e.g. Matt 22.41ff: "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? " "The son of David, " they replied. He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him Lord'? For he says, " The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. "' When David calls him Lord, 'how can he be his son? " No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. ")
Coming on Clouds (Daniel) or on a Donkey (Zech)?
He has answered plenty of YOUR questions so far, I bet!
They have been around since Celsus and Porphyry
To accept one "bad one" as decisive means you have to explain away all the "good" ones then!
7. Some basics on approaching Tough Questions
Many are surprisingly fuzzy (e.g. "How could a God of love make something like garlic?)
Many, many are half-a-century out of date! (e.g. "Sixteen Crucified Saviors", Form Criticism)
Many have questionable presuppositions (e.g. "how could a perfect angel choose to sin?")
The alternatives proposed in objections often cannot be even implemented (e.g. "God and poisons")
Many oversimplify to absurdity, esp. those about what God should "REALLY" do (e.g. "The OK-city bombing")
Many assume that mere possibility counts as evidence! (e.g. bias, conspiracy theories)
Always remember the implications of the Cross! (e.g. the Heartless God)
Always remember that you should give the Bible and God the 'benefit of the doubt'
Remember the 'converging lines of evidence' criterion.
Charge ahead in the courage of faith (assuming you are supposed to take it on!)
Biblical questions are generally ignorant of biblical backgrounds (e.g. the Ark 'contradiction'!)
Don't reinvent the wheel!
Remember, they will generally win the PR battle, but you may get the witness of love in for a split second...
Don't pretend to know, don't do the "pat answers", don't give answers YOU do not believe...
Tne line is drawn here: the existence of a parent and your innocence of a crime
8. Problems that are getting easier
The philosophical side of the problem of Evil (it presupposes God!)
The historicity of the New Testament (esp. the Jewishness of Jesus, miracles stories, and the DSS)
The cultural complexity of OT cultures (e.g., Ebla)
The unity of the biblical books (e.g. Literary criticism, rhetorical criticism)
The dating of the NT documents (mss. evidence)
The preservation of the OT text (DSS)
Argument from Design (e.g. secular cosmology)
Religious language (e.g. Mind-language versus Thing-language--the "Other Minds" issue)
9. Some of the more difficult questions today...
Biblical: The events of the Exodus
Biblical: Eyewitness testimony, polemic, and memory retention
Theological: The Scandal of Particularity
Theological: The Hidden-ness of God
Theological: The Immense Waste in the Plan of God
Philosophical: The Problem of Evil (esp. Innocent Suffering)
Philosophical: The Question of Existence
10. A brief word about apologetics and evangelism
Apologetics is a 'good work'; it is not evangelism
Apologetics can show love--taking the person's problem seriously (e.g. Jesus!)
Apologetics~can put salve on a hurting wound
Apologetics can free someone from a bondage
Apologetics can help the weak (e.g. Thomas)
Apologetics can be used to test spiritual orientation (e.~. "trial close")
Apologetics is NOT a repudiation of the 'foolishness of the Cross.'
I Cor 2 vs. I Cor 15: "foolishness" vs. "witnesses of resurrection"
I Cor l4
We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. "
1 Cor 17
"The God who made the world and everything in it is
the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by
hands. And he is not served by human hands, as though needed
anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and
everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they
should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for
them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so
that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and
move and have our being 'As some of your own poets have said, We are
his offspring '
Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone -- an image made by man's design and skill 301n the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. "
Apologetics is NOT reliance on "human logic and wisdom"!
Jesus and Thomas: "Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. " "(John 20.27)
Jesus and His miracles: "Don'tyou believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. " (John 14.10)
John and Jesus' miracles: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life."(John 20.3 1)
Peter and Jesus' miracles: " "Men of Israel,
listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man
accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. " (Acts 2.22)
Apologetics is NOT done on TRULY "neutral ground", but we meet people "where they are".