Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Apologist's Life of Worship

Our family has had an interesting year filled with joys, frustrations, and wonderful moments of ministry.  As one heavily entrenched with a passion to equip the body of Christ in the context of the defense of the faith, I have been reflecting upon the subject of worship in the life the apologist.

What sparked this reflection is a church change that has demonstrated what it means to put hands and feet to our message.  And I believe that worship is the catalyst to putting hands and feet to the truth of our Christian faith.

As apologists, we can really be headily enamored with the arguments we give in our polemical defenses of the faith.  We love facts that defend the existence of God.  You know facts like, nothing physical is able to explain its own existence; and the fact that we see intelligence all around us which improves that there is an intelligibility behind the intelligence.  These facts are true and wonderful.  But as true as they are, they only point us in the direction of a personal God and do not address personally that God.

In this piece, I wish to briefly discuss some thoughts on worship in the life of the apologist.  Though not exhaustively, I hope to engage two questions.  The first is, how do we define worship? The second is how is worship demonstrated in the life of one who claims to be a defender of the only true faith and worldview?  In this last question I will bring in the some passages that have really been written indelibly on my heart and mind over the years and share how they flesh themselves out in life.

Defining worship.

What is worship?  With all the differing “schools of thought” on worship, the answer to the question depends on who is answering the question.  With all the worship albums coming out, one would think that was all about music.[1]  Personally, as much as I like a lot (not all) of the worship music being put forth, I believe that music is a key ingredient that could prove the reflection of our worship; whether we are worshiping the music, the beat, or the object of the One in the song’s message.

Whether your church incorporates hymns, praise choruses, contemporary praises, or blend of any of these genres, the music only makes up a part of real worship.  But worship is not about stirring up the emotions and feelings into some existential sense of awe in preparation to hear the Word of God preached.  It is much more than that as we see from some of the words and their usage from the Old and New Testaments.

What about the meaning of the words for worship?

It is not my intent in this section to do a full blown word study on the usage of “worship” in the Old and New Testaments.  Our English dictionaries define “worship” etymologically as being derived from an Old English meaning worthiness or meritoriousness and thus giving God the recognition He deserves. There are some problems with this English translation, however, because the Greek and the Hebrew terms do not mean precisely the same thing.

Digging back into some of my seminary language studies, and for the sake of brevity, there are two common words translated as “worship” in the Old and New Testaments:  ‘aboda’ in the Hebrew (also seen as ‘abad’ or ‘asab’) and the word ‘latreia’ (or ‘latreuo’) in the Greek text.

When ‘aboda’ or a derivation of the word is used, it generally refers to the kind of service that is associated with work that is done in the temple.  The word ‘latreia‘ can refer back to the Old Testament temple, but it has also been used to refer to the false belief that killing the disciples would be regarded as service to God (John 16:12) or as an Old Testament allusion that Christians should offer their bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1,2).

There are two other words, ‘proskyneo’ (Grk) [2] and ‘shachac’ (Heb.)[3]), which are often found in passages that reference one, who is placing themselves in a posture of “bowing down and worshiping” in submission and thus acknowledging sovereignty in an attitude of obeisance.  Obeisance requires the attitude of reverential fear and is seen in the Scriptures where these postures are demonstrating such an attitude in petitioning God, gods, or a man.

A final word that is often associate with worship is the word sacrifice (thusia).  The reason for sacrifice being connected to worship is its connection to the thank offerings seen in the Old Testament.  Exodus 29:39-41gives an example of a thank offering.  However, it isn’t until we get to Paul’s epistles where we see a personal application with this word in reference to the self-sacrifice in service to others in the body of Christ and outside the church.

Tying together the understanding of the usage of “worship” in the Old and New Testament, we can see that worship involves the subordination of our will and goals to God’s will by making service a priority toward the Kingdom of God.  Worship is not just all about music, but it is an expression of gratitude, self-sacrifice in action, and praise toward God.

So is worship just about being in a congregational setting church service?  Or does worship show itself in a lifestyle?  I believe that is not just in our polemics, but in the outward demonstration of our lives, as we we are persuading people to encounter the life of Christ in their lives and in a local church.

Demonstrations of Worship.

So often we are led to believe that worship is only in the context of the church service.  But I really believe that it is a lifestyle.  The very fact that we have been created to worship God is reinforced in the Westminster Catechism, where our chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Carrying this thought further, I believe that there are three key passages that have shaped my life and ministry, which reflect what worship entails.   I am sure that you have been impacted in some way by these same passages.

The first two passages are dovetailed together.  The first is from Deuteronomy 6:4,5, which says,

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The second is shown in Jesus’s response a question from a teacher of the law, in Matthew 22, where He responds by quoting  Deuteronomy 6:4-5, but then adds the second commandment in  Matthew 22:37-40,

“And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The last passage is that of Romans 12:1,2 which says,

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (latreian).  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

How do they “flesh” themselves out?

In Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and the Matthew 22 passage, I see the full summation of the Ten Commandments.  When God says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, He is talking about the first four of the Ten Commandments which detail loving and worshiping God with our whole being.  When Jesus said that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, He was referring to the last six of the Ten Commandments and the outward interaction that we have with our “fellow fallen creatures.”

As I look at Romans 12:1,2, I see that that I am to outwardly present myself as a living and holy sacrifice that is acceptable to God.  Tying together loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves puts us in the position, enabling us to present ourselves as living sacrifices that are acceptable to God in the marketplace of ideas and those specific arenas where we serve.

When we get among people who need to see Jesus, we live out the gospel in our life, our words, our actions.  We are in essence demonstrating the worship that we participate in on a Sunday morning worship service, or from reading the Word.  But that worship is not confined to one to two hours on a Sunday morning.  It is getting out among the people, inside the church and outside the faith, and living the life we defend with a heart of worship.  We live out worship, because we are subordinating of our will and our goals to God’s will by making a life of serving God a priority as we move forward the Kingdom of God.

As apologists we worship by reaching people inside the church as we participate in their equipping; we also worship when we share with the homeless as a local outreach of our church.  We worship when we assist a fellow saint struggling in their walk, or in a relationship with a loved one.  We worship when we give the reason for the hope within us to a skeptic pressing us for answers.  We even worship when we minister to the homeless person asking what life is all about and how can God allow all the problems of the world to continue on.

It is when we touch the heart and mind of the person, by holding a hand and praying for a person or just listening that we are also worshiping.  Because we are now bringing down another truth of God’s existence.  That truth is that God came down in the person of Jesus Christ to reach out to those in need of salvation. We are His ambassadors, being His hands and feet.

As we love our neighbor as ourselves, we demonstrate that He can change the heart and the mind of the skeptic and the one who is hurting and downtrodden.  When we bring the mind into our worship, we are more equipped to answer the questions of the heart and the mind from those who are hurting in life, not just with our words, but also with our actions.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not include a famous quote that I think sums up worship.  It is from William Temple’s book, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, where he gives a wonderful descriptive of worship,

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”


[1]  In his book, Putting an End to Worship Wars, Elmer Towns asked the questions: What do you do in worship? How do you worship? What motivates you to worship? and What are the results of worship? From the responses he identified six worship styles in America: Evangelistic – winning the lost; Expositional – teaching the word; Renewal – excitement, revival, ‘touching God’; Body-life – fellowship, relationships and small groups; Liturgical – serving & glorifying God through liturgy and Congregational – worship expressed by the laity.  But is worship just delegated to the worship services of our respective churches on a Sunday morning.

[2] Found in John 4:20ff; the meaning of this word is not entirely clear but is thought to be related to the word ‘kiss’ or ‘to kiss forward’ and is connected with the Greek practice of kissing the ground in deference to earth deities. Thus, the notion of prostration or obeisance is captured by the term. This term is never used outside of the gospels & Acts except once in reference to an unbeliever (1Cor.12:45). In the gospels obeisance is done to Christ repeatedly.

[3] This word means ‘bow down’ e.g. Genesis 22:5

[4] See Romans 12:17.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Open Forum Response: Can one use reason alone to make moral decisions?

A Quick Introduction.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a Christian student group at Christopher Newport University. The topic for the evening was “The Problem of Evil and Suffering.” Much of material for the talk came from the piece I wrote on "
The Three Faces of Evil and the Christian Response."

This posting emerges from a question I received during the Q & A time. The question was posed by a philosophy student, who is also a Christian, concerning something he was gleaning from his lecture notes in a moral philosophy class. I thought this question was very fitting and very important to the context of my talk for the evening. Let me also state that it is a question that I firmly believe that we apologists need to be able to respond to with precision. The question is as follows: “Do you believe that it is possible to use logic to make moral decisions.”

In this posting I will attempt to provide you with one way of responding to this question.  In essence this essay will be my response to this question during the question and answer session. My answer will be directed at the nerve of the question; which is the futile attempt to bypass a moral Lawgiver in one’s moral decision making and thus stick a dagger in the heart of the moral argument for the existence of God.

What, if any categories are present in the question?

Allow me to restate the question in order to set the table for the approach to the question: “Is it possible to come moral decisions using logical reasoning alone?”  In this question, there are two (2) categories present. The first is a moral category which is the end result of the question.  The second is a category of logic or reason, which is the means to the end of the goal.  Tying it all in one big package it should sound like this:  If I can use sound logical reasoning to make my moral and ethical decision, then who needs a “moral lawgiver (i.e, God)? 

Is it possible to make sound moral decisions using logical reasoning?  What is involved in using sound logic?  Allow me to build my case by giving us a short summary of the laws of logic.

What is involved in the use logic?

Logic is “the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies formal and informal.”[1]   Such a study is not without laws for reasoning rightly.  Many of us know these laws to be known as the laws of logic.  Aside of the cohesive and coherence theories for testing truth, there are essentially four laws that I will give a quick description here.

The first law is the cardinal law of logic, and is often disputed one by those embracing philosophical and moral relativism.  This law is known as the  law of noncontradiction (A ≠ non A), which states one cannot make a statement that is both true and false at the same time and expect it to be true for both parties.

The second law is known as the law of identity (A=A).  This law states that something is what it is by its very definition.  A car is a car.  A truck is a truck.  A bachelor by definition is a man who has never been married.  It does not matter what the television program on ABC says about the definition of a bachelor.   A widower is a man who has been married, but is no longer married because his wife is deceased.

A third law pertains to the law of the excluded middle term.  This law states that a statement is either true or false.[2]  Think of this law as claiming that there is no middle ground for a statement being somewhere between being true and being false. Every statement has to be one or the other. That’s why it’s called the law of excluded middle.  It is because it excludes any middle ground between truth and falsity.

So we have the law of non contradiction, the law of identity, and law of the excluded middle term.  Some folks, myself included, bring a fourth law known as the law of rational inference.  This law simply presents the case that words mean what they mean.  Let me give you a quick example.

Suppose I were to tell you that I was going to rob the XYZ First National Savings Bank.  Let’s also assume, that you happen to do your banking at this same bank.  What would you be thinking if I told you that I was going to rob your bank?

You would mostly likely call the police, and possibly have them set a trap to catch me in the act. You would at least do something to prevent me from stealing money (your money) from your bank.  Words mean what they mean, even in a post modern society, especially when they affect us.

Now that we know the laws, let me bring the answer to question in for a landing.

Bringing the Answer to Rest.

Let me go back and state this student’s question again for us. “is it possible to come moral decisions using logical reasoning alone?”

Addressing the question posed at the Q & A, it is one that emerges from a moral theory called moral integration theory.  Moral integration theory is a moral theory being thrown around by those seeking globalization and a globalized ethic.[3]  Thankfully the student was not embracing it.

So in order to answer this question from the floor, it becomes necessary expose the underlying presuppositions within the question.  How do we do this?  One way is asking a question that hits the nerve of the issue.  That question is “since we have discussed the laws of logic and we can agree that they are absolute, where do the laws of logic come from?”

You see if there is foundational starting point for logic, known as the laws of logic, then there must be a starting point that guides the capacity that we have to think logically and critically.  The same goes for morals that are grounded in some kind of ethical framework.  Here is where the problem lies.  

This is where the fundamental nerve of the question seeks to rip the heart out of the moral law argument!   If there is no starting point for my logical capabilities, then I become my own logician and standard for my moral thinking.  At the same, if there is no moral Lawgiver, then there is no moral law.  What are the end results?  Those results bring to light three significant problems that manifest themselves logically problematic, morally bankrupt, and existentially dangerous.  

The first problem is a logical one.  Atheists, verificationists and “Nones”  (skeptics hereafter) are trying to tell us that one only needs to use logical reasoning in order to come to their moral conclusions.  Breaking this down, if God does not exist, then it is totally reasonable, to them and for them, to come to moral conclusions using their own logical capacities.  But is this really true?  Are the logical categories, which they espouse, congruent with moral categories and the moral standard in which they subject themselves and everyone else?  Or are the categories of reason and morals mutually exclusive from one another; and based upon an objective standard?  

Earlier I posed a question as to where is the origin for the laws of logic.  Some skeptics would agree that those laws are absolute, but would disagree on the origin.[4]  But like the origin for the laws of logic, the origin for morals and ethics is inescapable.  

From the Christian worldview context, ethics and morals are based upon an absolute moral Lawgiver.  That same Absolute Being we call God is also the origin for our capacities to reason coherently and cohesively under the laws of logic.  However the skeptics all say “No!” and in that “No!” there is the emphatic denial of absolute moral categories.  In their “moralizing,” they take what is understood to be sound logical reasoning, and smuggle in moral categories that only belong to a biblical worldview.  So where do morals and ethics come from?  Depending upon the worldview an absolute moral “lawgiver” cannot be avoided.

This second problem simply stated creates a slippery slope on what ethical moral actions are reasonably right and reasonably wrong.  

While denying God, and smuggling in moral terms only sourced only in a biblical worldview, one is forced to acknowledge God or reject God, and become their own moral lawgiver.  Sure a skeptic can do morally “good deeds”, and these actions can appear very reasonable.  However how does one determine one moral action as being morally right?  How can one skeptic say that it is is immoral to torture babies and another to hold a converse view from the same philosophically naturalistic worldview?  Why is it good to show mercy to one and not show mercy to another?  The last I knew, this was something only attributed to a perfectly absolute and moral God.[5]  In essence what this means is the skeptic becomes their own “God” in making their moral pronouncements and decisions.  

This is the slippery slope that leads us to the third problem, the existential ramifications of “reasonably moral” decisions devoid of a moral Lawgiver.  What do we see from history is that we will find that we will not have learned from our mistakes if things keep going in the direction they are going.  This leads us to the third problem.

Indeed this third problem is an existential one.  What does it mean when we abandon the standards of sound reasoning in our morality given to us by an absolute God?  What does it look like when we make ourselves the final source for ethics and morals via the means of our fallen reasoning capacities?  

It was the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who asserted that the twentieth century man would come of age. By this he meant that the atheist of the twentieth century would realize the consequences of living in a world without God, for without God there are no absolute moral values. Man is free to play God and create his own morality.[6]  We don’t have to look too far back into history to see that he was right in this.  But what about today?  What about some of the decisions in this nation of recent days? I think it is very clear that we can look in our “own backyard” to see what happens when ethics and reason based upon and absolute framework are jettisoned for a rationale of doing “what is right in our own eyes”[7], in our very own nation.

Allow me to paint two scenarios for us.  There are plenty of others, but I would like to just get a glimpse of two that could become cultural norms in pockets of this nation unless God’s people step up and follow the Lord come what may.   These two issues are sanctity issues. 

The first deals with the being a sanctity of life.  Oddly enough, I am not talking about the sanctity of life in the womb but the sanctity of a life that has lived and is now wanting or being pressured to die.  What has been going on for years in Denmark with the acceptance of legalized euthanasia has now become legal in the states of Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington (not DC).  Where is the sound reasoning in these laws and whose moral standard are these decisions based upon?  Whose moral framework is being exercised here?

The second issue is related to the sanctity of marriage, which has been a long heated battle for several administrations over the years.  Just recently, saying the last few years, laws being passed in Maine, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and a few others, that allow same-sex couples to be “married.”  Even Minnesota, this past election prevented the failure of passing a law against same sex marriage.  Where is the sound reasoning in these laws and whose moral standard are these decisions based upon?  Whose moral framework is being exercised here?

Do you see how this is problematic?  Can we honestly think that we can use our reasoning capacities devoid of the One who gave us the ability to use them and make sound moral judgments?  Let me wrap this up.


Whenever we think that we can jettison God as the absolute moral Lawgiver, we run the risk of creating a “God” we have in our own minds.  The skeptic can reject the existence of God, but in their moralizing and reasoning, they are forced to exercise their own moral (amoral/immoral) decisions.  When they exercise their “absolute moral framework” they run into a slippery slope of showing mercy, or being moral, by their definition, to whom they choose.   The end result is a dangerous slippery slope that clearly demonstrates that we have not learned from the past century.   

So my answer to this question is no, one cannot come to moral decisions using logical reasoning alone.  The only way that can be done is IF there is a moral absolute Lawgiver, who has given us the capacity to reason and do it logically, then my answer would a resounding YES.  But throw that moral absolute Lawgiver aside and heaven help us with the conclusions that can manifest itself on our fallen reasoning apart from that absolute moral Lawgiver we know as God.

"Thank you for your question. It is one that I think we all need to pay heed to in the coming days."


[1] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks.  Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 12.

[2] Wikipedia has a good entry on this law, found at  This law is not to be confused with the fallacy of the excluded middle, which essentially tries to make the argument that just because there are some things in common, it does not make the case for all things in common.  For example, Just because Jesus and Mohammad had great followings and were founders of large religions, it does not mean that they the same as far as their pointing people to “God.”  Just go to their respective places of burial and see who is in their grave and who is not.

[3] For more information on moral integration please see  Vojko Strahovnik also has a paper online in Google Docs (PDF) were he defends this view in pursuit of a global ethic.  Search “moral integration” and it will come right up.  

[4] See this great debate, Is the Foundation for Morality Natural or Supernatural?  a debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris (

[5] Exodus 33:19, And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

[6]Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. VII (New York: Doubleday, 1963), 405-406.

[7] See Judges 17:6; 21:25

"Thank you for your question. It is a very important question that I think we all need to pay heed to in the coming days."

Friday, October 26, 2012

“I Just Believe,” the Anti-Intellectual Faith Barrier to a Reasonable Faith

by Rob Lundberg

A few weeks ago following a worship service, I had an opportunity to speak with a potential member for our Ratio Christi club at the University of Mary Washington.  The conversation moved from discussing Ratio Christ toward a discussion concerning her spiritual beliefs and convictions.  Talk about a divine appointment. She was at church for the first time in a long time, and considered herself a seeker; but not really a Christian in the biblical sense.   This particular morning, she had come to church as a way of her investigating the Christianity of her father.  After a conversation and sharing with her about her need for Christ, her father listening in, thanked me and told me that he had been talking to her about her spiritual condition for some time.  We both agreed that our conversation was truly a divine appointment being the first day back in a church and her openness to the subject matter of her spiritual condition.

The conversation between this gal’s Dad and myself carried out into the open area coffee bar, where I had the chance to introduce Dad and daughter to Ratio Christi at the University of Mary Washington.  As my conversation continued with the Dad, we started talking about how 75-88% of the kids coming out of Christian homes are walking away from their faith during the first or second years of university and that we were on the campus to show how Christianity has great reasons for believing it to be true.  So I can get into the crux of this essay I was surprised to hear “Dad” tell me that we don’t need any reasons, “I just believe Christianity is true.”

Here is a Dad, with his daughter, who is investigating Christianity, the faith of her father.  And here is a college student, who is finding it difficult to navigate her biology core, and needing help with some answers to why she should believe that Christianity is true.  The dilemma here is a father who is concerned about his daughter, and does not believe that Christianity needs reasons for believing why his daughter should believe it to be true.  Well, I respectfully disagreed with him and asked him some “what if” questions, like:

"What if you were confronted by one embracing Islam and you told them 'I just believe' how do you think that would go?”  Or "what if you were confronted by one of the groupies of the new atheism and told them that, what do you think would happen?"  And lastly, "what if they had convincing 'evidence' to embrace their ideology, and they were to rattle your belief, how would that hold up, 'I just believe?'”  His response was disturbing, “I don’t know, I just believe.”

Believe what?  Why do you believe what you do if you do not have a reasons to believe it?  Folks this is what is being called by many of my colleagues and mentors in apologetics as the new fideism in the church.  Really it is not new, as it has been around for a long time.  

What is fideism you ask?  Digging back into some of my resources, one being an outline I put together years ago on fideism from Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics book, I am convinced that this view which says, “I just believe” is seemingly the extreme opposite of the empiricism which led to skepticism in Hume.  To support this, I find Dr. Geisler posing the following question,

Does truth in religion then rest solely on faith and not on a reasoning process [1]?  Those who hold to this kind of blind leap of faith answer this question with a resounding “Yes.

Since the philosophy of rationalism failed to demonstrate its first principles, this kind of fideism becomes a more viable (so called) option for their religious epistemology.  Therefore the crux of fideism proper tells us that truth rests solely on faith and not a reasoning process.  Just simply believe in spite of the evidence.  This is the key to this anti intellectual response, “I just believe.”

Exposing the Reality of Blind Faith

Fideists confuse epistemology (the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related to the issues such as justifying how and what we know and truth [2]) and ontology. (Ontology deals with being and the equivalent of metaphysics [3]).  They think that since I have faith, that is all I need to know and what I need to know.  But faith must also have a starting point, when it comes to knowing how I know what I know, so that I might place my faith in what is ontologically real.

Fideists fail to clearly distinguish “belief in” versus “belief that” there is a God.  I believe in God. But that is not the same as I believe that there is a God.  The former deals with my direct belief in a being who is uncreated, infinite, transcendent and yet imminent, infinite in all His attributes, uncaused, and the first Cause of all we see in the general revelation, vis-à-vis creation.  The latter is just a general statement, like “Sure I believe that there is a God.”  There is no object of my belief in that statement.  In other words, there is no clear differentiation between the basis of belief in God (the location or object of that belief) and the support or warrant for the object or direction that belief.

If you can’t know with certainty, how can you know what to have faith in?  One cannot have a biblical faith if they don't know in whom or what they are placing their faith. 

Ripping Away the Blindfold.

By way of reflecting on conversations with fellow apologists at the recent National Christian Apologetics Conference, one thing is for certain.  This “I just believe” kind of faith is a form of cognate dissonance is about believing something without examining it to be true.  To give you an example, let’s say I were to ask someone, “Do you own a house?”  They respond with “Yes, I do.”  I then ask another question, “What is the address?” Their response is, “I am not sure.”  Then I follow up with, "What color is your house?"  They respond with, "I'm not sure." Does this make sense?[4] 

Of course not!  This whole issue reminds me of Socrates’ statement, “an unexamined life is a life not worth living.”  May I follow up, at the risk of drawing friendly fire from adherents to this blind follow-ship, and say that an unexamined faith is a faith not worth believing, let alone following.

So is there a way to respond to this?  Pondering on the fact of having to go back to work the next day, I found myself thinking while driving home on the five and half hour trip from Charlotte this past weekend. I think I have at least one analogy that might work, that I have yet to try.  Let me see if I can unpack it for us.

I work in the car business for a Christian owned dealership, and being a non-commissioned sales associate affords me to talk to folks, if the opportunity lends itself, about more than the car they just bought.  In this job I also do a lot of financial counseling with folks who are struggling to keep their credit above water and be able to purchase a car.

Sometimes we get responses from the bank where a customer with not so strong credit will need proof of income, or proof of residence.  This is due to the fact that the customer has not been at their job or at their home long enough for a sure approval from the bank.  In other words, the bank needs proof and the customer needs to provide that proof for the bank in order for the loan to be officially approved.

Now let’s take this analogy and use it with the question, “why are you a Christian?”; and using the fideistic response, “I just believe Christianity to be true.”  Here’s how I might follow up with this,

Me:  Can you give a reason why you believe why Christianity is true?”

Sir/Ma’am”  I don’t know, I just believe it’s true.

Me (cutting to the chase):  Can you prove where you live if I were the bank asking you for proof in order to approve your car loan?  Can you prove to me where you live?

Sir/Ma’am:  I am supposing their response would be a “Yes.”

Me:  If the bank were to ask you to prove your income, would you be able to do that ?  Can you prove how much you have in your checking or savings account?

Sir/Ma’am:  I suppose I could do that.

Me:  So you just told me that you are a Christian, and you say you believe and don’t need any proof.  Why do you think that proving where you live or how much money you make or have in your accounts is more important than giving proof for your spiritual beliefs that you tell me that you just “believe?”

I am working through this to make it a little smoother and more tactful, but I think you get the gist.  There are people out there, who profess to have a personal relationship with the living God, and cannot give a reason for the hope that is in them, for various reasons.  But that is another posting sometime down the road.


Let me say, that this is one of the biggest roadblocks for apologetics in the church and apologetics in the milieu of discipleship.  Perhaps we should just turn the fideistic believing folks over to the skeptics to see them “get crushed.”  As frustrating as it is, I can't allow myself to be silent on this issue.  I will try the aforementioned analogy to see how it goes.  For those of you reading this article, let me encourage you to use it or some other similar analogy that might speak the person you are dialoguing with in your setting.

Anti-intellectualism abounds, and we as apologists need to keep our boots on the ground and “stay alert, alive and oriented” to the wiles of the enemy in the church.  That’s right, I believe that this “I just believe” response is being used by the enemy of the church to draw and dumb down the saints for the coming delusion. 

Let us lovingly stand vigilant and continue in this warfare, not walking in the flesh but with the gospel in focus, and ready to tear down the speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” our Lord and Redeemer.

[1] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976): 47.

[2] C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002): 39, s.v. “epistemology.”

[3] Ibid., 85: s.v. “ontology.

[4] While I have received some "friendly fire" from some folks in the apologetics community on Facebook, I cannot recant the thought communicated in an earlier edition of this posting, concerning this epidemic in the church today.  That epidemic, because it seems such an adamant fideism, it boggles the mind to see folks not wanting to think about why they believe what they do.  The word I used was "cultic" in the context of the fact that when conversing with folks and we encourage them to think, they hold back and shut down.  This is very similar to when the mind shuts down with a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness when they begin to realize the liberty of thinking upon the truth of the historical Christian faith.  This might sound divisive. It might sound cruel.  It is not intended to be.  It is the perception that is given from a handful of conversations with fellow believers that embrace this non-thinking kind of faith.  It is scary to think that one does not think their faith is important to think deeply about.  It is not about how one is wired.  It is about one's obedience to loving God with all their heart soul and MIND.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is the God of Islam the Same as the Judeo-Christian God? No!

Have you ever been involved in a conversation with someone who said something like this, "Muslims and Christians and Jews all worship the same God?"  Did you believe them?  Do you believe the political pundits gussying up to the move to allow Islam a place in politics when they say Islam's Allah is the same as the God of the Jews and the Christians?  Here are three reasons why I don't believe that and neither should you.

Reason #1:  Etymologically They are Not the Same.

We are well aware that the name Allah is used by Arab speaking Christians for the God of the Bible. In fact, the root from which the name is derived, ilah, which originates out of the ancient Semitic languages, corresponding to the Mesopotamian IL, as well as the Hebrew-Aramaic EL.  As an example of this we see the names like Ishma-el, Immanu-el, Isra-el. These terms, IL and EL,  were often used to refer to any deity worshiped as a high god, especially the chief deity amongst a pantheon of lesser gods.  

As such, the Holy Bible uses the term as only one of the many titles for Yahweh, the only true God, Elohim.  Yet the problem arises from the fact that Muslims insist that Allah is not a title, but the personal name of the God of Islam. This becomes a problem in the discussion because, according to the Bible, the name of the God of Abraham is not Allah, but Yahweh (YHWH):

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, "I am Yahweh (YHWH) and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty; BUT BY MY NAME, YAHWEH, I did not make myself known to them." Exodus 6:2-3

Therefore, Arabic Christians will say that it is okay to use Allah as a title or a generic noun for the true God, but NOT as the personal name for the God of the Holy Bible.

Reason #2:  Because of Abrogations in Islamic Revelation, They are Not the Same.

Another distinction between Allah, and the Judeo-Christian God, comes in the attributes of God.  Those attributes are the fact of the God of the Judeo-Christian faith being immutable or  unchanging.  When you look at the definition of immutability, you will notice that it refers to something that cannot be changed once it has been created.

The caveat here is that when we speak of God, we are talking about a Being who is the greatest of all beings, who is uncreated, all powerful in every one of His attributes, transcendent and imminent at the same time, loving, holy and just.  The Judeo-Christian God is immutable in all of these attributes, because He is a necessary Being.  

I am often reminded of the God’s words to Malachi 3:6, where God says to Malachi, “I the Lord (YHWH) do not change.”

It is not the same in the Qur’an.  In the Qur’an we see what are called abrogations.  An abrogation is a change or a repealing of a previous revelation, in this context, for one that is new or improved.  Looking at Mormon history, we see this same thing happening as well, but that is another discussion for a later time.

However, when we look at the Quran,  Allah reveals a verse only to have it canceled out a short time later:

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar- Knowest thou not that Allah has power over all things? Surah 2:106

When We substitute one revelation for another- and Allah knowest best what He reveals (in stages)- They say, "Thou art but a forger"; But most of them understand not. Surah 16:101

What does this show to those who believe in an unchanging God?  It leaves us with a difficulty of having a God, who does not remain consistent and one that changes his revealed purpose at the drop of a hat.  How in the world is one to know that the promises of such a divine being in reference to eternal security can truly be trusted?  Just as Allah changes his mind in relation to the revelation, he also has the divine privilege of changing his mind to the believer’s ultimate destiny without anything stopping from doing so.

Again, this is different from the God (YHWH) of the Holy Bible who does not change because His nature is unchanging.  Because He is unchanging, He can be totally trusted in fulfilling all His promises.  To give some Scripture to back this up, let’s look at the following:  

“God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

For I, the Lord Your God (Yahweh), I do not change. Malachi 3:6

If we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

Reason #3:  Because of Who and What YHWH is, They are Not the Same.

I could go on much further in the study of the abrogations demonstrated in the Qur’an.  I could also bring more examples from the Bible that point to God’s immutable nature.  However at this point, I want to close this argument with a practical illustration that I think deals with the essence of who God is and how He reveals Himself in contrast to Islamic monotheism.

So what I would like to do here is discuss briefly (ya, right!) the personal attributes conveyed in orthodox Christianity and what it teaches about how God discloses (reveals) Himself.

At first glance of the Shema, the word LORD is used, which is one of many names for the Judeo Christian God.  Remember earlier in this post, I mentioned that the word, God, is generic title.  In Islam, as in the case of Judaism, Allah and God (YHWH) respectively, are seen as a monad.  

By using this word monad, I am referring to a term meaning "unit" used by philosophers to signify a variety of entities from a genus to God.  We see this monad in both the Shahada of Islam and in the Shema of Judaism.

The first part of the Shahada states, “There is no god but God.”  while the Shema starts out with “Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). If you look at the nature of God in both the Islamic and the Judeo-Christian contexts you would find some agreement on this issue of God being one.  However . . .God does not, in the Judeo-Christian context reveal Himself just as a single monad.  He discloses Himself as triune within that monad.  You ask how can that be? 

God (title) is triune, which means that He (personally) reveals Himself through the Persons of the Trinity.  Yes God is one God but He is triune in His personal nature.  Taking this title/personal relationship a little further, God reveals Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Sometimes when we speak in theological terms, we use phrases like, “God the Father,” “God the Son,” or “God the Holy Spirit.”  Notice the title “God” with the person.  Are you starting to see it?

The Father (Who) is God (Title) (Luke 3:21-22; c.f., Matthew 3:16,17).  The Son (Who) is God (Title) (see John 1:1, 14; 8:58).  The Holy Spirit (Who) is God (Title) (See Acts 5:3,4) .  God is not three Gods but one God. As the great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” declares, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”  It is like the mathematical equation, 1 X 1 X 1 = 1.  God, in His essence is a divinely, all powerful, infinite, and personal.  He is distant, but He is also imminent.  With all these infinite attributes, wouldn’t it stand to reason that God is able to disclose Himself in this manner?  All three are revealed to be God, all at the same time. 

When you look at the creation, one cannot help but see this personal nature playing out in the creation, how everything is finely tuned for our survival.  One cannot help by think that God has a personal interest in we see around us.    

Again, God is transcendent, but He is also imminent.  Although God is distant, He desires us to know Him intimately; unlike Islam where the Muslim will say that Allah is knowable only when they pray the salat. But the Muslim will say that you cannot know God in the personal sense, like we claim that we know God in the Christian context.  I find it interesting that the Muslim is willing to admit that Allah (God) is loving, but how do they know that if they cannot know God personally and intimately?  If God is loving and He is only a monad, who was God loving before he created man?

But God in Islam is not knowable in the personal sense of knowing another person.  How does the Christian and those who hold to a monadic view of God come to know Him personally? 

We come to know God through His Son, Jesus who is fully God and fully man, and through the working of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the life of the believer upon believing that Jesus is the only way, truth and life, and the only one who can bring us to God the Father.


There are many other reasons that can be given as to why YHWH and Allah are not the same deities. So the next time you are in a conversation with someone who “spouts off” and says, “the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same gods” or if you are talking to a Muslim, and they tell you something like, “we worship the same God,” remember these three points.  

Oh, by the way, if you do hear that from a Muslim that we all worship the same God, it may be that he or she is trying to get you to see things their way and their interpretation as the only right interpretation.  Friends, in formal logic this is called “the appeal to authority.”  Stand firm and lovingly hold your ground standing on the Word of God.

If you would like to know more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, click on the link in the navigation bar of this blog, and learn more.  For now I close with these words from the Apostle Paul, (see 2 Corinthians 13:14), known in theological circles as the Trinitarian benediction, 

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Who), and the love of God (the Father (Who) and fellowship of the Holy Spirit (Who) be with you all.” 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Understanding What Makes this Apologist Tick! [1]

This evening, I have been mulling over the last couple of days something that was said in a meeting that has me wondering what type of impression I give with my passion toward the task and discipline of apologetics.  Yes, you might think it is a time to be transparent.  Indulge me for these next few minutes.

I work a full time job at a Christian family owned and operated car dealership, which puts me in front of a plethora of people with all different kinds of world views.  Among my peers, they see my passion in the Bible studies we have before our sales team meetings on Friday mornings.  In fact during those studies and interactions I try to assist in bringing out a practical application for living in the post-Christian culture, and in particular for living out the love of Christ with every person that graces our respective three lots.

There is nothing wrong with that, and my employer encourages that so long as it does not interfere with what we are there for, and that sell the product.  But something was said that has prompted this posting, that gave me the impression that apologetics is the only thing that people see in my Christian walk.  Is that the only thing they think about when the interact with me?  Is this something that is misunderstood by them with me, because they really have not gotten the chance to really get to know the real Rob?  (Most likely it is this last question).   So this posting is going to be of clearing the air and that is all.

How do I see apologetics in my ministry?  Do I only read apologetics books and nothing else?  Do I only think about apologetics and that is all?   Let me deal with each of these questions in the form of a Q and A format so that you, the reader, can get to know how God has "wired me."  I will deal with the second and the third question and then conclude the answers with an answer to the first question. 

Q:  Do you only read apologetics books and nothing else?

A:  No.  In fact, I read my Bible more than I read a book about apologetics.  I think it is vitally important for the minister to not only be an apologist, but also know the Bible and his Lord.  My day starts very early reading and studying the Word of God in a devotional time, and prayer time.  During that time I am jotting notes and journaling what I am gleaning from Scripture and what the Lord has brought to my mind as I engage the text.

Q:  Do you only think about apologetics and that is all?

A:  This answer is a follow up to the previous question.  No.  I like to stay up on current events and reflect on how that impacts the Christian worldview.  I also like to stay up to date on what my favorite sports teams.  I love the outdoors, fishing, camping and hiking when I have the opportunity.  I just like being outdoors and seeing the majesty of God's creation.

Also I enjoy talking to people and being personable.  Someone who hides behind an apologetics book thinking that they are going to impact the kingdom of God is going to present themselves of no use to the Great Commission.  So whether it is talking to someone about something in the sporting world or something about the spiritual impact of things I am comfortable in a diverse amount of subjects, whether it be the outdoors, sports, fishing or rugby (that's right rugby -- New Zealand All Blacks rugby).  I find that knowing and being involved in a bunch of things outside of ministry can allow me to be able to be real and interact on a personable level with people in many different "circles."

Q:  How DO you see apologetics in your ministry?

A:  In answering this question, I really hope to put things into perspective.  Why?  Because I see everything in relation to the Christian walk and world view.  There is nothing in life that is not affecting in some way shape or form the Christian life.

When I was a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, I heard a lot about being involved in "full time Christian service."  What does that mean?  Does it mean that there is a difference between people in the pulpits and multi staff scenarios and those who grace the threshold of churches and pews on Sundays and Wednesday nights?  To me the answer to this question is "No!"  

I have served as a pastor.  I have been involved in the life ministry of a local church as a minister of evangelism and even have taught Sunday school. (In all actuality, I would like to be back in a couple of those areas again some time down the road)  Those positions are a great privilege of service, but that does not mean that those not called to those vocations or service positions are lower on the "church karmic ladder."  In fact I believe that those who are in the arena of the secular city are more in full time Christian service than those who are sitting behind their desks or spending time using a pastoral perk on the golf course.

I currently work in the field of retail.  But as someone who has been in "full time Christian service" in the scope of academic ministerial jargon, I find it more of a blessing in ministry to be in the arena and in the trenches with those who eek out their lives day by day.  I find it a blessing to be personable with people, both Christians and non-Christians (to include atheists and Nones) alike.  In fact, I believe I talk to more people than those who serve as pastors and ministers in multi-staff settings about the things that matter most.  When I say that I talk to people, I am talking in the context of trying to get to know them, their heart, and not just their mind.

For those who are working out their biblical faith "with fear and trembling,"[2]  I look for ways to serve them by living out my life in Christ with them, serving, encouraging, fellowshipping, and sometimes equipping them.  What is the end result?  We glorify God together and we are both encouraged.

For those who want nothing to do with organized religion, Christ or are of a different religious persuasion, again I try live out my life and faith (that I defend) in Christ in front of them.  Sometimes a conversation will strike up, because of something that was said in a dialogue; other times it won't.  Do I listen for those opportunities? I would be lying if I said that I didn't.  Do I force them?  No, but there will be times where I might "drop a stone in someone's shoe."  But here is the issue.

Being a formally trained evangelistic minded apologist has equipped me in not just understanding that we need to love God with heart, soul, and mind.  I also take the second commandment just as equal in importance, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."[3]   

Doing apologetics is not just some "heady" exercise in theological geek-dom.  It is living out the Christian life, equipped and ready to give an answer to someone who sees my life in Christ and asks what makes me different.  I am equipped to give that answer because that is how God has wired me as a former skeptic.  Some folks will say, "all Christians are not called to be apologists like you."  I don't want anyone to be like me!  But you know what?  All Christians are called to obey a command whenever there is a command given in Scripture.

One misnomer about that statement is that every Christian IS called to be able to give a reason, an answer back, for the hope that is in them.  First Peter 3:15-17 is a command not to those who are geeky, heady and reading books that talk about defending the faith.  It is a command to the church or the whole body of Christians that Peter was writing to in AD 62-63.  It is still very relevant for today.[4]

So I see the Christian life one that is about loving the Lord who saved me with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind and loving my neighbor as myself.  If you know me and you are intimidated by that, I am sorry.  You probably need to read the whole Bible and see that the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament were written as a polemic (another term for an apologetic discourse) for God's loving intervention in your life.    


[1]  This posting was prompted by a recent comment made in a meeting about one's interpretation about apologetics and how they see me.  It should be taken as a time of reflection and evaluation.  Perhaps it might serve as a reminder on how the readers of this posting see the Christian life.

[2] Philippians 2:12.

[3] Please see the context of Matthew 22:34-40.

[4]  I like what J. P. Moreland had to say in a conference one time, that the secular city defines knowledge as coming only by science and even in some cases pseudo science; and that the religious community has withdrawn (since Darwin) to faith and feelings as a way of insulating itself from secular thinkers.  Some folks take issue with this, but where was the equipping of the church at that time?  Why does it seem harder respond to those countering Christianity?  Why do Christians have difficulty answering "Why are you a Christian?" without giving their personal testimony?

About the writer:   Rob Lundberg is serving as the local Chapter Director/Apologist for Ratio Christi at the University of Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, VA.  You can view Rob's website at  He is a Certified Apologetics Instructor with the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention). Rob holds an earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee OK, and Masters of Divinity from Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary. Rob's ministry is  an apologetics and discernment ministry that aims to equip believers in engaging and answering the hard questions of Christianity through the avenues of research, writing, and discourse.   He is available to come and speak to your church, Sunday school class, or your group.  For more information