The Q Series—The Bible

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week many of the questions were about the Bible. Questions like:

  • What books should be included in the Bible?
  • What about Bible translations?
  • Is it okay for the Bible to have pictures in it?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • How was it decided what books would be included in the New Testament? [5:38] **Be sure to check out this post: How We Got The Bible on Biblegateway.
  • J. Warner Wallace’s list of criteria for New Testament books [9:45]
  • Did contemporary sources support or refute the New Testament authors? [11:45]
  • How did the final 27 books of the New Testament make the list? [15:02]
  • How was it decided what books would be included in the Old Testament? [18:22]
  • Evidence presented by the Apostle Paul [20:31]
  • How do we know the Scriptures were accurately transcribed? [22:50] **Be sure to check out this post: Why Trust The Bible? on Biblegateway.
  • The history surrounding the complete Latin Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls [23:45]
  • What are Bible translations and paraphrases (with references to the Wycliffe Bible and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone)? [25:45]
  • Some cautions about Bible paraphrases [33:23]
  • Is it okay for a Bible to have pictures in it? [35:16]
  • Are icons of the Cross acceptable or a blasphemy? [37:42]
  • How can someone better understand the Bible when they read it for themselves? [41:32]
  • Why ask questions? [48:39]

We’ll be discussing more questions this upcoming Sunday, so be sure to send them my way. For all of the ways you can send questions, please click here.

#Truth (book review)

Josh McDowell has consistently pursued two things: (1) Teaching people how to find and defend truth, and (2) Equipping students to overcome the challenges they will face. His book #Truth is the perfect convergence of these two pursuits.

#Truth is a 365-day devotional specifically written for teens. Each day’s reading starts off with a statement of truth from the Bible. Then Josh gives insight from his years of study and experience which shines a light on that biblical passage. Each devotional then concludes with a prayer that is designed to help the student settle the illuminated thought in his or her heart.

But for me the real payoff in each day’s devotional is the paragraph that starts off “Truth is….” This is not a man’s opinion. It’s not some touchy-feely sentiment. It’s not even some hard-to-grasp philosophy. It is a real-life, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road application. Each and every day Josh is pouring into students’ lives words of truth to help them see how biblical truth and real life intersect.

Although this book is written to teenagers, I would encourage adults who love teenagers to read it with them. Parents, youth pastors, grandparents, and mentors will all find great material each day to have a meaningful conversation with their teen.

I would highly recommend #Truth as a study guide to stimulate life-impacting conversations.

I am a Barbour Publishing book reviewer.

12 Quotes From “A New Kind Of Apologist”

A New Kind Of Apologist is edited by Sean McDowell and contains a collection of fabulous essays to prepare Christian apologists to be effective in this current generation. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These quotes mainly deal with the attitude that a Christian apologist should adopt.

“Truth must be wedded to grace, and what we say is important…but how we say it is equally critical.” —Sean McDowell 

“To listen to a person will require that we temporarily set aside our objections to what a person is saying and allow him or her to speak openly without fear of being challenged.” —Tim Muelhoff

“Our character and relationships with others have a greater capacity for attracting those around us to the Christian message than do our arguments or rhetoric.” —Ken Wytsma & Rick Gerhart 

“If our beliefs are not expressed in love and by example, we miss the greatest command of all, which is loving God and loving others.” —Dan Kimball

“The Barna Research Group found that twentysomethings who stay in church were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church. Those who had an adult mentor at church, aside from the pastor, were almost three times as likely to stay as those who did not.” —Jeff Myers

“Any fully-orbed presentation of the truth about ourselves and God’s plan for us cannot be a disembodied, purely intellectual truth; it must truthfully reflect our nature as created beings.

“Part of being incarnate means that it is good and right for us to have emotions and express them—as our Lord did, for example, by weeping at the tomb of Lazarus and getting angry with the money changers in the temple. The fact that little children wanted to come to Him suggests that He had a welcoming physicality and a warm personality that they instinctively trusted and found attractive. He wasn’t just a walking dictionary of Christian theology.” —Holly Ordway

“At its core, apologetics is the art and science of defending the faith. However, practically understood, the work of the apologist is simply to answer with integrity, clarity, and compassion the questions critics are asking about the gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The context of this passage implies a lifestyle on the part of the apologist that engenders and welcomes questions from their audience. The encouragement of Peter seems to be that we avoid the telemarketer approach of simply enduring questions solely for the sake of closing the deal. Rather, Peter calls us to anticipate and patiently answer the questions of our unbelieving friends, family members, and neighbors in an uncompromising and yet humble manner.” —Christopher Brooks

“We must be Christians first and apologists second, which means our intellectual lives must be primarily shaped by seeking to understand the faith we live within rather than debating, disputing, or even persuading those who do not believe it.” —Matthew Anderson 

“It is our responsibility to share the message of hope through Christ ‘with gentleness and respect’ and ‘with grace,’ as Peter and Paul taught. The gospel message is already offensive to some. We need not make it more offensive by presenting it in a manner that lacks gentleness, respect, and grace.” —Mike Licona

“Truth without grace is abusive and arrogant. Grace without truth is mushy sentimentalism. … As much as possible, always deal with the person in grace and the issue itself in truth.” —Glenn T. Stanton

“Paul doesn’t say that we ought to know how to answer each question [see Colossians 4:5-6]. He specifically teaches us to answer each person. … Paul tells us that we aren’t in the question-answering business. We are in the people-answering business. Today’s apologist must understand that questions don’t need answers; people need answers. … I am convinced that the key to apologetics today is to identify what non-Christians thirst for most and show how the Christian faith alone can slake that thirst.” —Abdu Murray

“The manner in which we communicate the gospel is not a minor add-on to the gospel itself [see 1 Peter 3:15-16]. Very often it is the nature of the communication that determines whether the gospel gets a hearing at all. …

“It remains true that it is not arrogant to make truth claims, it is not arrogant to pursue a knowledge of that truth, and to argue that we’ve found it. It is important that the content of our message is a genuine reflection of the gospel, and that the manner in which we communicate it doesn’t become a stumbling block.” —Tanya Walker

More quotes from A New Kind Of Apologist will be coming soon. You can also follow me on Tumblr and Twitter to read great quotes every single day.

A New Kind Of Apologist (book review)

For years, Josh McDowell has been ranked as a first-class Christian apologist: one who can persuasively defend the Christian faith. Sean McDowell grew up in this environment, being well mentored by his apologist father, and has become a world-renown apologist himself. So when Sean speaks of the need for a new kind of apologist, Christians should take notice.

A New Kind Of Apologist is a collection of essays edited by Sean McDowell. The book also contains short interviews which Sean has conducted with both those defending and opposing Christianity. This book covers everything from how apologists can be the most effective in a new generation of skeptics and seekers, as well as some thoughtful ways to address the issues at the forefront of the minds of this new generation.

The essays in this book are written by seasoned veterans of Christian apologetics, and some who are newer to the scene. But all of them write with a voice that is relevant to this current generation.

Not only will this book inform your brain, but it will challenge your heart as well. The overriding theme through all of these excellent essays is this—Christians must seek to love people more than win an intellectual argument. The new apologist knows his “stuff” but also knows how to develop genuine, caring relationships with those skeptics and seekers that need to hear the good news that Christianity offers.

I loved this book! It is clearly one that I am going to be referring to again and again and again as I seek to hone my apologetic and relationship-building skills.

I am a Harvest House reviewer.

10 Quotes From “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About God”

This book from Eric Metaxas is a great way to stimulate a conversation about spiritual questions, or a wonderful resource for you to read together with a friend who is on a spiritual journey of discovery. Check out my review of this book by clicking here, and then enjoy a few of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“We aren’t responsible for having answers to every question about God or the Bible posed to us, but we are responsible for how we answer, even if we don’t have a full answer.”

“Our culture is so obsessed with the physical and the material that we have lost the ability to think logically about anything outside that realm.”

“The bottom line is that those who follow God have to have genuine love and compassion for others, and if we recognize how profoundly messed up we ourselves are, we will have compassion for other people. So if people don’t have serious humility about their own state of affairs, they should probably keep their mouth shut. God doesn’t want His followers to add to the pain of the people He loves. He wants His children to treat others as people He desperately loves.”

“The idea of a moral structure that cuts God out of the picture is very attractive to humans because that puts us in control. But God wants us to understand that without a relationship with Him, moral behavior isn’t worth anything. Mere moral rectitude doesn’t fool God.”

“Religion in the negative sense of simply being a bunch of rules and rituals is pretty much the same as superstition. Without a relationship with God at its core, all religion devolves to superstition.”

“One of the most harmful things in human history is when people have confused fear-based superstition with faith in God.”

“Either Jesus was God and died on the Cross and then rose bodily from the dead, thereby destroying sin and death and making it possible for us to be with Him in paradise forever, or having faith in him is bogus. Period. Without the central events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, you simply don’t have Christianity. You can call it Christianity, but it’s not. All religions are not alike, so ultimately you have to choose.” 

“That’s always the case with sin. It never presents itself as sin. It’s always presented as a doorway to a higher consciousness, as a path to enlightenment meant, as the path to divinity—to becoming a god, or like God.”

“To try to earn God’s love is to miss the point entirely. He loves us already. We can’t be more loved by Him. So to try is like adding numbers to infinity. You can’t get higher than infinity, and His love for us is infinite.”

“Faith does not necessarily make us perfect, but perhaps it does have a way of making us more aware of our feelings.”

The Pro-Life Philosophy

This is an excerpt from the 21-Days For Life Prayer Guide (which I highly recommend) that outlines a clear moral pro-life philosophy.

21-days-of-prayer-for-lifeThere is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you could be killed then but not now. Stephen Schwarz suggests the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of those non-essential differences: 

Size: You were smaller as an embryo, but does body size determine value? Of course not!

Level of Development: You were less developed as an embryo, but infants are less developed than teenagers physically and mentally. Do we think they have less value? Of course not! 

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on what you are. Does an eight-inch journey through the birth canal change the essential value of the unborn? Of course not! 

Degree of Dependency: You depended on your mother for survival, but does dependence on another human determine value? Of course not! (Consider those with disability, or conjoined twins, for example.) 

In short, humans are equal by nature, not by function. 

We all differ immensely in our respective degrees of development, but are nonetheless equal because we share a common human nature. We had that human nature from the moment we began to exist. If that isn’t true then human equality is a fiction. 

Download this 21-day prayer guide for prayer points, encouraging pro-life stories, and helpful information that will equip you to articulate an effective pro-life position.

Can We Really Know If The Bible Is God’s Word?

inspired-scriptureHave you ever been stumped by someone’s argument against Christianity or the Bible? Has anyone ever made fun of you because the Bible sounds like a fairy tale? Over 100 years ago Oswald Chambers described how our post-Christian world was beginning to treat Christianity and the Bible on which it’s based—

“We have made ambition and competition the very essence of civilized life. No wonder there is no room for Jesus Christ, and no room for the Bible. We are all so scientifically orthodox nowadays, so materialistic and certain that rationalism is the basis of things, that we make the Bible out to be the most revolutionary, unorthodox and heretical of books.”

It’s that “rationalism” that we need to address. We need to ask scoffers and seekers alike, “What makes you so sure of your beliefs? How did you come to that conclusion?”

Every human being exercises some sort of faith—that the chair will hold them when they sit down, that their spouse will honor their marriage vows, and that their worldview is correct. We need to explore what kind of faith they (and we) have:

  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence.
  • Blind faith—believing in something without any evidence.
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence.

I want to show evidence that makes it reasonable to believe in the Bible.

Empirical evidence—

  1. The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted accurately.

Josh McDowell states, “No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” He can make this claim because the profession of “scribe” was one of the most professional and exacting of all professions. The rigorous standards employed to prove the accuracy of a copy of a biblical manuscript was higher than for any other literature.

Most of our modern-day Bibles are based on a 1000-year-old manuscript. But after the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, we found biblical manuscripts going back to 250 B.C. that confirmed the accuracy of the manuscripts we already had. This led Dr. Peter Flint to conclude: “The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.

manuscript-evidenceThen regarding the New Testament, Josh McDowell says, “I believe there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than for any other ten pieces of classical literature put together.” Check out this chart reproduced from McDowell’s book God-Breathed to see by comparison to other literature, how close in dating the earliest biblical manuscripts are, and how many of those manuscripts have been discovered!

2.  The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside of itself.

Over one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic, and two-thirds of its prophesies have already been fulfilled. For example, 700 years before His birth, the city in which Jesus was to be born was identified by a man named Micah.

Time and time again archeologists discover articles that verify the claims in the Bible. This led archeologist Nelson Glueck to conclude, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

3.  The internal evidence test: determining how of the historical record stands up to the test of internal validity.

The Bible was written by 45 different authors, over a span of 1500 years, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages. Yet there are no contradictions!

Anecdotal evidence—

  1. Changed lives. My life is one that has been amazingly impacted by the God of the Bible, as was a man named Saul, who had a total about-face after encountering Jesus. As a result, Christianity was spread far and fast through his writings and world travels.

2.  Changed societies. Wherever the Christian faith of the Bible has been put into practice, societies improve. Leonard Sweet notes—

“Before Christianity, there were cults that practiced all sorts of human sacrifice as well as self-mutilation and self-castration. Before Christianity, the weak were despised, the poor maligned, the handicapped abandoned. Before Christianity, infanticide was rampant, slavery run-of-the-mill, and gladiatorial combat a form of entertainment. In Jesus’ day, Corinth was famous for its temple prostitutes, continuing a long-standing tradition symbolized by the Corinthian athlete Xenophon.… Aristotle…not only condoned institutionalized slavery but provided an elaborate argument in favor of it. As if that weren’t enough, Aristotle called man ‘begotten’ and woman ‘misbegotten,’ and because a woman’s reasoning was ‘without authority’ accepted no female students.

“Only Jesus and His followers known as the church insisted on the concept of human dignity and the value of every human soul. Only the church built hospitals and took care of the abandoned and disabled. Only the church celebrated charity and selflessness as the highest virtue and elevated the status of women.”

Is all of this “proof positive” that the Bible is God’s Word? No, it’s not. But I think the evidence is compelling enough that it is certainly reasonable to reach this conclusion.

Here are some great application questions from this lesson:

  1. Other than because it says so in the Bible, how do I know that it is God’s Word?
  2. How can I let the Bible “thoroughly equip” me (2 Timothy 3:14-17)?  
  3. Is my worldview pragmatic or biblical? Does it really make a difference?
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