Why I Am An Avid Reader

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

With the new year having just begun, it’s interesting how so many hold onto the idea of starting fresh, even though it’s simply another day of life. How this change in years can cause people to make these pledges of how they will make changes in direction in their lives. Changes like losing weight, being a better spouse, paying off debt, etc. In the spirit of this season of making commitments for the new year, I would like to give my own commitment for the new year.

Along with that, I also want to address why I am an avid reader and why you should be too. But first let me share with you three different true stories revolving around the importance of books and reading. In Pastor Jon Courson’s daily devotional, A Pillar By Day, he writes of an interesting exchange between two men of immense power in the ancient world, in it he writes:

“A story is told in the Mishnah (a collection of Jewish teachings and writings) of a certain Persian king named Arteban who sent to Judah, the prince of Jerusalem, the largest diamond in existence. Upon receiving this gift, Judah sent back to Arteban a copy of the book of Deuteronomy with the accompanying note: What you sent me requires guards to protect it. What I have sent you will guard and protect you (P. 360).”

The night of May 10th, 1933 is a night few can forget. Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, held a nationwide book burning across 34 university towns in Germany. They burned 25,000 total books by fellow Nazi-influenced university students as they held the Nazi salute (2). Books included, but were not limited to works by Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and even at the end of the ceremony, copies of the Bible were burned last. It was a night where the existence of free thought was challenged by those indoctrinated by the Nazi agenda. Individuals who were dependent on the thoughts of a tyrant that limited learning to what was deemed politically correct at the time.

John Lennox, a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, grew up in Northern Ireland in a Christian upbringing by his parents during the 1940s and 1950s in Armagh. His father, a Christian man, taught him that one ought to know what they believe before they learned what others believed. So he read what he could on Christianity, which included the Bible as often as possible throughout his childhood. His father then taught him that in order to avoid being one sided and biased in his beliefs, he should read what others have to say coming from different belief systems to be a more rounded individual. So his father gave him a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and told him to read it.

The reason I share these three stories is to show how important reading is in the life of anyone willing to learn. Why it’s so crucial to learn by listening and reading what others have to say on a matter, whatever that matter may be. With the first story showing the value of reading is worth more than the greatest diamond the world can offer, the second story showing the cost of reading the ideas of others that some might disagree with, and the right to know what you believe, as well as what others believe.

Is it any wonder why nearly every dictator or tyrant in history has removed books from the public? As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. It’s absolutely critical to be an avid reader because in reality, there might possibly be no better way to learn something than to simply read.

Various studies show that reading has immense benefits like the following:

  1. Improves Analytical, Memory, Writing, & Vocabulary Skills.
  2. Reduces Stress.
  3. Prevents Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Of course, these are not the only benefits, but are the most profound effects that reading can have on the human condition. It’s a little ridiculous as to how beneficial reading really is and how it helps make you a more rounded individual. For me, it aids me in comprehending and understanding the world I inhabit, while at the same time providing me with answers to life’s greatest questions. It’s easily one of the most useful skills that one can use on a day-to-day basis. But in an age of social networking, it has been left to die out with each new generation.

Admittedly, I’m not one to talk because I too neglect the power of reading. Yet because it’s a new year I have made a promise to myself and to others to read at the very least 10 books. Not just any ten books though, but specifically these 10 books:

  1. The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas
  2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  3. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  4. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
  5. The Real Kosher Jesus by Michael L. Brown
  6. Rise by Trip Lee
  7. Why Suffering by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale
  8. Against the Flow by John C. Lennox
  9. Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
  10. Rebel With A Cause by Franklin Graham

Now I have already finished reading The Sacred Search, which was great and have started Mere Christianity, which is also great. So at this point I’m at a great pace. Of course to some this may seem like a lot, but if you think about it, it’s basically a book a month. Actually closer to a month and a week per book.

That’s 5 weeks to read one book. That is very doable. In fact I challenge those of you who do not usually read books to make a list of 10 books and try to read them in a year. Or you could make a list of 12 books and read a book a month to challenge yourself. All I’m saying is that you should something to test your mind and keep it fit by simply reading books. Whether that’s just one book a year or 365 books a year, it’s up to you. Nevertheless, my challenge to you is to read 10 books.

To all of my avid readers out there, I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, why is your list so short?” Well, in reality, I was never just going to just read 10 books this year. This was merely the starting point of my 2016 reading list and these were just the first 10 books that I wanted to read.

Since I have made my list, it has grown to about 25 books for the year, which amounts to basically a book every 2 weeks. Not exactly lightning fast, but a good amount that’s manageable for me. And again, everyone has their own speed that they can read a book.

I know for some a book a month is a struggle, while I know others that can read a book in a day. For instance, growing up Dr. Ben Carson and his brother would read 2 books a week because his mother wanted them to get out of their poverty stricken lives in Detroit, Michigan by educating themselves. Needless to say, they are both very successful individuals, whether or not you agree with everything they believe.

The bottom line is, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn for crying out loud! Educate yourself or entertain yourself with some truly amazing books waiting to be read. Whether they be historical, fictional, or comedic, any book will due.

The point is that I am an avid reader and you should be too because every benefit outweighs every detriment to reading books. So why not start this year with a positive change that will greatly impact you by taking time to crack open a book and learning something new? The choice is up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goebbels/peopleevents/e_book.html
  3. Disclaimer
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An Argument For Apologetics: Part II

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

Since this is apart of a blog-post series, let me briefly remind you of what I have already gone over in Part I of my argument for apologetics. In the first post in this series, I defined faith, described apologetics, and went over my first point on why we need apologetics in Christianity. That point being that it is pre-evangelism. The way I argued this was with a knight allegory, but I will instead use an expression used at the film school I attend to make the point clearer.

When it comes to film, it really boils down to 2 things: knowing your audience and knowing your story. Relating this back to the topic at hand, apologetics is about knowing your story, while evangelism is about knowing your audience. Let me quickly explain what I mean by that.

Apologetics is all about understanding on a logical and technical level who you’re, what you believe, and how to appropriately answer any objections to Christianity. Evangelism is all about understanding on a moral and spiritual level who someone is, what is holding them back from the cross, and how to appropriately guide them to the cross. Both are equally relevant and dependent on each other in outreaches to the world. Whether that’s a missions trip, feeding the homeless, street witnessing, etc. As my Dad once said, “Apologetics is pre-evangelism and if it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.”

2) Apologetics Saved the Church From Heresy

In A.D. 325, there was the Council of Nicaea and this meeting brought church leaders from the East and the West together to discuss a series of current Christian topics at hand. These topics included, but were not limited to the calendar date of Easter, defining the Trinity, and the nature of Jesus Christ. The latter being the most prominent topic of the meeting because it was debated by two opposing forces within the church at the time.

One side of this debate was Arius the priest who thought that Jesus was not eternal, but created. He was literally punched in the face for this heretical claim during the proceedings by Bishop Nicholas. The other side of the debate was led by Deacon Athanasius and Bishop Alexander who argued the biblical stance of Jesus being eternal like God the Father. The whole council, which consisted of hundreds of bishops and other prominent Christian leaders, watched as one of the most important debates in Christianity took place over one of the most central truths of Christianity: Jesus is God.

It was a debate that had so much riding on it: the future of Christianity, the foundation of the church, and so much more. The emperor of Rome, Constantine, resided over the proceedings looking to end the division in the church, which he thought would end political division within the Roman Empire, only added to the tension. It was the debate of the century. After much back and forth, a vote was taken and the vast majority agreed with Bishop Alexander and Deacon Athanasius that Jesus is God. Arius was eventually expelled as a heretic from the church, along with Arianism altogether.

Why do I bring this up? Because it is instances like this where large opposition has risen against the church, usually from within the church, and without the use of apologetics, would have destroyed the church. Another time where this has happened was the Protestant Reformation. This was when Martin Luther boldly left the Catholic church, which had seriously deviated from correct biblical truth, to bring them back from their heretical claims. Such as the Pope’s word was equal in measure to God’s Word (the Bible) in authority.

So the greatest Christian church split in history happened. It was a time when apologetics was absolutely necessary to defend the Christian faith from those who had twisted it. Other instances when apologetics saved the skin of the church from either destruction from the outside or manipulation from the inside were the following: the rise and fall of Gnosticism, the Enlightenment when the church was under attack from the intellectuals of the time, or even today with the rise of Prosperity Theology, otherwise known as the Faith Movement.

Every generation of the church body has had its heresies, cults, false religions, and worldly belief systems to deal with that help the body of Christ stay alert. This “always be ready” mentality of confronting heresies head-on with apologetics to protect the flock of God from falling away is essential to continual growth in Christ. Some notable apologists who defended the Christian worldview are Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (The Cosmological/Contingency Argument, invented binary language), Rene Descartes (The Origin of the Idea of God Argument, invented the cartesian coordinate system), and Blaise Pascal (Pascal’s Wager, invented the first working mechanical calculator).

These men were also the fathers of modern philosophy and science, who still impact the culture with their use of apologetics centuries later. As was once said in a lecture at Rice University by Professor John Lennox, “Far from being a hindrance to science, belief in God was the motor that drove it.” In short, without apologetics Christianity would not be where it is today because of those bold enough in the faith to protect others from the deceit of the Devil, the world, and even our own corrupt selves.

3) Apologetics Builds Up the Church

If you do not know why you believe what you believe, why believe? This is the motivating question behind my apologetics passion and why I care so much for it. I strongly believe in the fact that every believer needs to not only know what they believe, but to know why they believe it in the first place. Christianity is not led by blind faith, but is led by bold faith. But this faith is not bold because of blind passion like followers of other worldviews.

Rather, it is because we know what we believe to be true, which causes the believer to understand certain things like the fear of God, the compassion of Christ, and that there are billions of people living today who are not ready for the return of Christ. It’s an abundance of emotions to know God, while at the same time know how few know God. It’s sad and joyous all at the same time. It’s the motor that drives the believer to distant lands all across the globe or to local rough parts of town in our cities. We are driven by the burden of the broken to mend them with the good news of the Gospel.

But with this burden for the broken comes questions from the broken that wish to be built back up, yet are afraid of being broken again. How can the broken be reassured that what you have and offer from God is any different from say Islam, Buddhism, or any other belief system with the same exact claims? Claims of fulfilling meaning, purpose, and value? This is when apologetics is to be appropriately used in defending the Christian worldview by differentiating it from other worldviews. This in turn builds up the believer at the same time as reassuring their broken spirit.

Apologetics not only defends against outward opposition and intense inquiry, but also from inward doubts and fears. One fear that used to cloud my mind early in my faith was ‘How do I really know that God exists? Is what I am experiencing really a supernatural experience that I can personally interact with God or just my feelings overcoming my emptiness for relevance in life?’

Eventually, I came to the same conclusions that the late C.S. Lewis came to in his lifetime. That for every desire, there exists a satisfaction for these desires of ultimate meaning, purpose, and value. This is better known as The Desire Argument famously made by Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity.

There was also the fact that the universe screams for a necessary, intelligent, mindful, personal, first-cause that could conceive of the universe itself. This was my starting point as to why I believed in the existence of God and has helped me when going through times of doubt or times of spiritual struggle. Knowing God is always there is something that I always find comfort in and helps me cope with the harder times in life as I bet it does for other believers as well.

You see, apologetics builds up the church by reinforcing the spiritual connection the believer has with Jesus with logical and relevant facts to support such an ambitious relationship. I mean, how many people really understand the uniqueness of interacting with God on a day-to-day basis worldwide? Not many because it sounds too strange at first to accept, but in reality is far from it.

That dynamic with God really starts when we admit we are wrong and He is right. It’s so simple it boggles the minds of the greatest skeptics around the world! Lunacy to some to even consider they could be wrong or better yet, indebted to God.

The more you learn in the realm of apologetics, the more you appreciate and understand your relationship with God. Things like how the persons of the Trinity interact, essential doctrines that define the specifics of certain aspects to Christianity, and the list goes on. It’s encouraging to know that I know what I believe in and then to have even more joy when sharing that faith with others because I fully grasp what I am sharing. It’s logical substance fueled by fiery passion equaling a great servant of God. Apologetics is meant to build the body of Christ up, not tear it down.

Just as a mother tells their child to put on their coat to protect themselves from the weather, so too you ought to put on the shield of apologetic faith to protect yourself from the horrors of spiritual warfare. In so doing, the church in general is built up knowing that whatever comes opposing truth can be deflected with that same truth.

Basically, every Christian should know a little apologetics because God commands us to in 1 Peter 3:13-16, in order to further the Gospel. In that passage, the Apostle Peter writes that we should give a defense for the hope that is in us. So above all else, the believer needs to know apologetics and use apologetics because God commands us too in His Word, in order to further the expansion of the kingdom.

To end, here are some great resources in no particular order that you can use to sharpen your apologetics utility belt in furthering the message of the Gospel, as well as strengthen your own faith:

  1. On Guard by William Lane Craig
  2. Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli
  3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  4. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  5. Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler
  6. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul
  7. Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias

Of all of these resources, I recommend Paul E. Little’s book, Know What You Believe, the most because it covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know in detail without the extra baggage. It’s short and covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know about their faith. Highly recommended resource and it’s one book I turn to often to sharpen my faith. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://wikipedia.com
  2. Disclaimer

An Argument For Apologetics: Part I

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

In recent years, there has been a rise in the claim that apologetics is no longer necessary in Christianity. Well, I disagree with that notion and here’s why: apologetics is a quintessential aspect to the life of every Christian. It is the shield, so to speak, that the believer stands behind and gives a defense of the faith from, with, and through. There is a reason that when Paul the Apostle mentions the armor of God (2), he refers to the shield, as a shield of faith. And that is exactly what apologetics is in the tool belt of the believer: a shield. As Professor John Lennox of Oxford University said in a dialogue with Richard Dawkins, “My faith is a faith of evidence.”

In another lecture he quipped that “Faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence.” Put succinctly, the Christian faith is on the higher ground right from the get go compared to every other belief system in world history. Apologetics is merely quintessential to the Christian faith because it a) reveals this higher ground and b) shows you how to defend this higher ground from all who look to capture the flag of victorious truth that rests on Calvary hill. Like the author of the book of Hebrews put it, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (3).”

The word apologetics is derived from the combination of the word ‘apologetic’ meaning to give “a formal defense” in Middle French and the suffix ‘ics’ for “nouns that denote a body of facts, knowledge, principles, etc.” (4). But to be more specific, apologetics is the “the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith” (5). With all of this in mind, here are 3 reasons why apologetics is necessary for every Christian.

1) Apologetics Is Pre-Evangelism

Have you ever seen a medieval knight charge into battle against an opposing force? Put more bluntly, if an opposing knight is charging towards you with their sword preparing to strike you down, how would you counter their attack? With your sword or with your shield? The obvious answer should be to deflect the sword with the shield and then proceed with your own sword to strike back.

This analogy is the relationship of apologetics and evangelism in a nutshell: apologetics is the shield and evangelism is the sword of Christianity. But the problem with those who misuse apologetics is twofold: they either use the sword (evangelism) first or they just use the shield (apologetics) without using the sword (evangelism). Let me explain the problem with both of these tactics.

Let’s start with the first tactic: using the sword first. Now at first glance, going out to preach the gospel seems simple enough. I mean who really needs apologetics, right? Plenty can get done with just a sword! Well, let’s set the spiritual battleground with a simple story. 

You’re on a train going to the big game tonight. There are hundreds of people on the train wearing their team’s jersey and excitingly talking about the game. Now you being a believer, overhear a heated conversation between a New Atheist and a devout Hindu who just so happen to be in the same section as you on the train. 

The two are discussing the idea of God and whether or not belief in God, or as the Hindu would argue, many gods makes logical sense. In fact, there are about 330 million gods according to the devout Hindu. So you being an active believer, burdened with the work of the ministry, jump politely into the conversation in order to win them to the faith (6).

At first everything seems fine. You’ve prayed beforehand, you’re well versed in the Scriptures, and you’re humbly listening before engaging in the conversation. Hearing what the discussion is about before you present your worldview. Then it happens: your turn to speak. So you being a cheerful giver, give them the gospel, but there’s one problem. Neither see the need for the gospel. Now what do you do? 

Well, you stumble a little over your words and begin to reiterate how much God loves them and has this wonderful plan for their life! How much Jesus loves them! Neither seem the least bit interested, laugh at your little love speech about a Middle Eastern man, and continue with their conversation without you.

Now what? You then in a fury, spew Bible verse after Bible verse of how Jesus is God! Yes, this must work! Nothing. Absolute zero attention is paid to your poetic spewing. So you, in utter defeat, walk away embarrassed and mad. What happened? Let me explain.

You see, using the knight analogy, you kept using your sword when you should have been using your shield. As a matter of fact, you were using your sword as both the shield and the sword, causing you to be spiritually exhausted because you had only offense as an option. No time to counter correctly or to pause on an important point like the existence of God, which was the original conversation the two were having in the first place. Remember, the New Atheist doesn’t believe in God and the devout Hindu believes in many gods, so without addressing that topic you have no firm footing in this fight.

Now let’s try a different option, using only the shield. So the same scenario, but you are an apologetics nut. You know every argument, every counter-argument, and every rebuttal. So you boldly go into the discussion without any fear because you know how to defend the faith. And after a little back and forth you finally convince both the New Atheist and the devout Hindu that there is only one God. But now you come across your first hurdle. Why does that matter? 

Sure, they now believe in a single God, but where do you go from here? What was the point of proving that there was a God in the first place? So then the conversation quickly dies off and goes back to simple things like the big game tonight. What did you do? How did this happen? You knew everything! Or so you thought. Let’s go back to the knight analogy.

You’re going to war, but you decide to only take your shield and leave your sword behind. Do you see the problem? By only taking the shield, you can only survive the war intact, instead of ending the war intact. You can only deflect opposition without ending opposition. Eventually you’ll be too tired from blocking the opposing knight’s attacks that they will kill you by simply fighting until you are exhausted. Or in the case of the train story, you’ll eventually just go back to simpler things because you knew no way out. 

How sad is this? That you can disarm your opponent, but cannot finish them? Yet that is the reality of those who only use apologetics in outreaches or ministry. They deflect the accusations of the mind, without getting to the heart of the issue. And the other tactic of just using the sword to cut to the heart of the issue without addressing the logical issues of the mind is also unuseful. Both are foolish ways to enter the spiritual battleground because a true knight of God is well equipped with a shield and a sword.

Now let’s see what happens when you bring both your shield and sword to the battle. Again, same scenario, but this time you’re prepared in all aspects that matter: spiritually, mentally, etc. First you use the shield, deflecting every fiery arrow with logical and truthful answers. It works and neither the New Atheist nor the devout Hindu has a shield anymore.

Now is the time to strike with the double edged sword. Their mind is ready, but the heart is not. This is the time to finish their seeds of doubt by driving the sword of spiritual truth through them. So you being a faithful steward, drive the point home with the sword of evangelism. The end result? Two new believers in Christ. Well, in this train story at least.

There will be times when people do not come to faith in Jesus. Not because you didn’t do your part in sharing the truth, but they didn’t do their part in accepting the truth. Your job as a believer is to share the truth with others, but how they react to the message is not up to you. That’s up to them and God from that point on. How exactly did this work? Because the tools at your disposal were used properly for what they were designed to do: reach the lost by sharing what has been found in Christ.

Although I use very blunt analogies with knights to describe the relationship between apologetics and evangelism, that does not mean that you should be mean or rude towards whoever you’re reaching out too. Far from it! I am speaking in spiritual terms when I speak of the war terminology and this shouldn’t actually spill over into actual witnessing. Just something to keep in mind to help with witnessing. Understanding that you’re in a spiritual war, not a physical or verbal war with the lost that you’re reaching.

Remember, these are tools that the believer should use together when at an outreach, but they do not always have to use them together. There will be times where simple evangelism will bring someone to the cross or vice versa with apologetics. The reason I argue that they should be used together is because most of the time people have a spiritual wall that is blocking them from a relationship with Jesus. So the walls need to come down before the real evangelism can work. 

But the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, so don’t take this as factual, but more as suggested when outreaching to the world. Then again this approach can be seen used by Jesus (7), Paul the Apostle (8), Stephen (9), Peter (10), and so on. Usually this is a combination of apologetics and evangelism, not a simple one-two punch when outreaching. More of a back and forth dynamic when talking to others with civility and respect.

But without love, none of this information matters. You’ll be nothing but sounding brass speaking to the lost, yet not reaching the lost (11). As Ravi Zacharias once said, “Love is the greatest apologetic. It is the essential component in reaching the whole person in a fragmented world.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is quoted saying “‘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 (12). “

You have to have a loving heart for the lost in order to be effective for the work of the ministry. It is the single greatest aspect in the life of the Christian. Just as Jesus did, you too have to have a heart for the harvest (13). So to put it sufficiently, apologetics is pre-evangelism and only works when done in love. Come back next time for Part 2 of this series, which delves into my second point: how apologetics saved the church from heresy. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.deviantart.com/pandarice/art/knights-mounted-fight-32834504
  2. Ephesians 6:16
  3. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
  4. https://dictionary.reference.com
  5. https://carm.org/apologetics
  6. 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
  7. Luke 24:13-35
  8. Acts 17:1-15
  9. Acts 7:1-53
  10. Acts 2:14-42
  11. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
  12. Matthew 22:35-40 (NASB)
  13. Matthew 9:35-38
  14. Disclaimer