Apologetics: One-on-One Using Meet The Skeptic

One of the most encouraging responses I’ve received about Meet The Skeptic came from a young woman who sent me a Q&A tract she had made from the 4-category model in the book.

273c0e01f768d381c0cb5fae0a05730dShe had taken the key components from the 4 worldviews (moral, spiritual, scientific, and biblical) and customized them into a multiple-choice question handout to give to anyone she met in her daily transit. It wasn’t until I responded to a couple of her questions that I learned that she lived in the Netherlands!  She relayed the responses by people she approached in a store and on a tram with the questionnaire. (One would have nothing to do with it, the other grabbed it smiling and headed into her tram.)

How many of us have the guts or the conviction to do this? Making ourselves available to God is 90% of evangelism. And yes, we are a sharper instrument if we are informed but being willing to share our convictions, not merely our opinions, can carry as much weight as a deft response. Authenticity is an apologetic.

Meet The Skeptic encourages engaging a person’s worldview before answering their objections; finding out what idea(s) is behind the objection in the first place. Answering an objection often just leads to a followup objection. Getting to the Root Ideas (presuppositions) helps us learn how they see the world.

So the next time you’re hesitant about reaching out to your skeptical neighbor or an unknown acquaintance in your daily routine, remember our Dutch friend who is sharing the truth regardless of the response (Ezek. 2:5; 3:11, 27).

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Apologetics: Group Study using Meet The Skeptic

MTS-booksIn light of recent positive feedback, I wanted to do a short series of posts reporting how my apologetics resource, Meet the Skeptic, is being used to equip the Body; the first being as an apologetics group study guide.

From personal notifications I’ve received from group leaders, I am aware of Meet The Skeptic being used in churches in five different states as an apologetics group study guide. There may be many more of which I am unaware, but this is extremely encouraging! The groups include the following: apologetics studies open to adults within the particular church at large, a college apologetics study, a high school apologetics study, and even an upper middle school study (I usually don’t recommend Meet The Skeptic for groups under high school age but this one seemed exceptionally informed).

Some groups have used the Meet the Skeptic book alone by going through it chapter by chapter. Others have used the workbook as the primary resource. The workbook in particular is designed so that the questions are best answered after kicking the ideas around for a few minutes, not merely filling in the blank with something you’ve just read. And apologetic study groups allow the participants to compare their encounters with each other which helps better equip them for future conversations.

Either way, the idea is to equip the average believer to recognize the language of skepticism, the Root Ideas behind the objections, and the questions to ask to dig up those ideas – to be used in a practical way in conversations with non-believers. Group leaders have pointed out that Meet the Skeptic, unlike other apologetics resources, recognizes the “cultural climate.” And that’s the point – I did not write it for other apologists; I wrote it for anyone in the pew who wants to reach his unsaved friend without feeling like he needs a philosophy or seminary degree to do so.

I’ve even received a message from a gentleman in South Africa who was drawn to Meet The Skeptic after having a well known apologist speak to his college group. It seems that the message was impressive but perhaps not practical or portable enough to use in everyday encounters.

Apologetics study groups offered within a church are few and far between. This was confirmed by a recent well known apologetics ministry leader who visited my church and could literally only think of two or three other churches he had visited that offered such a course. The primary goal of Meet the Skeptic is to be a resource that reverses this trend.

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INTERSTELLAR and the 6 Days of Genesis

Interstellar-posterThe new film, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey incorporates some serious science amid the impressive special effects and sci-fi plot. One of the most interesting principles the film depicts is a phenomenon known as time dilation which has implications for understanding the days of Genesis 1.

Far from being science fiction, time dilation is an observed phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity in which things closer to a gravitational field (or gravity potential well) experience time moving more slowly than things further away from the source of gravity. This theory was tested in 1962 when two synchronized clocks were placed on a water tower. The clock at the bottom (closer to the source of gravity, the earth) was observed to run slower than the one at the top. The time difference here is extremely tiny because the difference in altitude is relatively small, but as the change in altitude increases so does the time disparity. Today the clocks of satellites must be adjusted to compensate for the time dilation they experience far above the surface of the earth. But even at this altitude the time difference is still extremely small.

Untitled-1However, on a much larger ‘interstellar’ scale the time dilation could be very large. The more massive the object the deeper the gravitational well (the greater the altitude difference) and the greater the time dilation. This is why in the film the astronauts who visited the first planet that was extremely close to the black hole (within the gravity well) only experienced minutes of time while the astronaut on the ship (above and outside the gravity well) experienced 23 years. (Suspend objections that experiencing such a change of gravity would have crushed them and enjoy the movie.)

But suppose the scale were even larger than a black hole. If the entire mass of the universe were in a compact area and the earth were at or near the center of mass, an extremely deep gravitational potential well would be created. As the mass expanded becoming less dense (Ps. 104:2, Isa. 40:22, Job 9:8), and galaxies moved further apart those on the edges would come out of the well sooner than those at the center and their time clocks would be greatly accelerated compared to those bodies still in the well >> HOURS/DAYS on Earth = BILLIONS OF YEARS in distant galaxies (in theory). According to the peer reviewed calculations of physicist Russell Humphreys, bodies deep enough in the well could even experience a timeless zone until enough mass was pulled out of the well bringing bodies within the well up to a shallower depth above the timeless zone.

But skeptics will claim that the time dilation we observe today between bodies in deep space versus that on earth is negligible. This is correct. But there is no longer the ‘altitude’ difference between earth and distant galaxies today as there would have been at the beginning. This “white hole” model (Humphreys) assumes that the universe has a center – something that the Big Bang theory vehemently rejects. But why? Basic observations show that distribution of galaxies around us is fairly even in all directions. So the conclusion that the Earth may be at or near the center of them is a reasonable one. However, it is not acceptable in an atheistic model (the Big Bang) because having the earth at the center would suggest either a colossal coincidence or a purpose – a conclusion that ventures way too close to a Creator.  So why do some Christians still buy into the Big Bang (just one model among many) when doing so means that they are also accepting the same atheistic assumptions and trying to shoe-horn them into Genesis?

For Christians, a model such as the white-hole model of the beginning of the universe does far less damage to Scripture than tortured old-earth re-interpretations of Genesis and their subsequent gaping theological holes (death before sin) that are ultimately dictated by a Big Bang model based on atheistic assumptions.  Not only that, but the white-hole model uses established observational principles (relativity) rather than relying on counterintuitive notions (the universe has no center or edge due to cosmic inflation), violates principles (inflation must occur many times faster than the speed of light), and can not account for significant observations counter to the theory (the horizon problem, the absence of anti-matter, the absence of Population III stars, the presence of blue giant stars, etc.)

Remember, the Big Bang is a MODEL – and not the only model –  for a past event requiring assumptions based on the presuppositions of the observer, meaning that it is a philosophy about the universe’s beginning.

So when we elevate a philosophy to the class of observed and repeated science and re-read inerrant Scripture through that lens, how deeply into the theological gravity well have we ventured?

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Elysium: sweaty, juvenile Socialism

elysium_posterI really wanted to see Elysium on the big screen but my wife refused to pay theater price for what we both knew was a propaganda film. Still, I really thought the visually artistic aspects and the performances of two A-list actors would redeem it. WROOONNNNG.

Props to my wife for seeing through this one–we are still regretting our payout to Red Box. With a script cobbled together from assorted tweets by unemployed Occupy protestors (via iPhones made by evil capitalists of course), Elysium is a juvenile socialistic tome, and besides that is just a bad film.

Jodie Foster plays a high ranking government official and one-percenter who lives on the idyllic Elysium space station while the rest of the ninety-nine percenters (represented with sweaty, self-righteous gusto by Matt Damon) suffer in the authoritarian, robot-policed squalor of third-world L.A. But Foster’s most distracting attribute is an extremely muddled accent. Is she French? Is she British? Is she German? Is she trying too hard? Yes.

Matt Damon’s acting career and film selection have lately taken a back seat to his preachy left-wing worldview–and with predictable results (e.g. Promised Land, Green Zone, and Happy Feet Two).  Amid a mine field of F-bombs, all of the clichéd bases are covered here: illegal (‘undocumented’) immigration, rich vs. poor, whites (who only live on Elysium) vs. all other races (who only live in squalor).

But despite himself writer/director Neill Blomkamp gives a glimpse of the truth in self-defeating fashion. Who are the one-percenters in the film? The government officials and the business leaders they control. Perhaps if they had gotten out of the way and let a few capitalists employ Matt and his buddies (hello Detroit?) he wouldn’t have to get a bunch of drug dealers with Dremel tools to turn him into a human erector set.

Look at the top of any Socialist/Communist government and you will find the residents of Elysium while the proles barter for black-market bread and drive 50s automobiles.

Rent something with a deeper message like Pacific Rim.

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Christians, it’s ok to be a little weird

Kirsten Powers, a Fox News contributor, self-described liberal, and former atheist recently made public her conversion several years ago to evangelical Christianity. She explains how her boyfriend at the time asked her point-blank if she believed Jesus was her savior. She goes on to say that this “creeped her out” and she thought, “Who says stuff like that?” But later after going to church with him, investigating Scripture for herself, and being unable to shake the feeling that God was pursuing her, she surrendered her life to Christ.

What a freak her boyfriend must have been. He actually came out and asked her if she was saved(!) Can’t think of anything more corny, naive, unsophisticated – or effective? This was convicting to me as an apologist to just sometimes have the guts to ask the question rather than believing I must first anticipate all the objections and mount an argument. Yes, sometimes we need to engage arguments and answer questions, but let’s not assume that the conversation will start there.

Being weird didn’t stop Ezekiel either. After he publicly carries out the bizarre symbolic acts that God tells him to do such as build a miniature siege of Jerusalem, lie on one side for 390 days, divide his shaved hair into thirds, act out an escape through the city wall plus many other things, the people finally ask him, “What are you doing?”

If our Christianity doesn’t come across as a little weird, who will ask why we’re doing it?

(This is a side issue, but shouldn’t our churches come across as a little weird too? Do all of them need to look like shopping malls and coffee shops? Does everyone need to dress conspicuously casual as if dressing up might offend someone? What if our churches looked like …churches?? Nah, people today would just think that’s weird.)

Go be an Ezekiel.

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Blessed by a Leper

The following is not a feel-good story with an online life of its own, but an actual, recent event given to me firsthand by the health care-giver friend of mine in the account. I hope it blesses and teaches you as it did me.

My patient was 87 years old and dying of metastatic prostate cancer. He lived alone in [City, USA] in subsidized housing for the elderly and frail. He said he had 2 daughters but I never saw them. He was so incapable of doing much of anything for himself other than making it from one room to the other. He told me his daughter’s came “when they could” to do his laundry and clean his apartment and help him bathe. However, each time I visited him, I found a filthy apartment with bloody tissues all around (he had severe weeping psoriasis of the arms and legs). I almost always found him sitting in his recliner in the living room with old food someone had brought to him at some point. The TV was usually on and he was typically asleep leaving me wondering every time I came in if he was alive when I arrived. I always sneaked around to find an empty refrigerator and was able several times to slip some food in that would be easy for him to eat. My social worker had him on the list for several community agencies/help but as always, those waits are months long. He was a veteran and no one had ever helped him access vet services. So, we were in the process of trying to help.

So, last Tuesday I stopped in to see him – you have to drop in on him because he rarely answers the phone. His apartment was filthy, his floor covered in scales of dry skin that had fallen from his legs and arms. The apartment smelled awful – worse than usual. I checked the kitchen and it was not from food although he had an old box of chicken from a little mom n’ pop restaurant down the street – occasionally one gentleman whom he got to know at a gas station years ago, would bring him food and had brought this by over the weekend. He was in his chair as always and was awake that day so I didn’t have to wake him. He’d tried to comb his hair. His shirt, although sleeves stained with blood, was tucked in his jeans and he had on socks and shoes. I visited with him a minute or two then set to examining him. When I got to his legs and pulled up his jeans, I found the source of the aroma. He’d had on the same socks and shoes for, he told me, at least a few weeks. He was very apologetic and related that he’d been unable to wash his legs and feet because he couldn’t reach them. I gloved up and took his shoes off and his socks were soaked and crusty at the top. His legs had been weeping since who knows when (at least the last time I saw him) and his socks had acted as a wick. I nearly had to chisel them away from the tops of his ankles and finally got them off. I won’t give you too much detail but will say that his feet were wet and filthy. I was able to find an old bed pan in his bedroom closet from a previous hospital stay and soaked his feet, one at a time, in warm soapy water and washed and washed and washed until I was able to get them clean. I wrapped his legs (he’d been seen at the wound center before so I repeated dressings and wraps from the prescribed regimen there) and went out to the Jeep to find a new pair of socks. I brought them in and put them on, asking him to leave his shoes off at least for the day, and set them out to dry. I went off to the bathroom to dump the water again and came back through sweeping the floors to clear them of the dry scales because I was afraid he’d slip on them in his socks. As I rounded the corner, he was reaching for his wallet, which appeared to have maybe $10 in it. I asked what he was doing, insisting that he owed me nothing, and he said “if you go over to that building across the street, they have a soda machine. I’d like to buy you and me a Coke.” I went on and on about how generous he was and asked if we could keep the money in a bowl on the table so that when I came by later one day when it was really hot, I could run across the street and get us a drink (I wish now I’d just gone and gotten the drinks and called my next patient to say I’d be late). He put the money in a bowl and thanked me two or three times. I told him I’d come by when I got back from [City, USA] (today) and look at his legs and feet again for him.

As I drove away, I remember thinking that this was probably the best thing that was going to happen to me all day. I’d been able to touch a leper and thought of what a privilege it was to wash his feet, remembering that Jesus had loved in a similar way. I was overcome with gratitude and sorrow as I am now. I found out at 5am this morning of his death. He died alone in the night on Wednesday and was found by his apartment maintenance manager, slumped over in that same recliner.

I sit here this morning praising God for the opportunity to have known this man who, for all I know, earned his loneliness somewhere along the way in his life, but was none the less alone and in need of human contact and love. I praise Him for giving me the opportunity to express His love in a tangible way. And I am reminded of how precious the opportunities are to get on our knees and literally or figuratively, was the feet of the leper.

May I never be moving so fast or be so busy that I miss such an opportunity. Grateful to my God, my Savior giving me such a precious moment in this life.

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Free Book Friday! Sponsored by Master Books

Meet The Skeptic book coverComment on this post today (Friday, 5/31/13) and earn a chance to win a free copy of Meet The Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations by Bill Foster!

One print copy and one digital copy will be given away.

Meet The Skeptic takes the multitude of objections and reduces them to four basic categories. By understanding these categories, you can more effectively clarify the skeptic’s worldview and share your own.

Learn how to equip yourself and engage your skeptical friends!

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