Free Ebook: Ian Wishart’s The Divinity Code


Down Memory Lane

I remember well when reading Ian’s “Eve’s Bite” an more specifically the parts about Dawkin’s “God Delusion” how it was so beautiful to see someone so fierce in standing up for his faith. In fact I was jealous a bit actually. At the time I was not a Christian, yes  believed that there must be more to the universe that sheer coincidence, random chance. Looking at nature and the universe as a whole and zooming in on the more minute details it seemed to be to absurd for words. The evidence available at the time was inconclusive for either side. On an emotional level rather than a rational level I was sure that there was a creator, that the universe was the product of intelligent design, random chance was just to unsatisfactory an explanation: hence I called myself a rationalist with a twist.

Not long after that I got a hold of a copy of “The Divinity Code” which in a way is the kiwi answer to guys like Lee Strobel. A well researched and passionate apologetic book by Ian Wishart, taking on big names like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Bishop John Spong, and and the nun Karen Armstrong. The book tackles a wide range of subjects in apologetic playing field and I can but say that this book has been part of my journey that led to opening the door for Christ in my life at a time when I was so busy (like Dawkins, Hitchens, Spong and others) to debunk Christianity.

If there is any book nowadays Christian New Zealand may be proud of it is this one. I can’t help but noticing that Wishart is convincing, where other apologists have been involved in distant, passionless, arm chair intellectual exercise Wishart’s style and passion really appealed to me, even though we may have alternative views on some points. ‘ His research is thorough and now years later I have still not managed (admittedly also as a result of being distracted by many other books) to go through all the references and links.

As a relatively young Christian and someone with a passion for apologetics this is definitely a book I’d recommend.

The Good News

The book is available internationally through Amazon US and Amazon UK.

But now the book has also been made available as a free downloadable pdf at http://issuu.com/iwishart/docs/thedivinity.

I suggest that you all go and have a look at Issuu.com. All it takes is registering for an account and you can download the book after that.

Personally I am very pleased with the ebook version next to my paper version since it makes it easier to quote from the book in coming posts.

Some Reviews at Amazon

…In the Prologue, Wishart takes up the gauntlet laid down by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and in fact, uses Dawkins own logic and methodology to launch a counter-attack against unbelief. The prologue closes with a question from Wishart Do I succeed? I struggled with the early chapters, which focus on the Biblical account of creation, and the counter arguments from evolutionists. Perhaps that was due to my perpetual struggles with things scientific; maybe it was due to the after-effects of a long flight however I persevered, and was glad that I did. One comment though Wishart s research is thorough, and his opinions are supported by facts. For me, The Divinity Code comes alive in chapter 9, The Myth of Christ. Over the next eight chapters, Wishart draws together a wealth of evidence supporting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in the process, makes a compelling case. And despite his disagreements with Dawkins, with Christopher Hitchens and with Lloyd Geering, Wishart reserves his strongest condemnation for Bishop John Shelby Spong. In chapter 14, Resurrection Fact or Fiction, Wishart hoists Spong by his own petard, pointing out the absurdity of the Bishop s claims about the central nugget of Christianity . Having started with a Prologue, Wishart fittingly ends with an Epilogue where he states: I m not here to force anyone to convert……….Rather, my aim has been merely to argue the case for faith the sole task of this book has been to document the hard evidence that actually does exist in favour of the God Hypothesis So, to return to Wishart s question Do I succeed? In my case, he was preaching to the converted, so the answer is irrelevant. Read The Divinity Code for yourself, with an open mind. You ll find it challenging and thought-provoking, and Ian Wishart makes a compelling case against unbelief. –KeepingStock.blogspot<br /><br />I m having a cracking good read of another cracking good read – The Divinity Code by Ian Wishart, his follow-up book to Eve s Bite which was also a cracking good read. I don t know Wishart’s following, other than that he is a Christian and came to Faith from atheism a number of years ago. The Divinity Code is one of the best *Christian* apologetic books I have read. There are a few small details that I think shows that he is not Catholic, but it is an excellent book nevertheless. Don t miss reading it if you can. –“NZ Catholic” newspaper’s blog, “Being Frank”<br /><br /> –KeepingStock

New Zealand journalist Ian Wishart became a Christian after an enthusiastic atheistic stance during which he took part in interventions with Christians to try and turn them from the faith. According to his introduction in his latest book the Divinity code (home, Amazon page), the Lord converted him to Christianity, regardless of his belief in how the world came to be, and now, years down the track he has written a very compelling response to books such as “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. In the book Wishart explores a variety of protests to the existence of God and the authenticity of the Bible, and pulls apart the latest round of atheistic posturing and in the process demonstrates that Christianity stands up to scientific and historical evidence extremely well when it is looked at through an unbiased lense. The concepts that Wishart points to in the first few chapters, which deal with the origin of the world have mostly been overlooked by the atheist community. You can read about these in books such as “The Privileged planet” (also available on DVD in abridged form and posted online here). However, Wishart in his book goes much further than just to look at science. He compares the story of Genesis with the stories of many other ancient cultures and stories, as well as dealing with the unique claims from the Bible about God, Christ and even the Bible itself. He does this in some depth drawing on writings dating back to first century historians (in the case of the New Testament account of Christ). As he does this, he takes the “inaccuracies” of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Spong and others and pulls them apart, looking deep into the facts and issues around them and explaining with clarity the real story that is behind them. The second half of the book deals much more specifically with the Biblical claims (the existence of Christ, His resurrection, miracles and prophecy are all included). Wishart explores the attacks on scripture from recent books and rantings and then proceeds to demonstrate the shortfalls of the opposing arguments and demonstrate clearly from neutral sources that their scholarship simply falls short. If you are someone who is wondering about all the arguments that have been offered and whether Christianity makes any sense at all, this book is remarkably cohesive, presenting clearly that not only do the latest atheistic arguments fall short in a number of ways, but that by starting your world view with the Bible, the world is intelligible and even somewhat predictable. Personally, I enjoyed this book. Ian writes in an easy to understand manner, and while his tone may offend those who he opposes on occasion, (not that they are likely to read the book anyway), his style is engaging and keeps you reading to the end. Unless you are a hard core apologist who who is reading the deeper science and history books yourself, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. – The Bible Geek –The Bible Geek –The Bible Geek

The title of the book is obviously a riposte to the popular and untrustworthy novel The Da Vinci Code . That book was an attack on orthodox Christianity in the form of a novel. It belongs to a whole series of recent books denigrating Christianity.
These books, as Pope Benedict XVI remarked, attack the Christian vision which supplanted that of the pagan world. The world view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love, i.e. a Person. [Spe Salvi, par.5]
This book is an outright refutation of these modern views, propounded not only by novelists, but by scientists, philosophers and historians. I find this fashionable rash of heresies interesting because they illustrate two fundamental weaknesses of humanity. One weakness is that of hubris , well documented by the ancient Greeks, is the arrogance of a creature, a mammal, that believes he can be as independent as a god. Adam and Eve are the progenitors of this. The second is the inability of human reason to account for all the facts in a discussion on ultimate questions.
The Greeks again refused to accept statements that did not cover all the appearances . Thomas Huxley put his finger on this when he wrote, The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. It is inability to face the ugly fact that vitiates all these attacks on Christianity.
The genius of this Kiwi author is the ability to discover those ugly facts that slay the hypotheses of scientists, philosophers, historians and novelists that God does not exist and that Jesus Christ was not a person in history but a myth. Its coverage is almost encylopedic. Wishart s skill as an investigative journalist is obvious as he takes hypothesis after hypothesis and demonstrates their inadequacy because the do not preserve all the appearances. He also has a sense of humour that lightens the concentration, such as this quotation from a Chinese palaeontologist: In China we can criticise Darwin but not the government; in America you can criticise the government but not Darwin. How true!
This is a readable, but not simple book that confronts the ultimates that face human destiny. It is, therefore, worth studying despite what seems an occasional overkill.
Bishop Mackey is Bishop Emeritus of Auckland. –NZ Catholic, Feb 2008 edition

The Historicity of Jesus Christ


Kristopher Bate

Thinking Faith Ministries

Will speak on The Historicity of Jesus Christ

Canterbury Youth Services

472 Cranford st, Papanui ( above Chipmunks )

7pm, Saturday the 24th July 2010

Come & bring a non-believing friend!

Free Entry

For details contact Ramana / Seema

Ph. 0274412217 Email: ramananv2002@yahoo.co.uk

New Age Syncretism from a Christian Perspective: False Teachings


Going over some of the materials of the past I stumbled upon some of the materials I had been studying and some of the older notes. It is actually quite amazing to see how my conversion last year came with a completely renewed and different understanding of the Bible (if only because there is no longer room for selective reading and use). One of the things in my old journal regarded the New Age claim that:

Christianity can no longer answer the questions to out spiritual quest. Therefore Christianity will need to accept the teachings of other types of spirituality such as Eastern Spiritual teachings (or as can be seen even pagan spirituality is being accepted by some) in order to get a more comprehensive picture of the meaning of life.

I remember well how I once was listening to a comedy artists that was interviewing Jesus. In the interview Jesus allegedly thought that if He would come back and promote his same teachings that he would find many Christians against him. Setting this remark of against the premise above one could of course wonder whether or not Jesus as God in the flesh would agree with the position that we ‘need to accept’ these different teachings. Does – as is claimed by some (New Age teachers) – Christianity indeed have gaps that can only be filled by other spiritual traditions? Or to say it in other words, is there room to suggest that Biblical teachings allow or even promote New Age syncretism?

The Old Testament

In Exodus we read how God said Himself:

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The people of Israel met their disasters exactly because they worshiped other gods. This reaches a climax in 2 Chronicles 33 where we read:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

7 He took the carved image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and ordinances given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.

10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.

Manasseh did just the worst thing imaginable, worse than any other king before him by bringing other gods or better yet religions and/ or systems of worship in the God’s temple thus blocking the way to have his nation reconciled with God. Now what Manasseh did could seem the logical thing to do from a human political perspective: Manassah wanted peace and acceptance for his kingdom. In a spiritual sense however it was completely against God’s will and commands. And similar to how we have been prone to sin ever since Adam and Eve; syncretism has entered the hearts of the people and has been in there ever since despite Manasseh’s later repentance. In fact, a point was reached where repentance was no longer possible, a point where spiritual confusion had grown to be so much that God used the sins of Manasseh as a paradigm for the complete fall of the whole nation

4 I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 15,4).

I think we can safely assume that the Old Testament does not promote syncretism whatsoever.

The New Testament

I guess Paul says it all in his letter to the Colossians:

8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10)

From the letter it becomes clear that even in his time, people were struggling with this issue. But Paul leaves us no doubt, that we do not need other religions or spiritual traditions to ‘fill the gaps.’  In fact when we see the Old Testament we can only conclude that God opposes such syncretism. So did that perhaps change with the coming of Jesus? Au contraire! Should you still have doubts after reading what Paul says, this is what Jesus said about Himself:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus did not say he was ‘one of the ways’ but THE  way, truth and life. And he continues to advise is that we will only know God, by going through Him, not some other teacher or prophet, no, through Him exclusively. Anyone that still thinks that syncretism is possible within the Christian New Age framework should now be at least slightly embarrassed for trying to find alternative ways or a syncretic middle of the road. New Age  syncretism may seem attractive from a worldly political perspective; it will not  give us spiritual progress and peace as claimed. What it will bring is confusion and spiritual delusion: I know, I have been there.  Jesus Christ warned us against such practices:

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ”, and will deceive many (Matthew 24,4-5).

Several letters of Paul are at least to some extent written to address false teachings (2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians), 2 Peter addresses the matter of false teachers and so do 1 John, 2 John and Jude. In 1 John 4:1-6 John details a way to “Test the Spirits.”

And think of it really: what sense would Jesus death on the cross have had if He had been just one of the many ways to know God, what purpose would his horrible death have served? Why would such a dramatic and horrible course of events have been necessary if we indeed could have reached the same end goal by diligently following  one or the other religion? I can hear some thinking:  by the salvation that came from Jesus’ death was for the people of Israel only. Again I think Jesus’ own words are the best rebuke to such an argument, as that is in my view certainly not how Jesus saw it:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

One of the more recent proponents of such syncretism is Bahaism. On the website we read:

Throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine Messengers, whose teachings guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society. These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Their religions come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, brought new spiritual and social teachings for our time. His essential message is of unity. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family, and the oneness of religion.

Bahá’u’lláh said, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,” and that, as foretold in all the sacred scriptures of the past, now is the time for humanity to live in unity.

Implicitly this appears to be similar to position I read in Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” In such a perspective Jesus is but one of great teachers in the history of man and analogue to the blind men trying to identify an elephant by being presented with only part of it, such a position claims that all world religions hold a measure of truth, they must be seen as incomplete, valid for the past ages of human history and for a limited group of people. Effectively what is said here is that all these religions have an incomplete perspective but no worries because I have the complete picture. A certain amount of arrogance or self-righteousness can not be denied. Moreover such a syncretic position can only come from a lack of or superficial understanding of the major religions and the underlying teachings of their founders. World religions do not lead to a same finality are not compatible with each other and are not to be seen as alternative paths to the same ultimate truth.
As a Christian, I refer back to John 14:6 and note that while this may seem like an attractive proposition in the modern day world, it seems to me as incompatible with the absoluteness of the truth of God.  I do agree that the earth is but one country an mankind it’s citizens. It is out of love that Christians go out to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

A final note on religious (in)tolerance

Just so we are very very clear on this. I do not promote in any way whatsoever religious intolerance in any form. At the same time that does not necessarily mean that we cannot disagree on matters. Intolerance or even hatred can in my view only come from a lack of understanding and practice of one’s own religion. As a Christian we will need to be tolerant and caring to all people.Jesus himself taught us to:

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12,31 and Luke 10,27).

From the Parable of the Good Samaritan it follows that according to Jesus’ own teachings ‘your neighbor’ does not not necessarily mean someone with the same belief but ALL people. Tolerance doesn’t require us to embrace our neighbor’s religion, but to respect him for what he is, a human being created in the image and likeness of God. Similar teachings can be found in the Quran (2:62) and  similar teaching can be found in Hinduism and Buddhism.

So let this article not be read as promoting religious hatred and/or intolerance. Instead, it is my belief that tolerance is not achieved by being ignorance or superficiality, but rather by understanding of the other’s faith. From an apologetic perspective I can add that effective apologetic argumentation comes from an understanding of the other’s perspective. Jesus and Paul are a good examples of how this works: your arguments are within the reality and perspective of the other yet without compromising and totally consistent with the ultimate truth.

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Vatican reaches out to atheists – but not you, Richard Dawkins – Europe, World – The Independent


The Vatican is planning a new initiative to reach out to atheists and agnostics in an attempt to improve the church’s relationship with non-believers. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered officials to create a new foundation where atheists will be encouraged to meet and debate with some of the Catholic Church’s top theologians.

The Vatican hopes to stage a series of debates in Paris next year. But militant non-believers hoping for a chance to set senior church figures straight about the existence of God are set to be disappointed: the church has warned that atheists with high public profiles such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens will not be invited.

The “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, as the foundation is known, is being set up by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the influential Vatican department that is charged with fostering better relations with non-Catholics.

Read the rest of the article via Vatican reaches out to atheists – but not you, Richard Dawkins – Europe, World – The Independent

Apologetics and Why the Church Needs it


It is amazing to see how years of looking at the Christian faith with a view of exposing the church as a fraud, have left me with an apologetic basis that can be drawn upon for the greater good. For those of you not familiar with the term I refer to 1 Peter 3:15, 16 which is can be used as the biblical rationale for apologetics:

“… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15,16)

There are many definitions when it comes to what is to be understood as apologetics. In very short terms it could be described as the reasoned defence for what you hold to be the truth. Other descriptions I have come across relate to both the content and function of apologetics. Lane Craige, a well known apologetic himself, speaks for instance of “rational justification.” R.C. Sproul explains it as “helping Christians know what they believe and why they believe it” and “providing intellectual defence for the truth claim” which is the Christian truth claim. J. Moreland explains it as “overcoming intellectual obstacles” for a Christian faith.  You could see apologetics as a Christian theological exercise that addresses the intellectual obstacles that keep people from taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ serious. Apologetics addresses amongst others the common known objections hear against the Christian faith such as:

  • Why does evil exist?
  • Has the Christian faith not been proven wrong by science?
  • How do we know Christianity is true in light of the existence of other world religions that also make claims to ultimate truth?
  • Why is homosexuality or abortion bad?
  • Sex outside of marriage?

There appears to be this conception that apologetics is something for a select minority; the inquisitive minds, the intellectual elite. The fact that some universities now offer a major and degree in apologetics may have contributed to this fact as well as the association o apologetics with such brilliant minds as C.S. Lewis whom once wrote:

“To be ignorant is simple now – not able to meet our enemies on their own ground – would be to throw down our weapons, and betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us, against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. “ C.S. Lewis

While it may hold some truth that apologetics is associated with sharp minds such as C.S. Lewis, serving God with the mind has always been part of the life of the church. Look at some of the trinity creeds and the precision with which words were entrusted to paper. They are a perfect example of how God can be served with the mind the intellect. Lack of answers has been a contributing factor in people leaving the churches. People will need to be enabled or to use a popular self-help catch phrase, empowered, by the church to reconcile the worldly in which they live with the spiritual. It is my simple belief that the heart cannot follow what the mind cannot conceive or justify. It is also my belief that it is and has been for that very reason that we have seen secularism and even atheism grow in such enormous popularity. If there is one thing that may be said about the church and the church losing the game from atheists like for instance Dawkins or Hitchens, it is not because their ideas and arguments are necessarily more compelling but because we never entered the arena. Most importantly, it seems to me that as Christians we let ourselves be pushed into an area of “defence” where actually I would like to see a more pro-active approach to apologetics that is closely aligned with ministerial, missionary and evangelistic activities of the church.

Western culture and society are now considered to be a post-Christian culture and society in which secularism is the dominant philosophy at least on a state organisational and legal level.  Even when I was a sceptic it seemed apparent that a lot of the problems and issues Europe, the US, New Zealand and Australia are dealing with have to do with the secularisation of society and more importantly the associated denial of our own past and identity that comes with that. Biblical thinking has been at the very foundations of western culture whether we like it or not. With secularisation came an ongoing emphasis on what could be described as individualism and with that an ongoing process of moral and cultural relativism. ‘Old’ values such as the family and community as cornerstones of society have been replaced by isolation. “Communities” is something that may sound good coming from policy makers but that’s as far as it often goes and most certainly it is far from a physical reality in many places. Many of us would not even know the name of our immediate neighbour, or recognize them as such in an encounter somewhere else. How can one love one’s neighbour if you don’t bother getting to know them, reach out to them. Look at most western societies and find a very similar picture emerging of self-centered individualism. Plagued by greed and self-interest, lust for power and status, we have seen the emergence of a world in crisis: politically, economically, spiritually, philosophically, and environmentally.  I hear people complain about the Islamisation of the Netherlands and Europe. Quite frankly I think most of it has to do with finding oneself confronted with the identity-crisis of one’s own western culture. But this is a subject of another article maybe.

Biblical Thinking as a Shaping Factor

Biblical thinking has been at the foundations of western culture and gave rise to modern sciences and technology. The Bible gave rise to and a foundation for human rights. As humans we are created in God’s image and while many may claim that we are all equally worth as much or as little as we are, it seems to me that only the Christian worldview provides a solid and consistent philosophical basis for such a claim. No matter how you look at it, while we may want to make this claim, the simple reality is that we do not enter the world equal. The only way we can objectively as well as rationally make a claim for equality is if we depart from a view on humans as being created in the image of God. Not just the principle of equality but also other human rights depart from the premise that there are simply some “inalienable rights” that apparently exist outside of any human authority. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 words it like this:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world

Where, one could ask, could these rights come from other than God? It is equally the same with science and technology. Johannes Kepler, one of the key figures in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century advised us that:

The chief aim of all investigations of the external world (author: the essence of science) should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he has revealed to us in the language of mathematics.

From a worldly point of view I guess it is good to remember our Christian heritage as part of our identity. There used to be an advertisement on television in New Zealand which basically promoted that we should understand our past to prepare for the future.  The ongoing process of secularisation of western societies and all the problems it is currently facing illustrate what happens if we do not have an appropriate amount of attention for our past or even (as for instance is happening in the UK) deny our past. And all this time churches have stood by and watched it happen. Apologetics are absolutely crucial in any church for both health of it and the witness. Unless we understand the gospel at a worldview level, it’s impact on those who accept the gospel as well as its power to fundamentally impact on and change society, it will always be short of God’s best for His people. However in order to understand the Gospel at the worldview level we need apologetics.

Light of the World

Simply put, in my opinion there is a duty on the church to think through the relevant issues so that it can anticipate and answer questions that people have. As a church you have a role to play as light in this world and that role should be taken more seriously. Apologetics are needed to help people answer increasing amounts of increasingly complex answers. If we want a future for the church and Christians to be at the heart of our society, it is of paramount importance that we teach our people and people to come. Churches in my view, have a responsibility to make apologetics part of the teaching and training of their flocks especially where it comes to the how to respond to the questions of faith and compassion for those that have developed false worldviews or religious believes.

There are several good reasons to engage the Christian community in apologetics. For starters: the Bible demands from us that we defend our faith and provides examples thereof. From a Christian mission point of view: the removal of intellectual barriers aids or assists unbelievers or non-Christians to embrace the gospel. For believers apologetics assists in strengthening their faith on an intellectual level and as such encourages spiritual growth. From a societal perspective it contributes to cultural health at large.

Spiritual Warfare

The Bible has a great deal to say about such warfare. The devil also known as Satan is a real adversary that you must reckon with. Initially a high-ranking angel in heaven who rebelled, he was was cast out of heaven.

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18)

Ever since, Satan has been in total opposition to God. It was Satan who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:4). In John 10 we see Jesus describe Satan as:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)

It was that Satan challenged Jesus at every turn, from His infancy through His death. Yet Jesus was undeterred from His mission to completely defeat His ancient foe. Satan is a schemer using smart tactics and while defeated for a while he continues to have a substantial amount of influence on earth. He is still behind every form of evil, perhaps with increasing intensity, sensing (correctly) the day is coming when he will be completely destroyed. Peter advises us that Satan “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and tells us to “resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:.9). Paul offers similar advice:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10,11).

Off all the tactics and tools Satan may try and use in this battle against God, ideas are probably the most effective in the toolkit of Satan. In essence the battle is one for our minds initially.

“The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

In Isaiah we see this blindness depicted as “the sheet that covers all nations” (Isaiah 25:7).

When Christians think of conversion and rebirth in Christ, a renewed mind is at all times part of the equation. On a personal/individual level; these ideas come in the form of temptation. On a collective level, it can be explained ironically enough using a theory that is very popular with atheist, universal Darwinist scholars: the meme theory.

The most compelling example of how Satan used ideas to win over God’s own is the story of Adam and Eve. Satan was able to drive them away from God by one thing only: planting an idea in their minds. Since that moment mankind has been buying in to the idea that we can actually be as God, that we do not need God because we can be God. In memetic terms, Satan planted a very good meme right at the start and so far it seems to be surviving and reproducing beautifully.

God gave us an ability to choose, to make real decisions with real consequences. In exercising our freedom to choose we actually affirm our true humanity. At the same time, and as a result of the work of Satan, we end up choosing against God so often; the God that created us to be up close and personal with Him. Where we end up turning away from Him, we basically dethrone God and with that the essence of our humanity. False ideas were at the basis of our initial move away from God ((original) sin in the broadest sense), and has continued to be a prime influence on us. This applies all despite the fact that deep down inside, we know that we function at our best when we are properly related to God; individually and as mankind. The mind is a battlefield that is as simple as it is. As Christians we are called to engage in this battle for the mind using our minds:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Probably one of the best examples of how this battle for the mind (and by the mind) is fought is to have a close look at University campuses. I think we can all come up with one or more examples of people that enrolled at University as a Christian to leave it a few years down the line as an agnostic or an Atheist even. Biblical thinking has become something that is considered to be irrational and not in touch with reality on the marketplace of ideas. And that should be a priority. Biblical thinking should regain its respectability, it needs to regain its recognition as a legitimate option in the marketplace of ideas and for that we need apologetics. Apologetics are the prime instrument to make a case for Christ and Christianity.  At all times this will be a hard fought battle, as we will see. Ideas that are powerful enough have a habit of sticking, up to a point where they may well end up being almost part of our genetic imprint: memes.

Apologetics in my view is a shared responsibility for the churches of all denominations. Since we are to function as one body, it should not be something elitist, no-one should be left out. That doesn’t mean that everyone should be an apologist, the pastor included. The churches should just open their doors for those that are willing to use their minds to serve God. Local churches could consider raising up and training people who serve as apologists for their congregations. Both the apologetic pursuit and the spiritual transformation of lives depend heavily on guidance by the Holy Spirit so as to prevent faith from becoming a merely intellectual exercise.

Rethinking the Agenda

Besides the apparent need for apologetics, I think it is important that we have a good look at the current apologetic agenda. Apologetics appears to slowly become into a discipline that is occupied with ‘defending the reason for our faith and hope” yet this has worked out in many instances as a ‘reactive’ approach.
In my view a pro-active approach could well form part of the new apologetic agenda.  Defending in a pro-active sense is in my view only one side of the coin. In fact: defence against ‘outside attacks’ manoeuvres you in a position where the other may up determining the ‘battlefield.’ In my view there is a good argument to be made to have apologetics positioned not just as a ‘defence force’ but more importantly as part of the evangelist and missionary function of the church.

I think it is fair to say that we are living in a post-Christian secular society in which pluralism is the norm. We are so well reminded of that in the logo of the United States: “E Pluribus Unum” which translates as “out of many one.” Since colonial times the United States has been a safe haven for those seeking freedom of religious expression. At the time the time it primarily referred to the European settlers that all practiced Christianity but came from a wide range of denominations, traditions which quickly expanded to a wider range of other religions and belief systems with the influx of immigrants from other parts of the world.

Recipient Orientation

Cross cultural ministries and missionaries were well aware of the need to communicate the Gospel in an appropriate way within the different cultural contexts. Perfect examples of how this works out in practice can be found in the letters and actions of Paul. Of course we humans would not be humans if we did not come up with some cool sounding multi syllable word for it: “contextualisation.”
When considering apologetics, similar to evangelism and mission, we should be looking at getting contextualisation on the agenda. Without a doubt the gospel transcends all cultures but apologetic styles may need to be adapted to the specific cultural context in which the Gospel is being communicated as well as the reasons for our faith. Moreover I think that apologetics in particular may well be of at least equally great importance as the defence discipline when it is approached as part of the evangelist or mission function of the church. Apologetics is thus seen as an ancillary discipline not just occupied with countering attacks but more importantly with supporting evangelism in that it anticipates barriers the evangelist or missionary may encounter and prepares them for that in a contextually relevant way. This means that apologetics should get involved in research and investigation of the different cultural contexts and settings so as to identify pro-actively the barriers: questions, objections and spiritual ‘issues’ of the other (sub-)culture. The apologist can’t afford to be an armchair intellectual (armed with a pipe), a distant observer, an ivory tower inhabitant.
The apologist will need to be out there, with or even ahead of the evangelist or the missionary, as an observer of how the other (sub)culture lives, thinks and practices and applies their belief systems (evangelic or missionary reconnaissance). In a sense apologetics thus becomes somewhat of the reconnaissance or intelligence function for the church. By direct observation the apologetic fieldworker identifies the relevant apologetic questions, and for that matter not just in faraway exotic places and cultures but equally important, in our own post-Christian secular and pluralist post-modern western societies. Looking at the current state of society, an argument could be made that cross-cultural ministry could tke place in your own backyard/hood in most-western societies. Apologetics thus becomes an addressee or recipient orientated discipline.

Globalisation Requires Being Globally Informed

Apologetics, if properly construed and ancillary to evangelism and mission becomes as a result unavoidable in the effective proclamation of the good news. Thus far we have talked about the different (sub)cultural contexts that may require a rethinking of the apologetic agenda. Equally important as a development is the trend towards globalisation and apologetics will therefore need to adapt, especially where communicating in non-western contexts such as the Asian, the Latin American, the African and Arabian. Globalisation has seen substantial movements of people to and through different cultural settings and as an immigrant myself I am well aware that immigrant populations themselves have a habit of deriving a subculture mixing culture of the homeland with that of the new environment.

In addition to this more and more non-Christian worldviews are seen within the western societies: old pagan believes and philosophies like Wicca and Reiki, more modern movements such as New Age, Scientology, and to my great astonishment by now some geographical areas in the world officially recognize Jedi-ism, or Jedi as a religion (In fact I see this as one of the more serious insider threats in some churches but that is something for another post).  From a personal perspective, it cannot be seen as anything else than that there is an apparent need for the spiritual and that people are seeking. From an apologetic and following that the evangelist or missionary perspective it means that the challenge to be an effective bridge builder has enhanced and will need to embrace all these different subcultures as well as the global culture.

Apologetics as an Ancillary Discipline

Perhaps as a result of definitions in the past, apologetics is (in my view) too often seen as a ‘counter culture” or discipline, as standing up against false doctrines and teachers, and in all fairness, whilst it is by now hard not to notice attacks by militant atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others. At the same time, the defensive manoeuvres of the apologetic defence force seem to be hardening up as well especially in the Atheism v Christianity, Evolution v Creation debates. At the same time, evangelists and missionaries have never seen their work as on the defence and debunking false doctrines. It is good to remember that apologetics is not a means in itself. I prefer an approach that would enhance the focus of the apologetic discipline from addressing ‘heresies’ or false doctrines to assisting proactively in proclaiming the Gospel in a contextually relevant way so as to make new disciples: pro-active apologetics used in frontline evangelism and missionary work to reach the unreached people in different (sub) cultures and alternative spiritualities. Missionary work involves understanding the other’s culture, beliefs, practices, questions, answers, and issues and problems. Love and compassion are the leading drivers for any such missionary work and in my view the same applies to apologetics: debunking false doctrines as the prime focus limits the potential and scope of apologetics. In order to be relevant, apologetics need to embrace the principles of cross-cultural ministry. Dealing with doctrinal objections thus becomes part of a larger picture. There is a saying that “the heart cannot follow what the mind does not accept”: apologetics has the potential to assist in reaching the hearts of the not-yet Christian neighbours by clearing the mind in a contextually relevant way.

Diversity

John 3 and probably even more so John 4 where Jesus has an encounter with the Samaritan at the well we see a Jesus that goes well beyond rationality or the rational argument. The Samaritan woman’s imagination is engaged.  I can’t help thinking that we should consider how besides logic the minds and hearts of others may be stirred through for instance poetry, literature, narrative, parables, visual arts, music, dance, theatre, movies and other forms of creative works. A well known function of the arts is and always has been to open the door to what I like to call ‘hyper reality’ or ‘super reality’. The modern day apologist may need to consider the arts as part of the apologetic toolbox. Missionaries and evangelists for instance understand all too well the value of music and visual arts (probably equally well as marketeers). In the earlier days of the church, visual arts formed an important part of how the Gospel was communicated in a basically illiterate world. The modern day apologist, looking closely at the power of the creative disciplines, may need to include the artist in his or her self-conception as part of the need for contextual relevancy.

Humbleness and Fair Play

More than once I have seen how apologetics have turned into a crusade, even up to a point where it is, in my view at least, no longer serving Christianity. Where humbleness is lost, apologetics may well end up standing in the way of genuine love for the “not yet Christian” neighbour and the effective communication therewith.  No matter how convinced you are of the importance and correctness of the Gospel, it is good to remember that classifications like respect, integrity, goodwill are to be earned rather than to be claimed.

What may potentially be more damaging than not being humble, is the use of false arguments or not playing fair by leaving important information out that does not support your case. This is a practice I have seen all too often in the creation v evolution debates and for the record, not just on Atheist sides but most certainly also on the part of creationists.
In the end it does not help anyone. Atheist scientists like Dawkins, asking for scientific evidence deliberately ask for what cannot be delivered in their context. Science as by definition and practice limits itself to the natural and therefore the supernatural is per definition excluded. Likewise, all too often I see how creationists are trying to make us believe that evolution as a whole is a myth by pointing out the flaws in macro-evolution theory. Moreover while there may be holes in the macro-evolution theory, pointing out the holes or gaps is not the same as providing evidence for God. Both camps would do well in remembering that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Finally

In a culturally and religiously pluralistic post modern society the importance of apologetics is as high as ever. In the shift from modernism to post modernism, rationality still plays an important role but a different one where truth and experience go hand in hand. Post-modernists look for a reconciliation of the rational and the experiential and it is up to apologetics to pick up that challenge. In addition pluralism makes it a requirement to actively research/investigate different sub-cultures of society so as to enable more effective and contextually relevant communication. Apologetics needs to become a frontline discipline and can no longer afford to be an armchair discipline, focussed not just on countering the attack but more importantly on reaching the unreached and strengthening the weak. Apologetics may thus serve the missionary encounter with both non-western cultures and the post-modern, post Christian secular and pagan west (in essence our own neighbourhood) as well as spiritual growth within our communities.  The importance of contextualisation can be found throughout the Bible. Paul says it beautifully in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.

And just look at the story of Jesus. In essence they are the story of a creator seeking reconciliation with his creation came from his divine realm amongst us as one of us, with all the human limitations that brought. A challenge is waiting to be picked up I guess.

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Book Review: Timothy J Keller, The Reason For God. Belief in an Age of Scepticism


Most recently I had the pleasure to read the book The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan New York.

The Reason for God is written for sceptics as well as believers alike. It responds to the the writings of popular authors like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  What I thought was especially attractive about the book was the currency. Many introductions to Christian belief were written longer ago and do not address what today’s skeptics are concerned about. The timing of the book is impeccable as it arrived in a time frame where both skepticism and conversion appear to be on the rise. More importantly the discussion is being polarized by popular fundamentalists of both camps.

Going over some apologetic notes that will probably be part of another post I noted that perhaps a lot of these books (and similar to what happens with many Christians in general) are focusing on fellow believers and not so much on the group that really deserves serious and respectful attention: the skeptics.All too often other (apologetic) books merely gloss over the important questions or come up with answers that may be convincing to the average believer but do not seriously address the questions by skeptics.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

Keller does not distinguish between believers and unbelievers. Instead he talks of believers and skeptics. His theory: we all believe something. And rightfully so I guess as the questions or concerns discussed by Keller are more than once similarly difficult for people that do consider themselves to be a Christian.

“If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs—you will discover that your doubts are not so solid as they first appeared.”

The first seven chapters of the book cover seven of the most common objections and doubts about Christianity and discerns the alternate beliefs underlying each of them. This section is titled “The Leap of Doubt” and answers these seven common critiques:

  1. There can’t be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can’t take the Bible literally

In the second half of the book, titled “The Reasons for Faith,” he discusses seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith.

  1. The clues of God
  2. The knowledge of God
  3. The problem of sin
  4. Religion and the gospel
  5. The (true) story of the cross
  6. The reality of the resurrection
  7. The Dance of God

This book places Keller’s apparent influence C.S. Lewis into this day and age and I could not help but thinking how in some respects the experience of reading Keller’s book was similar to reading for instance Mere Christianity.
Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity,
buy here>>>

Publishers Weekly has advises that this is a book for “skeptics and the believers who love them.” Believers will rejoice in this book that carefully and patiently answers the most important objections of their skeptical friends with integrity and grace and Biblically consistent way. Skeptics will see that even their skepticism may well be based on some kind of faith. They are challenged to discern those underlying beliefs. A GREAT READ. It is most certainly one of the most compelling and at the same time highly accessible apologetic books I have read so far, and one that mist certainly addresses the right crowd.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

But perhaps even better: why not let the author explain about the book himself.

An extensive chapter by chapter summary of the book can be found at the Set ‘n’ Service blog here >>>

Also highly recommended is the next video in which Keller visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book. This event took place on March 5, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.

I think that by now you should have enough reason to get the book for yourself. Follow the link below to order online. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

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C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity


To my surprise I found a series radio lectures by CS Lewis that have been bundled in his book Mere Christianity on You Tube. They make great listening so I recommend you listen to all episodes. This audio adaption is read aloud by Jeffrey Howard.

Mere Christianity is one of CS Lewis most influential books and has become a corner stone of modern Christian apologetics. These lectures were originally broadcast on the radio as a lecture during World War Two.  From that the transcripts were  later compiled to become ‘Mere Christianity’. A former Atheist himself, Lewis once said:

Had God designed the world, it would not be A world so frail and faulty as we see.

Mere Christianity deals with the basic beliefs upheld by all Christians, and on purpose, Lewis avoids singling out any one denomination, instead focusing on fundamental teachings of the Christian faith.

Mere Christianity

Lewis is a story teller and a gift in making theological and apologetic matters attractive, compelling and an exciting subject matter to delve into.

Should you however prefer to read the book, it can be ordered below by clicking on the icon book cover on the right.

At the end of the first part a link to the next part will appear in your screen.

Have a great time listening or reading.

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