Posted on October 27, 2016 by Mark Farnham
Worldview is a concept that has become more common over the last few decades. One of the reasons for the growth of its use in intellectual and religious conversations is that it allows us to understand why people believe the things they do. Understanding a person’s worldview allows you to trace the logical outcome of their heart commitments, and to discern inconsistencies and contradictions when people don’t remain coherent in their beliefs.
Coherence is a significant part of thinking rationally, and the nature of worldviews allows us to test the rationality of a belief system. This is essentially what you are doing when you are asking the type of questions we discussed in earlier chapters. Coherence means internal consistency, and a coherent position is one in which all the beliefs fit together. If, for example, I believe that man is nothing more than an animal, and with no more significance or value than an animal, it would be inconsistent for me to argue that humans have dignity or rights that animals don’t have. If I believe that this world came about by chance and mindless forces, it would be incoherent to talk about meaning in life.
Surprisingly, then, many worldviews contain internally incoherent elements. One way to become a better apologist is to familiarize yourself with various worldviews and learn to identify the logical implications for them. When you are able to do this, you will find that your ability to tear down strongholds and undermine the unbelief of the non-Christian grows significantly.
Definition and Explanation of a Worldview
Worldview is a complex concept that encompasses a person’s intellectual, emotional, religious, and psychological beliefs. Philosopher James Sire captures the heart of the concept in his definition. He writes that a worldview is “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”
Sire’s definition helps us see the personal nature of worldviews. They go beyond the head to the heart. The depth at which a person holds his worldview helps us see how radical it is for someone to change his worldview. This is why salvation must be a work of the Holy Spirit to internally regenerate a person so he can, in one moment, jettison his unbelieving worldview and embrace the gospel. Evangelism and apologetics, then, must happen prayerfully in the power of the Spirit for genuine conversion to happen.
In the next post we will look at the component parts of Sire’s definition.
 James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.
“It is much more reasonable to believe that materialistic accounts of life are false.”
In his groundbreaking book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, philosopher Thomas Nagel identifies consciousness as a problem for not only the materialist (one who believes only physical/material things exist), but also the evolutionist. He makes the case that consciousness cannot be simply reduced to physical processes like brain synapses firing firstly because there is a difference between a brain state and the concept of pain and secondly because subjective experiences show that physical processes cannot explain all aspects of mental consciousness.
Nagel then focuses on the problem of the origin of consciousness, which he sees as a crucial issue. All evolutionary theories must account for our mental states if they are to be held as the only explanation for our existence. But since mental states cannot be accounted for through purely physical means, it is no surprise that absolutely no kind of Darwinian account exists other than assuming consciousness as a brute fact. This holds huge implications, as Nagel states:
What kind of explanation of the development of these organisms, even one that includes evolutionary theory, could account for the appearance of organisms that are not only physically adapted to the environment but also conscious subjects? In brief, I believe it cannot be a purely physical explanation. What has to be explained is not just the lacing of organic life with a tincture of qualia but the coming into existence of subjective individual points of view—a type of existence logically distinct from anything describable by the physical sciences alone. If evolutionary theory is a purely physical theory, then it might in principle provide the framework for a physical explanation of the appearance of behaviorally complex animal organisms with central nervous systems. But subjective consciousness, if it is not reducible to something physical, would not be part of this story; it would be left completely unexplained by physical evolution—even if the physical evolution of such organisms is in fact a causally necessary and sufficient condition for consciousness.
The bare assertion of such a connection is not an acceptable stopping point. It is not an explanation to say just that the physical process of evolution has resulted in creatures with eyes, ears, central nervous systems, and so forth, and that it is simply a brute fact of nature that such creatures are conscious in the familiar ways. Merely to identify a cause is not to provide a significant explanation, without some understanding of why the cause produces the effect. The claim I want to defend is that, since the conscious character of these organisms is one of their most important features, the explanation of the coming into existence of such creatures must include an explanation of the appearance of consciousness. That cannot be a separate question. An account of their biological evolution must explain the appearance of conscious organisms as such.
Since a purely materialist explanation cannot do this, the materialist version of evolutionary theory cannot be the whole truth. Organisms such as ourselves do not just happen to be conscious; therefore, no explanation even of the physical character of those organisms can be adequate which is not also an explanation of their mental character. In other words, materialism is incomplete even as a theory of the physical world, since the physical world includes conscious organisms among its most striking occupants.1
Consciousness is a significant problem for the evolutionist. It fails to account for that thing that makes us human. Without consciousness we cannot even reason towards an evolutionary theory, yet all evolutionary theories have no plausible explanations for that very consciousness. It is much more reasonable to believe that materialistic accounts of life are false.
Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 44-45. Print.
Origin of Life Conundrums Requires A Divine Designer
As a homicide detective, I understand the power of alibis. When a potential suspect can prove he or she wasn’t available to commit a crime because they were occupied elsewhere, they are eliminated as a candidate for the murder. Alibis create conundrums: conditions difficult to explain based on the impossibility of simultaneous appearances. In a similar way, the relationships between DNA, proteins, enzymes, and the cell’s membrane present a biological conundrum. Those who believe life can originate in our universe without supernatural interaction (and guidance) must overcome this conundrum if they hope to account for the presence of life “inside the room” of the natural universe by staying “inside the room” for an explanation. In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe, I describe the depth of the dilemma by illustrating the process of protein formation within the cell.
Specially formed functional proteins “unzip” a specific portion of the DNA by separating the helix at the middle of its rungs. Additional specialized proteins then act as molecular machines, helping to assemble nucleotide bases along one of the unzipped DNA segments.
This new assemblage of nucleotides is called a messenger RNA (mRNA). Once formed, the shorter mRNA molecule detaches from the DNA and is carried off into the cell by additional protein “helpers.” The mRNA is carrying instructions needed to build a protein. It is helped by another RNA molecule known as transfer RNA (tRNA). The mRNA and tRNA meet in a molecular machine called a ribosome. This important mini-factory is constructed from proteins and RNA complexes. Here, the tRNA transfers the message carried in the mRNA so amino acids can form each protein:
Once the sequence of amino acids has been established, something amazing happens. Rather than remain in a long chain, the amino acids begin to roll up and fold onto one another, forming the specific finished shape of the protein required to accomplish its job. This may take a few seconds and scientists are still mystified as to how amino acids accomplish this task.
None of this can happen without the aid of enzymes and the protection of the cell membrane. Enzymes are large molecules constructed primarily with proteins. These important molecules activate and accelerate the reactions related to everything from food digestion to DNA formation. Nearly every chemical response in the cell requires an enzyme to help it happen fast enough for life to result. Finally, all of this activity must be protected. That’s where the cell membrane becomes critical. The membrane separates the interior of the cell from hostile exterior forces. It is constructed with fatty molecules (lipids) and proteins (along with carbohydrates). Some cells also have an additional cell wall surrounding the membrane. Cell walls are tough but flexible, and offer an additional layer of filtering and protection.
Now that we’ve reviewed the inner activities of the cell, you’ve probably already recognized the “chicken and egg” problem. Enzymes are necessary for the timely formation of proteins, but these enzymes are built, in part, with proteins. Worse yet, this “chicken and egg” problem is also present in the larger relationships between the DNA, RNA, proteins, ribosomes and cell membrane.
Paul Davies describes the conundrum: “Take DNA… It has a grand agenda, but to implement this, DNA must enlist the help of proteins… proteins are made by complicated machines called ribosomes, according to coded instruction received from DNA via mRNA. The problem is, how could proteins get made without the DNA code for them, the mRNA to transcribe the instructions, and the ribosomes to assemble them? But if the proteins are not already there, how can DNA, ribosomes and all the rest of the paraphernalia get made in the first place? It’s Catch-22.”
All these important machines, transportation vehicles and tools must arrive at the cellular factory simultaneously and function in unison if life is to be possible. The cell membrane and enzymes cannot be constructed without proteins, but the protein formation must be accelerated by enzymes and protected by the membrane. Proteins can’t be formed without DNA information and RNA activity, but machines formed from proteins (like ribosomes), are a critically necessary part of this process.
In this brief blog post (excerpted from God’s Crime Scene), I’ve only described two of the many “chicken and egg” problems naturalists must consider and explain as they account for the origin of life in the universe. Biological systems are replete with irreducibly complex conundrums such as these, and the best explanation for this kind of complexity is intelligent interaction. A supernatural designer can overcome the “chicken and egg” conundrums we’ve described, and a Divine Designer of this nature remains the best inference from the evidence. For a much more thorough description of this evidence, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, Chapter Three – The Origin of Life: Does the Text Require an Author?
How do we know whether a particular thing is true or not, especially when it comes to religious issues?
Greg discusses several ways we can know the truth…and ways we can deal with those who reply “Who’s to say?”
It’s not unusual for someone to say to me, “I’d like to get together with you and pick your brain.” To this I have a standard response: “You can’t pick my brain unless you’re a brain surgeon, and only then if you use a scalpel. You can only pick my mind.”
I have to modify that a bit when I have dinner with my brain surgeon friend. We get together every couple of months. He frequently brings friends with him, generally non-believers.
The brain surgeon is a growing Christian, learning how to defend his faith and stand up for Christ. On our dinner jaunts, I’m sort of the hired gun. He lobs me a softball to bring the conversation around to spiritual issues, then I respond and the conversation moves along from there. It makes for a very stimulating evening.
At our last dinner, my brain surgeon friend invited a radiologist he worked with. He was a very well-trained and intelligent man, but suspicious of spiritual truth claims – an agnostic, not an atheist.
We spent most of the evening discussing whether Christianity is true or not. The heart of the radiologist’s challenge was this: How could anybody know whether a thing is true or not, especially when it comes to religious issues? I was quite surprised to hear what this otherwise very intelligent person had to say against my view.
I outlined three basic ways we know things are true. (I deal with these in detail in the Stand to Reason resource, “Any Old God Won’t Do.”) Incidentally, this is what epistemology deals with. You might have heard this twenty-five-cent philosophical word before, but not known what it meant. Epistemology deals with the field of knowledge. It answers the question: How do we know what we know? So when asked how we test religious truth claims, I give some epistemological tools. These tools are nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary. Basically, you respond to religious truth claims in the same general way you deal with any other claims.
The first way we know something is by authority. Frankly, most of the things we think we know we don’t know because we’ve discovered them ourselves, but rather because someone we trust told us they were so.
If I wanted to know something about radiology, for example, I’d ask a radiologist whose credentials I trusted. Even if I consulted books on radiology, it would have amounted to the same thing: taking the word of someone who was an expert in the field. I wouldn’t start from square one to rediscover radiology all on my own. I’d fall back on the books or the counsel of others who know better, and would probably be justified in believing what they had to say.
It’s interesting how people will sometimes balk at the notion of trusting an authority like the Bible, when virtually everything they think they know, they’ve gotten from some authority or another.
Think about everything you know about the past before your own lifetime. Think about everything you know about things that are too small for you to examine yourself–the microscopic world, for example–or too big, too distant for you to examine, like distant stars. Think about every place you think you have accurate information about that you’ve never personally visited. Think about everything you think you know about disciplines in which you didn’t personally do the primary research.
This probably amounts to about 99.9 percent of all of the things we think we know. We don’t know them through testing of our own, but through the testimony of others, we think we have reason to trust. So, rather than being odd that we would take certain things on authority, it’s actually the foundational way we know things. We trust the words of other people who are reliable. The reliability and credibility of the authority are the key issues.
This teaches us an important lesson. It’s very natural for us to function on the principle that if the authority is credible, then we’re justified in believing the information he gives us.
I think a good case can be made that Jesus was that kind of authority. First, He made certain claims about the nature of the universe, about Himself, and about God. He then worked miracles, cast out demons, raised the dead, predicted his own crucifixion, death, and resurrection, and then self-consciously raised himself from the dead.
Now if Jesus, in fact, did those things, I think He’s earned the right to speak authoritatively about spiritual things. He’s got my vote.
So first we might be able to verify the truth of a religious claim, at least in principle, based on the authority of the one who made it. If he’s a credible authority—if he’s trustworthy—then we can trust what he says.
But there’s a second test that’s really valuable. It has to do with the definition of truth. When we say that a thing is true—and this is the garden-variety definition of “truth”—we mean the thing itself corresponds to the way the world really is. This is the “correspondence” definition of truth. A thing is true if it corresponds to the way the world really is. Simply put, if you know what a lie is, truth is just the opposite.
So if I said that it’s true that Greg Koukl is in the studio broadcasting a radio show right now, that claim is true if I am, in fact, in a studio broadcasting a radio show. My claim corresponds to the way the world really is.
So the second test for the truth of religious claims is to see if those claims fit the world.
Hinduism, for example, says the world is an illusion–Maya. We’re not real. God is just dreaming about us and we are part of that dream, so to speak. Our “salvation” involves transcending the illusion and to get back to the godhead.
Now I have to ask myself, “Is that claim true?” I’ll tell you something, I don’t think it is. My own cursory examination of the world seems to indicate that I am real and the world is real. I live my life as if it were real. I experience the world first person, firsthand.
Now, I could be mistaken, but I don’t know how I’d know I was mistaken if I were just an illusion. In fact, it’s almost a nonsensical claim. If I’m an illusion and I don’t really exist as an individual self, then how is it that I could have accurate, factual knowledge that I don’t exist? You see the contradiction here?
You might put it this way: Does Charlie Brown know he’s a cartoon character? I doubt it, because Charlie Brown is fictitious. He only exists in our imagination and therefore can’t know anything. For me to claim that I know I don’t exist turns out to be self-contradictory.
Do you know what that means? That means I don’t even have to pause for more than a second and consider the viability of Hinduism as an accurate view of the world because its foundational tenet—that the world is just an illusion—is obviously false.
And, by the way, this throws into question everything else built on that foundation including reincarnation. If the foundational tenet is false, then everything built on top of it begins to crumble.
If you’re looking for truth in religion, then you want to narrow your search to religions that take the real world seriously and don’t dismiss it as an illusion. Christianity and Judaism do, by the way, which is why modern science was birthed in the West and not in the East. Since this religious claim corresponds to the way we discover the world to be, it’s evidence that Christianity and Judaism are true, at least at this point. And there are other claims biblical theism makes that correspond to the world as we seem to discover it.
So when the radiologist asks how one could know whether religious claims are true or not, I answer: You apply the same general principles of knowledge to religious claims that you apply to test any other kind of truth: authority and correspondence. If you do, you find that the Christian view of the world is very well substantiated.
As the conversation moved forward I introduced another concept: intelligent design. I’m actually convinced that most people believe the world was designed for a purpose. I know this because there are many things in their language that betray this conviction.
Whenever we talk about things being “made for” something, we’re actually expressing our conviction that they’ve been designed for a purpose. People say our bodies are not “made for” junk food, but for natural, healthy food. The goal is to be healthy. Health is an optimal functioning of something, that is, operating at the level it was intended to operate at.
The notion of health, then, depends for its meaning upon a design concept, an intention. Intentions are functions of minds, not things. Whenever we talk about the health of the human body or any other living thing, then, it implies we believe it was intended to function a certain way.
Here’s another way of putting it. How would you know if any machine were broken? Say you stumbled upon some kind of machine on an alien planet, a technological remnant of a forgotten culture. How would you know whether the machine was broken or not. How would you know if it was functioning properly? The only way you could know that is if you knew what it was made to do. And if it didn’t fulfill that function well, or if didn’t do it at all, then you could say there was something wrong with it. It was broken.
Our ability to see that things in the world are broken–that some living systems are unhealthy, for example–is evidence that we understand that some things in the world were designed for a purpose. They didn’t happen by accident. Our language reflects our discovery of design and purpose.
Now this discovery in the world corresponds to an important detail of the Christian worldview. Christianity teaches that God created and designed things for a purpose. So we have another touchstone, so to speak, a way in which a particular truth claim about Christianity seems to match the world as we experience it. Clearly this doesn’t match certain philosophies people hold about the world, but it does seem to match the world itself. This is evidence that those philosophies which don’t correspond to the world are falsified at that point, and Christianity is affirmed at that point.
I also talked about Big Bang cosmology and how, according to current scientific consensus, everything came into being at a moment called the “singularity” some 14 to 17 billion years ago. If the universe came into being, then it’s an effect, and all effects have causes. So we can ask, what is an adequate cause for the effect of this universe? In one sense, this is a very scientific question about the origin of the universe.
This is where the radiologist started getting very uncomfortable. It was becoming obvious to him that I was leading up to the big “G”—the God issue. He didn’t like that and started objecting.
Maybe something else was responsible for the universe and not God, he said. One could postulate lots of different scenarios. Who’s to say it wasn’t a principle or force that we don’t know about that was responsible for everything? Of course, it’s fair to raise the question, but the question itself doesn’t count as evidence. Yet that seems to be the way he treated it.
The minute I began making sense, building a legitimate and compelling case for design, he began inventing all kinds of stories. They were not probative, offering actual evidence against my view. They were just imaginary speculations ending with the dismissal, “Who’s to say?”
Whenever somebody says to you, “Who’s to say?” you know you’re probably winning the argument. Usually, when they say that they begin inventing options that don’t exist. They are giving you phantom arguments because they don’t have any real ones to offer you.
The answer to the question “Who’s to say?” is “We are the ones to say. We are to look at the evidence, weigh it and draw reasonable conclusions based on what we know, not on what we don’t know.”
My radiologist friend responded with a stunning remark. I’ve often said that some of the most intelligent, educated people say some of the most foolish things when spiritual issues are at stake. This was a stellar example. He said to me, “Wait a minute. You’re saying you believe in something just because you have all this evidence for it and because there is no evidence for contrary views. That’s not a good reason to believe anything.”
I replied, “Did you hear what you just said? Think about it for a moment. You’re faulting me for believing in something because there’s evidence for it, and rejecting things that don’t have evidence for them.” That wasn’t a fault, it was a virtue. “I rest my case.”
Recently a friend of mine wrote an article on the need for apologetics. Someone wrote a response that said the following:
“If more Christians lived the faith and spent less time trying to figure it out. We could then have people see for themselves that the peace we have, can be there’s. Jesus did not have to defend his position; He spoke what the father said to speak. The defense of the Christian is to try and convert people and Jesus said all you have to do is believe. So by living it, people will see it and believe. “
So is the truth here? Did Jesus have to defend his position? Was Jesus an apologist? Since there was no New Testament canon at that time, it is not as if Jesus was walking around with the text 1 Peter 3:15-16 where we read, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. So I doubt that Jesus walked around saying, “I have been called to be an apologist and I need to carry out my task in a faithful manner.” However, Jesus had to offer several reasons on several occasions as to why He is the Jewish Messiah and God incarnate. So let’s take a look at some of these and try to learn some things.
Jesus Appealed to Evidence
Jesus knew He could not show up on the scene and not offer any evidence for His Messiahship. In his book On Jesus, Douglas Groothuis notes that Jesus appealed to evidence to confirm His claims. John the Baptist, who was languishing in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). This may seem an odd question from a man the Gospels present as the prophetic forerunner of Jesus and as the one who had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. Jesus, however, did not rebuke John’s question. He did not say, “You must have faith; suppress your doubts.” Instead, Jesus recounted the distinctive features of His ministry:
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matt. 11:4-6; see also Luke 7:22). A published scroll from Qumran has helped confirm this: According to 4Q521:
“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah and all that is in them will not turn away from the commandments of the holy ones … for (the Lord) will honor the pious upon the throne of the eternal Kingdom, setting prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up those who are bowed down…. For he will heal the wounded, revive the dead, proclaim good news to the poor.”
Jesus’ works of healing and teaching are meant to serve as positive evidence of His messianic identity because they fulfill the messianic predictions of the Hebrew Scriptures. What Jesus claimed is this:
If one does certain kinds of actions (the acts cited above), then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.
Jesus Appealed to Testimony and Witness
Because Jesus was Jewish, he was well aware of the principles of the Torah. The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology notes that the Biblical concept of testimony or witness is closely allied with the conventional Old Testament legal sense of testimony given in a court of law. In both Testaments, it appears as the primary standard for establishing and testing truth claims. Unverifiable subjective claims, opinions, and beliefs, on the contrary, appear in Scripture as inadmissible testimony.
Even the testimony of one witness is insufficient—for testimony to be acceptable, it must be established by two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15). In Jn. 5:31-39, Jesus says,” If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true.” Far from the verification, Jesus declares that singular self-attestation does not verify, it falsifies. We see in this passage that Jesus says the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of the Father, the witness of the Word (the Hebrew Bible), and the witness of His works, testify to His Messiahship. (1)
Ontology: Being and Doing-The Actions of Jesus
Ontology is defined as the branch of philosophy that examines the study of being or existence. For example, when Jesus says, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9), ontology asks questions such as, “Is Jesus saying He has the same substance or essence of the Father?” Ontology is especially relevant in relation to the Trinity since Orthodox Christians are required to articulate how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same substance or essence. In relation to ontology, the late Jewish scholar Abraham J. Heschel said, “Biblical ontology does not separate being from doing.” Heshel went on to say, “What is acts. The God of Israel is a God who acts, a God of mighty deeds.” (2) Jesus continually appeals to His “works” that testify to His Messiahship. “Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to Exod. 4:1-9, but toNum. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).
But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)
As far as miracles, they are used for three reasons:
1. To glorify the nature of God (John 2:11; 11:40)
2. To accredit certain persons as the spokesmen for God (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3–4)
3. To provide evidence for belief in God (John 6:2, 14; 20:30–31). (3)
Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, told Jesus, “‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’” (Jn. 3:1–2). In Acts, Peter told the crowd that Jesus had been “accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22).
In Matthew 12:38-39, Jesus says, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” In this Scripture, God confirmed the Messianic claim when Jesus said the sign that would confirm his Messiahship was to be the resurrection.
It is important to note that not all witnesses to a miracle believe. Jesus did not do His miracles for entertainment. They were done to evoke a response. So perhaps Paul Moser is right on target in what he calls “kardiatheology” – a theology that is aimed at one’s motivational heart (including one’s will) rather than just at one’s mind or one’s emotions. In other words, God is very interested in moral transformation.
We see Jesus’ frustration when His miracles did not bring the correct response from his audience. “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37). Jesus himself said of some, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). One result, though not the purpose, of miracles is condemnation of the unbeliever (cf. John 12:31, 37). (4) So the Biblical pattern of miracles is the following:
Sign/Miracle—–Knowledge is Imparted—–Should Result in Obedience/Active Participation
Jesus Appealed to His Own Authority
Another way Jesus appealed to those around Him was by His own speaking authority. The rabbis could speak of taking upon oneself the yoke of Torah or the yoke of the kingdom; Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” (Mt 11:29). Also, the rabbis could say that if two or three men sat together, having the words of Torah among them, the shekinah (God’s own presence) would dwell on them (M Avot 3:2). But Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be among them” (Matt 18:20). The rabbis could speak about being persecuted for God’s sake, or in his Name’s sake, or for the Torah’s sake; Jesus spoke about being persecuted for and even losing one’s life for his sake. Remember, the prophets could ask people to turn to God, to come to God for rest and help. Jesus spoke with a new prophetic authority by stating, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). (5)
So as we have looked at some of the apologetic methods of Jesus, perhaps we can concur with Douglas Groothuis when he says the following:
“Our sampling of Jesus’ reasoning, however, brings into serious question the indictment that Jesus praised uncritical faith over rational arguments and that He had no truck with logical consistency. On the contrary, Jesus never demeaned the proper and rigorous functioning of our God-given minds. His teaching appealed to the whole person: the imagination (parables), the will, and reasoning abilities. For all their honesty in reporting the foibles of the disciples, the Gospel writers never narrated a situation in which Jesus was intellectually stymied or bettered in an argument; neither did Jesus ever encourage an irrational or ill-informed faith on the part of His disciples.” (6)
So How Can We Live it Out?
So now that we’ve settled the issue on the fact that Jesus did defend his claims, let’s ask the question as to how we might attempt to live out what Jesus taught. I can think of two areas that come to mind. And they happen to be the two greatest commandments. Note: I tend to fall short on both of these:
Commandment #1: Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”- Mark 12: 28-31
Here, Jesus appeals to the Shema:
Deut. 6: 4-8:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
In Jewish thought, in the Shema hearing is directly related to taking heed and taking action with what you’ve heard. And if you don’t act, you’ve never heard. “Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.” – Psalm 81: 8-9
Commandment #2: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”- Lev. 19: 17-18
To see the context, how about this:
19:3: Respect for parents
19:9-10: Provision for the Poor
19:11: Respect for the property of others
19:14: Care for the physically challenged
19:15: Justice for the powerless
19:16: Kindness in language about others
19:17-18: Prohibition of hate and vengeance
Conclusion: How about these for starters?
Sproul, R.C, Gerstner, J. and A. Lindsey. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 1984, 19.
2. Heschel., A.J. The Prophets. New York, N.Y: 1962 Reprint. Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 2003, 44.
3. Geisler, N. L., BECA, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book. 1999, 481.
5. Skarsaune, O., In The Shadow Of The Temple: Jewish Influences On Early Christianity. Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press. 2002, 331.6. Groothuis, D. Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist: Available athttp://www.equip.org/articles/jesus-philosopher-and-apologist/