Apologetics with Christian Speaker Alex McFarland

Alex's answers to common questions, part 1

Apologetic answers to common questions about the Christian faith


Within this section of Alex McFarland's website are three pages of responses to questions and objections related to Christianity.  These are some of the more common topics and issues that he has faced in two decades of speaking, broadcasting, and holding open mic Q & A sessions across the country.

On Page 1 of questions and answers are more "conversational," brief responses.  For answers that go into more depth regarding these and other questions, visit Pages 2 and 3 in this same section of the website.

Many of the responses are gleaned from Alex McFarland's books, including:   
The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity; 
STAND: Core Truths You Must Know For An Unshakable Faith;
STAND STRONG . . . In College;
10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer
(written with Liberty University co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns);  
10 Answers For Skeptics (Inside the Mind of the Skeptic)  (to be released Fall 2011).

All of these books plus other resources by Alex McFarland (in English and in other languages) are available through online retailers, and at bookstores throughout the U.S.

Question 1:  What does it mean to be a Christian?

Being a Christian means acknowledging that you have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness and accepting that forgiveness freely offered by Jesus Christ.

Question 2:  What do you mean by “worldview”?
A worldview is basically the lens through which you interpret the world around you. It colors everything you perceive, just as colored lenses on a pair of glasses would give a certain tint to everything you see. A theistic worldview interprets the world with an understanding that God created and is involved in the world. An atheistic worldview is the opposite, seeing the world as a collection of random events and ultimately without any purpose or meaning. Everyone has a worldview whether he realizes it or not.

Question 3:  How could God really hear the prayers of so many people?
God is omnipresent and omniscient. He is everywhere and knows everything. It’s difficult if not impossible to imagine this from a physical, human point of view, and, being limited creatures, we can barely fathom how God can be in all places at all times and aware of everything. But God assures us that He hears our prayers.

Question 4:  I know lots of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and they live good lives.  Shouldn’t they go to heaven?
One does not need to be a Christian to lead a “good” life, at least as the world defines "goodness."  But there is ample reason to admit that flawed, finite humans are not in a position to mandate what is the highest good. We do not see the heart nor can we judge motives, so we do not really see what God sees in a person.  Besides, all our good works cannot save us, because a single sin is enough to condemn us before God—and the Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Question 5: Can we really be sure that God exists?
There are ample proofs in nature that there is a creator, and the evidence for the truth of the Bible assures us that this creator is the God Christians worship and serve. “Theism” (the belief that a creator exists who not only made the world but who also has acted in this world) is defensible on philosophical, historical, scientific and experiential grounds. Further, all of the possible objections against the existence of God can be sufficiently answered. Based on these lines of evidence and the absence of legitimate counter-evidence, it is rational to conclude that God certainly must exist.

Question 6: Did Jesus really claim to be God, or did His followers just say that about Him?
Indeed He did, on multiple occasions. His listeners were not unlearned, especially where religion was involved. Their actions show they understood Jesus perfectly well when He claimed to be God.

Question 7: Why do Christians think their beliefs are correct and everyone else’s are false?
Not all religions can be true, since they make mutually exclusive claims. If Judaism is true, then Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism must be false. Ditto for all the other religions: If a given one is true, then logically all the others must be false. Christians believe they are correct because of the evidence of Scripture, Christ’s resurrection and God’s indwelling presence in their lives.

Question 8: Has archaeology proven the Bible? If so, how?
Yes. From the names of ancient kings and cities to the locations of battles and settlements, time and again the Bible has been supported by archaeological finds. For example, for many years scholars claimed that King David of the Old Testament was just a legend—until archaeologists found tablets from a neighboring kingdom mentioning David, king of Judah.

Question 9: What happens to people who haven’t heard the gospel?
Scripture makes it clear that we are condemned by our actions, and we know this in our hearts (see Rom. 2:14-15). Even if we’ve never heard the gospel of salvation, we are not being treated unjustly if we are condemned for those sins. In short, none of us are ever condemned to hell because we never heard the gospel; we are condemned for our own sin. Each of us is offered a “way out” for our sin; none of us is unaware that God exists or that we are accountable to Him (see Ps. 19; Rom. 1:18-2:12). Whether it is in faraway jungles or in the world’s urban centers, God sends light to every person. The problem is that people reject the light they have been given. That is the condemnation.

Question 10: Why does God sometimes seem so far way?
It’s something all Christians experience from time to time, but usually it’s not God who has moved; we have, through carelessness, neglect and sin.

Question 11: If I become a Christian, will I have to give up things that I enjoy and spend all my time bugging people about what they believe?
God is not going to call you to a task that will make you miserable. God may lead you to embark on a task that you don’t initially enjoy or to do something that stretches you, but it is not His plan to force you into doing things that will make you unhappy. His plan for your life is for your ultimate good (see Jer. 29:11-13; John 10:10). God will call you from old things to new things. The difference is that once you have become a Christian, you will no longer want to do the things you once did, and you will want to do other things that please God. No, the change won’t be immediate in most cases, but it does happen over time through a process called sanctification.

Question 12: Are there codes in the Bible? How does the Bible differ from the prophecies of Nostradamus?
No, the Bible is not an ancient codebook. A lot of the popular books that claim to find codes in the Bible resort to forced reasoning and manipulated evidence to support their claims. When it comes to Nostradamus, he never claimed to be speaking for God. Moreover, his “predictions” are highly ambiguous, written in such a way that you can find “fulfillment” in any number of events. Not so with the Bible. Dozens and dozens of biblical prophecies have come to pass, and not one has been shown to be false.

Question 13: Why do Christians seem to hate homosexuals? Don’t gay people have the right to be treated respectfully by the Church?
Yes. No one has the right to hate another person. But the question assumes that the Church hates homosexual individuals in the first place, which is questionable. Christianity never calls its followers to hate the person; rather, it instructs them to hate the sin. Christians should always be loving and respectful of all people even if they don’t approve of their actions.

Question 14: Were miracle stories crafted after Jesus died, and then included just to make Jesus look like a Jewish messianic figure or wonder worker?
No. We have strong evidence that the miracles described in the Gospels were recorded very near the time they had been performed and that we have an accurate account of those events. Significantly, the miracles are recorded alongside other everyday acts and places that have been verified by history and archaeology, reinforcing our faith in the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

Question 15: Is there any evidence outside of the Bible that indicates that the miracle stories about Jesus are authentic?
Numerous sources outside of Christianity relate stories of Jesus’ miracles, including those of the Jewish historian Josephus. Even Jesus’ enemies, the Sanhedrin, acknowledge the miracles but attribute them to the work of Satan.

Question 16: Were the New Testament writers influenced by pagan religions?
No. Despite some superficial similarities between Christianity and some pagan religions, the New Testament writers were steeped in a Jewish worldview that would regard anything else as blasphemy, to which they would never ascribe any truth.

Question 17: In Matthew 27, it says that after Jesus’ death, dead people were resurrected and were walking around Jerusalem.  Could this really have happened, and why?
Keep in mind the Gospels were written within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses.  If they recorded anything false, there were people around to refute them, just as there are people still living to refute those who deny the reality of the Nazi Holocaust. Yet we have absolutely no accounts from that time period denying the Gospel claims.

As to the question of whether it could have happened, the answer is “of course.” There is no logical reason that God could not have performed this miracle. The question for many skeptics is not so much whether or not the biblical account of any particular miracle is true but whether or not miracles are even possible. However, as apologists such as C. S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft have observed, if God exists, then miracles are not only possible but to be expected.  Other than simple bias against the possibility of the supernatural, there is no logical reason to dismiss miracle accounts (such as the ones mentioned in the Gospels) out of hand.

Thus, the question is not so much whether or not God can intervene in the world, but rather whether there is credible evidence supporting a particular miracle claim.

Question 18: Is God self-centered and conceited because He created an entire universe just to sit around and worship Him?
You are attributing human motivations to God. He didn’t create us and the universe just to give Himself an ego boost. He did it because it is in His nature to be infinitely creative and relational, and He wanted to create beings (and a world for them) with whom He could be in fellowship. We must also understand correct relationships: The created is always subservient to the Creator; it’s just the natural state of affairs.

Question 19: “Could God make a rock so heavy He couldn’t lift it?” My friend says this question puts God and Christians in “intellectual checkmate.” Does it?
Short answer: no, it does not. God cannot do anything that would violate His own nature; otherwise, He would cease to be God. Therefore, God would never will to do something that He could not do. (for more on this, look on the "Articles" page; see tab above).

Question 20: Don’t the Resurrection accounts hopelessly contradict one another?
The supposed “contradictions” contained in the Gospel’s resurrection accounts have long been a favorite of skeptics who allege that the New Testament accounts are not trustworthy. The four canonical Gospels provide a vast assortment of details about the life of Jesus.

For the person who is honestly seeking to ascertain what may be known about Jesus, it is not hard to understand that differing—yet complementary—accounts are not the same as contradictory accounts.  It has been noted that the unique nuances that each Gospel writer contributes to the record actually affirm the credibility of the overall portrait. The four Gospel writers could be suspected of fabrication if each of the four accounts delivered a portrait of Jesus that was in “lock step” verbatim agreement with the others. However, it does not appear that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John collaborated to “get their story straight.”

A look at the four resurrection accounts simply shows that the writers delivered different details about the same event.  None of the details given in one Gospel contradicts the details given in another account. Rather, the small details give the pieces of a big picture. Still, some skeptics focus on small discrepancies such as the time of day. Matthew says the resurrection happened “at dawn,” Mark mentions “sunrise,” Luke simply says it was “very early,” and John uses the words “still dark.” Taking into consideration that the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem was three to five miles, the time taken to make this walk would easily have been long enough for the sky to go from darkness to daylight.

Regarding the number of individuals who discover the empty tomb, Matthew, Mark and Luke mention a plural number of women, while John mentions only Mary Magdalene. However, no writer says that only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Mention of one person does not rule out the possible inclusion of other persons.

What about the number of angels present? Matthew and Mark mention one angel, while Luke and John mention two. How is this not a problem? Understand that Matthew and Mark never say that only one angel appeared. No Gospel writer says that only one angel spoke, or rules out the possibility of there being more than one angel present. The writers give their own perspectives, mentioning certain details accordingly.

Lee Strobel, a respected journalist, legal scholar and former skeptic himself, after interviewing experts such as New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, concluded, “The harmony among the Gospels on essential facts, coupled with divergence on some details, lends historical credibility to the accounts. The early church couldn’t have taken root and flourished right there in Jerusalem if it had been teaching facts about Jesus that his own contemporaries could have exposed as exaggerated or false.” No individual Gospel gives all the details of what transpired, but taken together, all four convey the “core facts.”

Question 21: The Bible says that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon sin.  So then how can the Holy Spirit be present at all times with people, even believers, who still commit sins?
Don’t misunderstand a metaphorical statement as being a factual statement. God, a spiritual being, does not have literal eyes. He does hate sin and cannot stand the sight of it. But also being a loving God, He was willing to come live among us in a fallen, sinful world in order to save it.

Question 22: Who decided which books would be included in the Bible?
The determination of which books would be included in the Bible, called the canon, came about gradually. There was some disagreement about a few of the books, but even very early on, the Church and Church Fathers were using as authoritative the books we find in our Bibles today. In AD 367, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria listed the books he thought should be included in the Bible, and his list corresponds exactly to those found in Protestant Bibles today. (The Roman Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox churches include books not included in the Protestant Bible.)

Question 23: How do we know that the Bible was given by God?
First, it claims to be the Word of God (see Pss. 93:5; 119:89; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35; John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16). If that were all the evidence, though, you’d be right to be skeptical of such a claim. But the divine origin of the Bible is confirmed though numerous historical accounts that are verified by other sources, dozens of fulfilled prophecies and the unity of 66 books written over a period of about a thousand years by multiple authors from several cultures.

Question 24: Religion has caused most of the wars and evil in the world.  Why do you want to perpetuate this?
This is a loaded question, sort of like, “When did you stop beating your wife?” Yes, a lot of killing and bloodshed has been the result of religious claims, even by people who professed to be Christians, but nowhere in the New Testament does God command Christians to spread the gospel by force of arms. In fact, the opposite is true:  Jesus commanded Peter to put away his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. More to the point, many more have been killed in the name of pagan or atheistic ideologies, including tens of millions murdered in the name of atheistic communism and millions more by pagan Nazism.

Question 25: Does the Bible present two gods? Is the God of the Old Testament more judgmental and the God of the New Testament more about love?
No, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. This view of “two gods” relies on a simplistic view of each testament. But we can find numerous examples of God showing unmerited mercy in the Old Testament and examples of God’s judgment in the New Testament.

Question 26: Is what we have now really what was in the Bible originally?
Yes, we can trust on pretty good authority that the Bible we have today corresponds to the original texts. We have thousands of complete and partial manuscripts of the Bible dated very close to the actual events, and except for minor textual differences, none of which affects a major doctrine, there is remarkable similarity between ancient and modern texts.

Question 27: Why are Christians so hypocritical? They’re no better than anyone else.
There’s a saying: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It’s true.  We know better and should behave better, but we are in the unique position of being saved while still being sinners. We can and do fail—quite often. It’s not judgment on the truth of Christianity that its followers sometimes stumble.

Question 28: I read something about the Gospel of Judas. Is this really a missing part of the Bible?
No. This “Gospel” and numerous others such as the Gospel of Thomas are called spurious documents because they teach things at odds with orthodox Christianity. Such books often date to centuries after the life of Christ and contain teachings that are clearly
influenced by Gnosticism and Greek Neo-platonism.

Question 29: How can finite language be used to present an infinite God?
Sometimes it’s difficult to do this, and that’s why Scripture is full of metaphors, poetry, similes and other literary devices to try to capture the truth of an infinite God. But just because it uses these literary devices does not mean it’s not true. Even today we often resort to such linguistic devices to describe things we know to be true but can’t adequately express in plain language.

Question 30: Everyone knows that Judaism, Islam and Christianity pretty much teach the same things. How would you respond?
Actually, they don’t. This generalization is frequently trumpeted within the media, but differences between the major faith systems of the world are well documented. A recent scholarly look at this topic is the book God Is Not One, by Boston University professor Stephen Prothero. In short, Judaism teaches that the Messiah is yet to come; Christianity teaches He has, in the person of Jesus Christ. Islam denies the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are many other points on which they contradict each other, but those are the biggies.

Question 31: There are so many churches. How can you know which one to attend?
The right church is the one that teaches the truth of God’s Word— that God created the universe, that man fell into sin and needed redemption, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh come to pay the price of that sin, and that He freely offers that salvation to any
who will accept it by faith. Most of the rest is extraneous.

Question 32: If God is love, why would He send anyone to hell?
God is love, but He is also holy and just. He cannot ignore sin any more than He can ignore His own holiness. To do otherwise would mean He would cease to be God.

Question 33: Since God knows everything, He would have known how much suffering would eventually come into this world.  Why didn’t He stop the process before it all got started and save His creatures from all of the pain that would befall them?
That’s a tough question, and we can only speculate. God must have judged it worthwhile to have temporary suffering in order to bring about a greater good, just as a doctor judges it worthwhile to have temporary pain in surgery in order to bring about the greater good of restored health.

Question 34: Some Christians I know talk about “intelligent design,”saying that it points to God and proves evolution false. Please explain.
Intelligent design, sometimes called simply ID, points to all the apparent order in the universe and infers that it could not have come about through random processes, as evolution teaches. ID says that if we see design, it’s logical to infer that there’s also a designer.

Question 35: If Christians really cared about promoting peace and love, then they wouldn’t be so intolerant, would they?
Sometimes we need to be intolerant. I’m intolerant of giving my children poison. I’m intolerant of lies. Christians are intolerant of things they believe are bad for themselves, other people and society.  Other people disagree. It is not “hateful” or “unloving” to be in disagreement with others so long as it’s done respectfully. It is not loving to see a person or society doing things that you believe are harmful and make no attempt to stop, or at least warn, them.

Question 36: I am a spiritual person already. Why do I need to be a Christian?
Being “spiritual” is not enough. Besides, what do you mean by “spiritual”? Christianity does not ask us to be spiritual; it demands we obey God while continuing to live as physical beings in the physical world He created.

Question 37: Why is it wrong to use profanity? After all, words are just . . . well, words.
First, let’s make sure we are meaning the same thing by profanity.  Strictly speaking, profanity means to take God’s name in vain—to profane it. God commands we not do this because His name is holy and to be respected. A lot of what is today called profanity is actually just vulgar speech. It’s really more a matter of propriety that we not speak in that way, and the apostle Paul commands us to avoid coarse speech and joking.

Question 38: The universe is so vast—in all likelihood there are countless universes and life on other planets. Why do you think the earth is unique, and that God (if He exists) would single out humanity for His love and some special plan?
I’d be careful of using the words “in all likelihood.” In fact, we cannot know such things, at least with our present level of knowledge.  But we do know that God chose to single out humanity by becoming one of us, taking on flesh, living among us and dying for our sins. He also ascended into heaven in His resurrected human form and will dwell there forever in that form. It does not seem likely that He would have done so if there were other beings out there with, say, ten arms and six eyes.

Question 39: A professor I had said that for centuries Christians have substituted the ideas of Paul for the true teachings of Jesus. What do you say about this?
Paul said that his main objective was to preach the gospel (see 1 Cor. 1:17). So the question becomes, “What is the gospel and when did it originate?” The fact is that the gospel message predates Paul, so it could not have originated with him. The message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is prominently presented in one of Paul’s writings, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. But these verses are known to be teachings orally preserved by the earliest Christians and passed along to those who followed.

Critical scholars date this creedal statement to within mere months after the crucifixion (see The Case for the Resurrection, by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona). Furthermore, Peter presented this gospel message at Pentecost (see Acts 2), not to mention that Jesus Himself taught that He would die and rise for the sins of the world (see Mark 10:32-34; Matt. 20:17-19).

Paul did not become a follower of Christ until several years after the crucifixion, and he was not a leader in the burgeoning Christian movement until several years after that. Both the message and the movement of Christianity pre-date Paul. Therefore, he could not have been its source.

Question 40: What does “born again” mean?
In John 3:3, Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God. By this, Jesus did not mean a physical birth, as Nicodemus at first interpreted His statement.  No, Jesus meant that we must be born again spiritually, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, something that could happen only if we first were cleansed of our sins.


For more even questions and more in-depth answers, please see pages 2 and 3 in this same section of the website.
    

 

        

   

 

            

  

   

      

  

 

 

 

    

 

            

 

    

 

          

 

    

  

    

  

  

 

 

Basic apologetics answers to common questions

Note:
These questions and answers are gleaned from Alex McFarland's books, such as:  The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity (and how to answer them);  STAND:  Core Truths You Must Know For An Unshakable Faith;  STAND STRONG ... In College; 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer; and his newest book 10 Answers for Skeptics.  On this first page of questions and answers, there are very brief "conversational' responses given.  More in-depth answers to common questions are provided on pages 2 and 3.  Alex McFarland's book on Christianity and the Biblical worldview are available through major online retailers, and at bookstores throughout the U.S.   

 

Question 1: What does it mean to be a Christian?

 

 

Being a Christian means acknowledging that you have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness and accepting that forgiveness freely offered by Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Question 2: What do you mean by "worldview"?

 

 

          

 

 

 

 

 

A worldview is basically the lens through which you interpret the world around you. It colors everything you perceive, just as colored lenses on a pair of glasses would give a certain tint to everything you see. A theistic worldview interprets the world with an

understanding that God created and is involved in the world. An atheistic worldview is the opposite, seeing the world as a collection of random events and ultimately without any purpose or meaning. Everyone has a worldview whether he realizes it or not.

 

 

Question 3: How could God really hear the prayers of so many people?

 

 

 

God is omnipresent and omniscient. He is everywhere and knows everything. It’s difficult if not impossible to imagine this from a physical, human point of view, and, being limited creatures, we can barely fathom how God can be in all places at all times and aware of everything. But God assures us that He hears our prayers.

 

 

 

Question 4: I know lots of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and they live good lives. Shouldn’t they go to heaven?

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

One does not need to be a Christian to lead a "good" life, at least as the world defines it. But we do not see the heart nor can we judge motives, so we do not really see what God sees in a person. Besides, all our good works cannot save us, because a single sin is

enough to condemn us before God—and the Bible teaches that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).

 

 

Question 5:  Can we really be sure that God exists?

There are ample proofs in nature that there is a creator, and the evidence for the truth of the Bible assures us that this creator is the God Christians worship and serve. "Theism" (the belief that a creator exists who not only made the world but who also has acted in

this world) is defensible on philosophical, historical, scientific and experiential grounds. Further, all of the possible objections against the existence of God can be sufficiently answered. Based on these lines of evidence and the absence of legitimate counter-evidence, it is rational to conclude that God certainly must exist.

 

 

 

 

Question 6:  Did Jesus really claim to be God, or did His followers just say that about Him?

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Indeed He did, on multiple occasions. His listeners were not unlearned, especially where religion was involved. Their actions show they understood Jesus perfectly well when He claimed to be God.

 

 

Question 7: Why do Christians think their beliefs are correct and everyone else’s are false?

 

 

  

Not all religions can be true, since they make mutually exclusive claims. If Judaism is true, then Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism must be false. Ditto for all the other religions: If a given one is true, then logically all the others must be false. Christians believe they are correct because of the evidence of Scripture, Christ’s resurrection and God’s indwelling presence in their lives.

 

Question 8: Has archaeology proven the Bible? If so, how?

 

 

 

 

Yes. From the names of ancient kings and cities to the locations of battles and settlements, time and again the Bible has been supported by archaeological finds. For example, for many years scholars claimed that King David of the Old Testament was just a legend—until archaeologists found tablets from a neighboring kingdom mentioning David, king of Judah.

 

 

 

Question 9: What happens to people who haven’t heard the gospel?

 

 

    

 

 

  

 

 

Scripture makes it clear that we are condemned by our actions, and we know this in our hearts (see Rom. 2:14-15). Even if we’ve never heard the gospel of salvation, we are not being treated unjustly if we are condemned for those sins. In short, none of us are

ever condemned to hell because we never heard the gospel; we are condemned for our own sin. Each of us is offered a "way out" for our sin; none of us is unaware that God exists or that we are accountable to Him (see Ps. 19; Rom. 1:18-2:12). Whether it is in faraway jungles or in the world’s urban centers, God sends light to every person. The problem is that people reject the light they have been given. That is the condemnation.

 

 

Question 10: Why does God sometimes seem so far way?

 

 

 

It’s something all Christians experience from time to time, but usually it’s not God who has moved; we have, through carelessness, neglect and sin.

 

 

Question 11: If I become a Christian, will I have to give up things that I enjoy and spend all my time bugging

 

 

 

 

  

 

people about what they believe?

 

 

 

God is not going to call you to a task that will make you miserable. God may lead you to embark on a task that you don’t initially

enjoy or to do something that stretches you, but it is not His plan to force you into doing things that will make you unhappy. His plan for your life is for your ultimate good (see Jer. 29:11-13; John 10:10). God will call you from old things to

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

 

   

 

new things. The difference is that once you have become a Christian, you will no longer want to do the things you once did, and you will want to do other things that please God. No, the change won’t be immediate in most cases, but it does happen over time through a process called sanctification.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Question 12: Are there codes in the Bible? How does the Bible differ from the prophecies of Nostradamus?

 

 

          

 

 

 

 

No, the Bible is not an ancient codebook. A lot of the popular books that claim to find codes in the Bible resort to forced reasoning and manipulated evidence to support their claims. When it comes to Nostradamus, he never claimed to be speaking for God. Moreover, his "predictions" are highly ambiguous, written in such a way that you can find "fulfillment" in any number of events. Not so with the Bible. Dozens and dozens of biblical prophecies have come to pass, and not one has been shown to be false.

 

 

Question 13: Why do Christians seem to hate homosexuals? Don’t gay people have the right to be treated respectfully by the Church?

 

Yes. No one has the right to hate another person. But the question assumes that the Church hates homosexual individuals in the first place, which is questionable. Christianity never calls its followers to hate the person; rather, it instructs them to hate the sin. Christians should always be loving and respectful of all people even if they don’t approve of their actions.

 

 

 

 

Question 14: Were miracle stories crafted after Jesus died, and then included just to make Jesus look like a Jewish messianic figure or wonder worker?

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

No. We have strong evidence that the miracles described in the Gospels were recorded very near the time they had been performed and that we have an accurate account of those events. Significantly, the miracles are recorded alongside other everyday acts and

places that have been verified by history and archaeology, reinforcing our faith in the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

 

 

Question 15: Is there any evidence outside of the Bible that indicates that the miracle stories about Jesus are authentic?

 

Numerous sources outside of Christianity relate stories of Jesus’ miracles, including those of the Jewish historian Josephus. Even Jesus’ enemies, the Sanhedrin, acknowledge the miracles but attribute them to the work of Satan.

 

 

 

 

Question 16: Were the New Testament writers influenced by pagan religions?

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

No. Despite some superficial similarities between Christianity and some pagan religions, the New Testament writers were steeped in a Jewish worldview that would regard anything else as blasphemy, to which they would never ascribe any truth.

 

 

Question 17: In Matthew 27, it says that after Jesus’ death, dead people were resurrected and were walking around Jerusalem. Could this really have happened, and why?

 

Keep in mind the Gospels were written within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses. If they recorded anything false, there were people around to refute them, just as there are people still living to refute those who deny the reality of the Nazi Holocaust. Yet we have absolutely no accounts from that time period denying the Gospel claims.

 

 

As to the question of whether it could  have happened, the answer is "of course." There is no logical reason that God could not have performed this miracle. The question for many skeptics is not so much whether or not the biblical account of any particular miracle is true but whether or not miracles are even possible.  However, as apologists such as C. S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft have observed, if God exists, then miracles are not only possible  but to be expected    

Other than simple bias against the possibility of the supernatural, there is no logical reason to dismiss miracle accounts (such as the ones mentioned in the Gospels) out of hand.

 

Thus, the question is not so much whether or not God can intervene in the world, but rather whether there is credible evidence supporting a particular miracle claim.

 

 

 

 

Question 18: Is God self-centered and conceited because He created an entire universe just to sit around and worship Him?

 

 

 

  

You are attributing human motivations to God. He didn’t create us and the universe just to give Himself an ego boost. He did it because it is in His nature to be infinitely creative and relational, and He wanted to create beings (and a world for them) with whom He

could be in fellowship. We must also understand correct relationships: The created is always subservient to the Creator; it’s just the natural state of affairs.

 

 

 

 

Question 19: "Could God make a rock so heavy He couldn’t lift it?" My friend says this question puts God and Christians in "intellectual checkmate." Does it?

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Short answer: no, it does not. God cannot do anything that would violate His own nature; otherwise, He would cease to be God. Therefore, God would never will to do something that He could not do.

 

 

Question 20: Don’t the Resurrection accounts hopelessly contradict one another?

 

The supposed "contradictions" contained in the Gospel’s resurrection accounts have long been a favorite of skeptics who allege that the New Testament accounts are not trustworthy. The four canonical Gospels provide a vast assortment of details about the life of Jesus.

 

 

For the person who is honestly seeking to ascertain what may be known about Jesus, it is not hard to understand that differing—yet complementary —accounts are not the same as contradictory accounts. It has been noted that the unique nuances that each Gospel writer contributes to the record actually affirm the credibility of the overall portrait. The four Gospel writers could be suspected of fabrication if each of the four accounts delivered a portrait of Jesus that was in "lock step" verbatim agreement with the others. However, it does not appear that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John collaborated to "get their story straight."

A look at the four resurrection accounts simply shows that the writers delivered different details about the same event. None of the details given in one Gospel contradicts the details given in another account. Rather, the small details give the pieces of a big picture. Still, some skeptics focus on small discrepancies such as the time of day. Matthew says the resurrection happened "at dawn," Mark mentions "sunrise," Luke simply says it was "very early," and John uses the words "still dark." Taking into consideration that the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem was three to five miles, the time taken to make this walk would easily have been long enough for the sky to go from darkness to daylight.

  

Regarding the number of individuals who discover the empty tomb, Matthew, Mark and Luke mention a plural number of women, while John mentions only Mary Magdalene. However, no writer says that only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Mention of one person does not rule out the possible inclusion of other persons.

  

What about the number of angels present? Matthew and Mark mention one angel, while Luke andhn mention two. How is this not a problem? Understand that Matthew and Mark never say that only one angel appeared. No Gospel writer says that only one angel spoke, or rules out the possibility of there being more than one angel present. The writers give their own perspectives, mentioning certain details accordingly.

 

 

Lee Strobel, a respected journalist, legal scholar and former skeptic himself, after interviewing experts such as New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, concluded, "The harmony among the Gospels on essential facts, coupled with divergence on some details, lends historical credibility to the accounts. The early church couldn’t have taken root and flourished right there in Jerusalem if it had been teaching facts about Jesus that his own contemporaries could have exposed as exaggerated or false." No individual Gospel gives all the details of what transpired, but taken together, all four convey the "core facts."

 

 

 

Question 21: The Bible says that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon sin. So then how can the Holy Spirit be present at all times with people, even believers, who still commit sins?

 

Don’t misunderstand a metaphorical statement as being a factual statement. God, a spiritual being, does not have literal eyes. He does hate sin and cannot stand the sight of it. But also being a loving God, He was willing to come live among us in a fallen, sinful world in order to save it.

 

 

Question 22: Who decided which books would be included in the Bible?

 

 

 

The determination of which books would be included in the Bible, called the canon,  came about gradually. There was some disagreement about a few of the books, but even very early on, the Church and Church Fathers were using as authoritative the books we find in our Bibles today. In AD 367, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria listed the books he thought should be included in the Bible, and his list corresponds exactly to those found in Protestant Bibles today. (The Roman Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox churches include books not included in the Protestant Bible.)

  

Question 23: How do we know that the Bible was given by God?

 

 

 

  

First, it claims to be the Word of God (see Pss. 93:5; 119:89; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35; John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16). If that were all the evidence, though, you’d be right to be skeptical of such a claim. But the divine origin of the Bible is confirmed though numerous historical accounts that are verified by other sources, dozens of fulfilled prophecies and the unity of 66 books written over a period of about a thousand years by multiple authors from several cultures.

 

 

 

Question 24: Religion has caused most of the wars and evil in the world. Why do you want to perpetuate this?

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

This is a loaded question, sort of like, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Yes, a lot of killing and bloodshed has been the result of religious claims, even by people who professed to be Christians, but nowhere in the New Testament does God command Christians to spread the gospel by force of arms. In fact, the opposite is true:

Jesus commanded Peter to put away his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. More to the point, many more have been killed in the name of pagan or atheistic ideologies, including tens of millions murdered in the name of atheistic communism and millions more by pagan Nazism.

 

 

Question 25: Does the Bible present two gods? Is the God of the Old Testament more judgmental and the God of the New Testament more about love?

 

No, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. This view of "two gods" relies on a simplistic view of each testament. But we can find numerous examples of God showing unmerited mercy in the Old Testament and examples of God’s judgment in the New Testament.

 

 

 

 

Question 26: Is what we have now really what was in the Bible originally?

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

Yes, we can trust on pretty good authority that the Bible we have today corresponds to the original texts. We have thousands of complete and partial manuscripts of the Bible dated very close to the actual events, and except for minor textual differences, none of which affects a major doctrine, there is remarkable similarity between ancient and modern texts.

 

 

Question 27: Why are Christians so hypocritical? They’re no better than anyone else.

 

There’s a saying: "Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven." It’s true. We know better and should behave better, but we are in the unique position of being saved while still being sinners. We can and do fail—quite often. It’s not judgment on the truth of Christianity that its followers sometimes stumble.

 

 

 

 

Question 28: I read something about the Gospel of Judas. Is this really a missing part of the Bible?

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. This "Gospel" and numerous others such as the Gospel of Thomas are called spurious documents because they teach things at odds with orthodox Christianity. Such books often date to centuries after the life of Christ and contain teachings that are clearly influenced by Gnosticism and Greek Neo-platonism.

 

Question 29: How can finite language be used to present an infinite God?

 

 

 

  

Sometimes it’s difficult to do this, and that’s why Scripture is full of metaphors, poetry, similes and other literary devices to try to capture the truth of an infinite God. But just because it uses these literary devices does not mean it’s not true. Even today we often resort to such linguistic devices to describe things we know to be true but can’t adequately express in plain language.

 

 

 

Question 30: Everyone knows that Judaism, Islam and Christianity pretty much teach the same things. How would you respond?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, they don’t. This generalization is frequently trumpeted within the media, but differences between the major faith systems of the world are well documented. A recent scholarly look at this topic is the book God Is Not One, by Boston University professor Stephen Prothero. In short, Judaism teaches that the Messiah is yet to come; Christianity teaches He has, in the person of Jesus Christ. Islam denies the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are many other points on which they contradict each other, but those are the biggies.

 

Question 31: There are so many churches. How can you know which one to attend?

 

 

 

   

The right church is the one that teaches the truth of God’s Word— that God created the universe, that man fell into sin and needed redemption, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh come to pay the price of that sin, and that He freely offers that salvation to any who will accept it by faith. Most of the rest is extraneous.

 

  

 

Question 32: If God is love, why would He send anyone to hell?

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

God is love, but He is also holy and just. He cannot ignore sin any more than He can ignore His own holiness. To do otherwise would mean He would cease to be God.

 

 

Question 33: Since God knows everything, He would have known how much suffering would eventually come into this world. Why didn’t He stop the process before it all got started and save His creatures from all of the pain that would befall them?

 

 

  

That’s a tough question, and we can only speculate. God must have judged it worthwhile to have temporary suffering in order to bring about a greater good, just as a doctor judges it worthwhile to have temporary pain in surgery in order to bring about the greater good of restored health.

 

 

 

Question 34: Some Christians I know talk about "intelligent design,"saying that it points to God and proves evolution false. Please explain.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Intelligent design, sometimes called simply ID, points to all the apparent order in the universe and infers that it could not have come about through random processes, as evolution teaches. ID says that if we see design, it’s logical to infer that there’s also a designer.

 

 

 

 

Question 35: If Christians really cared about promoting peace and love, then they wouldn’t be so intolerant, would they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we need to be intolerant. I’m intolerant of giving my children poison. I’m intolerant of lies. Christians are intolerant of things they believe are bad for themselves, other people and society. Other people disagree. It is not "hateful" or "unloving" to be in disagreement with others so long as it’s done respectfully. It is not loving to see a person or society doing things that you believe are harmful and make no attempt to stop, or at least warn, them.

  

Question 36: I am a spiritual person already. Why do I need to be a Christian?

 

 

 

  

Being "spiritual" is not enough. Besides, what do you mean by "spiritual"? Christianity does not ask us to be spiritual; it demands we obey God while continuing to live as physical beings in the physical world He created.

 

 

 

Question 37: Why is it wrong to use profanity? After all, words are just . . . well, words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, let’s make sure we are meaning the same thing by profanity.  Strictly speaking, profanity means to take God’s name in vain—to profane it. God commands we not do this because His name is holy and to be respected. A lot of what is today called profanity is actually just vulgar speech. It’s really more a matter of propriety that we not speak in that way, and the apostle Paul commands us to avoid coarse speech and joking.

  

Question 38: The universe is so vast—in all likelihood there are countless universes and life on other planets. Why do you think the earth is unique, and that God (if He exists) would single out humanity for His love and some special plan?

 

 

   

I’d be careful of using the words "in all likelihood." In fact, we cannot know such things, at least with our present level of knowledge. But we do know that God chose to single out humanity by becoming one of us, taking on flesh, living among us and dying for our sins. He also ascended into heaven in His resurrected human form and will dwell there forever in that form. It does not seem likely that He would have done so if there were other beings out there with, say, ten arms and six eyes.

 

  

 

Question 39: A professor I had said that for centuries Christians have substituted the ideas of Paul for the true teachings of Jesus. What do you say about this?

 

 

 

 

Paul said that his main objective was to preach the gospel (see 1 Cor. 1:17). So the question becomes, "What is the gospel and when did it originate?" The fact is that the gospel message predates Paul, so it could not have originated with him. The message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is prominently presented in one of Paul’s writings, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. But these verses are known to be teachings orally preserved by the earliest Christians and passed along to those who followed.

 

 

Critical scholars date this creedal statement to within mere months  after the crucifixion (see The Case for the Resurrection, by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona). Furthermore, Peter presented this gospel message at Pentecost (see Acts 2), not to mention that Jesus Himself taught that He would die and rise for the sins of the world (see Mark 10:32-34; Matt. 20:17-19).

Paul did not become a follower of Christ until several years after the crucifixion,
and he was not a leader in the burgeoning Christian movement until several years after that. Both the message and the movement of Christianity pre-date Paul. Therefore, he could not have been its source.

 

 

Question 40: What does "born again" mean?

 

  

 

In John 3:3, Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God. By this, Jesus did not mean a physical birth, as Nicodemus at first interpreted His statement. No, Jesus meant that we must be born again spiritually, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, something that could happen only if we first were cleansed of our sins.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

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