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I think atheism is a mystery. The more I read about it, think about it and talk with others about it, it puzzles me. What drives people to become atheists? Would they want there to be no God, no afterlife and no cosmic purpose? If not, why are so many of them dismissive of religion and, frankly, angry with the God they don’t believe exist?
One of the most weird thing one discovers when one studies atheism is that so many atheists are unwilling to call it a belief or even admit that atheism makes a positive claim about reality (the non-existence of gods). Rather, they like to define atheism as merely a lack of belief in gods. This psychological definition has made it into Wikipedia and some dictionaries, but obviously if that’s the only thing an atheist is defending they have no reason whatsoever to criticize other people’s conviction that God exist, or the validity of religion. When an atheist criticizes religion, they do it because they indeed have a positive belief in the falsehood of religion and non-existence of gods.
When atheists deny that atheism is a claim, they do it because they don’t want to present evidences for the claim that gods don’t exist. In fact, many of them will say that no such evidences exists – that you can’t prove a negative. This puts them in the same position as Andy Bannister’s hypothetical friend who denied Sweden’s existence: (more…)
After eight months, I’ve ended my training year at the Jesus Army and have moved back to Sweden. It’s been painful but also beautiful, and I have learned a lot. The JA leadership allowed me to share my thoughts at the Alive Festival at Northampton Jesus Centre, seven years after I had been baptised in the Spirit at a previous Alive Festival during my first stay at the Jesus Army. In the interview, I said that I really think that the Jesus Army should step up with their evangelism again and never lose the vision of resurrecting the Jerusalem church (Acts 2) with charismatic gifts, community and evangelism combined.
Andy Bannister is a funny apologist. His book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (Monarch, 2015) combines intellectual sharpness with witty humour as he deals with the ideas of modern atheism. As director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Bannister has a lot of experience in defending the faith. We got to talk to him about his ministry and ideas.
What made you integrate humour in your apologetics?
Over the 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in Christian ministry (most of it focused on reaching sceptics) I became frustrated with the fact that so many really great books explaining the Christian faith never find their way into their hands of atheists or agnostics. Most evangelistic and apologetic books are simply read by Christians. Now on the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with that: Christians need to be equipped to share and defend their faith. But I wanted to write something that would actually be read by sceptics. The question was how.
Then I came across a quote by C. S. Lewis. Asked why he had taken up writing fiction (like the Narnia books) Lewis explained that too often the front entrance to people’s minds is guarded by “watchful dragons”: things like cynicism, pride, and poor arguments. But story and imagination could let you “steal past those watchful dragons”. That was a revelatory moment for me: maybe I could use a whole different approach, something completely fresh, to engage with atheism. And that’s what The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist does—but rather than creep past the dragon, it uses comedy and wit to tickle the dragon’s nose, so that whilst it’s busy laughing, we can bring truth in through the front door. (more…)
Why does God not take us to Heaven immediately after we’re born again? I was pondering this years ago, and the only reasonable answer I could come up with was: to help others being born again.
We can, and will, worship in Heaven. We can hang around, have a good time, and organize Marquee festivals in Heaven. But we can’t invite others to Heaven when we’re well there.
This is why the Great Commission to make new disciples (Mt 28:18-20) is not just a mission, it is the mission and the primary reason why we even have church.
This is why we need to advertise and tell people about our meetings and events. We need to evangelise and share our testimonies to people we encounter. We need to be present in the public sphere and show an alternative to the consumerism, patriotism and false religions that are already being proclaimed out there. (more…)
Article written for the Multiply Network.
In late November and early December last year, a group of youth from the Jesus Fellowship went to Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in India. They visited Berachah Children’s Home, a ministry led by pastor Kiran Paul that houses and helps 180 children. The Home is supported by the Multiply Network.
Honor Hunter was really impacted by being in India for the first time. “When we arrived I was really tired but I was amazed how beautiful it was,” she says. “It felt like a completely different world. Rice fields and really bright blue birds. The people from Berachah were so welcoming. Kiran Paul, the pastor, was sick in meningitis but still came to the airport to greet us.
“They have hardly anything so they put God first, not possessions. When the children prayed and were so emotional and desperate. Over here, kids don’t get too involved with God. Wealth is too much of a distraction for us. But in India they go through horrible things and they see that God is love and that they need him as an anchor point.” (more…)
Arguments from miracles to show the existence of the divine have been used almost since the dawn of religion. In the New Testament, miracles are used to form arguments for Israel’s God being with Jesus (John 3:2), being involved in contemporary life (Luke 7:16) and existing (Acts 17:31). Throughout church history, arguments from miracles have been frequently used to defend truth claims of Christianity or certain sects of Christianity, not the least on the mission field.
In modern apologetics, one particular argument from miracles is widely discussed and defended, namely the resurrection of Jesus. Apologists try to show that this is a historical event, since the truth claims of Christianity rests on this miracle according to 1 Corinthians 15. But many of them are hesitant to base an argument for God’s existence on modern-day miracles, even though that would cast increasing doubts on the metaphysical naturalism that many opponents of the resurrection’s historicity base their reasoning on.
In fact, well-known apologist William Lane Craig has said “I don’t appeal to miraculous healings as arguments for God’s existence […] I think that there are weightier arguments for the existence of God than pointing to miracles.” Timothy McGrew concludes in his well-written article on miracles in the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy that arguments from miracles are interesting but can’t stand on their own. Justin Brierley, host of the apologetic debating program Unbelievable at Premier Christian Radio, have had a few shows on contemporary miracles, but has admitted that they don’t talk about it very often and gives the following explanation for this:
This is kind of unusual for me […] we’re tending to deal with the kind of philosophical arguments for God, can we trust Scripture, those kinds of bariny, intellectual issues if you like. And in the field of apologetics, as it’s sometimes called, the sort of miracles stuff is sort of considered a bit like, “out there”. It’s very difficult to verify, it’s not objective in the way that we can talk about evidence for God and the Bible and that kind of thing. So in my view I think a lot of apologists tend to steer away from it.
Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
In my last blog post, I explored the fellowship of Jesus and His disciples in the gospels, treating it as church. This has big implications.
Jesus managed to pastor his church without a church building. Most of the sermons he held weren’t even indoors. He would preach from the top of a mountain, in a field, at the temple courts or in a boat. His preaching was directed at people who didn’t follow Him just as much as to those who already were His disciples. In fact, when He talked to the disciples, He engaged in dialogue, listening to their views and responding with divine insight.
In Jesus’ church, it was impossible to be a disciple without interacting with non-believers almost daily. Jesus was charismatic in the dual sense of the word, attracting large crowds wherever he went. There were often discussions and debates with those who disagreed. On top of that, Jesus commanded:
Go… to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:6-8)
Originally published on the Jesus Youth website.
During the last six months, a group of young people from around the UK have been gathering together to worship God on the streets and tell people about Jesus.
It all started after the Jesus Army’s main youth event, RAW, in August, 2016. Jack Brown from Northampton thought that it was amazing to see young people set ablaze for God, but that it shouldn’t just have to happen once a year. He approached some people from Coventry and talked about reaching out to others and equipping the church.
The format has been that young people from different locations and regions gather together, head out to the street and evangelise for a couple of hours. After that, the youth go to a local Jesus Army community house for some food and fellowship. (more…)
If you agree that the holocaust was evil and that you can think, then you have to admit that there is a God. From the Spiritual Q&A apologetics class at Holy Treasure, Kettering, UK.
I think that this is a pretty good film! It has a quite unique theme and can be used both for evangelism and to inspire a discussion within the church on how we treat and communicate to non-believers. Watch the video for a more detailed analysis!
The fine tuning of the universe and the complexity of DNA provides powerful evidence for God’s existence. It even made well-known atheist Anthony Flew change his mind in the late part of his life to make him proclaim that there is a God! From the Spiritual Q&A class at Holy Treasure, Kettering, UK.
In this short lecture, I talk about the existence and origin of the universe actually shows us that God must exist. The universe must have an explanation outside of itself since it is contingent – that is, not necessarily existing. God, if he exist, would be necessarily existing and is thus a perfect candidate for the explanation for the universe.
Similarly, the fact that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago must have a cause since everything that begins to exist has a cause. Since the universe is all of time and space such a cause must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial and very powerful. That’s what we mean by God.
With so many religions in the world, how can we know which one is correct even if we’re convinced that God exists? Here I show why the most common arguments within Christian apologetics point to the Christian God specifically, and so if they work other religions have to be false. From the Spiritual Q&A class at Holy Treasure, Kettering.
In this sermon I share what Francis Shongwe, a man who was killed and raised back to life in 2003, told me about Heaven when I met him three years ago. I go on talking about the importance of sharing the Gospel with those who have not received Christ as their Saviour yet so that they can go to Heaven too. Here’s an excerpt from the interview I made with Francis:
I was talking to a church leader the other day about why they quit doing public evangelism, which reached tens of thousands of people and led many to the Lord and made many join the church. The main reason was that they had even higher expectations on the fruits the street evangelism would bring, and there was even a demanding pressure centrally from the denomination that basically was never satisfied. 25 years of this created a weariness and bitterness which in turned spawned a backlash, making the church quit public evangelism altogether.
The church leader said to me that there are people in the congregation who used to be very skilled in leading people to Christ but that now want nothing to do with street evangelism. They’ll still share the Gospel if they get the opportunity, but they hardly ever get the opportunity. Their anxiety caused by not meeting expectations was cured by lowering expectations to almost zero, and so many of them blamed street evangelism for not being fruitful enough while living a life that from an evangelistic standpoint is close to fruitless.
The emotional pain from almost being forced to share the Gospel with promises for a revival that never came is strong, and understandable. But it’s not a reason for letting people go to hell. As strong as our emotional dislike for an action may be, if the Bible commands it we should do it. As we recognise this and pray for strength to do it, God can heal our emotional scars. (more…)