Approaching Apologetics Like A Chess Match

Image courtesy of tigger11th at

Image courtesy of tigger11th at

Working in apologetics is not something that should be done carelessly. While no one can claim to be the perfect apologist, it is important that as we approach these discussions, we come to the table with a strategy for engagement. I do not know if any of you are chess players like I am, but as I was thinking about the way that we help those around us understand the rationality of the Christian worldview, there are many lessons that we can learn from one of the most heavily analyzed board games in world history.

I think that there is first a comparison in regards to the structure of the game itself. As you know, every chess piece has a different function, but all of them can be used to make a checkmate. One of my favorite checkmates was one where I pinned my opponent with two pawns and the king. I think that this points towards the fact that everyone can and should be involved in apologetics. We might not have all of the ability of William Lane Craig or Ravi Zacharias, but we can still be used by God for His glory. God can use whatever pieces He wants to; He is very good at using even the most unlikely people to do great things. All of us should have a reason for the hope that we have.

Next, when you approach a chess match, you know what you want to do. I know that when I play, I have a preferred strategy, and I always open the game the same way. In apologetics, you will also probably have your area of strength. We might be drawn to different topics. You could be interested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the historicity of the Bible. It is important to have these areas that we have extensive knowledge in and are comfortable with on a more substantial level.

An important consequence of having a specialty is that we are all different. We can strengthen the field as a whole by being strong in different areas. Since it is hard for any individual to become an expert in everything, we can work together based upon our own interests and specialties. However, you can only do that if you have specialties to begin with. [Read more...]

Youth, Popularity, and Apologetics

Students Love Answers More Than the Church Loves AnswersI was listening to J. Warner Wallace’s podcast recently, and it’s one I encourage all of you to listen to. He talked about presenting talks on apologetics and how youth get enthused about it. I started pondering then why that might be, and I’d like to share a suspicion I have on the matter.

I have written much on how the ancient world was an honor/shame culture where we’re a more individualistic one, but that does not mean that we are totally devoid of any idea of shame. Social status is everything to many a teenager. This is why so many of them buy clothes they might not care for and get into fads that they wouldn’t care for otherwise. They want to fit in with their peers and not be embarrassed. [Read more...]

Breaking Down the ‘We’re all Atheists’ Objection

Introduction Several months ago, I went to a local “religious freedom” rally here in Fredericksburg. The rally was commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s Religious Freedom amendment, with a parade from downtown to the Religious Freedom monument and included a host of speakers. The keynote speaker was William J. Murray, the son of the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Marching in the parade there were a handful of groups, including a local Musim group and three humanist/atheist groups seeking a presence here in “the Burg.”

After the event, I made my way over to the representatives from the local Coalition of Reason and struck up a conversation with a man by the name of “Glen.” Glen was a  representative for the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason, who was more than happy to share why he became an atheist from Methodism in the 70’s.  All it took was my question on where reason came from, and we were off and rolling for the next 40-45 minutes on a street corner overshadowed by a church.

He had a lot of “pet arguments” for why people of faith were delusional, but it was a favorite atheist “gauntlet” which surfaced during our conversation that I would like to share in this post. Many of us are familiar with the statement from atheists: “We’re all atheists, we just go one ‘god’ further than you.”  What I would like to do is give a response to this objection, knowing that there may be other ways to do so. My hopes to show how this “gauntlet” is really a distraction from getting to the real issues on one’s rejection of the Judeo Christian God.

What about atheism and theism?

Whenever we find ourselves in a conversation with one professing to be an atheist, it is important clarify terms like faith, and in this case the definition of atheism. According to the break down of the word atheism, the “a” is an alpha privative denoting negation, or meaning “no.”  Put the alpha (“a)  of negation with the word, “theos” meaning God or god, and you have the formal definition of atheism. So the word “atheism” (no God/gods) is the belief that denies the existence of God or a supernatural being.[1] There is nothing new here for many of us.

We cannot stop here though. The word, “God” is often misconstrued in conversations with atheists as well. Many atheists think of “God” being a cosmic gum ball  machine, or an old man sitting up in the clouds ready to punish or reward for our bad or good deeds or even something else. If God were any of these, I would not believe in that kind of God either. So when we talk about God, we are talking about the God who exists as being, the personal, transcendent, moral,  timeless (eternal), immaterial or spaceless, Uncaused First Cause and Designer of the universe.

A theist is one who believes in the existence of God. Of course there are different kinds of theists, who  believe differently about the nature and the existence of God. Allow me a quick illustration using monotheism.

Theists who believe in the God of the Bible (Yahweh) could be called ‘Christian theists’ or  ‘Jewish  theists.’ However Islamic monotheism is different in that the Muslim believes that “God” (Allah) is personal, transcendent, timeless, and the one who is the First uncaused Cause of the universe. Islamic mono-theism is different from Judeo Christian monotheism in the understanding of how “God” interacts and intervenes with the creation. With reference to God’s interaction with His creation, Christian theism is providential, where Islamic monotheism is fatalistic (kismet). Space does not allow me to elaborate on this further you can read a post on my blog for more information.

Atheists redefine atheism by saying “we’re all atheists”

Atheism over the years has gotten some “bad press,” especially before 9/11, so some atheists have tried to redefine or defang the meaning of “atheism,” calling it a “lack of belief.” So the statement is a smoke screen for the real definition and “a card” for seeking an unfair  advantage in a conversation with a person of faith. But it is not a very good “card” to play. Why?

Since the atheist does not believe in the God of the Bible, the God of Islam or any of the deities of the polytheistic and pantheistic religions, the statement made by the atheist, thatwe’re all atheists,” seeks to put the theistic person of faith in the same position of belief as the atheist. The atheist follows this up with, “we’re just an atheist to one more God than you.” This “one more God” is the Judeo Christian God of the Bible.

But in their faulty attempt to level the playing field, it is really becomes a dishonest and shifty tactic that is easily dissectible.

Let me see if I can do clean job in dissecting it for us.  There are some pretty good reasons for what makes a coherent worldview. Those reasons give a clear understanding for rejecting the other religions’ views, including atheism. Just because there are good reasons for not believing  religion x, that does not make be an atheist to religion x. Why? Because the reasons for believing religion x prove to be inconsistent logically, metaphysically, and existentially, as well as biblically.

Now applying this, as a Christian theist, I don’t believe in the nature and interpretation of Islam’s “Allah” but that does not make me an atheist. There are some major differences between the God of the Bible and the Islamic interpretation of God. There is also a different understanding of the God of the Bible, opposed to the understanding of the pantheon of over 300 million deities in Hinduism, as well as the two major traditions of Buddhism.  Those understandings of God versus the other deities are worlds apart from each other. But just because they are different and I do not agree with them does not make me an atheist to them. Nor does it make me an atheist in the purest sense of the word.

So this statement made by the atheist is really a smokescreen that dissolves  when confronted with the truth. Those who follow one of those religions is based upon the fact that God has placed something in every person to seek truth in hopes that they will cry out to the true God and Creator. Speaking on quantitative terms here, all of the great world religions are merely a reflection of man not being able to find God, and that it is God who seeks us and shows us our need for Him. God in Christ is revealed not just the Bible, but also in history, evidenced by an empty grave.


At the beginning of this post, I mentioned my atheistic conversant,”Glen.”  Glen and I spent an almost an hour in cordial conversation. When he “threw down” this objection that “we’re all atheists, and I am just atheistic to one more God than you.”  I cordially pointed to the weakness of his assertion. This opened the door for me to press him for the real reasons for why he was an atheist, and address his objections. At the end of the conversation we said our good byes, and shared information with the hopes of a future discussion at the local Starbucks or Blackstones.

Disbelieving in Allah, Brahman, Buddha, Shakti or any of the deities out there, does not make us atheistic to them. We would have to unwind the definition of “belief” if we wanted to go deeper into this subject. But Glen, like many atheists are “atheistic” to the Judeo Christian God. So when someone tries to press you or I with “we’re all atheists,” clear the smoke away from this gauntlet and press the unbeliever to the reasons why they deny the God of the Bible. Stay cordial and pray for them as you converse with them, and leave the results to our Lord.

Hopefully the impression you make with them in your cordiality and your knowledge about the truth of the Christian faith will put the stone in their shoe to further the conversation and quite possible see the truth and respond accordingly.


[1] See the definition at the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at

Review: Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of our Faith

With an increasingly hostile culture that preaches a message directly opposed to biblical Christianity, Christians need to be armed now more than ever with the knowledge of what they believe and how that knowledge impacts their lives. Many know a great deal about theology but yet don’t know how their theology should impact their life. Thus, the renewed focus on apologetics should be celebrated in the Church.

In Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defend of our Faith, Dr. K. Scott Oliphint argues that Biblical apologetics is Scripture driven, Christ-centered, Gospel-centric, and Holy Spirit empowered. His model of apologetics seeks to be rooted in solid biblical exegesis and application. “Covenantal Apologetics” is Oliphint’s revised term for Presuppositional Apologetics. It isn’t anything new but rather something founded upon the historic doctrines of the faith, something very biblical and glorifying to God. Those who have taken issue with Presuppositional Apologetics as a system should take note of the biblical and theological arguments Dr. Oliphint presents. Though his work is fresh in approach, it is firmly rooted in the long tradition of Reformed theology.

Oliphint begins his book with an exploration of what apologetics is about. The author states, “Christian apologetics is the application of truth to unbelief” (29). He also clearly outlines from the beginning what the overarching goal of apologetics is noting “We will not seek to knock down every argument, or even every main argument against Christianity” (29). Oliphint’s objective from the very outset will help the reader understand his comments as well as his overall goal thus eliminating any confusion as to the purpose of the discussion. He provides the root of his argument commenting “The point for the Christian and the point to stand on in a covenantal apologetic is that Christ’s lordship—which includes not only that he now reigns but also that he has spoken and that all owe him allegiance—is true for anyone and everyone. Christ is Lord even over his enemies and ours. And part of what this means is that the authority of Scripture, which is the verbal expression of Christ’s lordship, is authoritative even over those who reject it” (37). This statement is followed with a fundamental element of any apologetical argument, namely “The Bible is authoritative not because we accept it as such, but because it is the word of the risen Lord” (37).

[Read more...]

A Look at Acts 17: Can Apologists Follow Paul’s Example in Today’s Culture

When it comes to apologetics, Acts 17 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. I have used it in the attempt to motivate others to learn about apologetics which is the rational defense of the Christian faith. The question at hand is whether the culture is the same today as it was in Paul’s day. Also, does Paul’s approach work for Christians today?

First, a little background about Paul: The undisputed letters of Paul that can be used to give us an understanding about who he was and what his mission was are in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. The rest of the letters yield very little about the life of Paul. From Paul’s Letters, we can gather that: 1. The man’s name was Paul: A Greek name. 2. He had a Jewish name, Saul. Remember, having two names was not uncommon for Jews who lived outside Palestine in the first century. 3. Paul was born in Tarsus, a city in Southwestern Asia Minor. 4. He came from a family of Pharisees of the tribe of Benjamin and was named for the tribe’s most illustrious member, King Saul. 5. Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3), the grandson of Hillel. Hillel is known as the Academy of Hillel, founded by a Jewish sage called Hillel the Elder. The House of Hillel was a school of Jewish law and thought that was very well known in the 1st century B.C.E. Jerusalem. 6. Since Paul’s letters show familiarity with rabbinic methods for interpretation of Scripture and popular Hellenistic philosophy to a degree, this makes it likely that he received a formal education in both areas. Hence, Paul’s exegesis of the Old Testament shows evidence of his rabbinic training. 7. Paul was probably, as an adult, a resident of Damascus.[1] 8. In many places, Paul discusses his Jewish identity. He says “ I am a Jew” (Acts 22;3) “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23;6), and “I am a prisoner for the sake of the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20). [Read more...]