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Defending Our Faith: Ask R.C.

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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September 10, 2022 12:01 am

Defending Our Faith: Ask R.C.

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 10, 2022 12:01 am

What is the most common objection to the Christian faith that people brought to R.C. Sproul? Today, he responds to questions about the discipline of apologetics and our responsibility to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ.

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R.C., why would a creator let the human race mess up his creation like we have, and what about injustice? Why doesn't he just step in and fix it? Well, the man who asked that question isn't alone.

That's something people have always wondered. And today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul is going to address that and other thoughtful questions. This is the final session of a series we've been pleased to feature the past few months on classical apologetics. It's called Defending Your Faith. Now that we've completed the lecture part of our study of apologetics and defending your faith, we've asked our studio audience here if they have any questions within the realm of apologetics, and so we're going to spend this time now giving them the opportunity to raise particular questions that are on their mind. These are questions I haven't seen. There's no rehearsal here, so we're just ad-libbing as we go, and we're going to try to make this something that will be helpful to those who watch the program.

And you have the microphone, and what's your question? R.C., what are three good books, two or three good books, to prepare a young man, a young woman to be able to articulate their faith before they go to college? Alright, so we're talking about books for young people, not heavy academic tones on the subject of defending your faith. One of my favorites is Reasons for Faith that Dr. John Gerstner wrote that I think is very helpful for students going off to college. On the issue of the Bible, F.F. Bruce's little volume, the New Testament documents, are they reliable? Even though Bruce is an accomplished academician and a scholar, I think that little overview would help them in that regard. My book, Objections Answered, was written as a specific response to people, lay people, who were engaged in evangelism, and they kept track of the most frequently raised questions and objections to Christianity and then gave me that list and asked me how I would answer those questions. And there's a section after each chapter of summary. These are the points that you need to go over when you're answering the questions.

And that's, again, those are designed to help train people for these encounters. R.C., what is the number one intellectual objection that you've been given over the last 30, 40 years against the existence of God, and how briefly have you answered that? I would say that the number one objection to the existence of God that I've heard over the years is the problem of evil and the presence of evil in the world. As John Stuart Mill said that Christianity affirms that God is omnipotent and that God is good. And according to Mill, He can't be both because with the presence of evil and pain and suffering and misery in the world, if God is really good, He would not permit such hardships and misery to continue. And so if He does permit them to continue, then He must not be able to overcome them and so He is not omnipotent. And if He is omnipotent and has the power to end all of this pain and suffering and misery and chooses not to do it, then that would cast a shadow on His goodness.

And so according to Mill, you can't have it both ways. And I think the flaw in that argument, of course, is that suffering and pain and misery is according to Scripture entered into the world because of sin, and that God did allow sin to take place for His own eternal purpose. And that what we know about the character of God through His revelation of Himself is His justice, His goodness, His righteousness, and His promise to redeem this world from the reality of pain and grief.

And basically the biblical answer to that problem is it's not over yet, and that the pain and misery that we endure for a short period of time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that God has prepared for those who love Him that they will enjoy forever. But the actual philosophical question of the origin of evil is I think one that I can't answer, and I've never met anybody who can other than to say I don't know how evil came into this world, but I know that it did, and I know that it's real, and that I can't have a problem of evil without first having an understanding of an absolute norm of goodness by which evil is defined. So indirectly the problem of evil bears witness to the reality of ultimate good. R.C., what is the relationship between Christian character, between character and apologetics? We've talked a lot about the ideas behind apologetics that we can fortify our minds with to enable us to answer questions, but what's the relationship of the Christian lifestyle and the Christian character to apologetics? Well, one of the interesting things that we see in the early church and the early apologist, Justin Martyr, for example, was one of the first apologists who wrote the Apologia to the Emperor Antoninus Pius. After giving his philosophical defense of the truth claims of Christianity, he then moved to the practical argumentation, and he basically said to the pagan society of his day, if you want evidence for the truth of what we assert, look at our lives, look at our behavior, look and see you won't find adultery numbered among us, and so on. Well, that's the last thing an apologist would argue for today to defend the Christian faith because the polls seem to indicate that professing Christians' lifestyle and behavior differs very little from the pagan community in which we live, which, you know, defies Christ's command to His disciples that they be light to the world. The people are supposed to see our good works, and the love that we display should be a convincing argument that we have encountered something transcendently powerful and life-changing.

And I still think that there is obviously some value to that, but we have to be sure that we're living up to those standards that are given to us. However, I can't rest simply on my life as proof of the Christianity. You've got to go beyond my life because my life isn't good enough to prove the truth of the Scriptures by any means. If anything, it proves the truth of Scripture where Scripture says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I'm a good witness to that truth. R.C., why should one believe in Christianity when it's only one of many religions and not even the one that has the most followers? Well, I'm not sure that last statement is accurate. No, I believe that Christianity still is the largest religion in the world, although in terms of numerical adherence there are others that are closing in on it. But I mean, again, this is also part of the culture in which we live. The science of comparative religion began in earnest in the nineteenth century as people began to encounter cross-cultural pollination.

The world became smaller and so on with modern forms of transportation and communication. And in the nineteenth century, theologians and philosophers sought a common core or essence of all religions and said that basically all religions are at heart the same. They all believe in the same God. The mountain analogy was set forth where there are many roads up the mountain, but it doesn't matter which road you get on, sooner or later you're going to get to the same God.

Christianity would dispute that vigorously because one of the things that's most unpopular and politically incorrect about Christian truth claims is the claim of exclusivity towards Christianity, saying that it's the only true religion. Scripture goes through all kinds of arguments to show that it is man's propensity for idolatry, man's propensity to stifle and repress the knowledge that God gives of Himself to all men universally in nature. That is what produces various world religions. Religion, according to the Bible, is a human invention. It's what men do to escape the truth of God. And even Christianity can be a religion in that pejorative sense where people can use religious trappings associated with Christianity in order to escape the true God who reveals Himself both in nature and in the Bible. But again, in my little book, Objections, I answer the question, is Christianity the only way to God because that is one of the remarkable claims that Christ makes, that He is the only way to the Father. And again, that tends to be offensive to many people who examine that. But to me, the question would be, why should there be any way of redemption to God if we've all violated Him?

Why is God obliged to give us five saviors or six saviors or seven saviors? And if you really look in a comparative way, analyzing the content of world religions with each other, a cursory glance will show you that these religions are not the same and at many points are mutually exclusive. I hear people say, there is this underlining unity, we all believe the same thing.

That's not true. What Muslims believe about what is good and the nature of redemption is radically different from what Christianity teaches for example. Buddha was an atheist who simply claimed to be enlightened.

Confucius talked about the veneration of ancestors. That's a long way from the faith of the Scriptures. And what you don't have in Buddhism and Islam, Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism, and these other religions is an atonement.

You don't have a way of redemption that we have in Christianity, nor do you have a living mediator. Moses is dead. Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead.

And Mohammed is dead. There is no resurrection in these other religions. Christianity has elements to it, content to it, that distinguish it from all other religions.

And with that distinction comes the claim of Christ that it is the only true way to God. R.C., why would a Creator let the human race mess up His creation like we have, and what about injustice? Why doesn't He just step in and fix it? Well, now you're asking me to read the mind of God. I don't know why God allowed sin to enter into the world, why He allowed human beings to mess up, as it were, to use your language, the creation. Obviously, He does not allow the human culprit in this regard to have the final word, because in the renovation of the universe and the recreation of all things, He will not permit the creature to mess it up. He has an eternal plan of redemption that the whole creation is now groaning together, waiting for the vindication of the things of God. Again, I don't know why God allowed this mess-up to occur, but I know that He did allow it, that it's real, and that He is sovereign over it, and His work of redemption is the work of showing forth both in His judgment against sin and His mercy in redemption, both declare His eternal glory, that even the mess that you speak of bears witness indirectly to the perfection of God. And you ask, why doesn't He step in?

Well, He has stepped in. He's done remarkable things, such as the coming of Christ into the world and has given to the human race a way of salvation. And a lot of things people fail to understand is the salutary influence that Christianity has had on human history. The critics of the Christian faith will say, oh, look, all religion does in Christianity is it had the Crusades, it had the punishment of Galileo, and it breeds wars and fightings and so on. But then if you look at the other side of the ledger and see the influence that the Christian church has had in the history of Western civilization, including the hospital movement, the educational movement, the movement of the establishing of orphanages historically, not to mention the abolition of slavery, so that the Christian church has had a tremendous impact on the level of life that people in this world enjoy, not to mention the influence on social ethics and on morality, that there is much evil in the world and there's much evil in this country.

There's no question about that. And it's not like the church is sinless. But I think we need to see that there's a huge difference between the legacy of Christianity on culture and the legacy of barbarianism on culture. Dr. Sproul, inasmuch as there's only one source of truth in Christianity, why is it that there are so many great differences within the church? They seem to be so far apart, yet they both rely on the Scriptures, and they're so different.

Can you explain that? Well, I think it's true that they are very, very far apart. These are debates within the household of the Christian community, but within that Christian community there are huge, huge distances between the Christian left, the Christian right, and various denominations that are in between. But obviously, as we said, you have people from different stripes and different views who both agree that the Bible is the Word of God, but they differ. Why? The simple answer and the quick answer, the quick and dirty answer, is sin.

That's why. It's not that the Bible is so obscure that people who are of a sound mind can't come to an agreement on what it teaches. I teach my students in the seminary. I said, if you and I have a different understanding of the Scripture, where one of us is right and one of us is wrong, to be wrong in your interpretation of Scripture is a sin. They say, wait a minute, I just thought we just made a mistake. Well, I say, yeah, we make a mistake.

How do we make a mistake? Why do we misinterpret Scripture? And I then ask them, I said, is there anybody in this room, including me, who has loved God with all of his mind? Have you been so diligent with your love for God with your mind that you have absolutely perfectly applied yourself to the in-depth, careful, comprehensive study of every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, to the point now that you have such a mature understanding of the whole scope of sacred Scripture that you are not in such a position where you end up distorting it?

I said, I don't think so. Basically, one of the primordial sins of the human race is sloth, and we have been lazy. We haven't done our homework. We haven't done the study that we should do. And not only that, we come to the text with bias and prejudice, and sometimes we're more interested in defending our love lines, and we're all guilty of this sort of thing.

I have favorite teachers. I come out of a certain ecclesiastical background, and so I want to see that vindicated in my understanding of Scripture rather than saying, speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth. I mean, I have to get rid of all of my sinful failures in my mind before I'm going to stop distorting or coming to an erroneous understanding of what the Scripture said. That's why we need to have cross-fertilization and debate and discussion among ourselves, and we ought to be able, as Christians, with the assumption that both sides are trying to come to the truth, have an ask no quarter, give none idea of getting to the mat.

Let's wrestle this thing through. Let's respect each other as human beings, but let's understand that the truth of God is more important than my reputation, than your reputation, than your pride or my pride, and let's try to come to a point where we can agree on these things based on a sober evaluation of the Word of God. R.C., recognizing it as grandparents in this fast-moving world today that we don't have a whole lot of opportunity to sit and talk with our teenage grandchildren, how do you respond to the 16-year-old grandson who will say to you, I can't accept the Bible as the Word of God because there's too many contradictions in it, even though he can't present to you the contradictions? Well, I try to be patient with my 16-year-old grandson, and I happen to have, well, I don't have a 16-year-old, I have a 17-year-old and a 21-year-old and so on, but I have other people saying to me, I don't believe the Bible because it's filled with contradictions. And I like to tell the story of an occasion when I was in seminary where a very, very sharp student made that comment to me. He said, why do you still believe in the Scriptures when it's filled with contradictions? And I said, because I don't think it is filled with contradictions. And I said, I'll tell you what, let's look at these alleged contradictions together.

I said, let me ask you to do this, as it's 1 o'clock this afternoon now, why don't we meet back here tomorrow at 1 o'clock and you bring me a list of 50 contradictions that you find in the Scripture, which should be a simple task for you to do inasmuch as this Bible is a big book and it's filled with them according to your assertion. So, he agreed to the challenge. So, the next afternoon at 1 o'clock he came and he was bleary-eyed, you know, and so on. He's obviously been up most of the night and he had his friends with him. And I said, what's the matter?

He says, well, we spend most of the time in the library and here in this critical environment. He said, but I didn't get 50. He said, but I got 30. And I said, okay.

So, he got 30. So, let's say, first of all, this task of finding contradictions was not quite as simple as you thought it would be when you declared yesterday that the Bible is filled with contradictions, I asked you for a mere 50, and you only have been able to come up with 30. And so, yeah, he liked that. So, I said, okay, let's look at them one by one.

And we looked at them one by one. And this fellow had studied philosophy in college and I'd been a philosophy major. We both had had courses in logic.

We knew the difference between a paradox, a discrepancy, and an actual contradiction. And so, that saved us some time. We looked at the first one and I showed him that the statement that he produced there did not actually violate the law of non-contradiction. And I showed it not to my satisfaction, but to his. And so, he finally, granted, yes, that's not really good. He said, now we're down to 29.

It was like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, you know, now we're down. So, I went through painstakingly every one of them, 30 of them. And to his satisfaction, he agreed that each one of them under close scrutiny and analysis did not, in fact, violate the law of non-contradiction. So, by the time we were finished, this book that he said was filled with contradictions had yielded none according to his own analysis.

Now, I have to say this. I said it to him. I thought there were texts he could have come up with that would have been more difficult to resolve than the ones he actually did. And yet, I said, now do you see that your statement, the Bible is filled with contradictions, is not a valid statement? And he said to me, but look what you've had to do. You've had to use the philosophy of second glance.

You've had to bend over backwards. He said you've had to use Venn diagrams and all this stuff to escape the obvious. Why don't you just admit the obvious that the Bible is filled with contradictions? And I said, because it's not obvious to me.

What's obvious to me is that 30 times zero is zero. But again, this is the task of apologists, that whenever somebody charges that the Bible is filled with contradictions, or even if they make the charge that there's one contradiction, we have to be prepared to answer the allegation of contradictions. But I would do the same thing with my sixteen-year-old. I would say to him, look, I have a ten-dollar bill in my wallet that says there are no contradictions in the Bible. Then I open up my wallet, and I open up my ten-dollar bill, and I have written on the top of it, there are no contradictions in the Bible. But he's already lost that kind of thing with me because he knows not to trust me with those kinds of things. But seriously, I would say to him, you go do your homework, come back with a list of contradictions, and we'll talk about it.

And I would suggest that you do the same thing. And if you can't answer them, there are books like Gleason Archer has made a tremendous contribution to Christian scholarship at this point. The man who speaks like twelve or fifteen languages is doctored from Harvard. He's a retired professor of Old Testament at Trinity in Chicago, wrote a thick book called Bible Difficulties, where he deals with the standard text that people bring to allege contradictions and shows their resolutions, a magnificent piece of assistance for Christians. And that's the other thing you need to know, is that if somebody asks you a question you can't answer, you want to be honest intellectually, but don't just panic right away and say to myself, well, wait a minute, maybe I'm not the first person that's ever had to face this issue before. Maybe there's a whole history of apologetic defense about this question that I'm not aware of. Check it out before you just jump to the conclusion that the Bible's as vulnerable as it may seem at first glance. Some challenging questions there, and some very helpful answers from Dr. R.C.

Sproul. Thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday. I'm Lee Webb, and we are wrapping up more than 30 weeks studying Dr. Sproul's series Defending Your Faith. It's an overview of classical apologetics that equips you to defend the existence of God.

That's an important skill set to have in this postmodern age. We'd like to send you the entire series. There are 32 messages on 11 DVDs. Contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will send them to you. Our number is 800-435-4343. You can also find us online at Today is the last day you'll be able to take advantage of this offer, so I hope you'll contact us soon. And remember that this is the special edition of Defending Your Faith. It includes a bonus disc that provides you access to the study guide for the series. Outlines and questions for discussion are part of this bonus material.

So again, request Defending Your Faith. Our number again is 800-435-4343, and our online address is In advance, let me thank you for your generous donation. Next week we'll begin a new series featuring messages from our 2022 Ligonier National Conference. We kick that off next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll make plans to join us. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-26 22:48:18 / 2023-02-26 22:57:43 / 9

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