The Bible instructs Christians to “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). But with so many competing belief systems out there – from Wahhabism to Rastafarianism – it’s good to know where to go for help.
There are many outstanding books and web resources that may help you earnestly contend for the faith. Here are a few of my favorites.
On Mormonism. Mormonism 101 and Answering Mormons’ Questions, both by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, are excellent books that address key issues pertaining to the LDS Church in easy to understand language. McKeever’s website, www.mrm.org (Mormonism Research Ministry), is filled with helpful tools.
On Jehovah’s Witnesses. Ron Rhodes has put together a helpful book that provides biblical responses to questions from our friends in the Watchtower. It’s called Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. David Reed has authored two useful books: Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse and Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses Subject by Subject.
A Missouri pastor recently sent me a Huffington Post article in which MIT Astrophysicist Max Tegmark assures us that religion and science are much closer than one might suspect, as evidenced by the results of a new MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins.
You can read the results and view the survey questions on MIT’s website.
Tegmark and his colleagues present a detailed survey of how different U.S. faith communities view the science of origins, particularly evolution and Big Bang cosmology.
Their conclusion: “We find a striking gap between people’s personal beliefs and the official views of the faiths to which they belong. Whereas Gallup reports that 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago, we find that only 11% belong to religions openly rejecting evolution.”
Scholars generally break down the arguments for God’s existence into three broad categories: scripture, nature, and philosophy. Arguments from philosophy – such as the cosmological, design, and moral arguments – often go over our heads. And unbelievers may reject arguments from scripture as nothing more than myths and legends.
But the apostle Paul makes a good case from nature in Romans 1. The argument is so clear that Paul states emphatically every person will stand before God one day without excuse. That’s because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways.
When it comes to discussions about the existence of God, everyone comes to the table with a bias. Parents that have lost an infant child may question whether a God who allows such tragedies is good, if He exists at all. Evolutionary scientists may reject the notion of God because He does not meet the demands for purely naturalistic explanations. A disillusioned student of history may see the amount of evil done in the name of the Christian God and conclude that He is either a fiction or a monster. And those ungrounded in scripture may graciously — but naively — determine that everyone worships the same god, and that all religious paths ultimately lead to him (or her, or it, or them).
Christian pollster George Barna recently released a study that showed the “unchurched” in America – those who have not attended church in the last six months except for events such as weddings and funerals — have risen from 24 percent in 1991 to 37 percent of the population today. “America is headed for 310 million people with 310 million religions,” he said.
And then, what right do we, as Christians, have to claim the God of the Bible is the only true God? There are many arguments for the existence of God: the moral argument, the cosmological (first-cause) argument, the teleological (or design) argument, and the ontological (or reason) argument, to name a few. But the apostle Paul gives us three reasons to believe in God that leave every person “without excuse” (see Rom. 1:18-20). In fact, Paul would argue that everyone should believe in the God of scripture because He has revealed Himself in three ways: 1) conscience, 2) creation, and 3) Christ.
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In Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) He identifies Himself as “the Beginning of God’s creation” (ESV). Does this mean that Jesus is the first being God created, as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim? Of course not. This self-description in no way implies that Jesus is a created being or came into existence at any time. He is the eternal Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word translated “Beginning” is arche, which carries the idea of “originator” or “active cause.” Paul instructed the Colossian church to share his letter with the church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). If his instructions were obeyed, then believers in Laodicea would have been familiar with Paul’s description of Christ as Creator: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [Greek prototokos, pre-eminent; not protoktisis, first-created] over all creation; because by Him everything was created … all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:15-16). Further, in Col. 2:9, Paul says of Christ, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature [or the deity] dwells bodily.”
John records in his Gospel, “All things were created through [or by] Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3). Jesus existed before Abraham and referred to Himself as “I AM,” the unique designation for Yahweh, the one true, living, and eternal God (John 8:58). The Jews sought to kill Him because, they said, He claimed equality with God (John 5:17; see also John 10:30-33). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus tells the Father He desires to partake once again of the glory that He shared with the Father before the world existed — a glory reserved for God alone (John 17:5; Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
There is no doubt Jesus is clear about who He is. As He stands before Caiaphas the high priest, He is asked point blank, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” Jesus answers with a Jewish idiom: “You have said it … But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man [a reference to Dan. 7:13 and a clear claim of deity] seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64). In the closing verses of Revelation, He calls Himself “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).
The bottom line: Jesus never came into existence; He has always existed. He was never created; He is the Creator.