Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Deity of Christ–Part 4

It’s been several months since I posted Part 3 of this series, but a recent conversation with yet another member of the Watchtower Society has prompted me to continue this series.  Sorry for the long gap between posts!

In this entry, I want to address some of the basics about certain of Jesus’ sayings found in the book of John.

Jesus’ Self Understanding in the Gospel of John

The Watchtower Society claims that Jesus was nothing more than a created being.  They claimed that Jesus did not consider himself to be God and that he never claimed to be God.  In light of this, we need to ask ourselves whether this is true or not.  In getting that answer, we must first take a look in the book of Exodus.

In Exodus 3, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush and directs him to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  Upon learning that God wanted him to accomplish this task, we read the following exchange between Moses and God:

Exodus 3:13-14

13 Then Moses asked God, "If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what should I tell them?"

14 God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."

Moses asks a very legitimate question here.  The Egyptians had many gods and for Moses to tell Pharaoh “The God of your fathers has sent me to you”, it would have been quite normal for him to reply “Which god of my fathers?”.  And as it happens, the name by which God described himself turns out to be far more than just a name.

On page 115 of Ron Rhodes’ book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the author points out the following:


“…it is interesting that Bible expositor James K. Hoffmeier suggests that in Exodus 3, ‘Moses is not demanding to know God’s name per se, but the character behind that name.  God’s answer supports this, because he does not [first] say ‘Yahweh’ (v. 14) but [first] interprets the name ‘I AM WHO I AM.’  This may appeal to his infinite existence: ‘the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’ (Rev. 4:8b).’  The name communicates the idea, ‘I am the One who is’”

In other words, when God gives the name ‘I AM’ to Moses, He is saying that He is the real God, the one who exists and has always existed.  The one without a beginning or an end. 

Now why is this significant when it comes to Jesus?  The reason is because Jesus used the same name when describing himself in the Gospel of John.  Collectively, these are known as Jesus’ I AM sayings.

The most well-known of these passages occurs in John 8 as shown below:

John 8: 48-58

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!”

Verse 58 certainly seems to show Jesus using the same name that God gave himself in Exodus 3.  But since neither Exodus nor John were originally written in English, it’s important for us to take a minute to investigate whether the two words really are the same.  The problem is that the original language in which Exodus was written is Hebrew while John’s is Greek.  So how can we reconcile these two?

The answer comes from the Septuagint (or LXX), which was a Greek translation of the Old Testament in popular use before Jesus was born (around 130 BC).  By looking at Exodus as recorded in the Septuagint, we are able to see whether the same Greek phrase is used as Jesus used in John 8.  And it turns out that they are identical.

The Greek for I AM in Exodus 3 is 'ego eimi', and it’s the exact same Greek phrase used by Jesus in John 8.  By looking at the Greek, we can clearly see that Jesus was deliberately proclaiming himself to be God and the Jews understood it as verse 59 clearly shows:

John 8:59

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Why would the Jews seek to stone Jesus for what he said?  Because the Mosaic Law declared stoning to be the punishment for blasphemy.  In Leviticus we see a specific example of this:

Leviticus 24: 13-16

13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses: 14 "Bring the one who has cursed to the outside of the camp and have all who heard [him] lay their hands on his head; then have the whole community stone him. 15 And tell the Israelites: If anyone curses his God, he will bear the consequences of his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the foreign resident or the native.

Clearly the Jews understood that Jesus had uttered blasphemy when he said “before Abraham was born, I AM!”.

And this isn’t the only time that Jesus described himself in this way.  Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaimed himself to be the I AM.  Below is a list of these verses (thanks again to Ron Rhodes and his excellent book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses):

John 4:26; 6:35, 48, 51; 8:12, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5; and 18:5, 6, 8

Two of these verses further illustrate the point:

John 8:24

"I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM (ego eimi) [he], you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 8:28

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM (ego eimi) [he] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

In both of these verses Jesus identifies himself as the 'ego eimi'. And even though the word 'he' appears in both of these verses in the English, that word is missing in the original Greek. So Jesus is really saying the following:

John 8:24

"I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 8:28

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

The simple fact is that Jesus repeatedly proclaimed himself to be the I AM (ego eimi) throughout the Gospel of John.  It’s very clear, from looking at Exodus in the Septuagint, that this phrase is the same one used by God when He spoke to Moses.

Answering the Jehovah’s Witness Perspective

Based on the discussion so far, it seems pretty clear that Jesus claimed the same title as God in declaring himself to be the I AM.  So how do the Jehovah’s Witnesses handle these verses?  Let’s take a look at what the New World Translation (NWT) lists for these verses:

Exodus 3: 13-14

13Nevertheless, Moses said to the [true] God: “Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of YOUR forefathers has sent me to YOU,’ and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14At this God said to Moses: “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” And he added: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to YOU.’”

John 8: 48-58

48In answer the Jews said to him: “Do we not rightly say, You are a Sa·mar´i·tan and have a demon?” 49Jesus answered: “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and YOU dishonor me. 50But I am not seeking glory for myself; there is One that is seeking and judging. 51Most truly I say to YOU, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.” 52The Jews said to him: “Now we do know you have a demon. Abraham died, also the prophets; but you say, ‘If anyone observes my word, he will never taste death at all.’ 53You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died, are you? Also, the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?” 54Jesus answered: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifies me, he who YOU say is YOUR God; 55and yet YOU have not known him. But I know him. And if I said I do not know him I should be like YOU, a liar. But I do know him and am observing his word. 56Abraham YOUR father rejoiced greatly in the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” 57Therefore the Jews said to him: “You are not yet fifty years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

By looking at these verses in the NWT, we can see how they’ve solved this problem.  They’ve done so by deliberately altering these verses so that they no longer bear any resemblance to each other!

Exodus 3 – Response

Examining more closely at the passage in Exodus, we see that the Hebrew words which are translated I AM WHO I AM are ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’.  This is one of the seven names for God given in the Old Testament and is literally translated as “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”.  This is consistent with the English translation of “I AM WHO I AM” (and, indeed, this is exactly how the LXX translates it), but the Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to explain it a different way.

Looking online at one of the official websites for the Watchtower Society, we see the following:

God himself explained the meaning of his name to his faithful servant Moses. When Moses asked about God’s name, Jehovah replied: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Exodus 3:14) Rotherham’s translation renders those words: “I Will Become whatsoever I please.” So Jehovah can become whatever is needed in order to fulfill his purposes.

This quote is taken from an article entitled The Divine Name – Its Use and Its Meaning.  The problem is that Exodus does not allow us to conclude that God was talking about becoming “whatsoever I please”.  Instead, He was giving a description of His nature.  The Jews realized this when they translated the Old Testament into Greek (the LXX) and today Exodus 3 is considered to be one of the seven names of God.  This was a name God applied to Himself.  It was not a statement about what He would or could do to fulfill His purpose, and any attempt to claim this is merely a distortion of the text.

John 8 – Response

Having dealt with Exodus 3, how do we answer the claim from John 8 that Jesus was merely stating that he pre-existed (I have been) rather than claiming to be God (I AM)?  To do this, it’s important to understand the basis on which the Jehovah’s Witnesses make their claim in the first place.

On page 467 of the Greek Interlinear Bible used by the Watchtower Society, we see how they attempt to explain this difference:

I have been = ego eimi after the a'orist infinitive clause prin' Abraam genesthai and hence properly rendered in the perfect tense. It is not the same as ho ohn', meaning "The Being" or "The I Am") at Exodus 3:14, LXX

What this indicates is that Jesus was using the perfect tense when he made his statement, and since he used this tense the better translation of his quote is “I have been” rather than “I AM”.  But is this right?

Turning once again to Ron Rhodes’ book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we read the following excerpt (from page 116):

"Scholars agree that the Watchtower Society has no justification for translating 'ego eimi' in John 8:58 as "I have been". It is highly revealing that at one time, the Jehovah's Witnesses attempted to classify the Greek word 'eimi' as a perfect indefinite tense rather than a present tense. (Such a tense would allow for the translation "I have been.") HOWEVER, THIS CLAIM PROVED TO BE VERY EMBARRASSING WHEN GREEK SCHOLARS POINTED OUT TO THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT INDEFINITE TENSE IN GREEK GRAMMAR. Eimi is clearly a present active indicative form – as any beginner’s Greek grammar will show. (emphasis mine)

The highlighted sentence is important because it points out the intentional and ongoing deception by the Watchtower Society.  Even after Greek scholars have shown them that there is no such thing as a perfect indefinite tense in the Greek language, they persist in their translation and even discuss their reasons for it (as shown above).  The only possible explanation for this is that they are aware of their mistake, but maintain it nonetheless.  If someone is aware of an error and yet retains it even after they’ve learned of the mistake, there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation other than that it’s intentional.


We’ve seen how Jesus used the same language when describing himself that God did when speaking with Moses.  We’ve further seen that while the Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to dismiss this (and, indeed, rewrite scripture), their attempts are deeply flawed.

The conclusion from all of this?  Jesus claimed to be God and it was for this that he was crucified.  In fact, if any final concerns remain about whether Jesus claimed to be God, all we need do is look to John 10.

John 10: 31-33

31 Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him.

32 Jesus replied, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?"

33 "We aren't stoning You for a good work," the Jews answered, "but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God."

The Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God.  And Christians today also recognize that Jesus did this.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses, unfortunately, deny the facts in this matter.  But in order to do so, they must twist scripture and do damage to the Greek language itself.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Deity of Christ–Part 3

What about Jesus being “firstborn”?

When talking with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you’ll find that one of their key points to prove Jesus was a created being is that the Bible refers to him as “firstborn”.  Two examples of this, which the Jehovah’s Witnesses often use as proof texts, are below:

Colossians 1:14-16 (NIV)

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Hebrews 1:5-7 (NIV)

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

   “You are my Son;
   today I have become your Father”?

   Or again,

   “I will be his Father,
   and he will be my Son”?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

   “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

On the surface, it certainly appears that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a point.  Is Jesus truly the first of God’s creations, and does the term “firstborn” indicate that this is so?

In order to answer this question, it’s important to understand what the the significance of the term “firstborn” meant in the Jewish culture.

PROTOTOKOS and the significance of “firstborn”

In ancient times, the first born son was the inheritor of a double portion of his father’s estate and was expected to step into the role as head of the family upon his father’s death.  So the term “firstborn” can have a dual meaning:

  • The son who is the oldest child of his father
  • The inheritor and heir of the father’s estate

To begin understanding which of these meanings of “firstborn” the New Testament indicates, it’s important to look at things in a bit more depth.

First, going back to the original Greek we see that “firstborn” is translated PROTOTOKOS (πρωτότοκος).  While this word is used 130 times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), it is only used 8 times in the New Testament.

PROTOTOKOS comes from two Greek words, PROTOS and TOKOS.  PROTOS means “first” (in time, place or rank) and TOKOS means “birth” (offspring).

In the Old Testament, PROTOTOKOS was used primarily to designate the oldest son born to a father (though there are some significant exceptions to this, as we’ll see).  In the New Testament, however, this word is used primarily in the sense of preeminence and authority.  To know which meaning of the word is intended, scholars look at which portion of the word is emphasized.  If PROTOS, then the emphasis is on authority.  If TOKOS, then physical birth.

So how is PROTOTOKOS used in the New Testament passages where it appears?  First, in Luke 2 we see “firstborn” used in the sense of physical birth (the emphasis is on TOKOS).

Luke 2:4-7 (NIV)

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Other than this verse, however, every time PROTOTOKOS is used, the emphasis is on PROTOS, stressing superiority rather than birth.  Below are the seven additional verses where PROTOTOKOS is used in the New Testament (all from the NIV):

Romans 8:28-29

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers

Colossians 1:15-18

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Hebrews 1:5-6

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

   “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?

   Or again,

   “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Hebrews 11:24-28

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

NOTE: This verse can be a bit confusing, since the original Greek only include PROTOTOKOS once.  The 2nd use of “firstborn” in the above passage is more frequently translated as “them”.  For example, the HCSB wording is as follows:

28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

Here it’s a bit more clear that “firstborn” only appears once in the passage.

Hebrews 12:22-23a

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

Revelation 1:5-6a

4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

All of these passages (with the exception of Luke 2) use PROTOTOKOS in the sense of authority and preeminence.

Strengthening the Case for Preeminence

While the Greek language is clear, and the context for PROTOTOKOS in the New Testament verses makes it easy to understand the author’s intent, this may not be enough for our Jehovah’s Witness friends.  Because of this, a few additional bits of evidence may prove useful.

Israel as God’s Firstborn

Obviously, the Israelite nation was not the first physical nation upon the earth.  And yet, in Exodus 4 we read the following exchange between God and Moses:

Exodus 4:21-23 (NIV)

21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

Obviously, if God meant that Israel was the first nation to exist on earth, He would have been mistaken.  Instead, in this verse it’s clear that God meant that Israel was to be preeminent among other nations on earth.

Ephraim and Manasseh

Another highly interesting pair of verses to illustrate the point that “firstborn” is not exclusively tied to physical birth are the following:

Genesis 41:50-52 (NIV)

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Here we see that Joseph had two children, Manasseh and Ephraim.  Manasseh was his oldest son (his “first born”) and Ephraim is clearly designated to be the younger.  But then look at how Jeremiah talks about Ephraim:

Jeremiah 31:7-9 (NIV)

7 This is what the LORD says:

“Sing with joy for Jacob; 
shout for the foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard, and say, 
‘LORD, save your people, 
the remnant of Israel.’
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north 
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame, 
expectant mothers and women in labor; 
a great throng will return.
9 They will come with weeping; 
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water 
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father, 
and Ephraim is my firstborn son

Jeremiah says that Ephraim is “firstborn” (PROTOTOKOS)!  If the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right, and if “firstborn” refers to actual birth (or in Christ’s case, creation), then then the Bible is inconsistent.  But we’ve already seen that PROTOTOKOS has another meaning besides birth order.

David, the youngest son of Jesse

Finally, one other verse provides additional context to help our friends understand this issue of “firstborn”.  It deals with David, the king of Israel.

We know from scripture that David was the youngest of his brothers.  We read this in 1 Samuel 16:

1 Samuel 16:8-13 (NIV)

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

   “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

   Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

   Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

And yet, Psalm 89 says this about David:

Psalm 89:19-27 (NIV)

19 Once you spoke in a vision,
   to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
   I have raised up a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
   with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
   surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
   the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
   and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
   and through my name his horn[
f] will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
   his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
   my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
   the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

So even though David was the youngest of his brothers, God considered him is “firstborn”!


Though at first glance the New Testament verses about Jesus as “firstborn” may seem to point to his being created by God, a word study and understanding of ancient culture (in other words, considering the context) has shown that these claims by the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, in fact, not true.

Jesus Christ was and is God Almighty.  He is neither a created being nor merely an angel (more on that in the future).  And when you walk our Jehovah’s Witness friends through this aspect of their theology, hopefully they’ll begin to realize this as well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Deity of Christ–Part 2

Did Jesus create “all things” or “all other things”?

One of the big points made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that, as God’s first created being, Jesus was the avenue through which God created all other things.  One of the places they go to justify this belief is Colossians 1:15 – 17.  Let’s take a look at what this verse says in both the NIV and the NWT:

New International Version (NIV):

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

New World Translation (NWT):

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,

Note the differences in the two translations.  The NWT includes the word [other] in brackets 4 times.  This difference brings up two questions:

  1. Does the word [other] belong in this passage?
  2. What is the significance of including [other] in these passages?

Let’s deal with each question separately in order to figure out what’s going on here.

Does the word [other] belong in this passage?

Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek (and a little Aramaic), scholars have had to translate the words that we read in English today.  If they hadn’t done that, our only alternative would be to learn to read Greek (which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad idea).  But it’s the translation from the Greek to English that we need to ask about here.  Essentially, we need to find out whether the original Greek translation matches the NWT or other translations (none of which include [other], btw). 

First, the Greek word in question is the word that is translated “all” in the NIV and “all other” in the NWT.  In Greek, the word for this is panta and it means literally “all” or “every” (which is why some translations, such as the New Living Translation, interpret the word as “everything”).  So already we see that the NWT seems to be inserting the word “other” into these verses even though the original Greek doesn’t support this.

Second, is it ever acceptable to add the word “other” into verses that include the Greek word panta?  In fact, there is and it’s important to understand this.  Consider Luke 13:1-3 from the NIV as an example:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Notice the phrase in verse two, which says “all the other”.  This is also the Greek word panta, but “other” is included.  In fact, compare it with the reading in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB):

1 At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And He responded to them, "Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!

You’ll notice that the HCSB doesn’t include the word “other” in verse 2.  So does this mean that other is acceptable, and that the NWT is justified in adding “other” to Colossians 1?

The answer to this is, quite simply, ‘no’.  And the reason for this is obvious.  In Luke 13, the addition of the word “other” is merely a way to clarify the passage.  But in Colossians 1, the addition of “other” changes the meaning of the text completely!  Instead of Jesus being the creator of all things, he merely creates all other things.  And what does this do?  It assigns Jesus to the order of created things.  This is certainly not a clarification of Colossians 1.  Instead, it’s a complete revision of its meaning!

The Greek for Colossians 1 is clear.  It says that Jesus created all things.  It does not proclaim Jesus to be a created being who created all things other than himself.  It proclaims Jesus to be God who created all things.

And if this isn’t enough, even the Kingdom Interlinear Greek translation of this passage indicates that panta means “all” (versus “all other”)!  So when you’re talking with the folks from this group, point them to a copy of their own Interlinear Bible and ask them why there is such a discrepancy between it and their NWT.  They probably don’t even know that this discrepancy exists, and they deserve the opportunity to see this.

What is the significance of include [other] in these passages?

I’ve already mentioned it, but let me say it one more time to be thorough…if the Jehovah’s Witnesses are to maintain their teaching that Jesus is a created being, they must add to the text of Colossians 1.  If they don’t do this, they’re confronted with a passage that declares the deity of Christ, which their faith denies.

So the inclusion of [other] in these passages is highly significant.  It literally redefines who Christ is, and it’s necessary to point out this flaw in the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on your way to helping them see that Jesus is God.

What about Proverbs 8?

When I went through the problems with the NWT interpretation of Colossians 1, I was quickly pointed to Proverbs 8 as proof that Jesus was, indeed, created by God and was part of the effort to create all [other] things.  But does Proverbs 8 say what the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim?  Let’s wrap up today’s post by taking a look.  Below is the NIV version of Proverbs 8:22-31 (the NWT says much the same thing here, so I won’t quote it here):

22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
   before his deeds of old;
23 I was appointed from eternity,
   from the beginning, before the world began.
24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
   when there were no springs abounding with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
   before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the earth or its fields
   or any of the dust of the world.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
   when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
   and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
   so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
   rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
   and delighting in mankind.

Certainly it appears that this talks about God creating someone who was then present with Him during the creation of all other things.  But is that what Proverbs 8 really says?

First, let’s ask ourselves “who is speaking in Proverbs 8?”.  If we go up to the first of the chapter, we get our answer.  Here is what verses 1-4 say (also from the NIV):


1 Does not wisdom call out?
   Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 On the heights along the way,
   where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates leading into the city,
   at the entrances, she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O men, I call out;
   I raise my voice to all mankind.

So who is speaking in this chapter?  Wisdom!  This is poetic language in which wisdom is personified and speaks throughout the chapter.  And even if the Jehovah’s Witnesses want to claim that Jesus and Wisdom are somehow synonymous, notice that Wisdom is described as a woman…certainly, our Jehovah’s Witness friends would deny that Jesus is a woman.  But this is what Proverbs 8 clearly says!

There is one more problem that this verse poses for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Their theology states that God created Jesus and then Jesus created everything else (per Colossians 1).  But even if the interpretation of Proverbs 8 is as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, the verse clearly shows God to be the one who is directly at work in creation.  There is no sense in which God has handed over the responsibility of creation to Jesus (or, Wisdom).  In fact, Wisdom is merely there and watching as God does the creating.  So whichever way you go, this verse undermines the Jehovah’s Witness theology rather than supporting it.

In future posts I’ll talk more about this idea of God creating all things through Christ.

Until then…

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Deity of Christ–Part 1

In each of these posts, it is my intention to focus on one point, helping to lay out specific arguments to deal with the contention that Jesus is not God.  As I do this, my aim will be to refute the Jehovah’s Witness position that Jesus is a created being rather than a member of the Triune God (which they deny).

Is Jesus a False god?

In Ron Rhodes’ excellent book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he points out a very basic fact that needs to be kept in mind.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses will make the claim that Jehovah God is God, but Jesus is also “a god” (they attempt to distinguish between “mighty god” and “Almighty God”, but more on that in the future).

When confronted with this, a very simple question can set the stage for our conversations with them (and remember, our goal is to help point these people toward Jesus, not to try and win an argument or embarrass anyone…our goal is to love and help them, if possible).  The point can be conveyed in the following way:

Start by asking them to read John 17:1-3 (from NIV):

1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

In reading this verse, John clearly says that the Father is “the only true God”.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses you are speaking to will agree with this.

Once you get agreement on this verse, take them to John 1:1 (NIV), which says:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The New World Translation (NWT) will read differently than this verse.  It will say:

1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

NOTE: instead of saying “the Word was God”, their version says “the Word was a god”.  This points out the mistranslation of the NWT as I previously mentioned, but for our present purpose even their translation works (we’ll deal more with John 1 in a future post).

The obvious question that comes up at this point is to ask “who is John referring to as ‘the Word’?”  To see that, we only need to read a bit further in the chapter itself.  In verses 14 & 15, John says the following:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[d] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”

Clearly, John is telling us that ‘the Word’ is Jesus Christ himself (and the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t deny this).

So we’ve seen two things:

  1. John 1:1 says that Jesus (the Word) is God (or “a god” according to the NWT)
  2. John 17:3 says that God is “the only true God”

This leaves our friends with a dilemma.  According to orthodox Christianity, Jesus is literally God.  But according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is not God, but only “a god”.

According to Christian teaching, there is no contradiction between John 1 and John 17.  But if the Jehovah’s Witnesses want to claim that Jesus is not God (they believe he’s the archangel Michael…more on that in the future), then the following question becomes relevant:

“If John 17 says there is only one true God, and if Jesus is not God, then does this mean Jesus is a false god?”

According to the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no escape from this dilemma.  Either one of two things is true:

  • Jesus is the true God…but this means Jesus IS GOD
  • Jesus is a false god

The Jehovah’s Witnesses will certainly not want to claim that Jesus is a false god, but they also have to acknowledge that there is only one true God.  Even the NWT admits this!

Again, the goal here is not to harm others, or to try and simply win arguments.  Instead, the goal is to help these dearly loved people to see that their theology is not sustainable.  And while they may not ever turn away from the JW faith, as Christians who love and care for the lost it’s our duty to provide them things to think about when considering whether their faith is true or not.

Next time, I’ll continue to address this issue of the deity of Christ since it’s such a central theme to both of our faiths.

Until then…

Friday, June 3, 2011

Encountering the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Yesterday, I spent several hours studying with two people who showed up at my door representing the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  When these people come by, it’s my pattern to invite them in and let them engage me in a Bible study.  At the very least, it’s an opportunity for me to share with them my own faith, and I consider that a good thing.  As we talked, the topic inevitably turned to Jesus Christ.

The question that we grappled with yesterday, which is the same as in previous encounters with members of this group, was “Who is Jesus?”  For example, we looked at whether Jesus was a created being or not, and whether it is correct to worship Jesus as God.  We also spent some time talking about the Holy Spirit (who they believe is merely an active force and not a person), and whether the Christian theology of the Trinity is a Biblical one.

Because these questions are so essential to the Christian faith, and also because I’m convinced that so few Christians are prepared to respond to issues like this, I have decided to devote a number of posts to my conversation and the topics we covered.  In order to do this, my goal is to focus on the three areas I’ve just mentioned:

  • Is Jesus Christ God or merely a created being?
  • Is the Holy Spirit God or merely an active force?
  • Is the doctrine of the Trinity Biblical?

Let me say at the outset that I very much admire people such as the ones who came to my house.  They take time out of their lives to evangelize total strangers, and they are obviously caring and kind people (the two who were at my house yesterday were very kind people, even though we disagreed strongly on essential points of doctrine).  So I am not attempting to deride any person or group in this or future posts.  Instead, I am merely trying to state what I believe is the doctrinal position when it comes to these three areas.

In order to get this series started, however, I think it’s important to convey something of what this group appears to believe.  What I’ve listed below is what was told to me, or what I read in the publication they gave me entitled “What Does The Bible REALLY Teach?”. 

  • Jesus is the first created being (and, indeed, the only thing created by Jehovah God)
  • Jesus is not God and does not deserve our worship
  • Jesus is actually the archangel Michael
  • God did not directly create the universe.  Instead, He created Jesus and Jesus created everything else
  • While they will call Jesus ‘God’, they believe him to be “mighty god” while Jehovah alone is “almighty God”
  • Jesus only became Christ when he was baptized by John the Baptist
  • Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead…he was merely a spirit creature upon his resurrection
  • The Holy Spirit is merely an active force and is not a person

Given these positions, it goes without saying that they deny the doctrine of the Trinity and consider it to be a heretical teaching.

(NOTE: While I’m not going to list all of the JW resources that verify each of the beliefs I’ve listed here, you can find specific references for each of these things in Ron Rhodes’ excellent book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It continues to be one of my primary resources in preparing for my conversations, and in providing these posts)

Finally, let me say something about the version of the Bible used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This is a version known as the New World Translation (NWT).  And rather than being a translation, it’s more accurately described as a mistranslation since verses are changed throughout this version so that they “agree” with Jehovah’s Witness teachings.  An example of this is John 1:1.  See below how the NWT and other versions disagree on this important verse:

New International Version

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

English Standard Version

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Notice how these 3 popular versions of the Bible agree word-for-word.  But now look at how the New World Translation translates this verse:

New World Translation

John 1:1 – “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

Just from this one comparison, it’s easy to see how the NWT alters this important verse to ensure that Jesus is not viewed as God (he is only 'a god’ according to the NWT).  And here is the key point…no Greek scholar agrees with the NWT reading of John 1:1!  Even the Greek scholars they sometimes reference have publically denied that this is a legitimate wording for this passage.

What lesson can we take from this?  Simply that we can’t rely on the New World Translation as an accurate interpretation of scripture.  This version has been deliberately re-written in order to make the Bible seem to say what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach.

So when you engage with these people (as you surely should…they are dearly loved by God and deserve to learn the truth just as much as anyone), be aware that your version of the Bible is not the same as theirs.  Don’t take the NWT at face value.  Compare it with another one and you’ll see how different the readings are.

As I go through these upcoming posts, I’ll point out these differences where possible, and I’ll also try to reference places where their own translation supports the orthodox Christian view.  If you can point this out to them, then it goes a long way toward making the case that Christ was and is God.

That’s probably enough for now.  Starting with the next post, I’ll begin addressing the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Is he God or just a created being?

Until then…

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: “O” God

OGodBookI just completed the newest book by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett which focuses its attention on some of the spiritual teachings that have been advocated in recent years on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  The book deals with the works of several different authors that mostly emphasize New Age concepts. 

The works addressed in this book include those by Eckert Tolle, Rhonda Byrne, and A Course in Miracles International

This book has several things to recommend it.  First, it’s written as a novel and is not your standard book on Christian theology or apologetics.  Instead, you are invited to read about a brief period in the life of Lindsey and her friends.  Following the death of her father, Lindsey has a number of questions.  She is a fan of Oprah (both the show and the magazine), and has shaped much of her spiritual views around those advocated by Oprah Winfrey.  Lindsey’s friend, an Indian philosophy student named Avatari, is a Christian convert from Hinduism who engages Lindsey in dialog about her faith.  This sets the stage for a book that is reminiscent of The Shack (using a novel-like setting with fictional characters and events to allow for theologically-driven dialog).

As a novel, the situations are admittedly a bit contrived.  But I view these as necessary in order to allow for the characters to engage in the dialog which is the focus of the book.  As it turns out, the dialog is the second reason to read the book, and it’s perhaps the best reason.  By reading this book, one not only gets a good foundation in Christian doctrine to refute some of the New Age ideas espoused by Oprah, but it provides an opportunity for people that would like to share their faith to see what a dialog with one of their questioning friends might look like.

In so many books today, we are introduced to information that, while helpful, doesn’t really shows us how to use it in a conversation.  This is where “O” God excels.  It takes these foundational concepts and applies them to an imagined conversation between two friends.  In doing this, the reader is taught not only what to say, but how to say it.

The third thing I really like about this book is that it has a specific focus.  There are so many books you can pick up that try to cover many different topics.  But this one takes a direct look at the spirituality taught by Oprah and her friends, and it responds to these teachings in a succinct and straightforward manner.  For those who have watched the Oprah Winfrey show (and to hear the Nielsen ratings, that’s quite a lot!), this book provides direct responses to direct statements made both on the TV show and in the magazine.  And it does so in the form of a dialog that is easy to understand.

Finally, this book doesn’t assume a great deal of background knowledge in order to understand the theological points being made.  It takes the reader from where they are and gently offers a Biblical alternative to the teachings that are found within Oprah’s show and magazine.  This book knows its target audience, and it does a great job of speaking directly to it without becoming confusing or preachy.

If you’re a fan of Oprah’s spiritual ideas, or if you know someone who is, this book will provide a great resource for you.  It will give you a Biblical alternative to these teachings, and it will do so in an engaging and easily understood way.

Learning Apologetics-Part4: The Podcasts

To wrap up this brief series on the various apologetics resources I’ve found useful, I want to address my favorite one…the podcasts.  While reading books, articles, and blogs is extremely valuable, there is nothing quite like loading a podcast and listening to it as you commute to the office, as you go through your workday, or as you (hopefully) follow your daily exercise routine.

I’ve personally found that listening to podcasts not only has the benefit of teaching me new things, but it also focuses my mind as I prepare to engage in the day’s activities.  Because of this, and the wide range of settings where I can use them, using podcasts to learn apologetics has become one of my favorite things to do.

And the good news is that there are some truly excellent podcasts out there!  In fact, I just checked my iTunes player and I’ve got over 1500 podcasts queued up for me to listen to…yes, there are a few that are political in nature, but the majority of them are either philosophical, theological, or apologetic in nature.

Finding Podcasts

In many cases, you can find apologetics websites advertising their podcasts, showing you how to subscribe to them online.  But if you don’t find any of those, I’ve found it useful to go to the iTunes store (and I’m sure other devices such as Zune have similar ways to do this) and use a keyword search to find all sorts of free material to subscribe to.  When I search for content I tend to use keywords like: apologetics, theology, Christiany, philosophy or worldview.  By doing this, you should quickly find yourself with more material than you’ll have time for.

The Podcasts

To help sort through this list, here is my top-10 list of favorite podcasts:

  1. William Lane Craig’s Defenders Class – this is Dr. Craig’s weekly bible class, which he teaches at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  He records his class and makes it available online for those too far away to attend his class personally.  Dr. Craig’s class is easily the most influential of all of the podcasts on this list.  It serves as an ongoing “college level” class that goes into great depth on all subjects related to Christian theology, apologetics, and (in many cases) philosophy and even science.  Don’t let the depth of content scare you, however.  He makes this material accessible to the layman who has no formal background in any of these subjects!
  2. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith – while I’m on the subject of Dr. Craig’s podcasts, I want to make sure I don’t forget this additional podcast.  Unlike his Defenders class, this podcast is a series of conversations between William Lane Craig and Kevin Harris (and the occasional guest) on a wide variety of topics related to theology and apologetics.  Here, Dr. Craig addresses current events and the things his ministry is engaged in, as well as addressing theological/apologetics topics and answering questions from his listeners.
  3. Let My People Think – You can listen to the sermons and lectures of Ravi Zacharias each week via this podcast.  And if you don’t know Ravi, you’re in for a huge treat.  Ravi’s lectures are both informative and very inspirational.  Coming from India and having traveled the world extensively, he is both very compassionate and highly educated.  His lectures appeal to both believers and non-believers as he makes the case for the Christian worldview
  4. The Theology Program – This series of podcasts (also available as a series of videos you can purchase and share with your local congregation) is intended to give listeners a firm grounding in Systematic Theology. 
  5. Unbelievable? – This weekly podcast is tied to a radio program broadcast in the UK every Saturday.  Justin Brierley, the host of the show, selects a topic related to theology or apologetics and invites someone from each side of the issue onto the show for a discussion.  Each week, these people engage in a respectful debate on the selected topic.  Because this program offers both sides of each issue, it’s a wonderful way to learn about various topics, get the chance to hear scholars you may never have known about, and hear conversations that may help you when engaging unbelievers on your own.
  6. Stand To Reason – Each week, Greg Koukl hosts a radio call-in program in which he deals with the questions his listeners raise regarding Christian theology and apologetics.  His shows feature a selected topic, and may include interviews of scholars related to that topic, in addition to the call-in portion of the program.
  7. Please Convince Me – This podcast deals with all manner of topics related to apologetics.  This particular program advertises itself as the only one hosted by a “cold case homicide detective”.  Wallace is an excellent speaker, reasoning effectively on different topics on each week’s program.
  8. Cross Examined – Frank Turek is the co-author of the extremely popular book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  He travels around the country lecturing on this topic, and now runs his own radio and TV show related to Christian apologetics.  Turek is an engaging speaker, well versed with the questions raised by non-believers and able to offer reasoned responses to those questions.
  9. I Didn’t Know That – This podcast is tied to Hugh Ross’ ministry and offers a scientific perspective on Christian apologetics.  Working to demonstrate how science and Christianity are partners rather than enemies, Ross and his organization Reasons To Believe offer some excellent information for those seeking answers about science that are raised by the non-believing community.
  10. Weekly Radio Show – Finally, I need to make sure I don’t overlook the excellent weekly broadcast happening over at  This program also focuses on a wide variety of topics related to Christian apologetics, and they do so in a fun, engaging way.

Just from this list, you can see that there are many resources available for your listening and viewing enjoyment.  The podcasts I’ve selected are ones that I have found to be informative, interesting, and helpful in providing a reasoned defense to the questions being raised by the unbelieving community around us.

Hopefully this series on the apologetics resources I’ve found helpful was enlightening and useful.  Next time I’ll continue with additional topics related to Christian theology and apologetics.

Until then…

Monday, May 30, 2011

Learning Apologetics–Part 3: The Blogs

One resource that many overlook, but which provides some truly excellent content, is the various blogs written by Christian apologists.  With the ability to subscribe to the information being posted within the blogging community, this category of resources is almost like receiving free apologetics-related emails every day.

In this post, I’m going to I’ll introduce you to the tool I use to keep track of these blogs, and then I’ll list a number of the blogs I personally follow (which is certainly not all of them).

Blogging Tools

There are many different readers that are available for you to use for free to help you keep track of the blogs you want to follow.  These include such tools as the following:

  • Google Reader
  • NewsGator
  • FeedDemon 

Depending on your preference, you can select one of these tools and use it to set up news feeds of the blogs that interest you.  As new blog posts are released, your chosen reader will update automatically so that you can keep track of the latest from your chosen sites.


The tool I use is FeedDemon (the latest version allows synchronization with Google Reader).  It’s free, quick to download, and easy to use. 

The download site for FeedDemon is:

The Blogs

First, let me recommend a new group that’s recently been started called the Christian Apologetics Alliance.  It’s a collection of blogs by Christian apologists, and it’s growing all the time.  As a single source to locate blogs devoted to Christian apologetics and theology, this is a great place to start.

Beyond this group, of which my blog is a part, there are some excellent blogs that everyone should be following on a regular basis.  As always, it’s impossible to list every blog out there and there are undoubtedly excellent ones I’m not even aware of.  The ones below are sort of a top-10 list of the blogs that I consider essentials for anyone beginning to study apologetics:

  1. Apologetics 315 – This is probably the most complete source of apologetics material on the internet.  The owner of this site puts out daily updates, including podcasts, articles, quotes, and valuable links of all sorts.  If you only go to one blog site, this is the one for you.  I can’t say enough good things about it.
  2. Parchment & Pen – This blog is by the folks over at Credo House that bring you the Theology Program, and as such it’s focused more on theology than apologetics.  But given that doing apologetics requires a deep understanding of theology, I consider this blog to be essential reading.
  3. J.P. Moreland’s Blog – While this site doesn’t (yet) contain as much content as some others will, J.P. Moreland is one of the leading Christian Apologists in the field today.  As such, when he speaks it’s always beneficial to listen.
  4. William Lane Craig’s Weekly Q&A – For those of you who are unfamiliar with William Lane Craig, he is perhaps the leading Christian apologist working today.  His site Reasonable Faith is a virtual warehouse of information, all related to his ministry.  Though Dr. Craig doesn’t write a standard blog, he does allow his members to send in questions, and each week he chooses a particular question to answer.  He archives them so you can read every questions to which he’s responded, and in many (most?) cases you can find the questions you’re grappling with already dealt with.
  5. Stand to Reason – This blog is part of Greg Koukl’s “Stand to Reason” ministry.  This ministry is one of the most influential groups working in Christian apologetics today.  As a published author and lecturer, Greg also hosts a weekly radio call-in show that is available either online or via podcast.  He is very influential in training new apologists in not only what to say, but how to say it.
  6. Edward Feser’s Blog – This blog may surprise some, since Feser is not regularly listed among the top apologetics websites.  I admit that I found Feser by accident when I picked up his book “Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind”.  I wasn’t aware he was a Christian, but as I read the book it became obvious that this was his orientation.  After finishing that book, I checked up on him and found that he’s written a number of other books (including an excellent apologetics book called “The Last Superstition”) and also manages a very informative blog.  Especially if you’re interested in a philosopher’s view of things, this is a great blog to check out.
  7. Stephen C. Meyer’s Blog – I include this blog because Meyer is one of the leaders in the Intelligent Design movement, and his thoughts in this area should be something that any Christian interested in ID should be aware of.  If you’re not interested in Intelligent Design, or you don’t understand it, I’d encourage you to check out Meyer’s book “Signature in the Cell” before you make your final decision.
  8. Reasons to Believe Blogs – this is a family of blogs made available by Hugh Ross’ Reasons to Believe organization.  Focusing on how science and Christianity are partners rather than enemies, these blogs do a good job of addressing various science-related topics from the perspective of the Christian Worldview.
  9. Alpha and Omega – James White runs an excellent ministry over at Alpha and Omega ministries.  He is an excellent writer and speaker, and also regularly engages in debates with atheists and others who would challenge Orthodox Christianity.  His blog is often directly related to his radio program, with many video clips so you can watch rather than read.
  10. The Poached Egg Apologetics – If you want a blog site that has lots of content, this is another great one.  Because this site is composed of multiple authors, it is able to turn out a large quantity of excellent material on a regular basis.  Not only that, but it’s one of the best looking sites I’ve seen.

At this point, we’ve covered most of the basic resources that will help you as you begin to study Christian apologetics.  In the 4th and final part of this series, I’ll recommend a few podcasts that will be useful in helping you round out your self-study.

Until then…

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Learning Apologetics: Part 2–The Websites


In Part 1 of this series, I provided a list of books that I have found useful in learning about Christian apologetics.  In Part 2 I will be focusing on the websites that continue to be very useful to me in my study of the topics of apologetics and theology.

As before, this is in no way an exhaustive list and I’m sure I’ll end up overlooking some resources that are excellent.  But these should provide a good foundation and (hopefully) will encourage everyone to seek out additional sites of this sort.

While it’s not easy to list these sites by difficulty as I did with the books, I have endeavored to categorize them by their primary focus.

General Apologetics

Christianity and Science

Jesus Christ and the Resurrection

Philosophy and Ethics

Christian Theology

The Bible


Atheist Sites

While this category might seem to be a bit misplaced, it isn’t.  In order to truly understand the positions that the other side will take, it’s important to read what they’re writing.  While there are many non-believer websites, the following list is considered to be “essential reading” if you want an understanding of where our non-believing friends are coming from.

In the next part of this series, I’ll focus on some of the blog sites available to related to Christian apologetics.

Until then!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Learning Apologetics: Part 1-The Books

Today, I thought I'd start a multi-part series to share some of the material that has been helpful to me in my study of Christian apologetics. For those who don't know what apologetics is, it's derived from the Greek word apologia which, according to Wikipedia, defined as "giving a defense". When the Christian engages in apologetics, he or she is seeking to give a defense for his Christian faith.

When I began looking into this topic several years ago, I had no idea how much depth there was to it or how many resources I would end up going through in my studies. In retrospect, I realize how much I would have benefited from a list of the different resources available to me. With that in mind, I've decided to provide a list of some of the resources that have been influential to me. This is by no means a complete list, and it's growing all the time. But it will hopefully give an idea of what's out there, and will provide a good start for anyone seeking to begin their own course of study.

In Part 1, I have decided to focus exclusively on the books that been helpful to me. In future posts, I’ll look at other types of resources such as websites, videos and podcasts.

For clarity, I’ve broken down the books by topic and complexity. If you’re new to this topic, you might want to start with the less complex material and go from there.


  • 100 = Introductory
  • 200 = Intermediate
  • 300 = Advanced


  • General Apologetics
    • Level 100
      • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
      • The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
      • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek
      • Why I Am A Christian edited by Norman Geisler
      • Who Made God? edited by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler
      • The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists by Ravi Zacharias
      • The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias
      • Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig
      • Passionate Convictions edited by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan
      • Contending with Christianity’s Critics edited by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan
      • The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister McGrath
      • Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith by Alister McGrath
      • Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths by Alister McGrath
      • Why Good Arguments Often Fail by James Sire
      • Why You Think The Way You Do by Glenn Sunshine
      • Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
      • Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey
      • The God Conversation by J.P. Moreland
    • Level 200
      • Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler
      • Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
      • Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists by J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen
      • Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Rational Christianity by J.P. Moreland
      • The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer
      • Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer
      • He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer
      • Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft
      • There Is A God by Antony Flew
      • Why There Almost Certainly Is a God by Keith Ward
    • Level 300
      • The Existence of God by Richard Swinburne
      • Is There a God? By Richard Swinburne
      • God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification for the Belief in God by Alvin Plantinga
  • God and Science
    • Level 100
      • The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
      • Why the Universe Is The Way It Is by Hugh Ross
      • The Fingerprints of God by Hugh Ross
      • Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath
      • A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology by Alister McGrath
      • Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson
      • Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells
      • The Soul of Science by Nancy Pearcey & Charles Thaxton
    • Level 200
      • Time and Eternity by William Lane Craig
      • God, Chance and Necessity by Keith Ward
      • Creation Out of Nothing by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan
      • Creation and Time by Hugh Ross
      • The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross
      • Intelligent Design by William Dembski
      • Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer
      • Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe
      • The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe
      • Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder
      • The Hidden Face of God by Gerald Schroeder
      • The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder
      • Science and its Limits by Del Ratzsch
      • Christianity and the Nature of Science by J.P. Moreland
  • Miracles
    • Level 100
      • Miracles by C.S. Lewis
      • Miracles and the Modern Mind by Norman Geisler
    • Level 200
      • In Defense of Miracles edited by Douglas Geivett & Gary Habermas
    • Level 300
      • Hume’s Abject Failure by John Earman
  • Naturalism & the Existence of the Soul
    • Level 100
      • The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard & Denyse O’Leary
      • The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz & Sharon Begley
    • Level 200
      • Does it Matter? By Graham Dunstan Martin
      • Mind and Body by J.P. Moreland
    • Level 300
      • The Recalcitrant Imago Dei by J.P. Moreland
      • The Evolution of the Soul by Richard Swinburne
      • Naturalism by Stewart Goetz & Charles Taliaferro
      • The Waning of Materialism edited by Robert Koons & George Bealer
  • The Problem of Evil and Suffering
    • Level 100
      • The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
      • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
      • Deliver Us From Evil by Ravi Zacharias
      • What’s Good About Feeling Bad by Gary Habermas and John C. Thomas
      • Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft
      • If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn
    • Level 200
      • Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright
      • Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
      • Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and the Canaanite Genocide edited by Stanley Gundry
    • Level 300
      • Providence and the Problem of Evil by Richard Swinburne
      • God, Freedom and Evil by Alvin Plantinga
  • Right and Wrong (Ethics)
    • Level 100
      • Can Man Live Without God? By Ravi Zacharias
      • How Then Should We Live? By Francis Schaeffer
      • The Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer
      • Making Choices by Peter Kreeft
      • Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft
      • Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics by Steve Wilkens
    • Level 200
      • Christian Ethics by Norman Geisler
      • Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions by Arthur F. Holmes
  • The Reliability of Scripture
    • Level 100
      • The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? By F.F. Bruce
      • How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot
      • The Origin of the Bible by FF. Bruce and others
      • Searching for the Original Bible by Randall Price
      • The Stones Cry Out by Randall Price
      • Is the Bible True? By Jeffrey L. Sheler
      • Can We Trust the Gospels? By Mark D. Roberts
      • Misquoting Truth by Timothy Paul Jones
      • Why You Can Have Confidence in the Bible by Harold J. Sala
      • Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan
    • Level 200
      • The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg
      • The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce
      • Inerrancy by Norman Geisler
  • The Life and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
    • Level 100
      • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
      • The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
      • The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus by Gary Habermas
      • The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona
      • Who Moved the Stone? By Frank Morison
      • Dethroning Jesus by Darrell Bock and Craig Wallace
      • The Real Jesus by Luke Timothy Johnson
      • Reinventing Jesus by Daniel Wallace, James Sawyer, & Ed Komoszewski
      • The Jesus Who Never Lived by H. Wayne House
    • Level 200
      • What Have They Done With Jesus? By Ben Witherington III
      • Jesus Under Fire by J.P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff
      • Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright
      • The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
      • The Jesus Legend by Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd
      • Jesus In An Age of Controversy Doug Groothuis
      • The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright
      • The Historical Jesus: Five Views edited by James Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy
      • The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Mike Licona
  • Christian Philosophy & Cultural Relativism
    • Level 100
      • Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
      • Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans: An Introduction to Key Thinkers and Philosophies by Steve Wilkens
      • Postmodernism 101 by Heath White
      • Philosophy 101 by Peter Kreeft
      • Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukle and Francis Beckwith
      • Kingdom Triangle by J.P. Moreland
      • Reason in the Balance by Philip Johnson
      • The Wedge of Truth by Philip Johnson
    • Level 200
      • Philosophy of Religion by C. Stephen Evans and R. Zachary Manis
      • Habits of the Mind by James Sire
      • Truth or Consequences by Millard Erickson
      • Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective by Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg
      • Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous by M. Jay Wood
      • Metaphysics: Constructing a World View by William Hasker
    • Level 300
      • Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland
      • Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
      • Warrant and Proper Function by Alvin Plantinga
      • The Nature of Necessity by Alvin Plantinga
      • The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne

There is little doubt that I’ve left out many great books which are definitely worth everyone’s attention. Please don’t look at this as an exhaustive list. It’s purpose is to provide a starting point rather than a complete list of everything available.

In the next post, I’ll focus on some of the best Christian apologetics websites. Until then…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Why There Almost Certainly Is a God

Numerous books have been written in response to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Keith Ward's contribution to this topic is brief (only 149 pages), but offers a convincing refutation to several of Dawkins' main points.

The book begins by addressing the idea that God, as the creator of the universe, must be more complex than his creation. Dawkins' assumption seems to be that God would have had to evolve as any other living creature has, and that this makes God's non-existence a virtual certainty (it also allows Dawkin's to ask "Who made God?").

Part of Dawkins' argument is the position that matter is fundamental to reality, which Ward challenges at the outset of his response. He points out that no one is even sure what matter is, and then proceeds to build his case that 'mind is the ultimate reality. This is nicely summed up in the following quote from page 20 of Ward's book:

Obviously such arguments will not work if you simply assume that materialism
is true. Then you will see the arguments as starting from a purely physical universe, and magically arriving at God as an extra entity just outside the universe, or snuffling around its boundary, who is made of very thin supernatural matter, and needs just as much explanation as the universe does. That seems to be exactly how Dawkins sees the arguments for God. No wonder he thinks he can dispose of them quite easily!

Arguments for God do not work like that. They are arguments to show that mind is the ultimate reality, and that materialism is a delusion caused by a misuse of modern science. The arguments do not 'prove' that there is one extra pseudo-physical thing in or just outside the universe. They provide good reason for thinking the
ultimate character of the universe is mind, and that matter is the appearance or manifestation or creation of cosmic mind.

The remainder of the book is Ward's case that the 'ultimate character of the universe is mind'. And to make his case, he addresses the idea of God as an unembodied mind that is not composed of parts, and is thus not complex (Divine Simplicity). He also talks about issues such as the multiverse, which is very popular as an ultimate explanation by materialists.

While Ward is happy to admit the existence of the multiverse, he describes this as all possible worlds existing in the mind of God. And while all possible worlds may exist in God's mind (including universes in which horrific evils prevail), only those universes that can be characterized as good will ever be actualized (or brought into actual existence).

There is a brief mention of Anselm's Ontological Argument, with Ward making the point that while this argument doesn't prove God's existence it does require one of two conclusions. Either God is necessary (in the sense that He must exist) or the very concept of God is logically incoherent, thus He cannot exist. According to Ward, there is no middle ground.

The book concludes that God's existence is both logically coherent and necessary. As he describes it, if the universe is coherent then it calls for an explanation. And if it has an explanation, that explanation will be personal in nature. God's existence is not only necessary, but with God we have a personal explanation that renders the universe purposeful and explainable.

While this is only a short book, it is quite dense with some excellent thoughts by a great Christian theologian and philosopher. It serves as an excellent addition to the growing body of literature that offers convincing responses to the claims of Dawkins and his fellow atheists.

Are Infants Atheists?

Today, many non-believers define atheism as lacking a belief in a god. The problem with this definition is that on this view babies and animals and even rocks or furniture would qualify as atheists! While most would tell you that calling a rock an atheist is a bit of a stretch, many of them would tell you that atheism is the default position, and would contend that infants do meet the standard as being atheists.

In light of this, a 2008 article from an Australian newspaper known as The Age is quite interesting. The article notes the work of Dr. Olivera Petrovich from Oxford University. In Dr. Petrovich's study, there was evidence that the belief in God exist within us from the start. The link below takes you to the full article:

Infants 'have natural belief in God'

As Dr. Petrovich concludes, "atheism is definitely an acquired position".