Defending the Faith Part 2

Christ Putnam of uploaded by LogosApologia

Some notes from Chris Putnam, from the video at bottom of post:

No matter how much someone believes this idea, this relativism, nobody lives this way, because what you do is you find something that is near and dear to them, like their wallet. And you say, „Well, what if your boss’s individual truth is that you only worked 20 hours this week, but, your truth was that you worked 40. How would you feel about that. Would those both be true? In India, relativism is very big, and Ravi Zacharias has a great one liner. He says, „Even in India, we look both ways before we cross the street. It’s either the bus or me. The idea is that if one thing is true, the opposite is false. This is the law of noncontradiction. It’s unforgiving, and it’s true in all cases. The idea is to find some real world examples when someone is giving you this relativism proposition. Such as: Would you like your surgeon to have his own individual absolute truth? I don’t think so. When you go to a doctor, you want someone that’s objective.

The Law on Non-Contradiction

street evangelismThis is the law that something cannot be both true and untrue, at the same time, and when dealing in the same context. In the law of non-contradiction, we have a set of statements about a subject, we cannot have the same set that negate it, the truth of the statement in the same set. Some things are contradictions, some aren’t. Like in the Bible, one that skeptics try to bring up is the fact that Judas hung himself. And in another Gospel, it says Judas fell down and his bowels spilled out. This is not a case of contradiction because neither statement about Jesus contradicts the other. Because if it was gonna be that, it would be ‘Judas hung himself’- ‘Judas didn’t hang himself’. But, it doesn’t say that, it’s really not a contradiction. It has to be in the same category. You could easily think of a scenario where he hung himself, and then his bowels spilled out- and that’s not a contradiction. So, it’s important to see the distinction that they cannot both be true, at the same time, when dealing in the same context. So, context is part of the equation.

The suicide tactic (self refuting statements)

This takes advantage of the fact that unbelievers often commit intellectual suicide- that is they refute themselves. These views are what we call ‘necessarily false’. There’s no possible worlds where we can imagine this. It defeats itself, it commits suicide. Suppose someone would say to you, „You can’t know anything for sure.” „Are you sure about that?” Or, „You can never know the truth about religion.” „Well, how did you come to that truth about religion?” Some are pretty funny, like, „Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Or, „I used to believe in reincarnation, but, that was in a former life.” There is a website , go work on some of those questions and it’s a good one to send to some of your skeptic friends. So, the suicide tactic takes advantage of the fact that two contradictory statements cannot be true at the same time. How to recognize if a point of view commits suicide:

  1. Identify the basic premise
  2. Does the claim undermine itself?

Sometime it’s not immediately obvious. Consider this one, that comes up around election time. Say you have a non Christian liberal leaning friend who criticizes you by saying this, „God doesn’t take sides in politics”. You can use your Columbo tactic and ask, „What do you mean by that?” „Well, God doesn’t take sides.” Then you can ask him, „Well, how do you think God feels about that?” Again he says, „God doesn’t take sides.” And you say, „Okay, so if we were to ask God about this, he owuld agree with you, right?” He would say, „Yes”. „Oh, so God would be on your side?” Here is where it is internally contradictory. Sometimes it’s tricky like that, it’s hidden inside the statement, so you have to think about it for a while. Like we were saying yesterday (in part 1) you don’t have to answer right away, you can just say, „I wanna go home and think about it.”

Do you see the internal contradictions here?

  • It’s wrong to try to change other people’s religious beliefs. Well, what is a Christian person’s belief? We have the great commission, we believe in evangelizing people and reaching the lost, , so they’re trying to change our religious belief. So, if it’s wrong, why are you trying to change my belief? We have a contradiction here.
  • All religions are equally true and valid. This one is not self evident. But, if you think through: What do CHristians believe, and this is the part of how it works. You have to know what you believe, in order to defend it, and that’s the mind set I’m trying to get you in. I know you guys know these things, but, you’re just not used to thinking in this way. So, if all religions are true, then Christianity is true. But, the essential claim of Christianity is that all the other religions are not true, that they’re false. You violate the first commandment, „You shall have no other Gods before me”. So, if our religion is true, then they (the other religions) can’t be true. So, either Christianity is true and the others are false, or vice versa. Either way, all religions cannot be true.
  • You can only know what has been proven by science. This is the big one, that most atheists and skeptics will come out with. You have to ask: Does this claim meet its own standard of truth? Now, did they arrive at this statement through a scientific method? What kind of experiments did they do to know that you can only know what’s proven through science? None. It implies that the speaker knows something that wasn’t proven by science. It self destructs because they didn’t use the scientific method to come up with this truth. So, if only science can teach us what we know, this is something we know science didn’t teach us. So, it’s internally contradictory. I like science. I studied computer science my first time through. I took physics and chemistry, and I read some of the things the new atheists say, and you get the idea that they think that science has proven that miracles are not possible, and that science has debunked the claims of the Bible. This is called a category error in logic, in philosophy. Here’s a good illustration. Can you weigh a chicken with a yardstick. No, you can’t do that. The yard stick is made for measuring length. But, does that mean the chicken has no weight? No. What I’m getting at is that science, by design, measures physical properties in a natural world. By category, it doesn’t deal with anything supernatural. It excludes that before it even starts. So, how can it disprove something it cannot even try to measure. It’s really like trying to measure a chicken’s weight with a yard stick. It really doesn’t even have anything to say about it. (14:35)
  • There is no truth. First thing you wanna do is turn this into a question and ask, „Why should I believe that?” Is that a true claim? This is a post modern claim that denies that we can know real truth about anything. We can’t know truth, but we know this *the statement that there is no truth) to be true. It can’t work. Resolve of the debate: Objective truth exists and we can know it. It’s what corresponds to reality. It tells it like it is, it describes the actual state of affairs. Jesus actually gave a reason why He came into the world, in the Gospel of John. Our biblical postmodernist Pontius Pilate was confronting Jesus and he said, „So are you a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 So, this concept of truth is foundational to the Gospel. If you think about what a clever strategy of Satan’s, this idea of postmodernism is, because, more than denying that we need a Savior, or denying the existence of God, this just pulls the rug right from under everything. If there’s no truth, you can’t really believe in anything. That really undermines the Gospel in a big way. (16:35)

Francis Schaeffer – Taking the Roof Off

Atheists and unbelievers are living in a world with a logical fallacy with a false idea in their worldview. And our job is to find it. Point of fact: Man is made in the image of God. We must live in the world that God created. So, every person who is a non theist must live with some contradiction, because what he believes is not actually true. In a real sense, every man who denies God is living on borrowed capital. He enjoys living in a world that is full of morality, meaning, order, beauty. Yet, he denies the God who grants these things and makes them possible. Because of this, non Christians live this contradictory world which creates a point of tension between what they believe and what is actually true. Man has erected a subconscious self deception. As Francis Schaeffer puts it, it’s a roof  to protect him from considering the consequences of his beliefs. So, your goal is to expose and remove the roof, to expose the fraud and deprive him of that false sense of security.

Schaeffer„Every man has built a roof over his head to shield himself at the point of tension…The Christian lovingly, must remove the shelter and allow the truth of the external world and of what man is to beat upon him. When the roof if off, each man must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is…He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is.” Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There, in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 1:140-41. So when you find the place where the point of tension exists, you exploit it gently, but directly. This is where a well place question, like the third one in the Columbo tactic can be very effective. Your goal is to cause him a little bit of pain, and push him off balance, but, it’s to direct him towards the truth.

The taking the roof off tactic:

  1. Adopt the other person’s point of view (for the sake of argument).
  2. Press their view to the logical and absurd consequence. In latin – Reductio ad absurdum – argument from absurdity.(19:10) Ask, if this were true, what would be the consequence of this view?
  3. Invite them to consider the implications of this view.

Now, one that’s really hot right now- consider homosexuality. The world would have us celebrate is acceptable and as a healthy expression of  sexuality. So, let’s take the roof off that belief, let’s reduce it to its basic premise that – homosexuality is a healthy expression of sexuality. Now, let’s follow that premise consistently. Suppose that everyone in the world was to adopt it. What were to occur if we did that? The human race would cease to exist within one lifetime. What does that tell us about the basic principle? It can’t be healthy if it kills the human race.

The Steamroller

Have you ever gotten into a discussion where  a person will not let you get in a word?  There is a tactical way to deal with that. What is the steamroller? It is people who overpower you with the force of their personality. They have strong opinions and big mouths. They mean to keep you off balance. They put you on the defensive by overwhelming you with facts, lots of noise. They come off fast and furious, keeping you from collecting your wits and getting a thoughtful answer. So, how do you deal with these people. The steamroller characteristic is that they are constantly interrupting you.

3 steps in dealing with a steamroller:

  1. Stop the interruption graciously, but firmly and negotiate an agreement. Now, you might just have to let them go for awhile. Don’t try to jump in and interrupt them. Many times, you can just hold up your hand and interrupt them. Say, „Hey, I wasn’t quite finished yet.” Or ask for a little more time, ” Hold on a minute, I need a little more time. You asked a good question and you deserve an answer. Are you interested in what I have to say? Can you wait?” If they are especially aggressive, calmly wait for an opening. Don’t try to talk over them, just let them have their run. And then, here’s the real crux on how to deal with a person like this. You negotiate an agreement with them and you have to be real specific. You ask them to give you something -patience, so you can give them something in return, the opportunity to respond to a question. One way you might respond is, „Is it okay for you, if I take a few moments to answer your question, before you ask another one? Then, I’ll give you a chance to ask another one, when I get done.” You’re negotiating some terms, is the idea I want you to get in mind. Or, you can say, „I know it’s a lot easier to ask hard questions, than to listen to hard answers. But, I need a moment to explain myself. Is that okay?” Or, „Let me answer your first challenge, when I’m done you can jump in again. Is that okay?” Or, „That’s a good question, that deserves a good answer. Let me try to give you one.” The idea is to ask them for their permission and come to an agreement.
  2. Shame them. We’re dealing with a steamroller personality, and the best thing is to show them they agreed to listen to your answer, yet they violated it again.
  3. Leave them. A lot of times this is not going to work, so that is when you leave them. When all fails, leave them. If they won’t let you answer, listen politely, let them have the last word and just walk away. Wisdom dictates that you’re not gonna waste your time with someone that’s gonna be a fool. And Jesus told us not to cast our pearls before swine. In Luke 9 he said, „And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town, shake the dust off your feet, as a testimony against them.” There’s a point where that becomes necessary.

But, here’s the little 3 step process, and a lot of times it works. Most people do have a sense of politeness, but, they just get excited. And, not every steam roller is a ‘pearls before swine’ situation. But, a lot of times, by the second time that you bring out the agreement that they violated, the shame factor does work.

The guy I learned these techniques from is Greg Koukl, and his website is Stand to Reason He has a 3 hour radio show, in the afternoons, in the Los Angeles area, and he gets all kinds of calls with Bible questions, theology, apologetics, and he uses this all the time. The main idea in how to debate is to keep asking questions, and putting the other person on the defensive- because they are making the claims, and they need to prove them, and not shift the burden on  you.

Prepare for encounters

  1. street evangelizeKnow your Bible
  2. Study these tactics.
  3. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You will get better, and remember, we’re not trying to win arguments, we’re trying to win people.
  4. Don’t be discouraged by outward appearances. Don’t be afraid. You don’t always have to hit home runs. Ask them, „Let me think about it. Just give me your reasons for what you think… I mean, this is the first time I’ve heard this. I’d like to go home and think about it.”

Matthew 10:16 – Jesus said, „Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” That tells us right there, that the ‘wise as serpents’ is a tactical approach. This is our great commission. This is what the Lord told us to do, to be ambassadors.So practice this, and think about the things you say to people, and how it went, and maybe write some of this down. If you have a friend (or a family member), that has a certain belief, go look up some things about them. If you have a hindu friend, they believe in some 30 million gods. Did you know that? But, you would have to be able to answer his questions (Chris gives an example of what to ask at the 37th minute). Hindus also believe in Karma. They believe that everything bad that happens to you in this life is the result of something you did in another life. But, they don’t believe in original sin, which is what we believe in. We don’t believe in karma, but, we believe in a sin nature. We believe that we inherited Adam’s sin, and that we’re all under a curse. The problem with karma is that, if you don’t have an original sin, then where did the first one start? The first evil act can’t be the result of karma, because there was no original sin. It is incoherent, because there is no way to start it (karma). If you look at what they believe, they have an endless cycle of time going back in history and it’s completely irrational.

What I was telling you earlier is that people who don’t believe always violate one of these laws of logic. Another law of logic that is foundational is called the law of causality. This is where the cosmological proof for the existence of God comes from. It says that everything that begins to exist, every effect has a cause. So, you can’t have an infinite regress. You can’t have an endless cycle. That’s irrational. So, if everything that begins to exist has a cause, and even all the atheistic sciences will tell you that they believe in a thing called the big bang. Well, the big bang needs a banger. You can’t deny causality. If something begins to exist, and the universe began to exist, even all physicists say this. And so, they come up with irrational explanations. They say it came to exist from nothing. If you read Stephen Hawking’s newest book, he basically tries to say that nothing isn’t really nothing. All the equations say there was nothing and then there was everything. Now, they wanna say: Nothing is really not nothing. It’s this mix of matter and anti-matter, and these particles reacted. But, wait a minute. Where did the matter in anti-matter come from? That’s not nothing. They always deny something. It’s either – you can’t deny causality, so they change the definition of nothing. There’s always something incoherent in there. Usually, you can discover it. (photo via

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. This is a great apologetic. If you look at other world religions, especially at Islam, Islam believes that Allah has a big scale, where he weighs the evil and the good in men’s hearts. And, if your good is more than the evil, then you get to go to heaven. And, in all other world religions you are judged by your works. That can make sense, because as people, don’t we like to believe that we deserve what we are getting? We have human pride, and part of it is our sin nature, and some of it is legitimate, but, to me, I can’t see how men could have come up with this doctrine of grace. If the skeptics idea is true, that these guys sat around and wrote the New Testament, just made this up, why would they make up something like: By grace you have been saved. It doesn’t make sense that men made that up. I think it came from God. Because men like to earn it, they like to show off. They like to take pride and say, „Hey, I deserve to go to heaven.” You know what? I don’t. It’s only by the blood of Jesus that I’m getting there. Everyone that’s honest would admit that. But, does that make sense that anybody would make that up? I don’t think so. Just look at the Pharisees. That was the whole thing with Jesus and the Pharisees. So, I think grace is an authentication, because only God would come up with that. I don’t think we would be capable of it, we’re too obsessed with it, in our pride.

By the way, faith is not believing in something that you have no evidence for, faith is more like trust. We trust in Jesus Christ.

Chris Putnam – Chris also recommends:

  1. William Fay’s book – How to Share Jesus without fear. This is an evangelism type book. Fay gives a list of questions you could ask, to open dialogue with someone, such as: Do you have any spiritual beliefs? Or, Who is Jesus to you?
  2. Lee Strobel’s books and videos- The case for a Creator, The case for Christ, The case for Faith – it’s a great introduction to a lot of these topics.
  3. Josh McDowell is also another entry level resource
  4. Also, William Lane Craig, a philosopher, and one of the sharpest minds of Christianity right now. Look for his videos on Youtube. He debates a lot of atheists.
  5. Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason
  6. Walter Martin – one of the early apologists, started in the 70’s, debated on Donahue a lot- website – He debated atheist, wiccan witches, he has some materials on Youtube videos. His daughter, CIndy Morgan, posts a lot of his work on a youtube channel of hers here-


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