Be Ready

Without God, Nothin': Why Atheists Steal from their Creator

By Warren Leigh

Back in 2001, the popular Christian hard rock/rap band P.O.D. released a song on their album Satellite titled "Without Jah, Nothin'" featuring guest vocalist Eek-A-Mouse. Although from a musical standpoint the song was even worse than it sounds, it made a massive theological and philosophical point, a point that I don't believe was even fully realized by the band members themselves. The name "Jah," of course, is an abbreviated form of God's own personal name, Yahweh, usually translated "LORD" in the vast majority of English Bible translations. The song's lyrics proclaim the fact that without God, Christians are no different from the unbeliever—everything good about us is entirely the work of God. This is absolutely true, but I want to argue here that, if we are to be both biblically faithful and truly effective in our apologetic method, then we must take the statement "Without God, NOTHING" and apply it to the whole of reality.

Stealing from God, by Frank Turek
Stealing from God, by Frank Turek

At the recent Be Ready 2016 conference, Frank Turek delivered a message titled "Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case," based on his book of the same title. In both the talk and the book, Turek demonstrates that even the most articulate and well-educated atheists (e.g. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the like) cannot argue their case without constantly stealing ideas and terminology from theism, particularly Christian theism. Other Christian apologists and thinkers, such as Greg Koukl, have observed the same thing.

While arguing that there is no such thing as evil, Richard Dawkins writes his famous laundry list of adjectives in The God Delusion describing how evil and horrible the God of the Old Testament is.[1] However, the question that almost never seems to get asked is, "Why must atheists do this?" "Must" they do it? In order to answer these questions, we need to ask another one: without God's prior existence and revelation, what is the very basis for reality, especially for that of those immaterial gods of knowledge, reason, logic and so forth that atheists love to worship so wholeheartedly?

To put it another way, what makes argument even possible in the first place? Is the atheist going to argue that argument, logic and reason are material entities made up of elements that can be found on, or at least added to, the Periodic Table? But the atheist's problems are not limited to immaterial realities. Either matter is eternal, which has been shown to be impossible, or it suddenly popped into existence out of nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing, be it time, space, laws, forces or even raw elements themselves. There was not even enough space for the matter to be condensed into a dot the size of a period, from which it could then expand, nor were there any forces or laws in existence to cause such an expansion, even if it were possible for matter to suddenly appear. As Cornelius Van Til, that great 20th-century Reformed apologist, once said, "Unless God is back of everything you cannot find meaning in anything."[2] And yet, Richard Dawkins, as a human being made in God's image, must live in God's world and must therefore also take His existence for granted while simultaneously suppressing this truth by his unrighteous thinking (Romans 1:18), thus stealing that which only rightfully belongs to God and those He has redeemed.

Both God's existence and His revelation are necessary if we are to have any basis for reality. Paul writes in Colossians 2:3 that it is Christ "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."[3] This is not just referring to spiritual knowledge and wisdom since "[a]ll things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). At creation, the Father spoke through the Son (John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:1,3), whose word was then carried out by the Spirit (Gen. 1:2). Creation was, therefore, a Trinitarian act. In fact, all of God's revelation, whether creative (general) or redemptive (special) is explicitly and thoroughly Trinitarian. This is because in order for God to reveal himself, He has to be able to relate Himself to his creation. He must therefore have relational qualities in and of Himself. This in turn means that there must be a plurality of distinct persons within God Himself, all of whom are nevertheless united in essence and in will. General theism, therefore, is not what believers are called to defend, for it destroys the very notion of God's self-revelation and therefore causes the rest of reality to collapse.[4] Thus, our apologetic defense, like the God whom we are defending, must be Trinitarian from the outset. Otherwise, we are defending a god who doesn't exist.

Warren Leigh is a volunteer with Faith Beyond Belief, who was a member of the original organizing committee of FBB's first event back in 2009, featuring Greg Koukl. He is a graduate of Liberty University (with a BSc in Religion), and is working on a book titled The Reality of Our God. Warren is passionate about doing apologetics in a biblically faithful manner.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 269-283.

[2] > Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed: 1998), 122.

[3] Emphasis added. Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[4] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 48.

 

 


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After the Be Ready for Everyday Conversations Conference 2015

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By Jojo Ruba

It's great to be part of a Christian conference. I love to see people from different walks of life coming together to listen to great speakers, mingle with strangers, and make some new friends.

Be Ready PostcardBut Christian conferences aren't successful just because they speak to attendees. They can only be considered successful if they equip conference attendees to share what they learn with others.

That's why our conference theme this year was equipping Christians to be "Effective Ambassadors for Christ for Everyday Conversations." We didn't want believers to just come to an event—we wanted them to get back into conversations with friends and family about truths that really matter.

And based on the survey results, it looks like many people agreed that this was essential. Justin Wishart and Loretta Slomp looked at our surveys from the conference, and this is what they found:

We handed out surveys for people to fill out and hand in. We asked a range of questions from rating each speaker to how much people enjoyed our lunch. We collected 147 surveys altogether from a good cross-section of people. Out of this 147 surveys, 55 reported being males, 77 females, while the rest did not specify a gender. The ages ranged from 13 to 69 with the average age being 39. People seemed to really enjoy our main speakers with an average rating of 9.4 (out of 10). Our breakout speakers also were given a high average rating of 8.0 (out of 10). Our lunch received a 7.7 (out of 10) rating. The average rating for the conference overall was an impressive 9.23 (out of 10). Most encouraging was the response to the question of whether attendees would come back next year. Out of 146 surveys, 130 said yes, 3 said no, 8 said maybe, and 5 gave no response.

We consider this conference a great success. Many of the comments given were very encouraging and others offered constructive criticisms for us to make future conferences even better. Faith Beyond Belief would like to thank our volunteers and speakers who all worked together to put on this amazing conference. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Foothills Alliance Church for being such wonderful and gracious hosts. We hope that people were impacted and now have some tools to be able to speak truth into the lives of people in everyday conversations. While Be Ready for Everyday Conversations 2015 was a success, we hope that people consider this as a great first step. Faith Beyond Belief is planning bigger and better conferences, although this one will be hard to top. We also provide talks, training, and resources throughout the year for anyone interested in taking the next step.

Here are a few quotes from attendees about the conference, along with their gender and age, if given:

"I was initially disappointed thinking this was a youth conference, but our youth (most) were engaged and glad it was not dumbed down for teens."
—Male, 41

"I've had some exposure to apologetic sermons and talks, but this is my first experience of listening to someone first-hand. I was encouraged just being in the presence of so many people enthusiastic about conversing about Christ."
—Female, 26

"I learned so much—a weekend of intellectual conversation, loved it."

"I wish there were more than one each year so we can stay bulletproof in our faith"
—Male, 32

"A great opportunity to learn the truth in an open environment."
—Male, 53

"It was super! I learned so much and look forward to coming to more things like this."
—Female, 19

"Very informative, very thought-provoking. It made me think and now have tools to talk to someone about Christianity."
—Male, 33

"This conference helped me clarify my own thoughts about homosexuality, relativism, and the resurrection."
—Male, 36

"Amazing presentations. How often do you hear about apologetics, porn and hell in church? Seldom if at all, but these topics are important."

"Great information, relative to my life. Things presented could be helpful in my everyday conversations."
—Male, 32

"The speakers were clear and the information was practical (stuff I'm actually going to use)."
—Female, 16

"I have for a while desired practical theological answers and definitions on everyday arguments against my faith. This conference has provided me with that knowledge."
—Male, 17

"Surprised by what a good job you did. Exceeded expectation. Well-organized. Price point value, excellent facility. Quality snacks—fruit. Focused towards Jesus versus focus on intellectual arguments."
—Male, 53

"It was incredible. I didn't want it to end."
—Male, 42

"My daughter, age 16, grade 10 attended. This was her first Christian conference and in attendance with mom. Happy that we could share this together."
—Female, 54

"This conference really informed, encouraged and inspired me to be Christ's ambassador in my church and university community."
—Female, 32

"The Hell topic was why I signed up to come. I am looking into that topic right now."
—Female, 53

"I learned a lot and am feeling more confident in defending my faith with my (hard-core) atheist husband."
—Female, 49

"I wish I knew what I know now, the points were stupid-proof, how could I not know the easy answers to the hard questions."
—Female, 27

"This time around the topics had 'bite' to them! Also, the pre-conference events were great."
—Male, 34

"Loved it! I think apologetics is a fabulous and important facet of Christian life so it was great to improve my training."
—Female, 21

"Greg Koukl and J. Warner Wallace were wonderfully concise and clear speakers. I am no longer able to accept Christianity as a 'nice club' to belong to. I need this substance to validate Jesus and the Bible."
—60-year-old

"The benefit of this conference is that it whets our appetite and helps us know what resources we can dig into further."
—Female, 58

"Like a spring of water in a dry and thirsty land. Need this! So grateful that my 15-year-old could be exposed to this amazing conference."
—Female, 47

"I enjoyed the conference and how it stressed everyday conversations."
—Female, 22

"All the speakers were fantastic—hearing about homosexuality was very helpful."
—Female, 23

"No fluff—very practical."
—Male, 28

"Thank you for the conference. I think it'll help me in the future. I might even go talking to the people on campus with Power to Change at some point."
—Male, 21

"I am a lay person serving in youth and young adults ministry. They were asking me the questions discussed here. I feel more equipped and able to articulate my faith."

"So organized! Great content. Thank you to all of you!! Awesome experience. You guys are so appreciated. Mad love for you all. BTW, I loved the program guide book."
—Female, 43

At the end of the conference, I met a woman who was skeptical about apologetics. She said she didn't find it effective and didn't like how it alienated people. But then she attended our conference and it completely changed her mind. She realized how important it is to know what we believe and then to share that truth with gentleness and respect. Rather than leaving it out of her ministry now, she wanted to integrate it in her work. I even saw her buy Greg Koukl's Tactics book to show her commitment!

Though we loved putting our conference together, our ministry isn't about a conference or an event. These are merely means to an end, not an end in itself. We want the conference to be a launching pad for Christians to winsomely engage their culture and to share to a hurting world that they too can have reason to hope.


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Why Be Ready?

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By Kevin Schwittai

Why attend Be Ready 2015? In light of the current economic downturn, I can understand the lingering question, "Can I afford this?" I don't know how you can afford not to go.

This year, Faith Beyond Belief is proud to present the highly practical ministry of Stand to Reason, including Greg Koukl, Brett Kunkle, and Alan Shlemon, with special guest J. Warner Wallace. Stand to Reason's mission is to train Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defence for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square. This mission is what we believe will help Christians engage in everyday conversations as effective ambassadors for Christ.

Be Ready Conference PosterIn our culture many people have an a priori dismissal of Christianity. This is why many simply dismiss Christianity before even considering it. But why is this? Today many people dismiss Christianity in light of our views of today's hot-button topics. They see the Christian answers to these cultural issues, and believe them to be regressive and oppressive. This is then perceived as a warrant to simply dismiss Christianity, because all thoughtful and tolerant people have progressed beyond Christianity and are focused on building a better society. This cultural assessment means that people simply dismiss us without even considering what we have to say. This leaves us with the massive problem of how to reach our culture as we strive to fulfil the Great Commission.

How are we to reach our culture as ambassadors for Christ, then? If we wish to have an impact upon our culture, we will need to engage with it thoughtfully on these hot-button issues. Some of these issues include the prevalence of relativism, the reality of Hell, the reliability of the Bible, abortion, and sexual ethics, including both homosexuality and pornography. Part of this requires us to know our culture and to love the people around us enough to actually listen to what they have to say in order to respond thoughtfully. Another important aspect of how we reach our culture comes across in how we communicate our Christian convictions. Unfortunately, many Christians struggle to communicate their convictions in a meaningful way that our non-Christian neighbours find to be significant and truly engaging with their beliefs.

It is with this intention that Faith Beyond Belief has organized the 2015 Be Ready conference. We want to help equip Christians to thoughtfully engage with our culture as we are on mission to fulfil the Great Commission. We hope that this conference will help to equip Christians to be effective ambassadors for Christ in everyday conversations. This year, our speakers will address all of the hot-button topics mentioned above:

  1. Greg Koukl will address the area of relativism, and how we can tactfully engage with those who would claim to believe it.
  2. Brett Kunkle will handle the issue of how a loving God could send someone to Hell.
  3. Alan Shlemon will speak on how we can speak the truth in love on the issue of homosexuality.
  4. J. Warner Wallace will discuss the issue of the reliability of the Bible.
  5. Talks on the issues of abortion and pornography will be presented during breakout sessions.

Faith Beyond Belief hopes that this conference will not be a one-time exposure, but rather that it will be a great starting point for those who are new to apologetics, and a time of further equipping to seasoned apologists. We hope that after this event, Christians will feel more comfortable and confident as ambassadors for Christ in everyday conversations.

Making this conference a reality has been a labour of love by everyone involved. All the volunteers who helped organize the events have done so out of a heart to see Christians further equipped. However, many of them have made great sacrifices. All of us have given up many hours, not only to come together for planning meetings, but also to complete the various tasks assigned to us. While this sacrifice may have come at a cost to those of us involved, it also came with a unique blessing. We have all been stretched beyond our comfort zones and have grown as individuals. Some of us have learned new skills, but all of us have made new connections with people. I am sure that some of these new friendships will grow long past the conference.

Please consider coming to the upcoming Be Ready conference. The intention of Faith Beyond Belief, and that of the many volunteers who helped plan this event, is to help equip you as an ambassador for Christ in everyday conversations. We hope to see you this Friday and Saturday, February 27-28, at Foothills Alliance Church in Calgary. You can register online at bereadycalgary.ca or at the door.


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