Reasoning From the Scriptures

2 Timothy 2:25-26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 instructing his opponents with gentleness, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to accurate knowledge[1] of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

2:25–26. If a leader’s heart is pure, humbled before God’s grace, he can then gently instruct those who err, in the hope that God will grant them repentance. God’s earnest desire to draw all people into loving relationship with himself should motivate the pastor to deal kindly with those who oppose him.

Four players participate in this crucial drama for the human soul: the teacher, the unbeliever, God, and Satan.

The Christian teacher not only proclaims truth; he models godliness and kindness as well. As God’s representative, he personifies God and his ways. He also recognizes that the battle for human souls takes place on two fronts—the mind and the heart. Unbelievers do not think clearly in matters of the soul or spirit; they need to come to their senses. This is why the teacher must feed the minds of unbelievers, leading them to a knowledge of the truth.

The unbeliever must remain open and responsive. He must choose to come to his senses. Each person stands responsible before God for his acceptance or rejection of God’s truth as found in Jesus Christ.

Beyond the human sphere, God and Satan enter man’s spiritual struggle. Those who refuse God’s truth come under the influence of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will. Satan traps people into his service through clever arguments, fear, and appeals to selfish pride and ambition. Christians should exercise a healthy awareness of the participation of Satan in the thinking of unbelievers. Contending for truth involves contending with spiritual powers; we must not be so naive as to think we confront on purely human terms.

But God remains faithful. He also contends for human souls and minds. As a measure of his grace, he grants repentance. God is sovereign over the universe and all created beings. We should never become overwhelmed at Satan’s methods or power. Satan and God are not equals.

As believers, our responsibility is to speak God’s truth, live out his nature, and pray earnestly for the salvation of those who continue in Satan’s grip. We ask him, by virtue of his authority, to grant a change of heart to those who are estranged from his truth and love.[2]

Defending Our Faith

Most genuine Christians throughout the world are honest, modestly dressed, good neighbors, tax-paying citizens, and would help a complete stranger if it were in their hand. However, in the last one hundred years, they have seen greater and greater persecution. Being a genuine, conservative Christian today, is almost view like one with leprosy. Sadly, they are taught by their Christian leaders, ‘this is what you should expect in life.’ Jesus said to his followers, “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22) In fact, Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Christians do not go out of their way to seek persecution. It is not as though they enjoy difficult times, imprisonment under communist governments. In fact, it is their desire that they “may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2) Christians seek to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in their own sight. They do not repay evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on them, they desire to live peaceably with all.’ (Rom. 12:15-18) In addition, they are “subject to the governing authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) Still, they are ‘hated by everyone because of Jesus name.’ (Matt. 10:22) Why?

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

For truly genuine Christians, they are hated for the same reason the early Christians were hated. First, they live by the principles of God’s Word, and this makes them unaccepted by the world that is alienated from God and the liberal “Christian” community. For example, they love to talk about Jesus Christ (See Acts 4:19-20), but the world does not understand their love and dedication, but rather see them as being some zealot, who believes in myths as reality.

Second, atheism of today is not the atheism of 50 years ago. Atheism of today is more evangelistic about their beliefs than most Christians are, and they are highly informed, or should I say misinformed, or maybe it is that they are informed, but are misinforming those seeking to be Christians. These atheists are on the radio, television, Hollywood movies, mainstream news, newspapers, billboards, and the internet and so on, spreading false allegations, shameless lies and twisted expositions of Christian beliefs. The atheist campaign is an attack on God, the miracles of the Bible and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. This onslaught of aggressive campaigns has caused most of the world to see Christians as zealots, who are living in the so-called past before the introduction of the era of the enlightenment. In the 19th-century, there came a rising tide of atheism and agnosticism. Below are some Atheist quotes, which will give us the mindset.

  • The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. – George Bernard Shaw
  • Faith means not wanting to know what is true. – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today. – Isaac Asimov
  • With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. – Steven Weinberg
  • The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. – Richard Dawkins
  • It is not as in the Bible that God created man in his own image. But, on the contrary, man created God in his own image. – Ludwig Feuerbach
  • All the biblical miracles will, at last, disappear with the progress of science. – Matthew Arnold
  • Religion does three things quite effectively: Divides people, Controls people, Deludes people. – Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney
  • Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. – Sam Harris

Some of these comments can sting, like any other tirade, even though untrue, it can begin to cause low self-esteem. A gorgeous woman told by her husband every day that she is ugly or fat will end up with depression or some eating disorder. Even a lie told often enough can lead to doubt if that is all one hears. Imagine our young ones, who are growing up in schools, filled with atheist teachers, followed by universities filled with atheist professors. In these universities, they are consistently beaten down with atheism, to the point where they begin to doubt.

CONVERSATION EVANGELISM

Witnessing to an Atheist

Whether we are out purposefully evangelizing in our community, or we informally happen onto someone, who says, “I am an atheist,” the conversation should not end there. The short response would be to ask how long they have been an atheist and what moved them to accept atheism? If he answers, make sure that we are very respectful, do not interrupt in an attempt to counter any of his reasons as to why he became an atheist. Allow him to get through it all. We could get through in a few verbal responses to let him know that we are following, like an occasional, “I see.” We could ask him if he thought it would be wrong for us as Christians to read a book that attempted to prove creationism wrong. He will likely say, no that we need to hear both sides. Then, ask him if he would be comfortable reading a book that presented evidence that life was created. If he says he would have no problem doing so, we could as him, if we could drop such a book at his home. We should not be witnessing to atheists if we have not read a number of books by such authors as William Lane Craig, John Lennox, William A. Dembski, Jonathan Witt, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael J. Behe, and the like. It does our self-esteem no good, nor the atheist’s attitude if we egregiously lose a conversation. Let us also consider why atheists do not believe.

Some Reasons Why Atheists Refuse to Believe

Not every atheist was raised by atheist parents. Many formerly were a part of some religion, meaning they believed in God. Some factors for doubt setting in are tragedies, such as heartbreaking deaths by disease. Others might be one difficulty in life after another. Some were brought up in grade schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges that were filled with atheist educators. Maybe it was religious hypocrisy that moved him to become an atheist. Many Christian households have an unrealistic expectation of God, which can actually contribute to doubt when severe tragedy hits. Many convey the belief that God steps in and solves our problems every time if we are faithful. For a deeper discussion, please see the Christian Publishing House Blog (https://christianpublishinghouse.co/): Does God Step in and Solve Our Every Problem Because We are Faithful?

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

Reaching Sincere Atheists

Behind the scenes of social media, out of earshot of their friends, many atheists would love to have answers to the same tough questions that we would like to have answers. Why are humans so evil? We can somewhat understand a person getting mad, and accidently hurting another. However, how do we explain a man, who rapes and sadistically murders almost a hundred little girls in Russia? How do we explain the Nazi concentration camps? Something must be beyond this. Certainly, the sincere atheist would like to know why bad things happen to good people. For a deeper discussion, please see the Christian Publishing House Blog: Why has God Permitted Wickedness and Suffering.

One way that we can reach sincere atheists is to enquire about life and see if there any problems that come up. If there are marital issues, children rebelling, potential divorce, and the like, we can possibly reach them through the effectiveness of the Scriptures. If we said something like, “the Bible can help us with any family or life situation that we may be facing,” they may say something like, “I doubt it.” We could then reply, “Do you have something that we could test this with, and then you could personally see for yourself, it cannot hurt, or make things any worse, right? If they bring one up, make sure that we offer to show them from Scripture, principles that, if applied will help them overcome the problem. Also, make sure that they realize it will only help if they apply the counsel fully. They will be overcome with joy when they see the outworking of the practical counsel. We should only approach this type of evangelism if we have covered some books on Christian counseling and in conjunction with the pastor. Please see the recommended books below.[3]

We have to understand that not every atheist is going to accept the truth of God’s Word, regardless of how skillful we become in our evangelism. Nevertheless, many are sincere in life and will be open to another viewpoint, if he is approached in a right way. We need to use empathy, logic, reason, persuasion and, above all, the power of God’s Word. (Acts 28:23-24; Hebrews 4:12)

YOUR GUIDE FOR DEFENDING THE BIBLE_Third Edition

Let Our Reasonableness be Known to All Men

In this authors work on the internet, he has seen hundreds, if not thousands of comments on social media that belittle anyone who refuses to accept Christianity. As Christians, we do not return hateful speech for hateful speech directed at us. We need to be better than this. (Prov. 8:13) In the first century, the Jewish religious leaders were dogmatic in their self-righteous ivory tower, believing they were better than any Gentile (non-Jew) was. As genuine Christians, we do not take such a view, but rather, we let our reasonableness be known to all. We do not treat unbelievers with disdain. If our hope is like that of Paul, all unbelievers who hear the truth, accept the truth; then, we must be the truth in our representation. (Acts 26:29; 1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Yes, we are “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2) Paul said this to Titus about Crete, people who were known to be “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12) Yes, even such ones as this we do not speak evil of, nor speak to with disdain. This is not to say that we excuse such behavior. We can address people’s actions, the behaviors themselves. Nevertheless, it would be against biblical principles to speak disparaging of ones who are unbelievers. Having a self-righteous attitude is not going to win anyone over to the Christian side of the aisle.

A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Thus, the question that lies before us is, ‘when do I ignore the opposer, and when to I defend the faith by speaking out. Again, we turn to our ultimate example (1 Pet. 2:21) An example of a time when Jesus felt it best “to keep quiet” was when he was before the Roman governor Pilate when the Jewish religious leaders falsely accused him. Jesus “gave him [Pilate] no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” (Matt. 27:11-14) Jesus was likely remaining quiet, to not interfere with the Father’s will for him. If Jesus had spoken up and defended himself, maybe he would have been released, and we would not have had the ransom. He knew the truth would have not changed the closed minds and hearts of the Jewish religious leaders, but maybe they would have influenced Pilate. Rather, he allowed himself to go on record as a blasphemer of God. Therefore, Jesus ignored their questions and slanderous comments, refusing to give them an answer. Isaiah 53:7

An example of a time when Jesus felt it best “to speak,” challenging his opponents frankly and openly, disproving their false allegations. For example, we can look at the time when the Scribes and the Pharisees tried to discredit him in front of a crowd for his expelling demons, saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul[4],” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” Jesus did not let this accusation pass. On that occasion, he used logic and illustrations to debunk their argument. (Mark 3:20-30; see also Matthew 15:1-11; 22:17-21; John 18:37) On another occasion, Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, where High Priest Caiaphas deviously demanded, “I put you under oath by the living God, that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus could not let this pass, as it would appear that he was denying that he was the long-awaited Christ. Therefore, Jesus replied, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62)

Then, we have the example of Paul and Barnabas. Acts 14:1-2 states, “Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” The New English Bible says, “But the unconverted Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the Christians.” Note that the unbelieving Jews rejected message; but then, they also went to the next step of discrediting the Christian messengers. They made sure the Gentile inhabitants had an unfounded hatred, fear, and mistrust of the Christians. (Compare Acts 10:28) Thus, for Paul and Barnabas, this was a “time to speak.” If they had not, the new Christians in that community of Iconium may have become disheartened by public criticism. “So they [Paul and Barnabas] remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” (Acts 14:3-4)

So, then, which method should we take when we are reproached? Just as it depended on the circumstances with Jesus and the first Christians, so it is true with us as well. In some situations, it is best that we choose “a time to keep quiet.” This is especially true when Bible critics try to draw us into arguments, where we are always on the defense, and it is just pointless. We might offer the best response, very informative, very detailed, and maybe very well researched for an inline internet response. Then, the Bible critic just responds, “Whatever, I do not believe that you are just …” Think of that time wasted, the research, putting our heart and mind into it, and it is dismissed as nothing within a few words and a few seconds. We must keep in mind (2 Thess. 2:9-12); most critics do not care if they hear the truth because Satan is able to blind their minds because their hearts are unreceptive. (2 Cor. 4:3-4) Attempting to reason with those whose hearts are arrogantly immovable in unbelief is unproductive. Moreover, if we went all out on every person, debating them for their false attacks, Satan would be diverting us from our true commission: proclaiming, teaching Bible truths and making disciples of those with a receptive heart. Therefore, when opposed with antagonists who are determined on spreading lies about Christians on the Bible, the advice from God’s Word is, “turn away from them,” (NASB), “avoid them” (ESV). (Romans 16:17-18; Matthew 7:6)

However, this is not an absolute written in stone command, but rather relative to the circumstance, as there are times when we need to defend the Bible or the faith. Yes, there is “a time to speak.” There will be times when it is very public, in the midst of right-hearted one, open-minded ones, who will only hear one side of the situation, if we do not respond. In this case, we can give a clear explanation of the truth for the sake of these ones, but would not want to be locked down in a long drawn our debate. The apostle Peter wrote, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15) The principle that we have to judge for ourselves each time is, if a genuinely interested one is asking skeptical questions of the hope we hold, when they are raising issues about false claims made by opposers elsewhere (Books, TV, News, etc.), we are obligated take the time to defend the faith, providing sound biblical answers. In this, we are always feeling them out as we go on in the conversation, and the moment they go from honest skepticism to antagonistic skepticism, we causation them one time that we are not going to give our time if they are not genuinely interested. 1 Peter 2:12-15

Dealing with Slanderous Publicity

Many times Christianity is distorted in the media, both purposely and through ignorance. For example, there is Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, who formerly was an evangelical Christian. He later fell away to Agnosticism. He now goes on any show that will have him tearing down the New Testament, by way of the art and science of textual criticism.[5] He has penned numerous books, some New York Times Bestsellers, misrepresenting the New Testament text, by misleading his readers about the evidence. Anyone who has some basic understanding of New Testament textual criticism can recognize his comments and books as nothing more than, misleading, misinformation, and misrepresenting the truth. Even so, the interviews are on YouTube and all over the internet, his books are everywhere, misinforming hundreds of thousands, if not far more, and this is but one man.

How can we defend our faith against such misleading information, must we become a textual scholar? No, but there are books that are but 200-350 pages long that will give us the truth, expose his lies and give us the basic knowledge to respond to any readers of his books, who might not have heard both sides of the story. We could go on about other areas of study as well, but the same would be true, we simply need to familiarize ourselves with these subjects. If we are to be an effective Christian apologist, an effective evangelist, we must love taking in knowledge, to defend God’s Word and the faith. God has blessed us with many tools in this area.[6]

Review Questions

  • Why should opposition, even persecution, not surprise Christians? However, what is it that they desire?
  • What are some reasons that Christians are hated by the world?
  • Who have been the primary ones to attack Christians and Christianity?
  • What is the correct view that Christians should have of unbelievers?
  • What Bible principles should be kept in mind, when we speak about unbelievers, even amongst ourselves?
  • How can we witness to atheists?
  • What are some reason atheists do not believe?
  • How can we reach sincere atheists?
  • What examples did Jesus set as to a time “to be quiet” and a “time to speak”?
  • Why did Paul and Barnabas speak with confidence in Iconium?
  • How can we let our reasonableness be known to all?
  • What are some suggestions on when “to speak” and when “to be quiet”?
  • How can we deal with slanderous publicity?

[1] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[2] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 289–290.

[3] Competent Christian Counseling, Volume One: Foundations and Practice of Compassionate Soul Care Apr 16, 2002 by Timothy Clinton and George Ohlschlager

Caring for People God’s Way: Personal and Emotional Issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma May 10, 2006 by Tim Clinton

Discipleship Counseling: The Complete Guide to Helping Others Walk in Freedom and Grow in Christ Aug 20, 2003 by Neil T. Anderson

[4] Or Beezebul; others read Beelzebub

[5] Textual criticism is the study of a group of manuscripts, versions, lectionaries, and early church father quotations, in order to determine which reading is the original. This is only done on 25 percent of the NT (the other 75 percent we know what was original), but it has given us a critical text that is 99.99 percent of what would have been in the original.

[6] If we want to defend against Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, this author has penned,

MISREPRESENTING JESUS: Debunking Bart D. Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” [Second Edition] by Edward D. Andrews (June 06, 2016)

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/6943692 (ISBN-13: 978-0692734414)

THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT A Beginner’s Guide to New Testament Textual Criticism [Second Edition] by Edward D. Andrews ( July 13, 2016)