In this episode Kurt speaks with Dr. Mike Licona on the importance of engaging with nonbelievers.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. So nice to be with you here. This is episode 107. We’ve been going strong here for over two years and we couldn’t do it without your help, without your support. If you want to learn about how you can become a supporter of our program, you can go to our website veracityhill.com and click on the patron tab there. I also want to mention an app that I discovered this week called Marco Polo. It’s a video walkie talkie app. Really neat. I know a couple buddies that are already on it. What we’re going to do is we’re going to set up a Veracity Hill Marco Polo group, and so if you are one of our regular supporters, you’ll get access to this group where you can send me messages and I’ll reply back to you and so it’ll be a great little way that our supporters can come together and ask each other questions about topics pertaining to our episodes or if you want to request a guest or some topic, it’ll help our program in terms of the content creation, the ideas, the brainstorming for what we’re doing here. Just one other announcement here before we get going on today’s program. We’re two months away from the annual Defenders Conference and this year’s theme is genocide, did God really command the Israelites to kill the women and the children? How should Christians understand these different passages? There are many verses that talk about this and there are different Christian perspectives on it as well, on how to interpret these passages, so we are bringing into Chicagoland some of those that have written on this topic, Dr. Paul Copan, Dr. John Walton, who’s a local at Wheaton College, Dr. Clay Jones, and Dr. Kenton Sparks, all of whom have had an interest in presenting their interpretation on how Christians should understand these passages. We’re going to leave it up to you the audience on what you should think about these different perspectives and what you take away from those verses and then how you can apply that into your conversations with people that use that as an obstacle for faith in Christ.
On today’s program, we’re talking about demolishing arguments and why are we doing this? It’s sort of been an unofficial series. Two weeks ago, I had Braxton Hunter on the show. We talked about evangelistic apologetics where we talked about the importance of incorporating the gospel message in how we defend the faith. If we just defend the faith and we just talk about these propositions, but we never encourage people to accept the propositions and assent to them, really have it marinate in their life so that they take Jesus as their Lord and savior, they repent from their sins, then what are we doing? That was two weeks ago. Last week we had Ted Wright on our program and we talked about how students and parents can be prepared, especially for this upcoming school year, so it was very much on the edification of believers. Today’s episode is on demolishing arguments and the importance of engaging with those who don’t believe. Where does this concept of demolishing arguments come from? It sounds a little bit not quite the Jesus loving type. I’ll tell you what. 2 Cor. 10:5 is where this comes from. Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. He writes, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” That’s where this concept of demolishing arguments comes in, but there’s that second part, taking every thought captive for Christ. To help think about the importance of doing this and maybe giving us pointers, advice, on how we should do this, I’ve invited my friend Mike Licona. He’s the president of Risen Jesus, which is Mike’s teaching and speaking ministry. He’s a part of the Defenders Alliance and he’s a professor at Houston Baptist University. Mike. Thanks so much for joining us on the program today.
Mike: My pleasure, Kurt. Thanks for having me on.
Kurt: Great to see you.
Mike: You too, brother.
Kurt: It’s actually been awhile, surprisingly, I feel like we’re in contact with each other on a regular basis, but you were on our program here probably in the first few episodes, just about two years ago.
Mike: What did we speak on?
Kurt: I think it was on Gospel differences. It was before your book was published and then I think it came out that following winter if I remember correctly.
Mike: November 2016. Got it right here, the week before Thanksgiving.
Kurt: I know I still need to contact, there’s a scholar at Oxford, Christopher Pelling, we’ve talked about maybe doing just an episode just on that and having him review your book and what his thoughts were. He’s the foremost scholar on Plutarch if I’m not mistaken.
Mike: Absolutely. Everybody seems, Richard Burridge says that and I’ve a friend up there in Chicagoland, John Ramsey, he’s Professor Emeritus of Greek and Classics at University of Illinois in Chicago and he says Pelling is the guy. He is the guy when it comes to Plutarch.
Kurt: That might be fun to have you guys come on and have you maybe get spanked by a Plutarch scholar.
Mike: Pelling and Ramsey, they know far more about Plutarch than I will ever know.
Kurt: We’ll have to set that up some other time, but on today’s program, I thought of you giving your experience in this area because not only do you just engage with non-believers from conversations and messages, but you’ve participated in the public debates. You’ve gotten up on the stage many times in your life and from debating atheists, agnostics, skeptics, Muslims, trying to think if there’s been any other category of persons you’ve debated.
Kurt: Just liberal. Broad category.
Mike: Elaine Pagels. Someone like that.
Kurt: You’ve debated a range of perspectives, a range of individuals and their perspectives. I’ve got some questions for you in your experience and advice that you may have for believers, so to get us started off, tell me first, what got you interested in debating others?
Mike: That would go back to the late 1990’s I suppose. I can remember, I don’t know how I found out about it, but somebody had told me about Bill Craig’s debates with Frank Zindler and John Dominic Crossan, so that year, I don’t know what year it was, but it was the late 1990’s, so probably 20 years ago, I asked for those for Christmas, and I got them on audio cassette tapes, Dr. Craig’s debate with John Dominic Crossan came in a two-pack and his debate with Frank Zindler came in a two-pack and I can’t tell you how many times I listened to both of those debates. Just tons of times driving in the car and trips and things like that. I would listen to him constantly and I learned so much through those. I was reading through his book Reasonable Faith. I can’t even tell you how many times I read through that. Actually, at that point, not only was it in writing, but it was also on audio cassette tapes and I listened to it multiple times in audio cassette tapes and then later bought the book and then there were some other apologetics books I read, but I was just so fascinated and I thought, “Wow. Dr. Craig just did such a phenomenal job in both those debates. That sounds like so much fun. I’ll never be able to do that.” He’s got two earned doctorates and I haven’t even got my Master’s degree yet. I haven’t even finished a Master’s degree. He’s just brilliant anyway. Everybody knows Bill Craig’s in a league all by himself. That’s how I got interested in it. Right after I got started in my PhD program early spring of 2003, Gary Habermas was contacted and asked to debate Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and was asked to debate him at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the resurrection and at that point Gary did not like debating. He just didn’t want to take part in them. He called me and he said, “Hey Mike. I’ve been asked to debate Dan Barker. I don’t want to do it. You know how I hate debates, but you’ve mentioned how you’re kind of interested. Is this something you’d like to do because I can refer you to it?” I said, “Yeah, but do you think I can win?” He said, “Well, Dan’s going to be tough. He’s got a lot of debate experience. He’s got a genius IQ, but you know more about the resurrection than he does. I think he’d be a really good opponent. I think you can win. He’d be a really great opponent. I did that. I think it was in April 2003. It went really well. Even the atheist organization who had invited Barker said that I won the debate. I really enjoyed it before I even heard that. The next year, Gary got two more debate offers. One for Shabir Ally and one for Richard Carrier. “Mike. I don’t want to do them. Do you want to do them? They’re going to be a whole lot tougher than Barker.” Shabir’s the leading Muslim debater in the world with a ton of experience. I said “Yeah. I don’t know. Do you think I can win?” He says, “I think you could do a good job. I think you could probably win, but it’s going to take a whole lot of work” and I was especially concerned with Shabir Ally. I worked hard. I worked really hard. My board and I, we ran it by my board at that point. We agreed that I should do it so I did and I enjoyed both of those debates, but that’s how I got started in it. That’s what led me…
Kurt: If you’re getting started at that level, you’ve got the gold plate for you there, Mike. That’s great. It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful opportunity to just really go full throttle with that aspect of your research and your ministry. I know it’s been beneficial for me as well. Back when I was in college I would listen to some of these debates you’ve done. It’s been a blessing to me. Getting here more to the debate aspects, and we’re going to talk a little bit later about not everyone’s going to debate, but I want to pick your brain right now. What sort of research do you do ahead of time for debates like that?
Mike: I might approach it a little bit differently today than I did back then. I had a whole lot more to do back then than I do today because when I was first getting started, I didn’t know as much about the resurrection and everything related to it as I do now, so getting started with that, fifteen years ago it was, I had to develop my own case for the resurrection of Jesus for one and then I had to know what they were going to say and so what that meant was to look at every video online….
Kurt: They had the internet
back in the 90’s?
Mike: This was early 2000’s.
Kurt: So you updated from cassette tapes?
Mike: Yeah, but now we’ve crossed the millennium. We’re in 2004 for these follow-up debates. I’d go online and I’d try to find any videos and of course, not all videos were online at that point. I’d purchase videos if I could, DVDs of debates of debates that they had done on that topic or anything related to it. I would listen to MP3s or cassette tapes or anything of themes, lectures, or debates that my opponent had done on that subject. I’d purchase books or journal articles or anything that my opponent had written on that topic or read an online article. I spent a whole lot of time seeing how my opponent argued on that particular topic. I’d summarize their arguments. Make note. If there was something that they said that I thought might be valuable to use in a debate, I would write down what they said verbatim, quote and be able to cite page number and all that. I’d understand where they were coming from as best as I could. I’d have all these arguments and then I would formulate my own responses to what my opponent would say and it really caused me to think through some things because it’s not just like you’re going in and talking to your Sunday School class or preaching a sermon from the pulpit, preaching to the choir you might say. You knew going into that debate, that there were going to be hundreds of people watching live and if we got put online or at that point, you sold them as DVDs, thousands of people could end up watching it. I had no idea it would explode like it has now. The debate I had with Bart Ehrman just a few months ago just today crossed 70,000 views on YouTube. The debate I did with Matt Dillahunty last year now has over 115,000 views. I would have never guessed anything like that, but because you know that there’s going to be so many people viewing these, you don’t want to be embarrassed. Things that you might give, the typical arguments that you might give, you’re going to reassess those and you’re going to say “How might my opponent respond to this and what would I say?” and you really have to access your own answers and say is this evidence that I’m giving good enough. Can it withstand the toughest critical scrutiny. Can my rebuttals really withstand critical scrutiny because I want to put out good stuff. That means a lot of reflection, a lot of deep thinking. That’s the kind of stuff you do to prepare for debate, plus put together your own opening statement and a lot of times you put together the opening statement in such a way that you are trying to answer certain objections before my opponent even gets them.
Kurt: That’s at the very least a testament to being prepared, to always give an answer, 1 Peter 3:15 here, that you had to really prepare yourself for those public debates, and not that everyone’s going to stand up on the debate stage, but a lot of people are having conversations with their neighbor, their friend, their family member, their loved one. They need to be prepared. They need to know how to explain what it is that they believe, why they believe it, and then as you did with your research Mike, you anticipated objections from your opponents. You researched what they said, what they wrote, and you were ready for them, and you were ready for what they were going to say, and that’s part of being a good debater I suppose.
Mike: It’s a lot of work. It really is. I don’t remember how much work I put in for the debate with Dan Barker, but I do remember the debates, the first one with Shabir Ally and Richard Carrier. Gary Habermas had taught me a thing that he did and I was applying it at the time. We had ministry donors and I felt very accountable to them, that I’m really working for what they’re investing in with our ministry. I had one of those watches with a stopwatch on and any time I was working, I’d have the stopwatch going. If my wife came in the room to say “Hi” or bring me a brownie or something, I would turn the stopwatch off. She hated that, but that’s what I would do. Any breaks that I took that I wasn’t actually doing research or work of any kind, I turned it off. With that in mind and you’d be surprised at how much time a person isn’t actually working during the day.
Kurt: Interruptions. Yeah.
Mike: In my two debates, the one with Richard Carrier and Shabir Ally, the first one, I prepared more than 70 hours a week using that method for four months. That’s a lot of preparation.
Kurt: 70 hours a week?
Mike: Yeah. That’s not for four months for each. That was combined for both of them because they were like one month or six weeks apart. More than 70 hours a week with four months work with those.
Kurt: Wow. You really have to be devoted to preparing for those public debates.
Mike: I don’t put in nearly that much time now.
Kurt: Because you’ve already got down some of the arguments. Right. Not everyone is called to debate, but it seems like Paul’s writings in a couple of places really entail that every Christian engage with non-believers in some way. What advice would you have to people that don’t want to go on the debate stage?
Mike: Don’t. It’s that simple. Don’t go on the debate stage if that’s not where you’d think you want to go or you’re gifted. It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person. Most Christian apologists do not debate. There’s few of us who actually get up there and debate and I think it just takes, it’s just the way one is wired. Some people can’t do it, talk to someone with whom they disagree without getting really upset. Some people have said to me, “How can you be up there in debate without getting really mad at what the person has said?” I don’t know. You just don’t. It just doesn’t impact us in those kinds of ways. Some of us have a personality. My wife, she would never want to get up and debate and do public speaking, but my wife is really into the nitty-gritty of accounting and all that kind of stuff, the kind of stuff that would make me want to vomit. This is just not the way I’m wired, but she loves that stuff, that is her stuff. She does really well at that. It’s not my strength, but I feel like one of my giftings is to be able to do some public speaking and to do debates is the way I’m wired. It doesn’t mean you’re any less gifted or anything. You’re just gifted in other areas and I say find the areas in which you are strong and pursue those areas and we need to be able to interact with people, with non-believers when they ask us questions. Some are going to be more inclined to do it than others, but we should have some basic knowledge to respond with basic answers at least to these things. Don’t debate if you don’t feel like that’s your gifting and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Kurt: Right. I’ve listened to a number of your debates and I can tell that you present arguments that you believe have really good merit to them. You don’t try to overstate your case. You’re very modest, intellectually humble in your approach. What goes through your mind in terms of what arguments to present because I’m sure there are some arguments you think are good and believe personally, but you’re not willing to put them out there on the debate stage so how do you decide which ones you want to defend in a debate? And is my observation accurate by the way?
Mike: Your observation’s definitely accurate. I’m not saying humble. I wouldn’t be humbled to say that your assessment that I’m humble is correct. I only want to present arguments that I truly believe in. If I don’t believe in an argument, I don’t want to give it. Honestly, I’m after truth. If it’s not true, I don’t want to say it just to gain points if I think I can get debate points out of it. I really want to believe what I say because at the end of the day, I’ve got to stand before God when I die, if God exists which I believe He does, and I have to stand before Him and give account of myself. I want to be honest with myself so that if for some reason I’ve been wrong and Christianity is not true, at least God will know that I really sought truth so I want within that vein, I want to present only those arguments that I believe. That’s just my own personal preference there. That’s what I want to do. I try not to say things that go beyond what the evidence can bear because when you do that, you expose yourself, so some would want to argue for a lot of different things. They want to argue that God exists, that Christianity’s true, that the Bible is historically reliable, that it’s inerrant. I might believe the Bible’s inerrant, but why would I go that far? The evidence for biblical inerrancy isn’t even close to what it is for historical reliability which isn’t even close to what we have for the resurrection of Jesus. I want to present the strongest argument I can and the more that I try to prove and narrow things down, the weaker the case becomes for that. If someone can punch a hole or cause great doubt in one of those weaker points, then in the mind of some of those viewing the debate, it will cast the rest of the debate in question. I would rather present as strong a case as I can and that usually means just putting forth the strongest of data. A lot of times, that means that I will only present those, like if I’m talking about the resurrection, I’ll only present those facts which are so strongly evidenced that it has compelled the overwhelming majority of even skeptical scholars to grant them. Gary Habermas calls it the minimal facts approach. Sometimes I’ll go beyond that and I’ll add something like “They were proclaiming Jesus’s bodily physical resurrection from the dead” and I’ll go beyond that because I feel that after viewing it, the evidence for that fact is unimpeachable. I think it’s that strong. I want to put it out there to challenge people to answer that. Sometimes I’ll add that. A lot of times I’ll start to add that. I can add the empty tomb, but I haven’t. It’s just where I want to go with it at times and sometimes I’ll change things up just to get something a little fresher than what I’ve been doing, you know?
Kurt: Yeah. Nice. Here’s a question. For a lot of folks who aren’t debating and they might be new to apologetics and they love it and they’re learning a lot and they really want to almost embarrass their opponent, really corner them. Should that be our goal when we are engaging with nonbelievers, to corner and make someone look bad?
Mike: I don’t want to make my opponent look bad up there. I don’t. I guess there’s degrees of which you can do that. There have been times with Bart Ehrman where he might say, “The Gospels contradict themselves, therefore you can’t trust them” and I might point out where he’s contradicted himself in his own writings. It’s true, plus it has some good rhetorical effect. I don’t know. There’s just different occasions. I don’t believe I’ve ever tried to humiliate my opponent. I don’t want to do that. I really care for my opponents. I want to be friends with them. I am friends with most of my opponents. Bart Ehrman? I consider him to be a friend. I truly like the guy. He and I get along really well. I don’t feel like putting him down. In fact, I don’t think things to put him down. I just like him. I would rather be up there. Of course, if a zinger comes up you could do it…
Kurt: But you even do that with friends.
Mike: You do it with friends and you can do it and you can smile and it’s all done in good taste, good humor, and they realize that you’re not trying to put them down. That’s where I’m at with it.
Kurt: Nice. Let me ask you one question from a listener before we go to our break. Justin writes in here and he’s wondering, he asks, “Why don’t you try to tie the historical argument for the resurrection with prophecy, for example Isaiah 52-53?”
Mike: Fair question. For one, I haven’t been an avid student of prophecy so I don’t know enough about it to be able to do that. It could be someplace where I could go in the future. Another reason is, a lot of the prophecies, and this wouldn’t be to all of them, but a lot of the prophecies that you do see people citing like there’s over 600 prophecies of Jesus and you start looking and you’re not too impressed. Some of them are kind of impressive. I’m not persuaded by a number of them. For example, what do they do for the resurrection? When you read Paul in the book of Acts and Peter, they will bring up verses such as Psalm 2:7, which says “You are my Son. Today I have begotten you,” or Psalm 16:10, “You will not allow your holy one to see decay.” Paul and Peter, they apply these to Jesus’s resurrection, but when you look at them in their original context, they are clearly referring to King David. Whereas Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” it’s a Psalm of coronation of the king, but Paul takes it in Acts 13 and reassigns to be talking about the resurrection and saying “It can’t be referring to David because David died, was buried, and his body decayed. We know where his grave is, but Jesus died and buried, His body did not decay but God raised it and of that we’re eyewitnesses”, so he takes it and gives it a whole new meaning to Psalm 16:10 than what was originally intended so is that a prophecy? That kind of charismatic exegesis is something they did back then, but it’s not something that is impressive to many of us today and certainly would not be impressive to a skeptic, and yet these are the prophecies that are used to refer to Jesus’s resurrection….
Kurt: So maybe, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like when you’ve got a debate opponent, you want to grant certain standards that even your opponent has and you argue for the resurrection based upon that standard so whether it’s Paul debating the Jews, in Acts 18 into the synagogues, in a number of places he goes into the synagogues and debates the Jews so he uses the Scriptures, but say you’re debating Bart Ehrman who doesn’t grant that there’s value here in the Old Testament, you don’t want to use prophecy because it’s not going to win him or his followers over so you want to use his standard and assess the resurrection on that standard. Is that fair?
Mike: That is fair. I suppose if I were going to debate a rabbi….
Kurt: Maybe you would use the Jewish scriptures.
Mike: I would look more into the matter of prophecy, but then I would also have to deal with the fact that the Scriptures that they’re using to talk about Jesus’s resurrection in the book of Acts, did not originally refer to that. You have this different sort of interpretation and I would have to show how this is what Jews did back then, not just Christians, but Jews. Otherwise, I couldn’t use it.
Kurt: Yeah. They gave verses secondary meanings perhaps or maybe that there was their primary meaning. I guess that’s where the debate is with scholars and those interested. We’ve got to take a break here. Justin, thanks for your good question and watching here today. We’ve got a number of folks tuning in here. Joe writes in here, he’s wondering if we put the shows on YouTube. Let me say this. It is something that we’re looking to do this year and I would do it myself were I not so busy so we would love to get your support so we can pay maybe our technical producer, Chris, to come in even one day a week so he could just work on the YouTube videos and manage that account for us. I like to do things the right way so I don’t want to just haphazardly go into something so if we could raise support to have someone be managing that, all fine and dandy, awesome, let’s do it. That’s part of our goal with Veracity Hill in 2018 and we’d love to get your support. After the break here, we’re going to talk more about the importance of engaging with non-believers, what sort of benefits there are for ourselves and the people we are actually talking to. We’re joined today by Dr. Mike Licona so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you would like to learn how you or your organization, your company, would like to become a sponsor, you can go to our website, Veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. We’ve got different sponsorship levels if you want to get your company’s logo up there and a link to your website and one of the things we do is we mention our sponsors at the end of every program, very grateful for them. If you want to learn how to do that, just contact me, Kurt@Veracityhill.com.
Today we are joined by Dr. Mike Licona. He’s a professor at Houston Baptist University and the president of Risen Jesus. Mike. I can’t remember. I don’t think we have Rapid Questions when you came on the program. Do you ever remember doing Rapid Questions?
Mike: I don’t. Let’s go for it if you want.
Kurt: Alright. We’ve got 60 seconds here. You won’t be able to hear the game clock, but it’ll start as soon as I ask the first question and the goal is to answer as many questions as fast as you can. There are 23, our best record I think was 21, by actually my Pastor, Nate Hickox. I think he’s listened to the program he knew before and so he kind of prepared I think. He knew what was coming. I’ll start the time and here we go. You ready?
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Mike: University of Pretoria.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Mike: Chris Rice, The Power of the Moment.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Mike: With my wife.
Kurt: Favorite sport?
Kurt: What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
Mike: An orange.
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Mike: The New England Patriots.
Kurt: Good answer. Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt; Who’s one person you’d like to have dinner with to discuss a topic you disagree on?
Mike: Richard Dawkins.
Kurt: Pick a fictional character that you’d like to meet.
Mike: Oh man. A rational atheist.
Kurt: Oh! Wow. Where is the rimshot? I need to get that. Wow. Nice. Alright. Mike. Thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions. Boy, there are a number, I want to ask you. Next time when we have you on with Pelling. I have to arrange that.
Mike: And you know there are a lot of rational atheists. That just came to my mind to be funny. How about rational militant atheist? How’s that.
Kurt: There you go. Nice. Michaela’s listening here. She says your head is not shaped like an orange. We’ll have to maybe have the listeners assess that. Mike. Can you turn your head a little bit? Maybe just profile. It’s just a funny question. Let’s get back here. Before you, baseball, you’ve got an Atlanta Braves jersey on. Who’s your favorite Atlanta Brave these days?
Mike: To be honest with you, I haven’t been following them closely enough to know even, I know a few of the players[NP1] , ,cause he’s been with the franchise for awhile, but team is so different now than it was when I was really watching them a few years ago. I really don’t have a favorite player?
Kurt: Okay. You grew up in Baltimore. Did you grow up an Orioles fan?
Mike: Aw man. Baltimore Orioles. The old Orioles team, they were awesome. I’d say Brooks Robinson was my favorite Oriole from back then, but there were so many good ones, Boog Powell and Jim Palmer and Dave McNally and Paul Blair and Mark Belanger, all those, they were just great.
Kurt: Nice. Awesome.
Mike: It’d be hard to pick a favorite one there.
Kurt: Your hatred of the New Englan Patriots. Did that start as a Baltimore Ravens fan or as an Atlanta….
Mike: Probably as a Ravens fan, but yeah, you gotta give the Patriots credit for the way they came back and won the Super Bowl against the Falcons a few years ago. Phenomenal name. They shouldn’t have won but the Falcons blew it and the Pats deserved to win. You can’t take that away from them. They’re just a phenomenal team. They’re just so good, you get so sick of hearing about them.
Kurt: I remember watching that game and it breaks my heart because I too dislike the Patriots. It was the third quarter and everyone was like, “This is a blowout. Game’s over”, and I am an experienced, I’m not diehard, but I’m an experienced football fan, and I said Tom Brady is on the Patriots. Guys. You need to sit down. The game’s not over. It’s not over until the clock runs out.
Mike: The biggest thing I remember about that game had nothing to do with the game because it was at halftime that I got an email from Scot McKnight and he gave me a link to the review of my book on Gospel Differences that would be posted in a few days and what he said in the final paragraph just made me jump out of my seat and say “Yes!” I didn’t care at that point what happened with the Falcons. It was just an awesome endorsement.
Kurt: We’ve got Jonathan writing in here. He asks, “Engaging with non-believers yet the topic is demolishing arguments?” Jonathan. Yes. You’re just joining us I can see. What we’re talking about today is in 2 Corinthians 10:5 the apostle Paul writes that we demolish arguments, here it is. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. What does that mean here? At least in how it’s applying to our context today. We are encouraged here by Paul to engage with those that aren’t believers and to take those arguments and thoughts captive for Christ and so for a number of Christians, they’re just comfortable living in their isolated circles and that’s not what the Scriptures teach us to do. We are called to engage with those who think differently from us. You and I Jonathan have even engaged from time to time and you came on our program, I think it may have been a year and a half ago, so here it is that I’m applying this verse here in our context today. We’re talking about the importance therein of engaging with non-believers and so in the first half of the program Mike, we talked about sort of debating and what got you interested, but I want to ask you a broader question here, why should Christians engage with non-believers on worldview issues?
Mike: Wasn’t it C.S. Lewis, I’m not sure, but it was C.S. Lewis or someone around that time who said…
Kurt: Good philosophy exists if only to answer bad philosophy.
Mike: There you go. If we do not respond to these kinds of arguments, it gives the impression to non-believers that we don’t have answers for these things. We do. We have good answers. I was reading an article that, the link was provided on Twitter and I was reading it yesterday and it was a debate between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris would say things like, “It’s so stupid to believe in Christianity and God. It’s just like believing in Catwoman and astrology. Why would any sane person believe that?” A militant atheist like him, they typically will speak in those kinds of tones. I thought, “You know what? I would probably have the same view and think that it was insane if I were willing to ignore all the evidence and data that we get from molecular biology and astrophysics that point to an intelligent designer of the universe and life itself, evidence data that even people like Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick were willing to admit, that it seems to have strong suggestions for a designer.
Kurt: Wasn’t it Crick who posited aliens planting DNA? That was his position.
Mike: Directed Panspermia by Francis Crick and also you can see in that movie Expelled that Richard Dawkins promotes the same kind of thing. If you’re willing to go to that extent and ignore the evidence that points to a designer of the universe and life. If I’m willing to stick my head in the sand when it comes to things such as the problem of consciousness, which even prominent atheist philosophers, many of them have acknowledged that this is an insoluble problem for atheism to explain how human consciousness came through naturalistic processes. If you’re willing to stick your head in the sand for certain philosophical arguments like a teleological or cosmological argument like the Kalam Cosmological Argument, they’re willing to ignore the evidence, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, well then I would come to the same conclusion that Christianity’s a ridiculous view. The difference between Sam Harris and me is I’m not willing to stick my head in the sand when it comes to the evidence, but it’s important for us to do this because if we don’t do it, I’ll finish with this. Back in I think it was 2010, 2009, I debated Richard Carrier the second time out at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. After the debate, this girl, a student came up to me. She told me she was a Junior and she said “I’m really glad I came to the debate. When I got here as a Freshman I saw the animosity of professors and students towards Christianity and it led me to give up my Christian faith. I heard about this debate. I just was curious. I wanted to come and see it. I really thought you would get demolished.” She said, “I can’t believe the strong evidence there is for the resurrection of Jesus and I’m coming back to the faith and I’m going to get involved in a group, a Bible group here on campus.” It’s like, “Wow. That’s what a debate did.” That’s the kind of thing that’s really important, for people seeking truth, it gives them truth, but if we don’t present the truth, how are they going to know what’s true? People are just going to walk away from the faith because we’re not answering the objections that come up.
Kurt: What happened here was you went and did this debate and while in your debates you would love for your opponent to come over to your side, there’s an audience. There’s an audience that’s listening on the internet, part of the reason why I engage is because there are lurkers, there are people reading the comments. It gives them hop, you might say, or for some that are really seeking, they might be impressed. I can remember ten years ago, at least in the circles I was in, it was very popular to think, “Christians are irrational” or “Christianity is irrational.” Having spent time studying and engaging, I don’t one know really how anyone can make that claim when you really begin to study it. Even if Christianity is wrong in the end, I don’t think you can say that it’s irrational. There are very good reasons for why people are Christians and these are reasons that people really should give weight to and consider in their own lives. Here for this gal that chatted with you, she came up to you and said that, but there are others who might not even come up to you and thank you. There are others that might just think through these things on their own and step by step, we can begin to push people, it’s the angle scale I think, where people are at a certain degree and you want to talk them one step closer toward your position. There’s value in doing that and there’s value for just having everyday conversations with atheists, with agnostics, with Muslims and Hindus, Christians should not be fearful. Christians, in fact, should be welcoming of such dialogue and if you are fearful, I think maybe it’s an indicator that you’re not prepared, that you’re insecure in your own beliefs and I think that should be an admonishment to get with the program here, especially in the United States where the culture is just quickly shifting, so it’s something we need to do.
A lot of people, especially more on the liberal side of the spectrum, they’ve done what are called these interfaith dialogues, and I’ve been to a couple of those in my day and I’m just not impressed. Interfaith dialogues are more of “Here’s what I believe. Isn’t that nice? Here’s what you believe in. Isn’t that nice?” I don’t know if I’ve seen this term anywhere else. I’ve come up with a term, let me know if I’ve coined it. I’ll trademark it. Cross worldview engagement. That seems much better than interfaith dialogue. Cross worldview engagement. Mike. Tell me, in your earlier years, when you began studying these topics, what role did cross worldview engagement play in our journey to faith?
Mike: In my journey to faith? Probably didn’t play any role in it.
Kurt: Didn’t you evaluate the arguments?
Mike: Yeah. Okay. I was thinking about when I became a Christian at the age of 10.
Kurt: Maybe when you began doubting let’s say.
Mike: When I began doubting and I was prepared to give up my faith if I believed the evidence pointed away from Christianity and some other worldview. I didn’t do many dialogues with non-believers. I did a few at that point, but I looked at things. I looked at Hinduism. I looked at Buddhism. I looked at Islam, and I looked at Islam. I didn’t consider all the different worldviews, but I did look at those. I wasn’t so much concerned with what they believed. I was more concerned with what’s the historic evidence to show these were true. For example, when it came to Hinduism, look at the Bhagavad-Gita. It’s about a battle that allegedly took place around 3000 B.C. where Krishna becomes incarnated and so I asked a leading Hindu scholar, I said “What’s the evidence we have that Krishna actually appeared here on Earth.” He said, “The very first mention of Krishna in the historical record can be traced back to either 400 or 500 BC which its mentioned on an inscription somewhere that Krishna was worshipped, so that’s 25 to 26 hundred years after he allegedly came down here and even today I was told that legend continues to develop within Hinduism and they don’t have any problem with it. You just can’t even trust the background of things like that. I looked at Buddhism. I looked at Islam more than the others. I think Islam is one of the most easily refuted religions in the world when I look at the evidence or the lack of it and the evidence that they typically present which is nothing like what the Qu’ran presents. The one test that the Qu’ran presents is to try to create a sura, a chapter, just like one in the Qu’ran and you’ll see that you can’t. In another sura it says but if you do even try, you’ll be damned forever. I think if you try to do it, you can sit down and look and you’ll see that it’s quite easy to do one just like that. Christianity has so much more going for it than any of the other worldviews when you look at the historical evidence for it.
Kurt: While we’ve been talking a lot about debates and how you’ve prepared and the value therein, there’s an audience or there are lurkers and so it’s not necessarily about your debate opponent, but not everyone has a desire to get up there on that debate stage. Nevertheless, they’re still encouraged to engage with people who are not Christians and engage through the cross worldview engagement. What advice would you have for them in terms of how they learn more about different worldviews and things that they should consider in their conversations with their neighbor?
Mike: We’re talking about people who are not interested in getting up on the stage and doing debates.
Mike: Okay. There’s going to be people of different interest levels. We all have different interest levels. Some people, people like you and me, we really are interested in evidence. That’s kind of our thing. People aren’t so much interested in that. I would say at least become familiarized with apologetics. They can do that very simply by picking up Lee Strobel’s books, The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus. These are pretty easy reads. They’re good reads. They give a lot of good information in it, and they can get a solid foundation that’s going to be able to address a lot of questions and equip them with some things. That may be all they need. Maybe Bill Craig’s book, On Guard, that will provide. It doesn’t get into a whole lot of detail, but that one book will give sufficient evidence. It’s going to be a little heavier than Strobel’s books, but it’s still very very good. If someone’s interested in apologetics. Apologetics is more or less defending the faith. I consider myself a Christian apologist, but I’m kind of in the middle of some things. When I’m doing my research, I’m doing it for apologetics. I’m doing it because I want to know the truth and if it can apply to apologetics, fantastic. If it can’t, that’s okay with me. I’m kind of caught between. Really seek truth and know about Jesus and then I also want to defend the faith, but if a person just really wants to know this for themselves enough to satisfy their own doubts because they’re seeking. They can get into some deeper stuff like On Guard by William Lane Craig or his deeper book Reasonable Faith or go back and watch episodes of Veracity Hill.
Kurt: Or read the Case for the Resurrection by Mike Licona and Gary Habermas.
Mike: That’s one right there or if they really want to get involved. Pick a subject which they’re really interested in. If they really want to go deep with it, there are various things like Gospel Differences. I think my book, the recent one, Why Are There Differences In The Gospels? is something they should read on that or on the resurrection the one that Gary and I did or my real thick book on it. If they’re interested in science creation. There’s books on molecular biology or astrophysics, altogether, that they can look at. There’s a lot of different things that they can do. They can watch debates online. They can learn a lot. I cut my teeth on apologetics by watching William Lane Craig debates. They can do that and learn a lot and that’s a really good way to do it because you get both sides and you get to see the objections and you get to see it done in a very concise matter. It’s kind of cool.
Kurt: People do have varying levels of interest, but for those that have just barely any, it seems that they should at least familiarize themselves with names of people who are. To be able to say, “I’m not sure I have an answer for you right now, but why don’t you check out Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Christ where he interviews different scholars. That I think can be so much more helpful for winning people over into the faith than just say, “The Bible just says so.” A statement like that doesn’t work with people who have already rejected it as a fantasy or a fairy tale. Good. Mike. Thanks so much for joining us on today’s program. It’s been great to pick your brain about your experience in debates and the thoughts and advice you have to budding apologists or those who maybe just should get more interested in it. I appreciate you taking your time here on a Saturday afternoon.
Mike: Thanks for having me. This has been fun.
Kurt: Good. Thanks again and we’ll be in touch. I do want to schedule a time for you and Christopher Pelling to come on at the same time.
Mike: That’d be awesome.
Kurt: That would be interesting. Thanks Mike. We’ll be in touch. God bless yo.
Mike: God bless you all. Bye-bye.
Kurt: Alright. That does it for today’s program. On next week’s program, David Montoya will be filling in and the topic of the program will be the teleological argument. He will be interviewing Allen Hainline and so I’m not sure if I’ll be back. I’m going to be away for a week actually at Lake Geneva youth camp where I try to go up once a year to their annual teen camp week and I counsel and talk to the teens. It’s a great opportunity for them to ask someone who studies theology their deep questions. It’s fun for me, it’s real fun for them. Although, of course, they don’t go just for me. It’s fun nonetheless. God bless my wife. She’s willing to let me take a week away from home to do that. I’m not sure if I’ll be back in time. I might be back. We’ll see if I am. I’ll be sitting on the other side of the table here and maybe just making comments from the peanut gallery. That’ll be next week’s episode and we’ve got a number of other episodes lined up for you. Looking forward to what is to come on Veracity Hill. Check out the Marco Polo app. It seems really fun. Video walkie-talkie. Totally free. We’re going to be starting a Veracity Hill Marco Polo group so if you want to become one of our monthly supporters, $5, $10 a month, you can join that group and we’ll have a lot of fun there talking about these theological issues.
That does it for the program today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships we have with our sponsors. Defenders Media. Consult Kevin. The Sky Floor. Rethinking Hell. The Illinois Family Institute. Fox Restoration and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer Chris. We had a number of stuff we are figuring out beforehand, so I’m glad you know what you’re doing Chris. Also, I want to thank our guest and my friend Dr. Mike Licona. Last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unsure who at 38:25
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