(un)Apologetic Week 1: We're Just Getting Started
Did the Jesus as described in the Bible actually exist? How can a loving God send people to hell? How is it possible that God has no beginning and no end? Why would God create the devil if He knew he’d rebel? What really makes Christianity better than all the other religions? Does the Bible really decide ethics and morals in your daily life? If God is real, why is there so much war, sickness, death? Christianity is exclusive and judgmental. Everyone should determine truth for themselves.
So, why was God okay with slavery? Why does He seemingly allow wars? Where was God when I needed Him? If God is loving and all powerful, why is there evil?
Chip: Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. Can we give it up for our creative team that does these videos and everything? They do all that in-house. I mean, they’re fantastic. They just do a fantastic job with all the artwork and everything.
Well, we’re starting a brand new series this weekend called “Unapologetic.” I’m really excited. We’ve had some great services so far. You may be wondering, “What are we going to do here?” Let me just go ahead and come out of the gates here with the big idea. This is what we’re going to be doing over the next I don’t know how many weeks. Normally, when we do a series, we sort of say it’s going to be four weeks, five weeks or sometimes they go six seeks. But this one here, we’ve not put an end time on. We’re going to just sort of let this thing go.
Here’s what we’re going to be trying to do over the next several weeks. I’m sure, probably, over the next month, for sure, if not longer. We want to equip us in such a way so we’re not afraid to share and defend our faith. A lot of Christians love God. They pray, read their Bibles, go to church, sing songs and all that stuff. But when it comes to having a conversation with their neighbor or talking to somebody at work, it’s like, all of a sudden, they feel a little bit like, “I don’t know that I can do this.” I want to help because I believe, with all of my heart — you know, I’m a Christian just like everybody else. I put on my pants the same way everybody else does. I don’t walk on water. My kids are half crazy. That’s because of their mom, but anyway. A whole other issue here. She’s in Tampa today, so I can get away with that.
Anyway, the reality is that as a pastor, when I’m up here doing what I do, in Ephesians 4, that particular role, my role is to equip saints. That’s you all. Everybody in here is a saint that is a believer in Jesus. You may go, “I don’t feel like a saint. I don’t, oftentimes, even act like a saint.” Okay. Christianity is not how well you and I perform. It’s not what we do. It’s based on what Jesus has done for you and me. So, our holiness and righteousness comes from Him, not from anything that we do. So, we’re called saints. We’re the holy ones of God. Whether we think we are or not, we are the holy ones of God.
A pastor and teacher is to equip saints, you all, to be able to work ministry so that you’re not tossed to and fro when you hear all kinds of stuff and don’t know what’s true or whatever, so that we can all represent Jesus in the community.
So, I take that particular role very seriously, as your pastor, which is why I try to do a lot of teaching and a lot of equipping every weekend. So, over the next month or so, we’re going to learn to get equipped so that we are capable of sharing and defending our faith. There’s an old phrase that was used in education that said, “Knowledge is power.” I never liked that because it almost seemed like you use knowledge to do something or sort of look over someone.
I do like this statement though: Knowledge is confidence. I believe this as a teacher. When people know what they’re talking about, they are far more confident when they share. So, over the next several weeks, over the next month, maybe two months, we’re going to learn, in depth, and go really deep into understanding our faith, understanding how to share our faith, and understanding how to defend our faith. What’s interesting is I sent the bumper video that you all just watched to a pastor friend of mine. The response was, “I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t even talk about that in the church.”
I’m like, “That’s the problem. The reason people are leaving church is because we’re not giving the great answers.” Here’s what I believe with everything within me, as your pastor: If Jesus is put out into the arena of truth, He wins every single time. Every time. We don’t have anything to be scared about. We don’t have anything to be — there are tough questions, but there are good answers. So, I’m going to encourage you to really make a commitment to being here. Be focused on this. Let’s learn and grow together and learn about our faith.
So, I started thinking, “How do I start this off?” I don’t want to start off too much because if I start off too much, it may be like, “Whoa. That was like water from a fire hose.” I want to sort of wade into this. I started thinking, “Man, what’s the best way I can do this?”
Well, I have a friend — I have multiple friends, that do this for a living, but I’ve got one friend that I knew who I’m like, “Man, this guy is doing it. He’s doing it.” In fact, just a couple months ago, he debated Matt Dillahunty. Matt Dillahunty, if you don’t know him, you don’t need to go search him out. He has a program called “The Atheist Experiment” or something like that. He’s got hundreds and hundreds of thousands of viewers and everything. Well, he’s a debater. He likes to debate Christians. Oftentimes, when he debates, he does a pretty good job. In fact, many times, he beats up on some of the Christians that he debates pretty bad. So, when I learned my friend was going to be debating him, I talked to him. I’m like, “Dude, are you sure you want to go after this guy? This guy is pretty...”
He’s like, “I know, Chip. Whatever.” Believe it or not, this person not only debated Matt Dillahunty, but even some of the atheists started to agree that this guy held his own. He might have even won. He did a great job. That particular debate has been watched over hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube. I thought, “Do you know what? Let me bring this guy in. We’ll have some dialogue here to get this thing going, whet everybody’s appetite and make this series kick off where everybody’s going, “Man, I want more. This is great.” I’d like for you all, if you would, to give a big round of applause to my friend, and a great guy, Dr. Braxton Hunter. Come on, Braxton. Get up here, man. I flew Braxton in all the way from Evansville, Indiana. What do we know about Evansville?
Braxton: Really? Wow.
Chip: Yeah. Don’t listen to them.
Braxton: Evansville, Indiana is noteworthy as the seventh most miserable city in America.
Chip: There we go. Hallelujah. So, he’s glad he’s in Sarasota.
Braxton: It’s good to be here.
Chip: How about the frontline team bringing all this up here for us? I mean, man, this is like having Rooms-to-Go right here in church. It’s awesome. Just to be honest here, a couple things. Number one: When we do those baptismal shots, can we stop doing it over my head, showing my bald spot up here? I’m starting to look like you.
Chip: And then they came to me after last service and they’re like, “Pastor Chip, could we get bigger chairs? Nobody can see you when you’re sitting down.” I’m like, “Fantastic, man.” So, there you go. All good. Let’s get to work in here. So, one of the complaints we got last night, both services, was that they wanted to go longer. So, we’re going to try to get to the meat of what we’re doing today. You’re going to really enjoy this. Please take notes. There are so many good things that are going to be said today. You’re going to walk out of here going, “Man, I am ready to go.” So, here’s the reality: Not a lot of churches are doing this. Correct?
Braxton: Yeah. That’s absolutely true. In fact, I do this kind of thing at conferences, mostly, around the world. I want to tell you if I lived within 100 miles of this church, this would be my home church because there are churches that are interested in outreach and they get outreach programs from a Christian bookstore and they try to run that. But there are very few who are training people for having meaningful worldview discussions with people experiencing doubt or who are unbelievers. So, to have a pastor like you’ve got, and a church leadership like you’ve got, that is interested in training you like that, and running a series like this, if you applauded anybody today, that’s who I think you ought to applaud: The pastoral team that would do something like this. So, I think that’s really powerful.
On top of that, I would say if you’re the kind of person who would say, “I’m just not really into that kind of stuff, evidences and reasons to believe,” there are two kinds of people. There are those kind of people like me who really geek out over that, like some people do over Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or something, and then there are those people that think, “Yeah, that’s not really my thing. That doesn’t come naturally.” But even if that’s who you are, be a part of this series because you’re not going to feel that way when your grandson comes home and says he’s an atheist. You’re not going to feel that way when that coworker becomes antagonistic towards your faith. So, I think every believer needs to try and have some simple apologetic principles down.
Chip: So, we say “apologetics.” We’ve got this phrase up here: Unapologetic. Help everybody understand what apologetics means and sort of the play on words we’re doing here with “Unapologetic.”
Braxton: Yeah. Believe it or not, apologetics is a good biblical term. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter says, “Be ready and willing always to give a defense...”
That word for “defense” there is the word “apologia.” It’s where we get the word “apologetics.” It’s where we get the word “apologize” or “apology” as well. He says, “Be ready and willing always to give a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that you have, and do this with gentleness and respect.” So, what Peter was saying — and this was a cyclical letter, which means this was a letter that wasn’t written just to one church like where Paul writes to the church at Corinth. That’s not what this is. This is a letter to multiple churches all around what is modern day Turkey, and what used to be called Asia Minor.
So, since it is written to a bunch of churches, it’s reasonable to conclude this is what the Apostle Peter thought the Church ought to be doing, which means us. So, we ought to be people who are ready to defend, to give an “apologia” for why we believe what we believe. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to have a PhD in this or anything. You may not even end up doing what I do and debate guys who are spokespersons for atheism. But what I think every Christian can do is learn some basics so that when they have these conversations, they’re able to have conversations that matter and won’t be sitting there without a response. So, what they’ve done with this, I really like it. It’s “Unapologetics.” So, if “apologia” means to defend or in defense of, obviously we want to give that. We want to give a defense.
Chip: That’s right.
Braxton: But the word “apology” has come, in our culture, to mean “we’re sorry about this,” “we’re apologizing.” I just want everybody to know I’m an apologist, but I do not go around professionally apologizing for the Gospel. I just want to make that clear. But since that’s how it’s come to be understood in our culture, this is a cool play on words. We are unapologetic about our apologetics. I think that’s a good way to put it.
Chip: Yeah. And the bottom line is why are we doing this? We’re doing this because what I’ve seen not only — because I read a lot — in the stats and some of the things that are going on, but I see it in my own personal life. There are people in this church that have sons and daughters, there are people that I know, there are people I meet on a regular basis out there that say to me, “I left the Church.” And a lot of people used to leave the Church because they thought we were hypocrites, they didn’t like what we did or they thought whatever they think about church. We’re seeing something today that is very unique. We are seeing what are called “de-conversions.” We are seeing people leave the Christian faith and become atheists, or become agnostics. There is such a pervasive amount of material out there, and it’s happening in the younger generation with incredible numbers. They leave youth group, they go to college and they become non-Christians almost overnight.
So, this is an alarming trend. I want to say this is really important because this is the — what we do here — I mean, look, I hope you love the coffee. I hope you love the snacks and all this stuff, and everything’s good. We want you to love the worship and all that great stuff. But, at the end of the day, this is the highest stakes game in town because eternity is on the line. We want to make sure that people truly know about Jesus and that we’re capable of sharing Jesus. My heart is this because I pray it regularly — I prayed it last night. We pray every Saturday night as a worship team before the five services. I prayed that last night, but I pray it regularly. I’m like, “God, You’ve got to start somewhere. You’re going to do something great somewhere. Let it start here. We just want to raise up an army of Christians that are unapologetic about their faith, that believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to every issue in life, and we want to see revival happen in Lakewood Ranch so big that even the media has to come in here and show it on TV that there is great stuff going on.”
So, that’s the thing, that people are even getting pinched for Jesus at Pinchers on Main Street. My wife’s always like, “You’ve got the worst jokes ever.” I’m like, “But they laugh.” Anyway, that’s what we’re doing here. So, let’s get into this. What are the two or three things that — and this is the time to take notes. God loves note-takers. It’s in the book of Hezekiah and in the book of First Opinions. Neither one of those exist in the Bible. Anyway, take notes. Give us two or three things that we have to know as Christians. I mean, that everybody in here has to know. Then, after you give us those, let’s talk about some things that we can come along and put some meat on those bones so they can walk out of here with something great.
Braxton: I love Pastor Chip. You know, first of all, I think that the most important thing that you can do — and everybody can do this — is you need to be people who approach others with love. The greatest apologetic, by which I mean the greatest defense of the Christian faith, the greatest evidence for the truth of Christianity is that we are people of love who approach other people with love. We’re not just trying to win arguments. Now, the Bible does say that we tear down arguments. We tear down arguments with the truth, but we do that in a spirit of love. So, that’s the most important thing. You know, oftentimes, whenever somebody brings intellectual challenges to the Christian faith — this isn’t always the case. Sometimes those are legitimately what they’re concerned with. But, often, what it is is a smokescreen. What they really want is someone to listen to them, someone to care, someone to love them. A sense of community, like what you have here at this church.
So, love is the utmost important thing. If you only take one thing away from this, that should be the thing. But that shouldn’t get you off the hook of learning some of this heady, difficult stuff. So, when we get down to the nitty-gritty of this and look at some evidences and arguments, I think there are three things. I think that every Christian, whether you became a Christian last week or you have been for 20 years, there are three things that Christians should be able to talk about in a sensible way, even if you don’t have a PhD, like I said. You’re able to say some things about this.
First of all is why we should believe that God exists. It’s kind of hard for Christianity to be true if God doesn’t exist, so we need to be able to talk about why it’s reasonable to believe that God exists. Now, that may sound kind of fundamental to you, or simple, but atheism is on the rise. So, we need to be able to give reasons. Secondly, we need to be able to talk about the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is the historical centerpiece of the Christian faith. We hang everything — this whole game rests on the resurrection. It did for Paul. Paul said, “If Christ be not raised, then we of all men are most miserable.” So, the fact of the matter is we need to be people who are ready to talk about why we believe the resurrection of Jesus happened as a real, historical event in space and time. So, we want to be able to talk about that.
Now, why those two things? Because if God exists and God raised Jesus from the dead, Christianity is true. Period. So, if someone wants to talk about what they think are contradictions in the Bible, errors in the Bible, rough things in the Old Testament, “Why would God allow these things?” or evolution — they can’t give up their evolution or whatever it is, whatever you want to say about all those things, and those are important topics, but if God exists and God raised Jesus from the dead, those come secondary because Christianity is true. Period.
So, those two things are very important. Now, the third thing — the reason I say the third thing is the problem of evil or the problem of suffering. Now, I don’t know if you know what I mean with that, but what we’re talking about there is if God is a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God, then why do we see the pain and suffering and evil that we see in the world? “Why did my child pass away? Why is my marriage falling apart? Why is there war? Why are there natural disasters?”
These are important questions. The reason I include this in my list of three things that every Christian ought to be prepared to talk about is because it is the most common question you’ll get from outsiders and unbelievers. In fact, you’ll notice in the trailer video for this series it was mentioned at least three times. It was the only thing mentioned that much. That’s appropriate because it gets raised all the time. So, I think those three things, we need to be ready to talk about in a meaningful way.
Chip: Okay. So, we want to talk about “does God exist?” We’re going to give some meat to the bones. We’re going to talk about resurrection. We’re going to talk about the problem of evil because if you could talk about those three things and you have some intelligence about those things, you’re probably better than most Christians in terms of being able to give a defense. So, here’s what we want to talk about first. Does God exist? What I want to say — and I’ll let Braxton jump in on this — is that we believe that the most reasonable — hear that word — the most reasonable explanation for why we’re here, and for the world that we live in, is God. It’s the most reasonable. You can’t prove. Somebody who goes, “There’s not god,” can’t prove to you there’s not god. We’re talking about “reasonable” here. Is this a reasonable expectation? Why is it reasonable for everybody in here that says, “I’m a believer in Jesus,” — why is it reasonable for them to conclude that this world didn’t just happen, that here was a god who created it?
Braxton: Yeah. So, there are several ways that you can approach the question of how we know that God exists. So, I’ll throw out three and we can talk about those a little bit. One of those, and my favorite, honestly, is that God is the best explanation for the beginning of the universe. I love this one because it’s simple enough that children can understand it, and it’s complex enough that it’s been discussed by philosophers for over a thousand years. Both of my daughters — I’ve got a redhead, a blonde, and my wife’s a brunette, so I’ve got it all covered. Right? But whenever each of my daughters individually came to me at about five years old and said to me, “Daddy, I know there’s a God.”
“Well, why do you know that?”
“Well, because if there was no God, then who made everything?”
Right? So, it’s a simple thing that a child can understand. But do you know that is, probably, I think, one of the best arguments for God’s existence. Let me break it down. Now, everything that I’m going to say here is really just to whet your appetite for this series and to get you to go looking for resources, because we can’t go into all the details. And if you think, “I could come up with objections to some of those,” you probably could. If we have more time, we could go back and forth on that. So, just know this is just to kind of get you going. But, you know, everything that begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence. Right? Or its beginning to exist. So, we look for this chain of causes. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has to have a cause. Right? Well, what could be the cause of the physical universe? Can we know? I think we can. The universe is generally three things: Time. Believe it or not, time is a part of the physical universe. Space. Not just outer space, but the space we’re inhabiting right now. And physical matter. Time, space and matter. That’s the whole ball of wax.
Now, if the cause of the physical universe created time, space and matter, then that cause can’t be confined by those categories, which means that it’s not in time. It’s timeless. It’s not in space. It’s spaceless. It’s not made of matter. It would have to be able to do something to have what philosophers call causal powers. Well, what would fit the category? The only thing that fits the category from a timeless state of nothingness would be a mind. A mind could decide to create the universe from nothing. Oh, and by the way, it would have to be a mind that’s powerful enough to do it. Oh, and it would have to be wise enough to make sure that it happens. So, really, just in about a two-minute argument I’ve explained here for you, what we’ve got is a spaceless, timeless, non-material, sufficiently powerful, exceedingly wise mind that serves as the best explanation for the beginning of the universe. That is what every Christian and every Jew thinks when we look at Genesis 1:1 where it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now, as I say, there are objections to that, but I think that’s a pretty good one.
Chip: Yeah. And, you know, I’m a systematic theology teacher, so I’m not an apologist by trade, but when I do teach systemic theology, at the beginning, we have to talk about, “Well, how can you study God because Theos and Logos is the theology study of God. Well, God would have to exist. So, what I use is this: I just say, “Your shoe there...” — there’s nobody in this room — nobody — that would go, “That shoe just happened. It happened.”
Braxton: It would’ve been better for my pocketbook if it did.
Chip: Well, maybe so. But that shoe didn’t just happen. When we go, “No, somebody had to make that. There was no way that that shoe just happened.” Okay. Well, that shoe happening, the odds of it happening, there is some sort of mathematical equation that you could put together and it would be crazy that a tornado could’ve come through here with the right exact things and that thing would’ve been — nobody would believe that that could ever happen. But if that could happen, the world happening that we live in, is so much further removed mathematically from that that it would be reasonable to conclude that it didn’t just happen. But what I use as a theology teacher is this. I call it the argument from contingency, or the cosmological argument. Everything in this world — and science understands this. We all understand this. My Cue that I like to use that clicks the slides and everything, we know that this was made by something. This coming into being was contingent upon something else making this. There is nothing in our known universe that isn’t contingent. Everything was created by something else.
So, I wasn’t here. Charlie and Birdie Bennett conceived me. I had no idea about it. I didn’t chose it. I’m a contingent being. My coming into being was contingent upon something else. But here’s what we know: Since the whole world is contingent, the whole universe is contingent, we know this for a fact: A contingent being cannot create itself. It’s impossible. So, that means, by philosophical necessity, there has to be a non-contingent being that created the world that we live in. Now, that doesn’t prove Christianity, that doesn’t prove Jesus, but what it does prove is that there’s something else out there that we could refer to as god, which means that belief in God is not unreasonable. Am I wrong?
Braxton: Sure. Absolutely. No. That’s right. So, that leads us into, actually, another great evidence for God’s existence. And that is — you’re probably familiar with this one from culture. The design argument. We look at the world around us and it’s incredibly finely tuned to allow life to be possible. Now, you might say, “Yeah, but I know how to answer that one. What about evolution?” You know, even if evolution were true, it wouldn’t explain why the universe is so incredibly well fine-tuned to allow life to even be possible. So, you don’t even have to get into that. We live in an incredibly fine — you know, Stephen Hawking, who died, I think, last year or the year before, was one of the world’s most famous scientists. He said, “It’s as though you’ve got this panel of dials and levers that’s a mile long, and everything has to be fine-tuned to within a hair’s breadth at the beginning of the universe, or else it would’ve collapsed in on itself in a hot fireball. So, this design. And, of course, when you’re talking to people, it is kind of commonsensical, isn’t it? I mean, evolution, whatever, put all that together, and still, I look at my hands and I think, “These hands were incredibly well-designed to grip things. Right? Our whole body. I mean, look at your pastor. What an example of design that we have here. You know?
Chip: That’s because of Mountain Dew and Cheetos.
Braxton: That’s right.
Chip: I’m from Kentucky.
Braxton: They laugh at the most insulting moments, don’t they? But, you know, that’s the thing. My hands are made to grip things. My mouth is made to breathe, to eat and to talk. Those are some of my favorite things. When it comes to eating and talking, I am a satisfied customer. Those are some of my favorite things to do. So, it seems a bit intuitive to us. So, the design argument’s a good one. The moral argument — by the way, when I say argument, I just mean a reasoned explanation of why someone should believe something. You can give an argument without being argumentative. Right? We don’t want to do that. But the moral argument says, “Look, do you believe that things are right and wrong, morally speaking, and that that’s not a matter of opinion? There really aren’t things that are really right and things that are really wrong, no matter what people think about it?
So, let’s run an experiment. Here’s a sociological experiment for you. How many of you out there, by raising your hands — so, this is interactive — would agree with me that it is always wrong to torture children just for the fun of it. Would you raise your hands? Okay. If you don’t have your hand raised, what’s wrong with you? You know? There were many of you that didn’t have your hands raised. It makes me wonder if Evansville really is the seventh most miserable city in America. Maybe it’s Sarasota. The thing about it is if you believe that that’s really wrong, or if anything is really right, then that means there must be a god because if there is no god, then these are not objective facts. These are just matters of opinion and we’ve just kind of developed as a society. But it’s still the opinion of our society. And if a society, like, perhaps, Nazi Germany, decided that it was okay to slaughter Jews, and people agreed, well then, that becomes their right if there is no god and if it’s just a matter of opinion.
Chip: This is huge. Listen, this is so important to understand. There is no moral right and wrong if there is no god. If we are just randomly here and there was just some sort of a Big Bang and it all just sort of is this big pool of molecules and cells that came together, there is no right or wrong. It is absolutely wrong of you to say that what Adolf Hitler did was wrong. That’s just your opinion. You can’t say he was wrong. You cannot have a moral objective statement on anything because there is no right or wrong. We just are here and we showed up and it’s no different than a lion taking down some sort of animal on the plain. We could do the same thing. There’s no reason to think that torturing kids is bad. The only thing you can come to is that if there is a moral law within us — what did C.S. Lewis say?
Braxton: Yeah. C.S. Lewis once said that if there’s a moral law, if that’s real, then you have to have a moral law giver.
Chip: Yeah. So, I want you to think about that when we talk about is there reasonable evidence for god. When you start looking at intelligent design, you look at contingency, you look at morality and all of those things which are a whole other issue because we’re redefining morality in our society. We don’t get to choose based on what we feel is right or wrong. What God has said is right and wrong is right and wrong, folks, if He’s the one who created the universe. We don’t get to choose what our truth is or what we think about reality. We have to go with what God says. That is so off-putting to so many people in the world, but the reality is when you sit down and play Monopoly, you don’t get to choose how you play that game. Whoever — was it Hasbro? I don’t know who made up Monopoly. You play by those rules. So, God has set a world into existence, and I think that that’s the most reasonable explanation for why we’re here is God.
Let’s jump onto the next thing, which is the resurrection, because I think, to me, the most important thing is the resurrection. Help us understand a little bit more about that from an apologetic standpoint.
Braxton: Yeah. So, there’s a lot we could say here. This is where historiography comes in. This is one of the things I love about Christian apologetics. There are so many fields. You know? Philosophy. Science. History. It’s great. With this one, since we don’t have a lot of time on a Sunday morning, let me just...
Chip: You have three hours.
Braxton: Three? Okay. Let’s break it out then.
Chip: Just kidding. Some of y’all woke up, like, “Whoa. Hold on.” I woke them up.
Braxton: I’ll need a [inaudible] and a cup of coffee. But, you know, I think this will impress you. Chip, I think this would shock people to know. We run into skeptics all the time or on the internet. They’ll say things like, “Well, you know, we don’t have any good reason to believe that Jesus ever existed. This is all just legendary, mythological stuff.” Did you know that among critical scholars — and we’re talking about New Testament scholars and historians. When I say critical scholars, I mean Christians, but atheists, agnostics and, perhaps some others — the vast majority of critical scholars affirm the following: Jesus existed as a historical person, He died by Roman crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, that people had experiences after Jesus’ death that they interpreted as appearances of the risen Christ, and that they were so convinced of this that it altered their lives such that many of them were willing to die for the claim.
Now, the majority of scholars agree with those facts. Every single teaching historian at an accredited university on this planet believes that Jesus existed as a historical figure. These are bedrock facts. What that means is that if you’re going to come up with a hypothesis that explains this, you’ve got to deal with these bedrock facts. If you don’t, don’t expect the historians to pay any attention to you.
Chip: I want to make sure everybody understands what he’s saying. People who do not believe in Jesus, they’re not Christians, they don’t believe the claims of Christianity, but they’re historians and they’re academics, over 90% of everybody who teaches believes that Jesus actually existed, that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, that His followers really believed that they saw Him risen from the dead, and that it altered their life in such a way that they gave their lives for what they believed in. Nobody disputes that. So, if you’re out there on YouTube and you hear somebody going, “Jesus didn’t exist,” or whatever, that is such a fringe belief. Nobody really believes that. Don’t get sucked into those rabbit holes because people who do this for a living, who don’t even believe in Christianity, will tell you.
Bart Ehrman’s a great example. He did a debate against someone who didn’t believe in Jesus. He’s not a Christian at all. He’s not a Christian fan at all. In fact...
Braxton: He’s an enemy.
Chip: He’s an enemy of Christianity. He argues that it’s crazy to argue that Jesus Christ didn’t exist.
Braxton: Right. Yeah. So, you can have the full force, you can have the confidence of knowing you’ve got the force of all of the intellectual and academic world on Jesus behind you. Now, those people that are not Christians, obviously, don’t believe that He rose from the dead, but they believe in those facts. The best hypothesis that fits those is the resurrection. And Bart Ehrman, who he mentioned, actually, it’s my understanding that he encourages atheists and agnostics, “Don’t try to come up with a competing hypothesis to the resurrection and use it in these debates and discussions.” Now, he doesn’t say why, but I’ll tell you why I suppose it is. It’s because every time they try to come up with another explanation that meets these facts, it gets shredded by the Christian apologists and scholars. So, you’ve got a lot of confidence when it comes to these facts.
Chip: And it’s the most plausible. We’ll deal with this more, but if you understand first century Judaism, the one thing that is just absolutely true across the board is that messiahs that got crucified were not messiahs. Rome understood that. They understood when they heard somebody thought they were a messiah, because Rome knew the story — the messiah would overthrow Rome and Israel would be raised up again, and all that. So, when they got wind of a messiah, they knew how to deal with that. They crucified them. That way that messiah reign is over. So, nobody — nobody would’ve said, “The guy who got crucified was the messiah.”
That’s why all the disciples are holed up behind the locked door, fearing for their life. Because the guy that they had trusted in, the guy that they’d believed in, the guy that they thought was going to do all these great things just got killed. They didn’t think He’d just gotten killed. They didn’t think that maybe He died. They knew that He died. They saw Him buried. Game over. Done.
Okay. What is the most plausible explanation for why they decided to go, “You know what? He was the messiah. In fact, we weren’t even the ones who first told about it. It was women that told us about it. In fact, we’re going to go out and die for this thing now.” What is the most plausible explanation for why they had such a change of heart? The most plausible explanation is they saw Him alive. He rose from the dead. If that happens, Christianity is true. If Jesus rose from the dead, it doesn’t make a difference the problems you have in the Old Testament. Christianity is true. It doesn’t make a difference about the complications that you see in Scripture. If Jesus rose from the dead, game over. Christianity is true. We may not know how to figure out all the other things. I think there are great answers for them, but we don’t have to. Game over if Jesus rose from the dead. And it’s the most plausible explanation for the rise of Christianity. Agree?
Braxton: I agree. Yeah. Yeah.
Chip: Okay. So, now that we’ve got God exists — that’s reasonable. We now know, “Hey, we’ve got some things here. We’ve got some tools in the back pocket here that we have for that.” The resurrection, that’s the bedrock of it all and there’s reason to believe — great reason to believe — Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s deal with the last one here, which is a real problem for many Christians, which is the problem of evil, gratuitous evil, “Why do children suffer? Who do Hitlers come on the scene?” All that stuff. Help us out.
Braxton: Yeah. And with those first two issues, and the other things we’ve discussed, really, we don’t have a lot of time to get into all of this. I don’t know that I mentioned this, but I have a book that’s made for people who are new to this subject called “Core Facts.” You can get that on my website at BraxtonHunter.com. That’s how humble I am. I named my website BraxtonHunter.com. But yeah.
Chip: Or Amazon, too, right?
Braxton: And Amazon. You can get it all on Amazon. I have a fiction series that teaches some of this stuff. Anyway, the problem of suffering, this question should be treated seriously because it’s not only emotionally powerful, but it’s intellectually potent as well. This is one that should give Christians pause. We should take it seriously. Now, this has been answered a number of ways by Christian thinkers throughout the history of the church. One of those ways is to say, “Look, God created a world that He knew would have these bad things in it, but He went ahead and created that world because He knew that experiencing suffering or observing suffering does build our moral character and integrity.” Now, that’s true, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. But that certainly is true. Romans 5 teaches that. When we go through trials, it does make us better. When you see someone go through cancer and come out the other side, it makes them better, it makes us better to observe their courage and strength in the midst of it. So, that’s true, but it’s not the whole story. Others will say, “Look, whatever you want to say about this, heaven is coming. This is going to be birth pangs to glory. This is all going to have just been a veil of tears, so God’s going to wipe every tear from our eye. Well, that’s certainly true, too, isn’t it?
But that’s not the whole story. I think the thing that serves as the engine behind that, the Bible tells us that God wants people to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Right? If you want real love, you have to give people the freedom to choose. Because if they don’t choose to love, then in what sense is it really genuine love? So, if you give man freedom of the will to choose, you’ll get the love, but you also have to live with the possibility — and, in God’s knowledge, the certainty — that they will also use this for evil. I think that this goes back even to the garden. In the center of the garden, we always hear about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve ate from. But we never hear about the other tree. There was another tree there, too, that Genesis 2 tells us about. The tree of life. Every day, Adam and Eve went to the center of that garden and had to make a choice: Are we going to eat of the tree of life and obey God in an act of loving obedience to Him, turning away from what we could choose, but freely choosing what God wants? Or are we going to serve ourselves and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Well, we all know what ultimately happened there. Right? But the fact is that that tree — atheists make fun of that and say, “Look, that’s God tricking them into ultimately falling. No. That tree of knowledge of good and evil was important because its being there meant they had the opportunity to choose against God, but that means they had the opportunity, in love, to choose God freely. That’s the great thing about giving man freedom of choice. You get the love. Counterintuitively, all the evil, all the suffering, all the natural disasters ultimately come — yes, at a great cost, but we get this overarching good of love. Ultimately, God can even redeem the evils that take place in this life.
Now, that doesn’t help with the emotional problem. When someone’s going through this kind of thing, they maybe don’t need to hear this. What they need is a hug. They need to know that you care about them. But for us in a cool moment like this, it’s good to know that we can’t handle the emotional problem of suffering, but we can answer the intellectual problem of suffering. And I think that’s powerful.
Chip: Yeah. And I think that, too, at the same time, would God be greater if He created a world where everybody just did what He wanted them to do? Or would He be greater if He created a world where we truly had choice, but He was still even so fantastically great that He could still bring it to a conclusion at one time, and even in the midst of all the sufferings and pains, somehow bring glory out of that in a way that we couldn’t even imagine? And on top of that, even though it’s hard to wrap our arms around it, God creating a world where He knew that there would be sin and there would be disease and there would be sickness and there would be those things, we would not know God as savior, we would not know God as healer, we would not know God as deliverer if those things weren’t in place. We wouldn’t understand the character and nature of God had the world not been created the way the world is.
So, I think that although the problem of evil is a very difficult concept, I don’t think Christianity suffers. In other words, we’ve got answers for those issues. We’ll deal with this more as we get into the series. But I think, today, what you’ve seen is, “Hey, you know what? If I can truly talk about the fact that there really is a god, and I’m rock solid on the resurrection, and I have some sort of ammunition to deal with suffering, man, you know what? I actually could share my faith because any of the objections I’m going to get, those probably will sort of be a great antidote towards those issues.
So, in closing, what’s the one thing that you would say to the congregation, today, that they should take away from what we’ve done today?
Braxton: I think what I’m about to say right now, I think, will increase the confidence level of even the most introverted believer here. It’s this: You don’t have to have the answers. You may go out of here today and not know how to be an answer-giver. Hopefully, I’m an answer giver and your pastor is, but you can be a Christian apologist today, even before this series, because even though you can’t be an answer giver yet, do you know what you can be? You can be an answer finder for people. You can begin having meaningful worldview conversations with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus and whatever. When they ask you questions and you don’t know the answer, do you know what you can say? “I don’t know. But do you know what? I’m going to go find out so we can continue this conversation.”
If you’re willing to be an answer finder and be okay with that, I think that’s even more powerful because when you say, “I don’t know,” you validated that they had a good question, and you’re not just making stuff up, which is good because people factcheck these days with their phones.
So, this is a great opportunity. You can do that. Now, I think come to this series, take advantage of these resources and commit, today, to becoming an answer finder. Start learning to be an answer giver in these areas that we’ve discussed.
Chip: Awesome. Big hand for Braxton. Come on. And I’ve just got to say I love the fact that our church does stuff like this. This is good stuff. We’re going to learn a lot. Please come back and be prepared to take notes. We’re going to go deep and wide into this. I really believe, at the end of the series, we will have prepared a lot of people to share and defend their faith. Let’s close with a word of prayer and we’ll get out of here.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the opportunity to gather like this and to worship You and to talk and to think. Lord, Christianity isn’t just about a feeling or an emotion. It is true. We don’t have any reason to fear our faith. I pray, God, that what would happen here at Grace is that You would raise up an army of people that are sold out for You, that really want to go out and tell the world about Jesus because He is the answer that people are looking for. And so, Lord, as we walk out of here, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, I pray that You would help us to stay focused as a church as to what You’ve called us to be, and that is a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.