Michael Boling – Avoiding the Danger of “Googlegetics”

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Social media affords a great many people the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on basically anything and everything. From our perspective on the plain red cups being sold by Starbucks to our dismay at the latest political gaffe to cheering that our favorite sports team just won the World Series (I am guilty of that one of late), words fly around social media like there is no tomorrow.

This is not all necessarily bad. Having a place to air our voice on matters of great importance or to simply share a funny anecdote for our friends and family to enjoy is a good thing. It provides a sense of release and a sense of community, especially with those we love and our friends that we cannot regularly engage face to face.

There is a danger however with the freedom that exists with a platform such as social media and the internet as a whole. I have noticed this danger most frequently in Facebook forums, perhaps because I have spent an undue amount of time of late engaged in conversation with individuals in such forums. What is this danger you ask? I would like to label this danger as “Googlegetics”. What in this world is Googlegetics you might ask? Let me explain.

This phenomenon occurs each and every time someone resorts to the search function on their favorite web crawler in order to find the perfect quip or link to shut down another individual’s argument. If you have every spent more than five minutes looking through for example a Facebook forum where matters of theology are the focus, you will quickly notice the lack of real conversation. What has replaced discussion of Scripture is links to articles, videos, and things of that nature.

Now before this particular article appears to be a rant against videos and articles that discuss theology (because after all this article is one about theology), let me clarify there is nothing wrong with videos and articles, especially those which aptly and correctly seek to inform us on theological matters. There is quite a bit of quality information available on the internet and I often link to and encourage others to read a wide variety of information that can be found by way of a web search.

So what then is the issue? The problem resides when these videos and articles become our first source of information, our crutch if you will for the study of Scripture. We often declare our association with the Bereans yet fail to do the very thing they were noted for – searching the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught was correct. They clearly did not have the internet in order to fact check based on the writings of their favorite author or preacher or bible knowledge website. They went straight to the Scriptures.

This does not mean there is no value whatsoever in doing research. My friend Mike Leake recently wrote an excellent article addressing the problems with being what he rightly called a “Bible Only Man”. To be devoted to the study of the Scriptures does not mean we should never consult the writings of man for some insight. For instance, it is an absolute necessity in my humble opinion to have readily available a concordance and a bible dictionary when reading any passage of Scripture. If we are going to have any chance of properly declaring to the world the hope that is within us (which is the basis of apologetics), we have to grasp matters of context and the flow of thought in Scripture. A concordance will provide all the instances where a term is used in Scripture to allow you to see the variety of uses and to then hone in on how a word is being used in the particular passage you are studying. Add to that the usefulness of a bible dictionary in order to understand how the original languages intended a word to be understood and you are on the path to avoiding the danger of Googlegetics.

We run the risk of not properly analyzing and submitting to the authority of what God is telling us in Scripture when we immediately run to a web search to tell us what to think about a passage. God commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These terms note the importance of the entirety of our life being devoted to God. Our mind is included because God expects us to use it. Thus, not exercising our mental capabilities by allowing others to tell us what God has said rather than reading it, meditating upon it, and listening to the Holy Spirit as he writes God’s Word on our hearts, short circuits the utilization of our minds in the learning process. In taking that route, we are doing Googlegetics, apologetics by way of the web search instead of faithfully searching the biblical text.

I see this phenomenon far too often and admittedly, I have to say it has overtaken me on numerous occasions. The temptation is to find that perfect quote or that perfect YouTube video that will once and for all provide victory over your opponent’s line of argumentation. What should take place instead is time spent in the study of the text under discussion. Ask the correct questions of the biblical text – who, what, when, where, and why. Once you have answered those questions, look at similar texts and ask those same questions. Then look for other related texts and ask those same questions again. It is likely you will then begin to see distinct and important patterns and principles that you may have overlooked or simply have not noticed before. There is room in this process for consulting scholarly articles and other related pieces of information and yes that can include using a web search for information. I recommend doing that sparingly and only after you have conducted purposeful investigative theology. Let the text speak for itself and be willing to adjust your preconceived notions and opinions of the subject matter when the text demands. Doing so demonstrates growth and maturity in studying the Word.

Such an approach to doing apologetics and studying Scripture admittedly takes a lot of time and effort. It is much easier to do Googlegetics and to let a video or article do the talking and thinking for you. I implore you to take stock of how you are approaching conversations and debates with friends and family on matters of theology. Do you immediately resort to finding that clever one liner or that “Hulk Smash” article or video with the hopes of winning the day or do you open the pages of Scripture and do the hard work of walking together through what God is saying? The former approach is an attempt to win an argument with no real knowledge gained or seeds planted and the latter approach is the complete opposite – seeking to allow Scripture to speak, seeds to be planted, and God to be glorified in the process.

Avoid Googlegetics. Be willing to dive into Scripture. There is much to be learned, applied, and declared.

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William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint – An Introduction to the Thought of Alvin Plantinga

Meet Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Raised in the Christian Reformed Church, he has theological roots in the Dutch Reformed tradition. As the son of a philosophy and psychology professor, Plantinga evidenced a knack for and interest in philosophy early on.1

Plantinga studied philosophy at Harvard, Calvin College, the University of Michigan, and Yale, earning his PhD from Yale in 1957. Throughout his prolific career, Plantinga spent the majority of his years teaching, first, at Calvin College for nineteen years, then, until his recent retirement, at Notre Dame University. It would not be an overstatement to say that virtually all matters metaphysical and epistemological must address much of Plantinga’s own work. His Nature of Necessity did much to further discussions of modality in metaphysics, and his most recent work in epistemology, the roots of which began early in his career, have stimulated a multitude of developments and critiques in philosophical and theological circles.

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Book Review – Forensic Faith

Believers are commanded in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be ready to “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Being able to provide such a defense requires the believer to have a functional understanding of the faith in which they have placed their hope. Part of this effort involves the practice of apologetics. Moreover, developing a good apologetic for the faith includes utilizing the vast amount of evidence available in support of the faith. Having valuable tools on hand which outline in a helpful manner this fount of evidence is also essential.

It can be argued that approaching the evidence for the validity of the faith from the perspective of an investigator is a tremendous method for not only exploring the truth, but also for ensuring all the relevant facts are explored thoroughly with little doubt left in the end as to what is true. It is this methodology which is employed by J. Warner Wallace in his latest book aptly titled Forensic Faith.

For those not familiar with Wallace’s previous works or his journey to faith in Jesus, he was a former atheist who spent a career as a cold-case homicide detective. This career developed in him a keen understanding of how to identify, review, and parse evidence, in particular in homicide cases where the evidential trail had become thin. This investigative background was part of his investigation of Christianity and which led to his embracing of the merits of the faith.

In this particular book, Wallace focuses on providing believers the needed skills to make a reasonable, thorough case based on the available evidence for Christianity. This is a tutorial of sorts, an investigative handbook replete with valuable information that will empower the believer to make a powerful defense and an air-tight case for the hope within them that would stand up to even the most potent cross-examination.
Where this book shines brightest is in its practicality. Scattered strategically throughout the book are vignettes called “Forensic Faith Profiles”, “Forensic Faith Assignments”, “Forensic Faith Challenge”, and “Forensic Faith Definition”. These provide the reader with nuggets of information to chew on if you will, informative tidbits that serve as beneficial road maps on the journey to understanding and employing one’s defense of the faith.

In this vein of practicality, also of note are the “Forensic Faith Practice” portions. Given this book is intended to serve as a training manual of sorts, including the opportunity for the reader to put into practice what they are learning is invaluable. It is after all one thing to simply read information and quite another to put what you have read into practice in a meaningful way. Wallace helps drive home the bounty of information he provides by giving the reader these practice sessions.

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace is a book I highly recommend. In an age where we need more than ever to understand what we believe and more importantly, to be able to coherently and cogently declare the glorious message of the gospel, this book will serve as an excellent field manual for defending the faith.

I received this book for free from David C. Cook via Litfuse Publicity and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Trevin Wax – I Wish Christian Would Argue More

I wish Christians would argue more.

No, I’m not being sarcastic or saying this with an eye roll. I mean it.

I want Christians to argue more and fight less. To take it a step further, I’d even say that fighting less depends on our willingness to argue more and better.

Arguing in the Classic Sense

To be clear, I’m not using the word “argue” in the sense that the apostle Paul did, when he instructed the Philippian church to “do everything without grumbling and arguing” (Phil 2:15). I don’t say “argue” in the sense of being quarrelsome or irritable or “loving the fight” of aggressive words.

I use the word “argue” in its classic sense: the ability to make or counter an argument that depends on logic and reason. To meet one argument with another. To argue with someone, civilly and respectfully, toward the discovery of truth.

Arguing vs. Quarreling

In his autobiography, G. K. Chesterton remarked that the bad thing about a quarrel is that it spoils a good argument! He hated when bad feelings overshadowed the making and countering of good arguments.

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Greg Hall – Ready to Give an Answer

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Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

When I was a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, I attended classes with a number of Islamic students, most of whom were from the nation of Saudi Arabia. They were very good students, highly motivated, very devoted to one another, and especially zealous for their Islamic beliefs. At the graduate level, students are continually making presentations of one kind or another. It was always striking to me that along with the presentation, the Islamic students invariably talked about their religion.

For instance, if a student was giving a presentation on some kind of educational policy in his country, he would likely begin like this: “Before I speak of the educational policies of my nation, it is first important for me to talk about the tenets of Islam with you. The reason is, you cannot understand the educational policy of my country without understanding Islam. They go together.” And so the student had a captive audience, and they always, courageously and forthrightly, told us first about the basic tenets of Islamic religion.

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Michael Boling – Why Apologetics is Applicable to all of Life and a Calling for all Believers

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1 Peter 3:15 – “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”

Apologetics is a term that unfortunately seems to be equated as something someone else is responsible for doing. Many believe the bulk of the responsibility for doing apologetics rests upon the shoulders of scholars, pastors, or those called to making the debate circuit.

Is apologetics really for everyone? Are we all called to be prepared to present a defense to anyone or is that job strictly for those with academic training? Is apologetics something necessary for the average lay person? Is it valuable and needed as a parent raising children? Is it useful in the workplace? Is it applicable for a husband and wife? Or again, is apologetics just something we expect someone with seminary training to do on our behalf so we can be told what to think about what it is we are to believe? The answer lies in understanding to whom Peter is speaking in 1 Peter 3:15.

Peter begins this chapter by addressing husbands and wives. He then shifts in verse 8 to addressing “all of you” and yes all of you includes all of us. The context of “all of you” (or again in our case all of us) continues with Peter noting the reality we will suffer for the sake of righteousness. It is within that context of enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness that we are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for the hope that is in us, ensuring we do so with all manner of gentleness and respect.

What is noticeably missing is any indication by Peter that giving a defense was the sole duty of the leaders of the local or larger body of believers. All of you truly means just that – all of you. Every single one of us is to be prepared to give this defense of the hope within us. What is this hope? It is the hope found in the message of the gospel, namely the promise of restoration and redemption with our Creator.

This hope is applicable to all of life. Thus, apologetics is not just a tool to be used by scholars when discussing the details of some million dollar theological term. Apologetics is not only something we read about in a book or write about in a blog for those who feel the “calling” to that particular field of study. Apologetics impacts all of life. We are always to be prepared to give a defense regardless of the situation.

Think about the impact apologetics should have in our lives. Let’s start with parenting. Deuteronomy 6:7 declares parents must “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” What parents are to teach diligently to their children is the ways of God found in Scripture. That command cannot be followed without parents being able to give a defense for the hope that is within them. Teaching diligently the ways of God is a command parents must follow at all times and at all places.

Peter notes in 1 Peter 3 that husbands are to “treat your wives with consideration as a delicate vessel, and with honor as fellow heirs of the gracious gift of life so that your prayers will not be hindered.” It is impossible for a husband to know what that looks like without an understanding of love and prayer as outlined in Scripture. This requires an apologetic for love and prayer. Wives are to submit to their husbands. What is submission in this context? The answer to that important question comes from developing a biblical apologetic on submission.

This same thought process can be applied to any area of life. We are called to be a people who are intimately familiar with the truth of Scripture. There is no opt-out clause when it comes to all believers being apologists. Certainly, there are those called to be professional apologists, people especially skilled at matters of theology. But we are all called to be apologists. To use an example, there are skilled doctors and physicians, but that does not mean as a parent, we do not address with our children the daily matters of health and the reasons why they are important.

It is high time we all answer the command to be apologists and to apply the truth of Scripture to all areas of life. This is the work of the apologist, something we are all called by God to do as believers. The time is very urgent for this calling and command to become a reality in the lives of God’s people.

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Simon Turpin – Where Does Religion Come From?

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Encountering World Religions: Acts 17:16–34

If we want to share the gospel with those of other religions, it is important to know what the Bible says about this. Paul’s speech to the Areopagus in Acts 17:16–34 is the classic text for sharing the gospel with those from different religious backgrounds. In order to engage with his audience in Acts 17, Paul uses the biblical meta-narrative of the Creation-Fall, redemption, and consummation.

Where Does Religion Come From?

Before looking at Acts 17, it is important to understand the origin of religion; in order to know the meaning of anything, we have to understand its origin. The origin of religion began in the Garden of Eden when God clearly revealed himself to Adam. However, Adam and Eve rejected that revelation and chose to believe a falsehood about Him. In this act of disobedience, they chose to follow Satan’s worldview over God’s worldview (Genesis 3:4–5). They created the first human religion, rejecting God’s perfect and true religion.

Adam’s disobedience had consequences for the rest of his descendants since it affected how they viewed God and creation.3 This can be seen at the event of the Tower of Babel, which was the beginning of the religious diversity we see in the world today (see Deuteronomy 32:8, 16–17, 21).4 At the Tower of Babel, monotheism devolved into polytheism, pantheism, and the worship of anything other than the one true, living God. When the people were dispersed at Babel, they would have taken with them a hybrid truth of the living God mixed with the twisting and distorting of the truth of that revelation about Him (Romans 1:18–32). Religion then is first of all a response to God’s revelation — it is either in faith or rebellion. It is either based on God’s Word or man’s word.

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Casey Lewis – Apologetics: A Reasonable Defense

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Ask most church goers what it means to do apologetics and you will most likely be met with blank stares, an explanation about how we are to apologize to others, or tales of boredom as they tried sitting through a lecture or trudging through a book full of philosophical arguments. While the study of apologetics can take you off into heady arguments, that’s not all apologetics is.

Be Ready Always

Apologetics simple means to offer a reasonable defense. At a minimum, that requires us to tell others what we believe and why we believe it.

As Christians we are called to do just that – offer a reasonable defense for our faith. Peter makes this clear when he says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Pet. 3:15–16).

The context in which Peter gave his command wasn’t peaceful. Christians were living in exile, experiencing ostracism for their faith and suffering persecution. Yet Peter tells them not to fear or cower, but to be ready to offer a reasonable defense for the hope within. Christians, then, in all walks of life, locales, and cultural climates must be ready to offer a defense of their faith.

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Mitch Stokes – 10 Things You Should Know about Apologetics

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1. Apologetics is as much for believers as it is for unbelievers.

Let’s roughly define apologetics as the use of arguments to remove doubt or unbelief (I’ll qualify this in the next point). The point here is that unbelief often comes from our own hearts and minds, despite the fact that we’re Christians. For my own part, apologetics has always been something I do as much for me as for others.

2. Apologetics can be used preemptively.

Here’s the qualifier I mentioned above: although we often use apologetic arguments to remove doubts, we can also use them to prevent doubts. Teaching apologetics to young believers can be a preemptive strike on unbelief.

This won’t prevent all doubting, but it can certainly mitigate it. This point is particularly important for parents. Notice that points (1) and (2) imply that apologetics is for absolutely everyone—Christians and non-Christians, doubters and non-doubters (i.e., not-currently-doubters).

3. There is a difference between knowing that Christianity is true and showing that it’s true.

Ultimately, we know that Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to its truth (which should remind us to steep our apologetics in prayer).

That’s not to say that arguments can’t confirm or further support our Spirit-induced belief — or that arguments are never part of coming to faith—but the arguments we use on ourselves are sometimes different from the arguments we use to try to show someone else that Christianity is true.

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Calvin Smith – Fishing with Compromised Nets

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While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

Jesus’ promise to make His disciples ‘fishers of men’ is understood quite plainly. Christians are commanded to cast out the Gospel net and proclaim Jesus as the Saviour of the world so that God may draw people into His Kingdom.

Sharing the Gospel/Casting the nets

Ideally, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with someone involves communicating two primary components; sin and grace. The first is to explain Christ’s moral standard for all people so that people can compare themselves to it, revealing their sinful state and their need of salvation from God’s judgement (eternity in hell). The second is to show God’s grace in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us so that those who put their faith in Him can be saved (the ‘Good News’!). Christ paid the penalty that we deserve to pay, He is the way of salvation. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.

Repairing the nets/Apologetics

The aforementioned verse in Matthew describes two activities, casting for fish and repairing the nets. Obviously, uncast nets will not catch anything. But nets with holes in them are of little use as well. Small catches might still be possible, but large hauls will be harder to land no matter how much effort is put into casting. A net riddled with holes is compromised and allows many fish to wriggle out through the gaps. Similarly, a Gospel net that is severely compromised may function the same way.

Apologetics is giving a reasoned defence (1 Peter 3:15) of God’s word with the purpose of refuting arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5) that conflict with God’s word. The purpose of biblical apologetics is twofold. One is for believers, to build up their faith by using reason to show the entire Bible (the back story of the Gospel) can be intelligently defended. The second is for the non-believer, to remove objections (stumbling blocks) and to show that all other worldviews are deficient when examined logically. Apologetic arguments reinforce to the unbeliever that they will have no defence (Romans 1:20) when they face their Creator and to (hopefully) allow us to share the Gospel with them again.

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