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No Apologies Part 1

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Atheism & Agnosticism

Welcome all!
We are starting a new series called No Apologies.
We are going to be looking at other religions and what they believe and how they are different then what we believe.
This is going to be a four week study, tonight we are looking at Atheism and Agnosticism.
But in the coming weeks we will be looking at Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam.
Maybe you are wondering, why are we doing this?
Can’t we just read the Bible and study the Bible instead of this?
Well yes, we can but Peter brings up this idea about defending what we believe in.
1 Peter 3:15 ESV
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,
I personally like to hear apologetics and study it.
I am in no way an expert in any of these areas, but I am going to try my best to give you the side of the other religion and then give you our side (the Faith side) as well.
We are going to be doing about this series so that we can have confidence in what we believe.
And that our faith is reasonable and rational.
Despite what our world says about religion, the church, and God.
We should have confidence when we talk to people who don’t believe what we believe, so we can speak boldly about the hope we have in Jesus.
Yet, what happens a lot of times is that as Christians we do this with hostility, anger, and shame— rather than what Peter says— we should interact with others through gentleness and respect.
Maybe it comes from a place that when we disagree with someone, the goal is to make them believe our side.
As in we are trying to win the argument.
The issue with that is we then fail to care about the person and care more about being the winner of the argument.
I have no heard anyone say, “This dude or dudet’ embarrassed me with their great logic, so now I am a believer.”
But I have known people who would tell you, “I came to Jesus because someone took the time to lovingly show me the way to Jesus.”
So as we being to discuss these different religions don’t be a jerk with this info.
We still want to love people above all else and be confident in your faith.
Cool! Cool! Cool!
So we are going to be talking about the religion of atheism, Agnosticism and skepticism.
First off, none of those who fall into these camps would say that they are part of a religion.
All three of these are similar in the sense that they are non-theists— meaning they are individuals with a lack of belief in God or the supernatural.
A super easy way to remember this is here:
Skeptics would say, “I doubt that god exists.”
Agnostics would say, “I don’t know if God exists.”
Atheists would say, “God doesn’t exist.”
I believe that most people are either agnostic or atheists
Most students in your schools are probably more agnostic than atheists.
Most atheists kind of begin that journey in college and not in high school.
There is a difference between atheism and agnosticism— a common mistake is believing they are the same.
I would like to break these two views down before we move on:
These are from the book Dare2Share by Greg Stier;
Lets start with Agnostics
Interesting Quotes:
I don’t know & you don’t either— militant agnostic bumper sticker
I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure—that is all that agnosticism means.” —Clarence Darrow
Common Misconceptions:
Agnostics groups are the same group as atheists
Agnostics beliefs come from being an indecisive, unintelligent person.
Agnostics beliefs are a compromise between believing/not believing in God.
Interesting Facts:
The word “agnostic” literally means “without knowledge.” What it means is that there is insufficient knowledge to “prove” there is a God.
The title “agnostic” was coined by a famous English biologist named Thomas Huxley.
For many years it was illegal to be an agnostic in France, and for this crime a person would receive the death sentence.
Things we agree on:
Agnostics believe that much truth can be discovered.
Agnostics believe that people should treat each other with fairness and justice.
Agnostics believe in being a good person.
Things we disagree on:
Agnostics want irrefutable proof for the existence of God, whereas God requires that we have faith in him. (Hebrews 11:1-3)
Hebrews 11:1–3 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Agnostics believe that all people are born basically good, whereas scripture teaches that all people are born with a predisposition toward sin.
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Agnostics do not believe in hell, but thinks there could be some kind of heaven, whereas Jesus himself spoke about heaven and hell.
Matthew 3:16 ESV
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
Luke 12:5 ESV
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Those are just some general facts about agnostics.
Now lets break down the atheist.
Interesting Quotes:
Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for one day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.— Timothy Jones
It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.”—Arthur C. Clarke
Common Misconceptions:
Atheist hate or strongly dislike all Christians
Atheist haven’t thought through their position.
Because Atheist don’t believe in God, they necessarily feel purposeless and lives immorally.
Interesting Facts:
Atheist have founded organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Internet Infidels.
Atheist (on average) have a higher level of education than the general population.
Atheist groups once had a man named C.S. Lewis in it who later became a Christian and wrote The Chronicles of Narnia series and many other great books.
Things we agree on:
Atheist believe in the basic value of all people.
Atheist believe that relationships are important.
Atheist believe that no one person has all the answers.
Things we disagree on:
Atheist do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, whereas the Bible claims to be just that (2 Timothy 3:16) and proves this claim through hundreds of fulfilled prophecies (Acts 3:18).
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Acts 3:18 ESV
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Atheist do not believe God exist, whereas the Bible clearly affirms His existence. (Exodus 3:14)
Exodus 3:14 ESV
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
Atheist do not believe in heaven or hell, whereas Jesus teaches the existence of both (Matthew 3:16; Luke 12:5)
Matthew 3:16 ESV
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
Luke 12:5 ESV
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
What I want to do for the rest of our time is to look at three objections and questions that atheists, skeptics, and agnostics may have about Christianity.
Disclaimer: There are countless reasons why people are atheists, and we could spend weeks looking at every argument.
I just want to focus on three that I think your friends are actually dealing with.
The first objection that is brought up is the question,

“Hasn’t science disproved God?”

JD Greear, a pastor in North Carolina, has a list of nine reasons that point us to a reality of a God, specifically Jesus, and that science does not have an answer for.
I don’t have time to elaborate on each point, but I will give you my shorthand summary of his notes.
1. What points us to God is the fact that materialism doesn’t satisfy us.
When we get what we want, we are still not satisfied.
We want eternity in a temporary world.
When this happens, it really is that our hearts are longing for God.
Tom Brady has been on record saying I have won all of this stuff and I still feel empty and i’m think there has to be be more then this.
2. There is a problem of “human rights” in an accidental universe.
If everything was an accident, and we are here by chance, and if Darwin is right that “only the strong survive,” then why would we be upset at Hitler?
Why do we feel that certain things are not fair if there isn’t a higher court of what makes justice?
Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about how the reason we know that current laws about segregation are wrong was because it conflicted with the higher law of God.
3. The power of love and beauty points us to God.
There is no reason for love and beauty in evolution, but love is just considered a chemical reaction in the brain.
Some philosophers say, “Death awaits us like a concrete floor awaits a dropping lightbulb.
In the real world, the frog remains a frog, Cinderella never makes it to the ball, and Beauty never wakes up.”
Yet, love and beauty play such a big part in our lives. There has to be more to this life than simply preparing to become food for worms.
4. The persistence of Christianity in history also points us to God.
There was a poll in Great Britain not too long ago that said in 100 years Christianity would die out.
A guy named Voltaire predicted that Christianity would be extinct within 100 years of his death in 1778.
Ironically, one hundred years after his death, his house was transformed into a Bible printing press.
Needless to say, the church isn’t going extinct.
In fact, it is flourishing in places around the world like China and South America.
The Gospel is thriving
5. There is the question of the origin of the universe.
The question is simple.
It is taught that the Big Bang started it all from a single point, where it all exploded, and the universe, as we know it, began to exist.
That statement then lends itself to this question, “Where did that single point originally come from?”
Science isn’t interested in answering that question.
Would you believe me if I told you there was an explosion that happened in the bathroom, but I could tell you nothing about it— when it happened, who saw it, the result of it, or how it started?
The Bible is not a science book, nor does it try to be.
It is a book that talks about God’s redemptive work in our world.
However, the Bible is not at odds with science.
God made science, so God is cool with science.
However, science often doesn’t answer the “why” and focuses a lot on the “how.” God comes in and fills the gap with the “why.”
Without the “why”, everything is just purposeless and random.
If science is the only thing we are believing in, life is bleak.
God gives us an understanding of the how, why, and purpose in this world.
6. The prophecies of the Old Testament also point us to Jesus’ being God.
There are 353 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. Some of them could have been coincidences, but some of them are too specific to be by chance.
The odds of one person fulfilling all of them is 10 to the 157th power. You have a better chance at winning the lottery a couple of times.
Texas with quarters
Find the one quarter with an X—
While blindfolded
and the first quarter you grab is your choice
7. The historical evidence that the resurrection of Jesus happened cannot be denied.
Basically, between the eyewitness accounts and historical evidence that we have access to, the resurrection account is hard to deny.
8. The completely unique message of Christianity points us to a reality of God.
Christianity is the only religion that says, “I am accepted, therefore, I obey.”
All other religions are based on your effort and obedience.
Christianity stands apart, because it is based on what God did, not what we do.
9. Jesus makes personal claims about Him being God.
People often want to say that Jesus was just a good teacher or a good man.
C.S. Lewis said there was a problem with that thinking:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’
That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse.
You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” - C.S. Lewis
A second question we might hear is,

“Was Jesus even a real person?”

When we, as Christians, want to defend the historical Jesus, we always want to add “evidence outside of the Bible.”
But, why?
That is like saying, “Give me proof that George Washington existed, but don’t use any 17th Century American Literature.”
First, let’s talk about some “biblical evidence” that Jesus was historically real.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all independent writers giving an account of what they saw about Jesus.
Matthew and Luke may have used Mark’s writing to help write what they wrote, but it is still their own writing.
We also have all of Paul’s writings.
Additionally, we have hundreds of writings from early Christians, like Clement of Rome, who wrote at the end of the first century.
There are no reputable scholars who doubt that Jesus actually existed.
Furthermore, there are at least a dozen or more references by non-Christian writers who mentioned Jesus in their writings.
The most popular is Josephus, who was a first-century Jewish historian.
Jesus is also referenced in the Talmud, an ancient encyclopedia that talked about various Jewish customs and traditions.
And a bunch of people with really silly names talk about Jesus.
Greek writers, such as Lucian of Samosata and Mara bar Serapion, refer to Jesus.
Also, Roman historians, such as Thallus, Tacitus, Pliny, and Suetonius.
Tacitus, for example, in the early second century, wrote about Nero’s persecution of Christians and then explains, “The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate."
For a man who had no money, no political power, and no military strength, Jesus was and is still very important.
He never traveled more than 150 miles in a general area and only did ministry for two to three years.
The fact that anyone talked about Jesus is crazy, UNLESS He really did something amazing.
Think about it.
There are YouTubers and other social media personalities, who were huge a year ago, that we don’t even think about anymore.
Jesus must have been different.
Whatever Jesus did for those three years must have been so incredible that we are still talking and arguing over it today.
We have more information about Jesus, that was written closer to His life on Earth, than we do about Alexander the Great.
Yet, no one doubts Alexander’s existence.
So, Jesus is a historical person, and real scholars know this is true.
Since His existence and His contributions to society are real, then we have to examine what He said.
If what He said is true, He claims to be eternal God.
Then, we have to ask ourselves if we believe it.

Why would God allow Evil?

This question is personal.
Sometimes watching the news can be so depressing.
We hear of hate crimes, school shootings, and war all over the world.
However, I think it is often something more personal that starts peoples’ questioning the existence of God during a tragedy.
When something affect us— we begin to question—
Maybe someone you love was diagnosed with cancer, died in a car accident, or something else painful happens.
To sit there and try to understand why God would allow this type of evil to happen makes people confused and angry.
When your friend is angry and starts to tell you why they don’t believe in God, that is not the time to go deep and pull out your sermon notes.
That is the time where the Bible says too weep with those who weep.
You should love them.
Maybe a bit later, you can bring up the conversation and try to talk with them.
However, in the moment of suffering, just love them and be there for them.
I have heard every possible answer on this topic.
I truly believe that the problem of evil doesn’t prove that God isn’t real.
If anything, the fact that evil exists should be a problem for atheists.
This is because when evil just exists, and there is no “right” or “wrong,” you have to come to the same conclusion, like Nietzsche, who said that when pain and suffering happens, it just happens for no reason.
To me, that’s crazy.
Alvin Plantinga, a really smart professor at Notre Dame, came up with something called, “The Free Will Defense.”
He didn’t create it, but this is his version.
He said, "It is possible that God, even being omnipotent (All Powerful), could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil.
Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent (Perfect goodness), would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures."
In other words, God wants His people to love and worship Him freely.
He doesn’t want to force them to love and worship Him, so He gives humanity free will.
In free will, humanity has the option to do good or evil.
So, because mankind has free will, they do evil, and so evil exists in the world.
God could have made a world where people didn’t do evil, but that would also mean that we wouldn’t have free will.
In the garden, while perfect— Adam and Eve had free will to take the fruit and sin
In order for us too have free will, there is a risk of evil being in the world.
Thankfully, God has fixed the evil by sending Jesus to die, and one day everything will be made right, and evil will no longer exist.
Let me end with this.
I think answering questions are great, but it isn’t the complete solution.
The Bible doesn’t say, “All my good answers will lead people to salvation.”
It says that it is God’s loving kindness that does that.
God’s loving kindness is demonstrated on the cross.
It is then shown through the lives of those that He has rescued.
What is more important than apologetics (defenses of your faith) is the way you live your life.
Your life will be the first thing people read before they ever pick up a Bible.
There is also this term called practical atheism
Practical atheism appears when we live as if there were no God.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
-Brennan Manning
Many atheists aren’t jumping towards Christianity, because when they see us, the only difference they see between themselves and you is that you choose to go to church on Sundays.
For many, there is nothing about our lives that makes us distinct or separate or different.
God knows that I don’t want you to wear cheesy Christian t-shirts and a million multicolor bracelets that say WWJD.
However, if people can’t see that there is something different about you, why would they want to believe that Jesus is going to transform their life?
So, then how is your life different?
We read this verse at the beginning, but here it is again:
1 Peter 3:15 ESV
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,
I am here to help you so that you can make a defense for anyone who asks about what you believe.
However, if your life is so much like their lives that no one is even asking, we have to change that.
I pray that your life really does reflect the change Jesus can make inside of us.
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