Apologetics — Noah Around the World

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of Noah and the Flood. It is a story that also finds a lot of skepticism. It’s unbelievable, they say because of the number of animals needed on the ark, the improbability of a world-wide flood that covered the mountains, and the lack of technology to build a flood-surviving boat available to men at this time in history. 

First, not every single variant of species would be needed to repopulate the earth, just a representative of every species. Within each species is a God-given ability to adapt to various environments and ecosystems. Each species would be able to produce numerous sub-species; thus, the number of animals would be greatly reduced.

Second, calling a world-wide flood improbable doesn’t make it impossible. Clearly the Bible describes flooding agents that we don’t have around today — windows of the sky which opened and springs under the earth which broke upward. Moreover, it is likely that at least some of the mountain ranges, continents, etc. may have been significantly different in a pre-flood world. 

Third, we have no idea what kind of technology was available in a pre-flood world. Archaeology continues to uncover products that even modern technology cannot produce (e.g., the pyramids, crystal skulls, metallurgical products, and batteries found in Babylon). 

But is there any positive evidence of Noah’s flood? Some look for Noah’s actual ark, but that is unlikely to be discovered. But there is something that many have often overlooked, the numerous versions of a world-wide flood found in cultures around the world. Robert Schock notes that there are at least 500 flood myths.

“Narratives of a massive inundation are found all over the world…Stories of a great deluge are found on every inhabited continent and among a great many different language and culture groups.” (Schoch, Robert M. (2003), Voyages of the Pyramid Builders (New York: Jeremy P. Parcher/Putnam), pp. 103 and 249). 

Noah-like stories are found in Babylon, Syria, Persia, India, Norway, China, Mexico, Egypt, Wales, Ireland, Indonesia, Romania, etc. One tribe of American Indians (the Toltecs) relate a story so similar to the Noahic flood that it even includes a story similar to the Biblical story of Babel and the confusion of the languages of the world.

Among the Nosu in China a man named Dum heeded the warning of God of an impending flood and entered a wooden boat and was saved. The three sons of Dum repopulated the rest of the world. In fact, the Chinese pictogram for boat is composed of figures that may well tell the story of Noah’s flood. 

On and on the similar stories could be cited from civilizations and cultures around the world, based on cultural memory of a world-wide catastrophe coming from well before the book of Genesis was written. Such memories will naturally be remembered some details altered and others absent, but once the cultural trappings are eliminated from the kernel of truth there is tremendous agreement…

      • There was a world-wide flood that destroyed all but a handful of the human race and all air breathing creatures.
      • A great boat saved the survivors
      • All of modern mankind and the animal kingdom came from these survivors

The similarities are remarkable. Even William Wundt, who was no friend of faith or the Bible, wrote in Elements of Folk Psychology, 

Of the combination of all these elements into a whole (the destruction of the earth by water, the rescue of a single man and seed of animals by means of a boat, etc.), however, we may say without hesitation, it could not have arisen twice independently” (1916, p. 392).

The conclusion seems obvious. The world-wide flood of Noah really did occur, and is told in various forms among peoples around the world. Since it did, it makes for some other really interesting suggestions…

      • The earth and the universe is much younger than modern science believes 
      • The layers of the earth are the marks of the great flood
      • The fossil record is not from millions and billions of years ago, but is further evidence of a great flood
      • Sin does matter to God and He is willing to judge men’s deeds
      • The Bible is telling the truth here and elsewhere about its miracles, prophecies, and spiritual reality.
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Apologetics — The Marks of Myth and History

Just a quick word to all regarding my last post. I’ve received a couple of responses that pointed out that not all atheists are angry at God. I’d agree, in fact, that’s what I said in the last post “One of the major reasons for doubt…’ — not the only. There is another “stream” of atheism that is philosophic. I was addressing a very common, real, and often expressed reason given for disbelief in God; I have taken the time to ask unbelievers if they were angry with God and why. When they express anger, the reasons are various: sometimes God said no to their prayers, sometimes God let a loved one die, sometimes God condemns a sin they favor and practice, etc.

But onto the main thrust of this post, the marks of myth and history.

We all recognize the way that a fairy tale, myth, or legend begins. “Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far away…” or (if you’re a Star Wars fan) “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” There are two things to notice here: the time and the place are nebulous, vague, shadowy, and obscure.

History is different. As we all know from history classes we’ve all taken, history is chock full of dates, places, events, and people. Specificity of dates, location, events, and people is the very hallmark of history.

What do we find with Bible events? Specificity. The Bible goes out of its way over and over again to provide dates, locations, and cross-referencing historical events and figures. We may find the genealogies of the Bible boring for the same reason we found history class boring, but they are there for a reason — to mark this as history. The prophets often date their prophecies by the kings who ruled that year, or earthquakes that were recorded, or invasions from foreign powers that occurred. The events (miraculous and otherwise) are meticulously located in places around Israel that can be found today. Gentile nations around Israel will often reference kings and events that the Bible also talks about. The only logical conclusion to reach: the Bible is a book of history, not myth.

Of course, those who doubt might be willing to agree on some historical truth being in the Bible — until they get to the miraculous stuff. If you don’t believe in God, or don’t want to believe in God, the miraculous things will be your “proof” that the Bible is a myth.

But consider this, in many cases the miraculous things that happened were witnessed by sometimes scores, sometimes hundreds, and sometimes thousands. Even more, sometimes the miraculous things of the Bible are witnessed obliquely by historical evidence (e.g., Sennecherib’s inexplicable retreat from Jerusalem or the conquest of Canaan by Israel). Will we discount the witnesses, because they tell me things I don’t want to believe? I hope not. I hope you’re not buying that the witnesses were 1) part of a grand conspiracy, 2) a bunch of unsophisticated and naive rubes, or 3) just flat out duped.

There are hallmarks of both myth and history. The Bible, including its miracles, bears the marks history, not myth.

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Apologetics — How do I answer the skepticism or contempt of friends?

“Religion,” Marx famously claimed, “is the opiate of the people.” Perhaps you’ve heard friends or family respond to your faith with similar condescending remarks: “Religion is for the feeble minded,” “Religion is just a crutch,” “It’s the same as fairy tales, myths, and legends,” or “Any who believes that [expletive deleted] is an idiot!”

These sorts of remarks are disheartening, discouraging, and unkind; but they are the same sort of irrational, personal attacks that Christians have heard and stood up against down through the centuries. It is the aim of this series of posts to arm us, so that we may stand up against the attacks against the only real hope of man, faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. 

The first thing that I want to urge readers to be in their defense of the faith is rational. As I mentioned in my last post, Christianity is not a blind faith (a belief based on nothing but feelings). Christianity is based on evidence — plenty of it. Without going into detail here, the evidence for Christianity has converted a distinguished list of skeptical and doubtful scholars and journalists (for example, CS Lewis and Lee Strobel) who started their paths to conversion by aiming to discredit the evidences of Christianity. The more they studied the materials objectively, the more their doubts diminished and vanished. 

My point here is that irrational rants, answering insult with insult, or trying to base your answer on feelings (I just know, I feel it in my heart) to an unbeliever will only be playing into the hands of the doubter. So stay calm and reason on.

One of the major reasons given for doubt that I have heard (it can be useful to ask why they don’t believe) has been anger at God. The top three reasons I’ve heard: angry that He did not answer a prayer (said no); angry that a parent or close loved one died; and angry that God has forbidden something they want to do. It often explains why there is such an emotional denial of God’s existence or of the Bible’s truthfulness. 

But anger is not a rational reason, and the antidote to this kind of unbelief is logic and fact. Find out (calmly) why they’re angry at God; reason with them how ignoring and denying reality doesn’t make reality go away; and set the stage for a reasonable discussion that gives the evidence for Christianity a fair hearing. 

When opposition to faith in Jesus crops up among friends or family, don’t back down, don’t hesitate an instant, answer with calm reason and fact. The evidence is clearly on our side, as we’ll discover in further posts. As Paul encouraged the Christians in 2Th. 2:2, when false teachers came in with false information about the second coming; let me encourage you, “that you not be quickly shaken from your composure…”

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The Point of Apologetics

Apologetics in Christianity isn’t about saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a whole field of study that seeks to answer the questions men may ask about faith and answer the accusations that men may make about what we believe. It seeks to make believers out of doubters through reasonable explanation.

There is much, of course, that the world might reasonably doubt. After all, there is a lot of miracle involved in Christianity; a lot of faith required for things that cannot be seen, touched, or otherwise sensed; and a lot commands that call for us to behave in ways that the world would consider foolish or even crazy. Apologetics recognizes that a certain skepticism is a good and healthy thing, because there is much that claims to be religion, which is nothing but scam or fantasy.

Despite the assumptions that many make, Christianity does not rely on “blind faith”. Unlike pagan religions, myths, and legends, which all begin something like, “Long ago in a land far away,” Christianity has its roots planted firmly in verifiable foundations: known historical events, known timelines, known historical figures, known geography, perfect prophetic fulfillment, archaeology, multiple witnesses, and logic. Such foundations, if the listener is open to a fair evaluation, will lead naturally to an informed (not a blind) faith.

The things that the Bible says, the things that Christians teach, the promises, the warnings, and the requirements that are part of Christianity are real. They are a part of a reality that we may not be able to see, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t real. They are just as real as the physical reality that we deal with every day, with laws and consequences that are just as established and reliable as any we know of in this world. God is real; the Bible is His word; you will live somewhere forever; it makes a difference how you live.

Over the next few posts I’d like to point out a few of these, to encourage my believing readers and appeal to my unbelieving ones. This stuff is real!

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Overcoming the Shame of Sin

“I will never deny you, Lord! I would die first!” Peter exclaimed. Jesus looked at him sorrowfully, knowing the truth, and told him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Then Jesus was arrested, Peter tried to defend Jesus with his sword but was rebuked, and then Peter followed (at a distance) the cohort that arrested Jesus to Caiaphas’ house. It was there that he was called out three times and denied knowing Jesus three times. And then the rooster crowed. Peter’s heart was pierced and broken all at the same time. The guilty conscience must have been overwhelming and he wept bitterly. When Jesus then appeared to the apostles in the upper room, I can only imagine how much the usually outgoing Peter might have wanted to just hide in the shadows, unnoticed, even when Jesus was offering to let the apostles touch him to prove that He wasn’t just a ghost or a figment of their imagination. And then there was breakfast on the shore of Galilee (John 21:12-17), in which Jesus gave Peter the forgiveness and absolution that he doubtlessly ached for; three times Jesus gave Peter a chance to declare his love for the Master again.

Saul of Tarsus had been a fervent worshipper of the God of Abraham since childhood. And in his young manhood his zeal had brought him opportunities to show his dedication to God and his mentors by dealing sternly, even violently with blasphemers and heretics of the Jewish faith — especially disciples of the despised Jesus of Nazareth. But then, on a mission to Damascus to purge these Christian sinners from the earth, Saul discovered just how mistaken he had been. In a flash of light and revelation he learned that Jesus really was the Messiah, the Lord. He had been all wrong, he had actually been fighting against the God he loved and was killing and imprisoning His people! The fact that, even after years of faithful service to Jesus Christ, he still called himself the “chief of sinners” tells us that he still felt the weight of remorse for his sin—even though he’d been assured of his forgiveness.

I have a friend who is a Christian. He’s been a Christian for a long time and has led an exemplary life in many ways down through the years. But not long ago he committed a serious sin. For a while, he hid his sin and tried to salve his conscience by telling himself that he could make things right soon. But the longer things went on, the more obvious it became that he was in too deep. Guilt overwhelmed him and in time even made him sick. Finally he confessed it and is doing his best to make things right. But it is obvious that the grief and remorse still haunt him; it probably will for a long time. 

Guilt does that. Or more accurately, Satan does that to us. Holds out before us, in our private thoughts, our foolishness and sin, the things we never want to remember again. We may close our eyes tight in embarrassed agony, but we still hear and see it in surround sound and 5K clarity (or whatever the state of the art in video is these days). Even things that we’ve repented of, confessed, and tried to learn from still come visiting us from time to time. No wonder Satan’s name means “accuser”. The accusations can cripple us, depress us, sicken us, paralyze us; because “just look at what you did!” It’s one of the devil’s most effective weapons against God’s people.

But praise and thanks be to God the Father for Jesus our Savior, who through His word reminds us of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. “For while we were yet enemies…”

To my friend who is wrestling with his guilt and the grief of the ruin of his otherwise good reputation  I want to say, rest in the grace of the Lord. And to every other Christian who similarly is attacked this way, remember to put on the full armor of God, including the — helmet of salvation. 

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The Fire in Our Bones

“But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

Poor Jeremiah! Selected to be a prophet of the LORD, but seldom telling any good news. Most of the time his theme was the deep sinfulness of the people and God’s intention to send them away into exile far from home (Babylon). As God’s spokesman, he counseled surrender to the Babylonians and settle in at the new place you are going to be taken. To say the least, this was highly unpopular and politically incorrect. Apart from Messianic prophecies, the best news Jeremiah got from the LORD to pass on to his generation was that they were going to get to return to their homes in 70 years; that’s a little bit like being told that you’ve been sentenced to 70 years in prison instead of “life”. And Jeremiah got lots of heat for his trouble: derision, mockery, reproach, denouncement. prison, the stocks, a pit, and nearly being left to starve to death. 

No wonder he wanted to just stop talking about the LORD and His message! But as Jeremiah considered just shutting up, his heart began to burn like a fire deep in his bones. What was this fire in his bones? It was a hope against all hope that Judah would repent and possibly avoid the punishment the LORD has assigned to them (see Jeremiah 18:1-12). It was a deep desire for his people to avoid the slaughter, the death, and the destruction that was sure to be the result of resisting Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had chosen to be His instrument of punishment against God’s sinful people. Because he cared so deeply, because he couldn’t bear the images of his people’s certain destruction, and because repentance was their only hope; Jeremiah could not be silent. 

Sharing God’s word today is a little easier (at least in our country, for now), but it still is unpopular in most quarters and about many moral and religious subjects certainly politically incorrect. Speaking God’s word can still attract mockery, reproach, scorn, and denouncement from many — friends, family, and the community at large; and we can be very tempted to just shut up. Indeed some of us have succumbed to the temptation and heed the rule of etiquette to never discussing politics or religion. 

But we need fire! Fire in our bones! Where do we find it? The same place Jeremiah found it, in truly caring for the souls of others — the same friends, family, and community at large who scorn the Lord’s will and hold it in contempt.

Care for those souls who are wreaking destruction on themselves through sin in family dysfunction, depression, broken relationships, addictions, crime, violence, guilt, and much more. Those suffering the pain and misery that sin always brings — self-inflicted and inflicted by others. 

Care for those souls who will be judged by Christ as unforgiven, unredeemed sinners, who’ll spend an eternity in Hell away from the presence of the Lord through deafness to God’s word and disobedience. 

Care, knowing that repentance is their (everyone’s) one and only hope. Repentance in believing in (and confessing) Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior; repentance in turning from our sinful, fleshly ways; and repentance in obedience to Jesus and following Him faithfully. 

Please care about the eternal souls of those around you, please stoke the fire in your bones, please never keep silent about the saving and powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is their one and only hope (John 14:6).

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I Gotta Be…Me?

It’s an old song, but it has become the theme song — at least in principle — of the American spirit and in an ever increasing measure the spirit of the age, “I Gotta Be Me”. Just look around, watch what’s being done, listen to what’s being said. Observe our modern assumed, inherent “right” to do whatever we want — choose whatever lifestyle, whatever gender, whatever morality, whatever. Even in the religious world, some would even take the old invitation, “Just As I Am” as a permissive religious anthem (it is not, by the way) to extol the complete forgiveness of God without repentance, as if to say, God will accept me and save me exactly as I am, no changes required now or ever. 

While the world cannot be expected to act any other way — it knows no other way — it is not the life of the genuine Christian. Jesus’ call to discipleship was considerably more rigorous.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Matthew 16:24).

This call was not an invitation to be yourself. Notice the conditional particle in this call, “if”. If we wish to follow Jesus, the first condition is to “deny” ourselves. Thayer (an authoritative Greek lexicon) defines “deny” as: “1a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone 1b) to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.” There’s nothing in this definition or in Jesus’ command about just being yourself — at all.

But in case we were a little confused about “denial”, Jesus clarifies in even more extreme language, “die”. That’s what taking up one’s cross is about, dying to ourselves, not “self-realization”. The cross at this point in the world’s history was not a symbol of Christianity; it was a tool of death and execution. If you think of a hangman’s noose or a firing squad, you get the picture. 

And then there’s the business of “following”, not forging your own path, not doing your own thing. Following. Him.

This is why Paul said, 

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20) 

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) 

To put it bluntly, Christianity is not about you just being yourself; its about disowning who you were, dying to that old self; and instead living the mind, words, deeds, and footsteps of Jesus in your present circumstances. It’s about letting the light of Jesus shine in you in your school, business, community, neighborhood, circle of friends, home, bedroom, and even your mind. 

Being “me” has been the starting point of many a half-hearted disciple. It is what has been rightly called “cheap discipleship” — a full embrace of grace and forgiveness with only a casual approach to obedience. As a follower of Jesus, it must never be I Gotta Be Me; rather, it must always be I Gotta Be Jesus. It’s not a call to perfection, but it is a call to take discipleship seriously.

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