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The Reliability of the Gospel stories on Google Hangout

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

Join me tonight from 7:00 – 8:00 PM CT as I will be discussing the Reliability of the Gospel stories with Thomas Hudgins (translator, Aprenda a leer el Griego del Nuevo Testamento),  and missionary Rev. Mike Bradley, just in time for Advent!

Giving Up on Apologetics?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

Given that I am a Christian Apologist, a friend of mine was interested in my reaction to T E Hanna’s recent post on 3 Reasons Why I Gave Up Christian Apologetics. As the author of two books that would clearly fall into this category (Evidence for the Bible / Christianity and Secularism), and one who has a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics, and has been doing this for several decades, I do consider myself an Christian apologist. So at the risk of being argumentative, I thought I would respond.

First, there is a lot that I would agree with in his post. I would certainly agree that apologetics can be misused, i.e., done incorrectly or for the wrong reasons and that his 3 reasons would all fall into that category. I would only point out that the same could be said about most things. Just think what damage a Pastor can do if they are not working as a true servant of God. In fact, just reading the last sentence may have brought to mind some examples. But that would hardly be a reason to give up on the role of pastor, rather it would be a call to do it correctly. The same can be said about apologetics.

Hanna claims “I have yet to meet anyone that has come to know Christ as the result of an intense debate.” In my several decades as an apologist, neither have I. In fact, I have consistently taught in my ministry that the role of apologetics is not to argue people into the kingdom of heaven. The reason is simple, it cannot be done, and if this is why someone does apologetics, they are wasting their time.

Of course this raises the question of why do apologetics? A simple one is that we are commanded to do so in passages like 1 Peter 3:15-16,

Instead, exalt the Messiah as Lord in your lives. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have. But do this gently and respectfully, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak evil of your good conduct in the Messiah will be ashamed of slandering you.

The apologetics that Hanna is critical of is an apologetics that stops at verse 15, but for me verse 16 is just as important.

But there are practical reasons as well. True, no one is or can be argued into the kingdom, but they can be helped to the foot of the cross. One of the ways I teach this is with the metaphor of a wall. We all like to build walls to keep God at a safe distance. Christians build these wall was well, but our focus here is the non-believer who builds walls of excuses as to why they can ignore God. It is the role of apologetics to remove those walls block by block till there is nothing standing between the believer and the cross. At that point the role of apologetics in evangelism ends.

So while no one is argued into the kingdom, some have been brought to the foot of the cross, and thus apologetics did play an important role in their conversion. I know this to be the case, for I was one of them. I was an atheist who had a long list of reasons why I could safely ignore God. But one by one over several years, Christians answered these objections.

True, not everyone has such questions or objections, and thus for them discussions on the reliability of the Bible, etc., would be irrelevant at best, possibly even counter-productive. This is why I stress that the first and most important step in apologetics is to listen. Find out what it is that is keeping them from the cross.

Now to be clear, I do not expect, or even believe, that everyone would be a trained apologist, ready with all the answers at their fingertips. For me the best answer is often, “that is a good question, and I don’t know. Let me find out and get back to you.” I like this answer for many reasons. 1) You don’t need to have all the answers, only a resource where you can get them. If you do not know of one, then I recommend that you start with your Pastor. Bottom line, it is a one size fits all answer. 2) It opens up a dialogue and builds a relationship. I encourage people to be a safe place where those with questions can get answers, a person someone can ask a question of without getting a full come to Jesus sermon. Perhaps it is because of my conversion experience, but I see conversion as more of a process then an event, one that can take a long time, and one in which while there are many stages, there is no set order. Everyone is different and this is why listening and building a relationship is so key to apologetics.

I do want to say something in favor of intense debates. I have been in many. But intense does not mean disrespectful. In fact I came to the attention of my editor many years ago because he noticed me in an online forum engaging some pretty intensive debates, but remaining respectful, even when my opponents were not. At times I would wonder myself, what is the point? These people never seem to change, and at times the argument would just seem to be going in circles.

Two things would keep me going. 1) When I was on the other side, I never told the Christians I was debating that they were right. But afterword, I would reflect on what they said and I now believe the Holy Spirit would use those arguments to work on my heart. 2) When I was really discouraged, inevitably I would get an email from someone I had never heard of, expressing thanks for what I was doing and letting me know how my responses had bless them, and helped them. This is a second dimension of apologetics, strengthening believers. It is important to note that a lie unanswered will be taken as the truth. Currently the lies about God, the Bible and Christianity are rampant and are overwhelming what little apologetics is out there.

While I could write a lot more on this, this has already gotten longer than I intended, so let me just close by saying that as a Christian apologist I do not judge what I do by how many debates I win or souls I save, because the first doesn’t matter and I can’t do the latter in any event. My goal is to be a faithful servant, and I will leave the results to God.


Hebrews 3:2-10

Saturday, April 26th, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

A verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews.

NOTE: Due to technical issues 2:18-3:1 was not recorded.

III     Jesus the High Priest (3:1-5:10)
    A     A Faithful High Priest (3:1 4:13)
        1    Jesus is faithful (Greater Than Moses) (3:1-6)
            a    Faithful to God’s house (3:1-6a)
            b    Link – We are God’s house (3:6b)
        2    Exhortation – We must be faithful (3:7-4-14)
            a    Avoid Past Mistakes (3:7-19)
                i    OT citation (3:7-11)



Hebrews 2:11-17

Saturday, April 26th, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

A verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews.

II The Superiority Jesus (1:5 2:18)
   A Jesus is Superior to the angels (1:5-14)
   B Exhortation – pay close attention (2:1-4)
   C Jesus shares in our humanity (2:5-18)
      1 World to come subject to man – not angels (2:5)
       2   Humanity’s exultation (2:6-9a)
      3       Jesus is like us (2:9b)
      4          Perfected through suffering (2:10)
       5       Jesus is our brother (2:11-13)
      6    Humanity’s freedom from death (2:14-15)
      7 Jesus becomes one of Abraham’s descendants – not an angel (2:16)
   D Link (2:17-18)



Hebrews 2:7-10

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

A verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews.

II The Superiority Jesus (1:5 2:18)
 A Jesus is Superior to the angels (1:5-14)
   B Exhortation – pay close attention (2:1-4)
   C Jesus shares in our humanity (2:5-18)
      1 World to come subject to man – not angels (2:5)
      2   Humanity’s exultation (2:6-9a)
      3       Jesus is like us (2:9b)
      4          Perfected through suffering (2:10)

      5       Jesus is our brother (2:11-13)
      6    Humanity’s freedom from death (2:14-15)
      7 Jesus becomes one of Abraham’s descendants – not an angel (2:16)



Consider Christianity Week 2014

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 by Elgin Hushbeck

Today marks the beginning of Consider Christianity week.   The main goal of CC Week is to equip Christians with the knowledge and ability to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15). Not only will this strengthen their faith, but it will increase the effectiveness of their witness.

New this year will be a series of discussion sponsored by Energion Publications where a number of authors will participate in panel discussions which can be seen in a live stream or accessed in the Energion Publications’ channel on YouTube at a later time. Energion will also monitor our special Twitter account (#ccweek2014) so observers of the live stream can Tweet any questions they have during the one hour broadcast. You can see a schedule of the discussions here. We hope you will join us!

The Bible Week 4

Monday, December 16th, 2013 by Elgin Hushbeck

Here is week 4 of the 16 week course on the Bible.

Summary of Documentary Hypothesis,  Evidence for Authorship of Moses, Why is the authorship of Moses rejected, Alfred Wegener, rejection of the supernatural,  Daniel and prophecy
New Testament, Types of Book, Chronology and order




Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by Elgin Hushbeck

At a recent lunch with some co-workers a friend shared a picture he thought was funny.  The picture was of the sign for a Christadelphian Meeting Room, which in addition to the name and meeting time also had an area for a short message that could be changed. The message in the picture was “Evolution is a Lie.”  What he found humorous was that taped to the sign was a paper that said, “If you have evidence to disprove evolution… then write it down, get it peer reviewed & collect your Nobel prize.”

Regardless of any possible humorous value, this picture does highlight a number problems with this entire issue.   The first point is that it is always easy to poke fun at the fringe and the Christadelphian Church is clearly on the fringe.  Not only do they reject evolution, they reject most of teachings that have defined Christianity for 2000 years.

Their claim that evolution is a lie is at best hyperbole, and more likely simply absurd.   Regardless of what you think about evolution, it is not a lie.  A lie is something said with the intent to deceive. The core of a lie is deception not truthfulness.  In fact, it is possible to lie while only saying things that are true, if they are said in such a way as to mislead.

Few if any supporting evolution do so because they know that evolution is false, and they are just trying to deceive people into thinking it was true.  They believe evolution to be true and that is why they defend it. Evolution can be true or false, but it is not a lie.

The paper taped to the sign is not much better, has it has several problems. Let me take them in reverse order.  Let’s assume for a second that someone did have such evidence.  Would it really be as simple as getting it peered reviewed and collecting a Nobel Prize? The history of science says no. Science, regardless of its benefits as a method to learn about the natural world, is governed by people.  As a community, scientists have beliefs and agendas that get in the way of pure objectivity.

In my book, I cite the example of Alfred Wegener, who had a theory of Continental Displacement, what we would now call Plate Tectonics.  When he published his results rather than winning a Nobel Price he was shunned and ridiculed to the point that he could not even get a job teaching in his own country.  This was because his theory would have overturned the then current thinking on Geology.  It was only 20 years after his death that his theory ceased to be considered pseudoscience and finally came to be accepted.  Overturning evolution would be a far more massive change than that proposed by Wegener.

That brings us to the issue of what this “supposed evidence to disprove evolution” might be.  Just how would one go about trying to disprove the theory?  Evolution is not a repeatable event that can be verified by experiments.  If one wanted to “disprove” Gravity one would need to construct an experiment which showed that the mathematical formulas that describe it break down.

But evolution was an historical process. It attempts to describe what happened. So how would one “disprove” it? Find a difference between the theory and the evidence? That already exists.  Darwin’s theory involved small changes over long periods of time, but the fossil records shows long periods of stability marked by short periods of change, which has led to the version of evolution called punctuated equilibrium.

This leads to the second problem, which goes to the heart of what is evolution.  I have seen a very wide variety of definitions. In short it means many things to many people. I have seen evolutionists define it so broadly as to account for all dogs, or even all canines, evolving from a single type, something even devout 7-day creationists would accept; to a godless and undirected natural process that accounts for the origin of all life.

This later definition is probably the most accurate for the most ardent supporters. It is not tied directly to any evidence, as evidence really does not matter. The theory of evolution will simply adjust itself to include whatever the evidence is found. Given the human ability to rationalize almost anything, it is hard to conceive of anything that could not be fitted in somehow.

After all the core of Darwin’s original theory was small changes over long periods of time.  When that was not supported by the evidence, the evidence was simply incorporated into to the theory.  In short, Evolution can accommodate large changes or small changes; long periods of change or short periods of change. It is whatever it needs to be.  In short, it is a tautology and thus is something that cannot be disproven.

Finally, there is an even deeper issue at play, and it is one that involves the nature of science, particularly when it comes to historical issues such as evolution that do not lend themselves to repeated testing and experimentation.  When dealing with such issues, is it the purpose of science to discover what happened, or is science limited only providing a natural explanation?  This question is at the core of the debate over the possibility of discovering intelligent design.

The short history of research into intelligent design also shows the absurdity of the claim taped to the church’s sign.  Even scientists who accept evolution have found themselves in trouble for even considering the possibility of Intelligent Design. This is because for many, science can only consider natural explanations, and as such, any consideration of Intelligent Design is a priori unscientific.  This would be fine if it was then acknowledged that science was correspondingly biased, but strangely few skeptics will acknowledge that point.

The real irony in all this is that within the Christian community, evolution is a matter of open debate.  There are Christians who accept evolution, Christians who do not, and some in the middle.  One is free to look at the evidence and reach their own conclusion.  Within the scientific community, evolution is a belief that can only be questioned at serious risk to one’s career, where even the research into the possibility of Intelligent Design is strongly opposed and condemned.  Yet somehow it is the Christians who are closed minded because they consider more than one option.

The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:19-22

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 33: Sept 16 2012

Having contrasted sin with abiding in Christ, John now gives two positive examples to show what abiding in Christ and love really mean.


i. Two Benefits (3:19-3:20)

*19-20 – This is how we will know that we are from[1] the truth and how we will be able to keep our hearts[2] at rest[3] in his presence, 20whenever[4] our hearts condemn us because[5] God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.

– Having stated the principle, John now gives us two reasons that we should do this. The first reason is the service of other is a sign of our devotion to the truth – That we are from (i.e., that we are grounded in) the true teaching of Christ. The second is that this should set our hearts as ease. If we are too busy “giving our lives” to others, there is no need to worry about our relationship with Christ.

– If our hearts condemn us

– This is a difficult verse because it is not clear exactly what John means. One possibility is that if our hearts condemns us we can take comfort in our service to others. The another is that whenever our heart condemns us, we can take comfort knowing we are from God. The word condemn (καταγινώσκῃ) here refers to knowing something against someone. But John is quick to point out that God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. He knows more than our heart does, he is the judge, not our heart. He sees everything we do. Yes he sees our failures, but he sees all the times we are faithful that we followed the leading of the Holy Spirit but did not even realize it.

c. Love answers prayer (3:21-24)

i. The Confidence (3:21-3:22)

21 – Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God.

– John transitions by taking the point from the previous verse, i.e., that we put our heart at rest and moves his argument forward. If our heart is at rest, we can be confident before God. Do you feel confident? If not, why not?

22 – Whatever we request we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

– This is another difficult statement. One that in many ways, seems too good to be true. But as Marshall put it, “though we are encouraged to have faith that will move mountains, a prayer that an awkward mound in my garden will smooth itself out is unlikely to be answered by some kind of miraculous bulldozing operation.” (p 200) But as always context is important, and here it is in the context of keeping His commandments, and doing His will. This is not a grant of power to ourselves, but an expression of God’s willingness to work through us. He will give us whatever we need to do His will.

If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

See here for references and more background on the class.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


[1] 3:19 ISV belong to
[2] 3:19 ISV: keep ourselves 3:19 Lit. keep our hearts
[3] 3:19 ISV: Strong
[4] 3:20 ISV: if
[5] 3:20 ISV: lacks because

Evangelicals and Politics

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

The recent post at Juris Naturalist, is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. Entitled, Evangelicalism == Christian Legislation, it basically, after a lengthy introduction on Wilberforce and slavery, argues that Evangelicals are too tied to the political process and should instead seek more self-sacrifice in their attempts to deal with societal issues, with the main example being, not too surprisingly, abortion.

A key foundational premise for the author seems to be: “I don’t think morality can or should be legislated.” Thus, all the evangelicals marching in the annual Walk for Life in Washington, D.C., an event that seems to have sparked the post, are misguided as this is not what Christian’s are called to do. We are called to sacrifice, not to legislate.

Now there are a number of problems in this argument, one being that this is not an either/or issue. While I don’t think the particular solution of paying women not to have abortions will work, I agree that the spirit of sacrifice is lacking in the modern church. In fact, many have trouble giving of their abundance, much less anything that might actually be called sacrifice. Thus the question “Where is sacrifice?’ is a very good question and one the church would do well to explore it more deeply.

But that immediately raised a problem in that for the author, sacrifice seems to be only monetary. I have no doubt that many at the march in question sacrificed a lot to be there, including the cost to get there, to be counted as supporting innocent life.

As for the other problems, one that stood out for me was the premise that we cannot and should not legislate morality. While a very common view, this does not change the fact that this view is simply silly. It may sound good on a bumper sticker, but it cannot withstand even the mildest critical analysis.

Now if you agree with the belief that morality cannot/should not be legislated, then simply ask yourself this question: Why do we have laws against murder and theft? For that matter why do we have any laws at all? Virtually every law is either a direct legislation of morality, such as the laws against murder, or an indirect expression of moral values, such as our driving laws being grounded in our value for life, and our belief that it should not be needlessly endangered.

Now lest someone conclude from this that I believe all morality should be legislated, I do not. A key question for people in a democratic form of government is what moral values are considered so important that the power of the state must be used to enforce them.

The author sees legislation, Christian or otherwise, to be “merely another tool for force. “ In this he is correct, though his questioning of whether any legislation “do good, or even do well” is more problematic. Like most things in public life, there is no easy one size fits all answer. In our current era marked by very large, and I would say bloated, government, teetering on the verge of collapse, it is easy to build a case against government action. But the evidence of history is also pretty clear that not enough government can likewise be a bad thing. The difficultly is in finding the right balance.

The discussion over what is the right size for government is a never ending debate that must be fought out and answered on a continual basis. When it comes to abortion, given the central issue of innocent life that is involved, this is as much a matter of legitimate state interest as laws on murder.

Christian involvement in politics is also called for by several other factors, which I will only outline here. The first is that we are to be the salt and light to the world. While I do not believe that these verses are in any way primarily political in their nature, I do not believe that they exclude politics, i.e., that we are to be salt and light, except when it comes to politics.

Second, we are to be subject to the rulers and authorities over us. I do not believe that this duty ceases when the government is a democratic form in which we as citizens have input into the process.

Finally, the period from about 1925 until fairly recently was a period where evangelical Christians largely did withdraw from any active role in our government, though since the 1980s there has been some renewed interest. I, for one, do not think the results of that withdrawal are all that encouraging.

Let me conclude by addressing one of the seeming criticisms the author had of Wilberforce’s efforts on slavery, which by implication he applies to modern efforts to ban abortion; that while it was successful, it was not “a clean win.” While this is true, does this really mean that the effort should not have been made? It is very true that God demands perfection, but he also does not expect us to achieve it in this life. Rather, it is something that we must constantly strive for, particularly in the face of a success.