Christian Apologetics - 5 Methods

I am currently reading Douglas Groothuis' Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. In the opening three chapters he does a very good of describing both the landscape and goals of Christian apologetics.

The following are his introductions to the various approaches to Christian apologetics:

1) Fideism
"Fideism is an attempt to protect Christian faith against the assaults of reason by means of intellectual insulation and isolation. Some, who believe apologetics does not comport with the nature of Christian faith, see fideism as an antidote to apologetics. There are various stripes of fideism, some more defensible than others, but they all share the strategy of making belief a self-certifying and self-enclosed reality that needs no intellectual fortification from the classical arsenal of apologetics-natural theology, evidence for biblical reliability and arguments against other worldviews."
2) Presuppositionalism
"Presuppositionalism claims that the Christian should presuppose the entire Christian worldview and reason from this conviction with unbelievers. It thus limits positive apologetics to showing the logical coherence of Christian doctrine and relies on negative apologetics to refute non-Christian perspectives. It claims that unless a person presupposes Christianity, he or she cannot make any sense of the world morally, logically or scientifically, since Christianity alone supplies the required conditions for these areas of life to be intelligible. We cannot find sufficient common ground with unbelievers to build successful arguments for Christianity based on reason and evidence."
Groothuis is clearly not a fan of presuppositionalism and unfortunately he overstates its limitations. As a result, he does a disservice to presuppositionalism as advocated by John Frame and Greg Bahnsen. Frame has written extensively about how critics have misunderstood Van Til, whom Groothuis cites. Groothuis seems to have done just that. I refer you to a short introduction to presuppositionalism as defined by one of its most skilled defenders, Greg Bahnsen. Intro to Presuppositionalism - Read Here.

Bahnsen, for example, states the following:
"Notice we do present the facts; we are evidentialists. But we present them within a presuppositional framework where they make sense. And that framework is that God is the sovereign determiner of all possibility and impossibility."

3) Reformed Epistemology
"Reformed epistemologists argue that secular thought has placed an undue burden on Christian apologetics. It demands that Christians offer proof for their beliefs on pain of being irrational. Plantinga has extensively argued that this demand is based on a self-refuting epistemology known as classical or narrow foundationalism.

Roughly put, classical foundationalism holds that a belief only becomes knowledge if that belief is true and if either (1) the belief is self-evident or necessarily true or evident to the senses, or (2) the belief can be supported in some way by what is self-evident, necessarily true or evident to the senses. Beliefs of type (1) serve as the foundation (hence, foundationalism) for all other beliefs of type (2) and not the converse.

Both Christians and critics of Christianity worked within this paradigmatic epistemology for centuries, but Plantinga rejects it for two reasons. First, many beliefs do not fit within the strictures of classical foundationalism; nevertheless, we take them to be true and reasonable. For instance, memory beliefs (such as what we had for breakfast) are not self-evidently true, necessary truths or evident to the senses; neither are they based on beliefs outside of memory itself. Yet we take memory to be generally reliable. Such "properly basic beliefs," as Plantinga calls them, are not held on the basis of other beliefs and are not necessarily true (as is the statement, "All bachelors are unmarried men"). Second, classical foundationalism suffers from self-referential failure. It cannot fulfill its own requirements for knowledge. The tenets of this epistemology are not themselves self-evident, necessarily true, evident to the senses or based on such items of knowledge. Therefore, classical foundationalism is faulty and should not be employed for testing knowledge, including religious knowledge.
 Plantinga's key philosophical move in light of the failure of classical foundationalism is to argue that belief in God and the entire Christian worldview is one kind of belief that may be properly basic. If it is, we need not argue for God's existence on the basis of things we already know through different forms of arguments (reasoning from premise to conclusion). Rather, we come to believe in God "in the basic way." This belief may be occasioned by looking at the beauty of nature or feeling divine displeasure over something we have done, but the belief in God is not evidentially based on these events. These events are "nonpropositional" experiences that serve as episodes for coming to belief in God."
You might have to read that one a few times to get it. And it might help if you read Plantiga's short paper outlining his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism - Read Here. This argument is even cited by atheist philospher Thomas Nagel as unraveling some of the claims of Darwinian Evolution.

4) Evidentialism
"Evidentialism is a method in apologetics that argues that the most significant historical events in Christianity-particularly the resurrection of Jesus-are matters that can be established through proper historical argumentation, even apart from any prior arguments for the existence of God. Classical apologists argue first for the existence of a monotheistic God and then argue for the particulars of Christianity-the reliability of the Bible and the claims and credentials of Jesus. This is a two-step strategy which trades on the idea that if monotheism is first established, the probability of God working in history-through miracles, special revelation, and the incarnation and resurrection-increases dramatically. In this sense it is easier intellectually to move from theism to Christianity than to move from a nontheistic worldview directly to Christianity through the evidence for Christian particulars. Evidentialism either minimizes or dispenses with arguments for God's existence from nature and instead opts for a one-step argument for Christianity."
This methods current "rock star" is William Lane Craig. He has debated extensively for the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, the truth of the resurrection, etc. To grasp the nature of his craft, it is best to hear him in action. Two of his best are his debate with James Crossley on the resurrection and his debate against Peter Millican on the existence of God.

5) Groothuis' Approach
"I will neither presuppose Christianity is true apart from the need for positive evidence (fideism, presuppositionalism or Reformed epistemology) or suppose that by amassing legions of historical facts we can convince someone of Christian truth (evidentialism). Rather, I will offer a variety of arguments that verify or confirm the Christian worldview as superior to its rivals, thus showing that Christianity alone makes the most sense of the things that matter most. This chapter has stated worldview criteria rather technically, but the chapters that follow need not cite them verbatim to make the needed points. Simply put, if a worldview fails to explain what it promises to explain, fails to make sense on its own terms (internal consistency), fails to describe what is there (objective and inner reality), fails to give intelligible meaning to life, or fails to be intellectually and culturally productive, it is disqualified from consideration. I will argue that Christianity passes these tests better than any of its competitors."

My personal take is that all of these approaches, except for the first, should be known and used by all apologists. I have read far too many wise words from advocates of all the sides to suggest for a minute that one approach is better than any other.

Having said that, if the Gospel work of Jesus Christ is not the ultimate end to any of these methods, we have a problem.


John 17 – Was Jesus' Ministry a Success?

In what is often called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, it is said that Jesus prays for the following:
·  Himself
·  His disciples
·  Believers

And with each of these three, Jesus seems to speak on two things:
·  (1) His Work on behalf of each.
·  (2) His Petitions on behalf of each.

His work is revealed in the indicatives He uses:
·  For example – glorified; manifested; given; came; kept; guarded; made known

His petitions are revealed in the imperatives and subjunctives He uses:
·  For example – glorify, keep; sanctify; may all be one; may believe; may know; may be with me

Rabbit Trail:
I think it is important to notice one thing about Jesus’ Work and Petitions before we go on.
·  It is significant that the order of Jesus’ prayer is Jesus-disciples-believers.
·  The Gospel can only pertain to us because it is first and foremost about Jesus!
o   His glorification and His actions on behalf of the Father and in fulfillment of Scripture.
·  No Jesus – No disciples – No believers

In other words, the Gospel is justification by faith, but it is more than that.
·  It is Jesus’ fulfilling and completing the plan of the Father and the story of Israel in Himself (who He is, what He has done, what He is going to do) – through His action in history at the pleasure and leading of His Father.
o   Jeremiah 31 & Ezekiel 36, e.g.
·  “The Story of Jesus…is first and foremost a resolution of Israel’s Story and because the Jesus Story completes Israel’s Story, it saves” – Scot McKnight.

Back to the lesson:
·  So as we said, Jesus’ prayer addresses His work on behalf of Himself, the disciples and believers.
·  And it addresses His petitions on behalf of all three.
·  Over the coming few weeks we will deal with each of these.

Today, however, we are going to define the lens through which we are going to see these and the prayer as a whole.
·  Jesus prayer is in many ways a reflection and summary of His ministry thus far.
·  And to get at its meaning, I think it is important to get a sense of this “lens” from Jesus’ perspective.
·  So, this is a humble effort at sanctified speculation to do just that.


There are two things I want us to keep in mind as we work through Jesus’ prayer over the coming weeks.
·  (1) Jesus gives us a glimpse into what is most pressing on His heart.
·  (2) Jesus considered His work and ministry a success.
·  We will work through these one at a time.

(1) Jesus’ prayer gives us a glimpse into His heart.
·  He was moments away from being betrayed, arrested and crucified.
·  Given this context, the work He highlights and the petitions He makes are presumably things He considers deeply important.
·  And if this is the case, then these things were certainly pivotal to Him and deserve our attention.

(a) For example, He speaks four times of the disciples and believers being one, like He and the Father are one.
·  How can we be one like Jesus and the Father are one?
·  I think it can be said that, as Jesus nears His crucifixion, this concept is very important to Him.
·  So we need to be diligent in trying to understand what He means.

(b) Another example is His use of language referring to the disciples and believers as being given to Him by the Father.
·  He uses this type of language 6 times in this prayer.
·  What is He saying and revealing with this language?
·  His repetition of it at this hour would seem to reveal it is an important element in His theology.

(c) Another example is Jesus emphasis on the Word of the Father.
·  He speaks of it directly or indirectly at least 6 times.
·  Why is the Word of the Father so important to Him?

(d) And in a final example, Jesus speaks of either the Father’s glory or His glory eight times in this prayer.
·  Again, I think it is obvious, especially with the cross in view, that this is crucial to the theology and purpose of Jesus’ ministry.
·  We need to try and figure out why.

(e) In fact, I would go so far as to say that from this prayer, we could come close to one possible definition of the Kingdom of God from Jesus’ perspective.
·  The Kingdom of God is where the glorification of God is sought by a unified, elect body of believers living by and speaking the word of God in love and obedience to the King.
·  He certainly lived this by example and said as much in this prayer.
·  He glorified the Father; He was unified with the Father and believers; He gathered the chosen; He spoke the word.
·  And He certainly did all these things in love and obedience to the Father.

So the lens through which we are going to look at Jesus’ prayer gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ heart.
·  It shows us what might be most important to Him at this point in His ministry.
·  And even, to some extent, His view of the Kingdom of God that He is inaugurating.
·  But, this lens also gives us one more important insight.

(2) Jesus saw His ministry as a success.
·  This is evident due to the way Jesus characterized His ministry throughout John’s Gospel as seen through his words in verse 4 of His prayer.

Jesus’ work characterized in John’s Gospel:
·  John 4:34 (ESV) — 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
·  John 5:36 (ESV) — 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
·  John 14:31 (ESV) — 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
·  John 15:10 (ESV) — 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

And in John 17 He gives us a final characterization of His work thus far.
·  “…having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (vs. 4).
·  Here Jesus is clearly acknowledging that He has been obedient to the Father’s direction in His ministry thus far.
·  And in fact, we all know that on the cross, He will utter the words, “It is finished”.
·  The success of the cross required Jesus’ perfect and active obedience to the Father throughout His life and ministry.
·  His prayer is a giving thanks and acknowledgment that this has been done.

This leads to a huge implication concerning the difference between success in the Kingdom of God and the success of the world.
·  I think we have to explore this before we can appreciate what Jesus is doing in His prayer.

(2.1) Jesus’ Work – Kingdom Success or Worldly Failure:
·  To get at the significance of this implication, we need to think like the world for a moment.
·  And from the world’s perspective, Jesus’ ministry could easily be seen as a failure.
·  Why?

(a) Concerning the Disciples:
Jesus’ very own, hand selected disciples had a serious comprehension deficit in spite of the fact that they spent 3 years with Him.
·  John 12:16 (ESV) — 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
·  John 13:7 (ESV) — 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
·  John 20:9 (ESV) — 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
·  Luke 9:44–45 (ESV) — 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
·  Luke 18:31–34 (ESV) — 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things

Jesus’ disciples’ record of loyalty was also far from stellar.
·  John 18:2 (ESV) — 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples
·  John 18:25 (ESV) — 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
·  Mark 14:37 (ESV) — 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?
·  Matthew 16:23 (ESV) — 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
·  John 16:32 (ESV) — 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.
·  Mark 14:50 (ESV) — 50 And they all left him and fled.

(b) Concerning the People of Israel:
The people of Israel who witnessed Jesus’ signs, wonders, words and teaching rejected Him even though He was God Himself living and walking in their very presence.
·  John 5:18 (ESV) — 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
·  John 6:66 (ESV) — 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
·  John 7:1 (ESV) — 1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.
·  John 11:46 (ESV) — 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
o   Some believed in vs. 45 and here some told on Him.
·  John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
·   Luke 9:53 (ESV) — 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

(c) Concerning Spiritual Blindness:
·  John 12:37–40 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
·        Luke 9:44–45 (ESV) — 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them [the disciples], so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
·  Luke 18:34 (ESV) — But they [the disciples] understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
·  Proverbs 25:2 (ESV) — 2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

So, from a worldly perspective, if Jesus really was God, Creator, Ruler, Messiah and Savior, how on earth could all that we just surveyed happen?
·  If Jesus was God incarnate, why was He rejected by so many?
·  Though clearly many did believe in Him (John 4:39; John 4:41; John 4:53; John 7:31; John 9:38; John 11:45; John 12:42).

How could Jesus consider His ministry a success if so many rejected Him?
·  Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost?
·  Wasn’t the main reason for His incarnation to save people?
·  And if so, why would God harden hearts and conceal things from them?
·  This would seem to run counter to a successful ministry.

Yet, as we saw, Jesus saw His work as a success, as accomplished.
·  How can this be?
·  Perhaps the answer will be found in the Kingdom of God description we alluded to earlier.
·  The Kingdom of God is where the glorification of God is sought by a unified, elect body of believers living by and speaking the word of God in love and obedience to the King.

By way of introduction then, we have seen the following:
·  (1) Jesus prayer gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ heart.
·  (2) And His prayer shows us that success in the Kingdom of God does not look like the success of the world.

And with respect to (2), some very interesting questions are raised.
·  So, as we work through Jesus’ prayer, we will dive deeper into His heart and into the Kingdom of God and try to address the questions raised above.


What a Week - Thomas Nagel and Junk DNA

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) — 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,

There have been some significant developments that favor Intelligent Design and a theistic worldview over the last few weeks.
·  In fact, one of them is, according to The Guardian newpaper, a history maker.
·  And strikingly, these developments come primarily from the work of non-Christians.

The developments:
(1) An acknowledgment and argument detailing the short-comings of Darwinian Evolution, and its materialist reductionism, in accounting for the complexity of life, consciousness and reason (the mind), and morality.
·  What is incredible is that this acknowledgment is made in a new book by renowned, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel in his book Mind and Cosmos.
(2) The complete rewriting of DNA history with the coming demise of Junk DNA.
·  This new development was revealed by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project and published in the science journal Nature.

To get at the significance of each of these, we have to be clear on what we mean by evolution.

Darwinian Evolution (DE) Defined:
Darwinian Evolution can be described as natural selection acting upon the purposeless, random mutations of DNA.
·  These random mutations are selected for because they provide a survival and/or reproductive advantage.
·  These chance mutations, natural selection, plus the passing of time, supposedly account for the introduction of all new information in DNA and thus all the variety of live we have.

We are not simply talking about change over time.
·  Clearly, things can “evolve”, adapt, and change over time.
·  One need only look at the differences between a wolf and a pug to grasp this.
·  We are talking about the introduction of new information in the DNA through the purposeless process of natural selection acting on random, chance mutations.

And concerning DE, it just so happens that survival – that is to say life – is the object of the process.
·  No comprehensive explanation has been given why life is more beneficial than death.
·  Why the possibility of life?
·  Why the existence of life?
·  Why a process built around life?
·  What benefit for matter was there in “becoming” life?

It is odd that gravity, the law of thermodynamics, the laws of logic, mathematics or any other laws of physics could care less about life.
·   And yet, as even Thomas Nagel concedes, there is in the universe a "cosmic predisposition" towards life.
·  Nagel further concedes that a purely materialist view, such as DE, struggles to explain this “cosmic predisposition” for life.

Important implications of this theory:
The implication of this theory is that everything comes from matter.
·  There is nothing outside of the physical; there is only natural – no supernatural.
·  Even our freewill is an illusion – we do what “material” leads us to do.
·  This is called a “reductionist” view.
·  It is called “reductionist” because everything in existence emerges from physical matter.
·  Consciousness, reason, morality, truth, and ethics all emerge from matter – they do not exist outside of it; they are not objective; they simply emerge from it and are subjected to it – thus subjective.
·  This means that the mind is just the firing of neurons – it is nothing more.

So where does Thomas Nagel’s book fit in?

1) Nagel’s Nuke:
Christian Apologists and Philosophers have been pointing out the problems with this “reductionist” view both biologically and philosophically for years.
·  Problems, for example, such as relative/subjective morality; no grounds for trusting our reason to produce true beliefs; irreducible complexity; origin of life; etc.  
·  And now, with Nagel’s book, there is a full-on admission that Darwinian Evolution and its “reductionism” fail to explain much of what it purports to explain.
·  The problems cited by the so-called “flat earth” Darwinian Evolution critics are proving too real to be ignored anymore.
·  And, going against the fundamentalist tide of Darwinian Evolution, atheist Thomas Nagel has made clear that DE in its current form simply does not cut it.
·  He, and many others, has blasphemed against the establishment.

What does Nagel say?

On Organisms:
“But for a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes” – Thomas Nagel.
·  He gives props to the ID movement for demonstrating the problems posed to DE given the staggering complexity of DNA.
·  The monumental work of Stephen Meyers, The Signature in the Cell, is no doubt in mind.
·  This book was awarded one of the top science books of the year by The London Times Literary Supplement in 2009.

On Morality:
Speaking of a subjective view of values, He says, "...I find it impossible to take up this position"..
·  And he sees it as impossible to be subjectivist on morality because, "...value is not just an accidental side effect of life; rather, there is life because life is a necessary condition of value" and, "On a teleological account, the existence of value is not an accident..." - Thomas Nagel.

On the Mind:
“Just as consciousness cannot be explained as a mere extension or complication of physical evolution, so reason cannot be explained as a mere extension or complication of consciousness” – Thomas Nagel.
·  DE is simply not enough to account for the emergence of the mind.
·  And to make it even worse, reason itself cannot be explained by the existence of the mind.
·  He argues that there must be a necessary “proto-mental” reality that DE refuses to account for.

And with respect to reason, He argues that DE cannot account for our ability to “to arrive at truth, or even think about it”.
·  In other words, DE gives us no reason to trust that our reason gives us true beliefs.
·  He even acknowledges the arguments of Alvin Plantiga in this regard – specifically his evolutionary argument against naturalism.

He even argues for the need for purpose:
·  “I believe that the role of consciousness in the survival of organisms is inseparable from intentionality: inseparable from perception, belief, desire, and action, and finally from reason” – Thomas Nagel.
o   In other words, in direct opposition to DE, Nagel thinks that teleology is unavoidable in whatever system is to account for the mind.
o   And by “intentionality” and “teleology” he means purpose!

Nagel is not the only one:
·  “One thing that we will have to let go of is this kind of addiction to simplistic, primitive reductive materialism because there’s really no way that I can see a reductive materialist model coming remotely in the right ballpark to explain what we really know about consciousness now” – Dr. Eben Alexander (Harvard/UVA Neurosurgeon).

So where does Junk DNA fit in?

2) Demise of Junk DNA:
For years, it was believed that the process of DE produced an enormous amount of junk in DNA.
·  The junk was presumed to be result of millions of years of useless mutations.
·  It was said that the majority of the DNA molecule (over 95%) was in fact this useless junk and it served no purpose.
·  In fact, it was said that this junk is clear evidence of DE.

BTW – we are 95+% like a chimp in the 5% of DNA that was not considered junk.
·  I wonder how that figure will change when the “junk” DNA of humans and chimps is compared and contrasted.

Simultaneously, Intelligent Design scientists and intellectually honest Darwinists have speculated and been uncovering function for the so-called Junk DNA.
·  In fact, “ID” has hypothesized that if DNA was the product of design, we could expect to find more and more function in the so-called Junk DNA.
·  Well, it turns out they were right.

At the same time that Nagel is making waves with his new book, another blow is delivered to DE concerning Junk DNA by the ENCODE project study published in Nature (from Evolution News Blog).

The UK Guardian says (Sept 5, 2012):
·  "Long stretches of DNA previously dismissed as "junk" are in fact crucial to the way our genome works, an international team of scientists said on Wednesday. ... For years, the vast stretches of DNA between our 20,000 or so protein-coding genes -- more than 98% of the genetic sequence inside each of our cells -- was written off as "junk" DNA. Already falling out of favor in recent years [AN HONEST CONCESSION], this concept will now, with Encode's work, be consigned to the history books."

The New York Times says (Sept 5, 2012):
·  "The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as 'junk' but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches. ... Human DNA is 'a lot more active than we expected [THAN WE WANTED], and there are a lot more things happening than we expected [AGAIN, THAN WE WANTED],' said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project."

I suspect a PhD dissertation could be written on the understated irony to be found in the phrase “not what we expected” or “we were surprised” when uttered by Darwinian Evolutionists.
·  For example, just recently, pertaining to 200 million year old mites found encased in amber, Yahoo News reported the words of scientist David Grimaldi:
·  “And when Grimaldi compared the ancient mites to their modern day descendants, he was surprised about how similar they are. Except for difference in the mouth and fewer legs, ‘they're dead ringers for (modern) gall mites, he said.”
·  I bet he was surprised!
·  And even worse, now 200 million years of cast-off junk mutations that would account for the evolution of the mite are “consigned to the history books”.
o   Oh, that’s right, this aphid is a “dead ringer” for a modern mite.
o   I guess there is no need to explain away the lack of Junk DNA with this type of “non-evolving” evolution.

Who Cares:
So why is any of this relevant to us as Christians?

1) If Christianity is true, nothing contrary proffered by secular science, philosophy or culture should ever diminish our confidence or hope.
·  If Jesus rose from the dead, we have nothing to worry about.
·  Yet we need to be informed.
·  Peter tells us that we are to give reasons for the hope that we have in Christ – 1 Peter 3:15.
·  In other words, we need to be able to give reasons for our belief.
·  This means that when a challenge comes, we meet that challenge head on – we don’t dodge it.
·  If the resurrection is challenged, we respond with the arguments of N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, and others.
·  If the reliability of Scripture is challenged, we respond with the arguments of Richard Bauckham, D.A. Carson, Larry Hurtado, Andreas Kostenberger, Ben Witherington, and others.
·  And if we are told that mind comes from matter and there is nothing outside of the natural world, we respond with the arguments of Alvin Plantiga, William Lane Craig, Greg Bahnsen, and even expose the problems of such a view, as articulated by atheists Thomas Nagel, Anthony Flew or even David Hume.
·  Answering these challenges by saying, “Jesus is all that matters” is a lazy copout and is disobedient to Scripture.

2) As we will see coming up in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, as powerful as the reasons are to believe in Christ, they are not the reason for belief in Christ.
·  In other words, there are reasons to believe and a reason for belief.
·  Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He gave many reasons to believe in Him – signs and wonders; teaching; testimony of the Father, Himself and John the Baptist.
·  And yet most who witnessed these did not believe in Him.

Reasons to believe don’t necessarily lead to the reason for belief.
·  Likewise, arguments for theism, objective morality, intelligent design and the resurrection, for example, are heard by many reasonable people who never accept them.
·  This is because the reason for belief resides in the heart and in the work of the Holy Spirit.
o   Jesus and the prophet Ezekiel attribute it to the Father (Matt 16:17; Ezek 36:26).
·  More to come as we dive into John 17.


John 16:16-33 – Jesus and His Little Whiles

Today we finish up John 16.
·  In our text, Jesus concludes his conversation with the disciples that began at the Last Supper, continued through the Farewell discourse, and finishes with our text today.
·  We will primarily deal with (1) the “little while” that Jesus designates as His return, and (2) what the results of His return be.
o   In the course of these discussions, we will pick out some important implications and principals for the believer.
·  We will then end with some final observations about the rest of our text.


John 16:16–22 (ESV) — 16A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?

The obvious question to be answered in our text is what does “a little while” refer to?
·  To answer this question and understand what Jesus is saying we need to notice two distinctions.
·  Jesus clearly makes reference to two different “little whiles”.
·  (1) The “little while” before they no longer see Him due to His departure.
·  (2) The “little while” before they see Him again after His return from His departure.
·  We will deal with each of these separately as we seek to answer our stated question.

(1) “Little While” and Departure:
In surveying commentaries on John, it would seem that there are two choices open to us.
·  Jesus was referring to His leaving either via
o   (a) His death on the cross
o   (b) His ascension.
·  And given the context of our verses
o   Jesus’ farewell discourse
o   The night of His arrest
o   And the night before His crucifixion
·  It is not surprising all 7 commentators I read opted for option (a).
·  D.A. Carson; Kostenberger; Beasley-Murray; Wiersbe; R.C. Sproul ; James Boice; MacArthur
·  Boice sums up this view saying simply, “This [option (a)] is the first and most obvious interpretation simply because Christ is here speaking to his disciples, trying to comfort them on the eve of his arrest and separation from them” – James Boice.

The second “little while”, however, doesn’t have the same kind of consensus.

(2) “Little While” and Return:
The four most common options cited for the second “little while”, i.e., when Jesus will return from His departure through the cross, are:
·  (a) His resurrection.
·  (b) His second coming.
·  (c) Pentecost – the giving of the Holy Spirit
·  (d) His exaltation.

The most popular option is (a).
·  D.A. Carson; Kostenberger; Beasley-Murray; R.C. Sproul
·  D.A. Carson sums up option (a) succinctly, “Jesus will die. But then ‘after a little while’ his disciples will again see him: Jesus will rise from the dead” – D.A. Carson.

Wiersbe sides with (d).
·  This would mean that Jesus is telling the disciples they will see Him again in heaven.

James Boice takes the all of the above (a), (b), (c) and (d) approach.

And finally, John MacArthur opts adamantly for choice (c).
·  He argues that the return Jesus is referring to is the giving of the Holy Spirit…His Spirit.
·  “It seems most accurate to view the Lord’s promise that He would see the disciples again primarily as a reference to the coming of His Spirit on the day of Pentecost” – John MacArthur.
·  I agree.

BTW – it is a comfort to me that both the disciples and the commentators are unclear about what Jesus is talking about.
·  In verse 18 the disciples ask, “What does he mean by a little while?
·  The commentators give it their best guess and come to different conclusions.
·  However, it is important to note that none of the differences affect core doctrine.
·  There is space here, as there are in other areas, for informed, sanctified speculation.
·  But we must always consider the implications “down the line” for some of these areas of disagreement.

(2)(a) – Why the Second “little while” Is Pentecost:
So why is option (c) the way to go?
·  There is one main reason why I think MacArthur is right…context, context, and context.
·  As James Boice puts it, “This is not reading something into the passage, because it is suggested to us by the context. In the first part of this chapter the Lord has been talking about the Holy Spirit” – James Boice.
·  Jesus has been trying to encourage, equip, and comfort the disciples so that they will be ready to continue His mission after His “final” departure.
·  After all, the giving of the Holy Spirit was not to occur after the resurrection but at Pentecost.
o   What comfort would be provided by resurrecting and then leaving them again?
o   And how could the 2nd coming provide comfort to them during their ministry?
o   And why would they need comforting in heaven with an exalted Jesus?
·  And as we saw last week, Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit as His replacement.
·  So given these and other reasons not cited, Pentecost makes the most sense.

What are the implications of this view?
·  (1) The deep and unified connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
·  (2) And it also speaks powerfully of the nature of the Trinity.

(2)(a)(1) – Awesome Implications of this View:
John 14:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
·  MacArthur points out that the Greek word for “another” used in verse 16 is “allos”.
·  He points out that there was another word available for Jesus to use that meant “another” – “heteros”.
·  The significance is found in the meaning of each.
·  Allos” means “another of the same kind” and “heteros” means another of a different kind – MacArthur.
·  The point is that the “Helper” is a “kind” of Jesus – Jesus and the Spirit are of the same stuff.
o   Not of different stuff.

This, along with the following verses, demonstrates the powerfully (1) intimate connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well as (2) the reality of the Trinity.
·  John 14:23 (ESV) — 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
o   Was this done after the resurrection, the exaltation, or is it more likely referring to Pentecost?
·  Romans 8:9–10 (ESV) — 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
·  Philippians 1:19 (ESV) — 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

Taking this view of Jesus’ second “in a little while” also impacts how we will see the next verses.
·  Jesus answers their question not with a simple, “my return to you will be at Pentecost shortly after I ascend to the Father”.
·  He instead answers their question with what the result will be when He returns at Pentecost.
·  The result, after all, is what will provide them the comfort they need!
·  And I think not answering directly but with the result is partly why the disciples were confused.
·  Along with the fact that “the disciples still had no category in which to place the notion of a dying and rising Messiah who would, upon his exaltation, send “another helping presence” in form of the Spirit” – Kostenberger.


There are two results that Jesus attributes to His return to the disciples.
·  I think both of these give further credence to option (c) as discussed above.
·  (1) Their hearts of sorrow will be transformed to hearts of joy.
·  (2) They will be able to pray in a way never before done in history – in Jesus’ name.

(1) Sorrow to Joy:
John 16:20–22 (ESV) — 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again [in a little while], and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In our text, Jesus takes notice of the sorrow of the disciples.
·  weep and lament” (vs. 20)
·  will be sorrowful” (vs. 20)
·  have sorrow now” (vs. 22)
·  In last week’s text, we also saw that Jesus said, “sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:6).

And then in context of their current and coming sorrow, He says the following:
·  but I will see you again [in a little while], and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (vs. 22)

In other words, Jesus makes clear that His departure followed by His “return” will bring rejoicing and joy to the hearts of the disciples.
·  The coming joy is a clear first result of His return.
o   Further support for option “c”.
o   This joy is most needed for the persecution they disciples will soon face.
·  And not only will His “return” bring joy, but it will bring permanent joy.
o   no one will take your joy” (vs. 22).

What is this joy He is speaking of?
·  Acts 5:41 (ESV) — 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
·  Acts 13:52 (ESV) — 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
·  Acts 16:25 (ESV) — 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
·  1 Peter 1:8 (ESV) — 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

At the very least, it is a joy that comes from our identification with Christ through the Holy Spirit in the new order of the Kingdom of God.
·  It is not a joy that comes from worldly circumstances or conditions, but exists in spite of them.
·  And though we might be able to obscure it, we can’t lose it.

In fact, it is a joy that Jesus has described as His joy.
·  John 15:11 (ESV) — 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
·  This means that it is a joy that is supernaturally sourced.
·  It is not contingent on the world and its pleasures.

And if we look closely we will see a very important Kingdom principle from this sorrow-to-joy result.

(1)(a) Sorrow-to-Joy Implication:
·  “The principle is simply this: God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation” – Wiersbe.
·  Joy is not the absence of sorrow, but the transformation of sorrow to joy by the workings of the Spirit on the believer through our sanctification within the Kingdom of God.
·  This principle is simple and powerful.
·  And with the exaltation of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit it is the believers’ to have.

This principle is made clear with Jesus’ child birth metaphor.
·  A mother does not wake up one morning and find her new baby in the crib.
·  She goes through an often traumatic and painful pregnancy and birth.
·  And, as Jesus put it, after the birth “she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (vs. 21).
·  The thing that caused her anguish and sorrow has now been transformed into a thing of joy.

This is nothing new to God:
·  Deuteronomy 23:5 (ESV) — 5 But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you.
·  Nehemiah 13:2 (ESV) — 2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.

What are some other examples in Scripture that demonstrate this principal?
·  The cross was transformed by God from humiliation and a curse, to glorification and salvation.
·  The slavery of Joseph was transformed by God to be a salvation of the Israelites from famine.
·  The sorrow and aguish David experienced under pursuit by King Saul, “only made him more a man of God and helped produce the psalms that encourage our hearts today” – Wiersbe.

How often do we wonder why God doesn’t simply sanctify us completely, and replace our will and desires with His at the point of our salvation?
·  In our text today, we see that the Kingdom of God was not set up like this.
·  Perhaps God is glorified more through transformation instead of substitution.
·  “The way of substitution for solving problems is the way of immaturity. The way of transformation is the way of faith and maturity” – Wiersbe.
·  “…we must deal with our trials and hurts on the basis of transformation and not substitution, if we expect to mature in the Christian life” – Wiersbe.
·  Would you rather the “Tyranny of Circumstances” simply be substituted with joy, or would you rather be transformed in such a way that no matter the circumstance you would have joy?
o   This is the joy of Jesus and not the fleeting joy of the world.

Now we can move on to the second result.

(2) Prayer in Jesus’ Name:
John 16:23–28 (ESV) — 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Look closely at what Jesus says.
·  In that day you will ask nothing of me” (vs. 23)
o   This implies when this happens He will not be physically with them.
o   Further support to option “c”.
·  Then He says, “whatever you ask of the Father in my name” (vs. 23)
o   In other words, at His “return” prayer will not be directly to Him, but in His name.
o   Further support to option “c”.
·  He then underscores their current style of prayer, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.” (vs. 24)
·  And tells them that at His “return”, their prayer will be different, “In that day you will ask in my name” (vs. 26).

We see in this text that the second result of Jesus’ return will be the ability to pray in Jesus’ name.
·  Why is this significant?
·  Instead of praying to a physically present Jesus, they will be praying to a “what” kind of Jesus?
·  They will be praying in the name of a crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, glorified, ascended, and exalted Jesus Christ that intercedes on their behalf at the right hand of the Father.
·  The disciples can now pray to the fully inaugurated King of the Kingdom of God who sits on His throne.
o   The new order of creation!
·  And it is for this reason that Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (vs. 24).

Summary of Results (1) and (2):
So thus far we have seen two results of Jesus’ return through the Holy Spirit.
·  (1) Joy comes through transformation.
·  (2) Joy also comes through prayer in Jesus’ name.
·  And both of these results are inseparably linked to Jesus’ exaltation to the Father.
·  As if His exaltation is their beginning.
o   “‘because I am going to the Father’” (vs. 17).
o   …and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (vs. 28).
·  And importantly, all of this is available to us as believers.
·  We too can have the fullness of Christ’s joy through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit no matter the circumstance.


I can’t overlook one more very important lesson that pertains to the disciples’ sorrow.
·  The fact that Jesus constantly addressed it requires us to look at the reasons why.
·  And I think the reason He did so will come as no surprise.

(1) Disciples’ Sorrow and Jesus’ Love:
Jesus’ ability to love, empathize and encourage even in the midst of His coming death is incredible.
·  Given what He is about to face, what does His concern with the disciples’ emotional state tell us about Jesus?
·  He loved and cared for them deeply.
·  And the fact that, in spite of what He would soon face, He could continue to put their needs first is simply incredible.
·  But it is more than that; it is an example for us to follow!

But wait…there is more!
·  If, as we learned last week, the Spirit was sent to replace Jesus, what does this say about the Spirit?
o   The Spirit loves us the same way.
o   Wrap your head around that.


John 16:29–33 (ESV) — 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16 ends rehashing many of the same issues Jesus has addressed since the Last Supper.
·  The ignorance of the disciples.
·  Their coming defection.
·  And even a final encouragement to the disciples.
·  Kostenberger sums these verses up well – “The farewell discourse proper ends on a triumphant note, with Jesus anticipating his victory in the face of apparent defeat: ‘Take heart, I have triumphed over the world’” – Kostenberger.