If In Doubt: Answering the Seven Great Questions about Faith

If In Doubt: Answering the Seven Great Questions about Faith

by Rhys Stenner

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ISBN-13: 9781617957567
Publisher: Worthy
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.37(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Rhys Stenner is the senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, with two locations in the South Metro Atlanta area. Rhys was previously senior pastor of Holland Road Baptist Church in Brighton and Hove, England. New Hope is noted as one of the more diverse churches in Atlanta, with a strong teaching ministry on radio and podcast. Well known for its commitment to missions, New Hope currently works in Wales, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, India, Thailand, and Haiti. In addition to his leadership at New Hope, Rhys has founded and leads a partnership of many churches in Wales, as well as founding a pastors' network in South Metro Atlanta. Rhys is a keen golfer and delights to follow rugby as well as ministering to rugby clubs in Wales. He is married to Louise and has three girls. He lives in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Read an Excerpt

If in Doubt

Answering the Seven Great Questions About Faith


By Rhys Stenner

Worthy Publishing Group

Copyright © 2016 Rhys Stenner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61795-756-7



CHAPTER 1

DID GOD MAKE THE WORLD?


I was pastor of a church in Brighton, England, when I began preaching a series of messages on the book of Romans. If you are not familiar with this book in the Bible, Romans is one of the most comprehensive, theological letters in the New Testament. Many scholars say that one should not rush through preaching such a great epistle — for example, the late pastor Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on this one letter for an incredible fourteen years! I scheduled the series for a mere twenty-six weeks.

I planned to preach through the book of Romans a few verses at time, but as I prepared my message for chapter 1, I was drawn to verse 20. I paused and read the verse again and again. I could go no further.


For since the creation of the world ...

I was struck by this simple statement. My nation of Britain no longer embraced this truth. There was a time when the majority of British people had a strong view of God's creation. Then Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution. A century came and went, and attitudes about mankind's origin gradually shifted. Schools began teaching evolution as fact, and in time, almost everyone began referring to what humans used to be like when we were in more primitive form. God became less relevant to our education and our everyday lives as our nation became more heavily influenced by the theory of evolution.

Throughout the Western world, including the great thinkers and philosophers of Britain, the question of mankind's origin — creation versus evolution — was once considered a valid discussion and a fair debate. But as the years went by, the naturalist view (the belief that nature is all there is and no more) became more dominant — not because of overwhelming proof but because the majority of people began to scoff and say, in essence, "Only fools doubt evolution."

Despite the disproof of many of the so-called evolution evidences that my generation had been fed in high school, the "fact" of evolution was widely assumed and accepted in Britain. In our society, people were shamed for holding a belief that went against the majority. Those who questioned or debated the theory of evolution were treated as mentally weak. Evolution was assumed to be fact — and not allowed to be reexamined. But the evidence supporting evolution was not so forthcoming. It was like the preacher who once put in his notes, "Argument weak here; shout louder!"

Britain's educators were encouraged to teach revisionist history — a new and different interpretation of previously assumed history. But while most of history was fair game for revision, neither teachers nor their students were given the intellectual freedom to reexamine the assumptions that led to the development of the theory of evolution in the nineteenth century. So, for example, reexamining the history of warfare was acceptable, but reexamining the history of evolution in the century when Darwin developed his theory was not acceptable.

Our culture was not looking up or to the distant land. The telescopic sights were seen as old and redundant. The foundation of our culture was beginning to shake.

So I preached through Romans 1, focusing on these most vital words:

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened....

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen. (vv. 20–21, 25)


Like those to whom Paul was writing, the people of Britain saw God as no longer relevant to ordinary life. Most still believed in God and thought He was nice to have around, but He had nothing to do with where we came from or where we were going. In other words, the prevailing view was, "God is okay — as long as you don't let Him have His say in biology, sociology, psychology, history, or ethics, for that matter."

We were reduced to relying on basic instinct rather than reaching for the higher plane of knowing God. Like the Romans, we exchanged the truth for a lie. The result of this was materialism, the belief that we must follow our physical urges and satisfy them with material things. With this view, any restraint or self-denial suppresses our freedom to enjoy whatever we want whenever we want, and therefore it must be rejected. This materialistic mind-set was not good for our nation — and it was definitely not working.


WHY CREATION MATTERS

Some Christians in Britain preferred to ignore the problem of this widespread loss of belief in biblical creation, saying instead, "Let's just tell people about Jesus." But if there is no Creator, then there is no God, no judgment, and no need for salvation in Jesus. The question "Did God create the world?" is ultimately founded on the most basic question of all: "Is there a God?" If this foundation is lost, then we lose everything.

I was stunned throughout the 1990s as legislation changed rapidly in Britain in a way that made biblical values irrelevant, even illegal. The Judeo-Christian worldview was eroded in schools, despite most of the nation still claiming to be Christian.

While working as a pastor in Brighton, I also volunteered as a school governor. Some governors were very kind, but at times I was made to feel like a cultural outsider for believing the Bible. I tried, unsuccessfully, to suggest that everyone on the governing board had a belief in something. I am not sure, however, that such a thought could even be heard. People often claim that they do not have a religious view and are therefore objective. I have found this rarely to be the case.

Laws that had once protected children and the elderly because of our belief in a Creator God were replaced by what I call "opinion-poll ethics," subject to the ebb and flow of the latest fads and often driven by aggressive activists. Standards of taste and decency plummeted. The great Christian heritage that had helped create freedom in the West was replaced by the spirit of the age, which was governed by the one who shouted loudest. This standard brought neither freedom nor tolerance.

In our schools, educators who taught revisionist history began to say that missionaries who traveled to faraway lands to take the gospel, and along with them brought Western culture and conveniences, were bad. These revisionists also taught that Christian beliefs were dangerous and must be removed. The loudest voices in our culture began to reason that we no longer needed to listen to the law of God, since He didn't make us in the first place. After all, if everything on earth is the result of natural processes, then we don't need God. Instead, we can make our own way and define our own rules.

Some Christians responded to this cultural shift toward evolution by trying to make God's truth more appealing to the naturalists by combining the biblical truth of creation with the theory of evolution — creating a theory of theistic evolution. But this blending of ideas watered down one in favor of the other and failed to supply the rigorous philosophical challenge that the theory of evolution needed. If natural process was the only agent involved in the creation of the world and everything in it, then to try to add the Bible to this process, or to say that the teachings of the Bible somehow agreed with Darwin's theory, was to relegate the Bible to superstition.

The loss of our belief in the Creator meant:

• No God

• No standard of right and wrong

• No biblical values or commandments

• No need for a Savior

• No belief in the resurrection

• No life after death

• No hope for the future


If everything in this complex and magnificent universe came from nothing by way of natural processes, then why should our school textbooks continue to teach the view of creation? On the other hand, had evolution definitely been proven true and worthy of being the only view of our origin presented to students? I continued to study the question.


THE NATURALIST VIEW

Since many people in England doubted biblical creation, I knew I needed to address this issue with my congregation in my message on Romans 1. Without an accurate understanding of the foundational truth of creation, we would likely not believe the rest of the Grand Story. When we lose the biblical view of our origin, we begin to adopt a naturalistic view of the world in every academic discipline.

For several weeks I researched and preached that God did make the world according to His Word and that we are answerable to Him. We need this foundation. I kept studying and writing and reading all I could. As I did, I noticed acutely how many things in our culture are related to our foundational presumption of evolution or creation.

Interestingly, most people in modern culture tend to respond with skepticism or even disdain when Christians claim that something has been predetermined by God. But how freely these same people accept the idea of predetermination when it comes to addictions, gluttony, and lust — they quickly blame these behaviors on their genetics! In the popular view, our genes absolve us of responsibility for our choices because they are the result of our predetermined nature. Naturalism says we are merely creatures of instinct, helpless to control our actions. The naturalist claims that the malfunctions of the body are not due to sin or the Fall but to an evolutionary hangover. But is this idea of predetermined instinct over responsible choice true?

The more I studied, the more I was encouraged by the Word of God. I began to realize that I had accepted too much of the prevailing dogma. The reality was, the arguments for evolution and its surrounding tenets were based not on science but on philosophy. The faith that each view requires — either faith in a Creator God or faith in the lack of one — informs the conclusions we make about the evidence we see.


THE BEAUTY OF DESIGN

In my study I came across a key word: design. Things do work remarkably well in nature. To the committed biblicist (believer in the Bible), this complexity and beauty is due to God's intelligent design. What an incredible world we live in! What amazing creatures surround us! Look how the eagle soars, the heron dives, the whale splashes, and the dolphin cruises.

The theory of evolution claims that there is no guiding force at work in the world, directing changes in the species. All is random. Only the fittest survive. To the evolutionist, everything in this universe is a result of natural selection without a selection committee. But how could blind chance turn a single-celled amoeba into something as complex as a bat flying at thirty miles per hour, eating a thousand mosquitos an hour, while guided by a kind of sonar from its own emitted sounds?

A naturalist philosopher, who presumes that no Creator or Designer exists, has to say that our entire universe somehow evolved through random, unintelligent mutation. To the proponent of evolution, everything in this world — including the complexity of the eye, the intricate music of a bird's song, and the speed of a cheetah — evolved by chance. Add a few million years, the evolutionist says, and anything can happen.

Anything?

As I continued to study this issue, I became reacquainted with the difference between macroevolution and microevolution. All creationists and scientists accept that small changes occur within species. That is microevolution. We have evidence of minor changes in today's observable species. For example, humanity has gotten larger as our diet has changed. Cats and dogs have developed considerable variants among breeds, though they are still cats and dogs. We can manipulate microevolution within a species.

In contrast, macroevolution is species-to-species change. It is the development of one species into another despite the nonfunctional nature of irreducible complexities. It takes a huge leap of faith to believe that one species evolved into another species, because scientists have never observed this happening. Not now. Not in the fossil records. Not ever.


IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY

The human body is an incredibly complex system. Have you noticed that if part of the knee is damaged, such as a torn ACL, the whole thing fails? Each person's physical body is a complex system composed of multiple complex systems. For example, your digestive system is incredibly complex. Yet here is something to consider: the individual parts that make up your digestive system have neither purpose nor function without the entire system being in place.

Chemist Michael Behe wrote about this "irreducible complexity" in his book Darwin's Black Box. He explained, "By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."

If a biological system or organism cannot function without each of its parts exactly designed and placed as they are, then how could this system have evolved gradually, in fits and starts, one piece at a time over millions of years? Based on the evolutionist's principle of the survival of the fittest, any component that evolved by itself would not be sustainable and so would not survive. Complex systems would never have an opportunity to develop.

Behe explained this principle using the example of a spring mousetrap. All of the components — base, hammer, spring, catch, and holding bar — must be present together in order for the mousetrap to accomplish its function. If a mousetrap only had a hammer, for example, and not the rest of the parts, it would serve no function and thus be eliminated by the evolutionary process of survival of the fittest.

Herein is the brilliance of complexity that is irreducible: a complex system demands an architect. The creationist looks at the world and sees such an architect in Creator God. The evolutionist sees only natural selection and chance.

In Darwin's Black Box, Behe explained how the reality of irreducible complexity reveals a flaw in evolutionary philosophy:

An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly ... by slight, successive modifications of a system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution.


One example of an irreducibly complex biological system is the human eye. Recently a friend of mine, Jake Dailey, received a concussion as a result of hitting the back of his head. For three or four days he could barely see. One aspect of his sight, the transference from the eye to the brain, was affected by swelling, and the damage to this complex machinery rendered him partially blind. How could all the intricate aspects that have to work together to create vision occur gradually by random chance? All the many parts of the human eye have to be working correctly in order to see! This is irreducible complexity. Thankfully for Jake, the swelling reduced and he regained his vision.

Is this complexity of the animal and human kingdoms a result of design, or is it the remnant of some distant celestial disaster? How can complex forms evolve successfully if every part of the new form has to fully exist before the organism gains any working advantage from it? Why would a genetic anomaly that creates a nonfunctioning portion of an eye lead to the genetic development of a creature with a fully functioning eye? The idea of natural selection falls apart when one considers irreducible complexity. Surely the concept of design rather than evolution makes more sense.

Years ago I heard someone say that it takes more faith to believe that everything came from an amoeba than from God. Yes, indeed. Science should observe what we can see rather than speculate on that for which there is no tangible evidence. Unintelligent, blind chance cannot design complex things, not even if we waited for billions of years.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from If in Doubt by Rhys Stenner. Copyright © 2016 Rhys Stenner. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dr. Jack Graham xiii

Introduction: A Clear View of Truth 1

Chapter 1 Did God Make the World? 7

Chapter 2 Is There a Right and Wrong? 35

Chapter 3 Is the Bible Reliable? 57

Chapter 4 Is Jesus God? 87

Chapter 5 Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? 109

Chapter 6 Is There Life after Death? 129

Chapter 7 Is Jesus Coming Back? 153

Conclusion: A New Perspective 173

Acknowledgments 177

Study Guide 181

Notes 205

For Further Reading 207

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If In Doubt: Answering the Seven Great Questions about Faith 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book drew me in, which I did not anticipate. It's an easy read that keeps your attention. I liked that it unfolds sort of like a movie would. To be perfectly honest, this book quietly exceeded my expectations. I bought "If In Doubt" because I wanted to check it out as a possible gift for a few close friends who seem open to considering the possibility God but aren't quite sure if God and religion, especially, are relevant to their lives. These are busy friends, who live fast-paced lives and who have little time or patience for ploughing through dense material. And this is why I really like Rhys Stenner's book. It reads like an action-packed novel. It's fast-paced, colourful, smart, and each chapter gets to the point quickly. This book is exactly the kind of book my friends would actually read. "If in Doubt" is not going to make a dent in the worldview of a friend of mine who's a card-carrying atheist, but I don't think that is the book's target audience. The book, I think, is intended for people who would like a compact and logical presentation of facts about God, and well-thought out answers to big questions. The book makes you think, and this is one of the things I want to prompt in my friends: to get them to think about why they're here and where they're headed. Most of my friends would NEVER say they have doubt about Jesus, God, or religion. They'd politely say with a shrug of shoulder, "I'm doing just fine, thank you. It's not that I don't believe in God, it's just that I don't see how God is relevant." This book addresses the indifference of my friends head-on. The content is that good. The chapter, "Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?" is like a gut-punch. In just a few pages, the author manages to absolutely flatten the arguments against the resurrection of Jesus. This is another reason I like this book. It allows me to send friends the book and say, "hey, if you have time to read only one chapter in this book, please read chapter five. And if you're intrigued and want more, read chapter one: "Did God Make The World?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book drew me in, which I did not anticipate. It's an easy read that keeps your attention. I liked that it unfolds sort of like a movie would. To be perfectly honest, this book quietly exceeded my expectations. I bought "If In Doubt" because I wanted to check it out as a possible gift for a few close friends who seem open to considering the possibility God but aren't quite sure if God and religion, especially, are relevant to their lives. These are busy friends, who live fast-paced lives and who have little time or patience for ploughing through dense material. And this is why I really like Rhys Stenner's book. It reads like an action-packed novel. It's fast-paced, colourful, smart, and each chapter gets to the point quickly. This book is exactly the kind of book my friends would actually read. "If in Doubt" is not going to make a dent in the worldview of a friend of mine who's a card-carrying atheist, but I don't think that is the book's target audience. The book, I think, is intended for people who would like a compact and logical presentation of facts about God, and well-thought out answers to big questions. The book makes you think, and this is one of the things I want to prompt in my friends: to get them to think about why they're here and where they're headed. Most of my friends would NEVER say they have doubt about Jesus, God, or religion. They'd politely say with a shrug of shoulder, "I'm doing just fine, thank you. It's not that I don't believe in God, it's just that I don't see how God is relevant." This book addresses the indifference of my friends head-on. The content is that good. The chapter, "Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?" is like a gut-punch. In just a few pages, the author manages to absolutely flatten the arguments against the resurrection of Jesus. This is another reason I like this book. It allows me to send friends the book and say, "hey, if you have time to read only one chapter in this book, please read chapter five. And if you're intrigued and want more, read chapter one: "Did God Make The World?"