Take Oklahoma beheader Alton Nolen (who now goes by the name "Jah'Keem Yisrael") as an example.
According to Nolen's Facebook page (before it was taken down), he was raised in a Christian home:
However, as evidenced by his complete ignorance of basic Christian doctrine, he was given absolutely no intellectual foundation. When he was eventually presented with a variety of objections to Christianity in prison, he converted to Islam.
Let's look at a few of Nolen's posts to see what would have happened if he had encountered a Christian apologist.
How difficult are these objections? Watch how easy this is:
(1) Christians worship Jesus because (a) he is God; (b) he said that we must honor him just as we honor the Father (John 5:22-23), and one of the ways we honor the Father is through worship; and (c) he accepted worship from his disciples. (Click here to watch "Jesus Accepts Worship.")
(2) Christians pray in Jesus' name because he said, "Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). (Notice that Jesus tells his followers that he can answer their prayers.)
(3) Jesus is the Creator:
John 1:3—All things came into being through Him [Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.(4) Jesus is the Forgiver:
Colossians 1:16—For by Him [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Mark 2:5-12—When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"(5) In Matthew 7:21, Jesus does not say, "None of those who call me Lord enter the kingdom of God." Instead, he says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." See the difference? Jesus isn't telling his followers not to call him "Lord" (as Nolen falsely claims). Instead, he is telling them that merely calling him "Lord" is not sufficient for salvation if one doesn't do the will of the Father. Moreover, Jesus specifically declares that he is Lord:
John 13:13—"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am."Notice that simple familiarity with the Bible is enough to easily refute all of Nolen's objections. Let's look at another.
(1) Nolen asks, "Why would the Father Jesus as you say be coming back to earth." Nolen is clearly ignorant of basic Christian theology, because we don't say that Jesus is the Father.
(2) He asks what everyone is going to do when Jesus is dead. Once again, he is completely ignorant of basic Christian doctrine. God is a Trinity, and Jesus' divine nature doesn't cease to exist when he dies on the cross. (For a fuller discussion of this topic, watch my video "How Can God Die?")
(3) Nolen says we will be standing in front of Allah on judgment day. But this means that Jesus must be Allah, since Jesus said:
Matthew 25:31-33—"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."(4) Nolen challenges Christians to show him that Jesus is God. The passages we have already looked at show that Jesus is God. But for a fuller discussion, see my article "Where Did Jesus Say, 'I Am God, Worship Me'?"
John 5:22-23—"Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him."
Perhaps Nolen has something more significant in his next post.
Nolen quotes part of John 1:18 to show that Jesus is not God. Think about how silly this is. John 1 begins by calling Jesus God (v. 1) and declares that all things were created through Jesus (v. 3). Is John's position supposed to suddenly change by the time we get to verse 18? (Also note that Alton doesn't even know who the speaker is. He thinks this is Jesus talking, when it's the author of the Gospel!)
But let's look at the verse. John 1:18 is difficult to translate, because the Greek word monogenes can mean either "begotten" or "unique," but here are four translations so we can see what happens when we simply read the entire verse:
NIV—No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.Is this verse supposed to refute belief in the deity of Christ? Because when we actually read the verse, it specifically says that Jesus is God.
NASB—No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
ESV—No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
NRSV—No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
When we read the verse in the context of the Gospel of John, we see that the verse only makes sense in light of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Human beings have not directly seen the Father (or the Trinity), but the Son entered creation to reveal him to us. Though we haven't directly seen the Father, we have seen him indirectly by seeing Jesus. Thus Jesus said:
John 14:7—"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."Moving on:
The level of ignorance here is astounding.
(1) Nolen declares that the Dead Sea Scrolls were taken out of the Bible, as if the scrolls were originally included in the Bible but were later removed. This is nonsense. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of nearly a thousand scrolls, some of which are copies of Old Testament books (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, etc.), while others are deuterocanonical (not included in the Jewish canon of scripture). The texts that were included in the Bible are still in the Bible, and the texts that didn't still aren't. So which texts were removed?
(2) Nolen says that the Dead Sea Scrolls claim that Jesus never died. Since the Dead Sea Scrolls aren't about the life of Jesus, we can only wonder how they say that Jesus didn't die.
(3) Nolen apparently believes that the Gospel of Barnabas was part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But the Gospel of Barnabas is a medieval forgery written more than a thousand years after the time of Jesus and was certainly not one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was written in Italian!
Putting all of this together, we can see that Nolen (1) knows nothing about Christianity, but (2) thinks that he has a knock-down case against Christianity. If Nolen had been given a basic foundation in apologetics, he wouldn't be arguing any of this. When confronted with arguments against Christianity in prison, he would have been able to refute them.
But it gets worse. When he went to prison, Nolen was just as ignorant of Islam as he was of Christianity. This allowed Muslims to convince him that Islam is the truth. Once he became convinced that Islam is the truth, he learned about jihad, terrorizing non-Muslims, and beheading. He eventually decided to wage jihad by committing a "lone-wolf" attack, beheading a woman and stabbing another before being shot.
If Nolen had met a well-informed Christian apologist before, during, or after his conversion to Islam, I don't think we would ever have heard of him, because I don't think he would have gone on a killing spree.
Apologetics, then, can save lives. It's time for Christians to equip ourselves to defend the Gospel and to refute Islam.