Trolls, The Cookie Monster, and Contending for the Faith
by Greg West
The Poached Egg: A Year in Review
2010 has been quite a year to say the least. When I started The Poached Egg last June I had very little idea of what I was getting into. I had felt led to begin some kind of online ministry for the past several years but never really knew how I would go about it. How it eventually came about is a slightly lengthy story, so please bear with me as I fill you in on some of the details…
As stated in my About Me page, I was raised in a Christian home and I had always believed that Christianity and the Bible was true. When I reached my mid-twenties, the age where many people start to question everything they’ve learned or believe, I began to have doubts about whether or not Christianity was the one true religion, or if any religion at all was really true. Instead of doing the smart thing and doing an investigation on the truth claims of Christianity, I used doubt as an excuse to wave goodbye to God and Christianity and pursue my own worldly desires (yeah, like most people in their mid-twenties I was prone to making some very brilliant decisions).
Skipping ahead about ten years or so, I eventually came full circle and rededicated my life to Christ. I had learned that you can’t run away from an omniscient God. The further and faster I tried to run away from Him, I kept finding myself running into Him; and running into God when you’re trying to run away from him is akin to running into a brick wall at full speed- only it hurts a lot more, and you feel even stupider for having done it! I can relate to what C.S. Lewis said, when writing of his conversion, “I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”.
Like the proverbial sheep gone astray, the Good Shepherd had brought me back into the fold. On a side note, when the Bible compares us to, or describes us as sheep, it is not a compliment. It is a proven fact (yes, there have been scientific studies, I’m sure) that sheep are dumber than people, believe it or not, and that sheep are probably some of the dumbest animals on the planet. Sheep will literally walk off a cliff if not closely watched by a shepherd or sheep dog. Now, I can’t say that this is a 100% proven fact, but I think that some sheep dogs actually are smarter than most people. I’m getting off track here so back to the original story…
Any-hoo, there I was, a recycled Christian, all fired up, ready and rearin’ to make an impact on the world for Christ. Well, there was, and still is, a bit of refining to do- hammer, ouch; fire, HOT; water, sizzle, steam; fire, HOT; hammer, ouch <— am I painting a good mental image here? If not, just picture a blacksmith at work. God’s the blacksmith and the anvil, and I’m the stubborn unwieldy piece of steel in between. None of that soft, squishy, “He’s-the-potter-I’m-the-clay” stuff for me; no siree, Bob! Yeah, God had his work cut out for him, but in addition to being omniscient and all, he happens to be omnipotent as well, so I’m trusting him to finish the work he began in me.
I began reading my Bible, saying my prayers, eventually landing in an awesome church, doing some volunteering, yadda, yadda, yadda, trying to do all the things a good Christian is supposed to do. But I would still occasionally find myself asking myself, “Why should I really believe all this stuff?” After all, my re-conversion was quite an emotional experience based on feelings and little else, other than the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to the hopeless shape that the world was in and how much evil is in the hearts of men (and yes, that includes me), and how things were going to end up for me if I didn’t place my faith in Jesus Christ. All a pretty subjective experience to those who have not experienced what we Christians call the “consuming fire” of the Holy Spirit.
Well, one day I stumbled across this radio program called The Bible Answer Man. The host was this guy named Hank Hanegraaff, and people would call in and ask Hank questions about the Bible and Christianity, and he would answer them. I became a pretty regular listener because he would often answer some really tough questions that would totally stump me, just off the top of his head. I thought that was pretty cool and I wished I could do that. On one particular broadcast he had this guest on his show named Lee Stroble. Lee was apparently some guy with a background as an investigative journalist, who got cheesed off when his wife became a Christian, so he decided he was going to look into it to prove to her she was nuts. After his in depth investigation of Christianity, I guess he decided he was nuts, too, because he became a Christian as well and started writing books about it.
On the Bible Answer Man program, Hank and Lee were talking about and pitching a book Lee wrote called, The Case for Christ . The book sounded pretty good, so I drove to my friendly neighborhood Christian bookstore and picked up a copy, which I read through in just a couple of days. This book really blew my mind because I had no idea that there was so much evidence that could lead one to make a reasonable conclusion that Christianity is true. I’ve been hooked on apologetics ever since and it has helped me to better understand the Bible, to have a deeper relationship with Christ, and to be better able to share the Gospel and discuss Christianity with non-believers.
Now, I’m not knocking Hank or Lee (as they’re both way smarter than me and I highly recommend their books), but when it comes to apologetics, Hank and Lee are pretty much middle-of-the-road apologists. There are philosophers, scientists, theologians, and other apologists out there that comparatively make Hank and Lee look like beginners, and make myself look like a simpleton! Some of the stuff I read is so far over my head it makes my brain hurt, but every now and then, the light bulb will come on and something will make sense. Not just a “little” sense, but the kind that makes you go, “holy-cow-how-did-they-figure-that-out?” kind of sense. Am I making any sense?!?
Needless to say, I’m really into apologetics and have been studying the subject heavily for several years now. I would think that by now I would be one of the smartest guys around, but alas that is not the case (Hey, Lee- Maybe you should call your next book, The Case for Greg’s Stupidity). One day last spring, I had the bright idea of testing my apologetics skills by having a debate (via Facebook messages) with the wife of a good friend of mine who is a hardcore anti-Christian atheist.
Things went okay at first, but somewhere along the line things were said on both sides that were taken personally. I think she got the idea that I was calling her dumb when I was merely trying to get through to her that she was a victim of misinformation and anti-Christian propaganda, which I honestly believe to be the case. It wasn’t that I didn’t present good arguments, it was because I probably wasn’t as sensitive to her feelings as I should have been. Although she is still in my prayers, our debate pretty much ended with little fanfare and more than a little relief. I do have the occasional fantasy of shoving her in a locked room with William Lane Craig or R.C. Sproul for fifteen minutes, but for all I know she might be wanting to throw me in a pit with Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Still, I don’t think either one of us would come out thinking any differently about what we believe.
During our debate I did a lot of research on the internet and found a lot of disturbing things put out there by atheists. When I use the term “atheist” here, I‘m not just talking about your run of the mill atheist who is content not to believe in God and is indifferent towards Christianity, I’m talking about the extreme anti-Christian kind that not only disbelieve but don’t want anyone else to believe either. There is a growing movement that wish to squash our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Some even want to go so far as to make it illegal for you to teach your children about Jesus Christ or even mention his name in public. If you think I am exaggerating, by all means do a little research and you’ll see what I mean.
This kind of evil not only makes me very sad, but when it comes to my constitutional rights, it also ticks me off in a major way! Another thing that makes me sad is to read about uneducated Christians having their faith destroyed because they read something like Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion, or Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus. In this day and age there is a need for apologetics more than ever, which finally brings me to why I started The Poached Egg.
During my research for my aforementioned debate I ran across a lot of very good apologetics websites and blogs; more than I ever thought existed. Then one day I thought, “Hey, I could do that! What could it hurt to have one more apologetics resource on the internet?” Almost without thinking, I was getting out my debit card, purchasing a domain name, finding webhosting, and setting up my blog. Hence, The Poached Egg was born! WOO-HOO!
Running this blog has been a labor of love for me as it gives me a chance to share my passion for apologetics and more so, an opportunity for me to share my faith in Jesus Christ. What a blessing to be able to do so! But running this blog can also be somewhat of a curse. I have to constantly be on the lookout for blog trolls. Trolls are people with nothing better to do than to disrupt or highjack your blog. Other than sexual predators, these are the lowest form of people on the internet. There is also the occasional person I have to remove or block because they use inappropriate language or because they only want to argue and not participate in civil discussions.
I spend an average of three hours a day working on The Poached Egg, and with my fulltime job, for which I sometimes work odd hours and am occasionally working out of town for a week or more at a time, running a blog can get difficult. I really don’t feel like blogging sitting in a cheap hotel room after working a fourteen hour day. But the pros far outweigh the cons, especially when people tell me how much they enjoy my posts or that they read something on TPE that was encouraging or of use to them. Here are some examples of some of the feedback I’ve received:
“Thank you! Learning much from your pages.”
“I am thrilled to have found The Poached Egg. I enjoy these articles so much.”
“I want to thank you as well for taking the time to create and maintain such an awesome website. The articles are inspiring, thought provoking, humbling, informative, and are great witnessing and fellowship tools!”
“I love this site, it’s my new favorite!!!”
“Thanks for putting all that time and effort into The Poached Egg. I really love it.”
“I recently became a fan of The Poached Egg, an apologetics centered blog. If you’re interested in defending the truth of the gospel, check it out!”
“I really love The Poached Egg. I’m 46 now and a Christian, but until five short years ago, I didn’t believe. I actually hated Christians and most of my family still does and it’s difficult when they attack me. Being a former atheist I can relate to everything you do on here and I really do appreciate it. It helps me defend my faith.”
“Thank you for putting up this website. I was struggling with my faith until I read some of the articles you’ve posted.”
I don’t know about you, but that last comment says it all for me and makes it all worthwhile. In closing, I would just like to put out some “thank yous” of my own:
First, to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for saving this wretched sinner by his mercy and grace. Second, to my two biggest fans, my Dad and my wife, Brooke (also to my wife for her contributions to TPE). Jeff McInnus: Thank you for your encouragement and writing contributions to this blog. Thank you to Andy Pierson of Souljournaler, Matthew and Madeleine Flannagan of MandM, and Tom Gilson of Thinking Christian, for putting a link to TPE on their blogs and sending me some traffic. Jack Wellman, for his encouragement, comments, contributions, and for being a hard working pastor and humble servant of Christ in a small town church, and also a great apologist. A HUGE thank you to all those who have visited TPE this year, especially to those who have shared TPE with others on Facebook.
Last but definitely not least, Brian Mathieu (aka The Cookie Monster), our resident skeptic, for making us believers think and for your kind participation. I wish we had more like you who can present an opposing point of view in a challenging yet thoughtful manner. There are many more I would like to thank, but if this was the Oscars, I would have been booted off the stage by now, so my time is up.
May God Bless you all, and I hope you have a safe and happy 2011!