Alex Koo

About Alex Koo

Alex's Blog
Alex K Koo is on staff at SHIFT ministries, a university ministry that challenges students to see what they really believe. He holds weekly inter-faith discussions from a Christian Worldview and dares skeptics to doubt their doubts. He's a Missionary, Evangelist, Communicator, and Apologist at our nation's largest university, the University of Central Florida. Entrepreneur, speaker, musician and writer.

The 5-Step Guide to Answering Skeptics

Iwrote this brief guide after a few requests from those who wanted to better engage with people that were skeptical about faith. Though I’m far from being an expert, I’ve learned some valuable principles as a missionary to the University. Some may have expected a list of answers to the top ten questions asked by skeptics. But that isn’t the solution.

That is to say, having a response to tough apologetic questions is important, but more important is our need to communicate effectively to reach both the skeptic’s mind and heart. If you talk to enough atheists, you’ll realize quickly that most questions raised are smokescreens concealing a problem of the heart. I am confident that Christianity can answer all the objections even the most ardent objectors wield, but the goal is and always will be to win hearts to Christ.

Below are five steps (the acronym is SWIPE) that I take whenever I’m talking with students. This might happen in one conversation, or over multiple conversations. In order to convince people of the Truth, our goal is never to demonstrate our intellectual prowess but to strategically enable them to see the flaws in their own thinking and come to the conclusion themselves. This is done best by asking good questions.

Lastly, we must remember every individual is unique. Some questions will be more helpful to one person than another. Some people will need more time to think it through. Ultimately, we must pray for God-given discernment and wisdom to know what to say (and NOT to say), and ask the Spirit to open their heart.


If you don’t have time to read this right now,
download the guide as a PDF file below:

 


1. SET THE STAGE

I rarely ever go into a serious discussion about faith until I’ve had time to let the person trust me. This happens when they believe that I genuinely care about them. Some helpful questions that I enjoy asking are:
  • So, what’s your story? How did you get to this place in your life?
  • What keeps you busy in your spare time?
  • What does a typical day in the life of Bob/Jill look like?
These questions give me a window into who they are as a person and what they care about. I try to intentionally find commonalities.
I try to be specific:
  • You’re an entrepreneur? Awesome! What do you think of Tim Ferris’ last book?
  • You do web development? Migrating my server was a nightmare! I hate propagation!
  • Skateboarding huh? Can you laserflip?
But if I can’t find anything in common, general follow-up questions are:
  • Oh, you’re from [city or state]? How’s that like compared to here?
  • So, you’re studying [field you know nothing about i.e. medieval literature]? Cool! What got you into that?
These questions build trust and an authentic relationship between you and the person. However, at this point you must discern if it is an appropriate time to move to the next questions, or if more time is needed for him/her to get comfortable with you.
  • Do you come from a religious background?
This question will allow you to gauge how open this person is to talking about spiritual things. More often than not, they’re willing to talk about it.
  • How did you come to that conclusion?
  • If you found out what you believed wasn’t true, would you stop believing it?

2. WORLDVIEW CHECK

If a worldview is the lens through which we interpret the world, then it follows that everybody has a worldview. The next step is to determine the person’s worldview. Often times many students don’t even consciously realize the worldview they hold (similar to how we don’t think much about our glasses or contact lenses). These following questions will reveal their worldview.
  1. Where do you believe everything came from?
  2. Do you believe there is an absolute truth concerning morality? If so, how do we determine it?
  3. How do you find your identity?
  4. Do you think there is actual purpose and meaning in this world?
  5. What happens when we die?
At this point it is helpful to do some personal study on worldviews so you can identify which worldview he/she subscribes to, be it atheistic, agnostic, humanistic, or other religions. I recommend the books “What’s Your Worldview?” by James Anderson and “Jesus Among Secular Gods” by Ravi Zacharias.

3. IDENTIFY INCONSISTENCIES

Christianity is the only coherent worldview. Christianity is the only worldview that can answer all the questions above and remain consistent. After you’ve asked questions to help the person identify and admit his/her worldview, the next objective is to graciously point out the inconsistencies. This takes practice, but the more you have these conversations, the more easily you can recognize them. Here are some examples.
  • You say you don’t believe in absolute truth, but aren’t you also suggesting that statement itself is true?
  • You say you DO believe in absolute truth and we determine it through science, but what about things we can’t prove with science like meaning, history, math, beauty, or morality? Do you not believe those truly exist?
  • You say that we create meaning and identity for ourselves; we don’t need it to be objective. You also say you believe in reason. Isn’t pretending there is actual meaning a bit unreasonable?
  • You say you don’t believe in a Creator because that’s not reasonable. But isn’t it just as unreasonable to say that everything came from nothing?
  • You say we don’t need God to be good people and for societies to flourish, but who gets to decide what is good or bad?
There are many more questions that can be asked to find inconsistencies that will become more evident the more we learn about the Christian worldview and other worldviews. Again, the goal is not to end the conversation, but simply to begin one. The goal isn’t even about proving Christianity is true (if they throw questions back, it’s okay to say you don’t know). Rather, the goal is to encourage the person to be honest enough to admit that their own worldview is faulty and unreasonable.

4. PAIN POINTS

This next step is usually the most the difficult. After we’ve convinced him/her of the fact that their worldview is not all that stable, we must seek to find the question behind the question – the question they are truly asking. By revealing that the reason for their secular worldview isn’t because of its intellectual coherence, we see that their problem probably isn’t intellectual, but emotional or spiritual.

At this point, some questions to begin this conversation are:

  • If all your questions about Christianity were resolved, would it still be difficult for you to believe in God?
  • If God was real, do you think believing in God would make your life better or worse?
  • If God was real and you could ask him one question, what would it be?
These questions must be asked graciously and with care as they tend to elicit very personal responses. Often the student I ask will suddenly bitterly admit with a visceral pain an incident that he blames God for. Many times, it comes down to their flawed view of God’s character that repels them.

At this point in the conversation, we must move from apologetics to theology.

Our tone must change from being persuasive to pastoral. We must demonstrate Christ-like empathy and not disregard their real pain or anger. There have been times at this point in the conversation I simply had to weep with her as she asked how God could let those atrocities happen to her as a child. I dare not answer on God’s behalf nor dismiss her pain.


5. ENCOURAGE EXPLORATION

Finally, the last step is to explicitly invite and encourage the person to consider and explore the Christian faith. We must always present this invitation on their terms, or they will immediately be repelled. This might be an invitation to meet again for coffee the next week, or an invitation to read the bible together.

How this may look like will depend on how their pain points. Regardless, they must walk away convinced that we care for them, there is grace for them, they can be completely honest with us, and that there might just be more to life.

For those of you that scrolled down here to see how it all ended, here’s your summary: The 5 steps are
  1. Set the Stage
  2. Worldview Check
  3. Identity Inconsistencies
  4. Pain Points
  5. Encourage Exploration

 

Interested in being part of a movement to mobilize new evangelists to reach a skeptical generation? Learn more here.

 

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

   

By | 2018-03-30T02:43:16+00:00 March 8th, 2018|

Christians, You Are the Media

The power of the media is simply stunning. Whether through television, radio, social media, or the newspaper, the media’s ability to sway the opinions and feelings of the masses is a power like no other, and with great power comes great responsibility, right? Unfortunately, there has been a surge of irresponsibility in the media as we are victims (and perpetrators) of fake news. The power of a single article — whether true, or alternative fact — is unprecedented in our age of digital media, able to summon a gunman to fire misled shots in a pizzeria, able to spark an outrage over inauguration numbers, and even able to convince an entire generation that Steve from Blue’s Clues was dead (he’s not).

Perhaps the only thing more astonishing than the influence of media is the staggering amount of its consumption. According to Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Total Audience Report, in 2016 American adults spent 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media. It seems fitting then that the President of this media-frenzied country leads us in devouring media, claiming he only needs 4 hours of sleep and can spend more time watching the news.

So how does media affect us?

Christians You Are the Media

Facebook showed us in its 2012 quasi-ethical experiment when, for one week in January, it altered with the number of positive and negative posts in the news feeds of 689,003 users. The results? Those that were shown only positive posts began to post more positively. And those with negative posts started to write more negative things. Their conclusion? Emotions are contagious. And media is powerful.

This brings me to my main thought: Christians, we are God’s media. What is media but the different mediums through which information is communicated? In the 1600’s the word medium was defined “intermediate agency, channel of communication.” Or think of a related word: Mediator. What does a mediator do but stand in between two parties, conveying realities to each other?
Sound familiar? Paul says it best.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Or we could say, therefore we are the media for Christ, God reaching the world through us with the Gospel.

Friends, in this technology-driven, media-saturated society, what would it look like for us to live lives and speak words that communicated life? What would it look like to be the media through whom Christ beckons his sheep? We need to speak louder.

 

We are the media for Christ: God reaching the world through us with the Gospel. Click To Tweet

 

Recommended Reading

By | 2018-02-03T15:23:33+00:00 February 3rd, 2018|

Words are Always Necessary

words necessary Top Christian Books

Words are Always Necessary by Alex Koo

Words have incredible power. A word can speak things into existence. A word can change a person’s heart — or break it. A word can change the direction of history. Don’t underestimate the word. Have you thought about how shaping words are to a culture?

Consider Eskimos, for example. While the typical American has a few working words for snow, Eskimos utilize over fifty words for snow. Or let’s think about Brazil’s Pirahã tribe. This tribe, consisting of 310-350 people, has absolutely no clue what a number is. Their native tongue simply has no concept of numbers, and consequently, no concept of time.

Language may arguably be the single most shaping factor of humanity and that is why some people give their lives to studying it.

Linguists argue that the distinction between animals and human beings is language. Sure, animals can communicate. They can make signals and create noises, but they don’t have language. Language is a distinctly human feature, precisely because we alone were created in the image of God.

What does it tell us about God when we ponder the fact that He chose to speak to us through His Word? What does it tell us about God when we read in Genesis 1 that God, when He could’ve created the world by a thought, chose to speak the world into existence?

It tells us that God uses words.

It tells us that God, in His wisdom, has chosen the means of the word to speak things ex nihilo — to speak something out of nothing. That’s why God says through Isaiah: “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is.55:11).

But don’t miss this. It wasn’t just the heavens and the earth that were created by words. God uses words to speak life to dead hearts.

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The same God that, with a word, spoke the words “let there be light!” is the same God that commands us to declare the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Why? Because when we use words to share this life-altering Gospel, the Spirit uses those very words to create life. Do not underestimate the Spirit’s power in your use of words.

So yes, Christian, preach the Gospel at all times … use words when necessary.

And words are always necessary.

 

Recommended Books

By | 2018-01-31T02:45:40+00:00 July 5th, 2017|

Christian Book Review: Prototype by Jonathan Martin

Christian Book Review: Prototype by Jonathan Martin

Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You're More Like Jesus Than You Think?

by Jonathan Martin, Steven Furtick
Length: 235
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Jesus is God and we are not. Most of us get that. But what we don't always understand is that God loves us just as much as He does His son.
Many times in the Old Testament, God refers to human beings as His "beloved." But when God called Jesus His beloved, Jesus did something truly remarkable: He believed Him. He lived every moment of His life fully convinced of His identity. And unlike every other person in history . . . He never forgot.

In Prototype, Jonathan Martin creates a vivid understanding of what it means to be beloved by God. To completely trust, as Jesus did, that God loves you. To live life without fear, confident in your identity and purpose. To handle life's wounds as Jesus did, and to wake every day with a deep awareness of God's presence.

Martin reveals a startling truth at the heart of the gospel: Jesus is our prototype. And as we discover how the knowledge of being God's beloved changed everything for Jesus--how it set Him free to live out his purpose and love God, others, and the world--it will begin to do the same for us.

Prototype Book Review

 

I still remember. The complete ecstasy in the freedom I felt as a child, knowing I was completely loved by my father, completely adored by mother, and completely oblivious to the darkness of this world. Time has passed since then and the pain of this broken world is now no stranger to me. Depression and anxiety marked my soul early on, eclipsing for the moment any memory of my unadulterated childlike joy.

Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church, writes this bookamazon-adsystem to call me back to that joy. And he does it well.

I hadn’t heard of Martin prior to reading this book, but I’m glad I have now. I admire Martin’s unique giftedness when it comes to writing — his ability to tell a story so compellingly and winsomely that I couldn’t stop reading.

In many ways, Jonathan’s story is my story. He writes vividly of the innocence of his childhood, a time of imagination, joy, and wonder. On his bike, he would ride around the cul-de-sac, transporting magically in time, conjuring fantasies that swept him up to God with each pedal — until the reality of this world’s brokenness shattered his own world.

However, in the midst of this darkness, Martin discovered the beauty and truth of the Gospel. He discovered that Jesus came to accomplish more than the removing of our sins, He came to restore us back to our child-like wonder, free in the love of the Father; he came to show us what it means to re-become human. He came to be our prototype.

In nine chapters, Martin endeavors to “show you how we can unite as beloved children of God — people from the future who are fully alive in the present.” With an eschatological thrust, this book breaks down into three parts that I’ve labeled Identity, Redemption, and Resurrection. In these sections, Martin explains the Christian life, modeling it after the life of Jesus.

The first section, consisting of the first two chapters, brings us back to the beginning and asks the question: Who are you? He argues that our generation struggles with being so inundated with different voices that demand us to define ourselves, that we lose sight of who we really are. He beckons us to remember a time before all the brokenness, when we felt fully loved, fully free to wonder. Drawing from his own life stories and using David as an example, Martin says that our primary problem is that we don’t realize how deeply loved by God we are. This must be our ultimate identity

The second section consisting of the preceding three chapters, Martin describes the journey of how we realize our identity. It is through the struggle of obscurity and pain that we truly begin to under our calling and our identity. He calls this the “gift of the wilderness.” This was my favorite section of the book — I found myself nodding my head, constantly in agreement.

Finally, Martin expounds the resurrection, showing us how the resurrection expresses itself through the sacraments, the community of believers, and our witness. Although Christ has saved us and we are loved by God, we are still awaiting the time when God will make all things new — a time in the future when we will return to being fully human. So through the sacraments, the community, and our witness to this new reality, we are ushering in this new reality, in the footsteps of our Prototype.

In an age of rugged individualism, Prototype rightly heralds a holistic view of the Gospel and calls us back to a Kuyperian view of the world, a vision that all things will be renewed and resurrected, both creation and humanity itself. Martin urges and exhorts his readers to believe that because of the resurrection, we are able to return to our belovedness. I am thankful for this and wholeheartedly commend this effort to do so.

Yet, this book overlooks a monumental aspect of the Christian life. So crucial is this omission I’d argue that a good chapter or two devoted to this is needed, and this omission is that of sin. Nowhere in the book does Martin ever discuss in length the effect that sin has on humanity. Rather, Martin argues that the difference between David and Saul was that Saul simply did not recognize his belovedness. What of his pride? What of his disobedience?

There needs to be a section that deals with God’s righteousness, our sin, and the cross, before we can reconcile our original belovedness and resurrection. If not, to talk of our belovedness apart from the cross is meaningless.

With the exception of this flaw, I still appreciate the call back to our belovedness in Christ, as well as our vision for a renewed, resurrected reality. Ultimately, this was a captivating book — Martin writes skilfully to our emotions, pulling both from his own life and from Scripture, albeit with an understandable Pentecostal bent (he is a Pentecostal), challenging us to believe as Christ, our Prototype, did. While I would pair this book up with another book that explicitly talked about sin and the Gospel, I would nonetheless recommend this book to others, easily.

four-half-stars
By | 2018-02-02T18:03:57+00:00 May 21st, 2017|

Christian Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy J. Keller

Christian Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy J. Keller

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

by Timothy J. Keller
Length: 210
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

In Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller shows how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the unvarnished truth about societal ideals and our own hearts. This powerful message cements Keller's reputation as a critical thinker and pastor, and comes at a crucial time

Counterfeit Gods Book Review

 

A former pastor in Manhattan, New York, and a prolific writer, Keller writes with incredible clarity on the biblical concept of idolatry in his book Counterfeit GodsAmazon Ad system. This book promises to engage the non-believing seeker and to convict the believer, identifying the pattern of idolatry in the bible and modern culture, and drawing an uncanny parallel.

This book is relatively old, but the wisdom Keller unpacks within it is far from archaic. From the very beginning of the book, he gently exposes the idolatry of the human heart, both from a 10,000 ft. altitude and on the ground; He tackles idolatry on a cultural level and on a personal level.

Our Modern Idolatry

So, what is idolatry?

Idolatry, Keller writes, is taking anything — relationships, power, success, money — and making it an ultimate thing. Idolatry is prioritizing anything over God, and frankly, anything can serve as an idol. Idolatry is a counterfeit god. This may seem puzzling to the average person, as the mention of idolatry usually conjures a picture of statues and prostrated bodies. Yet, the bible writes that idols are actually in the heart. And the catch? They’re not bad things.

Idols are usually good things. Great things, even. In fact, “the greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.” But when good things are valued in an inordinate fashion, they enslave the heart. They destroy the heart.

What I appreciate about Keller is his ability to take complex concepts and then present them in a clear way. This is seen in how he categorizes idols — personal, cultural, and intellectual. So whether it’s at an individual level, or a national level, there is no escaping our gravity towards worshiping a counterfeit god.

 

The Four Idols

The book then begins to address four of the most common idols: Love, Money, Success, and Power.

Each of the following chapters is devoted to these four things (good things) that very often consume and destroy people and even nations. Keller does this by first highlighting each case with a biblical narrative that reflects each idolatry. He explores the broken relationships between Jacob, Leah, and Rachel to demonstrate the idolatry of love, he writes about Zacchaeus and his worship of money, he uses Naaman as an example of the idolatry of success, and takes the King Nebuchadnezzar to depict the love of power.

What impressed me the most was Keller’s skillful usage of many contemporary authors and thinkers, both Christian and non-Christian, weaving them effortlessly in each chapter to further build his point. Keller’s keen awareness of culture helps Christians like me understand biblical concepts like idolatry with a full, comprehensive worldview.

What was most helpful to me, however, was his distinction between surface idols and deep idols. I began reading this book with a familiarity of idolatry already; I knew anything could be an idol, be it a girl, a hobby, a dream, etc. However, what was new to me was the fact that underneath these visible “surface” idols were deep idols. “Each deep idol — power, approval, comfort, or control — generates a different set of fears and a different set of hopes.”

Keller ends the book by arguing that the only way to remove idols was the replace it. The only way to eliminate the idols of our hearts was to replace it, not with other idols, but with God Himself. “They go back to the beginning of the world, to our alienation from God, and to our frantic efforts to compensate for our feelings of cosmic nakedness and powerlessness. The only way to deal with all these kinds of things is to heal our relationship with God.”

A life of idolatry is ultimately a life out of step with the Gospel. Peter’s idolatry led him to racism and Jonah’s idolatry led him to nationalism. But only the Gospel, as Keller puts forth, has the power to melt our hearts when we fix our eyes on the God who meets every need that our hearts are truly looking for.

 

Favorite Quotes

“Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart’s most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.” (p. 3)

“If, however, God becomes the center of your life, that dethrones and demotes money. If your identity and security is in God, it can’t control you through worry and desire.” (p. 57)

“When you see Him dying to make you his treasure, that will make Him yours.” (p. 67)

“To be your own God and live for your own glory and power leads to the most bestial and cruel kind of behavior. Pride makes you a predator, not a person.” (p. 121)

“But Jesus shows us another way. By giving up his power and serving, he became the most influential man who ever lived.” (p. 125)

five-stars
By | 2018-02-02T18:04:29+00:00 July 21st, 2016|

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