Monday, December 27, 2010

Taking the negative view revisited

The Problem

In a previous blog I engaged in dialogue with a friend who had a view in opposition to the posted subject. The subject dealt with the point that atheism/naturalism has no cumulative case argument for its worldview. I also was trying to make the point that in atheism you find no analytic argument that flows putting the pieces of what we can know to form a comprehensive case for the worldview of atheism or naturalism.

One of the problems as expressed by my friend dealt with what a worldview is. My friend adamantly disagreed with atheism being a worldview by saying, “calling atheism a worldview is what is compounding the problem.” I would like to make two points here, first, if atheism is not a worldview, then why was my friend trying to defend atheism? Secondly, my friend seems to contradict himself, while agreeing with the definition given concerning a worldview (Worldview is defined as, an intellectual perspective on the world or universe) and denying that atheism is an intellectual perspective. I, for one, would hate to take the position that my view of the world is not an intellectual position! Clearly my friend sees his view of atheism/naturalism as being a worldview or else he would have no way to defend his belief in them.

Another point of contention revolved around my friend’s belief that naturalism is vastly different from atheism. When pressed he said, “Atheism is not a worldview. Naturalism is a worldview. Atheism is but one part of a worldview. For example, an atheist could be a Buddhist or he could be a naturalist. Atheism is but one feature of several worldviews. Thus, it is not a worldview in itself.” Let me define both atheism and naturalism. Atheism is defined as, “the doctrine or belief that there is no god.” Naturalism is, “ Everything is a collection of entities of the sort the sciences are about, and all truth is determined ultimately by the truths about these basic scientific entities.” [1] The definition given of naturalism by atheist Philosopher John Post, stresses the point of the universe by way of a physicalist view. In other words, there simply is no such thing as the supernatural. If supernaturalism cannot exist, then the view of naturalism falls right in the clutches of atheism. My friend did make a good point that not all atheists are naturalist (i.e. Buddhism), but both atheism and naturalism are playing on the same team. If one is a naturalist, he is by definition an atheist.

Another major problem dealt with my friend’s unwillingness to address the topic at hand. The topic dealt with the nature of naturalistic/atheistic argumentation. There is no collective way to argue for the atheistic worldview, because you are arguing for meaninglessness. In a way, atheism and naturalism is contradictory, because there is meaning in the universe (see the moral argument below). The only way that the atheist has to argue is to try and take the negative view.

In the original post, my friend suggests a mired of negative viewpoints and puts forth no concise argument for his view until the last post. When dealing with the cumulative case for God, one is not necessarily arguing for the Christian God (though that is the view I take). The cumulative argument is put forth to show that it is more likely to believe in God as opposed to atheism. Once it can be established that it is more likely to believe in God, one proceeds to the next question, “Which God?” My friend, however, in trying to argue against the cumulative case constantly brought up topics unrelated to the topic at hand (i.e. Trinitarian doctrine, council of Nicaea, aliens raising Jesus). Credit should be given for his willingness to offer counter explanations, but the point of my post was proven in that he offered no positive case either for the non-existence of God or contra the resurrection of Jesus.

The Arguments Against God’s Existence

My friend finally made four arguments against the existence of God in the form of syllogisms. A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning where one uses logic to try and argue a point. I have no formal training in syllogism, but know that the conclusion needs to be supported by the premises. If one of the premises fails, the whole argument fails.

Before dissecting my friend’s four syllogisms, I would like to point something out. If my friend is making a philosophical argument from a naturalistic viewpoint, he is clearly betraying his worldview. One of the tenants of naturalism revolves around testing. If everything contained, is within the physical world, and all truth is garnered by way of science, as atheistic naturalist John Post stated earlier, then why would my friend put forth arguments that can in no way be tested? I believe it is disingenuous to claim naturalism and at the same time make a philosophical non-naturalistic form of argumentation.

How about the first argument,

“1.There is a natural world. (various evidence could be shown)

2. This is agreed upon by Christians and atheists alike. (sort of a lowest common denominator)

3. To show there is anything beyond the natural world (the supernatural) it is incumbent on the person making the claim to provide reasons or evidence for that claim.

4. The Christian claims there is the supernatural.

5. Therefore it is incumbent on the Christian to provide reasons or evidence for the supernatural (from 3)

6. If the Christian does not provide sufficient reason for belief in the supernatural (where sufficient is defined as more likely than its negative) he is unjustified in believing in the supernatural. (from 3, 4, 5)

You have not provided sufficient reason to believe in the supernatural. Therefore, as it stands, naturalism is the more rational worldview to hold.”

Concerning my friend’s first argument, I fail to see any argument here that addresses the non-existence of God. This cannot even be labeled as an argument, because nothing is being proved in the above statement. Premise 3 has nothing to do with an argument against the existence of God; it is a mere statement of belief. I fail to see how this in anyway could count as an argument against God. Point 5 lays the burden on the Christian to show evidence for the supernatural, but my friend takes a naturalist position, so it is irrelevant what kind of evidence a Christian could give. He will deny a priori any evidence that points to supernaturalism, because of the naturalistic worldview that he holds. In fact, he shows his cards in his response to my blog by saying, “Extraordinary events usually require extraordinary explanations and thus while the God hypothesis is reasonable as an extraordinary explanation so are many others (note I’m not using the canard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that I think is clearly false as it is incredibly improbable and miraculous that I would exist and yet there is a very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here.)” This seems to me to be a very Humeian type of logic. When we are talking of supernatural explanations, we are describing supernatural events. My friend changed one word to try and wiggle out of a Humeinan based argumentation that he chooses to hold on to. Concerning his last statement, I would only ask, “What is this very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here?”

If he is offering an argument against the non-existence of God, he fails because he is not offering an argument at all and he fails to even consider the possibility of supernaturalism. If I have failed to show sufficient reason for the supernatural as my friend concluded, it is only because on a naturalist worldview NO reasons exist for supernaturalism. If he wanted to make a positive case for the non-existence of God, which was the original challenge, then it is incumbent upon my friend to show an argument to that mean.

The second argument given is as follows,

1.If the God exists, then the attributes of God are consistent with one another.

2.Some attributes of God are not consistent with one another.

3.Therefore, God does not and cannot exist.

This second argument is vague in that he fails to show what attributes are inconsistent with one another. Until he can form a logical argument to show inconsistencies in God’s attributes, the argument fails. Again, we have a negative argument. My friend shows no evidence or argumentation for the non-existence of God.

The third argument given is,

1.If God exists, then he is perfect.

2.If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.

3.A perfect being can have no needs or wants.

4.If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.

5.Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 & 4)

6.Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5).

My friend’s third argument fails because it makes assumptions. Looking at premise 4, my friend assumes that the creator of the universe has needs and wants based upon premise 2 and 3. However, my friend fails to realize that God could be a personal being who desires to share his love with others, while wanting and needing nothing. I agree with my friend that God is in need of nothing (Acts 17:25), but he desires a relationship with his creation because of his love nature (1 John 4:8). So, God does not want or need anything, and therefore, created the universe desiring to have a relationship with those created in his image because of who he is (2 Peter 3:9). The third argument fails to account for all possibilities.

My friend’s fourth argument is given as follows,

1.If God exists he is omniscient.

2.To be omniscient one must know all facts.

3.But there are an infinite amount of facts.

4.An actual infinite is impossible.

5.Therefore, God cannot be omniscient. (from 2, 4, and 4)

6.If God is not omniscient he cannot exist. (from 1 and 5)

The last argument also fails because it is incoherent and contradictory. Right off the bat my friend contradicts himself with premise 3 and 4. He argues in circles by saying “there are an infinite number of facts” and then turning around by saying, “an actual infinite is impossible.” Which way is it my friend; you can’t have it both ways? The argument also fails in that it is vague. What exactly does he mean by omniscient? Does God having all knowledge entail that an infinity of facts exists? Couldn’t omniscience simply mean that God has all knowledge? The fourth argument fails to show that God does not exist. It fails in its vagueness and can be shown to be contradictory.

In conclusion to my original challenge, my friend states, “Thus, contrary to your claim, an atheist could easily make a cumulative case against the Christian God. Provide a couple of arguments like the ones above, show that various Christian arguments do not work, critique the Bible, and viola, you have a concise cumulative case for atheism, at least in regards to Christianity.” I think my friend made no cumulative case, because he failed to realize what a cumulative means, and he continued to argue by taking the negative view. In actuality a cumulative case builds from one block of truth to another to form a comprehensive case for God or the person of Jesus.

A Cumulative Case

A cumulative case cannot be fully addressed here. Philosopher Doug Geivett has offered a cumulative case argument based on eight steps. The purpose of the cumulative case is to accumulate arguments that specifically answer questions such that collectively they point to one likely outcome; in this case the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus. I will only touch on some specific arguments that collectively point toward theism or resurrection. It must be understood that a Humeian view of reality will not allow for the consideration of supernaturalism. If one is to be truly open, then consideration of the evidence cannot disallow any of the possibilities. If it can be shown that the accumulative evidence points toward the supernatural, then it is dishonest for one to deny the supernatural simply because of personal preference alone.

Cumulative Evidence For God

Due to time constraints, I will not be able to thoroughly address each of the cumulative arguments in detail, but will include more detailed explanations (click on the arguments) for each argument presented.

The first argument to be considered is called the cosmological argument. It is clear to all in science that the universe is not eternal and that it had a beginning. One of the more popular cosmological arguments is the Kalam Cosmological argument. The argument concludes that God brought the universe into existence. In other words, it was caused to exist. Since the universe cannot logically cause itself, it must therefore need a cause. This causer must be by definition, all-powerful, eternal in nature, outside of space and time (immaterial), and have the will to create. The reason for a single God is due to a principle referred to as Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor says, “We should not multiply causes beyond what is necessary to explain the effect. [2] The main thrust of the argument is to show that it is more likely to believe the universe was caused to exist by God as opposed to starting by some blind unknown process. One of the arguments contra a chance beginning is that, from nothing, nothing comes.

A second argument in the cumulative case is referred to as the design argument. There are two phases of the design argument related to the fields of biology and astronomy. On the astronomical phase the cosmos points to the fact of fine-tuning. If the universe is fine-tuned, there must exist a tuner or God. On the biological phase it appears that DNA information points to an informer, or God. One of the points of the design argument is that humans were created with purpose. In other words, there is purpose built in to the universe, and specifically for humanity upon planet earth.

A third argument deals with meaning and morals. If the universe indicates purposeful creation, then the creation must have meaning. If humans have meaning it is only because of objective moral values. Everyone recognizes the existence of moral values. If moral values do don’t exist, then it doesn’t matter what we do (rape, torture of children, killing for sport). But, all recognize there seems to be an objective moral law. If a moral law exists, that means a moral lawgiver or God exists. One could deny morals, such as Philosopher Michael Ruse, by saying, “Morality is just an aid to survival…and any deeper meaning is illusory.” [3] On a naturalistic/atheistic view morals are the result of blind evolutionary forces, but this seems very unrealistic. Philosopher William Lane Craig comments that, “It is fantastically improbable that…creatures would emerge from the blind evolutionary process who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This seems to be an utterly incredible coincidence when you think about it. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming.” [4]

A fourth argument deals with an argument from miracles. If a miracle can be shown more fitting to a supernatural explanation, than to punting for some yet unknown naturalist explanation, then this represents another argument for God. This is even more powerful if the miracle matches a theistic explanation, or there exists purpose behind the miraculous event. If a miracle is outside the natural realm, the supernatural must exist.

A fifth evidence that makes up the cumulative case involves the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did rise from the dead, and prophecies exist about this event (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22), then it is more probable to believe that God exists. The New Testament documents portray Jesus as predicting his death and resurrection (Mark 14:58, Matthew 12:40). If Jesus truly said this, it is more evidence to not only miracles, but also the existence of the Christian God.

There are other arguments that exist for the existence of God (Argument from consciousness, argument from truth, the argument from desire). Each argument supports one aspect of reality and builds a cumulative case for God’s existence. When considering the evidence for or against the existence of God, all points must be considered without prejudice. I hold that naturalism not only handicaps the search for truth, but handcuffs the worldview in a non-comprehensive way.

Cumulative Evidence For The Resurrection

Did Jesus rise supernaturally from the grave? Almost no one would deny that Jesus existed. Almost all scholars would agree that Jesus died, was buried, and his know tomb was found empty three days later. The question that needs to be addressed is, “How is this best explained?”

There are many factors to consider that point to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. All these factors need to be explained away if they do not match with reality. Cumulatively these factors tell us that it is more likely to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as opposed to any other story (swoon, hallucination, wrong grave, myth).

One of the cumulative evidences for the resurrection includes: resurrection in Jerusalem. To start a new religion from Judaism claiming that Jesus was the Messiah and God would have invited death to anyone making that claim. We see the resurrection story as being very early. Practically all scholars recognize the fact that the 1st Corinthians 15 passage is an early creed concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The late Jack Kent, who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus even, stated the 1st Corinthians 15 passage “could be dated very close to the resurrection.” [5] If the early century Christians first promoted the resurrected Jesus in Jerusalem knowing full well that Jesus did not rise, they were by far the most ignorant people to have ever lived on the face of the earth.

A second evidence pointing to resurrection involves the women as discoverers of the empty tomb. First century women had no credible testimony in a court of law. If the gospel accounts took place some 30 to 60 years after the resurrection story, you would expect they would have had more than enough time to think of a better explanation for the empty tomb. Yet, all four-gospel writers say that women were not only the fist to see the empty tomb, but were in fact the first to see Jesus. Certainly this embarrassing account would have been left out if the gospel stories were nothing more than myth.

A third evidence pointing to resurrection is the empty tomb. Where did the body go? Many individuals proclaimed that the known tomb was empty and that Jesus had come back to life. Coupled together, this is just one more piece of cumulative evidence that points to the resurrection of Jesus.

A fourth and final evidence revolves around the changed lives of individuals. If the people who claimed to have encountered the resurrected Jesus were fabricating a story, then why were they willing to die in masses for a known lie? It is more reasonable to believe that the encounter was real than the opposite. For those who say otherwise, it is more likely that it is they who are more willing to believe a lie. I can’t fathom how scores of individuals would be so stupid as to forfeit their lives for a known lie. My friend responded, “Maybe Christianity spread not because it was true but rather because it had some powerful radical ideas, images, and life transforming power relative to the culture at the time.” My only complaint with this point is that wishing a death sentence upon yourself is not really life transforming.

Other evidence also points to the resurrection of Jesus, such as secular/Jewish stories, conversion of those who were not followers of Jesus, and fulfilled prophesies. If one is to counter the resurrection, a comprehensive argument must be given, but at this moment, none exists.


Taking the negative view is the easy way out; all one has to do is be skeptical. The atheist/naturalist have no comprehensive cumulative case for their view. The negative view relies on statements such as, “What about this and that or It could be that…” The negative view often offers wild arguments that have nothing to do with proving their point. For example, my friend stated this concerning the resurrection, “Maybe Jesus was brought back from death by aliens.” These arguments don’t even deal with reality and yet this seems to be one of the negative ways on which atheism argues.

Like any argument, 100 % proof is not needed. All that is needed is to tip the scales in your favor. I argue that the Christian worldview is robust and comprehensively answers the big questions of life. On the other hand atheism and naturalism fail to give any cumulative evidence either for the non-existence of God or against the resurrection of Jesus. The worldview of atheism provides no robust argument, but only offers a negative view of meaninglessness. Naturalism itself is not open to all the evidence based upon its locking the doors to supernatural explanation. I am interested in truth, and until better evidence can be provided to the contrary of Christianity, I am staying put with the comprehensive Christian worldview of reality.

[1] John Post as quoted in J.P. Moreland’s, Kingdom Triangle, p. 40

[2] J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, p. 487

[3] Michael Ruse as quoted in William Lane Craig’s, God Are You There?, p. 33

[4] Ibid, p. 35

  • An article dealing with the clash between science and miracles/supernaturalism
  • An article showing recent trends away from naturalism
  • Article dealing with a cumulative case
  • A second article dealing with a cummulative case

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Golden Ticket

In a debate with J.P. Moreland, agnostic, Clancy Martin, described Pascal's Wager as a golden ticket, if the Christian claim turns out to be a reality in the end. Jesus, boldly makes the same claim about himself (John 14:6). Not only does Jesus claim to be the exclusive way, but individuals after Jesus claimed the same (Acts 4:12).

As we approach the time where people celebrate the birth of Jesus worldwide, the question has to be asked, "Why?" The reason for such a universal celebration is the belief that Jesus himself, is in fact, the golden ticket of salvation. Prophesies exist to confirm the announced birth of Jesus (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9:2-7). The prophet Isaiah tells us concerning Jesus, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (vs. 2)." Again Isaiah proclaims about Jesus, "You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy (vs. 3)." Still again in the ninth chapter we find, "Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end (vs. 7)." Not only is Jesus prophesied about, but he is said to be the Savior, who will bring light, joy, and peace to a dark and dying world.

We see joy and light in the magi as they approach the infant Jesus , "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (Matthew 2:10)." Why were the magi so happy about the star? Because the star represented the light of a long promised salvation. In the physical light, the spiritual light of God's love is realized, causing the magi to have overwhelming joy.

Peace is also found in the coming of the Christ child. The angels announced, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14)."

The birth of Jesus represents the light of salvation, and the promise of his eternal peace and joy. Jesus claimed that he was the golden ticket of peace and joy. Before ascending back to the father Jesus told his disciples," I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:22)." Also, Jesus told his followers, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."

Pascal's Wager by no means is a proof or argument for the existence of God or the Christian worldview. The wager is solely that, a wager. Christianity does not bank on any one argument, but on the cumulative evidence that Jesus was the long promised Messiah. Christianity has withstood 2000 years of ridicule, and yet the world has not show the falsity of its worldview. In fact, Christianity invites testing (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). If the Christian story of the birth of Jesus is true, it is not only the golden ticket of salvation, but the joy and peace that passes all understanding has dawned, and the greatest gift ever presented to humanity came in the form of a baby named Jesus.

  • Debate between Clancy Martin and J.P. Moreland over the existence of the Christian God

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The absurdity of chance beginning

I encourage everyone to read a post by Joe Carter (click link below) titled, "When Nothing Created Everything." Joe weaves a narrative that speaks to the scientific absurdity of nothing creating everything, which is supported by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and others. It seems the more scientific discoveries that are made, the more the evidence points towards God's fingerprint, and not to a chance beginning.

One of the dangers of this type of thinking is that life is ultimately meaningless and no one has self worth. The truly scary realization of this is what kind of world would ensue if the masses of people adopted this philosophy? As Nietzsche eloquently stated not so long ago, ""Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him." [1] Ultimatly, a life from nothing means that life is worth nothing.

[1] Nietzche's, The Parable of the Madman

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What is the "multiverse" theory?

This video talks briefly about the Multi-Universe theory, and highlights the philosophical aim of those who espouse this unscientific belief.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Taking the negative view

Atheism and skepticism have nothing to offer when it comes to evidence, but they do have plenty to say contra theism and the Christian worldview. In fact, skeptics can't say anything of note, so why should they be taken seriously? Skepticism is self defeating as a worldview, because the battle cry of skepticism (It is true that we need to be skeptical) espouses nothing more than relativism.

What about atheism? Again atheism offers no positive reasons why one should believe in the non-existence of God. Atheistic arguments always seem to take the negative view against theism or Christianity. About the only argument that atheism has is the argument from evil, but even this argument fails to show the non-existence of God, because recognizing evil means there must be a moral law. Evil points out that this world is not the way it is suppose to be. The most damaging part of the argument from evil is how to reconcile evil with an all-powerful and omni-benevolent God, but again this does not show that God does not exist.

What about the Christian worldview, does it offer positive evidence for its view? On the Christian world view a positive cumulative case can be made for the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity. Various arguments concerning the existence of God can be given such as: the Kalam cosmological argument, the design arguments (moral, mind, biological, astronomical), and revelation. All of these arguments placed together are pieces of a puzzle that reveal a positive case for God's existence. The late Anthony Flew stated that the cumulative argument can't be sustained if one of the arguments is flawed. He compared the cumulative approach to a leaky bucket; all you need is one leak to drain the bucket. However, it was a design argument (DNA information) that convinced Flew to change from atheism to theism. The cumulative approach brings many arguments together that support one another in order to show that theism is the most rational approach.

Like the cumulative approach for theism, the historicity of the Christian worldview offers cumulative evidence to show it is the most logical view. The cumulative evidence of Christianity rests on the person of Jesus. As Paul stated in his letter to the Corinthians, " If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God (1 Cor. 15:14-15)." The evidence rests primarily on the person of Jesus and his resurrection, which includes: prophesy, secular writings along with the gospel narratives, the empty tomb, the women as the first witnesses of Jesus, the resurrection occurring in Jerusalem, the post-mortem appearances, and the changed lives of the disciples.

Atheism and skepticism can present no positive case for their worldview, only the negative tearing away at theism or Christianity. Part of the problem with these worldviews is that they rely too heavily upon a Humeian system of proof. The late atheist, David Hume, set the bar way to high for anything that could even be considered as truth. In fact, his own standard of absolute, 100% proof, can not be sustained to show that his view of what should count for truth should be accepted. Much like David Hume's reasoning, atheism and skepticism attacks theism and Christianity in such a way they do not have to justify.

Atheism and skepticism are forced to take the negative view, because meaninglessness is ultimately what they are arguing for. As C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out, "Atheism turn out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."[1] Taking the negative view does nothing to advance one's cause, and yet, this is exactly the approach of both the atheist and skeptic.

[1] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, p. 46
  • For a detailed article on "Hume and a cumulative case argument", by Doug Geivett - click here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The quest for a chance beginning

According to recent findings, scientist's have found bacteria that feeds on arsenic for the purpose of photosynthesis. This represents a breakthrough discovery, because if this can occur on earth, why not on Titan, which is a moon of Saturn, or other places in the universe? The conclusion of this recent finding is that life is no longer unique to earth. For those who espouse a naturalistic view of science the implication is, life can evolve by chance processes alone. One of the angles that the naturalist would take is that God is not necessary anymore, for life will find a way.

One of the big illusions of naturalism is its handicapping of possible truth. If supernaturalism is ruled out a priori, then the possibility of truth may be lost if anything is supernaturally caused. In this case with the discovery of bacteria, it must be assumed by naturalistic science that it came to be by a chance creative process. Another problem arises when the naturalist takes the position that life comes into being by a chance process, but how does he know this? What evidence can be given to show this is the most logical view? How does he know this bacteria was not created supernaturally in the past? When naturalism jumps to this conclusion, the the jump is merely a jump of faith.

Further problems exist when the assumption is made that because bacterial life can possibly form outside of earth, Darwinian evolution must be true. Several questions need to be addressed for life to even start and evolve. For example, How did something come from nothing? If you have chance creation of the universe, then how did the living arise from non-living material? How did the first DNA chains arise by chance? These questions have to be addressed first, but naturalistic science assumes not just chance evolution, but that conscious beings can evolve by a random chance processes.

What the naturalist does not want to address is explaining these fundamental questions to chance life beginnings. The reason why these questions are not addressed is because there is no way to show that life arose by chance. Science can never test this, but that doesn't not seem to slow the advocates of a purely naturalistic ideology. If naturalistic science claims that this discovery proves Darwinian evolution, they are swimming in the water of preconceived, philosophical, pseudoscience. If naturalism is crowned the champion of truth based upon this discovery, then the science of the gaps is inserted and real truth has been deleted.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The dangers of apriori thought

The famous atheist, Bertrand Russell was once asked how he would respond to God in the afterlife if God existed? Russell's response was, "Not enough enough evidence, God!" Many in our culture want God to spell everything out in crystal clear terminology, not realizing what they are asking. Even those in the Church take the same view and therefore run into difficulties when trying to reconcile the Bible with science. Concerning the evidence, Jesus said that some individuals would not even consider the most blatant evidence (Luke 16:31).

In Isaiah 55:8, God declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." I'm afraid if God were to unleash all of his knowledge on us, our heads would explode. Humans are the only beings with the ability to ponder and reason. If God exists, then there are some things that will never be known here on earth. For example, we will never know exactly how God created the universe from nothing, and this is also true for science. But, we are a group of beings that desire to know the answers to all of life's questions, and this many times causes us to jump to preconceived ideas.

Science is not immune from preconceived ideas. "Piltdown Man" is just one example of science's rush to judgment. Aspects of naturalistic science today consider some views (such as Darwinian Evolution) as settled law, when it is impossible to test this view in the lab. In other words, parts of science cannot meet its own criteria for what should count as truth, because it cannot be tested. Having the ability to test is one of the central tenants of naturalistic science. Science, however, does have aspects that can show physical truths to how nature operates.

Preconceived ideas also prevail within the interpretation of the Bible. Of course, those who see God's word in one particular way don't believe they are misinterpreting the Bible. All Christians, can agree on the essential doctrines, but rifts develop when the non-essentials are considered. For example, how are individuals to interpret the flood of Noah? Most Christians would see this as a literal story of history, but problems develop when the extent of the flood is discussed. In Genesis 7, the flood is described as covering the entire earth. Many interpret this as being a universal catastrophic flood, when read in English. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and a different interpretation can be rendered. The actual Hebrew for Genesis 7 concerning the entire earth is kol erets, which literally means, "all lands." However, other indications of kol erets as used in the Genesis 7 flood story clearly do not indicate a global event (Genesis 2:13, Genesis 41:57). The point is, the Hebrew has to be viewed in context as opposed to arriving at a preconceived notion by looking only at the English rendition. Besides Scripture, science can be used to verify the validity of Noah's flood. According to science, there is no indication of a universal flood anywhere in the earth's past rock record.

Those who hold a Christian worldview need to do so without preconceived notions. If science is helpful with interpretation, it should be used (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:20). Science, likewise handcuffs itself when it takes an only naturalistic view. If science is interested in truth, then it must not be limited to only naturalism, for there are truth's such as mathematics, logic, and moral laws that can't be explained by testing.

Intelligent design provides a balance between the two extremes of Creationism and Naturalism. Creationism starts with the assumption that God created, where naturalism assumes that any supernaturalism can not be considered. Intelligent Design begins with looking at the scientific evidence to determine if the created order is the product of design. ID is open to the possibility of truth without restrictions on either side. According to ID, all evidence should be considered, whether philosophical or scientific before any conclusion is made. Settling on a preconceived idea is dangerous because truth is not necessarily what one will find.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scientism gone bad

According to one definition, "scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the world and reality." [1] In an almost arrogant tone scientism claims to be the sole possessor of truth. Scientism claims that only by way of empirical science can truth be acquired. Again, according to scientism, "Scientism's single-minded adherence to only the empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientific worldview."[2] Scientism claims the only way by which individuals can absolutely know truth is through scientifically testable data. Another tenet of scientism would be the rejection of any supernatural explanations, for supernaturalism is outside the realm of what is testable. But, is this the way truth is garnered and what is science really about anyway?

Science in Greek is scientia, and is properly defined as, "knowledge." Science in an unhindered definition is interested in truth without stipulations. Today, however, scientism and a naturalistic view of science go hand in hand. John Post has this to say about science, “The sciences cumulatively tell us, that everything can be accounted for in purely naturalistic terms... All truth is determined by basic scientific entities.”[3] Taking Post's definition limits what scientific knowledge can aquire. Philosopher, Alvin Plantinga rightly assesses the problem of seeing science only by way of a naturalistic explanation by saying, “If you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused — you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically... Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science.”

What about scientism, can it pass the muster of its own definition? No, because the definition itself is not testable. The arrogant proclamation that scientism is the sole beholder of truth is nothing more than a bald-face lie, for scientism cannot be measured, tested, or quantified by any scientific principle. Philosopher of science, Del Ratzche states, “If part of reality lies beyond the natural realm, then science cannot get at the truth without abandoning the naturalism it presently follows as a methodological rule of thumb.” So, how should science be understood? To present science in an unfiltered way means that the quest for knowledge or scientific truth should be pursued without restrictions such as a preconceived notion of naturalism. When scientism rules the realm of science, then the truth of the matter may never be discovered.

[1] Scientism defined
[2] Ibid
[3] John Post as quoted in J.P. Moreland's, Kingdom Triangle, p. 40

Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete? (1 of 4) by JP Moreland

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When tolerance isn't necessary

One of the big outcry's in our culture today revolves around tolerance at all cost. Obama recently called for religious tolerance overseas and on a separate occasion while speaking at a 9/11 ceremony. Tolerance is a good thing, but can be used in an undermining way. What I mean is that some believe we should tolerate all things. Should we be tolerant of all views and actions of individuals? The answer is obviously no, because the larger question of what is right and wrong needs to be addressed first.

No one would ever tolerate a known lie, but our society in many ways supposes that we need tolerance above all else. Should we tolerate what is wrong? Recently, Amazon pulled some books dealing with the subject of pedophilia. These books were pulled because of public outcry, but one of the authors defended his book by saying, "This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain [sic] rules for these adults to follow... I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught." What is alarming is our culture's willingness to promote tolerance above the question of ethics. If tolerance is to be our sole guide then only those in charge will have a say as to what the rest of society must accept.

What about religious tolerance? While it is true that we need to tolerate all religions, it must be understood that not all religions are true. Looking at the myriad of religions around the world it is possible that one of them could be true, but certainly not all of them. Christian apologetics deals with the defence of the Christian worldview (2 Corinthians 10:5). While the Christian is charged with defending and promoting the Christian worldview, this must be done in a loving way and never for the purpose of showing any one up (1 Peter 3:15).

Tolerance is necessary for a civil society, but not in an unrestricted way. In other words, what we tolerate or do not tolerate should be the primary avenue for making decisions. If individuals are constantly told that tolerance usurps all, then aspects of tolerance can become intolerable. The len's by which to view tolerance in society is either an ethical question at heart or it revolves around, "What is truth?"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reconciling God and Hell

Visiting with a Christian friend a few years ago, he pointed out that one of the most difficult concepts of Christianity is reconciling a loving God with the concept of hell. There are many aspects of hell that people find disturbing in trying to understand why God would have such a place. What are some of the arguments individuals have problems with and how can these arguments be resolved?

1. Why hell in the first place, this seems contrary to God's nature?
  • Hell exists because of sin. Sin literally means to miss the mark, but it is better understood as rebellion toward God. God cannot tolerate sin and, therefore, hell exists.
  • Concerning God's nature, being a God of love is just one aspect of His nature. God also has the nature of being a just God.
  • Is there justice in allowing the actions of Hitler to go unpunished? Being an unjust God would also mean that God is not loving and unworthy of worship. God's love and justice go hand in hand.
2. Why are people punished in hell?
  • People are punished in hell, because they freely choose to rebel against a holy God. In essence, the punishment of being eternally separated from God is self-inflicted.
  • God does not torture individuals. The suffering is due to an individual's eternal rebellious nature and the separation that exists from a holy God.
  • God wants no individuals to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9).
3. Why can't God direct the actions of individuals? Why can't He keep them from sin?
  • God will not violate a person's free will.
  • Merely to override a human will...would be for Him (God) useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. [1]
  • Forced love is not love; it is rape. A loving being always gives 'space' to others. He does not force himself upon them against their will. [2]

4. Why doesn't God allow second chances?

  • The bible is clear that there are no second chances, "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27)."
  • Everyday God gives second chances for individuals to accept Jesus.
5. Why is hell eternal? How do you reconcile finite sins with an infinite hell?
  • First, God's word implies the eternal nature of hell.
  • Second, We were created to live for eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
  • Third, God does not want to destroy (annihilate) beings that were created in His image.
  • Concerning finite sins with an eternal hell, finite crimes on earth are given life sentences. What is God to do for those who incessantly rebel against their Creator, except to confine them for all eternity away from Himself.
  • To think that a person could go through their whole life constantly ignoring him (God), constantly mocking him by the way they choose to live without him, saying, 'I couldn't care less about what you put me here to do. I couldn't care less about your values or your Son's death for me. I'm going to ignore all of that' - that's the ultimate sin. And the only punishment worthy of that is the ultimate punishment, which is everlasting separation from God. [3]
6. Isn't there a better way God could have taken instead of sending people to hell?
  • Again, God does not send individuals to hell, they freely choose to go there by rejecting God.
  • No other options exist without God violating man's free will. Without free will man does not have the capacity to love God. God desires our love, but respects our right to reject Him.
  • For those who reject God, "There is an increasing isolation, denial, delusion, and self-absorption. When you lose all humility you are out of touch with reality. No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham." [4]
  • The better way is found in the person of Jesus. No one has to go to hell, for God has opened the door to heaven for all who accept the free gift of Christ (Revelation 3:20).

[1] Lewis, C.S., The Screwtape Letters, p. 38

[2] Geisler, Norm, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 311

[3] J.P. Moreland quoted in The Case for Faith, p.252

[4] Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God, p. 78

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The abortion question

One of the most divisive topics today is abortion. According to one survey a little over half of the U.S. population supports abortion. About 80% of all women who have an abortion are unmarried, with teens making up around 17% of all abortions. When looking at the statistics, given that abortions are legal, the question that has to be asked is when does life start? If abortions (at any time after conception) are non-life, then it doesn't matter what we do.

According to many scientists, life starts at conception. Medical doctor, Dr. Hymie Gordon of the Mayo Clinic states, "By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." [1] Also, Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University says, :"It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception" [2] If life does start at conception, then the game is over, for abortion would represent the taking of life. The real question of abortion is ethical.

The national debate is split in what question to ask. On the liberal side of the debate the question is usually phrased around a woman's right to chose - the pro choice camp. On the conservative side the question is phrased by way of life - the pro life camp. A slight advantage falls in line with the pro choice camp as mentioned above, but is this how we are to decide a possible ethical issue with the implications of life and death? How can someone ardently support the question of a women's choice? In order to do so, one has to believe that life does not start at conception. It seems that the question of life trumps all consideration of choice, if life does begin at conception. At the very least, the potential for human life is destroyed during abortion, which raises another ethical question: Is it OK to kill potential human life? The abortion debate only makes sense if the question of when life starts is addressed first.

[2] Ibid
[3] Useful site giving statistics of abortion

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus

A new scholarly work on the resurrection of Jesus has just come out by Mike Licona. Dr. Licona heads up the Certified Apologetic Program through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. If your wanting some hard research concerning the key subject of Christendom, then check this book out.

* Link here from Faithful Thinkers blog with includes an interview of Dr. Licona.

Can All Religions Be True? - Dr. William Lane Craig

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Post modern poison - part 3

A group that is often looked to as buying into the post modern poison is the Emergent Church. Not all within the movement would buy into the reletivizing of truth. Many young people have gravitated toward the movement simply because so many in the Church have presented a judgmental and legalistic code. Nevertheless, aspects of the Emergent movement seem to espouse that the grand metanarritive of the Christianity can't exist.

By far the most prominent leader of this group is Brian McLaren. Philosopher John Caputo has this to say about the Emergent movement and Brian McLaren, " I try to be a philosophical consultant for them whenever they ask my advice. Brian McLaren is a good friend of mine, and a lot of people I’m quite close to and really help as much as I can."[1] McLaren is at the forefront of what seems to be an acceptance of postmodern philosophy. McLaren states, "I think that most Christians grossly misunderstand the philosophical baggage associated with terms like absolutism or objective....Similarly, arguments that pit absolutism verses relativism, and objectivism verses subjectivism, prove meaningless or absurd to post modern people."[2] What's interesting is that the statement by McLaren is one that is objective in nature. McLaren consistently dodges clear statements in the Bible, concerning truth claims of the gospel writers. What appears to be McLarens road, is to present watered down truth, so as not to offend others.

Staying away from offending others seems to be the thrust of the Emergent post modern philosophy. John Caputo nicely sums up the philosophy by saying, "There’s a group of young evangelicals who are restless with the elders. They think the elders are racist and sexist and homophobic and xenophobic, and they’re sick of it. And they don’t think that the point of the New Testament is to ban gay marriages, it must have some broader point than that. It must mean something more than that. And they’ve gotten much more interested in peace and justice issues and in the spirit of the Kingdom of God, and they look to progressives like Brian McLaren to show them some alternative, what Brian calls “more generous orthodoxies”.So the orthodoxy is bad news. The orthodoxy means beating people over the head, blackmailing them with the fear of eternal damnation, making them get in line. There’s a group of mostly young people, younger evangelicals who are sick of that, and they want to hear something else. So there’s an opportunity."[3]

While it is true that Christians should not beat individuals up, it is also true that God's Word is offensive to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16). If the post modern philosophy is embraced by McLaren or others, the poison KoolAid of post modern philosophy is taken by denying God's grand metarrative of truth.

[1] John Caputo interview
[2] Christianity Today (November 2004), p. 42-43
[3] John Caputo interview
* Interesting Brian McLaren interview

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who are you? Who are you... really?

Clint Eastwood star's in the movie Pale Rider which is about a cowboy who drifts mysteriously into a small mining town. In his new found home the people discover Eastwood is a man of the cloth and affectionately refer to him as, "preacher." As the movie proceeds, they discover some interesting characteristics about the preacher causing his friend, Sarah Wheeler to finally ask him, "Who are you? Who are you... really?" So, who are we as Homo Sapiens? Does the answer to the question have anything to do with how we live our lives?

Two paths can be taken concerning who man is: one is to see man as an accidental product of the universe, while the other is to see man as uniquely created in the image of God. Taking the first path is the reason given by the naturalist. A naturalist would see the entire cosmos as an accidental product by which man was created. Paul Churchland has stated, "The important point about the standard evolutionary story is that the human species and all of its features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process....We are creatures of matter and we should learn to live with that fact."[1] On a naturalistic view as stated by Churchland, humans are purely pieces of matter that happened to develop a conscious life.

If humans are solely matter creatures then our evolutionary path has determined who we are. One of the characteristic features of this view is that humans are determined creatures by way of chance evolution. Researchers have recently discovered what they call the liberal gene. This liberal gene would control a person's view on how he/she sees the world. Obviously if a liberal gene exists, then a conservative gene must also direct an individual's actions and views. Philosopher Daniel Dennett takes the view that both alcoholics and child abusers are "determined to act as they do by forces outside their control."[2] On a naturalist view, humans are nothing more that robotic pieces of meat that act out their evolutionary determined direction. In fact, William Provine says, "Free will as traditionally conceived...simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices."[3]

On a purely naturalistic view as defined by Provine, people cannot help themselves. If we are programed by evolution then morality does not exist. If morality does not exist then individuals should not be held accountable. For if morals do not exist, there is no right and wrong. How then are decisions made? Decisions are made by those in power. The naturalistic worldview paints a scary picture of reality if this is the way things really are. Taken literally, individuals can never be blamed for actions such as, lying, cheating, stealing, raping, or killing, for individuals are solely acting on their pre-programed information. No one can be called good or evil on this view, because there is no such thing as good and evil, or anything by which to measure such concepts. As Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "If God does not exist, everything is permissible." Ultimately, how we live our lives does not matter on a naturalistic view.

How we live our lives on a naturalistic view is truly frightening, but a different path can be presented. What if humans are the creation on a loving God who is intimately involved in the affairs of his people? On a Christian view, humans have free-will and are therefore responsible for what they do. God, as the possessor of all good becomes the measuring stick for what is right and wrong. A moral universe exist on the Christian worldview. We can know the right thing to do both intuitively and through God's revealed message to mankind. On the Christian worldview, humans are intrinsically important and have eternal worth. On the Christian worldview, God cared so much for his creation that he was willing to send his only son that whoever shall believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Who we are makes a big difference on how this life can be viewed and lived. On the naturalist view, we are forced to live an irrational life while trying to make sense out of everyday struggles. "Atheism is a theoretical formulation of the discouraged life," according to Harry Emerson Fosdick. However, on the Christian worldview it makes a tremendous difference in knowing who we are. The Christian worldview provides a hope, even given the difficult struggles we daily face. The naturalist has to look at life with all the disappointments as the absolute best he will experience, where the Christian can view life with all its joys as the absolute worst he will ever experience. Who you are really matters in how you see this life.

[1] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 47

[2] Moreland, J.P., Kingdom Triangle, p. 49

[3] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 49

Sunday, October 24, 2010

If God doesn't exist, does it matter?

Probably the biggest question out there is, "Does God exist?" Many have undertaken this question and come to different conclusions. But, what if God does not exist, does it really matter?

If God does not exist, then life is without meaning. People can have relative meaning without God, but if God does not exist, there is no ultimate meaning to life. Many atheists will try to give meaning to life, but in reality all a person does is total non-sense without the existence of God. As Jean-Paul Sarte has rightly stated, "Life has no meaning the moment you loose the illusion of being eternal." Again, the late atheist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said, "We may yearn for a higher answer - but none exists." If God does not exist, then everything a person does has no ultimate meaning, for we are all destined for the grave only to be forgotten as non-beings.

What about purpose without God? The same holds true, for without God everything a person does serves absolutely no ultimate purpose. Sure individuals can have temporary purpose while alive, but ultimately without God it is fanciful to think of life as having any real purpose. Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins has stated, "Natural selection, the unconscious, automatic, blind yet essentially non-random process that Darwin discovered, has no purpose in mind." If Dawkins is correct in his thinking then a purposeless accident has produced a purposeless world. What is puzzling, is why Dawkins or anyone would offer explanations, if the world has no ultimate purpose or meaning.

One of the questions raised for a purposeless and meaningless life is how do morals count for anything? If life has no purpose and meaning, then why shouldn't individuals indulge themselves? For that matter, why should individuals talk of virtue or vice if God does not exist? It seems atheists have to live within a world as if God exists, while denying His existence at the same time.

Does it matter if God does not exist? It absolutely matters if God does not exist. Ultimate meaning and purpose cannot be found without the existence of God. Albert Camus has stated, "Without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful." Though Camus was an atheist, he rightly diagnosed life without the existence of God. For without God, man is a pathetic creature floating through the vastness of a dark and cold universe with no ultimate hope.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How could God?

One of the more troubling aspects of the Bible is when God commands or approves the killing of individual people groups. How could God do such a thing? There are many factors to consider when God makes such commands.

Before getting to explanations, what exactly are we talking about? Consider 1 Samuel 15:3, "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " Numbers 31:7 states, "They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man." Again, we see in Numbers 21:3, "The LORD listened to Israel's plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns." Three passages in which God either commands or approves the destruction of entire people groups.

Before addressing the reasons for such commands, it must be understood that all three passages in no way disprove the existence of God. Individuals may not like the passages, but these verses cannot be used to say that God does not exist.

Three good reasons exist to show that it is within reason to justify the punishment of these people groups. The first reason deals with the nature of God. God is described as being a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. These people groups were completely vile and depraved. They were so vile that the sacrifice of their own children was a practice that was engaged in. Not only were they blood thirsty, but they were sexually depraved as well. In reality, no one is innocent in God's eye's and all deserve to be eternally separated from God. All of these people groups could have repented of their sinful lifestyle, but they were content in their evil ways. God foreknew they would never change and therefore called for their destruction.

A second reason for the destruction of these groups is found also in God's nature. God is completely and totally just. In fact, it would have been unjust for these people groups to live and infect the world with their evil practices. This is exactly what did happen to God's own people - the Israelite, after taking possession of the promised land. Because these evil people groups were not exterminated, they brought the Israelites down morally and ultimately led to events whereby the Israelites fell captive to the Babylonian empire. By God allowing evil to go unchecked, would make Him not only unjust, but unworthy of worship.

The third and final reason, deals with the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God speaks of his power and authority. If God exist, He and He alone has the ability to rule. God rules with justice and love. He loves all people, but cannot tolerate sin, especially the unchecked sin that existed in the groups God commanded to kill. 2 Peter 3:9 states, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God's love today is offered in the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Those who accept Christ will be saved, but those who do not will suffer in being eternally separated from God. If God exists, the created has no right to say to the Creator what He can do. God is completely justified in his command and approval in removing people groups of the past.

  • A good article from an acquaintance at Biola dealing with the same subject manner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where did Cain get his wife?

I ran across an interseting article with the above title. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe supplied the article, but I found it through a blog that I follow called, Truthbomb Apologetics. As a pastor, I have often heard this question and knew the proper answer, but the article highlights just how fast the population could have grown during the lifetime of Adam. If you think about it, God gave only two commands to Adam. One was to not take fruit from the forbidden tree, and the other was to be fruitful and multiply. One command was kept and the other forsaken and it has made all the difference in the world.

  • To access the article click here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Post modern poison - part 2

The main problem with post modern philosophy is the purposeful erosion of objective truth. This purposeful erosion is done by way of deconstruction. Deconstruction, an idea from Jacques Derrida, is a way to reconstruct text. It is looking for new meaning and new interpretation of texts. For example, the bible can be looked at in a different manner and deconstructed as well. Professor of philosophy John Caputo has this to say about deconstructionism, "Deconstruction is a way to reinvent things. Which means you need something to invent to begin with. You need some kind of tradition, inherited belief, structures, et cetera, which is where you start."[1]

The problem with deconstructionism is that it leads to relative truth. Christian scholar Norm Geisler states, "Deconstructionism embraces conventionalism. All meaning is relative to a culture and situation."[2] According to deconstructionism, truth is lost, because reinterpretation is always necessary. There is no objective truth on a post modern deconstructive interpretation. Again according to Caputo, "You’ll never get to the original intent. Second of all, if you could, that doesn’t settle anything. That was just the first interpretation; it’s not the last."[3] If everything is always reinterpreted, then no objective truth exists, and this is the problem of post-modernism.

Post modernism makes way for relative truth to wiggle its way into the the grand metanarritive, this is exactly why the interviewer (Luke Muehauser) asks professor Caputo, "Many analytic thinkers will say that post-modernism is bound at the hip with relativism about truth and morality."[4] Caputo states, "I don’t think it’s relativistic."[5] Caputo does nothing to dispel the notion of relative truth, for how can you? Anytime relative truth is explained away it is done so by way of objective statements. Relativism is self defeating and post-modernism destroys objective truth. This is the problem and poison of post-modernism.

[1] interview with John Caputo
[2] Geisler, Norm, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 192
[3] Caputo interview
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apologetics in a Rural Setting

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Apologetics in a Rural Setting

Apologetics in a Rural Setting
by Shelby Cade

The Christian worldview is under attack today and the need for Christian apologists to rise up in the Church is crucial. It seems that every year, those skeptical of Christianity are on the attack with a greater frequency. Unfortunately, many Christians are unprepared for those who would attack Christianity. According to Peter we are commanded to be ready to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15). This does not mean that individual Christians should know all the answers, but we need to prepare for the attacks leveled toward Christianity. A major part of apologetics revolves around study (2 Timothy 2:15) and staying relevant to the cultural issues that counter Christianity. If one is going to be prepared, then study and having knowledge of God’s word is of the utmost importance.
[MP3 | RSS | iTunes | Table of Contents]

What are some approaches to doing apologetics in the Church and why engage in apologetics in the first place? I will tackle the second question first. First, it has already been stated that apologetics is necessary in order to give a defense against those who would promote a different worldview (2 Corinthians 10:5). A second good reason for doing apologetics is the edification of God’s people. Ultimately, we are interested in truth, and apologetics not only builds the body of Christ, but also provides confidence to the person engaged in apologetic ministry. The third and final reason we do apologetics is to lead others to Christ. We should never be so consumed with winning an argument that we miss the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. Apologetics is not undertaken for selfish reasons, but ultimately to present Christ to a lost and dying world (see Acts 17:16-34).

I’m sure there are many approaches to making apologetics available in the church. I will share some of the ways I have brought apologetics not only to the local body, but also to the community. I live in a rural farming community and have found that apologetics needs to be tailored to the needs of my community. In other words, some of the issues in a rural community will play a little bit differently than they might in an urban area. Having said this, I must add that many apologetic issues cut across cultural differences and are helpful for all to share and think about.

The first technique I incorporated was to ask challenging questions. Those who would call Christianity into question constantly bombard us in today’s culture. I have found that challenging and relevant questions have drawn interest into a wide variety of apologetic subjects. When individuals in the church see the need for apologetics and understand that the Christian has solid answers, the launching pad for starting apologetics is established within the local church.

One of the specific ways I have addressed meeting the need for apologetics within the church is simply by starting Bible studies on a variety of subjects. For example, I have led studies on world religions, and have addressed or touched on a variety of different subjects. I have also tried to keep up with current cultural apologetic issues (abortion, homosexual marriage, orthodox Christianity, Darwinian evolution, relativism) in order to work them into lessons. Some of the lessons or Bible studies being taught may not specifically center on a current apologetic issue, but with the present skepticism in our society, apologetics can always be worked in.

There are many resources for conducting studies on apologetic issues. One of the best ways to start an apologetic study is simply to gather information on a certain topic and create your own curriculum. Many Internet sources can be utilized, and the best part is most are free. I have led studies in which the class receives both a handout summary of the subject at hand, and a separate sheet to fill in the answers to various questions. There are books that could be utilized, many with questions in the back. Videos are also useful for apologetic ministry. Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire series and Ben Stein’s video Expelled are both excellent resources. Many apologetic videos have curriculum that accompanies the video. One video series that has received high reviews is The Truth Project. This particular series, and its curriculum, addresses many relevant issues of our day. There are multiple other avenues for bringing apologetic lessons into the local church, including MP3’s and CD’s, which can be listened to and discussed.

One of the methods by which I share apologetics, with not only the church but also the community and beyond, is through writing. Serving in a rural community has afforded me the opportunity to write weekly apologetic articles (Just Thinking Apologetics) in the local paper. I initially thought this approach would have little effect in our small community, but was surprised to see that even in a small town, people crave answers for challenges to the Christian worldview. Individuals from various denominations - even some whom are not Christian - come to me with questions.

A blog titled Flatland Apologetics is my second form of writing that extends apologetics to the church and beyond. I encourage the church to check out not only my blog, but also others to gain answers to those who question Christianity. Starting an apologetic blog also encouraged me in God’s truth, having to do more intensive study, and provided confidence in the truthfulness of the Christian worldview as well. Anyone can start a blog and if one is interested in apologetics, this is a great outlet to challenge and dialogue with those who don’t know the Lord.

Preparing apologetic talks is just another tool for reaching out to the church and others who would be interested. I have developed a series of 13 PowerPoint presentations that can be shared with anyone. The talks center on relevant topics that frequently confront the Church, such as, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” and “Did the Universe Come into Being by Accident?” Not only have I shared in the local church, but I’ve had the opportunity to share across denominational lines. One word of caution for those who present and teach - keep it relevant and short. I always need to realize that many do not share the same passion as I for apologetics, so my talks should be tailored to the audience I’m addressing. There is nothing worse that presenting a long-winded talk that flies right over the audience’s head. If you present an apologetic talk, make sure it has content designed to catch the eye and the ear.

Encouraging others within the church to take classes on-line, or through a local university, is just another way to bring apologetics into the church. Many courses are offered on-line, either free, or through a particular university. Many community colleges offer World Religion or Philosophy classes that can be taken to sharpen one’s perspective. It seems that many in the Church are sheltered, leaving them vulnerable to those who would question Christianity. If the Church is going to have answers, it is important to know “where the other side is coming from.”

The last approach, which I hope to take to the future, is to organize an apologetic conference or debate. Many large churches have done this and it is beneficial for God’s people to see that the Christian apologist has effective answers to those who are skeptical of Christianity. After all, we are fighting for, and defending, truth when presenting the Christian worldview.

Apologetic issues confront us daily, whether it’s in the news or at the office. Never before has apologetics been so necessary in America as it is now. If any Christian has a desire to start apologetic work in the church, he or she can find almost unlimited resources to do so. Having the heart and passion to bring apologetics to the local body is the first step.

The Apostle Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” It is the last part that all of us need to concentrate on. Apologetics must be done with the heart of lost in mind. Apologetics is crucial for today, but not at the expense of turning someone away from the good news by simply trying to win an argument. There are many avenues for starting apologetics in the local body; all that is needed is the desire and passion to get started.