Thursday, April 29, 2010

At the expence of love - No way!

Apologetics is all about defending the truth of Christianity. Truth is important and Peter comments, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15)." Peter adds to this statement by saying, "But do this with gentleness and respect." Often times it seems that the Christian forgets this last part. It's as if the heart of the Christian message is left to the wayside at the expense of truth. We should always be concerned with truth, but more importantly, we must share in a loving way. After all, are you concerned for the person you are in dialogue with or are you only interested about winning an argument?

Perhaps the best example of how to dialogue with those who have not come to accept the truth is found in Acts 17. I feel the most glaring passage is found in verse 16, where Paul observes the various idols and in his heart, "he was greatly distressed." Paul's main concern was for people. He desperately wanted to share the truth of Jesus from his heart to all individuals. This is the same attitude that Peter had on the day of Pentecost when the Church originated. In Acts 2:40 Peter, "pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Apologetics is far more than winning a debate, it involves an urgent love for those who don't know Jesus.

Apologetics is also about relating to others in order to persuade them toward the good news of Jesus. Paul said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some(1 Cor. 9:22)." According to Paul, what is important is the person you are in dialogue with, not just trying to win an argument. With that said, we should still be prepared to answer all in a gentle and respectful manner (1 Pet. 3:15). On two occasions, Paul tailored his dialogue depending on the audience he was addressing. When talking to the Jews, Paul used reason and Scripture (Acts 17:2-3) in order to win them to Christ. In addressing the secular gentile thinkers, Paul made no reference to the Scripture as this would have been irrelevant to them. Instead, Paul appeals to them on their level, even referencing know poets in order to make a case for the good news of Jesus (Acts 17: 24-31).

Apologetics is needed more than ever in a skeptical world, especially when many seem so antagonistic against the Christian worldview. We are living in an interesting time in the West. The Christian man and woman must always be ready to give an answer to anyone who would ask. This means, the Christian needs to study God's word and stay relevant on current issues that are facing the Church. Given the need for apologetics, the apologist should never seek to win an argument at the expense of love. We always need to pray and dialogue with those who would question the Christian worldview with gentleness and respect.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Big Bang + fine-tuning = God

One of the arguments often given against the existence of God is called, the "god-of-the-gaps" inference. When the term "god-of-the-gaps" is applied to the theist by the skeptic, what they mean is, the theist will automatically infer the existence of God when science has not yet come up with a sufficient explanation . Philosopher and Mathematician, William Dembski explains god-of-the-gaps this way, "Design substitutes extraordinary explanations where ordinary explanations will do and thereby commits a god-of-the-gaps fallacy."[1] For example, what if you were diagnosed with an incurable disease one week and you started to pray thereafter. The following week you return to the doctor and discover that your disease was completely eradicated. You explain to everyone how God healed your body, but the skeptic would accuse you of a god-of-the-gaps explanation. The skeptic might say, "You were mis-diagnosed" or possibly it was "Just a coincidence."

Today there exists powerful evidence that the universe not only came into existence from nothing (Big Bang), which supports the Genesis 1:1 passage, but that the universe was designed for life to exist or it was fine-tuned for life. These two aspects of the universe (Big Bang and fine-tuning) point directly toward a Divine Being that created the spacial-temporal universe. The fine tuning has been hailed by many leading scientist as powerful evidence for the existence of God. Astrophysicists Paul Davies states, "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all...It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe...The impression of design is overwhelming." [2]

What is fine-tuning and how does it point to the existence of God? Fine-tuning involves constants of nature that are so delicately balanced that if just one of these constants were slightly off, the universe as we know it could not exist. Each of these constants are crucial to life. Each of these constants was in place from the beginning so that life could surface. The universe is like a car that needed all the parts put together just perfectly (including a filled gas tank) down to the last screw in order for the car to operate properly. If the universe is not fine-tuned from the get go, life has no chance whatsoever.

I will list two constants of the universe that are fine-tuned in order to explain what fine-tuning is all about. First is the expansion rate of the universe. The universe is expanding in size at a specific rate. The number assigned concerning the expansion rate of the universe is 1 in 10 to the 55th power. This is an incredibly large number. Simply put, if the expansion rate of the universe is just a hair slower or faster, life cannot exist anywhere. A second fine-tuned constant is the ratio of protons to electron. The number given here is 1 in 10 to the 37th power. Again, if this ratio of protons to electrons varies ever so slightly, no universe for life can exist. Astronomer, Hugh Ross, has listed some 34 constants that each have to be fine-tuned in order for life to exist. [3] To get an example of how precise the ratio of protons to electrons (1 in 10 to the 37th power) is, consider this analogy. If you piled dimes on one billion North American sized continents from here to the moon and painted one dime red for your friend to pick blindfolded on the first guess, then you have succeeded in just one of the finely-tuned numbers. This is just one constant that would have to be fulfilled and it is not even the most precise (largest constant) number. All 34 constants have to be considered together. If just one of the constants is slightly off, the universe has no chance to produce life. Philosopher, William Lane Craig has stated, "It's as if the universe knew we were coming."

The fine-tuning for the universe gives such powerful evidence for God's existence that the skeptical community has responded in one of two ways, either, they appeal to a science-of-the-gaps explanation or they posit that there are literally millions of universes that exist (Multi-universe hypothesis). Realize that the skeptic in order to deny the existence of God has to defer to either of these two responses. The science-of-of-the-gaps response would go like this, "Someone had to win the lottery, we were just the lucky ones" or they might say, "You can't appeal to God because this is the way it just happened." Many who are skeptical believe that science will one day answer all questions. This view is called scientism (science answers all and only science can give us true knowledge). There is only one problem with this view, "What caused the Big Bang?" Science will never be able to answer this question, because the entirety of matter in the universe came from nothing. Something never comes from nothing according to the laws of science. Similarly, the multi-verse hypothesis has no answers and absolutely no scientific evidence to back it up. It is purely a statement given to try and dodge the fact of fine-tuning. Those who hold to this outlandish explanation do so in order to try and boost the chances of life happening by a random chance process. There is another big problem here and that is, you still have to explain where the first universe (from which all else sprang) or the first part of matter came from. Again, you cannot get something from nothing. Science will never be able to answer this question.

This brings us directly to God and a definition of who He is. If the universe came from nothing, then whatever created the universe must be non-material. Whatever created the universe must be all-powerful. Being that the universe is fine-tuned, whatever created the universe must have planned it that way. All of these attributes or descriptions are what we think of when we think of God. The Big Bang + fine-tuning of the universe gives powerful evidence for the existence of God. The skeptic who appeals to god-of-the-gaps or multi-universe explanations is making a philosophical leap of faith that has absolutely no foundation to stand on. The best explanation for the beginning of the universe and its' fine-tuning is that an all-powerful, transcendent God exists.

[1] Dembski, William, Intelligent Design, p. 238
[2] Scientific quotes for fine-tuning evidence of God's existence
[3] Fine tuning constants

  • A good video explaining what is meant by god-of-the-gaps

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fantasy history

One of my pastimes is to compete against others in games called fantasy sports. My two favorite fantasy sports are baseball and football. In both fantasy sports, an individual picks players from all professional teams in order to make up his/her own unique team. All teams are given names, and what you end up with is a team that is actually composed of players that exist from many different teams. All who compete in fantasy sports realize that their team is not really an official team in reality, hence the name fantasy sports.

It seems to me that some fantasy history is taking place when we consider the resurrection story. For example, we have evidence of the gospel writers, Paul, and other secular sources during the first century that mention the person of Jesus. Specifically the resurrection story is mentioned by Paul and the four gospel writers. Each of these accounts are first century records and can be dated to a time when many (especially the Jewish community) could have disputed the resurrection stories that were circulated. Paul's 1 Corinthians 15 passage is accepted by almost all scholars as being a very early creed of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection story was early and the discovers of the empty tomb were women, then why do we find no counter writings?

What I believe is happening today and has been occurring since the Enlightenment is that skeptics are playing a little game called fantasy history. What do I mean by fantasy history? Fantasy history is when one speculates with out having any evidence to back up the speculation. Consider this skeptical response to the women as being the ones who found the empty tomb, "It could also be that saying the tomb was originally discovered by women, which is somewhat embarrassing, was a preemptive strike against an anticipated objection." What we have is a statement that has absolutely no support behind it. It is like saying, "I believe this because I want to believe this is what happened." The problem is, the Christian worldview has documentation and early historical evidence that underlies their claims, whereas the Skeptical worldview has no support and didn't develop until over 1000 years after the fact.

Another example of fantasy history is found in this statement, "I think this is a case of later writers putting the birth of Jesus there in order to answer objections that Jews may have made." I have problems with the statement, "I think", when there is no underlying reason to be led to think that way. It is as if the skeptic is saying, "I have made my mind up to the contrary of the only available evidence that we have." This is what fantasy history is all about, it is thinking without a supporting foundation to think so. There is a reason why fantasy sports are called fantasy, because they are not dealing with true, reality driven teams. Likewise, fantasy history is being played when no supporting historical evidence can be given to support the statement.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prophecy and Resurrection

Prophecy and Resurrection by Shelby Cade
A.W. Tozer once stated, “The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness.”1 Tozer recognized the importance of truth, especially theological truth. What evidence can be given to show that Christianity is the religion that has truth as its foundation?

In looking at the Christian truth claims compared to other religions, the divisions are distinguished by way of the evidence. Truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. Truth can be defined as that which corresponds to reality or the way things really are. If something is true, it is irrelevant if an individual believes it or not. All religions can be critiqued – including Christianity – to verify which one corresponds to the way things really are. What evidence exists for Christianity? (MP3 Audio RSS iTunes)

The evidence for Christian truth rests on prophesy and the resurrection. The first bit of evidence comes by way of prophecy. Jesus of Nazareth uniquely fulfilled the prophecies that were spoken of him hundreds of years earlier, even to the point of detailing the type of death he would receive (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53). According to Norm Geisler, the Old Testament records 191 Messianic prophecies.2 Peter Stoner has calculated the odds of just eight prophecies being fulfilled as one chance in ten to the 1017th power. An analogy of this is like covering the state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep and marking one red for an individual to identify, blindfolded, on the first guess.3 The prophetical evidence shows strong support that Jesus was the expected Messiah, but what about the resurrection evidence?

Perhaps the biggest truth claim in context of Christianity is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Christianity lives or dies based upon the resurrection of Jesus. Paul states in his first book to the Corinthians, "If Christ has not been raised…we are then found to be false witnesses." (I Cor. 15:14-15). Paul claims that the resurrection of Jesus either verifies the truth of Christianity or it does not. If Jesus did rise bodily from the dead, then the best explanation is that Christianity is true. Is there evidence to verify the resurrection?

Being that no one witnessed the resurrection event, the evidence falls to those who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus, but how can these accounts be trusted? First, there are multiple attestations to the resurrection, with one of the most important given by the Apostle Paul. Multiple attestations help to show why the individuals who saw Jesus were not hallucinating or seeing a vision. Hallucinations are always individual, not group experiences.4 Paul, writing to the Corinthians, states that Jesus appeared to over 500 individuals at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). This letter to the Corinthians was written when the people of Paul's day could easily have offered counter explanations, but none were given. Also of note is the almost universal agreement of scholars that 1 Corinthians 15, specifially the first 8 verses, is a creedal passage concerning the resurrection that goes back to the resurrection itself. Jack Kent, a skeptic of bodily resurrection said the I Corinthian 15 passage “could be dated very close to the actual resurrection.”5 In other words, the resurrection story is not a later invention.

What other evidence exists to validate the resurrection story? According to the four gospel writers, the first appearances of Jesus were to women. In the first century, the testimony of women was considered invalid, so why would the authors include this point if they were simply trying to invent myth?

Another piece of evidence is the place at which the resurrection occured, Jerusalem. Jeruselem was the hub of Judaism. The Jews had strongly condemned Jesus for claiming that he was equal to God (Matthew 26:63-66, John 19:7). If Christianity were forged, we should expect to see this new group start anywhere but Jerusalem. Knowing the kind of persecution that would ensue claiming that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah of Judaism is just one more shred of evidence to point to the truthfulness of Christianity.

The final piece of evidence centers on the disciples themselves. They believed they had physically encountered the resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:36-43, Galatians 1:11-12). They changed from scared men to individuals who were willing to die for their encounter (John 20:19). No other stories existed to explain away the appearence of Jesus as the ressurected Messiah during the first century.

In summary, the body of Jesus was missing from the known burial tomb. The Jews claimed the body was stolen, only confirming that the body was gone. Women and a multitude of others saw Jesus alive. The Christian community was birthed in the most hostile environment imaginable, but this did not slow down the followers who had seen the resurrected Jesus. The resurrection story is early and the scale of evidence tips toward the truthfulness of Christianity.

Centuries later, other theories developed to explain the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus, such as the swoon theory, wrong grave theory, legendary story theory, hallucination theory and so forth. The fact is these explanations appeared late and can be discounted as false for not matching up with reality. Only one story has stood the test of time in aligning with the evidence. The one story that puts the pieces of truth together is that Jesus rose from the dead. Ultimately, Christianity is true based upon the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

1, acquired 14, January 2010
2 Geisler, Norm, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 610
3, acquired 16 January 2010
4 Collins, Gary as quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, p. 238
5 Kent, Jack, The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth, p. 16-17

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Testing 1,2,3

A recent article has entertained the thought that quantum physics may have discovered the mechanism of time travel and the existence of parallel universes. The article also mentions the possibility of multiple universes. The idea of multiple universes is not that new. This idea started to emerge after the almost universal acceptance of the Big Bang creation of the universe, but why?

I believe one of the chief reasons for the multi-verse hypothesis is to facilitate unlimited natural chances of trial and error through which life could spring. In other words, the Big Bang coupled with the fine-tuning of the universe delivered a huge blow to the atheistic metaphysical view that everything is just one big cosmic accident. The fine-tuning of the universe and the Big Bang has led many scientist to conclude that the universe must have had a Divine Designer. Consider this quote by astrophysicist, Paul Davies, "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all...It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe...The impression of design is overwhelming."[1]

In considering the multi-verse view, it should be noted that this is purely a philosophical view that can never be tested. "Sean Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and a popular author, accepts the scientific basis for the multi-verse -- even if it cannot be proven."[2]

There are problems that exist with the multi-universe view. Problem #1 has already been mentioned; there is no way to prove a multi-verse. The multi-verse hypothesis, I believe, has been put forth to avoid the view that perhaps the universe was designed by a Divine Being. Problem #2 doesn't answer the question of where the first universe came from. There must have been a start. From nothing, nothing comes, so the muti-verse hypothesis dodges the question of origins. Problem #3 deals with the philosophical leap of faith that one must take to believe that the multi-verse is in fact viable.

I believe the philosophical ramifications are exactly why this multi-universe hypothesis was given in the first place. It seems that some will not even consider the possibility of any Supernatural Being or event, but instead are bent to look at only naturalistic explanations. If this is the case, then truth itself is being compromised. In considering any explanation, the evidence needs to be weighed carefully to discern which explanation has the best explanatory power. It is my belief that Christian Theism offers the best explanation to not only the start of the universe, but to why we are here at all. The New Testament, and Christianity encourages testing as stated in first Thessalonians by saying "Test everything." Even though the multi-universe cannot be tested, it can still be weighed as evidence. The evidence, however, for a naturalistic, random, and blind creation of everything simple does not bear the credible weight of truth to tip the scales in its favor.

[1] Davies, Paul, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries In Nature's Creative Ability To Order The Universe, p. 203
[2]Brandon, John, Freaky Physics Proves Parallel Universes Exist, Accessed on line from Fox News on 6, April, 2010
* A good article explaining how evidence is weighed.
* Quotes from scientists who see Divine design in the universe.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Is Christianity True?

There is a series of articles being put forth by one of my favorite apologic sites (Apologetics 315) with the above title. I have an article titled, "Prophesy and Resurrection" that will be appear on the 13th of April. I encourage everyone to read and listen to the articles that are in the series. You can find a list of the different apologetic blog sites here.