Sunday, September 26, 2010

Postmodern poison part 1

The postmodern poison revolves around the subject of truth. In an interview with philosopher John Caputo of Syracuse University, the poison of postmodernism is taken.[1]

One of the common views of postmodernism is that no grand metanarritives exist. A grand metanarritive would be an all encompassing story that would represent truth, such as the message of atonement through the death of Jesus or simply the message of the bible. As Caputo states, "So everything that modernity tried to dispel, post-modernists also want to dispel, but they want to do it in another way. They want to do it without the overarching, very strong epistemological and metaphysical claims that modernist philosophers embraced." The keyword is overarching, in that, the grand metanarritive is denied.

The way that postmoderns break with the grand metanarritive is though deconstruction. Caputo explains, "The negative tone of the word “deconstruction, ” that it’s grammatically a negation, throws you off. If somebody deconstructs you they’re doing you a favor. But they’re breaking the rigidity of beliefs that are being held too tightly and to fiercely. They want to open you up into the ways in which things can be reinvented." Deconstruction is not concerned with truth, but as Caputo explains a reinvention of beliefs. Truth is irrelevant on a purely postmodern view. Truth cannot be reinvented, no matter how much Caputo would like it to be so. When truth is deconstructed, the poison of postmodernism has been taken.

[1] For the full interview click here

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rolling dice

Philosopher Thomas Nage said, " I WANT atheism to be true. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief; It’s not that I hope there is no God! I don’t WANT there to be a God; I don’t WANT the universe to be like that." Why would Nage want the universe to be like that? Many today don't want there to be a God primarily because they want to assume His role.

Things haven't changed much. Before the Big Bang evidence, many scientists wanted to hold to a an eternal universe, such as the Steady-State Theory. One of the reasons for this belief is that a God is not necessary. Thomas Nage is at least honest in his worldview assessment.

Presently it seems views are coming from everywhere to try and explain away the necessity for creation by God. These views, I might add have no scientific backing. The many worlds hypothesis tries to explain life by millions of universes that have existed. This view would explain how life finally came to be with unlimited factors being in place, so that one lucky universe could obtain the winning life lottery ticket. Problems, however, exist for the many worlds hypothesis. First and foremost, the hypothesis is just that - a guess - and a wild one at that. There is absolutely no evidence to show that it is true. Secondly, if you are willing to accept the hypothesis, then you have to explain where the first mother universe came from that spawned the others. Thirdly, it violates the principle of Occam's razor, where the simplest explanation is preferred.

A second recent view is one expressed by Stephen Hawking. According to Hawking, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing."[1] On this view the universe popped into existence by itself. Two glaring problems exist with Hawking's view. First, nothing we know of pops into existence from nothing. For Hawking to state this is nothing more than fanciful speculation without any scientific backing. The second problem, as pointed out by William Lane Craig is why would only universes pop into existence, why not other things popping into existence?[2] This begs the question if anything can pop into existence from nothing.

A third recent view counters that the laws of physics may be different for different parts of the universe.[3] If this is true, then the chances of producing a planet for life to evolve is increased. Somewhat similar to the many worlds hypothesis, this view helps with the odds for producing life without the need of God. Three problems exist for this argument. First, you still need one portion of the universe to be fine-tuned for life. Secondly, the question of the universe's origin needs to be explained. How did we get something from nothing? Thirdly, there is no scientific evidence to support this view. "According to Lennox Cowie, who works at the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."[4]

All these views have one thing in common - life is possible without the existence of God. The biggest challenge all of them face is the Big Bang. The many worlds hypothesis, along with the two new recent views have no scientific support. In essence the views are equivalent to illogical philosophy where one is rolling dice for a chance creation of life. No view listed has any support and can not match the explanatory power of a creation by intelligent design.

[1] Article of Stephen Hawking's view
[2] William Lane Craig's comments about Hawking's view
[3] Article dealing with the different laws of physics for different parts of the universe
[4] Ibid

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why The Church Is Broken

note:  I'm amending the blog based on point ten.  No where in the New Testament is tithing required.  There are examples of the Chuch giving of its means, but not a strict tithe.  I feel that giving to missions, the local church, and to anyone that God lays on your heart to give to is the right thing to do in following the Holy Spirit's leading.  Too many in the Church hoard their money, not realizing that it does not really belong to them.

The Church seems to be exploding in third world countries today. Part of the explosion is due to persecution. According to Tertullian, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” I agree with Tertullian, but see another reason why the church is exploding in third world countries. Charles Spurgeon said, " The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself." Coupled together, the Church has found great success throughout history. But, what seems to be hindering the Church in the West, and more specifically in the United States? I would like to offer ten reasons for why the Church is broken in the West.

10. A lack of giving - The Church need to give of its financial means that God has blessed it with. Your giving is dealing first and foremost with your income. The primary passage used is Malachi 3:8-10. The sad fact of giving is that so many individuals simply do not trust God. Malachi 3:10 asks believers to trust God in order to see what he will do. There are other ways to give, such as your time, but many times giving has been understood from the standpoint of giving of one's means. Ephesians 4:28 seems to imply the reason we work is to share with those who are in need.  Ultimately, all belongs to God, so individuals should give with a grateful heart as God moves them to give.

9. Denominational fighting and legalism - This may not be a huge factor, but some groups (even those who claim to be non-denominational) seem to fight only for the denomination or local church. Legalism as defined by is, "adherence, or the principle of adherence, to law or prescription." The religious leaders of Jesus day-the Pharisees- were notorious for a legalistic form of worship (see Matthew 23). Legalism hinders an individuals relationship with Christ and others by causing the individual to focus solely on laws, as opposed to one's personal relationship with Jesus.

8. Church hypocrisy - Hypocrisy is "when you profess something that you do not really believe."[1] The main problem with the American church is, in many ways, the Christian's life doesn't match his/her beliefs or profession of beliefs. There is very little difference between the lifestyle of the Christian and the non-Christian. In the book, Unchristian, data was given to show that 85% of non-Christians could see no difference between their non-Christian values and their friends Christian values.[2] In the same book, a staggering percentage of Christians saw nothing wrong with activities such as: cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, using profanity, getting drunk, and viewing pornography.

7. A lack of knowledge - Hosea 4:6 states, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. " One of the major problems in the West today is the Church's inability to articulate and defend the Christian worldview. Christian apologetics is desperately needed in the Western Church. The essential Christian doctrines are being left by the wayside and the typical American Christian is not only spiritually illiterate, but unwilling to do his/her own study concerning God's word.

6. A diminished view of sin - Sin literally means, "to miss the mark." A sin is a transgression of God's law. Cornelius Plantinga defines sin as, "the smearing of a relationship, the grieving of one's divine parent and benefactor, a betrayal of the partner to whom one is joined by a holy bond."[3] It seems in the Church today sin is minimized. Too many are willing to justify sin, as Christians in America conform more and more to a worldly viewpoint. When sin is pointed out, there is actually a resistance by some in the American church that you are being judgemental without a realization that you might possibly be offending a holy God. Sociologist James Hunter points out the minimizing of sin by saying, sin "now finds its home mostly on desert menus. 'Peanut Butter Binge' and 'Chocolate Challenge' are sinful; lying is not. The new measure for sin is caloric."[4]

5. A lack of prayer - Simply put, when God's people don't pray, God will not act. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Prayer is integral to the foundation of the Church. As stated in second Chronicles, God's people must be willing to cry out to him. It seems the only time some pray is when they need something from God or they are at the end of their rope. Prayer is a critical component to a healthy church.

4. Judgmental - One of the common themes expressed toward the Church today is that it is too judgmental. The compassion of Christ seems to be lacking in many ways as the Church is too quick to condemn others. A survey of non-Christians finds that 87% of them believe the Church is too judgmental.[5] Jeff expresses a common sentiment by saying, "Christians talk about hating sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin and the sinner."[6] Suggestions for creating dialogue include: 1. Listen to the other side before speaking, in other words, be willing to dialogue., 2. Don't label individuals., 3. Don't be a know it all., 4. Be empathetic., 5. Be genuine., and 6. Be friendly without preconceived motives.[7]

3. Too accepting of post-modern philosophy - By far the most dangerous philosophy of post-modernism is the "rejection of objective truth."[8] If truth is not objective then it is up to community or individuals to construct their own truth. So, what may be true for me, may not be true for you. This view is know as relativism. The bible presents itself as a grand meta-narrative. A grand meta-narrative would be an all encompassing view that the whole of the bible is objectively true and speaks of necessary truth for all humans. Unfortunately, this view that truth is relative is being accepted by some in the Church today, more specifically with a movement called the "Emergent Church." Not all who belong to this movement would espouse the view of post-modern relativism, but a segment exists, none the less, that seems to adhere to post-modern philosophy. If truth is relative to individuals or cultures, then ultimately the bible as God's word can't be trusted.

2. Idol worship - As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Today's Western culture is saturated with idols, they may not be the personal idols of old, but idol worship continues even within God's church. Herber Schlossberg wrote an excellent book describing the problem of idol worship within the American Church called, Idols for Destruction.[9] In his book, he lists five categories of idol worship: 1. Idols of humanity, 2. Idols of Mammon, 3. Idols of nature, 4. Idols of power, and 5. Idols of religion. The over arching problem with idol worship is that it promotes humans as gods. God no longer receives the the place that he rightfully deserves. Schlossberg says, "Humanitarianism was the term originally applied to the followers of a group of eighteenth-century theologians who affirmed the humanity but denied the deity of Christ. It was later used when speaking of the Religion of Humanity, and it carries the subsidiary meaning of the worship of the human race."[10] Today's idols are wreaking havoc on the American Church, from pornography, to an increased appetite for money and power. Schlossberg adds that, "the anarchy of humanism (ultimately) brings enslavement"[11] ; enslavement not just to the individual, but enslavement of the church to the world.

1. Spectators - From my viewpoint as a pastor, the American Church is far too apathetic and willing to participate only as spectators. Not all American Christians are like this, but many are far too willing to sit on the sidelines as opposed to following the great commission. Part of the problem is that pastors are simply not disciplining and training the church in a proper way, but again, there seems to be a spirit of apathy within the Church. Other problems that exist could be strongholds of Satan that the local church needs to be in prayer about, or possibly the Church in America is just too comfortable in its lifestyle to get involved in the Lord's work. From my perspective, much of the problem lies on an individual mindset within the Church that sees the Church as a ticket booth. Some see the Church as their way of punching a heavenly ticket and nothing more. Jesus said "Go and make disciples," not, "Come to church." The principle problem with the broken Western Church is that we have forgotten our mission here on earth. Christianity, rightly defined, is an action word, and not as many would have it being, just operating as a club for members to act as spectators only.

Not all is bad with the Church in the West or America. The United States has always been at the forefront of helping others around the world. The United States has also provided the world with an abundance of missionaries worldwide, and as a result, the Church is growing at its fastest rate ever[12], due in part to the efforts of Christians in America with God's help. The Church in the West, with all of its problems has done and continues to do much good.

The ten problems listed are by no means exhaustive. Many would not rank them in order as I presented. This is not meant to be a bashing of God's Church, but a realization that if we don't address these problems, the Church of the West will be further weakened. God's Church will survive and thrive until His return as promised by Jesus, " I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matt. 16:18)" Finally, as Christians we all need to remember the advise of the Hebrew writer, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2);" for when we do so the Church will truly see with clarity the task of the bridegroom (John 3:29).

[1] Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian, p. 41
[2] Ibid, p. 48
[3] Plantinga, Cornelius, Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, p. 12
[4] Hunter, James as quoted in Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, preface-p. x
[5] Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian, p. 182
[6] Ibid, p. 181
[7] Ibid, p. 194-95
[8] Moreland, J.P., Kingdom Triangle, p. 67
[9] Schlossberg, Herbert, Idols for Destruction
[10] Ibid, p. 51
[11] Ibid, p. 87
[12] Ibid, Moreland, p. 166-68

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to get apologetics in your Church

Apologetics 315 is running a series with the above title. Be sure and check out the series. An essay series along with an MP3 of each essay will be given, followed by an ebook at the end of the series. My essay will appear on the 5th of October. Thanks to Brian Auten and all those who contributed to the series. The series can be accessed here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What If ?

A common argument that is often referred to as a proof of God is Pascal's Wager. Actually, Pascal's Wager is not an argument at all for the existence of God, but more of a what if proposal. Pascal's Wager simply states, What if you believe in God and I don't. If God does not exist, then at death we both win or lose nothing. However, if God does exist, at death you gain everything and I lose everything. What if this logic is applied to what makes the most sense here on earth for a variety of subjects? In other words, in examining various "What If" questions, conclusions can be drawn to follow the most logical outcome. The "What If" questions will follow the logic of the law of the excluded middle (either A or non-A).

What if the universe had a beginning? Either the universe had a beginning or it did not. Almost all scientist believe that the universe began to exist in an event called the big bang. How did the universe come to exist? Stephen Hawkins recently stated that the laws of Physics spurned the universe, but Hawkins never mentions where the laws of Physics came from. According to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, whatever comes into existence has a cause. If the universe came into existence then it was caused to exist.

What if the universe was designed? Either the universe was designed or it happened by chance process alone. Prominent Evolutionary Biologist, Richard Dawkins states, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” [1] Dawkins, of course, discounts the universe is designed, but instead believes the universe happened by chance. One of the arguments that is commonly used to show the universe could have come into existence by chance is the multi-universe hypothesis. Simply stated the multi-universe hypothesis proposes that millions of universes have been spawned and ours happened to be the one where everything fell into place in order for life to exist. There are two main problems with this argument. First, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support this. Secondly, it never answers the question of where the original universe came from.

On the flip side of the chance argument is the idea that the universe was designed. There is powerful evidence that the universe did not occur by chance, but by way of fine-tuning. Astronomer, John O'Keefe, has commented, "We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in." [2] The universe appears to be designed as opposed to a chance happening.

What if a moral law exists? Either a moral law exists or it does not. Some say that morals simply cannot exist. They posit that the appearance of morals are just the result of Darwinian evolution. Philosopher, Michael Ruse says, "Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction... and any deeper meaning is illusory." [3]

Many recognize that a moral law does seem to exist. There are some things that we intuitively know are right and wrong or good and evil. For example, torturing the innocent for sport and the raping and murder of small children can easily be seen as immoral. Where does this sense of morality come from? It seems a moral law exists, and this would necessitate a moral Law-Giver or God.

What if Jesus is the only way to God? Either he is or he is not. Jesus claimed that he is the exclusive way (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). If he is the exclusive way then Christianity is the one and only religion that counts for anything. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 asks us to "Test everything." Testing everything includes the testing of Christianity.

What if Jesus rose from the dead? Either Jesus did rise from the dead or he didn't. If Jesus rose from the dead, it validates the religion of Christianity and the testimony of Jesus. Some have offered reasons against the resurrection such as the stolen body theory, the swoon theory, the wrong grave theory, the legendary Jesus theory, hallucination theory and the idea that the resurrection was not a material resurrection. All of these theories came about many years after the resurrection event and can be discounted with a lack of evidence.

There is great evidence to show that the resurrection actually took place. First, the resurrection story is early. 1 Corinthians 15 is an early creedal passage that goes back to the resurrection itself. Second, there are multiple independent attestations of the resurrection. Third, non-Christian sources support the resurrection story. Fourth, women are mentioned as discovers of the empty tomb and the first to see the resurrected Jesus. If a woman's testimony was considered invalid in the first century, then why would all the gospel writers mention this? The mentioning of the women as the discoverers of the empty tomb and the first to see Jesus points to the truthfulness of the resurrection story. Fifth, Christianity was birthed in Jerusalem, which is the central location of Judaism. If Christianity is an invented religion then why would anyone want to claim that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah of Judaism in the hostile environment of Jerusalem? Sixth, the changed lives of those who encountered the resurrected Jesus counts as evidence for the resurrection.

What if the universe had no beginning, happened by accident, and exists without a moral law? What if Jesus is not the exclusive way, because he did not rise from the dead? If all these "What Ifs" are true then life has no ultimate purpose, meaning, or hope - we are simply one big directionless accident.

What if, however, the universe began to exist? If it did - the universe had a cause, and a cause means there must be a Causer. What if the universe was designed? If the universe was designed, then a Designer exists. What if the universe has a moral law? If a moral law exists, a moral Law-Giver exists? What if Jesus is the only way? If Jesus is the only way, then all other religious beliefs, including atheism are false. What if Jesus rose from the dead? If Jesus rose from the dead, then he and he alone offers the only true purpose, meaning, and hope that can be obtained in one's lifetime.

The important "What If" questions of life are framed by the law of the excluded middle. These questions are in the form of an either - or question. The direction that one chooses can make all the difference in the world. When considering the "What If" question, evidence overwhelmingly tips in the favor of the Christian worldview. As Pascal proposed so many years ago, the "What If" question is one that cannot be avoided if Christianity is the one true worldview.

[1] Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 1
[2] Heeren, F., Show Me God, p. 200
[3] Ruse, Michael, Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics, p. 262-269

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hawking is out of his league

Recently renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking stated that God is not necessary for the creation of the universe. [1] According to Hawking, physics can explain things without the need for a "benevolent creator who made the Universe for our benefit." There are two main problems with Hawkins assertion.

First, Hawking assumes that you can get something from nothing. Everything must have a beginning, including the universe. The Kalam Cosmological Argument eloquently shows that all things have a beginning and cause, if it begins to exist. The universe had a beginning, commonly known as the big bang, and therefore was caused to exist. Nothing in science pops into existence from nothing. From nothing, nothing comes. Science cannot even address this question, as it falls into the realm of philosophy, and this brings up the second problem.

One of the charges laid at the intelligent design community is that ID has nothing to do with science. Opponents of ID claim that ID is nothing more that repackaged creationism or just simply philosophical musing. Hawkins' belief that physics brought about the creation of the universe is no different than the charge that is leveled at the ID community. Hawkins second big problem is that his statement is nothing more than a philosophical leap of faith or pseudo-science at best. Where did the laws of Physics come from Mr. Hawking? If Physics is responsible for creation, then we have to go back another step, and another, and so on. Not only does Hawking present an infinite regress, but he has dabbled in a realm where scientist don't usually want to go. Because Hawking offers a non-scientific approach to creation and has no evidence to support the reasoning of his claim, he is clearly out of his league.

[1] Article concerning Stephen Hawking's view of creation.