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