Saturday, April 23, 2011

The David Hume god

It seems that David Hume always comes up when a Christian and Atheist dialogue.  His name may not appear in the conversation, but his evidential proof seems to always be implied.  What is the evidential proof of Hume? 

Consider some of these quotes from Hume: "We should never repose the least confidence in human testimony," or "It is a miracle, that a dead man should come back to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.  There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event," or "We readily reject any fact which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree."[1]   The evidential proof of Hume is the outright denial of miracles, even miracles attested to by witnesses should never be accepted.  On Hume's account, unless one has 100% proof, the event should be rejected.  How does Hume's testimony hold up by using his own criteria?

Hume fails the test, when his criteria is applied to himself, for no one can give 100% evidence, atheist or Christian.  If we are to reject human testimony, then what shall we do with Hume's testimony?  Philosopher William Lane Craig states, "For an argument to be a good one, it isn't required that we have 100% certainty." [2]  In a court of law, the evidence only needs to be tipped in your favor (51% or greater).  When looking at miracles, like the resurrection story of Jesus, 100 % proof is not what is needed.  All claims can be evaluated on their merits and an inference to best explanation is what should count. The late atheist turned theist, Anthony Flew, was honest when he said, "we should follow the evidence wherever it leads." [3]

So why do atheist seem to worship at the feet of David Hume?  It is my belief that some simply do not have any evidence to their view in the non-existence of God, but also, and I think most importantly, many who reject Jesus do so because they do not want to submit to who he is.  In other words, they want to live an unhindered life to indulge themselves in whatever they want.  Philosopher Thomas Nagel summarizes the view of many atheist nicely by saying, "I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.  It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief.  It's that I hope there is no God!  I don't want there to be a God.  I don't want a universe like that." [4]  At least Nagel is honest.  When the atheist has his mind made up because of Humeian evidence, they no longer are atheist, but worship the David Hume god which turns out to look strangely like themselves!

[1]  Hume, David, Of Miracles, 1776
[2]  Craig, William Lane, God, Are You There?, p.7
[3]  Interview with Anthony Few at Biola University, 2004
[4]  Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, p. 130

Are Mormons Christian?

Is Mormonism Christian?:

A Comparison of Mormonism and Historic Christianity

Copyright © 1999 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved.

Is Mormonism Christian? This may seem like a puzzling question to many Mormons as well as to some Christians. Mormons will note that they include the Bible among the four books which they recognize as Scripture, and that belief in Jesus Christ is central to their faith, as evidenced by their official name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Furthermore, many Christians have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing Christian hymns and are favorably impressed with the Mormon commitment to high moral standards and strong families. Doesn’t it follow that Mormonism is Christian?

"To fairly and accurately resolve this question we need to carefully compare the basic doctrines of the Mormon religion with the basic doctrines of historic, biblical Christianity."

To fairly and accurately resolve this question we need to carefully compare the basic doctrines of the Mormon religion with the basic doctrines of historic, biblical Christianity. To represent the Mormon position we have relied on the following well-known Mormon doctrinal books, the first three of which are published by the Mormon Church: Gospel Principles (1997), Achieving a Celestial Marriage (1976), and A Study of the Articles of Faith (1979) by Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage, as well as Doctrines of Salvation (3 vols.) by the tenth Mormon President and prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Mormon Doctrine (2nd ed., 1979) by Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

1. Is There More Than One True God?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that there is only one True and Living God and apart from Him there are no other Gods (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10,11; 44:6,8; 45:21,22; 46:9; Mark 12:29-34).
By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that there are many Gods (Book of Abraham 4:3ff), and that we can become gods and goddesses in the celestial kingdom (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20; Gospel Principles, p. 245; Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 130). It also teaches that those who achieve godhood will have spirit children who will worship and pray to them, just as we worship and pray to God the Father (Gospel Principles, p. 302).

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Thursday, April 21, 2011


Many times the atheist community likes to refer to themselves as the free-thinkers.  Obviously, this implies, that those who hold to a theistic point of view are close minded.  This video illustrates that not all who promote an intellectually superior high ground, are in fact open-minded.  What you believe may not actually match with the truth.  It is important to dialogue without pre-conceived ideas.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter apologetics

The apostle Paul correctly defined the importance of the resurrection by saying,  "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And 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, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:13-17)."  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all who have claimed him to have risen are the most deceived people in the history of the world.

Paul goes on to say a few verses later that, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20)."  The evidence for the resurrection is not blind, but in fact, overwhelmingly supports that Jesus bodily rose from the dead.  It is this evidence that has compelled millions throughout history to take up the cause of Christ.

Paul understood the importance of apologetics.  Apologetics comes from the Greek, meaning to give a defense of.  In the case of Christianity, apologeitcs is to give a reasoned defense for the Christian worldview.  Not only can the Christian worldview be defended, but the Christian worldview should be spread throughout the entire world.  Easter and apologetics go hand in hand for the Christian man or woman.  If all Christians are ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) of Christ then it is incumbent upon all Christians to be apologetically trained.  In fact, this is exactly the charge of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:15).  Defending and evangelizing must co-exist.  However, this symbiotic relation is often missing in today's Church.

Too many of God's people have dropped the ball when it comes to apologetics.  So many issues are present today, especially in the West, that need to be addressed by God's people.  When God's people are unable to bear witness to his truth, disastrous results will take place.  David Koresh and Jim Jones are just two examples of deception that has taken place under the guise of Christianity.    Paul warned the church of false teachers at Colasse and John, likewise, warned of false teachers in his three epistles.  Gnosticism presented an early challenge to the Christian worldview and it was met squarely with Christian apologetics.   Today, the  Jehovah's Witness and Mormonism present deceptive philosophies that have borrowed from the truthfulness of Christianity.  It is crucial for the entire Church, not just pastors and leaders, to be trained in how to defend God's message of truth.

If more individuals within the Church took apologetics seriously, it would benefit and strengthen the Body.  Apologetics allows the Christian to not only strengthen his/her relation with Christ, but provides a springboard to engage the culture that is constantly asking questions.  Apologetics gives confidence to God's people and opens doors to better share the hope Christians have in Jesus.

Paul understood full well the relationship of apologetics and the gospel message of Jesus.  Easter is not a celebration that should be observed on a yearly basis and then forgotten, but it should compel Christians to share the good news of Jesus resurrection whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Being apologetically trained allows the believer to share the good news with those where they are at.  Being relevant on current apologetic topics allows for more discussion between the Christian and non-Christian.  Paul perfectly illustrates this point in how he dealt with the Jewish people (Acts 17:2-4, 10-12) verses the secular Greek culture (Acts 17:16-34).  In both cases, Paul tailor's his message to address the group he is dealing with.  With the Jews he shares from scripture, but with the Greeks he quotes from known poets to make a point concerning Jesus and the resurrection.

The Easter story and apologetics have always existed side by side.  Apologetics supports the Christian worldview by defending it, and providing a foundation to evangelize a world that desperately needs to hear the good news of the Messiah.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Review of John Caputo by Wes Widner

After listening to John D Caputo’s interview by Luke Mulenhauser on (mp3) I decided to get John’s book, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, and see what sort of case he could build for postmodern Christianity that would compel emergent pastors like Brian McLaren to endorse it.
I first encountered JackCaputo’s writings in the introduction to God, the gift, and Postmodernism, which he edited with Michael Scanlon (Indiana University Press, 1999). Since I’m not a professional philosopher, a number of the book’s chapters (sur)passed the reading comprehension capacities of my bald layman’s head, but not the introduction. There Caputo and Scanlon spoke in down-to-earth terms of our need to become “enlightened about the Enlightenment” (meaning, for my fellow less-philosophical laypeople, the eighteenth-century movement that eventually reduced reality to phenomena that could be measured and dissected by “objective” human reason).
-Brain McLaren, pg 9
McLaren goes on to provide a very brief outline of the book which I find rather helpful,
First you’ll notice that Jack flies you into a “zone of intertextuality,” meaning that he is going to suspend you between several texts, notably Sheldon’s In His Steps (the unlikely inspiration of the WWJD craze), the writings of Jacques Derrida, and the New Testament. This may strike you as an unlikely combination, but it will make perfect sense by the time you’re halfway to the last page.
John does rely heavily on Sheldon’s book to, ironically, provide some structure for his book which deals mostly with deconstructionalism. In fact, if you haven’t read Sheldon’s book you might find it worthwhile to put John’s book down and read Sheldon’s work before returning.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Consider the evidence

It seems that every Easter an attack is made on the resurrection story.  A few years back the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown caused a stir.  After the DaVinci Code, the gospel of Judas was pushed to show the Jesus of history to be false.  Most recently, James Cameron, of Avatar fame, produced, The Jesus Family Tomb (2007), which called into question the empty tomb.  Each attempt to disprove the Jesus of the New Testament has fallen flat.  In fact, there is no credible evidence out there to disprove the resurrection of Jesus.

The New Testament is written in such a way to invite  questions.  The apostle Paul even challenged people of his day to examine the evidence (1 Cor. 15:6).  Christianity does not shy from testing, but in fact, encourages it (1 Thes. 5:21).  Concerning the resurrection, Paul states, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Cor. 15:14).  Paul understood, that a blind faith in Jesus simply would not suffice the attacks on the resurrection.

For 2000 years, various attacks on the resurrection have taken place.  Most of the attacks have occurred within the last few hundred years of Christianity.  No attack has disproved the resurrection story, because the attacks have never answered all the cumulative evidence for the resurrection.  What evidence for the resurrection exists?

1.  Prophesies exist about the birth, life, and the kind of death Jesus would experience.
2.  Jesus, himself, predicts his own resurrection (Matt. 26:61, Matt. 16:4).
3.  The known tomb was found empty three days later.
4.  Jesus appeared to many.
5.  Jesus first appeared to women.
6.  The changed lives of those who encountered the resurrected Jesus.
7.  Those skeptical of Jesus become his followers (John 7:3-5, Acts 8:3).
8.  The Church starts at the center of Judaism.
9.  The resurrection story was early (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

Many alternative stories to the resurrection of Jesus have been put forth over the years, but none has sufficiently explained away the resurrection story.  Why?  Like anything that is believed to be true, there needs to be sufficient explanatory evidence to back up the claim.  2000 years after the resurrection, only one story can fit the evidence, and that is Jesus bodily rose from the dead.  Paul accurately frames the importance of the resurrection story by saying, if Jesus did not rise, all who believe in him are pathetic followers of false belief (1 Cor. 15:19).  Paul and others believed the evidence and were not interested in deception.

The resurrection has stood the test of time for a reason.  Considering the evidence, there is no comprehensive set of explanations that fully answer the resurrection story outside of the New Testament documents.  The resurrection story of the New Testament shows the story fits the evidence in a comprehensive way in matching with the truth of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our limited friend

Many times science is pitted against the existence of God, as if you need to accept one or the other.  Is science in direct opposition to God?  Many who are naturalist would agree that the two fields of science and theology have nothing to do with one another.  For the naturalistic scientist, science trumps all arguments as the only reasonable avenue for ultimate truth.

Those who hold a naturalistic view do so with the assumption that the material universe is all there is.  Evolutionary scientist, Richard Dickerson has this to say about science, "Science, fundamentally, is a game. It is a game with one overriding and defining rule. Rule No. 1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural."[1] Niles Eldridge adds,  “If there is one rule, one criterion that makes an idea scientific, it is that it must invoke naturalistic explanations for phenomena … it’s simply a matter of definition—of what is science, and what is not.”[2]  But, can all reality be explained on a purely naturalistic level?

On a naturalistic level, all truth is determined by scientific investigation, but can this view take us to an ultimate truth as to how things really are?  What if a supernatural realm exists?  Obviously, if this is the case, then science only offers a limited view of truth.  Science writer, Kitty Ferguson, states, "if the supernatural world exists, and if it is inherently beyond testing by the scientific method, then there is truth beyond the range of scientific explanation."[3]

Science, although helpful in many ways, is itself limited.  There are a multitude of questions that science will never be able answer.  Where did the universe come from?  Surely, no credible scientist would say it came to be from nothing?  Why do we have the freedom of thought?  Will the naturalist say that we are simply programed machines?  And, if that is the case, why should anyone be held responsible for their actions?  How does one explain history on a naturalist scheme?  What formula can be offered to account for the resurrection of Jesus?  How about philosophical knowledge; is logic testable by way of the scientific method?  Do moral values open themselves up to the realm of science?

Scientific naturalism seems to be severely limited.  In fact,  scientific naturalism assumes that we can only think in one direction.  Richard Lewontin makes this point by saying, "We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations…that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”[4]  But again, if truth is ultimately what is important, naturalism fails to answer in a comprehensive way.

What exactly is naturalism?  It is a one way, limited pursuit, as to what can be known in the material universe.  Naturalism can never answer the ultimate truth question, because of its limitations.  Not only does scientific naturalism turn out to be limited, but it presents itself as a philosophy in which to view the world.  Philip Johnson sums up naturalistic science, stating, "Evolutionary naturalism takes the inherent limitations of science and turns them into a devastating philosophical weapon: because science is our only real way of knowing anything, what science cannot know cannot be real."

 [1]  Dickerson, Richard, The Game of Science:Perspectives on Science and Faith (Vol. 44, June 1992), p. 137
[2]  Eldridge, Niles, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, Washington Square Press, 1982
[3]  Ferguson, Kitty, The Fire in the Equations, p. 82-83
[4]  Lewontin, Richard, Billions and Billions of Demons, p. 28