Blog Archive


Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

Powered by Blogger.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Epidemic of Relativism Among Christian Youth

I'm concerned. I'm deeply concerned. There's an epidemic spreading among Christian youth today that can have dangerous and perhaps even deadly consequences. What makes this more dangerous is that most parents and pastors don't even realize their kids are infected. I'm speaking of the danger of moral relativism, and how it's become rampant even within most Christian colleges and universities. Ask Christian young adults who have been active in their church or youth group if something like abortion or homosexual unions are wrong and many may say yes. But press them on if they should declare others sinful or wrong for participating in such actions and you may get a different response, one more akin to "It's wrong for me since I'm a Christian, but they aren't so it's right for them."

This idea that the only things binding on an individual is whatever his or her personal perception of morality is has become rampant among our youth today. I have a ministry partner who for the last couple of years also teaches at a conservative Christian college in Southern California. He has told me of how consistently he faces moral relativistic beliefs held by the students each year. He offered one example that is typical: he asked his students to pick a topic and defend it as a writing assignment. A young science major chose to write a defense against the use of embryonic stem cells in research, leveraging such appropriate arguments as how life begins at conception in her paper. However, when asked what the student would do if she discovered that her lab partners were using embryos in research, she replied that she couldn't tell them what to do. Their beliefs are different from hers, so she felt that she had no right to push her morality on another. While her paper read as though she was a moral absolutist, further digging showed that she was only applying that standard to herself, not others.

The Danger of Believing Relativism

This kind of thinking is how tyranny is born. If one cannot tell another his actions are evil, then they will continue until those that would dare to oppose immorality are themselves labeled as immoral. We have seen this in the criminal prosecution of Christians who simply wish to not be a part of homosexual unions. They are fined and their businesses closed down, really only acts of vengeance for nothing more than holding to a moral standard. And now, the kids we send to college hold not the belief that they cannot stand their moral ground, but that they should not stand their moral ground, because to do so is itself an immoral act!

Christians of all people should know that sin is sin regardless of whether one believes it to be or not. If moral precepts are true, then they are binding on all of humanity. Imagine if Nazi Germany was to have won World War II and Hitler was successful in his genocide of the Jewish people. Now, imagine 2014 in such an alternate timeline where every last soul on earth believes that Hitler was the savior of humanity for carrying out such a feat. Would that make it right? Could it ever be right simply because of popular consensus? Of course not!

Where's the Church?

The problem of moral relativism isn't going to go away, especially since the secular culture thrives on it. It is the one way everyone can do what is right in his own eyes and not feel bad about him or herself. Rather, we as the Church need to be doing more to help our young people see that moral relativism isn't merely a non-Christian position. It is in fact a contradiction to the Christian worldview. I think one way to do that is to make sure you have regularly scheduled "hard questions" nights in your youth ministry where kids can ask questions that they face in school. You may want to do this once a month, with each month designated on a certain topic. One month may be about premarital sex, while the next is euthanasia, and a third talking about the legalization of mind-altering drugs.

Youth pastors shouldn't be pushovers here, either, Make sure you investigate the nature of the kids' questions and ask more questions yourself. Have the kids role play as if they were discussing this with an unbelieving student or even perhaps a hostile professor so they hear real objections and they learn how to respond in different circumstances. Have your group go through good books on apologetics and cultural issues, or pass out articles that make the case for natural marriage or why the embryo is just as valuable as any other human being. Talk about why moral relativism itself fails.

The Christian church needs to take this epidemic seriously. Kids not will simply "catch" the Christian worldview from their parent's action and example. We must talk with them about these things, and we need to start right now. To wait any longer could be deadly.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why a Good Bible Translation is Not Enough

A friend of mine from Holland recently asked if there was an English equivalent to the Dutch phrase "'s Avonds een vent, 's ochtends een vent." The phrase translates to the English "At night a man, in the morning a man" and it's a very popular idiom there, or so I'm told. The Dutch will recognize its meaning immediately, but as an English speaker, I'm going to be hopelessly lost unless my friend unpacks the phrase a bit more. As it turns out, it implied that if one wishes to act like an adult and stay out late (perhaps drinking or partying), then one must also act like an adult in the morning by getting up on time and putting forth a full effort at his or her responsibilities of work or school.

How Culture Affects the Use of Language

Reading the translation of the idiom by itself, I don't think anyone unacquainted with Dutch culture would ever understand its meaning. The United States was heavily influenced by the Puritans, so we don't have any figure of speech that equates drinking with being a grown up. Instead, we have Benjamin Franklin's "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," which is much more in line with our work ethic.

I offer this example because idioms and figures of speech are used throughout the Bible and simply reading a Bible translation without understanding how the language is being used can lead the student to as much confusion as only translating the Dutch idiom above. Let me give you one example: In Amos 4:6 God tells the Israelites, "I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities." To a 21st century culture, one may rejoice. But the phrase is a curse as it is followed by "and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me." God is telling the Israelites that he caused a famine; their teeth were clean because there was no food left to get stuck in them!

Because modern society places an emphasis on white teeth and good oral hygiene, we bring certain presuppositions to the text without even realizing it and one can often miss the point. Another example is Proverbs 22:13 which reads, "The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'" While such an alarm sounds important and anything other than sluggardly, if you know that lions were native to Israel but not dominant there1 you can perhaps make out the meaning of the proverb. The sluggard says he cannot go outside to work because he may be attacked by a lion (a very unlikely scenario). It's akin to me saying I cannot drive to work because I may be killed in a car accident.

The emphasis of a culture also colors words. In talking about the Franklin quote above, another friend  responded with a favorite from her father: "Early to rise, early to bed makes a man socially dead!" Different times can emphasize different values and can make the same idiom appear differently to the reader. The influence of the Puritans are fading from American culture!

Understand the Context to Understand the Message

There are of course many more illustrations I could offer, but I think the point is clear. One must do more than simply read the Bible in a wooden, literal way to understand what the author is trying to convey to his readers. This especially is true when a skeptic or atheist tries to assert that one certain passage offers a contradiction to another. As I've previously written, claiming a contradiction for Jesus' claim that he'd be in the tomb three days and three nights is simply an abuse of an idiom. We know that the phrase is an idiom because David used it well before Jesus in 1 Samuel 30 and it didn't mean 72 hours in his usage either.

Therefore, before you read a book of the Bible, make sure you keep in mind a few key questions. Ask about the audience to whom the book was being written. Was it for believers in the church, Israel citizens, or a general retelling of events? What issue, problem, or point prompted the author to write to them? Is the author trying to write history, poetry, establish civil laws that would apply only to the nation of Israel, or do something else in the text? All these pieces help the student better understand the words on the page. Most good study bibles will have an introductory section that answers these questions for you as well as footnotes that can explain some of the more confusing idioms. Good commentaries can also be of immense value in better grasping the historical aspects of the passage. It's like the old proverb says, "Any text taken out of context is a pretext." Be a man and divide the word rightly!


1. See Rowan, Yorke M. and Jonathan Golden. "The Chalcolithic Period of the Southern Levant: A Synthetic Review." Journal of World Prehistory 22: 1-92. 9 April 2009. 24. Available online at

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Modern Man is More Gullible than Christian Believers

Many times skeptics charge that people of previous ages believed in the bible and Jesus' resurrection because they were somehow more gullible than the "reasoned" minds of today. Malcolm Muggeridge, in a lecture entitled "The Bible Today" answers this charge with his own counter-charge: modern man is not more skeptical and reasonable. In fact, the opposite is true; as media projects a more authoritative voice, it makes more people willing to believe in anything at all.

Personally, I find it on any showing quite ludicrous to suppose that, for nineteen of Christendom's twenty centuries, Christians were credulous idiots ready to believe any tomfoolery the Bible fostered, and that then, with the coming of Darwinism and all that followed therefrom, the scales fell from their eyes, and they realised that the Biblical truths they had been induced to accept were largely fraudulent and absurd. For one thing, it would seem to me that our twentieth century, far from being notable for scientific scepticism, is one of the most credulous eras in all history. It is not that people believe in nothing — which would be bad enough — but that they believe in anything — which is really terrible. Recoiling, as they do, from accepting the validity of miracles, and priding themselves on seeing the Incarnation as a transcendental con-trick, they will accept at its face value any proposition, however nonsensical, that is presented in scientific or sociological jargon — for instance, the existence of a population explosion, which has been so expertly and decisively demolished by Professor Colin Clark of Monash University. Could any mediaeval schoolman, I ask myself, sit through a universally applauded television series like Bronowski's Ascent of Man without a smile of derision at such infantile acceptance of unproven and unprovable assertions? Not to mention television advertisements, on a basis of which the most expensively educated populations in the western world alter their dietary and sartorial habits, puff happily at lethal cigarettes recommended as being conducive to romantic encounters by burbling waterfalls or on golden beaches washed by azure seas, and generally follow every whim and fancy wished upon them by the tellymasters.1


1. Muggeridge, Malcolm. "Is the Bible True?" The Gargoyle: The Journal of Malcom Muggeridge 10 (2006): 14. The Malcolm Muggeridge Society. The Malcolm Muggeridge Society, Apr. 2006. Web. 27 Sept. 2014.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Heresies of Mormonism

What is a heresy? Any belief that denies those Christians have historically recognized as essential to the faith; such beliefs include the triune nature of God, the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, His eternality,  and the nature of His incarnation. Mormonism rejects these essentials and substitutes its own fictions. In this video clip, Lenny takes a brief look at the teachings of the LDS church and demonstrates why Mormonism is not a Christian faith.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Our Culture's Value of Feelings Will Be Its Downfall

How much do your feelings matter? Are they the most important thing in deciding whether you're living a successful life? Many people think so. Just this week Ezekiel Emanuel, the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, published an article in the Atlantic saying that death at 75 should be the goal for healthy living.1 After that, he will refuse testing and treatment—including simple things like flu shots or antibiotics—and seek to take on death where it may be found. His reasoning? Emanuel says, "I want to celebrate my life while I am still in my prime" and he simply thinks that after 75his life would no longer be good, but simply "succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging."2 Emanuel sees the good life as the one in which he feels good.

 Emanuel's reasoning is an example of what sociologist Pitirim Sorokin called the Sensate culture.  Writing in the early 20th century, Sorokin noticed that cultures seem to be aligned into a couple of dominant types: societies that emphasize the spiritual aspects of existence and believe in things such as religion, transcendent values and morality above the physical he labeled "Ideational." Those who devalued or dismissed the spiritual and held the material world as the true reality and the guiding principle of life he labeled as "Sensate".3

Sorokin stated that we are not only in a Sensate culture, but one that is falling apart due to its own excesses. John Uebersax quotes Sorokin in saying:
In the twentieth century the magnificent sensate house of Western man began to deteriorate rapidly and then to crumble. There was, among other things, a disintegration of its moral, legal, and other values which, from within, control and guide the behavior of individuals and groups. When human beings cease to be controlled by deeply interiorized religious, ethical, aesthetic and other values, individuals and groups become the victims of crude power and fraud as the supreme controlling forces of their behavior, relationship, and destiny. In such circumstances, man turns into a human animal driven mainly by his biological urges, passions, and lust. Individual and collective unrestricted egotism flares up; a struggle for existence intensifies; might becomes right; and wars, bloody revolutions, crime, and other forms of interhuman strife and bestiality explode on an unprecedented scale. So it was in all great transitory periods. (BT, 1964, p. 24)
The "passions and lust" that Sorokin mentions above were stated in more detail in a book he published entitled The American Sex Revolution. Written in the 1950s, well before the age of the Pill and free love, he writes, "every phase of our culture has been invaded by sex. Our civilization has become so preoccupied with sex that it now oozes from all pores of American life.... Whatever aspect of our culture is considered, each is packed with sex obsession."

And Sorokin nails the last seventy years. According to Russell Nieli, his book predicts basically all the social ills we face today:
The harmful trends that Sorokin described in his book, many of which were cause for only moderate concern in their own time, would become much more extreme in subsequent decades, and today are generally acknowledged as a major source of social and cultural decline in what is not inaccurately described as a "post- Christian" West. These include declining birth rates and diminished parental commitment to the welfare of children; vastly increased erotic content in movies, plays, novels, magazines, television shows, radio programs, song lyrics, and commercial advertising; increased divorce, promiscuity, premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, spousal abandonment, and out-of-wedlock births; and related to these developments, a growing increase in juvenile delinquency, psychological depression, and mental disorders of every description. So extreme have some of these trends become, particularly since the late 1960s, that many today can look back nostalgically upon the 1950s when Sorokin issued his warnings as a period of great social stability, "family values," and dedication to traditional Christian understandings of sex, marriage, and child rearing.4
Our culture's overemphasis on sex is a result of its overemphasis on the material, to the detriment of the spiritual. Truth is relative and life isn't lived for a higher purpose, but for those things that makes one feel good, the result being that society devolves into self-pleasing beings who only see value in whatever feels good. Thus we get someone like Emanuel, a key bioethicist who was one of the chief architects of Obamacare stating that he thinks prolonging his life after 75 is a waste. Is that important? Does it worry you?

Our Sensate culture cannot continue, according to Sorokin. I think he's right. By valuing the material over the ideational, Sorokin says that we have set ourselves up to either perish or change. Which will it be?


1. Emanuel, Ezekiel J. "Why I Hope to Die at 75." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
2. Ibid.
3. Uebersax, John, PhD. "Culture in Crisis: The Visionary Theories of Pitirim Sorokin." Satyagraha. Satyagraha, 19 Aug. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
4. Nieli, Russel. "Critic of the Sensate Culture: Rediscovering the Genius of Pitirim Sorokin." The Political Science Reviewer. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. 266.
Image courtesy Tom Morris. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

ISIS, Jihad, and the Model of Muhammad

CNN just published an interview with Secretary of State John Kerry commenting on the recent US response to the Islamic State's barbarism in Syria and Iraq. At the beginning of the interview, Kerry stressed that the US is heading a coalition of forces, including Muslim nations, in its fight against ISIS (although the New York Times reports that the idea of a coalition may be overstated.)  Kerry said the effort to involve nations such as Saudi Arabia was a "major effort to reclaim Islam by Muslims, by those to whom it belongs."1

Obviously as Secretary of State, Kerry's first goal is to create as much consensus with the nations of the Middle East as possible, even though most have done nothing to stop the carnage ISIS is creating in their own back yards. However, his claim (echoing President Obama) that the Islamic State is somehow not Muslim or a distortion of Islam needs to be reconsidered. The same claims have been offered since 9/11, with many making the comparison that ISIS or Al Qaeda is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity.

To be clear, I don't doubt that many Muslim groups have been shocked and horrified at the actions of ISIS.  It is also true that the vast majority of ISIS' targets have been Muslim.  And I believe the leaders of those sects of Islam that take a more moderate view of the Qur'an teach a form of Islam that would say the killing of civilians is wrong. However, that doesn't mean that these Muslims are the definitive version of Islam. The question actually is: "Whose interpretation of Islam is correct?"

The Problem of Context

When one looks at both Islam and Christianity, there are a couple of ways to establish whether the beliefs that one holds align with the teachings of the faith. The first is to look at the Scriptures of that faith itself and see how your actions line up. For example, the Bible contains passages such as Judges 19:22-29 where a Levite cut his concubine into twelve pieces after the men of Gibeah had raped her all night. But the context shows that neither the rape nor the response of sending the girl's dismembered body is approved in scripture. In fact, the refrain of "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" is replete throughout the text of Judges, and the writer here makes the actions of the Gibeonites parallel to the men of Sodom, which is a clear condemnation on them.

In the Qur'an there are many verses known as the "sword verses" that teach about fighting and conquering the enemy. Immediately, Sura 47:4-6 comes to mind:
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost. Soon will He guide them and improve their condition, And admit them to the Garden which He has announced for them.2
The call to "smite at their necks" until the enemy is "subdued' (which many clerics read as "slaughtered") is completely natural from the text. More moderate Muslims would interpret these verses in a more poetic fashion, not calling on the actual beheading of unbelievers but as symbolic one. The problem is that unlike the Biblical books, the Qur'an isn't set up in a narrative style. Several verses may deal with one issue and the next set may switch topics completely. It's much more akin to reading the book of Proverbs than a historical narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. That means that either interpretation could be legitimately derived from the text.

The Model of Muhammad

Because context doesn't really answer the question of the meaning of Islam, one must look to another definitive source to get a better understanding of what the faith really teaches. The best way to do that is to look at the person that exemplifies that faith and see how he behaved and what he valued. For Christians, the model is Jesus Christ himself. Christians are to look at Jesus' life, see how he would sacrifice his own personal comfort for the benefit of others, and ultimately lay down his life for his friends.

In Islam, Muhammad is the model. In fact, the Qur'an teaches this as well.  Sura 33:21 reads, "Ye have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in God and in the final day."3 So, we can glean more about Islam from the pattern of conduct of Muhammad himself. Looking there, we learn that Muhammad did in fact command beheadings. In fact, after Muhammad had taken control of Medina he still went out and beheaded the Jews who had resisted him there. He could have exiled them, but chose instead to kill all of the Jewish men and boys from around twelve and up. Realize that this was no small cohort, either, with estimates ranging from a low of 300 to possibly even 800 or 900 people. In the Muslim Hadith, which are holy books that recount the actions of Islam‘s prophet, one Jewish captive reports:
I was among the captives of Banu [tribe] Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair.4
Of course, this isn't the only record of Muhammad and his army. It is well known that Muhammad would lead raids on caravans heading toward Mecca, stealing whatever he wished and he ultimately marched his army into Mecca, conquering it with barely a fight. The Hadith of Abu Dawud explains, "The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The best of the actions is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah."5

Who Models Islam More Closely?

Of course, ISIS has several other problems, such as killing Muslims, which is explicitly condemned in the Qur'an. But they would counter that because the moderates have reinterpreted the Qur'an and they have not followed the Islamic law on other issues, these should be considered unbelievers and therefore should be attacked accordingly.

All in all, it isn't fair to say that ISIS is the Muslim equivalent of the KKK. The Klan's actions are clearly the opposite of both the teachings and actions of Jesus, but ISIS is acting in ways that Muhammad himself acted when he faced his enemies. They may not believe other Muslims are faithful, and they would be wrong on that point, but they cannot be said to be a misrepresentation of Islam itself. They are simply being consistent with both their understanding of their scriptures and the model of their prophet.


1. Caldwell, Leigh Ann, Holly Yan, and Gul Tuysuz. "John Kerry: The Fight against ISIS Is 'going to Go On'" CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 25 Sept. 2014. .
2. Sura 47:4-6. Holy Qur'an (Yusuf Ali translation.)
3. Sura 33:21. Holy Qur'an (Yusuf Ali translation.)
4. Abu-Dawud, Book 38, Number 4390."(Prescribed Punishments)" Partial translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud. University of Southern California Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. Sep 24, 2014.
5. Abu-Dawud, Book 40, Number 4=4582."(Prescribed Punishments)" Partial translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud. University of Southern California Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. Sep 24, 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Amazing Evidence of God in the Design of Our World

Yesterday, I began a discussion on how the universe is finely-tuned for human existence. We started with an analogy of being lost in a wood and stumbling onto a life-saving cabin. Then, I noted that just like our cabin, we see three key areas that are necessary for our shelter to sustain life. If you haven't read it yet, make sure you do.

Last time we looked at how the area is just right - that is  the laws of the universe allow life to exist. Today, I'd like to look more closely at the other two features that make life possible: our solar system is built for life and our planet itself is just right.

2.  Our planet and solar system are poised for life (the cabin is built right)

Going back to our cabin analogy, it's not merely that the area where the cabin is built is just right for you to survive—the cabin itself has to be made the right way with the right materials, otherwise it will do you no good at all. Imagine if the cabin had huge holes in the walls and ceiling. It would let the heat and the cold in and not sustain your life. Imagine also if the cabin was made out of paper or sand, which would quickly give way to the wild beasts outside or simple erosion. None of these situations would be of benefit to you when you needed it most.

Similar to the cabin, our little neighborhood in the universe, our solar system and the planet Earth, also show remarkable design for life. In their great book Rare Earth, scientists Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee note just how unlikely it is that another planet in the universe would have the perfect conditions for life that our planet Earth does. We live in a spiral galaxy, but not in a portion crowded with stars. Our sun sits far enough away from the center of the galaxy, yet in-between two of its more densely-packed arms, what Ward and Brownlee call the "Galactic Habitable Zone." They note that the distance of our Earth from the sun is also perfect , not letting the oceans boil away (possibly like Venus) or freeze over permanently (like all water on Mars). 5

Our sun is also the right kind of star. Did you know that 95% of stars in the universe are smaller than our sun?Planets need to be closer to smaller stars in order to get enough warmth for life, but when planets do get closer, the star's gravity keeps one side of the planet constantly facing toward it, freezing out the atmosphere. If our sun were much smaller, it wouldn't put out enough heat, and if it were larger, it would be so hot that it would sterilize the planet of all life.7 And because our sun is not too red (which would also make it too cold for life) or too blue (which would burn too quickly to sustain life), we are able to exist.8Everything seems to be not too hot nor too cold, but just right for life to exist on this particular planet.

Lastly, the fact that we have the gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) at the outside of our solar systems allows life on earth to continue. According to Ward and Brownlee, these gas giants not only carried elements such as carbon, nitrogen and water to earth in the early stages of its formation, but they continue to provide an invaluable service of catching large asteroid-type bodies that would otherwise smash into earth and extinguish all life on the planet. 9

There are many other examples of how our solar system is perfectly fit for life, but these will do well for a start. This is why Ward and Brownlee write, "With the best of intentions, but limited by natural laws and materials, it is unlikely that Earth could ever truly be replicated. Too many processes in its formation involved sheer luck." 10 You can see why Paul Davies calls the Anthropic Principle, "the Goldilocks Principle." Just as Goldilocks found to porridge and the bed that suited her, we've stumbled onto a cabin that suits us perfectly.

3.  The Earth is stocked for life (the cabin is properly equipped)

We've talked about the area being right for our cabin and the cabin being built properly to sustain us, but both those things wouldn't do us much good if we had to ride out several months of winter in a cabin not stocked with all the things that keep us alive. So it is with the Earth. It's not enough that it be in the right place with the right laws in the universe; it also has to protect and provide the ongoing sustenance for any life that may be found here. But yet again, we find that the Earth is just right to allow mankind to not only live, but to thrive. For example, the fact that our planet is 70% water has a major impact on supporting life. If there were too much water, then no dry land would appear to allow advanced life. Too little water and the temperatures on Earth would vary too drastically for advanced life to thrive.

Whereas most substances have very predictable behaviors based on their molecular construction, water seems to be unique in how it violates these expectations. For example, changing from a liquid to a solid means that as the molecules of most substances slow down, they get closer together, making the material heavier in its solid state. However, water does just the opposite: just before it freezes, it expands, allowing ice to float on liquid water. If this didn't happen, then all of the Earth's bodies of water would eventually freeze from the bottom up. But instead of freezing, the ice provides a cover over the liquid water, helping to retain the liquid water and therefore also adding to its stabilization of the surface temperature of the Earth.

Beyond water, other factors make Earth just right for life. The gases that make up our atmosphere help regulate the Earth's temperature, keeping it even too. Too many gases and we'd over heat, but too few and life would die from the radiation penetrating the atmosphere from space.11 Astronomer Hugh Ross gives us an impressive list of dozens of such conditions for life to thrive on earth: If the oxygen-to-nitrogen ratio in our atmosphere were larger, advanced life functions would proceed too quickly; if it were smaller, advanced life functions would proceed too slowly. If the Earth's crust were thicker, too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust; but if thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great. Water vapor levels in the atmosphere are just right; if greater, a runaway greenhouse effect would develop; but if less, rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land. 12

The fact that our Earth has a single, sizable moon also becomes crucial to our existence on the planet. In their book The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards write that the Moon serves to stabilize our planet's rotation, keeps the Earth's axis at the perfect tilt to allow consistent seasons, and — by raising the ocean's tides — it delivers nutrients stirred up from the ocean floor and delivers them on land while it simultaneously promotes ocean currents distributing heated water throughout the different oceans.13

Is it All Just a Coincidence?

Perhaps someone desperate might hope to find a cabin in the wood, but to find it filled with the presence of your favorite food, stocked with insulin in the medicine cabinet, and containing all the clothing in your size is far beyond a stroke of luck, especially since these things are not contingent on each other. In finding so many of these "coincidences," it would be irrational to draw a conclusion that this was all chance. You may not be able to explain why it all works out, but it's obvious that whoever built this cabin had you in mind and did it on purpose. And scientists are finding more and more that the sheer number of "coincidences" in the universe of physical laws being just right for life is simply too much to dismiss. Paul Davies goes on to say:
"Certainly the existence of life as we know it… would be threatened by just the tiniest change in the strengths of the fundamental forces, for example. The laws that characterize our actual universe, as opposed to an infinite number of alternative possible universes, seem almost contrived — fine-tuned some commentators have claimed — so that life and consciousness may emerge. To quote Dyson again: it is almost as if 'the universe knew we were coming'."14
Indeed, the mountain of such factors points to the fact that someone "rigged" the system. Perhaps some of these factors are found elsewhere in the universe — there are other spiral galaxies and yellow suns, though not plentiful, that do exist. However, I think that when taken together, this evidence implies much more than mere coincidences. Robin Collins quotes philosopher John Leslie correctly saying, "Clues heaped upon clues can constitute weighty evidence, despite doubts about each element in the pile."15 If the universe itself is put together correctly to support life, then we can't stop at the universe as an explanation for our existence. We have to go to something or Someone who existed before the universe, Who designed the universe with the purpose of creating it so humanity can live and thrive in it. The design of the universe argues for the existence of God.


4. Ward, Peter D. and Donald Brownlee. Rare Earth; Why Complex Life is So Uncommon in the Universe. (New York: Copernicus, 2000) p.28
5. Ward and Brownlee. pp.16-20
6. Ward and Brownlee. p.23
7. Barrow and Tipler. p.338
8. Smith, Quentin "The Anthropic Principle and Many-Worlds Cosmologies". Australasian Journal of Philosophy VoI. 63, No.3; (September 1985)
9. Ward and Brownlee. pp.50-51
10. Ward and Brownlee. p.37
11. Ward and Brownlee. pp.50-51
12. Adapted from Hugh Ross' table 4.5 in "Astronomical Evidences for a Personal, Transcendent God." Moreland, J.P. The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1994. 165-169.
13. Gonzalez, Guillermo and Jay W. Richards. The Privledged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery. Washington D.C.: Regency Publishing, Inc., 2004. p.5-6
14. Davies. Templeton Adress.
15. Collins, Robin. "A Recent Fine-Tuning Argument." The Philosophy of Religion Reader. Ed. Meister Chad. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Three Ways Our Universe is Designed for Life

Just the fact the universe exists at all is pretty good evidence for God. It's an amazing thing that our universe exists and that we exist! But to stop there would be to do a disservice to what science continues to uncover about how our universe works. You see, it's not simply that the universe exists and we happen to live within it. Modern scientists have found that the universe could have existed just fine in many different configurations, but the laws that govern this universe are tuned very precisely. The way our planet is positioned within the universe is also very unique. What scientists continue to find is the universe is meticulously designed just so that it is capable of supporting life like our own. It's been rigged for life, if you will. The universe is finely-tuned for human existence.

Finding the perfect cabin in a dangerous wood

In order to understand how this works, I would like to offer an analogy. Imagine that you're lost in a dark, dangerous wood. The temperature fluctuates from extreme heat in the day to frigid cold at night. You have no food and no water. Aside from the other life-threatening conditions, there are dangerous animals that may attack you if you stay out in the open. You need to find shelter if you are ever going to survive. By chance, you stumble upon a cabin in a clearing of the forest. Crawling through an open window, you quickly hurry inside, thankful for your good luck. Luck is all you currently perceive finding the cabin to be. I mean it's quite possible that you could have taken any number of routes through the wood and ended up someplace else, but you just happened to end up here. However, as you start to explore the cabin, you attitude begins to change.

First, you notice that there's fresh food in the kitchen, and that the food just happens to be all your favorite kinds. Then, you see that there are some medical supplies in the bathroom that are exactly what you need: bandages for your cuts and scrapes, but also insulin for treating your diabetes. In the bedroom, there's a collection of CDs from all your favorite bands, three books are on the table that are your favorite books, and the reading glasses are your exact prescription! The mattress is the exact firmness you like and all the clothes in the closet fit you perfectly. Finally, you go to the front door, but it is locked. On a hunch, you pull out your house key from your pocket and try it in the door. The key unlocks the front door and you are able to enter and exit effortlessly. After these and many, many more discoveries, you finally come to the conclusion that this is not a random cabin at all, but one designed especially for you to help you survive within this dangerous forest.

Before you can create tuna, you must first tune the universe!

Now, you may be thinking that I'm stretching the facts a bit when I give the examples in my cabin analogy above. In fact, I'm actually downplaying the amazing precision of what science is finding out about the very delicate balance of features the universe must have in order to allow life to exist as it does on this planet. As we continue to learn more about how our universe works, we are finding two very interesting things:
  • It is not necessary that those laws should come together in the way they do now. There are many combinations of laws that still would allow the universe to exist but not support life, and
  • There are so incredibly many different types of laws that must be present all at the same time for life to exist, each so delicately balanced and perfectly set, that it seems hardly a coincidence. The universe is fine-tuned for life on earth.
Sometimes because of our familiarity with a situation, we neglect to think about how many elements must be just right for the desired goal to happen. Returning to our cabin illustration, we see a cabin in a clearing and run to it, perhaps wondering why it's there, but not really thinking about all the conditions it would take to make the cabin.

Really, for a shelter to be of any use in saving someone from dying in the woods, it is important that the area where that shelter sits be just right for the type of shelter it is and the materials used to construct the shelter be made out of the right stuff. The shelter also needs to have life-supporting elements inside. Otherwise you will simply be forced to abandon it or die. Let's take these one at a time and look at them more closely. We will examine the first one today and look at the other two in tomorrow's post.

1.  Laws of the universe make life possible (the area is right)

In order for a cabin to be built and help a desperate soul lost in the woods, it must be built in a location that has specific properties. For example, no one would want to climb into a cabin and find out it was built on quicksand. The ground must be firm and able to hold a strong foundation. The trees must be cleared away so that there is adequate room for the structure. A cabin built on a severe slope or on the other side of an impassible ravine would make it impossible to get to. Swampy areas would cause the wood that the cabin is built out of to rot.

Our universe has laws that govern how its build materials fit together and react to one another. Things like the strength of gravity or the force that allows protons and neutrons within an atom to stick together are delicately balanced. For example, gravity make a huge difference in whether we would have any stars that could support life like our sun does. According to scientists John Barrow and Frank Tipler, if the force of gravity had been slightly weaker, all stars would have formed into red dwarfs, not producing enough heat to sustain life on any planet. But if it had been slightly stronger, stars would all form to be blue giants, which burn too briefly for life to develop.The fine-tuning of this force must be set to a value so fine that a change of less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth would be catastrophic for stars like our sun. 2

There are many other laws that have a similar crucial impact on whether our universe is just right to even allow life to exist, such as the size of an electron relative to a proton, how fast the universe expands, the age of the universe, the speed of light, the amount and uniform level of radiation in the universe, and many, many more. See table 1 for just some of these balances.

Paul Davies, a widely respected physicist and cosmologist, noted that many of the laws of the universe we take for granted are not necessary at all, but function just like that clear, level area that allows us to construct the cabin. In fact, that the universe could have turned out much differently than it did. Davies said "You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly-selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives."3

Continue to Part Two here »


1. Barrow, John D. and Frank J. Tipler. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).336
2. Davies, Paul. The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 147
3.Davies, Paul M. "Templeton Prize Address." Arizona State University. 23 January 2010

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two Key Problems with Darwinism (video)

Modern Darwinism teaches that all life we see today is the result of lucky chemical accidents. There is no purpose or intelligence guiding the process. However, as we better understand the complexities of life and the amazing amount of information it takes to make even the simplest of cells, the Darwinian model just doesn't work.

In this video, Lenny teaches on two insurmountable problems for modern Darwinian theory and shows why life points to an intelligent designer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Values so Shockingly Consistent They Make the News

In the ever-growing competition for our attention, news media outlets have sought to find stories that sit ever stranger to our sensibilities. The unusual is prized as the type of a story journalists seek to capture eyeballs and get people talking. It's just like that old saying that what's expected is not really news, like a dog biting a man. But if a man bites a dog, then that's news!

That's why I was very intrigued with the Associated Press story that ran just today about a homosexual couple who were denied Communion from the Roman Catholic in central Montana. The AP article reports:
A gay couple has been told they can no longer receive Communion or participate in church ministry after the new priest at a Roman Catholic church in central Montana learned they had been married in a civil ceremony more than a year ago.

The decision set off a split that has cut attendance at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown, population 5,900. It has prompted an upcoming visit from the bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.1
The article goes on to report that the men were involved in a relationship for some 30 years, but decided to get married "so they can make medical and financial decisions for each other."2

Most conservative Christians of any stripe would read the above and probably react with a collective "Yeah, so?" The Roman Catholic Church has been very clear in its condemnation of homosexual unions. The biblical teaching on homosexuality is very clear on recognizing practicing homosexual s as those who are not considered part of the faith. Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God."

The Shock Value of Consistent Values

So why is this so newsworthy? Why would the AP run a "dog bites man" story like this? There are only two reasons I can think of and probably both are true to some extent. The first would be that the AP assumes most people would feel that the men were somehow being discriminated against. It's a "how can the church discriminate against these two poor men who only want to look after one another financially and medically" kind of angle.  Of course, anyone with an inkling of understanding would know better than to buy that. For example, the men were joined in a civil union, not in the church. Why do you think this was? Because they knew the church would never allow it! So, how could they be "stunned by the priest's decision" to not allow them to partake in the church's other sacraments? The answer: they weren't. They just don't want to play by the rules.

Secondly, it is entirely possible that the secular AP and its readers cannot fathom an organization having a moral code that calls for certain people to be excluded by virtue of their actions, no matter how sincere, heartfelt, or popular in public opinion they are. This is another example of the faux-virtues I talked about a couple of days ago. It's believed that all decisions are OK, just as long as one doesn't hurt anyone else's feelings. Well, that simply isn't true. These men may sincerely love each other, but they are not taking the teachings of their church honestly. They seem to see the church teachings as something to be gamed. Communion is at it root an act of identifying with Christ and His actions on the cross. It entails a foregoing of self and a devotion to following Jesus as your Lord. That means following the rules He set down for His church. Jesus taught explicitly, "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He didn't teach that Christians can pick and choose which they would like to keep and which they can ignore.

No matter what the actual motivation was for the AP to run this story, I see it as another clear sign of the shift that has occurred in culture over the last decade. When Christians display Christian values consistently, our society no longer looks upon such actions as normal or unordinary. While the plane that doesn't crash isn't news, now consistently living out one's Christian values is.

In some ways, I think this is as much of an indictment of the Christian church as it is the culture. The broader culture should have been able to recognize Christians by their moral character much more clearly before today. But we have now reached the point where the separation is strange enough it's considered newsworthy, so expect to see more stories on it. They'll be considered as foreign as the story of a man biting a dog, and naked when doing so.


1. Associated Press. "Montana Gay Couple Denied Communion After Marriage." ABC News. ABC News Network, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.
2. Ibid.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why the Darwinist Version of Life's Origin is Anti-Science

P.Z. Myers, the acerbic evolutionary biologist, atheist, and blogger is certainly no friend to those arguing for God's existence. However, he did side with at least one point that creationists argue for when debating the concept of life and its origin: Darwinists who claim that the theory of evolution has nothing to do with origin of life "is a cop-out."  An older post at his blog Pharyngula, he writes:
#15 is also a pet peeve: "Evolution is a theory about the origin of life" is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that "abiogenesis is not evolution," but it's a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don't understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.1
I completely agree with Myers in that anyone arguing for a non-Creator based model needs to account for both the origin as well as the development of the diversity of life as we see it today. I've previously written how evolutionary teaching texts and evolutionist both include the concept of abiogenesis—a 50 cent word meaning that life arose spontaneously from non-life—in their limiting the diversity of life we see today to only materialistic causes. For, if a creator is necessary to begin life, then the simplest explanation of life's diversity would be that such a creator created them with that diversity.

Passing on Pasteur

Of course, Myers, Dawkins, and company would never allow a creator to be considered in their model. 2 They hold that any such appeal is at its base unscientific. But there's a problem here. The view that life arose spontaneously from non-life has never once been observed in all of human history. If science is at its root a study of those things we can observe, then the theory that life can arise from non-life without any intelligent intervention seems to be non-science.  But abiogenesis is worse than that; it's anti science.

You see, the question has come up before. There was a time where people believed that life could arise spontaneously. People would notice their milk or bread gather mold and they thought that these life forms just popped into existence. However, the French scientist Louis Pasteur performed an extensive series of experiments to heat food products prior to packaging and he showed conclusively that new life doesn't simply pop into existence. He proved that biogenesis (from life comes life) is the scientifically viable theory rather than abiogenesis.

Pasteur's results have been confirmed millions of times over. In fact, our modern method of food distribution relies on the fact that new forms of life won't just appear. Think of a jar of natural peanut butter. The jar is an open system in which energy and sunlight may pass through. The starting material is organic; it has all the right proteins for life. Heck, peanuts are even the starting point for the plant. Yet, no one expects to find new life in their peanut butter!

Science is at its absolute best when one can verify a hypothesis through repeatable testing. The more times one achieves the same results, the stronger the hypothesis becomes. Pasteur's biogenesis is about as strong a finding as science can achieve, so why argue for abiogenesis when no one in the history of humanity has ever observed such and not even one theoretical model of how life could spontaneously arise exists? Simply, it's because the only other explanation of life is that it came from a creator. Therefore, those that trumpet science above all the loudest seem to be the most willing to dump Pasteur's science when it doesn't fit their model. Doesn't that make them anti-science?


1. Myers, PZ. "15 Misconceptions about Evolution." Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs LLC., 20 Feb. 2008. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.
2. In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins writes, "The Darwinian theory is in principle capable of explaining life. No other theory that has ever been suggested is in principle capable of explaining life." Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. New York, N.Y: W.W. Norton, 1987. Print. 288.
Image courtesy PiccoloNamek

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Danger of Colleges and Faux Virtue

One of the more interesting trends today is the widespread acceptance of the imitation to function as the original. What began with Hollywood stars donning faux furs to show their animal rights cred, it seems that the faux style has taken on a life if its own. If you don't want to commit to shaving the sides of your head to show hipness and rebellion, you can get a faux-hawk. Faux leather fashions are big business and you can paint your walls with several faux techniques.

The word faux is borrowed from the French, where it means "false." If you are making a movie you may use faux money, faux rocks, or even faux cocaine. If one were to make a faux pas (pronounced fō ˈpä) it means you've taken a false step. A false step is what I think is happening in our culture today as more and more I see people touting modern concepts of tolerance and non-confrontation as virtuous. In reality, these things are faux virtues.

Virtues – What Are They?

Although we don't use the word as much today, the concept of virtue plays a vital role in our society. The concept of virtue contains the idea that there are certain qualities or character traits in the moral life of an individual that should be valued and promoted. For example, temperance is a virtue of self-restraint. While we all hunger, to over-indulge in a meal would be considered gluttonous and unvirtuous. However, an anorexic would be looked upon a similarly unvirtuous because she is not properly responding to her God-given need for food. Similarly, sexual drives may be abused in one way or another. The ancient Greeks identified qualities like courage, temperance, sincerity, and right ambition as virtues.1

Christian thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas saw virtues as doing those things that separate us from animals and act more in accordance with God's character.2There is, then, a balance in virtuous living. One may hold truth as a virtue; one should tell the truth because God would not lie. However, it doesn't mean someone is unvirtuous in telling his wife that they are going home for a quiet evening when a surprise party is waiting for her there. Virtue makes a distinction between lies, which are self-serving and deceptions that are simply temporary devices to arrive at a virtuous end, such as the pleasure of being surprised.

The False Virtues of Tolerance and Inoffensiveness

Today, though, real virtues are being swapped out with cheap, fake versions. The shocking thing is that this is happening most prominently on college campuses across the country, such as the recent decision of the California State university system to derecognize all Intervarsity campus clubs because they won't allow non-Christians into leadership positions.3 The Universities' administrators have claimed the move is to uphold nondiscrimination principles.4 But nondiscrimination of this type is not a virtue; it's a faux-virtue. Prudence is a virtue of right conduct. It recognizes that all men are created equal. It recognizes the freedom to put forth one's ideas is important. However, that doesn't mean that all ideas should be accepted by all people. Such an extrapolation is akin to saying anorexia is a legitimate answer to gluttony. It's tortured logic and it violates the virtue of truth. It forces you to accept what you believe isn't the case.

That's also why the idea of non-offense is also a non-virtue. The concept of justice demands that the virtuous person confront what he or she sees as wrong. Of course, one must measure their response to the level of injustice being promoted and the appropriate avenues available. If it's an intellectual question, then discussion or debate is appropriate. If someone is beating another person, then a physical response is required. But to think that one should never criticize another because the other person may feel poorly due to the criticism is cowardice pretending to be concern. Bad ideas have real consequences, like the significantly higher rates of terminal illnesses for practicing homosexual men. To keep silent would be akin to watching a mugging and choosing not to get involved. Yet our kids hear over and over how not offending anyone is the "right" thing to do.

Faux virtues are rampant in our society today, especially among our young people. College campuses are, I think, complicit in setting a moral code that is hopelessly confused. They seek to free individual expression, but stifle clubs wishing to be consistent in representing their beliefs. They offer shiny gems of faux virtues that turn out to be worth nothing more than paste when applied to the costly complications of real life. We need to train our Christian kids to beware of such baubles; such are too easily crushed under pressure.


1. "Aristotle." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The IEP, 2005. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.
2. "If virtue is taken as aiming toward a naturally attainable human end, it can be said to be acquired by human effort which can exist without charity. Only by virtues can man conduce to the highest human end, and that end is supernatural." Kretzman, Norman; Stump, Eleonore. The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Print. 240-241.
3. Setzer, Ed. "InterVarsity "Derecognized" at California State University's 23 Campuses: Some Analysis and Reflections." Christianity Today. Christianity Today, 6 Sept. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.
4. Reed, Charles B. "Memorandum, Subject: Student Activities - Executive Order 1068." THE CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY Office of the Chancellor. 21 Dec 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two More Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You

I've recently been writing to encourage people to learn how to better defend their faith against objections of others. I've already talked about how it isn't as scary as many believe, the Bible commands it in many places, and how engaging your mind is part of loving God more fully. But learning to defend your faith is more than an act of obedience; it actually benefits you directly! Yesterday, I described two ways the Christian benefits from the study of apologetics and today I wanted to give you two more.

Engaging God Intellectually Strengthens Us During Trials

A third reason to engage our minds and be prepared to defend the faith is a very practical one: it makes us stronger in times of trials. The questions one must deal with in defending the faith are truly the biggest questions of life, questions like the existence of God, why am I placed on this earth, and how I should treat my fellow man. These are tough issues that require a clear mind and considerable attention. No one wants to wrestle with such ideas during a time of emotional upheaval. They require each of us to ask ourselves penetrating questions like, "Do I really have the good evidence that God exists, or am I just kind of feeding off of a lot of the information that I've been told? Am I just believing that because it feels good or because it helps me?" Once you've explored the arguments for these issues and reached a satisfactory conclusion, you can rest assured of the fact of God's existence or the resurrection.

Then, when a crisis hits and you're praying and you're praying, and God doesn't seem to answer, you can be tempted to wonder, "Is this all a joke? Was I really fooling myself? Maybe there's no God after all." But when I've reached such a point, I've looked back and said, "Well, I know I can't doubt that God exists, because I've already worked through that problem. I know I can't doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. There must be a God. Christ must be real. Now, God may not be answering me. Don't understand it and I may not like it, but at least I know that my faith is on more sure footing." Our faith is made stronger, even in times of trials, as we become Christians who value the life of the mind. (To read my personal story of how this benefited me, see this post.)

 Engaging God Equips Us for Ministry, No Matter What It Is

Before we close this series, I want you to look at verse 21 of Proverbs 22. It reads that we are to "correctly answer him who sends you." Who is this that sends us? In Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands his followers to Go out and make disciples of the whole world. Disciples, not converts. So who's requiring an answer from us? Ultimately it's God. Ultimately we learn and we seek to grow our minds in order to please Him.

But God does not leave us to ourselves even here! He also provides for us. Paul tells us that, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Do you see that? God gives us a sound mind by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be with us as we continue to seek Him. James confirms that "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." God will honor our efforts at loving Him with our minds and our desire to defend the faith. We may not do a perfect job at first, but that's OK. As we continue to seek out His truths, He will develop in us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.

One final thought here. It's important to realize that you don't have to know everything to be a defender of the faith. You must realize that knowing enough to believe something doesn't mean you have 100% certainty. I can say "I believe tomorrow is going to be sunny" and I can have good reasons for that belief. I live in California where it never seems to rain, it's September, and the weatherman said that today should be sunny. But we could all be wrong. That doesn't mean I shouldn't believe it will be sunny today because I can't be 100% sure. It means I have good reasons for my belief, but they may in fact be insufficient when I find out more information. That's OK. Reasonable people draw conclusions from the evidence they have. It's just up to us to try and gather all the good evidence we can so we can draw good conclusions.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Four Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You!

Last week, I wrote a blog post saying that if you want to love God in the way Jesus commanded, you need to get serious about loving Him with your mind as well as your heart, soul, and strength. Part of that means we as Christians need to better understand what it is we believe and we need to be able to defend our beliefs. But many people think that studying apologetics is akin to being on the school debate team; it just prepares you for face-off against opponents and helps you win debates. That's really a shallow way of understanding why learning to defend your faith is important. I can see at least four different ways learning apologetics can benefit you personally in your walk with God. I will tackle the first two today, and address the second two tomorrow.

Engaging God Intellectually Transforms Us into Better Christians

I want to draw a big line under one item here. Loving God intellectually doesn't mean you're simply equipping yourself to win an argument — it means you've studied His word carefully and thoughtfully. God isn't holding us accountable as to whether we convince others of our point, but if they are "ready on our lips" and if we can "accurately handle the word of truth" (1 Pet.3:15, II Tim 2:15). Studying God's word changes us! Paul furthers this point in Romans 12:2 when he writes, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed… by the renewing of your mind." We are transformed when we begin to understand and believe correct things about God. But just as we said to the critic, we can only be sure ourselves if we're holding right beliefs if we study them and make sure they are true to His word and His creation.

Engaging God Intellectually Guards Against Falling into Errors

Another important function of using our minds to love God is it protects us from falling into heresies or theological error. In fact, many of the cults that we face today actually have their origin in the early 19th century in Western New York in what was then the rugged frontier of America. There were many revival movements that would come and go and the itinerant preachers would really get people worked up; they would call the masses to repentance and many would respond to be "saved." But the movement was rooted only in an emotional appeal, and not intellectual rigor.1 Emotional response without understanding doesn't lead to true salvation, but a façade of true belief. It's no wonder, then, that the cults sprang up in the same area. The roots of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Spiritism, Utopianisim, and other cultic beliefs can all be traced to this drive to find religion divorced from careful study.

We are not immune to such corruption of Christian beliefs even today. One extreme example is the word-faith movement. These teachers are spreading all sorts of heresies, from teaching that God has a material body to the supposed existence of a "force of faith" that even God must obey. Duped followers take it in willingly, without understanding how much they have corrupted even the most basic Christian doctrines. But, what other false ideas may have begun to thrive as a result of our unwillingness to engage our minds? In Acts 17, the Bereans were commended for not merely believing Paul and Silas' message, but they were "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." This is why Paul warns us to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:21) This is the way we begin to protect ourselves against heresies.


1.In her article "A Crusade Among Equals" Janette Bohi notes the approach to the Revivalism spreading across the frontier was a mixture of emotionalism and patriotism in the early nineteenth-century. She writes "These early nineteenth-century revivals put the principle of churches being supported freely by their members (volunteerism) before liturgy, democracy before orthodoxy, and emotion before intellect. By crossing denominational barriers, they enabled the church to reach the masses. They made camp meetings a social institution which supported manifest destiny." Missionaries were trying to bridge denominational boundaries and spread the movement across the frontier, but the result was it stunted the importance of being critical and holding to orthodox beliefs and substituted compromise for truth. For more see Bohi, Janette, "A Crusade Among Equals", Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, Tim Dowley, Ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman Pub 1977, p.534.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Talk about Faith on Facebook

Social media offers a great opportunity for Christians to talk about their faith, but many times we are confronted with people who don't think twice about slamming the faith. How can we be both winsome and compelling in representing Jesus online? In this podcast series, Lenny provides real-world examples of how to be both winsome and effective in online conversations.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Heart of Christian Mystery

Andrew Louth on the distinctiveness of Christianity:
For the central truth, or mystery, of the Christian faith is primarily not a matter of words,and therefore ultimately of ideas or concepts, but a matter of fact,or reality.The heart of the Christian mystery is the fact of God made man, God with us, in Christ; words, even his words,are secondary to the reality of what he accomplished.To be a Christian is not simply to believe something, to learn something, but to be something, to experience something. The role of the Church, then, is not simply as the contingent vehicle—in history— of the Christian message,but as the community,through belonging to which we come into touch with the Christian mystery.
Louth, Andrew. Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).74. as quoted in Fred Sanders' The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Ithica, NY: Crossway,2010. Kindle Edition. 53-54.

Friday, September 12, 2014

True Freedom Requires Work

I've been a musician for over thirty years. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to people who have appreciated my playing and mentioned with some envy that they wished they could step up to an instrument and play whatever they wanted. In the course of such conversations I was surprised to find it isn't uncommon that they had taken music lessons as a child but the drudgery of practice soon overcame them. Sometimes they would tell me that they felt tied down or burdened to practice while their friends were outside playing. They wanted to be free from practicing.

This concept of freedom is a childish one. To assume that freedom means one may spend his or her minutes on whatever does not feel like work is confused. The man who spent years practicing at the piano is more free than those who chose to avoid the hours of practice. He has more choices now available to him. He can choose to play a song if he desires while they cannot. By seeking to free themselves from the responsibility the instrument requires, they actually made themselves less free.

The Childishness of Modern Demands for Freedom

That childish concept of freedom seems to dominate our modern culture. Last year, The Guardian ran an article citing three separate studies demonstrating that "the days are over when children wanted to grow up to be astronauts or policemen or firemen. Now they want to be actors, singers or YouTube personalities."1 That reverses previous findings where being accepted as part of a group or community were prized as top goals while fame was listed near the bottom.

Certainly, the always-on perspective of social media plays a part here, but I don't think it's the entire story. Modern technology has given us many benefits and as a result we assume that we can make bad choices and still get everything we want. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, author Sarah Richards brags about how she spent nearly $50,000 to freeze her eggs so that she can some day in the future have the children she so desires.2 I've written previously about how more and more people view children as an accessory to their lives instead of a sacred trust of continuing community and culture. The concept of having it all without consequence is bringing forth some real consequences indeed, not the least of which is for the children of these insta-parents.

Christians Shouldn't be Afraid of Study

Christians are not immune to this kind of thinking. Evangelicals value life and place a high value on family and passing on their beliefs. However, most Christians in the pew are more like the fleeing music pupil than the practicing mater when it comes to matters of theology and apologetics. Sure, they attend Sunday morning and perhaps even mid-week services. Some even have a daily devotion time where they will read their Bibles and seek God's leading. All of this is great, but how many Christians are putting in the time to study the details of their faith? How many can defend their beliefs against the challenges offered by the secular world? How many can even demonstrate a fundamental belief like the Trinity using only their Bibles as support?

I understand that the idea of doing "school work" in one's devotion time may seem like drudgery. In fact, my experience has been the opposite. In working through a systematic theology book or an intellectually rigorous question, I have found that my studies draw out character traits of God I would have never otherwise uncovered. I learn new things about him, his greatness, and just how boundless his love for us is. I am actually more free in my worship of God as I discover new things about him. So, don't be afraid to go deep, dear Christian. You may find the work of study much more freeing than you believe.


1.Smith, Michael. "Studies Show That Children Just Want to Be Famous." Guardian Liberty Voice. Guardian Liberty Voice, 3 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <>.

2. Richards, Sarah E. "Why I Froze My Eggs (And You Should, Too)." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 13 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <> .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Want to Love God More Fully? Then Engage Your Mind!

I believe that learning to defend your faith is like a grand adventure; it truly is treasure hunting for nuggets that will make God more real to you. I demonstrated this a couple of days ago when we discovered that reason and faith are not opposites. You can take the idea of God's truth seriously and apply it to a very common objection. If someone were to offer you this same objection that faith stands opposed to reason, you could answer them with the truth that faith is built on reasons and exploring faith claims is a very reasonable thing to do. Not only does this answer their objection, but it opens the door to more discussion on the truth-claims of Christianity! Do you see how exciting such an approach is?

I do want to caution you, however, that just because you may have an answer to an objection that is sound, thoughtful, and well-articulated, it doesn't mean people will always listen to you. In fact, you may get a lot of resistance. But it does let you feel more confident that the critic wasn't shutting you down. In fact, as I mentioned, it is the critic who's now being irrational since they don't want to support their claim nor listen to a thoughtful appeal to reason together. Which brings us to another point in why we need to pursue God intellectually: because it helps us love God more fully.

Part of Loving God Means Loving Him with Our Minds

In the Proverbs passage I discussed yesterday, it states that we are to apply our minds to God's knowledge "so that your trust may be in the LORD." This coincides with what Jesus taught when he was asked by an expert in the Jewish Bible about which commandment was the greatest. He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment" (Matt 22:37-38). You can see how Jesus elevates the idea of loving God intellectually by including the phrase "with all your mind." That's absolutely right. In order to fully love God, we need to love Him with all we have — including our intellect.
Just prior to Jesus' statement to the lawyer, He was confronted with a question on the validity of the resurrection by the religious liberals of His day, the Sadducees. Christian apologist J.P. Moreland notes that by intelligently defending the faith, Jesus was practicing the concept of loving God with His mind. J.P writes:
It's interesting that Jesus did something His followers should emulate; He intelligently answered the Sadducees' question! … First, Jesus reveals His intellectual skills in debate by (1) showing His familiarity with His opponents' point of view; (2) appealing to common ground (a text all disputants accepted) instead of expressing a biblical text He accepted but they rejected (Daniel 12:2); and (3) deftly using the laws of logic to dissect His opponents' argument and refute it powerfully. Second, because it forms the immediately preceding context for Matthew 22:37-39, this incident may inform at least part of what it means to love God intellectually: be prepared to stand up to truth and honor when they are challenged, and do so with careful, thought-out answers. 1


1. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997. 50-51

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Bible Commands Us More Than Once to Defend Our Faith

There are many passages in the Bible that command us to go out there and stand up for the faith. The most often quoted is 1 Peter 3:15 which reads, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."The Greek word for  "defense" is apologia, which is where we come up with the name for Christian apologetics. The word doesn't mean just any defense, though. It means to make a reasoned defense like a debater would make to win the debate or a trial lawyer would make to prove his client's innocence. As Christians, we are to prepare ourselves with a thoughtful response to those who ask about our beliefs.

There are many other passages in scripture that also encourage us to be ready to defend our faith. Here are just a few:

Scriptures Encouraging Us to Defend Our Faith

Proverbs 25:11 "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances."
Proverbs 26:5 "Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes."
Acts 17:16-17 "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles."
Acts 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you."
2 Corinthians 4, 6,7 "…commending ourselves as servants of God … in knowledge… in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness."
2 Corinthians 5:11a "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…"
Philippians 1:16 "I am appointed for the defense of the gospel."
Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
2 Timothy 2:16 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."
2 Timothy 2:25 "…with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."
Titus 1:9 "…holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."
1 Peter 3:15 "…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…"
One of my favorite passages in this category is Proverbs 22:17-21. The passage reads:
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
To make you know the certainty of the words of truth
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?
In another post, I've gone over some of the detail of these verses, but I do think the passage above tells us a lot about God's desire for us in a world filled with hostility toward His ways. In Proverbs 22, He offers us instruction like a father would instruct his son before sending him off for the first time to go out and live on his own. And what is the advice that our Heavenly Father gives us to face the world? We are to heed the words of the wise so that our trust may be in Him! We are to apply our minds to His knowledge! This means that in order to have a full relationship with Him, we need to pursue God intellectually as well as emotionally. God commands us to do so.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
Check out more X