Blog Archive

Followers

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 www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

Powered by Blogger.
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Islam, Jihad, and Claims of a Religion of Peace



Is Islam a religion of peace? Realize that is not the same question as "are Muslims peaceful?" I have many Muslim friends and I can answer with assurance that they are not only peaceful, but they stand aghast at the various terrorist atrocities taking place in the name of Islam across the globe. They hate the fact that the religion with which they identify would be associated with such wanton evil.

While it is possible that for the most part the second question may be answered affirmatively, it doesn't follow that the answer to the first question is also yes. Islam has a history and an ethic beginning with the teachings of the Qur'an  and continuing through the lives of Muhammad and his successors that must also be weighed.

Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a devoutly Muslim home. He was passionate about his faith, frequently engaging Christians in conversations and defending his faith against any detractors, usually with considerable success. However,when Nabeel went to investigate the teachings of Islam regarding jihad, he discovered a disjunct between what he thought his faith held versus its enshrined teachings. In his book Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. he explains how the monumental event of September 11 caused a seismic shift in his understanding of his faith:
When the twin towers fell, the eyes of the nation turned to American Muslims for an explanation. I sincerely believe September 11 was a greater shock for American Muslims like my family than for the average American. Not only did we newly perceive our lack of security from jihadists, as did everyone else, we also faced a latent threat of retaliation from would-be vigilantes. It felt as if we were hemmed in on all sides. In the midst of this, while mourning our fallen compatriots and considering our own security, we had to defend the faith we knew and loved. We had to assure everyone that Islam was a religion of peace, just as we had always known. I remember hearing a slogan at my mosque that I shared with many: "The terrorists who hijacked the planes on September 11 also hijacked Islam."

Many Americans proved understanding and received our responses graciously. They joined us in denouncing terrorists, asserting that they were not representative of Islam. Others, including friends at my university, were not so compliant. They pushed back, pointing to the violence in Islamic history. Given the prevalence of warfare throughout the history of Islam, they asked how I could argue that Islam was a religion of peace.

In that defensive posture, discussing the matter with people who appeared unfriendly to my faith, it was a knee-jerk reaction for me to say whatever I could to defend Islam. But when I was alone with my thoughts, I could ask myself honestly: What does Islam really teach about jihad? Is Islam really a religion of peace?

I began to investigate the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad's life, and to my genuine surprise, I found the pages of Islamic history dripping with violence. How could I reconcile this with what I had always been taught about Islam? When I asked teachers in the Muslim community for help, they usually rationalized the violence as necessary or dismissed the historicity of the accounts. At first I followed their reasoning, but after hearing the same explanations for dozens if not hundreds of accounts, I began to realize that these were facile responses. Their explanations were similar to my own knee-jerk responses to non-Muslims who questioned Islam. Of course, I understood why they were doing it. We truly believed Islam was a religion of peace, and we were interpreting the data to fit what we knew to be true.

But was it true? After years of investigation, I had to face the reality. There is a great deal of violence in Islam, even in the very foundations of the faith, and it is not all defensive. Quite to the contrary, if the traditions about the prophet of Islam are in any way reliable, then Islam glorifies violent jihad arguably more than any other action a Muslim can take.1
Many Muslims, especially those in the West, have been deeply influenced over the centuries by Western thought and ideals. It shouldn't surprise people if Muslims then interpret Islam in a more peaceful way, even if that isn't the authoritative teaching of the faith. I've made the point before that since the Qur'an calls for violence and Muhammad—the model of living out the Islamic ideal—practiced it, it is more reasonable to understand Islam as a violent warrior faith.

I recommend Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. It provides a sensitive yet clear understanding of Islam's teaching on Jihad and how Christians can respond to such an important topic.

References

1. Qureshi, Nabeel. Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. Kindle Edition. 15-16.
Image courtesy Day Donaldson and licensed via the Creative Commons CC-by-2.0 license.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Can You Love God Fully If You Can't Show Jesus' Divinity?



Before the advent of instant communication, separated sweethearts would communicate via handwritten letters. Receiving a note from one's beloved from across the ocean was a source of great joy and comfort and the recipient would pour over the letters, treasuring them and reading them multiple times. Many times the couple actually became more familiar with each other as their thoughts and feelings were transferred to the written word. One could see how his or her beloved thought and which matters they deemed important by their continual exchange.

The New Testament offers the Christian a similar experience as we await the return of our bridegroom, Jesus. Even though we are temporarily separated from him, we are not left without a way to draw closer to him and to know him more intimately.

In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski have given us a wonderful resource for not simply arguing for Jesus's deity with non-Trinitarians, but a way to more deeply experience who Jesus is:
It's easy to be tempted to focus our efforts on making Jesus "relevant" to today's cosmopolitan, postmodern tastes. Non-Christians are becoming increasingly guarded—if not hostile—toward traditional Christian beliefs. By emphasizing Jesus' humanity, some Christians are, indeed, bending over backward to make Christianity-and Christ himself-more "approachable" They may not deny the deity of Jesus, but in practical terms his humanity overwhelms his deity. In the end, though, a lack of appreciation of Jesus' identity as God makes him less approachable. As New Testament scholar Grant Osborne warns, some of us have lost the holy reverence and awe that we should have toward Jesus:
Christians are guilty of the syndrome "Your Jesus is too small." We have made Jesus our "big brother" and "friend" to such an extent that we have lost the sense that he is also our sovereign Lord. We must recapture capture the realization that he too is our God and worthy of worship at the deepest level."
If we are to experience a healthy relationship with God, we need to be intimately acquainted with the biblical teaching about the divine identity of Jesus. This involves more than merely knowing about, and agreeing with, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, though that is certainly essential. It must become come more to us than a line we say in a creed. We need to know what it means to say that Jesus is God and why it matters. We need to see Jesus as God. We need to think about Jesus and relate to him in the full light of the truth of his identity. We need to appreciate the significance of his divine identity for our relationships with God and others. 1
I've written before on Putting Jesus in His Place and the HANDS argument therein. This is an important book that you should pick up if you don't yet own it.

References

1. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kindle Locations 135-149). Kindle Edition.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

350 Year Old Frenchman Talks About Facebook


I love history. I love to look at ancient edifices or read about past civilizations and try to really get into the minds of those who have come before us. It can seem we're so very different from the Romans or Greeks or Egyptians. We're so much smarter today, after all look at how much our advancements have given us! Such a view is really superficial. Those people were people and their motivations were by and large the same ones we have today. Certainly, they are packaged differently, but it's striking just how much humanity doesn't change from age to age.

Take the issue of self-perception. All people are worried how others perceive them and a significant number elevate the perceptions of others over everything else. Perhaps it was whispers between friends in ages past; today, it's counting comments on Facebook. The drive is the same, though. We want people to think more of us.

As a case in point, look at the writings of Blaise Pascal. His Pensées, or Reflections, was written over 350 year ago, before his death in 1662. Yet, one line neatly sums up the very modern drive of young people fishing for Instagram likes or YouTube fame. He writes, "We are so presumptuous that we would like to be known throughout the world, even by people who shall come when we are no more. And we are so vain that the esteem of five or six people close to us pleases and satisfies us." (#152)1

Pascal even expanded on this to say how much the views of others matter more to us than our own reality. Tell me if these sounds like how so many treat their social media posts today:
We are not satisfied with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being; we want to live an imaginary life in the mind of others, and for this purpose we endeavor to make an impression. We labor constantly to embellish and preserve this imaginary being, and neglect the real one. And if we are calm, or generous, or faithful, we are eager to make it known, so as to attach these virtues to our other being. (#653)
Of course, cultivating the imaginary being online means being something other than honest; making the division more pronounced:
We would rather separate them from ourselves to unite them to the other. We would willingly be cowards to acquire the reputation for being brave. This is a great sign of our own being's nothingness, of not being satisfied with the one without the other, and of renouncing the one for the other! For whoever would not die to save his honor would be infamous. (#653)2
That sounds pretty modern, doesn't it?

We Still Abdicate Our Need for Right-Thinking

Pascal was very aware of the human condition. He knew that while people worried about how other perceives them, such worries are vanity. They don't mean a lot. More important is for one to think well. A strong thinker will examine him or herself as well as the ideas with which he comes in contact:
Man is obviously made to think. It is his whole dignity and his whole merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now, the order of thought is to begin with self, and with its Author and its end.

Now, of what does the world think? Never of this, but of dancing, playing the lute, singing, making verses, running at the ring, etc., fighting, making oneself king, without thinking what it is to be a king and what to be a man. (#513)3

… Just as we corrupt our minds, we corrupt our feelings also.

…Our minds and feelings are improved by conversation; our minds and feelings are corrupted by conversation. Thus good or bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-important to know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt them. But we cannot make this choice if we have not already improved and not corrupted them. Thus a circle is formed, and they are fortunate who escape it. (#659)4
I use social media a lot and I think its great in its place. However, I also try to set aside a certain amount of time every day to be off social media and read or engage others with ideas that will stimulate me to think better. I want to grow better personally, and I'm really not that interested in posting how well I'm doing so others may see. That doesn't mean there's no place for social media. If you're using GoodReads or something similar to spur conversation with others or hold one another accountable for your book reading, that's a great thing. But I hope you would be encouraged to be a little bit intentional in mental self-improvement, as intentional as you may be in the pictures and posts you share.

Proper thinking starts not with how others think of you but an honest self-examination. If you can identify your own biases and predispositions you are in much better shape to understand others' points of view. You can see things like sources are not necessarily less credible simply because they lived centuries or even a couple of millennia before us. You will be more open to an honest exchange of ideas. You won't be as susceptible to being led by feelings that can be manipulated and false.

References

1. Pascal, Blaise, and Roger Ariew. Pensées. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2005. Print.
2. Pascal, 2005. 199.
3. Pascal, 2005. 162.
4. Pascal, 2005. 200.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Just What is This Evil We Object to, Anyway?



What is evil? Why would God create evil in the world at all? I've engaged in conversation on this issue many times and I've found that a lot of confusion exists on even what we mean when we say something is evil. There's a clip at the end of Time Bandits where the Supreme Being has cooked the personified Evil to a crisp. He says of the charred remains, "Do be careful! Don't lose any of that stuff, that's concentrated evil!"

That's how a lot of people think of evil—as a thing in itself that stands in contrast to good. The Yin and Yang symbol represents such a view, showing how good and evil are necessary for each other's' existence.

However, this view is incorrect as the church father Augustine has argued:
All of nature, therefore, is good, since the Creator of all nature is supremely good. But nature is not supremely and immutably good as is the Creator of it. Thus the good in created things can be diminished and augmented. For good to be diminished is evil; still, however much it is diminished, something must remain of its original nature as long as it exists at all. For no matter what kind or however insignificant a thing may be, the good which is its "nature" cannot be destroyed without the thing itself being destroyed. There is good reason, therefore, to praise an uncorrupted thing, and if it were indeed an incorruptible thing which could not be destroyed, it would doubtless be all the more worthy of praise. When, however, a thing is corrupted, its corruption is an evil because it is, by just so much, a privation of the good. Where there is no privation of the good, there is no evil. Where there is evil, there is a corresponding diminution of the good. As long, then, as a thing is being corrupted, there is good in it of which it is being deprived; and in this process, if something of its being remains that cannot be further corrupted, this will then be an incorruptible entity [natura incorruptibilis], and to this great good it will have come through the process of corruption. But even if the corruption is not arrested, it still does not cease having some good of which it cannot be further deprived. If, however, the corruption comes to be total and entire, there is no good left either, because it is no longer an entity at all. Wherefore corruption cannot consume the good without also consuming the thing itself. Every actual entity [natura] is therefore good; a greater good if it cannot be corrupted, a lesser good if it can be. Yet only the foolish and unknowing can deny that it is still good even when corrupted. Whenever a thing is consumed by corruption, not even the corruption remains, for it is nothing in itself, having no subsistent being in which to exist.1
Augustine points out that if God created everything, everything would be good. However, created things aren't good necessarily like God is so they can be corrupted. It is this corruption or deviation from their original created purpose that we call evil. Just like the cold is the absence of heat, darkness is the absence of light, and a vacuum is the absence of matter, evil is the absence of good. By understanding what evil is, it gets us a step closer to understanding why God would allow evil in the world at all.

References

1. Augustine of Hippo. "Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love (Enchiridion)." Translated by Albert C. Outler. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Calvin College Computer Science, 1 June 2005. Web. 07 Jan. 2016. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/enchiridion.chapter4.html.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Science Cannot Ignore Where Consciousness Comes From



"The physiologist studies the development of the first cell of each new human baby into a full-grown adult. The evolutionary biologist studies the forces which have formed the genetic structure of such a first cell. But relatively seldom do either of these scientists point out that their descriptions and explanations cover only the evolution of the physical characteristics of man, and that they give no account of the evolution of the most important characteristics of man-the characteristics of his conscious life, his feelings and desires, hopes and beliefs, those characteristics in virtue of his possession of which we treat men, and think that we ought to treat men, as totally different from machines. Most philosophers of the past four centuries have been well aware of the difference between the conscious life of a man and goings-on in his body. but their views have relatively seldom made any significant difference to the writing and teaching of biologists and physiologists.

"Scientists have tended to regard the life of conscious experience as peripheral, not central to understanding man. But there is so much and so rich human experience, and experience which is apparently continuous and is causally efficacious that this attitude will not do. His life of experience has to be taken seriously if we are to understand man."
—Richard Swineburne The Evolution of the Soul.Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007.3.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Culture Has Created A Selfish Kind Of Rebel



It's no secret that Western societies is pulling away from their Christian roots. How did modern culture get to this point and what does it mean? In this short clip, Lenny reviews how the culture shifted as we became more successful and how authors like G.K. Chesterton predicted the meaninglessness that would result.




Image courtesy Dave Winer and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Who is God? Infinite, Personal, Transcendent



In his masterful book The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, James Sire begins by explaining Christian theism, and there he starts with the basic attributes of God. As Sire notes, it used to be that everyone knew what the concept of God was within the western world, but that cannot be taken as true any more. People think they know what the concept of the Christian God entails, but they either misunderstand or leave out key characteristics. In the passage below, Sire offers a definition of the God of the Bible and then unpacks it:
Prime reality is the infinite, personal God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This God is triune, transcendent and immanent, omniscient, sovereign, and good.

Let's break this proposition down into its parts.

God is infinite. This means that he is beyond scope, beyond measure, as far as we are concerned. No other being in the universe can challenge him in his nature. All else is secondary. He has no twin but is alone the be-all and end-all of existence. He is, in fact, the only self-existent being," as he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush: "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex 3:14). He is in a way that none else is. As Moses proclaimed, "Hear, 0 Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut 6:4 KJV). SO God is the one prime existent, the one prime reality and, as will be discussed at some length later, the one source of all other reality.

God is personal. This means God is not mere force or energy or existent "substance." God is personal. Personality requires two basic characteristics: self-reflection and self-determination. In other words, God is personal in that he knows himself to be (he is self-conscious) and he possesses the characteristics of self-determination (he "thinks" and "acts").

One implication of the personality of God is that he is like us. In a way, this puts the cart before the horse. Actually, we are like him, but it is helpful to put it the other way around at least for a brief comment. He is like us. That means there is Someone ultimate who is there to ground our highest aspirations, our most precious possession-personality. But more on this under proposition 3.

Another implication of the personality of God is that God is not a simple unity, an integer. He has attributes, characteristics. He is a unity, yes, but a unity of complexity.

Actually, in Christian theism (not Judaism or Islam) God is not only personal but triune. That is, "within the one essence of the Godhead we have to distinguish three 'persons' who are neither three gods on the one side, not three parts or modes of God on the other, but coequally and coeternally God." The Trinity is certainly a great mystery, and I cannot even begin to elucidate it now. What is important here is to note that the Trinity confirms the communal, "personal" nature of ultimate being. God is not only there-an actually existent being; he is personal and we can relate to him in a personal way. To know God, therefore, means knowing more than that he exists. It means knowing him as we know a brother or, better, our own father.

God is transcendent. This means God is beyond us and our world. He is otherly. Look at a stone: God is not it; God is beyond it Look at a man: God is not he; God is beyond him. Yet God is not so beyond that he bears no relation to us and our world. It is likewise true that God is immanent, and this means that he is with us. Look at a stone: God is present. Look at a person: God is present. Is this, then, a contradiction? Is theism nonsense at this point? I think not.

My daughter Carol, when she was five years old, taught me a lot here. She and her mother were in the kitchen, and her mother was teaching her about God's being everywhere. So Carol asked, "Is God in the living room?"

"Yes," her mother replied.

"Is he in the kitchen?"

God's goodness means then, first, that there is an absolute and personal standard of righteousness (it is found in God's character) and, second, that there is hope for humanity (because God is love and will not abandon his creation). These twin observations will become especially significant as we trace the results of rejecting the theistic worldview.1
One point that Sire makes in his summation at the top that he didn't draw out beneath is that God is the prime reality of all things. So many people today make the mistake of including God within some larger reality of existence. That's what fosters questions like "If God is the answer to 'who made the universe' then who made God?" That's a category error. God is the starting point. Without God, existence doesn't even make sense.

I highly recommend Sire's book. It's a great way to understand how worldviews affect not only how one views God, but how it changes the way one interprets all of reality.

References

Sire, James W. The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1997. Print. 28-30.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

B.B. Warfield on Why Churches Need Apologetics



B.B. Warfield was one of the great theologians of the early 20th century. His writings are influential with many pastors even to this day. When Warfield was asked to write an introduction to a book of apologetics by Francis R. Beattie, he didn't take the standard route of providing a mini-book review. Instead, Warfield chose to answer a viewpoint within the church that had been growing in popularity, which is the idea that apologetics is an eccentric field of study, which is of little use to most Christians. Such a view was held by Warfield's peer Abraham Kuyper, as reflected in his Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology.

I offer this snippet from Warfield's introduction because it reflects the mindset of many churches even today. Though Christians are bearing the burden of greater and greater assaults against their beliefs and their worldview, a majority of church leaders are reticent to provide their congregation with any type of apologetics training. Warfield's words are a good reminder as to just how important apologetics is to the task of evangelism.
The fact is, despite the richness of our apologetical literature, Apologetics has been treated very much like a stepchild in the theological household. The encyclopaedists have seemed scarcely to know what to do with it. They have with difficulty been persuaded to allow it a place among the theological disciplines at all. And, when forced to recognize it, they have been very prone to thrust it away into some odd corner, where it could hide its diminished head behind the skirts of some of its more esteemed sisters.

This widespread misprision of Apologetics has been greatly fostered by the influence of two opposite (if they be indeed opposite) tendencies of thought, which have very deeply affected the thinking even of theologians who are in principle antagonistic to them. I mean Rationalism and Mysticism. To Rationalism, of course, Apologetics is an inanity; to Mysticism, an impertinence. Wherever, therefore, rationalistic presuppositions have intruded, there proportionately the validity of Apologetics has been questioned. Wherever mystical sentiment has seeped in, there the utility of Apologetics has been more or less distrusted.



It is easy, of course, to say that a Christian man must take his standpoint not above the Scriptures, but in the Scriptures. He very certainly must. But surely he must first have Scriptures, authenticated to him as such, before he can take his standpoint in them. It is equally easy to say that Christianity is attained, not by demonstrations, but by a new birth. Nothing could be more true. But neither could anything be more unjustified than the inferences that are drawn from this truth for the discrediting of Apologetics. It certainly is not in the power of all the demonstrations in the world to make a Christian. Paul may plant and Apollos water; it is God alone who gives the increase. But it does not seem to follow that Paul would as well, therefore, not plant, and Apollos as well not water. Faith is the gift of God; but it does not in the least follow that the faith that God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without grounds in right reason. It is beyond all question only the prepared heart that can fitly respond to the "reasons"; but how can even a prepared heart respond, when there are no "reasons" to draw out its action? One might as well say that photography is independent of light, because no light can make an impression unless the plate is prepared to receive it. The Holy Spirit does not work a blind, an ungrounded faith in the heart. What is supplied by his creative energy in working faith is not a ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented; but just a new ability of the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the understanding. We believe in Christ because it is rational to believe in him, not though it be irrational. Accordingly, our Reformed fathers always posited in the production of faith the presence of the "argumentum propter quod credo," as well as the "principium seu causa efficiens a quo ad credendum adducor." That is to say, for the birth of faith in the soul, it is just as essential that grounds of faith should be present to the mind as that the Giver of faith should act creatively upon the heart.1

References

1. Edgar, William; K. Scott Oliphint. Christian Apologetics Past and Present (Volume 2, From 1500): A Primary Source Reader. Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2011. Kindle Edition.395, 398-99.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Atheism and the Illogic of Rejecting All Possible Gods




In one of my previous articles, I posted an anecdote Ken Samples recounts in his book A World of Difference. There, Ken engages with an atheist who agrees that the atheist position is "no god or gods are real" or that "no god or gods actually exist." That led Ken to ask, "doesn't the atheist, for his claim to be real, have to know all about reality and existence to rightly exclude any and every god. For example, to claim with any validity that there are no entities of a particular type (gods) in a given circle or set (reality), doesn't a person need a complete, comprehensive knowledge of that circle or set (reality)?"

The implication is that the claims of this kind of atheism are very grand indeed. However, not even all Christians are convinced of this line of argumentation. There were several comments left on the original post that you can read here and most were from atheists. Yet, one comment I received from a Christian, Daniel Wynn, told how he believed Samples overreached on this issue. He writes:
I like Ken Samples, but I have to disagree with him here. He says, In other words, as a point of logic, "doesn't the atheist, for his claim to be real, have to know all about reality and existence to rightly exclude any and every god?"

I don't think this is the case. If the atheist wanted to prove beyond doubt his belief was true he would have to do this, but since his belief is that no god or gods exist, he need only think what he sees as the lack of evidence or reasons are sufficient to warrant his beliefs. If he were to then claim no such evidence or reasons exist, he would then take on the burden Samples claims.

It would be similar to saying that as Christian theists we would have to know all of reality to show that none of the competing god ideas in the world are true. I don't think so. I think if we have warrant for belief in YHWH, then we can rest in the logical entailment that competing worldviews are false. Evidence for our view is by default evidence against the competing views.
That's a thoughtful objection worthy of consideration. I asked Ken to respond to Daniel's objection. Here is his reply:
Some thoughtful Christians have disagreed with the point of my argument (which was drawn from a real story but was used primarily to provoke thought as the logic chapter begins in chapter 3 of my book A World of Difference).

Here' why I think my point stands up logically:

In the categorical proposition E (Universal Negative): "No S are P." both the subject term (S) and the predicate term (P) are distributed. A term is said to be distributed if the statement or proposition "makes an assertion about every member of the class denoted by the term." (Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, 11th ed., p. 202.)

In the E proposition both the subject term and the predicate term are both distributed—meaning that both terms make a claim about all members of a class.

So logically [No S are P.] can be translated in terms of distribution to mean in non-standard form "All of S are excluded from All of P."

Let's now plug in the statement taken from my story in chapter 3.

No S are P. = No Gods are real.

It means All of S (Gods) are excluded from All of P (reality). So if atheism is correctly defined in the proposition [No Gods are Real.], then the atheist claim is making a logical claim about all members of a class—reality. So, all Gods are excluded from all reality. Thus I think the designated definition of atheism is making a necessary claim about all reality that it cannot justify. Thus as I write in the story: "To claim with any validity that there are no entities of a particular type (gods) in a given circle or set (reality), doesn't a person need a complete, comprehensive knowledge of that circle or set (reality)?"

If my logical analysis is correct, I think it is epistemologically significant that the rules of logic indicate the atheist proposition to be unjustified.

The alternative propositional affirmation "No Gods are existent." also for the same reasons makes a logical claim about all existence.

As to the stated objection, the point of the story is not whether an individual atheist thinks he or she is personally warranted in disbelieving in God because of an apparent lack of evidence, but whether the knowledge claim of atheism itself as defined above is logically justified. Moreover, my personal experience is that many atheists are comfortable affirming a strong claim that No Gods are real. But if the atheist affirms a weaker claim of mere epistemological warrant, then why not ask if the atheist is in the best position to make judgments about reality and existence as a whole. So in an apologetics discussion you could consider critiquing the stronger atheist claim and then transition if necessary to the more modest atheist claim.

Regarding knowing all gods are false but Yahweh (the Triune God of Christianity), my thought is that it seems there is a difference between how the Christian theist's knowledge claim is justified as opposed to the atheist. Namely the Christian appeals to revelation from a transcendent God whereas in some sense the atheist relies on his own limited investigation. Yet I can also attempt to show that other concepts of God appear to be incoherent. However, that's just a quick thought.

But as I said, I know some Christian thinkers disagree with my argument. There may be no universal way of knocking down all atheist claims. But in terms of a story in a book taken from real life that is intended to make a student think, maybe I have succeeded quite well.

In closing let me say that I appreciate Come Reason Ministries very much.
I liked this quote because it shows that the claims we make about the nature of reality must be based on proper warrant. I see God as the best explanation of all the evidence we have as to why the universe exists and why it is the way it is. To me, Ken's approach removes some of the dogmatism of atheism, and when those presuppositions are removed, a more thoughtful examination of the evidence can take place. It opens conversations.

I extend a big than you to Ken Samples for taking the time to offer his response. If you don't yet own A World of Difference, you can get that book here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Answering Questions as God's Herald



Most people think of apologetics as either an intellectual exercise or a way to try and convince unbelievers of the Christian faith. Neither of those views is accurate. Ministry-minded apologetics serves many functions: it powers our evangelism, it strengthens our own faith, and it is relevant to understanding the changes in today's culture.

Joe Gorra offers another aspect of how apologetics, specifically the ministry of answering questions from both believers and nonbelievers, is ministerial: we become heralds of God's word. In A Reasonable Response, Joe offers five reasons for having a ministry that is engaged in answering questions. It is his fifth point that is especially poignant. He writes:
When answering people's questions, not only must we "go beyond" what is in the foreground and help people discover a background, but we must also help direct people's attention to how God is at work in their lives and in the lives around them. We announce how the kingdom of God is near to them. We invite them to acknowledge this, not because we are trying to "close a deal" between them and God (for He's really good at completing good work that He's started), but because we owe it to our fellow human beings to let them in on the "divine conspiracy." This is not a call to be loud and noisy with our answers, or to be "triumphalist" in our answers, but to find meaningful ways to declare, herald-yes, verily, and truly, preach-in order to bring attention to what is in their midst! After all, doctors, meteorologists, and pundits of society and the "good life" do this all the time; they bring knowledge (hopefully!) to bear on our life.

If we are sincerely interested in offering answers, we must not shrink from the opportunity of helping others notice how the gospel of the kingdom of God, indeed, Jesus Christ Himself, is near to us by the ministry and presence of the Spirit, and can be found whenever He is sincerely sought. To draw attention to Jesus' authority, presence, ministry, words, deeds, knowledge, wisdom, mission, and even His very questions and answers is to herald Him. How sad it would be if we answered people's questions but did not seek to help them pay attention to the living and risen Christ who is here, and not far off. How incomplete it would be to grant them wisdom to their questions but not invite them to be encountered by the Fount of all wisdom and understanding. In short, we might understand heralding as calling people to be confronted by the significance of the moral and spiritual authority of God for their life.[1]
I think Joe has put his finger on something that is both insightful and instructive. If we are approaching apologetics correctly, others should see God more clearly. Certainly, the atheist may balk at the positions we take, but that is no different than what they did to the prophets of old or the evangelists who sought to spread God's word. We should see ourselves first and foremost as messengers who are delivering the truth of the Gospel in its fullness to both God's people and a lost world. That is the correct attitude to take. It diminishes contention, increases consideration, and offers a humble approach to a ministry that runs a risk of puffing up its ministers. That's a great approach to take.

References

1. Craig, William Lane, and Joseph E. Gorra. A Reasonable Response: Answers to Tough Questions on God, Christianity, and the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 2013. 42-43. Print.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sharing Absolute Truth with a Relativist



Postmodernists are those who deny that absolute truth exists.They believe truth is like the popular bromide of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. To them, since any absolute truths are unreachable; truth is whatever one identifies as true for them. Such an attitude poses a particularly difficult challenge for Christians who seek to argue for the absolute truths of the Christian faith. How does one convince a postmodernist of the truth claims of Christianity when truth itself isn't absolute?

In his book Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, and Spin, Os Guinness addresses the problem of apologetics and the postmodernist. He offers two tactics in his approach, the first being: "relativizing the relativizers" of those things that truly matter to them. He explains:
When I studied philosophy as an undergraduate in the 1960s, an Arctic chill was still hanging in the air that froze any serious appreciation of religion. The source had been the philosophy of logical positivism and the celebrated "verification principle" of A.J. Ayer. Only that which could be tested by the five senses could be verified as true, he said. Theology was therefore "non-sense," or as it was famously said, "The word g-o-d is less meaningful than the word d-o-g."

The trouble for A. J. Ayer was that his verification principle couldn't verify itself—it was self-refuting. For to accept as truth only what can be tested by the senses is a principle that itself cannot be tested by the senses. It too is non-sense. Ayer's approach, he later admitted, was "a blind alley." Years later I enjoyed a conversation with him on the train between London and Oxford. Although retired and knighted as Professor Sir Alfred J. Ayer, he was candid about the failure of his principle. "I wish I had been more consistent," he said. "Any iconoclast who brandishes a debunker's sword should be required to demonstrate it publicly on his own cherished beliefs." Indeed. 1

Pointing Out the Signals of Transcendence

While relativizing the relativizers undercuts the postmodernists' assumptions about their own views, Guinness admit this is primarily negates his view but doesn’t provide a positive argument for the absolute. This is why he also recommends a second approach, one called "pointing out the signals of transcendence" and offers a rather stark example:
Have you ever heard an atheist exclaim "Goddammit!" and mean it? We can all be taught not to judge; we can all be told that there are no moral absolutes. But when we come face to face with raw, naked evil, then relativism, nonjudgmentalism, and atheism count for nothing. Absolute evil calls for absolute judgment. Instinctively and intuitively, we cry out for the unconditional to condemn evil unconditionally. The atheist who lets fly "Goddammit!" in the face of evil is right, not wrong. It is a signal of transcendence, a pointer toward a better possibility—and unwittingly a prayer.


For no human being lives outside the reality common to us all. Whatever people may say the world is or who they are, it is what it is and they are who they are. Again, no argument is unarguable, but there are thoughts that can be thought but not lived. When all is said and done, reality always has the last word. The truth will always out. Standing up to falsehood, lies, and crazy ideas is never an easy task, but—as we explore next—it is far easier than the hardest task of all, becoming people of truth ourselves.2

References

1 Guinness, Os. "Time for Truth." Christian Apologetics Past and Present (Volume 2, From 1500): A Primary Source Reader. New York: Crossway, 2011. 649-650. Kindle Edition.
2 Guinness, 2011. 654.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging?


Metaphysical naturalists may be inclined to suggest that they cannot be accused of question-begging in endorsing methodological naturalism, since this methodology is simply a logical extension of their metaphysical views. If one has good reason to believe there exist no nonnatural entities, then one can hardly be faulted for adopting a methodology which refuses to countenance nonnatural causes.

What this suggestion ignores is that metaphysical naturalists typically assert the truth of naturalism on the basis of Ockham's Razor. Very few naturalists are willing to argue that it can be demonstrated that the existence of nonnatural entities is logically impossible. Rather, they assert that there is insufficient evidence for the existence of such entities and that one should, therefore, refuse to posit them.

It seems, however, that the existence of physical events which are best explained on the hypothesis of a nonnatural cause would meet the requirements of Ockham's Razor and thus constitute evidence for a nonnatural entity. For the metaphysical naturalist to adopt a methodology which holds that it is never, even in principle, legitimate to posit a nonnatural cause for a physical event, is to guarantee that the requirements of Ockham's Razor will not be met. This begs the question of whether there exists sufficient evidence to justify belief in nonnatural entities and thus disbelief in metaphysical naturalism, since what is being proposed is a methodology that, by its refusal to countenance the legitimacy of ever postulating a nonnatural cause for a physical event, precludes any marshaling of evidence in favor of nonnatural causes.1

-Robert Larmer
Larmer, Robert A. "Is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging?" Philosophia Christi 5.1 (2003): 113. Print.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Contradiction of Preaching Morality as Cultural


One of the runaway concepts plaguing society today is the denial of moral duties and values as objective external things. Most people assume morality is fluid and right and wrong are nothing in themselves except a reflection of the likes or dislikes of a certain people at a certain point in time. Thus, while some cultures would have regarded homosexual acts wrong in their day, they were simply voicing their dislike for it while in our own time acceptance has made the act wrong no longer.

Usually people who explain away moral precepts in this manner are trying to accomplish two things: they seek to lift the restrictions that traditional moral values demands of them while demonstrating that we live in a more enlightened age, not beholden to rules that were crafted in a less progressive time. Their message is that it isn't good to stay locked in the backwards thinking of the past.

But this is exactly where their problem lies. If their view of morality as merely the outward voicing of likes or dislikes a specific culture holds is true, it destroys not only the wrongness of what we wish weren't wrong; it destroys the very idea that we must progress to a new way of thinking about morality at all.

G. K. Chesterton noted the trend well in his book Orthodoxy. He observed:
We often hear it said, for instance, "What is right in one age is wrong in another." This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at other times. If women, say, desire to be elegant, it may be that they are improved at one time by growing fatter and at another time by growing thinner. But you cannot say that they are improved by ceasing to wish to be elegant and beginning to wish to be oblong. If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil; if it were so, we could not talk of surpassing or even falling short of them. How can you overtake Jones if you walk in the other direction? You cannot discuss whether one people has succeeded more in being miserable than another succeeded in being happy. It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat.1
Chesterton is right here. The idea of assuming right and wrong change with preferences means that right and wrong don't really exist at all. One society can never be better than another, only different. That means the person who wishes to fight for the civil rights of an oppressed group isn't right in taking on that crusade, he or she isn't advancing the society in so doing, because there is no place to advance. He is only moving it sideways.

The concept of better or worse can only make sense when an outside frame of reference is used. By relativizing moral values to societal preferences, the fame of reference no longer exists. Therefore the very goal of the moral relativist is undercut, demonstrating their "new way of thinking" is simply confusion.

References

1. Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print. 63.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Odds Against a Natural Account of Life's Origin



One of the most fundamental questions human beings have asked "Where did we come from?" The Christian will respond that we are creations of God. Modern atheism, though, seeks to erase God from the picture by proposing that we came about as a result of a very lucky combination of material and the laws of science where short strands of polynucleotides—the stuff that makes up our DNA and RNA molecules—would stick together to form longer chains. The story goes that eventually, an RNA molecule would form that could self-replicate and life would begin.

Just how much luck was involved? Dr. David Berlinski discusses it here:
Was nature lucky? It depends on the payoff and the odds. The payoff is clear: an ancestral form of RNA capable of replication. Without that payoff, there is no life, and obviously, at some point, the payoff paid well. The question is the odds.

For the moment, no one knows precisely how to compute those odds, if only because within the laboratory, no one has conducted an experiment leading to a self-replicating ribozyme. But the minimum length or "sequence" that is needed for a contemporary ribozyme to undertake what the distinguished geochemist Gustaf Arrhenius calls "demonstrated ligase activity" is known. It is roughly 100 nucleotides.

Whereupon, just as one might expect, things blow up very quickly. As Arrhenius notes, there are 4100, or roughly 1060 nucleotide sequences that are 100 nucleotides in length. This is an unfathomably large number. It exceeds the number of atoms in the universe, as well as the age of the universe in seconds. If the odds in favor of self-replication are 1 in 1060, no betting man would take them, no matter how attractive the payoff, and neither presumably would nature.1
Following that description, Berlinski notes that Arrhenius seeks to escape his own dilemma by proposing that such long self-replicating sequences may not have been as rare in the primeval earth as they are today. He then answers:
Why should self-replicating RNA molecules have been common 3.6 billion years ago when they are impossible to discern under laboratory conditions today? No one, for that matter, has ever seen a ribozyme capable of any form of catalytic action that is not very specific in its sequence and thus unlike even closely related sequences. No one has ever seen a ribozyme able to undertake chemical action without a suite of enzymes in attendance. No one has ever seen anything like it.

The odds, then, are daunting; and when considered realistically, they are even worse than this already alarming account might suggest. The discovery of a single molecule with the power to initiate replication would hardly be sufficient to establish replication. What template would it replicate against? We need, in other words, at least two, causing the odds of their joint discovery to increase from 1 in 1060 to 1 in 10120. Those two sequences would have been needed in roughly the same place. And at the same time. And organized in such a way as to favor base pairing. And somehow held in place. And buffered against competing reactions. And productive enough so that their duplicates would not at once vanish in the soundless sea.

In contemplating the discovery by chance of two RNA sequences a mere forty nucleotides in length, Joyce and Orgel concluded that the requisite "library" would require 1048 possible sequences. Given the weight of RNA, they observed gloomily, the relevant sample space would exceed the mass of the Earth. And this is the same Leslie Orgel, it will be remembered, who observed that "it was almost certain that there once was an RNA world." 2
This section of Berlinski's article deals with just one step of a multi-step process that would fashion the first life. Other pieces include the advancement from self-replicating RNA to a fully working cell producing the appropriate amino acids and nucleic acids to function as well as assembling the right nucleic acids to construct the polynucleotides to begin with. And we haven't even factored in the problem of chirality.  However, looking at Berlinski's numbers alone, it seems clear that a reasonable person would not assume life came about by dumb luck.

References

1. Berlinski, David. "On the Origin of Life." The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science. By Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski. Wilmington: ISI, 2011. 286. Print.
2. Berlinski, 2011. 286-287.
Image courtesy Toni Lozano [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Os Guinness Says "We Are All Apologists Now"

I recently received an advanced copy of Os Guinness' forthcoming book Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. While I haven't yet read the whole thing, Guinness is a solid scholar and a stalwart author who takes both cultural engagement and the defense of the faith seriously.

In this contribution, Guinness doesn't offer another catalog of answers so much as he offers keen insight into the method of communication Christians need to develop in order to be heard in our increasingly noisy society. I'll review the entire book at a later date. For now, I'll leave you with the opening lines of the introduction, which should whet your appetite for more.
We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, "I post, therefore I am."

To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply. Communication through the social media in the age of email, text messages, cell phones, tweets and Skype is no longer from "the few to the many" as in the age of the book, the newspaper and television, but from "the many to the many" and all the time.

One of the effects of this level of globalization is plain. Active and inter­active communication is the order of the day. From the shortest texts and tweets to the humblest website, to the angriest blog, to the most visited social networks, the daily communications of the wired world attest that everyone is now in the business of relentless self-promotion—presenting them­selves, explaining themselves, defending themselves, selling themselves or sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history. That is why it can be said that we are in the grand secular age of apologetics.

The whole world has taken up apologetics without ever using or knowing the idea as Christians understand it. We are all apologists now, if only on behalf of "the Daily Me" or "the Tweeted Update" that we post for our virtual friends and our cyber community. The great goals of life, we are told, are to gain the widest possible public attention and to reach as many people in the world with our products-and always, our leading product is Us.1
I completely agree with this passage. Everyone seek self-promotion these days, sometimes in ways that are more subtle than others. People feign expertise in subjects they really know nothing about, appearing smarter than they are. The advent of the Google scholar, where people believe the first three hits from a search term are enough to make one knowledgeable about a subject has the effect of chilling conversation and therefore chilling the true accumulation of knowledge. Therefore, Christians do need to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves in their interaction with others. Fool's Talk would be a good start.

The book will be released July of 2015. You can pre-order on Amazon here.

References

1.Guinness, Os. Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity, 2015. Print.15-16.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

There Are No Blind Forces worth Speaking about in Nature



Sir Fred Hoyle was an amazing scientist, knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to theoretical astrophysics. Hoyle was not a theist, but he had grave doubts about life coming into existence on earth by itself. In his 1981 paper "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections" he laid out some of the evidence pointing to the fine-tuning of the universe and why he felt that the explanation of natural processes simply didn't work. Here are some excerpts from that paper:
The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn't so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn't give. The case of the enzymes is well known. Enzymes act as catalysts in speeding up chemical reactions that would otherwise go far too slowly, as in the breakdown, for example, of starch into sugar. If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrangements that would be useless in serving the purposes of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link, it's easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem - the information problem.

It's easy to frame a deceitful answer to it. Start with much simpler, much smaller enzymes, which are sufficiently elementary to be discoverable by chance; then let evolution in some chemical environment cause the simple enzymes to change gradually into the complex ones we have today. The deceit here comes from omitting to explain what is in the environment that causes such an evolution. The improbability of finding the appropriate orderings of amino acids is simply being concealed in the behavior of the environment if one uses that style of argument.



The potentiality of a cosmic system of life was so enormous compared to an earth-bound system that it was possible to rest content with the situation for awhile. But eventually I came to wonder if the potentiality of even a cosmic system was really big enough. In thinking about this question I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn't convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes - by what are called the blind forces of nature. The thought occurred to me one day that the human chemical industry doesn't chance on its products by throwing chemicals at random into a stewpot. To suggest to the research department at DuPont that it should proceed in such a fashion would be thought ridiculous. Wasn't it even more ridiculous to suppose that the vastly more complicated systems of biology had been obtained by throwing chemicals at random into a wildly chaotic astronomical stewpot? By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes. And given a knowledge of the appropriate ordering of amino acids, it would need only a slightly superhuman chemist to construct the enzymes with 100 percent accuracy. It would need a somewhat more superhuman scientist, again given the appropriate instructions, to assemble it himself, but not a level of scale outside our comprehension. Rather than accept the fantastically small probability of life having arisen through the blind forces of nature, it seemed better to suppose that the origin of life was a deliberate intellectual act. By "better" I mean less likely to be wrong.

… A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."1

References

1. Hoyle, Fred, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections." Engineering and Science, November, 1981. 8–12. Web. http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/527/2/Hoyle.pdf

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Danger in Abandoning Moral Principles


In their drive toward what they perceive as modern freedom, the cultural elites of today have hastened to jettison that smacks even remotely of traditional constraints upon society. While the most extreme form of such abandon is the postmodern believe that all truth is created by the individual, others simply hold that it is moral truths that, like the play-doh of their youth, can be shaped to their liking. Such abandon does not come without cost.

Os Guinness warns of one prevalent danger within the pages of his book Time for Truth. Guinness cautions that when objective truths are denied, we don’t become more civil, but less so. The New Guard that doesn't allow disagreeable views is not more free than the Old Guard; it is more savage, forcing others to kowtow to the people in power. Guinness writes:
What of those people who do not hold to traditional or biblical assumptions of truth but who care about society and their place in it? The response here might appear harder, and even in the view of some, impossible. But in fact there are two powerful arguments for the importance of a high view of truth, even for those who do not believe in it. The first of the two is negative in nature: Without truth we are all vulnerable to manipulation.

The promise of postmodernism at first sight is a brave new world of freedom. "Truth is dead; knowledge is power," the exuberant cheerleaders tell us. We must all therefore debunk the knowledge-claims confronting us and reach for the prize—freedom from the dominations constraining us. What could be simpler and more appealing?

There is only one snag. What happens when we succeed in cutting away truth-claims to expose the web of power games only to find we have less power than the players we face? If truth is dead, right and wrong are neither, and all that remains is the will to power, then the conclusion is simple: Might makes right. Logic is only a power conspiracy. Victory goes to the strong and the weak go to the wall.1
While Guinness has a fully developed postmodernism in view, I think his conclusions follow even for the more limited form of moral relativism. As Christian moral principles become more and more estranged from the popular view, we will see more people in power such as judges, bludgeon them to think correctly on issues such as homosexual marriage or abortion. To abandon our convictions on these is dangerous as we stand to lose far more than the traditional point of view, we may lose the ability to be civil at all.

References

1. Guinness, Oz. "Time for Truth – Chapters 4-5" Christian Apologetics Past and Present (Volume 2, From 1500): A Primary Source Reader. William Edgar, K. Scott Oliphint, Eds. Crossway. Kindle Edition. 641.
Image courtesy Quinn Dombrowski and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 License.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How Modern Desire for Virtue Corrupts Virtue

One of the conceits of our society is the assumption culture has become more caring and compassionate than was the case in previous eras. Those who advocate for a secular viewpoint of live and let live believe that it is the restrictions Christianity imposed upon actions that caused people to be less kind and caring and our more detached approach is better.



While I understand that many people really believe promoting things like same-sex marriages and single-mother IVF are being more kind and compassionate, the reality is such actions have serious consequences to the institution of marriage, to children, and to society as a whole. In his classic book Orthodoxy, G.K Chesterton nails the dilemma, writing:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive.1
The recent Pew Survey shows this exact trend. Young people think they can be virtuous independent of a holistic belief system. This is one place we need to begin in our apologetic to a new generation.

References

1. Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Image, 1959. Print. 26.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Are Christians Wrong to Believe in Only One Way?

Paul Copan comments on how those who quickly criticize Christians for believing they hold to the one true faith are wrong in their own assumptions. In his book True for You, But Not for Me: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith he writes:
For the relativist, it's a curious assumption that those holding to the reality of absolute truth are absolutely arrogant. There's no intrinsic contradiction between (A) holding firmly to convictions and (B) treating with love and dignity those who disagree; living harmoniously with people who hold radically different views is a hallmark of maturity. We'd all benefit from the courageous words of qualified people who display both firmness of conviction and civility (or respect)-as Paul says it, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Martin Marty (b. 1928), noted observer of religion, states that the problem of modernity is that the people "who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions, and the people who have strong convictions often lack civility."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

J.P. Moreland: Why the Church Must Overcome Its Aversion to Intellectual Development

One job of the church is to be salty to the world in which it finds itself, so if that world grows saltless, we should look first to the church herself to glean what we can about her contribution to the situation. ... A major cause of our current cultural crisis consists of a worldview shift from a Judeo-Christian understanding of reality to a post-Christian one. Moreover, this shift itself expresses a growing anti-intellectualism in the church, resulting in the marginalization of Christianity in society—its lack of saltiness, if you will—and the emergence of the most secular culture the world has ever seen. That secular culture is now simply playing out the implications of ideas that have come to be widely accepted in a social context in which the church is no longer a major participant in the war of ideas.1 In the rest of this book, then, I’ll try to demonstrate how the church must overcome the neglect of this critical area of the development of the Christian mind, perhaps the most integral component of the believers’ sanctification. The role of intellectual development is primary in evangelical Christianity, but you might not know that from a cursory look at the church today. In spite of this, if we are to have Christ formed in us (Galatians 4:19), we must realize the work of God in our minds and pay attention to what a Christlike mind might look like. As our Savior has said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). To do this, we cannot neglect the soulful development of a Christian mind.
 J. P.Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. 2nd Ed. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012. Print.
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