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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.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
It should be no secret science plays an inordinately large role on modern culture. As I've noted before, scientific advancements have allowed human beings banish diseases that were once fatal, create new materials in the lab that outrival nature, and generally control and command their world in ways that had heretofore been thought impossible. In short, the last 150 years of scientific discovery have changed everything about how humans live and interact with their world.
Because of these great successes, societal attitudes toward science have become distorted. People place science on a pedestal, believing that if a claim is scientific, it will be unbiased and more reliable than other forms of knowledge. Science and faith are seen as foes and atheists will challenge Christians, claiming scientific facts are incrementally undermining Christian beliefs.
In reality the war between Christianity and science is a myth and the recently released Dictionary of Christianity and Science goes a long way toward helping to dispel that myth as the fraud it is. General Editors Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss have assembled a strong collection of writings covering a wide range of topics in what would more properly be understood as a cyclopedic volume instead of a dictionary. With over 140 top scholars writing on over 450 topics, the Dictionary serves as an excellent starting point to research various topics that most Christians will face when researching or discussing these issues.
Given the breadth of the subject matter, the articles could have all been relegated to short introductory overviews and a list of additional resources at the end of each entry. But the editors wisely chose to have three different types of articles appear in the Dictionary. For the less controversial and more agreed upon topics (such as key historical figures in science or specific terms like emrpicism), an introductory article is all that's warranted. But for other entries they chose to include longer articles labeled essays that give more background, competing views, and the evidence they rely upon. The entry on "The Genesis Flood and Geology" is an example of one such essay.
Finally, there are the multiple-view discussions where different scholars who take up contrary positions are each allowed an extended article within the same entry. For example, of one were to look up the state of creationism, the user would be greeted with an introductory article on the concept of creation, an article entitled "Creation, Intelligent Design and the Courts," and four essays on creationism: one critical and one supportive of old-earth creationism and one critical and one supportive of young-earth creationism.
I'm really impressed with the level of scholarship and the wide range of topics that have been compiled in the volume. The editors included key figures like Thomas Kuhn and philosophical concepts like Inference to the Best Explanation that are not well-known outside the study of the philosophy of science. Further, articles on people like Galileo Galilei seek to strip the legendary tales of his scientific advancement and show why it would be incorrect to see his conflict with the College of Cardinals as a case of science versus religion.
There are a few drawbacks to the book. First, there is no table of contents or topical index. I suspect that is because it is marketed as a dictionary and as such will have its entries placed in alphabetical order. However, if someone looks up the aforementioned creation entry, he would be missing several other articles that focus on the topic, with multiple-view entries on the flood and on the Genesis account in the F and G areas respectively. One would then have to turn to the I section in order to read the Intelligent Design entry. And if someone doesn't know who Thomas Kuhn is and why his work is so important, it may be easy to miss this entry.
Secondly, while it cannot be avoided, the book is a product of this particular time. The articles that have the most information are those that are the most debated right now. In ten years, this volume will suffer from its age as some debates will change, others may be settled, and new discoveries will make several of the entries obsolete. I would hope an accompanying online site would be able to provide some kind of resource direction until the inevitable updated volume will be released. But these are just quibbles in an otherwise excellent product.
I think every Christian family should have a copy of the Dictionary of Christianity and Science. Anyone who has sought to understand controversial issues on science and faith by searching on Google or looking up the topic on Wikipedia knows that getting solid information from top scholars is challenging to say the least. I've noted myself that any old fool with a modem and an opinion can post online or edit a Wikipedia entry. The Dictionary of Christianity and Science gives the Christian a strong place to start in his or her understanding of how their faith does not contradict modern scientific advancement as well as to get a deeper understanding of what science actually is and where the state of the debates lie.
Monday, December 29, 2014
As many have noted, we live in an age of distraction. Our world is a noisy one, with video screens and always-connected capabilities robbing us of any time alone with our thoughts. We have become more and more dependent on such distractions, as one study found "Ninety five percent of American adults reported that they did at least one leisure activity in the past 24 hours, such as watching television, socializing, or reading for pleasure, but 83% reported they spent no time whatsoever 'relaxing or thinking.'" 1 So it's no wonder that the researchers found that most people found sitting in a chair and thinking for ten to fifteen minutes was not an enjoyable experience and a significant number chose to administer small, painful electric shocks to themselves rather than simply think about something. 2,3
Deep Thinking Versus Distracted ThinkingYou may jump to the conclusion that it's the younger generations that are more incapable of uninterrupted thinking, but in "Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind", Timothy Wilson and his co-authors found that the age of the participant (ranging from 18 to 77) or whether they performed the test at home or in a lab setting made no difference. The only real difference in helping people "gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits."4
I agree that deeply thinking about a particular problem or issue is a lost skill and one that every believer should seek to cultivate. The Psalms are replete with commands for us to meditate on the Scriptures and the works of God5 to help us better understand Him and our place in the world. Therefore, I want to offer some tips on ways you can practice thinking about an issue more deeply. These are just ways I try to approach certain problems I mull over as I work through them.
1. Ensure You're Exposed to Rich IdeasThe first step in thinking well requires you to get in the habit of taking in ideas that you may not have previously been exposed to. The best way to do this is to develop a habit of reading. You don't have to read for huge chunks of time, but simply read regularly. Plan in getting ready for bed and spend the last 30 minutes every evening reading. This will help you wind down from the day and it will also improve your sleep. You should read actively, with a pencil in hand and marking up your books. If you disagree with the author, write it in the margin. If you think a point is confusing, note that too. You don't have to look up a word or reference at this point, just read. Choose some classic works of fiction and choose some non-fiction. Mix it up. You'll find that there are many different ways people approach certain issues. All of this helps you to think about ideas in different contexts.
2. Mull over the ideas to which you've been exposed.Next, pick a particularly intriguing or difficult idea and start thinking through it. You should do this at a different time than your reading. Morning is always good. In my devotional time, I try to meditate on a different aspect of God's character each morning. I've taken a list of the different names of God and use it to contemplate that aspect of his character. I really try to think about what it means for God to be the Lord Our Banner. What aspects of God does such a title reflect? How do those aspect impact me in my walk? This is my very first action in my morning prayer time.
With other ideas, I usually try to find a time where I will have limited distractions to think over an issue. The key is to focus on one thing. How does that idea fit in with your understanding of the world? Does it have implications for other beliefs that you hold? What are three reasons to reject such an idea? Would such a concept be true under any circumstance? Can you outline an argument in your head for or against that view? Who else would be considered an expert in that topic and have you looked at what they would say? All of these questions will help you explore that topic much more deeply than simply taking the author's word for a particular point of view.
3. See how your previous ideas work with your new thoughts.Lastly, as you take in new ideas, you'll want to see how well those mesh with previous ideas you have. Are there any points of connection? Sometimes, new insight will be gained by taking two ideas that seem disparate and trying to connect them in some way. For example, I was once reading an opinion piece lamenting the fact that the candidates for the various offices in the city of Los Angeles were almost exclusively male. The pundits were decrying this as a travesty, making the point that women add a voice and an influence that men cannot replicate. I was also working on some questions about same-sex marriage and it really struck me how if each sex offers unique views that are necessary to the well-being of governance, then it should be more true that two parents of different sexes offer unique views that are necessary to the well-being of any children that are raised, which prompted this post. However, that's just one example of how new ideas can form when you think about an issue more deeply and carefully.
2. Wilson, 2014, 76.
3. Pomeroy, Ross. "Some People Prefer Electric Shocks to Thinking Quietly by Themselves" RealClearScience. RealClearScience, 13 July 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014. http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/07/some_people_prefer_electric_shocks_to_thinking_quietly_by_themselves.html.
4. Wilson, 2014. 77.
5. For examples, see Joshua 1:8, Psalm, 1:2, Psa. 4:4, Psalm 77:6, Psalm. 119:23-27, Psalm. 145:5.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
As any good investigator would, one should start an investigation into the truth with the earliest eyewitness accounts. The gospel of Mark is held by most scholars as the first of the four to be written, probably between the mid to late 50's, then Matthew and Luke were composed in the 60's, with John written last in the 90's1. So, while John was written some 50-60 years after Jesus' crucifixion, Mark closes that gap by 40 years, being composed within a couple of decades after Jesus' death. While skeptics try to make a big deal out of the gospels being written decades after the events, this is actually a boon for those who study ancient history. But many cultures who even today rely on the spoken word rather than the written word would never see this as a problem, as several scholars state.
An Insult Offers an InsightOne of the primary objections to the Gospel accounts is that the passion story was made up after the fact in order to launch the newly-formed Christian religion. Joe L. Watts, for example, believes that the Gospel writers "'creatively' expanded the original story of Jesus to speak to their current social problems."2 However, as good investigators there are ways we can study the text to see if there are any clues that lead us to such a conclusion.
One such clue is found in the taunts that Mark said were thrown at Jesus while He hung on the cross. In Mark 15:27-32 we read:
And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
Here, we have a supposed eyewitness account of the events around Jesus' crucifixion. The mocking particularly is significant. While John's account doesn't mention it, both Matthew and Luke record the mocking of the chief priests and scribes. But only Mark's gospel includes that passersby said a very specific thing to him: "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" Why is that significant? It is simply because nowhere in the gospel of Mark does Jesus ever claim that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it. That story isn't found until John's gospel is written some forty years later!
Corroborating TestimonyIf Mark wasn't reporting eyewitness testimony, if he was inventing or expanding the story of Jesus' crucifixion, then why would he include this taunt, but provide no explanation for it and no back story? Someone creating a fictional account wouldn't make such a boast come out of the mouth of Jesus, because by itself it looks as if Jesus failed at that claim. The temple wasn't destroyed at all. Only some 60 years later, in John chapter 2 do we understand what Jesus meant by his prediction. "But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken." So, John makes it clear that the prediction Jesus offered was referencing His resurrection, not the destruction of the actual temple. But how would Mark know this when John hadn't been written yet?
Some may claim that john added the passage in chapter two to help the story along. But if John were trying to solidify the crucifixion narrative of Mark, how come he leaves out the insults at the cross completely? If his goal was to buttress Mark's account, then one would assume he would include the insults in the crucifixion. But John leaves them out. Both gospel account rely on one another in order for the picture to become clear.
Police investigators are very familiar with this kind of interlocking testimony from eyewitnesses. Jim Wallace, a cold-case detective was trained in a method called "forensic statement analysis" the purpose of which is to "determine truthfulness or deception on the part of the person making the statement."3 The fact that Mark provides a trivial bit of information that fits nowhere else in his account and John provides additional information but leaves out the climax in his account argues that both accounts are eyewitness testimony and not fable, fiction, or fraud. Here's just clue that the crucifixion and resurrection happened as the gospels say it did. There are many other pieces of interlocking testimony throughout all four gospels, but this example should suffice to get our investigation pointing in the right direction.
For more on this, please check out our featured resource available this month: "Hidden Ways the Gospels Prove Reliable."
2. Watts, Joel L. "Are the Gospels Made Up?" Web. HuffingtonPost.com 29-07-2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-l-watts/christian-gospels-truth_b_3668426.html
3. Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013). 88.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Just recently, I received a request for content that deals with the supposed war between science and religion. That topic is very wide, but it is also one I have been speaking and writing on fairly regularly. As I pulled some of these resources together, I thought that it may benefit my readers, too.
While this isn’t all of the content that may be associated with that topic, it is a good sampling across the different media. Enjoy!
Web Site Articles
- How is the Universe winding down?
- The Christian Position on Cloning
- Does the Big Bang Contradict Creation?
- Does the Expanse of Space Argue Against the Importance of Man?
- Belief in God is the motor that drove science
- Why the law of gravity cannot create the universe
- Science is founded on faith as much as religion
Series on Science versus Scientism:
Monday, September 17, 2012
1. Haley, John W.. Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1986. Preface.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
William Lane Craig has said that the study of philosophy is a key component to developing a strong apologetic.1 However, such a broad subject with so much history and interpretation can leave the student at a loss as to where to start. My next book recommendation was my first real introduction to philosophy, and it is excellent. Ed L. Miller's Questions That Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy is actually constructed as a textbook for a college level philosophy 101 course. However, Miller's inviting style, along with the various definitions highlights and reading excerpts from pivotal works in the history of philosophy make this a great way for anyone to become familiar with the major players and key concepts that the discipline has produced.
The thing I like most about the text is how even-handed Miller is on what can be very divisive issues. Miller, who holds a PhD. in philosophy from USC and a Doctorate of Theology from the University of Basel, Switzerland, is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers. One would never know where his affiliations lie, however, as he is presents each concept and it various aspects with cool, clear neutrality. The great balance between an accurate, scholarly explanation of each philosophical concept and a friendly, easy-to-understand style is clearly a remarkable achievement.
Because Questions That Matter is a textbook, it can be pricy. Amazon lists the title for nearly $100. However, it is widely used in intro to Philosophy courses, so picking up a used fourth or fifth edition will save you a lot of money. There is a Kindle version out now, too.
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Apologists are all about resources. Sourcing material, gathering good arguments and examples, and trading knowledge are ways people grow in defending their faith. So recommended books, videos, podcasts, and such are replete in apologetics circles.
I'm getting asked fairly regularly about book recommendations and resources, but rather than simply put together a top ten list of titles that also appear on other lists, I've decided to look at some of the lesser known books that have played a role in my growth as an apologist. Therefore, I've decided to start a list of Top Ten Neglected Books for Apologists. These are books that don't make most lists, but are very worthwhile.
Kicking off the list is #10 - Theory of Knowledge by Roderick M. Chisholm. Chisholm is a masterful philosopher and this is a very well written book on epistemology - basically, how we know that we know things. It is deceptively short at 99 pages, but it requires careful study and the student should plan on devoting many hours to read it slowly and master its contents. If you've ever wanted to know what ideas like what really constitutes beyond reasonable doubt or why you don't have to be certain of something to have knowledge, then this book is for you.
I believe the book is out of print, but Amazon does have links to used versions available online. Follow this link to find them.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Below are the top five topics downloaded in our 2011 releases. If you haven't yet subscribed to the podcast, you can do so via iTunes or by RSS.
Friday, January 06, 2012
- The Difference Between Soul & Spirit
- How is Man Created in God's Image?
- Do Babies Go To Heaven When They Die?
- Can You Lose Your Salvation?
- Do These Passages Show You Can Lose Your Salvation?
- Is the God of the Old Testament Different From the God of the New?
- How Do I know the Bible is REALLY from God?
- Does Hebrews 6 contradict eternal security?
- Is the King James the Only "True" Bible?
- Must Marriage be Legal to be Blessed by God?
Thursday, January 01, 2009
As you'll soon notice, most of the books on my list are nonfiction and generally deal with philosophy, Christianity, or apologetics in some way. This is merely out of necessity, given that I teach a class every month on a different subject and I simply need to do proper research on it. But don't be undaunted, as I'll try to include some "fun" titles along the way. Of course, you can always check out many different books at the Come Reason Resources page.
The Erosion of Inerrancy by G.K. Beale (Crossway, 2008) Many times evangelicals expect liberal theologians to doubt or water down the inerrancy of Scripture, but we hardly expect to engage in debate with fellow evangelicals. However, this assumption is unfounded as G.K. Beale, professor of New Testament at Wheaton Graduate School, demonstrates. The origin of the book was an article published in JETS, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, where Beale responded to Peter Enns' book Incarnation and Inspiration. Here, he more fully develops the different arguments that we run across by scholars, both liberal and evangelical who seek a more "progressive" view of Biblical Authority. Kind of technical reading, but interesting.
Heretics for Armchair Theologians by Justo Gonzalez and Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez (Westminister John Knox Press, 2008) I asked for this book for Christmas. It looked like an easy read (160 pages), and knowing that most Christian theological creeds were developed as a response to heresies creeping into the church, I thought it would be interesting the see how the Gonzalezes cover things. In fact the best way to understand just what the essential tenants of Christianity are and why we hold them is to study the controversies that the church wrestled with. I'm just into the second chapter and so far so good. This might be good starter book for those who want to jump into theology or apologetics.
Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic by Francis J. Beckwith (Brazos Press, 2008) At my last trip to the ETS/EPS meeting I saw this for sale and quickly picked it up. For those of you who don't know, Dr. Beckwith is an apologist and philosopher who was the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society until he resigned when returned to Roman Catholicism. Frank's a friend of mine (he's participated in a previous Dare to Defend conference that we put on) and careful thinker, and while I've heard him speak about some of his motivations to leave Protestantism for Roman Catholicism, so I was really interested in reading about his thoughts in more detail. So far, he's outlined much of his personal history and his understanding of what salvation is. I haven't gotten o the "juicy" parts yet, so we'll see.
Philosophia Christi (The Journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society)Volume 10, Number2 - Responding to New Resurrection Challenges The EPS always puts out a great journal and this issue is no different. With over 200 pages of articles, reviews and scholarly debate, this will keep you up to date on the latest issues pertaining to philosophy of religion. It's targeted toward the scholar, so it's definitely not an easy read, but I found the focus topic interesting. Stephen Davis, William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas all responded to arguments brought forth by Dale Allison in his book Resurrecting Jesus. Great stuff to make you think.
Understanding Intelligent Design by William Dembski and Sean McDowell (Harvest House Publishers, 2008) This book was sent to me by the publishers and I'm glad they did so. Aimed at a high school audience it lays out the basic issues within the intelligent design debate in an easy to understand format; a great general primer. Can you read this book and argue all the nuances of ID? No - of course not. But it will give you a broad outline of the arguments and places to jump off to find out more.
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