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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.

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Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Apologetics Articles of 2016



2016 continued to be a key news period, especially for matters of faith. While the culture wars provided a couple of entries, the most popular articles proved to be those that offered strong answers to basic objections to the faith, atheist claims, and ways of communicating with non-believers. Without further adieu, here are the top ten apologetics articles from 2016:

  1. Taking the Bible Literally is One Way of Abusing the Bible — 9/16/2016
  2. Another Sign It's the End of the World as We Know It, Christian — 5/4/2016
  3. Has Archaeology Proven the Gospel of John? — 2/8/2016
  4. Five Reasons Why God's Hiddenness is a Good Thing — 7/20/2016
  5. Jesus Ate with Criminals; Why Wouldn't He Bake a Cake for a Gay Person? — 4/18/2016
  6. When Does Cultural Insanity Hit the Breaking Point? — 5/31/2016
  7. What's the One Question No Christian Can Answer? — 5/23/2016
  8. Atheists Admit Their Disbelief Linked to Emotional Discomfort — 3/21/2016
  9. History is a Problem for Those Who Doubt Jesus Was Real — 2/9/2016
  10. Why Doesn't God Prove He Exists? Because It Wouldn't Help Disbelief — 2/29/2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

What's the One Question No Christian Can Answer?



Remember that cliffhanger on Friends where Rachel sees Joey on one knee with a ring in his hand and tells him she would marry him? As fans of the show would know, the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. Joey bent down to pick up an engagement ring that had fallen out of Ross's jacket. Even though Joey never actually asked her to marry him, it was because Rachel had it in her mind that she was going to be alone that she reacted so quickly to his posture.

Sitcoms have made a trope out of friends misunderstanding one another. The seventies sitcom Three's Company seemed to drive almost every episode on some kind of farcical misunderstanding. However, in the real world misunderstandings are usually not so funny nor so easily resolved. Yet, we live in an age where in-person conversations have given way to digital exchanges and misunderstanding someone else is easier than ever.

Real conversations between people allow the participants to see each other's body language, facial expressions, and their level of attentiveness. Their voice inflection, cadence, and speed help our understanding of the words they use and what they mean. But all of that is lost in the digital world of texts and social media comments.

How does this affect me and my witness?

Perhaps you've followed me to this point and are currently thinking, "Well, yeah. Everyone has had an experience when our text or comment was received differently than intended. But what's your point?" My point is simple, as Christians who engage with others both in person and on social media, we must be extra diligent to make sure we really understand the other person before we comment in any way.

Unfortunately, I see the opposite over and over again, especially on boards that focus on defending the faith. One particularly grievous pattern that I've observed is people commenting on the title of an article that has been shared or posted without actually bothering to read the article itself. Just like the distracted Rachel who's a bit wrapped up in her own needs, these folks are responding to something that many times hasn't been said. Yet we complain whenever an atheist or news report provides a caricature of a Christian position, many times without ever asking a Christian what it is he or she believes.

This can happen in face to face conversations when you're too busy thinking about what your next "killer comeback" is going to be instead of really listening to the other person. But I've shown that taking a vested interest in the other person and their beliefs can radically change the nature and direction of the conversation. Online, it happens even more frequently, and results in driving people apart more than helping them see the truth of the Gospel.

Did you answer this article's title before you got here?

Even in my own writings, I often title my articles in the form of a question (just as this one is). When I post them on Facebook, I receive several responses. The people don't interact with the article and its ideas, but they simply answer the question in the article's title! Sometimes they even get the topic the question raises wrong. This should never happen.

Christians need to care enough about those with whom we interact to find out what it is they're saying before we rush headlong into our "silver bullet" answer. We cannot allow ourselves to create straw men.  When the issues are important, proper communication and understanding become even more crucial. Don't rely on second hand accounts of what you think an expert said, read the expert yourself. You may be surprised to find a more nuanced view than you were lead to believe. Don't snap to a judgement on a post because the first sentence sounds like a common view. It may or may not be. Ask the author some questions and see if you can understand what is behind the comment. By asking questions, you may even be able to show the inconsistency of the other person's view.

What's the one question no Christian can answer? It the one they never bothered to hear in the first place.

Image courtesy Lourdes S. (Day 14: I Don't Know ANY of This!) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Quick Answers to the Charge of Bible Contradictions



When I speak with skeptics, many of them claim the Bible cannot be trusted because of all the contradictions within it. I usually ask for specific examples at this point, understanding that the objector may have some specific text in mind. (Don't bluff on this! Here's why.) However, when they offer examples, these usually are shown to not be contradictory upon examination.

Below are two short videos where I discuss how most charges of contradictions are simply the objector applying an unreasonable standard on the text. We can break these down into three categories: skeptics either expect robot reporting, snub style to force meaning, or demand "my way or the highway." The second video shows how I treat one specific objection often lobbed against the resurrection accounts: the differences the Gospels record when describing the number of women who visited Jesus's tomb on Sunday morning. Enjoy.

Does The Bible Have Contradictory Claims In It?


Is The Number Of Women At The Empty Tomb A Contradiction?

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.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Top Five Apologetics Podcast Topics



The Come Reason Podcast has 470 episodes that boast a total of over 250,000 downloads since its inception. We've covered a range of subject in 2015, but issues central to apologetics have taken the top slots. Witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists, Mormons, the reliability of the Bible and the fact of the resurrection proved to be the most popular topics and I m glad to see they still draw a wide range of listeners. Here they are in reverse order. I hope you enjoy them.

  1. Answering Objections to the Resurrection
  2. How to Talk with Mormons
  3. Darwinism's Fatal Flaw
  4. Archaeology and the Bible
  5. Witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Top Five Apologetics Videos



The Come Reason YouTube Channel continues to grow in viewership and content. Recent news items, such as the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision are part of the reason why our number one video in 2015 focuses on Same-sex unions. Others, such as the Scientology series, were a surprise. Below you can watch any or all of the top five videos of 2015.

  1. Why Did the Culture Shift on Same-Sex Marriage?

  2. Two Questions on Same Sex Marriage

  3. The Evil of Scientology (Part 2)

  4. The Evil of Scientology (Part 1)

  5. Witnessing Tips: Identifying Logical Fallacies

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Top Ten Apologetics Blog Posts



2015 has been an incredible year for articles and issues requiring Christians to think. From the Planned Parenthood video exposé to atheist memes to natural disasters, there were plenty of questions that needed answering and topics to discuss.

Below are the top ten most popular posts for 2015 from Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. As I began to publish daily, there was a five-fold increase in readership. Some of the articles are specific to news events of 2015, others are general questions about the Bible. All will hopefully help you in your pursuit of truth.

With no further adieu, here are the top ten apologetic posts of 2015, from #10 down to #1.

  1. How Would Stephen Fry Answer His Own Challenge to God?
  2. Planned Parenthood is Selling Body Parts. Here's What You Can Do
  3. Why Would a Loving God Allow the Earthquake in Nepal?
  4. Secularism isn't a Neutral Position
  5. Why Would God Command Women to Marry Their Rapists?
  6. Six Errors Jesus Mythicists Repeatedly Make
  7. Responding to Atheist Critiques of Christian Hypocrisy
  8. No, Christmas Is Not Based on a Pagan Holiday
  9. What Were the Crusades? Busting Some Myths
  10. How to Quickly Debunk the Horus-Jesus Myth

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for November 2015


November proved that sometimes practical posts make a big splash. The top posts of the month include answering a popular meme that's been circulating around the Internet, looking into the claims of biblical inspiration by the New Testament authors, and how to better communicate your viewpoint by offering analogies in your witnessing efforts.

Here then are the top five blog posts for November.
  1. Three Intractable Problems for Atheism
  2. Why Would God Command Women to Marry Their Rapists?
  3. Are Atheist Countries Really More Moral?
  4. Did the New Testament Authors Know They Were Writing Scripture?
  5. Here's a Tip: Use Analogies Cut to the Heart of Controversies


Saturday, October 03, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for September 2015



September's most popular topics blog posts took a bit of a turn with a late entry based on a New York Times article of all things! There, we read that more and more people are Googling for answers about the questions or doubts they have about God; it's a tacit admission for the need for blogs such as this one.

Other popular pieces include how nicely the Gospels fit into ancient biography, a refutation that a false religious belief is a by-product of evolution, and a video clip asking a provocative question. Without further adieu, here are the top five apologetics posts for September.
  1. The Search for God is Growing—Online
  2. Gospel Variations and Ancient Biography
  3. Strengthening the Immune System for the Christian Faith
  4. Why Claiming Religion is False Undercuts Darwinism.
  5. Who Counts as a Christian? (video)

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for August


August was another month of growth for the blog. We saw more visitors than ever as people looked to build their faith. Interestingly, this is the first month where two featured videos made the top five posts, both focusing on some of the evidence archaeology provides the Old Testament.

Beyond those, we saw how an atheist's misunderstanding of what counts for evidence gave me a chance to explore the concept of inference to the best explanation as logically valid support for God's existence, how the problem of suffering doesn't prove atheism, and how Christianity relates to Judaism. Here are the top five apologetics blog posts for August.

Friday, July 31, 2015

How Should Christians Engage Others Online?


I went to a wedding recently, where the DJ had all the married couples come to the dance floor. He then would ask couples to leave based on how long they had been married. Ultimately, he got down to the very last couple, a man and a woman who had been married 60 years!

After a round of applause, the DJ walked up to the man with his microphone and asked him "what is your secret to staying married for 60 years."

The man then clearly revealed his secret: He didn't say a word and signaled that his wife should answer.

A smart man knows how to avoid an argument. But you will never be able to avoid arguments in this life. I'm not talking about the shouting matches that end up in people hurting each other's feelings. Those can and should be avoided. I mean arguments like those where both sides provide reasons in a discussion to support their specific positions.

You will be faced with those who will challenge you.

Arguments are a part of life. I had posted a short video explaining the imago Dei – that all human beings are made in the image of God and share certain attributes that God holds. This distinguishes them from animals. An atheist then made this comment: "I think it is more reasonable to conclude that the gods were made in the image of man. (Gods are man-made.) Thousands, or millions, of gods have come and gone before Christianity came on the scene. Hinduism claims there are 330 million gods."

The atheist has made an argument, stating that because the history of humanity is replete with different theories on who or what God is, it is more reasonable to hold that all gods are man-made and therefore to be an atheist. Notice that the original video wasn't trying to prove that God exists, but to explain a particular point of Christian theology. Yet, here was a commenter who challenged the very notion of God's existence.

These kinds of situations come up often for Christians, especially online. You may be perfectly happy with your day so you post a Bible verse or a meme that thanks God for your blessings. All of a sudden, someone is commenting that no one should believe such fairy tales as God or that the Bible is an ancient book full of superstition. What should be our response?

Approaching Conversations Biblically

Luckily, Paul provides us with some guidance. First, he says that we shouldn't avoid all interactions with those who would oppose us. In 2 Timothy, he states that we should be ready for those opportunities, studying diligently to capitalize on them when they come because they can lead to changed hearts. Yet, he also says that one must weigh the attitude and openness of the challenger. Paul writes:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Tim 2:15-17, 24-26, ESV).
Gentle correction of those who are in opposition is the appropriate plan. It doesn't mean we must answer every charge; we are not to cast our pearls before swine. But we shouldn't ignore people simply because they have beliefs different from our own. How else will unbelievers be forced to examine their own beliefs and see them as baseless or contradictory? That's why we need to be prepared to argue convincingly and intelligently. Apologetics is part of evangelism and its goal is for everyone to come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil. How are you preparing?

Image licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

How to Debate Same-Sex Marriage After SCOTUS



This afternoon, I had a mini debate on Twitter with a gentleman about same-sex marriage. I wanted to reproduce it because it was a good and respectful dialogue; these are the kinds of conversations that help clarify Christian beliefs and positions to those who may not be familiar with all the reasons why so many are deeply concerned about the SCOTUS decision to redefine marriage.

To set up the conversation, I had tweeted an article entitled, Labeling peaceful proponents of traditional marriage “religious extremists” is as misleading as it is mean-spirited. That lead to Chip's first comment:
ChipSalonna: Labeling it "traditional marriage" is as funny as it is misleading. http://t.co/7qEomYUJlm

Comereason: No. Marriage has been traditionally recognized as one thing for all of human civilization...
However, I use the term natural marriage because there a biological component involved as well.

ChipSalonna: Riiiight. Ever hear of Mormons? Or Muslims? Or Solomon?

Comereason: Yes, I have. So?
Can I ask you a question? How many wives did a Mormon or a Muslim or Solomon need to take before he was considered married?

ChipSalonna: After the first wife, how many more wives did a Mormon or Muslim have to take before they weren't considered married anymore?

Comereason: You make my point. The reference to traditional marriage is not a reference to NUMBER, but to the TYPE of union. 1 man, 1 woman..
2,000 years of western civilization is enough to claim something is tradition(al). Still, natural marriage a better descriptor.

ChipSalonna: So, you're ok with polygamy/polyamory? I find it hard to imagine that's true but I can't wait to see where this goes.

Comereason: No, I'm not Ok with it. It is a deviant form of marriage, a distortion of the ideal. But it is a kind of marriage.

ChipSalonna: "Deviant". But "traditional". At least polygamy has THAT going for it.

Comereason: None of this is relevant to whether the union of two people of the same sex should be called a marriage.

ChipSalonna: See my other tweet w/link to Wikipedia.

Comereason: It's easy to Google things and Wikipedia is notoriously inept at being factual in hot button issues.
For example, Rome had marriage laws spelled out in the patria potestas, but those laws did not apply in same sex issues.
I agree that Greece, China, and even parts of India today have homosexual relationships. No one called it marriage, though.

ChipSalonna: As you wish. We call it "marriage" now.

Comereason: Do you have a Social Security number?

ChipSalonna: Rhetorical. What's your point?

Comereason: How many Social Security numbers should each person in the U.S. have?

ChipSalonna: [Waiting...]

Comereason: The IRS reports that there are many thousands of people who are issued multiple SS#'s. It doesn't make any of those NOT a SS#.
Further, you SHOULD only have ONE. But they are all real SS#s. What you are trying to argue is that because there have been...
...multiple SS#s in the past, its OK to call a driver's license a SS#. Both are identification, both issued by the govt.
There are so many similarities, who cares about the little differences?

ChipSalonna: I get the point with your analogy. And I've already accepted that you view 1MnW as "deviant" but "traditional". The *big*...
...difference is that we're talking people &their feelings & freedoms, not numbers or pieces of paper. I assume that...
...ultimately you view SSM as bad b/c God says so. So, here's a hypothetical for you. If God came to you and said "Hey,...
...Lenny, the Bible had a few mistakes with the homo stuff. It's really ok for them to get married." Would you continue to...
...make the "secular" arguments you're making now?

Comereason: You're absolutely right that this isn't about pieces of paper but about people. We can agree on that.
My argument isn't just procedural. I'm concerned about the people involved. Do you know why Govt got involved w/marriage at all?
Or (to be more specific) why they continue to be involved?

ChipSalonna: I'll come back to your question. But would you abandon your arguments given God's "retraction"?

Comereason: Actually, the Bible really doesn't say anything about same sex unions. If we were discussing a purely civil contract...
...such as CA's civil unions, I wouldn't be fighting it--and I didn't when it was passed. Marriage is different, though.

ChipSalonna: So, you consider your arguments to be *purely* secular? You don't trace any anti-SSM thoughts back to God? Truly curious here.

Comereason: No. I believe all truth is God's truth and he designed the world to run a certain way. We get a clearer picture from the Bible.
But I believe I have arguments that can be accepted even if one doesn't hold to the Bible as a moral principle....
... Marriage has a consistent basis across all cultures and all faiths. Thus I can offer secular arguments.

ChipSalonna: Ok, so in my hypothetical, if God "clarified" the issue, you'd have to say your secular arguments were somehow wrong. Yes?
(Not a trap. Just getting a clear picture.)

Comereason: I don't doubt your sincerity. I'm just trying to understand. I have a hard time seeing how that would be possible, though...
Human beings are created in a specific way. God would be saying something that argues against his created order.
The only institution that all of humanity has recognized as proper to creating and rearing children is the family. That's it.
The primary reason Govt gets involved is for the welfare of the child. That's why deadbeat dad laws are on the books....
The Govt recognizes marriages because it then knows who he responsible parents are for the child, unless otherwise stated.

ChipSalonna: Except that you said biblical teaching isn't clear on the marriage issue.

Comereason: I said God didn't explicitly say "no same sex unions." The Bible is clear on sexual activity between those of the same sex.

ChipSalonna: So, it seems to matter little (from a secular point of view) whether we're talking about civil unions, marriage or shacking up.

Comereason: I don't gamble and I don't drink but I'm not pressing for prohibition.
I don't condone shacking up, but there should be no law against it.
There's a difference between tolerating an action and changing the definition of an existing institution.

ChipSalonna: I meant civil unions, marriage or shacking up w.r.t SSC.

Comereason: Right. All of those are in a different category from marriage.
But it hurts kids. It takes two people to create them, yet they're denied the right to have even a chance at a mom & dad.

ChipSalonna: Gotta run. It's been fun. I'm sure we can have Round 2 later.

Comereason: I really appreciate the respectful tone, Chip! That's why I'm willing to converse. Thanks for that.

I want to again thank Chip Salonna for his respect and genuine sincerity in trying to at least understand my positon. he is to be complimented for being a gentleman.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for May



The news event in May were showstoppers. As the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments over the legality of same-sex marriage laws, a more interesting event was happening in Canada, where a same-sex couple didn't protest because a Christian store owner rejected their business, but accepted it gladly. The story was enough to be one of the blog's top read posts.

This month, the blog saw over 28,000 pageviews, making it the second most popular month yet. In addition to the story above, top articles included the origin of life arguments, how the so-called "lost Gospels' stack up against the four canonical Gospels, and why we all need to be better prepared to share our faith. Here are the top five blog posts for May.
  1. Flipped: Same-Sex Couple Demands Christians NOT Provide Wedding Service
  2. Os Guinness Says "We Are All Apologists Now"
  3. Does a Fertilized Egg Have a Soul?
  4. The Odds Against a Natural Account of Life's Origin
  5. Why There's No Such Thing as a Lost Gospel

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.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for April 2015



April was a busy month at Come Reason. Still, we held steady at the blog with our 22,000+ readers. The most popular article this month continues a series I began this year entitled "Jesus and Logical Fallacies." Readers have really appreciated the attention drawn to the Gospel accounts of various fallacies the opponents  of Jesus wold raise against him and how he provides us an example in identifying and answering them.

The second most popular article was published just days ago and focuses answering those who object to God's existence because of the terrible earthquake in Nepal. While broader answers to the problem of evil are available, they tend to be abstract. This answer goes another direction and shows why earthquakes are not in and of themselves evil, but necessary for life.

Here are the top five apologetic blog posts for April:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Examining the Atheist Ten Commandments

Last year, atheists Le Bayer and John Figdor ran a contest that asked atheists to rethink the Ten Commandments and suggest their own precepts that they believe people should follow. The contest offered $10,000 divided between the ten winners for the "crowdsourced Rethink of the Ten Commandments."1

I think the idea that Le Bayer and Figdor came up with was a genius one in the fact that it aptly promoted their book, Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart.



Crowdsourcing the Ten Commandments doesn't strike me as the most appropriate way to discern moral precepts. All one has to do is look at the horrendous issues with the crowdsourced Wikipedia to see that having a huge amount of contributors doesn't guarantee the truth will be produced. Wikipedia suffers from bias in many of its historically and politically focused articles. Also, edit wars, where different people with specific agendas will change or undo another's edit of an article to advance their own agendas are a continuing problem around the world.2 Yet, even here Wikipedia has an advantage as it is supposed to be focusing on factual data while ethical precepts fall into the category of prescriptions for human actions, whether we like them or wish to follow them.

Commandments with Assumptions

There are a few things that strike me about the ten beliefs that AddictingInfo calls "non-commandments."3 One that jumps out clearly, though, is that they seem to contradict one another. For example, the first two beliefs (you can read the entire list here) are "#1 - Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence" and "#2 -Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true." So far, so good. I don't have any problem with either of those. However, the next commandment reads, "#3 - The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world" and offers the explanation that "Every time humans have questions this method is used to solve them. If we don't know, we don't know but instead of making up the answer we use this method to reach a conclusion/answer." Well, this claim is demonstrably false. As I've written on before, science cannot answer questions of a moral nature. For example, science can never answer "should we clone a human being."

Science also falls short on answering questions like "Why does the natural world exist at all?" How do we get a something out of a nothing? While folks like Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss try to redefine the concept of nothing so they can escape the implication of God, their efforts fall flat. The universe itself—traditionally referred to as the cosmos—needs explaining, just as one cannot look at the liquid inside a bucket and hope to explain how the bucket itself came to be. The bucket must precede its content or the liquid cannot be contained. Similarly, the explanation for the natural order of the universe cannot be found appealing to natural laws or processes. Those are the very things needing an explanation.

Contradiction of Belief

Because this third belief holds very specific assumptions about the world and what's real, it is actually violating the previous two precepts. Would anyone who holds to this belief be willing to alter his or her view with new evidence? Given the problems with relying on science to explain the natural world as a whole, will those who cling to this third precept be open minded enough that they would jettison it, even if it contradicts their desired belief?

Another inherent contradiction can be found in the last statements. Three of them propose moral standards by which all people should adhere:
  • #7 - Treat others as you would want them to treat you and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  • #8 - We have the responsibility to consider others including future generations.
  • #10 - Leave the world a better place than you found it.
While the last two seem a bit redundant, all of these appeal to an idea of obligation to someone other than yourself. There is a set standard that one must live by, and that is to put another person before yourself. First of all, how did the person discover this? Was it via science? Did they boil something in a flask for a certain amount of time and make measurements against a control group? If these precepts weren't discovered via the scientific method, is there another reliable way to discover real truths about our natural world?

Secondly, there's one belief that lands smack dab in the middle of these platitudes: "#9 - There is no one right way to live." Well, commandments numbered 7, 8, and 10 seem to argue differently. In fact, publishing this list at all argues for a certain perspective, as does the book that Le Bayer and Figdor are hoping to sell. I can't see how one who holds to this belief can assent to any of the others as in any way binding. In fact, if you are to take this statement as something everyone should believe to be true, which is exactly the way the list is intended, then one should ask "why should I believe this?" What if my way of living is to reject the idea that there is no one right way to live? What now?

While the idea of crafting a new Ten Commandments seems intriguing, one can quickly see that without anchoring the authority of commandments on a transcendent God, they become void of any real meaning or force. The conclusion is obvious, but I wonder if atheists are willing to be open minded enough to accept it.

References

1. "The Rethink Prize - Atheist Mind Humanist Heart." Atheist Mind Humanist Heart. Mind Heart Project LLC, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. http://www.atheistmindhumanistheart.com/the-rethink-prize/.
2. R.L.W., G.D. AND L.P. "Edit Wars." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 05 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/08/daily-chart-1.
3. Fletcher, Joe. "Atheists Rewrite The Ten Commandments - They're Much Better Than The Originals." Addicting Info. Addicting Info, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/12/22/atheist-ten-commandments/.



Saturday, April 04, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for March


March was a very busy month for the ministry, with one of our Apologetics Missions Trips to Berkeley taking place right in the middle of it. Of course, this always offers some new insights for the blog.  There blog itself served up 22,742 pages, showing continuing growth. The top posts last month focused on atheism and the existence of God, and defining a cohesive worldview lead the way.  Without further adieu, there are the top five blog posts for March 2015.
  1. Five Things Your Worldview Must Account For
  2. Why Doesn't God Provide More Proof He Exists?
  3. Overcoming Objections to an Apologetics Ministry
  4. The Incomprehensibility of Naturalism (Quote)
  5. Claims of Contradictions May Display Prejudice

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for January



2015 kicked off a flurry of posts, and many of the most popular proved to be focusing on the strength of the Bible and its reliability. This is partly in response to an article Newsweek chose to run in its Christmas week edition that set the reliability of the Christian Bible squarely in its sights. The top two articles for the month answered two of those charges.

Rounding out the top five is an article focusing on the reasonableness of believing in miracles, how Jesus handled a logical fallacy and an article I wrote in honor of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Here are the top five apologetics posts for January:

  1. Why You Can Be Confident We Have the Original Bible Texts
  2. Is the Bible Reliable Since Its Been Translated So Many Times?
  3. Miracles Don't Contradict The Laws of Nature
  4. Jesus and Logical Fallacies: The False Dilemma
  5. Why Would the Press Ignore a Real Life House of House of Horrors?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

What's Wrong with Just Telling Boys "Don't Slap Girls"

Boys don't want to slap girls. At least that's what the popular YouTube video entitled "'Slap her': Children's reactions" shows. Produced in Italy, the short clip shows several boys aged 10 to 11 in front of a young girl where they dutifully perform requests such as "make a funny face" or "caress her" from an off- camera voice. However, when each is told "slap her", none comply. When asked why they won't slap her one says, "Because you're not supposed to hit girls!" while another replies "I don't want to hurt her."1



I applaud the boys for not hitting the girl. It's decent; and I've given the same instruction to my boys. However, I worry that the video doesn't prove what it sets out to. In fact, I think that the underlying assumption is more problematic than meets the eye.



The video has been promoted as a demonstration that violence against women is wrong. ABC News's San Francisco affiliate wrote "Italian media company fanpage.it created the video to show how both violence and pacifism can be taught at an early age."2 But what does it show? Of course, pre-pubescent boys after being instructed to tell a girl how pretty she is and to stroke her don't then follow instructions to slap her. Is that a surprise?

Juxtapose this to this is the famous Milgram experiments. These are well-known experiments in psychology where people believed they were administering electric shocks to participants (really actors pretending to hurt) and when commanded, they would obey authorities even to the point of sending a shock that could be fatal.3 While Milgram's experiment had some flaws, a more recent iteration proved that people were more than willing to obey an authority who told them to provide a painful electric shock to a stranger. The study found "People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves."4

Commands in Isolation are Not Beneficial

I think both findings show the flaw in moral commands that are not grounded in a larger worldview. The Italian video may be trying to say that young children don't want to slap girls by nature, but that isn't necessarily true. Kids who know and disagree with one another will get into fights all the time, and unless specifically instructed by a parent, may slap someone of the opposite sex. Also, they obviously are taken with the pretty girl and hitting her wouldn't make sense. But Milgram-type experiments do show that some people are more than willing to inflict pain when ordered to do so.

The kids seemed to understand that hitting a girl is wrong because boys are stronger than girls and could do more damage to them. Men do have significantly more muscle mass than women, leaving women much more vulnerable in a confrontation between individuals of opposite sexes. Yet, in today's "biology doesn't matter" culture, we're told the differences between the sexes don't matter, except when they do.

Morality Rooted in Worldview

More broadly, what our kids require is not simple rules, but an understanding of the value of human beings and why men shouldn't hit women. The Christian world view teaches that anyone who is in a position of strength—be it physical, financial, or influential—should not use that position to take advantage of another person made in the image of God. It is through Christianity that we understand the equality of all people and it gives us good reasons for acting civilly towards one another. In fact, such an approach also tells us that women are as valuable as men in our society and therefore should be held in high regard.  But when right and wrong are reduced to whatever the adult or some authority figure says, people may be manipulated to do horrendous things, as Hitler's Germany has proven.

I don't know if the kids in the video understood the full moral grounding of why we shouldn't hit a girl. In the video, one boy responded that "Jesus doesn't want us to hit others," which isn't a bad answer. But as parents, we need to teach our children not simply what to do and not do, but how all of that relates to the larger picture of God and man. Once that foundation is established, individuals are less likely to be swayed, and are better equipped to weigh their actions in a variety of contexts, making better decisions even in unforeseeable situation. Isn't that how we want to rear our children?

References

1. "Slap Her": Children's Reactions. Prod. Fanpage.it. YouTube. YouTube, 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2OcKQ_mbiQa.
2. "VIDEO: Young Boys Asked to Slap Little Girl in Social Experiment." ABC7 San Francisco. ABC, Inc., 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. http://abc7news.com/society/video-young-boys-asked-to-slap-little-girl-in-social-experiment/462246/ .
3. McLeod, Sam. "Milgram Experiment." Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 06 Jan. 2015. http://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html.
4. Shim, Eileen. "Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time." Mic. Mic Network, Inc., 30 June 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. http://mic.com/articles/92479/psychologists-have-uncovered-a-troubling-feature-of-people-who-seem-nice-all-the-time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Top Ten Apologetics Blog Posts

This year the Apologetics Notes blog has really exploded. I switched to a daily post format, and you all have responded by continuing to come back to read the various articles and topics that we talk about. There are well over 20,000 pages read every month and the audience is growing daily.



The growth is also reflected in the most popular blog posts, all of which were published in the second half of the year. Some posts are straight apologetic while others, such as the Ann Coulter piece or the Hillsong article, focus on topical events. But every one was enthusiastically shared across social media.

Without further adieu, here are the ten most popular blog posts of 2014:

Article Pageviews
10 Conflicting Beliefs of Modern Atheism 2805
The Missing Piece in the Hillsong Controversy 2255
Christianity is a Thinking-Man's Faith 1812
Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable 1284
Morality Relies Upon God's Character, Not Simply His Commands 1176
Atheist insults believers and is stunned at the result 1093
Atheists contradict themselves by seeking invocations 994
History Testifies that Jesus Worked Miracles 701
Ann Coulter is Wrong-People are More than Numbers 691
One Reason Why Jesus Cannot be Mythical 684
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