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

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's Milvian Bridge Day!

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Milvian Bridge. This was the historic turning point that allowed Constantine to command Rome.  It was also where Constantine first fought under a Christian banner, thus setting the stage for Christianity to become legal across the Roman empire.

Of course, this raises as many questions as it answers as the video below shows.  However, as Christians we should at least understand our heritage—warts and all—in order to better minister in the name of Jesus Christ.

For a bit more on Milvian Bridge Day, see

Thanks to Anton and the Religion News Blog for the tip.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Quantum Fluctuations as Atheists’ Pixie Dust

Last week, I took a group of high school and college students to the University of California Berkeley to teach them how to engage others who would be skeptical of the claims of Christianity. Each day we had several good conversations on campus talking about the big questions of life. We also invited some noted atheists in the area to give presentations on the reasons they believe God is not real. Two of our guests were David Fitzgerald of the and Mark Thomas, president of the Atheists of Silicone Valley.

One of the proofs Christians offer for God is the fact that the universe exists. I’ve frequently cited the Kalam Cosmological argument, which states:

        Whatever begins to exist has a cause
       The universe began to exist
       Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The standard theory for the creation of the universe is recognized to mean that all time, space, matter and energy came into being at some finite point in the past. Since the discovery of evidence supporting the Big Bang, the idea that the universe came into existence at some fixed point in the past is nearly universally accepted by modern science. However, given the argument above, it means that something must have caused the universe to come into existence. And this has been a big problem to those who dismiss the idea of God being the cause.

Both our guests in their talks fell back on the idea of quantum fluctuations happening within a quantum vacuum state as being the ultimate cause of the universe. Mark and David both believe that this theory (a form of which is also being popularized by Stephen Hawking in his books A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design) can really explain everything. Now, I realize that most people are not familiar with quantum physics. However, with a little careful thinking and some basic research, you can see why this scenario fails.

First, the fact that we are relying on something called a “fluctuation” should give us a hint that there’s something more than nothing going on. You see a fluctuation implies that at the very least something is changing. But a proper definition of time is the change in some state of affairs. If you have any set of circumstances and then those circumstances are somehow different, you can know that time has elapsed. You have a “before” and an “after”. So the fact that there are quantum fluctuations means that by definition time is already in existence.

Also, although most physicists agree that matter and energy do not need to exist at the quantum level, a quantum fluctuation happens in space. The Wikipedia article gets a quantum vacuum state right when it states

"According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is "by no means a simple empty space", and again: "it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void."

Even in Johann Rafelski and Berndt Mueller’s little book The Structured Vacuum they define the vacuum as “space without matter”.

Herein lies the problem. If the beginning of the universe we mean that all matter, energy, space and time came into existence, but quantum fluctuations require space and time to already exist, then how can they explain the beginning of the universe? The answer is: they can’t. While quantum fluctuations are a theoretical construct, they really can’t explain why the universe is here at all, because two of the universe’s conditions must already exist for the quantum fluctuations to exist.

It seems to me that because quantum mechanics has certain counter-intuitive properties attached to it, like the Uncertainty Principle, that the atheists are relying on this explanation to solve their very real dilemma. However, they haven’t thought carefully about the coherence of their position. Whenever I asked where the universe came from, our guests would answer with "quantum fluctuations"--throwing it out like a sprinkling of magical pixie dust that somehow settles every question. As I’ve shown, their faith in such a solution is really unfounded.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Berkeley Apologetics Missions Trip - Day 1

Here are some highlights from our first day talking with Berkeley students.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apologetics Missions Trip - Videos

In preparation for our upcoming Apologetics Missions Trip to U.C. Berkeley, we had Brett Kunkle come out and pretend to be an atheist at our last Come Reason class.  Brett did a great job, as always and demonstrated how necessary it is to be prepared to defend your faith with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

This is why we're taking a group of people on the trip--to train them and help them be better equipped to do just that. Here are some videos to show you what you can expect on the trip. If you would like to go, there are still some spots left.  Download this flyer and turn it in!

The Berkeley Mission: Conversational Surveys

The Berkeley Mission: Atheist Dialogs

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Becoming an Effective Apologist by Forgetting All You Know

Apologetics is an interesting discipline. To be properly equipped, we spend years in study, learning theology, philosophy, worldview, ethic, reason, argumentation, and science.  I continue to read books and articles by both classic authors (Plato, Pascal, Augustine,  Aquinas, etc.) and popular authors today—both  Christian and non-Christian. We take seriously the command that we should study to show ourselves approved (2 Tim.  2:15) and that we should "always be ready to make a defense" (1 Pet. 3:15). But as important as all that preparation is, I think it's equally important to know how to chuck it all and a recent experience I had solidified that concept to me.

A few weeks ago I engaged in a conversation with a man who was seeking to know God. "John" said he was seeking to know the evidence for God's existence.  He told me he "was desperate to believe" that God is real. After a few minutes of conversation, I learned some facts about John: he claims to be agnostic, he's read Bart Ehrman and feels his arguments are strong, he feels the problem of evil argues against the existence of God.  John holds a PhD in Philosophy.

Given that John has an expertise in philosophy, I began to engage him in the arguments for God's existence – how the Bible cannot be considered circular given that it isn't one source but a collection of 66 different books written by many authors over a 1500 year period, how the Kalam shows that everything that has a beginning must have a cause, how moral theory shows that for evil to exist we must have an absolute standard against which to measure what counter with others. However, with each exchange John was becoming more combative and entrenched in his position.

I couldn't figure out at first why he was becoming so argumentative.  He had originally sounded so desperate to find out reasons to know that God is there, but the more I provided, the more he fought me. It was at this point that God opened my eyes to something - my approach was all wrong. John was a trained philosopher since most of that training was from an atheistic perspective, he had been trained to think about philosophy in a particular way.  In arguing with him intellectually, he would merely fall back on what he had learned and react almost as a reflex.  The more I engaged philosophically, the more he was unplugging from weighing the evidence.  Instead he reacting with stock responses that he was taught.

It was at this point that I asked him, “Wait, you came to me and said you want to believe.  What about your desire?” When I switched from head issues to heart issues, his tone and demeanor immediately changed and he basically said "Yes, please pray for me.  I want to believe but my heart and my mind are disconnected."  And this is where true communication began to happen.

You see, many people need to understand reasons why their objections against God are not valid, so we should know those reasons. However, by only engaging people intellectually, you limit the ways God can reach individuals.  I got to pray with this man -an agnostic  - who had all the answers to arguments for the existence of Go d except one, he could feel God’s presence pulling on his heart.

It’s important for the apologist to understand that we must not rely on only our arguments as our sole apologetic.  The real motivation here is to allow people to see the truth – that God exists and that Jesus offers salvation. If we confine ourselves to only head knowledge, we may miss the most powerful evidence for God’s reality we have - the self-attesting witness of the Holy Spirit. When I pushed hard on answering intellectual objections with John, it entrenched him more deeply in his agnosticism.  In holding a PhD, he didn’t want to be shown his extensive years of study have lead to wrong conclusions. But he couldn’t deny that there was a yearning to know God. In forgetting my head knowledge for a bit, I was able to at least talk to him about how he feels and I was able to pray that God would continue to make himself real to John, as I still pray.

Next time you have a witnessing opportunity, think a minute before you answer.  See where the person you’re talking with has needs.  Meet him or her there.  Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is to stop being smart and start feeling.
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