Apologetics and Golf

I love to play golf!! I love the challenge of banging that little white ball around the course. I own books, subscriptions to magazines and video series all dedicated to improving every aspect of my game. This summer, I noticed my putting needed improvement so I decided to watch a video on putting. The instructor said, “In order to be a good putter you must have confidence.” I thought, “Of course I need confidence! That is the reason I am watching this video.” He went on, “In order to gain confidence, you need evidence. You need to see the ball going into the hole over and over. That is what builds confidence.”impact

After that video, I thought, “How could this apply to my Christian worldview?”  For me to have confidence in my Christian worldview, their must be evidence for it. Enter the world of Apologetics: The defense of the Christian faith. The apologist offers positive evidence for the claims of Christianity and answers common objections against it. Every Christian should study apologetics because of the benefits it brings.

Benefit#1  – It helps you know why you believe what you believe. Most Christians get their beliefs from other people and they are inept to articulate clear reasons for believing that Christianity is true. Apologetics equips a person to think thoughtfully and carefully about what it is they believe and are able to offer support for their view.

Benefit #2 – It equips you to love God with your mind. God gave us our minds and he expects us to use them. One does not get bonus points with God for being a stupid Christian. Now this does not mean that you must be a Theologian with several books published. But it does mean that we should know some things about Christianity, namely basic Christian doctrine.

Benefit #3 – It builds your confidence. Just like the instructor on the putting video mentioned, the more evidence you see for the existence of God, the evidence for the reliability of scripture and the historical evidence surrounding the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the more you build your God-confidence (I like this word better than the word faith).

Benefit #4 –  It prepares you to dialogue with those who have an opposing viewpoint. I enjoy talking with atheists and skeptics. They keep me on my toes. But I also know, I am obligated as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth to share the gospel. However, many skeptics and unbelievers have hang-ups, issues and misconceptions about Christianity and my preparedness helps we clear the way for them to consider the Gospel. The Apostle Paul gives an example of this in Acts 17.

So Christians, read books like I Don’t Have enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek or On Guard by William Lane Craig, or More than a Carpenter by Josh and Sean McDowell to get you going. Then practice the strategies listed within to share the evidence you have learned. That, will build your Confidence!!

 

Down Syndrome and the Image of God

A couple of years ago,  Richard Dawkins responded to a lady on Twitter who posed an interesting moral dilemma. She tweeted she wouldn’t know what to do if she found out her unborn child had Down Syndrome. Dawkins’ reply; “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Meet CPhoto Aug 26, 6 57 18 PMheston Hearron, my brother. Cheston has Down Syndrome.

I am not at all offended by the comments of Dawkins. His response is exactly what one would expect from an individual positing an atheistic worldview. Dawkins is merely acting out the logical implications of his view. Dawkins’ worldview is devoid of God, so when faced with such a moral dilemma, he does what he thinks is right for him. Furthermore, his moral answers will change from person to person and even culture to culture. He even has his own category of immorality: bringing a baby with Down Syndrome into the world. The implications of this view are obvious.

As a Christian with a biblical worldview, I would have given this woman a different answer. As a theist, when faced with a moral dilemma, I have a firm anchor-point; God’s unchanging nature that grounds morality. I would challenge her to think about the God question. If God exists and has created human beings in his image then it would be immoral to end the life of this child just because he has Down Syndrome. This answer does not change from person to person nor culture to culture. It is an objective moral value. To terminate the child’s life, is to place oneself in a position reserved only for God. The image of God is a very powerful argument for equal rights for all human beings. There is no physical trait that all human beings share. There are tall people, short people, large people, small people, smart people, dumb people, those who are socially useful and those who are socially useless. Yet, we all feel that every human deserves to be treated equally. I know of no one who thinks attractive people deserve more rights than unattractive people. So, since you cannot put your finger on a physical trait that grounds equal rights then perhaps what grounds them is non-physical. The image of God is the perfect candidate for the grounding of equal rights. To be an image bearer, is to reflect certain characteristics of God. We are capable of relationships, we display emotions and we make choices. These are all characteristics of God. However, the image of God is tarnished because of sin and will one day be completely redeemed when Christ returns. Atheism eliminates the image of God and therefore has no justification for human rights.

When I am around my brother, he makes me laugh! He is a wonderful uncle to my 2 children. They love him dearly. He is highly functional and genuinely loves people.My parents would inform you that it has not been easy rearing a child with Down Syndrome. But they also would tell you that the joy he has brought into their lives and the lives of others cannot be measured. The world is a better place because of Cheston Hearron.  I am reminded of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:27-28) “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are…”

He chose Cheston!!

 

Doritos, and the Identity of the Unborn.

I am a Christian. I am also FOR abortion. As a matter of fact, I think tax dollars should be used to fund abortion-on- demand. Abortion should be allowed in all cases of unwanted pregnancies, which includes rape and those children who have genetic defects such as Down Syndrome.

Before, you think that my position is a walking contradiction, allow me to finish. I am for abortion for any and all situations IF……..

IF what???

If the unborn are NOT human!!!

Allow me to make a case that the unborn ARE human using science and philosophy (no religion).  The Law of Biogenesis states “living things produce other living things after their kind.” Dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats, humans produce humans. So, if we want to know what the thing in question is, all we have to do is look at its parents to get the answer. Therefore, according to this Law, the unborn ARE human!

We live in a culture that thinks and learns visually. This is why the Doritos commercial has caused such an uproar because the images portray common sense truth that the unborn are human and not a clump of cells.

The philosophical case for the unborn is made by using the acronym SLED. There are only 4 differences between a child outside the womb and the unborn and none of them justify anyone killing them.

Size. It is true that the unborn are smaller but are large people more valuable than small people? Does Shaquille O’Neal deserve more rights than my grandmother simply because he is larger?

Level of Development. The unborn are less developed than a newborn but so is a 4 year old girl when compared with a 14 year old girl. Can we kill the 4 year old because of her development status?

Environment. The unborn are in a different environment than a toddler but since when does your location determine your value? If you go from one side of the street to the other, you have just changed locations. Did you stop being you?  Where you are, has no bearing on who you are!

Degree of Dependency. The unborn depend on the mother for nutrition and protection. But many of us are dependent in one form of another. There are those who are diabetic and depend on insulin. Can we terminate their lives? What about the person who is crippled who must use crutches or a wheelchair?

As you can see, there are very good reasons to think that the unborn are human and deserve to be protected. Any of the arguments such as a woman’s right to do with her body as seen fit is just a distraction. Thank you Doritos for pointing out the obvious. Thank you for stating what everyone already knows is true.

That the unborn ARE human!!

 

Source:  The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf. Published by Crossway. Wheaton, Illinois.

Ashley Madison Meets Jesus

There she was, in the middle of an angry mob. There he was, surrounded by the mob asking him to be judge, jury and executioner. The religious leaders of the day brought to Jesus a woman caught in the very ACT of adultery. John chapter 8 recounts the story,

 “Teacher…In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time…until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No, one sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you, “Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:4-11)

jesus_writing_in_the_sand

I have read this story many times. I have pondered the events that took place here and wondered what it would have been like to be a bystander in that crowd. The question I ask the most when reading this passage is, “What did Jesus write on the ground?” We can only speculate. For the sake of this article, that is exactly what I am going to do, speculate.

SPECULATION #1  – John does not tell us the name of the woman involved. In first century Palestine, it did not matter. Women ranked below men in status. Let us call her Ashley Madison. She is the one made to stand up in front of everyone so they can hurl their condemnations at her, she is the one caught in the very ACT of adultery. She is the one whose sin is public. But Ashley met Jesus. While everyone was eager to stone her, he was eager to forgive.

SPECULATION #2 – What did Jesus write on the ground?  No one knows. John does not tell us. I think that he wrote the names of those who had committed adultery too and had not been caught. He exposed the sins of those in the crowd who thought their secret was safe. Then, when Jesus asked for a sinless volunteer to be the first rock-chunker, the mob dispersed.

I cannot help but see the parallel in this story and the current Ashley Madison scandal. It is unfortunate that many people’s secret sins were exposed for everyone to see. I have not seen the list nor do I want to. I would not want someone looking at my list of sins. On the other hand, those who have seen the list would do good to read Jesus’ words elsewhere in scripture. Matthew 5:27, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The standards of Jesus are so high that he considers lust equal to adultery.  But the good news is that Jesus is eager to forgive and promises to separate our sins as far as the east is from the west. If your name was on the hacked Ashley Madison list, bring your name in repentance to Christ first, then your spouse. He will delete that list for you because the forgiveness of Christianity means that no record of wrongs is kept. Jesus paid our debt on the cross of Calvary and he commands us to “Go and sin no more.”  That is the gospel message.

Mistakes Atheists make when talking with Christians.

Recently, I listed 5 Mistakes that Christians make when conversing with Atheists. My goal was to persuade the Christian to rethink the way he or she conducts their dialogues. Now, I want to challenge my atheist friends to rethink the way they converse with Christians. I mean these in the most Charitable way possible.

1. Straw-man argumentation – Often Atheists will refer to God as the belief in the “Magical Man in the Sky.” This is not what Christians believe. Christians believe that God is a “Spirit” as taught in the Bible and became a man at the incarnation. These are theological issues that are worth discussing. I think it is better for the Atheist to draw out (by asking thought-provoking questions) from the Christian what it means to believe in God etc, If the goal of the atheist is understanding. Correctly representing the other person’s view (whether you agree with it or not) is just polite.

2. Stacking the deck in favor of the atheist – What I mean by this is asking the Christian to prove the existence of God only within the boundaries of Science. The atheist knows that this is an unreasonable request because God cannot be put inside a test tube. Here is an alternative: Ask the theist to lay out the reason(s) / evidence(s) that they have for the existence of God (no matter what it is) and then weigh it, refute it, point out flaws in it, ponder it etc. to keep the conversation going.

west3. Judging Christianity by its abuse – I am REPULSED by the people of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. What they have said, written, yelled, screamed about the homosexual community is unacceptable. I condemn all of their tactics. Remember this: Not everyone who calls themselves Christians actually are. Jesus gave commands to his followers to do 2 things: (1)Love God and (2) Love others. The people of WBC do NOT love others. Please do not paint all Christians with the WBC paint brush. I genuinely try to be cordial to all especially those who disagree with me and it angers me to see what people say and do in the name of Christianity. So, Atheists, please give us the benefit of the doubt where possible.

ducks4. Mockery and Insults –  I have a good sense of humor. I try not to take myself too seriously, and am not easily offended. I agree that there are instances where Christians just open themselves up for mockery. The late night comedians make a killing off of mocking religion, I get it. However, when conversing 1-on-1, remember that mockery and insults are not arguments. They are barriers in the way of mutual respect and understanding.  It is better (for both sides) to take the high road. Stick to the arguments! If it is truth and understanding that you are after, logic, reason and argument are the paths to follow.

5. “If God exists, then he would strike me down right now!” – Fortunately, thoughtful and well-versed atheists do not use this argument. This argument rests in the arsenal of the untrained atheist. I want to point out that what the atheist is saying is, “If you don’t do exactly what I tell you to do God, then I will not believe in you.” We witness this type of behavior in the grocery store when a mom will not buy the toy for the toddler, so they throw a tantrum in the aisle. God’s existence is not dependent on him answering our frivolous demands. There are much better counter-arguments to theism. Learn those and then challenge your theist friends.

This list is not exhaustive and some could apply to the theistic side, too. I want every encounter that I have to lead to a deeper understanding of the other person’s view. I want them to “want” the conversation to continue, don’t you? So, atheists, continue to challenge us, but do it in away that causes us to think about our view. I seek truth wherever that may lead.

 

 

Mistakes Christians make when talking to Atheists

I enjoy conversations with people who do not think like me, especially atheists. They keep me on my toes and really make me think. Most of them have thought long and hard about the God question, as I have, but they have come to a different conclusion. Many atheists will tell you they get annoyed by the average theists with whom they dialogue. They feel that Christians are not very thoughtful about their faith and are not able to articulate even an elementary understanding of their core beliefs. I can understand this annoyance. So, I have put together some mistakes to avoid while conversing with the atheist.Arm_Wrestling

1. Labeling – Atheists are not devil-worshiping citizens with no morals. Some of them put many Evangelical Christians to shame with the way they live their lives. Most of them are not rude, or arrogant who refuse to carry on a conversation with you. Christians do no like it when we are lumped in with groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, so let’s not lump all non-believers into the same category.

2. Not listening – Christians just need to shut up sometimes and let the other side talk. We could learn a few things. We are so eager to preach, lecture and (unfortunately) condemn that we may be missing some legitimate concerns or questions that need addressing. I think people who have honest questions and concerns deserve honest responses.

3. Not knowing what you believe and why –  Many atheists are dumbfounded that Christians claim to worship this God who supposedly created everything yet they are ignorant about the Bible and what the Bible teaches. Two years ago, Atheists scored better on a test about Biblical knowledge than did their Christian counterparts. This is embarrassing. I am not claiming that every Christian be a theologian, but you must know SOME things about Christianity and be able to explain them and maybe even be familiar with some common objections. This requires WORK and STUDY.

4. Not admitting when you are wrong   – Whenever an atheist makes a good point or corrects an error in your thinking; ADMIT IT!! This can be a learning process for the Christian. Just because the person doesn’t think like you doesn’t mean they cannot make a good point or expose a weakness or flaw in your thinking. THAT’S OK! Admitting a mistake adds credibility to your position and will open up future dialogue.

5. Condescension –   This takes many forms but the most common is uttering the phrase, “I will pray for you!” Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t pray for people, but this is often used as a slogan to insult the atheist and they do not take it as genuine. It is much better to say, “Thank you for the conversation, it has been eye-opening. I hope we can meet again sometime.” The goal is understanding and mutual respect.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it definitely a good start. Just because someone disagrees with you or doesn’t think like you doesn’t mean you cannot form a relationship with them or learn from them. So Christians, avoid these mistakes and continue those dialogues.

20 short Arguments AGAINST God’s existence (A Response)

Hemant Metha, aka “The Friendly Atheist” put out a video blog arguing against the existence of God. Check out the video below and then lets do some critical analysis.

First, let’s define “argument.” An”argument” is a conclusion supported by reasons.Now let’s see how Hemant fares.

1) “There’s no Evidence.”

A number of responses could be offered but first let us assess whether this is an argument. Hmmmm…….. Nope, this is only a conclusion. He does not offer any reasons. Theists have offered much evidence for the existence of God, there’s evidence of God from the beginning of the universe, design, objective morality, fine tuning and information contained in the DNA to name a few. Hemant could say he rejects the evidence or that he doesn’t find the evidence persuasive but to assert there is NO evidence is intellectually dishonest.

2) “God doesn’t stop the evil in the world, in fact, if you read the Bible, God committed plenty of it.”

Again, not an argument, there were 2 conclusions followed by no reasons. Did you also notice that these conclusions did not argue against the EXISTENCE of God but rather against acts that Hemant deems evil? Several questions could be offered at this point:1)What do you mean by evil? 2)What acts are you referring to? 3)What standard are you using to measure God by to call the acts in question, “evil?” 4)If God actually did these acts wouldn’t it therefore follow that he exists?

3) “Drowning just about everything alive; not a sign of love.”

Again, not an argument. I assume he is referring to the flood story mentioned in Genesis. Now, even if Hemant is right that the flood is not a sign of love,(and for the sake of arguing let’s say he’s correct) it wouldn’t  prove that God doesn’t exist but only that he isn’t loving.

4) “The opening lines of the Bible are factually wrong, why should we believe the rest of it?”

Nope, still not an argument. He gives us a conclusion followed by a question. This too, has nothing to do with the existence of God. I would want to know a little bit more information before I could comment further, such as, “Are you referring to Genesis 1:1?” If so, how did you come to the conclusion that it is factually wrong? Have you ever considered that even if it were true that the Bible was in error, it might disprove Christianity but it wouldn’t disprove the existence of God?

5) “Prayer has never fixed anything physically impossible. Why won’t God heal amputees?”

Sorry I sound like a broken record, but once again, not an argument. This is a conclusion followed by a question. Hemant backs himself into a corner with the word “never.” The only way he could conclude that prayer has never fixed anything physically impossible is if he has examined EVERY prayer account. He probably hasn’t. So, he should rephrase as such,”I have seen no evidence of prayer fixing anything physically impossible.” I would also like to ask what he means by “physically impossible?” Is that why he brings up amputees? (Since they don’t regrow limbs naturally). I’m not sure! As to the amputee question, I would answer, “I don’t know.” I think that is a fair question for Christians but I’m not sure what it has to do with the existence of God.

6) “There are thousands of gods you don’t believe in. What makes yours any different?”

I am wondering if we are going to see an argument at all? Again, this is a conclusion followed by a question. I assume he is referring to those of us who are “monotheists.” This is really an easy question to answer. So here it goes. Big bang cosmology has shown us that space, matter and time had a beginning. So whatever caused space and time cannot be part of space and time it must be spaceless and timeless. Whatever caused matter to come into being must be immaterial. Therefore, the cause of the universe (whatever it is) must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. The God of the Bible is a candidate for the cause of the universe because he meets those criteria, whereas the thousands of other gods, like Thor, are not!

7) “Where you’re born essentially determines what you believe. Why should the truth be based on geography?”

Still no argument! Notice that this has absolutely nothing to do with the existence of God. Rather, it is a textbook example of the “Genetic fallacy.” The genetic fallacy occurs when someone attacks a view based on where it originated rather than the reasons given. I don’t know of ANY theist who argues “truth should be based on geography.” Your location in space and time has no bearing on the truth value of the God question. Either God exists or he doesn’t exist. I do think that people believe certain things for awful reasons. I like this quote by Dr. Frank Turek, “Many people arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof, but on the basis of what they find attractive.” We should hold certain beliefs because they are logically consistent and match reality as we know it, not because they are sociologically or psychologically convenient.

8) “Who created God? And how does your answer to that make any sense?”

Questions are not arguments!  Atheists think the “Who created God?” question is a defeater for the theist.The question commits the fallacy known as the category mistake. In order to ask the question, “Who created x?” X must be a creatable thing. By definition, the theistic God (whether he exists or not) is timeless and therefore is uncreated. Atheists know this. So, what Hemant is really asking is this, “Who created the uncreated creator?” This is pure nonsense. It’s like asking, “How many inches long is the smell of a rose?”  I have no problem attempting to answer the honest questions atheists have about my worldview. However, when they are nonsense questions aimed at trying to make the theist look foolish, the atheist has demonstrated that he is not wanting a conversation.

9) “Pediatric Cancer”

A disease is not an argument! I don’t want to put words in Hemant’s mouth, but what I think he is saying is this: “If God exists, there would be no pediatric cancer. There is pediatric cancer, therefore God doesn’t exist. ” This would have been a good argument to contend with! (Come on Hemant, you can do better!) Let’s assume this is his argument. In order for his argument to work, Hemant would have to show that the existence of pediatric cancer is incompatible with the existence of God. This is a tall order to fill. God may have good reasons for allowing pediatric cancer that we are unaware of. Just because we can’t think of any reasons for allowing pediatric cancer doesn’t disprove God’s existence, it only reveals our ignorance.

10) “Unconditional love shouldn’t come with a list of conditions”

We are half-way finished with the video and Hemant is 0-10 on giving us an argument (I helped with #9)! Remember our definition of an argument – “A conclusion supported by reasons.”   I have no idea what he is talking about here.  Is he referring to a particular Bible story? We just don’t know. Furthermore, what does this have to do with the existence of God? I need clarification, Hemant!

11) “Every single supposed miracle, gets debunked eventually”

Now, he is 0-11. Still not an argument! Again, this is off topic. It has nothing to do with the existence of God.  Much like #5, Hemant would have to investigate every single supposed miracle, in order to decisively say that they all get debunked. This assertion sounds much like the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume who argued that miracles were impossible. If you start with the assumption that miracles are impossible, then you can never conclude an event was miraculous no matter how strong the evidence is. This is bad philosophy! The philosophy of naturalism rules out the possibility of miracles beforehand without looking at the evidence. On the other hand, the theistic worldview can consider a natural or a supernatural explanation for an anomaly whereas the atheist cannot. To me that seems open-minded rather than dismissing them a priori.

12) “Somehow the 10 commandments left off ‘Don’t rape people’ and ‘Slavery is not OK.” 

Not an argument! Again, this has nothing to do with God’s existence. Question for Hemant, “Are you saying that whatever the 10 commandments don’t’ specifically condemn, they condone?” The 10 commandments don’t say, “Thou shalt not cut up thy neighbor and feed to the sharks” either. Is Hemant implying that the Bible would approve of this behavior? As to the slavery question, skeptics conclude that the Bible condones slavery but the slavery they are thinking of is American slavery where blacks were shipped in from Africa against their will and sold. However, when people couldn’t pay their debts, they couldn’t go down to First National Bank and file chapter 13 bankruptcy. Sometimes, the only option they had to survive would be indentured servitude until they could pay off their debt. This is not the kind of slavery the skeptic is arguing against.

13) “The movies and music that honor God, are just awful.”

Again, not an argument. This is a textbook example of a non sequitur. A non sequitur is when a conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises given. Allow me to demonstrate: “The movies and music that honor God, are just awful. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.” WHAT?! This is just bad! Suppose I argued, “Since Atheists make bad youtube videos, atheism is therefore false.” If I argued this way, I would be guilty of committing the same fallacy as Hemant. It is obvious that people have different tastes in movies and songs. Those are opinions. I will agree with Hemant, for the sake of the argument, that there have been cheesy Christian movies made. But that doesn’t disprove God’s existence. It just means Christians need to work on their movie-making skills.

14) “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

His argument total is now 0-14. I don’t even know where to start on this one. Is he saying that if you can’t see something then it doesn’t exist? (I am going to give Hemant the benefit of the doubt here). Being able to see something is only one way to know if it exists, but not the only way. For example, we cannot see gravity or the wind but we know they exist because we can study their affects.  Something else struck me as odd  about his statement. He is ascribing properties to non-existence. That is odd! In order to make comparisons, the items in question must have similar or different properties. But non-existence has NO properties.  To say that non-being is invisible is logically incoherent.

15) “No hide and seek game, lasts this long.”

Nope, still no argument! I assume he means that God is hiding from certain individuals and if he were real, he would disclose himself clearly and persuasively. Here is a question for all atheists: Do you think that God cares if we just believe that he exists? Even if God gave us 100% proof of his existence that would be no guarantee that all of us would seek out a relationship with Him and worship Him as the Creator of the universe. Friedrich Nietzshe once wrote, “If one were to prove this God of the Christians to us, we should believe Him all the less.” I once asked an atheist that if I could show him that Christianity were true would he become a Christian and he said, “No!” How is that reasonable? An honest seeker of truth will follow the evidence no matter where it leads. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis,

“An atheisc.s.lewis-ap1-bwt can find God for the same reasons a thief cannot find a police officer.”

 

 

16) “Science explains so much of what we use to attribute to a God.”

Still no argument. This is the “God-of-the-gaps” objection. Hemant and other atheists accuse theists of plugging in God when there is a gap in knowledge. For example, before we were able to understand thunder, many ancient civilizations said that the gods were angry. But now, thanks to meteorology, the “gods-are-angry” hypothesis has been refuted. I agree that there are instances where theists have committed God-of-the-Gaps. But if we are following the evidence and making inferences to the best explanation, then the God hypothesis seems reasonable. For example, their are fundamental constants and quantities of the universe that are so finely tuned that to alter any one of them by a hair’s breadth would eliminate life on this planet as we know it. No natural explanation is adequate for the fine tuning. Therefore, the fine tuning of the universe is evidence for a designer. I think Hemant has it backwards. Because of our advancements in science, those gaps have gotten wider and made the God hypothesis more plausible.

17) “The more we learn, the less reason we have to believe in God.”

0-17. This is the same as #16. See my response above.

18) “If you tried to explain your religious mythology to someone who had never heard it before, you would sound crazy. Seriously, try explaining communion wafers to someone who has never heard of Catholicism.”

Still no argument. I would like to ask him,”What do you mean by crazy?” Just because something sounds “crazy” or is “crazy” does not mean that it is false. I saw a 2-headed snake on Animal Planet one night, now that was crazy, but it was true. As to the communion wafers, I am not Catholic, so I do not hold to transubstantiation (the catholic doctrine to which Hemant is referring) but that is a Theological matter and is irrelevant with regards to the existence of God.

19) “If God didn’t exist, the world would look exactly the way it does now.”

Finally, we have somewhat of an argument! This argument sounds very similar to a quote by Richard Dawkins

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt,Description=Richard Dawkins Photograph: Jeremy Young 05-12-2006 and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”
– Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, page 133.

Hemant, Richard Dawkins and myself are all looking at the same universe. I see that the universe is not the way it ought to be. You ought not torture babies for fun. You ought not rape people. This world is messed up! Hemant, is implying there are no oughts. The world just is. Yet earlier  in #9 he complains about pediatric cancer that this ought not be here. He complains that he 10 commandments left off rape and slavery, implying that one ought not commit them. Every one of us have this innate sense that certain acts like torturing babies for fun are really wrong. I think this innate sense is our moral intuition giving us knowledge of moral values and duties. This can actually be put into an argument for God’s existence:

1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values, duties and human rights do not exist.

2) But objective moral values, duties and human rights DO exist

3) Therefore, God exists

20)”If God existed, he would smite me right now…….I’m good.”

This is an argument! But a really, really bad one. It is so bad, that I don’t even know if it deserves a response. Most atheists, that have really thought out their position would NEVER use this argument.  God’s existence is not dependent on him answering our frivolous demands.

Conclusion

Well. this has been fun. Unfortunately, the title of his video needs to be changed because there were only 2 arguments and not 20. I hope that atheists and theists can converse with each other with the goal of sincerely understanding the other side. My goal of this post is to get atheists to think about their arguments as I continue to think about mine. I hope to be able to converse with Mr. Mehta someday, not to try to convert or condemn, but to understand and learn more about the atheist position. Feel free to offer any comments. Thanks!

 

 

 

How does your worldview answer the BIG questions? (pt 4 of 4)

In the movie Patch Adams Robin Williams gives us a sobering scene involving the topic that no one really likes to discuss:

robinwilliamsangeDeath! To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, demised, departed and defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. God’s way of saying, “Slow down.” To check out. To shuffle off this mortal coil. To head for the happy hunting ground. To blink for an exceptionally long period of time. To find oneself without breath. To be the incredible decaying man. Worm buffet. Kick the bucket. Buy the farm. Take the cab. Cash in your chips….

Every worldview attempts to answer the question, “What happens after we die?”  Different religions offer possible answers, such as heaven, hell, reincarnation, limbo, purgatory, nothing etc. One conclusion is sure; they cannot ALL be true because they are contradictory. How would we actually KNOW if there was life after death? The only reasonable way to answer this questions is for someone to die, come back to life and then actually tell us what is on the other side. But that has never happened.

OR HAS IT??

I Corinthians 15 contains one of the most bizarre passages in all of sacred literature:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.” (I Cor. 15:14-15)

The resurrection of Jesus is of utmost importance. It is the linchpin of Biblical Christianity. Simply put, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is false. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then Christianity is true.

I want to approach this topic from the standpoint of a historian. Historians, evolutionary biologists, crime scene detectives, and archaeologists cannot hop in a time machine and travel back to observe the past. What they must do, is make inferences based on the data as what most likely happened. They try to posit a hypothesis that best fits. I would like to make a case for the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus using 2 walls: Facts and Methods

Wall #1 – FACTS

Dr. Gary Habermas has catalogued over 1400 sources in 3 languages (French, English, German) from 1975 to present. His research led him to a number of “minimal facts” meeting two criteria: 1) They are strongly evidenced; 2) They are granted by virtually all scholars who study the subject, even the skeptical ones.

Fact #1 – Jesus died by crucifixion.

Strong evidence exists that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed crucified at the hands of one Pontius Pilate.

I Cor. 15:3 mentions that Christ died..

Jesus crucifixion is evidenced in non-canonical literature as well.[1]  Josephus records in Antiquities 18.3.3. “Pilate…had him condemned to the cross.”

Tacitus, the Roman Historian reports, “Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate. “[2]

Lucian of Samosata, the Greek satirist, “the Christians, you know, worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. “[3]

Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to his son from prison comments “Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their wise king, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?”[4]

Talmud “on the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged.”[5]

Atheist Gerd Ludemann writes,” Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”[6]

John Dominic Crossin, (critical scholar of the Jesus Seminar) writes, “That he [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”[7]

 

Fact #2 – The disciples had experiences they believed to be the appearance of the risen Jesus, in individual and group settings.

Of extreme importance is  I Corinthians 15:3-8, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

After Jesus was arrested and crucified, we find the disciples hiding for fear of the Jews. These guys were scared, scattered and skeptical. Then, their lives were transformed to the point that they endured persecution and martyrdom. Why the big change? One only need to read the book of Acts to find reports that the disciples were willing to suffer for their belief that the risen Jesus had appeared to them.  Luke, the historian, who wrote Luke-Acts records in Acts 12 that James the brother of John, was put to death by the sword by Herod. Tertullian, an early Church Father writing just prior to 200, records the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.[8] Origen, another church father, wrote, “Jesus who has both once risen Himself, and led His disciples to believe in His resurrection, and so thoroughly persuaded them of its truth, that they show to all men by their sufferings how they are able to laugh at all the troubles of life, beholding the life eternal and the resurrection clearly demonstrated to them both in word and deed.”[9]

Eusebius, called the first church historian, cites Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian and Origen on the Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul. He cites, Josephus, Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria on the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus.[10]

Paula Fredriksen of Boston University comments, “I know in their own terms what they saw was the raised Jesus. That’s what they say and all the historic evidence we have afterwards attest to their conviction that that’s what they saw. I’m not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what they saw. But I do know that as a historian that they must have seen something.”[11]

Now one might object saying just because one believes something doesn’t make it true. The Muslim terrorists believe that by flying the planes into buildings would get them a quick escort to paradise. Great Point!! But people will die for what they BELIEVE to be true. No one dies for what they KNOW is false. The disciples were there, they know whether Jesus appeared to them or not. Liars do not make good martyrs. This is eyewitness testimony to the fullest. Now it is up to you, whether or not you accept the eyewitness testimony as credible or not.

Fact #3 – The conversion of Paul

Within a few years of the crucifixion, the most prominent persecutor of the Christian Church becomes its biggest proponent. This is due to an experience that he believed was an appearance from the risen Jesus (Acts 9; Acts 22; Acts 26; I Corinthians 15). We must now ask the question, what caused this change in Paul? What caused Paul to change from being the Church’s most notorious persecutor to its most able defender? His change must have been caused by an impact event.  Paul’s conversion is interesting because he was an enemy of the church when he claimed to see the risen Jesus. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus is testified to by friend and foe alike.

These are the facts that nearly all scholars who study the subject accept even the more skeptical ones. Now the question remains, what do we do with these facts? That leads to my second wall.

 

Wall #2 Methods – By Method, I mean, arguments to the best explanation making inferences and weighing hypotheses according to specific criteria. The hypothesis that best meets the criteria is the one preferred as what most likely occurred. The criteria are as follows:

 

  1. Explanatory Scope. This looks at the quantity of facts accounted for by a hypothesis. The hypothesis that includes the most relevant data has the best explanatory scope.
  2. Explanatory Power. This criteria looks at the quality of the explanation regarding the hypothesis explaining the data with the least amount of effort, vagueness or ambiguity.
  3. Plausibility – The hypothesis must be implied to a greater degree and by a greater variety of background knowledge than other hypotheses.
  4. Less Ad hoc. A hypothesis is said to be “ad hoc” when it contains non-evidenced assumptions or it displays evidence of being contrived. The hypothesis which is least “ad hoc” is to be preferred.[13]

 

Let’s look at a medical example. Suppose a 15 year old male goes to the doctor and says, “Doc, what’s wrong with me?  His symptoms are as follows:

  1. Fever
  2. Abdominal Pain
  3. Vomiting

 

The doctor has 3 medical students with them and asks what diagnosis they would offer. So, the 1st posits that it possibly could be the flu. The doctor responds that the flu diagnosis does not provide good explanatory scope, because it would only account for the fever. Lower abdominal pain and vomiting are not usually associated with the flu. The 2nd student, responds by saying that although rare,  it is medically possible that abdominal pain and vomiting are associated with the flu. The Dr. agrees but mentions that in all of his years of experience, he has never encountered these 3 symptoms with the flu so the flu diagnosis lacks explanatory power and lacks plausibility.

The 3rd medical student opines that maybe  15 year old male does have the flu and decides to try to pull thru it and goes to martial arts practice after school and gets kicked in the abdomen and then goes out to eat afterwards and gets food poisoning. This would explain the abdominal pain and the vomiting. However, these are non-evidence assumptions and therefore contrived making them more ad hoc.

The Dr. then explains that this is a textbook case of appendicitis. All 3 symptoms occur in appendicitis; therefore this is the diagnosis to be preferred since it best explains the known facts. The historian like the doctor tries to make inferences to the best explanation based on what is before him.

 

The Resurrection hypothesis 

Let’s now weigh the strength of the Resurrection Hypothesis  by using the 4 criteria mentioned earlier.

 

Explanatory scope The Resurrection Hypothesis accounts nicely for all the facts mentioned. Therefore, it passes this criterion.

Explanatory power – The Resurrection Hypothesis explains our facts with no strain at all, therefore also passing this criterion.

Plausibility – Is The Resurrection Hypothesis implied by a greater degree than other hypotheses? That depends on one’s worldview. If one rules out supernatural events beforehand, then The Resurrection Hypothesis is implausible. If one accepts without question supernatural events beforehand then it becomes very plausible. However, one must bracket one’s worldview and neither reject nor presuppose supernaturalism, beforehand. On this view, one could say that The Resurrection Hypothesis has some degree of plausibility.

Less ad hoc  – The Resurrection Hypothesis claims  that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” The problem is knowing whether God would want to raise Jesus from the dead. So,The Resurrection Hypothesis does contain some degree of adhocness.

The Resurrection Hypothesis passes three criteria and does not fail a fourth. It accounts for all the minimal facts. Therefore, until another hypothesis is offered, The Resurrection Hypothesis is reasonable.

empty-tomb

The implications of this one event is remarkable! If Jesus rose from the dead then he is who he claimed to be, which is God incarnate. Furthermore he has answered the question about life after death. The whole gospel message is centered around the historicity of the resurrection. Christian faith is not a blind faith but a historical one. I am so sure of this event that I have become a follower of Jesus and am willing to bet my whole eternity on it. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:55-57 “Where , O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sing of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

JESUS IS ALIVE!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, ,305, note 108-109.

[2] Tacitus, Annals 15:44.

[3] Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13.

[4] Letter at the British Museum.

[5] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a.

[6] Gerd Ludemann, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, Amherst, N.Y.:Prometheus, 2004, 50.

[7] Quoted in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, by Licona and Habermas, 49.

[8] Mike Licona and Gary Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus p.58

[9] Quoted in The case for the Resurrection, Licona and Habermas, p.58

[10] Ibid, 59.

[11] Ibid, 60

[12] Ibid

[13] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010),109-110

 

How does your worldview answer the BIGquestions? (pt 3 of 4)

MORALITY:

Jaycee_DMy heart sank as I watched Diane Sawyer interview Jaycee Dugard. America learned how this young girl was kidnapped at age 11 by Phillip Gorrido, a sex offender, and held against her will for 18 years. She was sexually abused and tortured. The question Diane Sawyer and all of America wanted to know was how could someone do such a horrendous act to an innocent young girl?

Great Question!! This brings out even deeper questions!

Are certain things really right? Are certain things really wrong? Do objective moral values exist? Do we have a moral duty to our fellow man? Do human beings possess equal rights? I argue that God is the best explanation, for objective moral values, duties and human rights. Let’s define some terms. I need to distinguish between values and duties. A moral value has to do with something’s worth, whether it is good or bad, whereas a duty has to do with a moral obligation, what you ought or ought not to do.  By objective I mean something is right or wrong, good or bad regardless of someone’s opinion about it. For example: If Hitler had won WWII and somehow convinced everyone who disagreed with him it was right, it still would have been wrong.

 1. God is the best explanation for objective moral values – We know things in different ways. Some things we know through our 5 senses. We can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. We trust the information to be accurate. We also know things through pure reason, we draw inferences based on cause and effect and by using the laws of logic, for example we know that there are no square circles. But other truths we know by immediate awareness and introspection. Philosophers call this “knowledge by intuition.” Intuitions are the way we start knowing everything. By intuition I mean that the truth of the proposition is immediately evident, further analysis is not possible, nor is further justification needed.  I argue that, just as we have physical faculties that give us correct info about the physical realm, we possess a moral intuition that gives us correct information about the meta-physical realm. Such as Jaycee Dugard’s story.  We don’t have to think about it. We know these acts in an intuitive manner, they are self-evident. Our moral intuition informs our moral language. We use words like “justice” “fairness” “respect” “immoral” etc and we think we are using them correctly when applied to the situation we wish to convey. We naturally “see” something that we use words to describe. We see moral truths. Each of these concepts depends on some objective moral standard for its intelligibility. That standard is the nature of God.

 2. God is the best explanation for objective moral duties – Moral duties imply some type of obligation to our fellow man, an oughtness, if you will. Such as, “You ought not kidnap an 11 year old girl, and torture her for 18 years.” You ought to treat those who disagree with you with dignity and respect. This oughtness seems to have imperative force behind it which is better explained by having a commander. The late C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity writes,

             “Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires—one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them….If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature’s mind except those two instincts, obviously the stronger of the two must win. But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral Law, it usually seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses. You probably want to be safe much more than you want to help the man who is [in danger] but the Moral Law tells you to help him all the same.”p.9-10

             Naturalism is powerless to explain this “oughtness.”

 3. God is the best explanation for human rights – Do human beings have equal rights? If so, what is it based on? It cannot be anything physical, because there is nothing physical that we all share equally There are tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, dumb people, smart people, socially useful people and the socially useless. So, maybe there is something that is non-physical that we share that gives the basis for human rights. I think there is. It is the image of God. If God exists, then he has created them in his image, which means, we reflect certain characteristics of God. God has a mind, will, emotions and is capable of relationships. We have a mind, will, emotions and are capable of relationships. Therefore, the image of God provides a sound basis for human rights. If there is no God, then it will be difficult to argue that humans ought to treat each other with dignity and respect. Biologist Richard Dawkins, who is an atheist, sees the logical conclusion to this view. Listen to what he says in his book, Out of Eden And I quote

            “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”
– Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, page 133.

 

Richard Dawkins has it right……If there is no God.

 

We can sum up our argument as follows:

1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values, duties and human rights do not exist.

2) But objective moral values, duties and human rights DO exist

3) Therefore, God exists.

How does your worldview answer the BIG questions? (part 2 of 4)

Does life have meaning? The sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” attempts to tackle this question and it makes for some good laughs.

However, the question of meaning hits at the very heart of existence. What is my place in the universe? Is there ultimate meaning, value and purpose to life? This is a very good question. A question that every worldview attempts to answer. Let’s consider some possibilities. 1) Life is ultimately meaningless 2) Life has subjective meaning. 3)Life has ultimate meaning.

#1 Life is ultimately meaningless

(See my post on Monopoly & Atheism’s Absurdity)

Philosopher William Lane Craig  in his book Reasonable Faith writes,

“Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding, and everything in it is growing farther and farther apart. As it does so, it grows colder and colder, and its energy is used up. Eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light at all; there will be no heat; there will be no life; only the corpses of dead stars and galaxies, ever expanding into the endless darkness and the cold recesses of space–a universe in ruins. The entire universe marches irreversibly toward its grave. So not only is the life of each individual person doomed; the entire human race is doomed. The universe is plunging toward inevitable extinction–death is written throughout its structure. There is no escape. There is no hope.”

#2 Life has subjective meaning

Is it possible that we give our lives meaning? Of course this is possible but I think it is also problematic. If God does not exist, mankind is the product of time + matter + chance. We owe our existence to a huge cosmic accident. Therefore, the meaning that we do  give our lives only serves as an illusion. It helps us cope with the day to day activities of life and serves only as a temporary distraction to the overall big picture, which is the eventual heat death of the universe where all of life as we know it will eventually be extinguished.

#3 Life has ultimate meaning

This is the option we all want, but I think it is conditional. Life only has ultimate meaning and purpose if God exists. Furthermore, we can actually know what the meaning of life is because it has been revealed to us. The Bible describes God as a personal being who created mankind in his image (Genesis 1:27) with the capacity to have relationships. This is a magnificent concept! The God of the universe desires a relationship with his creation. This answer is tremendously satisfying intellectually speaking. Because it demonstrates in plain language that the meaning of life is “To know God, and to make him known.” This knowledge brings hope, joy and assurance to mankind.