Worldview News

Loading...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

God Is Good. Period.



Every year, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I see plenty of people I know and respect making lists of things they are thankful for. I understand their thinking and I share their gratefulness for all our "first world" blessings. No doubt about the fact that all of us owe some thanks for those things we mostly take for granted.

Because of the religious origins of Thanksgiving in this country, I also understand why our thankfulness is many times tied to God. Within the greater Christian community, being grateful seems to come with the parallel understanding that the blessings we get are a part of the healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy life that God truly wants for us. Our "best life now," you might say. When things go our way, we are quick to add-on the heartfelt announcement that "God is so good!"

Being one that has his antennae up to detect cultural assumptions that find their way into the church, it occurred to me that this might just be one of them. After all, we are called to have "the mind of Christ," and it was Christ who said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

So, if Jesus promised us we would have trouble:
  • I'm wondering why would expect the Christian life to be without it ...
  • I’m wondering why we think we deserve "our best life now" ...
  • I'm wondering why we would think the words we speak have the power to make things turn out the way we desire them to be, when He never said any such thing ...
  • I'm wondering why we're always trying to figure out "God's will for our lives" when He has already told us very clearly and very simply that "[His] will is that we be sanctified."
To be sanctified ... or to be healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy? That is the question.

In light of these reflections, I decided to make a Thanksgiving list of my own. Here it is:
  • I'm thankful for separation from family and friends because it makes me cherish the time they're with me even more ...
  • I'm thankful for suffering because it challenges those who witness it to show compassion ...
  • I'm thankful for poverty because it pleads with us to be charitable ...
  • I'm thankful for fear because it teaches us courage ...
  • I'm thankful for unanswered prayer because it requires us to be patient ...
  • I'm thankful for sickness because it exposes how helpless we really are ...
  • I'm thankful for loneliness because it forces us to realize that we are not the center of the universe ...
  • I'm thankful for evil because it gives us a way to recognize the perfect Goodness of a Perfect God ...
This may seem like a weird list but I made it because I believe her when Joni Eareckson Tada says that the accident that broke her neck and has left her a quadriplegic since she was a teenager "was the best thing that ever happened to her" because it forced her to seek and find God.

I believe it when C. S. Lewis says that "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

I believe that if James, the brother of Jesus can be beaten, taken to the top of the Jerusalem Temple and thrown off, then stoned to death because he survived the fall; if Peter can endure the sufferings we learn of in his epistles and then die crucified upside down; if Paul can be beaten, tortured and left for dead in a ditch outside Lystra, stoned, imprisoned and beheaded on a Roman street, I believe him when he writes that, "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." (Romans 5:3-4)

If suffering was good enough for the apostles, I'm not sure why it isn't good enough for me.

Of course, this is all easy to say sitting here in my oversized, first-world office and it may be that sooner or later I will be forced to practice what it is so very easy for me to preach. But I consider these ideas now so that if/when the suffering starts, I won't be trying to wrestle with its purpose from inside the storm.

Jesus Christ sweated blood, was flogged and beaten mercilessly and then nailed to a cross to hang there until he died. If being sanctified means being made more like Christ, I think we should stop thinking that suffering is not for us, and start thinking about what it really means to be sanctified.

No one likes pain but I am thankful for it because I have to trust that God's purpose in this life has Him at the center of it, not me. His purpose for this creation is to annihilate suffering, and evil, and pain ... forever. Part of that purpose is that I need to develop the eternal virtues of charity, compassion, patience, courage and humility (among others).

So this Thanksgiving, I say we start telling the truth. Instead of just expecting the pleasure, let's start anticipating the pain with full knowledge of the reason we are called to endure it -- our sanctification. Our transformation to be like Christ. And then let us remember that regardless of our circumstances, we know they have an eternal purpose, that we are a part of it, that it is bigger than us, and that God is good whether we're personally doing well at the moment or not.

And let's be thankful for that too.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "Is The Bible Reliable?"

If we, as Christians, claim to base our view of reality on the Biblical account, we have to also be able to trust that that account is true. What the Bible says, and what we believe about it, have to match reality (the definition of truth as we discussed in the seminar you attended). So, how could we know that? What good reasons do we have to trust that the Bible we have is an accurate account of the story and that it is reliable as the inspired word of God?

One of the easiest to understand, clear, and convincing books I have ever read on this subject is Cold Case Christianity, by J. Warner Wallace. Jim is a (now retired) cold-case homicide detective from Los Angeles who has been on Dateline NBC several times in stories about murder cases he has helped solve that had been "cold" for as long as 35 years. Wallace used to be an in-your-face skeptical atheist who mocked Christianity. But when he was challenged to put his cold-case methods and analysis on the case for Christianity, he was shocked and upended by the evidence he uncovered. Here is a short intro video from J. Warner Wallace, who has become one of the most compelling contemporary case-makers for the Christian view:




Obviously there is a lot to look at on this topic. But let me summarize why we should in fact be comfortable in trusting that the New Testament (NT), and therefore the entire Bible, is reliable:

  • Most (if not all) of the New Testament was written before 70 A.D.
  • It was attested by non-Christian sources that confirm it's most important details
  • We have thousands of copies of it -- more than any other ancient document
  • With just the quotes of early church fathers, we can reconstruct the entire NT
  • It is obviously a collection of eyewitness accounts
  • It is written by multiple, independent sources
  • It has been corroborated by numerous historical and archeological evidences
  • It fulfills ancient prophecy in ways that cannot be coincidental
  • It contains embarrassing details that no fraudulent writer would include
  • It leaves in demanding and difficult sayings of Jesus
  • We have thousands of manuscripts from different geographic locations that match
  • It contains "undesigned coincidences" that verify its truthfulness (see below)
  • There is a solid "chain of custody" that confirms we have accurate manuscripts

There are plenty of details about each of these that allow for further discussion, but we can be very confident that the Bible we have in our hands is an accurate, well-preserved transmission of the originally inspired writings God meant us to have.

____________

Tim Mcgrew's Undesigned Coincidences Blog Series

  • Follow the link provided to Dr. McGrew's series. It contains links to other resources on the absolutely fascinating topic.

Other Resources from J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace's website: Cold Case Chrisianity
J. Warner Wallace's book: Cold Case Christianity

Books

Walter C. Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?
F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
Mark D. Roberts, Can We Trust The Gospels?

CCS SLEW -- "How Should We See The Relationship Between Science And Theology?"

The generally accepted view among those scientists who reject belief in God is that science and faith are "at war." Science gives us empirical (measurable by the five senses) data about the world, while theology is simply a collection of the musings of deluded believers about their "imaginary friend." These two realms of study cannot, and should not, ever overlap.

This is an interesting position ... considering the fact that the scientific method itself was developed by Christian scientists who thought the world was logical, consistent, and understandable precisely because it had been created by an intelligent, logical, orderly God. These scientists believed that studying cause and effect relationships in the world would help us understand how it operated and make predictions about how it would operate in the future. It also meant that we could learn things about God's character and creation by studying both the natural world and theology. This sentiment was reflected in Article 2 of the church's Belgic Confession of 1561:
We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse. 
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory and for our salvation.
This view is also reflected in Psalm 19 ["The heavens declare the glory of God ..."] and in several other places in Scripture. The point is that it is not some new invention meant to entice Christians to capitulate to the dictates of modern science. It is a view solidly founded in Scripture itself.

Considering the diagram above, this notion of "Dual Revelation" means that we have two books -- the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. Both are "inspired" by God and both reveal truth about His character and creation. Nature is a General Revelation about the workings of the creation. Scripture is Special Revelation about the details of who God is and what his moral nature entails. The ultimate example of Special Revelation is Jesus Christ himself.

The key to the diagram above is the horizontal, yellow, dotted line. Above that line we have truth revealed from God himself. Because it comes directly from God, it is not corrupted or in error. It is true truth. Everything above the yellow dotted line is devoid of error.

However, below the dotted line is man's attempt to interpret the received revelation. Science is man's attempt to interpret nature. Theology is man's attempt to interpret Scripture. This means that everything below the line always has the possibility of being in error.

Always.

If we uncover what appear to be disagreements between science and theology, or apparent contradictions between them, the source of the discrepancy is always a problem with our interpretation. We could be interpreting nature incorrectly or we could be interpreting Scripture incorrectly. In either case, the error is ours and we have to be willing to understand that we may have to rethink either interpretation.

Obviously (or maybe not?) this view only applies to areas where the two revelations overlap. You will never find the "plan of salvation" in nature. Likewise, you will never find a correct expression of the speed of light in Scripture. But, in the areas like: the origin of the universe, the design of the universe, the origin of life, the variety of life, our understanding of human nature, the reality of the soul, or the destiny of humanity as it relates to the creation; it does seem that we can compare notes from both sources of revelation in our attempt to understand them.

This view of Dual Revelation gives us freedom to trust that the practice of science (as long as it avoids improper presuppositions) can help lead us to truths about God. We should never be "afraid" that science will somehow undermine our pursuit of Him or view of Him. Science was developed by Christians and will always reflect how and why God created the world we live in. It is just another way He has given us to see Him.


Other Resources

Ken Samples, Historic Christianity's "Two Books" of Revelation (essay)

Hugh Ross, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is (book)


Dual Revelation (trailer) from Windjammer Entertainment on Vimeo.

Friday, November 21, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "Can I Believe The Resurrection Actually Happened?"

The truth of the resurrection is a key -- if not the key -- central issue of the Christian faith. If it's not true, Jesus is a fraud, the New Testament is a fiction, and Christianity is a false religion that we would all be fools to believe in.

This isn't my opinion. It's Paul's:
[1 Corinthians 15:12-19] -- But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 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. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Sounds like it might be a pretty important point, doesn't it? No one wants to be a fool, and none of us should ever claim to be a follower of a false religion.

Here is a short summary of some important facts about the resurrection. Take a listen but know there is more to it than this:




The Minimal Facts Approach

First, understand that no contemporary civilization at that time believed in the idea that a single person could die and be resurrected in time. None of them. This point is made in a very powerful (and long) analysis done by theologian N.T. Wright in his massive volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

So, in that kind of environment, defenders of Christianity refer to a way to understand the truth and historical reality of the resurrection as "The Minimal Facts Approach" and it is this. There are five central facts about the historicity of the resurrection that even opponents of Christianity admit are true:

1.  Jesus died by crucifixion on a Roman cross
2.  Jesus disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them
  • They claimed it (Paul, oral tradition, written tradition)
  • They believed it (7 ancient sources attest to their willingness to suffer and die for it)
3.  The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed
4.  The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed and became the leader of the church in Jerusalem
5.  The Empty tomb

There is plenty of evidence to support each one of these facts. Something happened to cause each of them to occur and that something has to explain all of them, not just some. The only plausible explanation that fits all five is that Jesus really did resurrect bodily exactly as the Bible says He did.

This is a very powerful argument and you can read more about it in this very accessible book:
The Case For The Resurrection of Jesus, by Gary Habermas and Michael R. Licona



CCS SLEW -- "Does The Existence of Evil Disprove God?"

The number one objection to the existence of God, by far, is the reality of evil. But there are two points to remember when you are confronted with this question.

1) It assumes that there is actual evil in the world.
2) Both those who believe in God, and those who don't, have to be able to offer an explanation for it.

Considering 1): for those who believe in Christianity, there is an explanation that fits both what we see in the actual world and what the Bible tells us about it. As it turns out, these match up very consistently and reasonably. Watch this video and give it some thought ...



As it turns out, Christianity has a very unique outlook regarding evil and suffering because the God who allows us free will is also a God who has shared in our experience of suffering. But, at the same time, He also loves us in spite of our rebellion and offers Himself as a rescuer from its consequences.

No other God does such a thing.




Keeping these in mind, we understand that for us to claim something is evil requires that there must be some kind of standard that exists outside of us by which evil is measured. That Standard is God's character. Good is a reflection of Him. Evil is the absence of His character.

Considering 2), any worldview that denies the existence of God has no basis for claiming anything as "evil." There may be things that people don't like -- personal preferences they think are bad -- but without a standard to measure those things by, there is no way to claim they are evil.

As it turns out, atheism has no basis for saying anything is wrong, or bad, or evil beyond the fact that atheists don't like it. Christianity has a perfectly reasonable explanation for evil.

Evil ends up being proof that God exists.

Please understand that this does not mean atheists can't be moral, nice, kind people. It just means that their worldview has no explanation for why they should be moral, nice, kind people.

Other Resources
Why is a good God more plausible than an evil God? 

Other Blog Posts
"The Cries That Bind": An essay on the common human tendency to wonder where God is when we see or experience suffering, and how asking that question puts us in the company of faithful giants.
"Biblical Glass Houses": Are we hypocritical in saying that there is a difference between the violence we see perpetrated by Israel in the Bible and the jihad we see being perpetrated by Islamic terrorists today?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CCS SLEW - "What Is The Difference Between Objective and Subjective Truth?"

One of the most challenging and frustrating topics you will encounter when dealing with the average person in the street is the concept of truth and its implications -- especially when the discussion includes moral truth. The problem is that the concept of truth lies at the core of a biblical worldview. Jesus said he was "the way, the truth, and the life [and that] no one goes to the Father except through him." He says not only that He is truth, but that He "came to testify to the truth" about the way the world really works.

It seems like truth is pretty important stuff. Yet the world tells us that truth is either up to us to decide individually, or that groups (communities) get together and agree about what they decide to be the truth.

It doesn't take much thought to see that the biblical view of truth and the cultural view of truth don't go well together. We need to understand why and this short video from J. Warner Wallace does a great job of illustrating the differences.


  

Now that you've watched the video, let me share another observation that I have found very helpful in clarifying the nature of objective truth and the way it gets abused in the culture:

Truth is a property of propositions

Certainty is a property of persons

Think about this and internalize it. When someone makes a statement about the way the world is, if that statement describes the world correctly, it is true. If it does not describe the world correctly, it is false. These types of things are called "propositions."

Example:
1) The Earth revolves around the Sun.
2) The Sun revolves around the Earth.

These are both propositions about the way the world is. Many people used to think 2) was true. Now we know that 2) is false and that 1) is true. Nothing changed in the actual world, we just gained more information and found the truth. It is not arrogant to tell someone who believes 2) that she is "wrong." It is loving. We want to know and represent the truth about things.

Remember this when someone accuses you of being arrogant because you claim that Christianity is true. As long as you have good reasons for doing so, anyone one can disagree with you, but what they can't do is call you "arrogant" for saying so. Please note that this depends not only on how you make your statement, but on whether you have a reasonable case to support what you're saying. The key is to focus on the proposition itself.

To continue the example, Ptolemy was a guy who insisted that 2) was true. He was certain about it, and so was most everyone else. Then Copernicus and Galileo came along, measured the real world more accurately, and found that 2) was false but 1) was true.

The point is that we can be absolutely certain about something that is absolutely false. Likewise, we can have little or no certainty about something that ends up being absolutely true. Don't mix up truth and certainty. We have to be willing to consider why we believe the propositions we claim to believe. Certainty doesn't make anyone's proposition right. Evidence from the real world does that.

Moral Truth

The more difficult issue seems to be when we wander into areas of moral truth. But remember, all the same rules still apply. Moral truth depends on whether what we believe matches the way the world really is. Certainty and truth are still different. The only thing that changes is that you are more likely to challenge someone to be accountable to an objective standard (like God) and to stop justifying their actions that reject that standard. People don't like that. They will call you arrogant and "judgmental." It becomes difficult to find the courage to stand up for moral truth when this happens but stand we must because violating moral truth has consequences ... and they can be very ugly.

Think of it as having a friend standing on a railroad track when you see a train approaching. Would it be loving to tell them, "I don't want to be judgmental about where you choose to stand. I wouldn't stand there, but that's up to you I guess."

No, that wouldn't be loving at all. The only loving thing to do is insist that they get off the tracks and to help them do so -- quickly. We have to stand up for moral truth with gentleness and respect. We have to do it the right way. We have to look in the mirror when we do so. We have to find and defend the right moral standard. This is rarely easy but always necessary. No one said it would be easy.

But sometimes the most loving and difficult thing to do is to tell someone the truth ...



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "Do We Actually Have A Soul?"

Christianity presumes that there is some kind of non-physical part of us that is real. The Bible refers to this as the "soul" or the "spirit" or the "self." One of the most difficult problems for those who believe in a non-theistic (godless) universe is how to account for our "consciousness." We can formulate ideas, reason through difficult problems, imagine future events or inventions, and recognize our "selves" directly and obviously. Yet, a godless view of reality claims that all these non-physical aspects of life as we experience it are either impossible or figments of our imaginations -- illusions about things that aren't really there.

The problem with this becomes obvious when we ask the simple question, "Who is experiencing the illusion?"

Don't get bogged down in trying to differentiate between what the Bible means by the "soul" or the "spirit" -- they seem to be interchangeable. And don't accept the claim that science can, or has, proved that the soul cannot exist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are a few resources that show just how obvious it is that the soul must be real -- yet another claim about the Bible that matches exactly with the way we find the world to be:

 


Additional Videos
Three Problems with saying there is no soul:  
This one is a little deeper but try to get by the scientific jargon and just listen to the basic point being made -- that scientists have found that physical changes are made to the brain without any physical input (chemicals, drugs, surgery etc...) but simply by altering the way one thinks. Something that is not physical is altering something that is physical. Fascinating stuff in "The Case For the Soul" ...

Other Resources

"Consciousness May Not Require a Functioning Brain," from the Discovery Institute


CCS SLEW -- "Is The Universe 'Fine-Tuned' For Our Existence?"

This 11-minute video offers a short discussion about the incredible amount of "fine-tuning" that went into the design of a universe that has to be "just right," not only for us to exist at all; not only for any form of life to exist at all; not only for the solar system we live in to exist at all; not just for a life-sustaining galaxy to exist at all ... but for a universe of any kind to exist at all!

As you watch this, please try to look past the appeal to "The Big Bang." I know that many Christians are uncomfortable with that concept and I understand their concern, even if I do not share it. But that is a different topic. What all of us can agree on is that the Christian view of reality depends on the fact that God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo) "in the beginning." If that is true, and the universe indeed had a beginning (see this post: CCS SLEW -- "Did The Universe Have A Beginning?"), then we would expect that universe to be meticulously designed with us in mind. If you are uncomfortable with the idea, whenever the narrator/interviewee uses the term "Big Bang," just substitute "Creation Event."




Related Blog Posts:

A Very Tiny Place In The Heavens 

A Very Tiny Place In The Heavens (Part 2) 

A Very Tiny Place In The Heavens (Part 3) 

A Very Tiny Place In The Heavens (Part 4)

Other resources:

One Minute Video
explanation of "The Fine Tuning Argument" w/William Lane Craig:



Instant Video
: The Privileged Planet - $1.99

DVD: The Privileged Planet, Illustra Media and the Discovery Institute
Excerpt here:
video

Book: The Privileged Planet, by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards

CCS SLEW -- "Is Saying That God Is 'Uncreated' A Cop-out?"

I received the following question from a SLEW student last night. It's not an easy one to answer but it's a great question to ponder. I offer the following response for consideration.

Question:
I have always been curious and bothered by the fact that whenever I ask where God came from I was given the answer, "He was just always there." That answer doesn't sit well with me. It seems like a cop-out. When atheists and scientists are confronted on the Big Bang theory, we ask the question, "How was there a 'Big Bang'?" and they'll answer that it came from chemicals. We then ask, "Well then where did the chemicals come from?" The scientists will respond with "Well they are just there." We then assume that we have won that argument. 
How can we say that the answer, "the chemicals were always there," isn't a suitable answer if we say the same thing about our God? It just doesn't make very much sense to me. Please offer any insight you might have on this subject. It has been bothering me for a long time.
I would start by saying there are two ways to think about the origin of "stuff" as it relates to God's eternality; scientifically or philosophically.

The Scientific Way

Science is the study of cause and effect. We see things happen in the world and we investigate what kind of cause could be responsible for what we see. Those of us who see this universe as God's creation should have no fear of science. Science is simply the way we discover and explore our Maker's work. With that said, remember the answer to the question, "Did the universe have a beginning?" The answer to that question is, "Yes, it did." The beginning of the universe is an effect we observe. So, what could be the cause of that effect?

Well, either "something" caused it, or "nothing" caused it.

If "something" caused it, we can do our best to try to identify what that something is. And, since that beginning included the instant emergence of all matter, energy, space, and time, it is perfectly logical to infer that whatever caused matter, energy, space, and time to pop into existence must be outside matter, energy, space, or time as we know it. The cause of a thing can't be the thing itself. So, the cause must be a timeless, spaceless, and immaterial "something."

Notice that description of the "Cause" is perfectly consistent with the definition of God as an eternal, self-existent spirit. Science cannot "prove" (or disprove) God. Science deals with our study of the natural world and God is not a part of the natural world. He is beyond the natural. He is supernatural. However, science can make implications about the reality of a supernatural cause for the world. That is exactly what it does in this case.

Atheistic/Naturalistic scientists have three ways to respond to this implication:
  1. They can claim that the "something" is just more of the same -- that in this case alone, and in complete defiance of the very law of cause and effect that makes science possible -- the universe caused itself to pop into existence. They will not accept self-causation in any other instance, but if it provides a way to deny even the possibility that God exists, they will take it. This sounds intellectually dishonest to me. Though the questioner referred to this as "the chemicals ... that were always just there," I have never heard of this as an explanation. Instead, I have heard it referred to as a "quantum field" or a "gravity field" (which have to be in place prior to the chemicals). But, no matter what they call the source, this explanation does nothing but push the question back another step. And we rightfully ask, "Where did the quantum field come from?" [The result is an infinite regress -- more on that later].
  2. They can claim that the "something" is a yet undiscovered combination of matter, energy, space and time -- that has occurred outside the boundaries of our universe but somehow created an effect inside those boundaries. Because it is outside the boundaries of our universe, we cannot ever know what it is. It is undetectable to us and therefore nothing but a speculative explanation which has been made up, once again, to avoid the implication of a Supernatural God. This is exactly what the "Many Worlds Hypothesis" is all about. [More on that elsewhere if anyone asks about it].
  3. They can claim that "nothing" was the cause. This is exactly what Lawrence Krauss has done in his book, A Universe From Nothing, and it reveals just how desperate the atheistic view is to deny even the possibility of the existence of God. When you are willing to say that nothing caused everything to exist you have stepped beyond the realm of respectability and into the realm of intellectual dishonesty. This is especially true when, like Krauss, you go on to define "nothing" as a different way of understanding what is actually "something." [Proof that only highly educated "smart" people could ever come up with something so dumb].
So, given these, the best explanations we are left with (outside the action of a supernatural Creator) are by definition undetectable and unknowable (number 2), or result in an "infinite regress" (number 1). An infinite regress amounts to asking the question, "Well, what caused that?" an infinite number of times. You cannot continue back to infinity. Infinity is a concept. There cannot be an actual infinite number of things or events. At some point the chain has to stop. At some point the physical laws and matter that allow for "the chemicals" have to end. This is a point we call the "First Cause" and that is one definition of God -- "The Uncaused First Cause."

The scientific argument is not that God has always been there, it is that He, or some cause that really closely resembles Him, has to be the originator of all causes. Chemicals or the laws of nature can't do that.

I think this is convincing -- that something has to be the first cause of things and that the "something" cannot be a part of the stuff we are asking about. But this is a scientific argument and, because science cannot ever fully point us to God (it can only imply Him), it is not the best kind of argument to use. 

The Philosophical Way

Philosophy, on the other hand, does provide us an argument that is irresistible. I am no philosopher but let me present the case as best I can:

When you and I talk about "motion," we think about physical things like baseballs transitioning from one point in physical space to another point in physical space. But, when philosophers talk of "motion," they mean something very different. Motion to a philosopher is more like change. Things are constantly changing so the world we observe is constantly "in motion" in that sense. Objects move through space. Leaves change color, fall off and reappear in the Spring. Bodies grow and then grow old and decay after we die. Everything is always in motion.

This ongoing process means that things are always "actually" in some state but have the "potential" to move to another state. Think of an ice cube. It is an "actual" block of frozen water but it has the "potential" to become a puddle, then steam, then a vapor, then a cloud, then a rain drop, then a river, then a lake, then something in my cup ... you get my drift. The chain of "potentiality" never ends. 

Things always move from actuality to potentiality.

But motion has to have started somewhere. Unless there was a first "Mover" there could never have been any motion at all. This is what we call an "entailment." It has to be true. The first "mover" not only must be unmoved, it must be unmovable. It is what we call "pure actuality."

"And this," Thomas Aquinas said, "is what we call God."*

I know this is a mind bender, and there are philosophers who will argue this point, but as an answer to the question posed, I think you can see that it is not a cop-out to say God must be the purely actual, unmoved Mover. It is a concept that is hard to refute.

___________

* I owe this brief (and incomplete) explanation to my understanding of the case made by Edward Feser, in his book The Last Superstition -- an excellent book, even if it hurts your brain sometimes.

CCS SLEW -- "Did The Universe Have A Beginning?"

Remember the second premise of our argument:
2) The universe began to exist
This video is a great summary of the scientific discoveries that led to the realization that the universe really did begin to exist. Take a look:



It's a pretty simple thing to grasp: Beginnings require beginners -- but the implications that follow from that simple idea are pretty profound.

Our understanding of the way our universe is put together tells us that matter, energy, space and time are all "co-relative." This is actually why the theory we have all probably heard of (but don't really understand) is called "Einstein's General Relativity Theory" ... E=mc^2 and all that.

As he was formulating his theory, Einstein came to the realization that the only way the mathematics would work was if the universe was continuously expanding. At the time, the paradigm for understanding the nature of the universe was that it was "static" (unchanging) and "eternal" (it had always been here). Things were moving around inside it but the universe as a whole was like a big blob of stuff that had always been just like it is right now. Because he "knew" this, Einstein decided his theory had to be fixed -- and he inserted a constant into the equation to cancel out the expansion. In 1929, when the actual expansion was confirmed by Hubble, Einstein removed the constant and later called its insertion the greatest mistake of his professional life. The realization that the universe is continuously expanding has been refined and verified in dozens of different ways ever since.

And cosmologists have fought it ever since because, if you run the clock backward, there comes a point where time begins, space is has zero volume, matter and energy emerge. In other words, there is the implication of a beginning, and therefore the Beginner that atheistic/naturalistic scientists abhor.

Don't be afraid of the idea that the atheist astronomer, Fred Hoyle, mocked this idea by labeling it "The Big Bang." He did that because he despised what the "Big Bang" stood for ... God.

The "Big Bang" doesn't identify who that God is -- we need other evidence for that -- but don't ever discount the fact that it is on the Christian's side as a powerful indicator that when the Bible starts off with the words, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," the science of cosmology echoes those words exactly.


Other Blog Posts

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Bang (Part 1)?

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Bang (Part 2)?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "What Is Intelligent Design?"

Intelligent Design (ID) Theory is the idea that there seem to be many aspects of the world we live in that reflect the handiwork of a thinking, purposeful being. From the intricate workings of the cell, to the force of gravity, to the location and makeup of the Earth, the universe is overflowing with clues that there is a Mind at work in creating and sustaining it. Stephen Meyer gives a great overview of the case for ID in this video. It's a little long but well worth your time if you are interested in being able to cite some of the evidence from the creation that points to God.




One issue some Christians have with ID is that many of the scientists who are involved in it do not identify the Designer as the God of the Bible. They believe this is a weakness of the intelligent design movement. I understand that feeling. But I also understand the reason the ID folks insist on doing it.

In today's culture, any hint of linking science to faith is seen as a reason for flippant dismissal of the science. ID proponents want us to consider the evidence on its own. The evidence ID provides about the reality of an Intelligent Designer is so overwhelming it is impossible to ignore. Let people see the evidence; then we can get specific about the biblical case for exactly Who that Designer is.

I believe that part of the beauty of ID is that there are agnostics and people of just about every faith represented in the movement. There's a reason for that. We are all made in His image. We all observe the same truth. We all recognize His fingerprints. The Case For Christ doesn't rest on scientific evidence; there is plenty else that points to Him. But if science is a way to begin that discussion with someone -- bring it on!

Other Blog Posts
Darwinism's Leakey Bucket
 Dr. Frankenstein?
The Origin of Life 

Monday, November 17, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "Is There A Good Reason To Believe In A Creator?"

Do we have any reason to believe that there is evidence that someone outside of the universe actually created it? Well, yes we do. The logic of thinking this way begins with what we call the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Fancy word, simple concept:
1) Anything that begins to exist must have a cause adequate to explain it.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe must have a cause adequate to explain it.



The first "premise" of the argument seems to be obviously true. Cakes don't bake themselves. Houses don't build themselves. Paintings don't paint themselves. If you hear a knock at your front door, you don't assume that it knocked itself. Each of these things requires a "cause" -- Cakes require bakers; houses require builders; paintings require artists. None of this is controversial.

So, don't worry about the second line of the argument yet. Just consider this: If we have evidence that our universe came into existence at some point in the past, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that there must be a "cause" for that too. Not only must there be a cause, but when the "effect" is the entire universe -- everything physical thing we know to exist or have ever existed -- the "cause" of that must be immensely powerful.

It must be something like what we call, "God."

Related Blog Posts
Creation's Common Ground 
A Christian View of Science
How to Perfectly Know the Existence of God (this is a little advanced but very good)

Other Resources

CCS SLEW - "What's Your Worldview?"

A worldview is like a set of glasses through which you see everything in life. It is the lens that brings the world into focus and helps you make sense of reality.

Everybody has a worldview. What's yours?



Other Resources

Impact 360 Worldview Ministry

Summit Ministries Age Appropriate Curriculum


How do you know that Christianity is the one true worldview?


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Naturalism's Pre-Scientific Mindset



Back Before Modern Science Weighed In
Wintery Knight -- the ghost name for the writer of a fantastic blog on defending Christianity and engaging that defense in the public square -- has written a succinct, useable outline for how to organize a devastating critique of atheistic naturalism. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with it. It is very accessible ...

The Importance of Having A Narrative When Confronting The Assumption of Naturalism


Monday, October 6, 2014

"Time To Move Along"

Joseph F. Vincent
West Point Class of 1955
The first concrete memory I have of Joseph Fraser Vincent, Sr. was on the day after the night I brought his daughter home from a date an hour and a half after her curfew. In my "defense," both he and his wife, Fran, were out of town until Sunday night -- this was on Friday. Who comes home from an out-of-town trip three days early, anyway? Beside that, Mary assured me that if we had called and asked permission to stay for the second movie of the double feature, her parents would have been fine with it. I mean, it wasn't our fault they wouldn't invent cell phones for another 20 years. It seemed like a perfectly legitimate rationalization to me.

I slowed to a rolling stop and dropped Mary off at the curb behind her house. The next day is when I first remember being introduced to the giant of a man whose physical stature was rather slight. He told me how he had trusted me with his daughter and that I had disappointed him. He told me that he expected more of me than that. As he talked to me, I shrank ever more deeply into the shag carpet at my feet. He never raised his voice above a calm, conversational tone that day or any day over the next 38 years that I knew him.

He didn't have to.

Almost 8 years later, I was back in his living room again, asking for that same girl's hand in marriage. He had sent her upstairs to her bedroom while he and Fran asked me lots of questions about my plans and how I meant to care for their daughter. I don't remember many of the specifics but I do remember how the conversation came to a close. He looked at his wife and asked, "What do you think about all this?" She responded positively.

Outer Banks, 2002.
He turned to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "Well, I suppose we'll have to call Mary down here to break the tie." The pause between that comment and when he started laughing was a little too long for my taste; but I guess I deserved it.

Several months later, I thought I had one-upped him by making this proud Army man, and member of West Point's Long Gray Line, walk his daughter down the very long center aisle of the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis to give her away. I should have known better.

At practice the night before, when the Chaplain asked the proverbial, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man" line, he had responded exactly as expected: "Her mother and I do."

During the actual ceremony however, he changed things up. As he gave me his daughter's hands, he looked me in the eye once again. "With pride," he said, "her mother and I do."

It was a simple addition to the script; but those eyes. That voice. There was power and trust in them both. The kind of power you can't escape. The kind of trust you would never dream of betraying.

This was a man who served as a U.S. Army artillery officer, a Viet Nam veteran, a math professor at West Point, a War College graduate, and commander of men. But, if you knew any of those facts about him, you probably didn't learn them from him. This was a man who, at 72 years of age, ran the 6-mile second leg of the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon with me and two of his sons ... at an 8:40 minute/mile pace. This was a man who, at age 74, completed the 12-mile March Back from Beast Barracks to West Point with the new plebes in the Class of 2010 -- one of whom was his oldest grandson. During that march, my father-in-law couldn't sit down to rest because he was having stability issues in this knees and was afraid that if he sat down, he wouldn't be able to get back up. It wasn't until years later that we learned his balance problems that day were the first sign that ALS had begun its relentless, eight-year attack on his nervous system.

Yesterday it took him from us.

When you are in the presence of a great man, you just know it. He doesn't try to tell you. He doesn't have to prove it. His life simply exudes it, and you respond accordingly. My own sons marveled at how, when Grandad Joe would begin to tell a story (and he told a lot of wonderful stories), everyone in the room would stop talking and focus on his measured, soothing voice -- not because he demanded it, but because their inner sense of respect required it.

He was a leader. He was a patriarch in every good sense of the word. He was a gentleman. He was a godly man in the way God meant men to be godly -- in humble subservience to Him but without all the faux spirituality or cheesy Christian-speak we like to use.  There was no prideful preening disguised as humility. No pretension. There was none of that. Just a down-to-earth, genuine man of God who didn't need to talk because his actions did his talking for him. This was a man who lived his life with a quiet strength and love that empowered everyone around him in ways no human author could ever explain.

I've read words like that about other people. All of us have. And I suppose they could sound cliche. But any sense of reducing the way Joseph F. Vincent, Sr. lived his life to a cliche were obliterated for anyone who was witness to the way he died.

He had made all his decisions months, if not years, before; back when he could do so unemotionally and without leaving them to torture us. He had written out instructions and left us with a computer file to open and read upon his departure.

He was alert and his eyes were clear and bright by the time all his children made it to his bedside. He couldn't talk but he could still squeeze your hand. We used a grid of letters to help him spell out questions and wishes. It had to be a tedious and aggravating process for him to do that but, as he had demonstrated over the previous 82 years of his life, there was never a hint of impatience in his expression. Just slow, resolute determination to get his points across. It went on for hours. He wanted to know why the plastic tube was in his mouth. When we told him he had stopped breathing and that he had been intubated in hopes that all of his kids could make it there to say good-bye, he spelled, "Good decision."

And then he matter-of-factly laid out his desire to have us "sing and tell jokes."

We sang hymns. We prayed prayers. We recited Scripture -- two passages in particular: the 23rd Psalm and a verse that seemed to come from out of nowhere into my wife's head: "Now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We told jokes. Bad ones. But somehow, with facial muscles that had no strength and that tube stuck in his mouth, he still managed to laugh. The biggest laugh of the day came from a joke that he told us. It took him 20 minutes to spell it out.

Then we each took turns saying good-bye. There were 13 of us in his room. Those who could not physically make it to his bedside gave him their love and thoughts through a cell phone held to his ear. He smiled at times and took it all in. He was peaceful and steady. Much more steady than us. I don't know that I've ever heard of anyone else who was willing, and able, to officiate his own funeral.

Finally, he had two more messages to spell out. The first was, "I love all ...," and then this:


Some may suggest it is mere coincidence that all my sons just happened to be home on this particular weekend for the first time in almost 3 years. Maybe so. But, then one would also have to believe that the computer file we opened today -- the one that contained the following written by him years ago and that we had never seen before -- was also just a product of coincidence:
"I am not ready to leave this world… BUT, if I have no choice …I AM READY. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 
I have no fear, in fact, I look upon this departure as My Greatest Adventure. I see it as a transition from one life (on earth) to everlasting life. I will look forward to seeing all of my family…in due time. 
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Accept the comfort and turn MOURNING into MORNING. It’s a new day. . Arise, shine … Let your light shine that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. 
If anyone feels a Joe/Dad glitch…it is real…it is me saying 'I love you.'"
No, I don't think any of it is a coincidence. I think the God in whom we live, and move, and have our being, gives special gifts to his favorite servants. I think He gives power, and strength, and wisdom to those who can use it best. I think He makes giants out of men of small stature -- men who, even if they are ravaged by the evils of this world, come through looking bigger still.



___________

Seeking A Good Death, John Stonestreet

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"We're All Somewhere In The Middle"

If you've been hiding under a rock for the last ten years or so, you might have missed out on the realization that homosexuality has become the "thing which shall not be questioned." In a world that eschews thinking through a reasoned argument about anything, the new way to "win" others to your side is to make it fun, "catchy," and accessible to everyone! It doesn't hurt to frame your opponents' view as one that could only be shared with a Neanderthal -- make it a view so ridiculously archaic that those who hold that view are ashamed to admit it because they don't want to be the ones to wreck the party.

That's how a rather popular band can produce this and market it without allowing for any hint that what they are saying is so absurd it defies any attempt to defend a rational explanation:



But, that's where we are today. In an age when social media sites can offer 58 "gender options" for their subscribers, who's to say everyone isn't gay? "We're all somewhere in the middle," and if you disagree you're just a party pooper. I mean, seriously, who could be against having so many options among every fish in the sea?

Human autonomy trumps reality. Fun is the new moral truth.

As ridiculous as it sounds, those of us who aren't anywhere near the middle need to wake up. This attitude is not just prevalent among the pop bands who aim to make money off the trend, or the hipsters who buy their music. It is alive and well in our church pews, where broaching the subject of homosexuality raises the specter of a dissension, reduced offerings, or (God forbid) the grandaddy of all anvils hanging over our congregational heads -- the church "split."

That's why the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA -- not to be confused with the more orthodox PCA) voted to redefine marriage by majority vote. That's what allows certain synods of the Lutheran Church to decide whether or not to affirm that the Bible is "silent" on the issue of homosexuality.

Silent? Really? No matter your view, how could anyone claim it's silent?

It is rampant in our church youth groups where having fun beats a boring exegesis of a biblical passage any day, and where this has become "the topic which shall not be questioned" for fear of the wrath of disenfranchised students or parents who rue the fact that "the church shouldn't be so political."

Make no mistake; this phenomenon is having a devastating effect on young people who are dabbling on the event horizon with songs like this and then, before they know it, being sucked by the gravity of the culture into the black hole from which it emanates.

The culture at large has obviously failed this test of its substance. Only we can decide if the church will follow suit. Pick a side and live there. But, please, realize that anyone who takes this topic seriously cannot land "somewhere in the middle," no matter how catchy the tune that tries to lure you there.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Throwing Cold Water On The ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge"

I really don't mean to be a killjoy. I love the fact that millions of people are engaging in the latest "Ice Bucket Challenge" to elicit donations for finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease). I've seen the moving story on ESPN about the gutsy baseball star (Pete Frates) from Boston College who initiated the whole movement. I pray that the almost 1000% increase in donations to the ALS Association as a result of this "Ice Bucket Challenge" phenomenon will accelerate the finding of a cure that cannot come too soon.

ALS is a heartbreaking, debilitating, evil disease. I know this because I've been watching my father-in-law suffer with it for almost 8 years now. I hate ALS.

But I hate the willful and selfish destruction of innocent human beings more.

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" has become a cultural phenomenon that only the modern social media monster could create. But those who engage in it need to know that the ALS Association's search for a cure includes their own unapologetic support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR). Stem cells offer an exciting area of research that may prove to lead to the most powerful cures for some of the most horrendous diseases mankind faces. But we all need to distinguish betweens Stem Cell Research and Embryonic Stem Cell Research. When it comes to ethics and how we all value human life, the differences between them couldn't be more stark.

I and others at the Life Training Institute have written about the failures and ethical issues surrounding ESCR before (here, here, here, here, and here among other places). The moral issue centers on only one thing: From what source do you derive the stem cells? ESCR destroys frozen or cloned embryos of a small, defenseless human beings for the benefit of others. The simple fact is that the clinical promise and moral superiority of adult stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) over ESCR is undeniable and avoids the destruction of innocent human beings. We don't have to resort to barbarism to seek a cure for diseases.

So, what to do?

You can begin by reading a short news story on "What's Wrong With The Ice Bucket Challenge?" It gives a short overview of the issue and a couple of solutions:

1) There is an alternative research group that does not engage in ESCR, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. Feel free to dump a bucket of ice water on your head if you are so-inclined, but then send your money to an institute that respects the value of human life at all stages.

2) Alternatively, if you want to donate to the ALS Association anyway, include with your donation a stipulation that your funds are not permitted to be used in any ESCR program. The Association's Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Carrie Munk, has made a public commitment that they will not use your funds to support ESCR if you do so.

To be fair, the ALS Association does support a wide array of alternative research programs. I don't want to disparage an organization that is doing so much to try to find a cure for ALS. But please, if you choose option 2), do so with great trepidation because Ms. Munk also claims that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future." Seeing that there are no "very strict guidelines" that are strict enough to allow for the destruction of innocent human beings, this doesn't seem like an acceptable risk to take.

Let's end ALS, but let's end it the right way.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Fantasy of Ungrounded Physics

As a follow-up to my last post about Darwinism's bad week, I also ran across this story ... an interview with South African Physicist George Ellis about the philosophical inanity that is regularly spouted by the New Atheist priesthood. Keep in mind that Ellis is not some easily dismissed Christian minister or Intelligent Design proponent (though I obviously have no problem with either of those). The article is from Scientific American and Ellis has co-authored books with the likes of Stephen Hawking.

From the piece:
Horgan (SA Interviewer): Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree? 
Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did.  And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.

Thus what he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true. Well, you can’t get any evidence about what existed before space and time came into being. Above all he believes that these mathematically based speculations solve thousand year old philosophical conundrums, without seriously engaging those philosophical issues. The belief that all of reality can be fully comprehended in terms of physics and the equations of physics is a fantasy. 
... 
Horgan: Krauss, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have been bashing philosophy as a waste of time. Do you agree? 
Ellis: If they really believe this they should stop indulging in low-grade philosophy in their own writings. You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis. You can choose not to think about that basis: it will still be there as an unexamined foundation of what you do. The fact you are unwilling to examine the philosophical foundations of what you do does not mean those foundations are not there; it just means they are unexamined.Actually philosophical speculations have led to a great deal of good science. Einstein’s musings on Mach’s principle played a key role in developing general relativity. Einstein’s debate with Bohr and the EPR paper have led to a great of deal of good physics testing the foundations of quantum physics. My own examination of the Copernican principle in cosmology has led to exploration of some great observational tests of spatial homogeneity that have turned an untested philosophical assumption into a testable – and indeed tested – scientific hypothesis. That’s good science.
If this kind of common sense reasoning about the origin and nature of all reality interests you, I would also suggest an excellent book I read earlier this summer by the atheist, materialist philosopher Thomas Nagel, who has insulted the Priests of Scientism by having the unmitigated gall to question their religious devotion to Darwinism. It's a fascinating read with a great subtitle ...

Mind & Cosmos: Why The Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception Of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

Enjoy!