Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back From A Little C.I.A. Work


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are probably wondering if I've been hiding under a rock someplace for the last month or so.

Well ... sort of.

I have to apologize for my anemic posting rate but I do have an explanation. In June I began to prepare for a couple of reading/study intensive months that were to follow. I spent most of the month of July and early August in Atlanta training to fly a new airplane (The Boeing 737-800 NG). While living in an airport hotel and getting abused in a flight simulator day after day is a luxury few get to experience, trust me, you're not missing anything.

More importantly, during the same time and for a couple of weeks after, I continued to prepare for an apologetics training program that I am really excited about. Twenty-nine of us descended on Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC for 3 days of training in both the knowledge and presentation of the case for Christianity. We were invited by Dr. Frank Turek, to attend the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA), a program based on his book, I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Dr. Turek has turned the material in this book into a presentation/ seminar he gives on college campuses for one reason -- 75% of kids who are brought up in the church leave the faith after they leave home.

The reason they leave is that they are inundated by the secular-atheist tilted faculty that dominates most college campuses these days. They hear the arguments these folks give and they are woefully unprepared to deal with them. In short, our kids know that they believe but they don't know why they believe. This is a problem that must be addressed and, to his credit, Frank Turek knows he can not do it alone. His goal is to assemble a nationwide team to help. I am trying to engage myself and to become a part of that team.

I think Christianity is worth thinking about. I believe in the Vision of TrueHorizon and I intend to make it a reality. My hope is to become an active part of the The CrossExamined Solution. If you know of a church, school or group that may be interested in a guest speaker who can address these types of issues, please let me know. Better yet, please recommend me or, if you prefer, Frank Turek, to come make the case.

It's good to be back but we have a lot of work ahead of us.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God ... (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dawkins' Incomprehensible God (2)

It's been a crazy few weeks so I am drastically behind my "desired" posting schedule, but I did want to follow up on my last one with regard to Richard Dawkins' view of God. Though I touched on the point that Dawkins' seems woefully unaware of the amount of complexity cosmologists have discovered in makeup of the universe, the second point is more profound. Before I begin, I just want to re-offer the exchange (between Dawkins and Francis Collins) that prompted the whole thing.

In discussing the improbability that there is a Creator who could be responsible for the grand design we find, here are the comments that jumped out at me (and were expertly addressed by Robert Hart in the March issue of Touchstone):
DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That's God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small -- at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case ... we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable -- but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.
To this, Robert Hart asks, "How is this an argument against the Christian faith?" Good question. In fact, as Hart suggested in the subtitle to his piece, this guys sounds more like St. Augustine than the leading atheist critic of Christianity in the contemporary world! A couple of observations:

1) "The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small -- at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case."

Fair enough, Mr. Dawkins. But contrary to the straw-man defenders of a thought-free faith you like to repeatedly argue against, there are some who are doing exactly that. While I disagree about the "vanishingly small" chance that such a God exists, many have provided evidence-based support for the idea that is perfectly consistent with the God described in the Bible. You have dismissed that evidence either because your presuppositions won't allow you to consider it, or because you don't like its implications. Whichever of these you base your dismissal of theism on, it rings hollow when you suggest no one has offered it.

2) "I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur."

Of course you don't! The Olympian gods are nothing but anthropomorphic myths that the educated of Athens never believed in. There is no evidence for their existence and the stories about them sound like the tales in a children's book. Agreed.

But the evidence that Jesus came down and died on the cross is in no way similar.

We have historical documents, inscriptions and archaeological finds that have confirmed much of what the New Testament says. We have, in those documents, stories that could easily have been refuted by opponents of the apostles, and embarrassing details that no self-respecting myth-maker would include if he/she were "making up" a religion. Finally, we have the writers of those stories going to their deaths in defense of the notion that those facts were not only verifiable through witnesses, but true and therefore worthy of martyrdom.

No, Mr. Dawkins, this is not the kind of pie-in-the-sky god you want to argue against. It is not the kind of god you want to show himself in the way you think he should. Instead, we have historical, scientific and philosophical evidence for an infinite God who made himself finite, suffered the cruelties of this world, and died for a a cause that defines the whole reason for our existence. No, it wasn't what you would expect.

And, as Robert Hart notes, that was exactly the point.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dawkins' Incomprehensible God (1)

On August 1, Francis Collins stepped down as the head of the Human Genome Project, a position in which he has served since 1993. Collins is a proud Christian who, even though he supports the Darwinian idea of common descent, has been a strong voice in the debate about the relationship between faith and science. We owe him a debt of gratitude, not just for his incredible leadership in the quest to decipher DNA, but for his defense of the Christian worldview as being intellectually viable in a culture that has been led to believe that science has rendered it impotent.

The end of Collins' tenure reminded me of a recent article in Touchstone magazine that I read recently. The piece referred to an interview with Collins and Richard Dawkins that was published in Time magazine in November, 2006. That interview contained an exchange between the two that I think is worthy of comment. While considering the beginning of the universe and the possibility that a supernatural creator could have been responsible for it, we get the following:
DAWKINS: ... We are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God--it's that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

TIME: Could the answer be God?

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That's God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small--at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case ... we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.
Today I want to address one simple point. My next post will cover Dawkins' assertion in general. The simple point is this ...

Dawkins goes on, from the above quote, to dismiss the idea that the improbability of 6 physical constants (gravity being one, not sure of the other five he admits to) of the universe being "tweeked" exactly right for life to be possible is not very convincing to him. Apparently both Dawkins -- and Collins, who never corrected him on it -- are unaware that in 1961 there were two of these constants in play. By the 1970s, scientists had identified the six to which Dawkins appears to refer. The list (provided by Reasons To Believe's, Hugh Ross) below shows how the number of design features in the universe has grown over the years ...

In 1995 there were 41 design features identified.

In 2000 there were 128 design features identified.

In 2002 there were 202 d
esign features identified.

In 2004 there were 322 design features identified.

In 2006 there were 676 design features identified.

That's right, as of two years ago astronomer Hugh Ross has identified 676! While improbability does not constitute an airtight argument, at some point such astronomical improbabilities would seem to approach an impossibility. In this case, Ross has calculated the probability at one chance in 10 to the 556th power -- that's a one, with 556 zeros after it -- that the constants the define our universe would be just the way they are or life would not exist anywhere.

By way of comparison, there are estimated to be 10 the the 80th power atoms in the entire known universe. Mathematicians consider on chance in 10 to the 50th power to constitute and impossibility.

Dawkins would undoubtedly reply that no matter how improbable something is, that improbability does not mean it couldn't happen. Fair enough. You be the judge of whose view is more reasonable.

More on Dawkins' comment next time ...