God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Psychology Class- Part 3 of 12

In Part 2 I gave a clarification of my first essay (Part 1). Each week, the professor would ask us a question about what we learned; she called it a "Reflection on Learning." These were supposed to be short (max 400 words). I asked her if she would allow me more space to develop my thoughts more effectively; she had no problem with that request (thank God!).

This is "Reflection on Learning" from the second week (I didn't include the first in this series because it didn't include anything I haven't already posted).

Since it was not required to be in any specific format (APA), I did include some links. The section in red is the question posed.

Psychology Class- Part 2 of 12

In Part 1 I discussed the four primary perspectives in Psychology. That essay was submitted before any interaction with the professor.

The feedback of my essay is the context for the majority of what I have in this post

In her feedback, the professor noted some areas that she did not understand. She was unclear what I meant by "biological cousin" when referring to the Evolutionary Perspective and two phrases in one of my sentences threw her off.

The context for the last paragraph posted here was a discussion in class- I was discussing the Cognitive Perspective and why I thought that it was superior to the other perspectives. I made the mistake of using the term "superior". She said that she did not want us to think of one perspective as more valid than or "superior" to the other perspectives, since we were just being introduced to the material and had not been exposed to evidence for and against each one.

Though it was not required of me, I replied to her feedback and criticism in an effort to clarify my points and terms.

Psychology Class- Part 1 of 12

If you haven't yet, please read the introduction to this series. It will fill you in on what you're getting into by reading this post.

Okay, this is the first essay that I wrote for my PSY-300 course. This essay was due before the first night of class, so there was no interaction with my professor before I wrote it. We had the typical reading assignment which is the main source for the material. I start out with a quick description of what Psychology is, then I describe the four primary perspectives that drive the discipline. We were not required to provide a critique of them, but I did anyway. As I mentioned in the introduction post, this was originally written in APA format, so I have edited it for emphasis and hyperlinks to help you along. Please follow the links if you want to get a tighter grasp of what I am talking about.

Something to Look Forward To

In my efforts to finally obtain my degree in Computer Science I have been forced to take a couple detours. I found out earlier this year that I needed to take about four more classes than I originally anticipated when I enrolled. They told me that I had to take a few more electives, so I was quite ticked off (there goes another four months of time and another $4K down the crapper). I wasn't happy about the choices I had either. None of them had anything to do with my degree (like most electives). Psychology courses were available options, so I figured that I might give it a shot. (I had tried a psychology course earlier in college and almost failed it). Little did I realize just what was going on.

Interesting Thought About The Brain

Lately I've been reading a few books about raising kids, specifically about the father's role. One of the many common themes in them is that you must teach your kids not only by verbal instruction and correction, but also by example. They all stress that even if we are not active in any of those three, we are still teaching. Our children watch us intently and learn from everything we do and don't do, whether we intend to teach or not. This kind of behavior by children is recognized all over the psychological community. Kids do because we do, even though they may not have a deeper reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!- A Week Early

Thanksgiving is another holiday (see my previous post about Halloween) that I see has lost a lot of its meaning in American society. I remember being taught that Thanksgiving was a time to stop and thank God for everything that he has bestowed upon us (be it material goods, health, understanding or anything- even suffering).

It seems quite difficult to do such a thing when America has abandoned belief in a personal God who affects our lives or has abandoned belief in God completely. I would hope that I would be able to see people at least showing gratitude to each other for something, but I don't even see that anymore. Instead, I see people calling it "Turkey Day", almost in an effort to remove the idea of being thankful to anyone for anything- which is a direct logical conclusion of America's narcissistic materialism ("its all about me").

Thoughts on Evolution and Genetics

I noticed something the other day. I was doing some research about some basic genetic theory (how genes are passed and expressed), and I see something that looks to be an issue for the evolutionary (macroevolutionary) paradigm. Please read last week's post "Is Evolution Repeatable?".

Book Review: "The Illustrated World's Religions"

The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions
By Houston Smith.

This book was given to me by a friend a couple months ago. I had other books ready to read, but I decided to put this one ahead of the others because I had heard that Houston Smith was the "go to" guy about the world's religions. A few different versions of this book have been published; this one is the illustrated one. It includes a lot of art inspired by the different religions and contains many photos of adherents "in action".

Is Evolution Repeatable?

Most people do not really  think to ask this question about Evolution. However, it has become quite the important question in determining the validity of the paradigm. In this post when I refer to "evolution" I am referring to "macroevolution" (see my post "How Did It All Happen? Part 4- Evolution? Really?"). If I am talking about microevolution (see same post above), I will make the distinction.

As I discussed in the previously cited post, random mutation does happen, and natural selection does operate on those mutations. This observation has been extrapolated into the theory of Evolution. According to the paradigm life began as a single-cell organism, and through the process noted we arrive at the state of life today (complex, mega-multicellular organisms).

Just Another Day...

Theologian Kenneth Samples wrote an article about Halloween and recorded an episode of Straight Thinking about it. Here's the episode:

My thoughts?

Atheism And The Escape From Responsibility

I heard a couple of times about a theist making the claim that the only reason that someone was an atheist was so that the atheist could do whatever he wanted without being held responsible. I've also heard an atheist complain about theists making this type of accusation. What really gets me is that the theist didn't offer anything to support his claim, and the atheist did not offer anything to support the opposite (not that he even claimed the opposite was true). Either way, both people were simply complaining about the other.

The Inhumanely Cold and The Deliriously Warm

I have noticed a couple different behaviors in people. First, people who are so caught up in reality that they reduce it to a cold-hearted survivalistic, "this is reality- live with it!" world, that they forget that humanity has dignity, and the world has beauty. Second, people who are so blinded by their fantastic and utopianistic ideas of what the world could be that they forget that they live in a reality of hardship, pain, and suffering.

Judgment Day- Part 4

In Parts 1-3 I covered different types of judgment. The focus was on "discernment" and "condemnation". So, what does the Bible say about making judgments? Here's a few passages that I want to tackle:

Proverbs 3:21- "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight."
Phillipians 1:10- "...so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ"
Matthew 7:1- "Judge not, lest you be judged."

I placed these purposely in this order because I wanted to show that both the Old and New Testament condone judging. The question is though, which one ("discernment" or "condemnation") does "judge" mean in these?

Overstating Conclusions

This post is going to build upon two of my other posts: "Positive Arguments vs. Negative Arguments" and "This Argument is Full of Crap!" Please read both of those (even if you already have), so that the material is fresh in your mind and connections among all three posts can be easily made.

Book Review: "Thrilled to Death"

Thrilled to Death: How the Endless Pursuit of Pleasure Is Leaving Us Numb
By Dr. Archibald D. Hart

Let me start this review by letting you know why I wanted to read "Thrilled to Death". Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite apologists for the Christian faith. Many times I have heard him state that, in general, today's society's people are depressed not because they are weary of pain, but are weary of pleasure. I had always thought that this was just an opinion based on some careful observation. However, I was listening to Focus on the Family's podcast about marriage (James Dobson on Marriage) and heard psychologist Dr. Archibald Hart talking about the pleasure center of our brains and how over-stimulation of that pleasure center can cause it to become "accustomed" to the level of pleasure and the never-ending higher levels that are required to maintain a feeling of pleasure. I was quite interested since this seems to be scientific evidence of what Ravi Zacharias was claiming. So I got the book.

Judgment Day- Part 3

I finished Part 2 with the idea that if condemnation cannot be an option in a situation, then neither can praise be an option. This also goes the other direction.

Just to make sure that I'm being clear about "option", I'm talking about before evidence pointing one way or the other is presented. If the situation is deemed to allow one, then it must also allow the other. If one option is available, then both are. The evidence provided after the initial determination of possible options will then determine which option is the correct one to administer.

Judgment Day- Part 2

In Part 1, I established a few definitions and synonyms for the word "judge". "Discern" is not really controversial. Neither is "exonerate"; however, "condemn" is quite controversial. So, I'll tackle that in this post and the next.

Book Review: "Championship Fathering"

Championship Fathering
By Carey Casey

I want to start out this review by saying that I really enjoyed this book.Carey Casey the the president of the National Fatherhood Institute and has been a chaplin for almost every NFL team at some point. He wrote this book to combine his experience as a father himself with players' experiences as both fathers and children along with his research.

What is Truth?

Here's a topic that is probably long over due.

Not too long ago I came across a person who told me that what was true for me was not true for him, and what's true for him may not be true for me. This would not be a big deal, if we were talking about the best burrito in the fast-food industry. But we weren't; we were discussing reality. Specifically, religion and beliefs.

Let me start by defining truth. Truth is a notion or idea that accurately describes reality as it is.

There are two categories that truth falls under. First, you have "relative truth". "Relative truth" is a truth like what my friend was promoting. A relative truth is one that can conflict with another, yet not cause any issues. These tend to be matters of opinion, perspective, and taste- such as one's preference for Taco Bell over KFC, while someone else can hold it the other way around. Have you ever heard someone say "Its freezing in here!", while the person standing right next to them says, "Are you nuts?! Its burning up in here!" The temperature (freezing or burning) of the room is a relative truth.

Second, you have "objective truth". This is a truth that is true whether someone believes it or not, proves it or not, or observes it or not. 1+1=2 would be an example of one of these truths. Two opposing claims in the same context cannot be both objectively true. Only one can be true. Now, many can be false (1+1=3; 1+1=4.2; etc...), but only one can be true.

Many people like to deny the existence of the second type of truth because by definition, it is quite intolerant of false notions (and labels them quite noticeably) and is exclusivistic. "Exclusivistic" means that it alone is true, and no other opposing claim (in the same context) can be true. It seems to me that in today's global society we want so badly to "get along" that we are willing to compromise the very notion of truth itself to accomplish it.

Unfortunately, for these people, the Law of Noncontradiction stands in the way. This law states that no two opposing claims can be true simultaneously in the same context. Anytime that someone attempts to escape this law, they affirm it. The way an escape is attempted is to simply say that it is incorrect- one does not need to try to justify it because it has already failed. The way the attempt at an escape has failed is that the person making the claim- that the law is incorrect- is saying that the opposite (contradiction) is not correct in the same context. The Law of Noncontradiction is an example of an inescapable objective truth.

This is why I always urge people to do their best to make sure that when they debate someone, they understand the other's position. If the two of you are debating an objective truth, but don't define a few things (establishing the context), then you could be debating when realizing that the fact that you are referring to different contexts is the solution to the problem. Part of establishing context is to avoid a strawman argument (I discussed this in my post "Misengaged in Battle") and defining your terms (I'll go more in depth on this one later in a series of posts).

Objective truths are debated all the time in philosophy and theology. The most popular example is if there is a God or not. Another (less popular, but related) is if objective morals exist or not. Here's one that gets the emotional juices going- are all religions true or not?- or in another way- do all religions eventually lead to God (if He even exists) or not?

The different disciplines of science also search for objective truths. However, different from philosophy and theology, science focuses on the objective truths of nature. Please see my post "Consistency Among Disciplines" for more.

All of these truths (either from philosophy or science) are either true for everybody or they are false for everybody, regardless of anybody's opinion, perspective, or taste.

I have found that in a debate, it is crucial to establish if agreement exists between the parties as to whether or not the topic being debated is a "relative truth" or an "objective truth". If a topic is actually a "relative truth", then there really is no sense in debating (neither side will be held responsible for disagreeing with the other). If it is an "objective truth" then whoever is wrong (not, necessarily, who "wins" the debate) must recognize that the he will be subjected to the implications of disagreeing with the true side of the debate.

Ravi Zacharias gave a talk called The Basis for Truth. This talk was recently provided on Just Thinking. Here are the episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Stuart McAlister from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries discusses truth on this episode of the podcast Just Thinking.

The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society- Part 2

Randall Niles recently posted a video on YouTube discussing the pursuit of truth. Here it is:

What Is "Hope" and Who Has It?

I was reading through the Q&A's on Reasonablefaith.com and came across one in which a reader took issue with William Lane Craig's claim that the atheistic worldview is one without hope. The reader believes that the atheist does have hope. Craig recognized the unique argument then went on to defend his statement. Please read the Q&A here (may require registration, I don't remember) for the complete context of this post.

It appears that the validity of Craig's statement stands on what the hope is in. All hope requires an object of that hope, otherwise it is an empty, meaningless word. If someone tells me that they offer me "hope", my first question is, "okay...hope for what?"

When we're talking about what comes after death, the "hope" that people refer to is the same hope that everyone has- to escape the pain and suffering of this life. Everyone has different forms of this hope, but it boils down to that. Let's look at some of the different "hopes" offered (these are greatly simplified for the purposes of this post, please don't flame me about it):

The atheist's hope is to go immediately into nonexistence after death. That would mean no experience of anything, including pain and suffering and even punishment or reward (more on this specifically in a future post "Atheism And The Escape From Responsibility"). Nothing good is experienced either, as a result of the nonexistence.

The hope offered by many eastern religions is that one will eventually (after many lives) be either absorbed into everything and not experience anything individually or be totally extinguished and not experience anything. Either way, the individual escapes the experience of pain and suffering, however neither is anything good experienced.

The three major theistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) offer hope of living without pain and suffering. The experiences of pain and suffering are gone while only the experiences of good remain. (See my post "Suffering Sucks...or Does It?" (specifically, the audio clip from Hugh Ross) for why pain and suffering are required to even recognize experiences of only good).

I would like to submit that the hope offered by the theistic religions is much more desirable than those of atheism or the eastern religions. Here's why. Life is full of many wonderful experiences and emotions. Life is also full of much painful suffering. I do not know a single person who would not want to leave all the painful stuff behind and only experience the good stuff. That is the hope offered by the theistic religions. But...

...What differentiates these is the method to obtain that hope. In Judaism and Islam the person must earn their hope by their behavior. If they are not more good than bad, they don't have the hope offered by their religion. In Christianity, it is recognized that the standard of "good" can not (can: the ability to; not: the negation of) be obtained by us humans. Jesus Christ offers himself in our place of having to meet the standard of "good"; He even takes it a step further and takes our place for everything bad that we did, so we don't have to endure the punishment. In Christianity, all we have to do is recognize that what Christ has offered to us is the only possible way to obtain the life promised (that does mean swallowing our pride and recognizing that we are not as independent as we would like to be) and accept that offer.

This post is starting to get a little on the longer side, so I want to make a couple quick statements and recognitions of what might be going through your mind.

To keep the flow of the post somewhat smooth, I did not mention explicitly anything about the realities of two competing hopes being able to coexist. I affirm that two realities described by two competing hopes can not coexist (the realities described by the eastern hope and theistic hope cannot both be true). As a theist (Christian specifically), I deny the "truth" offered by the eastern religions.

I recognize that "desirable" does not equal truth. Please read other posts in my blog for other reasons for my theism and how I reconcile different harsh realities of life.

Without a Doubt
A World of Difference

Reasonable Faith
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Just Thinking
Let My People Think
Reasonable Faith
Without A Doubt
Straight Thinking
Stand to Reason

Book Review: "No Free Lunch"

No Free Lunch
By William Dembski

Over the past several years I have been exposed to the theory of Intelligent Design (ID). William Dembski is one of the biggest proponents of this theory. One of the terms that he and other scientists use when discussing ID is "specified complexity". I had in mind an idea of what they meant by this term, but I was not completely certain. I decided to do some digging into the term and found that this book would best describe the term.

Judgment Day- Part 1

If it is not fresh on your mind, please read my previous post "Right Living or Right Thinking?" before proceeding with this series.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matt 7:1)

This is the favorite verse in the Bible of a pluralistic and relativistic society. It is quoted so many times in an effort to keep Christians from making judgments on others for their behaviors. Today, I'm going to start a short series of discussions about judgment. I'll start with what "judgment" means.

The first meaning is "to discern". A "discernment" takes place when an individual observes (or perceives) something and makes a decision (or action) about it based on those observances. For a simple example, I may observe a ball. Based on its color, shape, and texture, I can discern that it is a football. Further, I can observe a player using the football and discern, based on my observations of his playing and my understanding of the game of football, whether or not he is a good player.

The second meaning is "to condemn". A "condemnation" takes place when an individual uses a discernment to pronounce a punishment. Let us go back to the example of the football player. For this, let's say that we discerned that the football player sucks. As a result, we decide to kick him off our team. This would be a pronouncement of punishment. "Condemnation" is a reasonable extension of "discernment".

The third meaning is "to exonerate". A "exoneration" takes place when an individual uses a discernment to pronounce a release. Back to the football player. Here he is discerned to be a valuable player. As a result, he remains on the team. This would be a pronouncement of release (from the possibility of being cut).

Both "condemnation" and "exoneration" are reasonable extensions of "discernment". But is condemnation or exoneration ever appropriate? If so, when? I will tackle those in Part 2.

Choice or Personal Responsibility?

This is something that has been on my mind lately. What is the relationship between choice and personal responsibility? Can one exist without the other? Which focus is more dangerous?

In today's society it seems like personal responsibility has become quite unpopular and many are trying to shove it out of society. Our litigious culture is willing to sue anyone for anything. If someone makes a mistake, they tend to point their finger at someone else. I see this at work, in the news, and at school (which really gets me). Our school system has become scared to discipline our children or hold them back due to the possibility that they might get sued by angry parents or damage the students' "self esteem". If our school system is afraid to teach our children to take personal responsibility (morally or academically), how can we expect our students to take any kind of personal responsibility when they are adults?

Let me clarify something about our schools. We have many awesome teachers who have found ways to hold students responsible regardless of the flawed system that limits their activities, and I commend them for this. However, if the system would allow students to be held directly responsible, the teachers would not have to spend so much energy on that, and instead spend more energy teaching our students.

Our government surely doesn't seem to care much; they like to institute more and more social programs that allow the public to rely on the "system" rather than taking responsibility for their own lives (I understand that sometimes people need help, so the system should allow for these situations, but only these situations).

What I find ironic, is that as our society disowns personal responsibility we clamor for more choices, more options. But, the thing is that choices have consequences that come with them. If you are given a choice between two things, normally each option has pros and cons that the other doesn't. To get the rewards of one option you must accept the consequences of not choosing the other. I will soon be faced with a choice like this. I plan on buying a new computer in the next year or so, and my options will be either a desktop or a laptop. The desktop is faster than the laptop, but does not provide the portability of a laptop. If I choose the laptop, I gain a reward (portability), but I also accept the consequence (slower speed). I don't like it, but if I want the choice I must accept one or the other. If I don't want to accept the consequences I could have someone else make the decision for me, then blame them for making the "wrong" choice. Now, this example is really trivial (no moral or life-long consequences), but it is an example that we can all see.

I see the same concept played out in much less trivial situations all over; from work to school, from leisure to relationships. Employees blame coworkers for their bad performance; students claim that professors are too tough because their grades suck; people sue fastfood chains because their health was compromised; men and women cheat on their spouse, then blame their spouse by saying that their spouse didn't meet their needs. What do all these situations have in common? Choice. The person chose to take the action that looked enticing on the surface, then refused to take personal responsibility for the consequences of that decision.

If people don't want to take personal responsibility, then why not remove options? Take choice out of the equation. If you can't choose, you're not responsible. If there are fewer choices, then social equality is closer to being realized also. With no choices, everyone is equal (no "Jones Complex" or desire) and not responsible (no stress). What could be better than that?

Many people value personal responsibility, because it is a sign of strength. Personal responsibility is perceived by others when a person has tough choices and accepts both reward and consequence of the decisions made. Strength is perceived when others realize that despite the consequences, that person made the right choice. Those who focus on personal responsibility value choice because personal responsibility is dependent on choice being available. However, those who focus on choice, value it because it gives an illusions of freedom and control.

Lack of personal responsibility is a sign of weakness. Someone who is weak is unable to make reliable decisions, and more options tend to confuse the issue more. Those who are personally responsible are then given the opportunity to take responsibility (and control) for the weaker. When control is taken, options are taken.

Choice is good, but should not be our focus. If we, as a society, focus on personal responsibility, more choices and fewer consequences will follow. We will remain in control and have true freedom. If we, as a society, do not focus on personal responsibility, we will see our choices dwindle into the hands of those who do focus on personal responsibility- we lose our choices, our strength and eventually, our self-respect.

Right Living or Right Thinking?

I have come across several people who have told me that right practice (orthopraxy) is more important than right beliefs (orthodoxy). We're all familiar with the phrase "You can talk the 'talk', but can you walk the 'walk'?" In terms of "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxy" it is, "You may have orthodoxy, but do you have orthpraxy?" These same people interpret this to mean that orthopraxy is more important that orthodoxy. I disagree.

Right Living (Orthopraxy) presupposes Right Thinking (Orthodoxy). How one lives is dependent on how one perceives the world. Perception always precedes action. In order for someone to determine that an action is required (or not), a perception must be made. If a person makes the wrong perception, the wrong action may very well follow. Of course, if the right perception is made, the right action may very well follow also. This is not a definite equation because one still has to make a decision based on, not just one perception but, numerous perceptions; and it may not always be clear which of those perceptions should take precedence over the other(s). To make that determination (action), other perceptions must be invoked.

Does Doubt Equal Disbelief? Part 2

This was originally going to be a single-part topic, but I realized after several comments on the original post, that I needed to clarify and address a few extra things for both the unbeliever and the believer.

First, I want to define a term. Second, I will discuss the scriptures brought up as challenges. Third, I will provide scriptures that allow for "doubt" being biblical.

1. Doubt- when I use this word in the original post, I am referring only to be skeptical of the truth of a claim. I'm not talking about distrusting someone, and I am not talking about not believing that something you pray for will come true. I am speaking strictly of being unsure of the truth of something someone is claiming to be true.

2. A few scriptures were posed to me as being Biblical evidence that doubting truth claims is unbiblical. The implied conclusion seemed to be that investigating Christian truth claims is discouraged in the Bible.

Here are the scriptures posed as challenges:
James 1:5-8
Matthew 21:21 (parallel passage Mark 11:23)
Romans 14:23

Let's look at each one individually:

James 1:5-8
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

Notice that the context of this passage is a man asking God for something (wisdom, in this case). If a man asks God for wisdom, but does not believe (doubts) that God will give it to him, he is "like a wave of the sea...". This passage's specific definition for the word "doubt" is "doubting someone" or "not believing that something you pray for will come true." Neither of which is the definition or context of my original post. Since the context of the two being compared (my post and the biblical passage) is not the same, the comparison is unwarranted, and may be discarded.

Matthew 21:21
"Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done."

This one has also a different context and definition. (I have always been a fan of Greg Koukl's booklet and online article "Never Read a Bible Verse". The short version is that one should never take only a single verse (out of context) to make a point.) If you read the whole story (Matthew 21:18-21), you will notice that Jesus is not talking about doubting the truth of something that is being told to you. He's talking about being able to wilt a fig tree or move a mountain. The specific definition of "doubt" and overall context is not the same. So, that really has nothing to do with my post either.

Romans 14:23
"But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."

Please read this one in context (Romans 14- the entire chapter). Notice that Paul is talking about trivial issues that may cause someone to stumble (food and drink in this case). He makes it clear in the verse 23 (the one you quoted) that he is still talking about food and drink. Specifically, Paul is talking about doubting (not knowing) whether or not eating or drinking something will cause a brother to stumble. Once again, this is not the definition of "doubt" nor the context that I use. So, this one is not applicable either.

3. Here are a few scriptures that promote testing truth claims, being gracious to (rather than condemning) those who have questions (doubt), and providing a defense of the Gospel.

1 Peter 3:15
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Jude 1:22-23

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

In 1 Peter 3:8-22 Peter is commanding his brothers to be compassionate and humble in everything that they do. In verse 15, he specifically mentions situations in which someone is asking questions about their beliefs.

1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test everything. Hold on to the good.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Paul is saying pretty much the same as Peter above.

Jude 1:22-23
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

In context (Jude 1:17-23) Jude is speaking of people who doubt the truth-claims of Christianity.

I have published two other posts that may also help to shed more light on the subject (each has references for further investigation):

Why Apologetics?
Is "Blind Faith" Biblical?

If you think that I need to address anything else in regards to this topic, please let me know.

Consistency Among Disciplines

Everyday thousands of scientists around the globe perform experiments and observations of the natural realm. They note a certain condition, make (or allow) a change, then note the new condition. Many times, the same experiment or observation is conducted several times to be certain the results of the first (second or third) were not just "flukes". Scientists combine many of these to come to conclusions about the natural realm. But what is it that allows these conclusions to hold any validity? They are based on experiments and observations, but what allows those to be trusted to reflect the natural realm?

The entire scientific enterprise is based on one assumption: the natural realm is consistent. That means that in multiple instances when all conditions are the same, identical results will be produced. Experiments and observations are repeatable. You can be certain that if you perform the same experiment in the precise same way a second time, you will get the same results. If scientists were able to produce water from the combination of two hydrogen atoms with one oxygen atom in one experiment, then gold with the same ingredients in the second (then another substance third, and so on), they could conclude that this was not a consistent phenomena. Further, if scientists found that their experiments, when performed exactly the same way, produced different results without any consistency, they could conclude that the natural realm was not predictable, and investigation of it is futile.

Misengaged in Battle?

Here's something to think about:

When engaging someone in a discussion or debate, should you focus on their understanding of their own worldview, not the "correct" or "accepted" understanding of their worldview?

Greg Koukl (in his book Tactics) says to focus on the person's understanding. His reasoning is that focusing on another understanding (whether its "correct" or not- it makes no difference) will make the person believe that you are either ignoring their concern, or trying to belittle them by telling them how to believe what they believe.

Part of me wants to disagree for the simple reason that I think one should always focus on the understanding with the strongest evidence and arguments. I say this because it helps prevent committing the "straw man" fallacy (see my previous post "This Argument Is Full of Crap!"). For those who are unfamiliar with the "straw man", it is a misunderstanding of a view that is easy to argue against and tear down. The problem with it is that even though that understanding has been destroyed, the argument doesn't touch the true issue.

But, when I think about it a little further, I realize that the person (whom I'm attempting to persuade my direction) may have a "straw man" of his own worldview in his mind. If I were to attack another view (say, the "correct"), I would be committing the "straw man" fallacy by not understanding his view and attacking that. So, by attacking the "correct" view, I would be committing the "straw man" fallacy on a "straw-man" view. (Confused yet?)

Simply put, I must agree with Koukl. Focus on the person's understanding. After you provide enough doubt to abandon the view, they may move closer to the "correct" view. As they move closer to the "correct" view, you can focus on the new understanding. Eventually, you will have placed enough doubt in them for all their understandings (including the "correct" one) that they will have no choice but to abandon it. Now, that's not to say that they will jump on board with your view. If there is another possibility, expect them to adopt it for a while (the process starts all over again).

Of course, during this whole time, don't forget to provide positive evidence for your own point of view. See my previous post "Positive vs. Negative Arguments" for more on this.

Further resources:

Stand to Reason
Straight Thinking

Stand to Reason

Tactics by Greg Koukl
Come, Let Us Reason by Norman Geisler

Does Doubt Equal Disbelief? Part 1

This is a big issue. I see it all the time in Christian circles and in naturalist circles. If a Christian expresses doubt about God (for instance), he is shunned and accused of not believing in God. As soon as a scientist raises doubts about evolution (for instance), the same happens to him.

I have a few things to say about this. First, for both situations, the people doing the shunning are afraid to be challenged. They are scared that if their precious ideas are questioned, then they might be found to be lacking or even false. These people tend to be committed to an idea rather than the truth. This is not good for anyone. Read my post "Why Should I Challenge My Own Views?" for more information.

I would like to say that just because someone doubts something does not mean that they disbelieve it. What this comes down to is confidence and certainty. Certainty requires that you be 100% sure of whatever belief you hold. As long as challenges are around, 100% certainty is not possible. So, we have to fall back on confidence. Based on evidence, we can hold that we are, say, 90% sure and 10% unsure. If we are 90/10, then we can confidently believe something. However, if we are 40/60 (40% sure and 60% unsure) then we cannot confidently believe it. Most Christians and scientists fall into the 90/10 category for their beliefs. If they doubt a certain piece of evidence, question a detail, or challenge the existing form of the idea, they are only changing their percentages to, say, 80/20 or 70/30, they are not likely taking it to 50/50 (agnostic- don't know) or 40/60 (disbelief).

Now, I must say that the more a view goes challenged or questioned without those challenges and questions being answered, the percentages will continue to shift until they hit that "magic" 49/51. Then the person is disbelieving, but not because they challenged or questioned, but because they were not adequately responded to.

When someone asks a tough question its because they are struggling with it, not because they are ready to "jump ship". In both the Church and the scientific community, we need to stop accusing those who are challenging us of being "traitors", and help them along. If an idea is true, then all challenges and questions to and about it have an adequate response. By ignoring those people, we only show that we don't believe that last statement ourselves.

Michael Patton from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries wrote a blog post about this same issue: Can Christians Doubt. Please read the comments (19-103, specifically). A reader challenges Michael on the biblical merits of his claim (same as mine). Michael defends his position, and with the help of another reader, the offended reader realizes they are saying the same thing, just with different nuances that took focus.

Michael recently published another article "The Sufficiency of Probability in the Christian Belief". This is another great article worth reading.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason is asked if one can still be a Christian, yet have some doubts. Here is his answer:

Koukl is also asked "How could struggling with doubt be good".
Here are some great Christian podcasts I have found that address the deep questions and tough challenges to its worldview (pretty much every podcast on the right side of my blog):

Straight Thinking
Stand to Reason
Theology Unplugged
I Didn't Know That
Just Thinking
Without A Doubt

Trust, Confidence, and Trust in Reality

Trust and confidence are two things that childhood has a profound effect on. As I've been reading some books about psychology, it seems that if trust and confidence are not established early, then both are extremely hard to come by later in life.

From birth, a child must rely on his mother and father to protect and provide for him (or her). That child is well aware of his dependence on the parents. The child also trusts that the parents will do what is in the his best interest.

However, if these are broken early and/or often, the child becomes skeptical of his parents' ability to protect and provide for him. Since the parent is the "first impression" the child receives of someone who promises something (protection and provision), if he has bad experiences, the child will grow up to question everyone that "promises" something to that child.

In some cases the child begins to question the idea that reality is even real, or that anything is objective (these are all things that society is acting out, yet saying something opposite- but that's a different post).

My point in all this is that if the family continues to break and be as dysfunctional as it has been, our children will pay the price with their confidence in reality.

When someone questions reality itself, many doors are opened. First, as a Christian, my concern is that if someone can't trust reality, then why should they trust the God who supposedly created it? Second, if reality is not to be trusted, then any implications about reality are not to be trusted either. These implications include morality. When the child (now teen or adult) realizes this connection, they are "freed" to do whatever they wish, with no lasting consequences.

Our children are watching our every move. When we break their trust and confidence, they get closer to moral relativism. It is truly amazing the kind of eternal impact parents have on their children. The repeat-offender parents are the one's that really need to pay attention and turn around.

If we allow society to continue to destroy the family and perpetuate our children's mistrust in parents, we may lose our kids forever.

I'm not trying to be Chicken Litter, here ("the sky is falling..."), but am trying to awaken parents to the damage they may be doing to their children without even realizing it. We all need to take a look at everything we do and ask ourselves "how would I feel if my mom or dad were doing that?"

We have all heard that we are "examples" that children follow. I'm not going to argue with that. I would even say that children are not stupid enough to not notice a bad example, too. But I want to take this one step further. Even though a child may recognize that you are a bad example and decide not to follow you, they still have not realized that their trust in someone who they believed to be trustworthy (you), has now placed one more strike against anyone else who would try to gain that child's trust. If you continue, the strikes continue to build a case for mistrust of everything.

For more on this subject check out these links:

Focus on the Family
Healing the Masculine Soul by Gordon Dalbey
Faith of the Fatherless by Paul Vitz
Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson

Information vs Education

This post will tie a bit into my previous posts "Why Should I Challenge My Own View" and "This Argument is Full of Crap!". Please read them before you read this one.

Have you ever watched Jeopardy or played Trivial Pursuit and wondered what good all that information is? Well the answer is this: to win a game. I have always been suspicious of people who are "book" smart, but can't tell you how the conclusion was obtained. When one has only "book smarts" or knows only trivia, they can answer only so many questions. They are unable to explain how the person to discovered the answer (that they are parroting) arrived at the answer.

This is called "information". You can have all the information in the world, and not understand how it all ties together. I'm not saying that having information is bad, because it is not. But having just the information limits the usefulness of that information.

When someone is trying to convince an opponent of another point of view, just spouting off facts is not usually going to convince them. They will have questions about the validity of the facts, how the facts were concluded, and what use in the real world they are. This last question is extremely important for worldviews or political positions. If one only knows the "slogans" of a worldview or political position, they are impotent to explain their reasoning.

"Education" involves understanding the "ins" and "outs" of information. If the one who holds the view cannot explain how or why their information should be believed, they lose all ability to convince. One of the best ways to "get educated" is to investigate your information or "slogans" for authenticity. I'm not talking about searching only sources that believe the information or slogan, but also those who challenge the information or slogan.

This, of course, is important not just for your "information", but also the oppositions "information". The more you are "educated" in both, the more you will be able to reliably defend your own "information".

All this can be summed up like this: Conclusions vs. reasons for conclusions. If you stick with information only, you may misunderstand the reasons. This will lead to the building of an underlying "strawman", which is detrimental if you believe it about your own information or your opponents information.

Stand to Reason

Apologetics.com Radio Show
Stand to Reason Radio Program
Just Thinking

Tactics: by Greg Koukl
Come, Let us Reason: by Norman Geisler

Why Should I Challenge My Own Views?

Something that I have noticed a lot in society today: people hold positions and swear that they never question or challenge their views (many believe that is a sign of how strongly they hold them). Unfortunately, for many of these people, you can easily believe that. Many of these same people are afraid that if they challenge their view, that they will find that it may not be the best or it may not even be true. I knew many Christians as I grew up who were like this. They tended to accuse others of not having "faith" because they questioned or challenged a view (see my post "Is 'Blind Faith' Biblical" for my answer to these people).

🤔 Positive Arguments vs. Negative Arguments?

It seems like everywhere I go, people want to point out what's wrong with the opposition's arguments. It does not matter if we are talking about political views, religious views, or any other view that is tied to a deep conviction. So many people focus so tightly on the opposition that they forget about their own point of view. This is not a very good strategy. The reason I say this is for one simple reason. Let's say you have a plan to accomplish something, and one of your teammates expresses great dissatisfaction with your plan and even provides every reason in the world not to use it. It would come natural to you to ask if your teammate had a better plan. If no other plan was proposed, then the team would have to stick with the original, no matter how many flaws it had.

Positive and Negative Arguments
A Positive Argument is an argument for your particular position. A Negative Argument is an argument against an opposing position. Both are necessary if we wish to convince someone that our view is to accept at the expense of their current understanding. I must point out that I am not about to defend a reason for only using positive arguments. The fact is that the negative arguments have their important place. They are used to convince your opposition that their idea is not as solid as they might believe. Depending on the person, and depending on how many holes are poked in the opposing idea, the person may be open to an alternative idea- your's, but only if you can show why it is superior to the original and does not suffer from the same problems (or create new ones) that the opposing idea had.

Too Much Hostility
Of course, making negative arguments should never be abused. A person can only take so much negative information about their point of view before they start to believe you are not just attacking their point of view, but attacking them. Even though you may not intentionally make a personal attack, it may be perceived as one. You can recognize when they are starting to think this by their body language, before they say anything that would indicate it. If you don't notice this and continue with your negative argument, the person may "tune" you out and not "hear" anything else you have to say (this includes your positive argument). If you do notice the "offended" body language, ask them to provide a positive argument for their view. By doing that, you reinforce that you respect their view, and open doors to provide a positive argument for your point of view later in the conversation.

Establishing Common Ground
Providing a positive argument is what can ultimately convince someone to your point of view. Before you can do this, though, you need to investigate your point of view as deeply as you can. I like to start my positive argument by establishing some common ground. If there is no common ground then there will be nothing to build upon. If you decide to appeal to someone or something that you believe is an authority, make sure that the opposition recognizes your authority as you do. It makes no sense to appeal to something or someone they don't believe to be an authority. It also helps to use sources that may not be totally on your side, but do allow for your point of view as a possibility- this will let your opposition know that others with opposing points of view, at least, recognize the possibility that your point of view may be true. Defining sources is a great way to establish common ground.

Once common ground has been established, you can start making claims and backing them up with evidence. I would make sure to appeal specifically to things that the person would understand. If you are not sure what all they may understand, ask them about their interests, especially when they were in college. It does you no good to appeal to astronomy if the person is a paleontologist. It also does little good to appeal to the Bible if the person is not a Christian. Evidence based on unfamiliar disciplines can come in later, but should not be introduced immediately.

The Lack of Common Ground
The danger in introducing evidence of a foreign nature is that the person will not understand why an argument is powerful or not. They will not know what questions to ask in order to understand the argument better. This may also cause a person to think that you are trying to talk down to them (unfamiliar technical terms), or elevate yourself over them. If you are unsure how a person will react to evidence from a certain discipline, ask them if they've considered the evidence from that discipline. If not, and they don't show interest in it, don't introduce it.

Be A Listener and Provide Answers
Of course, part of giving a positive argument is listening to and answering questions. You can expect many questions for two reasons: first, the person is skeptical of your argument and second, the person is unfamiliar with the evidence you have provided. If the person bombards you with many questions at one time, ask them to select one to focus on for the moment. Assure them that when you have answered their question to their satisfaction or when you determine that you need to do more research later, you will tackle the next. Don't try to answer too many questions at the same time. If you do, you and the other person may lose focus of a specific issue. This is extremely frustrating to the person if they are unfamiliar with the evidence you are providing.

The same Q&A technique goes the same for both sides. When you are providing a negative argument, don't bombard them with too many questions. Allow them to answer one question, then ask the next.

Conclusion- It Goes Both Ways
Something very important to remember is that which ever strategy you are using will be the opposite of what the other person is using (if you provide a positive argument for your view, they will present a negative argument against your view). A conversation will typically flip back and forth many times. The key to keep the conversation constructive is to treat the other view exactly how you expect your view to be treated.

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Book Review: "Relativity Simply Explained"

Relativity Simply Explained
By Martin Gardner

I picked up Relativity Simply Explained to help me understand Einstein's special and general theories. I was looking for something that was not too in depth, but gave me enough that I could think about it along accurate lines.

This book did just that. Martin Gardner published the book initially back in the '60s, but updated this version in '97. He started by explaining the state of physics at the time Einstein was developing his special theory of relativity. Gardner then moves to explain both theories. Next he goes into more specifics about what relativity did for the theory of gravity and the dimensionality of the universe. After that, Gardner provides the evidence that confirms the theories.

Depravity of Man

In my post "Can You Trust Your Senses Or Your Logic?" I touched a bit on the Christian doctrine of the Depravity of Man. I explained that if this doctrine is misunderstood, then it leads to Christianity undermining the ability to apprehend truth. In this post, I want to go a little deeper and build a case for an understanding of the doctrine that does not compromise our ability to apprehend truth; that incorporates the effects of Original Sin on our ability to apprehend truth; and that makes clear that without recognizing God, the amount of truth that can be apprehended is severely limited.

When God created man, He created him "In our image". This is referred to as the Image of God.
The Image of God includes many attributes of man, but today I am going to focus on morality. God created man with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong; good and evil. Even though Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command in the Garden, man still has this ability (Rom 2:14-15). In the Garden, what changed when Adam and Eve rebelled was not man's ability to recognize good and evil, but his propensity to ignore it. Adam and Eve believed that they could live outside of God's law. They were promised that they would be like God, and that they would be able to determine good and evil, if they would act against God. Even though they were not granted those things, man still believes that he can get along without God or His laws and proceeds to ignore the truths that God has revealed. Man continues to do this because he so desires to be the measure of all things.

What changed in the Garden was man's attitude toward his Creator. God told Adam and Eve what was going to happen because of their rebellion. For instance, God predicts that the ground will be "cursed" because of them. God's basically saying that He has His way of doing things that He will reveal; but man, in his rebellion, will refuse God's instructions, and the land will not cooperate because it is not being treated the way God designed it to be treated (Gen 3:17-18).

Man still has the ability to find truth, but he has to work harder at it. Rather than just accepting what God has revealed, man must test, make excuse, and test, then make another excuse (on and on) because his prideful heart does not want to accept where the facts are leading him (back to his Creator). But, if man is to return to his Creator, he must submit to Him, and his prideful heart has a very hard time with that. Man likes the idea of being lord over himself, but when God is Lord, man must sacrifice all the pleasures of the flesh that pull him further from God. Paul discusses this struggle in Romans 7:7-25. Remember, Paul is speaking under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit- the struggle is there. God never promised that coming to Him would cause us to somehow avoid the struggle with our sin nature.

God created us with the ability to recognize truth when we see it. Sin did not remove this ability. If it did, Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) would not have penned the words "Test everything. Hold on to the good." (1 Thes 5:21) Nor would Isaiah have quoted God as saying "Come now, let us reason together," (Isa 1:18a). God would allow these things to be included in His Word if we could not trust the results of our testing and our reason.

When man recognizes where the facts are leading him, and proceeds to accept the lead, he is brought to realizing more truth. Until man recognizes that God is his Creator and he must submit to Him, man cannot recognize that God's standard of perfection is beyond what mere man can even hope to achieve. At that point, if man wants to restore his relationship with his Creator, he must be willing to accept the sacrifice that Jesus Christ offers and relinquish the control he longs to maintain over his own life.

Without recognizing God, man limits himself in the amount of truth he can find. When so much evidence points to God, and man refuses to accept it, he spends more time refuting the evidence or looking for counter-evidence than he does in finding more truth about the creation and the Creator (Rom 1:18-25). If man would just realize God's existence, he could make much more sense of the world he inhabits, and of the purpose for his existence.

In the Garden, God did not change (Mal 3:6); the laws of physics did not change (Jer 33:25), and man's ability to find truth did not change (1 Thes 5:21; Isa 1:18a). The only thing left is man's heart (Jer 17:9). If it is to be led back to its Creator, it must be guided carefully toward the Truth.

The contents of this post intertwine with my early post (Nature vs. Scripture). It goes more into man's tests and interpretation of those tests- just because you have the facts does not mean the you will interpret them correctly to find the truth.

For more information check out these articles:

The Physics of Sin by Dr. Hugh Ross
As Man Actually Is by Greg Koukl

Reasons to Believe Answers A Question...

In my investigation of the Creation/Evolution debate within the Christian community, I have come across several different views. The most common views among the scientifically-minded Christians seem to be the views of theistic evolution and old-earth creation.

For the purposes of this post, I'm only going to give a brief, surface comparison: They both posit that the Christian God is the ultimate designer. Theistic evolution states that God guided the natural, evolutionary process. Old-earth creation states that God performed many acts of special creation.

Theistic evolution accepts the idea of common descent. While old-earth creation leans almost totally (I'll have a post on this qualifier later) on common design rather than common descent.

In my research, I have not been able to find any specific direct comparisons of the evidence of the two competing ideas in one place. So, I emailed a question to Reasons to Believe to get an answer. Here's the question I sent:

"Please discuss common ancestry vs. common design. What evidence do they hold in common, and what evidence is unique to each side?"

Both Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross tackle this question on their podcast I Didn't Know That this week. It is the first question answered on this episode(4:50 into the file), and the second question is related. You can listen to it here.

I will publish a post on this specific topic when I have some more time. Until then, I have a few basics in my post "How Did It All Begin? Part 4- Evolution? Really?".

If you have a question about science and/or the Bible, you can email Reasons to Believe at ask@reasons.org and listen for an answer on their podcasts. They also have a hotline that you can call to ask questions; it is open daily from 5:00pm-7:00pm PST.

Book Review: "The Closing of the American Mind"

The Closing of the American Mind
By Allan Bloom

The Closing of the American Mind was written back in 1989 about the state of the academy in America. Bloom has split his book into three different sections. The first covers the current youth culture from within the university. The second discusses the history of the philosophy of the academy. The third covers the history of the academy in America and pulls the other two parts together.

What's Up With Atheistic Evangelism? Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed why evangelizing the atheistic worldview is actually inconsistent with the very worldview it is promoting. I concluded it with mentioning that the challenge could be flipped back on the Christian in a heartbeat. In Part 2, I will show you how to answer that challenge and place the ball back in their court.

Let me start by reiterating the challenge by the atheist: "You claim your God is omnipresent (everywhere); He sees everything that you do; yet you sin. That must mean that you don't believe your worldview at its core either. If you don't ultimately believe your worldview, why do you expect me to?"

There are a couple ways this could be addressed. The more logical would be to make them aware that their challenge is not the subject of the conversation and they are just avoiding the real point by trying to focus on the Christian worldview.

But, most of the time, that won't work. This challenge is not a logical challenge. It is more of an emotional challenge. There is more underneath that challenge than meets the ear. Their concern is that so many Christians teach one thing, but act another. They will typically use the word "hypocrite". They believe that this is a good challenge and they believe that they have you nailed down because you pointed out an inconsistency in their worldview, and they believe they are justified in pointing out the same in your's.

Here is where they are mistaken, though. The Christian worldview does not teach that once someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that they become perfect and unable to sin or make mistakes. The apostle Paul said that there were many times he would be frustrated with himself because he does things that he knows he shouldn't and doesn't do things he knows that he should as a follower of Jesus Christ (Romans 7).

When you are discussing this with the atheist, make sure that you clear up that misunderstanding about the Christian faith. When the expectation of perfection is removed, then he essentially has no argument. You will need to reassure him (her) that this is not a "cop out" or "excuse" to do bad things, but that it is an assurance that we will not be condemned to damnation by Christ because we do bad things. Also reinforce that the Bible teaches that followers of Christ to strive to follow His teachings as best as they can- but it is understood that this is impossible, and that is why we needed Christ to take the punishment for us. I would also include something along the lines that anyone who teaches that, "Because of the assurances of heaven through belief in Jesus Christ I am allowed to do whatever I want and still know that I am forgiven and will go to heaven," are in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

At this time, you should ask if there are any questions that you need to answer or clarify. Once you have established that there actually is no inconsistency in the Christian worldview, you are free to challenge him to clear the inconsistency in his own worldview.

Book Review: "Relativism"

Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air
By Gregory Koukl or Francis J. Beckwith

Relativism is a book dedicated to the opposite of moral absolutism: Moral Relativism. The authors split it into five different parts. The first two parts were written by Gregory Koukl. The first part lays the foundation of what moral relativism is exactly. Koukl describes three different types in enough detail that you know what you're getting into. The second is the critique of moral relativism. Specifically, the Koukl discusses the idea of culture defining morality, the link to "moral common sense", and several flaws in the philosophy of moral relativism.

What's Up With Atheistic Evangelism? Part 1

According to atheism life, man, and the universe have no purpose, and no meaning. "Who cares about anything!?" "Nobody should!"

Then, why do they so passionately argue with me to believe that there is no god? Why do they spend the time to convince people of this? If nothing has meaning or purpose, then what they are saying also has no meaning or purpose. Why aren't they just enjoying their short lives to the fullest without trying to "make a difference" that won't matter anyway? Are they not causing themselves needless stress, pain, and suffering by wasting their time to convince people of something that, in itself, is useless and purposeless?

This behavior is highly inconsistent with their worldview (atheism). By continuing to attempt to convince people of their position, they impugn on their position meaning. So, they must believe that some things (at least one) have meaning. But, what inherently gives their position meaning and what is that meaning?

Keep in mind that this is not an ad hominem attack on the person who holds this view. It is an attack on the core of the foundation of their worldview. I'm basically attempting to show that as soon as atheist opens his mouth and speaks about his atheism, he has proven that he doesn't believe it at the core. Because he speaks believing that his worldview (which states that nothing has meaning) is itself meaningful.

My question now becomes, "If you don't ultimately believe your worldview, why do you expect me to?" I await an answer.

This is a very powerful, yet extremely dangerous argument to use against the atheist. Because, they can turn this argument against me. "You claim your God is omnipresent (everywhere); He sees everything that you do; yet you sin. That must mean that you don't believe your worldview at its core either. If you don't ultimately believe your worldview, why do you expect me to?"

I will tackle that challenge next week.

The "Eastern vs. Western Thinking" C(t)rap

Here's my problem with the "Western way of thinking" vs. "Eastern way of thinking" debate:

With Western thinking, opposite propositions are "either, or" (the lights are either on or they are off). With Eastern thinking, opposite propositions are "both, and" (the lights are both on and off).

Some people will argue that you can only use one of them. However, that insistence is depended on Western thinking- "You must choose to use either Western thinking or Eastern thinking." If you answer and say, "Western thinking", you make sense. But if you answer and say, "Eastern thinking", you are either denying Western thinking (used to make the determination) or you are accepting Eastern thinking, which accepts all paradoxes including both Eastern and Western thinking. But, the problem here is "how do you determine which way of thinking to use in reference to what?" Not only that, "which way of thinking do you use to arrive at your conclusion of which way of thinking to use in your original situation?"

In order to accept Eastern thinking you must deny that it is superior to any other way of thinking. Since that must be accepted, you must show how you know (why, not that) it is the correct way of thinking to be applied in the situation that you wish to use it in.

Keep in mind that there are many situations when using "both/and" is perfectly logical. But the trick is to look at the details of the claims. Specifically the context. If I were to say, "I am moving and not moving," I would be correct if I specify what I am talking about in each situation. In the first "I am moving" I'm talking about my hands typing this text. In the second "I am not moving" I'm talking about my body setting in my chair. Notice that my two statements "I am moving" and "I am not moving" aren't really related to each other at all.

When someone tries to use the Eastern way of thinking "both/and", press them for the details of the two things they are saying exist at the same time. You will discover that either the two are not actually opposites or they have little to nothing to do with each other.

Ravi Zacharias puts it this way, "Even in India we operate on the Western way of thinking. When we go to cross the street, it is either the bus or us!" If the Eastern way of thinking were used, "the bus AND we cross the street at the same time..." ....uh, yeah.

Eastern thinkers like to say that reality is full of paradoxes. They make a claim similar to the one I made above about my moving and not moving, and they say it is a paradox. (For definition, a paradox is a situation in which two opposites appear to be true at the same time, in the same context.) Eastern thinkers (Buddhism, Hindu, New Age, etc...) utilize this type of argument to show evidence that ultimately reality and everything in reality (including contradictions and opposites) are all true in the same context. When someone believes that this has been demonstrated, then they are free to believe any slew of ideas, even if they directly contradict each other. This removes the need for consistency between beliefs and between belief and practice.

The problem is that just because something appears to be a paradox (my example) does not mean that it is a paradox. In fact, I would go as far as to claim that there is no such thing as a true paradox. The only reason a situation can be called a paradox is because the information is limited. When one probes for more information the paradox can be resolved, and it can no longer be called a paradox.

Unfortunately, as humans our ability to gain knowledge is limited, so some paradoxes will stand. This is not to be taken as evidence of reality being a paradox (as the Eastern thinkers would have you believe), but of our limited knowledge. The limit of knowledge I am specifically referring to is our knowledge of things outside our three dimensions of space and one dimension of time.

The Christian worldview accepts the existence of something beyond the natural realm. So do the Eastern thinkers. The difference between the two is that Christianity aims to resolve the paradoxes, while the Eastern religions aim to create more paradoxes, without ever resolving any of them.

Unfortunately, with all worldviews, paradoxes do show up. Two paradoxes that currently stand in the Christian worldview are the doctrine of the Trinity and the belief that God is closer to us than even we are. In two later posts I will tackle these paradoxes, and show why they are paradoxes to us, but can be resolved with knowledge of things outside our existence.

Ravi Zacharias discusses this on the second episode of Just Thinking here (Part 1 is provided for context):

Understanding the Spirit of the Age- Part 1
Understanding the Spirit of the Age- Part 2

For more on this topic, see these podcasts:

Just Thinking
Let My People Think
Stand to Reason