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

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

Book Review: "The Universe in a Single Atom"

The Universe in a Single Atom
By The Dalai Lama

I read The Universe in a Single Atom by recommendation of a friend. Considering the fact that I'm a big fan of science, he thought that I might be a good start for me to see how science and Buddhism follow each other. I am extremely interested in finding what scientific evidence follows the different religions of the world and how the different religous adherents respond to scientific conflicts, so I was quite excited to read this book.

Did God Create Evil?

God created all things.
Evil is a thing.
Therefore, God created evil.

Love is not evil.
An all-loving God would not create evil.
Therefore, God is not all-loving (he's evil).

That is quite devastating to Christianity, isn't it? The argument is logically valid. If you agree that the premises are true, then you can't escape the conclusions.

I have heard a few people use this argument to disprove the existence of the all-loving God of Christianity. It seems that this argument is quite solid. Logically, it is sound. But, there is one flaw, not in the logic, but the truth of one of the premises. What's really neat about arguments is that if you can show one premise to be false, all conclusions that follow it (are dependent on it) may be tossed out. Any conclusions above it (not dependent on it) are safe, though.

What's great is that the problem premise in this argument is the second premise. "Evil is a thing". So, we don't have to accept either of the conclusions. Since I want to claim that "evil is a thing" is false and that "evil is not a thing", I need to make an argument. So here it goes:

I want to start by defining what the opposite of "evil" is. Good. "Good" is not a thing either. It is a description of God's nature. God has a moral nature that is good. God is not subject to "good" (otherwise "good" would be greater than God, making it God) and God does not determine "good" (if he did, then "good" would be arbitrarily determined- God could have made rape good). Instead "good" is a description of God's moral nature. God knows what His moral nature is, so He can tell us what is "good" and what is "evil". This is called the moral law.

Based on this, an absence of "good" would make something "evil". I want to clarify this, though. Just because something is "not good" does not mean that it is "evil". For instance, take the colors black and white. They are opposites. If presented with the color gray, it would be perfectly acceptable to say that it is not white, but it would not be acceptable to say that it is black. Many things are morally neutral. Such as your choice of ice cream. A choice or action does not cross over into the "evil" category unless it is "actively working or standing against" God's moral law or nature.

God created humans "in His image" (the imago dei) . One of the properties of God's image is the recognition of what is "good" and "evil". However, when sin entered into the world, that ability was clouded. I'll go more into this in a future post on the depravity of man.

Humans can discern "good" from "evil" on their own (Romans 2:14-15). Many secularists can make an argument for how (not why) they determine "good" from "evil"- they observe human behavior and nature. But that can only go so far, mainly because human culture changes and what is perceived as "bad" will one day change to "good". Some areas that seem gray may actually be black or white. Since our discernment has been clouded by our sin, we need to refer to God's revelation (the Bible) to help us determine more concretely what is "good" and what is "evil".

Once we recognize that God's standard of good cannot be met; and no matter how hard we try, our good deeds will not restore our relationship with Him, we recognize the need for a Savior. Once we recognize our need and humble ourselves to the point of accepting Jesus as our Savior, then we allow Him to reveal to us even more about His nature and what "good" is.

For more information, I recommend these:

Just Thinking
Reasonable Faith
Straight Thinking
Apologetics.com Radio Show
Stand to Reason

Without a Doubt by Kenneth Samples
Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross

If God Hears Me, Why Does He Not Care?

This is a challenge that I have heard put against practicing prayer many times. It is also used to imply that God either cannot hear our prayers, or does not care about us (thus He is not all-loving).

Simply put, this claim is the result of the person claiming it "forming God in man's image". The person has a specific idea of what God is supposed to be. Many sources exist to arrive at this conclusion. Someone might have told him to believe that if he prays for healing...POOF! He's healed! A church may have taught him that God wants his people to have the very best (referring to material possessions, of course). "God, please let me win the lottery." Have you ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty? :) Watch it and you'll know what I'm talking about.

The thing about God is that He made us in His image, not the other way around. Man is impatient, greedy, and selfish. Many times, God answers your prayer, not how you think it should be answered, but how He knows it should be answered, and when. For instance, I have a friend that has been wheelchair bound for several decades. This person asked for healing from God, and she believed with all that her heart that God would do it. Years passed, but she was not healed. Later, she realized that God had other plans for her life. She has been a tremendous witness for Christ. Specifically she has the ability to testify that God will never leave nor forsake us when we are going through suffering. She can testify that God makes drastic changes in our lives to drastically change us, for the better.

Let's think about this for a minute. If God was to give us the $200 million lottery ticket like we prayed for. Would that make us feel more dependent on Him or less dependent on Him? Many times God gives us a resounding "NO!" to teach us to be more like Him and depend more on Him.

God also has perfect timing for everything. You might be in a painful situation that you have not been delivered from. God could be biding his time, waiting on you to acknowledge and change something that you haven't yet, and may not have even considered if the pain was not there. God may also be leading you down a different path in life.

Either way, while we are suffering, we can know that God is there, and we should use the situation to the best of our abilities to discover new (possibly temporary, possibly permanent) ways to serve God.

Remember that your prayers are never unheard, and they are never unanswered. God just might be doing something that you don't expect. As we strive to be more like Christ and draw nearer to Him, we will be able to see more clearly what He has planned for our lives. As this happens, we will be able to be a witness to others in the same situation.

I have posted more on the topic of suffering in my posts "Suffering Sucks...or Does It?" and "Natural Evil".

Book Review: "Tactics"

Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Faith
By Gregory Koukl

Greg Koukl has written a fantastic book for conversational apologetics. Koukl starts out this book by explaining that the intent of this book is not to be manipulative or make the other person look like a fool in conversation. He explains the importance of a coherent worldview and the importance of being able to identify incoherence. He provides a defense of the reasons for being able to provide a defense for the Christian faith. All of which are very important to anyone who wishes to engage someone in conversation about their faith. Koukl then starts the reader on his list of ways to progress through conversation. Before Koukl describes a tactic, how to use it, and how not to use it; he explains why each tactic is important.