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

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
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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.