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

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.