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

Cartoons, Animal Death, and Theology

Ever since I can remember I have been an avid fan of the old Looney Tunes cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, et al). Since I have grown up and am now a more critical thinker, I have an all new appreciation for these cartoons (they are funny for even more reasons now). The other day I was watching through some of them and came across one that I think provides quite an interesting critique of the challenge of so much animal death in God's creation.

The Challenge:
  1. If God is all loving and all powerful, then he would not have created a world in which there was so much animal death and suffering.
  2. There is a lot of animal death and suffering.
  3. Therefore, God is either (or both) not all-loving and (or) all-powerful...and may not even exist.

Bad Designs and the Pharmaceutical Industry

Irony Found In Drugs
Over the last decade or so, it seems to me that the commercials for pharmaceutical drugs are getting longer and more entertaining. One of the things that I find ironic is that the narrator spends the majority of the commercial explaining the possible side effects of the drug rather than what it is designed to accomplish for the patient. The confusion really begins when they describe the trade-offs: do you want sleep? You must sacrifice breathing. If you want to not be constipated, urination may be uncontrollable. If you wish to escape allergies, you may become suicidal. If you desire to not be so depressed, you might experience a heart condition that may cause death.

🎅Santa Claus and Our Children's Trust

My all-time favorite comic strip has to be Calvin and Hobbes. As a kid I would spend hours reading it and laughing until my tummy and cheeks hurt. I still do that today, but I am much more equipped to appreciate the philosophy that Watterson communicated through his witty characters too. This one gave me pause the other day:

...not because of the questions that Calvin found to be common between Santa Claus and God, or even the fact that he has questions about God. What troubled me is the fact that he has questions about Santa Claus. If someone had not told Calvin that Santa Claus existed, he would not even have such questions about Santa Claus. I want to talk this week about two important things that Watterson has illustrated (...unintended pun left for your enjoyment) for Christian parents.

Paperclips and Design

Quite often intelligent design (ID) gets the accusation of being a "God-of-the-gaps" argument. The charge is that people cannot find a natural explanation for what they see in nature, so they immediately attribute it to God. Since nature may be able to explain a phenomenon, such quick conclusions are obviously intellectually lazy and should be recognized as such. A while back I wrote a post addressing the charge of being too quick to come to that conclusion. But this time, I want to focus on the idea that support for intelligent design comes primarily in the form of a process-of-elimination argument.

Even though such an argument does hold value, the conclusion is more reliable when another, more "positive", argument is presented. This argument takes the form of an analogy. It examines what we already accept as being designed by an intelligent agent (humans), and concludes that something of equal or more specified complexity is also designed by an intelligent agent. Allow me to provide an example.

Are You Addressing A Worldview or Its Adherents?

The other day I posted a challenge to the atheistic worldview. I basically proposed that a few things were inconsistent within the worldview. In the comments, a person challenged me about how I was approaching the issue- saying that no atheist he knew held the beliefs that I was proposing. This brings up an important distinction that I think needs to be brought to the forefront: a worldview vs. an adherent.

A worldview is basically a series of propositions that may accurately reflect reality. An adherent is one who holds those beliefs. In conversations about reality, a worldview may be addressed; the adherent to a worldview may be addressed, or both may be addressed. When addressing a worldview, one takes its propositions and tests them against reality. There are multiple levels of worldviews that get more specific. Within the theistic worldview, you have Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and others. Within the Christian worldview, there exists Calvinists, Arminians, Compatiblists, etc. And there are more divisions at the same level of that with other distinctions. The general worldview or the specific worldviews may be tested. I expand on this more in my post "Can Religion Be Tested For Truth?".

🦃Thanksgiving, Evolution, and Design

Thanksgiving In America

Thanksgiving is a holiday 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").

Stephen Law's "Evil God" Argument

In a recent debate with William Lane Craig, Stephen Law proposed an interesting argument in defense of atheism. He provided many examples of "good" in the world and from those concluded that an evil God does not exist. He then challenged Craig to show how one can believe that a good God can exist when one believes that an evil God does not exist. In a very simple form, the argument looks like this:

1. An evil God does not exist.
2. An evil God and a good God are the same
3. Therefore, a good God does not exist
4. Craig's God is a good God
5. Therefore, Craig's God does not exist

At this time, I'm not going to focus on the first premise (although it will play a part). I think that Craig handled it adequately in the debate (Randy Everest at Possible Worlds addresses the concerns with the premise and Craig's responses in his analysis of the argument). However, premise 2 is the one that did not receive much attention from Craig and where I think that he could have also shown the argument's weakness. I want to quickly go over a few observations about the second premise.

The Scientific Method, Proof, and Skepticism

About a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend who told me that science had proven that God was not necessary for the universe to come into being. He concluded from that God is not required to explain the existence of the universe, and he is justified in his belief that God does not exist. He claims that an honest look at the evidence will lead to this conclusion (implying that other conclusions are not honest evaluations of the scientific data, and that they stifle scientific progress).

On the other hand, about a month ago I was in a conversation with a person who told me that science can't prove anything, and he must be skeptical of everything that scientists say. He believes that he is justified in rejecting many of the commonly accepted-as-true theories in the scientific world in favor of one that the scientific community, as a whole, has rejected. He claims that this is a humble and honest approach to science (implying that all other approaches to science are dishonest, and only skepticism promotes scientific progress).

Book Review: Hidden Treasures In The Book of Job

"Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How The Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions" by Christian astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross


 Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How The Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions by Hugh Ross is a book that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. Dr. Ross is one of my favorite authors when it comes to integrating science and the Bible. He wrote this book to demonstrate that from a scientist's perspective, it is amazing just how much accurate information about nature is recorded in the oldest book of the Bible. Not only does this provide much evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible but it also provides solutions to much of the issues we see today regarding the planet. In the interest of "full disclosure", this is a review copy provided by Reasons to Believe. My review will be of the typical chapter-by-chapter summary format with my thoughts to follow. But before I get to the review, check out the trailer for the book:

Hidden Treasures from RTB: MEDIA on Vimeo.

Prologue & Chapter 1: Answers For Today's Issues

Dr. Ross begins the book telling of his experiences throughout the writing process of this book. He explains that his friends warned him that suffering in his life might increase and the current suffering would be highlighted by the study of Job. He shows how their warnings proved true, and how such a study helped him through those times. He states that even though his study started out as a study of strictly the scientific aspects of Job, he was forced to focus also on the questions of suffering. Because of all this, Dr. Ross decided to combine the two in this book. His focus is on exploring the many other aspects of Job in the context of modern scientific discoveries. He states:
At no other time in history have such spectacular and widespread increases in affluence, technology, education, and communication occurred. These advances have yielded a wealth of new knowledge. All this knowledge, however, has done little to satisfy people's deepest longings and to answer their most pressing questions...God's wisdom embedded in Job seems to have anticipated not only knowledge advances but also the anxiety and insecurity future generations would face as their knowledge and technology progressed. (pg 16)
He lays out the different topics he wishes to cover in the book and challenges the reader to see the book of Job as speaking on more than just man's dealings with suffering, but that those dealings with suffering highlight the awesomeness of God's creation, God's power, God's love, God's justice, God's mercy, and God's sovereignty.

🎃As A Christian, Should I Celebrate Halloween?🎃

Halloween is the day that kids dress up as their favorite heroes and go from door to door asking the same question: "Trick or treat?" Some people gladly dispense candy to add to the kids' collections. Some people see it as an opportunity to provide tracts explaining the occult origins of this holiday, and encourage the reader to come to Christ. Others completely shun the day and explain that those who participate in the festivities are enabling Satan to corrupt yet another generation of young people.

Should I or Shouldn't I?
Even though Halloween is not what it used to be (celebrated by the majority as an occultic holiday), I find myself still trying to figure out whether to recognize it or not. My family never participated in Halloween celebrations when I was a kid, so participation is foreign to me. Generally, I'm not a fan of the holiday because it uses way too many dark images and figures that are meant to instill fear in people.

Herman Cain On Abortion- A Reasoned Approach

It came to my attention in the last couple days that one of the US Presidential hopefuls for 2012 (Herman Cain) clarified his position on abortion. The report can be found here. Abortion has historically been a hot-button issue between the Democrat and Republican candidates for all positions within our government. Among voters, it is one of the determining factors of which candidate a person will choose- and for good reason. Both Democrats and Republicans believe that human life is valuable and worthy of government protection. Our unchallenged laws against the murder of human beings is a testament to that agreement. The issue is this: If the unborn is a human life, then it deserves government protection.

Voters have been able to determine how a candidate would handle such a situation by knowing what the candidate believed about when life began. But Herman Cain has complicated the issue by bringing in another factor that voters need to be aware of.

The Rapture, Judgment Day, and Christ's Resurrection

**IMPORTANT UPDATE**:  Family Radio Founder Harold Camping Repents, Apologizes for False Teachings

**IMPORTANT UPDATE #2**: Harold Camping Admits Sin, Announces End to Doomsday Predictions

This post was written prior to the news above. Please read it with that context in mind: 

Harold Camping made worldwide waves last spring when he started being more vocal about his predictions that the Rapture (return of Christ) would happen on May 21, 2011. As many may already be aware, Camping has a history of making failed predictions on Christ's return and the end of the world. The most recent was May 21, 2011. He claimed that he made some calculations based on scripture and came up with this date. Since nothing of apocalyptic levels happened on that day, Camping has explained how his prediction was still accurate and that the world and all unbelievers will be annihilated on October 21, 2011. You can find Camping's official statement here. In his revised "pre"diction Camping claims that Christ returned to earth spiritually back in May.

Peer-Reviewed Only, Please

Not too long ago I was talking with a college student about scientific theories and whether they accurately reflected reality. As is to be expected on a topic like this, we discussed evolution. Specifically the natualistic kind. He provided me some reasons why he believed that evolution explained the diversity of life that we have today. I disagreed and proposed some counter-evidence from some researchers. He became immediately defensive and asked if the works were peer-reviewed.

This question kind of irritated me. Not because the works weren't reviewed by the researcher's peers but because the question was beside the point. It seems to me that this shouldn't matter. I've been thinking about why someone may ask this question and what might be a response that keeps the conversation moving (my irritation certainly won't).

Evidence For vs. Proof Of

In my discussions with nonbelievers when I offer an argument that supports Christianity, they will sometimes tell me, "That doesn't prove anything." I also hear claims that "there is no evidence for Christianity." I could understand the first statement, but the second normally causes me to make some weird faces, as I'm trying to figure out how such a claim could be made.

Not too long ago, the distinction between proof and evidence was offered to me. Evidence being a series of arguments that, if sound, point towards the truth of Christianity. Evidence has an objective sense about it. Arguments that are sound do provide evidence of their conclusion. However, a lot of the time, the conclusion offered is not exclusive.

Featured Apologetics Ministry- Ratio Christi

Today I wanted to highlight a great ministry that I have been made aware of in recent times. Ratio Christi is a ministry dedicated to educating our young people on how to defend the truth of Christianity.. They have been opening chapters at college campuses that promote critical thinking about the Christian worldview.

Ratio Christi's President's Blog is featuring a post by me this morning. In it I emphasize the importance of the audience that Ratio Christi is targeting. You can find it at the President's Blog.

Brian Auten (Apologetics 315) recently interviewed President Rick Schenker. I highly recommend that you listen to it to discover the resources they are making available to our college students.

You can also find them at their Homepage, Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, and YouTube Channel.

Evolution, Morality, and Transformers

Recently I saw the movie "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon". I almost made it through the whole thing without a single thought about worldviews, philosophy, or apologetics. But, alas, near the end, something happened that my mind couldn't ignore (I pulled out my phone and immediately started taking notes).

For those who are unfamiliar with the Transformers' basic premise: there exists three species in the universe that are essentially battling for survival and a "leg up" on the others: humans, Autobots, and Decepticons. Typically, the Decepticons are trying to achieve something that would have the implication of destroying the humans and/or Autobots. The Autobots are the more "noble" of the two robotic species that join forces with the humans against the Decepticons. This particular installment had two characters that I will be focusing on here: Optimus Prime and Sential Prime (Primes are the leaders of the Autobots; they tend to be the wiser and more powerful individuals). SPOILER ALERT: the rest of this post contains storyline details that take place in the last minutes of the movie, so if you haven't seen it and plan to (and don't want it ruined), stop reading now.

Atheistic Evangelism

Today I want to talk a bit about atheistic evangelism. Specifically, the naturalistic atheism. With the presence of the "New Atheists" and many others who follow in their footsteps, it seems that there is a lot more proselytizing of atheism than in previous years. I am quite confused at this phenomenon for three reasons: according to naturalism, first, there is nothing after a person dies; second, everything that happens is determined; third, everything is meaningless and purposeless.

Atheism, Evil and Ultimate Justice

Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. This attack shook the world. It abruptly ended nearly 3000 valuable lives and destroyed countless others. It forced people to recognize evil, ask if justice could ever be served, and challenged our ability to move on.

As a Christian it pains me to see such evil in the world. It hurts worse to see atrocities committed in the name of a religion. Many atheists share my feelings and have even become militant against all forms of religion because of it. They claim that there is no way religion can possibly be true if it causes such needless pain and suffering in the world. I want to take a few moments to discuss evil, justice, and forgiveness in the context of the events from a decade ago within both the Christian and atheist worldviews.

Providing Alternative Explanations

There have been several times that someone provided me a phenomenon that supports a specific worldview. They implied that this support for their worldview demonstrated that my worldview was false. The most recent example that comes to mind is a debate that is inside Christianity. As many, both inside and outside the Church, know, Christians debate the age of the earth/universe, and along side that debate tends to be a lesser known debate about the geographical extent of Noah's Flood (whether the flood was worldwide or localized to a single geographical area).

I currently hold that Noah's Flood was a localized event. (I'm not going to go into a huge defense of this position here because the purpose of this post is just to make a quick point, which Noah's flood being local is not it.) A friend of mine gave me two pieces of evidence that he states can only be explained by a geographically world-wide flood. These two being the large amounts of sediment all over the land and aquatic fossils being found on top of many mountains. He told me that this was evidence that the whole world was covered by water, and further concluded that could only have been Noah's flood (worldwide).

Is Heaven Eternal?

A couple months ago, I was asked to give some quick pointers on responding to a person's issues with the existence of eternal punishment in hell. The answers I provided scratch the surface, but seem good enough to post here because they might get someone thinking about the denial of eternal punishment from both a Scriptural position (for the Christian) and a philosophical position (for the non-Christian). The person who was challenging is not a Christian but is willing to accept that Scripture is the source for orthodox Christian belief. The interesting implication that I point out is what inspired the odd title of this post.

Here is the email that I sent (I've edited it a bit for clarification):

Book Review: The Making of an Atheist

Book Review: "The Making of an Atheist" by James Spiegel


The Making of an Atheist by James Spiegel is a short book on the non-rational reasons that people may have for rejecting the existence of God. It was of interest to me because it doesn't address intellectual reasons, but emotional reasons. The book talks about the psychology of atheists. The book is divided into five chapters and is a mere 128 pages, so it makes for a quick read.

Chapter 1: Atheistic Arguments, Errors, and Insights

In the first chapter Spiegel defines what he means when he uses the word "atheist". That being pretty much anyone who does not affirm the existence of God (this would include agnostics). He then discusses some of the reasons that atheists give for refusing to believe that God exists. He explains the moral argument against God, the hypocritical behavior of people within the Church, and answers both. He addresses other issues in the Church, such as intellectual laziness (which has lead to the charge of "god of the gaps" reasoning) and disunity over side issues. He concludes that the Church, itself, gave the atheists the ammunition against God; they just point out the problems. The Church needs to recognize the truth of what has been revealed and do something about it instead of ignoring it.

Book Review: The Word of God and the Mind of Man

Book Review: "The Word of God and the Mind of Man" by Christian philosopher Dr. Ronald Nash


The Word of God and the Mind of Man by Ronald Nash is a book about Christian epistemology (how we can know what we know). I've been intrigued by discussions of knowledge for quite some time. I was enjoying a philosophy lecture series by Dr. Nash, and while discussing epistemology, he mentioned this book. The book is divided into two parts consisting of a total of twelve chapters. In the first part, Nash provides a case against different religious epistemic systems of the past and present, while in the second part he provides a case for the Christian God being the epistemic foundation for human knowledge.

Chapter 1: Hume's Gap- Divorcing Faith and Knowledge

In Chapter 1 Nash clarifies some misconceptions about David Hume. He explained that Hume's epistemology was not based on an atheistic worldview, but one that held to man's inability to know metaphysical things with any level of certainty. Hume's argument against miracles, was not against miracles happening, but against man having any rational reason for believing that miracles happen. Nash explains that Hume believed that faith was indirectly related to the amount of thinking put into it. In other words, Hume promoted a completely blind faith. He explains that Hume's effect on Christianity (the split between faith and reason) was not from a direct attack on the truth of the worldview, but an attack that emphasized mystery rather than rationality or a balance of the two. Since it was not a direct attack on the truth of Christianity, Christians did not feel the need to defend against Hume's arguments.

Christians Consuming Questionable Media

So many movies and TV shows that promote worldviews that are not inline with Christianity (some blatantly anti-Christian) are coming out these days. I'm a big special effects guy. So any movie or show that will have lots of computer generated graphics tends to lure me. I love to see how accurately the effects are portraying reality. When I see the simulation of physics (movements) and electromagnitism (light) so close to the real world that its difficult to tell the difference, I get really excited. I love to see artistic talent used to imitate reality. I also like to see fictional worlds that contain phenomena that do not exist in reality. The level of design, talent, and time that I see behind this stuff leaves me in awe. I can't help but think of how the Christian worldview is really the only one that can explain the existence of something so arbitrary to survival as creativity, and how that creativity is evidence of the Image of God in every person. 

Reasons In and Out of a Worldview

"I believe that anyone sincerely seeking Truth is going to find it. The problem is, most people are not looking for Truth, they are looking for evidence to support their assumptions. It takes a lot of humility to actually pursue Truth sincerely."- Rachel Oja*

In so many of my interactions with people, I have found that they have already made a commitment one way or the other to certain worldviews and are looking for intellectual reasons to either maintain that commitment, be public about the commitment or escape another commitment. I know people who are ready to accept any worldview except for X and others who are committed to accepting any form of worldview Y. Some are currently in worldview Z but are looking for intellectual reasons to either remain in or to get out.

I have found that Christianity is not immune to this observation. Some people are looking to get in but need intellectual reasons, while other are looking to get out but need intellectual reasons. I have seen people leave Christianity because someone asked them "well, who created God?". I have seen people come to Christianity for "fire insurance". Neither of those being logical reasons.

Multiverse and Rationality

Something that I was thinking about the other day: some people are familiar with Alvin Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism. Basically it states that because people believe false things that help survivability (such as "god", from the naturalist's perspective), evolution does not favor minds that recognize truth, but minds that recognize how to survive- if a belief just happens to be true, it is pure coincidence.

However, I was contemplating the multiverse (or multiple worlds) hypothesis, and it seems that this only compounds the problem. For those uninitiated, multiverse theory states that our universe is not the only universe there is. There are many other universes that do exist; however, our instruments cannot detect them because they are outside our universe. This theory comes in several flavors, but the one I am talking about is the one that is capable of explaining the fine-tuning and design in the universe, along with being an alternative to God as the "banger" that the cosmological argument requires. In order to account for the fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe, some naturalists posit that there are an infinite (or near infinite) number of universes, each possessing different constants of physics. Ours just happens to be the one that is amenable to advanced life, and that is why we exist to observe the "fine-tuning".

Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit

I can remember when I was kid that someone had told me that the way I knew that my Christian faith was true, was that I would have a feeling in my heart that it was true. It was described as a "peace". I remember a few people telling me that this is how they knew that Christ rose from the dead. I want to take a few minutes to look at the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

I was reading Gary Habermas' book The Resurrection of Jesus and the Future Hope and came across a chapter dealing with the witness of the Holy Spirit (Chapter 9). He stated that it is not necessarily emotional (but can be), and if the witness is strong, it can overcome any objection, counter-witness, struggle, etc. that challenges one's belief. It is described as being experienced only by an individual (subjective) yet being a real experience (objective). Since it is subjective, it may serve as "evidence" for the individual, but for the same reason it cannot be used as evidence for others. Yet we see people who use such a witness to the truth of their view as evidence for other people. We even see conflicting witnesses (two who testify to opposite claims)- both sides being unrelenting in their dedication to the belief- which, at least one of them is wrong.

This made me wonder if perhaps there are other spirits that testify to the truth of other worldviews in the same way. If so, how would two people who are making opposite claims about a subjective feeling (say, Christians and Mormons) determine which spirit is being truthful? Since such spirits are part of the non-physical realm, we can't just directly ask them questions and test them. However, the claims that the spirit is testifying to may be tested. As I mentioned in the post a few weeks ago "Can Religion Be Tested For Truth", we can test any claim that is made about the real world. If we have a feeling that something is true, we can test it to find out for sure. That is exactly what needs to be done in this case. If we find that what is testified to is false, then we can conclude that either the spirit is a lying spirit, or (if the test removes the possibility of a spirit's existence) that the "feeling" was just a product of our wishing.

The thing is that this testimony of a spirit can be extremely powerful. Many Christians who do not test the testimony (or don't know how to) still remain firm in their belief that Christianity is true. This is, many times, what carries them through trials and onslaughts of challenges. From a Christian perspective, this is a great thing. Not every Christian is called to conduct an indepth investigation into the evidence for Christianity. There are many other tasks that need to be done for the Kingdom. For those members of the Body of Christ, God has provided two resources- those who ARE called to the investigations, but they are not always around when others need them, so The Holy Spirit provides the reminders of past experiences with God, which affirms to that person that their faith is grounded in the One who has been trustworthy in the past and will remain trustworthy to the end (see my post "What is Faith?").

I'm reminded of a song by Natalie Grant- "Our Hope Endures"*.

Grant poses the problem of evil: "You would think that only so much can go wrong...you assume that this one has suffered her share." It intensifies with the problem that God seems hidden: "Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years. Sometimes the sky rains night after night." Then comes the question: "When will it clear?!" Grant answers: "Our hope endures the worst of conditions. Its more than optimism. Let the earth quake; our hope is unchanged." She implies that both problems may continue for a long time, but that God is with us. The inner witness of the Holy Spirit is the source of this hope. It is what keeps our hope enduring and why we don't lose our faith. Challenges may come that will shake our faith to the core, but somehow people still hang on to it- that is the power of inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

It is not just for those who have not investigated their faith. Notice that Natalie Grant does not mention the intellectual problem of evil that a relative few people deal with; she mentions the emotional problem of evil that challenges everyone. Those emotional challenges are a "check" to ensure that even the most intellectual Christian remains dependent upon his Savior. Christians can be realists- we can recognize the true nature and depth of evil present in this world. The hope that we have gives us the confidence and peace that we will make it through the pain and suffering. This confidence and peace allows us to face the realities of this world with joy and see every obstacle as an opportunity. "What kind of joy is this? This is the joy of a soul that is forgiven and free."**

*Grant, Natalie. "Our Hope Endures." Relentless. Curb Records, 2008
** Chapman, Steven Curtis. "What Kind of Joy." For the Sake of the Call. Sparrow Records, 1992

Understanding and Belief

Not too long ago I was discussing naturalistic evolution with an atheist. After a while of being unable to convince me of its truth, he told me that if I understood it, I would believe it. And further that since I didn't believe it or understand it, that any arguments I offered would be strawmen, and he didn't have to respond to them. I let the discussion rest at that point. Not because I saw the problem with what he was saying, but more because I was caught "off guard" and saw that he had actually come to that conclusion before we even began the conversation.

I wasn't too worried about it at the time, but I've come across similar claims from those who don't agree with me on other things as well. So I'm going to take a few minutes to put together a response for such claims.

A Quote For Independence Day

"We have been preserved this many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown but we have forgotten the gracious hand that has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming grace, too proud to pray to the God Who has made us"- Abraham Lincoln

Book Review: Chosen But Free

Book Review: "Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God's Sovereignty and Free Will" by Christian philosopher and theologian Dr. Norman Geisler


One of the major debates in Christianity is the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free will. Many people interpret the two to be at odds. Each side believes that the other side will result in compromising some essential doctrine of the faith. I wish I were immune to such a debate, but I'm not. I have found myself in the middle of it; not debating for one side or the other, but trying to figure out which side to go with. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God's Sovereignty and Free Will is Norman Geisler's attempt to reconcile the two doctrines.

Chapter 1: Ideas Do Have Consequences

This is the third edition. The book itself is only 188 pages in ten chapters. But in addition is another 149 pages worth of 14 appendices. The first few chapters are quite short. In chapter one, Geisler explains that ideas have consequences and that big ideas have big consequences. He provides a couple examples of the consequences of taking God's sovereignty or man's free will to a logical extreme.

Book Review: Creating God In The Image of Man

Book Review: "Creating God In The Image of Man: The New 'Open' View of God- Neotheism's Dangerous Drift" by Norman Geisler


Creating God In The Image of Man by Norman Geisler is a book focusing on the debate about Open Theism (called "neotheism" in this book). I've been going through some of the different views on the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free will. Open theism is one of the options that falls on the extreme side of Arminianism.

The book is a short read at 145 page divided into seven chapters. Geisler includes two short appendices and a glossary for quick reference of terms used.

Chapter 1: The Chief Competitors to Christian Theism

In Chapter 1 Geisler explains why there are so many different worldviews and briefly looks at eight primary positions relating to God. These include: theism, deism, finite godism, atheism, pantheism, polytheism, panentheism, and neotheism (open theism). He explains that beliefs about the world have major consequences for how we act and uses a chart comparing theism, pantheism, and atheism to each other to illustrate the vast differences in beliefs.

Can Religion Be Tested for Truth?

Most of the time, I'm not too fond of using the term "religion". I normally prefer to use "worldview" because it is more clear about what all a belief system entails. However, for this post, I will use the term common for the question posed in the title: Can religion be tested for truth?

Many years ago, I would not have even thought to ask if religion can be tested for truth. I never thought much about it, because the obvious answer to me seemed to be "Yes". Apparently, though, many people are questioning whether religion can be tested for truth today. Some even say that religion can't be tested, thus such a term as "true religion" is an oxymoron. A common slogan that I hear is, "You can't put God in a test tube". I thought that I might take a few minutes to break this down and form some kind of defense for the idea that religion can be tested.

The Power of the Cumulative Case

Last week I talked a bit about the issues with presenting evidence and arguments that do not lead to an exclusive conclusion and one way to obtain an exclusive conclusion. Many times a single argument cannot produce an exclusive conclusion. However, there is another way to eventually obtain that single conclusion.

Investigations take place all the time. People investigate different happenings and phenomena throughout the world. Investigations are how we come to understand and are able to explain things. In any investigation, a series of evidences are compiled. Any explanation that is to be considered plausible must account for all the evidence. Investigators attempt to enter an investigation without any assumptions prior to seeing evidence. The truth is that an investigator has a reason for investigating otherwise investigating would be of little value.

The Danger of Overstating Conclusions

Have you ever played the electronic game 20 Questions? If you haven't, this is what it is: You think of an object and the computer will ask you "yes/no" questions until it narrows down what you are thinking about. If you answer 20 questions, and it can't figure out what you're thinking about, you win. I've tried it a few times, and I've been able to stump it a couple. :) What the computer does is ask questions to get answers. It uses these answers as premises in an argument. Let's say that I'm thinking of something. It asks me if it is an animal; I tell it "yes". It asks me if it is fury; I say "no". It asks me if it is black; I say "no". If it asked only these three questions, and told me that me that I was thinking of a frog, it would be wrong (I'm thinking of a lizard). A frog does match the answers that I gave (the premises of the argument), but it does not match exclusively. The conclusion that the only thing that I could possibly be thinking about is a frog, is an overstated conclusion.

God Your Way, Right Away

Everyone who's read this blog for a while or have talked with me extensively on worldview issues, knows that I am really big on defining terms. Anytime that I'm on the sidelines of a heated discussion and notice that the conversation can be cooled a bit by the participants understanding the other's terms, I point it out- it normally works to help understanding, but not necessarily agreement.

Example: The Problem of Evil
An easy way to show that something does not exist is to provide a definition then show how that definition is not in keeping with reality. Many of the objections to God's existence by atheists come in this form. Here is a common example:
  1. There is obviously evil in this world. 
  2. God would not allow evil to exist. 
  3. Therefore, God does not exist.

An atheist who raises this objection has defined "God" as a supreme being who would not allow evil to exist and is obtaining his conclusion based on that definition. The problem is that most theists would agree that this "God" defined by the atheist does not exist! The atheist is quite rational with his conclusion, based on his definition of "God". This would throw off many who hold this definition of "God", especially when the theist concedes the conclusion but follows up with, "...but that's not the God I'm defending."

End Times Predictions?

Last week I posted a review of "Has Christianity Failed You?" by Ravi Zacharias. In that book, Ravi talked about how members of the Church have failed people by not acting as Christianity teaches or by teaching something that Christianity does not teach- the person discovers the wrong behavior or the false teaching and projects the falsehood onto the entire worldview, thus rejecting it. 

It came to my attention early this week that a somewhat influential person (Harold Camping) made a prediction that today is Judgment Day. I heard that several people believed him to the point of using the value of all their assets to warn others. I have no doubt, that this person will be used as a "poster child" of Christians and a reason to reject the truth of the Christian worldview. I have no doubt that many who follow this person will become disillusioned and "throw out the baby with the bath water" (leave Christianity). Unfortunately, this is one of those examples where a member of the Church is the source of the failure, not Christianity itself. A lot of times, in the defense of the truth of Christianity, it is not necessary to present an argument for God's existence or the resurrection of Christ; rather, all that is needed is a clarification on what Christianity teaches, and an explanation of why a certain someone, who has been proven to be wrong, is not actually teaching something that Christianity teaches. This is one of those situations.

Book Review: Has Christianity Failed You?

One of the major obstacles that I come against in defending the Christian worldview is simply a misunderstanding of the worldview. So many times people tell me that they reject Christianity based on one thing or another that Christianity teaches. In the vast majority of the cases people are rejecting something that is not Christian but they believe is Christian.

In "Has Christianity Failed You?" Ravi Zacharias tackles this exact issue. If emphasis could be added in a title, I would place it on "Christianity". He believes that it is not Christianity that has failed people, but what they think is Christianity. Ravi introduces his book by telling of an open forum on the topic of this book that he spoke. The audience was eager to hear what Ravi had to say about the apparent failures of Christianity, intellectually and emotionally. This book is his thoughts on the issue.

Filling in the Gaps

Many skeptics of theism accuse theists of "god-of-the-gaps" argumentation when it comes to providing evidence for God's existence. Many theists claim that naturalists are guilty of using a "naturalism-of-the-gaps" argumentation to explain away evidence for God's existence. Others prefer to remain agnostic and simply, "I don't know, one way or the other." Yet, still others will say, "No one can know."

I've noticed a pattern here (I'm sure I'm not the first, though). We all know that we are not omniscient- none of us knows everything. Which means that everyone has gaps in their knowledge, and we fill those gaps with something (there are no exceptions, as I am about to show). As mentioned in my previous posts "What is Faith?" and "Do You Rely on Authorities?" we tend to look to past experiences to determine what to put our trust in to fill those gaps.

Do You Have Enough Faith?

Regarding unanswered prayers, I've heard quite often in the Church that people don't have enough faith. There tends to be two different meanings to this statement. The first is that people are not trusting the evidence that they have that God is trustworthy when it comes to the unknown. The second is that people aren't trusting God to give them what they want.

I don't have a problem with the first; its the second that causes serious issues both inside and outside the Church. In the previous post (What is Faith?) I had mentioned the importance of knowing the nature of the person that we are looking to put trust in. If you don't have a proper understanding of that person's character, then any trust is likely to fail us. In the case of the second statement, if we believe that by placing faith in God we will be made healthy or rich, we are bound to have our faith in God shaken or even destroyed.

Making Sense of the Resurrection

Last year Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 published an Essay Series: Is Christianity True? Many apologetics bloggers contributed to the series. My piece was on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians around the world celebrate Christ's resurrection the event reconciles us to the Father, let's not forget that if, in fact, this did not happen in history, our faith is useless (1 Cor 15), and anyone who does not believe it has no hope (John 14:6).Here is the greatly abbreviated case for the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ, as submitted for the essay series:

What is Faith?

So many times I have heard people say that faith is believing something despite evidence against it. I have heard skeptics of Christianity deride faith based on this, and I have heard Christians claim a higher level of spirituality because they possess this kind of faith. But is this what faith really is? Let's look at it a little more closely.

The Importance of Defining Terms


A few years ago I listened to the podcast "The Word Nerds". This podcast helped me gain an appreciation for the power of the English language. In my conversations with people I have noticed the power of the words themselves. Using the wrong word can cause needless arguments; using a less specific word can cause confusion, and many other effects (I just checked Dictionary.com to make sure I used the right one there) come from using the wrong word.

Potential vs. Calling

It was probably a few months ago that I saw this video of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church*. It caught my attention because of the distinction between potential and calling.

Pursue Your Calling, Not Your Potential

As I had mention in my previous post (Culture's Obsession with Self-Help), if man is the determiner of his own purpose, and man has a desire for purpose, then when a purpose is complete, he will find another, greater purpose. This will continue until the person dies. It is an endless pursuit with no real satisfaction.

On-Demand Experiences

Last month philosopher and apologist Doug Groothuis posted a blog about background music in public. He's not a big fan of it. But this article got me thinking a bit about the reasoning behind such intrusive music.

It seems that background music is normally part of an "environment" or "experience" that is trying to be replicated. From being in Mexico (mexican restaurants complete with Mariachi Bands) to the fasion runway (hip clothing stores "runway" music blaring in the background), companies are trying to create "experiences" for people.

Our postmodern culture has a fascination with "experiences" and "experience" in general. Authenticity (or reality) does not occur to people in today's culture. The experiences that I'm talking about here are artificial and inauthentic (not the real thing). However, authenticity cannot be experienced as easily or frequently as these facades. Culture trades few experiences with the authentic for many experiences with the inauthentic. With constant bombardment of the inauthentic "experiences", we lose the ability to appreciate the authentic experience.

Going back to music in general, I've noticed that lately a lot of "artists" who really can not sing are popular. Many fans of music are familiar with AutoTune. It is a lovely piece of technology that allows sound engineers to "correct" the notes that vocalists sing if they are incorrect. Unfortunately, if used too much, it makes the singer sound quite robotic. This is a great example of the artificial replacing the authentic. Fantasy supplants reality in such a way that it is preferred over reality. As we get inundated with the artificial and fantastic, we gradually lose the ability to appreciate the authentic.

The same thing has happened to truth. People have tried to live in their own fantasies for so long, that they don't want to leave them. This comes from a very existential way of viewing life. "Life is what I make of it; live like there is no tomorrow. Prefer the inauthentic because you never know if you will have the chance to experience the authentic; and for that same reason, I don't need to worry about not being able to appreciate the authentic"

Whether we are talking about truth or culture, being constantly bombarded with inauthenticity has huge detriments. The the inability to appreciate the authentic (reality and truth) becomes us. When we no longer have the ability to appreciate truth when we see it, so we have little reason to accept it or live our lives by it. We will gradually lose the ability to discern between what was created by man and what was created by God. Not recognizing the difference leads to confusion about to who or what to credit. Also focusing on having these "on-demand experiences" encourages us to think existentially. If we only think about the "here and now", we do not contemplate the future or reflect on the past. If we are perpetually entertained with these "experiences" we have no reason to investigate the deep questions of life and reality. All we have is the current moment.

Now that I've dumped on these "experiences" quite a bit, let me talk about the benefits of them. Obviously, if we spent our entire lives only allowing for the truly authentic in everything, we would not be exposed to much of reality. These inauthentic experiences give us a taste (no pun intended) of the authentic. For those who are able to experience both, comparisons can be made and critiques offered to enhance the accuracy of the depictions for those who don't have the resources to enjoy certain authentic experiences.

Two of my favorite things are inauthenticities: ethnic foods and educational television. I don't have the opportunity to travel worldwide just to experience the culinary delights of the nations. Neither do I have the resources to investigate every discipline of science that grab my curiosity. However, local restaurants give me a taste of authentic foods, which makes me desire the authentic experience even more; and television (and the internet) give me the opportunity to "look" through the eyes of researchers to discover the beauty of creation. I can even learn to appreciate AutoTune...from a technical perspective, not artistic, of course. 

The most significant thing that I can think to tie all this together is "love". Culture has spent decades of time and billions of dollars promoting an inauthentic love. Many have been so persuaded that the inauthentic accurately reflects the authentic, that when they see the Authentic, the see no significance or even see it as wrong. For those of us who have experienced the authentic love of Christ, we need to be in the culture critiquing its inaccurate portrayal of love. We cannot isolate ourselves from culture (even the inauthentic parts), we must be in the middle of it. We must be familiar enough with the inauthentic and authentic to show those who live for the inauthentic why the truth and reality of Christ's love and His sacrifice for us are to be treasured above all. From that Christian perspective, the inauthentic may be enjoyed at the same time that we are guiding people back into a loving relationship with their Creator.

Book Review: More Than a Theory

Book Review: "More Than A Theory" by Christian astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (reasons.org)


I am really excited to bring you this review. Dr. Hugh Ross and the Reasons to Believe (RTB) scholar team are the means that Christ used to keep this modernist thinker from completely giving up on the Christian faith about seven years ago. You can read about this more on my page Nature vs. Scripture. Reasons to Believe provides a scientific and Biblical model of the creation and history of the universe that is testable. They have produced many books and papers outlining details of different aspects of the model. They have not really produced a single resource that provides a quick overview of the model for those who might be curious and need an introduction.

That's where More Than a Theory comes in. This book was written as an introduction to the various aspects of the testable model. It frequently refers the reader to the other resources for more details. Throughout this review I will include links to their other books and articles on their website that I am familiar with that go into some more details. Dr. Ross also produced a series of podcasts that briefly go over the contents of each chapter. I will include a link to each episode at the end of each chapter's description. These episodes will give you a better description of the contents of the chapters plus what Dr. Ross specifically want the reader to focus on for each chapter.

Can Evolution Repeat?

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 "Useful or Useless Evolutionary Terms"). If I am talking about microevolution, 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 over time 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).

Politics and Foundations

The other day I was in conversation with a friend who is quite involved in the political scene over here in The States. Every now and then she will forward me the latest "evidence" pointing toward the corruption of government in general. However, she had made a religious claim that she based on subjective evidence. I had asked her to support the assertion in a way that might be compelling to someone else. She not only offered the subjective evidence, but claimed that it was up to the other person to prove her point of view incorrect, then she topped it off with, "That is my opinion".

Validity of the Process of Elimination

I want to take a few minutes to discuss the process of elimination regarding everyday life, science, and philosophy. 

As most of you know, I work in the Information Technology (IT) department at my company. The other day I was doing some troubleshooting for one of our graphic artists. She called me and said that her monitor had started flickering. She stated that she thought that there was something wrong with the monitor and wanted it replaced.  Just to get this on the table now, I was not thrilled with having to replace this specific monitor. It is one of the more expensive ones in the company.

Starting with that thought, I made a list of the possible causes in my head: cables, video card, specific monitor input (it has two), or software on the PC (that could be any range of possibilities). I begin going through some troubleshooting steps to eliminate the possible causes: I reboot the computer; I check (and replace) the cables; I check a different input on the monitor; I try the other output on the video card; check some settings... None of those fixed the problem.

Experience and Reliability

Over the last several years I've come across a couple of "philosophies" when it comes to how a person's personal relationship to a belief affects their ability to represent it accurately. I have heard people state that if someone does not believe something, then they cannot accurately represent it. The "support" provided is that if they were familiar enough to represent it accurately (and in its most powerful form), the person would believe it. But then I've also heard many say that those who believe something cannot accurately represent it. The "support" provided is if someone believes something, they obviously want it to be true, so they will misrepresent a false belief in order to support its truth.

What's interesting is that I've heard both from a couple of the same people, but with regards to different topics: "You can't trust the disciples of Jesus to tell us the truth about him because they obviously wanted to believe he was God and the resurrection happened," and "You can't trust a Christian who used to be an atheist (or other worldview) to accurately represent atheism (or other worldview) because he does not want it to be true." The only identification of when to use which is, "whichever one supports my own view." But that is not a valid reason because of its subjective foundation. When I apply either critique is dependent totally on me, and I can change it whenever I please.

Dangers of Consistent "Tolerance"

The new tolerance has plenty of philosophical and pragmatic problems. Last year I discussed the intolerance of the new tolerance. I showed how the new tolerance is actually self-defeating. However today I want to talk about the effects if the new tolerance was the philosophy and practice of the earliest humans.

Traditionally tolerance has been described as being able to civilly live alongside a person if they hold contrary beliefs. The person being tolerant could still be considered "tolerant" if they questioned and debated the other person. However, today tolerance eliminates that last bit. In order to be considered "tolerant" we not only must be able to civilly live alongside those who hold contrary beliefs, but we cannot question or debate the other person. Some would even take it as far as to say that one person must celebrate or even accept the contrary view as containing the same level of truth as their own belief.

Can We Be Good Without God?

One word and one phrase need clarification in this question. "Good" and "without God".

I want to look at the phrase "without God". My first clarifying question would be "do you mean 'without God's existence' or 'without believing in God'?" The answer to this question will determine how my unasked question about the meaning of "good" will be answered.

If the atheist answers "without God's existence," then it is quite easy. The answer is "yes" and "no"- both meaning the same thing and being just as valid as the other. Since atheists must base their morals on sociocultural contract theory, "good" (which is a moral term) has no objective, intercultural definition. So, one person in one culture may answer the question "yes" (basing his answer on the "goodness" of general behavior), and another person in another culture may answer the question "no" (same basis). If God does not actually exist, this answer does not change even if someone believes that He exists.

Naturalism and Cultural Isms

This is going to build a bit more on my previous post "Naturalism and Human Equality". Naturalism demands that all living entities be ascribed equal value.

This includes bugs and plants. Why should we ascribe greater value to humans? Why not whales, because of their size, or certain trees, because of their long life-spans? If evolution is to be used as a guide, then we must conclude that survivability is the ultimate ascription for value. We could look at survivability of an individual or of an entire species, and we still would not conclude that humans are on top, though.

Useful or Useless Evolutionary Terms?

I want to look at a couple terms that have been added to the evolutionary vocabulary, but are hotly contested:

Microevolution- evolutionary changes that result in differences within a species or genus.

Macroevolution- series of microevolutionary changes that result in a new genus, family, order, etc...

The other day, a naturalist claimed that no such distinction is necessary. The argument is that there is a long string of microevolutionary changes from species to species, from genus to genus, family to family, etc...; macroevolutionary changes are a series of microevolutionary changes that result in a new species, genus, family, etc...; thus macroevolutionary changes are really the same as microevolutionary changes over time. Since they are ultimately the same, there is no need to distinguish between the two terms. This person further claimed that even if they allowed the distinction in terms, the fact that small changes over time is undisputed, means that many changes over time is proven; microevolution is undisputed, therefore a lot of microevolution (macroevolution) is proven.