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

Resentment Tests Worldviews

Introduction

A few months ago, an article on Lifehacker with some financial advice caught my attention. In today's materialistic (financially speaking, not philosophically speaking) society, resentment towards those who spend more than we do is a real problem. Whether the source of the money is hard work, financial responsibility, a gift, a stroke of luck, a "cush" job, credit, something else, or a combination of any number of those things, there is a tendency for these people to be resented by others based upon their choices with money. While this may seem like something that is far removed from any apologetic topic, it really is not. This resentment is a feature of the fallen human condition, and any worldview that claims to be true must be able to explain its existence and have a solution for it, if it really is such a problem in the first place. Lifehacker is definitely not a religious site, and while I do not pretend to know the worldview of the author, generally there is at least an attempt by the authors to answer questions from within the secular worldview. So I was interested to see how the author would attempt to address this issue. I will start with looking at what is offered in the article and provide a practical critique, then I will offer an alternative that has greater explanatory power and practical usage. I would encourage the reader to check out the article before continuing. It can be read here: How to Deal With Resentment When Your Friends Make More Money Than You

What Solutions Did Lifehacker Offer?

While all the ideas in the article are good bandages, they do not address the cause of the problem. Since they do not address the cause, the resentment will return again and again. The solutions offered are good in the sense that they will last temporarily, but they will not fix the problem in the long term.

The first solution offered is to repeatedly "forgive" the other person for their ignorance of the resentful person's situation. This will get frustrating over time because the resented person is never made aware of how they have "offended" the resentful person and will never be provided the opportunity to change (not that they have actually done anything immoral that requires a change, anyway, so communicating such is likely to be challenged and cause two-way resentment).

The second suggestion is that the resentful person replaces the negative story in their head, about the resented person's situation and how they can spend more, with a more positive story about that person's situation. The problem with this is that all that is being suggested is to replace one speculation with another speculation. The author encourages the reader to tell themselves whatever they have to (true or not) to make them feel good about the person they resent rather than feel resentful toward them. Unless the resentful person habitually lies to themselves for practical reasons or is used to believing useful fictions, this will not last long either. A person can only believe something they know to be false for so long before they finally reject it and lose any "benefit" from believing it.

The third idea offered is merely a more systematic way of "keeping up with the Joneses." The goal is to be able to spend the way the other person does so that the resentful person is their materialistic equal. This too will not fix any issues with resentment for the object of the resentment will just change from the one person, who is now their equal, to the next person who spends even more. The resentment is not removed, it is displaced temporarily only to return and be targeted at another person. Ironically, in this "solution" resentment is self-perpetuating and never-ending.

The failure of all of these solutions indicates the failure of the explanation (worldview) that they are grounded in. Thus an alternative worldview (with a viable solution) is necessary.

What Is The Source?

While the author did not explicitly say that the resentful person is the problem, she did imply it in her focus on changing the person feeling the resentment. While I do believe that she is generally correct about the location of the problem, the specific identification of the problem is incorrect, thus so are the offered solutions based on that incorrect problem (this is how the secular worldview fails the test of practicality).

Temporary vs. Permanent

The author did get very close to the cause by suggesting that the resentful person ask a question of themselves: "What do I have to gain from being resentful." But that was the wrong question. The right question is "Why am I so resentful?" Interestingly, the answer is universal to all humanity but was not identified by the author because the wrong question was asked. The cause of the problem is a lack of contentment and gratitude. If we learn to be content and grateful for what we have, rather than focusing on what we do not have, we can be satisfied with our own situation and not be constantly comparing it to that of others. Without comparison, resentment has no grounding point.

However, several worldviews would grant that the lack of contentment and gratitude is the source of the problem of resentment. For instance, Christianity, New Age and Eastern worldviews tend to grant this. However, I believe that there is an important distinction that separates Christianity from the rest. While other worldviews can only provide a temporary solution (even to the correctly identified problem), Christianity offers the only permanent solution. But what is it? The Apostle Paul told the Phillippians the missing component ("the secret"): Christ (Phil. 4:11-13).

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”- Philippians 4:11-13 #God #Christ #Bible #Contentment #Money #Struggles #Sky

But how can Christ be the missing component? Being discontent and ungrateful is the natural, default position of the human heart, and the heart cannot change itself, no matter how hard or how long it tries to deny what it is (another useful fiction similar to the one I described above). Thus the temporary effect that will necessarily result, even in other worldviews that accurately identify the problem, is that people will attempt to change their heart apart from something outside themselves that has the causal power to accomplish the change.

Contentment

Paul expounds on this in his letter to the Romans (8:18): when we are focused on Christ, we are focused not on the temporary, physical things of this universe (such as money and things) but on the permanent, eternal life beyond this universe. When we are concerned with what is permanent and everlasting, it is easy to be content with whatever we have that is temporary and finite. It is only the focus on Christ and the everlasting life beyond this universe that He offers to us that will ultimately allow us to overcome materialistic resentment- "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him, who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:12b-13). And while we are focused on Christ, He can change our heart.

It is not merely enough to be focused on something outside this universe (such as Nirvana or Moksha in the Eastern worldviews) because our focus will fade and no permanent change can take place. It takes a causal agent, who is also the object of our focus (Christ), to change our heart. Please do not mistake "focus" for an eastern-style "meditation;" the focus I speak of is not just a mental exercise but a complete surrender and dedication of our lives to Jesus Christ.

Gratitude

We also must recognize that "every good and perfect gift comes from the Father" (James 1:17). Giving thanks (gratitude) only makes sense if we have been provided something by someone other than ourselves. It is this second necessary solution to resentment that can only make sense if Christianity is true. God is the source of the temporary and finite things we have been given. So even though money and other temporary things are not our focus, we must still be grateful for them. This removes the focus on a second level- from what we do not have to what we do have. And with our lives surrendered and dedicated to Christ, we are free to search for ways to use what (little or much) God has given us for eternal purposes, not just the temporary purposes of this life. I think that financial guru Dave Ramsey puts it quite succinctly in his popular book "The Total Money Makeover":

Quote from Dave Ramsey- "Unless you have had a heart-level Total Money Makeover somewhere, sometime in your life, you are still doing something with money to impress others, and that has to change before you can get on a real plan to fiscal fitness. The Bible states, 'Godliness with contentment is great gain' (1 Tim 6:6 NKJV)." #Resentment #Contentment #Gratitude #Money #Finances #Bible

Conclusion

Considering the fact that God has given all people the intuition that resentment is evil (or at least undesirable) and He has given us a mind that can reliably solve problems, it is no surprise that even secular solutions can get some things right. However, they will never be complete without the whole of reality in view. The solution must include Christ. The solution to financial resentment (and every other sin in our lives) can only take place through a renewed life in Christ. No other worldview can come even close to competing with Christianity's solution offered to financial resentment or any other sin. If you are struggling with financial resentment (or any other sin) and are tired of struggling to rely on yourself to fix a problem that you, as a human, do not have the ability to fix, Jesus' death and Resurrection are the only hope for a solution in reality. He extends the invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). When you bring the burdens of your sin to Christ, He will forgive and will create in you a pure heart (Ps 51:10). Christ's forgiveness is the only  permanent solution to every sin that plagues you, me, and everyone else. Will you come to Christ, or will you continue searching in vain for another temporary solution?

If you are looking for evidence that Jesus Christ is who He said He is (God) and can do what He said He can do (give you rest), consider the historical evidence for Jesus' death and resurrection here: Did The Historical Jesus Rise From The Dead?

๐ŸŒช Tornado Simulations, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and God's Existence ๐ŸŒŒ

Introduction

For nearly all my life, I've had a fascination with the physical sciences. Meteorology and astronomy were two of them that always caught and kept my attention as a kid. In my teens was when I started to focus more on information technology, and in my twenties I was drawn to defending the truth of the Christian worldview through science, philosophy, and other knowledge disciplines. Living in Oklahoma, the weather is always in the news, and being that I frequent philosophical and scientific sites, popular astronomer Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson comes across my screen once in a while as well. In the last year, a few different articles have shown up from the meteorological, astronomical, and philosophical worlds, which the combination is what caught my attention. Today, I want to take some time to show how technology, being used to simulate natural phenomena, can be used to show that God exists, and I will address a popular naturalistic alternative explanation that was proposed by Tyson (and others). Let's start with the weather and super-computers.

Stories: We All Got 'Em

A Purpose for Suffering

This past weekend I pulled out some of my old CDs and came across a song I had not heard in a while. With all the pain and suffering in the world, it is often hard to see how God could have a good purpose for what he allows. But if it weren't for pain and suffering, most of us would not have a testimony of Christ's faithfulness to share with the unsaved. Why does a good God allow suffering? To draw people to Himself so that they can tell their story and bring even more into an everlasting relationship with their Savior and Creator.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us."- Romans 8:18
This was part of God's plan for Redemption, from the creation of the world. If the Cross was not "Plan B" (1 Peter 1:20), then neither was pain and suffering. Our experiences, no matter how painful, have an eternal, good purpose. It is encouraging to hear a reminder of this. If you've been down to the bottom, how will you choose to allow God to use this powerful evangelical tool in your life and give your experience an eternal, good purpose?

Please take a few minutes and listen to "Stories (Down to the Bottom)" by TobyMac and allow God to speak to and encourage you through a fellow brother in Christ:


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Book Review: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men ๐Ÿ‘ฝ

Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men- Book Review Introduction

Ever since I was a kid I have had a fascination with space, rockets, and Marvin the Martian. I have always been interested in knowing whether life could exist somewhere else in the universe, and if so, what kind of life. As a kid, UFOs caught my attention and fascination. I remember watching "Unsolved Mysteries," when they were presenting a story about someone's encounter with an unidentified flying object, on several occasions with my parents. Over the years, my interest in UFOs and aliens has gone down quite a bit, but it always been in the back of my mind as I see scientific stories about discoveries of extraterrestrial planets and research on the origin of life. I recalled reading an interesting book several years ago that addressed the topic of UFOs, and I decided to pick it up again to give it a proper review on my blog. The book is "Lights In The Sky and Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials" by Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Mark Clark, and Kenneth Samples (DVD available as well). This review will be the usual chapter-by-chapter summary and conclude with my recommendations. As always, this review leaves out a lot of information necessary to truly evaluate the authors' arguments, so if you are intrigued by the contents here, please do pick up a copy to read and analyze for yourself.

Book Review: Forensic Faith๐Ÿ•ต

Introduction

I have to say that ever since I heard that cold-case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace was working on a new book, I was extremely excited, especially when I heard it would be a book on learning how to be a Christian case-maker. I read and reviewed his two previous books (Cold-Case Christianity and God's Crime Scene). In those books, he brought a unique and powerful perspective, as a cold-case homicide detective, to presenting the case for Christ's resurrection and God's existence. However, many Christians are not convinced that there is even a need to make the case for the truth of our worldview. In "Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith" (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), Wallace's aim is to appeal to these Christians, who are hesitant about making the case, by presenting them with the biblical reasons for making the case and the resources to do so.


Chapter 1: Distinctive Duty

J. Warner Wallace begins by telling of his graduation from the police academy in California. As part of the graduation, the new graduates took an oath; they sore to protect the citizens of their state from all threats using the training they had received. This instilled in the new officers a great sense of duty. As an officer of the law and a detective, evidence played an extremely important role in Wallace's everyday life. When Christian officers witnessed to him, he was not impressed because they seemed to have a faith that went against the evidence. However, when he investigated the Gospels for himself, he found the complete opposite: that Christianity made claims about reality that could be falsified or verified by evidence, and Jesus and his Disciples, in fact, encouraged people to believe based on the evidence and witness to others using the evidence.

Wallace observes that every Christian believes the claims of Christ based upon the direct evidence of the eye-witness testimony of the Disciples given in the gospels, so having a faith based upon evidence is nothing foreign to the Christian. However, to make his case more powerfully, he takes the reader through the New Testament to show that Jesus encouraged people to believe His claims based on the evidence He offered, and that the Disciples accepted their duty to witness using their eye-witness testimonies (direct evidence). He observes that while Paul explicitly stated that not everyone was necessarily called to be an evangelist (Eph. 4:11), Peter explicitly stated that everyone is called to be a Christian case-maker (1 Peter 3:15). He then takes the reader through early Church history. In this he cites several historical writers at the time who provided evidence to their readers for the truth of what they were claiming about Jesus Christ. Wallace concludes the chapter with a call to every Christian to accept their biblically-established duty to be Christian case-makers for the next generation.

Quote from J. Warner Wallace- "Now, more than ever, parents need to raise their children with a forensic faith. We need to be ready to answer their questions and raise them with the evidence confidence they will need to stand tall in the midst of the pressure they will inevitably experience in the university." #God #Christianity #apologetics #Children #Faith #evidence #College #Jesus #God

Chapter 2: Targeted Training

For those who have accepted their duty as Christian case makers, Wallace now moves to training. He observes that despite the fact that the Church has been teaching the Word of God, the desired effect is not borne out in culture: most adults (including Christian adults) do not have an accurate Christian worldview, and our kids are leaving the Church in droves. From Wallace's own experience as a youth pastor, simply teaching is still resulting in our children rejecting Christ. He decided from that experience that he needed to employ a tactic from his work on the police force: training. Instead of merely providing instruction in a classroom then going off to do something fun within the confines of the Church, he decided to train his students. This involved more than just instruction, and he lays out his system using an acrostic:

Test
Require
Arm
Involve
Nurture

It is important that Christians test each other's (and their own) ability to answer the tough questions from skeptics. This will reveal the focuses of training. Christians need to raise the bar and require more of themselves and each other than what we think can be handled; this encourages growth in knowledge. As we stretch our minds, we must arm ourselves and each other. Learn what is true and how to communicate it clearly. We do each of these in order to involve ourselves in culture and engage the challenges of skeptics; we must use the knowledge and skills that we have practiced. As we involve and engage, those with us will discover areas where they are weak, and we must be there to nurture them in the middle of the battle so that they can get back on their feet. Wallace explains that all these are necessary if we wish to see the trends described at the beginning of the chapter reversed. He concludes the chapter with a specific call to parents to get trained so that when their kids ask challenging questions, they will "be ready to give a reason for the hope that they have with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)

Quote from J. Warner Wallace- "Our mastery of the 'reasons' we have for our 'hope in Jesus' should result in an attitude of 'gentleness and respect.' The more we prepare ourselves for battle, the calmer and more poised we will be in the height (and heat) of the struggle." #Christianity #Evidence #apologetics #discussion #evangelism #TheGreatCommission #God

Chapter 3: Intense Investigation

In the third chapter, Wallace describes five practices that he exercises in order to investigate cold cases, and he demonstrates how to apply each one in order to have a forensic faith. His first practice is to read the case file completely and know it backward and forward. He must be extremely familiar with the material. The Christian, likewise, needs to read the Bible (Christian file) completely and know it from cover to cover. His second practice is to remember that everything can be evidence, even things that we may not usually consider. When reading the Bible, the Christian must understand that everything contained within its pages counts as evidence in one way or the other. The third practice is to take extensive notes and thoroughly analyze.

As we read the Bible, notes should be taken regarding different relationships among passages and concepts, and the claims (along with the specific words used and not used) all need to be thoroughly analyzed. The fifth practice is to organize the data and summarize it. Doing the same with the Bible will assist in understanding and recollection of the investigation. The fifth practice is to look for evidence outside the original case file. For the Christian, most skeptics do not recognize the Bible as a source of truth, so if they are to reasonably believe what it says is true, they need to have evidence from a source that they recognize as valid (which will be outside the Bible). For each one of these practices, Wallace presents an example of application for the Christian that will help in developing a forensic faith.

Quote from J. Warner Wallace- "Jurors make decisions even though they have less than complete information, and they aren't the only people who make decisions in this way. Regardless of theistic (or atheistic) worldview, we all trust something is true, even thought we can't answer all the questions. Today, I am a Christian because the evidence for God's existence and the rerliability of the New Testament are robust, cumulative, and compelling. This doesn't mean all my questions are answered. They aren't. But I've reached a conclusion based on the evidence I do have in much the same way a jury reaches a decision. In a strict sense, this is actually an 'act of faith,' given that I trust in something I can't fully demonstrate or understand. But my 'faith decision' is more akin to 'trusting in the best inference from the evidence' than 'believing blindly' or 'believing in something in spite of the evidence'." #Christianity #Evidence #Investigation #Jury #Faith #Certainty #Epistemology #Reason

Chapter 4: Convincing Communication 

Of course, once we have developed a forensic faith, we cannot keep it to ourselves, we must communicate to those who must decide, a "jury" of sorts. Wallace again draws upon his experience to provide the Christian with principles for communicating what evidences have been uncovered for the truth of the Christian worldview. His first principle is to be insightful in deciding who to present the evidence to. Just as jury selection is important for a trial, so is the selection of the people to present evidence to. He explains that there are generally four kinds of people: Committed skeptics, committed Christians, Christians who are doubting, and skeptics who are doubting. Generally the ones who are most receptive to the evidence are the last three. His second principle is to instruct those you present evidence to on how to examine evidence. It is not always common knowledge how evidence is to be handled; if someone does not understand how evidence builds a case, then they will not likely see how powerful the case is when presented.

The third principle is to remember that whoever makes a claim bears the burden of proof, not just the theist (as many atheists would have you believe). Any time that someone claims something (even that God does not exist), it is their responsibility to make a case. Fourth, always remember that possibilities are not arguments against your case or the evidence presented. There will always be unanswered questions, and there always seems to be some speculative way to avoid the conclusion. However, speculated possibilities are not supported by the evidence; the conclusion you present is. Fifth, the more evidence you present, the more reasonable the conclusion. If you claim that something happened, the more support you can present, the more evidentially persuasive the case will be. Familiarize yourself with as many pieces of evidence for the truth of Christianity as you can. Finally, Wallace encourages the Christian to communicate passionately yet humbly; never overstate your case. He concludes the book with a reminder of the importance of the duties of those who are called to "serve and protect" in law enforcement and encourages the Christian to accept the same duty to "serve and protect" the members of the Body of Christ.

Quote from J. Warner Wallace- "When skeptics say the case for Christianity is weak because it can't be built with scientific, testable, physical, forensic evidence, they simply don't know how criminal cases are tried every day in America. That's why we need to help people understand: Everything counts as evidence, including behavior of the original witnesses, the testimony of those who listened to the statements of these witnesses, the corroborative evidence of archaeology, the internal confirmation of geography, politics, and proper nouns, and the deficiency of alternative explanations. These forms of evidence (or something very similar) are used in criminal trials every day." #Evidence #Christianity #Faith #Reason #Apologetics #God #Jesus #Bible

Reviewer's Thoughts

I had high hopes for this book, and Wallace certainly did not disappoint. While there are numerous aspects of this book to appreciate, the one that stood out to me was his thorough use of Scripture throughout the book to make his case for providing an evidential case for Christianity. One of the principles he's learned in his career as a homicide detective is to "overwhelm" his jury with the evidence for the guilt of defendant so that there is little-to-no doubt in their minds of his/her guilt. His use of Scripture certainly follows that principle. If you have not seen a decent case for presenting evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview, this is the book that you need to read. If you have heard about "apologetics" and have been curious but do not know where to start, this is the book to get. I cannot recommend it enough as the starting point for anyone who feels Peter's call to "be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have." After this one, be sure to continue your development of a forensic faith with J. Warner Wallace's two other great books, "Cold-Case Christianity" and "God's Crime Scene."

Top 5 Books On Science and Faith

One of the major challenges to the Christian worldview is the idea that science and Christianity are necessarily in conflict with one another. This general challenge is manifested in many different ways. A few months ago, I posted my Top 5 Books that address the Genesis controversy. This list will address the more general challenge. As before, I will give the list then provide a short explanation for my choices. This list will consist of two primarily philosophical books and two primarily scientific books that are bridged by one that logically connects the philosophy to the science. So, on to the list of my (currently) Top 5 Books I recommend regarding science and faith:

Top 5 Books on Science and Faith: Where the Conflict Really Lies- Alvin Plantinga; Agents Under Fire- Angus Menuge; Origin Science- Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson; Improbable Planet- Hugh Ross; Creating Life In The Lab- Fazale Rana


Why Did I Pick These Books? 

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

In order for discovery and explanation (science) to even take place, a proper philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) must be established. As mentioned in the introduction, many skeptics claim that science (read "evolution") and Christianity are in direct opposition to one another, and they offer that naturalism is the only view supported by science (again, read "evolution"). In this book, philosopher Alvin Plantinga looks at the theory of evolution from a merely conceptual standpoint (not an evidential one- Plantinga does not agree or disagree with evolutionary mechanisms in this book). He makes the case that the theory of evolution, by itself, merely describes a possible mechanism to explain the diversity of life, but it does not make any claims about whether that mechanism was guided or not- philosophical naturalism has to be sneaked into evolutionary theory for guidance to be excluded. He concludes that evolution is compatible with theism, so there is no conflict. But he takes it even further. C.S. Lewis argued in "Mere Christianity" that a naturalistic origin of our brains justifies doubting its ability to reason and come to true conclusions apart from survival advantage. Plantinga builds upon Lewis' argument to place it on very strong scientific grounds. He ultimately concludes that a conflict does exist between evolution and naturalism. Not only are naturalists incorrect in claiming a conflict between Christianity and science, they are incorrect in claiming concord between science and naturalism. Naturalism is simply not a viable worldview for the person who values their ability to reason towards true conclusions despite survival disadvantages of those conclusions.

Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality Of Science

For reasoning independent of survival advantage to take place, a mind that is not subject to the survival of a physical organism must exist (an agent). Naturalism not only does away with the reliability of a brain's ability to reason independent of survival advantage, it also has no room for an agent independent of the physical organism. Naturalists have attempted to explain away agency (along with free will, intentionality, design, and other concepts we take for granted) using strong and weak agent reduction. Philosopher Angus Menuge takes the reader through the scientific and philosophical claims of these proposed solutions and shows how each of them fails the test of reality. He also takes the scientific and philosophical evidence to build the case for agency (minds) actually existing. If minds do exist, then naturalism is false, and we have discovered yet another conflict between naturalism and science. Along with that, science has actually demonstrated a key feature of the Christian worldview: more than just this physical world exists.

Origin Science: A Proposal for the Creation-Evolution Debate

The two previous books focused primarily on philosophical arguments that have scientific implications. But what about scientific evidence that has philosophical implications? Before we can get to the more science-focused evidence for Christianity, we need to establish the reliability of nature as a source of knowledge that we can observe and analyze. In their book "Origin Science" philosophers Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson do just that. They look at the history of science and the history of science within the Church (drawing the conclusion that science and Christianity are compatible). They then look at how knowledge of how nature currently operates has been obtained: through observation. This connects our ability to accurately observe and validly analyze to draw sound conclusions about how nature operates today (observational science). But what about how nature operated in the past? Using the principle of uniformity (distinct from uniformitarianism) Geisler and Anderson demonstrate that the past can be known with deductive certainty. This makes the connection between the present and the past. If the past operated the same five days ago (verified by repeated experiments), we can keep adding five days to the past until we reach back into the distant past to discover how things operated back then (historical science). The knowledge of the present operation of nature and the truth of the principle of uniformity necessarily imply that we can know the operation of nature in the (distant) past. Thus, our ability to know and nature as a source of knowledge have been connected so that we can discover what nature reveals about its purposeful or purposeless history.

Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home

For several decades, astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross has been scouring scientific journals for scientific evidence for the Christian worldview. The evidence is so frequently in the scientific literature that he has a blog entitled "Today's New Reason to Believe." He has written several books on what he has discovered, but his latest book examines history of our planet, and the hallmark of design for a purpose is difficult to miss. As scientists discover more about how stars, solar systems, and planets are formed, they see just how unique ours is. Numerous features of each are necessary for our planet to be able to support advanced life for the time that it has. For those familiar with Gantt Charts (used to track the progress of large and complex projects), through the entire time span of the project of the creation of our planet for high tech civilization, numerous series of highly orchestrated simultaneous phases begin and conclude at precisely coordinated times. The completion of the project is so dependent upon the plan being followed precisely that every phase, if not started or not completed at their precise time, ensures that the project will be a failure. While many projects must be flexible due to circumstances outside the project manager's control, the Project Manager in charge of our planet did not have that limitation; He was in complete control and could easily complete such a strict project. We know by analogy to human projects that when we see such a complex system come together with a specific end result that it is the product of a designer (project manager). While an argument against a naturalistic explanation would be obvious, Dr. Ross instead argues that the design of our planet positively identifies that it was created for a purpose, and a purpose must have a Purposer. Dr. Ross argues that the most plausible explanation for our planet's sustaining a high tech civilization is the product of the divine Project Manager (God), who's purpose was the redemption of as many of His Image bearers as possible.

Creating Life In The Lab: How New Discoveries in Synthetic Biology Make a Case for the Creator

While the previous book focused on evidence from astrophysics and geochemistry for our planet being created with a purpose (thus a Purposer was necessary), Creating Life In The Lab examines the latest work in the field of biochemistry, specifically what scientists are doing in order to create life. Dr. Rana takes the reader through the history and current state of different approaches scientists have been pursuing to create life. He explains that precisely and constantly controlled environmental conditions are necessary even for the progress that has been made today. Just like with other chemical experiments, these are highly controlled reactions, ones that would not take place outside the intervention of the scientists. And much like other chemical experiments, the reactions must be stopped at precise times to prevent destruction of the product of the reaction. Dr. Rana points out that these experiments and all success they have can only be attributed to the fact that designers (the scientists) are behind the experiments with an explicit purpose in mind. The fact that the scientists have a specific goal in mind allows them to begin chemical reactions, allow them to take their natural course (according to the laws of physics) then intervene to stop the reactions to prevent destruction of the products and set them aside to be later combined with other products of similar processes. Dr. Rana makes the point that even if there is a naturalistic pathway from non-life to life, that pathway is not one that can be traversed without designers to control the conditions, start and stop reactions, and combine products that have each been created independently. He also argues that when we see products of any other process that requires precisely controlled conditions and controlled chemical reactions (say, the device you are using to read this article), we intuitively, logically, and experientially know that it is the product of a designer. Even though life has not yet been successfully created in the lab, the current status provides powerful evidence for life being the product of a Designer. And if (when) life is created in the lab, it will present powerful, positive evidence for the creation of life absolutely requiring a designer.

Bringing It All Together

I would like to add also that these last two books offer such powerful cases for design that if naturalism were true, they would actually bolster Alvin Plantinga's argument in "Where The Conflict Really Lies" with scientific evidence. If the "design" we see in the history of our planet and the creation of life is merely an appearance of design (as many naturalists contend), then arguments for true design break down. And as Dr. Angus Menuge argued in "Agents Under Fire" that breakdown is in the very concept of design- it does not exist if naturalism is true. Everything that we experience and believe to be designed (even human inventions and projects) are not truly designed; the belief that they are designed is merely a useful fiction. And since believing these useful fictions is necessary for us to even get out of bed and eat breakfast (not to mention driving [or walking] to work to perform a series of tasks designed to accomplish several purposes) there is no reason whatsoever to think that our brains were selected for by natural selection to believe what is true- they haven't been and they won't be...interestingly, if we cannot trust our brains to believe what is true (possess knowledge), then what is the point of science in the first place? If God does not exist, neither does knowledge, and every knowledge discipline that we enjoy is the product of yet another series of useful fictions forced on us by our (naive?) desire to survive.

More Than Water Is Required for Life

A New Habitable Zone Discovered

The other day I saw an interesting article posted on PHYS.org entitled "More To Life Than The Habitable Zone." The "Habitable Zone" is the area around a star where a planet may exist with water in all three states. This is crucial for life's existence. In the article the team of scientists studying a particular star for habitable planets recognizes that the zone where water can exist is not the only area that limits where a life-destined planet may be found. The scientists explain that another factor that further limits that "habitable zone" is the amount of ultraviolet radiation emitted from the host star. Similar to the water habitable zone, the UV habitable zone is the area where the UV radiation is within the maximum and minimum bounds that permits life to exist. Both zones are necessary, so the only area where life can exist is the area where the two zones overlap each other. This area is so tiny that the team of scientists conclude that while a large portion of stars (red dwarfs) scientists have been investigating for habitable worlds are not completely off the table, it would be more prudent for scientists to focus efforts on the relatively few stars that more closely match our sun. Such a star would allow, presumably, for a larger overlapping area of the water habitable zone and the UV habitable zone.

Narrowing the Options

Astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe describes these two habitable zones in his latest book "Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home." He also describes three other habitable zones that have been discovered. Not only is earth located in the water habitable zone and the UV habitable zone, but zones for photosynthesis, ozone, and tides also exist. This means that not only must the water and UV zones overlap, these other three must overlap as well. The only areas where overlap of all five exists are where a planet must exist around its host star to be a candidate for life.

A quick internet search reveals that red dwarfs make up roughly 70% of the stars in the universe. If the team of astrobiologists are saying that the recognition of just one more habitable zone limits the candidate sites in the universe (practically rules out an entire class of stars) by 70%, then how much more will the recognition of these extra three zones limit the possible locations for life? Even though research is revealing a more precise target for where life can exist (thus focusing expensive research time and resources), the number of physical locations available for life to originate are being dramatically reduced. While the universe is huge and scientists already recognize that the majority of it is not viable for life's existence (nowhere near a star), this team of scientists has ruled out 70% of the space already left.

But that's not all. To further focus our research efforts (but reduce the areas for life), two more (non-location) habitable zones exist: the planet's rotation rate and obliquity. Each of these affect the other five zones in different ways, so while one zone may be widened or move closer to the star, another may be narrowed or move further from the star. When the planet's rotation rate and obliquity are taken into account as well, the actual area where a planet may exist and support life becomes even smaller or disappears completely for even more stars.

An Ancient Universe and Evidence for Design

As research continues, the history of our planet is becoming more of a problem for anyone who thinks that life is ubiquitous in the universe. Not only that, the more research continues, the more the history of our planet resembles a complicated project executed for a purpose- a project that includes numerous phases with numerous concurrent and necessary events that, if not started and finished at the proper time, would doom the project to failure. The longer the history of our planet, the longer the project and the more of these complicated phases there are. While many people think that an ancient universe provides naturalists a legitimate reason to deny the need for a Designer, the evidence provided by this ancient universe is revealing the exact opposite: that a Designer is necessary to explain why our planet and its history appear to be designed. The ancient universe is quickly becoming an unstoppable evidential force, declaring the glory of its Creator (Psalm 19:1) and leaving educated unbelievers with even less excuse for rejection (Romans 1).


Dr. Hugh Ross has also posted on this discovery: Inability of Planets Orbiting Red Dwarfs


To Go Deeper, I Recommend These Books:


Charlie Gard- A Battle For Life Has Been Lost, But That is Not the End

It is a sad and heart-wrenching day for Charlie Gard, his parents, and humanity. If you've been following my blog for the last few weeks, you know that I've been following Charlie's fight for the chance to live (here and here). When he was born eleven months ago, we was diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disease that left him unable to move or breathe on his own. In the last couple months, the hospital treating him in the United Kingdom decided to cut life-support because there was nothing they could do, but the parents wanted to transport him to the United States for an experimental treatment. The saga played out in the United Kingdom court system with the judge agreeing with the doctors. Several foreign doctors and hospitals offered to transport and treat Charlie free of cost, but the request was denied by the court. After an international outcry, the judge finally ordered an MRI scan on Charlie to determine the feasibility of success with the experimental treatment. The US doctor evaluating the scan announced yesterday that the "window of opportunity" for a greater than 10% chance of success had been missed. This caused Charlie's parents to lose all hope and finally give up their fight for their son's life, and they will be spending his last days with at his bedside.

I cannot help but see that the reason the window of opportunity was missed is because the doctors and judge were so bent on seeing Charlie's death that they intentionally stalled any and all treatment and tests. This window could have been discovered and action taken within it had the doctors not resisted the choice of the parents with the power of the government behind them. The doctors at that hospital could have avoided the whole moral and legal battle and emotional pain of the parents (and the world) had they allowed their international peers to do what they solemnly sore to do (protect the life of their patients- see the Hyppocratic Oath). In that refusal, these doctors violated the Hyppocratic Oath, themselves. But they have not only violated an oath to the medical community and to the public, but they have violated the Image of God. In refusing to recognize the intrinsic worth of their patient, they saw him as expendable and not worth the cost of the resources it would require to save him. This is the result of such a denial. In a medical world that is devoid of the understanding of intrinsic human worth, every patient will enter a facility with a dead line and a price tag; if either are exceeded, the project (patient) will be scrapped.

As Americans, who enjoy freedom based upon our intrinsic worth "endowed by our Creator," we must do all that we can to prevent such a medical world from crossing the Atlantic. As Christians, we need to be there for Charlie's parents to support them in every way we possibly can for the rest of their lives. This is a wound that will not heal with time. This is an evil that cuts to the very heart of what it means to be human. Charlie's parents know this, and they have sworn that they will do all that they can to prevent other parents from having to experience such horrendous pain at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them (physicians and the government). As the Church, we need to support them. We need to see that Charlie and his parents have not suffered needlessly at the hands of evil men. We need to protect the Image of God; we need to defend life.

What men intended for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20). We are created in God's Image, so we can do the same. Let us choose to turn this evil on its head, and show the world the love and hope of Christ and the reasons we have them (1 Peter 3:15), so that this finite suffering cannot compare to the infinite glory that will be revealed through eternal life (Romans 8:18). This particular battle for a life may have been lost, but the war for eternal life through Jesus Christ will be won.

Let us support Charlie's parents and defend life:


Apple CEO Tim Cook on Purpose and Ethics in Technology

Introduction

For MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 2017 graduation, Apple Computers' CEO Tim Cook was asked to give the commencement speech. As a fellow information technologist, I wanted to see what he would say to the next generation of technological engineers. He provided an inspiring speech that encouraged the graduating students to pursue a career in technology because technology can serve the higher purpose of humanity. You can watch the full speech on YouTube.

Tim Cook's Speech

Cook began with this: "When you work towards something greater than yourself, you find meaning; you find purpose." He said that he had searched for a higher purpose in his life; he tried many things, including religion. He then spoke of the value and importance of humanity and how technology is improving life. He told a story of one of his Apple shareholders' meetings where he explained to one shareholder that his company's focus was not necessarily on the ROI (return on investment) of a technology but that its focus was "the right thing to do." He also stated that while some people fear artificial intelligence's becoming more human-like, his concern was the humanity's thinking was becoming more machine-like: devoid of values, compassion, and concern for consequences. He concluded with "There is so much on the internet to make you cynical...do not get caught up in the trivial things of life...stay focused on what really matters."

In the speech, Cook made sure to mention the importance of the humanities to the science and math graduates. I am glad that Cook values the humanities. I value them as well, including philosophy. Unfortunately, several philosophical problems arise when the claims in his speech are investigated more deeply. I would like to make the point that his comments about Apple's disregarding the ROI of technologies make it clear that he is not making subjective (opinion) claims, rather he is making claims that are objectively true for everyone- they are true whether anyone believes them or not. He believes that his and his company's valuing of ROI over human life would be objectively wrong. In order for any of his claims to be objectively true and have any meaning outside of the individual, the different claims must all have a grounding in reality, but he mentioned at the beginning of his speech that he rejected the only source for such grounding. Let's see what the implications of such rejection are.

Book Review: Inference to the One True God

Introduction

Fellow Christian apologetics blogger Evan Minton (Cerebral Faith) contacted me not too long ago about a book that he was writing on his investigation into the truth of Christianity. I have enjoyed his past work on his blog and his discussions on social media, so I was excited to hear that he was officially publishing a book and could not wait to see the final product. Evan sent me a copy of "Inference to the One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead of Other Gods" for review. The book is 200 pages divided into eight chapters, each one designed to get the reader one step closer to the identity of the One True God. This review will be a chapter by chapter summary and conclude with my recommendation.

Charlie Gard and Purpose in Suffering

The World Watches Charlie Gard

With the international attention received by baby Charlie Gard in the United Kingdom (including my post from last week), good news has been received: the judge has granted a hearing of new evidence about experimental treatment available in the United States, claims that Charlie is not, in fact, suffering pain, and that damage to his brain caused by a rare mitochondrial disease is not permanent. The hearing began yesterday, and the judge is waiting for more information before a new decision is reached. Here is the latest from Life Site News: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/charlie-gards-day-in-court

UPDATE: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-american-doctor-will-examine-charlie-gard-on-monday

While the world awaits the updated decision, conversations are still taking place in the public square about the value of human life and the role of "quality of life" in medical decisions (even among Christians). My post from last week received a series of concerns that are commonly raised with those who have defended human life in these situations. I will quote the concerns and provide a response to help equip you, the reader, to think clearly and logically and respond with comfort and love regarding such issues.

I want to preface this with the fact that the person raising the concerns was a Christian who is also struggling through how to properly respond and act within the Christian worldview. All concerns in such emotional cases need to be understood in the context that we are not merely talking about ideas but lives, humans created in the Image of God, who may be struggling themselves with the pain of the (potential) loss of a friend or family member, such as baby Charlie. These concerns should not necessarily be seen as challenges to put the defender of life on the defensive but rather in the position of a comforter who God has put in this position to help guide in this painful time. We are the Body of Christ- God's "hands and feet" in this world , so we are called to minister to the broken in heart and in mind. With that in mind, let's look at these concerns.

God, Patience, and Creation

Introduction

One of the challenges skeptics raise against God as the Creator is the idea that He took entirely too long to create: God is inefficient and wasteful with time, if He did, indeed, take 13+ billion years to create the universe. Why did God take so long to create the universe when He could have created it in just a few days or even a couple microseconds? This challenge is necessarily dependent upon the idea that God has absolutely no possible reason for spending 13+ billion years to create. Thus, if it can be shown that God did have a reason for taking the time that He did, then the challenge is defeated. My goal in this post is to not only defeat the challenge, but to show that there is an answer that is not just possible but is more likely than not within the Christian worldview.

Hobby Lobby, Archaeological Artifacts, and Contradiction

I noticed this story going around on social media this morning and wanted to offer a quick comment. It appears that a settlement has been reached between the owners of Hobby Lobby and the government regarding the unlawful acquisition of archaeological artifacts for their Museum of the Bible. They have agreed to forfeit the artifacts and put in place policies and procedures to ensure that such illegal acquisitions do not take place in the future. You may read the story here and here.

In our zeal to defend and preserve the Bible, Christians must ensure that their methods are both moral and legal. I do not know if the Hobby Lobby owners knowingly acted illegally or not (my understanding is that there is much evidence to suggest intended smuggling), but they definitely needed to do more research and take extra steps to ensure moral and legal acquisition of the artifacts. If the Museum of the Bible is to stand as a testament to the reliable transmission of the Bible through the ages, it cannot stand due to a violation of the morals taught within the Bible's pages.

I'm glad to see Hobby Lobby take steps to improve their methods and reduce possibility of legal violations with future acquisitions. Let's pray that the owners will learn from this experience and will act in wisdom going forward to complete their project.

This needs to be a lesson for all Christians, especially those involved in representing Christ in a very public way (all parachurch ministries fall into this category). We need to ensure that our scholarship and execution of projects are conducted with the highest level of honesty and legality (intellectual and financial). I like how Ravi Zacharias articulated the potential problem:

Quote from "The Grand Weaver" by Ravi Zacharias- "The moral law also serves as a profound reminder that in God there is no contradiction. The moral law stands as a consistent, contradiction-free expression of God's character. if I violate this law, I bring contradiction into my own life, and my life begins to fall apart."

If we do not conduct our ministries with the highest level of moral character, then we run the risks of allowing contradiction to enter our lives and being identified as hypocrites. Intelligent people know that the correct worldview cannot contain contradictions, and if we present our worldview as contradictory, we provide them with a reason to reject our worldview as true. We must make the conscious choice to represent Christ with the highest level of honesty, so "they may see our good works and glorify our Father, who is in heaven." (Matt 5:16b)

For further investigation into the ethical topics covered here check out these deeper posts:



Book Review: Genesis, Science, and the Beginning

Introduction

Those who follow Faithful Thinkers know that one of my favorite topics is science and the Bible. A while back, Christian apologist Ben Smith asked me to take a look at his book that addresses one of the many proposed ways to reconcile the claims of Genesis 1 with the scientific evidence. The book, "Genesis, Science, and the Beginning," defends the Prophetic Days View of interpreting Genesis 1. I was excited to read the book since it supports a view different from mine (the Day-Age View, defended by Reasons to Believe) and would, no doubt, provide another alternative if a particular part of the Day-Age view was a stumbling block for a skeptic coming to Christ. I also looked forward to challenges to my view coming from a fellow apologist who takes the Bible seriously. So, how did he do? This review is designed, as my usual reviews, to be a summary of the contents of the book (not necessarily critical, though), and I will end it with my thoughts and recommendations.

The Court-Ordered Death of a Child

UPDATE (7/7/17)- A new hearing has been scheduled. See a quick alert here.

Original Article:

As a parent, can you imagine being in a situation where you trust a doctor to save your child's life but he betrays that trust and seeks legal permission to kill your child instead? That is the stuff of any parent's worst nightmare, yet it is the reality of Chris Gard' and Connie Yates' recent experience. 

Eleven months ago Charlie Gard was born to the couple in London. Doctors quickly discovered that the newborn's brain was malformed, and he could not breathe on his own. These issues were caused by a rare genetic condition that the hospital has been treating Charlie for since his birth. The doctors recently concluded that no further treatment could be given to the Charlie without causing "significant harm," and their solution was to seek a court order granting them permission to end Charlie's life by denying all life support. The court did the unthinkable by granting the request. The devastated parents requested that instead of killing their baby boy, that they be permitted to have their son transported to the United States to undergo an experimental treatment that offered some hope. To make the situation worse, the court denied their request, so life support will be removed and Charlie's life will be taken by the very people trusted to save it. The full story may be found here.

As a parent, I cannot imagine the agony this couple is being forced to endure. Even merely thinking of such a nightmare coming true causes emotions to run wild: sorrow, anguish, anger, confusion. But these emotions are not merely feelings with no grounding in reality; these emotions are triggered by an innate understanding that violations of reality are taking place. What are those violations that spur such emotions?

Intrinsic human value is violated- Humans have intrinsic value, regardless of the level of development. Intrinsically valuable lives must be protected, also, regardless of the level of development. 

Logic is violated- Just because the single medical facility does not have the resources to continue treatment does not mean that all other medical facilities lack the resources to continue treatment. The parents know of a facility in the US that could continue treatment, and they informed the court and explicitly requested they be allowed to transport their son. That is a most reasonable and logical request. The denial of the parent's request was based on the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. The court's ruling on the parents' request was unreasonable and illogical. 

Ethics (Hypocratic oath) are violated- "I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery...I will prevent disease whenever I can but I will always look for a path to a cure for all diseases." I do not know if the doctors involved took the Hypocratic oath (or any modern version), but if they did, they are in clear violation of, at least, these two lines.

Trust is violated- If we trust doctors to do everything they can then refer to someone else once their resources are exhausted (based upon the three previous points), yet they violate that trust by instead seeking a court order to end the life of their patients, on what logical basis should we trust these doctors? Even if the doctors treating Charlie did not know of the experimental treatment at the time the order was requested, the moment they discovered it, they should have dropped their court request and sought resources to get Charlie to the new facility as soon as possible. 

In order to not seek a different solution for Charlie (namely a different treatment), a denial of these violations is necessary. And there is only one way to deny that all these have been violated: to deny that they are features of reality, and to accomplish that one must deny the existence of God. 

The United States of America was founded to escape this over-reaching of the government into our lives. In America we have enjoyed the benefits of a government that recognizes that people are created in the Image of their Creator, with certain unalienable rights. If we do not stand up and defend the truth of Christianity in the marketing place of ideas, this is what we can expect to come to become our reality, our kids' reality, our grandkids' reality; we and they can expect to lose the right to live at all. We will live in a world without reason, without trust, without life, and without God.

If you would like to go deeper into this and prepare yourself to defend our God-given rights, check out these more in depth posts and books: