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

Showing posts with label Blind Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blind Faith. Show all posts

Monday, August 7, 2017

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.

Check Out More Top 5 Books Lists

Monday, February 13, 2017

Is Religion the Practice of Avoiding Truth?

Is religion the practice of avoiding truth? Is it a willful delusion? Is it blind faith? The naturalist must tread carefully if they wish to ask such questions.

Introduction

A month or so ago, I came across an interesting challenge to Christianity. A skeptic told me that religion was an exercise in avoiding truth- a willful delusion. He observed that many Christians (and religious people, in general) tend to believe the claims of their "holy" books over what has been discovered about nature, history, or the very nature of reality. He noticed that many religious people have a precommitment to a particular understanding of the world and no amount of evidence provided will persuade them otherwise. He, as an intellectual, does not want to make this same mistake. In this post, I want to explore the possibility that he is making the same mistake based upon the philosophical foundations of the claim he makes for rejecting religion, and Christianity specifically. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Historical Science, Deception, and Blind Faith

God cannot lie- Titus 1:2; Historical Science, Deception, and Blind Faith

Introduction

As I have mentioned in a couple posts in the past (here and here), it is important that apologists investigate theological questions and details of the Christian worldview. Without such investigation, inconsistency in the worldview that is being defended will easily creep in. Because consistency is a feature of reality, unbelievers will seize the inconsistency as evidence against Christianity as the true worldview. This can have detrimental effects in public places where honest seekers may be listening to and watching conversations. One of the detailed areas of the Christian worldview that must be consistent is God's character (one area of theology). If God's character is found to be inconsistent with what we are defending, then it serves as evidence that we have something wrong (in part or in whole- see the post Is Your View Falsifiable for more on this). Today, I want to focus on God's moral character, specifically His perfect honesty (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18).


The Challenge


One of the most contentious debates in the Church today focuses on the age of the universe and the length of the days of creation in Genesis 1. One of the most influential arguments against the young-earth creationist position (YEC) is that if nature reveals an ancient age (~13.7 billion years, as the evidence powerfully [and some would say "only"] supports) yet the universe is actually young (6,000-10,000 years) then God has given us a false revelation in His creation; this means that God is ultimately deceiving us and the truth is not found in Him. If a view of God necessitates that He is lying to us, then the god necessitated by that view is NOT the God of the Bible. And if we defend such a view, we are found to be false witnesses of God and the truth is not found in us. This challenge is not one to be taken lightly and it must be addressed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is Faith Emotional or Logical?

So many people, both religious and non-religious, believe that faith is purely emotional, and in most contexts people imply the word "blind" before "faith". While few others believe that faith is logical- that it is firmly grounded on something. Lately, I've been reading the book "Emotional Intelligence" by psychologist Daniel Goleman and a few thoughts came to mind regarding this seeming dichotomy between faith being based on emotion versus being based on reason. Before I go into that connection or disconnection, though, I want to establish what I mean by "faith".

Faith in Time
I hear people all the time say that they "have faith". It seems to inspire them and those around them, but it often leaves me confused. Sure, someone can say that they "have faith". But when I hear this, I am compelled to ask a few questions:

"What do you have faith in?"
"What makes you believe that thing is worth placing your faith in it?"
"Why do you need to put 'faith' in something anyway?"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Challenging One's Own Worldview


Something that I have noticed a lot in society today: people hold positions and swear that they never question or challenge their views (many believe that is a sign of how strongly they hold them). Unfortunately, for many of these people, you can easily believe that. Many of these same people are afraid that if they challenge their view, that they will find that it may not be the best or it may not even be true. I knew many Christians as I grew up who were like this. They tended to accuse others of not having "faith" because they questioned or challenged Christianity (see my post "Is 'Blind Faith' Biblical" for my answer to these people).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Suffering Sucks...or Does It?

This post originally published in Jan 2009. 

Suffering is a topic that comes up quite often. This topic seems to come up for one of two reasons: someone is trying to undermine the belief in the all-powerful, all-loving God of the Bible; or someone is going through a horrible time in their life and are trying to figure out why God is allowing them to suffer so much physical or emotional pain. I'll touch on both of them here.

God made a promise to Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Paul was confident that a similar promise from God now extends to the Body of Christ, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is "Blind Faith" Biblical?

I want to bring up a couple verses that many Christians use to promote "blind faith" as the key concept in accepting Christianity.

"But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'" (Luke 18:16-17)

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15

If you read each of these verses, even quickly, you'll notice that Jesus makes no reference specifically to what it is about the children that the adults need to have to enter the kingdom of God.

(In reference to my page Why Apologetics) If the definition of pistis (translated "faith" in the New Testament) is actually a "belief based on facts" and not "a belief based on a 'feeling' or without facts", and if we insist on holding that Jesus was talking about a "blind faith" in these passages. we have a contradiction within the Bible to deal with.

Since this contradiction has been identified, we need to re-interpret the original words of Christ. I believe that we can't know with 100% certainty what attribute of children Jesus was talking about, but we can rule out "blind faith."

What I would offer, just from a surface reading, is that Christ was talking about children's enthusiasm for or 100% commitment to the things they are involved in or believe. Keep in mind that the behavior has nothing to do with the foundation of those beliefs.

As a Christian, there is nothing wrong with wanting a firm foundation for your beliefs. The same follows for non-Christians who are considering giving their lives to Christ. Let no one ever lead you to believe that "blind faith" is more "Christian" than asking the tough questions and further investigating. On the contrary, doing this allows us to move from theological "milk" to "solid food" (Heb 5:11-14)

Now, I want to clear up a couple possible objections to this that just popped into my head. I am NOT saying that facts are all that is needed to be a Christian. If that was the case, it would be the same as knowing of and about someone versus personally knowing that person. You can know of and about Jim Carrey, but that is not the same as personally knowing him.

I also am NOT saying that God demands ONLY a fact-based faith. If that were the case, then everyone would be excluded. No one can know everything exhaustively with 100% certainty. It is possible to know something truly without knowing it exhaustively*. Also not everything the Bible claims can be tested. But enough can be tested and verified to accept those things that can't be tested.

Many people have different needs when it comes to "what will it take for you to give your life to Christ?". Some people require lots of evidence before they will take that final "leap of faith" into God's arms, and others require very little. The end result is still the same. The means by which you got there make no difference at this point. God does not care the reasons for which you came to Him; He's just glad that you did.

God does not elevate one reason for coming to Him over another. Neither should His followers. As Christians we need to recognize that we will meet many challenges in our lives that will emotionally and intellectually test our trust in Christ. Some of these challenges will come from experiences. Having a faith with a solid foundation (not blind) that can be defended will help provide us with a deeper understanding of and commitment to Christ. We will also receive challenges from those we evangelize. Having a faith that is not blind, will help us to articulate our reasons for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) and address arguments against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor 10:5)

Check out these great articles on this topic:
The Problem of Blind Faith
Is Reason Really an Enemy of Faith?
The Nicene Council - The Blind Faith of Atheism


Dr. Fazale Rana from Reasons to Believe was directly challenged on this issue. Watch his response:



Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason offers this alternative to the word "faith" because of the secular world's insistence of adding "blind" to the front of it:






*(thanks to Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason for articulating this important distinction)

Suffering Sucks...or Does It?

Suffering is a topic that comes up quite often. This topic seems to come up for one of two reasons: someone is trying to undermine the belief in the all-powerful, all-loving God of the Bible; or someone is going through a horrible time in their life and are trying to figure out why God is allowing them to suffer so much physical or emotional pain. I'll touch on both of them here.

God made a promise to Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Paul was confident that the promise from God now extends to the Body of Christ, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)