Thursday, March 05, 2015

Common Objection #24- "There is no evidence for God."

I recently had the opportunity to serve as a juror.  As I sat and listened to both sides present their case, it became very clear shortly into the proceedings that the case the defense was presenting was very poor.  When the proceedings had concluded, my fellow jurors and I were dismissed into a back room to discuss our verdict.  We all agreed that the defense had presented his case poorly and that his client was far from credible.  However, not once did someone claim, "The defense offered NO evidence!"  On the contrary, we all agreed the evidence presented was poor, but surely it still counted as evidence!  We may not have found the evidence persuasive or convincing, but it still counted as evidence.  There is strong evidence and weak evidence, but it all still counts as evidence!  And therein lies the point.

When skeptics assert that "There is no evidence for God," [1] their statement is clearly and demonstrably false.  Over the years, believers in God have put forth numerous arguments as evidence for His existence.  A sampling is as follows:

1. Kalam Cosmological Argument
2. Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
3. Moral Argument
4. Ontological Argument
5. Fine-Tuning Argument
6. Argument from Reason
7. Transcendental Argument
8. Information Argument from DNA
9. Argument from Intentionality
10. Historical Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection

Now, let me state that it is at least possible that all these arguments are false;[2]  however, do they not, at the very least, count as evidence for God's existence?  The skeptic may find the evidence unpersuasive, but it still counts as evidence!  Therefore, when the skeptic asserts that "There is no evidence for God," they are clearly and demonstrably mistaken.

In reality, the evidence for Christianity is quite persuasive and compelling for those willing to consider it.  Just ask cold-case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace.  For 35 years Wallace was a self-described "angry atheist, a skeptic who thoughtfully dissected Christians and the Christian worldview...", but when he used his detective skills to investigate the claims of Christianity, he became a follower of Jesus Christ.[3]  

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. I have heard this claim recently in two different interactions.
2. Although I obviously think not!
3. You can read about Wallace's investigation in his book Cold-Case Christianity which we reviewed here.  I also highly recommend Jim's website here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Video: The Power of Prayer by Chad A. Gross


In this sermon that I recently shared at Faith Christian Fellowship in Williamsport, MD, I broke down Ephesians 1:15-23. Some of the topics that I discussed that may appeal to apologists include: 1) the correct definition of biblical faith 2) why believers must cultivate the life of the mind 3) the role of the Holy Spirit in study 4) how to share the gospel clearly.

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. Francis Foulkes, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Ephesians, p. 66-67.
2. Richard Dawkins, Lecture from 'The Nullifidian' (Dec 94), http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/89.
3. J. P. Moreland, Loving God with All Your Mind: Revised and Updated, p. 70.
4. Foulkes, p. 67.
5. David Legge Sermon, "Paul’s Prayer List for You," Pt. 1., www.preachtheword.com
6. Steven J. Cole, What God Wants You to Know, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-10-what-god-wants-you-know-ephesians-118-19.
7. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Baic Books, 1996), 133.
8. Kenneth L. Boles, The College Press NIV Commentary: Galatians and Ephesians, 215-216.
9. Foulkes, p. 74-76.
10. William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 107-108.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Book Review: Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case by Frank Turek

It was with great anticipation that I began reading Frank Turek’s latest book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. It was just this past October I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Turek speak in Mt. Airy, MD on the topic of “Is Jesus Intolerant?” I walked away from that talk impressed with Turek’s ability to address culturally “hot button” issues with razor sharp logic coupled with winsome grace. I hoped that Turek’s book would offer more of the same and I wasn’t disappointed.

Introduction

From the very onset of the book, it is clear that Turek has the so-called “new atheists” in his crosshairs and his main contention is that “atheists are using aspects of reality to argue against God that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true. In other words, when atheists give arguments for their atheistic worldview, they are stealing from a theistic worldview to make their case. In effect, they are stealing from God in order to argue against Him.” [p. xviii]


Strengths of the Book

This reviewer found Stealing from God to be an absolute treat to read and I feel the space here inadequate to fully demonstrate the breadth and depth of topics covered in its pages.

While many apologetics books offer a positive case for the Christian faith, Turek goes a step further by aggressively attacking the very foundations that atheists claim as their own.

The author also draws upon his numerous interactions he has had in his I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist seminars and this is a clear strength of the work. Not only do these accounts make the book very readable, but they deal with practical issues that can easily be applied to one’s personal apologetic.

Turek’s book is also very easy to read. And while some apologetic works are laborious to work through, this book is easy to read and Turek goes to great lengths to explain his numerous illustrations and explanations throughout the book. This book will benefit both the seasoned apologist and the novice.

Arguments Dealt with in the Book

The author explains that since stealing is a crime, and atheists are stealing from God to make their case, the book will use CRIMES [1] as an acrostic to demonstrate the intellectual crimes atheists are committing. Each letter in CRIMES is representative of “one or more aspects of reality that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true.” [xviii]


They are:


C = Causality

R = Reason
I = Information and Intentionality
M= Morality
E = Evil
S = Science

Turek continues by restating his contention:

It is my contention that these CRIMES not only help show that theism is true, but that the foundational assumptions of atheism make it impossible to make a sound intellectual case for atheism. If atheism is true, there’s no way to know it with any confidence. In fact, if atheism is true, there’s no way to know anything with any confidence. [xviii]
One tactic that modern atheists use is to claim that the theist must exhaustively define what they mean by “God” before a meaningful conversation can be had, so this reviewer was pleased to see Dr. Turek takes the time to do that in the Introduction. He also tackles the popular modern day atheist assertion that an atheist is someone who simply “lacks belief in God.”

In Chapter 1, Turek makes the case that God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe and anticipates the popular “god-of-the-gaps” charge and comes out swinging:

Those of us who conclude that a theistic God is the cause of the universe are not arguing from what we don’t know (a gap), but what we do know. Space, time, and matter had a beginning, we know that the cause can’t be made of space, time or matter. In fact, the conclusion that there is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal first cause flows logically from the evidence itself.
If anyone is committing a fallacy, it is the atheist. Call it the ‘natural law of the gaps fallacy’- having faith that an undiscovered natural law will one day explain the beginning of the universe. [p. 4]
This reviewer was very impressed with the broad range of objections Turek was able to address in this chapter. He succeeds in taking Lawrence Krauss to task for his erroneous use of the word “nothing,” defending philosophy, addressing multi-verse theory, and shows why Richard Dawkins demonstrates that he misunderstands what theists mean by “God” by the very objections he offers.

In Chapter 2, the author argues that the laws of logic are grounded in the nature of God and that when atheists offer an argument against God or for their atheism, the atheist is stealing from God in order to argue against Him. This reader was also impressed with Turek’s arguments that materialism is self-refuting.

In Chapter 3, Dr. Turek drew upon the recent words of Dr. Stephen Meyer [2] to argue that the message or code found in DNA is best explained by a messenger or programmer i.e. a mind. He writes:

[Stephen] Meyer shows in Signature in the Cell that no physical or chemical reaction mandates the arrangement of the genetic letters along the spine of your DNA. Physics and chemistry don’t determine the order of those genetic letters any more than physics and chemistry determine the order of the English letters in this sentence. Minds determine messages and codes; natural forces do not. [p. 58]
The author also calls upon Meyer’s work in Darwin’s Doubt to demonstrate that the information found in DNA cannot be explained on the neo-Darwinian paradigm nor can the new life-forms we see in the Cambrian Explosion be accounted for by mutation and natural selection.

Turek ends this chapter by calling upon the words of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to contend that the universe is ordered and goal-directed and that the best explanation of these facts is a mind behind it all. Moreover, the atheists are left in the precarious position of arguing that nature is not goal-directed, yet assuming when doing science that nature is consistently goal directed!

In Chapter 4, this reviewer was interested to see how the author would handle the issue of morality. After all, arguments such as the cosmological argument and the argument from information are based upon scientific evidence and philosophical argument, but the moral argument gets personal!

Turek begins the chapter by contending that objective moral values indeed exist and that God is necessary to ground them. He then continues by taking Sam Harris and his book The Moral Landscape to task and points out Harris’ key mistake in assessing the objective morality:

Why does a moral law exist at all, and why does it have authority over us...The Moral Landscape give us no answer. It’s a nearly three-hundred-page long example of the most common mistake made by those who think objective morality can exist without God. Harris seems to think that because we can know objective morality (epistemology), that explains why objective morality exists in the first place (ontology). [p. 100]
The author continues by arguing that evolution cannot explain morality, dealing with the infamous “Euthyphro dilemma,” and contending that for atheists to offer a moral objection against God, they need God to do it.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Turek begins by defining just what evil is and then proceeds by arguing that if atheism is true, all behaviors are merely a matter of preference. He further argues that if evil actually does exist, the existence of evil actually establishes the existence of God.

This reader especially liked the author’s response to the so-called “God is Moral Monster” argument. He argues that when examining such accounts as God’s order to kill the Canaanites, one must STOP and investigate the context of the passage. Turek writes:

In fact, STOP is an acronym I suggest you use to discover the proper meaning of any biblical text. It represents the following four questions: 
S-Situation?- What’s the historical situation?
T-Type?- What’s the type of literature?
O-Object?- Who is the object of the text?
P-Prescription?- Is this passage prescriptive for us today or merely descriptive of an historical event? [p. 123-124]
He then breaks down the Canaanite passages using the STOP method and this proves to be extremely instructive and helpful.

He continues the chapter by explaining how evil affects the life of the believer and by addressing gratuitous evil.

In Chapter 6, the author argues that atheism is actually opposed to science and that there are limits to what science can and cannot tell us. He further offers a summary of Chapters 1-6.

In Chapter 7, Turek offers his “Four-Point Case for Mere Christianity.” It is as follows:

  1. Does Truth Exist?
  2. Does God Exist?
  3. Are Miracles possible?
  4. Is the New Testament historically reliable?

This reviewer found the author’s case to be fair-minded and well argued.

In the Concluding Chapter, the author summarizes why he believes atheism is incoherent. He continues by exalting the person of Jesus Christ and giving one of most concise defenses of hell this reader has come across. I have shared that previously here.

Conclusion

Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to make their Case
 is the best book I’ve read since J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity. Turek packs its pages with stories from his own exchanges with atheists and not only demonstrates why we have good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but he positively shows that the new atheists have failed to make their case and if they succeeded, they would have needed God to do it!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to investigate the claims of Christianity or to the atheist who is brave enough to have their worldview challenged.


Courage and Godspeed,

Chad

Footnotes:

1. For those interested in seeing Dr. Turek present his CRIMES in a debate setting, see here.
2. Author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin's Doubt.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Brian Fisher on One-Issue Voting

Many Christians argue that we can't be one-issue voters. When choosing a candidate for office, we must consider the candidate's perspectives on the role of government, the economy, the environment, second amendment rights, and a host of other very important issues. Certainly we need to understand a prospective candidate's positions on all essential issues. We need to make informed choices when we vote.


However, as I've maintained throughout this book, abortion is the primary spiritual, cultural, and familial issue of our age. And the right to life, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, is the first of all of the inalienable rights. In other words, if your favorite political candidate is in favor of fatally discriminating against the weakest among us, he or she is rejecting the foundational right upon which all other rights are based. And to vote for a pro-abortion candidate is, quite simply, to reject the clear teachings of the Bible. Your pro-abortion vote leads to the death of millions.1

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Footnotes:
1:  Fisher Brian. Deliver Us from Abortion:  Awakening the Church to End the Killing of America's Children. Pages 198 - 199.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Movie Trailer: Mining for God




Film Description:

America has long been called a Christian nation. In fact, over 70% of adults in America identify themselves as Christian. Yet when filmmaker Brandon McGuire heads to the streets to ask a few clarifying questions about how Christianity is defined within our culture, he is shocked by the answers he finds.

This provocative documentary takes us deep within the American mind and brings to the surface the big ideas that have influenced the way we think about ourselves and about God.

Mining For God features interviews with some of America's most prominent Christian thinkers, including Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, John Stonestreet, J Warner Wallace, David Geisler, Alan Shlemon, Mary Jo Sharp, Donald Williams, Mark Mittelberg, Nabel Qureshi, Craig Hazen, Michael Sherrard and others.

Whether you would consider yourself a Christian or not - there is something of value for everyone in this film.

You can get it here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

HT: Apologetics315 via twitter

Friday, February 27, 2015

Article: “My Genes Made Me Do It”: Is Ethics Based on Biological Evolution? by Paul Copan

In this featured article, philosopher Paul Copan takes on the challenge that "ethics is nothing more than the result of biological processes and social forces."

You can checkout Copan's response here.

For more from Paul Copan, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Chad

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chapter One Review: The Resurrection of Jesus- A New Historiographical Approach by Mike Licona

It is with great enthusiasm that I begin this chapter-by-chapter review of Mike Licona's latest book. This volume has already earning marked praise from numerous scholars and apologists such as Craig S. Keener of Palmer Theological Seminary who writes:

"This book is the most thorough treatment on the resurrection and historiography to date."

Introduction

Licona begins by conceding that when scholars have researched the historical account of the resurrection in the past, they have often come to very different conclusions on a number of issues. However, unlike many skeptics and critics, Licona is careful not to jump to the conclusion that no accurate portrait of the historical Christ can be uncovered.

On the contrary, the fact that numerous portraits of the historical Jesus exist only serves to drive Licona to ask more questions.

He writes:

"What approach should be taken for an investigation involving the historicity of the resurrection? When writing on the resurrection of Jesus, biblical scholars are engaged in historical research. Are they doing so without adequate or appropriate training? How many have completed so much as a single undergraduate course pertaining to how to investigate the past? Are biblical scholars conducting their historical investigations differently than professional historians? If professional historians who work outside of the community of biblical scholars were to embark on an investigation of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, what would such an investigation look like?" [p. 19]

And as a result, Licona has written a book on the topic of the resurrection that is fresh and ground-breaking.

Licona writes:

"So how does my research differ from previous treatments? In the pages that follow I will investigate the question of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection while providing unprecedented interaction with the literature of professional historians outside of the community of biblical scholars on both hermeneutical and methodological considerations." [p. 20]

The Introduction concludes with Licona's summarizing the content of each chapter.

Chapter 1- Important Considerations on Historical Inquiry Pertaining to the Truth in Ancient Texts

This chapter begins by the author clarifying some key terms that will be used throughout the remainder of the book.

Most importantly:
  • History- past events that are the object of study [p. 30]
  • Historiography- matters in the philosophy of history and historical method [p. 31]
This reader was very impressed with the scope of topics that Licona was able to address in this first chapter. Anyone who has discussed the resurrection with a skeptic will surely appreciate Licona's points addressing questions such as:
  • Is History Knowable?
  • Isn't History Always Written by Winners?
Further, whenever discussing the problem of the historical resurrection, the topic of pre-suppositions [or "horizons," as Licona calls them] inevitable comes up. Licona's contribution to horizons and how the historian can successfully "transcend" them is invaluable material that this reader will continually reference in the future. In my opinion, this section of the book alone is worth it's price!

With candid transparency, the author acknowledges that the historian is challenged by their horizon. However, Licona proposes "six tools that, when combined, can be effective guides that bring us closer to objectivity."

These tools are:
  • Method
  • The historian's horizon and method should be public.
  • Peer pressure
  • Submitting ideas to unsympathetic experts
  • Account for the relevant historical bedrock
  • Detachment from bias
With these tools in the historian's tool belt, Licona contends that:

"Historians should search for evidence inconsistent with the preferred hypothesis before being willing to assert its truth. They should force themselves to confront data and arguments that are problematic to their preferred hypotheses. Historians must allow themselves to understand and empathize fully with the horizon of the author/agent and, furthermore, allow themselves to be challenged fully by that horizon to the point of conversion. They must achieve full understanding of and empathy for the opposing view. When this is maintained during an investigation, the historian is close to transcending her horizon. While full detachment may be unattainable, temporary detachment is attainable to some degree and provides value." [p. 60-61]

The author is not naive about the impact one's horizons can have on their historical inquiry, but argues persuasively that the historian can transcend their horizons for the sake of an accurate conclusion.

The chapter continues with Licona explaining the role of consensus in historical inquiry. Here, this reviewer appreciated how the author explained when a consensus is valuable, when it is not and the various limits a consensus can have on establishing a respected position.

Postmodern history, and it's main proponents, are then taken to task with professional courtesy. Licona examines "the reasoning and conclusions of the three foremost postmodern historians: Hayden White, Frank Ankersmit and Keith Jenkins." [p. 71] Then continues by revealing the numerous problems with Postmodernist History.

As he writes:

"As postmodern historians have referred to "the death of history," realist historians, which are by far the majority, feel justified in proceeding, though with caution. If history is truly dead, there are no means by which historians can distinguish fact from fiction and no way of weighing the plausibility of numerous hypothesis. Indeed, there are other consequences that are difficult for postmodernists to live with if their view of knowing the past is correct, such as a collapse of the legal system. Moreover, the arguments of postmodern historians are often self-refuting since they involve reasons for why we can know that we cannot know." [p. 126]

Next up is the consideration of "What is Truth?" The author explains that because of the challenges presented by postmodernists, realist historians (the majority) would do well to revisit the foundation of their views which includes the nature of truth itself. Two views of truth are considered here: a) correspondence theory of truth- for our descriptions of the world around us to be true, they must correspond to its conditions b) coherence theory- a proposition is true when all of its components cohere with other propositions believed to be true.

As the chapter progresses, Licona then examines the question, "What is a Historical Fact?" I appreciated the author giving attention to this oft overlooked question and found his definition of a historical fact satisfactory and fair:

"Richard Evans defines a historical fact as something that happened and that historians attempt to "discover" through verification procedures." This is the definition I hold and will use throughout this volume." [p. 93]

As the chapter continues, Licona takes an in-depth look at historians and what they actually do. The author tackles the tough questions of history head-on such as:
  • Who Shoulders the Burden of Proof in Historical Inquiry?
  • Is History a Science?
  • What do Historians Do?
I must admit that this first chapter is simply a delight to read. One gets that the feeling that they are participating in an Ancient History 101 class with a very thorough instructor.

As the chapter nears closing, the author examines to methods historians use in their inquiries: 1) Arguments to the Best Explanation 2) Arguments from Statistical Inference. Here, the author maps out both approaches, explaining both their strengths and weaknesses, then explains for the question of Jesus and His Resurrection from the dead, he will argument to the best explanation.

The chapter ends with an excellent summary and conclusions.

I believe the closing of this first chapter demonstrates another reason why Mike Licona's investigation into the resurrection is unique among his other works on the topic. The author explains that he has done his best to "transcend" his horizons and look at the question of the resurrection as objectively as possible. Further, he admits to going through periods of serious doubt and struggle throughout his investigation. He even goes as far as to admit that for him to conclude that the resurrection did not happen would in fact be "embarrassing."

However, he is determined not to allow these facts to hinder his inquiry:

"Because of the position I have taken in previous work, I would experience a bit of personal embarrassment if I were to arrive at the more modest conclusion of a historical question mark. I would also most likely disappoint two scholars who have not only been very influential in my life but have also become close friends: Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig. Even given all this, I am convinced that my interest in truth supersedes my fear of embarrassment and disappointment. If the resurrection of Jesus could not be confirmed historically, my specifically Christian faith could still survive. But a disconfirmation of the resurrection would lead me to abandon it...all historians of Jesus have something on the line in this discussion. Now that I have reported my experiences and laid bare my hopes, readers may assess the following discussion in terms of my approach and whether it was created, consciously or unconsciously, to achieve the results I desire rather than being a genuine attempt to conduct an objective historical investigation." [p. 132]

Conclusion

The first chapter of Mike Licona's The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach is mind food, plain and simple. This reviewer found Licona's approach transparent, thorough and concise. I can say with confidence that I now better understand just what history can and can not tell us, the job of the historian and what methods are best for historical inquiry.

I enjoyed this first chapter so much that I simply can't wait to being chapter 2 that deals with History and Miracles.

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for the review copy.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Forthcoming: A review of Chapter 2- History and Miracles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Article: Stephen Fry and God by Ian Paul

In this featured article, theologian, writer and speaker Ian Paul responds to Stephen Fry's recent comments to Gay Byrne about the god he doesn't believe in.  Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God if he was wrong.  Fry responded:

"How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It's not right, it's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That's what I would say.

Now, if I died and it was Pluto, Hades, and if it was the 12 Greek gods then I would have more truck with it, because the Greeks didn't pretend to not be human in their appetites, in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness … they didn't present themselves as being all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all-beneficent, because the god that created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac … utter maniac, totally selfish.

We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of god would do that?"

You can watch Fry's response here.

Ian Paul's response is here and well worth your time!  Further, here are some notes on the problem of evil that may prove helpful.

How would you respond to Stephen Fry?  Feel free to share in the comments below!
Courage and Godspeed,
Chad