Thursday, April 24, 2014

Article: "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number?" Assessing Utilitarianism by Paul Copan

In this featured article philosopher, speaker and author Dr. Paul Copan considers the view of utilitarianism.

As Copan explains, utilitarianism "is a consequence-based ethic that looks at what will bring the “greatest happiness” to the most people. Whatever brings happiness is “good”; and, the more happiness, the better it is. In this ethical view, the outcome or consequences are more important than the means of getting there."

This article will equip the follower of Christ to intelligently respond to this type of ethical theory.

You can check it out here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The First Premise of the Moral Argument

One version of the moral argument for God's existence is as follows:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral truths do not exist.
2. Objective moral truths exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

A useful tactic one can employ in persuading someone of the truth of the first premise is to simply point out that traditionally atheists have agreed with it.  Peter S. Williams provides the following examples in his excellent article Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?:

 Jean-Paul Sartre

"when we speak of 'abandonment' – a favorite word of Heidegger – we only mean to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain type of secular moralism which seeks to suppress God at the least possible expense. Towards 1880, when the French professors endeavoured to formulate a secular morality, they said … nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that 'the good' exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: 'If God did not exist, everything would be permitted'; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself."

Paul Kurtz

"The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, they are purely ephemeral."

Julian Baggini 


"If there is no single moral authority [i.e. no God] we have to in some sense 'create' values for ourselves ... [and] that means that moral claims are not true or false… you may disagree with me but you cannot say I have made a factual error."

Richard Dawkins

"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose [i.e. no God], no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."  Dawkins concedes: "It is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones." [1]

Another example that could be added to the list is one we recently featured by atheist Joel Marks:

"The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality.  I call the premise of this argument 'hard atheism.'  ... A 'soft atheist' would hold that one could be an atheist and still believe in morality.  And indeed, the whole crop of 'New Atheists' are softies of this kind.  So was I, until I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God.  Hence, I believe, there is no morality." [2]

Apart from God there exists nothing to ground or anchor (moral ontology) objective moral truths.  That should be the main point we strive to drive home in arguing for the truth of premise 1.  However, I believe it is also helpful to point out that atheists have traditionally agreed.

For readers who may be new to the moral argument, I teach a simpler version here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:

1. Peter S. Williams, Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?, 2011. 
2.  Joel Marks, "An Amoral Manifesto I," Philosophy Now 80 (August/September 2010): 30 as quoted by Abdu H. Murray in Grand Central Question.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ten Common Christian Expressions Requiring Translation

In this blog post, J. Warner Wallace takes common "Christianese" sayings and puts them in a way the secular culture can understand. Here are the common sayings:

1. "God has put you (or something) on my heart. / God told me."
2. "Be 'born again.' / Have a spiritual rebirth."
3. "You need to come to repentance. / Experience a conversion."
4. "Deal with your sin."
5. "Invite Jesus into your heart."
6. "Make Jesus the Lord of your life."
7. "Have faith."
8. "Be saved."
9. "Be washed by the blood of the Lamb."
10. "Be Sanctified."

Find the translations here.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Train Your Kids

Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason will be hosting a live training event this Thursday from 7:00 - 8:00 P.M. Pacific Time. There are several ways to participate in this interactive event. Learn more here.

This event is highly recommended as Kunkle has much experience not only from being involved in youth ministry but even more so from raising his own five children.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Praise: "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher

Happy Resurrection Day!

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Loud Absence: Where is God in Suffering?

In this lecture given at Columbia University on September 11, 2012, Dr. John Lennox discusses the problem of evil and suffering. 

He admits that it the most difficult question to answer and that there are no simplistic answers.  Cancer looks different in the eyes of the oncologist than it does to the patient who has been informed they have only months to live.  Evil and suffering must be dealt with on both the intellectual side using reason and the existential side with pastoral care and concern.  In the end the pain and suffering we are most concerned with is our own.

When confronted with the problem, we must deal with the “why” question.  But this is a right brain question, it cannot be broken down, analyzed and rationalized.  Yet answering “why” helps us makes sense of how evil and suffering fits into a worldview and also provides perspective and hope.  If my worldiew cannot meet the objections and difficulties, then it is not worth believing.

Some skeptics argue that there is too much suffering, so there can be no God.  If we grant that, then the problem evaporates and there is nothing we can call evil and suffering.  But does this really solve the problem?

Richard Dawkin’s would have us believe that there is no such thing as right or wrong or justice or evil, that we are just machines for reproducing DNA and we “dance to its music”.  But were people like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other assorted mass murderers and rapists just “dancing to their DNA”?  Yet Dawkins is outraged by evil in spite of his philosophy.  His outrage presupposes an objective standard and he expects others to agree.  If matter/energy is all there is, there is no transcendent, no God, how can there be such a standard?  If there is no good and no evil, the concept of morality disappears and moral outrage is absurd.

But we find ourselves to be moral beings, outraged at evil and suffering.  The existence of objective moral standards is consistent with the existence of God and very difficult to explain without Him.  But the existence of God gives rise to the problem.  Isn’t it obvious that God is part of the problem, not the solution?  What of all the evil and acts of violence committed by those who call themselves Christians?  How do I respond?  I am completely and utterly ashamed of it.  I am ashamed that the name of Jesus Christ has ever been associated with violence.  Those who commit violence in the name of Christ are not obeying Christ, they are disobeying everything he taught.

John Lennon would have us “Imagine” a world with no religion, no heaven, no hell.  But John Lennox asks us to “Imagine” a world with no Taliban, no Northern Ireland, no 9/11, no Hitler, no Stalin, no Mao, no Pol Pot.

Then there is the problem of justice – we all feel we deserve to get justice.  If atheism is true, then death is the end and there is no ultimate justice.  Millions never have and never will get justice.  The promised utopia has never come.  How can you believe in justice when the vast majority of humanity will never get it?  For the Christian, justice will be served, but it is not the justice of an angry God.  The only thing that gets God angry is that which destroys life – sin.

But there are those who don’t like a God who judges.  Why doesn’t He just stop evil?  Well, what if He did, but he starts with you?  But you really don’t want Him intervening in your life.  We are not just spectators.  G.K. Chesterton responded to the question “What is wrong with the world?” in the London Times with the following, “Dear Sir, I am, Yours Faithfully, G.K. Chesterton”.  We must recognize that we are part of the problem.  So to ask, “If God exists, then why is there evil?” is the wrong question.  The correct question is “If God exists, then why does He tolerate me?”

God could have created us without the capacity for moral evil.  Yet He has created creatures without that capacity, we call them animals.  We have created things without that capacity, we call them robots.  (A side note, for an interesting exploration of this, see Star Trek the Next Generation episode “In Theory”)  God created us with free will and the ability to choose and in doing that God took a risk.

This doesn’t apply to natural evil.  Earthquakes are the result of techtonic plate activity.  But that is essential to life.  It becomes an evil to us when we build inadequate structures in areas susceptible to them.  Could God have made electricity that doesn’t electrocute?  Fire that doesn’t burn?  A world that can sustain life without techtonic plate activity, hurricanes, bacteria, . . .?  What about other “earthquakes”, like heart attacks, cancer, etc.?

Dr. Lennox and I admit that we have no ultimate answer.

Then there is another question: We see glimpses of the good and beautiful even in tragedies, but what of the preventable evil and suffering?  We can argue about what a good God could, would, should or might have done.  If we grant the world is like this, with good and evil, pain and beauty, hatred and love, is there any evidence anywhere that there is a God who can be trusted with it?  Has God made provision big enough with the fact that humans have gone their own way?

This brings us back to justice.  There must be a judgment, and I will have to face it.  Atheism has no way out.  But how does Christianity face it?  At the cross – the heart of Christianity.  If Jesus is God, and He was crucified for that claim, then what is God doing on a cross?  The answer to this question is the most profound answer of all – God suffered with us.  He has not remained distant but He has become a part of it.  He suffered for me, who made a mess of my own life.  There are some who cannot live with the mess, they have no way out, there is no meaning, so they commit suicide.  But there is a way out, a source of meaning.  The death of Christ is not the end, He rose from the dead.  If I could see what God has done with those who have suffered, instead of questioning, I’d probably bow my head and worship.  God knows how to compensate.

To watch the video of this lecture, go here.


That you may know, Roger

Friday, April 18, 2014

Resurrection Research Links


Articles

Christianity, the Resurrection, and the Mystery Religions by John Ankerberg and John Weldon

Contemporary Scholars and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Dr. William Lane Craig

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Dr. Peter Kreeft

Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh McDowell

Explaining Away Jesus' Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories by Dr. Gary Habermas

Outlining the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

The Case for Christ's Resurrection by Dr. Gary Habermas

 The Earliest Record for The Death and Resurrection of Jesus: 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 by Eric Chabot

The Resurrection as a Historical Problem by N.T. Wright

The Resurrection of Jesus Research Page by Christian CADRE

Audio

Claims of Jesus and Resurrection by Doug Groothuis

Did the Resurrection Happen? (Radio Interview) featuring Dr. Gary Habermas

Evidence for the Resurrection with Mike Licona

Resurrection of Jesus: Interview with Gary Habermas

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth by Dr. William Lane Craig

The Minimal Facts Approach by Dr. Gary Habermas

The Resurrection of Jesus by Tim McGrew

Debates

Gary Habermas vs. Kenneth Humphreys: Resurrection- Religious Fiction or Historical Fact? (2008)

Michael Licona vs. Richard Carrier Debate: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? (2010)

William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman: Is there Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? (2006)

William Lane Craig vs. James Crossley Debate: Was Jesus Bodily Raised from the Dead?

For more debates and outstanding apologetics audio, go here.

Video

Did Jesus Rise from the Grave? The Resurrection Reality featuring Lee Strobel

Is There a Case for the Resurrection of Jesus? (7:30) featuring Dr. William Lane Craig

The Top Ten Myths about the Resurrection featuring Mike Licona [10 video series]

Things Which Ought To Be Better Known about the Resurrection of Jesus by Peter J. Williams

Was Jesus Really Crucified? (3:20) featuring Mike Licona

Was there Really an Empty Tomb? (3:00) featuring Mike Licona

What do Scholars believe about the Resurrection of Jesus? (4:26) featuring Dr. William Lane Craig

Why the Resurrection is Important (1:30) by Dr. Gary Habermas

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quote: Atheist Philosopher Michael Ruse on Consciousness

"Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability?  Why should I, even as I wrote now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort?  No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have an answer to this...The point is that there is no scientific answer." [1]

Do you agree with Ruse?  What do you think the best explanation of consciousness is?  Share below in the comments!



Courage and Godspeed,

Chad

Footnote:
As quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for the Creator, p. 247.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Video: Does God Exist?- Frank Turek vs. Dennis Normark


This debate took place in Randers, Denmark and was between Christian apologist, speaker and author Dr. Frank Turek and Dennis Normark who is an anthropologist, author and one of Denmark's leading atheists.

Turek argued that the following is evidence for the existence of God:

1. Beginning of the Universe
2. Fine Tuning of the Universe
3. Objective Moral Values
4. The Resurrection of Christ

Normark mainly argued that:

1. God is imagined in our minds
2. What is "moral" is what the majority of people decide upon
3. Science is based on facts while religion is based on feelings

This was one of the more entertaining debates I've watched in awhile and both men presented their case with conviction, but respect for one another.  During the Q and A I wished I could pull up a chair and chat with both gentlemen. 

The Q and A is especially interesting and covers a wide range of topics such as:
  • the moral argument
  • the historical Jesus
  • the age of the earth
  • free will
  • determinism
  • the argument from reason
  • the meaning of life
Turek did a good job presenting evidence for his position while Normark made some interesting assertions, but in my opinion failed to sustain them with good argument.  Further, he clearly did not understand the moral argument.
Let us know what you think!  Who won?  Why so?

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Article: Did God Use the "Big Bang" to Create the Universe? by gotQuestions.org

In my opinion, the "Big Bang" is powerful confirmation of the first verse of the Bible:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  - Genesis 1:1

In this featured article, gotQuestions.org (a young-earth ministry) offers a very fair assessment of the "Big Bang" evidence.  

They write:

Prior to the 20th Century, it was not clear if the universe ever had a beginning. Had it always existed? No one knew. It was a matter of faith. Then a succession of discoveries throughout the 20th Century showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe did have a beginning. It wasn't always here.

First, Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, published in 1916, suggested that the universe had not always existed. Unsettled by the implications of his own theory, however, Einstein added a “cosmological constant” to make his equations support the possibility of a static (and therefore eternal) universe. Then the works of Georges LemaĆ®tre and Edwin Hubble in the 1920s demonstrated that the universe is expanding and that Einstein's cosmological constant was a mistake. This left a lot of astrophysicists very unhappy. Many felt that LemaĆ®tre, a Roman Catholic priest, was trying to inject religion into physics by suggesting that the universe had a beginning.

Over the next several decades, physicists tried to salvage the eternality of the universe by proposing everything from the Milne model (1935) to the steady state theory (1948). But with the 1964 discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation—predicted by Big Bang theorists in the 1940s—the Big Bang theory became the preeminent cosmological model. The question was no longer, did the universe have a beginning? The question became, how did it happen?

As more and more astrophysicists focused their attention on what happened in the first few moments, months and years of the universe, some Christians became upset that the new theoretical models didn't match up with their interpretation of Genesis. Just as many astrophysicists felt that the expanding universe theory was a ploy to inject religion into science, many Christians have come to feel that the Big Bang is an effort to undermine the biblical account of creation. Other Christians, however, feel that the Big Bang is consistent with the Bible’s account and welcome such compelling evidence for the creation of the universe.

Keep in mind that the Big Bang wasn't a sudden explosion of energy in some empty part of space at some distant moment in time. According to the theory, all space, time and energy came into existence together in that “bang.” Before the Big Bang, there was no time. There was no space. Then, suddenly, an exceedingly dense, incredibly hot, infinitesimal ball of something – everything – appeared somewhere, somehow for reasons unknown and began to expand rapidly with our whole world inside of it.

It is hard not to see the evidence for the Big Bang as a stunning example of where science and theology intersect. Astrophysicist Dr. Robert Jastrow phrased it this way in his book God and the Astronomers(New York, W.W. Norton, 1978, p. 116): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” Why? Because, as Jastrow explained in a subsequent interview, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. . . .That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact” (“A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths: Interview with Robert Jastrow,”Christianity Today, August 6, 1982, pp. 15, 18).

If Christians are to have objections to the Big Bang theory, it should only be in the atheistic presuppositions that often go along with the theory. The idea itself, that the universe came into existence due to an explosion, is not necessarily incompatible with the biblical creation account. As one Christian theologian has stated, "I am not necessarily opposed to the Big Bang theory. Rather, I know who banged it."

_________________________________________________________________________________

What about you?  Do you believe the "Big Bang" is evidence for God's existence?  Why or why not?

To learn more about the evidence for God from cosmology, go here.  

And I encourage you to follow J. Warner Wallace's example here- don't "obsess" over the Genesis debate!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad