Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why I Am Not Atheist

One of the blogs I enjoy reviewing out on a regular basis is by Tim Challies. He is the publisher of where his catch phrase is “Informing the Reforming.”  I find many of his articles thoughtful, but I especially enjoy his regular “A La Carte” segment where he provides links related to an eclectic variety of interests. Recent links have included:

“Scientists are just beginning to believe what the Bible tells us in Genesis 6:3. ‘Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’’ With that, God declared there would be no more Methuselahs, and new research published in the journal Nature is bearing that out.”

There is some stunning underwater footage in this video from Indonesia.

Turns out previous estimates were kind of low. “For decades, astronomers had put the number at 100 billion to 200 billion. But new research using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories shows that number is about 10 times too low. That means there are at least 1 trillion galaxies out there ― and possibly as many as 2 trillion.”

This is incredible HD footage of an Arizona Monsoon.

As a long-time listener to CCM, I tend to agree with this article. (Which had this link to another article I found relevant: The Moment I Began to Lose Faith in Contemporary Worship Music It was strange how it happened, the time I began to lose faith in contemporary worship music.)

Back in May, Tim did a series of articles on “Why I Am Not…” The first article was “Why I Am Not Atheist”.  After giving a brief description of his life’s belief, he provided two answers. The second was a list with brief descriptions of four basic apologetic style reasons: He sees evidence of God in existence, design, humanity and in the Bible. But what 
caught my attention was his first answer:

“First, according to the Bible, I am not an atheist because God determined I would not be. See, it’s not that I have any spiritual, intellectual, or philosophical inclinations within me that nudge me toward God. Rather, I have all the makings of a very convinced atheist—an inclination away from authority and toward independence, a questioning mind, and a restless spirit. But God chose to reveal himself to me and to draw me to himself. In his own way and for his own purposes he revealed himself, his existence, his goodness, his power, and I responded with faith, with belief. Ultimately, then, I am not an atheist because God showed me himself.”

He then went on to state, “That is the first answer and the second cannot be separated from it: I am not an atheist because of things I believe and decisions I have made. God works through, not apart from, human agency and ability. And in that way I am not an atheist on the basis of evidence I have observed and conclusions I have made.”

As one who is skeptical of some of the theological framework for Calvinism, I find statements such as, “I am not an atheist because God determined I would not be” somewhat troubling. If you are an agnostic or atheist, how do you feel about such statements? If you are a Christian, what do you think? If God works through human agency and my response is on the basis of observations and conclusions I have made, then how does that correspond with God choosing to reveal himself and draw me to him because he previously determined it?

You can read the entire article for yourself here. Tim does not have a comments section, but he does have a “letters to the editor” policy if you’d like to address your thoughts to him.

Don’t take my word for it, read the article, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is Apologetics?

Many even within the Christian community are still unaware of the discipline of apologetics.  For this reason, and others, it seems useful for the apologist to periodically define the term apologetics and demonstrate it's biblical origins. In his excellent work, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, philosopher Douglas Groothuis offers a useful definition that I wanted to highlight here:

"The word apologetics is often used today in a derogatory way to mean a biased and belligerent advocacy of an indefensible position.  Yet the idea of presenting a credible 'apology' for a legitimate position or viewpoint has a long and rich history.  For example, the American founders presented an apology (or apologetic) for what would become the American form of government in The Federalist Papers.  These learned and eloquent apologists explained and rationally defended a political perspective in the face of objections.  An apologist, then, is a defender and an advocate for a particular position.  The position is not reserved for Christians or other religionists.  Richard Dawkins, for example, is a tireless apologist for atheistic Darwinism and, as such, an equally tireless opponent of all religion, but particularly of Christianity.  While apologists may resort to propaganda or even coercion in order to win approval for their positions, they need not do so.  Of course, the Christian, following Christ's example, must never do so.

Christian apologetics is the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging.  The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which can be translated as 'defense' or 'vindication.'  In the days of the New Testament 'an apologia was a formal courtroom defense of something (2 Timothy 4:16.)'  The word, in either the noun form apologia or the verb form apologeomai, appears eight times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15). The term is used specifically for a rational defense of the gospel in three texts: Philippians 1:7, 16, and most famously in 1 Peter 3:15-16.

'But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.'1

If you are interested in learning more about apologetics, please checkout our Apologist's Quiver for resources to get your started!

Courage and Godspeed,


Related Posts

The Four Functions of Apologetics by Kenneth Boa

Is Apologetics Practical?

Lenny Esposito on Apologetics and the Christian Life

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does Quantum Physics Provide an Exception to Premise 1 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

A popular version of the Kalam cosmological argument is as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Premise (1) enjoys at least 3 lines of reasoning to support it:
  • Something cannot come into being from nothing.
  • If something can come into being from nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn't come into being from nothing.
  • Common experience and scientific evidence confirm the truth of premise 1. [1]
One common assertion sometimes offered by atheists against Premise (1) is that quantum physics provides an exception to the premise, since on the sub-atomic level events are said to be uncaused.  However, as Dr. William Lane Craig explains in his book Reasonable Faith, this claim is based upon a misunderstanding.

Craig explains:

"In the first place, not all scientists agree that sub-atomic events are uncaused.  A great many physicists today are quite dissatisfied with this view (the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation) of quantum physics and are exploring deterministic theories...Thus, quantum physics is not a proven exception to premise (1).  Second, even on the traditional, indeterministic interpretation, particles do not come into being out of nothing.  They arise as spontaneous fluctuations of the energy contained in the sub-atomic vacuum, which constitutes an indeterministic cause of their origination.  Third, the same point can be made about theories of the origin of the universe out of a primordial vacuum.  Popular magazine articles touting such theories as getting 'something from nothing' simply do not understand that the vacuum is not nothing but is a sea of fluctuating energy endowed with a rich structure and subject to physical laws.  Such models do not therefore involve a true origination ex nihilo." [2]

To suggest that quantum physics provides an exception to Premise (1) of the Kalam cosmological argument is simply false and is a deliberate abuse of science propagated by thinkers such as physicist Lawrence Krauss.

To find responses to other objections to the KCA, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. William Lane Craig, On Guard, p. 75-78.
2. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 114-115.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Case for Christ Official Teaser Trailer (2017)

This is the trailer for the forthcoming film based on Lee Strobel's journey from atheism to Christianity.  

Strobel has also recently released a revised and updated version of his classic The Case for Christ.

You can get your copy here.


Courage and Godspeed,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Late-Term Abortion, the Life of the Mother and the 3rd Presidential Debate

During the 3rd presidential debate, Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump1 of using scare tactics when describing a late term abortion.  I took issue with her claim on social media and stated that Trump’s words were not scare tactics, but an accurate description of the process.  I claimed that the process is “brutal and barbaric” and I stand by that description.2

After reading my comments, a thoughtful reader shared the following comment that I thought was worth responding to:3

“I saw a true story on the news today about a condition where the amniotic fluid of a baby enters the mothers blood stream and the mother had to make a choice... her life or her baby's life. I think Hillary's point was that late term abortions are not always easy... as someone who sits here 38 weeks pregnant, it terrifies me to think that I would ever be in the situation to decide between saving my unborn baby's life or leaving [my child] motherless... it brings tears to my eyes to even type it now.... I'm not sure what I would do, but should government make the decision for me? What a hard subject abortion is ... I really can see the hardships on both sides…”

I believe the comment is instructive.  Notice that it communicates a genuine struggle over an important issue.  Absent is the typical rhetoric that often times enters into the pro-life vs. pro-abortion choice debate. 

As this comment demonstrates, the abortion debate is often an emotional one.  However, in my response to these thoughtful points, I will strive to say what I think about the points, not how I feel about them.  This should not be interpreted as cold or callous, but as my attempt to offer a sound and objective response that is factually based.

These situations are indeed tragic and those who have suffered through such a horrific event need to be shown the love of Christ.  They need our love and compassion, not our condemnation.

However, it important to note how extremely rare these cases actually are.  According to Dr. C. Everett, who was US surgeon general and a pediatric surgeon for 36 years:

"Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.

If, toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, he will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarean section. His intention is still to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby will be premature and perhaps immature depending on the length of gestation.

Because it has suddenly been taken out of the protective womb, it may encounter threats to its survival. The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger."4

Moreover, Dr. Landrum Shettles, pioneer in infertility treatment and called “the father of in vitro fertilization,” claimed that less than 1% of all abortions were performed to save the mother’s life.5

And if one is still in doubt, even Alan F. Guttmacher, the “father of Planned Parenthood” conceded:

"Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life.”6

So, contrary to the claims of pro-abortion choice advocates such as Hillary Clinton7, we can confidently conclude that late-term abortions are almost never necessary to save the life of the mother.

Furthermore, when the life of the baby is lost as the result of an operation, this is not considered an abortion.  Consider the tragic case of ectopic pregnancy, a condition that pro-choice advocates state is “the most frequently presented example of a case in which the mother’s life may be in danger if an abortion is not performed…”8

A child has very little hope of surviving such a surgery and the surgery may be necessary to save the mother.  However, this is not the intentional killing of an innocent person who could otherwise survive.  The surgeon’s purpose wasn’t to kill the child but to save the mother.  As Randy Alcorn explains:

“The death of the child was a tragic side-effect of lifesaving efforts.  This was a consistently pro-life act, since to be pro-life does not mean being pro-life only about babies.  It also means being pro-life about women.”9

Finally, as others have pointed out, in regard to the extremely rare cases such as the one you shared, advocates of the pro-life position favor legislation that would allow for life-saving measures on behalf of the mother.

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Articles

Exceptions: Is Abortion Ever Permissible?

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When Pro-Abortion Choice Rhetoric Hurts

Could Acceptance of Abortion Be a Matter of Ignorance?

1. FYI- I am not a Donald Trump supporter, nor am I a Hillary Clinton supporter. Neither have earned my vote this election season.  In my humble opinion, both are morally unacceptable candidates.
2. For those who disagree, I challenge you to view this animated video of the process or consider the words of former abortionist turned pro-life advocate Dr. Anthony Levatino when describing the procedure:

"The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby's head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby's brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you."

3. For the record, the reader kindly gave me permission to respond to her comment via the blog.
4. Randy Alcorn, Why-Pro-Life?, p. 79.
5. Virginia Kruta, "Even Democrats were Cringing When Hillary gave 'Late Term Abortion' Answers," Oct. 2016.
6. Alan Guttmacher, “Abortion Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (Berkeley: Diablo Books, 1967), 9.
7. Further, it should be noted that research doesn’t support Hillary Clinton’s claim that late-term abortions are performed for ‘life and health of the mother.’  See here.
8. Bill Fortenberry, “Ectopic Personhood,” The Personhood Initiative, Dec. 20, 2011 as quoted by Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life?, p. 81
9. Randy Alcorn, Ibid., p. 80-81.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Learning to the Glory of God

This article is courtesy of

The average person is familiar with C. S. Lewis as the creator of the land of Narnia. BreakPoint readers are probably acquainted as well with “Mere Christianity,” his most famous non-fiction work, and also with “The Screwtape Letters,” which made him a household name in the U.S.

But did you know that Lewis also preached at least a dozen times during his lifetime? Seventy-five years ago today, on October 22, 1939, he gave his debut sermon. Do you know the name of it? Or can you name any of his sermons?

“None Other Gods: Culture in War-Time” is the name of Lewis’s premier effort as a preacher. It was delivered at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford (this was the University church that most students attended). It’s important to recall the historical context of this message from 1939. Besides occurring before “The Screwtape Letters” was published serially, it even happened prior to the release of his initial apologetic work, The Problem of Pain (1940). Yet it is even more important to recall that England had just declared war on Germany the month before this first sermon. Knowing this context makes it easier to understand the beginning of the essay version we have today.
The vicar of St. Mary’s, the Reverend Theodore Milford, was aware that Lewis was a WWI veteran, but this was not the only reason he was asked to address the congregation. The vicar had read Lewis’s “The Pilgrim’s Regress and was impressed by it. Both these factors made Lewis a logical choice to address the parishioners. This last influence is somewhat ironic, because of all the books penned by Lewis, this one from 1933 is one of his least popular books and is considered a very difficult read.
Even if you are a serious reader of Lewis’s shorter works, it is unlikely that you recognized the title of this debut sermon. That is because the essay version—available in the sermon collection “The Weight of Glory”—is better known today as “Learning in War-time.” To make matters even more confusing, that is actually the third title it had within the decade after it was preached. The following year it was included in “Famous English Sermons” as “The Christian in Danger.” This book, edited by Ashley Sampson, collected landmark messages from famous preachers. Sampson felt compelled to add Lewis’s debut effort because even then it was obvious that the message would speak to people for many years to come.
While most people today are not affected by war in the same way they were at the time Lewis preached his sermon, we can still relate to many of the questions of those who first heard this message. Although Lewis did tailor his address to students (the majority of those who were in attendance), he made many points that we need to hear today. One in particular still resonates, and offers a good reason to read the work.
Lewis began by acknowledging the anxieties faced by a majority of his audience. They were young adults fearing being called to service and debating whether they should continue their pursuit of higher learning. Lewis was familiar with their situation because he was initially a new student at Oxford during the First World War. At that time his brother, Warren, was already on active duty, and Lewis himself would eventually spend his 19th birthday in the trenches in France. If anyone could relate to the predicament of these undergraduates, Lewis could. It was now over 20 years later and Lewis had the chance to share wisdom he probably wished had been imparted to him.
Lewis used the fact that most students were doubting whether they should continue their schooling in the context of a war, to ask why even in times of peace a person should get an education. Certainly the future was uncertain, but even in so-called “normal life” (which Lewis reminded his listeners is nonexistent) there are always challenges. So, in good times or bad “plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities.”
Why, in fact (Lewis asked), should a Christian should ever consider a temporal pursuit such as education? After all, when you consider the importance of the eternal destiny of souls, why focus on “such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology”? Of course, Lewis did not consider that perspective to be a valid argument and he gave reasons why, while making passing reference to the false dichotomy of “sacred” vs. “secular.” However, he also underscored the paradox that life cannot be “exclusively and explicitly religious,” and yet, “our whole life can, and indeed must, become religious.”
Near the end of his explanation Lewis delivered the now-familiar line: “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” But before that proclamation, Lewis gave examples to clarify why our lives cannot always be religious in the narrowest sense.
First, he recalls that, before he served in WWI he believed his “life in the trenches would, in some mysterious sense, be all war.” This wasn’t the case at all. He found his view (and also most people’s opinion) of active service to be completely wrong. Next, he pointed out that if you lived near a dangerous body of water, it would be important to learn some life-saving skills to help someone drowning. Yet, it would be foolish for someone to devote themselves completely to saving drowning people, to the exclusion of anything else. As Lewis said, it is “a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for.”
In short, a life may be permeated and guided by an ideal without explicitly focusing on it every single moment.
When considering what to do, or not do, even beyond the question of furthering one’s education, he offers: “The solution of this paradox is, of course, well known to you. ‘Whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is why, he says, “there is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities as such.” As long as one keeps the admonition to do all for God’s glory, nearly any pursuit (in peace or war) is permitted.
Lewis’s sermon of 1939 is truly a timeless message. In it, he showed the ability to expound timeless biblical truths in a fresh and illuminating way that would shape his career and make him one of our most beloved Christian writers.

Image courtesy of Real Clear Religion.
William O'Flaherty created and maintains, where a variety of Lewis-related resources can be found, including a weekly podcast called "All About Jack."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

God in the Pews

Why isn’t God more obvious? This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts, by people of all levels of faith. When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent? When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen? Why wouldn’t God want more people to know God’s good news? When all the “evidence” seems to counter the biblical narrative, why doesn’t God just give the world a sign? If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today? All of these examples get at the same issue: the seeming “hiddenness” of God.
Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God. Russell replied that he would say: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While many who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s audacity, a similar struggle ensued between the psalmist and his hidden God. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being asleep in these plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?”(2)
In fact, belief in a God who can be easily found, a God who has acted in time and space, makes the hiddenness of God all the more poignant and perplexing. Theologians have offered many explanations for God’s hiddenness: because God seeks to grow our faith, because our sins and disobedience hide us from God and keep us from seeing God properly, or because God loves us and knows how muchand how often we need to “find” God. If we are honest, we are just as likely to hide ourselves from God just as the first humans did in the Garden when God sought after them. Even so we cry out just like Job did and wonder why God stays hidden away in unanswered prayers and difficult circumstances: “Why do you hide your face, and consider me the enemy?”
The hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. And Christians often take for granted the narrative of Scripture which gives witness to God’s revelation. We have the benefit of a book full of God’s speech. God speaks in the wonder and mystery of creation; God speaks through the history of the nation of Israel; God speaks through the very Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. His life reveals the exact nature of God, and places God’s glory on full display.
But still we may wonder if we must always and only look to the past to hear God’s voice, while we wonder why God isn’t more “talkative” today? Is there any other source for God’s presence and activity in the world today?
In fact, God is often found in one of the last places many might guess: the church. At its best, the church re-tells the story of God speaking across the ages and definitively in Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel. But the church can also create community where God may be encountered in the faces of others as a result of the empowering Holy Spirit. Such a community is to be the symbol of God’s presence among us and with us as “God-found,” not “God-hidden.” It is to be the arms of God around us when we are hurting, or the voice of God speaking when we feel we haven’t heard from God in years. Such a community can be God’s voice, God’s hands and feet going towards the broken places of the world to bring healing, help, and comfort. Through worship and liturgy, prayer and communion, service and sacrifice the church can reveal the God who spoke and is still speaking.
God is not often revealed in the roar of the hurricane or the loud-clap of thunder, but in a “still, small voice”—a voice that is barely audible except to the most patient and still. But when the Church, broken and human as it is, seeks through the power of the Spirit to be who it is, we see God and hear God, and find God beautifully obvious.
For those who long to see God, who long to find God in the darkest hour, we may not find God in the dramatic or the victorious, the miraculous or the stupendous. Instead, we may yet hope to find him in the pew, at the table of the Lord’s Supper, in a simple hymn, or in the gift of fellow seekers longing to find God too.
Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.
(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet, Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000), 1.
(2) Psalm 10:1, Psalm 44:23-24.

Published on October 18, 2016 in A Slice of Infinity.  “Our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, go here.

To receive A Slice of Infinity in your daily email, go here.

Have a little hope on me,

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What is Philosophy of Religion?

In his excellent book, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith, C. Stephen Evans gives a helpful definition:

"Religion is an important force in human life and human history.  This remains the case despite periodic announcements by 'secularists' thinkers that humanity has finally come of age and has no more use for religion.  Most human beings are still vitally concerned with such questions as 'Is there a God?' 'Why does God allow suffering?' and 'What happens to a person at death?'  These and other questions posed by great religious of the world are grounded in some of the deepest human hopes and fears.

The philosophy of religion can perhaps be best defined in a preliminary way as the attempt to think hard and deeply about such fundamental questions as these.  In saying that philosophy of religions focuses on these questions, I mean, of course, to say that the answers given by religions are also to be the object of attention.  Philosophy of religion is therefore critical reflection on religious beliefs."1

Courage and Godspeed,

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