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A Brief Explanation of the Cosmological Argument

Here’s a good primer on what the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God consists of. (By William Lane Craig’s Resonable Faith)

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Saturday Link Roundup for 4/6/13

How Environmentalism Harms the Poor [link] (HT: The Acton Institute PowerBlog)

A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is not this earth but God. The earth and its development by man are themselves the arena in which the drama of each person’s relation to God could be and is worked out. It is also true that this “working out” concerns one’s neighbor and man’s relation to fellow man.

Environmentalism is the secular perversion of the Christian idea of stewardship. This is ultimately a worldview conflict.

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First World Problems (HT: Acton Institute PowerBlog)

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A Harvard University student explains how evidence changed her mind about God  [link] (HT: Wintery Knight)

A good article on how an atheist became a Christian via apologetics at Harvard University.

I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.

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Have a great weekend!

William Lane Craig – Evidence for the Resurrection

In celebration of Good Friday and Easter, here is a short clip of William Lane Craig debating the literal, historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the reliability of the eyewitness accounts.

The Truth About Peer Review

This just in: Peer reviewed journal articles are not immune from human nature.

If you spend any time familiarizing yourself with the latest scientific study, then sooner or later the issue of peer review pops up. Especially any time you raise an up an idea contrary to the holy church of neo-Darwinian evolution.

The crucible of peer review is intended to be a way to weed out bad or questionable or unclear conclusions about the world we live in.

Which would be great if time and money were unlimited and politics and bias were nonexistent. But that simply isn’t the case, as this article by Denise O’Leary on the truth behind peer review points out.

3 Thoughts on Reading the Old Testament

When I hear someone criticize Christianity based on the violence in the Old Testament (and they’re right in that there are pretty violent things in there) a few thoughts occur to me.

1) There is often a failure on the part of the reader to distinguish between description and prescription. – After reading through Judges, for example, one is struck by the violence related in the accounts.  So does that mean the bible condones these acts?  Or is it merely describing these acts?  In the case of Judges, the main theme is repeated througout “In those days there was no king in Israel and every man did what what right in his own eyes.”  Part of the point is to draw attention to the evil men do.

Even in the case of Israel’s conquering of the region it is a description of how God established a plan of redemption for a (very) wicked world and not a prescription for us to go and do the same.  The Canaanites and the Hittites and the other “ites” were not just innocently minding their own business.  For example, They were too busy burning their own children as sacrifices, among other things.   (For a good treatment on this particular subject I recommend Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan.)

2) There is often a tendency to impose 21st century sensibilities onto the text. – The world is not nearly as bad as it could be.  And even though we have had and continue to have violence episodes, the Ancient Near East was brutality incarnate.  I think some readers have a tendency to read themselves and modern culture into the text in an attempt to relate to it, and then come away indignant.   They balk at the patriarchal society and spend so much time being offended that they fail to understand the significance of the account.  They fail to get themselves out of the way and receive the text.  They engage in what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”  Their own time is the measure by which all else should be judged.  (Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism is a good take on different types of readers.)

3) There is often a failure to grasp the context or intent of the author(s) and/or literary genre. – Some assume (and even some Christians, sadly) that the Christian scriptures were merely dictated by God and literary devices don’t matter.  Hyperbole, poems, figurative language and the like either don’t matter or are overlooked on the one hand by those who would like to find inconsistencies in the text.  On the other hand, some Christians overlook those literary devices thinking that if they admit them into the equation then somehow the word of God is compromised.  And after all aren’t we supposed to take the bible “literally?”

If we mean that we’re supposed to take literally what the author meant given literary devices, then yes.  And granted, it’s more work.  It would be easier if it were an instruction manual, but life isn’t straightforward and we’re not machines.  The OT rings true to the human condition and the need to be saved from it, even if you don’t believe it’s inspired.  In addition, we can’t hold an author accountable for not doing something he didn’t try to do.  If it was the custom to round numbers up or to use hyperbole to make a point, then we can’t fault him for not being exact with the former or accuse him of being concrete (or “literal”)  with the latter.  (How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren is an excellent resource on the discipline of reading.)

 

 

Avoiding Apologetics Fatigue

We were not meant to take on the world.

And yet the internet and our televisions bring the world into our homes with all it’s discussions, ideas, worldviews, trolls and monsters.  As Christians, and especially Christian apologists and defenders and witnesses, we feel the pressure to rush into the fray and encounter every intellectual adversary that appears. We’ve studied, we’ve prayed, we’ve read.  We’re familiar with our arguments and opposing arguments.  Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

The world is too big for us.

We read an article and encounter an objection.  Our nature drives us to work out it’s validity.  We must do something with it.  Then there are the comments.  Tons and tons of comments, each with a new rabbit trail, red-herring, twist, challenge, or snark.  Gauntlets thrown like rice at a wedding and the urge to pick each one up, examine it, and throw it away grows stronger.

The world outnumbers us.

And we begin to feel it’s weight.

We begin to feel it’s depth.

We begin to feel small.

Weak.

Insignificant.

But aren’t we supposed to engage the world?  Aren’t we supposed to make a defense for the hope within us?  Aren’t we supposed to be witnesses and salt and light?

Yes, of course.  But not to the entire world.  God will handle the world, he’s the only one who can fully comprehend it.  We must bloom where we are planted.  We must study.  We must be familiar with arguments and counter arguments.  We must be ready to defend our hope in a spirit of love.  And our primary duty is the physical place we find ourselves.

The secondary place in the 21st century is where we communicate via technology.  But this requires discernment and discipline.  We are suffering from information overload as a culture.  Like the logician in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, if we try and fit the world in our head, our head will split open.  The internet is a marvelous tool for communication, but it can place a burden on us that no one person was intended to bear.

So debate and engage.  Love and serve.  Spread the gospel.  But examine yourself to see if you’re taking on too much.

Bloom where you’re planted.  God will take care of the world.

The Star of Bethlehem

Here’s an interesting video about the “star” the Magi followed.  I had heard about this video last year, and usually when I come across things like this I think “Great, more ‘bible code’ nonsense.”   However, after watching it I think it’s plausible given the assumption that the Magi were 1) believers in the Jewish Scriptures, 2) looking for signs pointing toward the promised Messiah, and 3) saw something so out of the ordinary that it caused them to make the trek to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem.

I’m more inclined to accept something like this instead of, for example, that the star was an angel or a completely supernatural glowing ball that guided them to Jesus’ house.  The reason is that the Magi seem to be looking for more information as they go (they ask Herod where the messiah was supposed to be born, they are told by Herod to go and search for the child, etc…) If they were following something else there would be no need for any of that.

Anyway, all that to say if this isn’t exactly right, it’s probably in the neighborhood.  At least that’s my opinion.   Here’s part 1 of the video:

 

My (Condensed) Conversation with the ACLU Girl

Downtown there have been several blue-shirted ACLU people, usually college age, taking donations to help protect “gay rights.”

This afternoon I was heading to my office to grab something when I ran across one of them who told me that some politicians were “trying to use law to discriminate and deprive people of their rights.  Like women’s reproductive rights, gay rights…” and some others that I can’t remember.

She said that, “These lawmakers are using law to enforce their morality and that’s wrong.”

“So you would say that laws shouldn’t enforce a particular moral view?” I asked.

“Right.  It shouldn’t be a factor.” She said.

“But aren’t you trying to force your moral viewpoint?”

Apparently no one had ever asked her this before.  She had brought up abortion, so I asked her about her views on that.

“I personally feel it’s not a positive thing.  But I shouldn’t force my view on others.” She explained.

“But,” I answered, “if pro-life people are right, and the unborn is a valuable human being, then shouldn’t you enforce your view?”

At this point she was visibly uncomfortable, even though my tone was friendly and non-combative.  She changed the subject by explaining that she was out there for “gay rights” not abortion.  She then explained that they were attempting to create legislation that would prohibit employers for firing people due to sexual orientation.  (I didn’t say this, but in this state employers can fire anyone at any time.  So the ACLU would be, if I’m understanding the law correctly, trying to created a special class of protected citizens while the rest of us can be let go for any reason.)

I asked if she thought organizations had the right to hire and retain people that shared their values.  She said they did.  So I asked if she thought religious organizations should be forced to hire or retain people that did not hold their views.  She hesitated, growing more uncomfortable and then said that the hoped someone wouldn’t work at an organziation that didn’t hold their values.  That didn’t answer my question of course, and those types of situations are in the news often, but I let it go.

After a few more minutes she began to hestiate and become more nervous, often apologizing for her nervousness and then said that she knew what she believed but wasn’t good at debating.  My goal wasn’t to change her mind, but to put a stone in her shoe.  So, I brought the conversation to a close by saying that I hoped she would take a little time to think things through a little deeper, since these issues have wider ramifications than we often hear discussed in the public square.

I told her to have a nice day and headed on.

I have nothing against this girl.  She seemed very sweet, and I’m sorry she was uncomfortable.  But it was obvious that she’s been socialized into her beliefs, which led to her promoting specific policies.

But when asked for her reasons, her silence was telling.

 

Debate: William Lane Crais vs Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist?

This video is long, but worth watching.  Christian philosopher and theologian (he has doctorates in both) William Lane Craig debates one of the “four horsemen” of the “new atheists”, Christopher Hitchens.

After watching the whole thing my opinion is that Craig is the more logical and Hitchens the more charismatic.  Craig lays out his logical arguments and Hitchens never really dismantles them, or even attempts to.   Logically speaking, I think Craig wins.  But if you’re more  swayed by quips and charisma, you’ll come away with the impression that Hitchens did.

I like Christopher Hitchens even though I think his worldview is wrong and utterly bankrupt.  On the other hand,  I’m not a fan at all of Richard Dawkins who comes across as an arrogant bully whose arguments contain little argument and lots of name calling.  (He also refuses to debate Craig, claiming that the only reason Craig wants to debate him is because he’s an egomaniac who’s hungry for fame.  Talk about projecting yourself on others.)

This kind of debate is perfect to put on and listen while you’re working.