Tag Archive: Greg Koukl


In my last post I explained the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, but perhaps some questions were raised in your mind which I did not answer. Today, I would like to try to radiotelescope-1412892-1279x849briefly address a few.

Objections

Firstly, some modern physicists attempt to get around the uncomfortable implications of the universe’s beginning out of nothing by redefining “nothing.” When we say that the universe came from nothing, it is a literal nothing that we are talking about: not a quantum vacuum, not a blank slate that an imperfection can arise on its own, not a quantum vacuum; no-thing. Anything in existence prior to this starting point would have to be explained in terms of causation itself, and this argument concerns that ultimate origin.

A second point sometimes raised concerns the confusing notion of infinities. Why can’t the universe be infinitely old? Aside from the observational data referenced in the Kalam argument post which indicates a beginning, a bit of careful thinking will reveal that actual infinites are impossible. Only mathematical infinites are useful; when one tries to imagine an actual infinite, absurdities begin to multiply. The main issue, specifically applied to an infinitely old universe, is that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite number of points in time (days, minutes, seconds, etc.) to get to the present moment. If we move back in time ten years, we should have a smaller amount of time prior to today, right? Well no, it’s still infinite. What if we move back halfway in time? Is it a smaller amount? No, still infinite. What if we remove an infinite number of years from the past timeline? Infinity remains. I hope this clears it up a bit, but for more information, a further, more thorough explanation of this concept can be found by William Lane Craig at his website here.

Thirdly, what about the multiverse hypothesis? I am actually going to defer this to a later date, when I discuss Intelligent Design. For now, suffice it to say that any multiverse generator still must be explained in terms of first causes.

Which leads to the fourth issue sometimes raised, that is put forth something like this: “If everything must have a cause, what caused God?” The idea is that we as Christians are trapped in the same infinite regress absurdity that we identify as a weakness of naturalistic explanations in the second point above. But the answer to this is really quite simple – we do not believe in a created God, but one who is the uncaused cause of everything else. Does this sound like a sidestep, some sort of religious special pleading? The point is that every explanation is going to have to have some first cause without a prior explanation. God, I submit, an intelligent, purposeful, willful mind, is the best explanation of a first cause.

Age of the Universe?

Another quite important issue that I want to make some very brief comments about is that of my beliefs about the age of the universe. The second premise in Kalam cosmological argument, namely that the universe began to exist, is largely supported by modern scientific observation and evidence of the Big Bang, the single point in time and space which expanded eons ago into the universe we have now. Now we will revisit some of this in the Intelligent Design section, but the main point to think of here is that, as Greg Koukl puts it, “the Big Bang needs a Big Banger;” that is, we have to account for causes. The Big Bang explanation doesn’t remove the need for God; in my view, it underscores it! Furthermore, even though there is some disagreement among Christians, I believe that an ancient universe is at the very least compatible with the Bible, and indeed the best explanation.

However (and this is important), this is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy, nor is it one I feel such strong convictions over that I spend a lot of time trying to convince anyone. My reasons for adopting an old-universe view are several. For one, I believe that natural revelation points to an old universe, and since the biblical accounts may be vague in their interpretations on this point, I believe that we are justified in applying the more clear evidence from science about this question. For another reason, I don’t stand alone in this view. There are many dedicated, well-credentialed Christian scientists and theologians that have adopted an old-universe view. Finally, pragmatically, this view is convenient in interacting with unbelievers with apologetics. An ancient universe view can be held in common with most non-Christians and built on as a starting point.

That is all I really want to say about the issue of young-earth vs. old-earth creationism except for the good advice from St. Augustine,

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Christian friends, the age of the universe is not one of the essentials.

Finally, if you want to see some of the arguments that have persuaded me, the best one has to do with starlight over at Stand To Reason here. Another site which has done a lot of work to demonstrate from the scriptures and from science the old-earth view is Reasons to Believe, and some of their resources on this topic can be found here.

Next, I plan to discuss another argument for God’s existence from design. Please join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” – Blaise Pascal

As part of my recent series of posts concerning truth and knowledge, I’d like to turn today towards the question of what sort of influences on people form beliefs and consider the adequacy of these influencers to deliver truth on their own.

Why Do People Believe What They Believe?

In the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (1), the authors describe a seminar in which the attendees were asked for reasons why people believe the things they do. Many answers were given, and the speaker wrote them onto a whiteboard. Some of these answers included things like parents, friends, society, and culture. Others offered reasons of comfort, peace of mind, meaning, purpose, hope, and identity. Others still proposed that beliefs were often formed from teachings of Scriptures or holy books, pastors, priests, gurus, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders, and their respective church organizations. Finally the speaker himself added a few of his own to the end. These reasons were then organized into categories and labelled on the whiteboard, something like this:

Sociological Psychological Religious Philosophical
Parents

Friends

Society

Culture

Comfort

Peace of Mind

Meaning

Purpose

Hope

Identity

Scripture/holy book

Pastor/Priest

Guru

Rabbi

Imam

Church

Consistency

Coherence

Completeness

Starting, then, from left to right, the speaker asked, Is each individual category and its contents was adequate by itself to provide enough justification on its own for belief? Read through the categories and items again yourself and think about your own answer. It seems to me that each of the categories, except the last one, is insufficient to the task. Greg Koukl summarizes the situation this way in his excellent book Tactics:

The Bible is first in terms of authority, but…we cannot grasp the authoritative teaching of God’s word unless we use our minds properly.  Therefore the mind, not the Bible, is the very first line of defense God has given us against error. (2)

So what exactly is meant by these items in the category of “Philosophical Reasons?” Logical consistency means that the beliefs one holds do not contradict one another. Internal coherence describes a harmonious relationship between the other beliefs in which each are carefully considered and fit together in a reasonable or natural way. Completeness refers to the ability of one’s set of beliefs to best explain the collection of data and evidence about the particular issue being considered. These three tests for truth have the best hope of delivering truth when applied to the claims made by the other three categories. Working in tandem with good philosophy, we may approach truth in the offerings of society, psychology, and religion.

Evaluating Ideas

Ravi Zacharias outlines three levels of philosophy for evaluating ideas (3), and I think they are correct:

  1. Formal Philosophy – This involves the use of logic and critical thinking in analysis of arguments and evidence presented for a point of view.
  2. Culture and the Arts – Truths discovered through philosophy can often be well illustrated through movies, music, and metaphor.
  3. Prescription – Laws and parental household rules are examples of prescription. This is the application of these ideas for oneself and legislation for others.

As an example, you may be familiar with the Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, which is often used to make the intended point that each expression of religion is really a discovery or worship of the same god, and that man’s finite nature and abilities lead us to believe we are serving different gods, when in reality each religion is merely a facet of the one god. Those who present this to persuade others of this view, usually offer it as a full argument (omitting step 1), but it is only an illustration (step 2) of an absent argument. They then move to step 3 and try to make the application that no one can know the truth about what or who god is, and so we should not claim that we are right and others are wrong (this could be used about truth in general as well, not just religious truth). Now, they may be right about these applications (I don’t think they are), but I hope you can see that without an actual argumentation, all we have is a possible explanation, but not necessarily a reasonable one.

By the way, here’s a great response to the Blind Men parable by Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason.

In my next post, I will be talking about reasons people resist belief. I hope you will join me!

Comments, questions? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

 

1 Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 51-54.

2 Gregory Koukl, Tactics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 32.

3 Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, eds., Is Your Church Ready (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 33.

Continuing from the prior post, here are some more objections to apologetics often given from within the church.teen-talk-1438715

“You can’t ‘prove’ that God exists.”

Most apologists are not trying to “prove” the existence of God. Indeed, proof is too strong a word; it seems to me that proof lies in the eye of the beholder, and so can be influenced by or resisted for any number of reasons. Apologists’ goals are more modest. We provide evidence that belief in God and the Christian faith is reasonable and rational. We want to give them reasons to take the gospel seriously and give it consideration for their lives. As Greg Koukl says, we are trying to put a stone in their shoe, to help them see that Christianity is worth thinking about.

“Apologetics is just about arguing with unbelievers.”

I think people get a bit over excited about this one simply due to an imprecise use of the words, and often I am guilty of this too. When my kids start getting loud bickering with each other, what comes out of my mouth is “Stop arguing and get along!” But arguing is not what they are doing; they are quarrelling, fighting, and/or name-calling. This is not what an apologist does, though (or shouldn’t be!). Instead, we use arguments and good evidence to show reasonable conclusions supporting Christian ideas. As I will discuss further in a future post, argumentation is the gift that God has given us to discover truth.

“Apologetics doesn’t work.”

When someone offers this objection, I want to ask them, “What exactly are your expectations?” Are they assuming it is being offered as a silver-bullet approach that should work every time it is used? Remember Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers suppress the truth; the Holy Spirit does the work inside their hearts. We obey by offering the gospel persuasively. Also, how are they gauging success or failure in this endeavor? Is it a failure if they do not convert immediately? Must they do so on the spot for it to be considered a successful or useful tool? Most people don’t make the important decisions of their lives in an instant or without serious and careful contemplation.

“You can’t argue someone into the kingdom.”

This is true. Also true is that you cannot love, preach, or lifestyle-witness anyone into the kingdom, either. Our job is to love, preach, live, and give a defense, all in such a way that will show the truth of the message we bring. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to turn the hearts of the hearer towards what has been heard. Without the Spirit’s work, nothing works, and even though He could do it all without our help, God has commanded Christians to spread this good news in a partnership with Him to reach the world. Apologetics is one of the tools we use in doing our part.

Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

I’m excited to be a part of putting together this conference, happening next month with speakers Greg Koukl and Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason. I hope you will come!

Shatterproof Flyer Full 2

Greg Koukl, in his October mentoring letter:2014-10-13 11.55.02

Some pastors think apologetics is window dressing, fine for those who like that sort of thing, but an extravagance, a non-essential. Agreed, not everyone will make a vocation of defending the faith. But sooner or later each Christian will be forced to face the harshest critic of all: his or her own inner doubts.

That’s right, the toughest opponent you’ll ever have to confront is you. Someone once said, “The heart cannot believe what the mind rejects.” This is also obvious. If you’re not confident the message of Scripture is true, you can’t put your trust in it even if you tried. Trust cannot be manufactured. Faith cannot be squeezed out by acts of sheer will.

However, if you get your hands on substantiating evidence—if you find out the facts and are equipped with compelling reasons—your confidence grows automatically, deepening and invigorating your faith.

http://www.str.org/articles/how-to-answer-the-harshest-critic-you-ll-ever-face-mentoring-letter-october-2014#.VDwCJvldV8E

2014-10-06 08.47.22Every Sunday morning, for 25 minutes, we stand and sing songs before the announcements, offering, and sermon. This 25 minute period is officially referred to as “worship” time, and informally as “the time during when people start showing up for church.” During this time, I am very aware of myself and my busy mind and emotions, the morning routine of getting myself and my kids ready and in place at church, the people trickling into the sanctuary, and the band and singers on the stage. Oh yeah, and sometimes I’ll mouth the lyrics of the song being sung, and more occasionally I’ll actually sing in from the heart and be caught up in the expression of the words and music of the song towards God. Ouch, this doesn’t seem right. Why is it so infrequent that I am lifted up in worship at the end of that first half hour on Sundays? I don’t think I’m the only one either.

Worship, or “worth-ship” – ascribing worth to God:  this is what we should be doing. About two years ago I began being troubled by the lyrics of the songs I heard frequently in church. I don’t mean they were heretical, but many did not seem to have much content. Most songs seem to be of the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend variety, which frankly, as a heterosexual male, make me feel slightly uncomfortable, or those which focus on the emotions of the singer rather than on the One to whom the song is supposed to be directed.

I want my worship to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and when I sing about emotions I am not feeling at the moment, it is not truth. Perhaps the intent is that in by singing about emotions that I [don’t] feel, my emotions will change and I will begin to feel them. But this seems to much like manipulation and dishonesty in worship, and neither of those sound like worshipping in spirit and in truth.

I would like to see our corporate worship be more of group worship, and less like a concert in which I inaudibly sing along with the featured band. Furthermore, I wish more of the songs we were being led to sing were describing God’s attributes, or at the least, a response from a group, rather than me as an individual. I realize that worship is personal, but it is also corporate. I believe it would be more honest and God-honoring to remove the personal pronouns, replacing most instances of “I” and “me” with “us” and “we,” and sing about God, rather than my feelings about God.

But, perhaps I am mistaken and am not seeing some bigger picture.  What do you think?

 

Articles related to this subject which I found useful:

http://adammclane.com/2013/02/18/are-pronouns-making-our-worship-lonely/

http://www.str.org/blog/the-art-of-leading-congregational-worship#.VClgQvldV8E

http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2012/05/mighty-to-save-and-other-worship-songs-that-annoy-me.html

Greg Koukl speaks on the claim that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship”:

I understand how there could be a perfunctory religious practice without any life in it that would cause one to hunger and yearn for something much more personal. And the offer of relationship touches that hunger.

But here’s the problem: “having a relationship with God” in this sense is not at all unique to Christianity. Virtually every religion, it seems to me, has as its goal something intensely personal.

More here: http://www.str.org/articles/relationship-vs.-religion#.VBH3XvldV8E

cross cover

 

Blogger Bill Pratt writes concerning those who throw out sound-byte questions and expect sound-byte answers:

Questions can be really short. Why is there so much evil in the world? Who is God? Why did Jesus have to die? Why do you think Christianity is true? What is the meaning of life? …[T]here is an asymmetry between questions and answers. Answers are often far more complex than the question they are answering.

– See the full article at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2014/08/18/will-you-wait-for-a-long-answer-to-your-short-question/#sthash.ycw7ycuF.dpuf

Also related is this article by Greg Koukl on the steamroller: http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/1-2%202009%20Solid%20Ground%20Steamroller-1.pdfsteamroller

Do you find devotional “quiet times” difficult?  Take some pastoral instruction from Greg Koukl:

Instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to have devotions every morning, I have devotion. That is, I take five to ten minutes early in the day to focus on God—not to get something from Him, but to actively devote myself to Him for the day. After I sing a hymn or two, I use a biblical prayer (I’ll share it with you in a moment) as a guide to express my dedication to the Lord.

The rest of the article is here: http://www.str.org/articles/devotion-not-quiet-time#.VBDHIvldV8E

Another post by Greg Koukl giving good advice if you find prayer difficult:praying_hands

For a few hardy prayer warriors, talking with God is as easy as breathing; it happens almost effortlessly. When you ask them how they do it, they simply shrug and reply, “I just pray.” Unfortunately, that’s about as helpful as John McEnroe saying “I just hit the ball,” when asked for some tips on more effective tennis. It may be easy for him to “just hit the ball”, but most of us hackers need a little more fundamental instruction to get the job done. With that in mind, we’ve included here some practical guidelines that might make your time with the Lord more fruitful. Not all of the suggestions will apply to your particular situation, but if you begin by incorporating a few of them, I’m confident your prayer life will improve.

Read more at http://www.str.org/articles/ten-tips-to-help-your-prayer-life#.VBDFJvldV8E