Tag Archive: Stand to Reason


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!

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“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.

In previous posts, it has been my goal to set the groundwork for a study in Christian case-making for the believer, showing the importance of doing so as commanded by the Bible and modeled

by important figures in the Bible itself. I also gave some practical reasons for study. The prior post made a brief defense and explanation for evangelism and proselytization for the intended benefit of those who are not believers and have questions or problems with the idea.

Today, I want to lay out the outline for where the following posts will be going. I think you’ll see the strategy and intuitive nature of the outline, but credit for this particular layout of the plan goes in large part to Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason and Frank Turek of Cross Examined. In short, this model of study assumes nothing. We will establish foundations for each step from which we will build the next foundation to the next level until we have fully demonstrated the reasonable nature of the fundamental Christian claims.

                      | Has God spoken? |

                |        Has God acted?         |

     |                     Does God exist?                 |

|    Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable?         |

 

Starting in the next post, I’ll begin at the bottom-most level and begin working up on these topics:

  • Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable? Christianity claims to be historically, factually, and existentially True; not just useful or subjectively relevant, but True for everyone. If there are no absolute truths, or there are but we cannot know them, the claims and assertions of Christianity make no sense, and no sense can be made of them.
  • Does God exist? If truth can be shown to exist and be accessible in some way, in whole or in part, the next important question to investigate is that of God’s existence. And if a God exists, which one is it? Can we discover some attributes of this God and by comparison to the deities of different world religions come to narrow down the possibilities?
  • Has God acted? Are miracles possible? Has modern science and philosophy shown that a belief in miracles are irrational?
  • Has God spoken? How does God communicate to us? Which holy book contains the real words of God to man? How well does the Bible stand up under tests for accuracy and reliability?

Join me next time as we start talking about Truth!

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

gavelAnd behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

– Luke 10:25-28

What is Christian Apologetics?

In brief, it is the bridge between faith and the intellect, and is part of loving God with our minds. In this, and the next few posts, I’d like to go into some detail about the “what’s” and “why’s” concerning Christian apologetics. I intend to make the case for you both from a biblical standpoint as well as from a purely pragmatic one as to why you (if you are a Christian) should care about Christian apologetics and hone your skills in Christian case-making.

What apologetics isn’t

“Apologetics” is a word that may not hold much meaning for most, and may lead others to think it has something to do with being sorry. As in, “I’m a Christian, and I’m really sorry about that!” or “I apologize for what these other Christians are doing!” No, this is not what I’m meaning by the word.

Others may hear the word “apologetics” and think about someone who just really likes to debate and beat people into submission with their rhetoric and personality, someone who knows a few facts and is just looking to shout down any opposing viewpoint. While this sort of apologist does exist, this is not what I believe the Bible calls us to be, and not what I am going to try to show you.

Prepared to make a defense

Because of the unfamiliarity with the word by most, and the negative association many have who do know the word, I have been moving away from the word “apologetics.” Instead, taking a cue from J. Warner Wallace, I think a better term is “Christian case-making,” although for the purposes of this introductory post, I will be using the two terms interchangeably. The goal of apologetics, then, is to demonstrate the reasonable nature of Christianity and its ability to best explain reality among the competing hypotheses. It is the field of theology that provides defense of Christian truth claims by providing evidence in favor of those claims and carefully investigating opposing viewpoints. Christian case-makers are concerned with answering the question “what is the rational warrant for Christian truth claims?”

Broadly speaking, apologetics provides two services. For the Christian, evidences are marshalled which serve to strengthen our belief and trust that the Christianity is an accurate guide to reality. This also gives us courage and confidence to work to persuade others without having to rely only on our subjective experiences as evidence. As the Stand to Reason tagline goes, we want to show that Christianity is something worth thinking about. For the non-Christian, apologetics is pre-evangelism. It is not common that people on hearing Christian gospel presentation will immediately convert.  Often they will need convincing that it is an intellectually viable option. How can someone accept “God loves you and has paid for your sins,” if they are predisposed in belief that God cannot exist?

In part 2, I’ll show you the origins of the word “apologetics,” and in doing so, give a hint of the flavor of what and how apologetics should be.

Comments, questions, challenges? 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)

Alan Shlemon, in his monthly letter for March 2015, reports concerning the response one church had to a gay activist protest. The head pastor of FIRE Church in Concord, North Carolina, Michaelqueer thing Brown, wrote a book called A Queer Thing Happened to America, which confronts homosexuality from the Christian point of view. The response of Pastor Brown, along with the stand he took in addressing the issue in his speaking and writing, demonstrate the commitment to truth and compassion that reflects Christ-likeness and is a great model for all of us who call ourselves Christian to examine.

Read the article here: http://www.str.org/articles/truth-and-compassion-in-action

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

Rank/Artist & tags/2013 plays

Stand to Reason 267
Falling You 120
Shiva in Exile 78
Passion 69
Cell 63
Connect.Ohm 55
The Lost Patrol 52
Hillsong United 51
Hillsong Live 50
10 Biosphere 47

(source: http://www.last.fm/user/jkwood/charts)

I love music!  As has been my habit over the last few years, I like to do a backwards glance into the things I’ve been listening to over the past 12 months or so.

Looking at the chart above and comparing to last year’s, it seems that I did not listen to as many individual tracks this year, and so not as much music.  However, I believe the truth is that I listened to more spoken word, which runs much longer, and so it likely works out that I was listening more this year, and not less, just different things.

So what was I listening to in 2013, anyway?

1. Stand to Reason – Ok, so first disclaimer, this is not actually music.  But since it appears in my last.fm database, and at the top slot, and by a very large margin, I think it is worth taking some time for.  STR is a Christian organization led by Greg Koukl dedicated to “Equipping Christian Ambassadors with Knowledge, Wisdom, and Character.”  Their especial strength lies in making a compelling case for the Christian worldview in a concise and culturally timely and relevant manner.  Early in the year, I purchased their three-part Ambassador Basic Curriculum which covers many diverse topics including the relationship between faith and reason, tactics in conversation (from Koukl’s excellent book), decision-making and the will of God, evolution, homosexuality, and others.  I listened to this curriculum over and over.  I recommend it highly to those interested in presenting a winsome case for Christianity.  Below is a sample of Greg Koukl speaking in a video blog on prayer and wishful thinking.

2. Falling You – Really, I’m running out of things to say about Falling You.  Year after year they remain in my top ten because I keep coming back to them.  Ever since my mid-twenties, my musical tastes have largely mellowed to the point that most of what I listen to is ambient, trance, etc., most often with female vocals, and Falling You is a prime example of my tastes in that area.  During 2013, Falling You released a new album “Blush”, which, while it displayed terrific production values, just did not inspire and move me in the way that the previous releases did.  Because this album is still somewhat new, and Falling You is not very well-known, I could not find a video link for songs the new album.  You can listen to the release on their website, or see below for a video featuring a song from an earlier release.

3. Shiva in Exile – This band is one which I have been listening to off-and-on since I discovered them in 2011.  I fell instantly in love with the electronic-middle eastern fusion in sound.  I listened to them quite a bit this year, and so they appear in position three in my charts for the year.

4. Passion – “Passion” is the name of the worship albums performed by a  collaboration of several Christian musicians, including Chris TomlinDavid Crowder BandMatt RedmanSteve FeeKristian Stanfill Charlie HallChristy Nockels and Nathan Nockels.  During 2013, I discovered their release “White Flag”, and found that almost every track was catchy, worshipful, and memorable.  I listen to it a lot, and recommend it.

5. Cell – Producing music of ambient, electronic, and downtempo genres, Cell is the work of electronic artist Alex Scheffer.  Introduced to me by Spotify’s “Discover” feature, I spent a couple of days listening through all of Spotify’s available albums.  I find it excellent music for reading and studying.

6. Connect.Ohm – Another artist found by Spotify’s “Discover” feature, Connect.Ohm has become a new favorite among the ambient/electronic genre of music.  Featuring Hidetoshi Koizumi of Hybrid Leisureland and Alex Scheffer of Cell, Connect.Ohm produces ambient music that is both interesting to listen actively to, as well as being relaxing focus music for reading or studying.

7. The Lost Patrol – Another artist which, if not always in my top ten, consistently stays in high rotation in my listening patterns.  For genre, I like to classify The Lost Patrol as “reverb surfabilly.”  Most of their songs are short, catchy, and feature female vocalists over reverb-heavy guitars in a rockabilly style.

8. & 9. Hillsong – I have combined my number nine and ten slots this year, as Hillsong Live is simply the live recordings of Hillsong United.  If you are unfamiliar with Hillsong, they are a contemporary rock style praise and worship band which originated in Hillsong Church in Australia.  Along with my number four ranking for last year, Passion, I listened to Hillsong quite a lot as I listened to more worship throughout the year.  They have produced many great worship recordings and I enjoy listening to them in my personal worship.

10. Biosphere – Finally, at number 10 is Biosphere, yet another good call by Spotify’s Discover feature.  With an experimental ambient electronic style, Biosphere is the musical project of Norwegian Geir Jenssen formerly of dream-pop band Bel Canto, and features musical loops and samples from sci-fi sources.  As with Cell and Connect.Ohm, this is great background music for performing focused tasks.

(view last year’s top 10 here: https://jkw00d.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/my-top-10-musical-artists-for-2012/)

What do you think?  Does any of this music grab you, inspire you, or influence you?