Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Preview: No God But On- Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi

About the Author

Nabeel Qureshi is a speaker and author with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in religion from Duke University.

About the Book


On account of the superficial points of agreement between Islam and Christianity, many don’t see how tremendously deep the divides between them really are, and fewer still have considered the evidence for each faith. How is Jihad different from the Crusades? Can we know the life of Jesus as well as the life of Muhammad? What reason is there to believe in one faith over the other, and what difference can the Gospel really make?

In No God but One, New York Times bestselling author Nabeel Qureshi takes readers on a global, historical, yet deeply personal journey to the heart of the world’s two largest religions. He explores the claims that each faith makes upon believers’ intellects and lives, critically examining the evidence in support of their distinctive beliefs. Fleshed out with stories from the annals of both religions, No God But One unveils the fundamental, enduring conflict between Islam and Christianity—directly addressing controversial topics like Jihad, the Crusades, Sharia, the Trinity, and more.

Readers of Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, will appreciate his careful and respectful comparison of Islam and Christianity. Both religions teach that there is No God but One, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus?

This book comes out August 30, 2016.  You can pre-order your copy here.

You can read our review of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, June 24, 2016

Saints and Skeptics: Six Poor Reasons for Rejecting the Miraculous


Below is a good response from Saints and Sceptics regarding the rejection of miracles.  The original post can be found here.
Christian theology affirms a number of miracles, most importantly the atonement, the resurrection, the incarnation and the virgin birth. The secular mind dismisses these as tall-tales and myths produced by superstitious, pre-modern minds. However, it seems to us that the modern prejudice against miracles is not very rational.
1) Experience shows that miracles do not occur
This argues in a circle. The Christian asserts that he has good testimony that a miracle has occurred. The sceptic responds, “that can’t be true because human experience shows that miracles do not occur.” But the Christian has just cited evidence that this is not the case: the Christian is claiming that he has evidence that some humans have experienced a miracle!
It is true that human experience establishes that miracles are, at the very least, rare. But relying on our experience of what usually happens can lead to terrible mistakes.  “This medicine has never harmed patients in the past; therefore it will not hurt anyone tomorrow; these buildings have withstood all earthquakes until now; therefore they will withstand the next earthquake.” We should always be open to evidence of the unexpected. Sometimes that evidence can tell us that an unrepeatable, unprecedented event has occurred!
2) Science shows that miracles are impossible!
It is true that miracles like the virgin birth are naturally impossible, but who ever thought otherwise? Christians claim that the resurrection is a supernatural event. The laws of nature are just mathematical descriptions of how nature normally behaves. But suppose there’s more to reality than the natural world. Suppose the reason the universe behaves in an ordered, law-like manner is that the universe has a rational creator.
In that case, the behaviour of the universe would be predictable and we would have a good knowledge of the laws that govern the Universe.  But, on occasion, God do something new, to bring about an event which normally does not happen in the day to day running of the Universe. After all, isn’t it possible that God could have reason to do something extraordinary in his universe now and then? Couldn’t God cause an exception to the laws of nature?
3) If we believe in one supernatural event we might as well believe in Santa and flying reindeer!
It’s possible to believe in a miracle (say the resurrection) and to be extremely sceptical about most reports of paranormal activity. Miracles are not impossible, but they are unusual (in the sense that they do not occur frequently). We should expect miracles to be rare and to be events that God would have a good reason to bring about. Indeed, miracles lose their significance if they are not exceptional events. So we would not expect every miracle report to be true. The Christian world-view insists that we should not uncritically accept every miracle claim.
What about Krishna and Buddha? The only way to determine whether a miracle has occurred is by a detailed study of the relevant evidence. Merely pointing out that different religions have different miracle claims is beside the point. The question is: what is the evidence for these miracle claims? Do all the religions have equally good evidence that their central, defining, most important miracles occurred? Here we would suggest that the evidence for Jesus’ miracles – and especially the miracle of the resurrection – is unparalleled.
4) But surely miracles are so improbable, so extraordinary, that no amount of evidence could justify believing a miracle had occurred?
All sorts of events can be very improbable before relevant evidence is taken into account, but highly probable afterwards. Unique historical events may be extremely improbable in the absence of evidence, but accepted on the basis of fairly mundane evidence. Physicists have never observed proton decay despite all their attempts and believe that it must be exceedingly improbable that a given observed proton will decay; but they also believe that evidence could show that it had in fact decayed (otherwise they wouldn’t spend time trying to observe the phenomenon).
Or consider this thought experiment: suppose my friend John claims that he has inherited billions of dollars from an eccentric Russian oligarch. This billionaire made John his sole beneficiary after he had chosen John’s name at random from a phone-book, which was itself chosen at random.This seems like a tall tale; it seems fair to say that it is very probably false. Oligarchs typically don’t act this way and, even if they did, it is very improbable that John’s name would be chosen at random.
However, the next week John arrives at my house driving a new BMW. He then shows me a newspaper which has a picture of him at his new Russian mansion.  Later I see reports of John’s good luck on the national news; all these reports confirm John’s testimony about the eccentric billionaire. All this evidence would be very improbable if John’s story was false, but is just the kind of evidence I would expected if he was telling the truth. This is sufficient to overcome the initial improbability of John’s tale being true.
Someone might object that this story does not help the case for miracles because a miracle involves a supernatural event. John’s tale does not involve a supernatural agent. But this objection would amount to a stubborn refusal to examine any evidence that could overturn the initial improbability of a miracle having occurred. The objection assumes that miracles are impossible; that assumes that there is no God.
5) You can’t believe in miracles unless you already believe in God.
There is no reason in principle to think that evidence for miracles is impossible. Suppose someone thinks (as almost all atheists do) that God’s existence is improbable, but not impossible. Such a person would  consider a miracle to be extremely improbable; but evidence can completely overturn a low probability. Evidence for a miracle could in turn increase the probability of God’s existence and so provide evidence for God. (In the same way that evidence of Tom’s inheritance made the existence of the Russian oligarch seem more probable!)
6) There is no way to tell from the historical record if a miracle has occurred. 
Ask yourself two questions. One: would this be the sort of evidence that I would expect if a miracle had occurred?  Two: is there a good non-miraculous explanation for this evidence? There could be situations where the key witnesses were extremely unlikely to have been fooled or mistaken. If the evidence is more likely given the truth of the miracle then you have good evidence that a miracle has occurred.
A large enough number of independent, reliable witnesses (even if they are only partially reliable) to a miracle will result in the miracle being more probable than the witnesses being mistaken. If a dozen journalists, a dozen doctors, a dozen police officers and a dozen members of the Skeptical Society all testify under oath that they witnessed a “Holy Man” part the waters of a river, and we find no evidence of deceit or illusion, we should take their testimony very seriously.
Of course, hypothetical scenarios and thought experiments of this kind do not show that miracles have ever occurred.  However, they do undermine the idea that there is some sort of problem with gathering evidence for miracles in principle. It is also worth noting that the evidence for one important miracle, the resurrection, is stronger and more subtle than a simple appeal to eyewitness testimony. No one is arguing that some historically reliable documents report a resurrection, and that we should therefore believe that a resurrection occurred.
The case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ depends on various well-supported facts. Not one of these facts is supernatural in character and each can be established by normal historical methodology. The case for the resurrection is that it provides a much better explanation of these (and other) facts than any purely natural explanation. And it really is much, much better, not least because there are no plausible natural explanations on offer.
Rather, the historical method is used to establish certain facts, and a miracle is inferred as the best explanation of those facts. Here we can focus on 18 facts:
1. Jesus was put to death by crucifixion. This was a shameful death which should have devastated the disciples and ended Jesus’ movement.
2. His body was buried in an identifiable tomb (Joseph of Arimethea’s).
3. A few days later a group of women followers claimed that Jesus’ tomb was empty.
4. It would have been more convenient for the Church if this discovery had been made by men (whose testimony was considered more reliable) and by one of the early heroes of the faith (like Stephen or Cleopas).
5. The disciples were not expecting Jesus to be resurrected. Jews had many other ways of conceiving life after death: the disciples could have claimed to have seen Jesus’ angel, or his Spirit in heaven, or that Jesus had been translated into a “star”. It was decidedly odd to claim he was resurrected from an identifiable tomb.
6. Multiple appearances took place in which many people who had known Jesus well believed they had seen him alive again.
7. Paul, who initially persecuted the early Christians, became a follower of Jesus as a result of believing he had seen the risen Jesus.
8. James, the brother of Jesus, who was not a follower of Jesus before the crucifixion became a follower afterwards. He also became a leader in the church in Jerusalem and was put to death for his faith.
9. The Christian movement started in Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified, shortly after the crucifixion.
10. The message of the early Christians focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus. “Resurrection” could only mean that Jesus’ body had been raised from the dead.
11. The early Christians met on the first day of the week, and not on the Jewish Sabbath. Something about the Sabbath was significant to the first Christians.
12. The early Christian church had a highly exalted view of Jesus.
13. The early Christians were willing to die for their faith.
14. There was no attempt to venerate Jesus’ tomb.
15. Jewish apologetic claimed that the disciples stole the body; so Jewish critics agreed that the tomb was identifiable and empty.
16. The early church grew in a Hellenistic context that would have been hostile to the idea of bodily resurrection. Gentile philosophers wanted to escape the confines of the body; they didn’t want to be trapped in their bodies forever!
17. It is unlikely that the later Church invented the story of the empty tomb.”Bodily resurrection” would mainly have impressed Palestinian Jews, and not later Hellenistic Christians (who struggled with the idea that they would have resurrection bodies too). So the preaching of a resurrection could only have started with the first Jewish Christians in Palestine.
18. It is highly unlikely that the disciples stole Jesus’s body to keep Jesus’ movement going. If they wanted to venerate Jesus’ memory athey could just have said that they had had visions of Jesus’ “spirit” or “angel”. 
Some explanation of these facts is sought; and it seems that the only adequate explanation is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
And, if we have good reason to believe that the resurrection occurred, then we should be more open to testimony of other miracles involving Jesus.
God Bless,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

G.K. Chesterton on Skepticism

“It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.”1

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad








Footnote:
1. G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, as quoted here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Blog Series: Christian Thinkers 101 by Kenneth Samples

It is vital that Christians understand their history, but unfortunately many do not study it.  The task can be daunting.  Where does one start? Philosopher Kenneth Samples has made getting started simple.  He has been offering a series on his blog titled "Christian Thinkers 101."

He explains:

"This series, 'Christian Thinkers 101,' provides a snapshot of some of the faith’s key theologians and apologists and their important books and ideas."1

These posts are a great way for believers to get acquainted with the faith's deep intellectual heritage and the thinkers who have framed some of our key arguments.

The posts in this series thus far are as follows:

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C. S. Lewis

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Blaise Pascal

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Anselm

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Athanasius

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Thomas Aquinas

Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Jonathan Edwards

We will continue to add future posts and if you are interested in reading a book on the importance of Christians understanding their history, we recommend Dayton Hartman's recent book Church History for Modern Ministry.  You can read our review here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Article: 30 Things You Can Do This Summer to Deepen Your Kids’ Faith by Natasha Crain

Natasha Crain continues to write some of the most unique and creative posts on the topics of apologetics and parenting.  In this featured post, she offers 30 things that parents can do with their children this summer to help them deepen their Christian convictions.

Some of my favorites include:


- Schedule a “questions night”—a time for your family to get together and discuss any questions your kids have about God. Here’s how we do that in our family. Don’t just do it once! Do it throughout the summer, and hopefully beyond.

- Have your kids interview a nonbeliever. This could be a family member or friend. Help them come up with some questions, then discuss the responses later.

- Choose a news story with a faith angle to talk about. The sky’s the limit here. The Christian Post has a ton of material to consider.

- Read or watch a debate between a Christian and a nonbeliever. Debates make for great discussion opportunities with older kids. Here’s a debate on the existence of God you can use, and here’s one on the reliability of the Bible.

- Print an internet meme to discuss. Google “religion memes,” click on the search results for images, and you’ll see all kinds of discussion-worthy topics.


Also, if you haven't read Natasha's new book Keeping Your Kids on God's Side, I highly recommend it.  You can read our review here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Importance of a Father



Stand firm in Christ and Happy Father's Day!

Chase

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Video: Why Does God Seem So Hidden? by Sean McDowell


Why doesn't God make His existence more clear? Has God actually revealed Himself? Sean briefly addresses these questions and more.

For more from Sean McDowell, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pastor Stephen J. Bedard on Apologetics in the Pulpit

"While the Church has focused on making church more enjoyable and easier for seekers to transition into…Atheists and other skeptics have become predators of our weak members. They have intentionally sought to weaken and even destroy the faith of Christians. And it is working. While pastors have been avoiding apologetics because of the excuse of not being able to argue people into the kingdom, ill-equipped Christians are being picked off. It does not matter if you enjoy apologetics. You have to decide what you are going to do. You may be able to love people into the church but you can not love doubt away. You need to do more than fill pews, you need to disciple and equip in such a way that your people will not fall at the first skeptical blog post, documentary or book."

Amen!

To learn more about Stephen J. Bedard, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bertrand Russell and a Universe without God

Many of the so-called "New Atheists" proudly proclaim the virtues of atheism and assert that humanity would be better off if they broke free from the shackles of belief in God.  As philosopher Ed Feser pointed out in a recent piece on his blog, the New Atheists "seem in general more inclined toward delusional happy-talk of the kind indulged in by Richard Dawkins when he opined that a world without religion could be “paradise on earth… a world ruled by enlightened rationality… a much better chance of no more war… less hatred… less waste of time.”1

Feser goes on to argue that "Old Atheists" such as Friedrich Nietzsche were under not such delusions and well understood the consequences should humanity no longer believe in God.

Feser's piece brought to mind the famous unbeliever Bertrand Russell who was very honest about how one should view the world if God does not exist.  Russell wrote:

"Even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world, which Science presents for our belief.  Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home.  That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms...destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins...Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."2

Nietzsche and Russell understood that if God does not exist, we have no ultimate significance, value, or purpose 3 and they were honest enough to admit it.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. Ed Feser, "Adventures in Old Atheism Part I- Nietzsche," June 13, 2016.
2. Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic as quoted by Mary Poplin in Is Reality Secular?, p. 45.
3. For those who want to learn more, please see William Lane Craig's article "The Absurdity of Life Without God" here.