Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alvin Plantinga on Naturalism

“Given Darwinism, even our cognitive faculties must be the result of natural selection. Every aspect of human brain physiology and psychology was entirely fixed by its survival value. This means that nowhere along the human evolutionary path did a concern for truth necessarily come into play. So long as an organism’s cognitive apparatus enables it to stay alive, its beliefs need not be true or even reasonable. There is no necessary connection between the survival potential of a cognitive system and the truth of the beliefs it produces...this means that if naturalism is true, then we have no reason to be confident that any of our beliefs are actually true, and the includes our belief in the truth of naturalism.”

As quoted by James Spiegel in The Making of an Atheist, p. 58-59

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Article: The Moral Argument for God's Existence by Paul Copan

In today's featured article, philosopher Paul Copan provides a version of the Moral Argument for God's Existence.

He argues the following:

1. If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral values do exist
3. Therefore, God exists.

Copan writes:

"Intrinsically-valuable, thinking persons do not come from impersonal, non-conscious, unguided, valueless processes over time. A personal, self-aware, purposeful, good God provides the natural and necessary context for the existence of valuable, rights-bearing, morally-responsible human persons. That is, personhood and morality are necessarily connected; moral values are rooted in personhood. Without God (a personal Being), no persons - and thus no moral values - would exist at all: no personhood, no moral values. Only if God exists can moral properties be realized."


You can find the rest of the article here.


For a different take on the Moral Argument, see this article by Peter S. Williams.


Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Audio: "A Universe from Nothing" with William Lane Craig

Scientist Lawerence Krauss has recently released his book A Universe from Nothing:Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.

In these podcasts, philosopher William Lane Craig discusses Dr. Krauss's book, his hypothesis and whether or not he is really talking about "nothing" in the literal sense.

You can checkout Part 1 here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Further, you can hear Dr. Craig debate Dr. Krauss here.



Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Highlights- Walking from East to West:God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias

Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows is the written memoirs of Christianity's most well-known international apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias.

This book is enjoyable to read from start to finish and reminded me of the need for the apologist to lean on God through prayer.

Some of the highlights I took from the book were:


Ravi's sharing his early vision for ministry and his view on apologetics and the church:

I shared how we envisioned a ministry that would communicate the gospel effectively within the context of the prevailing skepticism. It would seek to reach the thinker and to clear all obstacles in his path so that he or she could see the cross, clearly and unhindered.

"The presuppositions of the majority of this world aren't the same as Christians' presuppositions," I pointed out, "and many of their questions are honest ones." I told them I wanted to address those struggling people-the Thomases of the world-who saw life as not making sense. If the church didn't place true value on a a person's questioning, then we were effectively absolving ourselves of any responsibility to that person. At the same time, if the skeptic's questions weren't honest, we had to address them in ways that exposed his or her dishonesty. Apologetics had to be about much more than answering questions-it had to focus on questioning the questions and clarifying truth claims." [p. 198]

Ravi after sharing a message with a group at the Lenin Military Academy in Moscow:

As soon as I finished the officer shot to his feet and demanded, "All your talk is about God, God, God. What on earth is this you're talking about?"

My response to him was simple. "Sir, are you an atheist?"

"I am"

"If you don't know what it is I'm talking about, then how can you deny it?"

"What do you mean?" [Atheists say that the term "God" is meaningless, yet they don't bother to know what it is they're denying.]

"It doesn't make sense to say you are an atheist," I pointed out, "if you do not know what you are denying."

From there a fascinating discussion ensued, with one young officer standing before the gathering and giving a courageous defense of his faith. "I know Jesus Christ," he stated, "and I know what this man is talking about." He was the lone officer to do so. [p.200]

Ravi meeting one of his heros, Malcolm Muggeridge:

In 1989, as I was speaking in England at a conference, I mentioned that Malcolm Muggeridge was one of my heros and that his books were among my favorites. A man in the audience came to me afterward and said that Muggeridge lived just fifteen miles up the road from where we were. Unable to pass up the opportunity, I got Muggeridge's telephone number and phoned him-and the next day, I was at lunch with Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge! We spent about three hours together, hours I have treasured since then. What stories he had-from Gandhi to Stalin to the great figures of the mid-twentieth century. That afternoon was a gift from God to my heart. Muggeridge agreed to write the introduction to my book The Real Face of Atheism, but to my great regret, he passed away be my manuscript was complete. He and I exchanged notes on the tragedy of the West as it flirts with atheism but also celebrated the reality that truth has a long reach and will triumph in the end. His encouragement to me was momentous. Meeting him was another reminder that God was at work, putting everything together for me over the years.

Ravi on success:

People sometimes have the illusion that success is the tangible result from a plan or effort put to work, or some material gain accomplished through genius or expertise. I would answer that those things should bring the right kind of enjoyment, but only if you are undergirded in life itself by what is true and of ultimate value. Otherwise, if you are merely a pragmatist, success and possessions bring only the wrong kind of enjoyment.

Ravi on what is ultimately important:

Through all of the visitations of life-successes and failures-it is not how well you are know or not known. It is not how big your organization is or isn't. It is not even how many sermons one has preached or books one has written or millions of dollars one has accumulated. It is how well do you know Jesus? That's it. That is what shapes how you view everything else. Successes are hollow if you do not know the author of life and His purpose. To me, with each passing year, Jesus has only become more beautiful.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Note to Readers: Ravi Zacharias has released a new book entitled Why Jesus?.

To learn more, go here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Article: Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God? by Peter S. Williams

It is rare that I read an article and while reading feel tempted to stand up and cheer, "Yes!"

However, that is preciously the experience I had recently while reading Peter S. Williams outstanding article Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?

Williams begins the article with what he refers to as the "most discussed" form of the moral argument for God's existence:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

The author then puts for 4 independent reasons why the first premise should be accept:

- The argument from moral prescription
- The argument from moral obligation
- The argument from moral ideas
- The argument from moral guilt

It is while writing about the second premise that Williams addresses an often confused point in regard to the moral argument.

Williams writes:

"Writing in his fascinating study of Ethics, Evil and Fiction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), atheist Colin McGinn affirms:

When I assert 'this is good' or 'that is evil', I do not mean that I experience desire or aversion, or that I have a feeling of liking or indignation. These subjective experiences may be present; but the judgment points not to a personal or subjective state of mind but to the presence of an objective value in the situation. What is implied in this objectivity? Clearly, in the first place, it implies independence of the judging subject. If my assertion 'this is good' is valid, then it is valid not for me only but for everyone. If I say 'this is good', and another person, referring to the same situation, says 'this is not good', one or other of us must be mistaken... The validity of a moral judgment does not depend upon the person by whom the judgment is made... In saying that moral values belong to the nature of reality... the statement implies an objectivity which is independent of the achievements of persons in informing their lives with these values, and is even independent of their recognizing their validity. Whether we are guided by them or not, whether we acknowledge them or not, they have validity... objective moral value is valid independently of my will, and yet is something which satisfies my purpose and completes my nature...

Since McGinn accepts the first premise of the moral argument, he suggests that it is possible "to detach moral objectivity from any religious worldview – so that we do not need to believe in God in order to find morality both important and binding." Here McGinn exhibits a common confusion, in that he conflates the argument for God as the ontological basis for objective moral values with the un-biblical epistemological claim that belief in God is a necessary condition of knowing the difference between right and wrong (cf. Romans 2:14-15). As J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig caution:

The question is not: Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? There is no reason to think that atheists and theists alike may not live what we normally characterize as good and decent lives. Similarly, the question is not: Can we formulate a system of ethics without reference to God? If the non-theist grants that human beings do have objective value, then there is no reason to think that he cannot work out a system of ethics with which the theist would largely agree. Or again, the question is not: Can we recognize the existence of objective moral values without reference to God? The theist will typically maintain that a person need not believe in God in order to recognize, say, that we should love our children.

Rather, as Paul Copan explains, the moral argument urges that although"Belief in God isn’t a requirement for being moral... the existence of a personal God is crucial for a coherent understanding of objective morality." In other words, although the non-theist can do the right thing because they know what the objectively right thing to do is, their worldview can’t cogently provide an adequate ontological account of the objective moral values they know and obey."

I encourage our readers to checkout this article by Williams here.

If you are interested in checking out more of his work, visit his blog located here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, February 17, 2012

Article: Ghosts for the Atheists by Robert Velarde

While doing some research recently I stumbled upon an article entitled Ghosts for the Atheists by Robert Velarde, author of numerous books, including Conversations with C.S. Lewis which is recommended by scholars such as Doug Groothuis and Peter Kreeft.

In the article, Velarde writes:

"In the world of the occult or paranormal, a haunting refers to a recurring manifestation of a ghost, usually at a particular location such as a home or other building. Haunting can also mean to disturb or bother the sensibilities or mind. It is in the second sense that this article will provide “ghosts” for the atheist, not as occult phenomena, but as apologetic arguments intended to nudge atheists from their worldview in the direction of Christian theism by weaving cognitive tensions in the fabric of their view of reality. These tensions can fester, bothering atheists because their worldview becomes haunted by ideas that favor the existence of God."

He goes on to list 10 of these so-called "Ghosts." You can find out what they are
here. The PDF is here.

I encourage our readers to check out this excellent article.

After all, I did...because "I ain't afraid of no ghost!" Sorry...I couldn't resist!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Sunday, February 12, 2012

59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John


Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel examines John's Gospel verse by verse and identifies an abundance of historical details and facts.

The facts and details are as follows:

1. Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times [John 2:6].

2. Given the early Christian tendency towards asceticism, the wine miracle is an unlikely invention [2:8].

3. Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob's Well [4:6].

4. Josephus [Wars of the Jews 2.232] confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and Samaritans during Jesus' time [4:9].

5. "Come down" accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. [There's a significant elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.] [4:46, 49, 51].

6. "Went up" accurately describes the ascent to Jerusalem [5:1].

7. Archaeology confirms the proper location of Bethesda [5:2]. [Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be just as John described it. Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city in A.D. 70, it's unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail. Moreover, John says that this structure "is in Jerusalem," implying that he's writing before 70].

8. Jesus' own testimony being invalid without the Father is an unlikely Christian invention [5:31]; a later redactor would be eager to highlight Jesus' divinity and would probably make his witness self-authenticating.

9. The crowds wanting to make Jesus king reflects the well-known nationalist fervor of early first-century Israel [6:15].

10. Sudden and severe squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee [6:18].

11. Christ's command to eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be made up [6:53].

12. The rejection of Jesus by many of his disciples is also an unlikely invention [6:66].

13. The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a "good man" and the other that he "deceives people," would not be the two choices John would have made up [7:12]; a later Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God.

14. The charge of Jesus being demon-possessed is an unlikely invention [7:20].

15. The use of "Samaritan" to slander Jesus befits the hostility between Jews and Samaritans [8:48].

16. Jewish believers wanting to stone Jesus is an unlikely invention [8:31, 59].

17. Archaeology confirms the existence and location of the Pool of Siloam [9:7].

18. Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees [9:13-39], at which point he has nothing to lose. This rings of authenticity.

19. The healed man calling Jesus a "prophet" rather than anything more lofty suggests the incident is unembellished history [9:17].

20. During a winter feast, Jesus walked in Solomon's Colonnade, which was the only side of the temple area shielded from the cold winter east wind [10:22-23]; this area is mentioned several times by Josephus.

21. Fifteen stadia [less than two miles] is precisely the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem [11:18].

22. Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention [11:19].

23. The burial wrappings of Lazarus were common for first-century Jewish burials [11:44]; it is unlikely that a fiction writer would have included this theologically irrelevant detail.

24. The precise description of the composition of the Sanhedrin [11:47]: it was composed primarily of chief priests [largely Sadducees] and Pharisees during Jesus' ministry.

25. Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year [11:49]; we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 18-37.

26. The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim [11:54] near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus.

27. Ceremonial cleansing was common in preparation for the Passover [11:55].

28. Anointing of a guest's feet with perfume or oil was sometimes performed fro special guests in the Jewish culture (12:3); Mary's wiping of Jesus' feet with her hair is an unlikely invention [in easily could have been perceived as a sexual advance].

29. Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and welcoming national rulers [12:13].

30. Foot washing is first-century Palestine was necessary because of dust and open footwear; Jesus performing this menial task is an unlikely invention [it was a task not even Jewish slaves were required to do] [13:4]; Peter's insistence that he get a complete bath also fits with his impulsive personality [there's certainly no purpose for inventing this request].

31. Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question [13:24]; there's no reason to insert this detail if this is fiction; Peter could have asked Jesus himself.

32. "The Father is greater than I" is an unlikely invention [14:28], especially if John wanted to make up the deity of Christ [as the critics claim he did].

33. Use of the vine as a metaphor makes good sense in Jerusalem [15:1]; vineyards were in the vicinity of the temple, and, according to Josephus, the temple gates had a golden vine carved on them.

34. Use of the childbirth metaphor [16:21] is thoroughly Jewish; is has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls [1QH 11:9-10].

35. The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking "toward heaven" [17:1].

36. Jesus' admission that he has gotten his words from the Father [17:7-8] would not be included if John were inventing the idea that Christ was God.

37. No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament Scripture to which Jesus was referring [17:12].

38. The name of the high priest's servant [Malachus], who had his ear cut off, is an unlikely invention [18:10].

39. Proper identification of Caiaphas's father-in-law, Annas, who was the high priest from A.D. 6-15 [18:13]-the appearance before Annas is believable because of the family connection and the fact the former high priests maintained great influence.

40. John's claim that the high priest knew him [18:15] seems historical; invention of this claim serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by the Jewish authorities.

41. Anna's questions regarding Jesus' teachings and disciples make good historical sense; Annas would be concerned about potential civil unrest and the undermining of Jewish religious authority [18:19].

42. Identification of a relative of Malchus [the high priest's servant who had his ear cut off] is a detail that John would not have made up [18:26]; it has no theological significance and could only hurt John's credibility if he were trying to pass off fiction as the truth.

43. There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate's reluctance to deal with Jesus [18:28ff.]: Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any civil unrest could mean his job [the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted him, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar," 19:12]; the Jewish philosopher Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met [To Gaius 38.301-302].

44. A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress [19:13] with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there [as in the gambling for his clothes in 19:24].

45. The Jews exclaiming, "We have no king but Caesar!" [19:15] would not be invented given the Jewish hatred for the Romans, especially if John had been written after A.D. 70. [This would be like New Yorkers today proclaiming "We have not king but Osama Bin Laden!"]

46. The crucifixion of Jesus [19:17-30] is attested to by non-Christian sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the Jewish Talmud.

47. Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams [19:17].

48. Josephus confirms that crucifixion was an execution technique employed by the Romans [Wars of the Jews 1.97; 2.305; 7.203]; moreover, a nail-spiked anklebone of a crucified man was found in Jerusalem in 1968.

49. The execution site was likely outside ancient Jerusalem, as John says [19:17]; this would ensure that the sacred Jewish city would not be profaned by the presence of a dead body [Deut. 21:23].

50. After the spear was thrust into Jesus' side, out came what appeared to be blood and water [19:34]. Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid father in the sac around the heart called the pericardium. John would not have known of this medical condition, and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to eyewitness testimony.

51. Joseph of Arimathea [19:38], a member of the Sanhedrin who buries Jesus, is an unlikely invention.

52. Josephus [Antiquities 17.199] confirms that spices [19:39] were used for royal burials; this detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also demonstrates that John was not inserting later Christian faith into the text.

53. Mary Magdalene [20:1], a formerly demon-possessed woman [Luke 8:2], would not be invented as the empty tomb's first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as witnesses in a made-up story.

54. Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener [20:15] is not a detail that a later writer would have made up [especially a writer seeking to exalt Jesus].

55. "Rabboni" [20:16], the Aramaic for "teacher," seems an authentic detail because it's another unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus.

56. Jesus stating that he is returning to "my God and your God" [20:17] does not fit with a later writer bent on creating the idea that Jesus was God.

57. One hundred fifty-three fish [21:11] is a theologically irrelevant detail, but perfectly consistent with the tendency of fisherman to want to record and then brag about large catches.

58. The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was [21:12] is an unlikely concoction; it demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was something different about the resurrection body.

59. The cryptic statement from Jesus about the fate of Peter is not clear enough to draw certain theological conclusions [21:18]; so why would John make it up? It's another unlikely invention. [1]

When one considers these above historically confirmed or historically probable fact and details, how reasonable is it to doubt that the author of John's Gospel [who I believe was John] was an eyewitness or at least had access to eyewitness testimony?

For more from Dr. Blomberg on the reliability of the Gospel of John, see here.

Our thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing us with a copy of Blomberg's important book.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resource:

1. As recorded by Turek and Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 263-268.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Free E-Book: The End of Infidelity by Jason Engwer and Steve Hays

Jason Engwer and Steve Hays over at Triablogue have written a response to John Loftus' and colleagues latest book The End of Christianity.

You can find the free e-book here.

We have also added it to our Free Online E-book Library.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Why I'm Not Worried about Richard Dawkins "Destroying Christianity"

Richard Dawkins has stated that it is his goal to "win" and to "destroy Christianity." However, I'm quite confident that Dawkins will not achieve his lofty goal when one considers that he has so far offered 11 excuses as to why he will not debate Christianity's top defender, Dr William Lane Craig.

Does anyone else miss Christophter Hitchens?

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Theoretical Physicist John Polkinghorne on the Human Paradox

"The human paradox is that we perceive so many signs of value and significance conveyed to us in our encounter with reality, yet all meaning is threatened by the apparent finality of death. If the universe is truly a cosmos, if the world is really intelligible through and through, then this life by itself cannot be the whole story."