Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Video: What is Molinism?


Molinism (a theological position named after 16th century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina), is an increasingly popular model for reconciling God's sovereignty and providence with human freedom and choice. Molinists maintain that God knows what we would do in counter-factual situations (middle knowledge), and that God uses this knowledge to accomplish his goals.[1] In this video, David Wood of Acts 17 Apologetics interviews William Lane Craig about the doctrine.  This is a great introduction to Molinism!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. Text taken from here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Few Tips on How to Read a Book

Before I became a follower of Jesus Christ my primary reading material consisted of comic books and hockey literature.  No one would have accused me of being a reader.  Upon coming to know the Lord, I almost immediately developed a desire to learn all I could about ancient history, science, philosophy and theology.  I remember feeling like I had wasted a lot of time and that I needed to catch-up!

My pastor at the time, who had encouraged me to investigate the truth claims of the Christian faith, always took the time to listen as I shared what I was learning.  During our discussions he would often share a nugget of advice about how to read a book wisely.  For example, I remember when he explained to me that just because an author claimed to be a Christian, that didn't necessarily make it so.  He encouraged me to weigh the claims of the author against what scripture had to say and allow the Bible to be my ultimate guide.  Now for some of you, that may seem obvious; however, for a new Christian that mainly read comics and hockey literature, this was very helpful!

Another helpful piece of counsel he offered was how to deal with an author when they made a claim that I disagreed with or I believed was just plain wrong.  He helped me to understand that reading a book was similar to eating fresh fish.  When you eat a fish, you enjoy the meat, but every once in awhile you'll come across a bone that you have to spit out, but you don't get rid of the entire fish!  In like manner, if the author of a book your reading argues their case for a view you don't hold to or outright reject, simply treat it like a fish bone and spit it out.  However, this doesn't mean you must disregard the entire contents of the book!

It is very rare that I read a book and agree with everything the author has written and that is okay!  I consider their position, but if I ultimately find it unconvincing, I simply move on and consider what else they have to say.  I may not agree with everything they teach, but their teaching on other topics could be of some worth.  You can still learn from somebody if they have a different view of the age of the earth or perhaps hold a different view of pre-destination.  Be sure to major on the majors and minor on the minors.

So, when you are reading be sure to allow scripture to be your ultimate authority and when you run across something you don't agree with, simply spit out that bone and see what else you can learn from the work.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monkeying Around with Personhood

Clinton Wilcox, a contributor to the Life Training Institute blog, addressed recent attempts to ascribe personhood to animals here.  He summarizes well by writing the following:

So trying to ascribe personhood status to lower animals is unnecessary and makes a mockery of human dignity. Animals have been part of the ecosystem for a long time. Animals kill each other, protect each other, copulate, and do all manner of things without human help and will continue to do so without human intervention and without caring a bit about personhood or what it is. There is just no reason to ascribe personhood to animals. The only possible reason would be to ensure that humans don't mistreat animals or cause them to go extinct. But ascribing them personhood status is not necessary for that, either.

Stand firm in Christ,

Chase

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Everyone Believes in a Virgin Birth


In correspondence with an old friend, a retired Princeton University professor, he detailed his objections to the Christian faith. His final remark seemed to overshadow all other considerations and was authoritatively written as if to definitively close the argument: ‘Nor can I believe in a virgin birth.’ Such a belief was apparently implausible, absurd, immature.

Why is the virgin birth often the most problematic miracle to accept? Why is it more troubling than the thought of Jesus walking on water? Or multiplying the loaves?

Perhaps because we are content to let God do as he pleases with his own body, and we are delighted to be the recipient of gifts. However, we are offended by the thought of a miracle that inconveniences us, that has potential to disrupt our plans and our preferences.

I considered responding to my friend with positive reasons for believing in a virgin birth, but then I realized that he was, in fact, already committed to a virgin birth.

We find one virgin birth in the Christmas story:  ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:38).

Admittedly, this is out of the ordinary. But criticism without alternative is empty; a hypothesis is only plausible or implausible relative to what alternative hypotheses present themselves. So what exactly is the alternative?

My colleague Professor John Lennox recently debated another Princeton professor, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential atheists. Lennox challenged him to answer this question: ‘Why are we here?‘ And this was Professor Singer’s response:  ‘We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious [explanation].(1)

Self-replicating molecules somehow emerging out of a primeval soup strikes me as leaving substantial room for mystery. In fact, without further clarification, this theory sounds not dissimilar to a virgin birth.

Or take Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe:  ‘…the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.’(2)

But physical matter doesn’t normally materialize out of nothing, so this account also presents itself as outside the realm of the ordinary. Is this a less miraculous birth than the Christmas story?

Or, finally, consider the position of the prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:  ‘The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing . . . We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.'(3)

That is a refreshingly honest characterization, but again it is not at all clear why a foundation in nothingness should be viewed as comparatively more reasonable than a foundation in God.

The fact is, we live in a miraculous world. Regardless of a person’s worldview, the extraordinariness of the universe is evident to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. It is therefore not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, but which virgin birth we choose to accept.

We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that is indifferent to us—a universe where “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”(3)

Alternatively, we can believe in the virgin birth of a God who loves us so deeply that he “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Emmanuel, God with us.

Jesus was born in fragility, like the rest of us. The night before he died, he spoke words that resonate with anyone who has known despair: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Between birth and death, Jesus knew the experience of weeping at a dear friend’s tomb (John 11:35); he also knew the isolation of having friends desert him and flee when he needed them most (Mark 14:50).

There is a depth of relationship that is only possible between people who have been through the worst together. Because of Jesus—because the one who birthed the universe was also born among us—that depth of relationship is possible with God. That is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Growing up near New York City, one of my most vivid childhood memories of Christmas is of homeless people begging on street corners. I would give some change if I had it, but imagine someone who offered to trade his home for a cold street corner, who, instead of giving a few coins, handed over the keys to his house. Imagine someone “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).

At Christmas, Jesus literally comes and lives in our home—with all of its suffering and mess and shame—and he offers us the home that it will one day be: an eternal home where ‘[God] will wipe every tear from [our] eyes,‘ where there will be ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain.‘(5) Or, as Tolkein puts it, where ‘everything sad will be made untrue.

Vince Vitale is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) “Is There a God,” Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2011.
(2) Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2010), 180.
(3) Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4.2., 2000.
(4) Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden (New York: Perseus, 1995), 133.
(5) Revelation 21:4. For more on this topic, see 
Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, co-authored by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Vince wrote his PhD on the problem of suffering. He now teaches at Wycliffe Hall of Oxford University and is Senior Tutor at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Published on December 25, 2014 in A Slice of Infinity.  “Our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, go here. http://www.rzim.org/

To receive A Slice of Infinity in your daily email, go here. http://www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/

Friday, December 26, 2014

Video: The Bible and Homosexuality from Stand to Reason


Text taken from here.

There are many different opinions on this divisive topic in the Church today. So what does the Bible say?
So, here’s the thing. We totally get that there are important and controversial issues in the church today. We also get that there’s a huge temptation to simply avoid these “hot button” issues. After all, topics like homosexuality emotions can run high, making things really uncomfortable for everybody, so the temptation is strong to lay low and say nothing.  But is that the way Jesus wants us to live?  We don’t think so.

The problem is, there’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to homosexuality.  Mix that confusion with the understandably high levels of emotion and we have the perfect recipe for trouble.

At Stand to Reason, we’re convinced there’s a better way.  We call it “speaking the truth, in love” (actually, it’s not really our concept—we got it from Paul).  The idea is to take accurate biblical knowledge and temper it with wisdom.

Sure, we focus on the truth—that’s really important—but we do it in a way that shows respect for the people we differ with, giving the reasons, not just the rules.  It may not completely defuse every situation, but it helps us speak confidently and accurately about what God says about hard issues.
So what is the biblical truth on homosexuality?  Well, we can’t cover everything on the topic here, but we can give you the basics, then you can check out our other resources for more in-depth info.

First, let’s see what the Bible does not say.  It does not say that homosexuality is the worst sin ever. Instead, it’s one of a bunch of sins that many of the rest of us are often guilty of, too.  It also does not say we can’t have friends that are homosexual.  Paul said that if we avoided all the non-Christians because of their behavior, we’d never be able to reach them with Christ’s message of love and forgiveness (that’s in 1 Corinthians 5).  No, it’s not our job to look down in a judgmental way on nonbelievers.  We should befriend them, instead.  We know from Genesis 1:27 that everyone is made in the image of God.  That makes them special to God, and they should be special to us, too.

Probably the most important thing the Bible does say about homosexuality comes from Jesus himself.  I know you’ve heard that Jesus never said anything on the issue, but that’s not completely true.  Listen to this.

In Matthew 19:4 & 5, Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh’?”

There it is.  Jesus makes it clear that God had a perfect plan from the beginning.  He made the woman to complement the man not just sexually (that’s what He means by “one flesh”), but for his whole life—to be the kind of partner that’s just right for him, for his whole life long.

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 that we should be different from the rest of the crowd—holy, set apart, avoiding sexual immorality, that is, staying away from any kind of sex that distorts God’s good plan.
The thing that makes homosexuality bad is the same thing that makes any sex outside of marriage bad—it’s a way of saying “No” to the wonderful plan that God had from the start.  Which is basically the same as saying “no” to God.  Not good, in other words.

God’s original plan is the reason we see the passages about homosexuality worded the way they are.  For example, think of Leviticus 18:22-23. It says “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” God says it’s wrong to use a man for the kind of sex God gave the woman for. Again, it’s the same as saying “No” to God. Notice that this verse is grouped with other verses about the misuse of God’s gift of sex, like adultery and bestiality. 

We find the exact same reasoning in the New Testament, too.  When Paul speaks against homosexuality in Romans 1, he calls it a “degrading passion.”  Why?  Because, as he put it, “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.”

Paul’s point is that God made man for woman and woman for man sexually.  That’s why he talks about natural function, not desire. In one sense, we naturally desire lots of things God says we shouldn’t be involved in. Homosexuality (along with the other sexual sins) is just another way of denying the natural function—the purpose or plan—of the kind of the safe, satisfying sex God purposed for a man and a woman in lifelong marriage. Paul’s view, in other words, was the same as Jesus’ view.

That’s why in 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 10 Paul says that among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God are the sexually immoral and adulterers, the thieves, the swindlers and drunkards, and…homosexuals, men who sleep with other men—all sinful ways of living that are characteristic of life without God.
Then Paul writes something amazing.  In verse 11 he reminds us that this is the way we used to be, too. That’s the way we were, but all of that has changed.  Now since we’ve come to know Jesus we’ve been cleansed and made right with God.  We’ve been freed from slavery to our old, dark ways.

That’s the good news.  Because of God’s mercy, we don’t have to be squeezed into the mold of this world.  Instead, as Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 & 2, we can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. We can be transformed to an entirely new way of thinking, one that allows us to live according to the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

Yes, it’s clear from these passages that the Bible does call homosexuality a sin, but there’s so much more in God’s plan—not just saying “No” to something bad, but saying “Yes” to something so much better.
There it is.  Knowledge and wisdom.  Truth mixed with a message of love and forgiveness and a new way of living.  That’s the way we deal with controversial issues at Stand to Reason.  And that’s the way we encourage you to deal with them.  

Just like Jesus did.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Video- Chad Vaughn (The Other Chad) Accepts the Pie-Life Challenge

In this video, I accept the Pie-Life Challenge issued by Chad Gross in which I give my reasons for being pro-life.  I think it is appropriate that as we celebrate Christmas that we also realize that God came to Earth in the most precious, beautiful way imaginable- as a baby!




Monday, December 22, 2014

How Does God Foreknow Free Choices?

The subject question is addressed in Reasonable Faith's Q&A this week. You can read the questions and Dr. Craig's answer here.

Follow up questions:

1. What theory of time do you hold to and why?
2. Do you view God as existing in time or timelessly? Why?
3. Which model of divine cognition do you think is more plausible, the conceptualist model or the perceptualist model? Why?

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Reflection: Exodus- Gods and Kings

I just got back from the 8:45 pm showing of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" starring Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton.  I went into the movie with many questions and below are some of the answers I discovered while viewing the film.

Will Christian Bale use his Batman voice as Moses?

Sadly, no.  Imagine- "Let my people go..." in that voice!

Will the movie honor the biblical narrative?

There were scenes in the movie that were breathtaking.  The enslavement of the Hebrews was portrayed on a very large scale and the 10 plagues issued by God were very well done.  However, that was about it.  Director Ridley Scott has admitted to not believing the biblical narrative and this movie is a reflection of that.  Naturalistic explanations are offered for the 10 plagues and we really don't get a parting of the Red Sea, but more of a lowering of the Red Sea.  Moreover, Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush was most disappointing.

The Moses we encounter in this film is much different than the biblical Moses.  This Moses wields a sword and is a warrior.  He doesn't come before Ramses as recorded in the Bible, but sneaks up on him at night and holds a sword to his throat.

When I see a biblical movie I don't expect it to follow every jot and tittle, but this movie went far beyond creative license and bordered on silly at times.  So, did it honor the biblical narrative?  No. Not even close.

How will the movie represent God?

God is represented as a petty, vengeful brat at times.   He actually appears to Moses throughout the film in the form of a 10 year old boy.  Moreover, He is aloof and far off and doesn't clearly communicate with Moses.  Moses is often times left trying to figure out what is going on and just making educated guesses.  For example, when the 10th plague is coming, the death of the firstborn son, Moses instructs his people to kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts.  Then he says, "If I'm wrong pity the lamb.  If I'm right, we will bless them for all eternity."  I'm fairly sure Moses know exactly was was going on there!

Let us just say that God was represented in a way that would have pleased Richard Dawkins.

Will the movie be entertaining?

I found the movie to be dull and uninspired.

Conclusion

I went to the film with an agnostic friend of mine and his girlfriend.  During the drive home I said, "I believe the account in Exodus.  I think we have good reason to trust the account and if God exists,  miracles are possible.  However, I understand Ridley Scott does not believe the account, but let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Old Testament is just a book of stories.  These 'stories' have inspired people for thousands of years.  Why not honor that fact by representing them fairly and accurately?"

This movie was truly a missed opportunity.  Scott and crew have managed to take one of the most beloved and inspiring narratives ever written and transform it into an dull and sluggish tale.  I guess truth really is better than fiction!

If you have any questions about the film, please feel free to ask in the comments.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, December 19, 2014

Charlie Campbell on the Deity of Christ

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses, having been misled and misinformed by their leaders, continue to persuade people that the deity of Christ was a late invention by false teachers in the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to the testimony of the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Isaiah 9:6), the disciples (e.g. John 20:28), and Christ Himself (John 8:58)—all who affirmed the deity of the Messiah—there is also the testimony of the church fathers in the second century, long before the fourth century Council of Nicaea. Men like Ignatius (A.D. 30 – 98 or 117), Justin Martyr (A.D. 100 - 165), Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), and Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150 - 215), over and over in their writings, affirm that Jesus was God incarnate.” [1]



Courage and Godspeed,

Chad

Footnote:
1. Taken from Always Be Ready, Apologetic Quotes Worth Thinking About.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Video: How Can Pastors Equip Their Churches to Defend the Faith?


For more from J. Warner Wallace, see here.

For more from the One Minute Apologist, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An Interview with Joel Furches

Joel Furches, author of Christ-Centered Apologetics: Sharing the Gospel with Evidence, took time out to answer a few of our questions about apologetics and his new book.

Q: Can you tell us how you got involved in apologetics and how long you have been doing it?


I grew up in a pretty sheltered Christian environment. I went to a Christian School, to church, and vacationed at Christian resorts. All my friends and all of the friends of our family were Christians.

Of course, when I went to college, my parents helped me pick a Christian College.

So in my first Bible class in my freshman year, when my professor opened the Bible and began to talk about how the Old Testament was a compilation of Babylonian and Egyptian myths edited, and re-written over generations by a number of Hebrew scholars hundreds of years after the fact, all of which had different agendas, I was completely unprepared for this.

I couldn't understand how my college professors called themselves Christian, and yet did not actually believe the Bible.

During my four years at college, I encountered a flood of denominational differences and a variety of different scientific and scholarly views on the Bible which made me realize that I was woefully ignorant regarding the knowledge that undergirds Christian beliefs.

While these experiences did not cause me to “lose faith,” they did leave me hungry for any kind of teaching that could tell me more about whether science, philosophy, and history gave any support to the things I had been taught my entire life.

Sadly, I didn't know about Apologetic material, and it didn't seem to be available as I was looking. Consequently, I languished in a kind of spiritual wasteland for a number of years. I wanted material that would teach me these things, but I could find little or nothing in the way of resources.

This all changed in a pretty unexpected way: when I got my first smartphone. The phone came with a podcast application which gave me access to a broad catalogue of podcasts that actually discussed the scholarship and science behind Christianity.


I subscribed to as many of these channels as I could, and spent all of my drive-time and down time listening to these. I began to purchase the books that they recommended and read through these.
In 2011, I found a freelance writing job for The Examiner. I originally subscribed to write a column on music, however that position wasn’t open. In searching for open positions, I was surprised to find that they wanted a local column on Christian Apologetics. I didn't go looking for this writing position; it found me.

I was actually uniquely qualified to write on Christian Apologetics.  My childhood, while not very informative in the Apologetics of Christianity, did give me a tremendous knowledge of scripture. My college experience had given me a solid education in liberal theology and Higher Criticism, and my personal study had given me a comprehensive knowledge of arguments coming from an atheistic worldview.

I have a strong background in psychology and sociology – as these were my primary areas of study in school.

This is how I began writing in the field of Apologetics.  My work with The Examiner served as a gateway into other apologetics and scholarly writing. For about two years, I wrote for Bible Translation Magazine during which time I contributed material about Biblical Criticism to a book published by the same company. I have also written guest columns for several other publications, been interviewed on a radio show about Apologetics, and I’ve even had one of my articles featured by an atheist radio show which attempted to disprove my argument.

Q: You just released your first book.  Tell us about that experience.

This project didn’t originally begin as a book. I had approached my church about teaching an adult class in Apologetics, and they had agreed. In looking through pre-existing curricula, I was not really satisfied by anything out there, and decided to write my own. In outlining, researching, and writing up the class, I prepared the framework for the book.

With the amount of material I had, I knew I could easily use the course as material for a book, and so I ran the idea past my editor at Bible Translation Magazine. He told me he would definitely publish it once I was done, so I began shaping it into a book.

The writing was relatively easy. I am an experienced writer, and I had all the raw material I needed to make the book a reality. The hardest part was going back through my research and referencing all of my sources.

Once I had a book, I submitted it to my editor at BTM.  After some minor disagreements over things like the title and format, my editor told me that he would not publish my book.  This was upsetting because I would not have put so much time and work into the project if I didn’t know for certain it was going to be published.

I began shopping it around to other publishers, and was picked up by CrossLink. Ultimately, this is the best thing that could have happened. BTM is a small-time operation which is essentially self-publishing. CrossLink is a major Christian publisher.  This reflects the quality of the material and writing in the book.

Q: In your book you offer a defense of the Gospels.   What are some of the reasons that have led you to the conviction that they are reliable?

In all honesty, the thing that impresses me most about the Gospels is the wisdom and authority with which Jesus speaks. It is astounding every time I read it. That a man from the first century could argue with the genius that Jesus possessed, and that his ministry could speak to people at all levels of education and intelligence across all cultures is the testimony which convinces me of their truth.

I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad apologetic argument, either. One would expect a book inspired by God to speak to the broadest possible audience, as the Bible seems to do. In fact, it is historically true that the Bible has been the most influential book in all of history – so much so, that all Western religious texts – from the Qu'ran to the Book of Mormon, even the Satanic Bible – live on its borrowed capital.

That this is backed by the hefty scholarship that I outline in my book makes it all the more persuasive.

Q: There are numerous apologetics books on the market.  What makes your book unique?

Apologetics is a fascinating and diverse field which covers a staggering range of topics and fields of thought. Christians who become heavily involved in Apologetics have no end of resources and interests that they can explore.

But Apologetics is not just a tool to appeal to the intellectual Christian: it is primarily a field intended to make the case for the truth of Christianity to a skeptical world. And the ultimate reason for a Christian to participate in conversations with non-Christians is to introduce them to Christ – in other words, Evangelism.

I would challenge anyone who is “into Apologetics” to think of the last time they had a conversation with a skeptic. How did that go? What did that look like? Did the discussion focus on the Gospel of Christ? Did the discussion even mention Christ?

On the same token, I would ask any person who does not know much about Apologetics to recall the last time they talked about their faith with a non-believer. Did they encounter roadblocks or challenges that prevented them from sharing the Gospel?

Evangelism and Apologetics should go hand-in-hand. Historically, they always have. When one looks at the Apostles and Evangelists in the New Testament, they share their Gospel with Apologetics.

My book focuses Apologetics where it always should have been focused: On Christ. Moreover, my book instructs the Evangelist in how to use evidence and reason as the mechanism through which they can communicate the Gospel message.

Q: What should readers expect to walkaway with after reading your book?

The reader will walk away with an extremely thorough case for the reality of the Biblical Jesus; backed with arguments and evidence under their belt.

Better still, my book discusses methods to speak to the cynical and skeptical culture in which we now live. It describes techniques and pitfalls that will allow them to communicate without combat, and to speak sympathetically instead of antagonistically.

A person who studies my book will be thoroughly equipped to share their faith with the confidence that history and scholarship provide.

To order Joel's new book, go here.

To checkout Joel on The Examiner, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is Our Universe Simply the Winner of a Universe Lottery?

One formulation of the design argument for God's existence is as follows:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Sometimes skeptics will offer a lottery example in order to justify the chance alternative.  In his book On Guard, William Lane Craig illustrates how this claim might sound:

"In a lottery where all the tickets are sold, it's fantastically improbable that any one person should win, yet somebody has to win!  It would be unjustified for the winner, whoever he may be, to say, 'The odds against my winning were twenty million to one.  And yet I won!  The lottery must have been rigged!'

In the same way, they say, some universe out of the range of possible universes has to exist.  The winner of the universe lottery would also be unjustified to think that because his universe exists, this must have been the result of design, not chance.  All the universes are equally improbable, but one of them, by chance, has to win." [1]

Dr. Craig goes on to explain why the above analogy betrays a misunderstanding of the design argument:

"Contrary to popular impression, the argument for design is not trying to explain why this particular universe exists.  Rather, it's trying to explain why a life-permitting universe exists.  The lottery analogy was misconceived because it focused on why a particular person won.

The correct analogy would be a lottery in which billions and billions and billions of white ping-pong balls were mixed together with just one black ping-pong ball, and you were told that one ball will be randomly selected out of the horde.  If it's black, you'll be allowed to live; if it's white, you'll be shot.

Now notice that any particular ball that is randomly selected is equally improbable: No matter which ball rolls down the chute, the odds against that particular ball are fantastically improbable.  But some ball must roll down the chute.  This is the point illustrated by the first lottery analogy.  That point, however, is irrelevant because we're not trying to explain why this particular ball was picked.

The crucial point is that whichever ball rolls down the chute, it is overwhelmingly more probable that it will be white rather than black.  Getting the black ball is no more improbable than getting any particular white ball.  But it is incomprehensibly more probable that you will get a white ball instead of a black one.  So if the black ball rolls down the chute, you certainly should suspect that the lottery was rigged to let you live.

So in the correct analogy, we're not interested in why you got the particular ball you did.  Rather we're puzzled by why, against overwhelming odds, you got a life-permitting ball rather than a life-prohibiting ball.  That question is just not addressed by saying, 'Well, some ball  had to be picked!'

In the same way, some universe has to exist, but whichever universe exists, it is incomprehensibly more probable that it will be life-prohibiting rather than life-permitting.  So we still need some explanation why a life-permitting universe exists." [2]

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. William Lane Craig, On Guard, p. 114.
2. Ibid., 114-116.

Monday, December 15, 2014

HBU Podcast: Christians Don't Need to Be Dumb

In this podcast, Dr. John Mark Reynolds sat down with Dr. Philip Nation and Dr. Jeremiah Johnston to speak on this issue and how it relates to Christian publishing.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On the Miracle of Christmas

Stories have the power to communicate profound truths and teach us something different each time we hear them. Such is the case with Charles Dickens' famous novel A Christmas Carol.  I am currently reading this work for the third time and each year I do I am impressed with Dickens' brilliance and Scrooge's dramatic transformation.

However, the danger in reading or hearing a great story multiple times is that the story can become commonplace. Before we know it, the story that used to move us so becomes routine and ordinary and we are no longer moved by it. In hearing the story repeatedly, the account seems to lose the wonder it once held. However, the story hasn't change.

This loss of wonder is the danger the follower of Jesus Christ faces when hearing the account of His virgin birth. The countless Christmas cards, Nativity scenes, and decorations that consume so much of the Christmas season can slowly and subtly create the false assumption that the virgin birth is no more factual than Scrooge's redemption.

However, the Bible not only claims the virgin birth occurred, but that it is vital to the redemption of mankind!

In Luke's gospel, he provides us with not only the account itself, but also communicates his desire to tell the truth about the life, events, and ministry of Jesus Christ:

“Insomuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4, ESV, Emphasis mine).

It is also important to remember that Luke provides us with a very unique perspective of Jesus’ story and claims when one considers that he was a Gentile, a physician, and the first historian of the Early Church. 

Sir William Ramsey, an eminent archaeologist, once held that Luke's writings were not historically sound. His own subsequent investigation of near-eastern archaeology forced him to reverse his position and conclude that "Luke is a historian of the first rank." [1]

Further, as on philosopher notes, “Ramsey spent twenty years of research in the area Luke wrote about. His conclusion was that in references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands Luke made no mistakes! That is a record to be envied by historians of any era.”
[2]

Luke was a reliable source who paid great attention to detail!

However, can a thinking person really believe in miracles?  I think so.  Science has revealed that the universe exploded into existence out of nothing at some point in the past. Most often referred to as the “Big Bang,” this is when all matter, time, and space came suddenly into existence out of nothing. Logically, the cause of the big bang could not have been within nature because nature did not yet exist when it occurred, therefore, whatever brought nature into existence must be outside of nature and this is precisely what supernatural means! This is indeed what led agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow to say:

“That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.” [3]

Einstein contemporary Arthur Eddington echoed Jastrow’s conclusion:

“The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.” [4]

Therefore, we can conclude from science itself that miracles are not only possible, but we have good scientific reasons to believe that one has occurred.

So we are offered an account from a "historian of the first rank" that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. Furthermore, we have seen that miracles are not only possible, but necessary to explain the existence of our universe.  Therefore, a thinking person can indeed believe in miracles and the virgin birth of Jesus Christ!

From creation to the cradle to the cross to the empty tomb, God demonstrates His love for us.  

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1) W.M Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament p. 222; quoted in Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents - Are They Reliable?, p. 91.
2) Norman Geisler, Alleged Errors in Luke, Bake Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 431.
3) “A Scientist caught between Two Faiths: Interview with Robert Jastrow", Christianity Today, August 1982.
4) Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe, p. 178.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

11 Christmas Books Everyone Should Read

Brian Phillips of the CiRCE Institute posted another "undefended" list of books to read; this time for the Christmas season. They are as follows:

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
2. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman
4. Christmas Spirit by George Grant and Gregory Wilbur
5. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John
6. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
7. God Is in the Manger by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
8. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
9. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
11. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
12. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
13. The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers
14. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
15. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

You can find the original list, and Phillips explanation for why there are 15, here.

The first list of must read novels for Christians he posted can been found here.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Monday, December 08, 2014

Intolerable Images

I had the privilege to speak at the Apostolic Church of Maryland1 yesterday to help fellow followers of Christ make the pro-life case to a society that largely thinks that choosing whether or not to have an abortion is no different than choosing to have vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream. I spoke of the power of graphic images to change such thinking. Such images can be seen here.

Followers of Christ must represent him rightly when making the pro-life case by being gentle, wise, and compassionate; even more so when it is coupled with graphic images. But we must have the courage to show these images because America will continue to tolerant an evil it never has to see.

If you have seen such images and have been moved to take action go here and/or moved to learn how to make the pro-life case go here.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Footnote:
1. The congregation I spoke to does believe in the Trinity.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Book Giveaway- Christ-Centered Apologetics: Sharing the Gospel with Evidence by Joel Furches

Author Joel Furches has released his first book entitled Christ-Centered Apologetics: Sharing the Gospel with Evidence.  In the book, Joel demonstrates a thorough understanding of the main apologetic issues the Christian case maker faces today.   Not only does Joel succeed in making a persuasive case for the reliability of the Bible, but he also humbly and persuasively addresses many of the modern objections aimed at the scriptures today.

Furches also understands that how you say something is just as important as what you say and in this work I was pleased to read his thoughtful advice on how one should discuss their Christian convictions with others.


If you want to learn more about why you believe what you believe or if you desire to gather more tools for your evangelism toolkit, Christ-Centered Apologetics is the book for you.

 Truthbomb is giving away a copy of Joel's book and here is how you can enter the drawing.  We will announce the winner of the book next Saturday, December 13, 2014.

  • leave a comment on this post
  • follow Truthbomb

We will announce the winner of the book here on the blog next Saturday, December 13, 2014.  

Good providence!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, December 05, 2014

When Was the Fig Tree Cursed by Jesus?

I had the privilege of preaching at the Hagerstown Rescue Mission Tuesday night and after my talk a young gentlemen approach me and had a few questions about alleged Bible contradictions.  One of the apparent contradictions he asked me about was the account recorded in Matthew and Mark about Jesus cursing the fig tree.  To him, they seemed to contradict.  In one passage [Mark 11:12-14, 20-24] it seems Jesus curses the tree before the cleansing of the temple and in the other passage [Matt. 21:12-19] it appears that Jesus curses the tree after the cleansing of the temple.  Is this a clear contradiction?

In their excellent book The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe explain:

"Jesus actually cursed the fig tree on His way to the temple as Mark said, but this does not mean that Matthew's account is mistaken.  Christ made two trips to the temple, and He cursed the fig tree on His second trip.

Mark 11:11 says that Christ entered the temple the day of His triumphal entry.  When Christ enters the temple, Mark does not mention Christ making any proclamations against any wrongdoing.  Verse 12 says "Now the next day," referring to the trip to the fig tree on the way to the temple the second day.  On this day, Christ thew out those buying and selling in the temple.  Matthew, however, addresses the two trips of Christ to the temple as though they were one event.  This gives the impression that the first day Christ entered the temple He drove out the buyers and sellers as well.  Mark's account, however, gives more detail to the events, revealing that there were actually two trips to the temple.  In view of this, we have no reason to believe that there is a discrepancy in the accounts." [1]

This explanation demonstrates why it is important for both believers and unbelievers to use sound principles when evaluating alleged Bible contradictions.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Discussion Questions for "God's Not Dead"

Last week at Faith Christian Fellowship in Williamsport, MD, Truthbomb Apologetics hosted a "God's Not Dead" Movie Night.  We wanted to provide people with an opportunity to not only see the film, but also to share their thoughts about it.  I appreciated the arguments that the film presented, but didn't necessary agree with all the content.  However, I can't remember the last time I saw a film and agreed with everything in it!  Overall, I think the movie is a great discussion starter.

Regardless, one of the ways we encouraged the audience to think about the film was with the following discussion questions.  These would be great to use for a small-group study, movie night or even your own family movie night!

1. Which of Josh' arguments did you find most interesting?  Most convincing?

2. The characters in the movie represent various worldviews.  Do you think the movie fairly represented these differing views?  Why or why not?

3. In the film, Josh is faced with a difficult decision.  Do you agree with his decision to defend his Christian convictions?  Why or why not?

4. Do you think this is a good film to view with an unbeliever and/or skeptic?  Why or why not?

5. The problem of evil and suffering is a stumbling block for both believers and unbelievers.  How do you think about the problem of evil and suffering on your worldview?

6. Professor Radisson's real objection to God was an emotional one.  What are some other reasons that people reject or disbelieve in God?

7. Write down any other questions you might have about the content in the film.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Article: Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions by J. Warner Wallace

In this featured article, J. Warner Wallace shares 10 principles one should considering when examining so-called Bible contradictions.

They are as follows:

1. Begin with a fair attitude.
2. Examine the text in its context.
3. Let the Bible clarify the Bible
4. Don't confuse "imprecision" with "error."
5. Old Testament quotes aren't meant to be "verbatim."
6. Perspectives are different than contradictions.
7.Consider the viewpoint of "earthbound" people.
8. Description is different than approval.
9. Don't fret copyist variants.
10. Remember who's boss

You can checkout Jim's explanation of each principle here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Article: Death with Dignity by Greg Koukl

The story of Brittany Maynard is heartbreaking.  For those unaware, Maynard was a 29 year old newlywed who was told she was going to die from a brain tumor.  Instead of choosing to fight the cancer, she decided to end her life on her own terms by taking medication.

There were some who celebrated her decision while others condemned it.  How should a Christian think about the concept of "dying with dignity?"

In this featured article, Greg Koukl offers a level-headed biblical response to this question.

You can checkout the article here.

What do you think of the concept of "death with dignity?"  Sound off in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, December 01, 2014

11 Novels Every Christian Should Read

Brian Phillips of the CiRCE Institute lays out the following "undefended" list of 11 novels the follower of Christ should read:

1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
2. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
3. The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
7. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
8. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
9. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
10. The Complete Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

You can see the list and his brief comments on it, as well as find out more about the CiRCE Institute, here.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase