Monday, July 15, 2013

Human Depravity: A Lost Christian Doctrine



If the case be such indeed, that all mankind are by nature in a state of total ruin,…then, doubtless, the great salvation by Christ stands in direct relation to this ruin, as the remedy to the disease.”
—Jonathan Edwards—

Introduction

Author and conservative talk show host Dennis Prager stated, “No issue has a greater influence on determining your social and political views than whether you view human nature as basically good or not.”[1]

I think Prager is correct. But even more important and foundational than your social and political views, your view of human nature has important ramifications with regard to your theology. Perhaps second only to what you believe about God, no issue has greater influence on determining your theological views than whether you view human nature as basically good or not. It is no coincidence that theological liberals who deny doctrines such as original sin and human depravity also, more often than not, end up rejecting other scriptural teachings such as justification by grace through faith, the necessity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation, penal substitutionary atonement, the biblical doctrine of hell, or just simply scratch their head and wonder inquisitively when reading scriptural passages concerning God’s judgment on sin (e.g., the flood, destruction of the Canaanites, etc.). They ask themselves, “Why is God mad all the time?? I don’t get it!!

Much of modern secular sensibility seems attracted to the idea that human beings at their core are basically good. In his book What Americans Believe, George Barna of Barna Research Group found that 87% of non-Christians agreed with the statement “People are basically good.” But this belief in the inherent goodness of humankind isn’t peculiar to non-Christians. It has found its way into the Church as well. In that same study, Barna also found that 77% of self-described born-again Christians agreed with the statement. Perhaps most shocking, of those self-described born-again Christians who identify themselves as mainline Protestant, 90% agreed with the statement “People are basically good.”[2]

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Cold-Case Christianity


Quick Facts:

Author: J. Warner Wallace
Publisher/Year: David C Cook, 2013
Pages: 288

Review:

In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist and seasoned cold-case homicide detective, takes his knowledge and expertise gleaned from years of law enforcement experience and applies important investigative principles in examining the historical reliability of the gospels. Wallace has been sharing his insights and wisdom for years through blogging, articles, and podcasts as creator of the PleaseConvinceMe.com website, and recently has joined with Stand to Reason as a speaker and contributor.

This book is not just another typical apologetic arguing for the trustworthiness of the New Testament. It is unique among its peers, tackling the subject from a perspective only a homicide cop could provide. Cold-case homicides are historical investigations, and it is his skill and perspective as an investigator that gives Wallace the essential talents and qualifications to examine the historical accuracy of the gospels:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Part 1: Introduction to CHIPS (second half)


This is the second part of the introduction to the CHIPS model of Christian case-making. Read the first part here.

All aspects of apologetics - every positive case and every objection -  essentially asks one or more of the following five questions: Is the Bible sufficiently…

1)      Comprehendible?  
“Is it something I can comprehend?”

2)      Historical?             
“Is it an accurate reflection of historical events?”

3)      Interpreted?           
“Is it a proper interpretation of what the author meant to say?”

4)      Preserved?             
“Is it an adequate preservation of the original composition?”

5)      Significant?            
“Is it significant for my own life?”

SO WHY FIVE?

How can we be so sure every case made in favor of Christianity and all challenges fall into these five categories? Could there be more? The way we can be confident in this is by familiarizing ourselves with the adventures of Christianity over the last 2,000 years. We know these five categories are sufficient because those are the only ones that have been raised. It’s certainly possible for a new critic to come up with a challenge never thought of before, but it’s not likely. As much as the “new atheists” trend gives it a fresh face, critics of Christianity are nothing new and neither are their arguments.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How Every Objection Fits into Five Questions (Part 1: Introduction to CHIPS)


Of the countless challenges to biblical Christianity, all of them fit into one of five categories. While offered with a variety of different word combinations, every meaningful question essentially asks the same five things: Is the Bible sufficiently…

 1)      Comprehendible?  
“Is it something I can comprehend?”

2)      Historical?             
“Is it an accurate reflection of historical events?”

3)      Interpreted?           
“Is it a proper interpretation of what the author meant to say?”

4)      Preserved?             
“Is it an adequate preservation of the original composition?”

5)      Significant?            
“Is it significant for my own life?”

Fortunately there are good answers to these questions. A majority consensus of scholars - even skeptical ones – speak favorably of Christianity regarding all five areas.[1]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Richard Dawkins: The Untutored Philosopher

Dawkins the Epistemologist

Richard Dawkins is often heralded as a brilliant scientist. Unfortunately he often resorts to shoddy philosophy. Several examples of Dawkins’ philosophical ineptness have been pointed out over the years, one of the more prominent being that his self-described “central argument” in The God Delusion is not even logically valid.[1] In a more recent book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, Dawkins again leaves the realm of science (perhaps unwittingly) and tries his hand at philosophy. But regrettably the results don’t fare any better.

The very title of Dawkins’ book should cause us pause: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. Notice the subtitle of this book is philosophical in nature, i.e., How We Know is an epistemological question, not scientific. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy (not science) which deals with how knowledge is defined, what we know, and how we know it. It is an area of study Dawkins simply isn’t qualified to address, and this becomes painfully obvious as one continues reading. In chapter one, Dawkins summarizes his view of knowledge which functions as the epistemological foundation for the rest of his book:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beautiful Death: New Insight on Death from the Perspective of Suffering


Can death be beautiful? It’s an odd thought. If some good can come from death greater than its consequences it could be considered beneficial. But beautiful? I was unexpectedly faced with this question after reading two recently published books detailing the lives of two men who suffered through horrendous evils of WWII. I learned that to approach this question requires us to know what death really means. We’ll look at four ways.

Definition #1:  Physical death is the end of suffering in this world

The deadliest man-caused event in the history of the world occurred on August 4th 1945 when the first atomic bomb deployed in combat ignited the sky over Hiroshima, a Japanese city of over 300,000 souls. The ensuing chaos makes the actual death count unclear, but it’s quite likely up to half the city perished from the blast. It's hard to rationalize this horror, especially when we fail to place it in the context of the incredible evil happening in Japan those years.

Useful insight of events leading up to the bomb can be found in the eye-opening book Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the story of Olympic runner and WWII veteran Louie Zamperini. As an upcoming world-class track star, he was expected to be first to break the 4 minute mile and was even personally congratulated by Adolf Hilter at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Soon after war erupted and he never broke that record.

Louie entered the Army as a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific Theater. Tragically, after a couple near-misses, Louie’s plane and entire crew finally went down at sea as many of them did. Surviving the crash, he endured 47 days at sea making him and his raft-mate the longest known survivors at sea. He spent his ordeal on a damaged raft with almost no food, water, shelter, or supplies. He was under constant threat from man-eating sharks, sun blisters, lice, infection, hallucination, starvation, dehydration, mental fatigue, and enemy aircraft. When Louie eventually found land it was in hostile territory and he was quickly captured by the Japanese. That’s when things really got bad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is Biblical Inerrancy Irrelevant?


Biblical inerrancy may be defined as follows: “when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.”[1]

One important element of this definition is that inerrancy only applies to the original autographs. But since we no longer have the original autographs in our possession, the question that begs to be asked is, “Of what use or importance is biblical inerrancy then? Is biblical inerrancy even relevant?” Some liberal theologians conclude that inerrancy is altogether irrelevant. This, in turn, has negatively affected how many Christians view Scripture and the confidence they place in it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Contradictory Catholic: Joe Biden on Abortion


Human life either begins at conception or it does not. If it does, then abortion takes the life of an innocent human being and we have prima facie evidence that abortion is morally wrong. One way to formulate the argument is as follows:

  1. It is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.
  2. Elective abortion takes the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.
  3. Therefore, elective abortion is morally wrong.
Toward the end of the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan were asked to explain their view on abortion as Catholics. Here I want to look at Biden’s response line by line:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apathy, Atheism, and the Absurdity of Life Without God


Here is a truth I wish everyone would take the time to earnestly and honestly contemplate:

If God does not exist and there is no life after death, then there is no ultimate meaning, value, or purpose in life.

The question of God’s existence is the most important question we can seek to answer. If God does not exist and we do not survive the death of our bodies, life is ultimately absurd. J.P. Moreland provides an illustration which helps bring this truth home:

Suppose I invited you over to my house to play a game of Monopoly. When you arrive I announce that the game is going to be a bit different. Before us is the Monopoly board, a set of jacks, a coin, the television remote, and a refrigerator in the corner of the room. I grant you the first turn, and puzzlingly, inform you that you may do anything you want: fill the board with hotels, throw the coin in the air, toss a few jacks, fix a sandwich, or turn on the television. You respond by putting hotels all over the board and smugly sit back as I take my turn. I respond by dumping the board upside down and tossing the coin in the air. Somewhat annoyed, you right the board and replenish it with hotels. I turn on the television and dump the board over again.

Now it wouldn’t take too many cycles of this nonsense to recognize that it didn’t really matter what you did with your turn, and here’s why. There is no goal, no purpose to the game we are playing. Our successive turns form a series of one meaningless event after another. Why? Because if the game as a whole has no purpose, the individual moves within the game are pointless. Conversely, only a game’s actual purpose according to its inventor can give the individual moves significance.[1]

As Moreland articulates, if the game of Monopoly as a whole has no purpose, the individual moves within the game have no meaning or value. The only way your moves within the game of Monopoly have significance is if you discover the purpose of the game and you align yourself with that purpose.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Equal Rights, Religion, and Bigotry


When it comes to controversial moral debates like same-sex marriage, trite sayings such as this one on the left are echoed quite often in a culture where the make-up man has become more important than the speech writer. It’s short, it’s rhetorically powerful, and it can be repeated, tweeted, and regurgitated faster than you can say “Anti-disestablishmentarianism.” Using only eighteen words, it gets the intended job done.

But often the truth of the matter takes a bit longer to unpack than can be offered in a thirty-second sound bite. A false assertion can be uttered in seconds, while offering a well thought out response which exposes the problem or mistaken assumption requires clear thinking, patience, energy, and time, virtues and luxuries many people either can’t afford or don’t want to.

The issue of same-sex marriage is a hot topic that is not going away anytime soon. Christian apologists need to be persistent in clarifying the issues, especially in the face of saucy slogans such as this.

So what’s wrong with this oft-repeated cliché?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Anne Hathaway, Reason, and Rhetoric

Popular actress Anne Hathaway, who recently starred as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, received an award in 2008 from the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In her acceptance speech, Hathaway explained why she supports homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Read carefully the reasons she offers:


“In my household, being gay was, and is, no big deal. When my brother came out, we hugged him, said we loved him, and that was that…Just for the record, we don’t feel that there is actually anything alternative about our family values…I don’t consider myself just an ally to the LGBT community, I consider myself your family…if anyone, ever, tries to hurt you, I’m going to give them hell…There are people who have said that I’m being brave for being openly supportive of gay marriage, gay adoption, basically of gay rights. But with all due respect I humbly dissent. I’m not being brave. I’m being a decent human being. And I don’t think I should receive an award for that, or for merely stating what I believe to be true, that love is a human experience, not a political statement. However, I acknowledge that sadly we live in a world where not everybody feels the same. My family and I will help the good fight continue until that long awaited moment arrives, when our rights are equal and when the political limits on love have been smashed.”

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jesus on the Problem of Evil

In Luke 13:1-5 we have Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil:[1]

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Not only is this Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil but we see Him addressing both moral and natural evil in His response. Notice that Jesus is first questioned regarding an example of what we would call moral evil: the murder of some Galileans by Pilate. In providing an answer, Jesus Himself introduces an example of natural evil: the falling of the tower of Siloam which killed eighteen.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodness Isn't the Issue. Badness Is.

 
“I’m basically a good person. My good deeds outweigh my bad.”

This is the most common answer I have heard from non-Christians in response to the question, “Why should God allow you into heaven?”
But this answer actually has its root in original sin.

After Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they experienced guilt and attempted to hide from Him. They also experienced shame, and so they attempted to cover themselves through their own effort. Once Adam and Eve became corrupt, they couldn’t produce anything better than themselves, i.e., all they could produce was corruption. Each one of us is born into this world as a little fallen Adam and Eve. And like Adam and Eve, fallen humankind today attempts to hide and cover from God. But rather than sew fig leaves together, one of the most prevalent ways we attempt to cover our moral shame and guilt is by appealing to our own moral “goodness.” That is, we point to our “basic human goodness” and “good deeds” in an attempt to justify ourselves before God. Often this even becomes a rationalization as to why we don’t need God, e.g., “Why do I need God? I’m living a good enough life on my own.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Upcoming Apologetics Series

First Baptist Church of Lakewood will be hosting an outstanding six-week apologetics series entitled Uncovering the Christian Faith.

The series will take place Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, beginning the first week of September. The event is free! Childcare and kid's youth programs are also provided. Invite your friends and family members!

Lectures include:

September 5 - Arguments for the Existence of God, by Dr. J.P. Moreland

September 12 - The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, by Dr. Fred Sanders

September 19 - Introduction to Apologetics and the Resurrection of Jesus, by Dr. Craig Hazen

September 26 - The Case for Intelligent Design, by Dr. John Bloom

October 3 - Why God Allows Evil, by Dr. Clay Jones

October 10 - Christianity and the Challenge of World Religions, by Dr. Craig Hazen

Location: First Baptist Church of Lakewood
5336 Arbor Road
Long Beach, CA
Phone: (562) 420-1471


Visit First Baptist Church of Lakewood or Biola Apologetics Events for any additional information. Audio recordings of the lectures will also be made available.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is the Apocrypha Scripture?

Roman Catholics and Protestants agree on many central doctrines of the Christian faith, including the Trinity, deity of Christ, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. But one important issue which separates Roman Catholics and Protestants is the extent of canonized Scripture. While both groups have the same 27 books in the New Testament, Roman Catholics have an additional seven books in their Old Testament (along with four additions to other OT books). These extra books and writings are referred to as the "Apocrypha" or "deuterocanonical" (second canon) books. They are as follows:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is America a Christian Nation?

This question may be more complicated than it first appears, for the answer depends entirely on what one means by “a Christian nation.” Wayne Grudem does an excellent job of breaking this question down into nine possible interpretations, along with their respective answers, in his book Politics According to the Bible.[1]

As Grudem explains, this question cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Unfortunately, heated debate and frustration have often surrounded this issue. But the matter can be largely resolved if we simply take the time to define what we mean. This helps avoid misunderstanding and prevents disagreeing parties from talking past one another.

So is America a Christian nation? Let’s look at nine possible meanings of that question along with their specific answers.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Good Reason to Rally?

by Ronald Scott Smith. Posted with permission.

portrait of R. Scott SmithAt the “Reason Rally” in Washington, secular, atheistic people gathered in support of “reason” over [mere] “faith” of religious people. Not so hidden in the background was the widely-held cultural mindset that science uses reason and uniquely gives us knowledge of truth (the facts). But religion gives us just personal opinions and preferences, not knowledge. This bifurcation often is called the “fact-value split.”

This science is naturalistic; only what is scientifically knowable (i.e., by the five senses) is real. In principle, such things as God, souls, and mental states (i.e., non-physical things like thoughts, beliefs, and experiences) cannot be known to be real. Or, simplifying, they don’t exist. Yet, we can test natural, physical stuff scientifically, so that is what is believed to be real. That view of reality is the philosophy undergirding atheistic evolution by natural selection (NS) – naturalism. There’s only the physical universe, without anything non-physical.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PleaseConvinceMe Blog

Dan and I (Aaron) are honored to have been invited to blog at PleaseConvinceMe.com. You can visit the About Us page to find out a little more about the PleaseConvinceMe team.

Be sure and check out the blog where you will find excellent posts on a variety of topics.

PleaseConvinceMe has some other very helpful resources, including a podcast, radio interviews, and a youtube television channel. Check out their facebook page or follow them on twitter.

Thanks to Jim Wallace for inviting us and the entire PleaseConvinceMe team for having us on board. We are excited to be part of the team and looking forward to blogging together.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why the Problem of Evil is a Problem

The so-called problem of evil is one of the most common objections raised against the Christian faith. Perhaps no one has more succinctly stated the apparent contradiction between an all-loving, all-powerful God and the existence of evil as the eighteenth-century Scottish skeptic David Hume:

"Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"[1]

More modern skeptics have sometimes posed the logical problem this way:

1.      If God is all-good (omnibenevolent), He would prevent evil.
2.      If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), He could prevent evil.
3.      If God is all-knowing (omniscient), He knows how to prevent evil.
4.      But evil exists.
5.      Therefore, either God is not all-good, all-powerful, or all-knowing (or maybe He doesn’t exist!)

But why is the problem of evil a problem? In answering this question it is important to earnestly think through the following points, points which often are not reflected upon or not contemplated deeply enough. These considerations must be taken into account when addressing the problem of evil, especially from within the Christian worldview. When they are, I believe the problem of evil (POE) largely resolves itself.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Objections

What follows are some of the most common objections to the pro-life view one is likely to hear from defenders of abortion, both in the media and in everyday conversation. It is my hope the pro-life responses underneath will be beneficial to those who are defending the unborn, whether it be via e-mail, Facebook, or face to face. Rather than reinvent the wheel each new conversation, I have found the following points to be especially helpful in simplifying the debate and defending the right to life of unborn human persons, over and against the common objections of the pro-abortion choice position.

It should be noted that the following objections are not the more philosophically sophisticated defenses of abortion one is likely to encounter from those such as Judith Jarvis Thomson or David Boonin. Rather, these are common rhetorical talking points often made by those less informed on the topic but which nevertheless need to be addressed due to their prevalence and sometimes unfortunate effect of leaving pro-lifers speechless.