Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Problem of Unfair Damnation

Jim Wallace at tackles the question of hell and the destiny of the unevangelized:

Check out Jim Wallace's website and his you tube channel for more great videos.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jesus and the Apostles were Evidentialists

Christian apologists disagree when it comes to methodology. That is, apologists don't agree on how to do apologetics! The disagreement lies in the answer to this question: What is the most biblical and effective way to communicate and defend the truth of the gospel? Various methodologies include the classical approach, evidentialism, the cumulative case method, and presuppositionalism.

I do not intend to solve the debate here. For those who are interested in this topic please see the book Five Views on Apologetics.

When I say "Jesus and the Apostles were Evidentialists" I am using the term evidentialist (or evidentialism) in a much broader sense to mean "presenting evidence or appealing to facts in order to demonstrate the truthfulness of the Christian faith." Apologists from various methodologies (including the classical, evidentialist, and cumulative case approaches) can agree on the biblical nature and effectiveness of this broader definition.

Reading through the New Testament it is hard to deny the fact that both Jesus and the apostles backed up their claims by appeals to facts and evidence. In other words, they were evidentialists.

As you read the verses below pay particular attention to how often reference is made to the resurrection of Christ, especially in the book of Acts. This really shouldn't be surprising. After all, it was Jesus Himself who said,

An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:39-40). 

In other words, the Resurrection is the sign given to mankind as evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

Monday, March 29, 2010

One Way by Apologetix

What is Apologetix? Picture this: Weird Al Yankovic meets William Lane Craig.

Well...maybe not exactly.

Apologetix is a Christian parody band with a special interest guessed it...apologetics! Some good, wholesome, entertaining music so you'll "always be ready to make a song defense."

Check out their website here.

The song below is titled One Way and is a parody of the song One Week by Barenaked Ladies:

Check out another Apologetix video here: Smooth Grandmama (a parody of Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson).

Is God a Genocidal Bully?

( by Sean McDowell

Richard Dawkins sure thinks so. In The God Delusion he wrote:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

This is certainly a well-worded objection, but is it convincing? I remember the first time I heard this objection. It unsettled me quite a bit. How could a loving God be so malevolent as to command the extermination of an entire people-group (the Canaanites) including men, women, and children (Josh 9:11-15)? Undoubtedly, this is one of the most difficult questions confronting Christians. While not all answers will entirely soothe the emotions, there are three points that can help us makes sense of this challenge. (For a more in-depth analysis, I suggest reading an excellent article by William Lane Craig.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who Made God?

(Stand to Reason) by Melinda Penner

Who Made God?

From Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything.  Andrews is Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and an international expert on large molecules.  His book is insightful, engaging, and light-hearted for a deep subject.  It's scientifically and philosophically astute.  Andrews' has no fear of the atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, who attempt to wield science as a weapon against theism.

…There is one answer to the question that atheists are happy to accept – the answer “We made God.”
…For the moment let me point out three small problems with the “We made God” hypothesis.  First, it falls into the very same trap that the atheist cunningly sets when he asks, “If God made everything, who made God?”  Because when he confidently declares that we made God it must then be asked, “If we made God, who made us?”  Since the answer “God made us” is obviously excluded ab initio, the question “Who made us?” is no more answerable than “Who made God?”  Just to replay, “Evolution made us” simply will not do.  As Scott Adams has observed, “Evolution isn’t a cause of anything; it’s an observation, a way of putting things in categories.  Evolution says nothing about causes.”  Or to put it more simply, if evolution made us, who made evolution?

Is Atheism a Crutch?

(Stand to Reason) by Greg Koukl

Some say Christianity is just a crutch. But let's turn the question on its edge for a moment. Is atheism an emotional crutch, wishful thinking? The ax cuts both ways.

Perhaps atheists are rejecting God because they've had a bad relationship with their father. Instead of inventing God, have atheists invented non-God? Have they invented atheism to escape some of the frightening implications of God's existence? Think about it.

And to the question "Is Christianity a crutch?" I say yes, but not in the way the atheist puts the challenge.  Just as someone with a broken leg needs a crutch to lean on to help him heal, Christians have recognized that we are broken people who need a Savior who is the only Healer of our sin.

We all need a crutch. The questions is, are you using a crutch that will hold you?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Text Out Of Context: 2 Chronicles 7:14

One of the most frequently quoted passages from 2 Chronicles is verse 7:14:

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I hear this verse often because it is commonly quoted with reference to America. We need revival people! And if America as a nation would only humble itself, pray, seek the face of God, and turn from wickedness, then God would hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. Sometimes the verse is applied more specifically to Christians living in America since God refers to "my people." Regardless, notice that God is making a promise: If you do this, then God will do that.

No doubt you have heard this verse quoted every year on the National Day of Prayer. Look for it again this coming May 6, 2010. However, to use 2 Chronicles 7:14 in this manner is to take the passage out of context and skew its application.

7 Factors for Testing a Historical Hypothesis

(Apologetics 315) by Brian Auten

The following is an excerpt from William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith, 3rd Edition, p. 233:

"The process of determining which historical reconstruction is the best explanation will involve the historian's craft, as various factors will have to be weighed. In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, C. Behan McCullagh lists the factors which historians typically weigh in testing a historical hypothesis:

  1. The hypothesis, together with other true statements, must imply further statements describing present observable data.
  2. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory scope (that is, imply a greater variety of observable data) than rival hypotheses.
  3. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory power (that is, make the observable data more probable) than rival hypotheses.
  4. The hypothesis must be more plausible (that is, be implied by a greater variety of accepted truths, and its negation implied by fewer accepted truths) than rival hypotheses.
  5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc (that is, include fewer new suppositions about the past not already implied by existing knowledge) than rival hypotheses.
  6. The hypothesis must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beleifs (that is, when conjoined with accepted truths, imply fewer false statements) than rival hypotheses.
  7. The hypothesis must so exceed its rivals in fulfilling conditions (2)-(6) that there is little chance of a rival hypothesis, after further investigation, exceeding it in meeting these conditions."

For writings from William Lane Craig on the Historical Jesus, see here. Wikipedia on the historical method. Philosophical papers by C. Behan McCullagh here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The "Pray for an Atheist" Campaign

(Wisdom and Folly) by Jim and Amy Spiegel

Several folks, including myself, have launched a Facebook page entitled Pray for an Atheist.  As you may know, April 1 has been celebrated in the past as “National Atheists Day,” and in the first week of April is held the American Atheists National Convention.  So we thought it would be a good idea to encourage Christians to commit to praying for atheists for the entire month of April.  If you would like to get involved, please become a “fan” of the page.

As you’ll see on the page, however, a number of atheists are strongly objecting to the idea that Christians are praying for them.  As one atheist put it, “if you’re going to pray for me and my ilk, that is quite disrespectful.”  And another said, “I personally find it offensive if anybody wants to pray for me.”  There have been many other expressions of disapproval, some profane and vulgar (which have been deleted).

I can’t help but think—as some people have pointed out—that all of this vitriol confirms the thesis of my book.  Atheists simply have no reason to object to our praying for them, especially since, given our worldview, it is an act of love.  After all, if God does exist, then it would be an enormous benefit to atheists if they come to believe this.  Moreover, as a Christian, it would be profoundly hypocritical of me to believe that prayer could be effectual in helping others to find redemption in Christ and yet not pray for unbelievers.

Therefore, I would ask atheists to respect my right to do what I want in the privacy of my own home, as I kneel in prayer on their behalf.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why Apologetics Has a Bad Name

( by Sean McDowell

I love apologetics! Anyone who has either heard me speak, sat in my class, read any of my books, or spent more than twenty minutes with me knows that I believe deeply in the importance of defending the Christian faith.

I'm not alone in my belief. Pastor and author Timothy Keller, who ministers in New York and has written one of the better apologetics books of our time, The Reason for God, says one of the big issues facing the church today is the need for a renewal of apologetics. Keller says apologetics is important for two reasons.

First, Christians in the West will soon be facing missionaries from around the world. While loving communities are important, he says that we also need to be prepared to converse thoughtfully with people of differing worldviews.

Second, there is a vacuum in western secular thought. The enlightenment faith in science and progress has ended, and according to Keller, postmodernism is seen as a dead end, too. This is why Keller concludes: “There is a real opening, apologetically, in reaching out to thoughtful non-Christians, especially the younger, socially conscious ones.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is Just War Theory?

(Reasons to Believe) by Kenneth Samples

Through the centuries Christian thinkers have taken different positions on the controversial subject of war. Three broad theories concerning the morality of war for the Christian can be identified: activism, pacifism, and selectivism. Activism asserts that it is virtually always right to participate in war. Strict pacifism insists that it is never morally right to partake in war. Selectivism argues that it is sometimes right to take part in war.

Just war theory is a type of selectivism contending that while war is always tragic and often evil, it is sometimes morally right, just, and practically necessary. Some leading Christian advocates of just war theory have included Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and Francisco Suarez (1548-1617). Just war theory involves two main moral categories of evaluation.

1. Jus ad bellum (Justness of War)
Concerning the moral justness of waging war, a just war must conform to the following moral considerations:

A Just War will
  • Be waged by a legitimate authority (government or state, not private individuals)
  • Reflect moral deliberation (last resort after sincere diplomacy)
  • Have probability of success (reasonable belief that victory can be achieved)
  • Have a just cause (e.g., defense of innocents and freedom against direct aggression)
  • Be just in intent (establish peace, freedom, justice; not unlimited destruction of the enemy)

2. Jus in bello (Justice in war)
Concerning the conduct of war, strategy and tactics must be just:

A Just War will be conducted
  • With proper proportionality (sufficient, but not excessive force will be used; good should outweigh evil)
  • With proper discrimination (noncombatants [civilians or innocents] should not be targeted

Just war theory has been criticized for various reasons through the years (e.g., by failing to appreciate the benefits of a preemptive strike, being unrealistic in its moral expectations, being practically unworkable), yet it nevertheless remains the most commonly accepted position among Christian thinkers when it comes to evaluating the moral considerations of waging war.

For further study on the ethics of war, see John Jefferson Davis, Evangelical Ethics, 3rd ed. (P and R Publishing, 2004) and J. P. Moreland and Norman L. Geisler, The Life and Death Debate (Praeger, 1990).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic

I had the opportunity last night to hear Chris Castaldo speak at Biola University on his new book Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic. Here is a quick summary from his website:

Drawing from his Roman Catholic background and personal interviews with other former Catholics, Chris Castaldo takes you on a dynamic exploration of the challenges and opportunities encountered by those who become Evangelical. More than historical perspective, theological reflection, and practical lessons, Holy Ground casts a vision for emulating Jesus in relationship to Catholic loved-ones and friends.

Chris spoke for about 45 minutes followed by a 45 minute question and answer session. While the audience contained mostly Protestants there were a number of Catholics present as well. Chris began by emphasizing the need for both grace and truth (John 1:14) as Evangelicals converse with Catholics about agreements and differences. If your conversations with Catholic friends and loved-ones look something like the following, you should probably read this book:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Logical Fallacy: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Say what? Post hoc ergo propter hoc is Latin for "after this, therefore because of this." It is frequently abbreviated "post hoc" and may also be called the fallacy of false cause or questionable cause.

Please note: you always get bonus points for saying it in Latin and it makes you sound smarter.

The post hoc fallacy occurs when a person concludes that a particular event caused another event simply because the first preceded the second in time. In other words, A caused B because A occurred before B. The danger in this line of reasoning is that nothing definitive regarding causation can be drawn from temporal sequence. Simply because one thing precedes another it does not necessarily follow that the first caused the second. We need sufficient reason or evidence to determine a causal relationship between two events, not merely temporal sequence.

For example, suppose I were to say, "Whenever we take Jake to the park it rains. We better not take Jake to the park anymore." The fact that it has rained when Jake has gone to the park does not mean his going caused the rain. In fact, I think it is pretty safe to assume that Jake going to the park has no causal relationship to the rain. To reason this way commits the post hoc fallacy.

Even when there is consistent correlation between two events it does not necessarily equal causation. For example, though a rooster may crow every day before the sun rises it does not follow from this that the rooster crow causes the sun to rise. In a similar fashion, a man may consistently brush his teeth before bed every night but it does not follow that brushing his teeth causes him to fall asleep. Correlation does not equal causation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Featured Website: The One Minute Apologist

We live in a culture in which many individuals are used to getting their information in thirty-second soundbites. Christians often find themselves in situations where a ten-second window is all they have to offer a response or communicate a timely truth. It behooves apologists to learn to effectively respond to questions and challenges with short and succinct, informed and effective answers. The One Minute Apologist is a website dedicated to offering just this type of answer.

The vision of One Minute Apologist is simple...

To provide short, creative informational videos on YouTube that resource people with a hunger to defend their faith for the sake of mankind and the glory of God.

The One Minute Apologist was designed to create quick answers to curious questions. We dream of a website that is fully loaded with great articles, books, documentaries, lectures and debates in the areas of Christian  apologetics and philosophy.

We believe more than ever before there is a great urgency for Christians to exercise their minds for the glory of God. When we study apologetics it is one way we love those who don't know Jesus in a personal way. We love them by privately saturating our minds with God's truth so that we are ready to give a thoughtful Christian answer when asked.

The One Minute Apologist includes interviews with William Lane Craig, William Dembski, Greg Koukl, Mike Licona, Frank Turek, Ken Boa, and more!

Be sure to check out The One Minute Apologist for great video resources, interviews, and thoughtful answers to tough questions.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Unbelievable Unbelief

(Stand to Reason) by Greg Koukl

The skeptic says, “If Jesus would only show Himself to me—if God would just work one dramatic miracle—then I’d believe in Him.” This kind of person overestimates himself. Even miracles can be denied or dismissed.

During Jesus’ passion week in Jerusalem, he was called to nearby Bethany because his friend Lazarus was dying. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was gone. In a dramatic scene Jesus called him forth from the tomb alive, still wrapped in burial cloths.

This was a spectacular miracle performed in public for all to see. What was the response of the Jewish leaders? They plotted Jesus’ death. "This man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." (John 11:47-48)

But Jesus wasn’t the only one they wanted to eliminate. They also had to get rid of another piece of evidence: "But the chief priests took council that they might put to death Lazarus also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus." (John 12:10-11)

Incredible! Instead of falling to their knees in response to this obvious display of Messianic power, they conspire to kill the very man whose public resurrection was proof positive of their error.

This is unbelievable unbelief.

You think if God just did a miracle it would change your rebellious heart? Don’t count on it. Jesus said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

As one wag put it, a skeptic with such an experience would not seek God, he’d seek a psychiatrist.

Oh so true. The sun melts butter…but it hardens clay.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reflections on My Recent Debate

( by Sean McDowell

My recent debate with James Corbett on the topic, "Is God the Best Explanation for Moral Values?", has generated quite a stir. A number of people from various backgrounds and beliefs have chimed in with their thoughts, including a popular atheist blogger, a Christian science-fiction writer, a Christian postmodernist, the "Apologetics Junkie," and the Saddleback College paper (the debate was held at Saddleback College).

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Last November I sat down with my friend Greg Koukl while we were both at a conference in New Orleans to talk about his (then) pending debate with Michael Shermer. Greg gave me lots of helpful advice, but one quote stuck out to me in particular: “The more you sweat in preparation, the less you bleed in battle.” Given that my first debate was going to be on my home turf—in front of my family, friends, students, and colleagues—I most definitely did not want to bleed in battle.

So I prepared hard for about four months by watching debates, reading books, talking with my former professors, and even having multiple practice debates with friends of mine. I’ve probably never prepared for something harder in my life. While I have been a public speaker for over a decade, this was my first official debate. I learned very quickly that speaking skills help in debate, but they are only one component.

McDowell-Corbett Debate Video (2 of 2)

Is God the Best Explanation for Moral Values? Part 2 from ConversantLife on Vimeo.

McDowell-Corbett Debate Video (1 of 2)

Is God the Best Explanation for Moral Values? Part 1 from ConversantLife on Vimeo.

Debate Chatter

The web is buzzing with blogger commentaries on last Friday's McDowell-Corbett debate so I'm listing them all here. Let me know if you come across any others.

Christian blogs:

Atheist blogs:

Saddleback College paper:

Debate audio:

Monkey Morality

This last Friday Sean McDowell debated Jim Corbett on the topic "Is God the best explanation for moral values?" If you have not listened to the debate you can download the audio here:

Full MP3 Audio here (HT: Brian Auten)

Dan Grossenbach also wrote a post debate review here.

Sean's contention during the debate was that God is in fact the best explanation for moral values. If there is no God there is no moral law-giver and hence no transcendent moral law which we can appeal to. In other words, without God we have no grounding or foundation for objective morality. We are left with mere subjective opinion.

It was not until late in the debate that Corbett actually offered an alternative explanation for the existence of objective moral values. Like many skeptics, Corbett  finally appealed to evolution as an explanation for morality. But does this work?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Atheists' Non-belief

(Stand to Reason) by Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl responds to the following letter he received on the topic of atheism:

I've grown frustrated with Atheists saying to me that they don’t have to give any arguments or evidence to support their view, because they are not making any claims. They have a "non-belief". One atheist told me he is not required to provide evidence that there are no fairies living under his house either. This seems so cheap, so lame, yet I'm not sure how to make that obvious to them. What do you suggest?

Here is Greg's video response: