Thinking matters – What’s in a Worldview?

Welcome to the third instalment of my series – Thinking matters. If you are a newcomer to this ongoing conversation, I recommend reading here and here to catch up. Moving right along to the next reason why thinking matters. If we do not think seriously about what we believe and why we believe it, we are left with a hollow worldview. Before we delve deeper, let’s define some terms.

What is a worldview?

I searched far and wide for a good definition but alas. So, here is my best shot at what encompasses a worldview –

Worldview: the framework of presuppositions, ideas and beliefs through which an individual or group interprets reality.

To put it simply, a worldview is the personalised lens through which you see and understand the world around you. From this definition, we pick up on one really important aspect of worldview – everyone has one. Whether you are a sleek and smooth investment banker, or a member of an unreached Amazonian tribe, you interpret the world and everything you see in it through the lens of your own presuppositions.

What does it then mean if a worldview is hollow? Just as you knock on someone’s head to ensure there is indeed something inside, a close examination of a hollow worldview will reverberate emptiness. Presuppositions can be groundless and therefore lead to a false conclusion or vice versa, with hopeful beginnings leading to absurd endings. Sometimes, the starting and finishing lines of a worldview can tickle the ears and appeal to our deepest human desires, but when challenged by the harsh realities of life, they fall like a house built on sand.

Hollow examples may include:

  • A naturalist is in awe at the wonder of the physical world in all of its intelligibility. The logical conclusion for worship is the Designer behind the design, but their naturalistic presuppositions closed the door on this option before the conversation even starts.
  • The spiritual type who turns his back on evil and suffering in an attempt to rid them of their power and influence. They are quickly found out in this painful world.
  • The nihilist, disillusioned by the excessive agony he sees around him, intellectually denies meaning or purpose in life, but struggles to practically live in a way consistent with his conclusion.

And probably the most common:

  • The average secularite who seeks to treat others as they wish to be treated while refusing to acknowledge the source of such universal truths.

If you have read my previous two articles, you will have heard me wax repeatedly on the tendency for Christians to have their minds and actions influenced by the dominant thought trains of the day. Regarding the development of worldview, this is no different.

The harm of a hollow worldview

In a standard marketplace, goods and services are purchased with cash and if the consumer is pleased, he or she will often recommend the product to others. This increases the influence of the retailer, enabling them to spread their product through larger client bases and make more money. In an analogous way, Christianity, like any other view of reality or belief system, is competing in a global marketplace of ideas. Interpretations of reality and the meaning of life are legion and the competition is often fierce. These products are not bought with physical or digital capital, but with our allegiance

Christians stand in the midst of a world with some heavy baggage. Open them up and you will find objections of various types – intellectual, emotional, moral. Today’s idea consumers simply walk past the Christian stall, oblivious to what it has to offer. Not just oblivious, but convinced that it has nothing to offer. By not thinking seriously about what we believe and how it makes sense of the world around us, we add more fuel on an already raging fire seeking to purify the world of the Christian voice.

Towards a Christian worldview

What is the solution? How do we develop a cohesive Christian worldview that is credible, answers people’s questions, and brings honour and glory to the name of Jesus? I am in no way in a position to give exhaustive answers to these questions, but can offer a few suggestions that I am convinced are part of getting back on track.

Philosopher Douglas Groothuis proposes 8 criteria to evaluate a worldview

  1. Able to answer life’s big questions
  2. Internal logical consistency
  3. Coherence
  4. Factual adequacy
  5. Existential viability (doesn’t shy away from our everyday experience)
  6. Intellectual and cultural fruitfulness
  7. Does not make radical ad hoc readjustment
  8. Simple is better than unnecessarily complex.

An entire article could (and probably should) be written on the importance of each of these criteria, but for now they provide a good starting point for exposing the flaws of today’s dominant worldviews, and demonstrating the power of the Christian alternative.

There is one more thing we can do to begin to see change – we can pray. The task before us is enormous and we simply will not see success if we rely solely on our own ability and inventions (including the criteria above). When it comes to articulating the jaw-dropping panorama that is the Christian worldview, we desperately need the God at its centre to help us.

The Fine Tuning of the Universe

Reasonable Faith have put out a new video explaining the fine tuning argument:

Scientists have come to the shocking realization that the fundamental constants and quantities of our universe have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value – a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair’s breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There’d be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.

What is the best explanation for this fine tuning? Does chance, the physical necessity of these constants, or design best explain this phenomenon?

Thinking matters – Our starving souls

“We live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization”.[i]

These words from theologian, R.C. Sproul, seem a harsh diagnosis. Anti-intellectual seems an odd adjective for the age that has seen numerous advancements in the fields of science, politics, and human rights. University attendance in New Zealand is rising with every new year, and yet here is Sproul arguing that these statistics do little to stem the tide of anti-intellectualism.

So what then is meant by anti-intellectualism? If it doesn’t mean anti-scientific (as demonstrated by the leaps of mankind in scientific understanding and technological development), and it doesn’t mean anti-academic (as demonstrated by the authoritative role tertiary education continues to play in the Western world), what does it mean?

Sproul argues that anti-intellectualism is defined as the general distaste of, and aversion to, acute reasoning and solid logic in developing good answers to big questions.[ii] We live in a society today where a particular argument is deemed truthful not because it is true, and has shown to be so through logic and reasoning, but rather because it is helpful. You can choose your various beliefs and convictions from here and there, like a greedy and uncomprehending child running for the Pick N’ Mix. Little do you know that the more you grab, the less sense the final package will make (and the sorer your tummy will be). No serious thought of any kind is put into distinguishing between views of reality that make sense and those that don’t and can’t. The sovereign self reigns supreme. You call the shots on what is true or false often with blaring contradictions. That is anti-intellectualism.

As mentioned in my last article, the Church has allowed itself to be enticed by this way of thinking (or rather lack of thinking), resulting in a body of believers that looks identical to the world. One of the first things to go down the gurgler when the Church falls into this mire is a biblical view of Christian spiritual growth.

What is spiritual growth?

This is a huge question with a vast number of key biblical texts that need to be considered in order to even begin formulating a definition. Due to the nature of this forum, I will only consider one and try to let the text do the talking for me. Consider Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, looking specifically at chapter 12, verses 1 and 2:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In these two verses, we have been graciously given an overview of what the Christian life should look like. Paul appeals to the Roman church to completely devote their lives to God in worship. On what grounds? Because this is the path to acceptance and favour with God? Because then He will love us? No. Paul appeals to them on the basis of God’s mercy, clearly expounded from chapter 1 through 11 of Romans.

  • The depraved and sinful state of man, and the just punishment he faces in hell (chapters 1-3)
  • The love that God demonstrates in dying for sinners, and the realisation that He loved the same before time itself and will never, ever, let them go (chapters 3-11)
  • The brain and heart melting statement that God “justifies the ungodly” (chapter 4).

All of these truths and many more sing out of the pages of Romans, providing the reader with a glimpse into life as it truly is.

The point is this – Paul spends 11 chapters stating truths upon which he will build his calls to live and grow in Christian discipleship (expounded in chapters 12-16). Rather than thinking like the world does, with its countless man-centred ideologies, we are commanded to have our minds continuously renewed with the truths of the gospel; truths that couldn’t be more against the current of modern thought. In other words, Christian discipleship and growth is made possible when we believe the right things/ have correct theology. When we believe, and consequently cherish, the truths of Christianity, our whole lives are transformed. And because I can’t help myself, here are a few other references that make the same point (Matt 22:37, 2 Cor 3:18, Eph 1:15-22, 3:14-20, 2 Peter 3:18).

Objection

A false dichotomy is often drawn at this point by many Christians. They see the study and pursuit of good theology as “necessarily lifeless, spiritually draining, and prone to head-knowledge without heartfelt passion”.[iii] A distinction is drawn between theology and devotion; head and heart; being a Pharisee or being a devoted disciple of Christ. The problem with this view is simple – the Bible is silent on it. In fact, God’s Word speaks overwhelmingly in the opposite direction – theology (literally, the knowledge of God) is to be at the core of the Christian life.  R.C. Sproul responds to the objection in a way that few people can:

“Christianity is an intellectual faith. This does not mean that it flirts with intellectualism or restricts sainthood to an elite group of gnostic eggheads. But though the Word of God is not limited to intellectuals, its content is addressed to the mind. There is a primacy of the intellect in the Christian life as well as a primacy of the heart… The primacy of the intellect is with respect to order. The primacy of the heart is with respect to importance.”

To conclude, thinking matters. The answers we have (or don’t have) to big questions can tell us a lot about the health of our Christian walks. As demonstrated above, the Bible clearly places the utmost importance on believing the right things before we do the right things. In fact, the things we do (loving our neighbours through acts of mercy, being good at our jobs, stewarding our gifts well) are made right only through the things we believe (that none of those things can save us, but we do them out of gratitude for God’s grace in saving us). If we as the Church allow ourselves to be swayed by the dominant thought patterns of today’s culture, rather than having our minds shaped by the Word of God, then we stunt our spiritual growth and miss out on the intellectually fulfilling and passionate faith that our Father desires for us.

[i] R.C. Sproul, Burning Hearts are not Nourished by Empty Heads, Christianity Today, Sept. 3, 1982

[ii] ibid

[iii] Trevin Wax, Why You Should Love God With Your Mind, The Gospel Coalition, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2007/08/29/why-you-should-love-god-with-your-mind/, accessed on 1 August, 2014

Auckland Events: Debating Naturalism and Exploring the Reliability of the Bible

This week, there are two interesting events happening in the Auckland area.

Debate: Do the biological sciences provide more support to Naturalism or to Christianity?

When: Thursday, September 25 at 5:30pm
Where: Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre, Building 301, University of Auckland

Dr John Steemson is a biologist with a PhD in Biological Science from Waikato University, studying protein engineering and evolution. He is a long time science nerd, with strong amateur interests in physics, astronomy and cosmology. John identifies himself as a Skeptic and has spent a lot of time online defending science in general, and evolution in particular, from creationists and intelligent designers, and is a regular contributor to the science education website AskABiologist.

Zachary Ardern is a PhD candidate in the school of biological sciences, researching the molecular basis of evolutionary trade-offs in microbes and elsewhere. Zachary has a PGDipSci and conjoint BSc/BA degrees (biology / philosophy & economics). He has been a student leader in the Reason & Science Society and Evangelical Union clubs, has tutored for Phil 105 and BioSci 101, and when not doing science or introducing students to critical thinking enjoys reading about Jesus.

“How do We Know the Bible is Reliable?” with Professor David Richmond

The Reasons for Faith group at Windsor Park Baptist are holding a talk about the reliability of the Bible with David Richmond  (Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Auckland University).

When: Sunday, September 28 at 3.30pm
Where: The Rimu Room, Windsor Park Baptist Church, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay.

David Richmond is a retired physician with a variety of interests. He was inaugural Chair of the Auckland Hospital Research Ethics Committee, a founding member of the HRC National Ethics committee, inaugural director of Continuing Education for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in NZ and inaugural Masonic Professor of Geriatric Medicine in the University of Auckland. On retiring from that position he was appointed Assistant Dean (Academic) and awarded a personal Chair in Medicine and Medical Education in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. He has held local and national positions in the Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand and served a term as Dean of the Auckland Consortium of Theological Education and Hon. Dean of Theology in the University of Auckland. He chairs the board of the HOPE Foundation for Research on Ageing which he inaugurated in 1994.

Towards Belief New Zealand Tour

Towards Belief New Zealand Tour

What are the top ‘Belief Blockers’ of our time and how should the Church respond to them?  Come and hear Karl Faase share the implications of research into this question.

Through in-depth research and interviews Karl Faase set out to better understand the religious and spiritual beliefs of western culture in order to uncover the top ‘belief blockers’ of our time. This included issues such as the problem of evil and suffering, exclusive faith, church abuse, the supernatural, religious violence, science and God, and others.

From his research came Towards Belief, an award-winning 10-part documentary-style DVD series produced by Olive Tree Media. View the trailer and website here.

Join Karl as he tours New Zealand to share some surprising facts uncovered by his research, along with five important implications for the Church and its mission, and the growing need for careful apologetics when reaching out in our modern culture.

Karl Faase has just finished as Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church in Sydney’s southern suburbs, where he served for over 20 years. He is one of the most experienced Christian radio & television presenters in Australia. His Daily Nudge radio spots are played around Australia, in the UK, France and here in New Zealand, and his TV shows are regularly featured on Christian cable and free-to-air stations internationally.

Events are being held in the following locations:

Christchurch

Saturday 1st November 10:00am to 12:30pm
South West Baptist Church, 244 Lyttelton St, Spreydon

Wellington

Tuesday 4th November 7:30pm
Lifepoint Church, 61 Hopper St, Mt Cook

Hamilton

Wednesday 5th November 7:00pm
Hamilton Central Baptist Church, 33 Charlemont St, Whitiora

Tauranga

Thursday 6th November 7:30pm
Lifezone Church, 7 Oak Lane, Judea

Auckland Southeast

Friday 7th November 7:00pm
NewHope Community Church, Pointview School Hall, 25 Kilkenny Dr, Dannemora

Auckland North

Saturday 8th November 7:00pm
Northcote Baptist Church, 67 Eban Ave, Hillcrest

Auckland Central

Sunday 9th November 9:00am and 11:00am Sunday Services
Mount Albert Baptist Church, 732 New North Rd, Mt Albert

Auckland West

Sunday 9th November 7:30pm
Lincoln Road Bible Chapel, 68 Lincoln Rd, Henderson

BONUS INDEPTH HALF DAY SEMINAR IN AUCKLAND:

Saturday 8th November 9:30am to 1:00pm
Mount Albert Baptist Church, 732 New North Rd, Mt Albert

 

All events are free – but donations are welcome.  No registration or RSVP needed.

For more about the Towards Belief DVD series visitwww.towardsbelief.org.au
To purchase the DVD set in NZ visit www.lr.org.nz

We hope so see you at one of these events! 

Thinking matters

The world is changing. I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes.

Anti-intellectualism is sweeping through Western civilization and there is no high ground, no safe haven from the rushing tides. Constant technological advance is making modern life easier and more convenient every day, and while there are definite benefits to this, there is also a clear downside.

Shaking the lucky-8 ball of Google whenever a question arises has taken the effort out of thinking, and the ease with which modern people can get the answers has actually been demonstrated to have a negative impact on intellectual health. Even universities, the institutions of knowledge and learning are not free from this unstoppable force, albeit in a different way. While culture at large falls prey to not thinking hard about much at all, many academics have fallen prey to only thinking one way, blind and deaf to the cogent and coherent alternatives of opponents.

As with most cultural contagions that ravish the Western mind, the Church also falls victim, despite our allegiance to Another Land. I have seen this most notably in the following ways:

  • A separation between theology and piety (what you believe and how you live)
  • Redefining childlike faith as childish faith
  • A disdain for the past and the history of the Church
  • An over-emphasis on being led subjectively and directly by the Holy Spirit, to the neglect of his promised means of grace (the Word preached)
  • The belief that doctrine divides (an example being the existence of denominations)

I don’t sound the alarm as a concerned scholar, sitting in my ivory tower and nodding at all your indiscretions, but rather, as Mark Noll put it, a “wounded lover” of the intellectual gold mine that is Christianity. Apart from missing out on having your mind absolutely blown by the truths that the Bible teaches, an aversion to thinking in the Christian life is actually a sin. The command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts does not stop there, but is a call to devote every fibre of our beings to the pursuit of grace and knowledge, given to us through Jesus Christ. Attempting to love God without knowledge of Him is tantamount to attempting to love your partner or spouse while avoiding learning any of their hobbies, joys or deepest fears.

The way I see it, anti-intellectualism in Christians will result in three things:

  1. Stunted spiritual growth
  2. A hollow worldview
  3. Robbing God of glory that is all His.

I pray that you will join me as over my following few articles, I attempt to delve into these consequences, demonstrating not only the harm they are causing us, but also the joy and satisfaction that we are missing out on.

Auckland Event: A Conversation with Thomas McCall about the Trinity, the Cross, and Suffering

Carey Baptist College are hosting  Dr Thomas McCall to discuss Jesus’ cry of forsakenness on the cross. The Son’s cry to the Father can be one of the hardest passages in the Bible to understand. Did the Father kill the Son? What implications does this event have for our understanding of the Trinity?

The discussion should prove to be a fascinating one.

What: “Forsaken: The Trinity, the Cross, and Why it Matters to a Suffering World” with Dr Thomas McCall
When: Friday 15 August, 7pm – 8.30pm
Cost: Donations will be taken on the night.

Auckland Events: Conferences with Zack Eswine and Richard Bauckham

This August, there are a couple of events in Auckland with visiting speakers Zack Eswine and Professor Richard Bauckham. Here are the details:

The Questions Jesus Asks

A key part of Jesus’ ministry on earth was his teaching and a key part of his teaching was the way he asked questions.

Join pastor and popular author Zack Eswine as he explains and applies several of the questions Jesus is still asking today such as:

-“What do you want me to do for you?”
-“Why are you afraid?”
-“Why do you doubt?”

By exploring these questions we’ll see how the call to follow Jesus is a call to a more profoundly human experience. Visit the Facebook page for the conference schedule and more details.

When: Friday (1 Aug) 7.30-9pm and Saturday (2 Aug) 9.30-12 noon.
Where: City Pres Church, 283 K’rd Road.
Cost: Free

Dr. Zack Eswine is pastor of Riverside Evangelical Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO, USA. Zack has served in pastoral roles for nearly twenty years. He served as Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Director for Doctor of Ministry for six years at Covenant Theological Seminary. Zack’s books include, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes, Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with our Culture and Kindled Fire: How the Methods of C.H. Spurgeon can help your Preaching. His forthcoming books include Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Handling the Painful Sides of Life and Ministry.

An Afternoon with Professor Richard Bauckham

On Thursday 7 August, Professor Richard Bauckham will be at Laidlaw’s Henderson Campus, teaching the following two (free) lectures (50 minute presentation followed by 25 minutes for questions):

1.00pm – 2.15pm: The Authenticity of the Apostolic Eyewitness in the New Testament
2.15pm – 2.45pm: Afternoon tea (provided)
2.45pm – 4.00pm: Mark’s Geography and the Origin of Mark’s Gospel

All are welcome. Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz

Jesus in Context: Conference with Professor Richard Bauckham, Professor Chris Marshall and others

When: From 9.00am on Friday 8 August to 12.40pm on Saturday 9 August
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
Cost: $40 (waged) | $20 (unwaged); includes lunch and morning tea
Registration: Register online at www.carey.ac.nz/events

The Case of the Historical Jesus: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

When: Friday 8 August, 7.30pm
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@carey.ac.nz by Wednesday 6 August

Jesus and the Wild: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

Laidlaw Graduate School, in partnership with A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand, invite you to a free public lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham, exploring the fascinating topic of ‘Jesus and the Wild’.

Wilderness is a term that elicits both fear and delight. It is in the wilderness that we recognise our vulnerability as humans and yet also our interconnectedness with non-human life. Yet, we live in an age where wilderness is rapidly disappearing. Ancient forests are cut-down, mountain-tops levelled, and surging rivers are tamed, as human civilisation spreads across the globe. Does Jesus, whose earthly ministry begins in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13), care about this loss of wild areas? What would Jesus do about climate-change, acidifying oceans, habitat destruction and species extinction?

When: Saturday 9 August, 7.00pm
Where: Laidlaw College’s Henderson Campus,
80 Central Park Drive, Henderson
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz by Thursday 7 August

Richard Bauckham is professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. A fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he has also written Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World.

Towards Belief Launched in New Zealand

Towards Belief

Karl FaaseThis high quality Australian produced resource has been launched in New Zealand and Thinking Matters is proud to partner with the producers – Olive Tree Media – to promote it throughout the country.

This ten-episode DVD series follows Australian pastor and host, Karl Faase as he travels the world and interviews over 30 leading authors and speakers about the top “belief blockers” of our time.  It is designed for both a wide audience and church groups, intending to attract both Christian and non-Christian viewers equally.

Contributors include John Lennox, Os Guinness, Richard Swinburne, Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing and John Dickson – along with many others.

Topics

The ten half-hour episodes include the following topics:

  1. Suffering: Presents both an intellectual and personal response to the issues posed by the existence of suffering.
  2. The Bible: Looks at whether what the Bible contains is historically accurate and can be trusted.
  3. Supernatural: Explores belief in the supernatural and looks at a specific case where it seems that supernatural intervention is undeniable.
  4. Religious Violence: Explores whether Christianity, as a religious worldview, causes wars, atrocities and genocides. How does the Church respond to this charge?
  5. Exclusive Faith: Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the only way to God is viewed as arrogant, intolerant and a significant blocker to personal belief. In this episode, guests give plausible reasons for the Christian worldview.
  6. Church Abuse: Abuse scandals, particularly in relation to children, have rocked the Church, leaving it open to the charge of hypocrisy.
  7. Science & God: Eminent and experienced scientists explain how and why they can have scientific credentials from the world’s leading universities, as well as having a Christian faith.
  8. Homosexuality: In this episode we look at the Biblical view on homosexuality and what is the Christian response in the current social environment.
  9. The Church: There is a public perception that the Christian Church is dying. We talk with leaders who are seeing the Church grow and they give their perspective on the future of the Church.
  10. Towards Belief: In the end, there is still a step of faith to be taken. This episode looks back over the personal stories of some of the guests and seeks to clarify that choice.

For a more in-depth outline of each episode, drill down on each from this page.

Thinking Matters Involvement

This series will become a long term strategic resource for Thinking Matters as we seek to equip the New Zealand Church with accessible and high quality training to help us make a sincere and clear defence for the Christian worldview.

We envision the resource being used in several ways:

Community Outreach Events

We would like to see churches promoting screenings of the series throughout their communities – to see people becoming more open to the Gospel through them.

Do you want to run an event at your church for your community? Talk to us for help and advice with promotion.

Home Groups / Small Groups

We would like to see Church leadership and discipleship programs promote this resource within churches for use in home-groups and small-group discipleship.

Do you have a home-group who might be interested in viewing this? Talk to us for advice.

Curriculum Development & Christian Schools

We would like to see individual episodes being used as components in wider curriculum and training programs in apologetics and worldview subjects at theological colleges and Christian schools.

Are you associated with training, a tertiary institute or a Christian school?  Review individual episodes here for suitability of use within your curriculum.

Purchase

You can purchase the full set for $59.95 (free freight) from Life Resources in Christchurch, or rent or buy for download individual episodes directly from the Towards Belief website here.

The full DVD set also comes with an 80-page Discussion Guide – and key quotes for each episode can also be downloaded from here.

Book Review: True Reason

One of the most frustrating things about new atheists is their use of slogans, rather than arguments, to convince people to listen to them. This book comprehensively shows how their position is not reasonable and rational simply because they say so. Nor can they make Christianity irrational by fiat.

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True Reason starts by documenting some of the major arguments used by new atheists like Dawkins and Harris, and assesses them for the qualities new atheism claims to embody: reason, logic, rationality, scientific investigation and so on. This is an inspired way to open the book. It is humorous, because it hold Dawkins’ and Harris’ own arguments (even their own words) up to the bar they themselves have set, and shows how comically short they fall; but it is also serious, because from the very outset it leaves no room for doubt that the image of intelligent, carefully-researched opposition to religion which they project is a pure sham.

Subsequent chapters step us progressively through the various ways in which metaphysical naturalism—the foundational assumption of new atheism—undermines itself; before moving us into various new atheist critiques of Christianity itself, to show how and why these fail, and what the truth of the matter actually is. Each chapter is an essay by an individual apologist, and each is strong in its own right—however, because they are separate papers arranged topically, occasionally I felt like the book meandered a little and repeated itself unnecessarily. This is not a serious drawback, especially if you just want to brush up on one or two topics instead of reading it beginning to end; but it’s worth mentioning for people who are looking for something more systematic.

Perhaps because I like systematic approaches so much, David Wood’s chapter on the explanatory emptiness of naturalism (chapter 8) particularly stood out to me. I found it noteworthy because it dissects all of the ways in which naturalism fails to justify the scientific enterprise itself, starting with the existence of the universe, and moving very logically all the way through to the existence of consciousness. It was an excellent summary of the major arguments against naturalism, and lucidly demonstrated the staggering cumulative case new atheists have to overcome to even lay any claim on rationality whatsoever (let alone gain a monopoly!)

However, the whole book is a powerful summary of the major arguments against the new atheist worldview; the major ways in which they misrepresent or falsely attack Christianity; and several of the more powerful arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview. It is an excellent book for Christians who are new to apologetics and want a single primer that will offer well-rounded instruction on all the issues they’re likely to face against atheists. But it will be equally helpful to experienced apologists who want a quick-reference manual to keep on hand for future debates. Although I would not strictly endorse everything in it (for instance, I think Matt Flannagan overstates the case against taking the extermination of the Canaanites literally), it is an exceptional resource for understanding how irrational and implausible new atheism is compared to Christianity.

Buy True Reason on Amazon.

Cross-posted from my blog.

Can a Scientist Trust the New Testament? by N. T. Wright

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N. T. Wright recently spoke at St Andrews University on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. The message was a part of the James Gregory lectures, a series of public talks by eminent national and international speakers on a wide range of contemporary issues in science and religion.

Why Belgium’s vote for child euthanasia should grieve us all

chair

Joni Eareckson Tada, writing for Time on the decision to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children in Belgium:

“The law can be interpreted to include many medical conditions, and as a quadriplegic advocate for persons with disabilities, this alarms me. Children in all cultures tend to approach adults in authority with trust. They look to us for comfort, advice, and support. To have an adult in authority approach them and suggest euthanasia as an alternative to life is swinging the compassion pendulum to the outer edges of horror.

It should be in our nature as adults to protect our young. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as our global monitor to safeguard children – especially boys and girls who suffer from illnesses or disabilities. Article 5 states, “[The child] has a right to special care if handicapped in any way.”

Is “special care” now three grams of Phenobarbital in the veins if that child despairs of his handicapping condition? I don’t understand how civilized society can defend the right to life of a child with a serious medical condition while abandoning that child at his greatest point of need.

We have long held that children do not have the cognitive ability to make adult decisions; this is why they are considered minors. We limit a minor’s decision on tobacco, drugs, and alcohol until they are adults; yet somehow Belgium believes that a minor can make a decision about taking his or her own life.

Giving little ones a choice usually means that they make decisions based on what they think their families want to hear. When it comes to a choice to die, that’s a terrible burden to place on a child. Boys and girls do not take into account the future; they cannot project what life might be like with a permanent disability or a long-term illness. We adults understand how our decisions impact the future, and we understand that we need to teach this skill to our children. It’s distressing that a life-or-death choice is being granted to young ones who haven’t yet learned this critical life skill.

So, yes, we are outraged by the Belgian Parliament’s decision, and I pray that we never become so calloused in this country as to allow our children to opt for death over their personal hardship. Neither we – nor the suffering child – can fully understand all that is at play in one’s life or in a family who strives to find positive meaning in pain, and we should never be in a position to play God and determine who lives and who dies.

However, before I hold our society up as more righteous than Belgium, I am reminded of a situation in which we are allowing our children to be killed, based on an unknowable prediction of perceived suffering.

An estimated 92% of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies. People’s fears of disability – of the perceived suffering it might cause – has created a genocide among an entire population of individuals who, for the most part, are characterized as joyful and loving. But no matter; someone has deemed life with Down syndrome not worth living.

So while we can rightfully condemn Belgium’s decision, our own judgment turns and devours us. Our selfish desires and fears of disability have led our own culture to choose a similar transgression, condemning the “defective” unborn to die, without giving them any say in the matter. At least Belgium gives their children a vote.”

Read the whole article here.

HT: Trevin Wax