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Free eBook this Easter

Hi everyone,

Here at Thinking Matters, we love free stuff, and here is something that is just that…FREE!

Reformation Trust is making the ebook edition of Anthony Carter’s Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, completely free.

What does it mean to be redeemed by the Blood of Christ? Check out this book and see. It is true that this book is not on the subject of apologetics, however, it is still important as thinking Christians for us to understand our own faith.

Enjoy!

 

This post is courtesy of Ligonier Ministries.

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Faith Refocused

What is Faith and how does it relate to the world?

Does a weak faith help people believe in things that are unlikely, and a strong faith believe in things that are truly false?

Why is it reasonable to trust God?

This video helps to answer such questions and more. Enjoy!

An Interview on “How to Be an Atheist”

In a new video from Crossway Books, Justin Taylor sits down to talk to Mitch Stokes about his provocatively titled book How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough.

Stokes was an engineer before he studied philosophy under intellectual heavyweights Wolterstorff and Plantinga. His previous book, A Shot of Faith (to the Head), expertly navigated deep philosophical and scientific waters to help readers get an understandable grasp of the rationality of theistic belief. His new book, How to be an Atheist, encourages skeptics to be more skeptical about the certainty of their skeptical beliefs. It sounds like an interesting read.

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Leibniz’ Contingency Argument

Reasonable Faith have an excellent video regarding the Contingency Argument. This explains why God is necessary for the universe to exist without presupposing a beginning to the universe.

We live in an amazing universe.

Have you ever wondered why it exists?

Why does anything at all exists?

Gottfried Leibniz wrote, “The first question which should rightly be asked is: Why is there something rather than nothing?”

He came to the conclusion that the explanation is found in God.

Enjoy!

Event: Are We Alone in the Universe? God and Planet Earth. By Dr Jeff Zweerink

Are We Alone in the Universe? God and Planet Earth

Thinking Matters and Reasons for Faith are privileged to welcome Dr Jeff Zweerink from Reasons to Believe for this special event:

Are We Alone in the Universe? God and Planet Earth

Over the past two decades, astronomers have found thousands of planets orbiting stars beside the Sun. These “exoplanets” bring us closer to answering the questions nearly everybody wants to know: Does life exist beyond Earth?  How would we find any hypothetical life and what would the consequences be if we found it elsewhere in the Universe?  In providing answers to these questions, Jeff opens up questions of faith and science and what it would mean to mankind.

Jeff ZweerinkAstrophysicist and Research Scholar – Jeff Zweerink – is the Executive Director of Online Learning at Reasons to Believe where he encourages people of all backgrounds to consider their faith and how it connects with the evidence of science.

He writes and speaks on the compatibility of faith and science and on evidence for intentional design from multi-verse theory, dark energy and dark matter, and exoplanets. His speaking engagements take him to universities and conferences around the world.  He holds a part-time position at UCLA and is working on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect and understand dark matter. Jeff is co-author on more than 30 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Astrophysical Journal, and Astroparticle Physics, and Astrobiology, as well as numerous conference proceedings.  Click here for a full bio.

WHAT: Lecture with Q&A
WHEN: Tuesday March 29th
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
WHERE: Kauri Room, Windsor Park Baptist Church, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland
RSVP: None
COST: Free – but Koha (donation) welcome

We hope to see you there!

The Moral Argument

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

“Can you be good without God?

See, here’s the problem: If there is no God, what basis remains for objective good or bad, right or wrong? If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

And here’s why.

Without some objective reference point, we have no way of saying that something is really up or down. God’s nature provides an objective reference point for moral values – it’s the standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. But if there’s no God, there’s no objective reference point. All we’re left with is one person’s viewpoint – which is no more valid than any one else’s viewpoint.

But the problem is – good and bad, right and wrong do exist! Just as our sense experience convinces us that the physical world is objectively real, our moral experience convinces us that moral values are objectively real. Every time you say, “Hey, that’s not fair! That’s wrong! That’s an injustice!” you affirm your belief in the existence of objective morals.”

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New Video Series on How Jesus Changed the World with Karl Faase

Olive Tree Media have released a trailer for a new DVD series about how the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters. Hosted by Karl Faase, the 10 episode series includes interviews with notable Christian academics such as Miroslav Volf and Rodney Stark. The series comes out in July.

Karl Faase is the Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church and CEO of Olive Tree Media, an Australian-based media organisation which produces DVD and television series for Christian media and church use.

2016 Confident Christianity Conference is coming

Confident Christianity Conference

We are excited to announce that this year our Confident Christianity Conference will be hosted in both Auckland (at Windsor Park Baptist Church) and Christchurch (at Rutland Street Church):

AUCKLAND: Friday 29th and Saturday 30th April

CHRISTCHURCH: Friday 6th and Saturday 7th May

Alan ShlemonThis year our keynote speaker is Alan Shlemon from Stand to Reason.  Alan is a professional speaker who has dedicated his life to training Christians – both young and old – to thoughtfully articulate their faith and values.  He is a dynamic and entertaining speaker who speaks to thousands of adults and students around the world at churches, conferences and on university campuses on some of the most difficult challenges of our day such as evolution, abortion, relativism, homosexuality, euthanasia, cloning, bio-ethics, and Islam.

Our other speakers include Mark Powell, Matthew Flannagan, David Riddell and many others.

Check here for full conference details and a list of conference topics

We rely heavily on word of mouth to get people along – so please tell your friends about this!

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Diamond in the rough – Why Christianity is unique

In my previous post, we explored the falsifiability (or lack thereof) of some world religions. Here we will dive straight into the credentials of my personal favourite – Christianity.

We left off with you asking a question – How is the Christian religion any different from the others? Wasn’t Christianity founded by a solitary, subjective figure ? Didn’t Jesus claim to hear directly from ‘The Father’? Isn’t he also circularly impervious to the attacks of the enemy?

Yes, Christianity is founded on one man, claiming to be God. And yes, he does command your trust by virtue of him being God and owning you.  So far, so circular. The differences become clear when you take a look at the biblical authors approach to this issue. Rather than falling back on their divine authority and declaring “Believe, because I said so”, like Muhammad, the Buddha, and Joseph Smith, the biblical authors say, “Take a look for yourself”. Christianity invites investigation.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul addresses the bodily resurrection of Jesus to a culture steeped in pagan philosophy and mythology. See Paul’s words below:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for the our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)

Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of the basic theological foundation that he lay when he was ministering in Corinth – in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was murdered, buried, and resurrected to claim a people for himself. The Corinthians didn’t have hearsay and rumours to go on with these claims, but actual witnesses of the events. While some of them had fallen asleep (died), others lived and continued to shine as beacons of testimony. Paul’s appeal to eyewitnesses to solidify the flesh-and-blood resurrection of Jesus from the tomb mirrors that of the Gospel writers. Frequently in their accounts, names of seemingly inconsequential people are given to add some extra oomph to the eyewitness accounts. To put it another way – “If you don’t believe me, go ask this guy.”

Paul goes a step further in the following section of his letter:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 

If Christ has not been raised, you faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

If in Christ we have hope for this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-15, 17, 19)

Let me try to put this in an even more provocative way – if Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is pointless. Did you hear that? You are of all people most to be pitied if you have given your life for a cause still six feet under. If you are of the persuasion who thinks that even if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the Christian life is still worth living because of the “family values and strong morals” it breeds, go for it. But don’t call it Christianity. As for me, I am going to eat, drink (a lot), and be merry, for tomorrow I die.

By staking the the future of the Christian religion on an historical event that did not happen in a corner, the biblical authors willingly opened themselves up to scrutiny in a way that no other religion has or ever will. While the followers of Muhammad, Buddha, and Joseph Smith point to their leaders’ enlightened, mystical authority as unquestionable proof, the Christian bases their Leader’s authority by pointing to an empty tomb and saying, “Take a look for yourself”

All religions the same? Take a closer look

An oft repeated sentiment today is that all religions are basically the same in that they are all subjective, unscientific, and just plain false. So in today’s secular climate, how does someone go about filtering out the good from the gunk? Is there even a concept of good religion, or are they all gunk?

Secularism has firmly removed religion from the public sphere of objectivity and ‘science’, and placed it in the private corner of subjectivity and ‘faith’. This means that religion can never really be considered true in any meaningful sense. It can provide meaning for adherents in a utilitarian sense, but can’t authoritatively direct mankind due to its obsession with ancient books and garden fairies.

I don’t see the majority view changing on this anytime soon, so for the purposes of this post, I will appeal to an objective and scientific concept to bring the objective backing the world craves to the subjective sphere they despise. This concept is known as falsifiability.

What is falsifiability?

The philosopher of science, Karl Popper, suggested the criterion of falsifiability – a scientific hypothesis must be inherently disprovable before it can be accepted as a legitimate theory. While this criterion was originally only used within the physical sciences, it was eventually used across a number of social sciences, including anthropology and history.

By applying falsifiability to a small number of the world’s great religions, we begin to see weeds amidst the wheat. Take a look at these origins stories:

Islam

An Arabian merchant begins to receive visions from the Almighty God (Allah) whilst in a mountain cave. Turns out these vivid hallucinations are actually the words of Allah, the one true God. Muhammad is the True Prophet and forms a people in submission (the meaning of the word, Islam) to Allah.

Buddhism

The Buddha, or “the awakened one”, shares his eternal insights with man on how to transcend our earthy desires to reach the spiritual Nirvana.

Mormonism

Disillusioned by the various Christian denominations before him, a young boy named Joseph Smith asks God to give him wisdom for which path to choose. One day, while in a wood, Joseph receives an angelic vision of the true faith and Mormonism is born.

Can you see the similarities between these three religions? They all originated from moments of quiet contemplation. This does not necessarily mean that they aren’t true but it does create skepticism when considered in the broader context of the respective religious histories. Turns out caves and trees are perfect places to start a religion.

It isn’t that these three religions aren’t falsifiable – their claims can be investigated and doubt shed. The issue is that they automatically reject criticism based on their internal frameworks, making them inherently unfalsifiable. Muhammad and Joseph Smith can’t be wrong because they were declared as authoritative prophets of God. Rejecting Buddha’s teachings proves that you are filled with desire, and thus not worthy. What we see is the proverbial bait and switch – offering a falsifiable claim only to remove it right before your eyes using their own theology (or in Buddhism’s case, a-theology).

Take a look

Wasn’t Christianity founded by a solitary figure, you ask? Didn’t Jesus claim that he heard directly from ‘The Father’? Isn’t he also circularly impervious to the attacks of the enemy? Good questions. Let’s look at them next time.

 

EVENT: Life’s X-Factor – The Missing Link in a Materialism’s Science of Living Things

Reasons For Faith at Windsor Park Baptist in Auckland has the following event coming up:

Life’s X-Factor: The Missing Link in a Materialism’s Science of Living Things

By Professor Neil Broom, Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Auckland University

Neil’s talk will challenge the widely held view that unthinking impersonal processes can account for the richness and purposefulness of the living world.

WHEN: June 21

TIME: 3:30pm

WHERE: Rimu Room at the Windsor Park Centre, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland

COST: Free

FOR MORE INFO: Contact reasonsforfaithwpbc@gmail.com

Intelligent Design: Science, Philosophy, or Theology?

Following Stephen Meyer’s talks in NZ, a few people will be thinking more about intelligent design. What is it, and why does it matter?

The central claim of the intelligent design movement is that design is 1) empirically detectable (distinguishable from ordinary ‘natural’ processes), and 2) instantiated in the natural world. 

There are different claims that fall under this idea of intelligent design. Probably most controversially, the claim is about certain aspects of biological organisms that are said to particularly clearly evince design, but other areas in which evidence of design is said to be found include cosmology, astronomy, and chemistry/biochemistry.

As such, intelligent design seems to be a scientific kind of hypothesis. Perhaps not purely scientific, if we decide, firstly that science must be constrained by methodological naturalism, and secondly that design as a kind of cause falls outside the appropriate definition of naturalism; but still dealing with the same general realm that science generally does. Perhaps ‘natural philosophy’ or ‘meta-science’ might do as a term.

Inferences about the nature of the design observed quickly move into philosophical territory. But the same is probably true when dealing with anything near the foundations of science. 

So, the concept that design is evinced in the natural world includes aspects of science and of philosophy. Intelligent design, however, is not theology. It comports well with some theological claims, for sure – but so does belief in scientific law, and no-one calls the work of theoretical physicists acts of theology.

Proponents of intelligent design often argue that Christians must believe in it, because the Bible says that the universe declares things about God. I disagree with them – it may be that, indeed, the universe declares things about God – but that the nature of the declaration is not scientific or empirical in quite the way that ID sees it. Reformed epistemologists such as Alvin Plantinga, for example, have spoken about design beliefs being a ‘properly basic’ response to the natural world, rather than based on what we’d think of as an evidence-based inference. His book ‘Where the conflict really lies’ is a fascinating discussion of many things relating to the ID question. There are lots of interesting theological questions over whether God provides us with ‘scientific’ evidence of his existence.

Atheistic opponents say that ID is merely theology disguised in thin pseudo-scientific garments. But I disagree with them too – ID is compatible with very many different kinds of theologies, including many non-traditional views of God/gods/spirit/aliens etc and complete agnosticism on the existence of any kind of deities. Theistic opponents argue on the other hand that it is insufficiently theological, failing to identify the designer as e.g. the God of biblical Christian theism. Given that ID doesn’t claim to be theology, the critique as often made seems misplaced. The fact that it gets flak from both atheists and theologians says to me that ID occupies a very interesting place!  Along similar lines, both atheists and people with a theological bent often argue that ID is simply a ‘god of the gaps’ approach – and so both bad reasoning and bad theology! Bad reasoning for ignoring other possible natural causes, and bad theology for implying that God only acts in ‘gaps’ in the natural order’. 

However, it may be (heresy as it is to suggest it) that we don’t actually live in a causally closed universe – all theists, I think, should be at least sympathetic to the possibility, and it may well be required by theism. If God, or some other mind, does genuinely intervene in nature at one or more points in history, then perhaps ordinary natural processes will not be sufficient to explain the products of such action. In some cases, the gap may be large enough, and the product of the action similar enough to what we would tend to see as ‘designed’ to legitimately infer the action of a designer. Theologically, it is perfectly coherent to say that God has multiple methods of action – sometimes He acts specially in history (e.g. at the resurrection), presumably in a way that isn’t entirely explicable in terms of physical law and the initial conditions of the universe. If He acted in that way then, then why not also in other cases? This doesn’t prevent us believing that He also upholds the universe from moment to moment, by way of the ‘ordinary’ means of physical law. It may also be, as suggested before, that God does intervene but that this is not detectable (at least definitively) by the scientific kinds of means employed by ID theorists – this seems to me to be an interesting open question.

Finally, a philosophical suggestion: the evidence for design suggested by ID arguments (spanning the gamut from cosmology to molecular biology), while not an exercise in theology per se, certainly has theological implications. The kind of mind revealed or at least implied by ID arguments (if they succeed – perhaps e.g. the arguments from cosmology do succeed, but those from biology don’t – as many theistic evolutionists seem to think) fits better with biblical Christian theism than it does with a vague kind of deism, panentheism, or such. On biblical Christian theism, we have reason to expect that God has an interest in life, and particularly in human life. On the existence of some unspecified kind of cosmic mind, we have less (if any) reason to expect the outcomes we see. The arguments offered by the intelligent design movement (whatever their merits) imply a broadly ‘personal’ God, rather than an impersonal computer somewhere out there.