The latest Christian news, views and discussion.

100 Christian Apologists up @ Apologetics 315

Congrats Brian, what an awesome job.  Let’s hope and pray that we can increase that number 10-fold through your work at Apologetics 315, and ours here at Thinking Matters!

Check it out here…

http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2009/06/100-christian-apologists.html

Is the New Atheism Reasonable?

Last night I presented the talk ‘Is the New Atheism Reasonable?’ at Thinking Matters Tauranga.  It was split into two parts – the first was a bit of worldview and epistemology and the second more social commentary and history to refute the New Atheist claim that Christianity is somehow bloodthirsty.

To start my presentation, I looked at the question of Agnosticism and identified the two types: Soft Agnosticism and Hard Agnosticism. Read more

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Since heat is one of the most common forms of energy in the Universe, and since its action can be seen on bodies everywhere, the science of thermo-dynamics (heat-motion) received very early development in physics.

Entropy is a mathematical measure of disorder. This means that any work in the Universe results in a net increase in disorder in the Universe, so that if the Universe is left untouched, it will eventually reach the state of maximum disorder, a state of death known as the Entropy Death. Read more

Abiogenesis — Where is the Evidence?

It has been great contributing posts on this blog. It has also been great to interact with a number of people who do not subscribe to the creation model of the Universe. However, within a short period of time it has become clear that most of them have not done their homework.

According to the Law of Biogenesis, life comes only from preexisting life. This is a firmly established law of science, and never has an exception ever been documented in any area of science. The aseptic practices in surgical theaters, pasteurization, and every other method to keep micro-organisms from spreading is based upon the law of biogenesis. Read more

Disappointed Again !!

When I wrote to the effect that Abiogenesis (genesis of living thins from the nonliving) is not a fact of science, many anti-creationist visitors of this blog asked me to read certain books. They claimed that these books demonstrated how abiogenesis was possible in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

I Felt Cheated. Then all of them said that I should read “Frontiers of Complexity” and that is exactly what I have been doing among other things. Surely this a good book, a very good book at that, but again it does not address the issue my friends claim as addressed. Read more

Former Buddhist Speaks Out

It has irked me that the west has a rosy-eyed view of Buddhism as a moral system. I’ve come across people who praise the atheistic religion for their peaceful way of life and their system of ethics that is – supposedly – superior to Christian model of ethics. You get this also through the media as well, for instance in the movie Bee Season (2005) with Richard Gere.

This testimony from AOG pastor Peter Thein Nyunt, a former Buddhist’s apprentice destroys that idea. He was recently in New Zealand with the Langham Partnership. The view from the inside from this native from Myanmar (formerly Burma) about Buddhism is illuminating.

For the audio go here.

Cracks In The Edifice

The Theory of Evolution has been reigning the academic world for close to a century and a half, but the alleged proofs and demonstrations have been playing a vanishing game. The latest one to do so is what is usually called the “Phylogenetic Tree”.

A theory like Evolution needs multiple proofs and evidences, and thankfully the proponents have been offering a generous number of proofs. This helps both the sides. The proponents get an opportunity to organize their house, while the opponents get an opportunity to examine whether it is a real house or only one made of cards.

Phylogenetic_tree.svg An arrangement of all the known flora and fauna in an organized tree, starting from the simplest known life and culminating in the most advanced one is called a Phylogenetic Tree. Initially they used an intuitive classification based upon perceived similarities, but gradually the work became more sophisticated. Today almost all standard textbooks on biological evolution necessarily contain at least one picture of the Phylogenetic Tree, mainly in support of Evolution.

The first such tree was made by Charles Darwin and his predecessors, and the picture that is shown in most textbooks today was perfected before the 1930s. However, cracks began to appear in the picture soon after that. The Cladists were almost the first to challenge this picture. They refuted the idea of a single tree and substituted multiple trees, each one evolving independently of the other.

Non-evolutionists have always insisted that this tree has no empirical basis and that the whole construction is arbitrary. This arbitrariness was demonstrated repeatedly by the way the tree was rearranged, and also by the absence of established “links” between branches. The question of the non-evolutionist empiricist like me is, “how do you know the branch connects in a certain place when the link that ought to connect is missing”.

The latest issues of Scientific American, New Scientist, and several other scientific magazines accept this observation of non-evolutionists in so many words. Not that they have abandoned the framework of evolution. No, that is not the issue here. The basic issue is that this particular proof, as presented in biology textbooks, is simply not true. Empirical observations have shown — particularly after the arrival of genetic studies — that the tree will not hold together. The presumed edifice will not hold together. [Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogenetic_tree]

The author is a physicist, and has worked in the filed of Quantum-Nuclear physics, particularly on the quark structure of protons, neutrons, and deuterium binding energy.

Miracles in Apologetics Part 2

I have long thought that a miracle can be an apologetic. It was one of the chief ways that God authenticated His word and His revelation. Today, with the resurgence of our awareness of miracles, it is important we think about how the testimony of miracles sounds to unbelievers, particularly those who are sceptical and philosophically opposed to Christianity and belief in God.

In order to develop an apologetic for God’s existence that reduces the opportunity for scepticism, based upon the testimony of miracles, I suggest that a miracle X meets the following criteria.

(1) Does X have a natural explanation?
If the answer is “Yes,” then X is merely a case for either God’s providence or second-order causation. What we will be focusing on here is first-order causation where a miracle is any event such that the natural conditions for said event were not present. 

(2) Is the miracle radical enough to assume that there is no yet to be discovered natural explanation to defeat it.

For example, the Egyptian magicians of Pharaoh could duplicate the miracles performed by Moses, but a point was reached when the magicians ability to duplicate the miracle was surpassed due to the large scale and spectacular nature. An ache in the belly with the tendency to come and go, when prayed for may disappear, but such an occurrence, though it may be a genuine miracle, would hardly be convincing. On the other-hand a regenerative miracle, where a blind man sees, a lame man walks, or deaf man hears, or a limb suddenly re-grows is more difficult to wave away as having a natural explanation.

(3) Did X happen within the context answered prayer.

The objection this counters is the chance hypothesis. The skeptic will claim that with six billion people in the world it is not unexpected that some people will be particularly lucky or experience miraculous-like events. However the plausibility of this hypothesis is reduced when it occurs in the context of prayer.

(4) Is X an isolated occurrence, or is there a high frequency of similar occurrences in the same context?

For instances explaining Jesus’ miracles away with natural explanations become increasingly contrived the more miracles there are that have to be explained.

(5) Did X happen instantly, or did it take a while?

This is not to say that miracles that take some time are less miraculous, but to say that miracles that happen instantly are the better spectacle.

(6) Was X permanent?

(7) Is X verified by experts in the field, ie. medical doctors and supporting evidence (x-rays, test results).

It will take skill to weigh and balance the above criteria – though they are not really criteria as a genuine miracle may not necessarily conform to every point. This is only a suggested checklist for use in an argument for divine causation, specifically to refute both Deism and Atheism. It is only a guideline to assessing the convincing power of a testimony, and to reduce the opportunity for scepticism and rejection.

Miracles in Apologetics Part 1

I am deeply concerned about a perceived attitude accompanying our rising awareness that miracles are a part of the normal Christian life. The danger in the resurgence of the miraculous, especially in so-called “healing-evangelism”, is an outlook that says all we need to prove God’s existence, and solve all our apologetic needs, is to believe, pray for a miracle, and let God do the rest.

The inadequacy of this as a principle in healing-evangelism and Christian practice is obvious. Consider the following two reasons.

The evangelistic call of every believer would be restricted to those instances where God does heal. The evangelist’s efforts would be curtailed and the knowledge of God reduced to only an experience. Besides this, if God did choose to intervene with the miraculous every-time so that he might convince someone of his existence, this would turn the universe into haunted house and it is entirely plausible to think that peoples hearts would harden. They might even become resentful of He who flaunts his power, or in all probability conclude His miracle was not a result of divine causation but a natural function of the universe.

The second reason is a miracle without an accompanying explanation of what it represents is near hopeless. The person will know themselves to be healed, but not know who healed them or why they were healed. In the wake of a miracle there is bound to be host of questions asked, concerning His good character, the reliability of the Bible, etc., and this needs someone trained in apologetics.

Let us not forget the pattern given to us in the book of Acts; wherever there is a miracles there is preaching and apologetics; wherever there is preaching and apologetics there are miracles. Both go hand in hand and one is not found without the other.

Now I must say that I do agree that desiring and seeking out opportunities for God to confirm His miraculous power to unbelievers is a very good thing. I also credit God with the intelligence to know what He is doing when he does choose to heal someone. Christianity after-all, is chiefly experiential, and experiencing the power of God; to heal, to empower, to be assured, and of regeneration from a being dead in your sin, is important, but that is not to say Christianity is not also a message of truth and hope that needs to be declared and defended. We must expand the propositional content of the gospel as well as the power of the gospel.

Have you ever wondered why the miracles of Jesus were so effective in confirming Christ’s message? Granted there were of a spectacular nature, but the greater reason, I believe, is that they were performed in a culture suffused with a super-natural worldview. The milieu of the time already believed in a miracle working God and was expectant of a messiah whose ministry would be characterised by the miraculous.

Our culture however is not. We live in a time and place that is post-christian, has a deeply entrenched secularism and an ever encroaching naturalism. In such a milieu, when someone is confronted with a miraculous circumstance the immediate response will be skepticism. If the miracle breaks down this initial barrier, there will arise soon afterward a profound question that is enormously problematic for someone trained to think that God is comparable to the “sugar-plum fairy.” It constitutes what missiologist call a ‘power encounter’ where for the first time, the unsaved man is open to accepting the message of the gospel.

More importantly to consider our culture, where there are alternative explanations of the miraculous, such as; the power of suggestion, hypnotism, charlatans playing mind tricks, and a new age pantheism where the universe heals itself. These alternatives need answering with apologetics. A hedge of prepared arguments is essential for the heeling-evangelist to protect their potential converts from counter-arguments levelled against the occurrence of miracles, divine causation and God’s existence, and to safe-guard the glory of God that He has won for himself by performing a miracle.

So miracles far from being the end of apologetics and arguments, presents a host of new questions seeking to be answered, new avenues calling for intellectual excellence and a renewed effectiveness of the proclamation of the gospel.

John M. Frame on Culture

For those who have been wrestling with the issue of culture recently (you know who you are!), John Frame has written a helpful piece on Christ and Culture. (This transcript appears in a revised form in the latest addition to his Theology of Lordship series, The Doctrine of the Christian Life).

“We have seen that culture is a mixed affair, the result of human sinful activity on the one hand, and God’s grace (common and special) on the other. Christians are not to leave culture alone or to limit their influence to the content of natural law. Rather they are to seek a transformation of culture through the whole Word of God.” (Doctrine of the Christian Life, pg 903).

HT to http://scottym.blogspot.com/2008/12/john-m-frame-on-culture.html for the link!

John Lennox interviewed by CPX

The Centre for Public Christianity has some interviews with Professor John Lennox, a distinguished Christian thinker and author. Lennox has recently debated both Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He is a professor in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green College, at the University of Oxford (HT: Justin Taylor).


Other videos worth watching:

The evils of Christendom.

The evidence for God and the explanatory scope of science.

Science and faith, and the credibility of the Bible.

Tim Keller interviewed at the Washington Post and other videos

Tim Keller sits down in an interview with Sally Quinn, one of the editors of Washington Posts On Faith discussion site. Keller discusses several questions, including his journey to become a Christian, certainty and the possibility of dialogue between Christians and agnostics, getting mad at God and suffering, and Kierkegaard’s definition of sin.

Source: JT and Kevin Cawley

Keller is the author of the best-seller The Reason for God, and also of a new book coming out this month, The Prodigal God, on understanding Christianity through the story of the prodigal son.

The Gospel Coalition has several other good segments of Keller answering more questions on their site:

Who are the New Atheists?

What is the New Atheist message? How should we engage them?

How do you respond when people say that science has buried God?

How is Christianity relevant for today’s culture?