Recap of 2016 National Conference on Christian Apologetics

Last Friday and Saturday, Southern Evangelical Seminary held its annual apologetics conference at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. On Thursday, a special women’s edition of the conference was held. I had the distinct honor to attend this conference which was titled “The Defense Never Rests.” This was my fourth conference and quite honestly it was one of the best yet.

Due to an illness, Lee Strobel was not able to attend the conference as previously scheduled. Dr. Norman Geisler stepped up to fill in for the ailing Strobel. Geisler addressed the freedoms that America was built upon, particularly addressing the role that the Judeo-Christian ethic played in the development of the country. One fascinating fact that quite interested me was that for nearly 300 years, Americans read the Bible, prayed, and learned the Ten Commandments while in public school. From 1960-1963, prayer, devotional readings of the Bible, and the adherence to the Ten Commandments were eliminated from the public school system. Since that time, divorces and abortions have increased over 200%. Is there a connection? I agree with Geisler in saying that there is.

Dr. Frank Turek led the next lecture I attended. His lecture was titled “When Reason Isn’t the Reason for Unbelief.” Turek revealed that reason is not the stumbling block that keeps most atheists from coming to the Christian faith: the consequences of the Christian faith do. Assembling some of the material from his book Stealing from God, Turek concludes that atheists often must steal principles from God in order to make their case. I loved Augustine’s quote given which says, “We love the truth when it enlightens us. We hate the truth when it convicts us.” How true! Morality is only known because of the standard given to us by God. While many feel they are somewhat less righteous than Mother Teresa and far more righteous than Hitler, Turek noted from Scripture that everyone is unrighteous before God. Turek brought a great lesson!

The third lecture I attended was led by Dr. Barry Leventhal and titled “The Problem of Evil and The Holocaust.” Leventhal told something that I had never before heard. He told of individuals surviving the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp who had visions of the Messiah. One particular individual despised Christianity so much that it became a means of survival. Joseph Herschowitz was his name. Herschowitz kept telling himself, “If I ever get out of here, I will make those Christians pay.” Why did he blame the Christians? It was because they stood idly by and did not say anything to the Jews defense. Herschowitz, to his surprise, had an encounter with what Leventhal called “The Mysterious Messiah.” Leventhal addressed the hiddenness of God and noted that what we know of God pales in comparison to the great depths of God that we do not know. As Leventhal noted, we do not know just how many people in the shadows of the concentration camps met this Mystery Messiah that we know to be Christ Jesus. The term “powerful” does not do justice to the might of Leventhal’s lecture.

The fourth lecture I attended was led by Norman Geisler. I caught just a bit of his lecture. Geisler’s second address was on the title of the conference, “The Defense Never Rests.” He spoke of the challenges that the church has met since its illustrious inception. His main focus was on the importance of defending the truth of God’s Word against any and all errors. I hope to hear this lecture in its entirety soon.

The fifth lecture was given by Dr. Doug Potter. Potter’s lecture was titled “The Book of Enoch, Angels, and Giants, O My…” This lecture was all about the pseudopigraphal book known as 1 Enoch. Some question whether 1 Enoch should be included in the canon since Jude quoted from 1 Enoch. Potter argued that it was possible that Jude and the mysterious writer of 1 Enoch could have pulled from another unknown source. But even if Jude did quote 1 Enoch, this does not grant that 1 Enoch should be included. For instance, Paul was known to quote from non-Christian literary texts of his day. Potter concludes that 1 Enoch does not find a home in the New Testament canon. While 1 Enoch is interesting, I most certainly concur with Dr. Potter.

The sixth lecture I attended was led by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Ross’ lecture was on the “Faint Sun Paradox: New Proofs of Creation.” My specialty is in the realm of theology, so I dare not try to explain all of what Dr. Ross said. Nevertheless, Dr. Ross noted that as the sun grows older, it becomes larger, hotter, and more luminous. Without enough light, the earth would be a snowball. With too much light, the earth would be a fireball. We find ourselves in a perfect position where life is allowable. In addition, Dr. Ross presented other fascinating signs of design which must be in place to allow for life to exist. Dr. Ross clearly illuminated the fact that a Creator not only put everything into place, that same Creator works within creation keeping things balanced so that life can exist. However, this information came with a warning. Unless God intervenes, life cannot continue to exist much past 1,400 years. While not going into much more detail, he did say that other factors may bring that time-frame into centuries. So the notion that Jesus is coming soon is far more relevant that the skeptic may want to think.

The seventh lecture I attended was led by Dr. Sean McDowell. His lecture was of great interest to me being the lover of history that I am. McDowell gave the lecture titled “The Fate of the Apostles.” McDowell addressed the history and legendary material surrounding the fate of the apostles. He noted that we can know with high probability that Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, and James the son of Zebedee died as martyrs. He also noted that we can know with good probability that Thomas and Andrew also died as martyrs. However as it pertains to the remaining apostles, the historian cannot be certain although there are reasons to think that the apostles all, or nearly all, died as martyrs. I had a chance to speak with McDowell after the lecture. Let me just say, Sean McDowell is a kind man and extremely intelligent. He noted that John was the most interesting of the apostles he studied. There are some indications suggesting that he could have died as a martyr, but nothing conclusive. Other sources indicate that he died a natural death while ministering in Ephesus. In my humble opinion, I feel that John 21:20-24 indicates the latter as I also feel that there are good reasons to hold that the apostle John dictated his Gospel to an amanuensis. Fantastic lecture!!!

On Saturday, I attended three lectures. The eighth lecture of the conference was led again by Hugh Ross. Ross’ second lecture was titled “Habitability for Redemption.” Ross argued that the habitability index of creation is just right to allow countless billions of individuals to come to faith. God designed creation so that the maximum number of individuals could hear the gospel and enter into a relationship with God. Excellent lecture!

The ninth lecture I attended was led by Jay Sekulow of the American Center of Law and Justice. Sekulow is a defense attorney who has defended religious freedoms in the United States of America as well as defending the persecuted church at the United Nations. Concurring with Dr. Richard Land, hearing Sekulow is what it must have been like to hear the apostle Paul. Sekulow shared with us the importance in staying true to our Christian convictions, but doing so in an intelligent fashion. Sekulow noted that while politics is an important endeavor, politics never raised someone from the dead. Excellent point! It was also fascinating to hear of Sekulow’s testimony in how he came to know Yeshua (Jesus) as his Savior.

The tenth and final lecture I was able to attend was led by J. Warner Wallace. Mr. Wallace is an extremely likable fellow. Wallace is a former cold-case homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), star of the movie God’s Not Dead 2, and author of the books Cold-case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. In his second lecture, Wallace presented material found in his book Cold-case Christianity. Wallace used the evidence of a cold-case homicide detective to demonstrate that the four Gospels are documents penned by eyewitnesses. Wallace’s presentation was top-notch and left one on the edge of their seats. He performed well under pressure because Dr. Gary Habermas and two Ph.D. students were in the front row. Apparently they gave him two thumbs up after the presentation had concluded. I was certainly cheering him on. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Wallace’s early dating of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as I feel the logic and evidence using the lack of information concerning the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. in Acts and the synoptics weigh in favor of an early dating. Mr. Wallace added the capstone to what was, in my opinion, one of the best apologetics conferences yet.

The only trouble was, I wanted to hear much more! My good buddies J. Andrew Payne and Devin Pellew presented what I heard were excellent lectures on apologetic methodologies and answering objections to the Christian faith. If you have not attended, you need to make sure to check http://conference.ses.edu for details on the 2017 edition of the National Conference on Christian Apologetics. God-willing, I hope to be there again.

 

(c) October 17, 2016. Brian Chilton.

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The Order of God’s Decrees

Timing is everything. If I have something that is of a sensitive topic to discuss with my wife (like say the purchase of a new commentary or academic books like those from the amazing Craig Keener), I do not approach my wife when she is in a bad mood. Rather, I wait until she is in a fairly good mood to broker such a deal.[1] My bookcase already runneth over which to me is a sign that I need to get another bookcase to fill with more books. But that is a different topic, so I digress. Nevertheless, the timing of a series of events changes how certain ends come about. If I approached my wife with the idea of a new commentary after she had a bad day at work, chances are likely I will not get the commentary with her blessings. For those who say, “Well, get it anyway;” I would say, “You’re either not married, or not ‘happily’ married.” As the old adage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.” However, if I caught my wife on a good day and explained the value of the commentary, the end result would likely be different.

When it comes to the order of God’s decrees, timing is everything. In the theological world, there are three orders of God’s decrees that are presented: Supralaparianism, Infralapsarianism, and Sublapsarianism. When we mention the word “decree,” think of this as the timing of God’s decision. I decreed to write this article last Thursday, but I decreed to actually write the article on Monday, June 27, 2016. What are these orders and which fits the biblical narrative best?

Supralapsarianism

Supralapsarianism is accepted by what many call hyper-Calvinists or as Norman Geisler calls it “The Extreme Sovereignty View.”[2] Supralapsarianists accept the following order of God’s decrees:

  1. God decrees to save some and condemn others.
  2. God decrees to create both the elect (saved) and the reprobate (condemned).
  3. God decrees to permit the fall of both the elect and the reprobate.
  4. God decrees to permit salvation only for the elect.[3]

In this order, God decides to create both those who would be saved and would not be saved, and decides to only give salvation to those whom He chose to give salvation. In this scheme, the individual has no option but to follow the course that God has previously prepared for them. Such a plan is deterministic, or even perhaps fatalistic.

Infralapsarianism

A modified version of Supralapsarianism is Infralapsarianism. Infralapsarianists seek to soften the hardcore determinism found in Supralapsarianism by offering the following model:

  1. God decrees to create human beings.
  2. God decrees to permit the fall of humanity.
  3. God decrees to save the elect and condemn the rest.
  4. God decrees to provide salvation for the elect.[4]

In this model, God makes the decision to save a particular group of individuals after He decides to allow humanity to fall. Thus, God offers a bit of freedom to humanity. However, after humanity has fallen, God decides to select a few to save.

Sublapsarianism

Sublapsarianism differs from the previous two models presented. Sublapsarianists offer the following model for consideration:

  1. God decrees to create human beings.
  2. God decrees to permit the fall.
  3. God decrees to provide salvation sufficient for all.
  4. God decrees to save some and to condemn others.[5]

In this model, God creates humanity with a desire to save all, but chooses to save only some. Sublapsarianism is the softest of the three versions presented. One must ask, which fits the biblical narrative best?

Which fits the biblical narrative best?

To answer this question, certain biblical passages must be kept in mind. The Bible does not tell us of the particular order that God followed when creating humanity and developing the salvific plan. However, some passages imply a particular narrative. I wish to examine four segments of Scripture.

Exodus 4:21 and 8:15

In the story of the Exodus, God told Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).[6] How did this hardening take place? Well, the reader is provided the answer later in the book. When God alleviated the plagues and “when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:15). Through this particular passage, we see that God absolutely knows what a particular person will do in certain circumstances. Notice too, it was God’s grace given to Pharaoh persuading him to repentance that led to Pharaoh’s heart-hardening.

Ezekiel 18:23 and 2 Peter 3:9

In Ezekiel 18:23, the LORD proclaims, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” One will note that God’s pleasure is not found in the death of anyone, including the wicked. This lends to a similar exegesis of 2 Peter 3:9 where Peter, not speaking of the elect but of all people, proclaims, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Some have argued that Peter was writing of the elect, but that makes no sense. For such an exposition would imply that the elect could be lost. If 2 Peter 3:9 is understood in the light of Ezekiel 18:23, which to me seems extremely reasonable, then one must acknowledge God’s desire for all people to repent.

Romans 11:11

In Romans 11:11, Paul notes that it was the fall of Israel that allowed the world to come to faith. Paul notes that the trespass of Israel was allowed so that “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11). This seems to be similar to the allowance of Pharaoh’s heart-hardening to bring forth faith to the people of God.

John 3:16

Perhaps John 3:16 is the most popular verse in the entire Bible. In this verse Jesus says,[8] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The passage clearly dictates that the world was in mind with God’s sacrifice. The term cosmos implies the world, or an entirety of the global human race. Such a view is also in mind as Jesus continues in his discourse, saying, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

We could spend much more time on this issue evaluating other passages of Scripture. However, with the passages already examined, I think we have a good biblical case for sublapsarianism. Millard Erickson notes, “It is the view that God logically decides first to provide salvation, then elects some to receive it. This is essentially the sublapsarian position of theologians like Augustus Strong” [7]. While there are certainly those that disagree, I would say that sublapsarianism allows for the love of God to be fully seen as well as His amazing power and knowledge. An additional question may be asked. Why did God allow for the fall and for some to be condemned in the first place? I think C. S. Lewis says it well, “Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” A world where the fullness of love is possible to be given and received in its initial form, there must be the availability that such love would be rejected. Sublapsarianism seems to answer this well.

© June 27, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes:

[1] And yes, I am exaggerating.

[2] Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 15.

[3] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 842, 2n.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[7] Erickson, Christian Theology, 852.

[8] Some hold that the verse is part of a section where John the apostle synthesizes Jesus’ message, rather than holding that the section is part of Jesus’ actual message. The NIV 2011 and NET translators hold this view. I personally feel that the section belongs to the teaching of Jesus. John may have compacted the message of Jesus for simplicity’s sake. Nevertheless, I hold that John 3:16 was part of Jesus’ message to Nicodemus.

How Does God’s Immutability Affect Me?

I have told many before that I am a walking Murphy’s Law. If something is going to happen, it will likely happen to me. A few days ago, I was sick. To make matters worse, my wife was about to leave on a business trip to Orlando. I was so sick that I feared that I might land in the emergency room. I feared that my digestive system was again disturbed. I went to the doctor and they confirmed that I had the flu. I was actually happy that it was the flu rather than my digestive system. My mother-in-law kept my son for me that afternoon and evening. However, my night was about to become bizarre. I took my nausea medicine which makes me woozy. The medicine had just entered my system when our neighbor called and told me that the brake lights were left on. How was that possible? So, I went out in the dark, while woozy, trying to figure out why the lights were on. So, I eventually had to move the truck towards the garage light, take off the battery cables, while becoming increasingly drowsy. Needless to say, my night had changed from strained to downright bizarre. Things often change at dramatic pace. Often, faster than what any of us would like. However, we can find comfort in the attribute of God known as immutability.

 Immutability means that God does not change. Wayne Grudem defines the immutability of God as that “God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations.”[1] Norman Geisler adds “That God is unchangeable in His nature has solid support in biblical, historical, and philosophical theology. Despite many anthropomorphic expressions, the Bible has clear and repeated references to God’s immutability.”[2]

 In Numbers 23:19, we find Balaam presenting his second of four oracles to Balak. These oracles come after Balaam had the bizarre incident where God spoke through a donkey. The miracle is not so much that God spoke through a donkey, but rather that Balaam spoke back to the donkey! Personally, I have never found a donkey to which I particularly cared to speak. Nevertheless, God used this means to set Balaam straight. Balak wanted Balaam to condemn God’s people. Yet in his second oracle, Balaam responds to Balak’s critique by noting the immutability of God. God does not change. If God chose to bless his people, who was Balaam to say otherwise? So what do we find in Scripture pertaining to the immutability of God? We find four ways that God does not change.

 1. God’s immutable ATTRIBUTES do not change (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 102:26-27).

Beginning with our passage, we read Balaam stating that “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and he will not fulfill it” (Numbers 23:19)?[3] Also, the psalmist states that “They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end” (Psalm 102:26-27). Both Balaam and the psalmist acknowledge that God’s attributes do not change. Meaning that the attributes that we have discussed and will discuss are unchangeable. God is not one day omnipotent and the next day limited in his power. God remains the same forever.

2. God’s immutable CHARACTER does not change (Hebrews 6:17-18; Hebrews 13:8).

The writer of Hebrews notes that “when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). The writer also notes that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The writer of Hebrews shows us that we can find hope and encouragement in the steadfast character of God.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a woman who told me, “Brian, do you know the thing I appreciate most about you?” Anytime a preacher receives a compliment, the preacher’s ears perk up. I inquired, “No, what?” She said, “I appreciate that you are the same every time I see you. Whether in church or out of church, you are the same.” While I appreciate the kind woman’s compliment, we find that it is truly God who completely remains unchanged in his character. Such is the mark of integrity. God most certainly has integrity.

3. God’s immutable PURPOSES do not change (Ephesians 3:8-13; 1 Peter 1:20).

Paul writes in Ephesians that he was to preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:9-10). Peter also writes that Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20). Paul and Peter teach us that God’s purposes do not change. The plans of God are set before time began. God doesn’t change his purpose one day to the next. God’s plans are set from eternity past.

4. God’s immutable PROMISES do not change (Titus 1:2; James 1:17).

Paul writes to Titus that “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). James also notes that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Paul and James both teach their readers that since God’s character and attributes do not change, therefore God’s promises do not change. Thus, if God promises you something, it is as good as done.

I read a story about a pastor who met with an elderly man at the point of death. Due to his medication, the older gentleman said, “Pastor, I am ready to go. But I wish I could have peace.” The pastor said, “Sir, why do you not have peace?” The gentleman said, “I would have peace if I could simply remember the promises of God.” The wise pastor replied, “Do you think God has forgotten? It doesn’t matter if you remember them. As long as God remembers his promises, he will fulfill them.” The gentleman lying in the hospital bed found peace that night because he realized that God will always fulfill his promises seeing that God is unchanging.

So, how does God’s immutability affect you? Here are five ways.

  1. God will always be faithful, despite the unfaithfulness we experience with others. Nearly all of us have experienced unfaithfulness from time to time. Your experience of unfaithfulness could come from a spouse who discontinued their promised love for you. Your experience of unfaithfulness could have come from a friend who promised to have your back, only to stab you in the very back they proposed to protect. Your unfaithfulness experience could have come from an employer who fired you days before you were set to retire. While we experience unfaithfulness in life, due to his character, God will always be faithful to us.

 

  1. God will always fulfill his promises, in spite of our experiences of worldly lies and manipulations. While some people seek to manipulate you for profit or gain (others just enjoy getting one “over on you”), God will fulfill his promises due to his unchangeable character. Jesus promised that he would never leave you nor forsake you. That is a promise you can take to the bank.

 

  1. God will never change truth, despite society’s promotion of skepticism and doubt. Since God is unchangeable, his truth is unchangeable. Societies have come and societies have gone. But God’s truth still remains. It is said that Voltaire claimed that a hundred years after his death that the Bible would be no more. Ironically, it is said that Voltaire’s home was turned into a Bible translation facility around a hundred years after his death. From his home, a particular Bible society distributed the very Word that Voltaire claimed would be doomed. God’s immutability means that his truth remains forever.

 

  1. God will always be with you, despite the seeming chaos you experience. God’s steadfastness provides order in the midst of our chaos. God will provide order when no one or nothing else can.

 

  1. God will be your rock in an ocean of turbulence, an ever present help in times of trouble. Due to his steadfastness and unchangeable nature, God is an anchor and rock in the midst of the turbulent times in which we live.

Lighthouses_csg007_Kereon,Brittany,France

Turn to God—our unchangeable hope!!!

 

© March 15, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Sources Cited

 Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Notes

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 163.

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 444.

[3] All quoted Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

The 5 Views of Morality

I recently read Gregory E. Ganssle’s book Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy. In his book, Ganssle provides 5 particular views pertaining to morality. As one examine these views, it becomes clear that one view of morality stands above and beyond the value of the other moral opinions. Many of these lesser viewpoints have invaded the mindset of many modern individuals. However, it becomes clear that only one is valid. So, what are the five views of morality?

The Error Theory

Ganssle describes the error theory as one that “holds that there are no moral facts. This theory denies them altogether.”[1] This theory holds that it is factually wrong to claim any form of morality. Thus, one could not say whether it is wrong or not to torture an animal or person. The error theory, while held by some philosophers, could be attributed to some Eastern religions which claim that good and evil are just illusions and not real.

From the outset, one should be able to deduce the great problems found in the error theory. For instance, the one who claims that the error theory is correct will dismiss such a theory the moment the advocate claims some form of act (i.e. racial discrimination, the Holocaust, terrorist acts, etcs.) as wrong. Thus, the error theory collapses upon itself as most everyone will acknowledge the existence of good and bad behaviors.

Individual Relativism

Individual relativism is best explained by the classic phrase, “What’s good for you may not be good for me.” That is, individual relativism is the belief that the individual sets forth his or her own morality. Thus, one person cannot tell another person what is right or wrong according to this theory as each person must decide good from bad themselves.

Upon careful examination, anyone can see the great problem with this theory. For example, if person A (we’ll call him Adam) is driving along and person B (we’ll call him Bob) steals Adam’s car, Adam may say, “Hey, that’s not right.” But according to individual relativism Bob would be justified in saying, “Hey man, it’s not right for you but it is for me!” However, we all know that it is morally wrong for anyone to steal another person’s car. A judge in a court of law will let Bob know quickly about the failures of his philosophy when sentencing him to jail time.

Why do so many jump on board with this philosophy? I think Ganssle is correct in saying that “I…think that people do not want other people to tell them what to do and that people do not want to tell others what to do. If morals are individually relative, then no one can tell you that something is wrong.”[2] Passivity, however, do not justify wrong thinking. Neither does a prideful heart. Individual relativism implodes the moment the individual relativist is a victim to an immoral act.

Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativists try to correct the problems of individual relativism while maintaining to the idea of moral relativism. The cultural relativist does so by claiming that morality is set by the cultural mores of an area. That is, “What is right or wrong is determined by one’s culture or society.”[3] While cultural relativism holds more of a base than does individual relativism, the theory still holds a major flaw.

Most people are horrified by the ruthless brutality of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and extremist terror groups. However, if one accepts cultural relativism, then there is no basis for condemning such actions. For Hitler, he felt that he was doing the right thing according to his flawed moral viewpoint. Yet, cultural relativists hold no ground to condemn beheadings, gas chambers, and mass bombings if each culture establishes their own moral code. The cultural relativist begins to think more objectively than relative in such cases, as they should.

The Evolutionary Theory of Morality

The fourth theory is called the evolutionary theory of morality. According to this theory, it is held that treating other people in good ways rather than bad helped the human species to survive. Thus, the theory holds that morality falls in line with Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” philosophy. However, it is apparent that the theory holds some flaws.

Ganssle rightly notes that the evolutionary theory of morality “does not explain morality.”[4] Setting aside one’s acceptance or rejection of the evolutionary theory, this moral theory does nothing to define morality. For the evolutionary theorist, morality coincides with survival of the human species. This brings us to another flaw. Many societies have sought to destroy other groups of human beings. Catastrophic wars do not seem to help the human race survive. Rather than helping the species survive, war often threatens human existence. Wars are fought with both sides thinking they are correct. Therefore this theory tends to find itself in a form of cultural relativism which we have already denounced.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us with the final theory of morality which appears to be the clear choice.

Objective Morality

Thankfully with the failures of the first four models, a fifth option exists. There is the objective morality theory. Norman Geisler defines objective morality as the following:

“Morality deals with what is right, as opposed to wrong. It is an obligation, that for which a person is accountable.

An absolute moral obligation is:

an objective (not subjective) moral duty—a duty for all persons.

an eternal (not temporal) obligation—a duty at all times.

a universal (not local) obligation—a duty for all places.

An absolute duty is one that is binding on all persons at all times in all places.”[5]

Thus, objective moralists view morality as transcendent reality which applies to all individuals and societies. An objective moral is held by all people. This seems to be the case. While different tribes and societies hold different outlooks on peripheral matters of morality, the core morals are the same especially among those of their own tribe. It is wrong to murder. It is wrong to steal. It is wrong to commit adultery. And so on. Even so, we can conclude that objective morality is the correct viewpoint. Furthermore, we can deduce as did Norman Geisler in that

“Moral absolutes are unavoidable. Even those who deny them use them. The reasons for rejecting them are often based on a misunderstanding or misapplication of the moral absolute, not on a real rejection of it. That is, moral values are absolute, even if our understanding of them or the circumstances in which they should be applied are not.”[6]

Objective morals, thus, point towards the necessity of an objective law (or moral) giver. That objective lawgiver is none other than God.

 

© March 7, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 Sources Cited

 Ganssle, Gregory E. Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

Notes 

 [1] Gregory E. Ganssle, Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 90.

[2] Ibid., 92.

[3] Ibid., 92.

[4] Ibid., 95.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 501.

[6] Ibid., 502.

Finding Comfort and Order in the Midst of Chaos

At times, life seems chaotic. It appears that the harder one tries to make sense of the world, the more bizarre it becomes. I recently told my dad, “Just when I think that things cannot get any worse, something happens to demonstrate how much worse it can become.” However, the more I have studied God, the more I realize that chaos is an illusion. If God is what the Bible purports Him to be, then God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present in all places), a se (unchangeable), immortal (eternal and timeless), holy (the perfect good) and indestructible (incapable of being destroyed). If this is true, then nothing takes God by surprise. In addition, this means that the chaos of the world is fitting within the sovereign plan of God. But wait, isn’t there a lot of evil things taking place in the world? What comfort can we find in these attributes of God?

Joseph was a man who was met with severe forms of evil. He was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and was eventually sold as a slave. The people who were supposed to have loved Joseph the most performed one of the highest acts of treachery and evil. Yet, the tables turned for Joseph. Joseph would eventually score a high-ranking position in Egypt under the Pharaoh. His brothers sought help from Egypt. It was then that Joseph was able to forgive and say to his brothers, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:21).[1] How could Joseph say such a thing? There are three things that must be kept in mind.

chaos_to_order

Human actions are free, but planned by God.

There are two seemingly opposing viewpoints offered in the Bible: humans have freedom of the will and God is sovereign (in complete control). How does one reconcile these two truths? Hardline Calvinists (or hyper-determinists)[2] will say that people have no choice in any matter. Hyper-Arminians, especially of the Open Theist variety, will claim that God does not know what will happen. Yet, I feel that the more moderate Thomistic (and even Molinist) compatibilist interpretations fit the realm of Scripture. For instance, the writer of Proverbs notes that “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). That means that man plans his/her steps, but God foreknows and has already established such a free act. Proverbs also states that “The lot is casts into the lap, but its decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). I like how the New Living Translation translates this verse. The NLT reads, “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (Proverbs 16:33, NLT).[3] This may not be good news for the one who goes to Vegas. But free human actions fall into the sovereign plan of God.

God will bring forth an ultimate good despite the seeming chaos of human actions.

Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This does not mean that all things will work in the end for all people. It will work for the good to those who love God and have submitted to his will. God is good and God is powerful. This means that God will bring an ultimate good despite the great evil in the world. Joseph was met with great evil, but he knew that God would use that evil to bring about an ultimate good.

Thus, chaos is an illusion as God is sovereign.

Two classic theologians note that chaos is seemingly an illusion due to the great attributes of God. Norman Geisler writes,

“God is a simple Being, all of whose attributes are one with His indivisible essence. He has no parts; He is one in essence. If He had different parts, He could come apart, but He is immortal and indestructible…But if God is simple (absolutely one), then both foreknowledge and predetermination are one in Him. That is, whatever God knows, He determines. And whatever He determines, He knows. More properly, we should speak of God as ‘knowing determining’ and ‘determinately knowing’ from all eternity everything that happens, including all free acts. If God is an eternal and simple Being, then His thoughts must be eternally coordinate and unified” (Geisler 2010, 145).

Thus, God’s knowledge and actions do not negate free will. Nevertheless, God knows absolutely what free beings will choose. Therefore, God is able to place people in certain times and places, knowing what those beings will choose. Therefore, even with human freedom and the seeming chaos that ensues from bad human decisions, God still is moving to bring things to a greater good. Thomas Aquinas writes,

“It should be noted, however, that with natural things the specification of the act is from form and the exercise is from the agent that causes the motion. But the mover moves for the sake of an end. Thus the first principle of motion with respect to the exercise of the act is from the end…It should be said that man’s will is discordant with the will of God insofar as it wills something God does not want it to will, as when it wills to sin” (Aquinas 1998, 557, 561).

In other words, God does not order evil. God does not will evil to exist, yet evil is the natural outgrowth of the human freedom to will. God is moving upon all of creation with his grace. However, human beings misuse the grace of God afforded to them. God knows that they would. Thus, God is able to use human free decisions to bring about the ultimate good.

All of this is to say, chaos is an illusion. God is working to bring about the greater good which will be actualized in eternity.

Conclusion—the Roller Coaster

I am not a fan of roller coasters. I don’t like the drops and turns as it makes my stomach very queasy. When I dated my wife, I tried to act like a macho man and ride roller coasters with her…I eventually became sick. Roller coasters give the illusion of chaos. However, coasters are designed to provide that experience while they bring the person back to a common end. Life seems to be much like this. Things may appear to be chaotic, but a good, loving, Almighty God has an order and a plan.

Joseph realized that what man meant as evil, God used for the greater good. When we keep this perspective, we will realize that God has an order despite the seeming chaos of the times. Understand, God is still in control. Don’t despair. Don’t lose hope. God will bring an ultimate good out of the midst of great chaos.

© November 2, 2015. Brian Chilton

 

Sources Cited:

Aquinas, Thomas. “On Human Choice. Disputed Question of Evil, 6 (1266-72). In Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. Edited and Translated by Ralph McInery. London, UK; New York: Penguin Classics, 1998.

Geisler, Norman. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. Third Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Hyper-Calvinism does not represent the general Calvinist viewpoint. Some sects of Calvinism do hold to a hardline, or hyper-Calvinistic, interpretation. The hyper view is what is being discussed here.

[3] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

Theopneustos: How Scriptural Understanding Influences Application

Why is it that individuals who begin on the right path in ministry fall from their theological foundation? From my studies in ecclesiastical history, I have found a common thread. A person’s stability, or lack thereof, is found in the person’s adherence to the Bible’s authority as the inspired Word of God. When people hold fast to the authority of God’s word, those people will remain centered on the will and ways of God. However, when individuals equate the Bible with common, ordinary teachings from human beings, then biblical authority begins to erode and so does one’s faith.

My temporary exit from the ministry began when I questioned the authority of the Bible. When I did not have a base for my beliefs, I began wandering in the vast ocean of philosophical and theological ideas, many of which were floating on the surface of the philosophical waters, holding no sure foundation. My re-entrance into the ministry began when I understood the trustworthiness of the Bible and the truths that it purports. But, how should one understand the Word of God? How one understands the Word of God greatly influences how one applies the Word of God.

The Identity of the Word of God Matters to Application

The most important distinction that can be made pertaining to the Word of God is that the Scriptures are “theopneustos.” This term in Greek is comprised of two words, “theos” meaning “God,” and “pneustos” meaning “spirit” or “breath.” Put together, the term “theopneustos” means “God breathed.” This term is used by Paul to describe the inspiration of the Bible. Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, bracket mine).[1] If one understands the Bible to be theopneustos, then one will become faithful to its teachings, especially if one is a person of faith. Faithfulness of a person stems from one’s faithfulness to God and the realization that “the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4). While one’s faithful application stems from a right understanding of Scripture, so does rebellion.

 The Resistance to the Word of God Matters to Application

 An electrical switch turns on an appliance when the electrical circuit is allowed to pass onto the appliance. If the switch is turned to the OFF position, then the current is broken and resisted, extinguishing the power flowing to the appliance. When a person dismisses the theopneustos nature of the Scriptures, then rebellion soon follows. Ezekiel writes that “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people’” (Ezekiel 12:1-2, NIV).[2] A person would think that individuals would learn to do better after awhile. However, when one does not have a theological base such is found in the Scriptures, and then one will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes time and time again. Over time, such a one will become so rebellious to the point of turning against those who hold to the authority of Scripture. Jesus said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:17). The apostle John wrote,

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12, NIV).

The Work of the Word of God Matters to Application

If one desires to do the work of God, then one will need to use the Word of God for the glory of God. Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy that he should “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To teach and preach from the Word of God requires first that one becomes a student of the Word of God. One professor from Liberty University stated that a person should read the entire book from which they are teaching 50 times before attempting to teach from that particular book. While most will not attempt such a task, such demonstrates the need to be properly prepared. Also, it is important to remember that God promises that his Word “shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

For one’s ministry to become effective, it is important that one holds a strong basis of biblical authority. Norman Geisler supports the idea of inerrancy, as does this writer. Geisler argues that,

“The argument for an errorless (inerrant) Bible can be put in this logical form:

God cannot err.

The Bible is the Word of God.

Therefore, the Bible cannot err.”[3]

While the precise definition of inerrancy has come under fire in recent years, most would agree that the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture are three tenets that must be maintained in order to safekeep biblical authority at the center of one’s theological foundation…third only to the existence of God and the person of Christ.

Conclusion:

Spurgeon’s identification of liberal theology in the Baptist Union took note that ministers began to accept doctrines that opposed the traditional understanding of Christendom from Christianity’s inception in AD 33. However, liberal theologies began to creep into the theological base of these ministries when the authority of the Bible was dismissed. Time after time, the church has witnesses the erosion of faith which seemingly stems from the dismissal of God’s Word. Can the Bible be trusted? I would argue that it can due to independent evidence outside of the Bible which affirms the biblical message. However, internally, one finds evidence to the truthfulness of Scripture as it applies to life and to God. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be grasped with the firmest grip that one can afford. Why? Because the Bible is theopneustos.

Source Cited:

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

© July 13, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture for this article comes from  the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Scripture marked NIV comes from The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 74.

Cosmology’s Serious Embarrassment–The Need for God

Mario Livio, an acclaimed scientist and author said at the World Science Festival in New York City last month, “I would like to talk about a very serious embarrassment” (Cofield 2015). The embarrassment that Livio addressed was what Space.com writer Callie Cofield called “one of the most confounding (and embarrassing) problems in modern astrophysics…whether or not our universe might be just one of an infinite number of multiverses—and whether a theory of the multiverse is good or bad for science” (Cofield 2015). Cofield described the embarrassment in further detail by denoting the problem of “vacuum catastrophe. Truly empty space, sucked dry of any air or particles, still has an inherent energy to it, according to observations” (Cofield 2015). Cofield further described that “when scientists use theories of quantum mechanics to try to calculate this vacuum energy, their results differ from the measured results by about 120 orders of magnitude, or the number 1 followed by 120 zeroes” (Cofield 2015). Such differences demonstrate a great room of discrepancy. Josh Frieman, one of the panelists stated that “To make a math error that big you know you really have to work hard at it” (Cofield 2015). Some have postulated that the number for the vacuum energy could be a random number that could be solved by a multiverse model. The problem with multiverse models is that there is no independent research demonstrating that such a multiverse exists.

What is the “Real Problem”?

What is the real problem with all of this, despite the need to understand the physical elements used to bring about our universe? The real problem is blatantly given in the article—our universe appears to be fine-tuned for life. A multiverse model would appear to provide an “out” for atheists who do not desire to attribute credit to a deity—that is, God. However, some appear to express concern for the multiverse model. Riess said, “But I’m more concerned that…we lose the connection to explaining our world…Because it is almost like invoking a deity at that point” (Cofield 2015). Priyamvada Natarajan, professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University said, “One of the reasons why the multiverse argument actually appeals to me is actually there is no room for agency or deities or any such thing” (Cofield 2015). Natarajan provides the real problem for many cosmologists. Many do not for there to be a God. Atheists such as Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins have demonstrated as much. However, this is not a problem for science as much as it is a philosophical problem for the ones promoting such views. Furthermore, contrary to popular opinion, a multiverse does not eliminate the need for God.

The Skeptic’s Problems with a Multiverse Concept

Natarajan accepts a multiverse theory because he posits that such a theory dismisses the need for God. Au contraire! A multiverse would still demonstrate a need for God for the following reasons.

BVG Theorem and the Multiverse

Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth published a theorem (a mathematical certainty) that even if a multiverse were to exist, the multiverse would need to have an absolute beginning. Therefore, the atheist has not eliminated the problem of first causes; the skeptic would merely push back the problem by one step. Even if a multiverse could be demonstrated, the skeptic has a further problem (see especially the “Biblical Problem”).

The Inaccessibility of a Multiverse

Even if a multiverse could be proven, it could not be scientifically demonstrated. Science deals with the physical world. At this stage in human history, it would be impossible for scientists to examine a universe beyond the confines of this universe.

The Biblical Problem

Another problem that exists for the skeptic, unbeknownst to many, is that the Bible demonstrates the existence of a third heaven—the place for the abode of God. Paul denotes that he knows a “man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows” (2 Corinthians 12:2, ESV). Many biblical scholars believe that Paul is giving a personal account of his experience from a third person point of view. Thus, Christians have held that at least three heavens exist (the 1st—the atmosphere, 2nd—the universe, and 3rd—the abode of God). Therefore, if it is demonstrated that a universe exists beyond the scope of this one, are scientists dismissing God or are they simply discovering the structure provided by the Bible since the 1st century? I would claim the latter.

The Philosophical Problem

Philosophically, no problem exists for the classical theist if a multiverse were to exist. Classical theists hold that God works in and through the agencies of the universe. Thomas Aquinas termed such a concept the  “argument from the ‘governance of the world” (Aquinas 1.2.3.). Norman Geisler sums up Aquinas’ view by the following:

      “1. Every agent acts for an end, even natural agents.

  1. Now what acts for an end manifests intelligence.
  2. But natural agents have no intelligence of their own.
  3. Therefore, they are directed to their end by some Intelligence” (Geisler 1999, 714-715).

Thus, natural processes and physical forces are directed by a Supreme Intelligence—that one we know as God.

Conclusion:

There is a story about a scientist who climbed a mountain for many years. When finally reaching the top of the mountain, he came to find a theologian was already seated at the top. The theologian asked the scientist, “What took you so long to get here?” This parable demonstrates that science is providing ample reasons for one to believe in God. Such is to the disdain of militant atheists—and not scientists in general. Eric Metaxas makes such a case even more fascinating as he denotes in the Wall Street Journal that “At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being” (Metaxas 2014). Metaxas goes on to say that “There’s more. The fine-tuning for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all…For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp” (Metaxas 2014). Let us conclude our journey with the words of Metaxas in denoting that “The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself” (Metaxas 2014). Amen!

Sources Cited:

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologicae. 1.2.3. In Norman L. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Cofield, Callie. “Cosmic Confusion: Talk of Multiverses and Big Errors in Astrophysics.” Space.com. (June 12, 2015). Accessed June 15, 2015. http://www.space.com/29641-multiverses-big-errors-astrophysics.html?cmpid=NL_SP_weekly_2015-06-12.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Metaxas, Eric. “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” Wall Street Journal. (December 25, 2004). Accessed June 15, 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/eric-metaxas-science-increasingly-makes-the-case-for-god-1419544568.

33 Logical Fallacies Everyone Should Know

Logic is a proper way of thinking. Norman Geisler writes that “Logic deals with the methods of valid thinking” (Geisler 1999, 427). Logical fallacies, then, are errors in the way one thinks or presents an argument. Logic and logical fallacies are important for everyone to know, but it is especially important for Christians to know since they are called to promote truth. Paul writes that the Christian should be in the practice of “laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25, NASB). So, the Christian should know how to speak the truth and to avoid any fallacy of thinking. Unfortunately, many sites devoted to logic promote an atheist agenda. One might think that the atheist has a stranglehold on logic, but nothing further could be the case. Therefore, this article will provide 33 logical fallacies that every Christian, in fact every person, should know.

philosopher-socrates

Ad Hominem:  This fallacy means literally “against the man.” This is a classic debate tactic. Instead of attacking an argument’s validity, the debater will instead attack one’s opponent. For example: some atheists have attacked the character of William Lane Craig instead of dealing with Craig’s cosmological arguments. This is an ad hominem fallacy.

Ambiguity:       The fallacy of ambiguity is used when the debater uses vague language that could be taken in a variety of ways. This is also known as someone speaking “out of both sides of one’s mouth.” Politicians are normally the worst culprits of this fallacy. When posed with a particular problem, the politician may claim that he or she may not have known about the issue when it is clear that the politician did. Or, it could be demonstrated by a politician presenting a bill without directly expressing the contents of the bill.

Anecdotal:       The anecdotal fallacy is found when one uses one’s experience instead of a sound argument when making a case. For instance, one could argue that one person benefited from taking a particular medicine; therefore everyone should take that medicine. It could be that not everyone would benefit from that kind of medicine due to the differences in each person’s body. It is for this reason that the Christian should not only rely upon their experience with Christ when making a case for Christianity, but provide the evidence for Christianity in addition to providing one with their experience. If one relies only on their experience, one could be found guilty of committing the anecdotal fallacy.

Appeal to Authority:    This fallacy is often used in the atheist community, but is often used in the theist community, as well. The appeal to authority fallacy is committed when one uses the beliefs of one in authority (scientist, archaeologist, theologian, philosopher, etc.) instead of dealing with the argument itself. It may be that the authority in question is correct. However, just because one is in authority does not make the authority figure correct. Consider the fact that at one time; most scientists and theologians believed that the world was flat. Thus, an appeal to authority would have been flawed in those days.

Appeal to Consequences:        In this fallacy, one uses consequences without providing any real evidence that a consequence would follow the antecedent. Mothers forgive me. But this is normally used by mothers when they tell their children that if they do not eat their Brussel sprouts they will not grow up big and strong. It may be that the children will grow up big and strong without eating Brussel sprouts. The mother has not provided a clear link between the consumption of Brussel sprouts and growing up big and strong. (Note to children: I would not use this against your mothers or you may find yourself the victim of the appeal to force.)

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Appeal to Emotion:     This fallacy is found in the classic “guilt trip.” In this fallacy, the debater will manipulate an emotional response from the listener without providing any clear evidence for the debater’s claim. For instance, atheists will appeal to the atrocities performed by Christians as an argument against the resurrection of Christ. It could be that Christ has risen and that Christians have performed atrocious acts, but the atrocities do not deny the validity of Christ’s resurrection. Grandparents are good at the “appeal to emotion.” For instance, a grandmother may claim, “You never come see me. You must not love me anymore.” In fact, it could be that the grandchild loves the grandparent very much, but is not able to see the grandparent as they wish they could. Nonetheless, this is an appeal to emotion.

Appeal to Force:         The appeal to force is also known by its Latin name argumentum ad baculum. This fallacy is found when a person, or institution, forces their beliefs upon another by issuing threats. The person or institution has not proven its case but forces others to believe by force. For instance: in certain regimes of the past, if one did not become an atheist and adhere to the government’s new system of control, the person could lose his/her occupation, could be ostracized, or could be executed.

Appeal to Nature:        This fallacy claims that just because something is “natural” it must be good. For instance, some will argue that men are drawn to have multiple relationships with other many other women, so infidelity must be okay. One can find the falsehood in such a claim. Just because something comes “natural” does not make it right. Unfortunately, this fallacy is made by many trying to cover up their misdeeds.

Appeal to Novelty:       This fallacy assumes that just because something is new that the thing, or idea, must be better. For instance, many believed that Windows Vista was going to be better than Windows XP because it was newer. It was later found that Windows XP was far better since Vista had many programming flaws. Therefore, just because something is new does not make it better unless it is demonstrated to be better.

Appeal to Poverty:      This fallacy occurs when one assumes that just because a view is held by the poor that it must be true. This is the opposite of the appeal to wealth fallacy. It may be that most poor people believe that the government is oppressing them. The view may or may not be true. However, such a view cannot be accepted on the merits that the poor hold it without any other evidence.

Appeal to Tradition:    This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to novelty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds that just because a viewpoint is old that it must be true. For instance, some Calvinists will hold that their view is true because it correlates with the view held by Augustine. It could be that the view is true. However, one cannot claim the accuracy of the view by its antiquity alone.

Appeal to Wealth:        This fallacy is opposite of the appeal to poverty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds a view as true because its adherents are wealthy. For instance, one might claim that Al Gore is correct about global warming because Gore is wealthy. The merits of global warming have nothing to do with the wealth of one of its advocates: Al Gore.

Bandwagon-Lesson-1

Bandwagon Fallacy:   This fallacy is based upon an appeal to popularity. One claims that something is good based only on the fact that everyone else thinks that it is good. For instance a young lady may ask her parents if she can have her tongue pierced because all of her friends are piercing their tongues. The problem is that a view can be popular and be incorrect. Therefore, the bandwagon fallacy should be avoided.

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Begging the Question/Circular Reasoning:    Circular reasoning is performed when the conclusion is presented in the argument. For instance, a Christian may be asked, “How do you know that the Bible is true?” The Christian responds, “I know the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true.” This is providing absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Such a form of defense should be wholeheartedly rejected.

Black or White:           This fallacy is committed when only two options are presented when more options may be available. For instance, some claim that one can only have faith or reason. However, it can be that one can hold faith and reason.

Burden of Proof:         This fallacy is committed when one assumes that they do not have to provide evidence for their claim and that the burden is upon the one trying to prove them wrong. For example, the atheist may desire to have 100% certainty that God exists in order to believe. Therefore, the atheist will declare that the Christian must provide this level of evidence or the Christian’s view is wrong, or vice versa. Therefore, it could be said that a person that desires more evidence than is necessary to believe/disbelieve.

Composition/Division:            The composition fallacy assumes that what is true of a part is true of the whole. The division fallacy assumes that what is true of the whole is true of the parts. Someone might claim that since North Carolina has islands offshore and is one of the states of the United States of America, that all states in the United States of America must have islands offshore. This is impossible since many states are not aligned along an ocean. Therefore, this is the composition fallacy. Someone could also claim that since the United States is one nation, all the states of the nation must experience the same weather. This would be considered the division fallacy.

False Cause:               This fallacy occurs when someone finds a correlation and assumes a cause. For instance, one may view a chart to find that the crime rate in a particular community is rising while the immigration rate in the community is also rising. One may assume that the immigration rise was causing the rise in crime. There may be other causes afoot than just the rise in immigration.

Gambler’s Fallacy:     This fallacy has ties to Las Vegas. This fallacy occurs when one attributes a run of events to independent events. For instance, a gambler may claim to have a “run” on the roulette wheel. In fact, there is no run but a series of independent events. For instance, assuming that since 9 red cards have been consistently taken from a card deck that a black card will be drawn next is committing the gambler’s fallacy.

Genetic95

Genetic Fallacy:          This fallacy is committed when one’s argument is considered good or bad only based upon the advocate’s ancestry. For instance, a theologian from Nigeria may not have his arguments taken seriously because he is dark-skinned and comes from a third world nation. The guilty party would have committed the genetic fallacy. Or, a Christian scientist may not have her experiment considered because she is a Christian. This is also a genetic fallacy.

Loaded Question:        This fallacy is committed when one asks a question with a presumption built into it. This is performed in order to side-track the particular person in question. For instance, one may ask a Christian apologist, “Since a belief in God is primitive and superstitious, wouldn’t that make your arguments primitive and superstitious?” Or if one were to ask another, “Do you need help with your drug problem” when there is no evidence of a drug problem; this would be an example of a loaded question.

Middle Ground Fallacy:         This fallacy assumes that a “middle ground” between two extremes is always true. Or, this fallacy can be conducted when assuming that a middle ground exists when it does not. For instance, some may try to find a middle ground in the debate on the existence of God. However, there are only two options: God exists or God does not exist. No middle ground can exist in such a case.

Moralistic Fallacy:      This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to nature fallacy. In this fallacy, one assumes that because something should be a certain way, something is that way. For instance, one may claim that all parents will take care of their children because all parents should take care of their children. Unfortunately, not all parents do take care of their children.

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No True Scotsman:     This fallacy is somewhat difficult to describe. To simplify, this fallacy avoids criticism by changing the dynamic of the argument so present the case unfalsifiable. The tenets are changed to avoid scrutiny. On http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com, a good example of this is presented, “Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge” (https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/no-true-scotsman).

Personal Incredulity:   This fallacy is committed when one passes off difficult concepts as inherently false because one does not understand the concept. For instance, Jimmy does not think that Thomism is a valid theological system because he does not understand the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Or, Betty does not believe in the distance of light-years because she cannot understand how light can travel at 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, a light-year must not exist.

Post Hoc Fallacy:       This fallacy is committed when one assumes that things happen after an unrelated experience. For instance, athletes participate in certain rituals before they take the field. They believe these rituals will help them perform in the game. In reality, there is no correlation. Note: some sites have claimed that the efficacy of prayer is a post hoc fallacy. However, this claim is committing several fallacies including the anecdotal and black-or-white fallacy. The author who claims that prayer is superstitious is abiding by their own preconceived notions that God does not exist. If God does exist, then it is entirely logical to expect an answer to one’s prayer. It is just as logical as expecting a person on the other end of the telephone line to respond to one’s question. Beware of sites that promote a genetic fallacy in designating that people of faith are automatically wrong because they believe in the power of God.

red-herring

Red Herring:   The red herring fallacy came from fox hunters who sent out their dogs to chase foxes only to find that their dogs were distracted by red herrings (perhaps purposely placed by opposing hunters) which led them off the trail of the fox. This is a tactic used to get a person off their point. For instance: a Christian apologist is addressing the evidence for God’s existence. Someone then asks, “What about the crusades? Don’t the evil acts performed by the Crusaders in the name of God negate God’s existence?” Obviously, the Crusades have nothing to do with the plausibility of God’s existence.

slippery slope

Slippery Slope:            This fallacy assumes that just because a person does one thing that the person will eventually do something else. For instance, some would claim that if one listens to rock music then one will become a delinquent. Or others assume if one reads any other translation other than the King James Version, one will become a flaming liberal. Obviously, the consequents do not proceed from the antecedents with the slippery slope fallacy.

Special Pleading:        This fallacy is similar to the No True Scotsman fallacy. In this fallacy, one refuses to accept that one is wrong by inventing ways in which to hold to old notions. For instance, it has been demonstrated that the Alexandrian codex is a better than the Byzantium codex for use in translating the Bible. However, for those who desire to hold to the Byzantium texts, one will claim that the Alexandrian texts were modified by cults when there is no evidence to back up such a claim. If science demonstrates something to be true, one will claim that science is faulty. These are cases of special pleading.

Straw man newspaper

Strawman:       Strawman fallacies are among one of the more popular fallacies that are employed. This fallacy misrepresents someone’s argument to make the argument easier to attack. Unfortuately, this happens far more than this writer would like to imagine. For instance, Bill might claim that Sally is a tree-hugger because she believes in global warming. Or, Brent makes Hugh out to be a Darwinist because Hugh believes in an old-earth interpretation of Genesis. These are examples of the strawman fallacy.

The Fallacy Fallacy:   This fallacy accuses a claim to be false because it is poorly argued or another fallacy has been committed. In other words, the claim is not evaluated on its own merits but by the way it was presented. Since Susan presented a poor presentation on the nutritional value of blueberries, Barbara believes that blueberries should never be eaten. Barbara has committed the fallacy fallacy.

texas-sharpshooter-by-mahbsol

The Texas Sharpshooter:        This fallacy gets its name from a sharpshooter who shoots holes in a barn and then paints a bullseye around the majority of bullet holes (Richardson 2012, http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com). The person committing this fallacy will choose data that only suits his argument or presumption. For instance, a drug company may only choose positive data that supports a drug that they are promoting without considering the negative data. Or, Zane, a statistician, evaluates the educational systems of various states. He only chooses the best schools to evaluate in his state, while choosing the worst schools in other states, in order to demonstrate that his state’s educational system is better than any other system. Zane has committed the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

tu-quoque

Tu Quoque:     Pronounced (too-kwoo-kee), this person committing this fallacy turns criticism back upon the critic instead of dealing with the criticism itself. It’s also called “passing the buck.” For instance, Christine’s theory is challenged by Cassandra because of a mathematical error. Christine retorted, “Oh yeah, well your last theory had two mathematical errors in it and you didn’t hear me say anything about it.” In this case, Christine was guilty of the tu quoque fallacy because she did not deal with the criticism but instead dealt with the criticism by offering criticism.

Conclusion

One may find that they have engaged in these fallacies more than on one occasion. While these logical fallacies are certainly not the unpardonable sin, they should be avoided by the one promoting truth. The Christian’s faith is built upon fact and reality. The Christian has nothing to hide. Therefore, these fallacies should be avoided as much as possible. Remember the words of Paul, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).

 

Bibliography

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Richardson, Jesse. (2012). http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com. Accessed July 28, 2014.

Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Some information taken from www.logicalfallacies.info. Accessed July 28, 2014.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Laying the Smackdown to Austin’s Worldview

stone cold

If anyone has ever watched professional wrestling, then the name ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin has probably been heard more than on one occasion. Steve Williams, who later legally changed his name to his stage-name Steve Austin, has launched a podcast called the Stone Cold Steve Austin Show-Unleashed! Austin made waves recently when he expressed his opinion on same-sex marriage. Austin is reported as saying,

“I’m for same-sex marriage. I believe that any human being in America, any human being in the world, that wants to be married…if it’s the same-sex, more power to them…What also chaps my ***, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say ‘we as a church do not believe in that.’ Which one of these ************* talked to God and God said that same-sex marriage was a no can do? Can you verify? Can you give me some background on that 411?” (Ranter X 2014, RantSports.com)

Austin goes on to say that he disagreed with the idea of Christian forgiveness. He said that he did not see how someone could do something horrible, say a prayer, and all be counted good with God. Despite his vulgarities, Austin actually brings to light some common misunderstandings that individuals hold concerning the Christian faith. This article will not discuss the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Lord knows that there is plenty of information out there on both sides concerning the topic. This article will, however, handle the three deep problems that Austin possesses in his worldview and argumentation outside the scope of the more controversial same-sex issue. The first problem will address a flaw in Austin’s argument. The second two problems will deal with misunderstandings that Austin holds with the Christian worldview. So to keep with the pro-wrestling theme, let’s lay the theological and philosophical smackdown!!! Are you ready to rumble?

  

Problem of Self-Refutation

When one enters the philosophical “squared-circle” (yes I know that a squared-circle is an impossibility), a person should evaluate any claim by its’ own standards. For instance, if a person says, “I can’t speak a word of English,” one can know that the statement is false as the person is speaking in English. Or if one says, “WordPress does not allow Pastor Brian Chilton to post articles,” one could easily know that such a statement is false as the reader is reading this article by Pastor Brian on WordPress. Austin claims that he is “chapped” over churches being on their “high horse” and claiming that “we as a church do not believe in that.” But, hold on! Isn’t Austin doing the same thing? Isn’t he saying that individuals can do a particular thing which he deems appropriate? What does it mean to be on one’s “high horse” anyway? Well, the phrase is normally used of someone who possesses “a haughty attitude or temper; a contemptuous manner” (Dictionary.com). “Haughty” means that one is “arrogant” or “proud” (Dictionary.com). Well now wait a minute! Isn’t Austin acting somewhat haughty in his approach to the traditional Christian? So, in a sense, isn’t Austin acting like he is on his own proverbial “high horse”? As the old saying goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” So Austin’s claim concerning Christians actually backfires as he is guilty of the same thing! So while this backfire does not disprove his claim, it weakens the claim quite a bit. It could be that some churches get on their “high horse.” Quite frankly, some of them do (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church). But, the problem is that Austin’s claims are employing the same tactic, so philosophically speaking, it doesn’t appear that the accuser would have as much a problem as was presented.

Austin is also guilty of employing an “ad hominem” attack. An “ad hominem” attack is when one uses personal assaults in order to argue for a particular point. It may be good in its entertainment value, but does very little in regard to the presentation of the facts on a particular issue. Everyone needs to get to the point where we stop yelling and accusing one another and start discussing the issues at hand. Austin’s comment shows just how heated certain issues become in the arena of ideas. Regardless of where one stands on an issue, there needs to be a level of decency. But, decency is a lost art in a culture full of hate and bitterness.

  

Problem of Revelation

Austin asks for some “411” on how Christians know that God gave particular “dos” and “don’ts”. Well, as Jesus would say, “ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7). How do Christians know that God gave a set of standards? We know because of particular events throughout history when God made Himself known. This is what is termed revelation. There are two forms of revelation: general and special. General revelation is described by Norman Geisler as,

“God’s revelation in nature as opposed to his revelation in Scripture…More specifically, general revelation is manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history. In each case God has disclosed something specific about himself and his relation to his creation. General revelation is important to Christian apologetics, since it is the data with which the theist constructs arguments from the existence of God…Without it there would be no basis for apologetics (Geisler 1999, 670).

In other words, everyone has insight to God’s existence. No one would accept that something can come from absolute nothingness except when it comes to the most complex system ever known…the universe and everything in it. Whether individuals realize it or not, every person can know that God exists if they use a little common sense. But at the center of the problem is a heart of rebellion over an intellectual issue when it comes to knowing God. But, another form of revelation exists known as special revelation. Geisler describes special revelation as,

God’s revelation in his Word (Scripture), as opposed to God’s revelation in his world…Special revelation may have originally been given orally or some other way (cf. Heb. 1:1) but has subsequently been written down and is now found only in God’s written Word, the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

God’s special revelation has been confirmed by miracles…This is how the canon of Scripture was determined (Geisler 1999, 674).

 In other words, special revelation occurs when God Himself DOES appear to humanity and gives them the 411 on how they should live. Ultimately, the greatest form of special revelation came through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus performed miracles in the first-century and still does today. In fact, Jesus has healed many people through the two millennium of Christendom by simply calling upon His name. Lazarus is a good example in the first-century. Lazarus had died, but Jesus raised him back to life (John 11). Today, there are instances where individuals have been healed by the name of Jesus. Now, I am not referring to fake healers, but true miracles. I witnessed a miracle many years ago while in Bible college. A woman was playing in her yard with her kids. She reached down to pick up a baseball when she snagged her eye on a stick. The stick went deep into her eye. The doctors said that it had ripped her optic nerve and that she would never be able to see again. I joined many others who began to pray for this woman. Her husband was in chapel a few days after the event. He said with tears in his eyes,

“Everyone. My wife was not able to see after the accident. The doctors said that she would never see again. However the other night, she called me and said, ‘I am beginning to see black and white images.’ Yesterday, she began to see things in color out of her eye. We went back to the doctor and he said that somehow her eye had been completely restored. I am here to tell you that she can see better now than she did before the accident.” (Student at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, circa 1997).

The fact that miracles still take place in Jesus’ name demonstrates the power of God. It also demonstrates the fact that God has made Himself known. Many may find characteristics of love and kindness as weak. But, meekness is NOT weakness. In fact, it takes more strength and courage to love one’s enemies than it does to speak spitefully about them. Hopefully, this article does not come across as spiteful. If so, I would be counted out. This brings us to our final problem with Austin’s statements…problems with reconciliation.

 

Problem of Reconciliation

Austin later indicates that he has issues with forgiveness. Does any person deserve forgiveness? No, the person does not. But here is the problem, when one evaluates God’s standards that person will find that NO ONE would ever be able to live up to that standards that are required for one to get to heaven. Not only does a God exist who gives “dos” and “don’ts,” a God exists whose standards are so high that it would be impossible for anyone to earn a status in heaven. That is why God devised a plan to demonstrate mercy. This mercy is undeserved but given because of God’s love. The Apostle Paul writes “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). He goes on to say that “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Romans 5:20). The great hope is found in that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). But unfortunately, “not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, ‘LORD, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:16-17).

This does not indicate that someone can be forgiven and continue to live a life of sin. In such a case, no repentance has occurred. One who is transformed by the power of Christ has repented of their sins (turned from their old life) and trusted in Christ who brings forth a new life. As Paul says to the one who has been transformed by Christ, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). So, in this case, one will find themselves pinned as no one is worthy of God’s grace and mercy.

 

Conclusion

Austin probably came to his conclusions by the political jargon of the day. As mentioned earlier, this article is not intended to defend or attack same-sex marriage; for there is something larger than the issue of same-sex marriage going on in our culture. The greatest problematic issue, in this writer’s opinion, is the assault upon religious freedoms. One might say, “Well Austin simply was presenting his opinions.” Yes, he was. However, ideas have consequences. If all of society begins turning on a particular group of individuals for their beliefs, history demonstrates that bad things eventually occur. Look at the ideology of Hitler who saw the beliefs and ancestry of Judeans as a thing to be cast aside. Or look at Pol Pot who had no use for those who disagreed with his agenda. Do we need to mention the Stalins or Mussolines? Wherever one finds themselves on the issues, let us not lower ourselves to ad hominem assaults and group-hating. Let us explore the issues with intellect and compassion. And yes…this goes for the Christian as much, if not more, than those who are opposed to our cause. In fact, many Christians have been guilty of standing upon their high-horses without concerning themselves for others. We may not agree with others, but let us not see anyone regardless of their religion, gender, race, or sexuality as an enemy. We may not agree with that person on the issues (let it be known that this writer accepts the Bible’s standards for morality), but remember that Paul indicates that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Stand for the truth! But, let us remember the words of our Lord, “love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44)! May we all pray that Austin’s eyes, and all those who hold an anti-Christian view, will be open to the truths of the Gospel message. For “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

With all due respect to Mr. Austin…that’s the bottom line….because Jesus said so!!!

 

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New Living Translation, 3rd Edition. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.

Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/. (Accessed June 1, 2014).

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Ranter X. “Steve Austin Supports Gay Marriage and That’s the Bottom Line.” RantSports.com. (August 23, 2014). http://www.rantsports.com/pro-wrestling/2014/04/23/steve-austin-supports-gay-marriage-and-thats-the-bottom-line/#C7HXBFHa0DC8YBXf.99 (Accessed May 28, 2014).

Austin’s podcast can be heard at http://podcastone.com/Steve-Austin-Show. Be warned: it is explicit in nature.

The Biblical Balance between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

touching-god

Several issues in theology become heated, but none like the issues between Calvinism and Arminian models. As my studies in theology have progressed, I have noticed an inconvenient truth. The Bible addresses both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. One cannot choose to accept one without the other and maintain biblical soundness in their theology. Apologist Ravi Zacharias even stated that “any system that does not hold to divine sovereignty is unbiblical. If any system does not hold to human responsibility, it is unbiblical” (Zacharias, podcast, 2014). The Bible teaches both. Some passages of Scripture provide evidence for this within the text itself. For the purposes of this article, four passages of Scripture will be given that indicate both divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

 

Philippians 2:12-13

Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul indicated that a person must work out their own salvation. Richard R. Melick writes in his commentary about the meaning of “working out one’s salvation,”

The Philippians were to make salvation work in their lives…Salvation was central to Paul’s theology. Normally the word has its full soteriological sense of spiritual deliverance from sin and the world. Paul described salvation as a past event (Eph 2:8–9) and as a future consummation (Rom 13:11). Here he spoke of working out salvation…Personal salvation brings with it responsibilities which Paul related to Christians’ obedience. The responsibility was to live in accord with their salvation, letting the implications of their relationship with Christ transform their social relationships. Paul really meant, in the first place, that they were to act like Christians (Melick 1991, 109-110).

Nonetheless, the process of “working out one’s salvation” depicts human responsibility. However, Paul goes on to state that the one working out one’s salvation is being worked in by God to do His good pleasure. In other words, Paul is expressing divine sovereignty in the process. Thus, one evaluates sovereignty and responsibility in the text.

 

Romans 8:28

Paul wrote

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

In this popular text, Paul addresses the fact that individuals love God. The act of “loving” demonstrates human responsibility. For those who love God, Paul states that God will work all things for good. In addition, Paul states that the individuals who love God were called, foreknown, predestined, and would be glorified; all of which demonstrates the sovereignty of Almighty God. Were individuals held responsible for loving God? Yes. But did God work sovereignly to bring them to that love? Yes. In some sense, both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility worked together.

 

Matthew 18:7

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7)! Jesus first indicated that “offenses must come.” Why must offenses come? We are not told. However, the fact that offenses must come indicates the sovereignty of God. God uses the offenses (the bad) for His glory and the glory of His saints (the good). Nonetheless, sovereignty is presented. Then, Jesus flips the lesson back on the one bringing the offense demonstrating the responsibility of the person bringing the offense. Therefore, Jesus presents a lesson on sovereignty and human responsibility.

 

Matthew 16:13-17

Matthew writes that,

  When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17).

In this passage, the faith of Peter is praised. For Peter willingly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. Thus, the human response was demonstrated resulting in human responsibility. However, Jesus indicates that Peter could not have known this unless God the Father revealed this truth to Peter. Hence, divine sovereignty is clearly indicated. Therefore, both sovereignty and human responsibility are demonstrated in this passage.

mind in universe

The Theological Move: Moderate Calvinism

So which system fits this combination the best? It must be admitted that this writer’s perspective has changed in recent days, primarily by an exposure to different systems. Also, I can say that I did know that so many variations of systems existed until now. Norman Geisler states that there are four primary systems concerning the blend of sovereignty and human responsibility: “Of course, there are other shades and variations of views, but Pelagianism, Arminianism (Wesleyanism), moderate Calvinism, and strong Calvinism are the four main perspectives” (Geisler 2011, 786). In Geisler’s view, “the biblical, theological, and historical evidence favors the moderate Calvinist view” (Geisler 2011, 786). What is moderate Calvinism? Millard J. Erickson writes that moderate Calvinism is…

“what B. B. Warfield regarded as the mildest form of Calvinism (there are, in fact, some Calvinists who would deny that it deserves to be called Calvinistic at all). Warfield termed the position ‘congruism,’ for it holds that God works congruously with the will of the individual; that is, God works in such a suasive way with the will of the individual that the person freely makes the choice that God intends (from B.B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, 90-91)…” (Erickson 1998, 385).

The system is balanced between divine sovereign election and human freedom to respond…something that the Bible teaches. The system does not allow such strict determinism as do strong Calvinists that human freedom is eliminated. Neither does the system negate divine involvement in the salvific process as does Pelagianism. In fact, moderate Calvinism can be likened to what is called Semiaugustinianism. Everett Ferguson writes that “the final phase of the conflict over human nature and salvation aw the triumph of what may be called ‘Semiaugustinianism,’ as expressed by Caesarius, bishop of Arles (502-42)…Although Caesarius and the Council of Orange were largely Augustinian, their views allowed for predestination to grace, but not for predestination to glory (the absolute gift of perseverance)…” (Ferguson 2005, 301). Naturally, there are differences between the Semiaugustinianism of the sixth century and the moderate Calvinism being promoted by Geisler and Erickson. As I have studied theology, my theological base has moved slightly from Remonstrant theology to the congruism, or moderate Calvinism, promoted by Erickson and Geisler. Some strong Calvinists would still see the system as a form of Arminianism. Geisler and Erickson would not agree. Nonetheless, whatever system one finds as the best fit, I feel it is demonstrated that a middle system (one that is not inclined to either extreme) best fits the teachings of Scripture. For in the end, the sole authority of the doctrines for the Christian faith do not come from Calvin, Arminius, Augustine, Geisler, Erickson, or even me; it must come from the Bible itself.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: Volume One—From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Bloomington: Bethany House, 2011.

Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991.

Zacharias, Ravi. “He Saw, He Left, He Conquered.” Podcast. Just Thinking Broadcasts. (April 14, 2014).

 

Essential Doctrines (Part 4): The Atonement Through Christ

crucifixion-of-jesus-247x300   Have you ever noticed the attention Christmas gets and the lack of attention that Easter receives? One of the reasons behind this is due to the confrontational essence found in the doctrine of the atonement. For this doctrine, forces the individual to face his/her sin.

As the list of essential doctrines progresses, one will find that the core “existence of God, sinfulness of humanity, incarnation of Christ” lends itself to some of the other essential doctrines. In order to understand the atonement, one needs to first read the articles on the “existence of God,” “the sinfulness of humanity,” and the “incarnation of Christ.” Because those core doctrines are essential before understanding one of the doctrines that separates Christianity from every other world religion: the doctrine of the atonement.

What is the Doctrine?

The atonement is a theological term that represents Christ’s work of reconciliation between God and humanity through the work completed on the cross. There are a variety of viewpoints on the atonement. This writer holds to the “penal-substitution theory.” Millard Erickson writes of the theory, “By offering himself as a sacrifice, by substituting himself for us, actually bearing the punishment that should have been ours, Jesus appeased the Father and effected a reconciliation between God and humanity” (Erickson 1998, 833). While it is believed that this theory best holds to the teachings of Scripture, it is not the theory that is held as essential as much as the core of the doctrine of the atonement. There are two elements that comprise the doctrine of atonement:

Humanity is Unable to Save Itself

This doctrine is humbling. Quite frankly, it is the humility that is involved in the understanding that humankind cannot save itself that keeps some from coming to the cross. Humans are normally driven to be independent. Most people want to do for his/herself and does not desire to depend upon another person. The truth is, humans have far less control than they would wish. Granted, humans have progressed in technology. However, there are certain things that are beyond the scope of human control. When it comes to the keeping of God’s law (which would require a person to maintain perfection throughout one’s lifetime), this is one of those things that are beyond the scope of human grasp.

James writes, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). In other words, if a person commits one sin, the person has essentially broken the law and stands condemned. If you say, “Who could ever keep the law?” That’s just the point. No one can. This brings us to the second portion of the doctrine.

 Christ was Perfect Sacrifice

 The second element of the doctrine shows that Christ was the perfect sacrifice. Only God can save humanity. This is exactly what God sought to do. God did for humanity what humanity could not do for itself. God became a human and became the perfect sacrifice. In other words, God created a bridge that humanity could come to Him. This is why one must accept the deity of Jesus. Jesus was the sinless, perfect sacrifice. Peter writes, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:18-20). Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).

 

Why Should the Doctrine Be Believed?

There are at least three reasons for believing this doctrine:

Sinlessness of Jesus

While it is impossible for one to prove that Jesus was sinless being 2,000 years removed, one can rely upon the testimony of those who knew Him best. Peter wrote, To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

John wrote, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).

Paul, who had been an adversary of the faith, wrote, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Ignatius of Antioch wrote around 110 AD, “God incarnate…God Himself appearing in the form of man,” Justin Martyr wrote in the early 100s, “Being the First-Begotten Word of God, is even God” (References from McDowell and McDowell 2010, 164). There is, in fact, no reason for one to believe that the early believers ever viewed Jesus as being anything but the sinless, incarnate Son of God.

Crucifixion of Jesus a Historical Certainty

The crucifixion is among one of the historical certainties of events in ancient antiquity. Let’s refer to Norman Geisler on this issue. Geisler writes,

“According to Julius Africanus (ca. 221), the first-century Samaritan-born historian, Thallus (ca. 52), “when discussing the darkness which fell upon the land during the crucifixion of Christ,” spoke of it as an eclipse (Bruce, 113, emphasis added). The second-century Greek writer, Lucian, speaks of Christ as “the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced a new cult into the world.” He calls him the “crucified sophist” (Geisler, 323). The “letter of Mara Bar-Serapion” (ca. a.d. 73), housed in the British Museum, speaks of Christ’s death, asking: “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?” (Bruce, 114). Finally, there was the Roman writer, Phlegon, who spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection in his Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails” (Phlegon, Chronicles, cited by Origen, 4:455). Phlegon even mentioned “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place” (ibid., 445).

The earliest Christian writers after the time of Christ affirmed his death on the cross by crucifixion. Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, repeatedly affirmed the death of Christ, speaking, for example, of “our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death” (Polycarp, 33). Ignatius (30–107), a friend of Polycarp, wrote, “And he really suffered and died, and rose again.” Otherwise, he adds, all his apostles who suffered for this belief, died in vain. “But, (in truth) none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly” (Ignatius, 107). In Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin Martyr noted that Jews of his day believed that “Jesus [was] a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified” (Martyr, 253).

This unbroken testimony from the Old Testament to the early Church Fathers, including believer and unbeliever, Jew and Gentile, is overwhelming evidence that Jesus suffered and died on the cross” (Geisler 1999, 128).

Old Testament Prophecies

The Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) holds countless prophecies pointing to what one should expect by the Messiah. Josh and Sean McDowell write, “…in one day…no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier” (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 195) were fulfilled. They go on to write, “Professor Peter W. Stoner, in an analysis that was carefully reviewed and pronounced to be sound by the American Scientific Affiliation, states that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000″ (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 197). That Jesus was the perfect sacrifice as identified by the Hebrew Bible is, in this writer’s opinion, undeniable.

 

Why is the Doctrine Essential?

This doctrine is essential for one to become, or be considered, a Christian because this is the crux of the Christian faith. There is a reason why the cross, an instrument of death, became the symbol for the Christian faith. For it was by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that individuals have access to the God of eternity. Some would like to think that they can be good enough to earn God’s approval. The problem is that none of us can ever be good enough to equate with the holiness and perfection of God. Forgiveness is needed. Mercy needs to be bestowed. It can only be by God that such forgiveness and mercy can be extended. If Jesus is who the New Testament purports Him to be, then it is by the perfect sacrifice freely offered by Jesus that one can be saved. No one can be a Christian without first confronting the cross.

NOTE: Would you like to cross the bridge to God? Would you like to have your sins forgiven? See the link “How to Know Jesus” on the upper-right side of the website to know how.

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Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

McDowell, Josh, and Sean McDowell. The Unshakable Truth: How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith. Eugene: Harvest House, 2010.

Stoner, Peter W., and Robert C. Newman. Science Speaks. Chicago: Moody Press, 1976.

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011),

Essential Doctrines (Part 1): The Doctrine of God’s Existence

 

creation-god     The most basic and fundamentally essential belief in the Christian worldview is the acceptance of a theistic God. This article will examine the first essential doctrine to the Christian faith: the existence of God. The article will define what the doctrine entails, why a person can believe the doctrine, and why the doctrine is considered essential.

 

What Is the Doctrine?

The doctrine of God’s existence is critical to the Christian worldview. It is, in fact, foundational to the remaining doctrines of the Christian faith. If God does not exist, then there is no use moving further. Yet, if God does exist, then there is a foundation to all other religious doctrines.

The doctrine of God that needs to hold true for the Christian faith is that of theism. Norman Geisler explains theism as, …the worldview that an infinite, personal God created the universe and miraculously intervenes in it from time to time (see Miracle). God is both transcendent over the universe and immanent in it” (Geisler BECA 1999, 722). Geisler mentions that theism holds that God is both transcendent and immanent. These elements of belief in God are essential to the Christian doctrine. One could prove God’s existence without proving Christianity, but one cannot prove Christianity without proving the existence of a theistic God. Transcendence means that God exists as a separate entity from the universe. In contrast to pantheistic religions, God exists apart from the universe. Therefore, the universe is a creation of God. Immanence describes God’s working within the universe. Deists, like Thomas Jefferson, believe in God’s existence, but do not hold that God works within creation. Creation is like a wound-up clock and is ticking apart from God on its’ own. However, theists understand that God works in creation. God reveals God’s self to human beings (e.g. revelation). This is critical in understanding doctrines such as sin and the incarnation of Christ.

 

Why Should a Person Believe the Doctrine?

The Bible states, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Psalmist writes, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known” (Psalm 19:1-2). The Bible clearly shows that God exists. But is there any reason for believing in a theistic God outside the Bible? Actually, yes…there is.

Transcendent God

Is there evidence that God exists? If you have followed this website for any lengths of time, then you know that there are multiple reasons for believing in God’s existence (see article “30 Abbreviated Arguments for the Existence of God”). However, we will still grant one of the reasons for believing that God is the transcendent creator of the universe.

A powerful argument for God’s transcendent existence is the Argument from Efficient Causality. Peter Kreeft explains,

 “We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both)….Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect. If there is not one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be…If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it. But we do get it; we exist. Therefore there must exist a God: and Uncaused Being who does not have the receive existence like us—and like every other link in the chain of receivers” (Kreeft and Tacelli 1994, 51).

Perhaps the most popular argument in recent times that shows forth efficient causality is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam Argument argues: 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. The Big Bang Theory shows that the universe holds an absolute beginning in space-time history. Some argue that a multiverse (M-Theory) exists which could hold several mini-universes of which ours is one. However, such a theory only pushes back the “God problem” one step. Robin Collins explains,

 “Although some of the laws of physics can vary from universe to universe in superstring/M-Theory, these fundamental laws and principles underlie superstring/M-Theory and therefore cannot be explained as a multiverse selection effect. Further, since the variation among universes would consist of variation of the masses and types of particles, and the form of the forces between them, complex structures would almost certainly be atomlike and stable energy sources would almost certainly require aggregates of matter. Thus, the said fundamental laws seem necessary for there to be life in any of the many universes generated in this scenario, not merely in a universe with our specific types of particles and forces. In sum, even if an inflationary-superstring multiverse generator exists, it must have just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different, such as Einstein’s equation or the Pauli Exclusion Principle, it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced. Consequently, at most, this highly speculative scenario would explain the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, but at the cost of postulating additional fine-tuning of the laws of nature” (Collins 2012, 264-265).

In other words, even a multiverse where a generator existed to produce other universes would require fine-tuning and would, therefore, require a creator. In addition, the Borg-Vilenkin-Guth theorem (BVG) demonstrates that all universes…including a multiverse…would require a beginning point. So, really, a transcendent God is required for M-Theory, or a multiverse, to exist as much as just this universe alone. There are many more arguments for the existence of God (for a listing of 30 arguments for God’s existence, see “30 Abbreviated Arguments for the Existence of God”).

Immanence of God

How does one know that God is immanent? There are a few ways that one can know that God is immanent, or personal. One, if the human soul (consciousness) exists, then it must have been placed there for personal reasons. Consciousness is something that baffles modern skeptics. Thomas Nagel, an atheist, recently wrote a book titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. In the book, Nagel explains that atheists are going to have to consider the fact that a human soul, or consciousness, exists. Why would God create such a consciousness in human beings? A good answer would be that God could have a personal relationship with God. Also, near-death experiences (NDEs) would demonstrate the consciousness (soul) of human beings existing outside the material bodies of human beings.

Two, miracles would be a great way to show that God is personal. If only one miracle occurs, then one would have enough to claim that God is personal. There are a multitude of miracles that can be concurred (see Craig Keener’s book Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts). One of the greatest is the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see articles on this website devoted to the resurrection of Christ).

Finally, personal experiences with God would demonstrate that God is personal. Thousands of cases exist across the globe of individuals who have had personal experiences with the divine. A recent phenomenon is that of visions of Christ. Many have visions of Christ that lead the person to faith. These are not isolated experiences either. The personal experiences and encounters with God show that God is personal. The transcendence and immanence of God leads one towards theism. This does not necessarily prove the Christian worldview…other essential doctrines are necessary to do such. However, this shows that Christianity is at least credible.

 

Why is the Doctrine Essential?

The doctrine of God’s existence is essential. Perhaps it is one of the most essential doctrines of all. How can one claim that Jesus is the Son of God if one does not believe in God? Otherwise, one would say that Jesus is a son. Well, that’s good, but you do not have Christianity in such a case. The belief in God is also critical in understanding the value of every human being. When God is understood to be transcendent AND immanent, then  one will be able to acknowledge that everything in this universe has a purpose. It might be that the person does not understand the purpose of a particularly thing…but there is a purpose nonetheless. The fact that every human being possesses a God-given soul shows that each person holds great importance. It is inescapable that a theistic belief in God is essential in Christianity.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Chilton, Brian. “30 Abbreviated Arguments for the Existence of God.” pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com. (October 2013). Accessed January 20, 2014. https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/30-abbreviated-arguments-for-the-existence-of-god/.

Collins, Robin. “The Teleological Argument.” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 722.

Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove: IVP, 1994.

 

Loving God with the Mind: Evaluating Truth Claims with Simple Logic

Love God with mind     When one thinks about loving God, emotional worship is probably the first thing to come to mind. Perhaps it is a view of people shimmying and shaking. Maybe it is a different view. Maybe it is a view of someone giving of themselves to God self-sacrificially. Have you ever considered that you are instructed to love God with your mind? When asked, Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NIV). How does one love God with the mind? Well, studying God’s word is the first and most important way. Second to the Bible, it is important for a Christian to know how to think logically. Geisler states, “Logic is correct and clear thinking” (Geiser, “261. Why is Logic So Important,” One Minute Apologist Interview). So, if logic is correct and clear thinking and the Bible is true, then it would be biblical to think logically. While it is fully endorsed that the Christian takes a class in logic if available, one does not need to know all the ins an outs of logic to think logically. Remembering the three key laws of logic will greatly help everyone think more logically.

Law of Identity: (p = p)

The law of identity simply states that something is what it is. This is a classic line from losing football coaches, “It is what it is.” Well, this is the law of identity. If you claim something is a tree, for it to be true, it must actually be a tree. Everything has an identity. You have an identity and that identity is categorized by your name. You have distinct characteristics that no one else in history possesses or ever will possess.

When it comes to Christianity, many misunderstand the God in the Bible. Sometimes, some will see God has having human attributes. In the Bible, there are many anthropomorphisms (adding human characteristics to something not-human). For instance, a writer may speak of the “hands of God” or the “eyes of God.” Jesus tells us that God is spirit, so God could not possess those finite attributes. This does not mean that the Bible is wrong, it just means that the analogy is not to be taken literally. Many unbelievers misunderstand God. They see God as a “God of the gaps” or a kind of explanation as the gods of Greek and Norse folklore were. However, they do not understand that God is a necessary being for all things to exist. For the Christian, it is most important to get an accurate view and understanding of God. Doctrines like the Person of God, the Trinity, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, salvation, the resurrection of Christ, and other issues must be understood historically and biblically. Spiritual principles like the promises of God and the church’s place in Christ needs to be understood. When one does, it will be found that God is far greater than one could ever imagine and their purpose is far more important than they could ever imagine.

This is also important in identifying truth claims in opposing worldviews. One classic blunder of atheists is that many atheists do not claim that their belief system is a “belief” or a “religion.” However, it is funny that many atheists will create clubs…and even some atheist churches…to promote their agenda. But, in the end, they are promoting a “belief”…something that they hold true. The law of identity can come in handy in helping one understand their own belief system and the belief systems of others.

Law of Non-Contradiction: (p = p) ≠ (p = ~p)

The law of non-contradiction simply states that something cannot both be and not be. For instance, one cannot claim, “The old tree is a bird.” Well, it is easy to see that this statement is nonsensical. A tree cannot be a bird. Either the thing is a bird or it is a tree, but it cannot be both. In professional wrestling, there is a phrase that is used that is nonsensical “the squared circle.” Well, which is it? Is it a square or is it a circle?

It is important for the believer to have a firm grasp on the essentials of the faith to prevent contradictory claims to enter in their belief system. Unfortunately, many times believers adhere more to community, family, or personal traditions more than they do the truth. For instance, I once heard a person who adamantly holds to the King James Version say, “The King James Version is the Bible that Paul read.” This is a HUGE blunder of EPIC proportions. For one, the King James Version did not come about until 1611 A.D. The Apostle Paul was executed in 67 A.D. Subtracting the latter from the former leaves one with a difference of 1,544 years. Furthermore, Paul wrote many of the letters contained in the New Testament. So, how could Paul have originally read a letter that he is purported to write in a language that he did now speak. Even worse, English had not come about in the first century. Like Jesus before him, Paul would have spoken and wrote in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. The New Testament was written in Greek. The Hebrew Bible was originally written in Hebrew and translated into Greek for the Septuagint (or LXX) which Paul, like many apostles, read and quoted. So, can you begin to see the contradiction? Nothing against the King James Version, but the claim that the King James Bible is the only Bible is a contradictory claim and must be avoided by those who seek to stand for the truth.

A firm understanding of the second law of logic can make a Christian dangerous to opposing worldviews. As Norman Geisler said, “You get your life cleaned up…and your mind cleared up…and you’re dangerous” (Geisler, “261. Why is Logic So Important,” One Minute Apologist). This is so mainly because the intellectual Christian will be able to diagnose truth claims. Many self-refuting statements exist in our day and time. One such claim is, “There is no truth.” The problem with the statement is that the statement is a truth claim. The person is claiming as truth that there is no truth. Well, if truth does not exist, then the statement must be false. Or if there is truth, then the statement is still false because truth does exist. Or what about the claim, “It’s all relative.” Really? Well, the proponent of that claim is objectively stating that everything is relative. It does not work. Or what about the claim used by a recent commentator, “You guys shouldn’t judge Miley Cyrus!” Well, the commentator is guilty of the same crime that he is accusing others. He is judging others for judging Miley Cyrus. It doesn’t work. Lawrence Krauss has committed a philosophical error in logic by proclaiming that nothing brought forth something. However, Krauss’ “nothing” is not really “nothing.” His “nothing” consists of vacuums, particles, and the like. But, vacuums, particles, and the like are not “nothings,” they are “somethings.” Do you see the picture?

Law of Excluded Middle: p V ~p

The law of excluded middle states that something must either be or not be and it must be one or the other. You must make a decision according to the truth. I am not one who enjoys conflict. I am a peacemaker. I had rather see peace than war. However, when it comes to matters of truth, ethics, and the like, a firm stance must be taken. A choice must be made.

For instance, consider the following conundrums: a student wishes to take biology and sociology for her final class in college. Biology and history are the only two courses available to her and there is one spot left. She signed up for sociology but needs biology to graduate. She must make a decision as she only needs one more accredited course and both classes are at the same time slot. No other classes for the courses are available, so she must make a decision: take biology and graduate OR take sociology and delay her graduation. Which is it? She cannot take sociology and claim that she took biology. No decision will be a decision in favor of sociology and a delayed graduation.

Or consider a man who lives on the mainland, but had to take a ferry to an island to get some medicine for his ailing wife. He desperately needs to get to the mainland to take the medication to his ailing wife. The last ferry leaves in 10 minutes. He either buys a ticket and steps on the ferry or he does not. There are consequences to his actions either way, but he must make a choice.

Many Christians seek to take an ecumenical view for world religions. Some will claim, “All religions are the same.” But is this true? Some religions are theistic (believe in a God), others are atheistic (do not believe in God). Can they all be true? If the theistic religions are true, then the atheistic religions are not…and vice versa. What about Jesus? Is He God incarnate? If Jesus is the Son of God, then Christianity is true. If He isn’t, then Christianity is not true. It must be one or the other. If Jesus is the Son of God, then claims that He is not are deemed false. One must make a decision, but don’t hand down this poppycock about all world religions being true. It is not possible. Just as it is not true that all worldviews are essentially true.

for god so love the world

Conclusion:

Is it important to love God with the mind? Absolutely! If one stands upon the truth of Jesus Christ, one has a firm foundation on which to stand. If, however, one stands upon the foundation of human and community traditions and perceptions, one may find that the ground is not so stable. The truth may not win a person many friends. You may be viewed as “that old know-it-all.” If so, you are in good company. The Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles were ostracized for standing for the truth.

Understand however, that such a logic and understanding comes with a huge responsibility. One must be humble and loving whilst standing for the truth. No greater example can be found than in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was loving, kind, approachable, and compassionate. Yet, He did not back down from proclaiming the truth. For it was Jesus who said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, NIV).

Bibliography

All scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Geisler, Norman. “261. Why is Logic So Important.” Video. The One Minute Apologist. Edited and hosted by Bobby Conway. http://oneminuteapologist.com/searchpage#philosophy. Accessed November 11, 2013.

The Kalaam Cosmological Argument: Short, Sweet, and Stout

big-bang  Many philosophical and apologetic arguments are difficult to commit to memory. Some arguments consist of five thorough points. Sometimes these arguments are difficult to bring out especially when you are speaking to someone about the faith. However, there is one such argument that is short enough that it is easy to remember, sweet enough to get people thinking, and stout enough to hold up even to the most ardent objector. This argument is called the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. It was originally developed by a Muslim in the late 11th century by the name of Abu Hamid Muhammed ibn Muhammed al-Ghazali. He is known by his shortened name Al-Ghazali. In recent days, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument has been revived and brought to the public sphere by Christian apologist William Lane Craig. Craig has written extensively on this argument and one of his resources will be used in this article. The argument consists of three premises:

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2) The universe began to exist.

3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

For this article, we will examine the three premises in greater detail. For exhaustive treatment of this argument, see the resources used at the end of this article. Let us now examine the first premise.

universe 2

1.     Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

The first premise of the argument is logically sound. Everything that begins to exist has a purpose for its existence. For instance, your existence is the result of your biological parents consummation. Now, because you exist, it could logically be demanded that a host male and female parent had to exist. Your existence demands their existence. Your existence did not come by way of happenstance. There was a reason for you to be here. (The naysayer may claim that instances of rape and incestual relationships counter this claim. However, your existence is still a good thing. Therefore, even though a person’s consummation may have come from less than favorable circumstances, good came through even the most horrible of circumstances…ie. the child’s existence. Let us pick up that argument in a later article and continue on with the subject at hand.)

The cause-effect relationship is the fundamental building block of science itself. When I worked as a teaching assistant, I helped instruct the children on the fundamentals of science. The first step is understanding the causal relationship. So, this causal relationship is fundamental in all things. When a crime scene investigator examines a corpse, he/she wants to know the cause of this person’s death. Was it a homicide? Was it a suicide? Or, was it by natural causes? Craig writes, “Premise (1) seems obviously true-at the least, more so than its negation. First and foremost, it’s rooted in the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing. To suggest that things could pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic. Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing. Finally, the first premise is constantly confirmed in our experience. Atheists who are scientific naturalists thus have the strongest of motivations to accept it” (Craig 2008, 111-112). 

When we think of cosmological arguments for the existence of God, particularly the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, it is the same with the universe. Because we are here, because there is design in the universe, and because there is something rather than nothing (we are not speaking of Krauss’ logically absurd “nothing something” here), we are forced with a first causing agent: God. This is the first premise. Let us now look at the second premise.

big-bang

2.     The universe began to exist.

The second premise of the argument is one that has been confirmed by scientific data. The belief that God created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing) is a biblical concept, as well. Let us consider four reasons why the Christian can and should accept the fact that the universe began to exist.

Big Bang Theory

Oh no! Doesn’t the “Big Bang Theory” conflict with Genesis 1? Actually…no, it doesn’t. We will examine the biblical references showing that God created the universe “ex nihilo” later. For now, it must be accepted as a fact that the universe is not eternal, but finite. The Big Bang Theory shows just that. Craig explains, “The standard Big Bang model, as the Friedman-Lemaitre model came to be called, thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin out of nothing. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity” (Craig 2008, 127). How do the scientists know that a Big Bang occurred? Well, it has to do with the expansion of the universe. The universe as we know it is running out of energy. It is expanding at a faster rate and will eventually cool and lose the energy contained within. This corresponds with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which we will cover in a moment. Because the universe is expanding, this forces one to concede the fact that if you were to travel back in time, you would find the universe becoming more and more dense and smaller. Turek and Geisler give five reasons why one can know that the universe had a beginning. They give a handy acronymn “SURGE” to remember the five points. “S=Second Law of Thermodynamics…U=Universal Expansion…R=Radiation Afterglow…G=Galaxy Seeds…E=Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity” (Geisler and Turek 2004, 76-83). If you want to learn more about these five points, pick up Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. We will examine one of the five points.

2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Geisler and Turek explain this law, “Thermodynamics is the study of matter and energy, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics states, among other things, that the universe is running out of usable energy. With each passing moment, the amount of usable energy in the universe grows smaller, leading scientists to the obvious conclusion that one day all of the energy will be gone and the universe will die. Like a running car, the universe will ultimately run out of gas” (Geisler and Turek 2004, 76). If you do not believe in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, just look at a picture of yourself taken 10 years ago and then look at yourself in a mirror now. You have aged. As time progresses, your body will begin to break and wear down eventually leading to death (or the beginning of an exciting new life for the Christian). This is an example of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in action. Because the universe is running out of energy, there must have been a starting point where the universe was given all the energy contained within itself. This starting point is even more remarkable when one understands that there was no universe, no time, and no energy in the universe before the universe began. This demands that the universe, the energy contained within, and the laws of nature governing it came from an outside source…a source that contains more power than the sum total of power contained within the universe…is timeless…and able to provide the design and governing laws contained within the universe. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like God to me!!!

Villenkin/Guth/Borg Mathematical Theorem

Some naturalists have tried to wriggle around the obvious conclusions which a finite universe brings by claiming that this universe came from a larger unmanned universe. They call this mother universe to all universes a “multiverse.” This theory is also called the “M-Theory.” There are inherent problems with this theory. For one, there is not conclusive evidence that there is a multiverse. A multiverse would, if it exists, not be able to be observed now, if ever. Therefore, the adherents of such a view would have to accept a multiverse’s existence on faith. However, what many do not realize is that a multiverse solves nothing. A multiverse only pushes the problem back a step. Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University, wrote about three mathematicans who discovered a fascinating mathematical theorem (a theorem in mathematics is like a law in physics). Spitzer writes, “This stronger proof, put forward in 2003 by Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin (henceforth BGV), considers space-times satisfying the condition that the average Hubble expansion in the past is greater than zero, i.e., H(av) > 0…In other words, the BGV result demonstrates that all inflationary space-times have a beginning in the finite past, presumably in some sort of quantum nucleation event that mitigates the breakdown of physics accompanying a classical singularity…By the impeccable logic of the kalam argument, the BGV theorem implies that space-times expanding on average throughout their histories are caused – they are caused because they began to exist, and everything that begins to exist requires a cause. Furthermore, this cause must be transcendent in nature because space-time cannot be self-caused: prior to the existence of all space, time, matter, and energy there was no universe to describe and there were no physical laws or initial conditions that could have played a role in its genesis; rather, all these things came into existence out of nothing, so a transcendent immaterial cause must necessarily have acted” (Spitzer 2010, 76-77). In other words: even if a multiverse existed, the multiverse would have come into being at a finite point in time. Therefore, the naturalist has not escaped the “God dilemma.” The naturalist has only pushed the problem back a step.

Biblical References to Creation “Ex Nihilo”

Numerous references could be given at this point. We will however limit the references to five passages which indicate that God created the universe from nothing.

Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 

Psalm 33:6

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host.”

John 1:3

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Romans 4:17

“(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.”

Hebrews 11:3

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

So you see, the Bible strongly indicates that the Eternally Conscious, Living, God brought the universe into existence from no material, but established everything by God’s command. Now, let us examine the final premise to the Kalaam Cosmological Argument.

universe 1

3.     Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Since the first two premises hold, the final premise is a given. The universe had a cause. There are two primary reasons to hold that the universe has a cause.

First Cause

What we have learned is that before the singularity (the point where everything in the universe could fit inside a sewer’s pin), nothing physical in the universe (energy, laws of physics, or matter) existed. Something had to cause the universe’s existence because we are here now experiencing the universe. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be not first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God” (Aquinas, I.2.3., 1990, 66-67). In other words, if one had three dominoes, the person (first cause) would push down the first domino which would push down the second domino (intermediate causes) which would finally push down the last domino (ultimate cause). Or another way to look at it would be like the classic game Mouse Trap. The player initiates a series of events which eventually leads to the ultimate cause (catching the mouse with a plastic net). The player and initial domino pusher were the first causes. Likewise, God is the necessary first cause to the universe.

Design

There is no doubt that the universe has greatly been designed. Spitner gives seven lines of evidence concerning the design of the universe. “(1) The first instance is given by Roger Penrose, who shows the exceedingly high improbability of a low-entropy condition (which is compatible with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and essential for our anthropic universe) arising out of the big bang…The odds of our anthropic universe arising amidst the total phase-space volume of possible universes for a creation event is so exceedingly, exceedingly, exceedingly remote that it’s notation in regular exponential form is one part in: 10(1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000) (my note: there are 123 zeroes in case you lost count)…

(2) The second instance concerns the interrelationship among the gravitational constant (G), weak force constang (gw), and the cosmological constant (Λ) with respect to the rate of acceleration (and possible collapse) of the universe as a whole…

(3) A third instance of improbable anthropic conditions concerns the strong force constant (especially in its relationship to the electromagnetic constant). This constant cannot vary more or less than 2 percent from its current value (gs=15) without rendering impossible the formation of either hydrogen or any other element heavier than hydrogen…

(4) A fourth instance of the improbability of anthropic conditions in our universe concerns the relationship between the gravitational and weak force constants on the one hand, and the neutron-proton mass and electron mass on the other…

(5) A fifth instance of the improbability of anthropic conditions concerns the gravitational constant in its relation to the electromagnetic constant and the ratio of electron to proton mass…

(6) A sixth instance of the improbability of anthropic conditions concerns the weak force constant and its relationship to the carbon atom…

(7) A seventh instance can be adduced from the resonances of atomic nuclei” (Spitzner 2010, 57-64). These are only seven among over 180 constants of design that have been found in the universe. There seems to be a going trend. That trend indicates that we are here for a cause. The Causer is God.

big bang

Conclusion

The cosmological argument is among one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God. The other contender would be the teleological argument (evidence from design). These arguments were strong enough to persuade longtime atheist Antony Flew of God’s existence. Flew accepted the existence of God a few years before his death. It is not known if he ever came to be a Christian, however. Among the cosmological arguments, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument stands strong. The Kalaam Cosmological Argument is logically sound, biblically sound, and scientifically sound. Also, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument is short enough to remember, sweet enough to get people thinking, and stout enough to hold through the toughest critic’s objections. The Kalaam Cosmological Argument is one argument that the Christian defender should learn well.

 

Bibliography

All scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologicae. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans. Summa of the Summa, Peter Kreeft, ed. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1990.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.

Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

Spitzner, Robert J. New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.