Posts Tagged ‘apologetics’

Archaeologists Closer to Proving the Bible?

This is an interesting article. It’s by no means conclusive, but it’s a good read nonetheless. Check it out if you have five minutes.

Archaeologists Closer to Proving the Bible?

How To Refute Christianity

I liked this blog post, so thought I would share the link for you all. Enjoy!

How To Refute Christianity

As a Christian, On Atheism

This post of mine isn’t actually going to be one I’ve written. It’s simply going to end with a link to someone else’s blog that I would encourage you all to read. So often we (and I am definitely included in this) get lost in the sniping and nit-picking of little details that we often miss the point of why we’re even having this discussion. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure why atheists continue to come on WordPress and other forums and try to derail Christianity, Islam and any other religions they can get their hands on. I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak to that. But as a Christian, I can speak to the underlying cause behind even being here with this blog. Much of it is meant to be encouragement to other believers, but given that it has an apologetic tilt to it, the link below describes excellently the motivation for reaching out. I’m glad this gentleman posted it, and I hope I can remember to read it myself from time to time to remind myself that this is a war that is far greater than you or me. Maybe that will give me a little more compassion and a little less condescension for those who don’t agree with me. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have five minutes, check out the link below.

Re: Atheism

The Resurrection of Jesus: A Minimal Facts Argument

An atheist that came on this blog recently “challenged” me to present the case for the resurrection of Jesus based on this post I put up a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, this very topic was also a part of our SWAT Seminar that took place about a month ago, and Craig Hazen presented what we call a “minimal facts” argument that the best explanation of the knowledge we have is that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.

It’s called a “minimal facts” argument because the facts used don’t say very much (in length), but the argument uses only statements that both religious and secular scholars will agree are true. Believing and unbelieving (perhaps also termed “skeptical”) historical scientists will stipulate to the veracity of each of these statements, so we don’t need to debate their merits. When put together, they actually say a great deal. The debate centers around which hypothesis best fits the historical information we all agree on.

Before I give these statements (of which there are 12), it’s important to note the method for discovery and explanation. The scientific method is not the preferred method when discussing history. Rather, the method of inference to the best explanation is more commonly used. To steal from another blog post of mine, let me explain.

…We must use the evidentiary method, which is rooted in abductive reasoning. The problem is that in abductive reasoning, the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent is possible. For example, no one doubts the existence of Napoleon. Yet we use abductive reasoning to infer Napoleon’s existence. That is, we must infer his past existence from present effects. But despite our dependence on abductive reasoning to make this inference, no sane or educated person would doubt that Napoleon Bonaparte actually lived. How could this be if the problem of affirming the consequent bedevils our attempts to reason abductively? Philosopher and logician C.S. Peirce: “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without” the hypothesis of his existence. Peirce’s words imply that a particular abductive hypothesis can be strengthened if it can be shown to explain a result in a way that other hypotheses do not, and that it can be reasonably believed (in practice) if it explains in a way that no other hypotheses do. In other words, an abductive inference can be enhanced if it can be shown that it represents the best or the only adequate explanation of the “manifest effects.”

In modern times, historical scientists have called this the method of inference to the best explanation. That is, when trying to explain the origin of an event in the past, historical scientists compare various hypotheses to see which would, if true, best explain it. They then select the hypothesis that best explains the data as the most likely to be true. But what constitutes the best explanation for the historical scientist? Among historical scientists it’s generally agreed that best doesn’t mean ideologically satisfying or mainstream; instead, best generally has been taken to mean, first and foremost, most causally adequate.

So let me give the 12 statements that historical scholars almost universally agree are true and valid, and then perhaps you can decide for yourself what the best explanation of these truths is. For my money (and soul, consequently) the best explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead.

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus was buried.
3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended.
4. The tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of His death and resurrection.
7. This resurrection message was the center of preaching in the early church.
8. This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
9. As a result of this preaching, the church was born and grew.
10. Sunday became the primary day of worship.
11. James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he believed he also saw the resurrected Jesus.
12. A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he likewise believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Hanging By a Thread

This past weekend our church hosted our second annual SWAT Seminar. SWAT stands for Spiritual Warfare and Apologetics Training. This year we were fortunate enough to be able to bring out Craig Hazen and JP Moreland to speak to our group. These guys are two heavyweights in the apologetics world. They travel all over the country and the world, going into both hostile and friendly environments giving arguments in favor of the truth of Christianity.

In his introductory talk on Friday night, Hazen laid the foundation for his talk the next day on “Christianity Among the World’s Religions” by making a very interesting point. He said that Christianity is weird. Why? Because it is the only religion that is testable. Think about it. Most religions in the world are about inward experience and a personal journey toward some form of enlightenment. It doesn’t matter about what happens in the external world, because the religion is inward-focused and no one can prove you’re not having the experience you claim to have.

In stark contrast, the apostle Paul hangs Christianity by a thread that, if able to be snipped, would cause all of Christianity to come crashing to the ground. What is that thread? 1 Corinthians 15:12-17 tells us:

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

If Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, Christianity is useless. This makes Christianity testable, because we can look at the evidence to determine whether or not Christ really was raised from the dead. We can create hypotheses that we can weigh against each other. Hazen did so on Saturday, giving 12 minimal facts that even secular historians agree are true by a large majority. We can then pit these hypotheses against each other using the inference to the best explanation and arrive at a reasonable conclusion. Perhaps I’ll post those later, but it’s easy to see why Christianity is so targeted among the world religions: because it can be objectively tested, and therefore Christians have sufficient belief that it can be defended. No wonder Peter told us to always be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15). We need not have an answer if there isn’t a reasonable one available.

So Christians, we’re a bit strange. I think we already know this, but Paul’s distinction makes that more evident than ever. And yet we have strong reasons to believe that Christianity is true, and that we do not hope in vain. Your faith is hanging by a thread, but I have confidence it is one that can and will never be snipped, until Christ returns and makes plain the truth found in His Word.

The Problem of Evil: Just Who Is Responsible?

I recently discussed the problem of evil, which is a popular topic of debate between theists and atheists. For those unfamiliar, the general notion is that if God exists, why is there evil or suffering in the world? Surely God could have created a world without evil, because He is all-powerful and all-loving. The fact that evil exists suggests either that God is not all-powerful or He is not all-loving, and would therefore cease to be God. The atheist then concludes that because there is evil, God almost certainly does not exist.

I’ve posted on this elsewhere, but to me it seems theists often jump to free will and the permission of evil to accomplish a greater good. While this is definitely a component of the theist’s defense, it appears to me that we often miss the initial step: who is responsible for evil?

As a theist, to me it seems like we need to clarify this responsibility before we can discuss further. If an atheist poses to you the problem of evil, the first question ought to be this: “Can evil exist without man?” That is to say, if man did not exist, would there still be evil?

In reply, the atheist can really only go two ways. The initial implied assumption here is that the atheist is a naturalist, and as such believes that nature is amoral and indifferent. Nature doesn’t care about the plight of man, and so it applies no value to man. Since evil is a moral value judgment, and nature has no values, nature is amoral and incapable of evil on its own.

So the atheist can say either of the following:

1) Yes, evil can exist without man, or
2) No, evil cannot exist without man.

If the answer is the first option, then the atheist is stipulating to the existence of the supernatural realm, and the entire framework of the atheist’s worldview is shattered. Why is this true? Because the only realms that could exist are the natural and the supernatural, by definition. If nature is amoral and man doesn’t exist, then the only way a moral value judgment like evil could exist in such a situation is within the supernatural realm. So the atheist has just admitted their own worldview is irrational!

Realistically, this means the only option for the atheist is #2, where the existence of evil is predicated on the existence of man. However, this also poses a problem for the atheist, as we are then able to construct a logical argument based on the premises laid out from the atheist’s worldview:

1) If evil exists, then someone or something is responsible for evil. (P1)
2) If man does not exist, then evil does not exist. (P2)
3) Nature on its own is amoral. (P3)
4) Evil exists. (P4, denying the consequent)
5) Therefore, someone or something is responsible for evil. (C1 –> P1, P4)
6) Also therefore, man exists. (C2 –> P2, P4)
7) Nature existed before man existed. (P5) [This is the naturalist’s assumption based on the theory of evolution.]
8) Therefore, there was a time before man where evil did not exist. (C3 –> P2, P3, C2, P5)
9) But evil exists now. (P6)
10) Therefore, the someone or something responsible for evil didn’t exist before man, but exists now. (C1, C3, P6)

Based on these ten steps, the only reasonable conclusion is that man is responsible for the evil we see in this world. So the atheist is really assuming that the problem of evil begins with man, unless he relinquishes his entire worldview and commits to supernaturalism.

So the issue then becomes the following: couldn’t God have created a world where man didn’t exist? I suppose it’s logically possible, but we as humans are in no position to make any assumptions about such a world where we didn’t exist–namely, that it would be a world that is better than the one we are currently experiencing. Surely it wouldn’t be better for us, because we wouldn’t exist. So we have no basis on which to judge God based on the existence of evil.

Without even discussing free will, any theist can make a reasonable assertion that the problem of evil is a poor and invalid objection to the probability of God’s existence. If you are faced with such a task, don’t worry! You have the answers!

Ravi Zacharias’ Take On the Evidence

Before we get to the fourth point of evidence in my argument, I saw this video on YouTube and thought it a very succinct way to say everything from the first three points that I’ve touched on. And it helps that Ravi has much better credentials than I do, so if my arguments don’t make sense, perhaps his will. Enjoy!

Opposition to the Moral Argument

Recently I have found myself in several discussions with atheists based on a variety of topics. I have stumbled on the “Blessed Atheist Bible Study,” where atheists go through the stories of the Bible and attempt to show inconsistency and laugh at how foolish they think it all sounds. I had the privilege of refuting one such consistency from the author of a book called “Disproving Christianity: Refuting the World’s Most Followed Religion.” I have come upon the blog post from an atheist who is not scared of death but assumes that many religious people are. I have discussed the rational nature of atheism. Yet in all of these instances, it seems the discussion has boiled down to the Moral Argument for the existence of God.

And why should it not? Morality is at our inner core; Christians know this to be our souls. We can’t see it, can’t touch it, but we know it’s there. In fact, everyone knows it’s there, because everyone believes in some form of morality. Even the most inconceivable of people who thought that murder was not wrong would still be enraged with a sense of wrongdoing if someone murdered their own child. Morality is a part of everything we actually do, because it is the innate governing body (given by God) of what we should and shouldn’t do.

So what do those who don’t believe in the existence of God say in opposition of the argument for objective moral values? Here are several that I’ve heard:

“Morality is based on a consensus of society.”

This sounds a lot like many of the laws we have today. Things are wrong because the law says and most people agree that these laws are good. The problem inherent in this argument is that different societies can have different opinions on what ought to be done. For instance, some societies say that polygamy is perfectly acceptable, other societies say it is absolutely wrong. One society in particular found it perfectly acceptable (by consensus, of course) to attempt to exterminate an entire race of people in what we call the Holocaust; many other societies decry this as pure evil. But if it is a societal consensus that determines morality, then someone injecting their morality on you is perfectly acceptable, for they are acting completely within their moral code. They are not violating their morality, so any act they perform, regardless of whether right or wrong in your own society, is OK. But if someone’s society says you ought to kill all blonde people and this is moral, and you are blonde, you might take exception to this if they came after you; you might even say it’s wrong. But if it’s not wrong in their moral code, then they are technically right in killing you. So morality based on societal consensus really doesn’t make sense.

“Anything that causes suffering is immoral,” or “Suffering is the measuring stick by which we determine right and wrong.”

This one actually sounds OK at first, because it allows for objective morality and suffering is seen as a universally wrong act. But this one consists of a logical inconsistency as well. First, on whom is the suffering placed for it to be immoral? For example, if someone were to attempt to kill a woman, but that woman killed that person in self-defense, is she committing an immoral act? It would definitely cause suffering for the person dying, as well as the dead person’s family and friends, so it would have to be considered immoral to defend one’s self.

But let’s take it a step further, and this is the argument I presented in response to this as well. Suppose a baseball game is tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth. The big power hitter for the home team comes up with two outs and smacks a game-winning home run off the opponent’s best pitcher. By doing this, he unleashes a huge celebration among his teammates and his fans. Unfortunately, he has just committed an immoral act and must therefore be condemned. Why? Because he caused suffering in the form of shame and disappointment for the pitcher, the opposing team, and all of the opposing team’s fans. It would also be an act with a relatively greater level of immorality than just killing the one person in self-defense, because the home run inflicted suffering on so many more people. I’m being sort of facetious here, but the logic to this argument is pretty ridiculous when you break it down.

“Morality has evolved over time and is based on current culture and circumstances.”

This one was particularly interesting, because this subjective morality came from someone who was trying to say that the Bible is inconsistent because God was evil in killing innocent Egyptians in the final plague of Exodus. However, if right and wrong change over time and are based on the current culture and societal norms, then we can make no judgments about the past in a moral sense. In this sense, everything done in history could be moral, so we can’t really condemn any acts we’ve seen in history. The persecution of Christians would be OK, the persecution of atheists would be OK, the slavery of Africans would be OK, because at that time the “current morality” could have allowed for this to be OK. This also means that not only was Pharaoh justified in enslaving the Israelites, but God was justified in committing an act in direct opposition. Both sides of the coin are OK in the past, because we can’t judge them based on our current morality, since it has evolved over time.

The second part of this one is whose morality we’re talking about here. My sense of what is moral in my culture is very different from the gentleman who put forth this argument, so which one of us evolved correctly? Did I not evolve properly, and so my morality is not really morality unless it agrees with his morality? If it is neither of us, then what is the measuring stick for the morality of the culture? If culture is the measuring stick, then it has to be independent of individuals, in which case we would all be subscribing to objective morality based on culture, which then begs the question of the past. It is a self-defeating argument.

Ultimately, there is no good answer to the Moral Argument, because there are objective moral values, and we all know it. They are based on what C.S. Lewis calls the “Tertium Quid,” or a Moral Law-Giver that transcends time and culture, so we can judge things once and for all as right or wrong based on this Moral Law-Giver. So if you are a believer in God, this should give you confidence moving forward that we have a great God that not only transcends time and space, but also is willing to give us a part of His nature to guide us as a compass discerning what is right and what is wrong, based on His nature. If you are a skeptic, what is your criticism of the Moral Argument?

Gasking’s Proof – What Does It Prove?

I came upon this great breakdown of Gasking’s Proof, which is probably the most well-known parody to the theist’s Ontological Argument. For a full breakdown on the “counter-counter apologetics” of the Ontological Argument, check out the blog from whence it came. I’m going to post basically word for word because I think it spells it out pretty good why such a proof actually doesn’t prove anything.

The final attempt at invalidating the Ontological Argument is another parody, known as “Gasking’s Proof”:

1. The creation of the universe is the greatest achievement imaginable.
2. The merit of an achievement consists of its intrinsic greatness and the ability of its creator.
3. The greater the handicap to the creator, the greater the achievement. (Would you be more impressed by Turner painting a beautiful landscape or a blind one-armed dwarf?)
4. The biggest handicap to a creator would be non-existence.
5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the creation of an existing creator, we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
6.Therefore, God does not exist.

There are many problems with this attempt to parody the Ontological Argument and prove God doesn’t exist. These are all problems with the premises. Premise 1 states that the creation of the universe is the greatest achievement imaginable. How so? Are there not achievements that could be greater? Could not the greatest achievement be creating infinite universes? For the sake of argument, however, I’ll concede step 1. Premises 3 and 4, I believe, have the greatest problems. Premise 3 assumes that doing things with a handicap makes something logically greater. I’d love to see a proof of this. The premise makes an appeal to common sense, but that is invalid in logic. I’m not at all convinced that having a handicap and doing something makes that achievement itself greater. This is made more problematic by the fact that premise 1 points to the universe as being the greatest achievement. This would seem to mean that an achievement is a finished product, not the steps leading up to the product.

For example, the Cubs winning the World Series after over a century without doing so may seem a greater achievement than the Yankees doing so, but it would be hard to show that logically, for both have the World Series as the finished product. I’m willing to grant premise 3, however, just for the sake of argument.

Premise 4 is where the argument really breaks apart. How is it that non-existence is a handicap? Handicaps can only be applied to things that do exist. To imply that something has a handicap assumes implicitly that it exists. Thus, premise 4 essentially says that a being both exists and does not exist, which is logically impossible. I assume that this premise was in order to counter the idea that existing-in-reality is greater than existing-in-understanding, but note that both of these are existing. In other words, the choice in the Ontological Argument is not saying that something that doesn’t exist exists, just that something that exists-in-the-understanding rather exists-in-reality. Premise 4 is therefore completely invalid both logically and in relation to the Ontological Argument.