Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It is reasonable to believe in God. Pt 4

In a previous post I argued for the existence of God based on the Teleological Argument.  Specifically, I used the argument for the Fine-Tuning (and therefore purpose or design) of the Universe.  But we may also use the Teleological argument in another way.
Life is Good, But It is Complicated
Similarly, to the Fine-Tuning Argument, one can also determine life could only arise because of the intelligence of some designer.  Not only can we determine the universe would be inhospitable to life without the intervention of intelligence, but life itself is so complicated as to need an intelligence creating it as well.  This is because even the most basic forms of life contain a lot of information.
If you went hiking on a mountain one day, and came across a pattern of rocks arranged in such a way as to spell, “welcome to the mountains,” what would you conclude?  There are only two options to explain this phenomenon, impersonal causation and personal causation.  In other words, either something natural caused the rocks to be arranged this way, or a person caused the rocks to be arranged this way.  Clearly, this is a product of intelligence.  Messages are a sign of intelligence.  Messages assume there is a a sender!  Even if no one receives the message an intelligence must send and compile the information.  Information cannot be the product of natural processes.
Life contains similar information.  The genetic code of DNA is like a novel.  “DNA has specified complexity in its message.” “Significantly, the nucleotide sequences in the coding regions of DNA have, by all accounts, a high information content--that is, they are both highly specified and complex, just like meaningful English sentences or functional lines of code in computer software (http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_dnaotherdesigns.htm).”  The code of DNA is very complicated, is arranged in a very specific way.
There is no such thing as simple life.  Even the simplest form of life contains a lot of information.  Even the amoeba has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 sets of the Encyclopedia!  If a simple message such as “welcome to the mountains” needs intelligence behind it, why would we not conclude that the equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias of information needs intelligence?  “Mind or intelligent design is a necessary cause of an informative system, one can detect the past action of an intelligent cause from the presence of an information-intensive effect, even if the cause itself cannot be directly observed.”  All other forms of information are recognized as the product of intelligence, the information of life is no different.  The complexity of life can only be explained as the product of an intelligence, and this intelligence is much like God. 
Again, this is not conclusive evidence for the existence of God, but is instead another link in our chain, making the belief in God a viable option.
Next, The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

Friday, March 26, 2010

Warning: Where Are You Sending Your Children To College? Is It Gender Neutral? Or How to Suppress the Truth in Unrighteousness

Al Mohler has highlighted a growing problem in the United States (and the West in general) today.  We are losing our sense of morality, as evidenced by our confusion about gender.

Mohler, keying off an article in the LA Times,  explains how many universities are now offering "gender neutral" housing.  The universities defend this position by exclaiming the students are adults who have the right to choose their comfortable zone.  While the students defend by saying, "a roommate is a roommate."

This is a problem I have wondered about a lot recently.  I do approve of some of the changes of our views of the roles of Men and Women as they have blurred the lines of artificial shackles.  However, how are we as a society going to survive (let alone thrive) if we cannot recognize the most basic of realities of God's world, such as the physical and emotional differences of men and women.  If God has created some differences in our nature, these differences are not artificial, but instead normal, natural, and freeing.  They help us understand how to fulfill our purpose.

Our society's need to erase and preempt the way God has created seems to be a clear case of a fulfillment of "exchanging the truth of God for a lie" in Romans 1:18-32 .  We love our "freedom" so much we believe lies to enable our immorality.  Christians need to stand against this confusion of roles and stand for the truth. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Great Post on Obamacare

Frank Turk has written a great post which reflects my thoughts on Obamacare perfectly.  I had been having trouble to truly put my thoughts into words, but now that is ok, because he has done so.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Correct Interpretation

Aaron at Apologetics Junkie has posted a great article on why a correct process of Biblical interpretation is essential when studying a text. I thought it would be good to link to it in light of my On Reading the Bible (Well) series.

The article explains why Christians in America should not believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 promise of a healing on the land apply to America.  This verse is often taken out of context and Christian's misinterpret the verse in a How Does This Apply to Me Hermeneutic. Instead, we should use a What Does This Teach Me About God Hermeneutic. If we realize the Bible is about God, then we will often avoid the trap of mistaken interpretation.

A correct interpretation of this verse and it's larger context does not mean God cannot heal America's land, but rather that God has not promised this to America there.  He certainly can heal our land, but a correct interpretation of the passage would caution anyone to be certain of this.

Is Jesus the Only Way?

Here is a short video by Greg Koukl on Why Jesus is the Only Way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It is reasonable to believe in God. Pt 3

             I have been arguing for the viability of belief in God.  My previous post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument  argued the beginning of the universe is best believed to be caused by something outside the universe.  But how do we know the universe was caused by a designer?  Part of the answer to this question comes from another type of argument for God's existence: The Teleological Argument, or Argument from Design.  There are at least two forms of this argument, in this post I will focus on the argument from the design of the universe.
Designer Jeans and Designer Worlds
            Sometimes people will comment how much better clothing looks on the models that wear it than it does on themselves.  There is a good reason for this.  The designer has made the jeans to fit people who look just the models who wear it.  Unfortunately, not many people actually look like models.  In fact, it is much more probable that clothing should be made different from how it often is, because most people do not look like models.
            In the same way, the universe could be much different from how we observe it to be.  The universe could be hostile to life in so many ways.  Most of the possible configurations for the world are hostile to life.  However, this is not what we find.  Instead, we find the universe is strangely configured for the flourishing of life.  It is as though the universe , like designer jeans, was made for those who live in it. This argument is often called the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Life.
What evidence is there that the universe was fine-tuned for life?  Many aspects of our universe must be very specific for the habitability of complex life.  There are at least 154 different environmental requirements that must fall “within narrowly defined ranges for physical life of any kind to exist.”  These environmental requirements are often called Anthropic Principles.  These principles must be very narrowly defined or life would be impossible.  Some examples of these principles are the force of gravity, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the type of galaxy we live in and where we live in it, and even the size of Jupiter and our own moon.  All of these things must be exactly what we find them to be, or life would be impossible.
For example, if the force of gravity were changed even a little, the implications on life would be catastrophic.  If it “were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent our sun would not exist, and, therefore, neither would we.”  Similarly, if gravity were too strong the universe would have collapsed on itself during the Big Bang, but if gravity were too weak, planets, galaxies, and stars could not have formed as we know them.  We need gravity to act exactly as it does for life to be possible.
In the same way, even the size Jupiter creates an environment for life to be possible on earth.  If it the distance was greater too many asteroid and comet collisions would occur on Earth.  If the distance was less: Earth’s orbit would become unstable.
With at least 154 of these types of parameters, obviously the chance the universe could have just happened this way would be very low.  It has been calculated that the chance life would arise without an intelligent designer is less than 1 chance in 10282 (million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion).  In other words, this is the chance that the universe could be the way that it is without a God creating the universe for a reason.  This is astounding considering there are only 1070 atoms in the entire universe.  In other words, the chance the universe just happened to be this way is effectively zero.  It would take an intelligence to create the universe in such a meticulous fashion.  God being omnipotent is able to produce a world orderly in these respects.  And he has good reason to choose to do so: a world containing human persons is a good thing.  The universe was intelligently designed for life.
Does this prove there is a God? Not 100%, but these arguments show it is reasonable. Next, the Teleological Argument pt. 2

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On Reading the Bible (Well) pt 1

Too many of my students have no idea how to read the Bible (well). Unfortunately, this is not limited to younger students, but most people don't read the Bible for all it is worth.

We have privatized our religion so much we do not understand the principles in the Bible are meant for everyone, not just a subjective interpretation. We explain what the Bible means in light of what we already believe, or in light of a wrong interpretation because of our cultural influences, not the intended culture.

There are so many examples of this it is hard to pick just one, but if I must, I must.

Today's culture loves to say we "want to be on fire for God." I have no problem with people wanting to be on fire for God. In fact, in light of what that means in today's society, I think being on fire for Him would be a very good thing.

Unfortunately, we should not let this kind of cultural context skew the principles set forth in the Bible.

Revelation 3:14-22,  John writes the words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea. Christians commonly misinterpret this passage and come to what can be a disastrous conclusion based on this misinterpretation. The main verses in question are 15 and 16:

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!"

The common interpretation of this passage is that God wants us to be "on fire" for Him, or not for Him at all. Can you see where our cultural influence comes in? Do you think all cultures have used "on fire" to mean spiritual fervor for God? Is God really saying He would rather have people against Him completely, then to mess up and only try to follow Him sometimes?

Horribly, believers have bought into this interpretation of the passage, but this is probably not what it means!

Laodicea was a landlocked city. They had no water source of their own. Because of this they needed to pipe in their water from two nearby towns, Colossae and Hierapolis. The water in Hieropolis was warm and used as medicine. It came from a natural hot spring. The water in Colossae was cool and refreshing. You might think of a cool mountain spring.

Laodicea did not have either warm or cool water. Instead, by the time the water reached Laodicea, it would be lukewarm and nasty. This is the kind of water people might actually spit out.

With this in mind it makes much more sense to see the passage as meaning we should stay close to our source (God) and do the job he has given us. We can be people who are refreshing, or people who heal, but if we stray from our source (again God) we will become lukewarm and nasty. Does God want us to be "on fire" for Him? Of course, but He also doesn't say he would rather us be against him if we are not "on fire."

The study of this passage has made it obvious we need to be more careful to interpret passages correctly, in the context they were intended.

In part two we will learn the easy steps to remember what to do in studying a passage.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Have No Fear Theists, the Big Bang Model is Here

In his article, A Beginner's-and Expert's-Guide to the Big Bang: Sifting Facts from FictionsHugh Ross explains why theists should not fear the implications of the Big Bang model for the origination of the universe.

Indeed, instead of fearing the Big Bang model, theists should embrace it.  The Big Bang model implies an "immensely powerful yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space, and time within the strict confines of very carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws which govern their behavior and interactions."  This kind of control and power implies a supernatural creator.

In fact, non-theists often try to disrepute the Big Bang model exactly because it has such theistic implications.

Christians would do well to not worry where there is no reason to worry.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Plato and Aristotle on Virtue and Happiness (or Human Flourishing)

Two of the blogs I frequent have recently made different posts about Aristotle.  Over on Signs of the Times there is a repost of an article called The Pursuit of Something Other than Happiness.  The article points out that although Aristotle's idea of virtue leading to true happiness seems appealing to our western, modern mind, it is instead Plato who seems closer to the Biblical idea of acting "good" for God, and thus finding human flourishing.  Very interesting.

My friend Stephen Notman also has a similar post at Psalm Trees.  His post, called Where Athens Meets Jerusalem, takes a little different look at the issue.  He contends the virtues should show us how to act more like Christ.  It is telling how both biblical and Greek ethicists believed all men have a moral knowledge telling them how to act virtuously.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What to do when God seems far away

C. Michael Patton has posted a very good blog about how to respond to the times when it seems like God is far away. God Has Gone AWOL in My Life or “When Life is No Longer a Cakewalk”

The key is to have your faith/trust be grounded in truth, rather than your circumstances. Check it out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Scandal of Gendercide — War on Baby Girls - AlbertMohler.com

An Eye Opening Article: The Scandal of Gendercide — War on Baby Girls - AlbertMohler.com

It is reasonable to believe in God. Pt 2

In one of my previous posts, I argued belief in God is rational, not provable. In fact, I believe that belief in God is more reasonable than disbelief given the evidence. This evidence is a cumulative case for the existence of God, not just one silver bullet argument. Instead, the arguments for the existence of God are more like a chain-link fence, stronger together than the parts are apart.
So is belief in God actually rational? The first link to build our fence is the Kalam Cosmological argument. This argument has been popularized recently by William Lane Craig. In logical form the argument goes like this:
1. 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. 2. The universe began to exist
3. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
The conclusion clearly follows from the premises. Therefore, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is sound.
But are the premises true?
Does Everything that Begins to Exist Have a Cause?
There are only two options for premise 1. First, everything that begins to exist has a cause, or there are some things that begin to exist which do not have a cause. But what would an uncaused beginning look like? Can you think of anything that has begun which did not have a cause? I can’t. In fact, it seems as though it is a brute fact, that things which begin to exist are caused.
There is only one major objection to this premise. Often, atheists will point to quantum physics as examples of things coming into existence uncaused or without reason.
I will admit quantum mechanics are very weird, but there is no evidence to suggest there is absolutely no cause for the things we observe in the quantum world. Energy fluctuations and other reasons for the causes of the quantum physical world are not only possible, but considering our limited knowledge of the quantum they are probable. In addition, quantum mechanics is still an unreliable source of any kind of information. It seems to be clutching at straws to appeal to this “science.”
So, the first premise seems to be true. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
What about premise two?
How do we know if the universe began to exist?
There are two lines of evidence showing a beginning of the universe, Scientific and Philosophical. We will focus on the Scientific.
The Big Bang Theory. Virtually all astronomers and physicists now agree with the Big Bang Theory. Scientists have observed many lines of evidence for a Big Bang. Among these are the fact that the universe is expanding (which means it will get smaller if we went back in time), and the correct amount of background radiation consistent with what might have happened in an explosion at the beginning of the universe.
Also, the 2nd law of thermodynamics suggest the universe began to exist at some point. This law states any closed system will use up energy and eventually die a “heat death.” At this point in time we have not yet run out of energy, meaning there is still energy to use. This shows us the universe cannot be eternal. If it was eternal, the universe would have gone through an infinite amount of time to reach the current point in time. This means the universe would have run out of energy. However, because we haven’t run out of energy, this means there has not yet been enough time to use it all up, suggesting a starting point.
Now, one objection to this evidence from the 2nd law of thermodynamics is to speculate the universe might not be a closed system. If this was the case, then the universe could draw upon an outside force for more energy. However, there is no compelling reason to believe in such an outside force feeding the universe, and if it was true, this “source” would be dangerously close to the definition of God, being before time, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, etc. Also, the above evidence for the Big Bang, is suggestive to reach the simplest conclusion about energy in the universe, which is that energy is being used up.
These lines of evidence, and others, are suggestive to believing the universe did have a beginning.
But what does that prove?
The Universe Had a Cause
The above premises logically lead to the conclusion, the universe had a cause. Does this prove God? Could the cause be something other than God? It could, but one must remember this cause must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, etc. These qualities are much like the definition of God of the Bible. We do not yet know if the God of the Bible is the cause of the universe, but whatever the cause, it is consistent with this definition of God.
This argument does not prove the existence of God 100%, but it is good evidence leading to that conclusion. If we can find other, independent lines of evidence, we can make the case even stronger.

Reflections on Berkeley from a(n Even More) Confident Theist—

As we walked onto the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What have I gotten these students into?!?” I was nervous and scared for them. “What if this doesn’t go as planned?” So, began one of the most rewarding experiences of the students’ lives, not to mention my own. Even with the incredible risks involved, it turned out our trust in God was not misplaced.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. - 1 Peter 3:15
Within the first 15 minutes of arriving on Berkeley’s campus, we had sent the students out to share their faith. Equipped with surveys asking spiritual questions, these high school juniors and seniors were conversing with college undergraduates and graduates. They asked questions about the meaning of life, whether there is a God, and what is the ontological nature of morality. God blessed these students so mightily, helping them to recall their training, and giving them understanding and compassion beyond their years.
I remember thinking I would sit back and only pray for the students, being available if any of them needed help. This is not what God had in mind. I noticed a conversation between some of my students, our fearless leader Brett, and two picketers near me. God prompted me to enter this conversation. We spoke with these Berkeley students for over an hour. They were very caring and compassionate, but had never put much thought into many of their beliefs. We spent most of the time asking them questions, which led to many inconsistencies in their ideas, but the conversation never became less than friendly. They left with many new things to think about, and we left with a renewed confidence in our Lord.
Throughout the four-day trip, this basic story replayed itself repeatedly. Any time we spent time conversing with students/people we met on the campus or Telegraph Avenue, God showed himself to be faithful and completely reasonable.
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. - Leviticus 19:32
One highlight of the trip was the opportunity to meet in the home of Dr. Phillip Johnson, the “godfather” of the Intelligent Design movement. I cannot express the honor of being able to meet with this man in his own home. He shared with us his journey into ID, the problem of the information in DNA, the inherent philosophy of Darwinists, and how searching for answers has strengthened his faith. After conversing with us, he spent time signing books with the students and getting to know them. It was so heart-warming that this intellectual giant would spend time showing these students what a life well-lived looks like.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ - Colossians 3:8
While on the trip, we had three prominent atheists present their views on topics such as morality, evidence against the existence of God, and faith. It was so encouraging to hear from these “learned” men and realize God’s way makes more sense.
The first atheist to present to us was Richard Carrier, a prominent atheist from Internet Infidels, who has debated William Lane Craig on the resurrection. He was personable, fun, and very intelligent. He shared with us his ideas about morality, claiming morals are real objective things of the world, but that we do not need God as their basis. Instead, he claimed morals are really an arrangement of neurons and chemicals in our brain, a reaction to things around us, and necessary for the survival of the species. Brett and some of the students realized this explanation did not provide a basis for morality (ontology), but instead is only a claim about how we know about morals (epistemology). When pressed for a real concrete explanation for the existence of objective morals in the world without God, Carrier was woefully inadequate in any explanation, even reverting to relativism at one point.
The topic of evidence against the existence of God was presented to us by Mark Thomas. As opposed to Carrier, Thomas was brash and forceful, continually interrupting others. He spent a lot of time telling us stories about the way we evolved, or came to our religious beliefs. His basic point was that man was religious because we find the idea of a God who loves us to be comforting. We pointed out that while this might be true, it does not mean there isn’t a God. In fact, maybe the reason we find this comforting is that God has instilled in us a desire to be loved by him. Thomas’ evidence did not come close to being convincing.
Lastly, we met with David Fitzgerald of the San Francisco Atheists. He was the kind of man who makes it easy to realize that a winsome, likable person can easily slip their ideas past your defenses because your guard might be down. He spent a lot of time talking about faith. His idea of faith was that it is some kind of blind leap, which cannot be falsified no matter what evidence is brought to bear. We were able to explain to him that this is not the Biblical idea of faith. Brett explained that a Biblical view of faith is trusting in what we have good evidence to believe (I Cor. 15; Heb 11:1). This was a wholly new idea for Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald also mentioned he did not believe Jesus ever really existed. This was mind-blowing. Jesus is the most well attested historical figure of ancient history. Not only does the Bible speak of him, but many extra-biblical sources mention him as well (Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, etc.). It was very revealing to see how far some people will go to try and deny God.
Through all of these encounters, the reasonableness of the Christian worldview was evident. God was so good to help us understand where the ideas of these men were only “hollow and deceptive philosophy.”
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12
We also had the opportunity to meet with SANE (Students for A Nonreligious Ethos, the student atheist group on Berkeley’s campus). We mingled with them, conversed, and generally just talked with them. It was clear they enjoyed having us to meet and talk with. Afterward we went to Thai food with them, where the conversations were deep and meaningful. I personally was able to converse with one girl for about an hour and a half about God, evolution, morals and free will. She was very surprised by many of my answers, and at one point said, “that is by far the best answer I have ever heard” about one of my arguments. I finished the evening sharing with her the Kalam Cosmological argument for the existence of God. She decided to give me her email address without my prompting. I look forward to continued interaction with her. I know she left the conversation with a new respect for Christians, and God.
The key to that night was we didn’t come across as arrogant, and we truly wanted to know their side of the issue. My students were very good at realizing the people they were talking to should be treated with respect and kindness. We were different from any other Christians they had encountered, and we truly enjoyed meeting with them.
Know that the Lord is God – Psalm 100:3
On Sunday, we experienced God’s beautiful creation in the morning, praising God and having devotions at a park. The view was incredible, as we were able to see the entire bay area. It brought tears to my eyes at several points.
God was so faithful to us. It was a very hard trip, but it was even more rewarding. Every student who went expressed how God had impacted their lives greatly, and they now have a desire to learn even more about Him and show others His love for the rest of their lives.
Thank you for your prayers and thoughts.
Comments from some of the students:
Berkeley mission trip was amazing and I learned so much! Gotta keep practicing and learning more so that we can keep defending the faith!—Hannah
The mission trip to Berkeley was an absolutely incredible experience. I learned how to better defend my faith and was encouraged that the Truth was able to stand up to the arguments of the secular world. I now have a passion to share my faith and God’s truth with other people—Sarah
This trip showed me that Christianity CAN stand up to the modern way of thinking—Jeremy
Berkeley was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was an eye-opening experience, because I was able to see how God works when we put our trust in Him. I’d definitely do this again.—Lacey
Berkeley was a fantastic experience. I am more focused on what brings my life purpose.—Aubree
I cannot express in words how amazing the Berkeley trip was. It is mind blowing how incredible every single moment of that trip was. Just over the last 4 days I have changed and grown SO much in my views of Christianity. BY FAR the best trip I have ever been on and wishes with everything to still be there!!!—Elise
The Berkeley trip was an eye-opening and life-changing experience. God worked through all of the students and exposed us to the life outside the “Christian Bubble.” It boosted my confidence and brought me closer to God. I am so happy about the trip and cannot wait for next year—Kaitlan
The Berkeley trip was sublime. It was something that has changed my life and I would never trade the experience for anything.—Josh