Another good read on this can be found at Evidence for God. Similkarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?” Go to a previous post of mine where a paper, a video, and my Power Point presentation on the matter are.
J. Warner Wallace’s presentation to the Mars Hill Apologetics Group of North Coast Calvary Chapel. J. Warner is a cold case homicide detective and he hosts the PleaseConvinceMe Podcast (www.pleaseconvinceme.com).
Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.
Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.
(One may wish as well to peruse the posts withGreg Bahnsen’s audio included.) Below are two short audio examples of Ravi Zacharias “questioning the questioner,” the first is a recounting of conversation, whereas the second is a challenge proferred by a student and is Ravi at his best!
This second audio is of a student asking Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell and the moral implications of this. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University(the entire presentation is worth the purchase), and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture.
Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.
I am including some remarks from an earlier version of the above audio from my YouTube. Someone makes the following statement:
Polish parlor trick showman. Why do people still fall for his nonsense. BTW. There is no evidence for gods, none. Ravi is merely lying and creating logical fallacy.
To which another commentator responds:
Actually he is very articulately (yet indirectly) pointing to the presence of “argumentum ad ignorantium” in the debate over atheism/theism. Faith is a logical fallacy on the terms of atheism, as atheism is a logical fallacy on the terms of the physical universe being unable to explain its origin. All leading atheists and Religious believers/scholars accept these boundaries. His answer begins with his explanation of the self-destructive nature of the question as given from its source (being an atheist)… it self-destructs because the question giver already doesn’t subscribe to the moral law as bound to the moral law giver who is the subject of the question. The question giver rejects the evidence that the believer accepts. And the believer can only point to evidence that the atheist rejects.
In this inaugural Cold-Case Christianity video broadcast / podcast, J. Warner re-examines an atheist objection related to the historicity of Jesus. Is Jesus merely a copycat of prior mythologies like Mithras, Osiris or Horus? How can we, as Christians, respond to such claims? Jim provides a five point response to this common atheist claim. (For more information, please visit www.ColdCaseChristianity.com)
Here are three segments of a pretty thorough refutation of the “copy-cat messiah” myth many in the gen Y and X generation have been influenced by.
Very rarely do you find someone who is an honest enough skeptic that after watching the above 3 short videos asks questions like: “Okay, since my suggestion was obviously false, what would be the driving presuppositions/biases behind such a production?” “What are my driving biases/presuppositions that caused me to grab onto such false positions?” You see, few people take the time and do the hard work to compare and contrast ideas and facts. A good example of this is taken from years of discussing various topics with persons of opposing views, I often ask if they have taken the time to “compare and contrast.” Here is my example:
I own and have watched (some of the below are shown in high-school classes):
• Bowling for Columbine • Roger and Me • Fahrenheit 9/11 • Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price • Sicko • An Inconvenient Truth • Loose Change • Zeitgeist • Religulouse • The God Who Wasn’t There • Super-Size Me
But rarely [really never] do I meet someone of the opposite persuasion from me that have watched any of the following (I own and have watched):
• Celsius41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Dies • FahrenHYPE 9/11 • Michael & Me • Michael Moore Hates America • Bullshit! Fifth Season… Read More (where they tear apart the Wal-Mart documentary) • Indoctrinate U • Mine Your Own Business • Screw Loose Change • 3-part response to Zeitgeist • Fat-Head • Privileged Planet • Unlocking the Mystery of Life
Continuing. Another point often overlooked is the impact the person who suggests the believer watch Zeitgeist thinks it will have.
Now that Zeitgeist has been shown to be very unsound and the history distorted, does the skeptic apply the same intended impact back upon him or herself? In other words, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Remember, the skeptic expects the Christian to watch this and come face-to-face with truth that undermines his or her’s faith, showing that they have a faith founded on something other than what they previously thought, an untruth. However, this intended outcome backfires and crumbles. The skeptic then has a duty [yes a duty] to apply intended impact onto one’s own biases and presuppositions and start to impose their own skepticism inward.
Christian historian and scholar Gary Habermas debates atheist Tim Callahan on the resurrection of Jesus. Callahan claims the resurrection of Jesus was influenced by pagan and Greek mythology, like Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, etc. Of course, Callahan’s views are typical among so many young gullible atheists influenced by Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Habermas rips his claims to shreds in this debate.
While some critics of Christ’s story utilize the story of Osiris to demonstrate that the earliest followers of Christ copied it, these critics rarely acknowledge how we know the story of Osiris at all. The only full account of Osiris’s story is from the second-century Al) Greek writer, Plutarch: “Concerning Isis and Osiris.” The other information is found piecemeal in Egyptian and Greek sources, but a basic outline can be found in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2686-c. 2160 BC). This seems problematic when claiming that a story recorded in the second century influenced the New Testament accounts, which were written in the first century. Two other important aspects to mention are the evolving nature of the Osirian myth and the sexual nature of the worship of Osiris as noted by Plutarch. Notice how just a couple of details from the full story profoundly strain the comparison of Osiris with the life of Christ.
Who was Osiris? He was one of five offspring born of an adulterous affair between two gods—Nut, the sky-goddess, and Geb earth-god. Because of Nut’s transgression, the Sun curses her and will not allow her to give birth on any day in any month. However, the god Thoth also loves Nut. He secures five more days from the Moon to add to the Egyptian calendar specifically for Nut to give birth. While inside his mother’s womb, Osiris falls in love with his sister, Isis. The two have intercourse inside the womb of Nut, and the resultant child is Horus. Nut gives birth to all five offspring: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.
Sometime after his birth, Osiris mistakes Nephthys, the wife of hisbrother Set, for his own wife and has intercourse with her. Enraged, Set plots to murder Osiris at a celebration for the gods. During the festivities, Set procures a beautiful, sweet-smelling sarcophagus, promising it as a gift to the attendee whom it might fit. Of course, this is Osiris. Once Osiris lies down in the sarcophagus, Set solders it shut and then heaves it into the Nile. There are at least two versions of Osiris’s fate: (a) he suffocates in the sarcophagus as it floats down the Nile, and (b) he drowns in the sarcophagus after it is thrown into the Nile.
Grief-stricken Isis searches for and eventually recovers Osiris’s corpse. While traveling in a barge down the Nile, Isis conceives a child by copulating with the dead body. Upon returning to Egypt, Isis attempts to conceal the corpse from Set but fails. Still furious, Set dismembers his brother’s carcass into 14 pieces, which he then scatters throughout Egypt. A temple was supposedly erected at each location where a piece of Osiris was found.
Isis retrieves all but one of the pieces, his phallus. The body is mummified with a model made of the missing phallus. In Plutarch’s account of this part of the story, he noted that the Egyptians “presently hold a festival” in honor of this sexual organ. Following magical incantations, Osiris is raised in the netherworld to reign as king of the dead in the land of the dead. In The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East, T. N. D. Mettinger states: “He both died and rose. But, and this is most important, he rose to continued life in the Netherworld, and the general connotations are that he was a god of the dead.” Mettinger quotes Egyptologist Henri Frankfort:
Osiris, in fact, was not a dying god at all but a dead god. He never returned among the living; he was not liberated from the world of the dead,… on the contrary, Osiris altogether belonged to the world of the dead; it was from there that he bestowed his blessings upon Egypt. He was always depicted as a mummy, a dead king.
This presents a very different picture from the resurrection of Jesus, which was reported as a return to physical life.
Horus’s story is a bit difficult to decipher for two main reasons. Generally, his story lacks the amount of information for other gods, such as Osiris. Also, there are two stories concerning Horus that develop and then merge throughout Egyptian history: Horus the Sun-god, and Horus the child of Isis and Osiris. The major texts for Horus’s story are the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, Plutarch, and Apuleius-all of which reflect the story of Horus as the child of Isis and Osiris. The story is routinely found wherever the story of Osiris is found.
Who was Horus? He was the child of Isis and Osiris. His birth has several explanations as mentioned in Isis and Osiris’s story: (1) the result of the intercourse between Isis and Osiris in Nut’s womb; (2) conceived by Isis’s sexual intercourse with Osiris’s dead body; (3) Isis is impregnated by Osiris after his death and after the loss of his phallus; or (4) Isis is impregnated by a flash of lightning. To protect Horus from his uncle’s rage against his father, Isis hides the child in the Delta swamps. While he is hiding, a scorpion stings him, and Isis returns to find his body lifeless. (In Margaret Murray’s account in The Splendor That Was Egypt, there is no death story here, but simply a poisoned child.) Isis prays to the god Ra to restore her son. Ra sends Thoth, another Egyptian god, to impart magical spells to Isis for the removal of the poison. Thus, Isis restores Horus to life. The lesson for worshippers of Isis is that prayers made to her will protect their children from harm and illness. Notice the outworking of this story is certainly not a hope for resurrection to new life, in which death is vanquished forever as is held by followers of Jesus. Despite this strain on the argument, some still insist that Horus’s scorpion poisoning is akin to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In a variation of Horus’s story, he matures into adulthood at an accelerated rate and sets out to avenge his father’s death. In an epic battle with his uncle Set, Horus loses his left eye, and his uncle suffers the loss of one part of his genitalia. The sacrifice of Horus’s eye, when given as an offering before the mummified Osiris, is what brings Osiris new life in the underworld. Horus’s duties included arranging the burial rites of his dead father, avenging Osiris’s death, offering sacrifice as the Royal Sacrificer, and introducing recently deceased persons to Osiris in the netherworld as depicted in the Hunefer Papyrus (1317-1301 BC). One aspect of Horus’s duties as avenger was to strike down the foes of Osiris. This was ritualized through human sacrifice in the first dynasty, and then, eventually, animal sacrifice by the eighteenth dynasty. In the Book of the Dead we read of Osiris, “Behold this god, great of slaughter, great of fear! He washes in your blood, he bathes in your gore!” So Horus, in the role of Royal Sacrificer, bought his own life from this Osiris by sacrificing the life of other. There is no similarity here to the sacrificial death of Jesus.
There are no substantive accounts of Mithras’s story, but rather a pieced-together story from inscriptions, depictions, and surviving Mithraea (man-made caverns of worship). According to Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences at Baylor University, an immense amount of “nonsense” has been inspired by modern writers seeking to “decode the Mithraic mysteries.”The reality is we know very little about the mystery of Mithras or its doctrines because of the secrecy of the cult initiates. Another problematic aspect is the attempt to trace the Roman military god, Mithras, back to the earlier Persian god, Mithra, and to the even earlier Indo-Iranian god, Mitra. While it is plausible that the latest form of Mithraic worship was based on antecedent Indo-Iranian traditions, the mystery religion that is compared to the story of Christ was a “genuinely new creation?” Currently, some popular authors utilize the Roman god’s story from around the second century along with the Iranian god’s dates of appearance (c. 1500-1400 BC).
This is the sort of poor scholarship employed in popular renditions of Mithras, such as in Zeitgeist: The Movie. For the purpose of summary, we will utilize the basic aspects of the myth as found in Franz Cumont’s writing and note variations, keeping in mind that many Mithraic scholars question Cumont, as well as one another, as to interpretations and aspects of the story. Thus, we will begin with Cumont’s outline.
Who was Mithra? He was born of a “generative rock,” next to a river bank, under the shade of a sacred tree. He emerged holding a dagger in one hand and a torch in the other to illumine the depths from which he came. In one variation of his story, after Mithra’s emergence from the rock, he clothed himself in fig leaves and then began to test his strength by subjugating the previously existent creatures of the world. Mithra’s first activity was to battle the Sun, whom he eventually befriended. His next activity was to battle the first living creature, a bull created by Ormazd (Ahura Mazda). Mithra slew the bull, and from its body, spine, and blood came all useful herbs and plants. The seed of the bull, gathered by the Moon, produced all the useful animals. It is through this first sacrifice of the first bull that beneficent life came into being, including human life. According to some traditions, this slaying took place in a cave, which allegedly explains the cave-like Mithraea.
Mit(h)ra’s name meant “contract” or “compact.” He was known in the Avesta—the Zoroastrian sacred texts—as the god with a hundred ears and a hundred eyes who sees, hears, and knows all. Mit(h)ra upheld agreements and defended truth. He was often invoked in solemn oaths that pledged the fulfillment of contracts and which promised his wrath should a person commit perjury. In the Zoroastrian tradition, Mithra was one of many minor deities (yazatas) created by Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity. He was the being who existed between the good Ahura Mazda and the evil Angra Mainyu—the being who exists between light and darkness and mediates between the two. Though he was considered a lesser deity to Ahura Mazda, he was still the “most potent and most glorious of the yazata.”
The Roman version of this deity (Mithras) identified him with the light and sun. However, the god was not depicted as one with the sun, rather as sitting next to the sun in the communal meal. Again, Mithras was seen as a friend of the sun. This is important to note, as a later Roman inscription (c. AD 376) touted him as “Father of Fathers” and “the Invincible Sun God Mithras.” Mithras was proclaimed as invincible because he never died and because he was completely victorious in all his battles. These aspects made him an attractive god for soldiers of the Roman army, who were his chief followers. Pockets of archaeological evidence from the outermost parts of the Roman Empire reinforce this assumption. Obviously, some problems arise in comparing Mithras to Christ, even at this level of simply comparing stories. Mithras lacks a death and therefore also lacks a resurrection.
Now that we have a more comprehensive view of the stories, it is quite easy to discern the vast difference between the story of Jesus and even the basic story lines of the commonly compared pagan mystery gods. One must only use the very limited, general aspects of the stories to make the accusation of borrowing, while ignoring the numerous aspects having nothing in common with Jesus’ story, such as missing body parts, sibling sexual intercourse inside the womb of a goddess-mother, and being born from a rock. This is why it is important to get the whole story. The supposed similarities are quite flimsy in the fuller context.
(Click to enlarge – above & below) Just three pages from Edwin Yamauchi’s book, Persia and the Bible, These three pages are a bit unrelated… but the topic is on Mithras, and if read, you can see the connection to the above portion by Mary Jo.
Plutarch, “Concerning Isis and Osiris,” in Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism, ed. Frederick C. Grant (Indianapolis: Liberal Arts Press, 1953), 80-95.
 In some depictions, Nut and Geb are married. Plutarch’s account insinuates that they have committed adultery because of the anger of the Sun at Nut’s transgression.
 Plutarch refers to Thoth as Hermes in “Concerning Isis and Osiris.”
Plutarch’s “Concerning Isis and Osiris” appears to be the only account with this story of Horus’s birth.
This aspect of the story, which was a variation of Horus’s conception story, is depicted in a drawing from the Osiris temple in Dendara.
 Plutarch, “Concerning Isis and Osiris,” 87.
N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2001), 175.
Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 190, 289; cf. 185; cited in Mettinger, Riddle of Resurrection, 172.
 For the purposes of this chapter, I use the following sources and translations: E. A. Wallis Budge’s translation of the Book of the Dead; Plutarch’s “Concerning Isis and Osiris”; Joseph Campbell’s piecing together of the story in The Mythic Image; as well as other noted interpretations of the story.
The latter two versions of Horus’s birth can be found in Rodney Stark, Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), 204. However, Stark does not reference the source for these birth stories.
The development of Isis’s worship as a protector of children is a result of this instance; Margaret A. Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, rev. ed. (Mineola: Dover, 2004), 106.
 Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 29, 450.
Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, 103.
Stark, Discovering God, 141.
 Roger Beck, “The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of Their Genesis,” Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998): 123.
 Roger Beck, M. J. Vermaseren, David Ulansey, N. M. Swerdlow, Bruce Lincoln, John R Hinnells, and Reinhold Merkelbach, for example.
 More corecontemporary Mithraic scholars have pointed to the lack of a bull-slaying story in the Iranian version of Mithra’s story: “there is no evidence the Iranian god ever had anything to do with a bull-slaying.” David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 8; see Bruce Lincoln, “Mitra, Mithra, Mithras: Problems of a Multiform Deity,” review of John R. Hinnells, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, in History of Religions 17 (1977): 202-3. For an interpretation of the slaying of the bull as a cosmic event, see Luther H. Martin, “Roman Mithrraism and Christianity,” Numen 36 (1989): 8.
 “For the god is clearly and sufficiently defined by his name. `Mitra means ‘con-tract’, as Meillet established long ago and D. [Professor G. Dumezi] knows but keeps forgetting.” Ilya Gershevitch, review of Mitra and Aryaman and The Western Response to Zoroaster, in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 22 (1959): 154. See Paul Thieme, “Remarks on the Avestan Hymn to Mithra,”Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 23 (1960): 273.
Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra: The Origins of Mithraism (1903). Accessed on May 3,2008, http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/mom/index.htm.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI. 510; H. Dessau, Inscriptions Latinae Selectae II. 1 (1902), No. 4152, as quoted in Grant, Hellenistic Religions, 147. This inscription was found at Rome, dated August 13, AD 376. Notice the late date of this title for Mithras—well after Christianity was firmly established in Rome.
One of the most deep thinkers of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, noted that even “liberty” ~you know, one of the ideals impregnating our Founding Documents~ would be groundless if naturalism were true [among other things]:
Atheism—pure, unadulterated atheism…. The universe was matter only, and eternal Spirit was a word without a meaning. Liberty was a word without a meaning. There was no liberty in the universe; liberty was a word void of sense. Every thought, word, passion, sentiment, feeling, all motion and action was necessary [determinism]. All beings and attributes were of eternal necessity; conscience, morality, were all nothing but fate. This was their creed, and this was to perfect human nature, and convert the earth into a paradise of pleasure… Why, then, should we abhor the word “God,” and fall in love with the word “fate”? We know there exists energy and intellect enough to produce such a world as this, which is a sublime and beautiful one, and a very benevolent one, notwithstanding all our snarling; and a happy one, if it is not made otherwise by our own fault.
Ever hear an atheist say he’s a freethinker? Well, if atheism is true, an atheist, cannot be free nor would his thinking make any real sense. Frank Turek explains.
If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (J.B.S. Haldane)
These are some of my favorite quotes and dealing with “naturalism” and their logical end-result, consequences, or logical conclusions. Merely a combining of MANY quotes and a “not-so-few” videos.
If you read the threads of several of the blog entries on this site, you will see both atheists and Christians charging one another with committing “logical fallacies.” The assumption both sides are making is that there is this objective realm of reason out there that: 1) we all have access to; 2) tells us the truth about the real world; and 3) is something we ought to use correctly if we want to know the truth. I think those are good assumptions. My question for the atheists is how do you justify these assumptions if there is no God?
If atheistic materialism is true, it seems to me that reason itself is impossible. For if mental processes are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain, then there is no reason to believe that anything is true (including the theory of materialism). Chemicals can’t evaluate whether or not a theory is true. Chemicals don’t reason, they react.
This is ironic because atheists– who often claim to be champions of truth and reason– have made truth and reason impossible by their theory of materialism. So even when atheists are right about something, their worldview gives us no reason to believe them because reason itself is impossible in a world governed only by chemical and physical forces.
Not only is reason impossible in an atheistic world, but the typical atheist assertion that we should rely on reason alone cannot be justified. Why not? Because reason actually requires faith. As J. Budziszewski points out in his book What We Can’t Not Know, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.“
Let’s unpack Budziszewski‘s point by considering the source of reason. Our ability to reason can come from one of only two sources: either our ability to reason arose from preexisting intelligence or it did not, in which case it arose from mindless matter. The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention. I say “by faith” because it contradicts all scientific observation, which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. You can’t give what you haven’t got, yet atheists believe that dead, unintelligent matter has produced itself into intelligent life. This is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop.
I think it makes much more sense to believe that the human mind is made in the image of the Great Mind– God. In other words, our minds can apprehend truth and can reason about reality because they were built by the Architect of truth, reality, and reason itself.
So I have two questions for atheists: 1) What is the source of this immaterial reality known as reason that we are all presupposing, utilizing in our discussions, and accusing one other of violating on occasion?; and 2) If there is no God and we are nothing but chemicals, why should we trust anything we think, including the thought that there is no God?
Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?
Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?
Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:
The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.
Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.
Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.
….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If… men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.
But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.
If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?
See also my post on logical conclusions in meta-ethics and evil (like rape), HERE:
…if evolution were true, then there would be selection only for survival advantage; and there would be no reason to suppose that this would necessarily include rationality. After a talk on the Christian roots of science in Canada, 2010, one atheopathic* philosophy professor argued that natural selection really would select for logic and rationality. I responded by pointing out that under his worldview, theistic religion is another thing that ‘evolved’, and this is something he regards as irrational. So under his own worldview he believes that natural selection can select powerfully for irrationality, after all. English doctor and insightful social commentator Theodore Dalrymple (who is a non-theist himself) shows up the problem in a refutation of New Atheist Daniel Dennett:
Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms—for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.
For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favour, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.
* Atheopath or Atheopathy: “Leading misotheist [“hatred of God” or “hatred of the gods”] Richard Dawkins [one can insert many names here] often calls theistic religion a ‘virus of the mind’, which would make it a kind of disease or pathology, and parents who teach it to their kids are, in Dawkins’ view, supposedly practising mental child abuse. But the sorts of criteria Dawkins applies makes one wonder whether his own fanatical antitheism itself could be a mental pathology—hence, ‘atheopath’.” (Taken from the Creation.com article, “The biblical roots of modern science,” by Jonathan Sarfati [published: 19 May 2012] ~ comments in the “[ ]” are mine.)
Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.
The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.
This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.
It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).
Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.
Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.
“Relativists aren’t interested in finding truth but in preserving their own autonomy. This isn’t a logical argument against relativism, of course. I’m just trying to point out that the true(!) basis for relativism is ultimately rooted in its motivation rather than in any good reasons or persuasive arguments.” — Paul Copan
This childish rejection of God in light of the evidence provided through the Book of Nature comes way of True Free Thinker, and shows the juvenile manner in which evidence is rejected in lieu of the ego:
…Lewis Wolpert simplistic dismissal of any and all intelligent design and creationism discoveries as “There is no evidence for them at all” is no less than an intellectual embarrassment and that he insists that “They must be kept out of science lessons” shows why he is the vice-president of an Atheist activism group.
And his dismissal of God is just as unimpressive, “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God.”
But what scientific, evidence based, academic, scholarly reasons does Wolpert himself offer for having become an Atheist?:
I stopped believing in God when I was 15 or 16 because he didn’t give me what I asked for. 
Keith Ward asked Wolpert, “What sort of evidence would count for you? Would it have to be scientific evidence of some sort?” to which the reply was, “Well, no… I think I read somewhere: If he turned the pond on Hamstead Heath into good champagne, it would be quite impressive”. And yet, the historical record is that Jesus turned water into wine and that is still not good enough, is it?
[My addition: no it isn’t, some people like champaigne and not wine]
Lewis Wolpert also stated, “I used to pray but I gave it up because when I asked God to help me find my cricket bat, he didn’t help.” Thus, Justin Brieley stated, “Right, and that was enough for you to prove that God did not exist” to which Wolpert replied, “Well, yes. I just gave it up completely.”…
Lewis Wolpert, “The Hard Cell,” Third Way, March 2007 AD, p. 17
(For the above audio) Well respected [in evolutionary circles] University College London Professor (Emeritus) of Cell and Developmental Biology answers this, and explains that most people want more. And indeed, the Judeo-Christian God is the only answer to this conundrum. You can see how the answer to the problem actually resonates and responds to the truth of human need.
1) chemical reactions in your brain perceived as feelings of loyalty toward a single co-parent for the purpose of rearing a child together, at least until it’s weaned 2) the ultimate good, a reflection of the image of God upon humanity
Arguments often arise by using the same words to mean different things. One worldview (Christianity) views love as the ultimate good in the material world and beyond.
Let’s look at how love is viewed by two different worldviews: Christianity and naturalism.
On Christianity, love is ultimately:
a) the state of affairs existing prior to the creation of the universe, flowing between the Father and the Son via the Holy Spirit, the vehicle of love b) the highest good c) the ultimate goal, an act of worship.
On naturalism, love is ultimately:
a) the evolutionary mechanism to ensure the survival of children and the propagation of our species b) a nice concept, something to distract you from the depressing thought of a meaningless existence c) an amusing illusion
Your worldview will shape how you understand the concept of love…
I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:
Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).
My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):
“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”
Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:
(h/t: Atheism Analyzed) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:
Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.
That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Adolf Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Adolf Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.
[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated,
“What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”
Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.
This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:
The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:
During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!
He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.
To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!
Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!
Atheist dogma not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.
Any believer in atheist dogma, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.
Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:
Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.
“We must ask first whether the theory of evolution by natural selection is scientific or pseudoscientific …. Taking the first part of the theory, that evolution has occurred, it says that the history of life is a single process of species-splitting and progression. This process must be unique and unrepeatable, like the history of England. This part of the theory is therefore a historical theory, about unique events, and unique events are, by definition, not part of science, for they are unrepeatable and so not subject to test.”
Colin Patterson  (Dr. Patterson was Senior Principal Scientific Officer of the Paleontology Department of the British Museum of Natural History in London.)
People think evolution is “science proper.” It is not, it is both a historical science and a [philosophical] presupposition in its “neo-Darwinian” form. The presupposition that removes it from “science proper and moves it into “scientism” is explained by an atheist philosopher:
If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.
In other words, the guy most credited in getting us to the moon used science to get us there, but was a young earth creationist. His view on “origins” (origin science) is separate from his working science. Two categories.
Likewise one of the most celebrated pediatric surgeons in the world, whom a movie was made after, “Gifted Hands,” is a young earth creationist. And the inventor of the MRI, a machine that diagnosed my M.S., is also a young earth creationist.
Evolutionary Darwinism is first and foremost an “historical science” that has many presuppositions that precede it, making it a metaphysical belief, a philosophy, as virulent anti-creationist philosopher of science, Michael Ruse explains:
Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post (May 13, 2000), p. B-3. (Via ICR)
The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.
He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.
If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.
One of the most intriguing aspects mentioned by Ravi Zacharias of a lecture he attended entitled Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate, given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”
 Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119. My own summation. Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.
What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.
If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or wilfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible.
“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”
Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18
This contingent being is caused either (1) by itself, or (2) by another.
If it were caused by itself, it would have to precede itself in existence, which is impossible.
P2) Therefore, this contingent being (2) is caused by another, i.e., depends on something else for its existence.
P3) That which causes (provides the sufficient reason for) the existence of any contingent being must be either (3) another contingent being, or (4) a non-contingent being (necessary) being.
If 3, then this contingent cause must itself be caused by another, and so onto infinity.
P4) Therefore, that which causes (provides the sufficient reason for) the existence of any contingent being must be either (5) an infinite series of contingent beings, or (4) a necessary being.
P5) An infinite series of contingent beings (5) is incapable of yielding a sufficient reason for the existence of any being.
P6) Therefore, a necessary being (4) exists!
Based on the Principle of Existential Causality
Some limited, changing being[s] exist.
The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.
There cannot be an infinite regress of causes of being.
Therefore, there is a first Cause of the present existence of these beings.
This first Cause must be infinite, necessary, eternal, simple, unchangeable and one.
This first uncaused Cause is identical with the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition
A mix of both
Something exists (e.g., I do);
I am a contingent being;
Nothing cannot cause something;
Only a Necessary Being can cause a contingent being;
Therefore, I am caused to exist by a Necessary Being;
But I am personal, rational, and moral kind of being (since I engage in these kinds of activities);
Therefore this Necessary Being must be a personal, rational, and moral kind of being, since I am similar to him by the Principle of Analogy;
But a Necessary Being cannot be contingent (i.e., not necessary) in its being which would be a contradiction;
Therefore, this Necessary Being is personal, rational, and moral in a necessary way, not in a contingent way;
This Necessary Being is also eternal, uncaused, unchanging, unlimited, and one, since a Necessary Being cannot come to be, be caused by another, undergo change, be limited by any possibility of what it could be (a Necessary Being has no possibility to be other than it is), or to be more than one Being (since there cannot be two infinite beings);
Therefore, one necessary, eternal, uncaused, unlimited (=infinite), rational, personal, and moral being exists;
Such a Being is appropriately called “God” in the theistic sense, because he possesses all the essential characteristics of a theistic God;
Therefore, the theistic God exists.
What properties must such a cause of the universe possess? By the very nature of the case, the cause of space and time must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and nonspatially (at least without the universe). This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since anything that is timeless must also be unchanging, and anything that is changeless must be nonphysical and immaterial (since material things are constantly changing at the molecular and atomic levels). Such an entity must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s razor—the principle which states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity—will shave away any other causes, since only one cause is required to explain the effect. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.
Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent first cause is plausibly personal. Two reasons can be given for this conclusion. First, the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality. The only entities which can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects, like numbers. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number 7, for example, can’t cause anything. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.
Second, this same conclusion is implied by the origin of an effect with a beginning from a beginningless cause. We’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause. By the nature of the case, that cause cannot have either a beginning of its existence or any prior cause. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect also eternal? How can the cause exist without the effect?
There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but freely create the world in time. By exercising his causal power, he brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist? So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.
We may therefore conclude that a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and unimaginably powerful.
William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009), 16-17.
From the video description:
Logos Apologia made and edited this awesome video which demonstrates the scientific fact of the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. Over and over again, it has been demonstrated that science (contrary to popular stereotypes) is on the side of theists and not atheists. From Logos Apologia:
“Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore the universe has a cause.”
Why couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang—nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural. It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:
✯ spaceless because it created space ✯ timeless because it created time ✯ immaterial because it created matter ✯ powerful because it created out of nothing ✯ intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed ✯ personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).
In Mein Kampf, he presented a social Darwinist view of life, life as a struggle, and presented national socialism as an antidote to both Judaism and communism. His party attempted to develope a new form of religion with elements of de-Judaised Christianity infused with German and Nordic pagan myths, but this was resisted by the Christians. ~ Professor Thies
“I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…. We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence — imperious, relentless and cruel.” ~ Hitler
On a plaque hung on the wall at Auschwitz (Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, p. 23)
“The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.” ~ Hitler
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy (New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942), pp. 161-162.
“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” ~ Mussolini
Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.
The Above Video Description:
Nuremberg Day 28 Church Suppression
Colonel Leonard Wheeler, Assistant American Trial Counsel, on Jan. 7, 1946, submitted the case regarding the Oppression of the Christian Churches and other Religious Groups in Germany and the Occupied Countries. He stated that the Nazi conspirators found the Christian churches to be an “obstacle to their complete domination of the German people and contrary to their master race dogma”.
The Indictment charged that “the Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the churches over the people and in particular the youth of Germany”.
The above is an example of relativism run-amock with young people in downtown Durham after the Pride Festival at Duke University Sept 28th 2013. Another interview here.
(This post is updated, as the video from the “Thrive Apologetics Conference” was deleted. New information was substituted in its place.) Posted below are three presentations. The first presentation (audio) is Dr. Beckwith’s classic presentation where high school and college kids get a 2-week crash course in the Christian worldview.
The following two presentations are by Gregory Koukle. The first is a UCLA presentation, the second is an excellent presentation ay Biola University entitled “The Intolerance of Tolerance.” Enjoy this updated post.
Here is — firstly — a classic presentation by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.
Below this will be another presentation that is one of Koukl’s best yet, and really is a video update to the excellent book, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air… a phrase common to Francis Schaeffer, “feet planted firmly in mid-air.”
Since present day Humanism vilifies Judeo-Christianity as backward, its goal to assure progress through education necessitates an effort to keep all mention of theism out of the classroom. Here we have the irony of twentieth century Humanism, a belief system recognized by the Supreme Court as a non-theistic religion, foisting upon society the unconstitutional prospect of establishment of a state-sanctioned non-theistic religion which legislates against the expression of a theistic one by arguing separation of church & state. To dwell here in more detail is beyond the scope of this article, but to close, here are some other considerations:
“We should note this curious mark of our own age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute” (Schaeffer)
In the earlier spirit of cooperation with the Christian church the ethics or values of the faith were “borrowed” by the humanists. In their secular framework, however, denying the transcendent, they negated the theocentric foundation of those values, (the character of God), while attempting to retain the ethics. So it can be said that the Humanist, then, lives on “borrowed capital”. In describing this situation, Francis Schaeffer observed that: “…the Humanist has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” His meaning here is that while the Humanist may have noble ideals, there is no rational foundation for them. An anthropocentric view says that mankind is a “cosmic accident”; he comes from nothing, he goes to nothing, but in between he’s a being of supreme dignity. What the Humanist fails to face is that with no ultimate basis, his ideals, virtues and values are mere preferences, not principles. Judging by this standard of “no ultimate standard”, who is to say whose preferences are to be “dignified”, ultimately?
A video I found fascinating was this one (http://youtu.be/27qy50mrNKU), and comes by way of Shoebat’s site on the most recent NYPD officers that were killed/murdered in cold blood.
The idea is this: like Ami’s video supports, as well as other sources — the main acts of violence/riots and acts directed at police are perpetrated largely by anarcho-leftists✿ [e.g., fascists] and Islamo-fascist cults (see my recent post on this).
People who are told over-and-over again and finally believe that they are victims only become ripe to be used by the power hungry. I have a montage of responses to a caller into the Dennis Prager Show here.
I also talked with an older gentleman while on vacation (a cruise to Hawaii) about Obama’s affiliation with a church based in bad theological [racist] teaching.
In the above video I cover some of the background and beliefs of the 5-Percent Nation (a racist breakaway cult from…) and the Nation of Islam and some of the links in the description area will help one come to terms with both it’s influence and “how” to witness to them.
This is RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, he is the “genius” behind the group (so I am told). That symbol he is almost praying with would be the equivalent to Rittz wearing a Swastika around his neck. It is a purely racial cult symbol to announce your supremacist ideals.
But socially, they are the larger part of the unrest in Ferguson and the recent slaying of two NYPD members in cold blood. So they tend towards violence. Thomas Sowell had this almost prophetic utterance about this issue, He stated,
“Initial skirmishes in that race war have already begun, and have in fact been going on for some years. But public officials pretend that it is not happening, and the mainstream media seldom publish it at all, except in ways that conceal what is really taking place.” (See: National Review and American Thinker).
The ONLY anecdote to this is Christ, and the doctrine of creation which Acts 17:26 comments on:
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation”
This we must keep preaching in the face of what we know may come [in our time?]. In Luke 21:10 Jesus noted the following about a time to come (some believe this has already happened, fine. However, I think this also refers to a future event]: “Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
The Greek work used for “nation” is “ἔθνος” — which is where we get our word for “ethnic group” or “race” (source). So PRAYespecially for the apologist in these areas for wisdom, guidance, courage and strength. And especially the healthy-well balanced black churches in these neighborhoods as well.
The ONLY cure to this is the Biblical doctrine of creation. And the greatest civil-rights leader to confirm this is Martin Luther King, Jr. in one of his most famouse speeches:
The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is aligning herself with the very same people helping foment the violence… racially tinged violence. The EXACT opposite of Martin Luther King’s “dream”!
✿The Long War: Current conflict just a continuation of Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dorn and Black Panther’s war on police from the ’60s.
….So, there is no resistance to this war; indeed, the liberal media has simply stopped reporting about the current war.
Who was involved in the trend of violence against the police that started during the 1960s and continued into the 1970s? Why it was Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dorn, the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. A similar mix of left-wing anti-American commie-sympathizers and black racists that we now see at war against the police. Indeed, we see some of the very same people who were involved in cop-killing four decades ago now agitating for another wave of cop-killing. Some wars simply never end.
Throughout ones life we need to reorient ourselves to a focal point. Going from the technical to the personal is something I have to remind myself of, again and again. This is a great presentation to refocus us on the interpersonal relationships between people… allowing God to move through these opportunities to impact the heart and mind.
a wise man will listen and increase his learning… for understanding a proverb or a parable… and their riddles.
So there seems to be a way to learn techniques that help us inculcate well, Scripture, and to represent it well to others. In theology, there is a technique called Hermeneutics, and while used quite often in Christian theology, these techniques “pre-date” Christ and should be looked at as truths imbued into nature by its Creator, like reason and logic. So let’s define these ideas a bit before continuing:
Hermeneutics – From the Greek hermeneutikos, “interpretation.” Hermeneutics is the science of the study and interpretation of Scripture, the branch of theology that prescribes rules by which the Bible should be interpreted. Biblical hermeneutics strives to formulate guidelines for studying Scripture that help recover the meaning a Biblical text had for its original hearers. (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, 1988).
Underneath the “hermeneutic umbrella” is the idea of using the document in question to interpret the entire document.
Exegesis – (Gk.explanation) Critical exposition or explanation of the meaning of a scriptural passage in the context of the whole Bible. The reader of Scripture studies the word meanings and grammar of the text to discern what… was communicated, drawing the meaning out of the text rather than reading what he wants into the text (eisegesis).
Eisegesis – is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text.
Why do people insert their biases or anachronistic thinking into the Biblical text? We know why the unregenerate person does:
…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Romans 8:7)
But even Christian thinkers will undutifully insert ideas into the text that the text itself does not call for. A neat story to further my point comes from a story retold from John Warwick Montgomery in Classical Apologetics
STORY OF A DEAD GUY
Once upon a time — note the mystical cast — there was a man who thought he was dead. His concerned wife and friends sent him to the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist determined to cure him by convincing him of one fact that contradicted his beliefs that he was dead. The fact that the psychiatrist decided to use was the simple truth that dead men do not bleed. He put his patient to work reading medical texts, observing autopsies, etc. After weeks of effort the patient finally said, “All right, all right! You’ve convinced me. Dead men do not bleed.” Whereupon the psychiatrist stuck him in the arm with a needle, and the blood flowed. The man looked down with a contorted, ashen face and cried, “Good Lord! Dead men bleed after all!”
Emotional prejudice is not limited to:
1) the dull-witted, 2) the illiterate, 3) and poorly educated.
…are not exempt from the vested interests and psychological prejudice that distort logical thinking. One of my favorite examples of this adding to the text that many do to this day can be found in Genesis. James Barr — one of the most trusted scholars on ancient Hebrew — long time Oriel professor at Oxford — and himself a neo-orthodox believer, rightly applied to Scripture a point of view he personally rejects:
…probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis [chapters] 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; 2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story; 3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark.
You see, professor Barr asked some of the following questions that are simple questions one should ask coming to any text, especially ancient texts:
Who was the writer?
To whom were they writing?
Is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage?
What is the cultural, historical context?
What was the author’s original intended meaning?
How did the author’s contemporaries understand him?
Why did he say it that way?
Bully for Barr!
Why do we insist on putting our own thoughts and ideas into/onto the Bible, or why we allow the skeptic to think he has mastered God’s Holy word by placing onto Scripture anachronistic thinking and creating straw-man arguments which they then immediately tear down? With the skeptic, the belief in God is VERY personal… e-v-e-n if they don’t admit it. The question of the existence of God evokes deep emotional and psychological prejudice. People understand that the question of the existence of God is not one that is of neutral consequence. We understand intuitively, if not in terms of its full rational implication, that the existence of an eternal Creator before whom we are ultimately accountable and responsible is a matter that touches the very core of life.
How do we try and keep our, yes our, biases out so we “correctly teaching the word of truth”? And not abrogate control of the conversation to the skeptical friend or family member? One way is the old-fashioned way, the eight rules of interpretation. These 8-Rules pre-date Christ, that being said, they matured greatly under Christianity and are used across many disciplines to this day.
Greeks (Aristotle and Cicero) are the genesis of, Irenaeus used them when he wrote Against Heresies, which dealt with Gnosticism and other untruths. Every law court religiously follows them and honest theologians dare not violate them. Much false teaching is the result of violating one or more of these universal rules of interpretation. They were used by the master expositors of the Middle Ages all the way to Luther and the Reformation theologians who disproved Roman fallacies with them. These rules were involved in the great doctrinal debates of the theologians from the Council of Nice (324 A.D.) to the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
What are these rules?
1) Rule of Definition: Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.
Any study of Scripture . . . must begin with a study of words. (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Ramm, Bernard, p. 129. W. A. Wilde Co.. Boston. 1956. )
Define your terms and then keep to the terms defined. (The Structural Principles of the Bible, Marsh, F. E., p. 1. Kregel Publications.)
In the last analysis, our theology finds its solid foundation only in the grammatical sense of Scripture. The interpreter should . . . conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. (Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Berkhof, pp. 74?75, Baker Book House, 1960.)
The Bible writers could not coin new words since they would not be understood, and were therefore forced to use those already in use. The content of meaning in these words is not to be determined by each individual expositor . . . to do so would be a method of interpretation [that is] a most vicious thing. (Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, bluest, Kenneth. pp. 30-37, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1945.)
[The author] confines the definitions strictly to their literal or idiomatic force; which, after all. will be found to form the best. and indeed the only safe and solid basis for theological deductions of any kind. (Young’s Analytical Concordance, Prefatory Note.)
2) Rule of Usage: Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. Ask what was the common usage in the culture at that time period.
The whole Bible may be regarded as written for “the Jew first.” and its words and idioms ought to be rendered according to Hebrew usage. (Synonyms of the Old Testament, Girdlestone. R. B., p. 14.)
Christ then accepted the usage He found existing. He did not alter it. (Pulpit Commentary, Matthew, V. 1, xxv. old edition.)
Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, spoke to and moved among Jews in Palestine …. He spoke first and directly to the Jews, and His words must have been intelligible to them… It was absolutely necessary to view that Life and Teaching in all its surroundings of place. society. popular life…. This would form not only the frame in which to set the picture of the Christ, but the very background of the picture itself. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim, Alfred. V, 1, xii, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953.)
In interpreting very many phrases and histories of the New Testament, it is not so much worth what we think of them from notions of our own . . . as in what sense these things were understood by the hearers and lookers on. according to the usual custom and vulgar dialect of the nation. (Bishop Lightfoot, quoted in The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, xii. Moulton & Mulligan, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1959.)
3) Rule of Context: Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.
Many a passage of Scripture will not be understood at all without the help afforded by the context; for many a sentence derives all its point and force from the connection in which it stands. (Biblical Hermeneutics, Terry. M. S.. p. 117. 1896.)
[Bible words] must be understood according to the requirements of the context. (Thayer’s Greek?English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 97.)
Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. (How to Make Sense, Flesch, Rudolph, p. 51, Harper & Brothers. 1959.)
[Bible words] when used out of context . . . can prove almost anything. [Some interpreters] twist them . . . from a natural to a non?natural sense. (Irenaeus, second?century church father, quoted in Inspiration and Interpretation, p. 50, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1957.)
The meaning must be gathered from the context. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Interpretation of Documents. V. 8, p. 912. 1959.)
4) Rule of Historical background: Don’t separate interpretation from historical investigation.
Even the general reader must be aware that some knowledge of Jewish life and society at the time is requisite for the understanding of the Gospel history. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim. Alfred. V. 1, xiii, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953.)
The moment the student has in his mind what was in the mind of the author or authors of the Biblical books when these were written. he has interpreted the thought of Scripture …. If he adds anything of his own. it is not exegesis. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. V. 3. p. 1489. 1952.)
Theological interpretation and historical investigation can never be separated from each other. . . . The strictest historical . . . scrutiny is an indispensable discipline to all Biblical theology. (A Theological Word Book of the Bible, 30 scholars. Preface, Macmillan Co., 1958.)
I have said enough to show the part which the study of history necessarily plays in the intelligent study of the law as it is today …. Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1902?1932. quoted in The World o f Law, V. 2. p. 630. Simon & Schuster. 1960.)
5) Rule of Logic: Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.
Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. (Encyclopedia Americana. V. 15. p. 261. 1953.)
The use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture is everywhere to be assumed. The Bible comes to us in the forms of human language, and appeals to our reason . . . it invites investigation. and it is to be interpreted as we interpret any other volume by a rigid application of the same laws of language, and the same grammatical analysis. (Biblical Hermeneutics, Terry, M. S., p. 25. 1895.)
What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence . . . interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic . . . may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence. (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Ramm, Bernard. pp. 151153, W. A. Wilde Co., 1956.)
It is one of the most firmly established principles of law in England and in America that “a law means exactly what it says, and is to be interpreted and enforced exactly as it reads.” This is just as good a principle for interpreting the Bible as for interpreting law. (The Importance and Value of Proper Bible Study, Torrey. R. A., pp. 67?70, Moody Press, 1921.)
Charles G. Finney, lawyer and theologian, is widely considered the greatest theologian and most successful revivalist since apostolic times. He was often in sharp conflict with the theologians of his day because they violated these rules of interpretation. Finney said he interpreted a Bible passage as he “would have understood the same or like passage in a law book” (Autobiography, pp. 42-43 ).
Finney stressed the need for definition and logic in theology and said the Bible must be understood on “fair principles of interpretation such as would be admitted in a court of justice” (Systematic Theology. Preface, ix).
6) Rule of Precedent: Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which there is no precedent.
We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. (The Greek New Testament for English Readers, Alford, Dean, p. 1098, Moody Press.)
The professional ability of lawyers in arguing a question of law, and the judges in deciding it, is thus chiefly occupied with a critical study of previous cases. in order to determine whether the previous cases really support some alleged doctrine. (Introduction to the Study of Law, p. 40, Woodruff, E. H., 1898.)
The first thing he [the judge] does is to compare the case before him with precedents …. Back of precedents are the basic judicial conceptions which are postulates of judicial reasoning, and farther back are the habits of life, the institutions of society, in which those conceptions had their origin …. Precedents have so covered the ground that they fix the point of departure from which the labor of the judge begins. Almost invariably, his first step is to examine and compare them. It is a process of search, comparison. and little more. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, 1932??1938, The Nature of the Judicial Process, quoted in The World of Law, V. 2. p. 671. Simon & Schuster, 1960.)
7) Rule of Unity: Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.
[It is] fundamental to a true interpretation of the Scripture. viz.. that the parts of a document. law, or instrument are to be construed with reference to the significance of the whole. (Dean Abbot. Commentary on Matthew, Interpretation, p. 31. )
Where a transaction is carried out by mean of several documents so that together they form part of a single whole, these documents are read together as one …. [They are to be so read ?1 that, that construction is to be preferred which will render them consistent. (Interpretation of Documents, Sir Roland Burrows. p. 49. Lutterworth & Co., London. 1946.)
8) Rule of Inference: Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.
In the law of evidence. an inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It is a process of reasoning. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. It is a conclusion drawn from evidence. An inferential fact or proposition. although not expressly stated. is sufficient to bind. This principle of interpretation is upheld by law courts. (Jesus proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees by this rule (Matt. 22:31. 32). See Encyclopedia Britannia, V. 6. p. 615 (1952) and Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 436, Fourth Edition. West Pub. Co.. 1951. )
A proposition of fact is proved when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. By satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind beyond reasonable doubt. Scripture facts are therefore proved when they are established by that. kind and degree of evidence which would in the affairs of ordinary life satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man. When we have this kind and degree of evidence it is unreasonable to require more. (Systematic Theology, Strong. Augustus H.. p. 142. Judson Press. 1899.)
Is there an ancient example exemplifying a bit of what we are talking about? We find in Aristotle’s Poetics(25) the following:
They [the critics] start with some improbable presumption; and having so decreed it themselves, proceed to draw inferences, and censure the poet as though he had actually said whatever they happen to believe, if, his statement conflicts with their notion of things….
Whenever a word seems to imply some contradiction, it is necessary to reflect how many ways there may be of understanding it in the passage in question…. So it is probably the mistake of the critics that has given rise to the Problem….
So let us deal with four major missteps people make in coming to the Bible which also translate to the believer as a deeper study of God’s Word:
…Consider how confused a foreigner must be when he reads in a daily newspaper:
“The prospectors made a strike yesterday up in the mountains.”
“The union went on strike this morning.”
“The batter made his third strike and was called out by the umpire.”
“Strike up with the Star Spangled Banner.”
“The fisherman got a good strike in the middle of the lake.”
Or consider what Dr. Edgar Andrews wrote about in his book, Who Made God:
When I first began visiting the USA regularly on business, I was struck by the huge versatility of one little word — check. Not only could you write a check to pay a bill and check that your airline hadn’t gone bankrupt overnight, but you could request your check at the end of a restaurant meal, check the boxes on your laundry list (or any other form for that matter), check your luggage at the airline desk, check in or check out of a hotel, check out a new product, check your hasty words when you got mad with some officious bureaucrat, and so on. Then, of course, the word lends itself beautifully to portmanteau usage, as in checklist, raincheck and checkup (I never did encounter checkdown but I’m still optimistic). Why, with a few more words like ‘check’ we could halve the weight of our dictionaries!
Another step that will enlighten our study time is
THE CULTURE GAP
If we don’t understand the various cultures of the time in which the Bible was written, we’ll never comprehend its meaning. For example, if we did not know anything about the Jewish culture at the time of Christ, the Gospel of Matthew would be very difficult to grasp. Concepts such as the Sabbath, Jewish rituals, the temple ceremonies, and other customs of the Jews must be understood within cultural context in order to gain the true meaning of the author’s ideas.
THE GEOGRAPHY GAP
A failure to be familiar with geography will hinder learning. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 we read, “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.” What is so remarkable about this text is that the message traveled so quickly. In order to understand how, it is necessary to know the geography.
Paul had just been there, and when he wrote the letter, very little time had passed. Paul had been with them for a couple of weeks, but their testimony had already spread far. How could that happen so fast? If you study the geography of the area you’ll find that the Ignatian Highway runs right through the middle of Thessalonica. It was the main concourse between the East and the West, and whatever happened there was passed all the way down the line.
THE HISTORY GAP
Knowing the history behind a passage will enhance our comprehension of what was written. In the Gospel of John, the whole key to understanding the interplay between Pilate and Jesus is based on the knowledge of history. John MacArthur in “How to Study the Bible” says about Pilate:
When Pilate came into the land with his emperor worship, it literally infuriated the Jews and their priests. So he was off to a bad start from the very beginning. Then he tried to pull something on the Jews, and when they caught him, they reported him to Rome, and he almost lost his job. Pilate was afraid of the Jews, and that’s why he let Christ be crucified. Why was he afraid? Because he already had a rotten track record, and his job was on the line.
Let’s apply, then, what we learned from these literary skills from Aristotle and others, and see where they lead us with supposed difficulties in the Bible. Aristotle’s dictum ~ the benefit of the doubt is afforded to the author of the document, not allowing it to be arrogated by the critic, is standard practice in court rooms to this day. That is, the benefit of the doubt to the document unless there is clear evidence that it is not what it claims to be. First we will start with a hypothetical, then go to the historical.
STORY OF KEN
Let’s say you have a friend—let’s call him Ken—who lives in the Midwest. Ken had three very good friends—let’s call them Jim, John, and Mark—who live on the East Coast. One day Ken received a note from John saying that Jim was involved in a terrible car accident and died instantly. The following day, Ken received a letter from Mark saying that Jim was in an car accident and survived but died some time later.
At first glance, these two accounts seem to contradict each other. Either Jim died instantly in the accident or he did not.
Now, Ken knew that John and Mark were reliable sources, and he trusted them to give him an accurate account of the events surrounding their mutual friend’s death. As it turned out, John and Mark were both right, but there was missing information.
Jim was actually involved in two automobile accidents on the same day. In the first accident, Jim was badly injured but survived. A “Good Samaritan” stopped to help him, taking him to the nearest emergency room. However, on the way to the hospital, the driver of that vehicle was involved in a very serious accident, and as a result Jim was instantly killed. Hence, both accounts were correct. John was not aware of the first accident; he only knew about the second one that instantly killed Jim. Mark was only aware of the details of the first accident in which Jim survived, and not the second; he only knew that Jim died later that day. The apparent contradiction was solved when the rest of the truth was discovered.
STORY OF JUDAS
In theGospel according to Matthew, he records the death Judas as suicide by hanging (Matthew 27:5). However, in Acts 1:18 Luke records the death of Judas as having occurred when he fell down and his body “burst open.” Some scholars have determined that these two divergent accounts are, irreconcilable; they assume that one or even both of these accounts are incorrect. If Matthew and Luke are trustworthy in giving an accurate accounts of the events, it certainly seems as if at least one of them is in error: Judas either fell down or he hung himself. Or is it another option?
If the branch from which Judas hung himself was dead and dry–and there are many trees that match this description even to this day on the brink of the canyon that tradition identifies the place where Judas died–it would take only one strong gust of wind to yank the heavy corpse and split the branch to which it was attached and plunge both with great force into the bottom of the chasm below. There is indication that a strong wind arose at the hour Christ died and ripped the great curtain inside the temple from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50C.)
These accounts are not contradictory, but mutually complementary. Judas hung himself exactly as Matthew affirms that he did. The account in Acts simply adds that Judas fell, and his body opened up at the middle and his intestines gushed out. This is the very thing one would expect of someone who hanged himself from a tree over a cliff and fell on sharp rocks below.
So this application and understanding that seemingly divergent tales may in fact be mutually complementary… if giving the benefit of the doubt to this ancient book. And you can see how teaching sound doctrine just is placed in us miraculously, is situ.
“But you must say the things that are consistent with sound teaching” (Titus 2:1).
THERE IS ALSO GENRE (IN THE OLD TESTAMENT)
Lawis “God’s law,” they are the expressions of His sovereign will and character. The writings of Moses contain a lot of Law. God provided the Jews with many laws (619 or so). These laws defined the proper relationship with God to each others and the world (the alien)….
History. Almost every OT book contains history. Some books of the Bible are grouped together and commonly referred to as the “History” (Joshua, Kings & Chronicles). These books tell us the history of the Jewish people from the time of the Judges through the Persian Empire…. In the NT, Acts contains some of the history of the early church, and the Gospels also have History as Jesus’ life is told as History….
Wisdom Literature is focus on questions about the meaning of life (Job, Ecclesiastes), practical living, and common sense (Proverbs and some Psalms )….
Poetryis found mostly in the Old Testament and is similar to modern poetry. Since it is a different language, “Hebrew,” the Bible’s poetry can be very different, because it does not translate into English very well….
Prophecy is the type of literature that is often associated with predicting the future; however, it is also God’s words of “get with it” or else. Thus Prophecy also exposes sin and calls for repentance and obedience. It shows how God’s law can be applied to specific problems and situations, such as the repeated warnings to the Jews before their captivity….
Apocalyptic Writing is a more specific form of prophecy. Apocalyptic writing is a type of literature that warns us of future events which, full meaning, is hidden to us for the time being….
Just the other day an atheist got on my YouTube account and posted this on Prager critiquing seculrism:
Secularism makes more sense that some imaginary friend in the sky. They mention unicorns and dragons in the bible. Yes, I will take that seriously… NOT!
So lets apply some of what we learned (#’s 2 and 4 should suffice). Through the study of the word in question, “unicorn,” we come to find is only in the King James Bible, which is known for it’s “Queens language,” having been written in the early 1600’s. So what did the word “unicorn” mean in the 1600’s? We have a clue in Websters first edition (1828) of his dictionary.
(Take note that “bicorn” is defined in the 1828 edition as an animal with two horns) What does the Webstersdictionary say today?
…a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead.
They even are so kind as to furnish their readers with a picture (to the right). Let us apply another of the eight rules of interpretation (#’s 7 and 8 should do). Elsewhere in the KJV we read the following:
mentions them traveling like bullocks, and bleeding when they die.
Horses have been tamed for agricultural work, so the above descriptions fit something else. Let’s use the term as was used in the day of its writing to define the meaning.
Here is a unicorn:
Here is a bicorn:
Definitely not a creature typically see doing agricultural work. You see, what the skeptic has done is taken a word as defined today and ripped it from it’s historical context, placed it onto another culture/time period (built a straw-man), and then attack it. The argument really shouldn’t involve us at all. It is all going on in the head of the skeptic… he is arguing with himself! All you have to call for is lithium for this bi-polar person. Since, however, I am a young earth creationist (YEC), I would even posit that Job was viewing the Elasmotherium (Greek for “plated beast”; pronounced ell-azz-moe-THEE-ree-um):
But whether you posit the Elasmotherium, or a simple rhino… this is using a lane-line guide to look at — not only the Bible (but especially the Bible ~ *smile*), but any ancient text.
He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,
✦ The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times; ✦ Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times; ✦ An Introduction to the Old Testament; ✦ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; ✦ Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament; ✦ A Popular Survey of the Old Testament; ✦ New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties; ✦ Hard Sayings of the Bible; ✦ When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.
I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.) Three big points stuck out from texts I reviewed:
“Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15…these are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible)
HARMLESS TEASING/PUBLIC SAFETY
A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense.” It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive toward respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
The harmless “teasing” was hardly that–they were direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):
“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt….Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha.” [Bible Knowledge Commentary]
ELISHA’S MISSION-HELPING NEEDY
The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry–his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
All good stuff, but something is missing. During the course of the debate I pieced together some truths, using culture and history as keys to a “crime scene.” Again, I want to stress what some of the habits were in this small town where this group of people came from:
Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity represented as an upright, bull-headed idol with human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose arms a child was placed that would be burnt to death. It was not just unwanted children who were sacrificed. Plutarch reports that during the Phoenician (Canaanite) sacrifices, “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries and wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story. I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israels history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.
What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban or covering of some sort as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. Take note of the below as well.
I posted so many images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple of things that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. Firstly, he wouldn’t have been alone, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention.
One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.
Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above. So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume? That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald. Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.
✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties; ✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books); ✔ they were from a violently cultic city; ✔ the crowd was large;
And unique to me having shown that there is no way for the crowd to know Elisha was bald unless they had already attacked him and his entourage, is this point:
✔ the crowd had already turned violent.
These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.
So in conclusion,
a knowledge of history, culture, language, the words being used and their history, and the like… all contribute to the “sound doctrine” we are called to express.
Because otherwise, we will be the time-keepers in the story below, wronger and wronger all the time:
THE BELL TOWER
Have you ever heard the story of a man who used to go to work at a factory and every day would stop outside a clockmaker’s store to synchronize his watch with the clock outside? At the end of several days the clockmaker stopped him and said, “Excuse me, sir, I do have a question for you. I see that every day you stop and adjust your watch with my clock. What kind of work do you do?” The man said, “I’m embarrassed to tell you this; I keep the time at the factory nearby, and I have to ring the bell at four o clock every afternoon when it is time for the people to go home. My watch doesn’t work very well, so I synchronize it with your clock.” The clockmaker says, “I’ve got bad news for you. My clock doesn’t work very well either, so I synchronize it with the bell that I hear from the factory at 4:00 every afternoon.” If you’ll pardon the grammar, what happens when two wrong watches correct themselves by each other? They will get wronger and wronger all the time. Even a clock that doesn’t work may show you the right time twice a day…but it’s not because it’s keeping time!
Ravi Zacharias, “Address to the United Nations’ Prayer Breakfast.”