Five Reasons Why You Can Believe God Exists

One in five Americans now identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. How would you identify yourself? Philosopher and apologist Dr. William Lane Craig presents five reasons why belief in God makes good rational sense.

Agent Causality vs. Blind Causality

Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?

Description of the above video:

  • If there is a God, why is there so much evil? How could any God that cares about right and wrong allow so much bad to happen? And if there is no God, who then determines what is right and what is wrong? The answers to these questions, as Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft explains, go to the heart of ethics, morality and how we know what it means to be a decent person.

The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.

[….]

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 13, 38.

Description of the above video:

  • Isn’t human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful God must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can “suffering” exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, God exists. In five minutes, learn more.

Description of the above video:

  • A student asks a question of Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University, and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture. This is an updated version to my original post (http://youtu.be/4EeOvWdHGaM). I truncated the beginning as well as editing the volume of the initial question. I also added graphics and text quotes into the audio presentation. Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.

Description of the above video:

  • Is evil rational? If it is, then how can we depend on reason alone to make a better world? Best-selling author Dennis Prager has a challenging answer.

Description of the above video:

  • 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.

EVERY ONE HAS HEARD people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–‘That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

(accuser) “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”

(responder) “Your right, I apologize.”

(accuser) “That’s my seat, I was there first!”

(responder) “Your right, you were. Here you go.”

(accuser) “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine.”

(responder) “Oh gosh, I forgot, here you go.”

(accuser) “Come on, you promised.”

(responder) “Your right, lets go to the movies.”

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law–with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are color-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced! If they had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put Yourself first. selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, 1 apologize to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money–the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done–well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it–and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much–we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so–that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 17-21.

After reading that portion of CLASSIC Lewis, here is some thoughts from a philosopher that I disagree with on many points (he is an atheist after all), but he argues well for the following, even if later rejecting it:

If the reader is not familiar with Mere Christianity, I would urge him or her to buy it. The first chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. It is a brilliant piece of psychology. In it, Lewis sums up two crucial aspects of the human condition. We can see the first aspect in the passage quoted. Human beings do quarrel in the way Lewis describes. We are moral agents who cannot help feeling that there are some things we ought to do, and that there are other things we ought not to do. We believe, sometimes despite ourselves, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that there are certain principles of conduct to which we and all other human beings ought to adhere. In our dealings with other people we constantly appeal to those principles. We are quick to notice when others violate them. We get defensive and make excuses when it appears that we have violated them ourselves. We get defensive even when no one else is around. We accuse ourselves when no else does, and we rationalize our behavior in front of our consciences just as we would in front of another person. We cannot help applying to ourselves the principles we firmly believe apply to all. To use Alvin Plantinga’s term, the belief in morality is basic. Even when we reject that belief in our theoretical reasoning, it comes back to haunt us at every turn. We can never really get away from it. There is a reason why our legal system defines insanity as the inability to tell right from wrong: people who lack that ability have lost an important part of their humanity. They have taken a step down towards the level of beasts.

Even if, in our heart of hearts, we all believe in morality, we do not necessarily share the exact same moral values. Differences regarding values are at least a part of what we quarrel about. Yet Lewis correctly recognizes that our differences in this area never amount to a total difference. The moral beliefs human beings entertain display broad cross-cultural similarities. Ancient Egyptians did not appreciate having their property stolen any more than we do. A brother’s murder, a wife’s infidelity, or a friend’s betrayal would have angered them, just as it angers us. Human nature has not changed much for tens of thousands of years. It does not change at all when one travels to the other side of the globe.

I did not believe Lewis the first time I read him, or even the second time. This idea, that there is a fundamental underlying unity to the moral fabric of humanity, is a hard one to accept. Think about those suicidal fanatics who crashed planes into the World Trade Center. They “knew” they were doing the right thing, that Allah would reward them in heaven with virgins galore. How radically different from our own values the values of some Muslims must seem! Yet there is common ground. Even the most militant Muslims despise thieves, cheats, and liars, just as Christians. Jews, and atheists do. They value loyalty and friendship. just as we do. They love their children and their parents. just as we do. They even condemn murder, at least within their own societies. It is only when they deal with outsiders like us that some of them may seem like (and in fact, be) monsters. To distinguish between insiders and outsiders, and to treat the latter horribly, is actually not so unusual in human history. Expanding one’s “inside group” until it encompasses all of humanity is something of an innovation. When we consider all this, the moral gulf between us and them does not seem so unbridgeable. Our admittedly great differences occur against a background of fundamental similarities. Similarities guaranteed by the fact that we are all stuck being human. So it seems Lewis was right, despite my earlier skepticism. Universal moral themes can and do underpin the diversity of our moral opinions.

[….]

Moral statements, then, cannot be mere matters of taste and opinion. They essentially involve an appeal to principles that transcend both the wishes of any one individual, and the customs of any one culture or society. That there are such principles, and that we cannot really escape from them, are points Lewis successfully illuminates. It thus seems very plausible to suppose that when our moral statements appeal to these principles in an appropriate and rational manner, they deserve to be called truths.

Andrew Marker, The Ladder: Escaping from Plato’s Cave (iUniverse.com, 2010), 108-110, 111-112.

Brain-In-A-Vat

The video will start at the 12-minute mark:

An excerpt of pretty much the same topic noted in the video… but a bit more explained.

…We thus have good grounds for believing in the existence of an all-good, uncaused, timeless, changeless, immaterial, personal creator and designer of the universe, which is what most people mean by “God.” But what about people who lack the education, resources, or time to comprehend these sometimes abstruse reasons for the existence of God? Can they know that God exists wholly apart from arguments? I’m persuaded that they can, for God can be known through immediate experience. This was the way people in the Bible knew God, as Pro­fessor John Hick explains:

God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as destructive storm and life-giving sunshine…. They did not think of God as an inferred entity but as an experienced reality…. To them God was not a proposition completing a syl­logism, or an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.

For these people, God was not the best explanation of their religious experience and so they believed in him; rather, in their religious experience they came to know God directly.

Philosophers call beliefs such as this “properly basic beliefs.” They aren’t based on some other beliefs; rather, they are part of the foundation of a person’s system of beliefs. Other properly basic beliefs include the belief in the reality of the past, the existence of the external world, and the presence of other minds such as your own. When you think about it, none of these beliefs can be proven. How could you prove that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in appearances of age, such as food in our stomachs from the breakfasts we never really ate and memory traces in our brains of events we never really experienced? How could you prove that you are not a brain in a vat of chemicals being stimulated with electrodes by some mad scientist to believe that you are here reading this book? How could you prove that other people are not really automata who exhibit all the external behavior of persons with minds, when in reality they are soulless, robot-like entities?

Although these sorts of beliefs are basic for us, that doesn’t mean they’re arbi­trary. Rather, they are grounded in the sense that they’re formed in the context of certain experiences. In the experiential context of seeing and feeling and hearing things, I naturally form the belief that there are certain physical objects that I am sensing. Thus, my basic beliefs are not arbitrary but appropriately grounded in experience. There may be no way to prove such beliefs, and yet it is perfectly rational to hold them. You would have to be crazy to think that the world was created five minutes ago or that you are a brain in a vat! Such beliefs are thus not merely basic but properly basic.

In the same way, belief in God is for those who seek him a properly basic belief grounded in our experience of God, as we discern him in nature, conscience, and other means. This has an important lesson. If, through experiencing God, we can know in a properly basic way that God exists, then a real danger exists that proofs for God could actually distract one’s attention from God himself. The Bible promises, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 RSV). We mustn’t so concentrate on the proofs for God that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own heart. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

Someone might object that an atheist or an adherent to some nonpersonal religious faith such as Taoism could also claim to know their beliefs in a properly basic way. Certainly, they could claim such a thing, but what does that prove? Imagine that you were locked in a room with four color-blind people, all of whom claimed that there is no difference between red and green. Suppose you tried to convince them by showing them colored pictures of red and green objects and asking, “Can’t you see the difference?” Of course, they would see no difference at all and would dismiss your claim to see different colors as delusory. In terms of showing who’s right, there would be a complete standoff. But would their denial of the difference between red and green or your inability to show them that you are right do anything either to render your belief false or to invalidate your experience? Obviously not!

In the same way, the person who has actually come to know God as a living reality in his life can know with assurance that his experience is no delusion, regardless of what the atheist or Taoist tells him. Still, it remains the case that in such a situation, although the believer may know that his belief is true, both parties are at a complete loss to show the truth of his respective belief to the other party. How is one to break this deadlock? We should do whatever is feasible to find common ground, such as logic and empirical facts, by means of which we can show in a noncircular way whose view is correct. For that reason, arguments such as I have given above are important, for even if they are not the primary means by which we know that God exists, they may be the means by which we can show someone else that God exists. We may know that God exists in a properly basic way, and we may try to show that God exists by appeal to the common facts of science, ethics, and philosophy.

In summary, we’ve seen good reasons to believe God exists, but that conclu­sion is but the first step, albeit a crucial one. The Bible says, “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6 RSV). If we have come to believe that he exists, we must now seek him, with the confidence that if we do so with our whole heart, he will reward us with the personal knowledge of himself.

Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman ed., Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 84-86.

Ravi Zacharias Challenges the Challenger

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 with Greg 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.

Is God All Powerful? Can He Make A Rock He Can’t Lift?

Video Description:

The above video is a presentation I have done at church as well as in front of high school’ers at a Christian school. 


For a less than 2-minute treatment of my above 23-minute presentation [e.g., save time], watch this DR. CRAIG VIDEO:

Dr. William Lane Craig answers a question about God’s attribute. In this case, His omnipotence.

BOOK:

★ One of the best books to introduce people to “first principles” and how to apply them to worldviews: “Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith“.

BOOK:

★ Much of what I spoke of was from chapter four, “The Nature of God.” it is the book, “Handbook of Christian Apologetics“.

CARM RESPONDS (article):

Can God make a rock so big He can’t pick it up?

GOD & SCIENCE RESPONDS (article):

Can God Create a Rock So Heavy He Can’t Lift It? – Can God Truly Be Omnipotent?

CRI in EQUIP RESPONDS (article):

Can God create a rock so heavy He can’t move it?

[ME]-DOCUMENT:

Can God Make A Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It?

[ME]-POWER POINT:

Can God Make a Rock So Big That.

Hear Atheists Themselves on Evil and Absolutes [UPDATED!]

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.”

(pp. 7-9 of  Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)

Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – 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.”

Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description:

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.

Dan Barker

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!

:::shudders:::

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:

William 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.

The Dalai Lama Borrows from Christianity To Support Buddhism

(Jump to comparison of manuscripts)

I want to suggest that the Lama’s use of “love” and “compassion” are not found in Buddhism, but used in the Judeo-Christian sense (borrowed in other words) because Eastern metaphysics lack such thought. The Dalai Lama may do this out of ignorance of his own belief, or out of wanting to pull on Western heart strings of compassion (honed itself by the Judeo-Christian ethic), which is often followed by monetary support. Here is a discussion I had with a Buddhist apologist about such thinking, it is taken from my chapter, Reincarnation vs. Laws of Logic:


My initial engagement:

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or bad truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.)  Curious.

They Call Him James Ure, responds:

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others.  Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

I respond:

Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

 “All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a “Bodhi-being.” And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him. (Diamond Sutra, Sura 14)

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well.  One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

My Final Response:

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:

 Here’s another way to see the same thing. It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?[1]

Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.”[2]  The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?”[3]


[1] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[2] Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.

[3] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.


“One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

One of my very favorite quotes deals with the founders of the great religions and the consistency found in these founders:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshiped, even with multitudinous idols. All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

An example of a self-refuting/incoherent worldview that deals a bit with Eastern philosophy/religion comes from A Handbook for Christian Philosophy, by L. Russ Bush. After giving a basic definition of what a worldview is,[1] Dr. Bush goes on to explain how differing worldviews can interpret reality and then he applies some first principles to the matter:

…most people assume that something exists. There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be? How could he or she make such an affirmation? Sometimes in studying the history of philosophy, one may come to the conclusion that some of the viewpoints expressed actually lead to that conclusion, but no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists. It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince. Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense. So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.[2]


[1] “A worldview is that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to one’s thoughts. A worldview is the set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.” L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

[2] Ibid.

I will say here that Buddhism and Christianity agree that the proper relation in a marriage situation is a male and female. But many “Western “adherants” to Buddhism do not know what they are saying when statements are made about Buddhism being “such-and-such.” Two short videos are perfect for setting up an excerpt from my book:

So here is a portion of my chapter dealing with Eastern Thought:

Pantheism

Now that we have defined what the Law of Noncontradiction is, lets apply it to some basic Eastern thinking.  All Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers (etc), are pantheists.  The term Pantheist “designates one who holds both that everything there is constitutes a unity and that this unity is divine.”  Most pantheists (Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, etc.) would hold that physical reality, and all the evils it produces, is merely an illusion.  This holds true for the personality of man as well.  This distinction explains why, in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the personality is seen as an “enemy” and is finally destroyed by absorption into Brahmin or Nirvana. Not only is the material creation absorbed, but human existence are either an illusion, as in Hinduism (maya), or so empty and impermanent, as in Buddhism (sunyata), that they are ultimately meaningless.

But is an impersonal “immortality” truly meaningful when it extinguishes our personal existence forever? Is it even desirable? As Sri Lanken Ajith Fernando, who has spoken to hundreds of Buddhists and Hindus, illustrates:

“When I asked a girl who converted from Buddhism to Christianity through our ministry what attracted her to Christianity, the first thing she told [me] was, ‘I did not want Nirvana.’ The prospect of having all her desires snuffed out after a long and dreary climb [toward ‘liberation’] was not attractive to her.”

In the end, man himself is a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment and must be “destroyed” to find so called “liberation.” As Dr. Frits Staal comments in an article entitled, “Indian Concepts of the Body,” “Whatever the alleged differences between Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, one conclusion follows from the preceding analysis. No features of the individual[‘s] personality survive death in either state”

With the above in mind, take note of a major problem that faces the pantheist visa viz, “that there is no reality except the all-encompassing ‘God’.”  Using the Law of Noncontradiction we can see that this is a nonsensical statement that is logically self-refuting.  If everything is illusion, then those making that statement are themselves illusions.  There’s a real problem here.  As Norman Geisler pointed out, “One must exist in order to affirm that he does not exist.”  When we claim that there is no reality except the all-encompassing God, we are proving just the opposite.  The fact that we exist to make the claim demonstrates that there is a reality distinct from God, which makes this key doctrine of pantheism a self-defeating proposition.  It is an untruth – by definition.

Reincarnation

Another belief that is accepted by all Eastern philosophies as well as the New Age movement is that of reincarnation.  I will explain the concept with some examples, after I define the term.  Reincarnation is a “belief in the successive rebirth of souls into new bodies, as the soul progresses toward perfection.”

Some examples of this “karmic law” are warranted: first, lets assume I beat and abused my wife horribly, treated her like the dirt on my shoes, I would be storing up some pretty bad karma.  When I come around for my next human life, after, of course, traveling through the insect, and animal lives, I would come back as the woman being beat.  This is karma’s answer to evil, which is really no answer at all.  In fact, it perpetuates evil.  How so?  It necessitates a beatee,” which mandates a “beater.”  Karma, then, creates a never-ending circle of violence, or, “evil.”  In addition it states (emphatically I might add) that we choose our current destiny (or events) in this life due to past life experiences and choices.  This is why the holy men in Buddhist and Hindu nations generally walk right by the maimed, injured, starving, and uneducated, and do not care for them.  This next true story drives this point home.

Ron Carlson, while speaking in Thailand, was invited to visit some refugee camps along the Cambodian border.  Over 300,000 refugees were caught in a no-man’s-land along the border.  This resulted from the Cambodian massacre under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the mid-70’s (which is known as the “killing fields”) and then subsequently by the invasion of the Vietnamese at the end of the 70’s.  One of the most fascinating things about these refugee camps was the realization of who was caring for the refugees.  Here, in this Buddhist country of Thailand, with Buddhist refugees coming from Cambodia and Laos, there were no Buddhists taking care of their like-minded brothers.  There were also no Atheists, Hindus, or Muslims taking care of those people.  The only people there, taking care of these 300,000[+] people, were Christians from Christian mission organizations and Christian relief organizations.  One of the men Ron was with had lived in Thailand for over twenty-years and was heading up a major portion of the relief effort for one of these organizations. Ron asked him: “Why, in a Buddhist country, with Buddhist refugees, are there no Buddhists here taking care of their Buddhist brothers?” Ron will never forget his answer:

“Ron, have you ever seen what Buddhism does to a nation or a people? Buddha taught that each man is an island unto himself. Buddha said, ‘if someone is suffering, that is his karma.’ You are not to interfere with another person’s karma because he is purging himself through suffering and reincarnation! Buddha said, ‘You are to be an island unto yourself.’” –  “Ron, the only people that have a reason to be here today taking care of these 300,000 refugees are Christians. It is only Christianity that people have a basis for human value that people are important enough to educate and to care for.  For Christians, these people are of ultimate value, created in the image of God, so valuable that Jesus Christ died for each and every one of them.  You find that value in no other religion, in no other philosophy, but in Jesus Christ.”

Do you get it now?  It takes a “Mother Teresa” with a Christian worldview to go into these embattled countries and bathe, feed, educate, care for these people – who otherwise are ignored due to harmful religious beliefs of the East.

Another example is a graphic one, but it drives the point home.  While at home on my day off, my work calls me in due to an emergency.  I cannot find a sitter for my youngest son, so I call a family member, say, uncle Steve.  While I am at work, uncle Steve rapes and sodomizes my son.  Should I call the authorities??  If I am a believer in reincarnation, then I must realize that this “evil” is an illusion, number one, and number two, this “evil” was brought on my son most likely because of something my son did in a previous incarnation.  Something my son did in a previous lifetime demands that this happened to him in this lifetime.  (Or something I did, or my wife did, whomever.)  Only recently have some Indian people rejected reincarnation and started to kill the massive infestation of disease-ridden rodents that inhabit India’s cities.  These rodents carry and transmit many diseases as well as destroying and infecting large portions of food that could have made it to the starving population.  Most, however, continue to nurture or ignore these disease-carrying animals in the belief that they are a soul stuck in the cosmic wheel.  This is just one example of a horrible religious practice that is part of the many destructive practices that are hurting precious people.  The caste system mentioned before is another that promotes and encourages racism, malnourishment, lack of education, and death….

(…all material referenced in my chapter…)

So to say the Dalia Lama or the Buddha are “Christ like” is to wholly misunderstand the chasm of differences in the two completely different leaders of these religions… and their logical conclusions. Also worth noting is that the date between writings, and so the possibility of corruption of the text is vastly different between the two faiths. For instance, the Buddha is said to have dies around (using the earliest date) 400 B.C.. The earliest portion of a Buddhist writing is dated at about 179 A.D. So let us compare this:

...Compare/Contrast

Buddhist Text Compared Final

References for the above dating of the Buddhist fragments: 

  • Richard Salomon, Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara: The British Library Kharosthi Fragments (PDF summation, book);
  • Ingo Strauch, The Bajaur collection: A new collection of Kharoṣṭhīmanuscripts:  A preliminary catalogue and survey (PDF).

Diamond Sutra Compared to Book of John

The most complete copy that dates early is the Gospel of John (Bodmer Papyrus II – 150-200 A.D.). That is 127 years after Christ, for the Gospel of John. The earliest fragment is dated to 120 A.D. And Clement of Rome quoted from it about 95 A.D., and Polycarp quoted from it around 110 A.D. [+]. So we KNOW John is older.

The oldest full book key to Buddhist thought is the Diamond Sutra, dated at about 868AD. That is 1,268-to-1,468 years after Buddha’s death. We KNOW the Diamond Sutra is older… but the fragments and quotes of the Gospel of John match up well with earliest text. The earlier quotes of the Diamond Sutra and it’s fragments show drastic change.

Another example. The earliest copy of Isaiah the church had was dated to about 900AD. They found a copy of Isaiah dated to 1,200 years earlier. Because of how the Jewish scribes copied text… there were only a few letters in the entirety of the text that were different. Most were in a word known to be “light” No meaning or concept was changed in those letters being different. (Sources: here, here, and here.)

The change in meaning in the Diamond Sutra from earlier Buddhist teaching as well as fragments is great:

Since at least the fifth century, generations of Buddhists have memorized and chanted the Diamond Sutra, a short Mahayana Buddhist scripture. The work, which offers meditations on illusion and perception, was originally written in Sanskrit and first translated into Chinese in 402 A.D. Despite the text’s longevity, Stanford religious studies professor Paul Harrison’s latest research suggests that previous translations may have incorrectly interpreted certain words in a way that affects the entire meaning of the text.

For the last seven years Prof. Harrison has been working on re-editing and re-translating the Diamond Sutra. Though he is a professor of religious studies his translation work falls squarely in the field of philology. Harrison is often surrounded by a large semicircle of previous translations and dictionaries that he consults as he combs through the sutra one word at a time.

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most historically important texts in the Buddhist faith, in part because a copy of it is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world (868 A.D.). Also known by its Sanskrit title Vajracchedika, the Diamond Sutra posits that something is what it is only because of what it is not. The text challenges the common belief that inside each and every one of us is an immovable core, or soul—in favor of a more fluid and relational view of existence. Negative, or seemingly paradoxical statements by the Buddha abound in the text, such as “The very Perfection of Insight which the Buddha has preached is itself perfection-less.”

Professor Harrison elaborated, “I think the Diamond Sutra is undermining our perception that there are essential properties in the objects of our experience….

(Sources: here and here)

I write about the early attestation to the New Testament in the first 16-pages of my chapter on Gnosticism and Feminism. But I reworked Kenneth Boa’s graphic on comparing dating of ancient texts with some updated information not only cataloged via the aforementioned chapter from my book, but also from here, and the books:

  • Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1999);
  • Carsten Peter Theide and Matthew d’Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus: The Most Sensational Evidence on the Origins of the Gospels Since the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York, NY: Galilee DoubleDay, 1996).

(I edited the last column under “Date Written” and “Time Span”)

manuscript comparison AGAIN 700

Below is some of the evidence for the early dating of the New Testament.

More on this from Dr. Geisler:

...Earliest Attested Fragments

[DSS stands for Dead Sea Scrolls]

….Light on the New Testament. Some DSS frag­ments have been identified as the earliest known pieces of the New Testament. Further, the mes­sianic expectations reveal that the New Testa­ment view of a personal messiah-God who would rise from the dead is in line with first-century Jewish thought.Geisler 188 CHART

The New Testament fragments? Jose *O’Callahan, a Spanish Jesuit paleographer, made headlines around the world in 1972 when he announced that he had translated a piece of the Gospel of Mark on a DSS fragment. This was the earliest known piece of Mark. Fragments from cave 7 had previously been dated between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50 and listed under “not identified” and clas­sified as “Biblical Texts.” O’Callahan eventually identified nine fragments. The center column in the following chart uses the numbering system established for manuscripts. For example, “7Q5” means fragment 5 from Qumran cave 7.

[RPT’s Note: 7Q5 matches up well with Mark 6:52-53 ~ see below, sources for graphic: here, here, as well as this chapter and the aforementioned books.]

Both friend and critic acknowledged from the beginning that, if valid, O’Callahan’s conclusions would revolutionize current New Testament the­ories. The New York Times reported: “If Father O’Callahan’s theory is accepted, it would prove that at least one of the gospels—that of St. Mark—was written only a few years after the death of Jesus.” United Press International (UPI) noted that his conclusions meant that “the peo­ple closest to the events—Jesus’ original followers—found Mark’s report accurate and trustwor­thy, not myth but true history” (ibid., 137). Time magazine quoted one scholar who claimed that, if correct, “they can make a bonfire of 70 tons of indigestible German scholarship” (Estrada, 136).

7Q5 Dead Sea Scroll FinalOf course, O’Callahan’s critics object to his identification and have tried to find other possi­bilities. The fragmentary nature of the ms. makes it difficult to be dogmatic about identifi­cations. Nonetheless, O’Callahan offers a plausi­ble, albeit revolutionary, possibility. If the iden­tification of even one of these fragments as New Testament is valid, then the implications for Christian apologetics are enormous. It would be shown that the Gospel of Mark was written within the life time of the apostles and contem­poraries of the events.

A date before A.D. 50 leaves no time for mythological embellishment of the records. They would have to be accepted as historical. It would also show Mark to be one of the earlier Gospels. Fur­ther, since these manuscripts are not originals but copies, it would reveal that the New Testa­ment was “published”—copied and disseminated—during the life time of the writers. It would also reveal the existence of the New Testa­ment canon during this early period, with pieces representing every major section of the New Tes­tament: Gospels, Acts, and both Pauline and Gen­eral Epistles.

The fragment of 2 Peter would argue for the authenticity of this often disputed epistle. The absence of fragments of John’s writings might in­dicate that they were written later (A.D. 80-90) in accordance with the traditional dates. With all these revolutionary conclusions it is little wonder that their authenticity is being challenged.

First-Century Jewish Messianic Expectations. The DSS have also yielded text that, while not re­ferring to the Christ of the New Testament, have some interesting parallels, as well as some signif­icant differences. The similarities that confirm the New Testament picture accurately describes Jew­ish expectation of a personal, individual Messiah who would die and rise from the dead. A frag­ment called “A Genesis Florilegorium” (4Q252) re­flects belief in an individual Messiah who would be a descendant of David. “Column 5 (1) (the) Government shall not pass from the tribe of Judah. During Israel’s dominion, (2) a Davidic descendant on the throne shall [not cease . . until the Messiah of Righteousness, the Branch of (4) David comes” (see Eisenman, 89).

Even the deity of the Messiah is affirmed in the fragment known as “The Son of God” (4Q246), Plate 4, columns one and two: “Oppression will be upon the earth . . . [until] the King of the people of God arises, . . . and he shall become [gre]at upon the earth. [ . . . All w]ill make [peace,] and all will serve [him.] He will be called [son of the Gr]eat [God;] by His name he shall be desig­nated. . . . He will be called the son of God; they will call him son of the Most High” (ibid., 70).Geisler 189

“The Messiah of Heaven and Earth” fragment (4Q521) even speaks of the Messiah raising the dead: “(12) then He will heal the sick, resurrect :he dead, and to the Meek announce glad tidings” (ibid., 23; cf. 63, 95).

The Dead Sea Scrolls also confirm that Qum­ran was not the source of early Christianity. There are significant differences between their concept of the “Teacher of Righteousness,” ap­parently an Essene messianic hope, and the Jesus revealed in Scripture and early Christianity. The differences are enough to show that early Chris­tianity was not just an offshoot of the Essenes, as has been theorized (see Billington, 8-10). The Essenes emphasized hating one’s enemies; Jesus stressed love. The Essenes were exclusivistic re­garding women, sinners, and outsiders; Jesus was inclusive. The Essenes were legalistic sabbatarians; Jesus was not. The Essenes stressed Jewish purification laws; Jesus attacked them. The Essenes believed two messiahs would come; Christians held that Jesus was the only one (see Charlesworth).

Conclusion. The DSS provide an important apologetic contribution toward establishing the general reliability of the Old Testament Hebrew text, as well as the earliest copies of parts of Old Testament books and even whole books. This is important in showing that the predictive prophe­cies of the Old Testament were indeed made cen­turies before they were literally fulfilled. Further­more, the DSS provide possible support for the New Testament. They may contain the earliest known fragments of the New Testament, and they definitely contain references to messianic beliefs similar to those taught in the New Testament.

Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1999), 188-189.

Take note as well that the earliest Church Fathers quoted Scripture… which would need to be completed and widely used by then:

  • You write “All four gospels are quoted in patristic writings (a technical term which means writings by the early church “fathers.”) before AD 100 in books such as the Epistle of Barnabus, the book of Clement of Rome and the Didache.” There is nothing said about the four Gospels in the “Clement of Rome”. It is really pathetic that you must base supernatural ideas on false evidence and then you show this false evidence to the masses. I’d really like to get a response as to where I can find the gospels mention in the “Clement of Rome”. I’m curious to know what words you rummaged through to come up with this ridiculous accusation.

Answer:

I sense a lot of anger here. The use of words like “pathetic” and “ridiculous” are really not helpful if you want to engage in honest conversations. I want to encourage you to use a more respectful tone, even with those with whom you do not agree. In any case, I just gave a very quick little read of the Letter of Clement to Rome. I found a few quotations from the gospels as well as ones from the letters. Below is a sampling. Besides these, I found a number of allusions to the gospels and other New Testament Books. After each quote, I will have a very short comment.

1Clem 13:1 Let us therefore be lowly minded, brethren, laying aside all arrogance and conceit and folly and anger, and let us do that which is written. For the Holy Ghost saith, Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the strong in his strength, neither the rich in his riches; but he that boasteth let him boast in the Lord, that he may seek Him out, and do judgment and righteousness most of all remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching forbearance and long-suffering.

This is a quote from 1 Corinthians 1:31

1Clem 13:2 for thus He spake Have mercy, that ye may receive mercy: forgive, that it may be forgiven to you. As ye do, so shall it be done to you. As ye give, so shall it be given unto you. As ye judge, so shall ye be judged. As ye show kindness, so shall kindness be showed unto you. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured withal to you.

This is a quote from Matthew 7:2

1Clem 15:2 For He saith in a certain place This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

This is quoting from either Matthew 15:8 or Mark 7:6

1Clem 16:1 For Christ is with them that are lowly of mind, not with them that exalt themselves over the flock.

This is an allusion to Luke 22:26 or Matthew 23:11

1Clem 34:8 For He saith, Eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man what great things He hath prepared for them that patiently await Him.

This is a quote from 1 Cor 2:9

1Clem 36:2 Through Him let us look steadfastly unto the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent visage; through Him the eyes of our hearts were opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springeth up unto the light; through Him the Master willed that we should taste of the immortal knowledge Who being the brightness of His majesty is so much greater than angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name. 1Clem 36:3 For so it is written Who maketh His angels spirits and His ministers aflame of fire 1Clem 36:4 but of His Son the Master said thus, Thou art My Son, I this day have begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession. 1Clem 36:5 And again He saith unto Him Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.

These are quoting from Hebrews Chapter one….

(EVIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANITY)

Ignatius of Antioch would be another prime example.

Effectively the above information updates this older Josh McDowell graph here. In other words, we know the early history of Christianity because of the wealth of evidence behind certain events. For instance:

“Pharisaic Judaizers come down to Antioch (Acts 15:1, 5) in the late summer of 49 A.D. and teach that circumcision is necessary before a person can be saved. Paul, Barnabas, Titus and certain others (Galatians 2:1-2) are sent to Jerusalem to confer with other apostles, elders and brethren concerning the relationship between circumcision and salvation. This gathering is commonly referred to as the Jerusalem Conference. This conference occurs in the Fall of 49 A.D. around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Acts 15:2).”

We know this because of the evidence… the same evidence to say that two letters describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are considered history.

SCRIPTURE NEGATIVE

Buddhism lacks this historical attestation and predictive power that the New Testament has in that the original texts are much closer to the events that happened. In fact, the New Testament is superior to ALL ancient documents in this respect.


“…but test all things. Hold on to what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21);
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1);
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test[a]” (2 Corinthians 13:5 — [a] “unless you are disqualified” or “you are counterfeit”).

“Let There Be Light!” ~ Concepts (Points of Departure)

Opinions are bountiful, testing one’s opinions in today’s age? Not so much.

I will explain the issues I have with John’s latest article, and as usual, you can click it to enlarge the above. In this latest opinion slurry, John asks questions that I doubt he even has one single book by a leading philosopher/theologian/scientist from either the Intelligent Design camp or creation positions to search for how Christianity answers these questions. For instance, my favorite treatise to introduce people to ideas expressed above in a broad sense, “Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith.” Or a more in-depth treatise of the same, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” Or one more specific to his questions, “The Case For A Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God.” All are readable, and all answer his questions in a way that a mature seeker to these answers would do if seeking to inform one’s own opinion.

One of the queries proffered above is this one: “Of course, that interpretation invites the question, who or what created God.” I wonder if John has actually spent the time finding an answer to this position that has surely passed his lip many times in conversation. I do have a Power Point that deals with this in a very layman-like manner. Also, a more in-depth treatise of it as well HERE. But in a short conversation I had with another gentleman, I responded briefly this way — showing that this has been squarely dealt with many hundreds of years ago:

Tim, you asked:

“What created God? Who created the thing that created the thing that created the thing that created God? It’s an infinite regression.”

Again, “What created God.”

You are basically saying that:

“if everything needs a cause, then so does God, in which case he would not be God. And if God does not need a cause, then neither does the world. But if the world needs no cause then there is no God. Hence, whether everything needs a cause or does not need a cause, there is no God.”

Did I sum up the “gist” of the matter?  (Who made God, in other words.)

The criticism, “if everything needs a cause, then there must be an infinite regress” is built on a misconception of the principle of causality. Or better, it is a confusion of the principle of existential causality and the principle of sufficient reason. The latter affirms that everything needs a cause.

That it would seem, as atheists observe, leads to a contradiction of God being his own cause.

Aquinas dealt with this long ago. He held that only finite, changing, dependent beings need a cause. This does not lead to a contradictory self-caused being but to a non-contradictory un-caused Being. For if only finite beings need a cause then one arrives at a nonfinite (i.e. infinite) being that does not need a cause. Hence, from Aquinas’ principle of causality the series would legitimately stop at the first, un-caused Cause of all finite beings.

If one is confused in regards to the above: here is a response geared towards 5th grader; and one geared towards adults. John’s article[s] surely exemplify philosopher Mortimer Adler’s point about formulating good questions based on coherant starting point:

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.

This “point of departure” is answered two separate times by Christian philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig ~ in less than 2-minutes in each case. I mention the time factor because it seems Mr. Huizum hasn’t even taken 2-minutes to get an answer to his “point of departure”:

John states that searching for answers to his questions in the article is “vital” in “‘knowing’ the truth.” That is fine, and he is right, it is an important question that from the Greeks to us has been a grand Western tradition. But even 1,000’s of years ago the Greeks thought it important enough to debate “how” even to ask the question properly. All that aside however, my last point that needs to be made in one that undermines John’s presuppositions. In John’s closing statement, he says this:

If science is right, there is no need for the existence of a supernatural being, which would in turn terminate all religions on earth and consequently a lot of insane wars.

In a previous installment I respond to John also writing that “Atheism has been aided by scientific discoveries and rigorous questioning.” In the much longer response I quote two agnostics as saying this;

“The essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy…. The Hubble Law is one of the great discoveries in science; it is one of the main supports of the scientific story of Genesis.”

~ Robert Jastrow: American astronomer and physicist. Founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he is the director of the Mount Wilson Institute and Hale Solar Laboratory. He is also the author of Red Giants and White Dwarfs (1967) and God and the Astronomers (2nd ed., 2000).

“Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.”

~ Robert Wilson: is an American astronomer, 1978 Nobel laureate in physics, who with Arno Allan Penzias discovered in 1964 the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB)…. While working on a new type of antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, they found a source of noise in the atmosphere that they could not explain. After removing all potential sources of noise, including pigeon droppings on the antenna, the noise was finally identified as CMB, which served as important corroboration of the Big Bang theory.

So John seems to be making the same misguided statements, maybe based on his misunderstanding of the weight of the logical conclusions found in a “non-God” universe, where truth cannot be known. Or not spending 2-minutes to see where his starting premise may be errant, and so his conclusions even worse. In other words, questions seeking a truthful response or statement of fact are impossible considering Johns epistemology (“the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification and truth”).

To which I end with a call for John to internalize if he can even ask what he has in this column and others and expect to find an answer to his “probing” [sophomoric] questions:

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.

You’ve got to wonder.

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Atheism, Science and God (Part 1)

This is the “official” part one.

Philosophy, Science and the God Debate (Part 1) ‘Science disproves the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it. But top Oxford Professors, John Lennox, Alister McGrath and Keith Ward effectively challenge this widespread belief and show that science and faith in God are not incompatible. ‘Science disprovers the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it.

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Evidence, Faith and Knowledge

Chris Jervis interviews scientists, theologians and philosophers John Lennox, Keith Ward and Alister McGrath on the meaning of faith in Christianity. Is Christian faith blind? Is it against evidence? Lennox, Ward and McGrath respond to many claims made by the New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (author of God is not Great).

Nature of Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis (S.S. Part 1)

This is a three-parter that is quite long, and technical. (It is the first part of a previous set [second, third].) You may also want a dictionary ready, this is a seminary level presentation. If you taken with this presentation[s] — knowledge of how we should better interact with our world and our culture comes through for those In His Service — ΙΗΣ.


Introduction


Part 1

“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #12/187.

I. The Definition of Apologetics

A. The rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true and existentially or subjectively engaging. More generally, to commendation of Christianity in the face of unbelief or doubt.
B. Concerns defining Christian truth-claims that one must believe in order to be a Christian

1. Essentials of orthodoxy: Trinity, Incarnation, biblical authority, justification by faith, etc.
2. Truth-claim: propositions affirming the existence or nonexistence of certain states of affairs

a. Different than a sentence; many sentences affirm of declare the same proposition (More on this in D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter four)
b. Truth-claims are different than questions, emotive utterances, commands, etc.

II. Relation of Apologetics to Theology

A. Apologetics is dependent on theology for its content (essential doctrines), which are defended as true
B. Theology’s ideal is to systematically and coherently articulate what Scripture teaches
C. We need a theology of apologetics’

~ Theological truths (such as human depravity, general revelation, divine transcendence and immanence) guide one’s understanding and application of apologetics

III. Relation of Apologetics to Philosophy

A. Comes under one category of philosophy—philosophy of religion: the rational investigation of religious truth-claims

~ But not all philosophy of religion is Christian apologetics; may be done in service of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, etc.

B. Attempts to rationally justify theological statements through philosophical means (theistic arguments, defending the coherence of doctrines, such as the Trinity or Incarnation, etc.)

~ Need not be propaganda or proselytizing, but may be

C. Resurgence of Christians in philosophy in the last two-three decades. See James Kelly Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe (InterVarsity Press, 1993); Thomas Morris, God and the Philosophers, ed. (Oxford, 1995). Academic journals: Faith and Philosophy; Philosophia Christi

IV. Relation of Apologetics to Evangelism

A. Apologetics used when necessary to remove obstacles to evangelism: doubts, misunderstandings (Matthew 28:18 — 20)
B. Evangelism declares Christian truth and invites unbelievers to embrace it; apologetics defends Christian truth and clarifies its meaning
C. Apologetics as pre-evangelism (Francis A. Schaeffer)


Part 2

V. Two Types of Apologetics

A. Negative apologetics (two senses)

1. Find intellectual weaknesses in non-Christian world-views—naturalism, pantheism, deism, etc.
2. Respond to anti-Christian intellectual assaults on Christian truth made by Muslims, Freudians, pagan feminists, postmodernists, pantheists, etc.

B. Positive apologetics

1. Give constructive reasons and evidences for defining Christian truth-claims

~ Arguments for objective truth and morality, the existence of God, reliability of the Bible, supremacy of Jesus, etc.

2. Give a cumulative case of various rational arguments for Christian truth

C. Whether something is deemed positive or negative apologetics may depend on the angle at which you look at it
D. A full-orbed Christian apologetic combines positive and negative apologetics

VI. Reasons or Justifications for Christian Apologetics

A. The glory of the one true God (Exodus 20:1 — 7; Matthew 22:37 — 40; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)
B. The defense of the Christian faith in order to reach the lost for Christ

1. Give a reason for our hope in the gospel (1 Peter 3:15 — 17)
2. Contend for the once-for-all revealed truth of God (Jude 3)
3. Refute false philosophies (Colossians 2:8 — 9; 2 Corinthians 10:3 — 5; 1 John 4:1 — 4)
4. Build up believers who doubt (Matthew 11:1 — 11; Jude 22 — 23). See Douglas Groothuis “Growing Through Doubt” sermon available though Hope for Today (www.hopefortoday.com)
5. Encourage holiness in knowing and defending God’s truth (Matthews 22:37 — 40)
6. Apologetic example: Paul at Athens (Acts 17:16 — 33)

a. On this see, D. A. Carson, “Athens Revisited,” in D. A. Carson, ed. Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 384-398.
b. Douglas Groothuis, “Christianity in the Marketplace” (Acts 17:16 — 34) parts I and II, sermons available from Hope for Today: (www.hopefortoday.org)

7. Apologetic example, exemplar: Jesus (throughout the Gospels)

a. On this see Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2003), chapters one and three, especially
b. Douglas Groothuis, “Jesus and the Life of the Mind” sermon available from: (www.homefortoday.org)

VII. The Spirituality of the Apologist: Truthful Humility

A. Humility (see D. Groothuis, “Apologetics, Truth, and Humility” in syllabus hot link)

1. Humility by creation: total dependence (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1 — 3)

~ See Andrew Murray, Humility: The Heart of Righteousness. Devotional classic.

2. Humility by redemption: you are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20)
3. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)
4. Hold the truth firmly and humbly (1 Timothy 2:24 — 26)
5. We know in part and are in process (1 Corinthians 13:12)
6. Be courageous, but meek; don’t offend unnecessarily (Matthew 5:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7)

B. Have a spirit of committed dialogue (Paul throughout Acts)
C. Glory in the gospel, not apologetic prowess; win people to Christ, not just win arguments (Matthew 28:18 — 20)
D. Passionate, but patient, yearning for the salvation of others (Romans 9:1 — 3; 10:1)
E. Importance of moral/spiritual character in ministry: watch your life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16)
F. Reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (Acts 1:4 — 5; John 16:13)G. Importance of individual and corporate prayer for apologetic integrity (Ephesians 6:10 — 18; Colossians 4:2 — 4)
H. Openness to God’s supernatural work in opening the eyes of unbelievers (Acts 26:17 — 18; Acts 13:1 — 12)