Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ category

Faith Requires a Personal Encounter

October 16, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 22520023 Copyright: Iurii

This is a prologue to a previously published piece, Room for Doubters & Skeptics. In that original piece, I explored the fact that Jesus invited, embraced and nurtured doubters and skeptics, even in his inner circle of followers. We see this in the accounts of Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) and Thomas (who we call “Doubting Thomas).

We meet Nathanael early on when Philip introduces him to Jesus. Nathanael was skeptical. Thomas we get to know in more detail in the middle of his time with Jesus and at the end. Even at the end of his time with Jesus, Thomas still doubted.

The stories of these two men leave us with a few important takeaways. First, honest doubt was no issue for Jesus, and should be no issue for us. This was the point of the initial piece that to which I linked above. In this piece we will see the importance of asking the critical questions and being genuinely interested in the answers. There are answers, but, more importantly, the answers lie in more than bare facts and reason; genuine faith requires a personal encounter.

Whether God exists is the most important question we can ask. Whether God exists, or not, is (or should be) the foundation for everything we do and everything we think about the world. On this point, we are either hot or cold. Lukewarm is the same as being cold because it means we haven’t’ cared or been thoughtful enough to be interested in the question.

There is no such thing as a follower of God who doesn’t seek him. There is a difference between intellectual ascent and faith (commitment) to God. Someone famously said that even Satan believes in God. Nathanael and Thomas provide us an example of the importance of persistence in getting answers to the questions that arise from our doubt and skepticism.

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Room for Doubters & Skeptics

October 16, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 47465065 Copyright: AsierRomeroCarballo

Jesus formed an inner circle of people who were called apostles, and that group included doubters. Yes, Jesus invited doubters and included them in His inner circle. Two of those people were Thomas and Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel).

Nathaniel doubted right off the bat, but we don’t really read about the doubt of Thomas until much later in the story. Twice, in fact, we read of the doubt or negativity of Thomas that he still had even after eating, traveling, and doing life with Jesus.

The story of these guys reveals that God invites and embraces people who doubt. There is nothing wrong with doubt. Honest doubt is always better than false faith. We should never trade our integrity for something that isn’t genuine. It’s better to have no hope than a false hope.

I recently wrote about a statement made about Stephen Hawking: “A great scientist, even like Stephen Hawking, if he had to admit a creator, it would be unavoidable, he would have to seek him because he is a great scientist.” I don’t know if that statement is really true. I’m not sure if Stephen Hawking would really seek God if he thought God existed, but a person should seek God if God exists. There could be no greater or more important finding than that!

Ultimate truth for beings like us, however, is always accompanied by doubt. We are finite. We don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know everything, and we never will. Yet, we seek for something solid, something we can trust and something in which we can put our faith. We all do that, even atheists, even if all we trust is science (and the human intellectual capacity to understand it).

For these reasons, the stories of Nathanial and Thomas are so significant.

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Loving God with Our Minds

October 9, 2017

Image ID: 39297167 Copyright: SimpleFoto

We should not check our intellect at the church door. Jesus instructs us to love God with our minds as part of the greatest commandment.[1] To some extent, however, many Christians have adopted a view of faith that might be characterized as anti-intellectual, to the point of abdicating the realm of the intellect to secularists and materialists.

We Christians seem to be skeptical about our own minds. I find this interesting because, according to Scripture, we should arguably be more skeptical about our hearts![2] Jeremiah identifies the heart “deceitful above all things”.  Jeremiah doesn’t say this about the mind.

There is an interesting parallel with Charles Darwin here. Darwin said that he could not trust his inner convictions (intuition, perhaps heart) because his inner convictions evolved from lower life forms. To drive his point home, Darwin posits the question: “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”[3] Darwin, ironically, didn’t seem to share the same doubt about his intellect, though his intellect also “developed from the mind of the lower animals”, as Darwin put it.

A materialist like Charles Darwin should have much less confidence trusting human intellect than a Christian. Darwin should have been as skeptical of his own intellect as he was skeptical of his inner convictions because both his “convictions” and his ability to reason derived from lower life forms. Christians should have much more confidence in their intellect because they believe human intellect is created in the image of God who is, Himself, rational, mindful and intellectual.

The ability to reason is God-given and stems from the rational mind of God that created the universe by speaking it into existence.[4] We should have a healthy distrust of the heart, of emotions, of raw, unguided, reactionary instinct, not because it derives from a monkey’s mind, but because it is tainted by sin. We should have more confidence in intellect, reason, and logic because these are human abilities that are more directly tied into the nature and character of God.

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Rejecting the Right God

October 5, 2017

Depositphotos mage ID: 46970151 Copyright: JanMika

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God. They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right one.

Not all gods are created equal. The Christian concept of God is not on a par with Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to say the very least.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods and, therefore, have spent no time studying or considering them. The ignorance is more willful then due to any lack in ability to understand.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

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Who Created God?

September 9, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 10605683 Copyright: kevron2002

One of the showing stopping questions posed by atheists is this one: If God created the universe, who created God?

It is a clever question, and has stumped many a person who believes in God, but the question, itself, is flawed. Let me explain.

In my response, I am indebted to John Lennox who’s answer to this very question is embedded at the end of this blog article. John Lennox, is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and a frequent speaker on topics of science, philosophy and religion. He has twice debated the vocal atheist, and Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins, who wrote a book, The God Delusion, using this question as a centerpiece.

The flaw of the question is that it is loaded with the assumption that God was created. The response of the Christian (or theist generally) is that such a notion (that God was created) is not a notion about God at all, but a notion about a god – a created thing. Another word for such a thing is an idol.

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Turning Idols toward God: the Human Intellect

August 30, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 20592505 copyright: olly18

Human beings can make idols out of anything, including making an idol of human intellect/mind. As with all created things, the human intellect is limited, finite and utterly unable to save us from our human condition, but many people, nevertheless, put their faith in the human intellect. This is ultimately idolatry when we trust in our own intellect instead of trusting in God.

Putting our faith in our own intellect is also, ultimately, foolish. What do we know that God doesn’t know? What can see understand that God doesn’t understand? Relying on ourselves in this way, to the exclusion of relying of God, is (to put it mildly) short-sighted. It is sin, to put it bluntly.

It is the same mistake that Eve made in the garden when the serpent tempted her by saying “you will be like God”![1] We want to be our own gods, relying on our own intellect.

This basic prideful condition, which is the essence of sin, is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”.[2] Of course, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness” to God.”[3] As Isaiah says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

For these reasons, and others perhaps, Christians today tend to distrust science, worldly thinking, philosophy and even the mind, itself. Christians have all but abandoned the world of science, philosophy and the intellect to secular institutions and minds, and this is a terrible mistake!

Christians are reluctant to acknowledge science. Christians are fearful of philosophy. Christians are even distrustful of their own minds. Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions. But here’s the thing: this is sinful too!

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Follow The Evidence Where It Leads

July 31, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 97354170 copyright: alphaspirit

Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, used to say there are two books of God: the book of Scripture (the word of God) and the book of nature (the work of God). He believed, as did many people who came before him and after him, that all truth is God’s truth. He believed that there is no contradiction at the end of the day between those two “books”. Any apparent discrepancy or conflict is in the interpretation of one or the other of those two sources of the revelation of God. There is no discrepancy or conflict at the level of the facts themselves; the only discrepancy or conflict is in our understanding of Scripture (theology) or nature (science).

Theology and science are, at best, interpretations of the data. Theology and science are not the facts, but interpretations of the facts. Scientists and theologians have disputes and disagreement among themselves and between the disciplines. We all have preconceived ideas on ultimate and intermediate issues, but following the evidence where it leads is the approach most surely to result in the most accurate understanding.

People who identify in both camps of science and theology promote the misconception that science and theology (or science and faith if you will) are incompatible. That is unfortunate, because there shouldn’t be any tension between the two. While science is the study of the natural world and theology is the study of the super-natural world (so to speak), the two should be in perfect harmony if, indeed, a Causal Agent (who we might call God ) exists who caused the universe to begin.

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