Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Prophet Isaiah and the Real "Christmas"

As I preached out of Isaiah during December I found myself viewing Christmas differently than years past. A bit of a “mental revolution” (see Romans 12:2) has been happening inside me. But this really began, for me, last July at our Holy Spirit renewal Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. As missionary David Singh spoke about passion for outreach and mission my heart was spoken to by God. Some old things were reawakened and some new things were birthed. I was taken back to how years ago God called Linda and I to travel weekly throughout the Midwest writing songs, doing concerts, giving our testimonies, and seeing many come to be followers of Jesus as a result. I was also reminded of how God called Linda and I to be campus pastors at Michigan State University. Our goals were: to reach university students and professors for Jesus Christ, and to make disciples of them. For me it doesn’t get any better spiritually than seeing a person receive Christ, then follow Him into service in a local church or even beyond as a missionary. After hearing David preach I knew I must bring him to my church to ignite a greater passion for involvement in outreach.
So in September David came and preached about outreach and mission as worship. Then, our missionary to Mexico and beyond Chris Bajkiewicz spoke to us about having a heart for the poor. And then our Native American missionary Randy Woodley challenged us about ministering outside the walls of our church building. Plus, for me and Linda, our son Dan went to serve full-time as a missionary in Istanbul, Turkey, as one of the very few Christians there among a sea of Muslims. All of these things have worked inside me to say – I must do more in terms of reaching out to the unchurched.
Which brings me back to Isaiah and Christmas. Isaiah blasts his own self-centered people “who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land” (Isaiah 5:8). What happens when people turn their backs on God to attend to building their own little kingdoms? The results are the loss of justice for the poor and oppressed peoples of the earth (see Isaiah 1:21, 5:7, and 10:1-4). But the coming of the Christ (Isaiah 7:14; 10: 9:6) will mean precisely the return of justice and righteousness for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. So what can we do? We can follow Isaiah’s instructions: “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17). Note that without this God tells us: “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:13-15). For Isaiah, the sign of God-abandonment is self-centeredness and the resulting lack of proactive caring for the poor and oppressed. This is so significant that Jesus Himself says He will evaluate us on the Day of Judgment in terms of how we fed the poor, clothed the poor, took in the stranger, and helped those under oppression. If you don’t think this is correct I invite you to re-read Matthew 25:31-46.
One effect of this for me is that I have formed a Mission Outreach Team at our church and am pleased to tell you that, so far, 15-20 persons have responded positively. Our next meeting is Saturday morning, January 15, 10-11:30 AM, at our church building. Our first outreach will be to Alcoholics Anonymous of Monroe County on Sunday, February 13.
A few weeks ago a prophetic words was submitted to me that said this: “As you reach out beyond the four walls of the church building to the poor and “the least of these” I (God) will do a new and great thing in your midst.” I have a sense of certainty that this is correct. I especially heard it through David Singh last summer.

And that, for me, lies at the center of "Christmas." It's hard to see in the America we live in. No wonder America is becoming increasingly secular the church is considered irrelevant and impotent.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Atheist Antony Flew Now Believes in God

As an undergraduate student in philosophy many students, including myself, had to read atheist Antony Flew's famous article "Theology and Falsification." This article contained Flew's very famous "parable of the gardnener." Flew's gardener parable says this: If we walk into a garden and see weeds overgrowing the cultivated plants, then we can assume that either the gardener has abandoned the place or, as Flew believed, there really is and was no "gardener" in the first place. The world, argued Flew, is like an untended garden. It is beautiful and incredible, but no one made it and no one is watching over it. Things like natural disasters, evil, and other disruptive events make it impossible to believe in God. For an example of Flew arguing for atheism against William Lane Craig see their debate.
But now, at age 81, Flew has openly stated that he believes in God. Today we read: "At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England."
In the August/September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine Flew wrote, "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism."
The news article writes: "Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life. " Flew says it's too bad if followers of his are upset by his new belief. He states, "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads." Apparently the evidence of intelligent design in the universe has led Flew back to the existence of a gardener.
Now it will be fun to watch the atheists at infidels.org scramble to deconstruct Flew's theism.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Michael Shermer, Dostoevsky, and Leading a Moral Life

Atheist Michael Shermer, in his new book The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Share, Care, and Follow the Golden Rule, writes: "Can we lead moral lives without recourse to a transcendent being that may or may not exist? Can we construct an ethical system without religion? Most believers and theists answer no."
Shermer's comments are misleading. First, I am not sure that most believers and theists answer no. Maybe. Maybe not. However, the likes of William Lane Craig et. al. answer yes. Of course persons can be good without believing in God. The deeper response is this: without God, there is no reason to be good. Thus Nietzsche says, in the absence of God, we must move "beyond good and evil."
In the midst of his comments Shermer cites Dostoevsky's famous quote from The Brothers Karamozov: "If God does not exist, then anything goes." Dostoevsky's idea speaks to the deeper issue. Which is: of course people can be good without God. But without God, there is no real reason to be good. Thus, without God, anything goes.
Can we be moral beings? Yes. Can we construct moral systems? Yes. Should we be moral beings? If there is no God-as-Moral-Originator, the answer seems to be: no.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Belief and Death

My mother, Esther Piippo, died last Saturday, November 20, 2004, at 2:15 AM. My brother Mike and I and Linda were able to be with her just before she died. She was weak and frail, having struggled with a failing heart valve, an infection that did not go away for many months, an increasing inability to eat and drink, and with that the loss of desire to eat and drink.
In her weakness she found it excruciatingly tough to even open her eyes. I asked her once, "Mom, open your eyes - it's me. I'm here with you." And just for a brief moment there was a small window of visual opportunity as she opened her eyes, saw me, and I smiled at her.
Now she is with God. Now she is in eternity. This was her hope and is mine also.
I find this hope to be real and convincing intellectually. But also, experientially it works to give me inner peace. At a time like this I see that, yes, I am a believer.
All the needed words of love were said between me and mom. No bitterness, no unhealed wounds, no regrets. This is the way it should happen and it makes a huge difference in the aftermath.
So I give a final earthly tribute to you, mom. You were a faithful wife to dad and a loving mother to Mike and me. You still are the best cook I've ever known. You turned me on to nature early, and I still watch birds because of you. Your love for music and artistic creativity hooked me on to the guitar and songwriting. Your tenderness towards this world's "least of these" was Christlike. You prayed with me and held me and loved me even when I went astray from God as a late teen. You accepted my beautiful wife Linda and loved my three boys. Now you are in eternity with dad - see you very soon...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Jesus the Logician

One of the many things I appreciate about Dallas Willard is his biblical integration of heart and mind. For a good example of this see his article Jesus the Logican. Here, e.g., is a nice quote from this article:
"We need to understand that Jesus is a thinker, that this is not a dirty word but an essential work, and that his other attributes do not preclude thought, but only insure that he is certainly the greatest thinker of the human race: "the most intelligent person who ever lived on earth." He constantly uses the power of logical insight to enable people to come to the truth about themselves and about God from the inside of their own heart and mind. Quite certainly it also played a role in his own growth in "wisdom." (Luke 2:52)
Often, it seems to me, we see and hear his deeds and words, but we don't think of him as one who knew how to do what he did or who really had logical insight into the things he said. We don't automatically think of him as a very competent person. He multiplied the loaves and fishes and walked on water, for example--but, perhaps, he didn't know how to do it, he just used mindless incantations or prayers. Or he taught on how to be a really good person, but he did not have moral insight and understanding. He just mindlessly rattled off words that were piped in to him and through him. Really?
This approach to Jesus may be because we think that knowledge is human, while he was divine. Logic means works, while he is grace. Did we forget something there? Possibly that he also is human? Or that grace is not opposed to effort but to earning? But human thought is evil, we are told. How could he think human thought, have human knowledge? So we distance him from ourselves, perhaps intending to elevate him, and we elevate him right out of relevance to our actual lives--especially as they involve the use of our minds. That is why the idea of Jesus as logical, of Jesus the logician, is shocking. And of course that extends to Jesus the scientist, researcher, scholar, artist, literary person. He just doesn't 'fit' in those areas. Today it is easier to think of Jesus as a "TV evangelist" than as an author, teacher or artist in the contemporary context. But now really!--if he were divine, would he be dumb, logically challenged, uninformed in any area? Would he not instead be the greatest of artists or speakers? Paul was only being consistent when he told the Colossians "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed in him." (2:3) "

Monday, November 01, 2004

Mythology, "Dying & Rising Gods," and the Uniqueness of Jesus

Theolobloggy member Joe writes:

"I wanted to ask you what you thought about people who say that Christianity is nothing new in religion. I've heard people say that many religions have a "god" that comes to earth to save people, religions that are way older than Christianity. I kind of have a feeling that's not true, but I don't know how to discuss that with them.
Thanks John.

Thank you Joe for the question.

First, we can respond to this by pointing out that Jesus is an historical figure, whereas the gods of ancient Greece and Gnosticism are not historical.

Secondly, there is strong inductive evidence for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. See, e.g., N.T. Wright’s recent The Resurrection of the Son of God and the “Historical Jesus” section of William Lane Craig’s website.

Now note this:

  • Historical arguments cannot be made for mythological gods actually dying and rising from the dead.
  • Jesus, unlike all mythological figures, actually existed.
  • A strong inductive argument can be made that Jesus was crucified and later rose from the dead.
  • This makes Christianity radically different from mythological stories about dying and rising gods.
  • Even if there was one story about a dying and rising god that had a few similarities to the story of Jesus the existence of this story would not invalidate the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus any more than would the existence of an ancient story having similarities with the tragic 911 event invalidate that event's actual occurence in history.

But now, and most importantly, note also this: the "dying and rising gods" theory is outmoded and inaccurate, thereby false. Here's why:

  • For a more up-to-date study of dying and rising gods see: Tryggve Mettinger, The Riddle of the Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East. Such myths are themselves suspect as regards being at all analogous to the biblical claims of what happened to Jesus.
  • See David Frankfurter's (Univerity of New Hampshire) comments on Mettinger's work. Frankfurter writes: "It is precisely in this rigorous attention to differences and to the various meanings of gods' deaths and reappearances that Mettinger's work fractures the very usefulness of the category "dying and rising god." By the end of the monograph, the category emerges as a rather simplistic generalization for a very wide array of gods and a very murky range of rituals."
  • In other words, the "dying and rising gods" mythology has been called into question. The work of J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough (from which this idea came from) has been and is being discredited.
  • And once more from Frankfurter: "Most recently, the historian of religions Jonathan Z. Smith and the semiticist Mark Smith have declared the myth of the dying and rising god a fantasy, the product of uncritical comparison rather than a close consideration of evidence. More to the point, J. Z. Smith has used the dying/rising god myth as an example of the kinds of errors that cripple the enterprise of comparative religion when scholars ignore the following principles: comparison must always be towards differentiation in regard to a general category ("dying/rising god") rather than in finding links across individual examples ("Osiris like Attis"); concepts of "myth" and "ritual" must be defined and regarded as fundamentally separate dimensions for narrative; one should avoid generalizing elaborate patterns across all religions; one should consider the evidence for a myth or a ritual as the product of a particular historical context, not as timeless outcrops of a widespread pattern; one should not take similarity as evidence for genealogy or influence; and finally, in the face of evidence for gods who "die" but don't "rise," one should not impose the total Frazerian pattern but accept that one transition might occur without the other."
  • So - one can answer someone who still says this sort of thing by saying: There really are no clear, adequate historical antecedents to the death and resurrection of Jesus.



Sunday, October 31, 2004

Spiritual Coaching

For information and resources having to do with Spiritual Coaching check out my Coaching Website.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


The idea of “hell” is a tough one for some people. Yet I believe the notion of hell is sensible in light of the character of God. The biblical teaching is this: every friend you have, every person you love, all those you work with, all persons in your neighborhood, from the elderly couple down the street to the baby born to the young couple next door, will one day enter into an eternity with God or an eternity separated from God. Thus every one of them needs to be saved. Romans 10:9 states, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." And Romans 10:13 says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." “Saved” – from what? From our sins. But why do we need to be saved from our sins? Because God is holy and cannot tolerate one micro-ounce of sin.
The Old Testament expresses this idea in Daniel 12:2 – “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Jesus talked about hell in Matthew 10:28, Matthew 16:26, and Matthew 25:41, 46 - "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." For me we have a logical argument that goes like this.
· If Jesus is God the Son, then the words of Jesus are from God and can be considered true.
· Jesus is God the Son (by His historical resurrection).
· Therefore the words of Jesus are true, to include what He says about heaven and hell.
What the apostle Paul says about hell in Romans 9:22 moves us to believe that God treats all persons with respect. Paul writes: “God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction.” The word “fit” can be viewed as being in the middle voice form which implies personal responsibility. For example, here in Monroe when a person wants to get “fitted” for hunting they go to that incredible store Cabela’s. But there is also a lifestyle, reflected by a person’s own life choices, that “fits” them for their eternal destiny. There is, so to speak, a “Ca-hell-a’s” that “outfits” a person for eternal destruction, and there is the choice of Romans 10:9-13 that “outfits” a person for heaven by clothing them in a righteousness that is not their own. God, being a respecter every person’s choice, allows people to outfit themselves either for Him or for hell. God does not send people to hell; people choose hell and receive the results of their choice.
Note that, if there were no hell, the Cross would not have been needed. “The Passion of the Christ” would then be a nonsensical act. This is because our sins would not make a separation between us and God, and there would be no need for Christ to die to forgive our sins. This is serious stuff, because the absence of hell would mean that God tolerates sin. This is why the great theologian R.C. Sproul has written, "I can't think of anything more politically incorrect to preach in 21st century America than the wrath of God, or the justice of God, or the doctrine of Hell… I think what we face in the church today is a virtual eclipse of the character of God."
On July 4, 1854, Charlie Peace, a well-known criminal in London, was hung. The Anglican Church, which had a ceremony for everything, even had a ceremony for hanging people. So when Charlie Peace was marched to the gallows, a priest read these words from the Prayer Book: "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring."When these chilling words were read, Charlie Peace stopped in his tracks, turned to the priest, and shouted in his face, "Do you believe that? Do you believe that?" The priest, taken aback by this verbal assault, stammered for a moment then said, "Well…I…suppose I do." "Well, I don't," said Charlie. "But if I did, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Great Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me."
Jesus believed in and taught about hell, and thus He crawled up that hill dragging the Cross on His back. Bill Hybels says, "Are we responsible for teaching the whole message of the Gospel of Christ? Absolutely. Anybody who doesn't, I think the Scriptures are clear, will stand accountable before God someday." You and I are accountable for teaching the whole message of Christ. Eternal destinies are at stake.(For a philosophical understanding of hell, see William Lane Craig, Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism
, and Politically Incorrect Salvation.

Suffering, Good, and the Glory of God

Would God allow suffering in a person’s life if it would bring glory to Him? What if my suffering would help others to find God and to know God? Let’s take this a bit further: Would God purpose suffering in my life if it would bring glory to Him? I’m asking this question because I believe it will guide us to understand Romans 8:28, which reads: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Or, as The Message puts it: “That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
First, to understand this great promise we have to understand the meaning of “good.” Biblically “good” is defined in relation to the being of God. Seven times, in Genesis chapter 1, God creates and we then hear the words – “And God saw that it was good.” James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shdows.” “Good” has to have a standard, otherwise the term “good” has no meaning. For example, many years ago I played the flute. I have not touched a flute in 30 years. If I played it now and someone said that I am a "good" flute player, I would say – “I don’t think you know what “good” flute playing really is. I heard Alexander Zonjic at the Monroe Jazz Festival this summer – that is “good” flute playing.” “Good” has a standard, and the source of all good on earth derives from the very essence and being of God who is, in His essence, Good.
God works all things together for “good.” This means: “Good” as understood by Him. God Himself is the greatest Good. In that earthly things are good they reflect their Creator. If our lives are “good” they give glory to God. And this means that God is working all things together in our lives so that our lives give glory to God and point people to God.

Perhaps you have heard someone misuse Romans 8:28 like this: “OK, you may have lost your job, but God has a better job for you, because all things are working for your good.” The problem with this is that it’s far too narrow and, often, it’s self-centered and even materialistic. The ultimate good is God’s glory. And God is glorified when His children live as Jesus did and attain the glory He has destined them for. God may take us out of a secure, well-paying job in order to shake us out of a materialistic lifestyle that does not honor Him, and we may never have as good a job again. Of course God can include material blessings in the Romans 8:28 promise. But it is a mistake to define “good” in Romans 8:28 by what we want. The greatest good for you is your life used by God to glorify God. To bring people to a knowledge of God. Remember that God is not working to make us “happy” but to fulfill His purposes.
Paul is not saying that all things are good. He is saying all things are turned by God for good. This does not mean that God removes all suffering. It does mean that God takes the sufferings and works them together for good, which is glorifying to Him and accomplishes His purposes. "All Things" includes the "bad things"
Would God allow a person to suffer if it gave glory to Him and accomplished His purposes? Of course. Just look at Joseph and Job and Jonah and Paul. Esther suffered, but it was for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Jesus suffered. And it was all worked out to the glory of God and for our eternal good. So let us love Him! And so we will be blessed with the phenomenal promise of Romans 8:28

Monday, September 06, 2004

Tattoos: Scarification and Atonement

Tattoos are a contemporary cultural phenomenon. Cultural phenomena do not occur in a vacuum but signify underlying meanings. What do tattoos signify? Tom Beaudoin, in his book Virtual Faith, argues that tattoos signify deeper religious meaning. Beaudoin says:
"Clearly, there's an economic dimension, and there's -- we choose to say that tattoo parlors are selling a product. Clearly there's a sociological dimension, which is to say, people want to be part of a crowd, so they get tattooed, but also, I think we have to ask whether there's a spiritual dimension, and what I began to suspect -- and this has been confirmed in the last six months of touring with the book and talking with young people -- is that this experience of being deeply marked, that is the experience of being tattooed, is a religious experience, however implicit. "And so the widespread interest in tattooing is evidence of a religious impulse, a religious quest, that people are trying to satisfy through these particular, secular goods. "And I must say, as I try to explain this to people -- this is not only my idea, of course. All sorts of religious traditions throughout history have used body markings and body piercings to express religious identity, and as I discussed this with young folks around the United States, many of them do find that that explanation has resonance for them, that this was a deeply marking experience, you might say, for them, an experience of permanence in a culture of flux."
So, while many get tattoos to be "part of the crowd," others find religious meaning in being "scarified." Beaudoin makes an analogy between this and Christ being scarred for our sins. For some, it may be that getting a tattoo is a way of being wounded for transgressions.
My own feeling is that there is a lot of woundedness in America that comes from our increasingly parentless generation and the accompanying feelings of betrayal and rejection. I meet the parentless generation weekly and see their wounds. Scarification as a way of atoning for the sins of others thus is a sad signifier of a particularly painful time.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Middle Knowledge, God's Foreknowledge, & Human Free Will

The doctrine of Middle Knowledge (MK) is today especially presented by philosopher William Lane Craig. Historically the MK position is attributed to the 16th-century Counter-Reformation theorist Luis de Molina. After him, the MK position is also called Molinism.
The basic problem MK addresses is: How could God know all things while at the same time persons make truly free choices? More than this, can God purpose and create things that must come to pass AND retain free will in persons so that persons are responsibloe for their choices? This is possible, say Molinists, if God has "middle knowledge."
What is MK? MK is this: God knows not only what "shall come to pass, he knows what would have come to pass if he had chose to create any other world - that is his "middle" knowledge" (from Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, eds. James K. Beilby & Paul R. Eddy). As William Lane Craig writes, "By employing his counterfactual knowledge, God can plan a world down to its last detail and yet do so without annihilating creaturely freedom" (Ib., 122).
Now this sounds like a contradiction. Not so, say philosophical Molinists.
One key to understanding MK is to understand "counterfactuals of creaturely freedom" (CCFs). CCFs are "If... then..." statements. Such as: "If John (in certain specified circumstances) were faced with the choice between X and Y, John would choose (either X or Y)." This "If-then" statement is a "counterfactual." Because, if it is true that, given the specified circumstances, John choose X, then the statement "If John were faced with the choice between X and Y, John would choose Y" is counter to the fact that John would actually choose X.
Now the question is: Are there true counterfactuals? The Molinist assumes there are. Is this assumption logically contradictory? The Molinist shows how it is not. Therefore, it is logically possible that there are true counterfactuals. God, knowing all truth. therefore knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.
So, what's the point of all this? If there are true counterfactuals and God knows the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, then we have a logically possible situation where God foreknows all free choices humans will make. Thus divine foreknowledge is not incompatible with human freedom.
The logical implication of this is that because God has MK, God can create a world where His purposes can best be accomplished. In doing this God does not "force" persons to choose what He wants, thus persons have free will.
Finally, note this: the Molinist is not obligated to argue for the truth of MK. The Molinist is proposing a model where it makes logical sense to say both that God foreknows all human choices and humans make such choices freely.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Plausibility of Life After Death

What happens when we die? There are two options:
We cease to exist
We continue to exist
If there is no God, it is difficult to believe that, after death, we continue to exist. Indeed, atheism implies the end of personal existence upon death. This is because life after death requires a supernatural event. There is nothing in nature that suggests persons continue to exist after dying. Continued personal existence after death is non-natural. On atheism there are no non-natural events. This is called “methodological naturalism” or “philosophical naturalism.” The methodological naturalist finds the idea of heaven absurd. But of course. Such an idea is absurd on the assumption of atheism.
But if there is a God, then continued personal existence after death is possible. It is possible if by “God” we mean an all-powerful personal being who created and sustains all there is. God, on this definition, is able to perform non-natural acts. Continued personal existence upon dying is then possible. It is certainly sensible, and far from absurd. Such an idea is plausible on the assumption of theism.
The answer to the question of life after death begins and ends with the answer to the question: Does God exist?
It is reasonable to believe that God exists.Therefore it is reasonable to believe there is life after death.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Ontological Dichotomies

The deeper you go inside a person the more universal is their experience. Deep inside the human heart, persons are all the same. In my years of spiritual journaling and responding to more than 400 Christian leaders from around the world, as well as from my own studies, I have identified 7 ontological dichotomies that are cross-cultural, cross-temporal, and cross-gender. For example, every person struggles with Affirmation vs. Rejection. All persons have a need to be accepted. By somebody or by something. The Ultimate Acceptor is God, and until we find the unconditional love of God we search for God-substitutes.
Therefore it does not matter what a person's exterior appearance looks like. Because the deeper we are allowed to go inside every person, the more we deal with the same things.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Uniqueness of Jesus

C.S. Lewis was once asked, what is the difference between Christianity and the other world religions. Lewis responded, "That's easy. It's grace." The story of Jesus is about God coming to us in a great act of grace. The other major world religions are about persons trying to achieve acceptance with God (or gods, or some God-concept) by means of their own deeds. I believe this is why Christianity today is the only real global religion, impacting all cultures.
I saw this firsthand in visits to India and Singapore. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese primitive religion all teach the need for persons to do good deeds in the hope they will be accepted by God or the gods. As I sat in a village in central India and told the people that, with Jesus, there is no "caste system," but that God loves all persons by his grace, I sensed great hope in their hearts. It is easy for me to see how religions based on particular laws and deeds remain mostly culturally localized, while the message of a loving, gracious God who has come to us spreads all over the planet.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The DaVinci Code & the Silence of Scholars

Today's Sunday New York Times has Dan Brown's fictional book The Da Vinci Code as #1 - again. Why? People are looking for a good summer read, and DVC appears to be that.
But its historical claims are false.
In my Ph.D studies I took one of my comprehensive exams in the area of Christology (the study or doctrine of Christ). The many books on my shelf tell the tale of the amount of study I had to do in this area - from the New Testament documents, and the Old Testament Messianic passages, to the early Christological formulations at Chalcedon and Nicea, then on through history to the great contemporary Christological works of scholars like Edward Schillebeeckx. I love studying Christology so much that it remains one of the main areas of my personal reading and scholarly investigation. Thus I have a pretty good idea of who the main Christological scholars are, past and present.
How many of these great scholars, who come from a variety of theological perspectives, are paying attention to Dan Brown's claimed scholarly theses? None. Not one. This is because his ideas are considered nonsensical because non-historical and groundlessly speculative. Actually, the very few who are paying attention to Brown are doing so only to write rebuttals so that the many people reading DVC will find it only a good read and nothing more.
No serious scholar believes that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that this "fact" has been hidden by the church. The great New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes: "We can say with certainty that there is absolutely no early historical evidence that [Mary Magdalene's] relationship with Jesus was anything other than that of a disciple to her Master teacher."
The Great Silence among the great scholars tells us something; viz., that what works as interesting fiction does not thereby translate into historical fact.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Evil, Suffering, Atheism and Theism

Why is there so much evil in the world? Why is there so much suffering? While these two questions seem to be asking the same thing, they are really two different questions. This is because the word “evil” makes a value judgment word, while “suffering” (or “pain”) is essentially value-neutral.
I recently accompanied my mother to see her doctor. My mother suffers with the pain of arthritis. The doctor pointed to the “smiley scale” on the wall and asked, “How much pain are you experiencing?” On a scale of 1 to 5, what is your level of pain? My mother said, a “2” or a “3.”
My mother experiences ongoing pain from her arthritis. Is this pain “evil?” Is my mother’s pain “unjust” or “unfair?” To ask questions like this is to ask for a value judgment. Value judgments only make sense if measured against non-subjective moral standards with which most agree; viz., “goodness,” “justice,” and “fairness.” In other words, what sense would it make to ask if something was evil if there was no such thing as good? Further, if by "good" we meant only subjective ideas of good then "evil" would fluctuate and vary with a particular person's personal idea of "good."
Non-subjective moral standards are, by definition, objective moral standards. Objective moral standards are moral standards that exist outside of human subjectivity. I believe objective moral standards exist, and find their locus of meaning in the nature of God.
But note this. A person who believes there is no God-as-Locus-of-Moral-Standards cannot really use the word “evil” in a question like, “Why is there so much evil in this world?” This is precisely because the atheist believes there are no common objective moral values to which all persons ultimately appeal. All the atheist can really say is something like: “Suffering exists.” And, “I don’t like suffering.” But, on atheism, one cannot universally refer to suffering as “evil.” This makes no sense outside of theism.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Spiderman, Essence, & Existence

The core question of "Spiderman 2" is: "Who am I?" Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, has a crisis of identity. Parker's decision to ignore his true identity fails to suppress what is really in his heart. Ultimately he accepts who he really is, thus finding meaning and purpose in life. And joy.
Spiderman 2 illustrates the ancient truth that, until one discovers their real, essential identity, there is no meaning and purpose to life. Atheistic existentialists like Sartre and Camus realized this, and were led to despair. This is because, for them, instead of there being any ultimate meaning to persons, persons create their own meaning. Putting this in existentialist terms, instead of essence preceding existence, existence precedes essence. Persons create their own human nature through free choices. On atheism persons do not have an "essence" independent of their existence. So, one has to invent their own essence.
This is what Peter Parker does in the middle of Spiderman 2. He tries to walk the existentialist walk by creating his own life-meaning to the tune of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." But this fails. Ultimately he cannot deny his true, given nature. He only needs courage to accept who he is. Parker's return to meaning and joy lies in rediscovering his essential being that precedes existential being. 

As a theist I believe every person has a God-created essential being. Persons are created in the image of God and, as Augustine wrote, are "restless until they rest in God." This is also the thesis of Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life. Spiderman 2 illustrates the great truth that our hearts will remain restless until they rest in the essential being that God has created every person to be.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Hypocrisy and Humanity

I often meet persons who think little of Christianity because they have met Christians who are "hypocrites." Here are some things I think about hypocrisy.
  • Hypocrisy is not imperfection. A hypocrite is one who does not admit imperfections.
  • All persons are imperfect. No person is perfectly consistent in what they believe. Persons who do not own up to their inconsistencies are hypocrites who posture themselves as perfectly consistent with what they believe.
  • Persons who claim "I believe in nothing" really do believe in something; viz., that they believe in nothing. Such persons rank as the world's greatest hypocrites. This is because every time they feel moral outrage at something (like getting angry at hypocritical Christians) they show that they really do believe in ethical "oughts" and "ought nots." This contradicts their "I believe in nothing" philosophy, thus making them hypocrites.
  • Hypocrisy thus is a form of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is found in all persons, whether they are religious or not.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Vacation & Books to Read

I'm leaving on vacation Thursday and won't be back until 7/26. So, I probably won't be adding any posts for a while.
I'm taking with me the following reading material: Albert Borgmann's Power Failure; Marva Dawn's Unfettered Hope; Thomas Merton's The Inner Experience; and Lee Strobel's The Case for A Creator.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Personhood and Abortion

Logically, personhood begins with the fertilized egg. The idea that the conceptus (= fertilized egg) is not a "person" but becomes a person somewhere along the way is rejected by atheists and theists alike. I call this the "sudden personhood" argument; viz., that the conceptus is not a person but eventually becomes a person.
An atheist has reason to reject the sudden personhood argument because atheism implies that human life has no "soul." Therefore, there is nothing special about persons. Persons, on atheism, are simply animals. Human animal life begins with the fertilized egg, and nothing "special" (i.e., "becomes a 'person')happens on life's journey.
Christian theists believe personhood is defined by having a soul. The human soul is not somehow inserted into a fetus along the developmental way. If so, how could this be determined?
A conceptus is as much a person as you or I. Do you have pictures of yourself from 10 years ago? That was you. Do you have pictures of yourself as a baby? That was you. Do you have intrauteral ultrasound pictures of yourself? That was you. If a picture could have been taken of you as a conceptus - that also was you. "You" were once a fertilzed egg. Had someone aborted you, "you" would not be here to tell about it.
As a conceptus you were helpless to protect yourself. You were extremely limited in your abilities. But the potential was there to develop greater abilities. I believe it is most rational to hold that the conceptus is fully a person. Then, we do best to hold to a developmental view of personhood in the sense that persons grow and change while being, at root, the same person.
For deeper study read Francis Beckwith's book Politically Correct Death.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"The Terminal," Grace, and Redemption

I saw "The Terminal" last night. It's a movie about grace, purity, love, and redemption. Tom Hanks plays the redemptive figure who, by his refusal to aquiesce to Stanley Tucci's hypocritical law-filled, immoral seductions, remains focused on his life mission. In the process many in the terminal find redemption. Even Tucci's blind servants see the truth and walk into the spiritual freedom that Hanks' moral purity and grace proscribes. Some, like the Russian man with the illegal prescription drugs to save his dying father, are saved, set free, and can only bow in worship and gratitude. The very hand that extends in mercy is raised as the symbol of hope and freedom. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the deeply conflicted flight attendant who has allowed her identity to be swallowed up by pretenders to love. Zeta-Jones cannot take the final step into pure love and freedom. Hanks finally returns to his homeland, having accomplished his father's mission and much more.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Objective Moral Values and God's Existence

A moral relativist believes right and wrong are relative to individuals and cultures. Moral values are "subjective." Therefore moral values are not objective.
If there are no objective moral values, and moral values are only subjective, then moral values are not binding on persons. Moral values then become matters of personal taste.
Only if there exist objective moral values can such moral values be binding on persons. Only if there is a God can there exist objective moral values. Objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God exists. For more on this see William Lane Craig's article "The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality."
Note: Nietzsche and others have affirmed that atheism implies no objective "good" and no objective "evil." One goes "beyond good and evil" and is left only with "power." I find Nietzsche's atheism convincing in the sense that, were I an atheist, his views on the senselessness of objectively binding moral values follows consistently from the premise of there being no God.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Metallica and Ontological Dichotomies

Henri Nouwen has said that the deeper you go inside a person the more universal the experience becomes. My own research and work in spiritual direction confirms this. I have found that there are what I call "ontological dichotomies" that all persons share such as, e.g., trust vs. control.
This means that cultural differences, though real, are on the surface and in a sense superficial. The deeper you go, the more we are all alike, no matter how we dress. Ontological dichotomies are cross cultural, cross-temporal, cross-ethnic, and cross-gender. Whether a person is 90 or 9, issues of, e.g., trust vs. control lie deep.
Recently this was confirmed to me in yet another way. I picked up last Sunday's New York Times and read the magazine article on Metallica . The band has spent a lot of time in counseling therapy with a man named Philip Towle. Towle writes: ''If you strip down all human beings to their core, you'll find the same stuff,'' claims Towle, who calls himself a ''performance enhancement coach'' (he is not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist). ''You will find fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of being controlled, fear of being unloved and the desire to love and be loved. That becomes more complicated with hard-rock bands, because -- when you exist in a mode of instant gratification -- you're never hungry for depth of intimacy. Sex, drugs and booze are glorified in rock 'n' roll, but those are really just symptoms of the desire for relief.''
Which again shows that, deep down, the members of Metallica are no different than The Osmonds.

Experience and Logic

One of the philosophy classes I teach at our county community college is Logic. Logic seems to be hard-wired into persons. For example, if one were to deny that logic is hard-wired into persons one would have to use logic to do so. That is, the argument against logic would itself have to have a conclusion supported by one or more premises, the conclusion must follow logically from the premises (i.e., the argument must be formally valid), and the premises must be true.
One cannot meaningfully argue non-logically against the universality of logic. When one tries to do so, or does so without hardly trying, the result often is that informal logical fallacies are committed.
I have heard some say that postmoderns are not interested in logic but value experience above logic. But even if this is true, an experiential postmodern person would have to use logic to make a case that experience is to be preferred above logic.

The Meaning of 'Meaning'

Does life have ultimate meaning? To answer this question we need to ask: what is the meaning of 'meaning'?
I define 'meaning' as: situatedness within a context. The reason we didn't get the meaning of a joke is that, as one sometimes says, "You had to be there." To understand a joke one must share the context in which the joke is situated. To understand the meaning of a foreign word one must be situated within the particular linguistic context.
Meaning is contextual. If there were no context, there would be no meaning.
So, does your life, my life, have ultimate meaning? Only if it has a place within a coherent context.
If there is no Creator God, there is no coherent, cosmic context. If no context, no meaning, because 'meaning' is situatedness within a context. Jean-Paul Sartre understood this, and believed that in a godless universe life has no meaning or purpose beyond the goals that each man sets for himself. In Being and Nothingness Sartre wrote: "Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth." Which is to say: without God human life has no ultimate, cosmic meaning. Without God, there is no "grander scheme of things."
Commenting on Sartre, philosopher Leslie Stevenson writes: "There is no ultimate meaning or purpose inherent in human life; in this sense life is 'absurd'. We are 'forlorn', 'abandoned' in the world to look after ourselves completely. Sartre insists that the only foundation for values is human freedom, and that there can be no external or objective justification for the values anyone chooses to adopt." (Seven Theories of Human Nature)
Sartre is correct. Atheists who attempt to give life meaning are only spinning absurdities out of their own isolated existences. Only if a God who created the universe exists can our lives have meaning.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Free Will and Materialistic Reductionism

If there is no God, then persons are entirely the result of materialistic processes.
If persons are the result of materialistic processes, then persons do not have "souls."
The person who believes that we are only the result of materialistic processes is a philosophical materialist.
Free will is a problem for the philosophical materialist. It becomes difficult for the philosophical materialistic (= everything is matter and explicable in terms of material causality) to explain "free will."
One of the best contemporary examples of a philosophical materialist attempting to show that free will is compatible with determinism and indeterminism (this is called "compatibleism") is Owen Flanagan in his book The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of Mind and How to Reconcile Them.
Flanagan writes: "The mind is the brain - mental life is realized in our brains - and it is subject to natural laws" (p. 145) This means that all mental events have a cause which is either deterministic or indeterministic. There are no uncaused mental events. Thus, no mental events are - in a Cartesian sense - purely free.
Flanagan is saying the following:
1) The Cartesian view of mental events is false.
2) There is no God

3) Therefore, because there is no God, and because Cartesian free will is logically absurd, there must be another explanation for moral agency.
I think Flanagan's book is very well-written. It serves as an excellent example of what a person does with free will if they are a philosophical materialist.
Here are some thoughts I have about Flanagan's book.
#1 - I feel he has a false dichotomy when he contrasts Cartesian disembodied mental activity with his physicalist alternative. It's true that, e.g., some Christians were influenced by Descartes' mind-body dualism. But Judeo-Christianity is precisely not mind-body dualism. Thus for Flanagan to reject Descartes is not the same as rejecting Christians who argue for the reality of persons as psycho-physical agencies and as having a soul. (USC prof. of philosophy Dallas Willard , for example.)
#2 - Flanagan's arguments for the implausibility of God are weak. For example, Flanagan dismisses the idea that God exists, using a very weak and uninformed criticism of the cosmological argument. He does not take into account the more powerful versions of this argument as presented by William Lane Craig .
#3 - Flanagan cannot get away from Cartesian language himself in putting forth his argument against Descartes. Is Flanagan's belief that Descartes is wrong causally determined? If so, why believe it to be true? He addresses this objection on pp. 149-150, which is good. But I s explanation weak and reasoning circular. Is "Flanagan" able to modify future actions? it's hard to see how he can take any credit for such modification if the mind is only the brain. I still find myself wondering how a neo-compatibilist like Flanagan can "know" that something is "true."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Borgmann, Technology, and Culture

One of the books I am now reading is Power Failure: Christianity In the Culture of Technology, by philosopher Albert Borgmann. Here are some deep Borgmann quotes:
"There is at least a drowsy and perhaps even a dawning sense in the contemporary culture that the paradigmatic blessings of technology are vacuous."
"All color, flavor, and texture has been bleached from material culture. It has been reduced to one aspect, namely, of power. The distribution of goods is taken to be crucially and finally a distribution of power."
"Material culture in the advanced industrial democracies spans a spectrum from commanding to disposable reality. The former reality calls forth a life of engagement that is oriented within the physical and social world. The latter induces a life of distraction that is isolated from the environment and from other people. There are pairs of terms that detail further the styles of life corresponding to the end points of the cultural continuum, namely, excellent vs. banal, deep vs. shallow, communal vs. individualist, celebratory vs. consumerist, and others."

Monday, June 21, 2004

ID Theory & Neo-Darwinism

Intelligent Design (ID) theorists are challenging neo-Darwinian macroevolutionary theorists. A growing number of scientists and scholars are finding neo-Darwinist explanations insufficient to explain biological complexity. For example, biotic things appear to be like machines. If biotic things are like machines then they are, as Michael Behe claims in his book Darwin's Black Box, "irreducibly complex." Irreducibly complex organisms cannot be explained by neo-Darwinism precisely because partially made machines confer no selective evolutionary advantage. Thus Behe quotes Darwin himself, writing in The Origin of Species: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Many machines not only are not formed this way but could not have formed this way. If biotic organisms are really like machines, then Darwin's explanation fails.

The Passion of the Christ

When Linda and I saw “The Passion of the Christ” we stayed until the film credits were over. While we were both emotionally and spiritually moved, Linda had not cried until she heard an older man who was sitting right behind us say, “If that were really true, it would be the most perfect story ever.” I now want to speak to you about this issue of “truth” and the resurrection.
In my Philosophy of Religion course at our community college we are talking about death and the afterlife. The book we use includes the opinions of atheists, Hindus, and various kinds of theists (people who believe in God). I also teach about what Buddhists and Muslims believe happens to a person when they die, and what they say about how to get to the afterlife.
I also teach what, as a Christian, I believe. I spent an entire Wednesday evening sharing with and teaching my students about this. I began by telling them, “I want you to know that I really believe this. I am passionate about this. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
There are 35 students in my class. It’s a wonderful group to be with, and includes Christians, agnostics (people who don’t know what to believe about God), and atheists. I feel the class likes and respects me, and I feel the same way about them. So as I began to share about what I, their professor, believes about death and the afterlife, I did so with enthusiasm, and also an awareness of a spiritual battle now happening in that classroom. Here, briefly, is what I shared that evening.
First, I told the class that the truth of Christianity rises or falls with the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:17 – “If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” While it is true that our experience with Christ means very much, the truth of our faith is grounded in an historical fact. Jesus really rose from the dead. Without this, we’re fools for being Christians. With this, we have the foundation for our hope in heaven.
Second, I had the class read an article by the Christian scholar William Lane Craig. (You can access this article here.) Bill Craig is a friend of mine (I was in his wedding many years ago), and I have thanked God for his tremendous ministry in defending our faith. In this article Bill makes an argument for the resurrection that goes likes this:
1) The appearances of Jesus after he died can be shown to be historically true
2) Nearly all biblical scholars believe the empty tomb is an historical fact
3) The best explanation for the beginning of the Christian movement is the real resurrection of Jesus
4) Therefore, it is most reasonable to believe in the actual, historical resurrection of Jesus
I then began to explain and argue for #s 1, 2, and 3. I shared with the students the idea that Christianity is an historical religion rooted and grounded in historical details and facts. Some asked questions. All took notes. As far as I could tell the class was thinking with me about Jesus and His resurrection.
Which now brings me back to the man in the theater. The story of the cross and resurrection of the Christ is the most “perfect story” ever. It is the greatest Love Story of all time. But it is not just a story. After talking about what a waste our lives would be as Christians if Jesus had not actually risen in history, Paul then writes: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Historical reasoning presents a strong inductive argument that it really happened. Thus our hope in everlasting life is grounded in historical truth.

The Cause of Disappointment

"Disenchantment comes not from failure but from success. It is success which disappoints us because we had so thoroughly expected it to be the crown of life."
- Emilie Griffith, Turning

Life's Basic Question

Henri Nouwen writes, "The basic question of the spiritual life is: 'Who do you belong to?'"

Refuse to Offer the Sacrifice of Fools

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; but I have come so that you might have life, and life to the fullest.” As I see it, the “thief” wants three things from us:
1. Our experience of the loving presence of God
2. Our response of loving God back
3. Our act of giving this love away to others
How does the thief do this? By fulfilling his “job description,” which is “accuser.” Fault-finder. Finger-pointer. Judger. This has been Satan’s strategy from Genesis 3:12 through Revelation 12:10. The “fault-finder” works in two ways. First, he works internally, inside us. He whispers words like “You are nobody,” “No one likes you,” “You will never succeed,” “You are a failure in God’s eyes,” and so on and on. Secondly, he works through other people to communicate to us these things. I believe that Satan’s greatest pleasures are when he succeeds in tempting Christian brothers and sisters to whisper and murmur such accusations through the ungodly vehicles of gossip and slander. In Romans 1:28-31 gossip and slander are marks of evil, wickedness, and a depraved mind. As this mentally depraved activity happens “life to the fullest” gets stolen, destroyed, and killed. That’s horrible, isn’t it? What can we do? Here are some things the Bible tells us so we can have victory in this area and thus release more people into the loving presence of God.
1. Refuse to offer the “sacrifice of fools.” This “sacrifice” is described in Ecclesiastes 5:1-2. The “sacrifice of fools” is to “be quick with your mouth and hasty in your heart.” The remedy is to “let your words be few.”
2. Meditate in your heart on whatever things are good, true, and beautiful (Phil. 4:8). That which is meditated on in the heart comes out of the mouth. Meditate on the faults of other people and guess what comes out of the mouth? Note the intimate link between what goes on in the heart and what comes out of the mouth in Psalm 19:14 – “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
3. Resolve that your mouth will not sin. Psalm 17:3 states, “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” Decide not to sin with your mouth. Can you do it? One of the enemy’s lies is the whisper “You’ll never succeed at this.” But that is another of Satan’s deceiving strategies. Remember – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And, you’ll sleep better at night.
The thief’s strategy is to get the followers of Jesus so much in disunity that a powerful corporate voice cannot unite in its focus and praise of our Savior. This angers me. I want to see every one of you experience the Christ and His promised “life to the fullest.” Therefore let us make our heart-meditations the good, true, and beautiful things of God and our mouths will follow in united praise to our King Who visited our world and remains by His Spirit to offer life like we’ve never known it before.

Plantinga's Argument Against Evolutionary Naturalism

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga's argument against evolutionary naturalism goes like this:
1) If purely natural, random evolutionary processes created our cognitive faculties, then our cognitive faculties are not reliable tools for finding truth.
2) Evolutionary purposes do not have truth in mind, only adaptability anbd survivability.
3) Therefore to use our cognitive faculties to attempt to discover truth is to use them in a way contrary to their nature.
4) The evolutionist must therefore agree that any use of one's cognitive faculties to argue for the truth of evolution is misguided.
Plantinga writes: “if the general reliability of our cognitive faculties is under question, we can’t hope to answer the question whether they are reliable by pointing out that these faculties themselves deliver the belief that they are, in fact, reliable.”

That would be logically contradictory.

As Louis Pojman says in his philosophy of religion text, Plantinga’s argument against the belief that evolutionary naturalism is true goes like this:

1. Naturalistic evolution caused us to develop our cognitive faculties in ways conducive to survival, not truth.
2. If naturalistic evolution is true, there is no reason to believe that our cognitive faculties are reliable.
3. If you’ve used your cognitive faculties to come to believe in evolutionary naturalism, you have a defeater for the conclusion that evolutionary naturalism is true.
4. Therefore you ought not believe that evolutionary naturalism is true.
Darwin wrote: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the 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?"

William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This is the logical form of William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. Let's evaluate it.

Formally, it is valid. That is, if premises 1 & 2 are true, the conclusion (3) necessarily follows.

Premise 1 seems to be true. To prove it false one would have to show that there exists at least one thing that came into existence without being caused.

Premise 2 is true, Craig says, for two reasons.

a) The first reason premise 2 is true is that an actual infinite is impossible. Actual infinity is a mathematical concept that can have no applications because it would lead to logical absurdities. See Craig's article "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe" right here.

b) The second reason is that science confirms that our universe began to exist. This is the conclusion, reconfirmed continuously, of cosmology.

But why must the cause be God? The cause of the universe must be God because the cause must be nontemporal (when the universe began to exist time began to exist), nonphysical (when the universe began to exist matter began to exist), extremely powerful, and creative (personal agency). These attributes - nontemporality, nonphysicality, powerful, and creative - cause us to inductively infer that God is the cause of our universe.