Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Dawkins will be funding a series of atheistic advertisements on London buses.
Dawkins is on his "teaching religion is a form of child abuse" thing again. His children's book is out to combat religious child abuse. For Dawkins it's child abuse to tell children about hell. So the alternative is tell little kids that there's no meaning to their lives and they'll slip in to non-existence when they die? And because there's no God there's no purpose to any of this?
Dawkins says: "Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality." So I presume his kids book will not let them in on the bleak nihistic ending that's waiting for them. He's just going to debunk what he thinks are myths and present his idea of science. Dawkins is the James Dobson of atheists except, unlike Dobson, his Ph.D has nothing to do with families.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Linda and I fly to New York City today where I will be teaching apologetics at Faith Bible Seminary Tues - Fri. I'll speak at FBS's 13th anniversary on Saturday, and then speak twice at Faith Bible Church on Sunday.
I'm taking our Redeemer Ministry School students with me for the week. Our worship leader, Holly Benner, will also be joining us. Holly will teach a seminar on worship Wednesday night. Then on Friday night Oct 31 and Saturday night November 1 our worship band will rock out in Queens NYC - we're hoping for a lot of people to come.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
(My back yard)
One of my very favorite parts of the Bible is Proverbs 3:5-6, which states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I find so much wisdom in these words that I don’t know where to begin in explaining them. When I became a Jesus-follower many years ago someone showed these verses to me and, like many others I suspect, they became part of my spiritual DNA.
“Trust.” This is a heart attitude that cannot co-exist with “control.” Every time a person trusts, they let go of controlling. This is a challenge, since for many “control” is their DNA-default-setting that overrides trust.
One might ask, why not just control everything? My response is: the parts of our life and experience that we control amount to what - 5%, if even that? We don’t control the weather, the stock market, other people (though many try here), our physical bodies, what others think of us, insects, diseases, hurricanes, our solar system, the global economy, … and of course we don’t control God (though some treat God as their butler, which he’s not).
Everyone trusts something. Everyone has to trust something. The question is not “to trust or to control?” The question is: “What do I place my ultimate trust in?”
The correct answer is: God.
Trust in the Lord. Trust… in God. Everyone trusts in someone or something. Everyone has someone or something they place their ultimate trust in. Many years ago Bob Dylan wrote a song that said everyone has to serve somebody. I think that’s true. The question is not to trust or not to trust. The question is: who or what do we place our trust in. Do we place our trust in our own self? In other people? In money? In sex? In power?
If God did not exist then all we’d be able to trust in are finite things. The problem then would be that finite things have their limitations, breakdowns, inconsistencies, and failures. Place your trust mostly or entirely in your own self and you’ll quickly be disappointed. Should we place our trust in people’s abilties to manage the global economy? Should we place our trust in money and the stock market? I’m not saying the market won’t rebound. But I don’t know. My understanding is that even economists don’t know for certain. If someone has placed their trust in the economy then I think that trust is now being eroded. What can a person do? Where can one place their trust today?
The most solid thing a person can place their trust in is God. And what do we mean by “God?” I mean: 1) creator of this universe; 2) a Being whose essence is to exist (God cannot not-exist; and therefore is a-temporal and unchanging); 3) an all-powerful Being (God can do everything that is possible to do); 4) an all-knowing Being (a being who knows everything that is possible to know); 5) an all-loving Being (God IS love; God’s essence is to love; God - within his being - is relational [here's the Christian idea of the Trinity]); 6) the source of objective moral values (if God did not exist, all moral values would be merely subjective, and thus matters of personal taste, and thus non-binding).
Many years ago I chose to place my trust in God. The immediate result at that time was that I got out of a drug lifestyle and never turned back. To me, this was amazing. I attribute this to God. This set me off on a life-long pursuit of God - to know about God, to know God, and to be known by God. The result to this point is that, as best as I am able, I give every day to God. I trust in God. My trust is in God. I’ve found God to be trustworthy, or worthy of placing my trust in.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Rely on God with your entire being. This means, among other things, that a person who really believes in God will live their life in full reliance on God. This is not just about the words we say, or what we say we believe in. It’s not about belief in God in the sense of someone who says “Yeah, of course I believe there’s a God.” It’s much more than that. For someone who actually, really beliueves in God will, necessarily, live a life of God-reliance. Because: God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe. Who wouldn’t place their life-trust in him?
We must distinguish between theoretical God-belief and a life of radical dependence on the living God. For me, many years ago, I converted from theoretical God-belief to actual belief, which meant that I now desired to live each day in reliance on God and in touch with God. I mean, if God is for me, who can be against me, right?
Real followers of Jesus are whole-hearted towards God. Are they perfect? Of course not. Do they actually trust in God all the time? I know I still fall short of doing this. Have they made God the thing they trust in when it comes to their existence? Yes. This makes all the difference to me. God is my hope. In the middle of a world where things come together and fall apart all the time, God becomes the anchor to attach one’s heart to.
“Lean not on your own understanding.” Don’t put too much weight on what you understand. Why not? Because: what you and I understand is phenomenally small.
Some years ago when I was in Chicago I stopped at my all-time favorite bookstore which is adjacent to the University of Chicago. It’s in the basement of an old building, and it’s filled with books you’d never find at Borders or Barnes & Noble. This bookstore is an academic wonderland of brilliance. On this particular day as I wandered around this store I had a sense of of my own great ignorance. I’m not trying to be humble now. The truth of how very, very little I know was revealed to me. I felt like the self-made man in Sartre’s novel Nausea, whose goal was to read every book in the library beginning with the ‘A’s’ and working through to ‘Z.’ At the end of his life he hadn’t gotten out of the ‘A’s’ because more books with titles beginning with ‘A’ kept being published. I looked at all these old and new scholarly books on every subject you can think of, and realized I’ve read hardly any of them. And if I did read them I wouldn’t come close to understanding them all. If ever I thought I understood a lot of things, this bubble got burst that day.
Just be born and it won't be long before you face a situation that no human understands. I meet people in such situations all the time. Drug addicts, sex addicts, terminally ill people, impossibly broken-down marriages and families, and the dirt-poor. The collective wisdom of humanity cannot help. So where can one turn? And as they come to me for answers, where can I turn when all understanding fails? My experience is that we are not left hopeless here. Here’s the answer of Proverbs: 1) Lean not on your own understanding, precisely because there’s not much there to lean on anyway; 2) Instead, trust in God. Place your trust in God today.
“In all your ways acknowledge God.” Take God into account. Look to God for life direction. I began to do this when I was 21. Everyone looks somewhere for direction in life, for someone or something to guide their way. For me, if God did not exist there wouldn’t even be such a thing as a “way” in life and a direction to go in. The idea that your life and my life has a “way” at all depends on the existence of a Creator God who made you for a purpose.
When I came to really believe in God I was at a point where I needed big-time direction. My life was screwed up because I was a self-directed person. I came to see that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that’s when I decided to try God, if there really was a God, and see if that would help.
It did. At least, that’s how I interpret it. I know everyone doesn’t believe this. As a philosophy professor I’m always dialoguing with students and others about these issues. There are people who think God does not exist, there are people who believe in God but think God is not into helping us (that’s called Deism), and there are other variations of God-belief and disbelief. What can I say to them? I can tell them my story, which is this: 1) I once followed my own desires only; 2) I got in a lot of trouble and felt like I lost my way in life; 3) I chose to place my trust in God and not in my own ideas; 4) I saw my path starting to straighten out and got direction and still get direction from God; 5) I cannot disbelieve that it was God who has done all this for me.
As I look around I see a lot of examples of the failure of trusting in human understanding. Looks like we’re in global trouble now. Why not try trusting in God?"God will make your paths straight." This cannot mean "God will endorse whatever your heart desires." What kind of things is God interested in? The answers include: 1) his kingdom; 2) worship of him; 3) love of him and he loving us; 4) righteousness and holiness; and 5) truth. Trust in God, acknowledge God in all your ways, and God will direct you to himself. This will be good for you, since God made you and you were made to love and worship God. Such things define your life's purpose. Find that, and the result is peace and joy.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Darren will share at 6 about the new film he is now making.
Worship will follow.
Jeff will share after worship about the work he and his wife Annie are doing rescuing young women out of the sex trafficking industry in the red light district of Bangkok.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Ben Witherington, to begin his The Living Word of God: Rethnking the Theology of the Bible, cites this long quote from N.T. Wright. I very much like Ben's book, and very much like this NTW quote. Having been trained in some of the ideas Wright is speaking against, I am so thankful for this perspective which is far more biblically accurate. Here it is:
"The question of biblical authority, of how there can be such a thing as an authoritative Bible, is not, then, as simple as it might look... A regular response to these problems is to say that the Bible is a repository of timeless truth. There are some senses in which that is true. But the sense in which it is normally meant is certainly not true. The whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation is culturally conditioned. It is all written in the language of particular times, and evokes the cultures in which it came to birth. It seems, when we get close up to it, as though, if we grant for a moment that in some sense or other God has indeed inspired this book, he has not wanted to give us an abstract set of truths unrelated to space and time. He has wanted to give us something rather different, which is not (in our post-enlightenment world) nearly so easy to handle as such a set of truths might seem to be. The problem of the gospels is one particular instance of this question. And at this point in the argument evangelicals often lurch towards Romans as a sort of safe place where they can find a basic systematic theology in the light of which one can read everything else. I have often been assured by evangelical colleagues in theological disciplines other than my own that my perception is indeed true: namely, that the Protestant and evangelical tradition has not been half so good on the gospels as it has been on the epistles. We don’t quite know what to do with them. Because, I think, we have come to them as we have come to the whole Bible, looking for particular answers to particular questions. And we have thereby made the Bible into something which it basically is not.... into a set of abstract truths and rules - abstract devotional doctrinal, or evangelsitics snippets here and there."
Monday, October 13, 2008
(Christians driven from their homes by fears of forced conversions prayed at a refugee camp last week in Bhubaneshwar, India. )
From today's nytimes.com:
"The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.
They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.
“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”"
Bailey cites "studies that find that invoking an unseen watcher enhances moral behavior. In one amazing experiment, when participants were told that the ghost of a dead student was haunting the experimental room, they cheated less on a computer test. Other researchers report that when experimental subjects were primed with religious words, they cheated significantly less on a subsequent task. Similarly, Norenzayan and Shariff found that subjects in experimental economic games were more generous when God concepts were implicitly activated before play."
I'm sure this happens. But here's where Christianity distinguishes itself from other religions. As a Christian I follow God because of what God has done for me, in history. Personally, the idea that I'm more moral and nicer now then before I became a Christian because "God is watching me" has rarely been something I've thought of. Instead, when I have thought about the omnipresence of God and "Christ in me, the hope of glory," I end up thanking God for how much he loves me and accepts me in spite of my failures.
But now to my philosophy of religion point. The concern is truth, and truth is a property of statements. The philosophy of religion truth-question is: "Does God exist?" If God exists and is omnipresent, then persons who believe this is true will likely be more generous. But that people seem more generous as they believe in an omnipresent God, while it may be a sociological truth, has no effect on the discussion about God as it takes place in the philosophy of religion. And if someone tries to use this to discredit the idea of belief in God or as a way of explaining why people believe in God or maybe invent "God," that's an example of the genetic fallacy.
Thirteen Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in the city, which is located about 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of Baghdad.
At least 900 Christian families have fled in recent days, reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, Iraqi officials said.
Today's CNN report is here.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I’ve been in situations like this before in the sense of being both unable to understand something and unable to affect the situation. Like being with someone I love who is dying, such as my mother a few years ago and my father some years before that. And, I lost a son many years ago. To be honest, and I do not mean to trivialize the present moment or minimalize its effect on people, I’d gladly go through an economic depression if only I could have my son David back with me. In fact, this week I’ve talked with some friends of mine who are, as I write, fighting issues of physical life and death. For them the economic situation is not their first area of concern.
Thinking like this puts some things in perspective for me. I have spent the last 38 years of my life learning what it means to place my trust in God and not in outward circumstances. I’m not saying this is easy. But note that, if you are a follower of Jesus, you see this all over the Scriptures, from Israel wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, to the prophets telling Israel to trust in God and worship Him only when they are in Babylonian captivity, to the disciples freaking out in the boat during the storm on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus is sleeping, to the apostle Paul telling us that there’s a way to live this life and be content in all circumstances. Can I say that again? ALL circumstances. Is that possible? If so, that would be freedom!
I say it is possible. The alternative for me would be that my faith in God is not real. From this faith-in-God perspective the current declining economic circumstances test me. I cannot believe that my God-faith is supposed to go up and down with the global economy or anything for that matter. If it does, this tells me something about where I’m really placing my trust.
Let me try to be clearer about this. I say with my mind ”I trust in God.” The arena where such trust is placed is: ”in all circumstances.” Intellectually I believe in the God who, as Genesis 1:1 says, created the heavens and the earth by just uttering a word. Could such a God be trusted in today? Of course. But I need this truth to descend from my mind into my heart so that it becomes an experiential reality. Another way of saying this is: I want to “know” God in the sense of experiential immediacy, and not simply as an intellectual belief or theory that only actually works when things are going well for me.
I believe God exists and that we can trust God today. For what? That God will repair the global economy? I don’t think so. What, then, can God be trusted to do if we rely on him? I understand the answers as follows. Put your trust in God and you can be sure that God will be with you in all circumstances, even in the valley of the shadow of death. You can be sure that God will love you. You can be sure that God will morph you into greater and greater Christlikeness. You can be sure that God will free you from the love of Money and captivate you by the real treasures of heaven (read Matthew chapters 5-7 for what this means). You can be sure that God will want to use you to help set people free from oppression, to include the oppression of poverty. You can be sure that God will free you and free others from all social hierarchizing that rank-orders humanity in terms of rich and poor, popular and unpopular, loved and despised. In short, God will reveal his beautiful Kingdom to you and make you fit for that Kingdom and work through you to influence others into that Kingdom. Jesus said that his Kingdom was not of this world. Jesus has not come to repair existing earthly kingdoms but to bring in the Kingdom of God.
As that happens, the values of this world we live in will be turned upside-down. We will experience his Kingdom coming now, on earth, as it is in heaven, not completely so, but as a taste of heavenly realities. The problem is not the economy. The problem is us and what is of ultimate concern to us. I’m choosing the place my trust in God. Please pray that I do so, as I will pray for you also.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Analogically, the human heart has great depth. In it lie both great potential for evil as well as possibilities of moral and spiritual heroism. Solitude has the potential to move a person into the deep and potentially dangerous waters of the human heart. In solitude a shallow life can get examined and deepened.
3. In Solitude There Is An "Unmasking of Ourselves."
- Be relevant! ("Turn stones into loaves.")
- Be spectacular! ("Throw yourself down.")
-Be powerful! ("I will give you all these kingdoms.")
5. In Solitude We See That Being Is Spiritually Prior To Doing.
8. Our time in meaningful solitude affects others.
 Most of what I know about solitude comes from my own experience and the writings of Henri Nouwen.
 Proverbs 20:5 – “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
 Romans 12:1-2
 Citing R.E.C. Browne, in The Contemplative Pastor (1999: Christianity Today, Inc.), p. 30.
 See Nouwen, Out of Solitude
 See Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction; and Paul Tournier, The Violence Within
 One of Merton’s most powerful spiritually transforming experiences occurred in Louisville as he had an epiphany causing him to feel a divine love for all humanity.
 Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 20
 Nouwen, The Wounded Healer,
Monday, October 06, 2008
(See Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea)
Tomorrow night in my Logic class I'm going to present Victor Reppert's Argument from Reason for the Existence of God. I'm doing this for this: It is especially interesting to a logic class because of the idea of a "claim of inference" that exists between premises and a conclusion.
1, If naturalism is true, then logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.
2. But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs. (Implied by the existence of rational inference.)
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.
Again, "naturalism" is the view that the natural world is all there is and that there are no supernatural beings. There are no non-natural things. Whatever takes place in the universe takes place through natural processes and not as the result of supernatural, non-natural, or spiritual causation. Physicalism is a form of naturalism (all that is really is physical and nothing more). The basic substances of the physical world are pieces of matter.
So... what about a logical, rational "claim of inference?" (The inner "I see it!" experience.)Reppert claims that such logical laws are not physical laws. That is, the logical “claim of inference” cannot be explained by physics, or physical laws. How can he claim this?
Because if the laws of logic can be explained by physics, then there is no real claim of inference.
The so-called “claim of inference” would only be mechanistic and non-purposive. The claim of inference is not possible in a naturalistic/physicalist world. So “reason,” and meaning by this logic, seems to be not possible on an atheist worldview. Reppert writes: “The existence of reason makes sense in a theistic universe but not in a physicalist universe.”
But atheists themselves use reason to try to logically disprove that God exists. For example:
1. If God exists, then there can be no gratuitous evil.
Does the atheist want “us” to be persuaded by this argument? Do they want “me” to see the logical connection, the logical claim of inference? Do they want "me" to "get it," to "see it?" If it's some rational claim of inference they are wanting to make, then I, as a theist, want to know whether an event can be at the same time the motion of brain matter in a mechanistic universe and, at the same time, the inference to a conclusion from its premises.
Reppert believes that the atheist here assumes the reality of a claim of inference, and uses it to argue that there is no God. But if reality is only physical, then human “reasoning” is impossible. (Like saying, “Ah, I see the logical connection!”) But human reasoning is possible. Therefore, probably theism is true.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
"Premise (2) is, in effect, the contrapositive of the typical atheist response to Leibniz that on the atheistic worldview the universe simply exists as a brute contingent thing. Athesist typically assert that, there being no God, it is false that everything has an explanation of its existence, for the universe, in this case, just exists inexplicably. In affirming that if atheism is true, then the universe has no explanation of its existence, atheists are also affirming the logically equivalent claim that if the universe has an explanation of its existence, then atheism is not true, that is to say, God exists. Hence, most atheists are implicitly commited to (2)."An atheist does not have to claim that if the Universe can be rationally explained then there is the possibility of God. There are both arguments that the Universe has no explanation and there are arguments that the Universe has a materialistic explanation. Both views can and are held by atheists who obviously have disagreements among themselves about the Universe."
Thank you for dialoguing with me! Here’s what I think. I don’t think you understand the argument. Craig says that if atheism is true then “the universe simply exists as a brute contingent thing.” Surely this is true. If we found someone who claimed to be an atheist and said something different, it would be because they don’t understand the implications of their atheism. They have a worldview; it has epistemic consequences. What Craig means is that, on atheism, there is no answer, in re. to the universe’s existence, to the question “Why.” Atheistic answer: “it just does.” “Inexplicably.” NOTE: Craig’s reasoning clearly does apply to the one-universe hypothesis. That’s where I could have been clearer. In his essay he discusses the “multiverse theory” as a possible, but greatly flawed, explanation for the existence of the universe. But again, as regards the one-universe hypothesis, there’s no scientific answer to why the universe exists. This is also the understanding of “one-universe” physicists.
But the universe does exist.
Combine that with P (1), and the contrapositive of “On atheism, the universe just exists as a brute contingent fact,” and you can see the logic of this argument.
Charles Toeppe said...
"This argument seems like it could apply to God itself. So what kind of response would you, or Craig, give to the idea that, "God exists, and therefore must have an explanation." An idea that, if accepted, I think we could both agree leads to an almost infinite absurdness, and even complexity, that is probably unnecessary.On a seperate note, I can testify as an atheist that I simply claim ignorance to the explanation for the universe's existance. I can't say God did or did not create it, but I certainly do not claim its existance to be inexplicable."
Hi Charles – thanks for the dialogue! On P(1) the answer to your first question is given. The explanation for God’s existence is in the necessity of its own nature. The universe is a contingent thing; God is understood to be a necessary being. Remember the reasoning here Craig gave in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. So the argument for the universe given here does not apply to God.
Re. your second, more personal, point: On the one-universe hypothesis the cause of our contigent universe is in principle inexplicable. On atheism it just popped into existence out of nothing, therefore denying the truth of P(1). But couldn’t it have come out of a “multiverse?” Ahhh, that’s a theory that has, acc. to Craig and others, serious problems. Craig gives his response to that in the essay I’ve cited.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Maybe I'll be able to have some REAL pizza while I'm there. Southeast Michigan pizza doesn't come close to Gino's East, Giordano's, or Lou Malnati's in Chicago.