Believe it or not, formal debates on the existence of God regularly turn out thousands of ticket-buying intellectuals to hear atheists and theists go at it. Although it may seem silly to give out medals for something every kindergartener should know, there is much to appreciate in well-turned arguments that support the affirmative.
Setting personal style biases aside, how do the best theists make their case for the existence of God? For a sampling of how heady this question can get, check out William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. Sam Harris, one of today’s most prominent atheists, recently described Dr. Craig as “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” Continue reading
John Paine has invited me from time to time to offer a “guest post” on some topic of interest on the Veracity blog. This is a real “step of faith” for John as you don’t always know what you are going to get when you allow a guest to post! That being said… here we go!
The Bible vs. Science. Is there an eternal conflict between the two, or is the warfare between them nothing more than a modern myth? Is belief in the Bible simply a matter of “blind faith”, contrary to contemporary scientific thinking? Should the contributions of modern science have any impact on how we are to interpret Scripture? These are important questions, and different Christians have arrived at different answers. The type of answers we adopt will have an impact on how we explain our faith to a non-believing co-worker, neighbor, or family member. So how do we make sense of the Bible vs. Science debate within the church and contemporary culture?
A few years ago, I shared in our Williamsburg Community Chapel small group a model of how different people have responded to these type of questions. After having worked as a computer engineer at NASA for 15 years and now at the College of William and Mary for 12 years with a lot of “scientific” types of people, I would suggest that there is a continuum of seven basic positions in the Bible vs. Science debate.
This continuum moves along a spectrum ranging from a purely biblicist view that opposes Science to a purely science-only view that opposes the Bible. In the middle are various views that seek harmony between the Bible and Science or that view the Bible vs. Science debate as a distraction to what really matters (Click on the picture below to enlarge the diagram, if you need to see it better):
At the ends of the spectrum are two extreme positions. On one end is the Fideist approach. The term “fideist” is derived from the concept of having faith at the expense of reason. A Fideist approach argues that science is completely irrelevant to matters of biblical faith. It is a type of “blind faith” in Scripture. The Bible is the only real source of truth, and so the only purpose for Science today is to give us a means for predicting future events. Science does not tell us much about God’s actions in Creation, nor can it really tell us anything about God Himself. While an approach like this is common among church-goers who show very little interest in science, it is not a view held by that many serious thinkers. About the closest serious thinker that I know of who advocates a position close to this is the recently deceased John Robbins of the in Texas. Robbins’ intellectual hero was Gordon Clark, a popular philosophy professor for many years in the mid-20th century at Wheaton College. Continue reading
Is Christianity reasonable? As absurd as this question might seem, there are major religions founded on the premise that faith does not have to be reasonable. Fortunately, Christianity is not one of them.
How would you go about convincing someone that the Christian faith is reasonable? (Okay, this is a trick question—it’s not really our job to convince anyone, but it is our job to think.)
There are massive apologetic resources dedicated to defending the faith and making sound arguments in support of Christianity. Check out Matt Slick’s CARM site, William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith site, Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, Hugh Ross’ Reasons To Believe, the Poached Egg, or the One Minute Apologist.
But it is incumbent upon all Christians—not just big-name apologists, theologians, and pastors—to think. As Tim Keller says in the following message, “You cannot be a Christian without using your brain to its uttermost.”
Jesus says (in Matthew 6) if you want to have faith, “Think, consider, deduce.” Why does thinking lead to faith? The Bible tells us that if you don’t let your thinking take you all the way to Jesus Christ it will end in despair. Martin Luther’s thinking led him to see there is a God. Then his thinking led him further to see that God must be a personal God. Then he thought, “If there is a personal God, I want to please him.” But Luther couldn’t obey even the Golden Rule, and wondered how he could please God. The Bible tells us there is only one way: Jesus Christ.
Tim Keller, paraphrased from Faith is Reason clip on YouTube
Oftentimes apologetics can be an uppercut. And it can be an intellectual salve. Great apologists are convincing debaters, loaded with sound arguments to defend their position, and truth be told most of us wish we could dial up their arguments in our normal conversations. But there is an inherent danger in all the eloquence and logic of good apologetics—we can lose sight of the object of apologetics.
False Glory by Odilon Redon, 1885
If you want to understand the New Testament you have to understand the Apostle Paul. And you can’t get very far into Paul’s writings before you come across one of his main themes—abuse of “the Law.”
Just what is or was the Law, and why does Paul devote so much energy and passion to it? Before you get to Paul however, it is important to understand what Jesus himself actually said about the Law. The identity of Jesus is tightly resolved if we understand the answer to this question.
Lee Strobel describes the prophesies that could only be fulfilled by Jesus. Mathematically, the odds that anyone who ever lived could fulfill only 48 of the Old Testament messianic prophesies were calculated by Dr. Peter Stoner to be one chance in ten to the 137th power—unimaginably small. Add to that the Messiah had to color between the lines, so to speak, in fulfilling and not changing the Law, and you have what Lee Strobel would call the unmistakable “fingerprint of Christ.”