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Apr 242015
 

What about miraclesWe’ve been looking in this apologetics series on problems that opponents to Christianity have about our faith. We spent 3 weeks on the existence of God because for many that is one of the major hurdles they have to jump over – admitting that God exists.

As we saw last week, many of the reasons people struggle with the existence of God is because they see a problem with believing in God and science, they think they have to make a choice. I think I said enough last week to show that this needn’t be a choice. You can be a fully fledged, lab-coat wearing, science geek and still have a deep passion and love for God. In fact that love for God motivates you to discover more of his creation through education and science.

Another potential barrier from science comes with the whole subject of miracles, surely science and miracles are incompatible? And if they are, shouldn’t we call into question the miracles of Jesus. But when you start to do that you soon find that you have no faith left to speak of at all.

Firstly, I think we need to define what a miracle is. As you might imagine there are very many definitions but basically, a miracle is an event that cannot be normally explained through the laws of nature. In the context of Christianity, miracles are the product and the work of God who created the natural laws as well as the universe. Well of course this gives many people a problem, especially those who don’t want to believe in God.

The argument against miracles from the scientific establishment can be traced back a couple of hundred years ago to a philosopher called David Hume. He was one of the foremost thinkers of his day and in 1748 wrote an essay called ‘on miracles’ He wrote at a time when the elite thinkers were especially sceptical about miracles and saw them as an affront to science. He stated that “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature” since he believed that the laws of nature couldn’t be broken, he therefore believed that miracles were impossible. It was rather circular reasoning because he used the premise that miracles were impossible, to prove that miracles couldn’t happen!

You would be amazed by how pervasive his arguments are, even today. It is reckoned that about 85% of the criticism against miracles stems from his arguments, which is incredible considering they were made nearly 270 years ago, but a lot has changed since then.

So the big issue in all of this is a belief in God. There’s not going to be much point in persuading someone about miracles if they have no belief in God at all. We need to go through those arguments about the existence of God and at least get to the point where someone is open to the possibility of God.

With even the possibility of a creator God, it is not a big jump then to believe in miracles. The God who created the universe in the first place would have no problem intervening in His creation and perform a miracle. You don’t even have to ditch science. Just imagine Newton’s apple tree. Gravity is the force that causes the apples to fall to the ground and not float in the air. But what if someone was to reach out and catch one of the apples? You couldn’t say that gravity doesn’t work anymore, just that a greater force has interrupted it. Miracles are just the same as someone catching an apple. A greater force has been at work.

If we believe in God and indeed a God who intervenes, then we can certainly believe that the bible is full of miracles demonstrating God’s desire to touch mankind with His great love and mercy.

The truth is, there have been 10’s of millions of miracles in the world, in fact I have seen some myself and heard countless testimonies of absolutely amazing healings, including people being raised from the dead. A significant number of these have documentary and sound medical evidence. If someone doesn’t want to believe in miracles, they will always find an explanation no matter how ridiculous. I hope that if you are reading this and are not sure, you will at least have an open mind. I find it extremely ironic that atheists accuse Christians of not being open minded and subjective when they are some of the most close minded people that can be.

When you think about it, it is illogical to state that miracles cannot occur. How can you say that with any certainty unless you know all things?

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought; The Christian’s faith and hope is built on a miracle and that is the miracle of the resurrection. Jesus was dead, in the tomb for three days. He was resurrected, demonstrating God’s power and now He performs miracles on a daily basis by saving people from their life of sin. He is indeed a miracle working God

 April 24, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Apr 172015
 

Science v ChristianityI have been going through a series for a while now on the subject of ‘apologetics’ and even the recent blogs on the resurrection come into this category. Apologetics is a defence of the Christian faith. Lots of people try to find fault with Christianity by arguing about God himself, the bible, creation and many other aspects and apologetics is a way to counter arguments using logic and sound reasoning. Just before Easter we looked at various arguments for the existence of God and a lot of these arguments involved science. Modern atheists will try to use the argument that you can’t believe in science and Christianity at the same time. They will say that they are incompatible. I wanted to write a few lines this week to refute that argument.

Firstly, Christians do not need to be fearful about Science, in fact we believe in an intelligent God who created the universe in an orderly way. One of the reasons science works is because the vast amount of things that scientists study behave in a consistent way. If matter changed all the time and was erratic, you wouldn’t be able to perform scientific studies and be confident of the results. It was this fascination with the world that God created that has caused scientists throughout history to want to discover more. Throughout history, a huge amount of scientists (who were also Christians) have made amazing discoveries. People such as; Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Boyle and many, many others. Even today there are eminent scientists who are Christians and who hold key roles in the scientific community. This is obviously not conclusive proof, but it is clear that it is not a black and white choice between Christianity and science as some would believe.

There has actually never been a time in all of history when the discoveries of science have backed up the existence of God more than now. For example, for many centuries Christians were struggling to explain why in Genesis chapter 1 it says that light was created before the sun, surely that must be a mistake. Well of course this could just be poetic, but it could be explained by the light in verse 3 being the ‘big bang’ which has only been a recent scientific discovery. What we do have to remember is that the bible never claims to be a scientific textbook and that may be the cause of some people’s problems.

I think though, the problem is not science but scientism, which are subtly different. Scientism says we should only believe what can be scientifically proven. But when you think about it that statement itself cannot be scientifically proven so you are in problems from the start.

Science answers many of the questions we have about life, but it is silly to say that only science can answer all of these questions. There are many other ways to learn apart from science, such as philosophically or through history. I intend to explore this subject a little further when we look at the whole aspect of ‘miracles’ which are not anti-science as some would have you believe, but that’s for next week.

 April 17, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics 2 Responses »
Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness- God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God- we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family- God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 032015
 

Answering problems about the resurrection Last week we looked at a number of well attested facts about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This week we will now look at some traditional problems and objections people have put forward in the hope that they can debunk the resurrection story. There are 4 main ones that I have listed below

The wrong tomb

Some people have assumed that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If that was the case, then the disciples who went to check up on the women’s statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. This scenario is highly unlikely, but it is certain however, that the Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus’ body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there!

If the resurrection claim was just due to merely mistaking where the tomb was, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumours about the resurrection.

Hallucinations

Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Just as in the claim of the wrong tomb, it would have been easy enough for the body to be presented as evidence against the claim. Also as was stated last week, Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. Hallucinations don’t happen to that many people at the same time. Also, Jesus on other occasions ate with his disciples and allowed them to touch him.

The Swoon theory

Another popular explanation is that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, he merely swooned, fainting from exhaustion and loss of blood. This idea would not have been put forward at the time for anyone who would have witnessed the full barbarity of Roman crucifixion. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t have his legs broken because it was obvious He was dead, instead he had his heart pierced. You don’t survive after your heart is pierced. His crucifixion was carried out by professional Roman executioners who were very good at what they did. Also when he was taken off the cross he was wrapped in about 100 pounds of grave clothes (which would suffocate even a healthy person) and then laid in a freezing cold tomb. The fittest person in the world wouldn’t recover from that, especially in that state, rolling the stone away, overcoming the guards and then convincing his disciples he was alright really.

The body was stolen

We considered this a bit last week. It is impossible to think that the disciples who had fled from the living Jesus not 24 hours earlier and the leader of them, Peter, denying he knew Jesus to an insignificant slave girl, should suddenly muster up the courage to overcome professional Roman guards and then steal the body. If the religious leaders had stolen the body, they could have quickly produced the body when the disciples started claiming they had seen the risen Jesus. This would have stopped the disciples in their tracks and quashed the whole movement. The only other candidates would have been the Roman soldiers who had nothing to gain by doing it and everything to lose. If they had lost the body they would have been crucified themselves for failing in their duty.

If these four theories are the best excuses that people have been able to put forward in two thousand years, I think it is safe to say that we can be very confident of the facts of the resurrection. These are that Jesus was definitely killed, his dead body was wrapped and placed in a seal guarded tomb until Easter Sunday, when the tomb was found empty and shortly after Jesus was found to be alive. He had been resurrected.

On top of all that, the disciples were transformed men, they went from fearful people cowering in an upper room to fearless trailblazers who spread the message of the gospel across the whole world, laying down their lives as they did so.

But what does that mean for you dear reader?

It means that you have a decision to make, a decision that will transform the rest of your life. If Jesus did rise from the dead then everything he said about himself was true. His claim to be God himself was true, His claim to forgive sins was true and His offer to save all who repent of their sins and ask Him to be Lord of their lives was true.

So what are you waiting for? Good Friday would be a very good and appropriate day to make that decision.

 April 3, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection No Responses »
Mar 272015
 

Evidence for the resurrectionAs we are approaching Easter and I am also continuing in my series on Apologetics, I thought I would combine the two themes and look at the evidence available for the resurrection of Jesus. As this event is probably the most important aspect of the Christian faith, many opponents of Christianity have constantly sought to undermine it and come up with alternative explanations. But the case I am going to present to you today is well attested by many people and has never been successfully refuted. The case is a strong one and just as for the evidence for God, the facts are formed one upon another until a very compelling case has been built

Even secular historians will admit that there is enough evidence from history that a man called Jesus actually existed, that he was a Jewish teacher and that he died under the hand of the Romans. There is also plenty of evidence for the claims that three days after he was crucified, he somehow came back to life. His followers then spread Christianity throughout the whole Roman empire and His teachings are still followed today.

The first question to consider is “Is the New Testament reliable?” Many critics during the 19thcentury doubted its authenticity but as more and more archaeological discoveries have been unearthed, the more they have supported what was written. This adds a lot of weight to its authenticity. Also the sheer volume of the various manuscripts that are available support it. This has also led to the evidence that these accounts were written at the time or shortly afterwards, rather than hundreds of years later. To put it simply, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has more evidence for it than any other event in all of ancient history.

The New Testament witnesses were fully aware of the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. This was covered by about 100 pounds of aromatic spices. The body was then placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone weighing approximately 2 tons was then rolled against the entrance of the tomb. This tomb was then guarded by well disciplined Roman guards who ‘sealed’ the tomb with a Roman seal. To break the seal would have incurred the wrath of Roman law and the punishment would have meant crucifixion for the perpetrators. This was one of the first facts of the crucifixion: The Roman seal was broken.

The second fact was; The tomb was empty.Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb. Those resources range from Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the “Toledoth Jeshu.” Dr. Paul Maier calls this “positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favour, then that fact is genuine.” Gamaliel, who was a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the rise of the Christian movement was God’s doing; he could not have done that if the tomb were still occupied, or if the Sanhedrin knew the whereabouts of Christ’s body.

The third fact was; That the large stone was moved the most likely ones to have done this were the disciples, but they had all fled in fear. They certainly weren’t capable of overcoming a crack squad of Roman soldiers, neither would the Jewish authorities who would have no reason to move the body. The Roman soldiers would have no reason either. It is highly likely that an empty tomb would have led to their execution for not fulfilling their duties. But the clear fact was that the next day the stone had indeed been rolled away from the entrance, the seal had been broken and no guards were to be seen (which was the fourth fact).
A fifth fact is a small point but not insignificant and that is that the grave clothes were lying in the tomb, obviously with nobody inside them. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes—undisturbed in form and position.

The sixth fact of the resurrection were the numerous sightings of Jesus by many people over a number of days. The more witnesses, the more likelihood of the truth of the claims. One of the earliest records of Christ’s appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience’s knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned as witnesses.

Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ’s appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ’s followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection.

Next week I am going to look at a few arguments and objections people have put forward against these facts of the resurrection and see how believable they are.

 March 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection No Responses »
Mar 202015
 

Existence of God part 3This is now the third week in our huge subject on the existence of God.

As I have mentioned previously, each argument builds upon each other, until we have a very compelling case for God’s existence.

We have already looked at the Cosmological argument (everything, including the universe has a cause). Then last week we looked at the argument for the existence of God based on the evidence of the amazing and intricate design of the universe and the things within it.

This week we will be looking at the argument of the existence of God from morality.

We are not looking at subjective morality (what individuals believe to be right or wrong) but objective morality. This is that there are absolute moral standards which exist outside our own personal opinions and beliefs.

This argument is stated as follows;

  • There exists an objective morality.
  • The best explanation for the existence of that objective morality is the existence of a moral law giver (we call God)

Some will try to argue with the first premise and say that there is no objective morality. They will say that different cultures have all sorts of different standards and I agree, yes they do. These are what we stated earlier as ‘subjective’ moral standards. But there are certain things in all cultures we know to be wrong from the very core of our being. Things such as; rape, murder, child abuse etc, these are ‘objective’ moral standards, universally accepted, which we automatically know to be wrong. If you don’t believe that these are inherent, just look at the reaction of even small children to things like; lying, cheating and unfairness. They know instinctively that these things are wrong.

Atheists seem to differ on whether there is an objective morality or not and they are in pretty deep trouble no matter which way they lean.

Those who do believe in an objective morality (i.e. admitting that some things are bad and some things are good) will have a hard time trying to justify an objective moral law without a moral lawgiver. You can’t have one without the other. If you admit that there is evil, you have to admit there is good. If there is good and evil, then there is an absolute and unchanging moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. Given an absolute moral law, there must be an absolute moral law giver, but that would be God – the one whom the atheist is trying to disprove.

There are atheists on the other side who don’t believe in objective morality at all, such as the famous Nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche who said “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist “. Another leading modern atheist is Richard Dawkins who said “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

The problem with saying there is no good or evil and that everything is subjective, leads to justifying things like the holocaust. After all, Hitler was only trying to make sure the strongest survived; he wanted to annihilate what he (subjectively) considered the weakest part of society. Isn’t this the basis of evolution ‘the survival of the fittest?’ Taken to its logical conclusion, anybody can do anything and it is neither good nor evil. Really? We instinctively know that is not true.

You will find that people can be very hypocritical in this regard, because we all make moral judgements without even thinking about it. People will say one thing but act in a very different manner. Try doing something bad against someone who only believes in subjective morality and they will soon objectively judge you!

Click on this link to watch a short video which explains this argument really simply http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral

We have now looked at 3 of the most common and compelling arguments for the existence of God. I will just finish with a few others, although there are many more.

The argument from miracles. People will try to tell you that these can all be explained away and that they don’t fit in with science. But you just can’t dismiss extraordinary well attested miracles. Miracles such as; whole limbs growing in front of people, eyes growing into empty sockets and people who have been dead and laid on the slab for many hours coming back to life.

The argument from consciousness. The fact that we are self aware, intelligent etc is a strong indication that God has put that awareness there. We live in a physical universe and it is really difficult to explain an immaterial ‘soul’ without referring to God.

The argument from personal experience. I know that God exists. I can’t necessarily explain it all to you and be able to convince you, but I know from all my experiences of walking with Him for 40+ years that He is real. His reality is as strong as anything else in my life.

The argument from desire There is a desire in us that nothing on earth satisfies, we can spend our life chasing after the things of this world, such as; money, sex and power, but ask rich famous people and many of them are still sad and dissatisfied. We all yearn for something to fill that void within us. As someone once said “We were born with a God shaped hole that only He can fill” In my experience, people who have ‘found’ God and walk with Him closely are the most satisfied and peaceful people I know.

I hope you have found this little series useful and it has caused you to think that actually there are some very convincing arguments for the existence of God. Of course, some people, with an agenda, will always find a reason or excuse not to believe. But I hope I have showed you that belief in God is very reasonable.

 March 20, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Mar 132015
 

universeLast week we looked at the cosmological argument for the existence of God and we simplified it by establishing the assertion of the following premises

  • The universe had a beginning
  • Anything that had a beginning must have been caused by something else.
  • Therefore the universe was caused by something else, which we call God.

As we saw last week, people are desperate to try and deny the belief in God, because admitting there is a God means that they have to submit to a higher authority and that of course is one of the main problems of mankind We always prefer to do our own thing! However, if we look at these arguments purely at face value and logically, we will see that these arguments are quite reasonable. They may seem a little complicated at first but don’t get too bogged down in the detail.

This week we are going to look at the argument from God’s existence based on the assumption that a designer (i.e. God) must exist since the universe contains countless evidences of design, in its very existence. From tiny atoms and DNA to living organisms and planets etc. Our world is full of order suggesting evidence of design by an intelligent source.

The most famous explanation of this is the “Watchmaker Analogy” given by William Paley in 1802. Paley stated that if you found a watch in an empty field, you would of course conclude that it was designed and didn’t just randomly form itself. In the same way, when we look at the universe and life, it is natural to conclude that there is a designer since we can see how precisely formed everything is.

This was the accepted belief until 57 years later when Charles Darwin produced “On the origin of species” which sought to explain the development of all life through natural selection. This groundbreaking work has since that time been the universally accepted theory by biologists, scientists and of course society in general.

Just about everyone acknowledges that many aspects of the universe and life have at least the appearance of design. Even the famous atheist Richard Dawkins implicitly acknowledged this when he said, “Biology is the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” (The blind watchmaker) The arguments debated over, are whether it is just an appearance of design or an actual design itself.

There is a growing movement now of scientists and others who are standing against Darwinianism. These scientists don’t specify who or what the intelligent agent is, but state that some features of the universe and of living things are better explained by an intelligent cause than by an undirected natural process. This is compatible with a Christian view, but is based entirely on scientific evidence rather than scripture. Intelligent Design refers to a scientific theory, not theology.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why people are convinced by the Intelligent design argument;

(1) Irreducible complexity

Irreducible complexity essentially states that there are biological structures that could not have evolved from a simpler state. A cell, for example, is composed of hundreds of complex molecular machines. Without any one of those machines, the cell would not work. So the cell is irreducibly complex: It couldn’t have evolved from a simpler state because it couldn’t have worked in a simpler state, and natural selection can only choose among traits that are already functioning.

The biochemist Michael Behe who devised this theory, offers the example of a mousetrap, which typically has five parts: a wooden base to support the contraption, a metal hammer to pound the mouse, a spring to power the hammer, a catch to release the spring and a metal bar that holds back the hammer. Without any one of these parts, the device is useless. Therefore, a mouse trap is irreducibly complex.

(2) Specified complexity

Specified complexity in a system means it could not have occurred by chance and it is not the result of any natural law that says it must be the way it is. A biological system exhibits specified complexity if it meets three criteria:

  • Its makeup is not merely the result of a natural law.
  • Its makeup is complex.
  • Its makeup reflects an “independently given pattern or specification.”

(3) Law of Conservation of Information

The Law of Conservation of Information was created by William Dembski and involves some very detailed and complex mathematical equations. At its most basic, Dembski’s law states that nature cannot create new information (as in information contained in DNA); it can only work with the information it already has. Therefore, a more complex species (one that contains more information) could not have evolved from a less complex species.

(4) Fine-Tuning of the Universe

Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants. To explain the present state of the universe, scientific theories require that constants like the strength of gravity have extremely precise values. If they varied in the slightest, the universe could not even host life. Again, even most atheists agree that the universe at least appears “finely tuned” for life.

If you want to see how amazingly fine tuned the universe needs to be, have a look at this page which lists 34 kinds of finely-tuned values and what would happen if they varied slightly.

I find it comforting to know that scientists who are prepared to be open minded and have not just dismissed obvious evidence of design, may not believe in the God of the bible, but at least they have followed the evidence to its logical conclusions. As with last week’s argument, this evidence does not necessarily point us to the God of the bible, but at least it provides a reasonable, rational and intelligent argument for God’s existence. I may be biased, but for me this argument is better than just believing that this remarkable and complex universe just happened for no reason.

 March 13, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Mar 062015
 

The existence of God part 1We are going to spend a few weeks on this very important question. It is one of the most fundamental questions that will be asked to those of us who believe in God. How do you know He exists? How can you prove it?

Have you ever been asked these sorts of questions? It’s important to consider how you would respond because if we just say we don’t know we will just appear a bit silly.

In this increasingly secular culture, the existence of God is becoming an ever more irrelevant issue. Until we tackle this issue, it can cause a stumbling block to belief in God.

Most people aren’t even aware that there are perfectly rational and logical explanations for the existence of God, but indeed there are a number of significant arguments that God exists and we will cover 3 of the main ones over the coming weeks.

I liken these different arguments to gathering evidence at a crime scene. Just one clue on its own is not very convincing, but if you gather eyewitness evidence, DNA, physical and forensic evidence it all adds up to a very strong case. That is what it is like with the existence of God. Each argument for the existence of God builds upon the other until I believe you have a very compelling case.

The three main arguments for the existence of God are the argument from creation (also called the cosmological argument) the argument from design (also called the teleological argument) and simply the moral argument.

This week we will look at the cosmological argument. Don’t be put off by the lofty sounding title, the basic premises of this argument are essentially very simple and can actually solidify and cement your own faith.

There are three main parts to this argument which are set out in statements using the logical principles we have covered in recent weeks. They can be adapted slightly but basically they are:

· The universe had a beginning.

· Anything that had a beginning must have been caused by something else.

· Therefore the universe was caused by something else, which we call God.

A very simple but powerful argument and one with huge implications if you can agree with each statement. As you can imagine people don’t agree with every statement, but there is a logical reason to agree with each of them, which we will now look at briefly.

(1) The universe had a beginning

It sounds like an obvious statement and something that is natural to our existence. Everything we see around us had a beginning, what we would call a ‘cause’. The trouble with people fully accepting this argument is they would either have to admit that the universe caused itself or that the universe had another cause, leading to the obvious assumption that the cause would have to be a higher power (God). This trying to wriggle out of admitting that there is a higher power has led to some very illogical conclusions, one of which being that the universe is eternal (A logical impossibility!).

The general consensus now from the majority of scientists and astronomers is that the universe did have a beginning. This was because in the 1920’s came the development of ever more powerful telescopes to look into the night sky and astronomers such as Edwin Hubble used these telescopes to discover galaxies beyond our own. He also discovered the fact that the universe is actually expanding (rather like spots on an inflating balloon). It was this discovery that birthed the now popular concept of the ‘big bang’ the fact that if the universe is expanding it must have expanded from one central point.

(2) Anything that had a beginning must have been caused by something else.

This would seem to be a straightforward argument too, but in order to try and disprove God some people have attempted to prove that things can just pop into existence out of nothing. They will use the example of subatomic particles (virtual particles) which appear to pop in and out of existence due to a fluctuation of energy contained in a vacuum. But clearly that is not ‘nothing’ the fact there is fluctuating energy shows that is something. We are talking about absolutely nothing (the absence of anything!) The question would be if the universe just suddenly popped into existence, why do we not see other things just randomly pop into existence? Almost everyone agrees that things with a beginning are caused by something or someone else.

(3) Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, which we call God.

So proceeding from the almost universally accepted scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning and the accepted fact that anything with a beginning is caused by something else, this leads us to the conclusion that the universe had to have been caused by something else.

So what was it that caused the universe? To use logic again we can come to quite a few conclusions to determine the thing that created the universe. Logic would dictate the following attributes:

· Personal (i.e. able to choose to create)

· uncaused (not having a cause of its own)

· Eternal (having no beginning or end)

· Unchanging

· Immaterial (not being made of any matter – spirit)

· Spaceless

· Infinitely powerful

· Infinitely intelligent.

That description sounds very much like the God of the bible!

Have you noticed the flaw yet that people will immediately raise as an objection?

So what caused God?

A derivative of the cosmological argument called the ‘Kalam cosmological argument’ asserts that this is not important. The argument does not say that everything needs a cause; it says that “everything that has a beginning needs a cause” Something without a beginning doesn’t require a cause it has always existed. God is the original “uncaused cause.”

Everything we have looked at in this post is a powerful argument for the existence of an uncaused first cause but it doesn’t necessarily point to the God of the bible, in fact the Kalam argument was originally developed by Muslims (Al-kindi in the 9thcentury AD)

But as I said at the beginning, it is just one foundation alongside many others that build together to form a strong argument for the existence of God. I have found this excellent short video which clearly demonstrates what I have been saying

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam

Next week we will look at the argument for God’s existence from design.

 March 6, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Feb 272015
 

Jesus and apologeticsLast week we looked at the use of logic in apologetics. We have a reasonable faith and so therefore it should be understood using logic and reason. Just in case you are still not convinced I thought it would be fun to look at how Jesus, the most brilliant thinker in history, used logical arguments to refute His critics and establish the truth of His views. If Jesus used these methods, and we are followers of His, then logically we should do the same.

Jesus’ use of persuasive arguments demonstrates that He was both a philosopher and an apologist who rationally defended His worldview in discussions with some of the best thinkers of His day. This intellectual approach does not detract from His divine authority but enhances it. Jesus’ high estimation of rationality and His own application of arguments indicates that Christianity is not an anti-intellectual faith as opponents frequently portray.

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). Word translated here in Greek is Logos and it is from this word that the word logic derives.

As an apologist for God’s truth, He defended the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as His own teachings and actions.

Presenting Jesus as a worthy thinker can be a powerful apologetic tool to unbelievers who wrongly assume that Christian belief is a matter of blind faith or irrational belief.

Jesus didn’t use logic to win arguments, but so that his listeners would understand and gain insight. It wasn’t about scoring intellectual points, as many of the so-called intellectuals didn’t ‘get it’ and yet everyday people and even children did.

We see in the gospels a number of occasions where the religious authorities tried to trap Jesus and we are then treated to a masterful demonstration of Jesus defeating their arguments through logic. For example in Matthew 22:23-38

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, hoping through their questions for Jesus to change His mind and admit that the resurrection was absurd. They tried to corner Him to admit that either there was no resurrection or that heaven allowed for monogamous marriages.

Jesus, using logic, showed they were basing their arguments on false premises. He then skilfully used their own beliefs to show them why they were wrong.

This is quite a common device used by opponents to Christianity. Their arguments will appear logical but will be based on false or misleading statements and premises.

Jesus was fond of using logical arguments which are called ‘a fortiori’ (Latin: “from the stronger”) The basic form of this argument is as follows

1. The truth of idea A is accepted.

2. Support for the truth of idea B (which is relevantly similar to idea A) is even stronger than that of idea A.

3. Therefore, if the truth of idea A must be accepted, then so must the truth of idea B.

Consider Jesus’ argument against the Pharisees concerning the rightness of His performing a healing miracle on the Sabbath:

Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:21–24)

Jesus’ argument can be laid out simply:

1. The Pharisees endorse circumcision, even when it is done on the Sabbath, the day of rest from work. This does not violate the Sabbath laws, because it is an act of goodness.

2. Healing the whole person is even more important and beneficial than circumcision, which affects only one aspect of the male.

3. Therefore, if circumcision on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath, neither is Jesus’ healing of a person on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ concluding comment, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” was a rebuke to their illogical inconsistency while applying their own moral and religious principles.

Jesus argued in a similar form in several other conversations regarding the meaning of the Sabbath. In Luke 13 after He healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler became indignant and said, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Jesus reminded him that one may lawfully untie one’s ox or donkey on the Sabbath and lead it to water. “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus’ argument looks like this:

1. The Jews lawfully release animals from their confinement on the Sabbath out of concern for the animals’ well-being.

2. A woman’s well-being (deliverance from a chronic, debilitating illness) is far more important than watering an animal.

3. Therefore, if watering an animal on the Sabbath is not a Sabbath violation, then Jesus’ healing of the woman on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath.

Luke recorded that Jesus “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.” (Luke 13:17).

A wise apologist will make good and repeated use of ‘a fortiori’ arguments. Here is an example from comparative religion: Many reject the Gospels because they are ancient documents that are supposedly historically unreliable. Many of these same people, however, trust ancient Buddhist and other Eastern religious documents, which have far fewer manuscripts

Jesus would often appeal to strong evidence to back up His teachings. When John the Baptist sent word from prison asking if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus answered him

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (John 11:4-6)

Jesus’ logic was as such:

1. If one does certain kinds of actions (according to the scriptures), then one is the Messiah.

2. I am doing those kinds of actions.

3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Let’s look at one more logical tool Jesus used in His arguments. He used a common tool used by Philosophers and other debaters calledreductio ad absurdum’ arguments. The term means “reduction to absurdity.” When used successfully, powerfully refutes an illogical position

Let’s see how Jesus used this argument in Matthew 22:41-46

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus’ argument can be laid out as follows:

1. If the Christ is merely the human descendent of David, David could not have called him “Lord.”

2. David did call the Christ “Lord” in Psalm 110:1.

3. To believe Christ was David’s Lord and merely his human descendent (who could not be his Lord) is absurd.

4. Christ, therefore, is not merely the human descendent of David.

Jesus’ point was not to deny the Christ’s ancestral connection to David, since Jesus Himself is called “the Son of David” in the Gospels (Matthew 1:1), and Jesus accepted the title without objection (Matthew 20:30–31). Jesus rather showed that the Christ is not merely the Son of David. Christ is also Lord and was so at the time of David. By using this reductio ad absurdum argument, Jesus expanded His audience’s understanding of who the Christ is and that He himself is the Christ.

Jesus employed another reductio ad absurdum when the Pharisees accused Him of driving demons out by Satan himself in Matthew 12:22-32. In reply to them He said:

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? (Matthew 12:25–27)

Let’s look at Jesus’ logic step by step:

1. If Satan were divided against himself, his kingdom would be ruined.

2. Satan’s kingdom, however, is not ruined (since demonic activity continues). To think otherwise is absurd.

3. Therefore, (a) Satan does not drive out Satan.

4. Therefore, (b) Jesus cannot free people from Satan by satanic power.

A bit of a longer blog today but I hope you have found it useful. Hopefully you will start to see how arguments are broken down into a set of statements and analysing these statements will show you where the errors occur (if any) Next time we will continue our look at apologetics and we will see some more examples of logic.

 February 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Feb 202015
 

Logic in apologeticsThe use of logic is very important when defending the faith. God has given us all logic and reason as a gift so that we can think straight. It originates from Him.

We can be very confident in what we believe in, but we should be able to explain why we believe what we do. And a good way of explaining ourselves is through logical arguments.

Logic is a system of reasoning, it is the principle of proper thinking used to arrive at correct conclusions.

It is worth bearing in mind that it is not logic that saves anybody and sometimes, people are so dead-set against Christianity that they are prepared to dispense and abandon reasoned logic.

Logic is used to remove intellectual barriers that hinder people coming to Christ. It can be used powerfully by Christians (and non-Christians) but it does have its limits.

Logic, as you might imagine has a number of principles and laws that govern the validity of its arguments.

  • The first law of logic is the law of identity. This simply states something is what it is and not what it is not. e.g. a dog is a dog, it is not a cat!
  • The second law of logic is the law of non-contradiction. This means that something cannot be both true and false at the same time (and in the same way) In other words, two contradictory statements cannot both be true. e.g. my only pet is a dog, my only pet is a cat.
  • The third law of logic is the law of excluded middle. This is simply that a statement is either true or false. e.g. My name is Adrian is a true statement, I am a girl is a false statement.

To be able to utilise these laws we need to take careful note on what people are saying to us, making sure we fully understand what they are saying and the arguments they use. Sometimes they argue from what is called a ‘false premise’ this is where they state something which isn’t actually true. we need to be aware of these because they are very common. It can help to repeat back to the person what we understand they are saying to avoid any amibiguity. When we are satisfied we have understood them, we can then respond with reasoned and rational comments.

As I cover a few tough questions over the coming weeks, you will see logic quite often comes into play.

Let me leave you with a problem some people try to trip Christians up with, which appears quite clever on the surface but actually breaches a fundamental law of logic. Have you ever heard the question: “Could God make a rock that is so big that He couldn’t lift it?” This is actually an absurd statement and contradicts the second law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. God by definition is infinite. In that statement you are also saying He is finite (limited). He cannot be infinite and finite at the same time. It is a logical fallacy and therefore an illogical statement. To put it simply you are saying that God is God and not God at the same time.

If you want to test how logically you think, here is a website you can test yourself on

http://www.think-logically.co.uk/lt.htm

Lastly as I was researching this subject I found a really engaging, funny and informative youtube video on logic and so I have posted it below

 February 20, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »