Ravi Zacharias „The Death of Truth and the Decline of Culture” VIDEO of the live stream

From Oct 17, 2013

„The Death of Truth and the Decline of Culture”

English: Ravi Zacharias signing books at the F...On Thursday, October 17th at 7:00 pm, nationally syndicated radio show host Dennis Prager (www.dennisprager.com) and world-renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org) will appear on stage together at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, GA.

The evening will be hosted by comedian, actor and best-selling author Jeff Foxworthy.

American radio talk show host, columnist, and ...We live in trying times. Those of us who take belief in the God of the Bible seriously feel burdened by the problems that arise in our increasingly secular, pluralistic society. People are abandoning truth, Western culture is dying, and the lines between right and wrong are becoming irrevocably blurred.

The goal of this event is to allow two prominent voices in the public square – one Jewish (Prager), and one evangelical Christian (Ravi) – to engage in an open, honest and entertaining dialogue about these challenges we face as a nation and civilization. This is about asking and answering tough questions in a God-honoring and purposeful way.


The 2013 National Christian Apologetics Conference October 11-12, 2013 Charlotte, NC

apologetics conf 13Photo credit ses.edu 

The 2013 National Christian Apologetics Conference takes place from Friday, Oct. 11 to Saturday, Oct. 12. For more information visit www.conference.ses.edu.

See the schedule here – http://www.conference.ses.edu./schedule

The Southern Evangelical Seminary is partnering with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to deliver what promises to be an exciting series of presentations by many prominent apologists during the 20th annual Christian Apologetics conference in Charlotte, N.C., starting Friday. Dr. Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, will be inaugurated as the fourth president of Southern Evangelical Seminary prior to the conference Thursday evening.

The premise of the two-day event titled, „Reasons for the Hope,” is designed to deepen participant’s understanding of subjects related to science, culture, and other religions.

„I think the single greatest factor has to be that we as Christians are seeing how we are losing the culture to anti-Christian worldviews,” said Eric Gustafson, director of Development Southern Evangelical Seminary.

On the conference website, Zacharias is quoted, „In Christian engagement, the goal is to win the person who is of the other worldview – not to destroy the person.”

Organizers promise to deliver a host of prominent apologists speaking on engaging topics. For example, from the schedule of many speakers and topics, Tom Woodard, author of Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, is presenting a session titled, „Darwin, Design, and the Stories We Tell: The Rhetoric of Science in Scientific Apologetics.” Don Deal,  director of Worldview Evangelism and Apologetics for Meekness and Truth Ministries, will be discussing „Does DNA = God?” In the „Christianity & Culture” track, Josh McDowell’s presentation is titled, „The Perfect Storm: Four Cultural Trends That Challenge Every Truth We Know.”

More than 2,000 people are expected to attend, twice the number of participants at last year’s event. Although the projected attendance is not the largest in its conference history, the surge is due, in part, to the hot topic of the crossroads between Christianity and science. Additionally, organizers say the increase in expected attendance is attributed to the stronger presence of social media in promoting the event.

Gustafson said that the demographics of attendees this year is broad, and includes pastors, Christian educators, and parents, who want to be better equipped to raise their children in an increasingly secular society.

„We also have a lot of professionals, including doctors, engineers, and scientists who want to better understand how evidences from their own fields points to the truthfulness of Christianity,” said Gustafson.

During the conference, there will be three tracks featuring dozens of topics that will be presented by renowned speakers and experts. One of the discussions will include a debate between Jason Lisle, a scientist from the Institute for Creation Research and Dr. Hugh Ross, a scholar from Reasons to Believe, an organization that equips people to engage in the integration of science and Christianity. Their dialoge will focus on their theological and philosophical reasons regarding astronomy and the Earth’s age.

„If participants are thirsty for high-quality apologetic training, be prepared to take a drink from a fire-hose,” said Gustafson.

In addition, another in-depth topic of discussion will entail the apologetic methodology called presuppositionalism, which involves the idea of divine condescension. The conversation will focus on the role of presuppositionalism and young-earth creationism, which argues that the world was created in six days.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to listen in on topics including climate changes in the 21st century and being spiritual but not religious, among others.

Story from http://www.christianpost.com

Sean McDowell – How you approach an unbeliever, armed with facts they will listen to

Sean McDowell, son of Josh McDowell talks about the Intelligent Design option, when speaking to an unbeliever. He recommends this option for high school and college students, that is the primary target of this video, from a talk at Sugar Creek Baptist Church (July 21, 2013) – Lecture by Sean McDowell. For more on Intelligent Design: http://www.youtube.com/idquest VIDEO by religionphilosophy

Ravi Zacharias discusses several subjects (video)

English: Ravi Zacharias signing books at the F...

Sound quality is a bit off, however still a great message to listen to in this Q & A with Ravi Zacharias which was recently uploaded by the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries:

VIDEO by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Ravi Zacharias – Jesus among other gods

I thought I would repost this video ‘Jesus among other gods’ in light of today’s other post ‘How Shinto and Buddhist priests view religion in Japan‘. Ravi Zacharias explains how showing Jesus as the exclusive Savior who forgives our sin makes all the difference when presenting the Gospel to people of other religions.

English: Ravi Zacharias signing books at the F...

In his most important work to date, apologetics scholar and popular speaker Ravi Zacharias shows how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.Jesus Among Other Gods contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.(Editor’s review) Click here for an Encapsulated view of this book which is considered one of the best Christian apologetics books.

Jesus among other gods’ .

Ravi Zacharias: Jesus’s exclusivity is implicit in this claim. We will look at half a dozen questions Jesus answers to those who present these questions to him. No other claimant to divine or prophetic status would have ever answered those questions that way. there is a uniqueness, a marvelous uniqueness and so in this opening session we will be looking at one of those questions that was posed to Him that I have entitled: The anatomy of faith and the quest for reason.

There are six parts to this video. (Length 1 hour 22 min.) Pass the video to all your friends and make the time to watch it. Not only is it informative (biblically, philosophically and rationally) but it is also creatively edited with footage, and inspirational and faith building.

For more Ravi Zacharias videos visit my Ravi Zacharias page.

(1) Why apologetics? A new series of apologetic tools

photo from slideshow below

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 1.50.04 PM

A great series from Robin Schumaker, a Christian Post blogger to help us with apologetics:

Without a doubt, our culture today is a very visual one. Ravi Zacharias has described people today as „listening with their eyes.”

This first slideshare has 38 slides. Click on the right arrow to advance the pages. Click on the left arrow to go back one page or more.

(1) Why apologetics?

Why Apologetics from Robin Schumacher

Ravi Zacharias – Good and evil from back in the garden of Eden

RaviI’m a Christian apologist. Apologetics is a discipline that does two things:

  1. It clarifies truth claims
  2. It gives answers to the hard and the soft questions that people ask

So, we are surrounded, all around us in our ministry with questions. A few weeks ago I was doing an open forum at Princeton University, a gentleman stood up and he asked a very interesting question. And he said this, „What is the difference in the milieu, in the idea, in the original creation in the garden, over and against now?” I said, „Oh boy, that’s a long question, let me keep the answer brief.” I said 2 things:

  1. The presence of God
  2. If you remember, in the legal framework there was just one prohibition, and one temptation. Think about that. „You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Just one caution, one warning, one law to bear in mind. What happens? The enemy of our souls comes and what does he say? „Did God really say that?” Is this a propositional statement from God? And then the seduction, „In the day that you eat from it you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

I take that to mean: In the day that you define the one mandate of God- not to defy good and evil- everything wrong will ensue. So, all that happened in that garden was simply  the denial of God’s prerogative to be the definer of good and evil.  And when you look at the world now, I said to the student, you tell me, „What does the world look like now, with thousands of laws, thousands of footnotes, and even when you get on to the plane, they don’t just tell you ‘don’t mess with the smoke detector’, they have to tell you not to tamper, touch, disable or destroy.” Because you can have each word dying the death of a thousand qualifications. What’s really happened, ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a time in cultural history where our definitions have gone.

Malcolm Muckridge talked about this years ago, in the seventies. He said, „It is difficult to resist the conclusion that 20th century man has decided to abolish himself. Tired of the struggle to be himself, he has created boredom out of his own affluence, impotence out of his own erotomania, and vulnerability out of his own strength. He himself blows the trumpet, that brings the walls of his own cities crashing down. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, having drugged and polluted himself into stupefaction, he keels over a weary old brontosaurus and becomes extinct.

You know, the truth of the matter is, that when our definitions are gone, the minefield and the quicksand through which we walk is horrendous. Now you may say that Muckridge was on the verge of his own spiritual journey beginning. He was a humanist like Aldous Huxley: We are living today, not in the delicious intoxication  of the early successes of science, rather in the grizzly morning after, where it has become quite apparent that what science may have actually done is to introduce us to improved means, in order to obtain hither to unimproved, or rather, deteriorated ends.

In Moscow, last week, I told them the story of Natan Sharansky , who was a political prisoner there for many years, and went on to his homeland in Israel and became the Justice Minister. When he returned to Rusisia for the first time, he asked if he could go back to the prison where they kept him for so long. As he was about to enter that little cell, he asked his wife if she would please allow him the privilege  of being there alone for a few minutes. He went back alone and he came back with tears running down his face. He said, „It was here that I really found myself.” And he asked for the privilege to go and lay a wreath at the tomb, at the grave of Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian physicist, who gave to the Soviet Union the atomic bomb. And he quoted Sakharov, and he said this, „Sakharov told me before he died, ‘I always thought the most powerful weapon in the world is the bomb.’ He said, „It is not. The most powerful weapon in the world is the truth.'” Winston Churchill said the truth is the most valuable thing in the world. So valuable, that it is often protected by a bodyguard of lies.

Where do we go from here? What do we do, when those in their punditry have told us years ago where we were headed? Where is America now? Listen to Chesterton: Under the smooth, legal surface of our time, there are already moving very lawless things. We are always near the breaking point when we care only for what is legal, and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions, with no rules, and there will be so many hard cases, that everything will go soft, unless we know the difference between what is lawful and what is legal. Where do we go?

I close with this thought: It was about 3 years ago, the first time I was given the awesome privilege of speaking at the opening day  of the United Nations, on the day of prayer. They asked me to speak on a very difficult subject: The finding of absolutes in a relativistic world. That’s tough on any given day. Even tougher for about 20 minutes at 7 o clock in the morning. What could you do when there is a plurality of worldviews sitting in front of you? So, I did this.I said, „We’re looking for absolutes in four areas.

  1. Evil, how to define evil.
  2. Justice, how do you define what is just.
  3. Love, how do you find the source of love and the absoluteness of love.
  4. and when we blow it, we look for the grounds of forgiveness.

These are the areas that govern our lives, for which we want definitions: evil, justice, love, and forgiveness. I said, „Ladies and Gentlemen, can I ask you this: Do you know of the one place in history where these 4 converge? The one place in history, where evil, justice, love and forgiveness come down to the end of that funnel – there is in the Christian worldview, it happened on a hill called Calvary. The evil that is in the heart of man, the justice that God has,  the love that He portrayed to the very end- ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing’, the forgiveness that we found.” At the age of 17, I was on a bed of suicide in New Delhi, India, having lost all hope. Total failure. When a man brought me a Bible in my hospital room, something I had never opened in my own life, and he opened it to John chapter 14, I won’t go into details. He gave it to my mother, whose English was not that good, reading from the King James version cause he had to leave. Jesus said to Thomas, „Because  I live, you also shall live.I committed my life to Jesus Christ, and the Grand Weaver has drawn a great pattern in the life of somebody who had lost all hope, lost meaning, lost purpose.

You see, when you find your definitions in God, you find the very purpose for which you were created. „You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Him.” Can I close with this quote? In 1939, the world was on the brink of a lot of darkness. King George VI went to speak to the world, and he said, „I said to the man at the gate of the year”Give me a light, that I may walk into the unknown.” He said to me, „Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you better than the light, and safer than the known.” Graduates, you’re going out into a pretty dark world. Put your hand into God’s hand. Know His absolutes, demonstrate His love, present His truth and the message of redemption, and transformation will take hold. The story is to be told to many. And the experience and joy of transformation is unique. The Gospel alone has that story.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (6) Escaping the Wiles of the Devil (last video)

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

The Screwtape Letters Part 5 – The Lust of the Flesh


Last Part 6 – Escaping the Wiles of the Devil

Dr. Root, C.S. Lewis scholar at Wheaton College, Illinois, in his last lecture gives some antidotes to Screwtape’s wiles and ways to avoid temptations and see more victory from the writing of C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.

Screwtape’s overtures must be detected and overcome. How can this be done? Any study of C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters must end with a word of hope and some positive advice, as to how we can become less and less susceptible to the wiles of the evil one. In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis said he thought pride was the great sin. And, certainly pride is one area, one thread on which several of the Screwtape Letters are held together. When Lewis says ‘pride is a great sin’ though, I would tend to take issue with him, unless he means by ‘great sin’, like the apex of a pyramid is the greatest point of a pyramid, I’m comfortable with what he’s claimed. Lewis wasn’t the only one who said pride was the greatest sin. Augustine, in his commentary on Psalm 19 says the same thing. And, many christians throughout time.

But, let me see if I can make a case. If, again, they mean pride is at the apex of a pyramid, it’s at the end of a process. We know that the apex of the pyramid is being supported by things far more substantive beneath the apex. But, let me explain what we discover as we go to the parts that are the more substantive of the pyramid, where something like pride would be the apex. I am not talking, too, of pride as pride in a job well done. I’m talking about that form of pride that manifests itself as a kind of pretense- making myself look better than I am. Deluding myself into thinking I am  better than I am, or wanting other people to buy into the delusion.

Could it not be that maybe pride is preceded by insecurity and fear. If you knew me as I am, you might reject me. So I try to make myself better than I am. If this is true, then the Bible is explicit about what would be beneath – fear and insecurity. 1 John 4:18 „perfect love casts out fear”. Now, you and I have never been loved perfectly by another human being before. Well meaning people have done the best they can, but we’ve still picked up mixed messages. So, consequently, if perfect love casts out fear, a corollary might be that imperfect love breeds anxiety. And, each of us, by the methods we picked up from others, have been at some level saddled with the burden of anxiety. Furthermore, it gets worst before it gets better. You and I have never loved anybody perfectly either. So people in our world, who have looked to us for love. Though we’ve done the best we know how, we’ve still saddled them with some burden of anxiety.

There’s only one person who knows you utterly and loves you completely, and that’s God. His love is non contingent, it’s not based any kind of performance on our part. When we fail, He loves us and forgives us. When He’s picked us up by His grace, His love nurtures us. His love is not increased by our performance, nor is it diminished by our failure. This is overwhelming. God knows us and loves us completely. That doesn’t mean He’s not disappointed at our failure. But His love is such that He remains with us. He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

Therefore, it would appear that the greatest sin, at the base of the pyramid is to reject the love of God, to be unwilling to accept the love of God in our lives.

Antidote – The love of God. 

Security in the love of God is a preventative, making us less susceptible to Screwtape’s temptation and offerings. Lewis writes an essay: First and Second Things. You put first things first, you get second things thrown in. You put second things first, you lose out on first and second things. For, who can eat, and who can enjoy life without Him? Screwtape provides false notions of the self and of the world. When we define ourselves by these falsehoods, we become susceptible by the things he suggests will fulfill us. We look for artificialities, rather than something substantive in God. God loves you. He knows you and He loves you. And, nothing will keep you safe from the evils of the wicked one more than the realization of God’s love for you and your loving response to Him. Trusting that He has your best welfare at stake, so you don’t start looking for it in other places. I think we need to define ourselves by how He sees us and He loves us. We are always having a great love story told to us, by the great lover of our souls, and we live most of our lives out of cognition. There are brief moments when we get it. He loves us and we’re overwhelmed. And then, we fall out of cognition as quickly as we fell into cognition.

In the heart of God, He offers us the best He can offer us- His love. And we, instead, vector off towards artificialities. The love of God keeps us secure. If you neglect God’s love, you will begin to drift away from Him and drift towards those artificialities that we use as a substitute for God. And once Screwtape could move towards these idols, these artificialities, he’ll start to have His way with us. We, withdrawing into ourselves  and becoming self-referential, we also look on others in a utilitarian way, which compounds our sense of isolation. We also increase our own sensitivities, becoming more easily hurt by the actions of others around us, while becoming less sensitive to the hurt others around us may be enduring because of us. Photo below via www.pastormattrichard.com

Growing in Virtue

There is something we can do in order to grow in grace as well

Growing in Virtue 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Lewis also writes about virtue in Mere Christianity. Virtue is an integrated hole. Virtue is a means to the good life. Virtue had facets, but they were all interdependent. – These things grow in response to our love for God. These are the offerings of our love back to God, in loving response. All these are habits, too, by the way.

  1. Courage is the habitual ability to suffer pain and hardship. It’s endurance, fortitude, it’s staying power. Courage is the ability to say „Yes” to right action, even in the teeth of pain. Our own moral development will not progress if we don’t have this endurance. When the temptation comes we endure. When we run the risk of vectoring we need to endure in our loving response to God. We need to lather up again in God’s love for us, that we might triumph over some of these other things. 
  2. Temperance, on the other hand is the habitual ability to resist the enticement of immediate pleasure, in order to gain the more remote good. If courage is the ability to say „yes” in the right action even in the teeth of pain, temperance is the ability to say „no” to wrong action even in the jaws of pleasure. And we can do that most readily, when we’re most satisfied in our relationship with God. If you find yourself caving in because you’re intemperate, let the red light go on the dashboard of your life- God loves you, He forgives you… when the red light goes on, go to Him in your intemperance and receive from Him His grace, that you might reinsert yourself in the world. Temperance is a mark of maturity. When my children were little, they weren’t born temperate. When they were little, they would have been willing to sell their souls for sweets. They were easy marks for Screwtape whenever he came. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.
  3. Justice is the habit of being law abiding and concerned with the common good and general welfare of ones society. Justice recognizes that my own moral development is interlinked with my responsibility to you. Justice seeks to secure and protect natural rights, to be fair and render to others their due. If I am engages in self-referential ways that treat you in a utilitarian way, my own character is diminished, and as a human being I am not enjoying life to the fullest. Justice testifies to the fact that character and development is connected to one’s responsibility to another. One’s moral development is linked to practicing fairness and showing genuine concern  for the welfare of others.
  4. Wisdom. Lastly, wisdom is the habit  being careful about decisions one makes. It seeks counsel and advice. Wisdom is the perspective of the scaffold, it’s the perspective of God’s word, it’s the perspective of friends who bring to us insight that we wouldn’t have, if we were operating individually, or self-referentially. We need this wisdom.

The thing that keeps us moving in the realm of virtue and spiritual maturity is when it’s all built on the foundation of God’s love. God’s love is the antidote to the wiles of the evil one. Three weeks before C S Lewis died, an American girl wrote him a letter, and she had read the Narnian chronicles, and Lewis was on his deathbed, virtually. Nobody would have faulted him if he wouldn’t have wrote this girl back. But, he writes her a letter, this great christian leader, not struggle free in his life, but a struggler who learned the art of living through his struggles. He learned about the grace of God and the love of God. And Lewis writes this girl, as he’s on the threshold of eternity, to an 11 year old American girl on the threshold of her earthly experience, and he says to her, „If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much will go wrong with you. And I pray you may always do so.” It’s still great advice.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (5) The Sins of the Flesh

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Part 5 –  The Sins of the Flesh

Screwtape, when he writes, especially about the sins of the flesh, and fleshly desire, he writes this in Letter 19, and it’s his key concept to the desires of the flesh. He writes: Separate your patient’s sexuality from all that might humanize him. To humanize the desire is not to deny the desire, but to allow love and justice to guide and direct it. That place where we begin to respect  the humanity of the other person, not be self-referential and utilitarian, using other people for our own ends. Screwtape writes in Letter 7: Once you’ve made the world an end of faith and means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. So we see that Screwtape seeks to hold the patient in a state of confusion over real pleasure. And, artificiality, or the corruption of pleasure.

In letter 9, we are informed that the devil cannot produce pleasures. Screwtape says, „All we can do is to encourage humans to take pleasures which our enemy has produced at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden. Hence, we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that which is least natural, least redolent of its maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „Exploit the troth. Undulation – we have these up and down periods in our life. He says, „Exploit the troth, exploit the down time.” In other words, help your patient move towards pleasure, that is a kind of anesthetizing behavior.

All of us are wounded. Not necessarily all of us are broken. Brokenness is an awareness of our wound, and how it affects us at some level. And, our tendency, because of our woundedness, rather than bringing it to Jesus, to begin the process of healing us, we will gravitate towards anesthetizing behaviors. These behaviors are things like drug addiction, alcohol addictions, eating disorders, sexual addiction, workaholism. Usually, these anesthetizing behaviors get us by, they don’t get us better. And, usually, as time comes, we pick up some convictions along the way, and the anesthetizing behaviors that got us by from our youth, these anesthetizing behaviors begin to operate in contrast to our convictions.

Romans 7 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Who will set me free form these things? Paul says Christ will. Why is it that we keep going back to these things, even though they are contrary to our convictions? I would like to suggest to you that: Our wounds are deeper than our convictions. And, if we’re not finding the grace of God healing us in the places of our life, especially in the troth period, we become particularly susceptible to the sins of the flesh, and Screwtape has his way on us. (10:22)

What is the antidote to lust? It’s reality. To see another person as she or he really is. That is why Screwtape says, „Separate his sexuality from all that might humanize it. Separate it from reality. Separate it from virtue, as a means to pleasure, and lead them towards vice and unrestrained expression that doesn’t take into account the humanity of another person.” In Letter 13 Screwtape warns Wormwood not to allow his patient to experience real pleasure. The characteristic of pains and pleasure, he writes, is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. He writes, „How could you have failed to see that a real pleasure  is the last thing you ought to have him meet?” Because a real pleasure would see things as they are, not as he would have them be. In an experiment in criticism, Lewis said: In coming to understand anything, we must accept the facts as they are, not as they are for us.

In Letter 17, he talks about the glutton of delicacy, and we talked about that under pride. But, Lewis finishes his discussion of the gluttony of delicacy by talking about this woman, who talks about- „All I want” state of mind. I want it like this, I want it like that”. She has in her mind what she wants. He says at the end of that particular statement: She doesn’t mind what she eats herself, but does like to have things nice for her boy. In fact, of course, her greed has been one of the chief  sources of the boy’s domestic discomfort for many years. She thinks she’s doing right by the boy, but she’s projecting on the boy what she wants the boy to be like, rather than being concerned to let the boy be what he ought to be. (18:00)

In Letter 20 we see Screwtape say this to Wormwood, „The goal is to produce in every age, a general misdirection of what may be called sexual taste.. (Here, sexual taste is the abuse of another person for my own ends, but, it’s an abuse of another person in a particular way). This they do, by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers, who determine the fashionable type. As a result, we are more and more directing the desires of men towards something that does not exist, making the role of the ‘I’ in sexuality more and more important. At the same time, making it’s demands more and more impossible.

The use of undulation is a seedbed for temptation. In Letter #8, Screwtape invites Wormwood to exploit troth times. In Letter 25, we see this: There’s the horror of the same old thing. The lust then for novelty. You can’t get a person, then, to be satisfied in their present state, they have to lust for something that’s beyond what’s in their own pasture, or their own world. The God who is immutable created the immutability of time. He even entered it himself. He gives His creatures a love of permanence, as well as a love of change or variety. God seeks to gratify both of these loves via the rhythms of life. To overindulge one side of the permanence-variety struggle is to neglect the other, to play to eternity, while failing at temporal responsibility. This is gnostic. So to, to play to time, while failing at the eternal responsibility, this is damnable. The antidote to the excesses of change is permanence. Permanence is to discover the light in the particular.

Screwtape seeks to exaggerate the pleasures of either, to make an end of it. He seeks to destroy balance, and the struggle to bring about balance. And this results in diminished pleasure and increased desire. So, the pleasure of novelty is subject to the law of diminishing returns. This leads to the susceptibility to fashion or vogues, and so on. Screwtape’s goal is mainly to produce that nonsense in the intellect, which reinforces corruption in the will. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „We want cattle who can finally become food, but God wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. Screwtape will try to make man in his image, where as God will remake us in the image of His Son. All choice moves us one way or another, towards a miserific vision, or the beatific vision.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (4) The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil

Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

We are almost predatory about self deception and Screwtape advises his nephew, Wormwood to help people in that regard, to be self deceived. The word Akrasia means to make excuses and rationalize bad acts. It self justifies. Remember that even when Christ was dying on the cross for our sins, there were those at the foot of the cross who said, „If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself.” We understand the ‘save yourself’ mentality. But, Jesus didn’t come to save himself, He came to save lost humanity. And, Job’s self referential experience, and we’re tender towards Job because he’s suffering, and any time we suffer, we wanna give people in the moment of their crisis a wide swath of understanding and patience. But, Job, even in his hurting moments, God says to him: Gird up your loins like a man, Job, and I will ask you and you will instruct me. It’s a very ridiculous juxtaposition of God as the student and Job as the teacher. And then He says to him, „Will you really annul mu judgments, that you may be justified?”

The bad alternative to repentance is this akrasia, this rationalization. It’s a bad alternative to repentance and the obedience that follows on the heels of repentance. Obedience is the opener of eyes. We might say, akrasia is the closer of eyes. It keeps us from seeing reality. Obedience allows me to live in the benefits of omniscience. I’m a pea brain, I don’t know very much. But, every time God, in His omniscience, calls me to obedience, I can live beyond my own capacities. If I obey Him, I receive the benefits of omniscience. Furthermore, obedience is the splint that God places on a broken life in order that it might mend. But, disobedience and akrasia, in willful blindness, keeps me in that broken state.

We get the concept for akrasia from Aristotle’s ethics. Aristotle wrote: vice is unconscious of itself. It’s a statement that Lewis himself footnotes in the abolition of man, from Aristotle’s ethics. Lewis is very much aware of this concept of self deception. Lewis writes from the preface of Paradise Lost- Continued disobedience to conscience makes conscience blind. Then, of course, Paul in Romans 1:18 – „We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness.” Screwtape urges Wormwood to engage in a corrupted form of rhetoric, to keep his patient blind. (8:25) So we see first:

The rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior:

  • The Unknowing Falsification of Reality
  • Intentional & Dishonest
  • Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends
  • Self-referentialism

Photo from http://www.swordofthespirit.net

Screwtape tells Wormwood: Jargon, not reason is your best ally in keeping your patient from church. In his Oxford History of English Literature, Lewis said of the Renaissance humanists, in their reaction to the medieval literature, he said, „They jeer, but they do not refute.” You can call a person a name, you can be dismissive of that other person, but, never engage them rationally to see if your ideas hold muster against the challenges that must come. Screwtape says, „By the very act of arguing you awake the patient’s reason. And once it is awake, who can foresee the result?” Reason is an ally to faith, it’s not an ally to self justification. Real criticism is going to do 2 positive things to my faith. (1) It’s gonna cause me to prune those accoutrements that have surrounded my faith, that are false. Maybe I picked them um blindly from my subculture. I entered into something like a group think, that can sometime occur in religious communities. (2) Or, the challenge can help me to understand my faith more robustly, as I see that my faith position stands up to the challenge, even as I engage in seeing how I can answer the particular questions that are brought up in the moment. Screwtape wants us to avoid that kind of thinking, because that kind of thinking, again, either prunes the falsehood or strengthens the truth and helps us see its vitality.

Truth is not reality, truth is what I think about reality when I think accurately about it. In Letter 1, Screwtape wants to keep those he seeks to destroy in a state of moral blindness. Screwtape writes: Give to him, your patient, a grand general idea that he knows it all, and that everything he has happened to pick up in casual talk and reading is a result of modern investigation. And so, then the person moves towards informal fallacies and logic, and we don’t even realize we’re blinding ourselves in these processes. In Letter 2 Screwtape talks about this rationalized behavior in more detail. He writes to Wormwood: All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily are still in our favor. Because those habits, especially if they are bad will tend towards the rationalization of the habit. If you move the person again towards reason, then they apply the reason to the habits and they try to adjust the scoliosis of their life to the plum line of reality, and they start to change and get better. Screwtape writes: Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which hell affords. Screwtape also advises Wormwood to notice hypocrisy in others also, while remaining blind to his own hypocrisies.

Lewis and Tolkien, both often quote this passage from Plato’s laws, where Plato says: An abuse does not nullify a proper use. A lot of time we point to abuse and we think the problem is solved. But, the abuse is usually the anomaly, the misuse of a particular thing. If we judge any segment of society by its worst example, nobody could stand. But, we find then, that we’re moving towards Screwtape’s inculcation of hypocrisy and delusion, when we begin to dismiss an entire class because we’re projecting the bad example on the whole.

In Letter 3, this rationalized behavior moves towards blame. Screwtape advises Wormwood to redirect his patient’s thinking towards unrealities. He says, „You must bring him, your patient to a condition to practice self examination for an hour, without discovering any of those facts about himself, which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him, or worked in the same office. Screwtape advises to keep his patient constantly irritated by things his mother does, without thought how irritating his own actions might be to others. At the end of the day, he has 2 visions of reality. The false vision of his mother, who is not as bad as the one he projects on her, and the false image of himself, which is not as good as the one he projects on himself. Wormwood is instructed to make that imaginary person daily less and less than the real mother. 24:37

There is another rhetoric Screwtape engages in. It’s- The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Intentional & Dishonest. In Letter 6, Lewis allows us to enter in this particular topic. He is engaged also in The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends. He basically creates an illusion of truth, we see this in Letter 23. We can have a kind of very religious illusion of truth. I believe that there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Goofy people who know they’re goofy, and goofy people who are dangerous. Lewis has Screwtape say, „Get your patient on a quest for the historical Jesus, which is always a distraction from reality, because this historical Jesus they’re pursuing is a Jesus of their own construction. First, he says, each historical Jesus is unhistorical. Second, all such construction places their importance of the historical Jesus on some peculiar theory he was supposed to have promulgated, which thus destract men’s mind from who He really is and what He actually did. A third aim, Screwtape writes, is by these constructions to destroy the devotional life. Instead of the Creator adored by his creature, you have merely a leader claimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian. Fourth, a religion of this kind is false to history in another sense, Screwtape writes. No nation and few individuals are really brought to the enemy’s camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus. It is simply his biography. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact: The resurrection. And a single theological doctrine: The redemption operating on a sense of sin, which they already had.

And the Screwtape says: About the general connection between christianity and politics our position is more delicate. Certainly, we do not want christianity to flow over into their political life, for, the establishing of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster for Screwtape and his kind. On the other hand, we do want men to treat christianity as a means, just a means. In some senses, devoid of principle, and devoid of particular and righteous ends, preferably, of course as a means to their own advancement. But, failing that, even the means to anything, even to social justice. The thing at first is to get a man to value social justice as a thing the enemy demands, and then work on him to the stage at which he values christianity because it may produce social justice. C S Lewis said: When the means become autonomous from the principle and ends, they become evil. He even says: Even when love becomes a god, it becomes a demon. He’s not saying social justice is inappropriate. He’s saying that even social justice can become a distraction, if it leads away from centering on Jesus.

Screwtape says, in Letter 26: Get your patient to believe this, not because it’s true, but for some other reason. This leads to the Rhetoric of Self Rationalized Behavior: Self-referentialism. While Lewis rightly acknowledged that all judgments rightly imply a standard, judgments are destined to go wrong when the standard is self-referential. And this is the thing we always want to avoid, this kind of rationalization.

The Rationality of the Christian Worldview

via www.Bible.org , a study by myltiple authors.

Classical apologists seek to show that the Christian worldview is rational or reasonable and therefore worthy of belief. The characteristic approach they take to accomplish this task is a two-step or two-stage argument. First, classical apologists seek to demonstrate that theism—the general type of worldview that affirms the existence of one personal Creator God and that is associated historically with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—is true. Arguments of a deductive logical structure—‘proofs’ in the usual strict sense—are typical of this stage, although many apologists in this tradition also use empirical arguments (especially for creation) and claim only to show that there are good reasons to think that God exists. In the second step or stage of the apologetic, the classical apologist argues that, given the existence of God, the evidence for Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Bible are sufficient to show that Christianity is true. At this stage the arguments are usually more inductive, and in fact are typically identical to the sorts of arguments used by evidentialists in regards to such subjects as the resurrection of Christ.

William Lane Craig explains the method in just this way. He acknowledges that the main argument he favors in support of belief in God does not prove everything we might like about God, but is rather proof “simply of a Personal Creator of the universe, and then the argument can proceed from there.” Has this Creator remained distant and aloof from the world that he has made, or has he revealed himself more fully to humankind that we might know him more completely? Here one moves to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the unique personal revelation of such a Creator. It will then be the Christian evidentialist’s turn to take over the oars from the natural theologian.

C S Lewis narrowed it down to 3 worldviews

Scripture as Conclusion

One of the most fundamental questions concerning apologetic method is the role that Scripture plays in apologetic argument. In general, classical apologists seek to make the existence of Scripture as a body of inspired and authoritative writings the conclusion of the whole apologetic.

For example, B. B. Warfield argued that the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture were the conclusion toward which apologetics worked, not its presupposition or starting point. “In dealing with sceptics it is not proper to begin with the evidence which immediately establishes Inspiration, but we should first establish Theism, then the historical credibility of the Scriptures, and then the divine origin of Christianity.” On the basis of the divine origin of Christianity, one may then go on to argue for the inspiration of Scripture.

Warfield’s placement of Scripture at the end of the apologetic argument is reflected explicitly in the structure of some textbooks on apologetics from a classical approach. Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics is a perfect example.3 Geisler discusses apologetic methodology in Part One and argues for the existence of God in Part Two. In Part Three he presents an apologetic for Christianity per se, beginning with a defense of the belief in the supernatural (chapter 14) and continuing with a defense of the possibility of knowing that God had intervened supernaturally in history (15). Next, Geisler defends the historical reliability of the New Testament (16) as a prelude to giving an argument for the deity and authority of Christ (17). Only after all this has been established does he conclude with a final chapter on the inspiration and authority of the Bible (18). “The evidence that the Bible is the written word of God is anchored in the authority of Jesus Christ.” As we saw in our overview of Geisler’s apologetic in chapter 4, the inspiration of Scripture is the twelfth point in his 12-point argument for Christianity.

In treating the authority of Scripture as the conclusion toward which an apologetic is directed, classical apologists seek to avoid begging the question by assuming the authority of Scripture in apologetic arguments directed to unbelievers. These apologists argue that “reason must judge the credentials of any alleged revelation.”5 Doing so is not seen as arrogant or impious because, classical apologists explain, God gave us our faculty of reason and directed his revelation to it. Therefore God expects us to employ our reasoning abilities both to both recognize his true revelation and to detect the fraudulent revelations of other religions. As Stephen Neill put it: “Reason is not the affirmation of the arrogant autonomy of man, fashioning a universe according to his own ideas. It is that faculty in man which makes it possible for him to receive the revelation of God, to receive revelation in the form of the Word of God. But, to receive it, he must be humble, and ready to listen to God, whenever and however He speaks.”6

Classical apologists believe that human beings are responsible to use their reasoning faculties to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). They deny that testing revelations from God is a manifestation of human autonomy that elevates the mind as the final authority for truth. Rather, just as it is reasonable to look for credentials before submitting to a human authority in any given field, so it is reasonable to submit to the authority of revelation once it is shown to be well founded on the basis of God-given rationality. As Gordon R. Lewis argues, “To be responsible before the Bible, the unbeliever must have enough judgment to know why he should determine his lifestyle by Scripture rather than the Koran or the Book of Mormon. The use of systematic consistency to distinguish the Bible from the Koran in no way detracts from the Bible’s authority. It verifies the Bible’s claim above all competitors..Negatively, classical apologists seek to refute common objections to biblical inspiration. This refutation involves both direct answers to specific objections and observations about the assumptions or presuppositions of those who reject biblical inspiration or inerrancy. Geisler, for example, in Inerrancy, a book he edited for the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, contributed a chapter entitled “Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy.” There he examines the modern neoevangelical drift from the historical biblical doctrine of inerrancy. He traces the current crisis in biblical authority to philosophical presuppositions derived from various unbiblical philosophies. Geisler’s thesis is that “contemporary neoevangelical denials of inerrancy borrow from one or more of these alien and unjustified philosophical presuppositions.” The solution to such antibiblical presuppositions, for classical apologists like Geisler, is to reexamine the worldviews of those who hold them and make the case for a theistic worldview in which the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture will not be philosophically scandalous.

Disproving Other Worldviews

A worldview is the sum of a person’s basic assumptions, held consciously or subconsciously, about life and the nature of reality. These assumptions or presuppositions are sometimes “only brought to mind when challenged by a foreigner from another ideological universe.”10 Classical apologists generally maintain that while there may be many internal variations, the actual number of basic worldviews is quite limited. James W. Sire catalogs and contrasts several of these in The Universe Next Door, and then comments:

The fact is that while worldviews at first appear to proliferate, they are made up of answers to questions which have only a limited number of answers. For example, to the question of prime reality, only two basic answers can be given: Either it is the universe that is self-existent and has always existed, or it is a transcendent God who is self-existent and has always existed. Theism and deism claim the latter; naturalism, Eastern pantheistic monism, New Age thought and postmodernism claim the former.11

There are different ways of categorizing worldviews because of areas of overlap. Sire devotes separate chapters to eight basic worldviews: Christian theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern pantheistic monism, the New Age, and postmodernism.12 Norman Geisler and William Watkins in Worlds Apart, another evangelical overview of worldviews, distinguish seven worldviews, and their list differs in some respects from Sire’s (deism, pantheism, panentheism, finite godism, polytheism, atheism, and theism). There is more overlap here than may meet the eye: Sire’s naturalism is the same worldview as atheism, and nihilism and existentialism are philosophies that seek to apply the atheistic worldview to human life. Moreover, pantheism includes both Eastern pantheistic monism and the New Age. Narrowing the options enables the apologist to show non-Christians the fundamental choices that need to be made. Once they realize there are only a few basic worldviews, the excuse that there are so many beliefs in the world drops away.

One way classical apologists demonstrate that the number of worldview choices is finite and manageable is by presenting the major worldviews as the conclusions to a series of choices between two opposing alternatives. Doing so also allows the apologist to identify the critical issues that need to be addressed in choosing a worldview. Here again the classical approach’s characteristic emphasis on logic is evident. The following chart presents this schema.(see chart above).

C. S. Lewis reduced the number of worldviews even further, to three. In broad terms, he held that most if not all people hold to some variation of three views of reality: materialism or atheism, Hinduism (of which Buddhism was a simplification), and Christianity (of which Islam was a simplification). For Lewis, the best options could be narrowed down to Hinduism and Christianity, and from there to Christianity alone because of the person and work of Christ.14

Having narrowed the worldview options to a manageable number, whether two, three, seven, or more, the classical apologist then examines the alternatives to theism in order to show that they are to be rejected. The basic strategy here is to show that these other worldviews are rationally incoherent. Other considerations may also be pressed (for example, that they are in conflict with certain facts, or that they are unlivable), but the characteristic emphasis of the classical approach to refuting non-Christian worldviews is to show that such worldviews are logically self-contradictory or self-refuting.

If nontheistic worldviews can be eliminated and theism established as the most credible one, this would reduce the number of viable world religions to three: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The classical apologist can then point to various evidences that Christianity is the true fulfillment of original (Old Testament) Judaism and that both Judaism and Islam fail to reckon adequately with the claims of Christ.

Although classical apologists argue that non-Christian religions as well as worldviews are false, they do not claim they are false in every respect. Rather, they typically argue that non-Christian belief systems incorporate significant truths, but also contain grave errors about God and his relation to the world, and so in the end must be deemed inadequate. Thus non-Christian belief systems do contain truth, but as a whole their final answers to life’s most fundamental questions are false. Again, the reason for acknowledging truth in other belief systems can be seen graphically from the worldviews chart: most of the worldviews clearly do make one or more right choices.

For example, C. S. Lewis frequently asserted that other religions contained much truth. “And it should (at least in my judgment) be made clear that we are not pronouncing all other religions totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected.”15 Geisler is careful to note positive features of such worldviews as pantheism, deism, and even atheism before presenting his critical arguments against those beliefs.16 The Calvinist theologian B. B. Warfield showed himself consistent with the classical tradition when he made much the same point as Lewis:

Christianity does not stand in an exclusively antithetical relation to other religions. There is a high and true sense in which it is also their fulfilment. All that enters into the essence of religion is present in them no less than in it, although in a less pure form. They too possess the idea of God, the consciousness of guilt, the longing for redemption: they too possess offerings, priesthood, temples, worship, prayer. Israel’s Promise, Christianity’s Possession, is also the Desire of all nations.17

The classical approach to refuting these non-Christian worldviews may be illustrated with pantheism. Most nontheistic religions have affirmed one of the many forms of pantheism, all of which in some way identify or equate God with the All—so that God is in some sense the ultimate and only Reality. Pantheism is closely related to monism, according to which reality is ultimately one and not many, a unity rather than a plurality. The rediscovery of Eastern (particularly Indian) culture and the promulgation of Eastern thought in the West have stimulated pantheistic thinking in Western culture, notably in what has come to be known as the New Age movement.

Geisler notes that pantheism is a comprehensive philosophy that focuses on the unity of reality and seeks to acknowledge the immanence and absolute nature of God. In spite of these positive insights, pantheism is an inadequate worldview because “it is actually unaffirmable by man.”18 Specifically, it is self-defeating for a pantheist to claim that individual finite selves are less than real. To assert “I believe that I am not an individual” is to utter a self-refuting statement (because it assumes the existence of the individual who says “I” while at the same time denying it). Pantheism wrongly assumes “that whatever is not really ultimate is not ultimately or actually real.”19 Pantheism also cannot adequately account for evil (its assertion that evil is an illusion is meaningless, since pain that is felt is real), and it is unable even to distinguish good from evil (since in theory all is one, nothing can be evil as opposed to good). Geisler also argues that to say that God and the universe are one says nothing meaningful about God and is indistinguishable from atheism.20

Proving God’s Existence

Disproving nontheistic worldviews and philosophies of life does not necessarily prove theism. Classical apologists, therefore, offer a variety of arguments in support of theism.

The complexity of religious knowledge, and the fact that it concerns a transcendent reality, makes proving God’s existence quite complex. There is considerable disagreement among apologists over the value and relevance of the theistic proofs. Immanuel Kant’s critique of the traditional theistic proofs continues to be influential, and most philosophers and theologians have moved away from the scholastic mentality of solid and unequivocal arguments for God’s existence. Classical apologists, while upholding the validity of most or all of the traditional theistic proofs, are generally more cautious about how compelling they are. They believe that arguments for God’s existence can show the reasonableness of belief in God even though they may be less than definitive or not persuasive to everyone.

In brief, four major arguments for God’s existence have dominated classical apologetics. The first is the ontological argument. First formulated in explicit terms by the eleventh-century philosopher Anselm of Canterbury, this argument reasons from the idea of God as the greatest, most perfect, or necessary being to the existence of that God. The second and third theistic arguments have ancient roots but received their classical formulation from Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and are known as the cosmological and teleological arguments. The cosmological argument reasons from the existence of the world (Greek, cosmos) to the existence of God. The teleological argument (from the Greek telos, “goal”) reasons from the evidence of design in the world to the existence of God as the one who created things with a specific purpose or goal. The fourth major theistic argument emerged in modern times and is the moral argument, which reasons from the objectivity and absolute character of moral judgments to the existence of a transcendent God as the ground of morality.

One of the most vigorous twentieth-century defenses of the theistic proofs is The Resurrection of Theism, by the evangelical classical apologist Stuart Hackett. In this book Hackett defends the cosmological and teleological arguments specifically against Kant’s criticisms. He concludes that the traditional arguments for God lead “to the firm conclusion that theism alone actually poses a solution to the metaphysical problem.”21

Respect among philosophers for the traditional theistic arguments was at an all-time low for much of the twentieth century. In the late 1960s the Calvinist philosopher Alvin Plantinga helped revive serious interest among professional philosophers in the ontological argument. And in the early 1980s a detailed defense of the cosmological argument by the evangelical classical apologist William Lane Craig (a student of Hackett) prompted philosophers to take it far more seriously as well. The seriousness with which these and other theistic proofs are now viewed can be seen by reviewing academic philosophy journals such as Religious Studies and the International Journal of Philosophy and Religion.

Classical apologists are careful to issue certain caveats about the use of theistic proofs. One such caveat is that the theistic arguments as they are popularly understood are often invalid; that is, they need to be formulated carefully and rigorously if they are to be valid. Second, most people actually do not need to hear theistic arguments, since they are not atheists. What they need is evidence that God is the kind of God found in Scripture. 22

Another caveat, issued by classical apologetics in the Calvinist tradition, is that theistic arguments remind unbelievers of what they already know but have been trying to deny. Warfield, for example, argued that from one perspective everyone already has knowledge of God, though most do not own up to it. People cannot be completely ignorant of God, although they can completely ignore God.23 We cannot escape all awareness of God. “God is part of our environment.”24 The arguments, though, are still useful and valid.

This immediate perception of God is confirmed and the contents of the idea developed by a series of arguments known as the “theistic proofs.” These are derived from the necessity we are under of believing in the real existence of the infinitely perfect Being, of a sufficient cause for the contingent universe, of an intelligent author of the order and of the manifold contrivances observable in nature, and of a lawgiver and judge for dependent moral beings. . . . The cogency of these proofs is currently recognized in the Scriptures, while they add to them the supernatural manifestations of God in a redemptive process, accompanied at every stage by miraculous attestation. From the theistic proofs, however, we learn not only that a God exists, but also necessarily, on the principle of a sufficient cause, very much of the nature of the God which they prove to exist.25

We will now consider three of the four major theistic arguments, focusing on their classical formulation as philosophical proofs for God’s existence. (The teleological argument will be discussed in chapter 10.) Because of its continuing importance in the classical apologetic tradition, the cosmological argument will receive special attention.

The Moral Argument

The moral argument can be viewed as one aspect of a larger argument for God’s existence known as the anthropological argument. This broader argument reasons from certain aspects of human nature to the existence of God, and includes arguments from morality, aesthetics, human thought and reason,26 and the need for meaning, purpose, and hope.

The moral argument relates to the universality of moral experience and holds that unless there is a God, there is no ultimate basis for moral law. Classical apologists answer the objection that ethical judgments vary from place to place by arguing that, regardless of time or culture, there is a built-in concept of normative conduct, a universal sense of “ought” and “should.” It is true that people can acknowledge the moral law without seeing this as a theistic proof, but this does not mean that such a law could have real validity apart from God. The real thrust of this argument lies in the fact that when people express approval or criticism of the actions of others, they are behaving as if theism were true, that is, as if there are such things as absolute rights and absolute wrongs.27 Classical apologists typically argue that one would have to assume this position in order to criticize it as wrong.

A good example of the moral argument in classical apologetics is the opening section of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Lewis begins that book by noting that human beings have the idea that they ought to behave in certain ways—what Lewis calls the Law of Human Nature—and yet they do not behave in those ways (26).28 After arguing that this Law is real and does not derive from human beings themselves but is instead “something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour” (30), he asks what lies behind the Law. “We want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is” (33). The Law shows us that there is such “a Power behind the facts, a Director, a Guide” (34). Lewis hastens to caution, “We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam” (37). Lewis goes on to argue that we can infer that this Somebody is rather like a mind, one unyielding in his moral expectations of us, and one whose expectations we have failed to meet (37-38). This strategy of formulating an argument for a general notion of God prior to introducing specific Christian claims is characteristic of the classical approach.

The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument is the only philosophical theistic proof that reasons in a purely a priori fashion (from certain assumptions or ideas as given). The first form of this argument as developed by Anselm was largely ignored until René Descartes revived it in the seventeenth century. The Cartesian formulation was later refuted by Kant, but it continues to resurface in contemporary philosophy of religion, along with Anselm’s second form, which adds the concept of necessary existence. Influential advocates of some form of the ontological argument have included Charles Hartshorne (a process theologian who uses it to support a panentheist worldview) and Alvin Plantinga (a Reformed philosopher).29

There are many forms of the ontological argument, some too technical to discuss here. Perhaps one of the simplest forms (if any of them may be called simple) is based on Anselm’s second version of the argument as restated by various modern philosophers.30

1. The existence of a necessary Being must be either (a) a necessary existence, (b) an impossible existence, or (c) a possible but not necessary existence.

2. But the existence of a necessary Being is not an impossible existence because (so far as we can see) there is nothing contradictory about this concept.

3. Nor is the existence of a necessary Being a possible but not necessary existence, since this would be a self-contradictory claim.

4. Therefore, the existence of a necessary Being is a necessary existence.

5. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily exists.

Although classical apologists employ a wide variety of arguments for God’s existence, most do not accept the ontological argument. Most apologists and philosophers continue to accept the rebuttal that the ontological argument commits the fallacy of deducing the existence of God from the concept of God. For example, the formulation given above can be criticized by alleging that all point 4 means is that if a necessary Being exists, his existence must be a necessary existence. This still leaves open whether a necessary Being exists in the first place. Most classical apologists concur with Geisler’s conclusion: “No valid ontological proof has been given that makes it rationally inescapable to conclude that there is a necessary Being.”31

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument reasons from the nature of the world as temporal and contingent to the conclusion that an eternal, necessary being must exist. Proponents argue that if anything now exists, something must be eternal, or else something not eternal must have emerged from nothing. Since the notion of something emerging from an absolute nothing is generally considered absurd, the principal options are that either the universe is eternal or it is the product of an eternal and necessary being. Two main forms of the cosmological argument enjoy widespread support among contemporary classical apologists.

One form reasons from the fact of a beginning for the universe to the existence of a Beginner. This argument is known as the kalām cosmological argument, and was first developed by medieval Muslim philosophers. As articulated by William Lane Craig, the kalām argument is essentially a philosophical, deductive proof.32 It may be formulated as a series of logical alternatives, as follows.

Craig himself offers the following simple form of the argument:

Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Craig argues that the first premise is “intuitively obvious” and should be accepted without trying to base it on something else.34 He then defends the second premise on both philosophical and scientific grounds. His principal argument here is a philosophical argument based on the impossibility of a temporally infinite past. The idea of time extending backward infinitely (what is known as an infinite regress), through an actually infinite series of moments or events, is said to be inherently irrational. Therefore, on a priori philosophical grounds, this argument concludes that the universe must have had a beginning.35 The third statement is a conclusion that follows necessarily from the foregoing two premises but leaves open the question of what this cause is. Craig offers additional philosophical and scientific arguments in support of the belief “that it is a personal being who caused the universe.”36

Although the kalām argument as originally formulated is a deductive philosophical proof, Craig and other classical apologists supplement this rather abstract argument with the scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning. The argument here is based on the virtual consensus among cosmologists that this beginning occurred in what is called the big bang. It has been pointed out that even if a series of big bangs were postulated (for which there is no evidence), it is clear that the universe would not oscillate through such a series from eternity.37

The second major form of the cosmological argument originates from Thomas Aquinas; its most notable advocate among contemporary apologists is Norman Geisler.38 Geisler developed a modified form of the Thomistic cosmological argument that begins with the premise, not that the universe must have had a beginning (as in the kalām argument), but that there are undeniably finite, contingent, and temporal things. According to Geisler, the kalām argument is suggestive but not demonstrative. In brief, his argument states that “if any finite being exists, then an infinite Being exists as an actual and necessary ground for finite being.”39 If the universe is contingent, it requires a cause—and its ultimate cause cannot be contingent because of the problem of infinite regress. (Note that both Craig’s and Geisler’s versions of the cosmological argument appeal at some point to the impossibility of an infinite regress.) There must be, then, an uncaused or necessary being. Geisler sets out the argument in several of his books; here is one of his earliest and simplest versions:

1. 1. Some limited, changing being(s) exist(s).

2. 2. The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.

3. 3. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes of being.

4. 4. Therefore, there is a first Cause of the present existence of these beings.

5. 5. The first Cause must be infinite, necessary, eternal, simple, unchangeable, and one.

6. 6. This first uncaused Cause is identical with the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.40

Geisler explicates and defends each premise in detail, and then systematically argues that none of the usual objections validly apply to his restated cosmological argument. According to him, this argument from “existential causality,” while not rationally inescapable, passes the test of undeniability.

Opponents have raised a variety of objections to these arguments. For example, they claim that reasoning from the finite, temporal, or contingent nature of all things in the universe to the conclusion that the universe itself is finite, temporal, or contingent commits the fallacy of composition. This fallacy occurs when the attributes of the parts are attributed to the whole (for example, it would be a mistake to reason from the premise that all atoms are invisible to the conclusion that all physical objects, since they are composed of atoms, should also be invisible!). One answer to this objection is that arguments appealing to composition are often valid (for example, if all the pieces of a puzzle are red, the puzzle as a whole will also be red). Furthermore, at least some forms of the cosmological argument do not appeal to composition. For example, Geisler’s argument appeals to the existence of any or some finite beings; it does not require the assumption that the universe as a whole is finite.

Another criticism of the cosmological argument is that it moves from finite effects to an infinite cause. A finite effect, it is argued, requires only a finite cause. Classical apologists maintain that this criticism misunderstands the argument. It is true that a finite effect implies for itself only a finite cause, but such a finite cause must itself have been caused, and so forth. That is, a finite effect can be directly produced by a finite cause, but ultimately the whole reality of finite causes requires an infinite cause—an “uncaused cause,” as it is often called.

Yet another objection is that the argument begs the question by assuming what it sets out to prove. The kalām argument, in particular, is often criticized for reasoning from the inconceivability of an actual infinite series to its nonexistence. It is suggested that what seems inconceivable to the human mind is not necessarily nonexistent. Defenders of this form of the cosmological argument typically respond that the issue is not subjective inconceivability (what one person’s mind can conceive) but objective irrationality (whether the concept is rationally coherent).

The Deductive Problem of Evil

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Does God exist? Biola University hosts Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig

This is the video of the debate that took place at Biola University on April 4,2009. Introduction and hosting by Craig J. Hazen, Director of Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Moderator – Law Professor and Broadcast Journalist Hugh Hewitt.

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