Richard Dawkins – Debating The Morality of the Old Testament

Dawkins

Richard Dawkins has described the God of the Old Testament as (among other things) a „capriciously malevolent bully”. The world’s best known atheist joins Justin Brierley to discuss the morality of the Old Testament in light of the Bible TV series airing in the UK on Channel 5. Rabbi Josh Levy and Christian lecturer Chris Sinkinson discuss with Dawkins whether the events of the Old Testament are historical and how to interpret the so-called „terror” passages. What about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, or of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac?

For an MP3 of this show: click here. –  VIDEO by officialpremiertv· See more at: http://www.premier.org.uk

Cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu? Traducere de A. C.

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Cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu? Si cum poate fi Dumnezeu trei si unul? Nu sunt acestea ,,mistere”? si nu ar trebui ca crestinii sa raspunda simplu: ,,noi nu stim”? Explora impreuna cu John Lennox in timp ce el explora intrebari grele si obiectii aduse crestinismului. La inceput  sa ascultam un clip de 11 minute si dupa aceea cursul intreg de video in partea de jos a postarii lui John Lennox la UCLA (video in Limba Engleza).

INTREBARE:

Daniel Lowenstein: Una dintre cele mai de baza dificultati pentru cei ce detin punctul de vedere a unui univers materialistic este problema unui inceput. Si, asa dupa cum ati afirmat, cu mult inainte ca Crestinismul sa sustina ca universul a fost creat, iar acum avem teoria big bang-ului care cel putin sugereaza (ca) a inceput la un anumit moment. Si totusi, exista intotdeauna problema: Da, dar daca nu poate exista o cauza neprovocata, atunci ce l-a creat pe Dumnezeu? Si cred ca, Crestinismul da raspunsuri diferite la aceasta. Dupa cum eu inteleg, raspunsul lui Augustin a fost ca Dumnezeu a fost in afara timpului. Si intr-un fel, acesta este un raspuns bun, dar mi se pare ca aceasta este doar un fel de a spune: ,,Noi nu stim care este explicatia, pentru ca nici unul dintre noi nu avem nici macar cea mai mica idee de  ceea ce inseamna a fi in afara timpului.” Sau, Crestinismul spune ca Tatal, sau Fiul si Duhul Sfant sunt trei, dar ei sunt una. Si de la aceste declaratii, urmeaza multe lucruri minunate. Si totusi, se pare ca aceasta este un fel de a zice ca: ,,Noi nu stim ce inseamna aceasta , pentru ca nu avem nici o idee ce inseamna sa fi trei si sa fi una, si cum un Dumnezeu asa de puternic si de extraordinar ca si, sa zicem Dumnezeul lui Iov, poate sa apara sub o forma de om si sa fie Duhul Sfant.” Deci punctul meu de vedere este acesta, si cred ca aceasta poate fi un punct forte sau o slabiciune, dar se pare ca multe dintre aceste intrebari dificile sunt explicate numai prin mistere – care este un cuvant Crestin, si ar fi un fel de a spune ca ,,Noi nu stim.”

RASPUNS:

Imi place mult, in special acest lucru, si ma gandesc la asta foarte mult pentru ca este absolut evident ca inlocuind un mister cu un altul nu este intotdeauna un mod util spre  inainte. Haideti sa despachetam aceasta deoarece aici sunt 3 sau 4 intrebari. Sa ne ducem la prima intrebare care pe mine m-a interesat deoarece  in ultimul timp s-a pus un accent mare asupra acestui subiect. Atat in Nord America cat si in Europa toata lumea vorbeste despre aceasta. Eu credeam ca am lasat-o in urma cand am fost in Rusia. Si intrebarea este aceasta:

Cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu?

Dawkins (un lider al ateilor) a folosit-o ca idea centrala a cartii sale ,,Amagirea despre Dumnezeu”. Am fost stupefiat cand am gasit-o acolo. Primeam aceasta intrebare tot timpul  cand mergeam la academiile de stiinta, in timpul calatoriilor mele prin Rusia la sfirsitul anilor 1980 pana pe la inceputul anilor 1990. Era aproape de fiecare data prima intrebare. Daca  crezi ca Dumnezeu a creat universul atunci este logic ca sa pui aceasta intrebare: Cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu? Si apoi cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeul pe care l-a creat Dumnezeu… si tot asa pana la infinit. Si acesta a fost sfarsitul lui Dumnezeu, desigur. Si aceasta este exact ceea ce spune Dawkins in cartea sa ,,Amagirea despre Dumnezeu.” Haideti sa o analizam putin. (Transcriptul continua sub acest video in Limba Engleza…)

VIDEO by VeritasForum website www.veritas.org (ENGLEZA)

Cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu? Daca pui aceasta intrebare, arata ca l-ai caracterizat pe Dumnezeu ca fiind creat. Deci tu vorbesti despre un dumnezeu creat. Acum, poti sa-ti imaginezi daca Richard Dawkins ar fi scris o carte numita ,,Amagirea despre un dumnezeu creat”? Eu nu cred ca multi oameni ar cumpara aceasta carte, pentru ca nu am nevoie ca el sa-mi spuna ca dumnezeii creati sunt o dezamagire (sau o iluzie). Apropo, noi de obicei pe acestia ii numim idoli.

Aceasta intrebare este extrem de importanta, deoarece este o ilustrare a unei intrebari care exclude explicatia care este mai mult ca sigur sa fie adevarata deoarece Crestinismul sustine ca Dumnezeu nu a fost creat. Si la fel daca Dumnezeu a fost necreat. ,,La inceput a fost Cuvantul…” si acum ma duc la intrebarea care a fost de fapt trei intr-una la care iti raspund  intr-un mod indirect. ,,La inceput a fost Cuvantul, Cuvantul a fost cu Dumnezeu, si Cuvantul a fost Dumnezeu.” El deja a fost. Deci, afirmatia principala a Crestinismului este, si la fel si in Iudaism si Islam, desigur, sustin la fel ca Dumnezeu este etern. Asadar, intrebarea prin definitie, nici nu se poate aplica Lui. Si aceasta este imens de important. Singurul lucru care-l poti scoate de aici deci, este intr-un sens negativ adica sa presupui ca totul face parte din categoria de a fi creat. Dar aceasta face numai ca sa implore intrebarea originala. Si grecii au fost interesati de ea, si de aceea Evanghelia dupa Ioan incepe cu aceste cuvinte ,,La inceput, Cuvantul deja a fost.” Si apoi ne spune ca toate lucrurile au fost facute prin El.

Grecii au fost interesati de aceasta intrebare ca fiind de doua categorii. Lucrurile care au ajuns sa fie – lucrurile create, si lucrurile care deja erau. Si intrebarea isi gaseste rezolvarea astfel: exista un lucru, sau o fiinta (faptura) care nu a fost creata si totusi sa existe? Si aceasta sustine Crestinismul. Si acesta se numeste DUMNEZEU. Eu si Richard Dawson am avut o dezbatere chiar pe acest subiect odata la Oxford, si i-am zis: ,,Richard, tu zici ca cine l-a creat pe Dumnezeu este o intrebare legitima. Eu nu cred ca este legitimata. Dar haide sa pretindem ca este legitimata. Tu crezi ca pe tine te-a creat universul. Lasa-ma acum te rog, ca sa te intreb pe tine intrebarea ta: ,,Cine l-a creat pe creatorul tau?” Inca si astazi astept un raspuns de la el. Acesta este primul punct.

ACUM DESPRE TRINITATE: Foarte pe scurt sa vorbim despre al doilea punct. Dumnezeu este trei intr-unul. Este acesta un mister? Da, desigur ca este. Am vorbit la peste 1 000  de oameni de stiinta. Un om a venit dupa ce s-a terminat la mine, un fizician, si mi-a zis: ,,A fost foarte interesant, toata aceasta discutie despre Dumnezeu. Dar, sa sti ca am dedus de aici ca esti crestin.” I-am raspuns: ,,Esti foarte istet.” El mi-a raspuns: ,,Hai, mai lasa! Ca si Crestin, tu esti obligat sa crezi ca Dumnezeu este o triunitate. Ca Isus a fost Dumnezeu si om.” Si apoi a mai zis: ,,Tu esti un matematician. Aceasta este absurd. Poti sa-mi explici si mie cum se poate asta?”

,,Bine,  i-am raspuns, pot sa-ti pun eu o intrebare mai intai?” El mi-a raspuns: ,,Desigur.” Asa ca am spus: ,,Spune-mi, ce este constiinta?” El a stat si s-a gandit cateva momente si a zis: ,,Nu stiu.” I-am raspuns: ,,Este in regula, hai sa te intreb ceva mai usor. Ce este energia?”  ,,Ei bine, a raspuns el, eu sunt fizician, pot sa masor energia, si pot sa o folosesc.” Sti ceva, i-am raspuns eu, nu aceasta a fost intrebarea mea! Intrebarea mea a fost, ce este energia?” El a raspuns atunci: ,,Nu stiu.” ,,Ah, i-am raspuns, foarte interesant. Nu sti. Spune-mi dar, tu crezi in constiinta?” ,,Da”, mi-a raspuns el. ,,Crezi in energie?” ,,Da”, a raspuns el. ,, Deci tu crezi in aceste doua lucruri dar nu sti ce ele sunt. Va trebui sa nu te  mai consider un intelectual? Sa te sterg de pe acea lista?” ,,Te rog sa nu faci asta”-a spus el.  Eu i-am raspuns: ,,Aceasta este exact ceea ce tu ai vrut sa faci cu mine cu cinci minute in urma.” I-am zis: ,, Daca tu nu sti ce este energia, nimeni nu stie, si daca nu crezi lucrul acesta atunci citeste ce scrie Richard Fineman. Daca nu sti ce este energia, sa nu fi surprins atunci daca energia, lumina, gravitatia si constiinta sunt un mister.Nu fi surprins daca vei gasi un astfel de element in Dumnezeu. Si cu siguranta ca-l vei gasi.”

Dar, l-am impins putin mai departe. Si i-am zis: ,, De ce crezi in aceste lucruri daca nu sti ce ele sunt?” Aceasta a fost putin dificil pentru el, si am incercat sa-l ajut. I-am zis: ,,Tu crezi in aceste lucruri datorita conceptului lor explicativ de puteri.” Si el mi-a raspuns: ,,Este exact asa cum spui.” I-am raspuns: ,,Uite, desigur ca eu nu pot sa-ti explic cum Dumnezeu a devenit om. Dar, singura explicatie care are sens este evidenta asa cum o vad. Am o analogie simpla care te-ar putea ajuta. Este o analogie de nivel scazut, dar cel putin este biblica. Eu sunt casatorit. Sunt casatorit de 42 de ani si jumatate cu aceiasi persoana. Si eu si sotia mea suntem intr-un fel una. Noi suntem doua persoane intr-un singur trup, Biblia spune ca intr-o unitate comuna. Si mie mi se pare ca in cazul cel mai mic (sa nu ma intelegi gresit cand spun asta) acest mister ne spune ceva nemaipomenit despre Dumnezeu. Dumnezeu nu este monolit, care fiind spus intr-un mod grosolan a fost un singuratic, asa ca El a facut cativa oameni, ca El sa aiba pe cineva cu care sa poata vorbi. Dumnezeu este El insusi o partasie.” Aceasta este nedimensionabil, ceva ce nu putem cuprinde, dar are sens, si eu simt ca este ceva de felul acesta.

Aici gasiti intregul video. Descriere: (In Limba Engleza)

Copiii cred in basme cu zane pana ce capacitatea lor de rationament se maturizeaza si ajung sa priceapa ca acesta incredintare nu are nici o temelie pe care sa te bazezi si nici o justificare. Oare credinta in Isus Christos necesita o suspendare de logica? Poate Crestinismul fi dovedit ca este adevarat? Profesorul de lege de la UCLA, Daniel Lowenstein acorda un interviu matematicianului de la Oxford, John Lennox cu intrebari sincere despre Crestinism si motivele de credinta. Dupa acest interviu urmeaza intrebari si raspunsuri din partea audientei.(In Limba Engleza)

John Lennox intreaga lectura din 2011

(oficial) Crestinismul si Basmele (ENGLEZA)

[official] Christianity and the Tooth Fairy

The Case against Scientism – leading scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science

„The new oligarchy must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists,

till in the end, the politicians become merely the scientists’ puppets”.

C. S. Lewis in „Willing Slaves of the Welfare State”.
oligarchy

More than a half century ago, famed writer C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In this documentary „The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism,” leading scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis’s concerns are increasingly relevant for us today.

Some quotes, followed by notes from the documentary video:

  • lewis holy trinity churchDuring the first half of the 20th century, 3 prophetic writers warned about the dark side of scientific and technological progress: (1) G K Chesterton, ‘Eugenics and other evils‘ (2) George Orwell, ‘1984‘ and (3) C S Lewis ‘Abolition of Man‘. Best known for his Narnia story and his books of Christian theology, C S Lewis also had an intense interest in the growing power of scientism- the efforts to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life.
  • Lewis was opposed to an ideology, which in his view had been confused with science. It was a particular materialistic approach which  wanted to reduce everything we could learn scientifically to materialistic causes- blind, undirected causes. (Angus Menuge PhD) Lewis thought that science was a perfectly legitimate enterprise. He never denied it, he in fact studied it quite a bit. (Victor Reppert Phd). Just like in all human disciplines, Lewis thought that science could be corrupted, and that some people could pursue science because they wanted power over the world and power over other people, in particular. (John G West PhD) What he saw was that you had to avoid those extremes, not in the employment of science, but in the popularization of science. (Michael Aeschliman PhD)
  • You could not afford to ignore the finding of science, the importance of scientific method, you had to see that it’s one of the greatest applications and developments of the rational method perse, a subset of the rational method. But, that it was very dangerous, and then in the 20th century we had had very malignant consequences to deify it. Scientific socialism is credibly a scientific version of politics. The Marxists called their system scientific socialism. Well, no one in their right mind, in 2012, will say that Marxism was scientific. No one in his right mind, but people did for 170 years.
  • Social Darwinist racial science in Nazi Germany. Enormous prestige was given to racialist views by their apparent clothing people such as Heckel and Münchner popularizing reductive scientific ideas with immense success. In many ways, more success in Germany than in England.
  • Lewis saw these developments: 2 World Wars, in one he served and was badly wounded, had roots in barbaric and hysterical scientistic ideas of abuses of the scientific method, abuses of scientific terminology and language, abuses of scientific faith. When warning about the abuse of science, Lewis made an unusual comparison. Although most people think of science as something modern, Lewis compared it to something ancient: MAGIC. Lewis thought that science and magic are twins. If you think about this, it might sound very strange. But Lewis was very perceptive here. In fact, he highlighted 3 different ways that science and magic really are quite similar.

(1) Science as religion.

Science has the ability to function as a religion. Certainly, a magical view of the world can give one a sense that there’s something more than just our every day lives. If you walk through a forest and think it’s enchanted it gives you a grand vision that there’s something out there that we don’t ordinarily experience.It can give you a sense of meaning. There’s a real reason why fantasy stories are so beloved… It gives people a sense of grandeur of the universe and something higher than ourselves. And in fact, for some people who aren’t religious, this magical view of the world can actually be more attractive, because it substitutes for that. In the same way, science can be an alternative religion. And during Lewis’s own time, there were people like H G Wells, who turned Darwins’ theory of evolution into this cosmic theory of life developing in this long struggle in the human universe, and then human life develops in this heroic character fighting against nature, and then, eventually, man evolves, and evolves himself through eugenics into a wave of demigods. This epic cosmic struggle of evolution was really an alternate religion for H G Wells, and you see that same thing today, whether it be Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins who says that „Darwin has made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist„. Or, in 2012, we had 10-20,000 people converge on Washington DC for this Reason Rally, where a lot of people testified that they really offer science as a religion. Today, you see a lot of people speaking in the name of science, who offer science as a quasi religion. It’s what gives their life meaning. Another area where we see this today is in the celebration of Darwin’s birthday. Hundreds of colleges, community organizations, if not thousands around the world, on Feb. 12th, every year, hold Darwin day celebrations. It really takes on the trappings of a religion.

(2) Science as credulity

A second way science and magic are similar, according to C S Lewis, is their encouragement of a lack of skepticism. Again, this may seem just completely outlandish, because science, how does that promote gullibility? How? It’s supposed to be just the hard facts. Now, in magic, you can think there’s a witch doctor and the tribe believes whatever the witch doctor says. And so, magical thinking can promote a type of credulous thinking where you just trust what the authority figure says. But, how does science promote that type of credulous and gullible thinking? Lewis pointed out that in the modern world, people will believe almost anything if it’s dressed up in the name of science.

For Lewis, one of the leading examples of science fueling gullibility was Freudianism. Lewis had an interest in Sigmund Freud since his days an Oxford undergraduate. Lewis was intrigued by some of the claims of psychoanalysis, but he ultimately rejected the efforts by Freud’s followers to explain everything from religion to stealing cars as a result of our subconscious urges. Lewis pointed out that if you actually take Freud’s view to its eventual conclusion, that actually undermines even the belief in Freudianism. Lewis’s point is: Where does this end? If you really think that all reasoning, fundamentally, is based on sub rational urges and that we can’t analyze those urges, and there isn’t real reason we can judge, based on evidence, and that we can’t be self critical, then that destroys Freudianism, just like it destroys everything else.

Shortly after Lewis accepted Christianity, he satirized Freud in his allegory ‘The Pilgrim’s Regress’. In Lewis’s story, the main character, John, winds up thrown in jail by a character named Sigismund enlightened. Sigismund was actually SIgmund Freud’s real first name, so this was very much a parody about Freud. But, what is this jail he is thrown into? Well, it’s a jail governed by this giant, and this giant has a particular propensity, that anything that he looks at becomes transparent. And so, when this pilgrim character is thrown into this dungeon, into this jail, it’s a jail of horrors because whenever he looks at someone , he doesn’t see them, he sees their insides, he sees through them. It’s like a house of horrors. And that was Lewis’s picture of where Freudianism leads you: If you try to deconstruct everything, you’re left with nothing

Another example of science inspired credulity, according to Lewis, was what he called evolutionism- the popular idea that matter could magically transform itself into complex and conscious living things, through a blind and unguided  process. Lewis’s doubts about unguided evolution went back to his days as a soldier in World War I. While recovering from shrapnel wounds, a young Lewis read the book ‘Creative Revolution’ by french natural philosopher Henri Bergson. Bergson questioned the ability of Darwin’s theory to account for complex structures, like the human eye, through a blind process like natural selection. Lewis believed that evolutionism, like Freudianism, contained a fatal self contradiction regarding the human mind, according to the Darwinian view. Reason was simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process based on survival of the fittest. Lewis pointed out the key difficulty with the Darwinian account of reason: „If my own mind is the product of the irrational,” he asked, „how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about evolution?” In his personal copy of Charles Darwin’s autobiography, Lewis underlined passages where Darwin had asked himself the same question. (16:00) The idea that a blind and purposeless process without a mind  can produce things like human beings that have minds, and produce moral beliefs in things that sometimes go against our need for physical survival, the idea that a mindless process of survival of the fittest could create such things, really was an outlandish one, according to Lewis. How could a mindless process produce minds? And, to think that it could really just shows how gullible people can be in the name of science.

(3) Science as power

The third similarity between science and magic, according to Lewis, is the quest for power. Magic was about the quest for power. Magicians wanted to have power over the world and over the universe. They wanted to harness the deeper powers of nature in order to control it, and Lewis said that much of modern science, not all, but much of modern science was actually developed fro power over the world. For many people in the 20th century, the power of modern science was its greatest virtue. They hoped science would usher in a new age of peace and prosperity- a scientific utopia. For the scientific utopians of Lewis’s era, science was the savior that would allow us to remake our world. And of course that can be good. Modern science can bring us good things. Many things: from the microwave oven to the computers, to life saving treatments of modern medicine, which Lewis certainly appreciated, But, on the other hand, that tendency to want to control things can bring us the Orwellian state of George Orwell’s 1984. And so, Lewis thought that modern science, in fact, was far more dangerous than magic, because magic failed. Magic doesn’t work at the end of the day. And so, it wasn’t so dangerous because people couldn’t use it to control the world. Modern science has the potential that you really can control  people, if you find the right drugs, or find the right treatments, you can manipulate them. And so, if you don’t have some other way of protecting to remedy what you do in the name of science, some ethical basis that isn’t dictated by science itself, that can control it, then you are facing a really bleak future.

1927 Supreme Court

Lewis’s critique of scientific utopianism was at the heart of his novel ‘That Hideous Strength’, which tells the story of a conspiracy to transform England into a Scientific dictatorship. The conspiracy is led by a government bureaucracy, with a deceptively innocuous name  of the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments or NICE. „That Hideous Strength’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ are the 2 greatest dystopias  in our language, in the 20th century. The agenda of NICE in ‘That Hideous Strength’ reads like a wish list drawn up by England’s leading scientific social reformers. It included sterilization of the unfit, selective breeding, biochemical conditioning, experimentation on both animals and criminals, and above all- truly scientific planning. A scientific planning that is pretending to provide a new humanity, that is doing away with traditional ethics, that is doing away with all traditional restraints. (United States 1927: Forced Sterilization Upheld. Supreme Court Rules: „Three generations of imbeciles are enough”. Alabama 1947: Blacks denied Penicillin as part of US Public Health Service study on effects of syphilis.) Lewis depicts a world in ‘That Hideous Strength’, in which nothing is sacred. Daniel Dennet has told us that the essence of modernity is that nothing is sacred.  Nothing is sacred, which includes the human person, and when that happens, there are no distinctions between individuals, or humans and animals, or humans and vegetables, and humans and minerals and we have the kind of things we had in the 20th century.

In the 2 decades before his death, Lewis became increasingly alarmed by the scientific authoritarianism. Lewis was very concerned by the dogmatic use of science, and that is why he wrote his novel ‘That Hideous Strength’, that is why he wrote his book ‘The Abolition of Man’, where he actually worries and somewhat predicts the rise of a new class of people, of experts, speaking in the name of science, who would dictate to everyone else. In fact, by the end of his life, Lewis was worrying about the rise of what he called scientocracy- government and society that claim to be based on the claims of modern science, but, in reality really is based on a scientific click of a few people who are speaking in the name of science. And maybe they’re adopting the majority view of science, but, they’re claiming the right to rule based on their scientific knowledge and expertise.

barcode at birthLewis’s concern for the authoritarian science seems eerily prophetic. (See photos of actual headlines form newspapers at the 23rd minute) In a world driven by science and technology, those who question the new order, like C S Lewis did, increasingly find themselves labeled anti-science. C S Lewis would have rejected the charge. Lewis did not accept the idea that science was a special form of knowledge, that was somehow immune to inspection, or somehow cordoned off from the nonspecialist assessing the deliverance of the sciences. Lewis was well aware, first of all, that there is no such thing as science, as such. There are sciences. And each science has its particular methods, and its particular area of study, and also, that the sciences to be good need to interact with one another, but they do so by means of the larger tools of good rational critical thinking. And so, the things that scientists say are subject to review by everyone who is able to think critically, to think rationally. Lewis did not deny that scientific expertise might be necessary for good public policy in many areas. But he insisted that science alone was not sufficient. Knowing how cells work, or knowing how ecosystems work doesn’t tell you what you ought to do for your society, because public policy is not just about technical expertise as to how things work. It’s about what good it’s worth having it in first place and as C  S Lewis pointed out, on these questions a scientific training gives you no added value. Scientists are not moral philosophers. Yet, political and social judgments involve, not just how do things work, and how can we make them work better? But, how should we act, and what’s worth spending money on, and what’s worth doing, and what freedoms are worth giving up or not?

healthcare mandate

On these sort of moral and ethical questions, someone in science training, it doesn’t give them the right to dictate to the rest of society. C S Lewis: „I dread government in the name of science, that is how tyrannies come in”. C S Lewis thought that science was a good thing, but he also thought that it held some really strong dangers. The biggest danger, really, was the penchant to control. In a scientific view, that is the only way that we have knowledge of the world. And so, if you think that I have the scientific truth about something, that’s end of story. I know everything. That really tends to feed a power trip, whether you’re a scientist or a politician who is trying to latch on to the prestige of science, you really have people who are going to abuse their power because they thing, „Look, we’re the only ones who know what should happen, because we know how the universe really works. Therefore, we should be able to dictate what our cultural beliefs are, we should dictate what our government should do, how we should design governmental programs, we should dictate all manner of public policy and anyone who doesn’t have a scientific training or isn’t part of the consensus view of science is basically stupid or against progress, or against science, and so should be swept by the wayside and shouldn’t be listened to. And Lewis thought that that almost totalitarian impulse was really a dangerous thing.

Lewis was properly so, frightened by that potential within science. That’s why he stressed, „We really need limits on science and that there is something behind science, a larger, transcendent ethical sphere behind science and that we aren’t just blind matter  in motion, that we’re part of a designed universe that actually sets limits on what we should and shouldn’t do. It’s an age old problem: How do we prevent something good to being twisted for evil ends? C S Lewis hoped that scientists themselves would find a way to rescue science from scientists, creating a regenerate science that respected human rights and honored human dignity. A science that would no longer be the magician’s twin.

The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism

Chris Putnam – Defending the Faith Part 1 of 2

Christ Putnam of logosapologia.com uploaded by LogosApologia

Some notes from Chris Putnam, from the video at bottom of post:

  • The statistics for young Christians who go to college are not good. In some surveys, up to 70% of the kids that go off to college fall away from the faith while they are in college. In looking at why that occurs, Frank Turek says, „We’ve told them for a long time ‘that is true’, but we didn’t tell them ‘why’ it’s true. And when they go to college and they are confronted by an atheist professor who throws up all kinds of arguments, they don’t have any responses, and that can make it very difficult. So, I have a passion for training people on how to defend their faith, and there’s some really easy things that you can do, you don’t have to have an exhaustive knowledge of theology, or apologetics, or philosophy to be a lot more effective, then you might imagine you can be. That’s what this workshop is for.

Ephesians 6:11-12

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

If we look at these things that Paul is talking about, for ex. ‘the shield of faith to block the darts’, we don’t see a lot of special rituals or prayers.. The tools that he talks about, like the helmet of salvation- that’s salvation that you possess. It’s a gift from God, and that’s something that you always have. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God, which is your Bible, that you learn, you study, and memorize. The belt of truth. Truth is something that you learn, that you have in your mind. The idea that I’m getting at is that the more that you are familiar with the truth, the better you know your Bible, the better that you know some theology, and the more impenetrable your spiritual armor is. Spiritual warfare is largely in the realm of the mind, the ideas that we hold and what we believe is true. Remember, how the serpent tempted Eve to sin in Genesis 3. He planted a false idea in her head: „Did God really say that you can’t eat from any tree?” God said you can eat of any tree except one. Notice how he twists the phrase at first, saying ‘any tree’. So it’s a false idea that gets planted in your mind, and for the majority of our lives, that’s how it works.

In the Bible, we see a lot of verses about ‘the world’. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. That tells us right there that Satan is the god of this world.

  • Romans 12:2 „Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 „We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

In the Bible, the term ‘the world’ is a Greek word ‘kosmos’, and it’s used not for the planet earth, it’s really about an evil world system that’s opposed to God. It is led by Satan, and we are unwittingly under Satan when we are born into this evil world system. The way you conquer it is through Jesus Christ. So, the primary warfare in this realm is in ideas. „Every thought captive”- that’s really where the battle is taking place.

Colossians 2:8 – „See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Now, this term here ‘the elemental spirits of the world‘, this is where the philosophies and deceit are coming from, according to human traditions. This is a Greek word ‘stoicheia’ – that word is rendered – elemental spirits. In the ancient world, this term was used for evil spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and in a lot of jewish writings. It was a common term for evil spirits, for demonic forces, and that’s how Paul’s using it. The Bible’s telling us that these ideas are not just Richard Dawkins and the new atheists, these are demonically ideas opposing God. This is spiritual warfare.

What does the Bible tell us about people in the last days? 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 

We are here at this conference to discuss emerging threats and trends, and I don’t think anyone can deny what we seem to see our culture sliding away from Christian values. Europe is pretty much gone. It was founded on Christian values, and had these huge gothic cathedrals in the middle ages, and then the church became politically powerful and it got corrupted. But, I mean, it’s gone now. There are very few Christians there.

The last days, really, technically began at the cross. This has been going on for a long time. But, if you remember in Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about what happens in the end times, He does give us this idea that many will fall away, lawlessness will increase. So, it is valid to extrapolate from that, that we should expect to see these trends increasing. So what  characteristics to we see in that verse?

  • narcissism – that’s just people that love themselves, proud, arrogant, swollen with conceit, unappeasable
  • materialism – lovers of money, ungrateful
  • lawlessness – abusive, disobedient to their parents, unholy, heartless, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless
  • hedonism – lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power

This is permeating the culture in the world system, and it’s even celebrated, and lauded as virtue. But, we shouldn’t be without compassion. We shouldn’t be angry all the time. We have to remember that all of us are free from that, only by the grace of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us- The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We should have compassion on lost people. It’s messy to deal with lost people- they are being held captive by false ideas, and it’s gonna cause us to get our hands dirty, to get involved with people. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t do it. I became a Christian, myself, later in life, and I was lost for a long time. I remember what it was like, and that’s why I have a passion for communication why Christianity is true, and why we believe what we believe. I was a skeptic for a long time, and my passion for apologetics grew out of my own search for answers to questions. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and if your neighbor does not believe, they’re being held captive. 2 Corinthians 5:20- We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. This is our job. When Jesus gave us the great commission, God’s making His appeal to this lost world through us. So we are in this evil world system to communicate the truth of the Gospel and be God’s representatives. It says we’re ministers of reconciliation. When Jesus says He gives us a commission, that’s like a military term- an assignment. (13:40)

Ambassadors have three essential skills:

  1. Knowledge- an accurately informed mind
  2. Wisdom- a tactical method (we will talk about later)
  3. Character

Tactical wisdom

Strategy and Tactics

Matthew 10:16 „“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Strategy is like the big picture, the large scale part of the operation. When I say strategy, it’s kind of the tremendous resources we have as Christians. We have 2000 years of scholarship and apologetics, and writing to draw from. We’re positioned strategically pretty well in the realm of the culture and ideas. We have a lot do draw from. We have an excellent case- we have the truth on our side.And we have the answers to life’s most important questions. The kind of questions that atheists have no answer for. They might come up with an idea of how we came to be through naturalism, but, they have no idea why. And that’s the kind of question that a child will ask: Why am I here? What is all this for? Why is there something, rather than nothing? They don’t have any answers for that, and we do.

So our strategy includes the content, the information, the reasons why someone would believe Christianity, why it accurately reflects reality. And I think that is the main advantage. When you look at story that the atheistic world will tell, they wanna tell everyone that ‘you’re good people’. And that you just have problems, you’re oppressed, everyone’s basically a good person. But, the Bible has this radically different message: You’re not good people, you’re fallen, and you’re desperately wicked and you need a Savior. But, if you look at what matches reality, what do you see that matches the world? The atheist story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. We see a lot of wickedness, and we see people in high places doing wicked things, people with every advantage that still have to steal. Their version of reality doesn’t match. So, strategically, we have a very good case. (15:50)

 Defensive and Offensive Apologetics 

Defensive– 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Defensive apologetics answers direct challenges to Christianity. For ex., it responds to attacks on the Bible’s reliability. It answers the problem of evil (if there’s a good God, then why is there so much evil in the world?) It addresses such things as Darwinian macro evolution, which opposes a Creator and attributes it all to random chance. I try to model Jesus when debating this, but I fail all the time. If you look at the way Jesus was with sinners, like the woman at the well- He was very gentle with people that were hedonists. But, the people He got angry with, and yelled at were the religious leaders. So I try to be gentle with the really lost people.

Offensive– Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. Offensive apologetics makes a positive case for Christianity, it provides evidence for the existence of God, it supplies evidence for the resurrection of Christ form history, it presents evidence of fulfilled prophecy. And, our strategic concerns center around a number of  areas in the culture right now:

  • radical relativism
  • postmodernism, which denies the existence of objective truth- you have your truth, and I have my truth. And that is a way to undermine the Gospel completely, because if someone doesn’t believe in the concept of truth, you can’t even get on the page.
  • there’s all kinds of challenges to who Jesus was, competing views of Jesus’s identity.
  • the problem of evil
  • ethical issues concerning abortion, homosexuality, human cloning, trans humanism, doctor assisted suicide. There’s some evangelicals in the Evangelical Lutheran denomination who are endorsing this trans human idea, thinking that it’s God’s mandate for us to evolve further, by strapping computers to our brains.
  • the historicity of the Bible, the Gospel (20:00)

This course will teach you:

  1. To maneuver in conversations
  2. To stay in the driver’s seat

Engage tactically – Consider how the question posed to the skeptic fuel the conversation, but ultimately leave him responsible for the answer. (20:00) photo below via http://www.peterfalk.com

Columbo Tactic– something Greg Koukl came up with. Remember, Columbo? He’s this bumbling detective who disarms his opponent. If you remember his technique, he was always saying, „Maybe you can help me with this, you’re a smart guy…” He was always asking questions and playing dumb. And that’s kind of the idea: saying, „What do you mean by that?” „What led you to that conclusion?” What you do when you’re asking questions is it puts you in charge of the conversation, and it puts the other person on the defensive. So, the key to the Columbo tactic is that you go on an offensive in a disarming way with carefully selected questions, to

  • productively advance the conversation. The guideline is simple. If you hit a roadblock, ask a question.
  • Never make an assertion when a question will work. This approach offers tremendous advantages. Questions are interactive, it invites others to participate. People like to talk about themselves, and what they believe. It makes headway without requiring you to state your case.
  • Questions shift the burden of proof to the other person.
  • The Columbo tactic puts you in the driver’s seat
  • It allows you to move your case forward without sounding like you’re preaching to people.

There are 3 unique purposes of the Columbo tactic:

  1. Gain information
  2. Reverse the burden of proof
  3. Indirectly exploit  a burden or flaw

Columbo Tactic 1 – What do you mean by that?

Many people object to Christianity over things they have not thought through very much. A lot of people repeat slogans they’ve heard and they have no understanding of why they believe it. When they say:

  • there is no God, ask: What do you mean by ‘God’? 
  • all religions are basically the same, ask: Really? In what way are they the same?
  • you shouldn’t force your views on me, say: How am I forcing my views on you?
  • that’s just your interpretation, ask: What do you mean by ‘just’? Although you are giving your interpretation (your understanding of the true meaning of the text), you need to find out if they believe all interpretations are equally valid and yours is „just” one of them.
  • the Bible has been changed over the years, ask: How do you think it’s been altered? You need to find out if they are familiar with the process of the written transmission of ancient texts or are just repeating what they’ve heard.
  • how can God exist when there is so much evil in the world, ask: What do you mean by evil? and „What, in your mind, is the conflict?” The question of evil doesn’t provide evidence against God but in favor of Him, for God must exist to provide the absolute standard by which evil is measured. A really good book, if you want to pursue this further is ‘Mere Christianity’ by C. S. Lewis. The whole first half of the book is basically the moral argument for the existence of God. And he was an atheist. And J. R. Tolkien, who wrote the Lord of the Rings, actually convinced Lewis to become a Christian. C. S. Lewis describes the process that went through his mind, is that he objected because there was so much injustice in the world, that he just couldn’t believe that there was a God in charge. And then he started to think: Where did this idea of justice come from? Why do I think the world is unjust? If I don’t have some standard of justice in my mind, where does that come from? That led him to believe in God. Because he said, „If there really is evil- you don’t know a line’s crooked, without knowing what a straight line looks like. You have to have a standard to measure it by. So, the problem of evil is a bigger problem for the skeptic than it is for the theists. (36:30)

Columbo Tactic 2 – Reversing the burden of proof

The person who makes the claim bears the burden

They have to give evidence for their claim. The burden of proof always has one cardinal rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden, so don’t allow yourself to be thrust in the defensive, when they’re the ones making the claim. A lot of time they try to put the burden on us, „Well, you prove the Bible.” And, I found with the skeptics, they know that we have a heart to evangelize people. They know that we do that, and they try to play it against us. The idea is we’re not just trying to win. We wanna expose what their objections are, in a way that’s loving, yet, corrective. Make them give you their arguments for why they don’t believe. Follow up questions to ask in step #2:

How did you come to that conclusion? 

  1. What are the reasons for holding the view that you have?
  2. Do you have evidence for that?
  3. What led you to that conclusion?

It ultimately shifts the burden of proof to the other person, where it belongs.

  • Avoid the professor’s ploy

Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a power play; instead use your tactics. Refuse to shoulder the burden of proof when you have not made the claim.

  • Get out of the Hot Seat

You may not have an answer to everything an atheist or an agnostic comes up with, or you may not be prepared to deal with it, or sometime you may get somebody who is aggressive, so if you feel yourself overmatched, you can buy yourself some time.  It’s also a smart thing to do, as far as carrying the message of the Gospel. So, then just ask:

  1. Tell me exactly what you believe
  2. Give me your reasons for it
  3. Let me think it over

Columbo Tactic 3 – Have you ever considered…?

This is where you actually offer some new information. This is where having some knowledge, and having done some studies in some of these issues, you can actually come back with some new information. But, notice, you still phrase it in the form of a question.

  1. Listen carefully to the reasons he/she gives to the second Columbo tactic question: How did you come to that conclusion?
  2. Ask yourself if the conclusion follows from the evidence
  3. Point out errors with questions, rather than statements.

Jesus was a master of skillfully placed questions:

Luke 20:22-26
Mark 12:35-37
Luke 20:2-8
Matthew 21:28-32
John 18:22-23
Luke 7:40-42; 10:25-27; 14:1-6

Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

I have posted this about a year ago, and I think it is a very good study on Gospel authenticity, as it is very detailed, so I am reposting it here together with my transcript of the entire session. This is one of those MUST READ/WATCH lectures because in most colleges in the US, your son or daughter’s religion class will teach your children that the synoptic Gospels are not authentically written by their authors, and they will date them much later than most scholars have agreed to date them and present their view as historically accurate.

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s Gospels ‘wordled’ (TNIV version). Wordle – Someone generated this “word cloud” from the text of the 4 Gospels. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

by Dr. Timothy McGrew (PhD Philosophy from Vanderbilt University), currently Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University.

Video Intro from Dr. McGrew:

I teach at a secular university and one of  things that I see constantly is young people coming to university from our churches, good churches, Bible teaching churches, and falling away from their faith at the university. It is my contention that what we have given our young people is not what they needed: Bible stories, entertainment, even some devotional thoughts, but, they’re not being prepared for WAR. And, we’re sending them out with rubber swords and plastic armor and that is not enough. I always like to pick a Bible verse for a motto, and here I picked Deuteronomy 32:7: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will show you, your elders and they will tell you

If you hop online, in 5 minutes, you can find some of the wildest theories that have ever been invented. In this lecture Dr. McGrew is trying to show the genuineness of the Gospels. He defines

Authenticity and Genuineness

  • an ancient historical work is authentic if it gives a substantially  truthful account of the events it reports.

Authenticity is what we want in an historical document; we want to know if what it says is substantially true.

  • an ancient historical work is genuine if it was actually written by the person to whom it is attributed.

Showing the document is genuine helps to establish that it is authentic because it helps to rule out rival theories (e.g. that the document is a late mythical composition)

Dr. McGrew does 2 things in this lecture. First, he examines the genuineness of the Gospel, of it being the product of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, „just like they say”. Second, he considers the principal arguments of some people who dispute the genuineness of the Gospels.

The way Dr. McGrew argues that the historical evidence favors the traditional position. In making his argument, Dr. McGrew does not depend at all on the inspiration of Scripture, although he does in fact believe that the Scripture is inspired by God, but, in making the argument, he appeals only to evidence and criteria that can be applied to any historical document. He does not use theology to support his arguments (which is what Christians need to learn to do when arguing with atheists/non believers).

Point of departure when you walk into a University

The two statements below, made by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins are taken as „point of departure” (foundational) in universities.

Bart Ehrman – a former Pastor, now an apostate, who considers himself to be an agnostic inclined towards atheism. He is the principle guy people will go to if they are looking for a negative verdict on Scripture because he has been urning out enormously popular books aimed at sort of a church level audience, undermining fundamental points of faith. Here’s what he says about the Gospel: „Some books, such as the Gospels,… had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write the (ascribed to apostles and friends of the apostles). From Jesus Interrupted 2009 pp 101-102

Richard Dawkins – (a) The Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. (b) Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. From The God Delusion 2006.

About this video:

Dr. Timothy McGrew lays out the case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels, while countering Bart Ehrman’s claims that the Gospels are forgeries. This is one hour of content followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. Uploaded by 

Augustine Against Faustus  33 6 (~400 AD)

Around 400 AD, Faustus was the first to systematically challenge that the Gospels were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. Here’s Augustine’s criterion for authorship: „Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or in the hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? And the chain of evidence is exactly what he says we have for our Gospels. Here’s some of the evidence:

The Early Attestation of Authorship of the Gospels

  • Tertullian of Carthage (~207) Tertullian writes: „The Gospels were written by Matthew and John, who were apostles, and Luke and Mark, who were apostolic men. Mark’s Gospel is the record of Peter’s preaching. They tell the same basic facts about Jesus, including His virgin birth and his fulfillment of prophecy. They bore the names of their authors from antiquity and the ancient churches vouch for them and no others.” 

McGrew: So, Tertullian, writing just around the 200’s (AD) that „these books bear names and have been handed down to us, this is a tradition we received from far back”. And, that the ancient Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, the churches that received letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians); these ancient churches vouch for these Gospels and the authorship of these Gospels.

Why is Tertullian saying this? He is criticizing a heretic sect founded by a fellow named Marcion, who really hated the Old Testament and hated Judaism. (McGrew talks about how in Matthew you can find many references to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as one example of what Marcion rejected in the Gospels). Marcion wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament or anything Jewish. So Marcion took the Gospel of Luke and trimmed out any OT or Jewish reference and published the rest of Luke in the 130’s AD. Marcion was very well off. He gathered a following and after his death, his followers kept on going. At around 200 AD Tertullian tells them they are following a false Gospel.

  • Clement of Alexandria (~180) Clement was a great teacher and head of a school in Alexandria, Egypt. He writes: Mark wrote his Gospel by request of his knowledge of Peter’s preaching at Rome. Matthew and Luke were published first; they are the Gospels that contain the genealogies. John’s Gospel was written at the urging of friends.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (~180) Iraneus was a bishop in France (very far away from Egypt and Clement) He writes: Matthew’s Gospel was the first written, it was originally written in the „Hebrew dialect” (Aramaic). Mark, a disciple of Peter, handed down in his Gospel what Peter had preached. Luke, a companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Joh, the disciple of the Lord, published a Gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia.
  • Muratorion Fragment (~170) This is a damaged manuscript that gives us a catalog of books that tells us something about the authors. The first page or so is lost because it starts with saying  Thirdly, Luke.… and it keeps on going.  So, it’s a pretty good guess that the first 2 pages were probably about Matthew and Mark. He writes: Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from the reports of others, since he has not personally seen Jesus. John, who was an eyewitness, wrote his Gospel after the rest, at the urging of some friends.

McGrew: There is no dissenting views and virtually nothing contrary to show because there is no other tradition about the authors of the Gospels. The unanimous testimony of the Church coming down through the ages, coming towards the apostolic times is behind this traditional ascription to Matthew and Mark and Luke and John.

  • Justin Martyr (~150) Justin writes: The Christians possessed „memoirs” of Jesus which were so called „Gospels”. These were written by apostles and by those who were their followers. They tell us of such events as the visit of the Magi and His agony in Gethsemane. Justin’s pupil, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.

McGrew: Up until the middle of the 19th century we didn’t have a copy that anybody knew about of the Diatessaron. In 1888 a copy surfaced. It was actually always around, however, no one ever translated it and therefore no one knew what it was until 1888. This document opens with, „In the beginning the word was …” and continues with John’s entire prologue and writes a harmony of the 4 Gospels. So, Justin Martyr was quoting from the Diatessaron, which means all four Gospels, including John’s (which is usually attacked as being written hundreds of years after the fact) are not only in existence before the year 150 , but in use.

The apostle John died right around the turn of the century (~100) at extreme old age. He was probably in his teens when he was a disciple of Jesus. So the first reference  comes within one generation of the life of the apostle John. We have to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever literature has survived. A lot of it was written on papyrus and time and weather are not kind to papyrus. Unless it is in an extremely dry environment, it deteriorates and it’s gone.

  • Papias of Hierapolis (~125) Papias is recorded for us in Eusebius’ History. Eusebius was a voracious librarian. He put together all kinds of sources, some of which we’ve now lost. except for what was preserved in him. He gives us a couple of fragments from Papias. Papias writes: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down what Peter had preached accurately, though, not necessarily in order. Matthew wrote the oracles (a reference to his whole Gospel? to the sayings of Jesus?) in the Hebrew language.

Attestation of Authorship Summary of Facts

The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman Empire:

– Tertullian in Carthage
– Clement in Alexandria
– Irenaus in France
– Papias in Asia Minor

Dr. McGrew: There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.  In any field other than biblical studies that would be enough. The Bible is always held to a standard that is higher than the standard of any other work would be held to. So let’s look at more evidence:

Assessing Genuineness – External Tests

  • External Tests – Attributions of Authorship is strong and consistent.
  • Early use in other works –  Many early writers make use of the Gospel without naming or describing the authors (Ex. in preaching, or making exhortations, etc).This evidence takes us back even earlier than the evidence of attribution.

For these authors to make use of the Gospels as authoritative sources, means that they expected their audience to recognize their quotations and allusions and to accept them as authentic. Here’s some examples:

  1. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp (~107): In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove’. Cf Matthew 10:16.
  2. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108): „Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Luke 6:20
  3. The witness of Basilides (~125) an agnostic heretic using quotes from the Gospel of John writes: that each man has his own appointed time, he (Basilides) says, ” The Savior sufficiently indicates when he says, ‘My hour has not yet come’„. John 2:4 and
  4. …this he (Basilides) says is what is mentioned in the Gospels, „He was the ‘light which lights every man coming into the world’„.Cf John 1:9
  • Early use – external evidence
  1. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108) quotes from or alludes to verses from : Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Peter. Polycarp sat at the feet of the apostle John when he was a young man. He then passed on the Gospel to his own disciples when he was an old man. One of Polycarp’s people was Iraneus of Lyons. This unbroken chain takes us back to the very disciples themselves (John).
  • Early use – summary of facts
  1. The four Gospels and Acts are used copiously by the early church fathers
  2. Even heretics tacitly acknowledged their genuineness, which they would not have done if they could help it.
  3. Justin Martyr, in his first Apology-on the reading of Scripture: „And, on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and in the country, gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” First Apology ch 67.  For the Gospels to be read as Scripture in weekly services, they must have been extremely highly regarded and well known to Christians throughout the world.

On a side note, did you know this author Thucydides c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian who is not mentioned once in any other writing for 250 years from the time of his existence? From a historical standpoint, the evidence for the Gospels isn’t just good, it’s great!

for more please visit The Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org/

After you view this video, you may want to read these  additional  articles:

  1. The Rationality of the Christian Worldview
  2. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels I
  3. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels II
  4. John Piper – How Are the Synoptics „Without Error”?
  5. The Real Roots of the Emergent Church (a documentary)
  6. Why I am not an atheist – Ravi Zacharias
  7. Belief in an age of skepticism – Tim Keller at University of California at Berkeley

The Cambridge debate between Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams

The Christian Post reports on the debate:

Brian made this picture while Rowan Williams, ...

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, defeated prominent atheist professor, Richard Dawkins, in a debate at the University of Cambridge in England on Thursday night, as a vote taken at the conclusion of the debate ruled that religion does have a place in the 21st century.

The debate motion that „religion has no place in the 21st Century” was well-defeated at the event held in front of an audience of about 800 people, mostly students, at the Cambridge Union Society’s chambers, according to the U.K.’s Independent newspaper.

Dawkins lost the debate by 324 votes to 136, as he failed to convince the house that religion has no place.

„Religion has always been a matter of community building, a matter of building relations of compassion, fellow-feeling and, dare I say it, inclusion,” Williams, who stepped down as the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion on Dec. 31, said in his address. „The notion that religious commitment can be purely a private matter is one that runs against the grain of religious history.”

Williams pointed out that respect for human life and equality was inherent in all organized religion. „The very concept of human rights has profound religious roots… The convention of human rights would not be what it is were it not for the history of philosophical religious debate.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/richard-dawkins-loses-debate-against-former-anglican-head-rowan-williams-at-cambridge-university-full-video-89364/#deKkXJlIw5RZXoEI.99

Dr. Emil Silvestru – The Darwin Delusion

A lecture by Dr. Emil Silvestru, Romania’s foremost Geologist, born and raised in communist Romania, who founded the world’s first Speleological Institute (speleology is the study of caves) lectures on Charles Darwin who also was a speleologist at the beginning of his career. Dr. Silvestru recounts Darwin’s life and work and the influences that formed him during his lifetime. This lecture gives many historical details spanning several continents and detailing the prevailing philosophies and politics of Darwin’s time concluding with Darwin’s influence on eugenics- including abortion.

A tip for playing the video. Press the play button, wait 5 seconds and press the stop button. Wait a few minutes for the play bar to start downloading on your computer and then press start. For some reason, when the video stopped for me I got a green screen and I had to refresh the page and wait for the play bar to re load again so I could go back to the minute mark where it originally stopped. The video is well worth watching though, so please be patient.

Dr. Emil Silvestru – „The Darwin Delusion” – September 27th, 2009 Evening Service from Peoples Montreal on Vimeo.

Dr. Emil Silvestru’s bio – Emil earned his Ph.D in geology at the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania, (where he has worked as an associate professor) in karst sedimentology. An authority on the geology of caves, he has written one book (The Cave Book), published over 48 peer-reviews scientific articles, and co-authored three books: Terra – Catastrophe Naturale (Terra – Natural Catastrophes), The Geologic Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology and Rock Solid Answers.

Before moving into full-time creation ministry in 1997 Emil was the head scientist at the worlds first Speleological Institute (speleology = the study of caves) in Cluj. His areas of expertise include: karstology, sedimentology, geology and hydrogeology of limestone terranes, cave glaciology, show cave assessment & design, exploration and geology of metamorphic ore deposits.He has over 30 years experience in climbing and spelunking, educating many young spelunkers and mountain climbing devotees as well as participating in mountain and cave rescue operations.

After becoming a Christian in 1994, Emil began to re-think previously held views on the age of the earth. In particular he became interested in studying the geological processes that resulted from the world-wide flood recorded in Genesis. He became convinced that the flood provided exceptional conditions that greatly accelerated the geological processes commonly thought to take millions of years. In January 2002 he immigrated to Canada from Romania with his family. Emil now works full-time for Creation Ministries International-Canada as a researcher, writer and speaker. (Read it in its entirety here – http://creation.com/emil-silvestru, including links to his published scientific papers )

In the summer of 2012 Emil suffered a stroke from which he has not yet fully recovered. Please pray for Dr. Silvestru.

ALSO READ: Caving in to creation – Dr Carl Wieland interviews Romanian geologist and world cave authority Dr Emil Silvestru

Science vs. God?

Oxford Museum debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox: A must see debate.  Two scientists return to the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the famed site of the 1860 Evolution debate between Huxley and Wilberforce.

Fixed Point Foundation hosts a second discussion between Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor John Lennox this time in the UK at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. An enthralling topic for scientists, skeptics, and Christians for nearly 150 years, the answer to this question has implications that reverberate through-out public and private live, from government policy and medical ethics to individual choices made every day. Two scientists return to the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the famed site of the 1860 Evolution debate between Huxley and Wilberforce. Discussing an issue the BBC calls ‘as fierce as ever,’ the two go head to head in a remarkable match of intellect.
Holding the Atheistic position is Prof. Richard Dawkins, celebrated author of the God Delusion and regarded by many as the spokesman for the ‘New Atheism.’ Opposing Dawkins is fellow Oxford Professor John Lennox. Lennox like Dawkins, has dedicated his career to science, but arrives at very different conclusions. ‘It is the very nature of science,’ he says, ‘that leads me to belief in God.’
Some interesting highlights:
  • right at the start in his introduction, Dawkins states his surprise (with some irritability) at Lennox’s belief in supernatural miracles in light of the fact that Lennox is a scientist
  • Richard Dawkins does not have any answer, nor does he seem interested in answering the question of origins for  either the cosmos or life itself. (See exchange below in the ‘origins of the cosmos’ notes from debate.
  • Richard Dawkins on the jump from low level molecules to the phenomenal self organizational potentiality of micro molecules: ‘Science doesn’t yet know everything… there’s a lot of work to be done.’  THERE ARE STILL GAPS.
  • Richard Dawkins: I can’t explain the origin of life now. Nobody can.
  • Richard Dawkins states that this God who (supposedly) defies physics couldn’t think of a better way to rid the world of sin, than to send Himself down to be tortured so He can forgive Himself and humanity- this shows Dawkins caricaturization of the trinity, which he either does not understand or he does not/will not accept the doctrine of the trinity as explained and held to by Christianity. This statement he again pronounces as profoundly unscientific that in his opinion „doesn’t do justice to the grandeur of the universe”. Dawkins calls this action- God’s plan of salvation for mankind:  „petty and small minded” and points out that this is the God that John Lennox believes in.
  • John Lennox responds, „I believe God, the creator of the universe is not just a force, but is a person who created us in His image. And you say that God becoming human and God dying on the cross and rising from the dead is petty. I think the exact opposite. It’s not petty because it deals seriously with the fundamental problem that I don’t think atheism even begins to deal with and that is the problem of our alienation with God. Of course, that makes no sense unless we believe in God. As a scientist, we both believe in the rational intelligibility of the universe. I believe this because there is a creator God behind it. How do you account for the rational intelligibility of the universe?
  • Richard Dawkins: For many years it seemed obvious that the universe couldn’t be a „freak accident” by looking at the diversity of animals. Darwin came along and showed that it was not a freak accident, nor is it designed, that there is a third way that in the way of biology is evolution, by natural selection which produces a close imitation of something that is designed. It is not designed, we know that now, it just looks designed. Now, the cosmos hasn’t yet had its Darwin. We don’t yet know how the laws of physics came into existence, how the physical constants came into existence and so we can still say, „Is it a freak accident or was it designed?” The analogy with biology might discourage us from being too confident that it’s designed because we had our fingers burned before the 19th century. Now, in the case of the cosmos, the point that I’ve made over and over again is that even if we don’t understand how it came about, it’s not helpful to postulate a creator, because a creator is the very kind of thing that needs an explanation and although it is difficult enough to explain how a very simple origin of the universe cam into being, how matter and energy, how 1 or 2 physical constants came into existence, although it’s difficult enough to think how simplicity came into existence, it’s a hell of a lot harder to think how something as complicated as a God comes into existence, difficult enough to think how a deist God comes into existence, and even more difficult to think how a christian God, who actually cares about things like sin and gets Himself born of a virgin.

Published on Jun 9, 2012 by 

On the question of  ‘design’ vs. natural selection
John Lennox: Darwin didn’t explain the origin of life nor the origin of the universe. I would want to start there. You say, „We don’t know how it came to be”. But, as scientists, cosmologists, physicists we’re studying it and that very study, and you r own science assumes that the universe is rationally intelligible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but, it seems to me atheism is saying, „The thoughts in our mind are only the result of a mindless, unguided process”. Now, if that is the case, it seems to me that it is very difficult to see how they could tell us anything that is true about ourselves. I think it was Steven Pinker who said that evolution has to do with reproductive sex and nothing to do with truth. John Gray, who is also an atheist, made the point not long ago is that the problem with Darwinism is that if you take it in its ultra form, it really undermines the notion that we can give any credence to what we think. So, it seems to me that your atheism undermines the very rationality that I assume and you assume when we go to study the universe. That’s the first point I would make.
Richard Dawkins: It seems to me quite an absurd thing to say: that because we are saying that our minds are produced by brains, and brains evolve by evolution, by natural selection, therefore, that’s somehow undermines our ability to understand  everything. Why on earth should that be? Natural selection builds brains which are good at surviving and brains that are good at surviving are brains that have survived in the world…
John Lennox: But where is the concept of truth? How do we recognize things like truth, if those thoughts are simply reducible to physics and chemistry and neurophysiology? How do they serve truth?
Richard Dawkins: Truth is what happens. An animal that was attempting to survive, and it didn’t recognize truth and falsehood in some sense, at whatever level is appropriate for the kind of survival that it has, it wouldn’t survive. Truth just means that you are living in the real world and you behave in the real world in such a way as things make sense in a real world. When you see a rock in your way, you don’t go charging into it. You would die if you did that. If you jump over a cliff, you die. That’s truth. It’s perfectly obvious that natural selection would favor, in any animal, a brain that behaves in a way that recognizes truth and acts upon it.
John Lennox: I can’t see how natural selection would produce this truth, but, coming back to that in itself, you say this ‘illusion of design’ (and I find your writing so fascinating because of the metaphors you use), you said somewhere that it is terribly, terribly tempting to believe that it has been designed, but that Darwin has shown us that this design is an illusion. But, I have been very interested in the kind of thing that Conway Simon Morris has been saying recently, that ‘if you take the evolutionary pathway, they’re never getting through an informational hyper space with phenomenal precision, and therefore, there is the impression of design at that level. I mean, if this mechanism that you talk about that doesn’t account for the origin of life at all, let’s leave that aside, if it is so phenomenally clever, then it itself is giving evidence that there’s a mind behind it.
Can there be guidance in natural selection?
Richard Dawkins: Our point of Darwinian natural selection is that it worked without design, without foresight, – John Lennox interjects: „That’s an assumption.” Dawkins responds: No it’s not an assumption. That is exactly how it works. Before Darwin came along it looked perfectly obvious that even if evolution happened, there must be some guided to tell animals or humans how they ought to evolve. Natural selection is a blind force; the things that survive, survive. With hindsight we can see that the ones that survive are the ones that are good at surviving; they have the genes that make them survive. Simon Conway Morris would not deny that, he’s got some kind of, well, I rather share his view- convergent evolution– we both of us are perhaps on the extreme end of Darwinians, in that we emphasize the power of natural selection to hone in on particular ends. As he would say: Natural selection is mechanics,l blind, automatic force. I can’t say it’s not guided, but, there’s no need for it to be guided. The whole point is that it was without guidance. John Lennox interjects: But, it could be guided, or do you completely shut that out? Richard Dawkins responds: I mean, why bother when you’ve got a perfectly good explanation that doesn’t involve guidance? Why bring it up?
John Lennox: The point is that you use words like blind and automatic; this watch (points to watch) is blind and automatic, but, it has been designed. The words themselves do not shut out that notion. And it seems to me, the impression that I am getting is that what’s coming through is that the whole process is so sophisticated itself (that) it’s giving a rational mind behind it. Am I understanding you right, that you say you deny that because you have any principal reason for denying it? That is, everything must, as far as you’re concerned, from the simple to the complex and therefore your major argument of ‘Delusion’ (book) as I understand it is that God is, by definition more complex than the thing you’re explaining, so He’s got to be explained.
Richard Dawkins: That is a major point that I want to make, but let me go back to what you were saying before about guidance. When you drop a stone it falls to the ground and you as a scientist will explain that by gravity. You wouldn’t dream of saying, „Oh, there must be a God pushing it down”. That’s exactly what  you’re in effect saying in respect to evolution because we understand evolution in just the same kind of level, rather at a better level than we understand gravity.
God and science: are they alternative explanations ?
John Lennox: This is a very important point, because I detect in many of your writings that you oppose science and God as explanations. When Newton discovered the law of gravity he didn’t say, „Marvelous, now I know how it works, I don’t need God”. God is an explicator at the level of an agent, not a mechanism, so that we can study mechanisms in biology. The more sophisticated they are the more they might point towards an agent. You don’t argue away the existence of an agent by showing that there is a mechanism. I don’t quite understand how you manage to get, if I understand you right, God and science as alternative explanations.
Richard Dawkins: I think you do get rid of an agent if the agent is superfluous to the explanation. When you’re studying something that’s happening, there may well be an agent. There may be a car riding along and avoiding obstacles and moving left and turning right and you say (there’s) an agent controlling that car. And there is, there’s a driver. But, if you don’t need an agent to explain what’s going on and we don’t in the case of biology  ad we don’t in the case of gravity (we have to accept that Newton was a theist and in the 17th century everybody was), you don’t need an agent, an agent is a superfluous explanation, it’s a gratuitous grafting on of something that you don’t need.
John Lennox: I find that unconvincing because even if you accept the whole evolutionary paradigm, it depends on there being a fine tuned universe. And that fine tuned universe raises itself some very big questions as to the origin of the universe. Evolution doesn’t deal with that. Nor does it deal with the origin of life. They are vastly important points. The notion of things in principle going from simple to complex and they must go that way; that seems to me to be your belief, your faith.
Richard Dawkins: No, it doesn’t. Those are separate points. Things must go from simple to complex? No, if things go from simple to complex we need an explanation. Natural selection is an explanation for that.
John Lennox: Let’s go back to the origins of the universe and the origin of life. My life, as we both know has got this digital data base. It’s got a language all of its own. Now, the only thing we know of, capable of producing language is mind.  And yet you reject that. By definition, as an atheist you must reject that there is no mind behind this language.
Language and the language of DNA
Richard Dawkins: I do reject it. When you say, ‘the only thing we know that can produce language’, we know that what produces human languages mind, yes we do, because that is human language. But, DNA is not human language. It is very sophisticated but it doesn’t follow that it has to be generated by mind.
John Lennox: But we know of no other way that it could be generated. It seems to me from a mathematical point of view, I think you said it in a different context: Junk in, junk out. Here we have this phenomenally sophisticated information processor which is the cell. Am I really to believe that that information processor capacity simply came by the laws of nature and random processes, without a mind? Richard Dawkins answers: Yes, yes. Lennox: I mean, that’s impossible to believe as a mathematician.
Richard Dawkins: It’s called the argument form personal incredulity.
Logos – in what sense is it an explanation?
John Lennox: But, I could just reverse that and say that your position is your argument form personal credulity. The rationality comes from irrationality, that mind comes from matter. To me, the biblical explanation: ‘In the beginning was the Word Logos’, that makes perfect sense and it makes sense of the fact that we can do science itself.
Richard Dawkins: But you haven’t explained where the Logos came from in the first place.
John Lennox: Of course not, because the Logos didn’t come from anywhere.
Richard Dawkins: Then, in what sense is it an explanation?
John Lennox: Because, the notion that you say, you have to ask who created the Logos, that says that you are thinking of a created God. The whole point about the God revealed in the bible is that He was not created, He is eternal, He is the eternal Logos. And I ask myself as an inference to the best explanation, which makes more sense? That there is an eternal Logos and that the universe, its laws, the capacity for mathematical descriptions and so on, that these things are derivative, including the human mind from the Logos, that makes very much more sense to me as a scientist than it’s the other way around. Then there is no explanation for the existence of the universe. Do you believe that the universe is just a brute fact?
Origins for the cosmos and life
Richard Dawkins: The universe is an easier fact to accept than a conscious creator.
John Lennox:  Well, who made it?
Richard Dawkins: It’s you who insists on asking that question.
John Lennox: You asked me who made the creator. The universe created you, Richard. Who made it then?
Richard Dawkins: A god, a complicated entity which requires a much more sophisticated and difficult explanation than a universe, which is according to modern physics a very simple entity. It is a very simple beginning. It is not a negligible beginning, but it is a very simple beginning that has got to be easier to explain than something that is as complicated as a god.
John Lennox:  You can’t explain the existence of God with… I think you may have missed my question. I’m drawing a parallel. You see, I’m getting the message that it’s ridiculous for me to believe in a God who created the universe and me because I (then) have to ask who created God. All I’m doing is turning that question around and saying, the universe, you admit created you because there’s nothing else. Well then, who created it?
Richard Dawkins: I understand you perfectly. We, both of us are faced with a problem of saying, „How did things start?” I’m saying it’s a hell of a lot easier to start with something simple than to start with something complex. That’s what complex means.
John Lennox:  But, I don’t think so. If I  pick up a book called The God Delusion, it’s a pretty sophisticated book, it’s got lots of words in it. But, actually, as I look at page 1- I don’t even have to look beyond page 1- I conclude that it comes form something complex in that book itself. Do you?
Richard Dawkins: Yes, obviously complex things exist.
John Lennox: Well, why can’t I look at the universe, the whole show, which includes Dawkins and Lennox..
Richard Dawkins: I’ll tell you why, because my brain, that produced the book has an explanation in its own right. That explanation is evolution, we go back and back and back to the origin of the universe, that provides an explanation for complex brains, and complex brains produce books and museums and cars and computers. Of course we have complex things that produce other complex things, but, science has an explanation of where complex brains come from  in terms of simple beginnings.
John Lennox:  I don’t think it has at all. At the level of the origin of life, reading the literature, even the recent literature, the word ‘miracle’ comes up probably far too often for your liking anyway, but, they’re just going from the self organizational properties of low level molecules that you’ve got in some kind of primeval situation to the phenomenal self organizational potentiality of micro molecules. There’s just no way you can get there.
Richard Dawkins: Well, you’re asserting that there’s no way. We don’t yet know what it is because there’s a lot of work yet to be done. Science doesn’t yet know everything. THERE ARE STILL GAPS. 
John Lennox: It seems to me that the fact that the basic description of this ancient language and it is a very ancient language of DNA points much more arguably to the existence of a divine Logos that started it, than the notion that it’s going to be exhaustively explained in purely naturalistic terms, because I would still go back to the point I made earlier: This extreme reductionism removes from me the very rationality which we use to have the discussion. So that, I am not simply terribly tempted to believe it’s all been designed. I believe it’s all been designed, but, that doesn’t STOP science. I fear sometimes that your dichotomy- either God or science- might put some people off science, because they would prefer God and that would be a pity.
Richard Dawkins: When you feel like it, you will smuggle in magic. You will smuggle in magic for miracles in the bible, you will smuggle in magic for the origin of life. I can’t explain the origin of life at the moment, nobody can.
John Lennox: But you believe that it will have a naturalistic solution.
Richard Dawkins: I think that it is a cowardly copout to suggest that just because we don’t yet understand something, therefore magic did it.
John Lennox: I agree with that- the God of the gaps idea…
Richard Dawkins: But, that’s exactly what you’re putting forward, a God of the gaps. You’re pointing to the origin of life, you’re pointing to the origin of DNA and you’re saying, „Ok, Darwin has done everything after the origin of life, but, he hasn’t done the origin of life. That’s a god of the gaps.
John Lennox: What I am saying here is that there may well be 2 kinds of gaps. That is, there are bad gaps that science closes. But, could it not be that science can open some gaps? What I mean by that is this: Your assumption as I understand it is that there’s going to be an exhaustive reductionist naturalistic explanation of everything in scientific terms. I don’t think so. Now, if there is a God and if He created this universe, and if, as I believe, He is personal, then I would expect certain things to follow. (1) That I would see evidence; not proof, but evidence in the universe that God existed. I see that in mathematical describability of the universe, in the fine tuning of the universe and in the marvelous sophistication of the world. I’d expect to see God’s traces there. I would also expect that there would be occasions where and when God speaks in special ways and therefore, the more we try to analyze those things in terms of purely reductionist science, it will get more and more difficult instead of more and more simple. I wouldn’t expect there to be many of those places. I think the origin of life would be one of them. And, certainly when it comes up into more recent history, you mentioned miracles- the thing that is central for miracles is the fact that what you call petty and I find is vastly significant because it’s touching on something that affects every human being- the question of death. Now, if Jesus did really, literally rose from the dead as a matter of history, that makes an enormous difference to our view of the world. And so, far from being petty, if this is God speaking to us I want to take it extremely seriously. Why do you think it is so petty?
God –  justice, morality and righteousness
Richard Dawkins: Of course it makes a huge difference if it’s true, but, you’ve suddenly leapt from a sophisticated discussion on the origins of the universe, where one can have a proper discussion on whether cosmic intelligence could have set forth the law of physics and you suddenly jumped to a man who lived 2,000 years ago, was born of a virgin, rose from the dead. I think that’s petty, by comparison with the grandeur of the universe. To put my point again: Do you really think the creator of this magnificent edifice of this universe, this expanding universe, the galaxies? He really couldn’t think of a better way to get rid of the sins on this one little speck of dust, than to have Himself tortured? He’s the one doing the forgiving after all. Couldn’t He just have forgiven?
John Lennox: Because this is a moral universe Richard and just forgiving doesn’t make sense.
Richard Dawkins: Then He has to kill Himself in order…or get Himself killed or tortured.
John Lennox: He doesn’t kill Himself. God sends His Son into the world to provide forgiveness and to provide a basis on which He can just bring forgiveness to me. We need to step back a minute from this because actually it is really a highly relevant topic. In your world, where is justice to be found?
Richard Dawkins: Justice is a human construct of great importance in human affairs and it’s something most of us have a sense of, which I think properly can be given some sort of Darwinian explanation, but, I don’t see where you’re taking this.
John Lennox: My question is: Is there any ultimate justice? You see, you say this is petty. I’m saying: I find myself in a world, which is a broken world, I find myself in a world where there’s massive injustice, where many people won’t get it, we’re so privileged, we live in Oxford and so on, we got enough money to live on and so on. But, if there is no God, then there’s no ultimate justice. And one of the things that the resurrection transforms for me from pettiness right into center stage is – if this is true, then there’s real hope that there’s rational evaluation and fair justice at the end of the world. But atheism doesn’t give you that.
Richard Dawkins: Ok, suppose there is no hope. Suppose there is no justice. Suppose there’s nothing but misery and darkness, bleakness. Suppose there’s nothing we would wish for and nothing we would hope for. Too bad! That doesn’t make it true, just because God would make us feel good. So, why do you make that argument up? You said there is no hope without God.
John Lennox: Because I believe that there is evidence that it is true. I don’t believe in the resurrection ‘just like that’, because faith is based on evidence. The question to be decided then is: Is there a God and has He revealed Himself? That’s where, again, I believe this pettiness needs to be pushed aside because I can’t get to know you as a person. You’re not just some scientific object. I can look at you through a telescope and a magnifying glass and even dissect you and so on and so forth. But, because you are a person, I cannot get to know you unless you are prepared to reveal yourself to me. So, the fact that the claim of Christ to be the truth, to be God incarnate, that makes perfect sense to me because, if there is a God who entered this marvelous universe with all the science and all there is, then He has taken the initiative in getting to know us, revealing Himself to us and He has revealed Himself to us at a level we can understand. You’re a person, He’s a person. That at least makes sense. So, one of the very important questions to ask is: Is that really true or is that myth and fantasy?
On the historicity of Jesus
Richard Dawkins: It’s myth and fantasy for me.
John Lennox: That disturbs me for the following reason. Reading your book ‘The God Delusion’, you say that it’s under scholarly dispute among historians that Jesus actually existed. Now, I checked with the ancient historians, it is not so. And it disturbed me. History is not natural science. But, what I don’t understand is this: Why you would write something like that.
Richard Dawkins: I don’t think it’s a very important question whether Jesus existed. There are some historians, most historians think He did, some…
John Lennox: They certainly do, I couldn’t find one ancient historian that didn’t.
Richard Dawkins: Well there are one or two. But, I don’t really care precisely because it’s petty. I mean, I cannot, I mean if you could possibly persuade me that there’s some kind of creative force in the universe, there was some kind of physical, mathematical genius who created everything- the expanding universe, devised quantum theory, relativity and all that, you could possibly persuade me of that. But, that is radically and fundamentally incompatible with the sort of God who cares about sin, the sort of God who cares about what you do with your genitals, a sort of God who is interested, who has the slightest interest in your private thoughts and wickedness and things like that. Surely, you can see that a God who is grand enough to make the universe is not going to give a darn about what you’re thinking about and your sins and things like that.
God – morality, sin and Dawkins bus campaign
John Lennox: So you think that morality is not important? It sounds like you’re saying…
Richard Dawkins: Of course I don’t think morality is not important. I’m a human being and I live in a society of human beings and within a society of human beings, morality is of course important. But we are one of billions of planets on a huge scale and a cosmic God who bothers about this kind of human scale is not the kind of God who is compatible with a scientific view of the universe, a medieval view.
John Lennox: But, do you think size is the measure of importance? Incidentally a logarithmic view of the scale, you’re about the half way between an atom and the universe, so in terms of logarithm your point folds.
Richard Dawkins: This in a sense is an emotional argument we’ve come into now. Lennox: I don’t think so at all. Dawkins: If I begin to respect a god it would be the kind of god that Carl Sagan might have worshipped, not the sort of medieval God who fusses about sin and has an obsession with sin and righteousness and sort of … I keep coming to this word ‘petty’ and I stand by it.
John Lennox: Well, it’s an image of God that I find strange and I gather from the BBC today that you are promoting some advertising on buses which is going to say something like ‘There probably is no God, so don’t worry and enjoy your life’. Now I was very interested in that. Why ‘Don’t worry’? Do you associate the idea of God with worrying?
Richard Dawkins: I fought for a better slogan than that. This was something that was devised by a woman on the Guardian that wanted to raise money for this advertisement on the London buses. I offered to match donations and I said I’d rather change the slogan from ‘There probably is no God’ to ‘There is almost certainly no God’ and I didn’t want to say ‘Don’t worry and enjoy your life’, I wanted to say something like ‘Live your life to the full’. But, it was too late to change it and since the money has been raised in the first day, I’m going to get the say in the next slogan and it’s not going to say what the present one does.
John Lennox: From where I sits, my relationship with God is the very thing that stops the worry and gives me the fullness of life. We’re back to the pettiness, because if God is real and has revealed Himself, then it’s through a relationship with Him that you really can enjoy a full life, science included.
Richard Dawkins: I find that so unconvincing. I think there’s something wonderful about standing up and facing up to the universe, where we are increasing our understanding and we throw away childhood obsessions, we throw away the sort of imaginary friend that comforts us when children and we feel the need for a kind of parent figure to turn to. I think when we grow up we need to cast that aside and stand up tall in the universe and it’s cold. We’re not gonna last forever, we’re gonna die. We face up to that. And I think that’s a nobler way of getting through life, then to pin your hopes on childhood illusions.
John Lennox: But that all rests on the assumption that there’s no God and that they’re childhood illusions. That’s a typical Freudian explanation- one’s atheism could be exactly that. Dawkins answers: Yeah. Lennox: A flight away from the reality that there is a God. We’re back to the question, inevitably- we need the evidence. What I’m suggesting to you is: We do have evidence. We have it in science- part of God’s revelation, and I believe this building was probably dedicated to the glory of God (Oxford museum). Dawkins: No, it wasn’t. Rather the reverse. Lennox: Ok, Oxford University was. Dawkins: That’s going back a few centuries. It seems to me that by truncating everything and putting it into the science basket, so to speak, I get the impression that you’re not taking history really seriously, otherwise you would try to interact with it. And I’m trying to get to the basis of why that is so, because you’re trying to regard what Jesus has done and who He is as petty. And I find the contrast between standing tall in a silent and cold universe with no hope, believing that your moral sense must ultimately be illusion, your waiting for justice because most people will never get it because death ends everything.The contrast between that and enjoying the friendship, personal friendship of God and knowing that ultimate justice will be done is immense. The basic question is: IS it true or not?
Richard Dawkins: That is the basic question. It is completely irrelevant if it is comforting, if it gives you hope, if it keeps you happy… That has nothing to do with whether it is true. So we need to know whether it’s true. Now, when you look at history… let’s leave aside… maybe I alluded to the possibility that some historians think that Jesus never existed. I take that back. Jesus existed. However, if you’re going to say that Jesus was born of a virgin, Jesus walked on water, that He turned water into wine, that is palpably anti scientific. There is no evidence for that, there simply isn’t any and no scientist could ever take this seriously.
John Lennox: I can make it worse for you. Dawkins: I know you can. Lennox: because Jesus actually came to be the Logos who created the whole universe and if this is the creator incarnate, making water into wine and so on is really a triviality. The more fundamental thing is the fact that He came to be and gave evidence that He was God. When you say it is anti scientific, I don’t think that it’s anti scientific at all. Science cannot say that miracles do not occur. It can say they’re highly improbable. But, no one is saying that these things occurred by natural processes. They occurred because God had His power in them. Nor did the whole universe, if we look in that sense by natural processes God created, we study all the natural processes in it. So, when you say it is anti scientific, I don’t think it is anti scientific.
Richard Dawkins: What I mean by that is if and when doing science we constantly have to keep in mind that in any moment there might be a little magic trick slipped in that would completely nullify the whole enterprise of .
John Lennox: I agree with that. But, in order to recognize what the New Testament calls miracle- a special act of God, you must be living in a universe that has regularities and we recognize them. I agree with you entirely. Dawkins: Otherwise you wouldn’t notice the miracles. Lennox: Exactly, you wouldn’t recognize the miracle if dead people were popping all over the place, you wouldn’t think it was very special. But, the fact is you need two things, not one: (1)You’ve got to have regularities, which we call the laws of nature. They’re not causes, they’re in a sense descriptions that we can use. (2)You also need to be able to recognize those, so that for example, Joseph discovered that his wife to be, Mary, was pregnant. He said he didn’t believe her story. He was to divorce her. He knew exactly where babies came from. He knew the regularity. It took very special convincing for him to realize that something extremely special had happened. But, science cannot stop that. The question is, of course, did such a thing ever happen? And the central focus in the New Testament is not that which is so readily accessible to evidence, the very conception, but the resurrection of Christ. And ancient historians, this fascinated me recently, ancient historians whose discipline is very venerable, and I’m not talking about Christian ancient historians. Ancient historians, many of them, even at the skeptical end of the spectrum say that the evidence for the resurrection of Christ is very powerful. The explosion of the Christian church from a non-proselytizing group of Jews in the first century, the empty tomb and all the rest of it has even led Geza Vermes, a distinguished ancient historian here at Oxford to say: Yes, this tomb was empty. Hallucinations and these kind of explanations do not wash. So we have to ask ourselves: Are we prepared to believe an historical testimony or not?
Richard Dawkins: Well, you must talk to different historians than the ones I talk to, but, in any case, I still come back to the point that you cannot do science if at any time- remember that old cartoon with a miracle sign in the middle of the equation? That is deeply against the spirit of science. And I don’t think that I could do science if I thought that at any time something like the resurrection, something like the virgin birth was going to be smuggled in by a Godly caprice.
50 minute mark here. Topic moves on to the issue of meaning: Human life and meaning and purpose and morality.
Richard Dawkins: Well, we have talked a bit about morality. Meaning is something obviously which scientists like to find. We like to find meaning in things, we like to understand things and as I said before: Brains are selected to function, to work well in the real world. And one of the things that works well from a survival point of view to find meaning and correct meaning to interpret  the world in a way which fits in. What’s gonna happen next, for example. You don’t jump over a cliff because you understand what happens if you jump over a cliff- you’re gonna die. So, meaning is something that human brains appreciate, meaning is something that scientists appreciate in a sophisticated way.
John Lennox: So what is the ultimate meaning of life for you?
Richard Dawkins: The ultimate meaning of life depends on what you mean by it, obviously. Each one of us can make an ultimate meaning, each one of us can have a private meaning, a purpose in our life, what we hope to achieve in our life. Or, a biologist might say, the ultimate meaning of life is the propagation of genes, that would be a very different kind of meaning. They’re both true.
John Lennox: I suppose the basic question for me here is: What is the nature of ultimate reality? If ultimate reality is simply the universe in some sense, or multiverse, that’s one thing. I am at a loss to understand how you get from simple atoms, elementary particles and so on, to a brain, let alone a mind, the eye, the person. I don’t understand what consciousness is. I don’t begin to say and I don’t think scientists begin to say how you can get to something that even understands the concept of meaning. But I can understand if behind the universe, the ultimate reality is not in personal matter and energy, that somehow has produced all this stuff, bottom up. I can understand it if it’s top down, as well as partly bottom up and that is that there is a God, who is personal, who is good, who is the source of life and meaning and who reaches up to me as a person and who in fact, far from stopping me doing science, encourages the development of the mind that He has given me. And so meaning to me has all kinds of dimensions you would agree with, my family and my wife, my children and my work and so on. But it’s not bounded by the 3 score years and ten. It is not bounded by the death of the universe. It’s got an expanding horizon of hope and that to me is the only thing that is worthy of the God who created this vast cosmos, that our lives are not going to be extinguished just like that. There is a beyond and I can walk with confidence into that beyond cause I’ve got a real relationship that’s got a firm basis with the God who invented it all. And therefore, it seems to me that the meaning given by atheism in the reductionism is very, very tiny. Of course you’ll come back immediately and say it’s a question of truth. Of course it’s a question of truth. But at least we can have a look at the two different kind of worlds that we represent, because that business of ‘it’s tempting’, it is terribly tempting. Do you ever get terribly tempted to believe that there is a God?  That the kind of thing I’m saying is true?
Richard Dawkins: I said to you already that there are very many things that would be very nice about it, as you’ve just repeated though, it doesn’t make it true. I mean, you think you’re going to survive your own death, I gather. You think that even though your brain dies… I mean, at what point in evolution did that remarkable faculty emerge?
John Lennox: I haven’t a notion. It’s part of… God has created human beings in His image.
Richard Dawkins: What on earth does that mean? In His image… He looks like us?
John Lennox: No, no, we have personality, it’s Anthropomorphism. But, we are persons, God is a person, therefore we can relate to Him.
Q & A in the 57th minute lasts 23 more minutes.
Disclosure: Professor John Lennox who is highly esteemed by Christians and in the Reformed community does in fact believe that God may have used the process of evolution at some point in His creation of mankind. This topic however is not discussed in this debate.

Darwin’s Doubt: Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Kenneth Samples)

  • God created the universe with laws and logical principles
  • But, what if there is no God and the human mind is the product of a mechanistic, non rational process? Why should them, the human mind be able to correspond with the universe? These questions led me to the talk I am about to give here:
  • Some of you may not be aware that Darwin had doubts about his proposed theory of evolution. Darwin was a reflective individual by nature and he worried about the philosophical implications of his biological theory.
  • One of his genuine concerns was whether man’s cognitive  (or belief-producing) faculties which he believed had evolved from the lower animals, could be trusted to produce reliable, true beliefs about reality itself.
  • So then our question is: DO OUR COGNITIVE FACULTIES PROVIDE US WITH RELIABLE TRUE BELIEFS ABOUT THE COSMOS (THE WORLD, ABOUT REALITY)? If the Christian worldview is true and God created the universe and He created us in His image and He networked us together, then it makes sense that mathematics works, that the human mind has true beliefs about reality. And so, what if God doesn’t exist?
  • Self defeating. Several thinkers have argued that the worldview of naturalism (the view that nature is the sole reality and that no supernatural realities or entities exist) involves a fundamental state of epistemological incoherence or is self-defeating in nature. Why would an increasing number of theists think that evolutionary naturalism is potentially incoherent? Because it seems to fail to provide a viable pathway to ensure that humans develop reliable, true beliefs about reality. And the deliverances of science depend upon humans having reliable and true beliefs about the natural world. A physicist (not Christian and not a theist) at MIT recently raised a question, he said, „For creatures that were engineered by evolution to be able to pick bananas and throw rocks is to survive. Human beings seem far too intellectually endowed for naturalistic evolution to be an adequate explanation. I think, if we were engineered by evolution simply to survive, we seem to be incredibly, overly endowed.
  • The idea that atheistic evolutionary naturalism can reliably account for man’s rational faculties and explain how human beings can discover truth faces three potential defeaters. I think these are

The three defeaters when it comes to evolutionary naturalism:

  1. Naturalism postulates a non rational source for man’s rationality. If a person accepts the evolutionary naturalistic worldview, then he must also accept that the ultimate source of people’s reasoning faculties was not itself rational (endowed with reason), nor was it personal (self-aware, intelligent), and it was not teleological (purposive) in nature. Rather, the source was a non rational, impersonal, purposeless process consisting of a combination of genetic mutations, variation, and environmental factors (natural selection). Naturalism therefore postulates that a combination of random chance and blind impersonal natural processes (physical and chemical in nature) produced humanity’s rational faculties. However, presuming that a non rational, chance origin explains human intelligence raises legitimate questions about whether human reason can be trusted. According to the presumptions of science, an effect requires an adequate and sufficient cause, and indeed that effect cannot be greater than the cause. (The principle of causality)
  2. Evolution promotes a Species’ survivability, not its true beliefs. Evolution by natural selection is said to have taken billions of years to produce intellectual and sensory capacities in people. But that process operated solely in light of survival value and reproductive advantage. In other words, evolution functioned only to enhance a particular organism’s adaptation to its environment– thus promoting that species’ continued existence. What a particular species believes about its environment is nonessential to the process. Also, whether the organism’s convictions about reality are indeed true is highly questionable. In some cases reliably true beliefs might contribute to survivability, but in others the truths of the beliefs would be irrelevant.
  3. False beliefs illustrate evolutionary naturalism’s epistemological unreliability. Some naturalistic scientists and philosophers today have only served to heighten Darwin’s original doubt by suggesting that man’s inherent religious impulse is itself driven by evolution. In other words, beliefs in God, objective morality, and life after death are evolutionary generated beliefs that must have served some survival purpose in the distant past. (also the God gene). Richard Dawkins has gone further, arguing that belief in God is a mental delusion caused by a malfunction in the evolutionary process of the human brain. However, attributing man’s false religious beliefs (from the naturalist perspective) to the evolutionary process only adds suspicion to Darwin’s original doubt. If evolution is responsible for humankind’s virtually universal religious impulse, which from a naturalistic point of view is patently false ( and even pernicious according to Dawkins), then human history shows that false beliefs about reality have promoted human survivability more than true beliefs. Ex. If I have false beliefs, but those beliefs were generated by evolution to help me survive, why can’t I have serious doubt about evolution and the naturalist worldview? If evolutionary naturalism can cause a person to believe that which is false (such as religious oriented beliefs) in order to promote survivability, then what confidence can evolutionists muster that their convictions are reliable, true beliefs? And if evolution cannot guarantee true beliefs in a person’s mind, then how does one know that belief in evolutionary naturalism itself is a true belief  about the world?

This is a PowerPoint video of the lecture. The PowerPoint slides begin to change 3 minutes into the lecture.

Published on Jun 7, 2012 by 

How Darwinian evolution refutes naturalism and atheism. Titled: „Darwin’s Doubt: Can Naturalistically Evolved Human Minds Be Trusted to Yield True Beliefs About Reality?” Presented to CNS on November 15, 2010 by: Dr. Ken Samples, MA. Reasons to Believe, Glendora, CA 91740

A reflective person by nature, Charles Darwin initially had doubts about his proposed theory of evolution. Darwin worried about the philosophical implications of his biological theory. One of the areas in particular that bothered Darwin was whether an evolved human mind could be trusted to produce reliable truth about reality. This lecture by professor Kenneth Samples proposes that atheistic, evolutionary naturalism faces three potential defeaters in its attempt to explain humankind’s rational faculties in general and truth about reality in particular.

Atheists marching on the National Mall – Richard Dawkins to be main speaker

Interesting article. Please see my notes on the last paragraph and try not to fall of your chair when you read it:

From Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY:

Atheists, humanists, skeptics and free thinkers are descending on the hallowed civic ground of the National Mall this Saturday for a Reason Rally.

Organizers expect more than 10,000 people to celebrate unbelief, dance to punk band Bad Religion, hear a score of speakers led by celebrity British atheist Richard Dawkins, and shout out for separation of church and state.

Dwayne Windham, 34, says he booked a $160 round-trip bus ticket from Austin, not to wage war on religion but to show force for thoughtful atheism. „The majority of us just want rational public policies based on facts, not someone’s book of cobbled together fantasies. Atheists have to carry our weight on an intellectual and a moral basis. The worst thing you could do is be immoral and stupid,” says Windham.

The second worst thing is to go unnoticed and afraid, says American Atheists president and rally organizer David Silverman. He estimates that „99% of all atheists are closeted. We have to take back the word ‘atheist,’ because it has been demonized by critics.”

Now this next paragraph just totally blew me away:

The Reason Rally is the day before the atheists’ annual conference in nearby Bethesda, Md. The conference theme is „Come out, come out, wherever you are.” Speakers will include atheists of every race and ethnicity, including „Pastor M,” a clergyman who will speak in disguise so he can keep his pulpit even though he’s lost his faith.

Say what? A clergyman lost his faith but he still wants to hold on to his pulpit? You mean his church doesn’t know it? They have a guy who doesn’t believe, and he is leading and  preaching to them and they don’t know that he has no faith?  Absolutely astounding.

You can read the entire article here – http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-03-14/atheist-rally-washington-dc/53656042/1?csp=34news

Atheist Student Saved by the Sovereign Truth of God (via) I’ll be honest

Michael was challenged with the true Truth while on a college campus and he soon came to realize that his philosophy and atheism could not stand against the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a great video to pass on to young people and especially college kids as Michael discusses how he delved deep into philosophy scrambling to find anything that even remotely seemed like „truth” to him, personally. Instead of finding answers it sunk him down low and he found no value in it. Then he took a class on the varieties of religion and he started to value people with faith. He then started reading Richard Dawkins and considering God through Dawkin’s writing. Then came the Kirksville  Evangelical outreach. Michael was sitting and mocking an Ill be honest card about how you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. He was mocking it with 2 of his friends. Then a girl from Columbia went up to them and engaged them in a conversation. This led to Michael thinking more and more and after about an hour his friends left and tried to pull him away. His discussion with the girl lasted 3 hours.

Michael was trying to get at her any sort of argument he could come up with. No matter how hard  the questions he threw at her, what struck Michael was that every single response she gave was essentially the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the good news of His coming, His dying and the reality of sin. There was discussion of what he was bringing up but there was no argumentation. She would say, this doesn’t really matter. What matters is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. By the time they split, there was a real drive for Michael to want to read the Bible. To see what she was talking about. To see if any of it was true….(these notes are just from the first 8 minutes. There’s much more insight in the following 14 minutes)

Watch the video, it is a tremendous learning experience for me as to how to talk to a non believer. The student who talked to Michael did not argue, did not delve into philosophy, she answered all of Michael’s questions with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think our biggest impediment in engaging non believers is the fear that we won’t know how to answer their hard questions, we feel we are lacking in rhetorical skills. But we do know the Gospel, and that is enough to get us to start conversations and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

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Justin Barrett – Why Would Anyone Believe in God? – Veritas at UC Davis

Justin L. Barrett.is Director of the Thrive Center for Human Development, Thrive Professor of Developmental Science, and Professor of Psychology at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. He previously held a post as senior researcher of the Centre for Anthropology and Mind and The Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. Barrett is described in the New York Times as a „prominent member of the byproduct camp” and „an observant Christian who believes in “an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God who brought the universe into being,” [and] “that the purpose for people is to love God and love each other.” He considers that “Christian theology teaches that people were crafted by God to be in a loving relationship with him and other people, Why wouldn’t God, then, design us in such a way as to find belief in divinity quite natural?” Having a scientific explanation for mental phenomena does not mean we should stop believing in them. “Suppose science produces a convincing account for why I think my wife loves me — should I then stop believing that she does?”

Here is just one quote from his work: „There is actually a growing body of research that suggests that we have this tendency to see design and purpose all over the place from very young ages”.

Contrast this with * Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Below you will find the video and extensive notes from this very fascinating lecture from the Veritas Forum,  where you can find more apologetics resources.

Intro: The cognitive science of religion

Justin Barrett: I would like to give a broad brushstrokes introduction to the cognitive science of religion, an area that I’ve ben working in the last 15 years. (Main audience is comprised of students taking UC’s Psychology of Religion course).

Why religion is natural, science is not. „Religion like technology arises in every human culture. Religion is a universal phenomenon among human groups, which may well have existed from very nearly the emergence of our species in prehistory”. (McCauley p.149) WHY?

This year, if you keep your eyes on Amazon and so forth, you’ll see that there have been a number of books in this area. It’s getting hot and not just with psychologists and cognitive scientists and anthropologists and comparative religionists, but, also with philosophers and theologians who are starting to wonder, „What is this stuff all about?”  And, really what these scholars are trying to address is a pretty obvious phenomena once you bring it out. And that is: „Why is it that wherever you go , whatever culture you’re in, maybe even whatever historical epoch you are in, there are religious people. And not just a few.

A 1999 Gallup Survey International suggests that upwards of 90% of the world’s population today believe in some kind of a god or supernatural force, let alone historically. This is a pervasive thing that people believe in gods of one sort or another. Why is too, that  children seem to be especially receptive to religious ideas? They pick it up very easily and very naturally.

Here’s a quote from Paul Bloom, Developmental Psychiatrist at Yale University (from Michael Brooks’ article in the New Scientist in Feb 7, 2009 issue: Would a group of children raised in isolation spontaneously create their own religious beliefs?  „I think the answer is yes”. (p 33) WHY ?

Causes and reasons are important when we are talking about belief.

Reasons vs. Causes of belief

  • All thoughts and beliefs have causes: biological, psychological, evolutionary, social
  • But we can still have good reasons for beliefs: experiences, intuition, scientific evidence, logical arguments, testimony of authority, etc.
  • Focus here will be on causes

All beliefs have causes. All ideas have causes. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t have good reasons or bad reasons for those beliefs and ideas. I want to give you a scientific account as to why it is that people tend to believe in gods. At the end we might  start thinking about how those causes matter to whether or not such beliefs are reasonable. But, I want to be clear that those are two separate issues.

The first hat I want to put on is my scientist hat.

The naturalness of religion thesis

„People are disposed to generate and accept religious ideas because of how their minds naturally work in common human environments.” This is not just my idea. This is a convergent idea that many researchers and myself are coming to.  The claim here is, we all, by virtue of being human beings, living in a common world, all have certain kinds of cognitive equipment that develops. Psychological machinery. That predisposes us toward generating or accepting religious ideas. That’s why religious ideas are so recurrent. At least one of the reasons or causes as to why.

There is a sub variety of this thesis. A different wrinkle that I have been emphasizing lately, which I call:

The born believers thesis 

click „More” to read the notes from the entire lecture.

Mai mult

New Video of yesterday’s Oxford debate between Dawkins and Archbishop of Canterbury

If you haven’t heard; last night Richard Dawkins admitted that he can’t be sure that God does not exist. You can read more in my previous post here.

Someone has already uploaded the full debate here:

Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist (via) The Telegraph (UK)

You 

Richard Dawkins & Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury)

Image via the BBC.UK

One perplexing thing I noticed in this discussion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury (who speaks on behalf of Anglicans as the Pope speaks on behalf of Catholics worldwide) does not believe in literal Creation or a historical Adam. He actually believes that the writers of the Bible did not know physics and so they wrote in their own understanding, yet even more troubling is the fact that he believes that „human beings had evolved from non-human ancestors but were nevertheless “in the image of God”. Dawkins pointed out to Archbishop Rowan that the Pope does take a literal understanding of Creation. Given the relationship between a literal belief in an Adam and Eve which affects the way one looks at the entire Bible, is it a wonder that the United Kingdom  slips into secularism more and more?

The video has now been posted here on Youtube:

Story by By , Religious Affairs Editor from the UK’s Telegraph Newspaper. Read entire story here.

He is regarded as the most famous atheist in the world but last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted he could not be sure that God does not exist.

He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.

The two men were taking part in a public “dialogue” at Oxford University at the end of a week which has seen bitter debate about the role of religion in public life in Britain.

For an hour and 20 minutes the two men politely discussed „The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin” touching on the meaning of consciousness, the evolution of human language – and Dr Williams’s beard.

For much of the discussion the Archbishop sat quietly listening to Prof Dawkins’s explanations of human evolution.

At one point he told the professor that he was “inspired” by “elegance” of the professor’s explanation for the origins of life – and agreed with much of it.

Prof Dawkins told him: “What I can’t understand is why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing – that is such a staggering, elegant, beautiful thing, why would you want to clutter it up with something so messy as a God?”

Dr Williams replied that he “entirely agreed” with the “beauty” of Prof Dawkins’s argument but added: “I’m not talking about God as an extra who you shoehorn on to that.”

There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.

The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.

An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.”

Prof Dawkins said that he was “6.9 out of seven” sure of his beliefs.

“I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low,” he added.

He also said that he believed it was highly likely that there was life on other planets.

 Watch a short clip from the debate (so far the only available video) and read entire story here.

Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s Gospels ‘wordled’ (TNIV version). Wordle – Someone generated this “word cloud” from the text of the 4 Gospels. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

by Dr. Timothy McGrew (PhD Philosophy from Vanderbilt University), currently Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University.

Video Intro from Dr. McGrew:

I teach at a secular university and one of  things that I see constantly is young people coming to university from our churches, good churches, Bible teaching churches, and falling away from their faith at the university. It is my contention that what we have given our young people is not what they needed: Bible stories, entertainment, even some devotional thoughts, but, they’re not being prepared for WAR. And, we’re sending them out with rubber swords and plastic armor and that is not enough. I always like to pick a Bible verse for a motto, and here I picked Deuteronomy 32:7: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will show you, your elders and they will tell you

If you hop online, in 5 minutes, you can find some of the wildest theories that have ever been invented. In this lecture Dr. McGrew is trying to show the genuineness of the Gospels. He defines

Authenticity and Genuineness

  • an ancient historical work is authentic if it gives a substantially  truthful account of the events it reports.

Authenticity is what we want in an historical document; we want to know if what it says is substantially true.

  • an ancient historical work is genuine if it was actually written by the person to whom it is attributed.

Showing the document is genuine helps to establish that it is authentic because it helps to rule out rival theories (e.g. that the document is a late mythical composition)

Dr. McGrew does 2 things in this lecture. First, he examines the genuineness of the Gospel, of it being the product of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, „just like they say”. Second, he considers the principal arguments of some people who dispute the genuineness of the Gospels.

The way Dr. McGrew argues that the historical evidence favors the traditional position. In making his argument, Dr. McGrew does not depend at all on the inspiration of Scripture, although he does in fact believe that the Scripture is inspired by God, but, in making the argument, he appeals only to evidence and criteria that can be applied to any historical document. He does not use theology to support his arguments (which is what Christians need to learn to do when arguing with atheists/non believers).

Point of departure when you walk into a University

The two statements below, made by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins are taken as „point of departure” (foundational) in universities.

Bart Ehrman – a former Pastor, now an apostate, who considers himself to be an agnostic inclined towards atheism. He is the principle guy people will go to if they are looking for a negative verdict on Scripture because he has been urning out enormously popular books aimed at sort of a church level audience, undermining fundamental points of faith. Here’s what he says about the Gospel: „Some books, such as the Gospels,… had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write the (ascribed to apostles and friends of the apostles). From Jesus Interrupted 2009 pp 101-102

Richard Dawkins – (a) The Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. (b) Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. From The God Delusion 2006.

About this video:

Dr. Timothy McGrew lays out the case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels, while countering Bart Ehrman’s claims that the Gospels are forgeries. This is one hour of content followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. Uploaded by 

Augustine Against Faustus  33 6 (~400 AD)

Around 400 AD, Faustus was the first to systematically challenge that the Gospels were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. Here’s Augustine’s criterion for authorship: „Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or in the hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? And the chain of evidence is exactly what he says we have for our Gospels. Here’s some of the evidence:

The Early Attestation of Authorship of the Gospels

  • Tertullian of Carthage (~207) Tertullian writes: „The Gospels were written by Matthew and John, who were apostles, and Luke and Mark, who were apostolic men. Mark’s Gospel is the record of Peter’s preaching. They tell the same basic facts about Jesus, including His virgin birth and his fulfillment of prophecy. They bore the names of their authors from antiquity and the ancient churches vouch for them and no others.” 

McGrew: So, Tertullian, writing just around the 200’s (AD) that „these books bear names and have been handed down to us, this is a tradition we received from far back”. And, that the ancient Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, the churches that received letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians); these ancient churches vouch for these Gospels and the authorship of these Gospels.

Why is Tertullian saying this? He is criticizing a heretic sect founded by a fellow named Marcion, who really hated the Old Testament and hated Judaism. (McGrew talks about how in Matthew you can find many references to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as one example of what Marcion rejected in the Gospels). Marcion wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament or anything Jewish. So Marcion took the Gospel of Luke and trimmed out any OT or Jewish reference and published the rest of Luke in the 130’s AD. Marcion was very well off. He gathered a following and after his death, his followers kept on going. At around 200 AD Tertullian tells them they are following a false Gospel.

  • Clement of Alexandria (~180) Clement was a great teacher and head of a school in Alexandria, Egypt. He writes: Mark wrote his Gospel by request of his knowledge of Peter’s preaching at Rome. Matthew and Luke were published first; they are the Gospels that contain the genealogies. John’s Gospel was written at the urging of friends.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (~180) Iraneus was a bishop in France (very far away from Egypt and Clement) He writes: Matthew’s Gospel was the first written, it was originally written in the „Hebrew dialect” (Aramaic). Mark, a disciple of Peter, handed down in his Gospel what Peter had preached. Luke, a companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Joh, the disciple of the Lord, published a Gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia.
  • Muratorion Fragment (~170) This is a damaged manuscript that gives us a catalog of books that tells us something about the authors. The first page or so is lost because it starts with saying  Thirdly, Luke.… and it keeps on going.  So, it’s a pretty good guess that the first 2 pages were probably about Matthew and Mark. He writes: Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from the reports of others, since he has not personally seen Jesus. John, who was an eyewitness, wrote his Gospel after the rest, at the urging of some friends.

McGrew: There is no dissenting views and virtually nothing contrary to show because there is no other tradition about the authors of the Gospels. The unanimous testimony of the Church coming down through the ages, coming towards the apostolic times is behind this traditional ascription to Matthew and Mark and Luke and John.

  • Justin Martyr (~150) Justin writes: The Christians possessed „memoirs” of Jesus which were so called „Gospels”. These were written by apostles and by those who were their followers. They tell us of such events as the visit of the Magi and His agony in Gethsemane. Justin’s pupil, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.

McGrew: Up until the middle of the 19th century we didn’t have a copy that anybody knew about of the Diatessaron. In 1888 a copy surfaced. It was actually always around, however, no one ever translated it and therefore no one knew what it was until 1888. This document opens with, „In the beginning the word was …” and continues with John’s entire prologue and writes a harmony of the 4 Gospels. So, Justin Martyr was quoting from the Diatessaron, which means all four Gospels, including John’s (which is usually attacked as being written hundreds of years after the fact) are not only in existence before the year 150 , but in use.

The apostle John died right around the turn of the century (~100) at extreme old age. He was probably in his teens when he was a disciple of Jesus. So the first reference  comes within one generation of the life of the apostle John. We have to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever literature has survived. A lot of it was written on papyrus and time and weather are not kind to papyrus. Unless it is in an extremely dry environment, it deteriorates and it’s gone.

  • Papias of Hierapolis (~125) Papias is recorded for us in Eusebius’ History. Eusebius was a voracious librarian. He put together all kinds of sources, some of which we’ve now lost. except for what was preserved in him. He gives us a couple of fragments from Papias. Papias writes: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down what Peter had preached accurately, though, not necessarily in order. Matthew wrote the oracles (a reference to his whole Gospel? to the sayings of Jesus?) in the Hebrew language.

Attestation of Authorship Summary of Facts

The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman Empire:

– Tertullian in Carthage
– Clement in Alexandria
– Irenaus in France
– Papias in Asia Minor

Dr. McGrew: There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.  In any field other than biblical studies that would be enough. The Bible is always held to a standard that is higher than the standard of any other work would be held to. So let’s look at more evidence:

Assessing Genuineness – External Tests

  • External Tests – Attributions of Authorship is strong and consistent.
  • Early use in other works –  Many early writers make use of the Gospel without naming or describing the authors (Ex. in preaching, or making exhortations, etc).This evidence takes us back even earlier than the evidence of attribution.

For these authors to make use of the Gospels as authoritative sources, means that they expected their audience to recognize their quotations and allusions and to accept them as authentic. Here’s some examples:

  1. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp (~107): In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove’. Cf Matthew 10:16.
  2. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108): „Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Luke 6:20
  3. The witness of Basilides (~125) an agnostic heretic using quotes from the Gospel of John writes: that each man has his own appointed time, he (Basilides) says, ” The Savior sufficiently indicates when he says, ‘My hour has not yet come’„. John 2:4 and
  4. …this he (Basilides) says is what is mentioned in the Gospels, „He was the ‘light which lights every man coming into the world’„.Cf John 1:9
  • Early use – external evidence
  1. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108) quotes from or alludes to verses from : Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Peter. Polycarp sat at the feet of the apostle John when he was a young man. He then passed on the Gospel to his own disciples when he was an old man. One of Polycarp’s people was Iraneus of Lyons. This unbroken chain takes us back to the very disciples themselves (John).
  • Early use – summary of facts
  1. The four Gospels and Acts are used copiously by the early church fathers
  2. Even heretics tacitly acknowledged their genuineness, which they would not have done if they could help it.
  3. Justin Martyr, in his first Apology-on the reading of Scripture: „And, on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and in the country, gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” First Apology ch 67.  For the Gospels to be read as Scripture in weekly services, they must have been extremely highly regarded and well known to Christians throughout the world.

On a side note, did you know this author Thucydides c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian who is not mentioned once in any other writing for 250 years from the time of his existence? From a historical standpoint, the evidence for the Gospels isn’t just good, it’s great!

for more please visit The Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org/

After you view this video, you may want to read these  additional  articles:

  1. The Rationality of the Christian Worldview
  2. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels I
  3. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels II
  4. John Piper – How Are the Synoptics „Without Error”?
  5. The Real Roots of the Emergent Church (a documentary)
  6. Why I am not an atheist – Ravi Zacharias
  7. Belief in an age of skepticism – Tim Keller at University of California at Berkeley

The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil by Dr. Albert Mohler

I found this article extremely helpful with the response to ‘God and evil’ from the Albert Mohler blog. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Every thoughtful person must deal with the problem of evil. Evil acts and tragic events come to us all in this vale of tears known as human life. The problem of evil and suffering is undoubtedly the greatest theological challenge we face.

Most persons face this issue only in a time of crisis. A senseless accident, a wasting disease, or an awful crime demands some explanation. Yesterday, evil showed its face again as Hurricane Katrina came ashore on the Gulf Coast.

For the atheist, this is no great problem. Life is a cosmic accident, morality is an arbitrary game by which we order our lives, and meaning is non-existent. As Oxford University’s Professor Richard Dawkins explains, human life is nothing more than a way for selfish genes to multiply and reproduce. There is no meaning or dignity to humanity.

For the Christian Scientist, the material world and the experience of suffering and death are illusory. In other religions suffering is part of a great circle of life or recurring incarnations of spirit.

Some Christians simply explain suffering as the consequence of sins, known or unknown. Some suffering can be directly traced to sin. What we sow, so shall we reap, and multiple millions of persons can testify to this reality. Some persons suffer innocently by the sinful acts of others.

But Jesus rejected this as a blanket explanation for suffering, instructing His disciples in John 9 and Luke 13 that they could not always trace suffering back to sin. We should note that the problem of evil and suffering, the theological issue of theodicy, is customarily divided into evil of two kinds, moral and natural. Both are included in these passages. In Luke 13, the murder of the Galileans is clearly moral evil, a premeditated crime–just like the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. In John 9, a man is blind from birth, and Jesus tells the Twelve that this blindness cannot be traced back to this man’s sin, or that of his parents.

Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls, an earthquake shakes, a tornado destroys, a hurricane ravages, a spider bites, a disease debilitates and kills. The world is filled with wonders mixed with dangers. Gravity can save you or gravity can kill you. When a tower falls, it kills.

People all over the world are demanding an answer to the question of evil. It comes only to those who claim that God is mighty and that God is good. How could a good God allow these things to happen? How can a God of love allow killers to kill, terrorists to terrorize, and the wicked to escape without a trace?

No superficial answer will do. Our quandary is well known, and the atheists think they have our number. As a character in Archibald MacLeish’s play, J.B. asserts, “If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God; take the even, take the odd . . . .” As he sees it, God can be good, or He can be powerful, but He cannot be both.

We will either take our stand with God’s self-revelation in the Bible, or we are left to invent a deity of our own imagination. The Bible quickly excludes two false understandings.

First, the Bible reveals that God is omnipotent and omniscient. These are unconditional and categorical attributes. The sovereignty of God is the bedrock affirmation of biblical theism. The Creator rules over all creation. Not even a sparrow falls without His knowledge. He knows the number of hairs upon our heads. God rules and reigns over all nations and principalities. Not one atom or molecule of the universe is outside His active rule.

The sovereignty of God was affirmed by King Nebuchadnezzar, who confessed that God “does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” [Daniel 4:36]. Process theologians have attempted to cut God’s power down to size, rendering the Creator as one power among others. The evangelical revisionists pushing open theism have attempted to cut God’s omniscience down to size, rendering Him as one mind among others.

Rabbi Harold Kushner argues that God is doing the best He can under the circumstances, but He lacks the power to either kill or cure. The openness theists argue that God is always ready with Plan B when Plan A fails. He is infinitely resourceful, they stress, just not really sovereign.

These are roads we dare not take, for the God of the Bible causes the rising and falling of nations and empires, and His rule is active and universal. Limited sovereignty is no sovereignty at all.

The second great error is to ascribe evil to God. But the Bible does not allow this argument. God is absolute righteousness, love, goodness, and justice. Most errors related to this issue occur because of our human tendency to impose an external standard–a human construction of goodness–upon God. But good does not so much define God as God defines good.

How then do we speak of God’s rule and reconcile this with the reality of evil? Between these two errors the Bible points us to the radical affirmation of God’s sovereignty as the ground of our salvation and the assurance of our own good. We cannot explain why God has allowed sin, but we understand that God’s glory is more perfectly demonstrated through the victory of Christ over sin. We cannot understand why God would allow sickness and suffering, but we must affirm that even these realities are rooted in sin and its cosmic effects.

How does God exercise His rule? Does He order all events by decree, or does He allow some evil acts by His mere permission? This much we know–we cannot speak of God’s decree in a way that would imply Him to be the author of evil, and we cannot fall back to speak of His mere permission, as if this allows a denial of His sovereignty and active will.

A venerable confession of faith states it rightly: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any way to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”

God is God, and God is good. As Paul affirms for the church, God’s sovereignty is the ground of our hope, the assurance of God’s justice as the last word, and God’s loving rule in the very events of our lives: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

We dare not speak on God’s behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner. Yet, at the same time, we dare not be silent when we should testify to the God of righteousness and love and justice who rules over all in omnipotence. Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further. There is much we do not understand. As Charles Spurgeon explained, when we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.

Related Posts (from Al Mohler)

Turning the tables on atheist Richard Dawkins with his own words

This is an interesting video where the dialogue placed in Dawkins mouth is the argument used by him against the Bible and God. It is brilliantly done.

Why God Won’t Go Away (Alister E. McGrath)

Professor Alister McGrath of Oxford University lectures in this video  from rfvidz.

A one-hour lecture given in January 2011 to students and parents at a leading London school, in which Alister McGrath welcomes the debate about God initiated by the New Atheism (headed by the so-called „Brights” like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett). The lecture engages some of the leading questions raised by the New Atheism, including whether faith is intrinsically violent, whether faith is irrational, and whether science undermines faith. Includes live questions from the audience.

Alister E. McGrath Home Page (Oxford  Univ.)

where you can access more information on his publications and lectures.

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