Christian Apologetics made Easy. Introduction and a Life without God.

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Why is Christian Apologetics important and Why would a Life without God be Untenable?

Tertius Venter

 “You believe in God? Tell me, what evidence do you have that God even exists?”

“Oh, I can give you at least 5 good reasons, evidence for His existence! And more if you have the time!”

In 1 Peter 3:15 we read ‘Always be ready to give a logical defense’ (be ready to explain it). This is what Christian Apologetics is about.

In Greek this term apologia means well-reasoned and thought-out reply (response)

Christianity is the only ‘religion’ with a history based on verifiable facts

For whom is Christian Apologetics?

◦ All Christians – the Great Commission Matthew 28:19 ‘  ‘ and to strengthen our own faith

◦ Parents with children

◦ The skeptic and the atheist – to put a pebble of truth in his/her shoe

and pray that the Holy Spirit will change the pebble into a seed that will grow

 

What does the Scripture say about apologetics? A few important verses from the Bible.

 

  1. ‘Always be ready to give a logical defense (be ready to explain it) to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance that is within you, yet with gentleness and respect’ 1 Peter 3:15 If we have the knowledge, we don’t have to be anxious about how to answer, we can calmly give a good answer and that will make people think more about what we’re saying and the responses. If we have the knowledge, there should not be any reason to feel apprehensive in any situation.
  2. ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone’.  Colossians 4:5-6 Seasoned with salt, meaning real meaning and truth in your response that people will remember what say.  Do it with grace. We as Christians must offer graceful truthful answers even as we might experience opposition like – ‘You’re not talking sense’-. Ask ‘Why do you say that? Which of the facts I presented are non-sensible and why?’
  3. ‘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’. 2 Corinthians 10:55
  4. ‘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’ Colossians 2:8 It is always important to bring people back to the point and point it out if they are attacking you as a person. ‘Let’s talk about the argument instead of me’ By the same token, we’ve got to be careful not attacking them. If we talk to people about Christ, even if they come with really confronting and difficult arguments, we should carefully listen to them and hear what they say. It is important to defend what we believe and why but also challenge them in what they say. ‘Why do you say that?’ ‘How did you come to that conclusion?’ ‘Or what are the sources of your knowledge for what you’re saying?’

 

We can be in a position to demolish every argument, every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God if we equip ourselves well. Christ, who created heavens and earth is the truth and we have the truth on our side. If we gain the necessary knowledge, no one can stand up against the truth of Christianity.

A large number of philosophers in the world are non-Christians, and some are outspoken atheists with very clever arguments. But if you carefully sit back and think about what they are saying, and listen to Christian philosophers’ arguments, one can always come to really good responses.

There 10 important questions one can ask the non-believer and help them to rethink their position. These questions form a strong basis for Christian apologetics and we as Christians should familiarize us with the answers.

  1. How do you get something from nothing? The beginning of the universe.
  2. How do you get life from non-life? What is life?
  3. How do you get a mind, consciousness, from matter?
  4. How do you get design without a designer? The fact that everything around us looks as if designed.
  5. How do you solve the problem of evil? No God, no evil, but evil is real.
  6. How can life be insignificant, have no value? If we are mere matter in a purposeless universe, what gives us value?
  7. How can life be meaningless – if there is objectively/ultimately no meaning, no goal with the existence of the universe?
  8. How can there be no free will if we are just a physical brain and nothing more?
  9. How can there be no human identity? Your physical body is always changing. Why do you stay the same person?

 

Let’s look at a few of these questions

1. How do you get something from nothing?

The Bible teaches that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Throughout history scientists for millennia, believed that the universe was eternal. There was no beginning which was in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches. Before God created there was nothing.

From the early 20th century Astro-physical evidence emerged that there was an actual beginning and in the mid-60s, this concept became the accepted model under the scientific population worldwide. It was accepted that there were a beginning and people could no longer deny it. The evidence is overwhelming, and we can ask the question, ‘if there was nothing and now there is something, what and how did that happen? If we don’t believe that there’s a God that created at some point in the past, there is just no answer. Theories like the multi-universe, or the oscillating universe, are mere theories. There is just like zero evidence for it. These are attempts, desperate efforts, to avoid the fact that the Bible can possibly be correct, a finite beginning from nothing.

2. How do you get life from non-life?

Early in the history of our planet, the earth, everything consisted of inorganic material. Rocks and dust, and all the elements of the earth. What happened that the inorganic material changed into organic material, and life emerged. How did life start? Scientists have no explanation; not even what life is. Science might possibly be able to explain this in the future but to exclude an intelligent Mind, one who guided, and designed the processes, would be difficult if not impossible to explain.

Nobody knows what life is. We can study life and many things about life but have no idea what it is. It is interesting that if you have a living cell, and a dead cell, and you put them side by side, e.g., two identical muscle cells, the one alive, the one dead (immediately after it died) and you study them under the microscope, and they will still look identically the same. One can see no difference though the one has life in it and the other not. When a cell dies, and life goes out of it, what happened, ‘where did the life go’? There is no answer to this question. We don’t know what life is.

3. How did we get a mind, consciousness, from matter and what is the mind, and what is consciousness?

There was nothing, then something, inorganic material turned into organic material and there was life. But even more astounding, organic material developed consciousness. And we do not know what consciousness is. Nobody knows what consciousness is. We can study and know a lot about inorganic material, about organic material, even so about life and consciousness yet we have no idea what life and consciousness are.

4. How do you get design without a Designer?

Observing the universe, the design, and the fact that it is so finely tuned, is totally amazing.

Stephen Meyer. What are the arguments for intelligent design? 1. The foundation of life and the DNA molecule. There is a four-character digital code that is responsible for producing the proteins and protein machines that cells need to stay alive. DNA encoding uses 4 bases (cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine). This appears very digital. DNA is a code carrier, just like the ROM (read only memory), RAM (random access memory) and the attached hardware stores (hard disks, flash drives memory sticks optic discs etc) are code carriers. The sequence of cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine in the DNA forms the genetic code the information (instructions) for producing proteins. It is comparable to the digital code of zeros and ones in computer ‘language’. The computer processor use this two-symbol system of 0’s and 1’s for instructions (information), We know from our experience, from uniform and repeated experience, which is the basis of all scientific reasoning, that information comes from an intelligence, whether we’re talking about the information in a computer program or information in a paragraph in a book or assembly instructions, or information embedded in a radio signal. Whenever we see information, we always come to a mind, that information always comes from a mind, not from a material process. So, the discovery of information at the foundation of life is decisive evidence for a designing mind in the origin of life. 2. The argument from Fine Tuning. Physicists have been discovering since the 1950s that the basic laws of physics and the initial conditions of the universe were set up just right to allow for the possibility of life within very fine tolerances. For example, the strength of the gravitational attraction, or the expansion rate of the universe. If any of these factors were off by a slightest of a fraction either way, life would not be possible in our universe. One great astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle FRS (24 June 1915 – 20 August 2001) was an English astronomer who formulated the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and not a Christian. ‘A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.’ 3. Intelligence, a Transcendent Form of Intelligence in that the universe had a definite beginning. And this is something that’s come into our awareness through astrophysics and astronomy over the last 100 years. As scientists formulated what was first called The Big Bang Theory. And this is simply stunning that the material universe, if you go back far enough, reaches a singularity of point where matter space, time and energy themselves come into existence. And as a consequence, there’s really no material explanation that can be posited, because it’s matter itself that comes into existence at a finite time ago, even time and space apparently began. The first words of the Bible, ‘in the beginning’, and the modern astrophysics has discovered that there was in fact such a beginning.

So, we have evidence of design, but also evidence of design from the very beginning of the universe, of the fine-tuning and evidence of a beginning in this, these discoveries are from astronomy and astrophysics but point very clearly to a Designer.

It takes at least 26 fundamental constants to give life in our universe.

A major component of the cosmological evidence for the existence of God is the value of constants that govern the universe. Over the centuries scientists have determined the value of these constants, and all of our knowledge of the cosmos is based on these values. You either have to believe that these precise numerical values are a product of chance, or that they have been consciously designed by a Creator. It’s the precise values of these constants that allow the cosmos to exist and to remain stable.

A. Cosmic Constants

  1. Gravitational force constant
  2. Electromagnetic force constant
  3. Strong nuclear force constant
  4. Weak nuclear force constant
  5. Cosmological constant

It’s important to distinguish cosmic fine-tuning from local “fine-tuning” – for life.

B. Fine-Tuning for Life in the Universe

For physical life to be possible in the universe, several characteristics must take on specific values, and some of the 109 listed below as examples.

  1. Nuclear force constant
  2. Gravitational force constant
  3. Electromagnetic force constant
  4. Ratio of proton to electron mass
  5. Ratio of number of protons to number of electrons
  6. Ratio of proton to electron charge
  7. Expansion rate of the universe
  8. Entropy level of the universe
  9. Velocity of light
  10. Age of the universe
  11. Uniformity of radiation
  12. Average distance between galaxies
  13. Average distance between galaxy clusters
  14. Average distance between stars
  15. Decay rate of protons

C. “Local” Planetary Conditions

But even in a universe fineBut even in a universe fineBut even in a universe finet even in a universe fine-tuned at the cosmic level, local conditions can still vary dramatically. As it happens, even in this fine-tuned universe, the vast majority of locations in the universe are unsuited for life. Twelve broad, widely recognized fine-tuning factors required to build a single, habitable planet. All 12 factors can be found together in the Earth.

  1. Steady plate tectonics with the right kind of geological interior
  2. The right amount of water in the crust
  3. Large moon with the right planetary rotation period
  4. Proper concentration of sulfur (which is necessary for important biological processes).
  5. Right planetary mass (which allows a planet to retain the right type and right thickness of atmosphere).
  6. Near inner edge of circumstellar habitable zone (which allows a planet to maintain the right amount of liquid water on the surface).
  7. Low-eccentricity orbit outside spin-orbit and giant planet resonances (which allows a planet to maintain a safe orbit over a long period of time).
  8. A few, large Jupiter-mass planetary neighbors in large circular orbits (which protects the habitable zone from too many comet bombardments).
  9. Outside spiral arm of the galaxy (which allows a planet to stay safely away from supernovae).
  10. Near co-rotation circle of the galaxy, in a circular orbit around a galactic center (which enables a planet to avoid traversing dangerous parts of the galaxy).
  11. Within the galactic habitable zone (which allows a planet to have access to heavy elements while being safely away from the dangerous galactic center).
  12. During the cosmic habitable age (when heavy elements and active stars exist without too high a concentration of dangerous radiation events).

Francis Crick (1916-2004) was one of Britain’s great scientists. He is best known for his work with James Watson which led to the identification of the structure of DNA in 1953. Not a Christian.

‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.’

5. How do you solve the problem of evil?

What is evil if God does not exist? No God, no evil, but evil is real. How do we solve the problem of evil? If you are an atheist, then it’s just bad luck – just the way the dice falls. But in Christianity suffering has deep meaning and implications.

6. How can life be insignificant, and humans have no value? If we are but a highly developed animal? What gives human life value?

7. How can life be meaningless – objectively/ultimately have no meaning? Where does meaning come from in a universe that will ultimately burn up into nothing? What ultimate significance and meaning can one’s life possibly have if you evaporate into total nothingness at death. If that who is you, becomes less than a vapor. And your consciousness not even a memory.

8. How can there be no freedom? No free will?

If we are the ‘end’ product of a highly evolved animals and our brain development functions purely through neuro chemical reactions, how could one explain rationality and, free will? The materialist and atheists have to accept that we have no free will. Sam Harris, is one of the most famous ‘new atheists’ wrote that ‘free will is so convincing that we all believe we have it, but we don’t have it.’ And the same applies for rationality.

We as Christians believe that God is a rational God. He created a rational universe, and we are created in His image. We have a rational mind that can investigate the rational universe but for an atheist, there is no reason that the universe should be rational. There was a Big Bang, and now everything is rational, and it’s all based on rational immaterial mathematics. Mathematics is not something that you can hold in your hand. You can work with it. But it is an immaterial concept. And the whole basis of the universe is based on the principles of mathematics. So, you have to have a rational mind, separate from your materialistic physical brain, to understand it and work with it.

9. How can there be no human identity? Your physical body is always changing, and every molecule, atom in your body constantly replaced. Why do you stay the same person?

10. Where does rationality come from – discussed under free will.

In Christian Apologetics, all these subjects are well addressed and explained.

Why Would Life without God be Untenable, If Not Absurd?

Three things that are important.

  1. Meaning and purpose in life. Without God why would human life have any ultimate value if everything is going to end up with the universe in a dark cold death without anyone to remember anything?
  2. Where does the value of humans come from, what gives it it’s value? Just the individuals’ or societies’ opinion that humans have value? What is the basis for human value? We as Christians know God created us in His image which puts us apart from all other life on this planet and gives us immense value and, and equal value of all races and all sexes.

The atheist might fight for these same values. He believes that, but he has no objective basis for what he believes but just his opinion.

  1. And the same with moral values. How do we know what is right and wrong? Is it because of a standard outside of us? A perfect transcended standard – objective morality? Or is it just the individual’s opinion – subjective morality? Subjective morality can only be an opinion, the community’s opinion or individual opinion, or cultures’ opinion, but which one is it? Which opinion are you going to accept? Or is there objective morality outside of us? Perfection that we measure everything against?

Man is the only creature in the whole of the universe who asked ‘why’ questions. Why am I here? Why have I been created? The logical conclusion of the materialism/atheist is that we are no more than a byproduct of the universe, the result of matter, time, and chance. That through billions of years the right kind of matter came together at the right time and here we are. A byproduct by chance, with life and consciousness and rational thinking. And that there is no reason for our existence. If that is the case, the ‘why’ question, why do we exist becomes a dark and terrible answer. The philosopher Lawrence Ansley said, ‘If God is left out of the equation, the only prospect is that all will end up, the whole universe will end up in a purposeless death’ Science tells us that the universe will eventually run out of useful energy. And so does the Bible tell us that there will be an end to the present order of the world and universe.

Modern man thought that he got rid of God, especially over the last 200 years. In the western world more and more people believe there is no God, want to believe there is no God. But the problem is in killing God, humans have orphaned themselves. Suddenly they had no hand to hold to guide them, to give value in life, neither meaning in life. Suddenly, there was nothing to hold on to. “God is dead” remains one of the most famous quotes from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Christopher Hamilton wrote that Nietzsche was haunted by God and talk of his murdering God. Talk of his attempt to exorcize God from his soul by thinking through in a way that perhaps no Christian thinker has ever done what it would be really to believe in God, and really not to believe in Him.

Humans need to have something to hold on to. The problem is, if you don’t worship God, hold on to Him, you will worship other things in life, put your hope in other things, which are all temporary and when these collapse, your life collapses, or you have to find the next thing to hold on to, to worship. But you are in reality an orphan in this world, if you reject God.

Without God, man, and the universe, are doomed to nothing more than a cold, dark, purposeless death. Science tells us the universe is running out of usable energy, and eventually everything in the entire universe will end up in death. We know that the world was created a specific total amount of energy. And usable energy is slowly getting less and less. Entropy is a measure of the amount of energy in a physical system not available to do work. As a physical system becomes more disordered, and its energy becomes more evenly distributed, that energy becomes less able to do work. And eventually the whole universe will run out of usable energy and collapse into a dark, cold, lifeless, nothingness. In the words of Sartre, a French philosopher, ‘the universe is marching irretrievably to its grave.’ There is no hope, no escape for humanity. And the Bible confirms that the heaven and earth will come to an end. For the Christian we have the hope of the ‘New heaven and earth’ that will be created. But in the atheist worldview each individual will pass out of existence when he dies, and what ultimate meaning could there be? Does it matter if you lived or not lived at all?

If you believe there is no God, and you were on the earth for a brief period and then disappear out of existence and become like before your birth, with no conscious mind and non-existence of any memory or recall, and zero significance exists for you as a person, what was the point of your life? Whether you were good or bad, and eventually nobody would remember you or that you even existed, who you were and what you did in a 100 years from now, 200 years from now?

Ultimate meaning is what it is about. One’s life might have meaning today, meaning you might create, but ultimately, at the end of it all, there will no meaning and because everybody and everything will die, disappear out of existence. Nobody will remember anything. So, does it matter how I live? I can actually live as I like to, as ultimately it is of no significance neither personal consequences once death had its last laugh. But we cannot live like this. The world will turn into utter chaos. But if God exists, what we do and how we live become greatly important today and with eternal consequences.

Science and the Bible tell us there was a beginning and tell us there’s going to be an end. Each of us will die and the human race will stop to exist. The universe is heading towards a cold lifeless, lightless chaotic conglomeration of stars swallowed up by black holes and nobody will remember anything that happened and it will be of no significance – this is the horror of modern man. Because he ends in nothing, he is ultimately nothing. He is doomed to purposelessness in a forgotten vacuum of nothing. Lest there is a God that will do what He promised, the creation of a new earth and a new heaven. William Lane Graig.

So even though living a life believing there is no God and therefore that there is no ultimate meaning, man cannot live like that. It’s in the fiber of our being to find meaning in life and live like it has. People live as if their lives have meaning. ‘We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it’s forever’ Karl Sagan. But ‘How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone’ James 4:14. To create your own meaning in the face of ultimate purposelessness all seem pointless, is in realty living a life of self-delusion.

Morality. What does morality even mean without God? If there is no God, there is no perfect standard to compare to. C.S. Lewis said that unless we know what a straight line is, we cannot know what a crooked line is. God is our perfect standard. We measure our lives and values, and judge, against this perfection. It guides our morality and is the source of knowledge to know right from wrong. This is objective morality. This notion means that morality is natural, and already in our nature, and should be universal, and is not up for interpretation. Objective morality conforms to the nature of God and is ‘written on our hearts’

If not, it becomes a mere matter of opinion. How can you criticize anyone for his personal opinion? What can the basis be for questioning someone? If we are just the product of unguided matter, time and chance, where do moral values come from? How did it show up in the universe?

Subjective morality, in contrast to objective morality, is just an expression of taste, whether individual or collective, a subjective feeling of relative judgments. The implications are that we cannot judge war because we can’t say someone is in the wrong. We may know what is wrong but cannot justify why it is wrong. It is just an opinion against some else’s opinion, and one cannot judge or criticizes the one who differs from you. And for the strict materialist/atheist the opinion is the mere product of neurochemical reactions in the brain and there is no standard outside of the brain to measure against. Just a neurochemical ‘opinion’ against the neurochemical ‘opinion’ of another brain and there’s no basis for telling someone that he/her is right or wrong.

If our final outcome in life is to disappear from existence, it means our existence is no more than from nothing to nothing. Humans seek meaning and purpose in our hearts, just as the Bible says ‘eternity is in our hearts’. Deep inside we know this is not the end. It is very hard, even for the atheist, to accept that there is nothing beyond life. We all either wish or hope that there will be something more than the final day.

If we are honest to ourselves, and we say there is no God, then we cannot be but in a in a situation of despair. If God is dead man is dead, man has orphaned himself. And there is no future hope. But what is the truth? What we believe is not of the essence but what is true.

Nietzsche stated that the implication of no God is nihilism. That it is impossible to know anything at all and all values are based on nothing, especially moral values as there are no basis for it. If one is a convinced atheist, this would be the necessary conclusion.

Without God there is no goal or purpose in the universe. Man is merely a bio-electrochemical machine controlled by altering genes, which implicates no freewill and no rational thoughts. Frank Turek often states that in the materialist/atheist’s view, we are just moist robots. That is all what we are. Material particles put together by an unguided process and purely by chance over millions of years. And therefore, no free will outside of us. However, the Bible tells us we have a soul, a spirit, a mind – which is all basically the same thing though with different capacities or dimensions. This is the immaterial facet of our being. And this is where freewill is realized and our rational thought originates. In the image of the immaterial God, we are created.

Consciousness and our minds are not the same as our bodies. The body is different, and the Bible talks about the carnal man, the flesh, that we have to fight against. Our material body, and our mind, the soul is in constant conflict, in a moral fight all the time and that is what puts us apart from animals. We were given a free will to fight the basic instincts, the carnal desires of the body – to choose between right and wrong. The less we fight these basic instincts, and the more one gives in to your fleshly body, the more animal like we become. We see in the actions of criminals, but also everyday people caring for themselves without regards to fellow humans, hard businesspeople walking over others for own gain. Acting animal-like to advance themselves, self-care their first priority.  But if one becomes focus on one’s spiritual being, one moves closer to God, towards what God created us to be and we will care more and more for our fellow man. But if you don’t believe in God, it’s very hard to travel on this road. God gives us, through the Holy Spirit, the strength, ability and the wisdom and the power to fight the carnal man within ourselves and become more Christ- like.

Three philosophers, not believing in the existence of God concluded:   Friedrich Nietzsche said there are ‘two possibilities: face the absurdity of life or live valiantly with courage and determination’. Atheist Bertrand Russell ‘build your life on unyielding despair’. Albert Camus’ solution was, ‘come to terms with the absurdity of life, then learn to live in love with one another’.  But if you talk about love, you’re actually stealing from God.  God is love is the only source of love in this world. Without God, we’re in desperate situation and have to try to make the best of reality.

Francis Schaeffer is an American Christian philosopher, describes a two-story universe that we live in. On the lower level is the finite world without God. In other words, the life where there is no ultimate meaning of purpose in life. And if you are a materialist that is where you live, you believe that everything came from nothing with no goal or purpose and will end in nothing. Even if I try to create purpose, eventually, it will also come to nothing. But the upper level is a life with meaning, purpose and value because of our belief in God, that He created the universe with a purpose. To live happily and consistently without God in the lower level is impossible because you live in despair. If you are honest and consistent with your beliefs. So, what people do is to jump up to the upper level, even though not believing in God. ‘I believe in love’ they would claim. And ‘I believe I have to care for other people (but where do one get the idea that people have value), and want to live a moral life’ (but if there is no objective morality, it is but a mere opinion which is totally unpredictable and can change from moment to moment), and these statements and views are jumps to the upper level. You have to be consistent and live on the lower level without God and be unhappy or be inconsistent, dishonest and jump to the second level in order to be happy. Modern man lives in the lower level because he believes no there is no God, and he cannot live here consistently and be happy. So, he takes leaps of faith into the upper level where there is meaning, value and purpose. But he has no right to do that. He would be inconsistent and dishonest with himself and a position of despair. People cannot live like this; nobody lives like this.

People often argue that one has to create one’s own meaning, but this is only possible from a free will, to freely choose, and a jump to the second level. one does not have free choice on the first level. If we are just material, we are moist robots, reacting to the chemical reactions in our brains and there is no free choice.

So, people are really trapped on this low level. And to create meaning is a leap of faith to the upper level.

Let us consider ethical values. Where does that come from? British philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russel said ‘I don’t know where it comes from. I just don’t understand it’. Obviously, he can’t because he believes we are matter only and how does matter produce ethical values? Dostoevsky wrote, ‘All things are permitted but man cannot live this way. Everything in him cries out to what is wrong but does not know why.’ Thus, the same as what Bertrand Russell said, we know things are right and wrong, but we can’t explain it.

Sartre admitted that the Holocaust was wrong and could not live consistent with his denial of absolute ethical values. He admitted that the Holocaust was wrong but could not understand why he felt it was wrong. We know that it is wrong to kill other people. But if it’s just your opinion against someone else’s opinion, why is it wrong? What makes it wrong? What is the thing that actually makes it wrong if God is left out of the equation?

Atheist might fight for woman’s rights which is obviously the right thing to do. But if God does not exist, then women have no equal value. In nature male is dominant. But nobody can live with such a dehumanizing view. But if God doesn’t exist, then woman doesn’t have equal value if we are just highly evolved animals. In 90% of the animal world, the male is dominant. So, what makes us different? Why should we treat women as our equals if we are just high highly evolved animals? But we are all created with image of God, and He has made us all equal. All races, all sexes are equal.

Francis Crick, the scientist who with Watson, first described the DNA molecule, also an atheist, said in observing and describing DNA that ‘man is no better than a laboratory specimen.’ – that’s what we are, just laboratory specimens. And Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher and atheist agrees and said that Down Syndrome babies, babies with spina bifida should just be killed.  They have less value than some animals. There’s no reason for them to live. By implication just laboratory specimen gone wrong.

The atheist who is true to himself, honest to his worldview, would come to this conclusion. But saying ‘No, all humans have equal value’ is dishonest to his belief system. The is no basis for believing that all humans have equal value in a materialistic worldview. In the animal kingdom, it’s survival of the fittest. So, if Putin wants to wipe out Ukraine to take it all for himself, why can’t he do that? If he’s just a highly evolved animal with his opinion against the opinion of another highly evolved animals? Animals wipe out other animals to gain territory for themselves.

 

To create purpose is a self-delusion as I have alluded to earlier. Ernest Bloch, German Marxist philosopher, said ‘the only way modern man lives in the face of death is by subconsciously borrowing the belief in immortality that his forefathers held to, even though he himself has lost and has no basis for believing it since he does not believe in God.’ He believes that life ends in nothing, and this is hardly sufficient to keep the head high, to work as if there is no end. Carl Sagan said ‘We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever’ Bloch makes the leap of faith to ‘live as if immortal’ which is inconsistent to his belief system jumping to the second level to borrow from Christianity. No one can live without having any prospect of a future. One has to believe that although knowing it’s not true. Subconsciously you borrow from the second story to be able to find to find meaning in life.

The dilemma is that the postmodern man denies God’s existence with the consequence of absurdity of purpose, meaning, and objective moral values. Without God life is ultimately without meaning or purpose. If you are consistent in believing and living this, you will be profoundly unhappy. To live happily demands a lie. Man desperately try to escape this. L D Rue an American philosopher, offered the ‘Noble Lie Option.’ We deceive ourselves by means of some noble lie thinking that we exist in the universe that has meaning. You’ve got to believe the lie otherwise you will be consistently unhappy, and that’s what most people will do. They would believe that there is meaning in life and that there is purpose in life and that people has value but they have no basis to support what they believe.

Our quest for personal wholeness and self-fulfillment becomes only relative to the individual. In order to live, modern man must live in self-deception. But once you see this lie, it doesn’t work anymore like a placebo, not knowing it is a placebo, it might work. But the moment you know you are taking a placebo it will not work anymore. And so atheism fails.

Biblical Christianity offers meaning, value, and purpose. The existence of God makes sense of morality, the moral force behind the moral law, of shame and guilt, of equal rights, of human value. What is behind shame and guilt, why do shame and guilt exist if we mere highly evolved animals?

A life without the existence of God makes no sense and is simply incoherent with reality. God is the best explanation the meaning and purpose of the universe, for our existence. He is the best explanation for human value, for morality. We should not cling to our beliefs, right or wrong, but to what is true.

‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ – Aristotle

 

 

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14. Time to Think. The Evidence for Miracles

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Are miracles even possible? And what are the implications if miracles are a reality?

We will look at miracles under five topics:

  1. What is a miracle, what is meant by the word ‘miracle’?
  2. In a strict materialistic world, miracles are impossible.
  3. But what if we are more than atoms, that there is more than the physical world, that God exists? And the evidence for a world more than the physical.
  4. What is the evidence for miracles?
  5. How do we approach miracles?

 

  1. What is meant by the term ‘miracles’ and do miracles indeed happen? Can miracles be proved if they indeed occur? When would a ‘miracle’ be truly a miracle?

The meaning of the word is often misunderstood and loosely used for anything that might be unlikely or even just surprising. The specific definition however is that ‘a miracle is an event that seems inexplicable by natural or scientific laws and accordingly gets attributed to some supernatural cause.’

In general people, especially in religious settings, tend to distinguish between two main groups of miracles, one, the intervention by the supernatural, and two, the distinctive circumstantial occurrences related to a specific place, time, and setting of the moment – the timing coinciding with circumstances constitutes the miracle. In both groups, it is seen that the supernatural is involved. The controversy is really about  ‘intervention by the supernatural’ type of miracle and this will be the focus of this talk and fits the definition above for miracles. In the second group, it is not really possible to give satisfactory evidence that the supernatural was involved.

 

  1. Science often tries to disprove the possibility of miracles, i.e., intervention by the supernatural. Science provides explanations that make sense of our world. We gain predictive power of our physical environment by way of these scientific explanations. So-called miracles events can neither be explained nor predicted and are, therefore, not scientific. Are scientific ideals then at cross-purposes with religious belief, with belief in miracles? Here we have to raise the question, is there perhaps more than just the material world? Something beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience, a transcended reality perhaps, that makes miracles a possibility?

The skeptic materialist tends to use the term ‘miracles’ when one does not know how to explain something by science but hopes to explain it one day, and probably will. There is certainly a widespread anti-supernatural attitude in the materialistic world and miracles are usually written off without good reasons.

  1. To argue the credibility of miracles one would need real good reasons to believe that miracles have happened, and/or that God exists, that miracles are reasonable to believe, and one can even base other beliefs on the reality of the truth of miracles. But can miracles be proved?

In 1979 astronomer Carl Sagan popularized the aphorism “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (ECREE). But Sagan never defined the term “extraordinary.” Ambiguity and vagueness constituted this “extraordinary”

The meaning of the word “proof” depends on context. There are legal proofs, mathematical proofs, and logical proofs. The essence of these is that the concept of proof in various contexts is concerned with “evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of anything” (Oxford English Dictionary 2016).

The concept of proof in a legal context may require no more than a probability, a preponderance of the evidence. But when the word proof is invoked in a philosophical sense, it usually connotes absolute certainty. A “proof” in natural philosophy is what the ancient Greeks would have called a “demonstration,” a deductive conclusion derived by analogy from the technique employed in geometry (Deming 2010: 17). The word “proof” is usually not employed in a scientific context because there can be no certainty in an empirical system of knowledge. This was established by presocratic Greek philosophers as early as the fifth or sixth century BC.

For more than a thousand years in Christian Europe the reality of miracles was unquestioned. The miracles of Jesus Christ were taken as substantive proof of His divinity. Among other feats recorded in the Gospels, Jesus turned water into wine (John 2.1–2.11), walked on water (Mark 6.45–6.52), and raised the dead from the tomb (John 11.1–11.44).

The most influential of the Fathers of the Western Christian Church was St Augustine of Hippo (354–430). In ‘City of God’, St Augustine affirmed that miracles were not limited to the time of Jesus but were commonplace in his own time: “even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ” (Augustine 1899: 485). Prodigies recorded by Augustine included miraculous cures of blindness, breast cancer, gout, paralysis, and demonic possession (1899: 485–487). Augustine even listed multiple instances of the dead being restored to life (1899: 488–489).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099700/

Atheist philosopher David Hume explained that there must be “a contest of two opposite experiences” (Hume 1748: 179). Miracles required extraordinary proof or evidence because, by definition, a miracle was “a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and inalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined” (Hume 1748: 180).

Thus, Hume defined precisely what is meant by “extraordinary” evidence or proof. “Extraordinary” means numerous. “Extraordinary” evidence is not a separate category or type of evidence, it is an extraordinarily large number of observations. “Extraordinary” evidence is only required when it must be balanced against a very large number of contrary observations.

 

  1. Miracles are not “a violation of the laws of nature” as Hume saw it, but rather a unique event that God feeds into a specific situation, and most often a once-off event. A miracle is recognized as a miracle by the fact that we know the laws of nature, know what is normal and that the event of a miracle falls outside of the known, of what is expected. How do we prove a miracle? Through evidence. And evidence can be on many different levels, eyewitness evidence and circumstantial evidence. As mentioned, there are three types of proofs: legal proofs, mathematical proofs, and logical proofs. Miracle proofs are similar to legal proofs and as with legal proofs, the event cannot be repeated. Legal proof is the establishment of a fact by the use of evidence. Anything that can make a person believe that a fact or proposition is true or false. Circumstantial and witness evidence plays a major role in legal proof. Hard evidence could seal the case but is not essential e.g., in the absence of DNA or other hard physical evidence, circumstantial and witness evidence will in many cases suffice. Even so for the evidence of a miracle, circumstantial and witness evidence, and also at times, hard evidence can be put forward.

It is important to realize that God will not do miracles as a sign to unbelievers to prove Himself – never to please or to convince people who do not trust Him or sincerely seek Him.

Jesus responded to the people who asked Him for a sign:

Matthew 12:38-40 ‘38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign, an attesting miracle, from You proving that You are what You claim to be.” 39 But He replied and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation, that is morally unfaithful to God, craves and demands a miraculous sign; but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ The reality of the resurrection.

God will not do miracles at our demand for our purposes. You have to believe that He exists, and He will reveal Himself in His own time and purpose. Trust Him and you will get to know Him. (as in any relationship, the more you trust someone, the closer you will get to him/her and the more you will get to know the person)

Hebrews 11:6 ‘And it is impossible to please God without faith – trusting Him. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.’

We focus on miracles that have occurred, and not the ones that might or will happen. The focus is on events that have happened but are not explainable by natural means/laws.

For the strict materialist, miracles are impossible as the likelihood of a transcendent agent is not a possibility. Nevertheless, if miracles can be proved it should provoke the materialist to some serious thinking.

 

  1. There are two approaches in support of the reality of miracles:                                                                                                                                                                        1. The argument from the occurrence of miracles to God’s existence. By providing evidence that miracles have happened, of which the most important would be the resurrection of Christ, it would be strong evidence for God’s existence. If the resurrection is true, then God exists, and other miracles are possible. There is strong evidence for the resurrection and God’s purpose with it. Historically the resurrection is well attested. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are some of the best attested facts of ancient history, if not the best. Here’s why, see Facts about the Resurrection.

Are there religious beliefs that are supported by the evidence for miracles? The resurrection is directly associated with God’s alleged solution to the human predicament – the central narrative of the Bible, and the climax and fulfillment of the Gospel message.

If the evidence for the resurrection is strong enough, we have good reasons to believe in God’s existence since miracles are acts of God. The narrative of the resurrection of Christ is an incredibly strong anomaly. Anomaly: “nomos” means law in Greek, so a-nomos means “not law” In science, an anomaly is an event that does not conform to natural laws. Usually, in science, such events are treated as being provisionally anomalous (we lack understanding for now). Scientific theories might need revision. Science seeks to solve anomalies, so they welcome them as they expand scientific explanation. This indicates a strong anti-supernatural bias in modern science. Weak anomaly: reasonable to expect we can solve it by scientific explanation. Strong anomaly: so puzzling and recalcitrant to scientific explanation, we have serious doubts about ever having a scientific explanation. Most skeptics acknowledge that Jesus’ resurrection, if actual, would be a miracle (i.e., most would grant it would be a strong anomaly). In turn, most deny the strength of the historical evidence of His resurrection than try to explain it scientifically. Is the historical evidence strong enough to support the belief that it did happen? It would have to be very strong, and if used alone, it shoulders a lot of weight to argue for God’s existence. The evidence is so strong that people ought to believe, yet why rest so much of the case for God’s existence on historical evidence? Because Christianity stands or falls on the facts of the resurrection. As pointed out, the resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested facts of ancient history. If Christ was raised from the dead, Christianity is true, God exists, and other miracles are possible.

2. The argument is to demonstrate that God exists and therefore miracles are possible. In this approach, the argument starts with the independent reasons for God’s existence. What are the arguments for the existence of God? 1. Necessity of a First Cause (Cosmological Argument). Arguments for the Existence of God Designed Creation (Teleological Argument). 3. Objective Morality (Moral Argument). 4. Necessary Being (Ontological Argument). 5. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). 6. Science and Mathematics. See God and Mathematics 7. The historicity of Jesus’s Resurrection. Facts about the Resurrection. 8. Miracles and Spiritual Encounters. 9. Near-Death Experiences and Consciousness. 10. Purpose and Meaning. A Life without God.

Many of these arguments are very strong, some less. Yet overall, extremely strong for the existence of God.  And one can add Pain and Suffering, Personal Life-changing Experiences, and more.

So, when we encounter a strong anomaly, maybe God had something to do with it. If an event could be a miracle (since it seems it cannot be explained by natural law), it could have been caused by God. because if God exists, miracles are possible (which undercuts the prejudice against miracles). Thus, we can come to believe in the authority of the miracle worker (Jesus Christ), and thus that He is God – the creator of the universe for whom miracles would not be of any difficulty. This approach still needs historical evidence for the claimed miracles per se but does not need to be overturned by the naturalistic prejudice against miracles if the argument for God’s existence is strong enough.

Just as the resurrection of Christ is pivotal to Christianity, the stand or fall of the truth of Christianity, even so, is the resurrection of Christ the final evidence for the reality of miracles. No resurrection, then no divine Christ, no Christian God and no miracles.

And to conclude this discussion.

What are the specific purposes for miracles in the Bible i.e., in the Old Testament, the New Testament and today? One might notice that in most cases it is about God giving evidence to His people to trust Him, to have faith in Him, and not to believe in Him blindly but to have good reasons. Here are some examples.

  1. Proof of God’s existence – in the present moment and referring to the past e.g., “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” Genesis 21:2
  2. To demonstrate the deity of Christ John 20:30,31 they give reasons to believe in Jesus ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His Name. Mark 2: 1-12, the paralyzed man; He heals to demonstrate His authority to forgive sins. Verse 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
  3. God shows compassion for the weak, needy, and oppressed through Jesus’ miracles. Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
  4. The authenticity of the disciples and the spread of the Gospel. Acts 3: 1-14 7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.
  5. Care and concern for people. Acts 14:8-10 8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
  6. All miracles serve to strengthen believers’ faith

Miracles are events inexplicable by natural or scientific laws and attributed to some supernatural cause. Miracles are not acknowledged as a possibility in a strict materialistic world. However, the proof that miracles do happen is based on evidential proof and on the evidence for the existence of God.

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Time to Think 13. Mind and Body. The Animal Within.

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Are we just one thing? Is the brain and the mind one thing? Or are we a material brain and an immaterial mind? Thus, two things. What are the arguments for and the implications, if the brain and the mind are two different things?

Our spiritual human nature and our carnal animal nature are two forces constantly fighting each other. Our animal nature is trying to keep us from carrying out what our spiritual human nature is directing. Our spirit nature is always moving us toward being fully human and finding purpose in life in the image of the Creator. Our evolved animal nature is always trying to satisfy its basic carnal needs and desires and, if not managed, will sabotage our spirit nature with disastrous consequences. Adapted and adjusted from ‘Spirit vs. Flesh’ – Kendall Bridges1

The more one overcomes the carnal nature of man, the animal within, the more human and the less animal-like one becomes in behavior and being, finding true purpose and meaning in life.

Most materialists, and atheists, hold that evolution makes the existence of an immaterial soul, or mind, highly unlikely. If Darwinism is true, if God does not exist, it would evidently implicate that the mind and the brain are the same thing.  But the question is, can the mind be pure matter and how did it come to be?  Did it evolve from matter and is nothing but matter? Or are there persuasive arguments to contradict this notion? The mind-body problem raises the question; are humans one kind of thing with the mind equal to the body, just material? Or two kinds of things, namely body and mind, that is, material and something more? The strict physicalist holds that humans are one kind of thing. Just physical. We are a physical substance, brain only, with physical properties only. Yet, holding this view, the existence of consciousness is a problem. (‘A Concise Essay that Refutes Physicalism.’)

Christianity teaches that the soul and the body are not the same and described in the Old Testament2 as well as in the New Testament3 scriptures. Are these concepts supported by human experience, by human psychology, by neuroscience, by reality? Christianity also teaches that the soul continues after death to exist without the body until the resurrection4

 Where does the truth lie? Are we more than just a physical brain? What are the arguments for or against it?

Mind is associated with the brain. The two terms are often used interchangeably. The brain is considered to be a physical thing, the mind is considered to be mental (immaterial). The brain is composed of nerve cells and can be touched, whereas, the mind cannot be touched, e.g., thoughts cannot be touched, nor can it be physically demonstrated. The brain is clearly a biological, physical organ. But it is not clear what ‘mental functioning’, what we call ‘mind’, consists of. Is it some kind of force or substance that exists apart from the physical realm, or is it merely a product of the physical functioning of the brain, and nothing non-physical, nothing immaterial? There is no consensus of what is meant by the word ‘mind’ but for our purpose, we would interchange it with the word soul. Soul then includes all the concepts; ‘the I’ – the essence of ‘me’, my mind, ego, and spirit – thus soul is the immaterial apart from the physical brain and experiences the world in being consciousness.

When the question is asked, ‘Why do you read that book?’, we might with a scan detect brain activity in the person’s brain, but nothing can detect the answer or know the answer by any means other than the individual decides to tell us, and then tell us. The activity of the thought is detectable (material process) but not the thought,  the answer itself, with its meaning (mental/immaterial). Meaning, like information, is immaterial and never physical. Like the story (the information/meaning) in a book. The paper and the ink are material/physical but never the story/meaning/information it conveys. The story/meaning/information needs a mind to read and interpret and understand it, coming from another mind. The two minds (immaterial) that use two brains (material) to create, understand and interpret the story/meaning/information (immaterial).

Consider the Structure of The Human Soul

Evolution can explain where the body comes from but not where the mind, (soul/ego/the ‘I’), the immaterial, comes from. Darwinism is a physical theory. Humans have many capacities (potentialities, abilities) that we do not exercise, that are often not functional. And cannot be physical. For example, when we are sleeping, we can have the capacity to speak English but not speaking English. We have the physical/electrochemical pathways of the language laid down in our brains but the potential to use the language is not physical, the potential to form ideas, stories, to convey information using the language, is not physical but immaterial potentials. You can never touch or demonstrate the capacity for immaterial information that is processed by using the language.  We also have the capacities to have capacities. I have the capacity to speak English, but not Russian, but I have the capacity to develop that capacity, to speak Russian, too. It is simply not possible, if not absurd, to try to physically demonstrate or empirically prove that an individual has the capacity to develop the capacity, to speak Russian. It is an immaterial concept but nevertheless real. Let me explain further.

Faculties or abilities of the soul are families of resembling capacities Examples are;

1. Capacities of seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing.                               My eyes don’t see. I see. But my eyes have to function. My mind, soul, the ‘I’, needs the faculty of sight. An eye cannot see. An eye reacts to light impulses. The light stimulates a chemical reaction within the eye (protein changes caused by the light on the retina), these protein changes stimulate the nerves in the eye and an electric impulse is generated and carried to the brain where more neuro-chemical reactions take place with the result that I see, that the ‘I’, the mind, being consciousness, can see. My eye or my brain cannot see but I can. This cannot be demonstrated physically, though the effects of this ability can. You react to what you see having received what you see through your eyes and brain.

  1. The mind is my set of capacities to reason, think and believe. My mind is a faculty of my soul – all my capacities together.
  2. Emotions are a set of capacities. Again, the effects of the emotions experienced by the ‘I’, by consciousness, can be seen but the emotions itself cannot be seen or physically demonstrated.
  3. The will is a set of powers to choose – the faculty of volitional will. Not physically demonstrable.
  4. The spirit, a faculty of the human soul. It is a power to be aware of God and be related to Him.

None of these 1 – 5 can be physically demonstrated or proven (the effects of it, yes, but not the capacity)

The ‘I’, experienced by consciousness, am essentially my soul. I, my soul, am attached to my body but I am not my body. I have a body but am not identical to it.

What is the essence of humans? The definition of essence; the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features. In metaphysics, Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.E.) specifies the classic definition: the essence of a thing is that which it is said to be per se. It is that which is most irreducible, unchanging, and therefore constitutive of a thing. A thing’s essence is that property without which the thing would cease to exist as itself.

The essence is the ‘I’, experienced by consciousness, is the immaterial ‘thing’ that is you, who, and what you are. When I am a child, it is ‘I’ who is that child, though through an immature brain I experience the world in an immature way. In the same way, I experience the world differently through a mature brain when grown up – the brain has changed, not the ‘I’, the who I am did not change. I am still the same person. The person with a brain damaged in a car accident and unconscious, is still a person, still the same person, still the same ‘I’, but cannot experience the world through his brain. He might be unconscious but still have the potential to be conscious if his brain would allow him. He would still be the same person. Like an individual trapped in a car wreck. He is still a person (the same ‘I’) but cannot get out of the wreck at that moment to experience the world outside of him. If a person is brain-damaged, he might act differently, his family might even say that he is not the person they used to know but in essence, he is still the same person and not a different person that has not excised before. He just acts differently. When you sleep you are not conscious, but with the potential to be conscious. You are still a person, the same person.

Thus, the happy/depressed, introverted/extroverted, cooperative/non-cooperative, peaceful/violent person, is how one, the I, experience and react to the impulses that come to one, to the ‘I’, through the brain. And that shapes one’s personality that can change but the ‘I’, the essence of who I am, cannot change. One can say that someone’s personality has changed, over years or with frontal lobe brain damage, but he, the ‘I’, cannot change, the essence of who he is, stays the same. Similar to the ‘I’ that experiences the world as a child and later an adult – the ’I’ does not change, the essence of who I am stays the same.

You are the ‘I’, the mind, the soul, the spirit. But you are not the material brain. The ‘I’ and the brain are intimately intertwined with constant ‘traffic flow’ between the two. The ‘I’, the mind, acts through the brain with the physical world, and the stimulations from the physical world reaching the brain, influence the ‘I’, the mind, continuously – how you feel and experience the world, but these stimuli cannot change the ‘I’. The ‘I’ can also decide out of free will, volition, how to respond to these stimuli from the brain.

The mind is not the brain, not the physical body. Though in a materialistic view it is the same thing. But a person would not say ‘My brain speaks to your brain’ No the person, who has a brain, speaks to the other who has a brain. I (mind, spirit, soul) am me.  I am not a brain but have one. We often hear people say, ‘Use your brains!’ Deep down we know we are not our brains but something we can and should use. I have a foot and I have a brain, but I am not a foot nor a brain. The mind is an immaterial entity or substance that uses a brain, uses the foot.

When a human is conceived, information that is immaterial is carried by the DNA in the sperm and ovum, from the two parents, to form the first cells, the embryo, the new individual. And a new ‘I’ come into existence. The original physical DNA from the parents is soon replaced by newly formed molecules/proteins/DNA and there is nothing physical of the mom and dad left in the newly formed cells, the newly formed individual, soon after the first replication of the DNA – just the original information. Immaterial information from mum and dad fused and brought a new ‘I’ into existence. We are immaterial in essence from the moment we come into being. The essence of a person is information and that is immaterial. Like the story in a book or a recipe in a recipe book – it is not the paper or the letters but the immaterial story, the information, that is of the essence. When you think of a 7-year-old child that is growing, every single molecule in his/her body has been replaced many times since conception and will be replaced numerous times. An adult has nothing physical in him/her that was present when he/she was 7 years old, or at conception for that matter. Everything single molecule has been replaced. Just the information is the same, absolutely identical to the original. The immaterial information never changes. But the person will still say that that 7-year child was him/her, ‘I can remember things from that time, it was not somebody else, it was me.’ So physically it is not the same person but the properties of the person, the essence, the I, the mind, is the same. The body continually changes with its need and desires from year to year over a lifetime but the immaterial reality of the ‘I’ continues unchanged within that person.  So, the mind is the immaterial unchanging essence of a person. But the ever-changing evolved body, with its basic inbuilt needs, continues to interact with the mind, with the ‘I’.

In this sense, it is the same with animals, but the status and properties of the mind of the animal limit it to being an animal and nothing more. Animals are not created in the image of God with its profound implications. Animals do not bear the image of the Creator, have no moral awareness, and therefore no moral accountability. Animals cannot think about their thoughts or ponder their actions, neither can they weigh up their options of what they ought to do. Not what they can or cannot do, but what they ought to do. They have limited free will as they cannot ponder their actions, no free thinking, no concept of beauty (an immaterial concept existing only in the mind of humans and of God), or any concept of narratives. They act on their immediate impulses, their immediate needs, ‘survival of the fittest’ needs; to be in a power position, to fight and protect themselves to survive, to protect their young, protect their territory, need for food, to reproduce, etc. All with a consciousness immaterial mind. And man’s carnal drives, the ‘animal’ within, is often the cause of the great fall in lives, closely linked to the same drives: 1. power – over other humans, 2. money – expanding and protecting his/her territory, and 3. sex.

What does the word carnal mean? Cambridge dictionary: ‘carnal; relating to the physical feelings and wants of the body. Carnal desires: thirst, food, sexual’. Animals have a simple mind in comparison with a human mind. For example, dogs can have thoughts and engaged in means of reasoning – if there are two choices e.g., to chase the cat and get rebuked by the owner or not chase the cat and be told ‘good boy’, the dog can decide which he would like better.  But humans can have thoughts about thoughts and ponder them. Animals can have desires, but we can change ours. Animals have beliefs, he can believe his owner will shout at him if he does not do what he was taught not to do, but we have beliefs about our beliefs. Animals cannot engage in moral deliberation and form moral judgments. An animal cannot experience conflict between desires and duty, but they can have a conflict between two desires. In the animal, it is not possible to appeal to duty to explain their behavior.

If a being cannot think about his/her thoughts, the being cannot be held responsible for moral/immoral thoughts and actions. Animals cannot be moral or immoral. If a cat kills a mouse, it was not an immoral act.

In the strict materialistic view, we have no free will, we are highly evolved animals reacting to neurochemical pathways in our brains that interact with the environment that causes further reactions in the brain that we have no control over.

The experience and reaction of the mind, our thoughts and emotions, are not physical/material. It transcends the material. The conscious mind, the ‘I’, as we have argued, is immaterial. No surprise then that no one knows or can explain what consciousness is. It is not physical, but like mathematics, that is immaterial, we can study it. If the materialist is committed to the view that consciousness is material and thoughts are things, then, as Galen Strawson5 says ‘Unless, of course, the materialist chooses to make the case that consciousness does not really exist’

We do have empirical evidence that the immaterial events, e.g., thoughts and feelings, occur, (not what they are but that they exist) and we have empirical evidence that things (such as brains) exist. Why, then, does the mind necessarily have to be anything other than part of the natural world?’ Because if the ‘I’, the mind, is identical to the brain, in the sense of being material, i.e., chemical processes, it follows that there cannot be a free will, there cannot be spontaneous thoughts, responsibility, moral decisions, moral accountability, as these would all be the result of chemical processes over which you, the ‘I’, the mind, has no control. Sam Harris, new age atheist, ‘Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.’ – that is the necessary and only conclusion if all is physical, material, chemical processes. Only a mind apart from the natural world, from the physical brain, can have free thoughts not bound by chemical processes but can react to these processes freely. So, this would really ‘force you’ to move from “materialism” to the “transcended” and opens the question of whether or not God exists.

If we are indeed a material brain and an immaterial mind, as I have tried to demonstrate, where does it lead us to?  If one would hang on to atheism, we are merely highly evolved animals with no free will and no moral accountability with all the consequences of this view. Nobody can live like this. But from a theistic point of view reality seems to make much more sense if we are more than a physical brain.

‘God created our bodies from the dust, (i.e., from the elements of this earth.)  And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being, an individual complete in body (carnal) and spirit.’6 Our spirit/mind has been created in the image of God7 and this sets us profoundly apart from the animal kingdom and implicates that all humans are equal before God. ‘And underscored in the New Testament. ‘There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.’8 ‘In His own image’, God created us and this has profound implications, it gives humans immense value and makes us all equal; men, women, people of all ages and all the races of this world – the basis for objective human rights – the materialist has no basis for equal rights but merely his opinion. If we are truly no more than highly evolved animals, then nothing more than ‘survival of the fittest’ would apply. As we so often see in the business world and many other aspects of life – the ‘animal within’ walking over, pushing aside,  devouring his fellowman. And atheist Peter Singer’s9 views on non-voluntary euthanasia of handicapped babies is no surprise. And in His image, we were given free will, the will to choose to love, to hate, to choose between right and wrong, and we have a deep sense to distinguish between right and wrong. Free thinking is only possible if our minds are more than just a brain. The materialist has no basis to believe that he has free thinking, that he can trust his own thoughts if we are the product of evolution with physical properties only, and therefore nothing but moist robots with our thoughts the result of neurochemical reactions in the brain determined by our genes, brain development and reacting to the environment.

But if we do have an immaterial mind, a soul, the ‘I’, in a body with a brain, then we can understand the constant internal conflict between my physical body, the evolved animal within, with its carnal nature, or ‘flesh’, versus my mind, my spirit, soul, the ‘I’.

We have been given this carnal (‘animal’) body with its primitive desires that we have to reign over to be fully human. It is a lifelong conflict but also a challenge not dissimilar to a marathon athlete running the race, which is hard, yet very satisfying when the race is successfully completed. And during this race, the more we overcome, the more human and the less animal-like we become

The study of animal behavior to understand human behavior explains much about humans but only insofar the elementary behavior patterns are concerned. There are obviously important basic animal behaviors within us that are good and essential e.g., care for the young, satisfying hunger. But the study of animal behavior cannot shed any light on the spiritual behavior of man e.g., morality, ethical behavior, and more. These you have to compare to the character of God, the ultimate good.

Man received of the Spirit of God at creation, and we can control, and as spiritual beings, reign over our carnal fleshly ‘evolved animal’ body with its animal nature and desires. We have a moral awareness and therefore are morally accountable. We have the ability to think about our thoughts, ponder our actions and make rational decisions. We have free will and free thoughts. Though we are subject to and intimately interwoven with our ‘animal body’ with its extremely strong deeply embedded impulses and desres that are impossible to conquer in full to make one fully human. And we need help.

Describing the ‘animal within’ refers to the ‘animal nature’ within, not our wonderfully created body. The human body is wonderfully made, the most beautiful and complex in all of creation, in all of this vast universe. ‘For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb… I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well… I was being formed … intricately and skillfully…’ 10

Man with his own free will and thoughts can be successful, to some degree, to overcome the ‘animal’ nature with its urges and desires yet often need the law to keep him in reign. Society, with or without the law, needs to keep many accountable, to restrain him/her not to act like an animal; take what is not yours, lie for your own survival/benefit’s sake, act sexually inappropriately.  We all have the spirit of moral knowledge within us, morality is deeply embedded in our souls – unlike animal nature with no morality. Morality is not an evolved human characteristic. It is imparted to us from the Creator who created us in His image and sets us apart from all animals. Morality is, therefore, objective – transcendent – and not subjective – based preferences based on personal or group opinion. See my Blog: Morality. Because of God, or Not? and Moral Relativism

How do we live then, not with the nature of higher evolved animals, but as humans with fully well-developed spiritual characteristics and morality that would set us further and further apart from our animal nature, reigning over the ‘animal within’? Not only created but living in the image of God, our Creator?  ‘For the mind that is set on the flesh, (our animal nature), is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot’.11

We need to learn that our animal nature can be overcome and that we are free to grow in Christ to become fully human as we have been created to be. That one can reign over the ‘animal within’.

Many people do not desire to live this ‘fully human’ life but would prefer to hang onto the ‘animal within’ with its basic desires’ to survive as he sees fittest, even if one needs to walk over fellow humans, act as your desires direct you. What is even more sad is that animals die and so do their minds, and so do we who would hold on to the ‘animal’ within. ‘For those who live according to the flesh (carnal nature) set their minds on the things of the flesh (basic desires), but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit’12 ‘For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’13

‘Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, …14 ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.’15 If we do not realize that we have died with Christ, or we fail to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit, our carnal nature will gain the upper hand, causing us to remain in submission to our animal nature.

This is the sad condition of so many people is that the most remain carnal, constantly falling victim to the animal nature. Such Christians and others have little insight into spiritual truth, enjoy meager daily fellowship with God, if at all, and fail to lay hold of His promises.

We should earnestly ask God to help us distinguish between the carnal and the spiritual, and to enable us to yield ourselves completely to the guidance of His Spirit. We can ask the Lord God, reveal to me, by the working of His Spirit, where I still live and speak as a carnal person.

‘Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry (anything more important than God in our lives e.g., money, power), sorcery (e.g., astronomy), enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’16 These all refer back to power, money, and sex as I have elucidated to earlier.

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.’17 ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’18 ‘But put on the Lord Jesus Christ (accept Him and let Him reign in our lives), and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.’19 ‘And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.’20 ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.’21 Do not allow the ‘animal within’ reign in your life and prevent you from being fully human as you have been created to be. ‘Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.’22

‘The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’23

Are we just one thing? I have demonstrated that it makes no sense to see the mind and the brain as one thing. It is not a logical conclusion. We are a material brain and an immaterial mind. Thus, two things, intertwined but in their nature, they are in constant conflict with each other.

We are body and spirit. We, our spirits, are to reign over the carnal bodies, ‘the animal within’, to be fully human, to understand and enjoy life to the full. To live in peace with God, with ourselves, with our fellow human beings. And not to destroy life around us, not to cause pain to ourselves and to our fellow beings but to be what we have been created to be. It is but a long road of growth, a marathon, and we need our Creator in Christ to overcome the ‘animal within’ and life will strangely grow into an unexpected and surprising beauty, not only for us but also for our fellow human beings, into the likeliness of Christ and in a personal relationship with God.

References

1 Your Spirit nature and your flesh nature are two forces constantly fighting each other. Your flesh nature is trying to keep you from carrying out what your Spirit nature is directing. Your Spirit nature is always moving you toward God’s plans and purposes for your life. Your flesh nature is always trying to sabotage your Spirit nature. Spirit vs. Flesh – Kendall Bridges

2 Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

3 Matthew 10:28 “… There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands.

4 Philippians 3:20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him.

5 Galen John Strawson (born 1952) is a British analytic philosopher and literary critic who works primarily on philosophy of mind, metaphysics (including free will, panpsychism, the mind-body problem, and the self).

6 Genesis 2:7 AMP

7 Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God, He created them; male and female He created them.

8 Galatians 3:28

9 Peter Singer is an Australian moral philosopher, currently Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.

10 Psalm 139:13-15

11 Romans 8:7

12 Romans 8:5

13 Romans 8:13

14 Galatians 5:19

15 Romans 6:12

16 Galatians 5:19-21

17 Romans 8:1-39

18 Romans 8:14

19 Romans 13:14

20 Galatians 5:24-25

21 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

22 Colossians 3:5

23 1 Corinthians 2:14

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Time to Think 12. God’s Morality under Question. The Atheists’ Judgment of God

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There is a common claim that the God of the Old Testament, even in the New Testament, seems very harsh, brutal, and even evil.

A look at the Old Testament and we see slavery, killing of the Canaanites, and harsh penalties, e.g., to put to death adulterers, blasphemers, and children who did not obey and respect their parents and people who work on the Sabbath.

Richard Dawkins, atheist. “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal. – see my blog on ‘Is God a Megalomanic”

But by what standard do the atheist judge the Christian God? Just the atheist’s subjective opinion? By his own morals, by what is embedded in his DNA perhaps, or his society, or culture, all fleeting and changing over time, against the God of the universe? If God does not exist, there is no one to judge. If He does exist, the atheist is trying to judge the God of the universe. We don’t even know the essence of what we are: what is consciousness, what is life, are we just brain or brain & mind, and free will? Where does the information, the language written in our DNA, come from? We are but a speck on a speck on a speck in the universe and dare to judge the essence of the Creator of the universe, judge who and what He is.

How can the atheist or non-Christian say God is harsh, brutal, and evil when they deny the Bible, the very book that defines harsh, brutal, and evil? Even further, in atheistic, materialistic, and evolutionary worldviews, such things are neither right nor wrong because there is no God in their view to establish what is right or wrong. The same people who profess to believe in a naturalistic view where animals rape, murder, and eat their own kind are those who attack the loving God of the Bible and try to call Him evil (Isaiah 5:20). But a closer look at such claims against the God of the Bible shows that these claims have no merit. The intent of many of those who make such claims is to make a good God look evil in order to justify their rejection of Him, of His Word, or even His existence.

I will address slavery in the Old Testament, the killing of the Canaanites, and the harsh punishments in the Old Testament, as examples to prove the contrary to the atheists’ accusations.

One cannot read the Bible without knowing the context and without studying and digging into the difficult issues, same as doing science, or mathematics. Same Author!

Slavery in the Old Testament

Modern slavery, today’s idea of slavery, is abuse, forced labor, and ‘human trafficking’ of African Americans.

In the Old Testament God instituted slavery with the Hebrew word used is ‘ebed’, and literally means slave or servant, related to work, and is used interchangeably. This word does not have the same negative connotation of today’s impression. The Hebrew word ‘ebed’ for slave is really too strong of a word. A slave has no rights. A slave is considered property. In true slavery, you can do whatever you want to a slave without consequence. They are treated as less than human.

Compare what the term ‘slave’ meant in the Old Testament, in the Roman era, and in the more recent history.

O.T. Roman New World
Holiday Yes No Yes
Food enough Yes No No
Legal redress Yes No No
Sexual protection Yes No No
Kidnapped No Yes Yes
Chains No Yes Yes
Torture No Yes Yes
Physical abuse No Yes Yes

 

The Hebrew word ‘ebed’ is best understood as a contractual servant. An ‘ebed’ has rights and benefits from the arrangement. It was a servanthood, a system in which a destitute person could voluntarily work to pay off his debt. They would be given food, shelter, and legal rights and after 7 years they were released of their debt and given generous gifts of flocks, wine, and grain.

Sometimes Israelites kept slaves from surrounding Nations following wars, but they were commanded to treat them humanely and protect them from mistreatment. Human trafficking was punishable by death.

In the New Testament times of the Roman Empire, it was different. Nowhere in the New Testament does the Bible condone slavery.

85 to 90% of the Roman population were slaves and encouraging slaves to rebel against the authorities, was punishable by death. Paul taught that slaves were equal to free persons in the eyes of God. This inspired Christians towards freeing slaves. John Wesley and William Wilberforce fought against new world slavery and led to the abolition of slavery.

Jesus did not speak out against slavery. It would have changed the course and purpose of His life. The Romans and society would have strongly opposed Him. His main purpose was not to be a good moral teacher but to be the Savior. Yet He taught love and that all men were equal. Out of His teaching, Christians were the reason for the abolition of slavery.

The Conquest and Ethical Question of War – the Killing of the Canaanites

God did not act arbitrarily against the Canaanites but gave reasons for judging them and other nations as well as the nation of Israel themselves in the Old Testament. In particular, God warned the Canaanites for 400 years.

The Canaanites were far from innocent! God was patient with them as they continued in their sin. Among the Canaanite tribes when Joshua invaded were the Amorites whose sin was prophesied to Abraham. Abraham received the prophecy that the sin of the Amorites had not reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16). Had they listened, they probably wouldn’t have been in that situation.

When Joshua entered the land of Canaan, the Amorites’ sin (Canaanites) had reached its full measure and it was time for judgment. Leviticus 18:2–30 points out the horrendous crimes that were going on in the land of Canaan. They were having sex with their mothers, sisters, and so on. Men were having sex with other men. They were giving their children to be sacrificed to Molech (vs. 21). They were having sex with animals (vs. 23). So, it is impossible to make the claim that those tribes were innocent and undeserving of punishment.

God stopped the evil and atrocities of the Canaanites and still people ask why does God not stop evil in the world and, when He does, they judge Him!

‘Wipeout every man, woman and child’ is typical hyperbolic speech of the Bible. In the very next verse, God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with the Canaanites, implicating the hyperbolic speech that we see throughout the Bible. Similar to say in a sports game the one team annihilated the other team.

It must also be remembered that in the book of Joshua it does not address itself to the abstract ethical question of war as a means for gaining human ends. It can only be understood in the context of the history of redemption unfolding in the Bible, with its interplay of divine grace and judgment.

It is rather the story of how God, to whom the whole world belongs, at one stage in the history of redemption reconquered a portion of the earth from the powers of this world that had claimed it for themselves, defending their claims by force of arms and reliance on their false gods. It tells how God commissioned His people to serve as His army under the leadership of His servant Joshua, to take Canaan in His name out of the hands of the idolatrous and dissolute Canaanites whose measure of sin was now full.

Joshua is the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power. Thus, the Lord’s triumph over the Canaanites testified to the world that the God of Israel is the one true and living God, whose claim on the world is absolute. It was also a warning to the nations that the irresistible advance of the Kingdom of God would ultimately disinherit all those who opposed it, giving peace in the earth only to those who acknowledge and serve the Lord. At once an act of redemption and judgment, it gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the final destiny of humankind and the Creation.

God gave His people under Joshua no commission or license to conquer the world with the sword but a particular, limited mission So the land had to be cleansed of all remnants of paganism. Its people and their wealth were not for Israel to seize as the booty of war from which to enrich themselves. On that land, Israel was to establish a commonwealth faithful to the righteous rule of God and thus be a witness (and a blessing) to the nations. If Israel became unfaithful and conformed to Canaanite culture and practice, it would, in turn, lose its place in the Lord’s land—as Israel almost did in the days of the judges, and as it eventually did in the exile.

War is a terrible curse that the human race brings on itself as it; seeks to possess the earth by its own righteous ways. But it pales before the “curse that awaits all those who do not heed God’s testimony to Himself or His warnings—those who oppose the rule of God and reject His offer of grace. The God of the second Joshua (Jesus) is the God of the first Joshua also. Although now for a time He reaches out to the whole world with the Gospel (and commissions His people urgently to carry His offer of peace to all nations), the sword of His judgment waits in the wings—and His second Joshua will wield it (Rev 19:11-16)

Harsh punishments in the Old Testament.

Why are there such harsh punishments, like stoning to death, for many of the trespasses in the Old Testament? It would almost seem to be out of proportion to the wrong being done. At least 28 sins that called for the death penalty.

If you do not believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, you will not understand the reason, see the logic, the coherence, the righteousness and purpose of the punishment and why it was so harsh, and why it is not applicable anymore since the time of Jesus Christ. God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive to Him. This is the story of God and man: ‘Your eyes are too holy to look at evil, and you cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong’ Habakkuk 1:13 and ‘How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you? My heart will not let me do it. My love for you is too strong.’ Hosea11:8

Yet how do we understand death by stoning for sins like working on the Sabbath -Exodus 31:15, sorcery -Leviticus 20:27, rebellious children -Deuteronomy 21:18-21, kidnapping -Exodus 21:16, homosexuality -Leviticus 20:13, blaspheming God -Leviticus 24:16, bestiality -Exodus 22:19, idolatry -Leviticus 22:20, adultery -Leviticus 20:10, rape -Deuteronomy 24:17-22:25, murder -Exodus 21:12, and more.

In the Old Testament we learn that God made the world perfect, people sinned, and then God gave commands to Israel to show them how they ought to live. God gave commands because people were not acting the way he had originally made them to act. He gave them commands to show them how to act towards a holy God (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16). But He also gave them commands to show them their sin: ‘In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin’ Romans 7:7. ‘For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are’ Romans 3:20.

‘Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ Leviticus 19:2. ‘But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:15-16. God demonstrated His holiness in the Old Testament and His absolute hate for sin in raising a holy people from where the Messiah would be born so that people would also understand the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. Sin from which we can only be freed through the death and the blood of Christ. Through Abraham God revealed Himself to a specific people group, the Israelites, and instructed many laws, 613 laws, to make this people group holy, to make them understand what holiness is, and thereby understand God’s holiness, who He is. They were as a nation to be separated from God, to live a pure life in a covenant with God. From this people group, the Messiah would come with the new covenant once the Israelites and the world would understand who and what God is and how horrible sin is in His sight and in addition how great Christ’s sacrifice was and necessary to cancel the horribleness of our sin.

The harsher the penalty, the more it points to God’s infinite holiness, His absolute incompatibility with sin, and the greatness of Christ who took it all unto Himself and freed us from these penalties if we would accept His sacrifice. If not, we are still under the law and will be judged accordingly and righteously. The more God’s presence manifests, the harsher the penalty for sin becomes . . .. The harsh laws in the Old Testament seem at odds with the love of God expressed in the New Testament. But with a closer look, we can see that the New Testament does not hide the fact that when the manifest presence of Jesus Christ returns through His second coming, the chance to receive God’s grace will vanish. Unless we have repented of our sin and accepted Christ’s sacrifice, we will still be under the wrath of God, under even harsher penalties.

Exodus to Deuteronomy, the 613 laws, does not apply to the Christian of today, even the Ten Commandments. If a law is not repeated in the New Testament under the new covenant, it is not applicable for example keeping the sabbath because Christ came and fulfilled the law. God gave all those laws so His people could get an idea of His absolute holiness. Nine of the 10 Commandments are repeated in the New Testament and still hold for our lives.

The more holy God is, the more sin would be an abomination to Him. He is infinitely holy as the greatest conceivable Being – God. He was making it clear to Israel how serious these sins were and did not want these harsh punishments to be executed as He is a God of love yet was making a very serious and strong point. And preparing the way for Christ.

We are all sinners already under the death penalty (Romans 3:23). But again, God has provided a means of salvation in Christ. It would be nice if people realized that they should hate sin (Romans 12:9) and love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) who acts justly against sin (2 Thessalonians 1:5–10). Yet He offers abundant mercy to those who love Him (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; Ephesians 2:4)

From Genesis to Revelation the theme is God is love. (1 John 4:8 ), the narrative of God,  slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion. (Numbers 14:18) and see the wrath of God in the light of His holiness, love, and care to reach out to humanity, to you and me.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”‍ The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis.

What the Bible says about Subjugation of Women – in short  (follow the links for  more comprehensive  insight.)

‘Eve’s curse, Genesis 3:16-17, has resulted in the virtual subjugation of women ever since. Until the Enlightenment in the 18th century, women had few rights, if any. Fathers sold their daughters into slavery or wed them to the highest bidder. Wives existed to give the husband pleasure and sons and to keep the house. Many societies insisted that women be veiled in public, and some considered it a criminal act for a woman to walk out of her house without a chaperone. In short, a woman was chattel.

Not every society was this strict. Because of God’s law, Israel was one of the most enlightened in this area. Israelite women had certain rights of inheritance, and they could even own land and run businesses (Proverbs 31:16, 24), situations unheard of in other nations. Deborah judged Israel and gave her people forty years of peace (Judges 4:4; 5:31). An Israelite woman’s life has frequently been better than her Gentile counterpart’s because of Israel’s acquaintance with the Bible.’ Link

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth.  Beth Allison Barr

‘Evidence shows me how Christian patriarchy was built, stone by stone, throughout the centuries. Evidence shows me how, century after century, arguments for women’s subordination reflect historical circumstances more than the face of God. Evidence shows me that just because complementarianism uses biblical texts doesn’t mean it reflects biblical truth. Evidence shows me the trail of sin and destruction left in the wake of teachings that place women under the power of men’

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Time to Think 11. Do You Want God to Exist?

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Should we want God to exist? And explaining evil in pragmatic belief.

We will consider three related questions with emphasis on the third question pertaining to the existence of evil and suffering:

  1. The ontological question – does God exist? (ontology =nature of being)
  2. The epistemological question – is it rational to believe in God? (epistemology = theory of knowledge)
  3. Should we want God to exist? In a certain sense a pragmatic question. Could it be rational to want that God exists especially regarding evil?

Evil exists and very few would deny it. It is recognized by atheists, agnostics, and theists because it is real. Though many atheists might deny the existence of evil but cannot deny the existence of suffering.

All around and within us, there is much evil and the suffering that results from evil. Humans suffer, animals suffer, nature suffers. (See Time to Think. 4. The Problem of Evil.)

Why does evil exist? One can view this question from a theist or from an atheist/materialist perspective. The existence of evil and suffering is a very strong argument against the existence of God and is often being brought into discussions as a counterargument for the existence of God. But who can explain evil and suffering better, the theist or the atheist? Can there be meaning and purpose,  and reasons, for the existence of evil and suffering?

We will argue that the atheist offers a more desirable explanation. But not that it is necessarily true, even if more desirable. Yet which explanation, the theist or atheist explanation, do we want to be true as it would also have implications for believing in the existence of God?

Let us consider the two explanations.

The atheist explanation for suffering (evil):

  1. The world is a harsh place with a lot of pointless ‘evil’ and suffering.
  2. It is a brute fact, and we just have to accept it and live with ‘how the dice falls’
  3. There is no powerful loving creator and evil and suffering are not surprising.

Richard Dawkins, British evolutionary biologist, well-known atheist, and author ‘The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.’ ‘In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.’  Bertrand Russell, atheist philosopher, ‘If there is no God, there is no universal right and wrong’ implying no evil

The theist explanation of evil and suffering:

God is all good, all-loving, and has reasons for the pain and suffering

  1. Free will. Alvin Plantinga, Christian philosopher: free will is necessary in order to make moral decisions, good or bad.
  2. Soul making i.e., the role of suffering in spiritual growth.
  3. Incarnation and atonement by Christ – if there is no evil/sin the Christ would not have been necessary. Through the existence of sin and evil, Christ is made ‘necessary’ or desirable. The revelation of who God is, the goodness of Christ, and God incarnate through His atoning death brings us into a personal relationship with Him and is so great that it outweighs the evil in the world. Christ entered our pain and suffering and became one with our pain and suffering allowing a better understanding of Him, ourselves, and the world we live in.

Skeptical theism argues that we do not always understand the reason for evil and suffering. We as humans do not know the essence of what we are: what is consciousness, what is life, are we just brain or brain & mind, and free will, does it exist? We are but a speck on a speck on a speck in the universe and it would be arrogant and preposterous to judge the essence of the Creator of the universe and that we can even remotely hope to know all the possible reasons He might have.

So, which is more likely, and which is more desirable? That there is no God and there are no reasons for evil and suffering, just a sad, bad, brute fact. But is it reasonable to prefer the theistic explanation? And can it be true?

Let us consider the implication of each view

If the atheist explanation is true:

  1. Most evil and suffering have no purpose or reason.
  2. Most evil is gratuitous (pointless).
  3. Many injustices will never be rectified.

This is a very pessimistic picture.

 If theism is true, it would imply

  1. There are good reasons for evil and suffering e.g., the existence of free.
  2. There is less, probably, no gratuitous evil.
  3. There is ultimate justice – people will ultimately be held accountable for the all pain and suffering they caused. For their evil deeds.

Therefore, it would seem that the theistic explanation is more desirable. But is it true? Or just wishful thinking?

Does the evidence balance out between the two possibilities? What arguments and evidence are stronger? That God exists or that He does not exist?

Let us consider the rationality of pragmatic belief – or practical belief, i.e., a belief aimed at the good, because we want it to be true e.g., believing in free will or you will be depressed if it is true that free will is just an illusion (Sam Harris). A belief without good, conclusive, evidence.

Consider the pragmatic belief that there is no God because I do not want God to be true but lack enough evidence to know that He does not exist, or vice versa.

Is pragmatic belief always irrational? Most of the time, but one can also have a pragmatic belief in God because you want it to be true but also have some good evidence and arguments, and testimony of friends’ changed lives, that support your pragmatic belief.

Consider two jurors in court with the same evidence but it is not a clear case, really complex. One juror sees the person as guilty. The other sees him as not guilty. Two different conclusions on the same evidence in a difficult case, with the evidence inconclusive.

When the evidence does not tell us what to believe, pragmatic reasons can break the tie and influence us to decide what to believe.

Two possibilities: 1. I want God to be true and the evidence is good enough for me and pursuing this route or 2. I do not want God to be true and the evidence is not good enough for me for His existence.

That is when both have the same but inconclusive evidence. Under these circumstances, it is particularly important to seek unbiased evidence and pursue the truth in all sincerity.

We have to seek the truth, find credible and coherent arguments to come to a meaningful conclusion even if the theistic view is optimistic and the atheist view of pain and suffering is pessimistic.

It is not what we want to be true but what is true. The two scenarios described could lead to either, 1. If you believe God exists, even as your decision is swung by your pragmatic belief, God will reveal Himself to you as you believe He exists or 2. If your pragmatic belief contributes to your decision not to believe in the existence of God,  you will drift further away from God denying His existence and seek more evidence/arguments that He does not exist to support what you actually want to be true.

To find God is a life-changing delight and makes so much more sense of life itself. See To Know and to Love God

It would be more desirable if evil and suffering have a good reason but is only when theism is true, that the Judeo-Christian God exists.

The atheistic viewpoint is bleak and pessimistic.

Therefore, have good reasons why you believe God exists or why you believe He does not exist.

 

Recognition for most of these thoughts to Dr Liz Jackson, assistant professor in philosophy, the Ryerson University.

Should We Want God to Exist? Dr. Liz Jackson // CCv1 Session 2.

https://youtu.be/sukh4FeGaEo

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To Know and Love God vs Being Religious

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To Know and Love God

‘To know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ.’ (not to know about Him but to know Him personally) ‘You need to be born again, this is the way to have eternal life’ (a radical life-changing experience, for some in an instant for some slower over time). ‘Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.’

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart (a sincere longing to find the Truth)

‘You said, “Seek My face in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need,” My heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I will seek”’ (a deep hunger in my spirit from Him for more and more of Him)

‘“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You’ (a life-changing encounter)

‘“I have seen God face to face…” I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your instructions are written on my heart.”’ (a deep desire to please the heart of my Father God whom I love so much, never to disappoint Him but to please Him)

‘We love because He first loved us.'(I love You so deeply, yet You first love me)

‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ‘In this world you will have trouble’ (Your love far exceeds any hardships in this life)

‘Your unfailing love is better than life itself’ ‘You satisfy me more than the richest feast’ ‘I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings’ (You are the joy of my heart)

‘If Your presence is not going with me, do not let me move a step from this place.’ (I have no desire to be without You, ever)

‘My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” I long for You, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. I will go to God, my joy and my delight. You will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God.’ (my greatest delight in this life is to spend personal time with Him– not in church or in worship or any  church activity but in quietness with Him alone) ‘Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence’ (my greatest delight and joy; Your presence and to please You, the One I love so much)

‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together’  (and share our love for God)

Jesus Christ, ‘When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am.’ (to be with Him, the lover of my soul. I do not care what heaven would be like as long as I’ll be with Him)

‘I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.’

‘”I am your shield, I am your very great reward.”’ (no greater reward than God’s presence in my heart and life. Enjoining Him now, and forever)

Is that Who He is for you, a delight, a joy? The reality of a relationship with the living God that you love to spend time with? Or are you hanging onto  Christianity just as another religion of do’s and don’t’s and should and shouldn’ts?  ‘Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’

From: Genesis 15:1 John 3:3 John 17:3 Psalm 27:8 Job 42:5 Genesis 32:30 John 17:3 Psalm 27:8 John 17:3 Jeremiah 29:13 Psalm 40:7-9 Psalm 42 1 Proverbs 8:30 Exodus 33:15 Genesis 32:30 John 17:3   1 John 4:19 Hebrews 10:24-25 Psalm 27:8 John 14:2-3 Philippians 1:23 Psalm 42 Job 22:26 Psalm 43:4 Psalm 119:24 Matthew 7:22-23 Romans 5:5 Matthew 16:24 John 16:33

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Time To Think 9. Christianity, World Religions, and Atheism.

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There are three possibilities for the truth of our existence:

I. No God – Atheism; religion is irrational with no truth in its substance and built on deceptive foundations. We are matter.

II. There is a God, and we are more than mere matter:  A. All religions are true with different pathways to God and/or salvation or B. Only one religion is true and there is only one pathway to God and salvation.

Religion is a complex human phenomenon and difficult to define. Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about anything and everything is a religion. Yet religion as a concept of ‘something outside and greater’ than man is deeply embedded in human nature and present throughout the world where humans dwell and present in the earliest history of homo sapiens. Religion stems from a mysterious longing and deep desperate striving for the transcendent as people do not understand their own condition well. He is aware of his imperfections and has a deep-rooted disposition to understand this imperfection he is so conscious of. It is in his nature to look for purpose and meaning in everything, even so, in his own imperfect existence. Man has an awareness, even so in his subconscious mind, of a greatest conceivable being, of perfection, and has a longing for a ‘better world’ – a better ‘this world’ or a better world ‘hereafter’.

Huston Smith describes religion as ‘the deepest human awareness, which is that of a hierarchical universe, and the goal is the absorption of the self into the infinite oneness.’ Not dissimilar to seeing beauty and long to be absorbed in it. Feuerbach influenced Marx and Freud, states that ‘religion is man’s projection; we construct claims about God and then project them. We look upon these projections and see them as objective realities.’  Freud: ‘religious ideas are not the result of experience or thought; they are illusions, fulfillments of deep, early desires.’

Alvin Plantinga’s Modal Version of the Ontological Argument is as follows: 1. To say that there is possibly a God is to say that there is a possible world in which God exists. 2. To say that God necessarily exists is to say that God exists in every possible world. 3. God is necessarily perfect (i.e. maximally excellent) 4. Since God is necessarily perfect, He is perfect in every possible world. 5. If God is perfect in every possible world, He must exist in every possible world, therefore God exists. 6. God is also maximally great. To be maximally great is to be perfect in every possible world. 7. Therefore: “it is possible that there is a God,” means that there is a ‘possible’ which contains God, that God is maximally great, and the God exists in every possible world and is consequently necessary. 8. God’s existence is at least possible. 9. Therefore:  as per item seven, God exists.

On a doctrinal level, the various world religions are very, very different, fundamentally different. So different that they cannot all be true. All religions have underlying ethical similarities. They all are seeking the truth and therefore all will have significant elements of truth in their teachings. Superficially the different religions might seem the same in many ways, but at the core of each, Christianity differs the most radical from all other religions.

Most world religions teach that one will be accepted by God if you are good enough.  For the atheist, there can be no objective right and wrong and hence this concept is irrelevant. (see Morality and Relativism) Though it is very hard to know when and what is ‘good enough’ if there is a God, e.g., in Muslimism: at the end of your life Allah will decide if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. Or one reaches ‘salvation’ if he is ‘good enough’ – Hinduism and Buddhism which are purely about irrational religious experiences.

The different world religious views about God are very different: Christianity teaches the Trinity; before creation, God was one-in-three persons in perfect union. Muhammad taught that there is only one God, but that God is not a Trinity and cannot have a son. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture) believed in a combination of polytheism (there are many gods) and pantheism (all is god). Confucius believed in many gods. Zoroaster taught that there is both a good god and a bad god. Buddha taught that the concept of God was essentially irrelevant.

Views on being saved, to be reconciled with God, or with reality differ significantly. Irrelevant to the atheist. Islam teaches that one becomes saved through submission to Allah, but that salvation can never be an absolute certainty except when dying in jihad.  Your good deeds have to outweigh your bad deeds. Hindus teach that salvation is rooted in reincarnation and karma. In Buddhism, it is in reaching a state of enlightenment. Christianity teaches that one is saved by faith, by trust in Christ alone. That He died as the perfect and complete sacrifice for our sins. Salvation is an absolute certainty if Christ’s atonement is accepted.

It is impossible to factually test Hinduism, Buddhism, or Mormonism (the experiences of Joseph Smith) as objectively true. It is all about subjective experiences.

Buddhism is an atheistic religion; God is without substance and reality is denied. For Buddhism ultimate reality is monistic. i.e., denying the existence of a distinction between matter and mind, or God and the world, all is seen as one reality, yet the reality is denied in Buddhism. One cannot question or rationally think about Buddhism, one can only experience it. The truth of Buddhism teachings rests solely on experience, on psychological factors. It is works orientated in terms of the enlightenment (salvation) to reach a state of nirvana, that is a state of desirelessness and passionlessness. Enlightenment is an experience. Reason plays no role.  If you can’t reach nirvana in this life, you can try again by incarnation. To finally reach enlightenment is to escape this cycle, … into nothingness.

Islam claimed to be objectively true but there are serious inconsistencies and incoherencies in the Quran as well as in the Hadith though should not be criticized. https://www.quora.com/Are-Muslims-allowed-to-criticise-the-Quran ‘To criticize the Quran is to show disrespect to the books of Allah and is seen as apostasy. Whoever does this has expelled himself from Islam. It is apostasy to doubt the Quran or to disagree with it, or to not believe in it, even if it is only a single verse.’

All the world’s religions seek to take bad men and make them better by ethics. Christianity, by contrast, seeks to take dead men and make them alive. More specifically, Christianity seeks to take people who are spiritually dead (separated from God because of sin) and make them spiritually alive so they can enjoy a personal relationship with the God who created them. Thus, much more about a relationship than about religion.

This is what makes Christianity unique.

Religious experience alone is never sufficient to demonstrate the truth of a religion. Christianity is the only religion where religious experiences are important, but the factual claims of Christianity can be tested… objectively. And everything depends on the resurrection. If the resurrection of Christ is false, Christianity is false. Christianity is evidential and testable, historically, and experientially. If it is wrong, then you can move on. (with Buddhism or Hinduism, though, you must be in for a long haul of experiences, the attempts to reach salvation and hopefully experience the escape from the endless cycle of life) Grace is unique to Christianity. Others offer hard ways to earn salvation. The best that Buddhists or Christian Scientists can do is to deny evil as an illusion. Yet, we face it every day. Or the atheist who has no explanation for evil, just a brute fact of life. Christians can confront evil, and they have an ultimate solution. Jesus Christ. Time to Think 4. Evil, Pain & Suffering.

Is atheism true? Can it be true that there is no God? You decide as you consider Alwin Plantinga’s Ontological Argument, consider I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, and my series of arguments: Time to Think – about the existence of God. (YouTube and Blog). Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Eastern Religions are not rational but based on subjective experiences. Muslimism is in part rational, e.g., the existence of a Creator, but the origin of this religion, the ethics as taught in the Koran as well as the reliability of ancient scripts raise serious questions yet are not allowed to be criticized.

It should be clear that all religions might superficially be the same in some minor ways but fundamentally very different. So different, so contradictive, that only one can be true.

Christianity is open to scrutiny on every level and can rationality be defended. Most importantly The Facts About the Resurrection of Christ on which Christianity stands or falls.

Is atheism open to scrutiny? Not really, because atheists rarely make positive statements about the non-existence of God, and neither ever present good arguments that God does not exist. They only try to refute the arguments for God’s existence or argue that He is not necessary to explain the universe but seldom present any positive arguments that He does not exist or present answers for why is there something rather nothing, what caused the universe, how and why the extreme fine-tuning of the universe for life, the integrated informational complexity of DNA (digital coding) that points to a Mind, what is evil, and the explanation for objective morality?  Except often explanations that are pure speculative theories e.g., the multiverse (for the fine-tuning) or the oscillating universe theory or cyclical universe proposes that the universe expands and contracts indefinitely (for the cause of the universe.)

Only Christianity as the truth of our existence, can be experienced, can rationally be defended, and is factually testable.

My personal experience: ‘The radical change that took place in my heart was not from a rational decision but in response to an overwhelming Love that became rational’

Which truth about our existence is more plausible? Atheism, Christianity, or one or all of the known world religions? You decide.

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Time to Think. 7. The Case for Faith. What is Faith and What is the Evidence?

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First, it is important to refute the not only sad but bad misconception that the Christian faith is ‘blind’. So, what is faith, Christian faith? The Biblical definition of faith is trust. And one can only trust someone if there is sufficient evidence to support the trust. In the original Greek Biblical manuscripts, the word pistis was used and in the later translations the Latin word fides. What exactly do these words mean and why is evidence so vital in Christian faith?

Pistis means trust and trust alone, in God and in His promises. Pistis literally means trust. Pistis (ˈpɪstɪs/ (Πίστις) in early Greek was the personification of good faith, of trust and reliability. And trust according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. And in the Bible, of God. (which is impossible really if there is no evidence!)  The word used in the Bible translation is the Latin word fides which means believe, confidence, loyalty, word of honor, truth, authenticity.

Thus, the Biblical word faith, the words pistis and fides, encompass all of the following: it is the trust of someone when there is sufficient evidence to support it, it is the reliability, the assured reliance on the character, on the ability, on the strength and truth of a person. It is the belief in, the confidence in, the loyalty and the word of honor, and authenticity, of the person in question, of God.

The earliest Christians understood pistis/fides as a relationship of trust and faithfulness between God and human beings, which also shaped relationships between human beings. Christians are unique in putting trust at the heart of their relationship with God and Christ. Biblical faith is embodied in a person, a Person with absolute and perfect integrity and faithfulness.

The definition of faith is, according to The Oxford Dictionary ‘A complete trust or confidence in someone or something.’ ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) ‘Do not see’ does not imply ‘blind’, that would be a gross misunderstanding of this passage and misconception of the Christian faith. Christian faith is based on evidence, the evidence in what we ‘see’ as we believe the person of God, followed by the actual seeing what He promised and be further evidence for future trust. The rest of the chapter Hebrews 11, gives a long list of people who believed God, had faith in Him, believed His promises but did not see it initially but then saw it fulfilled, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. In verse 12 the writer asks, ‘How much more do I need to say?’ and he carries on, Gideon Samson, David and more. This is the foundation of the Jewish religion and Christianity. The evidence that God fulfills His promises. That we will always see through trusting Him what we do not yet see as we trust His character, His integrity.

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” Saint Augustine many centuries ago. In other words that what you believe, based on the character of God, you will see fulfilled. In this life and the hereafter.

According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary: ‘blind faith is an unreasonable trust in somebody/something’s ability.’ The Oxford Dictionary second meaning of faith is: ‘a strong belief in the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.’ This is neither fides nor pistis. It is everything but what Christian faith is about. ‘Blind faith’ is baseless, without evidence, mere religious beliefs i.e., Muslim faith, Buddhism, Hinduism. Christian faith is a relationship with a Person that one trusts, based, and build on experience as evidence.

What is the evidence given for Christianity – for faith, to trust God?

  1. Biblical evidence: Christ’s evidence – the miracles: Luke 7, John 20, the Resurrection, historical evidence e.g., in Hebrews 11 – as has been discussed. Supported by accurate reliable documentation.
  2. Personal evidence – radically changed lives; The experience of the reality of a personal love relationship with God – the delight of knowing Him. To Know and Love God vs Being Religious

My own radically changed life. See Tertius Venter Interview ‘The radical change that took place in my heart was not from a rational decision but in response to an overwhelming Love that became rational’

(and multitudes of other Christians through the ages)

Former atheist Lee Strobel – see below

These radical changes have their foundations in and supported by historical, archeological, cosmological, philosophical, and moral evidence added to the evidence of rational argumentation with the coherence of the Bible, history, life, and the reality experienced in this world (unlike any world religion) See my YouTube Channel : A Time to Think

  1. The Biblical evidence. Christ continuously gave evidence in the miracles He did. And In Luke 7: 20-22 we read ‘When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to You to ask, ‘Are You the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” 22 … He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’ John 20: 30-31 ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.’ The ultimate evidence, the resurrection, for His divinity. See Facts about the Resurrection. The apostles’ evidence for what they believed and said was the miracles people saw in their lives, the explosive growth of the church. See The Reliability of the Biblical Account of the Life of Jesus. Christians to this day experience God’s presence, faithfulness to His promises, signs, wonders and miracles in their lives as evidence for the living Christ in their lives.

Every time one would encounter the word ‘faith’ in the Christian Bible it can be replaced with the words ‘absolute trust in the Person of God’.

‘Faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence’ John Lennox, professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and Fellow in mathematics and science philosophy, Green Templeton College.

  1. From a convinced atheist to a committed Christian, Lee Strobel, an award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and best-selling author of more than twenty books describes in his book The Journey of Lee Strobel, as a journalist and a lawyer by nature, his investigation of Christianity:

As an atheist, he thought that the idea of an all-knowing, almighty, all-present, all-loving God was an absurd idea. God was created by men to help man cope in this hopeless world. He had a skeptical mindset, in the newsroom where he worked, he always wanted two sources of information before publication.

He realized that he had no moral compass for life and lived a self-destructive and self-absorbed life. He lived for himself and became a drunk with doubtful moral behavior. He had no real understanding of right and wrong. Bertrand Russell, atheist, ‘If there is no God, there is no universal right and wrong’ He would destroy someone who got in his way, and it did not bother him. He felt enraged over his inability to find the ‘elusive’ happiness in life.

Then his wife became a Christian. She was an agnostic and was befriended by Christians and she came to know Christ.  Strobel’s response was ‘Don’t give money to the church, that’s all they want’ ‘Don’t ask me to go with you, I’m too smart for that’ Then he noticed the changes in his wife’s life, she became winsome and attractive, and he wanted to know what was behind that. He decided to go to church with her.  The pastor blew his misconceptions about Christianity. ‘All fall short to God’s standard. Does God feel far?’ Sure, he thought. ‘That can all change through Christ in a personal relationship with Him’ He was touched by the words but remained an atheist, a skeptic.

Strobel decided to investigate the credibility of Christianity and realized that if he would find it to be true, it would have huge implications for his life. But the truth was important. Was Christianity fact or fiction?

He decided to take his journalism and legal training and systematically investigate the credibility of Christianity.

He had eight important questions that he investigated over a 1 year and 9-month period.

  1. How many witnesses were there?
  2. Who wrote the Gospel accounts?
  3. Are the gospel accounts historical records?
  4. Is the idea of Christ as a deity just a legend?
  5. How can we trust the oral tradition to pass the facts?
  6. Would the disciples die for something they knew to be false?
  7. Did Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies?
  8. Did Jesus rise from the dead?
  9. “The number of witnesses that were there” – this is always the first question in journalism. He discovered that there were many witnesses to the events of the New Testament and some eyewitnesses took the time to record their experiences, gave good historical evidence of their experiences with Jesus. John, Matthew, Mark, James, Paul and Luke.
  10. “Who wrote the Gospel accounts?” He discovered that there was good historical evidence that the gospel accounts were actually written by the names they bear. He realized that the authors took pains to record only what they knew to be true. Luke was a first-century investigative reporter. See Luke 1:1-4. He investigated the events, spoke to many witnesses and wrote the accounts down in order. Peter said that they didn’t make up the stories, they were eyewitnesses. John wrote about what they had heard and seen and touched with their hands.
  11. “Are the gospel accounts historical records?” Strobel used his training from Yale to take a set of documents and apply legal tests of evidence to determine the credibility. He wasn’t ready to accept the writings as the inspired word of God but had to admit they were ancient historical records.
  12. “Is the idea of Christ as a deity just a legend?” He wondered if the oral transmission of the New Testament was distorted by legend and wishful thinking. Were the gospels written 60 to 100 years later and did they bear resemblance to the real Jesus? He soon realized that very early on Jesus was presented as divine. Matthew, Mark and Luke were written within 50 years of Jesus’s life. Paul’s letters within 16 to 20 years of Jesus’s life. Paul and Peter preserved early creeds which predate Paul’s writings, creeds that affirm Jesus in very exalted terms. Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, I Peter 3:22. I Cor 15:3- 7 is the creed of the early church that affirms the core of Christianity. This creed is dated by scholars as early as 2-5 years after Jesus’ life. Elements of the creed include eyewitnesses and testimony. Therefore, the references to the deity of Jesus were not developed by legends many years later. A.N. Sherman White (classical historian from Oxford): says that the development of legend takes more than 2 generations to wipe out the solid core of historical truth. Craig Blomberg: when you look at creeds and the early preaching in Acts, you see that within the first 2 years after Jesus’ death: a. significant numbers of Jesus’ followers formed a doctrine of the atonement b. they were convinced Jesus had risen from the dead c. they associated Jesus with God d. they believed they found support for these is the Old Testament. The German Historian in 1844 challenged any historian in history to find any case of legend growing up that quickly and wiping out a solid core of the historical proof
  13. “How can we trust the oral tradition to pass the facts?” Strobel realized the significance of the fact that the followers of Jesus were going around telling people about Jesus in the same time frame in which he lived. F.F. Bruce: “If there was any tendency by disciples to depart from material facts in any way, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would serve as a corrective.” How could Christianity take root in the very city where Jesus died and rose again? If the disciples were saying false things about Him, then the movement would have ended. In the historical record, the followers appealed to common knowledge that their audience had about Jesus: Peter’s message in Acts 2: “You know what He did and that He rose. You are all eyewitnesses!” Their response: they didn’t deny Peter; 3,000 people said to Peter, “What do we do? We know we put Messiah to death.” Then those 3,000 believed that day and the Church was born in Jerusalem.
  14. “Would the disciples die for something they knew to be false?” The disciples must really have believed because they were willing to die in support of the belief that Jesus really was the Son of God, who died on our behalf, and proved it by rising from the dead. But that’s not evidence: people all throughout history have been willing to die for religious beliefs. The DIFFERENCE: people will die for religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they are true, but never if they know they’re false. The apostles didn’t just believe the resurrection to be true; they knew it for a fact. They knew the truth and were willing to die for it.
  15. “Did Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies?” Five dozen prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Lewis Lapides, a Jewish scholar read Isaiah 53 and came to the conclusion that that is a picture of Jesus of Nazareth. He wondered if it was a forgery but then saw that the Jewish version of Isaiah 53 read exactly the same as the version used by Christians. He confirmed that Isaiah 53 was indeed about Jesus of Nazareth; became a Christian and the president of a network of 15 messianic congregations. Could anyone have fulfilled the prophecies? Was it easy? Peter Stoner of Westmont had 600 students try to come up with the odds that any human could fulfill just 8 of the prophecies (which was a very conservative consensus). The odds? One chance in a hundred million billion. What about fulfilling 48 prophecies? Luke 24:44—Jesus said that all written by the prophets must be fulfilled
  16. “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” Strobel realized he was not the first one trained in law to take evidence for the resurrection and investigate it. Sir Lionel Luckhoo, a most successful lawyer in history, a defense attorney who won 245 murder trials consecutively, was an atheist and took his monumental knowledge, skill and beliefs and investigated the resurrection for years, from legal tests of evidence. “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt” – Lionel Luckhoo. ‘Jesus died by crucifixion, was stabbed in the heart. Pronounced dead by experts. Placed in a sealed & guarded tomb. On Easter Sunday morning the body was gone. People proclaimed to their death they saw Jesus alive. The earliest writing says 500 people saw him at once. Jewish leaders wanted him dead, the Roman government wanted him to stay dead. The disciples weren’t going to take the body and then knowingly, willingly die for the lie – people don’t do that.’

Archaeology. Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts (acts of the apostle and the early church) corroborates incidental details in his writings that are confirmed by archaeology.  Why would he be careless about Jesus?

Lee Strobel’s investigations lasted 1 year 9 months and he wrote out on a legal pad all the evidence he gathered. He stated that against the huge avalanche of evidence it took more faith to maintain his atheism, he couldn’t. He was trained in journalism and law to respond to evidence and was convinced. He read John 1:12 ‘to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.’

Based on evidence his life was revolutionized. His 5-year-old daughter saw the changes in her daddy’s life – “I want God to do for me what He’s done for Daddy”

 

The Case for Christ: A Journalists Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus

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Time to Think. 6. Moral Relativism

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Morality without God. Relativism.

What kind of moral person would different moral viewpoints produce? Mother Theresa is an example of a good moral system or viewpoint and Hitler of a bad moral viewpoint. Everyone strives to be moral, hopefully. When accused of an immoral action, one would almost always offer reasons to defend the action and seldom denies the immoral principle underlying the action. ‘What you have said is a lie’ And one will defend the reason for the lie or deny that it was a lie though never the principle that to lie is immoral. We all have a deep sense of what is right, what is moral. But what are the implications and consequences if there is no objective moral standard, no transcended standard outside of us, no God? If an opinion exists that a blatant lie or blatant dishonesty, is sometimes bad and sometimes good?

What are the kinds of people one would expect moral relativism would produce? Both relativism and subjectivism claim that there is no universal truth or objective truth. In relativism, morality or truth exists in relation to culture, traditions, and society, while in subjectivism, morality or truth is subjective and personal. According to these views, things are true only in respect to the individual or set of individuals who holds them. Truth is relative to the subject. When we accept that ‘what is right for me is not necessarily right for you’ it would mean that people who don’t really care about others’ moral viewpoint as what is right for ‘me’ is what is important. It would produce people whose society marches to beat of each individual’s own drum, making one’s own moral rules. A sociopath is a person with no conscience, he freely changes his moral values – this is the fully expressed relativist. If it is all relative and if the decision that something is morally right or wrong depends on variables, on people, ideas, societies, all that change over time, we might find ourselves in a difficult situation, that no principles can be laid down or taught. We will find that we are in changing situations all the time and that morality becomes such a dynamically changing entity that it will crumble to nothing but individual taste i.e. Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, Stalin, cannibalism.

There are three types of moral relativism that attempt to justify relativism.

  1. “Society does relativism”e., cultural relativism or descriptive relativism

The claim: We used to think morality was objective, but that was before we encountered other cultures and their moral practices. Now we see that people do in fact differ morally across cultures. So, morality is just a function of culture.

Response: Even if this observation is true, then it still does not follow that no one is objectively correct. It is not so clear that there is such a wide diversity of morals. Instead, it could be a difference over the facts, not the values. Example: abortion. Pro-life and pro-choice both hold to value that we should not take the lives of innocent human persons. But they differ over who counts as a person. Some of the apparent differences between cultures are the differences in the facts as they see it. Observation only, is not a sound conclusion for relativism. It tells us about the culture and not about morality.

  1. “Society says relativism”

Claim: You ought to do what society says. You ought to do what your society says you should do. Right and wrong are society-directed. And cultural ideas are equally valid.

Replies: But then there can’t be an immoral society – each society has its own values, and you cannot critique another society from the outside – by what standard can you critique another society? And one cannot critique one’s own society. And by definition, there cannot be immoral laws, again by what standard? The example of the Nuremberg Trial and how the Nazis appealed to this idea – that there are no overarching moral truths by which we can judge another culture. They were following orders, what their societal structure demanded, but the international tribunal did not accept it. The Nazis were immoral. But on ‘society says relativism’ view, we could not have judged the Nazis. Yet, what they did was clearly immoral. Corrie Ten Boom would have been immoral, too, for going against the laws of her society at the time (i.e., when under Nazi rule). Yet, that conclusion is wildly counterintuitive. ‘Society says relativism’ reduces morality to what the law says and not to what is moral. Furthermore, you cannot critique your own society. If this type of relativism were true, then it would be immoral to go against your own society. And there cannot be any moral reformers, who by definition would be immoral going against society. Yet, this too seems clearly mistaken. There are by definition no immoral laws, it reduces what is moral to what is legal.

  1. “I say relativism”

This is individual ethical relativism. What is right for one person might not be right for another, the most radical form of relativism. Also known as subjectivism. But moral truths are known directly and immediately – you don’t come to a conclusion, you know it. Examples: murder is wrong, torturing babies for fun is wrong, etc. These are clear-cut examples of moral truths, and the burden of proof should be on the relativist who denies them.

There are seven fatal flaws in relativism. a. If morality is relative, then relativists can never say something is wrong i.e., in itself. They cannot claim something is intrinsically or objectively wrong for all people. b. Relativists cannot complain about the problem of evil. To be consistent, evil must be relative to individuals. c. Relativists cannot place blame or accept praise. We praise people like Mother Theresa for doing truly good things, not simply if she did what we happen to like. But on relativism, there is no objective goodness or badness. Praising or blaming another is to make a moral judgment. But, on this view, there is nothing for which to praise or blame another. Relativists cannot claim anything as unfair or unjust. These concepts are normative, too, and presuppose a universal standard. But they make no sense if morality is relative to individuals. e. Relativists cannot improve their own morality. Example of bowling: you can improve your bowling when you have a standard against which you can measure your performance. But here, there is no such standard, if relativism is true. Individuals can change their morality, but that does not solve this problem. f. Relativists cannot have meaningful moral discussions. – if you cannot improve your morality. If there is no such thing as a common good, then such discussions (e.g., in politics) are meaningless. g. Relativists cannot promote the obligation to be tolerant. Tolerance makes sense only if it is an objective moral truth. If there are no interpersonal moral obligations, then there is no basis to promote the virtue of tolerance.

The Consequence of Practicing Moral Relativism is a world in which nothing is wrong, evil or good for all people, nothing is worthy of praise or blame, there is no accountability, no meaningful moral discourse or improvement, a world with no moral tolerance. Nobody can live this way and nobody really does! But relativism is the most pervasive viewpoint. People can talk this way but cannot live it. One sees what peoples’ real moral intuitions are when their guard is not up. Example: The relativist cannot complain of injustice, but they do, ‘that’s not fair, that is my seat, I was here first.’ If people were to speak up against injustice, they deny relativism. But if they don’t speak up about injustice, then they deny their humanity.

But the relativist might still say you shouldn’t force your morality upon me. He is then, in fact, using morality to say this – his own moral standpoint. ‘Everyone should decide their own right/wrong – so I decide you are wrong! Reply: “Why not?” They will in turn push their morality upon you. The relativist cannot accept this in practice because they are human beings – if you speak against injustice, you deny relativism and if they don’t speak out, they deny their humanity.

If one would take his cellphone and walk away, he would immediately object which forces the relativist to see that she/he really holds to an objective standard. We do not want people to be relativists towards us. We want them to be virtues – show high moral standards. People often are relativists naively, or unreflectively. When they are wronged, they quickly become moral absolutists.

If relativism is true that none of the following prima facie bindings can always be true under ordinary circumstances: it is wrong to kill innocent people for no reason, or to torture people for fun, or to rape, that one should do justice and treat people equally, or obey just laws.

Relativism commits two fallacies. 1. Conventional ethical relativism cannot account for moral reformers, who stood up against culture. E.g., Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But in reality we think that they were doing right in their actions. 2. Relativism cannot account for moral progress. We tend to think that we have improved morally over time (e.g., we no longer permit slavery). But, if relativism is true, then we cannot get closer to getting better, as there is no such thing as better.

Relativism fails. It makes no sense and cannot overcome reality. Objective morals exist, but what is a moral law then? The moral law is not, e.g., something testable by science. But moral laws exist and implicate an objective moral lawgiver. See my talk on morality.

Credit to Greg Koukl, Biola University, California.

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Time to Think. 5. Morality. Because of God, or Not?

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What is morality? Where does it come from? How do we know what is right and wrong, and do we know the difference in what we have to do, and what we ought to do? Is there a standard outside of us to guide us, or does each individual, each culture, each society, decide on what is right and what is wrong? How does an amoral universe through non-moral processes end up with a moral framework? A serious question to the materialist.

The word morality comes from the Latin word, moralitas, literally meaning manner, character, or proper behavior. It is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are distinguished as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong).1

Everyone, including materialists, atheists, everyone, appeal to a moral standard. But is this moral standard objective, in other words, transcended, outside of our material brain, or is it subjective, that is, a product of an evolutionary progress within us, within our brains? What are the implications if it is not objective but subjective and no objective moral standard outside of the human brain exists? Would the moral arguments then be about preferences that are relative to multiple factors? Does objective morality make more sense than moral subjectivism and moral relativism? What are the implications if moral values are subjective and depend on personal, cultural, and/or societal opinion?

Atheist and founder of The Skeptics Society Michael Schirmer explains objective moral values; ‘Just ask the question to the person, the victim, involved. Do you want pain? Do you want to be a slave? Do you want to be sexually abused?  Do you want to be lied to? ‘No’ – that is what is morally right. Do you want to be saved when drowning? ‘Yes’ – that is what is morally right.’ However, it still depends on an individual’s opinion, still subjective and not universally right or wrong. On the question ‘Do you want pain?’, different answers might be possible ‘Will it make me a better person?’ ‘Will I have a better understanding of the world?’ ‘Will it benefit others more than me?’ ‘Yes’, might depend on the possible meaning or purpose of the pain’. If it is untrue in one area of moral questions, then it is not universally true and cannot be objective but still subjective to an opinion.   

It is important to bear in mind that the moral argument pertains to the ultimate source of objective moral values and duties (moral ontology; ontology the study of “being,” i.e., what it means for something to “be” or “exist.”) and not how we know what is moral or immoral (moral epistemology) and not ‘what we mean’ by good/bad or right/wrong (moral semantics). The theistic ethicist maintains that moral values are grounded in the character and nature of God. In other words that objective morality exists in God’s existence – moral ontology.

Objective morality implicates a moral standard outside of us and that implicates a transcendent lawgiver.   One can be good, moral, without believing in God, but not without God. How come? If there is no God, there is no basis for objective good or bad, right or wrong, it is just an opinion. Atheists can be moral but cannot justify their morality as there is no standard to measure right and wrong for the atheist. Right and wrong are subjective being determined by individual feelings and opinions. Even cultural and societal opinion is reduced to human opinion. But then whose opinion; Mother Theresa’s of Hitler’s opinion? If one would argue that a culture or society determines its own moral values consider a religious movement that believes and accepts that female circumcision is justifiable and the proper thing to do in their society, does that make it right? We all have a sense of right and wrong and a person does not have to believe in God to be a good person. This is more of an objection of epistemology, or how we know something. The atheist can know morality, it is written on all hearts, or in our genes if you will, but the atheist cannot justify or provide logical grounds for it.

C.S. Lewis ‘A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.’ We need a straight line, an objective reference point. God’s nature provides that objective reference point for moral values, the standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. It is not what God says is good that makes something good or because of what He wills, but because He is good. Good is what conforms to His nature, to His character, to who and what He is. And if the atheist would claim that God is not good, immoral, for, for example, demanding the ‘genocide of the Canaanites’ I would refer to Five questions every Christian should be able to answer | @Alisa Childers – question 2, at 2:18 – 3:30

Philosopher William Lane Craig puts it this way: “Duty arises in response to an imperative from a competent authority. For example, if some random persons were to tell me to pull my car over, I would have absolutely no legal obligation to do so. But if a policeman were to issue such a command, I’d have a legal obligation to obey. The difference in the two cases lies in the persons who issued the commands: one is qualified to do so, while the other is not.” In other words, God’s standard versus human opinion.

With no God, there is no reference point of perfection, and we are left with one person’s viewpoint against another, that ‘random person who tried to pull me over’, which is no more valid than anyone else’s viewpoint, a morality that is subjective, and not objective. William Lane Craig puts it this way: It’s like a preference for strawberry ice cream, the preferences in the subject, not the object. So, it doesn’t apply to other people. In the same way, subjective morality applies only to the subject, it’s not valid or binding for anyone else and there can be no evil and no good – it is just an opinion. But if there is something like an absolute ‘right’ we could reasonably expect that there should be an absolute wrong. So, for right and wrong to exist there must be something ‘right’, something perfectly right, that we can use as a standard to measure right and wrong against.  God has expressed His moral nature to us as commands, the basis for moral duties. Something is not good just because God ‘wills’ it, or God ‘wills’ something because it is good. God ‘wills’ something because He is good. Moral action conforms to God’s nature and the more it conforms to His nature, the better it is. If atheism is true, there is no ultimate standard and there can be no moral obligations or duties. According to atheism humans are just accidents of nature, highly evolved animals but animals have no moral obligations to one another. When a cat kills a mouse, it hasn’t done anything morally wrong. If God doesn’t exist, we should view human behavior in the same way. No action should be considered morally right or wrong.

This is a major difference between man and animal. An animal cannot think about his thoughts, cannot be introspective. And if a being cannot think about its thoughts, it cannot be held responsible for moral or immoral thoughts and actions. Animals cannot be moral or immoral. Humans have thoughts and can think, ponder, these thoughts and experience guilt and other moral feelings whilst thinking about the thoughts or actions. And therefore, can be held morally responsible. But to what standard? And the question, ‘what is it that is good and what is it that is wrong’ if only relative to opinion? Is it real?

The problem is that good and bad, right and wrong do exist. Just as our sense experiences convince us that the physical world is objectively real, our immoral experiences convince us that moral values are objectively real. Each one of us makes moral judgments and decisions every day, ranging from opening the door for someone to helping someone who just got in a car wreck. Every time you say ‘hey that’s not fair, that’s wrong, that’s an injustice’ you affirm you believe in the existence of objective morals and call upon these standards. We know child abuse, racial discrimination, and terrorism are wrong for everybody, always. Is this just a personal preference, just an opinion? No, a man who says it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says 2 + 2 = 5. Moral intuition naturally rises to the surface when allowed to, when subjective feelings are overridden by emotions.

Objective morality means that moral statements like “murder is bad” are independent of the person saying it. Objective morality means that there is a standard of morality that transcends human opinions and judgments.  Like mathematics. What your opinion is on 4+6=10 is irrelevant to the fact; it is also irrelevant of human thoughts about it is. It exists outside of the human brain. It would still be true even if there were no humans. Morals are not invented, they are discovered. Like mathematics.

What this all amounts to then, is a moral argument for the existence of God. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist, but objective moral values and duties do exist, therefore God exists. Atheism fails to provide the foundation for the moral reality every one of us experiences every day.

Humans, being shaped in the image of God, have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. It is not at all clear how the atheist, except at the expense of moral realism, can maintain an objective standard of ethics without such a being as God as his ontological foundation.

Recognition to Willian Lane Graig for many of the ideas expressed in this video.

My next discussion will be on subjective morality, relativism, and the implication of such a view.

 

  1. Long, A. A.; Sedley, D. N. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers: Translations of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 366–67. ISBN 978-0521275569.
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