Do We Really Live In A “Post-Truth” World?

It’s official. The 2016 word of the year is “post-truth.” Last year it was an emoji. In 2014 the word was “vape.” And in 2013 it was “selfie.”

With the truth twisting, emotional appeals, and personal attacks that characterized this past election season, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as the word for 2016. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Post Truth

Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. While modern technology and social media certainly contribute to the phenomena of emphasizing style over substance—just read Amusing Ourselves to Deathtwo thoughts stood out to me when I first heard that “post-truth” was the word of the year.

First, the idea of changing, avoiding, or moving beyond truth is not new. Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, there was no standard the people were accountable to, and so they decided for themselves what they believed was true. No doubt they followed their experience and feelings to determine what was right. And by doing so, they demonstrated a universal human proclivity—the denial of truth. Humans always have, and always will, find ways to avoid truth.

Second, we don’t really live in a post-truth world. In fact, a post-truth world is impossible. Not too long ago I was speaking at a youth event. Afterwards, a student came up to me and said, “You talked about truth a lot. What’s the big deal? Why is truth even important?” I looked at him and simply asked, “Do you want the true answer or the false answer?” He clearly valued truth, even though he didn’t realize it. The same is true for all of us.

We make daily decisions based on what we think is true—waking up at the right time, taking the correct medications, and choosing the right directions to get to work. Truth is inescapable.

Trying to ultimately deny truth is like pushing a beach ball under water. Push it down on one side, but then it pops up the other. Each time you push it down it comes back up. Its nature is to float to the surface, even when we try to submerge it.

Truth is the same way. We may live in a “post-truth” world, in which people make choices based on emotion and experience rather than objective fact, but the reality is, truth simply won’t disappear. Truth will keep popping to the surface and reminding us that it’s important.

Deep inside the human heart is the knowledge that we need truth to live a meaningful life. We know that truth matters. In fact, that’s why we’re so quick to correct those we feel are mistaken. We may choose experience and emotion over truth, but deep inside the human heart is an awareness that we should follow and believe what is true.

Let me know if you think I got something wrong in this post. But just realize that if you do, you’re making my point for me—Truth really does matter. And we ought to get our facts right, even if Oxford dubs “post-truth” the word of the year.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


Resources for Greater Impact

IDHEFTBAA laying down book

I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to be an ATHEIST (paperback)

Is Science the Sole Means of Knowing Truth? No Chance.

Modern culture esteems science as the preeminent means of understanding the world. If something cannot be established by science, then, according to many, it is either unknowable or simply a matter of personal faith.

While science is an undeniably important means of discovering truths about our world, and it has contributed greatly to human flourishing, it is unwarranted to claim that it’s the sole—or even the best—means of knowing truth.

In his excellent book, The Experience of God, philosopher David Bentley Hart provides a penetrating response to the claim that science is the sole means of knowing truth:

Quite a few otherwise intelligent men and women take it as established principle that we can know as true only what can be verified by empirical method of experimentation and observation. This is, for one thing, a notoriously self-refuting claim, inasmuch as it cannot itself be demonstrated to be true by any application of empirical method.

More to the point, though, it is transparent nonsense: most of the things we know to be true, often quite indubitably, do not fall within the realm of what can be tested by empirical methods; they are by their nature episodic, experiential, local, personal, intuitive, or purely logical. The sciences concern certain facts as organized by certain theories, and certain theories as constrained by certain facts; they accumulate evidence and enucleate hypotheses within very strictly limited paradigms; but they do not provide proofs of where reality begins or ends, or of what the dimensions of truth are. They cannot even establish their own working premises—the real existence of the phenomenal world, the power of the human intellect accurately to reflect that reality, the perfect lawfulness of nature, its mathematical regularity, and so forth—and should not seek to do so, but should confine themselves to the truths to which their methods give them access.

They should also recognize what the boundaries of the scientific rescript are. There are, in fact, truths of reason that are far surer than even the most amply supported findings of empirical science because such truths are not, as those findings must always be, susceptible of later theoretical revision; and then there are truths of mathematics that are subject to proof in the most proper sense and so are more irrefutable still. And there is no single discourse of truth as such, no single path to the knowledge of reality, no single method that can exhaustively define what knowledge is, no useful answer whose range has not been limited in advance by the kinds of questions that prompted them.

The failure to realize this can lead only to the delusions of the kind expressed in, for example, G.G. Simpson’s self-parodying assertion that all attempts to define the meaning of life or the nature of humanity made before 1859 are not entirely worthless, or in Peter Atkin’s ebulliently absurd claims that modern science can “deal with every aspect of existence” and that it has never in fact “encountered a barrier.” Not only do sentiments of this sort verge upon the deranged, they are nothing less than violent assaults upon the truth dignity of science.

Science is an unbelievably value means of knowing the world. We should never downplay its significance. But, as Hart points out, we should avoid the temptation to overplay its significance as well.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact:

Why Assumptions Can Be Hazardous to the Truth of Christianity

The producers of God’s Not Dead 2, asked me to play a small role in the film, testifying as an expert witness in a civil trial. I was happy to defend the historicity of Jesus and the eyewitness reliability of the Gospels, but I know my efforts sometimes fall on deaf ears. The evidential strength of my case is usually dependent on the pre-existing biases of my audience. If my hearers hold a philosophical presupposition that prevents them from hearing (or fairly evaluating) what I have to say, the truth will elude them. Assumptions can be hazardous to the truth of Christianity.

I began to understand the hazard of philosophical presuppositions while working as a homicide detective. In Cold-Case Christianity, the book featured in my scene in God’s Not Dead 2, I describe a murder scene I investigated with my partner, Alan Jeffries. The murder appeared on the surface to be a domestic violence crime. Alan and I stood inside the yellow tape, doing our best to answer the question “Who murdered the victim?” But, one of us already had an answer. According to Alan, spouses or lovers typically commit murders like this; case closed. We simply needed to find this woman’s husband or lover. It was as if we were asking the question: “Did her husband kill her?” after first excluding any suspect other than her husband. It’s not surprising that Alan came to his conclusion; he started with it as his premise. As it turned out, Alan was wrong this time. Our killer was an unrelated neighbor. Alan’s assumption prevented him from evaluating the evidence fairly and nearly derailed our investigation.

When I was an atheist, I did the very same thing. I stood in front of the evidence for God, interested in answering the question “Does God exist?” But I began the investigation as a naturalist with the presupposition that nothing exists beyond natural laws, forces, and material objects. I was asking the question “Does a supernatural being exist?” after first excluding the possibility of anything supernatural. Like Alan, I came to a particular conclusion because I started with it as my premise. This is the truest definition of bias, isn’t it? Starting off with your mind already made up.

It’s possible to have a prior opinion yet leave this presupposition at the door in order to examine the evidence fairly. We ask jurors to do this all the time. In the state of California, jurors are repeatedly instructed to “keep an open mind throughout the trial” and not to “let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision.” The courts assume that people have biases, hold sympathies and prejudices, and are aware of public opinion. In spite of this, jurors are required to “keep an open mind.” Jurors have to enter the courtroom with empty hands; they must leave all their baggage in the hall. Everyone begins with a collection of biases. We must (to the best of our ability) resist the temptation to allow our biases to eliminate certain forms of evidence (and therefore certain conclusions) before we even begin the investigation.

As a skeptic, I was slow to accept even the slightest possibility that miracles were possible. My commitment to naturalism prevented me from considering such nonsense. But after my experience with presuppositions at the crime scene, I decided that I needed to be fair with my naturalistic inclinations. I couldn’t begin with my conclusion, and if the evidence pointed to the reasonable existence of God, this certainly opened up the possibility of the miraculous. If God did exist, He was the creator of everything we see in the universe. He, therefore, created matter from nonmatter, life from nonlife; He created all time and space. God’s creation of the universe would certainly be nothing short of … miraculous. If there was a God who could account for the beginning of the universe, lesser miracles (say, walking on water or healing the blind) might not even be all that impressive. If I was going to learn the truth about the existence of a miraculous God, I needed to at least lay down my presuppositions about the miraculous. My experience at crime scenes has helped me to do just that. This doesn’t mean that I now rush to supernatural explanations every time I fail to find an easy or quick natural explanation. It simply means that I am open to following the evidence wherever it leads, even if it points to the existence of a miraculous designer. (This article has been excerpted from Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. For more information, refer to Chapter 1: Don’t Be a “Know-It-All”).

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. He appears in God’s Not Dead 2 as an expert witness, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament.

Logic Is Bedrock

By Tim Stratton

All philosophical conversation, scientific hypotheses, mathematics, and conclusions based on the historical method entail the reality of logical laws. It would be impossible to engage in any of these disciplines if there were not logical absolutes providing parameters to help us reach conclusions that follow from given premises. Here are three fundamental Laws of Logic that are always required in rational interaction:

The Law of Identity:
 Something is what it is. ‘A’ is ‘A’. Things that exist have specific properties that identify them

The Law of Non-Contradiction: ‘A’ cannot be both ‘A’ and ‘Non-A’ at the same time, in the same way, and in the same sense

The Law of Excluded Middle:
 A statement is either true or false. There is no middle position. For example, the claim that “A statement is either true or false” is either true or false.

You may have never heard of the laws of logic before; however, you use them every day whether you realize it or not. These laws are just as necessary to keep us grounded in rationality as the law of gravity is necessary to keep us grounded on the earth. Logical laws apply to everyone no matter when or where one lives. That is to say, the laws of logic transcend humanity and are objectively true.

Logical laws are not material substances. We do not discover them by digging them up or viewing them under a microscope. We cannot employ the scientific method to discover the laws of logic; rather, a scientist must assume the laws of logic before engaging in the scientific method. These laws are the bedrock of reason and rationality.

Christian theism makes this point stronger. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Logos.” The Greek word “logos” is used synonymously with Jesus in the text. What is interesting is that logos in Greek means “the principle of reason.”[1] This is where we get the term “logic.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is God and suggests that he is the ground of logic itself. This makes perfect sense as to why the immaterial laws of logic impose themselves on the material world. God created the material world according to the logical laws he had in mind or that are grounded in his essence and nature. This explains why these abstract laws of logic impose themselves upon the material world.

Just as computers function correctly when programmed to work according to the laws of logic, humans behave correctly (in an objective sense) when approximating to “The Logos.” When humans freely choose to think and behave logically, we simultaneously think and behave in a godly manner. Isaiah seems to agree: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18). The Apostle Paul makes this point even stronger in the New Testament: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone…” (Philippians 4:5 ESV).

Stay reasonable my friends,

Tim Stratton

Click here to visit the source site of this article.


 

NOTES

[1] The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version, 2008, Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers (Commentary on John 1:1)

 

Doubt: A Splinter In The Mind

Beyond surpassing wonder about God or mere inquiry about Him and His truth, doubt digs much deeper. Doubt doesn’t just ask, “What is real?” It poses the challenge, “Is my faith real?” Is what I believe really valid? Or is it simply a modified myth, an uber-marketed religious fairy tale supported by millions of gullible minds throughout history?

Doubt trumps wondering, and it body-slams mere curiosity. In its worst form, it goes beyond simply searching for answers to questions, inevitably denying the legitimacy of the questions themselves.

FREE “Doubting Toward Faith” Chapter – Click here to DOWNLOAD NOW!

For Christians, doubt can either serve us or sink us. It can drive us to seek truth or it can drown us in despair, hopelessness, and confusion. If ignored or left unchecked, it can bore into our brain, releasing a virus of unbelief, infecting and eventually destroying every healthy thought about God. It can take us to the place where nothing else matters. Where we find ourselves loathing even life itself.

If left unchecked, intellectual doubt metastasizes, seeping its way into our emotions and collecting a wide array of fears, worries, anxieties, anger, confusion, depression, and ultimately despair at the thought of being played or duped or envisioning a life without our once “cherished belief” in God.

Horrifying so, doubt is no stranger to our time. And capturing the zeitgeist of our changing times is quite the project. We live in a multi-textured culture that is replete with innumerable beliefs, opinions, ideas, and life philosophies. Ours is a culture of doubt and longing, faith and questioning, searching and probing. And much of the doubt has been accelerated by fast-paced change. Our culture is living between the tension of what we once were and what we are now becoming. And for many, waiting in the blank space between the definition of what we were and the search to define what we are becoming feels for the moment confusing, and even a bit uncomfortable.

Echoing this angst, Os Guinness writes, “We live in an age of doubt, disillusion and disaffiliation, which naturally prizes what has been described as ‘the faith that you go to when you don’t know where to go.”[i] Both our pluralistic and secularized culture has produced a fragilized-self as it pertains to doubt.[ii] We’ve shifted from Christianity to Anyanity (pluralism) or Noanity (atheism).

Belief isn’t nearly as comfortable and cozy as it once seemed. There’s an irritant to it; like a pebble in a shoe, these competing beliefs have made the faith walk a little less comfortable. Today, record numbers of those who once professed faith in Christ are walking away from the church, even limping, in the name of doubt.

Such torturous doubt splits the mind. And contrary to popular belief, intellectual doubt is not the opposite of faith; unbelief is. Doubt is in between, seesawing and dangling in the middle.

Yet, make no mistake. Doubt never stays put. It’s not neutral.

It makes up its mind.

It’s directional.

It’s going somewhere.

This means a person will either doubt toward unbelief or they will doubt toward faith. You’ll waver one way or another. But thankfully God can discern the nature of our doubts. There’s skeptical doubt and sincere doubt. There is antagonistic doubt and authentic doubt. And the difference between them is worlds apart. Those who hold to the latter want their doubts solved so they can go forward with God, while the former want their doubts confirmed so they can move beyond God.

Next time you find yourself experiencing a bout with doubt, or the angst of a splintered mind let me encourage you to doubt toward faith. And I’m not talking about an empty existential faith that takes a leap into the darkness, but rather a bona fide trusting faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. Yes, next time you doubt.

Doubt.

Toward.

Jesus!


 

[i] Os Guinness, Renaissance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 25.

[ii] Philosopher James K.A. Smith describes fragilization as follows, “In the face of different options, where people who lead ‘normal’ lives do not share my faith (and perhaps believe something different), my own faith commitment becomes fragile—put into question, dubitable.” How (Not) To Be Secular (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 141.

[iii] Adapted from: DOUBTING TOWARD FAITH

Copyright © 2015 Bobby Conway

Published by Harvest House Publishers

Eugene, Oregon

www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Used by Permission.

 

Is Christianity Intolerant?

The Easter season often ushers in a period of cultural skepticism and criticism of all things “Christian”. At times like this, the issue of religious “tolerance” is sometimes raised and examined. Christians are often called intolerant, especially when examined under a new definition of tolerance that has emerged in our culture. How should we respond when people call us “intolerant” simply because we refuse to embrace a particular value or behavior?

FIRST: Help People Understand “Classic” Tolerance
YourDictionary.com says that tolerance is “a tolerating or being tolerant, esp. of views, beliefs, practices, etc. of others that differ from one’s own”. And when asked what it is to tolerate something, the same source says that we ‘tolerate’ someone when we “recognize and respect (others’ beliefs, practices, etc.) without sharing them”. TheFreeDictionary.com says that ‘tolerating’ is “to put up with” or “endure” something.

Now did you notice something here? In order for ‘tolerance’ to exist and to be demonstrated, several things are required. Let’s take a look at the list of pre-requisites for ‘tolerance’:

1. Two or more people must exist
2. These folks must hold divergent views, beliefs or practices. In other words, they must DISAGREE.
3. These same folks must endure one another. In other words, they cannot eliminate each other even though they don’t embrace each other’s beliefs, but must instead find a way to peacefully co-exist.

You see, ‘tolerance’, under this classic view, requires a disagreement. Without the disagreement, ‘tolerance’ is not even possible. Now let’s take a look at a new accepted view of tolerance that has emerged in our relativistic culture.

NEXT: Help People See How The Definition of Tolerance Has Been Corrupted
Websters-Online-Dictionary.com begins to hint at the subtle shift in definition when it describes ‘tolerance’ as “a disposition to allow freedom of choice and behavior.” In its ‘Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance’, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines ‘tolerance’ as “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”

Notice the shift? The concept (and the actual word) ‘acceptance’ has been added to the definition in a way that subtly transforms the classic definition. This view promotes not that we must ‘endure’ each other in the context of our disagreements, but that we must ‘accept’ and embrace each other’s worldview as equally valuable and equally true. This current definition of ‘tolerance’ could be stated in the following way:

Tolerance: “The act of recognizing and accepting the equal validity and value of all views, beliefs and actions.”

FINALLY: Help People See the Self-Defeating Nature of the New Definition
This new definition of ‘tolerance’ cannot live up to its own standard. What if I hold (and practice) the belief that ‘all views, beliefs and actions are NOT equally valid and valuable’? Could the new, corrupted definition of ‘tolerance’ tolerate my position? No, clearly my position would be the one position that would have to be abolished in order for the new, corrupted definition of ‘tolerance’ to be true. But rejecting my view entirely would simultaneously reject the new definition itself. You see, this corrupted view of tolerance simply cannot stand up under the weight of its own standard. The world presently embraces a view of ‘tolerance’ that is illogical, unsustainable and self-refuting.

It’s our job to help people think clearly about the issue of tolerance, even as we continue to love and tolerate their opposing views (I mean that in the ‘classic’ sense of tolerance!)

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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Jesus on Trial by David Limbaugh

When David Limbaugh let his friend Steve know that he had doubts about Christianity, he was surprised by Steve’s response. Instead of a blast of arrogant judgmentalism, Steve responded like a Christian should—with grace and evidence. What has happened since that time is told in Limbaugh’s excellent new book, Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. Limbaugh artfully tells his journey from skepticism about Christ to skepticism about skepticism and ultimately to trust in Christ.

David is a lawyer, but he doesn’t write like a lawyer. While he’s intellectually precise, he writes as if he’s sitting across the table from you, anticipating your questions and objections. This is rare for a book of Christian evidences (often called Christian apologetics). Such books often read like technical manuals, but not Jesus on Trial. Limbaugh not only does a masterful job of highlighting the abundant evidence that supports Christianity, his insights into what the scriptures actually say will have you marveling at the tapestry of scripture and the Savior who wove it.

From the very beginning, Limbaugh bares his soul, holding nothing back about how his previous doubts were shielded by an embarrassing lack of knowledge. He writes, “I knew, after all, that I hadn’t really given the Bible itself a hearing, much less a fair one. To my surprise— and this is embarrassing to admit—Steve showed me how verses of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, were tied to others in content and theme with remarkable frequency. Amazingly, I had never looked at a reference Bible before, and I was blown away. My ignorance was on display, but Steve wasn’t remotely judgmental— to help me learn more, he even gave me that Bible. I was genuinely intrigued to discover that the Bible was not simply a mishmash of stories, allegories, alleged historical events, and moral lessons. There was obviously a pattern here, and for the first time in my life the Bible appeared to me to be thematically integrated. The scales on my eyes started peeling away.”

His two chapters called “Aha Moments” reveal the numerous tipping points in Limbaugh’s journey where scale after scale fell away—tipping points that no honest seeker of truth can ignore.   Of course, as Limbaugh admits, many who are not interested in truth, or have their own agenda, ignore or remake Christ in their own image.

He writes, “We must not casually remake Jesus in the image in which we prefer to see Him or which conforms to the popular culture’s misperceptions about Him. Our politically correct culture may, presumptuously, choose to recast Jesus as indifferent to sin and saccharine sweet, no matter the circumstances, but this Jesus is God, and God cannot look upon sin. What do these revisionists make of the Jesus Who made a whip of cords and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple (John 2: 15)? … What do the revisionists say about the Jesus Whom Paul describes as “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus ” (2 Thess. 1: 7– 8)? What of the difficult moral standard Jesus laid down in the Sermon on the Mount? Did He show indifference to sin there?” Limbaugh rightfully concludes: “This idea that Jesus is meek, mild, indifferent, and non-judgmental is the stuff of pure myth.”

In addition to correcting the culture’s emasculated view of Christ, Limbaugh has two fantastic chapters tackling the paradoxes of Christianity. These include: God’s plan of salvation, including the relationship between grace and works; the acknowledgement that we are sinful yet commanded to be perfect; the Trinity, that God is one in essence yet three in persons; that Jesus has two natures, human and divine; that you must give up your life to find it; that Christians are strong when they are weak; that God is sovereign yet humans have free will; that God knows all and is unchangeable, yet we are to pray; that the Bible is inspired yet written by men; and many others. The insights Limbaugh brings to these paradoxes are some of his own, and the best nuggets mined from Christian scholarship that I doubt you’ll find in one place anywhere else.

Limbaugh devotes several chapters to the evidence for the Bible, including its unity and reliability as evidenced through history, archaeology, prophecy and science. He debunks several myths and misunderstandings along the way, and then saves his final chapter for what many think is the atheist’s trump card against God: Evil.

Many years ago David provided me an “Aha Moment” during one of our very many theological discussions. He said, “Evil really bothers me, but only Christianity has a sensible answer to it.” There’s no question he’s correct. We wouldn’t even know what evil was unless good existed, and real objective good could only exist if God exists. As David explains, evil turns out to be a backhanded argument for God. In fact, evil is the very reason God entered human history in the person of Christ. Only his sacrifice can solve the evil in my heart and yours.

David puts it this way: “Don’t be offended by the notion that you must have saving faith in Christ. Don’t assume that God is making you jump through unnecessary hoops. He is the One Who suffered for you. He did this so that you could live. He doesn’t ask you to believe because He is on a divine ego trip, but because He loves you and wants you to latch on to Him in order to be saved from your sins.”

I just can’t recommend Jesus on Trial highly enough. Every thinking person should investigate the claims of Christ, who is unarguably the most influential human being to ever walk the earth. If his claims are true (and Limbaugh shows they are), then we won’t be putting him on trial—he will be putting each of us on trial. Only Christ can secure you a favorable verdict.

David Limbaugh will join cold case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace as a speaker at the CrossExamined donor banquet on October 9, 2014 at the Big Chill in Charlotte, North Carolina.  For details on attending, email Gil@CrossExamined.org.

What Criminal Trials Teach Us About Objective Moral Truth

I’ve been involved in numerous criminal trials over the years, most involving cold-case murderers. In many of these cases, the outcome was influenced (in large part) by activity outside the presence of the jury. There are legal rules both sides must follow when conducting the prosecution and defense. Sometimes these rules allow one side to take advantage of the other in subtle, yet powerful ways. If a rule allows one attorney to benefit strategically (while staying within the applicable legal restrictions) most lawyers will capitalize on this opportunity to gain an advantage (so long as they are within their legal right to do so). Here, as in every part of our society, there is an important distinction between legality and morality; between what is legally permissible and what is morally virtuous. This distinction highlights God’s role in the existence of objective moral truth, as it exposes the inability of culture to provide an objective, transcendent moral law.

I think there are good reasons to believe objective moral truth exists; it is a self-evident reality of our world if we stop to think about it. It’s never morally acceptable, for example, to torture babies for the fun of it. But how do we account for such moral truths? Are they embedded in our DNA or a product of evolution? Are they the result of societal development or cultural progress? Both of these explanations seem deficient. If moral truth is created by our culture, what is legally permissible in a society should be synonymous with what is morally permissible. If moral truths are the result of proclamations made by the government in a representative republic, our law reflects (at least in theory) the majority opinion and moral progress of our culture. In other words, our laws define moral truth by legal consensus. But most of us would agree laws such as these are (and have been) inadequate in determining moral truth.

Adultery, for example, is legally permissible in our country yet morally reprehensible. In addition, most of us have learned how to manipulate certain laws or societal rules to our advantage; we are more than willing to find a loophole in the tax law, for example, if it will help us avoid paying our share of taxes. Our legal system may adequately describe what our laws are, but they are inadequate in prescribing what our moral truths ought to be. There’s distinction between legal truths (held by individual governments or societies) and moral truths (transcending all humanity). That’s why we identify certain behaviors in criminal trials as legally permissible, even if they are ethically questionable. That’s why we recognize the difference between the legal status of adultery and the moral status of adultery.

Most cultures describe themselves as morally virtuous even when engaged in morally reprehensible behavior. Hitler, for example, would most certainly have described himself (and the society he led) as morally upright. If history is any guide, humans cannot be trusted to define objective moral truth; we typically favor our own desires over others. Organizations like the United Nations exist (in part) to monitor the behavior of nations who believe their decisions about legal truths are sufficient to form realities about moral truth. When a nation readily embraces a morally unacceptable policy or behavior, the United Nations does what it can to correct the situation. But to what moral authority are they appealing? Is it simply to the majority? Does majority consensus make something morally acceptable? We should hope not, because there are times when the world’s largest nations are the target of our concerns about inappropriate behavior. If “might makes right,” we have good reason to be concerned.

The laws of our individual countries may reflect moral truth, but they don’t define moral truth. Humans are decent describers, but are historically inept prescribers. Our local, regional or national laws are designed to enforce transcendent moral truths recognized across the spectrum of human experience. Our societal laws may describe what is legally true, but they don’t prescribe what is transcendently virtuous. If this were the case, adultery would be a virtue rather than a vice.

In the numerous trials I’ve been involved with over the years, I’ve heard attorneys complain about the tactics used by the other side, even when the opposition was well within their legal right to do what they did. These trials expose the difference between legality and morality. Cultures and governments can dictate and describe what is legal related to each society, but transcendent moral truths must be grounded in what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once described the “law above the law”. Transcendent moral truths require a transcendent moral truth Giver. God alone transcends every culture and people group. As a result, God is the most reasonable explanation for the transcendent source of objective moral truth.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity.

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Why Indiana Jones is a Cool Archaeologist, but a Horrible Philosopher

In the third installment of the Indiana Jones movie series, The Last Crusade, “Indy” goes to the chalkboard in his tweed jacket and writes down the word “FACT” and underlines it. Then he says to his eager listening students:

Archaeology is the search for fact not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

"Indy" in the classroom.

“Indy” in the classroom.

Unbeknownst to most people, “Indy” was summarizing a philosophical outlook, not an archaeological one! That outlook, reaches all the way back to the 18th Century and the European Enlightenment from a German philosopher named, Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

Kant was responsible for the radical separation of facts from truth (or values).[1] The question is, is “Indy” right? Was Kant right? Should ‘facts’ be divorced from truth? Are the two mutually exclusive? Is truth merely from someone’s perspective? How should truth be defined? Furthermore, why does this even matter? It matters because ideas have consequences! Truth by its very nature is absolute and unbreakable. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.

If Bible believing Christians adopt the philosophical viewpoint of Kant and “Indy,” it would have devastating consequences on their faith. It is, however, is the viewpoint of Israeli archaeologist Amon Ben Tor. Ben Tor is representative of most archaeologists working in Israel and the Levant, and articulates a view of facts and values that is in directly line with Immanuel Kant [& Dr. Jones].

 This intense urge to prove the Bible cannot affect the pious believer. For such a person, the scriptures contain their own truth and need not be criticized or proven. This need is prevalent, in what must be construed as an irrational manner, among large sections of the secular public, which find it important that the archaeologists prove that all the events in the Bible did indeed occur and that all the figures mentioned and the episodes described are entirely consistent with reality. There is in this demand a violation of archaeological integrity and an attempt to impose upon archaeology unattainable objectives that is the proof of faith.[2]

Ben Tor states that the Scriptures “contain their own truth,” as if there were a separation between what the Bible says, and the facts of reality. When Ben-Tor, and other scholars make statements of skepticism towards the Bible, it is not a conclusion from archaeology, rather it is an outworking of an underlying philosophy and world-view to which they adhere.

Not every statement by an archaeologist or historian is a statement of archaeology or history.

The judgments by Ben Tor are philosophical in nature. The particular philosophical viewpoint he articulates actually has a name, and it is called fideism. Fideism is the belief that faith, by itself apart from any evidence, is what is most important for the Christian.

Sadly, many Christians today have adopted this definition of faith which is actually not Biblical at all. All too often when young people have questions about their faith or the Bible, they are told by their parents, “Just believe!” or “Just have faith!” When these same young people get to college and they are challenged by their atheistic professors, they have no answers. What are they to place their faith in? What are the reasons for their faith? The writer of Hebrews states: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[3] Faith is not blind, it has an object, and faith is only as good as its object.

F.F. Bruce strongly reinforces this point in his great little book, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers. True, they called Christianity ‘The Way’ and ‘The Life’; but Christianity as a way of life depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world’s redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.[4]

The object of our faith is the real, historical person of Jesus Christ, and the historical reality [the truth] of His resurrection, mitigated to us through a historical document called the Bible.

Indiana Jones may have separated facts from truth, but the Bible does not. If there was not a historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead then our preaching is useless and our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-17).

 

[1] See Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillian, 1929). The terms that Kant used were the ‘phenomena’ and the ‘noumena.’ He believed that the only true knowledge that we have access to, is the ‘noumena’ or what he called the ‘noumenal world’ which exists only in our minds. The phenomena (or things as they are) are separated in our minds by a great “gulf,” hence the “fact-value dichotomy.”

[2] Amon Ben-Tor, Editor, The Archaeology of Ancient Israel (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992)[Introduction], 9 [emphasis mine].

[3] Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) [emphasis mine].

[4] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1997, Fifth Revised Edition), pp.7-8 [emphasis mine].

Does One Need To Investigate Every Religion Before One Can Conclude That Christianity Is True?

truthRecently, I had a conversation with a friend concerning epistemology (how we come to know certain ideas to be true) and religious propositional claims. My friend asked me how I could be so confident that the evidence supports Christianity when I have not investigated every other religion to find out whether they have any evidence going for them.

This is a common talking-point that I encounter in discussions with atheists. “Have you read the Qur’an?” I am frequently asked. In the case of the Qur’an, I can claim to have read it and I have in fact studied Islam in significant depth. But I have not taken the time to study every religion in comparable detail. Does that mean I cannot conclude Christianity to be true and all other religions to be false? Of course not. By the very nature of concluding that the propositional claims of Christianity are true, one is de facto excluding other possibilities. If, for example, one concludes based on the evidence that Jesus really claimed to be divine (as I argue here), one has excluded as an option all religions that insist that Jesus did not claim to be God (such as Islam). Likewise, if one concludes based on the evidence that the Universe had a definite beginning in the finite past, one has excluded as an option all religions that assert that the Universe is eternal in the past (i.e. pantheistic religions).

It is curious that such reasoning is employed in discussions about religious questions when we rarely use such methodology in any other realm of inquiry. A homicide detective does not need to investigate every single individual in the city before he can conclude that a particular suspect committed the crime. Investigators of John F. Kennedy’s assassination did not need to investigate all of Kennedy’s contemporaries as potential suspects before they could conclude that his assassination was carried out by Lee Harvey Oswald.

One does not need to weigh up the arguments pro and con for every single possible alternative that is out there in order to conclude that a certain hypothesis best explains the available data. When multiple independent lines of evidence converge on a single given hypothesis, other possibilities are by nature excluded and it becomes unnecessary to investigate every conceivable candidate hypothesis before one can reach a proper judgment. Of course, one should always be open to the possibility that one’s judgment is mistaken and be prepared to revise conclusions should new information come to light. But one certainly does not need to investigate the tens of thousands of competing religious propositional claims that are out there in order to conclude that Christianity makes sense of the pertinent available data. Moreover, the claim that one has to investigate every religious proposition in order to assert any religious position backfires on the atheist, for it renders it impossible to draw any religious conclusions — including atheism.

Nobody has the time or resources to invest in studying every religion that has ever been proposed. Although I would encourage people to, at the very least, be acquainted with the three major Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism — the only theistic religions to teach creation ex nihilo, a claim consistent with modern cosmology), for one to be rationally justified in affirming Christianity as true, one only needs to show that it possesses sufficiently good evidence to warrant belief.

What Really Happened at Jesus’ Tomb?

A Look at “The Creed” Through History & Archaeology

800px-In_Front_of_the_Garden_Tomb

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

One of the earliest records of the events surrounding the first Easter was recorded in an early saying or “creed” which the Apostle Paul mentions in his epistle (or letter) in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. It has been called the first Christian “creed” or Credo [Latin for ‘I believe’]. Although Paul refers to it, it is not original to him; it is Pre-Pauline. It very likely dates back to the earliest followers of Jesus – His first Disciples – those who waked with Him, lived with Him, those who watched the drama of His life unfold before their eyes…those who watched Him die…those who ate with Him and spoke with Him and saw Him after He reportedly arose from the dead.

Part of how we know whether or not something happened in the past or not is through eyewitness testimony. Eyewitnesses can be reliable or not. One way (certainly not the only way) we can test whether an eyewitness is speaking the truth is through internal and external evidence that is consistent with other verifiable facts in a particular time period. Unlike mathematics or deductive logic, history allows us to make inferences based on the evidence that we have at hand as we study it carefully and determined if it is reliable.

From this early creed – I would like to consider three facts[1] that it is indeed genuine and bears the key marks of an authentic record of a monumental historical event – namely that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.

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The Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye “Post-Debate” Round Up

Just as expected, the much anticipated and hyped debate between Kan Ham (CEO of Answers in Genesis) & Bill Nye (the “Science” Guy) sparked a “mini-blizzard” of blogs and articles from people on both sides of the debate (I guess this is just one more to add to the pile).

Ham-Nye debate

If you happened to miss the debate, it will be posted here on the AiG (Answers in Genesis) website and will also available for purchase. An estimated three million people viewed the debate which was streamed live from the internet to schools, churches and colleges across America and around the world.

It is certainly easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” on these sorts of debates. Both men are to be admired for being willing to stand “in the arena” and defend their respective views and take criticism.

I thought both men handled themselves admirably, although I must say that I thought Nye was more personable and passionate when he was speaking which certainly plays to his favor rhetorically. One of Ken Ham’s strongest moments, I thought, was when he played the clips of various PhD. scientists who are  creationists and have either invented useful technologies [MRI] or have conducted peer-reviewed research, undercutting Nye’s claim that a belief in Divine creation stifles or limits science.

Nearly everyone has thoughts on what “should have been said” or “what kinds of evidence should have been used.”

I read though the various blogs and articles, however, I came across several great points which I will highlight in a moment.

Originally, I had planned on writing a point-by-point critique and evaluation of the debate, but since that has already been done on numerous other sites (which I will list below for your consideration); instead, I will review just a couple of my personal expectations on what I thought the debate would accomplish (I originally shared all six on my personal Facebook page) and whether or not they “played out” as I expected.

1. Both debaters represent a popular understanding of the respective positions on this debate (Faith & Science). It will certainly not be settled in this debate, but will spark even more debate and reams of new blogs from apologists scrambling to distance themselves from “Simple minded” creationists like Ken Ham.

As expected, I remain unconvinced that someone who was watching the debate last night will walk away with a deeper and more enlightened understanding of this complex issue (i.e. faith and science and their compatibility).

There’s certainly nothing wrong with public speakers who try to popularize complex ideas and communicate them to an broad audience (that’s what I do!), but I don’t believe that these two gentlemen were the best representatives of their respective “camps.”

As a friend of mine pointed out last night, “…they both seemed like they were giving infomercials for their respective audiences.” I agree.

Also expected and fulfilled were the reams of new blogs and articles from apologists offering alternative explanations and perspectives (I guess this one is a self-fullfilled prophecy!).

2. As a classically trained apologist (in the vein of Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Geisler, et. al.), I cringe at the very likely possibility that Ham will “…beg the question” in his presuppositional approach to defending the Bible. When and if he uses evidence, I will rejoice and be glad.

The question that was debated was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” While this is a good question, it actually doesn’t get at the root issue which is whether or not a theistic God exists and what evidence, if any points to His existence.

At CrossExamined we don’t take an official position on the age of the earth. We have students and supporters who defend each of the mainline views on origins (i.e. Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism, etc…).

That said however, we confidently stand on evidence in support of our belief in a personal, all-powerful, space-less, timeless, immaterial Creator. We leave it to Christians to sift the evidence for themselves, as to whether or not the earth is young or old.

The question of the age of the earth is a “second order question.” The question of God’s existence is a “first order question.” In dialoguing and debating non-believers, we should not front-load the conversation with secondary questions. Establishing God’s existence is primary.

Last night Ken Ham’s very starting point for science was the Bible itself and the age of the earth. The only problem with that is that Bill Nye and perhaps millions of others, don’t accept the Bible as true because they don’t believe there is a God.

My criticism isn’t necessarily leveled against Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationism (or some of the other evidences he presented), rather it’s against the WAY that he argued which is just as important. In beginning with the Bible, he put the cart before the horse.

Let me be perfectly clear – I am a staunch defender of Biblical inerrancy, but in order for inerrancy to be philosophically true, Truth (with a capital “T”) must exist, God must exist and naturalism (as a worldview) must be false. The space-time universe is not a closed system, so miracles and the supernatural are very reasonable possibilities.

3. The truth of Romans 1 & Psalm 19 has been in full operation since the creation of the world when there were no publicly hyped debates.

One of the great things about God’s Word is that its truths are timeless and ever relevant.

Creation itself (which is silent yet vocal – Psa. 19:3-4) is the greatest evidence for the Creator. The evidence is so great and overwhelming that there is no debate – all men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). The age of the earth wasn’t an issue when Paul penned Romans, yet he tells us that “everyone can know that there is a Creator.”

Below are a few blogs that I found especially helpful in illuminating and evaluating the Nye/Ham debate.

Helpful Blogs About the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate On Feb 4th, 2014

Casey Luskin (Discovery Institute) Old Earth Creationist 

David Coppedge (Creation Writer) Young Earth Creationist 

Melissa Cain Travis (Houston Baptist University) Old Earth Creationist

Dr. Albert Mohler (President, Southern Seminary) Young Earth Creationist 

 

 

“Eternity Has the Floor:” Another Look at Pascal’s Wager

Silent you stand before the altar of death! Life here and life after constitute an eternal conundrum; but its expiring spark awakens us to holy devotion and quiets every other voice except religion. Eternity has the floor.

~Alfred Nobel: read at his funeral (1896)

The above words were spoken at Alfred Nobel’s funeral service in 1896. In life Nobel was an interesting but ironic man. He is remembered, of course as the Swiss chemist and engineer who invented dynamite among other things, and also the man whose name is associated with coveted prizes in physics, chemistry, literature and peace. Nobel was also an atheist, and yet he also left large sums of money to churches. In 1888 when Nobel was reading through a French newspaper, he was astonished to read about his own obituary – the heading was “The merchant of death has died.” As it turned out, it was actually his brother Ludwig that had died. It would only be eight years later that Alfred himself would die by a brain hemorrhage at age 63.

Apparently Nobel had given some thought to that moment when he would face his own mortality. It’s not a pleasant thought – thinking about one’s own death, but one day every person must stand in silence and enter that mysterious realm beyond this life on earth, or as Nobel says… that eternal conundrum

Cementary

The Old Testament patriarch Job pondered this question millennia ago when he asked, If a man dies, will he live again? (Job 14:14)

Atheists and materialists alike, stake their eternal souls on the belief and the affirmation that there is no afterlife or soul which survives the body after physical death. But is science equipped to answer such a question? Pascal would say no.

In the 17th Century (the 1600’s) a brilliant Frenchman (child prodigy, pioneering mathematician, inventor of the world’s first mechanical calculator, philosopher and scientist)[1] named Blaise Pascal put forth a rather strange argument for religious faith – and not just generic religious faith, but faith in full orbed Christianity.[2]

This is Pascal’s famous argument called “The Wager” (or The Bet).

But first let’s clear up a common misconception and make one clarification about Pascal’s famous Wager.

(1). He is not proposing “faith in faith” (a blind leap in the dark), but assumes that we have our data correct (faith is only as good as its object) – i.e. that the true God is the God of Christianity and that salvation is found only in a belief in Jesus Christ and that rejection of Him will result in eternal damnation.[3]

(2) Similar to the above notion – the Wager should not be considered in complete isolation from the larger work of Pascal’s Pensees (his apologetic for Christianity).

As philosopher James R. Peter’s observes, “Properly understood, the wager makes a compelling but limited point….”[4]

Kreeft clarfies:

“The Wager is not an attempt to prove the God exists. It is not a new argument for the existence of God. Rather it tries to prove that it is eminently reasonable for anyone to “bet” on God, to hope that God is, to invest his life in God. It moves on the practical, existential, human level rather than the theoretical, metaphysical, theological level. …It is not an alternative to the traditional arguments for the existence of God… [the Wager]…is addressed to unbelievers, to those who are skeptical of both theoretical reason and revelation.”[5]

What Pascal’s Wager highlight’s is the fact that we are all “in the game” – there is no neutrality on the question of God’s existence or of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.

He writes:

“Let us examine this point, and let us say: ‘Either God is or he is not.’ But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong.

Do not then condemn as wrong those who have made a choice… ‘No, but I will condemn them for not having made this particular choice, but any choice, for although one calls heads and the other one are equally at fault, the fact is that they are both at fault: the right thing is not to wager at all.’

Yes, but you must wager. There is no choice, you are already committed. What will you choose then? Let us see: since a choice must be made, let us see which offers you the least interest. You have two things to lose: the true and the good: and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness.”[6]

Finally and interestingly, the Wager comes down to a pleasure (or a happiness) calculus – which appeals to what a person has the potential to gain from such a wager.

Here is what is at stake.

A. God exists (& Christianity is true)

  • If I believe it and it turns out to be objectively true then I gain eternal happiness and lose nothing.  
  • If I do not believe it and it turns out to be objectively true then I lose everything (including happiness and pleasure).

B. God does not exist (Christianity is not true)

  • If I believe this and it is objectively true then I gain nothing and lose nothing.
  • If I do not believe this and it is objectively true then I gain nothing and lose nothing.

If Christianity is true then those who don’t believe it have everything to lose. But if it is not true then nothing, in the end, is lost to the pious believer. It is really the unbeliever who has more to lose if they are wrong.

Pensee 241 provides a good summary:

I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true [& it not actually be true].

On death’s threshold “eternity has the floor,” then religious questions don’t seem so silly after all.

What will you choose then?


[1] For an old but excellent biography of Pascal’s life see Morris Bishop’s classic, Pascal: The Life of Genius (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936)

[2] See his Pensees, 418.

[3] For more on this point see Peter Kreeft’s excellent book, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined & Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), pp. 292-3.

[4] James R. Peters, The Logic of the Heart: Augustine, Pascal, and the Rationality of Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 188-9.

[5] Kreeft, pg. 291 [emphasis mine].

[6] “233” in Pensees, Translated by W.F. Trotter, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in Chief, Great Books of the Western World, (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), 213-6 [emphasis mine].

A Titanic Failure: Never Learning from Our Past

Rulers, Statesmen, Nations, are wont to be emphatically commended to the teaching which experience offers in history. But what experience and history teach is this, – that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.

~ Georg Wilhelm F. Hegel, from his lectures, On the Philosophy of History (1837)

Just recently my son has become keenly interested in the story of the Titanic, the steam ship which hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic on April 14, 1912. These past few days we have watched a number of very interesting documentaries, some of which recount eyewitnesses to the disaster who were passengers on board the night it sank. On board the ship that fateful night were some of the world’s most famous and prominent people – among them were the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeleine Force Astor, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy’s department store owner Isidor Strauss and his wife Ida among many others. Throughout the documentaries there were historians and letters cited from people who lived at the opening decades of the 20th century. Historian Carroll Quigley in his book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time writes that, “The 19th century was characterized by (1) belief in the innate goodness of man, (2) secularism, (3) belief in progress, (4) liberalism, (5) capitalism, (6) faith in science, (7) democracy, (8) nationalism.”[1]

Although most people today think of the Titanic as the award-winning movie of 1997, in 1912 it was the symbol of the hopes and dreams of thousands of people around the world. For the wealthy it represented the pinnacle of technology and the triumph of science, to the poor, it represented a chance for a new life in America – itself a symbol of hope for millions of immigrants. On the evening of April 15, 1912 the huge ship struck an iceberg ripping open a huge section of the hull. In 2 hours, 40 minutes it was on the bottom of the Atlantic. 1,514 lives were lost. The world was in shock.

Sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, April 15, 1912

Sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, April 15, 1912

The sinking of the Titanic was the first of several shocks the world of the early 20th Century would receive. Just two short years later, (July, 1914) for the first time in history, the entire world would be engulfed in the First World War. In 1918 when the war ended, over 10 million Allied & Central command soldiers were dead, not including civilians. The results of WWI set in motion the gears which led to the Second World War when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.[2]

WW I also had a profound effect on some of the greatest artists (Picasso, M. Duchamp, etc…) and literary minds of the 20th century. Among them was J.R.R. Tolkein whose Lord of the Rings series came right out of his gruesome experiences of fighting in the trenches on the Western Front. One of his biographers makes a telling comment. He writes:

This biographical study arose from a single observation: how strange it is that J.R.R. Tolkein should have embarked upon his monumental mythology in the midst of the First World War, the crisis that disenchanted and shaped the modern era.[3]

“The crisis that disenchanted and shaped the modern era…”

What can we learn from this and the other tragedies of the last century?

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

In conclusion, I would like to ask if there are any lessons we can learn from these opening decades of the 20th Century? Are we, in the 21st Century, still clinging to 19th century ideals which lead to the disillusionment of so many? I assert that we certainly are. We are holding on to at least three of them and we are once again setting ourselves up for even greater disillusionment or even worse:

(1). Belief in the innate goodness of man. (Is human nature basically good?)

“The belief in the innate goodness of man had its roots in the eighteenth century when it appeared to many that man was born good and free but was everywhere distorted, corrupted, and enslaved by bad institutions and conventions. As Rousseau said, Man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains.

Obviously, if man is innately good and needs but to be freed from social restrictions, he is capable of tremendous achievements in this world of time, and does not need to postpone his hopes of personal salvation into eternity.”[4]

If the Twentieth-Century and our own experience has taught us anything, it is that man is not innately good – but has a fallen nature. People automatically don’t do the right thing and despite all of their valiant efforts[5], atheists & materialists fail to ground absolute goodness in reality. Similarly, if there is no God – no absolute standard, then there is no ultimate grounding for right and wrong (morality). If there is no God (in reality) then (in reality), there is no difference between Mother Theresa and Hitler.

(2). Secularism (Is ‘religion’ just a hangover from our past?)

Secularists have a strictly materialistic & mechanistic view of human nature and because of this they utterly fail to account for man’s religious nature which they will never eradicate nor will they understand with the methods of the sciences. For most of human history people have had the desire to worship. This is certainly not to say that all religions are the same or that they are all equally true, but merely to point out that the desire to worship and the desire for transcendence is part of what it means to be truly human.[6] Secularism just doesn’t get it! The ultimate question is which religion is true? Which religion corresponds to reality? If the laws of logic apply to all of reality then they apply to religious claims as well. Only one can be true.

(3). Faith in science (Will “science” solve our problems?)

“Science” is touted by many today as the only true view of reality and an inoculation against the claims of religious masses who still live in ignorance & stupidity. These are the ones who still believe that “science” will answer all of our burning questions and solve all of humanity’s problems. But lest we forget, we have the 20th Century as a guide. It is intimately familiar to us. We have lived through much of it. It is analogous to all of human history because of the simple fact that human nature remains the same and many are still trusting that “science” and the scientific worldview is the way forward.

Why are things not improving now in the first decade of the 21st Century – the most well-informed, well-educated and scientifically minded centuries to date?

Surely the sciences and technology have brought us much good (curing diseases, saving lives, etc…), but they are ill-equipped to solve our greatest problems which are spiritual & moral in nature.

Many critics will surely point to religious extremism and the turmoil happening in the Middle East as the prime example that “religion” is at the core of the world’s problems. They fail, however, to make vital distinctions between contradictory religious truth claims (especially in the Theistic religions of Judaism, Islam & Christianity). Yet it is only in the religion of Christianity – whose message is the reconciliation of fallen humanity (made in God’s image) to the Creator by the God-Man, Jesus Christ who died on a cross for the sins of the world – that there is hope for the future.

There simply is no unity, order or peace apart from Him.


[1] Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1966), pp. 24-5.

[2] And of course, WW2 ended with the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

[3] John Garth, Tolkein and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003), xiii.

[4] Summary of Quigley, p. 24.

[5] One of the latest is Sam Harris’s, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York: The Free Press, 2010).

[6] For an excellent study on the relationship between science and human nature I strongly recommend Brendan Purcell’s excellent work, From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution (Hyde Park, New York: New York City Press, 2012).

A Not So Bright Future: Technology, Atheism & the Death of Man

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900

It is widely believed that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche ushered in the twentieth century with his famous phrase, “God is dead…”[1] Nietzsche himself died in 1900. Obviously atheism didn’t start in the twentieth century with Nietzsche. In fact, he was the culmination (the pinnacle) of a long line of thinkers which reached back into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[2] The European Enlightenment promised grand and wonderful things when human reason finally divorced itself from the shackles of faith.[3] Using the newly found tools of the “scientific method,” (via Bacon & Spinoza); a humanistic morality which was becoming increasingly devoid of God (via Nietzsche); and the burgeoning industrial revolution with its new technologies, the twentieth century was set take mankind to new heights never before dreamt of – a utopia of sorts. Some who were wise, however, could see that “wicked things were written on the sky.”[4] The next century (the 20th) would either be wonderful or it would be a nightmare. Enter H.G. Wells novel, A Modern Utopia (1905), the book which inspired Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World (1932), and later, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four (1949).

Both of these novels predicted a future in which mankind would be destroyed either by external oppression by a despot using technology (the big-brother of Orwell), or through technologies which would make us lazy and undo our capacity to think (Huxley).[5] In both instances, technology would somehow be used to lead to our undoing.

If there is no God (or at least since He died in the 19th century) then humans must put their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future in something. Enter the Enlightenment 2.0 – 21st century edition – human reason, science and technology will surely help us solve all of the world’s problems. How are we doing 13 years into this century? Not very well. Do we ever learn? Usually not.

Neil Postman makes a brilliant observation in, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992). An observation that we should etch into our heads.

Our most serious problems are not technical, nor do they arise from inadequate information. If a nuclear catastrophe occurs, it shall not be because of inadequate information. Where people are dying of starvation, it does not occur because of inadequate information. If families break up, children are mistreated, crime terrorizes a city, education is impotent, it does not happen because of inadequate information. Mathematical equations, instantaneous communication, and vast quantities of information have nothing to do with any of these problems. And the computer is useless in addressing them.[6]

The scientific, atheistic and materialistic worldview is utterly incapable of ensuring civilization. It can’t be trusted. Why? Because the last century has been one gigantic experiment in what it is capable of and also of what it is incapable of.

In my next post A Titanic Failure: Never Learning from Our Past, we will take a look at some epic examples of the complete failure of the European Enlightenment and materialistic atheism and what it could teach us about our future – if anything at all.


[1] See, “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” in Walter Kaufmann, Editor & Translator, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books, 1982).

[2] For an excellent book on the philosophical battles which ensued between various German thinkers on the role of reason during the era of the Enlightenment see, Fredrick C. Beiser’s, The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987); for a Christian analysis of the Enlightenment see, James Collins, A History of Modern European Philosophy (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1954).

[3] Interestingly, the modern Internet & Wikipedia had its birth in the Enlightenment with the idea of the Encyclopédie which was published in France 1751-1772.

[4] To borrow line from Chesterton’s poem “The Ballad of the White Horse” – a poem about England’s Saxon king, Alfred the Great.

[5] I am indebted to Neil Postman for this observation in his excellent book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). Postman’s thesis is that Huxley was right. History has proven that he was correct.

[6] Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p.119.

 

Should Women Be Apologists? They Already Are!

In the past couple of decades or so there has been a renaissance of apologetics at the college and seminary level. There was a time when undergraduate and graduate degrees in Christian apologetics did not exist. Now there are a number of great schools and universities that offer degrees in Christian apologetics (i.e., Talbot School of Theology at Biola, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Denver Seminary and lately Houston Baptist University, just to name a few). I am not aware of any specific statistics, but with all of these schools whose graduates are now entering the world of work and/or ministry, the question of the role of women in apologetics was bound to come up.

I have given some thought to this, and as I see it, there are several issues that are really at the heart of this question.  The main question, however, that I wish to focus on is – Is apologetics for everyone in the church or just men only? Some might even ask, Why is this even a question worth considering? Women are already engaging in apologetics and making great strides for the Kingdom of God. One such organization is the International Society of Women in Apologetics which is managed by apologist Sarah Ankenman – to learn more go to – http://www.womeninapologetics.com. Then there are those in the church who believe that a woman’s place is to remain silent and not be involved in teaching in any way.

Perhaps a good place to begin to answer this question is at the very beginning of Christianity. In his excellent book, History of Apologetics, Cardina Avery Dulles makes a salient point in his chapter on ‘Apologetics in the New Testament.’ He writes:

“Before being an apologetic, Christianity was of course a message. It began as a conviction that Jesus was Messiah and Lord, and this conviction seems to have drawn its overpowering force from the event of the Resurrection. As the message concerning Jesus as risen Lord was proclaimed, it gave rise to certain questions and objections from inquirers and believers, and from adversaries. In answer to such objections, and possibly also in anticipation of foreseen objections, the Christian preachers spoke about the signs, and evidences that they found convincing. …To some degree, therefore, apologetics was intrinsic to the presentation of the kerygma [proclamation – Gospel].”[1]

Apologetics, therefore, was and is intrinsic to evangelism. Apologetics, of course, can also be used to strengthen and reinforce the faith of those within the Church. So from this standpoint, the question now is – Should women be involved in the proclamation of the Good News? The answer – I hope – is obvious! We know from the New Testament that women played a key role in bringing people (including men!) to the Jesus, the Savior. One shining example is the Samaritan woman (or the woman at the well in John 4:1-38). After His encounter with her, in verse 27, Jesus’ disciples asked Him an interesting question and His response was even more interesting (especially in light of the first-century Jewish culture!).  After Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman and revealed hidden things about herself that only God could know [evidence], she left Him to go tell others:

“…His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why are You talking with her?’ The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ Then they [the men!] went out of the city and came to Him.” (Jn. 4:27-30)

This point is reinforced by a closer look at who (if we are truly honest) the world’s very first apologists were – the women at the empty tomb!  All four Gospels record the fact that it was women who were first to arrive at the empty tomb of the risen Christ and they were the very first to report (& proclaim) that Jesus is risen (Matt. 28:5-8; Mk. 16:2-8; Lk. 24:1-8 & Jn. 20:1).

One of but many examples of women in apologetics in today’s cultural context is the necessity of women evangelists/apologists to Islam – the fastest growing religion in the world. In light of Islamic culture (where it is inappropriate for men to build relationships to other women), it is crucial that Christian women engage Muslim women with the Gospel and with Truth. But women apologists are not only needed in to reach Muslim women – but also to reach those in modern Western culture – with its Post-modern, Post-Christian outlook  – women trained in apologetics – who know how to skillfully and gracefully defend the Faith once and for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 1:3). Basically, where there is a need for the Gospel to be proclaimed and defended (which is everywhere!) – then women apologists are needed. Exactly how various churches and ministries utilize apologetically trained & educated women, will certainly vary from place to place and from church to church.

Nancy Pearcy studied under noted Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer at L'Abri Fellowship. She is the author of "Total Truth"

Nancy Pearcey studied under noted Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri Fellowship. She is the author of “Total Truth”

I would encourage my fellow female apologists who are probably more highly trained & educated in apologetics than many of their pastors – to be faithful where God has planted you. Wherever and whoever your audience is – proclaim the resurrection of Christ and defend the Faith with gentleness & respect (1 Pet. 3:15). God will open doors of ministry and opportunity for you, in His good wisdom and in His perfect timing. This is not only good advice for female apologists – but (I believe) to guys as well.

Christianity never stopped being a Message which should be proclaimed (& defended). The Great Commission (Matt. 28: 18-20) was given to the Church (to both men & women).  The Church has been in the past, and certainly will be in the future, enriched by the effective witness of women who have found the Savior and who give a reasoned defense of His resurrection.


[1] Cardinal Avery Dulles, History of Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 1-2

The Euthyphro Dilemma

     

    Excerpt from “Jesus Is Involved In Politics! Why aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church?” Rational Free Press 2010 (c) Neil MammenAvailable on Amazon and at www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

    Plato, The Euthyphro Dilemma

    Christian morality is based on pleasing or satisfying the whimsical capricious God of the Bible, with only secondary importance for “doing unto others as you would yourself” and “loving your neighbor.”

    Council for Secular Humanism1

    Pointy Headed Boss (to Dilbert): “You are not allowed to have internal phone lists on your wall. There are excellent reasons for this policy, and I hope to someday know what they are.”

    Later – Pointy Headed Boss (to Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resource): “They’re getting suspicious about the Random Policy Generator.”

    Dilbert Cartoon

Why The Law Was Given:Is God Capricious? Is God Good?

Did God arbitrarily make up the laws?

My Hindu friend who always argues with me about religion, had a smirk on his face. Now, you must realize that he was only Hindu by name and by culture, not by conviction. He was a functional agnostic. The fact that we were eating at a vegetarian restaurant was because he’d grown up vegetarian and never developed a taste for meat. “Why is god good?” he asked with that smirk. “Is he good because whatever he does is good? If he said killing infidels was good would that make it good?”

When we try to argue that God’s moral values are applicable to everyone and should be used as a basis for legislation, we have to first prove that God is not capricious. What my Hindu friend had been reading was the atheist claim that God arbitrarily decides what is good and what is bad. That, they say, makes Him capricious and His laws unworthy. Let me provide you with a definition of the word capricious.

    Capricious adj.: determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason; “authoritarian rulers are frequently capricious.”2

The quote at the beginning of this chapter from the Council for Secular Humanism claims God is capricious and whimsical; He randomly decides what is good and what is evil for no good reason. This was Socrates’ question to his student Euthyphro.

Bertrand Russell the avidly avowed atheist formulated the problem this way in his book, Why I Am Not A Christian:

    If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat [decree/command] or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.

    If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to[prior to/separate from] God.3

In other words, Russell said that if good is good because God randomly decided what was good, then good is not really good. It is arbitrary. But if good is good because of something separate from God, then God is not sovereign because He’s a slave to this goodness and thus goodness is greater than God. Is Russell right? Of course he is not, and I’ll show you how to refute him completely in the next few pages.

Is whatever we do for God good?

Remember the Gestapo Captain and the liberal Rabbi in the Walter Martin story we described in an earlier chapter. The liberal Rabbi who believes there is no objective right or wrong is asked by the Gestapo Captain, “I’m going to kill you, is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”

The liberal Rabbi can’t say, “Because it’s wrong or because it’s inhumane or because it’s bad.”4

In many ways, the Gestapo Captain was a relativistic thinker just like the liberal Rabbi. The Captain thought that whatever he did for the Nazi party or the German people was automatically good and that morality was something that the Nazis, not the Jews, got to define. In the same way if we were to say blindly that whatever we do for God is automatically good, it could lead to relativistic thinking and the claim of capriciousness. So let’s see how we can refute this claim.

Why God is not capricious

First, we must understand that it’s important that the laws that we are given be non-capricious real laws with real consequences. If God were to give us laws that had no real consequences and merely order us to obey them because it was His whim, then He would indeed be capricious. And those laws would be illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary.5 Sadly many Christians don’t seem to realize this. I personally didn’t either until I had to respond to an atheist about it. (This is one of the reasons for my zeal for apologetics).

Take the first point: All the laws that God gave us must be real laws with real and negative consequences to humans (I will prove this with examples later). But that means when we sin, we are effectively committing a double crime – that is, doing two bad things. We are hurting ourselves and others, and we are rebelling against the Almighty G
od who created us. The latter being the more serious crime, but understandably not one that we wish to legislate.

Second, we have to understand that the secular atheistic humanists have phrased the problem based on their limited understanding of God. It’s not that God is capricious or that He is beholden to a higher value. What will refute them and Russell is simply this:

God is good.

And that is our second point.

Huh? You ask.

Let me explain. It’s not that God has arbitrarily determined what good is. Nor it is that He is beholden to a higher value than Himself. It’s just that His very nature is one of goodness. God is good. God is by nature good. Goodness is who He is. God could no more decide tomorrow that torturing babies for fun was good than he could ever stop being God. Yes, God is enslaved but He is enslaved by His own nature. He is enslaved to God. He is enslaved to Himself. It’s that vicious cycle similar to God having to be the center of His own praises. God could no more stop being good than He could stop being God.6 Good is good, and God is good. Their sources are the same.

“Ah but,” my atheist friends complain, “you’ve not defined good, you’ve just said that God is good, so your definition of good is God and your definition of God is good. That’s circular reasoning, and you can’t prove it.”

But as we have already shown it is actually circular reasoning if you try to create a definition of good without a supreme moral giver. You need a standard and you need a standard giver.

Since my atheist friends cannot come to a definition of good without a standard, they are in a similar dilemma. At least our theory has explanatory power and is self-consistent.7 Do note, however, that I do not use this methodology to prove the existence of God. There are enough other ways to do this (all outside the scope of this book, see “Who is Agent X? Proving that Science and Logic show it is more reasonable to think God exists,” Neil Mammen, Rational Free Press, 2009).

Since the source of the definition of good is self evident, and the character of God is good, then it follows that God and the source of good can be the same. So there is no capriciousness in God.

But is it circular reasoning? It isn’t, if I can show that God has to be good to be God. It’s not circular reasoning then because being good inherently is a necessary condition for any god to be the God.

A bad god won’t last long

Let’s look at this. God could not be anything but good. In other words, there could not exist a god, who was bad, or a god who was irrational, or a god who was not loving. Why? Because it would not work. An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity. An evil god would never survive. A deficient god who was in any way not self sufficient, or in any way destructive, or in anyway not ‘just,’ or not loving could not last for infinity as his own shortcomings would destroy him.

How can I prove this? Quite simply: Bad cannot exist except as a privation of good, bad is a corruption of good. What I mean by that is that there is nothing such as “bad,” bad only exists if good is corrupted.8 If good ceases to exist, bad will cease to exist as well. A good example is a shadow (note, I don’t mean darkness9). A shadow cannot exist without light. If a shadow were to destroy all light, it would destroy itself. All that would be left is darkness, which is not a shadow, it’s nothing.

That means infinite bad cannot exist, as it will cease to exist as soon as it becomes infinite. Since by necessity God is infinite10, He can never be infinitely or perfectly bad, as He will self-destruct (of course, the concept of God self-destructing doesn’t make sense, and that’s why we see that a bad god is impossible).

People can argue about it any way they want, but if they adhere to logic they’ll end up coming to the same conclusion.

I would theorize that even Satan realized that if he were able to survive without God (remember Satan was merely a created being),11 he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil. A deficient evil being like Satan could not become or maintain himself as a universal eternal being. This is further exacerbated by the fact that evil has no definition if good does not exist; yet good, while not being fully appreciated, would still exist without evil. In all evil situations some good must exist. Even in Hitler’s Germany, those who were Nazi’s did good things. They loved their children. They cared for their elderly parents, (though who knows how long that would have lasted with their euthanasia programs?) It is impossible to imagine how the Nazis could have continued to exist if every Nazi was absolutely evil.12

So, as we can see, good can exist without evil. However, evil will destroy itself without good. Thus to exist, God must be good. Good must be a core characteristic of God. It’s not separate. Bertrand Russell has been refuted.

Note too that “Good” as we see, is a transcendent value. Good existed long before a universe existed. Similarly 1+1= 2 long before any universe was created and it will still be true after all universes have died a heat death. There are no possible universes where 1+1 is not equal to 2. Mathematics is a transcendent art. So are truth, justice, logic, rationality, love, reason and well, set theory among others.13 They are all part of the very intrinsic nature of God. They are transcendent and eternal.

  Addendum

Do note, this blog is not attempting to prove any of the following: 1. That God is indeed actually good. I’ll leave that argument to others. It only concludes that IF He exists he must be good.2. That God exists (for that evidence please refer to the book “Who is Agent X? Proving Science and Logic show it’s more rational to think God exists.” available at www.NoBlindFaith.com)

 

 

End notes:

1. www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=columns&page=news

2. www.thefreedictionary.com/capricious3. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12. As quoted by Gregory Koukl in Euthyphro’s Dilemma on the Stand to Reason website.www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5236

4. Yes, yes, I know you are thinking that he could say, “I have information that I can us
e to buy my life…” but let’s assume like most of the Jews who were sadly killed, he doesn’t have anything that the Gestapo Captain needed, that the Captain couldn’t have taken anyway.

5. Someone could argue that the command by God in the Garden of Eden, “Don’t eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” was capricious. But that would be presumptuous. Whenever we are dealing with an intelligent agent like God, presuming you know all the parameters as a human is illogical. We can’t argue from the lack of evidence. In addition as mentioned in an earlier footnote, if God did not give Adam the ability and opportunity to reject Him or disobey Him, He would not have truly given Adam freewill.

6. Remember as we’ve said in a previous footnote, one of the things that we need to be clear about is that God cannot do anything. He cannot stop being God, He cannot sin, He cannot cease to exist, and He cannot be irrational or illogical. He cannot learn. He cannot make a round two- dimensional square. He cannot make 1+1 = 3. All of those actually are derived from “He cannot stop being God.” For a full logical response to “Can God create a stone so big that he cannot move it” see www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com and do a search for “Stone so big.”

7. William Lane Craig, one of this century’s best debaters and philosophers, has used this argument quite successfully in many debates against atheists. I.e. if objective moral values exist, then God exists. Objective moral values do exist, thus God exists. See www.williamlanecraig.com. I always describe Dr. Craig this way: He’s the guy who, after he’s done debating an atheist, you actually feel sorry for the atheist. In his winsome manner, Craig destroys every single one of their arguments. Most atheists don’t know what hit them.

8. One could try to argue that bad is a corruption of an amoral thing as well. For instance, a knife is amoral, for one can use it to kill instead of cut an apple. But the very existence of that knife is “good.” It is good that the knife exists because it is useful and has purpose. Non-existence would be the only truly amoral thing, but non-existence is not an option if anything at all exists.

9. Darkness would be nothing or amorality in this example, i.e. neutrality- neither good nor evil.

10. This can be proved in one paragraph; science agrees that whatever caused the Universe to begin at the point of the Big Bang was outside of time and space. This can only be an infinite being, since you cannot create time if you are in time. For more on this go to www.NoBlindFaith.com and search for “proving God exists without using the Bible.”

11. I have a trick question that I use now and then. I ask, “Who is the opposite of Satan?” The answer is not God. Satan is a created being not a creator. He is not omnipresent in time and space and all dimensions. He is not omnipotent or omniscient. The closest opposite to Satan may be one of the archangels. If you ask, “Who is the opposite of God?” The answer is “No one” No one can be the equal and opposite of the Almighty Eternal Creator.This also means that Satan must be of such a mind that either he knowing that he can never destroy God wishes to be a thorn in God’s side till he Satan is destroyed or thinking that he can destroy God is willing to destroy himself to do so.

12. This is similar to the concept of Total Depravity. We humans are totally depraved, but we are not absolutely depraved. This means that while we have a depraved sin nature, not everything we do is sinful or destructive.

13. Note that physical, atomic, and chemical laws are not necessarily transcendent because they did not causally (that’s cause-ally not casually) exist before the universe was created and one could feasibly reason than a universe could be created with different laws.

Caroline Lois' Story: A response to suffering.

by Caroline’s Dad, Neil Mammen

My sweet daughter Caroline Lois died in my arms last week. She was nine days old. We will bury her this week.

This is Caroline’s story, starting with the reflections my wife and I gave at the funeral. Afterwards I’ve included some of the emails sent to our friends and relatives to show the progression of our family’s journey through the darkest hours we’d yet to walk through. We pray that ultimately Caroline’s short earthly life will serve to encourage both Christians and non-Christians to further engage their own beliefs in relation to eternity.

 

Caroline’s Memorial Service

Venture Christian Church, Los Gatos, CA

Saturday December 5, 2009 

Anna

On behalf of our entire family we want to thank you so much for being here today to honor our little girl, Caroline Lois Mammen. We’ve been tremendously strengthened and encouraged by your generosity of spirit and love. We can literally feel the prayers being offered up in this time and again we thank you!

Since most of you didn’t get to meet her, I wanted the chance to tell you a little about Caroline.

Her Story.

Caroline’s due date is actually today, Dec. 5th. She surprised us and was born two weeks early on November 22 at Good Sam. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I fell in love with her. While it was similar with Mary Katherine three years ago, there was something special about Caroline. When I saw her, my heart instantly went out to her and I immediately burst out in tears- which didn’t happen with Mary Katherine. Looking back I think it was because, while we didn’t realize or know anything was wrong at the time, she was a special needs child and these beautiful children have a way of capturing your heart.

Almost immediately, the doctor recognized that Caroline had a cleft palate (a small hole in the roof of her mouth) and she had to be taken to the NICU. They assured me she’d be back soon as it wasn’t serious and they weren’t even admitting her in there. They just needed to monitor her and teach her to eat using a special bottle. I visited her and was so grateful she wasn’t as sick or tiny as the other babies. In fact at 7lb. 3 oz and 20 inches long she looked like she didn’t belong in there.

But things got worse. I don’t consider myself to be a nervous “new mom” but it seemed every few hours that I’d go to visit or get a phone call –the news would be worse than the last time. First, it was the feeding tubes, as she wasn’t eating as much as they hoped. A few hours later, she was on an I.V., as she couldn’t keep her food down. The next day it was the shock of going to visit her and finding her in a complete incubator with tiny purple goggles on her little eyes and lights, as she was jaundice. I couldn’t hold her anymore because she needed the light therapy.

A few hours later, a cardiologist came to visit me in my room. Caroline had two holes in her heart. Even this news I felt I could manage as the condition is relatively common and my best friend’s one year old Ruthie has a hole that is in the process of growing shut. They were fairly sure Caroline wouldn’t need surgery at all. Still I cried as I was exhausted and just really wanted to hold ……and smell…. my baby again. I missed that newborn baby’s breath smell as it’s one of my most favorite things.

After that, while in my hospital room I got another, more serious call. While in the NICU Caroline had “crashed”… There were apparently other heart problems that hadn’t been seen at first – among them a small aorta and as a result her blood supply had failed starving her of oxygen until they were able to restart her blood supply. At two days old, they were transferring her to the Stanford Children’s Hospital in anticipation of giving her heart surgery. I was discharged that night. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I went home with no baby. And Neil followed the ambulance to the hospital.

But the heart surgery was put on hold. While at Stanford, they discovered the lack of oxygen had done damage to her kidneys, liver, and possibly brain. We’d have to wait and pray. And we did. We sent out emails and messages and heard back from so many of you. And we were hopeful and encouraged by them. We believed that God COULD do a miracle. He’d created her (and everything else), He could heal her. But WOULD He? What was the plan for her life? We prayed desperately for her and visited her in the NICU everyday. She was on a morphine drip for the pain, but we sang to her and sat with her and talked to her and touched her as much as we could and took pictures with her. And we loved her. One of her many wonderful nurses said we’d set a record for the number of bows, hats and clips brought in for a little girl in such a short time span.

Throughout the past two weeks there were two moments that were the worst. Obviously one was when Caroline was dying in our arms. The second worst moment was what I call the “Dress Rehearsal” of her death. It was when –one week ago today– we got the phone call telling us she’d likely die.

The call came at 9:00 in the morning. Neil had me leave the room while he talked to the NICU doctor. Then we sat on our bed as he tried to “soften” the most awful news possible. The doctor was “very worried” as her kidneys were putting out mostly blood and the damage seemed severe. She wouldn’t qualify for a kidney transplant, as her heart wasn’t strong enough. Caroline’s death was now a very real possibility. I remember everything turning black and feeling like the bed was going to open up and swallow me. I felt my heart had been ripped from my chest and that I was free falling into the blackest abyss I could imagine. And I didn’t know what to do. I kept asking, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do? How can this happen?” I also remember saying, “How will we go on? How will I raise Mary Katherine?”

Neil held me and we cried and I sobbed. And then my mom came in and she cried with us and I sobbed. And we prayed. And then my mom left us alone and I sobbed some more.

And then Neil started feeding me a life rope. Feeding me lines of truth. He gently said,

“She’s not ours.”

“We don’t deserve her.”

“This happens everyday all over the world.”?“We’re not special.”

“We will go on. We will have more kids. We will not let this harden us.”

And I was comforted.

You may think those are strange things to say and to take comfort in, but let me tell you why it wasn’t for us. You see when I met Neil he had two passions that stood out. One was for something known as apologetics. Apologetics is the logical, rational, scientific study and approach to God and Christianity. It’s the investigation to questions such as, “Is the Bible TRUE? I mean REALLY, capital “T” TRUE? Or is it full of errors?” “Is it a book of fairy tales and wishful thinking?” “How can you trust that it’s accurate? Isn’t it just a copy of a copy of a copy?” “Is there solid evidence that Jesus ever even lived at all much less died and rose again?” “Are the places and people in the Bible real?” “What sources outside of the Bible can back up Biblical accounts of history?” “Is there enough evidence to be convincing? Would it hold up in a court of law?” “How does evidence for the truth of Christianity compare to evidence for other religions?” As many of you know, this is something that Neil writes and speaks on. Why I’m bringing this up is because in that moment -up until that time the worst in my life- I was so thankful that I didn’t have the added burden of questioning my belief and faith in God. And that’s because I hadn’t made the decision based on tradition or emotion. I had a faith that stood
upon reasonable evidence.

Secondly, Neil and I both grew up in homes passionate about theology. For the nine years we’ve been married, we’ve enjoyed discussing the tough questions of life and death and God and reality. Questions like, “Is God good? Uninvolved? Indifferent?” “If God is good, why does He allow suffering in the world?” “Why do BAD things happen to ‘good’ people?” “What about miracles? Who gets them and when and why? Are they only for the REALLY good people? How does my faith play into miracles?” “Does God punish his people?” We read and chew-on and discuss and argue and go to conferences and listen to podcasts on long road trips about these issues because we find them interesting and worthwhile. And they are a part of the diet of our lives. So, when I found myself face to face with that black Abyss, Neil fed me the statements of solid conclusions we’d already thought through …and it stabilized me. I know that for me personally cherubs and clichés of guardian angels and some fuzzy picture of an old man in the sky with a long beard wouldn’t have been enough as my daughter lay dying 30 miles from my house. All of those notions wash away. In fact, even tradition and my religious up-bringing instantly vanished and couldn’t have been less important. But Neil reminded me of these Truths and I grabbed hold of them. They were my lifeline.

“She’s not ours” – He meant that she’s God’s. She, like you and I, were made in His image with a purpose and a set number of days and has a life beyond the 9 months (growing in me) and 9 days on this earth. While we pray she touches your hearts and she changes us– makes us more sensitive, softer and loving– makes this world a better place. Beyond all that, she is a soul eternal. She isn’t a concept or past tense. She’s her own precious person still existing right now.

“We don’t deserve her” – We are fallen, imperfect people who fall short of the glory of God, yet He’s saved us. Every good gift, including the 9 days with Caroline, comes from Him. Throughout our marriage, Neil has made comments whenever blessings have come our way that we are undeserving of them. We’d get a new car and he’d at some point say, “You know we don’t deserve this.” When we bought our house, at some point he’d comment “We’ve been so blessed, you know we don’t deserve any of this” and I’d respond, “I know, I know… you’re right.” When Mary Katherine was born he said the same thing. So when he said we don’t deserve Caroline I knew exactly what he meant. And I agreed. And the blessing of our coming to the conclusion that we don’t “DESERVE” something – that we aren’t owed or entitled anything by God- is that it stops the root of bitterness and anger from taking hold and growing.

“This happens everyday all over the world. We’re not special.” — Again, that’s TRUE. While in one sense we’re all special in that we’re made in the image of God and incredibly valuable to Him, in another sense Neil and I are no more special than any of you. No one escapes suffering or death. When I look out across this room, my heart aches for what I know many of you have gone through and are going through in all kinds of scenarios. And even now- with our daughter right over there- throughout the course of this week we’ve heard from some of you the tragic stories of your lives- and we’ve commented to each other, “How are they surviving that?” “Now that would have been so hard.” I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to lose your mom, to face cancer, to suffer abuse, to manage chronic pain day in and day out.

This is not the last of our suffering. And whatever you’ve been through, it’s not the last of yours either. We aren’t special.

Finally, Neil also said, “We know where she’s going. And we’ll see her again.”

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again. 

Caroline’s Memorial Service

Part 2: Neil

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again.  

To an analytical, logical, skeptical engineer like me this would seem like just a nice sentiment. A nice myth. But the reality is that it may not be true.

“Ah” we may think, “so what if it’s not true, at least it makes us all feel good, and prevents pain, how can it hurt us, it will comfort us. It’s a comforting myth.”

But it struck me that that’s perhaps the mildest of the scenarios. I realized that there is a worst case scenario. What if it’s a lie and the real truth is something completely different, something that by believing a lie results in a terrible terrible fate. A terrible fate that I could have prevented had I studied the evidence. For if it is a lie, I have not only no hope for Caroline but I may be dooming myself and my entire family by believing this myth. It occurred to me that surely it’s worthwhile to look into this. I likened it to someone telling me the bridge has a huge section broken halfway out. Where I can’t see it. Now I may not care when I’m NOT driving towards the bridge. But say, one day I find that I do indeed need to cross the bridge. Even if I don’t believe the reports of the bridge being out, surely it’s worthwhile to look into it.

With my sweet Caroline’s death I am reminded that one day we all need to cross the bridge. We are staring death in the face today. We are in the middle of the storm. And one day all of us will face it.

So I for one, want to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that what I believe in, is true. That it’s not just a useful myth. But that it is factually TRUE.

Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been HEALED completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again.  

What my wonderful, patient, longsuffering, gorgeous and loving wife said is true. I believe this about Caroline because our Apologetics (the factual evidence for our faith) proves our Theology.

That apologetics allows me to prove using science that God really exists.

That apologetics allows me to prove using historical evidence, facts and logic that Jesus Christ was a real person and that he physically rose from the dead proving that He was God.

If this IS true then it’s also true that Christ is the grave robber.

For as 1 Corinthians 15 says, “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. If Christ has not been raised then we Christians are fools to be pitied more than all men.

But as we can prove Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first risen fruits of those who have died.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Our mortality will put on immortality; our perishable will put on the imperishable.  Death will be swallowed up in victory. Then we can say:

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

Thanks be to God for He has given us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Can I get an Amen?

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Grave Robber who comes to steal us away.

And thus, now once our Apologetics has proven and verified our Theology, then can our Theology strengthen and direct ou
r Hope. And yes though we are sad and cry and miss our sweet little Caroline, that verified Hope can lead our emotions and give us security, peace, comfort & joy in this wonderful season of Christmas. This season of God’s promise of life.

And that’s why we can truly say: Our daughter, Caroline Lois, is in heaven. She has been healed completely. She has a new body. We will be reunited and we can’t wait to see her again. And what’s great, I can prove that to be the most reasonably, most logical TRUTH.

Some have asked how we manage to be so joyous in these circumstances. It is these things that we have proven. It is these things that we stand on. It is these things that give us a solid ground for our faith and our hope.

Our Apologetics verifies our Theology. Our Theology directs our Hope and our Hope guides our Emotions.

That and the love of a wonderful gorgeous woman who believes in me and believes in us. With her and our dear supporting families who are always close, we can take on the world. I am truly blessed and deserve none of it.

Yet still, many of you have asked me what you can do for me. You’ve asked how you can help us. Can I collect today on that request? You can indeed help us make Caroline Lois’ life more meaningful. Here’s my request. You see one of my passions; one of my purposes in life is to explain this to you.

To show you the scientific evidence that I believe conclusively and reasonably proves that God exists,

The manuscript evidence that proves the Bible is accurate and the historical evidence that proves Jesus Christ rose from the dead showing us he was God.

To show you how and why our Apologetics verifies our Theology. Our Theology directs our Hope and our Hope guides our Emotions.

So here’s my request. Here’s what you can do for us: Let’s go out to lunch or coffee or dinner. Let me show you my evidence. I have five major points. I won’t force them on you. Feel free to disagree every step of the way, it will make it more interesting for one. But let me show you those 5 points. Hear me out. That’s what you can do for me. Those conversations with you will make our friendship stronger and my Caroline’s life that much more meaningful to me, because her life is what allowed us to talk about these normally taboo subjects. Will you do that for me? You don’t even need to pay for lunch. I’ll buy.

I want to close with one thought, if I may. For a while as she lay dying, I thought while I know I will see her again, oh what sorrow that Caroline will never get to live her life here on earth. She lost out.

Many times we think our purpose in life is what we do here on earth. What we do for others. These are all important. But I realized that I’d forgotten that we are not created primarily for the earth. We are created primarily for eternity. You see as the Westminster Confessional says: The Chief purpose of Man is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever.

Let me say that again.

The Chief purpose of Man is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever.

If we think our chief purpose is to Glorify God here on EARTH we have only a minute fraction of the picture. For if my Theology which is proven by my apologetics is true, we will spend more time in Eternity in the presence or the absence of the Almighty God, than we will ever spend here on earth. Amen.

My dear friends, who have so honored us by being here today, our sweet Caroline’s chief purpose is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him FOREVER. She has not lost out. She has not missed out, she is not lost. She is in fact doing precisely that. Enjoying God.

My sweet kind friends, I wish oh so much, for you to enjoy God as well, for I fear that if we don’t we will lose out. We may not lose a mere 80 years on earth that we thought Caroline had lost, but we may lose something far more permanent and eternal.

Something that Caroline has right now and can never lose.

Thank you.

For those interested in a more detailed account of the progression of Caroline’s story and the journey we took through prayer and a bit of the  emotional processing, we’ve included emails and some facebook posts in sequential order. 

November 22 at 6:45am 

Chris Kent: My sister Anna is in labor! Hopefully baby Caroline will make her grand entrance this time!

Anna Mammen: is thankful for my “Sweet Caroline!” who arrived this morning at 10:40am (13 days early! YAY!!). She is 7lb. 3oz and 20 in. long and we are in love . Definitely is resembling her sister at this point. -Pics to come.. but I need a nap !

November 22 at 2:06pm

 Chris Kent: A proud uncle yet again. Caroline Lois was born to Anna Kent Mammen and Neil Mammen today. Congratulations, world!

November 22 at 6:34pm 

Anna Mammen Our early Christmas gift. Caroline Lois Mammen

 November 23 at 8:08pm 

On Tue Nov 24, 2009, at 5:58 PM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Hi family and friends an urgent prayer request.

Our second daughter Caroline Lois Mammen was born this past Sunday, Nov. 22 at 10:40 am. She was 7lbs 3oz and 20 inches. However, she was immediately admitted into the NICU as they found that she had a small hole in the roof of her mouth and two holes in her heart. Normally this is not a problem and can easily be treated. However after 2 days she was not thriving, today she “crashed,” they think she may have an aorta that is too small and is unable to provide enough oxygen for her. They’ve given her some medicine that will alleviate the problem. If it does not work she’ll be taken to Stanford Medical at Stanford University to a cardiologist for immediate surgery. If it does work she’ll still go there but it won’t be as critical.

There’s lots of good news in this. First if this is the actual problem, it can be treated and the operation itself is relatively simple. Second, I’m glad we don’t have socialized healthcare and as a result have some of the worlds most advanced (and expensive) medical services. Third, like my wife reminded me, we’ve always dreamed of having our kids go to Stanford, all expenses paid. J But most of all we are reminded that God is able and He is in control.

Please be praying that the medicine works to remove the urgency and after that she survives the trip there, that she does not catch any infection (hospitals are notorious for that) and that she has no other problems i.e. no development problems. She is also learning to suck/eat with a special bottle to compensate for the hole in the roof of her mouth, which has proven difficult for her. We serve a mighty God and whatever He wills is fine with us at the end of the day of course our heart’s desire is for a full and quick recovery.

Please forward this to family and friends. We will start updating people on facebook shortly.

Neil and Anna Mammen

November 24 at 7:36pm

Anna Mammen is asking for your prayers as baby Caroline is on her way to Stanford hospital for heart surgery tonight. She had trouble breathing all day and was put on a respirator and feeding tube. We are trusting her to God and His perfect will for her precious life. But it’s still hard.

On Tues, Nov 24, 2009, at 7:10 PM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Thank you all, and praise God. Caroline is looking better. She’s pink again (sorry Indian relatives, another very un-Indian looking baby Mammen – but she does have black black hair so far). The medicine they gave her seems to be working. From my limited understanding it seems to confirm the problem is what they suspected. As we speak the EMT’s are
here getting her ready to move to Stanford. It takes quite a while. So she’s out of danger as much as we can tell. PTL. I will go with her to Stanford and will follow with more info at some point.

Meanwhile here’s a website that tells you what I think is happening. I have not talked to the doctor so this is just my own research. It looks very promising but as we all know the problems are the ones that we don’t anticipate like side effects, infections etc. So please do not stop praying. Caroline is a trooper and will give her older sister a run for her money we pray.

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/heart-encyclopedia/anomalies/iaa.htm

Wed, November 25, 2009 1:43:53 AM

Caroline is at Stanford/Packard Children’s Hospital, they are stabilizing her and trying to bring her back to fully normal before any surgery is done. It may be a few days. The doctor confirmed that my research was correct, it’s either an interrupted aortic arch or a “skinny” aorta (I haven’t found any info on the latter yet).  They will confirm after all the tests are run tonight and tomorrow.

The biggest prayer need now is to pray that that there was no long term damage done during the time when her blood was not flowing fully. There are lots of things that could have been damaged. Keep praying please and thank you all so much for all your responses. Keep them coming. While we many not be able to respond individually, each one has been a great encouragement.

Thanks again.

Neil

On Thursday Nov 26, 2009, at 11:54 AM, Neil Mammen wrote:

Hi family and friends,

Baby Caroline is getting more stable by the hour. She’s on morphine so she’s out of pain and sleeping steadily. All vital signs have stabilized or seem to be getting there.

They confirmed that there was some liver damage and some kidney damage when she had a short supply of blood/oxygen. But they said these are usually all reversible and that’s what they are working on. We will know more in a few days. All other scans showed there was no genetic issues with her organs or brain. They are doing a few more tests. We are praying that baby Caroline had no brain damage either. Normally the body maintains supply to the brain at the expense of the other organs so please pray that there is no damage there. The nurse said “We see a lot of babies with lack of oxygen here and usually they recover quite well.”

We are praying that they can do the heart surgery next week as that indicates that she’s strong enough and well on her way to recovery.

Do keep praying. We are thankful for you, your prayers, emails of encouragement and all the blessings we have this Thanksgiving. 

Neil and Anna Mammen

Caroline Lois is not improving

November 28, 2009 

Today was a very tough day for us. The doctor called and said that though she has stabilized, our darling Caroline’s kidneys are not improving and he is concerned that there is permanent damage to them. Due to her heart condition he said she may not be a candidate for a kidney transplant. They are increasing her medicine to see if she will respond. He also confirmed that the MRI did show some brain damage that was caused when her blood supply stopped due to her hypoplastic aorta. However, he said that they they don’t know yet if it’s permanent or recoverable. Kidneys can recover naturally; or supernaturally if God wills.

As you can see our optimism suffers compared to the last update (see below). We do know she is the Lord’s and His to take to heaven whenever it is her time, we know that as with Paul and King David, sometimes the Lord chooses not to heal according to his Sovereign will. Yet please pray with us for a miracle of healing. We have seen the Lord act supernaturally before in our life with Mary-Katherine (ask me about this sometime); and pray for Him to do so again if He wills. We have been given so much and don’t deserve Caroline, or anything for that matter, but selfishly would like more time to know and love her and see her grow up to be a powerful force in ministry and apologetics (of course).

As I write this we are here at Stanford Medical at the NICU, she is sedated and sleeps so peacefully. We love her so dearly. It’s tough for me as an engineer as I can’t “FIX” it. But she is first and foremost the Lord’s not mine. Not ours.

Frankly this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to faith, doesn’t it? God exists, I can prove that to be reasonable and logical using science and facts. Christ physically died and rose from the dead, I can prove that to be a reasonable and logical conclusion with a case that could stand up in a court of Law. (If you haven’t heard me talk about this, ask me for my scientific and historical and logical evidence). So if Christ rose from the dead, the accounts of His ability to heal then fall in place naturally. More so His promise of our resurrection. Faith must be based on truth and facts. Our Apologetics (the evidence for the faith) proves our Theology, our Theology strengthens and verifies our Hope and our Hope leads our Emotions. That way when trials come we can be assured and we can say: Sickness has no chance if He wills us to be healed. And if not to be healed, we can truly say: Oh Death where is your victory? O Grave where is your sting? In that glorious day God will dry the tears from our eyes, pain will end and we will never die.

In my discussion with my atheist friends they have looked at pain and said: How can God exist if there is so much pain and suffering? I look at pain and say: Thank You God, that You do exist and provably so. For without a God, pain and suffering would be a cruel heartless cold ending. For how can my atheist friend truly comfort anyone? In his worldview it is all for naught. There is no happy ending.

In the same way, my friends who do not know, or blindly hope, or only guess what maybe beyond our limited physical and natural four dimensions, can only wish that what is out there really exists and “will” themselves to believe that perhaps it is better than what we have here. But what if they are wrong? Where is their assurance? What is their hope based on? Facts or feelings?

Yet, I know emotionally and can prove intellectually that nothing can stop me from spending eternity enjoying Caroline as much as I enjoy Mary-Katherine, her big sister. The only question is if we have to wait a few years to start spending time with Caroline. At this point in her frailness, we pray we don’t.

The battle is not over. Keep praying. God exists and He is able. We now pray that His Sovereign Will is to heal her.

Neil

Please forward this to family and friends not on the list. 

Caroline Lois is going home

November 30, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009 about 3 PM

Caroline Lois is going to go home to her Lord and my Lord very soon. Perhaps tonight.

We are selfishly trying to keep her here a bit longer, here in 4D space, perhaps an hour or two. But do not be sad for us or worry about her or us for that matter, as we have full assurance that she is going to far greater place than she has ever been before and we too will meet her there one day. To tie a few famous phrases together:

“It’s a far better thing I do now than I have ever done before, it’s a far better place I go to than I have ever been before. Father into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

While we are sad and distraught at the temporary separation, it is with joy that we can release her soul to the great healer who again physically and factually proved He was able to resurrect from the dead. We are left behind for we have a lot of work to do here before we meet her there.

Do remember that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not ev
en Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. For if Christ did not physically rise from the dead then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. And worse, those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. Yes, if Christ has not been raised then we Christians are to be pitied more than all men.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When this has happened then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”?“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ the Grave Robber.

1 Corr 15.

One of my favorite 80s song was by Petra. Here’s a link to it with the lyrics.

http://popup.lala.com/popup/576742257649335055

Grave Robber by Petra Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, I Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17 Words & Music by Bob Hartman

There’s a step that we all have to take alone. An appointment we have with the great unknown. Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass. Like the flowers that fade like the withering grass

But life seems so long and death so complete. And the grave an impossible portion to cheat

But there’s One who has been there and still lived to tell. There is One who has been through both heaven and hell

And the Grave will come up empty handed that day. Jesus will come and steal us away

Where is the sting tell me where is the bite. When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory where is the prize. When the grave robber comes. And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep. For those that they love who have fallen asleep. But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache. Just one shout from above and they all will awake. And in the reunion of joy we will see. Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is gone, from the dust will come a song. Those asleep will be awakened – not a one will be forsakened. He shall wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears. There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain or sorrow

Where is the sting tell me where is the bite? When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory where is the prize? When the grave robber comes, And death finally dies.

If you are interested in why I am so confident about the physical, historical and scientific truth about the Ressurection of Christ and the existence of God my I direct you to this web page:

www.noblindfaith.com/sermon/sermons.htm

Thanks. Neil and Anna

Caroline Lois Mammen is home

December 1, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 12:41 PM

Today Caroline is with her Lord and my Lord.

This morning at 1:10 AM, I held her, as she went from our ever so limited four dimensional space, to the multidimensionality* of eternal life where there are more colors, more sounds, more tastes, more senses and everything is so far far more wonderful that this dim world pales in comparison. Tis truly a far better place that she is now. She was 9 months and 9 days old counting from when she became human in the womb. She was born on November 22nd, 2009.

She went from me, her dad’s arms, to her Father’s arms.

We are planning a memorial service on Saturday, most probably at Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos. We will post details as we know them.

We praise God in all He has given us. We do miss her greatly and feel the sorrow of parting, but do not despair for us or for her. Mourn instead for those who do not know our Lord and lead them gently to Him. Use words.

Thanks so much to all of you who have written or called or posted on our facebook. It truly shows us how much we are loved and cared for. Neil

www.NoBlindFaith.com

*If you are wondering what all the multidimensional references are about, please see this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Who-Agent-Proving-Science-Rational/dp/1448626196/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260246977&sr=8-1  

Anna and I hope Caroline’s story will be an encouragement and a witness to others.

As of today I have over 20-30 offers to do “lunch” and talk about God and Christ from my friends who do not believe, who were either at the memorial service or have heard about our journey and just as importantly, who were very reluctant to talk about these issues before. 

To some atheists this may seem “different” but think of Amber’s family who when Amber was killed, decided that their daughter should not die in vain and was responsible for creating the Amber Alerts to protect other children. There are many similarities here, if my atheist friends are really going to hell for all eternity and my daughter’s physical and temporal death can be used to save them from that eternal consequence, surely this is a noble legacy to her life. Surely it’s a nobler legacy that something as excellent and as needed as the Amber Alerts. Amber Alerts may save a child from immediate harm, but it cannot save a child from eternal death.

 This is what we are calling Caroline’s Legacy.

 

 

 

 

Are Atheists really just as Moral as Christians?

Are Atheists really just as Moral as Christians?

One of the complaints that I often hear is that “Atheists are just as moral as Christians are”. The response is usually made when I present the Moral Argument. Well I always try to clarify that I never said or meant that atheists ARE immoral, just that they have no rational basis for their morality. And this is partly because we can always argue that expedience is always better, e.g. killing all the weak is actually better for society; stealing when no one will ever find out, will help preserve your genes; lying when you can’t get caught will help you make headway in society (and if YOU are better FOR society than all those other fools, then it will be good for society if YOU get ahead) etc.

On the contrary, Christians say character is based on “What you do when you know that you will never be found out,” regardless of the expediency.

But now suddenly there’s a glitch. Researchers in 4 independent and separate studies have found that conservatives are indeed much more “honest” and “moral” than “progressives.”

In the San Francisco Examiner Commentary – Peter Schweizer claims that “Conservatives are more honest than liberals”. –

He actually phrases it as a question, but the conclusion is that conservatives ARE more honest. (click on the link).

Now as you read it you’ll realize that he’s not talking about atheists or Christians specifically, but if you are out there and are an atheist and not a liberal/progressive, I want to talk to you. I’d be very interested in picking your brain. I don’t run into too many of those (I did once, i.e. a conservative atheist, but he became a Christian within 6 months of me meeting with him on a regular basis and giving him “The Case for Christ”).

As I see it, atheists are a subset of the superset of secular progressives. And while Christians are indeed a subset of conservatives, we all know that they are a majority of them in the United States where these surveys were taken. (Correct me if I am wrong).

Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I will stop trusting my atheist friends. I know them too well. I just had lunch with one of them last week and he’s a guy I’d trust with my life and fortune. I say this lest you think I actually think all atheists are not moral.

But point 1 is that:

It does seem to indicate that there may now be some statistical validity to the fact that if there really is no rational basis for your morality, one tends to be less moral. What say you?

Is this a valid conclusion?

This also lends itself to the second point/question:

  1. If it is true that morality is “good,” for society (and I surmise this from even the atheists’ vehement claim that they are also moral – so presumably morality is a plus for society even in their eyes)
  2. And it is true that conservatives and Christians are much much more moral than atheists and liberals

Does this not mean that the more GENUINE (and I emphasize that on purpose), the more genuine conservatives and Christians we have, the better for ALL of society?

In which case, shouldn’t even atheists encourage the Christians to continue what they are doing (including evangelizing) so they improve society for all of us?

Just wondering. Naturally next week a new study could come out that refutes these 4 studies, but since that hasn’t happened and we are scientists and philosophers that work with the facts that we have at the moment (and not hope for a future “revelation”), if these studies are true what does this mean? I could be wrong but it does seem to imply something along the lines of the two conclusions I’ve argued for.

Neil Mammen

CIA: Your Chance to Make an Impact with Christian Apologetics

If you have some expertise in the area of Christian Apologetics, we are looking for instructors to help us take I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist to students and churches around the country.  Greg Koukl and Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason, and Jason Reed of Southern Evangelical Seminary will join me, Frank Turek, in leading the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA), August 13-15 in Charlotte, NC.  Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answerman, will join us for a special Q and A on Wednesday night August 13.  This is a great opportunity for you to make an impact through apologetics. But hurry– the application deadline is June 24.  Click here for details.?

Suffering and Evil: Can God do anything?

Can God do Anything? Can he create a stone so big that he cannot move it?

Part 1

 

In a response to one of our readers, I said that God cannot do anything. The reader responded?

“Then what about Miracles.”

 

In another post an atheist reader said:

“… God can suspend the law of gravity. God can make 2+2=5 if it suits his purpose …..”

 

But this seems to indicate a misunderstanding of the Christian God.

So let me see if I can clarify the Christian concept of God. I won’t try to speak for the god of any other religion or myth or a god of anyone’s personal creation. Why? Because that is only limited by your imagination.

 

In addition do understand that what I am about to present to you is Theology. That is, I maybe able to prove some of these concepts to you, but I can’t prove them all. However I do think that they are all rational, logical and self consistent. So take them as information to understand how Christian philosophers and how most of us on this site view God.

 

  1. God cannot do “anything.”

From the writings of the great Christian theologians, thinkers, scientists and philosophers, and from the Bible, we can derive the following of characteristics of the First Cause, uncaused Creator:

God cannot do anything which is not actually possible, for example contrary to the statement above, He cannot make 2+2=5,

He cannot stop being God,

He cannot make a round square in 2 dimensional space,

He cannot make black actually be white,

He cannot paint a door black with red paint bought from Home Depot and no added chemicals and no added activity on his part,

He cannot give someone freedom of choice in an area and then not let them choose in that area.

 

After all it would seem fallacious and irrational to try to argue that the source of all rationality could be irrational itself.

 

Here are some more:

He cannot sin,

He cannot cease to exist.

He cannot “not” be God.

He cannot make another God.

He cannot allow anything else to become God.

He cannot be irrational.

He cannot be evil.

He cannot be lonely.

He cannot be unhappy.

He cannot have unmet needs.

He cannot begin to exist.

He cannot forget.

He cannot learn anything new (at least as far as we understand).

The last few imply that He  cannot change his mind (because that would mean he’d learned some new information or remembered something He’d forgotten, He can however have always planned to do something different at a certain point in time, or plan to respond to a certain event in a specific way).

And he certainly cannot create a stone so big that he cannot move it. But we’ll cover that in a second blog.

So if someone asks you if God can do anything. Say “No.”

 

 

  1. The Miracles in the Bible are not “actually” impossible

As indicated in my blog of April 28th, Biblical Miracles do not fall into this category because they are not actually “impossible.” They are not irrational. Why do we say that? Well because any miracle or supernatural event recorded in the Bible could have been made to take place if enough technology, equipment or knowledge was available or if an extra-dimensional being was able to manipulate molecules, electrons, quarks or leptons. Look carefully, there are no truly impossible or irrational miracles in the Bible including the creation of the Universe and if an atheist were to suggest that creating matter from nothing is impossible, we’d say “Really, then why do you think it happened accidentally”.

 

 By the way the feasibility of most of the Biblical miracles (short of creation) through technology is quite an interesting observation when you think about it. I doubt I can claim credit for it though, because, as with most things I think I have discovered, I always end up finding out that some other philosopher or theologian had already written about it 1000-2000 years ago.

 

An entry on my personal webpage titled “Is the Supernatural Impossible? Goes in to more detail about miracles (click for the link).

 

Let’s look briefly at the the water into wine miracle. The water was changed into wine most probably at the molecular level. It wasn’t water that was also wine (and while it could have been hypnotism, the passage indicates it wasn’t and anyway hypnotism isn’t “impossible”). He changed the water molecules into actual wine molecules (and very good wine at that). Was it synthetic wine? It probably was. (I say probably because of course he could have also swapped the water for pre-made wine – OK OK using the equivalent of a transporter beam…I’m a geek at heart).

 

What about dead men walking as in the case of those who came to life, again healing of tissue and reanimation of life (God created life to begin with – a merging of some multi-dimensional elements back to their original 4D ones) are all “possible” rational things. They are just not natural or common.

 

So we see none of these miracles are actually impossible.

Now it’s worth nothing that impossibility is usually seen best in philosophical or conceptual issues. E.g. making the square root of (-1) = 1. Or making the cube of 5, 124. All of which are rationally impossible.

 

You see making 1+1 = 3 or 2+2= 5 is not a matter of manipulating molecules. It is dealing with things at a much basic and in a sense a higher level. It’s dealing with things at the point of rationality. Mess with that and everything stops being cohesive, the universe starts to unravel, and you start to violate the very nature of God.

 

What about changing the laws of Gravity in the example. I would argue that God cannot change or suspend the laws of Gravity without having to then simultaneously attend to all the other effects of there being no Gravity. That’s not to say that he couldn’t also stop every individual thing from flinging out in to space using some other power, but the point is He would have to attend to it.

It’s of value to note that the original comment about Gravity by the atheist at the opening of this blog was said in the context of God being unable to be studied by science because he could change the laws of Gravity and we would not know about it. However, the nature of God being what it is and from the examples in the Biblical miracles, I tend to think that if God did do a miracle he would allow the side effects of the miracle to be apparent such that we could indeed measure it and see that an external agent had acted upon things. I also think that while God could indeed do things that cannot be studied by science, He could just as well do certain things that COULD be studied by science and point to him. So we cannot apriori assume that God did not do so. Maybe God has chosen to be able to be detected by Science. In which case would not science be the best way to detect him?

 

You cannot merely say that Science cannot prove God. If God wanted to, Science could indeed prove God. And contrary to what some believe, most Christians Theologians and Philosophers think that God HAS indeed chosen to leave his Fingerprint for us to detect. The question we are asking ourselves is “Why is he not more obvious about it?”, for that discussion you’ll have to wait for a future post titled “Why doesn’t God just show himself?” So for now know that the miracles in the Bible at not rationally or logically impossible.

 

 

  1. But I thought God was Omnipotent

(this section was updated with the definition of Pantocrator on 5/11/08 – I would like t
o express my appreciation to “db0” who allowed me to bounce these arguments off him and prompted this further expansion, I’m adding this back into the blog to allow people to see most of the argument in one place. )

 

God IS omnipotent (all powerful) but he is not omni-able (i.e. able to do “any”thing at least not anything irrational). The definition of power should not be confused with capability when it comes to the Christian God. There’s a clear distinction between the two. Christian theologians have long taught that God is all-powerful, not all capable when it comes to irrationality. And if you think about this, we see this as being tied into His character, His personality, His being. If God were to become irrational, it would violate his nature and he would cease to be God. God is a slave to his character (but then so are you).

 

But you say doesn’t the Bible say that God can do anything? Actually no, it does not. The word used in the Bible for Omni-Potent comes from the Greek word Pantocrator (Pantokrator). Pantocrator means all ruling. Almighty not all-capable. Let me explain.

 

When the Vulgate Manuscript was created as a translation from the Greek Septuagint (the Old Testament) into Latin, the Greek word Pantocrator was translated into the Latin “omnipotens”, which means having all the power (again note this is still technically correct as it means having power and strength not capability). The word is tied to rulers and ruling not to being all “capable.”

Over the recent years many Christians just started assuming that Omnipotence meant all capable and modern language uses it that way. But the original Greek and Hebrew do not support this. (BTW that’s what we think is infallible, the original Greek and Hebrew autographs written by the apostles and prophets. We don’t think the translations are or the copies are infallible.)

The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon explains Pantocrator as:

Strong’s Number: 3841

pantokravtwr from (3956) and (2904)?

Transliterated Word TDNT Entry:?Pantokrator

Noun: Masculine?

Definition: he who holds sway over all things, the ruler of all, almighty: God

 

As you can see Pantocrator does not mean all capable even of irrational things. It just means powerful, mighty and ruler of all.

 

Hope this helps clarify where we stand.

 

 

Neil Mammen

By the way: Any errors in examples or theology are my errors and not those of the owners of this site.

 

Coming soon:

Part II. The correct response to: Can God create a stone so big that he cannot move it?