Rapid Response: “Evil Disproves the Existence of God”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “If God is both all-loving and all-powerful, why does He allow evil things to happen? Doesn’t the mere presence of evil disprove the existence of God?” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

“In criminal trials, evidence can either inculpate or exculpate a suspect. Inculpating evidence points toward a suspect’s involvement. Exculpating evidence, on the other hand, points away from the suspect’s involvement. So, the real question here is this: Does the presence of evil, either natural or moral evil, exculpate God as the best suspect for the creation of the universe? After all, if there’s an all-powerful, all-loving God, why could He allow evil to exist? Either He’s not all-powerful (so He can’t stop it), or He’s not all-loving (He doesn’t want to stop it), or presence of evil demonstrates that He doesn’t exist at all.

Evil Disproves God

There’s a problem with this question, however. We would have to know as much as God to understand why God would allow any evil. How would we ever know all the reasons why God might allow evil to exist? In any horrific crime I’ve worked as a detective, if someone were to ask, ‘Why did that happen?’ the answer is always going to involve a variety of hidden factors working together. It’s always a combination of unique (and often unlikely) relationships between events, opportunities, and conditions. In a similar way, there are always a variety of factors we must consider when asking why God would allow any act of evil in the world. At the very least, we must try to understand the role eternity plays, the importance of free agency, the definition of love, the impact evil has in developing our character or drawing us to God, the role justice plays, and the difficulty we should expect in trying to understand how these factors interact. These complex factors must be considered before we render a verdict about God’s existence and involvement. It’s a difficult task, to be sure.

Let me just offer one quick thought, however. As an atheist (I didn’t become a Christian until I was thirty-five), evil was a problem and concern for me, based on my definition of life and understanding of eternity. Back then, I thought of life as a line segment; starting at my point of birth and extending to my point of death. If life is good, I hoped to get about ninety years between these two points, and as an atheist, I was hoping for the happiest, pain-free years possible. If, for example, I was to get sick at the age of forty, suffer for ten years and then die at the age of fifty, I would have seen this as an insurmountable evil. After all, I expected to get ninety pleasurable, pain-free years. But what if my foundational definition of life was wrong in the first place? What if life isn’t a line segment, but is instead a ray that starts at birth, extends through death and continues off into eternity? If that is the true nature of life, I would have to reevaluate what I believe about the nature of pain and suffering ‘between the two points,’ wouldn’t I?

All of us have suffered something evil or painful for a short period, but when we compare it with the length of our lives, we’ve seen the role this painful experience had in the larger context. If Christianity is true, we live for more than ninety short years. If Christianity is true, our lives are more than short line segments; we are eternal creatures. Any evil you may suffer in this short temporal life must be considered in the context of eternity, and eternity changes everything.

That’s just one factor we must consider when trying to decide if evil exculpates God’s involvement in the universe. Our definition of life and view of eternity is incredibly important. When we think about this, in combination with the other factors I’ve described, we begin to understand that evil is not actually an exculpatory piece of evidence at all. In fact, unless there exists a righteous, perfect God to serve as the standard of good by which we measure any act and call it ‘evil,’ the notion of evil becomes little more than a matter of personal or cultural opinion. We need a true standard of good to recognize anything as evil. That’s why the presence of evil in our universe is another piece of inculpating evidence. It demonstrates the existence and involvement of God, because without a standard for moral perfection, evil doesn’t really exist at all. In the end, evil actually points toward the existence of God.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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Resources for Greater Impact

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God’s Crime Scene (Paperback)

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I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST (Paperback)


Islamic Terror, Homosexuality, & the Consequences of Ideas

By Tim Stratton

Sunday morning I awoke to horrific news on my Facebook feed: an Islamic terrorist brutally gunned down over fifty of our fellow human beings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This broke my heart and made me extremely angry! I cannot imagine the sorrow, pain, and anguish the friends and family members of the deceased victims are currently experiencing. This was an objectively evil act – it was wrong!

As soon as I read the headlines and processed the fact that evil has once again reared its ugly head, I told my wife what was going to happen next. Like clockwork, people were going to insist that “religion is the problem,” or that “guns are the problem.” The statements made on social media over the past few hours have validated my prediction. In this article I will examine both of these statements and offer a third option that must be considered if we are to extinguish terror, hate, and evil.

“Religion is the Problem!”

Since 9-11, many atheists have pontificated, “Religion is what’s wrong in the world today.” They conclude that since Muslims were behind the terror attacks on September the 11th, 2001, and Islam is a religion, then religion is to blame for the terror in the world today. This attempt at an argument can be written in the following syllogism:

1- Islam is responsible for the 9-11 terror attacks.
2- Islam is a religion.
3- Therefore, religion is responsible for the 9-11 terror attacks.

This argument fails as it commits the logical fallacy of composition. This error involves an assumption that what is true about one part of something must be applied to all, or other parts of it. In this case, the atheist assumes that since one particular religion affirms terror, then all religions affirm terror.

If one were to allow this argument to pass, then we could jump to all kinds of crazy conclusions. For example, according to several reports I read following the terror attack in Orlando, the terrorist was a registered Democrat. If one allows the above argument to pass, then the following argument would suffice as well:

1- The terrorist responsible for murdering homosexuals in the gay nightclub was a registered Democrat.
2- Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are Democrats.
3- Therefore, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are responsible for the murders of homosexuals in the gay nightclub.

Obviously this is ridiculous and such reasoning is incoherent. Reasonable people will reject such “conclusions.” Thus, a reasonable person will reject the so-called “conclusion” that, “religion is the problem with the world today.” This is explicitly demonstrated when surveying other religions and world views.

Take the religion of Christianity, for example. A necessary condition for one to be a legitimate Christian is that they desire, and strive, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus are clearly contradictory to the teachings of Muhammad and Islam. Sure, the two religions share some overlapping beliefs: Christians and Muslims all agree, for example, that the universe began to exist and was caused and created by an enormously powerful Intelligent Designer, but they begin to part ways soon after. The final teachings from both of these religions are quite different with Muhammad commanding Muslims to kill all infidels (non-Muslims) in the Quran, and Jesus commanding his followers to love all people, from their neighbors (Mark 12:31) to their enemies (Matthew 5:44), in the Bible. Moreover, according to Islam, those in the LGB community are to be executed. According to Jesus, however, although homosexual acts go against God’s plan, the ones committing these homosexual acts are to be loved!

Let me repeat myself: According to the law of Christ found in the New Testament, homosexual acts are sinful, but homosexuals are to be LOVED! Click here for more!

“Guns are the Problem!”

Many others in America today see horrendous headlines of Islamic terror and immediately jump to the hasty conclusion that guns are the real problem. The error with this line of thinking is that it does not take into consideration all of the other means by which evil people can accomplish their evil plans. After all, the Nazis used poisonous gas to kill millions of Jews, the Ku Klux Klan used rope to hang African Americans, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill 168 people, and Islamic terrorists killed thousands of Americans on 9-11 without firing a single bullet.

If one thinks banning guns is going to stop hate crimes, then, to be consistent, they must also strive to ban all gas, rope, fertilizer, and airplanes too. This is obviously ridiculous as well, as the real problem does not lie within the tools that an evil man uses to accomplish his evil desires, but the desires of the evil man. If all guns, rope, fertilizer, and airplanes were banished from the face of the earth, these evil men would continue to find ways to accomplish their hateful plans. This is a much bigger problem.

Ideas are the Problem!

These evil desires typically stem from previously held ideas. The way one thinks directly leads to the way one acts, and the way one believes directly influences the way he behaves. You see, the problem is not all religions, all guns, all rope, all fertilizer, or all airplanes. The problem is ALLbeliefs, thoughts, and ideas that do not correspond to reality.

Ideas have consequences, and ideas that do not correspond to reality have painful consequences. These underlying ideas are referred to as one’s worldview. A worldview is a foundational set of beliefs that ultimately influence all other beliefs built upon this foundation.

Consider the worldview (or idea) of atheism. It is vitally important to understand what consistent atheism logically implies: If God does not exist, then there is nothing objectively good, bad, right, wrong, fair, or evil with anything! Watch this short video to understand exactly why this is true. It logically follows that if naturalistic atheism is true, then there is nothing really wrong with the Islamic terrorist shooting homosexuals at the gay nightclub in Orlando this past weekend. Moreover, if naturalistic atheism is true, this Muslim had no choice in the matter, as the laws of physics and chemistry forced this poor terrorist to believe and behave exactly as he did. It was simply not his fault.

To make matters worse for atheists, history is not on their side. This past century has provided evidence as to the consequences of following atheistic ideas, as the nations governed according to these ideals usually end in suffering and mass human slaughter. The atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and arguably Hitler being influenced by naturalism’s “survival of the fittest,” has caused devastating collisions with the reality of morality; human suffering and death followed on a massive scale.

If naturalistic atheism were true, then there would be nothing really wrong, bad, or evil with any action and there would be no ability to make moral choices. Couple that with the historical fact that communistic governments officially adopting atheism (or being influenced by it) make all murders under the umbrella of “religion” pale in comparison. Why would anyone want to hold to an incoherent worldview like atheism over the ideas of Jesus teaching all people to love all people? Can you imagine a world where everyone loves everyone? That sounds like heaven to me — maybe Jesus was on to something!

So, if you are keeping score, here is a quick recap: In regards to the terrorist attacks at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida this past weekend, here is what each worldview affirms; or rather, here are the consequences that follow from each set of ideas:

1- Consistent Islam: this attack was GOOD as Muhammad’s final commands were to kill the infidels (Take five minutes to understand by clicking here).

2- Consistent Atheism: there was NOTHING objectively WRONG with these attacks. In fact, on naturalistic atheism it is unavoidable. Terrorists are therefore not responsible for their actions.

3- Consistent Christianity: this attack was objectively WRONG and EVIL! According to the law of Christ, all humans are commanded to love all humans (even the ones we disagree with). According to Jesus, we are to love everyone from our neighbors to our enemies. Thus, one who consistently follows the teachings of Jesus will demonstrate love to all people (even the ones he disagrees with)!

Is there a best choice option? Yes there is. The one supported by all of the evidence and the same one commanding us to love!

Bottom line: If you agree that these Islamic terror attacks against homosexuals at the gay nightclub were objectively wrong and evil, then, to be logically consistent, you must reject atheism, Islam, or any other view that disagrees with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you think terror and persecution against the homosexual community is objectively wrong, then you ought to be a Christ follower!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5) and love one another (John 13:34-35),

Tim Stratton


Notes

To learn more about Islamic terror and Jihad, begin by reading this article by Timothy Fox reviewing the book of the former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward.

Original article: http://freethinkingministries.com/islamic-terror-homosexuality-the-consequences-of-ideas/

Euthyphro Is Dead!

By Timothy Fox

It’s the zombie argument. The objection that won’t stay down: the Euthyphro dilemma. Skeptics just can’t accept the fact that Euthyphro has been dead for centuries and keep dragging him out of his grave.

In case you don’t know who Euthyphro is, let me introduce you to him. Euthyphro is a character from one of Plato’s writings who has a discussion with Socrates about the gods and piety. His dilemma has been repurposed as an argument against the goodness of God and can be stated as follows:

Is something good because God commands it or does God command something because it is good? In the first option, God’s commands seem arbitrary, that he could have easily commanded murder and rape to be good and love and kindness to be evil. In the second option, God merely reports to us the commands of some other moral standard that even he is subject to. So we’re caught in a dilemma: either God’s commands are arbitrary or he is not the ultimate authority. This is the Euthyphro dilemma.

At first it seems like we’re stuck. Except, as mentioned earlier, this dilemma has been resolved for centuries: God is good. He is the source of goodness. Heis the moral standard. His commands are not arbitrary, nor do they come from some standard external to him. They are good because they flow from his innate goodness. Dilemma averted.

Euthyphro is dead.

Now I know this doesn’t settle the issue of God’s goodness. Since this article is only intended to discuss the Euthyphro dilemma, I’ll just briefly touch on two related objections:

1 – God is not good. This is typically in response to an action or command from God in the Old Testament. And I agree that there are some things that are hard to understand and need to be discussed. But generally speaking, if we question God’s goodness, what are we judging him against? Our own moral standard? Then it’s our opinion against God’s and, if he truly exists, I’m going to trust his judgment over any finite, fallible human’s.

2 – How do we know that God is good? This question completely misses the point of Euthyphro’s resolution: God is the standard of goodness. There is nothing to compare him against or judge him by. But let’s suppose there does exist some higher moral standard. By applying this objection’s logic, we should ask “How do we know that this standard is good?” See the problem? You’re forever asking “How do we know?” to any moral standard. But if there is an objective moral standard, that is the standard by which morality is measured. It simply is good.

The best you can do is try to find some kind of inconsistency in God’s moral character. But then you can still only judge him against himself, which would point you back to objection 1. And even if you feel that one (or both) of these objections has not been resolved, my broader point is that the Euthyphro dilemma fails as a dilemma since there’s a third possible option, whether you like it or not. Thus, it’s an invalid argument.

Euthyphro is dead.

Why do skeptics keep digging him up? You may as well as ask why zombies keeps coming back. Because they do. That’s what makes them zombies. Bad arguments will always come back into fashion. But you need to see Euthyphro for what he is: a dead, defeated argument. Yet unlike zombies from tv shows and movies, he has no bite. He doesn’t even have teeth. His dilemma has been resolved for centuries.

So if you’re looking for an argument against God’s goodness, Euthyphro is not your man.

Euthyphro is dead!

Click here to see the source site of this article.

The Universal Problem We Don’t Want to Admit

How do we fix a world filled with murder, rape, betrayal, adultery, fraud, theft, sexual exploitation, pornography, bullying, abortion, terrorism, cheating, lying, child abuse, racism, assault, drugs, robbery, and countless other evils?

There will be no solutions unless we are honest about their underlying causes. Although we don’t want to admit it, the truth is that every one of those world problems can be traced back to a problem with the human heart.

No one knows that better than an honest cop. My friend Jim Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective in California. He’s been featured four times on Dateline for solving crimes that are decades old. He’s noticed that every crime he has ever solved can be traced back to one or more of these three motives: financial greed, relational lust, or the pursuit of power (money, sex and power). We want these things so much that we are willing to use immoral means to get them.

In other words, the sick condition of our world is preceded and caused by the sick condition of our hearts.  That’s why we won’t improve the external world until we first improve our internal worlds.

You might think that this doesn’t really apply to you. After all, you may be congratulating yourself because you haven’t committed any of the crimes listed at the top of this column.

“Well, not most of them anyway,” you say. “Who hasn’t lied or stolen something?   But I’m better than most people!”

Maybe so. But your very act of self-justification proves the point—instead of admitting our faults, our natural inclination is to minimize them or cover them up while claiming moral superiority.

We don’t want to admit this because it hurts our pride, which is also a heart issue. “Don’t tell me I’m wrong! You’re offending me! You’re hurting my feelings!”

It’s no wonder free speech is under attack in the culture and on campus. To channel Jack Nicholson, we “can’t handle the truth” because the truth exposes the fact that we are not really as good as we claim we are. We can’t bear the fact that we are broken, narcissistic creatures who find it much easier and more natural to be selfish rather than selfless.

This affects even people who deny real right and wrong. For example, leading atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. He recently insisted that a woman has the right to choose an abortion and asserted that it would be “immoral” to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. According to Dawkins, the “right to choose” is a good thing and giving birth to Down syndrome children is a bad thing.

Well, which is it? Is there really good and evil, or are we just moist robots dancing to the music of our DNA? If there is no objective morality, then there is no “right” to anything, whether it is abortion or the right to life.

And if there is no objective morality, then why does everyone, including atheists, try to justify their own immoral behavior? As C.S. Lewis observed, “If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule or Law pressing on us so— that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.”

Ironically, when we try to shift the responsibility for our immoral actions, we often appeal to other moral principles to justify ourselves:

  • I used my expense account for personal items because I work harder than what they pay me, and it’s unjust that my boss makes so much more than me.
  • I ran off with my assistant because she really loves me, unlike my wife who doesn’t give me the attention I deserve.
  • I don’t have time for my kids because I’m too busy working hard to provide for their future.
  • I had an abortion because it’s immoral to give birth to a Down syndrome child.

Even our excuses show that we really, deep down, believe in objective morality. We often deceive ourselves into believing that something immoral is really moral (like abortion), but, as Thomas Jefferson famously declared, certain universal moral truths are “self evident.” All rational people know this. Unfortunately, our tendency for moral self-deception is also universal. We know what’s right, but we make excuses for doing wrong by trying to appeal to what is right!

Where does all this leave us?

There is hope. Regardless of what you believe about the Bible, what can’t be denied is that the Bible nails the truth about human nature and our deceptive human hearts. The book of Genesis admits that “every intent of the thoughts of [mankind’s] heart was only evil continually.” Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful and wicked, who can know it?” Jesus declared, that people “love darkness rather than light.” And Paul observed that we “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” in order to continue in our sins.

But the Bible doesn’t just accurately state the problem; it also reveals the only possible solution. Because of our moral failings, God’s infinite love compelled Him to add humanity over his Deity and come to earth in the person of Jesus that first Christmas. The incarnation was necessary because an infinitely just Being cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Instead of punishing us, God found in Jesus an innocent human substitute to voluntarily take the punishment for us.

Our pride tells us that we can rescue ourselves, but we can’t. No matter how much we try to justify ourselves or pledge to do better in the future, we can’t escape the fact that we’re guilty for what we’ve already done.

So it’s important to ask this Christmas season, “Have you accepted the pardon Jesus came to offer you? And have you asked Him into your life to help heal your self-centered heart?” If not, why not? He’s the only true solution to the world’s evils and the heart problem that afflicts each one of us.

Is Learning Apologetics like Fiddling While Rome Burns?

A Modern Commentary of C.S. Lewis’ ‘Learning in Wartime’

Today it is easy to see why many Christians may be discouraged and feel the need to “circle the wagons,” – to not see the need to cultivate a life of the mind, including learning apologetic arguments for Christianity, or even learning anything new at all. We now live in a world of ISIS, Ebola, violent Christian persecution in various parts of the world, and an increasing attack on religious liberties in America.

Perhaps a lesson from the past will bring light and even encouragement to the value of learning – especially loving Christ with all of our minds in the Church today.

In 1939 the dark clouds of Hitler’s Nazi war machine were beginning to loom across Europe and in England. Walter Hooper, who briefly served as C.S. Lewis’ personal secretary in 1963 relates a fascinating story of when Lewis was invited to preach a sermon at Oxford’s Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the late 30’s.

The threat of imminent war with Germany caused many of Oxford’s undergraduates much hesitation and unrest. Christian students understandably wondered at the value of education and the pursuit of truth when a world war loomed on the horizon. At that time Canon T.R. Milford, an admirer of Lewis’ literary works, asked him to come deliver a sermon and address this growing sentiment among the student body. According to Hooper, “Lewis – an ex-soldier [in WWI] and Christian don at Magdalen College – was thought to be just the man to put things in the right perspective.”[1]

How very right Canon Milford was! Not only did Lewis brilliantly make the case for learning in a time of global upheaval in the twentieth century, there are brilliant lessons we can learn for our own day as well. The text of Lewis’ sermon ended up as a chapter in The Weight of Glory[2] under the title “Learning in Wartime.” The barbarities of our own day and Lewis’s are uncanny, and the lessons are timeless.

Of course, there is no substitute for reading the entire chapter by Lewis’ himself, but in this article I would like to highlight a few principles that I believe relate to those of us today who traffic in the realm of the mind, ideas and the intellect.

There has Never Been a Perfect Time to Learn: Favorable Conditions Never Come

If we’re waiting for more peaceful or favorable times [whatever that is] to begin to dig deeper into our faith or perhaps to learn something new, then we’ll probably never begin at all. Lewis knew then that there will always be distractions which prevent us from pursing truth on a deeper level – whether those distractions are the threat of war, or the hectic busyness of life. He writes:

There will always be plenty of rivals to our work. We are always falling in love or quarrelling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.[3]

…If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life.” Life has never been normal.[4]

If we will not pursue truth and cultivate loving God with our minds with today’s many threats and distractions, then we probably never will. Life has never been “normal.”

Shouldn’t We Just Preach the Gospel Only?

There were those in Lewis’ day (as well as our own) who perhaps thought that learning should take a back-seat to leading people to Christ in evangelism.

..how is it even right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to Heaven or to hell spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology.[5]

…why should we – indeed how can we – continue to take an interest in these placid occupations when the lives or our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance? Is it not fiddling while Rome burns?[6]

Or,

“How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think about anything but the salvation of human souls?” and we have, at the moment to answer the additional question, “How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think of anything but the war?”[7]

Of course, in saying these things Lewis is certainly not undermining the importance of personal evangelism. Indeed, several years later in that same chapel he preached what is perhaps, one of the most profound sermons on evangelism ever preached in the 20th Century [at least in my opinion!].

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. …All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct our dealings with one another…[8]

Lewis’ solution to this apparent dilemma of either evangelism (the active life), or learning (the contemplative life), is that whatever our view of this relationship is during peacetime, should be the exactly the same as in a time of war.

Now it seems to me that we shall not be able to answer these questions until we have put them by the side of other questions which every Christian ought to have asked himself in peacetime.

During a time of peace hardly any Christian doubts the value of loving God with all our minds and cultivating a deeper Christian understanding and integration of reality. So why should our principles change during a time of imminent death and war? According to Lewis, they shouldn’t.

In other words, regardless of whether we are living in a time of impending war & violence or relative peace and safety, there is an important place for both activities in the Christian view of things.

We don’t have to choose either evangelism or learning – it is imperative to do both!

Lastly, on this question, Lewis makes it clear that he makes no distinctions between the secular and the sacred.

Every duty is a religious duty, and our obligation to perform every duty is therefore absolute.[9]

In short, ‘whether we eat or drink, [do evangelism, or learn], or whatever we do, we do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).’

In Our Pursuit of Truth, there is No Place for the Proud

Christ was very clear when He stated the greatest commandment, “to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Matt. 22:36). Lewis recognized that a life of learning is perhaps not the path for every Christian. Indeed, within the body of Christ there are many members with different functions (1 Cor. 12:12-31).

Regardless, our pursuit and love of the pure, unvarnished truth should take second place to our pride and personal achievements (if any). We must always be on guard against pride, whatever our vocation, but especially intellectual pride – for as the Apostle Paul writes, “…knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Lewis writes:

As the author of the Theologica Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge – our knowing – more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. They time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.[10]

In apologetics as in any other intellectual pursuit, there is no place for pride, whatever form it takes in our lives. We are servants of Truth, and not the other way around.

be ready to give a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you a reason [logos] for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15).

I can’t tell you how many apologists I’ve noticed, who are arrogant and condescending to others who don’t have a deeper understanding. This certainly does not help the cause of Christ or His Kingdom, and in reality, intellectual pride is the mark of another kingdom. The father of pride led a rebellion of a third of the angels against God. In Eden, he convinced Adam & Eve that God did not say what He really said.

Don’t Worry About the Future – Live Life One Day at a Time

One of the frustrations that Lewis addressed to his audience of Oxford undergraduates in 1939 was the frustration of possibly not being able to finish what one has started – of looking ahead to the future, when it looks bleak. “What’s the point?”

This is certainly a sentiment that is true today. When one thinks of the future of the world and where we might be headed, it can be somewhat foggy or even depressing. Lewis’ wisdom is especially brilliant here because it is grounded in the very words of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (see, Matt. 6:34).

Lewis states:

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as unto the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received. …A more Christian attitude, which can be attained in any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not.[11]

Human Civilization Depends on Not Listening to Our Worries but on Thinking Clearly and Loving God with our Minds

Finally, in the larger scheme of human history, we should not allow our worries to dictate how we live. Human culture (if it is to survive) depends on it. Lewis writes:

If human culture [& learning] can stand up [and alongside] to that [that people today are headed to eternity in heaven or hell], it can stand up to anything. To admit that we can retain our interest in learning under the shadow of these eternal issues but not under the shadow of a European war would be to admit that our ears are closed to the voice of reason and very wide open to the voice of our nerves and our mass emotions.[12]

Here we can learn from a chapter in the history of the early, medieval Irish monks. When the British Isles were under the threat and then eventually under the sword of the Norsemen, Irish Christians didn’t worry & fret about their future. Rather, they went to work translating great works of literature and creating great works of art such as we find in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, author Thomas Cahill narrates in vivid detail the fall of the Roman empire when barbarian hordes marched across the frozen Rhine and eventually down into Italy ultimately sacking Rome herself, the crown jewel of classical civilization and learning. Several centuries later when the prow of the Viking longboat hit the sands of the British Isles another dark ages swept across Europe. Civilization was threatened and the learning of the classical world was gravely threatened.

It was the Irish Christians, who according to Cahill, played a key role in Europe’s rebuilding after the long and dark ages.

Wherever they went the Irish bought with them their books, many unseen in Europe for centuries and tied to their waists as signs of triumph, just as Irish heroes had once tied to their waists their enemies heads. Wherever they went they brought their love of learning and their skills in bookmaking. In the bays and valleys of their exile, they reestablished literacy and breathed new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe. And that is how the Irish saved civilization.[13]

It is in light of these and other principles, that we pursue Truth for its own sake, we learn apologetic arguments, we love God with our minds, and we cultivate a life of faith grounded in God’s eternal Word.

Eternal things are at stake.

 

[1] Walter Hooper, “Introduction,” in C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper One, 2000, originally 1949), pg. 18.

[2] Incidentally, the title of Lewis’ second message at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Oxford in 1941.

[3] Lewis, “Learning in Wartime,” pg. 60.

[4] Ibid., pg. 49.

[5] Ibid., 48-9.

[6] Ibid., pg.47.

[7] Ibid, pg. 50-1.

[8] The Weight of Glory, pg. 45-6.

[9] “Learning in Wartime,” pg. 53.

[10] “Learning in Wartime,” pg. 57.

[11] “Learning in Wartime,” pg. 60-61.

[12] Ibid.. pg. 49.

[13] Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Historic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe (New York, London: Doubleday, 1995), pg. 196.

You Can Still Hear the Recording of My Appearance on “Dogma Debate” Atheist Radio Show

A couple weeks ago I was invited, along with two friends, Blake and Derrick, to be on an atheist radio program called “Dogma Debate” (website here). Blake Giunta is the recent founder of a really great apologetics website called TreeSearch. The main host, David Smalley, and his co-hosts, enjoy interaction with Christian believers, and I applaud their efforts in seeking out opportunities to provide a platform to both sides of the argument to present and defend their case. Unfortunately, few shows are like this. Unbelievable, with host Justin Brierley, on Premier Christian Radio might be the closest Christian equivalent to this show. The hosts for this episode — indeed, our interlocutors — were David Smalley and Lydia Allen. We were originally invited on to discuss how Christians and atheists could better engage and interact with one another (something I have previously written about here). But, as is often the case with radio, the conversation went way off on a tangent quite quickly. The debate was rather intense at some points and went on for about three hours — then there was also the “After Show” discussion exclusive for paid subscribers, which went on for perhaps another 90 minutes.

You can listen to the debate at this link. Enjoy!

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).

If God, Why Suffering? Thoughts on Theodicy

Anyone who has been doing Christian apologetics, for any significant period of time, knows that the most frequent objection to the Christian faith is the problem of evil and suffering. Indeed, this paradoxical conundrum has resulted in probably more people abandoning their faith than any other challenge to the Christian worldview. The logical structure of this argument typically takes the following form:

Premise 1: If God exists, he is by definition omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and benevolent (all good).

Premise 2: If an omnipotent being exists, he would be able to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.

Premise 3: If an omniscient being exists, he would know about all the evil and suffering in the world.

Premise 4: If a perfectly good being exists, he would want to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.

Premise 5: If a being existed with knowledge of all of the evil and suffering in the world, and both the ability and will to prevent it, such a being would do so.

Premise 6: Evil and suffering exist.

From 2, 3, 4 & 5:

7: Therefore, if an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good being exists, that being would prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.

From 6 & 7:

8: Therefore, no omnipotent and omniscient and perfectly good being exists.

From 1 & 8:

Conclusion: Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

How Sound is This Argument?

In terms of its logical structure, provided the first six premises are true, the argument seems at first brush fairly robust.  The key premise, I think — indeed, the main premise which I contest — is Premise 5: If a being existed with knowledge of all of the evil and suffering in the world, and both the ability and will to prevent it, such a being would do so. This Premise is only valid if one assumes that God cannot have morally good reasons for tolerating the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Further problems abound when we consider Premise 6, where we are compelled to ask, “What is the reference point for pronouncing a proposition as ‘evil’ or ‘unjust’?” As we shall see in the course of this blog post, Premise 6 is difficult to justify within the conceptual framework of the materialist worldview.

The First Problem: Providing an Epistemological Foundation for Right and Wrong

The first of the problems with this argument becomes obvious when one seeks an epistemological foundation for discriminating between right and wrong, and just and unjust circumstances. In his classic work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis put it like this:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

It is not at all clear that the materialist worldview can provide an objective foundation for ethics or moral norms. Indeed, as the notorious Oxford atheist evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins has conceded, within the materialist worldview, “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

When one pronounces a moral proposition as “right” or “wrong”, one is implicitly presupposing a binding and transcendent standard above and beyond themselves to which they may appeal, and to which individuals are held accountable. For the Christian theist, moral norms are grounded in the divine nature and character of God. For the materialist, however, there is no such standard in which to ground moral norms. Indeed, if morals are an arbitrary or artificial construct, there is no reason why moral values should not be regarded as a matter of subjective preference.

Some materialists attempt to counter this argument by asserting that moral norms should be grounded in consensus, and that this develops and evolves over time. But this argument is on a highly precarious footing. If Nazi Germany had won World War II and had brainwashed or executed all with whom they disagreed, would that render the Jewish Holocaust morally justified? Surely not.

Indeed, if we are — as the materialist worldview entails — merely reducible to re-arranged pondscum, an assemblage of chemicals dancing to the music of our DNA, then the very existence of human autonomy and existential freedom of the will is seriously brought into question. But surely “ought” implies “can”. To make assertions about the way one ought to behave presupposes that one has genuine freewill and that one can choose between possibilities. But if there is no genuine autonomy, then whence the basis for supposing human responsibility or accountability for violating moral norms? Thus, the first problem facing this argument is that it attempts to refute the existence of God by utilisation of a Premise which presupposes His existence! Atheism does not solve the problem: It just makes it far, far more difficult.

The Second Problem: God’s Will is Multi-Dimensional

The second problem with this argument is that Premise 5 assumes a monolithic structure of divine will: And, moreover, that God cannot have morally justifiable reasons for permitting the existence of evil and suffering in the world. But this assumption is invalid for a number of reasons.

First, if God was to exercise His perfect justice in eliminating all sources of evil and suffering in the world, where would He start? And, moreover, where would he stop? The bottom line is that we are all guilty, to a greater or lesser extent, of violating moral norms. We have all fallen short of God’s standard: the very standard to which we appeal when we make moral pronouncements. Next time you think you want God to ride in on a white horse and deal with the existence of evil once and for all, ask yourself “Would I be exempt from God’s judgement on evil?” If we are honest, I think one has to answer with a definitive ‘no.’

Second, suffering may be required in order to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes. Indeed, as a result of the entry of evil into the world (which originally happened in the Garden of Eden), God has been able to demonstrate his love and compassion towards us in a way in which it could not have been in its absence: That is, through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. It also opened a door for humanity to enter into a relationship with its Creator in a unique and intimate way. God loved us enough to send His only Son into this world to suffer and die in our stead, in order to justify repentant sinners. You see, God is just. And being just, he must punish sin with perfect righteousness and holiness. That is why God cannot simply turn a blind eye to sin: It must be punished. Sin is never forgiven; Sinners are forgiven. Sin is either punished by the sinner being held rightly accountable for it (an eternal separation from the favourable presence of God), or it is punished as a result of what Christ has done on the cross. If God had chosen to exercise His perfect justice in eliminating evil and suffering from the face of the earth, he would have had to wipe out all of humanity. Instead, he has chosen to exercise His perfect justice by paying our debt in full by means of the blood of the only spotless and blemish-free substitute: Jesus Christ.

Third, there is the free-will defence. Love is only genuine when it is not coerced. True love requires the ability to exercise free will. Thus, to facilitate the ability of free creatures to genuinely love God requires that one take the risk that these free creatures will choose to reject God or to violate His commandments. 

Fourth, as suggested by proponents of Molinism, it is possible that only a world which was suffused with a certain amount of evil and suffering would result in the maximum number of people freely coming to know God. The doctrine of divine middle knowledge attests that God has knowledge of counterfactuals: That is, God has knowledge of what His free creatures would do under any circumstances. If this is the case, then it is possible that God has chosen to actualise a world — out of an array of possible worlds — in which the maximum number of people would choose to know God as their Creator and Saviour, without being in violation of their rights of autonomy and existential freedom of the will.

Fifth, God often uses evil and suffering to accomplish his ends. One classic example of this is in the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, an incident which set in motion a chain of events which ultimately led to Joseph being falsely accused of a crime and subsequently being thrown into prison. Later, Joseph is promoted to the position of Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and is in a unique position to be able to administer food during times of severe famine: Including the saving of his family. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Only in a Christian Worldview is the Problem of Evil Satisfactorily Dealt With

The Christian worldview is unique inasmuch as it asserts that God has physically entered into our world as a man, has suffered pain, hunger, torment, temptation, false accusations, torture and ultimately death. In no other worldview is this asserted to be the case. To illustrate the power and hard-hitting nature of this point, consider the following parable of The Long Silence.

At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame – but with belligerence.

“Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?”, snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beatings … torture … death!”

In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being black !”

In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It wasn’t my fault.” Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.

How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.

Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.

Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.

For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.

Christianity is the only theistic worldview in which God has suffered with His Creation. Christianity is also the only religion in which one cannot say that God has done nothing about the problem of evil. Rather, God has dealt with it in a just fashion. He has extended the offer of salvation to humanity, made possible through Christ’s work on the cross. As Romans 3 tells us,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Will you take advantage of this offer of forgiveness? Don’t let the problem of evil and suffering become a stumbling block which prevents you from putting your trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. An argument with such dubious Premises, as I have shown this one to be, is not sufficient to displace such powerful and compelling multi-disciplinary evidence for the existence of the Christian God.

Staying Out of the Ditch

Occasionally we run across a philosophical or theological difficulty that threatens to drive us into a ditch, causing us to “ditch” our search for the truth in a particular matter.  Common road blocks include the apparent contradiction in the Trinity, a Good God allowing evil in the world, and the list goes on.  While evidence in our search mounts for a particular view (e.g., God exists) we are tempted to get stuck on a seemingly imponderable problem (e.g., the presence of evil in the world) which appears to favor the opposing view point.  This prevents us from moving forward with the investigation, or at least from being able to objectively consider the many evidences that exist in favor of the view.

Let’s use the presence of evil and suffering as an example.  The problem of evil in the world presents a formidable challenge to the existence of God for many people.  The reasoning goes like this:  Christianity claims that God is all good and all powerful.  However, if God is all good He would want to do away with evil and the suffering it causes, and if He is all powerful, He would be capable of doing away with evil and the suffering it causes.  Therefore, either God doesn’t care about the plight of the suffering, in which case he is not all good, or He cares but is not powerful enough to do away with evil, in which case He is not all powerful.  In either case, the presence of evil and suffering in the world proves that the Christian God does not exist. [While the problem of evil would appear to score a point against the existence of God, it actually serves as a solid argument in favor of His existence. See here and here.]

People have wrestled with this issue for centuries.  Some have reconciled this apparent dilemma to their own satisfaction and chosen to believe in God.  Others have concluded that there is no satisfactory resolution and consequently have chosen to reject the idea that God exists.  But somewhere in the middle is someone who is genuinely stuck in the ditch of the problem of evil, and being stuck, is unable to proceed with their investigation.  For others who fall somewhere in between, on this or any other theological or philosophical problem, I want to suggest a way forward.

How does a cold case detective deal with a piece of evidence that doesn’t seem consistent with the majority of the evidence he has gathered so far?    He stays out of the ditch by making note of the apparent inconsistency, setting it aside for the time being and continuing his investigation.  He doesn’t automatically dismiss it as irrelevant or insignificant, but neither does he allow it to drive the entire investigative project into the ditch.  He leaves it for further consideration and investigation at a later date.  In some cases, more light will eventually shine on the issue effectively removing the apparent inconsistency.  In other cases, the seemingly contrary piece of evidence will remain on the shelf while the preponderance of the evidence demands that the verdict goes against it.  In still other cases, the apparent inconsistency may be proven to be an actual inconsistency, resulting in a complete change in the direction of the investigation altogether (this doesn’t happen to be the case with the problem of evil – quite the opposite actually).

If you find yourself heading toward the ditch of a particular intellectual or theological problem, my suggestion is to shelve the issue for future consideration.  We have good reason to believe that the view of the world that Jesus held was accurate and trustworthy.  This doesn’t mean that every problem text or cosmological imponderable is going to be resolved to our complete satisfaction, nor does it mean that we won’t have a shelf of our own with a few sticky issues on it.  But what it does mean is that the majority of the evidence is indeed on His side and we are in good standing to side with His view of the world.  A good investigator doesn’t allow the occasional and apparent inconsistency drive him into a ditch, and neither should we.

Keep the investigation moving.  Stay out of the ditch!

Mom Plays God: Brings Good from Evil

It’s often easy to spot militant atheists who attend my presentation called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. They usually sit with their arms folded and scowls on their faces.  During a recent presentation at Michigan State, I knew I’d get push back from one such scowling student sitting to my right.  He looked mad and was mad.  (He wouldn’t even smile at a hilarious Homer Simpson clip!)

He shot his hand up during the Q&A and yelled out, “You mentioned the problem of evil during your presentation but you didn’t answer it!  If there is a good God, then why does evil exist?  Why doesn’t God stop it?”

I said, “Sir, that is an excellent question.  Sometimes I bluntly answer this way.  ‘If God stopped all evil, he might start with you . . . and me because we both do evil every day.’  To end evil on earth God would have to take away our free will.  But if he takes away our free will, he takes away our ability to love as well.  Allow me to show you a video that beautifully illustrates this in less than two minutes.”  I then played this outstanding video which traces evil back to free will.

Most in the audience appreciated the clip and applauded.  But the atheist was unmoved.  “Why do babies die, why do tsunamis occur?  These aren’t the result of free will!” he protested.

“True, they are not the result of someone’s free will today,” I explained. “But Christianity traces all of our trouble back to a free will choice by Adam.  As a result, we live in a fallen world where bad things happen, but God takes the initiative to bring good from evil.  In fact, you can sum up the entire Bible in one word—redemption.  Paradise lost in Genesis is paradise regained in Revelation.  God initiated and achieved this redemption by sending Jesus Christ who suffered and died on our behalf.  So we can question God about suffering as the biblical writers did, but God didn’t exempt Himself from it.  Jesus was the only completely innocent person in the history of the world, yet he suffered horribly for our redemption.  He brought good from evil.”

The atheist didn’t like that either. He interrupted me several times, so I finally asked him, “Are you an atheist?”

He refused to answer but then blurted out,  “It doesn’t matter!”

I said, “It does matter because if you are an atheist (I later learned from his blog he is), then you have no grounds by which to judge anything evil.  Objective evil doesn’t exist unless objective good exists and objective good doesn’t exist unless God exists.  You can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without good.  In other words, the shadows prove the sunshine.  You can have sunshine without shadows, but you can’t have shadows without sunshine. So evil doesn’t disprove God—it actually shows there must be a God because it presupposes Good.  Evil may prove there’s a devil out there, but it doesn’t disprove God.”

The atheist persisted, “But if God exists, why do some babies die such horrible deaths?” 

Well, if the atheist is granting that God exists, then he has a valid question.  While he can’t explain evil and suffering from his atheistic worldview, I need to explain it from mine.

My explanation went this way.  Although I know why evil in general occurs (see the video), I don’t know why every specific evil occurs.  But I know why I don’t know why—because I’m finite and can’t see into the future.  Since God is infinite and can see all the way into eternity, he may allow evil events that ultimately work together for good.  In other words, he can still bring good from evil even if we can’t see how.  

To illustrate, I referred back to the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  That’s where George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, falls on hard times, becomes despondent and tries to commit suicide.  He’s saved by an angel and is permitted to see how life in his town would have turned out if he had never existed.  George sees that everything would have turned out far worse without him, and thus realizes that even though evil infects life, good can prevail in the end.  George could only see this with God’s timeless perspective.  Only God can see how trillions of free choices and events can interact ultimately for good even if some of them seem hopelessly negative at the time.  (In fact, that’s one reason why God told Job to trust him.)  

At that point, a man sitting ten feet from the atheist raised his hand. 

“Go ahead, sir.”

He first looked over at the atheist, then back at me and said, “I know of a young woman who was raped and became pregnant.  The rape nearly destroyed her.” His voice began to crack . . . “But she decided that she would not punish the baby for the sin of the father.  She later gave birth to a baby boy.”  (By this point he was weeping openly.) “And that boy grew up to be a pastor whom God has used to help bring many people to Christ.  He ministers to people to this day. That boy grew up to be me. 

He then looked back at the atheist and said, “My mother turned evil into good, and God can too.”          

The atheist left immediately after the event ended, but I did get to meet that brave pastor who spoke up.  His name is Gary Bingham, and he’s the pastor of Hillside Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana.  Gary told me that his mom had self-confidence issues for many years but is doing much better since becoming a Christian a few years ago.   I thanked him and asked him to let his mom know that she touched many for good that night.  I hope through this column she has touched many more today.

Parasitic Evil and Independent Good

[Stepping away from the cultural commentary and scientific or political headlines. This is a philosophy lesson, drawn heavily from 4th century metaphysics. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past, repackaged and reapplied for today]

Evil seems to be real, yet in what sense can we say it “exists”?

Some, of course, say evil has neither existence nor reality. That position is logically possible, and some (otherwise) smart people have advocated it before. But it’s counterintuitive, morally bankrupt, and repugnant to our moral senses when faced with its full implications. One has every freedom to deny the existence or reality of evil. And, by implication, he or she is thereby refusing the privilege [responsibility?] of naming as”evil” the Holocaust, female-genital mutilation, or chatel slavery. But such brave souls should know that they are likely stifling in themselves the very epistemic senses that lead everyone around them to shutter at such hubris. Suppressing knowledge, even if its the amorphous categories of moral knowledge, is hardly laudible and likely misleading. And even though its possible for most people in the world to unite in error, if they unite in disagreeing with you, you might want to check your figures again lest their many minds caught a detail your single mind didn’t.

It is fairly safe then, at least by the limited evidence found in the general consensus of most of the world’s population, that evil is in some sense an existing reality. We are left then to explain how such apparent existence occurs.

One of the classic, and I think, strongest answers to this question is the “privation definition.”

The essence of the privation definition is that every evil exists parasitically, corrupting its host. The host can be thought of as some kind of goodness. That goodness can occur with agents–such as human beings, in which case it is moral goodness and evil would be some kind of compromise or corruption of that moral goodness. Agents can be “good” insofar as that are and do whatever they are SUPPOSED to be or do. If people are supposed to exercise justice, the good moral agent exercises justice.

Or the host goodness can occur as a non-agent like a weather pattern, a tree, or a tiger. Goodness, in that case, is a kind of “ontological goodness” not unlike that described in Genesis 1-2 where God looks on his creation and calls it “good”–even before he made human agents and before any angels or demons are named among creation. This “ontological goodness” refers to the positive existence of things (ie: they add something to the universe). Insofar as they are and add what they should, they are “good.” In the case of ontological goodness, evil would happen when an otherwise “good” natural phenomenon goes wrong, such as a deadly tornado, a tree-fungus, or a tiger attack.

That groundwork having been laid, we can get to the heart of my concern here. Evil is parasitic precisely because goodness is independent.

Put another way, there seem to be independent goods but no independent evils. That is, there are good things that have no need of a more basic evil thing among its causes. A loving man and loving wife can, theoretically, be perfectly committed to each other in love and responsibility and give birth to a cherished little baby. There is no need for “evil” to enter the scenario. But, every evil has some more basic good that it requires in its causal set, such as a good material cause or a good efficient cause. If that baby is born blind, that would be a natural evil–which could not exist if there were no good baby to corrupt (a material cause). You might call this unequal relation a conditional relation (symbolized in logic with the horseshoe). In contrast, we may look at the Taoist or yin-yang view of morality. By the Taoist view, evil and good are more comparable to a biconditional relation, wherein the two parties relate equally and exactly too to each other. For a Yin-yang view to work, good must be just as dependent on evil as evil is to good. But from the baby example, and the examples below we see that it clearly is not.

If a man murders an innocent person, it would have to be voluntary to qualify–legally–as murder. But volition is a good thing (ie: we can roughly translate it as “freedom”). But volition does NOT require murder. Hence, the evil of murder requires a good efficient cause in the form of volition though volition does not require any such evil.

If there were no sexuality (good) there would be no rape (bad), whereas, there is no need for rape to have sexuality. Hence rape requires a good formal cause (ie: healthy sexuality) which does not itself require the evil of rape.

There is no arrogance (bad) without valuing one’s self (good), but valuing one’s self does not require arrogance. Arrogance thus requires a good abstract material cause of valuing one’s self which does not, in turn, require manifestation as arrogance.

There is no football injury (a bad thing) without the sport of football (a good thing), but the sport of football does not require an injury. Hence, football injuries require a good concrete material cause in the sport of footbal though football does not itself require any injuries.

Pretty much every evil I think of operates like this. So the philosophical “privation” definition of evil is fairly defensible when we consider good and evil, not simply as contrasts, but rather with consideration for their causal dependence.

Evil thus proves to be a parasite. Both evil and goodness exist and are real, but evil is always dependent whereas goodness can be independent.

Is God Good? (A Short Film)

Here is animated short film called, “Is God Good?”  In less than two minutes, it succinctly addresses how human freedom relates to the problem of evil (with some brilliant animated imagery).

This 2-minute video is a kind of animation known as kinetic type. This genre allows the artist to get a little crazy – words become designs, not merely carriers of information. My goal in producing this animation was to have fun – which I did – and to creatively express this idea: the presence of evil in our world does NOT mean that there is no God; rather, it means that he’s up to something. This is a short video so it only scratches the surface – but at least it introduces the concepts and, hopefully, encourages further thought on the subject.

Whenever I think about deep stuff like evil and suffering, I find it helpful to remember two aspects of God’s nature. First, he is perfectly just. So all evil will eventually be punished perfectly and appropriately. Second, he is perfectly loving. Thus, God extends himself sacrificially to forgive those who do evil (all of us) and provide an escape from punishment. What’s amazing to me is how both of these sides of God, his justice and love, collide on the cross with Jesus Christ. You know someone truly loves you if they are willing to die for you. But when God forgave us, he did not simply ignore our evil thoughts, choices, and actions. That wouldn’t be justice, would it? All of our crimes, big and small, were punished perfectly, but the punishment was re-directed toward Jesus Christ. The punishment that Jesus took upon himself demonstrate God’s love and God’s justice.

This video also touches on another cool idea: God is a gentleman. That is, he doesn’t force his love on the objects of his affection (all of us). He is persuasive – not coercive. He allows you to turn your back on him if you prefer to be the captain of your own ship. You may not want to acknowledge a higher authority to whom you must answer. You may not want to admit that you don’t have your act together. He allows you to make that choice. On the other hand, you might realize that God’s relentless love is what you’ve been searching for all of your life. It’s like this: a gentleman does not force a woman to marry him. He becomes vulnerable. He expresses his love to her by his words and actions. Then he asks her to make a decision: “Will you marry me?” At this point, the ball is in her court. She can either accept or reject his offer. In the same way, each of us can accept or reject God’s offer of a life-giving connection through Jesus Christ.

God and Birth Defects

As recorded in John Chapter 9, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Australian Nick Vujicic– born without arms and legs– is a living example of that passage. We say the man has a birth defect. But after viewing this, I think I have a far more serious attitude defect.

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.

 

 

 

 

What is Evil?

We’ve been having a very spirited debate between atheists and Christians on this blog on another thread that has arrived at a fundamental question.  What is evil?  Specifically, what is evil ontologically?

In order to get the discussion going, I’ll offer an insight from Augustine.  He said that evil was not a thing in itself, but a lack in good.  Evil is like rot in a tree; if you take away all the rot you have a better tree, but if you take away all the tree you have nothing.  We could say that evil is like rust in a car.  You take away all the rust and you have a better car.  But if you take away all the car, you have nothing.

If Augustine is correct, then an ultimate being (i.e. God) could not be evil because evil is not a thing in itself.  It only exists as a kind of parasite in a good thing.

I appreciate your comments and respectful dialogue.