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The Necessity of God’s Existence: Ontological Arguments Worth Considering

By Brian Chilton

One of the more difficult of the apologetics arguments to understand is that known as the ontological argument. The ontological argument finds root in Anselm of Canterbury’s famed declaration, “God is that, than which noting greater can be conceived.”[1] This is the say, God is the greatest of all possible beings. God, properly understood, is maximally great. Nothing could be greater than God. Thus, Anselm argues that if it is possible to conceive of the greatest possible beings, then that greatest possible being must exist. There is much to unpack in this argument. However, I would like to focus on arguments that provide reasons to believe that God is a necessary being.

Ontological Argument God

Before we look at some arguments for the necessity of God’s existence, we must first define a necessary being. A necessary being is a being whose existence is mandatory due to a result of that being’s existence (i.e., contingency). For example, I exist only because of the necessity of my parents’ existence. My existence is contingent (based upon) the necessity of their existence. My parents’ existence is contingent (based upon) the necessity of their parents’ existence (my grandparents). The logical line of necessity continues until one finds the necessity of a maximally great being—a being that is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. We know that maximally great being as God. Let’s look at three or four modern ontological arguments that make the case for the necessity of God’s existence.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Logical Necessity.

As we already unpacked the argument from necessity, we have found that God’s existence is mandatory. However, the logical necessity of God’s existence is found in the following argument presented by Douglas Grootius:

  1. God is defined as a maximally great or Perfect Being.

  2. The existence of a Perfect Being is either impossible or necessary (since it cannot be contingent).

  3. The concept of a Perfect Being is not impossible, since it is neither non-sensical nor self-contradictory.

  4. Therefore (a) a Perfect Being is necessary.

  5. Therefore (b) a Perfect Being exists.[2]

The first premise notes that God is defined as a maximally great being, or Perfect Being. Premises 2 and 3 demonstrate the logical necessity that a Perfect Being is either an impossibility or a necessity. Since the existence of a Perfect Being is neither impossible, nonsensical, nor self-contradictory, the existence of a Perfect Being is shown to be a necessary concept. The atheist would need to demonstrate that God’s existence is impossible (which itself is impossible), nonsensical (which is actually found in a worldview that postulates that things magically pop into existence without any cause), or self-contradictory. The only means that the non-believer has to disprove the necessity of God’s existence in my humble opinion is to show that there is a self-contradiction in God’s existence. Yet, it appears to me that there are greater self-contradictions in viewing the universe without the existence of God, thereby strengthening the necessity of a Perfect Being. The former is an impossible task, the middle is a task that some have attempted…and failed, and the third is inherently flawed.

Looking at this model from a different perspective, consider Alvin Plantinga’s take on Norman Malcolm’s argument, presented by Norman Geisler:

  1. If God does not exist, his existence is logically impossible.

  2. If God does exist, his existence is logically necessary.

  3. Hence, either God’s existence is logically impossible or else it is logically necessary.

  4. If God’s existence is logically impossible, the concept of God is contradictory.

  5. The concept of God is not contradictory.

  6. Therefore, God’s existence is logically necessary.[3]

Let’s unpack this argument. If God did not existence, his existence would be a logical impossibility like the existence of magical unicorns. If God does exist, then his existence would be a logical necessity—like the example of my parents’ existence as given above. Thus, God’s existence would be logically necessary if he exists or logically impossible if he does not exist. If God’s existence is impossible, then the idea of God is contradictory. God’s existence is not a contradiction; therefore, God is a logical necessity.

I personally like these arguments as I find the existence of God an absolute necessity. Non-theistic arguments often lead to bizarre absurdities which are at times irreconcilable. Christian theism is the most coherent of all worldview, thus the existence of the Christian God is a logical necessity. There is another take to this argument that demands consideration: the necessity of God found in possible worlds.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Possible Worlds.

A possible world is a hypothetical scenario that describes the various ways that the world could be. We live in the actual world, however the would could have been much different. With that in mind, consider Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument from possible worlds.

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. That is, God’s existence is not impossible (logically contradictory), so we can conceive of a world in which God does exist.

  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (Otherwise, it would not be maximally great.)

  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.[4]

Let’s unpack Plantinga’s difficult argument. Nearly everyone would agree that it is at least possible that a maximally great being exists—that is, God. Since God’s existence is not impossible, then it is conceivable that God exists in some possible world. If it is possible that God exists in one possible world, then it is possible that he exists in every possible world including the actual world in which we live. Some will argue, “But yeah, it is possible that magical unicorns exist in some possible world. So, does that mean that magical unicorns must exist in this world?” Absolutely not! The existence of the magical unicorn is not a necessity. Since I am a contingent being, it is necessary in all possible worlds that I have a reason for my existence (by my parents or another set of parents). If God, being a necessary being, is possible in some possible world, he is possible in all possible worlds and is in fact found in the actual world. Confusing? Yes. But logically coherent? Absolutely!

Let’s now look at the last ontological argument of God’s necessity as it pertains to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy increases as time progresses. Entropy is the disorder that occurs over time. Think of a wind-up toy. The wind-up toy is wound up and allowed to wind itself down. The winding down of the toy is the state of entropy. The same occurs with heat. Over time, heat cools until all heat is lost (i.e., heat death). The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the universe is losing energy as it continues to exist. This will ultimately lead to a complete loss of heat unless there is an intervention from outside the universe. The following modus Tollens argument, presented by Groothius, notes how the Second Law of Thermodynamics argues for the finite nature of the universe and the necessity of God’s existence.

  1. If the universe were eternal and its amount of energy finite, it would have reached heat death by now.

  2. The universe has not reached heat death (since there is still energy available for use).

  3. Therefore, (a) the universe is not eternal.

  4. Therefore, (b) the universe had a beginning.

  5. Therefore, (c) the universe was created by a first cause (God).[5]

Let’s unpack this argument. If it were possible that the universe is eternal with finite energy (which is observable), then the universe would have reached a heat death already. However, that has not occurred. Due to the absence of such an event, this proves that the universe is finite and had a beginning. If the universe had a beginning, the cause is most plausible to have been attributed to God. “Wait!” the skeptic may say. “Isn’t it possible that a multiverse gave birth to the universe?” Yes, it is possible. However, it has been shown in the BVG Theorem (named by its discoverers Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth) that all physical universes must have a finite past and an absolute beginning. So, the skeptic does nothing by arguing for a multiverse outside of pushing the necessity of God’s existence back a step or two.

Conclusion

It is true that these arguments are quite complex. But if one takes the time to evaluate and understand these versions of the ontological argument, I think one will find the necessity of God’s existence is rooted in a wealth of logical and philosophical certitude. Logically speaking, God’s existence is a necessity as it is demanded by logic and the data of causal relations in the actual world.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2npUHen


8 Major Worldviews (Part 2)

By Bryan Chilton

In our last article, we presented the first four of the eight major worldviews. As we noted, this is a revision to a previous article that only listed six. The first article in this series presented the worldviews known as atheism/naturalism, agnosticism, pantheism, and panentheism. This article will provide the last four. To keep from confusion, the last four worldviews will be listed as #1-4 in this article even though they represent #5-8 on our list.

Major Worldviews

  1. (#5) Polytheism: Several Gods Exist.

The term “polytheism” comes from two Greek terms: “polu” meaning “many” and “theos” as we have already defined as the term for God. In the polytheistic worldview, it is held that many gods and/or goddesses exist. Certainly, aspects of Hinduism meet the worldview. But, Hindus hold that the universal God manifests in various avatars. Polytheism is better represented in pagan religions, Greek and Roman mythologies, as well as Mormonism.[1]

The trouble with polytheism is found in necessary beings. Even if it is possible that there are many universes populated by Mormon men and women, one would be forced to push their existence back to a Prime Necessary Being. As noted earlier, all material, physical universes must hold a starting point. The universe demands an explanation for its existence. According to the BVG theorem, there cannot exist eternal material universes. Therefore, even if there are multiple universes populated by multiple gods and goddesses, those universes and beings become contingent upon the necessity of a transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being we know as God. Because of the concept of Ockham’s Razor,[2] polytheism fails as gods and goddesses are not necessary beings, whereas God is. The Christian apologist will need to use the issue of necessary and contingent beings among other areas as a starting point with polytheists.

  1. (#6) Dualism: God and the Physical World are Irreparably Separated.

Dualism is the belief that the spiritual and physical realms are irreconcilably separated. One must not confuse the dualist worldview with the dual nature of mankind (soul/body). A form of dualism in the human person can be demonstrated biblically.[3] However, the dualist worldview takes the distinction between the soul and body to extreme measures. Dualists will claim that the spiritual dimension is good and the physical dimension is bad. Thus, resurrection is not accepted nor is recreation of the new heaven and new earth presented in Revelation 21. Ancient Gnosticism, Platonism, and New Age philosophies often fit within the dualist paradigm.

The trouble with dualism is twofold. On the one hand, not all spiritual beings are good. Angels are considered spiritual beings. However, Satan and his demonic cohort are certainly not good. Rather, they are the epitome of evil. So, dualism fails to account for the fact that not all spiritual entities are good. On the other hand, dualism fails to account for the historicity of Jesus’ literal bodily resurrection. God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), created the physical world. The grand theme of Scripture is God’s restoration of the world and humanity. This includes the physical world. The Christian apologist will need to describe these distinctions and will want to provide the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection to the dualist.

  1. (#7) Deism: God as a Deadbeat Dad.

Deism is unique in that it takes its name from a Latin word rather than Greek. The Latin term “deus” is the word for “God.” Deism holds much in common with theism. Deists generally accept the existence of a transcendent God who is worthy of worship. The deist also accepts that this God is worthy of praise. The key distinction comes in God’s current involvement with creation. Deists reject the idea that God is immanent. They hold that God created everything at the outset but does not interject or intervene in creation since that time. Think of a wind-up toy. A person winds up the toy and releases it. The toy continues until it winds down without any involvement from the one who wound it. God is presented much like a deadbeat dad—that is, a dad who is uninvolved with his child’s life. Thus, deists reject the miraculous, revelations in any form except for reason, and personal relationships with the divine. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Locke are among the more famed deists.

Deism fails if one miraculous claim can be proven. If one miracle can be demonstrated, then deism fails because the miracle serves as evidence of God’s involvement in creation. Craig S. Keener’s two-volume work Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts will help the Christian apologist defeat deist claims. Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection as evidence of God’s involvement.

  1. (#8) Monotheism/Theism: God is Omnipotent, Transcendent, and Personal.

Finally, we come to the final worldview. The last worldview is monotheism or theism. Theists hold that one God exists. God is both transcendent (separate from creation) and immanent (works within creation). Thus, God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing). But, God is also omnibenevolent (all-loving) and omnipresent (in all places). God is beyond the scope of the universe and is not constrained by the laws of nature. Yet, God is also personal and reveals himself to humanity. The three classic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are considered theistic in scope.

Theism triumphs in many ways. Theism best explains the necessity of God’s being, the creation of the universe, the miraculous, personal revelation, and the substance dualism of humanity. However, one must note that while all Christians are theists, not all theists are Christian. The Christian apologist will want do demonstrate the reliability of the New Testament, then illustrate the reliability of the Old Testament, in addition to providing evidence for the life and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In doing so, the Christian apologist will show that God has ultimately revealed himself in Jesus.

Conclusion

Everyone has a worldview of some sort. The first step in presenting the gospel message comes by understanding where the person’s worldview currently resides. Understanding a person’s worldview comes by listening. Apologetics and evangelism are not a quick process. As Douglas Groothius claims, the Christian worldview is argued as the best hypothesis “carefully, slowly, and piece by piece…this means paying close attention to the components and implications of the Christian worldview, with an eye for detecting false stereotypes and caricatures.”[4] The process takes time, but if a person comes to faith in Christ, it’s worth every moment spent.

  Notes

[1] Mormons hold that God the Father is wed to a divine mother. Jesus is believed to have been the first spirit child. Mormon theology also holds that Mormon men and Mormon women wed in Mormon temples are able to become gods and goddesses of their own celestial universe and will produce their own spirit children.

[2] That is, the simpler explanation is preferred.

[3] See the works of J.P. Moreland, especially his book The Soul, for more information on substance dualism.

[4] Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos), 50.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.

 


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

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Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)

8 Major Worldviews (Part 1)

By: Brian Chilton

Before the website transferred from pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com to bellatorchristi.com, I had written an article on the major worldviews across the globe. I presented six major worldviews at the time. While I still think the previous article treated the most major of worldviews, I have come to realize after reading Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, that other major worldviews exist that should be discussed and incorporated into the list.[1] So, let’s revisit the major worldviews in this article. The goal of the article will be to notify the reader of each belief and will show how Christian theism triumphs. In addition, the Christian apologist will need to understand the starting points that must be taken with each worldview.

Worldviews

  1. Atheism/Naturalism: Rejection of God’s Existence, Only the Physical World Exists.

The term “atheist” is taken from the Greek term “a” meaning “no” and “theos” meaning “God.” Placed together, the term means “no God.” The atheist, therefore, is one who does not believe in the existence of God. Atheists are often termed “naturalists” as they only accept the existence of the natural/physical world, thereby rejecting the existence of things like God, spirits, the human soul, angels, and demons. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are good examples of atheism.

Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.

  1. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

Agnosticism comes from two terms: “a” the Greek term meaning “no” and “gnosis” the Greek term meaning “knowledge.” The agnostic does not necessarily reject belief in God. The agnostic claims no knowledge on the issue. There are at least two forms of agnosticism. Atheistic agnostics incline to reject belief in God, but are open to the possibility of God’s existence. The atheistic agnostic claims that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Bart Ehrman and Neil deGrasse Tyson are examples of atheistic agnostics.

Theistic agnostics are individuals who are inclined to believe in God’s existence. However, they are doubtful whether individuals can know anything about God. The theistic agnostic may either reject divine revelation altogether and claim that no religion is correct, or the theistic agnostic may reject exclusive revelation and will claim that all religions are correct. When I stumbled into my time of personal doubt, I became more of the theistic agnostic (one who claimed to be spiritual but not religious). The Ba’hai religion and Morgan Freeman may be considered examples of theistic agnosticism.

The trouble with agnosticism is with divine revelation. If God can truly be shown to exist, then atheistic agnosticism begins to wane. If one can demonstrate that God has revealed himself to humanity (particularly through Jesus of Nazareth), then theistic agnosticism begins to fade. The Christian apologist will need to understand, first, that agnosticism can cover a wide variety of flavors. Second, the Christian apologist will need to describe the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s life, miracles, and resurrection.

  1. Pantheism: The Force is With You.

Pantheism comes from two Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.” Pantheism may look quite a bit like panentheism and even theistic agnosticism. However, generally speaking, pantheism is the belief that God is an impersonal force. Buddhism is the greatest example of pantheism. The Star Wars idea of the “force” is another example of pantheism. Buddhists claim to be agnostic concerning God’s existence. Yet, the Buddhist believes in impersonal forces (i.e., the force behind reincarnation). The goal of such a worldview is to become nothing. In fact, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana means that one has become so enlightened that he or she escapes the wheel of reincarnation and becomes nothing.

The trouble with pantheism is diverse. On the one hand, the pantheist will speak of such forces in such a way that intelligence is necessary. For example, why is there a wheel of reincarnation? Why is it that good behavior elevates one to a higher level and vice versa? On the other hand, pantheists have great trouble in explaining why anything exists at all. Much more could be said on this issue as it pertains to the trouble of pantheism. The Christian apologist will need to describe the internal inconsistencies of pantheism as a starting point as well as note the personal nature of the divine.

  1. Panentheism: Everything is God.

Panentheism comes from three Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all,” “en” meaning “in,” and “theos” meaning “God.” Therefore, panentheism is literally defined as “all in God.” Panentheists hold that God penetrates everything. While the Christian may initially be inclined to agree, one must understand that panentheists believe that everything is God. Thus, the panentheist would agree that Jesus of Nazareth is God. But, the panentheist would also agree that you are God, he is God, everyone is God, and even your kitchen sink is God. The panentheist does not distinguish between the personal God and the physical creation. Hinduism is the greatest example of panentheism.

Panentheism, however, holds issues as it pertains to the world. If the world is God, then why is there so much evil? God is certainly good. So, if everyone is God, then wouldn’t everything be perfect? To accept such a claim, one must have a flawed idea of God’s nature. With the panentheist, the Christian apologist will need to begin by teaching the distinction between the personal divine being of God and the physical, material creation that is the world.

We have investigated the first four of the eight major worldviews. In our next article, we will describe the final four: polytheism, dualism, deism, and monotheism/theism.

Notes

[1] See Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 50.

[2] Here, I do not mean heavenly or hellish experiences. I am addressing the scientific verification of such events in this world. For instance, if one were to see something that could not have been otherwise seen after one’s death, then this would serve as a verification of the soul’s survival past death. Soul survival discredits naturalism.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

IDHEFTBAA workbooks set

Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)


“People Do Not Come to Faith from Arguments!” 4 Objections to Apologetics

By Brian Chilton

Some time ago, I was in a meeting with pastors and other church leaders from various backgrounds discussing a potential ministry opportunity. I noted the importance that apologetics plays in the realm of collegiate ministries, especially with the mainstream attacks on Christianity from ultra-liberal voices. For instance, the collegiate ministry known as Ratio Christi has held a profound positive influence on the intellectual and spiritual lives of college students across the nation. To my surprise, one particular ministry leader said, “It’s my experience that people are not brought to faith by arguments.” The statement was shocking enough. However, I was even more bewildered by some who seemed to agree with him. I replied, “What do you say of Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace who were former atheists and became believers because of the evidence for the Christian faith?” The conversation quickly moved to a different topic.

I do not tell this story to demonize or demoralize anyone. The person who voiced opposition to apologetics was a good, caring individual who loves the Lord and the people he serves. However, we must engage the question he presented. Do logic and argumentation bring people to faith or are such disciplines useless endeavors? The mission statement of Bellator Christi is that it exists to take up the sword of Christian theology and the shield of classical apologetics in order to take Christian truth into the arena of ideas. But if people are not argued into the faith, this ministry would seem a bit futile, at least in the latter portion of the mission statement. So, are apologetic argumentations necessary? This article will review 4 common objections given to apologetics by the modern church. Each objection will contain an explanation and an appropriate reply.

Objection #1: Arguments do not bring people to faith.

The ministry leader I mentioned posed the first objection against the use of Christian apologetics. This objection claims that arguments do not really bring people into faith. Faith is a matter of the heart, not of the mind.

Reply:

One could provide several replies to the first objection. To keep the post brief, I will present only two. First, objection 1 is in reality a self-defeating statement. How so? Well, the objector is presenting an argument to persuade others that arguments do not persuade. The objection is much like someone claiming to be a married bachelor or saying “I cannot speak a word of English” in English.

Second, the Bible presents several examples where people came to faith or were persuaded to faith by various argumentations. For instance, the miracles and teachings of Jesus provided a case for His claim to be Messiah. The miracles served as a sign. Why were such signs offered? Signs were provided to present an argument for the Messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus argues that “the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36). In addition, Jesus challenged His adversaries to “search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Other examples could be offered such as Paul’s defense of the faith before various groups of people, including the Athenians. Consider Philip’s argumentation to the Ethiopian that Isaiah 53 referred to Jesus of Nazareth. All such arguments were used to bring people to faith.

Objection #2: The Holy Spirit brings people to faith, so argumentation is useless.

Some people have objected to the use of Christian intellectual arguments due to the assumption that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. If the Holy Spirit leads people to faith, then why should one worry about intellectual argumentation.

Reply:

Let me first say, I wholeheartedly agree that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. Jesus noted that when the Holy Spirit comes that He would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because you do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). While the Holy Spirit convicts, we are told that we have a part to play in the evangelism process. Jesus also told the disciples before His ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). One could argue; If the Holy Spirit brings people to faith, then why evangelize? Christians evangelize because God commanded us to do so. Through the preaching of the Word, people are convicted by the Holy Spirit to come to faith. The Holy Spirit uses our evangelistic efforts to save people. The same is true for apologetics. Intellectual argumentation is often used by the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith. While the majority of Athens did not follow Christ after hearing Paul’s intellectual defense of the faith, the Book of Acts states that “some men joined him and believed, among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:34).

Another problem I have with this statement stems from the spirit of laziness that exists in some Christians today. I heard a person tell a pastor, “You don’t have to study to preach. Just follow the Holy Spirit.” While I wholeheartedly agree that a person should follow the Holy Spirit, I also accept that the Scripture tells us the “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). How does a person test a spirit? One tests a spirit against the Word of God. Testing spirits require study. I truly believe that it is the increased biblical illiteracy and lack of study that has led the modern church into many great heresies.

Objection #3: No one has ever come to faith through argumentation.

Anti-apologetic apologists argue that no one comes to faith through intellectual argumentation. Why bother if no one comes to faith through argumentation?

Reply:

This is an easy objection to answer. The claim is false. Many have come to faith through intellectual argumentation for the faith. Among such converts include: C. S. Lewis (famed English professor and writer), Josh McDowell (author of countless Christian books), Lee Strobel (former legal editor of theChicago Tribune, atheist turned Christian pastor and writer), Fazale Rana (Christian biologist), and J. Warner Wallace (former Los Angeles cold-case homicide detective turned Christian apologist). These individuals only scratch the surface of those who have come to Christ because of the evidence for Christianity.

Objection #4: If someone is argued into faith, then someone could be argued out of faith.

Lastly, objectors to Christian apologetics often claim that if it is by evidential argumentation that one comes to faith, then one could be easily led astray by some other persuasive argumentation.

Reply:

This objection holds two problems in my estimation. 1) The objector does not understand the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christianity is true and a person comes to faith in Christ, then the Scripture states that the Holy Spirit will abide with the repentant person (John 14:15-16). Jesus notes that the Holy Spirit would lead a believer in truth (John 15:26-27). Thus, it would appear that the objector places less value on the power of the Holy Spirit than the advocate of Christian apologetics.

2) In addition, the objector must consider the following point. If Christianity is true, then it will always remain true. The truthfulness of Christianity will never change. Truth is unchangeable. Thus, if a person is truly convicted of the claims of Christianity and truth does not change, then the person (although doubts may come) will not leave the faith due to the truth claims.

Conclusion:

While I respect the objections made and the people who make them, it cannot be said that such objections hold any merit or value. Christianity is true. Period. If Christianity is true, then it is worth defending. If Christianity is true, eternity is at stake. Some people do come to faith when they are met with the evidences for Christianity. It may be true that some people do not require the same level of evidence that other people require. But, refusing apologetics to the one who needs it is like refusing insulin to a diabetic because not everyone needs insulin. It is, to a degree, a categorical mistake. Remember, Peter tells us, as has been noted several times before, that we must “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Check out this video by Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason as he engages this issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cS2xGUj5KQ

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from theEnglish Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Visit Brian’s website at BellatorChristi.com © August 30, 2016. Brian Chilton.


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Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

By Brian Chilton.

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1]Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from theEnglish Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.


Resources for Greater Impact:

7 Questions from “Who is God”

By Brian Chilton

This past Sunday, the third episode of Morgan Freeman’s show The Story of God as aired on the National Geographic Channel. The third episode dealt with how God is understood to be in various cultures and religions. Again, I am profoundly surprised at how well this show has been made. The show has not attacked any particular worldview, as I feared that it would. Rather, the show has taken a fairly neutral position while evaluating some major topics. This episode was no different. The third episode dealt with the issue “Who is God?” This article will seek to answer 7 questions that were raised during the show from a Christian perspective.

 

  1. Is there one God or several gods?

By sheer necessity, there is only one ultimate uncaused cause. If there were several gods or goddesses, one would have to ask “How did such a number of gods arise?” It seems to me that one would be forced to accept a first uncaused cause. While it is possible to accept a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, it makes better sense to accept that only one God exists. Why? Well, I think Thomas Aquinas answers this well. Aquinas states,

 “When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from His effects; consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from His effects, we make take for the middle term the meaning of the word ‘God.’”[1]

From sheer necessity, only one God must exist. Thus, God could manifest himself in several ways, but in the end there is but only one God.

 

  1. How does one connect to God?

If by connecting, one means relating to God, then one can connect with God in various ways. Morgan Freeman is right when he notes that it is sometimes difficult to relate to a transcendent God. However, God has given us means to relate to him. One way people connect with God is through prayer. Prayer is a means by which we can communicate with God and a way that God communicates with us.[2] Another way a person connects to God is through the written Word of God. The Scriptures are God’s revelation to all humanity. A third way a person can connect with God is through the intellect. A person can connect with God by learning more about God. Fourth, a person can connect with God through nature. As the psalmist notes, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).[3] Lastly, a person can ultimately connect with God through a relationship with Christ. When one receives Christ, the Bible tells us that the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:15ff).

 

  1. Has God revealed himself to several people throughout the world?

There is but only one ultimate truth. However, this is not to say that God has not been trying to reveal himself to various peoples throughout the world. Solomon writes that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So, I am not saying that all religions are the same. Such is not logically possible. However, I feel it is quite possible that God has been trying to reveal himself throughout all of history. Ultimately, the full revelation came through Jesus of Nazareth, the “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16).

 

  1. How do we know what’s divine?

Only God is truly divine in the purest sense. However, human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Thus, human beings bear the mark of divinity (although we are not divine). But in fact, all things bear the mark of God in reality because “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). So, only one person is truly divine (God), yet all things bear the imprint of the divine as God created all things.

 

  1. Can we imagine God?

In a way, yes. In a way, no. I think Norman Geisler puts it best. Geisler notes that “Although God can be apprehended, He cannot be comprehended.[4] Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Thus, we cannot say that we know everything about God. If we could, we would be God.

 

  1. Does God indwell us?

We all bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). However, God indwells each person who receives Christ as Savior. This person is known as the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Can we experience God?

Yes! Absolutely we can! We experience the blessings of God every day. However, the only way to fully experience God is through a relationship with Christ Jesus. See also the answer to the second question.[5]

 

Much more could be said about God. In reality, the third episode of Freeman’s documentary as well as this article has focused more upon how humanity knows God. Such a knowledge of God is called revelation. God has revealed himself both through natural revelation (available to all) and special revelation (delivered to those of faith). If a person has not experienced God, it is highly advised that the person seek God and ask God to reveal himself.

 For more articles like 7 Questions from “Who is God” visit Brian’s website at BellatorChristi.com

© April 18, 2016. Brian Chilton.


 

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I.2.2., in Thomas Aquinas, Summa of the Summa, Peter Kreeft, ed., Fathers of the Dominican Province, trans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 59.

[2] Some individuals have argued that God does not communicate with a person through prayer. With all due respect, I have found such arguments greatly lacking. God has spoken to a vast array of individuals in the Bible through the means of prayer (e.g. Habakkuk, Job, Elijah, Isaiah, and so on). To claim that God cannot speak to a person in prayer discredits the power and personal nature of God. However, I agree that one should always “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) to ensure that one is truly hearing from God.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 529.

[5] Also, check out the discipleship program Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude V. King.

A Case for the Empty Tomb (Part 2: Historical Evidence)

By Brian Chilton

The previous section examined the arguments posed against the empty tomb hypothesis. The blog demonstrated in the first article that the arguments against the empty tomb hypothesis fail greatly. This article will provide a historical argument for the empty tomb hypothesis. If the Gospels are correct in that the tomb was truly empty on the first Easter Sunday, then one would expect to find that the ancient burial practices of first-century Judaism would match the type of burial that is presented in the Christian tradition. Did people in first-century Palestine bury their dead tombs like the “new tomb…cut in the rock” (Matthew 27:60)?

The canonical Gospels’ account of Jesus’ burial indeed matches the burial practices of first-century Palestine. Elwell and Beitzel denote that “Bodies were buried in tombs, that is, natural caves or rock-hewn sepulchers, such as that belonging to Joseph of Arimathea where the body of Jesus was laid (Mt. 27:59, 60), as well as in shallow graves covered with rock heaps serving both to mark them and to prevent desecration of the body by animals.”[1] Thus, even if Jesus had been buried in a shallow grave, the practices of the time did not readily allow easy access to predators. Yet, as it was noted earlier, it is highly unlikely that the Gospel writers would invent Joseph of Arimathea. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Evangelists would invent the empty tomb especially due to the use of a rock-hewn tombs at the time.

N. T. Wright notes that “the burial so carefully described in the gospels was, as we would expect in first-century Palestinian Judaism, the initial stage of a two-stage burial.”[2]Families would bury their dead in a rock-hewn tomb. The families would prepare the body with spices. Then after a year, the family would return to gather the bones of the departed and place them in a family ossuary.[3] Why did they conduct this practice? Wright, paraphrasing Eric M. Meyers work, notes that “secondary burial…reflects a belief in a continuing nephesh, [sic] enabling the bones to provide ‘at least a shadow of their strength in life’, with the mortal remains constituting ‘the very essence of that person in death.’”[4]Since the Evangelists’ description of the burial of Jesus matches the practices of first-century Palestinian Judaism, the empty tomb hypothesis again strengthens. But, would Pilate have granted the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea?

JamesOssuary-1-
This ossuary holds an inscription that it is the burial box belonging to James, the brother of Jesus–traditionally held to be the writer of the Epistle of James and early leader of the church.

History demonstrates that the Romans often granted clemency under certain circumstances. Craig Evans notes that Septimius Vegetus, governor of Egypt; Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor; and an inscription from Ephesus all demonstrate that Roman officials often provided various acts of clemency towards various condemned individuals.[5] Evans goes on to say,

 This mercy at times extended to those who had been crucified. Clemency sometimes was occasioned by a holiday, whether Roman or a local non-Roman holiday, or simply out of political expediency, whatever the motivation. We actually have evidence that Roman justice not only allowed for the executed to be buried, but it even encouraged it in some instances.[6]

Therefore, one will find that history provides ample evidence that not only did Palestinian Jews bury in accordance to the method prescribed by the Evangelists, but also that the Romans provided clemency for the body of the condemned to be given to the family to bury. If one remembers that the crucifixion of Jesus occurred during Passover when the bodies of the condemned were not to be allowed to remain on the cross (John 19:31), then the empty tomb hypothesis gains further merit.

This section has reviewed the historical data that confirms the empty tomb hypothesis. However, one must also query whether evidence exists that the early church believed that Jesus’ was placed in a tomb and that the tomb was found empty on the following Sunday. That topic will be evaluated in the forthcoming article next week.

Visit Brian’s Website: BellatorChristi.com

Copyright, March 21, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 


 

Notes

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 386.

[2] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 707.

[3] Ossuaries were burial boxes where the bones of several family members could be kept after their bodies had mostly decomposed.

[4] Eric M. Meyers, “Secondary Burials in Palestine,” The Biblical Archaeologist 33 (1970): 15, 26, in Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 91.

[5] Craig Evans, “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right,” in How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 75.

[6] Ibid., 75-76.

Bibliography

Bird, Michael, F., et. al. How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Davis, Stephen; Daniel Kendall, SJ; and Gerald O’Collins, SJ, eds. The Resurrection. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ehrman, Bart. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne, 2014.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

_______________., and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004.

_______________. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press, 2011.

_______________., and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004.

_______________. The Risen Jesus & Future Hope. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994.

Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010.

Meyers, Eric M. “Secondary Burials in Palestine.” The Biblical Archaeologist 33 (1970): 2-29. In N. T. Wright. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Volume 3. Christian Origins and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Miller, Richard C. “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity.” Journal Of Biblical Literature 129, 4 (2010): 759-776. Accessed November 6, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Smith, Daniel A. “Revisiting the Empty Tomb: The Post-mortem Vindication of Jesus in Mark and Q.” Novum Testamentum 45, 2 (2003): 123-137. Accessed November 6, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Volume 3. Christian Origins and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.