Monday, July 28, 2008

A Worldview Challenge

Christians, myself included, have often argued that no one can know that God does not exist for one cannot prove a negative without knowing all things and being an omniscient being oneself. However, atheists’ counter that they believe in nothing and Christians believe in something, therefore the Christian has the burden of proof of proving God’s existence. They also counter that it is lame to assert that just because you can’t prove God doesn’t exist ought to follow in accepting that He must exist.

Of first importance, I never intend for anyone to believe God exist simply because there is no evidence to prove He does not exist. The argument often presented, that one cannot prove a negative, is simply meant to show that maybe there is reason to at least consider His existence based on a multiplicity of supporting evidence. It is not the end all argument that closes the debate and expects the atheist to all of the sudden accept the existence of the Christian God.

However, this business about atheist having nothing to support because they believe in nothing and therefore the Christian, asserting something supernatural, must be the only one who defends that proposition is not completely fair.

I agree that I hold the greater burden of proof as one who claims to know, not only that God exists, but to know Him personally. I do not profess to know all that He is, for I am not omniscient. But I do profess to have a tangible relationship with Him. Therefore, I carry a great deal of the burden of showing unbelievers whether atheists or otherwise.

That being said, it is still important for the atheist to assert a reasonable defense for the application of their worldview to reality. How does it answer the problem of evil in the world? How does it give credence to the existence of good in the world? How does it answer our need for justice and moral judgment? How does it answer our ability to reason?

I challenge people from any worldview and any stream of worldviews to answer these questions and check their worldview with reality. Does it work practically? Does it line up with what is real? I’ve been answering these questions on my blog from the Christian worldview. I challenge others to do the same from their worldview to add to the exchange of ideas and to sharpen our thinking.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Unity In the Midst of Diversity

A common question regarding Christianity surrounds the issue of unity. If Christianity is true, why are there so many doctrinal differences? If we claim that God exist and that He is knowable and has revealed true information about himself in the Bible, then why do many Christians disagree about many specifics of our worldview?

Jesus prayed in John 17:23 for the unity of all believers and He says that our unity will let the world know that He was sent from God and that God loves the world. So unbelievers and believers alike rightly ask where is this unity? However, they mistake unity to mean uniformity of thinking and doctrine.

At the same time, the same people who claim that for Christianity to be true there must be uniformity do not wish for a moment to ascribe to any belief system that tells them how to think about every little thing. They are the same to hold the mindset that the church ought not to control their thinking. So is it really uniformity they want to see? Or is it what Colossians 3:14 proclaims that over all virtues we must put on love which binds us all together in perfect unity. Unity comes from loving one another not from dictating how one thinks.

Usually if everyone has the exact same response people believe it to be coached and not authentic. We know we are all unique and we think differently about things. One can notice that a car is bright red and the other notices there were three children in the back seat. Both are correct, but different things stood out to them. The problem is when they take that perspective and turn it into an absolute instead of a piece of the pie. For instance, all cars are red, or all cars must have three children in the back seat. Sometimes a truth applies across the board and sometimes it does not. I Corinthians 13 explains that now we know in part and then we shall know fully. On earth our knowledge is partial and not complete knowledge. The more our knowledge lines up with reality of what is the more we know, but even then we still don’t see the whole picture as God does.

Thus, unity is not a matter of uniformity of thinking, but a matter of being bond together by love despite our different manners of thought. And yes, this unity by love is something that is also a process that is being worked out in us and is not fully manifested in our lives. For we are all at different levels of relationship with God--growing into deeper levels all the time and the deeper we go in our walk with God the more love will prevail.

This does not mean that our thinking is not to conform to God’s truth for we can know and agree on many things that are central to Christianity, but that even with those foundational agreements there are specifics that are not nailed down and concrete in uniformity.

However, on the other hand as we mature in Christ we will become united in mind and thought as well, not because a church dictates how to think, but because we have relationship with Him who is Truth. Ephesians 4 says that God has given people gifted as leaders to the church to equip the church until she reaches unity of the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then, it says we will no longer be tossed too and fro by every wind and doctrine. Meaning, that as the Church enters maturity, even doctrine will become solid. One day all will culminate to be a glorified Church made ready for Christ. Still that unity that comes into being will be something greater than uniformity.

Again our whole desire for unity shows that there is One who brings unity to diversity. We do not wish to live in a world of rampant diversity without any unity, nor do we wish to live in a world of strict uniformity and no creative diversity. In the Triune God we find both unity and diversity and that is why He is highly qualified to bring about unity without loosing diversity in our lives. The community believers have with each other and with God joins the diverse parts to effectuate a unified whole complete with our own creative gifts and talents.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why I Am A Christian

Thus far, I have written posts mostly about the philosophical and historical reasons for the authenticity of Christianity. In this post, I want to bring it down to a personal level and address the topic of why I believe in Jesus. It is written that Jesus once asked his disciples “who do you say that I am?” They responded that, “some say you’re a prophet, others say you are . . .” He stopped them. “No,” he insisted, “who do you say that I am?”

I can point to the Bible and tell you what the Bible records of Jesus. I can point to history and show what history says about Jesus. I can point to the Church throughout history as to who is this Jesus. I can also illuminate philosophy as to why He must be. However, all that fades in comparison in my personal life as to who I know Him to be from first hand experience. Why is all this Christianity so important to me? Why do I spend hours writing about His Truth? Why have I devoted my life to Him?

I was raised in a Christian home and all that that entailed. But there came a time that I had to choose for myself--where I examined what I was taught about Jesus and my faith in Him and found it to be not merely a product of my upbringing, but a reality in my individual life. I found that I knew Jesus and that I wanted a life with Him.

When I entered college I encountered challenge after challenge against what I believed. I had a Muslim professor bent on mocking my faith and even proclaiming it his goal to convert me to Islam. I had professors who did not believe in truth at all and were constantly attacking my stance on the validity of the Christian worldview. I had other professors who accepted a multiplicity of truths as long as none of them proclaimed to be the Truth. Still another who forbid me to write anything from a Christian perspective in her class. I met students who were wiccans or atheists and many who did not have any ideas about what they believed as long as it wasn’t Christianity. Here in this antagonistic environment my faith increased. I studied constantly into these matters in search of answers to all these worldview questions being levied at me day in and day out. I found there were good reasonable answers in abundance and I began to learn more and more about why Christianity is the only worldview that lines up with reality in the greatest of measurements.

While my intellectual understanding and firm resolve to share the answers with anyone who wanted them grew in those college years, there is more to my story.

In the last few years I have experienced God in ways I had never before encountered. I have found a new depth to my life in Christ that transcends the strong private faith in my heart and the intellectual foundation of truth in my head. I have begun to experience and learn about the supernatural aspect of the Christian life. I have experienced compassion for people like never before, miraculous physical healing, the tangible presence of God upon and in me, healing of others through my prayers, sharing that tangible presence with another by a slight touch, and having people I’ve never met share with me things that God is telling them that has been apparent intimate knowledge only God could have known.

My husband and I are learning to live life by hearing from God and doing what He tells and shows us to do. God is showing up every step of the way and we follow His lead with His help. It’s been an amazing journey and it is just the beginning.

I know God is real and that I have relationship with Him through Jesus as sure and certain as I am that I breathe air everyday. It’s not a delusion or a fantasy. It’s not a matter of believing real hard that it’s true. It is about knowing that He is real. It’s trust in that knowledge that equals faith. My faith is strong because my knowledge is sure, not because it is in lack and needs faith to boost it.

Who do I say that He is? He is my Lord and Savior, my God, and Eternal Life. The giver of the most wonderful relationship man can ever have--the relationship that is real life now and forevermore.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Christian Worldview

It has come to my attention that I have failed to properly define what I mean when I use the term “Christian Worldview.” Let me try and see if I can unpack that term. First of all a worldview is a simple to complex system of belief by which we see the world. Everybody thinks with their worldview. A worldview builds from the general foundational to the particularities which rest upon the foundation. For example for the Christian it starts with the existence of God. In this sense I am not talking about presuppositions, but merely a general framework regardless of how that framework first developed. Likewise, the atheist worldview is tied closely to the idea that there is no God and it builds from there. The Christian the worldview then encompasses that there is a Triune God who created the world and reveled himself to the world through Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose again providing the way for man to know God. For the atheist it goes into the uncreated evolutionary development of the world and from there it can go into a humanist or postmodernist view of truth or other various options.

Both Christians and Atheists have different respective specifics to their worldviews. Neither group develops cookie cutter specifics with regard to various views about the world. Therefore, typically I try to stay to the general foundation worldview matters instead of the specific details of life views because if the foundational isn’t established then it’s putting the cart before the horse to establish specifics. However, I will answer questions about specifics when asked to the best of my knowledge.

Thus, when I use the word “standard” in context of the Christian worldview, I mean the foundational self-existent standard of God on which the existence and knowability of truth rest. I am not referring to specific details of what that truth looks like. I am not saying that the Christian church’s historical or modern teaching is the truth about all matters. I am saying that the very construct of truth must rest in the self-existing God for if there is no self-existing constant on which to know factual or moral truth then there is no truth to be known. However, I have never met or read of anyone who can live out the idea that there is no truth.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reason, Nature, and God

To continue on the theme of our cognitive ability to reason let us consider how it is impossible for nature to have produced reason. We use our reason in tandem with acquiring knowledge. Knowing something is distinct from what is known. Or as C.S. Lewis argues, “The knowledge of a thing is not one of the thing’s parts. In this sense something beyond Nature operates whenever we reason.” We can subdue natural emotions and physical responses by reason. A natural stimulus ought to cause a certain affect, but if we reason not to allow that affect the stimulus response can be subverted. While being a part of nature, we can still reason about nature and affect nature by reason, but nature cannot reason about itself. Nature is not rational. It has no intelligence. How can un-rational nature produce something rational like reason?

Either we accept that reason is not really reason at all and merely an instinctual non-rational response to stimulus of our environment of which we have no control or we realize that something outside of the natural world exist which is Rational and Reasonable who endowed us with the ability to reason. Hence, if you deny God’s existence, you also deny your ability to reason about the world in a rational way. You then lose your ability to rightly communicate knowledge for reason is not based on anything rational and is therefore irrational.

C. S. Lewis explains that, “It is only when you are asked to believe in Reason coming from non-reason that you must cry Halt, for, if you don’t, all thought is discredited. It is therefore obvious that sooner or later you must admit a Reason which exists absolutely on its own.”

Indubitably, the atheist will assert their reason and proclaim that since we have already come to the conclusion that it is impossible to argue against our ability to reason that some how evolution has transcended all logic and created in us the ability to reason about nature for it is unreasonable to believe otherwise. To that I would say that this would be a great miracle being attributed to a process of chance without being or rationality to bring it about. I think this would bring the skeptic to the unsupportable faith they accuse Christians of maintaining.

Maybe God’s existence is not so unreasonable after all. It would seem that without the Christian worldview the world lacks a standard on which to know anything for certain.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Question of the Sufficiency of Reason

I’ve been considering the ramifications of thought processes concerning the existence of God. Skeptics ask for a reasonable logical system of evidence sufficient for proof of God’s existence from the theist who maintains He does indeed exist. Moreover, the skeptic ask that this be done using reason and evidence as a starting place without resorting to a presuppositional argument of starting at the place of the existence of the Christian God. I have been pondering the possibilities regarding this request.

How can I start at a place of reason? Has reason been proven to be a firm foundation on which to build? C.S. Lewis wrote, “If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning.” Doing so begs the question and gets you no where. Essentially we presuppose reasoning as a stable foundation for we cannot process thought without using reason. However, if we presuppose it as stable, where did it get its stability? We know it is not infallible: we have rules of logic to judge argument. We seem to have an intuitive idea of something being reasonable or unreasonable. Some try and operate outside of the rules of logic by claiming two contradictory things can be true at the same time, yet it is easy to show them the error of that thinking for eventually they will appeal to the same rules of logic they deny to prove their point, and, thus, disprove it.

So where does this take us? We have this reason we know exist and to a certain degree we trust reason as foundational, but yet it cannot be the standard for it is finite. It can only find stability in something infinite. If reason merely rest upon evolutionary development, reason could evolve into something entirely different than what we know today and yet in human history we do not see an increase in cognitive reasoning. If anything antiquity reasoned better than modernity or rather post-modernity. So we do not have any evidence of human reason excelling into the Nietzsche superman.

If we want to use reason as a starting place we cannot circumvent it having a foundation in the ultimate reason of God. Lewis writes, “For him [the theist] reason—the reason of God—is older than Nature, and from it the orderliness of Nature, which alone enables us to know her is derived. For him, the human mind in the act of knowing is illuminated by the Divine reason.” Thus the reason we can know anything at all is because our knowledge rest on the existence of God from where we receive the ability to reason for it is designed into our being. The ability to know cannot be divorced from the ontological point of reference of the existence of God. How can I then argue for God’s existence without first presupposing His existence so that the knowledge we discuss has a reasonable foundation on which to begin the dialog?

This does not mean that by presupposing His existence I avoid giving an answer rooted in reason, but that my answers flow from this starting point to circle back around to offer some stability for my presuppositional claim. Granted this very argument is in defense of the necessity of God’s existence, but it is not exhaustive of all knowledge on the subject.

Basically I am being asked to presuppose His non-existence and from that starting place of the supremacy of reason and knowledge prove He does exist. If my readers still maintain this request, I will need them to first establish to me a defense for the sufficiency of reason and knowledge as a starting place.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Few Evidences for Christianity

In this post I will address the evidence for the Christian God. I have been asked to address the historicity of the existence of Jesus as well as the potential mystical creation of Christianity out of Judaism and other ancient religions. I must first point out that entire books have been written on these subjects and my post will only be a thumbnail sketch of the available research into these ideas. I have read much about it, but I have not exhausted all resources on the subject for it is extensive.

I was going to start with a discussion on the eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. But instead, I am going to start with testimony about him before he even came on the scene. There are 322 references in the Old Testament that was written well before Jesus of Nazareth is said to have lived that describe Jesus perfectly. Things that a man could not have had any control over occurring simply by following what was written and making it happen that way. The statistical likelihood of one man fulfilling just 8 of these prophesies in his life time is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. To borrow an illustration from Josh McDowell the odds would be the same as filling the state of Texas with quarters two feet deep with one marked quarter and sending a blindfolded man to find that quarter. That is for just the possibility of 8 being fulfilled in one man’s lifetime. Jesus fulfilled 322. So before we even look at eyewitnesses who wrote about his life and his death and resurrection, we have all these prophesies foretelling what the Messiah would do, where he would be born, and what he would be like. Also in those prophesies involves how others will interact with him: for instance, the people giving him a donkey to ride, or Judas betrayal for silver pieces.

Now fast forward to Jesus life on earth. Christianity was birthed in Jerusalem. And many scholars are attesting that the New Testament was completed before the destruction of the city in 70A.D. This means that hundreds of eyewitnesses were still alive when the church was growing in Jerusalem and into the known world. The Romans and Jews wanted to squelch Christianity. The Romans because the talk of a Kingdom of God was a threat to their rule and while they allowed a plurality of religious beliefs, they were not favorable to the Jews for their insistence on a one true God more powerful than Rome, nor the Christian belief of a Kingdom of God that was greater than the Roman power. The Jews did not want Christianity to survive because they thought it a heresy for despite the clear prophesies they thought their Messiah was going to come and rule and subdue their enemies as is prophesied for the second coming of Christ. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came on the scene he was going to immediately set the world to right with his great power and when Jesus did not do this they rejected him as the Messiah. However, many Jews today are coming to Christ and acknowledging He is the true Messiah as was prophesied.

So had Jesus never lived, and Christianity been the construct of a new religion written by simple fisherman it would not have grown as it did. Rome would have not persecuted it as a threat, Jews would have easily dispelled the rumors of its veracity and the Christian sect would have never seen the light of day. Christianity spread in the very place it was birthed because people had seen Jesus and it was not a mystical creation, but a very real historical truth. The mystical Gnostic beliefs did not get introduced until the second century after the canonical Scriptures was already the accepted authority. The popular story that there were a bunch of books floating around and the church leaders decided to sort through them all and pick out the ones that suited them best is a great fabrication and is extremely unhistorical. The “other books” were few and did not come into play until well after the accepted Scriptures had been written and already established in the church by testimony of the writers who were giving eyewitness testimony.

Moreover, the theory of Christianity being merely Jewish and mystical religion teachings combined holds no water. Christianity is a fulfillment of the work God started with the Jewish people. So naturally the truth of the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures) blends and is completed in the truth of the New Testament. As for the mystery religions and the resurrection of the corn gods, those are nature religions based on observing the changes in seasons and the death of a corn causing seeds to bring about a new corn plant. It is merely a shadow, a picture, of the real. All of nature points to the truth of Christianity. C.S. Lewis addresses this matter at some length in his book Miracles I believe for he was an expert in mythological literature.

I’m going to stop here for now, for I have said a lot and I’ll give you some time to think about this and discuss it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Constitutes Proof?

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to produce proof of the existence of God. Atheist claim there is no proof of God’s existence. I decided to first define “proof” and “evidence” before proceeding to attempt such an endeavor.

According to the dictionary proof is primarily defined as “evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.” The definition goes on to mention one may appeal to a standard for verifying proof or testing a thing to determine if it is proved.

Evidence is defined as “that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.”

Thus proof and evidence are interchangeable terms. In a court of law you have admissible evidence that is accepted proofs for determining the outcome of the case. The jury then hears this evidence and makes a determination based on the plausibility of the preponderance of evidence for or against the Defendant. If the jury sees the evidence as supporting the Defendant they find him not guilty. If they find the evidence insurmountable against the Defendant they find him guilty. Now if the evidence is not sufficient to find him guilty they must default to not guilty for if there is a reasonable doubt they must not deliver a verdict of guilty. So the prosecutor must provide enough evidence to tip the scale to guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the common standard for a verdict based on “proof.”

Proof is not the verdict; proof is merely the evidence by which the verdict is produced. At some point the jury must deliberate on the evidence and produce a verdict.

Next we must agree on what constitutes evidence/proof from which a verdict can be derived. A court of law esteems credible eye witness testimony above all other forms of evidence. If two people claim to have witnessed the Defendant shooting the store clerk and those witnesses are accepted as credible the Defendant doesn’t stand much of a chance to prove his innocence. Documents are also submitted into evidence as proof of wrong doing. I’m sure the Enron court case dealt a great deal with documental evidence. Today we also have biological evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, hair follicles, foot prints, etc. Objects can be entered into evidence such as a weapon or something of that nature.

In review, we have accepted legal evidence as eyewitness testimony, documents, biological evidence, and objects. This is only a few sources of acceptable evidence, but we will start with these.

Now, getting back to God. . . There is evidence of His existence and the evidence comes in the forms of eyewitness testimony (ancient and modern), textual documents, historical records, and archaeological artifacts giving evidence to Biblical historical accounts. Moreover, there are a series of philosophical proofs of His existence. But, before I get started on specifics of any of these categories of evidence does anyone object to these forms of evidence or process of evidence to verdict?

I’ll handle some specifics in my next blog. But first, I will await some comments to see if we are on the same page before proceeding.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jesus's Story: Myth or Truth?

All beliefs have some of the truth in them. Some have more dirt and distortions to their glasses than others. Christianity is one of a kind. No other system of belief is so integrated into history with real events real conversations with the God over all creation.

C.S. Lewis was an atheist with a masterful knowledge of mythology and world religions. He kept seeing similarities in various stories, but as an atheist he had no explanation for this reality. He loved the stories and the myths, but knew they were simply that. Then he realized that there was one Story that stood out beyond all the others. One Story that all the others were mere shadows and distortions of even though they retained some of the flavor of the One Grand Story. That being the story of Jesus which was not rooted in mythology and legend like the others, but was rooted in history. The events of the Bible took place in real time and delineated real historical events like a history book: except there were miracles of God interwoven in this text. However, he knew if you disregarded the miracles there was nothing left to the text. Many have mistaken the miraculous element of the Bible to legend when no legendary text exists of the same literary style of the Bible. No mythology is written in this style.

So either simple fishermen of Galilee two thousand years ago wrote the most magnificent one of a kind literary masterpiece of all time from their own imagination, or they were really recounting the real events they experienced and eye witnesses testified to of the life of Jesus and God's intervention throughout time in the lives of men and women.

The existence of many different belief systems does not take away from the reality of Jesus, but actually contributed to the truth of the Gospels by the similarities. If a real $100 bill had never been made no one could make a counterfeit or a distorted $100 bill for there was no real preceding it in order for it to be fake. If there is a plethora of religions and desires of worshiping something outside ourselves then that suggest there is a real and a right God to direct that worship.

The many stories of various beliefs are shadows and counterfeits of the real Story. We can hold on to the counterfeit, or we can exchange it for the real and take our place in His Story. I want to be in the Real Story, not wondering outside in shadows and counterfeits. Only by being a part of the real story through a relationship with Jesus Christ can we live life with a clean pair of glasses.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Science Has Become as God

Science has essentially taken the place of God in the western world. Culture esteems scientific knowledge as concrete, verifiable, and the ultimate method to truth. If one cannot prove a thing scientifically it is, most likely, untrue by default. People quickly forget the consistent fluctuation of scientific knowledge. One thing may be certain scientific knowledge for a generation only to be discarded and replaced by the newest scientific technology of the next generation. Science can only be as good as the human doing the experiments and theorizing, however, we act like it has surpassed human fallibility and entered the realm of consistent proof.

People appeal to science to dismiss the notion of the existence of God. Evolution, they claim, is responsible for everything in life. It’s the cause of the existence of complex matter, of even more complex life, of intricately configured genes and DNA. It’s responsible for our mental capacity, our feelings, our desires, our ability to love and to hate, to do good and to do evil. It has been given carte blanca to be responsible for anything science can’t explain, for everyone knows to attribute these things to anything supernatural would be extremely unscientific and barbaric.

Christians are blamed for relegating the unexplained to God and squelching scientific exploration. The truth is that the majority of great scientific contributions were brought forth by scientists who were devout Christians such as Blaise Pascal, Renee Descartes, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, and Francis Collins, to name a few. However, today it seems that secularist are relegating the unexplained to evolution and denying any possibility that there could be a supernatural explanation.

It would appear that science has been given too much credit and scientists too much power. Science ought to be an exploration into the world God created and not an endeavor to oust God from the equation in attempts to find naturalistic proofs at all costs.

If you start with the presupposition that there can be no Designer you will be blinded to any design before you. Likewise if there is first believed to be no supernatural world, scientist are limited to only naturalistic explanations and true knowledge is lost by this limitation.

If anyone dare put forth a theory of design they are forthwith regarded as an old fashioned Bible believer and their science is not taken seriously as science, because it is presumed to be faulty, simply because of the worldview which it suggest.

Science is inadequate to provide answers to the origin of life or the questions about purpose and spirituality. Science can only study the natural world around us and fails when it comes to the metaphysical world. Just because science cannot prove a metaphysical world (a spiritual world) does not mean it does not exist. It just means that science is limited to the natural. We make a grave error when we take a process of knowledge intended for exploration into the natural world and extrapolate it to deny the existence of a world it cannot explore. You cannot prove God through the scientific method. However, there are other ways to learn about Him. Science isn’t the end all measuring of reality as many have been led to believe.