Finding Truth Study Guide: Chapter 1 Question 3

Atheists’ Children and Their God

  1. Explain the concept of common grace. What are the implications for apologetics?

Theologians speak of the grace of God in two categories; common grace and special grace. Special grace is that which is given to those who receive the gift of salvation. Common grace is that which God gives to all regardless of their spiritual condition. Farmers grow crops whether they are believers or non-believers because the rains come at the right time in the right amounts. The world operates according to predictable laws such that it can be studied and technology can be developed. Moreover, since actions have predictable consequences, they are meaningful. All of this points to a creator and sustainer of the world. Even children intuitively recognize this whether their parents believe or not.

What this means for apologetics is that we do not need to point out new information to the skeptic, but point to that which they already know. I once heard a college professor claim that people believe in God because they are socialized to do so. However, it seems to me that the opposite is true. Children seem to recognize God’s existence and need to be socialized to disbelieve (by skeptical professors.)

As Pearcey points out, Paul wrote about this in Romans (28):

We all suppress the evidence for God from creation.

Romans 1:18—[They] suppress the truth.

Romans 1:21—Although they knew God, they did not honor

him as God or give thanks to him.

Romans 1:28—They did not see fit to acknowledge God.

Pearcey rightly notes that this is a clear case of denial.

Denial is understandable for the one who notices the signs that God exists, yet does not know the Gospel. God’s existence, and his holiness, is terrifying news to someone who does not know that mercy is being offered.

We have our work cut out for us.

Finding Truth: Study Guide Chapter 1 Question 2

The Problem of Personhood

  1. What are the philosophical meanings of the terms personal and non-personal? How does the fact that humans are personal beings function as evidence for God? Do you find that evidence persuasive? Why or why not?

Pearcey reminds us that Paul said God could be known through the things that were made, and that includes us. The fact that we are persons is evidence that we are the created by a personal being. William Lane Craig defines “person” as a self-conscious individual with free will. (See Defenders Podcast, Doctrine of Christ, Part 4) This idea is related to the argument from the origin of the universe. In question 1 I mentioned that the cause of the universe had to be an agent with a will that could have willed not to create. Agent is synonymous with person.

The reason this is evidence for the existence of God is because persons do not come from non-persons.

At this point, some might object, “If persons cannot come from non-persons, then how is it the physical can come from the non-physical.” (I have never heard this objection, but it occurred to me as I thought through this.) I think the distinction is that there is adequate evidence that all matter came into existence at a point in the finite past, and requires a non-physical cause to account for it. On the other hand, it is possible for a non-physical being to exist in a timeless state.

The alternative is to say that human beings are not persons in that they have no free will.

Because I know where this book is going, I will hold off on a more detailed response to this later when we get to evaluating competing worldviews and applying Pearcey’s principles.

Spontaneous Prayer

School of Christian Thought

I come from a tradition that privileges “spontaneous prayer” and looks Oranssuspiciously on scripted prayers or prayers written beforehand.  According to this perspective, spontaneous prayer means prayer from the heart while prescribed prayers or prayers written down beforehand are not from the heart.  I accepted this myself for many years until I met some remarkable Christians and began to read and reflect on Scripture.

One day I was looking for a guitar pick in the guitar case of a friend of mine.  He was a well known Christian recording artist.  Because I was a musician too, I looked up to him not only for his talent but also because he was a man of faith.  As I looked in  his guitar case, I found a stack of papers on which my friend had written out a series of prayers to God.  Later he told me that he found that writing out…

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Finding Truth: The Study Guide Chapter 1 Question 1 Part 2

Origin of life:

Having begun to exist, and having the constants mentioned in the book and elsewhere, that means life’s origin and development are inevitable, right? Not so fast. Pearcey points out the necessity for massive amounts of information found in DNA for even the simplest life forms. Moreover, in every other experience we have had, information comes from an intelligent source.

This is a huge problem for a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life, but there are other nearly insurmountable hurdles that prebiotic chemistry must overcome before you even get to the level of DNA.

Many genes code for the production of proteins. In living systems, these proteins are formed from 20 amino acids. Amino acids form in three-dimensional shapes that form right-and left-handed structures. Those that form in living systems are left-handed (and the sugars that bind with them are right-handed.) When these same amino acids form in nature outside of living systems, or are produced in the lab, they form in equal mixtures of left- and right-handed forms. This is called a racemic mixture. In the presence of a racemic mixture, proteins cannot form. This is not merely a case that we do not know how amino acids could form proteins for the first life. It is a case where natural chemical processes prevent such proteins from forming. As Fazale Rana writes, “…without preexisting reservoirs of exclusively left-handed amino acids and exclusively right-handed sugars, the naturalistic assembly of proteins, DNA and RNA is prohibited.”[1]

Some astrobiologists (the only field of science completely devoid of data) have suggested that life could be based on some other element than carbon, such as silicon. However, as Rana points out,

Silicon belongs to the same chemical group as carbon and should display similar chemical properties, prompting some astrobiologists to propose that life could be based on this element. But while silicon does form rings and chains, these structures lack the stability and the range of complexity found in carbon-based compounds. Silicon-silicon bonds are much weaker than the corresponding carbon-carbon bonds, and unlike carbon-carbon bonds, they are susceptible to oxidation.[2]

This leaves carbon as likely the only element from which biochemistry can arise. It also explains why the search for habitable planets begins with planets that could possibly sustain liquid water, since carbon is most reactive in the same range of temperatures in which water is liquid.

Some have accused theists of appealing to “god-of-the-gaps,” saying we are invoking God to explain what we do not understand. This is not the case. We have numerous reasons to think God exists and that he has revealed himself. Part of that revelation is that he created the universe and life. Natural obstacles to undirected processes and information that requires an intelligent source are evidence that this is so.

[1] Fazale Rana, Creating Life in the Lab: How New Discoveries in Synthetic Biology Make a Case for the Creator (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2011), 34-45.

[2] http://www.reasons.org/articles/strange-new-worlds-life-based-on-silicon-arsenic

Athens Expedition to Digitize Biblical Manuscripts

Daniel B. Wallace

Friends, many of you know that the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has signed a contract with the National Library of Greece in Athens to digitize their entire collection of New Testament manuscripts. I have already spent more time in Athens this year than in America, preparing the manuscripts for digitization. The NLG is one of the five largest repositories in the world for Greek NT manuscripts. They have over 300 of these, coming to about 150,000 pages of text. CSNTM will shoot all of these pages over the next two years.

Rob-Filippos-dbw

With the troubles in the world today, especially with ISIS and other groups trying to destroy Christian artifacts, the importance of our work has never been more urgent. And this upcoming expedition will cost CSNTM about $835,000! We need your help. Below are some key items that we will need to pay for. If you believe…

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Finding Truth: The Study Guide Chapter 1 Question 1 Part 1

Nancy Pearcy’s Finding Truth includes a study guide. Since my Sunday school class will be studying this book, I decided to blog some thoughts on how I would answer the questions. Today’s post will address the first part of the first question from Chapter 1.

Training Manual for Today’s “Romans”

  1. The atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he died, stood before God, and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’” Summarize the evidence from physical nature described in the text:

Origin of the universe[1]:

Paul wrote to the Roman church:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

Pearcey notes that this is born out by science in the areas of the origin of universe and the origin of life. However, instead of unpacking the evidence of the origin of the universe, Pearcey changes focus to the fine-tuning of the universe for life. She mentions five of the constants that are exquisitely fine-tuned. (A list of 93 such constants can be found at http://www.reasons.org/articles/fine-tuning-for-life-in-the-universe.) The fine-tuning argument is powerful, but I would like to say something about the origin of the universe itself.

The 18th century philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The only options are either that there has always been something, or that things began to exist.

To say that something (like the universe) has always existed is philosophically unsustainable, scientifically falsified, and contrary to Scripture. Philosophy helps us see that if the universe were eternal, that would mean the universe would have to have passed through an infinite number of moments of time in order to arrive at the present. But, you could never get an infinite number of things, (events, minutes, hours, years, widgets, zombies, bananas, take your pick) by successive addition. In other words, you can’t count to infinity because you never get there. Scientifically, we know from the Second Law of Thermodynamics that if the universe were eternal, it would have long since run out of usable energy. Moreover, the work of Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble shows that the universe had a beginning in the finite past. Scripturally, Genesis 1:1 tells us “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” The phrase “the heavens and the earth” in Hebrew is what is called a merism, which is a pair of contrasting words that express a totality or completeness.

If the universe is not eternal, then it must have had a beginning. Leibniz formulated an idea called the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR.) This was the idea that anything that exists has a reason for its existence that can be found in something else, or itself. In other words, there is no effect without a cause.[2] Moreover, as William Lane Craig has shown in his work on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, anything that begins to exist must have a cause. Since the universe (by which I mean all of matter, space and time,) began to exist it must have a cause. The universe could not have cause itself to exist, since this would mean it would have to exist before it existed. For the materialist to appeal to a natural cause for the beginning of the universe would be absurd, since the universe just is nature. To say they will someday discover how nature caused itself to begin to exist is like saying someday I will discover how I gave birth to my grandmother. The only option left is that something or someone outside the universe would have had to be the cause. Could it be something or does it have to be someone? What’s the difference? Either what cause the universe was sufficient conditions, or an agent that had the ability to exercise will which means the agent had the ability to not cause the universe to begin.[3] As noted above, there could not have been an infinite succession of moments during which the necessary conditions existed and for some reason produced the effect that is the universe. That leaves someone. That someone would have to be immaterial, non-spatial, timeless (at least without creation) and extremely powerful and intelligent. That sounds like the kind of being we would call God. Therefore, the beginning of the universe is powerful evidence of the existence of some kind of God. It is not enough to get to the God of the Bible, but it shows that an atheistic worldview is false.

Tomorrow I will address the issue of the origin of life.

[1] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes(Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015), 333.

 

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/leibniz/#PriSufRea

[3] For more on this, see J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City.

This is why I am skeptical of “Global Warming/ Climate Change”

For all I know, global warming, or :climate change,” might be a thing. Maybe we should even do something about it. As the scholar team at Reasons to Believe (reasons.org) point out, there are four questions that need to be addressed on this issue:

  1. Is the global temperature rising (or climate changing?)
  2. Is it caused by human activity?
  3. How big of a deal is it?
  4. What should be done about it?

These are all reasonable questions. What makes me suspicious of so many dire claims of catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change is the fact that so many proposed solutions involve schemes that make money for those making the claims, or poorly disguised wealth redistribution schemes. The latest example comes from none other than Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” who said, “We need, dare I say it, a tax, or should I say a fee,” he reportedly said before an anonymous student began recording him. “It’s not just to be mean,” he added, “it’s to redistribute wealth.”(http://www.examiner.com/article/science-guy-bill-nye-suggests-carbon-tax-to-redistribute-wealth)

Again, this tells us nothing about the truth of climate change claims. People who promote the claims in order to support a socialist or communist agenda could still be correct about the problem, even if their solutions cannot solve it. Those of us who value economic freedom, however, are right to be cautious.

What Did Paul See? A Look at the Resurrection of Jesus and What Happened to Paul

THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions about what we can know about Jesus. I think a good starting place about historical discussions about Jesus  is seen in the book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by New Testament historian Mike Licona.[1]  In the book Licona discusses what is called “The Historical Bedrock.” These three facts about the Historical Jesus are held by most critical scholars and historians:

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion

2. Very Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul became a follower of Jesus after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.[2]

In this post, I want to focus on #3. After all…

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The Blow-Hard Bias of Inherit the Wind

“I’m frustrated!” The plea came in from a girl who was taking a required undergrad English course where the professor assigned an analysis of the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, which presents a fictionalized account of the famous Scopes “Monkey” Trial held in Tennessee thirty years earlier. For those of you that don’t know, substitute…

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ComeReasonsApologeticsNotes/~3/_qmLxAixr_Q/the-blow-hard-bias-of-inherit-wind.html