Writings

17
Apr

Is God Real? The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design Inference

Is God Real - The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design InferenceOf all the arguments related to the existence of God, the argument from the appearance of design is perhaps the most intuitive and visual. As we examine and observe the complexity (and inter-connectivity) of biological systems, we can’t help but come away with the impression these organisms and cellular micro-machines have been carefully crafted by a master artist. One such complex micro-machine has been heralded above all others in teleological arguments for the existence of God. Bacterial flagella remain a mystery to scientists who recognize them as a marvel of machine-like precision. Harvard biophysicist, Howard Berg, has publicly described the bacterial flagellum as “the most efficient machine in the universe.”  Is God real? The bacterial flagellum is best explained by God’s existence as the Intelligent Designer of biological systems.

flagellum
The Bacterial Flagellum as visualized in Michael Behe’s book,
Darwin’s Black Box

This small cellular micro-motor powers its bacterial host by whipping a long filament in rotary fashion. Nestled within the cellular wall, it operates efficiently as a rotary motor. The iconic status of the bacterial flagellum results primarily from the ease with which even casual detectives can identify characteristics of design and intelligent interaction. I’m currently writing a book in which I’m investigating eight characteristics of design in flagella, but for purposes of this short blog, one feature is obvious (and critical) in determining the intelligent source of flagella.

The natural mechanisms available in strict evolutionary processes are insufficient to explain the flagellum for an important reason: natural laws, unguided chance mutations and natural selection cannot account for irreducibly complex micro-machines. Natural selection offers a very specific pathway to the kind of complexity we see in the flagellum. Darwinian evolution proposes a gradual and incremental pathway to any finished micro-machine. Like complex LEGO structures built from the incremental addition of one brick after another, sophisticated micro-machines, if assembled through an additive process of natural selection, must also come into existence incrementally. Even Richard Dawkins, committed as he is to the creative power of natural selection, understands the necessity of gradualism and incrementalism in explaining the existence of micro-machines (such as the bacterial flagellum): “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes [or bacterial flagellum]. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation.”

Dawkins recognizes the power irreducible complexity has to falsify naturalistic explanations (like any combination of chance, natural law, or natural selection). Charles Darwin also recognized this dilemma when he wrote On the Origin of Species: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”. When we observe a machine that cannot function unless multiple pieces are in place simultaneously, the best inference is the presence of a designer who defeats the improbability of such an accidental assembly by intervening intelligently to accomplish the goal.

The flagellum has over 40 necessary, interactive, inter-reliant pieces. With just one less part, the flagellum fails to operate as the effective motor it needs to be to successfully mobilize the bacterium. The irreducible complexity of this large collection of pieces means the finished design of the flagellum must be assembled in one sweeping step; it cannot be assembled over time gradually, unless the prior intermediate micro-machines also offer some advantage to the bacterium. If they don’t offer an advantage, and are instead a misshapen liability, natural selection will not favor the organism. In other words, natural selection will not retain the “intermediates” to allow for further additions. Irreducibly complex structures beg for an intelligent designer. William Dembski author of The Design Inference puts it this way: “Once intelligence is out of the picture, evolution, as Darwin notes… has to be gradual. You can’t just magically materialize completely new structures out of nowhere. There has to be a path-dependence. You have to get there by some gradual route from something that already exists.”

In a similar way, only intelligent causation can account for the irreducibly complex nature of the bacterial flagellum, and alternative explanations relying on some evolutionary combination of chance, natural law or natural selection cannot. To be fair, many naturalists have proposed a pathway to the flagellum without the intervention of an intelligent designer. While my next book will examine all of the alternatives, this limited post will focus on the most popular naturalistic explanation. In an effort to nullify the powerful design inference from the irreducible complexity of the flagellum, some have offered a way to arrive at the final design without building it piece by piece. Philosopher Robert T. Pennock, rejects the need to assemble the flagellum additively over time and suggests there is a better way to arrive at the finished micro-machine: “…it’s a common theme of evolutionary biology that constituents of a cell, a tissue, or an organism, are put to new uses because of some modification of the genotype. So maybe the immediate precursor of the proud possessor of the flagellum is a bacterium in which all the protein constituents were already present, but in which some other feature of the cell chemistry interferes with the reaction that builds the flagellum.”   In other words, maybe the complex flagellum can be constructed by borrowing a less complex micro-machine within the cell and building from there. In fact, some have suggested Type III secretion systems (T3SS) as the evolutionary precursor.

Type III secretion systems
Electron-microscope image of isolated T3SS needle complexes
(Schraidt et al., 2010)

T3SS are needle-like sensory probes used by bacteria. They detect the presence of target organisms and secrete proteins necessary to aid the bacterial infection. T3SS share many common proteins and are constructed similarly to bacterial flagella. They’ve been offered in an effort to jump the divide from a single protein to the complexity of flagellum. If cellular organisms could borrow T3SS, they’d have a have a significant head start in their flagella construction. This approach is problematic, however:

The Borrowed Micro-Machine is Also Irreducibly Complex
T3SS are just as remarkably irreducible as their flagella cousins. The T3SS is constructed from approximately 30 different proteins; it’s one of the most complex secretion systems observed in biology today. Like the flagellum, T3SS requires the minimal configuration of these proteins to function. It cannot be offered as an explanation for the flagellum because it too requires an explanation. William Dembski describes it this way: “…what you have here is not a fully articulated path but an island (the Type III secretory system) and a huge jump to the next island (namely, the flagellum). If evolution is going to try to explain how you can island-hop from Los Angeles to Tokyo, basically what the evolutionist has found is the Hawaiian Islands and nothing else. What the evolutionist has not found is the entire archipelago that will take you across.”

The Pathway To and From the Borrowed Micro-Machine is Evidentially Unsupported
Dembski has correctly identified the problem facing those who deny the design inference from irreducible complexity. As Dawkins described earlier, evolution, “…if it is not gradual in these cases… ceases to have any explanatory power at all.” There is no evidence to elucidate gradual evolutionary progression to the T3SS, nor any evidence to explain the gradual evolutionary progress from the T3SS (to the flagellum). The TS33 accounts for only a handful of the proteins used by flagella, leaving approximately thirty unaccounted for, and these other thirty proteins are not present in any other living system.

The Borrowed Micro-Machine May Not Even Be Available for Borrowing
Even naturalistic evolutionists are now skeptical of the alleged evolutionary order of TS33 related to flagella. Many scientists have concluded the T3SS is not an evolutionary precursor to flagella, but is more reasonably a product of the decay and devolution of the flagellum. Research such as this demonstrates the frustration in trying to arrive at either irreducibly complex micro-machine from naturalistic explanations.

There is, of course, a more reasonable way to account for the bacterial flagellum without having to concoct “just so,” evidentially unsupported, evolutionary tales. When we see something we recognize as an irreducibly complex micro-motor, resembling other motors designed by intelligent beings, the most reasonable inference is the existence of an intelligent micro-motor designer. Is God real? He is the one Intelligent Designer capable of creating the bacterial flagellum, and He is still the most reasonable inference.

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

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14
Apr

Dealing with Doctrinal Differences

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Challenges to Christianity don’t always come from the outside, from atheists committed to removing every vestige of religious faith from society. Challenges can also come from committed Christians, whose beliefs are shaken by philosophical ideas that are, most likely, designed to make people stumble.

From time to time, this question gets raised: “There are numerous Christian denominations, many of which accuse other denominations of doctrinal error. Doesn’t this amount to proof against the existence of God? After all, what kind of God would allow his “inspired” word to be understood so differently by different people?

This question has considerable surface appeal. If you raised your eyebrow and said, “Good question,” you certainly wouldn’t be alone. Of course, there is a trick to such a question, a premise hidden within it, which needs to be teased out and confronted. I think the full argument, the one in which the premise is explicitly stated, would go something like this:

  • If God exists, he would make himself known directly and personally to prevent, and safeguard us from, doctrinal error. 
  • There exists doctrinal error. 
  • Therefore, there is no God.

When you make explicit the premise, you can see that it isn’t necessarily true. Why? Because God may instead value free will higher than He values freedom from doctrinal error. After all, it certainly seems that God values free will quite a bit, since without it there can be no such thing as love. It’s been said that He gave us enough evidence to believe, to make our faith rational, but not so much evidence that we have no choice but to believe. While He has made Himself known to us through general revelation – i.e. His creation – and through the Bible, there is simply no reason to conclude that He seeks to ensure, on a direct and personal level, that we never make mistakes about Him, or about His will. After all, if He did directly and personally ensure no mistaken beliefs, would this not amount to removing our free will not to believe? 

Perhaps God desires that we work at knowing Him. Sometimes we get it wrong, but it’s the process of developing a deepening faith – of inclining our hearts toward him – that matters. That involves reading the Scripture, reflecting on what the authors meant to convey and attempting to reconcile apparent inconsistencies; it requires prayer and discussion. In short, it helps make sense of God’s command that we not just live in his Word, but that we do so in community with other believers.  As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly 

The Bible was never meant to be a math or science book; we weren’t meant to use it simply to find the “right answers” and be done. We were meant to spend a lifetime studying, meditating upon and discussing it, spreading the good news of salvation as we go.   handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15-16) And later, Paul urged his readers to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:13-17)

That’s why we should take to heart Peter’s admonition (1 Peter 3) that we prepare  ourselves so as to be always “ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” but do so with gentleness and reverence, keeping our consciences clear. 

 Who knows, we might even end up with fewer disagreements.

 Posted by Al Serrato

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11
Apr

How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important Details?

How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important DetailsA visitor to ColdCaseChristianity.com wrote recently to express her concerns and growing doubts about Christianity. Raised in the Church, she finds herself questioning the reliability of the Gospel authors because some of them failed to mention important events in the life and ministry of Jesus. Why does only one Gospel writer mention the Raising of Lazarus? Why does only one writer mention the dead people who rose from the grave at Jesus’ crucifixion? There are many examples of singular, seemingly important events mentioned by only one of the four Gospel authors. Shouldn’t all of the alleged eyewitnesses have included these events, and doesn’t the absence of information in a particular Gospel cast doubt on whether or not the event actually occurred? My experience working with eyewitnesses may help you think clearly about these issues and objections. You can trust the Gospel eyewitness accounts, even though some are missing important details:

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Scope
When I interview an eyewitness, I am very careful to set the parameter for the testimony before I begin. I usually frame the interview by saying something like, “Please tell me everything you saw from the moment the robber came in the bank, to the moment he left.” I make sure to set the constraints the same way for each and every witness. Without these parameters, the resulting testimony would vary wildly from person to person. Some would include details prior to or after the robbery, some would include only the highlights, and some would omit major elements in the event. If I want to be able to compare the testimony of two or three witnesses later, I’m going to have to make sure they begin with the same scope and framework in mind.

The Gospel authors clearly did not testify with the same initial instructions. There was no unifying investigator present to set the framework for their testimony, so their responses vary in the same way they would vary today if the scope of their testimony was not established from the onset. Mark, according to Papias, the 1st Century Bishop of Hierapolis, “became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.” More concerned about accuracy of individual events than the order in which they occurred, Mark offered details like many of my witnesses who are interviewed without a unified parameter. Mark is simply recording the preaching of Peter, and Peter only referred to portions of Jesus’ life and ministry, making no effort to order them for his listeners.

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Perspective and Purpose
In addition, the witnesses I interview often want to highlight a particular element in the crime scene or a particular suspect behavior they think is important. Sometimes their choice of detail is influenced greatly by their own life history. Their values, experiences and personal concerns guide their selection of which details they include, and which they omit. Witnesses also typically try to offer what they think I am looking for as the detective rather than every little thing they actually saw. They are speaking to a specific audience (an investigator), and this has an impact on what they choose to include or omit. When this happens, I have to refocus each witness and ask them to fill in the details they skipped over, including everything they saw, even if they don’t think it’s important to me as a detective. If I don’t encourage eyewitnesses to be more inclusive and specific, they will omit important details.

The Gospel authors were not similarly directed. They had specific audiences in mind and particular perspectives to offer, and none of their testimony was guided by a unifying investigator who could encourage them to fill in the missing details. Luke clearly had a particular reader in mind (Theophilus): “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught (Luke 1)”. Like other witnesses and historians, Luke likely allowed his intended audience to influence his selection of details. His testimony was also most certainly shaped by his own life experience (as an educated man),his own personal history, and his values. Matthew did something similar when he highlighted the details of Jesus’ life most relevant to Matthew’s Jewish audience.

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Knowledge of Other Testimony
Sometimes an eyewitness will only provide those details he thinks are missing from the testimony of others. This is most likely to occur if the witness is the last one to be interviewed and he (or she) is already familiar with the testimony of the other witnesses. When I see this happening, I ask this last witness to pretend like he or she is the only witness in my case, “Try to include every detail like I’ve never heard anything about the case. Pretend like I know nothing about the event.” Once the witness has done that, I may go back and re-interview the prior witnesses to see why they didn’t mention the late details offered by the final witness. In the end, my reports related to everyone’s testimony will be as complete as possible, including all the details remembered by each person I interviewed.

The gospel authors were not similarly directed and re-interviewed. John was the last person to provide an account, and he clearly selected those events important to him, given his stated goal: “…many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20)”. John knew what had already been provided by others, and he selected specific events (some which were previously unreported) to make his case. He acknowledged his limited choice of data: “…there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written (John 21)”. John admitted what we already know: witnesses pick and choose from their own observations unless they are specifically directed to do otherwise.

Skeptics sometimes infer more from omissions (or inclusions) in the Gospels than what is reasonable, especially given the manner in which the Gospels came to be written. Because the four authors were not specifically instructed, guided or re-interviewed by a unifying detective, we simply cannot conclude much from the differences between the accounts. We must, instead, do our best to employ the four part template we use to evaluate eyewitness reliability after the fact. This template (as I’ve described it in Cold-Case Christianity), provides us with confidence in the trustworthy nature of the Biblical narratives. That’s why you can trust the Gospel eyewitness accounts, even though some are missing important details.

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

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10
Apr

Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor Academy

Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor AcademyThis past weekend I got to hang out with Frank Turek, a dear friend, co-laborer and mentor. Frank is the author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, and he was here in our neck of the woods teaching several services at a large local church. Susie and I joined him afterward and we spent the better part of two days together. We ate some barbeque, ran through the local woods (we found out Frank runs faster than we do), and talked about our work and passion to train Christians to think critically about what they believe. Frank does more than train Christians, however. Frank trains trainers.

Frank’s been a teacher and cultural influencer for years, but in if you want to impact your culture exponentially, you’ve got to multiply your own efforts by creating additional trainers. That’s exactly what Frank does every year at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA). Frank has assembled a team of speakers and thinkers to help him train up the next generation of Christian Case Makers. This three day experience isn’t for beginners. It’s for people who have already started to step out and teach apologetics in their local churches and communities.  CIA will teach you how to present I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, including four categories critical to Christian Case Making: Truth, God, Miracles and the New Testament. You’ll also learn how to answer questions about those topics in a hostile environment. During these three days, in addition to hearing lectures and participating in discussions, participants will be asked to present a portion of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and answer questions from the instructors. Like last year, I am part of the CIA faculty, along with Frank, Greg Koukl, Dr. Richard Howe, Brett Kunkle and Ted Wright.

If you’re a tent-making Case Maker, I think you should come and be a part of this incredible opportunity for the following reasons:

It’s a Great Place to Grow Your Knowledge Base There’s an extensive reading list required for everyone who attends the program, so you’re going to have to prepare yourself with additional knowledge before you even arrive on the campus of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES). But trust me; you’re going to learn a lot from the instructors and other participants. The people who come to this academy are gifted and knowledgeable. We all get to learn from one another and everyone comes away with something they didn’t know prior to the training.

It’s a Great Place to Refine Your Approach One of the best things about CIA is the emphasis on presentation. It’s one thing to know something, another to communicate what you know effectively (especially if you want to be winsome or influential). This year we are increasing our focus in this area. We want to make you better Case Makers and communicators. We’ve got special break-out sessions planned for you to accomplish this goal.

It’s a Great Place to Learn the Art of Influence If you want to influence a culture effectively, it all begins with your “platform”. I will be talking a lot about that this year; Frank scheduled me to teach one of the new breakout sessions where we’ll examine a number of successful strategies guaranteed to increase your audience and influence. If you’re a tent-making Case Maker like me, this will be the perfect opportunity to learn from one another.

It’s a Great Place to Connect with Other Case Makers Perhaps my favorite part of this training is the opportunity to meet all of you and “hang out in the halls” together. If you’re staying at the local hotel, we’ll be eating breakfast every day (as well as other meals on the SES campus). We’ll definitely learn from each other, but more importantly, we’ll get to know each other as brothers and sisters (and likely begin a relationship that will extend over the years).

If you want to become a more effective Christian Case Maker, I can’t think of a better, more concise, more focused opportunity. Join us at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy from August 14th to 16th as we encourage, critique, train and inspire each other to make the case for Christianity.

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

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8
Apr

Is God Real? God is the Best Explanation for Objective Moral Laws

Is God Real - God is the Best Explanation for Objective Moral LawsWe live in a world populated with self-evident, objective, transcendent moral laws. “It’s never OK to torture babies for fun” or (my new favorite from a blog reader) “It’s never OK to torture non-believers just because you don’t like them?” are two examples of such transcendent laws. How do we account for laws such as these? Their existence points to a reasonable inference: the existence of a Transcendent Moral Law Giver. But there are other alternatives typically offered by those who reject the existence of such a Being. Is God real? The insufficiency of the alternative explanations strengthens the argument for the existence of God:

Are Objective, Transcendent Moral Laws A Product of Genetic Evolution?
As one friendly skeptic said recently, “We share 99.999% of our physical traits with our fellow humans . . . so why would our mental traits not be similarly shared?” Are moral truths simply part of our genetic coding? There are good reasons to reject such an explanation. When someone claims self-evident moral truths are simply a matter of our genetic evolution, they are assuming the same evolutionary pathway for every people group. What are we to make of cultures that behave in a manner different than our own? How can we justly adjudicate between the myriad of people groups, all of whom have their own genetic evolutionary pathway? This form of emboldened relativism is powerless to judge any form of behavior, good or bad. In fact, how can we judge any behavior if it is so connected to our genetic nature? We don’t blame people for being brunettes or having blue eyes; if our genes are the cause of our moral understanding, what right do we have to blame people when they simply express genetic moral wiring different from our own? Perhaps most importantly, even if my skeptical friend is right and commonly accepted moral truths are merely a product of our genetic encoding, we still must account for the source of this encoding.  DNA is information rich. As Stephen C. Myers observes in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, there isn’t a single example in the history of the universe in which information has come from anything other than an intelligent source. If our genetic code contains information about moral truth, we still must ask the foundational question, what intelligent source provided this code? All codes require encoders.

Are Objective, Transcendent Moral Truths a Matter of Cultural Agreement?
If societies are the source of objective moral truths, what are we to do when two cultures disagree about these truths? How do we adjudicate between two competing views of a particular moral claim? If objective moral truths are simply a matter of “shared morality”, the societal majority rules; “might makes right”. In a world like this, anyone (or any group) holding the minority position in a particular moral argument is, by definition, immoral. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson made this clear in his early career as a prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials following World War II. When the German soldiers who committed atrocities in the Jewish prison camps were brought to trial to face criminal charges, the issue of moral relativity was tested directly. The lawyers for the German officers argued that these men should not be judged for actions that were actually morally acceptable in the nation of Germany at the time of the war. They argued their supervisors and culture encouraged this behavior; in fact, to do otherwise would defy the culture and ideology in which they lived. In their moral environment, this behavior was part of the “shared morality”. Jackson argued against such a view of moral relativism and said, “There is a law above the law.”

Are Objective, Transcendent Moral Truths a Consequence of “Human Flourishing”?
Sam Harris (author of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values), argues we can establish the moral value of any particular action by simply evaluating its impact on human well-being (something Harris typically refers to as “human flourishing”). Harris likens the establishment of such truths to a game of chess. In any particular game, each player must decide how to move based on the resulting effect. If you are trying to win the game, some moves are “good” and some moves are “bad”; some will lead you to victory and some will lead you to defeat. “Good” and “bad” then, are evaluated based on whether or not they accomplish the goal of winning the game. Harris redefines “good” (in the context of human beings) as whatever supports or encourages the well-being of conscious creatures; if an action increases human well-being (human “flourishing”) it is “good”, if it decreases well-being, it is “bad”. What, however, do we mean when we talk about “flourishing”? It’s one thing to evaluate a behavior in terms of its impact on survival, and if we are honest with one another, this is really what drives Natural Selection. But Harris recognizes survival, as a singular goal, can lead to all kinds of morally condemnable misbehavior. Harris suggests the goal is something more; the goal is “flourishing”. Human flourishing comprises a particular quality of life; one in which we honor the rights of others and seek a certain kind of character in order to become a particular kind of human group that has maximized its potential. See the problem here? Harris has already imported moral values into his model, even as he seeks to explain where these values come from in the first place. One can hardly define the “maximization” of human wellbeing without asserting a number of moral values. What, beyond mere survival, achieves our “maximization” as humans? The minute we move from mere survival to a particular kind of “worthy” survival, we have to employ moral principles and ideas. Concepts of sacrifice, nobility and honor must be assumed foundationally, but these are not morally neutral notions. Human “flourishing” assumes a number of virtues and priorities (depending on who is defining it), and these values and characteristics precede the enterprise Harris seeks to describe. Harris cannot articulate the formation of moral truths without first assuming some of these truths to establish his definition of “flourishing”. He’s borrowing pre-existent, objective moral notions about worth, value and purpose, while holding a worldview that argues against any pre-existing moral notions.

Try as we might, the alternative explanations for objective, transcendent moral truths are desperately insufficient. The moral law transcends all of us, regardless of location on the planet or time in history. This law cannot simply be a matter of “shared morality” or “social convention;” it transcends and pre-dates every culture. As we think carefully and identify the transcendent moral laws governing our world, it might also be useful to think carefully about the transcendent author of these laws. Is God real? He must be, if the values we hold dear are anything more than a matter of personal opinion.

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

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7
Apr

Is the Bible True? The Cumulative Case for the Reliability of the Gospels (Free Bible Insert)

Is the Bible True - The Cumulative Case for the Reliability of the Gospels (Free Bible Insert)The case for the reliability of the New Testament Gospel eyewitness accounts is dependent on the reliability of the authors. Eyewitnesses are typically evaluated in criminal trials by asking four critical questions: Were the witnesses really present at the time of the crime? Can the witnesses’ accounts be corroborated in some way? Have the witnesses changed their story over time? Do the witnesses have biases causing them to lie, exaggerate or misinterpret what was seen? We can examine the Gospels and their authors by asking similar questions. Is the Bible true? The cumulative case for the trustworthy nature of the Gospels confirms their reliability:

(1) The Gospels Were Written Early
It’s much harder to tell an elaborate lie in the same generation as those who witnessed the truth. The Gospels were written early enough to have been cross-checked by those who were still alive and would have known better:

(a) The missing information in the Book of Acts (i.e. the destruction of the Temple, the siege of Jerusalem, the deaths of Peter, Paul and James) is best explained by dating Acts prior to 61AD

(b) Luke wrote his Gospel prior to the Book of Acts

(c) Paul’s referencing of Luke 10:6-7 (1 Timothy 5:17-18, written in 63-64AD) and Luke 22:19-20 (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, written in 53-57AD) is best explained by dating the Gospel of Luke prior to 53-57AD

(d) Luke’s reference to his Gospel as “orderly” in Luke 1:3 (as compared to Bishop Papias’ 1st Century description of Mark’s account as “not, indeed, in order”) and Luke’s repeated references of Mark’s Gospels are best explained by dating Mark’s Gospel prior to Luke’s from 45-50AD

(2) The Gospels Have Been Corroborated
The Gospel accounts of the first century are better corroborated than any other ancient historical account:

(a) Archaeology corroborates many people, locations and events described in the Gospels

(b) Ancient Jewish, Greek and Pagan accounts corroborate the outline of Jesus’ identity, life, death and resurrection

(c) The Gospel authors correctly identify minor, local geographic features and cities in the region of the accounts

(d) The Gospel authors correctly cite the ancient proper names used by people in the region of the accounts

(e) Mark’s repeated reference and familiarity with Peter corroborates Papias’ description of Mark’s authorship of the account

(f) The authors of the Gospels support one another unintentionally with details obscure details between the accounts

(3) The Gospels Have Been Accurately Delivered
The Gospels were cherished and treated as Scripture from the earliest of times. We can test their content and accurate transmission:

(a) A New Testament “Chain of Custody” can be reconstructed from the Gospel authors (through their subsequent students) to confirm the original content of the documents

(b) Much of the Gospels (and all the critical features of Jesus) can be confirmed in the writings of the Church Fathers

(c) The vast number of ancient copies of the Gospels can be compared to one another to identify and eliminate late additions and copyist variants within the text

(d) The earliest caretakers of the text considered it to be a precise, divinely inspired document worthy of careful preservation

(4) The Gospels Authors Were Unbiased
The authors of the Gospels claimed to be eyewitnesses who were transformed by what they observed in Jesus of Nazareth:

(a) The authors were convinced on the basis of observation afterward, rather than biased beforehand

(b) The three motives driving bias were absent in the lives of the authors. They were not driven by financial gain, sexual (or relational) lust or the pursuit of power. They died without any of these advantages

(c) The testimony of the authors was attested by their willingness to die for what they claimed. There is no evidence any of them ever recanted their testimony

The gospel authors were present during the life of Jesus and wrote their accounts early enough to be cross-checked by those who knew Jesus. Their accounts can be sufficiently corroborated and have been accurately delivered to us through the centuries. The authors lacked motive to lie to us about their observations and died rather than recant their testimony. Is the Bible true? The case for the reliability of the Gospels is strong and substantive. We have good reason to trust what the eyewitnesses told us about Jesus of Nazareth.

Be sure to visit the Cold Case Christianity homepage to download this month’s FREE Bible Insert summarizing the four part “Cumulative Case for the Reliability of the Gospels”

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

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7
Apr

Looking For God In All Possible Places

060809_ngc6397_02Having good reasons for one’s position makes one’s case persuasive. People are free, of course, to believe what they want and many people engage in wishful thinking as a way of life. Ironically, atheists will often accuse Christians of this type of thinking, when it is the opposite that is true. In fact, understanding what atheism really asserts is the first step to realizing that it is inherently not provable. It simply cannot be done. Of course,people will always have doubts – they may doubt God’s existence, or wonder about the “goodness” of  God’s character, but being certain He’s not there? That’s a pretty big project to take on.

Consider: A true “atheist” holds that there is no God – they “know”- affirmatively – that he does not exist. Now, they may claim that they have reasons to support this position. They might point to the existence of evil to show that the Christian view of God is perhaps mistaken, or they may rely on the claims of Darwinism to show a possible alternative to special creation. They may attack the reliability of the Christian scripture, pointing to what they believe to be contradictions in the resurrection accounts. But none of these arguments supports the claim that nature is all that there is; that God, as we understand that concept, is simply a product of imagination or wishful thinking. So what must they do? Well, to really be certain that nowhere in the universe can God be found, atheists would have to have access to the entire universe. Given the size and scope of the visible universe, this is quite a task. Add to that any aspects that may elude our sensors – dimensions other than the four within which we exist – and the task becomes even more insurmountable.

Here is the odd thing about such a quest. In order to really satisfy oneself that the universe is devoid of God, the searcher must attain complete knowledge of the universe, for any lack of knowledge could relate to the very place that God is present. Moreover, since God preceded and transcends this universe, one would have to have the capability to examine anything that exists beyond the universe. One would have to possess the ability to examine other dimensions or other universes, or be able to show that no such dimensions or universes exist.  In short, then, one must become omniscient – possess total and complete knowledge of all places and all things - for only then could he know with the certainty atheism connotes that we are in fact alone.

Ironically, of course, at this point the searcher would possess the attributes of God. Proving atheism is, in the end, a futile quest, for one would need to be God to prove that He doesn’t exist.

Posted by Al Serrato

 

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4
Apr

Lessons in Evangelism (and Christian Case Making) from the Life of Roadies

Lessons in Evangelism (and Christian Case Making) from the Life of RoadiesLast Sunday I taught three services at Liquid Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Liquid is a growing, vibrant, passionate family of believers, and the group’s energy was palpable and contagious. It was an exciting opportunity to connect with brothers and sisters on the other side of the country. Liquid’s lead pastor, Tim Lucas, did something unusual in my experience: he crafted a series of messages making the case for the reliability of the Bible as a Christian apologist (a.k.a. case maker). You’d be surprised how many Christians are still unfamiliar with the evidence supporting the Christian worldview, but that’s slowly changing as pastors are embracing their role and responsibility as Case Makers. Tim scheduled four Case Making messages leading up to Easter and invited me to speak along the way. I was very impressed with the experience and I was particularly inspired by one important Liquid Church leadership team: the roadies.

Liquid Church has several campuses across New Jersey and all but one of these campuses are non-traditional facilities converted for church use on a weekly basis. Their main campus is in Morristown, where they meet every week in the ballroom of the Morristown Hyatt Hotel.  They begin each Sunday at 4:30am, unpacking the supplies and equipment they need to convert the hotel ballroom and support offices into a sanctuary and children’s ministry. By the time they are done, the Morristown Hyatt is completely transformed to a place of vibrant worship, teaching and community. All of this is achieved with an intensely committed volunteer “road crew”. Most church leaders tend to measure their success by a number of traditional quantitative statistics: How many people are attending? How many baptisms did we perform this year? How much money was raised to support a particular cause? All of these metrics may be important, but I’ve found the true health and vitality of a church is often measured not in quantitative statistics such as these, but in the passion and intensity of its volunteers. Based on what I saw last Sunday, Liquid Church is healthy and blessed.

As case makers and evangelists, we can learn something important from “roadies”. The Liquid Road Crew has a motto printed on their t-shirts: “First In, Last Out”. They might as well have another motto as well: “Never Seen”. Roadies are generally invisible and uncredited. They are the “behind the scenes” warriors who make everything possible for those who eventually take the stage. I’m one of those guys who gets to stand on the platform, but on Sunday an army of road crew servants set everything up, guided me from point to point, and made sure everything was working properly to make the morning a success. The congregation saw me, but never observed the multitude of people who made my appearance possible. At the end of the morning, many people came away from the service encouraged, and some found themselves considering Christianity’s claims for the very first time. It was the largest day of attendance in the church’s history, and I hope we were able to effectively share the truth. All of us were evangelists that day, including the roadies, but their contribution was selflessly unseen.

As I watched the intensity and commitment of this road crew, I found myself questioning my own dedication. Yes, I’m an obsessive workaholic, committed to defending what I believe as a Christian, but how much of this is simply driven by my own selfish desire to take the stage? Would I be this committed if I knew no one would ever know my name? Am I as willing to do the difficult, anonymous work as I am willing to do the public presentations? Is my passion for the message of Jesus or the presentation of Jim? What is my true motivation? Have you ever questioned yourself in this way? Roadies have something to teach all of us:

Be Faithful:
Roadies serve week in and week out. Without them, nothing happens. If you’re sharing the Gospel with people, realize it all begins with a commitment to consistency. Share the truth often. Share the truth repeatedly.

Accept Your Position:
Roadies don’t seek the limelight. In fact, I watched many of them duck away from the edge of the stage to make sure they weren’t seen. Not all of us get to preach the Gospel from a stage. Preach it anyway.

Embrace Your Role:
Roadies enjoy their work, even though it might not seem glamorous. When you share the Gospel with someone, you might not be the one who sees an immediate conversion. That’s OK. Your role may be much earlier in someone’s process. Share the truth anyway and don’t worry about the results.

Work Hard:
Roadies lift, carry and move stuff. I bet they’re sore at the end of the day. If you’re preparing yourself to share or defend the Gospel, don’t be afraid of the “heavy lifting”. Learning (and knowing) the truth isn’t supposed to be easy; nothing valuable ever is.

Start Over Again:
Roadies do the same thing, week after week. They don’t get bored and they don’t give up. If you’ve been sharing what you believe, you probably know how frustrating it can be. Don’t get bored and don’t give up. Every conversation is a new opportunity to be used by God to bring another soul into the Kingdom.

While I am often guilty of saying something like, “I shared the gospel at an event last week,” the truth has always been, “We shared the gospel at an event last week.” I’ve always been part of a much larger team of Christians who were just as committed to sharing the truth, but knew it wasn’t their turn to take the stage. They shared, none-the-less, by giving their unselfish service to God behind the scenes. Christian case makers and evangelists can learn something from the humility and commitment of roadies. Let’s share the truth in everything we do, even when we’re not on the stage.

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

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3
Apr

Good Case Makers Are Good Care Takers

Good Case Makers Are Good Care TakersAs a Christian apologist (a.k.a. Christian Case Maker), I get the chance to travel and meet other Christian Case Making leaders around the country. Many of my fellow Case Makers are Chapter Directors for Ratio Christi (Latin for ‘The Reason of Christ’), a global movement equipping university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. I’ve visited a number of Ratio Christi (RC) chapters, where I’ve been asked to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels in large, open-campus events. Ratio Christi is a relatively new movement on university and college campuses across the nation, but it has grown exponentially. RC directors are an essential factor in this growth. Last Monday, I spoke at the Rutgers Chapter of Ratio Christi. It’s a passionate, engaged group of smart, winsome students, led by a fantastic Director, Julie Miller. Over the past two weeks, as I’ve interacted with the group on Skype and met everyone personally, an important characteristic of Case Making became obvious. Julie is a competent, well-trained Case Maker (she earned an MA in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, graduating with highest honors), but beyond that, she possesses an important attribute: Julie Miller is a mama bear. More than simply a good Case Maker, Julie is a naturally gifted Care Taker.

Most of us who are interested in Christian Case Making are familiar with the key passage animating our desire to defend the truth: 1Peter 3:15. But we typically focus on the words in this verse describing the importance of knowledge and study, while reading past the rest of the verse in its context:

1Peter 3:13-16
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Good Case Makers, according to this verse, must be knowledgeable enough to defend what they believe, and prepared to do this whenever the need arises. But while it’s easy to draw out this one aspect of Christian Case Making (1Peter 3:15), it also easy to read past the other verses describing the reaction we may receive from the world around us:

1Peter 3:13-16
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Peter tells us to expect some tough times as Christians. People are going to revile and try to harm us. We will likely suffer for the sake of righteousness and experience fear. In an environment like this, people are going to get hurt, and someone needs to be there to take care of those who are injured along the way. Like any good mom or dad, Ratio Christi directors need good caretaking skills. Good Case Makers need clear heads and compassionate hearts.

Case Making leaders, like Julie, must employ a maternal (or paternal) approach as they guide and train Christian students in the university setting. As a father, I know I’ve got to teach my kids, but before any of that, I’ve got to remember the importance of loving my kids. In fact, my training is dependent on my loving. The students at Ratio Christi Rutgers obviously know they are loved. They’ve been well-trained, but they’ve also been well-nurtured. Their questions have been addressed, but their wounds have also been mended. They’ve been taught in advance, and loved afterward.

This attribute of Care Taking is part of what it means to make a defense with gentleness and reverence, just as Peter described. It’s not just the key to Christian leadership at Ratio Christi, it’s also the key to effective Case Making elsewhere. You’ve seldom influenced anyone who you didn’t love first. You may not have been in a long term relationship with the person you influenced, but you were able to model the nature of Christ well enough (and long enough) earn the right to speak into that person’s life. When we demonstrate that we care, people allow us the opportunity to make a case. So, continue to study and prepare yourself. Know what you believe and why you believe it. But remember to submit the knowledge of your head to the compassion of your heart. Good Case Makers are good Care Takers.

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

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2
Apr

Is the Bible Reliable? The Value (and Limits) of the Early Church Fathers

Is the Bible Reliable? The Value (and Limits) of the Early Church FathersI had the great pleasure and privilege Monday to speak to students (and visitors) at Rutgers University. Ratio Christi hosted the three hour event. Julie Miller (RC’s Chapter Director at Rutgers) and her husband Buzz did an amazing job organizing and hosting the event. I was asked to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels, and afterward we opened the floor for a one hour question and answer session. As part of my case for the reliable transmission of the key claims of the Gospel authors, I retraced the New Testament Chain of Custody for the audience. This sequence of early believers links the eyewitness authors with their immediate students in an effort to examine the content of the original claims of the Gospels. Early Church Fathers like Ignatius, Polycarp and Clement play an important role in this chain of Gospel stewards; the writings of these students of John and Paul help us verify the content of the 1st Century teaching related to Jesus. The ancient letters of these three Church Fathers have great value for this reason. Is the Bible Reliable? These letters are an important piece of evidence.

During the Q and A session, a young man asked an important question, echoing concerns I’ve addressed on other campuses around the country. Here’s the paraphrase: “The Church Fathers wrote about more than what John or Paul taught them about the historical activities and claims of Jesus; they also wrote about theological issues, and many of their theological positions are rejected by non-Catholics. If we reject the theology of some of these men, how can we trust anything else they said? How do we know where to draw the line, and are we just ‘cherry-picking’ as we use what happens to serve our cause (while rejecting the stuff we don’t like)?”

Once again, the best analogy here is a courtroom analogy. There are many times when a witness is asked to describe what he (or she) saw or heard, but there are important limits. I might ask a witness, “What did the suspect say to you?” This kind of question is appropriate and the witness’ response will be allowed in the trial. But if I step beyond this and ask, “Why do you think the suspect said that?” the defense attorneys will likely object to my question before the witness even gets a chance to respond: “Your honor, that’s an inappropriate question, the witness is being asked to offer an opinion, and it’s irrelevant what the witness thinks in this regard. This witness can’t read the mind of the suspect.” It’s one thing to ask a witness to strictly recall what he or she heard, another to offer an opinion about what this means or what may have motivated the statement in the first place.

When there are multiple eyewitnesses used in a criminal trial, there’s a good chance these witnesses will come from a variety of worldviews and lifestyles. They will probably hold a divergent set of beliefs, attitudes and opinions. In fact, they may even have varying opinions about the guilt of the defendant in the case. None of these varying views will be apparent to the jury, however, because our questions on the stand will be limited to the actions or statements of the defendant. In a similar way, the Early Church Fathers provide us with key information related to the statements of the gospel authors. That’s the limit of their testimony and the evidential boundary for which they have value. They may disagree with each other (or later theologians) about what they think we ought to interpret from the life and teaching of Jesus, but that’s outside the scope of their testimony. We simply want to know what John and Paul said about Jesus so we can make sure the Gospels and New Testament letters we have today contain the same information as the originals. I’m not interested in the political, social or theological inclinations of these men; I simply want to know, “What did John and Paul say about Jesus?”

The work of the Early Church Fathers has great value for us as we reconstruct the New Testament Chain of Custody. I’ve written about this Chain of Custody in detail in Cold-Case Christianity. Is the Bible Reliable? The content confirmation of the Early Church Fathers is yet another way to verify the trustworthy nature of the New Testament, even if there are important limits we must respect.

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

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31
Mar

What Atheism Means

Cthomedian Ricky Gervais is fond of expressing his atheism in sound-bite size tweets. Not long ago, he summed up his views this way:

“Atheism isn’t ‘I claim no god exists.’ Atheism is ‘I don’t accept your claim that god exists.’ No claim. Just no acceptance. You’re welcome.”

Trying to dress up the respectability of atheism in a few short sentences is no easy task. With basic critical thinking skills, it’s not too difficult to see the flaw in his thinking, but then again, we’re living in a culture that hasn’t been promoting critical thinking for quite some time.

The place to begin is with definitions of the words being used. The key word here appears to be “claim.” He rests his position on the assertion that he isn’t making a claim – he isn’t saying anything. He’s just refusing to accept what someone else is claiming. Now, that should cause the reader to be skeptical.  The verb “claim” is not difficult to define: in the sense used here, Merriam-Webster defines it as “to say that something is true when some people say it is not true,” and “to assert in the face of possible contradiction.”  So, just on its face, Gervais’ first comment is nonsensical. Of course “atheism” is a claim, the claim that there is no deity. The same online dictionary actually defines it that way – as “a disbelief in the existence of deity” or more broadly, “the doctrine that there is no deity.” Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question, atheism is a positive denial that such a being exists.

Contrary to Gervais’ assertion, to hold to a position of atheism is exactly to make the claim that no god exists – that you have moved beyond being unsure, or perhaps not caring, to a position of confidence that the being known as God is not there, that he does not exist. Moreover, not accepting a claim is itself a claim – not accepting means in essence that you believe the contrary is either true or, at the very least, more probable than not. To not accept is no different than refusing to accept, and refusing is without question an act. If I call in sick to work but my supervisor sees me later the same day at the beach, he won’t say he’s not sure that I’m “not sick,” he just hasn’t “accepted” that I am. Intuitively realizing that these are flip sides of the same coin, he will do both – reject my claim while holding, naturally, to the contrary claim. What Gervais may be trying to get at is that it is possible to not care one way or another about a claim, to be utterly indifferent. But of course that wouldn’t describe him, as he seems to go out of his way to convince others that their belief in the existence of God is a mistake.

I am a theist because evidence and reason support the conclusion that there must be a God. That same evidence supports the rejection of the contrary claim – the “a”-theist view that there is no God. There are many reasons to conclude that there must be a God, reasons that a sound-bite denial does not even remotely begin to address. This universe sprang into existence at a particular point in the past – this needs explaining, just like everything else that ever came into being requires an adequate preceding cause.  Also in need of explanation, and an adequate cause, are the many things we find in the universe – the fine-tuning that makes life here possible; the development of life from inert, lifeless matter; the emergence of intelligence, which we can use to identify mathematical equations that describe the universe; the existence of timeless truths that our minds, making use of their inherent intelligence and reason, perceive; the recognition of moral rules that, though we may disagree on the particulars, we all feel pressing down upon us. This of course is just a starting point; other more nuanced arguments also exist, such as the ontological argument that concludes God’s existence from the use of reason.

Gervais’ approach may be clever and may satisfy many who have no interest in doing the hard work of learning, considering, assessing and eventually acceding to the weight of the evidence that God is there. And why is any of that important? Because none of us has a permanent home on Earth and, like it or not, our next destination is one we would be wise to think about in advance.

Posted by Al Serrato

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28
Mar

Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel Eyewitnesses

Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel EyewitnessesChristian leaders have been preaching Easter messages for over two thousand years. In fact, the first Christian leaders were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and their message was, in large part, simply their eyewitness testimony. In the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles preached in a variety of geographic locations and cultural situations. Wherever they went, they shared the case for the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses built their case directly upon their own personal experiences with the Risen Christ. Thousands of years later, pastors and Christian leaders are still preparing Easter messages, and the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is still critically important.

I was interviewed earlier this week by Kevin Boling of the “Knowing The Truth” radio program and we talked about the importance of the New Testament gospel eyewitness accounts.  As a pastor, Kevin has preached many Easter sermons. He shared a common outline he has used on Easter Sundays:

The Resurrection Was Prophetically Predicted
Kevin begins by reminding his congregation of the many Old Testament prophecies related to the coming Messiah. These prophetic predictions were fulfilled by Jesus throughout the course of his life, ministry, death and resurrection.

The Resurrection Was Credibly Confirmed
The life of Jesus is faithfully and reliably recorded in the gospel eyewitness accounts and these narratives describe the many evidences Jesus provided to verify His Deity. The miracles, Resurrection and Old Testament prophecies confirmed Jesus’ claims.

The Resurrection Is Eternally Experienced
The history of Christianity is replete with millions of conversion experiences. Believers are continually restored and transformed by the power of the resurrected Christ. The resurrection is a fact of history and is continually experienced by those who have trusted in Jesus.

As I listened to Kevin describe the three points of his Easter outline, I began to think about the centrality of the eyewitness accounts and the importance of their reliability. Kevin’s Easter message, like all Easter sermons, is dependent upon his second point, the credible confirmation of the eyewitness accounts. If these records are not reliable, Kevin’s entire message falls like a house of cards.

If we can’t trust the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was accurately described by the eyewitnesses, we can’t trust the Old Testament prophecies were truly fulfilled. If the gospels are elaborate fictions crafted with prophecy in mind, the alleged fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions is meaningless. The reliability of the gospels (point two) is required if we hope to find Kevin’s first point persuasive. In addition, if we can’t trust the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was accurately described by eyewitnesses, we can’t trust our personal experiences are grounded in truth rather than emotion. If the Gospels are inspiring fictions misrepresenting Jesus (like, for example, the Book of Mormon), we have no reason to believe our transformation is anything other than our own individual effort or emotional evaluation. The reliability of the gospels (point two) is required if we hope to find Kevin’s third point persuasive.

The reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is central to every Easter sermon. The messages we hope to deliver as pastors, Christian leaders, or followers of Christ, are dependent upon Biblical accuracy and reliability. That’s why every one of us ought to take the time to know why these accounts are trustworthy. We ought to be able to communicate this truth to others. Let’s use this Easter season to talk about the New Testament accounts as reliable history so we can point to the reality of the Resurrection with confidence and boldness.

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

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27
Mar

How Can You Trust Christianity Is True When There Are So Many Unanswered Questions?

As a Christian, I have many unanswered questions. The more I study the Christian worldview, the larger my list seems to grow. While essential truths are easier to identify from scripture, there are many non-essential (and more ambiguous) features of Christianity. The unfathomable aspects of God’s nature typically leave us in awe and without adequate explanation. To make matters worse, the ancient claims and historical details described in the New Testament are sometimes too remote to accurately verify. As a result, I’m often left with questions in places where I would rather have clarity and evidential certainty. How can we trust Christianity is true when there are so many unanswered questions?

After a long career as a cold-case detective, I’ve learned to get comfortable with unanswered questions. In fact, I’ve never investigated or presented a case to a jury that wasn’t plagued with a number of mysteries. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, there is no such thing as a perfect case; every case has unanswered questions. In fact, when we seat a jury for a criminal trial, we often ask the prospective jurors if they are going to be comfortable making a decision without complete information. If potential jurors can’t envision themselves making a decision unless they can remove every possible doubt (and answer every possible question), we’ll do our best to make sure they don’t serve on our panel. Every case is imperfect; there are no cases devoid of unanswered questions. Every juror is asked to make a decision, even though the evidential case will be less than complete. As detectives and prosecutors, we do our best to be thorough and present enough evidence so jurors can arrive at the most reasonable inference. But, if you need “beyond a possible doubt,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you’re not ready to sit on a jury. The standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a good reason; no case is evidentially complete; no case maker can eliminate every possible reservation.

How Can You Trust Christianity Is True When There Are So Many Unanswered QuestionsChristians, like jurors, need to get comfortable with unanswered questions. Every worldview has them. As an atheist, I struggled to answer a number of critical questions from my materialistic, naturalistic worldview: How did the universe originate? Why does the universe appear fine-tuned? How did life begin in the universe? Why does biology appear designed? How did our immaterial minds emerge from the material universe? How can I explain free will and objective moral truth? As a philosophical naturalist, my answers to these questions were little more than subjective speculation. My worldview was incomplete at the most foundational level. I had many unanswered questions, yet hung on to my atheistic perspective in spite of these mysteries. Every one of us clings to a worldview for which we have less than complete information. Every one of us has a series of unanswered questions.

As a theist and as a Christian, I am far more comfortable with my unanswered questions than I used to be as an atheist. My questions are fewer and less foundational. They are related more to non-essential issues than critical, core claims. The evidence I have points me in a given direction, and the gap between what I have and what I would like is much shorter than it used to be. All of us have to step out from the end of an evidence trail to a place of decision. That step across our unanswered questions is sometimes called a “leap of faith”. As a Christian, I don’t have to leap blindly and jump all that far. Yes, I still have questions, but I have more than enough evidence to make a reasonable decision. I’ve come to trust Christianity is true, even with a few unanswered questions.

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

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25
Mar

How Can You Trust Christianity Is True If You Haven’t Examined All the Alternatives?

How Can You Trust Christianity Is True If You Haven’t Examined All the AlternativesI’ve had the privilege to speak on university campuses across the country, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the truth of the Christian Worldview (I’ll be at Rutgers next Monday night). One of the most common questions asked in the Q and A is something similar to: “Have you taken the time to apply the same approach with all the other religious worldviews?” Sometimes people ask this question because they are curious about how well other ancient religious claims (or alleged eyewitness accounts) hold up under investigative scrutiny. But many times this question is followed by a more pointed objection: “How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives?”

Given the large number of spiritual claims circulating across the globe (and throughout history), why should we conclude one (or any) of them is true until we’ve examined all of them? At first blush, this seems like a reasonable approach, and when it’s asked by a skeptic, it’s typically offered in an effort to expose the inadequate or incomplete nature of my investigation (or some underlying bias I may have against opposing claims). Although I investigated several theistic and atheistic worldviews prior to becoming a Christian, I didn’t examine every view. Is my certainty related to Christianity therefore misplaced? Should the limited nature of my investigation disqualify or temper the case I’m presenting to skeptics and believers? I don’t think so.

In every criminal trial, the investigators and prosecutors are obligated to present the evidence related to one defendant. While the burden of proof lies with the prosecutorial team, the prosecution is not required to have examined every possible alternative suspect. If I am investigating a case in which the suspect was initially described as a white male, 25 to 35 years of age with brown hair, the potential suspect pool in Los Angeles County would be quite large; there may be hundreds of thousands fitting this description. As I make the affirmative case related to one of the men in this large group, I’m under no obligation to make the case against the others. In fact, when the jury evaluates the case and decides whether the defendant is guilty, they will do so without any consideration of the alternatives. If the evidence is strong enough to reasonably infer the defendant’s involvement, the jury will make a confident decision, even though many, many alternatives were left unexamined.

The case for Christianity is made in a similar way. While it may be helpful to examine a particular alternative worldview on occasion to show its inadequacies or errors, these deficiencies fail to establish Christianity as factual. How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives? The case for the Christian worldview must first be made affirmatively even if no other claim is examined negatively. If there’s enough evidence to reasonably infer Christianity is true, we needn’t look any further. The affirmative case will either stand or fall on its own merit, even if we’re unable to examine any other “suspect”.

The Christian worldview does not require “blind faith”. In fact, Jesus repeatedly presented evidence to support His claims of Deity and when John the Baptist expressed doubt, Jesus responded with yet another evidential display of His power. Christians are not asked to believe without evidence (or worse yet, in spite of the evidence), but to instead place their trust in the most reasonable inference from the evidence, even though there may still be several unanswered questions. Christianity is evidentially reasonable, even if we are unable to examine every possible alternative.

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

The Cold Case Christianity ebook is $3.99 through March 26th

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24
Mar

Why God is Jealous

ssThe Old Testament contains passages in which God is described as “jealous.” For instance, in Exodus 20, God’s Ten Commandments to the Israelites include the admonition not to worship false idols, with God explaining that “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Similar passages can be found elsewhere in the Bible. On first glance, this may seem a rather odd term to use, and make little sense to us, as we do not view jealousy to be an attractive, or appropriate, character trait. Atheists often use these passages to make the case that a “jealous” God is petty and not worthy of our love or respect, let alone our worship.

But let’s take a closer look at what is at play. When we hear the word “jealousy,” it usually carries the connotation of a feeling of envious resentment, often brought on by another person’s rivalry or success. We are jealous of people whose accomplishments are well-respected, or who have found the means to acquire things that we too wish to possess. In some instances, it suggests a desire to possess exclusively, as in completely controlling a romantic partner. But even here, the underlying dynamic is that the person feeling jealous fears the loss of the loved one, or fears being made to look foolish if their loved one is unfaithful.

How do such feelings apply to God? Our understanding of God is of necessity limited. We cannot fully know him. Our observations of the universe support the belief that he is immensely powerful and intelligent, that he is a personal being, and that he transcends space-time. Reason tells us that such a being must embody perfection – as St. Anselm once formulated, God must be that being a greater than which cannot possibly be conceived. He is the ultimate, the supreme; the creator of all there is, was or ever will be. If this is indeed the case, then reason also tells us that there is nothing –simply nothing – that God wants or needs, for there is nothing that he does not already possess.

But there is another definition of “jealous” that makes a bit more sense in context, and interestingly the dictionary lists it as the “biblical” definition: “intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry.” But, the atheist may challenge, why should God be “intolerant?” This too seems to suggest that He is injured or diminished when his creatures turn away from Him to worship idols, when they reject him. But how can a perfect being experience injury, hurt… or even, for that matter, sad feelings?

I would suggest that there is another perspective from which to view these passages. God is “intolerant” of our worship of false idols not because of any pettiness on His part or any need he experiences. Our turning away from him does cause damage, but not to him; the damage caused is to us. When we make idols of things, we substitute the proper worship of God with the worship of lesser things. This causes us to turn away from God, and from the redemptive work He has planned for us. We were meant to spend eternity with God, but in our rebellion we shake our fist at him and demand to have things our way. When we die in that rebellion, when we die with the worship of lesser things consuming our hearts and minds, we end up eternally separated from God.

Idol worship no longer involves figures made of gold.  In its modern manifestation it involves love of career, success, wealth, possessions, power, sex… the list goes on and on.  But the effect is always the same, to turn us away from the one true source of goodness and life. Idol worship points us back toward ourselves, and we grow increasingly selfish and separated from others, who we begin to view as means to our selfish ends, or perhaps as threats to what we have. God is not “intolerant” of this behavior because of some deficit in Him. Instead, this intolerance is reflective of what is necessary for us. Loving us, he wants us to choose wisely, but because love requires free will, he will not coerce our choice.

Satellites like the one pictured above can derive energy from the Sun. But to do so, the satellite must first deploy its solar panels fully and in a particular way, and then orient them so that they are completely facing the Sun’s rays. This is not to accommodate the Sun, or to meet some “need” that the Sun has. Instead, it is to allow the thing in need of the Sun’s energy to be in the proper position, relative to the Sun, to receive what it needs.

So too with people. Only by re-orienting ourselves toward the source of all life – the Son of God – can we hope to attain all the good that is promised to those who place their trust in Him.

Posted by Al Serrato

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18
Mar

Is God Real? The Evidence from Unity

The Evidence from UnityI had a unique experience last weekend in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Joe Manning, the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, asked me to create a conference to help answer the question: Is God real? We designed a series of talks providing evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of the New Testament Gospels. That part wasn’t unique; I get to participate in conferences of this nature often. But this time around I was also asked to sit in briefly as a bass player with the worship team. Joe invited the amazing team from Trinity Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, and their leader, Stephen Couch, had to return home on Sunday, leaving the team short one member. As I played alongside this young, vibrant group of musicians, I felt like the oldest guy in the room. But it was great fun and I don’t think I embarrassed myself too badly. As I stood on the stage and watched people engaging God in song and prayer, I was struck by the diversity in the room: Christians of different races, ages, personal histories and economic backgrounds gathered together and united as one. Although I had been asked to come and share evidences for the existence of God and the truth of the Christian worldview, the Christians united at Bethel were perhaps the best evidence for Christianity.

As a speaker in conferences such as these (and as an attendee) I seldom deliver (or hear delivered) the important evidence related to unity. Jesus was, however, very clear about this: Our unity as Christians is the most important evidence we can offer to an unbelieving world:

John 17:20-23
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Jesus was praying about us in this prayer. He was talking to God about those who would hear about Him through the message of the eyewitnesses. That’s you and me (and a lot of other people who will hear about Jesus through the eyewitness gospel accounts). Of all the evidences we might offer to the skeptics around us, Jesus said our unity would convince the world Jesus is who He said He was. I spend a lot of time presenting evidence at conferences and speaking engagements, but I seldom, if ever, point to Christian unity as one of these evidences.

Years ago, as I was leading a group of students on one of our Berkeley Missions trips, we hosted a discussion between a panel of atheists and a panel of Christians. Prior to the event we invited members of local atheist groups to join our Christian groups for dinner. We came together in a very large room and sat with one another, talking about life and important issues related to our respective worldviews. One of the young atheist leaders told me how challenging it could be to organize meetings and events with her group. She said it sometimes felt like she was “herding cats”. As I watched the interaction between the atheists (many who had not done a joint event like this in the past) and the Christian churches (who were similarly unfamiliar with one another prior to this event), I observed a visible difference in the interactions. While the atheists were united by a common interest (atheism), the Christians were clearly united by a common Father. The Church is a family. As brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and distant relatives of one nature or another, we ought to be willing to endure and cherish one another uniquely. When the world looks at us, they ought to see our unity before they see our disagreement. They ought to recognize our love for one another, before they experience our impatience with one another. Yes, we will often disagree, and sometimes these disagreements will be critical (especially when we stray from the truth), but first and foremost we must be a family united by a common Father, committed to one another in love, and reflecting this nature to the world around us. Is God real? The answer ought to be evident in our unity.

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

The Cold Case Christianity ebook is $3.99 through March 26th

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17
Mar

Apologetics …. and the Movies

gNot long ago, my teenage son and I settled down to watch the miniseries “The Pacific.” It’s a gripping production of war in the Pacific in World War 2, following the lives of several young Marines. We’re both history buffs, and with the magic of Hollywood, it was not difficult to imagine that we were viewing the actual events.

We talked about what life would be like for those young fighters. But what really got my attention was a scene in which one Marine is holding a Bible and the other, seeing him, asks with a sarcastic smile whether he is a believer. I always tune in to these TV portrayals of apologetics and this one turned out to be a good opportunity to examine a type of challenge that many Christians will face.

The scene unfolds with the questioner asking the other Marine to confirm that God created everything, including the Japanese soldiers that are trying to kill him. The believer’s response – “free will, what we choose to do” – wasn’t bad. But since he’s God, the questioner persists, he knows what we are going to do before we do it. “Predestination” is the believer’s unexplained response. The questioner then springs the apparent trap: “So the whole game is fixed while we’re down here, for what, his entertainment? That makes us chumps or God’s a sadist and either way I got no use for him.”

No answer to this challenge is offered. Instead, a question is asked: “So, what do you believe in?” The questioner answers quickly: “ammunition.” This of course draws a laugh. He ends with the request that the other Marine ask God to sink a few transports so he can get out of there and go home.

Great dialogue, from a theatrical standpoint, but it left the issue hanging unresolved. I was debating whether to weigh in when I saw my son looking over at me with a growing smirk. “Well?” was all he said. When he paused the video, I knew he wanted – needed – an answer.

“Don’t start with an answer,” I told him. “Take a closer look at the challenge. What’s wrong with it?” That helped, I think. His eyes lit up and he said, “He’s offering only two alternatives.”

“That’s right,” I responded. “Presenting two loaded options like that prevents a meaningful discussion. It’s like the question, ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ Either a yes or no answer constitutes an admission. The presence of evil in the world – the moral evil brought on whenever a state of war exists – does not mean that we are either chumps or that God’s a sadist. Many other options are available for the thinking person.”

I reminded my son that not every challenge is actually asking for a persuasive response. Here, the questioner isn’t really saying he doesn’t “believe” in God. He’s really indicting God, telling the listener that he is angry at a God that would allow great suffering to occur.

I suggested to my son that the questioner may not have been ready for an actual answer. What he needed, perhaps, was someone to listen, to sympathize and to let him know that answers are there, when he’s ready to actually engage the question. Perhaps the best we can do it such a situation to answer with a challenge of our own: “are you really interested in hearing an answer to the challenge you pose, or are you just letting me know what you think of God?”

Posted by Al Serrato

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14
Mar

The Fastest Growing Community of Christian Case Makers May Very Well Be Women

The Fastest Growing Community of Christian Case Makers May Very Well Be WomenAccording to Christian pollster George Barna, “women are the backbone of U.S. Christian churches.” In spite of the perennial debate over the role of women in church leadership, women “are more likely than men to comprise the ranks of churchgoers, volunteers and Sunday school teachers.” It should come as no surprise, then, that the International Society of Women Apologists (ISWA) has experienced dramatic growth over the past several years. Today, ISWA is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Five years ago, a simple Google search for “women in apologetics” would have produced a rare response of Internet silence. Today, the ISWA has 85 members and a speaking team of nearly 30 well educated, articulate female Case Makers, including many accomplished academic leaders, professors, and authors.

The ISWA was created by women to meet the specific needs of women interested in apologetics, especially women with a myriad of family and vocational responsibilities. “Enter ISWA U, an Apologetics curriculum designed just for women. Each lecture is on a different Apologetics topic, and each is less than an hour long. It is specifically tailored to the busy woman, in that you can read one book in the time it takes baby to nap, right on your iPhone while you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or you can watch a lecture on your laptop straight from the ISWA website and fold laundry at the same time.” The ISWA is an excellent source for apologetics articles, videos, and recommendations for self-guided study materials.

Members of the ISWA are listed on the website and their ranks are growing. In fact, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Josh Furches (from Examiner.com) has been featuring many ISWA associates in a series entitled, “Profiles of Women in Apologetics”. These speakers are now being requested across the country and speak in a variety of settings. The ISWA is growing in influence and support; ministries like Ratio Christi, the Christian Apologetics Alliance, Tactical Faith, the Poached Egg, Christian Thinkers Society, Apologetics315, Apologetics.com, Stand to Reason, and schools like BIOLA, Liberty, Houston Baptist University, and Veritas Seminary have become good “friends of ISWA”.

For many years now, I’ve been writing about the need in the apologetics community for diversity and depth. There are many “million dollar” apologists, well known and oft-requested. But the world needs a million “one dollar” apologists even more than it needs one more “million dollar” apologist. Each of us has been gifted by God to reach a particular group, at a particular time, for a particular reason. Most of us won’t become professional, full-time apologists. Instead we’ll learn how to engage the culture as effective “tent-making” Christian Case Makers. The women of the ISWA have been making an important contribution for some time now, many as tent-making, one dollar apologists (just like me). I encourage you to visit their website today to help them celebrate half a decade of influence and get a sense for the amazing growth they’ve experienced. The fastest growing community of Christian Case Makers may very well be women.

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

The Cold Case Christianity ebook is $3.99 through March 26th

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13
Mar

How Do I Share What I Believe? The Relationship Between Respect and Reach

The Relationship Between Respect and ReachI’ve investigated a number of murders over the years motivated by nothing more than an act of disrespect. The pursuit of power is one of three motivations driving criminal behavior, and it often manifests itself as a response to a simple act of insolence. When a gang member feels disrespected, for example, he may retaliate violently. As humans, all of us are repelled when we feel dishonored, insulted or belittled in some way, even if most of us won’t react as aggressively as gangsters. If you’re trying to persuade someone, it’s important to understand the relationship between respect and reach. The more we respect and honor the dignity of others, the more likely we’ll be able to reach them with an idea, concept or worldview.

Jesus reiterated the importance of respecting others in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:43-47
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

This simple but powerful teaching has impacted many who have hoped to change the world with a claim about truth. Gandhi was certainly familiar with the teaching of Jesus and employed this teaching in his own efforts to influence his culture:

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” - Gandhi

If you want to share what you believe about God, Jesus and the gift of salvation, begin by recognizing the relationship between respect and reach. Ask yourself the following questions about the people with whom you want to share:

Have I Shown Them Respect by Carefully Listening?
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you spent more time preparing for your next response than genuinely listening to the words of those you’re trying to reach? We’ve all been there, and it’s usually obvious to the person we’re engaging. When people don’t feel heard, they don’t feel respected. Lower the bar on some of your conversations. Sometimes the best thing you can do is respect someone enough to simply collect data about what they believe. This may not be the conversation where you even get the chance to express your own beliefs, and that’s okay. Love others enough to listen to what they have to say.

Have I Shown Them Respect by Examining Their View?
There’s nothing more frustrating and disrespectful than having your view mischaracterized by someone who’s trying to create a strawman to win a point. Listen carefully to what people say and then take the time to research their view more fully on your own. When someone cites a reference, take the time to read and understand the foundation for their beliefs. Don’t mischaracterize what they believe. Take the time to study. Love others enough to join them in their journey and their research.

Have I Shown Them Respect When Re-Communicating Their Position?
I’ll never forget many years ago when we invited two prominent atheists to come speak to our group. They were very respectful in their presentations, but when standing alone at the back of the room, I overheard them speaking very disrespectfully about the Christians they had just addressed. Respect is not an act, it’s a deep attitude. Our conversations with one another can betray our underlying disrespect, and so can our blogs, books and movies. When we describe others or create fictional characters representing someone from another worldview, are we being careful not to create demeaning caricatures we can easily defeat? Have we re-communicated their views fairly and respectfully? Love others enough to represent them well.

Have I Shown Them Respect by Giving Them My Time?
If you want to discover what you love, look at your calendar and your checkbook. How we spend our time demonstrates how much we love and respect one another. I am always impressed by someone who has taken the time to read my work and then wants to engage me over lunch or coffee. I’m less impressed with people who snipe at a blog title posted on Facebook without even taking the time to read the blog. Respect is often reflected in the amount of time we are willing to invest in others. You can’t invest in everyone, but there ought to be someone with whom you are willing (and able) to devote your time. Love others enough to carve some time in your calendar.

Most of us who are interested in Christian Case Making (apologetics) are far more willing to invest time preparing for battle, than we are willing to love and respect others. We typically focus on the first part 1 Peter 3:15-17: “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” than the second part, “…yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” It’s one thing to love the truth, another to love people. But, if you hope to share what you believe, you’ve got to understand the relationship between respect and reach.

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

The Cold Case Christianity ebook is $3.99 through March 26th

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11
Mar

Can Atheism Answer the Tough Questions?

Atheists are thfond of attacking believers for accepting that miracles are possible.  They insist that nature is, essentially, a closed system and that nothing from beyond can enter it.  At least, nothing that smacks of the supernatural in the religious sense.  And so, believers must take on the burden of proving that miracles are in fact possible.  CS Lewis does a masterful job of this in his book “Miracles.”  http://www.amazon.com/Miracles-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060653019/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294027449&sr=8-1 It’s worth looking into, but only when you’ve got a few minutes to really think deeply about the case that he makes.

When pressed to provide a layman’s response, the apologist can present the logic of the theistic position.  If the universe had a beginning, then it’s reasonable to conclude that something before and beyond it must have existed from which the universe derived its existence.  Scientists tell us that the universe demonstrates exquisite order and fine tuning. Change any one of dozens of parameters even slightly and life as we know it would no longer be possible.From this, an inference of design is logical, and for design to occur, there must be a designer. Whatever, or whoever, existed before and beyond the universe, who possessed the power and intelligence to fine-tune this creation, is a being of unlimited capabilities. Intervening in his creation, whenever and however he chose, would present no obstacle at all.

Take the Lord’s first recorded miracle – turning water into wine.  This of course happens all the time – the only problem is that it takes months of time and much effort to accomplish this feat, through the growing of grapes and the process of producing wine.  That His control of time and of nature could allow this to occur more rapidly should not be all that difficult to imagine.

                But the believer is not the only one who must provide an explanation for the existence of what we see around us. So too must the atheist.  Let’s start with four basic questions: how did the universe arise from nothing? why does it operate according to fine-tuned laws? how did life emerge from inert material? how did consciousness arise from total darkness? The atheist appears to begin his arguments with the conclusion that somehow these things just happened to occur.  Given enough study, he assures us, science will provide the explanations.

               Christianity by contrast identifies the solution to these enigmas in the person of a supreme and infinite creator. What difference does it make? Not much if the issue is scientific inquiry – both religious and secular scientists can make use of the scientific method. But neither will live forever. Eventually, both the believer and the skeptic will come face to face with what lies beyond. Preparing for that moment makes little sense to the committed atheist. Now, while there’s time, he should consider the consequences of making the wrong choice.

Posted by Al Serrato

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