Argue

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking at the idea of being a thinking Christian. What does it mean? These are tips that I gave to some Middle and High Schoolers and I want to pass on to you readers.

Today, I’m going to suggest that you argue. Now I realize that for many Christians, argue is a dirty word. We are often told that you can’t argue anyone into the kingdom. Where if entering the kingdom is a personal decision, you can’t even love them in. You are a tool the Holy Spirit can use and maybe a means of doing that will be a good argument.

Arguing doesn’t mean to necessarily be combative either. There is a time and a place for that. Right now, I am just saying to go out into the marketplace of ideas and put your ideas out there. I do that on TheologyWeb.com often. In the past when I was a member on AOL, I did that on there. The great thing about this is that you can get to interact with people who really do believe what they believe that is contradictory to you.

Some of you might think I’m only talking about religion, but I’m not. The same can be said of politics or sports or history or most any other field where two people can disagree on something. Of course, religion is a favorite topic of mine to discuss and it is one worthy to discuss.

Here’s something to keep in mind when you start to do this. For awhile when you go out there, you are going to get your tail kicked. You will think you know your side well and then someone’s going to come along and hand you yours. I remember when I started apologetics I had the delusion that people just didn’t know this existed and when the truth is told, there will be mass repentance.

That delusion doesn’t last long.

There are all kinds of reasons why someone doesn’t believe something. Some of them could be factual. A lot of them are emotional and volitional. That’s not just Christians. That’s non-Christians as well. That’s part of being human. The trouble is, for most of us, and mostly guys, we don’t want to admit it’s emotional or volitional.

Thus, when you get your tail kicked, don’t worry about it. You need it. It will force you to go back to your studies and review why you believe what you believe and learn how to address the arguments better. In fact, it could be in some cases, such as secondary issues on Christianity, you’re just wrong and a good argument helps reveal that.

Arguing will also help in that you will become familiar with the ideas that way. When you have to use an argument regularly, you come to know that argument. If you have to read it in a book every few months, you won’t know it as well. Arguing forces you to know the facts and know them quickly.

To be a good thinker, you need to know how to think and a great way to do that is arguing. Whatever your subject, learn it, and then find someone who disagrees.

Wikipedia

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re going to be continuing our look on becoming a thinking Christian. I had a very wise friend contact me recently and it was a blessing to hear from them and tell me how much they enjoyed that as a teacher. I wish to continue now with another point that was made when I spoke on this topic.

That is to talk about what has been called the abomination that causes misinformation and that is Wikipedia.

Now if you’re looking up something non-controversial like the plot of a movie or video game, Wiki is fine. When my wife and I went through all of Smallville together, I’d often times look up characters on Wiki and see if anything was known about them that I could check out later. I have no problem with Wiki for that kind of thing.

When it comes to controversial matters however, Wiki is a terrible source to go to and sadly, it is often the first source we go to. Just do a web search for some topic and you’ll get Wiki brought up. In fact, I just went to Google and typed in “Jesus” and what came up first but Wikipedia?

There have been noted errors with Wikipedia in the past. For instance, did you know that Israel once had a death ray to kill non-Jews? Did you know that the comedian Sinbad was dead for several months? Did you know that Tony Blair as a teenager had posters of Hitler hung up on his wall? All of these were on Wikipedia.

The danger with Wikipedia is that it is so capable of being edited. You have no idea who is writing that entry on Wikipedia. Let’s suppose it is the entry on Jesus. It could be by N.T. Wright in which case you would get some excellent information. It could be by a kid at your local high school in which the information might not be so stellar. (Of course, I do know some high school students learning this stuff, but let’s face it, most aren’t) You could never know however. You are merely to trust it because it is on the internet.

There is a reason college professors no longer accept Wikipedia. It is because it is so unreliable, and yet it is what students are relying on. When you’re needing to do research for a class, by all means do some real research. There are excellent web sites you can find online. Take advantage of them. The best method still however is to go to your local library and/or bookstore and get books. When it comes time for me to write a research paper, I jump straight to Amazon and start looking for books. (You can find some amazing deals at times there too!)

Doing serious research will require that you use more than Wiki. That will require time and effort and maybe even money at times. The question to ask yourself however is how much real knowledge is worth to you? Do you really want to learn something or do you just want to get quick information for a paper and not have it make a lasting impression on you?

Note also that if you do debates online, don’t ever cite Wikipedia. As soon as I see someone cite that source, I know that they’re a lazy researcher. This even includes the blogger who made a post about God arguing for atheism and had the link on the word “God” go to Wikipedia.

No one can be an expert in every field, but with time and investment, you can become an expert in some fields. If you really want to be an expert, remember you will get out of your research what you put into it, and that won’t be much if you use a source like Wikipedia.

Becoming A Thinking Christian

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, I’d like to write about a topic I got to think about some as I had to speak on it today to some Middle and High Schoolers at a Christian academy and that is the topic of becoming a thinking Christian. This will hopefully also become a regular series.

The first point I’d like to make for tonight is on books. We need to be people who read books. Saturday, I was sitting outside a local library and a little girl comes in ahead of her Mom saying “I just love books!” I’m beaming at that point. It was so relieving to hear of youth in this generation that like to read.

I refer to this generation specifically after reading Mark Bauerlein’s book “The Dumbest Generation.” Bauerlein says that the young generation should be the smartest that we have as they have more access to information than any other generation has ever had, and yet they’re the dumbest. (A full review of the book can be found hopefully one day on the Tekton Ticker.)

Books not being read is a major cause of the problem. This doesn’t just mean knowledge books such as philosophy, theology, and science. This also means fiction, as many of us can be blessed by reading works of fiction. I don’t just mean the Chronicles of Narnia either or Lord of the Rings, although these are fine works to read. I mean fiction that can introduce you to new ways of thinking be it mystery, fantasy, horror, or some other genre.

Read books that will challenge you. Don’t just read the writers that you agree with. Read the writers that you disagree with. If you’re like me and you like to debate online, it will be of great benefit to you to not only know your arguments well, but also the arguments of your opponents. You should know them so well that if need be, you could argue for them.

When reading material that is meant for academic purposes, read books by good authors. What are the credentials of the person writing the book? Don’t be fooled just because it says “PH.D.” on the cover. The person could have a PH.D. in a field completely unrelated to the topic that they are writing on.

If you shop online for books, such as at Amazon, check the other books that come up when you are picking the one you want to read. Who wrote them? What are they about? Feel free to check some reviews and see what other people are saying about the book.

Also, check such things as the date the book was written and the publisher. It could be the book is outdated. (Note: This does not apply to foundational writings like Plato, Aquinas, Tacitus, Newton, etc.) Check the publisher. Is it a reputable one? Don’t just look for the author’s worldview. Many times, I don’t even check it.

Become a friend of books and you are on the path to becoming a thinking Christian.

Stephen Hawking Part 1

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! A couple of months ago, Stephen Hawking and others appeared on an episode of Larry King and tonight, we will interact with the first part of just what Hawking said. A link to a video of it can be found here while a transcript can be found here .

Now as one who can count as disabled, I do have a great respect for Hawking overcoming so much of what he has in spite of ALS. However, that does not mean that his ideas cannot be touched. In fact, I think he makes the mistake of many scientists where he assumes a scientism that cannot be proven by science itself yet seeks to say all truth is provable by science.

I will also grant that for the sake of argument that some of what Hawking here is saying could be shortened responses since he is in a chair and has limited movement and thus wants to make his answers as succinct as possible.

To begin with, Hawking does think that the scientific account is complete. Of course, this could depend on the scientific account of what? Do we have a complete account for instance of how life came into existence? Do we have an account so complete in any field that that means we stop looking? For all the talk about ID being a science stopper, it would seem that if Hawking is correct, this is just as much a science stopper.

He then adds that theology is unnecessary, but does this follow? Let us suppose that we had answered every scientific question that could be. Does that mean theology is unnecessary? That would mean that all knowledge of God is scientific knowledge. Now properly understood, science refers to a body of knowledge. In that case, theology is a science, but it’s extremely doubtful that Hawking means it in this way.

The only way this is unnecessary is that the case is true that there is no God, but Hawking has not established that. He could have a case for the existence of something, which I doubt, but what of the existing of something? Does he have a case? He never directly answers “Why is there something rather than nothing at all?”

However, even if someone doesn’t believe God exists, it is still important to them to study theology. Why? Several people in this world, myself included of course, do believe that God does exist and if you’re going to critique their views rightly, you need to study those views. The new atheists would do well to learn this.

As for his theory, Hawking does treat it as if it explains everything, but he has not explained how it does. Now he could explain that more in his book, but the audience is left to wonder. What is it that gravity works on? Where did the law of gravity come from? How can nothing act in any way to produce something?

Hawking also says people are reacting because science is answering questions that used to be the province of religion. I would very much like to know what these questions are. It is as if Hawking is arguing against a god-of-the-gaps mentality, but could it be that the atheistic world has created this mentality as well? After all, the early Christians saw no threat to doing science and saw it as explaining HOW God was working in the world.

Finally, Hawking says his great hero is Galileo, who believed in the power of observation. The reality is, so did every other scientist. What else did they base their findings on? Naturally, they had their presuppositions, but they also observed the world around them. We have seen earlier other concerns with Galileo. He was right, but he did not have sufficient evidence.

Tomorrow, we will look more at how the discussion plays out with the other panelists.

Multiverse

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Lately, we’ve been looking at the relationship between science and religion and how Christians should see it. Today, we’re going to be continuing that look by discussing the doctrine of the multiverse.

Now a lot of us out there are probably skeptical of the idea of a multiverse. As per usual here however, I would recommend that when debating someone, be more than ready to grant them the multiverse. Why should it be that such a belief would be seen as a threat to the existence of God? Does the existence of more than one universe make the source of those universes more unlikely?

Yesterday in church I gave an example to illustrate this. I pointed to a parking lot across the street from our church and said “Suppose you were told that there was a dead body in the parking lot across the street and saw that indeed there was.” Immediately, you will be wondering a number of questions and one of them will be “How did a dead body wind up there?”

Now suppose that there was a detective who came over and said “I saw some of you people come out and look across the street wondering what was going on. I want to assure you that you have nothing to wonder about. My officers inform me that there are five hundred more bodies behind this building. Therefore, there’s no need to wonder about this one.”

None of us would accept that. If we were wondering what the cause of one body was, we will be wondering even more what the cause of 500 bodies were. Thus, if we have one universe and we have a hard time explaining that one, it does not help to say “Well we can solve the explanation of this universe by saying there are X more universes.” That’s only increased the difficulty!

For each of these universes, we will have to ask what is the cause of that universe. If we have universes that are somehow producing other universes, it becomes more of a puzzle. What is it in a universe that gives it this power that it can in a way reproduce itself into another universe?

In fact, if these other universes were somehow able to be found and we could find out that they had life as well, that would not lessen our wonder. It would increase it. How could it be that there is a source of universes that not only produces universes but tends to produce life-sustaining universes? Why is it that the universes that are thriving supposedly are the ones where life is being sustained?

Of course, if modern ideas are correct, it could be we will never understand such questions. Many of us will live as if there is one universe, but let us not see the multiverse as a threat to theism. Instead, let’s push it back on to the non-theist and remember the reformulated argument given yesterday.

All things that have potential to change depend on something else for their existing.
The universe has potential to change.
The universe depends on something else for its existing.

That works not just with our universe, but any other universe.

Kalam Revisited

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Yesterday, I gave a look at the Kalam cosmological argument in the horizontal sense and I said that I think it works, but I want us to rethink our usage of it. I believe science can support theistic ideas, but they cannot prove theistic ideas, and thus I want an argument that is not married to science but is still functional.

Hence, I suggested rephrasing the Kalam to a form more fitting to the vertical argument and came up with the following:

All things that have the potential to change depend on something else for their existing.
The universe has the potential to change.
Therefore, the universe depends on something else for its existing.

Now notice I say existing instead of existence. All derived being depends on something else for its being. Derived being is derived for that which receives being has potential to change and is not existence itself. It rather moves from one mode of existence to another mode of existence. This is true not just of material objects, but of immaterial ones as well, such as angels.

Why make such an argument? We believe scientifically today that the universe had a beginning. However, we also know that science can change at any moment depending on new data so let’s suppose for the sake of argument that new data shows up indicating an eternal universe. If not that, we can suppose this hypothesis of the multiverse is true and there are many universes. Again, an atheist can point to such a chain of universes and say “No need of a creator.”

My argument is still safe for it solely depends on something else being in existence and it doesn’t care about how long it was in existence. To imagine the difference, consider your existence. You are here because of the union of the male and female sex cells. You parents had something to do with your existence, even if you don’t know them or live with different “parents.” (I use parentheses to distinguish from biological parents. Adoptive parents are wonderful)

The same is true for each of their existences. However, your grandparents did not have any direct involvement with your coming into existence. (At least, I certainly hope they didn’t!) Both sets of your grandparents could have been dead and you would still be able to come into existence.

However, now picture a stick moving an object, and then that stick being moved by a hand. The object requires the stick to move but at the same time, the stick requires the hand to move. If the hand goes away, the stick and the object cease to move. There is dependence all the way to the end of the chain.

This is the difference with this argument. It is no longer the question of just bringing about existence but rather sustaining existence. If God’s nature is his existence, then we do not ask the question of Him. He does not receive existence for existence does not receive existence nor does He move from one mode of existence to another, because what mode of existence is there beyond existence?

The argument brings us back to the question of existence that science cannot answer. Science deals with a type of existence, but it does not deal with existence itself.

Now once again, I think Kalam works, but I want us to move past the science vs. religion nonsense and into the real debate area. Science is not the final arbiter of if God exists and it’s time we stopped treating it as such.

Kalam

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to take a look at the Kalam Cosmological Argument as we continue our look at science and Christianity together. I think some of what I have to say about this argument might be surprising.

The argument as it is traditionally understood goes like this:

All things that begin to exist have a cause.
The universe began to exist.
The universe has a cause.

No one disputes the form of this syllogism. It is entirely valid. That does not mean that it is true, as a syllogism can be valid an still be false, but when we have disputes over Kalam, it is not because of the form. Therefore, one of the propositions must be seen as false in order to deny the conclusion.

Oddly, it’s usually the first one that’s seen as false. It is incredible that this has to be defended. What we have is empirical evidence that every event we have ever seen has had a cause and every time something comes into existence, there’s a cause. Yes. I know about particles coming out of a vacuum, but a vacuum is not nothing. I would also say we are just beginning research here and I am more prepared to say that we don’t know what’s going on entirely before suddenly throwing out a principle we apply in every other area of life.

Another rejoinder given is that some new atheists will say that the theist says that everything that exists has a cause, so who caused God? Those familiar with the cosmological argument already recognize the problem. Christians do not say that everything that exists has a cause. What they say is that everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Now I do believe modern science has established that the universe had a beginning. We can save a theory like the multiverse for another day. For now, I’d like to say that while I affirm Kalam as it stands, that does not mean I like it as it stands. There are some who object to an infinite regress and there is also the question of “If we found out that the universe didn’t have a beginning, would that makes the existence of God less likely?”

Therefore, while I am not against using the Kalam, I’d prefer to use the other version of it. Yes. There is another version of the Kalam argument. William Lane Craig uses the horizontal version. I prefer the vertical version. This is the version that gets at the question of existence itself.

My argument goes this way:

All things with potential to change depend on something else for their existing.
The universe has potential to change.
Therefore, the universe depends on something else for its existing.

Obviously, there will not be doubt that the universe changes in some way. The real premise to defend in this case will be the first one. That is an argument that I will be taking up in tomorrow’s blog to devote the whole of it to that topic.

Evolution

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the Ocean of Truth. Tonight, we’re going to continue our look at science and religion and I’d like to take a rather unique take on the creation-evolution debate.

First off, many of us are not proficient in the necessary sciences to come to a conclusion on evolutionary theory. I make no hesitations in saying that I am not skilled in that area. Does that mean we cannot have an opinion? No. We can certainly have opinions, but we must make them known cautiously. We cannot speak as authorities when we do not have the prerequisite study in the area.

Second, I am concerned over an attitude that comes along the lines of that if evolutionists win, then that means that naturalism becomes a more likely hypothesis, which is what someone on TheologyWeb asked me about. I have a hard time with that since I don’t view naturalism as a plausible alternative since they have a problem to begin with with the question of existence.

The situation then becomes that if we win this battle in science, then Christianity wins. If we lose this battle, then Christianity loses. I’d instead contend that science is meant to show us truths about the world that God created, but it is not to be dependent upon those truths. I think we could use science to support theistic belief, but at the same time, I want to raise the caution to us of marrying our theistic beliefs to the science of our time. As G.K. Chesterton said, he who marries the spirit of the age is destined to be a widow.

So let’s consider evolution. Does it follow that if somehow life came about through evolutionary means, that Jesus did not rise from the dead? Not at all. There is no contradiction affirming both of those. One would be a scientific truth and one would be a historical truth and the two don’t contradict necessarily.

Yet consider that in all of this, we are losing sight of other debates. We can debate moral outcomes of if evolution is applied on a grander scale and I think that would be more fruitful. One great mistake is to take one area of thought and apply it to areas where it does not apply. Evolution could be fine to bring about life, but it’s not a standard you want to use to determine moral truths.

We could also focus on other theistic arguments such as the moral argument, the existence/essence argument, or the argument from beauty. As well, we could start looking into biblical and historical studies to demonstrate that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.

In all of this, Christianity does not need to back down. Consider this: If you are debating your opponent, how many hurdles do you want him to cross to get to the cross? Answer: As few as possible. It does not need to be “Believe in my view of origins and that Christ rose from the dead” but rather “Believe that Christ rose from the dead.”

Instead, you can go to the atheist and say “Sure. You can believe in that. I just want you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” Naturally, you can’t believe in evolution without God and be a Christian, but to be a Christian does not mean to abandon a view of origins, but to embrace a view of Christ.

That’s what we want people to get to. Let’s make sure that’s our focus.

Just The Facts

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We will return to our look at the relationship of science and religion, but I do have other matters to attend to and tonight, I’d like to look at a theme I see going on in debates. This is the idea that we do not spend time looking at the data. Instead, we look at everything but the data. For me, in a debate, I want the data. As Joe Friday would say “Just the facts!”

An example of this is a debate I am engaging in now on the topic of homosexual “marriage.” I am seeing the usual reply of being called a bigot. This in spite of the fact that I have no problem with homosexuals as people and I have had friends who are homosexuals and I am ardently against movements like that of Fred Phelps. I am a bigot because I am against homosexual marriage.

However, my wonder at that is that it is automatically assumed there are no good metaphysical reasons for my stance. Even supposing I have bad metaphysical reasons, I do have reasons other than “I hate homosexuals.” If I have some reason or reasons why I believe the traditional view should be upheld, then it does no good to say I am a bigot.

Furthermore, what does that do to people like David Benkof who runs the blog “Gays Defend Marriage.” Benkof is an open homosexual who believes marriage should be reserved for a man and for a woman and that the homosexual community should work on more important battles. Is he, an open homosexual, a bigot?

Our arguments could be exactly the same. When he gives them, the argument must be answered. When I give them, it can be dismissed because I’m a bigot.

In fact, let’s suppose that it was true that I was a bigot. Let’s suppose that I had a flaming hatred of homosexuals. What does that mean? Am I wrong? Are the arguments true if Benkof says them but false if I do? All it would prove is that I’m a jerk. It would not prove I am wrong.

For instance, consider an atheist like Christopher Hitchens who wrote “god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” This is a guy who it has been said could have his arguments summed up in this way; “There is no God and I hate Him.” I believe Hitchens and other new atheists despise religion. What am I to conclude? “These people hate religion, therefore God exists.”

That would be silly. I can look at their motives all I want, but in the end, I simply have to look at the data. What is the argument? What are its premises? What is its conclusion? What does it wish to prove? How strong are the reasons for believing in the argument?

Atheists can often make the mistake of discounting Christian apologists, philosophers, or NT scholars because they are Christians. It is an interesting technique to say “I’m going to only listen to evidence that comes from people that share the same viewpoint as I do.” It won’t be a shock if you don’t grow in your viewpoint then. Learning how your opponent thinks will help you with your own position and if your opponent is right, you are at least likely to find that out by honestly accessing his worldview.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times that motive isn’t important. The problem is that we jump to motive first as if that’s a reason we don’t have to listen to the argument. It’s a whole lot easier to debate an attitude than it is to debate a position. If we’re going to see an argument stand or fall, it stands or falls on the data.

The Christian should remember to test everything and hold fast to that which is true. When you get in an argument, remember what is most important, the data.

Evolution: A Premilinary

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’ve been looking at the relationship between science and religion lately. Tonight, I’d like us to start looking at the topic of evolution. I’m not going to be commenting from a scientific matter. I really don’t have the science to do that. Tonight, we just want to look and see if evolution and Christianity are compatible.

Now right off, we can easily say naturalistic evolution and Christianity are not compatible because naturalistic evolution is evolution with a foundation of naturalism where God does not exist. If there is no God, there can obviously be no Christianity. However, naturalism is also something that cannot be established by science. It is not incompatible with evolution, but evolution is not sufficient to prove naturalism.

An example of not understanding this would be Richard Dawkins in “The Blind Watchmaker.” I will say that this work of Dawkins is far better than what he wrote in “The God Delusion.” It should be seen as a wonder that the same person wrote both of those books. In “The Blind Watchmaker”, Dawkins is clear but not polemic. Of course, I disagree with his conclusion and several of his examples and many aspects of his reasoning, but he is speaking in a far more friendly manner instead of being on a rant.

Dawkins in that book however seeks to show that there is a basis for what is seemingly design in the universe and that that basis is evolution. Once we have proven evolution, there is no need for God. This is the same kind of “God-of-the-Gaps” mentality that Dawkins argues against however in saying that once this gap is filled in, then there is no place for God.

The Christian gospel however is not “Repent and believe the good news that God created man by divine fiat.” The Christian gospel is “Repent and believe on the risen Son of God.” If the case is that Jesus was risen from the dead, then there is definitely strong likelihood that Christianity is true. If it turns out that scientific ideas that we may not hold to are true, then we must come to accept that and possibly see if we erred in our interpretation of Scripture.

This is one reason I urge Christians that unless they have the proper study behind them in the field of science to not debate issues like evolution. When I debate someone on the basis of the origin of the universe, I come at it from a metaphysical perspective. I have no doubt the physicist understands the physics better than I do. My argument does not depend on the physics however.

Now supposed you were a trained physicist and you could use that to demonstrate that the universe did not create itself or come from nothing, or suppose you were a biologist and you could argue from a scientific perspective on problems you have with evolutionary theory and your purpose in this is to create an opening for the gospel with someone by disabling their naturalism. Very well. If not however, there’s no need to fight that battle as it is unnecessary.

For years now, the church has been divided on this debate and it is quite ridiculous for us to be. By all means, have an opinion on how old the Earth is and how it was that God brought about the existence of man. Don’t add that to the gospel and don’t look down on those with a different stance. I don’t wish to share mine as this blog is not about my view on secondary matters, but I have friends who I believe are devout Christians who are YEC, OEC, and TE.

Instead, let it be shown that Christ was risen from the dead. If that is the case, then you can rest assured no matter what comes your way (This is also the stance Dr. Gary Habermas took in saying that other issues like prophecy and the flood and such were interesting, but the resurrection was the foundation and so he based his career on proving that).

Now some might ask about questions such as death before the fall or animal pain or how to interpret Genesis 1. Those are good questions, but those are not the questions to bring to the skeptic. You’re not there to convince him of the resurrection and your view of the origin of man. You’re there to convince him of the resurrection.

In conclusion, I see no conflict between the idea of God using a process to create man and Jesus being risen from the dead. There are Christians on all sides of the debate on origin and the best thing we could do is listen to one another and realize our brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ rather than adding origins to the gospel. It’s never been part of the gospel and it never should be.