Tuesday, November 21, 2017

IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN (ID) IN OPPOSITION TO SCIENCE?





According to Wikipedia, ID is in opposition to science:

  • Intelligent design, by appealing to a supernatural agent, directly conflicts with the principles of science, which limit its inquiries to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data and which require explanations to be based on empirical evidence.

However, all scientists, IDers included, do science the same way, using the same methods. All observe, measure, quantify, and replicate findings. There is only one difference between IDers and non-IDers. Non-IDers (naturalists) insist that only natural explanations are allowable.

Instead, the debate between naturalism and ID is largely a philosophical one. It asks these questions:

  • “What underlies the objective scientific laws/forces and the resultant findings? Do these laws originate, operate, and continue immutably either naturally or supernaturally (ID)? What is the ultimate source of causation and being?”

The findings of science are made possible by the laws of science, which need to be universal and immutable if science is going to teach us anything. (They also must be elegant so that we can know them.) How then do we best explain the origin and maintenance of these laws or necessary preconditions for doing science? Were these immutable and universal laws the product of a Big Bang (naturalism) or of ID?

Because this question is prescientific, it must be answered primarily philosophically. As such, ID is no less scientific than naturalism, neither of which can be directly observed or measured. However, there are many considerations that argue persuasively for ID:

·       There is absolutely no evidence that anything has ever occurred naturally (without intelligence – ID). If naturalism cannot account for even one thing, how then can it account for everything?

·       It is not enough for naturalism to offer an explanation for their origins. It must also explain how they remain immutable in a universe of molecules-in-motion. In other words, there is nothing else immutable that can account for the laws remaining immutable.

·       Naturalism would also have to explain how they operate universally in light of the fact that all other causal sources operate locally with a diminished impact the further away an object is from them, like a diminishing signal while riding away from a radio station. However, what arises from a Big Bang is local and remains localized, albeit expanding.

·       A Big Bang is incapable of producing elegant, universal, and immutable laws.

·       Naturalism cannot explain the origin of the initial singularity and what caused the explosion. Necessarily, naturalism falls prey to the problem of infinite regress.

·       Nor is naturalism an elegant theory. It must resort to various explanations to explain such artifacts of design such as freewill, consciousness, life, DNA, the cell, and even the Big Bang before there were any natural laws to explain or control it. However, ID requires only one leap-of-faith.

·       It cannot explain the fine-tuning of the universe without invoking an infinite number of universes (the multiverse). However, the multiverse would require an infinite amount of space and time, both logical impossibilities.

·       It cannot account for the almost endless appearances of design.

Meanwhile, ID can elegantly account for all of these phenomena.

In fact, some naturalists have forsaken their naturalistic understanding of the universe for partially scientific reasons. The now-deceased Antony Flew has been called the “foremost atheist thinker of the 20th century.” However, after 40 years of debating Christians, he surprised the world.

At a 2004 debate at New York University, Flew declared that he “now accepted the existence of a God” (Antony Flew with Roy Varghese, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, p. 74). In that debate, he said that he believed that the origin of life points to a creative Intelligence:

  • Almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results were achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence.” (75).

 Did Flew have a religious experience that had biased him against a naturalistic explanation? He explained:

  • I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what has traditionally been called natural theology. It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith. (93). 

Monday, November 20, 2017

APOLOGETICS CAN TAKE MANY DIFFERENT FORMS





Apologetics can take many different forms. For the sake of simplicity, I will divide them into two forms – negative and positive.

The "positive approach" offers evidences; the "negative" answers the challenges. The negative is the more offensive and direct of the two. Jesus used both. When the religious leadership accused Him of casting out demons by the hand of Satan, He retorted with an example of negative apologetics:

·       Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:25-26)

If Satan is at war against himself and his minions, his kingdom would self-destruct. Therefore, the allegation of the Pharisees was not reasonable (logical). Adding to their their logical problems, the next verse suggests that they too had been encouraging of the deliverance ministry among their own without a concern that they also may be tapping into the power of Satan. It seems like their charging Jesus with a satanic partnership, without likewise examining their own people, smacked of hypocrisy.

Similarly, the Pharisees often charged Jesus with violating the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath. On numerous occasions, Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy through a logical critique (negative apologetics). For instance, after healing at a synagogue on the Sabbath, the leadership criticized Him. To this, Jesus responded:

·       “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15-16)

Were they truly hypocrites? Yes! Jesus logically demonstrated that they were using a double standard – one standard against Him and another to allow them to take care of their animals on the Sabbath. Besides, healing the woman was of far greater importance than watering the animals. (Clearly, Jesus believed in human exceptionalism!)

This type of logical critique is so powerful that it allows no come-back. Instead, the leadership was ashamed of themselves. (Sometimes love requires shaming!)

Elsewhere, Jesus again pointed out their hypocrisy – their use of two different standards. They accused Jesus of healing on the Sabbath, while they gladly circumcised on the Sabbath:

·       If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:23-24)

By regarding only one verse out of the many on the subject, they were not rendering a right but a prejudicial judgment. Often, Jesus accused them of either misusing or not even knowing Scripture:

·       But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:29-32)

In contrast, the “positive approach” offers evidences and proofs but does not immediately silence the opposition. For example, take your own testimony. While some will find it impressive and even inspiring, others will dismiss it, saying:

·       Why should I believe you, or
·       Buddhists’ claim that meditation has changed their lives, or
·       Muslims claim that Allah has given them meaning and purpose.

Whatever you say, they can always offer counter “evidence.” If you say that Jesus changes lives, they can retort, “Jesus also ruins lives.” If you say that Christianity served as the impetus for the resurgence of science, they will say that, “Christianity has been the source of ignorance and repression.”

In short, when you are confronted by a hostile militant and decide that it is better to hold your ground than to wipe the dust off of your feet, it is generally more profitable to use negative apologetics. This is what I often use to address the militants.

“Negative apologetics” come in many forms. After I had posted a brief essay on Facebook, an atheist reiterated the same challenge that many do: “Well, you first have to prove your god exists!”

If you’ve have tried to present proofs to militant atheists, you know how futile this can be. No matter how weighty your proof, the atheist can still quibble with it. This might not reflect a problem with your proof, but their unmovable commitment to their own faith. It also might reflect a problem with all proofs in general. However strong they might be, they are never airtight or unassailable.

Rather than engaging in this frustrating process, in many cases I’ve opted to place the burden of proof on the atheist: “First prove that you exist! This will prove to me that it is even worthwhile for me to even attempt to prove that God exists.” Of course, they never can prove this to my satisfaction. The following dialogue illustrates this fact:

ATHEIST: You still have not shown me any evidence that god exists.

ME:  Well, if you prove you exist, I'll prove God exists.

ATHEIST: I asked you first!

ME:  That’s true, but if you are just a computer spewing out messages, I don’t have any obligation to you.

ATHEIST:  Daniel, do you honestly think that there is a direct comparison between whether I exist, and whether god or Jesus exists? Clearly you have more evidence for me existing than for god or Jesus.

ME:   Then prove you exist! Prove that you are not simply a bio-chemical robot or that you are not just an illusion as a monistic Buddhist claim. Consistent with this, please define your use of the word "I." What is this thing you call "I?"

ATHEIST: You are just unable to prove that God exists.

ME:  No! I am just presenting you with an object lesson. If you are unable to prove that you exist, you are in no position to demand that I prove that God exists. Besides, if I can successfully quibble about your existence, I trust that you will also be able to quibble with any solid evidence I offer in favor of God’s existence.

You might ask, “Why even engage in such an argument?” Perhaps this argument will fail to show him the hypocrisy of his demand for more proof of God’s existence than even for his own. However, there are others reading these exchanges on Facebook. It is my prayer that it might sow valuable seeds in the thinking of others.

However, negative apologetics is used more commonly and effectively. When I have done open-air evangelism, scoffers will assault me with a series of charges. One scoffer yelled, “This is no way to be absolutely sure of any of this stuff.”

Sometimes, a question is the best way to answer. I therefore responded, “Are you absolutely sure?” If he says he is, I respond:

·       How is it that you can be absolutely sure while you absolutely deny that I can be absolutely sure? Sounds like a double-standard to me.

Nine times out of ten, this will silence the scoffer. However, if he answers, “No, I am not sure,” I will simply respond, “Why then are you making such a claim if you are not sure!”

Many others insist, “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” I simply ask:

·       Is your statement absolutely true?

Once again, if he answers, “Yes,” I point out that he just contradicted himself, because if there is no absolute truth, then his own statement cannot be absolutely true.

There are many variations of these illogical challenges. For instance, some say, “The only truth is change itself.” Therefore, I ask, “Then doesn’t that mean that the ‘truth’ of your statement is changing?” If he admits to this, then I merely respond that his statement is therefore meaningless, since it too will change in the next day.

Sometimes our negative apologetic might require a bit more information to expose the contradiction. Often, skeptics will make moral charges against our faith and God. For example, in a Times Magazine debate (11/13/06, p. 55.), atheist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, was asked:

·       “Do humans have a different moral significance than do cows?”

To this, Dawkins responded, “Humans have more moral responsibility perhaps, because they are capable of reasoning.”

However, if our moral responsibility depends on being “capable of reasoning,” then some humans are more morally culpable than others. Why? Because some reason better than others! Therefore, before the court can pass judgment on the guilty party, they should administer an IQ test to determine the extent of the punishment. Absurd, right?

However, Dawkins has a greater problem. Prior to this, Dawkins admitted, “I don’t believe that there is hanging out there, anywhere, something called good and something called evil.”

This makes Dawkins a moral relativist. He doesn’t believe that morality has any existence outside of our thinking. Therefore, morality is just something that we create. This makes morality relative to the individual and society. Consequently, without a higher, unchanging, and objective basis, morality is subjective. It’s just what we feel or decide it to be. This means that Dawkins cannot say that his morality is more valid than Hitler’s morality. However, in The God Delusion, Dawkins famously claimed:

·       “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Had Dawkins merely stated, “This is just the way I feel about God,” there would be no logical problem. However, coming from a position of moral relativism or subjectivism, he cannot coherently pronounce an objective indictment.

In order to claim that Hitler or God was wrong, we would need to base our indictment upon an objective standard. When, as Probation Officer, I wrote up charges against a probationer, I had to use objective language coming directly from the State Penal Law book. I could not charge a probationer with something that I merely felt was crime.  Instead, it had to be written in the code book.

However, Dawkins admits there is no code book, no objective or absolute moral laws that have been broken. In fact, whenever a moral relativist - and all atheists are essentially moral relativists - brings a moral indictment against Christianity, I remind them that they cannot bring an objective charge without an objective standard. With their subjective self-based morality they cannot logically bring a moral charge against anybody.

Therefore, when the atheist charges, “Your God is a genocidal maniac,” I simply respond, “What's wrong with that?” As a moral relativist, there can be nothing objectively wrong with that!

However, for us, this doesn’t end the question. We want to be able to know and to explain why our God is not “petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic…” as Dawkins has claimed.

Why? Confidence in our faith and our walk depends upon successfully grappling with these issues. This requires us to meditate on the Word both day and night (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1), so that we can offer (to ourselves, first of all) positive evidences to the contrary.

This is what we will have to deal with in the following chapters.

***
However, there is another matter we must first address—the limitations of apologetics.

It has been argued that apologetics alone cannot save anyone. Of course, this is true. God must grant faith (Eph. 2:8-9) and even a repentant heart (2 Timothy 2:24-26) before anyone can be saved. Here are a couple of illustrations of this fact. The renowned atheist and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, had once been asked:

·       Bertrand, what would you say to God if you encounter him after you die and he asks, “Bertrand, why didn’t you believe?”

Russell confidently responded, “There just wasn’t enough evidence,” as if to say:

·       I am a rational person and rational people require evidence. The fault, therefore, wasn’t with me but with you!

However, it is likely that God would have responded: “You were surrounded with the evidences, but you were unwilling to acknowledge them (Proverbs 1:20-32).”

Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most famous atheist today, has taken it one step further, claiming that no evidence is possible to support belief in God! In an interview with hosted by Peter Boghossian, Dawkins was asked:

·       What would it take for you to believe in God? (YouTube)

Dawkins dismissed the possibility that any evidence is possible-–that even if Christ returned, he would have no way of knowing whether this was an hallucination or not.

However, if Dawkins were to use this logic consistently, he also would even deprive himself of any evidence for the existence of the universe. It might only be a dream or hallucination.

Nevertheless, Dawkins seems haunted by the idea that his dismissal of all possible evidence doesn’t line up with the logic of science. After all, if a theory can be falsified by the evidence, it should also be amenable to evidential proof. Perhaps he senses that he is playing fast-and-loose with the concept of evidence and of science.

In any event, Dawkins accurately reflects that state-of-mind of the unbeliever. In their case, there is no amount of evidence (or apologetics) that will change their minds. Why? Because their heart must first be changed before their minds can be truly responsive to the light of the evidence.

Therefore, apologetics is first for us, His Church. Our hearts are already open to the evidences. Besides, we need to be mentally assured of the truths of the Christian faith.

Some will protest, “I don’t need apologetics. I just believe, and that is enough.” However, this stance is inadequate. For one thing, our faith is always undergoing trials and refinement, as Peter had warned:

·       In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Paul also warned us that those who think that they can stand without the entire armor of God (Eph. 6:12- ) will fall (1 Corinthians 10:12), and this coat of armor includes apologetics, the reasons for our faith.

Israel’s greatest prophet, John the Baptist, longed to have more evidential reassurance after he had been thrown into jail (Matthew 11:2-3). If he required these reassurances, so too do we! And Jesus proved that He was more than ready to provide the necessary reasons-to-believe, for example:

·       “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” (John 14:28-29)

While some of us may require more evidence than others, we all need reassurances as we endure God’s spiritual surgery. This chronic skeptic certainty did! However, the searching for reassurances has produced for me a great confidence, by His grace, and boldness before a hostile world. It is this boldness that I hope to impart to my brethren.

Of course, apologetics alone cannot save. However, even preaching Christ cannot save without the work of the Spirit. However, the Spirit can use them both to draw others to salvation.

Let us now feast upon the evidences.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

MUST WE FIRST EARN THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD?





Many churches argue that before we teach, preach, correct, or evangelize, we have to first earn-the-right-to-be-heard. We can do this by first proving our love through good deeds and friendship. Only then will others be willing to hear us.

Although I do not dismiss this strategy, I don’t think that we need to be limited by it. Jesus certainly wasn’t when He evangelized the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), or when He corrected the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23). We have no indication that Paul ever felt compelled to first establish relationships before he preached at the synagogues. In fact, we never see this advocated as a Biblical strategy. Nevertheless, in all areas of our lives, whether we preach or evangelize, our holy lives have to speak for us.

Nor was Peter led to first establish relationships before he preached his two recorded evangelistic sermons (Acts 2, 3). Why not? Instead, the Bible teaches that the Gospel is what is essential. Why? It is the power of God:

·       For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16; ESV)

Knowing that the true Gospel is rejected, we are liable to feel ashamed of it (2 Timothy 1:8; Mark 8:38). Therefore, we need to constantly remind ourselves that it represents the “power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 24) rather than our own strategies.

Nor is it necessary to wait for the right occasions (although on occasion, the Spirit might lead us to do so). Instead, Paul counseled Timothy to preach continually:

·       …preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Consequently, we are also to preach, “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” even when the time or season doesn’t seem like the correct time to do these. In fact, it may never seem like the correct time when we face the prospect of opposition.

It seems that in one sudden outburst, Jesus corrected the churches in the Book of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3) without regard for the right season in which to do this. The Prophets of Israel were often directed to correct Israel at seemingly inopportune times, which often cost them their lives (Matthew 23:34; 21:35; 10:23).

In fact, it seems that we should “always…everywhere” be seeking for opportunities to minister the Word, not only in season:

·       But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere…For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The Word is so central to the purposes of God that it should always be on our tongue:

·       You shall teach them [God’s Words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9)

Wherever we go, the Word should go with us. Are we afraid that this will make us seem fanatical? Perhaps, instead, we need to show the world that we are completely sold-out for God. When we hide the light in hope of first forming a caring relationship, it will become increasingly difficult to shift gears. It will also make us seem like hypocrites, as if we had misrepresented our intentions.

Must we always earn the right to first be heard? I think that such a strategy can become oppressive. It can place the focus on ourselves instead of on our Savior where it belongs. In any event, prayer must lead the way.

ONLY THE SAVIOR CAN MEANINGFULLY ADDRESS OUR HUMAN PROBLEMS





A Stoic wrote to a Stoic-advice blog:

·       “Before I discovered Stoicism, many years ago, I struggled with an addiction…Yet no amount of realization seemed to make the situation better. If anything it made it worse.

But once I entered a 12 step program they taught me that the first step was to realize my powerlessness over the addiction. That was transformative, and the program is what brought me relief and “sobriety” from the addiction. Of course, there is more to it, but admitting my powerlessness over the direct addiction, whilst simultaneously strengthening my resolve to work around the addiction, made the difference. Some actions I could control: working the steps, making amends, talking to my sponsor, reporting on progress, daily journaling, going to meetings, helping others, etc.

Now that I face other (less destructive, but emotionally turbulent all the same) addictions, and after losing my belief in a higher power and trying to act according to Stoic virtue, I find myself in a state of not progressing again. Mostly I just really hate myself for how badly I’m failing to live up to Stoic ideals and a virtuous life…it almost seems, paradoxically, that for me attempting to exert control over the addictive behavior is counterproductive and makes it worse.”

I think that this account is illuminating in many ways. For one thing, it confirms the Biblical understanding that we cannot change ourselves without God (John 15:4-5). Paul had written that one of the reasons that God had given us the law was to show us our helplessness in achieving moral goodness and merit. Instead, the law of God should humble us and show us our need of the Savior:

·       Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20; ESV)

Ironically, it is this sufferer who has come to the truth of our humbling human existence, finding that he is helpless to change himself. While such a realization is terribly painful, it is also the truth that many seek to deny through rationalizations, positive affirmations, and “success” experiences.

Sadly, this sufferer turned away from a belief in a Higher Power, which had been working for him. Why? We don’t know. However, it is a choice. Even the most militant atheists acknowledge that there is no proof or evidence against the existence of a God. Instead of pursuing the identity of this Higher Power, the sufferer rejected Him, perhaps because he was beginning to once again feel in control of his life.

I largely respect Stoic principles. They are largely in harmony with Biblical principles and even with the law of God. However, instead of these principles making us virtuous, they show us how unvirtuous we are as we try to follow them. This should lead us into the same self-despair as it has this sufferer, and hopefully, this should lead us to find relief in the Savior.

What words of comfort could the Stoic-advisor offer? Simply that Stoicism is a philosophy of life and not a therapy! Instead, he would need “professional” help.

Is it simply the BELIEF in a Higher Power that is able to make the difference? Perhaps temporarily. I think that our Lord sprinkles rose pedals in our path to lead us to the real Rose, like a lover following the scent to his beloved. While he might not be in sight of the beloved, he joyously anticipates her presence. However, he might be lured away by another scent.

Jesus had told a parable about a sower who had sown seeds on different soils. One soil had received the seed with joy where it germinated. However, other concerns caused him to eventually reject the seedling, like this sufferer.

What happens to people who continue on the path of Stoicism, pursuing virtue? Somehow, they need to compensate for their moral discouragements, but how? Some will become depressed and leave. Others will flatter themselves that their philosophy of life is superior to others, and others will actually convince themselves that they are more virtuous than non-Stoics. This is a human wound that needs a divine dressing.