Monday, August 29, 2016

If Jealousy Is A Sin, How Can God Be Jealous?


One recurring objection that non-Christians keep bringing up is the issue of God's jealousy. The Bible clearly teaches that jealousy is a sin. Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). In fact, the tenth of The Ten Commandments is "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17). So, The Bible is clear that coveting or being jealous of someone is a sin. 

However, The Bible also tells us that God is jealous. When God was giving The Ten Commandments to Moses, He said to him "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God," (Exodus 20:2-5).

Yet we are also told that God is sinless. For example, Deuteronomy 32:4 says "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." We're told that "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16) and that love "does not envy" (1 Corinthians 13:4).

This appears to lead us to conclude that either The Bible contradicts itself and is therefore not inerrant, or else that God is a sinner. What are we to make of this? Does The Bible contradict itself? Is God a sinner?

Those who make this argument are committing the fallacy of equivocation. The skeptic is equivocating on the word "jealousy". 
 
There are 2 different kinds of jealousy: 
(1) jealousy for something that doesn't belong to you, 
(2) jealousy for something that is rightfully yours. 
 
Number 1 is a sin. Number 2 isn't. The first kind of jealousy occurs in instances like, for example, if your neighbor obtained a brand new sports car. You look at your old jalopy of an automobile and then glance back at your neighbor's shiny new car. You begin to resent your neighbor because he has something that you want, but can't have. This is sinful. This is the kind of jealousy that the tenth commandment says not to have (Exodus 20:17), and that love does not display (1 Corinthians 13:4).

The second kind of jealousy occurs when a man sees another man moving in on his wife, or if he sees his wife making love to another man. He's jealous. He wants something the other man has, but what the other man has rightly belongs to him. Likewise, God got jealous when the Israelites would worship idols. Worship is something that is rightfully His. God is the greatest conceivable being, and as such, only He is rightfully deserving of worship.
 
Speaking of which, The Bible actually characterizes God’s relationship with people as like that of a husband and wife. The Christian church is called the bride of Christ (see passages like Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-9). Given this, it’s understandable why God was so angry with the Israelites whenever they would go to worship statues. Imagine if you came home and found your wife making love to another man. Or imagine this; that not only is she making love to another man, but this man isn’t even real! She’s making love to a mannequin instead! And instead of spending time with you, she spends all her time with this mannequin and never pays you any attention at all! That’s analogous to God’s situation with the Israelites’ idolatry. God's jealousy makes as much sense as a man's jealousy when his wife is having an affair. 
 
Moreover, The Bible says “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11). Not only is God worthy of worship because He is the greatest conceivable being, but this verse in Revelation seems to suggest that another reason why God is a worthy object of worship is because it is only because of Him that everything and everyone exists. The reason you're alive is because God chose to create you. He created you, and He created you for the purpose of a relationship with Him (Colossians 1:16), which The Bible says is an "everlasting joy beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:16), in a place that is better to spend one day than one thousand anywhere else (Psalm 84:10). This should lead you to a sense of gratitude. This should lead you to fall on your knees and praise Him!
 
No other being is responsible for creation (Nehemiah 9:6, Isaiah 44:24), therefore, no other being is worthy of worship. Therefore, worship is something that rightly belongs to God alone, and when we give worship to any other, we deprive God of something that is rightfully His. Therefore, He has every right to be jealous. For "The Earth is The Lord's and everything in it." (Psalm 24:1).

Sunday, August 28, 2016

5 Mistakes Christian Apologists Sometimes Make


Christian Apologetics is an importance discipline. It is obeying the command of 1 Peter 3:15 to "Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that you have..." and moreover, many people have intellectual doubts that serve as real barriers for them to embrace the gospel. Therefore, some people will believe if simply given good reason to. Unfortunately, we are fallible human beings who often make mistakes when doing the work of an apologist, and this can hinder our effectiveness. Let me mention 5 mistakes that Christian Apologists sometimes fall into.

1: Being More Interested In What You Have To Say


It's human nature to be more interested in what you have to say than the other person, yet it's crucial that we be receptive to hearing what the other person has to say. We'll come off as arrogant and narcissistic if we don't pay close attention the objections our non-Christian friend is bringing to us, and it'll especially be evident to this person that you don't care what they have to say if you're constantly interrupting them.

The Bible says "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame." (Proverbs 18:13), and "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," (James 1:19), and "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him." (Proverbs 29:20). Listen to what this person has to say. Pay careful attention to the wording of his questions. Make sure you understand his arguments, counter-arguments, or objections before you respond to them. Also be sure to let this be a dialogue instead of a monologue. 

2: Getting Angry

When you're dealing with people, it can be easy to get frustrated. Some people get angry when discussing Christian theology. This can be for several reasons. It can be because they simply don't like it when people disagree with them, it can be that the other person is posing really strong arguments against their position and they're flustered because they don't know how to answer, or it can be because the other person is being a condescending jerk and is verbally abusive. Now, I don't think anyone likes to be disagreed with, nor is it settling to not be able to respond to objections, and I know just as well as anyone that some people (atheists in particular) can be really hostile and mean when you try to share the gospel and the reasons for it with them. But under any of the above circumstances, we must not lose our cool. We must be calm, kind, and respectful.

I don't care if you're witnessing to an atheist and he's verbally raking you over the coals, calling you "brain washed", "creaotard", "oxygen thief", "stupid", "idiot", "science hater", "menace to society" or any other names they love to label Christians as. We are called to be better than that. The Bible says "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." (Proverbs 14:29). God's Word says that anybody who is quick tempered is exalting foolishness, but that if you're slow to anger, you show yourself to be a wise individual. So, which will you be; a fool or someone with great understanding? 

The Bible also says "Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15). A lot of apologists are very diligent to obey the first part of the verse, but neglect the second part of the verse which says to "do so with gentleness and respect." It's a wonderful thing if you're able to defend your faith, to be able to give the arguments for the existence of God and refute any conceivable objection one can bring to them. It's a wonderful thing if you've mastered The Minimal Facts Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus and can show why all conceivable naturalistic theories fail to explain them, unlike the resurrection hypothesis. It's awesome if you can tackle the problem of evil and suffering, answer objections to the doctrine of Hell, and so on. But if you're a total jerk while you're doing so, you'll be disobeying 1 Peter 3:15. It isn't good enough to be able to give a defense. You must do so "with gentleness and respect."

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.”

Christian Apologists must not quarrel with people. We must do our best to keep any discussion/debate from getting heated whether it be with a non-Christian or even a fellow Christian (on an in-house issue like the age of the earth, soteriology, etc.). We must not fight with people. I like what William Lane Craig says. He says “Apologetics is also not the art of making somebody else sorry that you’re a Christian! We can give a defense for the Christian faith without becoming defensive. We can present arguments for Christianity without becoming argumentative”

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:2.

3: Getting Too Preoccupied With Non-Essential Theological Issues

One trend I've been noticing lately is the tendency for Christians to focus way too heavily on in-house issues. What do I mean by in-house issues? I mean, theological beliefs of Christians that are of secondary importance. Things like the age of the Earth, Arminianism VS. Calvinism, the timing of the rapture, Special Creation VS. Theistic Evolution, and so on. Christians get so wrapped up in arguing with their fellow believers over these theological issues that they forget that there is a lost and dying world out there. They forget to evangelize and to actually defend Christianity. The spend most of their time and effort to defend their own theological systems against Christians who detract from that theological system, rather than defending the essential truth claims of the Christian faith against non-Christians who make attempts at refuting them.


Now, I'm not saying that the Arminian/Calvinist debate, the age of the Earth, or Special Creation VS. Theistic Evolution are completely unimportant issues that shouldn't be researched, debated, and defended. What I'm saying is that we should make defense of whichever of these doctrines that we hold of a secondary priority, and our main priority should be in defending the core doctrines of Christianity, such as the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the trustworthiness of The Bible, the doctrine of The Trinity, the doctrine of The Incarnation, Justification By Faith Alone, and so on. These latter doctrines should be the number 1 thing that the Christian Apologist strives to defend and establish, and the former mentioned beliefs should be given secondary importance.

Again, the Arminian/Calvinist debate, the age of the Earth, Special Creation VS. Theistic Evolution, etc. are important topics. They're important because truth is important. If truth is important to us, then we'll want to know that we have the right theology, even if being wrong on one of them won't result in eternal damnation (unlike if you get it wrong on issues like the deity of Jesus, for example).

4: Getting Puffed Up With Pride Due To A Large Knowledge Base


One thing we need to be careful of is to not let our egos get out of hand. It's very easy for people to start looking down on others who aren't as knowledgeable as they are on certain issues. The Bible says "Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up" (1 Cortinthians 8:1). Don't let your knowledge puff you up!

The primary rationale for being an apologist is to 1): Win souls for Christ, and 2): alleviate doubts from believers. If you're doing the work of an apologist to show people how smart you are, you're doing it wrong! The Bible says "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (James 4:6), and "For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar." (Psalm 138:6). These are very serious warnings! If you're proud, if you're haughty, God will be opposed to you! He will know you only from afar! Guard yourself against pride!

Apologetics is not your tool to show the world that you can flex your intellectual muscles!

5: Falling For Red Herrings 


Sometimes Christian Apologists fall for red herrings. The rookies are more prone to do this than those who have been doing it for a while, but even a pro can slip up and go down a red herring trail if he isn't careful to watch the course of the conversation. If the topic is the resurrection, don't let it switch to Darwinian Evolution. Don't just happily hop down any bunny trail that appears. Don't allow the conversation to go off in all kinds of directions. You won't be able to make any progress in an argument if you can't spot red herrings.

If the topic is the resurrection, don't let it switch to Darwinian Evolution. If the topic is special creation VS. evolution, don't let it derail into a conversation about the problem of evil. If the conversation is about the problem of evil, don't let the conversation suddenly turn into one about alleged Bible contradictions. Stay on topic!

Conclusion

The Christian Apologist should be careful not to make any of these 5 mistakes. If he avoids making these mistakes, he'll be a more skillful defender of the faith and a more effective witness for Christ.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is Theistic Evolution Untenable Because There's No Semblance Of It In Genesis?



Some creationists argue against Theistic Evolution by pointing out that in Genesis 1, there's nothing in the text slightly resembling it. True, we wouldn't expect people of Moses' day to understand all of the biological complexities of evolutionary theory if it were true, but shouldn't there be some description in The Bible that sort of resembles the Darwinian story if God really used evolution as TE's say? We would expect the text to say something like "And God said 'let the oceans be filled with life' and it was so.'" and later on "And God said 'let the fish gain legs and walk onto dry land, and let the walking fish beget beasts of field and birds of the air.' and it was so. God saw that this was good." However, we don't find something like this in the text.

Well, for one thing, this objection wouldn't apply to Theistic Evolutionists who hold to the allegorical view like Francis Collins, for example. If Genesis 1-11 is allegory, then it doesn't matter if there's no semblance to evolution in the text because the point of the narrative was purely theological rather than historical/scientific. On this view, Genesis 1-11 is more like a really long parable, full of theological truth, just not historical or scientific truth. However, other TE's would agree with young earth and old earth special creationists like myself that the scriptural evidence militates against the allegorical view; particularly what Romans 5 says, and the fact the genealogies in the Chronicles and the gospels link indisputably historical figures (e.g Jesus) back to Adam. It's impossible for a historical person to have a fictional character in their lineage. This would be like saying that Betty White is a descendant of Snow White, or that Ronald Regan is a descendant of Rumpelstiltskin. Given that the genealogies in the gospels link Jesus to Adam, either The Bible is in error, or Genesis 1-11 is meant to be read as history. Fortunately, as I pointed out in "5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution" one is not forced to adhere to the allegorical view of Genesis to be a theistic evolutionist. There are models of Genesis which show that it's possible for Genesis to be historical even given a Darwinian view of origins.

But given that Genesis is history, why don't we then, see some semblance of evolution if God really used evolution to create life? Well, for one thing, The Bible doesn't describe a lot of things about God's creation that we know are scientific facts. No where in scripture does it say that God constructed material things out of things called "atoms" which have tiny particles in their centers called protons and neutrons and tiny particles orbiting the centers known as electrons. You won't find atomic theory anywhere in The Bible much less Genesis 1. Should we therefore conclude that atomic theory is false and is incompatible with scripture? Surely not. Likewise, The Bible makes no mention of DNA and the 4 different "letters" (A, C, T, G) which constitute the code inside its double helix. Should we therefore claim that DNA isn't real and is incompatible with biblical teaching? I know of no Christian, YEC, OEC, or TE who would make such an argument? Therefore, just because scripture makes no mention of evolution, that does not give us warrant to conclude that therefore God did not use evolution.

The Bible is not a science book. Genesis is focused on giving us the basic information on God's creative activity. It's focused on telling us that God created, and I would argue, the chronological order in which He created, but that's it. Whatever else is true about those 6 creation Yoms, we'll have to look to science to fill in the gaps.

But given that Genesis is focused only on telling us that God created, and not how God created, we are free to look to science to figure out the question. Did He create different species of animal ex nihilo? Did He use evolution to produce them gradually? Was there maybe a blend of special creation and evolution (i.e progressive creationism)? I don't think we can conclusively come to an answer of this on the basis of The Biblical text alone. The Bible seems to leave the how an open question.

This argument against TE commits the logical fallacy known as argument from silence. 

In Conclusion

This is not a very good objection to Theistic Evolution. If we're to conclude that God did not use evolution, it's going to have to be on the basis of scientific evidence. Organizations like Reasons To Believe and the Intelligent Design movement would be good resources for the interested reader to check out scientific arguments against Darwinian Evolution.


*5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution
*Is Theistic Evolution Ad Hoc?
*Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution.
*How NOT To Argue Against Macro Evolution. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Is Theistic Evolution Ad-Hoc?



Theistic Evolution, the hypothesis that God created all life through evolutionary processes, has been criticized by some atheists as being "ad hoc". An ad hoc explanation is an explanation conjured up out of thin air in an attempt to keep a belief or hypothesis from being falsified. Why do they say that TE is ad-hoc? Because they view evolution as being a theory that disproves the existence of God by rendering him unnecessary to explain the origin of animal life. If evolution renders the hand of God superfluous, as atheists contend, then positing Him as being an undetectable guide of evolutionary processes is an attempt to keep theism afloat.

I don't think Theistic Evolution is ad-hoc at all. As I pointed out in a recent blog post, I can give the atheists evolution for free and the case for Christianity still comes through. This is because there a various arguments for God's existence (and even for creation and intelligent design) that don't depend on evolution to be false in order for their conclusions to be reached. For example, there's The Kalam Cosmological Argument which argues for the existence of a transcendent Creator on the basis of the origin of the universe and the law of causality, there's The Fine Tuning Argument which argues for an Intelligent Designer of the constants and quantities of nature (e.g The Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces, Gravity, Electromagnetism, etc.) so that the universe can be life permitting, there's The Local Fine Tuning Argument which argues for an Intelligent Designer of the hundreds of characteristics that must be just right in order for a particular region of the universe to be life permitting. There's also The Moral Argument which argues for the existence of God as the grounds for objective moral truths, and there's The Ontological Argument which argues that there mere modal possibility of the existence of God entails that God must actually exist. Moreover, you have The Transcendental Argument which argues that if we weren't created by God, then our reasoning faculties would be unreliable, but sense we can trust our reasoning, it follows by modus tollens reasoning that our minds must have been fashioned by a Creator. You also have The Argument From Desire. On top of all of these natural theology arguments, you have arguments from fulfilled prophesy, and you have the historical case for the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, suppose you're a person who is convinced that all of the arguments I just referenced and linked to are successful arguments. But let's suppose that you're also convinced of the scientific arguments in favor of Darwinian macro evolution. Suppose you think that all of the arguments mentioned in the previous paragraphs are good arguments, but you also believe the scientific arguments for Darwinian macro evolution. What position would it make sense for you to take? The obvious answer would be Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creationism. The reason you would adopt this view is because you believe that both the Christian worldview and Darwin's theory of universal common descent are true, so you would adopt a view which integrated two things that you know to be true.

It would be unreasonable for such a person to be a young earth creationist, since that would be ignoring the arguments for Darwinian Evolution that he finds so compelling. It would also be unreasonable for him to be an Old Earth (special) Creationist since this would also be ignoring the arguments for Darwinian Evolution to be so compelling. It would also be unreasonable for such a person to be an atheist, since this would be ignoring all of the non-biological arguments for theism that he finds so compelling. The most reasonable position for such a person to take would be Theistic Evolution. He's not adopting the model to keep theism from being falsified, but to integrate two different things that he holds to be true.

If you have evidence for God and Darwin, then mixing the two is perfectly rational. Now, if this person thought Darwinian Evolution were false, or if he thought even all of the non-biological arguments for theism were failures, then that would be different, but the person in this scenario doesn't believe these things. He believes the arguments for Christianity and for Darwinism are both successful. Such a person would be intellectually justified in adhering to Theistic Evolution on this basis.

Moreover, even special creationists would admit that sometimes God works through natural means. Hugh Ross ((and myself)), for example, argues that the collision event of Theia and Earth was how God decided to make the moon. And we believe this event was intelligently designed because of the various factors about this collision event that had to be just right in order for us to have moon capable of permitting life on this planet. Yet, although designed by God, this was a natural event. God didn't just *poof* the moon into existence. In the book of Exodus, God used a powerful wind to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21). It isn't unlike God to work through natural things. So a Theistic Evolutionist could argue that if God could use natural means for these aforementioned events, why couldn't He use nature to create living creatures? It's totally plausible to think that He could have used evolutionary processes if He wanted to.

In Conclusion

Theistic Evolution is by no means an ad-hoc hypothesis. Most TEs you talk to will defend their view by appealing to evidence for both theism as well as for Darwinism. They believe TE because they're integrating two sets of truth.


*5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution
*Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution
*How NOT To Argue Against Macro Evolution

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Christian Apologetics Support Group Get Together



A Facebook group called the Christian Apologetics Support Group arranged an event in Georgia U.S.A to take place on August 14th 2016, with William Lane Craig. People were to drive or fly in from all over the country to have a special lunch and Q and A session with Dr. William Lane Craig after his Defenders class, which is currently on the doctrine of The Trinity.

Me holding Richard's book, and Richard holding my book.
I had no means to go there on my own, as I can't afford to spend $300-400 at some hotel, and even if I could, my car is so old and unreliable that I'm very reluctant to take it anywhere long distance. It has already broken down on 3 different occasions. Fortunately, both of my hindrances were solved thanks to my good friends Richard Bushey (blogger of ThereforeGodExists.com and author of The Open Minded Christian) and Kevin Baldesare. Richard drove down from Virginia and picked me up. I gave him Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods as a gift. I had him sign my copy of The Open Minded Christian: How To Engage Charitably With Fellow Sinners, and then my mother took a picture of us hold each other's books.

We talked for a little bit, I showed him my 2 book cases worth of Christian Apologetics and theology books, and then set off to Atlanta. I ate some pizza as we were driving down the road, which Richard had brought with him. Richard and I tried to listen to Skillet's Comatose album, but it cut off on the 7th track for some reason. I think the CD had some dust on it. We decided to just listen to HIS Radio until we were out of range. We stopped for some gas and went inside to use the restroom. My A.D.D was on display as I started to walk off and left the car door open. I noticed it as we were approaching the convenience store, so I ran back and shut it. Then we continued our Journey to Georgia.

Me and Kevin Baldesare. Kevin's the one on the right.
Kevin and Richard at Taco Mac.
We arrived at Kevin's house, took some pictures, and then left to meet the rest of the guys from the Christian Apologetics Support Group at a place (that I never heard before then) called Taco Mac which is a bar/restaurant. I had a hamburger and some french fries. Once we were done eating, we went back to Kevin's place where I gave Richard and Kevin some gift bags with thank you letters and some theological decorations.

Richard Bushey (left), Jacob (middle), and Evan Minton (right)
I cannot believe how unbelievably comfortable the recliners' at Kevin's house are! My goodness! I told Richard that the recliner in my bedroom feels like a rock when compared to his. They were wonderfully comfy!

Kevin showing us his books.
I had Kevin take me, Richard, and Jacob up to his room to show us his collection of Christian Apologetics and Theology books. I brought a small Spider-Man journal with me, which I use to write down the names of books that I wish to buy and read in the future. I brought it with me precisely because I knew that I would see books at Kevin's house that I would want. And I just jotted them down one after another. After that, we talked for a little while on creation and evolution. I first gave some reasons why I'm completely open to Theistic Evolution (a few of which I talked about in my recent article "5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution"), but then I gave reasons why I don't think Darwinian Evolution is true, and why special creation is a better explanation of the scientific evidence.


Richard gave me a copy of "No God But One: Allah Or Jesus" by Nabeel Qureshi, which was one of five copies that Zondervan sent him. After that, we went to bed. In the morning we went to the church where the Defenders class was going to be held. At the church, they had worship services being held in two different rooms. In one room, they were singing traditional worship songs (i.e classical hymns). In the other room, they were singing contemporary worship songs. Jacob and I attended the contemporary worship service while Richard and Kevin attended the traditional worship service.

The Contemporary Worship Service
After that, we listened to a sermon by the pastor, Bryant Wright, which was all about The Sabbath. After that, we attended the Defenders class where we listened to Dr. Craig's lecture. Right before lunch, I gave William Lane Craig my book, Inference To The One True God and asked him to give me his feedback when he was done. He said he wouldn't be able to promise that, since he gets requests like this all the time, but that he would if he could. I understand that. But regardless of whether he e-mails me to tell me what he thought of the book, he's still got it in his possession and will be reading it at some point, and that is AWESOME! After that, I had Richard Bushey take a picture of me with William Lane Craig holding my book.


Dr. William Lane Craig and I.
After that, we had lunch. Kevin informed me that Dr. Craig and Jan had gotten up at 5:00am to prepare the sandwiches and other items of food that we ate. The food was very delicious. After that, Jacob drove Richard and I back to Kevin's house ((Kevin came later as he had something to do that day after the Defenders class was over)). When Kevin returned, we watched a DVD of a debate William Lane Craig had with Austin Dacey. Once that went off, we went to McDonalds to have dinner. We came back to Kevin's house and watched the movie Good Will Hunting before Kevin went to bed. Richard and I stayed up a little longer. We watched some short clips of debates between James White and a couple of Oneness Pentecostals. After that, we went to sleep.

Kevin Baldesare (left), Evan Minton (middle), and Richard Bushey (right).
Richard drove me back to my home in Piedmont, South Carolina. He helped me bring my luggage in, and then left for his home in Virginia.

I had a really awesome and fun time hanging with my Christian Apologist friends. If you guys are reading this, I'd like to say once again that it was nice meeting all of you. Also, I have to once again thank my friends Kevin Baldesare and Richard Bushey. Without you guys, I would not have been able to attend this event. Thank you so much for your kindness. Thank you, Kevin, for letting us stay at your house, and thank you, Richard, for driving me down there and back. I love you guys! You guys are awesome!

William Lane Craig and everyone from Christian Apologetics Support Group

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why Isn’t There Divine Obviousness For The Spiritual Seeker?


I just finished watching Dr. William Lane Craig’s Defenders 3 videos on Natural Theology. I watched the videos where he dealt with the divine hiddenness objection that atheists frequently bring up. You can watch these two videos here and here in order to find out what Craig had to say about divine hiddenness. I largely agree with everything he said. I agree that if God made His existence undeniable that it would not necessarily entail that everyone would place their saving faith in Him, which is what God is most concerned about (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4). I think it’s very plausible to think that, like Satan and a third of the angels, some people would continue rebelling against God even if they were absolutely certain that Christianity is true. We have plenty of examples of this in scripture. Even before I learned of how William Lane Craig responds to the divine hiddeness objection, this was the answer that I often gave. In fact, this was the answer I gave a few years ago in my blog post “Why Does God Hide Himself?”

However, after watching the videos, after hearing Craig’s answers, I had some questions pop up in my mind that I wasn’t sure how to answer. It’s plausible (and I would even say probable) to think that not everyone would repent and be saved if they just knew that God existed, but what about people who would repent? We know that there are people like this in the actual world. Think of people like C.S Lewis and Lee Strobel, who converted to Christianity once they investigated the evidence and came to the conclusion that Christianity is true. I think we could ask why God didn’t do something spectacular in the lives of these individuals to get them saved, since He clearly knew that they would submit to Him if they simply had enough evidence. In other words, my question is: Why did God use philosophical arguments and historical evidence to lead them to belief rather than some theophany? Why did God use evidence from science, history, and philosophy to persuade these people rather than simply appear to them in a way like how Jesus appeared to Paul if He knew that they would place saving faith in Him once they were convinced?

I think this would make sense on the view that if God made Himself too obvious, He would override peoples’ freedom to choose, and people would be coerced into being saved, which is the view that thinkers like Blaise Pascal, C.S Lewis, and J.P Moreland endorsed, but this doesn’t seem to make sense on the argument William Lane Craig endorsed. Craig and I both believe that it’s plausible to think that even if people knew that God existed, that wouldn’t necessarily prompt saving faith in Him. A lot of people would be just like the demons, having belief that God exists, but not having a saving relationship with Him (James 2:19, Revelation 20:10). But on the view that God has to keep His presence in a delicate balance between being evident enough so that we could know He was there, but hidden enough so as not to overwhelm our freedom, it would make sense why God would use rational argumentation (i.e natural theology and the historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection) to persuade people like Lewis and Strobel, rather than choosing to appear to them in a theophany or some other extravagant display. Arguments would be good enough for assent, but wouldn't overwhelm us.

My question was why God doesn’t make Himself obvious to people who would go into a saving relationship with Him if they knew He existed.

I submitted this question to Dr. Craig’s Q and A session to see what he thought about this, but shortly after I submitted it,  I found a plausible solution on my own. Could we perhaps say that God would indeed overwhelm some people if He made Himself too obvious, but that others would be unmoved? This would be to say that some would be coerced and others just would continue to shake their fist at Him. This would be to say that nobody would benefit from God being overwhelmingly obvious.

For people who would be saved if they only had reasons to believe God existed, these people would be overwhelmed, and thus they would come into a saving relationship with God out of coercion. Therefore, God keeps His existence in a delicate balance between being evident enough so that we know He’s there (and also making unbelief inexcusable), but being hidden enough so that we have the ability to talk ourselves out of the conclusions of the arguments for God. However, as for extremely hardened people who wouldn’t repent even if they knew that God existed, then God’s obviousness wouldn’t coerce them into a saving relationship with Him, that is to say that it wouldn’t help them either.

On this view which combines the answers that Craig and I usually give with the answers that Moreland and others often give, divine hiddeness makes perfect sense. The evidence is sufficient so that we know He’s there, but not overwhelming so that a good many of us aren’t coerced into salvation. Obviousness would hurt the elect and wouldn’t help the non-elect. Obviousness would prevent many people from freely loving God, and it wouldn’t make any difference for the hard hearted. This seems like a plausible solution to me.

To summarize: God's not overwhelmingly obvious because it would (1) overwhelm people into coming to Him, in which case they would not be doing so freely, (2) there would be some, perhaps, many people who would not repent even if they were knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. It's not either/or as I once thought. It's probably both!

By the way, for my atheist readers who might be shaking their heads at the parts of this blog post where I say the evidence is sufficient, I advise you to investigate the articles on the evidence for God's existence in the "Arguments For God's Existence" section of this website, and I especially advise you to read my new book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods where I defend several arguments for the existence of the God of The Bible. This book will be available this week on Amazon.com.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution



On this blog, I've argued against Darwinian evolution in a handful of different blog posts. I used to think that Christianity and macro evolution were incompatible, but I'm beginning to think more and more that there's really no incompatibility between the two after all. Now, don't misunderstand me here. I am not a Theistic Evolutionist. I still think Darwinism is just as false as I did back when I thought they were incompatible. All I'm saying is that I'm more open to the idea of TE than I used to be. I'd like to share some of my reasons why in this blog post.

1: Evolution, By No Means, Proves That Atheism Is True

There's a lot of evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview that has no relevance to whether or not Darwinian Evolution is true. Even if Darwinian Macro Evolution were proven to be true, that would not give us adequate epistemological grounds for concluding that atheism is true. Even in the realm of science, there would still be a massive load of evidence for the handiwork of a Creator. The Big Bang theory and the second law of thermodynamics shows that the universe had an absolute beginning out of nothing about 14 billion years ago, which provide powerful warrant for affirming the second premise in an argument for God's existence known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument says that whatever has a beginning to its existence had something to cause it to come into existence, since the universe came into existence, it follows that the universe has a cause of its existence. Once the two premises are proven true (as I show in chapter 1 of my book Inference To The One True God and in my article "The Kalam Cosmological Argument") we then do a conceptual analysis for what properties the cause of the universe must have. The conceptual analysis shows that the universe must have been brought into being by a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, uncaused, personal Creator.

Then we have, on top of the origin of the universe, the powerful fine tuning of the universe. Over the last 50 years, scientists have discovered that the laws of physics must take insanely narrow values in order for the universe to possibly contain life. If even one of these physical laws had been tweaked in just the slightest, marginal way, life could never exist in the universe at any place at any time. The odds that these different physical constants and quantities would take the values they do are so low that no one could take seriously the notion that they became that way by chance. The best explanation is Intelligent Design. I unpack this argument in detail in my blog post "The Fine Tuning Argument For God's Existence (updated version)" and I go into even more detail in chapter 2 of Inference To The One True God. 

There's also local fine tuning. What do I mean by that? I mean that besides the laws of physics, which affect the entire universe, there are hundreds and hundreds of different factors about our galaxy, solar system, and Earth-moon planetary system which have to be just right in order for life to exist on this planet. If our planet were any closer or farther away from the sun, life couldn't exist. If our moon were any larger or smaller than it is, life couldn't exist. If any of the 4 gas giants were a little big bigger or smaller, or were closer or farther away from the Earth, life couldn't exist on this planet. It is far too improbable that these factors should be as they are. The best explanation is that a Creator shaped our region of the universe so that we could exist. I go into this argument in great detail in chapter 3 of my book Inference To The One True God. 

Aside from these 3 scientific arguments for the existence of a Creator-designer of the universe, we have philosophical arguments for God's existence as well. There's The Moral Argument, There's The Ontological Argument, and there's The Trancendental Argument.

We also can make a powerful historical case for the resurrection of Jesus, which I do in my blog posts "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 1" and "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 2", and in chapter 8 of Inference To The One True God.

We also can make a case for the divine inspiration of The Bible by making arguments from fulfilled prophesy, which I do in "5 Fulfilled Prophesies That Make Non-Christians Uncomfortable". and there are 4 other reasons to believe that The Bible is God's Word as I point out in "5 Reasons To Believe The Bible Is Divinely Inspired" none of which depend on Darwinian Evolution being false.

All of these arguments do an end-run around the issue of Special Creation VS. Darwinian Evolution. I can give the atheist Darwinian Evolution for free. I really can. I can give the atheist Darwinian Evolution for free. He still has to deal with all of these arguments. If these arguments are sound -- and I think they are -- then Christianity is true.

2: The Imageo Dei Isn't Damaged By An Evolutionary Account Of Origins

Many Christians object to evolution because they think that it's incompatible with the doctrine that human beings are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27). They argue that if we came from lower primates, then we can't bare God's image. If we came from lower primates, then we're merely highly advanced hairless monkeys. I've never really found this to be a good objection to Theistic Evolution. I think when you understand what the imageo dei is, then however humans came about is irrelevant to whether or not we bare God's image.

What is the image of God? No one knows for sure, but a general consensus among theologians is that human beings have rational cognitive faculties, the ability to discern between right and wrong (i.e a moral compass), and that we have free will. No other creature in the world has these abilities. Animals don't have the ability to reason, nor can they discern between moral good and moral evil, and none of them have free will. At least in the libertarian sense, though I do think animals have "free" will in the compatiblist sense. In fact, this isn't purely a Christian notion, even Aristotle said that an essential property for a human nature is "rational animality". Well, if these theologians are correct (and I think they probably are), then even if we evolved from lower primates, we're still made in God's image.

When homosapiens finally came about, God inserted into the soul of the homosapien species, a spiritual component which would allow man to have some of the same features God has (i.e the ability to reason, know right and wrong, and freely choose things rather than act purely on instinct).

It is true, that none of the "homo" cave men which homosapiens evolved from bore the image of God, but the final product does. Here's an illustration to show you my point: one day a painter decided to create a self portrait. He only spent 2 minutes on the portrait every day, so it took him quite a while to get done. He painted a little for 2 minutes one day, and then painted some more the next day, also for only 2 minutes. He did this every single day for a month until he was finally finished. Now, every intermediate stage of the self portrait did not bare the artist's image. They looked nothing like him. However, the finished product did bare the artist's image. It looked exactly like him. Each individual stage of the painting didn't bare his image, but only the final product did.

In the same way, although each previous stage in "the ape man march" didn't bare God's image, the guy at the front of the ape man march does.

3: Molinism Provides A Way That God Can Direct Evolution While Still Being Faithful To The "Randomness" Of The Theory

In the film The Case For A Creator, based on the book of the same name, Lee Strobel expressed an objection to Theistic Evolution that he's held for decades. He said that evolution is described by most scientists today as a blind, undirected process. And he said "How could God direct an undirected process? How could God have purpose in a system that has no plan and no purpose? It just doesn't make since! It didn't make sense to me in the 1970s, and it doesn't make sense to me now." 

I used to agree with this objection of Strobel's, but I don't anymore. I love Strobel, but I've got to disagree with him on this point. One day, I was sitting in the porch swing of my front yard thinking about lofty philosophical and theological stuff while my dog Max sat next to me. I was thinking about Molinism and how it allows God to have meticulous control over everything that happens in the world while simultaneously allowing human beings to have libertarian free will. God can control what happens in the world by acting on His middle knowledge; His knowledge of what any creature would freely do in any circumstance. God knows "If Bob were in circumstance X, he would freely choose action A over action B". So, if God wants Bob to choose action A, God can get him to choose A by placing him in circumstance X. God places Bob in circumstance X, and lo and behold, Bob chooses A.

It occurred to me that if God could control human history without causally determining everything, then He could probably direct evolutionary history in exactly the same way. God could know "If this species of animal were in this part of the world with these conditions in place, then this genetic mutation would occur, and natural selection would preserve it". Or God could know "If X happens, then this population would move to this part of the region where this genetic mutation would occur." And in order for God to get those genetic mutations to occur, He could use His middle knowledge to actualize a possible world where those animals are in just those circumstances so that the mutations do occur, and natural selection does preserve those changes.

God could use His middle knowledge of what would occur under any given circumstance, to direct evolutionary history toward His envisioned goals. He's not causally determining evolutionary history any more than He causally determines the daily choices of human beings, but He just puts animals in circumstances knowing how they would change if they were in those circumstances.

Sitting on that porch swing, I was amazed at such a realization. I thought to myself "I think Darwinian evolution is bunk, but if I became a theistic evolutionist, this is the view I would most likely hold!"  It was ground breaking for me because I used to think that, unless you were an interventionalist like Michael Behe, then you pretty much stripped God of His role as being the Creator of the human race. I thought that on non-interventionalist views of TE, you had a sort of "Spectator God" instead of a "Creator God". On this view, God creates and fine tunes the universe, and maybe even specially creates and designed the first single celled organism, but then He just kicks back and watches everything unfold randomly. But, combining Theistic Evolution with Molinism, that objection of mine evaporates. God isn't a spectator God on this view. He's very active in making sure homo sapien sapiens evolve from the lower primates which evolved from that single celled organism in the primordial soup! He's not causally determining the evolutionary processes, nor is He creating animals out of nothing, but He's using His middle knowledge to orchastrate the history of evolution to produce the kinds of creatures that He wants to create. Therefore, on this view, human beings are not an accident even if we developed through a "random", "undirected" process.

Charles Kingsley, an Anglican Priest, and a friend of Darwin, once said "We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things; but behold, God is so much wiser than that, that He can make all things make themselves."

4: There Might Be A Way To Harmonize The Historicity Of Genesis With Darwinian Evolution

One of my biggest theological problems with Theistic Evolution is that I thought you had to adopt the allegorical view of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. After all, evolution doesn't produce simply 2 individuals. You don't end up with one man and one woman on an evolutionary view, but many men and women. This is why many TE's like Francis Collins of Biologos adopt a view that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are allegory. I've addressed the many, many problems with the allgorical view elsewhere, so I won't rehash that material here. I'll just simply say that the scriptural evidence strongly militates against such an interpretation.

However, there are some TEs who hold to a historical view of Genesis. They adopt certain models of Genesis which would allow us to affirm a historical Adam and Eve, and historical Noah, while also affirming an evolutionary theory of origins. Now, I haven't investigated these in too much depth, but one of the models states that Adam and Eve were not the first couple, but one of the first couples. God chose Adam and Eve to represent the human race (the federal headship doctrine) and that's why scripture focuses so heavily on them rather than on these other humans.

It could also be that the reason scripture focuses on them is because that it's only their descendants who are alive today. As the genealogies in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke show, Noah and his sons are descended from Adam and Eve. It could very well be the case that the offspring of other homosapiens that evolved, got washed away by the Genesis flood, leaving no descendants for the rest of human history. Every human alive today is descended from Noah's family who was descended from Adam. This would also explain why everyone "dies in Adam" (Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15). We "die in Adam" because we're all descended from Adam. We don't "die in" anyone else, because we're not descended from any other human. This is because their ancestral lines ended when they were killed in the flood!

Now, I haven't investigated these models too intensely. The only knowledge I have of these is what TEs have told me in online conversations. However, I do plan on investigating them at some point in the future....once I'm done with my current studies. Hopefully I can find a model with the lowest number of exegetical problems. I'm not in too much of a hurry though, because, as I said, I still think macro evolution is false. I believe God created all animals and humans through special creation.

However, of the models I've investigated so far, the one I briefly described above seems the most plausible to me.

5: "Evolutionary Creationism or Intelligent Design" Is A False Dichotomy

One need not choose between evolution and intelligent design, per se. One could argue that God designed the laws of physics (The Fine Tuning Of The Universe), and our galaxy, solar system, and planet (The Local Fine Tuning), and even designed the very first single cell. In this third example of design, one can still appeal to all of the arguments creationists uses; the DNA-Information argument, the irreducible complexity argument, and so forth. One need not renounce ID entirely in order to be a good evolutionary creationist. One could simply say that God's hands-on intervention stops after the first life form is created. After that, He simply chooses to direct the evolutionary processes through His middle knowledge (as I said in point 3 above), or you could adopt a sort of interventionalist view like Michael Behe does. Michael Behe is a theistic evolutionist, but he only thinks God intervened in places where natural processes couldn't get the job done (e.g irreducibly complex structures).

Conclusion

For these 5 reasons, I'm a lot more open to the idea of Evolutionary Creationism (a.k.a Theistic Evolution), then I used to be. I still think evolution is false, but I no longer think it's incompatible with Christianity. Now, some people reading this might wonder "Well then, why don't you embrace it if you think it's compatible?" -- Because I still don't think it's true! I find that Darwinian processes cannot get the job done. There are genetic barriers that cannot be crossed, and micro evolutionary changes have proven time and time again to be cyclical, not accumulative. Moreover, I find that most arguments in favor in Darwinism presuppose atheism. What I mean by that is that most of the arguments assume that God had no part in the creation of life. They rule out creation a-priori, interpret the evidence based on their naturalistic presuppositions and then say "Look at how strong the evidence is!" The argument from homology is one such argument (i.e the similarities in structures between different species of animals). This could be explained either by common ancestry, or by a common design plan. Now, it is not the purpose of this article to get into this material, but I unpack this more in my blog post "Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution".

Just because something is compatible with Christianity, that doesn't mean that I should embrace it. I think that the existence of leprechauns and unicorns are consistent with my faith, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start professing belief in the existence of leprachans and unicorns! I need good reasons to believe leprechauns and unicorns exist. Likewise, I need good reasons to believe macro evolution is true. I have encountered good reasons to believe neither.


*How NOT To Argue Against Macro Evolution
*5 Reasons To Believe That Molinism Is True
*Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution
*Is Molinism Biblical?