Posts Tagged ‘Apologetics’

This topic is of particular interest to me as more and more of the people at Trinity begin to pick up serious works of theology and report back the tremendous blessing that their theological studies have brought them.  In the words of one person, “Studying theology helps me know God better and I find the better I know him the more I love him.”

Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book. They all say `the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion’. I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God,’ and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, `I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal !’

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion-all about feeling God in nature, and so on-is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan 1977) pg 135-135

In a speech against Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, Hamid Karzai speaks of God’s intervention in the form of a “lamb instead of a sacrifice.” I find the choice of language stunning and profoundly interesting. Of course this is a story typically used in the Christian tradition to prophesy the coming of Jesus, “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1.29). This seems to be a fruitful place for Christians to engage Muslims in dialogue.

In Afghanistan, and across the Muslim world, we have just celebrated the great Festival of Sacrifice – the Eid al-Adha. We came together with our families to mark an event known also to Jews and Christians: the willingness of Abraham (or Ibrahim, as we call him) to sacrifice his son in obedience to God.

But God intervened, and provided a lamb instead for the sacrifice. Which is why hundreds of millions of Muslims will have feasted this week on lamb – or whatever they can afford – to mark Abraham’s acceptance of the will of God. And among them, in and around the holy city of Mecca, will have been millions – including tens of thousands of Afghans and Britons – who have completed the rigours of the great haj pilgrimage.

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Of all the “New Atheists” out there, Christopher Hitchens is by far the most fun to listen to.  Though nothing is new about his arguments, his quick wit and sharp tongue make him easy listening. I also admire the brutal honesty that he assesses the actual (not confessed) morality of religious people as well as the moral logic of the atheist. As for Doug Wilson, I know little of him but I must say I was dissapointed by some of his opening statement where he seemed to restate Lewis’ argument against naturalism which has more holes than a block of swiss cheese. He did eventually make somewhat of a recovery and showed quite well on certain points.  Below is a preview of the debate taken from youtube.  The full debate, a whopping 1hr 52min, is well worth your time.  The link is just below the youtube video.

For the full debate click here

I have said in the past that science could neither prove nor disprove God, since the supernatural could never be subject to the scientific method. However, science could point towards God, as a reasonable conclusion of scientific discovery.

If you want to know why atheists seem to have given up the scientific card, the current issue of Discover magazine provides part of the answer. The magazine has an interesting story by Tim Folger which is titled “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator.” The article begins by noting “an extraordinary fact about the universe: its basic properties are uncannily suited for life.” As physicist Andrei Linde puts it, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”

Too many “coincidences,” however, imply a plot. Folger’s article shows that if the numerical values of the universe, from the speed of light to the strength of gravity, were even slightly different, there would be no universe and no life. Recently scientists have discovered that most of the matter and energy in the universe is made up of so-called “dark” matter and “dark” energy. It turns out that the quantity of dark energy seems precisely calibrated to make possible not only our universe but observers like us who can comprehend that universe.

Even Steven Weinberg, the Nobel laureate in physics and an outspoken atheist, remarks that “this is fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.” And physicist Freeman Dyson draws the appropriate conclusion from the scientific evidence to date: “The universe in some sense knew we were coming.”

Folger then admits that this line of reasoning makes a number of scientists very uncomfortable. “Physicists don’t like coincidences.” “They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea.”

read the whole thing here

hat tip to standfirm for digging this up

I spent some time with John Lennox while I was at Oxford (I doubt he’d remember me). He was a guest preacher at Wycliffe from time to time and taught one or two courses on apologetics. One of my more memorable conversations with him was over a pint of bitter at the Trout pub just outside of town with my dear friend Tom Yearwood who is close to John. Lennox is a fiesty Irishman, brilliant mathematician, and committed Christian. Check out this major development below..

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn’t believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that

…all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection…Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

read it all here

I remember as a little child hugging my father’s leg at a gas station only to realize it wasn’t his leg I was hugging. I was embarrassed! It was a case of mistaken identity.

In the matter of evangelism, I’m concerned about a number of things that people take to be evangelism that aren’t. And this case of mistaken identity can have consequences more serious than mere embarrassment. Let me mention five things mistaken for evangelism. (more…)

In January 2005, two remarkable events occurred. The first was that Oxford atheist and Darwinian scientist, Richard Dawkins, was publicly asked what he believed to be true but could not prove. This was an interesting question because he is on record as saying that you should not believe anything without evidence. Now he concedes, “I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all design anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.” He continued, “ Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.” In other words, he admits that much of what he believes, including his fundamental assumptions about the universe, are a blind leap of faith, unsupported by evidence.

The other extraordinary event was that the international doyen of philosophical atheism, Prof. Anthony Flew, now aged 81, publicly announced that he has abandoned his atheism, and had done so on the basis of scientific arguments, which now persuade him that there is a God.

So two of the most prominent atheists in their fields have made startling confessions. The scientist admits that much of his belief cannot be supported by scientific evidence, while the philosopher abandons the very atheism that made him famous, precisely because of the scientific evidence. How much intellectual fun is that?

What Dawkins cannot verify concerns the creation of the universe. What persuades Flew that there is a God is the current scientific evidence about the origins of the universe.

So let us begin at the beginning! This is the Cosmological argument.

read it all here