Saturday, February 24, 2018

Twenty Arguments for God -- Part 1

Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God

The Argument from Change
The Argument from Efficient Causality
The Argument from Time and Contingency
The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
The Design Argument
The Kalam Argument
The Argument from Contingency
The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
The Argument from Miracles
The Argument from Consciousness
The Argument from Truth
The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
The Ontological Argument
The Moral Argument
The Argument from Conscience
The Argument from Desire
The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
The Argument from Religious Experience
The Common Consent Argument
Pascal's Wager

WOW! So much to tackle here I doubt even Lawrence Taylor could take them all out!  So, let's start out with just a couple.  And remember this is just an introduction there is more to read at the original site (by Peter Kreeft) and there is much more to read on all of these from so many different quality sources.  Without further ado (what does "ado" really mean anyways!?), let's start with Pascal's Wager.

History of the "Argument"

Well first, let me explain why I put argument in quotes there.  To be honest, it's because this really isn't an argument for God's existence.  Arguments for God's existence typically end with something like "... therefore God exists."  Or, "... therefore it is reasonable to believe that God exists."  Or something like that.  This apologetic statement comes from--well it was really just made famous by Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) (I know, another long-dead guy who wrote in riddles, stick with me here) in a fragmented, unfinished work called Pensées (French for "thoughts," I don't think the title was well thought out--rimshot).  Though Pascal was the philosopher, mathematician, theologian that made the idea famous it has been bandied about a lot by others including some ancient Greek philosophers--read the link here if you really want more info.

The "Form" of the "Argument"

Again, I use quotation marks because there really isn't a formal argument here, more like a question about where you should put your trust.  If God exists belief in God means you stand to gain everything.  If God does exist and you don't believe in God, you lose everything.  If God doesn't exist, belief in God gains you little but disbelief in God also doesn't gain you anything.  It's kinda like a heads I win tails I don't lose.  It might sound a bit calloused, but there's something to be said for this.  It might be easier to look at a table:

You bet that God existsYou bet that God does not exist
God exists+ (infinite gain)- (infinite loss)
God does not exist- (finite loss)+ (finite gain)


The easiest and most common objection to this is simply, "Believe in which God?" or, which version of Christianity.  There is no easy answer, which is one of the reasons why I don't typically use this type of argument with an unbeliever.


Does this really convince people to believe in God?  Should we be setting up people with "fire insurance" style Christianity?  What this wager is good for is to show that there's nothing inherently bad about belief in God.  To get belief in God back in the playing field of ideas.  Again, this is merely an introduction to the idea and there are many who take it much deeper than we have space for here.  But, suffice it to say, this isn't a bad idea.  Belief in God has infinite gains if God exists and is still a gain even if God doesn't exist.  It's a win-win situation.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Too Weird To Make Up

He was born out of wedlock. His adoptive father was of the line of Solomon, but married outside his station. He was born among animals and commoners. He and His family were refugees in a foreign country for most of His childhood. He was raised as the son of a carpenter.
In every way, Jesus did not fit the bill of what the Jews were looking in a messiah. He was not born in a palace among wealth. He was not raised to be a military leader. He was not one to parade His worth around, preferring exactly the opposite -- that those who met Him did not tell others who healed them, but gave that glory to God. Good grief, He wasn't even legitimate by Jewish standards!!!
Enter the story anywhere you wish, Jesus' story is not one that would appeal to the Jews to whom He was first sent. It is not one that they would accept at face value, because it's not one that they would expect. Even today, the Jews by and large reject Jesus ... and yet it's to them that Jesus first revealed Himself.
One might argue that the story of Jesus is a made-up one, but considering who this "made-up" story was marketed to, one needs only consider that this absolute failure to connect with its target audience, coupled by its survival past the first decade of its existence (to say nothing of the two thousand years that followed), is evidence enough that the story was true. Nobody would make up a story like this, because nobody would believe a story like this!
... if there wasn't something about the story that transcends the illegitimate child born in humility and laid in a feed trough.
The story of Christmas is the story of the unexpected, where a sinless God took upon Himself the redemption of a sinful world, paid the price Himself, and asked only that His redeemed love Him above themselves, and love all others as themselves. Nobody would make up a story like that, because nobody would believe a story like that. It's too far fetched that an Almighty, Glorious God would humble Himself so. It's too simple a formula for salvation from sins -- just accept Christ as Savior and submit to Him as Lord. That's it. No coded messages, no secret handshakes, no "favorite sons." Just love -- sacrificial, infinite, unconditional. Who would believe a story like that?!?
Well ... I do.
May the peace of the Lord be with you as you celebrate God's love this Christmas season.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas — Who gives a rip HOW we came up with the date we use?!?

Every year about this time, anti-Christian individuals and groups make their jabs about Christmas being pagan, celebrated on December 25 by Catholics and Protestants, and January 7 by the Orthodox. They typically bring up this evidence or that regarding Saturnalia, the winter solstice, or what have you, appealing to guilt by association rather than actually trying to understand the Christian mindset — then or now.
The thing is, regardless of whether or not the day chosen was originally pagan, what is important is that the day is set aside, and for the purposes it is set aside.
For just one example, George Washington’s birthday. According to the Julian calendar, which was in use at the time, Washington was born on February 11, 1731. Following the switch to the Gregorian calendar which we use today, his birthday “became” February 22.
Thing is, we don’t observe his birthday on either of those dates. Rather, we observe it — as well as Lincoln’s birthday (February 12, 1809) — on the third Monday in February. What’s important is NOT that we pick the right day, or what else is on the day that we pick, but the fact that we DO pick a day and set it aside for observation.
People throughout church history have been trying to peg down Jesus’ actual birthdate. Through my own research, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christ was most likely born on September 25, 6 BC — Tishri 15 by the Hebrew calendar, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. May be right, could be wrong, ultimately it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that when Christmas was “established,” Christians lived among pagans who had oodles of dates to celebrate this or that, whereas Christians had none — not even the Jewish holy days (because of the ignorant “the Jews killed Jesus” hatred that many had), and certainly none of those Jewish holy days recognized the birth of Someone they rejected as Messiah. So while pagans would celebrate their pagan beliefs on their given days, Christians could either choose to celebrate godly things instead or celebrate nothing at all. The church leaders, and through them, the church proper, chose the former.
That’s how Christians got the holidays we have. Just like Washington’s birthday not being observed on his actual birthday, Christmas is a day chosen to celebrate Christ’s birth, and chosen to give Christians something to celebrate instead of what else was being celebrated on that day — the winter solstice. Easter was established similarly as an alternative to the spring equinox, as well as the Jewish Passover. Halloween is the same thing — All Saints Eve (leading into All Saints Day) as an alternative to Samhain.
For non-Christians or anti-Christians to say that Christian holidays are essentially pagan is to completely disregard why people of any faith individually set aside days as holy in the first place. I completely agree that these holidays have been co-opted and commercialized to the point of them no longer being “holy” to many, but they still are to me — not because of the day they may fall on, but because of what they individually mean to me if no one else.


Editor's note: One of the main reasons December 25th was chosen has nothing to do with Saturnalia at all.  If it were intended to be a replacement for Saturnalia, why was it not on the same days?  (Roughly December 17-23.)  The choice of the 25th of December comes from an old tradition that Christ's death and conception took place on the same date.  The date for Christ's death, burial, and resurrection was placed around Easter time (around March 25th).  Conception plus nine months gives us December 25th for His birth.  Check out this blog for more info.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Undesigned Coincidences - An Introduction, Part 2

Welcome Back!

Welcome back gentle reader! Welcome to the second part of my Introduction to Undesigned Coincidences in the Bible. In the next few posts we will explore a few types of Undesigned Coincidences and you will see some examples of each using the Bible as a reference.  I picked these because they were less involved than some others that would require the cross-referencing of several passages.

So, without further ado…

Internal Coincidences

The first category we will look at will be coincidences that occur within the text of the Bible itself. These can be separated into several sub-categories including Same Book coincidences, Same Author coincidences, and Different Author coincidences. I have come up with these sub-categories myself simply for the convenience of organizing future blog posts. The only categories I have found in the literature (so far) are the basic internal/external ones.

Same-Book Coincidences

Some coincidences are found in different parts of the same book. Needless to say it will be assumed that the same author penned each section. For this category we will be using an example from John James Blunt’s “The Veracity of the Five Books of Moses” pp. 144-147. In this example we see that in Numbers 7:6-8:
6 So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 He gave the Gershonites two carts and four oxen corresponding to their service, 8 and gave the Merarites four carts and eight oxen corresponding to their service, under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest. (Scripture quotes from HCSB)
Why did the Merarites get twice as many carts and oxen as the Gershonites? No explanation is given.
If we look back to Numbers 4:25, 26 we see the duties of the Gershonites were to:
25 They are to transport the tabernacle curtains, the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering made of manatee skin on top of it, the screen for the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the hangings of the courtyard, the screen for the entrance at the gate of the courtyard that surrounds the tabernacle and the altar, along with their ropes and all the equipment for their service.
And the duties of the Merarites:
31 This is what they are responsible to carry as the whole of their service at the tent of meeting: the supports of the tabernacle, with its crossbars, posts, and bases, 32 the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, and ropes, including all their equipment and all the work related to them.
From comparing these two passages you can assume the likely explanation for the different wagon allotments was because the Gershonites were in charge of the lighter elements of the tabernacle, the curtains, canvases and hangings, while the Merarites were in charge of the heavier articles, the posts, bases and crossbars.

Several chapters that deal with various topics like a census, uncleanness, compensations, rituals, vows and blessings separate these two passages. The fact that the reason for the Merarites getting more wagons than the Gershonites was not explained, and that this passage was separated from the earlier passage, implies that the writer felt no need to give a reason, therefore implying common knowledge. A fiction writer would be more likely to want to put these passages together to tie up loose ends and provide an explanation. Though this may not be a wholly convincing example, nevertheless it is another strand in the rope.

Next Post

So, there we have it, short and sweet, but my first example of an Undesigned Coincidence. I know, it probably doesn’t give you “Church Shivers” to think about it, and it isn’t some knock-down argument. It is simply the first straw I am presenting, and you know what happens when you put too many straws on a camel’s back. In my next post we will look at an example of Same Author Coincidences using Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  I am currently reading through William Paley’s "Horae Paulinae" for an appropriate example.

Until next time,

Keep reading!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Video Games and Miracles

A Classic!
Originally posted here. I suppose I grew up in the "Nintendo generation," having graduated from Pac-Man and Donkey Kong  to spending hours squashing "goombas" to save the princess in Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. Then there was Link, always working to save Princess Zelda. But regardless of which game I was playing or even which genre of game I played, each video game had its own consistent laws of what was possible. Mario and Luigi may be able to jump several times their own height, which is impossible in our world, but that was perfectly normal in the Mushroom Kingdom of Super Mario Brothers. And those laws had to apply equally to each player for the game to be fair. But ... as any gamer knows, there are "cheat codes" - those little hidden combinations of movements, game actions, sequences of pushed buttons on the controllers, and so on, that allow a user to sidestep the rules of that game's reality. A cheat code may let the player get more lives, become invincible, get abilities beyond what's normal in that game's world, access new weapons or levels, or bypass difficult levels or enemies to finish the game faster.

But what does all this have to do with miracles? Well, consider where cheat codes came from, and why they're called cheat codes. These have historically been programming "back doors" for the game developers to test different parts of the game without having to play through the entire game at the intended rate. If I'm developing a game, and I need to test game play in level thirty-seven, I don't want to have to play through the first thirty-six levels that I know work well just to repeatedly test out small changes in level thirty-seven. An easy way to handle this is for me to write in a hidden jump to the higher levels, or a code for superpowers that would let me go through the tedious parts quickly. As the creator of the game, I'm outside the game, while the players are immersed in the game. I'm not limited by the rules of that game world (unless I choose to be), while the players are limited by the rules in a fair contest. With that in mind, it's not cheating for the game creator to bypass levels or grant himself superpowers to accomplish his work. However, if a player learns of the programmer's secret, and uses it unfairly, then it is cheating.

Now, this leads me to a few observations.
1) We are open to the possibility of miracles (i.e. bypassing or circumventing a world's observed physical laws) in a game world.
2) We recognize that the game's programmer isn't violating any actual real-world constraints when he alters physics inside his game - the code he's writing in his dimension is functioning perfectly in accordance with whatever programming language he used whether he writes a "normal" game scenario, or one with a secret invincibility switch in the game's dimension.
3) We recognize that these "miracles" (from an in-game perspective) tend to be the work of the game's developer as a means of accomplishing his work outside of normal game play.
4) We have an expectation that these events are not the norm, and are supposed to be used judiciously by the right person (i.e. the developer) to make the game better.
5) We recognize the right of the game developer to exercise privileges beyond our own as players.

With that in mind, I have to ask why we turn around and deny even the possibility of miracles in our physical world. Why think that it is impossible that our world had a developer - a Creator - who is not bound by our reality's constraints? Why think that such interactions between our Creator and His creation - ones that appear miraculous from our "inside-the-game" perspective - are impossible if He's simply not limited like we are? Why think that our Creator doesn't have a right to alter our world's "game" as He sees fit to make it better?

When we look at the miracle of God entering the game He created at a specific point in this game's time and space, and becoming a player like one of us. He still retained His title of Sovereign Programmer, using His power to beat what we never could. In this we see a move of unfathomable love and mercy that made the game immeasurably better. Imagine playing an unwinnable level, with the deck stacked against you, and suddenly, the game creator appears in the game next to you and says, "You can't beat this on your own, but I've got this - just follow me." That's what Jesus did when He physically appeared almost 2,000 years ago and conquered death. Will you turn away and keep playing on your own? Please don't, there's a better way.

Monday, November 16, 2015

In the Beginning

As we're starting out together on this journey into learning about apologetics I (Sam) thought we ought to start off with a couple basic parts of apologetics.  That's why the first post was an introduction to apologetics in general and why I want to introduce basic apologetic arguments one at a time for a few weeks.  Therefore, this week's post is about two apologetics arguments in the category of cosmological arguments.  First, the Leibnizian argument from contingency and the "kalam" cosmological argument made popular by William Lane Craig (here on out, "WLC").

History of the Argument

WLC's amazing arguments are actually really old!  According to WLC's book The Kalām Cosmological Argument (that's a tough read, but an easier explanation, which is the primary source for this entry can be found in WLC's book On Guardthese arguments have been around since (before) the time of Plato!  WLC did much of his research on the kalām argument through medieval Islamic philosophers and chose to use the word kalām from Arabic for "speech" or "words," as a tribute to both their significant work using this type of philosophy and as a tribute to Greek philosophers' (and the biblical) use of the word λόγος - [logos] or word. (John 1:1ff).  -- Sorry more Greek, and now Arabic--can you tell I'm a linguist?  So this argument is really old and has been made by many famous (and not so famous) philosophers.  For example, G. W. Leibniz, a super smart guy in eighteenth-century Europe, wrote: “The first question which should rightly be asked is: Why is there something rather than nothing?”  We're only going to cover two in this entry so stick with me.

Argument from Contingency

WLC's version of the argument from contingency given in On Guard goes like this:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.

He later adds:

4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

First let's discuss point #1: This seems reasonable and completely without question.  However, this is actually hotly disputed.  There is no simple way to explain why God is somehow exempt here except to say that God exists necessarily.  That is, God cannot, by definition, not exist.  WLC rephrases #1 as, "Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause."  God, by very definition cannot be caused--otherwise God wouldn't be God.  One of the other ways this point is attacked is that some atheists will claim that the universe itself needs no explanation of its existence (sometimes called a "brute fact"), this is a fallacy because there's no reason to exempt the entire universe from something that applies to the rest of the parts of the universe.  God is, by definition, outside the universe and exempt from this fallacious thinking.  We're not saying God is exempt from having an explanation for God's existence, we're saying that God is by definition the explanation for God's own existence.

The Kalām Cosmological Argument

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

And of course the only thing that make sense as creating the universe, is what we call God.

There are two problems with this (well, there are multiple but I'll try to work through two big problems).  First, this argument generally embraces Big Bang Theory (hereafter "BBT").  BBT claims that the universe began to exist some thirteen billion years ago, which flies in the face of groups like Answers in Genesis and other "young-earth creation" (hereafter YEC) teachers.  This does not mean that a YEC'ist has to reject the argument, just that YEC supporters cannot use the BBT to support the second point in the argument.  See, in the days before scientists came up with the BBT, philosophers had to rely on purely philosophical arguments for saying that the universe had a beginning.  But then, from various points of evidence, scientists came to agree with Christian philosophy/theology that says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Second, various people deny various levels of both points in the argument.  If you talk to pop-level atheists they will commonly point to quantum physics to say that point #1 is false.  That things "pop into existence from nothing" all the time.  However, in fact, if you listen carefully to the various discussions about these quantum particles, what we actually see is that quantum particles come from quantum foam or some other quantum thing.  I've often pointed this out, but it seems like a brick wall:

Closing Thoughts

There is much, much more to say about these two arguments, but as this is just an introduction I'll leave you with just one more thing concerning these arguments.  These arguments are just part of a much bigger cumulative case for Christianity.  If you think through these arguments you'll realize that we're not really anywhere near the Christian God.  All we have is some kind of Being that is non-physical and powerful.  (WLC also argues that this Being must also be personal, but I'll save that for another day.)

Also, a word of warning.  If you are talking with a die-hard-Dawkins-worshipping-New-Atheist type, these arguments will probably not be effective (really no arguments will work well on that type of person).  They think these arguments have been refuted.  They hang their hats on quantum weirdness that makes it seem like something can come from nothing.  They cling to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Schrödinger's cat to deny causality itself.  There's a not-so-funny irony in this.  What is science but the search for the cause of various effects we see around us?  Medical science is all about finding the cause for various diseases.  Biology and biochemistry is all about finding what causes life.  Genetics is about what causes various traits to be inherited.  And on and on the list goes.  Well, if the atheist is right, there's no fundamental cause effect relationship to the entire universe anything unexplained or any difficulty can be eventually boiled down to the indeterminacy of the fundamental particles of the universe.  This kind of science-of-the-gaps thinking is just as dangerous as crazy-fundamentalist-bible-thumping-conspiracy-theorists.  There's no reasoning with that kind of dogmatic atheist, just pray for them, and move on to people that actually have an interest in thinking through their worldview.

Photo credit here

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Intense Persecution of the Early Church: A Strange View? (So Says Bart Ehrman) - Part 2

In the first article in this series, we looked at the intensity of the persecution that took place against the apostles and the rest of the Church during the first year (to as much as 19 months—until the time that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus). During this period, the apostles (the primary witnesses to Jesus's resurrection) were arrested, flogged and warned by the same powerful Jewish court that arrested Jesus and had him crucified. This was quickly followed by the stoning of Stephen and a very intense period of widespread persecution in which many were hunted down, arrested and even put to death. Yet, in spite of this intense persecution, the apostles and the Church as a whole maintained their testimony that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.


But what happened after Paul was converted? Was Paul the sole source of this persecution? Did the persecution cease? If not, what did it look like?

First, let's just note from the outset that we do not have a lot of information about the Church for the period between Paul's conversion (34 AD) and the time of his first missionary journey (48 AD). The book of Acts is our only source for this period (other than some very minor details that we can learn from Galatians 1:17-24, i.e., Paul's visits to see Peter and James). In Acts, the only thing that Luke tells us about this period is what happened to Paul immediately after his conversion, a couple of healings, a few minor details, and two other major events (Acts 9:20-12:25).

So what did happen immediately after Paul's conversion? He “immediately began to preach in the synagogues [at Damascus] that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). And this soon resulted in a conspiracy among other Jews to kill him. His response was to sneak out of the city and flee to Jerusalem (Acts 9:23-26; cf., 2 Corinthians 11:32-33). At Jerusalem the situation was the same: Paul spoke the message about Jesus, the Jews tried to kill him, and he fled for his life to Tarsus (Acts 9:26-30). So, we can see clearly that this response to severe persecution was not simply because of Paul. Paul himself experienced it from other Jews after his conversion.

Then Luke tells us that the persecution did generally cease for a period of time: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers” (Acts 9:32). How long was this “time of peace”? Luke does not specify. It may have been for as long as nearly a decade (until 44 AD). Or it may have been much shorter. My educated guess is that it was probably about 5 to 7 years. But we don't know. What we do know is that during King Herod Agrippa's reign (41-44 AD), there is more intense persecution. King Herod arrests some believers to persecute them. James, brother of John, is put to death by the sword. Herod sees that this pleases the Jews and Peter is arrested with the intention of putting him to death also, but Peter escapes. (Acts 12:1-3, 21-23).

Here again, the pressure is put on the apostles. Among the Twelve (the preeminent of the apostles), there were three who comprised Jesus's inner circle: Peter, James and John. All three of these experienced the severity of this persecution. James was put to death. Peter was arrested with the intention of putting him to death, also. And John, no doubt, experienced this persecution quite personally on many levels. Not only was he the third of this inner circle but watching his brother (with whom he was apparently very close) being put to death and his close friend Peter's life being threatened would have certainly been a grueling test of his profession of Jesus's resurrection. Once again, in the face of severe persecution, the primary witnesses of Jesus's resurrection do not recant.

This closes our look at this period of persecution. In the next article, we will examine the period of Paul's three missionary journeys (48-56 AD).

(Note: If you wish to download the timeline, you will want to watch for the last article in this series, as I hope to make a few revisions/additions--if time permits).


Brad Cooper's bio: I began passionately following Jesus Christ as a young child. And I am so thankful that in Jesus God has provided such a clear revelation of himself that a young child can understand. Yet the more one seeks to understand that revelation, the more he realizes he is just beginning to glimpse the greatness of God's love and wisdom and power.

I have been teaching the Bible and apologetics for 35 years. I have a B.A. from Fort Wayne Bible College and an M.Div. from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. I was a full-time pastor for nearly a decade and have pastored part-time for nearly another decade of the last 30 years.

I'm also husband to a wonderful woman, and a proud homeschool dad and grandpa. :)

And since 1997 I have been working in a factory to support all of this--currently building RVs. And I sell on Amazon and eBay focusing on used books and vintage items that I find at auctions and other sales.