Why I Am a Christian (Part Four): Fine Tuning for Discoverability

In my last article in this series we talked about how the universe appears to be finely tuned for life, and particularly for intelligent life (ie human beings). This is only part of the “design argument” as some have called it.

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Evidence for design keeps stacking up…

Previous articles in this series:

Why I Am a Christian (Part One)

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Why I am a Christian (Part Three): Fine Tuning (or, Design of the Cosmos)

To take the design argument a step further, not only does the universe appear to be designed to support our particular species, but it also seems that the designer has woven the fabric of the cosmos together in such a way that the very conditions which make our existence possible here on Earth also lend advantage to our ability to discover those conditions, and much more.

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. -Albert Einstein

The Human Mind – Before I talk more about the physical properties of the universe and our little corner of it, I want to talk about the human mind. We have been uniquely gifted with an infinitely curious nature, and the ability to think about and learn about all of the things related, not only to this particular discussion, but to a multitude of other subjects, both real (actually existing), abstract (such as mathematics), and non-existent (such as unicorns and vampires). Human beings are the only known creatures in existence that have these unique mental properties. You can read more about the improbabilities involved in the possibility of similar life forms evolving elsewhere in the universe, purely through naturalistic processes, here.

Given that the universe is inordinately vast, is it therefore reasonable to claim that intelligent extraterrestrial life almost certainly exists elsewhere in the universe? Not at all. Multiplying the many scenarios which led to the human developments of symbolic language, mathematical understanding, and advanced technology quickly leads to probabilities which are easily as insanely small as the universe is ridiculously large. [emphasis mine]

Discoverability: the right time – In addition to the qualities of the human mind, it is also difficult to account for the fact that we (humanity) are living at just the right time in cosmic history to observe the very conditions and circumstances that cause us to question whether or not the cosmos is designed in the first place. In a paper authored by Lawrence M. Krauss (certainly no friend to theism) and Robert J. Scherrer entitled “The End of Cosmology“, the authors have made the following observations. (Note, the quotations are not contiguous. Please read the entire article for context.)

We may be living in the only epoch in the history of the universe when scientists can achieve an accurate understanding of the true nature of the universe.

What will the scientists of the future see as they peer into the skies 100 billion years from now? … The big difference will occur when these future scientists build telescopes capable of detecting galaxies outside our own. They won’t see any! The nearby galaxies will have merged with the Milky Way to form one large galaxy, and essentially all the other galaxies will be long gone, having escaped beyond the event horizon.

We are led inexorably to a very strange conclusion. The window during which intelligent observers can deduce the true nature of our expanding universe might be very short indeed.

Rather than being self-satisfied, we should feel humble. Perhaps someday we will find that our current careful and apparently complete understanding of the universe is seriously wanting. [emphasis mine]

Now, 100 billion years may seem like a long time, but as the authors admit, it “may seem long but is fairly short compared to
the wilderness of eternity.” So, the obvious question would seem to be, given the insanely small (naturalistically speaking) probability of our existence, “Why us? Why now?”

Discoverability: Our Place in the Galaxy – The “galactic habitable zone” is defined as that area of the galaxy that is life permitting (see graphic). As you can see, this zone is roughly circular, about halfway out from the center, and in between the spiral arms of our galaxy. The reasons for this seemingly narrow area of habitability are varied, ranging from radiation from stars destroyed by the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy to a lack of the heavy elements needed for earth to form out near the periphery. For more specifics on this subject, you can read this article at Astrobiology Magazine.

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Galactic Habitable Zone

It turns out that the very conditions which make our solar system’s location in the Milky Way advantageous for life also make it possible for intelligent life (such as human beings) to explore their surroundings in the galaxy and universe. Because our solar system is located between the clusters within the spiral arms, we can view both the shape and structure of the Milky Way galaxy and much of the universe at large. If we were closer to the center of the galaxy, or located within one of the spiral arms, stellar dust and gaseous clouds illuminated by nearby starlight would severely inhibit our ability to see very far, no matter how powerful the telescopes we were using. Why should the one (habitability) so closely coincide with the other (discoverability)?

Discoverability: Earth’s Atmosphere – From National Geographic: “The Earth’s atmosphere is more than just the air we breathe. It’s also a buffer that keeps us from being peppered by meteorites, a screen against deadly radiation, and the reason radio waves can be bounced for long distances around the planet.” Earth is the only planet in the solar system with a clear atmosphere. If we had an atmosphere like Saturn, or Jupiter, we obviously could not observe very much from the surface of our planet (not to mention that type of atmosphere is inhospitable to life). The very qualities of our atmosphere that protect us from danger and enable us to breathe also lend to our ability to discover the universe around us.

A Note on Observers: As a Marine, one of the jobs I trained for was Forward Observer (FO). The FO’s purpose was to survey the battlefield and call adjustments back to the indirect firing batteries (ie mortar reams, artillery batteries, air-to-ground strike forces) so that the ordinance was delivered to the proper locations to disrupt or destroy enemy positions and operations. When the commander positions his FO, he chooses the most likely position from which the FO can see the battlefield while also trying to minimize risk to the FO from the enemy.

The location of earth and humanity in our universe seems to follow these guidelines with respect to observation and discoverability as well.

I have mentioned just a few of the features of the universe that appear to be finely tuned which also make discoverability possible for intelligent life (ie human beings). I will also give you some links so you can check these things out yourself.

Privileged Planet (video documentary) playlist

Fine Tuning for Discoverability-Robin Collins

The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton

Those who disagree with the idea of a designer will of course say that it is only a happy coincidence that:

  • the values for so many of the fundamental universal constants are such that they allow humanity to exist
  • the unique qualities of our solar system and the planet earth are uniquely fitted to allow for humanity to exist
  • many of these same constants and qualities that make humanity’s existence possible also place us in a privileged position to discover, observe and study our universe and surroundings.

My question to them is at what point do we look at the mounting pile of coincidences and ask ourselves “are these really coincidences after all or is there something else going on here?”

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Answering Quotes and Memes

Sometimes people post what they consider to be clever quotes that attack or question worldviews with which they don’t agree. (Sometimes these quotes are encapsulated in an image for a more impactful visual effect; this is commonly called a meme).

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This one’s pretty good!

Over at the blog “hessianwithteeth” there is a good example of this practice. In their article entitled “My Thoughts on a Few Quotes” they have delineated several examples of quotes that seem to inveigh against the Christian worldview, but they are eminently answerable. Because the Christian worldview is consistent with reality and internally coherent, these questions and those like them pose little challenge if one is willing to apply some careful thought.

Instead of trying to tackle each quote within the article, I will pick one and give simple and consistent answers.

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? Percy Bysshe Shelley

[HWT’s commentary] I like this quote because it asks some good questions. The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God. If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end? Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

Let’s take these one by one shall we?

Q: If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?

A: An infinitely good God is infinitely just. We all have a sense of wrongdoing in our lives. We fear an infinetly good and just God because we realize we deserve punishment.

Q: If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future?

A: We have doubts because although God is infinitely wise, we are not. We can not see the end of the next minute much less the end of all time. Some of these answers are given through His revelation, but in general our lives are lived day to day in ignorance of what is coming next. We trust in Him to be with us through the trials and we fear because we lack perfect trust as a result of our fallen nature.

Q: If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers?

A: First of all, God can not be fatigued, with prayers or otherwise. He desires our prayers, not because he does not know what we stand in need of, but because when we pray to Him it reminds us of where and how our needs are met. His answers to our prayers often differ from what we have asked for, and is always better for us. We don’t pray to change His mind but to change our own.

Q: If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?

A: In the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law there was ONE tabernacle and then ONE temple, not “temples.” It was a physical place where the Israelites were told to go to make sacrifices to and worship God. This was part of setting Israel aside as a “peculiar people.” Under the New Testament, those old things have passed away. God dwells within the hearts His people in the form of the Holy Spirit, and our bodies are His temple. We serve Him through the way we live our lives and serve others. We meet in physical buildings as part of the church (the called out body of people) but the buildings have nothing to do with the actual worship service other than to provide physical shelter and comfort to those doing the worshiping.

HWT:  The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God.

A: The covenant between Israel and God was contingent on their obedience to the Mosaic Law. God was clear with them about the blessings that they would receive for their obedience. and about the consequences of disobedience. Look at it this way: If you are driving down the freeway and are obeying the traffic laws and speed limit, and you see a police officer, you have respect for their authority but are not fearful of punishment. However when you are exceeding the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic, you fearfully look out for the same officer because you know you are in the wrong.

HWT:  If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end?

A: He does, and it is. However He has not shared that information with us, so no, we shouldn’t know.

HWT: Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

A. No, they are not necessary, except as used by the church as a place to meet. We should treat them with the same deference, for instance, as one would expect others to treat their home, because they are privately owned buildings and are another’s property.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

For another example of this tactic and a thoughtful response you can go to Andrew Crigler’s article entitled BILLY GOES BOOM- BECAUSE GOD KILLS THE INNOCENT (RIGHT?) He has other good articles on dealing with these types of situations as well.

Christians and Tattoos: Peanut Butter and Jelly, or Oil and Water? (Part Two)

In my first article on the subject, I looked at tattoos and the reasons to get (or not to get) them in a general sense. In this article I would like to drill down and talk specifically about Christians and tattoos.

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Some things just don’t mix well…

It seems to me that there are two kinds of tattoos, broadly speaking, that a Christian might get. These would be, simply, those that are religious in nature, that a Christian might feel pertains to their faith, or those that fall outside this category. For those that would fall outside the religious category, please refer to my first article which speaks on the subject of getting tattoos in general. Then come back to find out about some ways Christians can think “Christianly” about the subject.

Historically speaking, religious tattoos have represented an outward and visible sign of a spiritual relationship with the object of worship. Many times the tattoos are meant as symbols of protection, to ward off evil spirits and the like, or to curry favor with a particular spirit or diety.

Of course, as Christians we understand that these things are not necessary. “The Lord knoweth them that are His” and we are “preserved in Jesus Christ” regardless of our possession of or lack of tattoos, religious in nature or not.

What do we say to the Christian who wants to get a religious tattoo? Since the Bible is our authority (as God’s word) that should be our first stop for information. What does the Bible have to say about tattoos? Relatively little, it turns out. Leviticus 19:28 says “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” There are other similar passages. Of course we know that this is a part of the Jewish Law, the Mosaic Covenant handed down by God to the people of Isreal. We understand that under the New Covenant we are not subject to that code of laws, in the sense that they were civilly enforced laws with legal ramifications if broken.

After all, today we eat shellfish and pork, which were both forbidden in the Mosaic Covenant. Does this give Christians the “green light” to get tattoos? Or should we try to look at the underlying principles behind the laws? In the same chapter, verse 14 tells us “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shall fear thy God: I am the Lord.” Is it okay to make fun of deaf people when they can’t hear you, or to trip blind people for fun? (I hope to go into this in more depth in a future article, but for now I will leave these questions open-ended.)

Does the Bible ever advocate altering your body as a sign of your fidelity to God? In fact it does. Abraham, and later the Jewish nation, was commanded to be circumcised as a symbol of their covenant with God. However, we see specifically in the New Testament what this signified exactly, and why we are no longer required to participate in the act of physical circumcision as religious commandment. By comparison, the nature of circumcision (unlike tattoos, in general) should ensure that only the parents, the individual, and the individual’s wife would ever know the individual was circumcised under normal circumstances.

It seems that if God were going to allow tattoos, an excellent opportunity to do so would have been in Deutoronomy chapter six: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)” However He does not. He tells us to post His commandments in prominent places, but he does not tell us to write them in our flesh.

In the New Testament, Christianity is taught as a change to the heart of an inward man, and not to the appearance. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus clearly teaches against making your offerings, prayer and fasting public events. We are also taught that we do not own our own bodies. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1Co 6:19-20)” This also would seem to argue against Christians getting “religious” tattoos.

This principle was taught in the Old Testament as well. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Covenant was to separate Isreal as a peculiar people from the rest of the world, not by the way they looked, but by the way they acted. Some of the Biblical prophets were asked to behave in what might seem bizarre manners by God, but they weren’t asked to permanently alter their appearance. For instance, John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens—nasty carrion birds. God has set us aside as a peculiar people: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deu 14:2) and “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1Pe 2:9-10) Our peculiarity isn’t of ourselves, but is because we are chosen in God. It shouldn’t be manifest in our outward appearance, but in the way we follow God and his commandments.

If your purpose in getting a tattoo that is religious in nature is to draw the attention of others, what are you really communicating? In essence you are inviting others to look closely at your body in order to discern whatever message it is you are trying to convey. Is this how the Biblical saints carried out their faith? What is the Biblical precedent for this type of behavior? Are we, as Christians, supposed to call attention to ourselves, or are we supposed to point others to Christ? In addition, as we discussed in the previous article, whether right or wrong people judge others based on appearance. Is it possible to damage your Christian witness by getting tattoos? Even if there do not seem to be hard and fast answers to these questions, is it worth the risk to get tattoos?

Finally, how is it that you want to be perceived by your peers inside and outside the church? Do you want to be considered “cool” by them, or serious, thoughtful and virtuous? How will a tattoo help you to be perceived the way you want to be perceived?

To close, a note to those who may disagree with my tone, those who already have tattoos, and/or those who think I am displaying a “holier than thou” attitude. I am only trying to introduce ways of thinking about the matter, and especially trying to get straight in my own mind what I think about this particular subject, since it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. My advice to any Christian seeking to get a tattoo is to search out these things in God’s word for yourself, and to seek counsel from those in the church whom you respect.

I have made many mistakes myself, and admittedly some more serious than getting a tattoo that I might regret getting later. The tattoo represents a physical mark on your skin that can be erased with personal monetary expense, but some of my mistakes have hurt others who I care about deeply, and imprinted my soul with indelible blots that I must continually remind myself can only be washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

This is a follow up post to Tattoos: Why? (Part One)

(09–7-14 edit) For further reading – Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

Why I am a Christian (Part Three): Fine Tuning (or, Design of the Cosmos)

In my previous article about the evidence I see in nature of a creator God, (Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff) I talked about the beginning of the universe and how a beginning requires a beginner. It turns out that not only does the scientific evidence seem to indicate an absolute beginning to the universe, but that the universe itself has been finely tuned in order to allow life to exist. Taken further, the conditions of our little corner of space (the planet earth) seem to be tuned in order to allow intelligent observers (us).

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This universe is juuust riiight…

Scientists have observed that the properties of the universe seem to be uniquely “fine tuned” in order to make life possible. Sir Fred Hoyle, an English astronomer and the person credited with the term “Big Bang”, famously said

Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question. [Emphasis mine]

And this is just regarding the formation of the carbon atom (which, incidentally, is an absolute necessity for carbon based life)! Some other examples of fine tuning (there are many) include the strong and weak nuclear forces (that determine what kind of atoms are possible), gravitational forces (too much and everything collapses, too little and everything flies apart), spectrum of light (our sun provides just the right wavelength), distance of planet from sun (the earth is just the right distance)… the list goes on and on. Because of these “just right” conditions, some have said that the earth is located in a ” Goldilocks” zone.

There have been several different approaches by science to avoid what they see as “the problem of fine tuning“. One of the answers that has been proposed goes along the lines of “The only reason we can question these things is because we are here to observe them.” That is correct, as far as it goes, but given the overwhelming odds that all of these values are what they are, and that if any one of them had been off by the smallest fraction life and indeed the universe as we know it would not exist, we are entirely justified in asking “Why?”!

Another attempt to avoid this problem is the “multiverse hypothesis”, which I have addressed in “Patch” articles  here and here. Briefly, the argument goes that if there is an infinity of universes created at random, then it comes as no surprise that our particular universe has the parameters we find in it. This hypothesis, however, also fails to totally avoid the issue for both scientific and philosophical reasons. Scientifically, a multiverse generating mechanism must itself be “fine tuned.” Philosophically, God is still the most plausible explanation for the origination of the multiverse.

The “problem” of fine tuning remains. The universe and our planet give the strong appearance of having been designed to support life. Now those who have been following my blog can probably anticipate my next thought: fine tuning requires a “tuner”, and of course design implies a designer. If your view is that of a materialist (the physical is all there is) then these things may present a “problem.” For the Christian, it is another “evidence of things not seen.” We also see that taken together, the evidence we have for the beginning of the universe coupled with the evidence for fine tuning begin to build a more solid foundation for the reasonableness of God’s existence.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Why I Am a Christian (Part One)

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s jump right into it. There are several lines of reasoning that, to me, offer compelling evidence to believe in the God of the Bible, in Jesus of Nazareth, and the veracity of the Old and New Testament historical accounts.

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A Creator God: The most reasonable conclusion

Belief in a Creator God

This issue is the easiest to address in my mind. There are several philosophical arguments that one can use to come to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to believe in a creator God than it is to hold there is no such being. First, in my mind, is the fact that there is anything at all. When we look at the “stuff” around us we realize that everything we see is temporal (finitely existing in time) and that it had a cause. If we trace the causation of each thing back, we realize that the cause had a cause, and etc. At this point we can infer one of two things: either there is an unbroken and infinite causal chain, going back into eternity past, or, more parsimoniously and probably, at some point in the finite past, there was a first cause.

Science actually confirms, as nearly as possible, that there is indeed a first cause. Here’s how: back in the early twentieth century, a man named Edwin Hubble discovered that our universe is undergoing constant expansion. Everything in the observable universe is actually moving farther apart from everything else. This was a huge surprise for scientists at the time, because if you simply “rewind the tape” you inevitably come to the conclusion that there had to be an absolute beginning. Many scientists of that day (and this day as well) did not like that implication and there have been several theories proposed to try to “rescue” the universe from an absolute beginning, but to this day all of the evidence we have from science (via observation and testable and repeatable experimentation) is that the universe did indeed have an absolute beginning.

In my article on the subject I walked through the reasons why positing God as the “Big Banger” is the most reasonable inference for the beginning of the universe. The most compelling and easily understood philosophical argument, in my mind, is what is commonly referred to as the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. It posits two premises followed by the conclusion that most naturally follows. Here it is in its simplest form:

Kalaam Cosmological Argument

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. God is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe.

In my article entitled “Why is there SOMEthing and not NOthing?” I explain the reasoning behind the first two premises, and flesh out the conclusion.

There are similar arguments that trade on the need for a contingent being, and they follow through as well, but they are also more nuanced than the Kalaam. Perhaps down the road we can look at those types of arguments more closely. However, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument serves to show that belief in a creator God is indeed the most reasonable conclusion, given the evidence from science and observation that is available to us today.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability). For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. She has many questions! I asked the author if she would mind whittling down the number of her questions to those she found most essential, and she has attempted to do so. I will now attempt to write a series of my own articles, and attempt to answer her questions as completely as possible.

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Got questions?

There are a few principles that need to be kept in mind throughout this process. First, some of the questions she has asked can not be answered with any certainty whatsoever, because the information is just not there. Next, some of the questions she has asked may have more than one possible answer. I will give what I feel is the best answer, but I freely admit I could be wrong. I am not a Biblical scholar, or a trained theologian. My only claim to any knowledge of the Bible is what I have learned through reading, study, and hearing the preaching of God’s word.

What makes a good answer for these questions? I will attempt to establish some criteria for my answers, and for each answer I will attempt to meet the criteria I have established. (HWT, if you have suggestions for these criteria, I am open to them.)

  1. The answer should be logically consistent in the context of the narrative in question. One goal I have is to make sure I don’t go so far out on a branch in attempting to answer these questions that I walk out of the tree.
  2. The answer should be internally coherent with the classical Biblical and Christian worldview. For instance, I love going to movies. All I ask from a movie is to be internally coherent. This means that whatever ‘world” the director is trying to present needs to make sense throughout the movie. In The Avengers, for example, the heroes and villains have certain powers, strengths, and weaknesses. These attributes should be consistent throughout the movie, or it is not internally coherent.
  3. My goal is not to try to satisfy the question asker with an answer that will fit any other worldview other than that listed in #2. For instance, the Christian worldview holds that God exists, and He has certain attributes. I won’t try to defend these initial premises on their own merits (although I have begun to do so in other articles), except when to show how they pertain to the specific questions at hand. For the purposes of this exercise, we will again resort to  The Avengers example. The director has asked us to “suspend our disbelief” as we watch the movie, meaning we know that these things aren’t true in the real world, but for the duration of the movie we accept them as being true, and as long as the movie is internally coherent, then no matter how fantastical the story gets, it is still a good story. HWT, I ask the same thing of you. I understand you don’t believe these things you are reading. That’s ok. All I ask is that you evaluate the answers I attempt to give on the merits of being internally consistent within what you believe is the work of fiction called the Bible.

I hope to be able to show the writer at HWT and other Biblical skeptics that there are plausible explanations for the questions they have. Hopefully we can at least agree on that much, whether or not she finds my answers compelling enough to accept as satisfying. Finally, HWT has asked more questions than I have time to devote to give complete and reasonable responses for, so I will sort of pick and choose my way through her questions, answering those that I think I can offer the best and most complete answers for. I will also give her ample opportunity to rebut my answers or to ask for further clarification.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

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