Train Them Up Right…

Several years ago I was challenged by a skeptic to defend my belief system. I didn’t do a very good job at understanding why I believed the way that I did other than my subjective feelings about it. This encounter inspired a passion in me to put 1 Peter 3:15 into action in my life.

Over a period of time I discovered that to be most effective at defending the faith you must first be willing to question your most sacred beliefs. You must be willing to see your beliefs from the skeptic’s perspective so that you can meet him where he is and then try to persuade him using the evidence available and under the power of the Holy Spirit.

With this in mind, and experience as a guide, I have detected what I believe is a flaw in how we train people, especially our young people, to defend the faith. In this article I am first going to disclose the flaw. I am then going to cite three ways the flaw manifests itself. The three examples I offer happen to be in the field of science which should be no surprise since this area is popular among skeptics. As I discuss each of these I will offer a solution to correct the flaw so that ultimately we will become improved trainers, and most importantly, improved ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus.

The Flaw

The most prominent flaw I see when we try to defend our Christian position is often a failure to understand terms. For example, it may be the case that a pro-life Christian assumes that a pro-abortion individual is in favor of killing babies. But if we stop for a moment and listen to the view of the pro-abortionist, we will likely discover that a person in favor of abortion is just as opposed to killing babies as a pro-life person is. The difference in positions is not whether we should or shouldn’t kill babies. The difference in our positions is determined by when we believe life begins. How then do we begin effective dialogue with a pro-abortionist? When a person says they are pro-choice or pro-abortion ask them, “What do you mean by abortion?” Then ask them how they came to that conclusion. If you do this, not only is the burden of proof on them, you will also come to an understanding of their position instead of talking past them.

When we place more effort into understanding terms we will become more effective in communicating our views and being taken seriously by those who oppose us. There are three scientific areas where skeptics will pound a wedge between themselves and believers. In each of these wedge topics, believers can be left vulnerable if their position is not communicated properly.

Wedge Topic #1: Evolution

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in evolution. Say what? That’s right! But, wait a minute. Hear me out. Remember what we just discussed? We have to define our terms. But before we do that, we need to understand why we should focus on evolution when training people to defend the faith.

Evolution is one of the most popular avenues skeptics use to discredit Christianity. After all, if life simply evolved then we have no need for a Creator. Darwinian evolutionists believe all life is descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes, precluding belief in a Common Designer.
Many Christians will flat out deny any truth to the evolutionary theory. This is why skeptical people who believe in evolution don’t take Christians seriously. They see Christians as anti-science, bronze-age numbskulls. Of course we aren’t those things, but there is truth in some parts of the evolutionary theory.

There are two facets of evolution. There is macro-evolution and there is micro-evolution. Macro-evolution is the portion of the theory that says all life forms have descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes. It describes one species magically changing into brand new species. This form of evolution, due to the near-absence of evidence, is largely faith-based. It’s almost certainly not true and contains many, many problems including the inability to be reproduced in a lab.

Micro-evolution on the other hand, describes the ability of life forms to change or adapt to its conditions. This form of evolution is not only true, but it is verifiable and repeatable. Micro-evolution is what Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands when he was studying finches. He noted that in years with an abundant food supply, the finches beaks were shorter because they presumably did not have to forage as deep for food. In years with short food supplies, the finches beaks could adapt to be longer so they would be more successful finding food to survive. Micro-evolution does not contradict Biblical creation in any way.

As Christians, we should not be denying this type of verifiable “evolution.” This is why the skeptics do not take us seriously. But when we can come to understand our terms, we find that we actually have more common ground than we thought. We are doing a disservice to our children and others when we train them to be completely against evolution. We know a certain form of evolution is true and we should be teaching our kids the difference between good science and bad science. When we do this, we give them a huge advantage when they are trying to find common ground with unbelievers.

(As a side note, I could write pages on the failure of macro-evolution but it is beyond the scope at this time. Comment below or message me if you want to discuss evolution further).

Wedge Topic #2: The Big Bang

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in The Big Bang. That’s right, I do! But, like evolution, you should be asking, “what do you mean by that?” This topic is a little easier to explain. Science has proven beyond all doubt that the universe has a beginning. This is agreed upon by virtually everyone.

When talking with a skeptic, there is absolutely no reason to disagree with him on the main idea regarding Big Bang Cosmology. After all, the science does not indicate what caused the Big Bang, it can only demonstrate what happened after the bang was banged. If you’re arguing the merits of the Big Bang verses the merits of Creation with a skeptic then you may find that you’re more interested in scoring points than you are in leading them to Christ. Now, I’m not saying Christians should believe in those portions of the the Big Bang Theory that have very little evidence. All I’m saying is that both skeptics and believers agree the universe has a beginning. In simple terms, that’s what the Big Bang Theory describes. It’s also what Genesis 1:1 describes. We all believe the universe was “banged” into existence. Christians believe they know who banged it.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be against the Big Bang. When we define it in terms of good science and scripture, we can meet the skeptic where he is and begin fruitful dialogue.

Wedge Topic #3: Age of the Universe

I’m an evangelical Christian and I have no clue how old the universe is. That’s right, no clue. In fact, it is impossible to know the answer to this on this side of Heaven. We were not there at Genesis 1:1. The Bible and science leave room for many assumptions. There are very good assumptions made by young universe people and there are very good assumptions made by old universe people. I don’t have space to dissect them all here. If you want to discuss it more, comment below or message me.

In the end, I believe that remaining dogmatic on this point can be counter productive. If you’re dealing with a skeptic who is scientifically inclined, forcing him to swallow something that seems counter-factual in his mind may permanently turn him away from hearing other evidence about the truth of Christianity. I guarantee you that salvation is not predicated on your belief on the age of the universe. The fact that God actually created the universe, not when he created the universe, is what is important when reaching the lost. I believe Satan uses this point of contention to sow division among all of us and when we entertain it as dogma we are playing into his hands. This is an in-house debate which should rarely, if ever, be discussed among unbelievers. It is not productive and I’ve never known anyone to come to Christ by their belief on the age of the universe.

As for me, I wake up believing in a young universe and I go to bed believing in an old universe. Neither position contradicts the fact that the universe is created.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be dogmatic on this issue. We should expose them to both scenarios and if we want to be intellectually honest, we will admit that we have no idea how old the universe is.

Conclusion

People have doubts. Christians should be prepared to engage the doubters in order to be effective witnesses for the truth about God, Jesus, creation, sin, and redemption. Intellectual honesty about science and Christianity always works in the Christian’s favor. Good science will never contradict God’s word and should be viewed as way to study in awe of God’s creation work. We should release ourselves from old-fashioned dogma and embrace sound scientific discoveries as confirmations of God’s awesome creation. When our children are released into the real world, we should want them to be taken seriously as ambassadors. To enable that we need to teach them how to communicate what they believe effectively and convincingly without coming across as backward, religious fruit cakes. We can teach them the things of the scientific world that line up with God’s word. We should be able to show people that Christianity will never be compromised by science or any other field of study. Let’s give the next generation of Christians the tools necessary to engage an increasingly skeptical world.

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“Godless” Europeans Believe in Trolls and Elves

The other day I was thumbing through my Wall Street Journal and the following quote was enlarged within this book review article (if the link leads you behind a pay wall just google “wsj the God profusion” to get the free view). The quote said, “Europe’s churches are empty–but don’t take that as a sign of reason’s triumph. More than half of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls.”

I couldn’t skip the article written by Naomi Schaefer Riley and I was thoroughly entertained reading it. I won’t type out the entire article here save for few quotes. I encourage you to read it. But essentially the article is a review of a book entitled, “The Triumph of Faith” by Rodney Stark. The author of the book argues against faulty polling that erroneausly suggests the world is becoming more god-less. When in fact, the world is ever becoming more faith-filled.

He makes the case against the Enlightenment dogma that says reason will triumph over and eventually bury faith and religion, and ultimately God himself. Enlightenment evangelists and apologists are quick to point out that religion and belief in God are for the less educated, ignorant, illiterate, and even country hicks. Surely the more educated urban dwellers would never be led into such silliness, right? But the facts show something quite different. The author of the article correctly points out that “college-educated Americans are more likely to attend religious services than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.” In South America, nearly all of their countries are “now less than 5% secular.” And in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere and the Middle East, religion is growing very rapidly.

The article then touches on something I have never considered before. The book goes into an area detailing how government sponsorship of religion (think the United Kingdom) is actually a “hinderance to the growth of faith. Monopoly destroys competition, and competition causes growth.” I won’t go into much detail on this point for now, but I’ll be considering this idea for a very long time I’m sure.

The article then talks about the famous empty churches of Europe. Generally speaking, the empty church phenomenon is relegated largely to the European continent. But do empty churches point toward a lack of belief in the supernatural? Not according to the facts. In fact, supernatural beliefs in Europe are wildly far reaching and far fetched.

The article states, “In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation; half believe in mental telepathy. More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs.”

Quite comical.

I’m not saying that America will not follow the European trend. With all the immoral filth being trotted about in the name of progressivism, we may well be on our way to teaching our children about little trolls and worshipping boxes of Lucky Charms cereal. Who knows? But despite these primitive folk beliefs in Europe, America and indeed the vast majority of the world, is absolutely not on the fast track toward secular naturalism.

Far, far from it.

They Live Inconsistently

I’ve noticed how many liberal, skeptical-minded nonbelievers tend to have strong convictions as it relates to protecting the environment, liberating the poor, eradicating diseases, and justice for the oppressed. All these things are worthy causes, though we all hold different methods by which we think they should be addressed.

I also notice some glaring contradictions with this kind of thinking among skeptical non-believers. These non-believers create an inconsistent worldview for themselves. They like to say things like, “all senses and convictions can be explained through biological evolution.” They readily admit that since we have evolved via natural selection, we can’t completely trust our own senses. They say our belief in God is simply a belief that has helped us survive, not that there is an actual God. They think beliefs, even our false beliefs, are beneficial to our survival and that is how our false belief in God originated. Maybe so. But here’s the rub with this kind of thinking: If we cannot trust our faculties as it relates to the falsity or truth about God, then why should we trust our faculties as it relates to anything at all, including macro-evolutionary science? To put it another way, if our cognitive faculties tell us only what we need to survive, not about what is actually true, why trust those faculties about anything at all? What a glaring contradiction!! Couldn’t it be then that this idea of macroevolution is simply an imaginary one that has merely assisted our human development? Why trust it?

We know God exists not because we have tangible proof, but because of cumulative clues that point very strongly toward His existence. We have the Cosmological Argument about causation of the universe. We have the teleological argument regarding the undeniable design features of the universe. We have the Anthropic Principle, which describes the delicate fine-tuning of the universe to allow life to survive. We have the regularity of nature. We have the existence of undeniable, objective moral values and duties. All of these things (plus many more) cumulatively form a solid basis for God’s existence.

But there are a few more things to add to the list. Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph. Many people have a very deep conviction to protect the environment, stand up for the oppressed, help the poor, and eradicate disease. As I pointed out, under a macro evolutionary view of the world, we have absolutely no reason to trust our convictions in these areas. After all, under this view, how can we trust anything we think to be true? Why should we carry a strong conviction about environmental issues? A Darwinist, if he is to be consistent, should admit it’s all just an illusion. The point is this, if there is no God, we should not trust any of our cognitive faculties at all.

But the problem for the Darwinist is that he does trust his cognitive faculties in areas he is most passionate about! He goes on about his every day life using his cognitive faculties and trusting them probably more than he trusts anything else. He has no real basis to say nature will go on regularly but he goes right on benefiting from nature’s regularity. He has no ultimate purpose for his social causes but he goes right on crusading for them.

However, if we believe God exists, we have every right to trust our cognitive faculties. We have every right to know the list of evidences for God is actually real. We can ground all the questions about the regularity of nature, moral obligations, helping the poor, or caring about God’s creation. Believers can crusade for justice and environmental stewardship because we have ultimate purpose in doing so.

Just like the bible states in Romans 1:19-20, everyone knows God is there. But isn’t it funny that those who deny him cannot actually live that way consistently?

How to Respond to Doubt

It’s probably safe to say that everyone has experienced thoughts of doubt concerning God and if he is really there.  I have had my own doubts from time to time.  Unfortunately, my doubting was sometimes labeled “sin.”

“How could a committed Christian ever doubt God?” they would ask.  I guess they thought that if I had some shred of doubt that I had backslidden or I wasn’t really a Christian.  That kind of response to a doubter can have devastating effects.  

One of my favorite biographies is Walter Isaacson’s account of the life of Steve Jobs.  Early in the book, Isaacson recounts that Jobs’ parents wanted him to be raised with a religious upbringing, so they took him to church. When Jobs was thirteen years old he came across a copy of Life magazine that had on its cover a picture of two starving children is Biafra. Jobs had been taught in church that God is all-knowing. He took the magazine to his pastor and asked if God knew about these starving children and what would happen to them. The pastor responded by saying that God knew about those children and that it was beyond Jobs’ understanding. This was not a sufficient answer for young Jobs. His pastor didn’t acknowledge Jobs’ doubts about God head-on. As a result, Jobs walked away from Christianity as a thirteen year old boy and the rest is history.

We can learn at least two things from this story. One, how not to deal with the doubts of young people and two, always being prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15). Jobs’ pastor had a golden opportunity to tell young Steve how we may not have all the answers to why bad things happen to innocent people, but Christianity does offer the best explanation to the origin and nature of the universe, the human condition, sin and evil in the world, and the redemptive power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Timothy Keller makes this remark about doubt: “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” We have good reasons to probe our doubts. After doing this we may learn to respond to tough questions. Perhaps Jobs’ pastor didn’t know how to respond to Jobs’ doubts because he never investigated the matter for himself. It’s hard to say. But one things remains, Steve Jobs was not in error to question why bad things happen under the watchful eye of our Creator God.

I want to focus on a couple of questions. Should we trust our doubts and can doubts actually help our faith to grow instead of hindering it? To address the first question we must understand that all doubts are a set of alternate beliefs. For example, a person may doubt Christianity is true because he has an alternate belief that there can’t be just one true religion. But notice that the person’s doubt rests on an assumption that there cannot be only one true religion. How does the person know for sure there cannot be only one true religion? In other words, the person’s doubt is really a leap of faith. So, the point is this:  if you have doubts about Christianity, put your doubts through the same rigorous tests as you do Christianity and you may find that your doubts aren’t very solid after all.

The question about our doubts helping us to grow our faith is found in the Bible. John the Baptist was a friend of Jesus and a mighty man of God. He was a prophet, a preacher, and the one who boldly announced Jesus’ arrival as the messiah. He saw the Spirit of God rest on Jesus, marking him as the Savior. John the Baptist had tremendous evidence for belief in Jesus as God incarnate. In fact, he was thrown into prison for his convictions.

Matthew chapter 11 reveals the doubting side of John the Baptist. He is sitting in prison with lots of time to think about things. After all the experiences he had since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had the audacity to send his friends to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah. Jesus’ response to John’s doubting is very important. Jesus didn’t condemn him or make fun of John. He told John’s friends to report to him the things they had just heard and seen–the blind seeing, the lame walking, the lepers cured, the deaf hearing, and the Gospel being preached. Jesus gave John good evidence to keep his faith. He didn’t call him a sinner or tell him he didn’t understand. John kept his faith for the rest of his life and was later beheaded.

Another famous Biblical doubter is Thomas. I think Thomas gets an undeserved negative reputation in the Bible. I happen to like Thomas. Him and I think a lot alike. In John chapter 20, after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus begins to appear alive again among his disciples. The disciples told Thomas about this encounter of seeing the resurrected Jesus and Thomas didn’t believe them. Thomas said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers in them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Wow! Those are some heavy demands. Not only does he want to see Jesus and his wounds, but he wants to actually put his fingers into Jesus’ nail holes! Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and his friends. Jesus did not condemn Thomas or tell him he was in sin. Rather, Jesus’ first words to Thomas were, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Incredible! Jesus provided Thomas with evidence to help him with his doubt. Thomas then proclaimed Jesus his “Lord and his God” and his faith was strengthened through his doubt.

We all come across doubts from time to time just like these giants in the Bible did. It’s important to stress that doubt and unbelief are not the same thing. Doubt can be described as questioning and looking for answers. You can doubt and still be a believer. Christians need to know how to deal with doubt and maybe more importantly, learn to help others navigate their doubts. Here’s some points on how we should and should not respond to doubt.

Ways to not respond to doubt:

  1. We should never tell a doubter, “don’t think about it.” Our beliefs demand that we have confidence in them. We should cultivate our beliefs and know that they are rational.
  2. We should never tell someone to, “just believe.” Beliefs must be developed with rationality behind them. A lifeguard doesn’t tell a drowning child to “just swim.”
  3. We should never tell someone to, “have blind faith.” Why not have blind faith in Buddha then? Blind faith is not Biblical faith. Biblical faith has behind it great evidence that gives us excellent reasons to live by it.

Good ways to respond to doubt:

  1. Develop a prayer life with God. Conversing with God himself can do wonders to help with your doubts. Just like Jesus helped John the Baptist and Thomas, he wants to help you and he will. Francis Schaeffer said, “God is there, and he is not silent.” Ask him to help you.
  2. Learn to reflect. Go over the great stories in the Bible about how God has always remained true to his Word and promises. Read the Bible and reflect on it.
  3. Whatever area of doubt you’re going through, study the subject. Maybe you’re dealing with the death of a loved one. There are many great resources on pain and suffering. Maybe the friction secular scientists try to lay upon Christianity has you doubting. Read up on it. There are many Christian scientists who address these things head-on.
  4. Develop friendships with people you can trust. Sometimes having a friend to bounce your doubts off of can open up discussion and you may find answers to your doubts.

Douglas Groothuis gave a talk some time ago on his own doubts. He had this to say:

I have found in the toughest times of life I sometimes do not experience the presence of God. God seems to be distant. But what I come back to is that Christianity is true. There are reasons to believe it.

And in my ministry, my career, I have tried to study every major worldview, reading primary sources, writing, debating, and having conversations. That was a process. It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t attain a high level of certainty the minute I became a Christian. That had to develop through questioning, through investigating, through conversations.

But I am a living example of someone who knows too much to walk away. Especially in the last year I have experienced some rather acute crises and suffering…But as bad as it gets and as angry as I can get at the Lord, I can’t deny that the Gospel is true. The Gospel has a firm and unyielding hold on me and I’m a Christian by the grace of God.

I agree.

Human Rights Come From God

I came across a video today where the Alabama Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was debating CNN morning anchor Chris Cuomo, who is the son of former NY governor Mario Cuomo, and the brother of current NY governor, Andrew Cuomo. In the video which I have posted below, Justice Moore contends that rights come from God.  Cuomo objects to the justice’s position rather strongly.  Not only does he wrongly object, but he constantly confuses rights and laws, which are not the same thing.  But in any case, whether Cuomo is using the word rights or the word laws, he is trying to argue that rights are not given by God, but that they “come from collective agreement and compromise.”  The nearby image I posted contains words from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in which the founders of the United States clearly affirm that human rights are endowed to us by the Creator, God. Moreover, those words were written by the very liberal Thomas Jefferson, who was merely a deist and not a monotheist in the historical Christian sense…and even he recognized our God-given unalienable rights.

Following that sentence in the Declaration, it says that the purpose of government’s existence is to secure these rights. The government can do this only if the people consent to it.

It is an extreme danger to think the way Cuomo thinks about human rights. In fact, it’s so dangerous we should be teaching our children from a very early age that human rights are not subjective to individuals or a community of people. For these very reasons are exactly how the Nazi’s and other murderous people attempted to excuse their evil, murderous acts.

Several months ago, I wrote about the subject of human rights and where they originate. I think this is an appropriate time to re-publish that article. I’m posting it below, just under the video clip of Justice Moore and Mr. Cuomo.  Please watch the short exchange before reading the re-post of my earlier article.

http://www.mrctv.org/embed/132978


From October 17, 2014

No kind of human “rights” can be created. True rights are always discovered. Think about it: if rights are simply created by majorities in the populace or majorities in legislative bodies or high and mighty judges, then we are admitting that human rights are subjective.

On this view, what happens to those “rights” when someday they are legislated out of existence by a new majority? What one generation considers a “right,” another generation may consider illegal, and vice versa.

It’s ridiculous to believe this way. Why? Because humans abide by objective, moral human rights in our daily lives. We know it’s wrong to torture babies for fun. Babies have a right to live free from torture and everyone knows it. No one has to legislate the immorality of that kind of behavior. But if rights and morality are simply created, then it may be ok for some other cultures to torture babies. Even if some strange people group adopts a culture of torturing babies, is it still objectively wrong? Of course it is.

What if in Nazi Germany, the majority of Nazis desired the right to eliminate the Jews? (Which they did!) Did the will of the majority make their actions commendable? Of course not. That’s not a true human “right.” It’s a desire to do what you please. Likewise, no matter what a specific individual may think about killing Jews or torturing babies, it’s still objectively wrong. Every. Single. Time.

Rights and morality are not something that came about by natural forces. For instance, take members of the animal kingdom. Is it wrong for them to kill to survive? No, it’s not wrong. Animals are amoral beings that do not have the ability to submit to obligations of “rights” and “morals.” But why do humans not follow the same “natural” behaviors like animals do? Why do humans have a sense of morality, altruism, and justice? It’s because we are a higher being made by God, in his image. These obligations to morality and rights can only be explained fully through the teachings in the Christian Bible. They make no rational sense whatsoever based on a naturalistic worldview.

Rights and morality are based on something far greater than the cultural trends of our time. True rights are not arbitrarily created based on current, trendy volitions. True rights and morality do not conform to human desire because human desire is flimsy. Instead, humans should conform to the objective morals and rights we know to be solid and true.

It’s important to think about the origination of true rights and morality before we can understand how to respond to laws imposed on us against our will. Christians need to know how to formulate rational positions for their worldview. Going around telling people they’re going to Hell isn’t always the best way to reach people with the truth. But having a rational, coherent reason (given in love) for the hope that is in you can be very effective.

Altruism and the Existence of God

Altruism is a behavior and feelings that show a desire to help others and show a lack of selfishness.  The reality of altruism is a huge problem for atheism and Darwinian evolution.  We know altruistic behavior has existed for as long as knowable human history.  An example of why this creates major problems for Darwinian evolutionists can be understood in the following examples.  A newspaper runs a story at Christmastime detailing the difficulties of a less fortunate family that is very needy.  A man reading the story is compelled to anonymously donate a large portion of money to this needy family to help them get through winter, to have necessities, and gives them the ability to provide some extra Christmas gifts to the children of the family.  This anonymous, altruistic action offers absolutely no kind of evolutionary advantage yet things like this happen all the time.  It stands to reason that, since this kind of behavior offers no evolutionary advantage, the trait of altruism should have disappeared long ago, if Darwinian evolution were true.

Consider the following story, which is true.  In May 2012, several groups of people were attempting to climb Mt. Everest as they do every year.  A young Israeli climber was nearing the summit when he came across another climber who had run into trouble.  This Turkish climber had fallen and lost most of his equipment, including his oxygen tank and his face mask.  He was clearly going to die very soon. The Israeli halted his ascent and spent several hours helping the distressed Turk back down Everest.  He saved the Turks life and lost three of his own fingers and four toes to frostbite.  He also lost his lifetime dream of reaching Everest’s summit.

In addition to all that, since May 2010, Turkey and Israel have been political enemies.  There is no love lost between these two countries.  So why did the Israeli risk his own life and give up his own dreams for such a self-less act?  It’s possible that he could have gained a better standing in the mating world had he had he been able to place “Everest Conqueror” on his dating resume.  The act did not do a thing to save and propagate his own DNA.  He did not save one of his relatives or even someone of his own ethnicity.  These are things that atheism cannot adequately answer.

What does atheism and Darwinian evolution have to say about this subject?  Natural selection tells the evolutionist that all humans strive to propagate their genes through future generations.  Some evolutionists claim that altruistic prestige that goes along with say, being a fireman, attracts healthy, beautiful females to altruistic males who, if they survive the risk of dying, have the ability to better propagate their genes over men who are less willing to risk their lives.  This is a flimsy argument on its own merit.  Oftentimes, complete slobs who are lazy and cowardly can attract beautiful women.  Maybe the slob has huge amounts of money from an inheritance or lottery winnings, as “luck” would have it.  Moreover, based on Darwinian evolution, it seems strange to me that any woman would want to reproduce with a man who consistently risks the gene pool by tempting death or giving away his family’s money to help others.  Let me be clear.  I understand things like this happen, it just doesn’t make sense based on Darwinian evolution.

Evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton has another explanation to the problem of altruism.  He claims that an altruistic person will still save his genes because he is more likely to rescue or die for his own kin.  He says you can save two of your children at the expense of your own life.  But if you’re saving cousins, your one life would have to save four cousins to make it worthwhile.  Or if you’re saving second cousins, you would have to sacrifice your one life for eight of your second cousins in order for the statistical formula to work and for your genes to be properly propagated.  These genetic computations seem very, very questionable.  Who would really be ready and willing to calculate these formulas in preparation for an altruistic action?

Geneticist E. O. Wilson has recently shied away from his lifelong belief that evolutionary processes could account for altruism.  He has begun to use an example that compares people to ants.  Ants will “choose” to assume roles that will shorten their own lives to enhance the colony.  But, as mathematician and the history of science research fellow at Boston University Amir Aczel asks, what is analogous to the human “colony?”  Is it one’s family, race, community, nation, etc.?  Aczel reminds us of examples of people jumping in icy water to save a dog or firemen rushing into a fiery building to save a cat.  Neither act will be beneficial to the “colony.”

People all over the world are paid modest wages to fight as soldiers and to serve as policemen and first responders. They do altruistic acts for people of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, etc. European Christians risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.  Soldiers form brotherly bonds that cause one another to fight to their death to save their comrades.  As Aczel (who is agnostic) points out, “To claim that these are acts that propagate one’s own genes would seem preposterous.”

So what could be the cause of this kind of behavior?  The answer to me is very simple.  It is caused by decency and goodness that is rooted in a decent and good God who upholds all of creation (Col 1:17, Psalm 100:5).  Christians have a great deal of evidences for objective morals rooted in God such as goodness, selflessness, kindness, and generosity.  We are friends of a good God (James 2:23) and friends and helpers to one another (Matt 5:42).  Christians have very good evidence for God’s existence, the truth and authenticity of the Bible, and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.  If we follow the evidence where it leads without a presupposed worldview, we can find the answers to many, if not all, of our questions.

 

(Some of the material in this article has been adapted from the book by Amir D. Aczel, Why Science Does Not Disprove God (New York: HarperCollins, 2014).

 

 

Is the Mind the Brain? A Christian Apologetic (Updated)

The subject of this writing is something that comes up fairly often.  The assertion made by the atheist to the Christian is that minds cannot exist without brains.  We must be very concise in how we respond to this assertion.  Christians do not necessarily claim that the mind does not use the brain and the brain does not use the mind.  The claim a Christian should make is that the mind and the brain are two separate things.  Claiming anything more or less than that is unnecessary.  Let me define something before moving forward.  For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the terms mind and soul interchangeably.  The main thing we are looking at here is the differences in the material (the brain) and the immaterial (whether that’s the soul or the mind).

The first thing that must be pointed out when discussing this matter is that science cannot really do much of anything to help us answer the question.  All science can do is show that X causes Y, or that Y depends on X.  To illustrate this think about the self-driving cars being tested by Google.  Let’s say you tell the car GPS where you want to go and sit back in your seat to relax until you arrive.  So this car is required for your transportation.  You are dependent on it.  Likewise, the car is dependent on you to tell it what to do.  You are not the car and the car is not you but you both need each other to reach your ends.  Now let’s say the car breaks down and you are trapped inside.  If you couldn’t escape the car, you would be dead for all intents and purposes.  But, if you can remove yourself from the car, you can get around again.  So, in this case your body is not the same thing as the mechanism that was transporting you.  I want to show that souls (and minds) and physical bodies are like this.  The soul (and mind) uses the body but when the body breaks down, you leave the body and still exist.  Your self-consciousness lives in a body but is not the body.  This is a basic description for how a Christian describes a soul.

Ok, back to showing how this matter cannot be answered by science.  A well-known atheist by the name of Peter Atkins claims, “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”  This type of thinking is called “scientism,” which I consider a sort of religious viewpoint.  If Atkins claim is actually true then there are many disciplines that we should toss out the window such as literature, poetry, art, music, ethics, and philosophy.  How can science tell us that the Mona Lisa is a work of genius? Science can tell you that adding poison to someone’s drink can kill them but it cannot answer whether the act was right or wrong.

The physical brain

The great Oxford mathematician, philosopher of science, and bioethicist, John Lennox gives us an example of how science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.  He tells the story of his Aunt Matilda baking a beautiful cake and the cake is submitted to top scientists for analysis.  The nutritionists will calculate the calories and tell us its effect on the body.  The biochemists will tells us about the structure of the fats and proteins in the cake.  The chemists will describe the elements involved in their bonding.  The physicists will analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles.  The mathematicians will offer equations to describe the behavior of those particles.  After all of this can we say the cake is completely explained?  We know the how of everything but suppose someone wanted to know why the cake was made.  Aunt Matilda knows she made the cake for a purpose, but not a single scientist in the world can tell why she made it.  Unless Aunt Matilda tells us, they are powerless.  Science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose.  Moreover, it’s absurd to say that because Aunt Matilda made the cake for her nephew who just earned his degree, that we must dismiss purpose as an illusion because science cannot deal with it.

There are many things that are far outside of scientific explanation.  Two big ones are laws of logic and laws of nature.  Science could not even happen without the scientist presupposing laws of logic and laws of nature.  C.S. Lewis once said, “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”  Science simply cannot explain these things.  The main point is that science deals with the materialistic world but there are clearly immaterial things in the world.  To name a few:  laws of logic, laws of nature, love, guilt, emotions, reason, etc.  If everything can be reduced to materials as atheists insist, then the atheist has a huge problem on his hands.

Darwin knew this.  He even admitted that his ideas on evolution are bunk if a human soul exists, that is to say an immaterial being that exists apart from the physical body.  Macro evolution rests on a foundational presupposition that immaterial minds do not exist.  That is why atheists must cling fervently to the idea that there is no mind, but just a moist brain.  Perhaps Obama would refer to them as “bitter clingers.”  If there is an immaterial mind, their dogma on evolution is false!  It is presuppositional belief.  Remember this!

Now that we know this topic is outside the realm of science we can discuss whether the mind and the brain are the same thing.  One way we can know this is not the case is by showing the mind is not materialistic like the brain.  If it was, then you would be an entirely different being today than you were 15 years ago.  We know the brain changes molecules completely about every 7 to 15 years.  So if your mind was completely material, it would not be the same as it was 15 years ago, but yet, you are the same being with the same personality.

Think about this:  Let’s say scientists are experimenting on your brain and they prod it in different areas.  They may prod one area and it conjures up a memory.  They may prod another area and it may conjure up an image of your sister wearing a pink dress.  Now, if your mind was just as physical as your brain, the scientist should not have to ask you what is in your mind during the experiment.  It seems somehow, somewhere he could dig around in your brain and find the image of your sister in a pink dress.  But he cannot.  That’s silly.  Furthermore, no one is aware of their physical brain.  The subject would never say, “Oh, I just felt a molecule line up when you prodded and it corresponded to my sister in a pink dress.”  So, you are unaware of your physical brain, but you are certainly aware of what’s going on inside you.

Humans can experience two types of sensations.  One type is an awareness detected by the five senses.  The other is awareness not detected by the senses such as fear, love, anger, and thoughts.  These types of sensations can be described using words and can be true or false.  Physical states cannot be true or false but thoughts can.  Mental states in the mind do not have size or shape and are not spatially located.  Everything about the brain runs counter to all of this.  The brain is completely physical.  A scientist may have more knowledge about my brain than I do but he can never have more knowledge about my thoughts, emotions, and mental state than I do.  I know what my thoughts and feelings are but a scientist can never inspect these things.

There is no amount of information in my moist, physical brain that can tell a person who I am, my dispositions, and my personality.  If I am just a brain then others ought to be able to know everything about me by prodding around in my brain.

If I am only a brain and do not have a mind, then all my behaviors, intentions, and decisions, are fixed by my brain, genes, and environmental input.  Physical objects always, always, always obey natural laws and inputs, therefore if I am only a material brain then I am simply reacting to molecular reactions based on natural laws.  If this were the case I would have absolutely ZERO grounds to claim free will.  I would no longer be personally responsible for my actions, whether good or bad.  And on top of that, I wouldn’t be able to freely type this article!!  But, as the empirical evidence shows, free will does exist and it requires that we are more than just a physical brain reacting to the laws of nature.  Therefore, I am a mind and soul that has a physical body.

When we are asked a specific question such as, “What is your middle name?” we can answer that question specifically.  How can blind, repetitive laws of nature explain our ability to answer such a question?  Should we think that molecules magically line up in the proper way by blind, repetitive laws to respond accurately?  That’s the height of absurdity!  We have the intelligence and intentionality to answer correctly.  Mere physical objects cannot do things like this.  A rock is just a rock.  It does nothing but exist as a rock.  If humans are simply materialistic beings, then why should we believe we have any more of an ability to reason than a rock?

Concerning the placebo effect, it’s always funny to see the atheists squirm with this one.  To put it in basic terms, it’s mind over matter.  A person in severe pain can be told he will be administered pain medicine.  He believes this to be that case when the doctor actually gives him a sugar pill to swallow.  Studies show that in up to 45% of patients, the mere thoughts in their mind of getting what they think is actual medicine will cause their pain to subside.  Likewise, the mind can cause the body to deteriorate quickly when consumed by depressive thinking and mental stress.  This makes no sense if the mind is physical.  The publication New Scientist magazine listed the placebo effect as number ONE on its list of “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.”  Well of course it doesn’t make sense if you approach the matter from presuppositional Darwinian evolution dogma!

When Christians claim to have a soul separate from the body the atheists get very, very militant.  And earlier I showed why.  They think this is superstition when in fact they are the superstitious ones!  They are the ones who believe their creator magically popped into existence out of nothing by nothing by chance.  And by the way, chance is not a cause.  It’s a way to describe mathematical possibilities or to gloss over ignorance on a particular matter that can’t be answered on atheism, a sort of “God of the gaps” for the atheists.  Speaking of nothing, atheistic evangelist Daniel Dennett claims consciousness is an illusion.  Now think about that for a minute.  In order to detect an illusion you would have to see and know what is actually real!  LOLOLOLOL.  So apparently he exempts himself from his own theory.  I wonder when he wrote that nonsense if he sat there and thought, “You know, every truth claim I believe and am writing is an illusion.”  Let’s hear him talk about that on his book tour!

Daniel Dennett

It’s important to point out that the notion of the mind being the same as the brain is not a mainstream scientific idea.  This notion is popular in atheistic circles but there are plenty of scientists who don’t buy it, rightly so.  Nobel Prize winning neuroscience professor John Eccles supported the theory that the mind is a separate entity from the brain and cannot be “reduced down to the brain cell processes.”  That’s just one Nobel Prize winner.  There are hundreds if not thousands of search engine results with some great peer-reviewed resources showing how science is baffled by this subject.  And it will stay baffled for reasons we discussed.  It’s really not a scientific issue, but I digress.

So this notion of mind and brain is very easy to discern.  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thought (pun intended).  Remember, to be a consistent atheist, materialism must be true.  To be a consistent atheist, the mind cannot be immaterial.  Former world-famous atheist Antony Flew had something to say on the matter.  He said, “Science cannot discover the self; the self discovers science.”  Perhaps, that is partly why he became a former atheist.