Posts Tagged With: apologetics

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How God’s Word, and the True Religion, May Be Recognized

There are three general Characters whereby we may know any Word to be the Word of God; and a Religion to be the true Religion. 1. That which doth most set forth the glory of God. 2. That which doth direct us to a rule which is a perfect rule of holinesse toward God, and righteousnesse to men. 3. That which shows us a means suitable to God’s glory and men’s necessity, to reconcile us to God. The word of God sets forth God’s glory in all the perfections, and is a compleat rule.

Leigh, Body of Divinity, quoted in Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. I, 435.

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Takeaway from Creation/Evolution Debate 2/4/14; Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye

Today Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, faced off in a debate at the Creation Museum just over the Kentucky line from Cincinnatti, OH on the topic of “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?

I thought Ken Ham did a good job answering the questions rationally, and continually pointing the viewers to Christ.  He was putting presuppositions in the forefront, using the transcendental argument.  He showed that the interpretation of the existing data is subject to the prior assumptions made by either Creationists, or Evolutionists, coloring the conclusions, but that only the Creationist view satisfactorily accounts for the scientific evidence.  Ham pointed out the limits of “observational science”, making a distinction between what may be observed and repeated and a theory of origins, which falls into a category that he termed “historical science.”  This is largely the same point that I have been making, for example: here, that empirical science cannot yield a theory of origins.  Bill Nye was cheerful, sincere, and predictable in defending evolution from a naturalistic perspective, which assumes that only natural processes as we know and observe them are responsible for the origin of the universe as we know it.  He didn’t know Ken’s position nearly as well as Ken knew his, which was at times painfully obvious.  But that is to be expected.  I’m sure Nye doesn’t read creationists much, whereas Ham’s ministry is largely responding to evolutionists.  At times Nye said some outlandish things about the Bible and his debating opponent.  I got excited a few times when Nye delved into biblical or theological topics, like God’s judgment upon those who have not heard the gospel, and the transmission of the Holy Scriptures down through the ages, but alas, there was not time in the debate for Ham to respond to all of his cliché objections to biblical Christianity, all of which could have been very easily answered by any well-informed Christian.

I couldn’t help but notice how Nye, playing the quintessential naturalist, reveled excitedly in not knowing the answer to very basic questions about human life and the universe, like where energy and matter came from, and how life and consciousness developed.  Ham responded a few times by saying, “You know there’s a book that’s been published which gives us the answer to that question…”  Nye was like a man digging through machine rubble in a big box, trying to reconstruct where it all came from, amid broken and missing pieces.  Another man (Ken Ham) is trying to show him the bicycle owner’s manual delivered with the box, which has a diagram of the entire construction, but he won’t look at it.  Yet he’s just giddy about what he might discover if he keeps digging through the rubble.

View the entire debate video recording here.

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The proper use of reason and philosophy in theological discourse …

The proper use of reason and philosophy in theological discourse rests upon recognition of their place and the limits of their competence. Truth, comments Turretin, cannot be set against truth–rather, one truth may transcend another. Thus truths of sense stand below truths of reason (infra rationem), truths of the intellect in immediate relation to truths of reason (juxta rationem), and truths of faith above those of reason (supra rationem). Once this pattern is recognized and the hierarchy of truth acknowledged, then rational truth can be used in theological discourse: “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, nor does supernatural revelation abrogate the natural, but cleanses it.”

turretin

Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. I, 387.

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Truth is one and simple…

Truth is one and simple, whether conveyed by theology or by philosophy, and is true consistently wherever it is presented (for indeed the distinction of discipline does not multiply truth). Therefore truth is not contrary to itself whether presented in theology or in philosophy.

Bartholomaus Keckermann, quoted in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Richard A. Muller, 385.

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The Overreach of Evolutionary Science

Pourbus_Francis_BaconThe scientific method was pioneered by men like Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a devout Christian who believed in the supernatural, yet was able to outline and test some founding principles upon which scientific discoveries could be made to learn more about the natural world and its processes.  Through the use of objective methodologies to observe and predict theories concerning the natural world, wonderful discoveries have been made and life on earth for humans has been measurably improved.  We have also been able to learn quite a bit more about the world around us.  Yet observing the world around us, how it works, and according to what laws it operates cannot tell us precisely how any of these things originated.  On this question, nature is silent.  There are many signs pointing to an Intelligent Designer, like the uniformity and universality of its laws, and the overall order and harmony of nature.  Yet we cannot learn much more than that from nature.  Here is where evolutionary science is flawed.  It attempts to connect the dots of the observed phenomena in nature to provide a theory of origins, but it cannot accurately reconstruct the origin of anything of significance in the universe (separate classes and species of animals, stars, natural laws, etc.) because there were no modern scientists present to observe when the universe was formed.  Science was never meant to answer such a question.  If natural scientists were honest, they would admit that although the universe points to a universal Creator and Designer, for the answer as to how precisely, how long ago, over what length of time, and in what order it was all created, we have to look elsewhere.  Science was not designed to answer those questions, and so it cannot.  The natural world doesn’t tell us.  The answer to this question requires supernatural revelation.  For scientists to try to answer the question, “how did it all get here?” is to step beyond their available data, operating principles, and field of expertise.  In evolution, natural science has bitten off more than it can chew.

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Debate: The God of the Bible is true and every other way of thinking is false. Let me prove it.

Ok, I must be in a debating mood.  This is the first official debate being held on the highplainsparson blog.  If you disagree with me, I want to hear from you.  Let’s be friendly but take it seriously.  And let’s be rational.  Here it goes.

Argument:  God is the true God.  Not just any god or religion is true, but the God of Christianity, the God who gave us the 66 books of Scripture.  Every other philosophy, system of thought, worldview, or religion is false.  This can be demonstrated without much trouble.

For the purpose of this debate, I will use the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG)–The proof for the God of the Bible, is the impossibility of the contrary.

In other words, God as revealed in Scripture is the only principle that can accurately account for the world as we know it.  Let’s debate.  I want to hear from you.  If you disagree, why and how?  I will do my best to respond and refute all competing claims.  I’ll let you go first.

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J. H. Heidegger on The Usefulness of The Natural Knowledge of God to The Unregenerate

In the contemporary debates between proponents of presuppositional vs. classical apologetics, it is often asserted that the classical apologetic arguments, which are based on what can be known of God from nature and human reason, are of no use.  In contrast to this viewpoint, the classical Reformed theologians, while affirming that such arguments drawn from natural theology cannot save anyone; affirmed that they are nonetheless useful:

heidegger“Even though it is not salvific, comments Heidegger, the natural knowledge of God (notitia Dei naturalis) ought not to be dismissed as useless:  it leaves the contentious and obstreperous among the unregenerate without excuse before God (Rom. 1:20) and provides those not yet regenerate but searching in nature for God and salvation with the capability of sensing and discovering the presence of God (Acts 17:27).”  Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol I, p. 304.

Here, as quoted by Muller, the Swiss theologian Johann Heinrich Heidegger affirms two uses of natural theology to the natural unbelieving man.  First of all, it leaves him without excuse for sin, thereby magnifying the justice of God in condemning sinners.  Secondly, it gives him a sense that there is a God who exists.  While of course this sense of God’s existence derived from a natural knowledge of God will not save him, it may serve to help awaken him to his condition (i. e. being under God’s condemnation) and in this way prepare the ground for the saving good news of the Redeemer when he hears it.  So, while the transcendental argument of the presuppositionalists has its place in apologetics; the classical arguments drawn from natural theology have their use as well, even for the unregenerate.

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The Atheist Challenge (and for other skeptics)

Skeptics love to bash the Bible, with little or no knowledge of it.  Maybe they once read a book by an Old Testament scholar claiming that parts of the Hebrew Bible have pagan origins.  Or maybe they’re repeating a claim to a contradiction or other oddity someone seems to have found in the Bible, or took a college class on comparative religion.  Then you have the drug babies (momma “drug” me to church as a kid.)  Too often, it is quite evident that either 1. They have never read the Bible themselves or 2. They have read it only superficially and lazily, looking for ammo against it without trying very hard to comprehend what they were reading.

But, if  you are an atheist, agnostic, non-religious, or otherwise skeptical of the Bible, is this intellectually honest?  The Bible claims to be God’s word for man.  If you’re going to go around calling that claim false, wouldn’t it be a good idea for you to know what you’re debunking?

I’m issuing a challenge to all skeptics of the Bible (atheist, agnostic, non-religious, non-Christian, etc.)

90U-2-3-1

1. Read the Bible once through, in its entirety, without notes or commentary.  When you do so, take an honest scientific approach to the literature, and try to understand its message on its own terms.  Be as unbiased and open-minded as possible.  After all, you don’t want your presuppositions to color the conclusion.  That would be very un-scientific.

2. Secondly, find a church that takes the Bible seriously.  I mean, very seriously.  One that doesn’t just give the Bible lip service, but makes a genuine attempt to proclaim it from the pulpit and live it among the membership.  (I’d be happy to select the church for you, if you tell me the area where you live.) Attend there once per week during the time that you are reading the Bible.  Go to a worship service where the Bible is preached.  You are not required to participate in the songs, prayers, offerings, etc.  This part of the challenge is important because the Bible is intended not only to be read privately, but to be preached amid an assembly.  That’s where its power lies.  If you have not tried this recently, you are not in a place to criticize it.

Once you have finished reading through the Bible one time while attending church weekly, you have completed the challenge.  Then come back and tell me your view.

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Why Our World Cannot Be Explained Without the Trinity

Human philosophy is at a loss when it comes to explaining the world we live in.  As human beings, we experience both unity and diversity in our world.  Unity is observed in what we all have in common as humans: in common dreams, hopes, fears, struggles.  Our brains tend to follow similar patterns of logic.  We can read a news report about a person from an entirely different culture, who speaks a different language, and sense a commonality with that person.  We can even empathize with her if her parents have been ruthlessly murdered in cold blood, or be happy for her if she wins a prize.  This commonality bespeaks an underlying unity to mankind.  There is an underlying unity between human beings, and this also allows for communication from one person to another.  The English language, for example, works as a way for me to convey the ideas I am now expressing because there is enough unity among human beings that we can assign common definitions to words and convey meaning to one another.  I can type in a way that the reader can understand, and this points to an essential unity in human existence.  Although English is only one of many human languages, any human can learn English with enough practice. This unity between human beings is also seen in many ways in the world around us, like when a bird helps pick insects from a rhino, an act of mutual cooperation which benefits both, and when ants communicate with each other to alert the colony of an approaching green lizard.  Diversity is seen in the multiplicity of all that exists in our world.  The many stars in their own different solar systems, the diversity of lifeforms on earth from infectious bacteria to wrinkled Grey Elephants, and the diversity of human races, languages, and individual opinions are all manifestations of diversity in our world.  What are we to make of the fact that the world is unified and that it is diverse at the same time?

Human philosophy, which tries to make sense of the universe around us, has attempted to explain, account for, or understand how our world can be both unified and diverse, as shown in the examples described.  After all, if the world were only unity, how could we have so many different dog species, or flavors of barbecue sauce?  If it were only diversity, we could not even have a discussion because there would be no common understandings of words or their meanings.  How are we to make sense of all this?  As human beings we see diversity all around us in the world we inhabit, but we have an intuitive sense of an underlying unity which is behind it all. The great Greek philosopher of the ancient world, Plato, tried different methods of thinking in attempts to explain the unity and diversity in the world. But each time he failed, because the diversity that we experience in the world around us would not give him any clues as to where the perceived unity has its foundation. Modern thinking has not been able to get any farther in solving the problem of the unity and diversity in the universe than Plato did. If only the material world exists, and the supernatural is a fiction, as some today would say, then where does the underlying unity, that we perceive intuitively, come from? Universal laws of human behavior, the laws of physics, laws of grammar, etc. point to a unity underlying them all. The modern thinker just can’t explain this other than just to shrug and say it must exist somehowi.

The riddle of the unity and diversity in our world is only solvable by the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Since the Creator of the Universe is a Trinity, that is, one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from all eternity, He is the root of the unity and diversity that exists in our world. Since our world is a reflection of Him, and He is one God in three Persons, therefore it is easy to see how our world can exhibit such unity and diversity at the same time. Conceptions of God like that of Islam, which teaches that God is only one person, not three, cannot account for the wide diversity in the world that we experience. How could such a diverse world be created by a monolithic god? Materialism, which takes all its cues from the physical world around us, cannot explain the unity which under-girds us. Only the Bible with its teaching of a God who is One in Three can make sense of the world that we live in. And although we cannot fully understand the Trinity, yet we can see that the unity of essence and diversity of persons in God is the root of the unity and diversity that we experience here below.

i  I am indebted in my thinking on this topic to the published works of Conelius Van Til, 1885-1987.

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