Existence of God

Weariness and the Existence of God

2015 proved to be one of the most wearying years of my life. As a family we had to contend with my father having a major illness that eventually led to his death in August and the aftermath of that event as we put his affairs in order. Personally, I was involved in teaching multiple classes at church and on a local college campus, doing maintenance both at home and at my parent’s house since my dad was too sick to do so himself, and involved in a major writing project that required six months of intense research. On top of this I also changed jobs after eleven years in the same position.

As we closed in on Christmas it was a fair assessment to say that I was weary. Not the weariness that comes after a hard day’s work, but the weariness that extends all the way to the soul. The weariness that eliminates the desire to do anything of importance. The weariness that robs the mind and heart of strength and desire. The weeks before and after Christmas proved to be a blessing as the focus on Christ’s incarnation and future return helped to rejuvenate and refresh my soul. (more…)

Why the Resurrection is Important

Have you ever given any thought to what the world would be like if the Wright Brothers had never invented the airplane? While aerodynamics had been a problem that had been worked on stretching back to the 16th century, it was the Wright Brothers that brought us the plane and all that has been born out of their endeavors; the good and the bad; discovery and destruction. I would venture a guess that flight has brought us far more than anything Orville and Wilber ever imagined: from bi-planes and tri-planes to prop and jet engine aircraft, from rocketry and spacecraft, to landing on the moon, sending a rover to Mars, pictures of Pluto, satellite television, GPS technology, cellular phones, and so much more.

Now imagine life with none of that.

Have you ever given any thought to what Christianity would be like if the resurrection had never happened? First and foremost, according to the apostle Paul, there would not even be a Christian faith, much less an apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, and 19, Paul states that if the resurrection had never happened then our “preaching is vain,” our “faith is vain,” our “faith is worthless,” we are “still in our sins” (there is no such thing as forgiveness), and “we are of all men most to be pitied.”

Allow me to just list some of what is lost to Christianity if the resurrection did not occur (this is not an all-inclusive list):

  • Jesus could not be considered deity (Romans 1:1-4)
  • Jesus would be a false prophet (failed prophecy to rise again – Matthew 27:63, 64; 28:6; Mark 8:31; 9:9, 10, 31; 10:34; Luke 18:33; 24:6, 7)
  • No sending of the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit (John 15:26, 16:7, 13)
  • No Pentecost (Acts 2)
  • No conversion of James, the half-brother of Jesus (no other explanation has been given for James’ conversion other than an encounter with his resurrected sibling)
  • No Damascus Road conversion of Saul of Tarsus (thus, no Apostle Paul – Acts 9)
  • No gospel
  • No command to go into all the world and make disciples (Jesus made this statement after his resurrection and just before his ascension – Matthew 28:19-20)
  • No preaching in Acts (all the sermons and sermon summaries in Acts either explicitly or implicitly reference the death, burial, and resurrection)
  • No establishment of the church (see Acts)
  • No letters written by Paul (we would be missing a large portion of the New Testament)
  • No forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 15:17)
  • No intercessory prayer on our behalf (John 14:8-14)
  • No defeat of death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
  • No future resurrection to look forward to for us / no hope (1 Corinthians 15:18)
  • No second coming or coming on the clouds (Jesus would need to be alive in order to return – I think this point is fairly obvious)
  • No Judgment (Acts 17:31)
  • No baptism (Romans 6:1-11)
  • We do not receive grace (Romans 1:1-6)
  • No salvation (Romans 1:16)
  • No faith (Romans 1:16-17)
  • No justification by faith (Romans 5:1)
  • We are still slaves to sin, under the law (Romans 6:14)

I will stop the list here. Although there is more that could be added, the point is abundantly clear: if there was no resurrection of Jesus, then there is nothing remotely close to Christianity that would have even gotten off the ground. Remember – the first century church was founded upon the preaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The resurrection: it is more than just an historical event to defend.

The Kalam (Part 1)

One of my favorite arguments for God’s existence is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). It consists of two premises that lead to a logically deductive conclusion with significant theistic implications. The syllogism goes as follows:

1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2- The universe began to exist.

3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.

(more…)

The Resurrection – An Introduction

“He is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”

This was the call and response of the early church as well as how Christians greeted one another. The resurrection was such a central part of their lives that they would greet one another with this reminder. But is the resurrection any less central to the church and our faith today? With the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, have modern Christians come to the disbelief that a dead person can rise again? Tragically, yes. They view the resurrection as something either metaphorical or spiritual only. They would deny the physical resurrection of the body and even worse, have those who believe in such things to deny it as well. But what one often finds is that seemingly new objections to core Christian beliefs are not new at all. This is the same polemic Paul argued against in 1 Corinthians 15. And the good news is that our answer today is the exact same as Paul’s was then: we can offer up historical evidence that shows the resurrection of Jesus happened as recorded; that the same body that went down to the grave is the same one that came up, albeit transformed.

So what is the evidence? We can cite the following twelve facts that naturalistic theories cannot explain in total: (1) Jesus died by Roman crucifixion; (2) He was buried, most likely in a private tomb; (3) Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, despondent, and bereaved, having lost hope; (4) Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his burial; (5) The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus; (6) Due to those experiences, the disciples’ lives were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief; (7) The proclamation of the resurrection took place very early, at the beginning of church history; (8) The disciples’ public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before; (9) The Gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus; (10) Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping; (11) James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, was converted when, he believed, he saw the risen Jesus; (12) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.[1]

Whatever happens, the church must stand firm in the resurrection for as the resurrection goes, so goes Christianity with it.

“He is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”


 

1 Reference for the 12 facts of the resurrection were taken from the following source: Gary R. Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), 9-10.

What is Scientific Apologetics?

Scientific apologetics is a sub-category of Christian apologetics in which apologists seek to employ scientific understanding, principles, and discoveries within the natural world to strengthen claims of God’s existence and to remove intellectual obstacles that challenge a full understanding of the Christian Scriptures and gospel.

Scientific apologetics is an appeal to scientific discoveries, methodologies, and principles in order to harmonize a rational understanding of the general revelation of God in nature (according to Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-4) and the special revelation of God through Scripture. It may be utilized to show how the rationality of theological arguments and understanding are similar to those within the scientific or natural sciences. Additionally, it can be employed to bring the Scriptures and scientific understanding into a more harmonious relationship. Three ways of relating science and Christian theology that assimilate scientific apologetics are independence, dialogue, and integration (more about these below).[1]

Galileo, like many other scientists of Christian faith, thought that God’s revelation in nature and God’s revelation in Scripture would never conflict, since God was the author of both. Pursuing the truth about God and all of creation in both books, that of nature and that of the Scripture, can help us come to a fuller understanding of truth and reality.

The two books of nature and Scripture may speak to different and separate realms of knowledge, and allowing each a separate or non-overlapping domain of authority is a way of relating the two known as independence. Allowing scientific understanding to inform scriptural interpretation or seeking scriptural insight into interpretation of scientific findings is a way of relating science and Christianity known as dialogue. Greater harmony between scientific understanding of the natural world and the literal meaning of Scripture is sought by some and is a way of relating the two known as integration (or concordism). Depending on one’s Christian theology and scientific perspective one may employ scientific apologetics to support the relationship of independence, dialogue, or various forms of integration.

In an age and culture where science is often seen as an ultimate source of knowledge and progress, scientific apologetics can be a very useful tool in the apologist’s tool belt. But one should take great care not to arrogantly appeal to any particular scientific principle; science is a field of nearly constant change, as limited knowledge is revised and progresses through new experimentation and ongoing discoveries. Nevertheless, if one maintains a posture of intellectual humility in pursuing truth, the Christian apologist can be certain and confident that God’s book of nature and the biblical Scriptures will never conflict when both are understood and interpreted correctly. Where the two seem to contradict each other we can be sure we are misinterpreting one, or the other, or both.

An apparent contradiction between the two also suggests that one should ask whether science is being stripped of its definitive role as a method of examining the natural world and wrongly extrapolated into a philosophical commitment that states only the natural world is real. This philosophical commitment, not itself grounded in nor testable by science, is known as scientism.  Scientists who assert that only the natural world is real are making a philosophical statement not a scientific statement. Scientific apologetics appeals to science within its definitive role. It takes scientific data to support premises in philosophical arguments that lead to logical conclusions with supernatural implications or theistic significance.[2]

[1]  Ian Barbour describes four ways to relate science and religion: conflict, independence, dialogue and integration in Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (Harper SanFrancisco, ©1997).

[2]  My special thanks to Ginny Franklin (Biola MASR, 2013)  and Tim Stratton (Biola MACA, 2014) for input and critique of this post.