Ethics: The Case For A Good God

If God Is So Good, Why So Much Evil?

In the last post, we saw why the undeniable existence of evil does nothing to undermine the case for the existence of God. On the contrary, the fact that we can identify evil in the world is proof that there must be some kind of objective standard for calling it so — and that objective Standard is what we call God.

But that doesn’t end the debate (in case you haven’t noticed). There’s a reason this whole topic is usually referred to as “the problem of evil.” It’s a problem for sure. But remember, it’s a problem for everyone and everyone wants an explanation. The point of the last post was to show that evil eliminates atheism as an explanation because atheism can’t explain the basis for judging anything as evil in the first place. It turns out atheism has no basis for saying anything is wrong, or bad, or evil beyond the fact that atheists don’t like it.

Evil is proof that God exists.

Theism is the only game in town but it leaves us with the burden of trying to understand — with all the evil things we see go on in the world — why a good God is more plausible than an evil God?

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Ethics: The Reality Of Objective Good

Evil Proves God

“Ethics” sits at the base of our diagram for a reason: If you have any intention of training yourself or others to defend the truth of Christianity, this topic is the most likely source of skepticism, disillusionment, debate, and objection you will ever encounter. Why is there evil in the world if God is so good? How could a good God allow all this pain and suffering? Who are you to say what’s right and wrong?

You will confront this issue in various forms but, no matter how it is presented to you, there are two main points that you should always keep in mind as you attempt to address them.

  1. Complaints about evil assume that there is actual evil in the world.
  2. Every worldview needs to be able to explain it.

It is vitally important that you always keep these two points tied together because every complaint you will ever hear used to argue against God’s existence, or to justify some moral point of view other than the theistic one, violates one of them. The goal (as always) is to show that theism is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of evil in the world and for our ethical solutions to our moral dilemmas.

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A Way To Simplify The Big Picture

The Cumulative Case for Christianity

If you want to be able to train others — even if it’s just your own family — to be able to make the case for the truth of Christianity, you have to understand it yourself. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you do that. I will share the best ones I know of in the series of posts that follow. But before I start, I want to offer a “big picture” that you can always keep in the back of your mind as you think about the different categories of evidence. If you’re anything like me, pictures help do that. So, I have tried to simplify things in the diagram at right.

This is simply a way to organize the evidence in your mind’s eye.

Foundational Evidence For Theism

The brown categories at the bottom of the diagram offer us the basic evidence for the existence of some kind of a theistic God — a God who is real and interacts with the universe in which we live. I have boiled this down into three basic categories that give evidence for the type of God who is a personal, moral agent who must exist outside the physical universe, but is also able to act within it. The evidence contained in these three foundational categories is the only explanation for the following characteristics of our world:

  • It is a world in which we all recognize that real, moral truths exist and that they are constantly being violated
  • It is an actual, physical thing that came into existence sometime in the finite past
  • Whatever/whoever caused the beginning of the universe could not have been a part of the physical universe itself
  • It is designed to allow for, and sustain, the existence of living things
  • Some of those living things are beings who have moral, mental, and physical attributes

Obviously, there is a lot to each of these topics and I will provide resources to support each of them, but the takeaway is simply that our claim to believe that there is a God is not based on some kind of wishful thinking or irrational hope. It is based on evidence — concrete evidence about the way the world actually is.

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“That ‘Nones’ May Not Perish”

Click on the picture at left to listen to my interview with Melanie Cogdill of the Postmodern Realities Podcast about who the “nones” are and how we can think about trying to reach them.

Date: September 10, 2017
Appearance: “That ‘Nones’ May Not Perish”
Outlet: Postmodern Realities Podcast #49
Format: Podcast

The Cries That Bind

Why Doubt Puts Us In Good Company

Twenty years ago, on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana died in a tragic crash in Paris in a car with her boyfriend while her husband and two children waited for her in London. Five days later, Mother Teresa of Calcutta died due to complications that apparently developed after a decades-long battle with heart disease that worsened with her contracting malaria the year prior. Over the next three months Princess Diana graced the covers of the major news magazines Newsweek and others at least nine times. The world grieved. Her story led the evening news every night and her funeral was broadcast live to millions. Sir Elton John even re-wrote a song for her.

Meanwhile, Mother Teresa barely warranted mention in the news tsunami that left her swamped behind the flash and glitz of the princess. This said more about our cultural values than Mother Teresa ever could have said herself.

But this week that changed. Suddenly, Mother Teresa is newsworthy … the lead story no less … cover material. This week Mother Teresa has even supplanted the backwash tsunami of the ten-year remembrance of Diana’s death. But it is not the ten-year remembrance of Mother Teresa that the press has found so marketable. It is not even a belated appreciation for her 60 years of work with the poor and dying in India.

No, what is so tantalizingly important about her now is that she had a “crisis of faith” that has recently been revealed in letters which she had specifically requested not be made public, but rather destroyed. (Funny how the press’s commitment to its sources’ privacy changes from time to time — especially when they can scoop a story like this one). The hook, you see, is that Mother Teresa, a world-renown icon of religious commitment, sometimes questioned her faith.

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We’re Being Followed By A Moonshadow

On The Eerie Perfection of Our Moon

There are several elements to the “coincidence” of our ability to observe a “perfect” solar eclipse that Jay Richards points out in his newest post on the topic:

Jay Richards: – “Perfect Eclipses: Coincidence or Conspiracy?”

You can visit his post for yourself, but let me just offer a summary of the apologetically relevant topics. The requirements for life on any planet require hundreds of factors that have to be “just right” but among them are:

  • Liquid water
  • Uneven temperature variations that cause weather patterns and a water cycle
  • Tidal fluctuations that move and replace nutrients between land and sea
  • A stable planetary orbit in a “habitable zone” (not too close to the system’s star, and not too far away)
  • A star (like our Sun) that is of a certain size and maturity — not too early in its burn cycle and not too late

Though it’s not intuitively obvious, some of these factors — like the tidal variations and weather patterns — cannot exist on a planet that rotates on plane perfectly perfectly perpendicular to its plane of orbit. For a planet to sustain life, it must be tilted in reference to its plane of orbit around its star. That tilt leads to uneven heating and uneven heating creates air currents — and the weather required to move and cycle water.

In addition to that, the planet cannot “wobble” as it rotates. Planetary “wobble” would be physically destructive to the environment and not conducive to sustained life.

So what does all this have to do with an eclipse?

As it turns out, the Earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees from its plane of orbit. This angle varies slightly but it is held within a nearly perfect, life-allowing range and held there by a Moon that is inordinately large in relation to the planet it orbits. The size of the Moon in relation to the Earth, and it’s distance from the Earth, has an equally important impact of modulating the ocean tides within a narrow, life-allowing range.

So we have the uncanny “coincidences” that our Moon’s size is required to: 1) stabilize the Earth’s tilt and wobble, 2) modulate the Earth’s tides, and 3) allow for the Earth’s life-enhancing water cycle, while at the same time being the perfect size to eclipse the Sun and allow us to discover otherwise unknowable facts about the physics of the universe we live in. Listen to Jay explain it himself:

A PERFECT SOLAR ECLIPSE from The John 10:10 Project on Vimeo.

Maybe this is all just a coincidence … or maybe it is part of a divine conspiracy that not only explains our very existence but also allows us to discover that there is evidence for a Person who is behind it all — and able to offer us answers to life’s most important questions.

 

 

There Goes The Sun

Why The Solar Eclipse Matters

Way back in 2004, Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez published The Privileged Planet: How Our Place In The Cosmos Is Designed For Discovery, a captivating book not only about the incredible design that is required in our universe to allow for the existence life itself, but also about how some of the same factors that allow for life are required for us to discover how unique our existence is. The book and accompanying DVD (linked below) are still among the best resources available about the anthropic principle — the idea that the more we learn about the universe, the more it seems to be designed with human beings in mind.

One of the most fascinating topics discussed in The Privileged Planet was the phenomenon of the Solar Eclipse. As it turns out, there is an uncanny coincidence about the relative size and distance of our Moon and Sun that make observing a solar eclipse from the Earth unique for any planet ever discovered. The fact that the Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, but also 400 times farther away, means that the Moon covers the Sun perfectly, and that “coincidence” has allowed astronomers and physicists to discover and verify some very significant facts about the nature of our universe — among them the first verification of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

What I’m trying to say is that a solar eclipse is a big deal and, if you live in the United States, we’re about to experience the most significant such event in the past century. As a bonus, Jay Richards has begun to chronicle the event with a series of blog posts at The Stream. The first one is up here:

Jay Richards: Don’t Miss The Solar Eclipse!

I encourage readers to follow Jay’s commentary over the days leading up to the Eclipse on August 21st. I will be linking here, and on Facebook and Twitter, to each of Jay’s posts.

Enjoy!

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Apologetic Resources For Kids

"Train A Child Up In The Way They Should Go ..."

For parents of younger children who may consider the task of preparing them to engage an antagonistic culture to be a daunting proposition, fear not! You are not alone. But don’t wait for others to fulfill your responsibilities as a parent. And please keep in mind several undeniable facts that are applicable to the statistics we have about number of young adults (currently around 65% – 75%) who leaving the church after they leave home for work or for college:

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Meet J. Warner Wallace

Christian Case-Maker

If you haven’t heard of J. Warner (Jim) Wallace, do yourself a favor and bookmark his website: Cold Case Christianity. It is a fantastic resource, and Jim is a fantastic apologist whose clarity and attitude should inspire us all to “bloom where we’re planted” as defenders of our Christian convictions. Jim is a retired cold-case detective from the Los Angeles police department who has been featured on several segments of NBC’s Dateline for solving murder cases many years after others gave up on them. Jim used to be a self-described “obstinate atheist” who looked at Christianity as a myth and Christian believers as intellectually weak fools.

Then he applied his cold-case detective skills to a study of the Christian faith. The result is that Jim has developed an engaging, unique approach to Christian apologetics.

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