‘He was only an atheist.’

‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,’ said the Inspector, politely.

‘He only wanted to abolish God,’ explained Father Brown in a temperate and reasonable tone. ‘He only wanted to destroy the Ten Commandments and root up all the religion and civilization that had made him, and wash out all the common sense of ownership and honesty; and let his culture and his country be flattened out by savages from the ends of the Earth. That’s all he wanted. You have no right to accuse him of anything beyond that.’

~ G. K. Chesterton
The Crime of the Communist

Origins: A Reasonable Explanation For Reason Itself

Where Does Consciousness Originate?

When it comes to explanations for origins, the origin of the universe seems to be the logical place to begin the discussion. That’s where I usually start. But as a way of transitioning from the previous topic of morality, I will take a different approach and first consider where reason and logic come from at all.

Think about it (pun intended). The very fact that we can have a discussion about the nature of morality, or the origin of the universe — or anything at all — means that we have the capacity to consider alternative ideas. Ideas are not physical things. So, how can we do that? What is it about the physical neurons that make up our brains transmitting electro-chemical signals back and forth that gives us the ability to compare alternatives between non-physical things like concepts and ideas? How do we explain “intentionality” or free will?

The one thing about this life that we know and experience directly and without any doubt is the awareness of the “self.” We know we exist because we experience the physical realities of the world. But just who is it that has these experiences? There seems to be something about “us” that cannot be explained by the physical stuff we can see, touch, taste, hear, or smell, and it is something for which a purely physical, atheistic universe cannot even begin to account.

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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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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

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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Taking Payne Stewart Seriously

A Salute To Fatherhood

Stewart and Mickelson – June 20, 1999

This month, one of the biggest stories in the sporting world is about something that one of the world’s most talented and successful athletes won’t do. Recently, golfer Phil Mickelson announced that he will not be playing in this year’s U.S. Open. To some, this comes as a shock. After all, at age 46, Mickelson is still one of the best players on the planet (currently ranked #23 in the world), and has never won a U. S. Open — even though he’s finished 2nd a record six times. With that kind of history, and being as competitive as he is, you would think Mickelson would want to take advantage of every opportunity to finally win the thing. Realistically, those opportunities are fading fast.

The thing is, Phil Mickelson really, really does want to win a U. S. Open. But he’s skipping this year’s event for only one reason — his oldest daughter, Amanda, is graduating from high school on the Thursday that the U.S. Open begins. Phil Mickelson is choosing to be at an important event in the life of his family and daughter over pursuing his own personal fulfillment. These days, that’s pretty admirable all by itself. But the background to the story also makes it a touching memorial to a man and an event that probably made Mickelson’s decision a very easy one to make.

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