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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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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In A “Perfect” World

We recently had a great discussion with some good friends whose first grade son is just becoming exposed to the differences between the Old Earth (OE) and Young Earth (YE) Creationism. This is not an easy topic to confront with a first grader, but parents must be prepared and equipped to face it. Talking about it reminded me of one of my favorite books so I thought I’d try to summarize a thorny issue.

At its core, the OE/YE debate is about how we view the relationship between science and theology. There is a methodical way to think about that relationship that I have discussed elsewhere but here I’d like to address an internal, theological aspect of the OE/YE debate: “Death before the Fall” of Adam and Eve. I want to say that even though I hold a different view, I greatly respect the YE stridency on this topic because it is vitally important. It strikes at the heart of the entire plan of salvation.

At the center of this issue is the answer to the question about what God meant when He declared His creation “very good” in Genesis 1:31. On the YE view, there is no room for interpretation of this phrase. YE proponents insist that the OE view violates a central doctrine of the Christian faith. They reason that if there was already death in the world God created, that would negate the very reason that Christ died on the cross. As I said, I have great empathy for their concern here.

These are serious issues and they deserve to be answered. I applaud and accept the challenge of the YE side on this because I fully understand their reluctance to accept the obvious OE implication that if the Earth had been around for a few billion years before Adam and Eve showed up, there would have been a whole lot of “death before the fall.” If the YE view is correct about the meaning of “very good” and the implications of death before the fall, the OE view would necessarily be false. We need to be very clear, and very careful, about how we approach this issue.

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The Story of Reality (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2017)

Click Above To Order

Greg Koukl’s newest book, The Story of Reality: How The World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens In Between, is a clear, concise, non-threatening overview of the Christian worldview. The beauty of this book is that it turns the common arguments for the Christian God into exactly what the title suggests — a story that makes sense of everything we observe and experience in this life. It is a masterful presentation of the oldest definition of truth as the correspondence between what we believe about something and the way the world actually is.

Koukl’s weekly radio show and podcast are always informative and entertaining. I consider him to be the most clear, down-to-earth, understandable Christian apologist on the planet. His calm demeanor, and his ability to sift through complex questions and clarify useful answers with grace and wisdom, is truly something to behold. With this book, he has taken that gift of communication and put it on paper to deliver a masterful picture of the Christian message. If you are serious about your faith, buy this book and devour it. If you know someone who is a seeker, or even someone who already considers themselves to be a Christian but wants to be better able to articulate their Christian convictions, give them this book as a gift. You will both be glad you did.

 

 

Naturalism’s Pre-Scientific Mindset

Back Before Modern Science Weighed In

Wintery Knight — the ghost name for the writer of a fantastic blog on defending Christianity and engaging that defense in the public square — has written a succinct, useable outline for how to organize a devastating critique of atheistic naturalism. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with it. It is very accessible …

The Importance of Having A Narrative When Confronting The Assumption of Naturalism

The Fantasy of Ungrounded Physics

As a follow-up to my last post about Darwinism’s bad week, I also ran across this story … an interview with South African Physicist George Ellis about the philosophical inanity that is regularly spouted by the New Atheist priesthood. Keep in mind that Ellis is not some easily dismissed Christian minister or Intelligent Design proponent (though I obviously have no problem with either of those). The article is from Scientific American and Ellis has co-authored books with the likes of Stephen Hawking.

From the piece:

Horgan (SA Interviewer): Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree?

Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did.  And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.

Thus what he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true.

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