Sunday, August 1, 2010

Part 6 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the sixth installment in our series:
10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.
To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE
To read part 3 CLICK HERE
To read part 4 CLICK HERE
To read part 5 CLICK HERE

Let's move on to reason #6:

Most religions that populate the spiritual landscape are actually just philosophies. They are faith-systems that are not based upon empirical evidence, in other words, they must be accepted without proof, and most often, in spite of observation and statistical evidences. They are largely accepted because of the biases of the "believers" (i.e. the person was "raised" that way, or they highly respect other followers of that faith, or they just "like" the teachings and lifestyle presented by the religion)  These religions are purely subjective, and they lack a key component of objective reality---falsifiability.

Falsifiability? (Try to say that one ten times real fast)

Simply put, in order for something to be established as objectively TRUE, it must be verifiable. In other words, there must be a way to prove it false, some type of test that could be used to demonstrate it's truthfulness. This concept of falsifiability---the ability to prove that something is false, is a necessary component in a search for truth.

A hallmark of false religions is the lack of verifiability. If there were to be objective ways to disprove the false religion, then it would lose credibility upon examination, and converts would fall by the wayside. As Matt Slick, theologian and apologist states:

"If I were to make up a theological system and try to get converts, I would not want my system to be able to be proven to be false. Therefore, I would need to arrange a theology in such a way that it cannot be disproved. I would avoid stating that a certain event happened at a certain place and time because that could be verified. I would make up a system that is vague and has no ties to anything that can be checked out. It could not be proven to be false and I would be free to get all the converts I could muster."

As we survey the landscape of faith, we see Taosim, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, Shinto, etc. When added together in terms of "believers", the numbers are impressive. Nearly 2 BILLION people have adopted these philosophies worldwide. Think about that...one out of every three people in the world believe in a faith system that is non-falsifiable, non-verifiable. It must be accepted based upon subjective reasons alone.

But trust me, it is not my primary intention to denigrate philosophical viewpoints, but merely to point out that most religions are non-verifiable. There is nothing objective that can be pointed to/tested/ to provide corroborating evidence of its truthfulness, other than "subjective experience." As noted scholar Ravi Zacharias observes in many of his treatise, in order for something to be established as "true" it must satisfy two different components: (1) the correspondence theory of truth, and (2) the coherence theory of truth.

Don't change the channel...don't click the BACK button, this isn't going to lead to a dull, dry discussion of philosophical theories.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth simply states that if something is true, then it will correspond with what we observe in reality.  In short: truth will not contradict reality. For instance, if a faith teaches that a person's spirit comprises 10% of their body weight during life, and that the spirit leaves at death, then we could weigh a living person, and then, after they die, weigh their corpse. If their dead body weighs 99% the same as their living body, then we could say that the faith has been proven false, at least in that particular teaching.

Mormonism, the faith of the Latter Day Saints, is a straight-forward example of a failure of this test on two important issues. First, the Book of Mormon claims to be the written history of huge civilizations that supposedly existed in the eastern United States about two thousand years ago. These enormous societies supposedly had large cities, culture, currency, weapons, buildings, and specific geographic locations such as rivers and hills with supposedly well-known names. The problem is, not even a single coin has ever been found to substantiate these claims.  What we do have in archaeology is a clear history of native American tribes living and thriving in these areas but no huge civilizations with cities of stone and complex cultures. Mormon history written in the Book of Mormon fails the Correspondence Theory.

To put this into perspective, compare Mormon history to Biblical history.  William Albright (renowned Middle Eastern archaeologist) noted:

"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, certain phases which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."

Millar Burrows (Yale University) observed:

"On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record."

Secondly, the Book of Mormon teaches that these ancient Americans that supposedly lived in these elaborate cities, were the descendants of Abraham who sailed to America from Israel about 2500 years ago. They also teach that the current tribes of native Americans are the modern descendants of these ancient Israelites. Recently, a team of genetic scientists set out to test this theory using DNA analysis, and the Mormon Church was horrified to learn that the DNA of both living native American Indians and the bones of ancient Indians point to direct descendancy from Siberian tribesmen to over 99.5% accuracy. The Indians are not Jewish descendants, but they are the descendants of nomadic tribesmen who came across the Bering Strait several thousand years ago.  The DNA tests from the Eskimos to the Indians of South America all had the same results---Far East Asiatic descendancy, not Middle Eastern, certainly not Jewish. For more detailed, scientific explanations of these tests, visit HERE.

The Coherence Theory of Truth (in its most basic, elemental form) states that for something to be true, it must cohere, i.e. it must be consistent with itself. In other words, it cannot have contradictions within its own teachings. Take for instance the Qur'an (Koran). In some places it teaches that Jesus did not die, and yet other verses talk about the death of Jesus. Since both cannot be true, the Qur'an (the basis for the Islamic faith) is not coherent, it does not pass the Coherence Test. It also teaches that Jesus was not crucified, which then fails the Correspondence Test (history clearly demonstates that Jesus was crucified).
Enough of this philosophical overview---let's get to the heart of it.

What have we established so far?
(1) Most world religions are not falsifiable (it is impossible to prove or disprove them)
(2) About 2 billion people follow these faiths that only have subjective reasons for acceptance.
(3) Truth must (a) correspond to reality (b) cohere with itself (no contradictions)

But, here comes the rub---and I am sure that many of you are already begging to ask it:
"What does this have to do with the 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity?"

I'm glad you asked.

The answer:   EVERYTHING.

Of the world's major religions, only a handful are in that necessary and special class, that is, they are capable of being objectively falsified. (Remember--that is important).  In a short list they would be:
(1) Islam
(2) Judaism
(3) Christianity
(4) Some Christian cults such as Mormonism.

As we have already seen, Islam fails on both the Correspondence and Coherence tenets of truth. Mormonism, likewise, is not a viable candidate. We are left with Judaism and Christianity. Actually, since Christianity does not claim to be a new faith, but actually the fulfillment of the prophecies and promises found in the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament), we will consider them to be a contiguous revelation. I am not belittling Judaism in any way, but as Jesus said: "I have not come to destroy the law and the prophets (Judaism), but to fulfill them." Therefore, we are left with Christianity as the final verifiable and falsifiable faith system.

Christianity is falsifiable? Absolutely, perhaps more so than any other faith.

Why? This is crucial--and most people have never really thought about just how important this is:

Christianity is based completely upon the objective, historically-verifiable assertion that Jesus Christ actually lived, actually died on a cross for our sins, and then actually physically rose from the dead to prove His claims and identity.

In other words, if Jesus never lived, or never died on a cross, then ALL of Christianity falls. The complete foundation of the claims of Christianity are verifiable, falsifiable. Whereas most religions teach things that are completely "spiritual" or subjective (out of the reach of empirical study), Christianity is 100% vested in the actual reliability of events and people and places in actual history.

Notable scholar F.F. Bruce declared that:

"It might be held, for example, that the ethics of Confucianism have an independent value quite apart from the story of the life of Confucius himself, just as the philosophy of Plato must be considered on its own merits, quite apart from the traditions that have come down to us about the life of Plato and the question of the extent of his indebtedness to Socrates. But the argument can be applied to the New Testament only if we ignore the real essence of Christianity. For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news...but Christianity as a way of life depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world's redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. "

Wow. Never thought about that, did you? Don't worry, most people haven't either. They just lump Christianity in with all the rest and say that all religion is just "Pie in the sky in the by and by." That is patently false. The major teachings of Christianity can be verified historically and archaeologically.

And, by the way, they have been.

Consider some of these observations from world-renowned historians, scholars, and archaeologists.

Sir William Ramsay (one of the greatest archaeologists of the past century), set out over a period of 15 years to discredit the New Testament, especially the history of the early church written by Luke in the book of Acts. What was his conclusion after a decade and a half of intense investigation? "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. "

Back to F.F. Bruce: "Historian F. F. Bruce comments "The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical author(ship), the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt."

Nelson Glueck, Jewish scholar / archaeologist) sets the record straight: "To date no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement."

Sir Frederic Kenyon, an expert in ancient literature considered the issue of the reliability of the New Testament documents. People wanted to know: Can we trust, that the New Testament that we hold today in our hands, has been accurately and reliability preserved and passed down to us?  His research led him to pronounce: "... no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound." After considering one notable manuscript discovery, he further observed: "The net result of this discovery ... is, in fact, to reduce the gap between the earlier manuscripts and the traditional dates of the New Testament books so far that it becomes negligible in any discussion of their authenticity. No other ancient book has anything like such an early and plentiful testimony to its text."

Actually, when textual critics analyzed the 5200+ exisiting greek manuscripts of the NewTestament, they found that the New Testament that we have today is 99.5% - 99.9% pure. For more information on this critical point, visit HERE  then HERE and even HERE.

Concerning the all-important resurrection of Jesus, scholar Michael Grant (Oxford Univ. Classical historian) observes, "If we apply the same criteria that we would apply to other ancient literary sources, the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."

Scholar Paul Meier agrees: "If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that [Jesus' tomb] was actually empty… And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."

Amazing. And many of these statements originated from scholars who did not want to believe that Christianity is true and verifiable.

Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the Royal Professor of Law (Harvard University), is considered to be, possibly, the greatest legal mind of the modern age. He authored the landmark book, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. Initially, Dr. Simon Greenleaf considered the resurrection of Christ to be a complete fabrication. He set out to completely expose it as a myth. After painstakingly reviewing the evidence concerning the resurrection, Dr. Greenleaf reached a surprising conclusion. He emphatically declared that the resurrection has been absolutely established according to the laws of evidence. Furthermore, Dr. Greenleaf turned from skepticism and became a Christian.
How about someone from the 20th century? Consider the famous former-skeptic-turned-Christian, C.S. Lewis. He said of his conversion (loosely paraphrasing) that he was "dragged kicking and screaming into the faith" because of the evidence. He didn't want to believe, but he couldn't deny the evidence, especially of the resurrection, once investigated.

Watch, as former atheist and Chicago Tribune reporter, Lee Strobel, talks about his investigation into the verifiability of Christianity: WATCH VIDEO HERE.

View the video testimony of former-skeptic-turned-Christian, Josh McDowell, as he chronicles his life-changing investigation: HERE.

Christianity...it is based upon verifiable historical events, around real people, and real events in very real places. Investigate it, as Greenleaf did, as did Lewis, as did McDowell, and as Lee Strobel did. None of these skeptics wanted it to be true, but all acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior after a prolonged investigation into the evidence.

Where will your investigation end? I would love to hear about it.

Coming soon, reason #7.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Part 5 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the fifth installment in our series:
10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.

To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE
To read part 3 CLICK HERE
To read part 4 CLICK HERE

Let's move on to reason #5:

In life, there are many lessons to learn. Early on we learn to walk, to talk, eventually, maybe even how to balance on and ride a bicycle, or to swim the backstroke. We learn the names of thousands of things and thousands of people. We have to be taught how to read, how to do geometry, and how to read a map.

But...there is one thing we know innately, a capability that we are born already knowing how to do (or, more properly, how to be). But, before I give it away (though it is doubtless already obvious to some), let me ask the parents out there:

When raising your child or children, did you have to teach them how to be selfish? How about lying--did you have to demonstrate to them how to be deceptive? What about violence, such as hitting and kicking? How many hours did you spend showing them how to be physically or verbally abusive? How much time did you spend demonstrating the finer art of stealing ("taking") other people's things?

What's that? Say again. You didn't have to teach them those things? They already knew them?

They do.

A great deal of our time in parenting is spent attempting to create and shape good behavior, such as sharing, truthfulness, patience, and respect, both for people and property. But it's an uphill battle. It goes against the grain, it seems to be the opposite of what they are "programmed" to do/be.

It is.

One of the most fundamental principles found in the Bible/Christianity is that mankind is sinful at heart. The Bible says that we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice, in fact, this truth is the entire basis for the coming of Jesus Christ to die as the sacrifice to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God. Because of our sin, we need a Savior. 

There are those who will claim that a person is a-moral (not im-moral) at birth, in other words, that we are a "clean slate," and that all morality is learned, or imprest by the environment.  Some even go so far as to say that people are born "good" by nature, and then become corrupted over time.  Ask any parent, they will tell you that "bad," sinful behavior is intrinsic, it is not learned, it is lived out.  Some children will even "lie" before they can speak. I have witnessed this in my own children many times, through simple head-shaking ("no") or finger-pointing ("not me") when there has been a broken rule or a broken dish.

Teens and adults, adolescents and the elderly, we are all guilty. Even without the Ten Commandments to remind us of our rebellion, our own internal immorality detector (our conscience) has condemned us many times, if not hundreds or even thousands of times. Often, though, we turn a deaf ear to this inner witness, and plunge headstrong into outright evil or rebellious actions and thoughts. How many times have we thought later on (though rarely would we admit it outloud) "I wish I would have listened to that still, small voice."

A conscience is a funny thing. Sometimes, in a vain attempt to not feel bad about our sin, we will take a mental list of all those "evil" people who are much, much, much worse than we are.  I mean, it's easy to think about Hitler and the holocaust, or Stalin and his slaughter of millions of Soviets in his lust for power, or of serial rapists or killers. We even think about people that we personally know and declare inwardly: "Well, at least I'm not as bad as so-and-so."

But the problem is, it doesn't matter what anyone else has done---we are still responsible for what we have done. Can you imagine going before a judge (after you have been found guilty of bank robbery, or of kidnapping, or of stealing), and saying: "Well judge, yes I know I did that, but have you heard about ole Adolf Hitler? Wow. Now there's a criminal." The judge will probably lower his/her glasses, shake their head (maybe even roll their eyes), and then will declare your punishment. Someone else's crimes / sin do not affect your innocence or guilt.

If you have told a lie. You are a liar. If you have taken something that you did not have the right to, you are a thief. It does not matter if there is a bank robber who stole $250 million yesterday, if you took a candybar from a store shelf today (without paying for it), you are a thief. Quantity does not change quality.

As we are looking at non-Biblical proofs/evidences of the Bible and Christianity, the sinfulness of mankind is a fact that has been established above refutation. People are sinners--we are tempted to do that which we know inwardly is wrong. We even find disobedience to be exciting, even thrilling. We have often heard the phrase: "Rules are made to be broken." While that is patently false, we seem to find it to be experientially true. As soon as someone, such as an authority figure, states: "Don't cross this line," we find a nearly irresistable tendency to challenge, to transgress that edict. You don't believe it? Go talk to a classroom teacher. I know, I've taught for over a decade.

Those who deny God, the Bible, Christianity, are unable to provide adequate explanations for many well-established facts, such as the complexity of life, or the fine-tuning of physical laws. Likewise, secularists cannot account for the sinfulness of mankind. Various conflicting evolutionary models are presented, all at odds with one another. On the one hand, naturalists try to say that the existence of morality (virtue and good behavior) was brought on due to some benefit derived from mankind being a social species. But then, when presented with the horrors of our evil nature, they will say it is a mechanism that somehow aids in survival.

Sorry, you can't have it both ways---you can't say that morals evolved because good behavior was naturally selected, and that our sinfulness evolved because immorality imparts selectable traits. These are two diametrically opposed forces.

The Bible provides both a clearcut admission of our problem, and a clearcut explanation of our problem. It discusses the contemporary reality of our condition, and gives the historical basis for our condition.

Are you looking for evidence of the truth of Christianity, and for proof for our need of salvation through Jesus? Just turn on the news, read the paper, or better yet, look in the mirror.

Evil is not only out there, evil is in here.

Coming soon, reason number 6.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Part 4 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the fourth installment in our series:

10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.

To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE
To read part 3 CLICK HERE
To read part 5 CLICK HERE

The story is told of a professor and his class which was composed entirely of atheists. Near the end of the semester he shocked his student population with a controversial announcement. He told them that all the women in the class would get an automatic "A" and all the men would get an automatic "F."

Outrage ran rampant throughout his male students.

"But that's not fair!" shouted one gentlemen from the back row. "This isn't right!" retorted another as he jumped up and gathered his things. Even one of the girls showed her disgust over the pronouncement. A similar sentiment spread throughout.

The wise old sage looked up from his podium, and adjusted his bifocals carefully. "How curious," he began. "Ladies and gentlemen, as a group of atheists, who reject all notion or even the concept of God, how can you say that anything is unfair, unjust, let alone right or wrong?"

And he is right.

It wouldn't matter if this incident happened in Brazil, Japan, Germany, or in the remotest parts of the interior of the African continent, the results would be the same. The outrage would be the same. The inner revulsion and feelings of injustice would be the same. In different circumstances, we have all felt these same stirrings, deep convictions that some things are....well, wrong. Unjust. Unfair.

On the nightly news we hear of a child raped and killed, of terrorists who torture and behead their terrified victims, or of ruthless and greedy white-collar thieves who use elaborate ponzi schemes to steal millions of dollars. We are horrified at the deepest levels of our humanity, sometimes to the point of even feeling physically ill.

Perhaps you've never stopped to think about just how amazing and revealing these reactions are. We have them so often that we say that they are "just natural," or that they are just "a part of being human."

But why?

Where do deep-seated feelings and convictions about right and wrong, or of justice or injustice, come from? Why is it that these inner "knowings" are found universally, in all but the most hardened or depraved among us?

We call this universal phenomenon Objective Morality. In other words, since we find a very similar and basic code of acceptable and unacceptable (right and wrong) conduct worldwide, we see that it is not merely subjective to the individual. It is something universal and external, yet ingrained in each of us from birth--Objective. It deals with fairness, justice, and right behavior--Morality. Objective Morality.

This undeniable fact creates a formidable dilemma for atheists and naturalists.

If there is no God, then where could a universal concept of good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, come from? If man is nothing more than a hopelessly improbably series of trillions of chemical accidents over eons of time, then there is no standard of right and wrong...in fact, in the absence of God or a higher power, RIGHT and WRONG are impossible.

Well-known atheist and witer, J. L. Mackie, was aware of this problem for atheists: "if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god."

Worldwide, in every culture, and in every nation, we find a fairly common set of moral principles, ranging from how we treat each other (no murder, rape, kidnapping) to how we conduct our lives (no lying, stealing, dishonesty). Kai Nielsen, an atheistic philosopher, made this observation: "It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [wife-beating, child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil…I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs."

The typical way of putting this into a logical form often looks like this:
(1) Only God could cause objective morality
(2) Objective morality exisits
Therefore, God exists.

Naturalists have scrambled in vain over the past 100 years or so to account for the fact that mankind has objective morality, which necessitates, a higher power, or God. Their reactions to this fact center upon two different strategies: (1) to deny objective morality, or (2) to provide an evolutionary model to account for the gradual appearance of morality in man.

Their first attempt to evade this pervasive issue usually goes something along these lines:

(1) Morality and moral values vary around the world.
(2) There is no one set of objective moral values.
Therefore, objective moral values don't actually exist.

It sounds good, it has the appearance of truth, but only until you scratch below the veneer of it's statements. They will insist that there are some cultures that allow polygamy, or others that encourage drunkeness or substance abuse, or they will even point to bizarre ancient rituals of child sacrifice as evidences against objective morality.

But do these extreme cases prove their case? Hardly.

Let's consider that type of reasoning in a few analogies. Are there eating disorders? Absolutely---anorexia and bulimia are real problems for millions of people. But does that mean that there aren't healthy, natural eating habits? Absolutely not.

Are there tyrannical and oppressive forms of government, such as despotic dictatorships and hard-core communist regimes? Unfortunately, yes, and untold millions suffer under them everyday. So, does that mean that there are no legitimate and beneficial forms of government? Of course, the answer is no.

So, does the fact that some cultures have allowed themselves to sink into immoral behavior mean that there are no objective moral standards? Absolutely not. Think of biology: did you know that most cells divide regularly, as part of the normal cycle of life? But cancerous cells often divide far more often, and therefore cause tumors and other destructive effects. So, is cellular division bad or abnormal? No. But the way cancer cells divide is abnormal, it is a deviation from the norm, from the standard. Likewise, abberations in moral behavior in some cultures is in no way a denial of morality, it is merely an affirmation that they have deviated from the norm, the standard.

How does this happen? It can happen a multitude of ways, but most probably through improper education and example. For instance, no child is born with extreme prejudices against other people groups. Yet, by raising that child in an environment of consistent, demonstrated racism (as if it were the norm), gradually conditions that child, and over time, hardens them against some particular group of people. It is not natural, and it is wrong, but over time that tender conscience becomes jaded in that particular moral aspect.

Think about a guitar player. As a struggling and occasional guitar player myself, I can tell you that when one first starts to learn to play the guitar, you end up with many days of sore finger tips. It is not natural to consistenly force your fingers down onto thin bands of (usually) metal strings and slide or strum them. The first few months are very painful. But what happens over time? Eventually calluses build up and deaden your feeling from reaching those nerves (that are still there). Initially you feel the pain of offending those nerves, but over time you build up a hardness, an "unfeeling" to what was once very tender.

This is exactly what can happen in a culture or a society. We can start to allow things into our lives that "offend" our moral values (our conscience). But over time, as we continue to turn a "deaf ear" to those inner intuitions, can become jaded, hardened, and become emotionally callused to our objective moral standards.

So, the reality that some groups and cultures have varying moral standards does not deny objective morality, it merely points to the reality of human rationalization and our free will to override what we know internally. The famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson wrote, "The fact that there is such a thing as twilight does not mean that we cannot distinguish between day and night."

The second area that skeptics will use to attempt to deny objective morality falls within the ever-changing domain of their old friend, evolution. If God doesn't exist, there MUST be a natural, chemical explanation for everything that occurs in life---even something as immaterial and abstract as morality. They imagine that moral behaviors, such as kindness or integrity, slowly evolved in mankind, since we are social creatures. It is offered that "moral leaning" individuals were somehow more fit to survive, and to pass on their genetic information in greater numbers.

This bizarre theory has so many problems and "just-so" explanations, that it is hardly worth discussing, if it weren't the fact that it is pushed so heavily in journals and in the classroom. Even a casual survey of this fanciful model reveals serious flaws. First of all, evolution is not at all concerned with society, supposedly it is about the fitness to survive and to pass on genetic information. Remember, mindless chemical accidents cannot have a goal in "mind" or an objective to achieve. It is simply that the fittest survive.

But, if that were true, then the most selfish and self-serving individuals would necessarily be the fittest to survive. Those who cared little for the welfare of others (except for their own offspring) would be the best to survive, as they would necessarily horde resources. Remember, man does not need to be social to survive. We are the smartest and most cunning animal to walk the earth. We can use our incredible mental abilities to overcome nearly any foe, and construct nearly any shelter or trap.

To say that those "early" humans or hominids were selected to survive because they had evolved types of morality (no lying, cheating, stealing) is not something that belongs in serious science journals, but in children's books that start with "Once upon a time..." and end with "...and they lived happily ever after." They are otherwise known as fairy tales.

As we conclude this 4th non-Biblical evidence of God and Christianity, Paul Copan makes an illuminating observation: "Intrinsically-valuable, thinking persons do not come from impersonal, non-conscious, unguided, valueless processes over time. A personal, self-aware, purposeful, good God provides the natural and necessary context for the existence of valuable, rights-bearing, morally-responsible human persons. That is, personhood and morality are necessarily connected; moral values are rooted in personhood. Without God (a personal Being), no persons - and thus no moral values - would exist at all: no personhood, no moral values. Only if God exists can moral properties be realized."

Objective morality exists, as does the God that necessarily created the awareness of it in us, His creation.

Reflecting back to the first example in this treatise, an atheist cannot explain why the concepts of fairness, and justice, and right and wrong exist. The next time an atheist or skeptic tells you that ojective morality is a fantasy, tell them that all atheists should not be trusted. They will probably say that you are being unfair.

Just smile.

They have just proved your case.

Coming up next time, our 5th installment in this series--a discussion of a little reality we call evil.

To read part 5 CLICK HERE

Friday, April 23, 2010

Part 3 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the third installment in our series:
10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.

To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE

Let's move on to reason #3:
3.  The Characteristics of Mankind defy Natural Explanation


They often say that "it's easy to miss the forest because of the trees." Meaning: Sometimes we are so close to something that we don't actually realize that it's there, or, maybe we do realize it's there, but we fail to appreciate it. People who live near naturally beautiful areas, such as the mountains, can become so accustomed to the views that they lose (to some degree) the ability to appreciate the wonder of their surroundings. When friends or family from out of town come to visit, the visitors will remark about the breathtaking vistas, and the natives of the area will just smile and nod. They have become jaded.

My brother moved to Cincinatti years ago and his house was located near the end of an airport runway. As we were outside talking, the planes would regularly pass directly overhead, and I would look up every time and be distracted by the sight and the noise. He didn't even notice.

Where is this going in terms of evidences of Christianity? My third proof of the truth of the faith is US. Mankind. People. Humanity.

???

Are you unimpressed with evidence #3? I bet you are. Probably something akin to 95% of you are thinking: "Wow, if this is his third best reason, he is really scraping, blah blah blah."

I think we are missing the forest for the trees, or should I say, we are missing the evidence because it is US. 


Pause for just a moment and think about mankind, humanity. There are animals, there are fish, and trees, and birds, and bacteria, and insects---and then there is mankind. Though we are flesh and blood beings, think about how different we are than all of the rest of the created order. This is so important, it is worth spending a lot of time pondering (and we don't because we are on the inside looking out).

Imagine if someone found a diamond that was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 150 pounds. People would travel from all over the world to just look at it, or maybe even touch it. Some would maybe risk their lives to even try and steal it. But now, look in the mirror. Staring back at you is a technological, intellectual, and creative wonder that makes all the gems and treasures of the world look like trash by comparison.

Diamonds are made out of one of the most worthless and common substances on the earth---carbon. When you burn a piece of paper or wood, and you have black residue left over, you basically have carbon. Worthless. Ugly. But, compress it and align the atoms just right and you form a diamond. If the atoms weren't lined up just right to create the transparent gem, even 100 pounds of it would be worth only a few bucks. Now, the human body is composed of fairly common materials as well, and if you could separate them out into piles of powder, each of us would be worth (on the open market) less than twenty bucks. So, it's not the actual chemicals or molecules...it is the arrangement of them that creates something truly amazing.

But are we only just a combination of chemicals and molecules? Are we only an animal, just an animal, and nothing but an animal? Even a casual examination of the evidence reveals that mankind is not only different, we are exceptional to an absurd degree. If one were looking at the evidence for or against evolution, a simple perusal of humanity's properties alone destroys the Darwinian model. To put it simply: we are overkill in just about every measurable area, and beyond overkill in unmeasurable areas (transcendent qualities such as creativity, intelligence, personality, etc)

I am not meaning to sound arrogant, or sacrilegious, or blasphemous, but hear me out. By comparison to the rest of the creation, mankind is almost godlike in terms of our intellectual capacity, our potential, our achievements, and our creativity. The gap between the smartest and the "highest" of the animal kingdom and mankind is nearly infinite.

There are much-vaunted reports about the chemical similarity between human DNA and that of chimpanzee's as being around 95% similar (that is actually for only a part of the human genome). But, even if that were true for the entire 3-billion-plus code of our DNA, that does nothing to mitigate or to minimize the nearly infinite difference between humans and these primates in terms of actual, real, practical differences. Remember, a burned piece of wood and a diamond are almost 100% identical (chemically--they are both just carbon). But would anyone place a chunk of burned wood on a ring and offer that as an engagement token? Would people pay thousands of dollars for the black remains of twigs from a Boy Scout campfire? Nope.

Actually, all earthly life is basically similar at some elemental level. From bacteria to bananas to people, we (physically) are arrangements of the common atoms such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, or more rarely nitrogen, phosphorus, even sulfur. Some studies have shown that your DNA is over 95% similar to a mouse, and over 50% the same as a banana! But oh, what a difference 5% can make. Did you know that rat poisoning is about 95% edible and safe for humans? But, it is the 5% of the poison that kills, and kills quickly. 5% can make a BIG difference.

I want to restate an earlier premise:
By comparison to the rest of the creation, mankind is almost godlike in terms of our intellectual capacity, our potential, our achievements, and our creativity.


As you look at the above chart, you see that humanity is (orders of magnitude) higher than any other life on earth. This is a complete mystery to Darwinian evolutionists. Evolution tries explain small differences caused by random genetic errors that are selected or enhanced over time, but the traits in mankind are off the chart, they are off the scale, and no amount of mental gymnastics have ever been offered that can even come close to explaining this "overkill" of abilities and capabilities.

We do not need the ability to paint, sculpt, and draw, or to create magnificent novels or poetry in order to survive. In fact, these types of creative behaviors are time- and energy-stealers, and not only do they not contribute to our survivability, they could be seen as deficits. It is argued that evolution might be able to produce better species, but no amount of genetic fantasizing can explain why it would create an IDEAL species.

In comparison to the rest of creation, our transcendent qualities (intelligence, creativity, emotion) are nearly godlike. If there were an alien species as high above us, as we are above chimpanzees, they would no doubt be worshipped as gods. No other creature on earth builds schools and libraries, hospitals and museums, art galleries or shopping malls, nuclear power plants or gymnasiums. No other species besides man is working on space colonies in geosynchronous orbit about the earth, or is contemplating colonizing the nearest planets.

Stop and think about that for awhile, it will almost give you chills. We forget just how amazing humanity really is (but, I am not denying that we have great faults as well---which, by the way, is another evidence of the truth of Christianity)

Let's look at a short list of the innumerable ways that mankind is unique among the creation. These are known as transcendent qualities, i.e. characteristics that go beyond (transcend) just the mere physical aspects of our existence.

1. Intelligence
The difference between the most intelligent non-human primate and us is almost beyond measure. Can you even imagine a chimpanzee working out advanced calculus formulas or designing microprocessors for the latest series of Intel chips?
2. Creativity
While some animals show the ability to build ornate nests or dwellings, and even some crude implements for getting at food, there is nothing in the non-human animal kindgom which can even compare to the simplest of human creativity. It would be laughable to even imagine a monkey painting the Sistine Chapel, or to picture an ape designing an air conditioning system for cooling a shopping center. It takes nearly a godlike level of creativity to analyze, theorize, and then to synthesize solutions.
3. Self-Consciousness.
This is incredibly important. It is rare in nature to find any creature (except man) that has any true awareness of self. Man can consider himself as separate from the world, and how he/she relates to the world. We realize what we are and who we are. Even computers, though incredibly fast and "intelligent," do not have anything remotely like self-consciousness.
4. Objective Morality
Regardless of your personal opinion about the factors which affect people's inner values and conscience, there is no doubt that, universally, mankind has objective morality. It goes far deeper and is much more intrinsic to who we are than the "social contract" theory. It is expressed in small children, with no language as yet. Universally, concepts of fair, right and wrong, good or bad, are experienced and felt at the deepest levels of who we are. There is nothing even remotely similar to this in all of the known animal kingdom. Animals live by instinct, not conscience. They can be conditioned, but will almost always act according to well-known natural inclinations.
5. Artistic and Aesthetic Appreciation
As far as we know, mankind is the only creature that demonstrates any awareness and appreciation of wonder and beauty. Only man can admire the changing glories of the sunset, or to subjectively enjoy the subtleties of an intricate painting. I have personally sat for hours enjoying the beauty of nature, to the point of becoming oblivious to my natural cravings of hunger or exhaustion. But, any animal will quickly seek out to fulfill natural, instinctive cravings when they arise, they are not impressed with a waterfall or a brilliant rainbow.
6. Language with Complex Syntax
Some mammals can learn simple commands (trust me, or you wouldn't see ads for "Obedience Schools" for dogs in the newspaper). But the ability to take multiple words or phrases, and to string them together to create complex sentences containing various concepts is completely unknown in the non-human animal kingdom. The most "intelligent" chimps that are subjected to intense training can learn up to about 150 simple words, but even the "smartest" chimp is a far cry from even a small child.

Children learn language naturally, and can even acquire multiple languages quite easily. Chimpanzees have to be diligently taught, and reinforced constantly in various reward systems to achieve a vocabulary of even a 2 or 3 year old child. People acquire languages naturally, without teaching, but chimps must be consistently taught. Language is fundamental to who are as humans, we are communicating beings.

We could go on and on, with other transcendent qualities such as humor, love, compassion, worship/religion, music, introspection, reasoning, wisdom, and scientific curiosity/investigation.

What natural processes could ever explain such profound differences between mankind and animal-kind? None. The existence of a creature like mankind on earth is a deathblow to all evolutionary models, from traditional, gradual Darwinianism, all the way to Punctuated Equilibria.  It's not just that we are different---it's that we are almost alien to any other form of life on earth. Mankind does not merely stand in a select group, he stands alone in creation.

So, bringing it all home. How does this amazing and inexplicable fact support the truth of Christianity?

The Bible says that God created mankind as the highest order of beings on this earth. God made all life, including plant and animal life, but when it came to humanity He says that we were made in "His image," in the likeness of God. This does not mean that we look like God, rather it means in the likeness of His character, His attributes. God is a creator, and so man, in His likeness, is very creative. God is wise and intelligent, and mankind is wise and intelligent, in His likeness. Sometimes we will meet a child, whose parents we have known for years, and we will immediately see a "likeness" of the parents in the child, such as how they talk, or how they act, or their interests or talents. It is not the visible appearance, it is the inner qualities that we find to be similar.

The Bible says that God gave mankind "dominion" over the rest of creation. This is demonstrated every minute of every day. From great and mighty dams on the most turbulent of rivers, to the domestication of animal life, to the ability to split and extract power from atomic nuclei, man has been given dominion. We are now reaching out to the stars, with probes to the outer reaches of our own solar system, and we have plans to colonize the moon and beyond. We have mastered the use and properties of nearly the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and we have mastered and harnessed multitudes of sources of power and energy. We have invented machines to heal the weakest of individuals, and created monstrous weapons to annihilate entire regions in the blink of an eye.

Because God has given us tremendous potential and capabilities, it does not mean that we have always used those gifts for good and noble purposes. But, in spite of all of our many failures and atrocities, the glimpses of God's image and likeness in mankind is unmistakeable. Natural causes are impotent and completely incapable of explaining even the least of these many transcendent qualities.

The single fact of mankind's transcendent potential is undeniable proof of both God's existence in general, and Christianity in particular.

To read Part Four of this series, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Part 2 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the second installment in our series:
10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.

To read part 1 CLICK HERE

Let's move on to reason #2:
2. A Personal, Intelligent Creator is mandated by logic.
After considering the overwhelming evidence for a finite (non-eternal) universe, most will concede that there must have been a Creator of some type. But just what or who is that Creator, and what are His/Her/It's characteristics? Good questions. Where do we look for some of the answers? That answer may surprise you---science and logic.

Science and logic?

Absolutely. There is a principle of both logic and observational experience, to which there has never been a known exception. That concept is called the Law or the Principle of Cause and Effect. Simply stated, the Law of Cause of Effect mandates that every effect (event) is the result of (or preceded by) some cause. We are exposed to this principle so often that, most of the time, we do not even consider just how fundamental it is.

A baseball goes flying through the air (effect or event). But it did not suddenly jump off the ground by itself, something caused that motion, perhaps the swing of the bat or a skilled pitcher. The law of cause and effect is the foundational concept behind forensics (the science of studying crime scenes). Forensics is based upon the fact that things happen, because other things caused them to happen. It's like a row of dominoes, once you push one domino down (or it tips over due to the table shaking or a strong breeze) then it leads to a chain reaction, a series of causes and effects. Let's stay with the domino example. There must be a first cause to lead to all of those other dominoes falling. The first fall starts the second, the second causes the third, and so on. But the entire chain of events of dominoes falling all began with a FIRST CAUSE.

This same concept or principle applies to the universe. As we go back in time (careful-this could cause your head to hurt!) all of life and time is a long series of causes and events. Keep going further and further back in time and eventually (as required by logic) you must arrive at the VERY FIRST CAUSE. This is the ultimate cause that led to everything in existence today. We calls this the Original or the First Cause.

There is something very special about the First Cause.

According to logic, the first cause itself must be eternal, in other words, it could not have been caused by something before it. We call that an Uncaused Cause. Logic demands that as we trace all events back earlier and earlier, we must ultimately arrive at something that always was, something that did not need to be created or caused. It is the Uncaused Cause.

Hold that thought.

Now, there is another related concept involving Causes and Effects, and it is this: No effect can be greater than it's cause. Now that sounds obvious, but think about how important that really is. This is primarily due to the laws of physics, but it's importance in this argument cannot be overstated.

To write this out would look like this: Cause>=Effect(the cause must be greater than or equal to the effect)

You can't yell with the unaided human voice and have that sound knock over a large building. Why? The energy involved in the wave of sound (the cause) is not strong enough to push over a building (the effect). To knock over a building (the effect) you need something much stronger, like a bomb (the cause). Similarly, a small child cannot push a stopped freight train and make it move down the tracks at 60 miles per hour on a level track. That would be illogical, it violates the principle of cause and effect. If the child did push the train at that speed, then obviously other factors are at work, and not merely the child's strength.

No effect can be greater than the cause. Now, think about the universe. Mentally step back, and think about the universe itself as one giant effect. Due to the Law of Cause and Effect, the universe (the effect) cannot be greater than whatever caused it. Therefore, logically speaking, whatever led to (or created) the universe must be GREATER than the universe. Wow, something even greater than the universe existed BEFORE the universe. It's inescapable logic.

Also, since each Cause must be (at least equal to or) greater than it's Effect, the cause (Creator) must be equal to or (most-likely) greater than any particular aspect of the Effect.

To get a better grasp on this, think about a mathematics example, using a simple equation.

10 >= 5+2+3. Think of "10" as the "Cause", and "5+2+3" as 3 particular parts of the "Effect". The equation works as long as the numbers on the right add up to 10 or something less than 10.  But what if the equation said:

10 >= 5+2+27

This is obviously false, since 10 is not greater than or equal to 34. The problem with the equation is that the number 27 throws everything off. Whatever that third number is, it can't be greater than 3 or the whole logic of the equation is invalid. The third number can be 1, or 2, or -1000, but it can't be greater than 3.

Now think about this equation: Cause >= The Universe

Since the entire universe is the Effect, no particular aspect within that universe can be greater than the Cause. So---what is the universe? Cosmologists say that it is the combination of (1) Time, (2) Space, and (3) Matter/Energy. So, now we can rewrite this as:

Cause >= Time+Space+Matter/Energy (and, by the way, you can't have a negative number for any of those three things--it's illogical to have a negative "reality")

Since no individual aspect of an effect can be greater than the cause (Creator), then: the Creator must be greater than (1) Time (remember, you can't get around it by randomly assigning a negative value to one of the other aspects). What do we call something greater than time, something that has no beginning or end?

ETERNAL

Next, the Creator (cause) must be greater than (2) Space. What do we call something that is not bound by space, without limits?

INFINITE (and omnipresent by implication)

Also, the Creator must be greater than (3) Matter (or energy). We call matter "physical". What do we usually call something that is of substance that is real, and yet not physical within this universe?

We often call that SPIRITUAL or metaphysical.

Now, here is where it really gets good. Since no Effect can be greater than the Cause, and since we find INTELLIGENCE in the universe (people) which is a subset of the effect called the universe, then the Cause, or Creator, must be at least equal in intelligence or greater, most-likely a super-intellect. When you think about DNA, and that it took us 20 years with super computers to crack the code, you can see that the Causal agent must be a super-intellect.

Since no Effect can be greater that the Cause, and since people have individuality or personality, which is a subset of the effect called the universe, then the Creator must be at least a "person" in the sense of an individual with the qualities of self-awareness. This is different than saying that "Since there are flowers, that means the Creator must be at least equal to or greater than a flower" (which is still true), because our discussion is not about physical attributes, so to speak. It is about transcendent qualities, such as personality and intelligence, which must logically be inferred in the Creator (causal agent), to have created both of these transcendent qualities. It is illogical that an IMPERSONAL force could create PERSONAL beings. It is illogical that a mindless, unintelligent cause could create INTELLIGENCE.

So what can we understand about the Creator, just using logic and inference? We see that the causal agent, (Creator/God) is:

1. Outside the universe (He/she/it created it)
2. Eternal
3. Infinite (omnipresent)
4. Spiritual
5. Intelligent
6. Qualities of an individual "person" or greater

Now, what do we read in the Bible? We see that the God of the Bible claims to be the creator of the universe, eternal, infinite, a spirit, intelligent, and is a person that is knowable, and who seeks for us to know Him. Therefore, the God of the Bible is a logical candidate for the Creator of the Universe.

We now have established two non-Biblical evidences for the truth of Christianity:

1. Known Universal Laws require a Creator consistent with the type of God the Bible describes.


2. A Personal, Intelligent Creator is mandated by logic.

Next time we will look at our third non-Biblical evidence for the truth of Christianity, and you can get an early glimpse of reason #3, simply by looking into the mirror. Hint: you.

To move on to PART 3, CLICK HERE

Monday, April 12, 2010

10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

The late Marcello Truzzi (professor of sociology at New College of Florida and Eastern Michigan University) is credited for coining the common phrase: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." He was an investigator of all things paranormal and pseudoscientific. Paul Kurtz (editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, a.k.a. "the father of modern skepticism.") said of Truzzi that he was the "skeptics skeptic."

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."
Sounds logical. Sounds reasonable.

When discussing theology in general, and Christianity in specific, the modern proponent faces a contemporary philosophical mindset unknown even a few decades ago. A Christian speaker, debater, apologist, let's say, 50 years ago, could often quote and reference verses or incidents from within the pages of the Bible as supporting evidence to various teachings/events/issues---and most listeners accepted that at face value, at least in America. I am not saying that this situation was either good or bad. One could easily argue both ways. Let's just say that, when it came to what the Bible said, it was generally accepted as authoritative.


We live in a different world, here at the turning of the millennia. The Christian evangelist of the 21st century faces a formidable obstacle. Formidable, not in that it is difficult to overcome, but formidable in the sense that few are being prepared and trained in how to surmount these new obstacles to faith.


50 years ago, in most places in America, the Bible was known as the word of God. Today, it is relegated to a "sacred text," but perhaps only slightly more sacred than other "similar" writings throughout the world.  The vast majority, having bought the secularists agenda, are not aware of the remarkable differences between the Bible and any other venerated or "holy" book. They are unaware of the amount of prophecy found in the Bible (nearly one third of the Bible is prophetic---compared to other "holy books", which typically contain less than 1% of prophecy)(here is a nice site about prophecy: http://www.reasons.org/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-reliability-bible), it's authorship, it's historical veracity and verifiability through archaeology (not true of most other "holy books"), it's unity and continuity of message concerning the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is both God and man at the same time.


Most people are unaware of the reliability of the Biblical documents (meaning, how consistent are the copies we have today compared to the originals). To demonstrate how incredible the Bible is in terms of reliability, we have over 5000 Greek and Latin complete manuscripts (the New Testament was written in Greek) and over 14,000 partial manuscripts, with many dating within decades of the original documents. A thorough study of the manuscript evidence shows that the Bible we have today is approximately 99.5% textually accurate, meaning that, in all those multiplied-thousands of copies, they only vary less than one-half of one percent. And many of those differences are in the spelling of proper names and merely word order.


Here are some good links regarding reliability:
http://www.carm.org/manuscript-evidence

http://www.equip.org/articles/bible-reliability
http://www.carm.org/illustration-bible-text-manuscript-tree-and-variant-readings


But, having said all that...


Many reject the Bible completely, and therefore, a new level of proof, of evidence, of authority must be established to bridge them from agnosticism to conviction of the truth of Christianity.


In this blog I would like to share what I consider to be 10 Compelling Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity. These are evidences that provide independent confirmation of major teachings of Christianity--the "extraordinary proofs" that professor Truzzi demanded.


1. Known Universal Laws Require a Creator consistent with the type of God the Bible describes.


Scientific research, especially regarding cosmology (similar to astronomy), has blossomed over the past 80 years. Since the heydays of Hubble, Einstein, and Hoyle, our body of knowledge regarding the universe has expanded nearly as fast as "the big bang" event itself. From our discoveries, what have we really learned? Two of our most important revelations could be summed up as follows:
  •  The universe is expanding
  •  The universe is running out of usable energy (second law of thermodynamics)
While these two statements don't seem like incredible revelations, it's only because we haven't thought it through, both backwards and forwards. What? Stay with me.


Consider the first realization: The universe is expanding. Big deal you say? Oh, you're right, it is a very big deal. Since the days of Edwin Hubble, we have demonstrated that all the stars and all the galaxies are moving, and moving at some very high rate of speeds, and all racing outwards. Think about that for a minute. Well, what if you could go back in time? The further back in time you go, the closer together all of those galaxies would have been. Keep going back further in time, and eventually all the stars and all the galaxies would all come back to a single point! So, imagine that---all of the universe must have come into being from a single point, a singular creation event.


Now consider the second point:  The universe is running out of usable energy (second law of thermodynamics). Are you reading this, or are you breathing, can you move around? Then guess what? That means there is still USABLE energy around, energy that can be used to drive things like computers, your lungs, or the motor in your refrigerator.


But the second law of thermodynamics has some bad news for us energy users, it states that, over time, the amount of USABLE energy will always go down. In fact, it clearly indicates, that given a certain amount of time, all of the usable energy will one day be used up, and the universe will die (what is called) a "heat death."


Even though the universe has tremendous reserves of energy, it is impossible for it to last forever, or anything even close to "forever." Let me illustrate: Imagine if you had a TRILLION dollars. And everyday you spent $1. Do you know how long it would take you to run out of money? One trillion days (that's just under 3 billion earth years). But guess what, on day one trillion and one, you would be out of money. Zero. Zilch. Nada.


The same thing is true about the amount of usable energy in the universe. Even with all the vast stores of energy found throughout the universe, there will come a day when it will all run out. Game Over.


But (here's the biggie)---we're not there yet.


(silence)


Didn't anyone hear what I just said? Let me rephrase that---We're not there yet. (Ok, I didn't actually rephrase it)



Quit yawning, this is important stuff! Really. Here's why: since there is only a finite amount of energy in the universe, and yet, we still have usable energy, that means the universe cannot be infinitely old. If the universe had always existed (in other words, no need for a "god" or a Creator to make it) then we would have already run out of usable energy an infinite amount of time ago. Those who deny that God made the universe usually say that the universe has "just always existed." In fact, one of the most famous naturalists of the 20th century, Carl Sagan stated, "The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be." 


But wait, not so fast, science says that that is simply not possible.


Follow me here:
(1) The universe exists and contains a finite amount of usable energy
(2) The universe is constantly consuming usable energy
(3) The universe still contains usable energy
(4) Therefore, the universe cannot be infinitely old, since it would have already run out of usable energy long before now.


The logic and the scientific process underlying this is sound and well-established. So much so that Einstein himself had to add in a fake "fudge factor" to his equations just to try to get around the idea of a finite universe. He wanted to believe the theory (as most cosmologists of his day) that the universe was infinite (eternal), that it had just always existed. Sorry folks, theories must give way to laws, and the second law does not allow for an infinite, eternal universe. Einstein later acknowledged this, he finally came to grips with it and said that his cosmic "fudge factor" was the greatest blunder of his life.


So what have we learned? The universe had to come into being at a single point in time (second law) and space (Hubble). This means that it has not always been here (it is not infinite or eternal). Many religions and philosophies consider the universe to be a part of God, or even, as in pantheism, that the universe itself, and everything in it, is God. But, unlike nearly all other religions, the Bible teaches about a Creator OUTSIDE of the universe, who is independent from it, who created it at a point in time, and gave it energy, and started it's motions.


So, our first bit of non-Biblical evidences pointing to the truth of Christianity stands as:
1. Known Universal Laws require a Creator consistent with the type of God the Bible describes.

To read part 2 of this 10 part series CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Darwin's Dilemmas...again

The headlines are, once again, filled with the premature, yet prevalent news of another "missing link" of supposed human evolution. Let me (maybe) be the first to introduce you to your long lost cousin, five times removed: Australopithecus sediba. It's another in a long line of supposed precursors to --- to --- US.

Remember Lucy (that's her on the left), and Hesperopithecus (Nebraska man hoax), Piltdown man (hoax) , Homo neanderthalensis, and  the pre-human 'Hobbit' or Homo floresiensis, and who could forget Ida (Darwinius masillae) that scrambled across the headlines of every paper and science mag a few months back. (Ida is the cute little squirrel-like fossil below.)(photo is courtesy of: Jens L. Franzen, Philip D. Gingerich, Jörg Habersetzer1, Jørn H. Hurum, Wighart von Koenigswald, B. Holly Smith)

Ida  "pushed back our understanding of human evolution at least 20 times farther back than previously known."  

Wow---they make it sound like evolution is completely proven, now we are just sorting out the details.


Really? 

Isn't it interesting that humanity is one of the few creatures that inhabit the earth in which all living members are of the same species? Think about that for just a minute. Every person, out of the 7 billion or so who walks this earth, is the exact same species. When you take into account all of the supposed precursors to homo sapiens, where are all of the sub- or near-human relations of mankind? Surely any creature later than any Australo would undoubtedly be the most advanced and evolved mammal, capable of intelligent survival techniques and should be flourishing to this very day. Yet, there aren't ANY, not even one. Hmmmm.

When you take into account that current Darwinian evolution adherents are espousing a 5 million year + range for the progression from near-man to man, the lack of diversity of species around homo sapiens is not only a great mystery---it's a Darwinian deal breaker.

 Conclusions?

These finds aren't precursors to the one species of mankind, they are merely primates, extinct primates. Lucy, the center piece of the supposed human evolution drama, is strikingly similar in many ways to living chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees specifically.  The fossil record is clear, it is not a tree as you often see in high school textbooks, it is demonstrably several bushes.

The order is: large number of species, relative stasis, extinction---not evolution. To say that almost-human ancestors would have died out (as the most developed and intelligent mammals) is ludicrous. It is one of many unanswerable problems for Darwinian evolution to face. To say that we have many thousands of species of other, inferior, mammals who flourished yet early man died out is absurdity of the highest biological order.

When will logic and science actually prevail over the ardent faith of Darwinian dogma? When will real scientists arise who will let the facts speak for themselves instead of forcing a debunked and failed framework upon a conflicted profession? Shame on all of us for allowing a prior commitment of validating a philosophical position, rather than doing the high and noble purpose of real scientific investigation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reconciling the Resurrection Accounts in the Gospels

This response is concerning the recent article, Why I don't buy the resurrection story, by Andrew Mangan, posted 4/1/2010 in the Capaha Arrow (http://www.capahaarrow.com/). I will quote Mr. Mangan's text, and then place my comments delineated between triple asterisks (*** and/or in green).

Mangan begins:
"Easter is now a time for children to enjoy painted eggs, fluffy rabbits and delicious candy. How all those things came to do with the holiday of Easter is a total mystery to me. Instead, I want to talk to you about the event the holiday was intended for, the remembrance and celebration of the alleged death and resurrection of the Christian god-man Jesus, and how implausible the resurrection actually is."

*** "...how implausible"? The word implausible refers to a lack of validity or the unlikeliness of an event or concept. Actually, though the thesis statement of the article states that "implausibility" is to be one of the two main points the author wishes to make, the actual implausibility of the resurrection is never discussed by the author. A surface outline of some apparent difficulties is made concerning the order of events and participants, but nothing concerning the "likeliness" or the plausibility of the resurrection is ever raised (no pun intended).

When discussing plausibility, one must, out of necessity, look at possibility. When one considers the wonders we have discovered in biology, such as the incredible complexity of DNA or cellular mitosis, or as we look out into the cosmos, we see irrefutable evidence of a powerful and intelligent creator. The late Sir Fred Hoyle, considered one of the greatest astronomers of the modern age, made this observation:

"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."

So, if we accept that there is an intelligence outside of time and space that could create all that is perceived, and design something as complex as life and DNA (which took humanity decades with super-computers to crack the genetic code), then it follows logically that the idea of resurrection is not implausible. Actually, atheists must accept an absurd form of "resurrection" in nature, namely, abiogenesis: the implausible (and to many biologists- the impossible) transition from dead chemicals to a living, replicating organism. Talk about blind faith or implausibility. If there is a Creator capable of producing the universe and life, then performing a resurrection should surely be mundane, if not passe. ***

Mangan goes on:
"In 110 CE, Pliny the Younger was the first non-Christian to even mention Christianity itself, but yet, he never mentioned the resurrection."

*** This statement makes an incorrect declaration and an unwarranted inference. First, the inaccuracy of his claim. Pliny is predated by Josephus, a respected historian and clearly not a Christian, by many years. Josephus speaks of Christianity in the mid to late first century. Even though one of his two "Jesus" passages has been a subject of rich debate since about the 17th century, no serious doubt has been cast upon his discussion of the beginnings of Christianity, especially in light of the Pine translation from Arabic, which confirms the core information that few scholars debate.

Secondly, the author's unwarranted inference. The author seeks to create a connection between the "first mention" of Christianity and the resurrection account. He implies that, if the resurrection was so important, surely it would be discussed in the "first mention" of Christianity. What about the virgin birth, the miraculous healings, or the feeding of the thousands, or perhaps the innumerable teachings and discourses of Jesus? Shouldn't Pliny have delineated all of those all well?

The inference, though subtle, is invalid. Pliny does not seek to outline all of the bases for the faith, he mentions only that which concerns him of the Roman order and the impact of Christianity upon it. He doesn't even mention the death of Jesus, but only that His followers considered Him to be as God (god). He then goes on to discuss punishments for these Christians.

For further study into early accounts of Christianity, look into the writings of Roman historian, Tacitus, as well as the great second century debates by the early apologists.
Using the author's method and style of argumentation, here is a comparison from science: 'The first mention of abiogenesis (life from the dead--kind of like resurrection) is found in writings over 3.5 billion years after it allegedly transpired, but many scientists disagree over the process, which shows just how implausible abiogenesis really is' (just a little joke there).
***

Mangan continues:
"Therefore, one must rely on the gospels to tell this tale. However, when trying to reconstruct what the gospels say about the resurrection, one reaches something that cannot be surpassed: numerous discrepancies and contradictions."

*** A strawman argument is loosely constructed here. Using phraseology such as "cannot be surpassed" or "numerous...contradictions" is hyperbole and not befitting a supposed investigation. If the supposed difficulties in the gospel narratives "cannot be surpassed", then why have numerous volumes been written showing the harmony of the accounts?
One site that discusses these is found at:
http://www.rationalchristianity.net/resur_harmony.html
***

Mangan again:
"When going through the timeline of this event in the four gospels, one of the first disparities we stumble upon is Matthew 28:1-2. In these verses, two women arrive at Jesus' tomb, an earthquake happens and then an angel descends from heaven to roll back a stone from the door for them."

***The earthquake and the stone being rolled away occurs BEFORE the women arrive. Time elapses between the two verses. Consider this line from a history book:

"John F. Kennedy was elected to be the 35th president of the United States and was assassinated."

This statement is absolutely true, yet the election and the assassination are separated by well over two years. Matthew says that the women went to the tomb (a fairly long journey by foot), and while they were on the way, there was an earthquake and the stone was rolled away. This happened prior to their arriving. No contradiction here, not even close, unless someone wants to force one due to earlier assumptions of it's inaccuracy.
***


Mangan continues:
"The trouble here is that this story changes from gospel to gospel. In Mark 16, there is no earthquake, nor any angel rolling back the stone."

*** This is an argument from silence, which is a logical fallacy. For example, if you read an article about on-going relief work in Haiti, would the article be false if it did not mention all the details about the earthquake? Obviously not. One does not have to recount all past events leading up to an event for the account to be valid. The account of the resurrection picks up as the women arrive in Mark 16, it need not give a minute-by-minute description of everything prior to this in order to be valid. At the point in which Mark picks up the narrative, the earthquake and the stone being rolled away have both already occurred.
***

Mangan:
"In fact, the stone is already rolled back when the women arrive. Luke and John agree with Mark on this one-no earthquakes occur and the stone has been rolled away prior to their visit."

*** Luke, John, and Mark just do not mention the earthquake, they do not say that it did not occur. This is no minor point. There would be a contradiction if one of the accounts said that the women rolled the stone away, or if one of them specifically said that "Mary Magdalene did not go to the tomb," or "there was no earthquake." Those would be contradictions, what we find in the narratives is not contradiction, but different aspects of the same event, or at different times. Mangan's main argument is, once again, a logical fallacy, an argument from silence. Actually, all the gospels agree.

The order of events, as combined, is as follows (1) Resurrection occurs (2) Women begin journeying to the tomb (3) Earthquake occurs (4) Stone is rolled away (5) Angel appears to the guards (6) Women continue to journey to the tomb (wondering about such things as the stone, etc) (7) Women arrive (8) Mary Magdalene sees the open tomb and supposes Jesus' body has been taken and runs to tell the apostles (9) Other women go into the tomb and see the angels. The only contradiction in the accounts is the one imagined in the minds of skeptics. Miller, in his investigation of the resurrection accounts, had this to say:

"(Do apparent discrepancies) mean that these are false reports, made-up by dishonest men to deceive us? On the contrary, this is good evidence that these are truthful accounts, because people who conspire to testify to a falsehood rehearse carefully to avoid contradictions. False testimony appears on the surface to be in harmony, but discrepancies appear when you dig deeper. True accounts may appear on the surface to be contradictory, but are found to be in harmony when you dig deeper."

To illustrate the fallacy of taking things only at face value without compositing information, consider the famous story of the four blind men who met an elephant. When interviewed later to recount this strange event, one said "It was like a rope," (having felt only the tail), another declared, "It was like a tree!" (He only felt a leg). The third said, "It was rather like a snake, " for he touched only the nose, and the fourth remarked that "it was rather like an eel," having only felt of the ears. On the surface it all appears contradictory and full of discrepancy, but it is not. It is merely four different aspects of the same event, four different vantage points. The four gospels are four perspectives on the same event.
***

Mangan continues:
"It only gets worse from there. Who were the women that came to the temple that day? Matthew 28:1 says it was Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary"; Mark 16:1: Mary Magdalene, "Mary the mother of James," and Salome; Luke 24:10: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, "Mary the mother of James," and "other women"; and John 20:1 only mentions Mary Magdalene."

***This, once again, is an argument made from silence. Consider this statement:

"President Obama visited the troops in Afghanistan recently."

According to Mangan's reasoning, this news report is false, because there were many dozens of people who traveled with the president to visit the troops. But, the statement still stands as true, "the president did visit the troops" (though not alone), and the statement "Mary Magdalene went to the tomb" (though not alone) also stands as valid and true. Whether in a group, or alone, Mary Magdalene was there, so the statement in the gospel of John stands as factually valid.

All historical statements of fact are similarly hamstrung, because it is impossible to accurately detail every possible fact about a situation, therefore, all statements of historical events are necessarily truncated in some respect. To demand that John give more information is unwarranted, he was focusing on the impact of this event regarding Mary Magdalene (In fact, if you study the gospel of John you will find that there are a great many passages about Jesus dealing with the individual, such as the woman at the well, the night meeting with Nicodemus, etc).

Here's another example: there are many verses in the Bible about Jesus being crucified. But, weren't there also two others crucified at the same time with him? Yes. But, it is still factually true that Jesus was crucified, even without further details about the others. It all depends on the focus of the statement. In John's account of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene is the focus, not the other women.

Another very plausible approach is that Mary Magdalene may have started out with the other women, but could have, as she got closer, moved ahead of the group. She may have been many years younger, and in her love for the Savior was eager to get there. So, she may have arrived slightly ahead, though starting out with the original group, looked at the open tomb, assumed someone took Jesus away and ran to the apostles.
***

Mangan again:
"Who was at the tomb when the women-or woman-arrived and where were they situated? Matthew 28:2-7: one angel sitting on the door stone; Mark 16:5: one young man sitting inside the temple on the right; Luke 24:4: two men standing inside; and John 20:12: two angels sitting on each end of the bed."

*** There, once again, is only a forced, supposed contradiction. The angel initially rolled the stone away and sat upon the stone (this was earlier and it frightened the Roman guards). Later, that same angel appears to the women inviting them to come into the tomb where he was "Come, see". The language indicates he was IN THE TOMB, hence "Come, see". Whether the angel moved from the stone into the tomb in a moment of time, or whether he "walked" into the tomb between the frightening of the guards and the arrival of the women is of no consequence.

The only problem is when one forces something that the scriptures do not say, namely, that the angel never left the stone, or that all the events of these two verses had to happen instantly, simultaneously (which it does not say). All that it says is that it is the same angel that rolled away the stone that initially spoke to the visitors, but it never says that he did so while sitting on the stone. In fact, the language indicates an interior position for the statement in question.

The author then takes aim at the exact position of the appearance of the angels. The word used in the Greek in Luke 24 for "standing" is a word that means to "appear," it does not necessarily imply a physical orientation, just nearby. Even in English we use the word in this respect, such as making a plan for something, but having another backup plan "standing by." It doesn't mean an orientation, but that it is near at hand. So, if the angels were sitting in the tomb, they are "appearing nearby." Perhaps they were standing and then sat as they invited the women in for a closer inspection. It makes no difference.
***

Mangan continues:
"Who, after the woman/women at the temple, did Jesus appear to? Matthew 28:16: 11 disciples; Mark 16:12-14: two disciples in the country, then later to 11; Luke 24:13 and 36: two disciples in Emmaus, then later to 11; and John 20:19 and 24: 10 disciples-Judas and Thomas being absent. The detrimental complication implied by these discrepancies is impossible to surmount."

*** "Discrepancies"? "Impossible to surmount?" Here is a perfectly plausible reconstruction of the details: "With further study, the apparent contradictions disappear. For example, all four accounts are in harmony with the following sequence of events: Very early a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna set out for the tomb. Meanwhile two angels are sent; there is an earthquake and one angel rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The soldiers faint and then revive and flee into the city. The women arrive and find the tomb opened; without waiting, Mary Magdalene, assuming someone has taken the Lord's body, runs back to the city to tell Peter and John. The other women enter the tomb and see the body is gone. The two angels appear to them and tell them of the resurrection. The women then leave to take the news to the disciples. Peter and John run to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following. Peter and John enter the tomb, see the grave clothes, and then return to the city, but Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping, and Jesus makes His first appearance to her. Jesus next appears to the other women who are on their way to find the disciples. Jesus appears to Peter; He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and then appears to a group of disciples including all of the Eleven except Thomas." Casteel, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

Mangan's argument is again from hyperbole. Merely using language that makes a situation seem different than it is ("impossible to surmount"), does not in any way, change the reality of a situation. If it is "impossible to surmount" then why has the order of events of the resurrection been easily demonstrated numerous times over the centuries, even as recently as this rebuttal? Like president Clinton arguing about "what your definition of 'Is' is," I guess it depends upon what your definition of "impossible" is. Apparently impossible means something that requires diligent study, comparison, and research. Why bother researching when it is much easier to dismiss something you have a priori decided to reject?
***

Mangan surmises and closes:
"Thomas Paine discovered the ramifications of these contradictions 200 years ago in "The Age of Reason," in which he wrote: "I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted, first, that the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be true, because the parts may agree, and the whole may be false; secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves the whole cannot be true. Now, I could prattle on about the total lack of contemporary accounts regarding Jesus' life and existence or that Jesus isn't really all that great of a guy (he tells you to hate your family and yourself in Luke 14:26 and advocates violence in Matthew 10:34-39), but I haven't the room in this paper to do such things. All I want you to take away from this is: Don't worry about the religious aspects of Easter-they're all bunk. Instead, enjoy the painted eggs, fluffy rabbits and delicious candy. I know I will."

*** "They're all bunk." Wow. When will the inflammatory and pointless hyperbolic language cease? This isn't serious investigation, it's a kangaroo court and the suspect is obviously guilty until proven innocent, which the judge will not allow anyway (how's that for a reverse hyperbole?). Since we're throwing out names and writers of the 19th century (Thomas Paine), how about this one? Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the Royal Professor of Law (Harvard University), is considered to be, possibly, the greatest legal mind of the modern age. He authored the landmark book, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. Initially, Dr. Simon Greenleaf considered the resurrection of Christ to be a complete fabrication. He set out to completely expose it as a myth. After painstakingly reviewing the evidence concerning the resurrection, Dr. Greenleaf reached a surprising conclusion. He emphatically declared that the resurrection has been absolutely established according to the laws of evidence. Furthermore, Dr. Greenleaf turned from skepticism and became a Christian.

How about someone from the 20th century? Consider the famous former-skeptic-turned-Christian, C.S. Lewis. He said of his conversion (loosely paraphrasing) that he was "dragged kicking and screaming into the faith" because of the evidence. He didn't want to believe, but he couldn't deny the evidence, especially of the resurrection, once investigated.

I believe in freedom of speech and of the press, but I also believe in honest debate and serious inquiry. It is my sincere hope that the paper which printed Mr. Mangan's view of this remarkable event, will allow this balancing rebuttal to stand as well for those same readers to weigh, consider, and investigate.
***