Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Raiders of the Lost Ark scene

There is a famous scene in the first Indiana Jones movie in which Jones, fresh off a fast-moving battle against a dozen attackers, is suddenly confronted by one more adversary: a massive, sword-wielding warrior. The director had planned a final, climatic fight with Indiana’s whip pitted against the sword of his opponent.

Instead, Harrison Ford simply pulled out a hidden pistol and shot the huge swordsman in the chest.

Ford knew his character was too tired to play around in that scene. He needed his best weapon against a dangerous adversary.

Being a Christian in a fallen world means you and I are also surrounded by dangerous adversaries, but too often we start the fight by tossing away our most powerful weapons. The problem is ultimately one of faith. The Bible calls us to arm ourselves with righteousness, faith, and prayer, but these don’t look very impressive arrayed against the world’s wisdom and power—so we throw down the weapons with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4) and snatch up the world’s shiny tin swords.

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After the Election

"Make America Great Again" yard sign

Tomorrow, Americans will decide whether they want to install a crook or a fool as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. It will be a dispiriting day to cap a shameful election season.

And then the next day will come, and we’ll have a crook or a fool as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world and you and I will still have our family and our church and our job and our little place in the world, and things will go along very much as they were.

Everyone swears that this election is the most important in our lifetime (as they swore in 2012, and 2008, and 2004, and 2000, and most elections since roughly 1800). The contrarian in me wants to agree with David Harsanyi that this is the least important election in our lifetime, but the truth most likely lies somewhere in between. As with the rest of life, we will know the election’s true import only in hindsight and only partially.

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‘The Least of These’

Homeless person asleep

When you think of doing “Kingdom work,” what comes to mind? If you are like most American Christians, you think of evangelism—going out to share the gospel with the lost and call them to Christ. It’s the work we train our children for, giving them apologetics books to read and sending them on short-term missions trips. And it is good, necessary work! But it is not the only Kingdom work.

I have always been struck by Jesus’ choice in the famous parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. There are many different kinds of Christian traits which he could have chosen to characterize his followers, but as he describes the Judgment Day he says his sheep will be marked by their pattern of caring for the hungry and thirsty, of welcoming the strangers, of clothing the naked, of visiting the sick and imprisoned. That, Jesus says, is what defines his people.

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Evidence for God, Part 6: We Have Minds

The Thinker

As I wrap up my Evidence for God series today, I wanted to finish with an argument which is a perfect illustration of what I said in my first post, more than a month ago: that natural theology arguments weigh the scales in the direction of theism, but by themselves cannot offer an absolute proof. There are always “what ifs” when we are dealing with fallible human observation and induction. If a skeptic is determined to evade the force of any one of these arguments, he will be able to do so. Our job as apologists is not to kill every possible what-if, but to point to the evidence, let the evidence point to God, and pray that our Father would engender saving faith where we and our arguments cannot.

So far, we’ve considered evidence from the existence of the universe, from the appearance of design at the universal and biological levels, and from morality. If even one of these arguments is persuasive, then we need to grapple with the existence of a supernatural, creative being. But there is an additional category of evidence pointing to the existence of a Creator God: what we might call mind, or soul, or consciousness.

Why are jokes funny? Why do we respond to and create beauty like Michelangelo’s paintings or Bach’s music? Why do we fall in love? Why do we wonder about ultimate meaning? And why are we aware of ourselves—a central personality which experiences all our hopes, dreams, fears, desires, ideas?

Read moreEvidence for God, Part 6: We Have Minds

Evidence for God, Part 5: We Know Right from Wrong

Man holding baby

In chapter 6 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asks, “Why are we good?” and offers an explanation for the origin of morality without God. He, like most modern atheists, attributes human morality to an evolutionary process which favored altruistic behavior. We try to be “good” because we evolved in an environment in which helping our kin group made it more likely that our genes (either in ourselves or in relatives) would survive long enough to reproduce, carrying this instinctive altruism into the next generation. Today, in a more complex and interconnected world, those inherited ethical instincts still drive us to “do unto others” even when those others are no longer related to us.

So, Dawkins concludes, “our Good Samaritan urges,” such as “the human urge to adopt a child,” are really just evolutionary “misfirings.” However, he immediately adds, in possibly the two most striking sentences in the book, “I must rush to add that ‘misfiring’ is intended only in a strictly Darwinian sense. It carries no suggestion of the pejorative.” What is surprising is not that Dawkins wanted to quickly dispel any thought that he might be dismissing the value of moral behavior, but that he failed to see that those two sentences dynamited the carefully constructed argument which preceded them.

Read moreEvidence for God, Part 5: We Know Right from Wrong

Evidence for God, Part 4: Biology Which Evolution Cannot Explain

This week, my Evidence for God series will take a second look at arguments based on the appearance of design, sometimes called teleological arguments, from the Greek word telos, which means “design” or “purpose.” Last week, we looked at how the essential structure of the universe makes life possible through “fine-tuning” which cannot be explained through mere chance. Today, I want to move beyond the possibility of life to consider the actual life forms we see around us. There are two ways in which biology demands a designing intelligence: First, the complexity of biological information contained in even the most basic life form, and second, the “irreducible complexity” of biological structures which cannot be explained through evolutionary processes.

What About Evolution?

When we talk about the appearance of design in biology, we have to start by considering the theory of evolution. Every scientist would agree that living creatures seem to have been uniquely designed for their environments. In fact, the famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins defined biology as “the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” The key word in that definition, of course, is “appear.” For the last two hundred years, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has offered a way to explain the appearance of design without requiring a designer. Evolution postulates that natural processes mold species over time, through adaptation and the pressure to survive, so that animals look like they were designed for their particular ecological niche. In reality, though, this “design” is merely the result of a process of natural selection whereby the best-adapted survive and reproduce while the rest perish, removing their less-fit genes from future generations.

Read moreEvidence for God, Part 4: Biology Which Evolution Cannot Explain

Evidence for God, Part 3: Universal ‘Fine-Tuning’ for Life

Equations

Last Thursday we considered how the sheer fact that the universe exists at all is evidence for the existence of a supernatural creator. Today, as part of my continuing Evidence for God series, I want to move from the existence of the universe to its apparent design; what scientists have described as “fine-tuning.”

Arguments that there must be a God since the world appears to be designed are called teleological arguments, from the Greek word telos, which means design or purpose. Such arguments come in multiple flavors. Next week, I’ll look at evidence for design in the development of life and in biological complexity, but first we need to consider design so large-scale, so integral to the fabric of existence itself, that it is easy to miss. In fact, scientists and theologians alike only stumbled upon this evidence for God within the past century.

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Evidence for God, Part 2: The Universe Exists

Image of space

Last week I promised that I would be starting a short series on the arguments for God’s existence which are sometimes referred to collectively as natural theology. These are arguments which do not depend upon God’s “special revelation” in Scripture, but instead on his “general revelation” in the created world. Last week’s article discussed why such arguments are useful and what we can expect from them. Because they are rooted in inductive scientific observation, they cannot yield absolute certainty. And because they do not incorporate the Bible’s more specific revelation, they cannot bring someone to saving faith by themselves. But they can highlight the strong evidence that there is more to reality than materialistic atheism can explain; that, in fact, there is some sort of super-powerful, supernatural being who is the cause of everything around us. As a starting place for further evangelism, that’s not half bad!

Today I want to consider one of the simplest and most compelling arguments for God’s existence. It is called the cosmological argument and it comes in many different flavors, all of which center on a simple question: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” as the philosopher G.W. Leibniz put it. Unlike arguments we will consider later, the cosmological argument does not require that we demonstrate any particular characteristic of the universe (that it appears to be designed, for example). All the cosmological argument needs as a starting place is something; something, rather than absolute cosmic nothingness.

Read moreEvidence for God, Part 2: The Universe Exists

‘The Heavens Declare’: Evidence for God in Creation

Starry sky over a field

Why are you a Christian? On one level, you are saved because God turned your heart to him. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But on another, equally true level, you are saved because you put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul could simply tell the Philippian jailer who wanted to know how to be saved, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). And on the human level of belief and unbelief, good arguments are one tool the Holy Spirit uses to cultivate saving faith in our neighbors.

With that in mind, I’m going to be writing a brief “Evidence for God” series, looking at what theologians call natural revelation. Natural revelation is distinct from special revelation, which is God’s direct, inspired communication to man; in other words, the Bible. Special revelation is needed to communicate important truths about God and his relationship to man: things like how to be saved, or God’s trinitarian nature. But the Bible is not the only thing which can tell us about God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” and Paul tells us “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:18-20).

Read more‘The Heavens Declare’: Evidence for God in Creation

A Practical Guide to Saving a Nation

Praying hands

I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say about the upcoming election, “2016 is our last chance to turn this thing around.” It’s the right instinct, the right sense of urgency, but the wrong focus. In the grand scheme of things, presidential elections just don’t matter that much. Yes, yes, I know: Supreme Court nominations, etc., etc. But in the grand scheme of things, the Supreme Court doesn’t matter that much either.

Take Roe v. Wade. It is true, more than 50 million unborn children have been massacred since 1973, but which is the bigger problem: That millions of mothers chose to kill their unborn children, or that the court let them do it?

We have to get out of the mindset which sleeps through the battle for hearts and minds and then tries to win a last-minute victory in the court system or the Oval Office. Secular liberalism controls education, entertainment, and media, but we imagine we’ll fix things by casting a ballot. Ultimately, the problem isn’t political at all—it’s a matter of cultural decay, because “the salt has lost its taste” (Matt 5:13). If you feel a sense of urgency about the direction of our country (and you should), the ultimate answer is gospel, not politics.

Read moreA Practical Guide to Saving a Nation