Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Greatness Of The Gospel

How we view the gospel affects our relationship with God, our relationships with other people, our priorities, our objectives, the sense of urgency we have, and many other aspects of life. It should be a foundational motivating factor every day of our lives. It's important that we have a high view of the gospel and think about it often, deeply, and in a multifaceted way. Here are some examples of authors down through the centuries commenting on certain portions of the gospel:

Faith Alone
He Gives Himself
The Incarnation
Put On Trial
The Cross
The Tomb
The Resurrection
The Defeat Of Satan
Imputed Righteousness
The Benefits Of The Gospel

"An idea has long possessed the public mind, that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists, and deists, as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect; and to tremble for the Christian controversialist, as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake; for the gospel is the sum of wisdom; an epitome of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied, and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind; and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it. Ah, dear friends! if ye seek wisdom, ye shall see it displayed in all its greatness; not in the balancing of the clouds, nor the firmness of earth's foundations; not in the measured march of the armies of the sky, nor in the perpetual motions of the waves of the sea; not in vegetation with all its fairy forms of beauty; nor in the animal with its marvellous tissue of nerve, and vein, and sinew: nor even in man, that last and loftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight!—an incarnate God upon the cross; a substitute atoning for mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essential wisdom; enthroned, crowned, glorified. Admire, ye men of earth, if ye be not blind; and ye who glory in your learning bend your heads in reverence, and own that all your skill could not have devised a gospel at once so just to God, so safe to man." (Charles Spurgeon, The C.H. Spurgeon Collection [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], The Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 1, pp. 113-14)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Christians and atheists both get wrong about Intelligent Design

I recently had a conversation with a friend who brought up Intelligent Design (ID), and it reminded me of something I’ve mentioned several years ago. Given how much time has passed, I thought it was worth reiterating it now. And that is the strange fact that both atheists and Christians, especially Young Earth Creationists (YEC), both fall into the same error in thinking that ID requires the existence of God.  Atheists use this claim to argue that ID should not be taught in schools.  Christians tend to use ID as an apologetic to defend Creationism against Darwinism.

The problem is that when we see what ID claims, it’s nowhere near requiring a deity.  Put simply, ID states that the evidence we have for evolution does not make any sense if we hold to random processes causing it all.  Rather, the evidence that we see indicates that the way that organisms exist now makes sense only if they were designed to be specific ways.  That is, evolution only makes sense if it is teleological, not random.  (Teleological just means that it has an end or a goal in mind, something which Darwin specifically rejected.)

Now the temptation is that the intelligent designer of ID must be God, but that’s not actually what ID is saying.  ID is only saying that the evidence of what we see indicates that life on Earth has been designed by some form of intelligence.  Given that ID does not require a YEC view of time, this means that it is perfectly consistent with ID to limit the claims of ID strictly to something along the lines of, “The evolution of life on Earth over the past 4.5 billion years came about from an intelligent designer intending a specific outcome.”

Such a designer need not be any more intelligent than human beings already are.  In theory, if we wanted to do so, we could set up labs on Mars and grow some microscopic organisms, guiding their evolution in the lab by selecting certain breeds of organisms over others (the same as people already do for dogs and other animals), genetically modifying those that don’t have the required genetic sequences already in place to form new organisms, and we could release those organisms into the Martian wilderness.  We wouldn’t even really need a few billion years to tinker around with the life forms we’ve introduced there.  If we were to build up a sufficiently advanced life form that was able to be self-aware, and it surveyed its historical settings, looking at fossils left behind and so forth, our intelligent design of those life forms would look indistinguishable from how life forms came about on Earth, in this scenario.

Really, the only thing that is keeping humans from doing this right now is the fact that it takes a lot of time and money to get to Mars, and this isn’t something that very many people would want to spend those resources on.  But it’s easy to imagine an alien race very similar to human beings who might wish to tinker around on some planet.  They discover Earth and set up their labs on Earth, terraforming the planet and guiding the evolution of life until one day humans are on the planet.  Those aliens do not need to have any divine characteristics at all.  In fact, they could even by slightly stupider (on average) than human beings are, and still have a statistical chance of having enough smart aliens to pull off such a scenario.

And since ID is limited solely to the evolution of life on Earth, the fact that the evolution of life on Earth makes more sense from a teleological perspective than from a random perspective does not even imply the existence of God for the rest of the universe, because the aliens who created us may have come about from completely different methods.  Our evolution appears guided.  Perhaps if we saw the evidence of this hypothetical race’s origins, a completely different theory might be proposed that would not require God.

That is why ID is neither proof of the existence of God, nor should it be disbarred from being taught in schools.  It is also why Christian theists need to have better arguments against atheism (and the good news is, we do!).  Sure, ID can disprove Darwinism, but that doesn’t prove God when someone even slightly less intelligent than we are could replicate the results we see on Earth.  So while ID isn’t bad by any means, especially since it does help show how ludicrous Darwinism is, Christians need to be very wary about relying on ID as an apologetic silver bullet against materialistic Darwinists.

More Evidence Of The Evangelical Lack Of Urgency

I discussed the subject of urgency in a recent thread. It wasn't just about Evangelicals, but the lack of urgency among Evangelicals in particular came up. I cited a lot of evidence relevant to issues of urgency, such as polling data, but that can be supplemented by other evidence that's not as extensive as something like a poll.

I've done a lot of work in apologetics over the years, so I have more familiarity with that field than others. I've often written about the negligence of Evangelicals in apologetic contexts (and theological contexts, moral contexts, etc.), including a lack of appropriate urgency. See here regarding same-sex marriage. And here regarding Christmas issues. Here regarding the paranormal. Those are just a few of many examples that could be cited.

Something that people often do in a context like this is cite the work of William Lane Craig, James White, Michael Brown, and other individuals who are doing a lot of good in apologetics and other fields, as if the work of such individuals suggests that Evangelicals in general are doing well. It does no such thing. Rather, Evangelicals are overly dependent on a tiny minority of individuals who are expected to carry an inordinately large burden.

What are you doing? What specific plans do you have in place to accomplish significant things, in apologetics and elsewhere? How often do you speak up? How often do you do little or nothing more than sit back and wait for other people to do the work?

"Strange were it that the physician, or the shoemaker, or the weaver, in short all artists, should be able each to contend correctly for his own art, but that one calling himself Christian should not be able to give a reason for his own faith; yet those things if overlooked bring only loss to men's property, these if neglected destroy our very souls. Yet such is our wretched disposition, that we give all our care to the former, and the things which are necessary, and which are the groundwork of our salvation, as though of little worth, we despise. That it is which prevents the heathen from quickly deriding his own error. For when they, though established in a lie, use every means to conceal the shamefulness of their opinions, while we, the servants of the truth, cannot even open our mouths, how can they help condemning the great weakness of our doctrine? how can they help suspecting our religion to be fraud and folly? how shall they not blaspheme Christ as a deceiver, and a cheat, who used the folly of the many to further his fraud? And we are to blame for this blasphemy, because we will not be wakeful in arguments for godliness, but deem these things superfluous, and care only for the things of earth." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 17:3-4)

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Dying Well As A Christian

One of the many things to be grateful to God for in the life of Steve Hays is how well his life ended. I've written about how he was active in doing apologetics and other important work until the end and how well his life concluded in other ways. As his obituary said, "What he lived by, he died by."

A few years ago, I wrote about some similar themes in the life of T.S. Mooney. You can read those posts here and here.

All of us should periodically review our lives and ask how well we're preparing for death.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Missing Urgency

Scripture says a lot about the urgency we should have in religious contexts. Our culture doesn't. Most likely, your closest relatives, friends, and acquaintances don't either.

They're too occupied with the "worries and riches and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14). The need for urgency is still there (Nehemiah 6:3, Psalm 39:4, 90:12, Hosea 5:15, Matthew 9:37-38, 24:42, Luke 12:20-21, John 4:35-38, 12:35, Romans 13:11-14, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, Hebrews 10:25, James 4:13-15, Revelation 2:16, 3:11, etc.).

"You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed." (Matthew 25:26)