Category Archives: Atheism

(podcast) with Dr. Timothy Keller: Christmas Message

Christmas Message (click here)

Since we are deep into the Christmas season, this is the third of four podcasts imgresI’m sharing (see November 28 and December 5 for the previous two), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: Who is this Jesus?- Open Forum

Who is this Jesus- – Open Forum (click here)

Now that we’ve entered the Christmas season, I want to share four podcasts over the  (you guessed it), four weeks leading up to the Big Day from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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(podcast, with notes) Apologetics, Part 2: The Origin of Life: Darwinism vs. Design

The Origin of Life Darwinism vs Design (click here)

Once again I am very grateful to Rev. Chris Daniels of the Richmond Center for Christian Study for allowing me to offer to you this five-part series on Christian apologetics: “Exploring the Nature of Reality: Seeing How a Biblical View of the World is Reasonable, Reliable and Fits Reality as Nothing Else Does”

This second session, The Origin of Life: Darwinism vs. Design, is presented by Rev. Daniel, who serves as the Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study.

This apologetics course is designed to give roots to the faith of Christians, assist seekers in their quest for truth, and gently and respectfully challenge those who hold to competing worldviews.

Originally presented April 9, 2011 at the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference in Richmond, VA, the lecture runs 1:12:00, including Q&A.

For more information on the Richmond Center for Christian Study, go to http://richmondstudycenter.org

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

AND TO HELP YOU EVEN FURTHER, HERE IS AN OUTLINE:

Why does this issue matter?
1) God is jealous for his glory

This is God’s creation – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

God rightly wants credit for what he has done – “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)

2) Removes barriers of skepticism (and gives roots to the faith of believers)

If it’s really true that life was designed, then suddenly certain notions that were previously seen as merely religious (e.g., God speaking, taking on human flesh, and even raising Jesus from the dead) are now seen, not as mere faith statements that certain people believe,  but as historical truth claims that might very well describe the nature of the world we all live in.
Do Science and the Bible contradict each other?
How does God speak? “Two Books of God”
Nature (general revelation) & Scripture (special revelation)
Nature & Scripture – infallible (God’s revelation)

Science & theology – fallible (man’s interpretation of God’s revelation)
When our science and theology conflict, we have to go back to Nature & Scripture and ask, “How have I misinterpreted what God has spoken?”

Five Views of Origins
1. Naturalistic Evolution. Atheistic, only matter and energy exist, life can arise only by chance or necessity
2. Deistic Evolution. God created universe but never intervenes, life is left to arise by chance or necessity
3. Theistic Evolution. God used evolution to bring life about, intervenes at the origin of life and (maybe) the human soul
4. Progressive Creationism. God created the universe, then created various forms of  life at different points in history
5. Fiat Creationism. God created the universe and all of life pretty much instantaneously

Cultural note: The Darwinism that is so prevalent in our world today promotes a specific brand of evolution – Naturalistic Evolution (the idea that everything concerning the origin of life, and even the universe, must be explained without appealing to divine intervention).

What case are we trying to make?
I want to lay out a scientific case that the reality of how life came about on this planet resides somewhere in the realm of Progressive and Fiat Creationism, in other words, that God actually intervened and created various forms of life as independent acts of creation, rather than saying that life somehow came about by chance or natural forces, descending from a common ancestor.

So we are focusing here on what God has revealed through Nature regarding life’s origin.

Who has the burden of proof?

Prima Facie Principle – One must assume that what appears to be true is indeed true, unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary; thus the one who argues against what appears to be true (i.e., against the prima facie view) has the burden of proof.

Everybody acknowledges the Appearance of Design.

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance  of having been designed for a purpose.” ~ Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1

“Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” ~ Francis Crick

Since the burden of proof rests with the person who would argue against what appears to be true, the burden of proof in the question of the origin of life rests squarely on the Darwinist.

Cultural note: It is often assumed in our culture that you should assume that life came about by natural processes alone rather than by divine intervention, and even then the standard for proof is place abnormally high. But the Prima Facie Principle shows that it is really the other way around.

Why Darwinism Fails

What makes a sound argument?
1) True assumptions
2) Valid reasoning

Darwinism fails in both of these…

Example of how Darwinism fails in its underlying assumptions:
1. Darwinism assumes Methodological Naturalism.
Methodological Naturalism – “Only naturalistic explanations are allowed. Anything else [i.e., appealing to design] is declared unscientific.”

This assumption is woven into the fabric of most science textbooks.

“There are varying religious accounts of how [the origin of life] happened, but there is only one scientific account, and it can be summed up with a single word: evolution.”
~ David Krogh, A Brief Guide to Biology with Physiology, 254
(standard freshman level biology textbook at VCU)

Krogh is suggesting that evolution is the only explanation that even qualifies as scientific.

“The earliest fossils of multicellular organisms appear in approximately 600-million-year-old rocks in southern Australia. These had shells, gills, filters, efficient guts, and circulatory systems, and in these ways they were relatively advanced…. They must have had ancestors that do not appear in known fossils, but in which
these organs and systems evolved.”
~ Daniel Botkin & Edward Keller, Environmental Science, 126
(most commonly used science textbook at UR)

Botkin and Keller rule out design as a possible explanation for why these “relatively advanced” organisms suddenly appear in the fossil record, and simply assume that they “must have had ancestors that do not appear in known fossils.”

Thus, design is ruled out ahead of time!

The danger in this approach, of course, is that if you rule out certain options before the evidence is considered, you risk ruling out the truth.

If the purpose of science is to discover the truth, ruling out an option ahead of time cannot be considered good science.

Why do many scientists assume Methodological Naturalism?

One reason is because of the “God of the Gaps” problem.

Appealing to God “fills the gap” in our scientific knowledge. When we find a scientific explanation, God is no longer necessary.

Famous example – Newton suggested that God gave the planets periodic “nudges” to keep them in orbit.

Later we discovered how planets stay in orbit naturally, so God got “squeezed out” of the explanation.

To avoid the “God of the Gaps” problem, many scientists simply don’t consider appealing to God in the first place (assuming Methodological Naturalism), including the question of the origin of life.

Why should we not assume Methodological Naturalism when considering the origin of life?
Two types of science:
1) empirical sciences (asks how things operate now that they are here) (e.g., chemistry, physics, biology)
2) historical sciences (asks how things got here in the first place) (e.g., archaeology, forensic science)

With empirical sciences, it is proper to assume Methodological Naturalism, since we are asking how things operate by nature now that they are here. With historical sciences, it is not proper to assume Methodological Naturalism, since we are asking a fundamentally different type of question – how certain things got here in the first place.

When the archaeologist asks “How did these cave markings get here?” he is not required to limit his explanations to natural causes like wind erosion, but is allowed to consider the possibility that they came about through the work of some sort of intelligent agent. When the forensic scientist asks “How did this dead body get here?”  he is not required to limit his explanations to something like a heart  attack, but is allowed to consider the possibility that it came about through the work of an intelligent agent (e.g., a murderer).

So when considering how life got here in the first place (a question properly belonging to the historical sciences), it is scientifically appropriate to consider design as a possibility.

Historical note: The reason Newton and others have run into the “God of the Gaps” problem is not because they appealed to the work of an intelligent agent, but because they appealed to the work of an intelligent agent in the realm of the empirical sciences.

Example of how Darwinism fails in its reasoning

Darwinism reasons that “similarity implies common ancestry.” This is a non sequitur (i.e., it does not follow). Similarity could just as well be explained by a common designer, just as two paintings that are strikingly similar might suggest that they were painted by the same artist, or just as two computer programs that have strikingly similar code might suggest that they were programmed by the same computer programmer.

This kind of failure in reasoning is pervasive…

“Some classic evidence for evolution is seen in the similar forelimb structures found in a very diverse group of mammals – in a whale, a cat, a bat, and a gorilla…. Look at what exists in each case: one upper bone, joined to two intermediate bones, joined to five digits. Evolutionary biologists postulate that the four mammals evolved from a common ancestor, adapting this 1-2-5 structure over time in accordance with their environments.”
~ David Krogh, A Brief Guide to Biology with Physiology, 265
(standard freshman level biology textbook at VCU)

Krogh is suggesting that, since these animals have a similar forelimb structure, they must have descended from a common ancestor. In fact, he even calls this “classic evidence for evolution,” although he also refers to this as a “postulate.”

Observation: If you have the burden of proof, you can’t afford to have “postulates” serve as “classic evidence” for your case.

“Unmistakable signs of a common ancestor quickly appear when one looks at the details [comparing human and mouse genomes]. For instance, the order of genes along the human and the mouse chromosomes is generally maintained over substantial stretches of DNA. Thus, if I find human genes A, B, and C in that order, I am likely to find that the mouse has counterparts of A, B, and C also placed in that same order, although the spacing between the genes may have varied a bit. In some instances, this correlation extends over substantial distances; virtually all of the genes on human chromosome 17, for instance, are found on mouse chromosome 11.”
~ Francis Collins, The Language of God, 134-135

Collins is pointing out the similarity between human and mouse DNA and referring to this as an “unmistakable sign of a common ancestor.” 

Then Collins goes on and says, “While one might argue that the order of genes is critical in order for their function to occur properly, and therefore a designer might have maintained that order in multiple acts of special creation, there is no evidence from current understanding of molecular biology that this restriction would need to apply over such substantial chromosome distances.”

Note that Collins says “There is no evidence from current understanding of molecular biology that this restriction would need to apply over such substantial chromosome distances.” In other words, Collins is saying “There’s really no evidence for design, so we should just conclude my position.” That might work if you don’t have the burden of proof, but not if it’s your job to prove your case.

A scientific case for design: Irreducible Complexity

Reminder: It is not the design advocate’s job to make his case; it is the Darwinist’s. But the fact that a positive scientific case can be made for design anyway is “icing on the cake.”

Irreducibly complex system – “system composed of several interdependent parts, wherein the removal of one of those parts would cause the  system to cease functioning.”

Irreducibly complex systems exist in nature, like this bacterial flagellar motor.

The motor spins the flagellum (i.e., tail) so the bacterium can move.

If one of the 40 parts of this motor is missing or defective, it will not work.

Darwinism requires that biological systems had to arise in a step-by-step fashion through natural selection, without the intrusion of a designer.

In fact, Darwin himself said in his Origin of Species, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

But irreducibly complex systems could not have arisen by natural selection.

Natural selection only favors those parts that benefit the system as they arise one step at a time.

But in an irreducibly complex system like the flagellar motor, none of the parts become beneficial until they are all already in place.

So natural selection is out of the picture when it comes to the construction of the flagellar motor and other irreducibly complex systems like it.

This, of course, infers design.

A scientific case for design: Biological Information

DNA is a code.

“Now we believe that DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”
~ Francis Crick (co-discovered of double helix structure of DNA)

Information Theory – tells us that information always comes from design.

“The creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”
~ Henry Quastler (pioneer in Information Theory)

Charles Lyell (Darwin’s mentor). Lyell’s method for studying biological origins: Look for “causes now in operation”

In other words, if we observe that certain occurrences in the present are always caused by X, then we should assume that such occurrences in the past are also caused by X, and not by Y.

Lyell and Darwin did not know about DNA, but scientists today would do well to apply their method to the information embedded in the DNA molecule:

We observe that codes/information in the present are always caused by some sort of intelligent agent, and never from mere natural causes.

So, considering these “causes now in operation,” we should conclude that codes/information that we find from the past, like the information found in the DNA molecule, must also have been caused by some sort of intelligent agent.

Resource Recommendations
Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis
Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial
Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?
DVDs from Illustra Media: (also view online at http://youtube.com/illustramedia)
The Privileged Planet
Unlocking the Mystery of Life
Darwin’s Dilemma
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (DVD with Ben Stein)

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(podcast, with notes) Apologetics, Part 1: How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews.

How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews (click here)

I am very grateful to Rev. Chris Daniels of the Richmond Center for Christian Study for allowing me to offer to you this five-part series on Christian apologetics: “Exploring the Nature of Reality: Seeing How a Biblical View of the World is Reasonable, Reliable and Fits Reality as Nothing Else Does”

Presented by Rev. Chris Daniel, Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study

This apologetics course is designed to give roots to the faith of Christians, assist seekers in their quest for truth, and gently and respectfully challenge those who hold to competing worldviews.

Originally presented spring semester of 2010 on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the first lecture is entitled, How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews. It runs 43:15, followed by Q&A.

For more information on the Richmond Center for Christian Study, go to http://richmondstudycenter.org

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

AND TO HELP YOU EVEN FURTHER, HERE IS AN OUTLINE:

Why should I care about truth?!

  • Truth is inherently valuable.
  • Often detrimental to be out of touch with reality.
  • Truth is accessible to the average Joe on the street.

How to know what’s really true… three principles…
1) Reality Principle
2) Bias Principle
3) Certainty Principle

Reality Principle
1) The truth is really there.
2) It is really knowable.

  • To deny this principle is self-defeating…
  • To say “truth is not there” is to make a truth claim, which of course, undercuts the statement being made.
  • To say “truth is not knowable” is, again, to claim to know something true, which again undercuts the claim being made.
  • The moment you try to deny this principle, you affirm it.

Bias Principle

  • How we interpret the facts tends to be influenced by the perspective of the world we already have.
  • We must recognize our various biases (in all fields of life – science, culture, spiritual, etc.) and always be open to the facts as they present themselves to us and be willing to have our perspectives changed by them.

Certainty Principle
How certain do you have to be before you believe something to be true?

How knowledge works:
1) You can’t know anything to be true with absolute certainty.
2) Absolute certainty is not required for you to know something to
be true. Sufficient certainty is all that is required.

There comes a point where you’re sure enough about something that you
can rest in the knowledge that it is true and thus become responsible to act
upon it. So we can’t wait until absolute proof is presented before we will believe
something to be true, but must be willing to consider the facts and go
where they reasonably seem to lead.

How to Test a Worldview

Cultural Context – many views of reality
(Humanism, Buddhism, Modernism, Christianity, etc.)

Cultural Drive – affirm all beliefs
Why this is impossible…
1) Various worldviews often contradict each other at the core.
So it is not possible that they could both be true.
2) Since there is only one reality, only the worldview that fits the
reality we all live in can be true. All other worldviews would be
painting a picture fundamentally different than that reality, and thus
would be false.

Fundamental Question – “Is this worldview consistent with reality or not?”
Three Tests…
1) Test of Logical Consistency – Is it consistent with itself?
If this worldview represents reality, in order to be consistent with
reality it has to be consistent with itself.
2) Test of Historical Consistency – Is it consistent with history?
History tells us what the world has been like up to this point, so if a
worldview is going to fit reality, it will have to be consistent with history.
3) Test of Experiential Consistency – Is it consistent with life as it presents
itself to us?

If a worldview is going to fit reality, it is going to have to fit the data
that life lays out before us.

Postmodernism

  • Says “everybody decides for himself what is true and what is right.”
  • You hear Postmodernism when you hear people say things like… “That’s true for you, but not for me” or “You have your truth, I have mine” or “That’s just your personal belief.”
  • Core truth claim → There is no overarching truth that applies to everybody.
  • In claiming that there is no overarching truth that applies to everybody, Postmodernism is making an overarching truth claim that applies to everybody.
  • So, Postmodernism fails the Test of Logical Consistency and fails to fit reality.

Naturalism

  • Says “matter and energy are all there is.”
  • You hear Naturalism when you hear people say things like… “Everything has to have a ‘scientific’ explanation [which is often code for ‘Naturalistic’ explanation].”
  • Problem → Naturalism doesn’t fit our corporate experience of life.
  • Life presents itself as including relationships, commitment, love, hate, etc.
  • But Naturalism does not have room for these things. (Atoms can’t love, energy can’t hate.)
  • So, Naturalism fails the Test of Experiential Consistency and fails to fit reality.

Islam

  • Depends on the notion that the Bible has been fundamentally corrupted.
  • Why does Islam depend on the Bible being corrupted? 1) Islam affirms that the Bible is the Word of God. 2) There are core contradictions b/t Islam and the Bible today.
  • So, when could the Bible have been fundamentally corrupted? 1) Before the Koran was written (7th cent.)?

The Koran itself refers to the Bible as a reliable document.
5:47 – “Let the People of the Gospel [Christians] judge by what
God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by the light of
what God hath revealed, they are no better than those who rebel.”
5:68 – “Say: ‘O People of the Book [Jews and Christians]! Ye have
no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law [OT], the
Gospel [NT], and all the revelation that has come to you from
your Lord.’”

  • This option would lead to a fundamental contradiction,causing Islam to fail the Test of Logical Consistency.

2) After the 7th century?

  • We now have a massive amount of NT manuscripts dating as far back as the 2nd century and OT manuscripts dating back even earlier that are virtually identical with our Bibles today.
  • This option clashes with what we now know as a matter of history,causing Islam to fail the Test of Historical Consistency.
  • Since there is no time in which the Bible could have been fundamentally corrupted, which Islam depends on, Islam as a worldview cannot fit reality.

What About Tolerance?!

  • Modern understanding of tolerance: “You can’t say that someone else’s beliefs are wrong! If you do, you are being intolerant!”
  • Historic understanding of tolerance:  You should be willing to live peacefully and respectfully with those you believe, and even say, are wrong.
  • Modern understanding undercuts itself… It says that it is wrong for you to say that someone else is wrong.
  • This, of course, fails the Test of Logical Consistency, and thus cannot be an approach that fits reality.
  • Historic understanding of tolerance is actually consistent with the teaching of Jesus, and is how we ought to approach others and their worldviews.

The Call of Jesus

  • John 1:17 – “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
  • Grace and Truth must be held together when evaluating different worldviews, and when relating to the people that hold to them.
  • If we hold onto truth without grace, we beat people up with our words and we fail to follow Jesus who was called “the friend of sinners” and who humbled himself even to the point of death on a cross.
  • If we hold onto grace without truth, we find ourselves no longer in touch with reality, but rather blinded by a pretend world that doesn’t match the real world as it actually is.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have [referring to Truth]… but [referring to Grace] do this with gentleness and respect.”

Resource Recommendations
Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults
Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?
James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Islam, Jesus, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion

Playboy, Richard Dawkins and Jesus

If you’re familiar with Richard Dawkins, evolutionist biologist, atheist and author (The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion) and you read his interview in the September issue of Playboy magazine (which you can, without having to buy the mag, by going to http://www.playboy.com/playground/view/playboy-interview-richard-dawkins) you’ll not discover anything particularly new, although you may get more of a sense of his personality.

So… if you’re familiar with Dawkins, you won’t be surprised that he knocks the notion of the existence of God and, thus, creationists, Sunday Schools, religion in general, and the Pope in particular.

What did surprise me was his view of Jesus:

“The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.”

“Whoever wrote His lines”? That’s a rather wild conspiracy theory! Dawkins is actually suggesting that men of the First Century may have created a fictional character named Jesus, wrote amazing lines for him to say, and then proceeded to die horrible, violent deaths rather than denounce their “fiction.”
For Dawkins to claim that evidence for Jesus’ existence is “shaky” is to show his own ignorance. There is ample, recorded evidence that Jesus did indeed exist, and I am not talking about biblical evidence, although the biblical evidence is overwhelming and historically accurate.

To back up my claim I went to http://beginningandend.com/jesus-exist-historical-evidence-jesus-christ/  and boldly cut and pasted.

Did Jesus Really Exist? Where is the proof from non-Bible sources that he is real?

These questions and others like it are often asked by Bible skeptics and atheists alike. This article will show that not only is there historical evidence (from secular sources as well as Christian) that Jesus Christ was real and existed, but also that Jesus Christ is the most documented and historically verifiable figure in antiquity.

There are many secular historians who lived in the century after the death of Jesus Christ who confirmed his existence. Here are some of them:

Flavius Josephus

According to his Wikipedia entry: “Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70.”

His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for an ostensibly Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity.

Josephus was a Jew who did not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God or Christianity. In The Antiquities of the Jews, book 18, chapter 3, paragraph 3 the famous historian Flavius Josephus writes:

“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Later Josephus writes:

“But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.”

Josephus considered one of the greatest historians of antiquity, independently provides proof and evidence that Jesus was a real person who did exist and also confirms the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross under the orders of Pontius Pilate, thus confirming the Biblical account as well.

Tacitus

Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman Historian who lived from 55-120AD. In 115 AD, P. Cornelius Tacitus wrote the following passage that refers to Jesus (called “Christus,” which means “The Messiah”) in book 15, chapter 44 of The Annals after a six-day fire burned much of Rome:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

Despite the fact the clearly despised Christianity as a “mischievous superstition”, Tacitus no less confirms once again the existence of Jesus and His crucifixion on the cross, it also states Pontius Pilate as the procurator who oversaw the crucifixion again giving non-Biblical proof of Jesus’ existence as recorded in the Bible.

 

Pliny The Younger

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, (61 AD – ca. 112 AD) : “better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. According to Wikipedia: “Pliny is known for his hundreds of surviving letters, which are an invaluable historical source for the time period. Many are addressed to reigning emperors or to notables such as the historian, Tacitus. Pliny himself was a notable figure, serving as an imperial magistrate under Trajan (reigned AD 98–117). Pliny was considered an honest and moderate man, consistent in his pursuit of suspected Christian members according to Roman law, and rose through a series of Imperial civil and military offices, the cursus honorum.”

In his correspondence with the emperor Trajan (Epistulae X.96) he reported on his actions against the followers of Christ. He asks the Emperor for instructions dealing with Christians and explained that he forced Christians to curse Christ under painful torturous inquisition:

“They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of a meal–but ordinary and innocent food.”

So not only was Pliny aware of Jesus Christ, he also provides description of the activities of the early church. In a later writing he details persecution against Christians:

“Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I therefore judged it so much more the necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.

In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature of their creed might be, I could at least feel not doubt that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy deserved chastisement. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.”

So here we see that not only did Pliny not follow the Christian faith, he was torturing Christians and threatening death against them. And he even records that under threat of execution (just for believing in Jesus Christ as God) the early church members refused to deny their faith in Jesus. This is remarkable evidence of Jesus’ existence outside of the Bible.

Julius Africanus and Tallus

Sextus Julius Africanus (c.160 – c.240) was a Christian traveller and historian of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.

Julius Africanus quotes the writings of Tallus, who was a first century non-Christian historian. In his Chronicles, Africanus quoting the historian Tallus, explains the reason for it being so dark during the day time on the day of crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

“An eclipse of the sun’unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.” Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.

The importance of this quote is two fold as it shows: 1) non-Christian proof of Jesus’ existence and 2) yet another confirmation of the Bible’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Bible states in reference to the time Jesus was put on the cross: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour” The “sixth hour” is noon and the ninth hour is 3:00PM. Thus we see that the historian Thallus was trying to explain the odd occurrence of the sky being dark at noon during the crucifxion of Jesus as an eclipse. Africanus also quotes the secular scholar Phlegon, a Greek Historian who lived in the 2nd century AD and also wrote of an eclipse occuring on the day Jesus was crucified. This again provides proof from a non-Christian source that confirms the account of Jesus being a real person who lived as well as confirming the account of His crucifixion straight from the Bible.

Lucian of Samosate

Lucian (Born 115 AD) was a well-known Greek satirist and traveling lecturer. More than eighty works bear his name. He mocked Christians in his writing, but at the same time provided evidence that Jesus really did exist:

“He was second only to that one whom they still worship today, the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation into the world.”

“Having convinced themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, the poor wretches despise death and most willingly give themselves to it. Moreover, that first lawgiver of theirs persuaded them that they are all brothers the moment they transgress and deny the Greek gods and begin worshiping that crucified sophist and living by his laws.”

“They scorn all possessions without distinction and treat them as community property. They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time.”

So again, even though Lucian does not mention Jesus by name, there is no doubt he is speaking of the Jesus as he confirms: 1) that he was crucified in “Palestine” (the name of Israel at that time), 2) had followers who believed in eternal life and 3) that they were all equal in Jesus Christ. Lucian even mentions that Christians deny all other gods and believe on “faith alone.” This again is all in accordance with the Bible’s clear statements about the Christian faith and provides even more evidence from outside of the Bible that Jesus, the “man in Palestine” did really exist.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Jesus, Religion

Two Important and Related Rallies: One Against Obama; One Against God

This past Friday and Saturday two different rallies took place. The first, on Friday (which actually took place in over 130 cities across America), was sponsored by a loose coalition calling itself Stand Up for Religious Freedom .

The second, held on Saturday at the Mall in Washington DC, was The Reason Rally.

The purpose of the first was to voice opposition against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) policy which has come to be known at the “HHS Mandate.”

This new Mandate would require nearly all private health insurance plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs. The concern is how it relates, i.e., what it mandates, for religious organizations opposed to such practices.

The purpose of the second rally was to voice opposition against God.

Concerning the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies, Mary Rose Somarriba, writing for The Washington Post, succinctly laid out the issue at hand.

“So allow me to walk you through the issue we’re rallying about today. The mandate states that religious institutions must cover free contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization in their healthcare to employees, even if the religious institutions object to those services in their religious beliefs. After much uproar by Catholic bishops and Catholic laypeople, both liberal and conservative, on February 10 President Obama offered what he called a compromise, mandating that the health insurance companies pay for these services for the religious institutions’ employees.

“But it wasn’t a compromise. Obama didn’t reach that decision after working the issue through with bishops or religious institutions. While some eager Catholic groups quickly responded that this was an acceptable compromise, most haven’t, including the bishops and countless Catholic lay people rallying today.

“Why? Because the federal government is still telling religious institutions to provide products and services they find objectionable, and this affront to religious liberty is unconstitutional. According to this compromise, religious institutions still have to pay for something against their conscience — the health insurance that covers free contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization. Adding one more step between the dealer and the goods doesn’t change the ultimate transaction that’s going on here. This sleight-of-hand maneuver didn’t fool all of us. And for the many rallying around the nation today, it offends us.”

Ms. Somarriba’s entire piece can be read at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/why-were-standing-up-for-religious-freedom/2012/03/23/gIQA1wXsVS_blog.html

In addition, you can also hear/watch a speech by Constitutional lawyer, Co-founder of and Senior Counsel for the American Freedom Law Center, Robert Muise, right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XP0qxUmL0A

The Reason Rally, held at the Washington Mall, was sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations. Its intent was “to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!” According to a spokeman for the rally, approximately 10,000 attended.

See: http://reasonrally.org/about/

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post, wrote, “It was, one speaker said, their coming-out moment.

“Atheists, non-theists, secularists and others who say they believe in reason, not God, gathered Saturday on the Mall for the firstReason Rally, where they pledged to stand up for their beliefs in a society that they say sometimes views them with skepticism and distrust.

“’God is a myth,” said Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists. ‘Closet atheists, you are not alone.’”

You can read Ms. Aratani’s complete article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/atheists-others-to-gather-at-reason-rally/2012/03/23/gIQAvqY2WS_story.html?tid=pm_local_pop

Richard Dawkins, author of the best-selling The God Delusion, was the most anticipated and well-known speaker at the rally. Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY reported “Dawkins didn’t appear until five hours into the event, but few seemed discouraged by the near-constant rain or drizzle. They whistled and cheered for his familiar lines such as:

‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for …’

‘Evolution is not just true, it’s beautiful …’

“Then Dawkins got to the part where he calls on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to ‘ridicule and show contempt’ for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist, which Catholics believe becomes the body of Christ during Mass.’”

You can read Ms. Grossman’s entire article at: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2012/03/-atheists-richard-dawkins-reason-rally/1

Also, you can watch the majority of Richard Dawkins speech (15 minutes) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-VVxPCrHCE&feature=related

Other well-known speakers included Eddie Izzard, James Randi, Adam Savage, Greta Christina, and Bill Maher. A list of all the participants is at: http://reasonrally.org/speakers-2/

Both of these gatherings were important. Both of these gatherings address the fundamental right of every individual to express and exercise fully their religious freedom through both word and deed. A freedom Mr. Obama does not seem to fully appreciate.

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Filed under Atheism, Health Care, Politics, Religion

Evil and The Atheist

The best working definition of moral evil I’ve run across was offered by M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie: “Evil… is that force, residing either inside or outside human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness.” And then, by contrast, Peck goes on to say “… Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.”

The reality of moral evil is seldom up for question, except for twits like Neale Donald Walsh (Conversations with God) and his ilk.

For example, Will and Ariel Durant point out in The Lessons of History that “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.”

Os Guinness, in his book, Unspeakable, states “And of course, humanly perpetrated evil covers the little and local abuses of power too. It included not only the tortured and the slain who were massacred by the millions but also the neglected child, the abused teenager, the battered wife, the cheated employee, and the robbed pensioner.”

The existence of evil has always been a challenge for Christians. Some non-believers have referred to it as the “Achilles’ Heel” of the faith. The familiar dilemma goes something like this: “You say God is all loving and all powerful. Yet there is evil…  If God is all loving he would correct the situation. But he doesn’t so he must not be all powerful. But if he is all powerful and doesn’t remove the problem, he must not be all loving.”

I’ll admit there is a challenge. I also believe the challenge can be met, although that it not my purpose here. My purpose is to point out that the existence of evil is an even greater challenge for the atheist.

AND that the fact of moral evil is one of the key clues to the existence of a good God.

It’s not complicated: The very categories of evil or wickedness only exist if an absolute moral law exists. And an absolute moral law exists, only if God exists.

I’ll leave it at that, but will be happy to explore the question further with anyone who would like.

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Filed under Atheism, Evil