Category Archives: Podcasts

(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: The Meaning of Christmas

The Meaning of Christmas

Having entered the Christmas season, I’m sharing four podcasts (see Novemberimgres 28 for the previous one), 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 5: Homosexuality as an Ethical Test Case

Audio (click here)

Thanks one final time 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 fifth and final session, Homosexuality as an Ethical Test Case, 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.

The lecture runs 1:11:00, with 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:

How do we determine what is ethical?
The approaches we too often adopt:
1) Succumb to the cultural pressure that promotes an ever-increasing growth in “rights” and “freedom”.
2) React against any effort to bring about social change that may threaten what we’re used to or comfortable with.

The only right approach: Ask, “What has God said about this?”

Given that it is God who made us, and given that He has spoken to us, this is the only way we could ever determine what is truly ethical.
How has God spoken to us?
NATURE (general revelation)
SCRIPTURE (special revelation)

General Revelation: What has God said through Nature?
Complementary Design – two systems or objects that show by their design that they are intended for each other.

Example: Nut & Bolt
We recognize that each was designed with the other in mind, not merely because one happens to fit in the other, but because the grooves of the one receive the threads of the other for the purpose of securing a tight fit.

The penis and vagina, and the male and female reproductive systems as a whole, show clear signs of complementary design.

Not only do the penis and anus fail to show signs of complementary design, but such sexual activity (much more common in homosexual encounters) actually does violence to the clear design and intention of the anus.

“[The anus was not] designed for the purpose of intercourse, which is readily evident from the physical injuries that often arise from such practices.”
~ Stanley Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective, 237

 

“The rectum is lined with a single layer of columnar epithelial cells designed to absorb liquids. The vagina, by contrast, is lined with tough cells called stratified squamous epithelium. These cells have a layer of mucus that, along with other secretions and the thicker, more flexible vaginal wall, protects against abrasion and infection. The rectal wall has no surrounding muscular support, and it secretes a small amount of mucus that does not protect well against abrasion. But the key differences between the vagina and the rectum are the cell types and the thickness of the cell layers. The two orifices may feel very much alike to the intruding finger or penis. But one orifice is prone to repel, the other to admit, whatever microorganisms come along for the ride.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 117
“It is important to understand that physical trauma, or harm to bodily structures, is a common problem among homosexuals. Quite simply … the rectum is not made for the industrial use of insertive homosexual activity.  Anal intercourse stretches the opening to the size required for a large bowel movement. The problem, however, is not the size of the opening but  the direction and repetition of the movement. The anus is a one-way valve, stimulated to open only by pressure from inside, and stimulated to contract by pressure from outside. Sudden or inadequately lubricated penetration can tear the anus itself. But more commonly the cumulative effect of anal intercourse is to cause dysfunction of the anal sphincter muscle, and the result is chronic incontinence or urgency of defecation for about one in three men who regularly engage in the practice.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 117-8
“Nor is that all. Once past the anus, the danger of physical trauma worsens. Irritation of the sensitive rectal mucus layer causes a host of reactions, including diarrhea, cramps, hemorrhoids, prostate damage, and ulcers or fissures which in turn invite infection. The thin cell layer of the rectum is easily perforated, and its insensitivity to pain can lead to serious complications before a person is aware of any harm. Extensive surgical procedures are often required to repair damage caused by the insertion of the penis, the finger or other objects into the rectum.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 118

 

Special Revelation: What has God said through Scripture?
Primary passages dealing with the question of homosexuality:

“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’”
~ Genesis 19:4-8

“Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
~ Jude 7

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
~Leviticus 18:22 (also, Lev 20:13)

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”
~ Romans 1:26-27

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

[Though these passages are sufficient to demonstrate that homosexual activity is unethical, some will attempt to explain how these passages fall short of condemning homosexual activity as we know it today. But Jesus’ approach (below) cuts through all this…]

Jesus’ approach to dealing with ethical issues of marriage and sexuality: Jesus reasons, “As it was at the Creation, so it ought to be now.”

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’” ~ Matthew 19:3-6

Jesus uses the Genesis language of “being united to your wife” and “becoming one flesh” to draw out the ethical implication that “man should not separate what God has joined together.”

Using Jesus’ own method of Biblical interpretation, we should observe that at the Creation God “made them male and female” (i.e., opposite genders) and that “a man will … be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We should then conclude, using Jesus’ reasoning that “as it was at Creation, so it ought to be now,” that marriage / sexual union is designed and intended to be enjoyed between a man and a woman.

[Note: Even if it were true that the passages previously mentioned all fall short of condemning homosexual activity as we know it today, following Jesus’ own method of Biblical interpretation would lead to this ethical conclusion anyway.]

Aren’t some people “born gay”?
Two reasons not to accept the notion that some people are “born gay”:
1) It is not true
2) It is dangerous

The notion that some people are “born gay” is simply not true.

This notion implies that, if you have homosexual feelings, you should embrace those feelings since that’s how God made you. While it is true that we should embrace how God has made us, this notion assumes that homosexual feelings must be a result of how God made us and doesn’t even consider that they might be a result of how the fall has corrupted us.

The biblical view is that, due to the fall, we are all born sinful, and as a result have all sorts of corrupt inclinations to one degree or another.

The notion that some people are “born gay” is dangerous.

This notion suggests that, if you have homosexual inclinations, you should be honest with who you are and embrace your inclinations. While we should certainly be honest with who we are, we should also be discerning, embracing those things about us that are a result of how God made us, and rejecting those things about us that are a result of how the fall has corrupted us.

Embracing our fallen tendencies reveals us as those who do not know God and bars us from inheriting the kingdom of God:

“No one who lives in him [God] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin [i.e., embraces sin as a friend/way of life] has either seen him or known him.”
~ 1 John 3:6 (also 3:9, 5:18)

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this [i.e., embrace such things as a way of life] will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
~ Galatians 5:19-21

The biblical approach to dealing with our fallen tendencies is not to embrace them, but to put them to death.

“If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
~ Romans 8:13-14

Total Depravity: We are all guilty of every type of sin 

Myth – Only some people are tempted by this type of sin (i.e., not me).

Fact – We are all tempted by every type of sin to one degree or another.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
~ Hebrews 4:15

Implications:
1) Jesus understands every type of temptation.
2) We are all in the same boat (i.e., there is no type of sin where we can say “The fall has not hit me here”).

“What shall we do?!”
Repent from your sins:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”
~ Acts 3:19

Believe in Jesus:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
~ John 3:16

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
~ Acts 16:31

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
~ Romans 10:9

Resource Recommendations
John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life
David Jones, Biblical Christian Ethics
Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics
Robert Gagnon & Dan Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views
Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and
Homosexuality
Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?: Compassion & Clarity in the
Homosexuality Debate

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(podcast, with notes) Apologetics, Part 4: The Bible as the Reliable Word of God

Audio (click here)

Thanks again 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 fourth session, The Bible As the Reliable Word of God, 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.

The lecture runs 1:15:00.

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:

How Has God Spoken to Us?

God’s communication to us has come through a “chain” made of four links:

1) Inspiration – “Has God really spoken in the first place?” 2) Canonization – “In what books has God spoken?” 3) Transmission – “Have those books been faithfully preserved?” 4) Translation – “Have they been accurately translated?”

First Link: Inspiration

“Has God really spoken in the Old Testament?”

1) Jesus himself believed and taught that the Old Testament was the very Word of God.

How do we know this to be so?

  • Jesus was a Jewish rabbi.
  • Jewish rabbis in that day believed and taught that the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) was the very Word of God.

2) Inescapable implication of the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead: God approved of Jesus’ mission and message, including his assessment that the Old Testament was the Word of God.

“Has God really spoken in the New Testament?”

1) We should expect New Testament revelation. Divine pattern → Follow up major acts of salvation history with revelation… a) When God delivered his people out of Egypt, he followed up by revealing the Pentateuch b) When God brought his people back from the Exile, he followed up by revealing Ezra and Nehemiah So certainly revelation should have been expected after such a major salvific event as the arrival of the Messiah himself!

2) The first disciples believed that this pattern had indeed continued.

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”~ 2 Peter 3:15-16

[When Peter says “as they do the other Scriptures,” he is implying that Paul’s writings themselves are Scripture.]

“For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” ~ 1 Timothy 5:18

[Paul is taking a quote from the OT (“Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain”) and a quote from  Luke’s Gospel (“The worker deserves his wages”), and in one breath is referring to both of them as Scripture.]   3) According to John, Jesus taught that he would equip the apostles for this task.

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you [referring to the apostles] all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” ~ John 14:26

4) The fact that the apostles were so equipped was confirmed by signs.

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those [i.e., the apostles] who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” ~ Hebrews 2:3-4 “The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:12

[Historically speaking, it’s a real stretch to suggest that Paul would have told the Corinthian church that he had performed these signs “among them” if indeed he had not. If he had lied in this way, the Corinthians of course would have known that he was lying and Paul would  have lost all credibility.] The key is Point #1… If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you should expect New Testament revelation to follow, and it seems from what we can tell (points 2-4) that it did.

Second Link: Canonization

“How do we know we have the right books in the Old Testament?”

The Jews in Jesus’ day, and Jesus himself, saw the inspired books as consisting of what now makes up our Old Testament.

Inescapable implication of the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead: God approved of Jesus’ mission and message, including his assessment that the Old Testament was the Word of God.

“How do we know we have the right books in the New Testament?”

Three tests: 1) Apostolicity – Was it written by an apostle or close associate? (which would have had apostolic approval) 2) Orthodoxy – Is the content of the writing consistent with the teaching of the apostles? 3) Early Usage – Was it used in worship by the early church? (a sign that it was recognized as Scripture by those who would have known best)

This led to the acceptance of the 27 New Testament books pretty much from the beginning.

Homologoumena – the 20 New Testament books that were universally accepted right away

Antilegomena – the books that took a little longer to become universally accepted (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation)

Two observations regarding the Antilegomena: 1) The books of the Antilegomena contain in themselves all the essentials of a Biblical worldview, so even if it were true that the books of the Antilegomena are not inspired, a Biblical worldview remains. 2) There is more than sufficient reason for thinking that the books of the Antilegomena are inspired because once the whole church had sufficient time to compare notes and consider these books more carefully in light of the tests mentioned above, they were then recognized by the whole church. (Remember, communication at that time simply took longer than it does today.)

Third Link: Transmission

“Have the Old Testament books been faithfully preserved?”

Jewish scribes (like the Masoretes) were known to be incredibly meticulous in their copying and preserving of the Old Testament throughout the centuries.

Confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (found in 1947). Dead Sea Scrolls date from the 3rd cent. B.C. to 1st cent. A.D. Include all of Isaiah and portions of every other Old Testament book except for Esther.

“For example, even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. They do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest.” ~ Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 25

“Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only seventeen letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word ‘light,’ which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly…. Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission – and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.” ~Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 304

“Have the New Testament books been faithfully preserved?”

How to determine reliability in the transmission of a text: 1) look at the number of manuscript copies (the more the better) 2) look at the elapsed time between when the original was written and when the earliest remaining copies were written (the less time the better)

The reliability of the New Testament is known to be unparalleled by any other ancient text.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd most reliable ancient text): 1) Almost 650 Greek manuscripts in existence 2) Written around 800 B.C., earliest copies around 400 B.C. (400 year gap)

New Testament (most reliable ancient text by far): 1) More than 5,500 Greek manuscripts in existence (25,000 including other languages) 2) Written in 1st century A.D., earliest copies in 2nd cent. A.D. (100 year gap, fragments as early as 25 years after original writing)

Scholars simply don’t question the reliability of the New Testament.

Nonetheless, the New Testament has not been preserved perfectly. The authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are questioned even by conservative scholars because of manuscript variation. There are also other minor variations every once in a while, but they don’t tend to amount to anything (e.g., one manuscript says “Christ Jesus” while another might say “Jesus Christ”).

Three things to note: 1) These variations are rare (only about 2% of the text). 2) They do not call into question any of the teachings of Christianity. 3) They are noted in most of today’s Bibles (so you know right where they are).

So, the New Testament and the Bible as a whole have been faithfully preserved over the centuries in a way that no other work of ancient literature has been, so that what we have today is (amazingly) virtually identical to what was originally written.

Fourth Link: Translation

Myth – “The original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible were translated into another language, and then into another, and then another, and then another, until finally it was translated into English. Thus, after so many generations of translations, you can’t be sure that we still have the original message intact.”

Reality – Our English Bibles today are direct translations from the original Greek and Hebrew. How the translation of languages works: Though every once in a while you might find an example of something that doesn’t perfectly translate from one language to another, generally speaking, messages translate quite well from one language to another without notable loss of information.   So, how does God speak to us?

Through four links in a chain… 1) Inspiration – God has spoken in Scripture. 2) Canonization – We have correctly recognized the books in which God has spoken. 3) Transmission – These books have been faithfully preserved. 4) Translation – They have been accurately translated.

As a result, God’s Word has come to us today in our English Bibles.

Resource Recommendations

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?

F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture

Bruce Metzger & Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration

R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus

Is the Bible Reliable?: Building the Historical Case (DVD, TrueU)

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(podcast, with notes) Apologetics, Part 3: The Resurrection of Jesus as Historical Reality

The Resurrection of Jesus as Historical Reality (click here)
 
 

Thanks again 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 third session, The Resurrection of Jesus as Historical Reality, 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.

The lecture runs 1:06:00.

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:

A Matter of History

Myth ~ “The resurrection of Jesus is a religious matter, and thus
not to be understood as true in the sense that the more objective
matters of science and history are true.”

This is a category mistake.

  • The notion that “Jesus rose from the dead” is by definition a historical matter, since it is making a claim about what happened in real history.
  • This historical truth claim is either true or false, but either way it is a historical truth claim.
  • So when we consider the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, we are dealing with history!

Significance
Much of our culture says, “Christianity can be helpful and good, but it has it’s place.”

This is not a logical option!

There are only two possibilities:
1) Jesus’ resurrection is historically true, thus Christianity is infinitely important.
2) Jesus’ resurrection is historically false, thus Christianity is of no importance (and actually a fraud!).

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
~ C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.” ~ 1 Cor 15:14-15

How We Do History
1) Eyewitness testimony
2) Making sense of known events

Massive Eyewitness Testimony

“What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

How do we know Paul didn’t make this up?

  • When Paul says that most of the eyewitnesses are still living, he is inviting his original audience to go and talk with them.
  • Historically speaking, it is not reasonable to assume that Paul would have issued such an invitation if indeed these witnesses did not exist.
  • This is why scholars across the board accept that these witnesses did indeed exist.

The question is, how do we explain what they saw?

Making Sense of the Events

Two events that historians universally recognize:
1) Jesus was crucified.
2) The immediate and rapid growth of the church.

How could both be true?!
Only with a historically resurrected Jesus…

The effect Jesus’ crucifixion “should” have had…
1) It was understood in that culture that if you were crucified, you were “cursed by God.”
2) Your followers would have concluded that they had backed the wrong guy.
3) This would have instantly killed your movement. (actually happened many times in first century)

Historical problem → Rather than the church being stamped out, it actually exploded in growth immediately and rapidly.

Historically speaking, there’s simply no way this should have happened… unless Jesus actually did rise from the dead. Only then would his disciples have realized that they had “backed the right guy” after all.

Alternative Explanations

Swoon Theory – “Jesus did not die on the cross, but merely fainted”

  • The Romans never failed in carrying out crucifixion to the point of death.
  • And even if they did, being wrapped in a burial cloth and left in a tomb for three days would certainly have killed him.
  • And even if it hadn’t, he could not have freed himself from the burial cloth, pushed the stone away and gotten past the guards.
  • And even if he had, he would not have appeared to his disciples as a resurrected Messiah.

This theory is historically unreasonable many times over.

Fraud Theory – “The disciples stole the body and lied about the resurrection”

  • The Roman guards were charged with guarding the tomb under pain of death.
  • The disciples would not have been motivated to steal the body of a failed Messiah.This does not explain how hundreds of people were convinced that they had seen him risen anyway!

This theory is not only historically thin, but doesn’t even account for all the data.

The Wrong Tomb Theory – “The disciples went to the wrong tomb and believed Jesus to have risen.”

  • This view requires that neither the Roman guards nor the disciples knew where the right tomb was.
  • Even if this were true, the disciples would have to successfully fight off the Roman guards to discover an empty tomb.
  • This does not explain how hundreds of people were convinced that they had seen him risen anyway.

Again, this theory compounds unreasonableness and doesn’t explain all the data anyway.

Hallucination Theory – “The disciples were hallucinating and did not see what they thought they saw”

  • This defies what we know to be true of hallucinations – they are rare, they are not contagious (remember, we are talking about hundreds of eyewitnesses!), and they are the result of drug use or an extremely high sense of anticipation.
  • Far from expecting great things, the disciples were crushed and fearful after Jesus’ crucifixion, believing they had backed the wrong guy.
  • But later, they were convinced they had seen – and touched! – the resurrected Jesus.
  • This does not explain why Jesus’ tomb was empty.

So again, we have a theory that, historically speaking, is extremely thin and doesn’t even deal with all the essential data.

Almost no scholars today hold to any of these views, because they are so historically unreasonable. One view that you find a bit more commonly among skeptical scholars is…

Spiritual Resurrection Theory – “Jesus rose from the dead spiritually, not physically.”

  • This does not fit the Jewish understanding of resurrection.
  • Spiritual resurrection was a Greek idea, but the eyewitnesses were Jewish.
  • The disciples testified that they encountered a physically risen Jesus.
  • This does not account for the fact that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb.

So this theory is not honest with nature of the eyewitness testimony and, again, doesn’t even address all the essential data.

Why do skeptical scholars insist on embracing admittedly thin theories?

It comes down to Naturalistic Bias:

“I don’t think Jesus’ body actually rose from the dead in a physical sense. That so strains my sense of what is possible.”
~ Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University Divinity School

But… “the simple faith of the Christian who believes in the Resurrection is nothing compared to the credulity of the skeptic who will accept the wildest and most improbable romances rather than admit the plain witness of historical certainties. The difficulties of belief may be great; the absurdities of unbelief are greater.”
~ George Hanson, The Resurrection and the Life, 24

The worldview implications of a resurrected Jesus are too much to stomach.
1) Any worldview that does not account for a resurrected Jesus is a false view of reality.
2) A historical resurrection means that Jesus really is who he said he was, the risen Lord and Redeemer to whom every member of the human race owes its allegiance and trust.

Resource Recommendations
Gary Habermas & Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God
Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and
Antony Flew
The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue

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