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Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Every now and again, I swing over to Alpha and Omega Ministries to see what James White is up to.  If you didn’t know, he webcasts a show called The Dividing Line.  Its primary thrust is apologetic in nature.  He interacts with debates, critiques heretics, takes questions from listeners, and keeps you up to date with the current happenings in the theological world.  I’m not a regular listener, but I do enjoy the program.

More recently, he put together a special podcast, a 2 ½ hour introductory session on Christology.  It’s excellent!  If you’d like to walk through things like the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed, as well as get a handle on terms like Nestorianism, this is the place to go.  His approach and style certainly keeps you awake, so don’t feel the need to preemptively down a five hour energy drink.

Must Listen Factor: Moderate (High if you’ve never thought through these issues before)

Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

To Download: Click picture to follow link

For Bio: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/jwhite.html

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It is a raw, emotionally tearing book, and even though it has been years since I last read it, certain sections have stayed with me.  I am referring to Elie Wiesel’s book, Night.  As a survivor of the Holocaust (I am told that Wiesel is in the photo above), Mr. Wiesel speaks to the absolute evil that destroyed his faith in God.  In one of the more chilling moments, he said,

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Never.”

Suffering is a profoundly challenging subject, and over the course of several years, I’ve shared with you many different lectures exploring the issue.  Many of these have fallen short, and I have griped plenty enough about them.  Today I want to offer what I think is the best explanation to the problem of evil; an answer, that when you get right down to it, explains why it is so.  It doesn’t grapple with the branches on the tree, but it goes right to the very root system itself, the ultimate bedrock, or the place where we can dig no further.

The answer is given in the space of about ten minutes in a message by John Piper.  It occurs at about the 30-35 minute mark.  The message is called “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell.”  You can also find the entire theme unpacked, but without the crucial quote, in “The Suffering of Christ and the Sovereignty of God.”  Both are excellent.

The answer won’t answer all your questions, in fact, it will raise many more.  But I do believe that it is the answer.

For the first, go here: Link

For the second, go here: Link

For another excellent message I recently had the pleasure of hearing, check out Dr. Mark Garcia’s, “I Believe in Monsters: God, Horrendous Evils, and the Christian Faith.”  It is a carefully crafted gem.  http://reformedforum.org/rfs8/

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Instead of walking the mail this week, which affords me the pleasure of listening to many an MP3, I’ve been delivering the mail from the ease of a postal truck, which of course means that I haven’t been gorging my ears with podcasts (Postal policy doesn’t allow us to drive while talking on a cell phone or listening to an MP3 player).  So it’s been a time of fighting my portable radio, as it doesn’t want to pick up any decent stations.  Therefore, I’ve been stuck mostly with my thoughts, seeing how I usually grow weary of the incessant static and angrily turn off the radio.  And when I’m stuck with my thoughts, strange things often bubble forth.

So here you go:  A week’s worth of mental meanderings, which, I might add, could probably be placed under the category paradoxes- paradoxes both serious and stupid.

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So I was thinking: What if you want to mail a large envelope, and when you place it on one of those handy-dandy postal scales, it reads: $1.32.  But what if it’s so close to $1.33 that when you toss on a few stamps, it adds just enough weight to push it over the edge, and so now it will be sent postage due: .01 cent?  Sweet mother!  A postal paradox!

When I posed this conundrum to a fellow carrier, he thought for a moment and then said, “I guess I’d just tear off a corner of the envelope.”  Ah, paradox solved!

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So I was thinking: Imagine two young, sophomoric Jedi pupils at Yoda’s school of Jedi Knight training.  What if one of them said to his training partner, while waving two fingers in the air, “I want you to Jedi mind trick me to Jedi mind trick you so that I keep Jedi mind tricking you to keep Jedi mind tricking me in this way”?

Two hours later, imagine Yoda walking in and slapping his head at the sight of these two weak-minded pupils locked in an infinite repetition.  “Very stupid, they are.”

—————

So I was thinking: What if people started coming to grips with the hopelessness and meaninglessness of life in a naturalistic and materialistic universe; and as a result, they started committing suicide at an alarming rate, thereby endangering the human species; and so evolution, which is all about adapting to problems, evolved rationality out of mankind so that humans wouldn’t be able to logically think through the implications of evolution, thereby lowering the suicide rate?

Wait a minute… has this already been going on?!?  Hmmmm.

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Speaking of Neo-Darwinian evolution… I can’t say I’m a fan.  Now in all honesty, I flunked my first year of biology (The Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy novels slid nicely behind a propped open biology book), so I’m not exactly the go to guy when it comes to the subject.  Nevertheless, I’ve listened to my fair share of committed evolutionists since the days of High School.  Some of what they’ve said has made me rub my chin, but on the whole, I’ve found the position, so far as macro-evolution is concerned, to be weak.  A lot of conjecture and tendentious argumentation.

A person could point to a thousand different things and ask, “So, uh, yeah, tell me again how this level of complexity evolved via natural selection?”  I’ve often wondered, for example, how a spider ended up spinning webs, given Neo-Darwinian evolution.  Just think about it.  The spider’s body had to evolve the ability to make webs- I mean the actual stuff that webs are made of.  This alone is a tremendous feat when you think about the size of the hole, the rate of formation, the “turn off” switch, the potential toxicity, balance of energy, etc.  But to complicate matters:

(1) The spider had to somehow recognize the web’s potential function.  “Oh, look, this gooey, yet surprisingly strong stuff spilling out my rear- which I can control!- will help me catch insects!”
(2) The web had to be such that the spider wouldn’t become entangled in his own net, while also being such that other insects would.
(3) The spider had to pass home ec class, specifically the sowing semester.
(4) The spider had to know not only how to weave a web, but how to properly connect it to trees or limbs, which is no small feat for a creature who can’t reason.
(5) The spider had to learn to persevere (for storms and animals would knock down the web, after all).
(6) The spider had to learn the tune “Good Vibrations,” which of course means that the spider had to learn to connect vibrating web with freshly caught insect, which means, of course, “hurry up and bite the sucker before he gets away.”

So anyway, I’ve always wondered how a Neo-Darwinian would explain the rise of the spider.

But this last week, I’ve been thinking more seriously (no doubt on a layman level, but nevertheless seriously) about the rise of emotions, given a Neo-Darwinian worldview.  I just can’t make sense of it.  But seeing how this post is getting a bit too long, I think I’ll share my thoughts in part II, which will hopefully be coming soon.

In the meantime, check out Alvin Plantinga’s fascinating lecture, “An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.”  You can hear it here: http://www.veritas.org/Media.aspx#!/v/454

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Apologetics 315 Interview with David Wood

Excellent interview exploring the subject of Islam.  Instead of looking at the historical evidence, which is rarely what Muslims care to explore, David Wood very helpfully shows how one can and should use the Koran itself as a foil to the Muslim’s most common objections against Christianity.  Good stuff.

http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2011/07/apologist-interview-david-wood.html

Epistemology – Andrew Fellows

In one of the most helpful and concise sketches of the history of epistemology I’ve run across, Andrew Fellows of L’Abri ministries shows how nearly everything after Plato and Aristotle, in the history of philosophy, is but footnotes.  Well worth the 90 minutes.

http://www.labri-ideas-library.org/download.asp?fileID=395

William Lane Craig vs AC Grayling Debate: The Problem of Evil and the Existence of God

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for debates.  If you’re interested in hearing William Lane Craig clearly and masterfully present Plantinga’s free will defense against the logical problem of evil, this is it.  Look no further.  Of course, I can’t say that I feel entirely sanguine with the approach.  Possible worlds and what not simply doesn’t impress me, even if it is logically sound.  See John Frame’s “Apologetics to the Glory of God” for further reflections.

http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2011/07/william-lane-craig-vs-ac-grayling.html

Two Podcasts on the Impact of Media and the Media’s Impact on Preaching

I just happened to listen to these back to back (or nearly, anyway).  Both were very interesting and thought provoking.  David Gordon asks the simple question, “Why can’t Johnny preach?”  The answer: Because he doesn’t know how to write or read.  Curious?  Check it out.

As for the other podcast, Dr. Mohler and Sven Birkerts discuss the impact of E-readers and the digital age and future of printed material, especially that of reading books.  There’s a hint of romanticism in this podcast, but hey, I love holding a book as well.  There is something different, isn’t there?

Sven Birkerts:  http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/05/31/temp-tip-title/
David Gordon: http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/04/04/tip-temporary-title-david-gordon/

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In Matthew 8:16 we read the following: “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.”

If we were to read this passage in isolation from the other Gospels, the term “evening” would appear to be nothing more than an incidental fact.  It was evening when the sick were brought to Jesus.  Simple as that.

But when we look at the parallel passage in Mark 1:21-32, we receive an interesting little tidbit that sheds light on why they came in the evening.  When Jesus entered Capernaum, it was the Sabbath.  Now given the influence of the Pharisaical view of the Sabbath (certain load limits and what not), it only makes sense that the people would wait until evening, as that was when the Sabbath stipulations were lifted.

“Oh, interesting,” you say.  “Um, what’s the point?”

Allow me to introduce to you the concept of undesigned coincidences; a concept that Professor Tim McGrew unpacks in a deliciously interesting way.  The basic thrust of this approach is to demonstrate that the NT Gospels are in fact eye witness accounts.  This is done by showing how the Gospel writers incidentally touch upon a particular subject in a manner that would be very unlikely if they were simply copying another’s work.  In the example cited above, Mark indirectly supplies a fact that elucidates Matthew’s account.

Now when these examples are multiplied at length, and when they crisscross in all directions, it points heavily towards the Gospels as being both historical and eye witness accounts.

To feel the force of this argument, listen to the interview.  It’s very interesting.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Must Listen Factor: Moderate for most.  High for those with an apologetic bent.

Difficulty: It’s fairly straight forward.  I trust most will be able to follow the rationale.

Length: 51 minutes

To Download: Click Picture.  It takes you to the download page.

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The audio bin is overflowing with stuff!  So, you guessed it, it’s time to pull out the shotgun and just start firing.  Here we go: 

Peter Williams on the Reliability of the Gospels 

There are those who can discuss the historical reliability of the Gospels and there are those who can discuss the reliability of the Gospels.  Peter Williams falls into the latter camp.  He knows what he’s talking about.  So if you’re into this kind of stuff at all, give this interview a go.  More than once I found myself nodding my head, thinking, “Hmmm.  Very tasty point!  Very tasty point indeed.”

Link

Unbelievable: Is God a Moral Monster?  Paul Copan and Norman Bacrac (April 9th 2011)

In a recent debate, William Lane Craig said that Paul Copan’s new book on the morality of the OT was excellent.  It may be.  I haven’t read it.  But if Paul Copan’s exchange with atheist Norman Bacrac is any indication of the book’s promise, I must say that I’m less than optimistic.  Actually, the exchange was pretty bad.  Dr. Copan spent most of his time trying to convince us that when Joshua, for example, destroyed all the people in a particular city, not everyone was destroyed.  Even if we grant his exegesis at certain points, which deserves consideration, one wants to ask Dr. Copan, “Well, uh, did at least one woman and one child die by the sword?  And if so, what say you?” 

I gotta say, at the end of the day, it felt like he was trying to dodge what is quite plain in the Bible.  God justly destroys people.  But again, maybe the book is better.

Link

Christianity and the Tooth Fairy: A UCLA Law Professor Questions an Oxford Mathematician on the Claims of Jesus

On the brighter side of things, John Lennix really shines in this talk.  He handles a variety of questions with class and Oxford verve.  As a presuppositionalist, I might have approached a number of the questions a bit differently, but I’m quibbling.  Dr. Lennix is a sharp and winsome man, and Christians should enjoy and be thankful for this recent interview.

Link

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I’d like to draw your attention to a new, snazzy, Reformed, gentle, but not too gentle (like pansy gentle or girl pushup gentle) blog where yours truly is a fellow contributor. 

In a nutshell, we share our musings about theology, culture, history, books and pretty much anything and everything that strikes our fancy.  Since Calvinists, especially Presbyterian Calvinists, have a reputation of thrashing their theological opponents- like all those poor shivering Arminians out there- we wanted to blog in a more gentle fashion; write in a winsome and constructive manner.  Not too much demo-work.

Naturally, my niche centers on the world of podcasts.    

The mastermind behind the project is Barry York, pastor of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA).  You can find out more about him here

As for the other contributors, they include: C.J. Williams, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Jared Olivetti, pastor of Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA), and Michael LeFebvre, pastor of Christ Church (RPCNA).

Anyway, check it out!  I’m sure you’ll appreciate the blog.   http://genref.wordpress.com

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