I recently attended a Garth Brooks concert. I also once posted on Facebook about attending concerts. The post is possibly one of the most famous things I have done on Facebook. At least the Garth concert was on a Friday night and not Wednesday evening. So what does any of that have to do with the flesh and Christ? I am glad you ask!
RC Talk - The Official Blogs of Ratio Christi Chapters
So, it has been awhile since I last wrote a blog. There are many reasons I would like to share but, this probably isn’t the time or place to do so. Just know that I am going to attempt to start writing again, at lest twice a week, and that I would very much like your prayer. Anyway, my attempt at getting back in the “swing” of things is the following: Looking for Something?
DISCLAIMER: From what I gather, atheists and skeptics have told me “Well, I never bring up the arguments to theists that are mentioned in this post. Thus, no atheist or skeptic that I know would bring up these objections.” My response: This is based on my experience from the last 12 years of doing apolgoetics on a major college campus. So whether you don’t accept it has nothing to do with my own personal testimony from what I have seen.
In 2004, I started going to the Ohio State University and engaging students for the truth claims of Christianity. I did hundreds of surveys with students and certainly begin to see some of the objections people had to the Christian faith. Around 2006 I moved away from the survey approach and started using a variety of approaches to reach out to the students here. Anyway, it was 2009 when myself along with some OSU students planted a Ratio Christi chapter on the campus. This was done out of the necessity for a stronger apologetics presence on the campus. Since we planted the chapter we have had some very well-known speakers come such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Bart Ehrman and Michael Brown, Paul Nelson, Michael Licona and James Warner Wallace. We have also had some student debates with the skeptic group on the campus. Keep in mind that Ohio State is a very large campus (60,000) students. Therefore, I do not mean to stereotype anyone or act like I speak as an authority for the entire campus. There are plenty of other campus ministries and people who might share different experiences that they have seen on the campus.
What About Skepticism?
Sure, skepticism has always been an issue on college campuses. But what kind of skepticism do I see? All kinds of skepticism! But as you will see in the objections below, I also see alot of pragmatism and some post-modernism, mysticism, etc. I will also provide some resources to the objections I have heard over the last several years.
The more I have talked to hundreds of students about spiritual beliefs, the more I realize there is one objection that comes up more than any other. Now I realize this may not be the same for everyone else. But when the discussion turns to the question “How do we know God exists?” I used to just jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I am convinced more than ever that the first question in the discussion is “How should we approach the existence of God?” or, If God exists, how should God show people he is real? Now when I say “God,” I am referring to the God of the Bible (see more below). Obviously, when it comes to terms like “evidence” and “proof” we always have equivocation issues. But in many cases, this illustration come into the discussion:
The Most Common Objection: “Why Won’t God Show Me A Sign?”
Yes, over the last several years, this is the most common objection that I hear. The skeptic constantly assumes that if they could just see God directly or if God would give them an unmistakable sign that He is there, they would bow their knee and follow Him. Sadly, this is misguided on several levels. The first question as to why won’t God just write it in the sky that He exists or make Himself known in an unmistakable way, leads to the response, “What do you mean by God?” If someone is referring to the God of the Bible, they might want to reconsider the demand for such a thing. Of course, in many cases, skeptics have created a god in their own mind which is idolatry. See Ed Feser’s post called “The One God Further Objection.” But remember, God declares, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, there seems to be other texts that indicate people did see God. Even in Exodus 33:11 Moses speaks to God “face to face.” Obviously, “face to face” is a figure of speech which means they were in close communion or conversation. Also, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob saw God appearing as an angel.
But he did not truly see God. In Genesis 18:1, it says the Lord appeared to Abraham. Obviously, there are other cases where God appears in various forms. But this is not the same thing as seeing God directly with all His glory and holiness. It is evident that people can’t see God in all His fullness (Exodus 33:20). If they did, they would be destroyed. Furthermore, perhaps the demand for such a sign assumes the individual is certain as to how they would respond to such a sign. After all, any assumption that a clear sign will lead to a full surrender of one’s autonomy over to their Creator is quite presumptuous.
In this post, we see how the author discusses the issue of objective evidence and the role our mind plays in the perception of the evidence. After all, in many cases, people have access to the same evidence but they come to different conclusions based on their interpetation of the evidence. In this clip, you will see the issue of the demand for a sign or direct testimony/direct evidence will come up. Granted, the issue of our interpretation of evidence is always an issue
Unfortunately, many people (I was one of them) don’t know the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. One of the most helpful ways to approach the question of the existence of God is to utilize an approach that is successfully practiced in science, history, law, philosophy, and other areas. It is called “Inference to the Best Explanation.” For example, when we identify a range of data to be explained, formulate a pool of possible explanations, and judge that one is the best among that pool. When this happens, the data provide evidence that the explanation is true. This is important because when we talk about the God question, so many people demand what we call “direct evidence.” In other words, they think they should be able to “see” or verify God directly. As I just said, that is a fruitless approach. Of course, Jesus is the full revelation of God. Thus, if you want to know what God is like, look to Him! But, when it comes to history, science, and many criminal investigations, we are dealing with many events that nobody was able to participate in. Thus, these events are in the past and aren’t repeatable. That’s why historians, scientists and criminal investigators, have to collect the information and then make a conclusion based on the combined weight of all the evidence taken together.
Miracles play a significant role in Christian theology. Obviously, if miracles can’t happen the Christian claim is false (see 1 Cor. 15). What is the definition of a miracle? Theologians and philosophers have offered numerous definitions. But we might say that a miracle is a special act of God in the natural world, something nature would not have done on its own. Let me state from the outset that I am all for a healthy skepticism towards the miraculous. Obviously, we can’t just be gullible and accept every claim that is out there.
When we look into the Bible, there seems to be a pattern of how God works in the history of Israel. Every time he is doing something new in their midst, he confirmed what he was doing through a prophet. Signs are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God. The pattern for miracles is the following:
Sign/Miracle—–Knowledge is Imparted—–Should Result in Obedience/Active Participation
In the end, (as always), many skeptics demand that God should show them a miracle. It is interesting that Jesus ran into the same issue. At one point, the Pharisees attributed the miracles of Jesus to Satan. And in some cases the miracle is a witness against those who reject this evidence. John grieved: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37). Jesus himself said of some, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). One result, though not the purpose, of miracles is condemnation of the unbeliever (cf. John 12:31, 37).
This is why we need to remember the following. In their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli say there are three components to faith:
Emotional faith: is feeling assurance or trust or confidence in a person. This includes hope (which is much stronger than a wish and peace (which is much stronger then mere calm.).
Intellectual faith: is belief. It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds.
Volitional faith: is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity. It manifests itself in behavior, that is, in good works.
The bottom line is that even if a skeptic got their miracle, it doesn’t mean it will help #3 here.
In other words, miracles don’t guarantee it will change a person’s will. We can’t overlook the fact that sin and a hardened heart can dampen a person’s receptivity to the evidence that is already available to them. From my experience, 90% percent of the people that say they want a sign admit afterwards that even if they got it, they might think they were hallucinating.
In the end, this may seem like a silly objection. But the reality is that many people simply know very little about the nature of God. Perhaps we need to get back to Theology 101.
This interview was conducted and written by Ryan Huxley, a member of the RC Boosters team. Read more about Ryan here.
A Conversation with Author/Youth-Culture-Guru Jonathan McKee.
How can today’s parents connect with their “over-connected” kids? I attended a parent workshop by Jonathan McKee where he shared ideas from his book 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices!
Jonathan provided eye-opening studies investigating the sociological effects caused by frequent use of today’s mobiles devices. Many of the smartphone usage statistics were alarming. His combination of research and real-world application were of great value to those attending his talk.
This relates to the Christian youth exodus from the church by helping parents understand some practical steps to take to disciple their kids. With the amazing technology now available and the distractions they often are, as parents we can still take some basic steps to influence our kids in a godly fashion. In an interview, he shared more about connecting with “over-connected” kids.
This interview was conducted and written by Ryan Huxley who is part of our Ratio Christi Boosters network. Read more about Ryan here.
Anthony Wilcox is a software engineer specializing in Cloud and mobile applications. He recently spoke at a church event where he provided valuable suggestions to help protect children from harmful content associated with the Internet and social media. As many parents are aware, kids have easy access to immense amounts of information – some good and some not – and implementing barriers and guidelines is essential to their protection in ways we as parents can control. Watch this seven-minute video where Anthony communicates the basics of how kids are using the Internet and what parents need to know.
While there is no silver bullet, it’s important to be aware of strategies to mitigate the negative impact the Internet and social media can have on your kids. If you’re wondering how this relates to the Christian youth exodus from church, it deals with being aware of and helping to monitor or control influencing factors on your kid’s worldview. As one popular commentator aptly states, as parents, we can insulate kids, but we cannot isolate them.
Matthew Adamson is the current president of the Ratio Christi chapter at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). This aerospace engineering major says he likely would have abandoned Christianity if he had not discovered apologetics through our chapter there.
“Apologetics and RC saved me from leaving the faith after high school,” he says. “I had experienced a couple years of extreme doubt and had decided that if I couldn't find any answers with this club then I would be done with Christianity.”
Erica Carlson is a professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University. Her specialty is Theoretical Physics, in which she obtained her Ph.D. (Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, 2000, UCLA). She has taught at Purdue since 2003 and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2015.
She is also a Christian, and was one of the first professors to come on board with Ratio Christi’s outreach to professors, RC Prof.
For Carlson, science affirms the possibility of Christianity
Carlson explains how being a believer connects beautifully with being a scientist:
The man in the video is Dr. Paul Gould, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Gould describes himself as “a philosopher, a scholar, a teacher, a husband, and father,” and most importantly as “a follower of Christ.” As a researcher and writer, he specializes in Christian Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophical Theology and the relationship between Faith and Scholarship. In the video he discusses today's anti-God worldview and atheists who are trying to re-create a religious but no-faith atmosphere in their own churches, in relation to how we can return to an enchantment for God and truth.
Carol M. Swain, Ph.D., is a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She also happens to be a Conservative Christian African American with traditional family views. As far as secular universities go, this makes her a rare bird. In an academic setting where "tolerance" has ironically become "intolerant" toward Judeo-Christian worldviews and African Americans who are conservative, she's got two strikes against her. And she courageously faces this every day.
Dr. Swain has become a public figure because she stands up to regular discrimination on campus for her politically incorrect values. There have been outcries and petitions from students to oust her from her position, without much resistance from Vanderbilt's administration. School officials have put out press releases separating themselves from her because "her values are not those of the university." She is outspoken on numerous radio and TV programs, unveiling the growing hostility toward conservative and biblical viewpoints at colleges and universities. Included here is a short newscast video about a petition that was brought against her.
Swain to speak at Ratio Christi's 6th Annual Symposium and Student Retreat, October 15-16, 2016
Chapter 2 of Ehrman's “Jesus Before the Gospels” begins, egregiously enough, “When memory re-searchers speak about 'distorted' memories they do not necessarily mean anything negative by it. They are simply referring to memories of things that did not really happen. Most, probably all, of the memories of Jesus discussed in the previous chapter are distorted in that sense. People brought to mind words and deeds of Jesus that the historical Jesus did not actually say and do.”
Which “memories” of Jesus is he talking about here? The “memories” that are not actually memo-ries of Jesus (not episodic) but memories of learned information? The apocryphal books? He goes on to talk a bit about the apocryphal stories, but as I said, the Church rejected those as memories. So why does he continue to act like they are? More to the point though, what basis has Ehrman estab-lished so far to apply such a statement to the Gospels themselves? Without any real support, he has simply lumped the Gospels in with those books that everyone agrees are not eyewitness memories. Nice trick. But he hasn't established anything to show that the Gospels are anything other than eyewitness accounts written in living memory of the events. If they are, all his issues with memory in the prior chapter and introduction are irrelevant.
Next Ehrman discusses a seventeenth century writer named Reimarus. I honestly have no idea why. Reimarus was not an eyewitness. He reviewed the Gospels and decided that Jesus never intended to be the savior of the world, but was just a firebrand revolutionary who wanted to be king. Then he was crucified. Then the disciples hatched this great plan that would allow them to continue to reap the rewards of preaching and missionary work. All they had to do was pretend Jesus rose from the dead. Seriously. That's Reimarus' story. Personally I find that less credible than a resurrection. But Reimarus certainly didn't have any personal memory of Jesus.
Anyway, the next section is about “a major breakthrough” in critical analysis of the Gospels – form criticism. That thing that Ehrman told a radio audience on the “Unbelievable?” show he wasn't do-ing in his book. Ehrman asserts that form critics began to realize “that the Gospels could not all be eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus and that there were, in fact, serious discrepancies among them.” The form critics as he describes them seem to have made up criteria for things they cannot possibly know to be true, and reached conclusions based on that speculation. For instance, Ehrman says there is no basis to believe that the disciples memorized his sayings because the Gospels don't have scenes of Jesus grilling the disciples in memorization drills (Page 69). “Therefore,” Ehrman says, the view that the disciples memorized things “was anachronistic.” That is possibly one of the dumbest things I've ever read. Apparently Ehrman thinks the Gospels should have included Jesus' top tips on memory drills for rabbinical students. Because that is clearly the focus and message of Jesus' life, how to memorize sayings. Oy.
Ehrman also discusses the theory of a scholar named Bailey of “controlled” oral tradition. The basic idea is that Bailey attended haflat samar, local gatherings where stories were told. The tellers were given some freedom in the telling, but important facts and details were carefully policed by the community, and the tellers shamed if they misstated something. In any case, whether or not this was a widespread thing is unimportant, again, if the Gospels are in fact sourced in eyewitness accounts. The rest of the chapter continues about various “must have beens” imaginings of how the stories about Jesus spread. Once again, if the point of this is the Gospels, then it is irrelevant how some sto-ries spread if the Gospels are sourced in eyewitness accounts. Why? Because if stories were spread as Ehrman imagines, then if they accurately portray an eyewitness account they are included in the Gospels. If they do not, then they are not included. Simply put, we do not need to worry about the accuracy of stories that are NOT in the Gospels when deciding about the accuracy of the Gospels.
Chapter 3 is about eyewitness testimony, and it's good that we're finally going to get to that. I couldn't resist a sneak peek though. In the first couple of pages Ehrman tells the story of a staged event to test eyewitness accuracy. A teacher was giving a lecture when two students stood up and started to argue, the teacher intervened, and a gun went off. Then the teacher explained it was all for show. Over the next few weeks, they had people write down what happened. There were errors. (So why the shock about discrepancies in the Gospels?) It's the von Liszt experiment which you can look up. I didn't find a description of what the people got right and what they got wrong, but I bet they all correctly described the basics, a fight, intervention, and a gunshot. Now why would that be and what kind of event in the Gospels might resemble that?