Marvel at the Design

This is the fourth of six lessons in the God’s Not Dead series:

Evidence from physics and astronomy point to a creator, but biology is a bit more challenging to reconcile with Christianity. Why?

The triumph of the theory of evolution is usually the knockout blow to anyone attempting to maintain an intellectually credible belief in God. But evidence over the past few decades has also seen the fingerprints of God.

Anthony Flew’s There is a God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. He was an atheistic philosopher who came to doubt atheism as a result of advances in molecular biology, particularly DNA. Dr. Flew was impacted by the amount of complexity in DNA that could only point to an intelligent designer.

Slide4

Spontaneous formation of a living cell, the odds are 1 in 1o to the 40,000 power. Those zeros could fill a book. Similar chances could be compared to a tornado moving through a junkyard and assembling a fully operational 747.

Not surprising, scientists would never say a cell could have originated by chance, instead they say that somehow the laws of nature could have spontaneously brought together the different building blocks to form the first cell. But we all can observe that nature does the exact opposite: 1) Nature moves from order to disorder: try keeping your house clean, it naturally becomes messy. 2) Nature moves from high energy to low energy: water always runs downhill, never uphill.

A cell is both highly ordered and contains very high energy compared to its separate building blocks. For a cell to come together, it must behave in the opposite direction of its normal course.

Last ditch effort: the sun could have supplied the energy in order to create that first cell, but that is like setting off a stick of dynamite and expecting the energy to create a house. A final ditch effort: life on Earth was seeded by aliens. (ancient astronaut theory).

Take a look at Mike Riddle talking about life and chance / probability…

Slide6

It has been concluded that the more biologists decipher the DNA code, the more they are recognizing its complexity and ingenuity, which is vastly more sophisticated than computer software. Letters in DNA are arranged in very specific sequences to provide the needed information to construct and operate a living organism. So, for nature to blindly produce enough information for even a single gene would be much like a student sitting on their cell phone and accidentally pocket texting the message, “Don’t tell anyone, but I cheated on the test.” Like the letters from a pocket text, it can only come from an intelligent agent.

Imagine a pot of boiling alphabet soup and noticing the sequence of letters to form the sentence, “I hope you feel better soon, and have a nice day.” You CANNOT assume that this happened due to a chemical reaction or the physics of the water and pasta. It can only be explained by intelligence.

This video addresses genetic code and mutations over time…

Slide8

Some Christians, like Dr. Francis Collins, who mapped the human genome, actually argue that Christianity and evolution are compatible. Evolution being the tool that God used to create humanity in his image, but unguided evolutionary process cannot explain the sudden appearance of the fossil record of complex life.

Collins actually addresses ID in his book, the Language of God.

  1. Proposition 1: Evolution promotes and atheistic worldview and therefore must be rejected by believers in God.
  2. Proposition 2: Evolution is fundamentally flawed and cannot account for the intricate complexity of nature (p.184). Bacterial Flagellum (pp.185-186).
  3. Proposition 3: If evolution cannot explain irreducible complexity, then there must have been an intelligent designer involved somehow.

Scientific Objection to ID: is it because scientists bow down at the altar of Darwin? But scientists are attracted to overturning accepted theories.

  • ID fails as a scientific theory (experimental observation).
  • Many examples of irreducible complexity are not irreducible after all – human blood clotting (p.190), the eye (p.191), bacterial flagellum (p.192).

The fossil record does not show life gradually changing over time. It seems that major groups like vertebrates appear suddenly in what is called the Cambrian explosion, which is the most dramatic of a general pattern in the fossil record. The first new types like fish or reptiles typically appear suddenly without a series of identifiable ancestors. THEN, after they appear, they never change significantly.

At a conference at the University of Washington, Dr. J. Y. Chen writes about Chinese scientists who differ from Darwin and question Darwinian evolution. When asked to clarify, he said, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

I showed a clip of Ken Ham addressing the design of creation. [ Go ] Also he addresses the question, Is there really a God?

Ken Ham mentioned about atheists spending so much time and effort declaring there is no God, why do they even care? If we cease to exist, no purpose, no meaning, dead and decaying, and no one remembers or cares after we are gone, WHO CARES?

Slide10As an example, the eye demonstrates incredible levels of sophistication for the single purpose of vision. To see properly, countess individual pieces have to be properly arranged and come together perfectly… lens, cornea, iris, retina, nerve cord connecting to the proper part of the brain. The whole system would fall apart and not work if all this is not wired up correctly.

This is the illustration for irreducible complexity; biological structures that are composed of many parts. Such structures cannot come together part by part because if all the parts are not present, nothing works. Which part of a mouse trap can you remove and the trap still work?

This is another evidence of a predetermined design of an intelligent designer.

Slide11

Some of these features are: advanced communication skills (depends upon advanced brain power, vocal cord ability to make various sounds, regions of the brain designed for sound and language). Our hands are capable of making tools and handling tools with great precision. Our upright posture enable us to use highly advanced tools like scuba gear and space suits, driving, flying, and sky diving.

Science would say that all the human advantages come from our advanced brain capacity, but why would the brain of other organisms not develop just as much over the same span of chance and time?

Science has a philosophical attachment to Darwinian Theory, so Christians need to have wisdom on when and how to challenge the topic. Maybe you need to learn some challenges to the theory to help people break free from the false view they have accepted. Many will respond in anger and refuse to listen to anything. Perhaps start with other topics, like last week’s lesson before addressing this bombshell, which confronts their entire philosophical framework.

Teenagers: how can we expect better behavior (sex, drugs, violence) if they are no better than an ape that made it? When one is a special creation in the image of God, we have a higher calling.

The evidence of design in physics points to an all-powerful creator who exists outside of time and space.

The evidence of design from biology reveals that God has been intimately involved throughout the history of the world; each cell demonstrates that God was involved in our creation at the level of properly arranging the atoms in our DNA.

This demonstrates that the God revealed through science matches the God of the Bible.

Another video I showed that evening was Dr. Georgia Purdom on, Is Intelligent Design Christian? [ Go ]

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Embrace the Evidence

This is the third of six lessons in the God’s Not Dead series.

Josh begins by putting God on trial, CS Lewis used the phrase, “God in the dock” which was the British way to say, “God in the witness stand.”

Josh begins by showing that the creation itself points to the reality of a Creator. Science is a natural place to start by observing the tremendous order in the universe is without a doubt. Skeptics are not impressed with this since they demand to see direct physical evidence over a clearly designed logical argument. But we would not find physical evidence for God by observing the universe, just as we find no physical evidence for Steve Jobs by looking into an iPhone.

Let’s take a look at some evidence, beginning in Romans 1:20…

Slide4

Josh begins his presentation with the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God (argument from creation). The basic idea of this argument is that, since there is a universe, it must have been caused by something beyond itself. It is based on the law of causality, which says that every limited thing is caused by something other than itself. Plato is the first thinker known to have developed an argument based on causation. Aristotle followed.

  • Norman Geisler Information: (Download the PDF)
  • Stephen Hawking Information: (See the Geisler download) Hawking wrote, that the laws of physics breaks down before the Big Bang, and I know why. Creation is where time and space all began!

The laws of nature seem to be carefully designed with human life in mind. Our universe is fine-tuned for life. Gravity slightly stronger or lesser, what would happen?

Let’s talk about details that cannot be accidental…

Slide5

  • The distance from the earth to the sun.
  • The earth’s rotation rate and length of year.
  • The amount of water on the earth’s surface.
  • The types and amounts of gasses on the earth.
  • The size of our moon and its distance from the earth.
  • The location of the earth in this galaxy.
  • Properties of light that allow photosynthesis. The properties of the lenses in our eyes that allow focused and detail images.

The change of all these details being so perfectly set by chance is unimaginably small, given the number of planets in our universe.

Other factors that allow us to live on the earth: to advance culturally and scientifically. The atmosphere has the right gasses for us to breathe, yet transparent so we can study the stars. The amount of O2 allows us to produce fire and all its uses, but not combust uncontrollably and destroy most of the forests.

Slide6

Skeptics suppress the truth by appealing to several excuses:

  • The universe could have created itself.
  • There are plenty of other larger universes.
  • Ignore evidence and simply science and faith are inherently in conflict.
  • But these proposals are not based on evidence, but blind faith…
  • Many would accept ANY explanation no matter how unlikely, in order to avoid God.

Richard Dawkins brings up the question of “who created God?” which leads to absurd thinking. He is saying we must have an explanation for our explanation to offer it plausible. Think about the turtle on the fencepost, you don’t have to know how it got there, you simply know that it did not get there by itself.

Slide7

  • Since he created time and space, he must be beyond time and space.
  • Since every detail was designed for his purposes, he must be very intelligent.
  • Since creation came into existence out of nothing, he must be very powerful.
  • Since he has created a place to benefit people, he is personal, involved, and caring.
  • Since he is able to do miracles, act in ways that are atypical and special, atheists deny the possibility of miracles. But they require their own miracles to explain the universe coming to existence out of absolutely nothing.

Only an intelligent being can create Mt. Rushmore, so a geologist would not have to abandon his science to recognize that fact.

Slide8

Some people encounter all this evidence, it undermines the foundation of their belief that the universe is all that exists.

When they recognize that they were created, they can somehow have a relationship with this Creator God.

People act like animals because of evolution. If we came from apes, we should have no problem denying moral accountability, so sex at all cost is OK, theft and murder are right because it is the survival of the fittest.

We must help people to sense the Holy Spirit and allow him to convict them of the truth, that they have violated the law in their hearts.

People will either respond in anger, change the topic, or they will come to terms with their denial of God’s existence.

The evidence from science is one of the best ways to begin speaking about Christianity with agnostics and atheists. It dispels the myth that science and faith are in conflict, and supports many truths we find in the Bible.

The Bible is not a book of nature but is not in conflict with nature. Evidence can challenge the very foundation of an atheist’s worldview and can grant them space to consider the reality of God.

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How is the Bible God’s Word?

How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message.

In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact.

On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling.

I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

From That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.

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Ancient Astronaut Theory?

I watched a show on the History Channel this evening because the topic aroused my curiosity; it was called Ancient Aliens. Here is a brief summary about the program:

Unearthly visitations… Heavenly messengers… Close encounters… Accounts of humans interacting with celestial beings have existed since the beginning of mankind. Many of these encounters resulted in moral, philosophical and artistic inspirations. But did these contacts involve ethereal beings from heaven or extraterrestrials from other worlds? Are holy books the word of God, or guidebooks passed down by more advanced civilizations? Who told Joan of Arc how to defeat the English Army–saints or extraterrestrials? Could a young boy from India have learned advanced mathematical formulas from a Hindu goddess? What message did an American serviceman receive while touching an alien aircraft? If the Ancient astronaut theory is correct, then are beings from other worlds communicating with us for our benefit… or theirs? Just what is the purpose of these alien contacts?

Ancient alien theory grew out of the centuries-old idea that life exists on other planets, and that humans and extraterrestrials have crossed paths before. The theme of human-alien interaction came into view in the 1960s, driven by a wave of UFO sightings and popular films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. The space program played a part in this as well: If mankind could travel to other planets, why couldn’t extraterrestrials visit Earth?

In 1968, the Swiss author Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods?. He writes that thousands of years ago space travelers from other planets visited Earth, where they taught humans about technology and influenced ancient religions. He is regarded by many as the father of ancient alien theory, also known as the ancient astronaut theory.

Most ancient alien theorists point to two types of evidence to support their ideas.

  1. The first is ancient religious texts in which humans witness and interact with gods or other heavenly beings who descend from the sky (sometimes in vehicles resembling spaceships) and possess spectacular powers.
  2. The second is physical specimens such as artwork depicting alien-like figures and ancient architectural marvels like Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

If aliens visited Earth in the past, could they make an appearance in the future? For ancient alien theorists, the answer is yes. They believe that, by sharing their views with the world, they can help prepare future generations for the inevitable encounter that awaits them.

The pyramids, Stonehenge, Atlantis, the Mayans… all advanced for the times. The program mentioned another example of an ancient alien visit; a mythical island called Brazil, or Hy-Brazil (sometimes called the other Atlantis). It is a phantom island mentioned in many Irish myths. It was said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years, when it became visible but could still not be reached.

From a non-biblical perspective, they would have us believe that the encounters we read about in the Bible where angels (or a pre-incarnate theophany) are visiting God’s faithful would actually be encounters with E.T. For example:

  1. Noah (Genesis 6:13): God approaches Noah about destroying the world by a flood. The Gilgamesh Epic records that he is to transform his own house into the ship he would save himself and the animals; it’s even shaped like a cube (could it be Borg? Resistance is futile). The point is that alien technology (far more advanced than the times) was utilized to save mankind.
  2. Abraham (Genesis 18:1, 2-3, 19:1): God visits Abraham at his tent, and some angels go to visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah.
  3. Job and Isaiah (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7): When Isaiah wrote this verse he used a Hebrew word to describe the shape of the earth. Although the word is commonly translated into the English word “circle,” the literal meaning of this word is “a sphere.” In the Job passage, when we consider that twenty-eight centuries ago the prevailing view of the earth was that it was flat and resting on the back of an animal or Greek god, the biblical view of a spherical earth suspended on nothing is astonishing. The point is, how would this be known unless these men were taken up in a spaceship to see the Earth from orbit?
  4. Moses (Exodus 3:2, 34:29): The burning bush experience and the shining face from being with God up on the mountain.
  5. Joshua (Joshua 5:13, 14, 15): The captain of the Lord’s army with a drawn sword.
  6. Paul (Acts 9:3, 4-5): Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that God actually exists, yet it is so easy for someone to promote the notion of extra-terrestrials from other planets? The Christian seems to be the one with a foolish belief system? The origin of life coming from alien DNA makes more sense than the supernatural creation of God? If people can be convinced about the existence of aliens coming back to earth, what better explanation for the rapture, when Jesus returns and takes his faithful home?

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The Grounds for Faith

This Sunday we continue in Second Peter, which begs the question as to why would we have faith at all? How can we know God’s plan for us? Can we really trust what is recorded in Scripture? Peter will also address his thoughts as he nears the end of his earthly life. How can we know that what we have followed all these years was right? If you could convey a final message to people whom you hoped would continue and persevere in the Christian faith, what would you say? What would you want them to know?

This letter is in many ways Peter’s farewell address. He reminded them of their source of faith. It was not built on the apostles, but upon another source.

Invoking His Memory

What God revealed to Peter: Peter wants to remind his readers of what they already know, Peter was not holding anything back (2 Peter 1:12). These believers have been established in the truth. He mentions that stirring them up, teaching and encouraging them was the right thing to do, even though his execution was drawing near (2 Peter 1:13, 14). Jesus made it clear that he would not live to a ripe old age, but a martyr’s death (John 21:18, 19).

What Peter requires of us: Peter wants these believers to remember the great spiritual truths he has written in these letters, especially after “his departure” (2 Peter 1:15).

Identifying His Majesty

Here, Peter reviews what we call the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13, Matthew 17:1-13). He and the disciples did not follow cleverly devised tales or stories about Jesus; he proclaimed that which he experienced. He was an eyewitness to the glory of Jesus (2 Peter 1:16, 17). The glory faded on the mountaintop, but the Word of God will never fade (1 Peter 1:24, 25). There was a sight (2 Peter 1:16) and there was a sound (2 Peter 1:17, 18). Peter experienced Christ, he did not just believe the right stuff about Him. Peter had a first-hand faith rather than a second-hand faith.

Inspiration of His Message

First Peter addresses the accomplishments of the Bible, moving toward giving us hope for the future (2 Peter 1:19). God’s Word is a light that shines in the darkness. As Galadriel spoke to Frodo giving him a gift of the special lamp, she said, “May it be a light in the dark places, when all other lights go out.”He challenges us to “make more sure” about the prophetic Word, which we “do well to pay attention.”

Then Peter moves to the author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20, 21). So we beg the questions… can we trust the Word of God? How has it been preserved for us to read today? Is it reliable? Do we interpret the text properly? What does the word inspiration mean anyway? The message did not come from human writers, but from the power of God, people moved by the Holy Spirit.

Questions to Consider this Week:

  1. What people and events does Peter remind his readers (2 Peter 1:16-21)?
  2. What responsibilities did Peter seem to feel he had for his readers (2 Peter 1:12-15)?
  3. What phrases indicate Peter’s view of death?
  4. What can we assume was his attitude toward death?
  5. What do you hope will be your own attitude when death approaches?
  6. What could you be doing now to build toward a “good death?”
  7. In what ways did the transfiguration reveal the majesty of Jesus?
  8. What difference does it make to know that Peter’s teaching about Jesus came from eyewitness testimony?
  9. What difference does it make that the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)
  10. What does this passage tells us about the design and purpose of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21)?
  11. What are some ways we can show respect for the Bible?
  12. Other verse to consider about the Messiah: Isaiah 40:1-11, 53:1-12, Micah 2:2-5, Zechariah 9:9, Revelation 21:22-22:7

Commentary:

Peter’s readers needed a reminder that rested on apostolic authority that was in harmony with other Scripture.

The Need for a Reminder (2 Peter 1:12–15)
Returning to the subject of God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4), Peter developed the importance of the Scriptures as the believers’ resource. This was designed to enable his readers to appreciate the value of the Scriptures and to motivate them to draw on God’s Word so they would grow in grace.

Peter’s previous words were a reminder to his readers, not new instruction. 2 Peter 1:3–11 contain basic truths about the Christian life. Peter apparently believed that he would soon die as a martyr. He said he wrote this epistle so that after his death the exhortation in it would be a permanent reminder to his readers.

The Trustworthiness of the Apostles’ Witness (2 Peter 1:16–18)
Peter explained that his reminder came from one who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, which would have heightened respect for his words in his readers’ minds. This section begins Peter’s defense of the faith that the false teachers were attacking, defense which continues through most of the rest of the letter.

The apostles had not preached myths to their hearers, as the false teachers were doing. They had seen Jesus’ power in action as God’s anointed Messiah. God had clearly revealed that Jesus is the Christ at His transfiguration when God had announced that Jesus is His beloved Son (2 Peter 1:18).

The Divine Origin of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19–21)
The prophetic Old Testament Scriptures confirm the witness of the apostles. That witness is similar to a light shining in a darkened heart and world. Until the Lord returns, we should give attention to the Old Testament and to the apostles’ teaching. That is the only real light available to us. What we have in Scripture originated not in the minds of men but in the mind of God (2 Peter 1:21). The prophets did not simply give their interpretation of how things were or would be. They spoke as God’s mouthpieces, articulating His thoughts in words that accurately represented those thoughts. The Holy Spirit “carried along” the prophets to do so.

The next lesson we will take a look at false teachers. Have a great week.

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Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

The resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith – 1 Corinthians 15:14. Since we have already looked into the big questions of life (Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?), so if Christ rose from the dead, we know for certain that God exists, what He is like and that He has a great plan for humankind!

Not wishful thinking:

If the resurrection had never happened, Christianity is nothing more than a museum piece, and devotees whom many have given their lives were only poor deluded fools. Skeptics attack the resurrection because Christianity stands or falls on this fact.

One skeptic promotes that it is all a fable or fantasy, attempting to expose the faith as a fraud and superstition. While Frank Morison was doing his research, he could not get past the question, “Who moved the stone?” Lee Strobel has a similar testimony, while trying to expose Christianity as a lie, he examined the evidence and came to faith in Christ.

Data to be considered:

The fact of the Christian church: It can be traced back to the first century Palestine, around AD 32. Did it just happen or was there a cause for it? They were first called Christians in Antioch, and they turned the world up-side down – Acts 11:26, 17:6. They constantly referred to the resurrection as the basis for their teaching and living.

Then there is the fact of the Christian day: Sunday is the day of worship, and can be traced back to around AD 32. Something significant must have happened to change the day from the Jewish Sabbath to the first day of the week. Even more remarkable is the fact that many of the first Christians were Jewish!

There is the Christian book, the New Testament: There are six independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection; three of them by eyewitnesses (peter, John and Matthew). These who helped transform the moral fabric of society could not have been skilled liars or deluded madmen.

Accounting for the empty tomb:

The earliest explanation was the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-12, 13-15) – Religious leaders gave money to guards to say the disciples came and stole the body while they were asleep. It was so false that Matthew did not even bother to refute it. If they were asleep, how would they know the disciples did this? It would be laughed out of court. This was also totally out of character of the disciples; they would be thieves and liars. But each of these disciples faced torture and martyrdom. People will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false. They do not however die for what the know to be a lie.

The Jewish or Roman authorities stole the body: But why? Evidence they did not comes out of their silence in the face of the bold preaching of the resurrection by the apostles. They were in rage and did all they could to squash this new faith. The truth is that if they had taken the body, they would have paraded the bloody corpse through the streets of Jerusalem!

The women, distraught with grief in the pre-dawn light, went to the wrong tomb: They imagined Christ was alive because they found a tomb empty. If this happened, the authorities would have just gone to the right tomb and produced the body. It is also inconceivable that all the disciples would have made such a mistake, and Joseph of Arimathea would not have gone to the wrong tomb (it belonged to him – Matthew 27:57-59, 60-61).

The swoon theory: Jesus did not actually die, but was weak, exhausted and passed out, but in the cool of the tomb was revived and got out. First off, these Roman guards were good at their trade; they knew dead when they saw it! If Jesus revived, how did he regain strength without food or water for three days? What about the blood loss? How did He remove the grave clothes? How did He roll away the stone, overcome the guards, and walked miles on spike pierced feet? How do you explain the appearances of Christ with only the nail wounds? He would have looked like a resuscitated corpse not a glorified Savior.

The appearances of Christ:

This happened from the morning of the resurrection to 40 days later. He appeared to Peter and John, the disciples, over 500 people, in different places (the tomb, the upper room, to the Emmaus Road). These eyewitnesses testify that this actually happened.

Was it a hallucination? These people were a diverse group and dispositions, not said to be imaginative of nervous minded. Hallucinations are subjective and individual; no two people have the same experience. When He appeared to the 500, over have of them were alive by the time Paul wrote about it in First Corinthians 15. Hallucinations usually take place at certain times and places. These appearances happened indoors, outdoors, and at all times during the day. Some of these experiences took place over a long period of time, abruptly ending after the ascension.

A hallucination is generally comes from an intense desire to believe something that is not there, so he attached reality to the imagination. But these disciples were persuaded against their wills to believe He was raised from the dead. They came to the tomb with spices in hand. Mary did not expect to see Jesus alive, and even mistook Him for the gardener. The disciples believed he story to be an idle tale. When they thought they had seen a ghost, He calms then by inviting them to touch Him and even eating with them, something a hallucination would not have done.

Then there’s Thomas. He wasn’t about to believe in this hallucination! When Jesus shows up, he exclaims “My Lord and my God.” To hold to the hallucination theory is to ignore the evidence. What changed these cowardly disciples into men of courage and conviction? How do we explain Peter’s denial before the crucifixion to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, later risking harm and jail time?

Contemporary proof:

If Jesus is alive, He is ready to invade your existence. Thousands of people across the globe have trusted Him with their salvation, and testify how He changed their lives.

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Is There a God?

Quite a profound question, since the dawn of time:

“More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.” – Mortimer Adler.

The whole tenor of human life is affected by whether people regard themselves as supreme beings or acknowledge a superhuman being whom they conceive as an object of fear or love, a force to be defied or a Lord to be obeyed.

God in a test tube:

  1. God cannot be proved through scientific methodology.
  2. The reason lies in the nature of history itself, and the limits of the scientific method. In order to be provable scientifically, it must be repeatable. But while the facts of certain events in history can’t be proven by repetition, it does not disprove their reality as events (creation, assassination of Lincoln, crucifixion).
  3. Scientific method deals only with measurable things. No one has ever seen three feet of love or two pounds of justice, but it is foolish to deny their reality.
  4. Evidence for God?
    1. Anthropology: a universal belief in God, a Great Spirit, a Creator, even in societies that are polytheistic.
    2. Old idea of how religion developed: monotheism was the apex of gradual development that began in polytheism.
    3. New research: oldest traditions around the world of a Supreme Being.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – eternity is set in the hearts of men. Pascal called this the God-shaped vacuum in every man; Augustine wrote that “our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”

The law of cause and effect:

  1. No effect can be produced without a cause.
  2. Bertrand Russell, in Why I Am Not a Christian, God was the answer given to him for many of his childhood questions. In desperation he asked, “Well, who created God?” No answer came and his faith collapsed. But by definition God is eternal and uncreated.
  3. R. C. Sproul – “Being eternal, God is not an effect. Since He is not an effect, He does not require a cause.”

Infinite time plus chance:

  1. Inventions do not come into existence without first having a design. We find objects and books that mandate that an intelligent mind was at work. How much more would the complexity of the universe and life itself require a Designer.
  2. Our two choices: Our universe came together by chance, or our universe came together by purpose and design.
    1. Ideally prepare primordial soup, jolted by frequent electrical charges, over an unlimited period of time, that some life form would then evolve. How long would it take a blind person to solve a Rubik’s Cube? One move per second, without resting, it is estimated that it would take 1.35 trillion years; therefore a blind person could not solve a Rubik’s Cube.
    2. So look at DNA. To get 200,000 amino acids in one living cell to come together by chance, it would be 293.5 times the estimated age of the earth (which is set at 4.5 billion years). The odds are better that a blind person can solve a Rubik’s Cube!
    3. Junkyard mentality: What are the chances that a tornado might blow through a junkyard containing all the parts of a 747, accidentally assembling them into a plane, and leave it ready for take-off?

Order and design in the universe:

  1. Look beyond the observable world: protons and neutrons, and the vastness of galaxies. Who gave the specifications?
  2. A working TV – glass, metal, wood, wires, all coming together by natural selection or it is a self-assembled product?
  3. The earth is in delicate balance: (pp. 28-29) temperatures, peculiar properties of water, size of the atmosphere, distance from the sun, the lunar orbit,
  4. The human eye: lens, retina, nerve, brain – chance? Darwin stated in his Origin of Species, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” (Chapter 6, p. 186). He then goes on to explain how it could have actually happened. The problem is that he appeals to reason, then goes on to paint a picture of imagination and possibility, desiring us to accept the process even without evidence. (Irreducible complexity).

The universe had a beginning:

  1. The Lord laid the foundations of the earth – Psalm 102:25.
  2. Continuous or steady-state theory – galaxies move farther apart and new galaxies where formed in between. Matter is continually being created. Hydrogen is renewed out of nothing. But Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies says the opposite is true. Whenever a star is born, it begins to consume some of the hydrogen in the universe. The theory of a continual universe is untenable or indefensible.
  3. Oscillating Model – The universe is like a spring, expanding and contracting, repeating endless cycles. A closed theory, no new energy is put into it, and gravity always pulls everything back together. But the universe is clearly losing density with no sign of going into reverse. Both of these fail to look at the observable cosmology!
  4. Big Bang Theory – Dr, Edwin Hubble, plotted speeds of galaxies, and confirmed they are moving apart at enormous speeds. If it is all moving away, at one time it must have all been compacted into a very dense mass. In 1965 science discovered that the earth was bathed in a faith glow of radiation, an exact pattern from an explosion. But Robert Jastrow (an agnostic) comments: astronomical evidence points to the biblical view of the origin of the world. Details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same – a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.
  5. Even if the universe began in a bang, science cannot explain how the elements were ripe for the event. It certainly cannot be a Who that got it started! Jastrow concludes, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

The moral argument:

  1. C. S. Lewis – “right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe.” That’s my seat. That’s not fair. Suppose I did the same to you. C’mon, you promised.
  2. There is an appeal to some behavioral standard that the other person is assumed to accept. Is there a law or rule of fair play? Lewis says that quarreling is one man’s way of showing the other man is wrong.
  3. This law has to do with what ought to take place. It is more than cultural or societal standards. There is surprising consensus from civilizations about moral decency. If there were no set standard, there would be no difference between Christian morality and Nazi morality.
  4. Lewis said it cannot be a social convention, but more of a mathematical table. Two plus two is always four, no matter what your culture. So, there is a Somebody who set a standard: fair play, unselfishness, courage, good, faith, honesty, truthfulness.

God – the celestial killjoy:

  1. Who can fathom the mysteries of God – Job 11:7.
  2. He does not peer over the balcony of heaven and zap us, saying, “cut it out.”
  3. He is not the sentimental grandfather in the sky saying, “boys will be boys.”

God has penetrated the finite:

  1. In these last days He has spoken through His Son – Heb 1:1-2.
  2. If you wanted to communicate to a colony of ants, the best way would be to become an ant.
  3. J. B Phillips, the earth is “the visited planet.”

Changed lives:

  1. There is a clear presence in the lives of men and women today.
  2. Change takes place in believing individuals.

Study Questions:

  1. What must happen for something to be scientifically proven?
  2. Why can we not prove God’s existence?
  3. Since the beginning of time, peoples of the world have sensed a creator of the universe, why do you think that atheists believe they have the upper hand by saying it ain’t so?
  4. Discuss the cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God.
  5. Discuss the moral argument of the existence of God. How would you argue for and against this argument?
  6. Changed lives as a proof is very subjective. How would a born-again believer’s testimony be different from the devotee of another religion?
  7. What personal evidence can you offer?
  8. What other arguments for or against the existence of God can you think of?
  9. Which argument seems most meaningful to you? Which one least helpful?

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Is Christianity Rational?

Know Why You Believe:

My Sunday School class studied the book, Know Why You Believe, a classic book by Paul Little. It’s plain and simple apologetics for the rest of us.

  1. Is Christianity Rational?
  2. Is There a God?
  3. Is Jesus God?
  4. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
  5. Is the Bible God’s Word?
  6. Are the Bible Documents Reliable?
  7. Does Archaeology Confirm Scripture?
  8. Are Miracles Possible?
  9. Do Science and Scripture Agree?
  10. Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

What is faith? Does it mean to believe in something you know isn’t true?

Don’t check your brains at the door:

  1. It is not only essential to know what we believe but to know why we believe it.
  2. Christianity is true whether we believe it or not.
  3. Two broad viewpoints these days:
    1. The anti-intellectual approach: (Colossians 2:8) suggesting that Christianity is non-rational if not irrational. A clear presentation of the gospel is important but it is not a substitute for faith. The Spirit is at work helping people to understand the truth, convicting the world of sin. Read the Invisible Gardener quote and the response (p 15).
    2. The exclusively rational approach: perhaps everything depends upon the mind. There is an intellectual factor, but there is also a moral factor (1 Corinthians 2:14) that says apart from the Holy Spirit, no one will ever believe.
  4. How do you feel the world challenges your faith?

Know some answers:

  1. We are commanded to be knowledgeable (1 Peter 3:15) for sound reasons. Why would the Bible have such a command?
    1. To strengthen our faith – we should know more than the fact that Jesus lives in our hearts.
    2. To validate our experience – a non-believer can claim his experience is just as valid and we are stumped. We cannot drive ourselves to believe something of which we are not intellectually convinced.
    3. To show that we believe something that is objectively true, regardless of who told us (like our parents or SS teacher, first-hand faith).
  2. How would obeying 1 Peter 3:15 help dispel the faulty concept in non-believers’ minds that faith is believing something you know isn’t true?

A rational body of truth:

  1. Perhaps no one has ever presented the facts to us logically. Faith is more than superstition based on emotions.
  2. The Great Commandment to love God will all our heart, soul mind and strength (Matthew 22:37) which involves the whole person.
  3. Paul defends and confirms the gospel (Philippians 1:7) which tells us that the gospel can be rationally understood and supported.
  4. The gospel is equated with truth, and opposed to error (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Non-Christians are defined as rejecting the truth (Romans 2:8).
  5. Paul asserts that it is not because people don not have enough knowledge to know the truth (Romans 1:20) but they have exchanged the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25).

Moral smoke screens:

  1. The moral issue overshadows the intellectual issue: it is not that people cannot believe, but that they will not believe (John 5:40).
  2. Moral commitment leads to a solution of the intellectual problem (John 7:17).
  3. Question: If Christianity is rational and true, why don’t more educated people believe it? It’s simple, because they don’t want to believe it! It’s not a matter of brain power; it is a matter of the will.
  4. Do you agree of disagree?
  5. Do other factors (like an abusive earthly father) keep someone from fully trusting God?

Doubt strikes terror:

  1. Sometimes we question our faith and wonder if it’s true, especially if you were raised in a Christian home. We believe it because we have confidence and trust in the person who told us about it. Re-examination is needed; to become first-hand faith.
  2. How can we know that we are not taken by church propaganda? Come back to two factors:
    1. The objective, external, historical facts of the resurrection.
    2. The subjective, internal, personal experience of Christ.
  3. Would a good Christian ever doubt? Like your faith is slipping because you began thinking. When challenged by an educated skeptic, they conform under pressure and then shed a faith that they never embraced as their own.
  4. How are doubting Christians usually handled in this church?
  5. Is there a group where doubters can discuss their issues in a non-threatening way?

Don’t hit the panic button:

  1. If you don’t have the answer, just promise to get one; no one has thought up just this week a question that will bring Christianity crashing down.
  2. Some things are never going to be answered (Deuteronomy 29:29). Christian faith goes beyond reason, not against it.
  3. Exposure to non-Christians reveals the same questions come repeatedly, and are limited in the range. One can predict the questions that will arise within a half-hour.

A doubter’s response:

  1. Doubters need to understand that they must come to a decision rather than find an answer.
  2. To make no decision is to decide against Christian position.
  3. To continue to doubt in the face of adequate information may indicate an unwillingness to believe and a will set against God.

Study Questions:

  1. For centuries the church did nothing to foster spiritual knowledge and Christian growth. Today we have millions of Bibles, thousands of churches and hundreds of ways to access information. Do you think it is easier or harder to have a genuine and growing relationship with Christ than in earlier centuries?
  2. What reasons do you see in your friends who refuse to believe? How can you help them through the roadblocks?
  3. Apart from the Holy Spirit, no one will believe. Pray now for the Spirit’s intervention in the lives of people you know.

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Why Does Atheism Reject God?

Dinesh D’Souza takes on leading critics of the church from E.O. Wilson to Richard Dawkins, from Sam Harris to Christopher Hitchens, extolling how Christianity is at home in the arena of science and philosophy and can offer a recipe for lasting happiness in a disillusioned world. While considering the book, I found this review very insightful, An Argument Against the Atheists:

 

“Today’s Christians know that they do not, as their ancestors did, live in a society where God’s presence was unavoidable. No longer does Christianity form the moral basis of society. Many of us now reside in secular communities, where arguments drawn from the Bible or Christian revelation carry no weight, and where we hear a different language from that spoken in church.”  That is the opening salvo from author Dinesh D’Souza in his new book, What’s So Great About Christianity

 

Why does atheism reject God? This is the part I found fascinating, especially since it has been my conclusion for years!

 

Al Mohler writes: D’Souza’s strongest analysis comes when he considers the true character of the new atheism. It is, he suggests, a “pelvic revolt against God.”  In other words, it is a revolt against Christian morality — especially sexual morality. This is not a new observation or argument, but D’Souza makes it exceptionally well: 

 

My conclusion is that contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt, it is a moral revolt. Atheists don’t find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren’t adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires. This is something we can all identify with. It is a temptation even for believers. We want to be saved as long as we are not saved from our sins. We are quite willing to be saved from a whole host of social evils, from poverty to disease to war. But we want to leave untouched the personal evils, such as selfishness and lechery and pride. We need spiritual healing, but we do not want it. Like a supervisory parent, God gets in our way. This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge. 

 

I have thought this for years, not so much the sexual immorality part, but the fact that modern atheism wants to be accountable to no one. That statement sounds as if atheists are evil people, desiring to eliminate all moral codes. Not true. As a recent media report puts it, atheists want to spread the message that “we’re good people, just not God people.”  

 

In the new book, unChristian, the author states that modern apologetics do not work in our postmodern relativistic society. Christianity just does not “click” using logical rational arguments for God’s existence. I believe we all evaluate the facts as we see them and choose to believe what we do based upon our interpretation of those facts. For atheism, I can’t help but think D’Souza’s point is valid.

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Christianity Has An Image Problem

There is a fascinating book called, unChristian (Kinnaman and Lyons) that declares Christianity has an image problem. I’ve known it for years but did not really have any research to support it. I often heard stories like:

  1. The church is only after my money
  2. Look at the lifestyles of TV evangelists
  3. Church is boring or irrelevant
  4. Remember Ted Haggard and Jim Bakker?
  5. The church is full of hypocrites
  6. I don’t need to go to church to worship God
  7. Too many priest sex scandals and cover-ups
  8. Christians are too narrow-minded

Once teenagers get their driver’s licenses, it seems participation in church activity is usually the first item scratched off the list. Remember that Christianity is a relationship more than it is a religion. Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit, so believers not living out what they say they believe is one of the greatest barriers to outsiders giving Jesus a try. Believers in Christ are the church; it’s not the building or an activity we do on Sundays. It seems I read that Gandhi would have become a Christian, but he could not find any of His followers.

So how has the Christian faith portrayed itself to a skeptical generation? What does Christian mean to you? For many, it means very conservative, indoctrinated, anti-gay, anti-choice, angry, violent, judgmental, illogical, hypocritical, too political, building their own empires, trying to convert everyone to their way of thinking, who cannot live at peace with anyone who believes differently than themselves. So, what did I leave out? A lot of this originates from the hurtful past of former believers.

How are Christians to overcome this negative stereotype? Today’s Christians are known more for what they are against than what they really stand for. Its one thing to know about Jesus, it is another to really know Him. Assent to a set of propositions is not what Jesus desires, but that we become His disciples, followers who live out what we believe. We are not alone, there are other authentic pilgrims on this journey.

I heard Greg Stier of Dare2Share Ministries tell a story of when he was a pastor, about being in a coffee shop, studying at a table with all his Jesus books in front of him. As he was leaving to pay, there was a Goth looking kid wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt behind him who noticed all his books. “Are you religious?” he asked, “Because I don’t like religious people.” Greg looked at the guy and said, “Me neither, I can’t stand religious people! You know who else didn’t like religious people? Jesus! Eventually those religious people had him killed.”

So, there he was with this kid with the Manson gear, both agreeing that religious people made them sick. But Jesus showed them by rising from the dead! Greg then went on to tell him about Jesus being into relationship rather than religion. In some ways people may be into spirituality or even into Jesus, but they don’t like the church. Sad reality, since believers ARE the church.

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