“When a Catholic and a Jew  . . .”

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but Ben Shapiro (a Jew) and Edward Feser (a Catholic) discuss Feser’s new book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (which by the way is a great read) on Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire “Sunday Special.”

Here is a short clip from the show in which Feser answers the question “Why Atheism is Growing?”

 

Feser provides a nice answer in regards to academia: overspecialization.  Feser means because of the hyperspecialization of academics today, they are essentially ignorant of the arguments and reasons for God’s existence.

I think Feser is right on this analysis, but another issue I want to examine is the original question itself: “Why Atheism is Growing?”

I question the question: is atheism actually growing?

Not according to Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion.  I have discussed some of his work before: here and here.

Stark challenges the claim that atheism is growing in his book The Triumph of Faith.  It is published by ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute).   In May of 2015 the Pew Research Center released a study announcing the declining practice of religion in general and Christianity in particular.  The promotion of this new book challenges this study: “Pew says America is becoming less religious. This book proves them wrong.”

Some of the commonly held beliefs today that this The Triumph of Faith dispels include:

  • Why claims about Millennials’ lack of religion are overblown and historically ignorant
  • Why Islam is NOT overtaking Christianity
  • How 4 out of 5 people worldwide now belong to an organized religion
  • How 50 percent have attended a worship service in the past week
  • Why much-ballyhooed studies from the Pew Research Center and others get the religious landscape wrong
  • Why atheists remain few, anywhere—despite all the talk of the “New Atheism”

In fact the Institute for Studies of Religion did a presentation in November of 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. challenging the secularization myth.  Stark can be heard discussing this issue on the podcast of Institute for Studies of Religion.  Dr. Stark reveals that:

Rod lists a couple statistics to bolster this point, including 81% of the world population claiming to belong to some organized religious faith, 71% saying that religion is important in their lives, and 51% having participated in some organized form of worship in the past week.  Atheism rates remains relatively stagnant with only three countries registering more than 20% of the population as non-believers.  Attendance and affiliation remains most flaccid in Europe.  This continent registers low among individuals who attend religious services largely because Christianity was never deeply embedded in a number of these countries to begin with (particularly in Northern Europe) and monopolized state churches have little incentive to recruit and serve members, according to Prof. Stark.

He also wrote an article about the “3 Myths about ‘Irreligious’ America, Busted” in Intercollegiate Review.  He concludes that article with “Secularists have been predicting the imminent demise of religion for centuries. They have always been wrong—and their claims today are no different. It is their unshakeable faith in secularization that may be the most “irrational” of all beliefs.”

Image result for the twilight of atheism

Alister McGrath has also written on the demise of atheism in his work The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern WorldMcGrath describes the “high noon” of atheism starting with the French Revolution and Voltaire of the 18th century moving on to Feuerbach, Marx and Freud of the 19th century ending with the death of God in Friedrich Nietzsche.

The 20th century, according to McGrath, saw the unexpected resurgence of religion.  This is congruent with Stark’s thesis.  It does not seem to be the case that atheism is on the rise worldwide.

The Futures Centre has been tracking some current trajectories and implications that include:

  • In 1970, nearly 80% of the world’s population was religious. By 2010 this had risen to around 88%, and could reach almost 90% by 2020.
  • Religion will likely remain a significant component of individual, community and national identity in future, with the spread of representative governments providing an opportunity for some religions to become increasingly politically assertive.

Other studies are concurrent with the aforementioned trends:

Atheism is Down” NPR

The World is Getting More Religious” Time

According the William Lane Craig, he reports that theism is growing in Germany and Japan while atheism has been declining.

There has been a misunderstanding on some studies on how a “none” is to be understood.  The Pew Research Center, a few years back, indicated that more people are identifying as “nones” or no religious affiliation.  A “none” is not synonymous with atheist or atheism. A none is simply someone who does not affiliate with any religious organization.  They actually may believe in God, pray, even attend a religious gathering, but just choose to not associate with any officially organized religious group.

Rodney Stark wrote for the National Press Club in 2015 that the world is more religious than it has ever been stating that: “All of the great world religions are growing and contrary to uninformed accounts, Christianity is growing faster than any of the others,” Stark wrote, according to Johnson. “But the larger point is that we are now in the 21st century, contrary to [historical claims of the religion’s demise], the world is far more religious than it was a century ago, and quite possibly, it is more religious than it has ever been.”

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Image result for caiaphas ossuaryCaiaphas the high priest mentioned in Mark 14:53-65.  In verses 61-64 we read about this famous exchange between Jesus and the High Priest Caiaphas:

61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

Was Caiaphas a real person? Apparently so.  Here is a quick video from Frank Turek of Crossexamined.com about this remarkable archaeological discovery of the bone box (i.e., ossuary or coffin) of Caiaphas:

 

Here is another video from Drive Through History about Caiaphas and the discovery of the ossuary:

 

The historical Caiaphas can be crosschecked in history by the Jewish historian Jospehus, as mentioned in the video above.

Here is a bulleted point reference to the history, discovery, and significance of Caiaphas and the ossuary:

  • Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest of the Sanhedrin.
  • The primary sources of Caiaphas are the New Testament (Matt 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6) and Josephus.
  • Caiaphas ossuary discovered in south Jerusalem in November of 1990.
  • An inscription on the side of the ossuary contains the phrase “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.
  • Inside that ossuary where the bones of a man.
  •  Most ossuaries are plain and contain no inscriptions; the Caiaphas ossuary is ornately decorated as would be the case for a high priest such as Caiaphas.

For further information on the Caiaphas ossuary see:

Ossuary of the High Priest Caiaphas” | Center for Online Jewish Studies

House of Caiaphas Ossuary is Authentic” by Gil Ronen | Israel National News 6/29/2011

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

 

Announcing:
APOLOGETICS QUICKGUIDE

Here is a series of online presentations that I did with the wonderful assistance of Clint Loveness called “Apologetics QuickGuide.”

It follows the topics from the above menu link: Is Christianity True?

It was filmed at a great location, by a professional film crew.  The quality is outstanding, making the content that much more accessible.  I hope that it can be a help to churches, schools, and individuals for many years to come.

Special thanks to Clint Loveness who filmed, produced, and published these videos.  Here is the introductory video to the four sessions:

 

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Posts about other Apologetic Resources from this blog include:

Belief Map

Reasonable Faith Videos

As planned I am highlighting some useful resources online, in print, conferences, etc. that will help those involved in apologetics.  Recently William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith has released a new animated video titled “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?”  Over the years Craig’s ministry has been publishing some very high quality apologetic videos that are under ten minutes each.  These are of great value, quality, and usefulness in our media saturated culture.  Here is the video most recently released:

 

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Post about other Apologetic Resources from this blog include:

Belief Map

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 2.48.45 PM.pngThe earliest fragment of the gospel of Mark has been published.  Elijah Hixson, adjunct lecturer at Edinburgh Bible College and a regular contributor to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, wrote for Christianity Today on May 30, 2018 that “Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus” and “that the manuscript was written in the range of A.D. 150–250. The manuscript itself is tiny, only 4.4 x 4 cm. It contains a few letters on each side from verses 7–9 and 16–18 of Mark 1.”

There has been much speculation about this manuscript of the years (namely that it was possibly from the first century), but nevertheless, this is an incredible publication.  For more about the sensationalism and speculation about this small fragment you can read my blog entry titled: “First Century Manuscript, Mummy Masks, Hobby Lobby, The Museum of the Bible, and waiting! [UPDATE: and . . . not first century].” That aside, the publication of this fragment is important:

  1. Likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark
  2. It dates between A.D. 150-250
  3. Excavated from a garbage dump next to the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1903
  4. Contains Mark 1:7-9 and 16-18
  5. Presents no new variants showing stability of the New Testament text over time

It is designated P137 because it is the 137th fragment of the New Testament written on papyrus (the writing material of the early copies of the New Testament), while the Egyptian Exploration Society (who is responsible for publishing the finds from Oxyrhynchus for the past century) has designated it as P.Oxy. 83.5345.  The latter designation (P.Oxy.83.5345) is a reference to Oxyrhynchus fragments discovered in the late 19th and early 20th century in which many Old Testament, New Testament, and other fragments where discovered.

A great interview of Dr. Daniel Wallace, New Testament textual critic and scholar of Dallas Theological Seminary and director of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, on Veracity Hill (the first 20 minutes).

The EES has made the publication, including images of P137, available here.

Sources:

First-Century Mark Fragment Update” by Daniel Wallace | DanielBWallace March 23, 2018

Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet” by Elijah Hixson | Christianity Today March 30, 2018

First-Century Mark,” Published at Last?” by Elijah Hixson | Evangelical Textual Criticism May 23, 2018

Was One of World’s Oldest Bible Passages Found in a Garbage Dump?” by Candida Moss and Joel Baden | The Daily Beast May 25, 2018

 

 

I am going to start a new series on this blog similar to my Science Series or Biblical Archaeology series: Apologetic Resources.  As the name suggests I will be highlighting some useful resources online, in print, conferences, etc. that will help those involved in apologetics.

The first resource I would like to highlight is Belief Map:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 8.34.35 AM

Belief Map is the brain child of Blake Giunta who is an experienced debater and apologist.  Full disclosure, I know Blake personally and have heard him speak and debate in various venues from college campuses to beer halls. While he is active speaking and debating, one of the most time consuming projects he is developing is Belief Map.

Belief Map is “an encyclopedic resource providing users with academically respected points and counterpoints in debates over life’s big questions.”

Belief Map in summary:

  • Serves as an apologetics hotline
  • Is scholarly and reliable
  • Provides a deeply customizable experience
  • Is an ideal way to learn debate

Belief Map’s strength is its menu that procedurally branches out academic points and counter-points in a fun interactive way that actually simulates dialogue between green (the Christian view) and red (the non-Christian view). There are over 1,000 academic citations, as well as over a 1,000 responses and  is continually growing.

Here is a 3 minute tutorial on how to use Belief Map:

 

This site is very organized and focused and with a simple click you can explore the reasons behind the question “Is Christianity True?”  Highly recommended.

 

Have you ever heard someone say, “you have to prove that scientifically.” Or even in news reports that “studies have shown . . . ”  Or maybe you have heard that science is the final or ultimate source of knowledge.  Behind these sentiments may lie a belief called “scientism.”  This mentality has even been put as simply as “If I can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist.”

This attitude towards that elevates science to a place of religious devotion is known as “scientism.”

Scientism is the belief that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically. That is, science is the sole source of knowledge and truth.

No doubt, science is a wonderful means of finding out truths about the world and a means of knowledge about the natural world, but science is not the final arbiter of truth. Nevertheless, there are some who claim (or even act as if) science is the only means of knowledge and truth. Here are some examples of people asserting scientism:

  • “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” – (Bertrand Russell Religion and Science, 243)
  • “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – (Stephen Hawking The Grand Design, 13)
  • “Science, as the only begetter of truth.” – (Richard Lewontin, The New York Review of Books 1/9/97)

There are several problems with scientism:

  1. Scientism is to restrictive – If science was the only source and final arbitrator of knowledge and truth, then massive fields of knowledge and truth would have to abandoned which most of us take to be legitimate truths and knowledge claims.  For example, if science in the only source for truth then we would have to abandon: mathematical truths, historical knowledge, logical truth, moral truth, and aesthetic truths amongst others.  Any theory of knowledge (such as scientism) that excludes these obvious avenues of truth needs to be abandoned itself, before you abandon these truths.
  2. Scientism is self-refuting – If the only source of knowledge and truth is science, then the claim that “the only source of knowledge and truth is science” is not true or knowable.  Why? Because the claim is not true because of science of known through science, and science it is not known by science, you shouldn’t believe that only science leads to truth and knowledge.

Science is a great and noble discipline.  We gain much knowledge and truth through it and will continue to gain knowledge and truth through science.  But, let’s not come with the mistaken belief that science is the best or only means of truth and knowledge.  The attitude that only science can lead to knowledge and truth is unwarranted, misleading, and self-contradictory.

J. P. Moreland, in his excellent work Love Your God With All Your Mind shares why we should reject scientism: “What I do reject is the idea that science and science alone can claim to give us knowledge. This assertion – known as scientism – is patently false and, in fact, not even a claim of science, but rather, a philosophical view about science.”

J. P. Moreland, the author of Scientism and Secularism, discusses this issue of scientism in this video:

 

Resources:

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland (Crossway: 2018)

“The Dangers of ‘Scientism’ and an Over-Reliance on Science” by J. Warner Wallace | Cold-Case Christianity, Feb 11, 2015

“Is Scientism Self-Refuting?” by William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith, Mar 21, 2011

“Blinded by Scientism” by Edward Feser | Public Discourse Mar 9, 2010

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Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

A great apologetical resource will be made available by Crossway Publishers. They are about to release their new ESV Archaeology Study Bible in April 30, 2018.  Dr. John D. Currid, the Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, is the Old Testament editor, while Dr. David Chapman (PhD, Cambridge) is the New Testament editor.

Some of the features include:

  • Double-column, paragraph format
  • 2,000+ study notes
  • 400+ full-color photographs
  • 200+ maps and diagrams
  • 200+ informational sidebars
  • 15 articles like “The Bible and History,” “Archaeology and Preaching,” Major Biblical Finds,” and “Daily Life in the New Testament Era”
  • 4 timelines
  • Book introductions
  • 4-color printing

Crossway’s website on the bible can be found here. A description of the new Bible:

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible roots the biblical text in its historical and cultural context, offering readers a framework for better understanding the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture. With editorial oversight from Dr. John Currid (PhD, University of Chicago) and Dr. David Chapman (PhD, University of Cambridge), as well as contributions from a team of field-trained archaeologists, the Archaeology Study Bible assembles a range of modern scholarship—pairing the biblical text with over 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photographs, 200 maps and diagrams, 200 sidebars, 15 articles, and 4 timelines. These features bring life to the ancient texts, helping readers situate them in their historical context while recognizing the truth that the eternal God became flesh entered human history at a specific time and in a specific place.

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

A clay seal stamped with the prophet Isaiah’s name was found recently.  This seal, that would be impressed upon scrolls, is over 2,700 years old and was found next to the other much reported clay seal (or bulla) for Hezekiah.  It would be the first extra-Biblical evidence of the prophet Isaiah.

In a statement Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem said that, “We found the eighth-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah.”

The clay seal is only a half and inch in width.  The seal reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.”  Bible History Daily reports that:

archaeologist Eilat Mazar and her team have discovered a small seal impression that reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.” The upper portion of the impression is missing, and its left side is damaged. Reconstructing a few Hebrew letters in this damaged area would cause the impression to read, “[belonging] to Isaiah the prophet.”

Major Biblical Discovery: Archaeologists May Have Found the Prophet Isaiah’s ‘Signature’”  by James Rogers Fox News | Feb 22, 2018

Isaiah’s Signature Uncovered in Jerusalem: Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah?” by Megan Sauter | Bible History Daily Feb, 22, 2108

An Unprecedented Find: Prophet Isaiah’s Seal Mark Possibly Discovered in Jerusalem” by Robert Cargill | Biblical Archaeological Society Feb 22, 2018

 

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

Generation Z

The generation born from 1999 to 2015.  They are the successors of Gen X (born 1965-1980) and Gen Y, also known as Millennials (b. 1981-1998).  The dates are approximations and arbitrary as created by sociologists and scholars studying generational trends.  The Barna Group alongside the ministry Impact360 has conducted as study of Gen Z’ers called “Who Is Gen Z.”  A short introductory video of their study can be viewed:

 

Jonathan Morrow, director of Cultural Engagement at Impact360, wrote an article titled “Why Gen Z Is Not Prepared To Follow Jesus In A Post-Everything World” and revealed that only 4% of Gen Z has a Biblical Worldview while atheism is on the rise amongst this generation.

Gen Z and Atheism

One of the things that has come to light in the Barna study:

“Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z”

In Barna’s report they reveal:

Enter Generation Z: Born between 1999 and 2015, they are the first truly “post-Christian” generation. More than any other generation before them, Gen Z does not assert a religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations, many of whom received a basic education on the Bible and Christianity. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.

The percentage of Gen Z’ers to be atheist has more than double previous generations: 13% of Generation Z compared to 6% of adults:

comp gen z

Gen Z and The Problem of Evil

Why is Gen Z more likely to be atheistic?  Well, Barna asked and they answered:

Teens, along with young adults, are more likely than older Americans to say the problem of evil and suffering is a deal breaker for them. It appears that today’s youth, like so many throughout history, struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God.

The problem of evil is an ancient objection dating all the way back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus who formulated the problem as such:

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to.  If he wants to, but cannot, he is not all powerful.  If he can, and he does not want to, he is wicked.  But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?”

The Problem of Evil and Apologetics

Notice, this is an intellectual objection to the truth of Christianity.  Oddly, Christian philosophers, theologians, and apologists have answered this intellectual objection.  In fact, they have answered it so convincingly that even professional atheists have admitted that there is not logical problem of evil that has successfully demonstrated that God doesn’t exist.  The late atheist philosopher William Rowe, stated that “Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God.  No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim.” Consider Paul Draper, agnostic philosopher of religion at Purdue: “I do not see how it is possible to construct a convincing logical argument from evil against theism.”

Christian scholars have gone on to differentiate between two types of intellectual problems of evil: the logical problem (as commented on by Rowe and Draper above) and the evidential problem of evil.  I won’t address the difference here (see the videos by Reasonable Faith below as well as the other resources), but just seeing the categorization by Christian scholars shows how extensively they have thought and contemplated the issue of evil.

Intellectual vs. Emotional Evil

While Rowe and Draper are referring to the intellectual problem of evil, evil and suffering has another sides: emotional.  This is an important distinction we need to make.  While one can (and has) provide answers to the intellectual problem of evil, it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience evil personally.  We still have to grapple and suffer through evil and pain.  Some of it quite horrific.  But the emotional experience of pain and suffering is not an argument, but a personal struggle.  It is a struggle that the Christian worldview can offer satisfying resources and comfort for someone who is suffering pain and evil.  Christianity can speak of the patience and mercy of God. It can mention the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ. It can offer the comfort that a redemptive God is working to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It has a “good news” of hope for a broken world. The atheistic worldview denies these luxuries.

Apologetics and the Christian worldview has the intellectual and emotional resources for Gen Z.  It just needs to be communicated: which Christian apologetics does.  Not just intellectual answers, but deeply personal, psychological, and spiritual answers.

Resources:

Books:

God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain ed. by Chad Meister and James K. Dew, Jr. – one of the best collected works covering all the angles on the question of evil that “offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though we are pressed on every side with great evil and suffering, the God of the universe is greater still.”

Why Does God Allow Evil? Compelling Answers to Life’s Toughest Questions by Clay Jones – a shorter work that answer some of the common questions in a very accessible but intellectual sound manner

The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs by Jeremy A. Evans 

The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis – a classic examination of the intellectual problem of evil

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis – an examination of the emotional problem of evil

Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness–A Philosopher’s Lament by Douglas Groothuis – a new book by Christian philosopher Groothuis as he opens up personally about his wife’s struggle with dementia as he reflects on it as a philosopher and a husband

 

Videos:

The Logical Problem of Evil:

 

The Evidential (Probabilistic) Problem of Evil:

 

Other videos: