Archive for November, 2015

This is an article by my good friend Allen Hainline.  He is a summa cum laude graduate in physics from the University of Texas at Austin and has a Masters degree in Systems and Software Engineering from the University of Texas Continuing Engineering Studies and also later taught in the program for several years.  Over at crossexamined.org (the apologetics site of Frank Turek) Allen has Cross Examined - Christian Apologetic Ministry | Frank Turek | Christian Apologetics | Christian Apologetics Speakersdone a series of posts related to science and fine-tuning for life.  They are definitely worth the read.  His latest is on the false notion that belief in God is a science stopper.  Here is a quick taste:

I’d like to call attention to a couple of excellent blogs by Luke Barnes correcting some historical blunders that Neil deGrasse Tyson made. Tyson argued that Newton failed to discover the stability of the solar system due to blinders that resulted from his belief in God. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the blogs by Barnes, a cosmologist from Australia.

I had recognized historical misrepresentations by Tyson in the Cosmos series such as that Giordano Bruno was a martyr for science and that Galileo went to jail for his scientific beliefs[1] but I wasn’t aware of the broader story behind this famous interaction between Laplace and Napole0n. You really need to read Barnes’s blogs for the details but in a nutshell the story is that Napolean upon reading physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace’s writings about the physics of the solar system asked why they never mentioned a Creator. Laplace replied that “Sir, I had no need of that hypothesis.” Also, as Barnes summarizes: “Tyson claims that Newton (1642-1727) should have discovered what Laplace (1749-1827) did – that the combined pull of the planets on each other do not destabilise their orbits – but was hamstrung by his theism.” Tyson wonders why Newton didn’t discover the stability of the solar system but inserted God as a means of intervening to keep things stable:

What concerns me is, even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God, and then your discovery stops. It just stops. You’re no good any more for advancing that frontier. You’re waiting for someone to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says “that’s a really cool problem, I want to solve it.” And they come in and solve it.”

Barnes points out several problems with Tyson’s claims:

  • This story may have never actually happened – the case for its historicity is somewhat weak as Laplace himself denied it and the earliest reports about the meeting are relatively late.

The other problems with Tyson’s claims can be found by linking over to the post.  Allen Hainline runs a college ministry at the University of Texas at Dallas that I am privileged to speak at ever so often.  It is part of the Reasonable Faith chapters of William Lane Craig’s ministry.  Information can be found at Reasonable Faith University of Texas at Dallas (RF UTD) which usually meets every Thursday night at 7 PM in the campus library.  Just this year they have had J. Warner Wallace  (former cold-case detective), Dr. Frank Turek,(apologist at Crossexamined.org), Dr. Ray Bohlin (a molecular and cell biologist), and Dr. Michael Strauss.  (professor of physics at University of Oklahoma).

This video is a debate Allen Hainline had with Lydia Allen at the BBC:

 

Christianity Today article reports on Alister McGrath’s lecture at Baylor University.  McGrath holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford.  A prolific author who holds three doctoral degrees in both science, theology, and intellectual history all from Oxford University, McGrath has explored and explained the relationship between science and religion (and has the credentials to do so expertly).

A taste of the article:

Atheism is in decline and will be trumped by faith, the professor of science and religion at the University of Oxford has said.

Professor Alister McGrath made his predictions during the annual Parchman Lectures at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, the Baptist Standard reports. The academic, who has degrees in molecular biology, theology and intellectual history, spoke on “why faith makes sense: exploring the rationality of Christianity.”

McGrath said he was an atheist as a young man, but faith makes greater sense of reality and transcends reason, which is insufficient for understanding the world.

“New Atheism ridicules the ‘irrationality of faith,'” said McGrath, who has debated New Atheist icons such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. “But it’s in decline, because it’s stale, dull and incredible. It provides unsatisfactory answers to ultimate questions. People want to know more.”

His most recent book, The Big Question: Why We Can’t Stop Talking About Science, Faith, and God is now available.  Amazon describes it:

Alister McGrath’s The Big Question is an accessible, engaging account of how science relates to faith, exploring how the working methods and assumptions of the natural sciences can be theologically useful. McGrath uses stories and analogies, as well as personal accounts, in order to help readers understand the scientific and theological points he makes, and grasp their deeper significance. An extremely accomplished scientist and scholar, McGrath criticizes the evangelism of the New Atheists and paves a logical well-argued road to the compatibility between science and faith.

Some of his main discussion points include:
1. There is much more convergence between science and faith than is usually appreciated
2. How the three great models of scientific explanation can be adapted to religious belief
3. Belief in God provides a ‘big picture’ of reality, making sense of science’s successes

Here is a lecture McGrath did on “The Bankruptcy of Scientific Atheism”:

 

A much shorter clip of McGrath:

 

1. Want to Understand the Transmission of the New Testament – Michael Kruger does a quick review of a new book that I will soon be getting on the transmission of the New Testament.  A quick taste of Kruger’s review:

Fundamentals of NT TCWhenever I teach textual criticism to my seminary students, I usually get two very different responses.  For some students, their eyes glaze over and they tune out as soon as they hear the word “paleography” for the first time.

For others, they find themselves fascinated by how texts were transmitted and copied in the ancient world.  And they are excited by the  fact that we can go to museums and see actual NT manuscripts–the earliest artifacts of Christianity. This archaeological component to textual criticism makes it a very tangible enterprise. . . .

This conundrum has, in my opinion, been largely solved by the new book by Stan Porter and Andrew Pitts, Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism (Eerdmans, 2015). . . .

Porter and Pitts aim for (and, I think, hit) the proverbial middle ground between,  . . .thus providing an excellent introduction to seminary students with the appropriate level of detail.

2. Thanksgiving at Faith and History – Robert Tracy McKenzie, professor of history at Wheaton College, has been doing of series of posts at his blogsite (Faith and History) commenting on Thanksgiving, our national memory of Thanksgiving, and misconceptions we commonly hold.  I read his book The First Thanksgiving last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A quick description of the book form amazon.com:

The Pilgrims’ celebration of the first Thanksgiving is a keystone of America’s national and spiritual identity. But is what we’ve been taught about them or their harvest feast what actually happened? And if not, what difference does it make? Through the captivating story of the birth of this quintessentially American holiday, veteran historian Tracy McKenzie helps us to better understand the tale of America’s origins―and for Christians, to grasp the significance of this story and those like it. McKenzie avoids both idolizing and demonizing the Pilgrims, and calls us to love and learn from our flawed yet fascinating forebears. The First Thanksgiving is narrative history at its best, and promises to be an indispensable guide to the interplay of historical thinking and Christian reflection on the meaning of the past for the present.

3. A Look at Messianic Prophecy: The Messiah as “The Branch”Eric Chabot over at thinkapologetics.com analyzes one the titles for messiah: the branch.  As we move into the Christmas season this would be a good read for reflection of the incarnation of Christ as our messiah.

Recently we have all heard of the decline of religion and the rise of a secularizaiton in America and the world.  Rodney Stark challenges this claim.  Stark which World magazine said, “Stark writes books that are models of popularly accessible scholarly writing.” He was a reporter for the Oakland Tribune and The Denver Post.  Stark then gained a Ph.D. and taught at the University of Washington for 32 years before heading to Baylor University in 2004.

This is challenged in his new book The Triumph of Faith.  It is published by ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute).   Last May 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 book 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”

I have referenced Rodney Stark here before in other posts (and here and here).

Rodney Stark is the author of How the West Won, The Victory of Reason, The Rise of Christianity, God’s Battalions, and many other books. He serves as Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, where he is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion.

In fact the Institute for Studies of Religion did a presentation recently on Nov. 10 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. challenging the secularization myth.  Christian Post did an article about the panel discussion of Baylor professors of the Institute for Studies of Religion.

Dennis Prager interviewed him about his book How the West Won:

An excerpt his new book, The Triumph of Faith, can be found here:

“Science, Because Faith: Why Religious Belief is Rational” by Rodney Stark in Intercollegiate Review

Here is a new video from my good friend David Sterrett from Disruptive Truth.  I mentioned Dave before on this blog on Apologetical Fiction as the co-author of the Coffee House Chronicles.