Archive for November, 2016

mary-and-jesusSome great articles are circulating around some apologetic sites you need to check out around the world wide web:

1. “Was Jesus Married to Mary Magdalene? Revisiting a Stubborn Conspiracy Theory” by Michael Kruger | Cannon Fodder, Nov 29, 2016

Michael Kruger exposes this “too good to get rid of conspiracy”: that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

In 2003, Dan Brown’s best-selling fictional book The Da Vinci Code raised (again) the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that this fact had been cleverly suppressed by the church for thousands of years. Apparently it took a fictional author to uncover the “real” truth.

Brown was not the first to make such a claim, of course, but his book gave it new life.  At least for a while.  But, after a chorus of scholars showed the claim to be (again) without merit, the chatter about Mary Magdalene died down a bit.

But this particular mole will not go away.  Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici wrote an article for the Huffington Post on this very topic entitled, “Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene is Fact, not Fiction.

Some things just don’t stay dead.

2. “Rapid Response: “Evil Disproves the Existence of God” by J. Warner Wallace

As part of his “rapid response” series, Wallace asks you to imagine if someone said, “If God is both all-loving and all-powerful, why does He allow evil things to happen? Doesn’t the mere presence of evil disprove the existence of God?” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied.

3. “Getting Rid of the Myth of Religion” by Greg Koukl | Stand to Reason, Nov 30, 2016

Koukl describes the high price that is paid when one gets rid of the “myth” of religion.

 

Reflections

Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard was unknown to the world until 100 years after his death. Though his philosophical and theological works finally rose in popularity in the twentieth century, what exactly did he believe and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Søren Kierkegaard—and why he still matters today.

Who WasSøren Kierkegaard?

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and was the youngest of seven children. Known as the melancholy Dane for his life of angst and tragedy, he experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity in his college years that would shape the rest of his life. Nevertheless, being subsequently dissatisfied in love, career, health, and church life, he met an early demise. He died a lonely and frustrated man in obscurity in the middle of the nineteenth century with his many self-published writings virtually unknown. Yet, 100 years later…

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year_in_space_photo_gallery-0048dHoward A. Smith, a lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy and a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post this past Thanksgiving break about how we are to be thankful for a not-so-obvious blessing: our place in the universe.  Here is a taste:

 

As we give thanks for our many obvious blessings, let’s reflect on a blessing that is less well known, a gift from modern astronomy: how we view ourselves.

There was a time, back when astronomy put Earth at the center of the universe, that we thought we were special. But after Copernicus kicked Earth off its pedestal, we decided we were cosmically inconsequential, partly because the universe is vast and about the same everywhere. Astronomer Carl Sagan put it this way: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star.” Stephen Hawking was even blunter: “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.”

An objective look, however, at just two of the most dramatic discoveries of astronomy — big bang cosmology and planets around other stars (exoplanets) — suggests the opposite. We seem to be cosmically special, perhaps even unique — at least as far as we are likely to know for eons.

The fine-tuning argument has had a long career, but recently it has been receiving specialfortunte-unverse attention, not just by philosophers and theologians, but by scientists like Dr. Smith himself.  A recently produced book by Cambridge University Press was just released this month by Luke Barnes, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy who completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and Geraint F. Lewis, a Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and head of the Gravitational Astrophysics Group, titled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos that continues this long discussion about fine-tuning.  The foreword by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Nobel Laureate in Physics describes the book:

My colleagues, Geraint and Luke, in A Fortunate Universe, take you on a tour of the Cosmos in all of its glory, and all of its mystery. You will see that humanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed Universe. It is these set of conditions that have allowed humans to ponder our place in space and time. I have no idea why we are here, but I do know the Universe is beautiful. A Fortunate Universe captures the mysterious beauty of the Cosmos in a way that all can share.

William Lane Craig aptly concludes that the fine-tuning for life in the universe, that “the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.”  Here is Craig’s animated video on the fine-tuning argument:

 

The fine-tuning for life is quickly becoming one of the most discussed arguments in science today.  Below are some resources related to the field of fine-tuning.

Resources

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos by Luke Barnes and Geraint Lewis

“Humanity is Cosmically Special. Here’s How We Know” by Howard A Smith | Washington Post, Nov. 25 2016

William Lane Craig’s clearing house of resources for the Fine-Tuning Argument (videos, articles, etc.)

Luke Barnes Blog

Robin Collin’s Fine-Tuning Website

Several years ago astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards wrote the book The Privileged Planet which was turned into a documentary here:

 

 

Reflections

Saint_Irenaeus2

Irenaeus was one of the first Christians to defend the faith against Gnosticism, but what exactly did he believe and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Irenaeus—and why he still matters today.

Who WasIrenaeus?

Irenaeus (c. 130–202) was a Greek thinker who was born in Asia Minor to a Christian family. His historic connections to early Christianity ran deep, as he was a student of the apostolic father Polycarp (69–155). Christian tradition asserts that Polycarp actually knew the apostle John—so Irenaeus wasn’t too far removed from the time of the apostles. Irenaeus was both a sophisticated theologian and a careful apologist. In fact, he was the first Christian apologist to defend Christianity from specific heresies (false teachings that deny essential Christian doctrines). Irenaeus defended Christianity from the influential heresy known as Gnosticism. He also wrote about the early…

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Reflections

st_jerome_in_his_study-1

Tradition reveals that St. Jerome preferred studying the biblical languages because it helped him fend off impure thoughts. But who was this ancient Christian monk, and what is his enduring legacy in terms of historic Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Jerome—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Jerome?

Jerome (c. 347–420) was born in Stridon, a town in the Roman province of Dalmatia (thought to be in modern-day Croatia or Slovenia), to a fairly wealthy Christian family. He was educated in Rome where his schooling included studies in grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. He was baptized as a young adult in Rome and later studied under the Eastern Cappadocian theologian Gregory of Nazianzus. A strong advocate of the ascetic life (monasticism), Jerome was a contemporary and friend of St. Augustine. Jerome died in the city of Bethlehem. He is widely considered the greatest…

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Reflections

I’ve heard it said that evangelical Christians don’t study our church history very deeply. As a fellow evangelical, I think there is, unfortunately, a lot of truth in this statement. Contemporary Christians can learn a great deal from the history of their faith. But where to start? This series, “Christian Thinkers 101,” provides a snapshot of some of the faith’s key theologians and apologists and their important books and ideas.

Let’s begin with the man who is the most popular church father.

Though he lived 1,600 years ago, St. Augustine remains revered. But what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Augustine—and why he still matters today.

CRASH COURSE_ AUGUSTINEWho Was Augustine?

St. Augustine (AD 354–430) was born in North Africa to a pagan father and a Christian mother. Following a youth and an early career steeped…

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Reflections

tertullian_thevet_300dpiThough he died almost 18 centuries ago, Tertullian is often quoted today in theological and apologetics circles. But what did this man believe and what did he ultimately contribute to historic Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Tertullian—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Tertullian?

Tertullian (c. 160–220) was a North African church father and was likely born in the ancient city of Carthage. His parents were pagans and his father served as a Roman centurion. He was educated in the subjects of law and rhetoric and was an engaging writer. He converted to Christianity in mid-life. Living in the early days in which Christians suffered from persecution, Tertullian wrote a theological treatment on the subject of martyrdom (To the Martyrs). He was a unique, bold, and rather temperamental apologist and polemicist for early Christianity at a time when the faith was…

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Early church history. Check out the nice infographic embedded in the original post.

Reflections

justin_martyrSaint Justin, also known as Justin Martyr, was one of the first Christians to meet Greco-Roman thinkers on their own ground by using philosophy as a tool or handmaid (servant) to defend the gospel message. But what else did he contribute to historic Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Justin Martyr—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Justin Martyr?

Saint Justin (c. 100–165) was born in Flavia Neapolis (modern-day Palestine) to pagan parents. He studied in the ancient cities of Alexandria and Ephesus where his pursuit of truth led him to examine the Greek philosophical systems of Stoicism, Aristotelianism, Pythagoreanism, and Platonism, ultimately adopting the tenets of the Platonists. His conversion to Christianity was sparked by a conversation he had with a wise, elderly Christian man who instructed him on how Christ had fulfilled the writings of the Hebrew prophets. Justin subsequently started a…

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RICHARD DAWKINSRichard Dawkins misrepresents science according to a recent study.

Andrew Griffin of the Independent explains that “Most British scientists in a new study dislike Richard Dawkins, with some arguing that he misrepresents science and is misleading the public.”  One nonreligious professor of biology referred to him as a “fundamental atheist.”

Richard Dawkins is probably the most famous atheist today.  His book The God Delusion (2006) has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages.

The study in question was published in the Public Understanding of Science and was the findings of Religion Among Scientists in International Context (RASIC).  The study “include[d] a survey of over 20,000 scientists from eight countries. In the United Kingdom, 1,581 randomly sampled scientists participated in the survey, and 137 of them also participated in in-depth interviews” according to a Rice News article. The Public Understanding of Science is a fully peer reviewed, quarterly international journal covering all aspects of the inter-relationships between science (including technology and medicine) and the public according to its website.

One of the more interesting insights was that this study did not include Dawkins as part of the interview process.  The researchers didn’t ask about him.  Of the 137 British scientists interviewed 48 mentioned Dawkins. 80 percent of the  48 said they thought that Dawkins misrepresents science and scientists in his books and public speeches.

Description from scientists on Dawkins and his work included:

  • A nonreligious physicist said that Dawkins is “much too strong about the way he denies religion”
  • A nonreligious biologist states that “He’s a fundamental atheist. He feels compelled to take the evidence way beyond that which other scientists would regard as possible.”
  • Another professor of biology commentated that Dawkins has “gone on a crusade, basically.  Although there is a lot of truth behind what he says, he does it in a way that I think is deliberately designed to alienate religious people.”

The common criticism, according to Griffin, “was that Dawkins was too strong in his criticism of religion.”

Not all are taking the criticisms of Dawkins seriously.

Sebastian Anthony at ARC Technica UK reports that a “spokesperson for the Centre of Inquiry, which is currently merging with Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason & Science, told the Independent that ‘It’s certainly not a breathtaking revelation that fewer than 40 scientists out of 137—culled from a pool of over 20,000—might not be fans of Professor Dawkins’ particular approach to science communication.”

Hermant Mehta at “The Friendly Atheist” blog on Patheos.com claimed that the study published by the Public Understanding of Science is bizarre and the conclusion is flimsy based on the methodology of the researchers.

But this is not the first time Richard Dawkins has come under criticism from scholars, scientists, and philosophers.

E. O. Wilson, a Harvard professor, criticized him in 2014 stating that Dawkins wasn’t a scientist at all, but a journalist.  Wilson declared that “There is no dispute between me and Richard Dawkins and there never has been, because he’s a journalist, and journalists are people that report what the scientists have found and the arguments I’ve had have actually been with scientists doing research.”

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s review of Dawkins bestseller The God Delusion comments that, “Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.”

Michael Ruse, atheist philosopher of biology at Florida State University, states that Dawkins The God Delusion made him ashamed to be an atheist.  Ruse discussed the trouble with Richard Dawkins in this short (6 min) video clip:

 

Of worthy note about the study is the fact that it did not ask questions about Dawkins, but those scientists interviewed mentioned him without prompting.

Critiques of Dawkins work can be found in proliferation:

Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion” by William Lane Craig at Reasonablefaith.org | April 23, 2007

Dawkins is Not Great” by Bo Seo at The Harvard Crimson | Nov. 21, 2013

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins,” by John Gray at The New Republic | Oct 2, 2014

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister and Joanna McGrath (InterVarsity, 2007)

Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion by Alister McGrath (Wiley, 2015)

On Dawkins’ Atheism: A Response” by Gary Gutting at The New York Times | Aug 11, 2010

The Dawkins Confusion” by Alvin Plantinga at Books and Culture | Mar/Arp 2007

Resources:

British Scientists Don’t Like Richard Dawkins: finds study that didn’t even ask questions about Richard Dawkins,” by Andrew Griffin The Independent | Oct. 31, 2016

Richard Dawkins is Bad for Science, Say Researchers Predisposed to Not Liking Him,” by Hemant Mehta Patheos | Oct 31, 2016

Most British Scientists Cited in Study Feel Richard Dawkins’ Work Misrepresents Science,” by Amy McCaig Rice News | Oct. 31, 2016

Richard Dawkins Gives Science a Bad Name, Says Fellow UK Scientists,” by Sebastian Anthony ARC Technica UK | Nov. 1, 2016

Responding to Richard: Celebrity and (Mis)Representation of Science,” by David R. Johnson, et. al. Public Understanding of Science | Oct. 10, 2016


    Other post from the Science Series from this blog include: