This is an excellent short lecture from Frank Turek entitled “Why Christians Should Be Involved in Politics.”
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
In case you have not subscribed to my newer ministry website, I wanted to alert you to my latest article.
This is the artwork that hangs in the front entry hall of my home.
Ecce Homo–”Behold, the Man!”
It was painted by Antonio Ciseri in 1871.
I cannot walk by it without feeling a pang in my heart.
This is my Savior.
He was innocent.
Yet He was mocked, beaten, and executed in the most shameful of ways.
All because I am guilty.
I consider this image with particular reverence on this day.
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As an apologist, I often dialogue with non-believers on the evidence for the philosophical, historical, and scientific veracity of the Christian faith. While I have the utmost confidence in the various lines of evidence that beautifully converge to support the case, the most important and persuasive evidence is, by its very nature, inaccessible to the non-believer. It is something that I have first-hand knowledge of, that I can describe to them, but that they cannot personally know in the absence of belief.
I know, through years of experience, the stunning, often overwhelming dynamic of God’s ongoing intervention in my life. I can look back over the decades of my past and literally map out the major turning points that God finely orchestrated to steer me into His will for my life. Those points were, more often than not, painful and confusing. During my sojourn in those seasons I questioned God; sometimes I was intensely angry with Him. And then a day would come whenever I realized, in a moment of stunning clarity, that during those episodes He was stripping away a bad splinter in my heart, that sometimes He was saving me from myself in ways I couldn’t have then imagined.
The non-believer’s response to this would probably be that I read too much into the coincidences of life. Oh, if they only knew—-if they only knew how hopelessly inadequate that explanation actually is! They haven’t lived in this relationship. They haven’t experienced that moment when your eyes are suddenly opened to the reality of what God has been doing in your life and the sheer impact of it sends you to your knees in awe, gratitude, and a deep sense of unworthiness. They just don’t know.
But I know.
And the tragic thing about all of it is that the non-believer is rejecting God based on incomplete knowledge. They wiggle out of the implications of all the other evidence as best they can, claiming that if God really existed, He would make Himself known in an undeniable way. But while the evidence the non-believer has isn’t complete, it is sufficient. People reject even sufficient evidence for belief in something whenever the conclusion stands in stark opposition to what they want to be true. Atheist Thomas Nagel was honest about it:
It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
(The Last Word, 1997)
Christian faith is not defined as blind belief in God; it is defined as the belief and trust in the one God whom we have excellent reasons to believe in. That faith is rewarded with the unmerited blessing of a new knowledge that was unfathomable before, undeniable after.
Posted in Uncategorized on March 5, 2013 |
I invite you to come check out my latest article on Science Reason & Faith.
At some point, I will figure out how to add a “subscribe” feature to my new site (for some reason, there is no widget for it). In the meantime, I will announce new articles here.
I have launched a new ministry website entitled Science, Reason & Faith. My general apologetics and worldview articles will continue to appear here at Hard-Core Christianity, but from here on out, my science/philosophy of science/science-faith integration articles will appear at http://www.sciencereasonfaith.com. I wanted a main site that focuses on my particular area of specialty without giving up my general blog.
At the new site, I have just made the announcement that my first book is being released in April! It’s an apologetics book for elementary age children, and is the first in a planned series. I’m very excited about that. Come on over and check out the details.
Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2013 |
This post is part 2 of 3. Part 1 can be read here.
The Realities of the Witch Hunts
The period of European witch hunts is generally defined as the four centuries between 1400 and 1800. Perhaps in part because of the intriguing, sensational nature of the subject, witch hunts have been blown well out of proportion in terms of their prevalence and victim estimations. According to Stark, “Few topics have prompted so much nonsense and outright fabrication as the European witch-hunts. Some of the most famous episodes never took place…and even the current ‘scholarly’ literature abounds in absurd death tolls.” A responsible estimate for the number executed is approximately 60,000, with the bloodiest period of hunting occurring between 1550 and 1650.
Popular stories of witch-hunting fanaticism frequently tend to overshadow the reality, which is that most inquisitors and judges were intent on reaching just verdicts. Indeed, the rate of convictions, around fifty to fifty-five percent, was as low as criminal convictions of any kind ever went during that time period. Accusations of witchcraft were almost always localized, rural incidents, and whenever local control was over-ridden, acquittal was the usual result. The death penalty was not a foregone conclusion of a witchcraft conviction, though it was the usual sentence in some areas, only because that penalty was the typical penalty for any significant offense. Execution of witches was usually carried out by means other than burning at the stake. Those who were burned were often, but not always, mercifully killed by other means before being burned, the latter of which was thought to prevent resurrection of the body.
It is a tragic truth that some accused witches were tortured into giving confessions of witchcraft, a fact that likely encouraged the occasional voluntary confessions. The accused were sometimes tortured by methods thought to “test” whether or not an individual was a genuine witch. For example, a widely held belief in England was that witches would not sink in water. “Swimming” or “floating” a suspect involved tying the left thumb to the right foot and the right thumb to the left foot, tying a rope around the waist (to retrieve the innocent sinkers), and then tossing the suspect into the water to see whether or not they would float. Perhaps as a result of the pain or the threat of pain, fantastical accounts of witch sabbats, magical flight (including, but not limited to, using the traditional broomstick), sexual intercourse with the Devil, and practice of maleficia were confessed, further heightening the fears and other motivations of the accusers. Sensible, decent people then took measures to extinguish what they perceived as dangerous evil in their midst.
In the third and final post in this essay series, I will discuss what the Church’s involvement was (and was not) in the European witch hunts.
 Stark, 202.
 Ibid., 203.
 Ibid., 204.
 J.P. Sommerville, Online Course Materials, University of Wisconsin, Madison. URL: <http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/367/367-131.htm> (Accessed October 26, 2012).
 Stark, 204.
 Brian Pavlac, “Ten Common Errors and Myths about the Witch Hunts, Corrected and Commented,” Prof. Pavlac’s Women’s History Resource Site. (2 May 2012). URL: <http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witcherrors.html> (Accessed October 25, 2012).
 Stark, 204.
 Sommerville, Online Course Materials, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
 Stark, 202.
Although atheist “churches” have been around for quite some time, various news outlets have been spotlighting them recently, so I thought I’d offer a few observations and comments.
BBC News reports on the atheist Sunday morning service:
The theme of the morning is “wonder” – a reaction, explains Jones, to criticism that atheists lack a sense of it.
So we bow our heads for two minutes of contemplation about the miracle of life and, in his closing sermon, Jones speaks about how the death of his mother influenced his own spiritual journey and determination to get the most out of every second, aware that life is all too brief and nothing comes after it.
The audience – overwhelmingly young, white and middle class – appear excited to be part of something new and speak of the void they felt on a Sunday morning when they decided to abandon their Christian faith. Few actively identify themselves as atheists.
[A]ttendee, Gintare Karalyte, says: “I think people need that sense of connectedness because everyone is so singular right now, and to be part of something, and to feel like you are part of something. That’s what people are craving in the world.”
There is an ironic inconsistency here, and it floors me that the atheist leaders and participants are (apparently) oblivious to it. They are working to manufacture meaning, virtues, and values—but by definition, meaning, virtues, and values cannot exist if God does not exist. Be careful to understand exactly what I’m saying here. To be sure, individuals can have subjective ideas about meaning, virtues, and values, but without an ultimate standard for all, each person can arbitrarily make up their own and no one is in a position to say that ANY of them are real. So, atheists can gather together to celebrate whatever ideas and opinions they wish, but they cannot claim that those ideas and opinions are based on truth. Yet, their behavior implies that they believe in things like objective meaning, virtues and values, despite the fact that they have no grounding for them whatsoever. It can only be about what they like or what they dislike. For example, an atheist in a non-Western country may place a high value on genocide while an American atheist might value total pacifism toward fellow man. Without God, neither view can be called correct, for there is no transcendent law by which to judge. The atheist cannot even support their fundamental value judgment that atheism is better than theism.
Human beings all have a sense that there is something greater than the individual self; that is what drives the “craving” mentioned by the atheist service attendee (above). People are indeed desperate to fill a void in their soul, and everyone attempts to fill it in some way or another. I’ve observed this my entire life, and I’ve personally lived through failed attempts to draw life meaning from people and things that were incapable of providing it to any satisfactory extent. The atheist “church” movement is just one more exercise in futility. They actively deny God in their vain quest for the things only God can provide. They may fool themselves into a sense of satisfaction, but deep down, they will continue to thirst.
I think Dr. William Lane Craig articulates the situation quite well in his monologue, “The Absurdity of Life Without God”:
If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s trail, then what is the goal of life? Is it all for nothing? Is there no reason for life? And what of the universe? Is it utterly pointless? If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space the answer must be, yes—it is pointless. There is no goal no purpose for the universe. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding and expanding—forever.
And what of man? Is there no purpose at all for the human race? Or will it simply peter out someday lost in the oblivion of an indifferent universe?
What is true of mankind as a whole is true of each of us individually: we are here to no purpose. If there is no God, then our life is not qualitatively different from that of a dog. As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes put it: “The fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All come from the dust and all return to the dust” (Eccles 3:19-20). In this book, which reads more like a piece of modern existentialist literature than a book of the Bible, the writer shows the futility of pleasure, wealth, education, political fame, and honor in a life doomed to end in death. His verdict? “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2). If life ends at the grave, then we have no ultimate purpose for living.
There are only two logically coherent options here:
1) Acceptance of the utter meaninglessness of the universe and of life, recognizing that there are no such things as objective value, virtues, purpose, or morality. Mankind and the universe are merely cosmic accidents that will eventually cease to exist. The end.
2) Recognition that God exists, therefore there is transcendent meaning in the world, and objective values and morality exist. Our life has purpose and the way we live matters–for eternity.
So, atheists can organize together and rant against religious faith. Their evangelists can gleefully crow about how they escaped religion and how they want to help mankind “break free of the shackles” of theistic belief—but they dwell, tragically, on the wrong side of the dungeon wall.
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
—Jesus, John 8:32