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I think atheism is a mystery. The more I read about it, think about it and talk with others about it, it puzzles me. What drives people to become atheists? Would they want there to be no God, no afterlife and no cosmic purpose? If not, why are so many of them dismissive of religion and, frankly, angry with the God they don’t believe exist?
One of the most weird thing one discovers when one studies atheism is that so many atheists are unwilling to call it a belief or even admit that atheism makes a positive claim about reality (the non-existence of gods). Rather, they like to define atheism as merely a lack of belief in gods. This psychological definition has made it into Wikipedia and some dictionaries, but obviously if that’s the only thing an atheist is defending they have no reason whatsoever to criticize other people’s conviction that God exist, or the validity of religion. When an atheist criticizes religion, they do it because they indeed have a positive belief in the falsehood of religion and non-existence of gods.
When atheists deny that atheism is a claim, they do it because they don’t want to present evidences for the claim that gods don’t exist. In fact, many of them will say that no such evidences exists – that you can’t prove a negative. This puts them in the same position as Andy Bannister’s hypothetical friend who denied Sweden’s existence: (more…)
Andy Bannister is a funny apologist. His book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (Monarch, 2015) combines intellectual sharpness with witty humour as he deals with the ideas of modern atheism. As director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Bannister has a lot of experience in defending the faith. We got to talk to him about his ministry and ideas.
What made you integrate humour in your apologetics?
Over the 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in Christian ministry (most of it focused on reaching sceptics) I became frustrated with the fact that so many really great books explaining the Christian faith never find their way into their hands of atheists or agnostics. Most evangelistic and apologetic books are simply read by Christians. Now on the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with that: Christians need to be equipped to share and defend their faith. But I wanted to write something that would actually be read by sceptics. The question was how.
Then I came across a quote by C. S. Lewis. Asked why he had taken up writing fiction (like the Narnia books) Lewis explained that too often the front entrance to people’s minds is guarded by “watchful dragons”: things like cynicism, pride, and poor arguments. But story and imagination could let you “steal past those watchful dragons”. That was a revelatory moment for me: maybe I could use a whole different approach, something completely fresh, to engage with atheism. And that’s what The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist does—but rather than creep past the dragon, it uses comedy and wit to tickle the dragon’s nose, so that whilst it’s busy laughing, we can bring truth in through the front door. (more…)
Previously published at Jesus Army.
Elijah Stephens is a former Vineyard pastor and spiritual coach belonging to Bethel Church in Redding, California. Since 2015, he has been working on a documentary about medically verified miracles. Micael Grenholm asked him a few questions.
WHAT is a medically verified miracle?
That is a good question. When it comes to miracles, we are talking about when God enters the world and does something. What makes something a miracle is God’s activity.
This is why you can’t study miracles scientifically, but what you can do is to find cases where people have prayed and there’s “before and after” medical evidence. For example, a person has a tumor, one day there is prayer, the next day the tumor disappears.
What you want to do is to corroborate miracles with medical evidence. So that’s what we’re attempting to do with the movie; finding cases where miracles have been corroborated by medical evidence. (more…)
Arguments from miracles to show the existence of the divine have been used almost since the dawn of religion. In the New Testament, miracles are used to form arguments for Israel’s God being with Jesus (John 3:2), being involved in contemporary life (Luke 7:16) and existing (Acts 17:31). Throughout church history, arguments from miracles have been frequently used to defend truth claims of Christianity or certain sects of Christianity, not the least on the mission field.
In modern apologetics, one particular argument from miracles is widely discussed and defended, namely the resurrection of Jesus. Apologists try to show that this is a historical event, since the truth claims of Christianity rests on this miracle according to 1 Corinthians 15. But many of them are hesitant to base an argument for God’s existence on modern-day miracles, even though that would cast increasing doubts on the metaphysical naturalism that many opponents of the resurrection’s historicity base their reasoning on.
In fact, well-known apologist William Lane Craig has said “I don’t appeal to miraculous healings as arguments for God’s existence […] I think that there are weightier arguments for the existence of God than pointing to miracles.” Timothy McGrew concludes in his well-written article on miracles in the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy that arguments from miracles are interesting but can’t stand on their own. Justin Brierley, host of the apologetic debating program Unbelievable at Premier Christian Radio, have had a few shows on contemporary miracles, but has admitted that they don’t talk about it very often and gives the following explanation for this:
This is kind of unusual for me […] we’re tending to deal with the kind of philosophical arguments for God, can we trust Scripture, those kinds of bariny, intellectual issues if you like. And in the field of apologetics, as it’s sometimes called, the sort of miracles stuff is sort of considered a bit like, “out there”. It’s very difficult to verify, it’s not objective in the way that we can talk about evidence for God and the Bible and that kind of thing. So in my view I think a lot of apologists tend to steer away from it.
If you agree that the holocaust was evil and that you can think, then you have to admit that there is a God. From the Spiritual Q&A apologetics class at Holy Treasure, Kettering, UK.
The fine tuning of the universe and the complexity of DNA provides powerful evidence for God’s existence. It even made well-known atheist Anthony Flew change his mind in the late part of his life to make him proclaim that there is a God! From the Spiritual Q&A class at Holy Treasure, Kettering, UK.
In this short lecture, I talk about the existence and origin of the universe actually shows us that God must exist. The universe must have an explanation outside of itself since it is contingent – that is, not necessarily existing. God, if he exist, would be necessarily existing and is thus a perfect candidate for the explanation for the universe.
Similarly, the fact that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago must have a cause since everything that begins to exist has a cause. Since the universe is all of time and space such a cause must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial and very powerful. That’s what we mean by God.
Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.
Recently Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of the year is “post-truth”. It’s an adjective used when describing how facts and truth take a backseat position in favour of emotions and personal opinion.
During just the last six months people have been increasingly talking about “post-truth politics” and a “post-truth world” as several politicians in the UK and the US have blatantly lied and ignored facts, quoting their own feelings or the feelings of their supporters as sufficient evidence for their positions.
An example of this was when American politician Newt Gingrich argued that the crime level in the US has gone up because “the average American… does not think crime is down”. When challenged by a reporter who quoted FBI statistics that showed the opposite, he simply responded “That’s your view”.
With so many religions in the world, how can we know which one is correct even if we’re convinced that God exists? Here I show why the most common arguments within Christian apologetics point to the Christian God specifically, and so if they work other religions have to be false. From the Spiritual Q&A class at Holy Treasure, Kettering.
God is so good. Last Sunday I went out on the streets of Kettering with a guitar and some Gospel tracts to invite people to our evening meeting. I met a woman in dark clothing walking with the help of a crutch, who commented how happy I looked when I played. I asked her how she was doing. “Like shit” she said, explaining to me her tough family situation, tragedies in her past and her homelessness.
She then asked me what I was doing and I said that I invite people to a Gospel meeting where there will be worship, Bible study, prayer – and tea. She responded that she doesn’t believe in God – she found it impossible after all the bad things that had happened to her. I gave her a booklet the Jesus Army has printed called The Biggest Issue which asked on the front cover “Where is God when all goes wrong?”
She asked me how I got involved with this church and I explained that I found it on the Internet and came all the way from Sweden to join a training year, living in community and working in one of their Kingdom Businesses. She was really impressed by that kind of commitment to a church. She revealed that she actually carries a cross necklace around in her bag, “I guess I do have a little faith after all.” Then she said that a warm cup of tea would be lovely and decided to go with me to the meeting hall. (more…)
When people think about the Bible they often think about contradictions. But how can we be sure that the Bible really contradicts itself rather than that’s is we who do not fully understand it? This lecture is part of the Spiritual Q&A apologetics series I hold at Holy Treasure in Kettering, UK.
In the third lecture of my Spiritual Q&A series, I talk about the alleged hiddenness of God. Why doesn’t God make His existence more obvious? Is it because He doesn’t care, or is it because it wouldn’t change our skepticism anyway?
The book of Joshua describes how the Israelites on God’s command invaded the land of Canaan and killed all who stood in their way. Over and over we read how they left “no survivors” (Josh 10:28, 30, 33). To modern ears, this clearly sounds like a genocide. Yet, Scripture actually tells us that this wasn’t the case: there were survivors!
I talk about this in the video above. In response to the accusation that the God of the Bible commands genocide, apologists like Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan have given a renewed focus to the hyperbole theory for being a good, evangelical take on this problem. They even wrote a book about this together, suitably titled Did God Really Commande Genocide? Flannagan writes on his blog:
Joshua affirms he exterminated all the Canaanites in this region. Repeatedly it states that Joshua left “no survivors” and “destroyed everything that breathed” in “the entire land”, “put all the inhabitants to the sword”. Alongside these general claims the text identifies several specific places and cities where Joshua exterminated everyone and left no survivors. These include Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). In the first chapter of Judges, however, we are told that the Canaanites lived in the Negev (1:9), in the hill country (Judg. 1:9), in Debir (Judg. 1:11), in Hebron (Judg. 1:10) and in the western foothills (Judg. 1:9). Moreover, they did so in such numbers and strength that they had to be driven out by force. These are the same cities that Joshua 10 tells us Joshua had annihilated and left no survivors in.
The problem of evil, or the problem of suffering, has never been much of a problem for me. Regarded as one of the chief obstacles to the Christian faith, I have never been confounded by the existence of evil and suffering in the world. Being an atheist before I was saved, I found that Christianity provides a solution to evil and suffering whereas atheism just accepts suffering and is extremely pessimistic regarding the fate of the human race; and, I later realised, cannot justify why evil and good really would exist objectively speaking.
But just because I personally have never been troubled by the problem, I shouldn’t as a pastor and apologist disregard those who struggle with it. When I’m out evangelising it is often asked why a good and omnipotent God would allow His creatures to suffer, and among many Christians as well this casts doubt on whether He really is good in three sense we understand it or if He’s really all-powerful.
Many have themselves experienced suffering, loss and injustice and so for them it is an emotional problem rather than an intellectual one. For them, many arguments fall short even if they’re good. Emotional pain requires love, support and comfort rather than mere answers. If my girlfriend breaks up with me and I weepingly ask “Why?!”, my friend Mark could provide me with all the reasons she rejected me, but even if they’re accurate it doesn’t follow that I would be comforted by that. I might get even more upset.
That being said, in this lecture I provide seven reasons why I don’t find the problem of evil and suffering as an intellectually challenging one. It’s recorded at our first “Spiritual Q&A” apologetics class that I hold here at Holy Treasure in Kettering every Monday. Have a look and tell me what you think in the comments!