Does Truth Exist?

In today’s pluralistic society, you might often hear this response: “What is true for you is not true for me.” It is often spouted in response to an exclusive claim like, “Jesus is the only way to heaven.” Some people find it offensive that I would make such a claim. However, I would argue that truth exists and it isn’t relative.

  1. Absolute truth exists. To test this statement all you have to do is show the absurdity of its negative. “Truth does not exist” is a self-defeating statement. To illustrate, if someone said to you, “Truth does not exist,” the proper response would be, “How do you know that is true?” Is it true that truth does not exist? You see the problem. Truth does not exist is a claim to truth, thus defeating itself.
  2. Truth cannot be relative. Again, we apply the same logical test to the relative-truth statement, “What is true for you is not true for me.” What if I say That statement isn’t true for me. Then truth would not be relative. Of course, we could continue this back-and-forth until our lungs give out. However, applying the statement to itself shows the same self-defeating fallacy.  Is relative truth true for everyone? What’s more, it isn’t hard to show the bias in such a statement. If I said two plus two equals four, you would never say, “Actually, I believe it equals five. Sorry, what is true for you isn’t true for me.” People only say this when it comes to religion or morality. For them, it is a cop-out.
  3. Absolute truth cannot exist on naturalism. So far, we have used philosophical reasoning to show that truth exists and is not relative. In a purely naturalistic worldview, why would we trust our mind’s ability to reason? The naturalist says that our minds are simply the product of millions (billions?) of years of evolution – natural selection of random mutations. If this is so, my thoughts can be reduced to nothing more than chemicals firing in my brain. Why would I trust that they are true? And if your chemicals lead you to one “truth” and my chemicals lead me to a contrary one, who is to say whose chemicals are producing the real truth? For now, I conclude that truth exists and is best explained by a worldview that isn’t purely natural. I would be interested to hear a naturalistic rebuttal though, so please leave comments!

Chemicals don’t reason, they react. -Frank Turek

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension (allegedly) happened in space-time history. He made absolute claims. This means that his life and ministry are falsifiable. Either he was a real person, or he wasn’t. Either he performed miracles, or he didn’t. Either he was crucified and buried, or he wasn’t. Either he rose from the dead, or he didn’t. There is no “true for you, but not for me”.

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Is Faith Blind?

When it comes to our belief in God, Jesus, and the Bible, must we “take it on faith”? Not only is this a common accusation made by critics of the Christian faith, but too often many Christians accept this as an answer to critical questions. For example, when asked, Why do you believe the Bible is God’s word? someone might respond, “Well, I just take it on faith.” To be honest, my response would be, “What on earth does that mean?” What does it mean to “take something on faith”? Do you really mean that you believe something is true despite not having (or knowing) any evidence to support your belief? If so, your belief is – by your own admission – not credible. The God of the universe who wants us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) has not left us a gospel with no credibility.

God gives us just enough evidence so that those who want Him can have Him.

-Peter Kreeft

The Bible does not present faith as blind. In Chapter Two of John’s Gospel we find a couple of examples of evidence-based faith in Jesus’ disciples.

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.”  -John 2:11

“While he was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.”  -John 2:23

As you see, the disciples didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah because he said so, or because they “took it on faith”. They believed Jesus was the Messiah because he performed signs and made predictions about His death and resurrection. Was there room for doubt? Absolutely, there always is. However, after examining the evidence, the disciples found it reasonable to believe Jesus was the Messiah and therefore placed their trust in Him. They were so convinced of His resurrection that they laid down their lives for the truth. The point I’m trying to make is that they didn’t “take it on faith” in the sense that faith means belief even though there is a lack of evidence. They believed because of the evidence.

Like the disciples, we too can believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible because of the evidence. There is reason to believe God exists. There is reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead. There is reason to believe the Bible is the reliable word of God. We do not have to “take it on faith”. I encourage you to examine the evidence and make a decision.

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God Never Requires Us to Believe Without Evidence – Dr. Travis Dickinson

 

Why Does God Allow Evil?

The “problem” of evil is probably the most common objection to theism in general, and Christianity in particular. So great is the problem that many books have been written over just this one topic (leave your recommendations below). Therefore, my answer to this question will not be comprehensive by any means. Before I directly answer the question let me preface my answer with some points.

  1. This is not an objection to God’s existence, only His goodness. There’s no reason God cannot both exist, and fail to meet our standard of morality. He would not be a good god (by our understanding), however. Personally, I believe God not only meets our standard of morality, but is the standard of morality. But I feel this point should be made first.
  2. In the naturalistic-atheistic worldview there is no absolute standard for morality. I am not saying atheists cannot act morally, of course they can! They often put me to shame. I am saying (on atheism) there is no explanation for an absolute moral law – which you would need in order to call something evil. Naturalism is bound to determinism. To quote Richard Dawkins, “DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” There is no moral code and therefore no moral accountability. We are simply dancing to our DNA. We have no choice. Before the atheist can object to the morality of God, they must first borrow from a theistic worldview that can account for absolute morals. For something to be truly evil it must violate the standard of good. There can only be an absolute standard of good within a theistic worldview. If evil exists, it only proves the existence God – far from the original objection. Some atheists accept that their worldview cannot account for an absolute standard of morality while others try to explain how it could be possible. Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape was a noble attempt to do just that, but apologists like William Lane Craig and Frank Turek revealed his assumptions and fallacies and left his argument found wanting. You can watch the debate between Harris and Craig here and decide for yourself.
  3. God does not cause evil, He allows it. God is not sitting on a throne thinking of ways to cruelly punish us. However, cruel things are happening and he doesn’t always seem to intervene. Therefore, let us understand that God doesn’t cause evil, but allows it (for the time being).

The following arguments are based on two assumptions: (1) God exists, and (2) The Bible is true. I’ve argued partially for (1) here and I’ve yet to argue for (2) on this blog; however, there are many good articles, books, etc. out there. Now then, some answers:

  1. God made humans with free will. Why? Because he values relationship with His creation. In order for there to be a genuine relationship there must be a genuine choice. If my fiancée had no choice but to say yes to my proposal, would it really be a relationship? Of course not. What makes it a relationship is the possibility of saying no. You can say no to God, but there will be consequences. The Bible traces the suffering of this world back to Adam and Eve when they decided to say no to God. This answer satisfies the general objection of how a good God can exist while there is evil in the world. But what about the particulars? How could God allow this to happen to me, specifically?
  2. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude that an all-powerful, all-knowing God has a plan we cannot always understand. I believe that God is powerful enough to create the entire universe. Surely, a being that powerful cannot be fully understood by a finite human, like myself (Isaiah 55:8-9). Sometimes, God’s reason for allowing us to suffer is clear as day. In other instances, it is not clear what the purpose is. However, the Christian can rest assured that although God is not causing evil, in his sovereignty, He is going to use it for a good purpose (Romans 8:28). A God powerful enough to create the universe is also powerful enough to use evil for a good purpose. We see this most clearly at the cross of Christ. Evil men executed Jesus even though he was innocent. Nonetheless, God used it to save the world from sin. He flips evil upside down on its head and uses it for good.
  3. The Christian worldview promises an end to evil and suffering. One day, God will deal justly with all who have done evil. In our human courts we often get the verdict wrong and let a guilty person go free (or vice versa). This will not be the case with God. All will be made right. Evil and suffering will be vanquished (Revelation 21:4).
  4. The Church should console those who are suffering. Not only is a good God consistent with a world in which we observe evil; not only does this God promise to make good of our suffering; not only does He promise to end evil and suffering; but He gives us consolation in the midst of our suffering right now. In my experience, people are not looking for philosophical answers in the midst of their suffering; they are looking for a loving friend. Christians are commanded to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to love others like we love ourselves (Galatians 5:14). If you are suffering currently, I’d be more than glad to be there for you, just let me know!

In conclusion, the existence of evil points to an absolute moral code. This moral code only makes sense in a theistic universe. Humankind’s ability to make bad choices results in much suffering. The consequences of disobeying God also result in suffering. God uses this suffering for our good and His glory – sometimes in ways we cannot (yet) understand. There will one day be an end to evil and suffering. In the meantime, we trust God’s good plan, lean on His promises, and console one another. Ultimately, we all have the capacity for evil. Our hearts so easily turn away from God and his good purposes. We can be reconciled to Him by placing our faith in Jesus, who died in our place for this very reason.

Happy New Years everyone! What resolutions are you making?

Can Wise Men Believe in the Virgin Birth?

In today’s scientific era is it reasonable to believe Mary, a virgin, gave birth to the Son of God, Jesus? Well, it depends. It depends on a decision (or decisions) you’ve likely already made. My argument for the virgin birth is an argument of coherence, or an internal argument. In other words, belief in the virgin birth is absolutely reasonable within a theistic worldview. It is absolutely ridiculous in an atheistic worldview. Miracles don’t happen within an atheistic worldview.

So yes, it is reasonable to believe in the virgin birth, as well as other miracles, if you believe in God. However, this does not mean the virgin birth, or any other miracle, has occurred. The fact that it is reasonable doesn’t mean it happened. It’s reasonable, in a Christian worldview, to believe Jesus will return tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean it is going to happen.

So, what do you base your belief on? My belief in the virgin birth is predicated on a few other beliefs that I think there is a stronger case for. My line of reasoning would go something like this:

  1. I believe there is very strong evidence that God exists.
  2. I believe there is good evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.
  3. Jesus treated the Bible as the Word of God.
  4. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and therefore true.
  5. The Bible claims Jesus was born of a virgin.
  6. I believe Jesus was born of a virgin.

Like I said, if you don’t believe premise one then of course you don’t believe my conclusion – and I don’t blame you! Some of our beliefs are based on other beliefs. This is true for all worldviews. So long as the beliefs are coherent with one another, they are perfectly reasonable. Of course, if premise one is proven false (i.e. God turns out not to be real) then the whole web of (coherent) beliefs falls apart.

Christians should definitely believe in the virgin birth as it is central to Christ’s later atoning work on the cross for our sins. The fact that he was born of a virgin and “of the Holy Spirit” makes him uniquely qualified to atone for our sins.

Question: If you were alive at the time, and knew for a fact that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth, how would you prove it?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Where did the universe come from?

It surprises me how many people are content to say, “Science has proved that the Big Bang happened about 14 Billion years ago. We already know the answer to where did the universe come from?” Despite the number of scientists who are now jumping ship from the Big Bang theory, let’s assume it’s true. 14 Billion years ago the universe rapidly expanded and evolution began to work  its “magic”. We’re still left with the question, where did it come from? Philosophically, it seems to me, there are only three possible solutions:

  1. The universe is a brute fact.
  2. The universe came from nothing.
  3. The universe was created.

Bertrand Russel famously believed option number one. The universe just is, and that’s all. The universe is the first cause; the unmoved mover. The universe is eternal. One philosophical problem with this view is that one component of the universe is time. To say that the universe is eternal is to say that time is eternal. An infinite amount of time has passed. How could this be? If there was an infinite amount of time between today and eternity past, how would we ever arrive at the present? Yet, we have arrived at the present. Empirical evidence that led to the Big Bang theory would have us believe that the universe began, anyway.

So, the universe began. Now, if you don’t believe in God, you must concede that the universe began from nothing. Some have tried to escape this reality by postulating the “multiverse theory.” This theory, more or less, states that there is an infinite number of universes popping in and out of existence, so of course we ended up in this one. With an infinite amount of tries, eventually a universe like ours will appear. This theory fails for at least three reasons.

  1. You’ve only pushed the question back further and made it infinitely harder to explain. Instead of the question being “Where did this one universe come from?” it has now become “Where did an infinite number of universes come from?”
  2. There is absolutely no evidence to even suggest there are more than one universes. Not to mention, historically, the definition of the universe includes EVERYTHING there is. If you believe the multiverse theory, you aren’t believing in multiple universes after all, only a larger, infinite universe.
  3. If there’s an infinite amount of possibilities in the multiverse theory, is there a possible universe where God exists? Could it be ours? Doesn’t God necessarily exist in all of them, if he exists in one?

Let’s say you still believe the universe came from nothing. You could never prove this. It is by definition an argument from nothing. You would have to show that something can come from nothing.

This brings us to the 3rd option: the cosmological argument. The cosmological argument goes something like this:

  1. The universe began.
  2. Things that begin have causes.
  3. The universe is made of space, matter, and time.
  4. Therefore, the cause of the universe must be spaceless, immaterial, and timeless. The cause must be personal since it chose to cause the universe.

Traditionally, we call this cause God. For Christians reading this, let’s not overplay our hands here. This does not mean that Jesus rose from the dead, or that the Bible is God’s word. However, the cosmological argument is the best explanation for the beginning of the universe that I have heard to date. If you disagree, you must tear down my four points and erect in their place something more logical.

Who Created God?

When I was a kid, my sister and I shared a bunk-bed. Being the younger sibling, I had to sleep on the bottom bunk. I remember lying on my back, staring up at the bottom of her bunk, and my mind would wander off into what has been called “lala land”. Out there in “lala land” I would ask the silliest questions out-loud to my older, and wiser sister. The line of questioning would always go something like this:

Me: Who created these beds?

Her: People did with wood and tools.

Me: Where did the wood come from?

Her: From trees.

Me: Where did the trees come from?

Her: God.

Even children catch on to the regress behind everything. But where does the buck stop? Does it stop? The question eventually raised is: Where did God come from? Who created God?

With the rise of the so-called “new atheists,” this question has re-surfaced as a serious assault against those with faith. However, this question is quite elementary. The simple answer is that God wasn’t created. He is the Creator of everything – including time itself. He is not bound by time and does not have a beginning, or an end for that matter. To be sure, if an atheist is arguing against a god that had a beginning, I would gladly join her. The God of the Bible had no beginning.

If you think this is a cop-out, I would ask you: If not God, what was the first cause of everything? Modern science has moved us beyond the idea that the universe itself  is eternal, so what then is? You may believe that everything came from nothing, but I think it is at the very least just as likely that there is an un-created Creator that has a plan for his creation. I hope you’ll give this some consideration and  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Allow Yourself to Doubt God

As a young Christian I had many questions. I’m so thankful that at the time, I had mentors who welcomed any and all of my questions – even if they didn’t have the answers. Most of my silly questions were met with a grin and an honest answer. If they didn’t know the answer I would often be directed to a website or book that might have the answer.

Somewhere along this road of asking question after question, the inevitable happened. I had a question for which I couldn’t find an answer. This obviously led me to doubt. I’m not talking about the kind of doubt that says, “Oh well, I guess I will just have to take this one on faith,” (I’ve never liked that response). I’m talking about the kind of doubt that says, “Is any of this true?” The stress of this doubt was amplified by the fact that I am (and was) a minister in the local church.

The enemy, Satan, has a way of tempting us toward alienation in our doubts. What I mean is, we feel as if we cannot speak of our doubts to other Christians for fear of being deemed “unfaithful”. Perhaps, we will be told we don’t have enough faith. What does that even mean, by the way? This is right where the enemy wants us to be. Alone. Doubting God.

The reality is: we will all have doubts. Whether we think of the tough question ourselves, or hear it from someone attempting to talk us out of faith, we will encounter tough questions. My prayer is that you will not go through this alone. My prayer is that you will allow yourself to have these doubts and honestly seek answers. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to have these doubts that I was able to find the answer to my questions. We serve a big God, he can handle our doubts. Not only can he handle it, but I believe he wants us to doubt. He wants us to doubt in the sense that we seek answers.  So I encourage you, ask questions. Seek answers. Ask for help. If you want recommendations on where to search for answers, or if you would like to ask me for my answers, as always, feel free to ask!