March 2011


Here is an important excerpt from an article by Drew Dyck, discussing one finding from his personal research into the question of why so many teens leave the church:

Another unsettling pattern emerged during my interviews. Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking “insolent questions.” Others reported receiving trite answers to vexing questions and being scolded for not accepting them. One was slapped across the face, literally.

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Matthew reports a guard being stationed outside of Jesus’ tomb (Mt 27:62-66; 28:4,11-15).  While it is often assumed that the guard was a Roman guard, the text does not say this.  While it may have been a Roman guard, it is also possible that it was a Jewish guard seeing that the temple in Jerusalem employed its own guards.  Which was it?

Reasons to think the guard was a Jewish temple guard:

  • The guards return to the chief priests rather than to Pilate or a Roman officer
  • It is unlikely that Roman guards would agree to spread a story for which they could be executed (execution was the punishment for Roman soldiers who fell asleep on watch).
  • While the mention of the governor in Mt 28:14 may indicate this is a Roman guard, if it was a Roman guard then it is difficult to see how the Jewish leadership could have done anything to keep the governor for killing his own soldiers.  What influence would they have in Roman military affairs?

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Could Jesus have rolled away the stone that covered his tomb?   The entrance of a Jewish tomb was quite small, so the stone needed to cover the opening would only be 4-6’ in diameter, and approximately 1’ thick.  How much would such a stone weigh?  Depending on the type of stone used, it could weigh between 1-2 tons (2000-4000 pounds).[1] This is quite heavy, but two men could move it into place (Mt 27:60; Jn 19:38-42).  The more difficult task was removing the stone.

Generally speaking, the rolling stone was set inside a groove in front of the entrance, and secured from falling over by a stone wall that stood in front of tomb opening (the rolling stone was sandwiched between the tomb entrance and stone wall as the pictures below illustrate).  Often, the groove was not level, but slightly sloped.  To close the tomb, the stone would be rolled down the groove at a decline and come to rest in front of the entrance.  To open the tomb, the stone would have to be rolled up the groove at an incline.

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That is the finding of the Public Religion Research Institute.  Not only do Catholics support same-sex marriage in higher numbers than other religious groups, but they even support same-sex marriage in higher numbers than the non-religious (even though the percentage of support for SSM is higher among the non-religious than Catholics–56% vs. 42%–since there are more Catholics than non-religious Americans, the actual number of Catholics who support SSM is higher than the number of non-religious citizens who support SSM).

According to PRRI: (more…)

Here’s another example of liberal “tolerance” at its best.  Apple has been “forced” to remove an app created by Exodus International that is intended to help people with a homosexual orientation overcome that orientation.  How did this happen?  A small pro-homosexual crowd expressed their displeasure with having an application available with such content.  And presto…Apple buckles and removes it.

According to Apple they removed it “because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”  Do they really consider 146,000 people a large group?  What would they do if 1,000,000 people signed a petition saying they find the removal of the app offensive?  Would they put it back up again?  I doubt it.  (more…)

Those aren’t my words (although I concur with them).  Those are the words of John Horgan, a science journalist and former editor of Scientific American.  Horgan recently published an article in Scientific American discussing the dismal state of origin-of-life research.  He describes the research as being at an “impasse,” and resorting to “far out…speculation” as exemplified by the theory of panspermia (life originated in outer space and was brought to earth).

Just one week prior to the publication of Horgan’s article, science writer Dennis Overbye published an article in the New York Times on the same subject.  He reported on an origin-of-life conference at Arizona State University in which two dozen top-ranking scientists from a variety of disciplines converged to discuss the problem.  While Overbye touted the RNA World hypothesis, he noted that “one lesson of the meeting was how finicky are the chemical reactions needed for carrying out these simple-sounding functions,” and “even if RNA did appear naturally, the odds that it would happen in the right sequence to drive Darwinian evolution seem small.”

It’s not often that the public is made aware of the fact that scientists have no adequate naturalistic explanation for the origin of life, so it’s refreshing to see this being discussed by ideological opponents in venues as important as the New York Times.

How the article ends gives you a good sense of it: “We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: ‘Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!’ But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.”—Jennifer Moses.

 

HT: Justin Taylor

 

Oxford professor of chemistry, Peter Atkins (atheist) recently engaged in dialogue with Oxford professor of mathematics, John Lennox (theist), on the question of God’s existence.  While atheists such as Atkins often portray their atheism as being the result of being brave enough to follow the evidence to where it leads, at one point in the debate Atkins showed his true hand.

LENNOX: Do you think it’s an illegitimate thing from a scientific perspective…to see whether scientifically one can establish whether intelligence needs to be involved in the origin of life?

ATKINS: … Let’s just take the laws of nature as available.  And seeing that, letting them run free in the environment that we can speculate existed…billions of years ago, and seeing whether that sort of process leads to life.  And if it does, that seems to me to abrogate the need for the imposition of intelligence.

LENNOX: And if it doesn’t?

ATKINS: Then, if we go on trying (we may have to try for a hundred years), and if in the end we come to the conclusion that an external intelligence must have done it, then we will have to accept that.

LENNOX: Would you be prepared to accept that?

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Ponce de Leon may not have discovered the fountain of youth, but life just got younger nonetheless.  Scientists have long held that life has existed on Earth for 3.5 billion years based on what was thought to be fossilized bacteria discovered in a rock in Australia.  That research has been called into serious question by new research.  Geologists at the University of Kansas have concluded that the structures in question are hematites (a mineral), not bacteria.  If their findings are confirmed, then life will be downgraded from 3.5 billion years old to 2 billion years old.

This is both good and bad for materialists.  (more…)

I’m sure you’ve heard that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians.  I’ve long suspected that this is a myth driven by a poor definition of “Christian.”  Many people are only nominal Christians; i.e. while they profess to be a Christian, there is little evidence from their conduct and beliefs that they are.

It seems my suspicions are correct.  The Pew Forum released a summary of recent reassessments of the data that found a strong correlation between church attendance and divorce rates. Brian Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, concluded that “Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.”

In an earlier post I argued that the nature of science is such that it cannot demonstrate an entity/event to be uncaused, and thus scientific discoveries can never inveigh against the causal premise (“whatever begins to exist has a cause”) of the kalam cosmological argument (KCA) for God’s existence.  Here I want to extend the discussion to the cosmological premise (“the universe began to exist”) of the KCA as well.

The contrapositive of the second premise is “the universe is eternal.”  The nature of science, however, renders it incapable of demonstrating the universe to be eternal even if the universe were eternal.  Why?  Science is an empirical discipline based on what can be observed and quantified.  For science to prove that the universe is eternal, it would have to do so empirically.  But this is impossible.  An eternal past cannot be observed or quantified.

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The four gospels contain a lot of Jesus’ teachings on a variety of topics.  What do you consider to be the most important things Jesus taught or did?  I’m not looking for generalities such as “His moral teachings,” but specifics such as “Jesus’ teaching that we are to love our enemies as found in Mt 5:43-44.”

 

The most recent polling data from the Pew Research Center has found that support same-sex marriage has risen to 45%, up from 42% last year.  Opposition currently stands at 46%.  As you can see from the chart, support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased, and opposition has steadily decreased since 1996.  It doesn’t take a prophet to predict that unless social conservatives start making a persuasive case in the public square real quick, those who oppose same-sex marriage will be in the minority within two years.  In some parts of the country (Northeast, West), this has already happened.

Support for abortion rights has also risen back to 2008 levels, after a substantial dip in 2009 (47% in 2009, 54% now).  I have a feeling the dip in 2009 was due to some sort of sampling error.  It seems too unlikely to me that public opinion would change so fast, and then change back just as quickly.

I was directed to an article that reports on a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers that found Facebook is being cited in 1 out of every 5 divorce cases.  Apparently a lot of people are becoming emotionally and physically involved with an old friend or boyfriend/girlfriend they friended on Facebook.  It makes sense.  So maybe that pastor who asked his congregation to delete their Facebook accounts wasn’t so crazy after all.

 

The kalam cosmological argument (KCA) for God’s existence goes as follows:

(1) Anything that begins to exist requires a cause
(2) The universe began to exist
(3) Thus, the universe requires a cause

Additional reasoning leads us to conclude that the cause of the universe is God.  Given that whatever caused space, time, and matter to begin to exist cannot itself be spatial, temporal, or material.  Furthermore, whatever caused our orderly universe to come into being a finite time ago must be immensely powerful, intelligent, conscious, and hence personal.  These are apt descriptions of a being theists have long identified as God.

Some seek to undermine this causal argument for God’s existence by denying the first premise.  They point to quantum mechanics and virtual particles as evidence that there are exceptions to the causal principle.

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One of the distinct features of the canonical gospels is the amount of geographical and temporal details they contain.  They do not just tell you the things Jesus said and did, but they tell you where and when He did them.  This is in stark contrast to many of the Gnostic gospels such as The Gospel of Thomas which provide few (if any) details regarding geography and time.

I have spent a lot of time in the past six months studying and comparing the four Gospels.  In the course of my studies, I noticed that certain evangelists seem to provide more geographical and temporal markers than other evangelists, so I thought it would be interesting to catalogue all of the geographical and temporal markers in the Gospels to determine who provided the most detail.

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