You can always tell when someone believes something based on their emotions/will rather than their reason: They resort to name-calling, yelling, violence, shame, intimidation. They want to silence the opposition rather than respond to them. I heard it said that you know someone doesn’t have a good argument when they resort to hitting people with blunt objects to make their case.

Many Christians would disavow such things, but they have another way of responding to challenges to their ill-founded beliefs. When they don’t have good reasons to support their claims or to challenge your arguments, they trump you with spirituality. They will say the Holy Spirit told them that X is true, or that the only reason you believe X is because you are not spiritual. Don’t fall for the bait by shifting the focus to your own spirituality. Shift the focus back to the argument by responding, “Ok, so I’m carnal. Can you tell this carnal brother of yours why I should believe you are right (or conversely, why I should believe I am wrong)?”

Certainty is a state of mind. One who is certain is one who does not doubt that some X is true. Having certainty regarding X does not guarantee that X is true, but merely that one believes X is true and has no doubts regarding its truth. Someone who seeks certainty regarding some X, then, seeks to justify belief in X to such a degree that they no longer have doubts regarding the truth of X.

Many post-modern types decry the desire for certainty as an “Enlightenment ideal,” preferring questioning and doubt instead. This is wrong. The desire for certainty is a basic human desire that has manifested itself in every generation. Humans want to know that what they believe is true. While certainty is not required to have knowledge (and philosophically speaking, not possible for most things), and while certainty is not required for everything we believe, and while an inordinate desire for certainty can be bad, the desire for certainty is natural, good, and obtainable in some matters.

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Theology tells us who we are in a relationship with, what the person we are relating to is like, and how He wants us to relate to Him. That’s why one can’t have a relationship with God without theology.

When people say they want a relationship with God rather than theology, what are they seeking? A mere feeling? An experience? Is that what a relationship with God means to you? These sorts of things are fleeting – they are not what a relationship is built on. Relationships are built on trust, and trust requires knowledge. That’s why theology is so important. You can’t have a relationship with God without a basic level of theological knowledge, and you can’t grow in your relationship with God without additional theological understanding. So if you truly desire to deepen your relationship with God, you’ll need to start reading the Bible more and studying theology.

People’s perception of Christianity is often shaped more by their church experience than by Scripture. If your experience of Christianity was in a Catholic church, you may think of Christianity as solemn and reverent, but ritualistic and largely irrelevant to daily life. If your experience of Christianity was in a Baptist church, you may think of Christianity in terms of moral behavior and Bible study. If your experience of Christianity was in a Pentecostal church, you may think of Christianity as wild and crazy, where emotions and the supernatural are top priority. Whatever your experience may have been, that is what you associate with “Christianity.” For you, that IS Christianity.

So when you invite a former Christian to rekindle their former Christian faith, they will naturally think you are trying to convert them back to the same church experience they had in the past. And for many people, it was their church experience that caused them to leave the faith. Why on earth would they ever want to go back?!

That’s why it’s a good idea to ask them about their church experience. What was their church community like? What did they believe? What were their negative experiences? It’s also good to ask them what they think Christianity is all about. In my experience, most people’s understanding of Christianity is very thin, if not warped. Once you know more about their view and experience of Christianity, the better you will be able to share with them the true gospel. Once they see the difference between what they came from and what you are inviting them to, they might be willing to give Christianity – the real Christianity – another shot.

When it comes to contentious issues, we rarely have genuine conversations regarding them. Most “conversations” are just opportunities for each person to express their own point of view. Neither person does much listening to the other, and neither expects to learn anything from the exchange. Their only goal is to declare their point of view, and perhaps convince the other person in the process.

This is not a good approach. We should come to every conversion believing that the other person has something to offer. We should be listening, not just making points. After all, we could be wrong in what we believe, wrong about particular facts, etc. Our “opponent” may actually have insights that we could benefit from, so we should be open and ready to be corrected if necessary.

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A lot of people grew up seeing their parents divorce and feeling the consequences, and now they don’t want to get married because they fear that the relationship will end in divorce. That makes as much sense as saying “My parents bought a car and wrecked it, so I don’t ever want to buy a car. I’ll just rent a car instead.” If they fear having a failed relationship, then they should forego romantic relationships altogether because any relationship can end. It’s not as though it only hurts when it’s a legal marriage. The piece of paper doesn’t create the pain. But actually, getting married makes it more likely that the relationship will last because marriage entails a higher level of commitment and legal entanglements.

Perhaps the primary concern is not the ending of the relationship, but the ending of a relationship involving kids. If that’s the case, then they should not be avoiding marriage per se, but having children. If they don’t want kids, they can get “fixed.” Foregoing marriage because your parents’ marriage did not work out just doesn’t make sense.

When we hear something that fits with what we already believe, we are apt to adopt it without much reflection or critical thinking. Instead, we should be asking ourselves what the opposition might say regarding the information. We should subject our beliefs to critique – critiquing them as though we want to prove them false. This will help us to see how solid the evidence actually is and avoid confirmation bias.

Sometimes we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Let me give you two examples where Christians cannot seem to win with non-Christians.

Non-Christians will often complain that Christians are hypocrites, by which they mean we do not live up to our own moral codes. While we say people should do X, we ourselves fail to do X. And yet, these same people will complain when one Christian calls out another Christian for their immoral behavior. Now the complaint is “you shouldn’t judge” (not recognizing that they themselves are making a judgement when they say “you should not judge” – and thus being hypocritical themselves – and that they make a judgment when they say Christians are hypocrites). So let me get this straight. Christians are damned if they fail to live up to their own moral standards, and they are damned if they try to encourage each other to live up to their own moral standards. Can we win?

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Psalm 130:3-4 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

Our eternal destination is not determined by our sin, but by our Savior. If no good work can earn salvation, then no evil work can forfeit our salvation. All Christians commit sin. We are saved, not because we stop sinning, but because we trust in the One who never sinned.

We’re living in a time when people tend to isolate themselves intellectually. Not only do they not take it upon themselves to search out viewpoints that differ from their own, but they actually shun people who do not agree with them. We see this all the time on social media. You post something that person X does not agree with. Rather than reading what you have to say and starting a dialogue regarding your differences in hopes of helping each other discover the truth, person X ignores the post, or worse yet, unfriends you.

This sort of behavior is consistent with our cancel culture, but frankly, it is childish and foolish. I use these words advisedly, not as a smear. This is childish because only children plug their ears when they don’t want to hear what you have to say, not sensible adults, and thus when adults engage in this kind of behavior they are literally acting childish. This is foolish because this sort of behavior makes it impossible for one to grow intellectually. Everyone has false beliefs. The only way to discover which of our beliefs are false and correct those beliefs is to be open to listening to alternative viewpoints. If we ignore alternative viewpoints and shun those who hold to them, we stunt this process, guaranteeing that we will not grow in our knowledge of truth and wisdom.

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If you listen to the media, you would think that Republican states are experiencing the highest percentage of Covid-19 deaths, and that this is because Republican governors were not severe enough in their lockdowns or because they lifted lockdown restrictions too early. States like Georgia, Florida, and Texas have routinely been accused of botching the handling of the pandemic and causing unnecessary death.

Based on my limited knowledge of some stats, this narrative caused my bologna detector to go off, so I decided to do a little research. I wanted to see if there is any correlation between the severity of a state’s lockdown, political parties, and the number of Covid-19 deaths. Given the media narrative, I expected to find Republican states with non-severe lockdowns topping the list, such as Florida, Texas, and Georgia. What I found is that the truth is quite the opposite. Democratic-run states with more severe lockdown restrictions top the list of Covid-19 deaths per capita.

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Many people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, define God in terms of just one attribute – love – to the neglect of all other attributes. And even then, they misunderstand love to mean unqualified acceptance and approval of our behaviors rather than God’s unqualified desire for our good as a person. As a result of this misunderstanding of God’s nature and His love, people question the existence of hell, the legitimacy of moral judgments, etc. Yes, God is love, but He is so much more. He is also just and holy.

Personal experience is valuable and powerful, but it is of little value for determining the truth or what reality is like for other people. Personal experience is anecdotal in nature. We may know what we experienced, but how could we know that others have experienced the same? Even if we found three people who shared our experience, at best, we could conclude that four people have experienced what we have. We can’t simply extrapolate from our experience that everyone else has the same experience/perspective as we do. We can’t just assume that our experience is representative of other people’s experiences.

To know how widespread and representative our experience/perspective is, we need more than anecdotal data – we need hard data. Polling and statistics serve this purpose. They seek to determine how common certain experiences and perspectives are in the general population. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that my experience was common, only to find out from polling data that it isn’t; or how many times I have believed some X to be uncommon in society, only to find out that it was quite common (or vice-versa).

We should not place our personal experience above the facts when determining the truth. Personal experience is a factor, but it’s just one factor. If my personal experience leads me to believe that X is true, but the data shows that X is not true, then I need to correct my perception. My experience is still my experience, but I need to recognize that my experience is not necessarily the norm and should not be used to color my perception of reality. Perceptions should be based on facts, not anecdotal experiences.

P.S. As a public service announcement, for the sake of all mankind, please don’t use the phrase “lived experience.” Adding “lived” before “experience” adds no additional meaningful. It’s like saying “sufficient enough.” Every experience is a lived experience because the dead do not have experiences. ‘Nuf said.

Some claim that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure – just the removal of some tissue from a woman’s uterus – and thus no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. However, I’ve never known anyone who experienced angst when contemplating the decision to remove a tooth. They’ve never talked about how difficult the decision was for them, or wondered whether it was the morally right thing to do. They never experience depression after the procedure, and none of them have ever claimed that it was their biggest regret.

Clearly, there is a moral difference between abortion and other medical procedures, and everyone knows it. Abortion doesn’t remove tissue from a woman’s body – it kills an innocent human being who is developing in a woman’s body. That’s why people struggle with the decision. They understand the moral weight involved.

Abortion is a very simple issue, morally speaking. We should not kill innocent human beings. Abortion kills innocent human beings. Therefore, abortion is wrong. We can do better. Let’s protect the most vulnerable human beings among us. Let’s be pro-life.

 

All of us would like to have certainty regarding knowledge, and yet, certainty is rarely afforded to us. Most of what we believe to be true, we believe on the basis of probabilities. Unfortunately, many people, being too desirous of certainty, are led in one of two bad directions: skepticism, dogmatism.

An inordinate desire for certainty leads some down the skeptics’ road, always doubting everything and never willing to make a knowledge claim that falls short of certainty (or something very close). For others, their desire for certainty leads them down the road of dogmatism, closed-mindedness, and intellectual dishonesty. In their quest for certainty, they are unwilling to entertain any ideas that would call their current beliefs into question. They respond vehemently against anyone who holds to a view contrary to their own. They argue, not to discover truth, but to defend their dogmatic certainty.

While the desire for certainty is understandable, we cannot allow it to lead us in either of these directions. We must be willing to take a position based on the evidence we have, while recognizing that we could be mistaken. We also need to be willing to consider other evidence and other points of view, and be willing to change our opinions if the evidence warrants it. In many cases, we should be less dogmatic, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our view. For example, I hold to Premillennialism, but I’m not anywhere near certain that it’s true. As a percentage, I’m only ~65% convinced that it is true. That’s enough for me to claim it as my view, but not enough for me to be dogmatic about it. While I would love to have certainty regarding all of my beliefs, certainty is rarely afforded to us. In light of that, we need to do our best to form our opinions based on the evidence available to us, but always be open to revising our opinions if the evidence warrants it.

We detect design in a number of ways: the purposeful arrangement of parts, specified complexity, and irreducible complexity. All of these features are present in the biological world, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that life was designed by some intelligence. The most likely candidate for such an intelligence is God. If you are an atheist, this option is not open to you. So you have to explain how life could arise through purely natural processes without the aid of a mind.

This is a tall order. To see why, just consider what it would take to form just a single, small protein consisting of 150 amino acids by chance alone. The odds of such a protein forming by chance alone is 1 in 10164. That means you would only get one functional protein for every 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion attempts (assuming that each attempt tries a unique combination of amino acids). Written out, that is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 attempts. What are the chances of this happening?

The actual conditions on the early earth make this very unlikely due to the low numbers of amino acids and harmful contaminants. So let’s increase the chances by stocking the oceans to capacity with amino acids (all atoms on earth including carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur so that there is enough materials to form 1041 complete sets of amino acids used to build proteins) and altering the laws of nature to protect these building blocks from harmful ultraviolet light and chemical contamination. And let’s say it only takes 1 second to form each protein chain attempt, resulting in 6,000 million billion trillion trillion combination attempts every minute. After 4.6 billion years (the estimated age of Earth), there would have been 1058 attempts made to build a functional protein. While that’s a lot, it is nowhere near the 10164 needed.

How much time would be needed, then? Imagine an amoeba that travels round trip across the entire length of the universe (90 billion light years in diameter) at a pace of one foot per year. It would take 10 billion billion billion years for him to make the round trip (1,000 million trillion miles), and yet, no functional protein would form by the time he returned. To make things interesting, on the next trip the amoeba transports a single atom to the other side of the universe, drops it off, and returns to his starting point. Would a protein have formed during this second trip? No. So the amoeba transports more atoms, one by one. The amoeba would be able to transport every atom in the entire universe (100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion atoms, and hence, 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trips) – not just once, but 56,000,000 times over the course of 56 million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years before chance would finally produce one small functional protein.[1] And yet, even after all that time and effort, there would still be no life because the simplest life requires at least 1500 proteins (among many other biological parts). The amoeba would have to transport 84 billion universes atom-by-atom before all 1500 proteins would form to create the simplest living organism (84 billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years).

This is why chance cannot explain the origin of life. Life is based on highly specified information. Functional proteins are extremely rare. To create all of the proteins necessary for life requires an intelligence who knows how to arrange the chemicals in a functional manner without having to try every possible combination. It’s similar to writing a book. If we had to rely on chance to create Moby Dick it would take countless eons, but an intelligent mind can arrange the letters in the precise order needed in months or even weeks. Likewise, chance alone cannot account for the origin of life in such a short period of time. The only known cause of information is mind. Only personal, intelligent agents are capable of producing highly specified information such as we find in the biological world, and thus it stands to reason that a personal, intelligent agent created life.

 

See also:

Signature in the Cell, Part 4: Assessing the Chance Hypothesis for the Origin of Life

The origin of life is not a lottery

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[1]Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth. Video, Illustra Media, 2016. Excerpted from 21:30 – 28:07. The illustration was adapted from the work of Dr. James F. Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?.

A hypocrite is not one who fails to live up to his own ideals, but one who falsely proclaims to have such ideals in the first place.

 

See also “I’m not a Christian because there are too many hypocrites in the church

As Christians, we want to know and do God’s will, but many Christians struggle to hear God’s voice and know His will. They find the whole process frustrating and vague, and they are left feeling spiritually paralyzed. Could it be that the problem does not lie with God’s silence nor our inability to hear what God is saying, but with our conception of God’s will and the particular methods we use for discerning it? Could it be that our conception of God’s will and hearing His voice is not taught in the Bible? Perhaps we have over-complicated and over-spiritualized the will of God.

Many Christians think God’s will for their life is both extensive and detailed. In addition to God’s general will that we develop our moral character, He also has a more specific will for us concerning our education, our vocation, our residency, our spouse, where we congregate, and other matters big and small. Our job is to (1) discern God’s will in these matters using various methods such as a peace in our heart, open and closed doors, unbidden thoughts, impressions, signs, and fleeces, and then (2) make choices that match God’s will. The process is similar to navigating: God chooses our destination and the route we should take to get there, and our job is merely to discover the map and follow it turn-by-turn.

This sounds reasonable and perhaps even comforting, but is it Biblical? I assumed so, until I was forced to look at Scripture more carefully. Now, I’m convinced that this understanding of the will of God – while well-intentioned – errs in its assumptions about (1) the extent of God’s will and (2) the methods for discerning it. (more…)

Evangelism is one of the most important missions of the church. In evangelism, we are making an appeal to non-Christians to both believe and do something. What we ask them to believe and do ought to pattern what the first disciples asked non-Christians to believe and do. Does it? To answer that question, I recently examined what the early church preached to unbelievers, chronicling every detail of every message found in Acts (2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12,33;  5:29-32,42; 7:2-53; 8:5,12,35; 10:34-43; 11:20; 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 16:30-31; 17:2-3,6-7,18,22-31; 18:5,28; 19:2-4,8; 20:21,25; 22:1-21; 23:6,11; 24:10-21,24-25; 25:19; 26:1-23; 28:17-20,23,30).[1] What follows are my findings and analysis. (more…)

If humans have value, then abortion must be immoral. Here’s why:

Value is either intrinsic (part of the nature of the thing itself) or extrinsic (conferred on a thing by an external source). If value is intrinsic to human beings, then humans are valuable the moment they come into existence. Since it is a scientific fact that human beings come into being at conception, then unborn humans have the same value that you and I have from the moment of their conception. As such, it would be just as immoral to kill an unborn human as it is a born human. So if you believe humans have intrinsic value, then you should be opposed to abortion.

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