Theology


Skeptics of Christianity often try to undermine the truth of Christianity by pointing to supposed errors or contradictions in the Bible.  As a result, some Christians have abandoned the faith, while others remain shaken in their faith.  This is unfortunate because the skeptics’ approach is fundamentally flawed.

We must distinguish between what makes Christianity true (an ontological question) and how we know Christianity to be true (an epistemological question).  Many people think it’s the Bible that makes Christianity true.  That’s why they question the truth of Christianity when they are confronted with supposed errors or contradictions in the Bible.  A moment’s reflection reveals this to be wrongheaded.  After all, couldn’t God have chosen to communicate the Gospel truths orally rather than in a written format?  Of course!  Indeed, that’s how it was transmitted in the early church.  If Christianity could still be true without any written Bible at all, then surely it could still be true even if the Bible contains errors.

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If God knows every choice we’ll make from eternity past, doesn’t that mean our choices are not free – that God has caused us to do what we do? No. Knowledge is not a cause. Knowing what someone will choose to do in advance of their actually doing it does not cause them to do it. While it’s true that if God knows X will happen, X will most certainly happen, but it’s not God’s knowledge of X that makes X happen. It’s our choice to do X. God merely knows what we will freely choose in advance. While God’s knowledge is chronologically prior to our acts, our acts are logically prior to God’s knowledge. If we would have chosen A rather than B on October 12, 2006, God would have known A rather than B. The reason He knew B would happen from eternity past is because He knew we would freely choose B from eternity past. God’s foreknowledge does not determine our choices, but is informed by our choices. In other words, God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of our actions; our actions are the cause of God’s foreknowledge.

While there are a number of arguments for the existence of a divine being, none of them require that there be only one divine being.  Why should we think there is only one God, then?

The simplest reason to think there is only one God is the principle of parsimony: Do not multiply entities beyond what is needed to adequately explain the effect in question.  Since only one God is needed to explain the origin of the universe, there is no reason to believe there is more than one God.  The burden of proof would be on anyone wanting to postulate the existence of more than one God to explain why we should think there is more than one God.

While the principle of parsimony is instructive, it is not conclusive.  It is based on probability, not logical necessity.  It’s one thing to say no more than one God is necessary to explain reality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is only one God.  After all, only one human is needed to explain how a house got built, but the fact of the matter is that more than one human was involved.  So are there any logical arguments that would logically require the existence of only one God?

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Only the resurrection of Jesus from the dead can explain why Christians believed Jesus was divine.  It also gives credence to the fact that Jesus claimed to be God.

Many skeptics think that Jesus never made claims to deity – that such claims were merely put on his lips by his followers.  But why would they do so?  The Jews had no concept of a divine messiah.  Indeed, the idea that God could become a human being was considered blasphemy to the Jews.  If the gospels are to be believed, the reason Jesus was condemned to death by the Jews was precisely because he claimed to be God.

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Could the human population have originated from two people? Many say science has proven this to be impossible and are reinterpreting the Biblical narrative to fit the current scientific thinking.  In this article, Fuz Rana evaluates the science behind the claims regarding original human population sizes. He notes that it is based on mathematical modeling rather than empirical data, and those mathematical models have failed verification in each case we have been able to test them.  At the very least this ought to give Christians pause before reinterpreting the Bible to fit the latest scientific thinking.  It would be foolish to abandon the historicity of a primordial pair of humans based on scientific reasoning that has inaccurately “predicted” the original population sizes of animals for which we know the original populations.  If the mathematics are too idealized for real-life biology, then Christians should not feel the pressure to “revise” our theology.

Michael Licona’s magnum opus on the resurrection, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, is a must read for those who are interested in the historical evidence for the resurrection.  It has some overlap with other great works on the resurrection such as N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of Godbut it is distinct in that it begins with an examination of history and method (philosophy of history) before examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and drawing any conclusions.  Licona explores the nature of historical knowledge (what can be known) and historical methodology.  He even assesses the source material (canonical as well as non-canonical material) to determine each source’s value for the investigation.  Finally, he gets to the heart of the matter by determining the historical facts, and then assessing competing hypotheses to determine the best explanation.  All 600+ pages are worth your attention!

I recently finished reading Greg Koukl’s new book, The Story of Reality.  In fact, I read it twice – and I rarely read a book more than once.  Koukl contends that while most Christians know most of the bits and pieces of the Christian worldview, few know how to put those pieces together in a coherent fashion to form a truly Christian worldview.  They may have a lot of knowledge about the Bible’s contents (micro-level understanding), but few understand the overarching Biblical storyline (macro-level understanding).  The Story of Reality sets out to tell that story, breaking it up into five major areas: God, man, Jesus, cross, and final resurrection.

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