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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Responses to Stephen Hawking and The Grand Design

Well as I sat down to gather up a list of responses to refer you to, I saw that Brian at Apologetics 315 had already put together a great list with links, so enjoy! (H/T Apologetics 315)

Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlondinow's recent book The Grand Design caused a lot of buzz in the media and blogosphere prior to its release. For this reader, the new best-seller was a letdown. It was short, anticlimactic, and seemed lacking much new information or actual argument. However, the responses to Hawking and Mlodinow have been interesting to follow and helpful to read, as they elucidate some of the key issues and implications of Hawking's ides.

Audio Responses
• William Lane Craig's Questions for Stephen Hawking (MP3)
• William Lane Craig responds to Hawking's book (MP3)
• William Lane Craig discusses Stephen Hawking's book on Stand to Reason (MP3)
• Alister McGrath & Roger Penrose respond on Unbelievable? (MP3)

Written Responses
• Alister McGrath on Stephen Hawking, God and the role of science (article)
• Professor John Lennox responds to Hawking (article)
• JP Moreland on How Scientism Makes Scientists Laughable (blog post)
• Physicist Frank Tipler weighs in on Stephen Hawking’s theory (blog post)
• Philosopher Peter S. Williams on Hawking, God and Philosophy (blog post)
• The Grand Design (Book Review) - Thinking Christian (blog post)
• Albert Mohler on Stephen Hawking (article)
• William Lane Craig Q&A here.
• David Robertson responds (article)
• More responses can be found here.

Video Responses
• Professor John Lennox responds to Stephen Hawking (video)
• David Robertson responds (video)

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Doing the Right The Right Thing DVD series coming soon

This is a MUCH needed DVD that I hope will be viewed far and wide! Join hosts Brit Hume, Chuck Colson, Dr. Robert George and a distinguished panel as they undertake a six part exploration of Ethics before a live student audience in Princeton, NJ. The panel, students and interviewed guests will examine and discuss these questions over six thirty minute sessions:
  • How did we get into this mess?
  • Is there truth, a moral law we can all know?
  • If we know what is right, can we do it?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Ethics in the Market Place
  • Ethics in Public Life
Doing the Right Thing: A Six - Part Exploration of Ethics (Preview)

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Centre for Intelligent Design opens in UK

This is pretty cool, check this out:

n recent years, the development of Intelligent Design theory has been associated with the USA, but now a Centre for Intelligent Design has opened in the UK.

Intelligent Design (ID) theory argues that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by intelligent causation. As the scientific case for ID has become increasingly visible around the world, it deserves a voice in Britain.

The Centre brings ID back to its roots, which are deeply embedded in the history of science in the UK and in Europe. Some of the best known pioneers of modern science did their work in Britain and Europe in the conviction that they were exploring a universe that really was designed.

The Centre's Director, educationalist Dr Alastair Noble, says:

"Recent surveys of public opinion by the BBC and Theos, the public policy think tank, have indicated a high level of interest in and sympathy for the ID position on origins. The UK needs a centre committed to promoting this debate, both professionally and in the public square. That's what we intend to do."

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christians, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How one student left the gay lifestyle

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Reason For God DVD Trailer by Tim Keller

"The Reason For God promises to be unlike any Christian DVD series we’ve ever seen. It actually shows the presenter (Keller) in live, unscripted conversation with an articulate group of six people who passionately disagree with Christian views."


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Apologetics 315 Interview with Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow on Is God Just a Human Invention?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Secular "Values" and Islam

Can the thin worldview of secularism compete with the rise of Islam in an age of tolerance? Nancy Pearcey offers her analysis:

"Islamization" is coming to America. That's the meaning behind the controversial Islamic community center-slash-mosque near Ground Zero. The secularization of the public square has created a vacuum that Islamicists are finding ways to exploit.

America has always welcomed anyone willing to assimilate to its national character. But radical Islam rejects assimilation and is bent on the conquest of our national character.

This is clear in the thinly veiled threat by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who said on "Larry King Live" that if the proposed Cordoba mosque is moved to a different location, "anger will explode in the Muslim world" causing danger to "our national security."

Secularism has crippled America's ability to respond effectively to such threats, because it reduces morality to the subjective level -- to personal feelings or ethnic tradition. These are things that cannot be rationally debated.

Persuasion gives way to emotional manipulation and personal attacks. "Racist!" "Hater!" "Intolerant!" "Islamophobe!"

The word tolerance once meant we all have the right to argue rationally for our deepest convictions in the public arena. Now it means those convictions are not even subject to rational debate.

At the birth of our nation, the American founders recognized that politics is a profoundly moral enterprise -- the pursuit of moral ideals such as justice, fairness, and the common good. In the words of James Madison, principal author of the U.S. Constitution, the goal of government is not merely to protect individual interests but to secure "the public good."

The public good is, in turn, grounded in a transcendent source. The seminal insight in the Declaration of Independence is that human rights are secure ("unalienable") only if they are derived from a transcendent source -- "endowed by the Creator."

Even as those words were penned, however, the concept of the public good was coming under attack. Impressed by the rise of modern science, many Western thinkers adopted the philosophy of empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge derives from sensation -- what we see, hear, touch, and feel. Even morality was reduced to sensation -- what feels good to you. Personal preference.

Virtues were replaced by "values," a term that literally means whatever a group or individual values. The moral principles that undergird Western civilization were no longer part of a coherent system of truth. They were shoved off into a separate and distinct category, on the same level as a preference for chocolate over vanilla.

The crack-up of truth had corrosive consequences in all the academic disciplines. In political science, theorists decided that statements about the public good were nothing but masks for private taste. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution writes, political thinkers concluded that saying, "X is in the public interest" was merely a covert way of saying, "I like X."

With the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, this view became widespread among America's cultural gatekeepers. They argued that any commitment to transcendent, universal truth (dubbed "absolutism") would lead to tyranny -- to an elite who would seek to impose that truth on everyone else -- and that the way to protect liberty was to embrace relativism.

In The Crisis of Democratic Theory, Edward A. Purcell explains: "Most American intellectuals were convinced that theoretical absolutism logically implied political authoritarianism," while by contrast "philosophical relativism implied . . . an open and democratic structure."

The flaw in philosophical relativism is not hard to see, however: If there is no universal, transcendent moral truth, then there is no basis to condemn tyranny, injustice, or Islamic terror as morally wrong.

The acceptance of relativism...." (More)

See her excellent new book:

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Friday, September 17, 2010

The battle against the sexualization of our children

As a father of two, I am ever aware of the challenges that our culture presents our children. Here is a helpful article by Vicki Courtney discussing some of these challenges and what we can do about them:

American girls are increasingly being fed a steady diet of products and images that pressure them to be sexy. From clothing to cartoons, choreography to commercials, the emphasis on sexuality undercuts parents' efforts to instill purity in their daughters.

The American Psychological Association (APA) warns that this sexualization of girls is harmful to their self-image and healthy development. "[Girls are] experiencing teen pressures at younger and younger ages. However, they are not able to deal with these issues because their cognitive development is out of sync with their social, emotional and sexual development," the APA reported.

The proliferation of sexual images also undermines a girl's confidence in her own body. In fact, research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women — eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

Let's take a closer look at some of the cultural influences bombarding our daughters.

Suggestive fashion
Have you shopped for girls' clothing lately? Toddlers to teens are inundated with adult fashions. Pop singer Beyonce now has her own clothing line that introduces the red-light district to the school lunchroom.

Popular clothing items among teens include thong underwear and shorts displaying suggestive words across the backside. The abundance of racy clothing emphasizes the message: Dress sexy.

Tarted-up toys
As young girls, most moms probably owned Barbie dolls and enjoyed collecting their clothing and accessories. Mattel today takes style to a new level with the introduction of Black Canary Barbie for adult collectors. Designed as a comic-book character, this doll is dressed in fishnet hose, a leather bikini bottom and a black leather jacket. She's available in toy stores, right next to Ballerina Barbie. Explain that to your preschooler. (More....)

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why the Bible? With Ravi Zacharias

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can New Atheists Be Spiritual But Not Religious?

As always, depends on how one defines the terms. A new article at USA today raises this as a possible way of bridging the gulf, though in reality, there is nothing new about it (see my podcast on "spiritual but not religious"). Here is a juicy place to start:

The old science-religion story goes like this: The so-called New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, uncompromisingly blast faith, even as religiously driven "intelligent design" proponents repeatedly undermine science. And while most of us don't fit into either of these camps, the extremes also target those in the middle. The New Atheists aim considerable fire toward moderate religious believers who are also top scientists, such as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. Meanwhile, people like Collins get regular flack from the "intelligent design" crowd as well.

In this schematic, the battle lines may appear drawn, the conflict inescapable. But once spirituality enters the picture, there seems to be common ground after all.

Spirituality is something everyone can have — even atheists. In its most expansive sense, it could simply be taken to refer to any individual's particular quest to discover that which is held sacred.

Where to begin. Most people don't fit into either camp? hmm Seems that those are the only 2 camps one could ultimately be in. Either the universe is a random accident, along with all of the rest of life, morality, meaning, values, etc. or it is the product of some personal intelligence or God. Exactly what would be the 3rd option?

Notice Spirituality will provide the common ground and will save the day. So lets see what they mean by spirituality:

Spirituality is something everyone can have — even atheists. In its most expansive sense, it could simply be taken to refer to any individual's particular quest to discover that which is held sacred.

That needn't be a deity or supernatural entity. As the French sociologist Emile Durkheim noted in 1915: "By sacred things one must not understand simply those personal beings which are called Gods or spirits; a rock, a tree, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house, in a word, anything can be sacred."

We can all find our own sacred things — and we can all have our own life-altering spiritual experiences. These are not necessarily tied to any creed, doctrine, or belief; they grip us on an emotional level, rather than a cognitive or rational one. That feeling of awe and wonder, that sense of a deep unity with the universe or cosmos — such intuitions might lead to a traditional religious outlook on the world, or they might not.

Spirituality just means "feelings." and everyone has feelings right...even atheists have feelings. Now the quote by the sociologist is an interesting appeal to authority. Durkheim's point reduces to just things someone might think are important or special. Notice this BIG IDEA - "they grip us on an emotional level, rather than a cognitive or rational one." Bingo. We aren't talking about objective reality anymore. Spirituality is not cognitive or rational (because this involves words like "true" and "false"). We are talking about my subjective preferences - like flavors of ice cream. I feel this paper weight is sacred...I feel this big mac is the reason I exist. These are spiritual statements. Finally, feelings could even lead you to become religious (gasp!). But becoming a Christian or an atheist is then taken out of the realm of true or false, evidence, reason, experience all together. After all, Spirituality is unpredictable (presumably because our feelings and moods change so much...maybe the Whopper is the reason I exist).

Interestingly the article goes on to describe Dawkins in an interview where he talks about feeling wonder (there are those feelings again... they're everywhere!). But Dawkins doesn't want you to get carried away:

"But," Dawkins quickly added, "I would be very concerned that it shouldn't be confused with supernaturalism."

Of course Dawkins would be concerned if we were talking about anything real beyond (physics, chemistry, biology, and genetics). Thankfully, Chris Mooney, let's him off the hook because:

It doesn't have to be. Spirituality in the sense described above does not run afoul of any of Dawkins' atheistic values or arguments. It does not require science and faith to be logically compatible, for instance. Nor does it require that we believe in anything we cannot prove. Spirituality simply doesn't operate on that level. It's about emotions and experiences, not premises or postulates.

Thank heavens...of course this is only helpful if Dawkins is actually successful in his arguments (a point under serious dispute). Notice that faith here is redefined to mean "religious wishful thinking or emotions." And Spirituality doesn't even make any rational demands on us...this is sounding better and better, because the last thing I want to complicate my spirituality is thinking hard!

We are then reassured that spirituality just doesn't operate that way. Why? Because it is devoid of truth or reality.

Here is how the article concludes (with the header of "finally healing")

So no wonder that other New Atheists have made statements very similar to Dawkins'. For instance, Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett has remarked, "I have times when I am just transported with awe and joy and a sense of peace and wonder at, whether it's music or art or just a child playing or some other wonderful thing off of my sailboat, being amazed at the beauty of the ocean. I think that people make the mistake of thinking that spirituality, in that sense, has anything to do with either religious doctrines or with immateriality or the supernatural."

Sam Harris, author of the best-selling 2004 book The End of Faith, is another thinker commonly associated with the New Atheists. And he, too, embraces a secular form of spirituality. Harris is particularly interested in meditation and its effects on the brain, and has called for "a discourse on ethics and spiritual experience that is as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourses of physics, biology, and chemistry are."

A focus on spirituality, then, might be the route to finally healing one of the most divisive rifts in Western society — over the relationship between science and religion. We'll still have our evolution battles, to be sure; and the Catholic Church won't soon give up on its wrongheaded resistance to contraception. The problems won't immediately vanish. But each time they emerge, more and more of us will scratch our heads, wondering why.

Dennett again is quick to distance himself from the supernatural...but for the believer in Naturalism...what is beauty?

Harris then proposes a spirituality that is unstained by cultural prejudices and dogma like science is. Really? Is he free from dogma and bias? The commitment to naturalism is fundamental for Harris et al (that is a philosophical commitment by the way, not a scientific one).

Finally notice how this article ends. Notice the assumptions 1) evolution is beyond dispute 2) Atheism is true. 3) But we still want to feel spiritual, so here is our proposal.

(the whole article can be found here)

So basically sacred spirituality (which is feelings unattached to truth) is the way forward? All of this assumes, that there isn't good evidence for God's existence which is not the case. (For a helpful place to start, see my new book with Sean McDowell here)

Also, Nancy Pearcey documents this sacred / secular split and how it is playing out in Total Truth.

As a Christian, let me say that I could be wrong. But Christianity is the kind of thing you could be wrong about...and so is atheism. But let's decide it by reason, evidence, and investigation, not creating a "sacred spirituality" to make us feel better. Truth brings healing and a way forward not wishful thinking.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Hope We Have

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" - John 11:25-26

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Football and the Meaning of Life Video

In the spirit of a big day in college football, here is a classic video on football and pondering the meaning of the coin toss. Oh yea, Boomer Sooner!!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Questions For Hawking and His New Book

Here is a good post about Hawking along with his view of free-will...(click here).

Philosopher William lane Craig has some questions for Hawking as well (click here).

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Evolution, Darwin, and Morality - Is there such a thing?

Here is a very illuminating post from Evolution News on the the implications of a Darwinian Morality and Sexual Ethic...or probably more accurately, the total lack thereof...

"Assurances that we have nothing to fear from Darwinism are a familiar species of evolutionary apologetics. We're told that Darwinian thinking doesn't threaten morality, religion, or belief in life's having an ultimate meaning. On the contrary, it enhances all things good and fair. Karl Giberson's recent column in the Huffington Post, "How Darwin Sustains My Baptist Search for Truth," deserves to be pinned under glass and put up on a wall as a near-perfect specimen of the genre.

Anyone who's honest with himself knows this is all propaganda and wishful thinking, but it refreshes us nevertheless to hear Darwinists themselves confess -- even trumpet -- the truth.

Darwinian scholars and journalists have been writing with what must seem, to their brethren, an alarming frankness. One occasion for the flurry of articles is the recent sensational book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, who present the picture of our evolutionary human ancestors as enjoying polyamory as their standard reproductive practice. Group sex was the rule for them, so there's no reason to expect marital fidelity from us, their heirs.

On the Scientific American website, psychologist Jesse Bering throws out the whole structure of sexual right and wrong with one blog post:

There are of course many important caveats, but the basic logic is that, because human beings are not naturally monogamous but rather have been explicitly designed by natural selection to seek out "extra-pair copulatory partners" -- having sex with someone other than your partner or spouse for the replicating sake of one's mindless genes -- then suppressing these deep mammalian instincts is futile and, worse, is an inevitable death knell for an otherwise honest and healthy relationship.
Dr. Bering concedes with some feeling that in evolutionary psychological terms, empathy for the jilted sexual partner also plays a role. But in general:
Right is irrelevant. There is only what works and what doesn't work, within context, in biologically adaptive terms...." (More)

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our New Article on the New Atheists in Charisma Magazine is Now Available Online

Here is our new article giving an overview of the New Atheists and how Christians should respond:

"Atheism is on the move. At least that’s what Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and other so-called “New Atheists” are fighting for. While atheists have always been around, the pop-cultural influence of atheism has traditionally been rather minimal. Not anymore.

In the past few years there has been a resurgence of interest in the case against God. From books to bus campaigns, the question of God’s existence is back in the forefront of public dialogue. And the New Atheists...." Check it out (on page 34)

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Interview with Christian Philosopher J.P. Moreland

One of the main reasons I am doing what I am doing today is Dr. J.P. Moreland. He is a top notch thinker and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. It was my privilege to study under him and get to know him; he is the real deal.

Apologetics 315 has a great interview with J.P. here

Check out Moreland's new website, here

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

God did not create the universe, says Hawking.....gravity did?


Hawking: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,"...."It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going." (more from this article)

Theist: But where did the "all-powerful" law of gravity come from if space, time, matter, and energy all came into existence at the time of the big bang?

(hypothetical) Hawking: it just did...

Theist: correct me if I am wrong, but nothing means nothing right? including the laws of gravity? (they would be a "something")

(hypothetical) Hawking: It's complicated...

Theist: Indeed! :)

A better, more reasonable way of thinking about the origin of the universe is the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. (far more reasonable than things popping into existence out of nothing uncaused...if universes can...why not random boulders, buffalos, and boomerangs?)
2.The universe began to exist. (well established by science and philosophy)
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The kalam helps narrow the range of possible causes to a being that is nonphysical, spaceless, timeless, changeless, and powerful:

- If matter began to exist at the moment of creation, then the matter’s cause must be nonphysical, or spiritual.
- Since space itself came into existence at the big bang, space’s cause must be spaceless.
- Since time began at the moment of the big bang, time’s cause must be timeless.
- Since change is a product of time, time’s cause must also be changeless.
- Given the immensity of energy and matter that comprises the universe, energy and matter’s cause must be unimaginably powerful.

The best explanation for the origin of the universe is that it was brought into existence through the free will of a personal Creator. Since the universe is the result of a creative act, it is best explained as the result of a mind. Thus, mind is the cause of matter, not the other way around.

Fore more on this and other arguments for God (and arguments against atheism), see our new book, is God Just a Human Invention?

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do All Roads Lead to God?

Here is an excellent video by Christian philosopher William Lane Craig:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12 (1 Tim. 2:3-5; John 14:6)

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is Postmodernism?

Maybe you have heard the term thrown around but aren't quite sure what it is. Philosopher Paul Copan has written a very helpful article on what Postmodernism is:
"In one of his dialogues, Plato cited the thinker Protagoras as saying that any given thing "is to me such as it appears to me, and is to you such as it appears to you."1 This sounds rather contemporary. We hear slogans declaring "that's true for you but not for me" or "that's just your perspective." These statements reflect the postmodern mood that continues to affect and shape Western culture.

How did postmodernism descend upon our civilization? What is postmodernism? What are its defining characteristics? We will look very briefly at these questions.

1. How did postmodernism emerge? Obviously, the term postmodernism presupposes an era that preceded it—modernism. But we must also understand what modernism was reacting to—namely, premodernism.

Premodernism: Before the 1600s, people in the West generally believed that God (or the transcendent/supernatural realm) furnished the basis for moral absolutes, rationality, human dignity, and truth. This is expressed by the noted Christian theologian Anselm (b. AD 1033), who said, "I believe that I may understand" (credo ut intelligam) he spoke of a "faith seeking understanding" (fides quaerens intellectum). That is, the starting point for knowledge and wisdom was God, who provided the lens through which one could properly interpret reality and human experience. By having faith in God, the world could be rightly understood.

Modernism: Then came philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650). As a Roman Catholic, he was troubled by the philosophical skepticism and (due to the Protestant Reformation) the theological uncertainty of his day. So he embarked on a "skeptical voyage" in the pursuit of absolutely certain knowledge. As part of his project, he determined to doubt everything: Maybe an evil genius was tinkering with his mind - or maybe everything is an illusion. But he concluded that at least he knew he was doubting, which is a form of thinking. He concluded: I think; therefore I am (or, in Latin, cogito, ergo sum). So without realizing it, Descartes' project removed God from center stage, replacing it with the human knower as the starting point. The effect would be momentous. The rationalism of the European Enlightenment (c. 1650-1800) reflected this shift. This period was both optimistic about human potential and reason, but was also skeptical about church authority/state churches and Christian doctrine ("dogma").

This was just one of many modernist projects that assumed that human dignity, truth, and reason could be preserved without God. Besides rationalism (with its emphasis on reason), there were Romanticism (with the emphasis on feeling), Marxism, Nazism, and other utopian schemes that sought to displace God as the starting point for understanding and living. The Jewish-Christian worldview that had deeply influenced the West was now being challenged.

Postmodernism: Then, in the wake of two World Wars, a postmodern climate started to permeate the West. Confidence in human progress and autonomy was shattered on the rocks of Auschwitz and the Soviet gulags. The systems or "grand stories" ("metanarratives") of Nazism, Marxism, scientism, or rationalism ended up oppressing "the other"—that is, those marginalized by these systems such as Jews, capitalists, etc. These systems proved to be total failures. So with postmodernism, not only was God excluded as a foundation for making sense of reality and human experience; we cannot speak of any universal truth, reason, or morality. We just have fragmented perspectives.

If the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille in Paris (1789) stands as a picture of the shift to modernism, the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly 200 years later (1989) symbolizes the failure of modernism and rise of postmodernism..." (More)

For more resources, visit Paul Copan here...

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