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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summary of Alvin Plantinga's Updated Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

"The basic idea of my argument could be put (a bit crudely) as follows. First, the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low. (To put it a bit inaccurately but suggestively, if naturalism and evolution were both true, our cognitive faculties would very likely not be reliable.) But then according to the second premise of my argument, if I believe both naturalism and evolution, I have a defeater for my intuitive assumption that my cognitive faculties are reliable. If I have a defeater for that belief, however, then I have a defeater for any belief I take to be produced by my cognitive faculties. That means that I have a defeater for my belief that naturalism and evolution are true. So my belief that naturalism and evolution are true gives me a defeater for that very belief; that belief shoots itself in the foot and is self-referentially incoherent; therefore I cannot rationally accept it. And if one can’t accept both naturalism and evolution, that pillar of current science, then there is serious conflict between naturalism and science." - Alvin Plantinga

*Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (p. 314). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are Boys Failing? Or Are We Failing Boys?

My friend John Stonestreet of The Point has some helpful commentary about the state of boys in this culture:

"In a recent Washington Times piece, Janice Crouse argues that our culture is so centered on helping girls succeed that it’s destroying boys. The result is a generation of “male losers” who are less educated, less successful and less respected than their female counterparts.
“Casual observation of popular culture,” writes Crouse, “reveals that boys and men increasingly are being portrayed negatively, in contrast to women, who invariably are seen as more competent, efficient, successful and in charge.”
Stats show that boys are expelled from preschool at four times the rate of girls, that girls dominate the valedictorian rolls, take more Advanced Placement courses and graduate high school at shockingly higher rates. And while many colleges are relaxing their entrance standards for men, there are now..." (read the rest) 
It's time to step is a place to start.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." - 1 Cor. 16:13

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Exiled from Vanderbilt: How Colleges are Driving Religious Groups off Campus (Video)

Please take 9 min. and watch this important video.

This is not a secondary issue...religious liberty impacts all of us. Please share this and consider standing up for religious freedom by reading and signing the Manhattan declaration.

Want to learn to navigate all of the opportunities and challenges of college life? Consider reading Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide For the Journey

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Christians Can Learn From A Bible-Belt Pastor Who Became An Atheist Leader

"All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.

As his wife slept, he fumbled through the darkness for his laptop. After a few quick searches with the terms “pastor” and “atheist,” he discovered that a cottage industry of atheist outreach groups had grown up in the past few years. Within days, he joined an online network called the Clergy Project, created for clerics who no longer believe in God and want to communicate anonymously through a secure Web site.

DeWitt began e-mailing with dozens of fellow apostates every day and eventually joined another new network called Recovering From Religion, intended to help people extricate themselves from evangelical Christianity. Atheists, he discovered, were starting to reach out to one another not just in the urban North but also in states across the South and West, in the kinds of places­ DeWitt had spent much of his career as a traveling preacher. After a few months he took to the road again, this time as the newest of a new breed of celebrity, the atheist convert. They have their own apostles (Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) and their own language, a glossary borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, the Bible and gay liberation (you always “come out” of the atheist closet).

DeWitt quickly repurposed his preacherly techniques, sharing his reverse-conversion story and his thoughts on “the five stages of disbelief” to packed crowds at “Freethinker” gatherings across the Bible Belt, in places like Little Rock and Houston. As his profile rose in the movement this spring, his Facebook and Twitter accounts began to fill with earnest requests for guidance from religious doubters in small towns across America. “It’s sort of a brand-new industry,” DeWitt told me. “There isn’t a lot of money in it, but there’s a lot of momentum.”

Not long ago, the atheist movement was the preserve of a few eccentric gadflies like Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose endless lawsuits helped earn her the title “the most hated woman in America.” But over the past decade it has matured into something much larger and less cranky. In March of this year, some 20,000 people marched through a cold drizzle at the “Reason Rally” in Washington, billed as a political debut for the movement. A string of best-selling atheist polemics by the “four horsemen” — Hitchens and Dawkins, as well as Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett — has provided new intellectual fuel. Secular-themed organizations and clubs have begun to permeate small-town America and college campuses, helping to foot the bill for bus and billboard ad campaigns with messages like “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are.”

The reasons for this secular revival are varied, but it seems clear that the Internet has helped, and many younger atheists cite the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a watershed moment of disgust with religious zealotry in any form. It is hard to say how many people are involved; avowed atheists are still a tiny sliver of the population. But people....(read the rest of this article here)"

There is a lot here. But I just want to make a few observations:
  • The problem of personal evil and suffering was a huge factor in his de-conversion (this was the case for Bart Ehrman as well).
  • He had no one who shared his Christian convictions to honestly share his doubts with and that could help him process intellectually or emotionally.
  • The article assumes that once he started "reading more broadly" and being 'rational', he began to move away from Christianity and lose his faith. The implied assumption is that thinking more means believing less. This is simply not true.
  • He came from a highly emotional stream of Christianity. Emotions aren't bad; bud neither are they the appropriate foundation of faith. There is a difference between emotional doubt and intellectual doubt and they are not treated or resolved in the same way. (for more on dealing with doubt)
  • The new atheism is not going away anytime soon. Christians need to be ready to engage and understand why they believe what they believe. Faith is not blind. But the Christian life does allow for honest doubts. However, we must have the courage to doubt our doubts and invite others who share our convictions in to help us process--not just let the darkness grow in isolation. Sean McDowell and I wrote a book to help Christians young and old to engage the honest questions raised by the new atheists. You can learn more about that here. Our prayer is that this resource will help you or a friend / family member on the journey of faith.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is the HHS Mandate Really a Threat to Religious Liberty?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Resisting the Spirit of the World at Our Cultural Intersection

Paul wrote to the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). This is not a blanket condemnation of philosophy, but rather philosophy based on human reason alone. Ideas can captivate and capture us if we are not careful. Furthermore, we must “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). Our adversary is clever, and he brings the battle to us in different ways in different generations. As Francis Schaefer prophetically reminds us, “The Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation.”

There are idea systems today that are neutralizing the effectiveness of the church. Two of the most corrosive idea systems being perpetuated by the world system are naturalism and hedonism. If the physical universe is all there is, there is no room for God. Christianity is then false by definition. If humans exist only to satisfy their desires and live only for their own pleasure, then life with God becomes practically impossible. Who will passionately engage with the gospel if we are conditioned to think that the supernatural is for fairy tales and that all of our time, energy, money, and resources are devoted to the pursuit of more stuff? Our cultural intersection requires a specific response, and Christians need to be equipped to resist the spirit of the world system as we engage the world God loves.

Here is a place to start preparing to engage well:

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Moral Relativism Leads to Absurd Conclusions

Moral relativism leaves us in the frustrating position of not being able to say that there is a moral difference between Adolph Hitler and Mother Teresa. The only way to do so would be to appeal to an external standard of morality. Yet, this is precisely what moral relativism denies. But surely such a conclusion is absurd. Mother Teresa lived to save lives; Hitler lived to destroy them. There are many reasons to reject moral relativism, but this is one of the most persuasive.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Jesus, Love, and Chick-fil-A: JP Moreland Responds to Matthew Paul Turner

So are Christians unloving if they supported Chick-fil-A day or stood up for free-speech and religious liberty? Did Christians fail miserably as Christ's ambassadors earlier this week? Mathew Paul Turner seems to think so. But his well-intentioned post is misguided. Dr. J.P. Moreland provides clear thinking on these issues and responds to Turner's post, point by point:

Point #1:

Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called “hate,” neither can it be called love. Christians all over America ignored the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbors. Call yesterday what you want, freedom of speech, a rally behind “family values,” a sincere fascination with CFA’s brand of fried poultry…but it cannot be called love. It was not love.


Here Matthew confuses standing against an issue with loving the people who engage in the issue.  We should stand against abortion, but still love people who get them.  We should stand against opponents of free speech and advocates of gay marriage, but also love individual homosexuals.  So he confuses a macro-issue (the issue of marriage and free speech) with a micro-issue.   Moreover, he also seems to think that love cannot be tough.  Sometimes the best thing you can do to love someone is to confront strongly their harmful, immoral behavior. So even in with regard to the micro-issue (involving a specific person) it is the right thing, given an adequate relational context, to say that their homosexual behavior is deeply immoral, their desire for marriage to be re-defined is contrary to Scripture and the natural law, and it will harm society significantly, and their desire to have political censorship brought against CFA is egregious.


People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated. Again, we can debate this point all day long, but that does not change the fact that people felt hatred because of what happened yesterday. Whether or not hate actually existed is not the point, people felt hated. And rather than acknowledging those feelings or trying to understand or engage them in any way, Christians everywhere marched off to their local CFA like it was a cross to bear, a necessity, a battle cry of some sort, the waffle fry’s last stand.


Regarding his point about people feeling hate, this is the other side's issue, not ours, and to be quite honest, they may need to search more deeply within themselves if they, in fact, felt hated.  Very few went to CFA with hate; they were angry about the other side's hate, but they were not hateful.  Matthew confused hate with the hard virtues of confrontation of moral evil and standing for what is right, and he confuses real hate with the feeling of hate.  The feeling of hate was not the protester's fault; it was a projection of the other side onto the protesters and probably reveals a need to be more discerning about those who disagree with you and not to react emotionally.  Such an emotional reaction is often narcissistic (I and my feelings of acceptance are all that matter; the issue, and people’s right to disagree with me are not the issue).

Point #3:

By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. And it’s impossible to follow Jesus when issues trump people. Jesus never said “love God, love causes.” That is not the message that gets preached in churches all over America on Sunday mornings. I’ve heard a hundred different explanations from patrons of yesterday’s rally and nearly every one of them gives precedence to “the cause”. We can’t embrace love, mercy, hope, and peace when our causes (or a place of business) trumps people.


Regarding the point of putting an issue above people, this is hopelessly misguided.  How can you even know, love and care for people without truth and knowing “issues (alleged truths) about people and how they think?  One of the most loving things one can do to someone is to stand up against their harmful behavior.
Also, how about loving the CFA people and all those on their side?  Don't they need love, mercy and support?  Yes they do, and people chose to express that love and respect
Wednesday.  That was a very Christian thing to do.

You can read points 4 & 5 by visiting J.P. Moreland's excellent site here.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

I, Smartphone and the Common Good (Video)

This is a creative way to communicate a very important truth if we care about serving and loving our neighbors (locally and globally).

"There are five primary lessons that we can learn from this video...
  • Markets bring people together without any one person in charge.
  • No one person has enough knowledge to create the things we use every day.
  • Markets allow people to use their gifts to serve others.
  • Each one of us has a role in serving the common good.
  • The innovations which markets bring can benefit all society.
We believe that how and why we work is directly connected to overall stewardship. God has gifted us with scarce resources in our mental capacities, our skills and talents, and our physical resources. Understanding how markets help us to best harness those scare resources for the common good is critical.

There are two other important implications from this video:
  1. Markets are the best form of global poverty alleviation known to date. Allowing markets to operate across the globe in the 20th and 21st centuries has lifted millions if not billions out of poverty. According to the World Bank, embracing market reforms has helped lift 400 million people out of abject poverty in China alone, because people were allowed to work. For most of us, our work takes place within the market setting, so markets are critical for allowing people to use their talents.
  2. Markets embrace the dignity inherent in our creation by allowing us to unleash our creativity. Markets allow us to be innovators, to take risks on ideas, to be entrepreneurial. Markets have made it possible for us to have electricity, air travel, indoor plumbing and even the smartphone. Those creative innovations, through the market, can make our lives easier, more efficient and less costly."
For more see this excellent website. (IFWE)

To read my interview with Institute for Faith, Work & Economics fellow Dr. Jay Richards on economics and Christianity see my book Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Only Science Can Save Us?

"Beloved for his Narnian tales for children and his books of Christian apologetics for adults, best-selling British writer C.S. Lewis also was a perceptive critic of the growing power of scientism in modern society, the misguided effort to apply science to areas outside its proper bounds.

In a new book, The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society edited by CSC Senior Fellow John West, contemporary writers probe Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the dehumanizing impact of scientism. The CSC has also produced a short documentary film, The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Challenge of Scientism, which highlights some of the themes developed in the book."

Coming this fall...

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

C''s just the internet right?

Information is not neutral and neither is the technology used to convey it. Please don't be a passive consumer. (Romans 12:1-2)

"The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found 'abnormal white matter'—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to 'structural abnormalities in gray matter,' namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of 'atrophy.' … And don't kid yourself: the gap between an 'Internet addict' and John Q. Public is thin to nonexistent." - Read the rest at Newsweek

H/T - Plugged in Online

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