Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace: making sense out of the creation from nothing

An article from “Cold Case Christianity” author J. Warner Wallace.

Excerpt:

Even as an atheist, I understood the challenge offered by the “Standard Cosmological Model” (theBig Bang Theory) when examined from my naturalistic worldview. This model infers a “cosmological singularity” in which all space, time and matter came into existence at a point in the distant past. In others words, “everything” came from “nothing”. I knew this presented a problem for me as a naturalist; if the universe had a beginning, the “principle of causality” inclined me to believe there must have been a cause. But, what could cause something as vast as the universe? Could it have caused itself to come into existence, or must the first cause of all space, time and matter be non-spatial, atemporal and immaterial? How could “everything” come from “nothing”?

One way to navigate this dilemma is simply to redefine the terms we are using. What do we mean when we say “everything” or “nothing”? At first these two terms might seem rather self-explanatory, but it’s important for us to take the time to define the words. By “everything” we mean all space, time and matter. That’s right, space is “something”; empty space is part of “everything” not part of “nothing”. For some of us, that’s an interesting concept that might be hard to grasp, but it’s an important distinction that must be understood. When we say “nothing”, we mean the complete absence of everything; the thorough non-existence of anything at all (including all space time and matter). These two terms, when defined in this way, are consistent with the principles of the Standard Cosmological Model, but demonstrate the dilemma. If everything came from nothing, what caused this to occur? What is the non-spatial, atemporal, immaterial, uncaused, first cause of the universe? A cause of this sort sounds a lot like a supernatural Being, and that’s why I think many naturalists have begun to redefine the terms.

I was just being asked about this by a friend of mine who I sent two copies of Wallace’s book to. (One for non-Christian him, and one for his non-Christian girlfriend, too). He wanted to know what was outside the expansion of space and whether the space would expand forever and what was the space expanding into and would we ever be able to see what was outside of our space. Well, these are all good questions and that’s why Christians need to get used to the standard cosmology. There is nothing at all about that hurts us, but it’s just awful for atheists who think that the universe exists without a cause.

You can click on the link to the article for a  hilarious illustration of how atheists redefine nothing!

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mark Goodacre debates Richard Carrier: Did Jesus exist?

Once in a while, it’s fun to post a debate on a strange topic.

Topic:

Richard Carrier is the world’s foremost proponent of the “mythicist” view of Jesus – that he never actually existed as a historical person. He explains his theory that St. Paul only ever spoke of Jesus in the spiritual realm and that the Gospels are “extended parables”. Mark Goodacre is NT professor at Duke University. He contends that Carrier’s mythicist view is extremely far fetched and the evidence for the historical Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt.

Here are the participants:

Mark Goodacre is an Associate Professor in New Testament at the Department of Religion, Duke University, North Carolina, USA. He earned his MA, M.Phil and DPhil at the University of Oxford and was Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham until 2005. His research interests include the Synoptic Gospels, the Historical Jesus and the Gospel of Thomas.

Richard Carrier holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire.

The MP3 file is here.

This debate took place on Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable?” show based in the UK.

Carrier uses the letters of Paul as his sources, because they are the earliest. He doesn’t think that there is enough there to ground Jesus as a real person in history. Goodacre responds by looking at the letters of Paul to see what facts about a real, historical Jesus are there, and also which other eyewitnesses Paul talked to. In particular, Carrier has to respond to the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 as well as his meeting with Peter and James, two other eyewitnesses, twice in Galatians. 1 Corinthians and Galatians are two early Pauline letters that are unanimously regarded as authentic. Carrier’s strategy is to try to introduce parallels between myths and the historical Jesus.

Goodacre also raises the crucifixion a historical fact about Jesus, which is a virtually undeniable fact about Jesus that is not even denied by people like the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan. Goodacre says that the crucifixion story would be embarrassing to the early Christians. They would not have invented a story of their Messiah-candidate being crucified – it was considered to shameful of a way to die. Carrier responded that other groups make up history that is embarrassing to them all the time. Goodacre says this practice was not common among the groups of Jews that we know about. Carrier says that there are other unknown groups of Jews that we have no evidence for who did do that. Then he calls arguing based on the practices of the Jews that we do know about an “argument from ignorance”.

Carrier talks about how Philippians has that embarrassing passage about Jesus abandoning his divine capabilities to humble himself by becoming an actual human being, and says that this is evidence that he was not an actual human being. (Unforced error!) Philippians is another one of the Pauline epistles that is not in doubt. Carrier then says that John invents historical reports in order to emphasize certain things about Jesus, and therefore that means that other non-John sources are therefore all falsified by John’s exaggerating on some details. He then cites the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan to say that historical narratives are actually extended parables.

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Michael Brown explains five simple truths about the Middle East conflict

Map of Israel

Map of Israel

Mary sent me this article from TownHall.

Here’s the introduction:

Is there any subject more controversial than the question of the legitimacy of the modern State of Israel? Is it the eternal home of the Jewish people, promised to them by God Himself? Or is it the illegitimate home of violent Jewish occupiers, an apartheid state guilty of ethnic cleansing? Or is it something in between? In the midst of the often emotional arguments on both sides, it is helpful to review five simple truths about the Mideast conflict.

And the list of 5 points:

  1. There is no such thing as a historic “Palestinian people” living in the Middle East.
  2. There were anti-Jewish intifadas in Palestine two decades before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
  3. Jewish refugees fleeing from Muslim and Arab countries were absorbed by Israel after 1948; Arab refugees fleeing from Israel after 1948 were not absorbed by Muslim and Arab countries
  4. Only one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly committed to peaceful co-existence.
  5. The current uprisings throughout the Muslim and Arab world today remind us that Israel cannot fairly be blamed for all the tension and conflicts in the region.

And what I think is the most significant point:

4. Only one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly committed to peaceful co-existence.It is often stated that if the Palestinians put down their weapons, there would be no more war but if the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel. This is not to say that all Palestinians are warmongers and all Israelis are doves. But the vast majority of Israelis are not driven by a radical ideology that calls for the extermination of their Arab neighbors, nor are they teaching their children songs about the virtues of religious martyrdom.

Israel does not relish spending a major portion of its budget on defense, nor does it relish sending its sons and daughters into military service. It simply will not surrender Jerusalem, its historic and religious capital, and it will not commit regional suicide by retreating to indefensible borders. In return it simply asks the Palestinians to say, “We embrace your right to exist.”

I think point #4 tells you everything you need to know.

 

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What are the minimal requirements for rational morality?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. Basically, you ask your atheist friend out to lunch, ask them the questions. We got 10 responses to the questions, which I summarized here. And I had lunch with another one of my friends, another Jewish atheist, who goes to a Reformed synagogue, as well.

Basically, the questionnaire’s purpose is to establish whether atheism provides a rational foundation for moral behavior. Specifically, can atheism account for the minimal requirements for rational moral behavior (see below).

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

2) Objective moral duties

Moral duties (moral obligations) refer to the actions that are obligatory based on the moral values defined in 1). Suppose we spot you 1) as an atheist. Why are you obligated to do the good thing, rather than the bad thing? To whom is this obligation owed? Why is rational for you to limit your actions based upon this obligation when it is against your self-interest? Why let other people’s expectations decide what is good for you, especially if you can avoid the consequences of their disapproval?

3) Moral accountability

Suppose we spot you 1) and 2) as an atheist. What difference does it make to you if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

4) Free will

In order for agents to make free moral choices, they must be able to act or abstain from acting by exercising their free will. If there is no free will, then moral choices are impossible. If there are no moral choices, then no one can be held responsible for anything they do. If there is no moral responsibility, then there can be no praise and blame. But then it becomes impossible to praise any action as good or evil.

5) Ultimate significance

Finally, beyond the concept of reward and punishment in 3), we can also ask the question “what does it matter?”. Suppose you do live a good life and you get a reward: 1000 chocolate sundaes. And when you’ve finished eating them, you die for real and that’s the end. In other words, the reward is satisfying, but not really meaningful, ultimately. It’s hard to see how moral actions can be meaningful, ultimately, unless their consequences last on into the future.

Tomorrow, I will explain why the answers given by the atheists show that the worldview of atheism offers none of these 5 requirements, and that therefore morality is really, really, really irrational on atheism. Atheist can look over their shoulders at their neighbors, and act like them in order to feel happy that they are acting consistently with the arbitrary fashions of their herd, but that’s all they can do, on atheism.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Audio debate: Did Jesus even exist?

This debate features James Patrick Holding one of the experts on the question of whether there is sufficient evidence outside the New Testament writings to answer the question of whether Jesus ever existed. Note that debate on the Unbelievable radio show start at about 15 minutes into the podcast.

The wacky thing about this debate is the topic of course. No PhD historian has ever taken the position that Jesus never existed in a research publication or book.

This is the last debate in my series of 4 wacky UK debates. I hope you enjoyed them!

Note that debates on the Unbelievable radio show start at about 15 minutes into the podcast.


Unbelievable? 2 May 2009 “Did Jesus exist?”

While non-Christians may doubt the miracles and resurrection of Jesus, few doubt his actual existence.However, Ken Humphreys believes the evidence for Jesus’ very existence is scant and that Christian belief in him is the result of “late and fake” accounts. JP Holding is a vociferous defender of Christian history and doctrine and believes Ken’s scepticism is unfounded and biased.They examine the evidence both in and beyond the Gospels for Jesus’ existence.

For JP Holding see www.tektonics.org

For Ken Humphreys see www.jesusneverexisted.com


If you want to see more debates on weird subjects, featuring fringe atheists, let me know.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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