Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Could you convince people that chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies?

Here’s an insightful post from J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity.

Excerpt:

Why do we hesitate to share the Gospel with non-believers? I think it’s because we treat the gospel as a cookie rather than a cure.

I asked the Christian students if they would be willing to follow me into the streets of Huntsville to try to convince people that chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies in the world. The school cafeteria at SHU makes excellent chocolate chip cookies, so we could have taken some with us to convince the local populace. Unsurprisingly, none of the students were excited about going. When asked, they quickly admitted that it seemed pointless to try to convince people of something as subjective as a personal opinion about cookies. They recognized that cookie preference is a matter of subjective opinion, rather than objective truth, and none of them were willing to go out of their way to argue for an opinion. I then asked them if they would be willing to follow me into a region of Huntsville that was suffering from a Tuberculosis outbreak to convince those infected with TB to take the one known cure, Isoniazid. All of them found this to be a worthy effort and said they would be willing to help for a cause such as this. They recognized the difference between the cookie and the cure. Cookies are a matter of subjective opinion, but cures are a matter of objective truth. If the people suffering with TB didn’t know about the cure, they would die. Personal opinions about Isoniazid are irrelevant. Some TB sufferers might, for example, prefer to take Ibuprofen. But the objective truth about TB and Isoniazid overshadows any opinion someone might hold about their favorite treatment. Cures are like that. When we are objectively convinced that a particular treatment is the exclusive cure for what is ailing us, we ignore our preferences and act quickly to save ourselves and share the truth with others.

There is a relationship between our categorization of Christian claims and our desire to share them with the world around us. Some of us hesitate to share the Gospel because (whether we care to admit it or not) we’ve come to see religious truth as a matter of subjective opinion rather than objective truth. We treat the Gospel more as a cookie than a cure.

I don’t think I could convince someone who liked oatmeal and raisin cookies that chocolate chip cookies were better. They would just say that they had their preference and I had my preference and there was no reason for them to switch. But I’ll bet that I could convince a person to save for their retirement instead of wasting their money on partying. And I’ll bet that I could convince a person to study computer science in college instead of studying art history. Know why? Because I know about these things, and I could appeal to objective facts to make a case for them. Those facts pack a punch whether or not the person has a preference for what I am recommending or not. And we need to treat Christianity the same way. Move the whole question beyond personal preferences to evidence. That’s how you can be persuasive - on any topic.

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

William Lane Craig on the relationship between science and religion

Chris Shannon shared this article from Reasonable Faith on Facebook. The faster we get used to this material, the better off Christianity will fare in the marketplace of ideas.

Here’s the introduction:

What has happened, however, in the second half of this century is that historians and philosophers of science have come to realize that this supposed history of warfare is a myth. As Thaxton and Pearcey point out in their recent book The Soul of Science, for over 300 years between the rise of modern science in the 1500’s and the late 1800s the relationship between science and religion can best be described as an alliance. Up until the late 19th century, scientists were typically Christian believers who saw no conflict between their science and their faith—people like Kepler, Boyle, Maxwell, Faraday, Kelvin, and others. The idea of a warfare between science and religion is a relatively recent invention of the late 19th century, carefully nurtured by secular thinkers who had as their aim the undermining of the cultural dominance of Christianity in the West and its replacement by naturalism—the view that nothing outside nature is real and the only way to discover truth is through science. They were remarkably successful in pushing through their agenda. But philosophers of science during the second half of the 20th century have come to realize that the idea of a warfare between science and theology is a gross oversimplification. White’s book is now regarded as something of a bad joke, a one-sided and distorted piece of propaganda.

Now some people acknowledge that science and religion should not be regarded as foes, but nonetheless they do not think that they should be considered friends either. They say that science and religion are mutually irrelevant, that they represent two non-over-lapping domains. Sometimes you hear slogans like “Science deals with facts and religion deals with faith.” But this is a gross caricature of both science and religion. As science probes the universe, she encounters problems and questions which are philosophical in character and therefore cannot be resolved scientifically, but which can be illuminated by a theological perspective. By the same token, it is simply false that religion makes no factual claims about the world. The world religions make various and conflicting claims about the origin and nature of the universe and humanity, and they cannot all be true. Science and religion are thus like two circles which intersect or partially overlap. It is in the area of intersection that the dialogue takes place.

Here are his six ways that science and religion overlap:

  1. Religion furnishes the conceptual framework in which science can flourish.
  2. Science can both falsify and verify claims of religion.
  3. Science encounters metaphysical problems which religion can help to solve.
  4. Religion can help to adjudicate between scientific theories.
  5. Religion can augment the explanatory power of science.
  6. Science can establish a premise in an argument for a conclusion having religious significance.

Part 2 was my favorite part. Here’s part of it:

When religions make claims about the natural world, they intersect the domain of science and are, in effect, making predictions which scientific investigation can either verify or falsify. Let me give some examples of each.

[...]Another interesting example of science’s falsifying a religious view is the claim of several Eastern religions like Taoism and certain forms of Hinduism that the world is divine and therefore eternal. The discovery during this century of the expansion of the universe reveals that far from being eternal, all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into existence at a point in the finite past before which nothing existed. As Stephen Hawking says in his 1996 book The Nature of Space and Time, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.”3 But if the universe came into being at the Big Bang, then it is temporally finite and contingent in its existence and therefore neither eternal nor divine, as pantheistic religions had claimed.

On the other hand, science can also verify religious claims. For example, one of the principal doctrines of the Judaeo-Christian faith is that God created the universe out of nothing a finite time ago. The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth” (Gen. 1.1). The Bible thus teaches that the universe had a beginning. This teaching was repudiated by both ancient Greek philosophy and modern atheism, including dialectical materialism. Then in 1929 with the discovery of the expansion of the universe, this doctrine was dramatically verified. Physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler, speaking of the beginning of the universe, explain, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo (out of nothing).”4 Against all expectation, science thus verified this religious prediction. Robert Jastrow, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, envisions it this way:

[The scientist] has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.5

This is a popular-level article, and I recommend it. It really speaks to what I see as the biggest problem that I find among my co-workers who call themselves theists. There is a strange view of faith out there that says that faith is about life enhancement. God’s job is to provide us with a happy life, via mystical coincidences. God’s job is to make us happy – to make our plans work out and to protect us from suffering in this life. On this view, God is part of a subjective experience. When people who have this view talk about God, they talk about him as a kind of rabbit’s foot or lucky charm. They are not trying to know if God exists objectively, or to know his character objectively. They are trying to run their own lives, and they want to believe that the there is a mysterious force in the universe that orders everything to make them happy. And perhaps they sing praise hymns in church to reward this mystical God. Praise hymns make them happy, so it must make him happy, too. There are Christians in my office who have this postmodern view of God as cosmic safety blanket, and they do not see it as incompatible with other views like pluralism, universalism, pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, pro-socialism, and so on. This subjectivist view of religion is, of course, nowhere in the Bible.

Enter science. Scientific evidence (and its partner, historical evidence) is the antidote to this subjective, life-enhancement version of Christianity. Scientific evidence establishes premises in arguments for God’s existence. These arguments make the existence of God knowable apart from private experiences, personal preferences, mysticism and singing praise songs. If God really exists, then he is not just a projection of our own minds that serves our needs for comfort. God is not a crutch that we pull out by force of our own will – he is out there and he is real. Historical evidence, and the theology that is based on it, is also important, because it establishes the character of God objectively. Now instead of pushing our views onto God, and making him serve us, we can get to know him and serve him. Instead of having God arrange things mystically to serve our needs, we can use our wills to achieve the things that matter to him, while working within the rules of engagement that he has set out.

Science helps us know that God is real regardless of our personal preferences, our communities, our feelings, our desires and all that subjective stuff. And if God is real, then we find out what he is like by looking outward, not by looking inward, and not by agreeing with the people around us. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is happy about the idea of God being real and knowable, because it threatens their autonomy to invent their own God. That’s why it’s important to know the science to correct even Christians, who have somehow adopted this postmodern, personal-preference view of religion.

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

Responses to popular pro-choice arguments

A very good read to make sure that you can handle the obvious ones, from Neil Shenvi, Ph.D.

Here are the objections:

  • “Women have a right to do what they want with their own bodies.”
  • “The government has no right to make laws telling a woman she can’t have an abortion”
  • “The unborn is not a human being, it is just a mass of cells.”
  • “Until the fetus has a heart and brain, it is not a human being.”
  • “It is moral to kill a fetus as long as it feels no pain.”
  • “No one should be forced to carry and raise the child of their rapist.”
  • “Making abortion illegal will not decrease abortion; it will only make drive it underground and make it less safe.”
  • “Laws should not be based on religion”
  • “If you are opposed to abortion, don’t have one.”
  • “We should combat abortion by reducing poverty, not by making it illegal.”
  • “Most people (i.e., men) who are against abortion will never even become pregnant.”

And here’s the detail on one of them:

“Women have a right to do what they want with their own bodies.”

The fundamental problem with this objection is that it assumes that laws against abortion are primarily concerned with what a woman can and cannot do to her own body. But they are not. Why? Ask yourself a simple question: how many brains does a woman have? One. But how many brains does a pregnant woman have? Still one. The woman’s body is not the issue in abortion: the baby’s body is. The developing fetus has a complete set of human DNA different than the mother’s. It has its own circulatory system, its own brain, its own fingers and toes and arms and legs. If it is a male, it even has a different gender than the mother. Therefore, the fetus is clearly not just ‘part of the woman’s body’. Laws against abortion aren’t telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body; they are telling a woman what she can and cannot do with someone else’s body.

Read them all, and pass them along.

You can find more answers to pro-choice questions here, from Dr. Francis Beckwith. These are the early versions to some of the arguments that later ended up in his academic book on pro-life apologetics entitled “Defending Life“, published by Cambridge University Press. The best introductory book on pro-life arguments is Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life“.  I really recommend that one, because he is the top pro-life debater in the world, and he speaks from that experience of dealing with pro-choice arguments in public debates.

Further study

Learn about the pro-life case:

And some posts motivating Christians and conservatives to take abortion seriously:

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

Sean McDowell explains the pro-life view to ordinary people in an ordinary church

Ordinary:

42 minutes – worth your time. There are some graphic images of aborted babies in each trimester in the last couple of minutes, so close your eyes!

Learn about the pro-life case

And some posts motivating Christians and conservatives to take abortion seriously:

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , ,

Responding to pro-choice rhetoric: “don’t like abortion? don’t have one!”

Top pro-life debater Scott Klusendorf reports on his recent lecture at Colgate University.

Excerpt:

During the extended question and answer, a polite female student replied (paraphrase), “I’m against abortion and will never have one. If one of my friends gets pregnant and wants an abortion, I will do everything I can to talk her out of it. But I don’t want the government involved in taking away a woman’s choice. I guess that’s why I’m against abortion and am pro-choice.”

The student was hardly alone. She was echoing the sentiments of millions of Americans who personally dislike abortion but do not identify as pro-life. Their beliefs are perfectly summed up in this popular bumper sticker: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”

Notice the bumper sticker completely transforms the nature of the abortion debate with a single word—“like.”

When pro-life advocates claim that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being, they aren’t saying they dislike abortion. They are saying it’s objectively wrong, regardless of how one feels about it. Notice what’s going on here. The pro-life advocate makes a moral claim that he believes is objectively true—namely, that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. The abortion-choice advocate responds by changing that objective truth claim into a subjective one about likes and dislikes, as if the pro-lifer were talking about a mere preference. But this misses the point entirely. As Francis J. Beckwith points out, pro-life advocates don’t oppose abortion because they find it distasteful; they oppose it because it violates rational moral principles.

Imagine if I said, “Don’t like slavery? Then don’t own a slave.” Or, “Don’t like spousal abuse? Then don’t beat your wife!” If I said such things, you would immediately realize I don’t grasp why slavery and spousal abuse are wrong. They are not wrong because I personally dislike them. They are wrong because slaves and spouses are intrinsically valuable human beings who have a natural right not to be treated as property. Whether I personally like slavery or spousal abuse is completely beside the point. If I liked spousal abuse, you would rightly say I was sick! You wouldn’t resign yourself to, “I guess abuse is right for you but not for me.”

And yet this is precisely what the pro-choicer does. He reduces abortion to a mere preference and then declares, “Hands off! Keep the government out of the abortion business!”

Some choices are wrong. We can do better than abortion.

Learn about the pro-life case:

And some posts motivating Christians and conservatives to take abortion seriously:

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

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