Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Can atheists be moral? Sean McDowell and James Corbett debate

I got the audio for this debate from Apologetics 315, linked below.

Here is the MP3 file.

Sean’s case is similar to the one I make, but he only has 3 minimal requirements for morality.

First, he explains the difference between objective and subjective truth claims, and points out that statements of a moral nature are meaningless unless morality is objective. Then he states 3 things that are needed in order to ground objective morality.

  1. an objective moral standard
  2. free will
  3. objective moral value of humans

The question of the foundations of morality is without a doubt the easiest issue for beginning apologists to discuss with their neighbor. If you’re new, then you need to at least listen to his opening speech. He’s an excellent speaker, and his rebuttals are very, very smooth. The citations of atheist philosophers like Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, e.g. – to show that “religious” wars had nothing to do with religion, really hurt his opponent. He seems to cite prominent atheists like Thomas Nagel, Richard Taylor, Michael Shermer, etc., constantly in order to get support for his assertions. That took preparation. McDowell was very calm in this debate. It’s very hard to stay calm when someone is disagreeing with you in front of a crowd, but McDowell did a great job at that. He also seemed to be really prepared, because his rebuttals were crisp and concise.

For those of you who want to understand how these things work, listen to the debate. There is a period of cross-examination if you like that sort of thing. I do!

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

Tonight: Stand to Reason’s 20th anniversary conference will be live-streamed

From the Biola Apologetics Events page. Note that all of the times below are Pacific Time zone.

Description:

Join us as we celebrate 20 years of Stand to Reason and clear thinking Christianity. The event kicks off Friday night with stimulating apologetics lectures and a celebration! Join us for the full conference on Saturday featuring lectures from the Stand to Reason speakers and friends. Can’t make it to Biola? This event will be available via live stream online.

Conference Schedule:

Friday Night, May 10 (7:00 – 9:30 pm)

6:15 pm - Doors Opens
7:00 – 8:05 pm - Lectures from J.P. Moreland, Sean McDowell, Mary Jo Sharp, and Craig Hazen
8:05 – 8:25 pm - Break
8:15 – 9:30 pm - Panel featuring Stand to Reason’s Speakers Greg Koukl, Brett Kunkle, Alan Shlemon, and J. Warner Wallace
9:30 pm - Cake & Book Signing in the Courtyard

Saturday, May 11 (9:00 am – 12:30 pm)

8:00 am - Registration Opens
8:30 am - Doors Opens
9:00 – 9:50 am - Session 1: “Who’s Waiting for Your Kids?”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Brett Kunkle
9:50 – 10:00 am - Break
10:00 – 10:40 am - Session 2: “Compromise Is Not an Option”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Alan Shlemon
10:40 – 10:50 am - Break
10:50 – 11:30 am - Session 3: “Cold-case Christianity”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s J. Warner Wallace
11:30 – 11:40 am - Break
11:40 am – 12:30 pm - Session 4: “Still Standing”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Greg Koukl

Conference Location:

Sutherland Auditorium
Biola University
13800 Biola Avenue
La Mirada, CA 90639
View Map

If you are in the South California area, you can attend in person. Otherwise, you can watch it online.

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

If Sean McDowell explains the fine-tuning argument, anyone can understand it

Combination Lock

Combination Lock

Sean McDowell wrote a blog post that has a very simple illustration to show what the fine-tuning argument is about, and then he supplies one of the best known illustrations: the strong force.

Here’s the simple illustration:

I grew up in the mountain town of Julian, California. I have always enjoyed walking the mountain trails and hiking in the woods. I have introduced my young children to exploring the forests.

Let’s assume I’m out hiking with my son Scottie. About two hours into our hike Scottie says, “Dad, I’m getting tired. And I’m thirsty.” Right then we catch sight of what looks like a structure through the trees. As we approach, we see a picture-perfect cabin in the middle of the woods. The door has been left wide open.

Scottie and I make our way into the cabin. To our amazement my favorite music is playing. Scottie’s favorite Wii video game appears on the TV screen. We see a sign on the refrigerator that says, Favorite Drinks Inside. Scottie runs over, opens the refrigerator, and takes out a Sierra Mist. “Can you believe this, Dad?” he blurts out just before guzzling down his drink. This would all be just too amazing, right?

What would you conclude by all this? Could these circumstances have come about by sheer chance? It would seem that someone had to have known we were coming and designed the cabin, the music, game, and drinks with us in mind.

While this fantastic cabin discovery is just a story, the reality is that Planet Earth is even more amazing and fantastic. As with the cabin illustration, it is as if someone carefully prepared our world exactly with us in mind. Certain laws of nature rest within very narrowly defined parameters that allow humans to exist here.

You can click through for the strong force point, which is one of the oldest and best-recognized instances of cosmic fine-tuning. The thing to note is that fine-tuning doesn’t just mean fine-tuning for humans. It means that unless these constants and quantities are set exactly right, then there will be no life of any kind.

The strong force example he introduces has to be fine-tuned in order to have chemical diversity – elements that include hydrogen, but also other elements other than hydrogen. You cannot make any kind of life out of only hydrogen. And you cannot make life without hydrogen. Any kind of life needs water. And water has to be made with hydrogen. So, in order to have life, you need some hydrogen, but you have to have more than just hydrogen because you need other elements, too. The production of hydrogen depends on the fine-tuning of the strong  force.

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

Kindle edition of “Is God Just a Human Invention?” on sale for $2.99

Is God Just A Human Invention?

Is God Just A Human Invention?

Here’s the link to the Kindle edition of the book. I consider this book to be my favorite introduction to Christian apologetics. I give this book to everyone and one of my friends even started teaching it to a group of women in her church.

The thorough, chapter-by-chapter review of the book is here at Apologetics 315. The book is also a former read-along selection by Apologetics 315.

Excerpt:

One of the brashest challenges that religious truth has experienced over the past several decades is the remarkable rise of the pugnacious New Atheists. Sean McDowell and Jonathan Marrow, new generation Christian apologists, have undertaken the task of contesting this anti-theistic upsurge. And in Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists the authors have pulled together a wide range of research that powerfully critiques the arguments from the combative non-theists.

[...]The authors deal with the scientific and philosophical challenges to Christian theism in a reasoned and respectful manner.

[...]Is God Just a Human Invention? is loaded with exceptional quotes from Christian and non-Christian thinkers. Additionally, the book furnishes very short essays at the back of each chapter from various erudite Christian scholars that augment the thesis of what was advanced by the authors.

This volume combines simplicity and applicability without forfeiting precision. The authors lead the reader into the full girth of the many contemporary discussions concerning the defense of Christianity. They offer several of the leading arguments for Christian theism while toppling some of the most belligerent of the objections promoted by the New Atheists. They have written, with abundant care, to attain a thoroughness that is not often established in popular books. The wisdom and excellence with which each chapter is written makes this a crucial volume for the budding apologist’s library.

Here are the 18 topics, and after each topic a Christian scholar discusses the relevance of each topic.

  1. Is Faith Irrational? (Commentary by: Gregory Koukl)
  2. Are Science and Christianity at Odds? (Commentary by: John Warwick Montgomery)
  3. Are Miracles Possible? (Commentary by: Gary R. Habermas)
  4. Is Darwinian Evolution the Only Game in Town? (Commentary by: William A. Dembski)
  5. How Did the Universe Begin? (Commentary by: R. Douglas Geivett)
  6. How Did Life Begin? (Commentary by: Fazale R. Rana)
  7. Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Commentary by: Jay W. Richards)
  8. Has Science Shown There Is No Soul? (Commentary by: Dale Fincher and Jonalyn Fincher)
  9. Is God Just a Human Invention? (Commentary by: Garry DeWeese)
  10. Is Religion Dangerous? (Commentary by: Douglas Groothuis)
  11. Does God Intend for Us to Keep Slaves? (Commentary by: Paul Copan)
  12. Is Hell a Divine Torture Chamber? (Commentary by: Frank Turek)
  13. Is God a Genocidal Bully? (Commentary by: Clay Jones)
  14. Is Christianity the Cause of Dangerous Sexual Repression? (Commentary by: Kerby Anderson)
  15. Can People Be Good Without God? (Commentary by: Mark D. Linville)
  16. Is Evil Only a Problem for Christians? (Commentary by: Randy Alcorn)
  17. What Good Is Christianity? (Commentary by: Glenn S. Sunshine)
  18. Why Jesus Instead of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? (Commentary by: Darrell L. Bock)

If you’re looking for a good book on Christian apologetics for beginners, this is a great choice. My Dad read it and he liked it, and he’s not an expert in apologetics.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , ,

Does it makes sense to be good on atheism? Scholars debate atheism and morality

This was the question debated by two scholars Sean McDowell and James Corbett. The audio was posted on Apologetics 315.

The debaters

Sean McDowell: Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, where he teaches the courses on Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Sean received the “Educator of the Year” for San Juan Capistrano, California in 2008.

Dr. James Corbett: Dr. James Corbett is a popular history teach in Capistrano Valley High School. On April 30, 2010 US District Court Judge James Selna ruled that he had violated the First Amendment by disparaging Christians during a classroom lecture. His reference to religion as “superstitious nonsense” was recorded by a student, Chris Farnan, who subsequently filed the lawsuit.  He has a Ph.D. in communication-journalism from Ohio State University; master’s from San Diego State University; bachelor’s from Syracuse University.

Here is the MP3 file of the debate.

Sean’s case is similar to the one I make, but he only has 3 minimal requirements for morality.

First, he explains the difference between objective and subjective truth claims, and points out that statements of a moral nature are meaningless unless morality is objective. Then he states 3 things that are needed in order to ground objective morality.

  1. an objective moral standard
  2. free will
  3. objective moral value of humans

The question of the foundations of morality is without a doubt the easiest issue for beginning apologists to discuss with their neighbor. If you’re new, then you need to at least listen to his opening speech. He’s an excellent speaker, and his rebuttals are very, very smooth. The citations of atheist philosophers like Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, e.g. – to show that “religious” wars had nothing to do with religion, really hurt his opponent. He seems to cite prominent atheists like Thomas Nagel, Richard Taylor, Michael Shermer, etc., constantly in order to get support for his assertions. That took preparation. I can’t believe that McDowell is this calm in a debate situation.

When I listen to Frank Turek, he seems to struggle in his rebuttals. McDowell sounds like he foreknew exactly what his opponent would say and pre-wrote responses. He even had powerpoint slides made in advance for his rebuttals! I am not making this up – Corbett even remarked on it.

For those of you who want to understand how these things work, listen to the debate. There is a period of cross-examination if you like that sort of thing. I do!

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

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