Saturday, January 27, 2007

Euthyphro Debate

Just a little announcement to let everyone know that an old intellectual "adversary" of mine (I use that term to mean a friendly debate opponent) has posted some comments about my Euthphro article that appears on the Ten Minas site. His name is Jason Hatherly, also known as "Nihlo" for those who are familiar with his screen name. His blog is titled "Nihloisms" and is at Jason is an atheist, and at least as of the last time we spoke a moral nihilist (i.e., he believes that there are no objective/universal moral rules). He has more information about himself on his blog. If you are interested in reading a pretty in-depth philosphical discussion, please feel free to join us.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Results from the Baltimore Presbytery

Well, the meeting of the Baltimore Presbytery was yesterday, January 25. I would be lying if I told you that there was not a lot at that meeting that had me close to tears. But I am trying to focus on the positive. After all, the Baltimore Presbytery has long been one marked by divisive debates and liberal theology. In November a resolution in favor of active lobbying for homosexual marriage in Maryland failed (although a substitute motion did pass that I still was not crazy about). The failure of the homosexual marriage resolution marked a move in the right direction (see the article on homosexual marriage under the philosophy section of the Ten Minas site if you want a detailed explanation of my stance on this issue).

Yesterday, the Baltimore Presbytery UNANIMOUSLY passed the following resolution:

RESOLVED that the Presbytery of Baltimore continues to affirm the central Christian declaration of the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ, in whom we find our unity."

If you could "read between the lines" and realize why specific words in this resolution were chosen, you may also be close to tears. I was distraught enough when I came home that I deliberately waited 24 hours before writing this post so that I would have time for prayerful reflection. And after allowing time and God to move my heart, I am able to see the positive. Regardless of the differences we had, every single person in that meeting agreed that Christ is fully human and fully divine. Again, it was a step in the right direction. Victories are being won in the Baltimore Presbytery that may not have been possible a short time ago. There is still a lot of work to be done in the hearts of the people who are leading God's flock in this area. They still need to stop trying to redefine God in man's image instead of vice versa. But God's hand could be seen in what happened here yesterday. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Please pray for the Baltimore Presbytery

OK. So you're about to find out that my previous post about the divinity of Christ had an underlying motivation. Here's the set up. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided last year to allow candidates for ordination (either as a minister or an elder) to express a "scruple" (i.e., a conscientious objection) to a provision of the ordination requirements as long as the body granting them ordination (either the Session or the Presbytery) does not believe that the particular belief they object to is an "essential tenet of the reformed faith." This whole issue actually arose in the context of homosexual marriage, but as you'll see it has far broader implications.

At the November meeting of the Baltimore Presbytery, there was a lot of debate over whether to actively support legislation in favor of gay marriage here in Maryland. That resolution ultimately failed, but a substitute resolution passed stating that the Baltimore Presbytery supports the same legal and civil rights for homosexual couples as marriage confers.

Because of the heated discussion around that issue, a group of churches decided to make a resolution to unify the Presybtery. Basically, they wanted to make a resolution affirming something that is so fundamental to the Christian faith that it would remind us of our common ground and what we are really called to do in this world. That resolution asked the Presbytery to affirm the full humanity and the full divinity of Christ beyond all possibility of scruple.

Well, would you believe that what was meant to be a unifying resolution looks like it will actually lead to another potentially volatile debate? The Presbytery meets this Thursday, January 25, 2007, in Frederick, Maryland. One of the issues at that meeting is to debate this resolution. The advance "buzz" seems to indicate that people object to the phrase "beyond all possibility of scruple" because they believe that members of a Christian church should be free to deny the divinity of Christ. In other words, the pastor or elder at Presbytery may personally believe in Christ's divinity, but they believe that in the spirit of unification the church should welcome in people as members who do not share that belief. It remains to be seen whether any of the pastors or elders at Presbytery are actually going to argue that they personally do not believe in Christ's divinity.

It seems to me, as I described previously, that this is a fundamental belief that defines what it is to be a "Christian", and the shepherds of God's flock absolutely must hold this to be true "beyond all possibility of scruple". Otherwise, what teaching are they tolerating in their churches? The potential fallout of this meeting within the Baltimore Presbytery (if the resolution does not pass) could be devastating.

I will be attending the Presbytery meeting this week as an elder from Grove Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen, Maryland, and I will report back afterwards so you can follow what happened. Please send up your prayers to God so that the Presbytery will be able to clearly discern His will.

God bless.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Prayer Request

I recently heard that a friend of a dear friend of ours is in urgent need of your prayers. Her name is Patty. She's had a pretty hard life, and is having some very serious troubles right now. It all started with a large cancerous mass on her colon. Needless to say, the doctors had to operate, and since this all started she has lost both intestines, had a hysterectomy, had to spend a weekend in a drug induced coma to help her body fight off infection and has had both kidneys shut down.

Patty is only 36 years old and has a five year old daughter. The father of her daughter died when she was 8 months pregnant, so she is the only parent left for her child. Please keep her in your prayers, and if your church has a prayer list, include her there as well. Thank you and God bless.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An example of my last point...

I don't often comment on other people's blogs simply because I don't have the time to engage in what always seems to turn into prolonged debates, but I still try to browse them from time to time to see what people are saying. Today I came across something that John Loftus recently wrote about a debate he was having with David Wood on the "problem" of suffering, and I thought I'd include it here because it happens to illustrate the point I just made on this blog. If you read my last entry, you'll recall that I pointed out that a classic logical problem made by many atheists is that they insist on arguing from only one arena (i.e., philosophy, etc.) even if their argument is contradicted from evidence in another arena. I found an interesting defense of this position by Mr. Loftus on his blog ( as follows:

David Wood:
"To put the matter differently, a theist could say, “I have no clue why God allows evil, but I’m going to believe that he has his reasons anyway,” and he would be no worse off than the atheist when the latter says, “I have no clue how life could have formed on its own, but I’m going to believe it anyway.” Nevertheless, since theists can offer at least some plausible reasons for God to allow suffering, they are on much better ground than atheists."

John Loftus:
As I recently said, arguments for the existence of God, are not strictly relevant to our specific debate issue, since I already hypothetically granted you for the purpose of the debate that your God exists. Think about this. The question I was addressing can be accurately phrased like this: Given that your omni-God exists, then why is there intense suffering in this world? And my conclusion is that intense suffering in this world makes the existence of your omni-God implausible (or improbable), regardless of the arguments for the existence of God, which provides for you the Bayesian background factors leading you personally to believe despite the extent of intense suffering in this world.

(A side note here from me: How exactly is Mr. Loftus "granting" that Wood's God exists if he is "concluding" that His existence is improbable? In deductive logic, which Loftus appears to be using, if you assume something to be true in your argument, your conclusion cannot negate that assumption. In other words, how can God's existence be "given", but he still concludes that God does not exist? Essentially Loftus' argument is as follows: (1) God exists. (2) There is too much suffering in the world. Therefore, (3) God does not exist. There are certainly some unspoken sub-premises here, but my point is simply to ask how can (3) possibly be our conclusion when (1) is one of our premises on which our conclusion must be based? In reality, Mr. Loftus did not "grant" anything. Now back to Mr. Loftus' comments)

John Loftus:
I was arguing from evil, not from the non-existence of your omni-God hypothesis. Just read Howard-Snyder's book called The Evidential Argument From Evil, to see this. The book does not contain one single argument for the existence of God, either pro or con, except as it relates to the problem of evil itself. I see no chapters in it on the design or cosmological or ontological arguments, for instance. The arguments were strictly dealing with how the omni-God hypothesis relates to the issue of suffering. If that hypothesis is true, then is this the kind of world we should expect? The debate was (and is) over whether the evidential argument from evil makes the omni-God hypothesis implausible (or improbable) on its own terms.

This "logic" truly boggles me. Please understand I do not mean to be "calling out" Mr. Loftus on this, because he is not the only one who does it. He just happens to be the example I most recently came across. Mr. Loftus is encouraging us, when examining suffering, to completely ignore any of the other evidence for God and just look at the "problem" of suffering. This is the same logical error that atheists make in the so-called "Euthyphro dilemma" (see my article on that topic on the Ten Minas website). They limit the "playing field", limiting the theist's options, then claim victory when the theist doesn't produce what they deem to be sufficient evidence to refute them.

As regards suffering, the theist looks at the overwhelming evidence for God's existence that comes from elsewhere and recognizes that if we know God exists based upon the other evidence, then there must be an explanation for suffering (there is also an article on suffering on the Ten Minas web site that proposes some of these explanations). We cannot pick and choose what evidence we want to examine and that which we want to ignore. The evidence is what it is. But Mr. Loftus is encouraging us to do just that. You see, he wants to conclude, from all the suffering in the world, that God does not exist. You can point out to him over and over again all the other overwhelming evidence that God exists, but instead of re-examining his position on suffering, he simply wants to ignore that evidence entirely, claiming it has no role in any discussion of suffering. Of course it does! You see, nothing about suffering in and of itself necessarily means God does not exist, nor does it even necessarily mean a loving God does not exist (as I point out in the article, there may very well be some "loving" reasons for allowing suffering). Even the atheist must concede, from a logical standpoint, that it is at least THEORETICALLY possible for a loving reason for suffering to exist, even if we cannot come up with one at the moment. So if evidence from other arenas overwhelmingly indicates that God does exist, you cannot simply shut your eyes to it. Essentially, this type of attitude is trying to make the evidence fit your conclusion. You have to look at ALL the evidence. We can only draw accurate conclusions if we look at the big picture.

In order to better illustrate my point, allow me to propose a fictional, hypothetical discussion:

Atheist: I don't think God exists because of all the suffering in the world.

Theist: But look at the Big Bang and the necessity for some kind of causal entity for the universe.

Atheist: That's irrelevant. There's simply too much suffering in the world.

Theist: But look at all the fine tuning of the universe.

Atheist: Irrelevant.

Theist: How about the impossibility of objective morality without God?

Atheist: Again, that doesn't matter. There's too much suffering.

Theist: Well then, how do you explain all this evidence for God's existence? How can you conclude that there is no God simply based on suffering without even looking at all this other evidence?

Atheist: I don't need to. There's too much suffering.

Now please don't misunderstand me. I do not claim that atheists do not present counterarguments to these other issues. Of course they do. My point is simply that it is a completely illogical argument technique to try to limit the playing field and claim that other evidence for God's existence is irrelevant to the suffering question. This is in essence putting blinders on. If we have other evidence that is sufficient to conclude that God exists, then we cannot automatically conclude that God does not exist based upon suffering alone. To do so would lead to a logical contradiction: one set of evidence saying God does exist while another saying He does not. Anyone who understands the law of non-contradiction would know that both cannot be true at the same time. In order to advance a consistent position, the athiest should claim that the best the theist can do is to create uncertainty as to God's existence. In other words, they should say, "But even if we assume that all your other evidence tends to indicate God's existence, suffering tends to show otherwise, so we simply cannot draw any conclusions" (a conclusion which, of course, I disagree with because I believe there are plenty of explanations for suffering, but at least this would open the entire playing field up for debate instead of arbitrarily trying to limit the realm of discussion). Instead of doing this, though, too many atheists try to limit the discussion to one particular area, and an area in which they believe they will "win", so that they can claim victory even though all of the evidence has not been examined.

In order to draw an accurate conclusion you must examine ALL the evidence. Otherwise you run the risk of coming to an incorrect conclusion because you've only looked at one small part of the overall picture. No matter which side of the issue you fall on, I hope you will give a fair hearing to all the evidence, and not try to limit yourself in any way.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Atheistic Contradiction

I recently finished writing a new article for the website on the Kalam Cosmological argument (it is under the "Philosophy and Misc. section"). As I was writing it, I came across another example of how a thorough, complete and coherent atheistic position cannot be advanced. I mentioned it toward the end of the article, but I wanted to mention it briefly here for those of you who may not be interested in the whole detailed article.

Here's the basic problem. The Kalam Cosmological argument says that (1) everything that comes into existence requires a cause, (2) the universe came into existence (at the Big Bang), therefore (3) the universe requires a cause. As we explore this further, we see that the cause is God (see the articles under the "Argument for Christianity" for details). One approach some atheists have taken to try to avoid the theological implications of the Big Bang is to say that just because everything in our universe requires a cause does not mean that the universe itself requires a cause. In other words, the universe could have simply popped into existence out of nowhere. Imagine if you were walking down the street and an apple suddenly appeared in the air in front of you out of nowhere. That's basically what they are claiming could have happened with the universe. Seems pretty miraculous, doesn't it? So in order to to deny God's hand in the creation of the universe, miracles must be possible.

Anthony Flew, probably the leading atheistic philosopher of the late 20th century, used to concede that the "facts" surrounding Jesus' resurrection were undeniable (i.e., the empty tomb, Paul's sudden conversion, etc.). However, it was the interpretation of those facts that was in dispute. He said that in his worldview, miracles are not possible. So when he looks at the evidence for the resurrection, he believes there must be some other explanation for it, even if he could not see it. Whereas in a Christian worldview, miracles are possible, so they will be more likely to believe that the evidence points to a miracle.

And here's the contradiction. In order to deny Jesus' resurrection, miracles are not possible (because Flew conceded that if you believed miracles were possible, the evidence would point to a miracle). So to refute one part of the Christian argument, miracles are possible, but to refute another part miracles are not possible.

I've debated a lot of atheists, and this is a recurring theme. You see, many of them are very well read in one particular discipline, but they may not know much about others. I was once debating John Loftus on his blog (Loftus is a former pastor in the Church of Christ turned atheist, and even though we obviously disagree, I do respect him for his intelligence and courtesy, even though I think he arrives at the wrong conclusions). He and I were discussing some philosophical issues when I began to argue how some of the cosmological and astronomical evidence refuted the philosophical point he was trying to make. He responded to me that he really wasn't an expert in those areas, and tended to focus on philosophy.

I respect John, but this dialogue illustrated a recurring problem with atheism. The arguments in one arena may often be refuted by the evidence in another, or sometimes (as I discussed above) the atheistic argument in one arena may actually be contradicted by the atheistic argument in another. The result is that, in my opinion, it is not possible to advance a thorough, coherent, non-contradictory atheistic position that adequately responds to the evidence for Christianity. I encourage anyone reading this to take a multi-disciplinary approach when evaluating this issue, so you will see the "big picture". That is what the articles on the Ten Minas website seek to do. God bless.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Divinity of Christ

Just a thought to posit to anyone who cares. As some of you may know, the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently decided that an ordaining body within the church (i.e., the Presbytery in the case of ordaining ministers, the session in the case of ordaining elders or deacons) may allow a candidate for ordination to express a "scruple" to any particular part of the ordination requirements. In other words, if someone who is a candidate for ordination says that they simply cannot accept one of the beliefs in the church Constitution that ministers, elders or deacons are supposed to believe, the ordaining body has the discretion to ordain them anyway.

My question is this: Should any ordaining body allow the ordination of someone who does not accept the full humanity and the full divinity of Christ? My answer is "no". This is one belief that absolutely must be held beyond scruple. There have to be some basic provisions that identify what is a "Christian Church".

You can use any other religion for the purpose of this illustration, but I will use Islam. Suppose a Muslim comes into your church and says, "I want to become a member, but I don't accept Christ as my Lord and Savior and I want to continue in my Islamic beliefs." Are you going to allow that person membership in the church? I would hope the answer is "no", but once you say that, you are acknowledging that there must be certain fundamental truths that distinguish what is a "Christian" church and that those truths are "beyond scruple."

I understand not wanting to make a "laundry list" of "essential tenets" so that we are welcoming Christ's children into the church instead of dividing ourselves based upon small details (on which people could have honest theological differences). But there are a few basic truths that we cannot be afraid to acknowledge. Even Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was very exclusive when it comes to how we can come to the Father.

If the divinity of Christ is one belief that defines what it means to be "Christian", and I believe it is, then the people who are shepherding God's flock must not only personally acknowledge it to be true, but must also acknowledge that it is beyond scruple so that they will not compromise on this point in their teaching. After all, they are responsible for sending God's people out into the world to bring others to Christ. If those people do not believe Christ was wholly man and wholly God, are they really bringing people to the true Christ?

God bless.

It's a boy!

I previously told you all about the new addition we are expecting on May 22. Well, we found out on Friday that it will be a boy. My daughter was a little bit disappointed (she had insisted it was going to be a girl), but she says she's love her baby brother just as much as if she'd had a baby sister.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! This time of year people always seem to re-evaluate their lives and make "resolutions" for some way in which they intend to improve their lives over the next year. Yet in most cases these resolutions fall by the wayside within a week or two. Why is that? My personal feeling is that people make grand pledges and then rely upon their own strength to achieve them. Inevitably, when we try to "go it on our own" our batteries run out. Instead of trying to fly solo, ask yourself this year what God wants you to do. Then ask Him for his help in achieving whatever goal that may be. You'll find that you stand a much better chance of success with a divine helping hand! God bless.