Evidence

Wherefore Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind….(1 Peter 1: 13)

The loins are a procreative, generative and productive area of the human body. It is the part of the body that is between the lower ribs and the hip area. The apostle Peter drew a parallel from the natural and customary practice of the people of his day and gave us an object lesson – First the natural and then the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). Girding is a process of encircling a certain part of the human body with a belt to hold it together. In Bible times, in the Near East, people wore long loose robes (some still do) for everyday labors and activities, but when they faced an imminent intense activity, they girded their loins in preparation for it. They tucked their robes into a wide belt around their waist to free themselves from any encumbrances and to concentrate on the task. Strenuous activities required a sustained effort of engagement.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to prepare their minds for the inevitable intense challenges and tests of their faith. He is urging believers to think and reason intellectually and purposefully, not randomly or haphazardly. In order to do this, the mind should be surrendered to its Creator, the Source of all reason and wisdom, and be renewed. This is contrary to the popular belief that the Christian faith precludes intellectual activity and reasoning. Most critics of the concept of faith insist that faith is believing where there is no evidence. Sadly, they miss the point that every human being exercises a measure of faith in one thing or another. We believe our spouses love us not because we can quantify that love and test it in a laboratory, but because they tell us so and we see them demonstrate that love in their behavior toward us. The claim that science is the only way to access truth is itself unquantifiable. It cannot not be dissected or tested in a lab. Therefore, it is self-refuting. Not everything we believe can be quantified. Scientists believe in the intelligibility of the universe and in the fact that they can explore it? They are exercising a measure of faith here. The Oxford English Dictionary states that “faith and belief are cognitive concepts intimately related to the question of substantiating evidence.”1 This means that “evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives.”2 As such, faith is inevitably interwoven with our everyday living. Therefore, Christians need not be ashamed of their faith.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to apologetics, which is a defense of their faith; what they believe in and why they believe in it. But he urges them to do it with gentleness not strife. Intellectual indolence is not a characteristic of the Christian faith. A believer divinely endowed with a… sound mind cannot have a languorous or torpid mind. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin and to lead unbelievers to Christ, but can they do this without applying their reasoning power? By grasping the reasonableness of Jesus’ finished work on their behalf and what He says about them, unbelievers can open their heart to Him and become converted through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. No one can make such a radical decision about their life without reasoning and sifting through the evidence presented to them. Reasoning is one of God’s gifts to mankind. Why, He even challenges us to reason with Him (Isa. 1:18). The assumption that to become a good academic you need to be an atheist is a fallacy that has no evidence for its claims whatsoever. Believers who have girded the loins of their minds can see through the façade.
Unfortunately, there are some believers who have been fanning the belief that Christianity is opposed to intellectual engagement by insisting that the Word of God is not for the mind but for the spirit. This is nothing other than intellectual lethargy and languor. But where did this mindset come from? The early scientists were Bible-believing intellectuals such as Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, James Joule and many others. They found no dichotomy between their faith and intellectual acuity. In fact, these individuals believed that a Christian’s mind must be an intellectually sharp mind. A mind that is yoked to the mind of Christ is a keen and exceptionally intelligent mind because it draws from His unsurpassed wisdom and reasoning. Jesus was both an intellectual and spiritual authority. J.P. Moreland asserts that the anti-intellectual position among some of the believers is a consequence of the rise of “rhetorically powerful, and emotionally directed preaching of” some preachers of the Great Awakening revivals of the 1800s, which were not balanced with “intellectually careful and doctrinally precise” teaching to equip the saints to defend their faith with reason. This approach ill-prepared the church for harsh attacks from people such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin etc…with their philosophical challenges and arguments against Christianity.3 Since then, the attack against Christianity has grown more shrill and intense. Instead of responding to these challenges with counter intellectual vigor, the Church has mostly withdrawn from intellectual public debates and has lost the zeal to authenticate and validate its tenets. Its enemies have mistaken this to be a capitulation and admission of lack of rationality for the doctrines of the Christian faith. Perhaps the time has come for believers to study, soak and saturate themselves with the Word of God, and earnestly seek wisdom from above. The Church should ever match forward armed with reasoned-out truth. This is the wrong time for the Church to be marginalized and voiceless in the public debate. There is too much at stake.

Sources
1.Lennox, J. (2011). Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Point. Lion Hudson Plc. Pp. 55
2. Ibid.
3.Moreland, J.P. (1997). Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. NAVPRESS. pp. 23

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Is it Evidence or Proof?

The other day I received an email in which the author stated that “…there is no evidence for God, period…”

Obviously, the individual confuses evidence with proof. There are so many things people believe they exist without any mathematical proof to substantiate their existence. For example, people believe in the existence of black holes. These are said to be dense, powerful, and black regions in space from which nothing can escape-not even light. However, the truth is that no astronomer has ever actually seen a black hole. There is no direct image to show us how black holes look like. Belief in them is based on “strong evidence for them,” and their effect on gravity, according to Peter Edmonds, astrophysicist at NASA. The photos we are shown of black holes are mere illustrations.

Astronomers infer the existence of black holes by detecting their effect on matter near them. This is the evidence. So then if we are convinced that such things, which we have not seen exist, why would we not believe in the existence of God although we have not seen Him? The Cosmological argument, and the teleological argument from the design and regularity of nature point to the evidence of the existence of God. Then there are objective moral values or the universal moral instinct. All these infer the existence of a Transcendent Being we know as God. Why do we demand mathematical proof for the existence of God before we can believe He exists and yet we are so ready to believe what a handful of people tell us exists somewhere in space although no one has seen it?

Anyhow, at the end of the day, each one of us must wrestle with this issue and come to a decision in our heart because it will surface again at the end of our lives.

Young Adult Faith Attrition Crisis: What the Church and Family Can Do

In a global culture that is fast becoming secularized and hostile to religion and the Christian faith in particular, the church has a responsibility to prepare its congregants and especially its children and young adults for Christian apologetics. Apologetics is merely giving a reason and justifying one’s faith. This will not only ground them in the faith and equip them to have an objective foundation for their faith, it will also help them give an answer to everyone who asks them a reason for their hope, particularly as they enter faith war-zones in colleges and universities. Without this foundation, our kids are likely to take books like the Da Vinci Code and mistake them for truth. Most young adults lose their faith in colleges and the main reason they give is that they find Christianity to be “intellectually shallow” (attrition statistics vary, but they should be of concern us). This is why it is important to have a concerted effort between the church and the home, the family, to take steps together to familiarize our children with the ideas that will challenge their faith before sending them out as sheep among wolves, as it were. They need to be aware of the tests they will encounter regarding their faith and learn how to intellectually (and spiritually) engage and interact with those who ridicule their faith without flinching or feeling idiotic. You cannot defend what you do not know. Apologetics answers objections to the faith and builds the faith and intellectual inquiry of the defender. If we neglect this, we will have abdicated our responsibility and in our place will arise “another generation …, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done …” (Joshua 2:10 KJV). This is the time to take seriously the command that “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul… And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 11:18,19 KJV). It is no longer enough to merely raise good boys and girls. We must prepare them to fight the good fight of faith; to be confident men and women, rooted and grounded in their faith. We must pass on a bright torch to our children, not one dimmed by uncertainty, retreat and hesitancy otherwise our children will end up with a distorted view of Christianity. The battle for people’s souls is raging and it will only intensify with time. Apologetics should be part of regular sermons and weekly Bible studies. It should even be part of children’s story time. Children should understand Jesus is a Person. He is not a myth. His historicity is as axiomatic as that of Alexander the Great. Parents should study hard to keep their children in the faith. Praying for them fervently and teaching them how to study their Bibles and draw life-applications from them. Allow your children to ask the questions they are wrestling with. Let them explain to you what salvation means to them. Help them understand that evolution has not debunked the existence of God. Let them understand that science is not against God, but rather explains what God has already made. They should know that there is nothing wrong with faith. The atheist uses it when he or she claims that the universe is their creator or that life sprang from some primordial soup. They were not there to witness the process. Therefore, they are relying on faith that it happened as they believe it did. Christians believe that God created the heavens and the earth. They were not there to witness the creation, but they believe it. Both sided have faith. It is just a matter of where one chooses to place it. Faith is not credulity. That is why the apostle John indicates that “These things were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” (John). The things John is talking about are the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ and the testimonies of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the church continues to bury its head in the sand, this is what atheists vow to do to our children when they enter college: “we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization….So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable…” [1]. Apologetics is not a new phenomenon. Jesus faced the Sadducees and defended His reason for believing in the resurrection which they were trying to repudiate. This is not to advocate that Christian students should enter college to fight with those who challenge their faith, but that they should be confident of being able to withstand attacks on what they believe without flinching or feeling intellectually shallow. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian Philosopher said, “The contemporary Western intellectual world is a battleground or arena in which rages a battle for men’s souls,” [2].
Sources
[1]. ‘Universality and Truth,’ in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics, pp. 21-22.

[2] Ratio Christi (2016). Are Christian Students Really Ridiculed and Humiliated? Accessed from http://ratiochristi.org/about-us/why-important

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Musings on John 3:2

The account of Nicodemus’ nocturnal visit to the Lord Jesus and the ensuing discourse is fascinating, to say the least. Nicodemus starts by saluting Jesus using a normative greeting reserved for individuals with ecclesiastical eminence: “Rabbi,” he calls him, which means master of the Torah. He further acknowledges that Jesus is a teacher sent from God, and the miracles He performs are evidence that God is with Him. He uses the first person plural to indicate that he is not the only one who believes what he just said. Apparently, his peers are of the same opinion as well. Maybe also implied in Nicodemus’ greeting is a hint of flattery. Probably that is why Jesus ignores it. The miracles Nicodemus and his cohorts saw with their own eyes were what convinced them that God was with Jesus. This is the epitome of walking by sight. If they had not seen they would not have believed. The Scriptures exhort us to “Walk by faith, not by sight…” for a reason. Our physical eyesight is blind to spiritual events. Nicodemus was already demonstrating his blindness regarding Jesus’ identity. Although he viewed Jesus as having been sent from God, he did not notice His divinity. Walking by sight is being shackled by illusions, which leads to a myopic interpretation of the things of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus visited Jesus at night probably for fear of being spotted hanging out with him by his fellow Pharisees. If this inference is right, then we can deduce that it was more important for Nicodemus to be held in high esteem and to receive accolades he never really had from the community that derided Jesus than to seek truth for himself. Jesus said, regarding Pharisees: “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29 NKJV). Jesus viewed their spiritual leadership as a façade that did nothing to benefit them. Sadly, this illusion had become their reality and led them not only to reject Jesus, but to also orchestrate His death at the hands of an imperial power that despised them. No wonder Jesus said, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). Things are never the way they appear, particularly the things of the spirit. The laws of the Kingdom of God are inversely related to the laws of the natural realm. Great men in God’s kingdom are beaten, spat upon, despised, have nowhere to lay their heads, and are ultimately executed and martyred for their faith. In this realm, the way upwards leads downwards. Those who desire to lead must first learn to follow in obedience. If they smack you on one side, you tell them to do it again-this time on the other side. In the natural, this sounds absurd, but this is a spiritual battle against evil spiritual forces. This is the only way to de-fang Satan-The Jesus way and it never fails. Nicodemus had it all wrong. Jesus was not just a teacher sent from God. He is God.

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Age of Mankind

Regarding the Genesis account of the beginning of our world it is intriguing to read what some scholars who are not theists have concluded. For instance, Robert Jastrow, has asserted that “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. All the details differ, but the essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time….The scientists’ pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible…”1

Now isn’t that fascinating particularly as contention has been brewing and gaining momentum between molecular biologists, paleontologists and macroevolutionists regarding the age of the human race. The constant adjustment of the age of humanity has only exacerbated this argument. In the late 1950s, the age of mankind was between 5 and 15 million years. Around the mid-1970s, this age was changed to between 5 and 7 million years. Then toward the end of the 1970s it was adjusted again. This time it was said that mankind was 1 million years old. The mid 1980s saw another adjustment as the age was reduced to 800,000 years old. By the end of the 1980s it was said to be between 50,000 and 200,000 years old. The 1990s, saw yet another adjustment. This time the age of humanity was estimated to be only 43,000 years old.2 Something to think about.

If, as Jastrow, posits, the chain of events leading to man were sudden, it means that man appeared suddenly on the scene, fully formed, with all his faculties intact, and that there was no process of transitional development spanning millions of years from lower life forms into the human race we have now, as the Bible says.

Sources

1 Robert Jastrow (1992). God and the Astronomers. New York. W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 106-107

2 Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino (2001). Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith. Bethany House Publishers. Bloomington, Minnesota. pp. 186-187

Religion and Science Intersect

We live in an era that is saturated with skepticism. Some non-Christians are asking Christians tough questions. This makes it an exciting time to have the opportunity to give an answer to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is within us. But Scripture cautions us to do it with meekness … (1 Peter 3:15). This means that we can engage in conversations with people who challenge or want to know more about what we believe with respect. Using evidence of fulfilled prophecy as well as the personal claims of the Lord Jesus; who He said He was, and the reliable accounts of the Gospels, we can show that Christianity is true. Similarly, by being familiar with elementary scientific theories and worldviews, and by observing nature we can engage in a productive discussion with scientists, and show them that natural and physical laws actually lead to God. But we must also remember that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher, the Source of wisdom in these conversations.
What is ironic is that, it is becoming more and more apparent that God has used scientific laws to reveal and describe what He has already done in our universe. Science focuses on patterns and laws in the universe that demonstrate God’s careful design and creative genius and His desire to communicate with us through it. Religion deals with the spiritual needs and realities of mankind, and the Bible is the Christian’s guide in seeking redemptive truth. Science and religion, therefore, seem to be two sides of the same coin-pointing us to our Creator. Science has facilitated God’s communication with us, somewhat, by tapping into the laws which our God made to govern and sustain life in our universe, and making them known to mankind. Galileo Galilei once remarked in 1623 that “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.” Of course, there are some outlandish and bizarre scientific theories such as Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which Christians reject out rightly as fallacious, to say the least. But, surprisingly enough scientists, like Christians, are also questioning the plausibility of Darwin’s theory because of the failure of science to comprehensively provide tenable explanations for the origin of the incredible complexity of life as we know it. Another theory of contention between Christians and scientists has been the Big Bang theory. But the tables have turned on this theory in favor of Christians. What is even more astonishing is what physicist Steven Ball says about the theory of the Big Bang in his article, A Christian Physicist Examines the Big Bang Theory. Ball asserts that this theory has “become one of the strongest testimonies to the validity of the biblical account of creation, since it clearly confirms that our universe had a beginning, as described in Genesis 1, in which the cause of it is outside of the physical realm we observe. It is remarkable that the observations have allowed us to trace the record of our universe back to this beginning point.” Further, it is argued that all matter, space and time were all created during this single spectacular event. As such, creation, God’s divine work, continues to be a mystery that eludes scientists. Here is an interesting observation by a scientist, Robert Jastrow, in his book, God and the Astronomers, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story [of creation] ends like a bad dream. He 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.” Additionally, the discovery of the fact that our universe is bathed with a background of microwave radiation much similar to the kind of radiation in our domestic microwaves has further demonstrated that our universe had a beginning as stated in Scripture and the scientific community has no alternative but to accept what this evidence says about the beginning of our universe. It is true what they say, that truth has a way of defending itself.

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