It was an exciting year for the theory of intelligent design. The Access Research Network has once again published its top ten stories of the year for 2008. It is well worth your time to scan these stories to see the progress the theory has made.
A common criticism of ID is that its proponents are not interested in the scientific method and, in fact, are setting out to hinder science and the scientific method by answering “God” whenever a tough scientific problem surfaces.
This criticism, however, is false. Read this brief article written by an ID proponent to see that they do indeed use the scientific method, just like any other scientist would.
As an apologist, I am often asked about all sorts of religious groups. Some of these groups are clearly not Christian and have never claimed to be Christian. Some of them, such as Christian Science, don’t claim to be Christian, but their name causes confusion. And some of them claim to be Christian, but they are not.
In addition, since there are so many denominations in the Christian world, I am often asked what these various denominations believe and whether they are true Christians. Determining whether a group is Christian is made simpler if we can agree on what the essential doctrines of Christianity are. If we agree on that list, then we can compare the doctrines of religion X and see whether it lines up.
My answer to this question of the essential doctrines of Christianity is based heavily on an article written by theologian Norman Geisler in the Christian Research Journal, volume 28, number 6.
First, what I mean by an essential doctrine is a doctrine that directly affects the subject of salvation. There are at least a couple of other essential doctrines that do not directly affect salvation that I will consider another time.
There are three stages of salvation for the believer: justification (freedom from the penalty of sin), sanctification (freedom from the power of sin), and glorification (freedom from the presence of sin). Each of the essential doctrines deals with one of these.
In the area of justification, here are the essential doctrines:
- human depravity
- Christ’s virgin birth
- Christ’s sinlessness
- Christ’s deity
- Christ’s humanity
- God’s unity
- God’s triunity
- the necessity of God’s grace
- the necessity of faith
- Christ’s atoning death
- Christ’s bodily resurrection
These 11 doctrines are essential for justification. Now please understand, I am not saying one must explicitly believe all 11 of these doctrines to be justified. These 11 doctrines must all be true in order for anyone to be justified. The New Testament seems to teach that 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 all must be explicitly believed for justification.
What about sanctification? There are two essential doctrines for sanctification:
- Christ’s bodily ascension
- Christ’s present high priestly service
Both of these must be true for the believer to be sanctified during this life.
Finally, glorification involves one essential doctrine. This doctrine must be true if we hope to spend eternity with God.
- Christ’s second coming, final judgment, and reign.
So what makes a religious group non-Christian? In my opinion, any religious group who denies one of these 14 doctrines has placed themselves outside of orthodox Christianity and cannot properly call themselves Christian.
Does that mean that a person inside that group cannot be saved and spend eternity with God? No, because not all of these doctrines must be explicitly believed for a person to be saved. However, a person who belongs to a religious group who is denying one or more of these doctrines should want to remove themselves from that group and find a group of Christians who uphold these essentials.
All truth is relative!
You can’t know the truth!
That’s true for you but not for me!
These are some of the most popular statements that float around our modern society. Talk to any college or university student and you are likely to hear something similar. They seem to make truth out to be like your favorite sweater… that sweater is good for you but not for me. Truth is talked about as if it is something that is different from person to person… completely relative. Can this possibly be accurate? Fortunately, the answer is no.
What is truth? Quite simply truth is what “is”. Truth is not like your favorite ice cream. Truth is absolute. Here are some facts about truth that I recently read in Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.
- Truth is discovered, not invented. It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it. For example, gravity existed prior to Newton.
- Truth is transcultural. If something is true, it is true for all people, in all places and at all times. 2+2=4 in China, America, Australia, etc.
- Truth is unchanging. Our BELIEFS about what is true will change from time to time but truth itself does not change. When we discovered the earth was round our BELIEFS about the earth changed. However, the earth itself has always been round.
- Beliefs cannot change a fact, no matter how sincerely we believe them. One can SINCERELY believe the world is flat, but they will just be sincerely WRONG.
- Truth is not affected by a person’s attitude. An arrogant person does not make a truthful message they share with you wrong. A humble person does not make a wrong message they share with you right.
- All truths are absolute truths. Even truths that appear to be relative are in fact absolute. For example, I, Darrell, was cold yesterday at 2 PM. Even for a person in China, it is still true that I, Darrell, was cold yesterday at 2 PM.
What all these add up to is one thing… contrary BELIEFS are possible but contrary TRUTHS are not.
So, what about the statements at the beginning of this post. They are the latest thinking in society. Are they TRUE? No!! They are self defeating. We can turn them on themselves and easily see how illogical they are.
All truth is relative. Is that a relative truth?
You can’t know the truth. Do you know that to be true?
That’s true for you but not for me. Is that statement true for you or is it true for everyone?
Think about it!!
Also, if you have a chance, I highly recommend I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. It is a great book!!
This is a very important question to consider. How repentance works in the life of an individual is determined by what they believe repentance to be. Depending on it’s definition and application, it can either free one from bondage or be a legalistic tool which enslaves.
The LDS Church defines “True Repentance” as a step by step process which ends with the complete abandonment of the sin. It is taught that if you “repent” of a particular sin and commit that sin again, the repentance was not “true” and was therefore, ineffective. According to D&C 82:7 “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return”. For example, let’s say I think an unkind thought about a neighbor and afterwards repent. Then in 2 months when I think an unkind thought again ALL THE TIMES I HAVE THOUGHT UNKIND THOUGHTS RETURN!! If that scares you, it should! For, how many of us can say that we will never again…
- Get angry
- Skip a church meeting
- Think an impure thought
- Think poorly of our neighbor
Look back on the last month of your life… did you sin at all? If so, how many times did you commit the same sin? Did you go back and repent of all of them? How about the ones you committed 2 months ago? Did you Re-Repent of those? How about the ones from two years ago? 10 years ago?
When you really think about this you can see how impossible it really is. There is NO WAY we are going to be able to “truly repent” of all our sins. According to LDS Doctrine then, we are all doomed because the “former sins will return” (D&C 82:7). This lines up perfectly with Moroni 10:32 which I talked about in my previous post. It says “…if ye shall deny yourselves of ALL UNGODLINESS… THEN is his grace sufficient for you.” It is not until I deny myself of all ungodliness (“truly” repent of all my sins) that I can receive Christ’s grace. IMPOSSIBLE!!
So, is this what repentance REALLY means? Thank God because the answer is NO! The word repent is translated from the Greek word “metanoeo”. It is a combination of 2 Greek words which mean “change” and “mind”. To repent is literally to change your mind. It is what you do ONE TIME when you accept Christ as your Savior. When you truly accept Christ as your Lord and Savior you “change your mind” and decide to follow Him and not the ways of the world. There is no step by step process involved and it does not require the complete abandonment of sin. We can’t do that… so where would the good news be if it were required?
Once you have come to Christ good works will manifest themselves in your life… good works are the evidence of a saving faith. A person who has received the gift of salvation will TRY to live a righteous life out of love for their Savior but they will not be perfect. The glorious news of the gospel is that despite our imperfections, He has paid the price and we will go to be with Him at our death.
Praise be to Christ!!
I think many people toy with some form of atheism at some point in their lives. They wonder if all they were taught growing up is really true. They don’t see God, they don’t hear from him, and they don’t touch him or smell him, so maybe he doesn’t really exist.
Wondering whether God exists, it seems to me, is perfectly rational and reasonable. Most of us struggle with doubts, but we learn how to deal with those doubts, maybe by finding good answers to our questions, or even having an experience with God that reassures us.
Some of us, though, willingly turn those doubts into a strong and hardened form of atheism. Granted, hardened atheists are a tiny percentage of the population (most surveys I’ve seen say it’s less than 5%), but there is still a larger percentage who are toying with the idea of no God. It is to those people who are toying with atheism that I would like to speak.
What if there really is no God? What does that really mean? I’m betting that many of us haven’t thought this through. If there is no God, then there are real consequences for that viewpoint, and many hardened atheists who have rigorously examined their convictions would agree with me. Here goes.
First, free will does not exist. You are the consequence of random, natural processes, and therefore everything you say and do is determined at the atomic level. You are not free to do anything. Once science gets there, we will be able to predict everything you will say and do just by understanding the chemicals that make up your body and the surrounding environment.
Second, there is no absolute right and wrong. Morality is a human invention which changes with time, place, and people. What’s wrong today may be right tomorrow. Transcendent moral laws are illusory because right and wrong are constantly changing. We, as individuals, and as groups of individuals, decide what we call right and wrong. When we die, our children will decide, and so on. Slavery used to be right, but now it’s wrong. Who knows, maybe it’ll go back to being right again some day, if there is no God.
Third, there is no ultimate justice. Those who commit heinous crimes in this life are never punished for those crimes in the next life, because there is no next life! This is it. Not to mention the fact that without a foundation for moral law, as seen above, how can anything be declared unjust? You have to know what is just before you can know what is unjust, but what is just is constantly changing. If there is no God, then there is no ultimate justice for Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. Maybe they were just doing the best they could given the time and place they lived. Who is to say?
Fourth, as already mentioned, there is no life after death. You will never see your deceased loved ones again. Once you die, you will decompose into a pile of inanimate chemicals and never be conscious again. As they say in the world of sports, it’s one and done.
Fifth, there is no ultimate meaning to life. Your life has no cosmic purpose. You aren’t here to fulfill any kind of mission. The only meaning you can have in your life is the meaning you subjectively give yourself. That meaning, however, is just a psychological comfort, a pleasant illusion to keep you going. It really doesn’t matter if you live or die. Everything you accomplish in this life will eventually be destroyed and forgotten.
Sixth, there is no purpose to human history. All of the things that we as humans have achieved will eventually be lost when our species dies out. History is not headed in any particular direction. There is no plan for the human race. Eventually, we will wipe ourselves out or some comet will smash into the earth. Either way, human history is a dead end.
Still toying with atheism?
I ran across this interview with Dinesh D’Souza recently. He does a good job in 5 minutes of explaining some important concepts concerning the battle between the “new atheism” and Christianity that is raging today.
Tomorrow marks the 1-month milestone for our new blog site. In a period of four weeks, we’ve had about 850 hits on our blog, which is not bad at all. There are clearly readers out there, like you, who are interested in the topics Darrell and I are passionate about, and we want to thank you for joining us at this blog site. We really appreciate your support and we look forward to many more months and years ahead of growing this community.
On a far more important note, we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and we fervently pray that you will renew your love for Christ these next couple days in a more powerful way than ever before. After all, He is the reason for everything we do. Our families wish your families a deepening knowledge and love of God through the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
God Bless All of You!
Theistic science calls for Christians to search for signs of God’s intervention in the history of the cosmos, but how? The scientific program of intelligent design (ID) answers this question. In reality, ID is not a creation hypothesis, but a scientific method used to discover signs of intelligence in the natural world. According to William Dembski, an ID theorist, “Intelligent Design is the science that studies signs of intelligence.” ID is not about studying the source of intelligence, the creator behind the design. It is about studying the signs or the effects of intelligence. Dembski explains that “as a theory of biological origins and development, intelligent design’s central claim is that only intelligent causes adequately explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes.” One sign of intelligence that ID attempts to detect is called specified complexity. An event exhibits “specified complexity if it is contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern.”
ID differs from young earth creation in that it does not presuppose biblical accounts of creation and it is not a creation hypothesis as such. ID provides a scientific toolset to creation theorists who want to detect signs of intelligence in nature, but as a scientific tool ID cannot be used to draw conclusions about the source of any intelligence it might discover. Those conclusions must be left to theology and philosophy.
Theistic science is a philosophy of science that integrates Christian theology and primary agent causation with the modern scientific method. A person practicing theistic science is free to draw upon all that they know, including propositions of theology, to conduct their investigations into the natural world. Intelligent design provides mathematical and scientific tools for the theistic scientist to detect signs of intelligent agent causation in the natural world. ID, as such, cannot identify that agent, nor does it try. Young earth creation is a creation hypothesis which fits comfortably under the theistic science umbrella, but does not exhaust all possible creation hypotheses that a theistic scientist may want to explore.
 William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 33.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 35.
One of the common conversations that Mormons will have with Christians surrounds the concept of being saved by grace through faith alone. You will find that, depending on the LDS Member you are speaking with, you will get many different viewpoints on this subject. One of the viewpoints that puzzles me the most are the LDS who insist that Mormonism does NOT teach that works are required for salvation.
Let’s look at a couple of things that I believe will firmly establish that the LDS Church DOES IN FACT teach that works are necessary for salvation. In addition, I think you will find that living the works they believe are required is virtually impossible.
First, a key Book of Mormon Scripture Moroni 10:32 says:
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…”
The LDS member who is seeking Christ’s grace must do two things BEFORE grace kicks in…
1) Deny yourselves of ALL ungodliness (in otherwords stop sinning entirely!!)
2) Love God with all your might, mind and strength
I ask those LDS Members who are reading this… how many of you have denied yourselves of ALL ungodliness? Have you lied? Had an impure thought? Thought poorly about your neighbor? Gossiped? Gotten angry at your spouse? Children? Neighbor? Have you sworn? If so, then you have NOT denied yourselves of ALL ungodliness and according to your church’s theology Christ’s grace does not apply to you!!
Let’s look at another point… the third article of faith of the LDS Church says:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS and ordinances of the Gospel.” (emphasis mine)
Those who are not familiar with the Mormon Church might ask… what laws are they talking about? There are several laws that the LDS Church teaches… the law of Chastity, law of Tithing, etc. There is one law that is not discussed that much which is taught in the temple. It is called the Law of Consecration and says…
“…you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.”
In order to be saved under LDS Theology you must be “obedient to the laws of the gospel” and this law says that one must consecrate (give) their time and talents NOT to God…. but to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In order to consecrate your time there are an awful lot of things (WORKS!!) that you must do…
- Do your Home Teaching
- Visiting Teaching
- Magnify your calling
- Attend all your church meetings
- Missionary work
- Go to the temple
- Genealogy work
- Build up your food storage
- Pay a full tithe
- Partake of the sacrament weekly
Etc, etc, etc
Are you doing ALL of these things? Have you fully consecrated your time and talents to the Mormon Church? If not, Christ’s grace has not kicked in.
My question is this… can ANYONE possibly do all of this? Can anyone of us say that we have denied ourselves of ALL ungodliness? Can any Mormon say they have fully consecrated themselves to the LDS Church? NO!!
That is one of the reasons I truly love the real Grace of Jesus Christ. It is not based upon my own worthiness… it is a gift from Christ!! “For God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 Praise be to my Lord, Savior and God, Jesus Christ!!