Tag Archives: apologetics

Design in the Universe as Evidence of God – Peter Kreeft audio

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Philosopher Peter Kreeft gives a brilliant overview of the argument from design in the audio below.  The audio is excerpted from one of Kreeft’s podcasts where he lectures on five arguments for the existence of God.  I beg you to set aside just 7 minutes to listen to this audio.  You won’t be sorry.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

What is Social Darwinism? – #4 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Social Darwinism is the theory that persons, societies of people, and races develop and evolve in much the same way that biological organisms evolve due to natural selection.  It is frequently described by the phrase, “survival of the fittest,” which was coined by British philosopher Herbert Spencer just a few years after Darwin wrote Origin of the Species.

The theory speculates that those people groups who are superior in intelligence, creativity, and industriousness would naturally overcome their weaker neighbors.  In doing so, they would become more successful as measured by wealth and prosperity.  This view led to a belief in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that human “class stratification was justified on the basis of ‘natural’ inequalities among individuals, for the control of property was said to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality.”

The ethical ramifications of social Darwinism are immense.  Following its logic, if nature is removing the inferior races of men in order to preserve the superior races, then mankind ought to cooperate.  Even though this is a clear example of the is/ought fallacy, the social Darwinists employed the theory to justify all sorts of behavior.  At the individual level, there was a moral obligation to not help those people who were biologically unfit.  After all, evolution is attempting to remove these people from the population pool.  If a person is born blind, let her die of starvation rather than fit her for glasses.  If she reproduces, she is weakening the gene pool.

With regard to ethnic groups, there arose an ethical basis for racism and nationalism; if a person’s society is shown to be socio-economically superior to others, then ignoring the plight of the inferior races and societies is completely justified.  “At the societal level, social Darwinism was used as a philosophical rationalization for imperialist, colonialist, and racist policies.”

Social Darwinism saw its greatest impact in the Nazi and communist regimes of the twentieth century.  According to Sir Arthur Keith, a strong proponent of biological evolutionary theory, “We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy. . . . The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people were organized slaughter, which has drenched Europe in blood. . . . Such conduct is highly immoral as measured by every scale of ethics, yet Germany justifies it; it is consonant with tribal or evolutionary morality.”

Nazi Germany is generally thought to have exterminated about twelve million innocent people and the regime largely based its policies on the idea that the Aryan race was superior.   It was the duty of the German people to populate the world and eliminate the inferior races.

Marxist regimes also believed that Darwinism could be used to build a legitimate philosophical framework.  Karl Marx was heavily influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin and believed that the dethroning of the bourgeoisie was completely justified to bring about the evolution of mankind that he envisioned.  Marxist governments were responsible for murdering tens of millions of people during the twentieth century.  Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Tung massacred their own people in order to create a new order that they based ultimately upon the concept of “survival of the fittest.”

Although few people claim to be social Darwinists today, the ideas of social Darwinism still surface from time to time.  Our next post will analyze this theory of ethics to see whether it can be grounded in the seven aspects of morality we discussed in What Do We Know About Morality?

[quotation references can be provided on request]

Update on Well-Known Young Earth Creationist – Post #10 of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

GeoChristian posted an update on Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino), a well-known young earth creationist who is serving jail time for tax evasion.  I once saw Hovind on the John Ankerberg Show and thought he was extremely rude to Hugh Ross, whom he was debating.  If you are interested in Hovind and what he teaches, don’t be.  His credibility as a leader and teacher are gone.  I will pray for him as a person whom God loves, but I quit listening to his arguments a long time ago.

Is Extraordinary Evidence Needed to Prove the Resurrection?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I sometimes hear skeptics say that they need extraordinary evidence to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  The reason they need extraordinary evidence, they claim, is that the resurrection is an extraordinary claim.

It is true that the resurrection is an extraordinary claim, but there are many extraordinary claims made about the past that we accept based on historical testimony.  For example, how do you get more extraordinary than the conquests of Alexander the Great?  His accomplishments are virtually unparalleled in history, yet we believe they really happened.

Or take a look at the Guinness Book of World Records some time.  Most of us have no trouble accepting the things recorded in there, but none of us were there to see all of them.  We have to rely on the testimony of those who were there.

The point is that multitudes of bizarre and outlandish marvels have transpired in the past, but for some reason skeptics are quite willing to accept these marvels as real, but not the resurrection of Jesus.

The standard for proving the resurrection should be trustworthy testimony from those who saw what happened, just like any other historical event.  In fact, all we need is eyewitness testimony that Jesus was alive, that he died, and that he was alive again.  If we know from history that these three things occurred, then we know Jesus rose from the dead.

There is nothing difficult about understanding this line of thinking.  If you are a skeptic, go study the historical testimony that shows Jesus lived, that he was then killed by crucifixion, and that he was then seen again by over 500 people.  There are libraries of both scholarly and popular level books that delve into these historical evidences.  Why not go read some of them, with an open mind to the evidence?

If the historical evidence is there, as I claim it is, you have some serious thinking to do.

2009 National Apologetics Conference

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Southern Evangelical Seminary is hosting their annual apologetics conference on Nov. 13 and 14 in Charlotte, NC.  The conference will feature speakers such as William Lane Craig, Chuck Colson, Dinesh D’Souza, Greg Koukl, Gary Habermas, Hank Hanegraaff, and Peter Kreeft (click here for the full speaker list).  These men are all incredible defenders of the Christian faith and many of them have deeply influenced my journey into Christian apologetics.

If you can possibly make this conference, please come.  You will learn so much that your mind and heart will be bursting by the end of it!  I have attended the conference several times and have always thoroughly enjoyed it.  I promise you’ll have a great time and you will be challenged to grow in your faith more than you can imagine.

The Case for Faith, the DVD

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Last night I watched the DVD, The Case for Faith, featuring Lee Strobel.  The Case for Faith DVDThe video deals with two issues from the book that bears the same name: 1) How can Jesus be the only way? and 2) How can God exist and there be so much evil, pain, and suffering?

In the DVD, Strobel features the words of Charles Templeton prominently and lets his challenges to the Christian faith drive the discussion.  Templeton, if you recall, was a co-evangelist with Billy Graham back in the 1940’s.  Templeton suffered a crisis of faith and eventually turned his back on Christianity.  Strobel interviewed Templeton for his book, The Case for Faith, which quickly became a Christian apologetics classic.

The DVD answers these tough questions by interviewing some of Christianity’s greatest living apologists and scholars.  Some of those who participated were Craig Hazen, Greg Koukl, J. P. Moreland, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, and Peter Kreeft.  I may be leaving some out, but those are the ones that come to mind.

Along with these scholars, the film also features the stories of two people who suffered greatly, and how their suffering affected their relationship with God.  These stories are truly powerful and balance the documentary between intellectual arguments and heart-felt experience.

All in all, I highly commend this DVD to all Christians who have ever thought about these two key issues and to skeptics who are open to hearing for themselves from some of Christianity’s best and brightest.  This DVD was truly fantastic.  I regret waiting so long to see it.

How Should We Communicate the Truths of Christianity?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Any serious student of the Bible knows that the biblical authors employed a large variety of written literary genres.  The Bible contains poetry, historical narrative, wisdom literature, personal letters, parables, theological and philosophical arguments, and much more.

As an apologist, I have always been drawn to the theological and philosophical argumentation found in the Bible and in later Christian authors.  When I present Christianity, I usually use logical and rational arguments from the fields of history, theology, philosophy, and science.  Rational argumentation can be very effective with certain kinds of people, but completely ineffective with others.

Jesus certainly presented a rational case for believing he was the Son of God (see Geisler and Zukeran, The Apologetics of Jesus).  However, one of his favorite communication techniques was the parable.  Parables were fictional stories that Jesus used to teach powerful lessons about the Kingdom of God.  Why did Jesus speak in parables instead of just using his unparalleled knowledge and wisdom to slay opponents with irrefutable, logical arguments?

Several years ago I was speaking to a skeptic about Christianity and he said that if God really wanted to reveal himself, then the Bible should read like a textbook.  It should be expository, non-literary, and full of lists and facts.

As an engineer, I could relate to this skeptic.  But as I’ve learned over the years, story is the absolute supreme way that human beings communicate to each other.  Think about it.  We love to read stories, see stories played out in movie theaters, and hear stories from our friends.  Our conversations are often built around story-telling.  Our free time is spent listening to and watching stories.  There is nothing more intriguing to human beings than stories.

The Bible, it turns out,  is a sweeping narrative about God’s interaction with the human race.  God, through the human authors of the Bible, has woven together the world’s greatest story, and with multiple literary genres throughout.  Jesus’ use of the parable is a reflection of the power of story-telling.  Why tell parables?  Because they are effective!

God used the primary vehicle, story, to reveal himself to mankind, but he made sure that within The Story there was poetry, wisdom literature, rational argumentation, and all kinds of other literary forms to capture readers.  These other literary forms are there to support the overarching narrative.

Christians need to communicate the  truths of Christianity employing all means of communication.  All of our methods, however, must always point back to The Story.  The arguments, the sermons, everything we say and do, always have to lead back there.

How Do Textual Critics Choose Among New Testament Manuscript Variants?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Textual critics are the scholars who study the manuscript evidence for the New Testament and determine which readings among the various manuscripts are likely to be the original (see previous post for background).  Although the vast majority of the variants are simple spelling or word order errors made by copyists, there are some variants in the manuscripts that are more significant.

Textual critics use some basic criteria to help determine which readings are most likely the original and which variants were added or modified by copyists.

The first category of criteria is external.  External evidence has to do with the kinds of manuscripts that support a reading.

The first criteria is the age of a manuscript.  Generally, the older the manuscript, the more likely it contains the original text.

Second, the number of manuscripts that support a reading must be taken into consideration.  If we only have a variant reading in a single manuscript, it probably was not in the original text.

Third, the geographical range of a textual variant must be considered.  If a variant reading can be found in manuscripts from many different locations, it is more likely original.  A reading found in manuscripts from only one geographical region is more suspect.

Fourth, many, but not all, textual critics favor the readings from the Alexandrian family of manuscripts, as opposed to the Byzantine and Western families of manuscripts.  Why?  They argue that the Christian scribes in Egypt were more careful copyists.

The second category of criteria is internal.  Internal evidence has to do with the actual words of the text.

The first criteria has to do with intrinsic probabilities, probabilities based on what the author of the text most likely would have written.  Textual critics study the vocabulary, writing style, and theology of an author and see if the textual variant is something that author would have written.  If the text in question is completely different in style, vocabulary, and theology, it renders the reading somewhat suspect.  The opposite is, of course, true.

The second internal criteria is called transcriptional probability.  This criteria asks whether a textual variant is more or less likely to have been created by a scribe or copyist.  Copyists generally tended to harmonize texts that appeared contradictory and expanded upon shorter texts.  So when there are two variants to be compared, the shorter one which does not attempt to harmonize is to be preferred.  Another way to state this is that readings which are more difficult to explain and which are shorter in length are usually preferred.

None of these criteria can be applied in isolation, but these are the kinds of questions that textual critics ask.  It is obviously not an exact science, but most of the time these kinds of questions can lead scholars to the most likely reading of a text.  In fact, no essential doctrines of Christianity are in question because of textual variants.  There is almost no question that we have the words of the original authors in 99+% of the text of the New Testament.

If you’re interested in some of these variants, many of them are found in the footnotes of most English Bible translations.  Check them out for yourself!

Is There Evidence for the Empty Tomb?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I have been having an interesting discussion with a gentleman on the issue of the empty tomb.  We’ve touched on some of the evidence, but I decided to present a brief synopsis of William Lane Craig’s arguments for the empty tomb (from Jesus Under Fire).  Here goes!

  1. The historical credibility of the burial story supports the empty tomb.  If the burial story is accurate, the site of Jesus’ tomb would have been known to Jew and Christian alike.  Anyone could have, and would have, just marched to the tomb and produced the body.  In fact, the burial story is widely recognized as a historically credible narrative.
  2. Paul’s testimony implies the fact of the empty tomb.  The sequence in 1 Cor 15 is death- burial – resurrection.  Surely this sequence implies a tomb, or else where would Jesus be buried?
  3. The presence of the empty tomb narrative in the pre-Markan Passion story supports its historical credibility.  Scholars believe that Mark’s sources from which he wrote his Gospel contained the Passion story of Jesus.  Therefore, this source material would have been very old and date back to right after Jesus’ death (about A.D. 37).
  4. The use of the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2) instead of  “on the third day” points to the primitiveness of the tradition of the empty tomb.  Scholars believe that the “third day” motif found in the New Testament developed later in Christian preaching.  The fact that Mark leaves those words out speaks to a very early date for the material in Mark.
  5. The nature of the narrative itself is theologically unadorned and nonapologetic.  Mark’s account of the empty tomb is simple and straightforward.
  6. The empty tomb was discovered by women.  Given the low status of women in 1st century Jewish society and their inability to serve as legal witnesses, it would be nonsensical for the New Testament writers to fabricate the story of the women finding the empty tomb.  The most reasonable explanation is that they really did.
  7. The investigation of the tomb by Peter and John is historically probable.  The visit of the disciples to the tomb is attested both in tradition (Luke 24:12, 24; John 20:3) and by John himself.
  8. It would have been virtually impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty.  When the disciples began to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem and people responded, and when the religious authorities stood helplessly by, the tomb must have been empty.
  9. The earliest Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb.  Matthew tells us in Matt. 28:15 that the Jewish opponents of Christianity did not deny that the tomb was empty.  They claimed the disciples stole the body.
  10. The fact that Jesus’ tomb was not venerated as a shrine indicates that the tomb was empty.  It was customary in Judaism for the tomb of a prophet or holy man to be preserved or venerated as a shrine because the bones of the prophet lay in the tomb.  The only reason Jesus’ followers would not have venerated his tomb is because it was empty.

Aside from those 10 reasons, there is very little evidence.  🙂