Tag Archives: Christianity

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.

Does God Know What I Will Freely Do? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Yesterday, I posted on the issue of free will and God’s knowledge of of human free acts in the future.  This is an area the church has grappled with for centuries.  But how do other major worldviews deal with this issue?

Most atheists think they can avoid the issue by denying that God (or divine fate) exists.  Unfortunately, once you banish an ultimate mind as the source of the universe, you are only left with impersonal physical laws operating on matter and energy.

So free will, for the atheist, is just an illusion that our highly evolved brain gives us.  Fundamentally, we are completely determined in our actions and choices by chemistry and physics, by the mechanistic movement of atomic particles .  Free will, under atheism, does not exist.  So the atheist does not really solve the problem of fate and free will.  He just rids us of both, thus denying that the problem is real.

Monistic Pantheists argue that all of earthly life is just an illusion, that we are actually part of one ultimate, impersonal being.  When we realize that we are part of this one ultimate being, the illusion of our individual lives ends as we merge with the ultimate being.

In this sense, our individual free will is also an illusion because we, ourselves, are an illusion.  The only thing that really exists is this ultimate, impersonal being.  Their solution to the problem is to affirm divine fate at the complete expense of human free will or even true human existence.

Oddly enough, even though the theistic God seems to cause problems with the existence of human free will, without a personal God, free will cannot exist!

The Christian concept of God allows for mind to precede and transcend matter, which allows human free will to exist, in opposition to atheism (who only believe matter exists).

Christians also recognize that individual people exist apart from God, in opposition to pantheism.  The concept of human free will cannot exist without individual humans truly existing.  This the Pantheists deny.

Even though we Christians struggle with this doctrine, as do other theistic religions, at the end of the day a personal God is the best ground and source for free will.  Get rid of God, and free will quickly vanishes.

Does God Know What I Will Freely Do? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Some people get hung up on the idea that God can know, for sure, what I will freely do in the future.  Their argument goes something like this:  if whatever God knows will certainly occur (as virtually all Christians agree), then either I am not free to act or God does not know what free acts I will perform in the future.

Some Christians take one horn of the dilemma and claim that humans are not really free because human free will would spell the end of God’s infallible knowledge and sovereignty over all creation.  They severely throttle back the meaning of free will to the point that most people would not recognize it any more.  These folks understand humans to be far more similar to animals, operating on instincts, impulses, and desires – all properties that God exercises direct control over.

Others grab the second horn of the dilemma and claim that God does not really know what free creatures will do in the future.  At best, he is making educated guesses, but he cannot know, for sure, what humans will do.  The future free acts of humans are unknown, even to God, until they are actually executed.

I, and most traditional Christians, reject both of these positions.  The Bible seems to clearly teach that God does infallibly know the future, including all free acts that will be performed, and that humans possess a robust free will.  Admittedly, it is difficult to hold these two concepts without tension, but Christian theologians have always done so.

Do we know precisely how God’s infallible knowledge of future free acts coordinates with human free will?  No, I don’t think so.  We always run into the intractable problem of an infinite being interacting with finite creatures.  God knows everything we will do and we are free to do those things, but I don’t think we can ever explain exactly how it works.  There is a mystery to it, but there is no contradiction.

It isn’t just Christians that have had to deal with this issue.  Throughout history, great thinkers have struggled with the seeming paradox of fate and freedom.  If all things are decreed as part of an unchangeable fate, then how is it that we humans are free to do anything?  Rather than toss one of these notions aside, many thinkers have proposed solutions to retain both realities – that some sort of divine fate exists along with human free will.  Two viewpoints – atheism and pantheism – have found other ways around the problem.

Check back tomorrow to see if their worldviews better deal with this problem.

Should Catholic Apologists Be Invited to Speak at an Evangelical Apologetics Conference?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In a recent post, I mentioned some of the speakers at an upcoming apologetics conference sponsored by Southern Evangelical Seminary.  One blog commenter noticed that Catholic speakers were being featured at the event and argued that they should not be.  He believes that Catholics are not Christians, and therefore cannot properly defend the Christian faith (which is the goal of apologetics).  Specifically, the commenter mentioned the fact that Catholics do not agree with evangelical views of justification by faith alone.

I disagreed with the commenter and argued that Catholics are Christian and should be able to present at the conference, but I want to know what readers of this blog think.  Should Catholics be allowed to speak at an evangelical apologetics conference?  Tell us what you think by voting in the poll below.  Also, share your comments on this issue by commenting on this blog post.

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.

What is God's Will for You?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Ronnie Jones, a commenter on our blog, recently sent me some insight from John MacArthur about discovering God’s will for our lives.  It is simple and right to the point of the matter.  You may not agree with his view, but you have to deal with it, because MacArthur is a well-respected pastor and theologian.  Here is what he said, as quoted by Mr. Jones:

The will of God is not meant to be a secret we must uncover. God wants us to understand His will far more than we want to understand it. He always makes His will clear to those who seek it with an obedient heart.

Most of the real problem areas in the question of God’s will are settled for us in Scripture. The Bible reveals that it is God’s will for all of us to be:

(1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9)

(Ephesians 5:17-18)

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)

(1 Peter 2:13-15)

(Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12)

If all those things are true in your life, you may do whatever you want. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That means that if you are conforming to God’s will in all the five ways listed above, He will place in your heart desires that reflect His will. So do what you want to do!

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.

Is God a Crutch?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Critics of Christianity and of religion, in general, like to take a page from Sigmund Freud and accuse believers of forming their beliefs for purely psychological reasons.  Freud held that believers are projecting their need for a father figure on God.  God is merely a psychological projection of the ideal father.  God, in other words, is just a crutch for those who can’t face the difficulties of life.  Larry King once asked a Christian pastor if Christianity was a crutch, and the pastor replied, “No, I see it as more of a hospital.  We are all in serious condition and desperately need help!”

Are there psychological reasons for belief in God?  Of course there are.  There are psychological reasons for everything we do and everything we believe, but this fact has nothing to say about whether God really exists.  That, my friends, is an entirely different question.

I may very much want to believe that my wife loves me, for psychological reasons, but does the fact that I have this need prove my wife does not love me?  No.  It just doesn’t follow.  Likewise, I may yearn for a heavenly father, but does my yearning prove he doesn’t exist.  Obviously not.

Christians may have their psychological reasons for wanting God to exist, but atheists have their psychological reasons for wanting God to not exist.  According to Paul Vitz, a psychologist who has extensively studied the psychology of atheism, many atheists don’t believe in God because they have unresolved hatred for their earthly father figure.  I have seen this in my friends who are atheists.  Philosopher J. P. Moreland recounts his experience: “I have spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in more than 40 states in the last 40 years, and it has become apparent to me that atheists regularly have deep-seated, unresolved emotional conflicts with their father figures.”

Moreland continues to explain a second psychological reason for atheism.  “People want to be liberated from traditional morality so they can engage in any sexual behavior that satisfies them without guilt, shame, or condemnation.”  If you are a person who is engaged in all sorts of illicit sexual activity, it is absolutely in your interest to reject God.  A few atheists that have visited this blog have admitted that they enjoy sexual pursuits that Christians would find objectionable.  They argue that what they are doing is harmless, and that any religion which tells them the opposite cannot be true.

There are undoubtedly other reasons for denying God’s existence, but the point is that atheists, like believers, have psychological motives.  We all do.

What do we do with this information?  Well, first of all, we should all look within ourselves and reflect on what our motivations are.  Let’s face them and not deny them.

But let’s all remember that at the end of the day, all of these psychological reasons are not ultimately why we should believe or disbelieve.  Our view of God should be based on solid, rational arguments.  We should all know why we believe what we believe and we should stop accusing those who disagree with us of being completely irrational.  It gets us nowhere.

Debating psychology will never determine whether God exists or not, or whether Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  Psychology can only tell us some of the motives for our beliefs.  While that is interesting, it is not the most important question.

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.

What Movies Should Our Kids be Watching? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Part 1 of this post discussed the use of Internet sites to help parents decide whether a movie is appropriate.  Today, we talk about how we know something is inappropriate.

There are at least two kinds of appropriateness, which I think a lot of parents miss.  First, there is age appropriateness.  A movie that is dealing with subjects like romance, or realistic war depictions, or other historical events that include intense human pain and misery, is not appropriate for younger children.  Their immature minds cannot process what they are seeing and they will not understand these themes until they are older.

A couple examples would be The Passion of the Christ and Band of BrothersThe Passion depicts the excruciating torture and death of Jesus while Band of Brothers portrays the true story of World War II soldiers.  Both of these are inappropriate for younger children because of the thematic content, but worth seeing once a person is well into their teenage years.

When deciding age appropriateness, you also have to consider your child.  My children do not struggle with violent streaks.  They are not aggressive toward other kids and they also have a good understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality.  So, we may let them watch movies that include violence, as long as it isn’t too realistic or intense.  If your child is aggressive toward other kids and is obsessed with violent role playing, you need to steer them clear of violent movies.

On the other hand, we are very concerned about exposing our kids to sexual themes and profanity.  We believe that there are real consequences if we allow our children to be inundated with foul language and sex.  When they enter their teenage years, their thoughts and deeds will be impacted by the language and sexual situations they see in movies.  Those things impacted me, so I assume they will impact my kids.  Therefore, movies that major on these themes are off-limits.

The second kind of inappropriateness is more difficult for parents to accept.  Some movies should not be seen by anyone because they are garbage.    These movies may glorify extra-marital sex, gratuitous violence, drug use, and so forth.  I can remember watching Natural Born Killers (lots of gratuitous violence) about 15 years ago with my wife.  When it was over, we both looked at each other and said, “That was a complete waste of time!  Why did we subject ourselves to that kind of filth?”  The movie actually left us both depressed.

Not only should your kids not watch these kinds of movies, but neither should you!  Unfortunately, many parents go ahead and watch these kinds of movies and their kids know that they watch these movies, and their kids see their parents as hypocrites.  Mom and Dad are always talking about certain movies being inappropriate but they routinely watch inappropriate movies!  If you, as a parent, expect to have any credibility when it comes to movies, you need to practice what you preach.

Some of you may object, “I’m an adult and I can watch whatever I want.  These kinds of movies don’t affect me like they affect a child.”  I used to think that until I came across Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  God expects you to expose yourself to media which contributes to your wisdom and virtue.  This verse is directed at adults, not children.

I’m not saying that you can’t watch movies for the sake of entertainment.  I am saying that entertainment should not come at the cost of your soul.  Every time you expose yourself to movie sewage, you are shriveling your soul.  You are growing away from God and therefore away from wisdom and virtue.  Christian adults need to restrict their own movie viewing.  If they don’t then they shouldn’t expect their children to take them seriously as God’s representatives.

I don’t think I have all the answers on this topic, and I’m sure some of you would disagree with my conclusions.  Please let me know how you see this issue.  I am truly interested in other perspectives!