Philosophy (love of wisdom) involves the study of rational thought and valid argumentation. The articles in this section of our site are intended to show how Christianity is not only logically consistent, but how it alone provides the preconditions for knowledge, rational thought, and valid argumentation in the first place!
For over 15 years I have been working in the aerospace industry. In this line of work, precision is of the utmost importance. The multi-surfaces and diameters of any individual engine component must be exact or there is a chance of engine failure. If the engine fails test, the resulting physical damage will cost the company an enormous amount of money. If the engine fails in flight it could cost human lives. To make sure the engine components leave our area with the correct measurements, we utilize a number of measuring devices, some of which can give us accurate measurements down to ten thousands of an inch.
For the past few months the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba has been running a campaign to raise awareness of mental illness in our province. Like most people, I agree that we ought to try to help folks dealing with psychological, emotional and behavioral problems. No doubt many of those that call themselves atheists, humanists or skeptics in Winnipeg would agree also. The very interesting thing is, whereas we all might agree that mental illness ought to be treated, such antitheists have no foundation for doing so.
At left is my Son, Marcus, working on a “dot to dot” puzzle. For those unfamiliar with “dot to dots”, these appear as randomly scattered groups of dots on a page, with a number beside each dot. When lines are drawn between the dots in numeric order a picture “magically” appears. Some “dot to dots” are quite ingenious. It’s obvious that because these puzzles have intelligent designers, there is a “right” way to do them. That is, though we may connect the dots we anyway we like, there is only one way in which to connect them and have the designer’s picture appear. Furthermore, there is only one valid connection between the image we end up with and the interpretation we assign to it. For instance, the puzzle Marcus is working on turned out to be a desktop telephone once all the connections between the dots were made. It would be therefore incorrect to interpret the finished puzzle as anything but a telephone, even though all the connections between the dots were made correctly. Therefore, not only must the dots be connected correctly, but the finished product must be connected to the correct interpretation as well.
The other day I happened upon an episode of the popular police drama, Law & Order. This particular episode was about an elderly lady who, as it turned out, was guilty of murdering her last 5 husbands. Finally incarcerated, the woman is examined by a shrink who concludes that there must be something wrong with the woman physiologically. After a battery of tests the doctors conclude that the woman is riddled with cancer. The prognosis: she has 4-5 months to live – tops. One of the detectives on the show then solemnly concludes, “God gave her the death sentence.” As soon as I heard “God” mentioned, I perked up. “Oh”, I said to my wife, “they speak of God on this show?” For the Christian, the character’s comments about God deserve deeper reflection.
Consider this parable: Your artist friend tells you that they have just submitted a piece to your local art gallery and is anxious to have folks come and see it. So you go to the gallery to see his piece and to peruse the other paintings as well. Suddenly an interesting piece catches your eye. The painting contains all sorts of geometrical shapes: circles, triangles, rectangles, octagons, etc. Studying the painting closely you notice that the borders of the shapes appear laser straight. In your estimation the artist must have used a ruler or some other straight edge to create such perfectly straight lines. Your eyes move to the plaque on the wall describing the painting which contains a quote from the artist:
“Believe it or not, this entire painting was done free-hand. I worked very hard to create perfectly straight lines, as straight as if I had used a ruler.”
Peruse the reader comments that follow any online news story and you’ll see that if anyone even comes close to mentioning God the atheists come out hooting and hollering. Like Pavlovian dogs trained to salivate at the ringing of a bell, the aletheiphobes1 of modern times see red when God is even hinted at anywhere near the public square. Their venom-filled tirades are almost guaranteed to contain some mention of how atheists embrace logic and reason whilst God believers are hopelessly committed to blind, irrational faith. This ridiculous assertion has been made by the atheist camp for so long it’s become a sort of mantra. This brief column was born out of sheer frustration at hearing this thoughtless and groundless atheist proclamation.
According to the atheist, the universe’s birth and subsequent history is not result of intelligent agency, but is merely the result of physical processes that were random, accidental, and ultimately meaningless. It’s obvious that in such a universe, human opinion must be taken as ultimate with respect to dictating how and what to think. It doesn’t take any philosophical sophistication to recognize the fact that if human opinion is ultimate, ANY human opinion can be rationally denied. Such a situation is truly the death knell to any hopes of engaging in right reason. Indeed, in such a universe, what one human regards as right reason may be rejected as such by another. What is needed is a competent authority qualitatively greater than human opinion which can prescribe for us how and what we ought to think. Here we see the typical militant atheist for the walking contradiction that he is. The utter foolishness of atheistic thought is truly staggering. Consider three (of many) intellectual shortcomings with denying God’s existence.
A few days ago I was browsing the new releases section of Chapters bookstore when I noticed a book with the odd title, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”1 Perusing the cover of the book I found statements to the effect that this book represents the “true” and “secret history” of Lincoln. Of course we all know (or should!) that this is a work of fiction. Nevertheless there is something compelling about a fanciful yarn spun around famous characters long dead. Notice that it is the “long dead” part that serves as the key ingredient in spinning a tale of this kind. Because Lincoln has been dead for almost 150 years now, no one who actually knew him and can verify any of what the book claims. The converse is also true, and this is key: No one who actually knew him can contest what the book claims either. This far removed in time, the writer is effectively insulated from criticism that he might have otherwise encountered had his work been written within a generation of those who knew Lincoln personally.
Two of Our Children
Two of our children are enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program here in Winnipeg. Recently we attended their annual drill team competition. This year six teams of air, sea, and army cadets entered the contest.
During the contest each team is led individually onto the floor before a panel of judges to be inspected. Their uniforms, postures, and formation are all carefully considered. Next the team performs a routine which consists of a prescribed series of stances, marches and salutes. The teams are scored according to how well they execute these movements as a unified team in response to their leaders’ commands. Watching these disciplined young people at the contest brought two scriptural truths to mind.
This brief article looks at the modern attempts to reconstruct the history of early Christianity and how they compare to the New Testament record.
A personal note before we begin:
This article is not in any way meant to be an attack on those who don’t believe in historic accuracy of the New Testament record. It’s a free country and we all have a right to believe in whatever we chose. But listen, if the New Testament reflects accurate history, then we all a have a shot at something wonderful here. If the New Testament is telling the truth, then there is a God who loves us and wants to live with us and within us. Sin (rebellion against God) is keeping this from happening. But there is good news and it is this: Jesus Christ, the Son of God came and took the rap for us. He paid for every sin we’ve ever committed or will commit. Accepting Jesus as our Saviour guarantees that God will accept us now while we live and after we die and step into eternity. It’s a wonderful promise. Wonderful…only if it’s true.
I do believe that the historic evidence for the trustworthiness of the New Testament is unparalleled. I make no apology for the fact that I have trusted the Jesus of the New Testament with my eternity. In subsequent articles I hope to share much of this data. For the moment, I would like to consider the critical position and some of the assumptions that are made in order to deny the trustworthiness of the New Testament. You see, the Christian too, must make the same assumptions. However, it is my contention that the Christian position applies these assumptions in a far more logically consistent way.
Since the nineteenth century, higher critics have gained a following in their denial (not refutation) of the New Testament’s historic accuracy. Details vary, but the major belief here among critics is that the “Christian myth” believed today is not what was propagated by the early followers of Jesus. The myth, they say, and the Gospels from which it was derived, have ‘evolved’ over time, gradually obscuring some details, embellishing others, and, at times, injecting shear fantasy (For example, The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead) into the narrative.
This notion has gained much acceptance in our post-modern, relativistic culture, among whose goals seems to be the liberation from bonds imposed on us by the previous, largely Christian-influenced generation. Indeed, if the New Testament can be shown to be the product of mythologizing, then why should anyone feel bound by the moral code it dictates?
This “liberating knife” however, is limited in its power to grant the absolute freedom so desperately sought. For in their attempt to severe ties with fundamentalist Christianity, the critic who ascribes to the “Christ myth” theory inevitably must shackle himself to a set of rules from which the only escape is intellectual suicide. To the point, in order to believe in the so-called evolution of Christianity and of the New Testament record, the critic must make the following assumptions:
1) Absolute truth exists and is knowable.*
2) Truth is exclusive.*
3) Knowing, believing and acting on the truth is important.*
4) There is a binding moral law; Lying is wrong.*
5) Ancient documents may sometimes be regarded as trustworthy.*
6) It is possible to reconstruct history objectively and truthfully.*
7) History can be corrupted over time; facts may become embellished or obscured.*