Apologetics

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Apologetics IN Action:

Everyday Defense of the Faith

These snippets from actual encounters are here for Christian encouragement and as evangelical examples to emulate.
 

1. Falsifying Scientific Arrogance
2. Pizza with the Atheist Club
3. Get Into My Head
4. Teasers from “The Devil’s Delusion”
 

Teaching Intro to Apologetics at Credo Academy in the Spring and Intro to Critical Thinking in the Fall.

Lectures for students: Chapter 3

Falsifying Scientific Arrogance

The place had that old smell of a large building that existed one-hundred years too long. As I entered the bedraggled auditorium the metal frames and vaulted ceiling silently spoke of a bygone age when 'God' was not a dirty word and science was less hostile to Christianity.

I was late. The lunch meal took too long. But it was enjoyable. Being tardy didn't especially matter as the lecture started about fifteen minutes late while people trickled in. Finding a seat in a sea of uncomfortable 70ish chairs, I sat in the middle left side with a good line-of-sight of the speaker-to-be. The speaker, Mr. Stenger (of the infamous book, God: the Failed Hypothesis), was introduced as a professor of philosophy and a practicing physicist of many, many years. As I adjusted my paper, pen and books, the aged professor plodded purposefully to the podium. He introduced his thesis with relative clarity and somewhat proper philosophical considerations--definitions, deductions and whatnots.

After a surprisingly short 35 minute presentation, he had given the highlights of his thesis that the God hypothesis is a failure, useless and patently absurd. It was time for Q&A. I quickly scanned my notes, knowing that only one question would be practically allowed, I thought,what is the best question to ask?

The atheist club coordinators took a practical approach to the Q&A time by handing the mic to those in the front row and continued to worm their way to the back. Only one question was clearly Christian, asking an important question of what constituted "independent verification." Other questions were more of a benign nature or reinforcing the professor's thesis. I listened intently. What should I ask?

One gentleman--a scientist--challenged the lecturer's premise that the God-question could even be answered by science. But the point was not pushed. Another more excitable speaker--in the row right before me, what am I going to ask?--reiterated the old atheist canard about God not existing because evil exists.

Ah, yes, my notes from his book
. Here, the hole in the book as large as the universe. The mic was handed to me: "Yes, thank you. Sir, you wrote in your book, and I quote..."

"I can't hear you," the professor replied. The acoustics were bad. So I summarized:

"You wrote that there was no consensus among philosophers of science on what actually constitutes real science as over and against pseudo or non-science, correct?"

"Yes..."

"You also wrote that the methodology that will be used to disprove the God-hypothesis is the approach by the philosopher, Popper. It is known as 'falsification'--using tests to try to disprove a given hypothesis."

"Yes, but..." and the disgruntled professor tried to run rough-shod over my question. Perhaps he thought I had asked my question. Or knew where I was going with it...

"Excuse me, sir, I have not properly asked my question yet."

"Go ahead."

"You wrote that the falsification method cannot 'sufficiently'--your words--account for the difference between science and non-science. If this is true and you believe this, then how can the falsification method be used to falsify the God-hypothesis when the method itself is not 'sufficient' to distinguish between hypotheses, between science (truth) and non-science (falsity)?"

"!!! Here now, science has done great things for us...!!"

He was none too happy.

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Pizza with the Atheist Club

In typical college fashion, the pizzeria was crammed with people, food and loud music. I wormed my way to the back wall toward a booth with three young students. Surveying the young men arrayed in the small booth—one with his nose in a textbook, the other with a lopsided grin and the third with stereotypical long hair—I greeted each with a firm handshake.

Placing my pizza on the table, I started the meeting with proper appreciation: “I am glad you agreed to meet with me.”

“No prob man. We don’t do this with just anyone ya’ know,” drawled the grinner. “Our club v.p. here told us you were someone worth talking with---intelligent.”

“Well, I don’t claim mastery of logic or philosophy, but I have enough of a background that I was able to challenge your vice president here.” I grinned in reply.

Instead of reaching for the philosophical jugular, I decided to ask some personal questions: was he raised Christian? Did he have anything personal against Christianity? In short, he was raised a nominal Roman Catholic, yet had no related personal problems. He actually thanked me for asking him, as it was common for cross-examiners to assume the worse.

I then asked about their philosophical views: they were typical atheists (materialistic empiricists disagreeing over morals). However, they had one twist: they were mostly atheists—they were not willing to absolutely rule out the existence of God (as the older atheists would, ala Bertrand Russell).

Ignoring this idiosyncrasy, I spoke with the long-haired student for the next twenty-five minutes about his empiricist approach to morality. As with most empiricist, he was gung-ho for the morality bell-curve; that behavior in the curve was normal. Pointing out that using the bell-curve for the last fifty years on a global scale would lean “normal” morality toward totalitarianism, he replied that being an American he could not accept that. “Then you’ve changed the bell-curve referent,” I reminded him. He was silent. Then I noted that he did not have a large enough sample-size for human behavior over the last 10,000 years. This he conceded. After asking why the extremes of the curve should be ignored (like megalomaniac dictators), he partly conceded. Feeling the pressure he quietly replied: “Even if we cannot establish morality objectively, we can still live it intuitively as we all have human nature.”

“Do we?” I asked. “Materialism cannot speak of a human nature other than observable behavior—the bell-curve. Why does a dictator have to follow a hypothetical curve? What you have is pure subjectivism: every man doing what is right in his own eyes.”

He thoughtfully chewed on his pizza. He was none too happy.

But the day was not over yet.

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Get Into My Head

The heat was palpable. Feeling the sun beat upon my head, I quickly surveyed my surrounding in the middle of the campus. Trees dotted the landscape, but concrete structures dominated the scenery. All the pathways encouraged the reflection of sun, increasing the heat about me, distracting me as I struggled to listen:

“But I cannot accept a God who would send people to hell just because they don’t agree with him,” she persisted. Sitting on the curb near the center of the square, she stared at me intently, trying to grasp an ethereal idea as foreign to her as living the life of an earthworm.

“I understand your point, but I think it is misdirected,” I cautiously replied. Handling the Bible in my hand, seeking out the book of Romans while attempting eye contact, I fumbled when another loud riding-lawn mower passed by in the background—the third in so many minutes.

As a dutiful soldier, I marched on: “Try to get into my head; try to understand where Christianity is coming from. We believe that all mankind fell in Adam: when he sinned we all sinned. So everyone is born a sinner, acting out their rebellious nature. When a Christian says that those who reject Christ are going to hell, we say that because they deserve hell.”

“OK,” she slowly replied.

“It is like our own culture: if someone were a murderer or a traitor, they would be punished. There is no talk of ‘fairness’ and the like: they get what they deserve: death. So all mankind, as Romans 1:18ff. states, already deserve death. God, their Judge, is under no obligation to save anyone.” Knowing the importance of the Word, I proceeded to read that section of Romans, slowly and deliberatively, adding short explanatory statements as needed.

“Interesting: men are without excuse. So God sends missionaries to tell the unbelievers about the possibility of salvation in Christ; He does not just let them be,” she mused out loud.

“Yes—so you see from the Christian worldview, it is not merely men not “agreeing” with God, it is rebellious terrorists rejecting the rule of Law and the Law’s Judge.”

A new look entered her eyes: thoughtfulness. “That makes sense. Let me think about that…you certainly have a different approach than simply smashing my head in with the Bible. You tried to understand my position as well.”

I allowed her into my world, my head. Now I pray the Spirit to enter her heart.

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Teasers from “The Devil’s Delusion”

Recently, I had the privilege of hosting Professor Alan Strange (Mid-America Seminary) at my home. While relaxing in the evening, I noticed he was reading a black-covered book with red horns on the front.

"Interesting book for a minister to read..." I amusingly thought to myself.

But after Alan read a few lines from the book, I was hooked.

The Devil's Delusion is a tour de force skewering "atheism and its scientific pretensions" (as the subtitle states). Written by David Berklinski--a mathematician, philosopher and a self-described secular Jew--the book expresses a well-trained mind, ready for intellectual battle and some fun too.

"Fun?" you naturally ask. Yes, just read on:

Sly barbs:

"It is wrong, the nineteenth-century British mathematician W. K. Clifford affirmed, 'always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.' I am guessing that Clifford believed what he wrote, but what evidence he had for his belief, he did not say." (47)

Incisive & funny:

"[a theory trying to reconcile the wave-particle mystery of light] has not, however, explained the connection between the quantum realm and the classical realm. 'So long as the wave packet reduction is an essential component [of quantum mechanics],' the physicist John Bell observed, 'and so long as we do not know when and how it takes over from the Schrodinger equation, we do not have an exact and unambiguous formulation of our most fundamental physical theory.'

If this is so, why is our most fundamental physical theory fundamental?

I'm just asking." (94)

He's not all fun and games, however:

"Neither the Nazis nor the Communists, he [Dawkins] affirms, acted because of their atheism. They were simply keen to kill a great many people...

[In Eastern Europe during WWII] an elderly and bearded Hasidic Jew laboriously dug what he knew to be his grave.

Standing up straight, he addressed his executioner. "God is watching what you are doing," he said.

And then he was shot dead.

What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe...and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing.

And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either.

That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society." (26)

***********************

After reading the book, I thought, "let the unbelievers duke it out for a while."
The local atheist club is probably tired of me by now.
I'll just buy a few of these books for them.
And let them chew on it awhile.

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