Tag Archives: Evidence

Are Latter Day Saints (LDS) doctrines supported by philosophy, science and history?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

This post presents evidence against Mormonism/LDS in three main areas. The first is in the area of science. The second is in the area of philosophy. And the third is in the area of history.

The scientific evidence

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed. But this is at odds with modern cosmology.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[…]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

Philosophical problems

Always Have a Reason contrasts two concepts of God in Mormonism: Monarchotheism and Polytheism. It turns out that although Mormonism is actually a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism. In Mormonism, humans can become God and then be God of their own planet. So there are many Gods in Mormonism, not just one.

Excerpt:

[T]he notion that there are innumerable contingent “primal intelligences” is central to this Mormon concept of god (P+M, 201; Beckwith and Parrish, 101). That there is more than one god is attested in the Pearl of Great Price, particularly Abraham 4-5. This Mormon concept has the gods positioned to move “primal intelligences along the path to godhood” (Beckwith and Parrish, 114). Among these gods are other gods which were once humans, including God the Father. Brigham Young wrote, “our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on…” (Brigham Young, The Seer, 132, quoted in Beckwith and Parrish, 106).

[…]The logic of the Mormon polytheistic concept of God entails that there is an infinite number of gods. To see this, it must be noted that each god him/herself was helped on the path to godhood by another god. There is, therefore, an infinite regress of gods, each aided on his/her path to godhood by a previous god. There is no termination in this series. Now because this entails an actually infinite collection of gods, the Mormon polytheistic concept of deity must deal with all the paradoxes which come with actually existing infinities…

The idea of counting up to an actual infinite number of things by addition (it doesn’t matter what kind of thing it is) is problematic. See here.

More:

Finally, it seems polytheistic Mormonism has a difficulty at its heart–namely the infinite regress of deity.

[…]Each god relies upon a former god, which itself relies upon a former god, forever. Certainly, this is an incoherence at the core of this concept of deity, for it provides no explanation for the existence of the gods, nor does it explain the existence of the universe.

Now let’s see the historical evidence against Mormonism.

The historical evidence

J. Warner Wallace explains how the “Book of Abraham”, a part of the Mormon Scriptures, faces historical difficulties.

The Book of Abraham papyri are not as old as claimed:

Mormon prophets and teachers have always maintained that the papyri that was purchased by Joseph Smith was the actual papyri that was created and written by Abraham. In fact, early believers were told that the papyri were the writings of Abraham.

[…]There is little doubt that the earliest of leaders and witnesses believed and maintained that these papyri were, in fact the very scrolls upon which Abraham and Joseph wrote. These papyri were considered to be the original scrolls until they were later recovered in 1966. After discovering the original papyri, scientists, linguists, archeologists and investigators (both Mormon and non-Mormon) examined them and came to agree that the papyri are far too young to have been written by Abraham. They are approximately 1500 to 2000 years too late, dating from anywhere between 500 B.C. (John A. Wilson, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p. 70.) and 60 A.D. If they papyri had never been discovered, this truth would never have come to light. Today, however, we know the truth, and the truth contradicts the statements of the earliest Mormon leaders and witnesses.

The Book of Abraham papyri do not claim what Joseph Smith said:

In addition to this, the existing papyri simply don’t say anything that would place them in the era related to 2000BC in ancient Egypt. The content of the papyri would at least help verify the dating of the document, even if the content had been transcribed or copied from an earlier document. But the papyri simply tell us about an ancient burial ritual and prayers that are consistent with Egyptian culture in 500BC. Nothing in the papyri hints specifically or exclusively to a time in history in which Abraham would have lived.

So there is a clear difference hear between the Bible and Mormonism, when it comes to historical verification.

Further study

If you want a nice long PDF to print out and read at lunch (which is what I did with it) you can grab this PDF by Michael Licona, entitled “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock“.

Brian Auten interviews philosopher Robin Collins on the fine-tuning argument

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

Here’s a must-listen interview from Apologetics 315.

Details:

Today’s interview is with Robin Collins, professor of philosophy at Messiah College. His training is in physics and in philosophy and he is a leading advocate for using the fine-tuning of the universe as a design argument for theism. He talks about his background and training, the fine-tuning argument, the different types of fine-tuning with examples and illustrations (laws, constants and initial conditions), two different ways of presenting the fine-tuning argument, answering common objections to the argument, the uniqueness of life, variations of the multiverse hypothesis, the failure of multiverse theory to explain away fine-tuning, objections to Victor Stenger, upcoming books, simplifying the fine-tuning argument for practical use, common mistakes when presenting the argument, the most common objection (who designed God?), and more.

Get the MP3 file from Apologetics 315.

Dr. Collins is extremely cautious and circumspect in his assessment of the fine-tuning argument. He takes the objections to the argument, like the multiverse, seriously and that comes across in the interview. He is familiar with criticisms of the argument and he has engaged with skeptics like Victor Stenger in his published work. I highly recommend it. It is a little more suited to intermediate-level Christians, but not so advanced that it’s impossible for non-math beginners to follow the broad thrust of what’s being said.

About Robin Collins:

Robin Collins (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1993), is professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Grantham, PA specializing in the area of science and religion. He has written over twenty-five articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, such as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for the existence of God, evolution and original sin, the Doctrine of Atonement, Asian religions and Christianity, and Bohm’s theory of quantum mechanics. Some of his most recent articles/book chapters are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (2009) “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse? (Cambridge University Press), and “God and the Laws of Nature,” in Theism or Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to finish a book that presents the case for design based on physics and cosmology, tentatively entitled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature.

You can read Robin Collins’ testimony here.

The fine-tuning argument

Here’s a short article where Collins gives TWO examples of the fine-tuning. He is very modest in his argument, merely asserting that the fine-tuning is more compatible with theism than it is with atheism.

Excerpt:

Science is commonly thought to have undercut belief in God. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked, “the more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” Yet, the discoveries of modern physics and cosmology in the last 50 years have shown that the structure of the universe is set in an extraordinarily precise way for the existence of life; if its structure were slightly different, even by an extraordinarily small degree, life would not be possible. In many people’s minds, the most straightforward explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning is some sort of divine purpose behind our universe.

This fine-tuning falls into three categories: the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, and the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. “Fine-tuning of the laws of nature” refers to the fact that if the universe did not have precisely the right combination of laws, complex intelligent life would be impossible. If there were no universal attractive force (law of gravity), for example, matter would be dispersed throughout the universe and the energy sources (such as stars) needed for life would not exist. Without the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus, there would not be any atoms with an atomic number greater than hydrogen, and hence no complex molecules needed for life. And without the Pauli-exclusion principle, all electrons would fall to the lowest orbital of an atom, undercutting the kind of complex chemistry that life requires.

Some fundamental physical numbers governing the structure of the universe—called the constants of physics—also must fall into an exceedingly narrow range for life to exist. For example, many have estimated that the cosmological constant—a fundamental number that governs the expansion rate of empty space—must be precisely set to one part in 10120 in order for life to occur; if it were too large, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form, and if it were too small, the universe would have collapsed back on itself. As Stephen Hawking wrote in his book A Brief History of Time, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Finally, the initial distribution of mass energy at the time of the big bang must have an enormously special configuration for life to occur, which Cambridge University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has calculated to be on the order of one part in 1010123. This is an unimaginably small number.

I know what you’re thinking: How do we know that non-Christian scientists acknowledge the fine-tuning of gravity in the way that Collins describes?

Well, the New Scientist actually talks about the fine-tuning of the force of gravity. And they’re not Christians.

Excerpt:

The feebleness of gravity is something we should be grateful for. If it were a tiny bit stronger, none of us would be here to scoff at its puny nature.

The moment of the universe‘s birth created both matter and an expanding space-time in which this matter could exist. While gravity pulled the matter together, the expansion of space drew particles of matter apart – and the further apart they drifted, the weaker their mutual attraction became.

It turns out that the struggle between these two was balanced on a knife-edge. If the expansion of space had overwhelmed the pull of gravity in the newborn universe, stars, galaxies and humans would never have been able to form. If, on the other hand, gravity had been much stronger, stars and galaxies might have formed, but they would have quickly collapsed in on themselves and each other. What’s more, the gravitational distortion of space-time would have folded up the universe in a big crunch. Our cosmic history could have been over by now.

Only the middle ground, where the expansion and the gravitational strength balance to within 1 part in 1015at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

Here’s a very long paper by Collins on the fine-tuning argument, where he answers several objections to the argument, including the multiverse/many-universe hypothesis.

If you want a longer response to the multiverse argument, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for Collins’ chapter in the “Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology“, then you can just get James Sinclair’s essay in “Contending With Christianity’s Critics“.

What got me started on apologetics? William Lane Craig debate transcripts

William Lane Craig lecturing to university students
William Lane Craig lecturing to university students

Yes, William Lane Craig debate transcripts. In fact, I still read them from time to time to keep up my skills.

Here’s one of my favorites, the Craig-Nielsen debate on grounding morality without God

Summary:

THE CRAIG-NIELSEN DEBATE: GOD, MORALITY, AND EVIL
William Lane Craig and Kai Nielsen
with annotations by William Lane Craig
February 1991, University of Western Ontario

Best part:

Finally, he raises the issue of immortality and says, “Death doesn’t undermine moral values. In fact, things that we value become all the more precious.” Well, in one sense he’s right. It’s the absence of God that undermines the objectivity of moral values, not death. But let’s suppose that there are objective moral values. What would be undermined by the lack of immortality? I think two things.

First, I think there would be no reason to adopt the moral point of view. Since you’re going to die, everyone ends up the same. It doesn’t make any difference whether you live as a Hitler or a Mother Teresa. There is no relationship between your moral living and your ultimate fate. And so in that sense, death undermines the reason for adopting the moral point of view rather that just being an egoist and living for self.

Second, there’s no basis for self-sacrifice on this point of view. Why should an atheist, who knows everything is going to end in death, do things that are morally right that go against self-interest? For example, a few years ago there was a terrible mid-winter air disaster in Washington, DC, as a plane crashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River, spilling its passengers into the icy waters. And as the helicopters came to rescue these people, attention focused on one man who again and again passed by the rope ladder rather than be pulled to safety himself. Seven times he did this, and when they came again, he was gone. The whole nation turned its eyes to this man in respect and admiration for the noble act of self-sacrifice that he did. And yet on the atheistic view, that man wasn’t noble. He did the stupidest thing possible. He should have gone for the rope ladder first, pushed others away, if necessary, in order to survive! But to give up all the brief existence he will ever have for others he didn’t even know? Why? It seems to me, then, that it’s not simply the absence of God that undermines objective moral values, but ethical living is also undermined by the atheistic point of view because you then have no reason to adopt the moral point of view and you have no basis for acts of self-sacrifice.

By contrast, on the Christian view, where you have both God and immortality, you have the necessary presuppositions for the affirmation of objective moral values and for consistent living of the ethical life.

And another of my favorites, the Craig-Taylor debate on the ontological grounding of morality.

Summary:

Is The Basis Of Morality Natural Or Supernatural?
Richard Taylor and William Lane Craig
October 1993, Union College, Schenectady, New York

Sample Craig:

(2) I argued that moral accountability also exists under the supernaturalist view, and Professor Taylor didn’t deny the point.

(II) What about my critique, then, of naturalism? I said that naturalism doesn’t provide a sound foundation for morality, and here I made two points:

(1) On the naturalist view, objective right and wrong do not exist. Again, Professor Taylor doesn’t deny this point; he just says, “Well, to say that they’re conventional doesn’t mean they’re contemptible.” Well, granted; but it does mean they’re arbitrary, they’re non–objective. There’s no more difference between moral right and wrong than driving on the right–hand side of the road versus the left–hand side of the road. It’s simply a societal convention. And the modern evolutionist thinks these conventions are just based in socio–biological evolution. According to Michael Ruse, a professor of the philosophy of science,

The position of the modern evolutionist…is that humans have an awareness of morality…because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than are hands and feet and teeth…. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…. Nevertheless…such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and…any deeper meaning is illusory….{26}

This is essentially the same view as Professor Taylor’s. Moral values are simply rooted in socio–biological evolution, that have passed down as certain taboos and certain commands, but they have no objective validity in terms of their moral rightness or wrongness. Professor Taylor says, “But I have a high regard for people who are truly moral and decent.” I don’t deny that. Of course he does! But the point is that in his ethics, in his philosophy, he has no basis for that affirmation. What I bring is not a new set of values—I think we pretty much hold those in common—but I’m offering a secure foundation for those values that we all want to hold dear.

You see, on Professor Taylor’s view, there really isn’t any objective morality. I think every one of us here tonight would agree that it’s wrong to kill babies and that the holocaust was morally wrong. But in his book Professor Taylor says, “The infanticide practiced by the Greeks of antiquity did not violate their customs. If we say it was nevertheless wrong, we are only saying that it is forbidden by our ethical and legal rules. And the abominations practiced by the Nazis…are forbidden by our rules, and not, obviously, by theirs.”{27} I submit that that is simply a patently false view of moral values and that naturalism, therefore, can’t provide any objective basis for right and wrong.

And another of my favorites, the Craig-Tooley debate on the problem of evil.

Summary:

A Classic Debate on the Existence of God
Dr. William Lane Craig & Dr. Michael Tooley
November 1994, University of Colorado at Boulder

Sample Craig:

(2) Christian doctrines increase the probability of the coexistence of God and the evils in the world. Let me just mention a couple of these.

(i) On the Christian view, the purpose of life is not happiness as such in this life. Rather it is the knowledge of God—which will ultimately produce true and everlasting happiness. What that means is that many evils occur in this life which might be utterly pointless with respect to producing human happiness. But they might not be pointless with respect to producing the knowledge of God. Dr. Tooley assumes when he talks about changes that would make this world a better place, that the purpose of life is basically to be happy in this life. And I certainly admit that you could make changes that might appear to make this life a better place, make it happier. But that’s not God’s purpose. So if you understand that the purpose of life is not happiness as such, I think that you can see that the existence of evil doesn’t necessarily cast any improbability upon God’s existence.

(ii) It’s also the Christian view that God’s purpose spills over into eternal life. In the afterlife God will bestow a glory and happiness upon us that is incomparable to what we’ve suffered here on earth. And the longer we spend in eternity with Him, the more the sufferings in this life shrink by comparison to an infinitesimal instant. Dr. Tooley admits in his article that it is possible that immortality could justify such evils. But, he says, it’s “very unlikely” that there is life after death. Well, I have two comments. First, I’d like him to prove that it’s unlikely that there is life after death.{26} Second, I suggest that the resurrection of Jesus gives us grounds for hoping in life after death, and I’ve attempted to justify that historically. So given these Christian doctrines, I think you can see that the existence of God and evil is not so improbable after all.

[…]

(4) Finally, I think that there is actually an argument for God from evil. It would go like this:

(i) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. If there is no God, moral values are either socio-biological by-products or just expressions of personal preference.

(ii) Evil exists. That’s the premise of the atheist. There is real evil in the world.

(iii) Therefore, objective values do exist. Some things are really wrong.

(iv) Therefore, God exists.

Thus the presence of evil in the world actually demonstrates God’s existence because in the absence of God, there wouldn’t be any distinction objectively between good and evil, between right and wrong. So although evil in one sense calls into question God’s existence, in a much deeper sense, I think, it actually requires God’s existence.

So in the light of these four responses, I think that the argument from evil, as difficult and emotionally pressing as it might be, in the end doesn’t constitute a good argument against the existence of God. So I think the four arguments given against the existence of God by Dr. Tooley are inconclusive. You’ve still got my six arguments for God’s existence, and therefore I still think that on balance the evidence favors theism as the more rational worldview.

There are more debate transcripts on Craig’s Reasonable Faith web site.

Nancy Fitzgerald: making a difference for God with students entering college

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

About a week ago, I wrote a blog post about a column in Salvo magazine written by Terrell Clemmons, which she entitled “Captive No More: The Thoroughly Rational Conversion of Michael Minot“.

What was exciting about that post was how Minot – a lawyer – was able to put his intellect to work as a Christian after his investigation of the evidence was complete.

I found another article by Terrell in Salvo magazine about another person who did an investigation of Christianity. After becoming a Christian, she also put her intellectual ability to work for her new Boss, and she produced an amazing return.

Terrell tells the story of Nancy, who lost her faith as a child when her two-year-old brother died.  Despite letting go of God, she was a very capable student, had a good marriage and led a comfortable life:

Life went on, but for Nancy, the carefree innocence of youth had died, and the emptiness of Stephen’s crib did not compare to the barrenness in her soul. Days turned into years, and she went on to earn three degrees from Indiana University, no thanks to God, whom she managed fairly well to avoid thinking about.

Until the later years of college, that is. Is there really a God or not? she wondered. And what is my purpose in life? She began asking people from all kinds of backgrounds what they believed. Do you go to church? Why? Do you believe in God? Why? This was not a casual survey. It was a serious attempt to get at the truth about reality. It was the “Christians” she found most interesting. And most disappointing. They would acknowledge that they did believe in God, but when pressed to explain why, not a single one could give a reason that made sense to her. Not. A single. One.

“I was raised that way” or “I find comfort in it” simply would not cut it for her, and so she concluded that the whole Christian thing was either a grand hoax or a contrived crutch for weak people. Well, she was not one to be taken in, and she was certainly no weakling. Therefore, life might as well be about her own success and comfort. She decided she would be a nice atheist/humanist. In the unlikely event that there actually was a real God, he probably graded on a curve, anyway. She’d never killed anyone, and she had volunteered to serve at a church brunch once. Surely she would still get “in.”

She married Ed, a med student training to become a heart surgeon, and by age 32, had all the accoutrements of success and comfort: a nice home in the suburbs, four beautiful children, and a housekeeper and nanny to cover daily chores, leaving her free to play golf and enjoy life to her heart’s content.

She wasn’t able to get any answers to her questions from her friends. They seemed to be Christians for the emotional good it did them, or maybe for the community. They had never bothered to do any investigations of the normal questions that non-Christians ask. So, her atheism persisted.

Until one fine day:

When her youngest child reached six months old, she jumped onto an amateur golf tour and took a skinny little Bible with her to the first tournament in Florida. She started reading in the Book of Genesis and right away saw a God who was angry, who didn’t really like people, and who killed a lot of them, primarily by drowning.

“I’m done,” she said when a couple of friends dropped in and asked her what she was reading. “I can’t believe in this God. Drowning. Drowning. Really?

As it turned out, the friends were Christians, and better-prepared than the average Christian to give her some direction. Oh no, Genesis is not the place to start, they said. She should read the Book of John.

Oh thank goodness. Yes, John is always the first book to read when you are investigating the Bible. It gives you the theistic framework and a report of a miracle that you can investigate using the ordinary tools of history.

What happened next?

God, she prayed, if this is really true, if Jesus Christ really did what this book says he did, then I will believe and trust that he is God and my own personal Savior. She informed him that under no circumstances would she go to Africa as a missionary, and made a few other stipulations. And she still didn’t actually believe it all yet anyway, but a fire had been lit. Golf could wait. She left the tournament and returned home to her family, anxious to begin researching this God and the Bible.

She started by simply writing out questions she needed answers to—questions about God and about this Christian faith, and she discovered that there was a wealth of evidence to support the reliability of the Bible texts. But what really moved her was the Scriptures’ running total of fulfilled prophecies—general prophecies, yes, but the quantity of specific prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ was astounding! There was something supernatural about this, no question.

The whole family ended up becoming Christians, including her four children. That’s already pretty good, but she wasn’t done re-prioritizing her life to account for this new information. Because she could see challenges ahead for her children when they got to college.

More:

About ten years later, as her oldest son was preparing to go to college, she asked him, “So what are you going to do if you get a roommate in college like me?”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“I used to be an atheist,” she said.

To which he responded, “What is that?”

Nancy was floored. Her own son had no clue about her history, and he was clearly unprepared for the university environment.

She set about organizing all her research material into handouts, rounded up a few of her son’s friends, and held a class with six students. They loved it! She didn’t preach to them, but rather interacted with them, and presented solid material using movie clips and other provocative visuals. From that start, her classes grew year by year, until some 150 kids were showing up weekly, with more being turned away for lack of room.

Nancy’s classes may well have stayed confined to her community had it not been for the intervention of Charles Colson, who got wind of this popular class and hopped a plane for a visit. “Nancy, you’ve got to publish this,” he said. “We’ve got to replicate what you’re doing here across America.” Nancy had reservations about ministries, and she definitely did not want to be a “ministry.” But she agreed with his point that “people have to get smarter about their faith.”

Fortunately, he prevailed, and the result became Anchorsaway Worldview Curriculum. “Because kids need anchor points in place when they go away,” says Nancy.

For the rest, you should click through and read Terrell’s article. You’re not going to believe how much of an impact Nancy was able to have on the people who have the most potential influence – college students and young professionals.

If you like the original article, Terrell Clemmons has many more great ones in Salvo magazine. And she has a web site. I promise you nearly everything she writes is very practical. If you like wisdom, you will enjoy her thinking. I think Christian men in particular will find practical wisdom from her writings. Like Nancy, Terrell is having a big influence as well.

But I can’t end this blog post without something else that Terrell wrote about Nancy that I really liked.

This:

She gets frustrated with churches, many of which are not only not helping young people cultivate a grounded faith, but are resistant to her efforts do so on their behalf. Now a grandmother of ten, she could retire. “But Lord, where else would I rather be?” she asks with a charming smile. “I’d take a half-lap around this property, and then come back here ready to work again.”

Ah, wonderful! I also dislike churches! They are mostly awful, and the fideist pastors will fight you tooth and nail to keep apologetics out, so that their emotion-driven flocks don’t have to worry their pretty little heads about evidence. Who cares about evidence? If we didn’t have people like Nancy fighting those battles, where would we be?

It’s really important that you see people like Nancy who have several degrees and a successful life as valuable. It’s people like her who have the biggest influence. Make sure that when college-student-aged Nancy comes to you with questions, that you have the answers to give her. Because we really need everyone to do their part for the Kingdom. This woman had an influence. And more importantly, she had an influence on her own children, protecting them from the peer pressure they would face from non-Christians at college.

The Thoroughly Rational Conversion of Michael Minot

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

One of the things I’ve noticed hanging around in church on and off the last 20 years or so is that it often seems to be the case the church leaders seem to value some people as leaders more than others. Specifically, it seems to me that church leaders prefer to put athletes and cheerleaders into leadership positions, and they tend to be skeptical of people who have intellectual conversion stories, and intellectual interests. I think I actually got the phrase “jocks and cheerleaders” from Dr. John Mark Reynolds when describing who churches tend to prefer, so I’m not just making this up.

But not everyone sees things that way. Of all the people I’ve met or read, I probably agree with Terrell Clemmons the most. And if I disagree with her, then I usually find out that she is right later on. Pretty much everything she writes about is not only relevant, but practical, which is amazing for a person who writes about topics related to Christian belief and practice. One of the things she likes to write about is the background stories of people who were intelligent and successful as non-Christians, who then went on to become Christians through a careful study of the evidence, and then went on to make a difference through outward-focused enterprises.

Let’s start with this article from Salvo Magazine about a successful atheist lawyer named Michael Minot.

Terrell writes:

Never in his 28 years did Mike Minot imagine he would entertain this unthinkable thought, yet lately of an evening he might easily be found pacing around his house like an awestruck research scientist muttering things like, “It just can’t be! . . . Can it?”

The seismic shift had started quite unexpectedly just a few months prior. He was three years out of law school, and life was great. After years of living on beans and weenies as a student, he had arrived on the scene of success. He had a growing law practice, money in his pocket, and a teeming social life. The world was his oyster.

Then he had received an odd phone call. Normally confident and well-spoken, Jim, whom he’d met while studying for the Florida bar exam, spoke awkwardly, struggling uncharacteristically to get his message out. Finally he got to his point. “Sharon and I have been watching what’s been going on in your life. And we decided we would give you a call and invite you to do something. We believe the Scriptures are very important. They’re very important to our lives, and they’re helpful to us. We know what you think about spiritual matters, but we want to challenge you to take some time at this point in your life and reexamine these things.”

To say Mike was taken aback would be an understatement. He was a perfectly contented atheist, and he had no interest in interrupting his prosperous life to look at anyone’s answers to questions he wasn’t even asking. But he did value the relationship he had with Jim, Sharon, and their two adorable kids. If he were to summarily dismiss this suggestion, what would that do to their friendship? It seemed he should at least put forth a cursory effort, if for no other reason than for the health of the relationship.

First thing to note is that the people who ask Michael to give Christianity a look are successful and intelligent themselves. Not only is Jim studying for the Florida bar exam (so that he has credibility to another lawyer), but Jim’s wife has also given him more credibility by marrying him. Married couples are typically more “grown-up” than singles, and I’m saying that as a chaste single myself who has been successful in education, career and finances. Marriage requires a whole set of behaviors from people that singles don’t have to perform. The point is, though, that Michael is being approached by people from the same professional and social background. He is not being approached by a missionary or a street preacher, but by someone who has been effective in their education, career and marriage.

This really does matter – Christians are often perceived (rightly) as over-emotional, irrational, impractical, and driven more by community than by truth-seeking. It’s very important for Christians who want to produce a return that they not be living with their parents in their 20s, have gap-filled minimum-wage resumes, have $20,000 in student in outstanding student loans from an easy, unused non-STEM degree, and no achievements except zip-lining, skydiving, surfing, and fear-of-missing-out travel.

The journey starts with science:

With no predetermined plan, he delved into both the Scriptures and science. The Scriptures felt intimidating, though, and he was more comfortable with science. Not two weeks in, he found something that totally blew his mind. Ironically, it was something that had been there all along: the solar system—and the mind-boggling precision by which it operates. He marveled at the elegant complexity of it. It appeared way too precise, statistically speaking, to be an accident.

Suddenly, this was no longer a casual exercise. He had to find the natural explanation for the solar system. If he continued on his merry life without it, he would forever live plagued by lingering thoughts that he could be living a lie. Never did he want to go in for a lie, and intellectual honesty demanded that he keep searching.

So he put on his miner’s lighted helmet, so to speak, and went to work. But instead of locating the natural explanation for the solar system, he found himself turning up all manner of equally troublesome phenomena—the fine-tuning of the earth for supporting life, with its balance of nitrogen to oxygen ratios and plate tectonics; the information content of DNA; and the complexities of animal and human life, to name a few. The perplexities mounted, and the whole project snowballed. He would go looking for the explanation for one natural marvel, only to encounter two more crying out for explanation.

If I could communicate one thing to the church, it would be this: whether you agree with the old universe and old Earth timelines or not, everyone who attends church for a decade should be able to state the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the intelligent design argument, the fossil record argument, and the habitability argument, to the degree where they are naming scientists, discoveries and specific books where the evidence for these arguments are laid out.

Unfortunately, thanks to the “leadership” of many prominent fideist pastors, many Christians have adopted an attitude of outright suspicion to science, preferring instead to pre-suppose the truth of the Bible by blind faith (“the burning of the bosom”, as the Mormons say), and refusing to study anything outside the Bible that might establish the necessary prerequisites to taking the Bible seriously. Successful non-Christian professionals looking to evaluate Christianity, this blind-faith approach is rightly seen as anti-intellectualism.

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Other complications did follow, though. He had trustingly believed teachers and authorities who had taught that everything could be explained naturalistically. What else, now, needed to be reexamined? This went beyond science and philosophy to sociology, psychology—everything had to be rethought according to this completely new paradigm. He would later liken it to being planted on a whole new planet.

And his entire social life collapsed in a matter of weeks. But he joined a church, and it became his new social center as well as his spiritual lifeline. He volunteered to serve as a jail chaplain in the evenings, a post he filled to great satisfaction for fifteen years. He met his wife Nichole at church, and they went on to adopt five children. Life settled into a richly rewarding concert of family, jail ministry, and law. Nothing he’d ever envisioned back in his atheist days could match the prosperity of these blessings.

At first glance, it may seem ironic that an atheist committed to seeing everything through the “lens of science” would come back around to see God through the lens of science. But the truth is, it wasn’t science per se that had hidden his Creator from view. Rather, it was the lens of philosophical naturalism imposed onto science—both in education and throughout the broader culture—that had fostered and fueled Mike’s unchallenged atheism.

Naturalism is a philosophy – a philosophical assumption. It’s not science. The origin and design of the universe are science. DNA is science. Habitability constraints are science. The sudden origin of major body plans in the fossil record is science. There are no scientific arguments for atheism. There’s just speculation driven by naturalistic philosophy.

In the end, Minot turns his life around 180 degrees, and puts his intellect and professional abilities to work for the gospel. You can read about all the ways he is making an impact in Terrell’s article in Salvo Magazine. Always remember stories like these when you are making decisions about your own education and career. God is still working, still reaching out to people through science and history, appealing to their minds for a fair hearing, and then asking for their best efforts for the gospel of Jesus Christ.