Tag Archives: Intellectual

Frank Turek interviews William Lane Craig about Christian apologetics and debate

This interview is getting good reviews on Facebook. I would say it is a must-see, because it will change your view of what we should be emphasizing as Christians. Please watch the lecture and then mail this post to all of your friends – we need to be challenged by this man William Lane Craig.

(H/T BirdieUpon)

This interview occured after William Lane Craig’s debate tour of the UK, and they talk a lot about it. I think the lesson for us is that apologetics is the best evangelistic tool that Christians have, and people really do show up by the thousands to see these debates. Maybe we should do more of them? And maybe we should be encouraging young people to follow Craig’s path and become solid philosophers and debaters? And are we going to take seriously the duty to sponsor events like this? We have to ask ourselves these tough questions, and be practical and effective about defending God’s honor when it’s called into question. Having a relationship with God is not just about us getting what we want. There are things that we need to be doing to hold up our end of the relationship. Hard things. Self-sacrificial things. Things that we may not like at all. Things that work.

In Intellectual Neutral

Here’s an article that I think might be appropriate for this interview.

Excerpt:

You may see, perhaps for the first time in your life, that here is a need in your life and as a result resolve to become intellectually engaged as a Christian. This is a momentous decision. It is a step that is desperately needed in the lives of millions of American Christians today. No one has issued the challenge to become intellectually engaged more forcefully than did Charles Malik, in his inaugural address at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center on this campus. He emphasized that we as Christians face two tasks in our evangelism: saving the soul and saving the mind, that is to say, not only converting people spiritually, but converting them intellectually as well. And the Church, he said, is lagging dangerously behind with regard to this second task. Listen to what he says:

I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. But intellectual nurture cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is vacated and abdicated to the enemy. Who among evangelicals can stand up to the great secular scholars on their own terms of scholarship? Who among evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does the evangelical mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode in the great universities of Europe and America that stamp our entire civilization with their spirit and ideas? For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ, as well as for their own sakes, evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence.

These words hit like a hammer. Evangelicals really have been living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. The average Christian doesn’t realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and the professional journals and the scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked from all sides as irrational or bigoted, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed this viewpoint.

This is a war which we cannot afford to lose. As J. Gresham Machen warned in his article, “Christianity and Culture” in the Princeton Theological Review of 1913, on the even of the Fundamentalist Controversy, if we lose this intellectual war, then our evangelism will be immeasurably more difficult in the next generation. He wrote,

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.

You can get the video and audio from a later version of this talk from Apologetics 315. I was present in the Wheaton College chapel when he gave the talk I excerpted above. It was moving.

We need a three part approach. We need to be intellectually engaged ourselves. We need to be intentional about marrying well and raising up young people who are intellectually engaged. And we need to study hard subjects so we can be good earners, and support the right kinds of operations. We can’t just do whatever makes us feel good, willy-nilly, and then hope that things will work out – we have to work at this.

Is there a Tea Party faction within the Christian Church? Who is it?

Did someone say "Tea Party?"
Did someone say "Tea Party?"

Consider this report by a non-Christian who attended the recent “On Guard” conference in Dallas, Texas. (H/T Melissa of Hard-Core Christianity)

Excerpt:

Over the weekend, I attended the On Guard Conference 2010, a Christian apologetics conference. Before you read any further I must quickly explain my history with Christianity.

Back in high school, I was holy rollin’ like a 80-year-old on a Rascal. I  knew for sure I was going into the ministry and was entirely prepared to spend the rest of my life in the service of God. Several things happened about which I would write a book (and might one day). The short version is, my church was populated with small-minded, bigots. The church split twice and once because of a situation I was involved in. A poor black woman living out of an old rusted mustang barely survived two lots down while the church sent money to missionaries in Honduras. By the time the church had sucked my soul from me and spit me out, I turned my back on it all.

Fast forward to now. I have two children and I live in Texas. They will be exposed to Christianity in some form. We visited many churches (and synagogues since they are technically Jewish) and nothing appealed to me. The primary problem I have is that traditional worship is a broken record, especially when handled by Southern Baptists. There is only so much of the same catch-phrases, slogans, and cliches I can take before I hit toxic cynicism. The other problem I have is with modern worship. There is only so much canned slides, unfamiliar songs, and slick (but only re-purposed traditional) sermons I stomach. Where others claim tradition, I claim “rut”. I was on the other side long enough to see all of these things as meaningless.

I kept myself at such a distance from religion for so long, that aplogetics is entirely new to me. Christian apologetics is a discipline (and I would argue a culture as well) within Christianity where Christians defend their faith through logic, reason, and even science. Yeah, I know, sounds crazy. But here’s the kicker:

In my entire life, not once have I ever seen or heard a Christian say these words: “I’m not afraid for anyone to question me about my faith. I have nothing to hide [intellectually].”

Keep in mind, growing up Southern Baptists means growing up knowing very little about your own faith and spending time around other people who are openly hostile to those who don’t believe the same way.

For me, I don’t know what I believe anymore. I feel burned by a long history of disappointments by my own faith. In a nutshell, God to me is very similar to my own father. He came around, did his business and is long gone. I don’t and probably will never believe God is much more than a designer who set up some sophisticated systems that still work today but has moved on to other interests. I frankly think it’s absurd to believe God takes the time to help somebody have the strength to make it through a job interview while somewhere else around the world a child is sold into a life of sex slavery. But I digress.

So my attendance at the conference is me intrigued by the kind of intellectual topics presented because that’s not the Christianity I know or see on TV.

He summarizes the conference and then ends with this:

So the conference was great. So great in fact it occurred to me if actual mainstream Christianity was like that instead of the feelings-based judgment frontal assault I grew up with, I might have never left the church. However, the conference seemed to be geared toward two types: believers (meaning Christians who want to defend their faith) and atheists, who comprise the main apologetics boogie man. “Atheist” was used constantly to refer to the kind of people they needed to stay prepared for.

As a guy who lost his faith long ago, I never doubted God’s existence.  However, since I think he is a deadbeat dad, I have many questions and am looking for meaning without being convinced God is real. My struggle with faith has lasted me about 25 years. I would like to have seen a session on reconciling the Bible as a whole. For instance if Intelligent Design is really using science as I heard, how do they address the Adam and Eve question? I also would like someone like Dr. Moreland to discuss why he gets three angels and conversations with God directly when clearly God never bothered with me to begin with.

The premise on which they build many of their arguments is their belief. I don’t have that. So while I enjoyed the conference overall, I walked out of there with more questions. But isn’t that kind of the point? For the first time in over two decades, I felt mentally stimulated by a religious event. In that, I’m intrigued.

And what do we learn from this?

Well, I will try to be civil, but what I really want to do is rant against the postmodernism, irrationality, mysticism, pietism, relativism, inclusivism, universalism, hedonism, etc. that has got us to a point where something like 70% of young Christians who grow up in the church abandon it as soon as they go off to college. The church is a club that is run by people who want nothing to do with the honest questions of people who are less interested in feelings, intuitions, amusement and community and more interested in truth. And we are failing these honest questioners, because we are too busy having fun and feeling happy.

I have a very good idea of why the church is losing all of it’s young people. And we need a tea party revolution in the church to get people to come back.

So here’s my stand:

  • The church believes that belief in God’s existence is divorced from logic and evidence, but I believe that God’s existence is knowable, rational and supported by publicly-accessible evidence
  • The church thinks that people become Christians because they like Christianity, but I believe that people become Christians when they think Christianity is true
  • The church believes you can seek happiness without caring about the moral law, and their job is to make you feel accepted no matter what you do, but I believe that we need to set out clear moral boundaries and explain to people using non-Biblical evidence what damage is caused if those boundaries are broken
  • The church believes that reading the Bible and attending church as therapeutic, but I think that the Bible and church are for clarifying my obligations in my relationship with God and for setting out the broad goals that I will use when I develop my life plan to meet those goals by solving problems using my talents in the way that *I* think is most effective – and my plan doesn’t involve making you feel happy, by the way
  • The church thinks that the Christian life consists of singing, praying and not disagreeing with anyone or thinking that we are right about anything, but I think we should get off our duffs and start studying to think about how our Christian convictions apply to the world around us in every area of life, from politics to economics to foreign policy to marriage and parenting and beyond
  • The church believes that Christianity is true for them while other religions work for other people, but I believe that religions are assessed by whether they are true or not – and that other religions can be mistaken where they make false claims
  • The church believes that evangelism is done without using apologetics or focusing on truth, but I think we should all be prepared by watching debates, holding open forums, hosting speakers and conferences, and generally training ourselves to engage with the outside world in the realm of ideas
  • The church thinks Christianity is a faith tradition, but I think Christianity is a knowledge tradition

Anyway, check out these other posts for more snarky defiance.

Mentoring

Apologetics advocacy

Why does God create people who he knows will choose Hell?

It’s Bill Craig’s question of the week, and I think this is a legitimate question.

Here’s the question:

In your debate with Victor Stenger, he advanced the argument that God could not logically be a perfect being and creator of the universe. In response you stated that God does not create because of anything lacking in Himself, but because the creation of the universe benefits man, because he can come to know God and have a loving relationship with Him. I was just wondering, how does this square with the Christian doctrine of Hell? If Christ is the only way to God, and unbelief is punished by eternity in Hell, it seems likely that the vast majority of people, or at least a good number, will end up in Hell. In what way could we say that creation benefited these people? The doctrine of Hell has always been one of my major problems with Christianity, and it was my main reason for becoming an atheist.

And you can click here for Bill’s answer.

And you can find the Craig vs. Stenger debate right here for free. I keep the DVD in my office, because it’s a good debate.

UPDATE:

Here is Matt Flannagan’s answer:

The question why does God create people who he knows will go to hell seems to me to make some mistakes.

It assumes that it’s wrong to do something which one foresees will result in ruin for another. But one does not have to think far to see this is a mistake. Suppose a person told me that if I did not have an affair with her she would kill herself. i refuse and she kills herself. Am I guilty of murder? It seems to me not for two reasons, first although I foresaw the result I did not cause it she caused it by her actions hence I did not kill her. Second, the alternative in this instance did involve me causing something evil, it involved me causing an act of adultery and disloyalty.

Take this to the hell case, God foresees that others will freely do something which results in their damnation that does not mean he causes this action and so is not culpable. Second, the alternative to this would be to not create this person or this world and the question is whether this would be a better state of affairs, its not obvious it would be.

Moreover I am inclined to think this argument proves too much. As a parent I know that my child will at some point lie, sin and do bad things, does it follow that parents should be held accountable for their children’s actions and can’t justly punish them? After all they could have refrained from having Kids.

He’s a prominent Christian debater from New Zealand who debates the same sort of people as William Lane Craig does.

Related posts

MUST-HEAR: Brian Auten explains why Christians ought to learn apologetics

A super 20-minute podcast from Apologetics 315.

The MP3 file is here. (20 minutes)

PDF Transcript here.

Topics:

  • what is the definition of apologetics?
  • what do you mean by defense? a testimony?
  • what is the goal of apologetics?
  • does apologetics create belief? should it?
  • what are offensive and defensive apologetics?
  • should Christians fear intellectual opposition to Christianity?
  • is apologetics good for believers?
  • does apologetics help you to be more confident when witnessing?
  • what was the role of apologetics in the Bible?
  • what was the role of apologetics in the early church?
  • was apologetics central or peripheral to Paul’s ministry?
  • does the Bible present Christianity as personal preference or public truth?
  • did Jesus appeal to objective evidence to get people to believe him?
  • is there a requirement for all Christians to make a defense of their faith?
  • should Christians care if non-believers have false beliefs about God?
  • does the Bible need to be defended? What does the Bible say about it?
  • Is an intellectual approach to evangelism antithetical to faith?

My posts on apologetics advocacy are here:

    These were all quite popular when they were originally posted, so it’s good to re-post them.

    Actual arguments and counter-arguments are here, if you want to know the basics. Debates and lectures are here to see how this gets used. Most Christians never even dream that their faith can be debated at Harvard or Columbia or Oxford!

    Christianity is a knowledge tradition. It’s not a feelings tradition.

    UPDATE: If you’re really good at apologetics, you can debate the top atheists in public, and say things like this:

    (The full debate is here)

    How childhood experiences shape our view of economics

    Last time, we looked at how childhood experiences influence our views of religion. This time, I want to go over an article from the Cato Institute from the famous Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick. This article will give you insights into why leftist academics are against capitalism, and what specifically causes them to have that belief.

    Here’s a blurb about Nozick:

    Robert Nozick is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University and the author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia and other books. This article is excerpted from his essay “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?” which originally appeared in The Future of Private Enterprise, ed. Craig Aronoff et al. (Georgia State University Business Press, 1986) and is reprinted in Robert Nozick, Socratic Puzzles (Harvard University Press, 1997).

    Nozick’s thesis is that the school environment encourages “wordsmith intellectuals” to be hostile to free market capitalism and prefer centralized systems.

    First, let’s see what a wordsmith intellectual is:

    By intellectuals, I do not mean all people of intelligence or of a certain level of education, but those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors. It does not include those who primarily produce and transmit quantitatively or mathematically formulated information (the numbersmiths) or those working in visual media, painters, sculptors, cameramen. Unlike the wordsmiths, people in these occupations do not disproportionately oppose capitalism. The wordsmiths are concentrated in certain occupational sites: academia, the media, government bureaucracy.

    Nozick’s argument is that wordsmiths oppose capitalism because the free market doesn’t provide them with the rewards and adulation from authority figures that they received in their school years.

    He writes:

    Schools became the major institution outside of the family to shape the attitudes of young people, and almost all those who later became intellectuals went through schools. There they were successful. They were judged against others and deemed superior. They were praised and rewarded, the teacher’s favorites. How could they fail to see themselves as superior? Daily, they experienced differences in facility with ideas, in quick-wittedness. The schools told them, and showed them, they were better.

    The schools, too, exhibited and thereby taught the principle of reward in accordance with (intellectual) merit. To the intellectually meritorious went the praise, the teacher’s smiles, and the highest grades. In the currency the schools had to offer, the smartest constituted the upper class. Though not part of the official curricula, in the schools the intellectuals learned the lessons of their own greater value in comparison with the others, and of how this greater value entitled them to greater rewards.

    But what happens when these pampered wordsmith intellectuals hit the job market?

    The wider market society, however, taught a different lesson. There the greatest rewards did not go to the verbally brightest. There the intellectual skills were not most highly valued. Schooled in the lesson that they were most valuable, the most deserving of reward, the most entitled to reward, how could the intellectuals, by and large, fail to resent the capitalist society which deprived them of the just deserts to which their superiority “entitled” them? Is it surprising that what the schooled intellectuals felt for capitalist society was a deep and sullen animus that, although clothed with various publicly appropriate reasons, continued even when those particular reasons were shown to be inadequate?

    So, what economic system do wordsmith intellectuals advocate for instead of capitalism?

    The intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated. By incorporating standards of reward that are different from the wider society, the schools guarantee that some will experience downward mobility later. Those at the top of the school’s hierarchy will feel entitled to a top position, not only in that micro-society but in the wider one, a society whose system they will resent when it fails to treat them according to their self-prescribed wants and entitlements.

    Intellectuals can’t make money degreez in Marxist Studies, Peace Studies, or <Insert_Victim_Group_Here> Studies. And yet, they feel entitled because of their classroom experiences. So, the answer is to confiscate the wealth of the productive entrepreneurs and redistribute them to the intellectuals.

    But there are further unrelated points I must add to this article.

    What makes people less religious the more educated they become?

    OK, if you watch the debate between Peter Atkins and Bill Craig, or Lewis Wolpert and Bill Craig, etc. then it’s pretty clear that these “intellectuals” have not rejected God for intellectual reasons. On the contrary, they rejected God based on the reasoning of a 12 year old and never bothered to look for answers since they were 12.

    The real reason that more educated people reject God is due to pride. Specifically, they do not want to be identified as believing the same spiritual things as the masses. Their great education makes them feel pressure to please their colleagues by embracing views that are different from the benighted masses.

    So, it comes down to peer-pressure. They simply don’t want to be different from their colleagues. They want to be able to look down at the benighted masses.

    What makes researchers support socialist dogma and pseudoscience?

    Researchers are funded by government grants. Grants proposals have to get the attention of government bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are always looking for a crisis that they can sell to the public in order to increase the size of government and regulate the free market.

    Therefore, researchers tend to embrace whatever the latest Chicken Little crisis is, be it global cooling, global warming, or unsafe consumer products, etc. Grant proposals that open up opportunities for government to control the free market will get the most funding.

    What makes government-run schools and media support socialism?

    Again, government-run schools and media receive funds based on the size of government. NPR, PBS and the whole public school system can never be objective about anything. They must always side with government and against individual liberty. They also oppose competition from private alternatives like Fox News and vouchers.