Made for Another World

Another mass shooting has occurred, unleashing unspeakable grief on the victims’ families, profound sadness for the rest of us, confusion and anger for our nation. Frustration, too. Why does this keep happening? There’s a quick answer, at least for Christians, though it’s not very emotionally satisfying: broken humanity, immersed in wickedness, does bad stuff. C.S. Lewis, in his classic book The Problem of Pain, makes this point when he writes,

When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.
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A 7 Day Bible Reading Plan to Help You Study the Evidence for God

When I first began investigating the reliability of the New Testament Gospels, I found myself at an important philosophical crossroads. As I employed my skills as a cold-case detective to the claims of the gospel eyewitnesses, I grew increasingly confident in their trustworthy nature. The four-part template I typically used to assess eyewitnesses was particularly helpful in this regard. The gospels passed in every aspect of my testing (this investigative journey is chronicled in Cold-Case Christianity). But I still had a problem. Although I was convinced the authors were truly present to see what they reported (or like Luke and Mark, had access to those who were truly present), could be corroborated by outside evidence, hadn’t been altered over the years and were free of bias, I was still dismissive of the supernatural elements present in the accounts. I rejected the claims of miraculous healings and deeds, and I certainly denied the Resurrection of Jesus. As an atheist and philosophical naturalist, I believed the Gospels were a form of historical fiction; a fanciful work rooted in a few historical truths. At this point in my investigation, I decided to take one last additional step. I decided to investigate my own philosophical naturalism.

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Why the Beginning of the Universe Cannot Be Explained from “Inside the Room” (FREE Bible Insert)

I’ve learned something important in the many homicide trials I’ve worked over the years: There’s always more than one way to explain evidence. Jurors are asked to evaluate two different interpretations of the evidence they’ve been presented, and they’re usually asked to assess two completely different theories related to the crime. While the Standard Cosmological Model (describing a universe with a beginning) is still the dominant theory among cosmologists and physicists, a number of competing ideas have been offered to describe the origin of the universe. Some of these explanations would allow us to stay “inside the room” of the universe to explain its existence, others would not. Do any of these alternatives disprove the reasonable inference the universe had a beginning, however? No. Sitting in criminal trials over the years, I’ve come to recognize three critical liabilities common to faulty arguments: They are either (1) unsupported by the evidence, (2) have erroneously redefined critical aspects of the data, or (3) suffer from logical contradictions. In an effort to explain the evidence we’ve described in the universe, scientists looking for an alternative to the Standard Cosmological Argument have considered a number of possibilities over the years. They’ve asked some important questions, but their answers and explanations suffer from the liabilities I’ve observed in my criminal trials:
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The End of the World?

Throughout history there have been different “signs” that pointed to the end of the world. At least that’s how people (and by “people” we mean wacky futurists) have often interpreted them. For example:
  • In 1774, the Shakers came to America from England because they believed the thousand-year reign of Christ (called the millennium) was imminent. The Shakers were “fanatically anti-sex “ (no matter they built such great furniture), which was consistent with their end-of-the-world beliefs. After all, procreation doesn’t mean all that much if the world is coming to an end.
  • In 1970 Hal Lindsey’s prophetic guide to end times, The Late Great Planet Earth, was first published. Lindsey never actually set a date for the end of the world, but his book suggested it would take place before 1988, or forty years after Israel became a nation. The book sold ten million copies in the 1970s alone.
  • In 1978, Jim Jones ordered members of his cult to commit suicide because “it was time.” Tragically, more than 900 hundred people drank the Kool Aid.
  • In 1988 thousands of people bough a booklet entitled 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. The book went out of print on January 1, 1989, and the author hasn’t been heard from since (big surprise).
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The Inexplicable Fine-Tuning of the Foundational Forces in Our Universe

The appearance of fine-tuning in our universe has been observed by theists and atheists alike. Even physicist Paul Davies (who is agnostic when it comes to the notion of a Divine Designer) readily stipulates, “Everyone agrees that the universe looks as if it was designed for life.” Oxford philosopher John Leslie agrees: “it looks as if our universe is spectacularly ‘fine-tuned for life’. By this I mean only that it looks as if small changes in this universe’s basic features would have made life’s evolution impossible.” The foundational “laws of nature” are amazingly fine-tuned; there is very little room for alteration. The smallest modifications of these laws would completely destroy the possibility of life in the universe. Theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking says the laws of physics “appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life…The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned, and very little in physical law can be altered without destroying the possibility of the development of life as we know it. Were it not for a series of startling coincidences in the precise details of physical law, it seems, humans and similar life-forms would never have come into being.” The universe appears fine-tuned in three specific ways:

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The J. Warner Wallace Dateline Collection

Robert Dean has become a friend of mine. Over the years, Robert produced a number of television programs featuring my cold-cases, beginning with an episode of North Mission Road featuring the murder of Barbara Bradford. Yesterday, Robert sent me a link to several episodes of Dateline in which my cases were presented (Robert was the producer on most of these shows). I was grateful because I previously hosted these episodes on our YouTube Channel but didn’t want to violate NBC Universal’s copyright. So, here are links to the episodes as they are hosted on the NBC Dateline website:

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Origin of Life Conundrums Require A Divine Designer

As a homicide detective, I understand the power of alibis. When a potential suspect can prove he or she wasn’t available to commit a crime because they were occupied elsewhere, they are eliminated as a candidate for the murder. Alibis create conundrums: conditions difficult to explain based on the impossibility of simultaneous appearances. In a similar way, the relationships between DNA, proteins, enzymes, and the cell’s membrane present a biological conundrum. Those who believe life can originate in our universe without supernatural interaction (and guidance) must overcome this conundrum if they hope to account for the presence of life “inside the room” of the natural universe by staying “inside the room” for an explanation. In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe, I describe the depth of the dilemma by illustrating the process of protein formation within the cell.

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Twenty Years of Amazon

by Stan Jantz

It’s been 20 years since Amazon launched a website that changed the world. Okay, that may be overstating things a bit, but it most definitely changed my world. I was the happy owner of a large chain Christian retail stores, doing business the way booksellers had been doing business for centuries: stock a bunch of books, provide a nice environment in a good location with a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and you were pretty much guaranteed to be successful.

When was launched, I was curious, so I registered just to see how it worked. Remember, in 1995 there were no search engines, no Google, no ecommerce of any kind. Smart phones wouldn’t appear for another 12 years. There was just the Internet and email, and both were more novelties than necessities. So the notion of buying my favorite commodity through a computer fascinated me.

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In Between the Best and Worst

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens’ first line in his classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous in all of literature for a very good reason. Every person in every era in every part of the world knows what it means, even if they’ve never read the book (which applies to just about everybody, including us).

Not only is the line true, it’s disquieting. It’s one of those universal truths you acknowledge but wish were not the case: The relentless parade of human achievement that makes our lives better and longer is offset at every turn by the ongoing plight of human misery. Often, the contrast comes in a moment.

Something very good happens to you, and then you check your phone to scan the headlines and a picture of a two-year-old Syrian refugee laying face down on a beach slaps you across the face and makes your heart ache. And once again you are reminded of Dickens’ famous first line.

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Is the Apparent Fine-Tuning of the Universe Simply An Observational Phenomenon?

The just so appearance of “fine-tuning” in our universe is rather uncontroversial amongst scientists and cosmologists. Even Paul Davies (who is agnostic when it comes to the notion of a Divine Designer) readily stipulates, “Everyone agrees that the universe looks as if it was designed for life.” Oxford philosopher John Leslie agrees: “it looks as if our universe is spectacularly ‘fine-tuned for life’. By this I mean only that it looks as if small changes in this universe’s basic features would have made life’s evolution impossible.” In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe, I describe the foundational, regional and locational conditions of our universe, solar system and planet to show how they are delicately balanced and finely calibrated for life. The slightest modification of these conditions would be disastrous. The delicate requirements for the existence of galaxies, star systems, and planets capable of supporting “intelligent observers” are incredibly fragile.

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