What Criminal Trials Teach Us About Objective Moral Truth

I’ve been involved in numerous criminal trials over the years, most involving cold-case murderers. In many of these cases, the outcome was influenced (in large part) by activity outside the presence of the jury. There are legal rules both sides must follow when conducting the prosecution and defense. Sometimes these rules allow one side to take advantage of the other in subtle, yet powerful ways. If a rule allows one attorney to benefit strategically (while staying within the applicable legal restrictions) most lawyers will capitalize on this opportunity to gain an advantage (so long as they are within their legal right to do so). Here, as in every part of our society, there is an important distinction between legality and morality; between what is legally permissible and what is morally virtuous. This distinction highlights God’s role in the existence of objective moral truth, as it exposes the inability of culture to provide an objective, transcendent moral law.
continue reading

Is God Genocidal?

To commit genocide is to deliberately kill a large racial, political, or cultural group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. The word genocide is a combined Greek and Latin word meaning “race killing.”

The atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi army upon the Jewish people were genocide. The Nazis rounded up and murdered some 6 million Jews between 1938 and 1945. There were over 2 million genocidal killings of Cambodians by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army between 1975 and 1979. Over a period of 100 days in 1994 perhaps 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were brutally murdered by militia of the Hutu tribe. And between 1992 and 1995 the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina committed “ethnic cleansing” by murdering over 200,000 Muslims in Bosnia. These are just a few examples of genocide humans have perpetrated on one another in recent history.

continue reading

Resources to Help You Respond to the Problem of Evil (Free Bible Insert)

I recently sat down for an interview with a host who expressed his concern about the problem of evil in our world: If there is an all-powerful, all-loving God, why would he allow evil to exist in His creation? Is He unable to stop it? If so, He isn’t all-powerful. Is He unwilling to stop it? If so, He isn’t all-loving. While I wish I’d had enough time to respond properly to the interviewer’s concerns, I recognized the sometimes daunting challenge of responding to objections of this kind. The problem of evil is multi-faceted both in its rational form and its emotional response. There are times when a reasonable explanation will suffice and times when a sensitive, empathetic ear is more appropriate.

I’ve written quite a bit about the problem of evil at ColdCaseChristianity.com, and I’ve responded to five forms of the objection. This brief summary links to the articles on the website and it is also available as a free, downloadable Bible Insert:

continue reading

If God Can’t Do Anything, Is He All-Powerful?

“Can God do anything?” I asked an audience of Christians at a recent apologetics conference. I gave my answer and offered an explanation. Apparently, my answer was not well received by everyone, as one man in the audience was so incensed that he stood up shaking his head in disgust. He turned for the exit and walked out of the auditorium, but not without glaring back at me one last time, continuing to shake his head in anger. So what did I say? No, God can't do anything.

Clearly the Bible affirms God’s power. Job 9:4 says, “His power is vast.” Psalm 24:8 refers to the Lord as “strong and mighty.” Isaiah 40:26 says that out of His “great power and mighty strength” God brought forth the universe. Don’t these passages indicate there is no limit to God’s power?

continue reading

Is God Violent?

Anyone reading the Old Testament will acknowledge that it describes
  a people who endure great tragedy and triumph, which includes
     many acts of violence. There are stories of treachery, terrorism, rape, murder, war, slaughter of the innocent, torture, enslavement, and mass killings. While the Bible documents this violent behavior, we can’t assume God always approves. But the question is, is he violent? Does he engage in violent acts?

 

Why Does God Commit Violence?

 

The short answer is yes. But unless we have a context for God’s violence, we risk misunderstanding his nature. He is merciful and loving (Psalm 103:8). He is holy and righteous (Psalm 145:17 and Revelation 3:7). He is also fair and just. “O Lord, you are righteous, and your decisions are fair. Your decrees are perfect; they are entirely worthy of our trust” (Psalm 119:137-138). “He is the Rock,” Scripture states, “his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
continue reading

Test Your Eyewitnesses, Even When the Eyewitness Is You

As a detective, I’m a distrustful person. I learned to be skeptical the hard way; I was fooled several times in my early career by convincing liars (both suspects and alleged eyewitnesses). As a result, I’ve learned the importance of testing eyewitnesses, even when they offer testimony favorable to my case. I’d much rather discover a lie early, than discover it in front of a jury under cross-examination. I’ve learned to evaluate witnesses with the four part template I developed from the jury instructions offered in criminal trials. If a witness was truly present, can be corroborated by additional evidence, has been consistent and honest over time, and lacks prejudicial bias, he or she can be trusted.

I must confess my skepticism also colors the way I see claims of religious experience. Many believers offer the personal testimony of experience. When they do this, they present themselves as eyewitnesses, and I’ve learned to be skeptical of their testimony. I have six brothers and sisters who were raised in Mormonism. Like other Latter Day Saints, when asked why they believe Mormonism is true, they offer personal testimony of religious experiences that served as confirmation of the Book of Mormon and the claims of Joseph Smith. This religious experience (whether it is described as a “burning in the bosom” or in more contemporary language) is seen as sufficient evidence Mormonism is true. But when Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are evaluated under the simple template I use to assess eyewitness reliability, they fail to withstand the scrutiny. In fact, Mormonism is demonstrably false.

Given my experience with Mormon believers, I’ve become skeptical of Christians who cite religious experience as the only evidence they can offer when defending the claims of Christianity. I’m not saying I don’t trust religious experience at all; I simply saying all religious experience must be tested:

continue reading

Did God Appear in Bodily Form Before Jesus?

The Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building (Genesis 11:5).

 

>How could God “come down” to the earth prior to him taking on human form in the person of Jesus?

 

Explanation: Prior to the incarnation—God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus—he did in fact make his presence known. Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8 niv). God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 17:1 and Genesis 18:1), Jacob (Genesis 32:1), and Moses (Exodus 3:2).

 

These appearances or manifestations of God are called theophanies. It is when God makes himself tangible to the human senses, as when Job was able to hear God in the wind (   Job 38:1), or when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. But in a more restrictive sense God has “come down” and made himself visible in the form of a man, like he did with Abraham and Jacob. Some scholars believe certain appearances of God were the pre-incarnate Christ. Other possible pre-incarnate appearances include the meeting between Joshua and the “Commander of the Lord’s army” (   Joshua 5:13-15) and the fourth man “like a son of the gods” who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:23-25). But in any case God did make appearances in tangible form prior to the appearance of the God-man Jesus.
continue reading

The True Christian Myth

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.

C. S. Lewis

Everybody loves a hero. Whether it’s a real life ordinary person who does something heroic in a moment of crisis, or a comic book superhero who saves the world from bad guys, we just love a good hero and a great heroic story. To say Jesus was a hero might seem inappropriate or even sacrilegious because Jesus wasn’t ordinary and he certainly didn’t fly around in a cape. But if you give it some thought, it isn’t all that far-fetched, especially when you consider the classic definition of a hero: “A being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.”

The idea of the classic hero has been a part of human lore, legend and literature for thousands of years. The Greek poet Homer wrote two epic poems, Illiad and Odyssey, that defined the heroic tradition in literature eight centuries before Jesus was born. Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s story, goes on a long journey following the fall of Troy in order to get home. But he doesn’t get there until he experiences a series of adventures. One of the most popular books and movies of the last century, The Wizard of Oz, is based on this heroic tradition.

continue reading

What Does the Bible Say About the Nature of Satan?

Like other claims of the Christian worldview, the existence of a subordinate, personal, evil being can be argued without relying on the Biblical record. But while it is reassuring to note our faith is reasonable and logical, natural revelation does have its limits. The clearest and fullest claims related to the nature of Satan come not from our reasoning ability, but from the Word of God. The Bible has much to say about the nature of Satan, and God’s special revelation affirms what we have already surmised from God’s natural revelation:

continue reading

The Christian Bible vs the Book of Mormon

The term Mormons is the common designation for those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1827 Mormon founder Joseph Smith claimed to be informed by an angel named Moroni about a set of gold plates buried in a hill in present-day New York. These plates were said to have ancient writings engraved on them. Smith said he uncovered these plates and then translated and published them as the Book of Mormon in 1830. So how does the Book of Mormon differ from the Christian Bible?

 

The LDS church bases its beliefs not just on the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith also claimed to have had an encounter with Jesus in which Jesus revealed many things to him. These revelations were published in the Doctrine and Covenants. The accounts of Smith’s interaction with Jesus and his story of discovering gold plates are found in a third book, entitled Pearl of Great Price. These three documents, along with the Bible, form the basis of LDS beliefs and continuing revelations. However, the LDS officially consider the Book of Mormon as the “most correct” book of scripture. Since the death of Joseph Smith in 1844 these documents have been supplemented by other revelations that the LDS church says have been given to its leaders.
continue reading
Syndicate content

Bloggers in Belief


Sign-up for the Newsletter
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Get the latest updates on relevant news topics, engaging blogs and new site features. We're not annoying about it, so don't worry.