Are Atheists Smarter or Simply More Self-Reliant and Self-Indulgent?

After attending Southern California universities for nine years, I was a committed atheist. Was my atheism the result of my intellectual prowess and education, or something else? One controversial study seems to imply a direct correlation between intelligence and atheism. A review of 63 studies of intelligence and religion from 1928 to 2012 allegedly reveals the following: non-believers, on average, score higher than religious people on intelligence tests. I think there may, in fact, be some truth in this discovery, but non-religious people should hesitate before they start celebrating. I think folks with higher IQ’s may be more inclined to reject God, not because they’re better able to assess the evidence and draw reasonable inferences, but because they are far more likely to reject any authority other than themselves.
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What Does It Mean to Possess A Forensic Faith?

We have a duty to know what we believe and why we believe it so we can give an answer, contend for the faith, and model Christian case making for the next generation of believers. Are you ready? If someone challenged you with a few simple objections, could you make a case for what you believe?

The adjective forensic comes from the Latin word forensis, which means “in open court” or “public.” The term usually refers to the process detectives and prosecutors use to investigate and establish evidence in a public trial or debate. You seldom hear the word attached to our traditional notions of “faith,” but given what I’ve already described in this chapter, it seems particularly appropriate when describing the kind of faith Jesus expected from His followers. Jesus did not affirm the notion of “blind faith,” and He didn’t ask us to believe something unsupported by the evidence. Consider the following definitions of “faith”:

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Christian Worldview: What Does It Mean to Be “In the World” but Not “Of the World”?

Some time ago, my wife and I watched an episode of a comedy series hosted on Netflix. Within a few minutes we became increasingly uncomfortable with the language and content of the humor. Don’t get me wrong, it was hilarious, and as a cop, crude, vulgar humor has been a part of my everyday experience for over two decades. But as we sat there watching this particular episode, we both had a growing sense that the show was somehow “desensitizing our sensibilities”. We started to feel… “dirty”. We turned off the laptop; watching any further only demonstrated our tacit approval and we wanted to stop before our worldview had been permanently altered.

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How to Be a “One Dollar Apologist” (What I Learn Each Year at CIA)

We are less than a month away from the CrossExamined Instructor’s Academy (CIA) in Dallas, Texas. CIA is an intense three-day program that teaches students how to present the case for Christianity. Students spend three days learning how to present the case for truth, God, miracles and the New Testament. They make their own presentations and learn how to answer questions about these topics in a hostile environment. I participate each year as an instructor, along with folks like Frank Turek, Greg Koukl, Richard Howe, Brett Kunkle, Sean McDowell, and Bobby Conway. It is a powerful (and busy) three days, and I highly commend the experience to anyone who is serving the Christian community as a Case Maker and wants to become better at their craft.

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Are Near-Death Experiences for Real?

Remember all those books about people who died, went to heaven, and then returned to life with stories of their celestial vacation? They were referred to as “heaven tourism” books, and whether or not you are one of the millions of people who read one, you have to wonder. Are these Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for real or figments of over-active imaginations?

If you go by the immense popularity of books like Heaven Is for Real, a multi-million-selling book about a boy who dies and goes to heaven and comes back, the least you can say is that people are very curious about this question. They want to know if NDEs are for real, and by implication, if heaven is for real. Here’s our quick response.

If the historic words of Jesus, who actually died and came back to life, are not enough to convince someone that heaven is for real, why would the words of a little boy do the trick? Do the subjective words of everyday people carry more weight than the Bible? Maybe we’re being a little harsh. Personal experiences count for something, and millions of such experiences can’t be dismissed out of hand. Something is going on.

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Volitional Resistance to Christianity Often Masquerades as Rational Opposition

In another blog post I offered three reasons why people typically reject a truth claim. Sometimes folks simply have rational doubts based on the evidence, some people have doubts that are purely emotional, and others deny the truth for volitional reasons. Until the age of thirty-five, I rejected the claims of Christianity (and theism in general). As an atheist, I adamantly identified myself in the first category of skeptics: I was a rational objector. When asked about my resistance, I repeatedly told people it was based on the lack of convincing evidence for Christianity and an abundance of evidence supporting naturalistic processes (like evolution). After examining the evidence and changing my mind, I revisited my prior opposition and realized much of my resistance was simply a matter of volition. At some point I had to ask myself, “Am I rejecting this because there isn’t enough evidence, or because I don’t want there to be enough evidence?”

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Your Students Are Willing to Delay Gratification, If You Are

I’ve been writing this month about my experiences at Summit Worldview Academy and the nature of student training. There are a number of similar worldview programs around the country (including the Impact 360 Institute), and I’m always impressed to see how many students are interested in this kind of intensive preparation. To be sure, there are always some students at these conferences who are present because their parents demanded their attendance, but these young people are always in the vast minority. Most students come (and put themselves through the rigorous material) because they heard about it through a friend who highly recommended the experience. And while there are some fun opportunities to hike, relax and play games along the way, these activities (commonly associated with youth group retreats) are typically few and far between at worldview camps. Students are here to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They’re far more interested in learning than lounging. Youth pastors can glean something from worldview academies.
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Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity (refer, for example, to the ongoing research of the Pew Research Center, including their 2015 study entitled, America’s Changing Religious Landscape). When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning. The brilliant thinker and writer C. S. Lewis was prophetic when he called for a more intellectual church in 1939. On the eve of World War II, Lewis drew a parallel between the challenges facing Christianity in his own day and the challenges facing his country as war approached:

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How Do You Explain the Trinity?

You have probably heard some illustrations that are supposed to help explain the Trinity. One of the most common examples is the egg. Everyone knows an egg has three elements: the yoke, the white, and the shell. Each element is distinct from the other, yet they all combine to make up an egg. Just like the Trinity, right? Well…not really.

Yes, all three elements of the egg make up the egg, but each element by itself isn’t an egg. You can’t isolate the shell and say, “This is an egg.” The next time you have guests for breakfast, try scrambling up a couple of eggshells for them. We guarantee they will think you’re one egg short of a full omelet.

The shell is part of the egg, but separated from the other two parts, it isn’t truly an egg. By comparison, if you isolate Jesus or the Holy Spirit or God the Father and say of each one, “This is God,” you would still be right. They are all God, but they are not each other. Jesus is equal to God, but He isn’t God the Father. The Holy Spirit is equal to Jesus, but the Holy Spirit isn’t Jesus.

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God’s Hiddenness Is Intended to Provoke Us

Many of us have moments in our life when God’s presence and providence seem obvious, but there are also many times when God seems far away and “hidden”. In fact, the “hiddenness” of God is a common objection to His existence. As a skeptic, I often wondered why God didn’t make Himself known in a visible, tangible way. Why doesn’t God appear to us in a public setting to end all doubt about His existence? I’ve written about this objection, and I believe the answer lies in God’s desire to provoke us; His desire to elicit a true, loving response from His children. This goal of producing something beautiful (a genuine, well-intentioned, loving response), requires Him to hide from us.

Let me try to offer an analogy. Most of us, would be offended if someone described us with the colloquial term: “gold digger.” This expression is typically used to describe “women (predominantly young and attractive), meeting wealthy men in hope to get monetary gains and increase their social status.” When someone uses this term, it is nearly always as a pejorative; it’s not good to be a “gold digger”. Why is this the case? Because “gold diggers” are in relationships for the wrong reasons. Rather than truly loving the men whom they’ve married, they love the wealth, power and position these men can offer. If I were a wealthy, powerful, or famous man, I would be very careful when selecting a mate. I would hate to find myself asking questions like, “Would she want me if I was just another ‘average’ guy? Would she still love me as a person if I hadn’t overwhelmed her with my money and fame?” I bet powerful men occasionally wonder about such things.

God knows all of us can be similarly misguided in our affections, even when it comes to our love of Him. He also understands the degree to which He is “powerful, wealthy and famous,” and He doesn’t want us to be in a relationship with Him for the wrong reason. The Bible provides several examples of men and women who have been in the presence of God, only to realize His true power, majesty and glory. In fact, in every case, those who were exposed to God, even for only a moment, were overwhelmed:

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