Is God Real? The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design Inference

Of all the arguments related to the existence of God, the argument from the appearance of design is perhaps the most intuitive and visual. As we examine and observe the complexity (and inter-connectivity) of biological systems, we can’t help but come away with the impression these organisms and cellular micro-machines have been carefully crafted by a master artist. One such complex micro-machine has been heralded above all others in teleological arguments for the existence of God. Bacterial flagella remain a mystery to scientists who recognize them as a marvel of machine-like precision. Harvard biophysicist, Howard Berg, has publicly described the bacterial flagellum as “the most efficient machine in the universe.”  Is God real? The bacterial flagellum is best explained by God’s existence as the Intelligent Designer of biological systems.

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Is there Proof for Jesus as Messiah?

God promised the nation of Israel that he would raise up a descendant from King David who would one day establish a righteous throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Hebrew word Messiah, the equivalent of the Greek Christ, actually means “Anointed One.” And it was this person who would usher in God’s eternal kingdom on earth.

More than 400 years before Jesus was born there existed over 60 major Old Testament prophecies about this coming Messiah, made over hundreds of years. This is of great historical and spiritual significance, because it is the Messiah who Isaiah prophesied would one day

remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mocking against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:7-8).

The Evidence of Prophecy

Of course Jesus did claim to be the “Anointed One.” But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the “Anointed One” would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.

It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, “How will we know who the Messiah is?” Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.

God begins by saying, “You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

“But God,” we protest, “Abraham’s descendants will be many!”

“Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael” (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).

“That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?”

“Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage” (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).

“But—”

“I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).

“Won’t that still be a lot of people? Again, we may not recognize him when he comes.”

“Don’t worry! Look for him in the family line of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:23-32). “And from the house and lineage of Jesse’s youngest son, David” (  Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 3:23-31). “And then I will tell you where he will be born: Bethlehem, a tiny town in the area called Judah” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).

“But how will we know which person born there is the Messiah?”

“He will be preceded by a messenger who will prepare the way and announce his advent” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-2). “He will begin his ministry in Galilee” (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-17) “and will teach in parables” (Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35), “performing many miracles” (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35).

“Okay, that should help a lot.”

“Oh,” God responds, “I’m just getting warmed up. He will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2; Luke 19:35-37) “and will appear suddenly and forcefully at the temple courts and zealously ‘clean house’ ” (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:1; John 2:15-16). “Why, in one day I will fulfill no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier about him! Listen to this:

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Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor Academy

This past weekend I got to hang out with Frank Turek, a dear friend, co-laborer and mentor. Frank is the author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, and he was here in our neck of the woods teaching several services at a large local church. Susie and I joined him afterward and we spent the better part of two days together. We ate some barbeque, ran through the local woods (we found out Frank runs faster than we do), and talked about our work and passion to train Christians to think critically about what they believe. Frank does more than train Christians, however. Frank trains trainers.

Frank’s been a teacher and cultural influencer for years, but in if you want to impact your culture exponentially, you’ve got to multiply your own efforts by creating additional trainers. That’s exactly what Frank does every year at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA). Frank has assembled a team of speakers and thinkers to help him train up the next generation of Christian Case Makers. This three day experience isn’t for beginners. It’s for people who have already started to step out and teach apologetics in their local churches and communities.  CIA will teach you how to present I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, including four categories critical to Christian Case Making: Truth, God, Miracles and the New Testament. You’ll also learn how to answer questions about those topics in a hostile environment. During these three days, in addition to hearing lectures and participating in discussions, participants will be asked to present a portion of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and answer questions from the instructors. Like last year, I am part of the CIA faculty, along with Frank, Greg Koukl, Dr. Richard Howe, Brett Kunkle and Ted Wright.

If you’re a tent-making Case Maker, I think you should come and be a part of this incredible opportunity for the following reasons:

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Is God Real? God is the Best Explanation for Objective Moral Laws

We live in a world populated with self-evident, objective, transcendent moral laws. “It’s never OK to torture babies for fun” or (my new favorite from a blog reader) “It’s never OK to torture non-believers just because you don’t like them?” are two examples of such transcendent laws. How do we account for laws such as these? Their existence points to a reasonable inference: the existence of a Transcendent Moral Law Giver. But there are other alternatives typically offered by those who reject the existence of such a Being. Is God real? The insufficiency of the alternative explanations strengthens the argument for the existence of God:

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Did Jesus Prove He was God?

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and the only way to God. And he wasn’t being arrogant about it. But did he actually give proof that he was God? How did he back up his claim to deity?

Jesus’ disciples were having a little difficulty understanding just who their Master was and what he was really up to. So he made this statement: “Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of what you have seen me do” (  John 14:11). Here Jesus was appealing to both his authoritative teaching on the kingdom of God and his many miracles in order to substantiate and verify he was in fact God in human form. In regard to miracles, he was in effect saying, “You are finding it hard to believe that I am God in the flesh—well, look how I as creator of all things have complete command of the forces of the universe—the weather, the human body, gravity, life, and death.”

Listen to these words: “I have a greater witness than John,” Jesus said, “my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me” (  John 5:36). “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me” (  John 10:25 niv). Jesus’ miracles became credible proof that he was who he claimed to be. So let’s look at a few miracles he performed.

But first, what actually is a miracle? It can be defined as a religiously significant intervention of God in the system of natural causes. Some people contend that miracles cannot occur because it is impossible to violate the laws of nature. But those who make this contention assume that nothing exists outside of nature. They believe we live in a closed system.

However, if God exists as the Creator of the universe, then he exists outside of the laws of nature he created. He can thus step into his creation and intervene as he wills. And he has. He entered the sphere of humanity by taking on human form in the person of Jesus. And to give us evidence he was God, Jesus performed miracles.

Here are examples of his miracle-working power from the New Testament, which documents that he was able to: 

  • calm a storm (see Matthew 8)
  • make a mute person speak (see Matthew 9)
  • feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish (see Matthew 14)
  • cast out demons (see Mark 5)
  • walk on water (see Mark 6)
  • bring sight to the blind (see Mark 10)
  • make a fig tree wither up by cursing it (see Mark 11)
  • foretell the future (see Mark 14)
  • heal a paralyzed man (see Luke 5)
  • raise a boy from the dead (see Luke 7)
  • heal incurable hemorrhaging (see Luke 8)
  • cleanse lepers (see Luke 17)
  • turn water into wine (see John 2)
  • make the lame walk (see John 5)
  • forgive sin (see John 8)
  • raise a man from the dead (see John 11)
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Good Case Makers Are Good Care Takers

As a Christian apologist (a.k.a. Christian Case Maker), I get the chance to travel and meet other Christian Case Making leaders around the country. Many of my fellow Case Makers are Chapter Directors for Ratio Christi (Latin for ‘The Reason of Christ’), a global movement equipping university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. I’ve visited a number of Ratio Christi (RC) chapters, where I’ve been asked to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels in large, open-campus events. Ratio Christi is a relatively new movement on university and college campuses across the nation, but it has grown exponentially. RC directors are an essential factor in this growth. Last Monday, I spoke at the Rutgers Chapter of Ratio Christi. It’s a passionate, engaged group of smart, winsome students, led by a fantastic Director, Julie Miller. Over the past two weeks, as I’ve interacted with the group on Skype and met everyone personally, an important characteristic of Case Making became obvious. Julie is a competent, well-trained Case Maker (she earned an MA in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, graduating with highest honors), but beyond that, she possesses an important attribute: Julie Miller is a mama bear. More than simply a good Case Maker, Julie is a naturally gifted Care Taker.

Most of us who are interested in Christian Case Making are familiar with the key passage animating our desire to defend the truth: 1Peter 3:15. But we typically focus on the words in this verse describing the importance of knowledge and study, while reading past the rest of the verse in its context:

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Is God Real? Common, Objective Moral Standards Are an Evidence of God’s Existence

The Axiological Argument for the existence of God relies on the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths (i.e. “It’s never morally permissible or virtuous to torture babies for fun”). But not everyone agrees these truths exist in the first place, even though they often seem self-evident. Many who do accept the existence of transcendent moral truths still deny a transcendent moral truth Giver. Some skeptics believe these moral truths come from our evolutionary development as a species, are embedded in our DNA, or are simply a matter of social convention. If this is the case, moral truth is relative to the individual making the claim. Moral relativism is, however, difficult to actualize consistently. Those who argue against the existence of transcendent, objective moral values, typically advocate for such values when push comes to shove (especially when they’ve been victimized). We accept many values and mores as if they were transcendently true, even as we might deny the existence of such overarching truths. Is God real? Our common acceptance of an objective moral standard is yet another evidence of God’s existence.

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Was Jesus a Real Person?

In recent years some people have questioned the actual existence of Jesus. Some claim that the idea of a Savior was manufactured by certain people and it ended up becoming a religion.

The problem with this thinking is that there are simply too many biblical and extra biblical writings that attest to the real person we know as Jesus Christ, who lived and died in the first century.

An Untenable Idea

First, it is absurd to believe that in the first century thousands of people would devote themselves to a person who never existed. By AD 100, about 65 years after Jesus had been on earth, there were some 25,000 people who called themselves Christians—named after Christ who they believed in. Many of these Christ-followers were persecuted not just by governments but by family and friends. Some even gave up their lives as martyrs for this person. Would so many people do this for a person who had never lived? And within 200 years (AD 300) the faithful band of Jesus-followers grew to over 20 million.   It is inconceivable that such a large following would have lasted had it been based on a phantom Christ.

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Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel Eyewitnesses

Christian leaders have been preaching Easter messages for over two thousand years. In fact, the first Christian leaders were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and their message was, in large part, simply their eyewitness testimony. In the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles preached in a variety of geographic locations and cultural situations. Wherever they went, they shared the case for the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses built their case directly upon their own personal experiences with the Risen Christ. Thousands of years later, pastors and Christian leaders are still preparing Easter messages, and the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is still critically important.

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How Can You Trust Christianity Is True If You Haven’t Examined All the Alternatives?

I’ve had the privilege to speak on university campuses across the country, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the truth of the Christian Worldview (I’ll be at Rutgers next Monday night). One of the most common questions asked in the Q and A is something similar to: “Have you taken the time to apply the same approach with all the other religious worldviews?” Sometimes people ask this question because they are curious about how well other ancient religious claims (or alleged eyewitness accounts) hold up under investigative scrutiny. But many times this question is followed by a more pointed objection: “How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives?”

Given the large number of spiritual claims circulating across the globe (and throughout history), why should we conclude one (or any) of them is true until we’ve examined all of them? At first blush, this seems like a reasonable approach, and when it’s asked by a skeptic, it’s typically offered in an effort to expose the inadequate or incomplete nature of my investigation (or some underlying bias I may have against opposing claims). Although I investigated several theistic and atheistic worldviews prior to becoming a Christian, I didn’t examine every view. Is my certainty related to Christianity therefore misplaced? Should the limited nature of my investigation disqualify or temper the case I’m presenting to skeptics and believers? I don’t think so.

In every criminal trial, the investigators and prosecutors are obligated to present the evidence related to one defendant. While the burden of proof lies with the prosecutorial team, the prosecution is not required to have examined every possible alternative suspect. If I am investigating a case in which the suspect was initially described as a white male, 25 to 35 years of age with brown hair, the potential suspect pool in Los Angeles County would be quite large; there may be hundreds of thousands fitting this description. As I make the affirmative case related to one of the men in this large group, I’m under no obligation to make the case against the others. In fact, when the jury evaluates the case and decides whether the defendant is guilty, they will do so without any consideration of the alternatives. If the evidence is strong enough to reasonably infer the defendant’s involvement, the jury will make a confident decision, even though many, many alternatives were left unexamined.

The case for Christianity is made in a similar way. While it may be helpful to examine a particular alternative worldview on occasion to show its inadequacies or errors, these deficiencies fail to establish Christianity as factual. How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives? The case for the Christian worldview must first be made affirmatively even if no other claim is examined negatively. If there’s enough evidence to reasonably infer Christianity is true, we needn’t look any further. The affirmative case will either stand or fall on its own merit, even if we’re unable to examine any other “suspect”.

The Christian worldview does not require “blind faith”. In fact, Jesus repeatedly presented evidence to support His claims of Deity and when John the Baptist expressed doubt, Jesus responded with yet another evidential display of His power. Christians are not asked to believe without evidence (or worse yet, in spite of the evidence), but to instead place their trust in the most reasonable inference from the evidence, even though there may still be several unanswered questions. Christianity is evidentially reasonable, even if we are unable to examine every possible alternative.

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