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.
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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.

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Why “Closure” Requires A Christian Worldview

Two weeks ago the jury came back with a Guilty verdict in my most recent cold-case homicide investigation. As I began to read the press clippings and reports related to the case and the verdict, I noticed several reporters wrote about “closure”. One article cited a police official who said, “We sincerely hope that this verdict brings a moment of comfort and closure to Lynne’s family as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one (emphasis mine).” The families of the victims in my cases often start off hoping they will experience “closure” of some sort, only to find this sense of resolution elusive. As a result, I usually try to prepare the families I work with to be cautious in their expectations. Even if we are able to convict the killer, it’s likely these families will never experience “closure”. This expression is typically defined in the following way:

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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:

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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?

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Talking With Atheists: A Few Observations from Berkeley

Brett Kunkle, Sean McDowell and I have been taking students to Berkeley for several years now, creating and facilitating trips to challenge young Christians and expose them to the arguments they may eventually face in their university experience. We typically invite local atheists to join us on these trips to make the case for what they believe. In the past we’ve listened to presentations from Richard Carrier, Mark Thomas, David Fitzgerald and Larry Hicok. After each presentation we have the opportunity to engage each speaker in a question and answer session. We also spend several days on the campus of UC Berkeley, talking with students and answering their questions about the Christian Worldview. We meet with the campus atheist clubs and sometimes even engage in public forum discussions. We learn a lot from this trip, so I would like to share a few observations on what I’ve learned from our interactions.

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Talking With Atheists: A Few Observations from Berkeley

Brett Kunkle, Sean McDowell and I have been taking students to Berkeley for several years now, creating and facilitating trips to challenge young Christians and expose them to the arguments they may eventually face in their university experience. We typically invite local atheists to join us on these trips to make the case for what they believe. In the past we’ve listened to presentations from Richard Carrier, Mark Thomas, David Fitzgerald and Larry Hicok. After each presentation we have the opportunity to engage each speaker in a question and answer session. We also spend several days on the campus of UC Berkeley, talking with students and answering their questions about the Christian Worldview. We meet with the campus atheist clubs and sometimes even engage in public forum discussions. We learn a lot from this trip, so I would like to share a few observations on what I’ve learned from our interactions.

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Is Religion the Cause of Violence?

Is religion behind all the violence in the world? Is the cause of all fighting somehow rooted in religious beliefs? Some say it is.

For example, God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected that of Cain. “This,” the Bible says, “made Cain very angry” (Genesis 4:5). Later Cain killed Abel. The first act of violence among humans that the Bible records was rooted in a religious issue. Many more acts of violence have followed throughout human history that are directly or indirectly related to religion.

Author and professor J. Harold Ellens’ 2007 book The Destructive Power of Religion points to religion as the cause of violence in the world. The following web post introduces the book:

Whether they fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or Pentagon, blow up ships, ports, and federal buildings, kill doctors and nurses at abortion clinics, exterminate contemporary Palestinians, or kill Israeli soldiers with suicide bombs, destructive religionists are all shaped by the same unconscious apocalyptic metaphors, and by the divine example and imperative to violence.

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).
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