Barcelona, Spain

When I arrived at my hotel in Spain a few weeks back, I immediately was blasted with a wall of cigarette smell. So, I looked at my paperwork to find the phrase 'non-smoking' room (which I did) and then I paused and wondered whether or not I would switch rooms. 

I asked the nice lady at the desk if there's anything that could be done about the giant ashtray I was assigned to sleep in and she said that they'd work on it. I thanked her and then went to my scheduled business meetings. When I returned, my room smelled like a perfume bottle exploded and the windows were all open. I had to smile.

And then I promptly went downstairs to the desk to thank the nice lady and her staff. And therein lies the cultural moment that if you're someone who travels, feel free to take note. Saying 'thanks' in a sincere way truly does translate in to other cultures and languages.

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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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The Moralist

Groups of People: non-followers of Jesus

·         A non-follower is by definition someone who has not given his/her life to follow Jesus.

Group 1: The Antagonist: will negate any kind of possibility of God to fit his/her own framework of possibilities.

Group 2: The Spiritualist: believes in every kind of supernatural possibility – ghosts, energy, reincarnation, etc.

Group 3: The Disinterested: never really thought about God and spends a lot of time trying not to think about mortality, God, or the meaning of life.

Group 4: The Moralist: believes that as long as they are good and people don’t actively hurt one another then God is irrelevant (if He/She exists then they will be good enough, and if not, then the world is a good place).

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Steve Jobs vs. Jesus

Steve Jobs is an icon. He has (almost) single-handedly transformed personal computing, revolutionized smart phones, created an intense market desire for the tablet computer, and changed how we shop for electronics. Few people have had the colossal business and cultural impact over the past three decades as Steve Jobs. I will never forget when my family got our first desktop Mac in 1984, and I am now looking forward to the iPhone 5 (this September…please!). I have an iPhone, iPad, and a MacBook Pro. Yes, I’m a Mac-geek. But at least I’m cool!

And I am also an evangelical Christian. You might be thinking, “So what! What on earth does being a Christian have to do with Apple computers or Steve Jobs?” More than you may think. I write books, speak publicly, and teach classes on philosophy and theology, which means I love motivating people to think deeply about the important issues of life. And Steve Jobs, one of the most powerful people of our day, has offered a secular “gospel” to our culture. My goal in this post is not to criticize Jobs (that would be foolish!), or to promote Christianity, but to contrast their respective worldviews so you, the reader, can decide what you think is true.

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Ideas and Elections

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

The preceding sentence was said by the late President John F. Kennedy and in many respects it’s the theme of this blog. My desire is to explore the power of ideas as well as the expression of those ideas. Why? Well, because I believe I am a work in progress (and maybe I am not alone) and that I live in a world that is trying to make progress. Undergirding all of this progressive optimism are ideas.

Many Christians call the systematic formulation of these ideas a ‘worldview’ and that’s not a bad phrase. But, some ideas, if we’re honest, aren’t always that clear in our head and so it’s difficult to organize them neatly and label them effectively.

Your Worldview!?

The children at the Shalom school are inspiring, and they have worked their magic on me. Without education their future isn't bright, or it wouldn't seem bright to us Westerners. In America it's stressed that if you don't finish high school then your future will be flipping burgers and digging ditches. Here finishing primary school is barely a goal, flipping burgers and digging ditches is a career, and anything more is a gift from god. When I get home from Burkina I plan on fund raising money for the Shalom school. I want those kids to have all the tools necessary for their education. Even though they'll most likely never have electricity, I want to fund raise enough money to spoil them in every other regard! Look around and be thankful for what you have. We are a a society privileged to the fullest. It takes coming somewhere like this, and working on a day to day basis with the people to truly be grateful. If you think you are, well think again.
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Understanding the New Atheism (Part 2)

In the last post we explored the nature of the New Atheism. Now, let’s consider the tactics of the New Atheists and why we must respond to their attacks.

Why the New Atheism Matters

One of the reasons the New Atheists have been so effective is that today’s students can’t think well. As Mark Bauerlein has argued in The Dumbest Generation, the dawn of the technological age that promised to produce a brighter, more intellectually sophisticated young people has had the opposite effect. This generation has grown up in a society driven by images and slogans, not carefully reasoned discourse or critical analysis. It’s not that they are incapable, or even unwilling to engage difficult issues (from my experience, I believe they are both capable and willing). They simply haven’t been trained or properly motivated. And so many fall for the shallow, emotionally charged diatribes of the New Atheists.

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A Room With A Worldview

When we say the term a Biblical worldview, do we truly mean a view of the entire world? In other words, does our ‘worldview’ stand up to the test of being more universal than cultural; more global than local?

While in Nicaragua a few years ago, I recall giving a presentation to some Christian leaders and the word ‘worldview’ didn’t translate directly. Instead, my Latin American brothers rendered it, ‘cosmo view’ and in a very real way, that made more sense than what I was trying to convey. Our worldview and in particular a Biblical one, should consist not simply of truths from our own local contexts, but truths that make sense universally. Michael Horton, in his book the Gospel-Driven Life, makes the following comment that is relevant to this discussion:

Michael HortonThe gospel is unintelligible to most people today, especially in the West, because their own particular stories are remote from the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation that is narrated in the Bible. Our focus is introspective and narrow, confided to our own immediate knowledge, experience, and intuition…
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The Attraction of Atheism

If atheism is true, and there is no God, then everything really is all about me, and what I want, and what I can get. “My will be done, not Yours.”

Put your finger on the pulse of modern culture: it throbs with “me, me, me.” Advertisements tell me: “Indulge yourself! You deserve it!” I can buy my lunch and my coffee made “my way.” I flip open a magazine, or browse the best-sellers, to find ten easy tips on how I can have what I want, right here, right now.  

Put one way, this is selfishness. But it’s spun as empowerment, self-actualization. We are told to follow our hearts, seek our deepest desires, do what feels good. Indeed, if atheism is true, there is no ultimate purpose to life, so we might as well go for self-indulgence, whether through hedonism or through constructing one’s own “meaning” in life.

Everything Labeled "Emergent"

We live in a world of labels and categories.  Everything has to fit into something.  And perhaps among the widest of these categories is the one labeled, "Emergent." 

I've been told that I'm Emergent.  Sometimes I'm asked, but recently a few people have just labeled me that.  When this issue is brought to my attention I always respond with a question, "What is your definition of Emergent?"  I had one person tell me that I'm Emergent because I used the word "journey" in a message.  Another was concerned because I did an overview of a book of the Bible (Ecclesiastes) in a talk versus going verse by verse and phrase by phrase.   I've had another person assume I'm Emergent because my churches website didn't have the exact words, "Triune God" anywhere on it (as if I don't believe in a "Triune" God simply because it's not explicitly articulate on a website).

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