Are You a Little Weltschmerz?

Even for the most optimistic among us, the events of the past few weeks have been difficult: Social unrest, ideological clashes, political turmoil, nuclear threats, and to top it off, one of the most devastating storms in American history. Any one of these is capable of producing a knot of anxiety. But all of them at once is enough to make you more than a little weltschmerz.

Wait, what? What is weltschmerz? Not exactly a household word, weltschmerz is in fact a useful and appropriate way to describe the state many people are in right now. Coined by the German Romantic writer Jean Paul at the turn of the 19th century, it literally means “world pain” or “world weariness.” The word has been used from time to time to describe the anxiety many feel because of all the troubles in the world.

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There’s a Difference Between Evidence and Proof

Several years ago I presented a talk at the Apologetics Canada Conference in which I examined the reaction Bart Ehrman had related to the textual variants he found in the Biblical text. As he pursued his education over the years and poured over the manuscripts of the Bible, he evaluated the evidence and eventually decided that Christianity was false. Ehrman is clearly a very smart man, raised in the Church and well educated:

Bart Ehrman
Studied at Moody Bible Institute
Graduated from Wheaton College
Received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary
Former President of Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical Literature

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The Christian Difference Is the Foundation of Our Christian Duty

Christianity is distinct in the nature of its claims and the value it places on reason, intelligence, and evidence. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. Hinduism is based on the revelations of the ancient sages as revealed in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Confucianism is established from the wisdom statements of Confucius. In all these examples, the statements of these religious leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts rather than on claims about a particular historical event.

Although Christianity makes its own ideological and philosophical claims, these proposals are intrinsically connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone believe what Jesus said rather than what Buddha, the Hindu sages, or Confucius said? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it’s established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His Resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. The Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the evidential verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.

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The Wonder of Our Solar System

For about two minutes on Monday, August 21, the Great American Eclipse will darken skies across the U.S. as the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting its shadow on the planet. According to John Dvorak, a trained lunar scientist and author of Mask of the Sun: The Science, History and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses, people have always ascribed spiritual importance to eclipses. Historically, solar eclipses have been understood as powerful manifestations of God’s greatness.”

In our book, Creation and Evolution 101, we show how our own solar system, one of billions in the Milky Way Galaxy, demonstrates God’s greatness and creative power.  It has certain features that are not common to all other solar systems. Not only are these features unique, but they are also necessary for life to exist.

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Unbelievable? Does Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist Invalidate the Gospels?

In an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I spoke with two skeptics and discussed apparent contradictions in the history offered by the Gospel authors when compared to non-Christian historians. One skeptic offered an objection related to the account of the beheading of John the Baptist. Although I had difficulty hearing and understanding his words through the telephone connection and his accent, his argument can be summed up succinctly: Josephus records the death of John the Baptist at a time in history that appears to be around 36AD, six years after the date commonly accepted for the crucifixion of Jesus. If Josephus’ record is accurate, John was executed after the Resurrection of Jesus, and the gospel accounts are wrong. This objection, along with an objection about the role and dating of Quirinius in the Gospel of Luke, formed the basis for his skepticism toward the Gospel accounts.

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Jesus Was A Case Maker

The Jesus I encounter on the pages of the New Testament is a committed case maker. He didn’t expect His followers to believe what He said (direct evidence) without good reason (the support of indirect evidence). Jesus continually supported His testimony with the indirect evidence of the miracles He performed. He then made the case for the authority of His testimony from the corroborative evidence of these miracles:

John 5:36
But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I dotestify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John 10:25
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”

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Unbelievable? Is There Enough Evidence Beyond the Gospels to Make Their Testimony Reliable?

During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, a caller asked about corroboration and wanted to know if there was enough evidence beyond the Gospels to verify the reliability of their testimony. I began by helping him understand the nature of evidential corroboration and the limited information typically offered by such evidence. Every piece of corroborative evidence typically addresses (and verifies) only a “touchpoint”, a small aspect of the testimony from which we infer the “reasonability” of the larger account. Corroborative evidence is always limited; it only addresses a small aspect of the event under consideration. Even with these limits, however, the Gospels are still well corroborated. I’ve written a chapter about this in my book, Cold-Case Christianity, but here is a brief summary of the evidence “beyond the Gospels”:

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Unbelievable? Two Reasons Why Some People Reject the Reliability of the Gospels

During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I responded to the objections of two atheists who rejected the reliability of the Gospel accounts on the basis of apparent contradictions with Josephus’ record and a concern about-corroborative evidence. I’ve learned to employ a four-pronged template when assessing the reliability of a witness, and I took this approach when I first examined the Gospels as a skeptic (I was 35 years old before I became interested in the Gospel accounts). As I evaluated the Biblical text with these principles in mind, I became convinced they were a reliable record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. I understand, however, when others come to a different conclusion, and I think there are two reasons why someone might disagree about the most reasonable inference from the evidence. Before I address these two reasons, however, I want to ask you to imagine the existence of a historical account related to an ancient teacher. Imagine investigating this ancient record and discovering the following:

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If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?

In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?

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Meeting at the Square


Last month, I found myself standing in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The place dripped with historical significance. The place also seemed haunted in a "this isn't the safest place to express your badass self," kind of way. Yet, people gathered and took photos. People gathered and took time to reflect. And I think part of the mystique is that this is a place where men and women from all over the world gather to listen to their heart and learn from the past.
I have also stood in Red Square in Moscow and I have stood/sat/and lingered in Trafalgar Square in London. I have walked through and participated in the life of Times Square in NYC and I have had a coffee in the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) in Madrid, Spain. Around the world, places were kept for people to come together and simply enjoy the art of relating to one another.
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