I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

February 8, 2009

CrossExamined.org presents:

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

Dr. Frank Turek
TV Host and Award-Winning Co-Author of:
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
(Monday’s at 7 P.M. on DirecTV Channel 37 8)

Guest on:
The O’Reilly Factor,
Hannity & Colmes,
Politically Incorrect

Among the Topics Addressed:
 How Can it Be True That There is No Truth?
 Three Arguments That God Exists
 Einstein’s Evidence for The Greatest Miracle
 Dawkins and Hitchens Exposed
 Your Questions (The Presenter on the Hot Seat!)

When: Saturday, February 7, 2009
9:00-4:00 pm

Where: Grace EFC

2005 Estates Parkway, Allen, TX 75002

Info: CrossExamined.org

Don’t Miss this Unique Opportunity to Find out Why it
Takes More Faith to Be an Atheist than it does to be a Christian.

*If you would like Dr. Frank Turek to speak at your church or school then email me at ntapologetics@yahoo.com


Q&A With the Great Philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig

December 28, 2007

Another excellent Q&A with the great philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig at his website Reasonablefaith.org.

Subject: Our Grasp of Objective Moral Values


Dear Dr. Craig:

In one of your papers (“The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality”), you argue that the existence of objective morality leads logically to the conclusion that God exists. The argument seems powerful but not totally clear to me.

In that paper, you make the following claims:

To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.

But then you later make the following claims.

And could anything be more obvious than that objective moral values do exist?

The fact is that we do apprehend objective values, and we all know it. Actions like rape, torture, child abuse, and brutality are not just socially unacceptable behavior—they are moral abominations.

First, I understand that if objective moral values are rules that are right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes them to be so, then Nazi atrocities were morally wrong even though the Nazis thought they were good. But then how can you say that “we do apprehend objective values, and we all know it”? How could we “all know it” if the Nazis didn’t know it and if they destroyed or brainwashed all who disagreed with them?

Second, if we indeed do apprehend objective values, and we all know it, how can we be sure that evolution is not just making it seem to us that these values are objective? For example, most people see a young female model as more beautiful than an elderly woman. Why is that the case? A likely reason is the young model is at the peak of reproductive fitness. Her appearance (a proximate factor) is linked to her reproductive fitness (an ultimate factor) as our recognition of beauty evolves. We respond to beauty, but it is the underlying reproductive fitness that ultimately directs evolution. In the same way, our moral values (proximate factors) could be linked to our or to our group’s reproductive fitness (ultimate factors) as our recognition of moral values evolves. We respond to morality but it is the underlying reproductive fitness that directs evolution. I cannot see how one can ever recognize morality as objective if our perceptions have been colored by the inevitable link between proximate and ultimate evolutionary factors.

Dr. Craig responds:

The article you cite, Carmine, was originally a paper I presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Religion. So with respect to your first question, my phrase “we all know it” was intended to include my listeners, not any imagined Nazis. Even so, since there’s doubtless a number of folks in the AAR who give lip-service to relativism, it’s a rhetorical flourish, intended to elicit some commonality with one’s audience. It’s as if I were to say, “We all know that we must guard against terrorism”—even though the terrorists themselves would dissent from this statement!

As a matter of fact, however, I don’t think the Nazis would dissent from the statement that there are objective moral values. They would just disagree on what they are. That was the point of the quotation I read concerning Peter Haas’ book Morality after Auschwitz:

. . . far from being contemptuous of ethics, the perpetrators acted in strict conformity with an ethic which held that, however difficult and unpleasant the task might have been, mass extermination of the Jews and Gypsies was entirely justified. . . . the Holocaust as a sustained effort was possible only because a new ethic was in place that did not define the arrest and deportation of Jews as wrong and in fact defined it as ethically tolerable and ever good.

Haas’s point is precisely that the Nazis were not moral relativists or nihilists but rather objectivists who had a different value system than those of us who see all persons as intrinsically valuable. Something similar could be said of Islamic terrorists today.

So while there are nihilists around, I think you’ll have to look very hard to find them. People may give lip-service to relativism, but you’ll find that if you ask a few penetrating questions, like “So do you think child abuse is just fine morally?,” you’ll discover that people do believe in objective moral values.

Now your second question—“if we indeed do apprehend objective values, and we all know it, how can we be sure that evolution is not just making it seem to us that these values are objective?” —is somewhat misstated. For if we DO apprehend objective values and we KNOW this, then it follows automatically that we know that evolution is not just making us believe that these values are objective. (Otherwise we don’t really apprehend them or know this.) You might say, “Yes; but how can we be sure?” But it’s no part of my argument to claim certainty about these matters. There are very few matters in life about which we can be certain. All that matters is that, after thoughtfully reflecting on the question of moral values and weighing the alternatives, we come to the conclusion that, yes, objective moral values probably do exist.

What you’re really asking, I think, is, “Why should I think that objective moral values exist rather than that evolution has made me believe in the illusion that there are objective moral values?” And the answer to that question is, “Because I clearly apprehend objective moral values and have no good reason to deny what I clearly perceive.”

This is the same answer we give to the sceptic who says, “How do you know you’re not just a body lying in the Matrix and that all that you see and experience is an illusory, virtual reality?” We have no way to get outside our five senses and prove that they’re veridical. Rather I clearly apprehend a world of people and trees and houses about me, and I have no good reason to doubt what I clearly perceive. Sure, it’s possible that I’m a body in the Matrix. But possibilities come cheap. The mere possibility provides no warrant for denying what I clearly grasp.

That’s not to say that our senses don’t sometimes deceive us or that some people don’t have physical impairments that prevent them from accurately apprehending the world. But that doesn’t justify total scepticism about the veridicality of my senses. Analogously, our moral sense is not infallible, and in some people, like the Nazis, it is terribly twisted and blunted. But that’s no justification for general moral scepticism.

Now, of course, the objector’s claim here will be that we’ve got good evidence that evolution has, in fact, determined our moral perceptions and so gives us a good reason to doubt the deliverances of our moral sense. But is that true? Two issues arise with respect to this claim.

First, to infer that because evolution has programmed us to believe in certain values, therefore those values are not objective is a logical fallacy. This was the point I made in the article against Michael Ruse, when I said,

The reasoning of Ruse is at worst a text-book example of the genetic fallacy and at best only proves that our subjective perception of objective moral values has evolved. But if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then such a gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm.

The genetic fallacy is committed whenever someone tries to invalidate a view by explaining how that view originated or came to be held. People commit this fallacy, for example, when they dismiss your belief in democracy by saying, “You believe in it only because you were born in a democratic society.” That may, indeed, be the explanation of why you believe in democratic government, but that in itself does absolutely nothing to show that your belief is false. (Compare “You believe that the earth is round only because you were born in a scientific age!” Does that make your belief false?)

Your example of the aesthetic value beauty is a perfect illustration of my point. Suppose we agree for the sake of argument that evolution has programmed men to see young women as more beautiful than old women because of the selective advantage to the species of mating with younger women. Does that do anything at all to show that younger women are not in fact generally more beautiful (physically) than old women, that there is no objective difference between beauty and ugliness? Obviously not! Objective aesthetic values can exist regardless of how we come to apprehend them.

Now you might say, “All right; I see that objective moral values can exist even if we’re programmed by evolution to believe in them. But, still, why should I think that they are objective, given the evolutionary story?” The answer is, “Because you clearly apprehend them and the evolutionary story gives you reason to doubt your moral sense ONLY IF naturalism (atheism) is true.” The objection begs the question because it presupposes that naturalism is true. I agree that if there is no God, then our moral experience is, plausibly, illusory. Indeed, I said as much in my defense of premiss (1) of the moral argument:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

But why think that naturalism is true? To undermine the warrant which our moral experience gives to our moral beliefs much more must be done than hold out the possibility that naturalism may be true. In the absence of some argument for naturalism, I’m entirely within my rational rights to stick with my moral sense and accept the objectivity of the moral realm. The real issue, then, is not evolution but naturalism.

Secondly, there’s no good evidence that our perception of moral and aesthetic values has been programmed by evolution. Darwinists are extremely imaginative and creative in coming up with what are called “just so” stories in order to explain things via evolution for which there is no empirical evidence. Indeed, these stories are almost endlessly adaptable, so that they become almost irrefutable and, hence, unfalsifiable.

I take your example of why we find young female models more (physically) beautiful than old women to be the reductio ad absurdum of this approach. Why in the world should I believe that the reason I think Claudia Schiffer is more beautiful than Madeleine Albright is because the former but not the latter is closer to her peak of reproductive fitness? That strikes me as preposterous. What evidence is there that warrants so absurd a conjecture?

In fact, doesn’t the evidence point in the opposite direction? If reproductive fitness determined our appraisal of beauty, then why wouldn’t a young woman with a big nose and a harelip look as beautiful to me as a fashion model? Ugly young women are just as fertile as beautiful ones. So what selective advantage is there in being attracted to beautiful women rather than just younger women? Or again, isn’t it odd that you, a woman, agree with me that the young model is more beautiful than an old woman, since you as a woman could have no selective advantage from such an aesthetic judgement? Even if evolution programmed you to think that young men are more handsome than old men, why do you also find the young female model more beautiful (physically) than an old woman? Or again, how is it that we also recognize beautiful members of other species? We often admire a particularly beautiful Arabian horse or a champion in a dog show. How can such judgements be plausibly explained as due to evolutionary programming, since differential judgements of beauty in other animals has absolutely no selective advantage for us?

I’m sure that given their ingenuity for coming up with “just so” stories, Darwinists can figure out ways to explain away these anomalies. But why believe such stories? We should demand some pretty strong evidence for thinking that evolution has, in fact, determined our moral and aesthetic judgements. But there is no such evidence. Rather I suspect that these “just so” stories are accepted by many because on the assumption of naturalism it seems natural to suppose that our tastes have been determined by their selective advantage. But then the question arises once more: why think that naturalism is true?

December 13, 2007

From Ravi Zacharias and godandculture.wordpress.com.

“Internationally renowned Christian apologist and theologian Ravi Zacharias raised a bit of controversy in evangelical circles back in November of 2004 when he accepted an invitation to speak at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City , UT.   He chose for his subject “The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ.” I asked Dr. Zacharias recently if he were at all concerned about the potential for a Mormon becoming president in the person of Mitt Romney:

What we want is a politician who will understand the basic Judeo-Christian world view, and on the basis of that the moral laws of this nation are framed, and then run this country with the excellence of that which is recognized in a pluralistic society: the freedom to believe or to disbelieve, and the moral framework with which this was conducted: the sanctity of every individual life.

If we are looking for a minister to run this country just look back and see what havoc sometimes has happened when the church got aligned totally with the state. That’s not what we want. We want political leadership that is wise, political leadership that frames itself on the moral framework of God and recognizing that you cannot dictate political ideology to all of humanity. That’s why Jesus refused to run for office, that was not what his mission was about. His mission was to change hearts.

But as you look back at the book of Kings and Chronicles you see one difference between every king: either they followed the Lord with their whole heart and blessing came; or they turned their backs upon God and then the entailments were there. And that’s what will happen to this country.

Would we rather have someone who is a total secularist? Is that what people are asking for? Are we looking for someone who would run this the way he would run a bishoprick or something? I think we should ask the hard questions of everybody, be it Mitt Romney or anyone else and see if the framework of the value of human life and the moral framework of the Judeo-Christian world view, (which is the only moral framework under which this country could have been framed. It was not framed under a Hindu framework. It was not framed under a Muslim framework, not framed under a Buddhist or a naturalistic framework) that we are all created equal, that liberty and justice and all of those terms that I’ve given only make sense within the Judeo-Christian world view.

Created? Equal? Naturalism does not tell us we are equal. Naturalism does not tell us we are created. Liberty ? Islam does not believe in the total liberty of the individual. Equal? Hinduism believes in the caste system. The Judeo-Christian world view is the only world view that could frame this country. And so I think as we elect, we go before God and see out of the candidates who will be the best one to represent the values and at the same time be a good leader for the country whose first responsibility should be to protect its citizens.

This is a great country and the challenges we face are immense to a point where this country could be totally mangled with the onslaught of a rabid atheism ala Christopher Hitchens, Samuel Harris, Richard Dawkins, those kinds of vociferous, acerbic writers in our time who would like to strip the notion of God completely from our culture. For Sam Harris to actually say if he had a magic wand to eradicate religion or eradicate rape, he would eradicate religion tells you the kind of mindset, and his book is in the top ten bestseller list of the New York Times. There’s a rabid atheism out there and there’s a rabid Islamic extremism out there and the secularism combined with that. I’ve responded to Sam Harris in a book which will be released in the early part of next year. I’ve said to him basically his choice is not going to be between religion and secularism. His choice is going to be between Islam and Christianity. Secularism has no staying power and has proven itself in Europe today. Europe is on the decline and on the demise and it’s only a matter of time before Islam would take a foothold there unless the Christian world view reemerges.”

The Drought: A Message from God?

December 13, 2007

From Chuck Colson and Breakpoint.“Last Sunday morning during our devotional time together, Patty and I read from 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha providing food to the prophets in the midst of a famine.

Ironically, as we opened our Bibles, the local newspaper was lying on the coffee table. The headline read, “Spring Crop Reduced as Drought Fear Grows.” As everyone in America knows, there is a serious drought here in the Southeast, where Patty and I have a home—crops affected, water supplies dangerously low.

In our Bible study we were directed to read Leviticus 26:3-5, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.” Later in the study we read Amos 8:11, “The days are coming, declares the sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the Land, not a famine of food or a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

For months I have been wondering if this drought is God’s judgment. Last Sunday, I put the Bible down and said, “Okay, Lord, I get it.”

But why, you ask, would the Lord send a drought on the American Southeast? That is the Bible belt: the highest per capita church attendance in America.

Well, think about it. The Scriptures, in my opinion, do not speak to a secular nation like America; they speak to God’s people. The Old Testament was addressed to Israel; the New Testament speaks to the New Israel, the Church.

Now, I hesitate to say that God has said this or that, for fear of being presumptuous—or maybe even being dismissed as a crank. But I cannot get the thought out of my head. Sunday’s newspaper and our assigned Bible study, I suppose, could have been a coincidence, but I do not think so. I think God is speaking to the Church—notice I did not say America—today.

So what is He saying? That we have been disregarding His Word. That we have been going to church to make ourselves feel good and have our ears tickled. That therapy has replaced truth. There is more than a drought; there is a famine of reading and living by the Word of God.

I think God is telling His people to repent, to get serious about what we believe, to hunger for the Word of God, to seek holy living, and to ask God’s forgiveness.

We need to repent, as well, for not applying God’s Word, and repent for looking for a political savior while neglecting the true Savior. We need to repent for blaming our nation’s moral collapse on the gay-rights movement, or on the media, or on the politicians, and look right at the people whom God expects to know better—those who call on His name: you and I.

Thank God there are leaders who are now getting it and speaking out, like Bill Hybels, who two weeks ago publicly repented for failing to make disciples in his church. Others need to follow Bill’s lead.

Whether or not the drought is God’s judgment—and I cannot help but believe it is—I do believe He is speaking to us loudly. Turn from our smug, contented ways, and let waves of repentance sweep over our churches.

Everybody is worried today about climate change. Well, the first step in fixing it is to get on our knees.”

Atheism and the Survival of the Fittest

November 28, 2007

From David Noebel and christianworldviewweekend.com.

“Even though Charles Darwin did not coin the phrase “survival of the fittest” (that honor goes to Herbert Spencer), he did acknowledge that it was more expressive than his own phrase “natural selection.”  

The doctrine of “survival of the fittest” or “natural selection” has become a telling weapon in the hands of the militant atheists in their quest to subvert and ultimately destroy Christianity.  “This century,” writes Robert Ingersoll, “will be called Darwin’s century. . . . Write the name of Charles Darwin on the one hand and the name of every theologian who ever lived on the other, and from that name has come more light to the world than all of those. His doctrine of evolution, his doctrine of the survival of the fittest, his doctrine of the origin of species, has removed in every thinking mind the last vestige of orthodox Christianity” (World magazine, November 17, 2007, p. 38). 

Instead of orchestrating a funeral dirge for Christianity, however, Darwin’s theory fueled Hitler’s ovens and stoked Stalin’s communist empire to the tune of millions dead and missing–quite a record for a simple theory of “survival” and “origin of species.” (Incidentally, Darwin never did reveal the origin of species in his 1859 work primarily because he knew nothing of DNA, cells, and genes. (See Geoffrey Simmons’ What Darwin Didn’t Know.) 

According to Darwin, three ingredients guarantee survival and multiplicity: vigor, health, and happiness! These three are responsible for the survival and reproduction of all life. Conversely, species that are weak, unhealthy, and unhappy are eliminated in the battle for survival. 

With this in mind, have you ever wondered how atheists (who embrace Darwinian evolution) measure up to being happy and, therefore, fulfilling their part in the evolutionary scheme? Are atheists living up to their end of the bargain in propagating and improving the human species? And are atheists, with their doctrine of “no god,” offering humanity more happiness than religious believers in God? 

Two recent studies confirm the fact that religious believers in God are happier than their atheistic “religious” counterparts who believe in “no god.” (I contend that secular humanists are just as religious as I am.) If the conclusions of these two studies are valid, then atheists need to explain why they themselves won’t be eliminated as part of the unhappy throng who won’t succeed in the battle for survival. 

The first study I will highlight is a special Mind and Body issue of Time magazine (January 17, 2005) entitled “The Science of Happiness.” In an article entitled “The Power to Uplift,” the author concludes that “[r]eligious people are less depressed, less anxious and less suicidal than nonreligious people. And they are better able to cope with such crises as illness, divorce and bereavement. . . . Studies show that the more a believer incorporated religion into daily living–attending services, reading Scripture, praying–the better off he or she appears to be on two measures of happiness: frequency of positive emotions and overall sense of satisfaction with life.” The article also says that “[s]tudies show that those who believe in life after death, for example, are happier than those who do not” (p. A 46). 

The second study I draw from is a University of Chicago study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center in April 2007 that found the following: “Clergy ranked tops in job satisfaction and general happiness.” The very group that atheists feel “poisons everything” turns out to be the best friend Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has. In contrast, I don’t recall ever seeing a study that holds up atheists, atheistic philosophers, or scientists as models of happiness. Christopher Hitchens, for example, although even-tempered, seems angry and mean all the time! 

My hope is that this University of Chicago study on happiness will give modern-day militant atheist like Sam Harris second thoughts about eradicating the clergy. In his book The End of Faith, Harris actually says, “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” Harris may honestly believe that some of these dangerous propositions include: God exists, God created the heavens and the earth, God created Adam and Eve, Jesus saves, and so on. 

Fortunately, a fellow atheist evaluated Harris’ Bolshevik threat as “quite possibly the most disgraceful [comment] that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist.” We can almost hear in the shadowy distance—Ready, Aim, Fire!  Have we forgotten that Columbine High School’s two killers were wearing t-shirts celebrating “natural selection.” And Pekka-Eric Auvinen, an 18-year-old student who murdered eight fellow students at a school in Finland, wore a t-shirt emblazoned with “Humanity Is Overrated.” He is quoted as saying, “I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.” (World magazine, November 17, 2007, p. 20) 

Richard Dawkins, like Sam Harris, regards faith in God as an evil to be eliminated. According to Dawkins, “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease and many others, but I think that a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion.” (If Dawkins had simply read John Warwick Montgomery’s work on Faith Founded on Fact:  Essays in Evidential Apologetics, he would not have defined faith as belief based on lack of evidence!)  

Harris and Dawkins remind me of the radical Muslims who identify all non-Muslims as infidels and then call for their demise! (See William J. Federer’s What Every American Needs To Know About The Qur’an:  A History of Islam & The United States.) 

But let’s continue evaluating why atheists are less happy people than religious believers in God and why atheists, therefore, have a diminished chance to survive and propagate themselves. In his own words, Darwin clearly says in his Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favored Races, “The vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply” (Vol. 1, p. 96 in the D. Appleton and Company 1898 edition). 

Atheism mandates that humanity was born without design or purpose out of some blue-green foamy algae, the result of some chance explosion of non-living matter, finally settling on a god-forsaken planet in an accident-prone universe or even multiverse (an infinite number of universes). Further, this evolving speck called life ultimately has absolutely no purpose–it is a mere piece of protoplasm floating in a sea of nothingness heading nowhere. Its end is again nonexistence from which it came originally. In the meantime, its present existence (DNA) is no better or worse than a head of lettuce or a bunch of carrots, and none of mankind’s ideas (which include atheism) is any better than a chimp’s ideas (if we were only clever enough to decipher Bonzo’s ideas!). True to form, Christopher Hitchens in his recent debate with Alister McGrath at Georgetown University referred to human beings as “little more than quasi-chimpanzees.” 

On the other hand, the traditional theist (the God believer) looks upon the human race as something very special because we were created in the very image of an infinitely wise and powerful God who actually loved us so much that He was willing to give up His only begotten Son in order to give us eternal life (John 3:16). Life is a precious gift from God, planned and perfectly executed (finely tuned) in order to do what the Creator has given us to do–take care of a privileged planet called earth, take care of each other, and take care to pass on the good news of redemption to each generation. 

Dinesh D’Souza, in his powerfully argued work What’s So Great About Christianity, suggests we “imagine two groups of people–let’s call them the secular tribe and the religious tribe–who subscribe to these two worldviews. Which of the two tribes is more likely to survive, prosper and multiply? The religious tribe is made up of people who have an animating sense of purpose. The secular tribe is made up of people who are not sure why they exist at all. The religious tribe is composed of individuals who view their every thought and action as consequential. The secular tribe is made up of matter that cannot explain why it is able to think at all” (p. 16). 

And since recent studies (mentioned above) conclude that the religious tribe is much happier than the secular tribe, it should not surprise anyone that the religious tribe is surviving and multiplying while the secular tribe cannot even reproduce themselves. 

 D’Souza cites sociologists Norris and Inglehart who contend that secular [humanist] countries (i.e., Europe and Russia) are “producing only about half as many children as would be needed to replace the adult population.” D’Souza concludes “the consequence, so predictable that one might almost call it a law, is that ‘the religious population is growing fast, while the secular number is shrinking.’” 

Therefore, according to D’Souza, “It is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation.” Atheism can’t provide the means for the survival of the fittest to do its duty and move us from fish to Gish! All atheism is capable of doing is to bemoan the fact that the religious tribe is increasing while the atheist tribe is decreasing. Little wonder that out of a population of 6.5 billion human beings, only 2.36 percent are atheists (see www.CIA.gov web site’s World Factbook 2006).”

God and the Economist: Religion and Hubris

November 28, 2007

From Chuck Colson and Breakpoint.“On the eve of the new millennium, the prestigious Economist magazine published what amounted to an obituary for belief in God.

Fast forward to November 2007: The cover story of a recent issue of the magazine is titled, “In God’s Name.” In it, the editors admit that they were wrong eight years ago and tell their readers that “religion will play a big role in this century’s politics.”

What happened to change their minds? For starters, they began looking through the correct end of the telescope.

In 1999, the magazine cited the many different conceptions of God as possible evidence that, instead of man being created in God’s image, it was the other way around. They mocked God’s supposed concern for “the diet of the Jews” and the fact that Hindus depicted him as “a blue-faced flute-player with an interest in dairy-farming.”

They opined that for “one of infinite knowledge, he was strangely careless how he spread what bits of it to whom. To some he dictated the Bible; to Muhammad the Koran.”

Thus if God seemed to be “passing into history,” at least in the West, perhaps this passing was “largely his own fault.” So concluded the Economist.

This bit of hubris was explicable, if hardly justifiable: It came at the end of a decade that had seen the collapse of the Soviet Union and a global economic boom. Democratic capitalism appeared to have triumphed so completely that there was talk of “the End of History.”

While a few writers—for example, Samuel Huntington—wrote about the upcoming “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, the Economist’s writers were too busy writing about money to take notice.

Then came September 11. It was a painful reminder that secularized global elites, who live as if God does not exist, were a tiny minority. Outside of what the magazine itself called the “rarefied world of thinkers,” few people doubted God’s existence or His relevance to our lives. On the contrary, they believed that He has definite ideas about how we ought to live.

Today, the magazine agrees with Philip Jenkins that religion will probably be “the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs” in the twenty-first century—referring, as he does, to Islam. What people believe about God will guide their “attitudes to political liberty and obligation, concepts of nationhood and, of course, conflicts and wars.”

What they wrote in 1999 was as substantial as the dot.com-driven stock prices that fueled their hubris.

But because it took September 11 to make the magazine take notice, the special report skews toward religion as the source of conflict: both armed conflict and in the political arena. So, like Christopher Hitchens and his bestselling book, God Is Not Great, they grudgingly acknowledge that belief in God is alive and well. It is just if there is this God, He is the source of all evil. That is as wrongheaded as saying God was passing into history.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about what the magazine calls “the new wars of religion” and how you and I need to respond. I suppose it is good, at least, for the time being that the Economist admits its mistake: Man is, you see, inescapably a religious creature, and the failure to understand this is the worst kind of hubris and very dangerous.”

Help Your Teen Develop a Biblical Worldview

November 24, 2007

From Marc Fey and Focus on the Family.

“Teens are regularly bombarded with mixed worldview messages. What can you do to help your teen develop a biblical worldview? Here are three tips to get you started.

by Marc Fey Have you noticed that you aren’t the only one talking to your teen? I don’t mean your teen’s friends or teachers, as influential as those conversations are. No, I am talking about the people whose faces you will never see, the ones behind the thousands of advertising messages that bombard our young people every day.

I am thinking of the filmmakers, TV producers and thousands of special interest groups who know (sometimes better than Mom and Dad) that our teenagers are the future. They are working from this pragmatic belief: “Teach the teenagers how to think and you own the future.”

Thankfully, many parents are wary about the messages their sons and daughters are getting, even while realizing it’s virtually impossible to filter these messages from a teen’s experience. However, that might not be all bad. If the sheer persistence of these messages forces us as parents to teach our teenagers how to think about life and learn to filter messages for themselves, then we have given our young people the ability to think critically. And, hopefully, our teens also will be trained to defend their faith in a world increasingly hostile to family values and Christian faith.

There are not two realities, but only one reality, and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is one term that helps us understand the profound impact today’s culture has on our kids: worldview.

Just five years ago we might not have been having a conversation about society’s messages. Sure, we knew that the media influence wasn’t necessarily good for our teens, but few of us knew just how bad it was for them. There is one term that helps us understand the profound impact today’s culture has on our kids: worldview.

This term was popularized by The Barna Group’s recent research, which shockingly reported that only 9 percent of born-again Christians have a biblical worldview.

There’s a buzz around the term worldview. This is good news for parents because when we look at media issues (and the myriad of other issues facing our teens) from a worldview, we are addressing root causes of belief and behavior. Let’s start by looking at some foundational definitions for worldview.

1. Have a solid definition of worldview and biblical worldview.

To begin, we must define worldview. Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project uses the following working definition:

A worldview is a comprehensive set of truth claims that purport to paint a true picture of reality. A comprehensive biblical worldview is one that includes and fundamentally understands God’s truth claimed over every area of life. Our personal worldview is the total set of truth claims that we have bought, consciously or subconsciously, which drive our emotions and what we think and do in unguarded moments — reflecting what we believe to be really real.— Del Tackett

2. Know what is the core distinction: truth vs. lie. Answer the question, “What is really real?”

Answer the question, “What is really real?”

The first step in engaging your teen around the topic of worldview is to ask him the provocative question, “What is really real?”

I recently asked one teen this question. After his initial look of “What kind of question is that?” he realized that I wanted a sincere answer. His second look was more contemplative. At that point, I knew I had hooked him. His first answer: “I think what’s really real is what I can touch, put my hand on. I can see it, feel it, know it is real.”

Now it was my turn to say, “Hmm. Is that so?” And with that we were off on an odyssey of discussing what a worldview is and what undergirds how we think about the most important questions of life, meaning and existence. By the way, as you might have noticed from this teen’s response, it was a typical naturalist worldview. If it can’t be proven by science, then it cannot be considered definitively “real.” I followed his comment with: “Is justice real? How do I prove that?” This is why God’s Word is the source of all primary truth. Because it speaks to all the questions about who God is, who man is, what is right and other core questions of human existence, the Bible must always be the defining reference point for all primary truth.

3. Focus on the nature of God: the ultimate truth experience.

Because truth is a person, Jesus Christ, the most important component of a Christian worldview is knowing God. For this reason, we say that all truth is rooted in the nature of God. In fact, thinking like a Christian produces the most important action of all: loving God. When we think right, we do right.

For this reason (all primary truth comes from the nature of God), we see everything in life as sacred. There are no dichotomies between religious truth and other truths. It all belongs to God, and God’s truth bears on all of life. All of life.”

Marc Fey is the director of Christian Worldview Outreach and The Truth Project. For more information about helping your teen develop a biblical worldview visit Focus on the Family’s Really Real Web site.

The Bounty and Goodness of Our God: A Thanksgiving Story

November 22, 2007

From Chuck Colson and Breakpoint.

“It has become the worst drought in the history of the Southeast. The ground is parched; crops are dying. And last week, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue decided to do something about it. He urged Georgians to pray for desperately needed rain. Despite much ridicule and some protest, last week, Gov. Perdue led a prayer vigil on the steps of the State Capitol. Praying along with him were pastors from several denominations and hundreds of Georgians.

Gov. Perdue may not have realized it, but he was following in the steps of our Pilgrim fathers and mothers nearly 400 years ago: Joining together with neighbors for prayer was a familiar ritual for the Pilgrims. For example, in April of 1623—three years after the first Pilgrims landed—the transplanted Englishmen and women planted corn and other crops. A good harvest was essential to their survival. But in the weeks following the planting, it became clear that a dry spell was turning into a drought.

Pilgrim father Edward Winslow recorded their distress in his diary. “It pleased God, for our further chastisement,” he wrote, “to send a great drought; insomuch as in six weeks . . . there scarce fell any rain.” The crops began to shrivel up “as though they had been scorched before the fire . . . God,” Winslow wrote, “which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in His anger to arm Himself against us. And who can withstand the fierceness of His wrath?”

The Pilgrims decided the only solution was to humble themselves before God in fasting and in prayer. They appointed a day of prayer and set aside all other employments.

Winslow describes what happened next. “In the morning,” he wrote, “when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear, and the drought as like to continue as it ever was.” But by late afternoon—after eight or nine hours of prayer—”the weather was overcast, the clouds gathered on all sides,” Winslow wrote. The next morning brought “soft, sweet and moderate shows of rain, continuing some fourteen days.” The needed rain was “mixed with such seasonable weather,” he wrote, “as it was hard to say whether our withered corn or drooping affections were most quickened or revived, such was the bounty and goodness of our God.”

This dramatic answer to prayer was a witness to the local Indians. As Winslow notes, “The Indians . . . took notice . . . all of them admired the goodness of our God towards us, that wrought so great a change in so short of time, showing the difference between their conjuration and our invocation on the name of God for rain.”

The harvest that fall was abundant—and the Pilgrims survived yet another year.

Today is Thanksgiving—the day on which we recall the three-day celebration in 1621 in which the Pilgrims invited local Indians to join them in thanking God for His blessings on them—not, as some school children are taught today in class, giving thanks to Indians. And Americans ever since have been celebrating this, an occasion recognized and enshrined by Congress. We ought to take time to thank God for His manifold blessings on us today.

By the way, the day after Governor Perdue prayed on the Capitol steps, rains swept the state—nearly an inch in places. But the drought has continued. So, as we give thanks today, let’s remember those in the drought-stricken Southeast and ask the Giver of all good gifts to bless the land with rain.”

Presenting the Christian Worldview: The Centurions

November 21, 2007

From Chuck Colson and Breakpoint.

“In the months before World War II, an Oxford don by the name of C. S. Lewis wrote, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” Lewis’s students questioned the importance of studying the humanities and sciences with war on the horizon. But Lewis understood, as he wrote so beautifully in his classic book Weight of Glory, that “To be ignorant and simple now . . . would be to throw down our weapons and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.” Four years ago, I launched a distance-learning and networking program called the Centurions Program. It is designed to equip Christians to understand and defend the truth in every area of life and culture.

Sadly, bad philosophy—like relativism, naturalism, and secular humanism—runs rampant in our legislatures, schools, movie theaters, and even our churches. In the face of this, Centurions is preparing men and women not just to understand and articulate their own Christian worldview, but also to proactively teach others to be able to do so and engage the culture in every sphere of influence.

One of our Centurions graduates, Fritz Kling, has begun a Christian Leadership Institute for civic and business leaders in Richmond, Virginia. Fritz says, “My [Centurions] experience exposed me to a model for developing talented leaders. I will tell you, though, that such programs are fairly common in the U.S.  But Centurions constantly pushed me to initiate and innovate—to be fairly audacious in believing that I could (and indeed should) start things.”

Fritz underscores exactly the vision we have for the program: one of exponential cultural impact.

And we have plenty of examples of Centurions doing just that: from Bill Peel in Dallas, who is equipping Christian Medical and Dental Association affiliates to view medical ethics and issues from a biblical perspective; to Stephen Dunson in West Texas, who is teaching a 12-week worldview course in a Texas prison. Then there is James Biersteker, in Ontario, Canada, who is starting a worldview academy for public high school students.

But not only are Centurions sharing the training they have received, they are also impacting the culture firsthand. Take Jim Walter, who is chairing a church committee that is reaching out to the community’s homeless, drug addicts, and ex-prisoners. Or Bonnie Crogan-Mazur and Tom Bulling, who are involved in teaching and hands-on ministry on Indian reservations. There’s Al Van Horne in New York, who is developing micro-enterprise projects to help the poor both here and overseas. And there are artists, writers, and filmmakers like Tom Hall, Jeanne Dennis, Phyllis Hammerstrom, and Greg Bandy, who incorporate Christian worldview themes and messages into their handiwork.

If you would like to find out more about how you can join the ranks of the next class of Centurions, please visit us at www.breakpoint.org. Our culture urgently needs more men and women who will rightly wield good philosophy to counter the bad philosophy of the postmodern era: men and women who can winsomely present the Christian worldview in their sphere of influence.”

Getting the Facts Straight: Religion as Poison?

November 17, 2007

From Chuck Colson and Breakpoint.“The outstanding film Amazing Grace hits shelves this week in DVD form—and it comes at a time when Christianity is under blistering attack. In his new book, God Is Not Great, subtitled How Religion Poisons Everything, anti-theist Christopher Hitchens states, “religion makes people do wicked things they wouldn’t ordinarily do . . . the licenses for genocide, slavery, racism, are all right there in the holy text.”

It is a rather empty accusation when put alongside a man like William Wilberforce, who as the film Amazing Grace shows, attacked and abolished the slave trade because of his Christian convictions. As you can see, that raises a difficult question for people like Hitchens: If Christianity “licenses” slavery, then why was the abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in modern times, driven by Christians?

In ancient times in the Roman Empire, slavery was a fact of life—one which the writings of the Scripture reflect. But acknowledging social reality is not the same thing as “licensing” it.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to Philemon and when he wrote that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” he planted the seeds that would, one day, lead to the demise of the institution of slavery. Likewise, Paul included “slave traders” among those he identified as “lawbreakers.”

Sociologist Rodney Stark writes about the Church’s embrace around the third century of what he calls “a universalistic conception of humanity.” This conception “[liberated] social relations between the sexes and within the family” and “greatly modulated class differences . . . ” As Stark put it, “more than rhetoric was involved when slave and noble greeted one another as brothers in Christ.”

Given this liberating ideal, it was only a matter of time before Christians sought to eradicate slavery entirely.

It is true that Christians have not always lived up to the moral teachings of the faith: The record of the Church is not without blemish. But it is also true that when Christians kept and traded slaves, they were going against the teachings of their own religion. The theological question had long been settled.

Thus, when Spanish and Portuguese traders brought slavery to the New World, successive popes condemned the practice and even threatened to excommunicate slave traders and slave owners. And when in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, men like William Wilberforce in Britain and William Garrison in America led the fight against slavery and the slave trade, they led, like their early Church counterparts, motivated by Christian teaching on human dignity and equality.

Hitchens’s assertion that economic factors and not Christian abolitionists did away with slavery is, to put it mildly, absurd. Wilberforce and company succeeded despite the economic interests, not because of them.

When Christians obey their teachings, they are the greatest defenders of human rights in the world. Hitchens and company deny this, but the evidence belies them.

So here’s an idea: Buy a copy of the DVD Amazing Grace this week and host a viewing party in your home. What a great opportunity to talk with your neighbors about the real facts: how Christianity, far from poisoning everything, helped purify trans-Atlantic waters once filled with the sickening crime of human trafficking.”