Sunday, April 30, 2017

Are Miracles Possible?

(I signed up for Frank Turek’s on-line course through Cross, I am continuing to summarize the lessons as I go through the 2004 book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.[1]  This is a summary of Chapter 8)

A discussion of miracles must start with the reason for miracles. God communicates with us in three ways:  General Revelation (Natural Theology), Special Revelation (the Bible), and Miracles.  A miracle is simply an exceedingly rare event that can't be explained by the natural laws of a regular, orderly universe.  But miracles are not anti-science and are not a "science stopper." To the contrary, we actually need science to have miracles. The universe must be orderly and have regular laws for us to recognize when a miracle happens!  Miracles are a way that God can tell the world that they should be paying attention to what is happening.

Miracles occurred in very small windows of time when God wanted to get a truth across or confirm a new revelation.  Miracles done through people happened in the lifetimes of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the apostles. Moses needed miracles to deliver Israel out of Egypt and survive in the dessert; this also established the Mosaic Covenant.  Elijah and Elisha needed miracles to deliver Israel from idolatry; to show Israel that they were breaking the Covenant.  Jesus and the apostles needed miracles to confirm establishment of the New Covenant. There has been no need for miracles since because there hasn’t been a need for God to establish another covenant or confirm some new truth.  Because of God’s moral nature, it should be expected that God would want to communicate some important specific information with us so we would better know His purpose.  He used miracles to do this.

A good analogy to explain miracles uses a closed box and an open box.  The closed box would represent the materialist world; the universe is all there is and nothing enters or leaves the box.  An open box would represent a universe in which God could do miracles.  God created the box and all the rules and laws by which things can happen within the box.  He left the box open so every so often he can reach into the box and do something inconsistent with the existing rules and laws.

The greatest miracle of all is that all space, matter, time, and energy came into existence out of nothing.  If God exists and performed the greatest miracle of all by creating the universe (the box), then any other miracle that has happened within the universe would be possible and easy for God to do.  Since God exists, miracles are possible.  If there is a God that can act, then there can be acts of God.

Two of the objections to miracles actually are just objections to the fact that miracles are rare events - which is the definition of a miracle.  So, most objections to miracles are simply objections to the definition.  Richard Dawkins doesn’t think miracles happen because he wouldn’t like doing science if he thought a miracle might suddenly just happen in the regular, orderly universe.[2]  Dawkins doesn’t believe in miracles because he doesn’t like them.  This is similar to David Hume’s objection.  Hume basically said that if miracles happened more often, then he could believe them.  In other words, if there weren’t miracles, then they would be believable.

Another objection to miracles comes from the philosophy of naturalism. If you have the pre-existing mindset that nature is all there is (a closed box) and nothing supernatural exists, then of course miracles are ruled out before even looking at the evidence.  It is ironic that the ancients believed in the miraculous to explain the creation of the universe and after more than 2000 years of scientific study, we have come full circle, back to “super-natural miracles” to explain what we see. Plato talked about a “best soul” who is the maker and father of all who ordered the primordial chaos into the rational universe.  Aristotle concluded that the universe had to be caused by an immaterial, divine, living intelligence; the uncaused first cause. Naturalists now explain creation by referring to a cause outside of our universe. Fine-tuning is explained away by some kind of universe generator, also outside our universe. And the beginning of life is explained by some arguing the earth was “seeded” with life from somewhere outside our observations.  Creation and the beginning of life are both rare events and are now, again, being explained by something we can’t observe and don’t fully understand (kind of like a miracle).    

If God created the universe, then miracles are possible.  By definition, miracles are unusual, rare events that involve the super natural. Dismissing miracles simply because of their definition is a philosophical mind-set, not a decision based on evidence.  A close, honest look at the evidence shows that it is reasonable to believe that miracles actually happened.

[1] Frank Turek & Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Crossway Books, 2004
[2] Dawkins vs. Lennox debate, Has Science Buried God?,

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Does God Exist?

(I signed up for Frank Turek’s on-line course through Cross, I am continuing to summarize the lessons as I go through the 2004 book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.[1] The first blog in this series was "Does Truth Exist?"  This is the second blog in the series.)

I have already written several blogs about this, so I am listing what I think are the best arguments for God, along with links to my blogs and several other sources.

#1 – The Cosmological Argument:  All Space, Time, Matter, and Energy Had A Beginning

William Lane Craig’s video on the Cosmological Argument:

From the Cosmological Argument we know that God is self-existent, nonspatial, immaterial, infinite, unimaginably powerful, and personal.

#2 - Rational Thought & The Existence of Logic
The Argument from the Existence of Logic is laid out nicely by J. Warner Wallace:

Here is another good presentation of the argument by Matt Slick:

#3 – The Teleological Argument:  Fine Tuning

Here is a 6 minute video from Reasonable Faith:

From the Teleological Argument we know that God is supremely intelligent and purposeful.

#4 – Physical Laws & Mathematics

#5 – Biochemical Design

#6 – The nature of Nature

#7 – Morality & Objective Ethical Values

Here is a 5 minute video from Reasonable Faith:

J. Warner Wallace’s perspective on Moral Truths:

From the Moral Argument we know that God is absolutely morally pure; God is the standard of morality, justice, and love.

#8 – The Ontological Argument
Here is a 5-minute video from Reasonable Faith:

We can determine the characteristics of God from Science.  From the above list we can conclude that God is: self-existent, nonspatial, immaterial, infinite, unimaginably powerful, personal, absolutely morally pure, and the standard of morality, justice, and love.  Here is a link to my blog on determining the attributes of God:

[1] Frank Turek & Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Crossway Books, 2004

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Does Truth Exist?

(I signed up for Frank Turek’s on-line course through Cross, so my next few blogs will summarize the lessons as I go through the 2004 book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.[1])

The recent uproar about “fake news” shows that our society cares about truth and understands that there cannot be different versions of a truth.  It also shows that most people think truth actually exists and that it can be known. We demand truth in politics and in almost every area of our lives, but then suddenly aren’t interested in truth when it comes to morality or religion. It is common in our society to believe that everything from adultery to stealing paper clips at work is only wrong if you think it is wrong. Many people also think that all religious beliefs are true; your belief about religion is just as true as my belief about religion. I just heard a podcast in which Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries, stated that only 37% of church going Christian teenagers in this country believe in absolute moral & religious truths.[2]

Truth is true – even if no one knows it
Truth is true – even if no one admits it
Truth is true – even if no one agrees what it is
Truth is true – even if no one follows it
Truth is true – even if no one but God grasps it fully[3]

Truth has been traditionally defined as “telling it like it is” or “that which corresponds to its object”, or finally, “that which describes the actual state of affairs” – the correspondence theory of truth.  This seems to be the Biblical definition, that truth is corresponds to reality, and is also how the majority defined truth up until the 1800’s.  Since truth is what corresponds to reality, then truth is, by definition, narrow and exclusive.  Either God exists or He doesn’t.  Also, if something is true, it is true for all people, everywhere, at all times.  If God exists, then it is true that God exits no matter who or where or when you are.  Truth is not the same as belief.  Contrary beliefs are possible, but contrary truths are not possible.

In terms of religious beliefs, many religions have teachings that are directly opposite, so they cannot possibly all be true. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in different versions of a theistic God, while most Hindus and New Agers believe in an impersonal, pantheistic force they call god.  Many Hindus believe that evil is an illusion, while Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe that evil is real.  Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross, while Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t die.  All religious beliefs could be wrong, but it is not possible for all of them to be true.

Truth is important for two reasons.  First, there can be consequences if you believe something that is false. Believing adultery is okay can have lifelong consequences for your family. The consequences of believing in a false religion can be eternal, so it is important to investigate what is true and find some way to adjudicate between opposite views. Something is worth believing as true if it is rational, supported by evidence, and best explains all the available data. The second reason that truth is important involves liberty and freedom! In the absence of truth, the one with the most power will rule.  If there are no objective standards by which you operate and no evidence to advocate for what is good or right, then you can only exert power to legitimize your views. What is moral, what is good, and what is right is then decided by the most powerful.

Two of the classical skeptics that have questioned whether we can know truth are David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Hume’s principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions:  1) those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable.  Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful. Kant’s philosophy that you can’t know anything about the real world, assumes that you can know this about the real world.  Both Hume and Kant contradict their own premises. The statement, “Truth cannot be known” is self-defeating because the statement claims to be a known, absolute truth. Any denial of truth presupposes truth, so the existence of truth is inescapable.

How, then, do we know truth?  Discovering truth starts with the laws of logic. We make observations about the world and draw general conclusions from them through induction.  We then can line up these inductive premises and argue to a deductive conclusion.  Using induction does not always mean that our premises are 100% certain; instead an inductive premise can be considered true if it is highly probable.  We can use induction to investigate God the same way we use it to investigate other things we cannot see – by observing their effects. I wrote about this in a previous blog here:

 “For people of faith whose book is the Bible, truth can never be mere theory, let alone one that is sterile and contentious.  Truth is the direct representation of reality – that which throbs with created life, and which is given and guaranteed by the Creator who is himself the final reality. God is truth just as God is love.  He speaks truly and he acts truly. Because love of truth is love of God, willful error is unfaithfulness and apostasy is adultery.  He requires truth in all who approach him, not just in words and deeds but in their innermost hearts.  They -we- must not just debate the truth, we must know the truth.  If we would live free, we must not just know the truth, we must live in truth and we must become people of truth.  As Kierkegaard wrote in Training in Christianity:The truth consists not of knowing the truth but in being the truth.” The West and its lead society are at a crossroads.  In a world of lies, hype, and spin, there is an urgent need for people of truth at all levels of society.  There is quite simply no other way to live free.  The choice is ours.  So also will be the consequences.”[4]

[1] Frank Turek & Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Crossway Books, 2004
[2] Frank Turek, Cross podcast, April 15, 2017
[3] Paul Copan, “True For You But Not For Me”, Bethany House Publishers, 1998
[4] Os Guinness, Time For Truth, pages 123-125, Baker Books, 2000