Jun 29, 2011

Wacky Tourist Day

This week is Vacation Bible School week at our church, and the theme is the Big Apple -- New York City. I thought that was a fun theme to go with, and I'm interested to see how they're tying that in with Scripture (as I'm sure they are).

This is the first time that my kids are going to VBS and I'm not working.

Can I just be real for a minute? This has been a real treat for me.

I have had so many things going on, several things to prepare (i.e. a possible event at our church that I'm working on, new school year curriculum planning and shopping, new classes at co-op I'll be teaching, a women's conference in September that I need to prepare lessons/keynote addresses and help coordinate, moving my sweet Mother-in-Love into her new house...and let's just throw life on top of all that too...whew). Let's just say I'm very thankful for this reprieve.

Other than a meeting I have tomorrow morning, which I am very much looking forward to, I have spent every morning this week at a desk in a local coffee shop with my laptop, a pile of books, Pandora radio, and a tall, dark, and tasty coffee drink to accompany me. :-)

It's been wonderful.

Anyway, I have to post a picture of my two youngest boys from yesterday, which was "Wacky Tourist Day" at VBS. They're such good sports.

The socks and sandals are just too much!

The oldest one is volunteering, but was not about to dress up like this. Middle school...go figure.

I'm loving my kiddos' childhood. And in spite of my faults and weaknesses, I hope they are too.

That's Absurd!

Notes on Apologetics study from On Guard by William Lane Craig, Chapter Two, Part Two

In my previous post on this subject, I shared Craig's thought process in brief regarding the absurdity of life...many philosophers agree that without the existence of God, life is completely absurd. The difference comes, then, when some will say that God must therefore exist; others will counter with the belief that life is really absurd or pointless.

This is atheism. To say that God does not exist is to say that life has no meaning, value, or purpose. What implications follow that line of thinking? Is it possible to live consistently within that framework?

Over the next few posts, we will look at all three notions -- meaning, value, and purpose -- since these are the criteria that define the absurd.

Craig describes these in the following:

Meaning has to do with significance, why something matters.
Value has to do with good and evil, right and wrong.
Purpose has to do with a goal, a reason for something.

Keep these definitions in mind as we go through each.

Craig's claim is that "if there is no God, then meaning, value, and purpose are ultimately human illusions. They're just in our heads. I'm not saying that atheists experience life as dull and meaningless, that they have no personal values or lead immoral lives, that they have no goals or purpose for living. But my point is that, given atheism, these beliefs are subjective illusions [based on personal opinion]: the mere appearance of meaning, value, and purpose, even though, objectively speaking, there really isn't any." (pg. 30)

If we truly ponder life without God's existence, we have to picture a universe and all of life within it as doomed to an end of non-existence. Science tells us that the universe and everything in it is coming to an end...everything with energy (life) is winding down. We see this in the expansion of the universe, in the consumption of energy, and in the decay of all biological life on earth.

Take, for example, the Second Law of Thermodynamics [a.k.a. the Law of Increased Entropy] which says that all usable energy is ultimately converted into unusable energy in the way of productivity, growth, and repair. Thus, all usable energy is irretrievably lost to unusable energy.

That sounds like I'm-an-expert-scientific and all, when I'm not, but it's still pretty easy to see in real life. Think of a glass of water sitting on your kitchen counter. The ice is cold, and the air around the glass is, relative to the glass, warm. It is impossible that the ice should get colder; experience tells us that the ice will melt, and the cold water will eventually warm to room temperature.

Conversely, a cup of hot coffee sitting on the counter is surrounded by cooler air. The Law of Increased Entropy explains why that cup of coffee will never get hotter unless something else with more heat energy intervenes. Left to itself, it will cool to room temperature. The heat energy will be used up and will increase in entropy [heat death] until an equilibrium is reached.


So, what does this have to with the death of the universe? Based on this one scientific law, we should expect the death of the universe and all life contained within it at some point. It has to be, unless something, or Someone, intervenes. There is no escape.

The consequence of inevitable death and non-existence is that ultimately, life is absurd. Even if we think life is "better" because we ascribe meaning, value, and purpose to it, it's only an illusion...because if everything is doomed to come to an end, then nothing we do really matters.

No Ultimate Meaning

"If everything is doomed to destruction, then what does it matter that you influenced anything? Mankind is no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same.  The same blind cosmic process that coughed them up in the first place will eventually swallow them all again." (pg. 32)

In addition, Craig points out that even if there were no God and we did live forever, life would still be pointless. He tells a story about an astronaut who was stranded on a chunk of rock somewhere in outer space. He had two vials with him: one containing poison and the other a potion that would make him live forever. After realizing he was doomed to this rock and had no escape, he quickly drank the poison. Only afterward did he realize to his horror that he had swallowed the wrong vial. This meant he was cursed to exist forever in a meaningless and unending life.

So without the existence of One who gives meaning to life, our lives are just like that astronaut. They could go on and on, but still be entirely without significance. One might argue, "If we live to help others and we live forever, doesn't that provide significance?" To which I would say, "Partially, but significant to whom?" Without God, there is no broader framework within which one person's life can be seen to matter. Eventually, apart from an eternal Godhead, everything done is ultimately forgotten, lost, or otherwise deemed useless.

Think about it, after billions and billions of years, will it really matter that you helped an elderly woman cross the street or fed a hungry child? It may make a difference in the here and now, but ultimately, it will die away in significance.

This may seem elementary, but to one who has had faith enough to embrace life without God, this is a huge stumbling block. If one can get past the absurdity of life, one can begin to see why the existence of God, and particularly the God of the Bible, is a question that must be dealt with.

Discussion Question: What are the benefits of knowing that your life has meaning? How does it affect your attitude toward other people?

My Answer:

It creates in me a desire to do what's right, even if it means denying myself for the greater good. In doing so, I receive the joy of knowing that I am completing the purpose God had for me in that situation. Knowing that my life has meaning should also create in me an attitude of kindness and grace toward others -- if my life has meaning, then so also do their lives.

Next time: Value of Life

Jun 21, 2011

What Difference Does It Make If God Exists?

Notes on Apologetics study from On Guard by William Lane Craig, Chapter Two

"I'm just gonna live my life and be as good as I can. When I die, hopefully my good will outweigh my bad, and if there is a God, then I hope He'll let me in to Heaven. I'll find out then for sure if God really exists."

Ever heard that? Ever said that?

I remember as an unbeliever, I thought many of those kinds of things. I kinda thought God existed, but I didn't have enough reason to think that it mattered if I came to know anything about Him; either He would accept me or not.

I'm so thankful that He's made it much more definite and knowable than that. Some people would retort, "How arrogant to think you can know that you will be accepted by God!" To that I would say this: It's not arrogance, because it has nothing at all to do with me or my goodness. It's only by the righteousness of Christ alone [His right-ness, by God's standard] being applied by Him to my heart and life that I am made acceptable. All I did was repent of my sin [my wrong-ness, by God's standard] and receive what He did for me and all mankind who will receive His gift [Christ's right-ness].

Many cannot seem to get even to this point in God's truth because they get hung up on why it even matters that God exists. Their view is that, if He does exist, He is seemingly completely removed from all that goes on in the world...just look at all the evil we see on a daily basis! Where is He if He exists? What difference does it make?

I believe I will get the chance to deal with the problem of evil later in Chapter 7 in this book, but for Chapter 2, Craig starts with the task of showing why it matters at all. Craig says, "By showing them the implications of atheism, we can help them to see that the question of God's existence is so much more than merely adding another item to our inventory of things -- rather it's an issue that lies at the very center of life's meaning. It therefore touches each of us at the core of his being." (pg. 29)

Reductio ad absurdum is a term used in formal logic to describe "a reduction to an absurdity; the refutation of a proposition by demonstrating the inevitably absurd conclusion to which it would logically lead." (dictionary.com) In other words, showing that something must be true by proving that its opposite would lead to an absurd outcome.

Craig uses this logic, reduction to absurdity, not necessarily to prove God's existence, but to show that the most significant question a person will ever ponder is whether or not a supreme, all-powerful Creator of the universe exists. "No one who truly grasps the implications of atheism can say, 'Whatever!' about whether there is a God." (p. 30) 

Many philosophers have argued that if God does not exist, then life is absurd. What does this mean? It means that if God does not exist, then there is no ultimate meaning to anything in life...no intrinsic value within life...no conclusive purpose for existing.

If there is absolutely no meaning, value, or purpose in life, then we can define life itself as absurd.

"If atheism is true, then life is really objectively [based on known fact] meaningless, valueless, and purposeless, despite our subjective beliefs [personal opinion] to the contrary" (pg. 30).

This is the key. Because while an atheist will say that there is no meaning, value or purpose to life, he will still live his life as though it has all three.

Now, in order to keep these posts from becoming a verbal equivalent to this:

I will expand on this train of thought next time. Surely you can understand why I needed to chew this one bite at a time....

Jun 18, 2011

And Now, A Random Recipe

This isn't going to flow well from my last post to this one. But I've always said I'm a little eclectic, anyway. :-)

Today I was going to make a simple tuna casserole for my kids for lunch. If you've never had it, it's just a box of mac and cheese (made), a can of tuna (drained), and a can of cream of mushroom soup -- all mixed together.

Sidenote: That is not the recipe I logged on to blogger to share with you. Please keep reading.

I was out of cream of mushroom soup, so I made some. Sortof.

Here's the recipe that I used. This is a powdered mix you make and store, and when you want a cream soup (mushroom, chicken, celery, etc.), mix 1/2 cup of this powder with 1-1/4 c water and cook until thick. Then add the butter to melt. It's wonderful!

Cream Soup Recipe

2 c dry milk
3/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c chicken bouillon granules
2 T dried onion flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried leaf basil (optional)
1/2 tsp. dried leaf oregano (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground marjoram (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 tsp. butter

Combine all ingredients except butter together and store in airtight container. To use, mix 1/2 cup powder with 1-1/4 c water and cook until thick; add butter. This equals approximately one can of cream soup. The mix makes enough to equal 9 to 10 cans. For cream of mushroom or celery, saute the mushrooms or celery in the butter before adding to the cooked soup.


Jun 9, 2011

New Task for an Old Friend - On Guard

Hello Blogger.

I was just thinking.

I've been reading a lot lately on Apologetics. It's an area of my Christian faith that I hope to be studying for a long time, and some of it can be challenging to digest. And I'm still in the elementary stages of it. 

Maybe it would be good if I turned to you, Blogger, as a tool to record the things I'm learning. I, like most people, tend to learn things best when I am able to regurgitate what I've just taken in. Perhaps it will spur others to think on these things as well.

Sounds like a win to me. I can't take the hand cramps it would cost for me to write all this stuff down in a traditional journal anyway.

So, without any warm-fuzzy welcomes, welcome to my self-discussion. Please feel free to join in if you have something constructive or otherwise encouraging to share. Part of my problem with this particular book I'm working with (which I will share in a moment) is that there are "Talk About It" sections about which I have no one to talk to.

Oh now don't get me wrong...of course I have people in my life I can talk to about this. My husband always listens (albeit sometimes against his own will), and my sister Rachele will listen to anything I have to say. My sweet friend Ronda has a shared love and excitement for this topic, too. But at 5:30 in the morning, they simply aren't available.

Blogger is.

So, away we go.

The book I'm using (aside from the Bible, the Word of God, of course) is called On Guard, Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig.

Craig is "Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. A respected debater, prominent Internet presence (www.ReasonableFaith.org), and the author of Reasonable Faith, Dr. Craig is one of the most influential defenders of Christianity in our day."

That's taken straight off the back of the book. I'm resourceful that way.

I can tell you that Craig also has not one, but two PhDs (how do you make that plural?); one in Philosophy, the other in Theology. He has authored or edited over 30 books and has written over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology.

So I'm gonna say he's got a few credentials.

Of course, credentials don't necessarily mean that you know what you're talking about...or that you are in touch with reality for that matter. Certainly people have gone through 87 years of graduate work and emerged unable to choose an outfit for the day or cook a grilled cheese. But it helps to know that the guy has at least done some homework, and he's not some high school drop out who's still flying high on his acid trip days in the 70's and imagining all manner and sorts of convoluted rubbish.

Okay. So that's out of the way. Back to the book.

It's entitled On Guard, Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, published by David C. Cook of Colorado Springs, CO, just in case you wanna run out and getcha some.

Chapter One - What Is Apologetics?

Even though the term "apologetics" sounds like "apologize", Craig says apologetics "is not the art of telling somebody you're sorry that you're a Christian! Instead, it comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith." (p. 13)

For those who question if this is a necessary process for a believer to undertake, he points to God's words as penned by Peter in his first letter, chapter 3 verses 15 and 16: "Always be ready to give an answer [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with courtesy and respect."

The courtesy, or gentleness, and respect parts are pretty important. Have you ever gotten into a discussion with someone who was not courteous and respectful? Didn't it shift your gears from thoughtful and rational to defensive and irrational? That's human nature; it happens to all of us when we feel we are being attacked.

Craig gives three reasons why it is important for the Church (meaning the Body of Christ: the collective group of all believers everywhere, regardless of denominational backgrounds) to be able to give a defense for what we believe:

1. Shaping Culture - we live in a culture that neither understands believers nor comprehends our beliefs. He mentions the fact that our major universities were founded on the Name of Christ centuries ago, but are now hostile toward Christianity. Why is this so? Because we have allowed the Christian foundation to erode and the sands of secularism to be washed in. We need to help unbelievers understand what we believe - and why - so that we don't lose our voice in this culture.

2. Strengthening Believers - when we learn to express why we believe what we believe, then we are more confident to help others to do the same. A believer who is confident is able to persevere in times of doubt or persecution (which do come). Craig states, "People who lack training in apologetics are often afraid to share their faith or speak out for Christ because they are afraid someone might ask them a question." (p. 19) If you have an answer (apologia), then you are a much more bold to speak up. Another reason that the Church needs this training is because without understanding why we believe, many are more apt to walk away from their beliefs after being confronted with questions and doubts they can't answer. It's the reason so many of our young people end up straying from the foundation their parents laid when they were kids. They simply aren't connected to that foundation well enough with knowledge. In fact, very little if anything has ever been built on that foundation by the time they leave for college or the real world as adults.

3. Winning Unbelievers - obviously an unbeliever is going to be more willing to listen to someone who can answer their questions and reason with them over their skepticism. Some examples are Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis. Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith) has stated that he's lost count of how many people have come to Christ because of his apologetic arguments in his books. Strobel himself was led to faith in Christ only after a two-year investigation of the claims of Jesus using his journalism and law examination skills.

C.S. Lewis "rejected Christianity as a teenager for both personal and intellectual reasons. However, as an English professor at Oxford in his twenties and early thirties, Lewis was exposed to writers and friends who offered convincing reasons first for theism and eventually for Christianity. Lewis became a Christian and began to use his intellectual and literary talents to articulate and defend the Christian view of the world. He became one of the most influential Christian apologists of his generation." (p. 23)

While it is the Gospel which leads to salvation, it is apologetics that helps skeptical unbelievers deal with the questions of their mind, which may eventually lead them to the point of being willing to hear the Gospel with a receptive heart.

The Study Guide lists a number of statements that unbelievers might make in response to the Gospel, and it asks the reader to share or write down my response. I will choose one. Or two.

Hypothetical Statement #1:

"I used to go to church, but when I didn't get anything I prayed for, I realized that there wasn't any God listening."

My response:

That's a reason that is suitable for why a child doesn't believe in Santa Claus.

There is only one prayer that God will answer for the unbeliever: "Save me!" Only then and afterward do we have the capacity to pray with His interests in mind and not our own. This is because it is at the point of salvation, when we've submitted to His Lordship, that the relationship of Father and child begins. Prior to that, an unbeliever asking God for a new car is equivalent to somebody else's kid that you've never seen before approaching you in the church parking lot asking you to hand over the keys. Suuuuuure.

Hypothetical Statement #2:

"How can you believe that this guy that lived 2,000 years ago came back to life from the dead?! Do you expect anyone else to do that? It doesn't make any sense!"

My response:

1. The Scriptures are an historical account of those who knew Him best and their experiences with Him...including eyewitness accounts of His Resurrection. There are over 5,000 original copies of New Testament manuscripts still preserved today. There are a little over 2,000 copies of Homer's Iliad original manuscripts today and only 49 copies of all of Plato's works. Why would you accept the history of Homer and Plato to be accurate, but question the historicity of the New Testament?

2. Many hundreds of other people who are not recorded in the canon of Scripture also wrote in letters and diaries of their own eyewitness accounts of seeing Him alive after seeing Him crucified.

3. There is more documented evidence of people witnessing His Resurrection for over a month after His death than there is written evidence of Christopher Columbus' sailing the ocean blue and finding North America almost 1,500 years later.

Reasonable? I think so.