Are We Living in a Simulation?

Is the Universe a Simulation?

Have you ever wondered if the world around you was actually an illusion? It might seem silly to even entertain the idea, but believe it or not this is a very hot topic in some philosophical (and pop-philosophical) circles right now. Everyone from Elon Musk, to Joe Rogan, to Neil deGrasse Tyson have publicly wondered aloud about whether we are living in some kind of computer simulation. 

It makes for some very interesting podcast listening, but the question, Are we living in a simulation, actually turns out to be harder to answer than it might appear at first. So, are we living in a simulation?

In this episode, Joel and Parker dive deep into the question and bring out resources to help you find the answer. Like all questions of reality and how the world works, believers must approach this question in a biblical way. Ultimately, the Sons of Thunder conclude that we are not living in a simulation. 

Park introduces the formal form of the Simulation Argument (as opposed to Simulation Theory, which is something slightly different) developed by philosopher Nick Bostrom, and the brothers lay out different versions of possible simulations we might be living in. Are we Sims? Are we living in a matrix? Are we brains created by a computer? After examining the alternatives through a scriptural lens, they officially pronounce Simulation Theory debunked. 

It might seem hasty to make such a definitive pronouncement to such a vexing question, but when God’s word is in the mix, answers do tend to become more definitive (if not easier to arrive at). 

To learn more about this subject, keep reading. 

Show Highlights

  • Parker is studying Hebrew, but (maybe) not to one-up Joel

  • Descartes posed a similar question to Simulation question, centuries ago.

  • There are cultural memes that deal with this issue (movies, internet trends, etc.)

  • Historical philosophy has asked whether the world is primarily mental or physical

  • Three possible simulation scenarios: sims, matrix, and computer-created brains

  • We are not possibly sims or in a matrix (though the Matrix theme needs extra unpacking. 

  • If we were in a simulation, we would not be able to tell. 

  • The third option, that we are digitally-created beings, is similar to Tron.

  • Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument proposes three alternatives, one of which (he claims) must be true. 

  • Simulation Theory argues that it is far more likely that we are living in a simulation than that we aren’t. 

  • Phillip K. Dick thought that Deja Vu was an indication that we are living in a simulation (an idea picked up by the Matrix). 

  • Bostrom himself believes it is less than 50% possible that we are living in a simulation.

  • There is actually no positive argument for Simulation Theory. 

  • Simulation Theory does not disprove God, because it just pushes the need for a Creator back one step. 

  • The biblical worldview is one that says our world is real (call this Biblical Realism)

  • Christians can confidently lay their heads on their proverbial pillows at night, reassured that we live in the real world, not a simulation.

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God and DNA


By Scott Youngren / 40-minute read

What is the origin of DNA? 

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Such are the words of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And a little “detective work” quickly eliminates the only alternative to God which atheists can cite as the cause for the information codified in living cells using sequences of DNA molecules: Natural laws.

Realizing specifically why natural laws are completely incapable of producing life is crucial to understanding why the theistic explanation must be the truth, no matter how improbable it may appear to an atheist:

Imagine if, one morning, you opened an email from a friend which read,

ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC

It is entirely besides the point that what your friend wrote is meaningless. What is more important to our “detective work” is WHY such a simple, regular, and repetitive pattern of letters is meaningless. According to information science (not to mention everyday common sense), in order for a set of symbols to contain meaningful information, it must be complex, irregular, and non-repeating, such as the symbolic sequence below:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

In the terminology of information science, a simple and repetitive pattern such as ABC ABC does not have the information bearing capacity necessary to contain a meaningful email message, or a set of instructions. The genetic code (the language of life) conveys instructions for an organism to develop, using a code consisting of four letters known as nucleotide bases. But if these symbolic sequences were created by natural laws, they would be very similar to the meaninglessly simple and repetitive message in your friend’s email. Nancy Pearcey eloquently elaborates on this point in her book Total Truth:

“…In principle, laws of nature do not give rise to information. Why not? Because laws describe events that are regular, repeatable, and predictable. If you drop a pencil, it will fall. If you put paper into a flame, it will burn. If you mix salt in water, it will dissolve. That’s why the scientific method insists that experiments must be repeatable: Whenever you reproduce the same conditions, you should get the same results, or something is wrong with your experiment. The goal of science is to reduce those regular patterns to mathematical formulas. By contrast, the sequence of letters in a message is irregular and non repeating, which means it cannot be the result of any law-like process.”

(Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (p. 195). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

In the primary text on the application of information theory to the origin of life titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how the simplicity and regularity of natural laws renders it mathematically impossible for such laws to produce life from non-life:

“The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”

(Yockey, Hubert P. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 72, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)

Yockey continues:

“The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws.” 

(Yockey, Hubert P.. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 77, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)

The genetic code (the language of life) uses sequences of DNA molecules to convey sets of instructions for an organism to develop. But what is the origin of this information? Interestingly enough, the “detective technique” used by Charles Darwin leads us to the unavoidable conclusion that an intelligent agent (read: God) is responsible for the information contained in the sets of immensely complex instructions codified in the genetic code. In The Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer explains how Darwin felt that scientists should look for causes already known to produce the effect in question:

Darwin himself adopted this methodological principle. His term for a presently acting cause was a vera causa, that is, a true, known, or actual cause. Darwin thought that when explaining past events, scientists should seek to identify established causes—causes known to produce the effect in question. Darwin appealed to this principle to argue that presently observed microevolutionary processes of change could be used to explain the origin of new forms of life in the past. Since the observed process of natural selection can produce a small amount of change in a short time, Darwin argued that it was capable of producing a large amount of change over a long period of time. In that sense, natural selection was “causally adequate.”

(Meyer, Stephen C.. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2009) pp. 160-161. HarperOne. Kindle Edition.)

So what is the vera causa (in Darwin’s terminology) ALREADY KNOWN to produce information? In answer to this question, Meyer cites information scientist Henry Quastler:

“The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” 

(Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization, (Yale University Press, 1964).)

At SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program) the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the scope of science. A long sequence of prime numbers in a radio wave from space, for example, is regarded by SETI as being a clear indicator of intelligent agency. This is because such a sequence is not the simple, regular, and repeating sort of sequence which occurs naturally.

Whenever we trace information back to its source, INVARIABLY, we come back to a conscious mind, not an undirected material process, as Meyer notes. The irregular and non-repeating nature of genetic instructions means that they could not have been accomplished by a law-like process. 

How was DNA Created?

But one doesn’t need the assurance of scientists to understand why the information contained in the genetic code was BY NECESSITY produced by an intelligent agent. The meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no physical or chemical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship.

Atheism is grounded in the worldview known as materialism, which suggests that nothing exists other than matter (or stuff). According to materialism, there can exist no immaterial conscious entities (such as God or human souls) because all that exists are various arrangements of matter. But if it were true that nothing exists except matter, living things would be completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Meaning, however, is not a chemical or physical property, only a mental property. Put another way, a material thing such as a rock or a house isn’t about anything, and doesn’t mean anything. 

That the meaning present in the genetic code is by necessity arbitrarily determined by a mind is further illustrated by the fact that a set of symbols can have entirely different arbitrarily assigned meanings in different languages. Yockey (in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life) eloquently explains this crucial point:

The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.”

In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.”

(Yockey, Hubert. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Location 132). Kindle Edition. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press.)

At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that the genetic code is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why the genetic code is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:

Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off, 

“Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”

Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”

This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper: 

“Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.” 

This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well.

(Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0. (2015) pp. 166-167. Dallas, TX. Benbella Books, Inc.)

The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey echoes Ji’s above comments about the linguistic nature of the sets of instructions communicated in the genetic code, in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life. As Yockey explains, many of the principles of human language are also applicable to the genetic code in the most literal (not metaphorical or figurative) sense:

“Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”

(Yockey, Hubert. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Location 128). Kindle Edition. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press.) 

Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, Gitt discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to the sets of instructions codified in the genetic code:

Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

-The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

-The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

-The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

-The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

-The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein.

(Gitt, Werner. Without Excuse. (2011) pp.73-74. Atlanta, GA. Creation Publishers, Inc.)

The substitutive function of the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Again, there is no chemical or physical relationship between the symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship. In his book In the Beginning Was Information, Gitt elaborates on why the source of information is by necessity an intelligent agent :

…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.” 

Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the non-material nature of information by defining it as an “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated:

“When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.”

It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information. 

(Gitt, Werner. In the Beginning Was Information. (2005) Kindle Location 427. Green Forest, AR. Master Books. Kindle Edition.)

Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, was forced by the weight of the evidence to admit the following, in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

(Wald, George. “Life and Mind in the Universe”. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry. March 15, 1984.)

Scientific explanations for the origin of dna 

So why aren’t scientists shouting from the rooftops that they have discovered solid evidence for God from biology?

It is critical to understand that scientific authorities often have no desire whatsoever to interpret scientific observations in an objective or unbiased fashion. The late great Harvard University paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould commented that:

“Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”

(Gould, Stephen. Science. 05 May 1978: Vol. 200, Issue 4341, pp. 503-509)

In what “cultural contexts” are atheist biologists rooted, causing them to perpetrate “unconscious or dimly perceived finagling?” For one, in the cultural context that the material world is the most basic, fundamental plane of existence (the worldview known as materialism or naturalism). As discussed above, materialism is the philosophical view that nothing exists except for various arrangements of matter...or stuff. On this view, immaterial entities such as God and human souls are non-existent. Harvard University geneticist Richard C. Lewontin admitted to the pro-materialist and anti-God bias which is rampant in academic circles, in 1997:

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

(Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons (review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.)

In a similar light, Nancy Pearcey highlights the presence of this intense naturalistic,  anti-God academic bias in her essay How Darwinism Dumbs Us Down:

“The media paints the evolution controversy in terms of science versus religion. But it is much more accurate to say it is worldview versus worldview, philosophy versus philosophy…” 

“Interestingly, a few evolutionists do acknowledge the point. Michael Ruse made a famous admission at the 1993 symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ‘Evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism,’ he said—that is, it is a philosophy, not just facts. 

He went on: ‘Evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically.’ Ruse’s colleagues responded with shocked silence and afterward one of them, Arthur Shapiro, wrote a commentary titled, ‘Did Michael Ruse Give Away the Store?'” 

“But, ironically, in the process, Shapiro himself conceded that ‘there is an irreducible core of ideological assumptions underlying science,’ He went on: ‘Darwinism is a philosophical preference, if by that we mean we choose to discuss the material universe in terms of material processes accessible by material operations.'”

But refusing to consider anything other than material causes does not imply that only material causes exist. This would be a complete non-sequitur (Latin for “does not follow). Suggesting that material causes provide a complete account of causation is what is known in philosophy as a category error. The following two statements commit the same category error because they confuse material causes with a complete explanation of causation:

“Life is not caused by God, but rather, by natural processes.”

“Automobiles are not caused by people, but rather, by manufacturing processes.”

Natural processes and manufacturing processes are both material causes, but in no way provide a complete explanation of causation. Those inclined to doubt that much of the scientific community is ideologically committed to materialism (the philosophically unjustifiable stance that material causes provide a complete account of causation) are encouraged to read The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. This book details the discussions of a secretive meeting (the public and media were barred) in Altenburg, Austria, in 2008, at which sixteen elite scientists met to discuss laying the foundation for “post-Darwinian research.” Sam Smith, Editor of Progressive Review, accurately summarizes the reason for the secrecy of this meeting in his commentary which is featured on the back cover: 

“The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement.”

In this book, biologist Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) discusses the persistence of neo-Darwinian theory, despite its deteriorating plausibility, with journalist Susan Mazur:

Margulis: “If enough favorable mutations occur, was the erroneous extrapolation, a change from one species to another would concurrently occur.”

Mazur: “So a certain dishonesty set in?”

Margulis: “No. It was not dishonesty. I think it was wish-fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”

Mazur: “But a whole industry grew up.”

Margulis: “Yes, but people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not, they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”

(Mazur, Susan. The Altenburg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry. (2010) pp.274-275. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books.)

Leading atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel is commendable for his honesty regarding the psychological motivations behind his atheism. Like many other academics, Nagel is motivated to suppress knowledge of God due to a “cosmic authority problem”:

“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that… My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.”

(Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, pp. 130–131, Oxford University Press, 1997. Dr Nagel (1937– ) is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University.)

DO NOT BE DECEIVED!! Science cannot tell you anything. Only people can. If science told you something, you should be just as concerned for your mental health as if the walls of your house told you something.

There is a crucial distinction between scientific observation and experimentation, and the interpretation of those observations and experiments. Data in isolation does not provide any explanation. Only human interpretation of data can provide explanations. And it is foolish and intellectually lazy for one to hand over this interpretation to authority figures. Truth can only be established with sound logical arguments, not with authority opinion.

Whether life was created by an intelligent agent, or unintelligent processes is a meta-scientific question (“Meta” is the Greek word for after or beyond) or ontological question, not a scientific question. Roy A. Varghese brilliantly elaborates on this crucial point in The Wonder of the World:

If we ask what are the laws that govern the universe, we are asking a scientific question. If we ask why does a structure of laws exist, we are asking an ontological question. The data of science can, of course, serve as the starting point for ontological study but that study will require ontological and not scientific tools.

Now certain scientists might respond that they’re only interested in cold hard facts, not so-called meta-scientific or ontological ones. But it’s easy to show that even the most hard-headed experimentalist can’t get away from the ontological realm even for an instant. I ask: 

How do you determine that something is a “cold hard fact?” You make a mental estimate by weighing the evidence for and against, and you try to find out if the premises warrant the conclusion or if known facts support the hypothesis.

All of these mental acts are ontological judgements. You can’t arrive at a judgement by pouring the facts into a test-tube or peering at them through an electron microscope. So even to do “hard” science, to generate, evaluate and categorize data, you need to go beyond hard facts and concrete reality.

(Varghese, Abraham. The Wonder of the World: A Journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God. (2003). Pp.127-128. Fountain Hills, AZ. Tyr Publishing.)

Just think about it…how would one support a claim such as, “We can only accept as true that which science can tell us,” using nothing but scientific experimentation and observation? With a chemistry experiment involving a Bunsen burner and test tubes? With a biology experiment involving a microscope and a petri dish, perhaps? The very premise that “science alone can reach conclusions is a conclusion that science alone cannot reach, and is therefore self-refuting. Craig Keener echoes Varghese’s above comments about the crucial role of meta-scientific interpretation in logical reasoning:

Views about whether any intelligence exists outside nature are interpretations, not data, hence belong to a different sphere of reasoning than purely empirical scientific expertise confers. As one scholar puts it, facts in isolation “are unintelligible and non-explanatory,” inviting explanation. Yet science as science in the strictest sense proceeds inductively, accumulating finite bodies of information and constructing patterns.

The interpretation that structures the information, by contrast, is ultimately meta-scientific. Even moving to the meta-scientific level may presuppose an intelligence that exceeds pure, random naturalism. Einstein believed that acceptance of the world’s “rationality or intelligibility” also entailed belief in “a superior mind,” which he defined as God.

(Keener, Craig. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. (2011) Kindle location 4891. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Publishing Group.)

How does evolution explain DNA? 

Atheists frequently cite Darwinian evolution as an alternative to God. But the emptiness of this argument is immediately clear: Even if Darwinian evolution were 100% correct, it would only succeed in explaining the diversification of life, not the origin of life. Put another way, Darwinian evolution addresses the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest. The Darwinian mechanism of random mutation of genes and natural selection of genes, quite obviously, only applies to that which has genes to mutate and reproductive offspring to naturally select…namely, things which are already alive. Basic material building blocks such as hydrogen and carbon have neither genes to mutate, nor reproductive offspring to naturally select.

Physicist Amit Goswami hits the nail on the head when it comes to the fundamental impossibility of life emerging from non-living matter as a result of unintelligent natural processes, in his book Creative Evolution. Survival is goal or purpose, but material objects such as chemical compounds or rocks do not have any goals or purposes, only intelligent agents do. No material object has ever tried to survive. But if materialism is true, and nothing exists except for purposeless matter, why do we have living things which struggle to survive? Goswami writes:

“The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.”

“See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival! A paradox is a sure-fire sign that the basic assumptions of the paradigm are incomplete or inconsistent; they need a reexamination.”

(Goswami, Amit. Creative Evolution: A Physicist's Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Quest Books. Kindle location 859. Kindle Edition.)

Ultimately, the question of what is responsible for the origin of life boils down to the question of what produced the codified information present in the genetic code (DNA sequences). As Bernard-Olaf Kuppers, a member of the German Academy of Natural Sciences, states in Information and the Origin of Life

“The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.” 

(Kuppers, B. (1990) Information and the Origin of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.)

And therein lies the next problem for those attempting to cite unintelligent, material causes for the origin of life. Even the simplest living organism is an information processing machine which uses the complex coding and decoding of a language that is akin to (but much more complex than) a computer language. The world’s most outspoken atheist, the Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins concedes this point in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

“…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”

(Dawkins, Richard. River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. (1995) p.17. Basic Books.)

Similarly, in an article for The Times (UK), Dawkins writes:

“What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”

So what is the relevance of mentioning the informational nature of living things? Informational exchange is fundamentally mental in nature. Coded information is ALWAYS the product of a conscious, intelligent mind. No exceptions. Period. Information scientist Henry Quastler, as cited above, puts it succinctly:

 “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”

(Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization, (Yale University Press, 1964).) 

A simple illustration helps explain why unintelligent material processes are completely incapable of producing information. A computer is a material thing which can be made by arranging more simple material ingredients (plastic, silicon, aluminum, etc.). Unintelligent natural processes can, to a very limited extent, cause arrangements of basic material ingredients...such as when wind blowing sand on the beach causes orderly ripples to emerge.

But a software program on a computer cannot result from such mere arrangements of matter, because a software program is much more than just an arrangement of basic material building blocks...it is a set of codified informational instructions. In a 2002 article for The Guardian titled How We Could Create Life, renowned physicist Paul Davies (winner of the Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics) makes this point:

“Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce [Microsoft] Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”

How Did DNA Arise? 

Atheism relies on mindless chemical and physical processes to explain life. But the insurmountable problem for atheism is that such mindless processes can never account for the fact that the genetic code is a language which utilizes the arrangement of symbols…just like a human language. Much as the chemistry of the ink and paper that constitute a newspaper cannot explain the arrangement of the letters in the words of a newspaper, the chemistry of a DNA molecule cannot explain the arrangement of letters in a DNA molecule. Michael Polanyi, a former Chairman of Physical Chemistry at the University of Manchester (UK), who is famous for his important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, emphasizes this point:

“As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule. It is this physical indeterminacy of the sequence that produces the improbability of occurrence of any particular sequence and thereby enables it to have meaning–a meaning that has a mathematically determinate information content.”

(Polanyi, Michael. Life's Irreducible Structure. Science, New Series, Vol. 160, No. 3834 (Jun. 21, 1968), pp. 1308-1312 Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1724152)

Indeed, it would be just as absurd to assert that mindless chemical or physical processes could write a newspaper article as it would be to assert that such processes could produce a DNA sequence. Physicist Paul Davies makes clear the distinction between the medium (the material aspect of an organism) and the message (the informational aspect of an organism). As an illustration, a song is an immaterial informational entity which may be stored on various material storage media, such as an iPod, a compact disk, an old vinyl record, or a cassette tape. But the song itself could not have been produced by unintelligent material processes, since it is not a material thing. Similarly, in regards to life, the unintelligent action of natural laws could possibly explain the material aspect of an organism, but not the informational aspect of the organism (the set of immaterial instructions codified in the genetic code). In The Fifth Miracle, Davies makes this point:

“The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently, they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules [such as even the most simple organism]. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics. Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [life emerging from unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.” 

(Davies, Paul. (1999) The Fifth Miracle. pp.254-255. New York, NY. Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Again, only an intelligent agent (a mind) can produce codified information. Sir Issac Newton was really onto something when he wrote the following in what is regarded to be the most important scientific work of all time, The Principia:

“Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”

(Newton, Isaac, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.)

Similar to Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein came to perceive the natural world as the manifestation of the thoughts of God. Einstein wrote:

“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.”

(From E. Salaman, A Talk With Einstein, The Listener 54 (1955), pp. 370-371, quoted in Jammer, p. 123).

So how do scientists with intense ideological commitments to atheism explain the above facts? Herein lies much of the entertainment value of this article: Ultra-elite atheist biologists such as Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Francis Crick (famous as co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix) hypothesize that life was brought to Earth by aliens in their spaceship. (Click here to watch a video of Richard Dawkins endorsing this hypothesis in an interview, and click here to read an article about how Crick endorsed this hypothesis in his book Life Itself). So, much like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life even among the biologists most ideologically committed to denying that one mind in particular (God) created life. This is what Sigmund Freud was referring to when he spoke of “the return of the repressed.”

Scott Youngren is a Christian apologist who has been blogging on the topic of scientific, philosophical, and experiential reasons for belief in the existence of God, at his website www.GodEvidence.com, for over 10 years. Many of Scott’s posts have been featured at the prominent Christian apologetics website thepoachedegg.net, which has received over 6 million page views and has been visited from nearly every country in the world, including countries where Christianity is restricted or banned altogether.

For more resources on the subject of science and faith, check out these resources from the Think Institute:

Where Does DNA Come From?

Have you ever been concerned that science seems to conflict with Christian faith?

Science is often talked about as though it is an alternative to religion. That is, a popular conception is that science has replaced Christianity as the best explanation for why the world is the way it is. Is that really true?

Whether you're fascinated by science like me (Joel), or not, you probably know that the world of science has yielded some absolutely incredible discoveries over the last century. One of the coolest of those discoveries is the discovery of the double-helix DNA, the building blocks of life.

DNA can be difficult to understand and explain but it is essentially the instructions within our cells that tell our cells what to do and determine what kind of organism we will be. All this begs the question: has the new information science has brought forth served to support Christian truth claims, or does it undermine Christianity?

Should Christians be concerned that what we believe is unscientific?

Our guest today is Scott Youngren, and he is going to help us find the answer. Scott is a Christian apologist who has been blogging on the topic of scientific, philosophical, and experiential reasons for belief in the existence of God, at his website www.GodEvidence.com, for over 10 years.

Many of Scott’s posts have been featured at the prominent Christian apologetics website thepoachedegg.net, which has received over 6 million page views and has been visited from nearly every country in the world, including countries where Christianity is restricted or banned altogether. He brings his experience to bear in answering the question of where DNA comes from.

Scott explains why DNA is an actual language, and how language must come from a mind, and why the language of DNA is inexplicable apart from God. Don't miss this exciting, educational and equipping discussion on God and DNA.

For more great resources on the Christian perspective, Gospel engagement and the defense of the Christian message, visit http://thethink.institute.

Show Highlights

  • DNA is an actual language

  • DNA contains vast amounts of information

  • Information theory investigates the nature of information and language

  • Language requires a mind behind it

  • The laws of nature could not account for the complex information contained within DNA

  • The God of the Bible is the best and only explanation for the information within DNA

  • John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the word,” and that takes on understanding when we realize the priority of mind in the universe.

People, Resources and Articles Mentioned in this Podcast Episode

Take your study of the relationship between Christianity and Science further with these resources from the Think Institute:

Connect with Scott

https://godevidence.com/

Where does DNA come from?


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What Should Bible-Believing Christians Think About Jordan Peterson?

By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read

Who is Jordan Peterson?

“Adulting is hard,” or so goes the popular Millennial saying. Can you relate? Millions can, and many of those millions have become followers of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. If you are a Christian familiar with Dr. Peterson, it is probable that you have asked questions like, “Why does he matter?” “How biblical is his message?” And “Is he a Christian?” If you are one of the millions he has helped with “adulting,” these questions are even more urgent.

In this episode, the Sons of Thunder (Joel and Parker) expound on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon, in order to answer those questions once and for all. 

Jordan Peterson is a Jungian psychologist and professor from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He rocketed onto the (inter)national scene first in a dust-up over the Canadian government (allegedly) mandating that Canadians use the so-called transgendered people’s preferred pronouns. Once people started listening to him, many found that he had other ideas that they found appealing. 

What is Jordan Peterson Known For?

Today Dr. Peterson is known across the English-speaking world as a thinker and commentator on how to live a fruitful and productive life. His ideas often land him in the crosshairs of those on the political and cultural left, and therefore he is followed by significant controversy. That controversy, by the way, seems to have only helped his star to rise (remember the “catastrophic” Cathy Newman interview?).

Controversy and all, Peterson has garnered a massive following of young men, who view him as something of a father figure. Peterson’s message is simple: he calls people (again, especially young men) to personal responsibility and self-respect. 

He matters, especially to those keeping track of ideological trends, because of the prominence of his ideas as well as the controversy that surrounds him. He is a psychologist, but he is not content to stay within the field of psychology, likely because he recognizes the necessary overlap between disciplines. He dabbles in theology and philosophy as well. 

Where is Jordan Peterson From?

Geographically, he comes from Toronto. Ideologically, however, he is notoriously difficult to locate. Where is he coming from? Bible-believing Christians, in particular, have grappled with what to think of him in terms of his message, and whether believers can (and should) listen to him and learn from him. 

What Jordan Peterson Believes

This is a key question. It is one that many Christians want to answer, because of the warnings in Scripture about believers partnering with nonbelievers. It is especially pertinent, given Jordan Peterson’s common causes with conservative, Bible-believing Christians. 

The appropriateness of Christians partnering with non-Christians on social issues is one believers have been asking for years (see this “Ask Pastor John” episode from 2016, “Should Christians Partner with Non-Christians on Social Issues?”). So it would really be a lot easier, many believers may be thinking, if Jordan Peterson were just a Christian. Then partnering with him would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately it is not that easy. 

In this podcast episode Joel and Parker analyze Peterson’s own statements about his beliefs. Specifically, Dr. Peterson refuses to say he believes in God, expressing his own failure to live up to the moral expectations of a believer. It seems he understands a form of law, but has no meaningful conception of grace. 

By comparing what he says to the biblical Gospel, the Sons of Thunder conclude that Jordan Peterson is not a Christian. They then discuss the value of “eating the meat and spitting out the bones,” and how much of what Jordan Peterson gets right is found in the Bible anyway. 

To learn more about the Christian message that Peterson approaches but does not quite fully embrace, read the Think Institute’s series on the biblical worldview, especially “The Biblical Worldview, Part 4: What Is Man?” and “The Biblical Worldview, Part 7: Who is Jesus

Show Highlights

  • Jordan Peterson rose to prominence as a psychology professor at the University of Toronto

  • He got into a brouhaha over the Canadian government’s alleged enforcement of compelled speech

  • He has been no stranger to controversy since then

  • It turns out Dr. Peterson has a lot more to say, especially about archetypal heros and concepts supposedly genetically engrained into humanity. 

  • He even analyzes Disney movies psychologically.

  • One interesting idea he discusses is the so-called Matthew principle.  

  • Dr. Peterson plays in the theological and philosophical sandboxes

  • Jordan Peterson gives good advice that resonates with many young men

  • He has expressed sympathy with Christian ideas and professes to be some kind of Christian

  • He will not expressly say he believes in God, due to ethical concerns

  • He also promotes evolution, deriving lessons from lobsters

  • Given his statements on God and whether he believes in God, it is unlikely that Jordan Peterson is a Christian

  • Christians are free to (cautiously) appreciate the good things Jordan Peterson says, without wholesale adopting his worldview (eat the meat; spit out the bones). 

  • We should recognize that, while Jordan Peterson has many good things to say, the things he gets right are really restatements of truth from the Bible we already have

  • He prompts Christians to ask new questions, which is valuable. 

People, Resources, and Articles Mentioned in this Podcast Episode

Connect with Joel and Parker

Parker Settecase on Twitter

Parker’s Pensees (blog)

Joel Settecase on Twitter

Joel Settecase on Instagram

Listen to the Think Podcast (and remember to leave us a review!)

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12 Rules for Life book cover - Source: jordanbpeterson.com

12 Rules for Life book cover - Source: jordanbpeterson.com

How to Explain Who God Is (Blogcast)

By Joel Settecase / 2-minute read

God is the infinite, personal, Triune Lord, who is higher than everything yet present everywhere, and who has exercises authority and control over all things. There is much we could say about the biblical view of God. However, whatever we say about him, we must do so in a way that both agrees with what the Bible says, and is understandable (which means avoiding unnecessary theological jargon). Knowing God is life’s greatest privilege, and it is our privilege as believers to share that knowledge with others.

This episode is an audio recording of the Think Institute article, How to Explain Who God Is.

Show Highlights

  • It is vital for Christians to be able to answer the question of who God is.

  • Conversations with non-Christians are opportunities to share your faith, and explaining God is a big part of that. 

  • So we need to be able to do it well.

  • “Who is God” is the first question in Catakids!

  •  God is infinite, personal, and diverse. 

  • He is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  • He is transcendent, immanent, and sovereign. 

  • Christians derive our view of God from the Bible alone. 

  • The name of God is Yahweh, which is translated “the LORD” in English Old Testaments

  • Jesus is called Lord.

  • The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ. 

  • The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the pre-incarnate Son of God.

  • The three divine Persons are one in essence, thinking, and purpose.

  • God is important to Christianity (duh). 

  • Joel gives a concise summary of who God is.

Resources and Articles to Take Your Study to the Next Level

Listen to the Think Podcast

(and remember to leave us a review!)

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How to Explain Who God Is

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

Who is God in the Christian View?

Naturally, if you are already a believing Christian, then the question of who God is might seem like a no-brainer. However, a moment's reflection will reveal to you how vital it is for you to think about this question. After all, you do not live in a world filled only with other Christians. You live in the real world. 

The real world is filled with non-Christians, and even if you are in somewhat of a Christian bubble (as I often seemed to find myself when I was a local church pastor), it is inevitable that you will often find yourself in conversation with someone who believes differently than you (again, this too happened frequently when I was a pastor). 

Each of these instances represents an opportunity to testify about who God is and what Jesus has done in your life. And the last thing you would want to have happen, when that happens, is to be stuck for words when it comes to how you describe who God is. When the time comes, you will want to be confident you can do this in a way that is clear, concise and accurate (that is, biblical). 

The question of who God is is foundational. This is why the very first question-and-answer of Catakids, the New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones, reads like this: 

Q: Who is God?

A: The Lord is God!

To be sure, you  could begin there with your discussion partner. However, you will eventually want to go deeper and explain just who “The Lord” is in the Christian view. In the Think Institute resource, Think: The Biblical Worldview, we describe God’s Lordship. That description could be summarized as follows: 

What Are the Characteristics of God?

God is that Someone who is greater than ourselves, who explains our existence. He is infinite (meaning unlimited in his nature), personal (we can know him), and diverse within himself. That is, the Lord is “Triune,” meaning one God in three Persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If you have more time, you may give the Scripture references for each of these points:

  • God is infinite: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). “I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me” (Isaiah 44:6b).

  • God is personal: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

  • God is diverse: “yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him” (2 Co. 8:6). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13). 

If you have even more time, you can mention that God is the Creator of all things, and he relates to his creation in certain ways. 

  • God is transcendent (above creation) (Isaiah 40:22).

  • God is immanent (immediately present everywhere in creation) (Psalm 139:7-12). 

  • God is sovereign (exercising authority, control and presence over creation). 

There is much more you could say about who God is, including that God is love (1 John 4:8), perfectly just, amazingly merciful, etc. 

All of the above attributes make up the Christian view of God. It is important to keep in mind that, as Christians, these are not what we think God ought to be like. We derive our conception of God not from our own wishful thinking but rather directly from holy Scripture. We did not write the Bible; we inherited it as a sacred trust, and we cannot go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).  

What Is the Christian God Called?

While we often refer to God simply as “God,” the word God is really more of a title than a proper name. 

In the Old Testament, God introduces himself to his people as “I am” (Exodus 3:14), and he is properly called “Yahweh,” the personal-name form of “I am.” In our English Bibles “Yahweh” (YHWH in the biblical Hebrew) is rendered, “The LORD.”

In the Greek of the New Testament (especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul), the word God (ho Theos) is typically used to refer to God the Father. 

God the Son, being manifested on the earth as a man named Jesus, is rightly referred to as either Jesus or “the Lord.” It is notable that Paul so often uses “Lord” (Kurios in the Greek) to refer to Jesus, given that that is the word used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) to refer to Yahweh. 

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is called the Holy Spirit or simply, the Spirit. He is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ, the Advocate, and with reference to other various functions that he carries out (the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of life, etc.). 

Who Is God and Who is Jesus? 

In the Old Testament, there are times when an “angel” speaks to the people of Israel, yet this “angel” is called Lord and worshiped as such. It is the opinion of this writer (as well as many scholars) that, while there are many angels who are infinitely lower than God (being creatures), these depictions of the Angel of the Lord, who acts and speaks as God, are actually depictions of God the Son, the Creator himself, before he became a man. 

Jesus is not identical to God the Father, nor to the Spirit. And yet the three are one, meaning perfectly unified in their essence, thinking, and purpose (John 5:19). As Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). 

Why Is God Important to Christianity?

Like the question of God’s identity, the question of God’s importance may also seem like a no-brainer, but how well can you answer it?

A correct understanding of God is vital because he is the perfect standard of goodness and truth, kindness and strength. He is the holy and just judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). We have to know who he is in order to begin to understand our world. 

On a more personal level, God is a Father to believers, and he loved us while we were yet sinners and sent his Son to die for us (Romans 5:8). He chose us to be his children before he created the world. God the Son is Jesus, our Savior, King and closest friend. God the Holy Spirit is our Advocate and life-giver, who gives us faith in Jesus, strengthens us for good works and makes us persevere in the faith.

What Is God and Who Is God?

To summarize, when asked who God is, say, “God is the infinite, personal, Triune Lord, who is higher than everything yet present everywhere, and who has exercises authority and control over all things.” And then get ready for a great conversation as you unpack what all that means.

There is much, much more we could say about the biblical view of God. However, whatever we say about him, we need to say it in a way that both accords with Scripture and makes sense to our discussion partners (which means avoiding unnecessary theological jargon whenever possible). Knowing who God is, and knowing him personally, is life’s greatest privilege, and it is our privilege as believers to share that knowledge with others.

Want to take your study to the next level? Check out this resource:

  • Think: The Biblical

When Should Christians Get Offended? (Sons of Thunder)

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read

When Is It Right to Get Offended?

As we strive to be more like Jesus, we find ourselves confronted with the question, when should Christians get offended? 

We can clearly see in the New Testament that some things did offend Jesus. In fact, some things that got him the most upset seem to be things that would be commonplace to us--nothing worth getting mad about. Other times, we see him resist reacting, or respond calmly (or not at all), over instances that would cause us to fly off the handle. How do we think biblically about our experiences, in order to respond the way Jesus wants us to?

Are Trigger Warnings Helpful?

In the interest of not offending students, professors started issuing trigger warnings at the beginning of lectures dealing with potentially-sensitive subjects. What began as a potentially-helpful practice has, over the last few years, grown into a cultural meme far beyond the halls of academia.

Today, the idea of “triggering” others has become a badge of honor for some who take pride in “melting” (offending, refuting, etc.) “snowflakes” (people who are just as unique and special as they are fragile). I (Joel) have been known to offend atheists, by making arguments like the ones in the episode, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Science.” The offense was not intentional, but it happened nonetheless.

It is ironic that it is self-styled conservatives who take the most pride in triggering self-professed progressives (who are usually more accurately called Leftists), given recent history. 

Going back about one generation, it was those on the left who were taking pride in offending conservatives and Christians. Their repeated refrain was a call for Christians and conservatives to be more “tolerant.” Today the roles seem to have flipped.

What Being Offended Really Means

When someone says they feel offended, they are really saying they have been wronged. In theological language, we might say they have been sinned against. They are the victims of an offense. 

Do We Have the Right Not To Be Offended?

As Christians, our interest is not to be in defending our own honor. We are not to be those who seek to avoid becoming triggered at all costs. Like our Lord, we are to exhibit thick skins in the face of personal offense. Jesus, “was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

We need to be seeking spiritual conversations (for help with this, see “How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations”). However, when we do this, we will inevitably encounter positions we disagree with. When that happens, we ought to look to the Bible as our guide for how to respond.

When we look at Scripture, we see that there are times when it is right to exhibit righteous indignation. Jesus became outraged when Gentiles and children were hindered from drawing near to God. In the latter case, he rebuked his disciples. In the former, he flipped some tables and got out a whip. He warned people sternly not to cause children to sin. He was angered by the Pharisees who closed the door to the Kingdom of God and refused to let anyone else enter. 

As followers of Jesus, we need not be preoccupied with defending our supposed right to not be offended. However, when barriers are placed between repentant sinners and the love of God, then we are right to not only get offended, but to act accordingly until things are made right. 

Show Highlights

  • What does it mean to be triggered?

  • Where did trigger warnings come from?

  • Conservatives tend to enjoy triggering leftists

  • Historically things were the other way around, with liberals offending conservatives

  • “South Park” and “Family Guy” are examples of offensive media

  • Christians do not need to get offended when we are personally attacked

  • There are some things that ought to rightly offend Christians

  • We get our cues from Scripture and the life of Jesus

  • In the Bible, Jesus got offended when children were harmed or kept from coming to God

  • Jesus was also offended when Gentiles were taken advantage of in the temple

  • Christians should also get offended when the Gospel is impeded

  • Sometimes flipping tables is appropriate, but usually not

Take your study to the next level with these resources


Sons of Thunder 3: When Should Christians Get Offended?

Connect with Joel and Parker

Parker Settecase on Twitter

Parker’s Pensees (blog)

Joel Settecase on Twitter

Joel Settecase on Instagram

Listen to the Think Podcast (and remember to leave us a review!)

The Think Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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How do you explain Christianity?

Get resources, articles and more podcast episodes at the Think Institute website, Truthinconversation.com.

Theology to Restore a Weary Soul with Joe Thorn

By Joel Settecase / 4-minute read

Feeling Weary? 

Have you ever felt weary? So weary that you felt it in your soul? When was that? Maybe it was after busy season at work, or after wrapping up a major ministry project in ministry caring for a loved one. 

What does God say about being weary?

The Bible has a lot to say about the weary soul. Also, I have I have discussed a biblical perspective on weariness in episodes, If God is Good, Why Did He Let This Happen to Me? and Ends, Means & Evangelism (blogcast). Because the Bible has so much to say, it can be easy to pick a verse for a quick “head” fix, like Philippians 4:6, which says “Do not be anxious about anything,” and then grit your teeth and white-knuckle your way through. 

It can also be tempting to fixate on a verse for a “heart” (emotional) fix--something like Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” 

Neither way--seeking only a “head” fix or only a “heart”/emotional fix--is very effective. Yet as Christians, we are supposed to have everything needed for life and godliness--and we’re supposed to be able to take what we know about God and experience rest and restoration for our weary souls. So how exactly does that happen?

What does it mean to have a weary soul?

And what do we do about it? In this episode we’re going to help you find the answer. 

My guest is Pastor Joe Thorn. Joe is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois, and a host of the Doctrine and Devotion podcast, with Jimmy Fowler. He has also written several books about the relationship between theology and the Christian life. 

Those books include Note to Self (which he talked about with the Biblical Counseling Coalition in 2011), and Experiencing the Trinity, in which he explains how a robust knowledge of God's nature can strengthen one's faith and bring believers back from the brink of falling away and restore them after burnout, exhaustion, and distress. 

Together we discuss the importance of theology as well as finding theological coaches to help us along our journey. 

Show Highlights

  • Joe describes himself in three words.

  • Joel tells the story of how he and Joe first connected, four years ago. 

  • Joe explains how he got into mentoring and coaching leaders.

  • Joel asks: what are the biggest myths about anxiety and despair? 

  • One of Joe’s observations in Experiencing the Trinity really resonated with Joel: the worry, “God doesn’t seem to have provided for them. What if he doesn’t provide for me?”

  • How the Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement can help to strengthen a Christian, and what happens if we lose that teaching? 

  • Joe talks about theological coaching and an article he wrote for Place for Truth.

  • Pastors should be theological coaches.

  • What if a Christian’s pastors would not make good theological coaches?

People, Resources and Articles Mentioned in this Podcast Episode

Source: bookdepository.com

Source: bookdepository.com

Connect with Joe

Joe Thorn on Twitter

Joe Thorn on Instagram

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Help get the word out about this episode

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Amazing Facts about the Bible

In Ecclesiastes 12:12, King Solomon says, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

That line was written approximately 3,000 years ago, and if what Solomon said was true then, we can only imagine how much more true it is today, with all the thousands of books written between Solomon and the invention of the printing press--and then innumerable millions of books written since the arrival of Gutenberg's invention.

In fact, Google, the online arbiter of all truth (rivaled only for that title by Snopes), estimates that there are nearly 130 million books in the world.

For someone like me, who loves reading and has a room in my house filled with books, many of which I will probably never even read, that sounds like a challenge I want to accept, though of course it would be impossible to read all the books in the world.

While many are skippable, some of them are worth reading and even life-changing. Historically, Western Civilization (of which I am a part) has recognized a certain canon of books to be considered essential--the so-called Great Books.

Other civilizations have their own lists, and of course different worldviews and religions all have their own foundational books--the Vedas, the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, the Origin of Species, the Communist Manifesto, etc.

However, of all the books ever written, there is one that stands above the rest in its internal attributes and external impact on the world.

It has shaped civilizations, launched Reformations, ended slavery, sparked revolutions, and transformed the lives of billions of people.

In this episode we'll examine its cultural impact, its remarkable composition, its fulfilled prophecies, and its unparalleled central message--the Gospel that has changed me and can change you.

I'm speaking, of course, about the Bible.

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Developing the Masculine Mind with Alex Rodriguez of the Men's Muster

Manliness is an incredibly hot topic right now. There is a whole online ecosystem known as the Manosphere, filled with guys ranging from so-called pickup artists all the way to those who run Christian ministries aimed at helping men pursue biblical manliness (our own friend Jarrett Samuels at the Pursuit of Manliness is doing great work in this are). The Art of Manliness is a massively-impactful website with a podcast near the top of the charts. Jordan Peterson, who encourages men to stand up straight with their shoulders back, has skyrocketed in popularity. Our guest today is Alex Rodriguez. Alex has launched a ministry that is uniquely focused on discipling and deploying men for Christ and his kingdom. We connected with him via social media months ago, and I (Joel) brought my son to one of his four-hour boot camps recently. In this episode, we will talk about the Men's Muster ministry, a man's place in the local church, the family and society, and how to develop the masculine mind. In addition to founding the Men's Muster, our guest earned his M. A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Knox Theological Seminary. He's the Student Ministries Director at North Suburban Church in Deerfield, Illinois, and he's a husband and a father of four children. We've been looking forward to this conversation for a long time.

To follow the Men's Muster or contact Alex about a biblical boot camp for the men at your church, visit themensmuster.org.

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Ends, Means & Evangelism (Blogcast)

This article was originally posted on Joel Settecase’s pastoral blog.

My son has been in the hospital for over two weeks now. My wife posts updates on her blog, but I have not written much about him (outside of social media). However, as Lukas has been hospitalized, I have been doing a lot of thinking about God’s sovereignty, and I want to share my thoughts. Specifically, I want to talk about how I think the Lord is using my son’s health crisis to accomplish his mission for our family.

What does it mean that God is sovereign?

When believers say that God is “sovereign,” we are saying that God is completely free in his ability to act in every area over which he has authority, which is to say, over all of creation.

One of the entailments of God being sovereign is that he has not only the authority to plan and declare intended outcomes, but also the ability and power to make those outcomes happen. This is true on the cosmic scale (“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4)), but it is also true at the personal level. The circumstances of each person’s life have been predestined in advance by God (Psalm 139:16 says each person’s days were written in God’s book before they ever happened).

This truth, that God exercises sovereign control over human lives, is wondrously seen in the way he brings sinful people into saving relationship with himself. The Bible teaches that, apart from a powerful work of God’s grace on an individual’s mind, no one would ever naturally turn from his sin and love God (Romans 8:6-8). Therefore everyone who is justified–forgiven and declared to be righteous before God–is done so not by his own power but by God’s (Romans 4:5).

Again, God is sovereign, and we see the beauty of his sovereignty in the way he forgives sinful people and gives us new life in Jesus.

God’s sovereignty over the ends and the means

So then, does God know whom he will justify, whom he will save? Yes, he does. In fact, he has already pre-planned ahead of time, determining in advance to save his people.

Not one sinner upon whom God has set his sovereign sights will be left out of God’s saving plan.

Because of the intricacies of God’s plan (which involves every detail of his spiritual, natural and human creation), in order to effect his desired outcomes, he must also exercise sovereign control over every detail leading up to those outcomes. As apologist James R. White and others have stated, “God ordains the ends as well as the means.

When it comes to his plan to save his chosen people God has included, as means, the prayers and proclamation of his word on the part of believers. If you have become a Christian, that probably happened through someone teaching you the Gospel at some point. Someone was also likely praying for the Gospel to take root in your heart and mind, and God heard those prayers and granted you repentance and faith. In sending that person to you and answering those prayers, God was working out what he had determined in advance to do. He was accomplishing his intended ends through the use of his intended means.

So what does God’s sovereignty have to do with Lukas’s stay in the hospital?

In September 2018, Aliza and I were commissioned by Cru as missionaries to carry out Cru’s mission of winning, building, and sending disciples of Jesus. As we have worked to develop our new ministry, we have specifically committed ourselves to the mission of equipping believers with knowledge, engaging them in conversation with non-believers, and encouraging them to share and defend their faith. We want to communicate the Gospel to non-believers ourselves, and we want to empower Christians to do the same.

We have been praying for the Lord to bless our ministry. We believe getting the Gospel out to hundreds and thousands of people is one of the ends God has intended for our life. We also prayerfully believe that he will use our work to bring many sinners to repentance and faith. What we most certainly did not expect were the means by which God was going to do this. What do I mean?

What I mean is that the Lord is using our time here in the hospital to encourage Christians and to evangelize non-Christians. Aliza and I have had opportunities to share the Gospel with nurses and parents of other patients. Aliza’s blog is getting thousands of views–and she is sharing the Gospel in every post. Literally thousands of people are reading and hearing about Jesus Christ through our family’s pain and suffering.

Does this mean we want to go through this? From a human perspective, of course not! However, this is what we take wonderful comfort in: we know that whatever happens here at the hospital (and we are of course praying hard for a complete and timely recovery of our little guy), that our sovereign God is watching over us (Psalm 121:5), walking with us (Joshua 1:9), and working out every detail of our lives for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

We do not have full insight into God’s plan as to why he has allowed us to enter into this trial. However, we are not afraid. Rather, we are “bold as lions”(Proverbs 28:1) because we know whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12). So we pray that God’s word would prove true: that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), and that by the means our tribulations, our Sovereign God would accomplish his ends of saving many souls.

Pray for Superhero Lukas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pray-for-Superhero-Lukas-379691506187358/

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What is the Gospel?

Over the last decade or so, there's been a resurgence of robust theology in many local churches, and all kinds of exciting, Gospel-centered movements have sprung up. 

However, in the last year and a half, there has been a disturbing trend of many of those same churches turning away from making the Gospel their top priority and turning instead toward cultural and social activism. Churches chasing after societal improvement seek to address supposed social and political needs, in order to help people live better lives in the here and now. However, while these desired social outcomes are said to be "Gospel issues," there is a real danger that churches are chasing them at the expense of the Gospel.

Certainly, the Gospel has implications for how Christians will function within the broader society, and there is no shortage of social problems to address. Yet our weapon is the word of God--the Bible--and the heart of the Bible is the Gospel. 

The Gospel is the cure for sin, and this is what we must bring to the sinful world. 
With all the talk about the Gospel, it would help to know what it actually is. So, do you know what the Gospel is? Can you explain it? How well can you articulate it? 

First we will talk about the need for Christians to understand the Gospel, followed by what our attitude ought to be toward it, according to Scripture. Then we'll give a very clear and biblical definition of the Gospel and get practical by outlining five ways to communicate it. 

We pray this helps you get equipped and encouraged to communicate the best news on earth and the greatest story ever told. Welcome to the Think Podcast. We hope it makes you think.

In this episode we mentioned the Changing Face of Evangelism training. If you want to get this training for your church, contact Joel Settecase: https://thethink.institute/contact. Visit churchmovements.com for more information.

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Does the Universe Have a Wonderful Plan for My Life?

Is there an overarching plan for your life, the universe and everything? And if there is, just whose plan is it anyway? It has been popular in recent years to personify "the Universe," as though the matter-and energy, space-time reality we inhabit is somehow personal and even governs our lives in some way. In this episode I discuss that trend and how the personification and even deification of "the Universe" is a cheap substitute for the biblical presentation of God as the sovereign Lord over his creation (including us and the universe too).

During the time that I was a pastor at a local church (actually at a couple of local churches), I used to blog on my personal Wordpress site, Settecase.Wordpress.com. I got a lot of traffic over there, and I still do (at least by my standards), but now I write exclusively on the Think Institute site, Truthinconversation.com, so I’m faced with a dilemma. I want to preserve that blog, but I also want to deliver that content to the folks I'm serving through the Think Institute, yet without simply reposting the article onto the T. I. blog.

How do I introduce the articles, resources and content from my personal blog to the new audience of the Think Institute, and the churches I want to partner with for equipping, engagement and encouragement in Gospel ministry?

The answer is this: I’m taking some of my most popular articles from my personal blog and bringing them over to the Think Institute in audio format--i.e. as podcast episodes. I did that already with "30 Questions for Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, which was one of the articles on my personal blog that had gotten the most hits. And now I’m doing it with this article. I hope it's helpful and "I hope it makes you think."

Take your study further:

  • Ravi Zacharias on the four questions of a coherent worldview: https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/a-coherent-worldview

  • Cornelius Van Til on God’s Transcendence and Immanence: https://corneliusvantil.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/transcendence-and-immanence/

  • A helpful diagram of God’s Lordship Attributes (John Frame's concept) by Neil Robbie: https://transforminggrace.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/john-m-frame-on-the-lordship-attributes/

  • “One or Two?” by Peter Jones: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/one-or-two/

  • “The Universe Has A Plan, Kids” – a blog post by Virginia Pasley that helped inform this post: https://thoughtcatalog.com/virginia-pasley/2013/11/the-universe-has-a-plan-kids/

  • Read the original article on Joel Settecase’s personal blog: https://settecase.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/does-the-universe-have-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/

What Does the Bible Teach About Education?

By Joel Settecase / 13-minute read

While Christians approach the subject of education from different perspectives and come to diverse conclusions, the Bible does present clear answers to questions like whose responsibility it is, what the curricula should center around, and the desired effects and goal of education.

With home education growing worldwide and about ten percent of American students enrolled in private, non-governmental schools, this seems like a good time to talk about education from a biblical perspective.

The endeavor of entering a discussion of how Christian parents ought to educate their children is one fraught with peril. Inevitably any discussion or teaching on the subject is going to step on toes and aggravate raw nerves of Christians with strong convictions on the matter. Even those of us who ostensibly consider themselves “Bible Centered” (which, according to the Barna Group only amounts to a paltry 5% of Americans) have undoubtedly had our views on education shaped by both Scripture as well as external influences, including memories (good and bad) of our own childhood education. If we were to listen to the voice of God through the cacophony of voices speaking about this issue, what would we hear him saying?

In a (now postponed) episode of The Think Podcast, my guest and I enjoyed a robust conversation about Christian approaches to education, although we did not answer the question many want to jump to: “Should Christian parents put their children in the public (government) schools?” This is the question many want to jump immediately to answering. However before we can answer that we need to see what God tells us in his word about three vital elements: the responsibility of education, the focus of the curricula and the goal or desired results of education.

I want to close this introduction with two quick thoughts.

First, note that just now I did not say we are going to look at the goal or desired results of education “for Christians,as though there were separate norms for believers that unbelievers would be free to accept or reject. Of course anyone may accept or reject whatever the Bible says (and we reject it to our peril), but if Christ really does possess all authority in Heaven and on Earth (and he does according to Matthew 28:18), and if the Bible is his word (and it is according to Luke 24:27 and John 5:39, etc.), then the Bible’s prescriptions for education apply to the whole of humanity, not just those who accept them. So there’s that.

Secondly, in terms of defining what education is, I roughly have in mind the definition expounded upon by Douglas Wilson when he speaks about the paideia of God (quoting the Apostle in Ephesians 6:4), which I loosely summarize as:

A system of teaching and enculturation that transcends (though not excluding) the formal schooling happening typically between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and that is built upon the foundation of, and in support of, a robust biblical worldview.*

I want the rest of the article to serve as a resource for parents and other Christians who are thinking (or want to begin to think) biblically about their children’s education. Under each of the three headers, I will list the answers and supporting biblical passages. Feel free to leave any comments in the appropriately-marked “comments” section below.

Who “Owns” Your Children’s Education?

Whose responsibility is it to education our children?

Fathers and Mothers

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

—Deut. 6:6-7

You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

—Deut. 11:19

Note: as a good New Covenant Theologian (as I am, which was pointed out by Joe and Jimmy on a recent episode of the podcast Doctrine and Devotion), I recognize that these commands were given to Old Covenant Israelite parents, that they would teach their children the commands of the Mosaic Law. Believers are not under that covenant or law, but the O. T. Law is instructive for us (Romans 15:4) and the pattern of parents teaching their children persists throughout Scripture into the New Testament, as we shall see.

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching

—Prov. 1:8

O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth

—Prov. 4:1-5

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

—Eph. 6:4

Interestingly, the same verb (ektrepho) Paul uses for how fathers are to “bring up” their children is also used in Ephesians 5:29, when Paul commands husbands to “nourish” their wives as their own bodies. Husbands and fathers therefore have a special responsibility to oversee the educative environment of their homes (see also 1 Cor. 14:35, Eph. 5:25-26).

God Directly

God may directly impart wisdom or knowledge to people. Because Christians enjoy a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, we enjoy the benefits of God teaching us (often through his word, and always in direct agreement with his word, when the instruction comes by way of other means).

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

—Psalm 25:4-5

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

—Daniel 1:17

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

—James 1:5

The Church

Just as parents are to foster the household of the immediate family as an educational environment, so also is the “household of God” a place where teaching and learning take place. In fact the leaders of each local church, the elders, are required to be men who are “apt to teach” (2 Tim. 2:24). Education is a mission of the church given by Christ himself in the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

—Matthew 28:19-20

And elsewhere, the Apostle Paul instructs the church to teach:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching

—Romans 12:6-7

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

—Titus 2:3-5

In that Titus passage, Paul essentially tells Pastor Titus to commission the older women to facilitate a kind of practical-theology-meets-home-economics-meets-marriage-counseling program.

The State (in the right circumstances) may provide some facilitation

Again, this deals with Old Covenant Israel, however it is instructive:

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals...And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.

King David, as head of state, set up a worship music arts teaching program for temple worship. Note that David was not doing the teaching, nor were any of his governmental officials leading the department. Rather David set it up and entrusted it to faithful and gifted instructors, under God’s leadership.** Translated to modern times this may look like a government giving a public award or even a tax break to an arts program that seeks to instill the love of truth and beauty in its students, which would be in line with the responsibility of government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-14) to sanction good behavior.

What Should the Content or Curricula of Education Be?

Education should found its foundation in the worship and reverence of the Lord:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

—Proverbs 1:7

As for the subjects to be covered, anything good, true and beautiful is fair game. Classically, students were taught according to the Trivium of subjects, namely Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. This format is followed by classical schools today. In my own perusal of Scripture I found support for inclusion of the following subjects. The list is not certainly not exhaustive but may be instructional.

  • Natural sciences. Adam’s first job was to classify the animals. Proverbs 6:6-8 encourages entomology as a source wisdom.

  • Biblical Hermeneutics. Jesus says one who has mastered the Old Testament and is also trained in the New Testament is like a man who “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52).

  • Philosophy and poetry. The Apostle Paul quotes from pagan poets and philosophers when he needs to demonstrate a point, indicating the value in this study (cf. Ti. 1:12, Acts 17:28).

  • Literature. Jude (1:14) quotes from the Book of Enoch, even citing the passage he quotes as an authority. Paul asked Timothy to bring him his books (2 Tim. 4:13).

  • Cosmology and Astrophysics. Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God. The study of the heavens ought to aim to find out what the heavens are saying.

  • History. Scripture is itself a historical text and is filled with commands for God’s people to “remember.”

  • Christology and Theology. Jesus tells his followers to teach disciples “All that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), just as Paul tells Timothy to pass on “What you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 2:2) and to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13) .

What Is the Biblical Goal of Education?

Ultimately, the goal is that the student would own his own learning and be able to test doctrines and studies himself, to discern truth from error. For example, the author of Hebrews admonishes the Hebrew Christians for their inability to have achieved maturity, calling them children in need of “milk” (Heb. 5:12).

The Berean Jews, on the other hand, took ownership of their own education and searched the Scriptures as soon as they heard the new teaching of the Gospel; Luke (the author of Acts) calls them “noble” (Acts 17:11).

Good instruction is life-giving (Prov. 4:13); as parents we ought to seek to educate our children in such a way that, when they are older, we will be happy if they stick with it (as they most likely will according to Proverbs 22:6). We want our children to become the kind of learners who intertwine their righteousness with their learning and become wiser still (Prov. 9:9).

Ultimately our goal is to ensure that our children are provided with the tools to become mature and complete through their studies, studies which are rooted in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17) but which branch out into every area of God’s world, and studies which are supplemented by rigorous testing, which produces maturity (cf. James 1:4).

There are many more passages we could have cited and dissected, but this should at least provide parents with a framework for thinking robustly, from a biblical worldview, about these three pertinent questions as they seek to pursue their children’s education in a way that honors the Lord.

Notes:

*Wilson sees full-orbed Christian education as not being fully possible to achieve apart from a Christian civilization, but as a Postmillennialist he believes we are on our way there. As an Amillennialist I disagree with him. However, I do consider myself something of an “optimistic Amillennialist, to which, when I told that to Doug Wilson in a recent phone conversation, he replied, “Well, that works.”

**King David, the man of God and prophet, was himself “apt to teach,” and apparently enjoyed teaching children the fear (worship and reverence) of the Lord (Psalm 34:11).

This article by the Institute for Faith, Works & Economics helped me find the 1 Peter passage about government praising good behavior: Dr. Art Lindsley, “What Does the Bible Say about the Role of Government?”, tifwe.org, accessed on July 30, 2019, at https://tifwe.org/bible-role-of-government/.

How Should Christians View the Law of Moses? with Dan Osborn

When did Christianity really begin? The church began at Pentecost in or around the year 33 A. D....right? It was then that God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. Yet the church's roots go back much further; it is also the continuation of the special relationship with God that believers enjoyed for thousands of years before Christ.

Those B. C. believers put their hope in the same Messiah that A. D. believers (i.e. Christians) hope in today. They were looking forward to his first coming, whereas we look back on his first coming and forward to his second coming. There is continuity between the Church of Jesus Christ and the believers who came before (as a particular example, Christians are said to have the same faith as Abraham).

Enter the Old Covenant Law (A. K. A. the Law of Moses). The nation of Israel, the covenant people of God in the B. C. era, were given 613 laws and told to obey them in order to maintain the terms of their covenant with God.

As believers today, this side of the events of the life, death, resurrection and reign of the Messiah, how should we view those commands? Should we obey them all? Is that even possible today? Should we keep some but not others? Should we unhitch from them all? And how do we know? In this episode, Dan Osborn and Joel Settecase sit down to address the question of the Law of Moses and Christians today. We hope it makes you think.

We need your help to introduce the Think Podcast to more people. Would you help us out? Give us a five-star rating and write us a short review on Apple Podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/…/this-is-apologet…/id1462722483…).

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How Our Cognitive Faculties Conflict with the Worldview of Naturalism

The SONS OF THUNDER (Joel and Parker) are back, and there are many things the brothers can't agree on.

For starters, which one of them is the host, and which one is the "co-guest"?

Second, should these Sons of Thunder episodes fall under the auspices of the Think Podcast, or is this its own separate thing?

And the third thing they can't agree on is what should be the catchphrase at the end of each Sons of Thunder episode? (You'll have to listen to the end to see what they came up with--also, in the spirit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we may have left a few "post credit scenes" for you to enjoy as well).

Alright, so these guys might not see eye-to-eye on everything, but one thing they absolutely, unequivocally *do* agree on is that Christian Theism is correct, rational and satisfying, while atheism (naturalism, materialism, and every form of "physicalism") is, well, not so much any of those things.

There are many excellent arguments Christians may use to support the truth of the Christian message, but in this episode the brothers analyze two similar arguments (so similar that they're sometimes thought to be two versions of the same one), one from philosopher Alvin Plantinga and the other from author C. S. Lewis. Plantinga's "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism" and Lewis's "Argument from Reason" both make the case that, if God did not exist, then (for reasons illuminated by the arguments) human beings would have no reason to trust their conclusions (including their conclusion that God does not exist!). It gets technical, but it's a fun and engaging conversation, and (probably) overly-inflammatory as well, which is what you expect from a couple of guys intentionally calling themselves the Sons of Thunder.

Parker does a lot of the heavy philosophical lifting on this episode, bringing to bear his study of the two arguments and two men making the arguments.

He also makes a shameless plug for his pretentious, pretentious blog (his words), which you can locate, read, educate yourself with at http://www.trendsettercase.wordpress.com. Seriously, his blog is incredible, and you'll want to check it out.

Follow along with the Think Institute on Twitter (@ThinkInst), Facebook and Instagram (both are @TheThinkInstitute), or get more articles and resources to help you get equipped with knowledge, encouraged to share and defend the Christian message, and engaged in conversation with unbelievers as you seek "Truth In Conversation" at http://www.truthinconversation.com.

How Do the Heavens Declare the Glory of God? with Daniel Ray

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.

So it sounds like the more we study the heavens, or outer space, the more we ought to come to glorify God. We might expect modern scientists to be the most devout Christians, and yet many of the scientific fields are dominated today by atheists and unbelievers.

My guest today wants to change that situation and show everyone how astronomy and astrophysics, which unravel the mysteries of the universe, bring glory to God.

On this episode of the Think Podcast I speak with Dan Ray. Dan is a former schoolteacher and lay astronomer. He earned his Master’s in Christian apologetics from Houston Baptist University and his thesis explored the contemporary relevance of C. S. Lewis’s cosmological imagination in the Chronicles of Narnia. He also hosts an excellent podcast called “Good Heavens.”

This was an important discussion because of the nature of Dan’s book, the Story of the Cosmos, which recently debuted on Amazon and made a big splash. It’s a new book that brings over a dozen different scientists, apologists and thinkers together to answer the question, what do the heavens teach us about the glory of God?

Over the next hour you’ll hear us discuss: how the book came together, the Hubble Deep field photographs, which amazed me as a kid, the awe and wonder of looking up at the night sky filled with stars and realizing how truly tiny we are, human significance… or is it insignificance? (we get into that), the meaning and purpose of stars from a biblical perspective, the importance of connecting various fields of study and “taking every thought captive” and the unity of the church as we examine the glory of the heavens and unite around the truth, and we even delve into spiritual warfare and how cosmological studies play a role in that.

We also bring up the founders of modern science, men like Kepler, Brahe, Galileo--and how their faith contributed to their pioneering scientific efforts.

Before our dialoguoe ended we did get into some apologetical argumentation, using the Cosmos as our jump-off point, talking about how modern science, at least when done naturalistically, assumes the intelligibility of the universe w/o a reason. And we talked about how this led to a dilemma for Albert Einstein.

Dan ended with recommending to our listeners the value of having a personal encounter with nature, of just Looking up at the night sky in a dark sky park, and he might even motivate our listeners to invest in a telescope. I know I’d be considering it if I didn’t live in the light-polluted metropolis of Chicago.

He makes some really valuable recommendations for those who want to take their study of the night sky further, so make sure you listen all the way through.

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30 Questions that Challenge Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics

We are changing up the regular routine of weekly podcasts in order to post this bonus episode offering (what we hope will be) a really useful resource.

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The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. 

I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own.

Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message. We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview. The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

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30 Questions to Ask Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

This post is designed to go along with episode 17 of the Think Podcast. You can listen to the Think Podcast here on this site or find it on your favorite podcast app by going to this link.

The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own. Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message.

We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own. After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview.

The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through. Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

What follows is content, slightly modified, that originally appeared on my personal blog.

Christians are constantly confronted with questions about the Christian message.  We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The Questions

Now, here are 30 questions for atheists, agnostics and skeptics (I go into these in greater detail in the podcast episode).

  1. Are you certain that God does not exist, or that you can’t know whether He exists?

  2. How do you know that?

  3. Did you use your five senses to come to that decision?

  4. Given that God is by definition a Spirit, how much sense does it make to decide whether He exists using your five physical senses?

  5. Did you use your reasoning to determine God does not exist?

  6. How do you know your reasoning is working correctly?

  7. Did you use your reasoning to determine your reasoning was working?

  8. Do you see the problem with that?

  9. The Bible says that skepticism about God is the result of a mind suppressing what it knows to be true. Have you ever tried doubting your doubts about God?

  10. The Bible contains hundreds prophecies fulfilled hundreds of years after they were written. How would that be possible without God?

  11. The Bible says that objective moral values are based in God’s morally perfect nature. Without God, what do you think they are based in?

  12. Jesus’ disciples went from being terrified of death, to being willing to die for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise, what do you think changed their mind?

  13. There are hundreds of varieties of unbelief. How do you know yours is the right one?

  14. Archaeology is constantly confirming the details of the accounts in the Bible. Why do you think that is, if the Bible isn’t true?

  15. There is more evidence that Jesus Christ lived, died and came back to life than for just about any other event in ancient history. If God did not exist, or Jesus’ claims to be God were not true, then how would you explain his resurrection?

  16. What do you think makes so many Christians able to live radically different lives from the way they used to live prior to becoming Christians–even to the point of forgiving their abusers for terrible crimes?

  17. One of the most basic principles of philosophy, confirmed by science* is ex nihilo nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”). Without God, how do you think everything came into being?

  18. The Bible says that we were created to live forever, and that death is an unnatural enemy, brought about by sin. If you are a naturalist who believes death is simply part of life, how do you explain why we feel like we ought to live forever, and why pain and death feel so unnatural and wrong to just about everyone?

  19. If your brain is merely the unplanned result of evolution by natural selection, aimed at survival and nothing else, what makes you think you can trust your reasoning to discover the truth, rather than just whichever belief is best for survival?

  20. If no God, why would anything objectively matter?

  21. If no God, why is there so much good in the world?

  22. If no God, how did our DNA get programmed with such incredibly complex language and instructions?

  23. Is everything in the universe really just matter and energy?

  24. If you just thought, “Yes,” was that thought made of matter and energy?

  25. The Bible says every good and perfect gift is from the Father above (i.e. God). To whom are you grateful for the good things in your life?

  26. Where do you think the laws of logic come from?

  27. Are the laws of logic made of matter and energy?

  28. What evidence would actually convince you that Jesus Christ is God, the Lord, and the only Savior?

  29. How much do you know about the heart of the Christian message, AKA the “Gospel” or good news?

  30. Are you ready to learn more about Jesus? Start here with the Gospel of John.

Note:

In the comments on the original article, someone objected that this is a philosophical, rather than a scientific principle. Yet science corroborates it and even relies upon it. Scientists such as Lawrence Krauss and others have proposed that the universe could have popped into existence from “nothing,” but they define “nothing” as an energy-neutral quantum field. If you have to redefine nothing, you’re no longer talking about nothing. The principle of ex nihilo nihil fit, therefore, turns out to be as true in science (excluding God, of course) as in philosophy. Can you imagine how useless scientific hypothesis and inquiry would be if we expected things to suddenly, causelessly, just come into being from nothing?

How to Share Your Faith with Muslims

By N. G. / 5-minute read

Sharing your faith with Muslims can seem very intimidating, however, by using the commonly shared prophets between the Bible and the Quran, we can easily show the authority of Christ and start having Gospel-centered conversations with our Muslim friends.

Listen to N. G. talk about how he brings the Good News to Muslim people on Episode 10 of our podcast.

An Important (but Complex) Question

“We all worship the same God. Can’t we just get along?” 

This is a question I have been asked several times, by many people. Muslims, Christians, and even observers who would say they do not really belong in either group. The answer to this question is not nearly as straightforward as some may think, mostly because there are actually two parts to it we need to address. 

The first half of the question, although it is not phrased as a question, carries many implications which need to be addressed. It is true; there are many similarities between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the Quran, however, there are many differences as well, which need to be explored. The approach I take to this revolves around a path of prophets whom the Bible and the Quran share. It goes a little like this:

Adam and Abraham

We see Adam in the garden, and I emphasize the promise God gave the serpent after the fall, where the seed of women will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise His heel (Gen 3). Following that, we talk about Abraham who was promised descendants who would become a great nation, through whom the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12). Abraham then established this covenant with God, but only God passed through, meaning that, if the covenant were ever broken, only God could be held accountable (Genesis 15). 

The Psalms help us elaborate, teaching that there would specifically be a high priest from Abraham’s line, who would be the one to bring the blessing (Psalm 110). 

Moses

Next comes Moses, a prophet who was described as carrying more authority than all the other prophets (Deut 34:10). In studying his life, I really go through the plagues and talk about how powerful the one true God showed Himself to be over all the false gods of the world, especially over such a powerful kingdom as Egypt. Then I like to bring to their attention to Deuteronomy 18:15, which states that there would be one other prophet like Moses, and to Him all the people must listen. 

King David

Next we follow Israel’s greatest king, David. He became king at a time when the nation was accepting all the idols from the surrounding nations. He ridded the nation of the idols and brought worship to the one true God. Because of this, God promised there would be an eternal King to come through David’s line (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

With all these prophets, I think it is so important to emphasize their role in proclaiming that there is only one God. Muslims believe Christians are polytheistic. When sharing our beliefs, tell them we are not. A person cannot say you believe something when you are blatantly saying you don’t believe that; it just does not work.

John the Baptist

This next prophet holds a role in paving the way for the Messiah which, I believe, is the most important. This is John the Baptist. You see, so many people had been waiting for such a long time for this Messiah to come, liberate them from their oppressors, and rule the world. They were waiting for a strong military leader. They were waiting for Muhammad (so to speak). However, Muhammad did not come, somebody else did. John the Baptist carried the most honorable role; he told the world here He is, don’t miss Him!

Jesus

Spend as much time as you possibly can with your Muslim friends studying the life of Jesus. Every story if you can. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John does not consist merely in the final chapters they each wrote. The Gospel is the entire life of Christ. So don’t just share Jesus’ wounds. Share Jesus’ ways, His words, His worth, and His wounds.

This is what the Gospel is composed of. It is the power of Christ to set us free from sin and restore our relationship with Him. The death and resurrection is so important, but it is not solely important. Share Jesus’ whole life. He is the one the world waited for, and we cannot miss Him.

Muhammad

I do also tend to speak of Muhammad. I will say he came about 600 years after Jesus in a time and place where many people worshipped many gods. He told them there is only one God (notice a trend?) and in his teachings (recorded in the Quran) he says to “follow the signs” several hundred times. Well, what are the signs? They are the seed of women, the priest in the order of Melchizedek, the prophet like Moses, and the eternal king in the line of David. “Well, all signs point to Jesus! Would you like to know this Jesus?”

So, Can We Just Get Along?

As for the second half of the question, “Can’t we just get along?” I think the answer is yes. We should strive to be friends with those of other faiths--in fact Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

However, the best way we can love them as we love ourselves is to always remember our duty to them, which is to share the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ, which is the Gospel.