Apologetics

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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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 Apologetics Benefits the Local Church with Chaseton Hahn

Does your church have an apologetics ministry? Does it need one? How well-equipped do you think your church’s members are when it comes to being able to articulate what they believe and why it’s true? Or even more importantly, how confident are you that what your fellow members believe about God, truth, the Gospel, Jesus, sin, and salvation actually is true? These are all topics we are going to get into in this episode of the Think Podcast.

Yes that’s right, welcome to the Think Podcast, freshly renamed from This Is Apologetics. Why the name change? We are branching out now beyond apologetics into the areas of worldview, theology and evangelism. We're seeking truth in conversation with pastors, missionaries, thinkers, and others every week.

Tonight, however we are continuing with the common theme of apologetics. Joel Settecase & Think Institute contributor Chaseton Hahn discuss the benefits of a local church having an apologetics ministry. It's about more than just outreach.

The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation.

Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.

The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can read the full article by Chaseton Hahn and Joel Settecase at /thethink.institute/articles/top-10…-of-your-church.

Follow along on Twitter (@thinkinst), Instagram (@thethinkinstitute), Facebook (@thethinkinstitute), and online (www.truthinconversation.com). 
Connect with Chaseton on Facebook or on Twitter: @Chaseton_Hahn.

Hey! Want to help the Think Institute grow the Think Podcast and equip more believers to know what we believe, share the Gospel, and engage in meaningful conversation with non-believers? There is a really important way that you can help.

Help us get the word out about this ministry and podcast by writing us a review and giving us an honest, 5-star review on Apple Podcasts.

It takes two minutes tops and really helps us grow our audience, so we can equip, engage and encourage more believers. This also helps us connect with more pastors and local churches, so we can partner for worldview, evangelism and apologetics trainings.

A Christian's Reply to Taylor Swift's Song, "You Need to Calm Down"

Taylor Swift's new single calls out conservatives (and, apparently, Bible-believing Christians) for supposedly opposing the freedom and dignity of her friends. We look for the presuppositions being brought to the table and what kind of worldview best supports the values she promotes in her song, then we commend the biblical worldview and the Gospel. The hope with this episode is that believers will be encouraged to talk about these issues with their non-Christian friends, and that nonbelievers who listen would hear the truth, that sin is a serious matter, but there is true freedom and abundant life with God, through Jesus.

What Is True?

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read.

Reason, science and intuition are invaluable truth-seeking faculties, but each one is insufficient on its own. We need a unifying principle tying them all together and giving us epistemological warrant for using all three. Moreover, we need a basis for trusting them in the first place. Scripture provides that unity and basis.

The question, “What is true?” is one of the seven questions we have identified as being essential to every worldview. This question is best addressed in two parts. I’ve already discussed the nature of truth here, so this article will focus exclusively on knowledge.

The Study of Knowledge

The study of knowing, or the theory of knowledge, is called epistemology. Epistemology deals with the questions above. While we take the fact that we know things for granted, we really should not. After all, why should we think that we can know anything? Why should we think that we can have knowledge? Come to think of it, what is knowledge?

Knowledge is classically defined as “justified, true belief.” The word “justified” has led to much debate, and in recent years philosopher Alvin Plantinga has offered the definition “warranted, true belief.” We may say that Bob has knowledge when he believes a true proposition to be true, and his truth-seeking faculties (his mind, his reason, his five senses, etc.) are functioning properly and in a favorable environment. In this case there is alignment between the truth of the proposition, the belief that Bob has, and the warrant that Bob has for believing it.

Three Views of How We Come to Know Things

So how do we arrive at knowledge? How do we come to know? And how do we know that we know?  

Philosophers (and others who spend their days pondering such questions) have developed many epistemologies, but these can be roughly divided into three categories.

  1. Empiricism: knowledge is based on the five senses. True knowledge begins with the scientific process of collecting data from the world, analyzing it, and drawing conclusions based on those observations. Man’s reason can be deceived, but cold, hard facts don’t lie. Example: William Clifford said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

  2. Rationalism: knowledge is based on certain principles, which we know apart from what we experience through our senses. These rules govern our thinking. Laws of logic are examples of these rules. When we know these rules, we can reason our way to all true knowledge. This view places high value in human reasoning and distrusts sense data, because after all, our eyes may deceive us! Example: René Descartes started with the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” and developed a system of knowledge from there.

  3. Subjectivism: knowledge of any absolute truth is impossible. All we can know is what is true “for ourselves.” We come to know these truths through processes that are completely internal and not necessarily verifiable by reason or science. Reason can be muddled, and our senses can deceive us, but there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we “just know.” Example: Walt Whitman said, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” Intuition relies heavily on experience. One example of intuition is when we assume that the future will be like the past. This is not a conclusion based on reason (there’s no logical requirement that the future be like the past) nor sense experience (we have no sense data of the future!), but it “makes sense to us” to believe it.

False Epistemologies.png

Philosopher and theologian John Frame has pointed out that no one has really been able to consistently hold completely to any of these three perspectives. Instead, the very best philosophers and thinkers have rather tried to combine these three approaches. This is because, at the end of the day, it is obvious that each one has merit.

As Christians we can affirm aspects of all three. We agree with the Empiricists that science is a valid way of gaining knowledge (in fact the first scientists were all Christians!). We further affirm with the Rationalists the importance of logic and sound reasoning. And we join with the Subjectivists in saying that, by golly, there are some facts that we just know to be true, even if we can’t verify them scientifically or account for them logically (though they do not contradict science or reason.

Each of these three epistemologies focuses on its preferred truth-seeking faculty to the (unsuccessful) exclusion of the other two. While each one fails on its own, if there were a way of unifying them, we could approach a holistic view of how we really arrive at knowledge. As it turns out, God’s revelation is the key to that unification. In fact, as believers we can look at all three of these epistemologies as perspectives on the truth.

The Role of Revelation in Epistemology

The world does not interpret itself. God, the Creator of the world and everything in it, is the Creator who speaks. He has spoken to us in an authoritative way, and by that speech he has revealed to us the truth about himself, the cosmos, and ourselves. He has not given us exhaustive knowledge, but the knowledge he has given us is true. True knowledge begins with a proper attitude toward God and a willingness to hear what he has to say. As Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

God reveals himself in two ways: by his works and by his word. We call the former “General Revelation” and the latter “Special Revelation.”

General Revelation is accessible to all men, through observing the “outer world” of the cosmos and analyzing the “inner world” of the self (Romans 1:18-20). For example, both the law of gravity governing the movement of physical objects, as well as the laws of logic governing our thoughts, point to the existence of God.

Special Revelation is God’s supernaturally revealing truth to us, which today is recorded in Scripture, the Bible. The Bible is “breathed out by God,” and was written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible provides the basis for certain knowledge, and validates the three ways of knowing we referenced earlier. When we think biblically, we see that Rationalism is a false view, but the use of reason is good (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15). Empiricism is false, but empirical science (based on sense data analysis) is good (Psalm 111:2; Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 94:9). Subjectivism is also false, but God has given us intuition, and truth is very personal (Job 38:36; Romans 2:14-15).

Epistemology united by Scripture.png

When unified by God’s revelation, the core truth-seeking faculties of each of the three epistemologies are not in conflict but work together. We have a basis for using all three—reason, senses and intuition. This article examined three perspectives on knowledge, but it would equally apply to any others that could hypothetically be brought up. So we have seen that knowledge is possible and uniquely accessible to those who hold to the biblical worldview, because of our faith in the Bible, which unifies our truth-seeking faculties and provides the basis for trusting them as reliable, when used appropriately.

Of course, the same Bible that validates these three methods of gaining knowledge also warns us about the effects of sin on our ability to know. We will discuss this in a future article, when we talk about the nature of man.

Notes:

Francis Schaeffer poses the question, “How do we know that we know?” and discusses its implications in Chapter 3 of his book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1972), 37-60.

For the three approaches to epistemology I’m drawing heavily on the work on John Frame and specifically from his article, “Epistemological Perspectives and Evangelical Apologetics,” Frame-Poythress.org, May 17, 2012, Accessed June 12, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/epistemological-perspectives-and-evangelical-apologetics/. In this article he also points out that no one has been able to hold consistently to any one of the three epistemological positions discussed here, i.e. Rationalism, Empiricism and Subjectivism.

John Frame has written extensively about “Triperspectivalism,” the concept that three ideas seemingly in conflict are actually perspectives on the same reality. For more see, Frame, John, “John Frame on the Trinity,” Frame-Poythress.org, November 21, 2016, Accessed June 14, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/john-frame-on-the-trinity/.

To the point that God has given us true—yet not exhaustive—knowledge, James Sire describes Francis Schaeffer as having made this point. Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 130.
I credit Dr. Jason Lisle with the insight that intuition relies on experience. He makes this point in The Physics of Einstein: Black holes, time travel, distant starlight, E=mc² (Aledo, TX: Biblical Science Institute, 2018), 61-62.

10 Ways Apologetics Benefits the Local Church

By Chaseton Hahn (with Joel Settecase) / 22-minute read

Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer. The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Challenge Ahead

The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation. 

Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. In days gone by, church attendance and Christian nominalism and virtue reigned supreme; this is hardly the case anymore. In fact, in a 2016 research study Barna Group identified Generation Z as the “first truly post-Christian generation,” in which the percentage of atheists doubles that of the Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, or Elders generations.

 How are believers to respond? Should we hang our heads in defeat? Absolutely not! Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” and his words are just as true today. The increasing expression of godlessness is clear. The work ahead is difficult. The opposition is fierce. Churches must be more willing than ever to equip their membership with the tools to make Christ shine brightly before a spiritually dark world. Enter apologetics.

The focus of this article is to show 10 benefits of incorporating apologetics training into your church’s discipleship programs. 

1: It Is Faithful to Scripture

The call to join in the field of apologetics is found first upon the pages of the Bible itself. Apologetics simply means to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview, and the Bible contains many examples to follow. Peter the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs believers to “…always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15b).

Among the numerous examples in the New Testament of people confidently defending the faith is none other than the Great Apologist, Jesus Christ. Jesus being the Divine Logos is a master of logic and rhetoric, often turning the accusations of his opponents on their ear with silky smooth repose.  

Not only is Jesus a skilled apologist, but in Luke 12:11-12 he promised his disciples that they too would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to defend themselves before, “the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities….”

You also have instances recorded such as Peter and John boldly standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, and Stephen making a courageous charge against the Jewish council before his martyrdom in Acts 7. Then there is Paul who famously addresses the Epicureans on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and later makes his case to Roman Procurator Felix in Acts 24. These are a few of the many occasions of apologetics documented in Scripture for us to emulate. Because the church itself is a Scriptural organization, anything that makes the church more in line with Scripture may rightly be called a benefit!

2: It Guards the Trustworthiness, Sufficiency, and Authority of Scripture.

Along with its scientific and technological advances, the Modern era brought a new wave of skepticism, specifically toward the claims of the Bible.

At every turn, there seems to be a new attempt to smother the truth of Scripture, relegating it to the ash heap of history as baseless, ancient mythological nonsense. Where the Bible was once respected, it is now counted irrelevant and unreliable. The church must therefore be furnished with Christians who are ready to face such indictments upon the Word of God. The rise of secularism with its control of the media and its grip upon the academy poses a serious threat to the faith of those who are not trained to stand in defense of the truth of Scripture.

Scripture testifies unabashedly to its enduring truth. Take heed of the Psalmist who proudly proclaims, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Or take for instance the Prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8). Jesus himself upheld its authority when he said, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Lk. 16:17). The Apostle Paul describes all Scripture as being “breathed out by God” and sufficient for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Sure, the Bible says these things, but then there exist textual critics and liberal scholars asserting that these words should not be trusted at all.

Therefore, one of the primary aims of apologetics is to defend against such arguments and uphold the biblical testimony. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity rests upon the truthfulness of Scripture in which believers must be confident.  

3: It Strengthens the Faith of Individual Christians

When I was a freshman in college, I encountered a challenge against my belief in the Bible for the first-time . The class was Western Civilizations, taught by a man named Dr. Baldwin. He had reputation around campus of being especially militant in his atheism – even causing people to renounce their belief in God! Being the stubborn 18-year-old that I was, I enrolled without a second thought, thinking to myself, “He can’t be that bad.” The first day of class, I sat down for the lecture and Dr. Baldwin immediately opened with a booming voice, “Alright class! Since we will be learning about the emergence of Western civilization, it is important we talk about Christianity.” He continued, “But first, let’s talk about all the contradictions in the Bible.” The murmurs and whispers of the other students almost instantly came to a halt as we all sat in wide-eyed shock from what we just heard.

At the end of the presentation, my head was spinning. The information I had just ingested was tremendously confusing and troublesome. I thought to myself, “Is everything I believe really just a child’s fairy tale?” This is what many of our young people face today in secular academia. What the professor unknowingly did was spur me to study the Word of God with greater intensity, digging deeper than I ever had before. I decided, if I am going to be a Christian, I must be completely sure that it is true.

During that time, I came across various apologetics ministries that provided the resources to satisfy the very questions that Dr. Baldwin raised; my faith was inevitably strengthened. I was shown that the Word of God is true even when put under intense scrutiny.

Many people seem to characterize faith as believing in something without evidence. This is not how Scripture describes faith at all. In the biblical sense, faith should not be blind or irrational. Instead it is a confident trust in the promises of God. Faith is a trust that is graduated from knowledge about the word of God! Apologetics aids in the discovery of answers to the hardest questions pointed against our belief in Christ.

When these problems are shown to have solutions, a greater trust in the promises of God is the result, so we may say along with the psalmist: “The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).

4: It Helps the Church Love God with all her Mind

Many Christians seem to hold to the opinion that since the matters of religion are mostly concerned with the spiritual, then the worship of God should be confined to the emotional and experiential. The emergence of revivalism through the Second Great Awakening and its overemphasis of spiritual encounters (seen notably in the ministry of Charles Finney) gave rise to the rampant anti-intellectualism that is alive in many sectors of the church today, leaving the people of God unable to shield themselves from the criticisms by the secular elements of the culture.

Unfortunately, skeptical members of our society have therefore concluded that Christians do not care about knowledge and thus that belief in God requires low intelligence. This is not how Scripture teaches believers to approach their faith.

Jesus, as he details the Greatest Commandment, says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…and mind” (Mt. 22:37 emphasis added). To be educated apologetically is to sharpen the mind – the cognitive faculty of reason and understanding.

Believers should know not only what they believe, but why they believe—and how to articulate this with confidence. Indeed, to pursue godly wisdom is to be more like our Creator, whose image we bear (Gen. 1:26-28). God, the supreme intellect, himself possesses a rational mind. God is the one who crafted science and mathematicsFrom the inconceivably complex composition of DNA to the immense structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, all of creation displays his intelligence. Therefore, we should desire to learn with and exercise our minds for the good pleasure of our Creator - especially in the mastery of his Word.

5: It Corrects Doctrinal Error

Apologetics is not only effective in defending against arguments from unbelievers outside of the church; it is useful for correcting error within the church. False teachers are running rampant, leading many millions of people into apostasy. Indeed, apologetics training aids Christians to cultivate their knowledge of the truth so that they may reach maturity of faith; able to “distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Consider the numerous cultural and social philosophies that war against the teachings of Scripture, even seeping into the lives of the membership. Apologetics is vital in preserving fidelity to the biblical message, protecting the sheep from falling prey to the destructive doctrines of the world.

Numerous passages warn of false prophets and false teachers who will appear among the saints seeking to lead them into destructive doctrines and heresy (2 Pet. 2:1; Mt. 24:24; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:28-30).

Look for example at many of the popular “evangelists” that are featured on major television networks. Many meet the qualifications of what is being warned about in the Bible, yet unsuspecting Christians fall right into their trap. Apologetics helps prevent such tragedies, keeping the believers sober-minded, and able to clearly spot heterodoxy and warn others about it.

If or when someone begins to teach doctrinal error in your church, you will be able to defend biblical truth and drive out any error before it takes root in the congregation.

6: It Strengthens Unity around Truth

 Having a singular focus upon a clear objective is fundamental for success of any movement, whether it be a sports team or a board of directors of a major corporation. This is no less true for the body of Christ. While the goal of the church is not collecting championship rings or sustaining financial growth, it shares in common in the pursuit of an important principle: unity. The truth of the Gospel is the unifying principle of the church. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was especially concerned with the cohesion of the believers around the message of Jesus Christ:

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27-28).

 Apologetics assists the church to be so oriented, that the believers have an impenetrable resilience based in the core doctrines of the faith.

Undeniably, with a constantly shifting culture it is critical that the church be prepared for any objection or affront to the Gospel. When believers become more mature in their knowledge of Christ, they will no longer be susceptible to “every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). It is when members of the church are confident in their knowledge of biblical truth that spiritual flourishing will happen.

Wherever Christians are unified in truth, there the Gospel message can be propelled with all fervency and conviction. The church unified becomes an unstoppable machine, individuals acting as cogs and wheels mutually rotating for the glory and honor of Christ.

This solidarity among the saints cultivates such fellowship, whereby every act is one of worship and celebration of the truths of God in his word, the very foundation for Christian faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A community of believers who encamp around the truth of Christ ultimately fosters a bond of love in fulfillment of the prayer of our Lord: “That they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21).

7: It Injects Enthusiasm into the Church

When I was first exposed to apologetics and how it helped find satisfying answers to the objections against my faith, I was simply ecstatic. This is the testimony that many others report when they too discover that the Bible and what it teaches can stand against the daunting opposition of our unbelieving culture.

Apologetics should be exciting. What we believe is true, and that is worthy of rejoicing over! The wonderful mysteries of God have been revealed to us, and learning that these can stand against the staunchest opposition, that not even the Devil or the flames of Hell can overcome them, should cause your heart to race with excitement.

Not only this, but the principles of apologetics is for all believers to enjoy, not just the academics or intellectuals. Young and old, men and women of any social standing, can all enjoy the confidence that is cultivated through the learning and wielding of God’s Word through apologetic training.

8: It Reaches the Lost

The purpose of apologetics is never to win an argument or to make yourself appear more intelligent. Instead, apologetics should be viewed as an evangelistic tool for the spreading of the Gospel.

Whenever you share the message of Christ with an unbelieving individual, it is almost guaranteed that there will be objections or questions about what and why you believe, even if these interactions are completely amicable. Apologetics arms the believer with the proper instruments to give an adequate rebuttal to most concerns that are raised. For instance, take Paul when he addressed the Athenians and the philosophers at the Areopagus as recorded in Acts 17. Paul was provoked by the Holy Spirit because he, “saw the city was full of idols.” So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (vv. 16-17).

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers approached him because he was preaching the resurrection; something very foreign to their minds. Paul was not bent on humiliating these men for their beliefs (remember, principles of gentleness and respect are vital for apologetics according to 1 Pet. 3:15b), but he was interested in persuading them to believe the Gospel.

If you examine this discourse given at the Areopagus, you see that Paul deconstructs the worldview of the philosophers, exposing their flawed perspective of God. The result of the speech was that “some mocked,” however, some were inspired and, “…joined him and believed” (vv. 32-34). The response will not always be favorable, but the interaction may prove to remove roadblocks that have been preventing the person from believing the Gospel!

You see, the point in evangelistic apologetics is to give a rational defense for the Christian worldview, showing that faith in Christ is satisfying, not only spiritually but also intellectually.

Through apologetics, the church can demonstrate to the unbelieving world that Christianity is the only thing that can make reasonable sense of the universe in which we live. Indeed, there are several notable people who, through their encounters with the claims about Christ, have turned from stark skepticism to Christian faith when they finally realized the claims of the Bible were in accord with real history! C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel come to mind, and there have been many others.

Reason #9: It Answers the Demands of a Changing Culture

The culture of our time is organic. It is living, breathing, growing, and constantly changing. What was publicly despised 30 years ago seems be venerated today. The rapid exchange of information with the advent of the internet allows minority viewpoints and philosophies to be exposed to a much larger audience. Now, this can be a great thing! The sharing of ideas through instant methods of communication has revolutionized science and technology, resulting in mass innovations in nearly every area of life. For the Christian, sharing the Gospel with people across the globe has never been easier. However, there is a great downside as well, because false and even harmful ideologies travel and spread just as effortlessly.

Apologetics is essential in our age where culture is moving in greater and greater rebellion against the unchanging Word of God. We see issues of shifting sexual ethics, where that which God forbids is now the societal norm. Postmodernism has permeated into every area, resulting in the questioning of everything that was generally considered settled, objective, knowledge. In addition to this, religious pluralism is running rampant, all claiming equal share of the truth. How in the world do Christians answer such cultural mandates? Thankfully, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Apologetics helps believers grapple with and topple the beliefs that stand against the Word of God. Your church needs to be primed and ready to take on the battle that is being waged in our culture today. Apologetics helps shield the flock, while arming them with the sword of the Spirit (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), to slay the dragon of the prevailing customs which are under the rule of Satan (Eph. 2:2, 6:12), capturing and crushing them into submission before the King of Glory (2 Cor. 10:5).

Reason #10: It Glorifies Jesus Christ

As we have demonstrated, incorporating apologetics into your church’s ministry functions is internally beneficial for facilitating spiritual maturity, and it is externally beneficial by aiding in the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet we should recognize that the ultimate reason to participate in apologetics is simply that it glorifies Jesus Christ.

In the foundational verse for apologetics, the Apostle Peter writes, “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Pet. 3:15). The most important aspect of this verse is right at the beginning: “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” This is the true heart of apologetics.

You see, many people seem to believe that the objective is to give arguments that humiliate the opponent by eviscerating their worldview. This is not the case at all. What Peter encapsulates here is the attitude all should bring to any discussion involving our hope in Christ and the Gospel.

It is when we contemplate upon Christ’s loveliness, his goodness, perfections, and holiness, that we cannot help but honor him in everything we say and do. We are to move the eyes of those whom we come across from us and our works or eloquent speech upward,helping them instead to fix their gaze upon the glorious face of Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).

Final Thoughts

Apologetics is much more than a participation in a formal or scholarly debate. Instead, believers should see it as a necessary discipline for standard church ministry. Every Christian should be trained as an apologist because of the examples given in Scripture, including that of Jesus Christ, the Great Apologist, who regularly incorporated apologetic principles in his earthly ministry.

It is through apologetics that believers can sharpen their knowledge of Scripture, as well as learn how to answer the numerous objections raised against its truthfulness, which ultimately builds faith in the promises of God!

Learning apologetics will help your congregation correct and defend against doctrinal errors that ever attempt to trickle in.

Apologetics is valuable in evangelism by providing answers to doubts or skepticism, removing barriers that may be preventing people from believing the Gospel.

Our culture is constantly changing and finding new opportunities to rebel against the objective truth of God’s word. Apologetics helps build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated, that the Christian can be thoroughly prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.

The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that we do in faith and zeal should be done, not that others see us, but to see Jesus more clearly.

How to Destroy Every Argument Against God

It's the premier of the SONS OF THUNDER, a podcast-within-a-podcast that has been years in the making.

In this "unnecessarily inflammatory" (and much longer than usual) episode, Joel and Parker Settecase lay down the groundwork for talking about apologetics--the defense of the truth of the Christian faith. They get into how to get apologetics wrong and how to do it right--in a way that stays true to Scripture and honors Christ. This episode delivers way more content than "This Is Apologetics" typically goes, but sometimes it's fun to drink out of a firehose (or so they tell me).

How to Integrate Apologetics into Your Evangelism

By Chaseton Hahn / 8-minute read.

Christians that I have engaged with have often either never heard of, or have a misunderstanding of the discipline of apologetics. For many, the term even carries a derogatory connotation. What must be shown is that apologetics is a necessary practice that all Christians should have within their evangelistic arsenal. In this article we will look at evangelistic apologetics in a nutshell, based on three biblical principles.

What Is Apologetics And What Is It For?

The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which appears only 8 times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1, 25:26; 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). Apologia literally means “a reasoned defense or argument.” Apologetics should be understood as a sort of legal verbiage – picture a lawyer giving a defense before a judge in a courtroom. Therefore, to participate in apologetics is to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview.

A mistake that is frequently made is the assumption that apologetics is reserved for debate settings – not so! The purpose of apologetics is not simply winning arguments. Instead, apologetics should be seen as a helpful tool for answering the objections that skeptics may have against Christianity, but with the ultimate intent of leading them to believe the Gospel.

Principles of Evangelistic Apologetics

The Scriptures contains the essential instructions for the Christian to properly exercise his faith in an expression that is consistent with the manner of Christlike behavior (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This is true as well for how one should engage in an apologetic conversation that is compelling and God-honoring.

Answering the skeptic requires the patience and love of Christ along with the confident delivery of the relevant information – the former qualities being sorely forgotten by many of those who participate in apologetics.

Again, the purpose of all this is not to win an argument or crush the opponent – the aim is to point the lost to Christ.

Apologetics with Peter

Peter the Apostle wrote the first epistle that bears his name, for the purpose of encouraging believers who were facing intense persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6). Peter calls Christians  to rejoice in their suffering because of the great inheritance of eternal life that awaits them, even in the midst of great trials that are being used to test and refine their faith in Christ (1:4-9). In the third chapter Peter explains the importance of maintaining a holy composure even when reviled for one’s faith (3:9). It is here in chapter three that is contained what many consider the heart-cry of Christian apologetics:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Let us examine the three important principles of apologetics that Peter reveals.

1. Honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Peter, who is (specifically in the context of suffering) borrowing language from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 29:23), makes clear that at the point of contact with unbelievers, we must maintain the supremacy and holiness of Christ. The foundation of our faith is Christ (Is. 28:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:6; Eph. 2:20), his greatness being worthy of  our constant reverence and being the driving force behind our interactions with the world. Our apologetic framework is to be rooted deeply in our theology and knowledge of the person of Christ.

How is this attitude toward Christ attained? By the constant study and meditating upon the Word of God – which cultivates  our affections and renews our minds to the ways of Christ (Rom. 12:2). The esteeming of Christ is the motor by which the vehicle of apologetics must intimately conjoined, as will be addressed below.

2. Always be prepared to make a defense.

In our response to the holiness and wonders of Christ, it is from here that the apologist may properly “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”

Being prepared to testify about the doctrines of Christ requires that the believer dwell upon the Scriptures, the source of our intimacy with God. The purpose of verse 15 is not so much about preparing intellectually for the interaction, but to be prepared spiritually.

When dealing with those who do not believe (especially those who persecute us), we must allow the beauty of Christ and our attitude toward him to remain central in order to determine our attitude toward one whose demands may be especially scornful of our faith. The hope we have is Christ, the Holy One of God, who humbled himself to become a servant so that our sins may be forgiven through his death and resurrection (Phil. 2:4-11). Capture this image of Christ and allow this to maintain the proper focus of your apologetic. Indeed, this leads to the third point…

3. Be gentle.

Anytime we are presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with others, it is imperative to preserve a level of respect and gentleness for the one we are communicating with. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

To be gentle with others does not mean to be fragile or weak ourselves. Instead, the act in gentleness is to restrain from harshness in exchange for humility, love, and kindness – even if the person is exhibiting hostility toward us.

Christ, being God, had every opportunity and right to deal severely with us in our disobedient and unregenerate state. Thankfully, God who is rich in mercy, was patient with us in our rebellion and loved us despite our sinfulness and depravity, restoring us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:4-10).

This does not mean we are not to share truth with confidence (and the message of the Gospel much of the time results in aggressive opposition), but we are to share the truth with the disposition of Christ, with a desire to heal with the good news of the Gospel. If we act in accordance with the gentleness of Christ, we can have a good conscience (v. 16), no matter the result of the conversation.

Conclusion

Apologetics (apologia) is the reasoned defense of the Christian worldview. Many of us are presented with many occasions on which we can share the Gospel with others. Unfortunately, apologetics is greatly misunderstood because of its frequent abuse. If you are active on social media, it is not uncommon that you will  come across a well-meaning Christian who is discussing his faith with a skeptic. More times than not, I notice, even though the Christian is presenting good argumentation for the truthfulness of Christianity, they do not appear to be offering the arguments with the correct intentions. They are more interested in winning an argument than winning the soul of someone who is lost.

Apologetics is far more than defeating our opponents – it is to be an instrument of evangelism for the sake of the Gospel. We should hold close the words of Peter, remembering we are dealing with real, flesh and blood bearers of the Imago Dei. We should approach apologetics as a means to reach the lost, holding Christ in the highest regard. This will allow us to deliver the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and kindness that God showed us, when we too were lost.

Chaseton Hahn is a public servant and a seminarian at Liberty University, studying to complete an M.Div in Christian Apologetics.

How to Share and Defend Your Faith to Muslims

Did you know nearly one out of every 3.5 people on earth is a Muslim? Christians have been commissioned to disciple the nations, yet historically we have sent precious few resources to bring the Gospel to this incredibly massive portion of the human population.

In episode 10, Joel Settecase and N. G. (name withheld to avoid it coming up in search results) pull up a couple of chairs to discuss the goal, motivation and method of sharing the Gospel and defending the Christian message to Muslims. They get deep and wide in this conversation, which ranges from the theological to the practical. We hope it makes you think.

What Is Good?

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read.

The Bible, and the God who has revealed himself in its pages, provides the only adequate basis for morality.

In Part 1, I explained that there are only three possible answers to the most basic question any worldview must answer, “What is real?” We saw that God is both ultimate (or infinite, a world which I might like even better) as well as personal, and that in relation to his creation he exercises the “Lordship Attributes” of Authority, Control and Presence.

Now we are close to having a basis for answering the second question every worldview must answer, “What is good?” I say we are close, but not quite there yet, because there is one further attribute of God’s nature that we must consider, the attribute of being relational, about which more in a minute.

There are various fields of study bound up with this question, from morality (right and wrong thought and action), to axiology (values), to aesthetics (judgments of beauty). These are all concerned with the question of absolute goodness (if such a thing as absolute goodness does in fact exist).

When we have answered the ultimate question of goodness, we will know if it is possible to also ask, “What are our moral duties and how do we know?” as well as, “What does it mean to violate the absolute standard of goodness?” Is beauty objective or merely in the eye of the beholder?” If there is an absolute standard by which we may make sense of morality, then we may also make sense of related fields of study.

Absolute, Relationsl Moral Standards Need an Absolute, Relational Basis

Morality cannot be subjective. If it were, we would only be talking about preferences, not morality. There would only be what is, meaning there would be my preference, and your preference, and their preferences, but no bridge between them and no scale on which to weigh them, no way to judge between them.

So morality must be objective, which is to say it must be absolute. Absolute morality requires a basis in an absolute prime reality. This prime reality must be absolute as well as personal. This is because moral duties are laws, and laws require a lawgiver. A lawgiver cannot be an impersonal force (e.g. gravity) or abstract object (e.g. the number four) but must be personal, someone who can make the pronouncement, “This is how things ought to be.” Absolute, unchanging laws require an absolute and unchanging Lawgiver. Certain non-biblical worldviews, which present a concept of God that is unitarian (absolute oneness) could perhaps account for absolute, unchanging laws, if they merely applied to an individual person interacting with himself.

Yet moral principles do not just deal with individuals but also govern relationships between individuals. Much of morality covers how people ought to treat one another. In the study of morality we are concerned not merely with unity but also with diversity. We are concerned with how individuals ought to treat one another in their relationships and interactions with each other. This is a question not merely of absolute unity but of diversity too.

In order to account for the existence of absolute moral standards that govern interpersonal relationships, the prime reality in which they are grounded must also be absolute, personal and interpersonal. There must be a relational attribute to God, or else any of moral standards for interpersonal relationships would merely be arbitrary.

For example, if God were a monad, as the unitarian religions (Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, etc.) believe, then prior to him creating, there would have been no interpersonal relationships at all. Any moral requirements such a God would have decreed would be the creations of his mind, but would not have been rooted in God’s own relational nature, since prior to creating God would have had no relationships.

It follows that, for absolute interpersonal moral standards to be absolute, they must be rooted in a prime reality (God) who is infinite without division (unbroken oneness), personal, and yet also interpersonal or diverse in itself. God’s nature, as revealed in Scripture, is such a prime reality.

There are many worldviews, religions and philosophies in the world, yet only one worldview that has such a concept of God, and that is biblical Christianity. As Francis Schaeffer has said, the Christian answer is not merely a good answer, it is the only answer. This Venn diagram shows a sampling of the world’s religions and worldviews, and how they account for (or fail to account for) unity, diversity and personality:

Worldview Comparison Venn Diagram - Metaphysics FINAL FINAL!!! properly categorized WITH THINK INSTITUTE LOGO.png

Only biblical Christianity accounts for all three.

God’s nature is the basis for absolute morality

The God who has revealed himself in the Bible is absolute unity, absolute personality, and absolute diversity. He is one (united) in his essence and yet is three (diverse) Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

These three share a name (meaning they share authority and Lordship), and yet each one is distinct from the others. These three have known and loved one another perfectly forever in perfect, infinite oneness, so it makes sense when Scripture says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His very nature is love. His loving nature is the basis for how the three Persons of the Trinity relate to one another, and it forms the basis for his moral commands to his creatures.

Therefore God’s moral commands are not arbitrary, nor does he appeal to some standard beyond himself. The Greek Philosopher Plato wrestled with this, because he only knew the gods of mythology. Yet God is not like those “gods.” God’s very nature is the definition of goodness. He is magnificent, glorious and eminently praiseworthy, and he commands that his creatures live by his glorious standard (Mark 10:18). God’s goodness was reflected in his creation as he originally created it (Genesis 1:31).

Only the biblical worldview can account for absolute morality

Recall that God’s nature is personal, infinite, and diverse within himself (we might say “tri-personal”). This provides the basis for absolute morality. Because he is personal, he has a will. Because he is infinite, his will applies to all people, everywhere and at all time. And because he is tri-personal, it is in his nature to communicate; he has communicated his will to his creatures, in the Bible.

We may say confidently that the biblical worldview is totally unique in this regard, because it is the only one that can sufficiently account for unity, diversity and personality in its concept of prime reality. God, the infinite, tri-personal, relational God who is love, is perfectly moral, infinitely valuable, and gloriously beautiful. All the fields of study related to goodness find their basis and ultimate reference point in him; things are good, valuable and beautiful insofar as they are like God, who is all good, valuable and beautiful to the nth degree.

God has revealed mankind’s moral duties in two ways

God’s creation communicates his glory (Psalm 19), to the extent that men have enough knowledge about God to glorify him and give him thanks, and therefore we are without excuse for failing to do so (Romans 1:18-24). Failing to fulfill even this basic requirement, man goes on to sin in various ways throughout life, falling short of God’s glorious standard in every area of life (Romans 3:23). Although man was originally created good, the first man sinned, and all his children have been sinning ever since, suppressing what can be known about God from the world without and the moral sense within. However the moral sense, the conscience, does remain. The Bible says the “works of the law” are written on the heart of all people, and their, “competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).

The second way God communicates his absolute moral standards to us is by the Bible. The Bible teaches that creation’s greatest purpose is to praise God (Ps. 148:1-14), and man’s highest moral duty is to love God (Mt. 22:38; Jn. 14:15), followed by the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt. 22:38-39). The Ten Commandments were a baseline summary for the nation of Israel, and Jesus Christ deepened and expanded God’s moral teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and elsewhere.

The teachings of Christ are impossible to fulfill in man’s current sinful condition, which is bleak indeed. Because God is good, he must give sin what it deserves.

Immoral man’s predicament

The “wages” of sin, the Bible teaches, is death (Romans 6:23). Man’s predicament, then, is that by living life in disobedience to God, he is choosing death. There there is such a deep disconnect between God’s perfectly good nature and law, and man’s current immoral state, that it would be completely impossible for man to be restored to a right relationship with God apart from divine intervention. He is in the predicament of having an inner moral sense which drives him to desire moral goodness, while at the same time being morally incapable in his nature of choosing the good and pleasing God (Romans 8:8).

We will get into the solution to man’s predicament later in the series. However, before we do that, we must address the question of truth. After all, we are drawing our answers to life’s biggest questions from the biblical worldview—the perspective taught by the Bible. How can we know that the Bible is the best place to get those answers?

What Makes Christianity Unique?

Pastor Brandon Cooper joins Joel Settecase to discuss what makes the Christian worldview stand out from all the rest. The two old friends get into metaphysics, the exclusive claims of Christianity and Pluralism, Hinduism, eschatology, and why the biblical Gospel is truly unique.

If you're a Christian, this will help you articulate and defend what you believe. If you're not, it will challenge your assumptions and encourage you to entertain new ideas you perhaps hadn't considered. Either way, we hope it makes you think.

Brandon Cooper is the Senior Pastor at Cityview Community Church in Elmhurst, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @FollowAfterMin or on Facebook.

What is Truth? with Alan Kern

In this epic episode, Joel Settecase and Alan Kern discuss the nature of truth and whether the concept of truth makes any sense without God.

This was a very interactive video, both between the two of them and with the viewers. The guys directly addressed questions from the viewers, including one who asked how he can know which God is the true one.

The Very Concept of Truth Is Impossible Without God

By Joel Settecase / 12-minute read

Much ink has been spilled by apologists over the centuries, demonstrating that the Christian worldview is true. But what if the very concept of truth were impossible without first believing in the Christian worldview, in the truth of Scripture and the God revealed therein?

This article was originally published as a four-part series on Joel Settecase’s blog.

*****

I have been seeking out conversations with atheists on Twitter lately (though they usually find me), and a recent one got me thinking. In speaking with this chap, I made the point that truth presupposes God, and that faith in God is the necessary precondition to any truth-seeking endeavor.

He asked me why, and in the course of elaborating, I asked him if he believed in absolute truth. To that, he replied No, he did not.

This raised two questions that I realized I needed to do some more thinking about:

First, why does truth presuppose God? (I’ve written before on why scienceand logic presuppose God, but why truth?) I believed this was the case, but could I articulate it?

Second, is it an appropriate dodge on the part of the atheist to simply declare he doesn’t believe in truth, or absolute truth, and therefore avoid belief in God? Again, I knew this couldn’t be the case, but could I express why that was?

Jesus says that truth is essential for freedom (John 8:32), and here this guy was denying the truth–and therefore the possibility of his own freedom. As a follower of Jesus, I wanted him to be free. To help me communicate that (to him and others), I wanted to be able to explain what truth is, and how truth connects to God.

So I undertook the task of defining what exactly truth is, and why belief in God is the necessary precondition for truth–and why simply saying that truth doesn’t exist isn’t an effective move.

The Difficulty of Definition

We must begin with a definition of the word truth, without just defining it by itself. This is harder than it would seem. Truth is one of those words that we use all the time, but we don’t really think about what it meansbecause it seems so self-evident: “Truth is… what’s true.”

Webster’s says truth is “the state of being the case.” But then, this feels incomplete. What is in the state of being the case? What case? What sort of thing can be true? Can a rock be “true?” No, truth is a quality of propositions, it cannot be possessed by things. A rock cannot be true, but the statement, “the rock is on the table” can.

For the purposes of this article, then, we will build a more complete and useful definition of the word truth–a true definition–and then demonstrate that truth is an impossible without God.

Truth and Language

So we have seen that truth is an attribute of propositions, and propositions are by definition linguistic; they are statements made in a particular language, whether English, French, Koine Greek or something else. Propositions, being a function of language, only make sense if they accord with the laws of language (grammar and syntax, etc., but also they must contain real words that are meaningful within that language).

It makes sense to say in English, “The rock is on the table,” but not “The rock fleurglob table the.” That’s nonsense, not English. Language isn’t freeform, it has rules. That collection of “words” doesn’t follow the rules of the language and therefore it’s incomprehensible, meaningless. Such a “proposition” really isn’t a proposition, and it makes no sense to ask whether it is “true.”

So the first criterion of truth is that a proposition accords with the rules of language. It is comprehensible.

Truth and Logic

Next, for any proposition to be sensible or possible, it must accord with the laws of logic. I have written about logic before, but in short, a logical proposition must not contradict itself (the Law of Noncontradiction). It must refer to what it refers to (the Law of Identity). It must affirm a state of affairs or its opposite, but not both (the Law of Excluded Middle).

These logical laws govern all thought and language. They are transcendentals, in that they transcend any one particular language or culture. Whereas vocabulary, grammar and syntax change from language to language, the laws of logic are unchanging. They are also immaterial, universal, and knowable.

A proposition (in any language) that contradicted itself or otherwise violated logic could not be meaningful, let alone true.

The second criterion for truth, then, is that a proposition accords with the laws of logic. It is coherent.

Truth and Reality

Finally we come to the third criterion, and this is the one most people think of when they think of truth. A true proposition is one that describes the actual state of affairs. It affirms the real world the way the real world actually is.

In this, it is necessary to believe that there actually is such a thing as “the real world.” More on this in a minute.

Therefore the third criterion for truth is that it accords with reality. It is correspondent.

All Three Criteria Presuppose God

We may now define truth as the quality of a proposition that is comprehensible in terms of language, coherent with regard to logic and correspondent to actual reality.

Now we can move on to why truth presupposes God. This is the case because all three criteria individually require God in order to be meaningful or real.

Comprehensibility Presupposes God

How does language presuppose God? Language presupposes God because it assumes that minds are designed to communicate and understand ideas. Further, the use of language assumes the uniformity of nature, that the future will be like the past.

That is, the speaker (and the hearer) must believe that words will mean the same thing in five seconds that they meant five seconds ago. “Is” will always mean “is” and never “is not.” This requires a stability to the universe that can only be explained by the faithful, unchanging, good God of Scripture.

Coherence Presupposes God

What about logic? Logic presupposes God because it assumes that there are true, immaterial, unchanging, good, universal and knowable laws that govern thought and speech. God is all of these things. If you believe in God and the truth of the Bible, it makes sense that the universe would be governed by such laws. It also makes sense that human beings, created in the image of God, would think and speak logically.

Could an atheist still affirm belief in logic? Of course! Atheists do this all the time. The question is, can they do so consistently? No.

Unbelief in God makes belief in logic simply a matter of random, subjective opinion (not possible).

Worse yet, an atheist evolutionist, who believes that his mind (which is just his brain) is the product of time + chance + millions of years and merely “aimed” at survival and reproduction (unrelated to actual truth-seeking), must believe that his own belief in logic is determined solely by his genes. Belief in logic isn’t rational; by believing in logic he’s merely dancing to his DNA. A mind evolved by chance could never “step outside itself” to analyze its own conclusions, including its conclusions about logic. On such a worldview there is no reason to believe in logic.

Correspondence Presupposes God

Belief in reality presupposes God because it assumes there is a state of affairs external to one’s own mind. There is a world which is objectively “out there.” That world is intelligible; it is capable of being known.

Similarly, this also presupposes that one’s mind is able to know something about the external world. In order to be able to make correspondent propositions about the world, the human mind  must also correspond to the world in such a way that knowledge about the world is possible, and conclusions about the world may be correct. 

The Bible teaches that God created man in his image, with the ability to study the world and gain true knowledge from it (see these verses related to the intelligibility of nature). Without God there’s no reason to believe this.

So far we’ve defined truth according to three criteria, defined those criteria and seen how each of them presuppose God. Now let’s examine why truth is a problem for those who deny God’s existence.

The Atheist’s Problem With Truth

However you look at it, truth presupposes God.

Atheists then have a huge problem. This brings us back to my Twitter discussion partner–the one who denied the existence of absolute truth.

To affirm the existence of truth is to presuppose the existence of God and the truth of what the Bible teaches about God, the world and humanity. 

On the other hand, to deny truth is to deny the possibility of saying anything is “true.” This also precludes anyone from saying that it is true that God does not exist. If there is no truth, than the fundamental proposition of atheism, “God does not exist,” cannot be true.

And what about the dodge that my discussion partner made, by denying absolute truth? He didn’t take it this far, but I will make the argument for him. What if truth exists, just not absolute truth? Is that possible?

Absolute truth is just truth that is true universally and unchangingly. Without getting too deep into the weeds, every true proposition is universally true, given enough details.

As an example: “Joel Settecase is a 13-year-old boy” was true, but it is no longer true. However, it is absolutely true that on October 21st, 1996, I was a 13-year-old boy. That statement is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true that I just typed that. And it is absolutely true that you are reading these words at the current moment in time.

So then, truth exists, and absolute truth exists absolutely. There is no way around this.

Back to that Twitter Conversation

I had affirmed to my discussion partner that faith in God is necessary in order to pursue absolute truth. He asked me why, yet he asked this while denying the very existence of absolute truth.

He perhaps couldn’t see how his own worldview made his question incoherent.

On his worldview, it was true that truth didn’t exist. Truth both existed and didn’t exist–a logical contradiction. And he wanted to know how belief in God was necessary to pursue truth according to that definition. But this is a logical impossibility. I was not interested in defending the pursuit of a logical impossibility. I therefore wanted to establish that truth only made sense from the biblical worldview in the first place.

When I pushed him on whether it was absolutely true that truth does not exist, he told me that I apparently wasn’t interested in having a conversation, and he ended it.

Truth Presupposes God

None of the above proves that atheists and unbelievers can’t know anything true. They know all sorts of true things. Truth is inescapable. Rather, all this shows that atheism cannot account for the existence of truth.

The Bible, on the other hand, is full of truth, and it centers on the One who is the embodiment of truth himself: the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). To know him is to  is to know truth. That knowledge is bound up with obeying him as Lord. And then, Jesus says, “the truth will set you free.”

This is apologetics; I hope it made you think.

How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations

Talking to strangers can be a scary thing. But for Christians, it can be a very rewarding endeavor. Joel Settecase introduced what spiritual conversations are and why we ought to seek them out. Then he looked at some biblical examples and two or three examples from my own life. Finally, he shared two stories of spiritual conversations I had recently, both on airplanes and discussed the benefit of having a "captive audience."

Liar? Prophet? Son of God? Who Is Jesus?

Pastor Dan Osborn (Park Community Church, Forest Glen, Chicago) has been teaching through the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the John's Gospel.

He joins Joel Settecase to discuss the biblical identity of Jesus and challenges to that identity. Could Jesus have been a mere prophet? Was he a great moral teacher but nothing more? Was he in fact a liar or perhaps delusional? And what do we do with all those fantastic claims he made about himself? Check out this episode and find out!

How Do We Know the Bible Was Written By God? (An Argument from Foreshadowing)

Joel Settecase analyzes the apparent presence of the literary technique known as foreshadowing and discusses how this creates a powerful apologetic argument for Scripture’s divine authorship.