RESPONDblogs: Statements that Blow Up

blow up

Strange as it may seem, people are often prone to say things that – actually – blow up on closer inspection. Statements that cancel themselves out. They are sometimes called – self refuting statements.

 

For example –

“I’m not going to respond to that.” Uh – isn’t that exactly what you just did?

“Words don’t matter – let me see your actions.” So I’m using words to confidently prove that words have no value. Hmmm….so my words have no value. Boom!

 

 

Do you see what I mean? Strange, isn’t it.

People also do this when discussing the deeper, more important things in life.

 

“You can’t know anything for sure.”

Interesting – so how do you know THAT for sure?

 

“You should always be skeptical of everything!”

Really? Should we be skeptical of your statement then?

 

“You can’t know anything about God.”

Right. In that case – how do you know that God cannot be known?

 

“No-one has the whole truth.”

So you are claiming to have the whole truth – that no person has the whole truth? But aren’t you a person? Boom!

 

“I only trust things that I can determine thru Science.”

This is an assumption that people make all the time. You hear it on University campuses, you hear it on television. It’s engrained in our culture. But the question that comes next is this. Can science determine if your statement (about science) is true or not? What scientific experiment led you to this conclusion?” You see the reality is that – no experiment led to this conclusion. The statement is one of philosophy, not science…it presumes itself to be true. Science cannot prove it – and so by the standards of your statement – we cannot trust it. BOOM!

 

“People who assume they know the truth with certainty are arrogant.”

Interesting. So you are absolutely confident – that no one can be confident and certain of the truth? Boom!

 

“We must be tolerant. And tolerance is about accepting all views equally.”

Folks who say this – are claiming that all people’s views are equally true. Everyone has their own truth. However – this quickly blows up when you respond to it and make the claim that you think some ideas are false and have less value than others. What causes the explosion? Well – the person will welcome and accept ANY VIEW as long as it’s NOT the view you just presented to them! They will reject your view that some ideas are false. And this shows that they cannot consistently follow their own understanding of tolerance.

 

As a Christian, sometimes people can challenge me about the absolute truth claims of Jesus. “It’s narrow minded an arrogant to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.” But actually this is straying into self refuting territory. Isn’t it just as arrogant to confidently assert that Jesus is NOT the only way to God?

Maybe we need to think about this a different way?

 

 

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RESPONDblogs: Responding to the Voices of Relativism

the-challenge-of-relative-values

I can hear these voices in our society today…can you?

“No-one has the whole truth.”

That’s an interesting statement. Why do you think that? What is your moral basis for making the statement?

Further – do you believe that your statement IS ITSELF the whole truth? It certainly sounds like you believe it to be the whole truth. So unfortunately – your statement has just blown itself up! How can you claim that no one has the whole truth and then IMPOSE your own claim of the whole truth on us? I’m sorry – but you are contradicting yourself.

Truth is real…it is important…it is completely other. Truth is an absolute.

 

“All truth depends on your perspective.”

Interesting. That sounds like your perspective talking. If truth comes from our own individual perspective – then who are we to force our individual perspective on anyone else? Yet this is exactly what you are doing with this statement.

What I think is happening here is – you are actually claiming that all truth depends on YOUR perspective. Wow – really? You mean you are the font of all truth and all knowledge?

I believe truth comes from a person. Actually – I believe truth IS a person. But its not you…and it sure isn’t me!

 

“There are no such thing as Moral absolutes.”

Hang on a tick. There are some crossed wires here. The way truth works to the human brain is by way of absolutes. Everyone talks this way where truth is concerned.

What is an absolute? It is a self evident and unassailable fact. For example, Gloucester Cathedral is in Gloucester. This is a statement of absolute truth.

Coming back to your statement, on the one hand you are claiming that moral absolutes don’t exist. But in doing so, you are imposing a moral absolute on us. Do you hear the contradiction in that? When we use an absolute to attempt to disprove the existence of absolutes – we are in the realm of contradiction. It just doesn’t make sense.

 

“People should be allowed the freedom to do as they please, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else.”

What is your definition of freedom? Actually – no one is “free” to do exactly as they please. For example, I am not free to pick a car in the nearest car park and drive home in it.

However, I do have the liberty to obey the law of the land. I am free to behave legally. In other words I have the opportunity to exercise my personal responsibility and to live within the boundaries set by society. Surely that is the freedom we actually enjoy?

WHERE something happens has never dictated the morality of that action. I have a friend who was once exposed to brutal, racist taunts by her boyfriend’s family. Now – is that family’s behavior any more right because it is happening behind closed doors rather than in the public spotlight? I don’t think so. Do you?

 

“Our Culture is DIVERSE. All Groups and subcultures and their ideas should be respected equally and without question.”

Personally, I think a diverse culture brings lots of positives with it. For example, we are encouraged to view the world around us from a different cultural perspective beyond our own. This is valuable and instructive to us.

Also – people of every culture are of incredible value. In fact, we cannot put a value on a single human life. Their value is off the charts!

Following from this – because people are valuable – surely we must stop and think. Do we really think it is right to accept each and every cultural idea and demand idea without question? Imagine if drug companies did that. Imagine if they imposed new drugs on the population without testing them out first. We would be up in arms about the injustice of it all! Yet this is exactly what your statement is suggesting we do with different ideas in our society.

But its only ideas we are talking about – right? Yes – but don’t ideas have implications? And don’t implications affect lives? And don’t people’s lives comprise a society? And isn’t society full of people of incredible value?

Your statement suggests that untested and untried cultural ideas should be shielded from scrutiny. And out of fear of being labelled as prejudiced against any subculture – we should just accept what they are doing, however harmful that behavior might be. I suggest that this is wrong.

I think that rather than just roll over and allow everything in – we should stand up and fight for the health of our society. Because the ideas that find their way in will affect the lives of our children and our children’s children.

 

“You’ve got your truth and I’ve got mine. Let’s just agree to disagree on the God question – right?”

But the way truth works is by dealing with absolutes. No-one really believes that only me and my truth is the only thing that actually matters at the end of the day. Because people end up forcing their truth on someone else. Truth deals in absolutes. So the question is – what absolutes are you thinking about when it comes to God? Are they credible? Are they testable?

Surely we must assess our view of God’s existence – or non-existence – based on the evidence rather than based on my feelings. Why? Because truth is true however I feel about it. If the policeman stops me and tells me I was driving at 50 in a 30 limit – and he shows the evidence from the speed camera – then I’m not going to like it. But he has unloaded truth on me none the less. My feelings have no bearing on the truthfulness of truth.

So – can we lay our feelings down? Can we dispassionately assess the evidence? Because the evidence points in a particular direction.

 

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:19-20, NLT

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6, NLT

RESPONDblogs: Who Wrote the New Testament Gospels?

conspiracy

You will often hear the claim that the New Testament Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are not actually written by those people at all. Rather, they were written anonymously at some point late in the history of the early Church. And to give the books an air of authenticity and authority, they were given the names of central figures (like Matthew, for example) to pass them off as true. In other words – the Gospels are claimed to be forgeries.

 

Is this a reasonable claim?

I don’t think so. I think the New Testament Gospels were written by the people who they have traditionally been attributed to (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Let’s look at some of my evidence.

 

MARK:

There is compelling evidence from outside of the Bible that John Mark, who we meet in Acts, penned this Gospel.

Let’s look at what some of the early Church Fathers said of this account.

  • Justin Martyr (AD 150) described Mark’s Gospel as the “memoirs of Peter” (Peter was one of Jesus’ original inner circle and an Apostle). It is suggested that it was written while in Italy to encourage the Roman Christians.
  • Iraneus (AD 185) referred to John Mark as the Disciple and interpreter of Peter. This is in fact the relationship that we see playing out in the Acts account (although as we read it was quite a contentious and rocky relationship at times!)
  • Papias (AD 70 to AD 155) said “Mark wrote down accurately whatsoever [Peter] remembered. …he took special care not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.”

And here’s a thought to ponder. If Mark’s Gospel was a forgery, why wasn’t it ascribed to Peter or one of the other Apostles? Surely if the aim was to pass it off as genuine…the scribe who falsely named the author would have chosen a top notch source. Instead – we see the author is John Mark – a well known but frankly minor character in the history of the Church.

 

LUKE:

Again, here we have a book claimed to be authored by an arguably minor character in church history. Luke the physician is not one of the direct eye witnesses to Jesus life and resurrection. He is a minor companion. He is certainly involved in the early Church, and we can see that from Paul’s letters (check Colossians 4:14, for example). But it would not make sense to ascribe a forgery to a minor individual.

Scholars compare the style of Luke’s writing and confirm that – just as both books claim –Lukes Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same person.

What we see in Luke’s writing is a mixture of eye witness reporting and direct personal testimony. For example, in Acts 16 we see a shift in the language being used. It stops talking about “they and them” and begins to use the terms “we and us”. In other words, Luke is saying…and I remember this part because I was part of this! Certainly much of the detail we read in these later chapters must have come from someone who was there and witnessed it themselves.

In summary, both Luke and Acts show evidence of early eye witness reporting and personal testimony from someone known to be in the right place and time to record both.

 

JOHN:

The disciple John is mentioned over 20 times by the other Gospels, and judging by some of the jealousy that went on, John was a central figure in the group of Jesus’ first disciples. But John’s Gospel never refers to the individual John directly. Instead it continually uses the term, “the disciple Jesus loved” to refer to that person. Why would the author do that? Well – perhaps he assumed that the audience he was writing to would know who he was. Perhaps he had learned some modesty in his old age?

Further – at the end of the Gospel, in chapter 21, we read “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.”

 

MATTHEW:

Matthew, like John, was one of Jesus original inner circle. Mark and Luke might have been minor characters in the events that unfolded. But John and Matthew were not.

Going outside of the Bible again to the church fathers, Origen (AD 185 to 254) says

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned the tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism.”

 

 

I’ve briefly laid out some of the internal and external evidence supporting the authorship of the New Testament Gospels. But really I think the question comes down to this. Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the conspiracy theorists? Or are you going to trust the testimony of the early leaders of the Church who lived a few decades after the Gospels were written?

I for one – am going to trust the early church leaders. Surely that makes sense?

RESPONDblogs: Here’s one for the Walking Dead fans!

This is kinda fun.

Tho I’m not sure how I feel being compared to a zombie 🙂

But he makes an interesting point. Go for the head – disprove Christ’s Resurrection.

If you can’t then maybe there is something to this Christianity thing after all. So why waste your time trying to score intellectual points…in other words…chopping bits off?

http://www.becauseitstrue.com/blogarticles/disproving-christianity-is-like-killing-a-zombie

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RESPONDblogs: Christianity Isn’t Based on Stolen Ideas

Mithra

David Robertson is in the midst of an informal debate. The discussion is around the topic “Why Christianity is Reasonable”, and David’s talking when suddenly a guy at the back of the crowd pipes up.

 

“Everything you’ve claimed that is unique about Jesus Christ can be found in pagan religions that are much much older. From resurrections to births on 25th December!”

 

Without missing a beat, David shoots back. “You sir are a great example of what is happening in this Wikipedia Generation!” Ouch. David then proceeds to explain why the man’s statement simply makes no historical sense.

 

I have friends online who regularly throw this claim at me – that Christianity is simply a rehash of older pagan ideas. Of course, Dan Brown popularized this years ago in the Da Vinci Code.

“by fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition there was created a kind of hybrid religion”.

This supposedly pre-Christian God Mithras was supposedly born on December 25th, later died, and rose again after three days.

 

It’s a great putdown to the keen yet uninformed Christian evangelist, isn’t it?

 

But it doesn’t take too long to become “informed” about the un-historic and manipulative nature of these claims. Professor Ronald Nash taught for 40 years on worldview, ethics and history. And his response to the “Christianity rehash” idea is stark.

 

1 – It is a logical fallacy to claim that – just because two things exist side by side – one MUST have caused the other.

2 – The alleged similarities between Christianity and Mithraism are exaggerated by the people who claim it. How? They exaggerate by using Christian language to refer to pagan rituals. Like for example a “Last supper” or “baptism” in Mithraism. The followers engaged in no such thing. The parallels are forced thru use of sloppy, modern language.

3 – The chronology is wrong. The sources of information about pagan mystery religions date to 400 years AFTER Christ. How can a practice – occurring hundreds of years after documented Christianity – affect Christianity? One would need a TARDIS to square that circle.

4 – The New Testament shows that Christian teaching comes originally from Judaism alone.  There was an intolerance to influence from Greek thinking.

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers[a] of this world, rather than from Christ.” Colossians 2:8, NLT

5 – Christianity was originally (and presented thru scripture today) as an exclusive faith. One gives one’s life to following Christ. However the pagan cults were non-exclusive. One could become initiated into the cult of Mithras, and treat it as an addition to ones existing belief system.

6 – Christianity is grounded on events of history. The mystery cults were essentially non-historical, based on myths and pictures. It is a mistake to assume the events described in the New Testament to by mythological. Similarly, it’s a mistake to assume the grounding of ancient mystery religions to be historical.

7 – The parallels that remain reflect the influence of Christianity on Paganism, not the other way round. Historical record shows pagan attempts around AD360 to counter the growing influence of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world by imitating certain parts of it….offering a pagan alternative, if you like.

 

More details here:   http://www.equip.org/PDF/DB109.pdf

 

 

You know, the internet is an echo chamber for memes and ideas. I for one would like  to do what I can to feed some reason into that noise. When you look at all the information – reason suggests that because Christianity is earlier, and a different order than Mithraism, the two cannot be related. Unless, of course, Mithraism sought to emulate parts of the established Christian tradition to gain converts.

RESPONDblogs: Interstellar and the Fingerprints of a Loving God

imax-poster-for-interstellar

Chris Nolan’s Interstellar raises a lot of important issues. The problem is – I feel we can only discuss them once you’ve seen the film. Why? Because I’m in danger of spoiling it for you if you haven’t. So – I’d recommend watching it first and then coming back to this blog.

 

Still here? Good – did you enjoy the movie? Personally I was a bit concerned about the long running time but as the final credits rolled, I realized that I had hardly noticed it. The story drove me along to the conclusion of the piece.

 

But I was struck by so many important themes during the picture.

  • How precious time is to us – once lost, it can never be regained.
  • Family is central to who we are – whether we view ourselves set against the backdrop of our day job, or compared to the vast mysteries of the Universe.
  • Don’t fear technology. It’s our companion. Unlike Kubrick’s 2001, we see the truth that the real problem is not technology – it is people. We are the real danger. (Thanks for pointing that one out, David!)

 

cooper and murph

I’m sure you can point to many more.

 

The theme grabbing me right now  tho  comes from a couple of specific plot points in the movie. We enter to a Planet Earth that ecologically is shutting down. The planet can no longer support life (presumably due to overpopulation, deforestation, pollution, etc).

Ten years prior to the start of the story, we learn that a Worm Hole has “randomly” appeared in our Solar System close to Saturn. Mankind has sent manned probes thru the wormhole and discovered the possibility of habitable planets on the other side.

In other words – a cosmic door way has appeared on our galactic doorstep. A doorway that lets us leave toxic Earth, and move towards a new future home for mankind. Our characters assume that “they” have placed the doorway there to help us save mankind. I don’t think we really learn who “they” are – it’s left as an open question at this point.

 

Interstellar-Trailer-3-01

Our hero Cooper goes on his journey thru the wormhole to begin colonization of the new planet – many dangers lie there as explore a new part of the Universe. Long story short – Cooper finds himself falling into a Black Hole on the far side of the Universe.

 interstellar.black_.hole_

And unexpectedly – this leads him into a strange experience. We aren’t sure at first whether this is simply his final moments before death. But Cooper suddenly finds himself in a place where he can view the life of his family – specifically his daughter Murph – as though he were flicking thru them like the pages of a book. He is able finally now to see the end from the beginning. He views moments of their past and their future laid out in front of him. And this gives Cooper perspective. Also, he is left wishing that he had made different decisions in his past life. But he feels he has information now that can help Murph in her future. He finds a way to make contact.

While in the midst of this dimensional construct, again we hear the assumption from the character – this is very convenient! Like the galactic doorway set in place ten years before as an escape hatch for humanity – this too must have been created by “them”. And we hear the character’s assumptions coming out at this point. “They” must be some future, higher evolved version of humanity. “They” must be setting all this up to rescue the human race.

 

What we seem to have here are two things going on here.

FIRST – helpful space time doorways unexpectedly appear in the right place at the right time.

SECOND – our characters reach towards these doorways to help them to fix the mistakes of the past, and also to help them find a better future.

 

And it’s here that I find myself on very familiar ground. Strip away all of the fantastic environments, CGI goodness and space-time relativity conundrums. Lay aside the science fiction trappings of the movie.

 

 

Who has not longed for our past mistakes to be fixed?

Who has not hoped for a brighter, more secure future for themselves and for those who they love?

 

Even though Cooper assumes that invisible people must be trying to help – I would suggest that the movie points elsewhere to the source of his help. Consistently Interstellar’s narritive portrays the human condition. People are weak, we are prone to acts of extreme selfishness. Even our heroes are imperfect and will twist and manipulate to get their own way. It’s just how we have always been. But there is hope.

Because there is One who knitted together the very fabric of our Universe. The One who can quite literally breathe life into the dead and give hope where there is none. It is interesting that in the movie the name of the mission to investigate other planets is Project Lazarus. Contrasting fiction with historical eyewitness account for a moment…John’s Gospel in the New Testament records that Jesus once raised a friend with that name back from the dead and gave him back to his family. Jesus is an expert at fixing what’s broken, giving hope to people who are devastated.

 

In a sense – Interstellar’s backdrop is one of a loving God who makes a way (in cosmic and fictional terms) to fix the past and secure the future. Is that just my perspective as a Christian? Perhaps. But it’s surely the most rational one – after all, people (however clever) did not ask to live in this universe. God carefully set the whole thing up with us in mind, and put us here in the first place. Whether Cooper or Murph recognize it or not, God’s fingerprints appear throughout the story. He is helping and guiding through the disasters and the heartbreaks.

 

I would suggest that whether you and I recognize it or not – God’s fingerprints appear throughout our personal story too.

 

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Psalm 36:5, NLT

 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV