Commonsense Christian Apologetics

My apologies for the long length of this post…this one is just under 3,000 words.  The usual length of my posts I like to keep around 300-800 words.  I thought you might like this piece in its entirety.

This is the introduction to my new book God Didn’t Create Robots: Commonsense Christian Apologetics…which I just completed revising…and is available on Amazon and Kindle in about a week.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”                                                                    (Heb. 11:6)

I once had a lively discussion with a borderline agnostic/atheist who said that he did not dismiss the idea that God existed…but that he needed more objective, foolproof evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible and Christianity.

In pondering our talk afterwards, I thought of all of the evidences that are out there in the observable world…easily accessible through commonsense contemplation…that in the hands of a skilled litigator in a courtroom…for example…would not only convince most jurors of the existence of God…but also of the divine origin of the Bible and its message.

In better hands than mine (except when I have the anointing of the Holy Spirit like Peter before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:8-12 or Philip in Acts 8:26-40…which can be experienced by all Spirit-born Christians for sharing our faith in Jesus Christ)…there are dozens of very persuasive arguments for the existence of God…many of which are the obvious “miracles” we experience and see all around us…that we accept as “normal” and take totally for granted.

A few of these obvious evidences might be the miracle of sexuality…or digestion…or our respiratory system…our constant heartbeat…or our balanced and symmetrical locomotion and motor skills…all of which shout-out for design rather than random chance assemblage.

Another obvious, commonsense evidence for the existence of an intelligent designer God is the universal cuteness of any infant—a human toddler, a lion cub, a Labrador puppy, young ducks swimming after their mother in a pond…totally inexplicable and unnecessary under a Darwinian naturalistic framework…having no survival-of-the-fittest value.

Certainly the mystery of human speech and the natural inclination of youngsters to acquire, understand, and accurately differentiate subtle concepts in language and communication…at a phenomenal rate of speed…is a reality far too complex and functionally coherent to be lightly accepted as the result of gradual descent with modification…rather than ingenious, conscious design at a brilliantly creative level.

In sports…our incredible facility to be able to play professional ice hockey in the NHL…to run back the opening kick-off 100 yards for a touchdown in college football…to hit a 95 mph fastball 400 feet over the left-field fence for a homerun in baseball…to play tennis, pin-pong, badminton, volleyball, run track, run a marathon, complete the Tour de France, surf the North Shore in Hawaii, and score a goal in World Cup soccer…these are physical acuities that are so advanced, so complex, so finely tuned, and so functionally integrated…that to ascribe these to gradualistic, random chance, trial-and-error processes as asserted in the theory of Darwinian evolution…when we see and observe nothing incrementally progressive and transitional in a major, creative sense anywhere in the natural world currently or in the course of natural history…seems on its face to be beyond nonsensical.

Certainly, the existence of the moral framework that permeates all of the social interactions between people…which we take totally for granted… needs explanation…such things as romantic love, friendship, loyalty, bravery, humor, forgiveness, standing up for the right thing even when it costs us something, giving value to other people through respect…and the flip-side—lying, cheating, prejudice, selfishness, injustice, and evil…all of which in the hands of a skilled debater could be plausibly argued to be far beyond the creative naturalistic reach of material particles and energy…given that particles and energy demonstrate no capacity for creating complex and functionally integrated systems or concepts.

Add to this the mind-boggling Age of Information explosion of the last two or three decades…in which intelligence has been linked to the origin of information wherever we find complex and functionally integrated systems in human creations…in computer software codes, literary books of every genre, inventions of every type…which corresponds to the information-rich realities we find in the natural world such as the Big Bang, the Anthropic Principle, the Cambrian Explosion, DNA code, and the body-plan architectures and lifestyle habits of every living creature…to name only a few examples.

Curiously, in the area of the fine arts…we see the unavoidable necessity of the inclusion of the overcoming of evil…fundamental within the storyline fabric of movies, theater plays, and books…coming from a modern popular culture that otherwise avoids the acknowledgment of the concept of biblical sin.  How can the existence and complexity of evil…sliced-and-diced in every which way in enumerable storyline settings and conditions…of unending fascination and interest to the human psyche…how can this be the product of mere material particles and energy according to the philosophical worldview of naturalism?

As a non-scholar layman in the areas of theology and biblical studies…along with millions of other common Christians around the world simply following Jesus within their journeys of faith…I sense that the centuries old paradigm conflict between philosophical atheism and Christianity is at a balanced apex…at a tipping-point where the evidences for theism may now begin…if it has not already…to surpass the now archaic logic and arguments against supernaturalism and the miraculous in the Bible.

The Big Bang philosophically opened wide the door for intelligent agency…introducing in the first split-seconds of creation all of the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and mathematics… along with time itself…and all of the material particles in the right quantities and proportions to produce the universe we now observe today…out of nothing…sometime around 14 billion years ago.

If an independent agent God can do this at the beginning of the universe…then the philosophical objection by skeptics that God cannot introduce creative life and “miracles” into the natural world…incorrectly viewed by some as a “closed system” up until a few decades ago…is now debunked by the discoveries of science through the identification of massive amounts of complex and functionally integrated systems of information…everywhere we look in the living and non-living natural world.

The concept of an independent agent…God…injecting vast amounts of complex information into our world utilizing creative foresight…such as the DNA code…the unimaginably brilliant folding of amino acids into proteins…and the body-plan architectural information stored somewhere in the embryonic development structure of the living cell that builds cells and tells them their unique function and location in the dividing and expanding embryo…is very similar to our own use of accumulated information and premeditated creative foresight in the planned and premeditated assembly of houses, automobiles, airplanes, laptop computers, and pharmaceutical medicines.

In this book, I attempt to add some commonsense Christian apologetic arguments into the ongoing debate.  Some such topics are:

First, is there a persuasive rationale to explain the humility of Jesus…outside of the standard and perfectly valid explanation that this is simply part of the divine character of God?

Is there an ingenious, underlying theme within the humility of Jesus that transcends the imagination of human literary invention…and at the same time serves as inspiration for Christians?

Is the concept of respect…the giving of value to another person…the central issue at play behind the purpose of the creation of this world and our participation in it?

Does the humility component of the life-script of Jesus Christ divide out and expose the destructive element of rebellious self-sovereignty…resulting in the utter rejection and non-valuing of the Son of God Jesus…in a way that forever identifies the moral downside of: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)…as demonstrated through the cross of Calvary (Jn. 15:18-25)?

Second, how would anyone other than God compose a life-script for a perfect Person Jesus Christ that gets Him to the cross?  Is this idea too farfetched and innovative…as to fall clearly outside of human literary imagination…and therefore be divine in its origin?

What aspects of the human character would be identified with pinpoint accuracy in this life-script composition…that would infuriate conventional thinking to such a degree in first-century Israel…that would get a perfect Person Jesus all the way to the cross…and not to mere house arrest, exile, or censure?

Third, how could anyone other than God compose a life-script complex enough for Jesus Christ the Son of God…that results in a broken heart on the cross (blood and water coming out of His pierced side…John 19:34)?

How do you break the heart of God…as invented literary fiction…without at the same time violating the very thing that worldly conventional normalcy and thinking detests the most…the acknowledging of the existence of human sin and self-centeredness… absorbed by Jesus on the cross…as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin?

Fourth, where does the delicate balance of belief and unbelief come from?  Why isn’t this balance overwhelmed in favor of one direction or the other?

Fifth, what explains the odd existence of the two main contrasting worldviews…self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…for human beings alone?  This clearly does not originate from nature.  Lions display only one lifestyle habit…there are not two different competing approaches to being a lion.  The same goes for every living creature in nature.  For every living creature each lifestyle habit is distinctly unique…but uniform throughout that creature type…for lions, cheetahs, leopards, tigers, elephants, giraffes, alligators, and zebras, for example.

Yet humans have two optional worldviews to freely choose from…self-sovereignty or God-sovereignty…both radically different in the course and purpose of our lives.  The complexity of the differences that divide these two worldviews is far beyond any plausible explanation of their origin by way of the naturalistic, gradual trial-and-error evolution of material particles and energy as asserted in the theory of Darwinism.

Coming back to my discussion with the agnostic/atheist man insisting on objective, visual, foolproof evidence for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity…for Christians…the answer to this issue is both easy and difficult.

If Jesus a few days after the resurrection walked down the middle of main street and right into the temple in Jerusalem…then like doubting Thomas all of the common people along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes could examine his wounds and observe His resurrected new body…and accept as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Son of God.

But accepting the visual evidence…producing absolute knowledge like two plus two equals four…or the existence of the noonday sun…accepting the evidence that Jesus is the divine Son of God is not the same as being willing to follow Him.  The Pharisees and scribes would have looked at the resurrected Jesus…talked with Him…examined His healed wounds…and then said: “Great…good for you…but we still choose not to follow you.”

Absolute knowledge by visual, empirical observation does not alleviate…does not displace…does not remove…self-sovereignty.  Jesus walking into the temple in Jerusalem after His resurrection…offering absolute proof of His divinity in rising from the dead…does not equate to everyone freely choosing to make Him Lord and Master of their lives.

After the resurrection…revealing Himself to the Pharisees and scribes would not have produced biblical faith…defined as willingly allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways…as ancient in Jewish history as the calling of Abraham to leave Haran and go to Canaan…as basic to Judaism as it gets…and fundamental to the Christian concept of picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

A person does not have to be a scholar to see in the Bible and to experience first-hand…that God initially takes people having hidden potential…yet at the start are broken, lost, and aimless in life (Mt. 9:10-13)…and through the divinely supportive respect and acceptance over time of salvation, redemption, and the life-altering insertion of a God-composed adventure of faith…turns them into something better that they could not have previously imagined.

This is one of the main themes of the Bible.  Some people will accept God’s lead and follow Him into their destinies…others will push God away and follow their own course.

This in itself should be a telling argument against the random-chance naturalism of self-sovereign worldly conventional thinking…by virtue of the sheer inexplicability of the origin of the concept of biblical faith and its persistent longevity.  Naturalism, if true should produce one monotonous, homogeneous human mindset…one lifestyle habit per creature type…like the rest of the living world.

The complexity of the information content, the innovative originality of the main concepts, and the utter crash and collision with worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…makes a compelling commonsense apologetic case for the divine origin of the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible…above and beyond humanistic literary invention.

This is the contribution to the marketplace of ideas I would like to introduce in this book…moving the argument for the truthfulness of the Bible farther down the road for the Christian and the skeptic alike.

Finally, if we have a conflict or an issue with some colleague at work…and we discuss this with a friend who thinks well of us…that friend will give us the supportive benefit of the doubt upon hearing the details.

But a person who is a friend, yet who may not think as highly of us, may automatically take the side of the other person in the dispute…upon hearing the details…and begin to question our handling of the situation…in a knee-jerk, critical fashion…not giving us the benefit of the doubt.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are filled with people giving God the benefit of the doubt in their adventures of faith.

Every positive person of faith in the Bible has a personal relationship with God that has the universal element of giving God the benefit of the doubt…even amidst difficult and challenging events, and the negative direction of outward appearances.

Biblical characters that immediately come to mind in this regard are Abraham going to Canaan (Heb. 11:8), Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison hanging on to the promise of his two earlier dreams received years before in Canaan (Gen. 37:7, 9), and Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:11, 4:20).

Jeremiah has a continual, ongoing dialogue with God about the stubborn unbelief of the Jerusalem leaders.  Elijah complains bitterly to God about the overwhelming pushback and resistance he is encountering in his calling as a prophet in apostate Israel under the rule of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

Other notable people who gave God the benefit of the doubt through difficult challenge are Joshua, Samuel, David, Job, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and all of the minor prophets…to name only a few in the Old Testament.

The Psalms in the Old Testament are filled with people having a personal relationship and dialogue with God…giving God the benefit of the doubt to come through for them in the middle of challenging difficulties.

People of faith in the New Testament actually spent time physically with Jesus the Son of God (Jn. 1:14)…and gave Him the benefit of the doubt amidst pushback and resistance to His message and ministry…of deadly intensity (Jn. 11:8, 16).

This idea of the people of faith giving God the benefit of the doubt during the course of their journeys of faith…giving to God the value and worth…that putting trust and faith in another person entails…has enormous commonsense, apologetic value as an argument for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

This has apologetic value by virtue of its existence as evidence of a relationship…evidence that would not hold water for a moment…if it was not in fact true.

As a secondary, subtle element in the plotlines of every biblical narrative story of faith…giving God the benefit of the doubt is not something that can be fabricated or faked into fictionalized relationships…certainly not into the unconventional relationships between people and God.

This element is integrally baked into every biblical adventure of faith…and cannot be homogenized out without damaging the story.

This component of giving God the benefit of the doubt is a powerful clue that these relationships…these stories of faith…are real.

A moral concept as subtle yet as powerful as this could not be the product of collusion on the part of the 40 different authors spanning 1,500 years in the writing of the Bible…universally giving God the benefit of the doubt from Genesis through Revelation…from beginning to end…without the slightest hint of progressive evolution or creative development in the portrayal of biblical faith.

The life-stories of Abraham through Paul in the Bible…all depicting biblical faith having this common element of giving God the benefit of the doubt…as religious fiction invented by human writers inspired out of the narrow realm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking alone…as an explanation for their origin…is nonsensical.

Like the massive infusion of creative information that entered into the natural world to form the complex living creatures during the Cambrian Explosion of 530 million years ago…inexplicable as a materialistic or naturalistic event…the correct answer to the question of the origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith is that they are a divine creation of God.

The complex and functionally coherent information that enters into the human experience…suddenly and instantly in the form of a God-composed adventure of faith…starting with Abraham…is the action of an independent agent God…providing commonsense apologetic evidence for both His existence…and for the truth of the Bible.

Mechanical robots cannot fathom the concept of respect.  Neither can robots plumb the depths of giving someone the supportive benefit of the doubt of placing faith, trust, and dignity in another person…extending the gift of value, worth, and validation to that person.

Our analytical capacity for moral reasoning…wrapped within our physical living body having all of the marvelous abilities and talents we possess…may be the single-most, top-tier apologetic evidence for the existence of God…easily accessible to commonsense contemplation.

Faith

Over the past few years, in writing Christian books and a Christian blog, I have been trying to figure out what is so special about faith…about belief as opposed to unbelief.

Belief or unbelief in Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God Savior…as adequately and fairly presented to people through the gospel message…determines our eternal destiny…having vastly different outcomes in this life and in the life to come…of enormous importance (Ex. 12:27; Num. 21:8-9; Lk. 13:2-5; Jn. 8:24).

The magnitude of the importance of viable, satisfying, and sustainable personal relationships…is staring us in the face…it is hidden on the surface in plain sight for everyone to see…all the time.

This is the element that is profound and insightful about the recognition of personal relationships between God and people in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

This concept is unique and distinctive to the Bible.  All other religions, philosophies, worldviews, and literature are also about relationships…but not a single one has the theme of a connection to a living God we can know personally…and who has an elevated game-plan for our lives above and outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Mt. 7:13-14; Prov. 3:5-6; Isa. 53:6; Isa. 55:8-9; Jer. 31:34).

Only the Bible has the totally unconventional concept of a God-composed journey of faith life-script that will lead us into the truth about positive personal relationships…starting with the highly sophisticated concept of Abraham’s risky stepping-out-in-faith journey to the Promised Land of Canaan…inaugurating faith-based relationships between the living God and people…totally unheard of…outside of the Bible.

As humans, we do not want children who are robots.  The amazing developmental progression…that we totally take for granted because it is so universally commonplace…of pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, childhood, the teenage years, young adulthood, and then maturing into adult people…all of which stages are interesting, challenging, and memorable for parents…leads to an incredible outcome that again we take for granted.

Growing up leads to the day when we can sit as young adults in a college classroom and listen to, take notes on, and discuss the subtleties of world history, political science, philosophy, literature, and the integration and differentiation of mathematical calculus problems…with comprehension and facility…something no machine robot…flesh or metal…could ever do.

Growing up leads to the opportunity and capacity to form mature relationships…relationships very sophisticated in the moral realities of love, thoughtfulness, self-sacrifice, empathy, compassion, being open-minded, friendship, loyalty, patience, hope, perseverance, truth, faith, confidence, vitality, and nobility of character…to name only a few…that is impossible to achieve in an automated mechanical robot lacking cognitive free-will choice.

So we have two analogous, individual realities in our lives that help us to understand this divine emphasis on the importance of faith…of belief and unbelief…in the scheme of personal relationships that have an eternal impact upon our destinies in this current life…and in the life to come.

We have first the universally commonplace reality of the intrinsic nature of personal relationships in the human psyche…and second we have the unbridgeable gulf between automated robots that theoretically can be programmed to perform a nearly infinite number of functions…that can closely mimic the independently autonomous thought-process of free-will cognitive reasoning…but can never cross that gulf entirely without the transcendent gift of intelligence and communication that are to be found in human beings (Gen. 1:27).

Personal relationships between cognitive, free-will, independent, autonomous, moral reasoning beings is so basically fundamental…that it can be said that everything in the Bible is about relationships…even the laws, rules, and precepts (Mt. 5:17).

Faith is the pivotal point…the demarcation line…in the Bible because faith is relational.  Faith in others is one of the key ingredients in any personal relationship.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God…because without faith it is impossible to have a meaningful relationship that allows God to assume His rightful place in our lives as King and Ruler of the realm.

Without faith we will not step down off our throne of self-sovereignty.  Without faith we will not move-out into our adventure of faith.  Without faith we cannot even get to the starting line.

This beginning discussion of the importance of the universal nature of relationships…between people…and between God and people…covered in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…opens up

for us a revelation regarding the question of the divine origin of the Bible…and tells us something important about the character of God.