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May 24, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

John Polkinghorne on the Limits of Brute Facts Understanding of Naturalism

Theology in turn has something to say to science. “Science offers an illuminating context within which much theological reflection can take place, but in its turn it needs to be considered in the wider and deeper context of intelligibility that a belief in God affords.” As an expert in fundamental physics, Polkinghorne likes to advance a modest form of natural theology”not the older kind of argument that places design in direct competition with biological evolution and stresses “gaps” in natural processes, but a newer style of argument based on the very comprehensibility of nature and nature’s laws. The universe revealed by science “is not only rationally transparent,” but also “rationally beautiful, rewarding scientists with the experience of wonder at the marvelous order which is revealed through the labours of their research.” Why should this be so? The laws of nature “underlie the form and possibility of all occurrence,” but science can treat them only “as given brute facts. These laws, in their economy and rational beauty, have a character that seems to point the enquirer beyond what science itself is capable of telling, making a materialist acceptance of them as unexplained brute facts an intellectually unsatisfying stance to take.” The very possibility of science, in his view, “is not a mere happy accident, but it is a sign that the mind of the Creator lies behind the wonderful order that scientists are privileged to explore.” In short, “the activity of science is recognized to be an aspect of the imago Dei.”

May 23, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

What is embodied spirituality from a Christian point of view?

I haven’t watched these, but like much of what comes out of the Open Biola project
This is the prelude–

This is what it might look like–

I think there is a certain balance called for. its also worth noting that much of what is beyond embodied goes beyond the typical times of the worship service. The first video even makes that point–that the verses in the Bible (and teaching) are the start of spiritual formation.

May 22, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

9 Philosophical and Ideological Assumptions of Modern Science

Fundamental Assumptions of Modern Naturalistic Science:

Here is a list of the philosophical presuppositions of science:

  • existence of a theory-independent, external world
  • the orderly nature of the external world
  • the knowability of the natural world
  • the existence of truth
  • the laws of logic and mathematics
  • the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as sources of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment
  • the adequacy of language to describe the world
  • the existence of values uses in science (e.g., “test theories fairly and report test results honestly”)
  • the uniformity of nature and induction
  • (Garrett J. DeWeese & JP Moreland, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guid to Life’s Big Questions, p. 136-137)

List two of assumptions of modern science:

Science would be impossible as an enterprise, if the vast majority of scientists did not hold these assumptions:

(a) There exists an external world, which is independent of our human minds: it’s real, regardless of whether we believe in it or not;

(b) Objects in the external world have certain identifying characteristics called dispositions, which scientists are able to investigate;

(c) Objects in the external world behave in accordance with certain mathematical regularities, which we call the laws of Nature, and which tell us how those objects ought to behave;

(d) Scientific induction is reliable: scientists can safely assume that the laws of Nature hold true at all times and places;

(e) Solipsism is false: there exist other embodied agents, with minds of their own;

(f) Communication is possible: scientists are capable of talking to one another, and sharing their observations, as well as their thoughts (or interpretations) relating to those observations;

(g) The senses are reliable, under normal conditions, within their proper domain, which means that scientists are capable of making measurements on an everyday basis;

(h) There exist standard conditions, under which ordinary people (including scientists) are routinely capable of thinking logically, making rational discourse possible;

(i) Scientists are morally responsible for their own actions – in particular, they are responsible for their decision to tell the truth about what they have observed, or to lie about it; and

(j) Scientists should not lie under any circumstances, when doing science.

Source: Link

May 21, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

David Foster Wallace This is Water Commencement Address


Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

David Foster Wallace

Its worth noting that they are certainly default settings that we can change and augment.  That is we can choose who and what we worship.  Our defaults aren’t destiny.  However, what we actually choose does definitely have consequences.  That is ideas have consequences–some good and some bad.

Wallace has another key quote about the human experience and choices which puts things in context quite effectively here.

The full text version of this speech is available here.

David Brooks’ graduation speech at Darthmouth speaks to similar issues of commitment and character, and choice.

May 21, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

What is a worldview and why is it important?

“Ideally, a worldview is a well-reasoned framework of beliefs and convictions that help us see the big picture, give a true and united perspective on the meaning of human existence. “

He continues:

“Alternatively, we could say that our worldview is the story we tall to answer questions like these: Why is there anything at all?  How can we know for sure?  How did we get here, and what are we here for, anyway?  Why have things gone so badly wrong?  Is there any hope of fixing them?  What should I do with my life?  And where will it all end?”

Philip Ryken continues:

“Not all worldview are equally systemic or equally comprehensive…but whether we realize it or not, all of us have basic beliefs about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.  This is unavoidable.  Even people who never stop to think about their worldview in any self-reflective way nevertheless live on the basis of their tacit worldview.  This is so basic to who we are that usually we hardly even notice our worldview but simply take it for granted.  Sometimes a worldview is compared to a pair of spectacles, but, to use another optic metaphor, maybe our eyes themselves would be a better analogy.  When was the last time you noticed that you were seeing?  We rarely think about seeing; we just see, and we are seeing all the time.”

(Philip Graham Ryken, Christian Worldviews: A Student Guide)

This sets the stage for this insight from David Foster Wallace:

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings

(Emily Bobrow, “David Foster Wallace, in His Own Words,” taken from his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, http:// story/ david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words; accessed January 4, 2012).

You can read the full David Foster Wallace speech here.

This James W. Sire article on the 7 Questions Every Worldview Must Answer, may be helpful as well.

May 19, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

Criticism of Bart Ehrman on New Testament Reliability and Credibility

This is an analysis of some of the core themes of “Misquoting Jesus” and “How Jesus Became God” by Bart Ehrman from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Ehrman is an agnostic.

At the outset, its incredibly important to highlight two caveats on Bart Ehrman’s stance that are worth noting at the outset:

  1. Dr. Ehrman conceeds to the historicity of Jesus Christ
  2. Dr. Ehrman conceeds that his theories don’t impact core Christian doctrine (quote below)

Here is one of those quotes:

Bart Ehrman was mentored by Bruce Metzger of Princeton University who was the greatest manuscript scholar of the last century.  In 2005, Ehrman helped Metzger update and revise the classic work on the topic– Metzger’s  The Text of the New Testament.

What do Metzger and Ehrman conclude together in that revised work?  Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason writes,

Ehrman and Metzger state in that book that we can have a high degree of confidence that we can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament, the text that is in the Bibles we use, because of the abundance of textual evidence we have to compare.  The variations are largely minor and don’t obscure our ability to construct an accurate text.  The 4th edition of this work was published in 2005 – the same year Ehrman published Misquoting Jesus, which relies on the same body of information and offers no new or different evidence to state the opposite conclusion.

Here’s what Ehrman says in an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p. 252):

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

What can we draw from these two conclusions?

It would seem that both of these admissions puts a rather sizable hole or even shatters the foundations of the theories he is articulating.

Its important to go a bit deeper however, to understand the argument.  The Ehrman Project, which maintains a YouTube channel and a Facebook page can be helpful with that.

My Suggestions about Learning More:

To me, the Daniel Wallace interviews along with the quoted directly from Ehrman as well as the Ehrman Project & Ehrman debate are all quite helpful.  In addition, most any credible book on the Reliability of the New Testament, particularly post 2007 I believe should address this issue.  Specifically the Craig L. Blomberg text linked to below should be helpful in understanding the larger issue of the Historical reliability of the New Testament.  Both Wallace and Blomberg are experts in their respective fields. (“Blog for the Lord Jesus Reference Shelf” also has a number of quotes which are worth checking out, for instance this on general reliability of the New Testament)

Free Resources with Critique and Answer Bart Ehrmans Theories about the New Testament

Further Reflections:

It might be worth looking at Wallace’s wrap ups/summmaries of the debate.  Wallace concedes the issue of copyist errors, but points out that those errors aren’t ultimately important.  The errors are a natural part of God working through humans.  When we look at the big picture and the context, the core message of Jesus and the overall New Testament is ultimately preserved.  Ehrman, by contrast relies on hyperbole and in some sense contradicts what he says elsewhere about the implications of his research.  Ehrman relies on a reductive approach which misses the point on how we can check human caused mistakes along the way.  Not to mention, he believes in the Historical Jesus (although I don’t think that claim is brought out in the debate), which again undercuts his thesis significantly.

Here is the other stuff I’ve written which answers or critiques Bart Ehrman’s work.

Books that Critique Bart Ehrman & His Theories Available on Amazon

Dr. Bart Ehrman’s bio:

Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his teaching career at Rutgers University, and joined the faculty in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC in 1988, where he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department.  Professor Ehrman completed his M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton Seminary

Dr. David Wallace’s Bio:

Dan is Senior Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (has taught there for more than 28 years) and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. He earned a B.A. at Biola University (1975) with a major in biblical studies and minor in Greek; graduated magna cum laude from Dallas Seminary with a ThM degree (1979), with the equivalent of a major in Old Testament studies and a double major in New Testament Studies; graduated summa cum laude from Dallas Seminary with a PhD in New Testament studies (1995). He has done postdoctoral study at Tyndale House, Christ’s College, Clare College, and Westminster College, Cambridge; the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (Institute for New Testament Textual Research), Münster, Germany, Tübingen University; Glasgow University; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), Munich; as well as various libraries and monasteries in Europe, Australia, America, and Africa.

Dr. Michael Birds Bio:

Dr. Michael Bird (Ph.D University of Queensland) is Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia and also Visiting Research Professor at Houston Baptist University.

Dr. Peter J Williams Bio:

Peter is the Warden (CEO) of Tyndale House and a member of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. He received his MA, MPhil and PhD, in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible from Cambridge University. After his PhD, he was on staff in the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (1997–1998), and thereafter taught Hebrew and Old Testament there as Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic and as Research Fellow in Old Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge (1998–2003). From 2003 to 2007 he was on the faculty of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he became a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. In July 2007 he became the youngest Warden in the history of Tyndale House. He also retains his position as an honorary Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

Williams started the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog in October, 2005

Mike Licona’s Bio:

Mike has a Ph.D. in New Testament (University of Pretoria). He completed all requirements “with distinction” and the highest marks. He is a frequent speaker on university campuses, churches, Christian groups, retreats, frequently debates, and has appeared as a guest on dozens of radio and television programs. He is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. Mike is associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University and the president of Risen Jesus, Inc.

May 18, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

What are the impacts of religion on history, society, and civilization

Specifically, the available data clearly indicate that religious belief and practice are associated with:

  • Higher levels of marital happiness and stability;
  • Stronger parent-child relationships;
  • Greater educational aspirations and attainment, especially among the poor;
  • Higher levels of good work habits;
  • Greater longevity and physical health;
  • Higher levels of well-being and happiness;
  • Higher recovery rates from addictions to alcohol or drugs;
  • Higher levels of self-control, self-esteem, and coping skills;
  • Higher rates of charitable donations and volunteering; and
  • Higher levels of community cohesion and social support for those in need.

The evidence further demonstrates that religious belief and practice are also associated with:

  • Lower divorce rates:
  • Lower cohabitation rates;
  • Lower rates of out-of-wedlock births;
  • Lower levels of teen sexual activity;
  • Less abuse of alcohol and drugs;
  • Lower rates of suicide, depression, and suicide ideation;
  • Lower levels of many infectious diseases;
  • Less juvenile crime;
  • Less violent crime; and
  • Less domestic violence.

No other dimension of life in America-with the exception of stable marriages and families, which in turn are strongly tied to religious practice-does more to promote the well-being and soundness of the nation’s civil society than citizens’ religious observance. As George Washington asserted, the success of the Republic depends on the practice of Religion by its citizens. These findings from 21st century social science support his observation.

Source: Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability


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