Friday, December 11, 2009

People Who Never Heard?

I have a question regarding how we are to understand salvation and consequently, damnation, in the context of the pre-Christ world. Was salvation possible in a pre-christ world? Was it possible in all cultures, outside of Abraham and outside of the Jewish community in formation? If so, how? In-line with this question is another one I have heard twice in the past month, and would like help in addressing. Is it possible for someone who has never heard of Jesus (in a post-Jesus) world, to be saved? If so, how, and under what circumstances and understanding?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do OT Leviticus Laws Still Apply to Us Today?

What attitude should we be reading all these rules and regulations that we see in Exodus and Leviticus? I guess I don't know what to think of being ceremonial clean. I understand when someone sins, he has to do the right things to get right with God again. But all the touching dead animals, monthly period, childbirth, and the whole paragraph on what does that have anything to do with being spiritually clean? It sounds...kind of tedious, so I just didn't know what to think of it, or why God asked for these things to be done when the Israelites are just being human beings. How should we read these passages? How is it relevant to me now?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Christianity Similar to Hinduism?

When I try to share about the Christian faith to my Hindu co-workers, they often tell me that many stories in Xianity and Hinduism are similar. They tell me that they also have gods who came to live with men to make their lives better, and that there is good evidence for their existence. When I ask how people came to validate the divinity of these people/gods, they just said it was known among the people. And they have holy books which go in length for each of their many gods. The one question they had was why there are so many gods and why all of them gave sometimes contradictory rules (eat veg while some eat non-veg (meat), etc). However, they see that people's prayers seem to be answered and they live well enough. I answered by saying that religion is not just about morality. And it's not just about living well. And that, though, un-PC, there can only be one Truth. However, when I proposed that there is ample evidence for Christ and his resurrection, other stories of Bible, the response is, each culture has their similar stories that are just as well attested for.Although I know that many of their "proofs" are not based on much, how do I gently communicate this? However, obviously, I don't know how to build a stronger case. Am I barking up the wrong tree? What is the best way to approach them?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why Is OT God So Into Wars?

I recently had a discussion with a student who had a question about why God allowed for the Crusades back in the Medieval times. I answered her question by pointing to the fact that back then the church and state were one, that it was wrong for the church to do the Crusades, that it was driven by greed. I also mentioned that since God allows for free will within our relationship with Him, he cannot stop us from choosing war over peace. But then, I started to think about the OT wars and how God allowed and sometimes even decreed attacks on other nations through Israel. So, why would a loving God want his own Creation to kill one another? Why would he decree such wars? It would seem a bit contrary to His character. I've been thinking - would it be best to point out that God is also a God of justice, in that He cannot/does not allow for any sin within His people (the Israelites), therefore, killing anyone who is a threat to Israel and the covenantel relationship He has with them? Just wanted to know if there are better/other ways to go about answering this...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fine-Tuning in the Universe

The idea that was discussed was the fine-tuning in the universe, sometimes called the “anthropic principle”. The idea is that the universal constants in the universe (such as the universal gravitational constant, strong/weak nuclear force, speed of light, etc.) seem to be “finely-tuned” to allow for sustaining life. For example, if the electromagnetic force constant was different by 1/10^40 (0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001%), then we wouldn’t have any molecules, just elemental atoms floating around.. and obviously you can’t get life without molecule formation.
This fine-tuning in the universe is something that leading atheists like Richard Dawkins acknowledges as perhaps the “biggest challenge” to atheism. Below is the video where Richard Dawkins talks about this. You can post your questions or comments on the anthropic principle. Dawkins does give his reply (which he fleshes out in his book "God Delusion") to the mystery of the anthropic principle, so you can comment on that as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Truth Project: Issues with Evolution

One of our brothers at Gracepoint Berkeley, a Ph.D. structural biologist in UCSF, has given us a brief explanation of evolution below that might be helpful in understanding the issues with evolution that have been mentioned in our Truth Project.

I. What is Evolution?

Darwinian evolution is defined as the change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation, leading to new adaptations and the emergence of new traits that ultimately lead to the genesis of new species. Although these changes in any single generation are small, the belief is that the changes that give a competitive edge to an individual or population accumulate over the course of multiple generations. Therefore these traits add up over time as those individuals with these ‘good’ changes out-competed those without. This mechanism is called natural selection or commonly known as “survival of the fittest.” Proponents of evolutionary theory point to the similarities between organisms and suggest that all species have descended from a common ancestor.

Figure 1 – Two classic icons of evolution. A) The picture of evolution that depicts the evolution of man from ape. B) The different colors of the peppered moths that give selective advantage of a certain colored moth in different environments.



2. The problem with Natural Selection.

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of the naturalistic worldview, in which all creation and living things are believed to be the result of random chemical and physical events that have led to the addition of complexity over time into the diverse kingdoms of life we see today. One can say that it is one of the pillars of the church of science & naturalism and places its trust and faith on the blind and unguided chemical/physical processes to bring forth life and the millions of different species we see today.

3. Technical problem with evolution – Irreducible complexity:

Since evolution is a gradual process in which slight modifications produce advantages for survival, it cannot produce complex structures in a short amount of time. Darwin recognized this shortcoming to his theory and stated this disclaimer to his theory:

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." --Charles Darwin, Origin of Species

The fact is, mutations may gradually build up and modify complex structures, but it cannot produce them in their functional form without meaningless and non-functional intermediate steps. Mutations may change function, but in most cases, it is detrimental to life and leads to the loss of function. Furthermore, mutations cannot bring about the formation of multi-component complexes that are involved in almost every molecular process in our cells and organs required for life. A great illustration of the complexity of even a single response in the cells can be visualized in a great computer animation called “the inner life of the cell” ( It is not far-fetched to compare a single cell to a large bustling metropolis, with thousands of different functions and signal networks interacting at the same time. With the incredible complexity of a single cell, it takes a huge amount of faith to conclude that this complex system have derived from unguided and blind mutational changes.

The concept called irreducible complexity was developed by biochemist Michale Behe to describe this problem of the genesis of complex biological systems. Simply put, everything is there and it works, or something is missing and it doesn’t work.

Figure 2 – The mousetrapclip_image001

The concept illustration for an irreducible complex system is the mousetrap (Figure 2). This device contains 5 interdependent components to work: the wooden platform, the spring, the hammer, the holding bar, and a catch. Each of these components is absolutely essential for the function of the mousetrap. Remove any of the parts, and it can no longer catch mice. This example implies that an irreducibly complex system cannot come about in a gradual manner. A step-by-step approach to constructing such a system will result in a useless system until all the components have been added. The system requires all the components to be added at the same time, in the right configuration, before it works at all.

Some of the biological examples used by Behe are the bacterial flagella, the blood clotting mechanism in humans, and the eye. In each of these cases, either you have everything and it works, or you take away something and it doesn’t. One can take any known molecular machine or signal system in the cell and it runs into the problem of irreducible complexity.

Figure 3 – Illustrations of the irreducible complex systems




Blind evolution, as described by Darwinian theory, cannot produce complex structures in a single generation, as would be required for the formation of irreducibly complex systems. Even the production of one or a few of these proteins at a time is not only improbable, and it would provide no advantage to the survival of the individual because those few proteins would have no function. Darwin recognized this as a weakness to his theory when the cell was understood as a sac of goo, and the advances we are making in biological sciences today only add to the incredible complexity of life that makse belief in Darwinian evolution a feat of great faith indeed.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gracepoint Berkeley Apologetics MYT: Morality and God

Objective moral values can exist without God. We don’t have to believe in God to live moral lives; many of my atheist or agnostic friends are good, decent people. As an atheist, I can and do live by a system of ethics, which I formulated without needing to hypothesize the existence of a wrathful Judge in the sky. I treat other people with respect because I know they are human beings just like me. I also believe we should treat each other according to moral rules because that benefits me and society in the long run, which is objectively true. None of this even remotely involves God. Doesn't this undercut any moral argument for God's existence?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gracepoint Berkeley Apologetics MYT: Mind-Body Problem

Let's get this week's discussion started:

Why do people like Will Provine say that if Naturalism is true, that means we can't have free will? Why can't free will be just something that emerges out of the brain?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Do We Get Punished For Others' Sins?

Recently, in DT we looked at Gehazi in 2 Kings 5 and how he got leprosy after he lied to Elisha about going to Naaman and receiving the gifts. It is understandable that he is punished, but why do his descendants also get punished? Isn't it unfair?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gracepoint Berkeley Apologetics MYT: The Problem of Suffering

Let's get a discussion going on the problem of suffering. In the Gracepoint Berkeley Apologetics class, we talked about how the problem of suffering is a problem only if we can show that suffering is purposeless. What do you think about that?

Also, another useful apologetics skill is to test the "range" of possibilities. So let's ask: what if there IS random suffering? What are the ramifications of that proposition to Christianity?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gracepoint Berkeley: Truth Project

Hello everyone,

Very much like how Gracepoint Forum did with SET 2008, I wanted to open up a post thread for our Sunday's material, the Truth Project.

You can ask questions and have discussions regarding the Truth Project by responding to this post.

Why Did God Give Us Feelings?

This question isn't on quite an apologetic topic, but still is something that I'd like input on. What is the role of emotions in Christian thinking? That is, why did God give them to us? What use are they?

Some thoughts on the matter:I've already heard that emotions are a very hard thing to define, much less talk about(from a psychology viewpoint, anyway), but what I have heard indicates that they are evaluative. This means that our senses collect raw data, the mind interprets it into something we can understand, and then, as far as I can tell, emotions place value on it in some way(thus our instinctive responses to things).If this is true, then it would seem to me that we feel things in such a way as to help us place value in proper places and on proper things. This also leads me to think that when our emotions are out of whack, blown out of proportion, or simply aren't there(spock-style), then something is internally wrong with our value system. It seems that in this sense they can help us understand what's wrong with ourselves a little bit better.If this is all at least somewhat true, then I would add a little bit to the question: Is it a problem how we treat emotion in church today? When we sing songs that make us feel very 'worshipful', or when days like good friday come around and we try to feel very sad but grateful, are emotions serving their proper purpose? These are, of course, proper responses to their respective situations, but I wonder if people skip the step of understanding and repairing their value systems, and simply manipulate emotions.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Matthew Biased Toward OT Prophecies?

How would you respond to allegations that the gospel writers had done a bit of "map-bending" in their gospel accounts to force the events in Jesus' life to conform to OT scriptures. For example, Matthew seems to have recorded that Jesus rode on a donkey and a colt on Palm Sunday, while the other synoptics recorded only one. Matthew seems to have recorded 2 donkeys to fit the prophecy in Zechariah. Also, in Matthew, Jesus is shown as a second Moses - the slaughter of the innocents parallels the circumstances around Moses' birth, and the escape to Egypt is also a parallel to Moses' situation. I might have missed it, but I don't think these things are in the other gospels. This would seem to undermine the credibility of the gospel. How would you answer this?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Apostle Paul's Role in NT and Christian Faith

I was wondering if you could give some historical/theological background and explanation to Apostle Paul's special role as the early Christian authority whose application of and exposition for much of Jesus' teachings (and OT teaching as well, as it is 'fulfilled' in Jesus' teaching and life), inform such a large part of the practical living out Christian life today? Perhaps including issues like: is there significance that Paul ended up writing most of the NT (or the other way around in terms of causation) though he was not one of the Twelve who lived with Jesus; how Paul distinguished between things that were "[he] and not the Lord" and "the Lord, not [he]"; what would distinguish Paul and a later Christian who also had a vision of Jesus and who decided to write similar homilies, explanations, and applications (since Paul's conversion experience was highly personal, one of the criteria used to determine the likely historicity of a spiritual encounter, as with Jesus' resurrection appearances)?

Uncomfortably Violent Passages

I was wondering about the topic of Divine Inspiration and Biblical Fallibility in the canonization of the Bible. There are some passages, like the supplication prayer of Psalm 137, that ask God to act as the avenger of Israel. Some of the things the psalmist prays for makes me squirm, like

8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays youfor what you have done to us-
9 he who seizes your infantsand dashes them against the rocks.

What would be the role of passages like these in the Bible? Is it also divinely inspired, or did it find its way into the Bible as a consequence of human fallibility? How should we treat such passages?