Thursday, May 30, 2013

Objections to the Bible as an Authoritative Source of Information

I didn't have the opportunity to speak to a group this week but the presentation audio was still recorded for those interested.  Download here (right click to save).  The specific objections addressed were:

  • Why would God use the Bible to communicate to us instead of speaking directly?
  • How can we trust the Bible if it was written so long ago?
  • How can we trust the Bible if it has come to us through so many translations?
  • What about all the different versions of the Bible?
  • And then a brief look at how we got the Bible that we have today.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is Good Evidence for Believing that the Bible is True

This is the third session in the series. I could've added the subtitle: "Testing any Religion or Writing Claimed to be Holy". Download the talk here (right-click to save). There is one pause in proceedings where I duck away to check that a fight isn't happening - lots of ruckus outside the classroom at that moment. There wasn't a fight but it was a day of many distractions and interruptions which always seems to happen when something eternally significant is about to occur... A rough outline is below:


  • Where we’ve come from (Session 1 - truth, Session 2 - evidence for the existence of God - OKLAHOMA related to natural disasters and a result of the fall - from last weeks discussion)
  • This week (Session 3 - why believe the bible or any religious text?) and how it follows on from previous (taking you through the classic apologetic process for defending the Christian faith, i.e. how to have the discussion, does God exist? Is the bible true? - the way I’m presenting it will hopefully give you tools to critique all religions and truth claims.
  • Any religion that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny isn’t worth following, including Christianity, but you can’t judge a faith group by the hypocrites who don’t follow the teachings - you have to look at the teachings to see if they are good or not.
  • Will be focusing on the bible, and the teachings from the bible, since that’s my area of expertise - I’ve explored the reasons people don’t believe the bible and have decided that they aren’t good reasons

Main - ways of critiquing any text to see if it’s true

  • Internal consistency
    • 1st, what is the bible?
      • 66 books
      • 40 authors
      • 1500 years
      • Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic
      • We have vast quantities of manuscripts in the original languages
    • Despite the diversity of author, the consistent message comes through from them all to build a cohesive whole. Cohesive = consistent
    • OBJECTION: Isn’t the bible full of contradictions?
      • Usually people who say this can’t name one
      • When we identify actual contradictions, they are usually resolved easily through a proper understanding of the context. Some are a little harder to resolve but can reasonably be cleared 
      • I’ve looked at over 100 supposed contradictions because I wanted to see what those on the other side said... Visit and search for 'bible difficulties'
    • OBJECTION: Doesn’t God change though? From commanding war and genocide in the Old Testament to becoming focused on love in the New Testament. And what about all the laws?
      • Context is important.
      • God’s plan for history has different stages and purposes for His people in those stages
      • OT deals mainly with Israel and preparing the world for the coming Saviour who was from Israel - NT is the fulfilment of those preparations
      • Progressive revelation of certain mysteries, e.g. salvation by grace through faith (and not through keeping the law), Gentiles can be saved too (not just Jews) - these things were not as clear in the OT as in the NT
      • Rules separated Israel from pagan nations
      • GENOCIDE - God also destroyed the entire world with a flood. Is it wrong for the Creator to do what he wants with His creation? The rules which apply to us don’t necessarily apply to God. The main rule is that God is the ultimate Judge and he has the power of life and death which we don’t.
  • Does the Bible truly describe reality? (External Consistency)
    • The wisdom in the Bible is extraordinary
    • Proverbs and other scriptures detailing timeless truths of cause and effect dealing with complex human nature
      • Wise vs foolish people
      • the rewards of diligence
      • that even good people can suffer
      • that even bad people can see undeserved reward (rains on the just and the unjust alike)
      • that the way to overcome evil is through love, e.g. bless your enemies so they are shamed into being good.
    • Human nature and motivations accurately described? 
      • Capacity for great works of good and astounding deeds of evil
      • Even our good is tainted (nobody is perfect also means that nothing we do is perfectly good)
    • What about miracles? (have to admit the possibility if God exists so shouldn’t be a problem)
    • What about science? (Creation vs Evolution)
      • “weight” of evidence when there are arguments in favour of each side - leans which way
      • Assumptions and presuppositions
      • Biases
    • Archaeological Evidence
      • Even secular archaeologists use the bible to help them discover new digs of the ancient world
    • Prophecy - predictions of future events
      • Psalm 22 describes the crucifiction of Christ 1000 years before Jesus was crucified
      • OBJECTION - could these prophecies been written after the events?
        • No - Hebrew OT translated into Greek during 2nd Century before Jesus
        • People watching the events didn’t even realise that prophecy was being fulfilled until later.
  • The founders of a religion can give us a lot of insight into the validity
    • compare Jesus with Muhammad and the origin of the Koran
    • Compare Jesus with Joseph Smith and the origin of the book of mormon
    • Compare Jesus with Buddah, Krishna, and whoever else you want and I think you will find someone quite different in their teaching and their life.


  • We’ve looked at some evidences that the Bible is trustworthy (restate several)
  • I believe that other religious texts don’t hold up to the same level of scrutiny, but you’re welcome to test that for yourselves.
  • I especially want to challenge you to look in the bible for yourselves, if you are truly concerned for discovering the truth (or not) of the best-selling book of all time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What We Can Learn About God Without Religious Texts Like The Bible

This was the second session in the series. Download the talk here (right-click to save). After the main presentation there may be quiet patches when questions or extended comments are asked. I tried to restate what they said. Below is the outline.


Last session - Truth, Meaning, and the Existence of God
This session - What can we know about God without the Bible? (Evidence/arguments for His existence and what His nature is)
Method to the madness - this session, and future sessions, build upon the first session

First, Some Definitions and Concepts
  • Revelation
  • General Revelation
  • Special Revelation... scriptures are usually called “holy”
  • Holy means...
  • The difference between “perfect” evidence (there is none) and the “weight” of evidence/argument
Second, Arguments for the existence of God using General Revelation
  • Cosmological Argument - the first cause, the uncaused cause, the ultimate cause (The Banger of the big bang)
    • God is creative - evidence: diversity of life and non-life
    • God is powerful - something from nothing (true nothing, not just empty space)
    • God is a god of order - patterns are evident in nature
    • God is good - the default positive position in humanity is basically the same across all cultures
    • God is personal - He created personal beings with the ability to have relationships and to know Him
    • Simplicity also suggests one god rather than many
  • Teleological Argument - argument from design that we see in the universe
    • we’re good at spotting human design, e.g. buildings are clearly buildings
    • the same spotting technique can be used to spot supernatural design, DNA etc seems designed - more complex and purposeful than anything we’ve made - hard to think of as an accident of chance
    • odds - rubiks cube: 1 combo per second and longer than the universe to do all combos, yet “nature” has far more complexity
    • fine-tuning argument (odds are far against accident)
    • The second law of thermodynamics
    • Objection: If God made/designed everything, why did he make it “broken” (disease, disasters, etc)?
      • He didn’t make it broken, humanity broke it in the fall
      • God made it good (not complete until woman)
      • By disobeying God, man introduced sin and corruption (sin is disobedience toward God)
      • Since we’re a part of this broken creation, we are also broken, which is the source of our ongoing sin.
      • The gospel and the central message of Christianity is God fixing what Adam and Eve broke (and what we continue to break every time we do wrong), and he fixes those who follow his Son in the process. Born again = being remade unbroken (but this work isn’t finished until Jesus returns)
      • Did the fall “surprise” God? 
      • No - part of his plan to show his power, but that’s another story
  • Argument from the existence of morality
    • morality appears to be innate (sense of right and wrong, or at least justice/injustice (C.S. Lewis), from birth) [not specific rights and wrongs but the existence of the notion of right and wrong]
    • there appear to be moral absolutes (and where do these come from?)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Truth, Meaning, and the Existence of God

Yesterday at lunch time, I hosted a short presentation and discussion about truth and meaning.  You can download the talk here.  The target group were teenagers ranging from 13 up to 18 years old.  A rough outline of the presentation is below.  There will be several of these presentations to come in a series.


Do we need purpose/meaning in life, or is it enough to jet get out of bed and do the next thing which occurs to you? How do we deal with big issues such as death, suffering, and disease.

Some "Tools" For The Discussion
  • Epistemology
  • The Law of Non-contradiction
  • What is a Worldview?

Where Does Meaning Come From?
  • Where do we commonly find meaning?
  • Is there a fixed/stable/permanent source of meaning?
  • Brief argument for why God could be that source of fixed meaning.

Summing up the entire presentation.