<![CDATA[Center for Christian Apologetics - Blogs]]>Mon, 25 Jan 2016 09:58:09 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Why Am I Here? by Jerad Smith]]>Sat, 26 Apr 2014 13:39:04 GMThttp://www.centerforchristianapologetics.com/blogs/why-am-i-here-by-jerad-smithWhy am I here?

This is a great question, often asked by teenagers to frustrated parents or some other authority figure.  However most of us have asked this question at one time or another. Sad to say most Christians aren’t prepared to give an answer, and if anybody has an answer it should be us.  In the 1640s this question was posed in a different way in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1.What is the chief end of man? And the answer is beautifully simple, as most things from God are. The answer is: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the purpose for which God created us, to glorify Him and enjoy Him. This is the reason for the God shaped hole in our being. We are destined to fill it with Him. I think the reason most Christians can’t answer it today is that we have become so caught up in denominational infighting we have forgotten that search. We can’t answer a seeker when they ask this question. So we fill them up, or try to, with doctrine and tradition. When the whole time the simple answer is to glorify God and enjoy him.

Imagine if we went into the world with the message to seekers that there is a point to this life. That’s why the idea of nothingness is unsatisfying, and so is the idea of doing it yourself (those two pretty much sum up all religion or no religion).  God built us to have a relationship with him, not for a bunch of stale rituals. The message is you have a point; you have a beautiful and wonderful destiny.  You were created by God and given gifts from him so that you can glorify Him and enjoy Him.

Not all Christians study Catechisms. Mostly because they mistakenly believe that it is only for a specific denomination, but it would do us all good to remember all truth comes from God, no matter who says it.

So remember Why am I here or What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

<![CDATA["Animal Pain": Chapter 9 of the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis by Jeff Jackson]]>Fri, 26 Jul 2013 13:40:18 GMThttp://www.centerforchristianapologetics.com/blogs/animal-pain-chapter-9-of-the-problem-of-pain-by-cs-lewis-by-jeff-jackson Do all dogs go to Heaven? Well, certainly in the movies they do, but this seems to be a question on the hearts of many. In chapter nine of The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis dives into a very speculative subject of animal pain, and the possibility of animals experiencing a resurrection. First of all the key word here is speculative because no one can really know for certain, and Lewis so states this very position. Often times the temptation when a writer delves into a speculative subject such as animal pain or even heaven, the reader often wants to take these as doctrinal statements rather than a speculative idea for which they were intended. The very fact that Scripture is silent on many intellectual curiosities should reveal that the intention of Scripture is for revelation and redemption primarily. What Lewis is diving into ultimately seems to come to a head in the idea of animal resurrection, and that animal immortality, if possible, comes from a “self” position which is only found in its master.  These are thought provoking ideas in relation to immortality, and Lewis quite well recognized that he was stepping out of the woods and could easily be hit with many theological arrows. Lewis’s speculative position does bring to question four major tenets of thought: immortality, death, consciousness with freewill, and the idea of God’s goodness.

            What is immortality? The Oxford English Dictionary states that it is “living forever”. The idea of immortality should go a bit deeper with the question of who has immortality. The idea of animal or even human immortality comes with practical contradictions. No animal or human lives forever. If animals can reach a place of immortality it is consistent with the thought of Lewis in a sense of riding on its master’s coattails. So who again is immortal? Paul writing to Timothy in the last chapter of first Timothy states that God alone has immortality. This logically follows because God alone can live forever. So the plain teaching of Scripture is that God alone has immortality, and anyone or anything that could ever reach immortality would have to go through the immortality of God Himself. 

            This brings up the second thought of death, and what it means to die. Death is often thought of in correlation to the fall of man, but was their death before Adam and Eve’s fatal decision? In Genesis God created mankind as the apex of His creation, but before He made mankind He had already created animals. One of Adam’s duties given by God was to name the animals of creation. This tells us that before the fall of man, if animals are consistent of their biological nature then as they are today, and there is no reason not to believe it so, there were deaths prior to the fall of man. A horse eats the grass which brings about death to the plant. What about carnivorous animals that eat on other animals? They would certainly bring about death prior to the fall, but what kind of death is this? This is certainly not the type of death that brings separation from God because God was said to have walked through the Garden of Eden during this time. This type of death would simply be part of the ecosystem in God’s creation. So possibly there could be two meanings of death, one as a part of the ecosystem and the other as a part in regards to a relationship with God.

            Now this second idea of death as in regards to a relationship with God, this was brought about by the fall of man. This is the death often referred to in Scripture in relation to this catastrophic event. This was the ultimate decision by mankind to decide through freewill of consciousness to want someone other than the immortal God to be the ruler of earth’s dominion. This is where in history Satan checks back in to play his deceitful game. Now going back to the question of immortality and death, did mankind have intrinsic immortality before the fall of man? Well, Scripture states again that God alone has immortality and that as a result of man’s decision they were placed outside of the Garden. They were from then on prevented to reenter the Garden because of the cherubim which guarded the entrance with a flaming sword. Here is the rub. There was a tree within the Garden of Eden that would have been of particular interest to Adam and Eve which was the Tree of Life. Now it logically follows that this tree has the ability to give life and once they were prevented to stay in the garden death occurred.

So now two possibilities come to mind, one is that before the fall, man did not have immortality but could live immortally only through this tree of life. The immortality was not based on mankind but based in God who gave such a tree to be in the Garden. The second possibility is that this choice of freewill is the only preventer of being in the presence of God. This idea of choosing, which so far as we can tell only man has the conscious ability to freewill, is the direct preventive of being with God. Remember the second idea of death presented above.  So what does this mean to the idea of animal pain and immortality? Well, when God placed mankind, the apex of His creation outside the garden, then everything else went with it because man is over all, but does this mean the rest of creation stands in the same position as mankind in relation to God? The only way to reach that position is to freely choose away from God as man did. Could animals do this? It would appear since they have no conscious self that this would be impossible, but could the idea that animals have no conscious ability of freewill simply be an assumption based on what mankind knows about creation? Is man not the one who has fallen? Can animals choose to come to their master when they call or freely go away? Could animals have pain innocently as a result of mankind’s tyrannical dominion over them while at the same time freely choosing God? The answer here seems to be yes. Scripture teaches that all of creation is groaning for everything to be restored by God and was subject to futility unwillingly. This very statement shows a desire which seems to be a sort of consciousness within itself to choose against the decision of man. So did creation want to stay with God while mankind wanted to be the god of God? Did creation have to go with mankind because God has previously placed creation under man’s dominion? Could redemptive followers of Jesus be back on the same side as creation desiring God? According to Paul in Romans it seems plausible.

The last thing to consider is the goodness of God. If nothing has immortality except God alone, and there are two types of death, one of the ecosystem and one in regards to a relationship with God,  and animals have not participated in sins tyranny of choice then it could follow that animals could reach immortality. How could this be? It would only be based in the goodness of God. One, animals would not be prevented to participate in the transcending experience, if God so allowed, because they are not sinners who chose away from God. Two if God does allow, let’s say a childhood pet named Fido into heaven; it would be based solely in relation to His goodness to mankind who still remains the apex of His creation. It would be in the same sense that a parent would let a child have a Tonka truck or Barbie doll. There is no essential need to have it, but the parent grants it because it brings a good desire to the child. Faith in Christ has placed God as Father of those who are Christ’s followers, and who in existence has a greater desire for goodness than God alone.

So what can we conclude from all of this? One, only God has immortality, two, only mankind has experienced the type of death that prevents the transcending experience back into the presence of God because of sin, and three, if animals do take part in a resurrection it is only because of God’s goodness to grant such an experience for the primary reason of granting joy mankind. Back to the question of whether all dogs go to heaven, it’s certainly speculation but seems there could be a possibility.

<![CDATA[Can Fear Be a Good Thing? by Jeff Jackson]]>Fri, 26 Jul 2013 13:36:43 GMThttp://www.centerforchristianapologetics.com/blogs/can-fear-be-a-good-thing-by-jeff-jackson Often when one speaks of fear there are many appalling reactions especially in the context of religion. Fear can conjure up many kinds of reactions and feelings in the human heart. It is an element in life where the natural reaction is to flee. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis uses fear in a very unique way as in regards to something positive. A ghost had been frightened by Unicorns in the context of the story line, but there seems to be a positive purpose. The response of the Teacher gives us great insight to a higher motive behind the frightening incident. “This put me in mind to ask my Teacher what he thought of the affair with the Unicorns. It will maybe have succeeded, he said, ye will have divined that he meant to frighten her, not that fear itself could make her less a Ghost, but if it took her mind a moment off herself, there might, in that moment, be a chance. I have seen them saved so.” [1] The question arises can fear be used in a positive sense? What is that purpose? Can God use fear as a tool not to frighten us for frightening sake but rather to move us closer to Him? What can be revealed to us in our moment of fear? There are three major things that can be positive as a result of fear. The first is that fear can be an unlocking mechanism in where a person lives. The second positive aspect of fear is that it can reveal our limitations and what often hinders us from seeing what God is trying to show. The third is that it forces the one afraid to look beyond themselves and reach out for help. Hopefully these three aspects of fear will demonstrate how God can and will use fear as a tool for positive responses instead of the often negative connotation which is often accompanied in most cases of fear.

            The first positive aspect of fear is that it can be an unlocking mechanism. What does this mean? Often times the human experience can be limited to traditions, comfort zones, mindless routines, daily rituals, and the like. The often temptation is to live life in a box. God can often be trying to send us signs and pointers to something more that He desires, but the real problem is that it is completely over looked or just not seen at all. As with the ghost in the book, the point of fear was to shake her out of her narcissism. The great temptation for everyone is that we believe that it is “our” world and the rest of the inhabitants of the world are just living in it. The possessiveness of life can be a blinder because the thought is that life belongs simply to the one living it. The fact is there sometimes has to be a force outside of the mundane life experience to shake the experience beyond routine. This is where fear can play a positive role. Fear can come through the loss of a job, stock market crash, or whatever keeps the focus away from it being on God. Each person has faith, but the question lies in what or where faith is placed. When the object of faith is destroyed for whatever reason then fear can move us outside of ourselves to reveal limitations.

            The second positive aspect of fear is not only to unlock one from the comfort zones of life, but also to show our limitations. Fear could be defined as a powerless prevention over a particular presupposition. What creates fear? It is the realization that one has no power or control over an event or cause in the immediate future. The emotional sense of fear can be very exciting. This can be the reason horror flicks are so popular, but this is obviously a false sense of fear because one has control to turn the movie off whereas in real fear one lacks control. This is the very reason why death is mankind’s greatest fear because no one has control over it. It comes to everyone. If mankind could control death, it would no longer be an unknown and could no longer create fear. This is the confidence of the gospel because a Christian no longer has reason to fear death because they have placed their faith in the One who has control over death, who actually defeated death’s grip. To recognize the need for faith in Christ one has to come from a place of understanding the limitations each person faces within themselves. Arrogance or pride comes with the idea that there are no limitations or a false sense of those limitations. Dare devils by in large have a false sense of those limitations and often fall victim to the result of not properly adhering to those limitations. Once limitations are realized then one is in the proper place to experience what God is trying to bring to us.

            The third positive aspect of fear is looking beyond for answers once our limitations have been understood. This is the full culmination of God’s purpose of fear. It is for the one afraid to reach out to Him. Fear shakes the normal routine and comfort zones that often plague a life from ever coming to a place of desiring to reach out to God. Once these foundational comfort zones are rattled by some type of fear then a person can realize there is a need to look beyond oneself and begin to reach out in God’s direction. The world saw this very thing play out on September 12, 2001 after the September 11 attacks in New York. This fear brought people to a place of surrender and desire to look to God. The greatest temptation of mankind has been the same temptation since the Garden of Eden which is to place man in the place of God where mankind is playing the god of God. Looking at society today it is easy to see mankind’s self worship. Simply walk to the checkout counter at any local grocery market. Only God has the answers to life’s great dilemmas, and mankind’s only hope is to look to Him, but the narcissistic behavior becomes the road block to reaching out to God.  He, understanding the emotion and the issues of mankind, can use fear to take our eyes off of self and place them where they should have been all along which is back on Him. God can and will use fear as a tool to motivate mankind to reach out to Him because ultimately He has already reached out to mankind.

            In conclusion, fear can be a mean, nasty sort of emotion within itself if there is no safe place to flee. God uses fear for mankind to recognize that He is that safe place and desires us to flee to Him. C.S. Lewis demonstrated in this small example such a great truth of God. Showing how God can use the fears of everyday life as His tool to bring mankind back to Him. The heartbreak of it all for God is that some adhere and some simply fall quickly back to where it was they were when they were not reaching out to Him. God is in no way in the spook business, but He is in the business of revealing who He is and who each individual in life tend to be. At the end of it all after fear unlocks us from our comfort zones, reveals our limitations, and ultimately forces us to reach out to Him then the world should listen to the words of the ancient Psalmist when God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

[1] CS Lewis The Great Divorce

<![CDATA[Are Miracles Possible? by Jeff Jackson]]>Fri, 26 Jul 2013 13:34:29 GMThttp://www.centerforchristianapologetics.com/blogs/are-miracles-possible-by-jeff-jackson Since the days of David Hume and in recent history philosophers such as Anthony Flew the debate about the possibility of miracles has been alive and well. In his book Miracles, C.S. Lewis speaks to the plausibility of such a supernatural event. He divides everything into two camps: the naturalist and the super naturalist. The foundation one sets forth in the beginning will always determine the outcome in its fruition. So if one is a naturalist, which basically says there is no transcendence beyond the present system, then the plausibility of miracles seems very absurd and would logically follow if this is the position one is to hold. If one is a super naturalist, believing there is something outside the system at work, then miracles are very plausible. One must first decide to which camp to give allegiance. Now to give ones allegiance to naturalism does not mean that miracles do not exist because they either do or do not, but what does matter is the ability of the worldview to explain such a events. So if a person takes the naturalist point of view then when an event occurs that would hold the traits of being a miracle then one has to explain these events through a naturalist’s worldview. This is where the rub begins because there is no room for miracles in naturalism. So are miracles plausible and how can they best be explained? There are three main contingencies that shall be discussed, there could be more but only three will be addressed here, to whether or not a miracle is plausible. The three are as follows: the purpose of a miracle, the descriptions of the laws of nature, and the possibility of God’s existence.

            The first is the purpose of miracles. This brings us to question what miracles are or tend to be. Miracles are events that seem to overrule the laws of nature for a particular reason of some sort. What is the purpose of miracles? Well, according to the Scriptures God is sending a message. When you look at the miracles recorded in Scripture God is showing us a sign that relates to Him. God is not in the business of just doing miracles because He has the power. That would be closely related to a pride issue which God is absent of pride. So when a miracle occurs God is sending a message to the recipients to relate some meaning into their existence. For instance when Jesus turned the water into wine it was recorded as His first sign of showing those around Him that He was Yahweh incarnate. When Christ calmed the storm and told His disciples not to fear, the message was not to be afraid because they were with God Himself who is in complete control. The greatest miracle of all came in the form of Christ’s resurrection. This miracle gives us the greatest message of hope because it tackled and overcame mankind’s greatest fear, death itself. In light of such a miracle this message of God gives great meaning to life and how to live life, and the hope beyond it.

            The second is the descriptions of the laws of nature. In recent days Stephen Hawking, one of the great scientific minds of recent history, has concluded in his book The Grand Design that there is no reason to believe in a Creator because Hawking deduces that the universe was made because of the law of gravity. Dr. John Lennox of Oxford University stated in his response to Hawking that the laws of gravity could not create anything because they are within the system that was created. He posits that there has to be something outside of the system to be a creator. This brings us to Lewis’s point that laws of nature are only descriptions and not causes within themselves. When Sir Isaac Newton identified the law of gravity, he did so because he previously believed in a law giver, God Himself. This began the search for laws in nature which are only identifiers of repeated events that seem to take place under similar conditions. For instance the reason the resurrection is classified as a miracle is because the norm in life is that dead people do not come back to life. They tend to stay dead. This was a break into the repeated law of nature concerning the patterns of death. So how are miracles plausible?

            This forces the skeptic to deal with the question of God’s existence. The only way a miracle could be plausible within the system is if there is something outside the system that is greater than the system itself. According to the Christian worldview this is exactly the case. God created the universe with particular regularities which are identified to be the laws of nature. So if God created a system with regularity, and He Himself is greater than the system, then it is plausible that He could suspend or extend these regulatory laws of nature at any given time. This means that God could feed a new event into the system for a particular purpose. Lewis puts it something like this that if someone were to put two pounds into a Chester drawer tonight and also tomorrow night that on the third morning it would follow that they would have four pounds. If they only found one pound then they could conclude the laws of arithmetic were not broken but the laws of England. They could be assured that someone had stuck their hand into the event which prevented the normal regularity. That is precisely what a miracle is. It is when God sticks His hand into the regulatory system of creation and alters it to create a new event.

            So it all comes down to the existence of a transcendent being known as God. There are four major arguments for God’s existence which are the cosmological, ontological, teleological and the moral arguments. If one concludes the possibility of God’s existence then it would follow that miracles are plausible. If miracles are plausible then they are possible, and the question must be asked what is the message and meaning behind such an extraordinary event. According to the Christian, God has granted mankind the greatest miracle of all by Himself becoming a man, paying for the sins of humanity, defeating the grips of death so that all of humanity might experience His great love. This shows many miracles tied into one great meaning that God loves mankind!

<![CDATA[A Belief System in a Phrase¬†]]>Fri, 26 Jul 2013 13:32:04 GMThttp://www.centerforchristianapologetics.com/blogs/a-belief-system-in-a-phrase  By Jeff Jackson

The famous, and often quoted phrase, “If I find in myself a desire no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” has stirred the hearts of many and provoked much thought. From C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, this statement has within itself many tenets of foundational Christian belief. With all the books filling up so many libraries today explaining what different belief systems actually believe, C.S. Lewis did it in a simple phrase. Now by no means would this be an exhaustive view of his beliefs and only a speculation into his full intent of the phrase, but it does hold some major principles which are worthy to be recognized and discussed. In this phrase Lewis uses desire as an awareness to consciousness, to morality, to a teleological purpose or design, and ultimately to a destination which brings about a transcendence. These are wonderful foundations in arguing the truth and validity of the Christian faith.

To begin with, Lewis establishes on the neutral ground that all humans have desires, but he moves the reader in such a direction as to recognize the mystery within these desires. He shows the conflict within the vast realm of desire in the human experience. The very fact one can discover the mystery is the fact one has discovered consciousness to even question such a mystery. This involves mankind’s rational and cognitive ability to want or desire to discover what lies underneath such a mystery such as the origin of these desires. The questions “Why do I feel this way?” or “Where did this desire come from?” or “What does this mean?” are in themselves a discovery of consciousness. Yes, consciousness does remain a mystery, but the awareness of it creates a wonderful starting point to which one can begin investigating in depth as to the purpose of these desires. What is amazing is the very vehicle in which we use to discover or recognize certain discoveries within the human experience is in fact a sort of proof of our uniqueness as a species. In the very least it should force the questions of “What is consciousness?” and “Why are humans conscious?” and “Conscious to what?”

The second is the insatiability of certain desires. The fact that certain desires are met and certain desires are not met can lead to a discovery of a moral innateness. Why does the lustful desire for sex, money, fame, etc. leave a person empty and unfulfilled? Why does the fulfillment of certain desires or lack thereof also follow along closely to a code of morality? Why is there an “ought” to “is” relationship in the first place? Once the discovery of this correlation between desires met and morality is recognized then the question for where morality comes from can begin to be asked. The moral argument Lewis obviously thought to be a strong one for the existence of God as also seen in his book Mere Christianity. The incongruous nature of desire in relation to that which the world offers to fulfill it can be a great indicator of a need for something more.

The third aspect of this phrase which is so interesting is the purpose or design of desire. In the human experience there are good desires and bad desires, but when the bad desires are fulfilled they seem not to be fulfilling and vice versa. In fact that which seems to be good may not in fact be. For example, why are so many still searching after they have experienced what they believed to be their greatest desire met? G.K Chesterton in one of his writings put it this way, “Loneliness is not the weariness of pain but the weariness of pleasure.” Could there be a teleological design to mankind’s desires? In the same use of intelligence in Aquinas’s fifth argument in his cosmological argument for God which held a teleological purpose, could desire be used to move the heart to the Great Desire? Are the desires we have just another tool in the hand of God to direct mankind back to Him? Lewis in many of his books especially in his autobiography talked about joy as the leading cause for his conversion. This idea certainly seems to be the case for Lewis.

The last aspect is that of transcendence in the idea that this is not the only world to be expected.  The notion that this world is not the end not only brings hope for the future but also a proper perspective in which to live with these incongruent desires in the present. The idea of heaven brings with it a destination to look forward to in this life. A sense of being homeward bound in regards to unmet desires that are good in the hope they will one day be fulfilled. It also brings a top-down rather than a bottom-up perspective which would be a more proper belief for the Christian believer. Paul speaks of this in length in the third chapter of Colossians. Heaven should be understood as the fulfillment of all the good desires not met here on earth, but met there in heaven in the presence of the Great Desire God Himself. It is the tying together of the loose ends of mankind’s earthly human experience for the Christian. It also shows that if a sort of misery follows from unmet desires here on earth, then what shall Hell be in eternity?

To summarize, in this one phrase Lewis reveals some marvelous arguments for Christianity. He spends time in the desires of life because they are tangible in a sense to what it means to be a human being. The reason this statement has become so popular and even had songs written about it by artist such as Brooke Fraser is because it appeals to that which all have experienced. If the mystery of desire can be used to reveal consciousness then what is the design purpose of human consciousness? If desires are fulfilled or unfulfilled in close relation to a moral code then what is the purpose of morality and where did it come from? If desire can possibly show a design process then who is the Designer? If desire cannot be met in this world does that then open the door to there being more than just this world? These are great questions that can lead to great conversations in the hopes of discovering the truth claims about Christianity. In this famous phrase, there are foundational reasons for the case of Christianity.