How Do I See Myself and the People Around Me?

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How Do I See Myself and the People Around Me?

Whether we realize it or not, what we think about the origins of human life can have a dramatic effect on how we view ourselves and others. If I think I’m just an evolved animal, or going further back, just an accidental blob of chemicals that happened to come together in the right way, what reason do I have to think that there’s much value to my life? Or what about the people around me?

On a sinister scale, views of human life as just being an evolutionary accident, no different than an animal or the chemicals that make us all up, have been used to justify atrocities against entire races and groups of people. While I may not identify with that, what about in smaller ways in my daily life?

What about those people I have to wait in line behind at the Kwik Trip as I try to quickly stop for a doughnut on the way to work? If I think of them as just other accidental blobs of chemicals that happen to be in my way, I might degrade them in my mind as I watch them slowly put their wallet back away instead of quickly grabbing their stuff and moving out of my way. What about people that have some skills of abilities that I am in need of? I might think of them just as tools to be used. Or what about people that I find attractive? If I think of them as attractive, accidental arrangements of chemicals, I might think of them simply as objects that are there to be seen.

When I have a low view of human life, it’s easy just to see others as nuisances in my way or as a way to get what I want. But are we just accidental arrangements of chemicals, that beat incredible odds in coming together just right, or are we something more?

Made in His Image

As I’ve written here on this blog many times, I believe that the evidence from the fine tuning of the universe and our amazing planet, along with the start of life from non-life itself, makes a very strong case for a designer of it all. The odds against it just happening by accident are astronomical. I believe that it took a creator, it took God to bring about life and ultimately human life. The Bible says that humanity is special. It says that God made all living things on Earth and then as a culmination, he made human beings.

Genesis 1 says

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

God created human being as special. He created us in his image. I don’t claim to know exactly what all that means but it means that in some senses we are like him. You and I bear the image of God. Every person we see in our daily lives bears his image. That means that they are special and have great value and worth, just as you do.


I realized that while I believe that, I need to remind myself of it more often., throughout my day. Whether someone irritates me or pleases me, I need to remind myself that there in front of me is a valuable human being who is made in God’s image. They’re not an accident, they have great value and worth.

Not only did God create human beings in his image, he later became one of us in his Son, Jesus Christ, further showing the worth and value he has placed on us. So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not special and valuable and don’t let yourself think that of anyone else.

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Eclipses – Amazing Coincidence or Evidence of Design?

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Eclipses – Amazing Coincidence or Evidence of Design?

On Monday, August 21st, 2017 the great majority of the United States will get to see a solar eclipse, with a total eclipse path going from Oregon to South Carolina. It will be an amazing and wonderful sight. I’m sure that we’re all going to be seeing lots of diagrams of how eclipses happen, like the one below. But while these are helpful, because they are not done to scale (which would be admittedly difficult) I think we may not always realize how truly amazing it is that eclipses happen.

How Big is the Moon Compared to the Sun?

The Sun is actually 400 times bigger than the sun. The image below shows the actual size comparison between the Sun, Moon and the Earth.


Think about how small the Moon actually is compared to the Sun, and then think about how amazing it is that when they line up, the Moon perfectly covers the Sun. While the Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, it happens to be 400 times further away, causing them to look the same size from Earth.

 

 

Other than providing an amazing sight, this perfect fit has also allowed us to learn a lot about the Sun that we couldn’t learn otherwise. The eclipse of 1919 even helped to confirm theory of relativity.

So is this perfect fit just an amazing coincidence or is it one of many signs of design? I’ve written here on the blog about many of these evidences. I encourage you to check out some of my other posts on design. The universe, our solar system and our wonderful planet have been fine tuned for life.

Design with a Purpose

I believe that the universe and our planet have been specially designed. It’s too hard to believe that, just by chance, so many factors have been finely tuned so that life is possible. I believe that the evidence shows that the universe has been designed for a purpose. I believe that God has created an amazing universe and an amazing planet for us to live on. I also believe that He designed you with a purpose. The Bible says that God made us so that we could know him. He loves us so much that he gave us life and when we turned our backs on him and sinned against him, he went further and became one of his own creations. God became a human being in Jesus Christ and he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and rose again so that we could be forgiven and live our lives in personal relationship with him. I’ve found that it’s in living in loving connection with my Maker that I can find fulfillment, hope and  joy in this life that I’ve been given.

The Bible says,

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

 

As you view or think back on the amazing sight of this eclipse, may you think about God and his purpose for you. May you find that your life fits perfectly within Him.

If this is your first time here, be sure to check out the various types of evidence for God and Jesus that I’ve written about. See the categories to the right.

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Do Near-Death Experiences Show We are More Than Physical?

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Do Near-Death Experiences Show We are More Than Physical?

I’ve always been skeptical of stories of near-death experiences. People have said all sorts of things and I’ve just never given the things they’ve said much weight. It’s not that I don’t believe that there’s life beyond death, I do. I guess my thinking has just been that anyone can tell stories of tunnels of light and angels, and while I believe that I will go to be with God after I die, because of what Jesus has done for me, how do I know which stories describe it as it will actually be? Some people might just be making things up. So I’ve been skeptical but one aspect of some of the near-death experiences that I’ve been reading about has definitely caught my attention.

As I’ve been writing about for a while, some would have us believe in naturalism, that physical matter is all that there is. They would not believe in near-death experiences because if all we are is physical matter, there’s no way someone can have any experience apart from their body. Someone like this is certainly not going to be persuaded because someone says that in a brief period while they were technically dead that they traveled through a tunnel of light and met God. It could just be some kind of hallucination while the person’s mind was far from well. But what if someone recounted details of things they saw or learned during a near-death experience that they would have no way of knowing otherwise?

How Could They Know without Being Apart from Their Body?

It’s these kind of stories of near-death experiences that have caught my attention as they include things that someone couldn’t have just made up. And because these things couldn’t have just been made up, it’s yet another evidence that we human beings are more than just physical matter.

Consider the case shared by Kimberly Clark Sharp, a near-death experience researcher, of a woman named Maria who was rushed to a hospital with a severe heart attack. She died and was resuscitated and told Sharp about her near-death experience. She gave a detailed account of watching her resuscitation from outside of her body, as many have, and then she added another very interesting detail. She said that, outside of her body, she had traveled outside of the hospital and she saw a tennis shoe on a third story window ledge. She provided detailed information about the shoe. It was a man’s shoe, left foot. It was dark blue with a wear mark over the little toe and a shoelace tucked under the heal. Sharp then went window to window on the third floor looking on the ledges. Finally she found the shoe, exactly as Maria had described it.

Seven-year-old Katie was found floating face down in a swimming pool. She was resuscitated in the emergency room but remained comatose. They gave her a ten percent chance of surviving but she made an amazing full recovery in three days. She was later taken back for a follow up visit and she recognized the doctor who had resuscitated her and was able to give an accurate detailed account of what she had “seen” in her time in the emergency room, all while her eyes were shut and her brain deeply comatose. The doctor asked her what she remembered of her near drowning. She talked about meeting Jesus and the Heavenly Father. What’s more she told of following her family home, outside of her comatose body which lay in the hospital. She told of seeing her brothers pushing a GI Joe in a jeep. She reported watching her mom cook roast chicken and rice. She even knew what clothes each family member was wearing that night. Her parents were shocked by her accuracy.

Another woman described a near-death experience she had when she was five years old. She got meningitis and fell into a coma. She recalled that after she died she was free of fear and pain and felt at home in the place she found herself. At one point she saw a young girl who looked about ten years old. She thought that the girl recognized her. The two girls hugged and this other girl said, “I’m your sister… I was named after your grandmother. Our parents called me Rietje for short.” Then Rietje said, “You must go now” and she returned to her body and opened her eyes to see her parents. She excitedly told them about her experience and even drew them a picture of the sister who had welcomed her. Her parents were shocked. They got up and left the room. When they came back they confirmed to her that they had indeed once had a daughter named Rietje who had died of poisoning. They had decided not to tell their other children about Rietje until they felt they were old enough to understand the meaning of life and death.

Just one more because it will be especially meaningful for many of us. Four year-old Colton had a near-death experience and afterward told his mom that he has two sisters. She corrected him that he only had one sister. But he insisted that he had two sisters. His mom said, “Cassie is your only sister” and she asked him if he meant his cousin, Traci. “No!”, Colton insisted, “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” After she was able to overcome the shock, his mother asked him who told him that she had a baby die in her tummy. “She did, Mommy,” Colton explained, “She said she died in your tummy”. They had never told Colton about the miscarriage. “It’s okay, Mommy”, he said, “God adopted her.” This girl had run up to him and wouldn’t stop hugging him. She said that she couldn’t wait for them all to join her in heaven.

What Do You Make of It?

While these stories alone might not convince me that God exists and that there is life after death, when you put it together will all of the other evidence I’ve shared here on the blog, it just adds that much more certainty for me. I believe that God made me in his image, both physical and spiritual, and as such I can know him, both in this life and in the life to come. While I am not worthy of knowing or being with God, because of my sin, Jesus died for me and rose again so that I can be forgiven and know Him. I enjoy getting to know him better here and look forward to being with him when I die. My wife and two daughters and I also look forward to meeting our third child who died in a miscarriage. What a day that will be!

Source: Imagine Heaven by John Burke

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We Don’t Celebrate Easter Because of the Bible

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We Don’t Celebrate Easter Because of the Bible

Why do we celebrate Easter? Why do Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead? A lot of people might think that it’s just because the Bible says so. That there’s really no other reason to believe it, but the Bible says so and Christians just believe what the Bible says. Therefore, if you don’t think that the Bible is the authoritative source of truth that should be accepted without question, you might not think that there’s much to consider about the historical resurrection of Jesus. Think again.

I’d like to remind us that the Christian church came into existence and began celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead well before the Bible as we know it came to be. There were the Jewish scriptures, the Old Testament, but the church started, based on the belief in the resurrected Jesus, before the New Testament was written. What’s more, the church was already changing the world before the New Testament writings were gathered together.

tombThere isn’t a Christian church that believes in the resurrection because of the Bible. There’s a Bible because eye witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection started the Christian church in the first half of the first century and later wrote the New Testament. The very early church didn’t believe in the resurrection because of the Bible, they wrote the Bible because of the resurrection. The disciples were convinced that they saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes. Their lives were transformed because of that fact and the world was changed because of the testimony they shared and gave their lives for.

I encourage you to check out the evidence for the resurrection here on the blog. You might also want to check out Andy Stanley’s message here.

I want to wish you a Happy Easter because I believe that Jesus really rose from the dead and we have great hope in him!

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30 Years Ago Today I found Hope, Peace, Purpose and More

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30 Years Ago Today I found Hope, Peace, Purpose and More

There aren’t too many things in life that so drastically affect your life that 30 years later you’re still talking about it and still can’t get over it. In 1987 I was sixteen years old. My life wasn’t going that badly but it wasn’t particularly good either.It was empty and without purpose and I really didn’t have much hope of it getting better. That all changed, though, on April 1, 1987.

On that day a man named Fred McGill, who was a third-degree black belt in Karate, did an assembly at my high school. He broke boards with his forehead and demonstrated his skills with nunchucks and a sword. He also invited everyone to a further demonstration that night. I enjoyed what I saw so I went that night, not knowing that it would be the most pivotal night in my life.

You see, what I didn’t know was that Fred was also a youth pastor, and while he gave an even more impressive karate demonstration that night, he also took some time to tell us about the most important part of his life. He told us about his relationship with Jesus Christ. I had grown up in the church but for the most part it just seemed like a drag to me. In the last couple of years leading up to this night I really didn’t know if I believed in God at all. I wasn’t daring enough to go so far as to say I was an atheist, but I really had no place for God in my life and didn’t see why anyone would want to.

But that night a light bulb came on for me as Fred explained who Jesus was and why he had come. The Bible says that Jesus is God himself and that he came to earth to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have a personal relationship with God. I had always seen the cross at the front of the church growing up but never really understood what it was all about. I heard clearly for the first time that while I had sinned against God (something I certainly wouldn’t deny) he loved me so much that he was willing to die for me so that I could know him. Then he rose again from the dead and lives forever. If I would just believe who he was and what he had done for me, placing my faith in him, he would forgive me off all I’d done wrong, and, with that out of the way, I could begin a personal relationship with him.

It was so hard to believe that God loved me that much but I knew that I wanted to get to know him. So that night I prayed and told God that I believed in what he had done for me in Jesus and I asked him to forgive me and to come into my life. And now today, 30 years later, I am so happy that I did. What a change that brought to my life. While before my life was empty, it was now filled with God’s love. It also gave purpose to my life, to get to know God better and to share his love with others. I also found peace, knowing that my sins have been forgiven and that my life is in God’s hands. And because Jesus rose again and conquered death, I always have hope, no matter what I face.

I am so glad that I was open to what God was saying to me that night and that I placed my faith in him and invited him in. I remember that a couple of weeks after that night I was thinking that I was so happy about this turn of events in my life and I was hoping that it wasn’t just some phase I was going through, that it wouldn’t just fade away and I would be back to my empty life. Well that hasn’t happened and I’m quite sure now that it never will.  It’s not that I don’t ever have any doubts. Every once in a while I do wonder if it couldn’t just all be wishful thinking and that it’s not really real. But then I think about all the evidence there is and the reasons for the hope that I have, along with the difference it’s made in my life these 30 years, and I’m certain that it’s much more than just wishful thinking.

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this all day. I want to thank and praise God for it. It’s also my hope, that as God used Fred McGill in my life, that he might use me in yours. May you experience God’s love that is greater than anything! If you don’t know him yet and you hear him speaking to you, may you be open to what he’s saying and may you place your faith in him and invite him in. If you do, today will be a day you will never forget.

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Physical Matter and Nothing More? – My Mind and My Brain

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in More Than Matter, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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Physical Matter and Nothing More? – My Mind and My Brain

Some would have us believe that you and I are physical matter and nothing more. They say that we don’t have a soul, that science has explained that all away. They say that I am just my body and that neuroscience has shown that my mind is just my brain. I, on the other hand, believe that there is both a physical world and an immaterial world and that you and I stand in both. Are you just your body and brain or is there something more to you that can survive the death of your body? Let’s continue to consider which of these two ways of thinking about you is true.

Charles Darwin knew that the answer to this question is important. If consciousness is real and not physical, then evolution can’t explain where my consciousness came from. Darwin said that if there is anything about human beings that isn’t physical, then there has to be another explanation.

Is My Mind Just My Brain?

Is my mind nothing more than my physical brain? Let’s consider the Law of Identity. This says that if A is the same thing as B, if they are identical, then everything that is true of A will be true of B, and vice versa. If George Washington is the first President of the United States, then everything that’s true of George Washington will be true of the first President of the United States. If George Washington was 6 feet 2 inches tall, then the first President of the United States was 6 feet 2 inches tall, because George Washington and the first President of the United States are one in the same. We’re just using different words to talk about the same thing.

Therefore, if you can find anything that’s true of one thing that isn’t true of the other thing, then they aren’t identical, they aren’t the same thing. As Apologist J.P. Moreland says, if I can find one thing that’s true of one that isn’t true of the other, then I’ve been able to establish that there are two things, not just one.
So then, if my mind is just my brain, if they are one and the same thing, then there can’t be anything that’s true of one that isn’t true of the other. If there is such a difference, then there are two different things and not just one.

In the next couple of posts we’ll be looking to see if there is anything true of my mind and consciousness that isn’t true of my physical brain. First though, J.P. Moreland points out a couple of other ideas we should have in mind.

Identity is not the same as Correlation

Just because I can correlate a wavelength of light to a color, that doesn’t mean that the two are identical. Just because one conjoined twin always shows up with the other, that doesn’t prove they are identical.

Identity is not the same as Cause and Effect

Just because fire causes smoke, that doesn’t mean that fire is the same thing as smoke. Just because I can touch a certain region in your brain with an electrode and that can cause a certain electrical firing event in your brain and that can cause you to have a memory of your grandmother making fried chicken, that doesn’t prove that the brain event is the same thing as the memory event.

What if I can show that A depends on B to work? A car engine depends on the ignition, but does that mean the engine is the ignition?

Questions that Can’t be Answered by Science

If more than one theory calls for the same observations, then you can’t decide which is true by the observations.

There are  special cells in our brains called Mirror Neurons that help us to feel empathy for others and if they are damaged, a person is not able to feel empathy. So what does that prove? There are three possible theories that would all produce the same observations.

  1. A feeling of empathy is identical to the firing of mirror neurons. What is empathy? It’s just the firing of certain neurons.
  2. A feeling of empathy is different than the firing of mirror neurons, but a feeling of empathy can’t happen unless they fire, there is a dependency. Empathy is non-physical but it depends on the firing of the neurons. Both the feeling and the neuron firing occur in the brain. (This is known as property dualism)
  3. A feeling of empathy is caused by the firing of neurons, so if they don’t fire there won’t be the feeling, but the firing of neurons occurs in the brain and the feeling occurs in the soul. Not only are the two different , but the possessor of the two is different. The brain contains the electrical activity but the soul contains the consciousness. (This is known as substance dualism)

So which is right? Neuroscience can’t answer this question. Science can’t answer it. All are consistent with the same observations. It takes philosophical and theological reflection to consider these things. So come back next time and we’ll explore some of the philosophical evidence in our quest to see if you are more than just your body and if your mind is more than just your brain.

If it makes you feel uneasy that we need to look outside of science to find the answer, that’s probably because in our modern age we’ve been so conditioned to think that science is the answer to everything, but remember that there are all kinds of important truths we arrive at in life outside of science. Even the concepts of logic and math, that science depends on, are arrived at outside of science. You can’t do science if you don’t know that an element can’t be both heavier and lighter than another element at the same time.

Source: Lectures by J.P. Moreland in defense of the soul

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Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

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Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

My daughter started college this year and today she is coming home for the first time since she left. I’m excited to see her, and while she’s excited to see us, she’s probably more excited to see our dog. I don’t take this personally, he’s a very sweet dog and, while we have visited her several times, she has only seen the dog once since she left. In my last post I talked about whether you and I, human beings, are simply physical matter, a complicated combination of chemicals, or whether we are something more. As we continue to consider that, let’s consider the animals in our lives.

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?


I think that as a child I thought that animals were more than just physical beings. I certainly had a special relationship with our family dogs. But then when I became a Christian at the age of 16, I started learning about the Creation / Evolution debate and I think that what happened was that, in reaction to the idea that humans were just slightly more evolved animals, I came to see and defend a very clear distinction between humans and animals. Believing that only humans are created in the image of God, I began to think of only humans as being more than physical. Around the same time the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven came out and I thought, “That’s not right because dogs/animals don’t have a soul.” Out of a reaction against the evolutionary idea that we are just animals, I think I went too far in thinking of all animals as purely physical, denying the more than physical aspects I had always seen in some animals, like our dogs.

Scientists have discovered that not all animals can be treated as purely physical entities. There seems to be more to the way certain bird and mammal species interact with humans than mere physical attributes. I was seeing life on just two levels, purely physical and physical plus spiritual, but as Dr. Hugh Ross sees it, God created three distinct forms of life, not just two.

Three Distinct Forms of Life

  1. Purely physical life (reptiles, fish, insects)
  2. Life both physical and soulish (animals manifesting mind, will and emotions)
  3. One species with body, soul and spirit (human beings)

Hugh watched his young son test the idea that any animal could be turned into a pet. Their home became a zoo. Amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects were everywhere. But his son soon discovered that these creatures treated him no differently than any other animal they randomly encountered. On the other hand his son learned that he could experience an emotionally fulfilling relationship with any bird or mammal species. These are the soulish animals.

Hugh believes that the soulish animals exhibit a freedom to choose apart from instinct.They posses a mind capable of exploring new experiences and solving problems.Such creatures bond with members of their own species and can form relationships with members of other bird and mammal species, and soulish animals can form emotional attachments with humans. Yet there’s still a clear distinction between what he calls soulish life and humanity, which has body, soul and spirit.

He says that the Hebrew word nepesh in Genesis 1 and Job 39 refers to the unique soulish attributes of birds and mammals and he believes God created each soulish species with specific capacities to serve or please humans, and these capacities are diverse.

Diversity of Soulish Animals

Carnivores, though difficult to tame, can make excellent household pets. Unlike herbivores, they don’t have to spend much of their time eating and digesting so they can focus more intently and for longer periods of time on serving and pleasing their human owners.
Dogs often form such strong emotional bonds with their owners that they will sacrifice their health and even their lives to serve them.

Herbivores are mammals that sustain humanity’s agricultural work. The first such animals to be domesticated in large numbers were goats.
And it’s easy to see why. Even a goat that has never seen a human will readily approach and follow one. They can eat almost anything and thrive in virtually all climate conditions. These mammals provide their owners with a wide range of agricultural products for very little cost.

Can Mere Physical Matter Explain the Diversity?

Naturalistic evolutionary theory says that we are all just physical, nothing more. But if we are all just physical, then bird and mammal species that are physically similar to one another should also be soulishly similar, they should have the same soulish attributes – the same interactions with humanity, for example.

Donkeys, horses and zebras are physically so similar that humans have easily crossbred them to make mules, zorses, and zebrasses. However, their soulish characteristics are very different.

Horses can form strong emotional bonds with their human owners. They will forgive cruelty. If treated well, they’ll sacrifice their own needs and even their lives to protect their owners. Loyalty to their human owners can be so strong that they will charge into battle with them.

Donkeys are extremely adaptable. Like horses, they can form a lifelong emotional bond with a human. However, if a human loses his donkey, the donkey can take care of itself under almost any circumstances.It easily transitions from domestication to living in the wild and from living in the wild to going back into domestication. Unlike the horse, the donkey hates danger and provides useful service in warning it’s human owner of impending risk.

Zebras are much more difficult to domesticate, harness and ride, than either horses or donkeys. However, they are more alert to imminent danger than horses or donkeys. In the wild, zebras form dense herds providing human hunters an easy source of food and leather.

If they are just physical beings, naturalistic evolutionary theory has no explanation for the different soulish characteristics of animals which are so physically similar. However a creator who had different purposes in mind for all the marvelous creatures he made, could make them, both physically, and soulishly, like he wanted them to be.

More Than Matter

I don’t know about you, but I just called our dog over by me and I believe that there’s something more there than just the physical. I”m even more sure that’s there more than just physical matter to you, as you read this and consider whether you’re just physical matter or something more. I don’t think chemicals wonder if they’re just chemicals. I don’t even think my dog wonders if he’s just chemicals or something more. But I wonder that and you wonder that, and there’s no natural explanation for that. I hope that you realize that you’re much more. I believe that you were created for a purpose, first and foremost to come to know the God who made you and who sent Jesus Christ to be your savior. On this day before Thanksgiving I want to express my thanks to Him for making me and for making all the life I see and enjoy.

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Are We Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Evolution, More Than Matter | Leave a comment

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Are We Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Some would have us believe in naturalism, that physical matter is all that there is and everything can be explained in natural terms. But while we continue to learn more and more about how nature works, does that mean that that explains everything? Does that mean that there is nothing more than nature and physical matter? Let’s consider the implications of that idea.

Of course, most significantly, as my title suggests, if there is nothing more than physical matter in the universe, then you and I and everyone you know are nothing more than physical matter. We would each just be a complicated combination of chemicals and chemical reactions and nothing more. Does that seem to be the case to you? Does that seem to line up with what you have experienced in your life and from the lives of others? Do you believe that that’s all that we are, or is there something more?

Does Mere Physical Matter Do These Things?

Have mere combinations of chemicals learned and figured out all that we have about how the universe works? Have mere combinations of chemicals learned so much about how to advance the length of the functioning of these combinations of chemicals we call human beings? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced all the beautiful and inspiring artwork that has been created? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced all the music that so moves our hearts? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced such meaningful relationships with one another? Is a mere combination of chemicals writing this to try to get you to consider these ideas, which probably have a bigger impact on how we view our lives and the lives of those around us than you might realize?

More Than Matter

Personally I believe that you are much more than just a combination of chemicals, more than just physical matter. When I look at all that we are, all that we create and how we relate to one another,I believe that simple chemicals just can’t explain it all. I believe that the Biblical worldview explains it all much better. I believe that a living God, who is spirit, created human beings in his image. In many ways we are like him. We are creative because he is creative. We long for meaningful relationships because he made us to have a loving relationship with him. And while we are physical beings, he has also created us with a spiritual component. In addition to our physical bodies we have souls.

I believe this is why we experience life as we do, and why we want to know what our lives are about. This is why every human life is valuable, no matter the person’s age, gender or race, because we aren’t just complicated combinations of chemicals. I believe each human being is an amazing combination of the physical and the spiritual. Maybe you aren’t ready to go that far, but do you really believe that we are nothing more than just the physical? If not, then naturalism can’t explain it all.

In coming posts we’ll explore some further aspects of this.

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Earth-like Planet Found Orbiting Nearest Star

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Design | Leave a comment

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Earth-like Planet Found Orbiting Nearest Star

You may have heard a couple of weeks ago about the discovery of the closest Earth-like planet we have found. It’s orbiting the nearest star to us after the Sun, Proxima Centauri. The planet has been dubbed Proxima b. It’s just 4.2 light years away, meaning it takes just over four years for light to travel from there to here. That’s quite a ways away, but in astronomy that’s pretty close, compared to how far away other stars are.

Design

Is it Habitable?

Of course the big question with this planet is, Is it Habitable? It has been said that the planet is in it’s star’s Habitable Zone. This means that the planet is the right distance away from it’s star for water to be able to exist in liquid form. It’s not too close and hot where water would boil and it’s not too far and cold where water would freeze. This is important because liquid water is essential to life as we know it for many reasons.

Proxima b is only 4.3 million miles from it’s star, compared to Earth’s 93 million miles from the sun. But that’s ok because Proxima Centauri is a cooler red dwarf star so it’s habitable zone is closer to it than our Sun’s. So it is in the water habitable zone and that’s good. But of course there are many other factors to whether life could exist there.

The Reaction to the Discovery

This is certainly an exciting finding. What I found almost more interesting, though, was the reaction to it. You probably did hear about it. It was all over the news. There was a lot of excitement and optimism that life might be found there.

One article in particular caught my attention. It was on Geek.com, a site that I frequent, as, if you don’t know, I’m a Geek. The article described the finding this way, “For now, Proxima b represents one of the most important discoveries we’ve ever made. Finding another Earth-like planet, on top of the hundreds of others we’ve seen over the past few years, could mean that our universe really is teeming with life.”

We wonder, rightly so, if we are alone or if there is more life in the universe. We’ve yet to find any other life but the possibility exists. It just seems to be quite a jump to go to a universe “teeming with life”.

Finding other life would certainly be interesting. I just get a sense with some that they want life to be so common and ordinary, that it just pops up and evolves all over the place, at the drop of a hat. To me this seems to diminish the miracle of life.

Is Life Special?

The Geek.com article also said, “This is huge. Massive. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth (besides the Sun, obviously), and given that we’ve already found hundreds of exoplanets, this could mean that the universe really is littered with life. After all, just about every star we turn to seems to have a few planets, often with at least one in the habitable zone — a region around a star that could be just the right temperature to allow for liquid water on the surface.”

This really caused a reaction with me. Not only could the universe be “teeming” with life, it could be “littered” with life. I don’t want to make more of this choice of words than was intended, but I can’t imagine using the word “littered” when talking about life. Life is precious and from what we’ve seen and know so far, it is exceedingly rare.

Not only is the water habitable zone important, but, according to astrophysicist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, there are nine different habitable zones necessary for life and a planet must reside in all nine habitable zones for life to exist. For example there is also the ultraviolet habitable zone. A planet has to receive a little bit of ultraviolet light for life but not too much. And for 97% of the stars in the universe, the water habitable zone and the ultraviolet habitable zone do not overlap, meaning there is no place where both conditions for life can be met at the same time.

According to Hugh Ross, of the 3500 exoplanets we’ve discovered so far, including Proxima b, only one exists in all nine habitable zones, and that’s the one you’re sitting on right now.

To the Geek.com writer’s credit, he does give a few caveats to his optimism and says that Earth, as far as we know, is still unique and it may be that Earth truly is special.

Earth and Life is Special

Proxima b is a long ways away. Traveling by the space shuttle it would take about 165,000 years to get there. A yet to be develop technology may allow us to send small probes that would take 20 years to get there. So it may be quite a while before we know all there is to know about it, but I feel safe in saying that Earth truly is special and so is the life that exists here.

I’m not saying that life couldn’t exist anywhere else but it certainly doesn’t just pop up accidentally. I believe that the reason you and I are here is because God designed an amazing universe and he put an amazing planet at just the right spot to be in all nine of those nine habitable zones. And then after creating a planet where life could exist, God went farther to bring about the incredible miracle of life. The odds are so against all of that happening by chance that I just can’t believe that.

Your life is special. You are not an accident. There is a meaning and purpose to your life here on Earth. I believe that, first and foremost, God gave you life so that you could know him. He wants to have a personal relationship with you and he sent his Son Jesus to come and die on the cross for your sins and mine so that we could be forgiven of all we’ve done wrong and know him and his love for us. Our sins come between us and God but because of what Jesus did for us and rose again, we can have the relationship with him that we were created to have.

Give this some thought. If you’d like to know more about it, use the contact link here on the page.

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How Will You Answer the Questions?

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Case Making, How to Share, Loving God with your Mind, Questions | Leave a comment

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How Will You Answer the Questions?

Not long ago the lead singer of a Christian metal band told the world how he had become an atheist and this caused quite a stir on the internet. The band is The Order of Elijah and the singer is Shannon Low. He explained his deconversion on the band’s Facebook page. One of the things that bothers me the most about the story is how the Christian friends around him responded to some questions he began to have about God, Jesus and the Bible.

question-marks-300x300Rather than helping him with answers to these legitimate questions he was having, he says that his Christian friends would literally get furious with him for even addressing the questions. He says that sometimes he would actually lose Christian friends by simply pondering certain questions. Certainly this should not happen in the family of Christ.

God is Not Afraid of Questions and Neither Should We Be

As I have written here several times, I don’t think God is afraid of our questions. It’s natural that we have some questions about our faith and we should not fear asking them. Many of the initial questions Shannon Low had were about some of the prophet’s behavior, and the behavior of God himself in the Old Testament. These are valid questions, ones which many of us who follow Christ may not have great answers for off the top of our heads. However, a lot of good Christian thinkers have given a lot of thought and have written a lot about these questions over the years and there are answers. How much better would it have been if Shannon’s Christian friends had said, “You know, those are  good questions. Let’s read and work through them together.”

Without Answers from Christian Friends He Went Looking Elsewhere

Because his Christian friends weren’t prepared to answer his questions, or even to look for answers with him, he looked elsewhere and found Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion. He says that he learned things about the history of the Bible that he didn’t know before. He says, “I never knew that the earliest gospel wasn’t written until half a century after Christ supposedly died, or that Paul never read any gospels, or that there isn’t even any evidence from that time that Jesus existed.”

The reason he didn’t know those things was because they are untrue or misleading misinformation. It’s too bad that in his years as a Christian he didn’t learn more about how the New Testament came together so that he wouldn’t be swayed by this kind of misinformation.

Though a gap of 50 years would be very good by historical standards when it comes to ancient documents, evidence is good that the first Gospel was written well before that and the letters of Paul were written even earlier, about 25 years after Jesus’ death. What’s more, he quotes material that scholars have dated to as early as 5 years after the crucifixion. That’s why Paul didn’t read the Gospels, because he wrote even earlier, closer to the events. Paul was familiar, though, with the eyewitness sources of the Gospels to follow soon after. And the idea that there isn’t any evidence from the time Jesus existed is just plain untrue, as you can read here.

I’m not saying that I no longer have any questions about Christianity. There are still some things that can bring some tension. But when I consider all the evidence and put the whole case together, I believe that the case for Christianity is a strong case and makes the most sense of all the evidence there is.

Just “Giving Them to God”

Sadly, I think there’s one more way Shannon’s Christian friends may have failed him. Through a good portion of his life he struggled with an addiction to alcohol. He says, “I stopped trying to pray my alcoholism away and began combating it with real methods. I began confronting my problems head on rather than ‘giving them to god’” Now of course, I believe we should give our problems to God, we should trust in him and ask for his help. But that doesn’t mean that we should just pray and not combat them with real methods with God’s help. Maybe this is what he was hearing in his Christian circle, but prayer is not a substitute for getting counseling and therapy.

I think most of us would not say that prayer is a substitute for going to the doctor when you’re sick. It’s also not a substitute for getting counseling help when you need it. Yes, we pray and ask God to bring healing, physical, mental or emotional, but that doesn’t mean we don’t gratefully take advantage of the ways he’s provided to help with that healing.

Going along with that, I’d like to make one more application. I sometimes hear in the church that we don’t really need apologetics, we don’t really need to share the evidence for Christianity because people come to faith by the Holy Spirit and he can overcome any faulty opposing ideas they have. And while God can certainly do that, he often works through normal means.

If my daughter is sick, if her health is under attack by some disease, I could think, “I don’t need to take her to the doctor, after all God can overcome whatever is attacking her without any help.” But I wound’t do that because God has provided the doctors and all the knowledge that can be brought to help make her well, and I believe that making use of that knowledge is part of his plan.

Likewise, God has provided the knowledge that combats the attacks that are brought against him and against Christianity, and I totally believe that using that information is part of his plan to bring people to himself. But in order for that to happen we need to be sharing the evidence with them. Let’s not just sit back while God and Christ are under attack, as people around us are being fed misinformation that leads them further from him. Let’s be prepared to answer their questions and let’s be used by God in dispensing the truth, the evidence for the Gospel, the case for Christianity.

Thanks to William Lane Craig for his Reasonable Faith podcast on this.

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