The universe appears to be fine-tuned for life. For example, seemingly infinitesimal adjustments to the dark-energy density or gravitational constant would render most conceivable forms of life impossible. Adjusting the dark energy, for example, would result in either no planets or a collapsed universe. Clearly, cosmic fine-tuning is necessary (although not sufficient) for evolution to occur. [Read more…]
I was very excited about a year ago to discover that there is such a thing as analytic theology. I studied math and physics before becoming a theology student. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose to study mathematics was to train myself to think carefully. Whether or not I succeeded in that respect, I did learn to think more analytically. Naturally, when I began to study theology I wanted to bring my (fledgling) analytic capacities to bear on theological problems.
Taking this approach was a bit lonely at first since people in my circles seemed to take a more non-analytic approach to theological questions: resorting to mystery, remaining content with tension, and generally taking a more literary approach (not that there’s anything wrong with that). As a result, I was very excited and encouraged last year to discover the new (open-access) online Journal of Analytic Theology. Check it out, be challenged, and be blessed.
But isn’t analytic theology “too abstract and spiritually sterile to count as genuine theology”? Not necessarily. I recently read an article in the journal by William Wood in which he said several things that resonate with my love for the analytic approach to theological problems. I’d like to briefly share some of those insights in the remainder of this post. These insights are relevant to doing apologetics since a great deal of apologetic material owes its creation to the analytic philosophical tradition upon which analytic theology rests. Apologists would do well to take these lessons to heart. [Read more…]
What did Jesus’ death accomplish, and how did it accomplish it? Although Christians regard Jesus’ death as tremendously significant, there’s some disagreement as to why and how that is so. This being Good Friday, it might be appropriate to reflect on the following C.S. Lewis quotation:
The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. . . . A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.
We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.
I think C. S. Lewis is right on target here. What matters most is whether or not Jesus’ death did in fact make a difference between God and humans. Like any death, Jesus’ death is hard to understand. That’s normal. [Read more…]
Just over a year ago I discovered a philosopher who would come to be one of my favourite thinkers—Nicholas Wolterstorff. As I read his book Justice in Love I was struck by the sharp clarity and rigor of his thought. But what I’ve come to appreciate most about Nicholas Wolterstorff is the gracious manner in which he challenges the views of his opponents. He writes with a Christ-like humility that deserves emulating.
Today I want to share perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned from Wolterstorff—that rational people often disagree. Perhaps you already knew that. Let’s take a closer look and see how Wolterstorff understands this common situation.
Normally on this blog I focus on issues that should be of interest to skeptics, people who are not convinced that God exists or that Christianity is a belief system to be taken seriously. Today I’d like to instead discuss Christianity directly. Lately as I’ve read the Bible some interesting themes have popped out, particularly in the book entitled 1 John.
To those who are skeptical about the Bible, please feel free to remain skeptical. I’m just going to consider what 1 John seems to teach. You need not necessarily believe, with me, that the teaching of 1 John is in fact true. Let this be an exercise in exploring the essence of Christianity, whether or not it happens to be true.
Arguably, 1 John was written by an early Christian leader to a church (or churches) who were facing a worldview threat from Gnosticism, “a religious mysticism that pirated Christian motifs to propagate an understanding of salvation based on esoteric ‘knowledge’.” Unfortunately, two millennia later many professing Christians still misunderstand salvation along gnostic lines. [Read more…]