The Big History Project

[Somebody's] Truth about the Universe and How You Fit into It

bighistoryIn the 1980s, David Christian, a 40-ish year-old professor of Russian history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, became discontent teaching “just the history of one country.” “[N]ot really sure … in a sense, who I am,” he wanted to know about the history of humanity as a whole. “That question forced me back,” he said. “If you want to know about humanity, you have to ask about how humans evolved from primates.” His inquiry continued pressing backward until he was asking about the origins of the earth and then finally of the whole universe. He read widely, synthesized what he found into a course, and began teaching it as “Big History” in 1989.

Bill Gates later saw the DVD series and wanted to make it available to more people. He tracked down Christian and the two founded the Big History Project to disseminate Big History globally, beginning with high schools. The resulting 10-unit, 50-lesson course spanning 13.7 billion years of “universe history” went online in late 2013. The project is funded by Gates’s LLC, bgC3 (Bill Gates Catalyst 3), which is described as a think tank, incubator and venture capitalist firm.  [Read more...]

Who Are We? Personal Identity and The Walking Dead

The Season Four finale of The Walking Dead attracted 15.7million viewers, 10.2 million of whom were in the 18-49 imagesdemographic, shattering the previous records  (the Game of Thrones season finale garned 5.4 million; Duck Dynasty reached 6 million; Breaking Bad’s Season Four finale recorded just under 2 million, and the final show of the entire series hit 10.3 million).

 In other words, The Walking Dead is a cultural phenomenon. A lot of people are turned off by the gore (and it’s certainly gruesome), but The Walking Dead offers a gold mine of philosophical, moral, religious, and cultural talking points. I’ve written elsewhere about these issues (see links at the end). What caught my attention at the end of Season Four was the way in which Carl brought up one of the most important questions of all.

Michonne, Rick, and Carl are walking toward Terminus, a fabled place of sanctuary and rest in the midst of the apocalypse. As they get closer, Carl asks, “Will we tell them what we did?” Rick responds, “We’ll tell them who we are.” And Carl asks the right question in response: “Who are we?” [Read more...]

What Did the Disciples See?

 

Introduction

When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Explanations try to show how something happened. That is, what is the cause for something that has happened. As I have noted elsewhere, the resurrection story started very, very, early. Also, there is an excellent post on the empty tomb issue over at Wintery Knight’s blog.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what explains the resurrection appearances. First, let’s observe the list of appearances:

• Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, shortly after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
• Jesus appears to the women returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10)
• Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
• Jesus appears to Peter ( Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
• Jesus appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23).
• Jesus again appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. At this time Thomas is present (John 20:24-29).
• Jesus appears to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1,2)
• Jesus is seen by 500 believers at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
• Jesus appears to James ( 1 Corinthians 15:7)
• Jesus appears to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
• He appeared to his disciples (Luke 24:50-53).
• He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

I will go ahead and offer some comments from various scholars and what they say about the appearances and the experiences of the disciples: [Read more...]

Answering An Islamic Objection: The Justice of Penal Substitution

Frequently, in dialogues with Muslim polemicists, one will encounter the charge against Christianity that the doctrine of penal substitution is unjust. How, after all, can the blame of all humanity be laid on an innocent? How can an innocent be made to carry the burdens of mankind? In this article, I want to offer a responses to this objection. [Read more...]

Understanding the arguments in God’s not Dead: Part II of III

986643_10102107087676322_1471948263_nIn part one we looked at the arguments advanced by Professor Radisson, now we come to the arguments Josh put forward as he took the floor.

The first argument Josh talked about is called the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God.  This comes in many different versions, all of which have interesting aspects.  Yet all of them have in common the idea of a first cause, particularly of the Universe.  Common questions along these lines are, “Why is there something rather than nothing?  Where did everything come from?  What caused this or that thing to happen?”  With any one thing of which a person might ask these questions, most of the time the same question can be asked about the answer just given. 

Where did these chips come from?

Potatoes.

Where did the potatoes come from?

The potato farm.  Etc.

The idea here is much like a row of dominoes that have been set up and subsequently knocked down.

What knocked over this domino?

The domino before it.

And what knocked over that domino?

The domino before it.

But what knocked over the first domino?  This becomes the really important question.  When dealing with the Universe, the question is, what started the Universe off?  The answer is God.  “Wait, that seems too easy,” you might say.  Someone may ask, as one young lady did in the movie, “Who created God?”  This brings up a really important question, “If everything has a cause, then what caused God.”  The answer put forward by Josh, though stated quickly and simply, is a powerful one.  “Christians don’t believe in a created God.”  Here is a more in depth version of that idea. [Read more...]