Reading Voltaire’s satire Candide as an impressionable young man led me to think lowly of Gottfried Leibniz as a philosopher. In this satire, Voltaire mercilessly ridiculed Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism embodied by Pangloss, the mentor of the protagonist of the tale, Candide. Pangloss’ mindless muttering of the mantra, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,” is plainly absurd when against the backdrop of an unrelenting series of gross injustices, cataclysmic natural disasters like the Lisbon earthquake (1755) and overwhelming personal tragedies that befall the naïve Candide and his love interest Cunegonde.
In Candide, Voltaire was reiterating an objection to theism which was first formulated as a trilemma by the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, which goes as follow:
1) “If God is willing to prevent evil but is unable to do so, then he is not omnipotent.”
2) “If God is able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, then he is not perfectly good.”
3) “If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why is there evil in the world?” Continue reading “Leibniz On The Problem of Evil and the Best of all Possible Worlds”
Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on the cross as evidence of the love of God which engages with the suffering of the world head-on provides a decisive answer to the Buddhist allegation that Christianity is a world-negating religion. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki claims that the cruelty surrounding the crucifixion of Christ negates the simple realities of this life and does not compare well with the Buddhist sense of peaceful transition from this life to the next.
Christian symbolism has much to do with the suffering of man. The crucifixion is the climax of all suffering. Buddhists also speak much about suffering and its climax of all suffering is the Buddha serenely sitting under the Bodhi tree by the river Niranjana. Christ carries his suffering to the end of his earthly life whereas Buddha puts an end to it while living and goes on preaching the gospel of enlightenment until he quietly passes away under the twin Sala tree… when Buddha attained his supreme enlightenment, he was in his sitting posture; he was neither attached to nor detached from the earth; he was one with it, he grew out of it, and yet he was not crushed by it./1/ Continue reading “Buddhist (D.T. Suzuki) Critique of the Cross”
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ recorded in the four Gospels is supported by impeccable testimonies of multiple eyewitnesses. The historical factuality of the cross is further attested by reports found in authoritative non-Christian historical sources like Josephus and Tacitus. The Christian witness to the crucifixion is plausible since it is inconceivable why Christians should invent the crucifixion which declares that their founder died an accursed death under divine judgment on the Cross. As such, an outright denial of the crucifixion would amount to a willful blindness to historical reality. Some Muslim critics therefore grudgingly acknowledge that historically a crucifixion did occur. However, they suggest that someone other than Jesus was crucified. They argue that Christians have misunderstood the significance of the Cross because they are victims of an illusion. God, they claim, replaced Jesus with someone that bore his likeness.
Muslim scholars bypass the historical record with an appeal to the Quranic revelation: Continue reading “Islamic Rejection of the Crucified Messiah”
B.B. Warfield has been accused of being influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment, mediated by the Scottish Common Sense of Philosophy. It is further claimed that Warfield’s apologetics is premised on a person-neutral view of reason and criteria of truth. This accusation is incorrect. Warfield stresses that evidence by itself is not sufficient to bring a person to faith in Christ. Nevertheless, the presentation of objective evidence and argument is necessary precisely because the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing saving understanding and saving faith includes opening the eyes of the blind to information which is conducive towards faith.
The passages given below confirm that Warfield’s apologetics is cognizant of the noetic effects of sin and as such, saving faith is the gift of God through the Holy Spirit. Warfield’s dialectical balance between evidence and the necessity of the Holy Spirit in bringing faith should give pause to critics who claim that his apologetics is rationalistic.
I. No one is in danger of believing that “the evidences” can produce “faith”: but neither can the presentation of Christ in the gospel produce “faith.” “Faith” is the gift of God. But it does not follow that the “faith” that God gives is not grounded in “the evidences.” Of course it is only the prepared heart that can fitly respond to the force of the “evidences,” or “ receive ” the proclamation : just as it is only the eye that can see, as Dr. Bavinck explains, to which the sun can reveal itself. But this faith that the prepared heart yields,—is it yielded blindly and without reason, or is it yielded rationally and on the ground of sufficient reason? Does God the Holy Spirit work a blind and ungrounded faith in the heart? What is supplied by the Holy Spirit in working faith in the heart surely is not a ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented; but just a new power to the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the mind. Our Reformed fathers did not overlook this: they always posited the presence, in the production of faith, of the “argumentum, propter quod credo” [the argument for what I believe], as well as the “principium seu causa efficiens a quo ad credendum adducor” [the principle or efficient cause by which I am led to believe]. From this point of view, the presence to the mind of the “grounds” of faith is just as essential as the creative operation of the Giver of faith itself. Continue reading “B.B. Warfield: Use of Evidence in Apologetics Not Necessarily Rationalistic”
James Orr, in The Christian View of God and the World, maintains that the Christian worldview is compelling because it provides a coherent and unified view of life. Christianity as an integrated worldview embraces all disciplines of knowledge and provides stability of thought and directions to Christians seeking to navigate through new intellectual challenges posed by advancement of knowledge in the modern world.
Christian integration of faith and knowledge is based on the following premises: Continue reading “Integrating Faith and Knowledge”
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This course will help students formulate a rational basis for believing in Christian theism expressed as a coherent worldview, followed by a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of competing worldviews such as Naturalism, Islam and Buddhism.
Next, the course shall explore some of the crucial issues in the debate between Christians and non-Christians: the existence of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, evidence for the truth of the Bible in relation to history and science, the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation in the context of religious pluralism.
Course Outline: 3 hours each topic. Continue reading “Worldview Apologetics in a Multi-Religious Society”
This post should not be construed as an attempt to cast doubts on William Lane Craig’s (WLC) commitment to evangelical orthodoxy or to minimize his immense contribution to the intellectual defence of Christian faith. It only seeks to demonstrate how the tension between WLC’s apologetic impulse and theological formulation of doctrine may cause confusion for his readers, based on an analysis of his recent article published in First Things, “The Historical Adam.”
On the one hand, WLC’s categorization of the Genesis 1-11 as “mytho-history” raises questions about the existence of the historical Adam:
1) Regarding the book of Genesis
– “The primaeval history of Genesis 1–11, including the stories of Adam and Eve, functions as Israel’s foundational myth, laying the basis of Israel’s worldview…Rather, the claim is that the primaeval narratives belong to the genre of myth principally on the basis of their sharing common mythic themes and their effort to anchor present realities in the deep past.”
“In terms of genre, Genesis 1–11 has key characteristics of myth…On the basis of comparative studies of Sumerian literature, the eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen proposed that we recognize a unique genre of literature, which he dubbed “mytho-history…If Genesis 1–11 functions as mytho-history, then these chapters need not be read literally. The accounts of the origin and Fall of man are clearly metaphorical or figurative in nature, featuring as they do an anthropomorphic deity incompatible with the transcendent God of the creation account…Then there is the infamous snake in the Garden.” /1/
“Since the Pentateuchal author [is the use of the singular evidence of WLC’s evangelical commitment?] has an interest in history, he intends for his narrative to be at some level historical, to concern people who actually lived and events that really occurred. But those persons and events have been clothed in the metaphorical and figurative language of myth. If the stories are not meant to be read literally, what central truths do they convey?
After listing ten central truths conveyed by the Pentateuchal author on the nature of God, man and sin, WLC concludes, “Such truths do not depend upon reading the primaeval narratives literalistically.” Continue reading “William Craig on the Historical Adam. Apologetics Impulse vs Doctrinal Formulation”
I. Al-Ghazali’s Erroneous Understanding of the Incarnation.
Al-Ghazali’s understanding of the incarnation is derived from the Egyptian Jacobites who believed that the incarnate Christ comprises a mixture of divine nature and human nature:
God created the humanity of Jesus, on him be peace, then he appeared in it, and united with it. They mean by the union that a connection occurred between him and it like the connective relationship between the soul and the body. Then with this connective relationship, a third reality occurred, different from each of the two realities, composed of divinity and humanity, and having the attributes of all that is required from each of them, with respect to him being God and man. [Al-Radd, pp. 127, 129]
The Jacobites represented the more extreme wing of monophysitism [from monos (single) and physis (nature)] followed Eutyches who taught that either the two natures of Christ must have been fused into a tertium quid [(a third thing that is indefinite and undefined but is related to two definite or known things] or that the humanity must have been swallowed up by the divinity. [J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine 5ed. (A & C Black, 1977), p. 333] God created the humanity of Jesus and then united with it in such a way that the third reality which results from this connection shares all the attributes of divinity and humanity. Continue reading “Answering al-Ghazali Refutation of Jesus’ Divinity Part 4. The Coherence of the Incarnation”
Jesus prays to the Father in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” This verse testifies that Jesus shared the glory of God in his preexistence. However, al-Ghazali explains away the explicit teaching of the verse by imposing an unprecedented meaning to the word “glory”. He asserts that “the factual meaning is not intended, because in the fullness of the glory that was given to him is prophethood and messengership, and what entails from them in rank, the ascent to heaven, and his power to perform unprecedented miracles.” [Al-Radd, p.111]
Based on his Islamic presuppositions, Al-Ghazali rhetorically asserts that intelligent people would agree that there is an absolute ontological dichotomy between the Father and Christ, “Is it possible that divinity be bestowed when the impossibility of this is a matter upon which intelligent people have unanimously agreed?” However, he does not explain why the divinity of Christ is an “impossibility.” Neither does he offer any evidence to support his claim that it is “a matter upon which intelligent people have unanimously agreed?” His argument is merely an exercise in rationalizing away the plain meaning of the text and aligning them with the premise that the divinity of Christ is an impossibility.
Al-Ghazali’s abuse of the meaning of the word “glory” reminds me of the enigmatic conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s book, Through the Looking Glass. Continue reading “Answering Al-Ghazali Refutation of Jesus’ Divinity Part 3. Biblical Evidence for the Divinity of Christ.”
Jesus claims to be divine when he declares publicly to the Jews, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) However, al-Ghazali insists that the statement should be understood metaphorically rather than as literally. For him, Jesus’ prophetic mission was to show people the true God and to worship him alone. A literal interpretation of John 10:30 must be rejected as this would entail Jesus calling people to worship him instead of the true God. Jesus’ oneness with God describes his obedience which enables him to receives power from God to discharge his mission. Continue reading “Answering Al-Ghazali Refutation of Jesus’ Divinity. Part 2. Arbitrary Metaphorical Interpretation.”