Showing posts from June, 2005
The Talmud and End of Life Issues

While I am not Jewish, I strongly believe that the Jewish people have a lot of insight into understanding God and His ways. I don't believe that this role is limited to giving us a better understanding of the historic and cultural underpinnings of the Bible, but includes serious thinking by Jewish scholars of the logical consequences of the Biblical revelations -- especially where it concerns what God wants from us in acting ethically.

This is why I found the essay "The Value of a Life" by Yanki Tauber to be very interesting. In the essay, he takes what could be considered a rather uninteresting teaching from the Talmud on the surrender of citizens to others and draws from it a very strong criticism of the Teri Schiavo incident.

Yanki Tauber begins his essay by quoting the Talmudic teaching about when it is proper to surrender a citizens of a city to a third party who threatens to put the city under siege if he is not turned over.

What History Reveals about the Establishment Clause

Yesterday, the Supreme Court came down with two opinions concerning the display of the Ten Commandments in public places. The first case in Texas ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments at the State House was constitutional. The second case in Kentucky ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse was unconstitutional. While I have not yet read the two opinions, it appears from the discussion I have heard on the radio and seen on the news that the court distinguished the two cases based upon the intent of the bodies that placed the Ten Commandments in the two public locales. In Texas, it was argued that the display of the Ten Commandments was part of a larger secular display which gave it a secular purpose. In Kentucky, even though the display was also part of a larger secular display like the display in Texas, the original display in Kentucky had been only the Ten Commandments which meant that the purpose of t…
The verse that launched a thousand apologetic enterprises

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. -- from 1 Peter 3:15
I’d bet this verse has launched more study programs in defending the Christian faith than any other. "Be prepared" – it evokes pictures of diligent boyscouts, of tireless and extensive preparations. We remember the myriad of trick questions that hostile anti-Christians can throw at us. We may ask ourselves whether we are prepared to answer every trick question in the book. And when we think that way, we’re very wrong about the big picture – mostly because we miss the fact that Peter gave us the answer along with the instruction to be prepared to give that answer. Also because he asks us to prepare for a much simpler task than we have just imagined. We end up thinking the goal that Peter named was beyond the reach of the average Christian; we have missed what Peter said his point was.

Differing Potrayals of Paul's Miracle Working -- Evidence Against Lukan Authorship?

Continuing in our series of supposed arguments against Lukan authorship of Acts, our skeptic claims that Paul portrays Acts as a miracle worker while Paul’s letters do not:

Acts presents Paul as a miracle worker. The performance of miracles forms a major part of Paul's apostleship. He was supposed to have made a blind man see again (Acts 13:6-12), to have enabled a cripple to walk (Acts 14:8-10) and to have raised a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-2). Even his handkerchief had miraculous powers (Acts 19:12)! His miraculous powers also enabled him to survive stoning unscathed, although those who stoned him thought he was dead (Acts 14:19-20) and to survive what would have been a lethal snakebite (Acts 28:3-6).
Our skeptic begins by overstating Acts’ portrayal of Paul as a miracle worker. It is true that the author of Acts narrates the performance of three miracles by Paul (Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-…
On natural factors in behavior, evil, reason, and faith

The CADRE has been having occasional internal discussions on the role of biology in our thoughts, behavior, emotions, and even spirituality. I think it’s safe to say I’m of the minority opinion, but it’s been an interesting conversation and I expect others might enjoy hearing the different sides of the conversation. I’m encouraging those in the CADRE who hold different views to also share those here on the blog in case anyone else would like to think through the different views with us.

I’ll start with my assumptions so you that you can see them for yourself. Then I’ll work my way through the usual questions that come up: emotions, perceptions, reason, irrationality, behavior, crime, punishment, responsibility, faith, and implications for Christian apologetics. The short version: admitting a strong view for biology does not lead to nearly so bleak an outcome as many people suppose. I hope any material here is helpful in its …
Time Travel, God, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I am a science fiction fan. So much so that I am actually excited about the forthcoming War of the Worlds movie, despite the fact that it stars Tom Cruise. Speaking of H.G. Wells (the author of the book, War of the Worlds), his The Time Machine launched a whole sub-genre within Science Fiction.

It is interesting how time travel has such broad appeal. It is not just for science fiction geeks. The Back to the Future trilogy was so popular because of the premise, not the science (or does anyone have any idea how the Flux Capacitor really is supposed to work?). The Terminator series exploited time travel ruthlessly and inconsistently, without offering any concept of how it was supposed to work. Star Trek IV told us how (go really, really fast around the sun), but the focus of course was saving the earth from destruction by correcting humanity's errors in the past (hunting whales to extinction).

And this no doubt is one of …
Solar Sail Spacecraft

This has nothing to do with religion or apologetics, but it is very cool.

A Russian submarine has launched a prototype space craft that uses the rays of the sun to propel it through space. Several "sails" are deployed to literally catch the sun's rays as a form of propulsion. Not only does this eliminate the need for a bulky and heavy engine (and its fuel), but it provides continued accelaration of the craft over unlimited distances.

See the press release from the outfit behind the launch for specifics.

Update: Unfortunately, the space craft did not reach orbit. So there was no test of the solar sail concept. But perhaps we did learn something about using surplus cold-war era Russian weapons as launch vehicles.
Everything Needs a Cause, Right?

The state of understanding most Christian apologists use for the cosmological argument is very bad. Most of us are still back in the enlightenment, or even earlier. In fact if one reads the Boyle Lectures (that's 1690s) one sees all the issues of a modern apologetics message board, with very little real advance by the Christian apologists.

The problem revolves around the notion of causality. Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time." Since time is the beginning of sequences there can be no scenic before the beginning of sequences; without sequences there is no begging and no "before." So the problem is that it is meaningless to say things like "…
Argument (2) Empty Tomb: Pre Marmkan Redaction.

The Gospel accounts of the resurrection were tramsmited faithfully from the very begining. How do we know this? The same way we know that any aspect of ancient world history is a probalbity: the documents are trustworthy. Now skepitics are probably spitting milk out their noses reading this, but its true.There are three areas of reiability, and two major misconceptions that have to be avoided. Let me start with the misconceptions:

(1) The idea that "reliable" means "realisitic."

I'm sure many skeptics reading this are saying, How can they be reliable when they speak of miracles?. But reliable doesnt' necessarily mean "realistic." This doesn't mean they aren't hard to believe, or that they don't require an assumption about metaphysics; reliable doesnt' mean true. What it does mean I'll get to in a minute.

big misconception number two:

(2) Faithful transmission of history would have to m…