Apologia Sophia: “Apologetics Wisdom” 2—Christian Foundations

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 5, 2019

In part 1 of this series, we noted that Apologia Sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” In this second (of six) installment, I hope to offer more apologetics wisdom for our noble task. Here are three points that apply equally to both professional and lay Christian apologists. These points relate to connecting apologetics to Christian foundations.

  1. Recognize that apologetics is a branch of Christian theology.

In church history the enterprise of apologetics was viewed as a branch of Christian theology. Since one was called to defend or contend for the truth of historic Christianity, then theology was considered the queen of the sciences. As such, other disciplines like philosophy, science, history, literature, etc. serve theology. Thus, apologists with backgrounds in various fields should work to be sophisticated in Christian theology. A basic familiarity with the different areas within theology (biblical, systematic, historical, philosophical, practical) can be very helpful to the Christian apologist.

2. Frame your apologetic in accord with authoritative sources of historic Christianity.

Ensure that your basic apologetics approach is in accord with the final Christian authority of sacred Scripture. But also inform your defense of the faith by utilizing sound sources of Christian tradition such as the ecumenical creeds, church councils, and Christendom’s finest orthodox theologians. Consider defending a classical or historic Christianity that is affirmed by all of conservative Christendom before moving to a defense of one’s specific branch or denomination within the faith.

3. Conjoin the rational defense of the faith with the practice of Christian devotion and values.

Rational and nonrational factors influence persuasion. Thus, Christians would do well to present cogent reasoning for the truth of the faith that reflects a Christian moral conscience, is accompanied by prayer, and is presented in a winsome, loving manner. The Christian apologetics enterprise functions best when its presenters reflect the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

The apostle Paul utilizes what many New Testament scholars consider an ancient Christian creed that dates from the earliest period of the Christian era:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:3–8

This “death, burial, resurrection, and personal appearance” strategy is instructive. Paul defends a historic Christianity that should influence how we frame our apologetic endeavors today.

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God’s Genuine Love for All

Does God genuinely and savingly love everyone? Many theologians say no. However, there are good and substantial biblical reasons to think that God not only loves everyone (in the sense that he does good things for all), but also that he authentically desires every human to enter into a loving and eternal relationship with himself. This blog post will explore two good reasons to embrace the universal divine love. Also, we address one objection1 and offer a practical application of this wonderful truth.

Biblical-Theological Arguments for Universal Divine Love

Scripture tells us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17, NRSV)

Notice also the following passage:

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20, NRSV)

True, in context, John is speaking about a Christian’s love for fellow Christians; yet in his Gospel he illustrates how Christ loved unbelievers (John 4:7–42). Jesus’s idea of loving one’s neighbor is to love literally anyone who comes across our path (Luke 10:29–37; cf. Leviticus 19:18). Thus, consider the following argument:

  1. We emulate God only insofar as we love (1 John 4:7–12; 16–17);
  2. When we hate anyone, the love of God is not in us (1 John 4:20–21; cf. 1:5–2:6);
  3. But a God who hates specific persons while commanding us to love everyone we encounter is a God who wants us to be more loving than he is! (1 John 4:8, 10, 16); therefore,
  4. God loves everyone and hates no one.

God Genuinely Desires Every Person to Be Saved

Our first argument establishes the fact that God genuinely loves everyone. However, it does not secure the idea that God genuinely desires the salvation of every person. Of course, there are quite a few texts that speak of God’s desire that everyone experiences salvation (see Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:1–4; 2 Peter 3:9). Let us consider what is perhaps the best example among the texts cited: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This verse seems clear enough—God does not want anyone to perish, and he wants everyone to come to repentance and, thus, be saved.

What Does “Any” Mean?

Of course, some theologians have pointed out that the major issue in interpreting this text is establishing the antecedent of “any,” as in, “. . . not wanting any to perish.” In the words of theologian R. C. Sproul:

What is the antecedent of any? It is clearly us.2 Does us refer to all of us humans? Or does it refer to us Christians, the people of God? Peter is fond of speaking of the elect as a special group of people. I think what he is saying here is that God does not will that any of us (the elect) perish. If that is his meaning, then the text [of 2 Peter 3:9] . . . would be one more strong passage in favor of [Augustinian] predestination.3

This reading of the text is accepted by a good number of other scholars and writers, including James White.4 White argues that the letter is written to those who have “received a faith of the same kind as ours” (2 Peter 1:1, NASB), indicating that believers (not unbelievers) are the recipients of the epistle. Also, in the immediate context of the third chapter of the epistle, Peter contrasts those who scoff at the coming of Christ with those who look for the coming of a new heavens and a new earth (3:13), indicating that the “any” and “all” of 3:9 is “you” (i.e., the recipients of the letter).5 White concludes: “There is no reason to expand the context of the passage into a universal proclamation of a desire on God’s part that every single person come to repentance.”6

What Does “You” Mean?

We have the utmost respect for this common interpretation, along with the scholars who endorse it, for it has much to commend it. The strongest argument in its favor is that the antecedent of “any” is “you”—presumably, the recipients of Peter’s second letter. There are two ways to interpret “you” in this context. First, one could follow the exegesis of writers such as White, agreeing that the “you” here refers to the elect. But on that assumption, we have good reason to think God’s desire is that everyone, elect and nonelect, repent. In other words, the reason God is patient toward the elect is the same reason he is patient toward everyone—he does not want anyone to perish but desires the salvation of all. Similarly, one could see Peter’s promise as an a fortiori (stronger) argument—to wit, since God is patient toward literally everyone, how much more should you trust in his patience toward you, his own people? At the very least, these insights suggest that, even if this interpretation of the passage is correct, it in no way mitigates the conviction that God wants literally everyone to be saved.7

A second approach, which is our own understanding of the passage, is to insist that the “you” is not limited to the elect, but literally refers to anyone who comes across the epistle. Indeed, why would Peter emphasize the fact that he doesn’t want the elect to perish? That would be redundant, to say the least! In other words, Peter seeks as wide a readership as possible, implying that anyone who receives this letter is to know that the reason the Lord waits is because he is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but for all people to come to repentance. Or, in the words of New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner, “A thousand years are like one day to Him, and in any case, the interval before Christ’s coming gives people opportunity to repent.”8 Thus, according to Schreiner’s interpretation of 2 Peter, God’s delay allows people in general—not just the elect—to have an opportunity to repent.

And so theologian Samuel Storms concurs with us when he insists that 2 Peter 3:9 is “universal in scope, encompassing every person, both elect and non-elect.”9 Not only so, but even John Calvin agrees with our interpretation, writing:

So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive all to repentance, so that none may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way.10

Does God Hate Some People?

Perhaps the best argument against the universal saving love of God is that the Bible contains several texts suggesting that God actually hates specific persons. Indeed, there are no less than sixteen places in Scripture where we are told explicitly that the “boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers” (Psalm 5:5, NRSV), and the “Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence” (Psalm 11:5, NRSV).11

What, then, do we do with texts like these Psalms, which speak explicitly of a hatred that God has toward some persons? Medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas answers in the following way:

Nothing prevents one and the same thing being loved under one aspect, while it is hated under another. God loves sinners in so far as they are existing natures; for they have existence, and have it from Him. In so far as they are sinners, they have not existence at all, but fall short of it [since the sin or evil in them is a privation of the good or nature]; and this in them is not from God. Hence, under this aspect, they are hated by Him.12

The fact that most of us have heard of love-hate relationships may illustrate Thomas’s point. Indeed, “hatred” and “love” are not contradictory ideas, and so God can love and hate every sinner at the same time as long as he does it in different ways. In light of what we have established so far, we maintain that God loves all people insofar as he creates them, sustains them, and genuinely desires their salvation; and yet he hates them insofar as he allows many to perish: “They are like a dream when one awakens; on awaking you despise their phantoms” (Psalm 73:20, NRSV).

Thus, I think it is truly appropriate to say, with most modern Christians, that God loves the sinner and hates his sin. As Thomist philosopher Peter Kreeft says,

God practices what He preaches to us: love the sinner and hate the sin. God loves even the being He created in the devil, but not the lack of being in the devil’s sin. St. Thomas is not saying that sinners have no existence, but that they lack the fullness of existence that comes from loving the good. Vice and virtue have an ontological dimension as well as a moral one; we diminish our being when we sin and augment it by the virtues.13

How Does God Love Us?

God loves everyone. And he genuinely desires their salvation. This should come as a wonderful message for anyone who is honest with himself about his immoral actions and sinful heart. God need not love us. After all, he is an eternal and triune being, whose love for himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is self-sufficient and infinite. Hence, God loves us wholly and solely from his grace.

There are many points of relevance and application we can walk away with in this brief study. Here we will concentrate on two. First, because Scripture and sound reason confirm for us that God truly loves everyone and desires their salvation, each one of us can be assured of God’s genuine and saving love for us. That is, if God loves everyone, I must conclude that God loves me. Hence, we should never conclude that, whenever we sin, doubt, or even fall away from the faith for a season, that God is in any way causing us to do this. Indeed, he tempts no one to sin (James 1:13), and wishes no one to doubt (James 1:5–8). Thus, whenever we sin, doubt, or fall away, we must recognize that these actions are wholly self-determined on our part.

Second, because God truly loves everyone and desires the salvation of all, the Christian should never see a nonbeliever as his enemy, but as someone God wants to be saved. As apologists, we ought to recognize that there are many different types of people and, because God desires their salvation, he has reasons available to draw them to himself. To the rationalist, we offer rational arguments for the faith; for the empiricist, we offer science; for the historian, we offer evidence from the Bible; for the artist, we offer beauty. The universal love of God should encourage us to be ready to offer different kinds of reasons for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15).

Endnotes
  1. More than one objection to this proposal can be raised, but for purposes of brevity and to focus on the universal aspect of God’s love, I chose to address only one. For a fuller development of these arguments for the universality of God’s saving love, see Travis James Campbell, The Wonderful Decree: Reconciling Sovereign Election and Universal Benevolence (Lexham Press; forthcoming). For a slightly different approach, see D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway; 2000). Dr. Carson also has helpful lectures on this topic that can be found here and here.
  2. Technically, the antecedent of the word “any,” in 2 Peter 3:9, is “you.” But Sproul’s question remains valid. Is God not wanting any of you to perish? Well, what does he mean by “you”? Is God not wanting any of you humans to perish? Or is God not wanting any of you readers of my epistle to perish? Or is God not wanting any of you elect persons, chosen unto salvation, to perish?
  3. R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1986), 197.
  4. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal to Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000), 145–50.
  5. White, The Potter’s Freedom, 150.
  6. White, The Potter’s Freedom, 149.
  7. I am grateful to Dr. Paul Owen for giving me these insights (via personal correspondence).
  8. Thomas R. Schreiner, “Notes on 2 Peter,” in The Apologetics Study Bible, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1860.
  9. Sam Storms, Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 197.
  10. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Second Epistle of Peter in Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; vol. 22 of Calvin’s Commentaries; trans. John Owen (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1974), 421.
  11. See Leviticus 20:23; 26:30; Deuteronomy 32:19; Psalm 53:5; 73:20; 78:59; 106:40; Proverbs 6:16–19; 22:14; Lamentations 2:6; Hosea 9:15; Zechariah 11:8; Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13. The KJV usually translates these texts using the word “hate,” and indicating that the object of divine hate is specific persons or entire groups of people. Where “hate” is not used, “abhor,” “reject,” or some such equivalent is used to denote God’s denouncement of those under judgment. The same is true of the NRSV.
  12. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia.20.2, trans. the Fathers of the English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948), page?.
  13. Thomas Aquinas, Summa of the Summa, ed. and annotated by Peter Kreeft (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 166 (n. 160).

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Solar and Lunar Tides Designed for Complex Life

BY HUGH ROSS – MARCH 25, 2019

In August 2017, Reasons to Believe organized a conference on the fine-tuned design of the Sun and Moon that makes advanced human civilization possible. We held the conference on a site and at the time of a total solar eclipse. We not only witnessed a spectacular solar eclipse but also learned in several different ways how the Sun and Moon are exquisitely designed to enable the existence of human beings on Earth.

At that conference we did not, by any means, exhaust all the known ways the Sun and Moon are designed for advanced life. One we did not discuss was how the nearly equal, but not exactly equal, tidal forces that the Sun and Moon exert on Earth play an important role in enhancing the biocomplexity, biodiversity, and biomass of Earth’s life. This role was the subject of a research paper published in the British journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society A.1

Complex Strongly Modulated Tides
Earth orbits close enough to the Sun to receive a strong solar tidal force. The Moon orbits close enough to Earth to exert an even stronger tidal force. The Moon’s mass and current distance from Earth is such that it exerts about twice the tidal force on Earth as does the Sun.

The Sun modulates tides on Earth with a periodicity of 24 hours while the Moon does so with a periodicity of 29.53 days. The fact that tidal forces exerted by the Sun and Moon are comparable—but not equal—while the periodicities are less comparable, generates resultant tides on Earth’s oceans that exhibit strong, complex temporal modulation (tidal amplitude variation with respect to time).

Once every 14.77 days, the Sun and Moon line up with Earth so that their tidal forces on Earth augment one another (see figure 1). This arrangement generates the exceptionally high spring tides. But not all spring tides are the same. The Moon’s distance from Earth varies from 356,400 to 406,700 kilometers (221,457 to 252,712 miles). A spring tide where the Moon is at its closest distance to Earth can be up to 0.2 meters (8 inches) higher.

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Figure 1: Spring tides. Diagram credit: Hugh Ross

Once every 29.53 days, the Sun and Moon line up on opposite sides of Earth (see figure 2). Here, the tidal force of the Sun on Earth cancels out about half the tidal force of the Moon. On these days, the neap tide days, the difference between low and high tides can be a third to a half the difference between the low and high spring tide days.

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Figure 2: Neap tides. Diagram credit: Hugh Ross

On other days in the Moon’s 29.53-day orbital period about Earth, the difference between low and high tides can be anything in between the differences between neap tide days and spring tide days. The result is complex, temporally modulated tides.

Benefits for Coastal Shore Life
Strong, complex temporal modulation of Earth’s ocean tides produces networks of tide pools on the shorelines of Earth’s continents, where different tide pools in the network become isolated from wave action at different times and for different durations. Such networks of tide pools produce habitats for creatures distinct from those on the land and those in the oceans. Furthermore, because tidal actions manifest a wide range of amplitudes depending on the geography of Earth’s shorelines, the kinds of tide pool networks vary greatly. Some shoreline regions possess a difference between low tide and high tide of only about a meter (3 feet)­­­, while the difference between low and high tide in Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy can be up to 17 meters (56 feet) in height. This wide amplitude range for Earth’s tides extends the diversity of Earth’s shoreline creatures.

Figure 3 shows a few of the plants and animals uniquely designed for taking advantage of ocean shorelines that experience strong, complex temporal tidal modulation. The plants pictured here thrive under conditions of regular periods of both dehydration and saltwater inundation. Air-breathing animals designed to feed in both underwater and above water environments can scurry from inundated to dehydrating pools. Water-breathing animals, also designed to take advantage of both underwater and above water food sources, can scuttle about similarly.

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Figure 3: Tide pool plants and animals. Image credit: Brocken Inaglory, Creative Commons Attribution

Note that these animals are designed for motility both in underwater and above water environments. While not as capable of mobility on land as tetrapod animals or as capable of swimming as marine-environment fish, they are wonderfully designed for mobility on shorelines where, because of strong, complex temporally modulated tides, they can take advantage of habitats experiencing semiregular, alternating inundation and dehydration.

Figure 4 shows a common shore crab and figure 5 a tidal oyster reef. Shore crabs and oysters are designed to thrive in tidal regions where they alternate between spending many hours on dry land and many hours under water. The eight legs and pincer claws of shore crabs enable them to capture prey in both underwater and above water environments. They can scurry from above water shore areas to underwater shore areas to avoid capture by land-dwelling predators. They can also do the reverse to avoid capture by marine predators.

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Figure 4: Shore crab. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Figure 5: Oyster reef at mid-tide. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Oysters’ mobility is limited to being moved around by wave action. Like most shoreline animals, oysters are wonderfully designed to take advantage of regular supplies of fresh nutrients being pumped in by the strongly modulated tides. Because the difference between low and high tides varies so much over a month and over a year, oysters and other shoreline shellfish can inhabit a wide swath of a shoreline. Where I grew up in coastal British Columbia, I visited beaches where oysters and clams populated more than a mile of sand and rock perpendicular to the shoreline.

Benefits for Continental Shelf Life
Shallow water continental shelves surround much of Earth’s continents and islands. They can extend hundreds of kilometers or miles out from the shorelines, where tidal forces from the Sun and Moon cycle nutrients throughout these shelves in a highly modulated complex manner. These cycling nutrients sustain a tremendous abundance and diversity of microbial, plant, and animal life. The richest fisheries on Earth, for example, exist on these continental shelves.

Benefits for Human Beings
Shorelines provide a huge abundance of easy-to-harvest food for human consumption. This abundance facilitated the rapid migration of humans thousands of years ago along the southern shore of Asia and the western shores of North and South America. Humans were able to colonize the world shortly after the time of their creation thanks largely to strong, highly modulated complex tides.

Today, the diet of a large fraction of humans strongly depends on food harvested from shorelines and continental shelves. This abundance of food exists thanks to strong, highly modulated complex tides.

Tides can also help meet energy needs. Certain regions of the world, like Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy, possess exceptionally strong tides. These tides can be so high and so strong that a man on horseback is not able to outrun them. Canada is now exploiting the Bay of Fundy tides to generate electric power.

Perfect Tidal Designs
The tidal forces exerted by the Sun and Moon on Earth are not so strong as to slow Earth’s rotation rate to a period too long for humans and other complex life to tolerate. On the other hand, the tidal forces from the Sun and Moon are not so weak as to do little to slow down Earth’s rotation from its primordial 3–5 hours per day. Thanks to the Sun and Moon’s tidal forces on Earth, Earth has the optimal rotation rate for humans and human civilization at the just-right time in Earth’s history for humans to exist on Earth.

The difference between the tidal forces exerted by the Moon and the tidal forces exerted by the Sun, both in magnitude and timing, is optimal for enhancing the biomass, biodiversity, and biocomplexity of Earth’s life. We humans benefit especially from this optimization.

The required fine-tuning to get such perfect-for-complex-life tides is such that, in spite of the observable universe containing as many as 50 billion trillion planets, the Sun-Earth-Moon system likely stands alone in generating such optimal tides for its planet. When combined with all the other fine-tuned features of the Sun-Earth-Moon system2, nothing short of supernatural, super-intelligent designs comes close to offering a reasonable explanation.

Featured image: Tide pools and sleeping seals at Point Lobos, California.
Image credit: Hugh Ross

Endnotes
  1. Steven A. Balbus, “Dynamical, Biological, and Anthropic Consequences of Equal Lunar and Solar Angular Radii,” Proceedings of the Royal Society A 470, no. 2168 (August 8, 2014): id. 20140263, doi:10.1098/rspa.2014.0263.
  2. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 243–66; Hugh Ross, RTB Design Compendium (2009).

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Apologia Sophia: “Apologetics Wisdom” 3—Preparation

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 12, 2019

Are you prepared for apologetic engagement? In part 3 (of six) in this series, I’ll offer three practical suggestions to help prepare you for potentially life-changing interactions with nonbelievers. As noted in parts 1 and 2, the term Apologia Sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” These three points will help provide you with such wisdom, whether you’re a professional or lay Christian apologist.

1. Develop thinking, speaking, and writing skills.

Apologists need to think, speak, and write with clarity and cogency. The study of logic is the greatest way to develop superior critical thinking skills. Rhetoric (the study of speech and debate) can serve to sharpen your oratory abilities. Writing skills can be enhanced by mastering the basics of English grammar (for English speakers) and by seeking to develop an imaginative storytelling style. Apologists should not underestimate the critical importance of developing their thinking, speaking, and writing skills.

2. Learn to think worldviewishly.

The word “worldview” refers to the cluster of beliefs a person holds about the most significant concepts of life—such as God, the cosmos, knowledge, values, humanity, and history. A worldview is, therefore, one’s big-picture view of reality. You can improve worldview thinking by learning the basic philosophical categories of thought and how to evaluate worldview truth claims. An ability to compare and contrast what one worldview affirms with another will prove to be valuable.

3. Develop a specific area of apologetic specialization.

In addition to studying general Christian apologetics, you would do well to choose an area that is centrally involved in the apologetic enterprise, then develop a specialized understanding of the field. Such fields might include theology, philosophy, ethics, psychology, history, literature, religion, science, and mathematics. By developing a specialization, you will acquire relevant expertise for apologetic research and outreach.

The Book of Acts describes the apostle Paul’s apologetics practice:

As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

–Acts 17:2–4

If I were to start my training for a career in Christian apologetics all over again, I would rigorously pursue the three areas discussed above. The Lord by his grace uses our apologetics reasoning to draw people to faith in Christ. And God will honor your prudent preparation for such service.

Reflections: Your Turn

How has God used your preparation for his kingdom-building purposes? Which of the three suggestions above do you deem most important? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

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Apologia Sophia: “Apologetics Wisdom” 1—Attitude

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – FEBRUARY 26, 2019

Apologia sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” Since I am an adjunct professor for Biola University’s MA program in apologetics, I teach and interact with many students who are preparing for a career in apologetics or are studying to deepen their knowledge and sharpen their skills in the field. Thus, as a teacher and a full-time scholar at RTB, I hope the following series gives practical advice—and even some genuine wisdom—when it comes to the apologetics enterprise (the art and science of giving a reasoned defense of Christianity; see 1 Peter 3:15).

Let me begin part 1 (of 6) by enumerating three points designed to help both those who are interested in and those who already engage in Christian apologetics. These points apply equally to professional and lay Christian apologists, and the points relate more to the attitudeand focus of the apologist than to specific content of arguments. Future parts in this series will address other topics.

1. Contend without being contentious.

Be careful that you don’t confuse contending for the faith (Jude 3) with being a contentious person. Apologists need to be vigilantly critical of faulty ideas—especially as they relate to Christianity—but they also need to be gracious toward people. If you believe in God’s grace toward you then you should also endeavor to treat others graciously. Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes apologetics encounters can be intense, but beware of becoming apologetically jaded and giving in to a contentious attitude.

2. Value truth above winning.

Apologists are often called to present, explain, and defend Christian truth claims to various non-Christians. In doing so, strive to esteem truth above victory in an argument. Rhetoric and polemics have their appropriate place in apologetics but only when they serve truth as a sacred reality. Prize and handle truth as if it is sacred, because it is. The triune God is Truth with a capital T. In fact, Jesus Christ specifically called himself the Truth (John 14:6). An honest person who handles all truth, big and small, with care and precision, carries unique credibility. Thus as an apologist, be a truth seeker above all.

3. Don’t compete with or envy other apologists.

The enterprise of apologetics can sometimes bring out one’s competitive nature. And some apologists have made significant contributions in defending the faith. But guard against competing with or envying other Christian apologists. Instead, come to view them as valued allies. Learn from them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Recognize that all Christians are on the same team and God has given each apologist their own distinct personality and gifts. Encourage, support, and pray for other apologists. Apologetics can be a critical tool in the process of persuading people of ultimate truth and reality and, as such, it involves a type of spiritual warfare. So ask God’s Spirit for protection over you and your fellow apologists.

Here’s the apostle Peter’s scriptural mandate for the critical apologetics enterprise:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

–1 Peter 3:15–17

The attitude, goals, and focus of the Christian apologist bear significantly on his or her power of persuasion.
Reflections: Your Turn
Which of the three apologetics suggestions above is the hardest for you to incorporate? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

 

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Cosmic Creation Model Passes Another Test

BY HUGH ROSS – JANUARY 21, 2019

Last May I debated with Peter Atkins, Oxford University chemist and well-known atheist, on the Unbelievable? radio show and video podcast. Toward the end of the debate, moderator Justin Brierley asked each of us to name a possible scientific discovery that, if proven true beyond any reasonable doubt, would cause us to abandon the philosophical worldview we were advocating. You can watch the debate here.

Atkins was not very forthcoming, to say the least. One of the possible scientific discoveries I named that would cause me to abandon my Christian faith would be scientific proof that there was no cosmic creation event. I explained that if future scientific discoveries were to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe did not have a beginning and, therefore, that there was no cosmic Beginner, such discoveries would be catastrophic to the Christian faith and the clear teachings of the Bible.

The Bible says much more about the universe than that it had a beginning. Thousands of years before any astronomer speculated or articulated what we now know as the big bang theory of the universe, six different Bible authors in multiple books of the Bible declared the four fundamental features of the big bang creation model:

  1. The universe has a beginning that includes the beginning of space and time.
  2. The universe has expanded and continues to expand from its space-time beginning.
  3. The laws of physics that govern the universe have never changed.
  4. One of the laws governing the universe is a pervasive law of decay.

Any system that expands under a pervasive law of decay gets colder and colder as it ages. Hence, the Bible really is a big bang book.

Years ago, at the encouragement and with the assistance of theologian John Rea, I wrote an article entitled “Big Bang—the Bible Taught It First.”1 The article is available online here and (with minor edits) appears in my books The Creator and the Cosmos2 and A Matter of Days.3

In science, the success of any theory, model, or hypothesis is measured by how well the predicted features of the theory, model, or hypothesis are verified by advancing experiments and observations. By this measure, the biblically predicted big bang creation model has fared phenomenally well. In the four editions of The Creator and the Cosmos I have documented over a 25-year period how the more astronomers learn about the universe, the more observational evidence they accumulate for the veracity of the big bang creation model. Furthermore, the more astronomers learn about the universe, the more detailed a big bang model they have been able to build.

Today, astronomers possess a very detailed big bang creation model. In the astronomical literature it is referred to as the ΛCDM model. The ΛCDM big bang model refers to a universe with a big bang beginning where dark energy, Λ, is the dominant component of the universe, and cold dark matter (weakly interacting particles moving at low velocities relative to the velocity of light), CDM, is the second most predominant component.

A major prediction of the ΛCDM big bang model is that “hierarchical evolution occurs on all mass scales.”4 In layman’s language, this means that large galaxies will have smaller satellite galaxies and that the larger satellite galaxies will have still smaller satellite galaxies. The ΛCDM model also predicts the number and the sizes of satellite galaxies each galaxy of a given mass should possess.

A decade ago, many astronomers expressed doubts about the ΛCDM model because they were not seeing the number of dwarf satellite galaxies for the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies that the ΛCDM model predicted. It turned out that the majority of dwarf satellite galaxies were very diffuse and, hence, extremely difficult to detect. Only recently have astronomers developed the telescope power to find the full number of dwarf satellite galaxies for the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies predicted by the ΛCDM model. I wrote about the discoveries of these “missing” dwarf satellite galaxies here,5 here,6 here,7 and here.8 The biggest challenge, finding the Andromeda Galaxy’s missing dwarf galaxies, has been largely accomplished by the PAndAS Project.9

Now, for the first time, astronomers have found satellite galaxies of satellite galaxies. The Local Group is the small cluster of galaxies of which the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy are the two largest members (see figure 1). The largest satellite galaxies in the Local Group are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (see the featured image). Both are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way Galaxy. Figure 2 shows a to-scale map that I constructed of the Milky Way/Magellanic Clouds system.

blog__inline--cosmic-creation-model-passes-another-test-1

Figure 1: Map of the Larger Local Group Galaxies. The Andromeda Galaxy and its two largest satellite galaxies, M32 and NGC 205, are to the upper left. The Triangulum Galaxy is to the mid left. The Milky Way Galaxy and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are to the bottom right. The spatial separation between the Andromeda and Milky Way Galaxies is nearly double that shown in the above map. Credit for the galaxy images: NASA/ESO. Credit for the reconstructed map of the Milky Way Galaxy: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt). Credit for the map of the Local Group: Hugh Ross

blog__inline--cosmic-creation-model-passes-another-test-2

Figure 2: The Milky Way Galaxy/Magellanic Clouds System. Credit for the Magellanic Clouds images: European Southern Observatory. Credit for the reconstructed map of the Milky Way Galaxy: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt). Credit for the map of the Milky Way Galaxy/Magellanic Clouds system: Hugh Ross

A team of astronomers from Canada, Spain, and the United States, led by Nitya Kallivayalil, presented proper motion measurements for 13 of the 32 newly discovered dwarf galaxies in the Gaia Data Release 2.10 A different group of astronomers had performed radial velocitymeasurements for all 13 of these dwarf galaxies. Therefore, for all 13 galaxies, Kallivayalil’s team knew the motions of these galaxies in all three spatial dimensions.

With these measured 3D motions of the 13 dwarf galaxies, Kallivayalil’s team was able to establish that 4 of the galaxies, Hor1, Car2, Car3, and Hyi1, were satellite galaxies of the Magellanic Clouds. Kallivayalil’s team also determined that two other dwarf galaxies, Hya2 and Dra2, were probable satellite galaxies of the Magellanic Clouds. Thus, another important prediction of the ΛCDM big bang creation model has now been confirmed: satellite galaxies of large galaxies themselves possess satellite galaxies.

The discovery by the five Korean astronomers and the implications of their discovery yield yet one more example of how the more we learn about the universe the more evidence and confidence we gain for what the Bible has taught about the origin and history of the universe and for One responsible for that origin and history.

featured image: The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds
The Large Magellanic Cloud to the upper right is the largest satellite galaxy in the Local Group. The Small Magellanic Cloud to the left is the second largest satellite galaxy in the Local Group. The bright spot to the left of the Small Magellanic Cloud is 47 Tucanae, a foreground globular cluster that is part of the Milky Way Galaxy.
credit: European Southern Observatory

Endnotes
  1. Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—the Bible Taught It First!” Facts for Faith, July 1, 2000, reasons.org/explore/publications/facts-for-faith/read/facts-for-faith/2000/07/01/big-bang-the-bible-taught-it-first!
  2. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2017), 25–31.
  3. Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days, 2nd ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015), 135–44.
  4. Nitya Kallivayalil et al., “The Missing Satellites of the Magellanic Clouds? Gaia Proper Motions of the Recently Discovered Ultra-Faint Galaxies,” Astrophysical Journal 867 (November 1, 2018): id. 19, page 1, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aadfee.
  5. Hugh Ross, “Dwarf Galaxies Test Big Bang,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, December 8, 2008, reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2008/12/08/dwarf-galaxies-test-big-bang.
  6. Hugh Ross, “Another Dwarf Galaxy Test of Big Bang Cosmology,” Today’s New Reason to Believe(blog), Reasons to Believe, April 27, 2009, reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2009/04/27/another-dwarf-galaxy-test-of-big-bang-cosmology.
  7. Hugh Ross, “The Least Luminous Known Galaxy,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, July 6, 2009, reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2009/07/06/the-least-luminous-known-galaxy.
  8. Hugh Ross, “The Darkest Galaxy,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 22, 2011, reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2011/08/22/the-darkest-galaxy.
  9. Nicolas F. Martin et al., “The PAndAS View of the Andromeda Satellite System. II. Detailed Properties of 23 M31 Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxies,” Astrophysical Journal 833 (December 15, 2016): id. 167, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/833/2/167; Nicolas F. Martin et al., “A Rogues’ Gallery of Andromeda’s Dwarf Galaxies. I. A Predominance of Red Horizontal Branches,” Astrophysical Journal 850 (November 20, 2017): id. 16, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aa901a.
  10. Kallivayalil et al., “Missing Satellites of the Magellanic Clouds?.”

About Reasons to Believe

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The Perils of Space Travel

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – FEBRUARY 15, 2019

If only space travel were as easy as depicted in Star Wars or Star Trek! Traveling a few thousand times the speed of light onboard the Enterprise or a hundred times faster by jumping to lightspeed enables these fictional ships to traverse stellar distances in fractions of a day. Unfortunately, the real world poses much greater constraints. Even cruising at one-tenth the speed of light (well beyond our current or imaginary technology), the trip to star system Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbor, would take nearly 45 years. Some of the latest research reveals the damage even a few months in space causes to the human body. By contrast, Earth’s environment seems ideally suited for humans.

Perhaps the most well-known peril of long periods of time in space relates to bone density loss and kidney stones. NASA implements a strenuous exercise regimen, supplemented by medication, to combat these risks. Not surprisingly, muscle degeneration also occurs in the weightless environment of space. According to a recent study of zero gravity on the muscles supporting the back, staying aboard the International Space Station for 6 months resulted in a 5–10% decrease in muscle mass. Back on Earth, the astronauts’ muscle mass returned to normal values within a year or so. However, muscle density also decreased by similar amounts while in space. For some muscles, the effects of this density decrease were measurable 2–4 years later.1

Perhaps exercise and nutrient intake can counteract the effects of long-term space travel, but research also reveals human immune system problems. Another team of scientistsinvestigated the levels of “natural killer cells” (NK cells) for astronauts spending six months or more in space. These NK cells are white blood cells that kill cancerous cells and prevent viral cells within the body from reactivating. The team drew blood samples before launch, during flight, and after return for the astronauts, as well as a control sample of people who remained on Earth. The study showed that the level of NK cells on the long spaceflights decreased by 50%.2 If such an effect grows with flight duration, the consequences would result in most (if not all) space travelers developing cancer or succumbing to previous viral infections that immune systems on Earth naturally keep in check. Such problems become more severe considering that long-duration spaceflights induce a condition called HALS—hydrocephalus associated with long-duration spaceflight. The buildup of fluid in the brain causes increased brain pressure in the part of the brain responsible for body movement and higher executive function.

These problems result from spaceflights near Earth. Longer trips, like going to Mars, bring another, more severe problem. Flights to Mars require more than six months outside the protective confines of Earth’s magnetic field. Consequently, space travelers are exposed to cosmic radiation that the magnetic field deflects from Earth’s inhabitants. Mice provide a good proxy for the human physiology, so a team of researchers exposed mice to radiation doses similar to those encountered on a trip to Mars. The study showed that cosmic radiation dosage severely damaged the intestinal lining of the mice. Specifically, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract has a 3- to 5-day self-renewing mechanism that keeps the top layers of the tract healthy. The cosmic rays disrupted this renewing mechanism, which dramatically affects nutrient absorption and leads to cancerous growth.3 Additionally, signs of the damage remain at least one year after the radiation exposure ends.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate two points. First, space travel may capture the human imagination, but the physiological toll of traveling anywhere beyond the Moon may destroy any hope to journey beyond our home planet. Second, the environment of space exposes humanity to seriously detrimental effects. However, our well-designed Earth provides an incredible environment for humanity (and an abundant array of diverse life) to not only survive but to truly thrive.

Endnotes
  1. Katelyn Burkhart, Brett Allaire, and Mary Bouxsein, “Negative Effects of Long-Duration Spaceflight on Paraspinal Muscle Morphology,” Spine, published ahead of print (December 8, 2018), doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000002959.
  2. Austin B. Bigley et al., “NK-Cell Function Is Impaired during Long-duration Spaceflight,” Journal of Applied Physiology (November 1, 2018), doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00761.2018.
  3. Santosh Kumar et al., “Space Radiation Triggers Persistent Stress Response, Increases Senescent Signaling, and Decreases Cell Migration in Mouse Intestine,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, no. 42 (October 16, 2018): E9832-41, doi:10.1073/pnas.1807522115.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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