God, Evil and the Holocaust

I believe in the sun when it is not shining. I believe in love even when feeling it not. I believe in God even when He is silent.{1} These tragic words were anonymously inscribed on the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where several Jews were hiding from the Nazis. In a most profound way they raise the eternal issue of faith in a loving God both during and since the Holocaust. In fact, a more pressing question has emerged, namely whether God exists at all; and if He does, the Holocaust brings into question that either His goodness or His power to restrain evil must be diminished somehow. David Wolf Silverman, writing from within the context of Conservative Judaism, steadfastly maintains that after the Holocaust one must recognize that God is not all-powerful: The Holocaust has, I think, dismissed any easy use of omnipotence as an attribute appropriate to God. After Auschwitz, He can assert with greater force than ever before that an omnipotent God would have to be either sadistic or totally unintelligible. But if God is to be intelligible in some manner and to some extent–and to this I hold firm–then His goodness must be compatible with the existence of evil, and this is only if He is not all-powerful. Only then can we maintain that

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Does God Exist?

C. S. Lewis once remarked that God is not the sort of thing one can be moderately interested in. After all, if God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God does exist, then this is of paramount interest, and our ultimate concern ought to be how to be properly related to this being upon whom we depend moment by moment for our very existence. So people who shrug their shoulders and say, “What difference does it make if God exists?” merely show that they haven’t yet thought very deeply about this problem. Even atheist philosophers like Sartre and Camus—who have thought very seriously about this problem—admit that the existence of God makes a tremendous difference for man. Let me mention just three reasons why it makes a big difference whether God exists. 1. If God does not exist, life is ultimately meaningless. If your life is doomed to end in death, then ultimately it does not matter how you live. In the end it makes no ultimate difference whether you existed or not. Sure, your life might have a relative significance in that you influenced others or affected the course of history. But ultimately mankind is doomed to perish in the heat death of the universe. Ultimately it

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Christian Apologetics – Who Needs It?

I am honored and deeply humbled by the privilege of being invited to give the Stob Lectures this year. Indeed, I’m a bit embarrassed by all the fuss you’ve made. There’s a temptation to try to justify one’s selection as the Stob lecturer by giving some hopefully impressive, scholarly pair of lectures. But a phone call from President Plantinga made it quite clear to me that such was consistent with neither the intended purpose nor the audience of these lectures. I had thought to speak on some key topics in Christian philosophical theology. But President Plantinga encouraged me instead to address the question of Christian apologetics, a topic apparently dear to the heart of Henry Stob but somewhat neglected in recent years. He encouraged me to draw upon my years of experience as a Christian apologist to share some very practical thoughts on this discipline. So that is what I’ve decided to do. Tonight we ask ourselves the fundamental question: Christian apologetics—who needs it? To begin with, I think we ought to distinguish between apologetics’ necessity and utility. The distinction is important. For even if apologetics should turn out not to be absolutely necessary, it doesn’t follow that it is therefore useless. For example, it’s not necessary to know how to type in order to use a computer—you can hunt

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Mystery of Reincarnation

Eastern Doctrine of Reincarnation Many cultures throughout the world have long held to the concept of reincarnation. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that one in four Americans believed in reincarnation. Reincarnation literally means, “to come again in the flesh.” World religions author Geoffrey Parrinder defines reincarnation as, “the belief that the soul or some power passes after death into another body.”1 Reincarnation is a major facet of the eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Many sects have variant views of reincarnation. Here is a general summary of the basic principles. Most hold to a pantheistic view of God. Pantheism comes from the Greek pan meaning “all” and concept of theism meaning “God.” In Pantheism, God is an impersonal force made up of all things; the universe is God and God is the universe. All created beings are an extension of or an emanation from God. Living things possess a physical body and an immaterial entity called the soul, life force, or Jiva. At death, the life force separates from the body and takes a new physical form. The law of karma determines what form the individual will take. This law teaches that one’s thoughts, words, and deeds have an ethical consequence fixing one’s lot in future existences.2 Our present state is the result of actions and intentions performed in a previous life. The amount of good or bad karma attained in

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Jesus’ Resurrection: When Truth Confronts our Worst Suffering

Originally published in the book A Thinking Christian’s Devotional, by Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington (Zondervan, forthcoming, 2008). Good theology is indispensable. Having strong reasons for these beliefs is even better. But being able to apply both to the worst suffering we will ever face may be the toughest task of all. My wife and I visited the hospital in 1995 for what were described as fairly routine tests. Within minutes, however, my world changed forever. Debbie might have cancer. But I was unprepared for the final verdict: terminal stomach cancer. There was no remedy. I measured my life by the severity of the shocking news that arrived repeatedly in the days ahead. Sometimes I was unsure how to place one foot in front of the other. I remember those days very clearly, along with the daunting questions. Debbie was only 43 years old. We had four children still at home. But four months later she died. We celebrated our 23rd anniversary while she was in bed. My dearest friend was gone. Irrevocably. The pain failed to subside. What could I tell my children? I said this was the worst pain I could experience. During our ordeal, a graduate student asked me: “Where would you be now if Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead?” I have spent 40

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Apologetics of Jesus: Interview with Author Patrick Zukeran

Written by Probe Ministries Administrator Question: This is a very interesting topic, The Apologetics of Jesus. What inspired this book? Zukeran: While I was in a doctoral class with Dr. Norman Geisler, he stated one day in class, “You may be surprised to discover, the greatest apologist is Jesus Himself. Someone needs to write a book on the apologetics of Jesus. In 2000 years of Christian history, no one has written on this subject.” The idea of studying the apologetic methods of Jesus and knowing that no one had written on the subject really stirred my interest. It thus became my doctoral project. Question: You said that after you finished, you realized this would be an extremely important book for the body of Christ. Why do you feel this is a critically significant work? Zukeran: There is a lot of confusion regarding the role and the need for apologetics in ministry. Many Christians believe our faith in Christ involves a blind leap of faith. In other words, our faith calls for acceptance of Christ without any reason or evidence. Therefore, in evangelism Christians should simply preach the gospel and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. When Christians are challenged by other worldviews or ideas of the culture, we often fail to offer well-reasoned and substantial answers. Often I hear Christians say, “You just

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Pagan Connection: Did Christianity Borrow From Mystery Religions?

One of the popular ideas being promoted today particularly on the internet is the idea that the miracle stories of Jesus were borrowed from ancient pagan myths, commonly referred to as “mystery religions.”  Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy write in their book, The Laughing Jesus, “Each mystery religion taught its own version of the myth of the dying and resurrecting Godman, who was known by different names in different places.  In Egypt, where the mysteries began, he was Osiris.  In Greece he became Dionysus, in Asia Minor he is known as Attis, in Syria he is Adonis, in Persia he is Mithras, in Alexandria he is Serapis, to name a few.”1 Proponents of this idea point out that there are several parallels between these pagan myths and the story of Jesus Christ. Parallels cited include a virgin birth, a divine Son of God, the god dying for mankind, resurrection from the dead, and more. Skeptics allege that Christianity did not present any unique teaching but instead borrowed the majority of their tenets from the mystery religions. Some of the alleged parallels indeed appear to be quite striking. One example is the god Mithras. This myth teaches that Mithras was born of a virgin in a cave, that he was a traveling teacher with twelve disciples, that he promised his disciples eternal life, and that he sacrificed himself for the world. In addition, the Greek

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Jesus In Ancient Non-Christian Sources

A frequent criticism that is raised against the historical defense of Christianity is that all the information we have on Jesus comes exclusively from the Gospels and that there are no ancient non-Christian works which affirm a historical Jesus. One of the underlying assumptions is that Christians authored the Gospels and their bias toward Christ makes their work untrustworthy. There are several reasons why we should not be so quick to dismiss the Gospels. It is true that the writers of the Gospels were believers. However, this does not mean they were not capable of recording an accurate historical account. One must investigate the facts, not the bias of the writer. No person or historian can claim to be completely unbiased and neutral. However, the facts of history are not biased and can be investigated. Therefore, it is the historical evidence that should be studied and they are consistent with the Gospel accounts. Second, the internal and external evidence reveal that the Gospels were written and circulated within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Some are written twenty to thirty years after the life of Christ. This is an important because the account of the Gospels were scrutinized by followers as well as enemies of Christianity. If there were fabrications and exaggerations, the enemies of Christianity could have easily discredited the

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How I Know Christianity is True

Because Christianity Teaches the Correct Worldview Among all the religions and philosophies, how do we know Christianity is true? While there are many ways to address the question, let’s begin by saying that Christianity makes sense of the world around us. In other words, it presents the most correct worldview based on the world in which we live. There are three worldviews that lie at the foundation of all religions and philosophies: theism, naturalism, and pantheism. Theism teaches there is a personal God who created the universe. Naturalism teaches there is no divine being and that the universe is the result of time and chance. Pantheism teaches that the universe is eternal and that the divine is an impersonal force made up of all things. All three worldviews cannot be true at the same time and if one of them is true, the other two must be false. The evidence from our study of the universe points to theism. Unfortunately, time will allow me to go over only three lines of evidence. The first is the argument from first cause or the cosmological argument, which states if something exists, it must have either come from something else, come from nothing, or have always existed. What is the most reasonable conclusion of the three for the existence of the universe? Scientists

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Proof of God’s Existence

See a Hopeless Future There are three questions every human being must consider. Of all the creatures on earth, man alone must inevitably wrestle with “Who am I?”,  “Why am I here?”, and “Where am I going?” Your answers determine your moral standards, your life goals, and your approach to the future, including its inevitable end. Your world view will determine how you answer these questions. Man once answered these questions based on his understanding of a Creator. That all changed with the Enlightenment. A new world view engulfed western culture where science and human reason became the chief measure of truth. Many influential thinkers discarded religion like an old garment and replaced it with the finer garments of Enlightenment thinking. As a result, man sought answers without reference to God. However, as he studied and refined his conclusions, he discovered them to be dark and terrifying. Who Am I? How does an atheist answer the question, “Who am I?” Atheists will often attribute great value to humanity, but they don’t have a logical reason for that intrinsic meaning. Most atheists believe the universe is the result of an accident. It is a product of an accidental atomic explosion, the “Big Bang.” The ultimate source of the universe is the result of a mindless collision of atoms. Cosmologist Victor Stenger states, “. . . physicists are now claiming that the hundreds of billions of stars

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