Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Review of “Why I Am Not A Christian” by Bertrand Russell: Part IV The Argument From Design

Right from the beginning I will have to disagree with Russell on what the design argument is. He writes,

“You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design.”

In my studies what Russell has described here is the “anthropic principle.” When we look at the term “anthropic” we see the Greek word anthropos which means humans. Hence the “anthropic principle” simply states that the universe was created in such a way to sustain human life. This is different from the design argument as I understand it. The design argument typically follows the line of argument such as:

  1. The universe exhibits empirical property
  2. This empirical property demonstrates strong evidence of design
  3. If the universe exhibits design it must have a designer

I only mention this point of distinction because these two arguments have conflicting ends in that one seeks to demonstrate that the universe was made for man while the other seeks to demonstrate the existence of God.

Russell’s refutation seems to come in two parts. The first part sounds like the argument from evil and the second part is a scientific argument from the law of entropy. For his first refutation Russell says,

“When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience has been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku-Klux-Klan or the Fascists?”

Basically this refutation states,

  1. If God exists He would be omnipotent and omniscient
  2. If God created this world it would exhibit His omnipotence and omniscience
  3. The world has defects
  4. Therefore, it could not have been created by an omnipotent and omniscient God

In-bedded within this refutation is a false dilemma. The dilemma is this, the argument asserts that either this world exhibits God’s omnipotence and omniscience or God does not exist. What makes this dilemma false is that these are not the only two available options. Consider the possibility that creating a world consistent with man’s finite understanding of the ideal world would violate a different aspect of His character, like justice for example. It could be the case that by allowing the defects, that God does in the world, that He is actuality keeping His justice and by doing so He keeps His omnipotence and omniscience. Such a proposition negates the dilemma created by Russell.

Russell does make a good point when he says,

“Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system.”

The refutation is, if the world was made to sustain life why doesn’t it? Here again we run into the problem that Russell is attacking the anthropic principle not the design argument. The design argument states that the universe exhibits design therefore it must have had a designer. Perhaps as a critique against the anthropic principle Russell might be on to something, but as a refutation of design argument he has missed the point.

Does Russell have a point here? I would say no because he has failed to address the design argument. The design argument is one of the proofs for the existence of God; however, the purpose of his paper is to explain why he isn’t a Christian. I’m assuming he means to refute Christianity by refuting God’s existence. Herein lies the real problem. Arguments for the existence of God only seem to deal with an “abstract concept god” and in doing so  fails to deal with the personal triune God of the Bible who is described in terms of basicality1 such as “the alpha and omega”. If God is properly basic as I am suggesting that He is, it won’t be enough to refute the classical arguments for His existence; rather Russell would have to refute the ontological merits for Christianity.


1. For an explanation of “basicality” look at Warrant And Proper Function by Alvin Plantinga.

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Quote: Russell Moore on the Gospel

“Strangely enough, the increasing marginalization of Christianity offers an opportunity for the church to reclaim a gospel vision that has been too often obscured, even within the sectors of the church we think of as “conservative.” Russell Moore, Onward

This passage from Moore’s book Onward could catch us off guard. In other words the assumption might be, how can we go wrong by being conservative? If we qualify that term a bit we want to conserve the teachings of Christ. However, Moore describes a situation where we (the church) have rested on our laurels of be conservative so much so that the primary issues of Christ crucified have become “obscured” in exchange for something more like social conservatism.

More’s suggestion that we reclaim the gospel vision is definitely a good point. I would also add that we begin to open dialogue so that we might discuss what that even means.

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Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, And Practical Approaches

EschatologyD.Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider, Eschatology; Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches (Kregel Academic, 2016). 501 pgs.

Eschatology (or the study of the end) has fallen on challenging times. What was once understood as a facet of the gospel intended to provide the Church with hope, has now become fodder for end times prognosticators.  This shift in emphasis represents a system that relegates the discussion of Eschatology proper to secondary status since it is erroneously seen as theories about the tribulation, rapture, and millennium to the exclusion of emphasis on Christ’s Second Advent and the hope that is provided therein.

Eschatology; Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches, is a festschrift (a collection of essays written in honor of a particular scholar) dedicated to Craig Blaising in honor of his sixty-fifth birthday. Blaising’s work extended to theological method, Patristics, Wesley, but he is most notably known for his work in eschatology and more precisely Progressive Dispensationalism, hence the subject matter of this festschrift. This work is without the end time’s speculations that typically make up books on eschatology. Rather, I see this work as an attempt to make inroads with the blessed hope for which eschatology was intended.

The subtitle reads “Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches” outlining the focus of the book. The book is divided into four parts, the first being The Doctrine of the Future and Its Foundation. The purpose of this section is to orient the reader on key foundational concepts such as continuities and discontinuities between Old and New Testaments, the teaching of future things and their relation to the hope that is offered to the believer, and since eschatology hinges on biblical prophecy, this section offers a discussion on the weakening of prophecy which seeks to explain how future prophetic fulfillment is undermined, hence causing a “weakening.”

No work on eschatology would be complete without reviewing the subject matter in light of Biblical Theology. Part 2 provides such a treatment with discussions on Old Testament teachings of the future, covering the Pentateuch, historical books, wisdom literature, and ending in the prophets. The discussion continues into the New Testament covering the writings of John, the Synoptic Gospels, the writings of Paul, and Hebrews.

Having covered Biblical Theology, Part 3 discusses Historical Theology. In so doing, it traces the teaching of western patristic writers like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin, Athanasius, and Augustine and in the Reformation era, such authors as John Calvin and the Anabaptists. Other collective bodies such as the Baptists and contemporary evangelical theology are also dealt with. This treatment of historical theology helps the reader understand how the biblical data was understood in various traditions, eras, and among different Christian denominations.

Lastly there is the “Practical” approach mentioned in the subtitle. Part 4 rightfully concludes the work on eschatology with a section on how to properly inculcate eschatology into ministry. I realize this might sound foreign but it is important reminding us that all good theology is practical.

There is much to commend in this book. Primarily that the message of hope is central to the study of eschatology. It isn’t uncommon to find in works of eschatology a speculative approach accompanied by an argumentative tone that leaves the reader wondering how this is at all relevant to the Christian faith. Such an approach is detrimental to this important biblical teaching. In Paul’s first letter to the Church of the Thessalonians he mentions the reason for him talking about future things is because he doesn’t want them to be uninformed like those who have no hope (4:13). It is evident that Paul’s message about the future was a message of hope. He further says, later in this discussion, to use this message to encourage (4:18).

This book is not however without its problems. The Dispensational system from which Craig Blaising is very fond of, tends to be presupposed throughout much of the book. This might be appropriate considering this volume was dedicated in Craig Blasing’s honor. However, it would be in error to present this volume as “…helpful to the student seeking to progress toward an evangelical, holistic, integrative, systematic perspective on the doctrine of the future (p.32)” since this type of language assumes an unbiased presentation of the teachings found in scripture. From an evangelical perspective, the presuppositions found in the various forms of Dispensationalism impose discontinuities throughout redemptive history that are not necessarily revealed by Jesus or His disciples who seem to understand redemptive history as one continuous crimson thread of redemption. Thus, for those who come out of a Dispensational background or have a pre-commitment to Dispensationalism, there is much in this volume that you will appreciate.

Personal rating is 3 STARS out of 5.

JAMES

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Conceptually this is one of the hardest for contemporary evangelicals to grasp. Any suggestion of why that might be? I’m all ears (or eye balls).
12 Therefore, just as t sin came into the world through one man, and u death through sin, and v so death spread to all men 1 because w all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but x sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not y like the transgression of Adam z who was a type of a the one who was to come.

 

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for b many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For c the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought d justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness e reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

18 Therefore, as one trespass 1 led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness 2 leads to justification and life for f all men. 19 For as by the one man’s  disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s h obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now i the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased j grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, k as sin reigned in death, l grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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