Mini Book Review of ‘The End of Reason’ by Ravi Zacharias

endofreasonThe End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias was written as a response to what has been dubbed ‘New Atheism’. Primarily, it was written to refute the philosophy of atheist Sam Harris who wrote The End of Faith.

Zacharias’ arguments in this book are logical, concise, and articulate. I love the way his brain works! Zacharias is an evangelist and apologist that brings a unique perspective to theology and philosophy. He is an “Indian-born Canadian-American” with a Master of Divinity, several honorary doctorates, and an undergraduate degree. He brings to the table a command of logic and language that is unparalleled along with a cultural experience that is uniquely his own. Because of his unique background, Zacharias writes in a voice that is distinctly his own – and I appreciate that.

This book makes short work of the philosophy championed by Sam Harris and others. Zacharias places the worldview of new atheism alongside that of Christianity and exposes the hate, despair, and hopelessness of the new atheist. As Zacharias unravels the arguments of Sam Harris, he exposes them as illogical and unfulfilling.

On a side note, Zacharias writes as a former atheist who was once on the brink of suicide. His experience seems to have ignited in him a passion for revealing the illogical endgame of the new atheist and in this book he does so in remarkable fashion.

 

In Pursuit of the Truth: Is the news media capable of just reporting the truth?

nawkmlp3tvs-samantha-sophiaI watch a lot of news — probably too much if you ask my wife. I’m conservative, so most of the time my TV is tuned to Fox News, but I also try to be responsible and glean my news from additional sources. One of my favorite phone apps is “NPR News” because it instantly notifies me of breaking stories.

I must admit, however, that I have a problem with all my news sources — I don’t believe any of them anymore. Television, print, radio, internet … I’m convinced they’re all more concerned with peddling their personal agendas rather than reporting the news. One source wants to convince us that anyone who supports Obama and Hillary is a communist while the other tries to portray every Trump voter as a white supremacist. I simply refuse to believe such nonsense, however, the people that report the news seem to really believe it — and that’s a problem.

In the good old days, the news came on at six — the local news was first followed by the national news. The news anchors read the story and then moved on to the next one. They had to move quick because they generally had only a half an hour to get through it all. There was an order; news, weather, sports, goodnight.

I kind of miss those days.

With the advent of 24/7 news coverage, networks became pressured to fill time. That pressure resulted in more opinion pieces being woven into the news. When such “editorials” proved popular they began to dominate the timeslots more and more until there was no such thing as pure, unbiased news. Newspapers, blogs, and radio all followed suit. Some of the sources I see otherwise intelligent people cite actually frighten me with their bias. With all the talk of “fake news” in the media these days I feel like screaming, “It’s all fake news!”

It’s almost as if we’re no longer concerned with truth. We’d rather our opinions be validated than to learn the truth.

Scripture tells us that God is the God of Truth (Deuteronomy 32:4). Psalm 19:9 tells us that God’s judgments are true and righteous. Jesus even said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). When you read the Bible you can’t escape the idea that truth exists and is important to God. And if truth is important to God, it should be important to us.

By its very nature, truth is objective. I don’t get to determine truth. Truth is also no respecter of persons. What’s true for you is true for me. Because of its nature, only an objective God can determine what is true. Scripture teaches that Jesus was the Truth (John 14:6), that He spoke the Truth (John 18:37), and that He was executed for speaking that Truth.

Because the truth is objective, it is often offensive. When Jesus says “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” you may find it offensive, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

It’s the same with all truth. When we don’t like the truth we get offended. We attack. We argue. We cast aspersions. We do everything we can to nail the truth to a tree. Why? I suppose it’s easier to fight against the truth than it is to change our hearts.

We live in a day and age where news sources will knowingly report lies and then defend those lies by hiding behind the First Amendment. This will not change until we, as consumers of the news, begin to demand the truth.

Personally, I would rather my news sources just tell me what happened. Just tell me the truth so I can then turn to God through Scripture and prayer to discern how I should respond to that truth.

Then again, maybe Tom Cruise is right. Maybe we can’t handle the truth.

 

 

Google Chrome Was Killing My MacBook!

Last night I was trying to work on a sermon using my MacBook Pro. During the course of my work, I was switching between my Logos Bible Software, Microsoft Word, and a number of tabs on Google Chrome when my MacBook grinded to a near halt. If I clicked on anything, and I mean anything, I got the dreaded beachball of doom for several minutes. Just trying to empty my trash was futile. Needless to say, after four hours of dealing with my uncooperative Mac, I was no longer in the mood to write a sermon.

This morning I woke up on the verge of ordering a new Mac that I really can’t afford. Fortunately, my common sense kicked in and  I decided to revisit the situation and try to figure out what was going on. I had already tried to restart the computer several times with no success in speeding it up. This morning I ran diagnostics which revealed there was no problem with my hard drive. I then googled diagnostic options and found a recommendation to run the Activity Monitor to see what processes were eating up my CPU. Low and behold one single process was using 120% of my CPU – Google Chrome Helper. 

A quick web search led me to this article on elanmorgan.com, ‘How to Fix a Slow Mac: Your Chrome Browser Might Be the Problem‘. As it turns out, Elan sped up her Mac by simply quitting Google Chrome. So I gave it a shot. Just by quitting Google Chrome and using Safari instead, my speed issues seem to have been resolved.

Apparently, it may be possible to kill Google Chrome Helper without giving up Google Chrome itself (see this article), but as much as I like Chrome, it was much easier to just turn it off.

Having problems with the speed on your mac? Turn Chrome off and see if it helps.

 

Book Review of ‘Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash … A Lone Survivor … a Journey to Heaven — and Back’ by Dale Black

flightI have a love/hate relationship with audio books. While I love the idea of them, I typically hate actually listening to them. This book was an exception to that rule. Read in the author’s own voice, Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash … A Lone Survivor … A Journey to Heaven — and Back is pilot Dale Black’s story of surviving a horrific plane crash.

As the title suggests, Dale Black submits that after his crash he visited Heaven. This fact alone almost caused me to dismiss the book. Why? Perhaps I’m just a cynic, but there are numerous titles in bookstores everywhere that suggest similar stories. The odds alone suggest many of them are false. I’m glad, however, that I gave this book a chance. This book is less about Dale Black’s visit to Heaven and more about the life he led after his visit to Heaven.
Black’s injuries were devasting. nearly every bone in one leg was shattered and he was left unable to walk, much less fly a plane. However, his faith in God allowed him to not only recover, but to thrive amid such darkness. Dale Black’s life was changed and, as a result, he changed the lives of others.
I should add that listening to his story in the author’s own voice added to my enjoyment. I got the sense that Black was less telling a story and more sharing his testimony – at times, almost reluctantly, but at all times humbly. Black never seemed to glorify himself but rather seemed more concerned with glorifying the One who saved him from his crash.
I enjoyed this audiobook a great deal and highly recommend it to anyone who needs to hear an inspirational story of hope and survival.

Mini Book Review of ‘The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions’ by David Berlinski

devilsdelusionIn The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions biologist and philosopher David Berlinski brings a unique voice to the table. Berlinski describes himself as a secular Jew yet he offers a biting defense of religious thought. Berlinksi is critical of skeptical arguments against religious thought on the grounds that they often misrepresent the science behind the argument. He is also critical of Darwinian evolution but he offers his critique from an angle that should be palatable to the skeptic.

There are times during this book that Berlinski sounds very “religious” but he goes beyond simply rehashing old arguments and offers a fresh perspective that I appreciate a great deal.

Review of ‘The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw’ by Norman L. Geisler and Daniel J. McCoy

fatalflawThe field of apologetics can be classified into two categories, negative and positive. Negative apologetics is concerned with making a defense of the Christian faith while positive apologetics is more concerned with attacking the beliefs of non-Christians. This is book is, by and large, a work of positive apologetics as it furiously attacks the inconsistencies held by atheists.

Geisler and McCoy spend a great deal of time clarifying the arguments of popular atheists through extensive research and quotations. In fact, there are moments throughout the book I felt they were articulating atheistic thought too well. It is not an overstatement to suggest Geisler and McCoy understand atheistic claims far better than most atheists I’ve encountered. The two dive deep into the subject and articulate the opposing position clearly and fairly.

Using atheist’s own words to frame their arguments, the authors expose some major inconsistencies in atheistic thought. Primarily, these inconsistencies lie in the area of moral evil, God’s intervention, and the atheist’s own concern with human autonomy. While atheist’s condemn a God who doesn’t directly intervene in the face of moral evil, they accuse Him of violating human autonomy when He does intervene.

Basically, this book destroys atheistic philosophy. One could argue that the authors could spend more time focusing on negative apologetics and defending Christian philosophy, however, this is all implied when not directly stated. As it stands, this book can be read in just a couple of hours and does a good job of articulating the authors’ positions from beginning to end.

I highly recommend it.

 

God, Faith, Empirical Evidence and Grace.

skepticSkeptics commonly charge that if any such thing as God actually existed there would be empirical evidence available for all of us to study and thus recognize His existence. Empirical evidence meaning evidence that can be observed, measured, and experimented with according to Scientific Methodology. Skeptics suggest such evidence would remove all doubt to the existence of God and presumably put us all on the same playing field.

My first reaction to such claims is that I’m not entirely sure it’s impossible to measure and observe the existence of a Biblical God … and I plan on writing some posts in the future to address this. However, I suspect what most skeptics are objecting to is the fact that God hasn’t removed each and every one of their own doubts. One skeptic I encountered took great offense that Jesus would offer proof to “Doubting” Thomas by way of allowing him to examine His scars, however, He has never appeared and offered the same proof to modern-day skeptics.

So skeptics take umbrage to the idea that God has not removed all of their doubts, questions, fears, and concerns. Why wouldn’t God make His presence known beyond a shadow of a doubt for everyone to see? It’s a fair question. In fact, it’s a question I’ve asked in the past and it’s the question I hope to address with this post.

It’s quite helpful to examine the life, ministry, and teachings of Christ when asking questions of God. Christ is, after all, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). The Son reveals the Father to us and, as it turns out, Jesus was asked a very similar question as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, You will keep on hearing, but will not understandYou will keep on seeing, but will not perceive15 For the heart of this people has become dullWith their ears they scarcely hearAnd they have closed their eyesOtherwise they would see with their eyesHear with their earsAnd understand with their heart and returnAnd I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

In this passage, the Apostles ask Jesus why He so often teaches people using parables. In other words, they asked Him why He didn’t give it to the people strait. Why did Jesus speak in parables when He could offer them empirical, objective, measurable, and scientific proof? Jesus’ answer provides us with a clue as to what’s going on.

Jesus tells His disciples that he speaks to the multitudes in parables because while they are seeing, they don’t see, and while they are hearing, they don’t understand. Jesus tells His disciples that the hearts of the people have grown dull. There problem wasn’t that Jesus had failed to provide them with proof, but rather they had rejected the proof He had already offered. The same Jesus that now spoke to the multitudes in parables had healed the sick, preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was near, healed the blind, exorcised demons, and even raised the dead! He had given them proof but they failed to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. They saw, but they didn’t see. They heard, but they didn’t understand. Their hearts were dull. So now, Jesus spoke to them in parables.

By their very nature, parables are designed to make people think. They take a fable, fairy tale, or story and place it along side reality in a way that illuminates and reveals the truth. On the surface they may seem like simple stories, but as you dig into them a little but truth is revealed. Jesus used parables when speaking to people who had, by and large, rejected Him. Their hearts were dull, so Jesus used parables to engage their mind. He wanted them to think about what He said. His parables served two purposes. For believers, those who had been granted to know the mysteries of the Gospel, would hear a parable and learn even more about their God. Unbelievers, those with a dull heart, would in turn be given something to chew on, to ponder, and to contemplate.

The alternative was simple. Jesus could have simply given them undeniable proof, but he had already done that. He had performed miracles and preached the Kingdom and they rejected Him. So He spoke to them in parables as an act of grace. Jesus didn’t want people to reject Him outright and then face the consequences of their decisions. He wanted them chew on the parables, contemplate them, and engage their minds until their heart followed. Why?

“[Because] The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9, NASB.

It doesn’t matter how skeptical you are. You could be the staunchest of all the atheists and God’s desire is for you to come to repentance. He does not want you to perish in hell. So Jesus spoke to them in parables as a way to save them from themselves. It is better for the skeptical to ponder and contemplate a parable than it is for them to outright reject Christ. Parables are an act of grace.

In the same way, God has given us enough evidence in our world to lead us to Christ. The skeptic who demands empirical, measurable, scientific, and undeniable proofs from God is failing to see the evidence that is already there. They see without seeing, they hear without understanding. And in all fairness, yes God could appear and prove His existence to them beyond a shadow of doubt, but then they would be forced to make a choice their heart may not be ready to make. Many of the skeptics who watched Jesus perform miracles blamed evil spirits. Others failed to understand. Others demanded more signs. God bowing to your wishes and appearing before you to perform miracles is no guarantee of your willingness to believe …

Some would claim it was all special effects. Others would say it was magic or evil spirits. Others would claim God’s “in your face” miracles violated their free will to choose. Still more would demand more and more proof. Their resistance and denial would lead to their perishing.

So God gives you enough to engage your mind and your brain. He gives you enough proof to ponder and consider the world around you. To study Scriptures for yourselves. He is patiently waiting for you to accept Jesus because His desire is for none of us to perish. He is patiently showing all skeptics grace. 

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:20, NASB.