Apologetics class

A high school senior emailed me and asked me to answer a bunch of questions, for her “Apologetics class.” Here are the questions and my short replies, for amusement value:

What is the origin of the universe and man? 

As physicists and biologists describe it. 

What is the purpose of mankind? 

We’re not tools: not the sort of things that have a predetermined purpose. 

What is satisfaction and how do I obtain it? (how can I be happy) 

This probably does not have a useful answer applicable to everyone. 

What has gone wrong with the world? (Why is there evil in the world – Why do bad things happen to good people) 

The way the world works is indifferent to human flourishing or suffering. 

What is the solution to the problems we face? (what happens when I fail and how do I make things right) 

There is no single meaningful answer to such a question. 

What is right and wrong? (is moral truth absolute or relative) 

Right and wrong is due to the interests of and agreements between sentient beings. 

Is there a universal moral law? (does everyone know the difference between right and wrong) 

No.

What happens at death? (Where are we going when we die- How do we know and what does it look like, and if it is heaven-then how do we get there) 

Life ends. 

What does your faith do with the person of Jesus? 

Faith?

Too bad I’m not going to get to see the canned apologetic comparisons between “faith”s designed to make Christianity the One True Faith.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01495983897864604830 Andy

    "Is there a universal moral law? (does everyone know the difference between right and wrong)"

    The Golden Rule has been discovered independently by many civilizations. It seems to me that the Golden Rule is a device akin to the wheel or agriculture in terms helping civilzations work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    What happened to the questions 'Who made God?' 'How do we judge God as good?' 'How many people has God killed?'

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12002307181752334098 drj

    I hope the apologetics teachers also provide students with a lesson about the fallacy of the complex question.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18014013543336380474 Andy Breeden

    What high school? I hope my taxes aren't involved.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    At least your answers possessed the virtue of brevity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    While my questions will never be answered in an apologetics class…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08766692378954258034 Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.

    If you'd like a 752 page response to your worldview, see my book, Christian Apologetics. There is nothing "canned" about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Would it not be simpler just to produce your god?

    And could you tell me on which page you answer the question 'How many people has God killed?'

    If that is not covered, I would like not to waste money buying your book.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Good answers, Taner! Sadly, I think that the answers your correspondent will be expected to give are these:

    What is the origin of the universe and man?

    Jesus.

    What is the purpose of mankind?

    Jesus.

    What is satisfaction and how do I obtain it? (how can I be happy)

    Jesus.

    What has gone wrong with the world? (Why is there evil in the world – Why do bad things happen to good people)

    Satan.

    What is the solution to the problems we face? (what happens when I fail and how do I make things right)

    Jesus.

    What is right and wrong? (is moral truth absolute or relative)

    What Jesus said is absolutely right.

    Is there a universal moral law? (does everyone know the difference between right and wrong)

    Jesus knew. Do what Jesus says.

    What happens at death? (Where are we going when we die- How do we know and what does it look like, and if it is heaven-then how do we get there)

    We live with Jesus if we are Christians and Satan if we are not.

    What does your faith do with the person of Jesus?

    See above answers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    Keith,

    Aside from the fact that everyone is going to heaven, these answers are pretty much on target. You are right about their simplicity but you completely miss their profundity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Keith, how much did it cost you to go on the apologetics course to learn all this?

    And what did you do after lunch?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00272810600675888742 MereChristian

    @Douglas Groothuis One of the members of a facebook group that I regularly post on has read your book.

    We were surprised that you made many scientific errors when it came to the theory of evolution.

    We plan on making a Doc covering those mistakes. If you'd like to join the group, here's a link.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/214832310976/

    Best Wishes

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Following Keith's example, here are my answers:

    What is the origin of the universe and man?

    Christ.

    What is the purpose of mankind?

    To attain perfection in Christ.

    What is satisfaction and how do I obtain it? (how can I be happy)

    To freely come closer to Christ.

    What has gone wrong with the world? (Why is there evil in the world – Why do bad things happen to good people)

    Nothing. Because we are still far from Christ. Bad things may and do happen to everyone.

    What is the solution to the problems we face? (what happens when I fail and how do I make things right)

    To turn towards Christ. You fail when you turn away from Christ, and you do things right when you follow Christ.

    What is right and wrong? (is moral truth absolute or relative)

    Right is what moves one closer to Christ, and wrong is what moves one away from Christ. Moral truth is objective (in the sense that it does not depend on opinion or fashion) but also relative to the state of each person.

    Is there a universal moral law? (does everyone know the difference between right and wrong)

    Yes. Everyone has a basic sense of right and wrong, and that sense improves when one moves towards Christ.

    What happens at death? (Where are we going when we die- How do we know and what does it look like, and if it is heaven-then how do we get there)

    Our condition of life evolves. We go to the afterlife. We know that we shall go to the afterlife by making sense of the whole of our experience of our current life. Heaven is not a place but a direction, namely the direction towards Christ.

    What does your faith do with the person of Jesus?

    Faith is the strength and the knowledge that comes from loving Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Taner Edis said…

    What is the purpose of mankind?

    We're not tools: not the sort of things that have a predetermined purpose.
    ===================

    Comment:

    If there were a God, and if God had some sort of purpose and/or plan for my life, would that give my life purpose?

    Obviously, if there were a God, this person would be smatter than me (omniscient) and also better than me (perfectly good). So, any plans or purposes of such a person would have some advantage over any plans or purposes that I might generate for myself.

    However, there is no obvious reason why the plans and purposes of a perfect person would provide purpose for my life while the plans and purposes of a limited and imperfect person (such as myself) would not do the same. If a perfect person can create purpose and value in my life, then so can I.

    Conversely, if I am unable to confer purpose and value on my own life, then I see no reason to believe that some other person, even an unlimited and perfect person, could do so.

    Furthermore, if the absolutely perfect being is a person, then I share in the powers and qualities of perfection, for I too am a person. Part of what it means to be a person, it seems to me, is having the ability to form plans and purposes. So, it seems to me that if I rely on some other being to create plans and purposes for me, then I am irrationally sacrificing in myself what is of most value about myself, my own personhood.

    If there is a God, if there is a perfect person, and if this person planned for the coming into being of other persons, such as myself, then it seems to me that one of the main purposes of this perfect person was probably to make it possible for there to be other beings with the capacity to generate plans and purposes for themselves.

    Thus, if there is a God, it seems to me to be contrary to the will of such a person to look to that being as the source of my own plans and purposes, and that rather the best thing I can do is to ignore the existence of this being and go on my own way, creating plans and purposes on my own, as imperfect and flawed as those may turn out to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    In short, if there is a divine purpose or plan for my life, it is very likely that the plan or purpose is for me to be an autonomous person, a being that creates its own plans and purposes, without grovelling at the feet of some other person and begging for that person to create plans and purposes for me, no matter how superior that other person may be to myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    If God exists, God probably does not want us to be mindless obedient servants of his plans and purposes. That would be contrary to God's will.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    Bradley Bowen,

    Why are you prone to false dilemmas?

    Is it not possible to be an obedient servant without being mindless?

    Is groveling the only alternative to autonomy?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    The Campus Crusade for Christ used to distribute pamphlets called "The Four Spiritual Laws." Law One was "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Of course, God's wonderful plan for some people seems to be that they die as infants in house fires. Be that as it may, this "law" always left me with some serious questions:

    First, how do I find out what God's wonderful plan is for me? How will it be revealed? I assume that I will not get a revelation as dramatic as the one Paul got on the road to Damascus. How, then, do I recognize the revelation when it comes, and distinguish it from a mere happenstance or coincidence? If I spend a night of soul-searching about my future, and the next day a packet arrives by mail inviting me to consider joining the Peace Corps, is this a divine message or just a coincidence? On the other hand, do I just get a strong gut feeling about what to do? Gee, I have often had those and they frequently turned out to be dead wrong. Will God's plan for me automatically coincide with my aptitudes and interests? Well, in that case, shouldn't I just takes some tests and consult a guidance counselor? In that case, talk of ascertaining "God's plan" would be completely superfluous.

    Second, if I do find out God's wonderful plan for me, what if I do not care for it? Will God punish me if I use my (God-given) free will to choose to do something else? What, for instance, if God's wonderful plan for me is to go to Mali to be a missionary, but I do not like hot, dry climates, so I choose to go to graduate school to study philosophy? Will God punish me by making me fail grad school? Maybe this is just the wrong way to look at it. Maybe I can be assured ahead of time that God's wonderful plan will precisely coincide with the course in life that I would ideally choose for myself, so I don't have to worry about being shipped off to the Sahara. But if God's plan for me is always precisely what I would ideally have planned for myself anyway, i.e., whether or not there was a God who had any plans for me, what sense does it make to speak of these plans as God's? If God has individual plans for us, it should be practically possible to distinguish them from merely human plans, right?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    Keith Parsons,

    I will let CCC reps answer your questions.

    For my part, I think the CCC rhetoric was well-intended but unfortunate. God's plan for life is that we believe in Him and love one another. You can do that no matter what your occupation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    February 1, 2012 11:53:00 AM CST

    Mike Gantt said…

    Is it not possible to be an obedient servant without being mindless?

    ==============

    Response:

    In this context being an 'obedient servant' means thinking that one cannot have meaning and purpose in one's life apart from relying on someone else (e.g. God) to create plans and purposes for one's life and finding out what those plans and purposes are, and living one's life strictly following those plans and purposes.

    This sort of viewpoint is 'mindless' in that it requires one to sacrifice something that, it seems to me, is important and valuable about being a person with a mind: creating plans and purposes for oneself.

    I think my point here is closely connected with Existentialism, and the concept of 'bad faith' in that philosophy.

    Many people appear to want desperately to escape from their own freedom and responsability as autonomous beings and to let someone else make the tough and important decisions in life for them.

    They look for a guru, messiah, fearless leader, wise man, priest, holy book, or deity to tell them how to live their lives, but fail to see that they have not really escaped from their freedom and responsability for their actions, because it is THEY who make the choice as to which guru, messiah, dictator, holy book, etc. they will follow or serve.

    We are condemned to be free, so the desperate attempt to find someone else to make the tough and important decisions for one, is irrational, and the belief that one has 'let go and let God' and succeeded in this attempt, is 'bad faith', that is, it is a form of self-deception.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    Bradley Bowen,

    As I said, you're positing a false dilemma. Elaborating on it doesn't make it any less false.

    True freedom means the ability to live for the sake of love. And the presence of God means that the meaning and purposes we choose will endure beyond this lifetime.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Mike Gantt said…

    As I said, you're positing a false dilemma. Elaborating on it doesn't make it any less false.
    =============
    Response:

    Simply asserting that I have put forward a false dilemma does not amount to a good reason for anyone to believe that I have put forward a false dilemma.

    You need to give some sort of explanation and reasons to support your objection.

    1. What do you see as the dilemma?
    (i.e. What do you understand to be the two lemmas that make up the dilemma?)

    2. Why do you say it is a false one?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    Bradley Bowen,

    I addressed your questions in my initial comment to you. I repeat them here:

    Is it not possible to be an obedient servant without being mindless?

    Is groveling the only alternative to autonomy?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X