Categories
Theology

Why should I believe Jesus rose from the dead?

What is the meaning of Easter and how was it understood by the early Christians? What are some reasons people should believe in the resurrection of Jesus? John Dickson, an Australian scholar, talks a bit about this:

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HT: Centre for Public Christianity

Categories
Theology

Mad at a Myth?

HT: The Resurgence

Categories
Theology

Is Religion a Cognitive Mistake?

Mark Vernon is an agnostic journalist who writes for the Guardian in the U.K. His opinion column on October 19 was about a new book by a sociologist on the origin of religion. I can’t comment about the book, or Vernon’s comments about the book. I wanted to touch on the second paragraph in his column was about the “dominant evolutionary story for the origin of religions,” which is called “byproduct theory.”  He explains:

The human brain evolved a series of cognitive modules, a bit like a smartphone downloading applications. One was good for locomotion, another seeing, another empathy, and so on. However, different modules could interfere with one another, called “domain violation” in the literature. The app for locomotion might overrun the app for empathy and, as a result, the hapless owner of that brain might discern a spirit shifting in the rustling trees, because the branches sway a little like limbs moving. The anthropologist Pascal Boyer calls such interpretations “minimally counterintuitive”. They can’t be too random or they wouldn’t grip your imagination. But, clearly, they are not rational. Religion is, therefore, a cognitive mistake. It might once have delivered adaptive advantages: swaying branches could indicate a stalking predator, and so you’d be saved if you fled, even if you believed the threat was a ghost. But rational individuals such as, say, evolutionary theorists now see religious beliefs for what they really are.

Basically, this theory purports that all those who subscribe to a religion have had a download error in their brain. If my empathy “app” has a cyber battle with my locomotion “app” and there is a significant collision, I will take a blowing leaf as God (or “a” god) telling me to give more money to church. In other words, the only reason I go to a Sunday service or read my Bible or preach is because the rational part of my brain has been cursed with a religious blue screen of death.

To call religion a “cognitive mistake” means that only those who haven’t had this “domain violation” (i.e. those who don’t subscribe to any particular religion) are the “righteous” ones. Only they have arrived at truth. Only they know the true meaning of life. We lesser, primitive, traditional, and bigoted people are left to recover from own “smartphone” accidents.

Talk about exclusive. This doctrine is as arrogant as it gets. Its proponents are just as self-righteous as the church member who raises his nose at you if you missed the service last week.

Religion, however, is not a cognitive mistake. It is, as is any worldview (not unlike Vernon’s) an attempt to find meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and happiness that all people are hard-wired toward. Whether you are religious (“moralistic”) or not (“relativistic”), you seek for these things. I would argue that Vernon is an agnostic in order to be happy. If, in his own heart and mind, he thought himself miserable, would he remain an agnostic? Probably not.

Furthermore, every worldview is an attempt to appease the guilt of not measuring up to what our hearts know we should amount to. Everyone knows they should be better than they are. The sad truth is that we cannot make ourselves better and appease our guilt on our own. Neither moralism (“good living”) nor relativism (“do whatever I want”) will give us true meaning and atone for our failings. Is there a third way to live?

Thankfully, there is. We call this the gospel and it is altogether different than what Vernon would call “religion.” The rustling trees is not seen as a spirit shifting to woo or guide. Rather, the gospel says that God has broken into creation and spoken to us and acted on our behalf. He comes to mankind, rather than demanding service as all other religions and their “gods” do. This God became a servant, and a suffering one at that. The gospel climaxes in the person of Jesus, the God-Man, who dwelt among us. He gives true purpose, meaning, and eternal happiness to those who believe. He is more just than the religious type would claim and he is more loving than the moralist would believe. It cost God to love us. He is loving because he saves us by grace, not through our good deeds. He is just because he only removes our guilt and his wrath because his Son Jesus paid the penalty we deserved by dying on the cross. As Tim Keller puts it, “The gospel says you are more flawed and wicked than you ever dared believe; but at the same time you are more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope.”

Christianity is not a coloring book of creative cognitive accidents. It is based on a historical event that happened in time and space. The Bible testifies to it; history confirms it; and one day Jesus will return to his saints and restore all creation.

Even the faulty apps that plague my futile, mistaken human brain.

Categories
Theology

Atheism Doesn’t Do Much for Beauty, Art, and Love

If there is no God, and everything in this world is the product of (as Bertrand Russell famously put it) “an accidental collocation of atoms,” then there is no actual purpose for which we were made–we are accidents. If we are the product of accidental natural forces, then what we call “beauty” is nothing but a neurological hardwired response to particular data.  You only find certain scenery to be beautiful because you had ancestors who knew you would find food there and they dsurvived because of that neurological feature and now we have it too. In the same way, though music feels significant, that significance is an illusion. Love too must be seen in this light. If we are the result of blind natural forces, then what we call “love” is simply a biochemical response, inherited from ancestors who survived because this trait helped them survive.

– Tim Keller in The Reason for God, p. 138

Categories
Life

GIVEAWAY: Win a Free Copy of The Mysterious Islands

I’m giving away a copy of the DVD documentary The Mysterious Islands. In my previous post, I reviewed film, so if you haven’t had a chance to read the review, please do so!

Here are ten ways you can enter into the drawing (you only have to do ONE):

1.  Re-Tweet this (or post on Facebook and tag my name if you aren’t on Twitter).
2.  Follow me on Twitter.

For the rest, leave a comment on this post telling me what you did:

3.  Subscribe to Beneath the Cross via RSS or Email.
4.  Give your husband or wife a kiss.
5.  Buy someone a meal.
6.  Sit next to someone at church without leaving five seats in between.
7.  Don’t yell at anyone in another vehicle today while you are driving.
8.  Memorize a Bible verse.
9.  Do something nice for someone.
10.  Get that “thing” done you’ve been saying you’ll get done.

On Friday, October 8, I will draw from the combined pool of those who re-Tweeted this giveaway, posted it to Facebook, followed me on Twitter, and commented here.