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Proclamation Index

Can Christians Competently Answer the Really Tough Questions?

by Daryl E. Witmer If the title of this article itself qualifies as a really tough question, then the answer is a definite "yes," because we're answering it here in a competent manner - an assertion that will hopefully be demonstrated by that which follows. In arriving at an accurate and objective response to the question posed by our title, it seems wise to consider that in all of human history some of the keenest minds and most respected answers of all have been those of folks professing faith in Jesus. The list includes Galileo, Kepler, Bacon, Pascal, Newton, Faraday, Handel, Bach, Dostoevsky, Milton, Donne, Sir Robert Boyd, Jonathan Edwards, Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, and more. In our generation, competent and intellectually credible answers to the toughest issues of all continue to be available to all sincere seekers. Here are three examples that have come our way in recent months. REALLY TOUGH QUESTION #1 How can there be any role at all for faith in an objective and scientifically meaningful consideration of the origins and meaning of life? Richard Dawkins is arguably the most vocal and articulate scientist in the world today when it comes to making the case against the role of religion in any objective search for life origins. His writings are prolific, provocative, and often persuasive (e.g. God: The Failed Hypothesis, ©2006, Dawkins). Is there any credible Christian response? You bet there is. Two leading Christian thinkers have risen to the challenge. Alister McGrath is a professor of theology at Oxford University with a PhD in molecular biophysics. He has deftly engaged Dawkins both in televised exchanges (BBC's Heaven & Earth on September 24, 2006) and in print (Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, ©2005 Blackwell). And then there is Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, and a reputable scientist by any standard. Collins has recently authored The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, ©2006 Free Press. TIME magazine's cover story on November 13, 2006, featured an 8-page exchange between Dawkins and Collins. No objective reader could have disparaged Collins' credentials or competence in that forum. He was every bit the match for Dawkins; maybe more. His position may best be summarized by the astute observation: "God cannot be completely contained within nature and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in." REALLY TOUGH QUESTION #2 Given the fact that they are full of scribal errors, how can the Biblical manuscripts be considered reliable? An attorney wrote us this past October, asking about Bart Ehrman's new book, Misquoting Jesus, ©2005 HarperSanFrancisco, which raises questions about the credibility of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that form the basis for  the Bible. The Ehrman book seems to  be gaining lots of attention these days. Ehrman's thesis is that the scribes who copied the Bible manuscripts made linguistic errors and even an occasional intentional error for political purposes, thereby changing the original texts and the writers' intent. So - what are we to make of that?  Do Christians have any competent answers to such tough charges? The answer, once again, is "yes."  And I was happy to refer our inquirer to the work of Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas TX. Dr. Wallace is at the forefront of the evangelical Christian response to Ehrman. You may read his review of Ehrman's book, The Gospel According to Bart, at: http://www.bible.org/ page.php?page_id=4000. Is this a difficult and complex issue? Yes. Are the answers simple? No, regardless of how they are answered. But Ehrman insists that the glass is half empty rather than acknowledging the wonder of how God has revealed and preserved His eternal truth through mere mortal men. Another top Jesus scholar, Dr. Ben Witherington III  of Asbury Theological Seminary, addresses this issue on an even grander scale in his 2006 release, What Have They Done with Jesus?  Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History; Why We Can Trust the Bible, ©2006. The critics (The Jesus Seminar, Dan Brown, Ehrman) continue to hammer away. But the anvil always seems to wear out the hammers. REALLY TOUGH QUESTION #3 Where is God in the Middle East? Here is an edited version of the answer to this tough question that was e-mailed to us in August (write us for the unedited version): "He is certainly right there in the Middle East, fully aware of what is happening, and grieved in His heart. Some day He will end it all (Psalm 98:9). But for now, for reasons of His own, He delays. We had all personally best be prepared for the moment that His patience runs out, by now receiving His grace to us in Jesus (John 1:12)."

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