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From Darwin to Jesus

From Darwin to Jesus

Metaphysical Naturalism,
My Three-year-old,
and the Claims of Christianity


Copyright © 2016 Windmill Ministries
All rights reserved.
ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-1537021386

To my parents, Rob and Jacoba



Contemporary world beliefs can be organized into two broad camps: atheism – the belief that there is no supernatural authority – and theism – the belief in a transcendent, personal God. Atheism expresses itself in various forms of belief: Naturalism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, to name a few. Theism is typically associated with the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Offshoots of atheism and theism also exist in the forms of pantheism – the belief that God is the composite of all reality – and deism – the belief that God is a disinterested non-personal being. This book will hone in on naturalistic atheism and Christianity, since they represent the main worldviews in the marketplace of ideas. At least this is the case in America, where this book will most likely be read. Is either atheism or Christianity true and real? Which can stand up to the scrutiny, and why should we care?

What I mean by “true” in this context is that which is deduced from facts and their analysis; what I mean by “real” is truth experienced.
One can discover the truth about what it is like to become a parent, for example: take a poll or observe the changes it makes in a person’s life. But only a mother who has held her child in her arms for the first time knows what it is really like. It is in this way that we can know that Christianity is true and real. It does not merely lay out facts, but it relates these to the human experience. Christianity can be understood in the same way that a Dutchman understands The Netherlands. He can pinpoint its location on a map, do a Google search, and read its history in a textbook; in this way, he can learn more truth about it. But he also sees the tulip fields, rides his bike through its streets, and experiences its culture from within. It is thoroughly real to him. This is how Christianity is true and real. But atheism is neither one of these. In this book, therefore, I argue that:

1.     PART 1: Atheism is not real, but Christianity is. (Chapters 1 & 2)
2.     PART 2: Atheism is not true, but Christianity is. (Chapters 3 & 4)

Before we begin, some more definitions. The term “Darwinism” in this book refers to the worldview that stands in opposition to theism and especially – in this case – to Christianity,  and I use it synonymously with the term “naturalism,” which I will define shortly. Since naturalism is the most plausible form of atheism, I also use these two terms interchangeably. In other words, I use the words “Darwinism,” “naturalism,” and “atheism” to refer to the same thing, although they are distinct in specific ways that do not concern the nature or topic of this book. What is important to note, however, is that by “Darwinism” I do not merely mean “common ancestry” or “change over time”. That is, I do not equate it with evolution, but atheism and naturalism.

I say this because there are Christians who embrace the concept of common ancestry and evolution as they are traditionally understood, but who maintain that this view is consistent with Christianity. I therefore only address the philosophical weaknesses of Darwinism as a blind process that acts as a justification for the naturalistic worldview.

The term “naturalism” in this book refers to three, intertwined beliefs:

1.     There is only one world, the natural world.
2.     The world evolved according to unbroken patterns, the laws of nature.
3.     The only reliable way to learn about the world is by observing it.[1]

When I refer to “naturalism,” I refer broadly to all three of these components, although Christians – to some extent – might apply the 2nd and 3rd criteria to many of their respective disciplines.[i] Similarly, I use the word “Christianity” in its broadest sense: as a belief that Jesus claimed to be God incarnate, that he died for a saving purpose, and that he rose from the dead as a confirmation. I do not equate Christianity with a particular view of the Bible or creation, for example.

This book is brief but purposeful. Like a funnel, it begins with big questions and ends with particular answers. This is not a textbook on apologetics;[ii] it is more like a hand that reaches out to welcome you into the discussion. Hopefully these distinctions, especially that between what is real and true, will make this journey through atheism and Christianity – from Darwin to Jesus – understandable and enjoyable. It is the purpose of this book to engage you, to put a stone in your shoe, and to give you something to think about as you travel along your path.
Part 1
Atheism is not real, but Christianity is


This first part of the book – consisting of the first two chapters –  will concern itself with what is real, with how we experience the world around us. To most, this is much more important than the truth we gain through historical facts or philosophical reasoning. Most atheists, for example, are as unaware of the historical evidence for the resurrection as most Christians are; and most Christians are as unaware of the ins and outs of microbiology and genetic replication as your average atheist. The first question people generally ask themselves is, “does this worldview make sense of how I experience reality today?” And this is where we will begin. In the next few chapters, I argue two things about reality:

  1. Atheism is blind to the reality of our needs and values. (chapter 1)
  3. Christianity sheds light on our needs and values. (chapter 2)

Darwin Is Blind to Our Needs
The Limits of Secularism

Naturalism is seldom rejected because it is illogical. Rather, it is rejected because the alternative involves robes, incense, some really bad choir music, or possibly Benny Hinn. These things do not appeal to people living in the early 21st century. To some, naturalism may seem counter-intuitive, but religion is much worse – it is unnerving and stale: religion is old and irrelevant. New things work, right? I will take a car over a stagecoach any day, and if you have seen pictures of the 70s, you know there is no going back on fashion and hairstyles. How can belief in God be different?

Peter Berger calls this way of thinking the myth of secularization.[2] It is the belief that the world, as it progresses, naturally becomes less religious, and that it ought to, because the world is coming to grips with reality – a reality without God. Darwin has Richard Dawkins with the propane burner while Jesus cannot get Billy Graham to rub two sticks together to start a fire. Faith is “the belief in a tea cup orbiting Jupiter”, “the belief in a unicorn”, or “the belief in a flying spaghetti monster”. But is this the complete picture?

Imagine a dam with a tremendous amount of pressure behind it, then the first signs of a breach, and then the flooding of a valley. The water is violent and dirty, destructive and uncontainable. This is a picture of the 21st century Western world. The latter half of the 20th century has built a dam of materialism, skepticism, and scientism. That is, we have entertained the idea that what we can see and touch is all there is. We have controlled and suppressed the spiritual. Yet, ironically, the world today has never been more outrageously spiritual – and at the same time, more confused. It seems that human spirituality cannot be suppressed. This even concerns evangelicalism[iii], which contrary to public opinion is currently climbing in the United States.[3] Yes, it is reshaping. Faith today is more personal, less denominationally-wedded. The church as a whole is less rigidly church-going and theologically minded, but it rises up with a single confession: we were not made for the institutions of the stone-cold secular. Mankind is not merely a material thing, but is irrevocably spiritual, and the masses continue to demand it. It seems that secularism does not satisfy the human experience, and that Darwin cannot quiet this human need.

Has modernization burned down our cathedrals? Against common misconception, no. While the Western church at large is in decline, it is hardly true that this corresponds directly to a belief in the supernatural. In fact, the churches that abandon belief in the supernatural shrink while those that uphold it grow. Take the liberal branch of the Presbyterian Church (the PCUSA) as an example: it has experienced some of the greatest decline in church membership nationwide - from 3.3 million in 1967 to only 1.7 million in 2013 (a decline of 47 percent) - while the largest conservative branch of the Presbyterian Church (the PCA) is one of the fast-growing denominations in the United States - growing from only 41 thousand members in 1973 to over 370 thousand in 2013 (an increase of 790 percent).[4] Conservative Baptistic and Pentecostal churches have seen church membership growth in the millions.[5] Among the Baptistic and Presbyterian branches, figures like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and Timothy Keller lead these movements. They are hardly Christian versions of a grown-up Justin Bieber, appealing to an irrational crowd like a rock star with skinny jeans and a terrific haircut. These men are at their retirement age, uncool, traditional, and intellectual. Nothing could be less trendy. But their academic appeal draws a growing crowd. They grip those who foster an intellectually-satisfying experience of God.

Nowhere is this rich faith more apparent than in the recent surge of professional Christian philosophers. The desecularization of this field has been termed nothing short of “a revolution.” [6] The atheist philosopher Quentin Smith writes: "Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism…began to sweep through the philosophical community until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians." He concludes, "God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments." [7]

Intelligence cannot suppress our need for transcendence – our need to reach out to an experience beyond ourselves. Additionally, this world is not all it seems from the pavement of the American suburbs. The West is no longer representative of the world it has long overshadowed.
We are experiencing the emergence of a global Christianity. Nations like China witness Christian revival in unprecedented numbers. Only 4 million Christians lived in China before 1949. Now it claims 100 million Christians despite a half-century of persecution. Africa and South America have over 300 and 400 million Christians, respectively. Africa, which had a 10% Christian population in 1910, now has a Christian population of over 50%.[8] Dinesh D’ Souza writes, “The new face of Christianity is no longer white and blond but yellow, black, and brown,”[9] and the Kenyan scholar John Mbiti observes, “The centers of the church [are] no longer in Geneva, Rome, Athens, Paris, London, New York, but Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa, and Manila.”[10]   

The trend is clear: Christianity blossoms where modernization takes place. The countries that are modernizing are Christianizing.[11] The future face of our world is not European, secular, Anglo-Saxon. It is certainly not atheist. Whatever the future holds, it appears to hold the global triumph of Christianity over atheism. Why? We will discuss some reasons in-depth in the next chapter. But for now, suffice it to say – the robes and Benny Hinn aside – faith has its reasons. And they are good. First, it sheds light on needs that Darwin is blind to. For example, it infuses lives with worship, value, and hope. Christianity promotes stability, justice, and family. It inspires the Protestant work ethic and gives wonder a firm foundation. Atheists, comparably, have fewer children, they often lack community, and they lack ultimate purpose. It seems strange why the atheist experience continues to exist at all under naturalism, in fact. What evolutionary advantage is there in a worldview that reduces value, hope, and love to molecules in motion?[12] Darwinism is blind to our needs, but furthermore it is blind to even more fundamental aspects of the human experience.

Darwin Is Blind to Our Values
The Limits of Science

Can science replace faith as an explanation of reality? Modern unbelief typically weds itself to science, jointly accepting credit for advancing civilization. Naturally, it is argued, science defeats faith like a tidal wave, uprooting beliefs one-by-one. But is this true? Kepler, Newton, Copernicus, and Boyle – the great geniuses of the scientific revolution – were actually passionate theists, and secular philosophers highlight the connection between Christianity and scientific origins. They argue that science is not natural. It could never have grown out of Asia, out of Hinduism or Buddhism, for example. This is because science needs soil to grow, and this soil was Christianity: a worldview that believes in an orderly and created universe, and that sees creation as something prized but not worshipped.[13]

In fact, it was the Christian understanding of science as the worship of a personal Creator that became the bridge from the scholastics to the astronomers, from Thomas Aquinas to Johannes Kepler. It was this belief that became the bridge between the medieval and the scientific worldview.

Have the results of science shut the doors of faith? Certainly not. Cosmogony – the science of the origin of our universe – now faces the philosophical implications of a cosmic beginning a finite time ago, and whether or not this points to a Cause beyond the universe itself. It nods its head nervously to a Creator and sputters to a stop, unsure where to go next. And this tells us something of the limitations of science, and the place of faith and philosophy in addressing the deeper questions of the human experience.
Now, perhaps you have never heard of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s camping trip.[14] It was a summer night, and Holmes and Watson set up their tent to go sleep. Very early in the morning, Holmes woke up and looked around. He quickly nudged his assistant awake.
“Watson!” He shouted.
“Yes,” Watson replied.
“Watson, what do you see!?”
"I see millions of stars, Holmes," Watson exclaimed.
There was a long pause.
"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"
Watson thought for a moment.
"Well," he said, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant…What does it tell you, Holmes?"
"Watson, you idiot!” Holmes replied.
Someone has stolen our tent!”
Watson’s problem is similar to that faced by many atheists. They are not fools, nor are they wrong about science, but they are wrong about its implications for reality. If we look into the universe, for example, we cannot discover God scientifically, like a specimen in a lab jar. In the same way, imagine taking a trip to visit the Castle De Haar in the Netherlands, and as you approach it you see a sign with an arrow and the words Castle De Haar painted in red. The presence of that castle is not indicated on the sign in a scientific way. You cannot contain a physical castle on a road sign. The sign is just a representation of it in words and symbols – if you can comprehend the meaning of the representation, it will direct you to the actual castle. Similarly, you cannot contain God – an immaterial, timeless, moral being – in an amoral, material and changing world.[15] It may be fair to say that science does not reveal God’s presence, since science is the study of the natural world. But that does not mean that science supports naturalism – the belief that nature is all there is.

Scientific analysis can reveal the material make-up of the sign to Castle De Haar, just as it brings clarity about the universe we live in. But the question is, “Does the universe point to something more?” “Is the universe an arrow to something beyond?” This is where many atheists encounter the Watson problem. They analyze the data, but miss the big picture. They look into the universe, but refuse to look through it into something beyond. They refuse to ask what it means. When an astronomer observes a planet acting strangely, she concludes, even without direct observation, that there must be something beyond this planet, an entity pulling it in, affecting its orbit. This is how astronomers first discovered the distant planets of our solar system, and it is also how we can think about God’s presence in our world: moving us, revealing himself to us, and calling us to Himself. We may be not able to capture Him directly on our lenses – much like we cannot capture the blinding sunset directly beaming upon us - but we see His evidence in the shadows, in the experiences, and in the world He illuminates. As C.S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity like I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[16]

The greatest arguments for God’s existence lie at thresholds of human experience; and many come, not from scientific ignorance, but from scientific knowledge. We have come to know enough about the expansion of the universe, the background radiation, and the second law of thermodynamics to ask the legitimate question, “What lies beyond the origin of our universe?” And we have come to know enough about the nature of protein-building and its relationship to the information-encoded DNA to ask the question, “What is the origin of biological information?” Science cannot contain these questions – it has no procedure or method that can answer them. And yet there is something even more fundamental that naturalism fails to account for. Science can never tell us what the sign to the castle says. This requires a meaning that we impress upon it from without. It can describe and analyze what is, but stutters to answer, “What does it mean?”

But we too live with meaning. We yearn for it. We cannot escape our desire for it. We also have duties and values that are not created by us, but are pressed onto us. We will delve into these shortly, but for now it is enough to realize that these values do not appear to come from a meaningless, material universe. They appear to meet us in the deepest part of what we are, and they move us to ask questions that science cannot answer.

The famous physicists Stephen Hawking recently wrote, “philosophy is dead”, and disagrees. In saying this, he is implying that God is dead too, and that science is in the process of answering every significant question. But can it answer questions of meaning and value? Here we encounter Hawking’s irony.

He is the greatest scientist of our time, and he requires science to function. He suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, a disease that attacks the nervous system and weakens the muscles. It has so crippled him that he communicates only through an intricate machine that turns the slightest twitches of one of his index fingers into meaningful language. Surely science is his savior. But is it, really?

Imagine if we lived by naturalism, under Darwinian principles. And there was a baby in the womb of a mother, and this mother was told that her child would suffer in this way, that it would be greatly crippled, physically in constant need. Under naturalism, what would she have chosen for her child? Under naturalism, what is the destiny of the disabled? One of the greatest naturalists of the 20th century – and Richard Dawkins’s own mentor – considered a similar question. What would he do if he and his wife were trapped alone on an island, and his wife gave birth to a disabled child? William Hamilton answered that, “I would kill it with my own hands.” Likewise, he proclaimed that he would grieve more for the death of one giant panda than for the deaths of “a hundred unknown Chinese.”[17] Dawkins, in a similar vein, writes:
The chimpanzee and the human share about 99.5 per cent of their evolutionary history, yet most human thinkers regard the chimp as a malformed, irrelevant oddity while seeing themselves as steppingstones to the Almighty. To an evolutionist this cannot be so. There exists no objective basis on which to elevate one species above another.[18]

Proficient breeders select the fittest and weed out the weakest, and there is no reason to suppose that under naturalism this logic should not extend to the human animal. That is consistent Darwinism. But consistent Darwinism would never produce a Stephen Hawking. It seems that his savior lies somewhere beyond science, in a belief about humanity: that we possess intrinsic value, whether perfect or not, whether faulty or fit for life.

If naturalism were applied consistently, Stephen Hawking could never have uttered the words that “philosophy is dead”, would never be valued as a human person. Even the greatest scientific mind stands on a foundation of belief and has something within himself that points beyond the scientific world that he claims is all there is. It is the arrow of transcendence in the experience of humanity.

That the atheistic regimes of the 20th century – like those of Stalin or Moa – killed over 100 million people (500 hundred times the number of those killed over a 500-year period by the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch-huntings combined)[19]  is not explained by an accident of history. It is not merely because they had better weapons, or more people available to systematically starve and murder than dictators before them. It concerns a philosophy about humanity. An ideology about sacredness.
Humans have no ultimate value under atheism, no innate purpose or dignity. Under atheism, like Buddhism, “Man enters the water and causes no ripple,” but under Christianity, “Man causes ripples that never end.”[20]

Watson was right in all that he said about the stars, but he was wrong in thinking that it really mattered at that moment. At that moment, the tent was gone. There was something missing. Yes, there is something missing, more important, more pressing. There is something beyond the stars, something we point to each time we stop, not to wonder what it all is, but to wonder what it all means. This is the atheist dilemma. The Watson problem. And it is why the appeal to science fails entirely to support naturalism and why we are left with an experience that calls for more. This “more” can be found in Christianity alone.


So far we have discussed reality and how atheism fails to meet the needs of our modern world. Likewise, atheism fails to ground the values we all hold dear. This was seen particularly in the limits of secularism and science. Now we will discuss how Christianity is able to speak into these needs and values. Later we will discuss how the claims of Jesus are rooted in historical truth, but first we want to highlight how Jesus succeeds where, in our last chapter, Darwin fails. Jesus makes sense of our needs and sheds light on our values. He speaks into our experience of reality.

Jesus Makes Sense of Our Needs
The Mick Jagger Generation

In 2000, VH1 gave first place to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” among the “Top 100 Greatest Rock Songs” ever recorded, and in 2004 a Rolling Stone’s panel of judges labeled it as the second-greatest song of all time. Mick Jagger remarks: "It was the song that really made the Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band... It has a very catchy title. It has a very catchy guitar riff. It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time. And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kinds of songs... Which was alienation."[21]

Alienation marks the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. We are a generation of lottery winners. A landmark study in 1978 revealed that those who win the lottery are no happier six months later than those who became paraplegics in catastrophic accidents, and that they are in fact more likely to get divorced, experience family fallouts, and to lose everything they have won within a matter of five years.[22]  The early 21st century is drugged with this kind of deep, entitled dissatisfaction. We have more power, more money, and more ease. We are subjects in the greatest empirical study in pleasure ever conducted. But it all falls flat in the face of reality: we are emaciated and dying. And it is not new. The atheist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre, living in the early 20th century, writes: "there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, 'Is that all there is?'" [23] My aunt received a guinea pig for her tenth birthday but squeezed it so tightly that she suffocated it to death. That is the human condition.

Saul of Tarsus describes it in the most famous letter ever written – his letter to a church in Rome around the year 57 CE. In that letter he addresses what is perhaps the most significant problem of every passing generation. It is not a problem of unbelief, but of exchange. It is not that we cease to worship, but that we do not stop worshipping. We merely exchange one tabernacle for another, and trade one object of pleasure for the next.[24]  We are trying to put an ocean into a bucket.
The philosopher Peter Kreeft argues that every natural, innate desire of humanity corresponds to something in the real world.[25]  In saying this, he is not referring to artificial desires like the desire for a sports car or a vacation to Hawaii – these influence us externally through advertising or culture. He is talking about natural desires that spring up from within us, the desires that we are born to have – desires for things like friendship, knowledge, and beauty.

For these natural desires, we have words to describe their absence – loneliness, ignorance, ugliness. These are basic to us. We do not have a word for “sports car-lessness”, for example. But we do have a word for the human condition: Alienation.
Or, perhaps better: emptiness.

And this emptiness is pervasive. There exists in every person of every generation a desire that nothing natural or creaturely or timely can fulfill.[26] It is the sand through our fingers. It is dust in the wind. It seems then, that we desire something beyond earth, beyond creatures, beyond the sands of time. C.S. Lewis puts it similarly. He compares a person to a duckling. Why does a duckling desire to swim? Because such a thing as water exists for it to swim in. Similarly, why does a child hunger? Because such a thing as food exists for it to eat. But what about us? “If we find in ourselves a desire,” Lewis says, “that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”[27]  Christianity speaks into this today. It alone says, “yes!” to the human condition. Yes, this alienation is real. And, yes, we were meant for something more. We were meant for another world. Our needs confirm this, and as we’ll see next, our values demand it.

Jesus Sheds Light on Our Values
Suzy’s World

My oldest daughters are three-year-old identical twins: Suzy and Elsie. They have blue eyes and goldilocks ringlets. Suzy has a superman curl that goes right over her forehead and would put Clark Kent to shame. She is the lover, and Elsie is the fighter. When I had Suzy and Elsie, my prayers changed. I want them to enjoy a better world. I want them to be innocent forever. Suzy, especially, has a soft heart. But this is not a soft world, is it?

She will not be three forever. She will learn to ride a bike, and fall, and I will bandage her wounds. She will back our car into the house, and I will fix the siding, and live with the dent.

But I cannot fix her world, and I cannot still something inside her. The historian and scholar N.T. Wright calls it the sound of a voice within us.[28] It will be in her like a dream once had. Like the memory of something sweet but faint. It will be a sense. A sense for justice. A yearning for righteousness. And before her: a world that ought to be put right, but is not. A world where there is no justice, and injustice cannot be bandaged or undented. No matter what I do, I will not be able to fix Suzy’s world.

The Christian worldview affirms that such a voice is real, and that this voice which speaks faintly into every person’s heart spoke definitively in the person of Jesus Christ. Wrights says, “Christians believe that in Jesus of Nazareth the voice we thought we heard became human and lived and died as one of us.”[29] Jesus preached that this world does not need a bandage or even a remedy, but that it needs a resurrection. The world is catastrophically broken - not like a broken car, but like a shattered glass. There are pieces in us all, shards of what we ought to be. As Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn writes: “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, but right through the middle of every human heart.”[30] Humans are contradictions of greatness: greatly powerful and yet deeply vulnerable, both awfully good and evil, passionately right and wrong.

Today, it is out with the black-and-white and in with the grey. We live in a grey world. Our Sunday-school morality is gone. Grey upon grey paint the human picture. We have all grown up now. We all watch murder mysteries and spend our days scoffing at crooked politicians and religious hypocrites. We all know who dunnit – the sweet old lady, the unbecoming clergyman. We are cynical and jaded. And yet, I want to argue that we are closer to the Christian worldview today than ever before.

Christianity speaks to a situation where it is not Hitler on one side and Christ on the other. It rejects the idea of good guys and bad guys and affirms that people are always both.  And that, at the end of the day, we are more like Hitler than Jesus Christ. “But for the grace of God” replaces the black and white brush strokes of a childish past. It confirms Christianity to be true and real. For if the grey assumes anything, it assumes the black and white.

Imagine two paintings of New York City. Inevitably, one painting will look more like the iconic city than the other. We might look at one painting and say, “This is a better representation, a better painting.” When we say this, we imply – by comparing them – that there is something they both are trying to capture on canvas. It implies that such a place as New York City exists. This is exactly what we do when we use concepts of good and evil. An action is right or wrong compared to a standard beyond itself. The inescapable conclusion is that moral absolutes are real. Morality is not a majority opinion. In fact, it is not an opinion at all. It is as real as the New York City skyline. This belief, called moral realism, is something powerfully confirmed by human history and philosophy.

Historically, the universal belief in moral truths is telling. The condemnation of murder, theft, and falsehood is the verdict of human history. In his book, “Everyone Agrees: Word, Ideas, and a Universal Morality”, J.S. Morse argues extensively that the different expressions of human morality across the globe actually draw from similar concepts that all people alike value.[31] We all think people should be modest, should be truthful, and should be moral, and yet we disagree on how these values ought to be expressed.

Furthermore, altruism plays a mysterious part in the story of civilization. We all value self-sacrifice, even though it counters our most basic Darwinian impulses. Under atheism, the entire evolution of our race depends on the kind of behavior that is the absolute opposite of altruism.[32] And yet, even staunch atheists uphold self-sacrifice and honor. Even a thief thinks it is wrong when he himself is robbed. This shows the strength that certain moral truths wield over humanity. We cling to them, even when they make us inconsistent. We cling to them, even when they make us hypocrites.

Some have argued that altruism is itself an evolutionary instinct, but even this leaves the experience unexplained. For example, you might walk down the street and see a little old lady being beaten and mugged by a purse snatcher, and you may have an instinct to sacrifice your safety for her well-being. But certainly you also have an instinct under naturalism to preserve yourself. The question is not about instinct, but why you would choose to pick one instinct over the other and why – most importantly – you know that it is right to help the woman, even if you do not act on that conviction. We do not reason to the point of believing in right or wrong. Rather, we reason from these beliefs to form other beliefs that influence our actions.

Philosophers call these kinds of beliefs “properly basic”. That certain moral truths at least appear to be of this kind is beyond question. The atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse says, “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5.”[33] Some things in this world are truly wrong. The burden of proof is not with the person who affirms that rape is wrong, but with the one who denies it. If we cannot say that the Holocaust was truly wrong, we thereby rationalize atrocity. It is to lose our humanity. What good reason could we have to do this, to deny that raping a child is truly wrong, for example? No proper rationalization exists.

Some might argue that certain things are only self-evidently wrong to us because we have been influenced by Western, Judeo-Christian values. However, this would not be an argument against moral realism – since it is possible that we could both come to apprehend morality through our culture, and that certain things really are right and wrong in an objective sense. This is typically referred to as the distinction between epistemology and ontology. The former refers to study or theory of knowledge, while the latter regards the study of being. It is possible that our knowledge of an object is formed by irrational processes while the existence of that object can still be deduced by rational means. To think or argue otherwise is to commit the genetic fallacy. We can know that not helping the little old lady is wrong because of Western upbringing, but that does not exclude it from also being objectively wrong.

But even if we disregard this distinction of epistemology and ontology for the sake of argument, moral relativism – the belief that moral truths are relative to culture and not actually real – is not the consequence. Even moral relativists living under a Western morality think that they ought to impose Western morality on others. No moral relativist would visit an undeveloped society and sit idly by while little children are abused under some tribal form of morality.
Sound far-fetched? A BBC news story from July 21, 2016 centered around a “hyena” named Eric Aniva.[34] A hyena is a man hired to do “sexual cleansing” in remote parts of Southern Malawi. He is paid to sleep with widows to cleanse them from the deaths of their husbands, with women who have undergone abortions to cleanse them from impurity, and most shockingly, with young girls after they’ve had their first menstrual cycle. This is meant to initiate them into adulthood. Eric Aniva is in his late forties. He claims to have slept with 104 women and girls, some aged 12 or 13 – however, this is the same number he gave to a local newspaper in 2012, despite his continued employment as a hyena. Ed Butler, the news reporter, writes: “I sense that he long ago lost count.”

Aniva is also HIV positive. Ironically, the rituals are believed to protect the family members of the young girls from diseases.
Would any moral relativist think these actions are morally acceptable? Of course not. But, what’s more shocking: neither does the hyena. Butler ends his article by describing and recollecting bits of his conversation with Eric Aniva and one of his two wives:
Their relationship looks strained. Sitting next to him, she admits shyly that she hates what he does, but that it brings necessary income. I ask her if she expects her two-year-old to be undergoing initiation too in perhaps 10 years from now.

"I don't want that to happen," she says. "I want this tradition to end. We are forced to sleep with the hyenas. It's not out of our choice and that I think is so sad for us as women."
"You hated it when it happened to you?" I ask.
"I still hate it right up until now."
When I ask Aniva too whether he wants his daughter to undergo sexual cleansing, he surprises me again.
"Not my daughter. I cannot allow this. Now I am fighting for the end of this malpractice."
"So, you're fighting against it, but you are still doing it yourself?" I ask.
"No, as I said, I'm stopping now."
"For sure. For real, I'm stopping."

On July 26, 2016 Eric Aniva was arrested by authorities. Peter Mutharika, the Malawian president, called the practice a “despicable evil”. He ordered the arrest himself. This highlights not only that we think Western morality is actually better in some way – which leads us back to the New York City skyline – but also that those who live under different systems of morality intuitively sense that their systems are wrong.
Upon reflection, this makes sense. Western civilization, after all, was built on two pillars: Greek philosophy and Judaism, which historically reached beyond their cultures to achieve moral understanding. The great philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were moral realists against the superstitions of their time. This trend remains. The majority of philosophers may be atheists, but they are still moral realists.[35]

The Amazon Series The Man in the High Castle imagines a world in which the Allies lost and America is divided between Nazi and Japanese occupation. The story revolves around a Nazi spy named Joe who poses as a member of the resistance. As the story unfolds, Joe begins to question his loyalties to the Nazi powers. In one chilling scene, he is stranded on the side of the highway with a flat tire. As Joe gets out of his car, a man drives up and offers to help. While they finish replacing the tire, Joe notices ash raining down from the sky. He asks the man what the ash is from, and the man nonchalantly remarks that it is Tuesday – the day they incinerate the disabled and the elderly. Joe responds without emotion, gets in his truck, and drives away.

The world, had the Allies lost, could well be a world in which the extermination of the unfit and the elderly become morally acceptable. But surely majority opinion or the callousness of human conscience could not justify atrocity? Morality is not a pizza topping we favor or a rat in a laboratory to subject to whatever experiments tickle our curiosity.

But here lies the atheist dilemma. Under atheism, Hitler’s actions were not wrong in any objective, binding sense. They certainly were not inconsistent with Darwinism. We cannot say that he ought to have done otherwise in a universe in which we, like all other animals, dance to the rhythm of our DNA.

But this oughtness – that we ought to be better, that we ought to be less like Hitler and more like Jesus, or that the world ought to be a better place – is not only prescriptive, but undeniable and personal. We sense it. We experience it - when we feel shame or remorse, when we are burdened by guilt; or, alternatively, when we feel the inner peace of a satisfied conscience. But what explains these sensations? We do not feel shame or guilt before a rock or a horse. We do not feel inner peace before material objects.  We feel these before a Person.[36] A Person we all appear to experience. So that in the deepest convictions of humanity we find the image of God. We chase after the picture of the divine, and we find, in ourselves, a tainted reflection.

Only Christianity speaks into the quicksand of human morality. Morality transcends mere instinct and culture and is universal, objective, prescriptive, and personal. You cannot put a ladder on quicksand and hope to reach heaven. Redemption is not and cannot be human. It must come from the ultimate moral being. It must come from God. Suzy’s world, in the experience of humanity, appears to be God’s world. Atheism cannot meet our needs and shed light on our values, but Christianity does. In this way, it is makes sense of how we experience life. It speaks into that which is real.

In these first few chapters, like our Dutchman, we have seen the tulip fields, gotten on our bikes and gone through the streets. In so doing, we are not experiencing a merely natural world. But where do find ourselves on the map? In other words, is Christianity really true? And what about naturalism?

In the next part of this book we will see that naturalism is false and that Christianity is true. We will do this by:

1.     Arguing that naturalism is self-defeating (chapter 3)
2.     Arguing that Christianity is grounded in historical truths (chapter 4).

Part 2
Atheism is not true, but Christianity is


A Cow in a Pink Princess Dress

Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus, “what is truth?” He asked in a mocking, rhetorical fashion, but we genuinely seek the answer. Pilate was more pragmatic than most of us. We want the answers to the deep questions, and we welcome the journey.

“Why?” is not merely an important question, but it is the ultimate one. Sure, there are those who are not interested, who go from hour to hour, from day to day, and never wonder. But do not let them ruin it for the rest of us. In his 1988 bestseller, “A Brief History of Time”, the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking writes: "Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest."[37]

Hawking is onto something about people, and about what we are. He celebrates a yearning that defines what it means to be human. We are stargazers, not looking for prey, but searching for meaning. How puzzling this would be in a godless world, and yet how sensible in a world fingerprinted by God.  “The truth shall set you free” is a theistic belief, but it is not an evolutionary motto.[38] Can Darwin justify our quest for truth and, more importantly, can he ever satisfy it if our beliefs evolved for survival purposes and not for the purpose of grasping ultimate reality?
Concepts like truth and survival can be very abstract, until you have babies. Especially if you have lots of babies, very quickly. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. As I mentioned, my oldest girls - Suzy and Elsie - are identical twins who just turned three, while June - my youngest - is one. If you are keeping track, we have three children, aged three and under. Once again, trust me, you do not really understand what I am telling you. Words cannot capture psychological warfare with a one year old. I live in a kind of baby Guantanamo.

Perhaps you can relate: I thought I was a good parent, until I became a parent. Since my wife is often busy with the youngest, some of the traditional mommy work has fallen to me when it comes to our identical twins. I change them into their pajamas and put them to bed each night in their small room down the hall (It is actually an office, because I ran out of space and my septic system is not meant for a four-bedroom house. Yes, I have that many children already). They sleep in a small room without a closet, like something out of the movie “Annie.” In little wooden cribs, side-by-side, they sense my every weakness. They detect it, like a Tyrannosaurus detects the movements of its victims. My life is a scene out of Jurassic Park.

Recently, I was getting up around three to four times a night to meet their insatiable, tyrannical needs. I was afraid of going to sleep at night, not knowing when and how I would be woken by, “Water!” “Snuggle!” Or often just screaming. Not normal screaming, but the kind you would expect during an exorcism. Then, my wife and I spent thirty dollars on the greatest invention of modern man, aside from the Keurig machine: it is called the cow clock. It is a clock with two displays: on one display, the cow is asleep in her bed, and on the other display the cow is dancing in the sunshine, wearing a pink dress. One of these pictures is always lit up, and I can program the clock to determine which one it will be, and when.

The clock works in mysterious ways. Somehow, the children obey it. I tell them they cannot call for me or wake me up until “it is morning time,” which is – always – when the picture of the cow in the pink dress lights up. Every morning I now wake up to the words, “the cow‘s awake!” but my nights are long and sweet. Yes, I program it to wake them up at 6:30 each morning.

Yet, one night, something horrible happened. I heard them celebrating at 3:00 AM down the hall. “We’ve made it!” “That wasn’t long at all!” “Good job!”

They like to congratulate themselves.

I had set the clock for the wrong time. It was pitch black darkness all around, but they were convinced it was morning. Everything about their environment told them it was not time to wake up, except for an over-priced piece of plastic with a picture of a lit-up cow. Regardless, they trust the picture not because it is correct, but because it is simple – more simple than the truth. The relationship between morning and the picture of a dancing cow is completely artificial, but their belief that this relationship is real – despite reality – keeps my wife and I (and our marriage) intact. They follow the clock not necessarily in spite of truth, but because the complexity of truth can be a liability in the struggle for life.

This a profound concept, but to miss it is to overlook the nature of the evolutionary model. As evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers notes:
If (as Dawkins argues) deceit is fundamental in animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray - by the subtle signs of self-knowledge - the deception being practiced. Thus, the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.[39]

We are used to seeing things, “as they are”, but nothing is more presumptive in Darwin’s world. As if groups of animals - whether showing altruistic behavior like certain baboons, or cannibalistic behavior like praying mantis females who bite off and eat their lovers’ heads after or even before copulating - ever think about what is good or bad for their gene pool or their nearest kin.[40] No, under naturalism these behaviors are both equally the results of struggle and cooperation at the genetic levels that have gone on for hundreds upon (possibly) millions of generations. Genes compete, survive, evolve, and over ages of time, they mold us. Even us. And each step of the way, we have been formed, not to know or understand truth, but to advance our gene pool. As atheist professor John Gray writes:
"The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals. ...Darwinian theory tells us that an interest in truth is not needed for survival or reproduction. More often it is a disadvantage."[41]

In light of this grand conspiracy of gene survival, we are a flash of light at the end of the ancient dance of nature. As Dawkins famously puts it: “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”[42]

If this is true, if this is all there is, all beliefs in God are excess baggage: “promiscuous teleology,”[iv] some will say; the results of a “hyper agency-detection mechanism”.[43] Our morality? The result of genes oriented towards certain moral behaviors, the outcome of cultural memes[v] or conditioning. Religion, morality, and truth must go. This has been confirmed for some on the quantum level. We cannot understand it, because we are not evolved to understand it.[44] The snowball of naturalism rolls, and it grows, and it consumes our beliefs one-by-one. Hawking says, “philosophy is dead,” and the atheist scientist Peter Atkins: “I’m not interested in the ‘why’ questions.”[45] We are animals prone to self-deception, and even more-so, are products of it. As Gray notes, “Deception is common among primates and birds… Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error.”[46] Yes, naturalism must do away with philosophy too. Away with religion. Away with right and wrong, and transcendence. Away with speculation. What it boils down to is this: away with ultimate truth claims. Darwin himself faced this challenge with integrity. In all sincerity, he writes to his children: "But then arises the doubt – can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic."[47]

Darwinism must cut the ties between truth and depth. Monkeys make poor philosophers. Our speculations can never justify our firmest conclusions - and these conclusions cannot ground our firmest convictions.

But what is naturalism? It is nothing less than the resolute conviction that our moral beliefs are no more real than a monkey’s need to itch. It is the presupposition that sacks of atoms can measure out meaning. It is the faith that consciousness can spring up from cold, dead unawareness and life emerge from the primordial pools – and that all the cosmos burst forth out of nothing, towards no end, by no One.
To assert the naturalistic belief is to pull a rabbit out of a hat without a magician, a hat, or a stage. No reason for this belief is given but the skepticism that it fails to justify. It is ultimately self-defeating.

Naturalism is magic. And if it undermines our most precious and basic beliefs – our intuitions about right and wrong, our beliefs about God and truth – it does this at the cost of its own foundation. Naturalism is itself a children’s clock. It gets people through their lives, perhaps, but it makes no connection to what it real. It must assume that truth is irrelevant and possibly even counterproductive in the struggle for life. It cannot make an inference worth waking for. It is a cow in a frilly pink dress, lit up at 3am, trying to convince us it is morning.
Atheism, like Christianity, tells us a story about reality. Darwin and Jesus both give us way of understanding the world. As we saw in chapters one and two, only the Christian story speaks into something real. And now in this chapter we have discovered that Darwin’s story does not make sense. It makes a claim about what is ultimately true, but its very own theory undercuts this proclamation. Atheism must steal from Jesus to feed Darwin. But what about Christianity, is it really true?


Christianity tells a story about reality, but it grounds this story in history. Namely, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. If he was historically who He said He was, Christianity is true. If He was not, Christianity is false. In this chapter, we will look at his claims through the lenses of the Judeo-Christian story – that is, through the historical development of Judaism into Christianity. We will do this by surveying two of its aspects:

1.     God’s story about us
2.     Our story about God.

In considering “God’s story about us,” from the Jewish perspective, we will get to see specifically how Judaism grounds human values but also how it prepared the world for the coming of Jesus. In “Our story about God” we will see how Christianity allows eyewitnesses to ground three central truths of Christianity:

1.     That Jesus changed history through history
2.     That He claimed to be God incarnate
3.     And that He rose from dead as a confirmation of this claim.

Because of its importance, we will give extra attention on this third claim and while surveying these truths, the salvific nature of the Judeo-Christian worldview will highlight part of its uniqueness. For it to be “salvific” merely refers to the facts that Christianity is about saving us. And this reminds us that even in considering Christianity to be true, we can never separate from the fact that it is thoroughly interested in reality. We cannot forget chapter two as we read chapter four, since chapter four gives us the confidence that the realities of chapter two are grounded in truth.

God’s Story About Us

Judaism is God’s story about us. The first chapter of the Bible reveals that men and women are created in God’s image: thus, they are reasonable, moral, and responsible. While ancient Middle-Eastern religions were nature religions – that is, they sought to understand and control nature, as early versions of modern-day naturalism – Judaism concerned itself with a divine relationship. God was not an explanation for the weather or a means to a fertile harvest. God was a moral being who had a relational purpose for mankind.[48]   

This is remarkable and unique to Judaism in the ancient world. Furthermore, the Bible, written by 40 different authors and containing 66 books, has a single story about humanity and a pre-occupation not with survival but with salvation – a very specific salvation: moral salvation and relationship with God. This also explains the bookish natures of Judaism and Christianity.

Bart Ehrman writes: "For modern people intimately familiar with any of the major contemporary Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), it may be hard to imagine, but books played virtually no role in the polytheistic religions of the ancient Western world. These religions were almost exclusively concerned with honoring the gods through ritual acts of sacrifice. There were no doctrines to be learned, as explained in books, and almost no ethical principles to be followed, as laid out in books…beliefs and ethics – strange as this sounds to modern ears – played almost no role in religion per se."[49]

Yet belief and ethics are woven into the fabric of Scripture, and this fabric – when stretched over centuries of composition – creates a unified whole. Beneath the pages of the Bible is a watermark that no human person could have crafted. A unified belief in the hope of human redemption. Stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reveal a God of grace, a promise-making God setting the stage for his divine accomplishment. The prophet Isaiah, writing in the 8th century BCE, describes a servant-figure through whom this promise will be fulfilled: a lamb-like and self-sacrificial Savior. Zechariah and Daniel paint the picture of a royal Messiah designated as the “Son of Man”. He would embody the glorious God-given task of Israel to be a blessing to all the nations.

Empires rise and fall, and the Jewish people wait in hope. God is silent. The Roman Empire emerges. The Pax Romana settles over a land now developed with infrastructure. And Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news!” [50] The Jewish people, leaning on Daniel’s prophecy[51], believe God’s kingdom will emerge under Roman rule, and that this kingdom will never be destroyed.[52] It will start as a stone, and will end as a mountain; and once a mountain, it will remain forever. And so it did, in the ministry of an unknown Jewish peasant named Jesus.  

Jesus of Nazareth is born, and his life places a fold in human history. He claims that this kingdom of God is at hand, and his followers claim that the plan of human redemption is accomplished by Him. From a divine standpoint, the death of Christ was when mercy and justice kissed, when humility and glory touched, when love and wrath were satisfied. When God’s attributes were put on display. Some theologians have gone so far as to say that this cross is the reason the universe was planned.[53]

James Crossley, a notable New Testament skeptic, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the argument that the Gospel of Mark was written in the mid-30s to mid-40s, within a decade of Jesus death. And his agnostic mentor, Maurice Casey, argues the same thing for different reasons.[54] But all of these reasons are historical. If you agree with their assessment, Mark was written within a decade or two of Jesus’ death. It shows Jesus forgiving sin, calming the storm, and claiming to be the awaited Messiah – “The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” – a claim of divinity for which he was condemned as a blasphemer.[55]

Yet even if you place Mark around the traditional date of the mid-60s CE, hymns about his divinity still trace back well before that time into the mid-50s, and undoubtedly earlier.[56] I will cover some of this more later, but suffice it to say that this is why even many skeptics like Ehrman believe that Jesus was thought to be a divine figure before the gospels were written.[57]  If Christianity is true, we are not merely made in God’s image, but we are the parchment on which God writes His own story. Our greatest failure was turned into His greatest accomplishment, our evil transformed for good. Something more happened on that cross than the death of a prophet. It was the fulfilling of God’s promise to Abraham: the blessing of all people, and the healing of the nations through God Himself.

Christ’s death began a movement, and this movement changed the world. Survey the present to the past – from William Wilberforce in his struggle against slavery, to the rise of democracy in the West; from Luther’s recognition that, royal or common, we are all sinners saved by grace. The arenas are now silent where the gladiatorial games once roared and the blood of slave armies soaked the sands of the amphitheaters. Roman practices of infanticide are a faint blot in human history.   

What has happened to the Rome of our past? Why were hospitals built, and why did charity emerge to feed the poor? So great was Christianity’s influence on the world that when the Visigoths sacked Rome in the 5th century AD, its citizens hid in its churches. Astoundingly, their conquerors’ response was unprecedented: they showed mercy because the Visigoths, too, had become Christianized.  Contrary to all nature, Right became Might. Today, we call our guard dogs, “Nero and Caesar”, while we call our children, “Peter, Paul and Mary.” The fulfillment of a Savior promised in the Old Testament turned the status quo of the ancient world on its head.

Our Story About God

But who were Peter, James, and John? They were insignificant people, chosen to finish the greatest story mankind has ever known. It was written in a collection of books, by a set of witnesses. The Bible did not descend on a pillow from the clouds; it was written by people in history.

These records have been preserved with remarkable accuracy. Over 5000 Greek manuscripts exist from the Greek New Testament alone. Many manuscripts are later and less reliable, such as those from the Byzantine text (from which the King James Version was translated); others are earlier and more reliable, like Codex Sinaiticus from the late 4th century CE or Codex Vaticanus from the early 4th century CE. Because of the sheer volume of biblical texts, the texts are classified by family groups and analyzed for accuracy according to rigid scientific principles.
Where the Old Testament records give us quality, the New Testament gives us quantity. These records are better preserved than any other texts in ancient history.41

What is the difference between a King James and a New International Version? At first, they seem somewhat distinct; the King James has a few extra verses, and some different words. But nothing is ultimately different. The Christianity of Jonathan Edwards is no different from my own, although I use a New International Version while he used a King James. The variations of the manuscripts that they are based upon are ultimately insignificant – within a fraction of 1%. Points of teaching and doctrine are unaffected.[58] The purpose of inspiration – “To teach, correct, rebuke, and train in righteousness”[59] – is accomplished through them, despite these minor differences in the text. We know this because the New Testament has passed though human hands.

Additionally, Jesus was seen by human eyes. Richard Bauckham joins New Testament scholars like Brant Petri and Michael Bird in arguing that the gospels are based on eyewitness testimony. Not only do the names, the places, and the customs fit into the 1st century CE[60], but the accounts contain the marks of authenticity: embarrassing and insignificant detail, a lack of mythologizing, and the presence of early theology.[61] Theological terms like “Trinity,” for example, are completely lacking. Yet the concept of the Trinity is unmistakably present.[vi] This is tremendous in two ways. First, it shows that these early document are not the result of later reflection or political power plays. But second, it clarifies rather than obscures the belief in Jesus’ early divinity. Ever wonder why Jesus is not just called “God” in a straightforward manner? Why don’t Peter, Paul and John just spell it out for us?

The reason might surprise you, but it has to do with the Trinity. Why do believers, even today, so naturally interchange the words “Father” and “God” in their prayers? For example, God is thanked for sending His Son, but what is meant of course is that the Father sent His Son. The reason for the obscurity is that the Old Testament (Isa 63:16, 64:8), the New Testament (John 3:16) and most importantly the teachings of Jesus condition believers to think this way (Matt 6:9-13). The 1st century Christians were no different than modern believers in this way. The Greek word for God ( Θεός) almost always meant the Father in the minds of early Christians. This is why Paul often uses language like: “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:1, Eph. 1:17, Gal. 1:3, etc.). The term Lord here for Jesus is not an incidental title. It is the word Κύριος, derived from the Septuagint – the Greek Old Testament that many early Christians used.[62] In that version, Yahweh was translated by this word Κύριος. Now clearly there were many lords during the time of Jesus: masters, governors, and emperors, just to name a few. But Paul was not calling Jesus a mere ruler in this sense. This is clear from passages such as Romans 10:9,13 and Philippians 2:10,11.[63] Both of these are early creeds and refer to Jesus as Κύριος, but they also link back to the Old Testament passages that clearly refer to Yahweh. Paul calls the Father “God” and Jesus “Lord” with an almost absolute consistency. One notable exception to this has powerful implications for Jesus’ deity, but since it involves some technical exegesis, I reserve it for the end notes.[64] However, my point here is that Paul does not make this consistent distinction because he thinks that Jesus is not God. He does this because he does not think that Jesus is the Father.
With this in mind, it becomes apparent that Christians did not possess the language they needed to express these rich and developed theological concepts, but they nevertheless believed them firmly - and early. The early Pauline creeds, written and probably recited well before the Gospels, prove this. But they also reflect the passion of early worship. They express unvarnished praise for a person that these individuals encountered. Theological specificity is overshadowed by the picture of a Christ who is truly experienced, of a man whose life is unforgettable.
The picture that emerges is a stained glass window of human testimonies. No effort has been made to reconcile them. We are left with the records of human experiences. When we consider the power of oral tradition in the first century as demonstrated in the Jewish Mishna – a 1000-page volume memorized by students in the 1st century synagogues – and the testimonies about Jesus found in the New Testament, in secular sources like Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger, and in the testimonies of early church fathers like Polycarp and Papias, the case becomes overwhelming.[65]

Papias, who lived from about 40-50 years after the gospel were written, was so convinced that the oral traditions of Jesus were reliable that he said he preferred this “living and surviving voice” over the recorded gospels. This shows the strength of the oral traditions about Jesus during the decades after his death. That is partly because Jesus spoke to be remembered, as gifted rabbis of Jesus’ day did. His pithy sayings, catchy parables, beatitudes, and hyperbolic illustrations all add weight to this.
Tacitus, the Roman historian (65-120 CE), gives us additional corroboration of the life of Jesus: his title of Messiah, his death under Pontius Pilate, and the spread of Christianity into Rome. The Roman administrator Pliny the Younger, a near contemporary to Tacitus, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan during this time (110 CE) about how to deal with Christians who “[sang hymns to Jesus] as to a god.” Yet the earliest and most intriquing pagan testimony about Jesus comes from the historian Thallos (55 CE), who mentions a darkness coinciding with Jesus’ crucifixion.[66] He attributes this darkness to a natural eclipse, although it clearly corroborates Mark’s account:
At the sixth hour [while Jesus hung on the cross] darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (Mark 15:33).
Once the evidence is weighed, it becomes clear that something clearly shook the pagan world around the year 30 CE. Josephus, writing sixty years later, records the martyrdom of James the brother of Jesus who, in Jesus’ lifetime, was a thorough-going skeptic. A persecuting Pharisee named Saul is transformed and gives up his life to spread what he calls, “The Gospel of God”. [67] Peter, James, and John; Stephen and Phillip; they were changed from cowards to men of faith. Not for what they had believed on authority, but because of whom they had encountered in reality. But more on this shortly.

The point is that Jesus defied convention; he claimed to be a divine deliverer. Jesus defied expectation; he overturned the status quo. And he defied possibility – he died.                  
And he rose again.

The Resurrection

Have you ever seen people going through garbage to look for something of value? Homeless people do it all the time. But what about families who have lost their homes to hurricanes or floods? They might find old photographs, jewelry, or other momentos. There is truth in the rubble.[68]
Historical study is a lot like dumpster diving. New Testament scholars, especially skeptics like Crossley or Ehrman, look at the New Testament like a book of history, full of errors and discrepancies. But the vast majority of critical New Testament scholars still believe certain truths about Jesus:

-          He died by Roman crucifixion.
-          The disciples had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of Jesus.
-          These experiences transformed them, and made them willing to die for their beliefs.
-          James, Jesus’ brother and former skeptic, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
-          Saul, a former persecutor, had an experience that he also believed was an appearance of Jesus, resulting in his conversion.
-          A primitive creed reflecting belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection was orally received by Paul from Peter and James within less than five years of Jesus’ crucifixion.[69]

Pinchas Lapide published a book in 1977 in which argued that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, based upon these and other facts such as the women’s visitation to the empty tomb – one of the more contested historical facts surrounding the gospel narrative.[70] He remained an orthodox Jewish scholar until his death in 1997. No one escapes personal bias. People are agenda-makers. But Christians can build the case for the resurrection using the scholarship of unbelievers, and that is what makes the resurrection different.

This is because historians look for truth in the dumpsters of history. They have certain criteria for what truth looks like, in the same way that we distinguish a photograph from a magazine clip, or a beautiful necklace from a coat button. These criteria can be listed in the forms of questions:

-          Does a particular historical fact or theory have great explanatory power?
-          Is a particular historical hypothesis simpler than competing hypothesis?[71]
-          Is an event corroborated by various, independent, early sources?
-          Do these sources show signs of reliability?[72]

I covered some of these criteria briefly in our last discussion regarding the eyewitness testimonies of Jesus: that the gospels contain self-deprecating testimony and early theology, for example, which are general signs of trustworthiness. I am saying now that even if these testimonies are not completely trustworthy, it does not mean they are not valuable. Eyewitness sources to the sinking of the Titanic, for example, differed on many things. Did the ship break in half as it sank? Did so-and-so have dinner in the main cabin that night? But beneath the rubble it remains an indisputable fact that the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. In the same way, Paul’s letters to the Corinthian, Galatian, and Philippian churches are seen as reliable because they are quoted by many early church fathers, they bear the same unique literary style, they bear Paul’s name of authorship, and they conform to other independent accounts.  

What is remarkable about Christianity, however, is that the gems of historical truth in the Christian tradition are also the gems of the central gospel message, shining most brightly in the multiple, independent attestation to Jesus’ bodily resurrection. If different men with distinct personalities and perspectives such as Peter, Paul, and Jesus’ brother James – Paul, a former persecutor; James, a former doubter; and Peter, a traitor and a coward – radically changed their lifestyles, occupations, beliefs, and preached this change to create an ultimately global movement, and if they staked their reasons for this on the resurrection, and were willing to die for this, then this phenomenon calls for explanation. This is why the once-notorious atheist Antony Flew remarks: "The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It's outstandingly different in quality and quantity."[73]

This belief in Jesus resurrection is unprecedented. Dying and rising savior figures existed in Greco-Roman mythology, but gods like Attis, Dionysus, even Baal, were never believed to have risen bodily. Their stories of life and death were cyclical; they corresponded to the harvest cycles. Jesus died on a Roman cross for a redemptive purpose, and rose as a proof that God forgives sin, not that God gives rain to our crops. Furthermore, there is not a single shred of unambiguous evidence that any pagans believed in dying and rising Savior gods prior to Christianity. Bart Ehrman notes: “Anyone who thinks that Jesus was modeled on such deities needs to cite some evidence – any evidence at all – that Jews in Palestine at the alleged time of Jesus’ life were influenced by anyone who held such views.”

Neither can the belief in Jesus’ resurrection be explained by hallucination. Comparable hallucinations do not happen to different kinds of people under different circumstances, like the disciples. People may hallucinate seeing their loved ones after they die, but they do not conclude from this that their relatives have risen bodily. This is unique to Christianity as well. There was no belief in bodily resurrection either in pagan mythology or Judaism – at least, in the case of Judaism, not until the end of the age.[74] Therefore, if the apostles had hallucinated Jesus, they would have concluded that he ascended spiritually into heaven, not that he was resurrected.

But they did claim to have seen Jesus risen bodily and were willing to give up their lives for this claim. Not like a vision in the clouds, but like a guy who died in a car accident and showed up, three days later at QFC buying a 12-ounce coffee from a Starbucks stand. He was real. They saw Him. And they believed it enough to die for it. This fact is uncontroversial, and yet unexplained. There is no sufficient, naturalistic explanation. They changed the world, and they left us with a choice.

Huston Smith, an expert on world religions, observes that only two people in human history have prompted the question, not “Who are you?” but, “What are you?” They are Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth. Yet Buddha claimed to be, not an angel or a saint, but merely a man while Jesus claimed to be, not an angel or a saint, but the Son of God.[75] Whoever Jesus was, He was not an Elvis sighting or a UFO encounter. He did something in space-time history that no other religious figure has ever done. He claimed to be God incarnate - and got away with it. Jesus is the most influential person that ever lived. But why?

Perhaps because there is a resurrection-shaped hole in history and, likewise, a resurrection-shaped hole in the human condition. Because Jesus’ victory is the key that unfolds history and, at the same time, unlocks us – even us – and makes us what we were made to be. He is our “more”. Jesus transcends Darwin but grounds morality. He once walked in Suzy’s world and reclaimed God’s image in us. And he did not do it in a corner. He did it before the world that he changed. He has bound together reality and truth.

From Darwin to Jesus

Charles Robert Darwin was born into a wealthy family in Shrewsbury, England on February 12, 1809; Jesus of Nazareth was born to a lower-class household living in the outskirts of Israel. We do not know the day of his birth, but we do know that the monk responsible for dating the Christian calendar – Dionysius Exiguus (in English, “Dennis the Small”) –miscalculated by several years. Jesus was born around the year 6 BCE.

Darwin attended medical school at the University of Edinburgh and traveled the world on the HMS Beagle. He became a prolific author, writing 25 published works during his lifetime. Jesus was possibly illiterate[76], never received a higher education, and spent his 3-year public career as an itinerant preacher in the country of his birth where he died humiliated, abandoned and crucified by his own people.
Thousands flocked to celebrate the life of Charles Darwin at his funeral on Wednesday, April 26, 1882. Philosophers, scientists, dignitaries, and friends honored him. But only a few came to the tomb of a self-proclaimed messiah named Jesus. Yet Jesus, much like the country that he loved, defied expectation.

Israel, which can be walked in length from north to south in a manner of days, has had an impact disproportionate to its postage stamp size on a typical world map. Empires have raged over it. On average, an army has marched through it every forty-four years out of the last four thousand either to rescue it, conquer it, or take advantage of it as a safe passage to another conquest.[77] And so it is with Jesus of Nazareth. His people abuse His message, trampling His legacy. His enemies caricaturize His passion, holding His claims captive. Yet His message still resonates.

But Darwin too prevails. Lecterns replace pulpits and suits replace priestly robes. The thousands flock to Darwin’s side again: philosophers and giants of intellect, professors and poets. Jesus’ tomb seems cold and lifeless, a skeleton of its former power. This is the age of Darwin, paved on the ruins of superstition. Or is it? To some, Christianity is like a moth-eaten sweater we still have in our closet. The idea of faith is part of an old fashion, a piece of sentimental clutter. Is it still relevant? I have argued in this book that it is, because it is still true and real.
It is as true today as when Jesus of Nazareth walked the streets of Galilee as a Jewish peasant in the beginning of the first century CE. Our world has spun on: a thousand passes around a burning sun, and a thousand more. What would Jesus have thought of the bustling metropolis? Is there a place for the Son of Man in the 21st century? There must be. There needs to be. In this book I have argued that there is, because truth and reality bind Christianity to the present in a historical redemptive framework. Nothing is more relevant and none of us – not even Darwin – would be able to deny it.


Annie was born on March 2, 1841 in London and died on April 23, 1851. She died of an unknown disease that may have lasted anywhere from a few weeks to nine months. The records are scarce, but we have letters from her father referring to his affection for her, to her talent, and to her strong will. “I long to kiss Annie’s botty-wotty,” he wrote. “Annie is something…a second Mozart.” In one letter he jokes, “Miss Annie is not quite ready to be married yet.” [78]

And she never would be. Annie’s premature death at the age of ten broke her father’s heart. His grief was so fierce that it prevented him from attending her funeral. His name was Charles Darwin.

It is often argued that Annie’s death, and not Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, was the reason he abandoned his Christian faith. We cannot know for certain.

What we do know is that we would understand if it was. We are all in the same boat, are we not? C.S. Lewis lived through two world wars but claimed that, despite the millions slaughtered, the death rate was not thereby increased. The death rate of any passing generation is always one hundred percent.[79] One hundred years from now it is likely that I too – and all whom I loved – will be gone. Life is the preparation for a leading role of a play we never perform. This outrages us, and that outrage is something both Darwin and Jesus knew.
In light of this outrage, can faith still have its reasons? So far, we have discussed how truth and reality weave into a redemptive historical movement called Christianity. But if Christianity is true, how can God permit the evil that He could prevent, and still be good? And if God is not good, Christianity is both irrational and cruel.

The philosopher Blaise Pascal once remarked that all of history was changed by the size of a woman’s nose. That might seem strange, but it is true. If Cleopatra looked like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters Mark Antony would not have fallen in love with her, waged a civil war for her, and altered human history on her behalf.[80]

In modern chaos theory, large-scale structures like weather systems and stock markets are shown to be extremely sensitive to initial conditions, so that the slightest change in these initial conditions can have tremendous, unforeseen consequences. Edward Lorenz coined this “the butterfly effect”, inspired by the illustration of a Texas hurricane resulting from the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil just a few weeks prior. This is Pascal’s point. There are no insignificant events, just events whose effects we cannot begin to fathom. Yet if this is our condition, how can we call God’s goodness into question? How can we say that God cannot have morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering? We can never know this.

What do we really need? Do we need all of the answers? Would that satisfy us? Probably not. At the core, we do not have questions. We have expectations. We expect a different world. We do not want answers;  we want compensation. We want redemption, and our philosopher feathers are not ruffled by death – our whole beings are repulsed by it.

But this, if we reflect on it, should not be the case in a world that has no purpose. Evil is ultimately a thwarting of purpose. It is teleological. Why should we not steal? Because we are not meant to. Why are we outraged by death? Because it is not meant to be. But purpose implies design, and design of course implies a designer. The issue betrays us. Lake a lawyer in a courtroom who puts us on the witness stand and asks, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Surely if we say, “Yes, I’ve stopped,” we admit we have done it, and are guilty. But if we say, “No,” we imply that we are still doing it, and are still guilty. Our attorney,  of course, would be outraged. “It’s a leading question!” Worse, it is a condemning question. But in our case, no lawyer asks. Not even God asks the question – we do.

We ask. This is why the philosopher Cornelius van Til said that we must climb into the lap of God in order to slap Him in His face. All of these questions have answers, but in asking the questions  we have already betrayed our skepticism. Christianity therefore, is not only true and real but it is also thoroughly relevant. This is because it is thoroughly redemptive. And it addresses a truth we all face –redemption may be painful, but it means the world to us.

And yet our world is cruel. It is plagued by sin, creation, and desire. The desire is transcendent. The creation is fallen. The sin is inside us. Yet the world is catastrophically indifferent. Suzy’s world is seemingly chaotic and unraveling. But closer inspection reveals it is anything but this.
Could God intervene before every bullet pierces the flesh, before every car crosses the center line? He could, but to wish it to be so is to wish for a world where raw freedom and refined love, where the preciousness of justice and the pricelessness of mercy, lose relevance. It would mean the end of order; it would destroy our experience of the things that matter. What made the Greatest Generation? They were not forged in the crucible of ease. Their character cannot be replicated and molded by an assembly line. This is not a product one can build from matter but is stretched and woven by the choices of suffering people. And those who follow them choose to crown their memory – not because their lives were easy, but because their lives were good.

What It Means

Christianity is not about happiness, but it is about goodness. It is the painting of a starry night. The backdrop is pitch black. Sin. Suffering. Death. These are all part of the picture. Ironically, only through their darkness do we see the stars: that Christ came for the undervalued, for the foreigner, the slave and widow, that His attributes are revealed in all their splendor against the dark night of life. Take away the darkness and you take away the beauty. No one gazes at the stars on a sunny day, and neither did Christ enter a perfect world absent of heartache. He came in the fullness of time, and he entered the human paradox.

I do not argue that Christianity is easy. I am not a salesman for Jesus – I could not be. He is not a Cadillac or a new riding lawnmower. If His claims are true, He is God incarnate. And we find that His claims ring true. They speak into something real., but the claims of Jesus do not come without pain. Normandy was not conquered in silence.  Jesus surprised the world, but He did not tame sorrow. He won the victory, and made our sorrows significant, if we allow them to be.

Jesus makes a promise that Darwin cannot make. It is the binding of truth and reality, and the marriage of reason to redemption. Christianity says, “yes!” to the human question. Yes, evil is real. But, “yes!” there must be, and is, an answer. A Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. A broken world on His spinning wheel. And a people who are made to be molded by Him.

We have journeyed through various lines of reasoning; but this journey will not make us Christians. Christianity is more of a way of thinking that you live your way into, that a way of living that you think your way into. It happens in the highs and lows of life. Jesus calls disciples, not to pick up books, but crosses. Races are not won by people who never risk. Treasures are not found by people who never seek. Suffering, trust, pain, and passion pave the highways of the things that mean something to us. And so too, these mark the pilgrimage of the Christian. Sometimes sacredness, too, is the product of a pilgrimage – from sorrow to joy on one hand, yet from happiness to holiness on the other. And if God desires our sacredness, if He respects our choices and suffers with us, and if in our suffering He manifests Himself to us, then this seems to be His world that confronts us.

This world is not wrought with second chances, but God gave us a second chance in a Person. Unlike every other religion of mankind, God is the One who provides the extended hand. We do not have to come up to Him; He has come down to us to seek and to find, and to forgive those He loves. Christianity is true, and it is found in the relics of the past; it is explored in the science of investigation and the logic of our philosophy. But it is also real in the embracing of those things that move us and make us human, and in the experiencing of those truths that bind Christianity forever to the present.

That embrace alone, though inseparable from the intellect, takes us where we were meant to go. From past facts to present realities, through old cobwebs to new clarity, from reason to worship, and from worship to learning again – learning what it means to follow God, learning what it means to be born anew. And in the stumbling, learning to stand, and in the seeking, finding what it means to be human.

About the author
Born in the Netherlands, Luuk Van de Weghe was raised in a secular home until his parents became Christians in his teen years. After becoming a Christian himself at seventeen, he went on to pursue a bachelors in Secondary Education and is currently completing a Master of Divinity at Western Reformed Seminary in Tacoma, WA. He writes and speaks on behalf of Windmill Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization.   This book reflects the research behind his public debate with atheist author David G. McAfee on September 24, 2016 at Seattle Town Hall.   


[i] This distinction is commonly referred to as methodological naturalism versus metaphysical naturalism. Many Christians are methodological naturalists when they do most of their science or history, for example, but they reject the first tenet of naturalism. A metaphysical naturalist holds to all three tenets. For many Christians, supernatural intervention (miracles) assumes at least a non-dogmatic view of methodological naturalism. It assumes the first two tenets hold true so far that nature, if left to itself, always acts in a rigid law-like manner that can be regularly observed. Only in this context can we infer that a supernatural agent has influenced it when these laws of nature appear to be superseded.
[ii] Apologetics is the defense of the Christian worldview.
[iii] Evangelicalism is a trans-denominational Protestant movement that affirms that the central tenet of Christianity is salvation, by grace, through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death.
[iv] Promiscuous teleology refers to the human tendency to attribute purpose or design to objects.
[v] A meme is trait or feature that is not passed on genetically. Examples include language, taboos, and religion.
[vi] The term Trinity was first used by Tertullian (215 CE). It refers to the Christian understanding that God exists eternally in three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Since the purpose of this discussion is only to highlight the early view that Jesus claimed, and was understood, to be God any discussion of the Holy Spirit is omitted. Other theological concepts, such the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures of Jesus, are also beyond the scope of this discussion. I omit these only because they do not bear directly on the subject at hand, but that is not to say that they are not important to the Christian understanding of God.

[1] Sean Carroll, The Big Picture (New York: Dutton, 2016), 20.
[2] Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity? (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), 12.
[3] Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell writes (pg. 319), “according to ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) in 2001, the three categories with the largest gain in membership since the previous survey of 1990 were evangelical/born-again (42 percent), nondenominational (37 percent), and no religion (23 percent). These data support the view that evangelicalism is growing in the U.S.A., but they also support the view that secularism is on the rise.”
[4] Joe Carter, “Fact Checker: Are All Christian Denominations in Decline?” The Gospel Coalition magazine, March 2015, at
[5] Ibid.
[6] J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, “An Invitation to Christian Philosophy,” Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 4.
[7] Quoted by Moreland & Craig, Ibid.
[8] Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity? 10.
[9] Ibid, 9.
[10] Philip Jenkins, the Next Christendom (Oxford: University Press, 2003), 2.
[11] Ibid, 8.
[12] Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity? 21.
[13] Nancy Pearcey & Charles Thaxton, “The soul of science: Christian faith and natural philosophy,” Turning Point Christian Worldview Series (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 17-18.
[14] This anecdote is taken from Ravi Zacharias’ lecture, “What Does it Mean to be Human?” (Dec. 15, 2010). Available for viewing:
[15] This is, of course, an imperfect analogy. A castle is in no way present on a road sign, but God is really and truly present in our world. All of His attributes are present throughout all creation, but His attributes aren’t physical and, therefore, cannot be physically contained.
[16] C.S. Lewis, quoted in the article “Christianity Makes Sense of the World” (December 2013), at:
[17] Andrew Brown, Prospect Magazine, “Bill Hamilton” (2003), at:
[18] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, xix.
Chapter 3
[19] Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity? (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), 218.  
[20] Francis Schaeffer, Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 268.
[21] Mick Jagger, “ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones.” retrieved from:
[22] Alexia LaFata, “Why Winning the Lottery Won’t Make You Happy: It’s Scientifically Proven,” at
[23] Quoted by Peter Kreeft, in “The Argument from Desire.” Available at:
[24] Romans 1:18-32.
[25] Peter Kreeft, “The Argument from Desire.”
[26] Ibid.
[27] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope."
[28] N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York: Harper-Collins, 2006), 3.
[29] Ibid, 10.
[30] Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Two (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 615-16.
[31] One striking example is the concept of modesty. All cultures alike uphold this concept, while they differ drastically on how modesty ought to be practiced. One way this is reflected is by a survive of historical artworks. See J.S.B. Morse, Everyone Agrees: Words, Ideas, and a Universal Morality (San Diego, CA: Amelior Publishing, 2008), 77-80.
[32] Neil Shenvi, “Do Objective Moral Values Exist?” at
[33] Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), 275.
[34] Ed Butler, “The Man Hired to Have Sex with Children” (July 21, 2016), BBC News. See full article at:
[35] Neil Shenvi, “Do Objective Moral Values Exist?”
[36] Adapted from a quote by John Henry Newman, recorded by Michael Ruse in Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: University Press, 2015), 98.
Chapter 4
Chapter 1
[37] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (London: Bantam Press, 1988), 13.
[38] John 8:32.
[39] Robert Trivers, in foreword to The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), xx.
[40] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 5.
[41] John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007), 26.
[42] Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 131-32.
[43] Daniel Dennett discussed various theories on the origin of religion from a naturalistic perspective in his book, Break the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin Books, 2006). On pg.108 he lists some common cognitive factors entertained by various evolutionary biologists: “Boyer lists more than half a dozen distinct cognitive systems that feed effects into this recipe for religion—an agent-detector, a memory-manager, a cheater-detector, a moral-intuition-generator, a sweet tooth for stories and storytelling, various alarm systems, and what I call the intentional stance.”
[44] The atheist philosopher Peter Millican, in a 2011 debate with William Lane Craig, says: “Everything we know about modern physics suggests that at the very small and very large scale our intuitive notions of what makes sense are very unreliable guides to truth… We are finite physical animals evolved to live within and perceive a world of medium-sized objects. There is no reason whatever to suppose that our animal faculties will be adequate to fathom the origins or possibly of the infinite history of worlds.” Find the transcript at:
[45] Richard Dawkins retells an anecdote of Peter Atkins’ remark in a 2009 lecture titled “the Purpose of Purpose.” Available at:
[46] John Gray, Straw Dogs, 27.
[47] Charles Darwin, the Autobiography of Charles Darwin (Originally published in 1887. Republished in New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2005), 70.
[48] James Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament Considered with Reference to Recent Criticisms, 40-43.
[49] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 19.
[50] Isaiah 52:7.
[51] Daniel 2:44-45.
[52] New Testament scholar Brant Pitre discusses Jewish expectations of the Messiah during the early 1st century CE in his work The Case for Jesus (New York: Crown Publishing, 2016), 102-118.
[53] John Piper, “My Glory I will not Give to another,” From Heaven He Came and Sought Her (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 635.
[54] James Crossley in The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (London: T&T Clark International, 2004) argues for Marks’ early composition based on Levitical Sabbath regulations in 1st century CE Palestine (ch. 4-7), as opposed to more conventional lines of argument, such as Clement of Alexandria’s claim that Mark was written during the reign of Claudius (41-54 CE). Maurice Casey, alternatively, makes an argument based on alleged prior Aramaic sources from the Dead Sea Scrolls. See: D. A. Carson & Douglas Moo, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 179.
[55] Gary Habermas argues that the “Son of Man” sayings must be authentic, and are accounted for in all 5 gospel sources (the 4 strands of material unique to each gospel, plus the Q source). The last time we read of the title associated with Jesus is from the mouth of Stephen, as recorded in Acts 7:56-59. This is a clear reference to Daniel 7:13-14, a passage which links this title directly to a divine figure. It is used by Jesus in a similar way in Mark 13:24-27, Matt. 24:30, Luke 21:27, and Matt. 26:63-66. Jesus’ usage of “Son of Man” in John clearly reflects a high Christology (John 3:13, John 6:62). The “Son of Man” title is never used by the early church fathers, which is powerful evidence that it was not a later designation for Jesus. For further reading on the reliability of the Gospel sources, see Gay Habermas, “Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels” (Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 28, no. 1, 2005) at
[56] See Galatians 2:6-11, written by Paul around the year 55 CE.
[57] This is Ehrman’s argument in his book How Jesus Became God (New York: Harper Collins, 2014), although he takes the view which he calls “Exaltation Christology” in arguing that texts like Romans 1:4 indicate the Jesus was exalted to a divine status rather than the view that he always was a divine being.
[58] Ibid.
[59] 2 Timothy 3:16.
[60] Richard Bauckham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 62-92, shows that the frequency and occurrence of names in the gospels corresponds with those of 1st century Palestine. Concerning Luke-Acts, A.N. Sherwin-White famously states, “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming… Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” It is well-known that Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands without making a single mistake.
[61] John Dickson, the Christ Files (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 60-63; Gary Habermas & Michael Licona, the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004), 36-40.
[62] See a fuller discussion of this by William Lane Craig at:
[63] Romans 10:9,13 refer back to Joel 2:32. Philippians 2:10,11 refer back to Isa 45:23. Both passages speak of Yahweh.
[64] Some of the verses ascribing the term θεος to Jesus are: John 1:1, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8 and Romans 9:5. John 1:1, however, is also careful in excluding the definite article and is likely reflecting the quality of divinity in the Son. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 266-269. Titus 2:13 and Hebrews 1:8 are clearly ascribing divinity to Jesus but are not accepted as authentic and authoritative across the spectrum of conservative and critical scholars. Romans, however, is virtually undisputed in being Pauline and genuine. Therefore, Romans 9:5 is critical in assessing Paul's high Christology. In this text it seems that Paul simply cannot contain himself and suddenly overflows with praise, resulting in a powerful statement that includes both the humanity and divinity of Jesus. The Greek reads: "ν ο πατρες, κα ξ ν Χριστς τ κατ σρκα: ν π πντων θες ελογητς ες τος αἰῶνας, μν." Translated, "Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, the one being over all, God blessed forever, Amen." Critics have tried to remote the obvious expression of Jesus deity by interpreting "God blessed forever, Amen" as a separate doxology. Yet several factors contribute to the classical interpretation of this verse as referring explicitly to Jesus' divinity. First, without exception in Greek or Hebrew, the term "blessed" precedes the name of God in every known doxology. This text, however, reverses this order: θεος ελογητος. Second, the present participle would be rendered superfluous (ν) if we interpret the ending as a doxology. Third, a doxology has no place in the very context of the passage. Paul is lamenting the condition of his people whom, in spite of their privileges, stand condemned without their Savior (Rom. 9: 2-3). Lastly, as Wuest observes, "the expression “blessed forever” is twice used by Paul, and each time unquestionably not in an ascription of praise, but in an assertion regarding the subject of the sentence (Rom. 1:25, II Cor. 11:31)." For fuller treatment of this text, see Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), 155-156.
[65] For further reading, I recommend John Dickson, The Christ Files and William Lane Craig’s chapter “The Resurrection of Jesus” in Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 333-404.
[66] John Dickson, The Christ Files, 37-39.
[67] Romans 1:1.
[68] Illustration taken from Gary Habermas, “Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels” (Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 28, no. 1, 2005), paragraph 14, 15. Available at:
[69] Gary Habermas provides the first five facts in The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), 26-27. He eludes to the sixth fact, which is frequently argued by Christian and skeptical scholar alike. Bart Ehrman – perhaps the most respected skeptical NT scholar in the world – argues, for example, that Paul received this tradition within only one or two years of Jesus’ death. See: Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 206.
[70] Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 95.
[71] These two criteria concern historical descriptions/theories. C.B. McCullagh’s Justifying Historical Descriptions (Cambridge: University Press, 1984) covers various factors to consider: simplicity, explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, ad hocness and disconfirmation (p.23-24). Apologists like William Lane Craig have used these criteria to argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the historical data that needs to be considered.
[72] These two criteria concern sources for historical events or persons. Bart Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 40-42, lists these criteria for determining the likely existence of ancient persons or events: numerous sources, independent source, unbiased sources, and early sources.
[73] In an interview with Gary Habermas, "My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: An Exclusive Interview with Former British Atheist Professor Antony Flew." Available from the website of Biola University at
[74] N.T. Wright’s 817-page book The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003) is almost entirely devoted to this argument.
[75] Huston Smith, the World’s Religions: Completely Revised & Updated Edition of the Religions of Man (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), 82.
Chapter 5
[76] Bart Ehrman writes, “under the best conditions, 85-90 percent of the population [in Rome during the early Christian centuries] could not read or write. In the first Christian century, throughout the Roman Empire, the literacy rates may well have been lower.” Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 37-38. Yet parts of the gospels indicate that Jesus could read (See Luke 4:17-21).
[77] Adapted from N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (London: Fortress Press, 1992), 3.
[78] John van Wyhe and Mark J. Pallen, “The ‘Annie Hypothesis’: Did the Death of His Daughter Cause Darwin to ‘Give up Christianity’?” (2012). Available at:
[79] C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” in Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 53.
[80] Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 82-83.
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