Why is Christianity in decline in the United States?

It is somewhat alarming to see the decline of Christianity in the United States, as measured by surveys in recent years, most notably those of Pew and PRRI.

People want to be on the “right side of history” – a problematic notion in itself, as discussed here – so once a trend is established it tends to gain a momentum of its own. So naturally a lot of ink is being spilled in trying to analyze Continue reading “Why is Christianity in decline in the United States?”

Can a person be good without God?

A common theme among Christian writers is that God is the ultimate source of morality, often called “the moral argument”. Probably the pithiest expression of this idea is from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in which one of the characters argues that “if God does not exist, … everything is permitted.” Many readers quickly see where this is going and consider the reverse; if morality is not just a matter of personal taste, then God must exist. Of course this is only a superficial treatment; a more thorough presentation of the moral argument, along with responses to some common objections, is found in the first chapters of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. It’s available in a YouTube version here which I recommend highly.

However one puts it, claiming that morality comes from God is a good way to pick a fight. There is a widespread belief Continue reading “Can a person be good without God?”

How do we determine historical reliability?

In my previous post, I started to explore the question of “historical reliability” but got sidetracked into a variety of related issues.  To recap, there’s a spectrum of thought about whether historical accounts in the Bible are completely reliable or totally useless, or something in-between.

My own faith in Jesus Christ is built on the Gospels having met, in my judgment, enough of the criteria for historical reliability to make me believe that the main events (the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the basic outline of His teachings, the idea that He worked miracles) actually happened.  I don’t claim perfection for these documents, but as the phrase goes, if even half of what they said about this guy is true, Continue reading “How do we determine historical reliability?”

Did Jesus exist?

The title of this post is a bit odd for a blog about Christianity. After all, I believe Jesus exists (present tense) so the question is a bit like “have you stopped beating your wife?”.

Well, it wasn’t the original title, but I let myself wander a bit with this post, as you’ll see at the end.

Regarding the historicity of the Bible, there’s a spectrum of thought. On one end, we find Continue reading “Did Jesus exist?”

Can a computer be conscious?

I recently watched the film Ex Machina, which explores questions surrounding the nature of consciousness.  I will comment briefly on some of the philosophical issues it raises, but I won’t describe the entire plot.  Nonetheless, if you’re worried about “spoilers”, now’s the time to stop reading, and I hope you’ll come back here after you see the film.

The premise of the film is that there is a robot (Ava), and its creator (Nathan) wants to know whether it is conscious or not, but doesn’t know how to test this proposition.  He invites a young programmer (Caleb) who is somewhat knowledgeable about such questions to participate in an experiment.  It isn’t, we are told, the classic Turing Test, Continue reading “Can a computer be conscious?”

Is Christianity easy or hard?

Today is Saturday and this morning my intention had been to sleep late after a long week.  As is sometimes the case, I found myself partially awake (I was going to say half-awake, but upon reflection it felt closer to three-fourths awake) far earlier than I wanted to be and resolved that if I just stayed put I would eventually fall back asleep.  This is indeed what happened, but some thoughts came to me during that partially awake period that remained with me when I woke up for good a few hours later.  I don’t remember the path of my thoughts, but I was thinking about life, and God, and what I should be doing, and whether I should write about it, and my mind was drawn towards this saying Continue reading “Is Christianity easy or hard?”

Should Christians be vegetarians?

Before considering whether Christians should be vegetarians, let’s look a closely related question. Was Jesus Christ a vegetarian?  The answer to one question does not automatically provide the correct answer to the other – for example, one could ask whether Jesus worked as a carpenter, celebrated Jewish holidays, and claimed to be the Son of God (He did, but that doesn’t mean Christians should do the same) – but in thinking through moral questions it’s certainly a good place to start.

According to the Gospels, Jesus Continue reading “Should Christians be vegetarians?”

Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?

In my previous post, I mentioned a debate with a friend about the Pope’s politics.  In the midst of it, my friend tried to defend the commonly perceived connection between Christianity and conservative politics that the current Pope’s ministry has challenged.  One line of argument went something like “Religion is inherently conservative.  Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?  Do you think partial-birth abortion is right?”  To which I mumbled a response Continue reading “Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?”

Should the Pope comment on environmental politics?

I recently had dinner with a friend who was quite upset with the recent encyclical letter issued by Pope Francis.  I had to admit that I had not yet read it, but had only seen headlines.  Nonetheless, we wandered into a discussion of the general topic of whether the Pope ought to be commenting on public policy matters.  My friend offered complaints about some of the Pope’s comments, while I tended to defend the Pope on the grounds that Continue reading “Should the Pope comment on environmental politics?”

Is it wrong to doubt?

In this post I am finishing up a three-part series on dealing with doubts. The first post asked whether Christianity’s claims depend on evidence and can be falsified, and answered in the affirmative. The second post went through one recent example of how unfavorable new evidence can come to light and, if one processes it honestly, “move the needle” adversely in terms of one’s faith. Here I will share some further thoughts Continue reading “Is it wrong to doubt?”