What does Christianity say about the death penalty?

Christians are split on whether or not there should be a death penalty.  Most mainline Protestant denominations oppose the death penalty.  The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to it except for extraordinary circumstances, and the Eastern Orthodox churches have a similarly nuanced view. Fundamentalists and most conservative Protestants generally support the death penalty.

It seems that one’s view of the death penalty flows from one’s overall view of the Bible.   Continue reading “What does Christianity say about the death penalty?”

Do nonbelievers have higher IQs than believers?

Yes, statistically speaking, there is a negative correlation between belief in God and IQ.  It may or may not have been true back in the days when monks were saving civilization, but it appears to be true today.  From this, some people draw the conclusion that God is not likely to exist.  This is not sound logic.  It’s an understandable shortcut in a world where we don’t have time to investigate everything we hear, but this subject is potentially too important to deserve anything less than careful thought.

Consider that there is also a negative correlation between wealth and belief in God. People in wealthier countries are less religious than those in poorer countries.  Within the U.S., people in wealthier states are less religious. What might be going on here?

Both money and intelligence – and I would strongly suspect other things like education level, physical strength, beauty, health, youth, popularity, etc. – are things that make a person feel self-sufficient, superior to others, and possibly meritorious. Continue reading “Do nonbelievers have higher IQs than believers?”

Did early Christians expect the end of the world in their own lifetime?

Many of them probably did.  Clearly, throughout all of the Christian centuries, we find many examples of individuals or groups thinking that the “end is near”.  The clear teaching of the New Testament is that each Christian should be prepared for the end to come at any time.

There is one passage in the Gospels that might seem to suggest that Jesus predicted that the world would end within the lifetime of the first disciples.  Some skeptics point out that the world is still here, and claim this as evidence that Jesus was a false prophet.

The verse in question is “truly I tell you, this generation will Continue reading “Did early Christians expect the end of the world in their own lifetime?”

What evidence is there that God exists?

It’s common to think of “evidence” as something that can be analyzed using scientific means, like DNA evidence found at a crime scene.  In a broader sense, however, evidence is simply whatever observations are used to demonstrate that something is true.

Some of the arguments that have been circulated for God’s existence have struck me as weak (but your mileage may vary).  For example, some derive evidence for God’s existence from methods of philosophy, such as in the ontological argument.  Philosophy is couched in a technical language of sophistication and logic.  To the extent this encourages careful reasoning, that’s fine, but Continue reading “What evidence is there that God exists?”

If God created the universe, who or what created Him?

To our minds, the entire problem of the “first cause” is a paradox. The spontaneous existence of the universe, without God, makes no sense, yet we also can’t make sense of God’s own origins either.

At first glance, it appears to be a stalemate between the theistic (belief in God) and atheistic viewpoints.  However, let’s look more closely.  If we assume that God created the universe, then we leave open the possibility that God, being infinitely wiser than ourselves, can possibly understand His own origins and resolve the paradox for us.

If we assume the universe just exists on its own, then we run into a more serious difficulty, because we cannot, ourselves, explain our origins.  This limitation is not based on the current state of science or technology.  Whatever we do to explain the origins of the universe (for example, finding some physical cause to the Big Bang) within the framework of human knowledge simply pushes back the causal chain one more link.

It’s like a detective looking at a complicated crime scene, or Continue reading “If God created the universe, who or what created Him?”

Can Jesus warm up a burrito so hot that even He cannot eat it?

Yes, I think so.

This relates to the idea of “omnipotence” (unlimited power) as one of the attributes of God, something present in many belief systems, including Christianity. The typical response to this is to say that omnipotence is subject to the limits of what power can intrinsically do. It cannot, for example, involve a logical contradiction. God cannot, for example, make one plus one equal three.  As C.S. Lewis puts it, nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

Some thinkers reply similarly to questions like this, such as whether God can create a stone too heavy for Him to move.  I think there is a subtle difference, however. An analogy that comes to mind for me is computer programming.

The computer is a creation of man.  Within the confines of a programming language and the limits of the hardware, man has complete control over what a computer does.   Continue reading “Can Jesus warm up a burrito so hot that even He cannot eat it?”