Friday, June 10, 2005

Evolution: Meaning and Implications

Meaning of Evolution
To evolve simply means to change. As far back as Aristotle, philosophers have noticed that time is related to change, i.e., in time, all things change. (We shall not discuss an even more important issue, whether time exists when matter does not change at all, or does time necessitate change in matter). Aristotle calls birth and death generation and corruption.
Today, the modern scientific theory of biological evolution refers to the observable fact that species transmute and the inference that change in the development of life forms from a common ancestor. The problem is to explain the fact of evolution. How does it come about and what makes it continue to do so?
The ancient Christian doctrine of creation and providence asserts that God alone is the creator of all that exists and is primary source of power. Modern science emerged to observe, measure and tabulate such changes and the hunt for a theory to explain evolution was on. It was Charles Darwin who provided the most successful theory to date. While it is not perfect, it remains the most popular and persuasive explanation we have. However, when he then suggested that his explanation did away with any intellectual belief in the existence of God, he crossed the metaphysical boundary and spoke ultra vires. It is this implication that is now hotly debated in the united States between what has been erroneously named “Darwinists” and “Creationists”/”Intelligent Design movement”. What is important to note is that there are many theories of biological evolution, some are Darwinian while others are not.
Any discussion ought to define the type of evolution is question.

Implications of Evolution
Biological evolution as an observed fact implies that (i) the universe is very finely-tuned, (ii) biological systems are highly interdependent so that cosmological existence as an accidental occurrence is highly unlikely. This has led atheists like Stephen Jay Gould to claim that life is a lucky strike which could not be relied upon to happen again if we spin the dice’ of time again. We of the living universe are lucky accidents. For theists like Simon Conway Morris, evolution implies the existence and participation of a God who created beautifully and bountifully. Life is inevitable. Neither views are necessary elements of biological evolution but mere implications or suggestions which are not justifiably verified. What about Darwin’s type of evolution?
Darwinian theories of evolution can imply atheism while non-Darwinian ones can imply theism or directionality from purpose (teleological). Implications are suggestive but not necessary entailments so it is possible to hold to even a theistic Darwinian view of evolution. Evolution certainly implies a finely-tuned universe which is either an incredible accident of history (Gould) or an inevitable result of purpose (Morris). Let us see how far implications can go:
Modern Darwinists such as Richard Dawkins introduced the idea of the ‘selfish gene’ to suggest that living forms are merely repositories of genes who are ‘copy-me’ sets of proteins, whose entire agenda is to never die, to be passed on with each generation. It has no final purpose. The Christian Bible claims that God is the creator of the cosmos, and of life. This has never been challenged by Darwinism. What can been inferred by Darwinism is that morality need not be absolute and God is no longer needed. Darwinism does not impinge upon where all these living forms came from anyway. The last passage in The Origin of Species offers no clue as to what was responsible for the existence of life or the universe. Although Darwin himself allowed for a ‘creator’ to ‘breathe’ into inanimate matter, the essence of life, he regretted what he wrote because readers may take him to mean that he was thinking about God. Darwin did not claim as much as he was later said to have.
Some say that Darwinism is dangerous because it leads to harmful philosophies, such as Nazism and greed. We need to distinguish identification from propositions. Nazism identifies with but is not a proposition of Darwinism. Science by its very nature is descriptive, then predictive. Theology is prescriptive and normative.
When evolutionary biology identifies the engine behind survival instincts, which include killing in order to eat or removing competition in order to acquire more, it plays no part in prescribing such behavior as normative. This is the realm of theological ethics. We are free to make decisions on values. John Duns Scotus and his view on will as rationality advances the idea of personal responsibility and sin.
For the Christian, evolution ought to show that God exists because our scientific knowledge of nature do not make us capable of making just decisions.
Evolution shows that God is necessary because science cannot judge with justice.

The Difference between Meaning & Implications

All sorts of problems arise when we do not take care in making arguments. Our topic here is what Darwin means and what he implied. Let us call Darwin’s own proposal ‘Classical Darwinism’ and the contemporary variations of evolutionary theories either Neo-Darwinism or Non-Darwinism. Most Neo-Darwinian models of biological evolution maintain Darwin’s argument that ‘natural selection’ is entirely devoid of any divine intent. On the other hand, many Non-Darwinians maintain a theory of evolution which replaces natural selection with either ‘intelligent design’ or some form of ‘divine direction’ amounting to a teleological view.
How are the words Darwinism and Evolution related. Darwinism is an example of a theory attempting the explain the scientific fact of biological evolution. We shall now attend to what each word means and what they do not. This is different from what each word implies and what they do not. Since these are scientific words, their meanings are always scientific in character but since their implications may extend beyond the boundaries of science, they may include non-scientific conclusions, such as philosophical and theological.
Hence the fact of biological evolution:
1) means that all life forms emerge from a common ancestor (scientific) but may
2) imply that the laws of physics evolve over time from a single theory of everything (philosophical) or that religious morality is an unnatural impediment to progress (theological).
In the same manner, the theory of Darwinism
1) means that Darwin believed natural selection is a sufficient explanation for evolution. When he then said that God was not necessary, it was
2) an implication from his theory, not part of the meaning of his theory. We need to discern what is a meaning and what is an implication of a fact and of a theory.
Any debate must begin by stating whether it is the meaning or the implications of either Darwinism per se or the theories of evolution that is at stake.

The Christian Confusion about Evolution: A Proposal for Divine Selection

Let us begin at the beginning.

It is important for the purpose of this seminar to limit all meanings of evolution to biological evolution. We do not refer to all manner of evolutionary ideas now adopted by many fields of inquiry.

Biological evolution states that all living things share a common ancestor by descent with modification. Charles Darwin did not discover evolution (but he proposed natural selection). His grandfather Erasmus Darwin published one of the first formal theories on evolution in his two volume Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life in 1794 and 17964 .

In 1801, almost 60 years before Charles Darwin published his ideas about natural selection, Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck (1744-1829) whom history would know simply as Lamarck introduced the idea of evolution.

Charles Darwin’s contribution was the plausible mechanism called natural selection, which sorts random mutations, privileging those which maximizes optimal survivability. Lamarck’s mistake was to suggest that function creates the organ, e.g., giraffes have long necks from trying to feed from tall tress rather than organ provide function, e.g., tall giraffes survive better because they can feed from tall trees.

Biological evolution is a fact and can be observed in nature. Darwinism is a theory to explain the fact of evolution by adopting the mechanism of natural selection.

The science and religion argument is not over the fact of evolution but over the theory of Darwinism. We are sometimes confused over this and think that the central issue is evolution itself when we think of evolution as necessarily Darwinian. This has led the Christian Intelligent Design movement to insist that evolution is not a fact but rather an hypothesis while creationism is a scientific program. This is not a helpful caricature of an already disputed notion. Few scientists and informed lay people deny the idea of evolution. What we are uncertain of is the mechanism behind it and the implications for our future existence.

The notion of ‘special creation’, i.e., that God created each new species separately from others is not biologically tenable. This does not mean that it is untrue, but that it cannot be a ground for an understanding of biology. Some would say there is no warrant for such an understanding even from the Bible itself. The majority of confession Christians in science do not hold to the theory of special creation for each species but believe that after the initial events of creation, possibly with distinct acts of creation for planet and animal life, all species of life forms came out of continuos lines of existing species. This expands the idea of a common ancestor to one of several early ancestors.

What are Post-Darwinian Theories of Evolution?

Charles Darwin lived and wrote at a time before modern Mendelian genetics and molecular biology became understood and incorporated into the many theories of evolution. After Darwin, several modern evolutionary theories emerged to account for observable nature.

Post-Darwinian evolution consists of both Darwinian and Non-Darwinian theories which incorporate the latest scientific findings discovered after Charles darwin’s death. Darwinian theories of evolution generally points to an accidental beginning with no need for a creator God and a bleak future after biological corruption, or death. Non-Darwinian theories of evolution posit a theory by which it is possible to reconcile evolution with a biblical explanation of creation along with an optimistic hope for a future when biological limitations on our brains will no longer constrain what our minds can achieve.

Every Christians ought to know this: there is no single theory of evolution today. While they share a common belief that life is continuos with each other so that man for example, is a kind of animal and that viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are part of animated matter, they do not agree with the mechanism or even the source of life. For example, some theories argue for natural selection while others for what I call divine selection.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Life begins with the acquisition of knowledge - the knowledge that we exist! Even before the baby’s first cry as she gasps for air to her lungs, the fetus lives in a dependent relationship with her mother. We do not know that she knows anything, but she at least knows that she is, even if she cannot remember such knowledge. After birth, knowledge accumulates rapidly as the baby learns to survive. In the spiritual birth of a Christian, before anything else, she has to have minimal knowledge of God, that God exists, that we are not God and that God has spoken. Armed with this knowledge, we are able to make sense of the world around us. Concepts such as contingency, absolutes, time, space, truth, matter, form, life, existence etc. begin to make sense. The mind in the life of a Christian knows of God.
How does God expect us to use our minds? Knowledge is merely interpreted data, information filtered through our rational minds and shaped by our prior commitments. It is not wisdom. Knowledge becomes wisdom only when it is used in furtherance of God’s will. Thus anyone can acquire knowledge of say, the natural sciences, or mathematics, of economics, or art. Anyone can live a life and thrive as humans in this world with mere knowledge.
However, it is only when we turn knowledge into wisdom that we begin to KNOW WISDOM because we have learned to use KNOWLEDGE WISELY. As we turn our knowledge into wisdom, we learn to worship, to exercise faith, to seek holiness, learn to trust God in guidance, and to love of others, expressed in evangelism and discipleship.

If our knowledge does not lead us to worship God, we are in danger of acquiring undevotional theology, which is just as dangerous as untheological devotion1 . True worship is intelligent worship. We must know the whats, the whens, the hows, and the whys of our worship. It must not be accidental or incidental, but deliberate. Worship must be done in truth and with all our mind (John 4:24 and Luke 10:27). Worship is the praising of God’s name and work of creation. Israel worshipped God as the lord of nature and the lord of nations2 , not some abstract philosophical construct.
Worship includes the intelligent private and public response to God’s revelation. Hence corporate worship in church and private reading and meditation of the Bible are essential aspects of Christian devotion. For Paul, all true worship involves the active engagement of the mind. So Paul was concerned about the Corinthian preoccupation with speaking in tongues without interpretation. “For if I pray in tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also ...” (1 Corinthians 14:13-15). This side of heaven, Christian worship will not be perfect, for only when we see God face to face will we be able to praise God perfectly.

Knowledge is the foundation of faith. It makes faith reasonable. Those who know God’s name put their trust in Him (Psalm 9:10). It is impossible to have faith in someone you do not know. We cannot believe without knowing and we cannot know without believing. The believer is privileged to benefit from God’s word because he now has faith which seeks understanding (Hebrews 4:2). It is like knowing mathematics before studying physics, or knowing the principles of music before learning to play the piano. Faith dramatically enhances our knowledge of God. Paul teaches that God’s power accomplished in Christ is now available to those who believe (Ephesians 1:18-20). Thus we find that faith and knowledge is inextricable bound in the Christian life.
What is faith? Is faith an irrational, illogical belief in the improbable? Let us start with describing what faith is not.
2.1 Faith is not credulity. H. L. Mencken was wrong when he said that faith is an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable3 . For Mencken then, faith and reason are incompatible. Credulity refers to gullible, uncritical, undiscerning and unreasonable belief. In 2 Corinthians 5:7, it is faith and sight which are held in opposition, not faith and reason. Indeed, the Lord in invites the reader to “come now and reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). The reasonableness of faith is based on its trust in the character and promises of God, which comes through knowledge and reflection. However, a rejection of the reasonableness of faith without any reason is nothing but dogmatic belief in disbelief.
2.2 Faith is not optimism. The late popular preacher Norman Vincent Peale promoted a promising power of positive thinking. However, he makes no distinction between faith in God and faith in oneself4 . His mantra is a daily dose of saying “I believe” three times5 , with no concern about the object of that belief. This was his “worry-breaking formula”. He ends his book with the words “so believe and live successfully” with no indication of what it is that we are to specifically believe in. This is perhaps the secret to the success of the book’s sales. It can apply to anything and essentially ... nothing. Peale’s faith is essentially self-confidence and ungrounded optimism applied to religion. While Dr. Peale apparently modified his position before his death, the book remains in print and defines faith as little more than wishful thinking6 . Instead of the optimism of “positive thinking” or “positive mental attitudes”, Christian faith is reasoning trust. In many of the travails of David in the Old Testament, he gained strength from his faith in God only after recalling God’s promises or thinking about God. Faith and thinking goes hand in hand. It was not a resolve to have faith in the abstract.

We need to know who we are in relation to God. During the temptations that Jesus faced, all three times he prefaced his response with “It is written”. Jesus trusts the authority of the Scripture (OT only) and demonstrated how Christians are to think of themselves as made in the image of God. We find sanctuary and wisdom in God’s word. Clear biblical knowledge of God’s will is the starting point. We must then make a commitment to obey it.
With our increasing knowledge of God comes greater responsibility to put what we know into practice, to live a holy life. We know God’s law in order to better obey it. Jesus himself, after washing the feet of his disciples and teaching them, said “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them”. James also echoed this with the words “Be doers of the word, and not only hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22). The disobedient Christian is one who believes theoretically but is effectively a practical atheist.
To live a holy life is to seek a life of self-control, which in turn, is really mind-control. What is the alternative? Our minds will still be controlled by our passions and cravings, except this time, the controls will be haphazard and inconsistent. We are in the business of redeeming the mind for Christ. Socrates scolded the people of Athens for spending time and money on feeding their bodies while neglecting their minds.

How do we discover God’s will? There is God’s general will and God’s particular will for us. God’s general will for everyone is to be conformed to the image of his Son. This can be gleaned from the Scriptures for it applies to everyone. But God’s particular will for your life and personal decisions are not to be sought in Scripture. Such personal wills are different for everyone. Since Scripture does not contradict itself, we have no warrant to look to the Bible to ask what specific actions we should take. God has given us an intelligent mind to think.
For example, on the question of marriage, the general will of God is that marriage is God’s good purpose for humanity and the single life is God’s good purpose as the exception to the rule. Within marriage, companionship and intimacy is a primary goal for which every marriage should honor. But who one should marry is not found in the Bible.
We are to
use our mind and the common sense given to us,
pray for guidance on the matter, and
seek opinions of family and friends who know us best, before making up our minds.

Psalm 32: 8-9 gives us a threefold promise by God to instruct, teach and guide us, but we are to be instructed, taught and guided with understanding. Again we are to use our minds. We need to be spartan in our loose use of statements such as “The Lord called me to do ...” or “The Lord sent me to ...”, as if we have a special email from God. Such talk often weakens the meaning of God’s communication with us and weakens our witness. While we may say that our reading of the Scriptures lead us to believe that ... or our understanding of the ways of God convinces us that we should do ..., we take license in the faith when we declare what may be untrue or irresponsible us of the words used by the apostles “The Lord said...”.
God will guide us in the way of love, for in a deep sense, God is love. Knowledge of God reality should lead to love. The more we know about God’s love for us and His plans for our future, the more we should want to share that knowledge with others. Sometimes, we need love to restrain the harshness of our knowledge, to learn to be sensitive to others as we share the incredible news of the gospel. While knowledge can puff one up with pride, love can build others up in the Lord. Knowledge without love is then but a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1). This love is best expressed in apologetics, evangelism and discipleship (AED).
Apologetics is pre-evangelism, removing obstacles to effective evangelism. Evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the gospel. Discipleship is the equipping of the saints that they may go and do likewise.

Knowledge of our world is helpful in the art and science of apologetics, the constructive removal of obstacles to the preaching of the gospel or evangelism. Sometimes, people do not hear the gospel because they are distracted by unanswered questions which turn their attention away from the issues at hand. It may be a past experience of misinformation or a prejudice undetected or a hidden emotional attachment to a foundational philosophy. In these postmodern times, the most important apologetic issues are the dominance of scientism (the assumption that science alone can answer all questions) and the ideology of religious pluralism (the assumption that all religions are not mutually exclusive, i.e., that they are all equally valid, if not true).
True lovers of science and respecters of religious distinctives are scandalized by these outrageous assumptions that have come to take root in the way society as a whole learn, think, and teach with conviction. The great sorrow is not that truth is banished but that many people actually believe THE UNTRUTH THAT TRUTH CANNOT BE TRULY TRUE.

A thoughtful proclamation of the gospel is the most effective way to have the gospel heard, that God may arouse the faith in the listeners. Too often, we see emotional appeals for decisions with an inadequate explanation of what is to be decided. Paul summed up his evangelistic ministry with two words, “to persuade” (2 Corinthians 5:11)7 . This is an intellectual exercise, to marshall arguments in order to prevail on people to change their minds. Following Paul’s teaching by argument, explanation, proclamation, and persuasion, for three weeks in the synagogue, the writer of the Gospel according to Luke records that some “were persuaded” (Acts 17: 2-4). Paul sought to convince in order to convert. So when we say that our friend has converted, it should mean that he was persuaded. We should make a reasoned presentation of the gospel because people respond to the truth rather than directly to Christ. It is only later that Christians learn about Jesus. Thus, acknowledging, believing and obeying the truth are the elements of Christian belief. Objections to a reasoned evangelism.
(i) Does this not advocate intellectual pride? Yes, it is a lurking danger, but we distinguish between intellectual flattery and respecting intellectual integrity.
(ii) Does this not disqualify uneducated people? Not if the presentation seeks to reach the rationality rather than the content of knowledge. Even uneducated people can think rationally.
(iii) Does this not dispense with the Holy Spirit? Not at all. It is the power of the Holy Spirit alongside a reasoned presentation that marks evangelism. Without the Holy Spirit, it is mere human rhetoric, and without a reasoned presentation, it is a display of our laziness. Human argument is insufficient but it is not unnecessary8 so that human participation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for effective evangelism.

The life of a Christian is not complete without the commitment to disciple oneself and others in thinking and living as a Christian should. Discipleship begins with discipline. Just as we learn to work as a midwife, lawyer, an accountant, a janitor or an electrician, the Christian life has to be learned. Discipleship causes our minds to interact as a community, holding each other accountable to the spiritual disciplines and encouraging us to grow in the Lord. As we learn to listen, pray, read, study and meditate on the Scriptures, we enrich our experience with God and heighten our sense of the divine in our souls.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Academy for Christian Thought Seminar: The Natural Sciences & Christian Theology


The next ACT seminar on April 16th [What Every Christian Ought to Know About Science and Christian Theology] at the Empire State Building will be delivered by Ron Choong. This 3 hour seminar will consider the philosophical commitments intrinsic to the natural sciences and Christian theology. Each field of inquiry assume the significance of metaphysics to shape its ontology. The proposal for a doctrine of science will assess Alister McGrath's appropriation of Roy Bhaskar's critical scientific realism. In what he calls a scientific theology, McGrath argues for an a posteriori critical realist methodology to articulate a possible dialogue between science and theology. In addition, Wentzel van Huyssteen's postfoundationalism and Nicholas Rescher's mathematical notion of transversal rationality will be considered for a democratic platform by which to buttress McGrath's model. Ron Choong's notion of science as discovery of divine disclosure (DDD) and theology as a commitment to a convictional confession (CCC) will be used to describe a creational origination of reality. The case study for this will be an interdisciplinary redescription of the Christian doctrine of creation which can account for a scientific quest for the question of origins (universe, life and reflective consciousness). If it is possible to articulate a biblically faithful doctrine which is both coherent to revelational reflection and corresponds to observational speculation, a major advance may be claimed for progress towards a true theory of everything (TTOE), not one limited to just physics ala Stephen Hawking's TOE.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Trinity, Jesus and the Y-chromosome

Thinking Things Through

The Academy for Christian Thought
Bulletin #1 - March 2005

What we look forward to in 2005
Paideia Bible Studies for international students and scholars will reflect the Old Testament theme with a global perspective, asking after the relevance of the Hebrew-Jewish-Israelite experience for a universal faith. These studies engage contemporary issues prevalent on the campus and workplace.
The completion of the first full year of Project Timothy. This novel approach to a close reading of the Scriptures in community guided by lectures in theology, biblical history and philosophy provides a strong foundation to understand the Bible. Forming Prayer Triplets for accountability, each participant learns to use biblical tools such as concordances, commentaries and historical atlases and formulate their apologetic and missional thoughts responsibly. In having to offer a testimony to be critiqued by the group, each member has to rethink what it means to be a witness. I am assisted by two able tutors who are former PT graduates, Vivek Mathew and Gene Yuan.
The Areopagus Seminars for 2005 feature studies in Christianity and World Religions as well as Science and Theology. The 30 titles of ACT manuals are now available for purchase online. We began the year with a survey of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds titled “What Christians Really Believe”. I spoke on the significance of a creedal faith in a relativistic world. The Scriptures serve as an anchor for the church and provide a peerless measure of confessional stability. This speaks against the charge that Christianity is what Christians practise. The February seminar was “Quest for the Christian Mind”, a survey of the 3 Cs of Christian belief - convictional commitment to the confession - that Christ is God and Lord. The next seminar is an introduction to the 1947 discovery of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” and its implications for Christianity.
The Kairos Lectures in Systematic Theology have generated requests for recordings. (see next point). In the first quarter, I examined the twin doctrines of creation and providence, topics which are crucial for our understanding of theology in a postmodern scientific world. Then we considered the doctrine of man, exploring what it means to be made in the image of God and how this can address the life sciences. Next, we will cover the Bible’s historical role in shaping the Church, including a survey of the Lost and the Banned Books.

In this Bulletin, I would like to explain why we ought to be interested in apologetics (the art of giving a reasoned defense of what we believe). In the early Christian church, apologetics was the first duty of every Christian. Without it, the church as we know it would not have arisen and much of what we take for granted as ‘gospel truth’ would be nothing but blind faith.
Let me begin with a defense of the doctrine of the Trinity, the foundation of the Christian faith. Do Christians worship one god or three gods? Both options are incorrect. We worship the god who is one! The maker of heaven and earth, who spoke to Adam and Eve, saved Noah and his family, called Abram out of Mesopotamia, named Jacob Israel, called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, and who guided Joshua into Canaan, is the God who is one and, not one god. The shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 [Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one ] and James 2:19 [You believe that God is one; you do well...] refer not to one God but God who is one. Christianity is not a monotheistic faith. It is a trinitarian faith. We have become theologically corrupted by well-meaning but biblically-challenged worship songs which have become a major source of our biblical knowledge, so we sing “The Lord our God is One Lord”, suggesting that we worship one God rather than the God who is one. But who can understand this mathematical conundrum? It is easier to say that we worship one God expressed in three forms rather than a unitary of three gods. Yet this has no biblical warrant. It is just a cop-out. We should be bold enough to say that God revealed in the Scriptures as the Father, the Son and the Spirit are titles describing the three distinct persons of the trinitarian godhead, for which any attempt at mathematical formulation will collapse. What they have in common is the same will. This we need not wonder about or guess at - they do not contradict each other. It is this character of God which makes our Lord one. In every other respect we do not have a biblical description of a singular god.
We conclude that our God is one, Father, Son and Spirit. While we testify to God’s singular and unified will, we cannot and need not explain either to the satisfaction of history, philosophy or science, any verification of just such a claim. All three fields of inquiry are limited by the powers of human perception. As a metaphysical claim, it is beyond the competence of human inquiry to devise a test, and if a test exists, no one can understand or even recognize it. The non-verifiability of doctrines is the consequence not of theological weakness but of the limits of human inquiry. In this apologetic, we use philosophy to keep both scientific and theological claims honest. The nature of scientific inquiry is to observe, ponder and explain natural phenomena by inference to the best explanation (IBE). It offers descriptive rather than truth statements. This is why progress in science, replacing wrong knowledge with better but not necessarily correct knowledge, is an acceptable practice. Theological doctrines however, are not observational approximations by inference. Rather, they are truth claims and may not be fully understood even by the messenger, since such claims are revelatory and not inferential. Science discovers what God discloses. Theology reflects on what God reveals. Philosophy keeps both of them honest. However, responsible doctrinal effort always takes into account the inferences of the sciences, the imagination of the arts, and the poetic expressions of literature as it reflects theologically. A complete theological construct of reality engages every sphere of human culture because that is the way we know knowledge about anything. We ask how this insight from revelation that God is triune helps us better understand the worlds of the natural sciences, the fine arts, literature, history, philosophy, the business world, economics, politics and “the man on the Clapham Omnibus” (man in the street). At the very least, it distinguishes the Christian faith from both Judaism and Islam. That God is trinitarian allows for a divine judge, redeemer, and comforter. That God is creator answers the question of origins. That God loves and judges answer the questions of ethics. No philosophy or religion offers such a comprehensive worldview.

In my next Bulletin, I shall examine the rejection of the virgin conception which led to the birth of Jesus, our Lord. This leads to two heresies, Docetism and Ebionism. The first is the teaching that Jesus is divine and cannot be fully human while the second is the claim that Jesus is a great human but not divine. One easy way to remember the difference is that just as D comes before E (Docetism before Ebionism), so the heresy about Jesus’ humanity comes before the rejection of Jesus’ divinity. The issue at stake is whether Jesus, if he was indeed fully human and male at that, had a Y-chromosome, which all human males possess? If he does not have a Y-chromosome, he is not fully human male. If he has a Y-chromosome, where in the world did he get it from? The only possible answer is that he got it at conception by the power of the Holy Spirit. All other human males received from paternity of another human but Jesus in this case, did not. Is this a serious argument against the doctrine of Christology, that Jesus is both God and man? While this may seem a flippant attack on Christianity, be assured that at biology classes all over the world, millions of Christian students who accept the doctrinal teaching of the Church begins to wonder when they come to Genetics 101.

Until the next Bulletin, may the grace of the Lord be your peace, Ron Choong

Kant and Christianity

What follows is very brief summary of an essay I wrote some years ago at Yale for a seminar rethinking Kant's posture with respect to the Christian doctrine of atonement. John E. Hare had just been appointed to the Noah Porter chair in philosophical theology to replace my other teacher there, Nicholas Wolterstorff (who retired). Hare is both an internationally recognized Kant as well as Kierkegaard scholar. I quickly wrote to ask if we could do a one-on-one tutorial comparing the two masters of philosophy. he agreed and two other doctoral students joined us for a semester (12 weeks) of intense close reading. Both Hare and I studied under the same professor at Princeton, the just retired Diogenes Allen (for whom I served as his last teaching fellow), famed for his absolute intolerance for any lack of precision and rigor in philosophical argumentation.
Both Hare and I were taught (many moons apart) by Allen and his generation of Oxford trained scholars, that Kant moved away from orthodox Christiantiy. However, starting some 15 years ago, a fresh generation of thinkers began to change their impression of Kant's famous First Critique. Among them was a young John Hare, son of Oxford's legendary philosophy don R. M. Hare (an atheist). John's view piqued my interest and I decided to read for myself and hear John out in a serious engagement where the stakes really count - in a seminar where as a student, I have everything to lose. I was duly impressed by Hare's principal argument and explored Kierkegaard myself to make a comparison.
Here, I argue that Kant has been misunderstood for several generations and a new generation of Kant scholars, including evangelicals, have begun to question the popular view that Kant was anti-Christian.
Due to the length of the essay (almost 60 pages), I am posting a summary and a part of the conclusion. Please ignore the numebrs (footnote numbers)


“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe... the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence” Immanuel Kant - Critique of Practical Reason, 1788

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) deny that we can acquire a theoretical knowledge of God. For Kant, we know of God by intuition and for Kierkegaard, by experience. By objective and subjective ways of knowing God, both try to show that God cannot be known with objective certainty, i.e., by verification, but can be known through religious belief.
This paper will examine Kierkegaard’s criticism of Kant’s notion of atonement as insufficient and ask if Kierkegaard had correctly interpreted him. For Kant, religious belief is found in pure practical, as opposed to pure theoretical reason. Belief in God is generated by human reflection of the moral gap between what we are and what we ought to be. He has often been thought of as negating the true meaning of Christian theological doctrine of atonement by his rejection of divine grace in favor of auto-salvation.
We begin with a brief survey of Kant’s notion of religion and atonement found in his second critique and his major work on religion. Then we shall summarize Kierkegaard’s three stages of life in his pseudonymous Either/Or. Next, we will discuss Kierkegaard’s critique of Kant’s theory of atonement. We conclude with an appraisal of Kierkegaard’s critique with a commentary on the advantage of literary pseudonymity and the limitation of writing within the limits of reason alone.

The key to understanding Kant is to note his thought experiments in his preface to the second edition of Religion, in which he explains the title of the book. Consider a sphere of pure religion of reason within a larger sphere of historical revelation. All confessional statements describing historical events fall within the part of the larger sphere outside of the smaller sphere, while matters of reason fall within the smaller sphere. He explains that “The philosopher, as a teacher of pure reason, must confine himself within the narrower circle ... and waive consideration of all experiences”41 . While the inner circle rules out parts of the historical revelation as it is interpreted, it does not rule out religion.
This distinction between religion per se and historical events of religious significance is important because it hints at Kant’s determination to control the selection of what is properly within the confines of knowledge by reason alone. He also considers a second thought experiment in which he privileges some alleged divine revelation and leave out the pure religion of reason to examine the revelation as an historical system in the light of moral concepts and see where it leads. If the experiments are successful, he wishes to show that “reason can be found to be ... compatible with Scripture [and] also at one with it, so that he who follows one will not fail to be conformed to the other”. Otherwise, we will have two religions, one of human reason and one of divine revelation42 .
When we read Kant’s notion of atonement in Religion, we must bear in mind the purpose for which he wrote it. Kant’s project of translating religiously significant historical events known to us by divine revelation to the religion of pure reason is not an act of reducing religion to morality. It is an interdisciplinary attempt to speak confessional language in philosophical terms of reference.
Even when he speaks of “Man himself must make or have made himself ... in a moral sense ... whether himself good or evil... an effect of his free choice”, Kant qualifies this statement by limiting it to the moral sense. Likewise he writes that we must understand the phrase Man is created good as Man is created for good, i.e., the original disposition of man is good43, even if his propensity is for evil.
Kant adopts the Lutheran form of the doctrine of total depravity and the human propensity to evil which corrupts us all in the whole along with the original predisposition to good, which helps us survive the Fall.
What of grace then? Is there space for grace in Kant’s view of religion? For Kant, the pure religion of reason can admit the concept of divine grace as something incomprehensible but cannot adopt44, in the doctrine of atonement because grace is beyond the possible scope of sense experience. This does not deny grace if understood from an exposition of religion not limited to the limits of reason alone.
Another feature of Kant’s doctrine of atonement is that it does not permit the transfer of liability because this cannot make sense to pure reason45. But does the transfer occur in Kant’s historical realm? We have to speculate that Kant would say, sure, strictly from the point of view of the historical realm.
Hare argues that Christ takes over our failures when he takes us as members of his own body. The Christ-human relation is qualitatively different from the inter-human relation46 . Will this overcome the Kantian objection against the transmission of liability? From the general perspective of theology, this makes sense, but within the limits of reason alone, I fear not. For reason alone cannot be made to comprehend divine-human relationality short of a confessional conviction that Jesus is God. The framework Kant set up limits his ability to make such a claim, even if he himself believes it, like a faithful Lutheran.

Kant’s view of atonement is inadequate for Christian orthodoxy if understood to be an historical explanation but within the limits of reason alone, it is an adequate and not unfaithful presentation. The question of whether it will be useful as an apologetic is a different matter.
Was Kierkegaard’s demonstration of Kant’s theory successful in showing the inadequacy of Kantian ethics? Again, as a historical account, Kierkegaard was correct, but within Kant’s own stated terms, he was probably misunderstood by Kierkegaard.
If Kant is read as limiting reason to make room for faith in the sense of partitioning knowledge, he would have done Christianity a disservice. However, if we take him on his word that he sought to see what can be universally understood by all humanity regarding God with the use of pure reason alone, he in fact advanced our understanding of God. Hare argues that Kant wished to translate rather than reduce religion to morality. He attempts to recover a Kantian reading that is more in line with orthodox Christian teachings, especially with regard to the doctrine of atonement. How persuasive is this argument?
The title of Kant’s book, Religion Within The Limits of Reason Alone does not refer to a reduction of religion to morality, but rather to a limitation of pure theoretical reasoning as opposed to pure practical reasoning regarding the nature of religion. Short of practical reasoning, one cannot understand historical events such as the virgin conception and incarnation of Christ. This explanation seems to be in line with Hare’s claim that Kant has been unfairly treated and badly misunderstood. I shall argue that Kierkegaard himself failed to carefully interpret Kant. But why did this happen? Why does it continue to happen? I think it is because of Kant’s ambitious project coupled with an inadequate use of literary style for which Kierkegaard was a master.
We are quite aware of the intended effect of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writing style, of which Either/Or is one. It permits Kierkegaard to make statements he would be reticent to make if he wrote it under his own name. While it limits what the book can say, what it permits it to say, it can be said very well. In the same manner, Kant’s writings on religion and atonement in the Critique of Pure Reason and in Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone reflects a self-imposed writing paradigm which limits what Kant can say, but permits us to understand from the point of view of someone not confessionally committed to the Christian faith, the limits to which reason alone can comprehend the nature of religion and specifically, of the Christian religion. Kierkegaard adopted a pseudonymous writing style to lead the reader into an apologetic for the Christian faith. But he seriously misunderstood Kant’s style of writing, one strictly from the point of view of a pure atheological philosopher. Kant was perhaps also as a nuanced apologist for the Christian faith, to show that the belief in immortality, God and divine grace is not a violation of pure reason in its complete, theoretical and practical senses. The advantage Kierkegaard has over Kant is that the former wrote under several pseudonyms, so that as Victor Eremita in Either/Or, Kierkegaard is free to express rather extravagant statements about life and faith which he himself does not share, while as Anti-Climacus (the only pseudonym who knows Christianity from the inside47 ), in Sickness Unto Death, he was able to present the view that sin is innate to the human condition and yet can be eliminated by the atoning effect of Jesus Christ, who bears infinite responsibility48 .
Kant does not share the privilege of this literary tool and he paid the price of flying too near the sun without protection. His project to demonstrate the philosophical cogency of the Christian belief in God did not manage to persuade a Christian writer of Kierkegaard’s genius.

Where did the Bible come from?

Who wrote the Bible?

The world’s all time bestseller, the Christian Bible, has been translated in part into over 3000 languages. A closer examination reveals that none of the writers of the 66 ‘books’ claim authorship, i.e., they acknowledge penmanship without claiming to be the authors of the material. While most contemporary books identify their authors by name, the Holy Bible makes its own internal collective affirmation that the primary author of the text is none other than the God who made the universe.

What does this mean and why is the answer thus far seemingly unsatisfactory to most of us? This is because we are creatures of habit and culture, in their historical contexts. It is the habit within living memory that anything published in documentary form usually identifies the author/s or if not, evidence can point to the writers, always of human origin.

The astonishing claim of the Bible is that the author is non-human (in fact, divine). Furthermore, the books were written over a great span of time and geography. Is it reasonable to accept that the writers (human agents) of the Bible, who wrote largely in ignorance of each other, converge on a united theme which stands the test of time as well as it does? Let us examine some of the objections to this claim.


1) No known book or work of literature exists which spans such vast stretches of time and geography.
Answer: This absence of comparable collections is no obstacle to the possible existence of such a work. It is like saying that because machines which can travel faster than the speed of sound did not exist in 1920 must mean that the Concorde airplane cannot now exist.

2) There is no externally corroborative claim to support the internal claim of the Bible.
Answer: In every other field of intellectual inquiry, scholars always look to internal evidence of documents to establish their character and thereby privilege what the document says of its identity. To disallow this methodology for one of the world’s oldest known collections of literature is disingenuous.

3) The Bible does not explain how it came about, mechanically. Answer: According to our best scholarship, history and tradition show that the textual materials were inherited from an ancient oral tradition which dates back to at least the twentieth century B.C. with the earliest written forms emerging around 1500 BC. While the collection of the Hebrew Bible was more or less completed by 200 B.C., the texts of the New Testament became a fixed compilation only in the fourth century A.D. Over time, various translations have been effected to accommodate the changing speech and literary patterns of human languages.

If these objections hold, they pose compelling arguments against the Bible’s own claim. If not, the objections are exposed for what they are - mere prejudices!

Bible Tidbits: Did you know that ...
Before the invention of mass-produced printing (c.1455 A. D.), the Bible was transmitted by anonymous monks who patiently copied biblical manuscripts by hand.

It would take months to copy a single book such as Jeremiah.
Today, there are about

2300 surviving Bible manuscripts copied from 300 to 1500 A.D.
55001 Greek manuscripts that contain portions of the New Testament
8000 in Latin and
1000 in other ancient languages2 .

Most copies are about 100 years later than the autographs (originals).
Hand copying was tedious and errors invariably crept in due to the frailties of human effort. The invention of spectacles in 1375 A.D. helped greatly, as did the invention of the movable printing press in 1455 A.D. The earlier the document used, the closer to the original. The KJV used Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries. Modern translators use New Testament manuscripts from as far back as the 3rd century and Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts from the time of Jesus

The Need for a Complete Bible
The last great persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire came under Emperor Diocletian in February, 303 A.D. Its failure to eradicate the faith completely led to the victory of the church. In 306 A.D., General Constantine was declared ‘Augustus’ by his troops at York in ‘England’ and in 312 A.D., was so affirmed by the Senate at Rome, (becoming sole emperor in 324). In 313 A.D., Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which declared Christianity a legitimate religion (it became the official religion of the empire in 381). The new capital of the empire was now Byzantium, later called Constantinople (modern day Istanbul in Turkey). In 332, Emperor Constantine himself ordered from bishop Eusebius, 50 copies of the Bible in vellum.

The Greek New Testament was written as a series of unbroken letter formations. One had to determine from the context, where one word ended and another started. Chapter divisions were created in the 1200s A.D. by a lecturer at the University of Paris and its current verse divisions were completed in 1551 A.D.

For example, the Gospel according to Mark in early documents might be written something like

or rather

which had to be broken up into discrete words, like so
????- ??? - ??????????? - ?????- ???????- ????- ????
which transliterate into English as

“Beginning - the - Gospel - (of) Jesus - Christ - Son - (of) God”
and translate into
“The beginning (of the) Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God”

Today, we know it in the modern Greek form (UBS4) as
???? ??? ??????????? ????? ??????? ???? ????
and in English

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God”

Learn more about the canonization of the Bible from the ACT Seminars or from the ACT Canonization Manual.
ACT, Box 20376, New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Evil and Suffering

One the great unanswered questions is why evil and suffering exists.
It is commonly assumed that the two words are related and sometimes, they are used synonymously.
However, evil is often the name we use to describe a cause and suffering is used to describe the consequence.

Hence, while not all evil results in suffering, and not all suffering a result of evil, their relationship may be stated as follows:
1. Evil which does not result in suffering (Wicked actions which misses causing suffering such as a failed attempt to murder)
2. Evil which results in suffering (Wicked actions by people which cause suffering such as murder. Animals are exempt because we do not expect them to be morally cognitive)
3. Suffering not caused by evil (Such as that caused by natural disasters)
4. Suffering caused by self-infliction (This may be simply the result of making poor judgments)

Are there any other categories that I have missed?

Check out comment #4 for my response to the issue of evildoers who escape punishment

Friday, March 18, 2005

What is good?

Some 2500 years ago, Socrates wondered about gods and goodness. In ancient Greece where he lived, many of the gods indulged in behavior which even mortals felt were bad, killing, stealing, commiting incest, destroying etc. He posed the question to Euthyphro about whether the gods love what is holy or holiness is what gods love. Socrates's student Plato wrote about. Today, this is known an Euthyphro's dilemma. Is God good because he conforms to a behavior that we all agree is good, or is good that which we attribute to what God does? If there is a good to which God has to conform in order to be good, then God is not the highest good and ought not to be called God in the first place. If good is what God does, then there is nothing that God does which is not good. In other words, is God good, or is good God?
Some say that this is a problem for Christians since if good is God, then God can be arbitrary and command evil which we have to define as good!
While this is a philosophical possibility, it assumes that goodness lies in the commands of God rather than in the nature of God. If god's nature is what we define goodness to be, then God's nature which determines God's commands, cannot be evil.

Denominations, can't live with them, can't live without them

Denominations! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

Denominations are collections of churches which form collectives and share common practices and beliefs. They have common denominators such as (i) the limitation of baptism to adults (Baptists, Anabaptists); (ii) the baptism of infants as well (almost everyone else); or (iii) the type of church government (Presbyterianism, Congregationalism or Episcopalianism). What they share in common binds them together and identifies them as a group with certain accepted norms of worship. Membership is voluntary and this is a historical result of attempting to remain faithful to the revelation of God.

Every denomination claims faithfulness to the Scriptures.

Faithfulness as they see it and almost no denomination started as the intended consequence. As early as the New Testament times, fissures of division were apparent when Paul warned his readers not to identify with either Apollos or himself, but with Christ. The separation of Paul and Timothy from Barnabas and John Mark in their missionary journeys indicated different styles of ministry. The exile of Bishop Nestorius resulted in the division of the Church and the formation of what later came to be known as the Nestorian Church. Martin Luther intended to reform the Church, as did Jean Calvin, but Lutheranism and Calvinism transpired instead. Henry VIII wanted to be head of the English Catholic Church but the Church of England was the result. John Wesley was concerned that after his death, his followers might form a new denomination, which was exactly what happened. Methodism arose even as Wesley lay dying. Yet, for all its apparent negative impact, denominationalism is important today.

Why are denominations important?

Identification with a denomination makes public and holds one accountable to what one truly believes about the God of the Christian Church. To be part of a denomination means that one is committed to a certain understanding of every important doctrine, having examined its consequences and source of understanding. Denominationalism is a direct development from the creedal history of the church as we shall see in another session.

All denominations start out as correctives over apparent errors within church traditions. 

In the attempt to reform incumbent church practices, the new correctives often end up as ‘new denominations’, thus the Reformation gave rise to Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, and other ‘new’ traditions. Yet denominationalism is a result of the human condition as it expresses the doctrines of the church in a changing world. Despite their divisions, denominations of the church acknowledge each other’s claim to the same God of the Christian church, even as they denounce each other as being in error.

The positive attribute of denominationalism is that congregations are pushed to consider what is that exactly that they believe and articulate the beliefs for clarity and accuracy. Churches are the most important gathering of believers and are places for doctrinal feeding and nourishment. For this reason alone, they must be clear about the theological positions they hold.

What is a non-denominational or inter-denominational church?

A non-denominational church claims to hold to no specific stance while an inter-denominational church thinks it is not in opposition to any denominational practice. Both are unworkable definitions. It is to effectively have a denomination of one, which can practice with varying degrees of consistency. It can quickly change positions to accommodate changing conditions but is robbed the benefit and accountability of peer review available in a denominational system.

Inter-denominational churches claim to be friendly to all denominations as international is inclusive of all nations. To be denominational is to accept as authoritative a specific form of theology and worship practice, failure to abide which renders the church outside such a denomination. It is an oxymoron to be inter-denominational, just as it is to be inter-gender. Every congregation which worships in any manner is part of denomination, the question is whether it is part of one or of many. Thus an inter-denominational or a non-denominational church is really a church of one denomination. The problem is that all these churches share the same two descriptive names but not the doctrines or practices of worship. It is to practice denominationalism without using the term to describe such practices.

How did denominationalism arise in Church history?

The Church did not emerge out of a vacuum. Its history is tied to the disciples of Jesus. During his ministry, Jesus spoke at the temple and the synagogue. The origin of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem goes back to the Ark of the Covenant and the nomadic days of the Israelites in the Sinai desert under the leadership of Moses. In the time of Abraham and Sarah, the worship of God was identified with the name of Abram of Ur. His grandson Jacob was renamed Israel by God and soon an identifiable race of people emerged. When Jacob’s son Joseph ruled Egypt, the entire clan of Jacob was invited to settle there to survive the drought. Jacob’s descendants multiplied and by the time of Moses, some 400 years later, these descendants (Israelites) of the Jacobean clan, had become known as the Hebrews.

These Hebrews escaped Egypt into the desert where they were taught how to worship the living God. The Ark of the Covenant became the early physical ancestor of the Church. After the settlement of the Hebrews onto the land of Canaan, Moses appointed political-spiritual leaders called Judges, who gave way to the three kings (Saul, David and Solomon) of Israel. While David’s God dwelt in a tent, Solomon’s was worshipped in the Great Temple, where formal worship was possible, pilgrimage being a form of worship. Following the breakup of the nation of Israel when the 10 northern (Lost) tribes were defeated by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC, temple worship was no longer possible. The exiles of Israel had to worship God without a temple. Thus Daniel worshipped through an open window in Babylon. Was it possible to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Well, they certainly learned to.

The survival of the largest identifiable tribe, Judah, was the source of the new name of the Israelites, the Jews. In both Esther and Daniel, this name was used to identify the people who worship the God of Abraham. Indeed, despite being from the tribe of Benjamin, both Mordecai and Esther were called Jews, no longer a name limited to those of the tribe of Judah. The recovery and rebuilding of the Temple by Ezra and Nehemiah now faced the rabbinical teachings which authorized worship at synagogues. Some scholars identified synagogues which predate even the exiles of Israel. By the time of Jesus, the synagogues were alternative places of worship and rivaled the ‘High Places’ of the Old Testament. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, the development of the Churches were mere gatherings of people in homes. It is possible to consider the meeting of the Last Supper at the Upper Room as the first Church meeting. Thus, the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting of Moses became the Temple of Jerusalem1 , which gave in to the local synagogues and later to the Christian churches.
The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church faced early disagreement between Peter and Paul, until James offered a fellowship with a different focus.

The first major division took place around 451 AD when the church split into the group which submitted to the pronouncements of the Council of Chalcedon while the dissenting group of Non-Chalcedonians emerged later as the Nestorian ‘Church of the East’ with a Syriac liturgy. The Chacedonian division itself broke up by 1054 AD and gave birth to the western Latin rite wing and the eastern Greek rite wing of the Chalcedonian division. By the sixteenth century, Europe was torn by the religious Reformation of the Latin rite wing of the church and three principal groups broke off from Rome; the Radical Reformers, the Evangelicals (Protestants, comprising the Lutherans and Reformed) and the Church of England.

These traditions departed from the Latin wing, forming their own sub-traditions which were exported all over the world through evangelism and missions. One such sub-tradition was the Reformed sub-tradition (Calvin’s system of church government was the real breakthrough and compromise, away from the hierarchical bishopric and the egalitarian congregationalism).

It became the Presbyterian denomination, first in Scotland and later here in the United States and elsewhere. This denomination soon broke off to form many sub-denominations, all bearing the name Presbyterian, of which the PCA is one.

A unified church never existed. Indeed, even before the arrival of Jesus, there was no unified Judaism (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, Sicarii, Essenes etc.), and after the resurrection of Jesus, there were communions of multiple gatherings of believers.

Why does the Church continue to divide? 

The human condition is one of rebellion. Thus, every initially correct tradition and teaching tends to corrupt over time, with correctives attending to its return to the true pathway, only to turn away again. The emergence of divisions in the church are attempts to correct doctrinal errors. Theological doctrines, as important as they are, remain human institutions which must always be examined within the community of believers. We use them to help us understand God’s revelation to us but they are not to be worshipped. Instead, we are charged to study the Scriptures that we may better understand doctrines and contribute by making them clearer and scripturally faithful to each succeeding generation, even as we receive the inheritance of saints.

Can you believe what it takes to not believe?

They say it is hard to believe that God exists.

In fact, it is probably harder to sustain a belief that God in fact does not

To start with, there is no one to blame when things go wrong (for me that
is). It seems that when something goes wrong for one person, it is almost
never the case that it also goes wrong for another or all persons.

For example, if I miss my train it means that someone else waiting at the
next stop will not be late if he relies on the train to be on time. If I did
not miss my train, I would most likely prefer that it leaves on time, even
if someone else who runs late will miss it. This stroke of what we call 'bad
luck' is a euphemism for frustration that we are not in control.
Philosophers call this contingency. Our lives are contingent (dependent) on
others, and ultimately, perhaps God.

In any case, having someone to blame is only one of a host of reasons why
some people think they do not believe in God.

Another compelling case is because if God actually exists, then someone's
really in charge and this means justice really exists! If there is justice,
then it means it is possible for me to screw up splendidly and have to pay
the price. But if there is no God and hence no justice, then I ought to fear
when injustice comes my way, say, when someone steals from me. In an a-just
or non-just world, there is cause for complaint. Most of us, most of the
time, wants a God to punish the other unjust people...until we ourselves act

So, to believe that God does not exist has at least the inconvenience of not
being able to account for human contingency and our deep longing for
justice. Unbelievable isn't it?