Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review of 'Who Made God?'

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler, eds. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. 239 pp.

Who Made God? is a well-conceived project responding to a comprehensive set of probing questions regarding the Christian faith. The editors have envisioned a worthwhile endeavor. Their execution, however, has considerable room for improvement. As a whole, the answers provide a superficial treatment of the issues, and are unsatisfactory for deep-thinking reflective believers, seekers, or skeptics. Indeed, some of the responses in Who Made God are noticeably inferior to the more helpful articles contained within The Apologetics Study Bible.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Evil, the Fall, and the cause(s) of Natural Disasters

Over the past week, central Oklahoma has been hit with a series of earthquakes and aftershocks. The largest earthquake was a magnitude 5.6, which probably has folks in the Pacific Rim shaking their heads and muttering, 'You call THAT an earthquake? We call that dancing.' Nonetheless, the quakes caused a measure of damage to homes, businesses, and (sadly) a historic and beautiful central building on the campus of St. Gregory's College here in Shawnee, OK.

It caused me to reflect - is it just me, or do natural disasters seem to follow me around? I'm not just talking about the state of affairs in my office at the university. We moved to Louisville, Kentucky in July 2008. In September, Hurricane Ike roared up the Ohio River valley and struck with fury in Louisville - the first ever hurricane to hit Louisville (look at the map - it's nowhere NEAR the coast!). Gusting winds took down tens of thousands of trees throughout the city, and knocked out power to almost half the city. Three months later, a massive (and absolutely beautiful) ice storm struck Louisville, again taking down thousands of trees, and knocking out power to 40% of the city. In both disasters, homes were destroyed, vehicles were demolished, businesses were physically and financially devastated, and lives were lost. Now we move to Oklahoma just in time to experience the most powerful earthquake the state has ever recorded. Is it just me? ...

This raises the question of the cause and nature of 'natural disasters', something that has been on my mind. In the midst of that, I received a comment from a good old friend in response to my September post citing Louis Markos' response to the problem of evil. Here is what Grace wrote:

Hey Tawa - how would you explain to an atheist how the fall of man effected creation? How can a natural disaster be a result from the actions of humans? I can understand it as an act of judgement, but to an atheist this looks cruel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Louis Markos on the Problem of Evil

“Why is it that the last two generations of Americans and Europeans, generations that have seen a vast decrease in human suffering, have struggled more with the problem of pain than all previous generations? … The greater our quality of life, it seems, the more apt we are to reject God on account of the suffering in our world. How can this be? …

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Nature and Power of Worldview

A. Introduction: The World of The Matrix

Eleven years ago, the remarkable movie, The Matrix, was released. It was followed by two sequels in 2003, and ranks as one of the most successful Hollywood franchises. The Matrix is built around the premise that the world as we experience it is an illusion—the result of an intricate computer simulation. Human-created artificial intelligence have taken over the ‘real world’ and enslaved human beings to suck the heat and energy out of their bodies. The real world sees human bodies ‘grown’ in vast fields, hooked up to electrical inputs to harvest their resources, and also hooked up to visual simulators that treat them to a virtual reality. This virtual reality, known as ‘The Matrix’, resembles human life on earth as we know it. Human beings who are in reality hooked up to machines have the vivid experience of working normal jobs, having relationships, and so forth. The virtual reality is so accurate that people do not realize they are being manipulated and deceived.

However, a group of humans has been awakened to the true nature of reality, and they wage a quiet rebellion against The Matrix. In the movie, the focus is on Neo Anderson, a computer hacker who questions his reality but has no idea of what is out there. Morpheus and Trinity, two ‘liberated’ humans, seek to enlighten Neo. They offer him two pills, one of which will return him to his virtual reality life, the other of which will show him what is really real. Neo famously takes the red pill, and his world is forever changed. He will never look at things the same way again. Neo now sees the world through a new lens, a new theoretical structure: he has a new worldview

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Apologetic Mandate: Biblical & Contemporary

“Some people depreciate the importance of apologetics as a theoretical discipline. ‘Nobody comes to Christ through arguments,’ they’ll you. ‘People aren’t interested in what’s true, but in what’s for them. They don’t want intellectual answers: they want to see Christianity lived out.’” William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 15-16.

Within the church, apologetics is not always an appreciated ministry or intellectual endeavor. Some Christians, who themselves do not struggle with long-term or deep-seated doubts, have the mistaken notion that all Christians are (or at least ought to be) like them. Most Christians did not themselves come to saving faith in Jesus through arguments, evidences, or reasonable appeals. Rather, they encountered the Lord in a personal religious experience. If that is how people come to faith, such folk may wonder, why waste time and energy on apologetics instead of focusing on worship and evangelism?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review of Darrell Bock, "Recovering the Real Lost Gospel"

Bock, Darrell L. Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010.

Over the past two weeks, I have been working through Darrell Bock’s Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News, a relatively compact 136-page read. Bock writes out of concern that when “some people preach the gospel today, I am not sure I hear its presentation as good news.” (2) Sometimes the gospel is a therapeutic call to self-healing; sometimes it’s only about a transaction (“a kind of spiritual root canal”); sometimes it’s only about avoiding God’s wrath; sometimes it’s about transforming political structures alone. Bock aims to discuss key biblical texts in order to answer the question: “What does the Bible say about the gospel?” (2) His thesis is that “the gospel is good news, and its core is a restored relationship with God.” (1)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Darwinism, Intelligent Design, and the Plight of the Polar Bear

Darwinism, Intelligent Design, and the Plight of the Polar Bear

Susan McGrath, “On Thin Ice: Not Too Late for Polar Bears.” National Geographic Vol. 220, No. 1 (July 2011), 64-75.

The beloved polar bear is one of the iconic animals of the Canadian (and Eurasian) Arctic. During a mission trip from Edmonton to native communities in the Northwest Territories, I purchased a sweet plush polar bear for our then-3-year-old daughter. She has loved that little teddy bear for five years now.

Non-plush-toy polar bears are not quite as cute and cuddly as their souvenir-store counterparts. Armed with sharp claws and teeth, polar bears are also the largest land carnivore in the world. Males routinely grow to 1000 pounds; females top out around 500 pounds. The largest polar bear ever recorded was over 2000 pounds. So clearly, polar bears are massive meat-eaters with a perch atop the Arctic food chain.

Sadly, Canada’s iconic polar bear is in a fair bit of trouble right now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Logic, Morality, and Divine Nature

The laws of logic, like the laws of morality, are not entities distinct from God (existing apart from Him), but rather are themselves aspects of divine rationality and character respectively.

Paraphrased and expanded from Steven Cowan and James Spiegel, "The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy" (B&H Academic, 2009), 280.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Birth of Religion, according to National Geographic

The June issue of National Geographic contained a fascinating article pondering the origins of religion in human civilization – Charles C. Mann, “The Birth of Religion,” in National Geographic June 2011, 34-59. Mann’s article discusses the archaeological find of an ancient temple at Gobekli Tepe, in contemporary Turkey, which overturns traditional theses concerning the birth of religion.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blurring the Lines of Orthodox Christianity – Rob Bell, Love Wins, and Pastoral Firings

Blurring the Lines of Orthodox Christianity – Rob Bell, Love Wins, and Pastoral Firings

I finished reading Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, on Saturday morning. I intend to share some thoughts on Bell’s book over the coming weeks – but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions. Then again, according to Bell, there is no such hell for a road to lead to, except in a subjective, this-worldly sense. But I digress …

Today I wanted to share an interesting news story that my wife forwarded to me on Friday. Here is the link ( to a story out of Grand Rapids. A Methodist pastor (Chad Holtz) in North Carolina was fired last week. The immediate precipitating cause was his expression of support for Rob Bell and the conclusions of his book, although the news story hints at deeper issues lurking under the surface. There are a couple of intriguing questions that are posed through this story.

(1) Is the Christian church intended to be, as the fired pastor intimates, “open hearts, open minds, open doors”? What does that mean, historically and presently?

(2) Is the church “threatened” by people who challenge “the way we’ve always thought”?

My short answer to both main questions is an emphatic NO – at least not in the way that pastor Holtz suggests.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Reliability of the New Testament Gospels (v. 1.3)

Come, Let Us Reason Together: A Forum about Central Issues of Faith & Skepticism
Cedar Creek Baptist Church - Tawa J. Anderson
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 – The Reliability of the Gospels

NOTE: These are the 'teaching notes' from a Q&A forum at Cedar Creek Baptist Church on March 23. It is slightly revised from an earlier blog essay with the same title posted last summer.

I. Why is New Testament Reliability a Major Apologetic Question

The Christian faith has historically embraced certain core doctrines about Jesus of Nazareth. Amongst other beliefs, Christians throughout the centuries have believed things about Jesus – His deity, His atoning death, and His bodily resurrection. The source for those beliefs are, without a doubt, the collection of books, letters, and Gospels that we have in the New Testament. Historic Christianity presumes that the documents in the New Testament are fundamentally trustworthy – that we can take them relatively at face value in terms of how they present the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

But what if they are not trustworthy? What if the words that appear in my Bible as red-letter words, truly words which were uttered by Jesus of Nazareth? What would be the damage to the Christian faith? What would the implications be if Jesus did not say or do the things that the New Testament says he said and did?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rob Bell, Love Wins - Discussion Forum

Forum Discussion of Rob Bell’s Love Wins Out
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Thursday March 17, 2011
Dr. R. Albert Mohler (President, SBTS), Dr. Denny Burk (Dean, Boyce College), Dr. Russell Moore (Academic Dean, SBTS), and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, blog –

This week, Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, was released to the reading public. Rob Bell is the preaching pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in, a congregation of close to 10,000. His podcasts are followed by additional tens of thousands, while his thought-provoking short video series (NOOMA) have been widely disseminated in the North American Church. Rob Bell is a leading figure in ‘Emergent Christianity,’ an amorphous and diverse group which includes both a protest against the perceived ‘dead orthodox’ of much American fundamentalist evangelicalism and a positive projection of a vibrant personal commitment to following Jesus.

Many evangelical leaders have expressed concerns over the general direction of Bell’s moving theological commitments over the past several years. When Bell’s new book project began to be publicized, concerns heightened.

On Thursday, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a forum discussion focusing on Bell’s book. This blog post will summarize and expand upon that forum discussion.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Greg Beale - Lecture on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

The C. Edwin Gheens Lectures
Dr. Gregory K. Beale @ The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The New Testament Use of the Old Testament
March 14-15, 2011

This week I was privileged to witness another top-notch New Testament scholar in person at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, as Greg Beale delivered the annual Gheens Lectures. While Beale delivered three lectures (two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday morning), because of teaching responsibilities, I was only able to be present for the first one. All three lectures should be available through SBTS’s resource center within the next week or so; I will endeavor to watch the other lectures and provide a link to the video when it becomes available.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the substance of Dr. Beale’s initial lecture, and some personal reflections upon his address.

Lecture 1 – Recent Objections to an Organic Link between Old Testament Texts and Their Use in the New Testament

Dr. Beale has been a strong proponent of the organic unity of the Old and New Testaments throughout his academic career.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The Problem of Evil - Cedar Creek Baptist Church

Come, Let Us Reason Together: A Forum about Central Issues of Faith & Skepticism
Cedar Creek Baptist Church - Tawa J. Anderson
Wednesday, March 16 – The Problem of Evil

NOTE - the following are expanded teaching notes from a youth Q&A forum at Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, last night. Hope you enjoy them!

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the most haunting questions facing modern man. Why does such seemingly senseless tragedy strike such seemingly innocent victims? Why are many babies born with deformities or handicaps? Why are young women in southern Sudan raped and beaten by armed militia from the north? Why are girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery to provide a few months income for their families and to satisfy the perversions of Western tourists? Why did an unimaginably powerful earthquake in Japan cause a massive tsunami and cause so much destruction and death?

To put the question in another way, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there such deep and senseless evil and suffering on earth? David Hume, the eighteenth century atheist philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, "Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Come, Let Us Reason Together (Part I of V) - Evolution and Christianity

Come, Let Us Reason Together: A Forum about Central Issues of Faith & Skepticism

Cedar Creek Baptist Church (Louisville, KY)

Wednesday, March 2 – Evolution and Creation

NOTE: These are teaching notes used for a 15-minute presentation followed by a 40-minute Q&A session with the youth at Cedar Creek Baptist Church, in Louisville, KY. Today is the first of five weekly sessions we will have. I will seek to post each of the five sessions.

I. The Importance of Addressing Evolution

Tonight we are talking about the relationship between evolution and Christianity – a controversial topic, but one which needs to be addressed. Why is this an essential topic to address?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Richard Bauckham on the Nature of the Gospels (part two)

Lectures 2-4: The Gospels as Multi-Perspectival Micro-History ‘From Below’

In my last blog post, I shared in some depth the insights gleaned from the first of Richard Bauckham’s four lectures in the Julian Gay lecture series at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, last Tuesday and Wednesday (February 16 & 17, 2011). This afternoon, I want to share a few thought from his latter three lectures.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Richard Bauckham on the Gospels as (Reliable) Historical Biography

Richard Bauckham Lectures – What Sort of History are the Gospels?

This week Dr. Richard Bauckham (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple) was in Louisville, Kentucky, to deliver the Julian Gay Lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had the privilege of taking in all four of his lectures, two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday. They were fruitful, illuminating, and enjoyable. I wanted to share some thoughts from Bauckham’s lectures, particularly the first one, but with some insights from the second and third ones as well.

Bauckham spent the first lecture discussing the genre of the New Testament Gospels.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God is Greater Than Google

Praying to Almighty Google

I can’t remember how many years ago my son, now 10, first asked me a question that I think all Christians ask at one point or another in their journey of faith.

“Dad,” he asked, “when we pray, does God hear us?”

“Yes, son,” I answered wisely, “of course God hears us when we pray.”

“If you and I are both praying at the same time, does God hear us both?”

“Yes, son, of course God hears us both.”

“What if there are lots and lots of people all praying to God at the same time, Dad? Can God hear all of them praying at the same time?”

“Yes, He can.”

“But, dad,” he asked, “if Mom and I are both talking to you at the same time, you can’t hear us both.”

“That’s right, son,” I answered, “I can’t hear both of you at the same time."

“Dad - if you can't hear two people talking to you at the same time, then how can God hear lots of people praying to Him? How?”

That question, “How?” is a tough one to answer, isn’t it? I can’t make sense of what anybody is saying if there’s more than one voice coming to me at the same time. If I can’t do that, how is God able to sort the simultaneous prayers of millions of His children?

Last night I heard what I think is the best illustration I have ever heard that describes God’s ability to hear and respond to simultaneous prayer. It came from the lips of our BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) teacher in Louisville, KY—Richard Ross. What follows is a rough paraphrase of Richard’s illustration, with some of my own embellishments and additions.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reason, Arguments, and Presuppositions - E. Linnaman

"Reason is a whore, Luther says. There is nothing for which logical arguments cannot be adduced. We should resist beguilement through logical arguments. Our minds are swayed by logical arguments, but such arguments are never free standing. They are always wrapped up in a complex of presuppositions. It is not just that questions arguments exist: arguments themselves are questionable-that is, they must be traced back to their presuppositions. Insofar as they are logical, they may appear to be neutral, but they are most assuredly not.

"That is why God's Word admonishes us: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' (Prov. 3:5) Is this a denigration of our God-given intellectual capacity? No; it is simply a reminder of why our minds were given and what they were never designed to be: objects in which to place our total trust."

Eta Linnaman, "Biblical Criticism on Trial", trans. Robert Yarbrough. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001, p. 180.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Yes, I have been absent from my blog for a ridiculously inexcusably long period of time. My apologies to those who wondered where I have been! Our family traveled from our current home in Louisville, Kentucky, to our 'home' town of Edmonton, Alberta for Christmas. We celebrated two weddings, along with Christmas, with family and friends back in Alberta. It was a nice trip, but took us entirely out of the loop for a few weeks.

We are now back, and, God willing, I will be more faithful with my blogging this year. My first offering is a review of Tim Keller's 'The Reason for God,' a helpful little apologetics book which I highly recommend to readers of all stripes.

God's Blessings to you through this new year,

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God - book review

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008. 293 pp.

Timothy Keller planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989. In the past twenty years, Redeemer has reached out to (and reached) tens of thousands of young, professional New Yorkers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today it ranks as a major church-planting center, with daughter churches not just throughout New York City, but in major urban centers around the world. Keller’s expositional preaching continually has in mind the objections that may arise in the minds of skeptics and non-Christians in his congregation. Every Sunday, the worship service is followed by at least an hour of question and answer, where Keller remains in order to respond to the questions and doubts of those (usually unbelievers) in attendance.