Here are notes from some of the talks that I benefited from during my time in Oxford.
Notes from Dr. Vince Vitale’s talk: “Divine Creation and Human Procreation.”
Vince is Senior Tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, Tutor in Philosophy and Mission at Wycliffe Hall, a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, and a speaker for the Zacharias Trust. He received his BA in Philosophy from Princeton University and his MPhil in Theology and his DPhil in Philosophy both from Oxford University.
When we look at the problem of evil, we can look at it from different angles.
The logical problem of evil claims that God is impossible. Verdict: this has been defeated (cf. Alvin Plantinga, “God,Freedom, and Evil ”).
The evidential problem of evil claims that God is impossible. Verdict: inconclusive.
Recently Stephen Fry made a big splash in this interview:
“If God were a loving parent, he would not create us in a world full of evil and suffering because there is no reason we can imagine him having for doing so.”
Assumption #1: Evil is a reality.
- Without God, can there be real evil?
Question: “Which is the more unbelievable conclusion: that evil doesn’t exist, or that God has good reasons to allow evil?”
- Without God, can we trust our judgments about what is evil?
-evolution: survival, not truth
True moral beliefs are to what unguided evolution is aiming at, but survival.
Assumption #2: God could have created us in a very different world.
Question: “Could God have wronged us by creating a world in which we came to exist and are offered eternal life, rather than creating a different world in which we never would have lived?”
Psalm 8:4: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
What does God think of you?
More people think of God as an employer than as a Father.
-we need to know God as our loving Father.
Assumption #3: A loving parent would never create someone in a world full of evil and suffering.
Assumption #4: If God has good reasons for allowing suffering, we should know what those reason are.
Job 38:4-5, 6; 40:2
The Questions Behind this Question
- How can one account for the reality of evil?
By accepting a God who is the ultimate standard for good and evil.
- What would it mean for us if God had made a very different world?
We never would have existed (and those we love).
- If creating beings into a world of suffering is evil, then who is evil?
Not just God but any human parent who decides to have a child.
- Who would you have to be to pass judgment on the reasons of an infinite God?
We find that Stephen Fry may well me committed to wishing himself and his loved ones out of existence, to the immorality of procreation, to the existence of God, and to being God Himself!
Notes from Dr. Sharon Dirckx’s talk on “Natural Disasters”
Sharon Dirckx is an Academic Tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). Originally from a scientific background, she has a Ph.D. in brain imaging from the University of Cambridge and has held research positions at the University of Oxford, UK and the Medical College of Wisconsin, USA. Sharon is also an OCCA Alumna.
On atheism there are no natural disasters. It is just natural blind physical forces. There is no point asking why because there is no one to ask.
Why do we ask the question?
- Natural events/disasters
These include tornados, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis.
It is a wonder that life is possible at all.
Venus —> volcanoes over that whole planet
Jupiter —> It’s atmosphere is thousands of of kilometre’s thick (with no hard surface). The closer one gets toward the centre of Jupiter, the grater the atmospheric pressure. This amount of pressure would kill most forms of life.
Therefore, life is untenable on these planets.
Because of the physical constants, fine tuning, life on earth is possible.
Natural events create beauty
-Hawaiian islands formed
Natural events sustain life
-nutrients recycled back into the atmosphere
-flooding —> nutrients
-ash from volcanoes —> soil
Two Christian positions
Natural events are not themselves evil, but become a problem when people die.
-we misread the signs of nature
-we have forgotten how to read the signs
-animals can read the signs (don’t have a fallen nature)
-we are vulnerable because of corruption and poverty
-the developing world experiences earthquakes much differently from the first world. For example, in California there was an earthquake that registered 6.9 on the richter scale —> 57 people died. In Haiti an earthquake registered 7.0 on the richter scale and 230,000 people died.
Natural events are evil
-the spiritual condition of humanity has effected it
-Genesis 3 – cursed is the ground
-Romans 8 —> creation subjected to a curse; one day it will be liberated. There will be a new heavens and a new earth.
-Signs of the end of the age: Luke 21; Matt 24:7; Rev 6, 8, 11, 16.
-Death of Jesus —> earthquake in Matt 27
-Paul and Silas (Acts 16): violent earthquake. The prison door opened and their chains fell off.
-The spiritual world and the physical world are not two separate things.
Are natural disasters God’s judgment?
Luke 13 – Tower of Siloam
A reminder of the urgency to repent —> Not God’s judgment.
- Disease and Sickness
-the human body is amazing.
-humans can outrun any animal
Atheism —> this is the way it is; what makes it wonderful?
Beauty of the human body comes from a Beautiful God.
Brokenness —> something has gone wrong
-there is brokenness in our bodies. It has had a physical impact.
Is God punishing me?
There are consequences of living in a broken world disconnected from God.
Just because it is not punishment does not mean that there isn’t a spiritual connection (Job: reason for suffering – spiritual).
Lifestyle and diet can contribute to physical suffering.
Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit in which we are to steward as gifts. Eat well, exercise, sleep, etc.
The biggest killer is malaria.
Stephen Fry accuses God for worms who burrow into the eyes of children. This could be taken care of through simple heath care and clean drinking water.
For an atheist they are rebelling against nature (these are the way things actually are).
The Christian is God’s hand and feet to eliminate suffering. We love because he first loved us. People are precious to Jesus.
Horatio Spafford lost his children at sea. He wrote a hymn at sea after he viewed where his children died. “It is well with my soul.”
God is with you. He hasn’t contributed to the suffering but has defeated it through his death and resurrection. We will received resurrection bodies. 1 Cor 15 —> raised imperishable.
Notes from Dr. Ravi Zacharias’ two addresses
Ravi Zacharias is Founder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Dr. Zacharias has spoken all over the world for 43 years in scores of universities, notably Harvard, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Cambridge, and to cultural leaders and government leaders.
He received his Master of Divinity from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Well-versed in the disciplines of comparative religions, cults, and philosophy, he held the chair of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary for three and a half years. Dr. Zacharias has been a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge where he studied moralist philosophers and literature of the Romantic era. He has been honored with the conferring of six honorary doctoral degrees, including a Doctor of Laws and a Doctor of Sacred Theology.
The reality and mystery of evil.
- You can’t talk about evil without a moral framework.
-rationalism leads to irrationalism when a society abandons objective morality.
- You can’t cry for justice if you don’t know the source of the law.
- The hunger for love.
-what the soul really hungers for.
-the indwelling Holy Spirit gives you new hungers and longings.
-the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of God’s love.
-You can’t say the answer is love unless you ask questions of life’s intrinsic worth.
-you can not talk of reconciliation and forgiveness without addressing alienation.
Conclusion: The Cross
Four things you need to flourish in life and ministry
-knowing who you are as a child of God. This being foundational to your life.
-daily in the Word. Guarding this time as of utmost importance.
-praying for one another.
-always touch other people’s lives