Tuesday, August 7, 2018

When Jesus spoke of the Comforter in John 14-16, was He speaking of the coming of Muhammad as Muslim apologists claim? I answer this question with Pastor Thabet Megaly on Alhorreya TV.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Defense of Theological Rationalism

Image result for evidenceTheological rationalism is the view that, generally speaking, the only way to have rational confidence in the truth of Christianity is by looking at the public evidence. What distinguishes a theological rationalist from a secular rationalist is that the former believes there is sufficient evidence to rationally warrant, or even compel, belief in the truth of the gospel for the man who is fully informed, whereas the latter does not. This stands in stark contrast to the paradigm, often referred to as “reformed epistemology”, which holds that one can be rationally warranted in believing Christianity to be true wholly apart from public evidence and argument. Reformed epistemology is not at all limited to fideists and presuppositional apologists. Even many classical apologists, notably William Lane Craig, frequently draw a distinction between how you know that your faith is true, and how you show to others that your faith is true. On how Dr. Craig personally knows his faith to be true, he is quite candid in saying that he is not an evidentialist. Dr. Craig states that he knows his faith is true because of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, which imparts to him confidence that Christianity is true. Since other people do not have access to his own personal subjective experience, Dr. Craig appeals to public evidences to demonstrate to others that his faith is true – but, importantly, Dr. Craig’s own personal faith apparently does not rest on those evidences.

Even among apologists, sadly, theological rationalism is very much a minority position, and I would like to see it promoted more widely. In this article, I want to address some popular concerns about theological rationalism and provide clarity about what my view is and contrast it with popular misconceptions. I will begin by offering a brief positive case for adopting theological rationalism, and will then offer responses to 12 popular concerns or objections that I encounter frequently from other Christians.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is Muhammad Prophesied in the Bible?


I was on with Vocab Malone on Bacpack Radio discussing the question of whether Muhammad is prophesied on the Bible.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Lectures in New York City


I will be speaking in Manhattan this Friday July 6 from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Admission is free.

Tara does the Stats - is there an Association between Religion and Development?


It is sometimes suggested that Islamic countries are underdeveloped.[1]  In the third article in this series, I seek to test whether this suggestion has any basis in fact, and whether such associations can be found for other religions.


Method

I have looked at the Human Development Index (HDI) scores of countries as published by the United Nations Development Programme[2] and whether there is any apparent relationship with the religions of those countries as documented on Wikipedia[3].

The United Nations Development Programme scores countries on a scale of 0 (least developed) to 1 (most developed).

The Wikipedia article breaks countries down by religion in seven categories, which it calls Christian, Islam[ic], Irreligion (atheism), Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Folk Religion and Other Religion.  The accuracy of these classification might reasonably be questioned – they appear to be cultural designations rather a measure of active faith – but for the purposes of this study they are used as provided. 

For each religion, I have plotted the HDI scores against percentage adherence to that religion for all counties for which the data was available, with a line of best fit and a confidence region.

Results

The graphs below plot the scores against percentage of adherents to religions, with each point representing a country, the total country population displayed as the size of the point and the various continents in different colours.

There is a positive correlation between development and Christianity, but the relationship is weak.  There are many non-Christian countries with high HDI scores (Hong Kong, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic are <20% Christian with HDI > 0.8) and (at least nominally) Christian countries with low ones (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Lesotho, Liberia, Haiti are >80% Christian with an HDI < 0.5).


There is a negative correlation between development and Islam, that is, Islam is associated with less development, but the relationship is also not particularly strong.  There are few Muslim countries with very high scores (only Saudi Arabia is >80% Muslim with HDI > 0.8) but many with moderately high ones (Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Oman, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey are Albania are >80% Muslim with HDI > 0.7).  Unsurprisingly, there are many non-Muslim countries with many with low HDI scores (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Lesotho, Liberia, Togo and Haiti are <20% Muslim with HDI < 0.5).

There is a positive correlation between development and what Wikipedia calls Irreligion (atheism), though there are few countries where Irreligion is very high (the Czech Republic being the exception) and this creates some uncertainty in the relationship.

 

Once again, the data give little insight for Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Folk Religion and Other Religion. 

Discussion
So what can we conclude from this, and what can’t we conclude?

Clearly, there appears to be some basis for the perception that Islamic societies are underdeveloped, (though not a lot), that Christian societies are more developed (but even less) and that societies with a higher proportion of atheists are more developed (stronger).

Again, it does not follow that Islam causes underdevelopment – underdevelopment could lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear how) or some other, confounding, characteristic could both cause underdevelopment and lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear what).  But the most obvious explanation may also be true.  Similarly, it may be that atheism promotes development, but it could also be that developed societies are the ones that allow people to identify openly as atheists.  Studies using whole-of-population statistics like this one cannot answer these questions.

It does not follow that the Muslims are the ones who stifle development, though this is the most obvious explanation and may be true.  An examination of Islamic history may help clarify whether this is plausible.[4] Similarly, it does not follow that Christians or atheists promote development, though they may.

Again, it could be argued that Islamic societies sacrifice development in the pursuit of some more important good.  It is not clear what this might be, but the reader is invited to offer suggestions.  I will investigate this if one is suggested and appropriate data is available.

And again, the data is a snapshot in time, because now is the time that interests us and we have data for it, so no statement can be made about how these relationships might be different at another point in history or whether they are consistent.

Conclusion

The study shows an association between development and Islam, which is negative (more Islam = less development) but weak.

The study shows an association between development and Christianity, which is positive (more Christianity = more development) but weaker still.

The study shows an association between development and Atheism, which is positive (more atheism = more development).

The data are not useful for examining other religions.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Speaking Engagements in New York city


Dear Friends. I will be speaking on Friday July 6 in New York city at the First Baptist Church of Manhattan from 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM. Admission is free.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why the Doctrine of the Trinity is so Important


One of the greatest tragedies in the Church today is a lack of teaching and information on the Trinity. The subject of the Trinity is an area where Muslims always challenge Christians on, but unfortunately, many Muslims don't understand the Trinity either. Part of the problem is that the Quran misrepresents the Trinity and what Christians believe about God.

The Doctrine of the Trinity Course: Registration Now Open


Registration for the Doctrine of the Trinity Course is now open. If you live in the U.S. or internationally, you can also register for the course and join via the internet. A proper and biblical understanding of the Trinity is crucial in our outreach to our Muslim neighbours.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tara does the Stats - is there an Association between Religion and Corruption?




It is sometimes suggested that Islamic countries are particularly corrupt.[1]  In the second article in this series, I seek to test whether this suggestion has any basis in fact, and whether such associations can be found for other religions.


Method

I have looked at the Corruption Perception Index of countries as assessed by Transparency International[2] and whether there is any apparent relationship with the religions of those countries as documented on Wikipedia[3].

Transparency International scores countries on a scale of 0 (most corrupt) to 100 (least corrupt), which I find somewhat confusing.  For this article I have subtracted the scores from 100 so that higher scores correspond to more corruption.

The Wikipedia article breaks countries down by religion in seven categories, which it calls Christian, Islam[ic], Irreligion (atheism), Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Folk Religion and Other Religion.  The accuracy of these classification might reasonably be questioned – they appear to be cultural designations rather a measure of active faith – but for the purposes of this study they are used as provided. 

For each religion, I have plotted the modified Corruption Perception Index scores against percentage adherence to that religion for all counties for which the data were available, with a line of best fit and a confidence region.

Results

The graphs below plot the modified scores against percentage of adherents to religions, with each point representing a country, the total country population displayed as the size of the point and the various continents in different colours.


There is a negative correlation between Corruption and Christianity, that is, Christianity is associated with less corruption, but the relationship is not especially impressive.  There are non-Christian countries with low corruption scores (Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan) and (at least nominally) Christian countries with high ones (Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Venezuala).

There is a positive correlation between Corruption and Islam, that is, Islam is associated with more corruption.  There are few Muslim countries with low scores (only Brunei, Qatar and United Arab Emirates are >50% Muslim and <50% Corrupt) and there are non-Muslim countries with high ones (Angola, South Sudan, Venezuela and North Korea being the most extreme).


There is a negative correlation between Corruption and what Wikipedia calls Irreligion (Atheism), though there are few countries where Irreligion is very high (the Czech Republic being the exception) and this creates some uncertainty in the relationship.





  
Once again, the data give little insight for Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Folk Religion and Other Religion. 

Discussion

So what can we conclude from this, and what can’t we conclude?

Clearly, there appears to be some basis for the perception that Islamic societies are corrupt, that Christian societies are not (weaker) and that societies with a higher proportion of atheists are not.

Again, it does not follow that Islam causes corruption – corruption could lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear how) or some other, confounding, characteristic could both cause corruption and lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear what).  But the most obvious explanation may also be true.  Similarly, it may be that atheism protects from corruption, but it could also be that open societies are the ones that allow people to identify openly as atheists.  Studies using whole-of-population statistics like this one cannot answer these questions.

It does not follow that the Muslims are the corrupt ones, though this is the most obvious explanation and may be true.  An examination of Islamic history may help clarify whether this is plausible.[4] Similarly, it does not follow that Christians or atheists oppose corruption, though they may.
Again, it could be argued that Islamic societies tolerate some corruption in the pursuit of some more important good.  It is not clear what this might be, but the reader is invited to offer suggestions.  I intend to address such possibilities in future investigations.

Finally, the data is a snapshot in time, because now is the time that interests us and we have data for it, so no statement can be made about how these relationships might be different at another point in history or whether they are consistent.

Conclusion

The study shows an association between Corruption and Islam, which is positive (more Islam = more corruption).

The study shows an association between Corruption and Christianity, which is negative (more Christianity = less corruption) but somewhat unimpressive.

The study shows an association between Corruption and Atheism, which is negative (more atheism = less corruption).

The data are not useful for examining other religions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tara does the Stats - is there an Association between Religion and Freedom?




It is sometimes suggested that Islamic countries are oppressive[1].  I seek here to test whether this suggestion has any basis in fact, and whether such associations can be found for other religions.

Method

I have looked at the freedom scores of countries as assessed by Freedom House[2] and whether there is any apparent relationship with the religions of those countries as documented on Wikipedia[3].

Freedom House scores countries on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free).

The Wikipedia article breaks countries down by religion in seven categories, which it calls Christian, Islam[ic], Irreligion (atheism), Hindu, Buddhist, Folk Religion, Other Religion and Jewish.  The accuracy of these classification might reasonably be questioned – the appear to be cultural designations rather a measure of active faith – but for the purposes of this study they are used as provided. 

For each religion, I have plotted the freedom scores against percentage adherence to that religion for all counties for which the data was available, with a line of best fit and a confidence region.

Results

The graphs below plot freedom scores against percentage of adherents to religions, with each point representing a country, the total country population displayed as the size of the point and the various continents in different colours.

Working our way through the columns in the Wikipedia table:



There is a positive correlation between Freedom Score and Christianity, although there are non-Christian countries with high freedom scores (Mongolia, Northern Cyprus, the Czech Republic) and (at least nominally) Christian countries with low ones (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Swaziland).


There is a negative correlation between Freedom Score and Islam, although there are non-Muslim countries with low scores (Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, North Korea, and many others) and Muslim countries with reasonable ones (Northern Cyprus, Senegal).


There is a positive correlation between Freedom Score and what Wikipedia calls Irreligion, though there are few countries where Irreligion is very high (the Czech Republic being the exception) and this creates significant uncertainty in the relationship.


There are only two countries where Hinduism is common (India and Nepal), so the data do not provide useful evidence about its relationship to Freedom Score (we can draw a horizontal line in the grey area).


There are likewise few countries where Buddhism is common (Burma, Cambodia, Thailand), so the meaning of the data is again unclear.


We see the same issue with Folk Religion – no data at the high end (although what we can see doesn’t look good).


Likewise, there is little data for Other Religion,


or Judaism (with Israel out on its own).

Discussion

So what can we conclude from this, and what can’t we conclude?

Clearly, there does appear to be a real basis for the perception that Islamic societies are oppressive, while Christian societies are not and societies with a high proportion of atheists are not.

It does not follow that Islam causes oppression – oppression could lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear how) or some other, confounding, characteristic could both cause oppression and lead people to Islam (though it’s not clear what).  But the most obvious explanation may also be true.  Similarly, it may be that atheism promotes freedom, but could also be that free societies are the ones that allow people to identify openly as atheists.  Studies using whole-of-population statistics like this one cannot answer these questions.

It does not follow that the Muslims are the oppressors, though this is the most obvious explanation and may well be true.  An examination of Islamic history may help clarify whether this is plausible[4].  Similarly, it does not follow that Christians or atheists champion human rights, though they may.

It could be argued that Islamic societies sacrifice freedom in the pursuit of some more important good.  It is not clear what this might be, but the reader is invited to offer suggestions.  I intend to address such possibilities in future investigations.

Conclusion

The study shows an association between Freedom Score and Islam, which is negative.

The study shows an association between Freedom Score and Christianity, which is positive.

The study shows an association between Freedom Score and Atheism, which is positive, though less clearly so.

The data are not useful for examining other religions, so I will not do so in future investigations.


[1] See, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Muslim-majority_countries.
[2] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world-2018-table-country-scores
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country
[4] Unsheathed – the Story of Muhammad springs to mind, at least for me.  See http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2018/06/unsheathed-story-of-muhammad-now-free.html.

Freedom map from Wikipedia.