Monday, September 30, 2019


This page contains links for the audio, PowerPoints, handouts and resource links 
for my 16-week course: "How to Have Confidence in Christ That Changes the World (Apologetics 101: A Cumulative Case)" which I began September 8, 2019 (so currently a work in progress).

The course is meant to be a very basic introduction to apologetics that is accessible to just about anyone from high school up (and probably even many middle school students). We will be exploring several key arguments as we build a basic cumulative case for Christianity. From this foundation one can continue to build and grow in their understanding of the evidence for Christianity, so that they can have the kind of confidence in Christ that will enable them to live boldly for him no matter what he asks them to do.

WEEK 1: "Does God Give Us Reasons to Trust Him?" 
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*Cooper, Brad. "Do We Really Need to Teach Apologetics in the Church?"


WEEK 2: "Love God With All Your Mind"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*Cooper, Brad. "Be Like Jesus: Be a Thinker"


WEEK 3: "Why Is There Stuff?"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*Cooper, Brad. "Understanding The Nature of a Cumulative Case"
*Cooper, Brad. "COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS: Resources for Study"
*Cooper, Brad. "The Universal Innate Knowledge of God: Resources for Study." See this article for resources related to the fact that we are born with an intuition for detecting design.
*Cooper, Brad. "FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE: Resources for Study"


WEEK 4: "Life Isn't Simple"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*Cooper, Brad. "ORIGIN OF LIFE: Resources for Study"
*Cooper, Brad. "DNA EVIDENCE FOR GOD: Resources for Study"


WEEK 5: "Beauty & the Argument from Music"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*Video mentioned in presentation: "Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale"
*"Savant - Leslie Lemke"
*"The Mysterious Gift of Musical Savants"
*"A Musical Savant Shows Talent"
*"Real People, Real Stories: Blind, Autistic, Musical Savant (Tony DeBlois)"
*"The Musical Genius (Autism Documentary) | Real Stories"
*"The Argument from Music"
*MORE LINKS FOR DIGGING DEEPER: "The Argument from Music & Other Aesthetic Arguments for God"


WEEK 6: "The Law In Your Heart"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

"THE MORAL ARGUMENT: Resources for Study"


WEEK 7: "How The Puzzle Is Coming Together"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).


WEEK 8: "Digging Up The Old Testament"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

*ROBERT DICK WILSON (1856-1930). Wilson was an Old Testament scholar and defender of the text and historicity of the Old Testament. He was an incredibly gifted linguist who knew 45 languages (26 related to the study of the Old Testament). Check out this 4-minute video about Wilson by Josh McDowell. A brief biography and bibliography at Wikipedia. A 16-page biography by Brian Nicks in The Master's Seminary Journal. A complete chronological bibliography of Wilson's works at the website of the Presbyterian Church in America Historical Center. Wilson's best known work: A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, which can be found FREE here.



WEEK 9: "Digging Up The New Testament"
*MP3 Audio (45 minutes)
*PowerPoint Slideshow: When you click on this link, you will note the option at the top to "Open with Google Slides" or you may open with MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (which is free).
*Class Handout
*I recommend opening the audio and using the PowerPoint Slideshow as you listen (and/or the handout).

1. Information on Sir William Mitchell Ramsay's views about Acts before and after his archaeological work can be found at: Sir William M. Ramsay: Archaeologist and New Testament Scholar A Survey of His Contribution to the Study of the New Testament (Baker Studies in Biblical Archaeology) by W. Ward Gasque, p.23-24, 27-28.

2. Colin J. Hemer & Acts:

4. A Few More Important Finds:

*For more info about Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939). Highly recommended is Ramsay's magnum Opus: St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen  (1895, 1907) which is FREE at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, where you will also find a nice summary of the book and a short biography of Ramsay. And here is a short article by Don Stewart quoting from this book and showing how Sir William Ramsay is related to settling the question of the historicity of Acts. Sir William M. Ramsay: Archaeologist and New Testament Scholar -- A Survey of His Contribution to the Study of the New Testament by W. Ward Gasque, an excellent 95-page book about Ramsay and his contribution to New Testament study--available in a FREE PDF file. (NOTE: The link for the PDF file of the book is located below the title and publisher's info and immediately above the Table of Contents.) For a list of his later writings, see "The Later Ramsay: A Supplementary Bibliography of the Published Writings of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay" by Colin J. Hemer.



Image source: NASA


"The evidences of Christianity are, in their nature and tendencies, accumulative. It is the culmination of their accumulated evidences, from miracles, from admitted facts in the Christian system, from the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, from the marvelous propagation of primitive Christianity, and from prophecy, and from other sources which bring the honest doubters about to a conviction of truth in revealed religion."
~ Ezekiel B. Kephart, A Treatise on Christian Evidences (1901), p. 119.

"A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a key and a lock are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key. But this involved accuracy of the thing makes it very difficult to do what I now have to do, to describe this accumulation of truth. It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, "Why do you prefer civilisation to savagery?" he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, " Why, there is that bookcase...and the coals in the coalscuttle...and pianos...and policemen." The whole case for civilisation is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible. 

There is, therefore, about all complete conviction a kind of huge helplessness. The belief is so big that it takes a long time to get it into action. And this hesitation chiefly arises, oddly enough from an indifference about where one should begin."

A cumulative case is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you open a jigsaw puzzle and scatter all the pieces on the table, it is difficult to see how all the pieces fit together. They seem like a scattered jumble of unrelated and unimportant pieces. And a person who had never seen a jigsaw puzzle before would be totally confused as their eyes perused the landscape of scrambled odd-shaped pieces of cardboard. But for the person who has had experience with jigsaw puzzles, they know that there is a system for solving them: Find the edge pieces and put the frame of the puzzle together. Then begin to scan the pieces to find pieces that have matching colors and patterns, etc. And then there is that critical point when you get enough pieces together that the puzzle actually starts to look like something and the pieces begin to fall into place even more quickly and the whole thing starts to make sense. That is very similar to what it means to put a cumulative case for Christianity together.

Another analogy that is often used is that of a court case. Imagine that you are a member of a jury that is appointed to decide whether someone is guilty of murder. The evidence has to be conclusive. You need to be able to determine whether the accused is guilty and a conclusion of guilt needs to be beyond a reasonable doubt. As the prosecuting attorney presents his case, he brings up numerous pieces of evidence: evidence that he had motive, evidence that he had opportunity, evidence that he has no alibi to be anywhere else at the time of the murder, phone calls made, websites that he looked at detailing how to accomplish something done by the murderer at the scene of the crime, matching footprints, a piece of fiber matching his coat, a weapon matching the method of murder is found in his car along with blood stains matching the victim, etc. As all of the pieces of evidence are considered it becomes clear that they all point to the guilt of the accused. The evidence is overwhelming and leads to a conclusion that is beyond a reasonable doubt.

The cumulative case for Christianity is exactly like that. There is a ton of evidence that God exists and that he is just like the God who is claimed to reveal himself in the Bible. There is a ton of evidence that the Bible contains historically reliable testimony, which is especially important as we consider the Gospels and what they tell us about Jesus. And there are multiple lines of evidence that confirm that Jesus is who he claimed to be: the Creator God come in the flesh to the pay the price for our sin and justly free us from that condemnation.

If you are interested in investigating these many different pieces of evidence, check out my blog page: "20 REASONS I'M SURE: A Cumulative Argument Outline & Resources for Further Investigation."

My 15-Week Course: 
*"How to Have Confidence in Christ That Changes the World (Apologetics 101: A Cumulative Case)"

*Wallace, J. Warner. "What Makes The Cumulative Case For God So Powerful" (2 1/2 minutes). J. Warner Wallace is a famous L.A. cold-case detective who was an atheist until he considered the evidence for Christianity.
*Wallace, J. Warner. "Why Every Christian Needs to Understand the Standard of Proof" (3 1/2 minutes)
*Wallace, J. Warner. "How Strong is the Cumulative Case for God's Existence?" (3 1/2 minutes)
*Bertuzzi, Cameron. "Is There Really "No Evidence" for God? (#1) response" (5 1/2 minutes)

*Wallace, J. Warner. "The Cumulative Case for Christianity: Death by a 1,000 Paper Cuts"
*Cooper, Brad. "20 REASONS I'M SURE: A Cumulative Argument Outline & Resources for Further Investigation

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


From p.151-186 of Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (1909):

All I had hitherto heard of Christian theology had alienated me from it.
I was a pagan at the age of twelve, and a complete agnostic by the
age of sixteen; and I cannot understand any one passing the age
of seventeen without having asked himself so simple a question.
I did, indeed, retain a cloudy reverence for a cosmic deity
and a great historical interest in the Founder of Christianity.
But I certainly regarded Him as a man; though perhaps I thought that,
even in that point, He had an advantage over some of His modern critics.
I read the scientific and sceptical literature of my time--all of it,
at least, that I could find written in English and lying about;
and I read nothing else; I mean I read nothing else on any other
note of philosophy.  The penny dreadfuls which I also read
were indeed in a healthy and heroic tradition of Christianity;
but I did not know this at the time.  I never read a line of
Christian apologetics.  I read as little as I can of them now.
It was Huxley and Herbert Spencer and Bradlaugh who brought me
back to orthodox theology.  They sowed in my mind my first wild
doubts of doubt.  Our grandmothers were quite right when they said
that Tom Paine and the free-thinkers unsettled the mind.  They do.
They unsettled mine horribly.  The rationalist made me question
whether reason was of any use whatever; and when I had finished
Herbert Spencer I had got as far as doubting (for the first time)
whether evolution had occurred at all.  As I laid down the last of
Colonel Ingersoll's atheistic lectures the dreadful thought broke
across my mind, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."  I was
in a desperate way.

     This odd effect of the great agnostics in arousing doubts
deeper than their own might be illustrated in many ways.
I take only one.  As I read and re-read all the non-Christian
or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh,
a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically
upon my mind--the impression that Christianity must be a most
extraordinary thing.  For not only (as I understood) had Christianity
the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent
for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other.
It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons.
No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far
to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it
was much too far to the west.  No sooner had my indignation died
down at its angular and aggressive squareness than I was called up
again to notice and condemn its enervating and sensual roundness.
In case any reader has not come across the thing I mean, I will give
such instances as I remember at random of this self-contradiction
in the sceptical attack.  I give four or five of them; there are
fifty more.

     Thus, for instance, I was much moved by the eloquent attack
on Christianity as a thing of inhuman gloom; for I thought
(and still think) sincere pessimism the unpardonable sin.
Insincere pessimism is a social accomplishment, rather agreeable
than otherwise; and fortunately nearly all pessimism is insincere.
But if Christianity was, as these people said, a thing purely
pessimistic and opposed to life, then I was quite prepared to blow
up St. Paul's Cathedral.  But the extraordinary thing is this.
They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction)
that Christianity was too pessimistic; and then, in Chapter II.,
they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic.
One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men,
by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom
of Nature.  But another accusation was that it comforted men with a
fictitious providence, and put them in a pink-and-white nursery.
One great agnostic asked why Nature was not beautiful enough,
and why it was hard to be free.  Another great agnostic objected
that Christian optimism, "the garment of make-believe woven by
pious hands," hid from us the fact that Nature was ugly, and that
it was impossible to be free.  One rationalist had hardly done
calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call it
a fool's paradise.  This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent.
Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world,
and also the white mask on a black world.  The state of the Christian
could not be at once so comfortable that he was a coward to cling
to it, and so uncomfortable that he was a fool to stand it.
If it falsified human vision it must falsify it one way or another;
it could not wear both green and rose-coloured spectacles.
I rolled on my tongue with a terrible joy, as did all young men
of that time, the taunts which Swinburne hurled at the dreariness of
the creed--

     "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilaean, the world has grown
gray with Thy breath."

But when I read the same poet's accounts of paganism (as
in "Atalanta"), I gathered that the world was, if possible,
more gray before the Galilean breathed on it than afterwards.
The poet maintained, indeed, in the abstract, that life itself
was pitch dark.  And yet, somehow, Christianity had darkened it.
The very man who denounced Christianity for pessimism was himself
a pessimist.  I thought there must be something wrong.  And it did
for one wild moment cross my mind that, perhaps, those might not be
the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who,
by their own account, had neither one nor the other.

     It must be understood that I did not conclude hastily that the
accusations were false or the accusers fools.  I simply deduced
that Christianity must be something even weirder and wickeder
than they made out.  A thing might have these two opposite vices;
but it must be a rather queer thing if it did.  A man might be too fat
in one place and too thin in another; but he would be an odd shape.
At this point my thoughts were only of the odd shape of the Christian
religion; I did not allege any odd shape in the rationalistic mind.

     Here is another case of the same kind.  I felt that a strong
case against Christianity lay in the charge that there is something
timid, monkish, and unmanly about all that is called "Christian,"
especially in its attitude towards resistance and fighting.
The great sceptics of the nineteenth century were largely virile.
Bradlaugh in an expansive way, Huxley, in a reticent way,
were decidedly men.  In comparison, it did seem tenable that there
was something weak and over patient about Christian counsels.
The Gospel paradox about the other cheek, the fact that priests
never fought, a hundred things made plausible the accusation
that Christianity was an attempt to make a man too like a sheep.
I read it and believed it, and if I had read nothing different,
I should have gone on believing it.  But I read something very different.
I turned the next page in my agnostic manual, and my brain turned
up-side down.  Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for
fighting too little, but for fighting too much.  Christianity, it seemed,
was the mother of wars.  Christianity had deluged the world with blood.
I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never
was angry.  And now I was told to be angry with him because his
anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history;
because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun.
The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and
non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached
it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades.  It was the
fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward
the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did.
The Quakers (we were told) were the only characteristic Christians;
and yet the massacres of Cromwell and Alva were characteristic
Christian crimes.  What could it all mean?  What was this Christianity
which always forbade war and always produced wars?  What could
be the nature of the thing which one could abuse first because it
would not fight, and second because it was always fighting?
In what world of riddles was born this monstrous murder and this
monstrous meekness?  The shape of Christianity grew a queerer shape
every instant.

     I take a third case; the strangest of all, because it involves
the one real objection to the faith.  The one real objection to the
Christian religion is simply that it is one religion.  The world is
a big place, full of very different kinds of people.  Christianity (it
may reasonably be said) is one thing confined to one kind of people;
it began in Palestine, it has practically stopped with Europe.
I was duly impressed with this argument in my youth, and I was much
drawn towards the doctrine often preached in Ethical Societies--
I mean the doctrine that there is one great unconscious church of
all humanity founded on the omnipresence of the human conscience.
Creeds, it was said, divided men; but at least morals united them.
The soul might seek the strangest and most remote lands and ages
and still find essential ethical common sense.  It might find
Confucius under Eastern trees, and he would be writing "Thou
shalt not steal."  It might decipher the darkest hieroglyphic on
the most primeval desert, and the meaning when deciphered would
be "Little boys should tell the truth."  I believed this doctrine
of the brotherhood of all men in the possession of a moral sense,
and I believe it still--with other things.  And I was thoroughly
annoyed with Christianity for suggesting (as I supposed)
that whole ages and empires of men had utterly escaped this light
of justice and reason.  But then I found an astonishing thing.
I found that the very people who said that mankind was one church
from Plato to Emerson were the very people who said that morality
had changed altogether, and that what was right in one age was wrong
in another.  If I asked, say, for an altar, I was told that we
needed none, for men our brothers gave us clear oracles and one creed
in their universal customs and ideals.  But if I mildly pointed
out that one of men's universal customs was to have an altar,
then my agnostic teachers turned clean round and told me that men
had always been in darkness and the superstitions of savages.
I found it was their daily taunt against Christianity that it was
the light of one people and had left all others to die in the dark.
But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves
that science and progress were the discovery of one people,
and that all other peoples had died in the dark.  Their chief insult
to Christianity was actually their chief compliment to themselves,
and there seemed to be a strange unfairness about all their relative
insistence on the two things.  When considering some pagan or agnostic,
we were to remember that all men had one religion; when considering
some mystic or spiritualist, we were only to consider what absurd
religions some men had.  We could trust the ethics of Epictetus,
because ethics had never changed.  We must not trust the ethics
of Bossuet, because ethics had changed.  They changed in two
hundred years, but not in two thousand.

     This began to be alarming.  It looked not so much as if
Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather
as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with.
What again could this astonishing thing be like which people
were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind
contradicting themselves?  I saw the same thing on every side.
I can give no further space to this discussion of it in detail;
but lest any one supposes that I have unfairly selected three
accidental cases I will run briefly through a few others.
Thus, certain sceptics wrote that the great crime of Christianity
had been its attack on the family; it had dragged women to the
loneliness and contemplation of the cloister, away from their homes
and their children.  But, then, other sceptics (slightly more advanced)
said that the great crime of Christianity was forcing the family
and marriage upon us; that it doomed women to the drudgery of their
homes and children, and forbade them loneliness and contemplation.
The charge was actually reversed.  Or, again, certain phrases in the
Epistles or the marriage service, were said by the anti-Christians
to show contempt for woman's intellect.  But I found that the
anti-Christians themselves had a contempt for woman's intellect;
for it was their great sneer at the Church on the Continent that
"only women" went to it.  Or again, Christianity was reproached
with its naked and hungry habits; with its sackcloth and dried peas.
But the next minute Christianity was being reproached with its pomp
and its ritualism; its shrines of porphyry and its robes of gold.
It was abused for being too plain and for being too coloured.
Again Christianity had always been accused of restraining sexuality
too much, when Bradlaugh the Malthusian discovered that it restrained
it too little.  It is often accused in the same breath of prim
respectability and of religious extravagance.  Between the covers
of the same atheistic pamphlet I have found the faith rebuked
for its disunion, "One thinks one thing, and one another,"
and rebuked also for its union, "It is difference of opinion
that prevents the world from going to the dogs."  In the same
conversation a free-thinker, a friend of mine, blamed Christianity
for despising Jews, and then despised it himself for being Jewish.

     I wished to be quite fair then, and I wish to be quite fair now;
and I did not conclude that the attack on Christianity was all wrong.
I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very
wrong indeed.  Such hostile horrors might be combined in one thing,
but that thing must be very strange and solitary.  There are men
who are misers, and also spendthrifts; but they are rare.  There are
men sensual and also ascetic; but they are rare.  But if this mass
of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty,
too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously
to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge,
a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed,
then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique.
For I found in my rationalist teachers no explanation of such
exceptional corruption.  Christianity (theoretically speaking)
was in their eyes only one of the ordinary myths and errors of mortals.
THEY gave me no key to this twisted and unnatural badness.
Such a paradox of evil rose to the stature of the supernatural.
It was, indeed, almost as supernatural as the infallibility of the Pope.
An historic institution, which never went right, is really quite
as much of a miracle as an institution that cannot go wrong.
The only explanation which immediately occurred to my mind was that
Christianity did not come from heaven, but from hell.  Really, if Jesus
of Nazareth was not Christ, He must have been Antichrist.

     And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still
thunderbolt.  There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation.
Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men.  Suppose we
were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some
too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness;
some thought him too dark, and some too fair.  One explanation (as
has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape.
But there is another explanation.  He might be the right shape.
Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short.  Very short men
might feel him to be tall.  Old bucks who are growing stout might
consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing
thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance.
Perhaps Swedes (who have pale hair like tow) called him a dark man,
while negroes considered him distinctly blonde.  Perhaps (in short)
this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least
the normal thing, the centre.  Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity
that is sane and all its critics that are mad--in various ways.
I tested this idea by asking myself whether there was about any
of the accusers anything morbid that might explain the accusation.
I was startled to find that this key fitted a lock.  For instance,
it was certainly odd that the modern world charged Christianity
at once with bodily austerity and with artistic pomp.  But then
it was also odd, very odd, that the modern world itself combined
extreme bodily luxury with an extreme absence of artistic pomp.
The modern man thought Becket's robes too rich and his meals too poor.
But then the modern man was really exceptional in history; no man before
ever ate such elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes.  The modern man
found the church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex;
he found the church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy.
The man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad on entrees.
The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers.
And surely if there was any insanity involved in the matter at all it
was in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe.  If there was any
insanity at all, it was in the extravagant entrees, not in the bread
and wine.

     I went over all the cases, and I found the key fitted so far.
The fact that Swinburne was irritated at the unhappiness of Christians
and yet more irritated at their happiness was easily explained.
It was no longer a complication of diseases in Christianity,
but a complication of diseases in Swinburne.  The restraints
of Christians saddened him simply because he was more hedonist
than a healthy man should be.  The faith of Christians angered
him because he was more pessimist than a healthy man should be.
In the same way the Malthusians by instinct attacked Christianity;
not because there is anything especially anti-Malthusian about
Christianity, but because there is something a little anti-human
about Malthusianism.

     Nevertheless it could not, I felt, be quite true that Christianity
was merely sensible and stood in the middle.  There was really
an element in it of emphasis and even frenzy which had justified
the secularists in their superficial criticism.  It might be wise,
I began more and more to think that it was wise, but it was not
merely worldly wise; it was not merely temperate and respectable.
Its fierce crusaders and meek saints might balance each other;
still, the crusaders were very fierce and the saints were very meek,
meek beyond all decency.  Now, it was just at this point of the
speculation that I remembered my thoughts about the martyr and
the suicide.  In that matter there had been this combination between
two almost insane positions which yet somehow amounted to sanity.
This was just such another contradiction; and this I had already
found to be true.  This was exactly one of the paradoxes in which
sceptics found the creed wrong; and in this I had found it right.
Madly as Christians might love the martyr or hate the suicide,
they never felt these passions more madly than I had felt them long
before I dreamed of Christianity.  Then the most difficult and
interesting part of the mental process opened, and I began to trace
this idea darkly through all the enormous thoughts of our theology.
The idea was that which I had outlined touching the optimist and
the pessimist; that we want not an amalgam or compromise, but both
things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning.
Here I shall only trace it in relation to ethics.  But I need not
remind the reader that the idea of this combination is indeed central
in orthodox theology.  For orthodox theology has specially insisted
that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf,
nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both
things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God.
Now let me trace this notion as I found it.

     All sane men can see that sanity is some kind of equilibrium;
that one may be mad and eat too much, or mad and eat too little.
Some moderns have indeed appeared with vague versions of progress and
evolution which seeks to destroy the MESON or balance of Aristotle.
They seem to suggest that we are meant to starve progressively,
or to go on eating larger and larger breakfasts every morning for ever.
But the great truism of the MESON remains for all thinking men,
and these people have not upset any balance except their own.
But granted that we have all to keep a balance, the real interest
comes in with the question of how that balance can be kept.
That was the problem which Paganism tried to solve:  that was
the problem which I think Christianity solved and solved in a very
strange way.

     Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity
declared it was in a conflict:  the collision of two passions
apparently opposite.  Of course they were not really inconsistent;
but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously.
Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide;
and take the case of courage.  No quality has ever so much addled
the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms.  It means a strong desire
to live taking the form of a readiness to die.  "He that will lose
his life, the same shall save it," is not a piece of mysticism
for saints and heroes.  It is a piece of everyday advice for
sailors or mountaineers.  It might be printed in an Alpine guide
or a drill book.  This paradox is the whole principle of courage;
even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage.  A man cut off by
the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice.

     He can only get away from death by continually stepping within
an inch of it.  A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut
his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a
strange carelessness about dying.  He must not merely cling to life,
for then he will be a coward, and will not escape.  He must not merely
wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape.
He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it;
he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle
with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so.
But Christianity has done more:  it has marked the limits of it
in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance
between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the
sake of dying.  And it has held up ever since above the European
lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry:  the Christian courage,
which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a
disdain of life.

     And now I began to find that this duplex passion was the Christian
key to ethics everywhere.  Everywhere the creed made a moderation
out of the still crash of two impetuous emotions.  Take, for instance,
the matter of modesty, of the balance between mere pride and
mere prostration.  The average pagan, like the average agnostic,
would merely say that he was content with himself, but not insolently
self-satisfied, that there were many better and many worse,
that his deserts were limited, but he would see that he got them.
In short, he would walk with his head in the air; but not necessarily
with his nose in the air.  This is a manly and rational position,
but it is open to the objection we noted against the compromise
between optimism and pessimism--the "resignation" of Matthew Arnold.
Being a mixture of two things, it is a dilution of two things;
neither is present in its full strength or contributes its full colour.
This proper pride does not lift the heart like the tongue of trumpets;
you cannot go clad in crimson and gold for this.  On the other hand,
this mild rationalist modesty does not cleanse the soul with fire
and make it clear like crystal; it does not (like a strict and
searching humility) make a man as a little child, who can sit at
the feet of the grass.  It does not make him look up and see marvels;
for Alice must grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland.  Thus it
loses both the poetry of being proud and the poetry of being humble.
Christianity sought by this same strange expedient to save both
of them.

     It separated the two ideas and then exaggerated them both.
In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before;
in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before.
In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures.  In so far
as I am a man I am the chief of sinners.  All humility that had
meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view
of his whole destiny--all that was to go.  We were to hear no more
the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over
the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest
of all the beasts of the field.  Man was a statue of God walking
about the garden.  Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes;
man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god.
The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging
to it.  Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it.
Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only
be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage.
Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness
of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission,
in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard.
When one came to think of ONE'S SELF, there was vista and void enough
for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth.  There the
realistic gentleman could let himself go--as long as he let himself go
at himself.  There was an open playground for the happy pessimist.
Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original
aim of his being; let him call himself a fool and even a damned
fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools
are not worth saving.  He must not say that a man, QUA man,
can be valueless.  Here, again in short, Christianity got over the
difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both,
and keeping them both furious.  The Church was positive on both points.
One can hardly think too little of one's self.  One can hardly think
too much of one's soul.

     Take another case:  the complicated question of charity,
which some highly uncharitable idealists seem to think quite easy.
Charity is a paradox, like modesty and courage.  Stated baldly,
charity certainly means one of two things--pardoning unpardonable acts,
or loving unlovable people.  But if we ask ourselves (as we did
in the case of pride) what a sensible pagan would feel about such
a subject, we shall probably be beginning at the bottom of it.
A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive,
and some one couldn't: a slave who stole wine could be laughed at;
a slave who betrayed his benefactor could be killed, and cursed
even after he was killed.  In so far as the act was pardonable,
the man was pardonable.  That again is rational, and even refreshing;
but it is a dilution.  It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice,
such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent.  And it leaves
no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole
fascination of the charitable.  Christianity came in here as before.
It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another.
It divided the crime from the criminal.  The criminal we must forgive
unto seventy times seven.  The crime we must not forgive at all.
It was not enough that slaves who stole wine inspired partly anger
and partly kindness.  We must be much more angry with theft than before,
and yet much kinder to thieves than before.  There was room for wrath
and love to run wild.  And the more I considered Christianity,
the more I found that while it had established a rule and order,
the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run

     Mental and emotional liberty are not so simple as they look.
Really they require almost as careful a balance of laws and conditions
as do social and political liberty.  The ordinary aesthetic anarchist
who sets out to feel everything freely gets knotted at last in a
paradox that prevents him feeling at all.  He breaks away from home
limits to follow poetry.  But in ceasing to feel home limits he has
ceased to feel the "Odyssey."  He is free from national prejudices
and outside patriotism.  But being outside patriotism he is outside
"Henry V." Such a literary man is simply outside all literature:
he is more of a prisoner than any bigot.  For if there is a wall
between you and the world, it makes little difference whether you
describe yourself as locked in or as locked out.  What we want
is not the universality that is outside all normal sentiments;
we want the universality that is inside all normal sentiments.
It is all the difference between being free from them, as a man
is free from a prison, and being free of them as a man is free of
a city.  I am free from Windsor Castle (that is, I am not forcibly
detained there), but I am by no means free of that building.
How can man be approximately free of fine emotions, able to swing
them in a clear space without breakage or wrong?  THIS was the
achievement of this Christian paradox of the parallel passions.
Granted the primary dogma of the war between divine and diabolic,
the revolt and ruin of the world, their optimism and pessimism,
as pure poetry, could be loosened like cataracts.

     St. Francis, in praising all good, could be a more shouting
optimist than Walt Whitman.  St. Jerome, in denouncing all evil,
could paint the world blacker than Schopenhauer.  Both passions
were free because both were kept in their place.  The optimist could
pour out all the praise he liked on the gay music of the march,
the golden trumpets, and the purple banners going into battle.
But he must not call the fight needless.  The pessimist might draw
as darkly as he chose the sickening marches or the sanguine wounds.
But he must not call the fight hopeless.  So it was with all the
other moral problems, with pride, with protest, and with compassion.
By defining its main doctrine, the Church not only kept seemingly
inconsistent things side by side, but, what was more, allowed them
to break out in a sort of artistic violence otherwise possible
only to anarchists.  Meekness grew more dramatic than madness.
Historic Christianity rose into a high and strange COUP DE THEATRE
of morality--things that are to virtue what the crimes of Nero are
to vice.  The spirits of indignation and of charity took terrible
and attractive forms, ranging from that monkish fierceness that
scourged like a dog the first and greatest of the Plantagenets,
to the sublime pity of St. Catherine, who, in the official shambles,
kissed the bloody head of the criminal.  Poetry could be acted as
well as composed.  This heroic and monumental manner in ethics has
entirely vanished with supernatural religion.  They, being humble,
could parade themselves:  but we are too proud to be prominent.
Our ethical teachers write reasonably for prison reform; but we
are not likely to see Mr. Cadbury, or any eminent philanthropist,
go into Reading Gaol and embrace the strangled corpse before it
is cast into the quicklime.  Our ethical teachers write mildly
against the power of millionaires; but we are not likely to see
Mr. Rockefeller, or any modern tyrant, publicly whipped in Westminster

     Thus, the double charges of the secularists, though throwing
nothing but darkness and confusion on themselves, throw a real light on
the faith.  It is true that the historic Church has at once emphasised
celibacy and emphasised the family; has at once (if one may put it so)
been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children.
It has kept them side by side like two strong colours, red and white,
like the red and white upon the shield of St. George.  It has
always had a healthy hatred of pink.  It hates that combination
of two colours which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers.
It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to
a dirty gray.  In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity
might be symbolized in the statement that white is a colour:
not merely the absence of a colour.  All that I am urging here can
be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these
cases to keep two colours coexistent but pure.  It is not a mixture
like russet or purple; it is rather like a shot silk, for a shot
silk is always at right angles, and is in the pattern of the cross.

     So it is also, of course, with the contradictory charges
of the anti-Christians about submission and slaughter.  It IS true
that the Church told some men to fight and others not to fight;
and it IS true that those who fought were like thunderbolts
and those who did not fight were like statues.  All this simply
means that the Church preferred to use its Supermen and to use
its Tolstoyans.  There must be SOME good in the life of battle,
for so many good men have enjoyed being soldiers.  There must be
SOME good in the idea of non-resistance, for so many good men seem
to enjoy being Quakers.  All that the Church did (so far as that goes)
was to prevent either of these good things from ousting the other.
They existed side by side.  The Tolstoyans, having all the scruples
of monks, simply became monks.  The Quakers became a club instead
of becoming a sect.  Monks said all that Tolstoy says; they poured
out lucid lamentations about the cruelty of battles and the vanity
of revenge.  But the Tolstoyans are not quite right enough to run
the whole world; and in the ages of faith they were not allowed
to run it.  The world did not lose the last charge of Sir James
Douglas or the banner of Joan the Maid.  And sometimes this pure
gentleness and this pure fierceness met and justified their juncture;
the paradox of all the prophets was fulfilled, and, in the soul
of St. Louis, the lion lay down with the lamb.  But remember that
this text is too lightly interpreted.  It is constantly assured,
especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies
down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal
annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb.  That is simply
the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb.
The real problem is--Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still
retain his royal ferocity?  THAT is the problem the Church attempted;
THAT is the miracle she achieved.

     This is what I have called guessing the hidden eccentricities
of life.  This is knowing that a man's heart is to the left and not
in the middle.  This is knowing not only that the earth is round,
but knowing exactly where it is flat.  Christian doctrine detected
the oddities of life.  It not only discovered the law, but it
foresaw the exceptions.  Those underrate Christianity who say that
it discovered mercy; any one might discover mercy.  In fact every
one did.  But to discover a plan for being merciful and also severe--
THAT was to anticipate a strange need of human nature.  For no one
wants to be forgiven for a big sin as if it were a little one.
Any one might say that we should be neither quite miserable nor
quite happy.  But to find out how far one MAY be quite miserable
without making it impossible to be quite happy--that was a discovery
in psychology.  Any one might say, "Neither swagger nor grovel";
and it would have been a limit.  But to say, "Here you can swagger
and there you can grovel"--that was an emancipation.

     This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery
of the new balance.  Paganism had been like a pillar of marble,
upright because proportioned with symmetry.  Christianity was like
a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its
pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences
exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years.
In a Gothic cathedral the columns were all different, but they were
all necessary.  Every support seemed an accidental and fantastic support;
every buttress was a flying buttress.  So in Christendom apparent
accidents balanced.  Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold
and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination;
for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in
the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold.  It is at least
better than the manner of the modern millionaire, who has the black
and the drab outwardly for others, and the gold next his heart.
But the balance was not always in one man's body as in Becket's;
the balance was often distributed over the whole body of Christendom.
Because a man prayed and fasted on the Northern snows, flowers could
be flung at his festival in the Southern cities; and because fanatics
drank water on the sands of Syria, men could still drink cider in the
orchards of England.  This is what makes Christendom at once so much
more perplexing and so much more interesting than the Pagan empire;
just as Amiens Cathedral is not better but more interesting than
the Parthenon.  If any one wants a modern proof of all this,
let him consider the curious fact that, under Christianity,
Europe (while remaining a unity) has broken up into individual nations.
Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing
of one emphasis against another emphasis.  The instinct of the
Pagan empire would have said, "You shall all be Roman citizens,
and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent;
the Frenchmen less experimental and swift."  But the instinct
of Christian Europe says, "Let the German remain slow and reverent,
that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental.
We will make an equipoise out of these excesses.  The absurdity
called Germany shall correct the insanity called France."

     Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains
what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history
of Christianity.  I mean the monstrous wars about small points
of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word.
It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you
are balancing.  The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth
on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment
of the irregular equilibrium.  Once let one idea become less powerful
and some other idea would become too powerful.  It was no flock of sheep
the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers,
of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong
enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world.
Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas;
she was a lion tamer.  The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit,
of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins,
or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see,
need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious.
The smallest link was let drop by the artificers of the Mediterranean,
and the lion of ancestral pessimism burst his chain in the forgotten
forests of the north.  Of these theological equalisations I have
to speak afterwards.  Here it is enough to notice that if some
small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made
in human happiness.  A sentence phrased wrong about the nature
of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe.
A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither
all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs.  Doctrines had
to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might
enjoy general human liberties.  The Church had to be careful,
if only that the world might be careless.

     This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy.  People have fallen
into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy,
humdrum, and safe.  There never was anything so perilous or so exciting
as orthodoxy.  It was sanity:  and to be sane is more dramatic than to
be mad.  It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses,
seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude
having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic.
The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse;
yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along
one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism.  She swerved to left and right,
so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles.  She left on one hand
the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers
to make Christianity too worldly.  The next instant she was swerving
to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly.
The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted
the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable.  It would
have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians.
It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century,
to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination.  It is easy to be
a madman:  it is easy to be a heretic.  It is always easy to let
the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own.
It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob.
To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration
which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the
historic path of Christendom--that would indeed have been simple.
It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at
which one falls, only one at which one stands.  To have fallen into
any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed
have been obvious and tame.  But to have avoided them all has been
one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies
thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate,
the wild truth reeling but erect.


GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (1874-1936). Chesterton was one of the great writers of the early 20th Century and had a huge influence on C.S. Lewis. He is well known for his works of apologetics, especially Orthodoxy (also on Kindle or audiobook)The Everlasting Man (also on audio), and Heretics (available on Kindle at Amazon or Audiobook from Librivox)

But he is also well known for his poetry and fiction, especially his "Father Brown" mysteries, which have been adapted for television. You can find 49 of his works in audiobook at Librivox. 

brief biography, list of quotes and collection of his works is found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. There is a wealth of information about Chesterton and his writings at The American Chesterton Society (including some notable theological essays). Christian History Magazine has an entire issue devoted to Chesterton (which is FREE in PDF). And here is a critique of Chesterton that I found in the November 25, 1905 issue of The Outlook.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Several years ago I had a conversation with an intellectual new age neo-pagan pantheist kinda guy. (At the time he was naming his religion as Aquarian.) We had a discussion about the cosmological argument and fine-tuning. One of the defeaters that he raised was the idea of a multiverse. 

I mentioned the only defeater for the idea of a multiverse that I had heard: that there is no evidence for a multiverse. While this is necessarily true, I do not find it to be a very satisfying defeater. It does not really defeat the idea of a multiverse: it simply holds it at bay. Of course, it has also been noted that the idea of a multiverse only moves the problem back a step: What (or who) generated the multiverse?

Subsequent to that conversation, I began to think more about this idea of a multiverse. (My factory job at the time generally gave me lots of time to think!) And I came up with what I think is a very sound defeater. I have presented this idea to knowledgeable people several times but have only had one very vague rebuttal offered (and to my mind it was very unpersuasive and had some inherent problems).

At any rate, a multiverse (or infinite number of universes) does not solve the problem of the fine-tuning found in our universe. If there was, in fact, a natural process that generated universes, the problem would be:

1. Natural processes occur randomly or regularly--whenever the right conditions are met. 

2. In order for a natural multiverse generating process to replace a Creator, the means of multiverse generation would have to be eternal. Otherwise, the multiverse generator itself will need to have a cause. (And if the multiverse was not eternal and the cause of the multiverse generator was natural, this would lead to essentially the same problem as I am describing here anyways.)

3. If this multiverse generator were eternal, the result would be that an infinite number of universes would have been generated long before we got here. In fact, there would now have been an infinite number of universes generated in exactly the same coordinates as our own universe.

4. Therefore, the space that we inhabit would be filled with infinitely dense matter.

5. The space that we inhabit is clearly not filled with infinitely dense matter.

6. Therefore, if such a multiverse generator exists, it is not a natural ungoverned process. Rather it must be an intelligent mind who is able to plan and place universes. This demands a highly intelligent mind of an all-powerful being who has a will to do things according to a predetermined plan--in other words, God.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons