Search our Blog contents

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Seven secrets of stress management

by Rick Warren

Then Jesus said, "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest." There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat. Mark 6:31 (NLT)

Pastor, do you ever feel like your life and schedule is out of control? In the ministry, you can't eliminate stress, but you can manage it.

Jesus experienced enormous stress and pressure, yet it didn't seem to disturb his peace of mind. In spite of opposition, constant demands, and little privacy, his life reflected a calm sense of balance. What was his secret?

1. Identification: Know who you are (John 8:12)
Eighteen times Jesus publicly defined himself. There was no doubt in his mind as to who he was. If you are unsure of your identity, you'll allow others to pressure you into their molds. Trying to be someone you're not causes stress!

2. Dedication: Know who you want to please (John 5:30)
You can't please everyone. Even God can't do that. Just about the time you get Crowd A happy, Crowd B will be upset with you. Jesus never let the fear of rejection manipulate him. No one can pressure you without your permission.

3. Organization: Set clear goals (John 8:14)

Jesus said, "I know where I came from and where I am going." Preparation prevents pressure but procrastination produces it. You work by either priorities or pressures.

4. Concentration: Focus on one thing at a time (Luke 4:42-44)

You can't chase two rabbits at the same time! Jesus knew how to handle interruptions without being distracted from his primary goal.

5. Delegation: Don't try to do everything yourself (Mark 3:14)

We get tense when we feel it all depends on us. Jesus enlisted 12 disciples. Don't allow perfectionism or the fear that others may do a better job keep you from involving others in the task.

6. Meditation: Make a habit of prayer (Mark 1:35)

No matter how busy Jesus got, he found time to get alone to pray everyday. A daily quiet time is a great stress decompression chamber. Use this time to talk to God about your pressures and problems, evaluate your priorities, and discover the rules for successful living by reading the Bible.

7. Relaxation: Take time to enjoy life (Mark 6:30-31)

Balance is the key to stress management. Work must be balanced with fun and worship.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times best seller The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for ministers.
©Copyright 2008. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

12 Steps to Change Your Prayer Life

Jennifer Kennedy Dean
source; CrossWalk

1. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Prov. 21:1) 

If your thoughts wander during your prayer time, instead of trying to force them back into your pre-set agenda, try following them. Perhaps the Lord has another agenda.


2. "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." (Matt. 6:5-6).

Set a time for daily prayer. Consider it an unbreakable commitment. Keep your set appointment every day for one week. For one solid week, let your scheduled prayer time be the centerpiece of your day: arrange everything else to fit around it.


3. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35)

Give God the first fruits of your day. For one week, give the very first 30 minutes of your day to prayer.


4. "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16)

Find a place in your home where you can be alone and undistracted during your prayer time. Keep your Bible, prayer journal, pen, and whatever tools you use in that place so that everything is ready. During your prayer time each day, this is a sacred place.


5. "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." (Isaiah. 6:1)

As you start your prayer time, before you say anything, let your mind's eye see Him, high and exalted, and yourself in a position of worship before Him. Stay in that inner posture until His glory fills your thoughts as the train of His robe fills the temple.


6. "But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'" (Luke 8:46 )

Take time to become truly alive to His presence with you. Be aware that as you touch Him through prayer, His power is released into your life.


7. "O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth." (Ps. 78:1)

Read your Bible this morning with the awareness that you are listening to the words of His mouth. Stop at the first word, phrase, or thought that captures your attention and let the Father speak to you about it and let it shape your prayers.


8. "We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isa. 64:8)

This week, practice the prayer of pliability. Instead of focusing on what you want God to do for you, focus on allowing Him to shape your desires until they match His. Accept each situation in your life as His hand shaping your thoughts, character, and longings.


9. "Not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

This week, let these words be the only prayer you pray about situations that confront you. Focus on relinquishing every situation to Him to be a platform for His power.


10. "I will remember the deeds of the LORD." (Ps. 77:11)

This week, try writing out your prayers. It will help you stay focused and will create a record of God's work in your life.


11. "My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long." (Ps. 35:28)

This week, practice praying out loud during your private prayer time. It will make your prayer experience more concrete and will help you keep your mind focused.


12. "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; ...talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deut. 11:18-20)

This week, try walking as you pray. Walk through your neighborhood or around your yard. You will be more able to keep your mind open to new thoughts the Lord might introduce. You are likely to find yourself spending more time with Him.

 Author, speaker, conference leader Jennifer Kennedy Dean is a significant voice on spirituality and prayer. She addresses real questions about prayer. Contact her at © 2008 -- Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Your New Identity in Christ

Jan Coates
source: CW
BS/Disicpleship resource

There I was, sitting in the green room of the Oprah Winfrey television show, waiting for my turn to share with the world how my new identity had transformed me from the inside out. I stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror startled by my own image. The mirror reflected an image of a tall, slender black woman with shiny, wavy hair that sparkled like dew drops on a crisp autumn morning. The chestnut eyes beamed with vibrant life. The air was filled with deep love, passion, and hope. I didn't recognize "me."



As I crawled out of bed the next morning, just out of curiosity, I checked in the mirror. I now saw what I had seen hundreds of times before: an under-tall--5 feet, two inches and shrinking to be exact--Caucasian, over forty-nine and holding, work-in-progress lady.


Perhaps it was just a dream that seemed so real to me. Ten years later I still remember the precise details of my "Oprah adventure." 


Confused and baffled by my identity, I wondered: Who am I anyway?


Children of God


"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13).


I've read and reread this verse. My silent response was always, "Yes but... I've got a past." Hey, I ain't your perfect Christian lady, sitting on the third row of the center pew. In fact, I'm a lady who's made more than my share of wrong decisions and bad choices--a condemned woman in the eyes of the Pharisees. Why, I could have been stoned 2,000 years ago. Did I mention I'm also a sinner?


The truth of the matter is that until I began to experience abundant grace and understand the "born of God," I disqualified me. But, Jesus didn't.


Understanding Our New Identities


God is speaking to you and me about our new identities. Through faith and belief in Christ we're born of God and have been declared children of Christ. We're fully adopted with all the benefits of new identities.


Through God's mercy and grace, we can feel free to call him "Abba, Father," which means Daddy. We can also expect to share in the inheritance of his only son, Jesus. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom of God. As believers, our identities are changed forever.


New identities are important to understand because identity precedes and affects:

• Behaviors
• Attitudes
• Emotions
• Values


Someone once said, "Don't try to get in touch with your feelings; get in touch with truth and your feelings will change." The truth about who we are and how God sees us can be found in the Bible.


When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we experience a spiritual rebirth from above. "Jesus declared, `I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again' " (John 3:3). Jesus did not speak of a physical birth resulting from human flesh, but of a rebirth from God through the Holy Spirit.


When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we experience rebirth; simultaneously, we receive the Holy Spirit. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, making his temple in our bodies.


Our pasts do not disqualify us. I've discovered it doesn't matter who we were, or what we've done. It matters that God wants to give us a hope-filled future.


We really shouldn't wait until we get that problem fixed, get through that divorce, or get our act together to commit our lives to God. First, because it is impossible to be perfect. Next, in God's family it is more than acceptable to come as we are, baggage and all. We can experience a new beginning--complete with a past that has been wiped clean--and a bright future.


As the Holy Spirit transforms our identities into that of Christ's, we will, over time, see evidence in our lifestyles. We will see patience, gentleness, kindness, and love become a natural part of our life--our entire spiritual selves will daily become more like Christ.


A mirror won't reflect the change. But when God looks at us, He sees the reflection of His Son. If we truly want to be set free from our pasts to pursue a life of freedom in Christ, this should be eternal incentive to keep on keepin' on while allowing God to work in and through us.



Jan Coates is the founder and president of, a ministry where you can come as you are and leave with a new beginning. A sought-after speaker and popular author, Jan's contagious passion for the Lord is felt in every word she shares. She is on a mission to energize audiences with truth and freedom. For more information, please email her at or visit

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stop an Affair Before it Starts

Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg
America's Family Coaches
source: Crosswalk

Most of us say, "It will never happen to me," or "My marriage isn't at risk." But listen to the cold, hard facts: It's estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.


If you think your marriage isn't at risk, or that you'll never be tempted in your marriage, think again. The fact is, we're all at risk – if we don't take steps to stop an affair before it starts. So just who is susceptible to an affair? Someone who is experiencing:


• Boredom in marriage
• Lack of sexual activity in marriage
• Lack of compliments, validation, and appreciation from your spouse
• Lack of attention from your spouse
• Lack of intimate time in prayer and God's Word


For men and women, adultery begins in the heart. And for men particularly, it begins when the heart is not guarded against what the eyes sees and what the mind fantasizes. A woman is more likely to be tempted sexually on an emotional level. There is certainly a physical attraction, but it's usually the accompanying emotional bonding and attachment that leads a woman into an adulterous affair. She is enticed by a man's tenderness, openness, warmth, personality, affection, and attentiveness.


When you sense that someone else is captivating your heart in some way, when this attraction results in increased disappointment or frustration toward your spouse or when you begin to dwell on or flirt with your fascination, it's time to confront the threat. It's not too late, but it's late enough.


Are you entertaining any of these common lies and partial truths – or others like them?

• His/her flirting and attention makes me feel good or young again, and it's not hurting anyone.
• We have a connection. He/she really understands me.
• I can talk easily to him/her about everything. He/she focuses on me and gives me time to talk.
• There's chemistry between us. I can tell he/she is attracted to me. I can see myself ending up with him/her.


Stop! You must set a boundary now! You must establish a respectful relational distance between yourself and the man or woman who captures your attention. We're not talking about cutting off all contact with the opposite sex. We're talking about being cautious and alert for temptation in these relationships and maintaining a margin of distance that will help you resist those temptations.


If you find yourself attracted to another person, or entertaining some of the lies and partial truths we listed, you need to set up those boundaries now. Don't allow any unwholesome thought to take hold in your mind. Don't gaze into the other person's eyes, the windows of the soul; eye contact in a conversation is good, but if you catch a look that's too intense or too engaging and that makes you uncomfortable, avert your eyes and resist that gaze. Don't meet alone with members of the opposite sex behind closed doors or in private settings. Be careful with physical touch. Keep conversation general. When all else fails, run for your life. Literally.



The other side of temptation is to be satisfied at home. Solomon's words in Proverbs 5:18-19 are slated to a husband, but you wives can make an appropriate relation: "Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love."


In other words, if you are emotionally or sexually thirsty, quench your thirst at your own fountain instead of looking for another. When you are full and satisfied in your relationship with your spouse, neither of you will need to look elsewhere for satisfaction.


Besides taking your physical needs to your spouse, be sure you also take your emotional and relational needs to no one else but your spouse. Talk about your struggles, your dreams, your needs, your frustrations, and your joys from all levels of your life. Pray with each other. Laugh with each other. Cry with each other. Enjoy each other. Challenge each other. Get honest with each other. This is what intimacy is all about – sharing your innermost thoughts, feelings, desires, and drives with one another. Intimacy with your spouse will help keep you in the center of the road, even when other guardrails are missing.


To help you establish guardrails around your marriage, here are five keys to fighting off affairs:

1. Communicate! Couples lose touch with each other when they stop talking. To stay connected and satisfied with each other, spend time together daily.


2. Forgive past grievances. Don't let any resentment reside in your heart. Confess it promptly; otherwise it will seek to destroy you. Forgiving graciously means releasing the offense and receiving your spouse back into your heart.


3. Serve each other daily. Do you know your spouse's needs? (Ask!) Are you inattentive? (Be a student of your spouse!) Don't put it off. Remember what worked before. Breakfast in bed? A phone call during the day? Ask God to open your heart so you can serve freely with the attitude of Jesus.


4. Celebrate who you are individually and who you are together. Pleasing your spouse defeats selfishness and promotes self-denial, which is the root of a great marriage. It builds intimacy and provides encouragement during tough times.


5. Guard your marriage. Be keenly aware of how easily distracted you can become. Be vigilant against distractions. Spend time daily in God's Word. Stay connected to Christ through prayer and getting to know him more intimately. Avoid falling into temptation traps.


Ask God to overwhelm you with love for your spouse and help you rejoice in your marriage. Remember, love is not always a feeling. Much of the time, love is a choice. You must choose to love, whether you feel like it or not. That's the way to guard your heart.


Portions of this article were adapted from "Guard Your Heart," Copyright 2003 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved.  Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.,  To order this resource or to find our more about Dr. Gary and Barb – Your Marriage Coaches, visit or call 1-888-608-COACH. 

Married over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and five grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg, your marriage coaches, have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touch people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families across the nation through their interactive daily radio program, conferences, and marriage and family.


[1] "What are Some Facts and Statistics about Infidelity?",

Saturday, August 2, 2008

How to Love One Another... Even Other Christians

Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note
: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gerald L. Sittser's new book,
 Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For, (InterVarsity Press, 2008).


His extroverted personality annoys you. She seems too quiet. He favors a liturgical worship style, while you like a contemporary one. Her political views are too liberal for your conservative taste. Sound like any of the people at your church?


You may dislike them or disagree with them, but their commitment to Christ makes them your spiritual brothers and sisters. If you fail to reach out to them in love as Christ calls you to, then your fractured relationships will do great damage to all involved. But if you take Christ's command to love them seriously, that love will become a powerful force for good – both in your church, and in the watching world.


Here's how you can learn to love other Christians – no matter what:


Remember what God intends the church to be. The church should be a foretaste of what heaven will be like, with many vastly different people unified in their diversity by their love for Jesus Christ. It should be such a loving community that it's an incarnation of Christ's own sacrificial love. Realize that differences are normal and healthy; it's simply how you respond that tests whether or not you're willing to love. Keep God's desire for the church to be a loving community in mind. Don't settle for less, as far as it depends on you.


Welcome one another. Be willing to embrace people as they really are, rather than as you wish they would be. Remember that God doesn't play favorites; He generously loves all people, and hopes that you will, too. Don't reserve your love only for those who love you back, or who are similar to you in personality, religious conviction, interests, background, social status, economic level, race, culture, etc. Ask God to help you accept all people as equally important because they've been made in His image. When you interact with people, acknowledge them, show appreciation for their accomplishments, express affection for them, and say something that blesses them. Look for the best in people and overlook the worst whenever you can.


Be subject to one another. Surrender yourself to God and ask Him to show you how to do His will in circumstances that are less than ideal. Instead of waiting for people and situations to conform to your wishes (which is futile), invite God to use difficult people and situations to transform you according to His wishes – into someone who's more like Christ. Rather than insisting on pursuing your own agenda or protecting your own rights, trust God to do what's best for you in challenging circumstances.


Forbear one another. Let your gratitude for how often God has shown forbearance to you – loving you despite your many sins, mistakes, and weaknesses – motivate you to give other people the room to be who they are, despite all their imperfections. Remember that we're all works in progress. Ask God to give you the humility, patience, grace, and humor you need to accept people without judging them, and to encourage them to be themselves around you. Keep in mind that, while Christians need to stand for essential beliefs such as Christ's divinity, there's plenty of room for different ways of expressing faith. Rather than trying to change people who bother you, pray for them and trust God to change them in the best ways and at the best times. Don't deny people opportunities to serve simply because they have flaws. Accept and affirm the valuable contributions that imperfect people make through Christian service. Be willing to listen respectfully to people who don't share your point of view on an issue, yet still share faith in Christ. Allow yourself to learn from their perspectives.


Forgive one another. Since God has forgiven you, He expects you to forgive others, with His help. Don't wait until you feel like forgiving people who've hurt you; you likely never will. Instead, decide to forgive, and your feelings will eventually follow as God changes your heart through the forgiveness process. Understand that forgiveness doesn't mean excusing wrong behavior. It simply means that you're entrusting the situation to God. Even if the people who've wronged you don't apologize and repent, choose to forgive them anyway, knowing that by doing so you'll be giving God the gift of your obedience and freeing yourself from the poison of bitterness.


Confess sin to and pray for one another. Regularly own up to the reality of your sin, and confess it to God and other Christians. Listen when other Christians confess their sins to you. Let the knowledge that you're all desperately in need of God's grace draw you closer together. Embrace the mercy, forgiveness, and hope that God offers you. Pray for each other's concerns, seeking healing for your brokenness. Rather than praying only for certain people who seem more worthy than others, be generous with your prayers – willing to intercede for anyone.


Serve one another. Follow Christ's example by counting others better than yourself and seeking their welfare. Be willing to serve however God leads you, whether or not the opportunities He urges you to take make use of your gifts. Simplify your life so you have enough time to make service a regular part of your schedule. Allocate a regular place in your budget for generous financial giving. Develop the talents God has given you so you'll be able to use them well when you're faced with opportunities to use them in service work. And check your motives: Make sure you're serving out of a desire to love God back for loving you, rather than to try to prove something to yourself or others or to get something from the people you serve.


Encourage one another. Ask God to help you live with integrity so you can encourage others with a good example of what faith in action looks like. Carefully consider the impact of your attitudes and actions on other people; strive to be positive. Reach out to discouraged people in creative ways, such as by writing them cards or letters, or inviting them to meals at your home. Catch people doing something right, and let them know that you've noticed and appreciate their efforts. Whenever you spend time with your friends, do all you can to encourage each other.


Comfort one another. Suffering can unite people in powerful ways because it reveals their common need for God. Divisions and conflicts often appear trivial in the face of suffering. Make room in your life for broken and grieving people. Whenever you encounter someone who has suffered a loss, think and pray about what you can do to help: from providing child care, meals, or job training, to simply listening to them share their stories. Don't minimize, exaggerate, or trivialize grief. Instead, point grieving people to the source of real hope – Christ – and let your shared hope in Him draw you closer to each other.


Bear one another's burdens. Accept the reality of that following God's call to bear other's burdens will be costly, inconvenient, and disruptive. Ask God to help you do so anyway. Be available and flexible for when He leads you to help bear someone's burden. Seek to help burdened people take responsibility for their problems and get back on their feet, rather than fostering dependence on you. Hold them accountable for their attitudes and actions while providing the support they need to grow. Realize that it's not possible for you to help everyone you know who needs help; God only expects you to help the people He leads you help – and only in the specific ways He guides you to help them. Pray for discernment about who you should help, and how. Combine a sympathetic attitude with good judgment. As you help others, keep in mind that you're not superior to them. When someone helps you, remember that you're not inferior to them. Realize that everyone needs help at various times. Let your shared experiences of helping and being helped deepen your love for the fellow believers around you.


Stir up one another. It's dangerous to get complacent about your faith. Get out of your comfort zone and help other people get out of theirs. Do all you can to inspire and challenge others to follow the Holy Spirit's lead each day and take creative action in the specific directions the Spirit leads them. Meet with other Christians regularly and talk with them often about what's most important to them, and why. Invest your time, money, or talents in some of their causes. Let go of an attachment to the familiar, the past, a desire to control, or anything else that stands in the way of pursuing something new that God is calling you to pursue.


Admonish one another. Be willing to confront, challenge, and correct Christians who are living in disobedience to God's commands. But always do so with the goal of helping them restore their intimacy with God. Never admonish someone out of spite. Instead, let love motivate you to want the best for them and be concerned about their welfare. When you admonish someone, do so privately, positively (aiming to solve the problem), and prayerfully (as God leads you).


Adapted from Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For, copyright 2008 by Gerald L. Sittser. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.,

Gerald L. Sittser (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of The Adventure, A Cautious Patriotism, A Grace Disguised, The Will of God as a Way of Life and When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer. He has also written many book reviews and articles. He speaks frequently at churches, college campuses, and scholarly and Christian conferences. Sittser has won numerous awards and honors including a Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for his book When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer.

Theology Resource: God Is Not Dead Yet

How current philosophers argue for his existence.
You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.
That generation's cultural high point came on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine carried a lead story for which the cover was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright red letters: "Is God Dead?" The story described the "death of God" movement, then current in American theology.
But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of God's demise was premature. For at the same time theologians were writing God's obituary, a new generation of young philosophers was rediscovering his vitality.
Back in the 1940s and '50s, many philosophers believed that talk about God, since it is not verifiable by the five senses, is meaningless—actual nonsense. This verificationism finally collapsed, in part because philosophers realized that verificationism itself could not be verified! The collapse of verificationism was the most important philosophical event of the 20th century. Its downfall meant that philosophers were free once again to tackle traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence of interest in traditional philosophical questions came something altogether unanticipated: a renaissance of Christian philosophy.
The turning point probably came in 1967, with the publication of Alvin Plantinga's God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. In Plantinga's train has followed a host of Christian philosophers, writing in scholarly journals and participating in professional conferences and publishing with the finest academic presses. The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.
In a recent article, University of Western Michigan philosopher Quentin Smith laments what he calls "the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s." He complains about naturalists' passivity in the face of the wave of "intelligent and talented theists entering academia today." Smith concludes, "God is not 'dead' in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments."
The renaissance of Christian philosophy has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in natural theology, that branch of theology that seeks to prove God's existence apart from divine revelation. The goal of natural theology is to justify a broadly theistic worldview, one that is common among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and deists. While few would call them compelling proofs, all of the traditional arguments for God's existence, not to mention some creative new arguments, find articulate defenders today.

The Arguments

First, let's take a quick tour of some current arguments of natural theology. We'll look at them in their condensed form. This has the advantage of making the logic of the arguments very clear. The bare bones of the arguments can then be fleshed out with further discussion. A second crucial question—what good is rational argument in our supposedly postmodern age?—will be dealt with in the next section.
The cosmological argument. Versions of this argument are defended by Alexander Pruss, Timothy O'Connor, Stephen Davis, Robert Koons, and Richard Swinburne, among others. A simple formulation of this argument is:
1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe's existence is God.
This argument is logically valid, so the only question is the truth of the premises. Premise (3) is undeniable for any sincere seeker of truth, so the question comes down to (1) and (2).
Premise (1) seems quite plausible. Imagine that you're walking through the woods and come upon a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would find quite bizarre the claim that the ball just exists inexplicably. And increasing the size of the ball, even until it becomes co-extensive with the cosmos, would do nothing to eliminate the need for an explanation of its existence.
Premise (2) might at first appear controversial, but it is in fact synonymous with the usual atheist claim that if God does not exist, then the universe has no explanation of its existence. Besides, (2) is quite plausible in its own right. For an external cause of the universe must be beyond space and time and therefore cannot be physical or material. Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind. But abstract objects are causally impotent. The number 7, for example, can't cause anything. Therefore, it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind that created the universe—which is what most people have traditionally meant by "God."
The kalam cosmological argument. This version of the argument has a rich Islamic heritage. Stuart Hackett, David Oderberg, Mark Nowacki, and I have defended the kalam argument. Its formulation is simple:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Premise (1) certainly seems more plausibly true than its denial. The idea that things can pop into being without a cause is worse than magic. Nonetheless, it's remarkable how many nontheists, under the force of the evidence for premise (2), have denied (1) rather than acquiesce in the argument's conclusion.
Atheists have traditionally denied (2) in favor of an eternal universe. But there are good reasons, both philosophical and scientific, to doubt that the universe had no beginning. Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past seems absurd. If the universe never had a beginning, then the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. Not only is this a very paradoxical idea, but it also raises the problem: How could the present event ever arrive if an infinite number of prior events had to elapse first?
Moreover, a remarkable series of discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics over the last century has breathed new life into the kalam argument. We now have fairly strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past, but had an absolute beginning about 13.7 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is so amazing because it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang. While some cosmologists have tried to craft alternative theories aimed at avoiding this absolute beginning, none of these theories have commended themselves to the scientific community.


In fact, in 2003 cosmologists Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe that is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have had an absolute beginning. According to Vilenkin, "Cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning." It follows then that there must be a transcendent cause that brought the universe into being, a cause that, as we have seen, is plausibly timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and personal.



The teleological argument. The old design argument remains as robust today as ever, defended in various forms by Robin Collins, John Leslie, Paul Davies, William Dembski, Michael Denton, and others. Advocates of the Intelligent Design movement have continued the tradition of finding examples of design in biological systems. But the cutting edge of the discussion focuses on the recently discovered, remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life. This finetuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, they contain certain constants, such as the gravitational constant. The mathematical values of these constants are not determined by the laws of nature. Second, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are just part of the initial conditions of the universe—for example, the amount of entropy.


These constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants and quantities to be altered by less than a hair's breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed, and life would not exist.


Accordingly, we may argue:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.


Premise (1) simply lists the present options for explaining the fine-tuning. The key premise is therefore (2). The first alternative, physical necessity, says that the constants and quantities must have the values they do. This alternative has little to commend it. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for the constants and quantities. For example, the most promising candidate for a unified theory of physics to date, superstring theory or "M-Theory," allows a "cosmic landscape" of around 10500 different possible universes governed by the laws of nature, and only an infinitesimal proportion of these can support life.


As for chance, contemporary theorists increasingly recognize that the odds against fine-tuning are simply insurmountable unless one is prepared to embrace the speculative hypothesis that our universe is but one member of a randomly ordered, infinite ensemble of universes (a.k.a. the multiverse). In that ensemble of worlds, every physically possible world is realized, and obviously we could observe only a world where the constants and quantities are consistent with our existence. This is where the debate rages today. Physicists such as Oxford University's Roger Penrose launch powerful arguments against any appeal to a multiverse as a way of explaining away fine-tuning.



The moral argument. A number of ethicists, such as Robert Adams, William Alston, Mark Linville, Paul Copan, John Hare, Stephen Evans, and others have defended "divine command" theories of ethics, which support various moral arguments for God's existence. One such argument:


1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.


By objective values and duties, one means values and duties that are valid and binding independent of human opinion. A good many atheists and theists alike concur with premise (1). For given a naturalistic worldview, human beings are just animals, and activity that we count as murder, torture, and rape is natural and morally neutral in the animal kingdom. Moreover, if there is no one to command or prohibit certain actions, how can we have moral obligations or prohibitions?


Premise (2) might seem more disputable, but it will probably come as a surprise to most laypeople to learn that (2) is widely accepted among philosophers. For any argument against objective morals will tend to be based on premises that are less evident than the reality of moral values themselves, as apprehended in our moral experience. Most philosophers therefore do recognize objective moral distinctions.


Nontheists will typically counter the moral argument with a dilemma: Is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good? The first alternative makes good and evil arbitrary, whereas the second makes the good independent of God. Fortunately, the dilemma is a false one. Theists have traditionally taken a third alternative: God wills something because he is good. That is to say, what Plato called "the Good" is the moral nature of God himself. God is by nature loving, kind, impartial, and so on. He is the paradigm of goodness. Therefore, the good is not independent of God.


Moreover, God's commandments are a necessary expression of his nature. His commands to us are therefore not arbitrary but are necessary reflections of his character. This gives us an adequate foundation for the affirmation of objective moral values and duties.


The ontological argument. Anselm's famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:


1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
7. Therefore, God exists.


Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God's existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God's existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it's impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn't appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, allknowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God's existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.



Why Bother?


Of course, there are replies and counterreplies to all of these arguments, and no one imagines that a consensus will be reached. Indeed, after a period of passivity, there are now signs that the sleeping giant of atheism has been roused from his dogmatic slumbers and is fighting back. J. Howard Sobel and Graham Oppy have written large, scholarly books critical of the arguments of natural theology, and Cambridge University Press released its Companion to Atheism last year. Nonetheless, the very presence of the debate in academia is itself a sign of how healthy and vibrant a theistic worldview is today.


However all this may be, some might think that the resurgence of natural theology in our time is merely so much labor lost. For don't we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.


This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism! That's just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can't prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.


Otherwise, how do we make sense of the popularity of the New Atheism? Dawkins and his ilk are indelibly modernist and even scientistic in their approach. On the postmodernist reading of contemporary culture, their books should have fallen like water on a stone. Instead, people lap them up eagerly, convinced that religious belief is folly.


Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism's triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture's view of how the world really is.


A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society. While most of the original Enlightenment thinkers were themselves theists, the majority of Western intellectuals today no longer considers theological knowledge to be possible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.



Properly understanding our culture is important because the gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the current cultural milieu. A person raised in a cultural milieu in which Christianity is still seen as an intellectually viable option will display an openness to the gospel. But you may as well tell the secularist to believe in fairies or leprechauns as in Jesus Christ!


Christians who depreciate natural theology because "no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments" are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one's immediate evangelistic contacts. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved.


As we progress further into the 21st century, I anticipate that natural theology will be an increasingly relevant and vital preparation for people to receive the gospel.


William Lane Craig is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. He is the coeditor with J. P. Moreland of the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. His website is All of the traditional arguments for God's existence find intelligent and articulate defenders in the contemporary philosophical scene.