Monthly Archives: May 2008
We’re Back in Business at God is REAL!
I’ve started posting again at God is NOT Imaginary with my answer to Brain’s so-called “refutation” of Pascal’s Wager. Click here to read it!
Wisconsin Law Might Excuse Madeline Neumann’s Parents
If my little girl is sick, she goes to the doctor. I pray for God to use the doctor to heal my daughter.
I don’t pray and hope it all gets better.
But that’s exactly what the parents of Madeline Neumann did, and now they are charged with reckless homicide.
There may be a sang, however. Wisconsin has a law on the books that says a caregiver cannot be charged with a crime if they select prayer as the basis of treatment.
The way I’m reading that law, however, is that prayer must be the basis of treatment, not the only thing that you do. Therefore, the parents are still liable for the death. Though the law may not apply at all in homicide cases, according to District Attorney Jill Falstad.
It will be interesting to hear the judges’ rulings on the law.
Women in the Bible
Many people charge the Bible with denigrating women. I’ve written and podcasted about how the Bible only elevates women. But I realize that I’ve missed something important–the concept of servant leadership.
Ephesians 5:22, the famous “Wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord” verse, the apostle Paul seems to be denigrating women. Many atheists have pointed this verse out to me as proof of the Bible’s sexism without a true understanding of the biblical model of leadership. If the husband is supposed to be the head of the wife as Christ is of the church, what model does he follow? If he follows the world’s understanding of leadership, he’ll end up psychologically abusing his wife. He should follow the biblical model of leadership. What is that, exactly? Jesus said:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mt 20:25-28)
Of Jesus’ deity, Paul said, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7).
The Biblical evidence is clear: the husband serves his wife. He humbles himself, makes himself nothing, just like Christ did. What woman wouldn’t submit to a man who behaved that way?
Theodicy: God is Good
In an article entitled “Good God?“, atheist Peter Singer addresses some usual answers that Christians forward when faced with the question of why evil exists if God is good. His answers reveal much about the shallow reasoning that atheists display when pondering the tough questions. I will discuss his answers.
Singer starts by reasoning the following: “If God is all-knowing, he knows how much suffering there is. If he is all-powerful, he could have created a world without so much of it – and he would have done so if he were all good.” I agree with the first point. The next two points are asserted without evidence.
Perhaps God could have created a world without as much suffering. Perhaps not. But we fail to overlook what the Bible teaches: God created the through and for Christ–not for us. Therefore, the amount of human suffering is a completely irrelevant factor in determining the sort of world God would create. His criteria remain unrevealed to us.
To assert that “if” He was good He “would” have created a world with less suffering is ludicrous. As finite beings, we don’t know and cannot fathom all of the possibilities. With His criteria for actualizing possible worlds unrevealed, the burden of proof lies squarely on Singer to show why a world with less suffering is better than this one.
The first actual reply that Singer deals with is “. . . God bestowed on us the gift of free will, and hence is not responsible for the evil we do. But this reply fails to deal with the suffering of those who drown in floods, are burned alive in forest fires caused by lightning, or die of hunger or thirst during a drought.” He continues:
Christians sometimes attempt to explain this suffering by saying that all humans are sinners, and so deserve their fate, even if it is a horrible one. But infants and small children are just as likely to suffer and die in natural disasters as adults, and it seems impossible that they could deserve to suffer and die.
This is argument by outrage. God, who is all-knowing, knows what the fate of those children will be with or without a natural disaster. The burden of proof goes to Singer to show that being drown at an early age is a greater evil than whatever would have happened to that child in the future.
Further, the Bible makes no distinction between adults, infants, and children when it says that all have sinned (Rom 3:23). As humans, our very nature is sinful. This is important to remember when Singer goes on:
Once again, some Christians say that we have all inherited the original sin committed by Eve, who defied God’s decree against eating from the tree of knowledge. This is a triply repellent idea, for it implies that knowledge is bad, disobeying God’s will is the greatest sin of all, and children inherit the sins of their ancestors, and may justly be punished for them.
Even if were to accept all this, the problem remains unresolved. For animals also suffer from floods, fires, and droughts, and, since they are not descended from Adam and Eve, they cannot have inherited original sin.
First of all, it was Adam who sinned, not Eve. Second, it was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowing that once man knows of evil he will choose evil, God decreed that it was a sin to eat of that tree. It is not knowledge itself that is evil. All sin, at its root, is disobedience to God, so Singer is right in a sense to conclude that the greatest sin of all is disobedience. Finally, Romans 5 makes it clear that we do, indeed, inherit the sin of our father, Adam: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:18-19, emphasis added).
Assuming that Singer accepts all of that, he still doesn’t see a solution to the problem because animals suffer too. He is still wrong–all creation is now under the curse of sin, animals included (Rom 8:20-23).
Singer, apparently unaware of that, philosophizes on animals for a couple of paragraphs. I’ll skip to the next section, where he says ” I debated the existence of God with the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. In recent months, D’Souza has made a point of debating prominent atheists, but he, too, struggled to find a convincing answer to the problem I outlined above.” He then continues:
He first said that, because humans can live forever in heaven, the suffering of this world is less important than it would be if our life in this world were the only life we had. That still fails to explain why an all-powerful and all-good god would permit it. Relatively insignificant as this suffering may be from the perspective of eternity, the world would be better without it, or at least without most of it. (Some say that we need to have some suffering to appreciate what it is like to be happy. Maybe, but we surely don’t need as much as we have.)
Again, I point out that this is mere assertion with no evidence. It is Singer’s responsibility to show, from all of the possible worlds God could have created, that another world would have been better because it contained less suffering and still met God’s criteria for His plan. Since the criteria is unrevealed in Scripture, I wish Singer the best of luck in proving just that point.
Next, D’Souza argued that since God gave us life, we are not in a position to complain if our life is not perfect. He used the example of a child born with one limb missing. If life itself is a gift, he said, we are not wronged by being given less than we might want. In response I pointed out that we condemn mothers who cause harm to their babies by using alcohol or cocaine when pregnant. Yet since they have given life to their children, it seems that, on D’Souza’s view, there is nothing wrong with what they have done.
The hole in Singer’s reasoning, of course, is that a mother doesn’t give life to her children in the same way as God gives life to a person. The Bible teaches that everything was created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things consist (Col 1:16-17). After birth, the child doesn’t absolutely require his mother, but all of creation requires God to hold together. It is a different situation all together.
Singer says, “Finally, D’Souza fell back, as many Christians do when pressed, on the claim that we should not expect to understand God’s reasons for creating the world as it is. . . . But once we abdicate our powers of reason in this way, we may as well believe anything at all.” Neither D’Souza nor I, nor any Christian, nor God Himself, would ever ask a person to abdicate his power of reason. D’Souza is actually incorrect in his statement. God chooses not to reveal His reasons. Perhaps we wouldn’t understand them, perhaps we would. But this isn’t a request to abdicate all reason, this is an appeal to have faith in Him. That He, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, knows better than we do.
Singer concludes “The evidence of our own eyes makes it more plausible to believe that the world was not created by any god at all. If, however, we insist on believing in divine creation, we are forced to admit that the God who made the world cannot be all-powerful and all good. He must be either evil or a bungler.” This conclusion presupposes that the evolutionary view of the evidence is correct and that how things are now are how they always were. Neither of these presuppositions are correct in a Biblical worldview.
Paul asserted that the evidence for divine creation is so plain that men are “without excuse” (Rom 1:20) for knowing that God exists. Why do atheists look at things differently? Because they have no foundation in Genesis–most believe that book is a piece of bad fiction. However, that book is the foundation of all Christian doctrine and must be literal history. If it isn’t, all of the Bible is a lie.
When God created the world, everything is not as it is now. It was all “very good,” as God states when he finishes with creation. The creation that we observe now is the creation that is under a curse, nothing in the world now is “very good.” As Paul stated, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom 8:22, emphasis added). That is the result of the curse.
In all, Singer’s arguments show the usual bankruptcy that atheistic arguments usually show. These are easily answered by considering all of Scripture, especially the foundations in Genesis.
We Missed You, Jeff!
Jeff Haws, the proprietor of The Atheocracy, is always a pleasure to answer for several reasons. First, he’s much friendlier than his counterparts. He is nothing but professional and polite. Second, he’s a journalist. He’s doing what I want to do for a living, so I can take a page out of his book of how to write–not how to believe. We’re obviously on opposite sides of the spectrum. Third, he takes good-natured jabs in the humor with which they were meant and doesn’t blow things out of proportion. He knows when I’m just joking. Finally, he makes the same theological mistakes repeatedly, no matter how many times that he’s corrected, so it is easy to answer him. Just cut and paste.
Jeff has been on hiatus from blogging for the past few months. He’s started again recently. In one of his first new posts, Jeff offers us his own theodicy:
. . . think about how Christians make it a habit to attribute any good in their lives to God while dismissing any misfortune as “That’s life” or “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “S-word happens (no, Christians would never use bad language).” Why is that? Couldn’t God have been even more helpful to this guy if he had, ya know, prevented the painful divorce, bouts of depression, money problems and other assorted problems in the first place? Of course, then, God might not have gotten the credit. We do know from Christians that God craves our acceptance, belief and worship. If we don’t give it to him, we’re doomed to an eternity of suffering and Savannah-in-July-type weather. So maybe God either causes these problems for Christians or at least allows them to happen so he can swoop in and save the day, thus receiving praise for his heroic actions.
St. Augustine wisely observed, “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Jesus said that a servant is not greater than his master (Jn 15:20). We should expect suffering in our lives. After all, if Jesus, our Lord and Master, had to suffer, why should we expect a life of wine and roses? Jeff’s theodicy isn’t consistent with Biblical teaching.
Instead, the Bible teaches that we will share in Christ’s suffering (c.f. Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 1:29). We are to endure suffering (2 Tim 4:5; Jms 5:10-11). To what purpose? God brings good from evil. Rather than prevent it, God uses it (see the story of Joseph in Genesis; esp. 50:20).
God doesn’t crave our attention or worship; He commands it. He created life, the universe, and everything–that makes Him deserving of our worship. But it isn’t merely the rejection of God that condemns a person to hell. This is the error that Jeff–and many other atheists–repeatedly make. Rejection of God, though itself a sin, is only part of the reason why a person is condemned for all eternity in hell. Apart from that, everyone commits many sins on a daily basis that would condemn them.
Jeff also acts as if condemnation is something that we earn. Condemnation is something that we deserve. Sin is within our very nature, part of the radical corruption that pervades all of creation following the Fall.
Jeff concludes this post by asking if God is a narcissist. I think that God has earned the right to be a narcissist because of everything that He has done for humanity. He allows suffering, but is always there as a source of comfort. To know Him is to know unequaled peace. Everything is for God’s glory, and that is by God’s design.
Day 2b: Unshakable Faith
It seems as though the audience favorite was Dinesh D’souza tonight. The lanky scholar received thunderous applause after his speech on New Atheism. D’souza had several tough acts to follow, including a very enlightening speech on the bodily Resurrection of Christ from Dr. William Lane Craig and a lecture on inerrancy of Scripture from Dr. Norman Geisler.
I have only one regret for this conference. I probably won’t ever get the chance to do it again. After all, how often do I run into William Lane Craig?
I wish I had challenged Dr. Craig’s view of Calvinism. Dr. Craig fell into exactly the same trap that I describe in my post on predestination, only he runs into it with God’s sovereignty. Dr. Craig assumes that the Calvinist and hyper-Calvinist views of human freedom are one in the same. Dr. Craig affirms the Molinist view of God’s middle knowledge while attacking the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty as deterministic. While Dr. Craig affirms that Molinism and Calvinism are compatible, he does not do the compatibility any justice.
Molinism, in brief, states that God has three levels of knowledge. God’s natural knowledge, stage one, is encompasses every world that is possible. At stage 2, God’s middle knowledge, He knows all of the worlds that are plausible. In other words, at this stage, God knows what His creatures will do when given a set of circumstances. God’s free knowledge, at stage three, is the actual world that God chooses to create from the middle knowledge He has at stage 2. In this way, His creatures are still free to choose but God has chosen their world for them, so He already knows what the choice is going to be.
Hyper-Calivinism, which Dr. Craig views incorrectly as orthodox Calvinism, views reprobation as a positive action on God’s part rather than a negative action. Orthodox Calvinism says that God allows reprobates to suffer His wrath (as all of humanity deserves), while positively pursuing the elect with His irresistible grace. Hyper-Calvinism, on the other hand, has God purposely bringing sin into the lives of the reprobates so that they will suffer eternal damnation.
Chapter IX of the Westminster Confession of Faith details human free will, which clearly states that human will is libertarian (as Dr. Craig affirms) and “. . . is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil” (WCF, IX:I). But chapter IX:III takes into account Scriptural teaching that man’s free will is tainted with sin to such a degree that “a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself [for salvation]. . . .”
This sort of free will is exactly the view that Molinists have. But Dr. Craig is no monergist when it comes to salvation, and that is his error. He wishes to retain a synergistic view of salvation, so he has adopted a view that allows for synergism while retaining some of the vestiges of monergism.
Bottom line, it is still Pelagian in nature.
Dr. Craig really disagrees not with God’s sovereignty in election, but with total depravity. Though he later stated that he affirmed it, I have my doubts that he affirms it in the way a proper Calvinist would. He still believes that man can come to God apart from the unconditional election. Dr. Craig believes in a logically untenable universal atonement, and rejects both irresistible grace and eternal security. As I’ve stated before, all of these doctrines flow from the first point of Calvinism, Total Depravity. Dr. Craig does not accept total depravity despite his statement to the contrary. Total depravity simply does not allow for a synergistic view of salvation.
All that said, Unshakable Faith 2008 was a great event that I encourage readers to attend next year if they can. The planners are already working tirelessly to put something even better together for next year. My prayers will certainly be with them in their endeavors.
Day 2a: Unshakable Faith Conference
The high point of the first half of day 2 of Unshakable Faith was Dr. William Lane Craig’s presentation of Leibniz’s argument for the existence of God. It goes like this:
- Everything that exists must have a cause, either as an intrinsic necessity or from some external source.
- If the universe has a cause, it must be God.
- The universe exists.
- The universe must have a cause.
- Therefore, God is the cause of the universe.
The solidity of this logic, Craig argues, is very powerful. It is impossible to deny it starting at point 3, so points 4 and 5 flow necessarily and are therefore irrefutable. The atheist must deny points 1 or 2 in order to shake this argument, but they will have much difficulty in doing so. In a future post, I hope to elaborate on the difficulty of denying points 1 and 2, and therefore begin to build a more cohesive case for the existence of God.
The first presentation of the day has convinced me by evident reason that the foundation of any Biblical worldview must reject the evolutionary idea of millions of years. Dr. Terry Mortensen of the Creation Museum presented a case against millions of years, followed with a breakout session on Flood Geology. All-in-all, he presented a convincing exegetical case for a 6,000 year old earth. Time permitting, I hope to elaborate somewhat on that point, standing on the shoulders of the giants of creation science who work at Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and Creation Ministries International.
For now, suffice to say that I have renewed my position that a 6,000 year old earth with no death or destruction prior to the Fall is exegetically necessary for a Christian worldview. I am a Young Earth Creationist, no longer am I a Young Earth Agnostic as I have stated in a previous post. I have taken it on faith that God will show me the truth or falsity of that position in His time.
So far, this convention has been an amazing experience for me. I look forward to more after lunch.
Day 1: Unshakable Faith
It is day one of the Unshakable Faith Conference put on at Landmark Cincinnati. The pastors hope that this will become an annual event, but they don’t think that they can top this first year. I’m inclined to agree.
First on the menu this evening was Dr. Norman Geisler presenting a talk that the program title “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.” However, it should have been titled “Atheism is Dead.” Geisler effectively deconstructed many of the arguments in favor of philosophical unbelief, instead concluding that atheists are atheists not for philosophical reasons but for personal reasons. Those reasons inevitably point back to the fact that a holy God rejects human sin. We, as fallen beings, love our sins and wish to remain in them. Therefore, we reject God.
Two breakaway sessions ran simultaneously. The first was on the concept of millions of years in regard to the age of the earth and where it came from. I, however, opted to attend the primer on cults with Dr. Alex McFarland. Dr. McFarland presented three questions to ask any cultist, after earning their trust and friendship:
- Can we agree that orthodox Christianity and your church teach different things?
- Can we agree that your beliefs originated from a definite person?
- What do you think of that in light of Galatians 1:6-10?
Then, we finished the evening off with a talk from one of my personal heroes, Dr. William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig spoke not only on the reasonableness of faith in God and on Jesus being the Son of God, but he also spoke of his own personal conversion experience in a powerful and moving speech. He then asked for anyone so moved to give their lives to the Lord, which I can only pray that some folks did just that.
I got to shake hands with Norman Geisler and sit in the front row of a William Lane Craig lecture. This is how normal people get around sports stars! I’ll have more to report tomorrow as the conference closes. I thank the Lord for blessing me with the time and the ability to attend this amazing event, and I pray that my report touches the life of someone reading it.
Parents Charged in Death of Madeline Neumann
As a father and a Christian, I would never leave my daughter’s health up to fate. Look at that sweet face, beautiful eyes, and that smile that can melt your heart! She is one gorgeous baby, that is certain. I couldn’t look into the face of this child who trusts me implicitly with her very life and give her anything less than the finest medical treatment that my insurance can pay for when she is sick.
Yet that is exactly what the parents of Madeline Neumann did. They left their daughter’s health to the power of prayer. I believe that prayer is powerful when used correctly–as a tool of communication between the created and the Creator. Prayer is not a gumball machine. We can’t just pop in a quarter and get everything that our hearts desire.
Rightly, the parents of Madeline Neumann, nicknamed Kara, stand before a judge, answering to charges of murder.
I had expected the charges to be negligent homicide, but the authorities went one better than that: the charge against Kara’s parents is reckless homicide.
Powerful as prayer is, the law doesn’t recognize it as a substitute for medicine.