Monthly Archives: March 2009
Heed the Words of Cardinal Pell
George Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, Australia, gave us some wise words that we would do well to heed: Secularism is becoming totalitarian.
James White has said it, Michael Spencer has said it, now I’m going to say it: evangelicalism in America is on its way to enormous and spectacular collapse. Our influence in public policy is waning fast, and we have no one but ourselves to blame for it.
Read the Cardinal’s words for yourself and understand that the only way to fix this problem is to live the way that Christians are supposed to live, and to be the salt and light for the world that Jesus called us to be.
Only One Less God?
One frequently hears atheists make the claim that everyone is an atheist when it comes to deities like Thor or Zeus. The modern atheist, the claim is made, only believes in one less deity than the theist. But is that really the case?
James White makes a case for how this assertion trivializes the fundamental difference in the worldviews of the theist and the atheist.
Final Thoughts on Sins of Scripture
It is time to post some final thoughts on The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong. The former bishop of Newark continues with the sin of certainty: that Christianity is the only way to God. He contends that this was never the intention of the early church, that this was a political move by Constantine in the development of later creeds.
If one is to accept that the Bible is the Word of God, which Spong does not, then one is left only with one conclusion: that Jesus is the only path to God. This is summed up beautifully by John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Spong, however, is free to come to a different conclusion since he does not accept the Bible as God’s Word. And he comes to a vastly different conclusion.
And They say Christianity has no Respect for Women
I’ve written and podcasted on the fact that the Bible uplifts women. Now it looks like the Pope has joined me.
In an address yesterday, the Pope expressed a commitment to respect the dignity and vocation of women everywhere. He recalled the past teachings of the Catholic Church that call for the respect of women’s dignity.
Now, who says that the Christian church disrespects women?
Statement of Faith I: The Bible
Despite all of the liberal theologians that I’ve been reading as of late (John Shelby Spong and Oliver “Buzz” Thomas), I still hold to the premise that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I believe that it is fully authoritative in all matters of faith and morals, however I do not believe that it is the only source of faith and morals. I believe that the Bible is the only infallible source of faith and morals–there’s a difference.
Inspiration is such a tricky subject. I don’t believe that God dictated the Bible to its human authors. I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to write as they did, and what they did. But some things may have just gotten lost in translation or modified because of the understanding of the writer.
That isn’t to say that our copy of the Bible is untrustworthy. Far from. I believe that the Bible is fully trustworthy. What it does mean is that the Bible was written at a specific time for a specific people, and you have to take that into account when reading it. It was not written yesterday for you.
The Bible, in its original autographs, contained no error or contradictions. But we’re not dealing with the original autographs, we are dealing with copies of copies of copies. It appears that God, for his glory, has chosen not to superintend the process of copying the book. Preserving the Bible appears to be solely a human responsibility, and we haven’t always gotten it right.
Again, this doesn’t mean that we can’t trust the Bible that we have in front of us. There is a mountain of manuscript (MS) evidence that the Bible has been preserved as accurately as mistake-making humans can preserve a text. In fact, the New Testament alone has almost 6,000 MSS from different years and geographic locations that attest to the overall accuracy of the text.
But mistakes can and do happen, and are almost certainly present. However, none of the mistakes affect doctrine or practice of faith.
God has chosen to reveal himself in two ways: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is nature itself–we can learn a lot about our Creator by studying his creation. Special revelation is the inspired, inerrant Bible that we hold in our hands.
I have established that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. That means that it is authoritatively binding on all Christians. The Bible contains, first and foremeost, the stories of man’s interactions with God. That means that the revelation is progressive; new details supercede old ones. For example, we are no longer bound to the laws in Deuteronomy; they exist solely for our instruction. They served their purpose in history, and now they have passed on. The new covenant is one of grace in Christ.
The Bible, though difficult, is still to be read and wrestled with by Christians today. This is God’s final and authoritative Word, and great care must be used in its interpretation and application.
The Rational Response Squad: Where are They Now?
When I first started doing apologetics almost three years ago, I remember wanting to take on the Rational Response Squad. At the time, they seemed like the most worthy target. But now, there is literally nothing going on with them. Of the core members, the most active appears to be Hambydammit, followed next by Brian Sapient. Kelly O’Connor and Rook Hawkins (read the comments carefully) have both left. Greydon Square got kicked out after Sapient got punched out.
Their blogs haven’t been updated in months. Their YouTube channel has a last sign-in date of two months ago, and their most recent video is from one year ago.
So, should I offer a moment of silence for the Rational Response Squad, or is it too early yet?
Open Letter to Frank Walton
The following has also been sent to the last known e-mail address for Frank Walton. I hope that he gets this message one way or the other. My previous posts bashing Frank Walton have been removed.
I know I’ve blasted you in the past, and I want to apologize for that. After dealing with atheists these past few days on my blog, I now see why you were so confrontational with them. Some times–lots of times–they deserve it. No matter how many times you refute the same points about their understanding of Christian theology, they still use the same arguments. I’ve been asked by several of them if I condone slavery, even though I’ve written and linked to articles that refute the notion that the Bible is pro-slavery. I’ve been asked by them if I favor the stoning of disobedient children, even though I’ve written extensively on the fact that we are no longer under the Mosaic Law. The list goes on.
Anyway, I now see that you just got tired of refuting the same tired old points again and again, and just got mean. I think that I might start doing that now, too.
Anyway, I just wanted to apologize for my blasting of you now that I understand a little bit more of why you did it.
Johhny Bradford, a guest poster over at Unreasonable Faith, has posted his essay on why he no longer believes. It’s filled with all of the usual things for which I thought Christian apologetics have provided adequate answers, but I suppose not since I repeatedly see these same tired old arguments popping up in deconversion story after deconversion story. Let’s analyze this one and see if we can clear matters up.
The first one is typical: how could a loving God send people into a state of eternal torment for simply not believing in him? Well, the problem with that notion is Bradford’s theology of man. He believes that people are basically good, that we begin life with an “A” and gradually decline in points until we have an “F.”
But that isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we are dead in sin. Keeping with the grading scale metaphor, we are born with an F. But it goes deeper than that: we can’t earn an A, no matter what! Hell isn’t what God wants for us, hell is what we deserve. A fair and just God would send any human being that comes before his judgment to hell.
Thank God that he is also merciful. Because it isn’t his will that any should perish, but that all reach repentance, he has sent his only Son Jesus to pay the penatly for us and die in our place. All a person has to do is have faith that God has already accomplished his (or her) salvation, and that’s it.
The Old Testament sacrificial system pointed the way to the New Testament’s single sacrifice for all of our sins. The book of Hebrews makes that quite clear. So this sacrifice was necessary in order to appease the justice of God, which demands that he take action against sin rather than ignore it.
People go to hell on their own merit. I read once on a T-shirt that free will never brought anyone to heaven, but it sent a lot of people to hell. I forget now who said that (I want to say it was Spurgeon), but there is much wisdom in that saying. Whether you believe in Christ or not, you still sin and God must punish sin. Any sin, no matter how minor, makes you hell-bound. It has nothing to do with believing in or not believing in God. Only by placing your faith and trust in the finished work on Calvary can you avoid hell.
Which leads us to Bradford’s next point. Christians behave the same way as their non-Christian counterparts. The fancy terminology here is hypocrisy. Here, I agree with him. According to the intro to dcTalk’s song “What if I Stumble,” the speaker says that “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowlege Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.”
Christians aren’t suddenly made perfect by belief in Christ. Salvation is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but sanctification is an ongoing process that is often neglected. I blame the church in this case. There is a servere lack of discipleship in the church today. The main congregations are measured by baptisms, not retention. In reality, both should be a factor in determining the health of the congregation. In this, Bradford should take some of the blame as he is termed a “recovering Christian pastor.” So, as shephard of a flock, what did he do to help out with that problem? We wonder.
The atrocities of the Bible are discussed at great length here. The justification for what can only be described as mass genocide lies in the same theology of man previously discussed–man doesn’t start life with an A, he starts it with an F. Since the penalty for sin is death, those deaths were deserved. No one can stand innocent before God.
Of course, if I believed that hell was unjust, that hypocrisy was part of the case against the church, and that the atrocities of the Bible were unwarranted, then I would discard this faith, too. But I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Nor do I believe the typical atheist mischaracterization of those things, as Bradford clearly demonstrates that he does.
In all, I stand amazed that ministers of the Word can be duped by the secular opinion of the Bible and its contents. After all, we are taught that the world sees the Bible through a darkened lens, that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t understand it. Yet, these same criticisms keep popping up over and over again, even though they are answered by apologists like myself.
Former Believers Had Severely Underdeveloped Theologies
Daniel Florien, curator of Unreasonable Faith, proves once again that former believers never actually took the time to understand theology. By quoting Robert Price, another ex-believer who also lacks a full understanding of good theology, Florien unsuccessfully tries to make the point that religious belief (specifically Christianity) stunts people’s moral, intellectual, and personal growth.
In the morality department, Florien once again cites fear of hell as the only reason that Christians are moral. No good for goodness sake; only goodness because of a reward in heaven.
I have a newsflash: Christians have nothing to fear from hell. The Christian’s faith in Jesus removes all need to fear going to hell. All of the good done by a Christian should never be because of fear of punishment. Instead, it should flow naturally from a heartfelt desire to please God. This is what saving faith is really about.
Christianity stunts a person’s intellectual growth, according to Robert Price, because wrong beliefs about theology will send you to hell. The safest path here is to not question anything. But this just isn’t right. I’ve said it time and time again that we go to hell because of our sins, not because of mismatched theology. It doesn’t take believing in something, it takes faith in Christ for eternal life.
I should point out that right doctrine and theology pleases and glorfies God, as C. Michael Patton argues here. That goes along with loving God with all of your mind. But it isn’t the main point–the main point is still faith in Christ.
Finally, Christianity stunts personal growth by teaching others a party line of morality instead of teaching them to think for themselves. In this post, I’ve argued that mankind is born into sin. We deserve the penalty for sin even when we’re fresh from the womb. Our entire nature is sinful. So, according to these guys, I’m supposed to adopt my own set of morals and beliefs based on what exactly? My sinful flesh? That’s a great idea.
A look at history should satisfy anyone that humans cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Ever. Not without a moral compass or some sort of guide. To the Christian, the Bible is that moral compass. Thinking for oneself when it comes to morals is just dangerous. This is moral relativism and the idea is a major philosophical failure.
How does atheism, on the other hand, promote moral, intellectual, and personal growth? Atheism has no moral compass, so it must rely on either moral relativism or some other philosophical system of morality. Usually, atheism assumes a Judeo-Christian system of absolute morality while trying hard to distance itself from God. So it looks like the Bible may be the atheist source of morality after all, they just don’t want to admit it. See this essay.
Friendly Atheist once posed the question If a miracle occured, would you believe in God? to its atheist readership. For humor, it added a webcomic where one character, a theist, asked another character, an atheist, what would it take to make him believe. The atheist said that if God printed a personal message to him in the stars, that would work. The next night, that happened and the atheist still found a reason not to believe. The comments section of that post was filled with agreement–the atheists almost universally declared that there is nothing that would make them believe–not even witnessing a bona fide miracle.
My point is this: who is more close-minded? Religion doesn’t close minds, atheism does.
Mass Genocide in the Bible
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Although it is rarely taught in Sunday School, there can be no doubt that mass genocide occurs with alarming regularity in the Old Testament. Just crack open a copy of Michael Earl’s self-published wonder Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You and read a few chapters. Over and over again, Israel kills not just the soldiers of the territory they invade, but the women and children, too.
All of this takes place at the behest of God himself, who is the one that orders the killings to take place. God very often indicates that he wants no survivors left.
This, according to our most scathing critics, leaves a huge moral dilemma: how can we continue to call the Bible the “Good Book” if it contains more violence than the average video game? Was the bloodshed and violence necessary?