Monthly Archives: July 2010
In a recent post on his blog, John W. Loftus made a very interesting assessment: People believe and defend what they prefer to be true.
While Loftus is only including believers in his argument by implication, he fails to provide a compelling reason to exclude atheists from this argument. Now, I’m well aware that Loftus claims that he doesn’t defend atheism purely because he wants it to be the case. John writes:
It’s argued that I reject Christianity because I prefer to live my life apart from God. Balderdash! Do I really prefer to live in a universe that is cold and uncaring, having only blind indifference toward me as a human being in which I can count on no divine help from outside of it, and no hope of an eternal life with my loved ones? Not a chance. Do I really prefer to reject the dominant religion of my culture to be ostracized by believers and hated for what I believe? No, not at all. (source)
However, a quick scan of some of his recent behavior would seem to contradict that assessment. After behaving like that in public, I’m assuming that John doesn’t want there to be a higher authority to whom he is answerable, since he has shown himself to be a jerk. More examples toward the bottom of this item, both of his lack of moral principles and his lack of honesty in arguing.
Loftus then follows it up with what can only be described as the most ironic post ever from an atheist. He says that the only two responses from believers either committed the ad hominem tu quoque fallacy, or took the form of “I’m the exception to the rule.”
I almost hit the floor laughing so hard. Hypocrisy within Christianity is one of the most frequent charges leveled at it in an attempt to discredit it, or else totally falsify it. That is the same fallacy that Loftus is accusing us of!
The problem is that as an atheist, there is no objective for moral standards. There is no way to appeal to a higher, transcendent authority since none can exist. There is only what is in atheism, not what ought to be. So, what standards can Loftus actually be held to? Hard for us to commit this fallacy when there are no standards of behavior inherent in an atheistic worldview.
I couldn’t be an atheist. I’m not inconsistent enough with my beliefs. Reference this article by VorJack of Unreasonable Faith fame. He quotes Geds of the Accidental Historian:
There was absolutely nothing special about the persecution of Christians.
The Roman authorities saw Christianity as a potentially destabilizing force in exactly the same way it saw criminals and revolutionaries as a destabilizing force. The only reason we’re lead to believe the stories of the Christian martyrs are special is because we have a lot of them.
Okay, then, might I make the same claim about the Crusades and the Inquisitions? “There was absolutely nothing special about the persecution of indigent tribes of nonbelievers, witches, or heretics. The Christian authorities saw them all as potentially destabilizing forces in exactly the same way as it saw criminals and revolutionaries as a destabililizing force. The only reason we’re lead to believe the stories of the nonbelievers, witches, and heretics’ torture and death are special is because critics of Christianity try to use them to argue against the faith.”
If the martyrdom of the early Christians at the hands of the Romans isn’t something to get excited about, neither is the later persecution of heretics at the hands of the Christians. The sword cuts both ways.
After writing some pro-Christian works, such as Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, acclaimed author Anne Rice made the following announcement on her Facebook page:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
Followed closely by:
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
Well, I have a few reactions. First and foremost, I don’t know why the Blog for WhyWhyWon’tGodHealAmputees is touting this as some sort of victory for reason. This isn’t a victory, though Thomas thinks it could turn into one. Anne Rice still considers herself committed to Christ, she is just hesitant to align herself with Christianity because it espouses doctrines which she finds morally reprehensible.
On that note, we have to understand that faith in Christ is the only requirement for salvation. So this post is not an attempt to question Anne Rice’s salvation. If she still has faith in Christ, then there is still hope that God will deliver her from her serious misunderstanding that these “morally reprehensible” doctrines are that. In other words, the witness of the Holy Spirit can show her the error of her thinking, and she will be able to repent and remain in humble obedience to God.
Building on that foundation, we also have to understand that orthodoxy (right belief) leads to orthopraxy (right practice). Anne Rice is not orthodox if she fails to submit to the teachings of Scripture regarding homosexuality, the functional subordination of women in the church, and ethics and epistemology. If she isn’t orthodox, then her pattern of thinking is in rebellion to God, and therefore actions stemming from those incorrect thought patterns, will also be contrary to God (i.e. sin). I’ve written on the importance of matters of heart on my main blog, here, with a long list of proofs from Scripture.
That said, Anne Rice is putting herself on the wrong side of James 1:22. She’s currently a hearer, not a doer, and therefore deceiving herself. I don’t question her salvation, but her diligence in sanctification (2 Pet 1:3-11).
The commercial reminded me of my brother-in-law. So, even though it makes fun of God, I can’t help myself:
I suppose one could argue that I’m going to hell for blasphemy. Is it wrong for a Christian to find this funny?
HT to Common Sense Atheism
In my much derided “No Heavyweights of Theology” post, a commenter named Karen Leonard posted the following comment:
It is very difficult to be a “heavyweight” in theology. There is so much mythology, misogyny, racism, sexism, cruel and unusual punishment, mixed messages, and down right nonsense within the bible, that the only people you can address that will sit through your oratory would be those whose minds are so fearful of death that they would believe ANYTHING that gave them hope to the escape the grave.
I was rather nasty in my reply:
Do work really hard at in-the-box-atheist-groupthink, or does it just come naturally?
This prompted commenter Enoch Sherman to stop following my blog, concluding that I don’t encourage rational conversation.
What, exactly, was rational about Ms. Leonard’s comment? NOTHING. Every point she made in that comment has been refuted, either by me or by another apologist. Those charges have stood refuted for years.
I already left these links in the comments, but since Ms. Leonard’s charges are so common, I thought I’d leave them here for your perusal.
- Mythology: This is rather broad, but J.P. Holding has a series on whether Jesus was borrowed from ancient pagan mythology.
- Misogyny: Glenn Miller has an extended treatment of women in the heart of God.
- Racism: A single verse refutes this.
- Sexism: I have a response here.
- Cruel and Unusual Punishment: It’s not cruel if you understand how the ancients thought about it.
- Mixed Messages: Despite all the information about resolving apparent contradictions in the Bible, this charge still gets brought up over and over, and all responses ignored.
- Nonsense: This is too broad to address.
I’m late to the party. This video was posted June 27, 2010, and was featured on The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees on June 30. I’m just now getting around to my planned answer to the video. Nothing like moving quickly to respond!
This video, titled “Hitchslap13: Christianity is a Sick Death Cult,” features four excerpted statements from a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Allister McGrath. I’m not sure of the date this took place. I would love to see McGrath’s responses, but I doubt that the atheist who posted this video even listened to what McGrath had to say. Let’s examine each of Hitchens’s claims.
First, is the doctrine of vicarious atonement moral? Hitchens says that there are two implications. The first implication is that vicarious atonement erases the notion of personal responsibility for one’s own sins. Secondly, all people share responsibility for the death of Christ, which confirms original sin.
Vicarious atonement is a complex doctrine, and J.P. Holding offers a definition and defense of it here. Briefly, Jesus has taken the punishment meant for us, and acts as a broker for those who wish to enter into a covenant with God. Bearing that in mind, a person should behave accordingly (see Eph 4:1-3; 1 The 2:9-12; and 2 The 1:11-12). Those that don’t probably haven’t really accepted the gift.
As to its morality, Glenn Miller discusses that here.
Responding to the second allegation is tough, because Hitchens is vague about it. He seems to be saying that all of mankind played a role in the crucifixion. He may be misunderstanding what the apostle Paul is writing in the book of Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Paul isn’t saying that all of mankind is responsible for the crucifixion of Christ; rather, he is saying that his sins have been put on the cross with Christ, and Paul has died to those sins. If Hithcens meant something else, someone please enlighten me in the comments.
Second, the former Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, said in 2007 that the floods in Yorkshire, England were God’s punishment for homosexuality. While I agree in spirit with Hitchens’s assessment that connecting meteorology and morality is idiotic, I think that Hitchens (like most atheists) have no idea as to just how serious sin really is.
Based on Jesus’ response to critics regarding the fall of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:1-5), I don’t think it is for us to try to understand why tragedy occurs. Instead, I think that we should follow Jesus’ instructions and realize that all of us are sinners, none worse than any other, and repent. Trying to assign transcendental meaning to mere accidents (like flash flooding from bad weather), while it might be somewhat comforting, all we end up doing is judging the sin of others and fail to look at ourselves.
What Hitchens (like most atheists) is completely glossing over is the notion of sin in the first place. Francis Schaeffer notes, “I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.” This is especially true of atheists, who fervently deny the existence of sin. Many, even Christians, think of sin as merely an annoyance. Sin, however, represents not only disobedience to God, but the corruption of our own formerly good natures as well as all of creation itself.
The nature of sin is summed up in this brief article. John MacArthur exhorts us to understand the Fall of man described in Genesis 3, for:
All the problems in the universe…physical problems, spiritual problems, moral problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems…all the problems in the universe have their origin in the events of this historic account. This Chapter, then, is the foundation of any true and accurate world view. And without this foundation, every and any world view is utterly wrong. If you do not understand the origin of sin and its impact based on Genesis Chapter 3, then your understanding of the world is wrong. Everything then is misunderstood; everything is misevaluated; everything is misread; everything is misdiagnosed, and hopelessly incurable.
This article is in two parts, beginning here. It is foundational to any worldview to understand sin. Generically, sin separates us from the good. Instinctively, humans know that we aren’t morally perfect. We have this conception of the good, and we would like to strive for it. But, we don’t. None of us do. We all know this.
The solution of many is to trivialize the idea of sin. Everyone does it, right? But that isn’t the correct solution to the problem.
Third, Geoffery Fisher (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 to 1961) said that nuclear war would hasten our transition into a more blessed state. Hitchens, somewhat correctly, then elucidates that all religions wish for the end of this life and to transition into the next one. But, Christianity isn’t a passive faith. Rather, according to James, it is an active faith:
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jms 1:21-25)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jms 2:14-17)
These are all things that we have to do in this life. Now, I’m not suggesting that there has never been a Christian that hasn’t put more stock in the next life while completely ignoring this one. Hitchens just cited a great example. Followers of Baptist pastor William Miller quit their jobs and generally gave up on life in response to his prediction that the end of the world would occur on October 22, 1844. This stuff happens. My point is that it isn’t biblical, and therefore these aberrant beliefs shouldn’t be heaped on to the mainline Christians.
Finally, Hitchens wants to know what it’s like to be a cleric and lie to children for a living. He says that clerics teach that we must love God (a compulsory love) and fear him at the same time. Fear of God (the beginning of knowledge, Prv 1:7; and of wisdom, Prv 9:10) refers more to respect and awe than it does to being terrified of God. Of course, the book of Proverbs is also instructional in refuting the notion that love (or fear) of God is in anyway compulsory:
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (Prv 1:29-33, emphasis added)
Of course, we’re always free to choose whether we love God or not. Hitchens is living proof; does he love God? NO. And these verses in Proverbs make the dire consequences of turning away from the Lord clear.
Now, some may further argue that the threat of destruction for not loving God itself takes away our free will. Proponents of this view, however, have no love of the Lord, so I fail to see their complaint. Knowing the consequences if they are wrong, they persist in their unbelief. Sounds like free will is maintained.
John W. Loftus’s purpose for creating the official site for The Christian Delusion, according to the site’s homepage, is as follows:
What you will find here in the future will be responses to the book’s critics, FAQs from the authors about the various chapters as questions are raised, published reviews of the book, and other items of importance to the book’s content. . . . As The Christian Delusion hits stores across the nation and questions and attacks arise, you will find the official responses here.(emphasis added)
Why is this ironic? Recently, the folks at Triablogue have compiled an e-book response to The Christian Delusion. Loftus asked the contributors if they should put together some responses for this work. They replied:
- Count me out. It’s an endless treadmill.
- I have looked over their objections, and they are pretty superficial.
- I tend to agree that it is a fruitless venture, but if I have time I may inspect their work and see if there is a worthwhile response from my perspective. If so, I might attempt something.
- It’s a treadmill because they don’t honestly care about what is real (which in their minds is a foregone conclusion)—just about winning arguments. I’d rather spend my energy writing for people who are engaged in some kind of growth process.
- The “criticisms” are rather inept – they quote “scholars” who still assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch! I find it impossible that anyone who is aware even a little of modern biblical studies would take such criticism seriously. If they do, well, then one needs a book to educate them.
In other words, no one is interested in dialogue with our side. They are only interested in a monologue, presumably to people who already share their views. Got it. Good to know. I assume that the eventual critique site that I will compile will be met with the same wall of silence.
According to an Alliance Defense Fund press release, Augusta University graduate student Jennifer Keeton has been told she won’t graduate with a Master’s degree in counseling unless she abandons her Christian belief that homosexuality is a serious sin.
Sad, but this is hardly an isolated case. The ADF is also handling the case of Julea Ward, who was dismissed from Eastern Michigan University’s graduate program for the same thing. Also, the ADF is handling the case of Emily Brooker, who was threatened with expulsion for refusing to write a letter to her Representative expressing support for homosexual adoption.
Consider the dismissal of licensed counselor Marcia Ward from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for referring a client seeking counseling for a same-sex relationship to a colleague. Ward told the client that she couldn’t affirm or encourage homosexual relationships due to her religious beliefs, so she referred the client to a counselor who would. The client filed a complaint anyway, and the CDC fired Ward.
Also, the Christian Legal Society, according to a recent Supreme Court decision, must allow leaders who disagree with its statement of faith to hold office. However, the Supreme Court did acknowledge that the CLS could have a discrimination suit in the making, since the college in question selectively applied the policy that led to this suit. They allowed minority groups to limit leadership to the minority race it represents; therefore, there is no logical reason why the college should throw a fit if religious groups do the same thing.
What we face as Christians is the increasing secularization of society, and the fact that the “majority” is going to impose its views on us, forcing us to accept the “normative” values that they are creating. In order to be considered “good” members of society, we will have to discard our Christian mores. Some Christians are going to do this (such as Bruce Waltke). Others, like Jen Keeton, Emily Brooker, and Marcia Ward, will fight to be allowed to maintain Christian values.
I applaud Keeton, Brooker, and Ward. Stand up and fight for biblical values and lead the way for a new generation of Christians to do the same!
A side project that I’m working on, in addition to everything else, is to re-read (in their entirety) the books that are supposed to destroy not only Christianity, but theism in general. I’m creating a site, currently empty except for some cool pictures, where I will post my thoughts and links to the thoughts of others on these “masterworks” of atheism.
I’ve started with Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, which is the shortest of all of the books. Harris makes a huge error in the opening pages of the book. This mistake might hold the title for the most idiotic argument against Christianity ever purported, and I’ve noticed that other atheists have propagated the error. Like a virus.
Although I will develop the argument more succinctly later, I wanted to take a moment to address it. Neal, a user who commented on John W. Loftus’s reactionary piece to The Infidel Delusion, stated that atheism cannot provide an objective moral standard, but Christianity does. Neal makes a serious philosophical error, though I don’t think he intended to. I think that he intended to suggest that Christianity, as it points to God, provides that as the ground for morals. Atheism isn’t able to posit objective morality, as much as it is synonymous with metaphysical naturalism. If the universe is all there is, then there is no transcendent realm to appeal to when looking for the ideal standard. The ideal standard ought to be, it does not exist in point of fact. “Ought to be” has no meaning in a universe where only the natural exists: nature is what it is.
The first reaction to Neal’s lengthy piece was from Jim, who said:
And atheism provides no objective criteria whatsoever. So even here Christianity is superior in that it provides objective foundations for society.
Sorry, Christianity doesn’t provide any objective foundations for society, either, except perhaps purely “within” Christian society.
There seems to be no evidence of any actual absolute objective morality. The universe doesn’t care what Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or the Inquisition did.
Within human society, we have determined certain “objective measures.” Take the length of the meter, for example. The length of the meter is only as good as HUMANS desire to accept OTHER HUMANS declaration of the standard.
If a group of humans decides to have a different standard for length (the “foot” or “yard”) they are free to come up with their own objective standard for their group. Or they can redefine the length of the “meter” for their own group. What they CAN’T do is redefine the “meter” for a different group.
What Christians have done, allegorically is subjectively decided on the nature of a GOD who decides what the length of the meter is and then claim that they have the ultimate OBJECTIVE foundation for the definition of a meter.
You see what Christians are doing? They are simply using the creative power of their mind to invent something (SUBJECTIVELY) and using that creation as a foundation for OBJECTIVITY.
It’s quicksand . . .
Both Neal and Jim fall into the same trap, propagating the same error that I’m accusing Harris of: Christianity is not the foundation for morals. God is the foundation for morals.
To his credit, Jim corrects himself (kind of) midway through the post, shifting the source of morality back to God. This is the correct view. Christianity is, with qualifications that I won’t get into here, a series of interpretations of the same book. Being subjective in nature, therefore, Christianity cannot provide an objective ground for morality. As such, it is not the source of morals.
Jim, however, makes many serious mistakes. The underlying assumption of his comment is that philosophy and theology cannot provide any objective insight into who God is, and what he would command. That is, philosophy and theology don’t consist of real knowledge, just mere opinion. He also rejects the authority of Scripture, and in all probability, the very existence of special revelation. He also implicitly accepts relativistic morality, which is also false.
I hate it when people say that Christianity is the ground of all morals. That’s patently false. God is the ground of all morals. Christianity is, with some qualifications, subjective and therefore cannot be the ground of morality. God, who is the good, is immutable. Therefore, God is our ground for morals. Atheism cannot account for the existence of the material universe, much less provide a ground for objective moral standards.