In regard to God defining morality (part of a reply to this post), Alex wrote:
Right, so I guess then that slavery is fine, that homosexuals should be killed, that it’s ok to kill people who pick up sticks on a Saturday or Sunday, that child sacrificing is perfectly fine, that a tooth for a tooth is perfectly fine and on and on?
This has all been answered before, so here’s the round-up of replies:
- No, slavery is not okay. Check Glenn Miller, too.
- No, we are not going to kill gay people and Sabbath-breakers. I’ve talked about the church’s shoddy treatment of gays before, actually!
- No, the Bible does not condone child sacrifice. J.P. Holding weighs in. With a cartoon, too!
- “Eye-for-an-eye” laws were more complex than just that (rebuttal, cross-ex, Paul Copan weighs in).
Amazingly, no mention of God commanding genocide. That’s the only atheist talking point missing from Alex’s short list.
Hopefully, I won’t have to answer any of these charges again, but I kind of doubt it. All of these are atheist favorites, despite repeated correction by many, many Christian apologists. I’m sure we’ll keep seeing these brought up over and over again, until Christ’s triumphant return.
In the previous post, I quoted 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 in order to make a point that the Bible doesn’t endorse church-hopping. That passage has Paul urging Christians to stay in the situation in which they were called. Most often, candidates to enter seminary for full-time ministry are told to reflect on that passage.
As much as Christendom (both Roman Catholics and Protestants) needs preachers, we are loathe to have people enter the ministry who are needed elsewhere. God doesn’t call everyone to be ministers in the sense of being in the full-time employ of a local church. Consider 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Paul specifically tells us that everyone receives different spiritual gifts, and each is therefore called to different duties within the church.
However, the passage from 1 Corinthians 7 I quoted in the previous article contains an extensive discussion of slavery, urging slaves to remain under their masters (unless they gain an opportunity to be freed). Any mention of slavery in the Bible disgusts and outrages critics of Christianity, and unless I deal with the potential objection now it will be raised. I will probably be accused of being pro-slavery unless I deal with it now.
Slavery in the Bible is seriously misunderstood. Check Glenn Miller’s contextualization of ANE slavery here. Slavery in the Bible was closer in nature to the modern employer-employee relationship. There were significant areas of difference that would make slavery far less desirable than a modern at-will employment contract, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that no differences exist. Skeptics normally think of the African Slave Trade when faced with passages about slavery in the Bible, but that’s not what the Bible means by “slavery.”
This is another example of the skeptic’s outright refusal to understand the Bible on its own terms. They are reading a modern idea into an ancient document. The writers of the Bible knew nothing of the brutality of the African Slave Trade, which involved the kidnapping and forcible transplanting of an indigenous people–a practice that is forbidden in Mosaic Law.
Slavery was first eliminated in the Roman Empire and beyond in the early part of the first millennium by Christians because they saw it as a moral evil and an abomination in the sight of God.
Slavery was resurrected over strenuous papal opposition with the African Slave Trade of the 1700 and 1800s. This would not have been endorsed by the Bible. The end of the African Slave Trade in the mid-1800s marked the second time slavery was abolished from the world–and it was also accomplished by Christians. Atheists have made every effort to cast non-Christians as the key players in abolition, and often cite sermons of leading pastors that endorse slavery. They do everything to isolate Christian abolitionists from Christianity. But the fact remains that abolition was a Christian movement.
For a document that endorses slavery as much as skeptics claim, the Bible was somehow used twice to denounce and eliminate it. Funny, that.
Well, after over two years of radio silence, I decided to throw my hat into the podcasting ring once again. Rather than start over again, I’ll start from where I left off, which makes this show #3. In keeping with the theme of my YouTube videos, I’ll be fielding tough questions for Christians from various atheists.
The show schedule I’ve cooked up is to post a show on the 15th and the 30th of each month. I plan to continue that at least to the end of the year. Then I’ll make the decision to continue podcasating in 2011. Unfortunately, I’m posting the first show (intended for Sept. 30) late. Hopefully, I can get my act together and post the next ones on time.
First on the block is an answer to Douglas Crews, who wrote nine questions many, many years ago. His website is some kind of prehistoric blog, back in the days before the term was coined or the software existed.
You can download part one of the program here. It ran long, so I’ll be posting part 2 tomorrow.
I gave some URLs on the program for reference. Here they are, nice and clickable, to make things easier on the person who wants to research further into what I’m covering on the show:
- My YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/venomx88
- E-mail address for general feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Source of today’s questions: http://www.crewstopia.com/doug/tqfc.html
- C. Michael Patton argues that “God damn it!” isn’t the only violation of Exodus 20:7: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/09/what-does-it-really-mean-to-take-the-lords-name-in-vain/
- Article on total depravity: http://wp.me/P2bFc-8u
- Resource hub on biblical society: http://www.tektonics.org/socialhub.html
- Discussion of Exodus 22:18: http://wp.me/p2bFc-by
- Glenn Miller’s answer to the war with the Midianites: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/midian.html
- Ritual purity: http://www.tektonics.org/af/cleanman.html
- William Lane Craig answers on internal witness of the Spirit first here then here.
- Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/cycGtx
- Plausibility of a local flood in the story of Noah: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/localflood.html
- Definition of the good: http://bit.ly/cTEePF
- Original challenge to skeptics to raise de facto objections to Christianity: http://wp.me/p2bFc-ij
- Glenn Miller’s essay on slavery in the Bible: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html
My podcasting plan is to do two shows per month, on the 15th and the 30th. The next show will be October 15th and will cover some more tough questions for Christians that were posted on ex-christian.net back in 2003. Nothing like staying current, right?
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.