I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me. And that means I will now introduce two new features. If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.
The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible. I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me. It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.
On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future. I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here. Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules. After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.
The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday. What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Prv 28:9)
Strongly worded. If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination. An abomination! That’s the strongest way God can revile something. And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! Read the rest of this entry
John W. Loftus discussed what it would take to convince him to believe. The discussion was prompted when Jayman, a Christian, asked Loftus if he witnessed a bona fide miracle, would he then believe in God? Let’s look at the hubris displayed in the answer:
I have said that it would take a personal miracle for me to believe. I didn’t say what kind of miracle nor did I comment on the other things that would have to accompany that miracle. Let me do so now. . . .
Let’s say the miracle was an anonymous one, like the resurrection of my cousin Steve Strawser, who died at 58 alone in the woods of a massive heart attack, or the skeptic Ken Pulliam who died in October. I would believe in a supernatural reality, yes, but an anonymous one. I don’t think I could conclude anything different. But it would be an anonymous god who did it. I could not conclude much about this god other than that he could raise the dead. (emphasis added)
Once telling us that a miracle would convince him, he qualifies that by saying that a miracle is only evidence of a supernatural entity, but the identity of said entity is still open for conjecture. Then he backtracks:
So I would need more than a miracle, even though that scenario is already far fetched to begin with. (emphasis added)
After the miracle, Loftus wants God to take credit for it, by making a personal appearance (of course). Loftus further considers that proposition:
But let’s say that along with such a miracle I am told by this deity to believe exactly the way Jayman does about Christianity. That presumes even more than that a miracle occurred, since there are so many brands of Christianity around, some accusing the others of heresy. Would I believe then?
Assuming that the miracle came, the worker of the miracle has shown himself and taken credit, then he tells Loftus to believe exactly as a specific Christian believes. Meaning God’s power has been demonstrated, and then asserts his authority. Does Loftus submit?
So, if I experienced a personal miracle I would require more than just that to believe in Jayman’s god. I have so many objections to the Bible and the biblical god I would have to reconcile what I know with what this deity told me to believe. I cannot even understand why any god would require me to believe in the first place! At that point I would be forced to chose between Jayman’s god and a trickster conception of god, and the trickster god would have to be my choice given what I know. (emphasis added)
Wow. Don’t miss Loftus’s this:
- An incontrovertible miracle occurs.
- God himself appears to Loftus and takes credit.
- God tells Loftus which Christian denomination is correct in all doctrinal points.
- However, Loftus doesn’t think that any branch of Christianity is correct.
- Loftus assumes that the deity who appeared and worked the miracle is now tricking him.
If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised. (source, emphasis added)
This is quite educational. My conclusion: John W. Loftus is an arrogant and unrelenting narcissist who has put himself in place of God. In his own words, Loftus has said, “Even if God himself proved his existence beyond a reasonable doubt and told me that Christianity is true, I’ll believe it but I’m still not going to worship God.”
Literally, John Loftus has just told us that he knows better than God. Only on the Internet can you witness egos this big first hand. And, this proves that no one is in hell kicking, screaming, and crying to be let out (as I’ve frequently argued). Loftus would rather be there then to bow down and worship God.
I don’t think I can add anything further. This speaks for itself.
Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.
Question #6, the most foolishly misguided question, is:
If God lied, how would you know?
For some reason, atheists treat faith as a foul word that rivals the f-bomb for words that shouldn’t be used in civil conversation. This is because they are seriously misguided as to what it means.
Here are some skeptical examples representative of how they typically define the concept of faith:
- Voltaire: “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”
- Nietzsche: “Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”
- Henry Ward Beecher: “Faith is spiritualized imagination.”
- George Seaton: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”
- Even Ben Franklin had issues with faith! He said, “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly;” and “The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.”
- Mason Cooley deserves the last word here: “Ultimately, blind faith is the only kind.”
These quotes show us that the atheist believes faith is belief without evidence, or despite all the evidence. That’s not true! D. Elton Trueblood has the real definition of faith: “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” J.P. Holding develops the idea of faith as trust in this must-read article.
Once you realize that faith isn’t a blind step in the dark, taken for no rhyme or reason, then you can understand that the answer to this question is a matter of faith. Faith is trust placed in one who deserves that trust.
As Christians, we have faith in God, and we have faith in the Bible since the Bible is an accurate revelation of God’s character and mission. Indeed, they are one-in-the-same revelation. The Scriptures affirm that God cannot (will not?) lie (Num 23:19; Tts 1:2; Heb 6:18; 1 Jn 1:5).
Having faith in God means having faith that the inspiration of the Scriptures is accurate, and what is in the Scriptures is an accurate representation of the character of God. The Scriptures are clear that God doesn’t lie.
What this means is that there’s no need to consider how to know if God has lied or not. He’s not going to. It’s a moot point.
In a previous post, I spoke of a new website called PrayerMarket.com in which users traded prayers for reward money. Basically, I thought the whole idea was reprehensible. I’m not alone; other bloggers who were directly contacted by the site’s founder have pretty much agreed with that sentiment:
- “PrayerMarket–Pay for Pray? Um, No” (on Equus Nom Veritas)
- “Pay for Prayer? Not on my Blogs!” (on Faith of the Fathers)
- “Prayermarket.com” (on The Orthodox Pathway)
The first two are Catholic websites and both used a term that’s new to me, but the concept it describes isn’t. The word is simony: the act of exchanging money for spiritual goods. The origin of the story is Simon the Sorcerer, which is described in Acts 8:9-25. The crux of the sin is found in verses 18-19:
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Offering money to obtain the gifts of God, rightfully obtained solely by God’s grace is not a sign of a penitent heart. The apostle Peter told Simon that his heart wasn’t right before God, and commanded the sorcerer to repent (verse 21-22).
Someone suggested Steve Colbert do a story on it. Not a bad suggestion; there is much to be mocked.
John Wilson, founder of the site, has agreed to an interview with me. I will reprint the interview below in Q&A format, with some further comments from me. Read the rest of this entry
I admit that I positively cringed at some of the weak argumentation, but I think that she might have the start of a good argument for pro-life from science if she would develop it a bit more.
A few points need to be articulated much better so that this argument appeals to people who don’t share a Christian worldview. The chief one is the whole part of how the baby resides in the mother, but isn’t a part of the mother. I agree that is a good argument, but her logic fails. Paraphrased, she states:
The baby has a 50% chance of being male, and thus has a penis; the mother is a woman who doesn’t have a penis. Therefore, the baby isn’t the mother, but resides in the mother.
That needs to be totally re-worked. Because there’s a 50% chance that the baby could be a female, and therefore, employing this same logic, would be part of the mother.
Perhaps a better way to state this is to define what comprises a human being. If we can find a way to agree that a single cell, capable of acting out all of the major processes of life, meets the definition of life and would be easily distinguished from non-life, then she has a good argument.
I also think she did all right in stating that when we watch a zygote develop to a embryo, then develop to a fetus, that what we see is a human being appearing exactly as a human in that stage of life would look. Similar to how a baby doesn’t look like a teenager, nor does a teenager look like a senior citizen. The fertilized egg is a human being, though it may not look fully-formed.
She touches on the “number of cells” argument as well. I’m skinny. Does that make me less of a human being than an obese person? The obese person has more cells. If someone killed me because of something I posted on my blog, should they spend less time in prison than a person who killed an obese Christian apologist because of something on the obese dude’s blog?
Of course not. You’d be laughed at if you were the attorney forwarding that argument.
Yet, for some unknown reason, many people accept and widely circulate the argument that abortion is only killing a clump of a few hundred cells. That’s not enough cells to constitute a human being, say the proponents of this argument, therefore you’re not killing a human when you perform or undergo an abortion.
Again, you’d be laughed at in court for trying to say an obese person was more “human” for having more cells than a skinny person, and therefore the killer of an obese person should spend longer in prison than the killer of a skinny person. That’s ludicrous.
Not that long ago, I was driving by a local church and the marquee, appallingly, told passers-by to pray for whatever they wanted, and God would provide it for them. It said this in a cutsey, easy-to-remember slogan. Ironically, I can’t remember the slogan. I had meant not only to blog about it, but to send the pastor a protest letter explaining why that was a bad slogan, and why such propaganda may draw people in for the short term but is very damaging for the long term.
The primary reason for this is simple: what is the pastor of that church going to tell someone who didn’t get what they prayed for? The congregant was “lured” into this church with the promise that God affirmatively answers all prayers, which any student of Bible and/or common sense can tell you is not the case. Any answer given by the pastor is damaging at this point.
If the pastor fesses up to the truth, which is that God will occasionally say “No,” given that God is an agent with a plan of his own that comes before the individual desires of his worshipers rather than an impersonal, wish-granting force, then it appears as though the church is using half-truths to fill pews and get tithe money for its own ends.
If the pastor says that the congregant doesn’t have enough faith in God, that raises the question of how much faith one really needs to receive effective answers to prayer. The congregant immediately concludes he doesn’t have enough faith, wonders what he can do to get more faith, and feels like a failure as a Christian. All the congregant needs to do now is pick up a copy of The God Delusion and guess what happens next.
But I never got around to either the post or the letter. What reminded me is a blog post from No Forbidden Questions about a Christian meme that has been making its way around the e-mail circuit, which is pictured to the right. As with all cutesy Christian slogans, I hate this graphic. It only tells a half-truth.
NFQ says this makes it seem as though unbelievers experience these things regularly, while believers are immune to it. Or, as commenter Andrew puts it, “The grass is always browner on the other side of our beliefs.” Read the rest of this entry
A friend from Facebook, for some unknown reason, posted a link to Westboro Baptist Church’s list of press releases. Out of curiosity, I visited it and clicked on their parody section. I was presented with a list of well-known songs that the group has modified, including a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Listening to that song, cleverly re-titled “Imagine the New Heaven” (an obvious reference to Is 65 and Rev 21), I realized something rather chilling. Fred Phelps & Co. represent the opposite extreme of a spectrum of authentic Christianity. Mainstream Christianity sits on the other end.
Let me explain. Mainstream Christianity preaches God’s unending love. The popular preachers emphasize over and over again how God loves all of humanity, and then they carry it to illogical extremes. They equate “love” with “unconditional acceptance” and that makes sin and damnation completely disappear. No need for sanctification, they will preach, because God loves you just as you are!
Believing that God always has the best interest of his people at heart (cf. Rom 8:28), but then completely de-contextualizing a person’s “best interest,” they preach that God will make you wealthy and powerful. God will answer every prayer with a resounding YES if you only believe it’s true.
On the other end is Fred Phelps, who emphasizes the coming wrath and judgment of God to the exclusion of any mercy or grace. Phelps and company commit numerous theological errors besides that one (such as believing the elect are always members of Westboro Baptist Church, shirking the Great Commission, encouraging those around them to sin to bring the coming judgment faster, and everything else that you can classify as hyper-Calvinism), but removing all hope of grace and mercy from God’s character is by far the biggest they make. Read the rest of this entry
I was reading an article from ABC News that profiled two anonymous ministers that, despite their atheism, continue in their positions as senior pastors. That really makes me mad. They are doing their congregations a great disservice, and are being major hypocrites. Atheists talk constantly about the hypocrisy of believers, but it looks as if many of them fare no better with major issues of integrity. But that’s not really the point.
The point is that there is a single money quote from Adam, one of the ministers-turned-atheist, that sums up two things very nicely. First, why he was able to wholly change his worldview so readily. And second, what is wrong with American Christianity and why it is in serious decline:
As I lost my faith … I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer.
Contrast that with the proper attitude of the believer toward his faith, summed up nicely by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Adam’s problem is that he isn’t living any differently as an atheist than he did as a Christian.
The reverse is true as well. Christian converts live no differently than they did when they were unbelievers.
If the atheists are right, and there is no God, then a quick look at human history ought to be pretty disturbing. Wars, violence, greed, corruption, and horrible human rights violations permeate history like a cancer. We’ve always been violent and savage, and there’s no hope that we can change ourselves. We’ve tried and it doesn’t work.
But, if the Christian is correct, then God exists and he will recreate civilization so as all the war, violence, greed, corruption, and human rights violations are a thing of the past. That means we have hope. And, both Paul and James exhorted us to live as though we have it.
The problem is that even our ministers don’t seem to be living as if this hope is real, and the proof is this article. They readily abandon a dearly held worldview because, as Adam put it, there’s no difference in how he lives!
That’s really sad.
I did a podcast a while back (part 1 | part 2) where I answered some tough questions for Christians proposed by Doug Crews. My comment policy has comments closed after 30 days, since I’m trying to spend time coming up with new material and normally after that time additional comments tend to rate higher on the ignorance scale than comments left in a more timely fashion.
However, Doug’s discussion is an exception to the rule. I can’t re-open comments on that thread without reopening comments across the board, so I’m going to open this new thread.
And so, the discussion continues: Read the rest of this entry
A few days back, I promised that I would discuss the answer to a question that has been raging in the atheist-theist dialogue for a long time. It stirs up controversy wherever it goes. The question: Can atheists be moral without God?
The short answer: NO, absolutely, unequivocally, not. It is impossible to be moral without God.
I had best get to the long answer before I get flamed by my atheist readership, which actually amounts to 99% (if not 100%) of my overall readership. First, I must explain an important, and oft overlooked, distinction that will bring this entire question into focus: the difference between ethics and morals.
When he was learning the art of the psychological autopsy, NCIS’s Ducky was asked by Mr. Palmer to explain the difference between ethics and morals. Ducky said something akin to “The ethical man knows he shouldn’t cheat on his wife, while the moral man would not.” In other words, ethics govern solely the behavior of an individual, where morals begin with the heart and proceed out, modifying the behavior as a result.
It is quite possible for a man to watch rape porn, read erotica featuring rape or non-consensual scenes, constantly fantasize about raping women, and even request that his consensual partners fight him, beg him to stop, and cry real tears during sex. He literally views women as objects that exist solely for his enjoyment. What holds this individual back from actually raping a woman is the threat of jail time, the looming possibility of having to register as a sex offender, and the associated shame and loss of status all of that would bring.
This person actually quite ethical. He doesn’t act on his impulses. He obeys the law. By all outward appearances, he’s a fine, upstanding citizen. But his hidden dark side poses a problem with calling him “moral.”
Ethics are solely concerned with behavior. A person can be ethical and even appear to bear the good fruit associated with the Kingdom of God, but essentially be a “whitewashed tomb full of dead man’s bones.” If you take care to wash only the parts that people can see, while continuing to live a robust life of mental evils, are you really moral?
If my neighbor, the guy with the really hot wife, the awesome job that I could never get in a million years, who paid off his house because he’s a millionaire in his twenties, and owns three fancy sports cars suddenly got divorced, fired from his awesome job, and totaled two of the three sports cars (in one day), how should I react to that?
Externally, if I offered a shoulder to cry on anytime he needed one and offered to help him financially if he needed to pay some debts or bills (no millionaire is completely without debt), and tried to help him get a job; would I still be good if in my mind I kept thinking silently, “I’m so happy! I want to see this S.O.B. fall further into despair. I’m going to nickname him ‘Job.’ May he total the other sports car, too!”
I’m thinking, “NO.”
That example is perfectly within our fallen natures. It isn’t that we can’t do good. We, in our fallen nature, can’t will good. We may do some (relative) good, but privately, we still entertain impure (or even evil) thoughts. Our behavior conforms to the good, but our minds do not.
Contrast this with a Christian, who is a Christian in both word and deed. I hate to say a “true” Christian, so let’s say a “sincere” Christian. Once his faith has been placed in Christ, a transformation occurs. He is a new creation. His inward thoughts are taken captive, to conform even those to Christ. Our carnal minds, after all, aren’t subject to God’s law (nor indeed can be).
Ethics are external. Those are what people see. However, morals work from the inside out. Instead of just doing good, we are good. That’s a far cry from simply acting ethical. Instead of not stealing thousands of dollars from the bank at which I work, the capability of that theft is no longer in my person. That, in a nutshell, is what it means to be conformed to Christ.
That, however, isn’t something that just happens the day of my altar call. It is part of sanctification, which is a life-long process where I work with God to conform both my actions and my thoughts to Christ’s example.
This is hard. But no one ever said Christianity was supposed to be easy.