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Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 2

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 #2:

What’s your source?

DGS links to this article, and the conversation that ensued when DGS asked the blog author what his source was for Papias.

First, a little background. There is some serious contention about the authorship of the Gospels from critics of Christianity (and only critics of Christianity; neutral scholars never raise questions of this sort). They say we can’t trust the Gospels since they were authored anonymously. Leaving aside the issue of the trustworthiness of anonymous sources (it does not follow that a source is untrustworthy solely because it is authored anonymously; that is grossly untrue and totally ludicrous to even raise as an objection–a work should be judged on its own merits and not dismissed because we don’t know the authorship), are the Gospels really anonymous? Read the rest of this entry

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask

Through Dave Armstrong, I’ve found an ex-Christian atheist who goes by DaGoodS (I’ll call him DGS). He runs a blog discussing (naive) critiques of his former faith (don’t all ex-Christian atheists?) called Thoughts from a Sandwich.

Scanning his blog, I discovered this entry from November of last year. He has picked up a book called The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. His description is apt:

The author referred to a survey where 10,000 Christians were asked, “What Questions do you find difficult to answer?” and compiled a list of the top ten; the author kindly provides Christian responses.

DGS doesn’t think that the questions in the book are very good, and I’m also guessing that he finds the answers lacking as well.

Since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians allegedly can’t answer, I thought I’d take a shot at DGS’s list. Starting today, I’ll take a poke at two questions per day, posting one first thing in the morning and one in the late afternoon.

I’m hoping we can learn something from each other. Read the rest of this entry

Kathy Ireland Talks About Pro-Life on the Huckabee Show

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.

Wow!

I read this post from Anthony Horvath. It is well worth the read, as he covers what atheists should understand before trying to criticize the Bible. I’ve generally found that Bible criticisms stem from a lack of understanding of one or more points that Horvath mentions. Occasionally, however, there are other points that atheists miss. Consistent hermeneutics is one; often they will find a “contradiction” by interpreting one passage one way and interpreting the contradicting passage using a completely different hermeneutic. Progressive revelation is another thing that they fail on regularly. Of the two most misinterpreted passages in the entire Bible, one can be settled by looking at the context:

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:18-20)

Atheists frequently point to that passage as evidence that the Old Testament Law is still in effect. However, if they’d only read verse 17, they’d find something interesting: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Interesting. Jesus is saying in verse 18 that the Law won’t pass away until it’s accomplished, but he assures us in just the previous sentence that he will do that! Our critics are very careful readers. Yeah, right.

But what I think is the most amazing thing about Horvath’s article is the comment section. In the first comment, he dedicates the post to an atheist reader who doesn’t feel that he needs to read the Bible in order to criticize it. The atheist’s response is very telling:

Indeed I do not need to read the texts of Scientology, the Book of Mormon, the Bible or the ravings of David Koresh to deem them extremely unlikely to be true. Don’t make me break out the “SJ’s Flying Car” analogy…

To which Horvath replies, as I would have, that if you’re going to criticize something, then you ought to give it a read:

No, you don’t need to read them to ‘deem’ them anything. But if you’re going to open your mouth in public to knock them then you should actually know what you’re talking about, first. Why you bother trying to convince people, ie, people like me, that my position is ‘unlikely to be true’ when you don’t know jack about the particulars of the position, is beyond me. There is no way you’d be considered credible. Indeed, you aren’t.

On my shelf: The Book of Mormon, the texts of Scientology, the texts of Christian Science, the JW translation of the Bible, the Satanic Bible, the Koran… to name some that come immediately to mind. Are there things I haven’t researched as much that I have nonetheless formed a general opinion on? Of course. I am a finite creature. But you don’t hear me discoursing on those.

You might want to consider a similar philosophy.

And the atheist replies, “I prefer to have a life.”

This is just sad. I know I’ve said this somewhere before: if you’re going to critique a position, at least know what the proponents of that position are arguing. This is why I don’t critique evolution and why I stay away from church history arguments. I don’t know much about either. If that changes, I might reconsider. Indeed, I plan to immerse myself in church history (particularly early church history) this year. But until then, I’m going to stick to philosophy, which I do know something about.

General Commentary on De-Conversions

You might think that this is going to be an article on Christians de-converting to atheism. No. I’ve interacted with those guys over the years I’ve been doing apologetics. I can actually sympathize with their position, and I can even allow for validity in some of their arguments.

One in particular that I hear again and again is that Christians don’t read the Bible for what it says; they cherry-pick whatever doctrine they want to believe and ignore the rest. That’s not true of every Christian, even though the ex-Christian turned critic of his former faith wants the reader of his blog (don’t they all have blogs?) to believe as much.

To bolster this claim, the ex-Christian typically points to the fact that there are many, many different denominations of Christianity. They usually put the number of denominations between 33,000 and 40,000, but it changes quite often. Thirty-three thousand was the prevailing number I heard when I founded this ministry in 2006. By 2009, 38,000 was the prevailing number. In late 2010, I heard 42,000 somewhere.

This number is grossly inflated and literally has no basis in reality. I’ve pointed to this article by James White as refutation (White revisited the issue here) and asked for some substantiation of that number from people who throw it to me. I have yet to receive any documentation proving that number. I’m sure I never will.

Leaving that aside, the next statement ex-Christians usually make is that, with all of these denominations, if you don’t like what doctrines your church has cherry-picked, then you can just go to the church down the road.

This is a horrible mentality, but often is the case with some Christians. Church-hopping is never the answer to a dispute. This is something Catholics have right on the money: the church is the central repository of doctrine; “a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The Christian should be in submission to his local church. He shouldn’t just hop to another church that suits his whims.

I can develop and defend this idea later. For now, let’s just take it as a given.

Recently, I have seen two examples of public figures church-hopping. When public figures do something, it lends respectability to the practice–however illegitimate the practice may be. Something like this just makes Christians look bad, or even hypocrital. Read the rest of this entry

Dave Armstrong vs. the Atheists

Dave Armstrong is a braver man than I: he attended a “secular Bible study” in his native Detroit in order to answer questions about the Christian (in Dave’s case, Roman Catholic) position on Scripture. In all, 16 atheists attended to ask Dave questions.

Dave was fortunate to get a good group. They were open to dialog. Not like the group of militant anti-Christian atheists that populate the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees discussion board. (That was a waste of my time; why did I even sign up and post at all?) The majority of Internet atheists are the militant variety who refuse to listen to any Christian response to their nonsense.

Dave had a few great insights into the atheist mindset that are worth a short discussion. First:

DagoodS asked the group (17 including myself) how many believed that miracles occur. I was the only one to raise my hand. Then he asked how many believed that miracles might possibly occur. Jon raised his hand, and possibly one other. Only one or two even allowed the bare possibility. This exactly illustrated the point I was to make.

DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), “you don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don’t believe in any miracles whatsoever.” No response. . . .

This being the case, for an atheist (ostensibly with an “open mind”) to examine evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is almost a farcical enterprise from the start (at least from a Christian perspective) because they commence the analysis with the extremely hostile presuppositions of: (1) No miracles can occur in the nature of things; (2) #1 logically follows because, of course, under fundamental atheist presuppositions, there is no God to perform any miracle; (3) The New Testament documents are fundamentally untrustworthy and historically suspect, having been written by gullible, partisan Christians; particularly because, for most facts presented therein, there is not (leaving aside archaeological evidences) written secular corroborating evidence. Read the rest of this entry

I HATE Cutesy Christian Slogans

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

Money Quote

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.

Nail on the Head

Guest blogging for J.P. Holding, apologist Nick Peters hit the nail on the head with a recent review of Valerie Tarico’s book Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light (Oracle Institute Press LLC, 2010). Peters tells us:

Towards the end, she [Tarico] seems to say that she does not believe in any deity, but the terminology is ambiguous. I see Tarico as simply wanting to have the beliefs that come naturally with a theistic worldview, such as objective morality and reliability of reason, without having that extra annoying baggage (to her) that comes with it, such as God. (source)

I happen to think that this sums up what most atheists think of theistic worldviews. There is no reason to think that free will exists, objective morality, or that our brains are even validly processing information unless you ground all of that in something. Yet, the atheist just kind of shrugs, affirms that it all works without ever giving a reason, and goes on. “It just does” is good enough for them, I guess.

They want to make the same assumptions that a God-centered worldview can make, but without the annoyance of actually submitting to God. Doesn’t work that way, guys. Sorry.