Monthly Archives: July 2008

Wafergate Revisited

As expected, atheists loved PZ Myers’s desecration of the Eucharist. He drove a rusty nail through it, then threw it a trashcan next to a page from the Koran and a few pages from The God Delusion. His message: nothing is to be held sacred. Question everything.

I’m in sympathy with Jimmy Akin calling for PZ to be fired. I believe that he is a poor representative of the university. His conduct is inexcusable for a man in his position. He has proven that he will offend the sensibilities of religious and nonreligious alike, and an educator must show the utmost respect for the individuals that he educates. PZ has not done that.

However, instead of flaming PZ himself, send a letter to his bosses at the university. I think I’ll throw something together this weekend and mail it in. Jimmy provides the addresses in his thoughtful post, but I’ll reprint them here for convenience:

President Robert H. Bruininks
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Via phone: 612-626-1616
Via fax: 612-625-3875
Via e-mail: upres@umn.edu

Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson
309 Behmler Hall
600 East 4th Street
Morris, MN 56267

320-589-6020
E-mail: grussing@morris.umn.edu

Of course, we should join the hundreds already praying for Myers’s conversion to Christianity.

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A Couple of Updates

I have just compiled my posts on unconditional election into one long article here.  Some minor revision may still be necessary, so feel free to e-mail the criticisms to the usual place!

I have settled on the original theme for the blog for right now.  It is still the best one, I think.

I am planning to offer some commentary on the tablet that will supposedly devastate Christianity shortly, but I’ve had a lot of things come up in business and personal life that have been getting in the way.  So I apologize for promising it and then not delivering.  It will be posted within the next couple of days.  Sorry again for the delay, but I appreciate the patience.

Roman Catholic Blog and Hyper-literalism

Regular readers of this blog and my ongoing work on refuting God is Imaginary and Why Won’t God Heal Amputees know that I’m no friend of hyper-literal interpretations of the Bible.  I hate when people look at the words of the Bible hyper-literally and draw fantastic conclusions about what the Bible is trying to say, instead of just using common sense.

For example, the Bible is not forward-thinking when it mentions the “circle of the earth” in Isaiah 40:22.  That is meant to be poetic.

As it happens, it isn’t just hyper-literal readings of the Bible that annoy me.  Hyper-literal readings of popular literature also does it.  The Roman Catholic Blog, which comments on current events from a Catholic perspective, has just read National Geographic hyper-literally.  The writer says that a recent article with the headline “Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas?” caught his eye and raised his ire.

According to the Roman Catholic Blog, murder is only the unlawful taking of a human life.  By definition, one cannot murder a gorilla.   checked Merriam-Webster Online and confirmed that neither the definition of “murder” nor the definition of “person” had changed.

But he fails to consider the purpose of the headline.  The headline is designed to grab the reader’s attention and rope them into reading the rest of the article.  Consider the headline of this blog entry.  I expect mostly regular readers and Roman Catholic Blog authors will read it; people stopping by will probably only glance it as long as it stays near the top of the page.  Why?  Because of the rather boring headline.  My most active posts are the ones with sensational headlines: “Brian Sapient Punched Out” and “The Tablet that Ends Christianity?”  I imagine most people pick which posts they read on the basis of the headlines.  People are no different whether they are scanning an RSS feed or a National GeographicMurder has more emotional weight to it than killing.

I don’t think that this is, as the author of the Roman Catholic Blog seems to think, a covert attempt to make a flawed philosophical argument.  I think that this an editor’s attempt to get people to read the story in the magazine.

Okay, I’m done ranting for today.  Tune in tomorrow when I finally put up what I’ve been promising since last Wednesday: a piece on the Tablet that Ends Christianity!!

Wafergate

I’ve been reading the response to PZ Myers’s unfortunate blog post.  It has been dubbed many things, but the one I like is “Wafergate,” which is what I will stick to in this post.  I think that this issue is getting far more attention than it deserves, as PZ Myers is little more than a bitter and sour little man with an insanely popular blog.  I can’t understand his popularity, even with atheists, because each of his virulent posts reveals nothing but hatred for religion.  Such focused and intense hatred isn’t good for a person.

For the benefit of those of you that have no idea what is going on, let me start from the beginning.  Webster Cook, a University of Florida student, palmed a Eucharist at a Catholic Mass instead of eating it.  He took it out of the chapel and held it hostage for several days. Read the rest of this entry

I Don’t Believe in Atheists

Recently, I’ve started reading an excellent book by Chris Hedges with the provocative title I Don’t Believe in Atheists.  Hedges, no friend of either Christianity or the New Atheism, is systematically picking apart the claims of the New Atheists (such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins).  The trick is that he is doing it from a secular perspective–he hates Christianity as much as the New Atheists do, and makes no bones about saying so.  In fact, he’s written a book dismantling the position of Christianity called American Fascism, which I plan to read next.

What makes this book interesting is that Hedges hits the nail right on the head when he discusses the real problem with the God debate.  The real problem is the failure of each side to acknowledge the problem of sin.  Human beings are sinful by nature, argues Hedges, but both the Religious Right and the New Atheists see their position as sinless.  Therefore, they try to offer humanity a utopian world but neither can deliver this promise because of their innate sinfulness.

Humanity progresses scientifically, but regresses morally.  This is the root cause of our natural resource depletion, and our continued use of technology for warfare rather than the good of humanity.  Hedges believes that any proposed solution to the impending economic, political, and environmental crises must consider the human element of sinfulness.  It has to be more nuanced than the Religious Right’s solution of letting Jesus rebuild the earth and the New Atheist’s solution of getting rid of religion (which stands in the way of their god of reason).

I agree with Hedges insofar as a solution must be found for these impending crises.  I believe with all of my heart that Jesus will return to earth to set up a new Kingdom upon it, but I believe that that Blessed Hope may be yet far off.  Therefore, we must preserve what we have now and sustain the earth for our children.  Jesus often portrays the relationship between God and man as a landowner to his stewards.  The stewards are always held accountable by the landowner to how the owner’s property was treated while he was away.  I believe that the same will be true when Jesus returns again: he will hold humankind accountable for the way we treated his property, the earth, while he was away.

I agree with Hedges that the Bible reveals spiritual truths.  I agree with the problem of human sinfulness, and I agree that any solution offered to the complex human condition should be more nuanced than what the New Atheists and the Religious Right currently offer.

I disagree with Hedges in that I believe the Bible was written to reveal history, not just spiritual truths.  I believe in a literal six day creation and a literal Adam and Eve.  Hedges doesn’t believe in that stuff–he thinks that the Bible is only meant to convey spiritual truths through myths.  I’m not sure if Hedges believes in a literal Jesus, but obviously I believe in that (having challenged interpretations to the contrary on this blog before).

So far, I’m hooked on this book and I hope that the rest is as good as the first chapter.

The Tablet that Ends Christianity?

“Corporeal” of the Rational Response Squad says that the recent discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls gives Christianity a “death blow.”  What is it that he speaks of?  Why it is a tablet that contains a myth about a savior who dies and rises again on the third day.  Thing is, this tablet predates Jesus by decades–and the story, therefore, is probably much older than that.

Here’s the story.  Is it the end of Christianity as we know it, or something altogether different?

Personally, I think that it is something altogether different.  I think that this tablet actually strengthens the case for Christ and for Christianity.  How, do you ask?

Well, I won’t say just yet.  Let’s just say that I agree with Ben Witherington and Theology Web member “ApologiaMonk:”

In Christianity, this was all said to be done according to the Scriptures and that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. If someone reading the OT sees it beforehand, why should that cast doubt on what happened?

Nonetheless, many opinions, both scholarly and otherwise, have been and will be advanced on this topic.  Originally, I had planned on following this story without offering much in the way of commentary on it.  However, I’ve been asked by Rook Hawkins of the Rational Response Squad to offer whatever insight I can to the equation.  So in a future post, I will do just that.

Meanwhile, feel free to discuss the find below in comments, here on Theology Web, or here at the Rational Response Squad forums.  My comments will follow by Wednesday of this week.  I have three full days off to study this find and offer an informed opinion.

What Does God Owe Us?

Often, atheists assume that God is responsible to us.  That God owes us something based solely on the fact that he created us.  Well, Alan Kurschner debunks that idea with this thoughtful post, God Owes Us Nothing.

Truly, as Kurschner observes, God doesn’t owe us anything at all.  In fact, to be fair, he “owes” us eternity in hell for all of our constant sinning against him.  Instead, he has elected to bestow mercy on some and allow us to spend eternity in heaven with him.

Grace is such a wondrous gift.  If you’re saved, how are you showing your Creator your thanks in being chosen out of the world for his glory and purpose?  Are you continuing in your sin, so that the only difference between you and someone in the world is that you go to church every Sunday?  That isn’t thanksgiving at all.  The apostle Paul urges us to be living sacrifices to God!

If you’re not saved, I urge you to find a good church and talk to the staff ASAP.  E-mail me if you can’t find a church or need help finding one.

Thoughts on Homosexuality

Andrew Faris from Christians in Context has a very thoughtful post on homosexuality here.

Why do Christians treat homosexuality differently than they do other sins?  Someone who is gay is struggling with a sin the same as all of us struggle with our own sins.  We should be gracious and welcoming when a homosexual couple comes into our church, and point them toward the light of Christ, who can free them from their homosexual bondage.

I can hear the objections from the gay community already.  “Homosexuals are born that way.  God wouldn’t want us to deny a part of ourselves to please him.”  The problem is that Jesus does ask us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Lk 9:23).  We are sinful creatures.  Denying any sin is like denying a part of ourselves, and this is what Jesus calls us as Christians to do.

Trust me: I struggle with my sins every bit as much as a gay person would struggle with his homosexuality after coming to Christ.  It is a daily struggle for me not to fall back into old patterns of sinfulness, as it will be for the gay person to come to Christ.  But there is no sin too big for Christ to handle, if we submit to his will.