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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Wrath of God

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

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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.

Blog for God is REAL! Moved Right Here

I’ve merged the blog I was keeping contra Why Won’t God Heal Amputees and God is Imaginary to this one.

Earlier this week, I did the same to the Answering Loftus blog. This means that all the blogs I keep are now merged into one, this one.

All of the Loftus entries will appear under the category Christian Delusion. All of the entries just merged will be under the category WWGHA.

Within the next 90 days, both blogs will be deleted. This is part of following the three keys to life: “Simplify, Simplify, and Simplify.” I’ll be able to keep up with work a lot more efficiently. Perhaps I’ll even accomplish more than I’ve been lately.

Yes, part of this has to do with criticism received on the WWGHA forums, specifically in this thread. I’m also tired of starting projects that I never finish.

In the coming days, I’m going to announce (and stick to) a schedule for completing all of my open projects–of which there are many. What I’m going to do is pick a theme for a given month, beginning in December. Then, I will pay special focus on apologetics for that specific theme. Each theme is going to be something that I wish to learn more about. I will read books and articles on both sides of issues for each month’s theme and post regular blog updates on each.

I’m also going to watch the blogosphere for topics on my subject. Mostly I figure I’ll answer stuff contrary to the given topic.

December should be a no-brainer: Christmas! But surprisingly, no. I’m going to actually make December’s theme prayer. I have a two books on prayer that I haven’t read, and I requested a review copy of a new book on prayer that I’ll be reviewing once I get it. Hopefully I get it; there’s no guarantee that you get review copies once you request them. It depends on how many others request copies and how quickly you got your request in.

Weekends will be devoted exclusively to long term projects that I’ve announced but never got around to. That means the promised updates of my refutations to WWGHA and GII, as well as my review of John Loftus’s The Christian Delusion. Those two are first. I already know what’s next, and I’m actually hoping to get the next one down by the first of the year.

So we shall see if this makes me more productive in apologetics. Let’s face it, something needed to change real quick.

That said, happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! Hope everyone enjoyed Black Friday! After working a few in my brief stint in retail, I won’t go near a store the day after Thanksgiving, so good luck to those of you that did!

Thread on WWGHA Forums

In this thread, my (currently empty) website that will eventually refute Why Won’t God Heal Amputees is being lampooned since it’s currently empty. I decided, against my better judgment, to open a discussion with these guys. It’s been more pleasant than I thought it would be, at least so far.

In the thread, I discussed the huge difference between morality and ethics. The believer, I said, is moral meaning that he won’t do wrong. The unbeliever is merely ethical, which means that he doesn’t do wrong. There’s a big difference.

I qualified that by discussing what a spiritual battle is. In Romans 7:X-X, Paul brings the spiritual battle milieu to the forefront. Believers still do wrong because our flesh fights a battle with our spirits. The law is spiritual, but the needs of the flesh are more immediate. Therefore, the believer will still do wrong (i.e., sin). One of the atheists in the board asked me, then, what’s the difference between a believer and an unbeliever?

I simply answered, “Hope.” The believer has it, while the unbeliever dies without it.

That’s true, but there’s an even better answer. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes:

Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. (Eccl 8:10-13, emphasis added)

The trick is that, very often, since the punishment for sin isn’t seen immediately, the tendency is to think that there is no ultimate justice. But with God, holy and just to perfection, that isn’t the case. There’s an ultimate punishment down the line somewhere. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

Same with the reward.

But it comes back to hope. How hopeless our existence would be if there was literally no justice for the sinner, nor reward for the righteous. As the bumper sticker says, Jesus is our strength for today, and our hope for tomorrow.

WWGHA Forums

An admin for the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forum sent me an invitation to be a part of their discussion, as some of the members have found the sites I have contra their position and would like to discuss my views in person.

I’m contemplating accepting, but I’m not sure. Scanning the forum, the level of ignorance is absolutely intolerable. For example, in this thread, they are discussing the removal of a man dressed like Jesus from a church. The topic inevitable turns to the legality of kicking someone out of a church:

I wonder if removing him from church was legal? If it was, then the church could call the cops and ask them to remove anyone for any reason like their hair color, age or race. Anyone here know the laws around this by any chance?

Reasonable question, and it was answered correctly by another user. Basically, a church is a quasi-public building, and since it is privately owned, retains the right to remove people from the premises. “Quasi-public” only means that the public is welcome provided they act in a manner deemed appropriate by those with the authority to remove them. If they do not, then the church has every right to remove the offender.

That said, I don’t think that the “Jesus-guy” should have been removed. As far as I could see, he wasn’t causing a disturbance and the police didn’t even file a report. So the elders probably jumped the gun and, in the process, made themselves look pretty much like hypocrites. The same user with the legal question points it out colorfully:

I’m not saying ‘jesus guy’ isn’t a bit of an eccentric nutter and of course he is open to ridicule… but to have him thrown out by a “non-profit” tax-free organization that is supposed to welcome all? Damn hypocrites.

Now, here’s where I question the sanity of trying to debate or disagree with the members of this forum. In reply to the question of whether or not Jesus-guy could be legally kicked out of the church, once it was established that the church was within its rights, someone gets up on a soapbox:

If the churches didn’t get special treatment, such as tax breaks, that amounts to every citizen supporting them, then I’d agree they have the right to remove people.  Otherwise, they should be treated like any other taxpayer-funded establishment.

I would like to thank the two users (I’m not sure if they’re religious or atheist) who spoke sanity into that idiotic drool. One (correctly) pointed out to this character that “tax break” isn’t even in the ballpark with “tax-payer supported.” The other reminded him that tax-payer funded establishments still have the right to remove folks from the property.

In another thread, a user complained about street preaching. A Christian group was preaching using a megaphone and playing Christian music on the (public) street corner, and some of the message was about how atheists need salvation by Jesus Christ. I’m glad it offended the user, and it should have. Rather than consider the content of the message, he wants to censer it:

This is where I draw the line on “free speech”. One guy giving out fliers and politely asking people for a few minutes of their time is fine. 20 people harrassing passers-by with loud music and speakers preaching their crap to me is dirturbing the public peace.

How the hell is this legal? I say allow street preaching but under very strict restrictions. NO mega-phones or loud speakers … NO music … NO f***ing noise. Let them only be able to hand out fliers and approach people politely and respectfully. If the person says “no thanks”, move on.

What these people were doing was forcing us to listen to their religious crap and I will not put up with it on the street of my local town centre.

In other words, it’s okay until he has to hear it. Once he has to hear it, it should be illegal. Well, I don’t much care for atheist bus ads. They’re big and unavoidable. Same with billboards. Should those be illegal by this logic?

If I have the story right, he could have just ignored these people, but he chose to walk up and say something to them. His wife had to calm him down and take him out of there. Approaching these people was his choice. He exercised his free speech rights to tell them that they were doing something wrong. Is that also harassment by his definition?

I signed up, but I have yet to post. I’m not sure it’s going to be worth my time. Everyone there has already made up their minds, and they all hate religion (especially Christianity). I see evidence that other Christians have brought charges of favoritism to atheists and moderators editing the Christians’ posts without their consent. I know this, because some of the atheists are discussing those charges in a thread titled “Theist Liars.” That should give some insight as to what the atheists running the forum think of those charges.

Looking for the title of that thread, I spotted another one I had missed before declaring that Christianity isn’t monotheistic.

This board is probably a waste of my time.

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.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer

The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees has directed my attention to a Reddit thread where unbelievers seek to compile a list of questions that theists supposedly can’t answer. So I thought I’d take a quick peek at some of the questions, because you just know they not only have answers, but they’ve been answered countless times in countless (but consistent) ways but ignored by unbelievers intent in their unbelief.

Who created God? God is a necessary being. He is the starting point of existence, because existence had to have a starting point and the creation and fine tuning of the universe suggests that the beginning of it all had power and intelligence. So this is a really stupid question; which is what made me laugh at Dawkins’s The God Delusion when I read it. This is the kind of question that kindergartner asks. Please tell me the rest of these questions are going to be better.

Why do innocent babies suffer and die? That’s better, but still not good. Really, all humans suffer and die without exception, the good and the bad. Why should babies be immune to this?

If God didn’t want Adam and Eve to sin, why did he create them without knowledge of good and evil? God is the good. Since Adam and Eve were originally created for fellowship with God, God (as the good) would be their source of information for good and evil. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge, they effectively sent the message that they would decide good and evil for themselves, apart from God.

What sets your religion apart from any other? In the case of Christianity, the unique theology has God reaching down to man by Jesus. No other religion provides perfect mediation or complete salvation from sin. In every other religion, you have a set of specific behaviors or attitudes that tries to get man back into good standing with God, nature, the universe, or some other sense of the divine. Only Christianity has God doing the reaching and mending.

If people are born in to sin, do babies go to hell if they die? (after all, they haven’t accepted Jesus) There’s really no Scriptural answer to this question. It isn’t revealed. This is where faith–authentic faith, not the blind faith that atheists insist is what Christianity means when it says faith–comes into play. If a person has faith in God, and believes that God is perfectly just and impartial, then what happens to the baby in question will be perfectly just and fair. This is likely decided by God on a case-by-case basis.

Numerous answers have been proposed to this question by many thinkers. Augustine believed that unbaptized infants went to hell. The Westminster Confession of Faith holds that elect infants go to heaven, while reprobate ones will go to hell. It was the Roman Catholic belief for ages (and many still hold to this) that baptized infants go to heaven and unbaptized infants reside in limbo (a sort of void in between heaven and hell).

But, as I said, there is literally no Scriptural answer. Anything said in this area is pure conjecture.

How come god cures cancer but never grows back the arm or a leg of an amputee? Thank you for acknowledging that God cures cancer. God seems to work within the confines of nature, confines that he himself ordered. God cannot do anything contrary to his own nature, and violating a law (whether moral or natural) would go against his nature, essentially making him out to be a liar. Humans are incapable of regenerating lost limbs; the process is far too complicated and therefore limited to low-order animals like flatworms or to simple appendages like tails.

If you live a christian life, but your loving son doesn’t, you will probably go to heaven while he will go to hell. Do you think you will enjoy the afterlife knowing that your son is being tortured for eternity? How good a heaven that would be? Answered that in this podcast. There are a few approaches to this question, but they all make the Christian sound cold and uncaring. Essentially, a walk with Christ by necessity comes with certain obstacles. At each decision point, the Christian is going to be called to choose between something of material value (such as a family tie, heirloom, or perhaps a perceived physical need), or furthering our walk with Jesus. The Christian, in faith, ought to choose to further his walk with Jesus.

How we can enjoy heaven when a child suffers in hell qualifies as a genuine mystery–at least right now. We (as parents) should do all that we can to demonstrate a Christian lifestyle to our children, and pray they grow up and remain in it. But the old saying, while not in the Bible, is nonetheless true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Per Luke 14:26, 33, we should be willing to surrender our own family ties if that’s what it takes to continue walking with the Lord. These ties aren’t going to mean anything in heaven anymore (Mt 22:30).

Why is there something rather than nothing? Atheists can’t answer this question. So instead of admitting this, they throw it back to us. I suppose that we can’t answer it, either–at least not to the atheists’ satisfaction. However, since we largely agree that the universe exists contingently rather than necessarily, and we can also agree that everything that exists has all of the necessary prerequisites to its existence in place, all that remains is to identify the prerequisite to the existence of the universe. Christians identify this as God, who is necessary by his nature in that respect. So there is something because there was first God, without God, there literally would have been nothing. And not something-nothing; i.e. particles and random bits floating around in a vacuum that never quite ordered itself into something complex. I’m talking nothing-nothing; i.e. no mass, motion, energy, or personality. Lack of all existence. Nothing-nothing.

Atheism offers us nothing better or more logical than, “We exist. Pass the beer nuts.”

There are many, many more questions that were proposed. I’m only going to answer the ones that I’ve gathered previously from the tread; I’m not going to continuously check back and answer all of the questions that they propose. I actually have a life outside of blogging! I have a second part of miscellaneous questions coming soon, four categories of questions: . Lastly, I have two wise observations about the questions in general. Stick around; things should get interesting!

Old Post, but New to Me

Sometimes, I gloss over the really good posts in my reader with the promise that I’ll get back to them later. Which of course I seldom actually get back to them later. But in this case, I did and I’m glad.

Dr. Randal Rauser (who I’m mad at for this post describing the plot of the movie The Human Centipede, which I’m having a hard time getting out of my head because the very idea of one person eating then pushing excrement into the mouth of a second person sewed to their anus is really gross–and how does Dr. Rauser know the plot of that movie, anyway?) gave us insight into John W. Loftus’s character:

Every so often people provide challenges to our positions that we cannot seem to answer. So what are we to do? Concede the difficulty and work to revise or reject our position? Well we could do that, but nobody likes to eat crow. And we have our reputations to protect, don’t we? So I am grateful to John Loftus for providing an alternative. First, create a diversion; second, insult with a range of slurs; and third (and most interestingly) accuse of heinous actions in counterfactual situations. (source)

Sounds like Loftus to me. Dr. Rauser explains that he critiqued Loftus’s essay on the Problem of Miscommunication, and Loftus responded, cordially at first, but then Dr. Rauser backed him into a corner from which he couldn’t escape.

Rather than admit defeat and revise his argument, Loftus changed the subject completely, demanding a coherent theodicy from Dr. Rauser before he’d answer the simple question of what divine revelation should look like. In other words, what criteria would separate divine revelation from simple human meanderings?

When Dr. Rauser tried to get the debate back on track, Loftus called him a snake and a Pharisee, demanding he answer the irrelevant question.

Then, Loftus told Dr. Rauser that he would have lit the fire that burned Anne Askew.

So, to recap: irrelevant question, name calling, slanderous accusations. I’ll have to remember that for my current conversation with Doug Crews, in case Crews backs me into a corner (it doesn’t look like that is going to happen, but you never know).

Continuing Discussion With Doug Crews

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

Ooops!!

On Facebook, I recently made reference to a new textual-critical edition of the New Testament put out by the Society for Biblical Literature (the SBLGNT). What appealed to me is that it is made freely available, with a generous end-user license. It’s the closest I’ve seen to a Creative Commons License with the work still under a copyright.

I should have checked it out more carefully. James White pans this edition on a recent Dividing Line podcast. White uses two examples, Mark 1:41 and Hebrews 2:9, where the SBLGNT uses minority readings that literally have no manuscript support.

A leper approaches Jesus and tells Jesus that Jesus could heal him if Jesus so chose. In the ESV, Mark 1:41 reads “Moved with pity, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.'”

However, the SBLGNT uses a variant reading that originates in Codex D, which is dated to 1500s. Only MSS that bear relation to Codex D actually have that reading. No scholar gives Codex D any weight. It has too many readings unique to it, even whole passages and stories that are found nowhere else.

The variant reading that the SBLGNT uses for Mark 1:41 is: “Moved with anger, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.'”

Hebrews 2:9 is rendered “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” in the ESV.

The SBLGNT renders it “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that apart from God he might taste death for everyone.”

There’s more support for that reading than for the Mark 1:41 variant, but it still isn’t widely supported. It is more of a theological curiosity, and may have been changed because many believe that Jesus became wholly separated from God upon his death.