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Daily Archives: November 13, 2010

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!

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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.