Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Material Up on God is NOT Imaginary!

I announced redoing God is NOT Imaginary a long time ago, and then just sat on it. Well, I finally got back into the swing of things and have updated four proofs:

Looking at my old answers to those questions, I almost cringed. I’ve certainly grown as an apologist and philosopher since I wrote those old answers. The one for proof 3, for example, was absolutely terrible. I literally proved nothing, and I certainly didn’t answer the charge put forth in the original.

My answer to proof #8 was awful as well. What I said boiled down to, “They didn’t prove anything, so neither will I! Besides, NDEs aren’t biblical, therefore I don’t have to answer for them.” Man, I was a really bad apologist for the Christian faith when I first started. I’m glad I’ve grown, and I’m glad that God has shown me that there is more to the riches of knowing him than the intellectual side of things.

I’ve also gotten better at dissecting arguments from the other side, because GII’s argument in proof 3 is totally incoherent and I didn’t notice that the first time around. And proof #8’s conclusion, “NDEs are natural occurrences, therefore there is no spiritual dimension” is just silly to even argue. I didn’t notice that, either.

Good thing I’m doing the updates! I’m going to kill the old site officially, because it is really, really, bad! I’m seriously ashamed of it.

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Slight Change in How We Do Things Here

Since no one reads pages on this blog (no, seriously, my About Us page is the most frequently viewed page and it averages one view per day on a monthly basis), I have decided to inform everyone of a slight change using the normal posts.

Effective immediately, I have decided to adopt the Welborn Protocol. This means that any blog-related communication sent to me at any of the e-mails listed in my Contact page is fair game for me to blog about unless you specifically tell me otherwise.

I think I pretty much have always followed this protocol, and I tend to assume that this is the case when I send e-mail related to a blog post directly to a blog owner unless directed otherwise. But I thought it was a good idea to make this explicit, just in case a question comes up later.

Arguing by Twitter

It’s quite common for atheists to argue by soundbite. They just assert something in a context where it’s difficult to reply at length. That way, they win, because you (the Christian) can’t adequately defend yourself.

Bible contradictions are usually handled this way. The Skeptics Annotated Bible, for example, just points out so-called contradictions and errors without explaining why those would be errors or contradictions. A more recent example is Twitter user @BibleAlsoSays, who tweeted this:

Let’s play which is correct Judges 1:19 or Joshua 17: 17-18 ? Which is correct Psalm 53:1 or Matthew 5:22 ?

I can’t find the original. I only got it as a retweet from @godispretend. I decided to play.

Judges 1:19: “And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.”

Joshua 17:17-18: “Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

Joshua was talking to the tribe of Joseph in the verses in Joshua. The events of the battle in Judges described things that the tribe of Judah did. If this was a prophecy (I’m not convinced that’s what was happening here–every general, front line supervisor, head coach, etc., tells his team “You will win! You will prevail!”), it applied to the tribe of Joseph, not to Judah. Joshua was, after all, talking to Joseph and not Judah.

Easy enough. Onward.

Psalm 53:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”

Matthew 5:22: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

In other words, the Psalmist said that someone was a fool, but Jesus says this is forbidden. The Psalmist sinned! Scandalous. No one in the Old Testament did that, after all! The whole point of Psalm 53:1 is that no one obeys God; i.e. “there is none who does good.” So, if Jesus was giving a blanket prohibition on calling people fools (he wasn’t; keep reading), then the Psalmist sinned in the very song he was composing to say everyone sins, thus proving his own point quite eloquently!

But was Jesus actually giving a blanket prohibition on calling people fools? Look at the context of Jesus’ commands, he specifically says “whoever is angry with his brother,” and repeats “his brother” in the next pronouncement. Jesus is talking about relationships among believers. Many MSS read “whoever is angry with his brother without cause,” which draws some additional lines around the context of this verse. That’s a minority reading, but it appears enough to be worth a mention.

In practice, Jesus himself called many people “fools” and “foolish,” always referring to unbelievers or opponents of his ideology. Brethren, however, in Jesus’ thoughts, deserved more respect than that. Especially in personal, one-on-one exchanges. Public forums are different, which occasionally has to be explained when one Christian calls another out for bad theology (such as the recent James White vs. Ergun Caner situation).

There’s nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, especially if it grabs the attention of your listener and forces him to see his error. J.P. Holding discusses when parody, sarcasm, or satire is appropriate to use when debating opponents right here. Verses like Matthew 5:22 are not commanding the Christian to become someone’s personal doormat.

Dave Armstrong Nails the Difference Between Denominations

In a conversation with atheist DaGoodS, Dave Armstrong hit a very important truth. DaGoodS highlighted a typical atheist talking point:

Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.

Every apologist who has engaged with atheists has heard this again and again. Christians have 100 million denominations, each says that the all of the others are wrong, so if you all can’t decide who’s right, how am I supposed to? Dave responds, correctly:

Yes, that is a real problem, and a major reason I am Catholic, but that is not your immediate issue. That comes later. Right now you need to even be convinced of matters that all these groups (apart from rank heretics like the Mormons who reject historic Christianity) hold in common: does God exist; Who Jesus was, etc. First things first.

But in passing, note that Catholics do not claim to be the sole true or correct group. We claim to be the fullness of Christianity, but we don’t deny for a second that other Christians possess large amounts of Christian truth as well. We’re not like the anti-Catholic Protestants who ridiculously deny that we are Christians at all.

And that’s the size of it. Unless they are heretical, all groups of Christianity, from Calvinist to Arminian, from cessationalist to charismatic, all believe in the deity of Christ, the existence of God as a Trinity, and that salvation comes by faith alone in the finished work of the Cross. I believe Dave could attest to everything that I just said.

The atheist has to start there. He has to decide if he believes in God, if Jesus is God Incarnate, and then what to do with that before he can get into doctrinal entanglements. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who urged us to keep our doctrinal entanglements private, as far out of the public view as we can.

Things That Should be Free: PrayerMarket.com

In a previous post, I’ve lamented that there are few resources for Christian churches that are 100% free of charge. Most charge some sort of membership fee, either lifetime or monthly. The ones that are free are, regrettably, extremely limited in quality and quantity of resources.

I think someone ought to open up a website that enables users to download high quality sermon resources for free. The site should subsist entirely on donations and/or PPC advertisement.

I would love to look into the feasibility of something like that, and perhaps trying to collect sermons, sermon series, scripts, videos, and other resources that match or exceed the quality of SermonSpice.com or the Skit Guys, but will be available free of charge to the public.

That’s just a dream. Perhaps it could become reality one day. We shall see!

As a follow up to my rant on resources that ought to be free, I thought I’d examine a few resources that exist out there that ought to be free, but really aren’t. This post fits in with my study theme of the month: prayer!

I’ve recently stumbled on to a site called PrayerMarket.com. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The site buys and sells prayers. That is absolutely reprehensible. The very concept is outright offensive. Read the rest of this entry

Moderated Comments Cleared!

Apparently, my posts have been generating more conversation than I’ve had time to keep up with!

I had seven comments held in moderation, most from Ed Babinski and Dave Armstrong. I believe that all were being held on the basis of containing two or more links.

All have been approved and are in the thread at the appropriate places. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Wit and Wisdom of Facebook

For some reason, one of my Facebook friends inspires quite a few blog entries. So I would like to send a shout out to Domonique–thanks for staying my friend even though we don’t work together anymore. I swear I’ve been getting half my material from your posts recently.

The chatter on Domonique’s recent status update gives us some insight as to why many people refuse to bow the knee to our Lord.

I used to work with Domonique, so I’m confident that she’s a Christian and the deeper meaning I’m drawing from this doesn’t apply specifically to her.

I have no idea what Domonique’s friend Taylor’s religious leanings are. There is nothing on her Facebook profile to suggest that she’s a Christian, but nothing that would suggest she isn’t. No Atheist As or links to anti-Christian/anti-Bible propaganda sites.

The conversation is typical for young, single women. Domonique is moaning that all the good men seem to elude her, and Taylor agrees. Taylor also says that even good men lie to their women. Then Domonique makes the following comment:

I know, i wish i could marry jesus.

To which Taylor replies:

Jesus had a big beard. I do not find big beards very attractive. perhaps if he were to shave i would be happy 🙂

I don’t know if the insight I’m about to offer from this applies to Taylor or not. This insight is meant generally, and I’m not directing it to Taylor personally. Taylor, if you’re reading this and I come off as though I’m personally attacking you, please forgive me because that isn’t my intent! But if you see yourself in this as a Christian and can profit from it, then please consider it a gentle rebuke from a brother in Christ.

Taylor’s comment is interesting in that it reflects the typical desire that underlies most attacks on prayer and original sin. Here, Taylor wants Jesus to change something about himself in order to make him more palatable to her.

The reality, for the Christian, is that we (as humans) are repugnant to God. We must realize this as a prerequisite for saving faith. Once that realization is made and we receive Christ in faith, then begins the long process of sanctification: making ourselves more palatable to God. Taylor (and most skeptics that I’ve dealt with) reverse the formula. Reversing the formula is idolatry.

Again, this isn’t meant as a personal attack on Taylor, and if it was perceived as such then I apologize. I only meant to convey an important insight.

For more information on just how repugnant we humans are to God, please see my essay on total depravity.

Free Sermon Resources?

Today’s sermon was all about giving generously. At my church, “we don’t preach on tithing,” says my pastor. Today’s sermon was, in part, about tithing. But it went deeper than that.

A frequent argument I deal with from atheists and other detractors of Christianity is the ludicrous notion that Jesus wants Christians to give up all earthly possessions and live penniless. They aren’t approaching the text from the perspective of stewardship. All gifts come ultimately from God, and God wants us to wisely use these gifts for his glory. The ultimate summary is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

The idea is to judiciously use what we have for the good of the kingdom, not to sell everything and live in abject poverty. The trick is that the more we have, the greater the obstacle to true intimacy with God. Or as Jesus famously put it, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).

The Eye of the Needle was actually a place in those days. A camel could get through it, but it took a lot of effort and often wasn’t worth it. Jesus isn’t saying that is impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, just that it is going to take much more work than for a poor person. A rich person is expected to give more generously with both time and financial resources to further the cause of the kingdom. Obviously, a poor person doesn’t have as much to give and therefore as much won’t be required.

Bottom line: you can’t be sure of anything in this world except for God. So don’t put stock in material goods–moth and rust can eat and destroy them. Build up treasure in heaven, where nothing can get to it. Material wealth isn’t the same as true security, and we never really possess something we aren’t willing to give to God. 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