Monthly Archives: April 2011

Talking Without Communicating

A user with what I believe to be a cribbed e-mail address posted the following comment on my lament that Dr. Randal Rauser beat me to debunking the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” nonsense:

Just right points?I would be aware that as anyone who in reality doesnt write on blogs a lot (in fact, this can be my first submit), I dont assume the time period lurker is very turning into to a non-posting reader. Its no longer your fault in the least , however possibly the blogosphere may come up with a better, non-creepy title for the 90% folks that experience studying the content material .

This is a textbook example of talking without actually communicating anything in particular.  It’s wordy, and it doesn’t really say anything.

He left two other comments (also marked as spam) that asked legitimate questions.  I was about to clear them when I read that.  Wow.

Just for fun, it wasn’t his “first submit.”  I’ve seen that e-mail address used before, and even sent him an e-mail prior to this about unrelated topics.  In any event, he has a lot to learn about “content,” as he has no content in that paragraph.  I read it five times and I can’t figure out just what it actually says!

Maybe it was randomly generated.  Why not?  A paper made at that link made it into a peer reviewed conference.

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Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Nature of God (long answers)

More questions from the Reddit thread filled with questions theists can’t answer.  These still focus on God’s nature, and require lengthier discussions than the previous questions.  However, they are no less puerile.  First question:

If God is perfect, why is he “a jealous God”?

God is “jealous” for one reason.  He is the ultimate being and the ultimate reality, the definition of perfection, goodness, and holiness.  God created life and sustains the universe that supports it.  He alone is the embodiment of divinity and is worthy of worship.

Yet people refuse to do so, when it is their duty.  We understand that duty, which is why human evolutionary biology is becoming such an important field.  As is embryology, paleontology as it relates to the origin of earth, and cosmology.  We want to understand where we came from, but we aren’t seeking the One who created us, only the culmination of perfectly natural laws that put us here.

Let’s say that Bob has a daughter named Beth, and was a perfect parent to her, never failed her, always encouraged, mentored, and uplifted her, and did everything to see that she succeeded in life.  Would Bob the a-hole if he becomes jealous when Beth suddenly cuts him completely out of her life and starts calling Steve “dad,” even though Steve only became a factor in her life last Tuesday, and has literally done nothing for her?  Should Bob just let it go and forget about it?

No, and therefore neither should God.  He is that perfect parent, unfailing and perfect in love, upholding and sustaining our existence after having created us and blessed us abundantly.  When we deny him and seek a natural explanation for our origins (or other gods), then he has every right to be jealous.

If Men (who are imperfect) does not condemn the children because of crimes commited by their parents, how can God (who is perfect) do it?

As I have argued repeatedly, that is most certainly not what is happening.  Sin is both action and ontology.  Adam’s sin introduced corruption and sin into the world; our own sinful natures are consequences of that.  We are not condemned for the sin of Adam, but by it.

Think of this illustration.  If I punch you in the face and break your nose, you didn’t ask for that.  You’re mad at me.  You probably wish I hadn’t done it.  But, at the end of the day, you still have to suffer the consequence of my action.  It’s not fair, is it?  Yet it happens everyday.

Guess what?  If I’m an alcoholic who beats my wife everyday just for good measure, then my daughter is going to seek a husband who beats her and my son will beat his girlfriends.  Both will likely be alcoholics, as well.  They didn’t ask for that; it’s not fair!  But it will happen to them all the same.

Bottom line: we are not immune to the consequences of someone else’s actions.  I don’t deserve hell because my grandpa killed a man just to watch him die.  I deserve hell for the lies I’ve told, for the lustful staring at Angie the Anti-theist (because I’m married, not because she’s an atheist, no hate mail for this–I’m complimenting her by saying she is gorgeous), for the history paper I plagiarized in high school–I could probably go on!  All of these sins leads back to Adam introducing sin into the world in the first place, but the fact that he introduced it doesn’t obligate me to join the depravity.  I do that all by myself.

What would a god be doing before creating a universe?

Mind-numbingly stupid question.  Time is a function of spinning masses of material that create gravity, bending space and acting on other objects contained in space.  The revolution of the planetary bodies around a sun, and the revolution of these suns around a central point of a galaxy, and the spreading of the galaxies outward from a central emanation point create a chain of cause to effect, that effect becomes the cause of another effect, and so on.  This creates the sensation called duration.

Take away space, and with it all the rotating, revolving masses within it, and you have eliminated the chain of cause to effect which is the cause of another effect, and so on.  No more duration, itself an illusion created by linear cause and effect chains.  No duration, and you don’t “do” anything to “pass the time,” because there is no time to pass!

So, God’s existence, “pondering” what to do with this existence, “deciding” to create a universe, “planning” what sort of universe to create, “mulling” possible universes over, and finally “creating the universe we see” would seem to be simultaneous actions for a timeless/spaceless being, given the absence of space-time and no way for him to experience duration.

God might have willed itself, heaven and hell all out of existence last year. How would you know?If god created man in his image, does he have a nose? If he has a nose are lungs attached to the nose? Does God breathe? If so why did he create a universe where 99.99% of it is a vacuum? If he does not breathe why does he have a nose?

I get the strange feeling that this is meant to be facetious, since I can’t prove the first portion of it, and the rest of it sounds like those goofy philosophical inquiries, like “Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?”  So I’m tempted not to take this paragraph too seriously.

I can’t answer any of it with certainty, but I can explain why I think that the whole thing is misguided and puerile.

First, I don’t believe that God would commit “deicide.”  The reason is that the Bible reveals that God not only created the universe, but he also sustains it.  This is why God is a philosophically necessary being; without him, no universe, no life.

Also, given that God is timeless, he doesn’t “come into” or “go out of” existence the same way as we would be able to.  “Beginning” and “end” are concepts that are functions of time, which God is not subject to.  So it’s pointless to speculate about what would happen without him, or what things would look like if he wasn’t there–that can never happen.  Without him, there is literal eternal nothing.  The type Francis Schaeffer referred to as “nothing-nothing.”

When the Bible states that God created man in his image, what it means is that God’s basic attributes are reflected in man: moral freedom, sovereignty, intelligence, creativity, and things like that.  It doesn’t refer to appearance.  It isn’t a physical reference, but a mental one.

So the rest is the puerile portion.  No, God doesn’t have a nose as he is immaterial: timeless and spaceless.  So no lungs or breathing; God isn’t a material being with material needs.  As we covered in the previous question, God has no needs; he is entirely self-existent.

I’m not even touching the rest.  I’m not sure why I even took this last question seriously.

Theological Quibble: Decision for Christ

A local church ran an ad that was summarized by the following list:

  1. God is real.
  2. God wants a personal relationship with you through his Son, Jesus Christ.
  3. One day, everything will change.  God will be done waiting.  After that, the matter will be settled.
  4. But for some, possibly you too, the matter may be settled today.
  5. Decide right now to accept the free gift that Jesus offers.
  6. Pray–a prayer like the one listed below–God will save you!

The prayer they list:

God, here I am.  I believe in you.  I believe in Jesus.  I want to live the rest of my days for you.  Please forgive my mistakes and help me to grow to be who you want me to be.  Thank you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Whoo-boy.  Where to begin? Read the rest of this entry

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Nature of God (short answers)

These questions come from an ancient-by-Internet-standards Reddit thread that compiles questions that theists supposedly can’t answer.  These questions discuss the nature of God.  These questions only required a few quick sentences in reply, as they are a bit puerile.  Let’s dive right in:

All mainstream religions hold that God is Perfect, needing nothing, never changing.

But how could a Perfect being do anything? To do something, a motivation or decision must exist that sparks an action. Any of these things – motivation, decision, action – are all changes. To feel motivated is to desire, want or need something – and a Perfect being cannot desire, want or need or they are not Perfect. To decide anything requires a being to go from a state of having not decided to having decided. Of the two, which one would be a state of Perfection and which a state of Imperfection? To act is a matter of changing in some way. So again, at which point would such a being be Perfect versus Imperfect?

God is described as “unchanging,” or some say the fancier “immutable.” This attribute of God, however, describes only his ontology, not his agency.  What this means is that God can initiate volitional changes (such as become motivated, make a decision, or perform an action) because these are matters of the will and do not fundamentally alter God’s being.

However, God couldn’t (if I can use that word without opening up a can of worms on the “omnipotence” front) make himself into a squirrel.  He couldn’t initiate a change that would fundamentally alter his ontology (his make-up, his being).  Which is why God can’t lie–that is an deceptive action, something which is contrary to the attributes of goodness and holiness.  Also, since God is impartial and just, lying would besmirch those as well.

Why does god have no issue killing innocent people?

There are no innocent people.  Everyone has transgressed the law of God.  In the creation story, we find that sin (that is, a transgression of the law of God) means that we will experience death.  Therefore, death is both a punishment for sin as well as a symptom of the corruption that sin introduces into a perfect world.  All people deserve death.

How that death is to occur is a matter of God’s divine decree.  Life isn’t a guarantee.

How can God’s forgiveness be unrestricted if we need to repent?

Forgiveness is a function of God’s mercy; he is merciful to forgive us if we repent because mercy is selective by its own nature.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be mercy.  God is perfectly fair to attach conditions to it.

How can God be just if we are born unequal?

All I can say is that divine justice doesn’t consider inequalities within a person or any external circumstances constraining that person to render a judgment.  It considers only the relevant facts of any case, so any sort of inequality would only be considered if relevant to the eternal fate of the person so born.

I don’t have a clue what this question is getting at, so I can only offer that generic little blurb.

What need does a god have to create anything?

He doesn’t need to create anything, but he did it anyway.

I really only need to eat, sleep, and breathe.  But, today I cleaned my living room from top to bottom, moving all of the furniture and using the Swiffer Wetjet behind and underneath everything.  I didn’t need to do that.  I watched The People’s Court and Judge Mathis.  I didn’t need to do that.  I drank a lot of Pepsi.  I really didn’t need to that, and probably shouldn’t have.  I watched the bits I missed of Tangled.  Cute movie, but I didn’t need to do that.  I read another chapter of Screenwriting by Syd Field.  Fun and informative; I’d really like to sell a screenplay and be the next Joe Eszterhas (though I’d never write something like Showgirls or Basic Instinct; I only said that because we’re both from Ohio)–but I didn’t need to read that book, either.

What about you?  Did you do anything today besides eating, sleeping, and breathing?  I’m betting you did!  So why is it shocking that God would do something he has no actual need to do, given that we are made in his image?

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Hell

A question from the Reddit thread of questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can, but if we do, then we’re full of it because we’re not supposed to have all of the answers, but if we don’t have all of the answers theism is false; atheism makes my head spin–I’m way too consistent in my personal judgments to ever embrace atheism!).

This question concerns hell, and it’s a common one:

How can God’s love be unlimited if there is hell?

Hell is a fate to which humans consign themselves.  God is basically the ultimate respecter of persons.  He has laid the cards on the table–no matter how deeply we penetrate the black box of existence, it becomes increasingly complex and ordered.  No matter how far we probe the cosmos, the evident beginning of everything is found.  Ultimately, it all points to a First Cause that is itself an intelligent creator–a person, God the Father.

Jesus, the second person of God–the Son, has revealed the Father to mankind by becoming one of us.  The wrath of God against ungodliness has been appeased in the sacrifice of the Son to those who have faith (active faith, faith that does something; different from mere assent to a certain worldview).

From the Father and the Son comes the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of God’s action in the world.  He calls us, convicts us of our sin, and regenerates us in faith to become sons of God and conform to the image of Christ.

The cards are on the table, and they are many and obvious.  But no one is  coerced to love God.  I don’t believe loving God is choice per se; rather, it is a revelation of something already inside you from the start.  Being a Christian isn’t something that you do once in an altar call, but a lifelong journey of self-discovery.

If you refuse the free gift of grace, living life apart from God, God doesn’t snuff you out of existence (though we could argue that he would be justified in doing so).  Instead, he allows you to remain in tact, living both on earth and into eternity.  The soul was created for eternal fellowship with God, to snuff a person out of existence would be to violate the ontology of the soul.  Make it something that it isn’t.  So, what to do with the soul that rejects God?

Well, heaven with God wouldn’t be nice.  If you rebel against and ultimately reject the fellowship of someone (such as divorcing a spouse), you don’t want to spend a solid second with that person ever again–let alone all of eternity!  It would be worse torture than, well, hell.  Cruel, even.

I’ve heard many an atheist express sentiments like this.  Over the course of keeping this blog and venturing into discussion forums with various atheists (such as Theology Web, the Rational Response Squad discussion board, the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forums, and the Is God Imaginary forums), I’ve heard several times over things like, “I’d rather spend eternity in hell than be in heaven with your God!”

This is predicted in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31).  In it, a rich man dies and goes to (presumably) hell, while a beggar named Lazarus ascends to (presumably) heaven.  When the rich man realizes that he’s lost, does he try to alter his fate?  Nope–all he does is ask for a drink of water, something that would satisfy his immediate need only.  Then, he wants to warn his family so that they won’t suffer the same fate.  Notice: he doesn’t want out of hell!

This is why C.S. Lewis observed, wisely I think, that the doors of hell are locked from the inside.  No one is there that doesn’t want to be there.

Hell is perdition and separation.  It is, ultimately, what the sinner wants–total separation from God.  God is giving him his way.  However, for those who submit to God’s way rather than their own, glorification in heaven awaits, and eternal fellowship with God.

POLL: Does this Make Me a Snob?

Recently, I was directed by a Facebook ad to a local church.  I visited the church’s website because the ad said they had a “Gaming Ministry,” meaning that its members had a regular fellowship time to play table-top role-playing games of the Dungeons & Dragons variety.  That intrigued me, both because I used to be an avid player (before two kids sucked all of my free time away) and because most churches think that playing RPGs is a sin.

However, the more I read the site, the more disgusted I became with this church.  As an organization, they look good.  The pastor encourages the same sorts of things that I would if I were a pastor, and the same sorts of things that my own church encourages: membership in small groups, active volunteering and ministering to those in need.  The theology is a bit off from what I would say, given that the pastor is a student at Liberty University and I’m a Calvinist (LU is extremely anti-Calvinist).

Outside of minor theological quibbles, the main reason that I’m appalled by this church is the grammar and spelling on their website.  As an example, this is the description of the Christian Games Team:

[Redacted] heads up this team in its efforts to enrich the lives of the body through games. These things were given to us to enjoy… This team is responsible for the table top Games ministry. Star Wars events are held monthly and other events are common. role Playing and Board game events are scheduled almsote very week with three or more ongoing roled playing campaigns. This group visits Bash Con every year to show the love of God ot gamers with free snacks, drinks, games, and prizes. Fellowships often include boardgames and stategic war games as well as volleyball etc.

The pastor’s blog is no better.

Now, I know that I should probably just let it go.  But whenever I see a website or other form of communication from an organization that is so blatantly littered with bad spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I automatically think the organization is unprofessional and I won’t have any dealings with it.

Am I a snob for this?  I mean, my spelling, grammar, and punctuation aren’t perfect.  I’ve gone back over some previous posts and found errors of all sorts.  But, at least I proofread my copy a couple of times before I post!  My errors tend to be minor and confined to one or two per post.  That sample I provided had an error in nearly every sentence, and two sentences that toe the “run-on sentence” line.

You can add any additional comments below.

Happy Easter!

It’s Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The disciples had no idea what was coming.  The first reports came in: they didn’t believe it.  But then more reports.  Soon, they saw for themselves.

The importance of Easter cannot be overstated.  Paul said it like this:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19, emphasis added)

Fortunately, that is not the case!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “Godhas put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:20-28)

Holy Week (Saturday): What’s Going On Here?

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for our Lord to be raised.  Many times, he predicted this.  Yet, the disciples cowered and hid, not sure of what was going to happen.  Their teacher was disgraced.  Did they believe a lie?

They certainly didn’t believe the predictions, or else they had no idea what the predictions meant at the time Jesus was making them.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (Jn 2:18-22)

They only realized later what Jesus meant.  Jesus predicted his death and Resurrection at other times:

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Mt 12:38-42)

On the final trek to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted his death and Resurrection three times:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mt 16:21-23)

Then:

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. (Mt 17:22-23)

Again:

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mt 20:17-19)

The disciples didn’t believe a lie.  They just failed to understand the necessity of a suffering and dying Messiah.  Tomorrow is when we will get a full handle on what is going on this Holy Week.

Holy Week (Friday): Death of Jesus

After a kangaroo court and an undeserving death sentence, Jesus walks his cross (with some help) to the hill at Calvary:

As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the landuntil the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:32-54)

He is then buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  It really seems as though this small “cult” around Jesus is doomed.  After all, once your leader has been shamed, humiliated, and put to death, what else can you do?

So the disciples secreted away in wait.  But they didn’t know for what!

Holy Week (Thursday): The Last Supper

In the final year of Jesus’ life, he celebrated Passover with his disciples and initiated Communion, the Lord’s Supper.  I discussed the mechanics of this in a previous post, where an atheist from that horrid Reddit thread so naively asked if eating Jesus’ flesh was cannibalism.

Now, let’s put aside asinine discussions of cannibalism and mediate on the initiation of the New Covenant at the Lord’s Supper:

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of thecovenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt 26:17-29)

And so the Lord’s Supper was instituted, to replace Passover.  By this, we remember what our Lord did for us until he returns to the earth to judge the living and the dead.

Later this night, betrayed with a kiss, Jesus is arrested.  Tomorrow, he faces the Sanhedrin and later, Pontius Pilate.  It seems Christianity’s darkest hour.