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Category Archives: God

Meme Crush, part 1

One day soon, I will get back to answering the 40 Questions for Christians.  For now, let’s just do a quick meme that one of my atheist friends shared.  I’ll tackle part of it today, and part of it tomorrow.

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So what we have here is supposedly God’s to do list.  Each has an actionable item and two of them supply a reason for the action.  Three actions are correct, while one is question-begging.  Neither reason is correct.

First, Appeal to Motive is a logical fallacy.  However, it is relevant here because it is the bottom line reason this author gets so much wrong.  The author has a man-centric viewpoint.  God’s actions are meant to glorify himself, not win our approval.  While that makes God sound like a selfish prick, remember that his actions are also rooted in a deep, abiding love for humanity in general, and his elect in particular.  The writer of this meme pictures God as begging for our approval, while the correct picture is us begging for his forgiveness of our sins.

With that out of the way (1) is correct and needs no expounding.

The action item of (2) is absolutely correct.  But no reason?  To the text:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:5-7)

The text goes on to say, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  (Gen 6:11-12)  Man is corrupt.  All that he thinks about is evil.  The earth is corrupt, violent.  All flesh (men) is corrupted.  So horrible is this corruption that God is grieved that he ever made humans, and decides that the one course of action is to simply destroy them.  All except one man:  Noah.

Think about this for a minute.  The human race is compared to a single human several times throughout the Bible.  So let’s go with that.  If you have a gangrenous limb, and the only solution is amputation, wouldn’t you do that instead of succumbing to death?  This is similar, but in reverse.  God found it necessary to rid the earth of people so that the one righteous one could continue.

Whether you agree with the reason or not is immaterial.  It’s just plain wrong to claim that there is no reason.

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40 Questions to Ask Christians: Communication with God

After a one year absence from apologetics blogging, I have returned, inspired by this hub from Thomas Swan.  Swan has a Ph.D in physics and a master’s degree in the cognitive science of religion.  Sadly, these academic decorations do not give him the ability to generate better questions about religion than my 7 year old.

As infantile as the understanding of Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? and God is Imaginary websites’ understanding of prayer was, I think it was deeper and better-reasoned than Dr. Swan’s.  So let’s get to the questions. Read the rest of this entry

Shermer’s Summary of Christian Belief

I’m dumbstruck by the number of former believers, people who say that they were passionate Christians — read the Bible, prayed often, and even engaged in door-to-door evangelism — that can’t seem to articulate their former belief system correctly.

They are atheists because they believe that the God they once served never existed.  And that’s a real possibility.  Based on Michael Shermer’s summary of his former faith, I can confidently say that that god doesn’t exist.

This is Shermer’s summary from the forward to Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists:

  1. Christians claim that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenovolent — all knowing, all powerful, all present, and all good, creator of the universe and everything in it including us.

  2. Christians believe that we were originally created sinless, but because God gave us free will and Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, we are all born with original sin as a part of our nature even though we did not commit the original sinful act ourselves.

  3. God could just forgive the sin we never committed, but instead he sacrificed his son Jesus, who is actually just himself in the flesh because Christians believe in only one god — that’s what monotheism means — of which Jesus and the Holy Spirit are just different manifestations.  Three in One and One in Three.

  4. The only way to avoid eternal punishment for sins we never committed from this all-loving God is to accept his son — who is actually himself — as our savior.  So …

God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.  Barking mad! [p. 11-12; ellipses and emphasis in original]

Let’s take it one at a time.

There seems to be little to with which to take issue in (1).

(2) is basically right; however, original sin represents the propensity to sin rather than an actual sin itself.  Sin taints the whole earth and everything in it, including mankind.

So we are born with a sinful nature, and that is abhorrent to God.  If we remain on that course, we will sin and we will move further and further away from God.  The solution can’t, therefore, come from ourselves and must come from God.

(3) has two problems with it.  First, I hesitate to say that God can’t simply forgive sin.  What God cannot do is behave inconsistently with his own nature, because God is perfect.  So I’d prefer to think of it as God won’t simply forgive sin; but a price or a penalty must be exacted first.  In the Old Testament, we see a sacrificial system in place to make propitiation for our sins.

Why?  Because there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.  God killed a bear to cover Adam and Eve’s shame — the example we draw from!  The High Priest would make propitiation once per year by making an offering and entering the Holy of Holies by the blood of it.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The second problem is the description of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as “manifestations” of God.  There is only one essence of divinity in Christianity, and this essence is simultaneously shared by God the Father (the Creator, described in the OT), God the Son (the Savior), and God the Spirit (the Helper).

Characterizing these Persons as “different manifestations” of God is heresy.  The Athanasian Creed, one of the three foundational creeds of Christendom, defines what the Trinity is and is not, and it doesn’t leave room for modalism:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

Each Person of the Trinity shares the power, glory, majesty, and titles with all other members.  However, each has different roles not shared with the others:

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

As for (4), it suffers from the fundamental error identified in (2): sin is both action and nature, and the fact that we have a sin nature is itself abhorrent to God.  But, left on that path with no aid, we will sin.  So we’re born sinful, we follow that nature — no surprise there — and God punishes us.  Not for sins we didn’t commit, but for ones we absolutely did.

The way out is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  This recreates our flesh anew and removes the sin nature; it removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.  We are regenerated.  We are no longer enslaved to sin, and so we are able to choose life instead of inevitably following the path that leads to death.

The conclusion suffers from all of the problems I identified — misunderstanding of the Trinity, misunderstanding of sin, misunderstanding of what the Savior does for us when we accept him as such.

So good for Shermer in not believing in this god.  He clearly doesn’t exist.  The God described by the Bible, however, does exist!  Let’s hope there’s an argument against him somewhere in the rest of the book.

We Have a Major Theological Crisis!!!

by Andrew Corbett

We have a major theological crisis. It’s really bad. In the public square we hear it, read it, and are shaped by it. Most of the proponents of this bad theology make the most amazing statements about their ‘god’ and then make the outrageous assertion that they are describing our God. For those introduced to God, it is easy to detect this bad theology. Truthful theology presents God as the Sovereign, All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Good God who demands, expects and deserves our utter devotion and submission. Deceptive theology presents its god as the one responsible for our happiness and existing to grant our requests. Even the youngest Christian with an elementary understanding of the Bible can spot the difference. And you can easily tell the difference for yourself between those who hold to Truthful Theology and those who hold to Deceptive theology: their response to tragedy.

I frequently see an argument framed thus:  How can there be an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God if there’s all kinds of tragedy in the world?  There’s some variation of it on every atheist gathering place the Internet has to offer.

I think Andrew Corbett nails the answer:  Bad Theology!  People create a false idea of who God is, and then they mad at their false god, and they decide he doesn’t exist.  Of course he doesn’t exist!  But don’t mistake him for the real God!

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Dr. Moreau & Why Christianity is Different

I’ve been asked, “What makes Christianity different than any other religion?”

Answer: it addresses a fundamental problem of human nature in a way superior to all other religions.

The problem in question is ontological — can we overcome our natural inclinations through sheer willpower alone?  Can we train away our very selves?  Or, put another way, can nurture overcome our nature? Read the rest of this entry

More Dumb Tweets: Belief and Morality

Juan A. Raposo put up a fascinating tweet:

The implication being that theists are only moral because our belief in God keeps us moral.

So if not for that belief, we’d be vicious killing machines.  That thought misses a grand contradiction: Ask yourself, “What restrains the atheist from raping and pillaging?”  Belief that those things are wrong.

Is that belief fundamentally different from belief in God?

The atheist would say yes, but if he were consistent he’d be forced to admit that it differs very little.  After all, the Atheist Mantra is that there is “no evidence” for God and  God can’t be scientifically proven, right?

And that means that belief in God is worthless.  The underlying principle is a form of logical positivism, variously called empiricism or scientism.  It accepts only that which can be proven scientifically (scientism) or that which can be experienced by the senses (empiricism) as valid evidence.  Most atheists use this to disqualify evidence or argument that God exists.

The flip side is that morality can’t be scientifically proven, either.  So the belief that it is immoral to rape and pillage local towns is on the same grounds as God.  If one accepts the implied tenet that only that which can be scientifically proven is worth believing, then one cannot be consistent and also believe that raping and pillaging are morally wrong.  One has to prove that case.

So we both believe, without empirical evidence, that something restrains us from committing grievous harms against our fellow humans.  And that, by Raposo’s estimation, means neither of us are moral — but that’s the whole point of needing a Savior, isn’t it?

Mega-Facepalm!

Sometimes, some things are so stupid that I don’t think they really warrant a serious reply.  Case-in-point:

Then I remember the horrid truth.  Most people have so little discernment that stuff like this would actually convince them that the critics of religion have made some kind of point.

Does that crucifix qualify as making a god out of cast metal?

In one sense, yes.  Jesus is God, and the maker of the crucifix has manufactured an image of Jesus out of cast metal.  Therefore, he has sinned.  But does that feel right to you?

The passage forbids us from making a god out of cast metal.  The real Jesus, of course, is cut from the same cloth as the Father and as the Spirit.  He’s not made of cast metal, but this crucifix is a symbol designed to remind us of the Savior.

So, what this passage is actually forbidding, for example, would be me designing an elaborate Staunton-style chess king out of brass with some custom engraving and decorations.  Then naming it George.  Then worshiping George as an all-powerful God of Chess, who has endowed me with both the interest and the acumen to play the game of kings.

Get it?

This passage is forbidding inventing a god out of workable materials.  God isn’t a being you manufacture from earthly things, he is one that you seek through heavenly things.  God is to be sought, not invented.

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Sixth

The final Way of Atheism from Geoffrey Berg is the Some of God’s Defining Qualities Cannot Exist argument.  After tackling this argument, three things remain with this project.

First, I will contact Geoffrey Berg via his website to see if he is interested in rebutting my points.

Second, I want to reread the Fifth Way just to see if there are any points I missed.

Finally, I will start replying to the comments I’ve received thus far on all Six Ways.

All right, Mr. Berg, so far the arguments are stinkers.  One final shot: impress me…

  1. God must have certain characteristic qualities (such as providing purpose to life), otherwise he would not be God.
  2. But it is impossible for any entity to possess some of these qualities (such as providing purpose for life since we can find no real purpose and therefore in practice we have no ultimate purpose to our lives) that are essential to God.
  3. Therefore since some of God’s essential qualities (such as being the purpose provider to life) cannot possibly exist in any entity, God cannot exist.

I agree with (1).

Ooooh… I have to take some exception with (2).

On pages 156-157, Berg outlines that there is no purpose to life based on the fact that he’s never gotten a good answer from a theist.  That’s a terrible reason to conclude that there is no purpose for life.

The answer, I think, lies in two prongs.  First, we exist because God has purposed an outcome to this universe and we are to play a role in it.  As Isaiah points out, God has declared the end from the beginning (Is 46:10).  Human history is building to a final outcome purposed by and brought about by God.  We are agents of that by God’s design.

We do not know what ultimate part we play, and that leads us to the second reason we exist:  the journey of discovery that is life.  This journey becomes the foundation for our eternity.  If life on earth is a geometric plane, then life in eternity is geometric space.  If our life takes the shape of a circle, then in eternity it will inevitably be a sphere.

Which means that we need to take the time to investigate what it means to live a “good life.”  Because the foundation we are laying now determines the shape of our lives to come.  The foundation is irreversible; we want to lay the best one we can, and that means living right by God’s standards.

As Berg says, “to worship God” isn’t a very good reason to exist.  It is part of what we are to do, but it isn’t the end of the story.  God created the first humans to tend the Garden of Eden — to superintend and care for creation.  We perverted our own purpose when we first chose to disobey God, but the corruption of a thing shouldn’t be confused with the thing.  Meaning, we should recapture our original purpose by realizing that life is (as Berg points out) about the journey as much as the destination.

And, keeping with the superintendence idea, leave the Earth a little better than we found it.

None of this, of course, is possible apart from God.  And that renders premise (2) faulty.  Meaning (3) is not a correct conclusion.

Now, essentially, I’ve left the purpose of life open for each individual to find his or her own.  In so doing, I have actually made an objection that Berg anticipates; though he phrases it quite differently.  His basic answer to reassert that there is no ultimate purpose for life, even if you’re searching.  Berg gives the general objection that each purpose one finds leads one to ask what the purpose of that purpose is.

To that, I remind everyone that there is no need to explain an explanation.  If we would have concluded that the purpose of life is to have kids, then that’s the purpose of life.  Asking, “Why have kids?” is redundant because it’s the purpose of life.

Showing that the purpose of this life is to lay a foundation for an eternal existence, however, does not fall prey to the infinite regress of asking “For what purpose?”  If I’m right, there is no need to ask for additional clarification because starting eternity off right is an end in and of itself.

UPDATED

  • September 25, 2012 @ 10:45pm: Added the proper citation from Isaiah.

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Fourth

The Fourth Way of Atheism (This is Not the Best Possible World Argument) runs thus:

  1. God if he exists must be omnipotent, supremely good, and our ultimate creator.
  2. Therefore an existent God (being supremely good and competent) would have created the best possible world.
  3. As the world is inconsistent (between ages and people) it cannot all be the best possible world.
  4. Therefore as the world is not the best possible world, God cannot exist.

This would be true if not for one pesky little detail that Berg never addresses.  Let’s trace this argument from premise (1) to its conclusion to see where it goes awry.

I absolutely agree with (1).  No doubt that a being who wasn’t omnipotent, supremely good, and our ultimate creator would not be God in any sense of the term.

I agree with (2) in the sense that God did create the best possible world.  See Genesis 1:31 — creation is described as “very good” from God’s perspective.  It is doubtful that an omnipotent, perfectly good being would describe anything but the best possible world as “very good.”

(3) is true, but it skips a step — the Fall!

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12-13, emphasis added)

After dealing with the serpent and Eve, God turns to Adam:

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:17-19, emphasis added)

So now the world we see today is a punishment because of the transgression of Adam.  So this is not the best possible world; it was, now it is cursed because of the actions of humanity in defiance to God.

Once we understand that God created the best possible world, but cursed it to punish humanity, we realize that this argument doesn’t hold water.

All of the anticipated objections that Berg deals with are softball responses and so require no comment from me.  My objection, as always, is not anticipated.

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Third

Next from Geoffrey Berg’s Six Ways of Atheism we have the God Has No Explanatory Value Argument:

  1. God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answers to all of our ultimate questions — otherwise he is not God.
  2. Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
  3. Therefore hypothesizing is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
  4. Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law — ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
  5. Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.

Starting with (1), I agree that God should provide the answers to all of the ultimate questions.  When explaining the argument, however, Berg lists attributes of God (eternal, absolute good, purpose-giver) rather than explaining what big questions he means.  He only ends up asking one: How did the universe arise?

… [T]he answer for theists is, of course, God created it.  How did God arise?  Well, God has always existed.  But, why then, has the Universe not always existed?  Thus God can be cut out as an unnecessary extra.  Poor God, always being cut out as an unnecessary extra that contributes nothing to understanding except complication.  God is no more than a valueless extra intermediary stage in explanation.  (p. 64)

This didn’t work for Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and it isn’t going to work for Berg now.  “Who made God?” is not a valid retort. Read the rest of this entry