Category Archives: Heresy

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.

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An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe

This post and this post have engendered some spirited discussion between a poster named Clare Flourish, a Christian who defends the homosexual lifestyle as a God-given gift, and me, who follows what the Bible says on the matter.

Clare’s follow up post is a veritable case study on how to read into things what you want to be there, instead of what is actually there.  She does that to both my words and the words of the Bible.  I suppose if she’s lax with Scripture reading, I should expect no better given that Scripture contains the words of God himself while I am just a man with no special revelation.

[Cory] wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. [1]

Really?  That’s interesting.  If you read my comment, I said this:

Finally, gay people are no more damned than any of us, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we are also urged to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which we are called, which gay people who are living in homosexual relationships are NOT.

Does that mean you’re going to hell? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Probably not. It means that you have a sin in your life and that must be dealt with. It doesn’t mean God loves you less; he did, after all, call you to be a Christian.

You will have to deal with this in your own time and in your own way. I see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I applaud that. However, I think you’ve come to the wrong conclusions and I’m not afraid to say that you have. Just as you are not afraid to say that I’ve come to the wrong conclusions. (emphasis added) [2]

So I’m not trying to save Clare from any hell, future or otherwise.  What I’m trying to do is be her Christian brother and point her away from sin that is impeding her relationship with the Lord.  I don’t think she’s going to hell and I can’t save her from a place she’s not going.  I think she has a sin that needs to be eliminated.

As to the idea that humanity is naturally wicked, well that’s pretty much the unanimous teaching of Scripture and of history.  I’ve already covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into it now. Read the rest of this entry

Why do People Become Atheists?

I’ve posited that atheists do not want ultimate accountability to God, and that is part of their motivation for denying God’s existence.  Atheists try hard to resist that, but a few have been forthright about it.  Philosopher Thomas Nagel, for example, wrote:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Now, the Atheist Camel comes clean as well.  When contemplating what the reaction would be to bulletproof evidence that there is a god, he said:

I’ll proffer that it depends on the god’s persona. If it is a hands (or trunk, or tentacles) off god, who created us and lets us live out our lives as independent beings unfettered by its irrational  threats and demands; perhaps a fun loving kind of being that finds our behavior amusing or disgusting, but nevertheless nonjudgmental–  perhaps asking only for an occasional acknowledgement and thank you now and then I’d have no problem with it. Acknowledge and move on. (source, emphasis added)

So he’s fine as long as there is minimal intrusion in his life.  Now, what if this deity was the God of the Bible and did demand certain things?

Where scientists never before bothered to contemplate the supernatural, many of them, and our freethinking brethren, would now kowtow to this God’s demands.  But many more would turn their attention toward one objective…find a way to destroy it.  An underground movement, an army of partisans, dedicated to freedom of thought, rationality, fairness and conscience battling not only for the freedom to live life free from omnipotent oppression and irrationality, but for the freedom and right to die and fade into oblivion without pain and fear.

If there were a proven God of the Bible in all its horrendous glory man would be compelled to stop killing each other. The thinking among us would turn our undivided attention to find a way to kill this God monster … once and for all. (source, emphasis added)

So the truth comes out.  As long as the Atheist Camel gets to live as he chooses, with no interference from a deity, he’s fine.  But the moment there is an expectation of behavior and a requisite final judgement, he thinks that humans should join together and kill that God.

What can I say?  This confirms my original theory about atheists wanting to avoid final judgment classic-D&D-style — rolling a 20-sider and saying “I disbelieve.”  I just wish more atheists were this honest.

What is True Christianity(tm)? (part 3)

In part 1, I talked about how skeptics and atheists often complain when I (or another apologist) make the comment that such-and-so Christian is wrong.  The skeptic usually says it means I have found “True Christianity™” and every other Christian who disagrees is going to go to hell.

Not so.  And there’s no such thing as True Christianity™.

In part 2, I discussed degrees of wrong, using a traffic light as a guide.  Green light is 99% of Christianity; just denominations hashing out some differences of procedure.  Yellow light redefines core doctrines.  Red light denies core doctrines and is strongly associated with a central figure who receives his own divine revelations.

Paul talks about agreeing to disagree, to welcome everyone and to not make the work of God void over what we should eat and drink.  So can we ever fight for the faith?

In green light situations, there is no reason to fight.  My own denomination is the United States branch of a German group, so it isn’t its own denomination proper.  However, we’ve split twice in the last 30 years.  In the mid-80s, Grace College and Ashland College split over the classic Calvinism (Ashland) versus Arminianism (Grace) battle.  In the early 90s, a Grace professor split over who to welcome into churches.

These aren’t worthwhile fights, but I know they happen anyway and will continue to happen until Christ returns.  We should just let these green light situations be, and live as peaceably as possible with them as it depends on us.

Yellow light and red light situations are totally different.

In the case of Ergun Caner, an example of a yellow light situation, it kills me to see Christians not care that he lied about his background to win Muslims to Christ.  All these Christians care about is that Caner won them.  What does that say about their moral character if they are willing to excuse (I can’t believe I’m about to use this derided expression) lying for Jesus?

The ends do not justify the means.  I know that God has called Christians to a higher standard than that.  Which means that we should win people with the truth to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And when we see lying like this, we should repudiate it and the supporters of it (I’m looking at you, Norm Geisler).

A bona fide red light situation, such as Harold Camping’s Family Radio, should be addressed expeditiously.  Today, October 21, is allegedly the end of the world according to Harold Camping.  Yet I’m here to write this and I presume someone is reading this.

Camping and his Family Radio movement deny the presence of the Holy Spirit within the universal church and have fixed today somewhat arbitrarily as the end of the world.  That, together with the strong association with Camping, gives this the earmarks of heresy outlined in my previous post.

This error needs to be addressed, and Camping called to repentance.  (I already did back in May.)

I hope that this series of posts have cleared up what True Christianity™ is, and is not.  God has promised to preserve his church on earth, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  So whether we identify as Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, Grace Brethren, or Anglican, we should welcome each other with open arms in our churches and celebrate our differences rather than be divided by them.

When redefinition occurs, we should point it out.

When denial occurs, we should repudiate it.

Above all, we should join with Jesus in prayer that we be one, as he and the Father are One.

What is True Christianity(tm)? (part 2)

I did part 1 of this a long, long, time ago but never quite got to part 2.

In the last post, I basically said that we should bow to the weaker brother and let him have his ritual.  If he thinks that we must be baptized by triune immersion in a lake, then let him get baptized that way.  If he thinks all Christians should abstain from alcohol, then don’t crack open an ice-cold Corona with a lime wedge in front of him.

In the non-essentials of faith, let the weaker brother abstain.  Don’t try to talk him out of it.  Don’t insist on giving him a glass of wine, stay clear of it in front of him as well.  Don’t force him to use a baptismal, offer to drive him to a lake yourself.

But, there are times when you have to come after fellow Christians and tell them they are wrong.

For example, in my extended review of John Shelby Spong’s Sins of Scripture (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7), I handed the good bishop his butt.  I fought for the traditional deposit of faith, above Spong’s redefinition of all the terms.  I did that because, as James White often says, the gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.  Spong completely changes what it means to be a Christian, and how a Christian ought to approach the Scriptures.

Spong basically denies every fundamental of the faith that I listed in the previous post, to wit:

  • Existence of God as a Trinity
  • Preeminence of Christ over his creation
  • Mankind fell into sin, and is now utterly enslaved to it
  • Death of Jesus making atonement for the sins of mankind
  • Resurrection of Jesus on the third day
  • Future return of Christ to judge the living and the dead

Currently, a Christian is doing this same thing to me, here.  I might be wrong, because I’m not infallible.  I believe that faith is more than belief, that it is also good works.  In other words, faith is loyalty to God manifested by both belief and good works.  Mike, however, doesn’t think so.  We are both trying to come to some sort of common ground with each other.

Which raises the question: When do I get to call an error “error?”

I think there are three categories of theological error.  Let’s discuss them. Read the rest of this entry

What is True Christianity(tm)? (part 1)

It keeps coming up in discussions with atheists that I say certain Christians are wrong about particulars of Christianity.  And they are.  If I’m right on certain things (which I think I am), then necessarily others who disagree with me are wrong.  Not a radical notion.

What do you suppose happens when I call a Christian’s particular doctrine into question?  I always get the same response from the atheist.  He sarcastically tells me that I believe I’m the only one who has found True Christianity™ and that I believe every other Christian will burn, just like every other Christian he has spoken to, because believers are all that arrogant.

I think that is more evidence of the shallow thinking of the atheist, not to mention their complete ignorance of theology.  Atheists, I’m going to make this as plain as I possibly can:  There is no such thing as True Christianity™! Read the rest of this entry

Case Against the Case for Gay Marriage, part 4

David, an atheist who is dedicated to exposing Christianity for what it is, has begun a new blog that I discovered quite by accident.

Though he deleted the post that this series is replying to, I am still running my series.

David lays out the following argument in favor of gay marriage:

  1. Homosexuality is not unnatural. (answered)
  2. Neither homosexuality nor its acts have been proven inferior to heterosexuality or its acts. (answered)
  3. Marriage is a basic human right. (answered)
  4. Homosexual unions are unfairly not being given full and equal rights as heterosexual unions.
  5. Therefore, homosexual marriages with full and equal rights should be legalized and put into effect.

These get easier and easier to answer.

Premise (4) is a nominal attempt to say that homosexual unions aren’t given full rights through a fallacy of special pleading.

However, that’s not the case for three reasons.  First, we have shown that homosexuality isn’t the typical order of things.

Second, we have demonstrated that heterosexual unions are superior by simple utilitarianism — which is the typical philosophy of right and wrong espoused by supporters of gay marriage (see NotAScientist’s comment for a great example of utilitarianism in action).

Third, marriage rights are regulated for perfectly valid reasons.

Therefore, it is easy to conclude that there is no special pleading going on.  Recall for something to be special pleading, there can be no valid reason for differentiating it from other cases.  In the case of gay marriage, there are big differences between it and heterosexual marriage, which is exactly the reason its forbidden in the first place.

This means (4) is out of gas.  And, it means I’m done without having to address (5) as a conclusion.  David has uber-failed to establish any of his premises as true.  In fact, they are all false.  Therefore, the conclusion is faulty and I will let this series stand, unless David cares to defend himself.

Case Against the Case for Gay Marriage, part 3

David, an atheist who is dedicated to exposing Christianity for what it is, has begun a new blog that I discovered quite by accident.

Though he deleted the post that this series is replying to, I am still running my series.

David lays out the following argument in favor of gay marriage:

  1. Homosexuality is not unnatural. (answered)
  2. Neither homosexuality nor its acts have been proven inferior to heterosexuality or its acts. (answered)
  3. Marriage is a basic human right.
  4. Homosexual unions are unfairly not being given full and equal rights as heterosexual unions.
  5. Therefore, homosexual marriages with full and equal rights should be legalized and put into effect.

Now we tackle premise (3), which is (like its predecessors) demonstrably false. Read the rest of this entry

Case Against the Case for Gay Marriage, part 2

David, an atheist who is dedicated to exposing Christianity for what it is, has begun a new blog that I discovered quite by accident.

Though he deleted the post that this series is replying to, I am still running my series.

David lays out the following argument in favor of gay marriage:

  1. Homosexuality is not unnatural. (answered)
  2. Neither homosexuality nor its acts have been proven inferior to heterosexuality or its acts.
  3. Marriage is a basic human right.
  4. Homosexual unions are unfairly not being given full and equal rights as heterosexual unions.
  5. Therefore, homosexual marriages with full and equal rights should be legalized and put into effect.

Premise (2) pretty much deserves a rhetorical “Are you kidding me?” in reply and nothing more.

David’s incoherent explanation:

According to the American Psychological Association, it has officially been declared that homosexuality is not a choice or a decision. (source)

Which we already acknowledged in the refutation of premise (1).  The issue with premise (1) is that homosexuality was immoral, not that it is “unnatural;” it is certainly found within nature and is likely a part of our human nature.

But that doesn’t make it “good.”

Now, this premise takes it that we haven’t proven it “inferior,” but it never takes the time to define what would constitute the act being inferior. Read the rest of this entry

Case Against the Case for Gay Marriage, part 1

David, an atheist who is dedicated to exposing Christianity for what it is, has begun a new blog that I discovered quite by accident.

It’s actually a funny story, which I’ll tell even though it has nothing to do with the actual argument that I’ll be critiquing from the site.  I was trimming my RSS feed and noticed that, very long ago, John W. Loftus had started a blog called Counter-Apologetics Master Program.  He intended to create a degree program to combat Christian apologetics.  I noticed that it hadn’t been updated in a long time, so I visited the site to see if it was even still active.

Turns out, the blog address had been abandoned by Loftus, but claimed by David.  David started his blog as a counterpoint to Matt Slick’s ministry CARM, even calling his blog by the same acronym.  Probably to get accidental traffic.

So, anyway, I literally wandered into this by total accident.

In a deleted post, David challenges CARM to reply to his argument in favor of gay marriage.  I don’t know if David deleted the post because it’s a terrible argument, or because he’s attempting to refine it.  However, I’m still going to answer it, a piece at a time, in this series.

Even though I’m not affiliated with CARM.

Read the rest of this entry