Blog Archives

Do Apologists Employ the “Humpty Dumpty” Defense?

When Alice meets Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, she finds that he uses words very creatively.  In fact, a word means exactly what Humpty wants it to mean, no more and no less.

Christian apologists are sometimes accused of employing a “Humpty Dumpty Defense” by the atheists we argue with.  This particularly is seen with faith, which is understood as a form of loyalty to a patron based upon that patron’s proven ability to deliver on his promises.

Following the link, you will read a robust defense of why faith is understood this way, as opposed to the popular use of the term to mean “belief in the absence of, or in the teeth of, evidence.”

However, both militant atheists and uninformed Christians use faith in the Richard Dawkins/Mark Twain fashion to “cover up” a lack of evidence for God or the action of the Holy Spirit.  A majority of people believe faith to be “blind faith” — trusting when there appears to be no reason to.  Belief in the absence of evidence is a virtue to these people.  The less God shows himself, or (better) if the evidence actually leads one to believe that God is fictional, the more reward there will be in heaven for believing God does exist.

This is a serious mischaracterization of true Christian faith.  And when I — or others — argue for the traditional understanding of faith, we are accused of employing a “Humpty Dumpty” Defense.

And that is wrong.  Now let me tell you why. Read the rest of this entry

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The Duty to Understand Why You Believe

I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.

— Mortimer Adler

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

Follow Up #1: What is Faith?

The series on why I’m not a Roman Catholic despite the temptation to return to the Church was extremely brief.  I oversimplified many issues, and I wanted to take a quick moment to hash out the ones that deserve further examination.  Let’s start with what my wise brother-in-law pointed out in a comment to part #1, which is that a lot of what I said hinges on defining faith.

Authentic biblical faith has two prongs to it.  The first is right belief, or “orthodoxy.” [1]  Generally speaking, to call yourself a Christian you would have to adhere to the following minimalist set of beliefs:

  • 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

And the rest varies quite wildly, even the mechanics of the above vary somewhat (even if the generic belief is still the same).

You need more, because the devil believes that stuff too.  The second prong is right practice, or “orthopraxy.” [2]  Pure religion is to help others and stay separate from the rest of the world.

Again, it’s great if you save the world, either by donating money to causes, championing nonprofits, or rolling up your sleeves and building an orphanage.  The rich young ruler told Jesus he kept all the commands from childhood, and he wanted to know what else he lacked.  Jesus also told his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount that people who did a lot of great things will cry out for Jesus and he will tell them to depart into hell.  Doing good isn’t enough, either.

You need to bring the two prongs together.  Faith is neither one nor the other, but both together.  Salvation occurs solely by grace, but we respond to that grace in faith.  It’s not just believing.  It’s not just acting on a belief.  Mere belief and mere action are both condemned in Scripture.  Both belief and action are required; one separate from the other isn’t going to cut it.

Saving faith always and necessarily produces works, but the works alone will never create a saving faith.  Works apart from faith are merely some rote ceremony, performed without thought for the one whom the works are supposed to glorify.  Faith apart from the works is similarly dead.  What good is a belief until you act on it, after all?

J.P. Holding explains this in more detail here.

Therefore, a true saving faith is going to manifest itself in the life of the believer in a conspicuous way, through that believer’s works.  We see this in the changed lives of those who surrender to Christ. [3] Read the rest of this entry

Why Faith in Christ Requires More than Emotion

[T]he force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own. Young people whose faith is mostly emotional are likely to retain it only as long as it is making them happy. As soon as a difficult crisis comes along, it will evaporate.

–Nancy Pearcy, Saving Leonardo, Kindle iPad Edition, p. 16 (emphasis added)

Faith in Quotes: The Conclusion

Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.

— D. Elton Trueblood

Faith in Quotes IX

Faith is not contrary to reason.

— Sherwood Eddy

Faith in Quotes VIII

Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.

— Thomas Aquinas

Faith in Quotes VII

Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.

— Blaise Pascal

Faith in Quotes VI

Faith and doubt both are needed – not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.

— Lillian Smith