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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.

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Scripture Saturday: Importance of Bible Study (Prv 28:9)

I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me.  And that means I will now introduce two new features.  If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.

The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible.  I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me.  It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.

On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future.  I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here.  Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules.  After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.

The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday.  What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.  (Prv 28:9)

Strongly worded.  If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination.  An abomination!  That’s the strongest way God can revile something.  And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! 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

On the Euthyphro Dilemma

Is it moral because God says so or does God say so because it’s moral? False dilemma. It’s moral because that’s the way God is.  — William Lane Craig

I think that this an excellent and adequate response to the Euthyphro dilemma.  I believe that the answer is rooted in the ontology of God as perfectly good.

However, I don’t think that the skeptic would ever be convinced by such an answer.

He’ll just ask how we know God is good, and when we way “the Bible,” he’ll mention that the Bible also says to sacrifice turtledoves to “clean” women during their menstrual cycles, confirms the existence of unicorns, and prohibits football.

Now, all of those things are hyper-literal readings of the text and have simple responses. My point here is that the skeptic doesn’t accept the Bible’s description of anything, let alone God.

To illustrate, archeologists give the benefit of the doubt to ancient documents when a site contradicts a document. The thought is that the ancient writer was closer to the events and probably knows better than we do thousands of years later. Not to mention that its possible that a site might have been altered, destroyed, rebuilt, or built upon between the composition of the document and our discovery of the site.

However, when that ancient document is the Bible, then the error is automatically assumed to be with the Bible, and not assumed to be one of a myriad of possibilities like the ones I just mentioned. To recap, random ancient document contradicts a site: “There’s probably an explanation. Let’s assume the document is right and find out the reason for the contradiction.” The Bible contradicts a site: “Bible’s wrong, it’s complete fiction, God doesn’t exist. Three cheers for freethought!”

While I think that the answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma lies in God’s ontology, I think that in order to get the skeptic to see that, he must be willing to step out in faith and trust the Bible. However, given all of the skeptical attacks on the Bible (despite it previously thought to have been very reliable), there’s a long way to go on that.

By the way, I’m not the only one that sees this.  The Bible has yielded much good archeology in the past, and if we would continue to rely on it I have faith it will produce much more good in the future.  However, there is a serious prejudice against the Bible not only in archeology, but in every academic discipline.

History and archeology aren’t my thing, but I hope that other apologists who feel called to that area work hard to counter some of this anti-Bible sentiment in those fields.  If the Bible can be believed again as a reliable ancient source of history, then we will have taken a good step toward resolving some of the theological questions being raised as well.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Election/Predestination

More questions from the Reddit thread that proposes questions theists can’t answer. These are focused on election/predestination.

If god knows everything that is and will ever be, and he knows that you will not accept him before you are even born, why would he send you to hell? You are essentially judged before you can do anything. What kind of “good” god would do that?

So, basically, if you don’t accept God’s free gift of grace, it’s his fault?  No, no, no, no, no, no.  The only way that someone is judged before he has a chance to do anything is if God actually creates the unbelief and decrees the sin leading to, nurturing, and sustaining the unbelief.  God doesn’t do any of that; he knows all of that in advance.

“Knowing” that something is so is a far cry from “making” it so.  The example I gave recently is rather crude, but it works.  Ted gave Bill two choices.  Either Bill could watch Eliza Dushku privately re-enact the scene where she models bikinis in The New Guy just for Bill, or Ted can slap Bill in across the face with a wet codfish.

Ted knows without a doubt that Bill will pick the bikini modeling thing.  There can be no question in anyone’s mind, even if you haven’t seen Eliza model the bikinis in The New Guy, that Bill will pick that option.  Ted didn’t make Bill pick that option.  He only knew that Bill would select it.

In other words, God knowing that a creature will do X is not the same as God forcing a creature to do X.  Or, more appropriately, ordering the universe in such a way that it is inescapable the creature will do X. Read the rest of this entry

Convincing Skeptics to Believe

John W. Loftus discussed what it would take to convince him to believe. The discussion was prompted when Jayman, a Christian, asked  Loftus if he witnessed a bona fide miracle, would he then believe in God? Let’s look at the hubris displayed in the answer:

I have said that it would take a personal miracle for me to believe. I didn’t say what kind of miracle nor did I comment on the other things that would have to accompany that miracle. Let me do so now. . . .

Let’s say the miracle was an anonymous one, like the resurrection of my cousin Steve Strawser, who died at 58 alone in the woods of a massive heart attack, or the skeptic Ken Pulliam who died in October. I would believe in a supernatural reality, yes, but an anonymous one. I don’t think I could conclude anything different. But it would be an anonymous god who did it. I could not conclude much about this god other than that he could raise the dead. (emphasis added)

Once telling us that a miracle would convince him, he qualifies that by saying that a miracle is only evidence of a supernatural entity, but the identity of said entity is still open for conjecture. Then he backtracks:

So I would need more than a miracle, even though that scenario is already far fetched to begin with. (emphasis added)

After the miracle, Loftus wants God to take credit for it, by making a personal appearance (of course). Loftus further considers that proposition:

But let’s say that along with such a miracle I am told by this deity to believe exactly the way Jayman does about Christianity. That presumes even more than that a miracle occurred, since there are so many brands of Christianity around, some accusing the others of heresy. Would I believe then?

Assuming that the miracle came, the worker of the miracle has shown himself and taken credit, then he tells Loftus to believe exactly as a specific Christian believes. Meaning God’s power has been demonstrated, and then asserts his authority. Does Loftus submit?

So, if I experienced a personal miracle I would require more than just that to believe in Jayman’s god. I have so many objections to the Bible and the biblical god I would have to reconcile what I know with what this deity told me to believe. I cannot even understand why any god would require me to believe in the first place! At that point I would be forced to chose between Jayman’s god and a trickster conception of god, and the trickster god would have to be my choice given what I know. (emphasis added)

Wow. Don’t miss Loftus’s  this:

  1. An incontrovertible miracle occurs.
  2. God himself appears to Loftus and takes credit.
  3. God tells Loftus which Christian denomination is correct in all doctrinal points.
  4. However, Loftus doesn’t think that any branch of Christianity is correct.
  5. Loftus assumes that the deity who appeared and worked the miracle is now tricking him.

In conclusion:

If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised. (source, emphasis added)

This is quite educational. My conclusion: John W. Loftus is an arrogant and unrelenting narcissist who has put himself in place of God. In his own words, Loftus has said, “Even if God himself proved his existence beyond a reasonable doubt and told me that Christianity is true, I’ll believe it but I’m still not going to worship God.”

Literally, John Loftus has just told us that he knows better than God. Only on the Internet can you witness egos this big first hand.  And, this proves that no one is in hell kicking, screaming, and crying to be let out (as I’ve frequently argued).  Loftus would rather be there then to bow down and worship God.

I don’t think I can add anything further. This speaks for itself.

Do I Only Have to Reject One More God to be an Atheist?

There is one particular atheist argument that I hear quite regularly that inspires within me a desire to smack the smug person who says it right in the back of the head, as though he were Tony DiNozzo and I were Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

The argument runs a bit like this:

You are an atheist to thousands of gods.  I’m only an atheist to one more god than you are.

The speaker is acting as if I only have to take one small step and I’ll be free of this Vulcan mind-meld of Christianity and I can live my life like a “normal” person.  But atheism isn’t just lacking belief in one less god than the Christian.  Atheism is lacking a belief in any sort of deity.  In other words, atheism is rejecting the Divine.  Let’s explore that for a moment, because it is far deeper than rejecting “just another god.” Read the rest of this entry

Related Series on Parchment and Pen

I’m running through DaGoodS’s list of questions Christians hope no one will ask. This has become a pretty popular series, so I thought for a moment that C. Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen blog copied my idea and did a similar series of his own, “Questions I Hope No One Asks.” So far, he has two:

  1. Why doesn’t God save everyone?
  2. Why did God put Satan in Eden?

I read the first post just to see if he mentioned the series on this blog as his inspiration. Alas, he either had the idea all by himself or decided not to mention me. Although I agree that “free will,” “God doesn’t love everyone,” “He’ll save everyone eventually” are all inferior answers, Patton’s own answer of “I don’t know” is equally insufficient.

As a fellow Calvinist, Patton ought to know that everything God does is intended to reveal his glory. God wishes to reveal all of himself to those he has chosen as vessels of mercy, and so in order to reveal his hatred of sin and wrath against unrighteousness, he has passed over many of his creations and allows them to suffer under his wrath.

That’s a sufficient answer to someone like me, who is confident of salvation and steadfast enough in faith to continue to run the race until the end. But to someone who is perishing, it is pure folly (to put it nicely). In other words, my answer satisfies believers firm in their faith but leaves unbelievers or believers who are questioning their faith thinking of God as a maniacal, merciless tyrant playing dice with the lives of people he ostensibly loves.

Yet my answer is still consistent with Scripture. The key is that the answer satisfies believers with a strong or unshakable faith (Rom 8:28), who are the people that God works all things out for. But to those who are perishing, it sounds like “folly” (1 Cor 1:18).

But what about those who are tottering on the brink of de-conversion? Well, God doesn’t really like the fence-sitters (Rev 3:16). An answer like that is bound to make you pick a side, not continue sitting the fence.

I’m not terribly comfortable with that answer, however confident I am that it is the right one. I don’t know why so many people have to be in the “perishing” category. It seems as though God could have created a system that revealed his full character and brought him glory, and resulted in more people saved. But, as I’ve pointed out time and again, the goal of this experiment called the human race was not to maximize salvation, but the glory of God.

The second question is a good one. I think that God intended the Fall to purposely create a system where only a few would be lavished with his mercy, while the remainder suffered his wrath. As above, that would maximize his glory. Again, the comfort level with that answer is minimal for me, however confident I am in the veracity of the answer. Satan is a part of God’s plan, for better or for worse. Patton seems to agree with the fact that Satan is part of God’s plan, at least in principle.

I think the answer to both questions really comes down to the fact that this life is all about God, not about us. God is ultimately free to do as he decides with us, and there’s really not much we can do about it.

As far as Patton’s inspiration for this series, I’ll continue to delude myself into believing that it’s me. That’s healthy, right?

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, part 2

Continuing a short break from DaGoodS’s questions that Christians hope no one will ask, I proceed with a thread on Reddit proposing questions that theists supposedly can’t answer. Of course we can answer them, we have answered them, and yet they are still being asked as if they defeat theism once and for all.

In a previous post, I answered several miscellaneous questions. Here are some more miscellaneous questions:

Do you use any other 2000 year old information to live your life? Would you like your doctor to use 2000 year old methods? If something is wrong, it is always wrong. Morals are absolute, despite many (failed) arguments to the contrary. It was wrong to steal 2000 years ago, and it still is. It was wrong to cheat on your wife 2000 years ago, and it still is. Moral values don’t get revised over periods of time.

Why did god often appear to ignorant goat herders yet never makes an appearance now, except to the delusional? Jesus Christ represents the full and final revelation of God. God has no more need to appear to us today. Even if he did, it wouldn’t do any good. Even in the Bible, with the apostle Paul as the sole exception, God only appeared to people who already believed.

Why did god, in his perfect wisdom, give us totally useless body hair (and toenails)? Hair and nails may lack function on their own, but they serve a purpose within the frame of the human body. Hair and nails are recycled dead cells. Anyone who watches true crime documentaries also knows that deadly poisons are expelled through hair. Hair and nails, therefore, are part of the overall design. Otherwise, how would we get rid of useless organic tissues or deadly poison?

If god flooded the world, where did all the water go? In retrospect this question is easily answered. If someone were to believe a “god” could create water, the answer would most likely be he made it disappear. There is no “magic” necessary to answer this question. As I’ve stated before, if one subscribes to a global judgment in scope, but a flood that was local in geographic terms, then we no more have to ask where those flood waters went then we would for the receding flood waters of any of the numerous floods experienced in recent history.

As it happens, a local flood model actually makes all of the manifest problems with the story of Noah’s Flood vanish. For more information on this viewpoint, see here.

Saints Alive!

Jimmy Akin has an interesting article about former Pope John Paul II’s progress on getting canonized a saint. Not that JPII is advancing the cause, of course, but that his supporters are pushing the Vatican to name the recently departed pope a saint immediately. As in now.

I wanted to comment because a statement in it ties into my recent post answering questions from a Reddit thread enumerating questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can). That previous article was on questions that tied specifically to the soul’s eternal destiny, and Akin touches ever-so-briefly on that.

Akin’s article had a statement that dropped my jaw with regard to determining eternal destiny. Before I give my thoughts on that statement, let’s begin with asking why the Vatican would have an interest in thoroughly investigating a potential saint before canonizing him.There are three points to bear in mind. Read the rest of this entry