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The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Second

Geoffrey Berg’s second argument states that since God is so far outside the realm of human experience and comprehension, that he is simply unknowable.  Therefore, you shouldn’t believe in him.

This Man and God Comprehension Gulf Argument is formulated as follows:

  1. Man is finite (in time, space and power etc).
  2. God if he exists in infinite (in time, space  and power etc).
  3. Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God or even know that God exists.

I have no issues with either premises.  Man is finite per (1), and God is infinite per (2).  Neither is a problem for me.

As a conclusion, (3) overreaches; Berg should have stuck with the first clause: “Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God … .”  That would have been a far more reasonable conclusion given the data.  Still a demonstrably false conclusion, but a much more reasonable one.

As for “… even know that God exists,” that is simply not true.  God is the inference to the best explanation: we see design, order, natural laws — the universe makes sense.  It works together like a machine, and machines are designed and built by an intelligent mind for a purpose.

Therefore, God is a reasonable conclusion from natural philosophy (even if a controversial one).  So I disagree that mankind cannot “… even know that God exists.” Read the rest of this entry

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The Mystery of God

Any theism that didn’t ultimately point to mystery would not be a very believable world view. So we must not regret our final use of mystery. It is not an unfortunate, desperation ploy but a necessary part of any exalted theism.

— Tom Morris

Quick Post: Ignorant Meme

Most memes that float around are plain ignorant, and thus are fairly easy to decimate.  And this one is no different:

The first thing that we have to understand about God is that he is all three branches of our American government combined — he’s the original theocracy.  He is, in fact, referred to by titles that reflect that:

  • Lawgiver — Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12 [Congress]
  • King of kings — 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14 and 19:16 [President]
  • Judge — Genesis 18:25, Psalm 7:11, 2 Timothy 4:8 [Courts]

When God enacts a law as Lawgiver, he has the right to be both Judge and Executioner when enforcing said law.  God, like the State, can impose the death penalty for people who transgress the law.

The commandment referenced refers to cold-blooded murder.  Acts like self-defense or capital punishment imposed by the State are not in view and are not forbidden.  So God is not transgressing his own law by imposing the death penalty on a guilty party.  God isn’t murdering anyone, he is acting as Judge and Executioner.

So we are done here.  Next meme I crush is that lovely FB floater that asks if you still oppose gay marriage, and through a series of poorly-reasoned, badly-exegeted biblical examples shows you’re some kind of bigot.  It actually shows anything but that, as we shall soon see.

Contradiction Tuesday: Is God a God of War or Peace?

God is often cited as the God of peace, for example:

Now the God of peace be with you all.  Amen. (Rom 15:33)

However, the Bible also describes God in terms related to battle:

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Ex 15:3)

So, “Which is it?” asks Jim Merrit.

Why not both?

Humans are made in the image of God.  Humans are dynamic.  Humans don’t act the same way in every circumstance.  We adapt.  So why can’t the One in whose image we are made not adopt a different approach based on the circumstances?

It’s ludicrous to reduce God to a one-dimensional construct who can’t act on a case-by-case basis.  Christians do this with God’s love, assuming God loves everyone the same and in equal measure — and that leads to the absurd notion that God couldn’t get mad at someone or that he won’t judge people and that everyone will end up in heaven by his side.

The truth is that God is more complex than we are in his behavior and his character.  God loves us all, but in different ways.  For example, you don’t love everyone in your own life in equal measure.  Many people might let you down or disappoint you, and that changes the way that you feel about them.

And so it is with God.

When the circumstances call for God to be a God of peace, he is.  When circumstances call for God to be a man of war, he is.  Same God, but acting differently in different circumstances.

Contradiction Tuesday: Is God Good to All, or a Few?

Today, we introduce the second feature new to Josiah Concept Ministries: Contradiction Tuesday.  Each Tuesday, I will discuss an alleged contradiction in the Bible and why it is not, in fact, a contradiction.

Barring specific reader requests, I’m working off of Jim Merrit’s list of biblical contradictions from the Secular Web.  I’ll start at the top and work my way down.  No skipping.

So, unless I specify that Contradiction Tuesday comes from X or Y reader, then assume I am continuing with Merrit’s list.

Yesterday, I explained why Merrit’s rebuttals to specific replies are silly.  Now, let’s look at a specific contradiction and see if it really is a contradiction:

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.  (Ps 145:9)

versus

And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the LORD. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them. (Jer 13:14)

Let’s first hammer out “good.”

The objection centers on the unspoken contention that punishment is bad, and if God punishes someone then God is not good.

But that’s ludicrous.

When God tells Abraham of the impending destruction of Sodom, what does Abraham object to?  Not to the destruction of the city.  Not to the punishment of the sinners in it (it’s already established that Sodom is wicked; see Gen 13:13).  Abraham objected to the punishment of innocents, challenging God rhetorically: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23).

God is, in fact, good to everyone regardless if they happen to deserve his goodness.  Let’s look at a couple of examples, starting with Job’s astute observation that God does allow evildoers to flourish:

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?  Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes.  Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.  Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and does not miscarry.  They send out their little boys like a flock, and their children dance.  They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.  They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. (Job 21:7-13)

Jesus confirms: “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45), the context of that making it clear that it is good in the eyes of God to treat all with the same respect and impartiality (as he does).

Therefore, God is good to all — whether they accept or reject him.  He prospers the wicked, as Job laments, and he allows all to enjoy the fruits of this world.

Somehow, in the eyes of the skeptic, God eventually punishing these wicked is not considered “good.”

On what planet?

Does that mean that if a human judge repeatedly lets murders and rapists go free without prison time that he is “good?”  I’d hardly say so.  I’d think that he’s apathetic, and so would any of these skeptics.  Somehow, when God executes justice on the unholy, the skeptics think that he is a big meaniehead, but when a human judge is tough and ruthless to deserving individuals he is lauded as just.

Double standard.

I Gave My Life to Christ: Now What? (part 1)

The focus of this blog has been on getting you to the point where you can intellectually accept that Jesus and God are very real, and that you can commit in good faith to a relationship without surrendering your intellectual integrity.  I’ve gotten mixed reviews on my ability to do this; people open to the possibility are generally convinced, but hardcore skeptics think I’m deluded beyond even psychiatric help.

Once you’ve actually made it to the point where you accept Christ (or rededicate your life to Christ, in the case of one recent e-mail correspondence I had), what do you do?  Well, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life worked for me.

Warren’s simple 40-day devotional gave me a great introduction into what it meas to be a Christian.  It helped turn the five New Testament purposes for a church into

Shorter and better, however, are Brownlow North’s Six Short Rules for Young Christians.  These aren’t just for young or new Christians–these will work for any Christian, no matter how far along in his or spiritual journey.

First:

Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that he hears your prayers (Heb 11:6).

Short and simple, and something that I think many people forget.  Being omnipresent in our reality, God is present during your prayers and he hears your request.  This doesn’t obligate him to answer affirmatively, but he is present and he does hear you.

That’s simple, yet very deep.  Let’s just think about that for today, and I’ll have more to say on this issue tomorrow, because this rule combined with rule #2 will have a profound effect on the life of the Christian.

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.

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?