Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A false reality

Not long ago, a friend and I went to get a bite to eat.  My friends chose his food based on the picture of the meal that he saw at the restaurant.  When the order came out, my friend did a double-take as the meal didn’t exactly match with the meal photo.  He felt let down, and claimed the eating establishment had falsely advertised their product.

Similar to my friend’s experience is the advertising campaign by a local atheistic group in the Northwest.  Seven billboards have been purchased in Spokane, Washington to try and promote the message of atheism.  The ads feature smiling individuals and you get the sense the ads are not much different in their presentation then what you would see in church advertisement, minus the message.  The ads are nicely done and attractive, but it is evident the message of the ads do not conform to reality.

Two of ads are particularly interesting in their presentation and message.  The first ad features a cute elderly couple, while the second presents an ex-clergy man.

Both evidence and science are trumped in the first ad to make a statement that theism is a false idea.  It is interesting that the ad assumes theism is relegated false by evidence and science. Actually, there is a lot of evidence and science that supports theism and denies an atheistic worldview.  Surely, the FFRF realizes that evidence and science cuts both ways?  Besides, how can you honestly make a logical statement concerning science and evidence when the statement itself is not supported by either evidence or science!  Theism being equated to myth is nothing more than a red herring.

The second ad tries to play on the heart of individuals by featuring a man, who in the past was involved in the clergy.  Like the first ad, the man emphasizes that reason trumps theism.  Again, this argument fails, because it too, is nothing more than a red herring.  Anyone could just as well state that they are “Now preaching REASON not atheism.”  The statements are nothing more than unjustified beliefs.

Dialogue in regards to truth is not what is being promoted in the FFRF ad campaigns.  What is being sold is similar to my friends experience at the restaurant – false advertisement!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to destroy Christianity

Christianity is a worldview that has been in existence for around 2000 years.  During those years many have attempted to discredit the Christian message.  The attempt to discredit Christianity began early, but how does one destroy Christianity?

The earliest attempt to destroy the Christian message came from the Jewish community.  Upon discovery of the empty tomb the Jewish leaders spread the story that the followers of Jesus stole the body.  This attempt to destroy the early Christian message failed, for many claimed to have encountered the resurrected Jesus.

The next attempt to destroy Christianity was wrought by the Roman Empire through persecution.  According to the Roman method, all you need to do is simply murder and suppress all Christians. Persecution of Christians by torture and killing also failed to stop the movement.  As early Church Father, Tertullian, once said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

Many years passed until the Age of Enlightenment.  At this time and prior, people were starting to question long held beliefs of God and the Christian worldview.  Science and reason was pushed to the forefront as to how one acquires knowledge and answers to life's big questions.

Some in the scientific realm came to believe that it was the holder of all knowledge that could known.  Theories started to develop and still do today to try and explain away the existence of God. Science was seen by many as pitting itself against the Christian worldview, primarily because the supernatural realm can't be investigated by way of scientific testing.  Therefore, on this view, the supernatural must not exist, nor miracles which operate outside of natural explanations.  The route of the naturalist was simply to destroy God, and then Christianity and all other religions would fall.  However, this approach failed to destroy Christianity.

Also, during the "Enlightenment" alternative theories developed to explain away the empty tomb.  The disciples belief they had encountered Jesus after his death is part of historical bedrock belief  by most scholars whether they are Christian or not .  "Not a few, but rather a majority, of contemporary scholars believe that there is some historical kernel in the empty tomb tradition." [1] Some of the counter theories to explain away the empty tomb include: the Swoon Theory, Hallucination Theory, Twin Theory, Myth Theory, Spirit Body Theory, and others failed to explain with more explanatory power than the bodily resurrected Jesus.

The Apostle Paul has provided the best method for the destruction of the Christian worldview by saying, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)."  

Paul is absolutely correct when trying to destroy Christianity.  Science can never come close to destroying the Christian worldview, for science is limited to the natural answers.  If Christianity is ever to be destroyed it will be by debunking the empty tomb message of early believers.  Some will say, people will always be willing to believe a lie, and most would agree with that, but the early followers of Jesus actually believed they had encountered the risen Jesus, and therefore, were willing to die for what they thought was true as opposed to a lie.  

To destroy Christianity, the resurrection story must be shown untrue and false.  Evidence must be given to show that the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not happen.  This means that arguments that tip the scales against the bodily resurrection must be weightier that what the Christian worldview proclaims.  It is one thing to believe in any thing, but can your belief be justified?  When someone can show that Jesus never rose from the dead, then Christianity is officially dead.   The burden lies directly at the hands of those who want to destroy Christianity, and even Jesus offers a challenge to those opposed to the Christian worldview, when speaking about the Church, by saying, "the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18)."  

If the bodily resurrection theory cannot be destroyed, then perhaps it is true.  Until the resurrection story is destroyed it offers the best explanation as to what happened to a dead Jesus three days after the fact.  The burden of proof falls directly in the lap of those who believe otherwise.

[1] Habermas, Gary as quoted in "The Resurrection of Jesus" by Michael Licona, p. 461, 2010

Monday, July 16, 2012

Antitheism and Krauss' Wager

Here is a great blog by Luke Nix of "Faithful Thinkers"

Antitheism and Krauss' Wager

Laurence Krauss- The Antitheist
Recently in a discussion with Justin Brierly (Unbelievable?) and Rodney Holder, Lawrence Krauss made an interesting statement (podcast: 58:01):

"You talk about this god of love and everything else. But somehow if you don't believe in him, you don't get any of the benefits, so you have to believe. And then if you do anything wrong, you're going to be judged for it. I don't want to be judged by god; that's the bottom line."

Earlier in the program Krauss also described himself as an antitheist and made a distinction from being called an atheist. Taken in the context of the quote above this distinction and title makes a lot of sense. As apologists, it is not enough to address a worldview as a whole, we must look into the specific views of an individual to appeal to them on both an intellectual level and an emotional level. I have a few thoughts that I would like to draw out of this.

To finish the blog click here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The God particle and the trump card

The recent discovery of the "God Particle" has been a major breakthrough for science across the globe.  Not only has the scientific community promoted the particle, but the media has hyped it as well.  The "God Particle" is known properly as the Higgs boson particle and the quest for this particle was pursued for many years.  Why all the hype and what are the implications of this newly discovered particle?

One of the main reasons for the hype is the discovery of the most fundamental piece of the universe's beginning that has ever been discovered.  According to the scientific community, this particle is so important that it is responsible  for springing the universe into existence after the "Big Bang"  and giving mass to all particles of matter.  It is so named because it helps us to understand the process of the universe's earliest stage of development.

It is interesting that the Higgs bosen is refereed to as the "God Particle."  The "God Particle" reference is used because of the fact that God has traditionally been understood as the creator of the universe.  However, some might be willing to say that this discovery explains away the existence of God, hence the name - "God Particle."  But does the particle really render God useless?

A couple of points need to be made to counter those who would say that God is now officially dead.  First, The "God Particle" did not create the universe, for the universe was already in existence, according to the "Big Bang."  And, secondly,  for those who still want to hold on to the universe from nothing idea, a scientific explanation must be given to explain the origin of something from nothing.  This last explanation will never be given, because science is unable to address this point.

Why all the hype?  For many, there is always a quest to try and disprove the existence of God.  Scientism claims that science is the trump card of explaining away the universe, but is it?  Science ultimately fails, because as it has already been stated, explaining something from nothing is not something science can do.  Science assumes only the material universe and tests within that realm, therefore, the something from nothing question is relegated to philosophy.  Philosophy is the field that possesses the real trump card.  The "God Particle" may have made many delight in the possibility of destroying God, but in the end, no evidence from a scientific perspective can accomplish this task.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Line em' up

In taking a few months off in blogging, I was somewhat surprised at a couple of atheist comments that I received.  One of the comments made the point that my apologetics were no different than rehashed Josh McDowell arguments.  Evidently, this person does not think highly of McDowell.  The other comment referred to Master's in Christian Apologetics as a mail-in degree. I wish he could of helped me with this mail-in degree financially.  Both comments were deleted because I refuse to dialogue with ad hominem attacks.  Name calling is easy, but it proves absolutely nothing.

How do individuals get past the extreme differences they have?  Can differences be overcome?  As already mentioned, in order to have meaningful dialogue the first thing that cannot take place is name calling or ad hominem attacks.  Nothing does more to close the debate door than to rely on name calling.  This form of speech is arrogant and in no way opens individuals up to any ideas you may want to put forth.

One way to dialogue is to try and be as open-minded as possible.  Being open-minded is difficult, but not impossible.  Sure, all individuals come with preconceived ideas, but trying to see and understand your opponents point before dialoguing with them is a good way to start.  Practice empathetic consideration.  Take time to chew on others ideas that are different from your own.  Again, all individuals do not have a monopoly of being absolutely indifferent when it comes to worldview questions, but openness can be achieved to a high degree.

One of the worst arguments that I have heard from Christians is: "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!"  This settles nothing except closing conversation for someone's worldview that doesn't believe in God.  On the flip side, many atheist thinkers, like the ones I mentioned earlier, do a disservice to dialogue by simply name calling and assuming that their view does not need to be debated.  In other words, some atheist thinkers seem to think that have a cornered the market of truth.  Some even refer to themselves as "Free Thinkers" as if theism is relegated to the community of "Closed Thinkers."  Part of open-mindedness involves humility in knowing that you are coming from a position of certain held presuppositions.  Being unable to truly consider the others argument does nothing to help dialogue out.

Perhaps the best method of dialogue is to argue solely based on the specific points of difference you have with your opponent.  It is good and necessary to present your arguments for others to view.  Likewise, it is meaningful for discussion and ultimately to discover truth to argue your differences with your opponent based on specific points of difference that you have.  You may not solve the point at hand, but at least dialogue is free and you can line up your points to try and sway individuals toward truth.  Ultimately, truth is what any argument is based upon (or it should be).  When individuals argue, they are trying to sway individuals to what they believe is true.  In other words, when you line up your points, do they have more weight than your opponents?  Which argument(s) tip the scale of truth? 

Many of the arguments need to address specific points with cumulative evidence, because it is impossible to have 100% proof.  For example, the question of the existence of God cannot be proved with 100% certainty from either camp (Christian or Atheist).  A cumulative way of argumentation is helpful in providing evidence that can lead to an inference of best explanation. 

The best way to dialogue/argue is simply to line em' up.  Put your cards on the table and make your points.  When addressing your opponent, point out why he/she is incorrect.  Be willing to think outside of your own worldview box and follow the evidence wherever it goes.  This type of dialogue brings true enlightenment to the big questions of life.  By the way, if my arguments are just rehashed Josh McDowell comments, does that mean my arguments were wrong?  Actually, I take that comment not as an ad hominem attack, but as a complement.  Thank you my atheist friend!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bell's Hell - Another look at "Love Wins"

Much has been said about Rob Bell's controversial book "Love Wins."  Also, much has changed recently for Rob Bell, as he is now moving out of pastoring a mega-church to do more writing and concentrating on various speaking engagements.  In reviewing his book, I'm sure I will add nothing new since its release in March of 2011.  Having said that, I wanted to share some thoughts on my impression on not just Bell's views, but on the "Emergent Movement" in general.

Before reading "Love Wins" I had an impression of Bell already formed.  I had read some of his Internet articles and viewed some interviews, and so I had formed some opinions of him beforehand.  I must say that my impression of his views did not change after completing the book.  I have had the opportunity to visit with many Rob Bell-like people.  What I mean by Rob Bell-like people pertains to individuals who fall in line with the "Emergent Movement."  Maybe, fall in line is not a good description of the "Emergent Movement", because nothing with in the movement is perfectly lined up.  A friend of mine once said that the "Emergent Movement" is like trying to nail jello to the wall.  This is what bothers me and others who try to assess individuals within the movement.  The problem with the movement centers on the lack of answers or conflicting answers given, but more on this later.

Bell's book opens true to "emergent" form, with a barrage of questions.  It was almost like the serpent questioning Eve, "Did God really say?"  I am not comparing Bell to the serpent, only saying that all traditional beliefs (according to Bell) need to be questioned.  I am not arguing against questions.  Questions are good and necessary.  However, Bell doesn't seem to question for the sake of dialogue, but to deconstruct everything for the sole purpose of his own agenda.

Much of the book Bell raises some good points.  Although I disagree with much of his exegesis, he does rightly point out some of the problems with the church today.  He does a good job highlighting the need to have a heart for serving people, although at times his political beliefs seem to match a "Wall Street" protester.  He addresses legalism within the Church, as this too is a necessary point that constantly needs to be raised.

Now to a few points about his overall beliefs concerning hell.  Bell's biggest hangup with hell seems to be how a loving God could punish people for finite sins.  For Bell this seems insurmountable.  For God is not God if this is how God is to be seen.  Bell would see the traditional view of an everlasting hell being contra the nature of God.  Bell cannot even conceive how God would allow individuals to be eternally separated from a holy God.  For Bell, God is a monstrous being if this is reality.

Bell seems to believe that heaven and hell exist side by side.  According to Bell, "heaven and hell are at the same party." [1]  He never clarifies how this is or what justifies this position.  He does use the "Prodigal Son" of Luke 15 to relate the side by side nature of both realities, but to my knowledge this story has never been used to justify the duel realm of heaven and hell.  Bell's duel realm view is bizarre at best.  What is also bizarre is how this works out on Bell's view, for no other explanation is fleshed out to support this idea.

Trying to wrap my mind around Bell's views is a tremendous struggle.  One of the disturbing views of Bell is how all are eventually saved.  I say disturbing, not because his ideas conflict with mine, but disturbing because he doesn't seem to justify why his views should be seen as conforming to reality.  For example, it seems clear to me that Bell feels all will eventually be saved, hence forth, love wins.  The overall theme of the book is that God's love will win out and all will be saved.  Bell can say he is not a universalist, but the book is clear that this is not what is promoted.  It is Bell's view that all will be saved, however no explanation is given as to how this will work, except that God's love wins in the end.  Bell even seems to promote that post-mortem sanctification will take place.  Bell is adamant that only the nature of God's love is what counts and His love trumps all.  In other words, God's hands seem to be tied on Bell's view.

The final comment about Bell's view revolves around his view of God.  The most disturbing aspect of Bell's view is his lack of interaction with the tradition view of God's judgment.  Bell tries in a way to address the traditional view of God as a God of judgement, but he falls short in providing any scholarly argumentation to show why this aspect is not part of God's makeup.  The traditional view of the God of judgement that I am referring to is that God does judge individuals and separate them throughout eternity.  Bell seems closed to this aspect of God's nature.  If God saves all in the end because love wins, then Bell needs to leave the business of trying to lead individuals to Jesus, because salvation is guaranteed.  The need for responsibility in this life is unnecessary, because on Bell's view nothing really matters.  If God is not a God of judgment and his hands are tied in having to save everyone, then Bell's God turns out not so much a God of love, but an amoral being at best.

[1]  Bell, Rob, Love Wins, p. 176
  • A great article dealing with the exegetical problems of Love Wins.
  • A short debate revealing Bell's view of God and hell.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Jeffress, Mormonism and dialogue

A few weeks back,  Dr. Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas caused a stir by calling the Mormon religion a cult before the national media.  Was this the correct avenue to take?  I took a survey shortly after Jeffress statement with a group of men, and half said Jeffress did the right thing.  Being a pastor in the same denomination, I will have to disagree with Dr. Jeffress and the men in my survey.  I could never match the intelligence of pastor Jeffress, but believe he was mistaken by stirring the pot in this way before the national media.  I am not disagreeing with Dr. Jeffress theological assessment concerning  the differences between Mormonism and Orthodox Christianity, but feel his branding of Mormonism before the national media does nothing but kill all possible dialogue between Mormons and those who fall within the Orthodox beliefs of the Church.

The Apostle Paul when dialoguing with others was conscious of his audience and tailored his discussion so that dialogue could take place.  In Acts 17, while speaking to the Greek philosophers, Paul never once mentions Scripture, but instead addresses the people on their level.  In fact, Paul's knowledge of the Greek thinkers allowed him to connect with the people by quoting two poets that the philosophers would have known about.  Paul said nothing offensive to block dialogue, but went out of his way to present the gospel such that people could respond.  In dialoguing in this way Paul gave freedom to the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of the Greek thinkers, and this is exactly what happened.

When engaged with others, it is my opinion that dialogue needs to be open and free.  Anytime, dialogue is hindered by personal blocks, it makes the spread of God's Good News that much more difficult.  Paul stated, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:22)."  For Paul, the truth of God would never be compromised, but at the same time he realized the importance of keeping the communication lines open so that people could come to know the Messiah.

Two weeks ago, some Mormon missionaries came to my door.  We had a wonderful conversation.  I was asking a lot of questions and am praying that we can further the discussions in the future.  I realize that my worldview and the Mormon worldview are worlds apart on many different levels.  I choose to dialogue with my Mormon friends, because I believe so strongly that they are not in line with God's truth.  Because of my belief, it is important to keep the dialogue lines open, and not shut them off in any way.