Thinking Christian http://www.thinkingchristian.net Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:41:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Mission Celebration Week Continues: One Year in Ratio Christi National Leadership http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/mission-celebration-week-continues-one-year-in-ratio-christi-national-leadership/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/mission-celebration-week-continues-one-year-in-ratio-christi-national-leadership/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 19:49:24 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25807 My anniversary week continues, a mission celebration week: one year with Ratio Christi! God has launched this movement into a jet stream. I’m constantly praying, and always trying to keep up with all he’s doing. As before, I’m asking you to join in with me in support.

Just today—in fact, just since lunch today. I’ve been on the phone with Ratio Christi leaders who have told me about…

New ministry cooperative efforts ramping up at Northwestern Michigan college, A new student leader appearing ...

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My anniversary week continues, a mission celebration week: one year with Ratio Christi! God has launched this movement into a jet stream. I’m constantly praying, and always trying to keep up with all he’s doing. As before, I’m asking you to join in with me in support.

Just today—in fact, just since lunch today. I’ve been on the phone with Ratio Christi leaders who have told me about…

  • New ministry cooperative efforts ramping up at Northwestern Michigan college,
  • A new student leader appearing out of virtually nowhere to help lead the chapter at a major southwestern university, and
  • A whole new chapter opening up near that university.

It’s summertime. We expect to see less happening during these months, in a way, but in reality there’s a lot going on in preparation for next year. Since lunch today:

  • I’ve been helping work through another new chapter director’s campus placement decision.
  • I spent time helping a director work through what to do with a student going through a crisis. (Earlier this week I spent days on a much larger-scale version of an issue like that one.)
  • Our training director worked on topics to cover during an upcoming training day for our campus chapter directors.

Also in those same calls, our leaders told me of…

  • Campus secular student club leaders intentionally and repeatedly disrupting Ratio Christi meetings. (This happened near the end of the last school year)
  • Online atheists insisting that the Bible must not be true because there are passages where only half the tribes of Israel are mentioned. (Of all the reasons I’ve heard people try to use to deny the Bible, that’s one of the worst ever.)

I feel inadequate. I know I am inadequate. God uses inadequate people. One way he gets his work accomplished is by bringing people together to accomplish what no one could do alone.

That’s why during this celebration week, I’m asking you to consider joining with me to help supply the resources needed to lead a ministry like this one. Won’t you consider helping? Thanks!

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Stumped http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/stumped/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/stumped/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 02:25:04 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25804 My latest BreakPoint column: Raising Kids Who Can Stump the Dad. It’s a biblical view on raising kids who can think.

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My latest BreakPoint column: Raising Kids Who Can Stump the Dad. It’s a biblical view on raising kids who can think.

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Celebrating One Year With Ratio Christi! http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/celebrating-one-year-ratio-christi/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/celebrating-one-year-ratio-christi/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:00:44 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25777

I’m celebrating one year as National Field Director with Ratio Christi today! I’m asking you to help me celebrate by coming alongside in support of this urgently needed ministry.

I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be working alongside our staff: some of the most faith-filled, knowledgeable, and evangelistically-motivated people in the world. They’re taking the word of Truth to where it’s least welcome and most urgently needed, the university campus.

You must have some sense of how urgently this movement is ...

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Fireworks

I’m celebrating one year as National Field Director with Ratio Christi today! I’m asking you to help me celebrate by coming alongside in support of this urgently needed ministry.

I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be working alongside our staff: some of the most faith-filled, knowledgeable, and evangelistically-motivated people in the world. They’re taking the word of Truth to where it’s least welcome and most urgently needed, the university campus.

You must have some sense of how urgently this movement is needed. I want you also to know how much your part in it could contribute to our mission.

In fact I want to make a special plea to you who have downloaded and read my ebook on Peter Boghossian. More than most professors, he represents the counter-Christian campus environment that we’re here to help students with. We need your help teaching the truth where he’s promoting falsehood.

Or maybe you’ve heard of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s commencement ceremonies this year. Students who graduated with honors wore a gold braid. Students who self-identifed as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender were granted a like honor: they wore purple braids. Straight students who supported GLBT students could proclaim that achievement by wearing a lavender braid. Meanwhile, Ratio Christi was changing students’ lives for Christ at UNCW. We need your help reaching students where entire universities are standing against Christian beliefs.

Here at this one year anniversary, I’d like to tell you the story of Ratio Christi, including our story in student’s lives in the past year, the astonishing history of my first year as National Field Director (or at least I was fairly astonished at what God has done when I reviewed it!) and specific ways you can help advance this crucial ministry.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

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Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians (?) http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/atheists-smarter-christians/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/atheists-smarter-christians/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:25:14 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25783 [Update July 20: I have come to the decision that before God and all readers here, I regret writing this piece. It was poor judgment at the end of an unusually stressful week. The error I made was in forgetting the breadth of the audience that would read it. I know that Christians who read New Atheist or other Internet atheist sources regularly will recognize what's going on in this parody, because we've experienced the things this piece is lampooning. I should have recognized that ...

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[Update July 20: I have come to the decision that before God and all readers here, I regret writing this piece. It was poor judgment at the end of an unusually stressful week. The error I made was in forgetting the breadth of the audience that would read it. I know that Christians who read New Atheist or other Internet atheist sources regularly will recognize what's going on in this parody, because we've experienced the things this piece is lampooning. I should have recognized that we would be the only ones likely to recognize it. Atheists would say, "that's a poor representation of atheism," and they would be right. I tried to head that off through my disclaimer at the end of the piece, but it was inadequate for that purpose.

Ordinary Seeker commented below that this was a polarizing piece. I think it was, for the reasons I've just stated. I won't remove it, since I can't erase history that way, but I will express my regrets and apologies.]

Yes, this is a parody piece. Enjoy.

I’ve been forced, reluctantly, to the conclusion that atheists are smarter than Christians. They know lots of important things about life.

  • Atheists know that dead people stay dead. Religious people in the first century didn’t have the benefit of modern science so they didn’t know that was so. Christians twenty centuries later are still just as confused.
  • Atheists know that virgins don’t have kids. Religious people in the first century had a teensy little gap in their scientific knowledge there, too.
  • Atheists can count to 2. They know that 1 angel at the tomb is one less than 2 angels. Christians can’t count that high, so it’s never occurred to us something might need some ‘splaining in the Resurrection accounts.
  • Atheists know there’s no evidence for faith because there’s no evidence for faith. Christians can’t seem to catch on to how simple that is.
  • Atheists know that Christians believe whatever we’re told to believe. Christians have been told to believe that’s not true.
  • Atheists know lots of other things Christians don’t know, but since I’m a Christian I don’t know what they are. (I had to use one of their Internet cheat sheets to help me figure out this much.)

And yes, there are atheists, unbelievably enough, who think Christians are this ignorant of life and our own beliefs.  It’s not all atheists. I don’t know how many they are. I do know that I don’t need to provide links to atheists who say these things about Christianity. You can find the sources yourself in a few seconds on Bing or Google.

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What Is the Arizona Atheist Really After? http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/arizona-atheist-really-after/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/arizona-atheist-really-after/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 23:25:18 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25767 I had previously posted a set of screenshots here showing that comments of mine had been removed from the Arizona Atheist’s web pages. I am removing them now, in view of this that he has just posted on his site:

I apologize everyone. I noticed on a number of posts the Disqus comment system disappeared and reverted back to the standard WordPress comment system. I finally saw what happened. It got disabled somehow. I have just re-enabled it but all comments that were in ...

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]]> I had previously posted a set of screenshots here showing that comments of mine had been removed from the Arizona Atheist’s web pages. I am removing them now, in view of this that he has just posted on his site:

I apologize everyone. I noticed on a number of posts the Disqus comment system disappeared and reverted back to the standard WordPress comment system. I finally saw what happened. It got disabled somehow. I have just re-enabled it but all comments that were in WordPress vanished. Rest assured I will repost everyone’s comments that I can who posted on this post as long as I still have the notification email. I’ll copy and paste all lost comments back here. I just got one from someone named Jenna Black whose comment I want to respond to. It’s late so I’ll have to do it tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I wrongly concluded that he had taken my posts down intentionally. Actually, they were the only ones missing, based on my observations of his page through the day, but still, I jumped to a conclusion. I apologize for the error.

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http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/arizona-atheist-really-after/feed/ 14 What Is the Arizona Atheist After? (True Reason Criticisms) http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/what-is-the-arizona-atheist-after-true-reason-criticisms/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/what-is-the-arizona-atheist-after-true-reason-criticisms/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:49:03 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25752 I’m having trouble figuring out what the Arizona Atheist is after in his critique of my Chapter 14 in True Reason: Responding to the Irrationality of the New Atheism. (You can read a version of that chapter here.)

He might be trying to show that my explanation was ad hoc. He mentioned something to that effect early on, but if that was his purpose, he didn’t carry it through. He proceeded to write as if trying to show that my explanation was ...

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I’m having trouble figuring out what the Arizona Atheist is after in his critique of my Chapter 14 in True Reason: Responding to the Irrationality of the New Atheism. (You can read a version of that chapter here.)

He might be trying to show that my explanation was ad hoc. He mentioned something to that effect early on, but if that was his purpose, he didn’t carry it through. He proceeded to write as if trying to show that my explanation was incoherent, not ad hoc (made up or generated for no reason but to fill an explanatory gap).

He might be saying that miracles happen too often (according to Christian teaching) for science to work. That was the main subject matter of my chapter, so it would be a relevant complaint. He only refers to a very short list of miracles, however, so if that’s what he was after, it was a tepid attempt at best.

He might be saying that Christians’ purported prayer answers, if they were real, would indicate God interfering with the natural order too often for science to work. But that’s not likely, because the prayer answers he points to are not the sort of thing that undermine the regularity of nature.

He might be saying that Christians’ prayer answers are “mere coincidences or hallucinations” — in fact he does suggest that — but if that’s his complaint, he’s simply changing the subject. That’s an interesting question, but not one that has anything to do with my chapter in True Reason.

He might be saying that God has problems doing hard things. That seems to be what he’s after here, speakcing of providential (not miraculous) prayer answers:

If Gilson argues that an orderly universe is a necessity then these “miracles” would be a near impossibility and god [sic] wouldn’t intervene as often as he clearly seems to do in the lives of many of his believers.

I can’t imagine, though, why he would think near impossibilities pose any problem for God as Christians understand God. We

He might be saying that Christians believe God is really messing around with natural law most of the time:

Even the very basis of Christianity is premised on miracles, ie. the very violation of natural laws: creation of the world ex nihilo and Jesus being brought back to life after being dead as a door nail for three days.

There must be some confusion there, though, since it’s more than slightly difficult to see how God violated natural law by creating natural law (as creation ex nihilo indicates). And again, while Christianity is premised on miracles, he hasn’t said anything to establish that it’s premised on miracles so frequent that science won’t work.

Or he might be saying that I’ve made some mistake in proposing (as I did) that God made the universe orderly enough for humans to learn, understand, communicate, and be responsible for what we do:

Finally, the universe is much less orderly than he assumes and we have had a lot of difficulty understanding much of it. On the larger scale things appear to happen in a logical order and objects behave in an orderly manner. But once we move to the quantum level of the universe things get rather confusing and no longer behave as our rational minds would expect. This makes no sense on Gilson’s view because if god [sic] created the world in order for us to understand his creation and to “learn from experience,” then our many experiences and scientific observations would not conflict with our current understanding of the universe.

No, on the larger scale (the scale that’s relevant to my chapter in the book) things do not appear to happen “in a logical order and … in an orderly manner.” They do behave that way, except in the realm of personal freedom and choice. Quantum strangeness has no relevance to my point in that chapter. His premise here is flawed. But the biggest problem with that is that it’s a shot in the dark. He’s given no reason to suppose that his conclusion is true. If he tried he would fail, because there is no possible reason it could be true.

He might be trying to tell us that naturalism explains things supernaturalism does not. He says this quite explicitly, in fact. He doesn’t tell us what that has to do with the content of the chapter he’s supposedly critiquing, though; nor does he enlighten us on why he thinks it relevant that “The laws of nature have never been shown to change. Most acts of the supernatural have perfectly natural explanations today.”

He does go on to add, “… which leaves less and less room for the Christian god [sic] to hide,” but again, there’s no indication of how that has anything to do with a chapter refuting Krauss’s argument that if science works then there must not be a God involved in nature. It’s another topic; an interesting one, but what it’s doing here in this location, I don’t know.

Now, if I felt the freedom to wander around and touch on multiple flaws in atheism, I could do so, just like he has with theism. I could go into detail on ways the Arizona Atheist missed the mark with his ad hoc accusation, his misunderstanding of the place of miracles and providence in Christianity, his demeaning view of Christians (with our “coincidences or hallucinations,” as if we can’t muster together the brain cells to think about such possibilities), his small view of a God who can’t do hard things, his mistaken view of God’s sovereign, ongoing relation to his creation, even his view of quantum physics.

If I did that, I would at least be responding to something he had said.

But rather than going into all that, I’ll just leave it at wondering, what is the Arizona Atheist after?

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“Gay Christianity:” Matthew Vines’s Empty Argument From Silence http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/gay-christianity-matthew-viness-empty-argument-from-silence/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/gay-christianity-matthew-viness-empty-argument-from-silence/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:19:00 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25735 Is there such a thing as gay Christianity? Just over a week ago, Michael Brown and Matthew Vines met on Moody Radio’s “Up for Debate With Julie Roys” for an online/radio conversation on that question. The two have taken opposite positions in books they’ve each released this year.

Last week in their debate (starting at 30:40), Vines repeatedly pressed Brown on the question, “Can you cite me any first-century text that refers to long-term, committed same-sex relationships?” His purpose in asking was to ...

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Is there such a thing as gay Christianity? Just over a week ago, Michael Brown and Matthew Vines met on Moody Radio’s “Up for Debate With Julie Roys” for an online/radio conversation on that question. The two have taken opposite positions in books they’ve each released this year.

Last week in their debate (starting at 30:40), Vines repeatedly pressed Brown on the question, “Can you cite me any first-century text that refers to long-term, committed same-sex relationships?” His purpose in asking was to support his (29:30) “fine line between what Paul was talking about [in the Bible] and what we are faced with today; they’re not the same thing.”

Vines believes that although the Bible prohibits some sex-sex activity, long-term, committed same-sex relationships between two persons with an enduring and stable homosexual orientation just weren’t in anyone’s view when the Bible was written. Therefore, he says, they’re not included under any New Testament moral prohibitions. (He believes the Old Testament prohibitions were superseded by the New Covenant in Christ—an exceedingly doubtful claim that is, however, not the topic of this blog post.)

In Romans 1:26-27, he says, Paul was condemning excessively lustful same-sex and/or pederastic practice by men who were married to women. That’s completely different from gay marriage. Therefore the Bible contains no current prohibition against gay marriage.

Brown didn’t have that citation available to give him. As far as I know there isn’t one, although Plato’s Symposium four centuries earlier mentions that kind of relationship, according to Brown.

Even without such, Brown answered him thoroughly and adequately, on a broad scale of God’s purposes and the focus of God’s revelation.

Still that left me interested in the question Vines had raised, since he specifically pressed it, and Brown did not specifically answer it. Indeed, at 34:00, Vines jumps on him for that: “You can’t do it!”

So let’s grant, just for argument’s sake, that we can’t do it. Suppose that were the case (it isn’t, but suppose it anyway). So what? Why would it matter?

Let’s look at what it requires for Vines’s argument to have any force. (Bear in mind that this is not a discussion about whether the Bible is true–Vines grants that without dispute–but what the Bible means.)

1. It requires us to draw a strong conclusion from a lack of evidence. We have no evidence of first-century conversations on long-term committed same-sex relationships, therefore we conclude that if those conversations had taken place, God’s word would have approved of them. But no one with any sense draws society-wrenching conclusions out of a mere lack of information.

2. It requires us to read the Bible with an exhaustive list of all other first-century texts by our side. The plain meaning of the text misleads us (according to Vines). It’s only when we discover that Paul probably wasn’t thinking in categories of long-term committed relationships that we can discern what he’s really not talking about.

Now, it’s one thing to recognize that Ancient Near East and classical scholarship informs biblical interpretation. It has solved numerous puzzles; it’s helped clarify many interpretations and fill in many details. It’s another thing to say that a biblical passage is completely misleading unless we know what all other first-century writers never said.

This is like re-establishing the old—and severely damaging—doctrine that the laity should not be allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves, except it’s worse than that. In those days the priests were allowed access to the Bible. By Vines’s principle here, it would only be the classicists who could handle it.This is a strange and absolutely unorthodox view of God’s revelation.

3. It throws a major point of biblical interpretation into dependency on what classicists never find. After all, if such a first-century text showed up somewhere around the Mediterranean, Vines’s case for Christian gay “marriage” would collapse, and he would have to reverse his interpretation. (I’ve read his book, and this is not too strong a statement: his argument really does depend on the theory that Paul couldn’t have had long-term committed relationships in mind.) No major biblical interpretation should be dependent on not-discovering new facts about the first century.

I haven’t even begun to mention all that Brown brought up about Vines’s interpretation overturning everything the Scriptures say about men, women and marriage.

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Hobby Lobby and the Freedom To Be Wrong (Or Right) http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/hobby-lobby-and-the-freedom-to-be-wrong-or-right/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/07/hobby-lobby-and-the-freedom-to-be-wrong-or-right/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 01:38:51 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25720 I’ve been appalled at the criticisms leveled at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby this week. Frank Schaeffer called it a “Victory For Ultra-Right Roman Catholic Co-Conspirators With Chuck Colson’s Ghost.” Brooklyn Magazine breathlessly , bemoaned, “Less Than Human: How the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Reduces Women to Nothing More than Baby-Incubators.”

I could have listed dozens more reactions like those. They’ve got the whole thing wrong. I’m thankful they have the freedom to get things wrong. Are they?

There’s no ...

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I’ve been appalled at the criticisms leveled at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby this week. Frank Schaeffer called it a “Victory For Ultra-Right Roman Catholic Co-Conspirators With Chuck Colson’s Ghost.” Brooklyn Magazine breathlessly , bemoaned, “Less Than Human: How the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Reduces Women to Nothing More than Baby-Incubators.”

I could have listed dozens more reactions like those. They’ve got the whole thing wrong. I’m thankful they have the freedom to get things wrong. Are they?

There’s no hiding the fact that I support Hobby Lobby’s position with respect to abortifacients.* But this case wasn’t primarily about that. It was about freedom of conscience: the freedom to have an opinion, to express it, and to act on it according to one’s own convictions rather than government coercion.

Those who have called it a war on women or an attack on Obama himself (as Schaeffer said) have misunderstood this, but thankfully, they have the freedom to be wrong about that. We all have the freedom to be wrong. Because of this decision, Hobby Lobby and its owners have retained the freedom to be wrong. I think their position is right, but if I’m wrong, I’m grateful I have that freedom, too.

We should all be grateful, in fact. In a case like this one, remember, the freedom to be wrong is equivalent to the freedom to disagree with what the government says, based on deeply held convictions of conscience. It’s our most basic and essential freedom, without which our democracy would be a tyranny instead.

You’d think that those who call themselves “liberals” would favor liberty of that sort.

I wish all my fellow Americans an early Happy Independence Day.

*Despite reports the contrary, Hobby Lobby never refused to pay for contraception. Their issue was only with drugs that end pregnancies already begun.

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Zero Inbox! Email for Mac Users, Using MailTags http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/zero-inbox-for-mac-users-using-mailtags/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/zero-inbox-for-mac-users-using-mailtags/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:03:09 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25690 New visitors, I invite you to look around. Take a look at my free ebook offer, check out the provocative book True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, or else start reading on the blog with one of my featured articles. Thanks for visiting!

Zero Inbox!

Maybe you’ve heard of Inbox Zero. It’s a productivity goal for keeping on top of all those messages, and never letting your Inbox get out of control. Well, I’ve got something better: Zero Inbox!

...

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New visitors, I invite you to look around. Take a look at my free ebook offer, check out the provocative book True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, or else start reading on the blog with one of my featured articles. Thanks for visiting!


Zero Inbox!

Maybe you’ve heard of Inbox Zero. It’s a productivity goal for keeping on top of all those messages, and never letting your Inbox get out of control. Well, I’ve got something better: Zero Inbox!

Seriously!

This is off the beaten path for this blog, but it’s right at the heart of my day job: keeping track of a huge flow of email. You’ve probably got the same problem. It’s the tyranny of the Inbox, that never-ending, almost-hopeless flow of emails you just can’t keep track of and can’t keep up with.

I’ve developed a workflow that makes your Inbox irrelevant, and I’m offering the information on it as a free PDF here.

What is “zero inbox”? It’s not about stopping the flow of messages It’s not about missing them. No, with this system you can keep up with all your messages better than ever.

It’s only for Mac users. I can only express my sincere sympathy to the rest of you. Download my free PDF on Zero Inbox! Using MailTags, and learn how you can start enjoying email efficiency like never before.

 


Indev, the creator of MailTags, has provided me with complimentary software in exchange for my publishing this article—but I developed this workflow and fell in love with it well before I contacted them about it.

(Users please notice the disclaimer at the end of the PDF.)


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It Takes More Than False Facts To Rattle Christianity’s Confidence http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/takes-false-facts-rattle-christianitys-confidence/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/takes-false-facts-rattle-christianitys-confidence/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 18:29:35 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25686 A few weeks ago Harry H. McCall posted this challenge on John Loftus’s blog:

Explanations for Luke Breuer and David Marshall (or Any Christian Apologist) to Answer:

A. Apart from myth and superstition, please name at least one scientific discovery the Bible has given humanity.

B. Please explain how theology is a valid approach to logic, especially in making the world a better place.

C. Based on medieval monasteries, please explain why books in these libraries were organized by monks based on truth and knowledge ...

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]]> A few weeks ago Harry H. McCall posted this challenge on John Loftus’s blog:

Explanations for Luke Breuer and David Marshall (or Any Christian Apologist) to Answer:

A. Apart from myth and superstition, please name at least one scientific discovery the Bible has given humanity.

B. Please explain how theology is a valid approach to logic, especially in making the world a better place.

C. Based on medieval monasteries, please explain why books in these libraries were organized by monks based on truth and knowledge of the time and why in our scientific age, this order is totally reversed: 1. The Bible 2. Theology 3. Philosophy 4. Medicine Is now: 1. Medicine 2. Philosophy 3. Theology 4. The Bible

D. Please explain how any theology that justifies “C” above can ever be taken seriously.

E. Please explain why human knowledge is condemned in Genesis 3 with humanity eternally punished, yet the very same knowledge (gained by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge) now must be used by Christian apologists to defend the very God who has cursed humanity forever.

F. Please explain how the Bible is any different from the mythological world of other false religions or why the Bible can’t objectively face itself in the historical religious mirror without denying reality.

G. Please explain why the Bible (The Word of God), which reveals absolute truth must be constantly defended especially in societies (such as the United States and modern Europe) that have freedom from religion.

H. Please explain why God, outside of the Bible, is seen functioning only though subjective interpretations and why the words faith, theology, or God are NOT found in Black’s Law Dictionary and why such words so vital to theology and doctrine as constantly argued by apologist would never hold up in a modern court of law.

I. Please explain why no other field of objective inquiry is fixed on unproven dogma for 2,000 plus years, especially dogmatic religious faith that continually fails to provide advancement in stopping human suffering.

J. Please explained why a self professed ancient work known to Christianity as the Old Testament claiming to record at least 4,000 years of world history directed by God vanishes into thin air before 200 BCE.

K. Please explain why, apart from the New Testament’s Gospels, a Historical Jesus fails to have left any mark in Roman Palestine apart from the dubious comment of Josephus.

L. Please tell us, apart from theology, how you KNOW the Bible is objectively true.

M. Based on the above answers, please explain why any future apologetic objections should be taken with little more than a grain of salt.

Easy.

A. Please explain why the lack of any scientific discovery counts against the validity of any field other than science.

B. Theology is not an approach to logic, and no one said it was. Christianity, however, has made the world a better place in thousands of ways. Want evidence? See how wide a radius you need to travel from your home before you find a hospital with a religion-related term in its name. Turn on the radio to a classical station and see how long you listen before you hear something by Bach or any of the other strong theists. I could go on, but there are more questions to answer.

C. The reason the order is reversed is because people like you are not convinced the Bible is true. (Is that so hard?)

D. If you think C is hard to justify, then you provide evidence that the people reversing the order were not fully rational.

E. What’s to explain? Human knowledge was not condemned in Genesis 3.

F. I’ve covered this more than once before. I could give you more links if you read those and return to ask for them. (The second half of F. is rhetorically equivalent to, “Please explain why I’m quite sure the Bible is wrong,” and I’d be glad to let you supply your own answer.)

G. Some people think the Bible is wrong.

H. It’s seen operating through subjective interpretations because that’s what interpretations are. Now, are you telling us you’re taking a postmodernist, post-constructionist stance here, that “subjective” means “hey, it’s only true for you”? Or are you telling us that “subjective” means “not true at all”? Good luck with that. As for Black’s Law Dictionary, it doesn’t include “Big Bang” or “galaxy” (except for the Samsung version), either. It’s about legal terms.

I. Please explain how you could have missed 2,000 years of history during which Christians have ameliorated, cared for, and often stopped human suffering.

J. Please explain what on earth you mean by that! (If you’re wondering where the manuscripts went, I’m told that rabbinic tradition on copying manuscripts was so unbelievably meticulous that every copy was judged legitimately to be equivalent to the original, except on better, newer parchment or papyrus and with newer ink, and thus more trustworthy; so the originals were respectfully destroyed.)

K. Please explain how you could be so blind as to think that Jesus left no mark in history.

L. Please tell me how I’m supposed to answer a theological question apart from theology. Could you tell me apart from science how you know the speed of light?

M. Based on your objections A through L, your question in M is more than a little bit ironic.

Conclusion:

Please explain where you got all your many false facts from, and why you or your host John Loftus think think they pose any problem to Christianity.

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http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/takes-false-facts-rattle-christianitys-confidence/feed/ 66 Here We Go ‘Round the No-Free-Will Bush ♫ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/here-we-go-round-the-no-free-will-bush/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/here-we-go-round-the-no-free-will-bush/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 17:02:28 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25672 Sheesh.

SteveK [told us[(http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/to-seek-god-sensibly-on-his-own-terms/#comment-101165) about this report, Free will could be the result of ‘background noise’ in the brain, study suggests.

I’ve seen enough bad science journalism to know that the real experiment may look very little like the one reported there. (In fact, I have real trouble believing the research is as weak as that.) Taking the report at face value, though, with that disclaimer, this appears to be what’s happening:

A cue appears on screen at random intervals. When the cue ...

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Sheesh.

SteveK [told us[(http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/to-seek-god-sensibly-on-his-own-terms/#comment-101165) about this report, Free will could be the result of ‘background noise’ in the brain, study suggests.

I’ve seen enough bad science journalism to know that the real experiment may look very little like the one reported there. (In fact, I have real trouble believing the research is as weak as that.) Taking the report at face value, though, with that disclaimer, this appears to be what’s happening:

  1. A cue appears on screen at random intervals.
  2. When the cue appears, volunteers are supposed to decide whether to look left or right.
  3. Random brain noise preceding the cue can predict what their decision will be.
  4. The researchers know that the volunteers are doing no free-will-related pre-decision mental work that might influence their decisions when they make them.
  5. Therefore the pre-decision firings in the brain are not based in free will.
  6. Therefore this experiment provides empirical support for the absence of free will.
  7. Therefore the researchers conclude that what was going on in volunteers’ brains before their decisions was random and unrelated to free will.
  8. Therefore the researchers know that the volunteers are doing no free-will-related pre-decision mental work that might influence their decisions when they make them.

… so early in the morning.

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“How Homeschooling and Classical Christian Schooling Could Alter the Leadership of the Future” http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/how-homeschooling-and-classical-christian-schooling-could-alter-the-leadership-of-the-future/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/how-homeschooling-and-classical-christian-schooling-could-alter-the-leadership-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:55:23 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25650 My current column at BreakPoint: “How Homeschooling and Classical Christian Schooling Could Alter the Leadership of the Future.”

For the record, our two kids were mostly educated in public school. The home school and classical Christian school options were not available to us, for reasons I need not share here. I wish we could have gone that route. We made sure, though, that they learned the skills of good reasoning, reading, and communication. For us it was a matter of dinner conversation–not every meal, ...

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My current column at BreakPoint: “How Homeschooling and Classical Christian Schooling Could Alter the Leadership of the Future.”

Featured in the BreakPoint Column

Featured in the BreakPoint Column

Related information on atheists' reasoning—Free!

Related information on atheists’ reasoning—Free!

For the record, our two kids were mostly educated in public school. The home school and classical Christian school options were not available to us, for reasons I need not share here. I wish we could have gone that route. We made sure, though, that they learned the skills of good reasoning, reading, and communication. For us it was a matter of dinner conversation–not every meal, but often enough. I’m pretty sure that for most families it would take a more intentional effort to teach these things.

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What’s Going On With Peter Boghossian? http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/whats-going-on-with-peter-boghossian/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/whats-going-on-with-peter-boghossian/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:36:46 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25625 This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Peter Boghossian

I can’t help wondering what’s going on with Peter Boghossian.

In his debate with Tim McGrew on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable a few weeks ago, he made no defense of his “pretending to know” definition for faith.

In that debate he made a move toward backing down on his definition, “belief without evidence.” Shortly after that his good friend James Lindsay said he really intended it to ...

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This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Peter Boghossian

I can’t help wondering what’s going on with Peter Boghossian.

In his debate with Tim McGrew on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable a few weeks ago, he made no defense of his “pretending to know” definition for faith.

In that debate he made a move toward backing down on his definition, “belief without evidence.” Shortly after that his good friend James Lindsay said he really intended it to mean, “belief based on insufficient evidence.” Though I haven’t listened to it myself, I’m told that Boghossian put it that way himself in a podcast with Ignoranti not long ago.

It would appear from these developments that he is retreating on that front.

I’m told he also said in that interview that he’s getting burned out on atheism.

Meanwhile, he’s taking heat from other atheists and skeptics. The Council for Secular Humanism has criticized him severely for his extremism. The Godless Skeptic has dubbed him the “Deepak Chopra of Atheism,” mostly on account of strange things Boghossian has said on Twitter.

Many of his recent tweets have had the appearance of aphorisms, without benefit of common sense. Here’s one that could only be true if faith had nothing to do with believing:

Faith: Attempting to fool oneself because one thinks being fooled makes one a better person. #religion #tragedy

One problem there is that no one can possibly choose to believe what one knows one is fooling oneself into believing. It involves believing and disbelieving the same thing at the same time–something not even Boghossian says the faithful can do.

His Twitter feed is turning bizarre in other, even more obvious ways, with statements like, “Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table,” which relegates many not just believers, but also many prominent atheists to his “Kids Table.”

He also tweeted, “Philosophy needs to be rescued from metaphysics,” which is certain to alienate many other philosophers. He said so himself: “I’m looking forward to publishing my paper arguing that metaphysics has no place in the academy. Then I’ll have a new set of enemies!”

What’s going on with Boghossian?

Related: Peter Boghossian ostracizing atheist/agnostic philosophers at A Remonstrant’s Ramblings

 

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Two Radio Interviews Today http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/two-radio-interviews-today/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/two-radio-interviews-today/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 17:16:48 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25643 Today I’ll have the privilege of taking part in two radio interviews, both of them focusing on my recent Touchstone article on the historicity of the Gospels.

The first begins in less than an hour on Michael Brown’s Line of Fire radio. You can listen live or find the podcast afterward.

The second begins about 5:15 pm EDT, with Mike Allen on Real Life Radio. If you can’t catch it live, go to that same link afterward and click on ...

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Today I’ll have the privilege of taking part in two radio interviews, both of them focusing on my recent Touchstone article on the historicity of the Gospels.

The first begins in less than an hour on Michael Brown’s Line of Fire radio. You can listen live or find the podcast afterward.

The second begins about 5:15 pm EDT, with Mike Allen on Real Life Radio. If you can’t catch it live, go to that same link afterward and click on the shows for today, June 18.

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Seek God Sensibly: On His Own Terms http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/to-seek-god-sensibly-on-his-own-terms/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/to-seek-god-sensibly-on-his-own-terms/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 01:56:10 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25618 Is there a God? How would we know?

Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable through science. I can see the appeal in thinking that, since science tells us so much about the world. Even better, it has ways to adjudicate factual disputes, especially when it’s possible to employ very careful measurement and control of variables.

Ironically, those are exactly the factors that make science a poor way to detect the reality ...

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Is there a God? How would we know?

Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable through science. I can see the appeal in thinking that, since science tells us so much about the world. Even better, it has ways to adjudicate factual disputes, especially when it’s possible to employ very careful measurement and control of variables.

Ironically, those are exactly the factors that make science a poor way to detect the reality of God. If you wonder about God, it only makes sense to seek him on his terms. Or you might put it this way: if you want to know whether there is a God, you ought to ask the question in a way that you could tell the answer if the answer were yes. There are so many things science is good for, but for this task it’s not up to the job. Its competence is broad, but it’s in the kind of things that won’t discover God, if there is a God.

Measuring

Scientists often make an informal distinction between “hard” and “soft” sciences, with specialists in the “hard” sciences often expressing doubt that the “soft” sciences are science at all. The two groups are distinguished by how finely they can measure the behavior of their subject matter, which happens to run almost exactly parallel with how much personal freedom their subject matter can express. People are harder to measure than rats, which are harder to measure than chemicals in test tubes.

If God is truly personal—and especially if his personal freedom exceeds that of humans—his activity is likely to be very difficult to measure with any precision.

Controlling

True experimental science involves controls. In the classic format, an experiment involves two or more samples, specimen sets, etc. matched in every way possible, with one of them being subjected to some experimental manipulation or intervention, and the other not receiving that treatment. If the two groups’ outcomes after treatment/non-treatment are significantly different, researchers generally find it safe to conclude that the treatment was the cause of the difference. (There are complexities galore on top of that, but that’s the basic picture.) The great virtue of experimental research is its ability to isolate and control variables.

If God is truly sovereign over the world, it’s unlikely that he would subject himself to being controlled like a lab rat or a chemical in a test tube—or even a particle in a high-energy collider, named after him. It’s unlikely that his effects as creator could be cleanly isolated from his work in creation.

Simplifying

There are other approaches to research, of course. In the social sciences, correlational research is more common than experimental research. In one simple form of correlational research, persons are measured on a pair of variables, for example “happiness” and salary. If the measurements reveal that salaries tend to be higher among happy people, and lower among less happy people, then researchers conclude that (a) greater happiness tends to cause higher salaries, or (b) higher salaries tends to cause greater happiness, or (c) neither of the above, or (d) both of the above, or (e) nothing definite at all. Option (e) is by far the most commonly selected option, because except in very special circumstances, correlation does not show causation.

(By the way, my example here is fictional. I’m not aware of any reliable research showing that happiness varies uniformly [monotonically] with salary.]

Correlational research can’t generally lead to conclusions about causation because it’s not well controlled, as experimental research is. Its single greatest weakness is that on its own, it’s insensitive to the presence of other related variables. My first research methods prof told our class about the finding that ice cream sales was highly correlated with crime rates in St. Louis. Does ice cream cause crime, or does crime make people hungry for ice cream? In this case the likely answer is neither, but outdoor temperatures could influence both.

Where correlational research is most able to show causation is where relationships are very obvious, clear, and simple, with a minimum of potential hidden variables. When things get complex, though, science is very limited—unless it happens to be in some field where experimental methods can be used. Look where you find more controversy, and where you find less: Complicated (mostly experimental) physics can reach considerably more definite, reliable, non-controversial conclusions than complicated (mostly correlational) psychology can.

If God is truly sovereign over the entire created order, it’s exceedingly likely that he could manipulate variables beyond number, acting in such complicated ways that no non-controversial conclusions could ever be derived about him through correlational methods.

The God Science Could Detect

Notice that so far I have said nothing about God that depends on the truth of any religious belief. I’ve only made “if” statements that ought to seem reasonable to reasonable readers. And I suppose theoretically those “if” statements about God might be premature. It might be that there is a God science could detect. If so, that God would have to be fairly impersonal, regular, predictable, with various aspects of his action able to be isolated, like forces of nature are, for example.

Is it any wonder, then, that people who look to science for their every answer tend not to find God, but find something god-like about the forces of nature?

A God Science Could Never Detect

Suppose, though, the question is whether there is a God whose freedom is limited only by consistency with his own nature, and who is the sovereign creator of the natural world. If that’s the question, then science is probably, by its very nature, the wrong way to ask. It’s highly unlikely the maker of mankind would subject himself to experimental manipulation. It’s highly unlikely the omniscient, omnipotent God would simplify his actions in the world to a few, simple, measurable variables.

To Seek God On His Own Terms

If, then, there is a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient creator God ruling over all the universe, it’s unlikely on the face of it that such a God would submit himself to the level of control, manipulation, and isolation of variables that science employs—especially science in its most powerful, experimental mode. It’s unlikely that he would play our game our way. It’s far more likely he would set his own agenda, and (if he wanted to be known) reveal himself in his own way.

So it seems to me that without any other religious guidance or information, a rational person who was wondering about the reality of a powerful, sovereign, wise, personal God would avoid asking whether science could reveal such a God. That person would instead ask, “Is there any hint of any knowledge or tradition in the world where God seems possibly to have revealed himself on his own terms?”

It seems to me that would be the only sensible starting point for one who would seek God, who even wonders about God.

There are of course several such traditions. They disagree on many things. Maybe our sensible searcher would then ask, “Is there anything they all agree on?” At this point I would, finally, point the quest in a particular direction. I would suggest this searcher look at one of the few things all the traditions seem to agree on: in one way or another, they all regard Jesus Christ very highly; they want to claim Christ for themselves.

So I would suggest to this searcher, if Jesus Christ is such an important common figure in all the major traditions, maybe the actual tradition he founded would be the most likely place to begin your search. If you do, you’ll find that he meets the description of what you’re looking for: a God who wants to be discovered — on his terms, though, not ours.

Related: What Would God Look Like If He Came To Earth?

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A Master Artist/Craftsman on Beauty With Promise http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/beauty-with-promise/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/beauty-with-promise/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 11:51:41 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25614 Jake Weidmann is one of 11 master penmen in the world today. He speaks of the permanence of the pen stroke and of beauty through the passing of the days:

“As one stroke builds off of another, so one man’s heritage builds off of another’s. For what was once beautiful in the past, and is still beautiful today, holds the promise that it will be beautiful in the future.”

Also…

“We bear God’s image … in our desire to create…. the most intimate way that ...

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Jake Weidmann is one of 11 master penmen in the world today. He speaks of the permanence of the pen stroke and of beauty through the passing of the days:

“As one stroke builds off of another, so one man’s heritage builds off of another’s. For what was once beautiful in the past, and is still beautiful today, holds the promise that it will be beautiful in the future.”

Also…

“We bear God’s image … in our desire to create…. the most intimate way that I know God.”

Hear him reflect as he creates, at This Is Our City.

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Do You Think About God As He Truly Is? http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/do-you-think-about-god-as-he-truly-is/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/do-you-think-about-god-as-he-truly-is/#comments Sat, 14 Jun 2014 12:49:38 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25605 If these questions don’t challenge you to the depth of your intellect, you’re not thinking of God as God really is:

Read through the list, and then I’ll explain more of what I meant by that.

When God created space, where did he put it? Where did God get the idea of energy and matter? When God caused the beginning of the created order, what gave him the idea of “beginning”? Where did beauty come from? What processes and methods did God use to create ...

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If these questions don’t challenge you to the depth of your intellect, you’re not thinking of God as God really is:

Read through the list, and then I’ll explain more of what I meant by that.

  • When God created space, where did he put it?
  • Where did God get the idea of energy and matter?
  • When God caused the beginning of the created order, what gave him the idea of “beginning”?
  • Where did beauty come from?
  • What processes and methods did God use to create the universe?

These questions all treat the Creator as if he were like us: drawing on resources outside ourselves, working with given materials, in a given place, at a given time.

This is not who God is.

Beyond Our Comprehension

Can you imagine making something and not putting it anywhere? Can you imagine it not being somewhere in relation to where you are? The space God created has no spacial relationship to himself. He is, in a sense, both inside it and outside it at the same time. He is completely and totally present in the room where you sit, and yet the entire created order cannot contain him. He is where you are and where I am, but if you traveled here from where you are, you would not pass through any part of God, for he has no parts.

Again: Where do we humans get ideas from? We derive them from what we’ve experienced and observed. We combine, re-combine, and set ideas and things in new relationships in our minds. God did not create energy that way: he is not (as the New Agers often say) “energy” in any sense remotely like physical energy. Of course he is not physical matter, either. There is nothing like that in him. So the creation of matter and energy was, for him, a truly creative act, an original idea such as we cannot begin to fathom.

There was in God also no “beginning,” yet he caused something to begin: yet another original idea, to a degree completely unapproachable by humans. The same could be said of physical or musical beauty, or any other beauty whatever.

All this he imagined, invented, devised, and produced by no process or method whatever, except by “the word of his power,” which was not a word spoken but an expression of his infinite intellect.

So if you think of God as having created our universe “somewhere,” if you think of him imagining new things the way we imagine new things, if you think of him processing ideas and producing results as we process ideas and produce results, you are not thinking of God as he is.

Beyond Our Human Limitations

Now, because you and I are human, it is certain that we think of God in those ways, to some extent. It is the only way we are equipped to think. We do not think about God as he truly is. Even if we made none of those mistakes, we would still not think of God as he truly is.

His essence, his magnitude, his power and glory are all beyond searching out. We cannot even form our questions about such things into proper language, since our language is fitted for the created order, not the Creator.

You do not think about God as he truly is.

Yet Not Bound By Imagined Limitations of His Own Infinity

Do you and I then know nothing true of God? Is he so infinitely far beyond our comprehension that we can grasp nothing of his reality?

No.

Indeed, to think God too great, too infinite for us to know him at all, is to belittle him: it is to suppose that he has all power except to communicate anything true about himself. He is greater than that; he is not subject to the imagined limitations of infinity.

So We Can Think About God Truly, Even If Not As He Truly Is

His ways in the world—his actions among his people—we can see and recognize, and from them, know something of God. His work in our realm begins with the inexpressible power and creativity of Genesis 1. It continues in his message to the first humans he made, in his response to their choices, and in his response to our choices ever since then. His work is expressed in his promises made and fulfilled, from Noah, to Abraham and his sons, to David, to his people through all the prophets.

Above all he made himself known in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews says,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

And Jesus himself speaks in John 14:8-9 answering a question from one of his close followers:

 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

The apostle Paul speaks of knowing God, in language unconfined and overflowing (Eph. 3:14-19):

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Do you truly think of God as God is? Paul’s prayer is that you would grow in that knowledge. It will take all of eternity. There is no such thing as all of eternity, however—or if there is, it could only be in the mind of God, not in our experience—so there is no such thing as knowing all of God truly. But there is such a thing as knowing him by his work in the world—especially, and above all, in Jesus Christ.

Postscript for Atheists/Skeptics/Questioners

For those who are inquiring into the possibility of God, you could read this post this way: Is this the God you are wondering about?

For those who dispute the reality of God, you could read this post this way: Who is the God you think you are disputing? Do you think about him as he really would be, if theism were true? If not, then you are not disputing theism as you think you are, but some other imagined system of thought.

For example, a few days ago the Arizona Atheist wrote,

Obviously, a theist will argue that god is not bound by the laws of physics, and for the sake of argument I will concede that god is not bound by those laws. However, my question is how does such an immaterial being interact with a material substance and how could it act in a material world? By what processes might god use to achieve this? In addition, these attributes are logically inconsistent. Theists argue that god exists, but then he has no existence. Huh? I believe all of this mumbo-jumbo is merely a snake-oil salesmen pitch to allow god to avoid any logical or factual arguments against him/it/her, whatever. If someone is going to propose an argument, it must at the very least be logically consistent, if not something tangible, based upon the known laws of physics and other processes humans have discovered. Anything less is pointless gobbledygook.

He is not thinking of God as theism understands God, but God as if God were part of God’s own created order. He thinks he is disputing God, but he is instead disputing a god of his own devising.

To dispute the Christian God as a concept, you owe it to yourself intellectually not to dispute some god other than the God in whom Christians believe.

To inquire into the reality of the Christian God, you owe it also to yourself to inquire into the God as Christianity really believes in.

But you might ask us, “How can we know which God you believe in, since by your own admission, there is so much of him beyond human comprehension?” My answer would be two-fold:

1. If you are thinking of God as if God were part of God’s created order, you are thinking of some other God.
2. If you want to know something about God as Christians understand God, there is no better way—in fact, no other adequate way—than by studying the life and message of Jesus Christ.

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The Curious Case of the Atheist Who Denied Dawkins Was Disputing Deity http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/the-curious-case-of-the-atheist-who-denied-dawkins-was-disputing-deity/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/the-curious-case-of-the-atheist-who-denied-dawkins-was-disputing-deity/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:56:51 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25597 Curious. He denies Dawkins was disputing the deity, in a book where Dawkins clearly was doing just that.

The Arizona Atheist continues to maintain that Dawkins does not address God in The Blind Watchmaker:

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god [sic], and there is indeed nothing there.

I responded to him by way of two comments on his website. Here I quote excerpts:

BEGIN FIRST ...

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Curious. He denies Dawkins was disputing the deity, in a book where Dawkins clearly was doing just that.

The Arizona Atheist continues to maintain that Dawkins does not address God in The Blind Watchmaker:

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god [sic], and there is indeed nothing there.

I responded to him by way of two comments on his website. Here I quote excerpts:

BEGIN FIRST COMMENT EXCERPT>>>

I’m rather confused as to how you can say that Dawkins didn’t address god (well, he didn’t, actually) or that he didn’t address God, in The Blind Watchmaker. This is quite a crucial point in your article here, and it’s crucial in my mind, too. It’s so crucial, in fact, that I really want to hear further from you on it before I go into any other topics you’ve brought up. I’ll explain why at the end of all this.

You wrote,

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god, and there is indeed nothing there.

I think this is quite obviously wrong. He opens the book with fully two chapters focused largely on the question of God. They form the framework within which his evolutionary arguments are made, and (as opening chapters usually do) they explain the purpose for the rest of the book.

You know, because I wrote it and you quoted it here, bhtat In the intro to his book he made it clear that he was addressing the “most influential argument for God.” He devotes several paragraphs, early on, quite pointedly to William Paley’s design argument for God.

Then he summarizes that section, and briefly states his problem with it, and goes on to add,

I shall explain all this, and much besides…. I said [at dinner with a well-known atheist] that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was published.

The question of God is obviously in his mind as he discusses his disbelief in God. But there’s more.

He goes on to speak of Hume’s treatment of God, following which he goes on to a lengthy discussion of complex things and eventually, “what kind of explanation for complex things would satisfy us.” Back to Paley’s argument for God again, and then on to a chapter on “Good Design,” where Paley was again prominently featured in the chapter’s introduction. Not just that, but Paley comes back into the picture again, well into the chapter, where Dawkins writes,

His [Paley's] hypothesis was that living watches were literally designed and built by a master watchmaker. Our modern hypothesis is that the job was done in gradual evolutionary states by natural selection.

Nowadays theologians aren’t quite so straightforward as Paley.

[Recall that Paley used the analogy of an intentional, intelligent watchmaker to argue for God. Do you really think the title of the book wasn't meant to convey that the book would be a counter-theistic argument?]

Then follows a couple of pages on other theologians’ and a bishop’s arguments in favor of design, and against naturalistic evolution, both of which (it takes little knowledge to understand) tend to be arguments for God when they’re offered by theologians and bishops.

That amounts to two entire chapters setting the stage for the rest of the book. The rest of the book, of course, is his exposition in favor of evolution and against design; where design was situated in the book as being an argument for God.

How about the close of the book? Look at the third-to-last paragraph. It ends,

The same applies to the odds against the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect, and whole beings, including — I see no way of avoiding the conclusion — deities.

Look back a page or so earlier, in the portion beginning, “We have dealt with all the alleged alternatives to the theory of natural selection except the oldest one,” and ending “In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution…. give[s] some superficial appearance of being [an] alternative to Darwinism” but fails the test of evidence.

He begins the book talking about God. He ends the book talking about God. He places his whole argument in a framework of what he clearly argues to be failed reasons to believe in God.

Do you still maintain that Dawkins does not address God in this book?

< << END FIRST COMMENT EXCERPT

My further (and I hope final) reply to him there on his blog:

BEGIN SECOND COMENT EXCERPT>>>
….

I should have caught this in my previous comment but I missed it:

there is not a single quotation in the book that can be pointed to where Dawkins remotely says anything like, ‘because evolution explains biological design, there is no god.’

The whole book is an argument against intentional/teleological design. God, as God is understood in theism, acts intentionally/teleologically. Syllogism:

1. If there is a God as understood in the prevailing theistic views of God, then God acts intentionally/teleologically in nature.
2. There is no intentional/teleological action in all of nature.

Now, Dawkins doesn’t spell out the major premise. He doesn’t have to. In his discussions on Paley and other natural theologians he makes clear that this is the God he has in mind.

Regarding the minor premise, recall what I wrote earlier: Dawkins thinks that if he explains away biological design, he has as good as explained away all design in nature. So there’s no doubt that he affirms 2 in this book, even if he doesn’t say it in those exact words.

Regarding the conclusion, he doesn’t spell that out either. That’s because any dummy can figure it out.

3. Therefore there is no God, as God is understood in the prevailing theistic views of God.

Collapsing all that into one short paraphrased sentence, we have something that’s logically equivalent to, “because evolution explains biological design, there is no god God [Dawkins knows how to capitalize proper nouns].

I can’t imagine how that isn’t obvious to you.

As I said [in a paragraph in my first comment, not included here], if you continue to maintain these strange interpretations of Dawkins’ book, you will continue to have credibility problems.

< << END SECOND COMMENT

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The Arizona Atheist Critiques “True Reason” — My Reply http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/the-arizona-atheist-critiques-true-reason-my-reply/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/the-arizona-atheist-critiques-true-reason-my-reply/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 14:57:03 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25595 Some time ago the Arizona Atheist critiqued my comments on Richard Dawkins in Chapter 1 of True Reason. I answered him, then he responded in turn, and now it’s my turn again. The point specifically in question is what I had to say about Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design.

There is much in AA’s most recent response that puzzles me. For example, he says,

In your chapter, you ...

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]]> Some time ago the Arizona Atheist critiqued my comments on Richard Dawkins in Chapter 1 of True Reason. I answered him, then he responded in turn, and now it’s my turn again. The point specifically in question is what I had to say about Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design.

There is much in AA’s most recent response that puzzles me. For example, he says,

In your chapter, you are clearly responding to Dawkins’ case against god-guided evolution. Your chapter presents an accurate description of Dawkins’ intentions in The Blind Watchmaker. But here, you’re arguing that you agree that Dawkins did successfully argue that point (that there is no evidence of god-guided evolution) and are now claiming Dawkins’ intention was to disprove the very existence of god. But Dawkins nowhere says anything about disproving the very existence of god in the entire book.

This is odd in many ways, one of which (incidentally) is that the Arizona Atheist knows most of the conventions of English usage, yet seems not to be aware that “God” is a proper noun in this context. Oh, well. That’s a frequent enough error; I’ll leave it be, with nothing more than that simple note.

More salient than that were three confused statements AA made in that paragraph. I’ll use those three statements to help organize my response here, though I’ll draw in material from elsewhere to support what I have to say.

Dawkins’ Case Against Design

First, I was not “responding to Dawkins’ case against god-guided evolution.” Yes, Dawkins focuses on his area of specialty, biology, but his case was against design in general. This is evident in the book’s subtitle: “why the evidence … reveals a universe without design.” The book’s first chapter opens by discussing the complexity of living organisms, and moves directly in its second paragraph to, “Biology is the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” The whole first chapter, which sets the stage for the whole book, is commentary on that.

AA anticipates my response there and writes,

Yes, it’s true that Dawkins’ book only addressed the belief of god-guided evolution, but evolution is Dawkins’ main area of expertise and he wanted to address this specific claim. And this is what he means by “design.” He’s not referring to all design arguments, but only the specific subset dealing with biological design. If someone writes a book with the intention of covering a single topic I think it’s unfair to criticize it for failing to address other related topics.

I don’t know where I made that error in my chapter, although in my more recent response to AA I did say,

Again: suppose evolution happened as he supposes: does that reveal a universe without design? Once you get done with studying evolution, there’s still a whole lot of universe left over! There’s cosmogony, cosmology, fine-tuning, the rationality and explainability of reality, and the full panoply of as-yet-unexplained human characteristics including consciousness, rationality, free will, and worth, which Dawkins didn’t touch in that book (as I recall), and of which no evolutionary account has given an adequate treatment. So in that sense he made a large and fallacious logical leap, too.

I didn’t, however, criticize Dawkins primarily for failing to address other related topics. I criticized him for committing a rather obvious logical fallacy. (This was the whole point of that section of my chapter in True Reason, as well as much of the rest of the book: the fallacious logic so frequently displayed by Dawkins and other New Atheists.) He drew his conclusion — a universe without design — without having demonstrated it. He didn’t even try to demonstrate it, except in one limited set of phenomena, biological evolution.

Had he succeeded in showing design was unnecessary in the case of life, that would have revealed a biosphere without design, not a universe without design. But no, actually, it would only have revealed the scientific and logical possibility of a biosphere without design; which is why I wrote in True Reason that Dawkins disappointed me. He drew the conclusion, there is no design, after arguing a case that could only lead to it is possible there is no design. Alvin Plantinga pointed out the same thing, as I noted in True Reason.

Misreading My Argument

Second, I did not argue that I “agree that Dawkins did successfully argue that point.” What I said was,

So suppose that Dawkins was completely successful in demonstrating that evolution happened as he described. I doubt that he was, but that’s another matter, and for now we can take it for the sake of argument that he did succeed. Suppose he even demonstrated that God was superfluous to the natural history of biological creatures.

That’s a far cry from agreeing that Dawkins was successful!

Did Dawkins Really Intend to Argue Against the Existence of God?

Third, AA denies that Dawkins’ intention was to disprove the existence of God. Now, that ties in with other things AA wrote in his response to me:

You say nothing about the very existence of god in your chapter, which is not even addressed by Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, so why you seem to be changing your argument from one purely about god-guided evolution to one about the existence of god confuses me.

and,

He [Dawkins] said nothing of the kind, that there is no god.

and also,

Once again, Dawkins wasn’t arguing in that book that god does not exist. He was only discussing god’s alleged role in the evolutionary process.

At this point it’s a challenge for me to maintain decorum; that is, it’s hard not to burst out in laughter. To argue that the universe is without design, while also maintaining that the design argument is “always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of God,” is indeed to argue against the existence of God—whether or not one says, “I am now commencing an argument against the existence of God.”

Let’s see just how Dawkins viewed his arguments in relation to the existence of God. On page 4 of The Blind Watchmaker, in the 1996 edition I’m reading, Dawkins writes,

The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His Natural Theology — or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the ‘Argument from Design’, always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of God.

Two pages later, he writes,

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Dawkins’ argument against design is quite definitely an argument for atheism and against God.

More on “God” or “Belief in God’s Role in Evolution”?

Nevertheless AA thinks Dawkins’ book is only about belief in God’s role in evolution. He quotes the critical passage:

We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his intervention always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection. All that we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main things we want to explain, namely organized complexity.”

And referring to that, he reminds me,

In fact, where you quote Dawkins as saying that “God is “superfluous” he is not referring to god at all, but a certain belief about god’s role in evolution.

I grant his point there, except that (a) through his carelessness in logic and in the wording of his subtitle, among other things, Dawkins made it about design in general, as I already said, and (b) Dawkins believes he is poking a large and irreparable hole in any reason to believe in God.

Now, AA is correct: Dawkins did not say in so many words, “therefore there is no God.” (Dawkins knows English well enough not to have written, “there is no god.”) I’ll accept that critique. It is a distinction without a difference, in my view; and besides that, if this is the best counter-argument anyone can successfully muster against me, I think I can stand the sting of that.

A Question About Divine Simplicity

AA has this question to add to the mix:

I would agree with you that theologians have often described god as simple, but at the same time I’ve never been able to understand how someone can make such strong assertions about the nature of something to which we have no evidence for. What is the basis for this assertion? It is philosophy, theology, the bible? I would be much appreciative if you could answer this for me.

It’s a very good question, and more involved than I can address here. In short, though, its basis is in a philosophical reflection on what God must necessarily be, if God is. That is, if we’re talking about God, then by definition we are talking about God in his ontological simplicity. If we’re talking about some being that is not ontologically simple, then we are not talking about God, but (and maybe AA is right here) maybe about god, some unknown deity that no one here believes in. But I cannot go into this any further here. I will refer you to Edward Feser for more.

And a Question Of My Own About What AA Is Trying To Say

Finally, I admit to being confused over the supposed contradiction AA says he identified in point 2 near the end of his piece. As far as I understand what he says, I think I’ve already addressed it, especially where he says, “”The issue was the argument that god helped to guide the evolutionary process, nothing about arguments for god’s existence. This is my main point of confusion and why I believe you’re contradicting yourself.” That contradiction has been resolved, I believe. If there’s something else there I didn’t catch, I’ll be glad to have it clarified for me so I can address it.

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http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/the-arizona-atheist-critiques-true-reason-my-reply/feed/ 73 “I’m not a better person than you, but my opinions are better than yours” — Really? http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/im-not-a-better-person-than-you-but-my-opinions-are-better-than-yours/ http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/06/im-not-a-better-person-than-you-but-my-opinions-are-better-than-yours/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=25574 Here’s postscript to my post Saturday on truth and humility and blogging.

I’m convinced it’s possible to think, with no contradiction, “I am no better person than you, but my opinions are better than yours.” It sounds arrogant, but on a closer look there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it at all. By the end of this post I’ll have a question for you, though: is it possible for someone to know that his or her opinions are better than others’?

Of course it’s easy ...

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Here’s postscript to my post Saturday on truth and humility and blogging.

I’m convinced it’s possible to think, with no contradiction, “I am no better person than you, but my opinions are better than yours.” It sounds arrogant, but on a closer look there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it at all. By the end of this post I’ll have a question for you, though: is it possible for someone to know that his or her opinions are better than others’?

Of course it’s easy to see how someone could think that and be wrong: if their opinions are unstudied, tainted by bias, prejudiced, ethically or morally wrong, or if they’ve tripped into any of a thousand other traps, then their opinions could very likely be worse (less accurate or good) than others’.

So it’s a very risky thing to say. But is it wrong? Not necessarily, and not always.

No Better Person

On the one hand I can recognize that I have strengths and weaknesses, and added up on a scale they all weigh as much as everyone else’s. I can see that we all have equal worth in the eyes of the Creator or (whatever “worth” means on that view) as the result of what nature has done. Believers in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures can see that we’re all on equal plane morally: humankind was created good but fell. Christians believe that “all have sinned and fall short,” and that there is no distinction. If one’s morality is better than another’s, it is by the grace of God in him.

Whoever you are, then, I am no better person than you. Christ in me makes me far better than I would be on my own, without him, so whatever credit anyone gets, it belongs to him.

Better Ideas

On the other hand, I can’t help preferring my ideas and opinions over those I disagree with.

That doesn’t have to apply to every opinion, in fact it really shouldn’t. If I’m wise I’ll know I don’t have to land with a judgment on every opinion. I don’t have to think every one of my opinions is better than others’.

Every person has views, though, that we’ve looked into enough to have an informed position on them. When we get to that point, we’re bound to think our opinion is better than others’—after all, we’ve considered those other views and rejected them! How could we not think the view we’ve chosen is better?

Some People Are Right

So I can be a person who recognizes I’m no better than others, but who thinks my opinions are. So can you. So could anybody. And depending on what opinion we’re talking about, one of us is bound to be right! So yes, it’s possible to think that you’re no better than others, and yet accurately believe your opinions are better.

The trick is to be that person: to know where to look for what’s true, reliable, and trustworthy; to overcome both ignorance and bias; to be willing to follow the truth where it leads.

The Question

Now, here’s the question. I think it’s plainly obvious that a person can believe he’s no better than others but his opinions are, and be right about it. It has to be possible, since someone’s opinion has to be closer to the truth than others’.

I wonder, though: can that person know that he or she is that person? I have my views even on this, and I think those views better than other views. Can I know that? Or can I only believe it?

This question is not limited to religion.

What do you think?

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