Are Christians Atheists Too?

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Are Christians Atheists Too?

Wandering the raucous hallways of a facebook apologetics forum the other day and ran across an unbeliever who loved the “I just believe in one less God than you” argument. I mean really loved it. Moving up and down the threads, I saw him employ it numerous times in seemingly one sitting. But what’s the appeal really?

I suppose people may think it’s a winning argument because it attempts to convict the believer of the same irrationality of which we accuse the unbeliever: Certain gods do not exist. And if we, indeed, make the claim that these other gods do not exist, they are correct. We are then guilty of atheism. In such a case, we would be making a positive knowledge claim [the non-existence of god(s)] that we cannot support observationally. So I would like to advise that we cease doing so, if this is the case, but I’ll get to that later.

The atheist argument follows that the believer denies the existence of all other gods except the God of their own personal choice, presumably the God of the Bible. So we, as believers, assume our own atheism [non-existence of god(s)] or their silly “lack of belief” stance on atheism, regarding Thor and Zeus and Krishna and the like. The popular statement of this position is worded as such by atheist Stephen F. Roberts:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace has a tidy answer prepared for those who hold this position:

In every criminal trial, a jury is asked to evaluate the actions of one defendant related to a particular crime. While there are millions of other people in the world who could have committed the crime under consideration (and indeed, millions of these people were actually available to commit the crime), only one has been charged. If the jury becomes convinced this defendant is the perpetrator, they will convict him based on their beliefs. They will convict the accused even though they haven’t examined the actions (or nature) of millions of other potential suspects. They’ll render a verdict based on the evidence related to this defendant, in spite of the fact they may be ignorant of the history or actions of several million alternatives. If the evidence is persuasive, the jurors will become true believers in the guilt of this man or woman, even as they reject millions of other options . . .At the end of a trial, juries are “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential suspect, because the evidence confirming the guilt of their particular defendant was sufficient. In a similar way, we can be confident “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential god because the evidence for Christianity is more than sufficient.”

Wallace’s response deals with our ability to judge rationally which gods exist evidentially through argument and reason. The existence of alternative “gods” do not logically hinder our ability to find one true One or render the existence of one true God irrational. That’s Wallace’s argument. But I want to deal with the first part of Roberts’ claim.

I CONTEND THAT WE ARE BOTH ATHEISTS . . .
Atheist Stephen F. Roberts’ argument, well, maybe more of an assertion, is that atheists and theists, if they do reject other gods, do so for the same reasons. This is untrue. Theists reject other gods because of what they know. Atheists, reportedly, reject other gods because of what they don’t know (lack of belief).

See, not too long ago, unbelievers adopted a new definition for atheism. Most of them categorically reject the definition of atheism found in the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” which calls atheism:

“Atheism” is typically defined in terms of “theism”. Theism, in turn, is best understood as a proposition—something that is either true or false. It is often defined as “the belief that God exists”, but here “belief” means “something believed”. It refers to the propositional content of belief, not to the attitude or psychological state of believing. This is why it makes sense to say that theism is true or false and to argue for or against theism. If, however, “atheism” is defined in terms of theism and theism is the proposition that God exists and not the psychological condition of believing that there is a God, then it follows that atheism is not the absence of the psychological condition of believing that God exists (more on this below). The “a-” in “atheism” must be understood as negation instead of absence, as “not” instead of “without”. Therefore, in philosophy at least, atheism should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist (or, more broadly, the proposition that there are no gods).

They have replaced the definition above with what we will call a “lack of belief”. This position, if they would even agree to call it one, conveniently makes no knowledge claims. This is the upside for the god-denier. No propositions to defend. This “lack of belief” holds that theism must do the heavy lifting to convince them of our claim, since they have made none. The downside of this tactic is that atheism now lacks, among other things, explanatory power. A “lack of belief” only describes a personal deficiency and not reality. Atheism, as such, ceases to have cultural relevance as defined here, since non-beliefs cannot motivate or comment on or improve anything.

ANATOMY OF A TRAP
So Roberts’ argument now becomes a trap, volleying the adherent between two definitions. The unbeliever must admit that they reject gods because of a personal deficiency, rendering the position impotent, or they must make a positive claim that NO gods exist, a knowledge claim that they cannot support with evidence. They can’t really do both, can they?

While theism, Christianity in particular, continually seeks to explain the universe through reason, science, history, and philosophy, atheism reverts to “feels” and spiraling nihilism.

BUT ARE WE ATHEISTS TOO?
But are we atheists too? Well, God never makes these claims. In fact, He acknowledges other “gods” quite boldly in scripture:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Deut 10:17.

“Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:2.

“For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on *all the gods of Egypt* I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” Exodus 12:12.

“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:” Psalm 82:1.

“For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Cor 8:5-6.

And an article by Elizabeth Sloane from www.haaretz.com, an online edition of the Haaretz Newspaper in Israel reasons:

Early Judaism did not deny the existence of other gods. The Biblical story of Exodus categorically acknowledges and affirms the existence of other gods. It paints the plagues of Egypt not just as war on the pharaoh, but as a war on the gods of Egypt: “Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments” (Ex. 12.12).”

Some may counter with examples of many other passages in scripture that seem to directly contradict the verses above. But what are they saying when they use the word “god” or “gods”. These are man-made idols. These are creations of creation, not of our Good Good Father. None of these stand in opposition to the God of the Bible on their own. They exist but not as the One True God who is worthy of worship, but as idols. False gods. Unholy machinations of our fallen nature.

So, no. We are not “both atheists”. We do not fall into contradiction claiming things we cannot determine through reason and evidence, like the non-existence of false deities. We continue to be able to explain reality by appealing to what best fits the evidence and not revert to a weak position of “lack of belief”.

God Bless.

https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/do-atheists-believe-in-just-one-less-god-than-christians/
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#DefiAthe
https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium.MAGAZINE-what-if-god-didn-t-really-care-if-we-worship-other-gods-1.5459638

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Comforting The Sufferers

 

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2 Corinthians 1:3-7 New International Version (NIV):

3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

 

Does the Bible verse above describe how you usually respond to suffering?  I bet not. At best, my response to suffering results in my pulling away quietly from reality, hedging myself in with sports or books or movies, so I don’t have to deal.  Denial. At worst, I lash out at people who are not the cause of my trial.

The verse above probably best describes how I respond to other people’s suffering.  “Don’t worry about it.  It’ll pass. You’ll be stronger for this.”  As I type I notice that what I say isn’t false, it’s true, but most often I tend to refer to truth when I don’t need to be the one to live it.

Opportunity for Unbelievers

So often we hear atheists snicker about the existence of a loving God who has a suffering people.  To them, this is incoherent. If God is all-powerful and He loves you, why do you suffer, they ask.  They use these instances to play on our propensity to avoid the problem. That we may act on the call of our hearts to lash out, instead of reach out.

But when you consider atheism, you should know that this is, in fact, the incoherent worldview.  Atheism does not provide answers to the problem of evil; it just eliminates it as a problem.

If this is a God-less existence, what is suffering?  See, suffering can only be seen as bad or wrong or something that ought not happen if we have an understanding of what ought to be.  Atheism, if true, eliminates oughts.  

An ought-less world is one in which what happens just happens.  It’s a world of chocolate or vanilla choices and chocolate or vanilla results.  Nothing is good or bad. Things are just different, but equal in value, like the choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  After all, who’s to say that one flavor is better than the other? What proof can we submit to decide? (Hint: It’s chocolate. Or is it?)  An existence without a standard of what ought to happen reduces life to these kind of choices.

Thus, every complaint or displeasure can only describe the condition of the complainer and says nothing truthful of the deed done or object of the complaint.  So, as such, the unbeliever lacks the ability to describe or explain reality. Truth exists within only their personal whims and not as something that exists apart from them.  For example, displeasure of being punched in the nose only describes the way the punched individual feels about the event and not the potential wrongness of the act itself against them.  But nobody really lives this way. That’s the incoherence of atheism.

So when unbelievers try to play us against God because of our sufferings, they entirely miss the point.

God’s Plan for Suffering

The point of suffering according to the text above is to establish God as the “Father of compassion” and the “God of comfort”.  Notice 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 doesn’t tell us that troubles won’t occur. People of God were never promised a trouble-free life. These are the heretical rantings of false prophets and prosperity gospel preachers.  It says we will be comforted in our troubles. (v.4) This comfort is found in the Cross.

When reading this verse, it is important to understand that this letter is written by Paul on behalf of himself and his traveling companion Timothy to the church in Corinth.  So when he uses the words “we” and “our”, in some cases, he is referring to himself and Timothy. “You” and “your” is referencing the church in Corinth. In other cases, these words refer to Paul, Timothy, and the church all together as believers.

So not only does God comfort us (everyone) in our troubles through the saving work of Christ, we are to use this truth to comfort others.  Paul achieves this by acknowledgement God’s well-known sustaining acts within Paul’s life. The afflictions of persecution, imprisonment, threats of death, anxieties and impoverishment, for those, God has provided a peace for Paul and in turn, he passes on comfort to those also in trouble.  “If we (Paul and Timothy) are distressed, it is for your (Corinth) comfort and salvation; if we (Paul and Timothy) are comforted, it is for your (Corinth) comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we (Paul and Timothy) suffer.” (v.6)

So it is easy enough to understand the afflictions for which Paul has received comfort.  But what form did this comfort take for Paul? Bible commentator Colin G. Kruse describes Paul’s deliverance from his affliction, like deadly peril, as one of the ways that God provided comfort for him.  He also details relief from anxieties that Paul experienced when Titus joined him in Macedonia. It, however, is clear that he was never exempt from persecution and trial because of God providing comfort.  Kruse also offers that “up to the time of writing God has delivered Paul out of all his afflictions in the sense that none of them had proved fatal” (p.61, TTNTC)

Now, why should troubles occur in the first place?  Again, what is the point?

The answer has much to do with our sin.  Clay Jones, in his terrific book “Why Does God Allow Evil”, gives a short answer:

“God could not simply excuse Adam and Eve’s sin because the lesson to free beings would then be ‘Sin is okay, God will overlook it.’ But to demonstrate His love for us and to atone for the grave seriousness of sin, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for rebellious humans.  Now, we humans who trust God and accept Jesus’ death on the cross of our sins learn the horror of rebellion through experiencing rebellion’s devastating results. We are also learning to overcome evil with good. This knowledge prepares us to be fit inheritors of God’s kingdom, where– because we are learning the horror and stupidity of sin here on earth– we will be able to use our free will rightly as we reign with Jesus forever and ever.” (p.208)

Know that much of the quote above deserves further explanation and that is what Jones’ informative book provides.

So according to Jones, God has a reason for our suffering.  He has a plan the eventually leads us to being in His presence “forever and ever”.  We play a part in this as believers. We comfort those who suffer because we have found comfort in the finished work of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May you personally find this kind of comfort in your life.

God Bless.

 

Source:  The Tyndale New Testament Commentary of 2 Corinthians by Colin G. Kruse (p. 61, TTNTC)

Standing On Our Christian Convictions

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Came across this quote today on facebook.  I had seen it before. But something was different about it today.  Now, likely nothing was actually different about it. More likely, something was different about me.  Ever have that? You see things day in, day out but you never really notice them. Or you notice them differently now than you did then?  That’s the way this quote worked on me today.

The person who posted this wondered aloud if Penn Jillette was softening is views on the existence of God.  Penn, a vocal atheist, hasn’t, to my knowledge, announced or renounced anything. And my thoughts about this quote do not really deal with his non-belief, but, in fact, our belief.

See, he seems to understand our purpose as Christians better than we do (sometimes).  And I have never said that about an atheist before now. Normally, atheists and agnostics get just about everything regarding our faith wrong.  Most of the time, they even get the definition of Christian faith wrong from the start. But here, he asks, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”  He sees that the believer’s act of delivering the Good News as an urgent God-directed mission of love, as we should. But do we really?

Penn offers that we may fear an awkwardness in our relationship with others if our actions are somehow rebuffed.  From his perspective, he just doesn’t believe that it’s real. His personal conviction is that God isn’t real, so this isn’t something of value.

But to believers, it must be real.  After all, this is our worldview. Our conviction is that God stepped down from His throne, into time, in the human form of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This God-Man then, in order to rescue those who love Him, sacrificed Himself to pay for their sins, while they were still sinners. He atoned for their (our) rotten deeds in a way that the Old Testament sacrifices could not.  With the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Our conviction is that Grace prevailed over our depraved nature and those who love God are now new creations. And our Lord has entrusted with us this message to the world.

So if these are our convictions, “How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”  Maybe it’s not hate, maybe it’s fear.  Or worse, maybe, we simply lack conviction. Because if we believe that the Cross that took the life of our Savior is the only way that the world can gain eternal life, for what reasons are we keeping this to ourselves?

Friends, if it is a lack of conviction, there are ways to know that what we believe is true.  There is information that we can attain that answers our reasonable doubts. We have the goods.  We can be bold in our actions. We need not be defensive or harsh. We need not shrink from challenges to our faith.  You can also pray for help with your unbelief or for God to continue His work in you, a maturing of your spirit.

Or maybe it is that we aren’t sure of our own salvation?  Could that be? But, as believers, we know that the greatest commandment tells us to love God and love each other.  So when we evangelize, when we share the Gospel, in doing so, we assure ourselves of the genuineness of our faith every time because, how much must we have to love somebody (God) to trust His Word and put it into action despite relentless chirping of a contrary culture that worships idols of comfort and greed? In addition, how much must we have to love somebody (others) to risk our relationship with them and tell them the truth that:  God is real, the Cross is real, and the Resurrection is true.

May we show love that changes lives.  And if for some reason we don’t, may we seek to change that about ourselves, God helping us.

God bless.

More Than Matter

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Are you more valuable than the chair on which you sit or the desk at which you work?  If you are an atheist, how do you come to a conclusion?

Some people who make the claim that God does not exist or that they aren’t convinced that God exists do not understand that materialism is their default position.  Materialism, being the claim that all that exists is material (matter), is a big problem for the atheist because, if no God exists, all material things, in the objective sense, can only be equal to all other material things.  There lacks an objective way to determine value.  So, ultimately, you could not reason that you are more valuable than furniture.

I think they (materialists) think that by escaping the dominion of a Good Good Father, they may continue on their own merry way without repercussion.  When by denying God in favor of materialism, they have actually injected themselves into a universe without meaning, objective mortality, and laws of logic, since these things are all immaterial.  They also find themselves without the faculties to discover truth.

Of course, nobody who claims the non-existence of God acts like the default position of materialism is true.  They actually behave more consistently with those who believe in God.  They work and learn and create in ways that exhibit meaningful lives.  They follow an objectively moral path that condemns violence against the helpless and condemns lying and cheating.  And they champion their intellect as a way to solve problems and, ironically, as a way to reason that the very God that gave them the ability to do so does not exist.

Speaking of intellect, why would you trust anything that you know if your intelligence is not the product of greater intelligence, a Great Mind?  Why believe anything you think is true?  Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox explains:

“There are not many options — essentially, just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”

So when materialists disagree with this article, they have already defeated themselves because their own worldview turns the very action of reasoning into a mere series of predetermined physical causes that can only result in a conclusion based on the collision of material in one’s brain, instead of a process by which one can determine truth, wherever the evidence may lead, based on observation and logic.  How do you find truth on a world where predetermined bodily physics determines what we think, how we feel, and how we act?  Answer is, you don’t.

The fact is that we defeat materialistic claims every moment of our lives.  To illustrate, facebook friend Paul Ross poetically writes:

“I transcend matter everytime I have a thought, because matter (Impersonal mindless purposeless undirected processes) are not conscious. Everytime I make a decision, because matter has no will.

Everytime I move in faith, because matter has no beliefs. Everytime I care, because matter could not care less.

 Everytime I reason, because matter is devoid of reasoning.  Everytime I intend something, because matter has no intentions.

Everytime I purpose something, because matter has no purpose, and everytime I pray, because matter has no requests.”

Again, the doctrine of Materialism maintains that you are only a product of the material of which you are composed.  Nothing more.  I say doctrine because this is a system of belief just like any of religion.  The difference here is that those of theism actually describe reality completely.

Accepting materialism as reality puts you in conflict with common sense as well as God. He says you are more.  You are valuable.  You are a moral creation.  You are a conscious being.  Whether theist or atheist, you already understand this to be true.  How do I know this?  Because Romans 1: 19-20 proclaims it.  But also because you profess this every day with the way you live your life.

God Bless.

The Good Good Father vs. The Straw god

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A true tragedy within contemporary culture is the great amount of people, some even claiming to be Christians, who do not understand the character of God.  In some cases, their animosity does not seem to be based in mere misunderstanding, but in strategy.  Willingly or unwittingly, they create gods of their own choosing, what I will call Straw gods (small “g”).  Like straw man arguments, these ideas are formed in order to defeat a god who is fallible, limited, not all-powerful, not holy, or all-knowing.  Below, I would like to give a few examples of just such questions or statements that confuse a Straw god with the God of the Bible, explain the inherent problems with them, and even try to answer them in a way that will not support their faulty premises.  To do that, I will humbly borrow the theological gravitas of Arthur W. Pink and his book, “The Attributes of God”, from which I will quote extensively.

Before we begin, I want my readers to know that I sampled these questions from various atheist/ Christian Facebook groups.  These are real questions that should demonstrate to us the magnitude of our culture’s inability to understand who our Good Good Father is.

Let’s proceed.

 

Question #1.  Shouldn’t a god who commits mass murder be held accountable?

The answer is yes.  But a god who commits mass murder cannot be the God of the bible.  The questioner, here, posits a Straw god who can be convicted of a crime (murder) and then be held accountable for said crime.  The holiness of this god is called into question, as well as his sovereignty.  One is moved to ask if this god that isn’t all good or all powerful or all moral is worthy of our praise?  Truly, the one named in this question is not.

The Bible tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John1:5).  Certainly, a being without darkness would not be a murderer.  Such diabolical claims are most often made in relation to Old Testament commands to utterly destroy enemies of Israel, punishing them for their grave disobedience.  Either way, it is our sinful world that deserves God’s punishment.  Punishment, not murder.  These deaths occurred due to the despicable things done to one another and done to a people who had been warned, but remained in direct rebellion against their creator.  Pink explains:

“Because God is holy he hates all sin. . . It follows, therefore, that he must necessarily punish sin.  Sin can no more exist without demanding his punishment than without requiring his hatred of it.  God has often forgiven sinners but he never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment . . .” (page 54)

Other times, questioners may conflate the existence of natural disasters, like hurricanes and tsunamis, with a murderous god.  After all, aren’t God’s decrees the “counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).  The problem here is that these “acts of God” seem to be the only acts attributed to Him.  Isn’t a beautiful warm summer day an act of God?  A cool refreshing breeze?  Rain for the farmer’s crops?  But when we see an event happen that, with our limited knowledge, we deem to be negative, doesn’t it seem that these are the only acts God must be responsible for?  Pink offers:

“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to children of men” (Ps. 107:8).  Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of his beneficence; yet it is often withheld from out great Benefactor simply because his goodness is so constant and so abundant.  It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events.  It is not felt because we daily experience it.” (page 77)

A page earlier Pink talks about examples of God’s goodness revealed in our human experiences:

“With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women, experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain.  There is much more creature happiness than creature-misery in the world.  Even our sorrows admit of considerable alleviation, and God has given to the human mind a pliability which adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them.”  (page 76)

Truth is, the proof of God’s eternal goodness cannot not be explained by the results of a  temporary existence.  Exiting the material world does not mark the end of the human experience of those who love God.

Still, they will call Him a murderer or genocidal.  If we are to accept this characterization of our Good Good Father, we also must ask ourselves the following questions:

How is it possible for the creator of the morality to be immoral since immorality is a deficiency of perfect morality?  It is not.  God is the maximal Being.  He cannot exhibit traits that are not perfect.  

By what standard can we judge a being who made us?  It is one thing to pass judgement upon someone who resides on our same footing, a coworker, friend, or neighbor, but it is an entirely different story to act as judge over a being of infinite perfection.

The question then asks shouldn’t God be held accountable.  Whom could He possibly be held accountable to?  If there is one, to which, our God could be held accountable, that being would then be God.

We, as believers, rejoice in the fact that our holy God has absolute authority over creation.  Clearly, the Straw god in question #1 is about one that is unholy and not good and without authority.

Question #2.  Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?

So the Straw god put forth is one that cannot reconcile his loving nature with his nature of wrath.  This is not the God of the Bible worshiped by Christians.  According to His word (1 John 4:8, Ps. 7:11), God is all loving and yet the wrath of God is another perfect facet of his Divine character.  To infer otherwise, as this question does, misunderstands both attributes.

In his book, mentioned above, Pink lists several qualities related to His perfect love and makes the point that “it is not simply that God ‘loves’, but that He is love (1John 4:8).  Love is not merely one of his attributes, but His very nature” (page 98).  So because He is love and He is sovereign, infinite, holy, immutable, and gracious, it stands to reason that so is His love.

After having defined God as love itself, the skeptic might propose that His reaction to the rebellion by His creation to His face should also be loving, which is in keeping with his identity.  To this, I would say that God’s response to those violating the law is wholly loving.  His response is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.   Folks that are moved to respond to this supremely loving act are saved, given eternal life. For those who are unmoved by Him, He respects their will to remain separated from His presence.  Moreover, “How could he who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?” (page 106)  In other words, how should a being whose every nature is perfect respond to what is “impure and vile”?  Wouldn’t not judging evil be, in fact, unloving and violate His divine character?  In effect, wouldn’t it also be a “moral blemish” attributed to a morally perfect God?  Pink says, “Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper” (page 106).

Clearly, in order for God to be God, He must be able to reconcile all his Divine characteristics.  That is the Good Good Father that deserves our worship.

Question #3.  Can’t god get rid of evil?

It should be noted that often the same skeptic who has asked questions #1 and 2, at another time, may turn around and ask question #3.  Which creates a no-win situation.  One where God can neither punish evil or let evil reside without accusation.  And clearly, if this questioner is one that adheres to materialist belief, it should be asked of them how their concept of evil is grounded, since if material is all that exists, they cannot possibly believe in such a thing as evil in the first place.

But back to the subject.  The question is really the first part of a famous quote of ancient philosopher Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?”

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?”  Of course, He is able.  Pink opens his chapter entitled “The Power of God” with this:

“We cannot have a right conception of God unless we think of him as all-powerful, as well as all-wise.  He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God.  As God hath a will to resolve what he deems good, so has he the power to execute his will.”  (page 58)

It’s really this simple.  Any god who is limited in any way cannot be the God of the Bible.  The question most people get hung up on, and I suppose rightly so, is why He would allow evil.  Please remember though that with His power, as Pink comments, comes wisdom.  God is not like a bully on the playground who does not know his own strength.  He has reasons, perfect reasons, even though we do not know what they are at every moment.  But, ask yourself, why would we know the absolute motivations of a perfect being when we are as we are?  We are woefully dependent upon Him and His providence.

Admittedly, the information above does not prove or serve as evidence for the existence of God.  It is to serve as somewhat of a guide for your conversations with seekers or non-believers about our Good Good Father.  With this culture war, we cannot allow skeptics to reintroduce the Him as a less than perfect being.  We must defend the true God of the Bible, instead of the Straw god promoted by a secularist culture whom is simply set up to fail.

God Bless.

Atheists Don’t Exist

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Atheists do not give themselves enough credit for achieving such a high level of certainty while announcing definitively that God does not exist.  One can only assume that such a revelation could only be put forth if the entire universe had been painstakingly searched for the presence of a deity.  That the vastness of time and space had been conquered.  And knowledge of every dimension had been accrued and analyzed.

Of course, the atheist hasn’t really accomplished any of this.  Nor has he considered the overwhelming amount of evidence provided by science, history, philosophy, and logic.  Much of the time, they avoid accepting the burden of proof by claiming that they simply lack a belief in a God and positing that it’s the theist’s job to change their (the atheist’s) mind.  Sadly, debating from a position of weakness.

But where does this certainty come from?  Isn’t “God doesn’t exist” an incredibly bold claim, considering how easily the notion can be debunked?  From his book, The Answer to the Atheist Handbook, Romanian minister Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs by communists in 1948, discusses the folly of such atheist assertions:

“Atheists assert that there is no God.  How can they be sure?  The book you are reading was conceived in prison.  The guards regularly searched our cells for forbidden objects . . . They did not find them.  We waited until they had left.  Then we took them out of their hiding places.  You search a cell for an object and you do not find it.  But is it right to maintain that it is not there?  Who has searched the infinite universe to ascertain that there is no God?”

But what if it could be true? What if an atheist could attain this kind of knowledge?  Then we have a different problem.  For argument’s sake, he has somehow traversed the far reaches of the universe, in search of a deity.  Having achieved knowledge of all time and space.  And searched every dimension, momentously finding it lacking a Good Good Father.  Wouldn’t that person adorned with special attributes and abilities such as these, in fact, be God?

Clearly, a material being does not exist that could accomplish what atheists claim because they are not equipped for the job.  This being would have to be eternal and all powerful so as not to be constrained by time and distance.  He would need to be immaterial and limitless in order to constantly observe all of reality simultaneously in the event that, like Wurmbrand’s guards, the deity might reappear when the atheist left any particular corner of the universe.

So one needs the characteristics of God to know definitively that God does not exist.  Who has the characteristics of God?  Answer:   only God.  Crunch!  The atheist’s premise is promptly crushed under it’s own weight.

No, the intellectually honest atheist cannot be an atheist at all.  The best defense he can muster would be to claim that the evidence of God is unconvincing or the God’s existence is unknowable.  Taking the person from atheism to agnosticism.  The philosopher Alvin Plantinga refers to this when he said:

“. . . lack of evidence [for God], if  indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism.  No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there is an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars.  The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.  In the same way, the failure of theistic arguments, if they indeed fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism.  Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.”

The honest agnostic cannot confirm or, more importantly, deny the existence of a Good Good Father.

God bless.

 

 

Inconsistent Atheism

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Naturalistic Atheism describes a universe ruled only by the push and pull of blind natural forces upon matter.  Nothing else exists apart from the physical world.  Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins provided a popular illustration of this worldview in his 1996 book, River Out Of Eden:

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”

Is this consistent with the way anyone actually lives?  Do atheists actually see the universe this way?  Can society accept the ramifications of this worldview?    The answer to all three questions is a resounding no.  One only has to review the claims made above and apply them to their own life to refute them.  Described above is a rather cold world, void of meaning, justice, and any sense of good or evil.  An existence, I suspect, that most would agree is not their experience of reality.

The immediate problem here is that Dawkins tells us life is without meaning because the universe is controlled by blind physical forces and genetic replication.  He’s using science in an attempt to convince us that something immaterial does not exist.  Does anyone else see a problem?  Of course, science can only report on things that can be tested.  So is it any wonder that Dr. Dawkins cannot discover meaning through the lens of his microscope? Or record it’s weight?  Or identify its origin?  The use of observational science to respond to a philosophical problem is inappropriate since these kind of questions simply cannot be answered by science.  So, instead, scientists, like Dawkins, must discount the existence of meaning, and a meaning-giver, right from the start.

Here’s what I mean by meaning.  According to James Anderson’s inciteful article from www.thegospelcoalition.org called, “Can Life Have Meaning Without God?”, meaning involves the careful consideration of at least three concepts:  purpose, significance, and value.  Folks who may be afraid to sound boastful need not worry that proclaiming meaning for their life is as conceited as it sounds. After all,  after some personal introspection, don’t you think that most people see their lives as having a fundamental goal (purpose), a contribution to the grand scheme of things (significance), and a betterment of the world (value).  According to Dr. Dawkins, atheists don’t believe this, or do they?  One only has to look at Dawkins’ own biography to see that he seems to believe that his life has meaning.  From his wikipedia page:

“He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen’s supervision, receiving his MA and DPhil degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year.”

“In his scientific works, Dawkins is best known for his popularisation of the gene as the principal unit of selection in evolution; this view is most clearly set out in his books:[36]

The Selfish Gene (1976), in which he notes that “all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities”.

“Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a supporter of various atheist, secular, and humanistic organisations. He is a patron of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement.”

Wouldn’t studying zoology at Oxford, being tutored by a Nobel Prize winner, and earning Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees denote a life of purpose?  What if you were a writer of  successful scientific books aiming to accurately describe the universe?  Wouldn’t you say that pursuit is significant?  And why else would he support atheist, secular and humanistic organizations if he did not think his doing so would be of value?  No, Richard Dawkins says that life is without meaning, but lives in a manner that says quite the opposite.

You might say, “But wait.  Maybe the good doctor meant that meaning is not granted from outside one’s self.  Couldn’t he simply choose to commit his life to the noble pursuits of science and education thereby giving purpose, significance, and value to his own life?”

In response, that view sounds reasonable until you realize that if it were true then any one person’s self-created meaning would be equal to all other self-created meanings of the world.  In other words, Hitler’s meaning would be just as purposeful, significant, and valuable as Ghandi’s.  From Anderson’s article, “The only way we could non-arbitrarily discriminate between all these subjectively meaningful lives—to deem one better or more worthy than another—is by smuggling some objective values through the back door. Sooner or later the meaning-from-within camp has to pilfer from the meaning-from-outside camp.”

Furthermore, do you have the ability to bestow meaning onto your own life?  Can you give your own life meaning if your life lacks meaning from the beginning?  Anderson asks, “How can meaningful choices arise out of a meaningless life?”  The truth is that we lack the authority to give our own lives meaning due to our limited view of the big picture.  Wouldn’t any self-created meaning be based solely on our own personal whims?

Moreover, declaring that your life or anyone else’s life lacks meaning denies the obvious effect that one life may have on others.  In other words, even if German industrialist hero Oskar Schindler would have testified that his life was without meaning, the 1,200 Jewish laborers that he saved during the Holocaust, when asked, would certainly disagree.  Schindler’s actions during that horrible time in history meant the survival of generations of Jews.  An incredibly meaningful life indeed.

Discussion of the Holocaust can easily lead us to the next troubling aspect of Dawkins’s worldview:  justice and good or evil.  Again, we can call on another quote.  This one is a particularly over-the-top rant from the Dawkins’s bestseller on atheism, The God Delusion:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant    character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

If you compare the quote above from The God Delusion and the first quote from River Out Of Eden, you’ll notice the mention of justice in both instances.  More specifically, he says there isn’t “any justice” and that here the OT God is “unjust”.  How can this be?  Which quote is true, if either?  See, by painting God as unjust, he presupposes the existence of something just, since injustice is a deficiency of justice.  Dr. Frank Turek explains this compellingly about evil in his terrific book, “Stealing From God”:

“Evil is like rust in a car; If you take all the rust out of a car, you have a better car; if you take the car out of the rust, you have nothing. . . In other words, evil only makes sense against the backdrop of good.  That’s why we often describe evil as negations of good things.  We say someone is immoral, unjust, unfair, dishonest, etc.”

So to paraphrase Dawkins’s delusional quote:  God is not good.  This again takes an objective moral stand that is denied credibility in his first quote where he declares there is “no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good.”  Dawkins cannot resist because he has to know at some level that objective moral truths and values exist.  Meaning that there is truth beyond the push and pull of natural forces.  He cannot sustain his own view that the world is ruled only by moral opinion.

Undoubtedly, we would not recognize a society that lived out this worldview consistently.  This view allows the existence of a Holocaust that is not objectively wrong or evil.  The nazis could never be blamed for the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people, since they were simply “dancing” to the music of their DNA.  This atrocity, that is, if atrocities could exist here, wouldn’t be their fault.  Calling acts such as these war crimes could only be considered, at worst, a mere difference of opinion.  Without the grounding of something or someone objectively good, each action in the universe would have equal value, none worse than another.

In his book, mentioned above, Dr. Frank Turek discusses a great example as to how far a consistent atheist would have to go to maintain his worldview, which occurred during a debate between Turek and David Silverman, president of American Atheists.  Dr. Turek pressed his opponent that without the existence of God, there is no objective morality (meaning right or wrong are not based on opinion).  Eventually, Silverman, in his pursuit of consistency, had to admit that there was no way to hold the nazis accountable for what they did.  The immoral nature of the Holocaust cannot be affirmed by the atheist worldview.  The kicker here is that Silverman is himself a Jew!  A world of consistent atheism is a world of complete madness.

Someone may say, “Wait, wait.  People have done horrible things in the name of Christ, haven’t they?  Are Christians any better?  What about their inconsistencies?”

Of course, Christians have fallen short.  You can look for examples throughout history or even the facebook pages of some believers.  But you should not judge a philosophy by its misuse.  And you are right, there are inconsistencies, but we have a name for those inconsistencies.  We call it sin.  And unlike atheism, Christianity has a solution for this problem:  The life-saving blood of Jesus Christ.

We have a Lord who stepped down from his throne in heaven and took our punishment because He loves us that much.  The reality of Him reveals lives of purpose, significance, and value and a universe where the shadows (injustice and evil), as Turek puts it, prove the sunshine (objective good).  Atheism only has these created, blind natural forces, physics against molecules, that fail miserably to describe reality as society observes it.  

God Bless.