Delusional Philosophy

The atheist Richard Dawkins authored a book entitled “The God Delusion.”  In it, he ridicules Christians specifically for believing God’s existence.  While Dawkins travels through a litany of stories, anecdotes, and diatribes, he never really gives a defense for his own position and why it ranks superior than that which he pegs as a delusion.  He simply pokes fun at the Christian faith, his primary goal as he stated at the outset.  However, stories, anecdotes, and ridicule are not defenses of one’s position.  Rather, they are irrational.

While Dawkins does refer to arguments of evidence, proof, and science, he provides little to defend his position of atheism from those arguments.  All he concludes in his reference to them is that they offer no reason to believe in God without providing syllogistic arguments in support from them.  His arguments are not from syllogistic reasoning but based on speculation and ridicule without support. Additionally, he spends an extensive amount of print on defining delusion while referencing other people’s claims and then making his own claim. He then meanders into a defense of his own claim by stating his book is “less shrill” and “tame” compared to other published works.  However, “less shrill” and ridicule remain shrill and irrational.  Shrill and ridicule are traits of intolerance and irrationalism.  Such traits not only show opposition to different ideas, philosophy, and religion, but they also engage in intentional acts to destroy these ideas, philosophy, and religious beliefs.  Today’s atheism delivers such actions by pursuing court actions, demonstrations, and in some cases violence against religious activity, specifically Christian beliefs.

Delusion consists of not only actions but thoughts.  A belief system and worldview guides thinking and behavior.  Consider the atheistic belief system.  It is the belief in the non-existence of God and regularly rails against God and those who believe Him.  How rational is it to believe in what a person alleges does not exist?  That equates to believing in magic and pixie dust.  In doing so, atheism affirms what it denies – God.  For one could not know what does not exists, for there is no knowledge in non-existence.  One cannot conjure up in one’s mind that which does not exist.  Try thinking of non-existence.  What would non-existence look like?  Can a person entertain non-existence in one’s mind if there is no knowledge of that which does not exist? If one thinks or speaks of God, that person affirms knowledge of God.  That is, one imagines what God or some god looks like and formulates it into a straw man when associating it with a particular religion or specifically biblical faith.  That straw man is formulating an argument based on what one believes another holds.

One cannot escape this logic by claiming that superman, trolls, or fairies do not exist, and one can imagine them.  These fictitious characters are extrapolations of what exist in the real world.  Someone simply imagined a man who could fly or a flying tiny human-like creature with wings one calls a fairy sprinkling pixie dust everywhere.  We witness wings on birds and imagine them attached to a small human form.  Humans are creative in their imaginations.  Movies and television exhibit this creativity.  However, creating out of imagination and believing that such created objects are actually real or that they become real when we imagine them is fantasy, child-like, or delusional.

Many have created gods in their imagination.  However, they have done so as extrapolations from what exist in the real world.  Virtually all of the Greek and Roman gods possess features of humans or animals.  One cannot find a god or gods in the world religions, except the Christian faith, not extrapolated from the real world and imposed on some god or gods.

Such a stance is a belief in alleged non-existence and non-knowledge.  Such thinking and actions are delusional and irrational.  It is a true leap of faith, because no basis exists at all for such belief.

The psalmist affirms the irrationality and delusion of those who refuse to accept God,

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (Psalm 4:2)

 The psalmist claims in rhetorical questions that seeking after that which does not exist is delusional.  Religious leaders in the nations surrounding Israel created gods extrapolated from the created order.  The Greeks did that as did the Romans in elevating gods they created from their imaginations after observing objects in the created order.  They glorified non-existence and non-knowledge.  It is one thing to create fiction by extrapolating characteristics of that which exist in the real world and admitting that it is fiction, but it is quite another to claim that such created fiction is real and then worship this fiction.

Atheism follows the same pattern as polytheism by continually thinking about and speaking of that which they claim does not exist.  Such thinking and acts are just as delusional as creating gods in one’s mind, which atheists must do to speak of them.  Atheism must imagine some sort of god to speak of the Christian biblical God, for it cannot think or speak from non-knowledge.  Atheism cannot speak of the biblical God without having read or studied God from the source – the Bible.  Quite frequently, atheists ignore the Bible in talking about the biblical God and thereby create a straw man god, and not the biblical God and ridicule it.  That is tantamount to a person continuously having a conversation with oneself as though that person’s other self actually existed or thinking of or speaking with an imaginary friend created in one’s mind.  Atheism creates in their own mind some god it believes Christians believe.  That is also a delusion.  The psalmist had such delusion in mind when he wrote his words.  A delusion is claiming that which is false true and that a person can think of or have a conversation with what one created in one’s own imagination, that is non-knowledge.

Psalm 4 brings us back to reality by having the psalmist’s words correspond with reality, not gods that are false but the God of all existence, not gods created from the created order but the one true God separate and distinct from it and over it.

Bloviating from Irrationalism

When in an irrational state of mind, one cannot discern irrational thoughts and words. Such a stance makes it difficult to distinguish between truth and a lie.  A person suppresses such a means of making a distinction when one divorces the foundation of one’s thinking from the Creator.  We call speech from that foundation ranting or bloviating.  These expressions arise from irrationalism.  In the world of critical thinking, such irrationalism arises from logical fallacies or defective machinations based on falsehood.

Psalm 2 provides a perfect example of those who engage in bloviating from irrationalism.  Let us listen in on a conversation with such people,

The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the LORD and against His

Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.” (NKJV)

Is there something wrong with this scene?  The irony is laughable.  In this scene these monarchs, powerful in their own defective thinking and self-aggrandizement, brandish arrogant words in their chains.  They spew out audacious curses toward the One who holds them captive with heavy chains [cords] while in complete denial of their imprisonment and the One who holds them.  They engage in futile conspiracy [counsel] in an attempt to strategize to break free.

While they recognize God’s personal name (Yahweh, [LORD]), they refuse to subject themselves to Him.  In their derangement and insanity, they believe in their own strength to free themselves.  They look at the cords wrapped tightly around them and lash out toward the LORD of all, thinking that they can break free from their bondage.  However, their strategy and counsel is futile, defective, and delirious while they believe they think from a sound mind.

The scene pivots from them to the LORD of hosts:

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The LORD shall hold them in derision.

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

“Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

Their Creator and Sovereign laughs at them derisively.   He dictates to them and not they to Him.  He holds them in contempt because of their rebellion and arrogance, and informs them that their kingships were temporary fantasies based on their foolish pronouncements and not His.  The LORD then, distresses them by pointing to His Son and declares Him as King.  This act is indeed distressful for these self-appointed kings, because God’s King usurped their thrones.

Today, many make self-declarations concerning their rule.  History demonstrates that such dictators and tyrants eventually fall.  They fade into infamy after the sword or a bullet lands a fatal blow.  Individuals believe they rule their own lives and determine their fate.  They adopt the philosophy of Frank Sinatra,

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.” [From “My Way” by Frank Sinatra]

Those who deny God fail to recognize that He alone appoints leaders throughout history.  These deniers who refuse to even admit God’s existence return to the dust of the earth and await judgment from the righteous God.  Individuals who also deny God, want to live their lives like Frank Sinatra, that is, “my way.”  Regardless of their ideology or belief systems, those who oppose God and refuse to acknowledge His Son will face the same fate as the kings depicted in Psalm 2.

This psalm offers a way out from judgment.  It declares that those who serve the LORD will find hope.  Atheists, agnostics, and polytheists alike can find that same hope by turning from their futile faith in themselves and materialism to faith in God the Deliverer.

Did Jesus Come Back to Life?

While some assert that Christianity stole the idea of resurrection from various mystery religions featuring a dying and rising figure, the Gospel accounts breathe a far different air – the air of factual actuality, of datable, verifiable history” (Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics).

Consider the claim of theft.  Someone in the distant past develops a religious teaching about people coming back to life.  Another religious teacher elsewhere at a different time or concurrently speaks of people returning to life.  Still another guru or religious master passes on what he heard from another about  a cycle of death and life then death again and life in another form.  Today, we refer to this type of teaching as reincarnation.  As oral traditions arise from the past from a number of sources, the stories in those traditions change through secondary and tertiary retelling of the stories.

Inseparable Essentials: God and Resurrection

cropped-2016-02-24-10-12-12.jpgWhile these secondary sources arise from an original, the primary thought of someone returning to life is a common theme.  Is the theme just as false as the stories surrounding the theme?  Is there any evidence for the original claim although details change over time through a variety of sources?  Was there an actual event that gave rise to the various stories?  If not, how did the idea of someone returning to life enter individual thoughts?

These questions about resurrection from death is similar to the question, “If God did not exist, would we have to invent Him?”  That is, if the idea of resurrection did not have its source in reality or history, would someone have to imagine it and spin it into a legend, fable, or myth?  If nothing existed to give rise to the idea of resurrection, how could one spin a legend, fable, or myth around non-existence?  The same thinking arises concerning God.  If someone invented God, as atheists claim, how did the notion of God even arise in our thoughts if He were simply an invention and not part of existence?  The parallel between an actual resurrection and the existence of God are worth exploring for arriving at the truth about them, especially the resurrection of Jesus.  They are two indispensable claims underlying the Christian faith.

If they can be shown to be valid, then such faith has solid and sure support.  If no evidence exists for either, then the Christian faith would be vain as Paul noted (1 Corinthians 15:13-17).  Both claims depend on history and not imagination or fiction.  Truth cannot arise from fiction.  Such foundations are unlike other world religions because historicity is not so instrumental to them.  One could remove the idea of reincarnation (fiction) from the religions that claim it, and those religions would not necessarily fall.  They would simply revise their teachings to accommodate another idea and integrate this idea with existing beliefs.  That occurs frequently in religions over the span of time as religious teaching change over time.  Their tenets change to integrate current philosophies.

On the other hand, the teachings of God and resurrection have never departed from biblical faith.  Granted, many who bear the name Christian have ceased to believe in the historical resurrection (i.e., Paul Tillich (1886-1965, John Hick (1922-2012), John Shelby Spong (1931-)).  However, it does not depart altogether.  Resurrection echoes from the beginning of time.  This article will later explore this fact.  In many Christian segments that reject the historical resurrection, it still remains as a symbol and attaches to a belief system within those Christian segments.  However, does such symbolic attachment discount or rule out God’s existence and the resurrection?

God, Resurrection, and Naturalism

Let us consider these two claims.  One, the resurrection, depends on the other, God’s existence.  According to naturalists, both seemingly defy the way the natural world works.  Notice the disclaimer in the previous statement: “seemingly.”  Does the material order refute God and the resurrection?  Do the laws of the natural order rule out God and resurrection?  Douglas Groothuis does not believe the natural order rules them out.  He makes the following statement:

But miracles do not break natural laws. The day Christ raised Lazarus, people all over the world were still dying and staying dead. The law of nature had not changed. But natural laws speak only to natural events. Supernatural events are outside of their purview” (Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, IVP Academic, 1988, Kindle, Location 5764-5765).

C. S. Lewis expands on the issue of miracles of which the resurrection of Jesus is one,

“The divine art of miracles is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into the patterns” (C. S. Lewis, Miracles, Harper, 1974, Kindle, p. 95).

Lewis provides the example of natural law’s pattern of cause and effect to support his claim. That is, one of the laws of nature is cause and effect (If A then B).  He claims that a miracle does not suspend this law but rather has a cause with a corresponding effect and therefore abides by it.  The “new event” is not A in this case but A2, that is God as the cause with the corresponding event as the miracle (B2).  This miracle occurs “according to Natural law,” Lewis claimed.  However, he goes on to say,

Its peculiarity is that it is not in that way interlocked backwards, interlocked with the previous history of Nature” (p. 95).

He adds that naturalists have a problem with and cannot tolerate such logic.  The reason why is that they begin with rejecting God as the Creator and believe that Nature is the sum of existence.  In rejecting His existence, they refuse to accept that this God they consider non-existent could intervene in Nature with an event consistent with Nature (birth, death, and life).  Consequently, they lock themselves into a closed system that excludes anything that does not fit their materialist worldview.  That is, material is the sum of all existence, and there is nothing beyond the material.  That means the supernatural.

What About Resurrection?

Let us consider the question, “How did the idea of someone returning to life enter individual thoughts?”  We know that ideas of resurrection came about prior to Jesus.  Religious leaders (Pharisees) of His time believed in it.  Did the resurrection of Jesus arise from myth or was it a true historical event given the preexistence of the idea of resurrection?  We need only return to the beginning of creation to discover seeds of resurrection.  Consider the creation.  God created life from nothing (lifelessness) by speaking (Genesis 1-2).  We read of a parallel when Jesus spoke and raised Lazarus from death (John 11).  Abel presents a motif of resurrection.  The letter of Hebrews reads,

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

We also discover the theme of resurrection in the historical account of Abraham of which the letter of Hebrews also testifies,

Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore” (Hebrews 11:12).

Again, the author writes of Abraham,

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Elijah brought a widow’s son back to life (1 Kings 17:17-24).  The creation was not myth.  Abel, Abraham, and Elijah were not myths.  History left traces of resurrection that all pointed to the single historic event of Jesus rising from death.  Individuals embraced the resurrection because God Himself left traces of it in His own works and through actual events.   Creation, Abel, and Abraham represent God’s works while Elijah exhibits an actual ancient biblical event.  Jesus’ resurrection did not depend on myths, fables, or legends.  God intervened in events prior to Jesus’ resurrection.  The history of the resurrection of Jesus rested on God and His intervention in historical events.  This intervention confirms that God works in history to demonstrate His power not only in events that preceded Jesus but also with the resurrection of Jesus..

God and Nature

We may ask those who reject God to explain chance and accidents and how the principle of these events is any different from explaining miracles.  Are “accidents of nature” and chance just as inexplicable as a miracle from their perspective?  Many new occurrences today baffle scientists and doctors just as others did centuries ago.  However, new discoveries explain the inexplicable of a century or two ago, but today’s undiscovered or unknowns remain just as puzzling as unknowns did to those in the past.  However, one variable could always exist: there may never be a discovery that explains all unknowns due to the temporal restraints of our finite being and the limitations of the tools available now or in the future. Speculation rules over unknowns among the finite.  Just because the resurrection cannot be explained today by known natural laws does not mean that it can never be explained by any existing laws.  God’s laws of all existence exceed natural laws.  If scientists cannot explain chance and accidents they consider within the the natural world, how then can they explain laws beyond the natural existence?  To reject God is just as irrational as believing in chance or accidents.

His intervening acts with us are of a supernatural sort that requires a different kind of explanation, the supernatural, just as those beyond our grasp as so-called accidents or chance does to the naturalist.  By the very definition of accident and chance, naturalists seem to suspend cause and effect, whereas miracles do not.  Chance cannot cause anything unless it has intelligence to give direction and will things to happen.  An accident is its corollary.  Neither can cause anything.  Yet naturalists want us to believe that chance prompted (caused) an evolutionary outburst (effect).

All the while, they reject the source (God) that gives way to the natural law of cause and effect.  They reject Him while calling Him to mind and making mention of him.  One cannot think or speak of that which does not exist.  Thinking assumes knowledge.  There is no knowledge in non-existence.  However, when those who reject God think of Him, they affirm what they deny.

The rejection of God in favor of chance places those who reject Him in the precarious position of also rejecting and suspending the laws of nature (that is, cause and effect).  God does not suspend the laws of nature with the resurrection of Christ from death.  Rather, He worked within those laws.  Douglas Groothuis asserts that people still die.  That law remains the same.  God (the supernatural Cause) intervened to raise Jesus from death.  On the other hand, chance remains chance regardless what naturalists desire to impute to it – some sort of causal agent.  We must ask ourselves which is the most rational, the causal agent of God or an event lacking cause and effect – chance.

Since God is the Creator, He is beyond the entire created order.  As the Creator, He then holds sway over the created (natural) order and its corresponding laws.  He created those laws.  Therefore, the natural order and the supernatural order both exist.  God consists of the supernatural order .  With such a scenario, chance and accidents are not options.  Cause assumes a determinant, which is an agent that places something in motion for the desired effect.  God has not endowed some event called chance with directional capacity.  Accidents do not just happen, because all things are within God’s purview and control.

God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

God is not only the Creator but also the Redeemer.  What is a Redeemer?  Redeem means to purchase back.  The Law of Moses revealed the meaning of this kind of purchase (Exodus 13:13; 34:20; Leviticus 25:25-26; Numbers 18:15).  Why redemption?  The human condition called for it. All chose to go their own way, away from God.  God took the initiative to intervene and revealed His redemptive hand in the Law of Moses.  He also revealed the way through a Redeemer, His only Son, whom He sent into the world to purchase back those sold to slavery to rebellion and their waywardness.  Their penchant for rebellion and condition prevented them from coming to God on their own.  They needed a Redeemer.  Jesus came and lived in the form of man, was executed, and came back to life.

The resurrection affirms two truths for those who believe in Jesus.  First, death has died.  Jesus showed He had life in Himself by rising from death (John 5:26).  Death had no hold on Him.  This truth is a “far different air,” as Groothuis claims, than mythical stories of resurrection.  No material being has life in itself.  All life derives from God.  All other so-called stories of resurrections were myth while having their roots in historical reality.  There was no theft from other religions.  Rather other religions distorted the truth and created fiction.  That truth resided in historical events with the grandest truth being Jesus’ resurrection.

Second, Jesus’ resurrection was the true life from death, the historical event that changed all history.  Given His resurrection as a true historical event God determined from all eternity, what weight does that carry with us?  Faith in Jesus means all the world and eternity for us, for that faith also transports us to new life from spiritual death and after death.  Chance has no basis in history.  There would be no history by chance.  The living God controls history and set the course of redemption in motion with its fulfillment in Jesus’ resurrection.  The living God and the resurrection are inseparable essentials.  Are you willing to bet the rest of your life and eternity on chance?  Paul wrote,

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Paul discusses two outcomes resulting from the resurrection of Jesus: judgment for those who reject Him and assurance of life for those who believe Him.  Place your wager.

Are There Two Realities and Two Competing Explanations of Them?

Rabbi Breitowitz, former professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, recently gave a speech about the difference between religion and science. In it, he attempted to distinguish between two types of realities as explained from two perspectives: religion and science. However, he begins with a faulty premise by claiming that religion and science address two different types of realities: one the “what” (science) and one the “why” (religion). These types are vague claims and not knew. What is “type”?  Those who believe in evolution as the explanation of origins also make such a claim while using the claims of science. This claim creates a bifurcation with reality – that is what exists, and runs in conflict with Torah itself.

Here is the link to Rabbi Breitowitz’s speech video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvrv94sl-Lw

At the beginning of Torah, its reads,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

This claim is not a type of reality separate and distinct from the “type of reality” of science. Rather it is a true explanation of reality and does not run counter to science. It affirms:

  • The material world
  • The material world began and was not eternal
  • God existed before any time-space beginning
  • God created what exists

Science does not have its own reality nor addresses a particular type of reality. Science does not have the thinking capacity or will to address anything let alone reality. People think and will. Second, it is a false comparison to posit religion against science or more specifically Torah against science. God created both, not as two separate sources or explanations of two separate realities but as affirming one another.

Science cannot affirm or dis-affirm any reality, because science (or a better term “the sciences”) consists of mechanisms or tools man created to examine the material world and to make sense of it through interpretation. There are many sciences (meteorology, archaeology, anatomy, biology, etc.). Each deals with a segment of existence.

A large part of science is the human mind, because without it there would be no means for developing the tools, mechanisms, and methods used as science to explore and interpret what exist. That is, science would not exist apart from the living being known as man or woman. Science is often used in a vague manner as THE way individuals explain what exist. However, the explanation and interpretation of data does not come from science but from individuals. Therefore, science (or the sciences) does not explain anything or interpret data. People do. However, frequently, pseudo-scientists or even scientists misleadingly conflate the mechanism and the interpreter, making them one and the same. This is a false approach.

Second, it is false to set up religion versus science and then claim they address two realities. There is only one reality – that which exists. Religion and science are not true opposites addressing two realities. To make them so is a logical fallacy. Just as science does not address a reality, in that it cannot think, religion cannot do this either. Religion, just like science, is not a living and thinking being but simply a metaphor known as a metonymy. That is, it represents that which it describes.

For example, people often speak of a head of a nation as the “crown.” The head of a nation is not a crown, but the crown is a representative symbol for that person – a metonymy. However, those who refer to science or religion as being able to do this or that or give evidence or claim certain things as true naively fail to distinguish the thing from the symbol (metonymy) that represents it. In doing so, they raise a deception and a logical fallacy while misleading people into accepting the thing itself as an authoritative living entity (that is, science is the living authority). The deception is that the one who commits this fallacy is setting himself up as the unquestioned authority. In doing so, there are no hypotheses, theories, speculations, or guesses but simply unquestioned fact.

Third, religion and science both have their origins in and through the minds of individuals. People examine specific areas of what exist and give that discipline a name, such as anatomy, biology, astronomy, and so on. Those names did not exist prior to the minds of individuals. It is false to claim that because the material world existed before humanity, that the sciences that described it existed in tandem. Individuals created the mechanisms and methods of discovery.

They did not suddenly appear with the material world. Therefore, to make the claim that science proves something or that science proves God does not exist or cannot prove God exist is conflating a metaphor and the individual interpreter and in essence makes
the individual an impersonal metaphor.

Rabbi Breitowitz commits this fallacy by positing religion and science as opposites and as describing two separate realities. In doing so, he makes two separate claims, one a false opposite fallacy (religion versus science) and the other a false view of what exists. If there are two realities and we live in one, where and what is the other? There is no other if the Rabbi holds to Torah’s beginning and the claims this beginning statement makes,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Many atheistic scientists reject God and retreat to evolution.

However, evolution is not another reality but a separate explanation of origins. It is no more than a symbolic name associated with origins.  It is an explanation that rejects God as the originator of all that exists in the material world.  Two explanations actually pose true opposites – that which is true and that which is false or reality and non-reality or fact and fiction. That which is true and that which is false cannot both exist as true, because that would violate the law of non-contradiction, that is, A does not equal non-A.

The difference between the explanations from Torah and a scientific textbook is really that of genre and not different realities. Learned critics often confuse (falsify) or conflate opposites. Genre is the type or form of literary work appropriated. Torah’s genre is narrative and story of historical reality while scientific textbooks are descriptive interpretation of observable historical data. They have one thing in common: historical fact.  These approaches are very different but are not in conflict as some theological or scientific critics who reject the Bible wish to lead people to believe. These genres can support one another, such as in anthropological science: relics supporting history. They have indeed done so in biblical archaeology and anthropology.

When reading or listening to a critic of religion or science, such as Rabbi Breitowitz, examine his or her premises and the language used. Are the premises sound? Do they use metaphor or plain speech? Remember, even seemingly plain speech is metaphor, because it seeks to explain something through representation. For example. the crown is only a symbol for the authority it represents. It is also a name given to a combination of metal and jewels, and that name represents that combination. Is the user of specific words applying them correctly or falsifying reality by these words? Deception can arise from falsification. Do not be deceived.  The Apostle John wrote,

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

False prophets do not have to be religious.  They can also pose as scientists, psychologists, or philosophers bringing a false perspective of reality and attempt to falsify truth.

Who is God? Part 1

“In this world, the god many believe still has certain characteristics parallel to the God of the Bible…[but] a god without teeth, without majesty. This god fills people with warm fuzzies, but is never feared… dispenses a benevolent love… has little moral bearing…this god may be personal or pantheistic, but is never sovereign and rarely a judge… he or she or it cannot even be called a “god” anymore, but simply “Reality,” since in some religions…there is no place for “god” in any personal sense at all. And underlying all these gods is the great god Pluralism.”

– D. A. Carson, PhD, Professor, Trinity Divinity School, “The SBJT Forum: Is There a Battle to Define God?,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 1997.

“The very concept of God is among the most contested issues in contemporary thought and culture…the concept of God is merely a matter of emotivism and sentiment…Modern culture commonly denies God as God, as well as the very notion of God as an objective referent.

“In many circles[Evangelical], God is merely a therapeutic category. Many evangelicals are now mostly concerned about what good this God will do for us, how well this God may make us feel, and how much self-esteem this God may give us as His gift.”

(R. Albert Mohler, Jr., The Eclipse of God at Century’s End: Evangelicals Attempt Theology with Theism, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Spring 1997)

When we approach the study of God, we step out on to very holy and mysterious ground, ground on which we tread carefully and prayerfully. Unless we have the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, Counselor, and Guide, we will tend toward error as history from the very beginning illustrates.

Many errors and heresies have arisen because people have sought to The God Many Wantimagine God according to the elements of creation. They then depart from the path of knowing Him onto another dark, dangerous, and destructive road of idolatry. The study and knowledge of God is a thoughtful lifelong process requiring dependence on Him and what He reveals to us in the Bible.

No one can know God rightly without God first revealing Himself to that person. A corollary to this truth is that no one can then seek after Him unless God first not only reveals Himself but also draws the heart to Him (Romans 3:10). For unless God takes the initiative with each act, everyone in his or her human condition will seek another path.

As people reject the true biblical God, they create Him according to their imagination, raising in their minds what they want Him to be according to their own desires and their alienation from God. They then design an entire worldview around this god or these gods, projecting on these deities an authority that actually shifts this authority away from God to themselves. Note, it is not to another god to which they shift authority but to themselves. Once they have established their own authority, they can then project on themselves their present condition and include it into their worldview (“I’m OK, you’re OK, but others outside of our circle are downright nasty.”). As a remedy, they offer their own solutions from human-centered philosophy, religion, and psychology.

There are all sorts of imitations and perversions of God arising from the created order, and we must be aware of them due to the subtle ways they imitate God. The Apostle Paul in Romans informs us of these imitations,

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23)

Idolatry is people seeking to know and worship that which is greater than themselves while rejecting the true biblical God. Idolatry relies on fiction (false knowledge) and myth-telling (speculative story) and has no historical basis.  Idolatry does away with a personal God.  Consider the following possibilities of God:

  • Atheism, Naturalism, Humanism – No god, not even a personal one
  • Agnosticism – Who knows if there is any kind of god let alone a personal one
  • Deism – A distant Providence; An unknowable god with whom no one can relate because he or it is impersonal
  • Polytheism – fictitious and impersonal gods of the created order, that is, no God at all because they do not exist
  • Eastern Religions – Impersonal beings of the created order; unknowable; no God

Only one worldview offers a truly personal God – the biblical worldview:

  • Biblical Theism – God relates to us a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. He alone is the personal God who relates to us through His Son. It took a person (Jesus Christ) who came in the flesh to draw us to the one personal God that we may relate with Him and know Him as Father.

It has been said a number of times that we live in a secular world with secular societies.  That is not exactly accurate.  We actually live in a pluralistic religious and spiritual world with people holding on to their own gods, whether they are atheistic, agnostic, deistic, polytheistic, or any number of other gods created from the material universe.  Which type of god do you worship?  In the next post, we will explore this subject in more depth.

The Fool’s Answer About God, Part 2

[NOTE: Numbers in parenthesis refer to notes at the end of article]

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 53:1).

The psalmist and fool returned for their card game, tossing their bets, calling one another on their hands, and attempting to gain an edge with each card.  Their bantering continued back and forth for about an hour in their attempts to gain a philosophical strategic advantage.  The fool was hesitant to say much about the questions the psalmist left on the table from their prior game.  He thought long and hard about them, attempting to wrestle through some subtle and distracting replies from his readings of the Four Horsemen of new atheism: Dennet, Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins.  Although, he did not want to be the first to speak, he believed he was ready to engage in this winner-take-all bout with the psalmist.  He read through numerous philosophical arguments from the four atheists and others and considered himself armed to reply to any question about the psalmist’s God.

The psalmist threw out a question, “Mr. Fool, have you ever been married?”  The psalmist paused to wait for an answer from the fool.

The fool was caught off guard by the sudden question seemingly unrelated to their previous discussion about God.  He wondered what marriage had to do with whether God exists or not.  He was unsure what the psalmist was up to and how to address his question.  His readings of atheism had not prepared him for such a question.

Then the fool replied,  “Uh…Yeah…Yes.  But what of it?  None of the ten marriages ever worked out for me.  I never got anything out of them.  Every morning when I sat down at breakfast, the wife I had would preach at me about this or that, trying to convince me of her god.  They were the worst communions I ever had.  I then shopped around to find the woman with the best looks, listened a bit to her ideas, got tired of them, and decided they were not to my liking.

The fool paused and then continued, “It was similar to searching for a church, you know.  Sit in the pew for awhile, get preached at, but never getting anything out of it.  I couldn’t get any satisfaction as the Rolling Stones would say, you know…heh heh…the preacher was like the voice on the radio trying to ignite my imagination with useless information…how pure my soul could be.”

The psalmist interrupted, “So, finding a wife is like finding a good church, eh?  You didn’t get anything out of marriage or church?  What was it you were looking for?  Self-fulfillment? Self-gratification?  Some magic solution to solve all your problems?  Did you believe the preacher or your wives were genies ready to pop out the lamp and fulfill all your fantasies?

The fool squirmed in his chair just thinking of his failed marriages and all the hypocrites he met in one church after another.  The fool replied in an angry tone as his face grew red and his hands shook, “What a second.  What does having a wife have to do with God, religion, or church?  I don’t get it.  I’m not interested in your psychoanalysis.  So what’s your point?”

The psalmist replied, “In our last card game, you suggested believers in God must take a “flying leap” of faith.  You also said that you didn’t need faith and that faith is a religious thing.  My point is that faith, or its twin “trust” is relational.  You do not rely on science for proof your wife loves you or that she is beautiful, kind, and patient with you in spite of any conflict or disagreement the two of you encountered.  Tell me how you apply scientific methodology to those qualities?  Tell me, also, how interpersonal trust between a husband and wife or even friends are religious experiences if indeed you assign faith only to religion.  Do you establish a null hypothesis (1) and apply statistical analysis in relationships for determining the confidence level of marital love?  What scientific proof do you need from the women you married that they loved and trusted you?  Finally, would you apply such an analysis to yourself for seeking scientific proof of your trusting commitment to your spouse or even that she is your spouse at all?”

The fool thought about all the alimony he paid out to each wife that left him without the means to buy his boat and RV and retorted, “Now wait a minute!  That is plain ludicrous!  You can’t apply science in that way.”

The psalmist interrupted, “Why not?  If atheists hold that science is the arbiter of all that can be known, (2) then the qualities of love, faithfulness, patience, beauty, or relational trust cannot be known except through scientific method.  The trait of trust is every bit a faith factor in relationships, and this fact seems to escape your notice.  Even the atheist Bertrand Russell suggested as much when he said, “What science cannot tell us, mankind cannot know.” (3)  Would you make exceptions for beauty, love, faithfulness, and trust by claiming that they are not within the realm of knowledge?  Or would you claim their nonexistence altogether or that they are subject to individual taste or perspective?  If so, are perspective or taste not then part of the realm of knowledge?  If they are part of human knowledge, would then Bertrand Russell’s assessment not apply that they are subject to scientific inquiry and proof?  How would scientific inquiry explain trust, love, and faithfulness apart from religion if you hold that faith is the exclusive realm of religion?  Also, you claimed that those who believe in God must take a leap of faith.

The psalmist paused, leaned over the table, looked the fool in the eyes, and continued, “Did you take a leap of faith each time you married?  Was not your interactions with your marital prospect sufficient substance and evidence (4)  for you to trust her enough to marry?  That does not sound like a leap to me but trust based on knowledge of the woman you wanted to marry before you said “I do.”  You admitted that you shopped around, examined each woman you married, listened to their ideas, and then made your choice.  Did you not gain knowledge of each woman before you married?  Was there not evidence?  Even with such evidence, you still needed mutual trust for your relationship or skepticism and doubt of your spouse would continue to overshadow you.

The fool seemed stunned by what the psalmist said.  He stared at the cards in his hand and contemplated if they were good enough to win this round.  One card kept him from an inside straight and winning the hand.  He discarded one and asked for another card.  The card he received had written on it EMOTION.  He thought, “That’s it!” Love and trust like faith are just emotions.”

The fool looked up from his cards straight into the eyes of the psalmist and exclaimed, “Faith like love is nothing but an emotion.  You can express emotions toward things that do not exist, such as a dead loved one.  Dead people no longer exist.  Christians do the same with God.  They simply express their emotions toward a god that really does not exist.”

The fool folded his arms, sit up straight in his chair, held his head high, grinned at the psalmist, and said, “Answer that!  Your god is simply wishful thinking based on emotional desire.”

The psalmist spoke gently, “Mr. Fool, your explanation of love is reductionistic much like Sigmund Freud’s assessment of religion as being nothing more than an illusion or mental illness or Karl Marx’s belief that it is no more than the “sigh of the oppressed” or “opiate of the people.”  Anyone can derive a philosophy of love.  Tina Turner did when she referred to it as a “second hand emotion.”  Now these are unsubstantiated truth claims.  They are simply sheer philosophical assumption from speculation arising from a given worldview.  Your claim also has no substance for scientific analysis as you claim as needed for knowledge.  It is no more than philosophical mysticism.

“Mr Fool,” the psalmist continued, do you think that perhaps your lack of understanding of faith may have contributed to your ten failed marriages?  You compared it to going to church for Christians – seeking what you could get from it rather than give to it.

The psalmist laid one of his cards on the table that showed the following formula:

faith (substance + evidence) = hope (God’s promises) + unseen realities (faithfulness, love, patience, self-control, kindness, giving)

Mr. Fool,” the psalmist said in a compassionate voice, “This card shows a formula that God has revealed to everyone about the essence of faith.  It transcends any religious experience or practice to the relational.  It not only applies to relationships with people but also with God.  Just as your trust in people elevates your hope, so also does this same trust in God do the same.  This faith is not a religious leap of faith but that which relies on knowledge.  Human philosophy claims that faith begins when knowledge ends.  It also claims that since God does not exist, that theists must take that leap of faith and cling to it in the face of God’s nonexistence.  That is not the biblical view of faith.  It does not separate faith from knowledge but rather joins them.  That knowledge consists of all God is and does in time and space.  Our tendency toward evil is undeniable historical fact that requires a remedy beyond ourselves before we destroy ourselves. As any judge would in human courts, God must judge all evil and those who commit it.

“God declares,

“There is none who does good. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are in great fear where no fear was” (Psalm 53:2-5).

“God broke through time and space and provided the remedy in the life of His Son Jesus.  He lived a life pleasing to God, a life we could not live.  He also died in our place so that we do not have to be judged for our evil.  Placing faith in God’s remedy gives hope of escape from God’s judgment and for being with God forever.”

The psalmist paused once again and then asked, “What is your assessment of this faith, Mr. Fool?”  How do you see yourself in relation with this God and His remedy?”

“One of God’s spokesman wrote,

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”” (Romans 10:9-11).

The fool looked at the losing cards in his hand and stammered, “I…I…uh…I never thought of it like that before.  Let me…give your words some thought, and I will have an answer the next time we meet.”

__________________

CITED NOTES

(1) Null Hypothesis – Something assumed to be true unless statistical analysis shows otherwise.

(2) Paul Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong: Responding to Objections that Leave Christians Speechless, Baker Books, 2005, p. 58.

(3) Attributed to Russell in Ted Peters’ Cosmos As Creation: Theology and Science in Consonance (1989), p. 14

(4) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  While this passage applies to God, its truth shows it as a relational quality between and among people.  As a married couple gains knowledge of the other, their faith and trust in one another grows and becomes more firm.  That trust promotes hope of a lasting relationship and evidence of unseen realities – continued faithfulness, integrity, and self-control.