Timely Teaching for Troubled Times

As we look around and see a world seemingly out of control with threats of extinction everywhere, it is easy to succumb to fear. We wonder if the world will last another decade or even another year with the incursion of crazies shooting up neighborhoods and “extremism” seeping through our borders. A friend once said that Islamic radicalism has a timeline for conquest. We can also make a long list of opposing forces that seem to overwhelm us and seek to topple our liberties, especially our own faith, both within and outside our nation. I once read a poll that claimed the Christian faith has declined substantially in light of the alleged rise of atheism, agnosticism, and other religious claims. However, is this really true? Did someone take a specific count? Even if true, how does such a claim fit into the span of history in terms of the rise and fall of ideologies and belief systems?  Has it really impacted the decline of the Christian faith?

After mulling over my friend’s comment about Islamic radicalism’s conquest timeline, a thought came to mind based on what Jesus said. God is not on man’s timetable; rather man is on God’s timetable. God does not do man’s bidding, but man does God’s bidding. During the first through third centuries, the Eurasian world witnessed one of the greatest rise of terrorism in history. The forces of General Titus ripped Jerusalem apart in 70 AD so that the entire city laid in ruins. All Jews and Christians were scattered throughout the Middle East and Europe. A line of Roman emperors terrified Jews and Christians throughout the Roman Empire and a massive number of Christians lost all they had, bore the stripes for their faith, and became martyrs. This happened for almost two centuries. Can you imagine two centuries of the reign of terror? Such a reign of terror makes the Civil War look like a small skirmish. However, many remembered the echo of Jesus’ words, “Let not your hearts be troubled (John 14:1)…I will come again (14:3)…You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Guess what? Jesus predicted it. He said that not one stone of the Temple in Jerusalem would remain on top of another (Matthew 24:2). He also told His disciples that they would be His witnesses (martyrs and good news bearers) in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). After the destruction of Jerusalem, its remaining population escaped across the Middle East. Jesus’ disciples had already scattered throughout the known world to spread the gospel because of the persecution they encountered. He sent them His way, and His word took root in the nations and flourished. Man is on God’s timetable; God is not on man’s timetable.

Finally, in the 4th century Constantine brought calm to the Roman Empire after a line of emperors instilled terror and tragedy. In 325 AD, a large group of maimed and physically broken Christians from past persecutions gathered together to hammer out the Nicene Creed for affirming the God we worship, fulfilling Jesus’ command once again. They gave witness to the truth about God just as Jesus commanded them. They remained faithful to Jesus in spite of persecutions, heresies, and the renunciation of faith in Jesus from others.

That calm did not last. The 7th century saw the rise of Islam. It began to spread over the next several centuries as the Christian Church began to succumb to the enemies of corruption, heresies, complacency, and superstition. It lost sight of its focus and mission – the gospel. It also lost sight of its security: “I will come again.” The Church split into two parts: Western and Eastern over a few doctrinal beliefs. It retreated into monasticism. Islam marched across the lands with terrorism for the next millennium as the Dark Ages covered Europe, bringing with it more heresies, superstition, and corruption. Yet, a faithful few remained and continued to bear witness to Christ and obedience to Him.

The crusades arose to beat back Islam from Europe. This took centuries, as Islam grew and receded during this period. The last caliphate of the Ottoman Empire fell during World War I. Jesus predicted wars and rumors of wars but that these would be the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:6-8). If He predicted it, then it would come to pass, because He is the Lord of history and the future. Man is on God’s timetable; God is not on man’s timetable.

As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, the Church surged as the Reformation broke the chains of corruption, heresies, and superstitions with Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and others taking the lead. The Church rediscovered its focus, mission, and message as it battled the enemies of Christ. Migrations continued across Europe and ultimately to the New World, where Christians sought to practice their faith in peace and calm. A Christian revolution named the Great Awakening surged as men like Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and others proclaimed the gospel to this new land. The light of the gospel informed the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. Man is on God’s timetable through the Holy Spirit as He moves across the world.

However, corruption, heresies, and superstitions continued to emerge and taint the truth. People strayed. Wars arose. The nation divided over slavery as men and women mixed their own messages with the gospel and corrupted its proclamation. We witnessed more world wars with brief interludes between. Churches and denominations populated the landscape and spread their messages throughout the world. Revivals happened. Then came the 1960’s and more wars. Another revolution broke out and made its way into the culture and churches. Churches became enculturated. They lost sight of their Savior and His mission and message.

A myriad of humanistic agendas erupted from our institutions of higher learning as professors dumped their philosophical brands of living on their students.  These students in turn spread these philosophies into more schools, churches, and whole denominations. Humanistic theologians pronounced, “God is dead.” These churches and denominations succumbed to culture and humanistic agendas while embracing lifestyles foreign to the Church and the truth in Jesus. Other gospels emerged. A host of idolatries ran rampant and out shouted Jesus’ words, “Let not your hearts be troubled…I will come again…you are my witnesses.” The end of the 20th century saw the rise of Islam again as corruption, heresies, and superstitions abounded. Many lost sight of the Savior and His words of comfort and confidence.

Today, all the turmoil, terror, and the inroads of propaganda and lies make their way throughout the world and bring about instability, insecurity, and fear. They trouble us as believers, and often doubt arises as this doubt clouds over Jesus’ words, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me…I will come again…you are my witnesses” (John 14:1-3, Acts 1:8). The pendulum swings throughout history from calm to turmoil, threats, and terror. It always will. However, God is not on man’s timetable. Man is on God’s timetable. What did Jesus say? “I will come again.” If He said it, then that means He controls the pendulum swing of history for making His statement a fulfillment. We can be confident in His words. In one of his letters, Paul drew a similar conclusion as Jesus after informing his readers of Jesus’ return, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

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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.

The Fool’s Answer About God, Part 1

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

The psalmist and fool sit across the table from one another, cards in hand, and bets tendered.  The fool gambled with all he had in life, placing all his chips in the center of the table, sitting smugly in his chair, and holding his cards close to his chest.  He daringly looks straight at the psalmist.  The psalmist calmly and softly announces, “I call your hand.  Show it.”

The fool lays down his hand and defiantly declares, “There is no God!”

The psalmist looks at the atheist’s cards and replies, “Say that again.”

The fool again exclaims louder and in a more boisterous tone, “There is no God!”

His cards reveal the word God on each card as both the psalmist and fool stare at them.  The psalmist presents his hand.  It, too, had God written on each card. He declares, “Sorry, you lose Mr. Fool.  Your cards you held next to your heart betray you.”

The fool stared at his cards and gazed at what he just admitted.  The cards were clear.  His claim contradicted the cards he held close to his chest.  The cards reflected what he thought in his heart and thereby conceived in opposition to what he claimed.  His speech betrayed his thoughts.  He claimed there was no God while his thoughts conceived God’s existence.  The very mention of God showed what his cards showed that he held close to his chest.  He claimed with his mouth that God did not exist while making mention of God on His tongue.

The psalmist met the fool’s eyes and said to him, “You lose the hand and all that you have, for one cannot think with his thoughts, conceive in his mind, or extrapolate from what does not exist.  You have thought of God, because God implanted Himself deep inside you.  You conceived God in your thoughts before making the verbal claim about the non-existence of God.  See there, your thoughts appear on each card you held close to your chest right next to your heart…”

The fool raised his hand and shouted, “Hold on, Mr. Psalmist!  I can think about unicorns and Superman.”

He smiled widely as he laid down a card with a unicorn on it and claimed,  “They don’t exist!  Yet I thought of them and conceived of a unicorn.”

He then laid down another card that showed a picture of Superman and said with a big grin, “Here is another non-existent being from another non-existent planet.  I can conceive of him flying, bending steel with his bare hands, and moving faster than a bullet, but he doesn’t exist.”

The psalmist briefly thought and then spoke, “A unicorn is nothing but a horse, and certain novelists have simply placed a horn on his nose and given it the name ‘unicorn’.  Horses exists in reality as do horns.  Somebody got creative and integrated them into a fictitious animal and gave it a fictitious name.  With Superman, his creators knew men existed.  They then dressed him up in a Halloween costume and assigned him the powers of flying, great strength, and speed.  All of these characteristics exists in the real world.  Birds fly, polar bears have great strength, and the cheetah runs fast.  It is easy for us to imagine all of these characteristics with a man, and comic book creators did just that.”

The fool replied, “But men have to create a god or gods because one does not really exist.  These other things are not gods but fictional characters in novels and comic books.  What do you have to say to that Mr. Psalmist?”

The psalmist raised his finger to his lips and thought for several seconds before continuing, “Think about what you just said, Mr. Fool.  What is the source of these gods or god?  They are extrapolations of what exist.  Much like the creation of Superman or the unicorn, god creators integrate from things that exists, because they cannot think or conceive of that which does not exist.  In spite of denials of God, individuals who create gods do so as extrapolations of what exist.  They take from creation – animals, rocks, trees, the sun, and even people – and integrate them into what they conceived as God and take it to be their god or gods.  They knew God exists because they cannot think of that which does not exists.  God exists.  Therefore, they think and conceive of Him.  They want some image to represent what they conceive in their thoughts.  As they perceive the created order, they choose from it those things they want to represent the God of which they already conceived in their thoughts.  They then create their god or gods from the knowledge God planted in their thoughts and what they wanted from creation to represent Him from creation.  They make an idol from corrupting the true God.”

The fool folds his arms and sits gazing at the five cards he placed on the table that reflected what was in his thoughts.  He then looked at the psalmist’s card, and they reflected back his thoughts, also.  What was he to do?  In claiming there was no God, he admitted thinking of God and entertaining Him in his mind. He thought, “Where did those thoughts come from?  My parents through their parents and their parents before them!”

The fool then looked up, and with a gleam in his eye leaned forward and looked straight into the eyes of the psalmist and spoke, “I asked myself where the thoughts of God came from and I have an answer!”

The psalmist, inquisitive then asked, “What is it?”

The fool then replied, “My parents told me of God just as their parents before them, and their parents even before them.  You see, generations past passed on this fictitious thing called god.  It’s like an inheritance passed down through the generations, an inheritance through the mind.  What do you say to that, Mr. Psalmist?”

The psalmist still engaged the fool’s eyes, smiled, and then replied, “Are you accusing your parents of lying to you by later denying what they believed?  Furthermore, where did the original humans receive their idea of God if one cannot entertain in one’s thoughts, conceive of, or extrapolate from what does not exist?  How then did the thought of God come to be in the mind of the first person that ever lived if you wish to trace back that far?”

The fool thought hard for several minutes and then spoke once again, “Evolution!  God evolved along with the evolution of all that exists!  As we evolved, we continued to bring to mind that which is greater than ourselves, and we began to worship that greater thing or things.  However, some saw through the charade of religion of a hierarchy of being with God as the highest to which humanity must worship.  Those who recognized that all creatures are on equal plane without some hierarchy saw no need for a crutch like religion.  Rather reason led them to the conclusion that humanity needed no God.

The fool paused, took a breath, and then continued, “They determined that the default position was really atheism at birth.  Babies have no notion of God, because they are atheists when born.  Humanity’s natural dependency led to the need for a god or something of a divinity, and hence god and gods arose from the creation of the mind.”

The fool folded his arms and thought, “I have the psalmist now.”

The psalmist then replied, “Are you suggesting that (all we are as persons with the attributes of thinking, acting, and feeling) some impersonal thing or process determined by blind and mindless forces of chance made us into more than a robot or machine?(1)  How could we then be free or exercise any modicum of free will, make choices, or even guide our own thoughts.  We could not be thought of as having personality with hopes and aspirations, goals, and dreams for guiding our lives and giving us meaning.  Speaking of chance, how could it even move matter to generate the form of all that exists into millions and billions of shapes and give shape to the universe as we know it?  Pure chance (or randomness) cannot give such direction without there being some determinism for shaping what exists.(2)  At the point of direction, chance ceases to be chance and becomes intelligent direction for guiding and shaping the universe.  Additionally, such intelligence gives rise to intelligence (humanity) and animate and inanimate objects as well as the knowledge of such intelligent design within us for promoting our own imagination, creativity, and thinking.  That is, Mr. Fool, intelligence gives rise to intelligence, making the default position as theism or something greater than ourselves and the entire universe.”

After a moment, the psalmist continued, “Mr. Fool, do you not think and make choices or are you simply a machine for programming and that we obey the impulses of determinism without recourse?  Do you really want to take the path that humanity is nothing more than a set of drones without meaning, purpose, and hope and that what exists in the material world is all that exists?  How can you judge your life worth living?  How can you distinguish between right and wrong or good and bad?  How can you judge something fair or not fair?  How can you make any moral judgments at all? How could such judgments even arise through randomness and chance?”

The fool looked at the cards he placed on the table between him and the psalmist, reading the word “God” on each card.  Then he glanced at the other cards he place on the table that read “unicorn” and “Superman.” He pondered what the psalmist said and then replied, “Hmm, no I am not a machine but free to think, make choices, and act.”

After making that statement, the fool’s face brightened and he took another direction and exclaimed, “But Mr. Psalmist, you cannot prove scientifically that God exists..  You simply must accept it by faith, because in the face of a lack of fact and knowledge, you as a believer in God must simply take a flying leap of faith.”

The psalmist replied, “Mr. Fool, you have now taken several directions without replying directly to my rebuttals or giving a defense FOR your position that there is no God.  Your tactic of evasion shows you have no answers or adequate replies to theism.  It is one thing to deny something, but it is an entirely different matter to defend your own position.  Denial is not a defense.  So far you simply have offered excuses for not believing in God while failing to give a defense for your position.  If your position is indeed valid, you must show it.”

The fool interrupted, “I do not need to “prove” anything.  How can you ask me to defend what I do not have and do not need – faith?  I do not need faith, because faith is a religious thing and arises due to a lack of knowledge and scientific proof.  It is on you, Mr. Psalmist, to prove God exists and not on fools to prove or defend non-existence.  You cannot prove non-existence, anyway.

The psalmist then replied, “Thank you for raising the issue of faith.  I will join that issue with your assertion of proof for God and not being able to prove non-existence.  I have several questions for you regarding:

  1. Have you ever been married? You make a faulty divorce between faith and knowledge as though faith takes over when knowledge is absent.
  2. Do you hold or need scientific proof that your spouse is trustworthy and faithful?
  3. Do you really claim that science is the arbiter or medium for all knowledge and that unless something is scientifically proven, it is false or not worthy of consideration and analysis?
  4. Do you really understand the nature of “proof”?
  5. Do you really claim you do not need to support any claim you have about your atheism?
  6. Do you really believe one cannot prove non-existence?

Let us take up these questions when we get together again for continuing our game.  Thanks for all your chips I won.

(1) See Edward Feser, “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Kindle location 3890.

(2) See Robert J. Spitzer, “New Proofs for the Existence of God,” Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010, p.65-67, 74, 90-91.

Is Evil Greater Than God?

Many atheists and others who reject the biblical God have attempted to cast judgment on God and render Him weak in the face of evil or try to do away with Him altogether.  In a recent discussion with several atheists, Action Faith Books Press engaged the argument concerning the existence of God from the view of evil.  The argument was in the context of the recent persecution of the Jews across Europe,

“In light of jewish (sic) history, I would agree with [another in the discussion], that this opinion (God’s oversight of the Jews) is delusional. If God exists and watches over Jews, that has not prevented Jews to experienced (sic) terrible things throughout history and in many different places of the world. God watching over the Jews is clearly not helping them.”

Our reply was as follows:

“Yours is a faulty old argument even academic atheists do not use anymore because it is a logical fallacy. First, when you admit to people experiencing terrible things, as the Jews, you acknowledge objective moral evil. Otherwise, you cannot call what happened to the Jews (and Christians and anyone else who disagreed with Hitler) terrible. And if you acknowledge moral evil, you have to admit to objective moral good. That means morality (good and evil) are external to human judgment. That is, you set up a standard concerning how things ought to be and ought not to be and that this applies to all humanity, that is, a standard of goodness and corruption due to the absence of goodness, by which you admit to as evil.

God is the intelligent Designer of the universe, and His good character provides a moral standard or moral context to discern evil (Paul Copan, “How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?: Responding to Objections that Leave Christians Speechless”). God is the source of all goodness. God created humanity. Humanity decided not to follow God but turned to objective evil from objective good. Therefore, humanity is the source of evil. Now if humanity is the source of evil, why are you transferring evil deeds from humanity to God? By doing so, you reveal your own corrupt reasoning and refuse to accept the goodness that comes from God. Therefore, you are just like Hitler and even worse by projecting on to God, who is higher than Hitler, evil that exists in humanity. Therefore, you stand guilty of worse atrocities than Hitler. It is false to assume that God cannot stop all evil.

Let’s bring it back to you. Did you ever think that God wanted to teach you a lesson about your own evil and false judgments about Him and others? Yes, you too stand guilty of doing evil to God and others. By allowing you to engage in evil thoughts and actions and suffering their consequences, He is showing you the true nature of evil so that you will turn from it to Him and not be harmed to the point of death.”

The source of evil is one of the most pernicious allegations against the Christian faith.  Sometimes, Christians do not have an answer for those who accuse God of perpetrating evil, the inability to stop it, or being evil Himself.  This argument simply comes back to the accusers.  They fail to realize that when they admit to evil in the world, they establish an objective standard for identifying certain actions as evil.  In doing this, they then have to admit that objective good also exists as a basis for the standard for evil.  How can one identify evil without some standard?

They also fail to realize humanity’s own rebellion against God, thereby entering into corruption.  Many point their fingers at God and others and ignore themselves as the perpetrators of evil deeds.  This is faulty thinking, for in admitting others as evil, they must themselves look into the objective moral mirror and judge themselves.  The Apostle Paul makes this same argument when writing,

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-3)

Paul establishes two truths about humanity and evil.  First, when people judge others, they admit to objective morality.  In doing so, they also judge themselves for the same thing of which they judge others.  By admitting to objective morality, they also admit to objective truth.

Second, evil is not greater than God, and God could stop evil if He wanted.  However, he has a greater purpose for it.  This greater purpose is called the “richness of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering.”  He also explains this higher purpose: the goodness of God leads to repentance.  Since the standard for objective evil (wrongdoing, disasters, suffering) is objective goodness found in God, God uses goodness to bring people to recognize their moral corruption so that they will turn from its destructive effects to Him and be saved from destruction.  Such an action on God’s part magnifies His goodness.  God conquers moral corruption one person at a time and will eventually bring it to a halt.  God showed that He had the power over moral corruption by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world and conquering evil through His perfection and death through the resurrection.

Ten Obstacles to Saving Faith: Introduction and Obstacle One

In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul sets out to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of that defense of the gospel is faith. Throughout this letter, Paul gives meaning to faith by association with the contents of the gospel. The center of that gospel is Jesus Christ. He associates faith with the following:

  • grace (Romans 1:5; 5:2; 12:3)
  • righteousness (1:17)
  • Christ’s sacrificial death (3:25),
  • justification (3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1)
  • righteousness (4:11-13; 9:30-32; 10:6-8)
  • God’s promises and inheritance (4:13-20)
  • obedience (1:5; 16:26)

All of these comprise the meaning of God’s saving act toward us. They stand in contrast to our alienation from God and unbelief resulting in rebellion against and rejection of Him. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul sets out ten obstacles to saving faith, which prevent people from coming into relationship with God both in our existing life and in the life to come of eternity. These obstacles resist the above listed benefits from God and reflect unbelief. This article addresses the first obstacle with subsequent articles taking up each of the others. While Paul writes of these obstacles from the perspective of those who reject God and fail to believe Him, Christians can also stand in the way of enjoying relating to God and enjoying His presence in life through not believing God in the benefits He offers.  This is not to say that Christians do not possess these benefits.  Rather, believers can doubt them and fall into a similar life as someone who does not believe the gospel and the benefits it brings them.

In laying out the condition of all humanity in Romans 1-2, Paul sets forth a heavy indictment of those who reject God. Among the first of these indictments include ungodliness and unrighteousness. He writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Notice that ungodliness and unrighteousness begin a downward spiral. The first of their acts is the suppression of truth. Once this suppression occurs, indignity toward God results in dishonoring him. That follows with lack of gratitude leading to futile thinking and a dark heart. Once rejection of God and His glory thrusts Him down through dishonor and ingratitude, it leads to lifting up a claim to wisdom and ultimately full-blown idolatry.  A claim to the wisdom of which Paul notes, is really a claim of being wiser than God for recognizing what is best for ourselves.  The wisdom of which Paul speaks leads to idolatry (1:23), that is corrupting the image of God and setting up images gods unworthy of Him.

Rejection of God takes many forms:

  • Embracing God and then turning away (apostasy)
  • Claiming that one cannot know God (agnosticism)
  • Denying that God actually exists (atheism)
  • Worshiping of other gods (polytheism) made in the image of man (idolatry)
  • Defying outright God although one knows Him (rebellion)
  • Practicing the occult and cultism (Satanism)
  • Making excuses for not embracing God by faith (self-will)

Regardless of the form, they all add up to unbelief and rejection of God. Paul makes known that unbelief is the key ingredient leading to ultimate idolatry and all of its trappings: uncleanness, lust, and dishonorable treatment of self. The list Paul makes provides a summary of the type of people who typify unbelief (Romans 1:29-31), among which consist of sexual immorality, envy, murder, strife, violence, lack of trust and love.  Idolatry is the act of the worship of gods made in the image of those things in the created order including humanity.  It is the enshrinement and placement of anything in the created order as first place before God.  All of the above listed rejections of God are idolatrous practices.

Notice that their progression begins with ungodliness and unrighteousness. These two characteristics describe the natural bent of humanity. The first term, ungodliness, refers to a lack of respect or irreverence. It is a failure to render honor. It is the negation of a bent toward the goodness that characterizes God. The second term suggests unfaithfulness or disloyalty and not imperfection. It could also describe faithlessness that exhibits wrongdoing, injustice, and wickedness. Unrighteousness is a force for all other evils, especially those that Paul sums up at the conclusion of the chapter (1:29-31).

In listing the irrational and hostile traits at the conclusion of chapter one, Paul illustrates an undeniable truth. Those who exhibit ungodliness and unrighteousness toward God conduct themselves in like manner toward their fellow humans. If they demonstrate unrighteousness toward God, they will do so toward others. If they display acts counter to the sexual design for which God created them, they will perpetrate sexual immorality as described in the Bible toward others (1:29). If they are haters of God (1:30), they will be malicious, envious, deceptive, evil-minded, violent, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful toward others (1:29-31). Dishonor and irreverence only perpetuates the results of these characteristics toward others. The empirical evidence is obvious worldwide where we witness conflicts and wars over the material goods of the world and the desire to deprive others not only of their property but also of their lives either on an individual level or on the level of a society or nation.

Faith in God cannot stand when such turmoil and maliciousness exist. They exist or have existed within each person on the earth and in every person who has ever lived who never turned to God. For faith to exist and thrive, all individuals must recognize, admit to, and turn away from ungodliness and unrighteousness. The Bible calls this repentance. Repentance and faith must come together, and they do so only through God’s activity within the individual in turning a person from his or her own self-oriented condition toward Jesus Christ to recognize Him as the Redeemer of one’s soul.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith  Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Cannot be used or stored in any form without expressed written permission from Action Faith Books Press.

God is Inescapable for the Atheist or Anyone Else

Try as much as they want, atheists cannot remove God from their thinking or conversations. Each time they speak of Him, they acknowledge His existence. Even in their identity and worldview, they acknowledge they know God. They call themselves a-theist. Although the “a” that precedes “theist” appears to them to mean absence, it could also be used as an indefinite article specifying their acknowledgment of God such as in the sentence, “I am a theist.” Furthermore, although atheists integrate the article to make the word “atheist,” they still cannot get away from theism.  Inasmuch as they viciously try to claim He is absent or non-existent, theism still stands out in their identity.

I recently dialoged with an atheist on the http://www.patheos.com website who titled his discussion “Godless from Dixie.” Now think about that. Although his confession is “godless,” he could not get away from acknowledging God in it. God still rises clear as the noonday sun in the confession. Many atheists as well as those who do not profess atheism use God’s name or the name of His Son when they curse. In doing so, they pray that God will damn them or others. Such amazement.

It occurred to me recently how no one can conceive, think about, or extrapolate from the corporeal or incorporeal existence that which does not exist.

We can only talk about that which we conceive in our minds, harbor or entertain in our thoughts, or extrapolate or abstract from existence whether that existence is corporeal or incorporeal.

A corollary to this is we cannot entertain in our thoughts, conceive in our minds, or extrapolate or abstract from that which does not exist.

When we talk about something, we have already entertained it in our thoughts or conceived of it.

Therefore, when we talk about God, we have thought or conceived Him in our thoughts thereby giving strong evidence of His existence in our speaking.

Therefore, when atheists talk about God, they have thought or conceived Him in their thinking and give strong evidence of His existence according to the stated premises.

Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109), said similarly when he wrote in “Proslogion,”

How indeed has he ‘said in his heart’ what he could not think; or how could he not think what he ‘said in his heart’, since to ‘say in one’s heart’ and to ‘think’ are the same? But if he really (indeed, since he really) both thought because he ‘said in his heart’ and did not ‘say in his heart’ because he could not think, there is not only one sense in which something is ‘said in one’s heart’ or thought. For in one sense a thing is thought when the word signifying it is thought; in another sense when the very object which the thing is is understood. In the first sense, then, God can be thought not to exist, but not at all in the second sense. No one, indeed , understanding what God is can think that God does not exist, even though he may say these words in his heart either without any [objective] signification or with some peculiar signification. For God is that -than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought. Whoever really understands this understands clearly that this same being so exists that not even in thought can it not exist. Thus whoever understands that God exists in such a way cannot think of Him as not existing” (St. Anselm (1998-09-10). Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 88-89). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Some may claim, “Superman does not exist.  The characters in Star Wars and Star Trek do not exist.  The characters or material world in fiction novels do not exist.  The gods of other religions do not exist.  We can think, conceive, and imagine them although they do not exist and they have come into our minds through an external source.

To this a reply could be given that all of the characters and worlds of fiction are extrapolations of what already exist in reality.  Superman is an extrapolation of men who exist.  His creator simply integrated characteristics of other things that exist such as flying, great strength, and other characteristics and dressed him up in a costume that children now wear for Halloween.  The same also applies to worlds and characters in Star Wars and Star Trek.  Their creators embellish, extrapolate from, and impose on such fictitious worlds and characters from that which already exist.  Imagination is a great thing, because it can integrate those characteristics from what exist and create novel things from them.  The Preacher from Ecclesiastes said as much when he noted:

That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done,

And there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

That is, what one imagines, thinks, conceives, or extrapolates from what exist has already occurred many times before by others who preceded those who have so imagined, thought, conceived, or extrapolated from what exist.  They simply gave this fiction the settings of their generations and encasing this fiction in that which they knew.

A professor once said of writing, “You write from what you know.”  Knowledge arises from what we imagine, think, conceive, or extrapolate from what exist.  Knowledge cannot arise from non-existence, for there is no knowledge in and of non-existence.  That which does not exist cannot contribute to knowledge.  For this reason, we depend on what exist to give rise to knowledge for filling our imaginations, conceptions, and thoughts so that we can extrapolate from what exist for creating from it some fictitious existence in a novel, poem, music, or art.  All of these display an extrapolation and integration of the characteristics of what exist.

When humanity creates fictitious characters, they do so from what already exist in reality.  The ancient civilizations so created fictitious characters and images from stones, wood, and other materials that arose from their imagination as extrapolations of what exist.  They then set these images up as gods for themselves.  They imagined these gods for worship because they knew God existed.  However, they took from the created material order and attempted to fashion from their imagination, conceptions, and thoughts of God and created images from the material world to attempt to stand for what they already knew – that God existed.

Therefore, deny all they wish, God remains strongly implanted in the minds of all as that which exist. They cannot get away from Him no matter how much they try. Their identity depends on their acknowledgment of God (atheist as a derivative from theist). Their opposition and curses reveal that they know Him. Write or preach all they wish against God, but their words testify to Him even though they resist, rebel against, and oppose Him.  Atheists betray themselves by speaking and writing about and against God.

King David once wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7) No one can remove himself or herself from the presence of God nor can their thoughts seek escape from Him. He is deeply implanted in their minds, so try as they may, God makes knowledge of Him deeply embedded in everyone’s minds.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful” (Romans 1:21).

How can people who have never heard of God still know Him? This Romans passage puzzled me for a long time until I framed the syllogism above. Our thoughts and conceptions give witness to and evidence of the knowledge of God. It is undeniable evidence within us when our minds entertain thoughts of God.  When we think or conceive of God, we show we know Him, not in the same sense that we know Him relationally or redemptively but in the sense that we know God exists.  Thinking and conceiving thoughts are part of our experience so that our own personal experience gives witness to the existence of God no matter how much some deny Him.  In denying God they deny the reality of their own experience.

The preceding statement Paul makes gives more evidence for our thoughts and conception of God, “…because what may be known of God is manifest in them” (1:19).

Again, when atheists talk or write about God in opposition to Him, they betray themselves by showing that the knowledge of God is indelibly stamped on the mind and conscience. They can only talk and write about that which exist or can be extrapolated or abstracted from existence. In talking or writing about God, they give ample and strong evidence of His existence and show they know Him while doing all they can to suppress that knowledge. The suppression of knowledge does not eradicate it.  Knowledge exists whether one accepts it or not.  Atheists show that such suppression of the knowledge of God is impossible by continually dialoging about Him.

Those who oppose God and attempt to wipe Him from their existence need to turn their face upward to confess what their thoughts and hearts acknowledge: God is inescapably in their presence and known in their hearts.  Their rage against Him will not stand in the judgment (Psalm 2), and their chains will curtail their defiance until they finally admit God is the LORD, their Creator, and Redeemer.

Part 3: Examples of Atheism Replies and Responses

I recently engaged some atheists on their website into a discussion on atheism and their defense for it.  All of them were responding to an article one atheist wrote called “Debunking Christianity.”

I opened one discussion with the following:

“This article is full of straw man arguments (or should I say accusations without merit) and false attributions while offering not one defense FOR atheism.  Each point always refers to another site, which turns out to be a non sequitur.  If the author really raises a true argument on its face, it would present it without references to other cites.  This is very poor argumentation.  In fact it is a non-argument.”

One atheist decided to reply with the following:

“if this site fails to make its point as you suggest, then just show us that theism is true.

PhD’s in Christian stuff regularly visit here, but they offer no evidence at all that Christianity or any other theism is true.

The inference to the best explanation for all the theisms and all the differences among them is that everybody is making it up. It’s not possible for all of them to be true, but believers of a particular theism claim it is true and all those that are different from it are wrong.

So, …here you are, I suspect with your own version of a theism – probably one of the Christian ones – that you like and you want to think of as true. If you think it is true, then that means there must be evidence to support it. Well, show us the evidence.

If the Christianity you like is at least as true as gravity, you should be able to provide evidence that is as clear as that we have for gravity. The evidence you provide us should show us that your god and only your god must be the cause of the evidence. That is, the evidence must point only to your god. If the god you like is the Bible character called God, then what you want to give us as evidence must be explainable only by that God. Note that ignorance does not point to the Bible’s God character.

So, have at it, I promise you this, if you provide evidence that is as good as the evidence for evolution, atomic theory, germ theory of disease, quantum mechanics, or relativity, most of us who visit DebunkingChristianity will become followers of your god in a snap.”

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I replied with the following statement:

“Since this website posits assertions against the Christian faith (and not a defense for atheism), that the burden is where the presumptions should be? I stated that the article here does not make its point for atheism through the cited logical fallacies. Ridicule and personal assaults are not defenses for atheism. To use logical fallacies demonstrate the defenselessness of a position. Now if a Christian were to write like this on that person’s cite, the burden would shift to that person required to defend one’s position.

Your first statement is a head-shaker: “if this site fails to make its point as you suggest, then just show us that theism is true.” It begs the question (another logical fallacy) or onus probandi. You are on a roll with logical fallacies. Logic does not work in that fashion, because it is not an argument on the merits. Rather, it is simply an attempt to shift responsibility for a failed argument.

Logically, it is deception to attempt to pass on a burden of proof while using ridicule and logical fallacies against a position while requiring the same burden of proof from those you oppose. If this writer takes the view that there is no God, then the author must shoulder that person’s share in supporting the claim. Clearly, the author has not done this in any rational way by setting forth specific undeniable premises and concluding from them that God does not exist. The author has not offered any evidence, as clear as gravity, that God does not exist and he cannot do so. Your gravity example is no more than another logical fallacy of “false analogy.” Did you ever study logic and reasoning? You cannot have it both ways.

The author and you attempt to shirk your epistemic responsibility through logical fallacies and ridicule. That does not work and is an anti-intellectual approach. This author’s approach is worse than that of the philosophical and psychological sciences, which deal in hypotheses and theory. Even the physical sciences approach the real world with hypotheses and theories. Theory is not proof. Therefore, your position and demand is anti-science. Do you demand that they show proof when all this article ask for is ridicule and logical fallacies? Think again, because you are not doing so.

You can promise all you want about accepting theism when in fact you would not even accept Him if He appeared before you and spoke with you personally. You have ensconced yourself so firmly in your position and against God that you would not budge for anything. So tell the truth and rise from deception. Again, logical fallacies do not support a claim. Rather they work against it and show the bankruptcy of your thinking. You pick up the same bankrupt thinking as Bertrand Russell. Remember his book “Why I Am Not A Christian.” Note, his book was not titled “Why I am An Atheist.” He could not defend his atheism but his lifelong claim was what he was against. That is not meritorious.

So now, if you adhere to the author’s claim, support it through reason, logic, and evidence and not by ridicule, logical fallacies, and assault. Do not try the “burden of proof” shift of responsibility. That one misfires like an unkept rifle.

Now if you wish to dialog on worldviews, then cease with logical fallacies, because I will call them out when I detect them. Defend your position and do not do so from the position of what you are against. That is a failed argument and an onus probandi. I would be happy to present my position. However, once I read a logical fallacy presented against it, then your essentially end the dialog, because your argument fails.”

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The atheist continue on with the same line of reasoning – personal attack on the Christian faith and continuous opposition to it.  There was no defense FOR atheism proposed.  The following is the reply.  It offered the same line of reasoning as the prior responses.

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“No theism has ever shown that the object of its groveling and affections is real, so no burden of proof exists to demonstrate the non-existence of any of the tens of thousands of gods mankind has invented over its history. Today’s Christianities have hundreds of gods, none of which is anything more than a social construct maintained through ignorance and wishful thinking.

Until someone produces something that looks like legitimate evidence for some gods existence – and no one ever has – it is not incumbent on anyone to show the non-existence of gods. All of us proceed through life merrily ignoring all of everyone else’s gods.

If you are a theist as relates to a specific god, like Yahweh or Satan or Baal or Allah, you implicitly are an atheist regarding all the gods you do not believe in or actively reject. Lots of us reject your version of a god or gods in the same way that you, without evidence, without research, without a moment’s consideration, feel free to reject so many other gods.

Did you develop a proof that Vishnu does not exist before deciding to reject its godliness? I thought not. Did you work out all the details of a slick little syllogism about why Thor does not exist before you were convinced that it does not exist? I didn’t think so. So, you give yourself license to be an atheist without proof, but you imagine that you have put up a defense for the god you imagine to be real by insisting that others disprove its existence.

A billion Hindus really can be(and are) wrong, even though the non-existence of all 300 million of their gods have not been demonstrated explicitly.

A billion Muslims can be(and are) wrong, and you disbelieve in good old Allah with nary a second thought. How unphilosophical of you. And before you go off on a “Allah is the same as the Christian gods” diversion, remember that Muslims(just like the Jews) to not believe the “no man come unto the father” crap associated with the Bible’s Jesus character.

You, FloydAT, are every bit the atheist that everyone else is. Nobody believes the other guy’s god malarkey. Get over it. All of us reject other people’s god gobbledegook because no one has ever produced evidence showing the god they like is any more real than fairies, pixies, gnomes, leprechauns, unicorns, elves or any other imaginary creature.

I am just a very agreeable atheist who agrees with everyone who rejects the other guys gods. I reject them all.

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Although the atheist provided new examples by citing other faith, he misrepresented them and the Christian faith.  It contains more logical fallacies of false attribution, straw man, and ad hominem.  It also offered no defense for atheism.

In forthcoming articles, I will quote from the four horsemen of the New Atheism (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris) to show how others lay claim to their means of argumentation – that of logical fallacies and their failure to provide an argument for atheism.