Friday, October 31, 2014

Ten quick responses to atheist claims?

Over Christian Today posted an article that is supposed to offer quick responses to ten atheist claims. So let's take a look and see if it actually delivers...

1) You don't believe in Zeus, Thor and all the other gods. I just go one god more than you, and reject the Christian God.
Art by ryomablood
The problem with this idea is that 'gods' such as Zeus and Thor are not comparable with the biblical understanding of God.

"There is a vast distinction between all of the Ancient near eastern gods and the God of the Bible," said Prof Lennox. "They are products of the primeval mass and energy of the universe. The God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth".
The point that Lennox is missing or ignoring is that the god of the Bible, like all other gods, is an unproven entity that is supported by exactly zero evidence. The other point is that the Christian disbelieves in Zeus, Thor, and all other gods for the very same reason we also disbelieve in the Christian god.

2) Science has explained everything, and it doesn't include God.

Science cannot answer certain kinds of questions, such as 'what is ethical?' and 'what is beautiful?' Even when it comes to questions about the natural world, which science does explore and can sometimes answer, there are different types of explanations for different things.
"God no more competes with science as an explanation of the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation of the motor car," says Prof Lennox.
First of all, no one is saying that science has explained everything. The beautiful thing about science is that it never stops. Lennox feels that there are things that science can't answer, and I would opine that science can delve into the realms that Lennox says that it can't. But even if it couldn't... So what?! Not having a scientific explanation doesn't mean that you can just plug in whatever story you favor.

Another important aspect is that science and religion are very much in conflict if you are going with a literal interpretation of the Bible. There are stories that are very much in contradiction with what science has shown to be the reality.

3) Science is opposed to God.
There are certain conceptions of a 'god' that might be opposed to science, but not the Christian God. There might be certain kinds of 'gods' that are invented to explain things we don't understand, but they're not Christian.
"If we're being offered a choice between science and god... it is not a biblical concept of god," said Prof Lennox. "The biblical God is not a god of the gaps, but a God of the whole show. The bits we do understand [through science] and the bits we don't.
"Among many leading thinkers, their idea of god is thoroughly pagan. If you define god to be a god of the gaps, then you have got to offer a choice between science and god."
Science is actually impartial to religion. It just so happens that God claims just happen to fail scientific scrutiny regularly. Lennox claims there is no conflict, but as I've said, the Bible makes claims that science have shown are false. Also, there is no proof of God, so there is no way he could be remotely scientific since evidence is what science runs on.

4) You can't prove that there is a God.
This kind of statement ignores that there are different kinds of 'proof'.
"Can you prove that there is a God?" asked Prof Lennox. "In the mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There's the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there's the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt".
That's the kind of 'proof' we can present: arguments to bring someone beyond reasonable doubt. For example, rational arguments such as those from philosophers Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, the personal experience of Christians, and the witness of the gospel accounts in the Bible.
Lennox fails to realize that his God fails on both accounts to an impartial party. If he feels that personal experiences are 'proof' of God, than the personal experiences or Hindus, Muslims, Satanists, Scientologists, Pastafarians, or Buddhists prove their respective deities to be real as well. Somehow I

5) Faith is believing without any evidence.
doubt Lennox would accept the personal experience of a Muslim.
Christian belief has never been about having no evidence: the gospels were written to provide evidence, as the beginning of Luke's attests. The end of John's gospel says, "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
But believing without evidence is a common notion of 'faith' at present. "This definition is in the dictionary and believed by many," said Prof Lennox. "So, when we talk about faith in Christ, they think that's because there's no evidence. [John's gospel shows that] Christianity is an evidence-based faith."
 The Bible is not evidence of anything. It's the claim and no more. If faith was belief with evidence, it would cease to be faith. Hebrews 11:1 also contradicts Lennox's claim when it says...
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
6) Faith is a delusion. I'd no more believe in God than I would in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
These ideas have been made famous by people such as Prof Richard Dawkins. The only thing they are good for is mockery.
"Statements by scientists are not always statements of science," said Prof Lennox. "Stephen Hawking said, "religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark". I said, "atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light".
"Neither of those statements proves anything at all. They're all reversible. What lies behind all these delusion claims is the Freudian idea of wish fulfilment [that we believe what we hope to be true.] This works brilliantly providing there is no god. But if there is a god, then atheism is wish fulfilment."
It sounds as if Lennox is unduly taking 'delusion' as an insult, when it simply means 'a belief that is not true'. Also, the God/Easter Bunny/Flying Spaghetti Monster comparison is a valid one and not a joke as he believes. This is because there is no evidence for any of them existing. In this way, they are very much the same.

7) Christianity claims to be true, but there loads of denominations and they all disagree with each other, so it must be false.

Why does the existence of denominations imply Christianity is false? It might imply that Christians have very different personalities and cultures – or even that Christians aren't good at getting on with each other – but not that Christianity isn't true.
"There are all kinds of different kinds of teams in football, but they all play football," said Prof Lennox.
This smells like a straw-man because I've literally never heard an atheist cite the existence of different denominations as proof that Christianity is false. I've only heard denominations brought up for two reasons.

Two different denominations will claim that they are the only ones who have it right, and they will claim that the other is doing it wrong. They will often go as far as saying that the other isin danger of Hell, while they are on the road to Heaven.

The existence of denominations does throw the Bible into question though. The Bible is claimed to be the perfect word of God. If it is perfect, that would mean that it should be perfectly clear and not open to interpretation. Yet all these different interpretations is why we have so many denamonations. Thus the Bible can't be fully perfect.

8) The Bible is immoral.
If you want to question the morality of the Bible, what basis does that morality have? There can be a serious contradiction within atheist criticisms. Dawkins wrote: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."
If this is true, then why does he question the morality of anything? "Dawkins says faith is evil," said Prof Lennox. "But at the same time he abolishes the categories of good and evil. That doesn't make sense."
Believers just love to pull that quote and use it out of context don't they?  That Dawkins quote was from a book on evolution, and about evolution. What he's saying is that evolution is indifferent. But make no mistake, people aren't. As I've written before, morality easily arises without the need for a deity. Also, no matter which way you want to look at it. I also wrote about the shear evil on display in the Bible recently as well. Anyone who claims the Bible to be moral either hasn't read it all the way through, or possesses the ability to rationalize an amazing blood-lust that would make even the most prolific mass-murderers blush.

9) Surely you don't take the Bible literally?

Some atheists (and a few Christians) have a very black and white idea of how to interpret the Bible. You either have to take it 'literally' or chuck it away, they think. That ignores the reality of language and how it reflects truth.
"Jesus said 'I'm the door'," said Prof Lennox. "Is Jesus a door like a door over there? No. He is not a literal door, but he is a real door into a real experience of God. Metaphor stands for reality. The word 'literal' is useless."
Sorry, but 'metaphor' and 'literal' are not remotely interchangeable. I will opine that I feel that literally interpreting the Bible at all time is madness. The problem is if a believer claims that some parts are literal and others are metaphor, how do you tell when what it is saying is literal or not. Why is it assumed that Jesus making the blind see or coming back to life are literal and not metaphorical? Also, there is the bad habit where things will be considered literal until that interpretation has been shown to be false. Suddenly, it is claimed that it was a metaphor all along. Such an action is simply dishonest.

10) What is the evidence for God?
You can debate the existence of God until the cows come home. It can be very interesting, especially when you go into the detail and explore the subject in depth. But for an atheist, they might be missing the point or avoiding the real issue. Prof Lennox advises to ask them the most important question:
"Suppose I could give [evidence for God], would you be prepared right now, to repent and trust Christ?"
And the answer almost every atheist will give you is that yes, give me evidence and I'll believe. Actually, many of us want(ed) to believe, tried to believe, and at one point did believe.

So what we see here is ten examples of a believer missing the point, presenting a straw-man, or just not making sense.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Salvation lost

Once a believer always a believer? Can one be disowned by God? RJ wants to know and decided to ask Billy Graham about it...
Q: Can you lose your salvation once you've honestly committed your life to Jesus? A friend of mine says you can, and another says you can't. This bothers me, because I sincerely believe in Jesus, but I'm afraid I'll do something wrong and maybe lose it all. -- R.J
Salvation? Lose it? I haven't even seen proof that it exists yet... I'd be more concerned about that part of the equation first!
A: I don't doubt the sincerity of your friend who believes we can lose our salvation if we sin after we've given our lives to Christ, but I respectfully disagree. Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37).
Really? So that means that Billy is in favor of just letting the majority of American atheists be then?
Think of it this way. When a child is born, he or she becomes part of a family. Even if they rebel or do something wrong, they're still a member of that family, and nothing can ever end that relationship. And when we come to Christ, we become members of a new family -- the family of God. We are now His children, and just as an earthly child will always be part of their family, so we will always be part of Christ's family -- even if we sin and turn away from Him for a time.
Then why are so many believers concerned with converting or saving atheists then? You see I, like a great many atheists, once believed. There was once a time in my life when I had no doubts that my Bible studies were teaching me the truth. I'd pray every night, think about God, ask him for help... I well and truly believed. And I'm not alone. The atheist ranks are full of former believers, evangelists, missionaries, those studying to become clergy and even pastors.

When some believers find that an atheist once believed, we are usually met with accusations or attempts to convert us. But according to Billy there is no need. He claims that former believers like myself are still saved. To that I will now simply say to those knocking on my door, you can just skip our house and leave us alone.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forgiveness > Permission

We've all heard the old phrase 'it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission'. This phrase will often be offered with a little laugh as it is meant more as a joke. And I agree that it is a funny phrase on the surface. But if you look at is seriously, it's actually really bad advice.

There was a comedian that once said, "I wanted to pray to God for a new bike. But I know he doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked for forgiveness instead." A funny joke, but what if everyone took this mindset seriously?

That is why I don't see the concept of Christian forgiveness as a positive thing. It offers no deterrent from doing wrong, because every wrong will be forgiven if you just ask. Maybe that works for you, but it's terrible for society. Other people are still left hurt. Wrongs were still done. The bike was still stolen, money embezzled, lives taken...

So while it is a funny little phrase, it isn't one to be lived seriously. Not if you want to live a moral life and not recklessly hurt others anyway.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God and Earthquakes

Somehow Rob Phillips over at the Baptist Press is actually arguing that Earthquakes aren't a problem for God, but that they strengthen the claim there is a God... What!?
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 changed everything. In minutes, this thriving, affluent city was brought to its knees. Roughly 50,000 people died. The sky turned black. Fires raged. Then tidal waves washed over the port, drowning hundreds more...Later, Voltaire wrote a poem challenging the prevailing view that this was a divine act of judgment...Voltaire did not challenge the existence of God. He simply asked what kind of deity would create a world with such design flaws. It's a question other thinkers of his day dared to ask as well -- a question taken up by today's ardent atheists and carried to the extreme conclusion that God does not exist.
Huh? I don't know who Rob has been talking to, but no atheist I know would claim that Earthquakes prove there is no God. Most atheists will only go as far as citing such events as evidence against the existence of an all-loving god.
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004 and similar disasters that struck Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011 are more recent examples of what may be described as natural evil. While many atheists concede that moral evil exists in the world, the idea of natural evil seems to prove either that God does not exist or, if He does, He is not a compassionate all-powerful God worthy of worship.
Sounds about right, but he left out all-loving.
Not so fast.
 Really? Where's the problem?
Plate tectonics
Okay... How does that vindicate God any?
In their book "Rare Earth," Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee observe that Earth "is still the only planet we know that has plate tectonics."
You sure about that? Because Mars has plate tectonics and Europa may as well.
They further show that plate tectonics is a "central requirement for life on a planet." It's also largely responsible for differences in land elevation that separate the land from the seas.
But there's more. Plate tectonics recirculates carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and without carbon dioxide we would not have life.
Dinesh D'Souza writes in "What's So Great About God?": "The whole tectonic system serves as a kind of 'planetary thermostat,' helping to regulate the earth's climate and preventing the onset of scorching or freezing temperatures that would make mammalian life, and possibly all life, impossible."
Plate tectonics also aids the formation of minerals deep in the earth and their availability near the surface.
Finally, the tectonics system contributes to the earth's magnetic field, without which earth's inhabitants would be exposed to cosmic radiation.
So, in a sense, we owe our existence to plate tectonics and the earthquakes it produces. Of course, earthquakes often cause great destruction and claim the lives of many people. These are real tragedies that must not be minimized.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't change anything. Claiming that earthquakes are but an unfortunate side-effect of extremely beneficial plate tectonics does not improve the case for God. This actually attests to a natural process rather than a perfect design by a God. For if a god designed plate tectonics and worked in earthquakes as well, then it would be a bad design. He's supposed to be able to do anything, so he could have just omitted earthquakes from the equation if he wanted to.
However, to make the leap from tragic consequences of natural disasters to accusations that God is aloof, petulant or non-existent fails on numerous counts. People die of heatstroke and skin cancer but that doesn't make the sun -- or its Creator -- our enemy. Fires often devastate property and take innocent lives, but without fire many technological advances such as smelting metals would not be possible.
In addition, floods and hurricanes cause tragic death and destruction, but these natural disasters would be impossible without water, without which no living creature could survive.
Sigh... that's nature for you. It is indifferent and can be as devastating as it is beautiful.
It's true that something is wrong with the created order -- and this has been the case ever since the man's fall in the Garden of Eden.
 But when God is defined as being perfect, the nature that we see actually does disprove a 'perfect' god. That's because a perfect deity couldn't create an imperfect creation. Additionally, a perfect god wouldn't be able to make a creation that was even capable of becoming broken. The very claim that Rob uses to try and explain away the problems in the world actually proves that his god can't be a perfect one. Now isn't that embarrassing...

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Trusting foretelling?

A lot of people love to read horoscopes or have their fortunes told. But is that a good idea?
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Can some people really foretell the future? I admit I’d like to know what’s going to happen to me, but I’m not sure if I really ought to get involved with a lady near us who claims she can predict the future through cards and things like that. — L.G.
Can people actually see the future? Nope! Every person who has claimed to possess this power and been put to the test has been found to be a fraud.
DEAR L.G.: I strongly urge you not to become involved in anything or anyone that claims to be able to foretell the future. The Bible commands us to avoid anyone “who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens … or who is a medium or spiritist” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
Anyone? What about prophesy? The Bible is ripe with those telling of the future to come. It's odd that the Bible tells to avoid those that tell the future, yet uses those telling what is to come to advance God's plan, or to confirm it's veracity. You can't have it both ways, so which is it?
Why is this? One reason is because such things are often frauds, using trickery or mystical mumbo-jumbo to convince people they have special powers and taking their money in the process.
Frauds with no actual powers that are just out to make money? Sounds a lot like faith healers and preachers of prosperity gospel to me...
Occasionally, I’ve read the “predictions” some supposed fortunetellers made at the beginning of a new year and then compared them with what actually happened by year’s end. Very few of their predictions ever came true.
Failed predictions aren't confined to just fortunetellers. Lest we not forget the many failed end-times predictions, and the failed prophesies in the Bible. Even Jesus got it wrong when he claimed he would return within the generation of his disciples.
But I also urge you to avoid occult practices because they could involve you with spiritual forces and powers that may be real but are absolutely opposed to God. Don’t even go near them, for they will deceive you every time and lead you away from God. The Bible strongly warns us against “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
You heard the man. Stay away from those claiming to know the future, including those claiming to have God on their side.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The problem of idols

Christians being so proud and protective of the Pledge of Allegiance is one thing that hasn't made sense to me. After all, one of the many things that the Bible prohibits is idolatry. And what does the Pledge say?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Stets of America.
Pledging allegiance to a bit of cloth, rather than solely to God would fall under the purview of idolatry. But what else does the Bible have to say about it?
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
-Exodus 20:2-6
No likeness of anything in Heaven: So that means that the painting of God at the Sistine Chapel is against God's demands. The same goes for the prevalent statues of Jesus and Mary. Statues and portraits of saints and popes? Off limits! According to the Bible, a Christian shouldn't even put out their nativity scene at Christmas time.

No likeness of anything on Earth: Now statues of any historical figure or animal are disallowed?

How the Hell is this any different than praying to a golden calf
or a statue of the Buddha?
No likeness of anything in the water: I don't often see statues of fish and marine life. But if you do, God hates it!

You may not bow down and serve them: So every time you see a Christian bowing down before a cross or statue of Jesus, they are acting in defiance of God's command in Exodus.

So here we see Biblical verse saying that the commonplace imaginary of angles, Jesus and the cross, and revering them as many Christians do is actually in defiance of what the Bible has to say on the matter. Not that Christians not actually following the Bible fully is much of a surprise...

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does belief make you better?

I've often said that being a believer doesn't automatically make you a better person. Take this letter to Billy Graham for example...
Dear Dr. Graham: Will God forgive even the sins we forget to confess to him? At the end of each day, I try my best to remember everything I've done wrong and ask God to forgive me, but I'm sure I must miss something. E.L.
Every single day? So every day EL does so much wrong that he can't remember it all? And to boot, he goes though this every day? Apparently he never learns and simply continues this cycle endlessly. So much for that fabled Christian moral superiority.
Dear E.L.: It's good to look back at the end of each day and ask God to show us how we failed, and then seek his forgiveness.

Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and it's important to deal with our sins at once. I'll never forget the advice someone gave me many years ago: “Don't let your sins pile up; keep short accounts with God.”
"Don't let sins pile up; keep short accounts with God."? Apparently Billy is perfectly fine with Christians doing wrongs regularly, just so long as they also say sorry to God regularly as well... How about the advice to simply try not to do wrong at all? Then again Christianity has always been more concerned with forgiveness than actually following the moral guidelines it so often preaches.

If simply believing, and forgiving your sins to God magically makes your wrongs go away, where is the incentive to behave? If anything is forgiven, then a Christian is free to 'sin' all day, every day and simply say 'sorry' to Jesus. Where is the fairness, justice and morality in this? The person being wronged isn't even the recipient of the apology. A god that forgives anything actually prohibits nothing.

-Brain Hulk

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