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Unholy Benefits of Atheism

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Examining atheism from the vantage point of Christianity motivates a Christian to ask two questions. First, “what would I gain if I convert to atheism?” Second, “is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?”

Unholy Benefits Atheims

What would I gain if I convert to atheism?

Thankfully, the “Creed” penned by the English poet and music journalist Steve Turner reflects the panoramic voice of an atheist whose godless worldview mandates an embrace of relativism:

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin

We believe everything is OK

as long as you don’t hurt anyone

to the best of your definition of hurt,

and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.

We believe in the therapy of sin.

We believe that adultery is fun.

We believe that sodomy’s OK.

We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better

despite evidence to the contrary.

The evidence must be investigated

And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes UFO’s and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.

He was a good moral teacher though we think

His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same –

at least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of creation,

sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing

Because when you ask the dead what happens

they say nothing.

If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all

excepting perhaps

Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson

What’s selected is average.

What’s average is normal.

What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.

We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.

Americans should beat their guns into tractors

and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.

It’s only his behavior that lets him down.

This is the fault of society.

Society is the fault of conditions.

Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that

is right for him.

Reality will adapt accordingly.

The universe will readjust.

History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth

excepting the truth

that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,

And the flowering of individual thought.

Postscript:

If chance be

the Father of all flesh,

disaster is his rainbow in the sky

and when you hear:

State of Emergency!

Sniper Kills Ten!

Troops on Rampage!

Whites go Looting!

It is but the sound of man

worshipping his maker.

The benefit an atheist accrues is predicated on an assumption that atheism sets him free.

If I’m an atheist, I’d be liberated from religious demands. I no longer need to love and worship God.

If I do not love God, I’d not be shackled to a morally pure life required by Christianity. As Friedrich Nietzsche thought, if God does not exist, everything is permitted. I am my own god.

Decisions abhorrent to a well meaning Christian would be desirable to an atheist. An atheist can abort his / her unborn child. Gaining wealth by hook or by crook cannot be condemned by moral relativism. Fraud and bribery are acceptable. If anyone impedes his pursuit, he can bulldoze them, figuratively and literally. Thanks to atheism.

Pleasure in all forms is acceptable to an atheist, for atheism is sufficiently undergirded by the relativistic paradigm. An atheist is free to practice adultery, polygamy, homosexuality, child sex and what not. Thanks to the power of subjective moral values.

This is not it.

An atheist could also live a depressing life, for he would suffer a constant existential struggle.

This metaphysical struggle is between moral relativism and the law of the land, which is fundamentally predicated on objective moral values (you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you cannot rape etc.).

Although moral relativism prescriptively allows an atheist to gain wealth through unholy means, the law of the land legislates various stipulations that stifles and could imprison him for gaining wealth through unholy means. So he should painfully ponder over the wisdom behind the law of the land not being predicated on moral relativism!!

Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer, expressed this struggle, “If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…” (Jeffrey Dahmer, in an interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994.).

Is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?

Atheists who wholly experience the unholy pleasures of this material world is destined to become weary of pleasure so to doom themselves into the darkened dungeons of meaninglessness.

Edward Young, in his work “Night Thoughts” ridiculed pleasure, “Sure as night follows day, Death treads in Pleasure’s footsteps round the world, When Pleasure treads the paths which Reason shuns.” And wasn’t it G.K Chesterton who said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”?

The author of Ecclesiastes pronounced the meaninglessness of pleasure, “I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards…I amassed silver and gold for myself…I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-11, NIV).

So atheism does not set anyone free instead it imprisons its devotees to meaninglessness. Atheism offers perishable benefits, not enduring benefits.

What about those atheists who have lost faith in God because of the problem of evil and suffering? If you’re one of those atheists, please read the book of Habakkuk in the Bible.

The author of Habakkuk complains to God about evil, injustice and God’s apparent inactivity. But after hearing God’s response, he wholeheartedly proclaimed, “Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19, MSG).

To conclude, yes, atheism offers a plethora of unholy benefits. But unholy benefits cannot enrich life.

There’s a God. HE desires that we love HIM. When we love God truly and wholly, we don’t gain pleasure from anything the material world has to offer. We find pleasure in enjoying God’s presence and the peace HE offers us through the good and the bad days of our lives. Because we love HIM, we long to be with HIM forever – even beyond this earthly life.

So let’s echo the words of the author of Ecclesiastes, who after having considered everything the material world has to offer, finds meaning in God alone, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14, NIV).

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nxaiun


Did Man Invent God?

I have recently become aware of a video on the internet that is making its way around the campus of the local university. Several college students told me that after viewing the video, it really made them question their faith. Now, this might surprise you, but I am all for questioning one’s faith (I encourage atheists to do the same), but if one is to question what they believe, it should be for good and logical reasons!

Did Men Invented God

In my experience, it is usually Christians who present arguments utilizing the laws of logic with premises that lead to deductive conclusions. Most (not all) of the atheist arguments I find on the Internet are usually based in emotion as opposed to logic, and therefore, they rarely put their thoughts into logical argument form. After watching this video, I decided to put the statements of this atheist into a deductive syllogism. Let’s see if it is a logically valid argument or not.

1- According to the Bible, God has always existed and predates the universe itself.
2- According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.
3- Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Now the first two premises are direct quotes from the atheist in the video. Let’s quickly examine them. Premise (1) is true. The Bible does teach that God exists necessarily, eternally with no beginning, and that God brought all things into being (including the universe). Here are two verses from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament to consider:

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

Psalm 148: 1-5 “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.”

John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

However, this proposition is not only “according to the Bible.” In fact, a logic-based argument that is supported by scientific data suggests the exact same thing! This is known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Moreover, arguments such as the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument and the Ontological Argument also logically conclude the same. The Kalam and Leibnizian arguments both rationally infer that there is ONE timeless, beginningless, eternal, necessary, spaceless, immaterial, volitional and personal mind that the universe (and all of its contents) is contingent upon. What is more, the Ontological Argument demonstrates that a Maximally Great Being exists and therefore, monotheism must be true as it is incoherent to have multiple “maximally great beings.”

So, yes, the Bible does make these monotheistic claims; however, even if the Bible didn’t exist, we would still come to these conclusions by thinking according to the laws of logic and the rules of rationality. Since the Bible makes claims that are in line with the laws of logic, it ought to be considered as a plausible explanation of reality. So far the argument is good, because premise (1) is true and is backed up by the laws of logic and modern science. Let’s look at the second premise:

(2) According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.

This is a controversial premise that historians can argue; however, I am not interested in attacking the supposed “evidence” this atheist thinks he has; rather, I am interested in arguing logically. So for the sake of argument, I will actually grant this premise (I’m not affirming it at all). Here’s the big question: Since I affirm the first premise and grant the second, does the conclusion follow? No, it does not follow because although the premises may be true, the argument is invalid because the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises. Let’s look at the conclusion again:

(3)Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Premise (2) seems to assume that if we can show why or how humanity started believing that God exists, then, we can logically conclude that these theistic beliefs are false. However, this line of thinking makes a big mistake in reasoning called the genetic fallacy. This mistake is made when someone argues against a proposition by pointing out why someone believes the proposition is true. While it is correct that people can believe propositions for bad reasons, it does not logically follow that the propositions they affirm are therefore false.

The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition.

For example, atheistic naturalists believe that all that exists is nature, and therefore, they hold that everything is determined by the laws of nature and past events receding all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang (this includes all of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions). So, if I told an atheistic naturalist that the only reason he believes in atheism, naturalism and determinism is because he was determined by physics and chemistry to do so, and therefore, these positions are false, I would be committing the genetic fallacy. My objection does not show that the naturalist’s beliefs are false, they only show that he cannot rationally affirm his beliefs and therefore his beliefs do not count as knowledge (a.k.a. justified true belief). The determinist’s belief that determinism is true could luckily happen to be true, even if he does not have reason, warrant, or justification in affirming his propositions.

Back to the argument in question: the atheist is assuming that human ideas about God evolved from pantheistic ones a relatively short and finite time ago. He argues that these are not good reasons to believe in Christian monotheism, and therefore, Christianity is false. His entire argument is based on the genetic fallacy and therefore the whole thing must be discarded as any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. He claims we have come to believe Christian monotheism is true for bad reasons; therefore, Christian monotheism is false. However, the objective truth-value of the propositions of Christianity is true or false regardless of how we came to hold these beliefs. Remember the other arguments I listed above are good reasons to think monotheism is true independent of what the Bible does or does not say. These arguments are used without touching the Bible and only rely on the laws of logic with support from scientific data. Therefore, in regards to the Bible’s claims about monotheism, it is exactly right and in line with the rules of reason. Moreover, these arguments also prove the negation of this atheist’s invalid conclusion – atheism is therefore, false!

Premise (2) is not only controversial, but it implies the propositions Christians affirm are false because of how we came to hold these beliefs. Let me reiterate this again for the sake of clarity: This commits the genetic fallacy, and therefore, this entire argument is invalid.

One last thing: this video only attacked the Old Testament’s views of God. It is important for Christians (and non-Christians alike) to realize that the truth of “mere” Christianity requires only two key ingredients: 1- God’s existence, and 2- the resurrection of Jesus. That’s it! We don’t even need the Old Testament to reach the conclusion that Christianity is true (logically speaking). I’m glad we have it and it helps make sense of many things, but we don’t need it to conclude Christianity is true. Therefore, any attacks on it, or its infallibility, are completely impotent if their hope is to demonstrate Christianity is false. To do that, one must either demonstrate one of the two premises in the following argument to be false, or that the conclusion does not logically follow deductively from them:

1- God exists.
2- God raised Jesus from the dead.
3- Therefore, Christianity is true.

Premise (1) is reached by a cumulative case of logical arguments such as:

– The Kalam
– The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
– The Moral Argument
– The Ontological Argument
– The Teleological Argument
– (And many more)

Premise (2) is reached via the historical method and inference to the best explanation. If God raised Jesus from the dead, it seems that God is validating everything that Jesus said, taught, and exemplified. Therefore, Christianity is true!

For more on some of these specific arguments, start here:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1

Stay reasonable (Phil 4:5)

Original Blog Resource: http://bit.ly/2mYIUGf


Biblical Faith VS. Blind Faith

By Evan Minton

Many Christians when asked by unbelievers why they should believe anything The Bible says, the most common response is “Just have faith!”. And this “just have faith” line is pretty much the answer to every single objection one could possibly raise against the Christian.

Blind Faith

Far too often people are turned away because of intellectual doubts that plague them. “If God is all loving and all powerful, why does He let so much suffering go on in the world?” “How could a loving God send people to an eternal Hell?” “How do I know Yahweh is the one true God instead of these thousands of other gods in these other religions that contradict Christianity? How do I know The Bible is true and not The Koran or the Hindu Scriptures?” And when a Christian or a pastor responds with “Just have faith” that translates in the mind of the unbeliever as “in order to be a Christian, you need to commit intellectual suicide.” This blind faith approach is so, so, so very unbiblical. Many places in The Bible command us to tell others WHY Christianity is true.

“Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

In Jude 1:3, Jude urges his readers to DEFEND the faith (that’s what we call “Christian Apologetics”).

In Phillipians 1:16, Paul says that he was appointed to DEFEND the good news (i.e do Christian Apologetics).

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says he gave the Corinthians PROOF that he was indeed an apostle from God because he performed many signs and wonders when he was with them. If God really wanted us to have blind faith, why would Paul give evidence for his credibility?

In 2 Corinthians 13:3 Paul says he is willing to offer the Corinthians PROOF that Christ speaks through him. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa whoa! Hold the phone, Paul! Paul, buddy! Don’t you know that if you offer the Corinthians proof that Christ speaks through you that they won’t have legitimate faith? Why would you deprive them they opportunity of having faith, Paul? Maybe faith isn’t what people think it is.

Objection: If you need evidence, you don’t have faith.

This is an objection often proposed by Christians (as well as atheists) who think that the word “faith” means to believe something without any reason to and/or even to believe something in the face of reasons to not believe it. This distortion of the meaning of the word “faith” has had very bad consequences on the church because it makes a person think that Christianity requires you to be an undiscerning airhead who doesn’t like reason.

Here is a Bible verse that gives an example of a person placing their faith in God in spite of having evidence for His existence. I tell ya, reading The Bible is like going into a spiritual gold mine and mining all the good stuff you find. BUT you gotta dig for it. Usually, I’m not looking for stuff like this, I just happen to stumble across it while reading through the verses. I found this one night when reading through Exodus. I think it does a good job of arguing against Christians who think that apologetics is wrong because you’re supposed to have blind, undiscerning belief.

“When the Israelites saw the mighty power that The Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. THEY PUT THEIR FAITH IN HIM and His servant Moses.” – Exodus 14:31

Clearly, the Israelites had evidence that God existed and was helping them escape Egypt and yet the text says they put their faith in Him anyway (for a little while at least. we all know they lost faith a bunch of times after this). They ESPECIALLY had evidence that MOSES existed and the text says they placed their faith in him as well. So given this piece of scriptural evidence we know that a Christian can still base his belief THAT Christianity is true on the basis of evidence and still be able to have faith in God. You see, faith means the same thing as the word “trust”. Or as I’ve said before “Faith is when someone is holding you over a ledge and knowing in your heart that not only will they not let you fall, they’ll pull you up to safety”. You know that the person holding onto you exists. You have very powerful evidence that that person exists, yet all the evidence in the world is not going to make you trust that that person will help save your life. This is the real definition of the word “faith”.

I like using an analogy. Let’s say you discovered you had heart disease, and need a risky surgery. You have sufficient resources, so you research doctors, anesthesiologists, etc. until you have the best team possible assembled. You now have a group of people that you believe will give you the best chance of survival. Even though you have researched extensively, you still show your faith in this team when you allow yourself to be put under. Faith does not mean not researching and exploring the truth. Jesus even says as much when he tells us to love God with our heart, soul, *MIND* and strength.

http://bible.cc/exodus/14-31.htm <– Here you can look at other translations of Exodus 14:31 to see all the different words that are used other than “faith”. The NLT uses “faith”, the NIV used “trust”, the KJV uses “believed” that is; they believed IN God and His promises even though they had just witnessed good evidence THAT He existed and was helping them. This is the difference between belief THAT God exists, THAT Jesus rose from the dead and belief IN His character and His promises to you.

We are never told to have a blind faith. Paul commended those in Berea for checking the Scriptures daily to see if what he was telling them was so. Jesus showed Himself alive to make sure those believed on Him, especially Thomas (John 20:28)

Paul also said to “Test everything, hold onto the good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 seems to be telling us to have just the exact opposite of blind faith.

Objection: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly” – Hebrews 11:6

I agree with this. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But then again, it’s impossible to please ANYONE without faith. It is not possible to have a good relationship with any human being without faith. What is faith? Remember, the word “faith” is synonymous with “trust”. If you’re constantly distrusting God, you’re not going to have a very good relationship with Him just as you wouldn’t have a very good relationship with your wife/husband if you were always distrusting her/him. If you’re constantly suspecting your wife of cheating on you, I “suspect” that it’s not going to be very long before she hands you the divorce papers telling you “I can’t live with someone who distrusts me so severely”. Although sometimes that kind of suspicion is warranted.

I walk by faith, not by sight. This doesn’t mean I believe God exists without any evidence or reason. It means I trust in Him even when I don’t know what He’s up to. Sometimes our circumstances can have deceitful appearances. Sometimes it looks like God has abandoned us when He really hasn’t. Sometimes it looks like God won’t keep His promises. Sometimes we think our suffering has no good purpose to it. It is in times like these that we have to have faith in (i.e to place our TRUST in) God. That His plans are for ours or someone else’s ultimate good.

Having evidence for God’s existence does not mean you’re not walking by faith. Faith is placing one’s trust in a person. Just because you have EVIDENCE for that person’s existence does not mean you don’t trust them. Moses had PLENTY of evidence for God’s existence, but He still had to trust that God was going to lead Him and the Jews where He said they were going to. Many times it looked like Yahweh was leading them on a wild goose chase, but Moses continued to have FAITH in the God which he had plenty of proof existed. Although many of the people did lose faith. They got impatient and started worshipping false idols, and constantly complained.

Objection: Do Apologists forget the work of The Holy Spirit?

Anyone who does apologetics knows the Holy Spirit has to play an integral part of the entire process. As Ergun Caner says, “It is impossible to be effective in apologetics without the work of the Spirit in both the apologist and the hearer.” (2) No mature apologist forgets that the Bible stresses that humans are blinded by sin. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:4). How people respond to God’s revelation depends on several factors such as his/her personal history (both past and present). People can be hardened towards God; sin certainly dampens an individual’s ability to being receptive to God’s invitation to them. The Holy Spirit works through apologetics just as He works through preaching.

Objection: Shouldn’t we just preach the gospel?

This is true. By all means, “Preach the Gospel!” But guess what? What do you do when you try to open the Bible and use it with someone who doesn’t think the Bible is an authoritative or inspired book? This happens all the time to Christians. And did you know Muslims and other people think their holy book is just as inspired and authoritative as the Bible? The Hindus think their scriptures are inspired. The Buddhists think their holy scriptures are inspired. If you keep trying to quote the Bible, you would be “begging the question.”

“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place. In some cases, you may be able to go quote the Bible to many people without any objections, like when you’re trying to witness to Mormons and Jehova’s Witnesses. If you’re witnessing to Jews, you can show them all the messianic prophesies and how Jesus fulfilled all of the prophesies. But in other cases (like when witnessing to atheists and agnostics), you would need to show the individual the Bible is a reliable historical document before trying to use it as an authoritative text in these types of conversations.

Avoiding Apologetics can have dire consequences.
Christianity is under a severe attack in this day and age. In fact, I’ve never seen the Christian faith under attack more than I have in the 21st century. “The New Atheist” movement has set a goal to eliminate religious belief from the face of the Earth. High School teachers and College professors endorse Darwinian evolution and try to convince your kids that a Creator was not needed for advanced life to come into being.

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig concurs. He said “In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to simply teach our children Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.”

If Jesus wants us to have blind faith, then why did He have to fulfill so many ancient prophesies? 
If God required us to have blind faith, then why did Jesus have to fulfill so many prophesies to PROVE to the Jews that He was the true messiah? Why couldn’t Jesus just come onto the scene and say “Hey, I’m the Messiah, follow me!” Maybe because so many other people were claiming to be the Messiah at the time period and they were NOT the messiah. The Jews needed the ability to tell truth from falsehood. The Jews needed the ability to tell the difference between the TRUE messiah and a phony. Blind Faith can’t give you that. God gave the Jews a test for the real messiah to take and if He was able to get a perfect score, then their conclusion would be that He was and is the messiah. Lee Strobel calls this “The Fingerprint Evidence” in his book “The Case For Christ”. Jesus had to fulfill each and every one of the messianic prophesies. If He did, then that proved He was the genuine article.
 
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous!
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous. How are you going to “beware of false prophets” like Jesus said if you don’t exercise some discernment? Back in ancient Judaism, the way to tell if a prophet was truly from God was if he gave evidence that he came from God. How’s that? Well, if his prophesies came true then he was truly from The Lord but if his prophesies were false then everyone knew he was a false prophet and they had him stoned. 1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Yet another verse telling us that blind faith is wrong. This verse is telling us that we should “test the spirits” to see if they give evidence that they are indeed from God.

NOTEWORTHY QUOTES:
“I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“As I speak around the country, I often encounter devoted, committed Christians who are hesitant to embrace an evidential faith. In many Christian circles, faith that requires evidential support is seen as weak and inferior. For many, blind faith (a faith that simply trusts without question) is the truest, most sincere, and most valuable form of faith that we can offer God. Yet Jesus seemed to have a high regard for evidence. In John 14:11, He told those watching Him to examine ‘the evidence of miracles’ (NIV) if they did not believe what He said about His identity. Even after the resurrection, Jesus stayed with His disciples for an additional forty days and provided them with ‘many convincing proofs’ that He was resurrected and was who He claimed to be (Acts 1:2-3 NIV). Jesus understood the role and value of evidence and the importance of developing an evidential faith. It’s time for all of us, as Christians, to develop a similarly reasonable faith’.” —J. Warner Wallace

“The “I just take Christianity on (blind) faith” attitude can’t be the right approach. It leaves the Bible without defense, yet Peter directs us to make a defense for the hope that is in us. Also, the biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true. In fact, I suggest you completely ban the phrase “leap of faith” from your vocabulary. Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence leads to trust. The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing. It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence.’ – Greg Koukl


Any and every other belief you hold, about anything whatsoever, if it is to be taken seriously, if it is to be of any value or worth anyone’s consideration, it must have in its favor more than your emotions, personal history or external circumstantial factors. It must have reasons.” —Clint Roberts (from the article, Believing for No Reason)
 
 “Question with boldness. Question even if the very existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mzdohl


Who Cares about Truth? Activity to Help Students Grasp the Importance of Truth

Along with being a professor at Biola, I have been teaching high school students for thirteen years. Below is one of my favorite activities – which could be used by teachers, youth pastors, and even parents – to help students grasp how important truth is for their worldview.

Students Truth

PURPOSE: This activity helps students realize that truth should be the guiding principle for what we believe, and as a result, how we live our lives

SUPPLIES: Whiteboard and pens; or a large sheet of paper for recording answers.

DURATION: 20-30 minutes

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.Begin by asking students the following question, “Why do people believe what they do?” Encourage students to come up with any reasons they can think of for why we hold certain beliefs (not just about God, but about anything).

2.List their responses on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard according to the columns below. Do not label the columns until they have given all their answers.

Sociological Psychological Religious Philosophical
Parents

Friends

Society

Culture

Tradition

Comfort

Peace of Mind

Meaning

Experience

Hope

Identity

Scripture

Pastor

Priest

Guru

Channeler

Church

Consistency

Coherence

Completeness (best explanation)

True

3.Once you have a substantial list of reasons, go through each one and ask, “Is that a good reason to believe something?”

4.If you have sharp students, the discussion might look something like this:

Youth worker “I see that many of you listed sociological factors. For example, many of you mentioned that our beliefs are shaped by our parents. Is that a good enough reason to believe something?”
Students “No, not necessarily. Parents can sometimes be wrong!”
Youth worker Okay, what about cultural factors such as tradition? Do you think people ought to believe something because it has been passed down through tradition?”
Students “No, not necessarily. Traditions are not necessarily wrong, but they are also not necessarily right. Radical Muslims have a tradition of Jihad, but that can’t be right.”
Youth worker “Good. Now some of you mentioned psychological influences such as comfort. Is comfort alone a solid reason to believe something?”
Students “No, we’re not ‘comfortable’ with that. Just because something is comfortable does not make it true. Lies can often be very comfortable!”
Youth worker “So you’re saying that truth is an important reason to believe something because there can be consequences when people are mistaken?”
Students “Yes, that does seem to be the case.”
Youth worker “What about religious reasons? Should we believe something because Scripture tells us it is true? Should we simply follow whatever a pastor tells us?”
Students “No, because how would we know which Scripture is true? Which religious teachings do we follow? All religious leaders can’t be right.”
Youth worker “Good point. So, how do we know which religion we should follow, if any?”
Students “We would need some outside evidence to indicate that the claims are actually true. There needs to be some proof.”
Youth worker “So we seem to agree that something is worth believing if we have reason to believe that it is true.”

COMMENTARY:

One of the challenges we face in a postmodern culture is skepticism about reason as a means of knowing truth. It is not that young people are unable to reason. In reality, students reason everyday! They reason with their parents (for a later curfew), with their teachers (for an extension on their homework), and with themselves (over who to ask to prom). But young people are often reluctant to believe that reason can lead to a genuine understanding of God. Such a misunderstanding must be corrected. While our reasoning ability is deeply influenced by our emotions and background, we are made in the image of God with the capacity to accurately understand His revelation to the world (Rom. 1-2). Reason is one means that God has chosen to make Himself known to people.

God designed us to be truth-seekers in all areas of life, which is why it is so critical to help young people understand why they believe what they believe. Few have given their religious beliefs much thought. Most of their beliefs have been shaped by sociological factors that have very little to do with rational reflection. This does not mean that their beliefs are anti-intellectual or that they are less justifiable, only that they have not been formed by weighing the merits of various options and coming to the conclusion that is most reasonable. Such lack of convictions will not maintain a life-long vibrant faith.

This activity is an important step in helping students to be aware of their lack of conscious reasons for their beliefs. The idea is to help students recognize that they themselves actually operate their lives on whether they think something is true or false (whether they realize it or not). This is critical for young Christians because without some sense of why they believe, they may hold their faith with reservation or abandon their faith completely when challenged. And this is also important for non-believers, so they can clear away misconceptions and consider the credibility of Christianity.

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE: Hosea 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10


Three M’s That Naturalism Can’t Provide

 

Everyone has a worldview; all of us experience and interpret the world through a collection of beliefs that guide our understanding. As an atheist, I accounted for my experiences through the lens of naturalism. I believed everything I experienced and observed could be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. I never thought deeply about the inconsistencies in my view of the world, or the fact that my naturalism failed to explain three characteristics of my daily experience:

Naturalism Provide

Mind
If naturalism is true, some form of physicalism or materialism must rule the day. The “problem of mind” (as philosophers and researchers commonly describe it) is only a “problem” because the material limitations of naturalism strain to account for immaterial consciousness. Naturalism can explain the existence of the brain, but little more. Our “minds” are an illusion created by the physical processes that are occurring in our material brains. But if this is the case, our thoughts are merely the result of a series of physical causes (and resulting effects). You might believe you are thinking freely about what you just read, but in reality your “thoughts” are simply the consequences of neural “dominoes” falling, one against the next. In a world of strict causal physicalism, free will (and freely reasoned thoughts) are simply an illusion.

Morality
If naturalism is true, morality is nothing more than a matter of opinion. All of us, as humans, have simply come to embrace those cultural or personal mores that best promote the survival of the species. There is no transcendent, objective moral truth. Instead, cultures merely embrace the values and moral principles that “work” for them and have resulted in the flourishing of their particular people group. If this is the case, one group of evolved humans has no business trying to tell another evolved group what is truly right or wrong from a moral perspective. After all, each group has successfully arrived at their particular level of development by embracing their own accepted moral standards. Arguments over which moral truths provide for greater human flourishing are simply subjective disagreements; there is no transcendent, objective standard that can adjudicate such disagreements from a naturalistic perspective.

Meaning
If naturalism is true, life’s meaning and purpose are simply in the eye of the beholder. If your son tells you that he thinks meaning is found in playing video games ten hours a day, there is little you can offer as an objective rebuttal. After all, if there is no transcendent author of life, each of us gets to write our own script. While you may believe your son has missed the point of his existence and has forfeited the opportunity to experience life fully, you really don’t have any objective authority upon which to ground an alternative. As a naturalist, you are inventing your own meaning as well; purpose and significance (from a purely naturalistic perspective) are nothing more than opinion and personal preference.

As an atheist, I chose to cling to naturalism, in spite of the fact that I lived each day as though I was capable of using my mind to make moral choices based on more than my own opinion. In addition, I sought meaning and purpose beyond my own hedonistic preferences, as though meaning was to be discovered, rather than created. I called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism. As a Christian, I’m now able to acknowledge the “grounding” for these features of reality. My philosophical worldview is consistent with my practical experience of the world.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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8 Major Worldviews (Part 1)

By: Brian Chilton

Before the website transferred from pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com to bellatorchristi.com, I had written an article on the major worldviews across the globe. I presented six major worldviews at the time. While I still think the previous article treated the most major of worldviews, I have come to realize after reading Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, that other major worldviews exist that should be discussed and incorporated into the list.[1] So, let’s revisit the major worldviews in this article. The goal of the article will be to notify the reader of each belief and will show how Christian theism triumphs. In addition, the Christian apologist will need to understand the starting points that must be taken with each worldview.

Worldviews

  1. Atheism/Naturalism: Rejection of God’s Existence, Only the Physical World Exists.

The term “atheist” is taken from the Greek term “a” meaning “no” and “theos” meaning “God.” Placed together, the term means “no God.” The atheist, therefore, is one who does not believe in the existence of God. Atheists are often termed “naturalists” as they only accept the existence of the natural/physical world, thereby rejecting the existence of things like God, spirits, the human soul, angels, and demons. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are good examples of atheism.

Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.

  1. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

Agnosticism comes from two terms: “a” the Greek term meaning “no” and “gnosis” the Greek term meaning “knowledge.” The agnostic does not necessarily reject belief in God. The agnostic claims no knowledge on the issue. There are at least two forms of agnosticism. Atheistic agnostics incline to reject belief in God, but are open to the possibility of God’s existence. The atheistic agnostic claims that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Bart Ehrman and Neil deGrasse Tyson are examples of atheistic agnostics.

Theistic agnostics are individuals who are inclined to believe in God’s existence. However, they are doubtful whether individuals can know anything about God. The theistic agnostic may either reject divine revelation altogether and claim that no religion is correct, or the theistic agnostic may reject exclusive revelation and will claim that all religions are correct. When I stumbled into my time of personal doubt, I became more of the theistic agnostic (one who claimed to be spiritual but not religious). The Ba’hai religion and Morgan Freeman may be considered examples of theistic agnosticism.

The trouble with agnosticism is with divine revelation. If God can truly be shown to exist, then atheistic agnosticism begins to wane. If one can demonstrate that God has revealed himself to humanity (particularly through Jesus of Nazareth), then theistic agnosticism begins to fade. The Christian apologist will need to understand, first, that agnosticism can cover a wide variety of flavors. Second, the Christian apologist will need to describe the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s life, miracles, and resurrection.

  1. Pantheism: The Force is With You.

Pantheism comes from two Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.” Pantheism may look quite a bit like panentheism and even theistic agnosticism. However, generally speaking, pantheism is the belief that God is an impersonal force. Buddhism is the greatest example of pantheism. The Star Wars idea of the “force” is another example of pantheism. Buddhists claim to be agnostic concerning God’s existence. Yet, the Buddhist believes in impersonal forces (i.e., the force behind reincarnation). The goal of such a worldview is to become nothing. In fact, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana means that one has become so enlightened that he or she escapes the wheel of reincarnation and becomes nothing.

The trouble with pantheism is diverse. On the one hand, the pantheist will speak of such forces in such a way that intelligence is necessary. For example, why is there a wheel of reincarnation? Why is it that good behavior elevates one to a higher level and vice versa? On the other hand, pantheists have great trouble in explaining why anything exists at all. Much more could be said on this issue as it pertains to the trouble of pantheism. The Christian apologist will need to describe the internal inconsistencies of pantheism as a starting point as well as note the personal nature of the divine.

  1. Panentheism: Everything is God.

Panentheism comes from three Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all,” “en” meaning “in,” and “theos” meaning “God.” Therefore, panentheism is literally defined as “all in God.” Panentheists hold that God penetrates everything. While the Christian may initially be inclined to agree, one must understand that panentheists believe that everything is God. Thus, the panentheist would agree that Jesus of Nazareth is God. But, the panentheist would also agree that you are God, he is God, everyone is God, and even your kitchen sink is God. The panentheist does not distinguish between the personal God and the physical creation. Hinduism is the greatest example of panentheism.

Panentheism, however, holds issues as it pertains to the world. If the world is God, then why is there so much evil? God is certainly good. So, if everyone is God, then wouldn’t everything be perfect? To accept such a claim, one must have a flawed idea of God’s nature. With the panentheist, the Christian apologist will need to begin by teaching the distinction between the personal divine being of God and the physical, material creation that is the world.

We have investigated the first four of the eight major worldviews. In our next article, we will describe the final four: polytheism, dualism, deism, and monotheism/theism.

Notes

[1] See Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 50.

[2] Here, I do not mean heavenly or hellish experiences. I am addressing the scientific verification of such events in this world. For instance, if one were to see something that could not have been otherwise seen after one’s death, then this would serve as a verification of the soul’s survival past death. Soul survival discredits naturalism.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

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Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)


Should Students Be Exposed to Evidence Against Christianity?

Sheltering students from beliefs contrary to Christianity is a big mistake. Let me say it again, to be sure it sinks in: Sheltering students from arguments for other religions, or against Christianity, is a bad strategy for developing them as disciples in the faith.

In his book You Lost Me, researcher David Kinnaman argues that “protecting” kids from opposing viewpoints is ultimately detrimental to their faith. Like “helicopter parents” who “hover” over their children to keep them from any conceivable danger, many young Christians feel that the church demonizes everything outside the church, fails to expose students to the complexities of the “real” world, and is too overprotective.

Overprotecting kids encourages them to wonder whether there actually are good arguments against the faith. And when they do encounter evidence against Christianity, which is inevitable today, many wonder—what else have you not told me? Are you too insecure in your own faith to speak truth? Overprotection undermines trust. And as a result, many kids disengage the church, as Kinnaman notes.

Evidence Against Christianity

Inoculation Theory

What can we do? There is something we can learn from inoculation theory, which says that people who are gradually exposed to opposing viewpoints are better prepared to answer such challenges in the long run. Like a vaccination, which exposes an individual to a milder version of a virus so he or she can develop immunity, exposing students to counterarguments helps them develop intellectual resistance to future, more persuasive ideas.

Consider a classic study by the late sociologist William J. McGuire. He took four separate groups of students and presented them with the counterintuitive idea that brushing your teeth is unhealthy. They each read a fabricated article, which was full of “scientific” arguments against the validity of brushing your teeth and then were assessed afterwards.

The first group was simply told that they would be given an article to read defending a particular viewpoint. The second group had their existing belief (that brushing your teeth is good) reinforced before reading the article. The third group was warned that they were about to read an article that would challenge their existing beliefs. The final group was presented with an abbreviated version of the argument as well as arguments against it. Which group had the most and least change?

Quite expectedly, group four (which received an advance summary and refutation of the article) had the least change in their beliefs. Unexpectedly, though, group two (who had their prior beliefs merely reinforced before reading the article) had the most change. This group was not only the most persuaded by the arguments against brushing your teeth, they also felt the most deceived when they were exposed to counterarguments against their prior beliefs.

How Does This Apply to Teaching Youth Today?

Here’s the bottom line: If we merely present students with the biblical position on an issue, without offering reasons for that view, as well as exposing them to counterarguments against it, we are setting them up for failure when they encounter thoughtful opposition. And we risk losing their trust.

But if we present them with the biblical view on an issue, and also expose them to counter perspectives in a fair and incremental manner, they will have a much better chance of hanging on to their faith when challenges arise.

There are many ways this can be done. As a part-time high school teacher, I aim to inoculate my students for the intellectual challenges they will inevitably face in college and beyond. They need to learn that Christians have nothing to fear engaging opposing viewpoints and that Christianity can hold its own in the arena of ideas.

Specifically, I have taken students through The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (after going through Christian Apologetics by Doug Groothuis). I regularly have them read articles from skeptics, watch videos that challenge their prior beliefs, and sometimes I bring in guests with opposing views. And thanks to the leadership of my friend Brett Kunkle, I annually take high school students on an apologetics mission trip to places like Berkeley, where they hear lectures from leading atheists and skeptics. In my experience, these types of activities serve to strengthen their faith.

If we want young people to have a vibrant and lasting faith, we must expose them to opposing viewpoints early in their intellectual development. And we must present those views fairly and accurately. This will help us gain credibility in the eyes of our students, and it will also help inoculate them from future, more articulate challenges.

If Christianity is really true, what are we afraid of?

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Book)


One Fewer God?

By Derrick Stokes

There’s a popular quote by atheist Steven F. Roberts that many nonbelievers cite or paraphrase when debating Christians that says, “I contend we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do.”

The atheist is saying that since we Christians don’t believe in Baal, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl, or any other god other than the God of the Bible, then we assume the same lack of belief system. They just take it one deity further.

One Fewer God

So what’s the difference?

Well it doesn’t take much to realize that this argument is constructed in a way to throw the believer off guard. Let’s look at the two members of the argument. An atheist and a theist. The word atheist comes from the Greek atheos.  The prefix a meaning “without” and theos meaning “god”. In other words atheism is the belief that there is no god or gods. No Supreme Ruler whatsoever. The atheist’s worldview is completely shrouded and perceived in the material realm. That anything outside it is pure speculation and unprovable (or not proven yet).

However, for the theist (Christian in our case) the material realm is just another dimension of reality. For us there is also the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is, in fact, the truest reality because it existed first. God is spirit (John 4:24) and He created all that exists (Genesis 1, John 1:3) in the spiritual and material world.

Now let me point out that Christians during the 1st century were called atheists because they rejected the pantheon of greco-roman gods of the surrounding culture. This was also because the Christians of the day had no temple, priest, or sacrifice, as Romans would have recognized. Yet, believers in Christ saw Jesus as the temple. He is the only way to the Holy of Holies. Believers in Christ saw Him as priest because He is the Ultimate High Priest. Believers in Christ saw Jesus as the sacrifice because of the work He accomplished on the cross. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God and no sacrifice is needed after Him. (John 1:29; Hebrews 4:14; 10:10-11, 19-20)

After the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Church there was no “physical” representation of their God like the Romans had. The Romans had statues and Caesar.  If you didn’t worship as they worshipped and whom they worshipped then you worshipped nothing. Therefore, the term atheist was applied to early Christians out of ignorance and out of insult.

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Polycarp is brought before the Roman governor for trial. The governor has the intention of making Polycarp betray his Christian brethren. Polycarp must say, “Away with the atheists” or else be condemned. He looks around at “the crowd of lawless heathen”(the pagan Romans) and says “Away with the atheists” flipping the name on to his accusers. (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9:2)

But, let’s be reminded. Atheists reject all gods. They reject false gods and the true God, Yahweh. They don’t just reject one more god than Christians. They reject THE God. The only true and living God. Even though God has made Himself plainly evident through His creation, atheists won’t come to the knowledge of the truth. (Romans 19:21)

However…

Atheists might reject the notion of gods as supernatural, ethereal beings, but they still have gods. We all serve something or someone. We all worship something or someone. Whether it be ourselves, pleasure, fortune, fame, other people, hobbies, pets, nature, gods made of wood or gold, or the God of the Bible; something gets our worship whether we choose to accept the notion or not.

This brings us to the first two commandments:

1)You shall have no other gods before Me [Yahweh]
2)You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:3-4a)

If we have broken these commandments, and we all have if God is not who we worship, then we make ourselves idolaters. Anything other than God that gets our worship has become an idol. These are Paul’s words in Philippians 3:18-19

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

If this is true of you today, please understand that God wants to be the object of your worship. He knows that anything else that competes for your attention above Him is a false god. He knows that no other god can bring you true joy and fulfillment. Anything else is an imitation and will never come close to the perfect love, holiness, and eternality of God. Don’t be blinded by passion for the things of the world. Things will break. Trends will fade. This world and everything in it will pass away. God and His Word are forever. And don’t place any person above God. Human beings are imperfect and all have fallen far short of God’s glory. But, God is not man that He should lie or change His mind. Nor will He ever leave us or forsake us. So, give your worship to God and to God alone because He alone is worthy.

Derrick Stokes

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This post was originally published as “…ONE LESS GOD…”? at https://theologetics315.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/one-less-god/

Does It Matter Whether God Exists?

By Eric Chabot

After talking to hundreds of college students for several years about spiritual beliefs, one thing that comes up from time to time is whether the existence of God is even relevant. In other words, the discussion kind of goes like this: “I don’t see what difference God would make in my life!” As a matter of fact, at this moment, we are in the midst of promoting an event at a large college campus called Stealing From God: What Makes Sense of Reality: Theism or Atheism? You can see our clip here:

Anyway, the comment “I don’t see what difference God would make in my life!” displays a very pragmatic view of truth. I have discussed the problem with this elsewhere. But when a student says God’s existence isn’t really relevant, my first response is to try to get them back to the issue of truth. After all, if there is a God and He does exist and it turns out Jesus is His Son, that is an objective reality. It has zero to do with how I feel about it. And the truthfulness of it isn’t determined whether the person stays busy and says “I don’t care if God exists.” Another issue that comes up is the following worldview questions:

• Origins: How did it all begin? Where did we come from?
• The Human Condition: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering?
• Redemption: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again?
• Morality/Human Rights, Human Dignity: What is the basis for morality? In other words, how do we know what is right and wrong? What is the basis for human rights, moral values, moral duties, human dignity, and equality?
• History: What is the meaning of history? Where is history going?
• Death: What happens to a person at death?
• Epistemology: Why is it possible to know anything at all?
• Ontology: What is reality? What is the nature of the external reality around us?
• Purpose: What is man’s purpose in the world

God Exists

Now after looking at these worldview issues, I think the one that is the question that is the most pressing one is the morality, human rights, and human dignity issue. This issue is directly related  to the origins question. They can’t be separated. Just recently in the recent presidential debate, the abortion topic came up. That is directly related to one’s view of humans and what makes them valuable. Of course, on a theistic worldview, human aren’t valuable based on their function. They are valuable based on their nature or essence. It is quite obvious we live at a time where people are obsessed with human rights, justice, and equality. I discuss why theism lays the foundation for these features of reality here. 

So in the end, when I run into college students that are apathetic about the existence of God, I now ask them if they think humans are valuable and whether they believe in justice, equality, and human rights. Every single time, the student says “Yes!” So now the door is open to discuss the origins question and how that relates to the human dignity and equality issue. Robert Spizter helps us understand the importance of this topic. He says:

“The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data. The general principle is this: opinions that explain the most data and are verified by the most evidence are better than those that do not. The vast majority of people consider this principle to be self-evident because if greater explanatory power and more evidence is not better, then additional evidence and explanatory power add nothing, which means that all evidence and explanatory power are essentially worthless. This leaves us with only our subjective assertions, which most people do not consider to be good enough. For example, as suggested previously, Einstein’s theory about the universe is better than Newton’s theory because it explains more data. (Newton was unaware of most of the data that the special and general theories of relativity account for.) Again, calculus has more explanatory power than algebra and trigonometry because it can account for curves through derivative and integral functions, which algebra and trigonometry cannot do on their own. This applies to virtually every science and social science. The more data a theory or hypothesis explains, the better it is. With respect to life issues, this principle is important because a theory of human personhood that treats a person as a mere individual physical thing (materialism) does not explain the data of persons being self-conscious or having transcendental desires (such as the desire for complete and unconditional Truth, Love, Goodness, Beauty, and Being). Therefore, materialism’s explanation of many acknowledged human powers and activities, such as empathy, agape (self-sacrificial love), self-consciousness, the desire for integrity and virtue, the sense of the spiritual, and the drive for self-transcendence, is, at best, weak. Theories that attempt to account for and explain these data, such as hylomorphism or transmaterialism, should be preferred to ones that do not, such as biological reductionism, materialism, and behaviorism. There is another more serious consequence of the underestimation of human personhood, namely, the undervaluation of real people. If we consider human beings to be mere matter without the self-possession necessary for freedom and love, without unique lovability, or without spiritual or transcendent significance, we might view human beings as mere “things”.
If humans are viewed as mere things, then they can be treated as mere things, and this assumption has led historically to every form of human tragedy. Human beings might be thought of as slaves, cannon fodder, tools for someone else’s well-being, subjects for experimentation, or any number of other indignities and cruelties that have resulted from human “thingification”. The principle of most complete explanation has a well-known corollary, namely, “There are far more errors of omission than commission”, which means that leaving out data is just as harmful to the pursuit of truth as getting the wrong data or making logical errors. This adage is related to the moral saying that “there are far more sins of omission than commission.” In the case of the underestimation of human personhood, history has revealed how close the relationship between errors and sins truly is.”- Ten Universal Principals 

Resources for Greater Impact

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5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids… and 5 Signs You’re Not

By Natasha Crain

Since my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, came out in March, I’ve been blessed to receive 75 five-star reviews of it on Amazon. To all who have taken the time to leave those reviews, thank you! It means a lot!

In addition to those 75 reviews, I’ve also received 2 one-star reviews…from people who haven’t read the book.

One headline says, “How to brainwash and indoctrinate your child instead of letting him/her think for themselves [sic]”. This is followed by his review, which simply says, “This whole concept is a little upsetting to say the least.”

The other one-star review says, “If you don’t trust your children to follow your religion on their own (without constant reinforcing) then either you don’t trust in your kids or in your religion.”

Clearly, neither of these commenters have read the book and are simply rating the idea of doing something—anything—to “keep your kids on God’s side.” I probably receive at least one blog comment to that effect every week: If you’re raising your kids with a Christian worldview, it automatically means you’re forcing your religion on them.

This is, frankly, nonsense.

Let’s take a minute today and consider what “forcing” your religion—or atheism—on your kids would actually look like…and what it wouldn’t.

Forcing Religion Kids

5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have a blind faith, whether you realize it or not.

A blind faith is one where a person accepts certain beliefs without question. I’m pretty sure that if you asked most Christian parents if they want their kids to have such a faith, they’d answer with an emphatic, “No!” Theoretically, everyone wants their kids to have a faith more meaningful than that.

But what many parents don’t realize is that you can inadvertently raise your kids with a blind faith by encouraging them to “just believe” in Jesus.  Is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But it has a similar effect—it leads to kids having a faith that exists just because yours does.

Atheists who encourage their kids to reject God without question (because believing in God is just so ridiculous) are effectively doing the same thing.

 

2. You answer your kids’ questions about God with disapproval.

When kids ask questions about God, it’s the Christian parent’s privilege and responsibility to take the time to offer accurate and thoughtful answers. If your kids’ questions are met with disapproval, however, you’re teaching them that they should just accept what you believe for the sake of believing it. Again, is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But, again, it leads to kids having (some kind of) faith just because you do.

Atheists who are determined to make sure their kids don’t fall for the idea of God and show disapproval when their kids express interest in religion are guilty of the same thing.

 

3. You trivialize other worldviews.

I’ve heard far too many Christians condescendingly laugh at the idea of evolutionary theory, the fact that Mormons have special underwear, or that Muslims believe virgins are waiting in heaven for faithful martyrs. We don’t need to believe that every worldview is true (that’s not even possible), but we do need to make sure we don’t trivialize the beliefs of others by treating them as intellectually inferior. When we do, we’re effectively pushing our beliefs onto our kids by trying to make other beliefs look “small.” Instead of issuing snide remarks, we should be focused on teaching our kids to fairly evaluate the evidence for the truth of varying worldviews.

Atheists who teach their kids that Christianity is an absurd belief system for uneducated or gullible fools should take the same advice.

 

4. You threaten them with hell when they question the truth of Christianity.

If your gut reaction to a child expressing doubt about the truth of Christianity is something like, “You better not stop believing or you’re going to hell!”, you’re strong-arming them into belief.

Yes, hell is a reality spoken of repeatedly in the Bible. Yes, kids must understand that there is real judgment that awaits all people. But trying to make kids believe in Jesus out of fear won’t lead them to a true relationship with God. Parents should meet kids’ doubts with an open willingness to talk about questions…not with threats.

Atheists get a pass on this one since they don’t believe in hell.

 

5. You tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

This is what it would look like to literally try forcing your religion or atheism on your kids. Obviously, that’s not happening. But people will keep using the word forcing anyway.

 

And 5 Signs You’re NOT Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have beliefs rooted in good reason and evidence.

The opposite of raising your kids with a blind faith is raising your kids with a faith that’s deeply rooted in good reason. It’s helping them discover the evidence for God in nature—things like the origin of the universe, the design of the universe and of living things, and the origin of morality. It’s helping them understand that all religions can’t point to the same truth. It’s helping them learn the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s helping them understand the intersection of faith and science. By teaching them why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true, you’re making sure their beliefs are their own and are not just being pushed onto them from you.

(All of these subjects are covered in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. If you need help discussing these things, please check it out!)

Atheists can do the same by not simply expecting their kids to reject God, and by talking about the actual evidence they believe points to an atheistic universe.

 

2. You not only invite your kids’ questions, you raise questions they haven’t even thought of.

Parents shouldn’t see themselves as a Q&A machine. We need to be able to answer our kids’ questions, but we also need to teach them about the questions others raise about Christianity. As I’ve said before, if our kids are someday shocked by the claims of skeptics, we didn’t do our job. By proactively sharing those challenges, we demonstrate that truth has nothing to fear and that we’re not “forcing” them to see only one side of the picture.

Atheists should do this as well, by sharing with their kids the challenges theists raise to their worldview.

 

3. You proactively teach them about other worldviews.

It’s one thing to share the challenges to Christianity with your kids (point 2, above). But it’s another thing to study worldviews in their entirety. For example, you might address the common atheist challenge that miracles aren’t possible, but that doesn’t give your kids a comprehensive understanding of what the atheist worldview is and what its implications are. It’s important that kids get that bigger picture for the major worldviews today so, once again, they never feel we’re forcing them to see only one perspective.

Atheists…you knew it was coming…should be doing this too. If atheist parents just nitpick at Christianity by teaching their kids random snippets of Christian belief and never take the time to offer a comprehensive picture of the Christian worldview, they’re just as guilty of passing on a one-sided perspective.

 

4. You deal with your kids’ doubts by helping them find meaningful answers to their questions.

Parents who address doubts by helping their kids find meaningful answers to their questions—rather than personally threatening them with eternal consequences—are giving their kids the tools they need to make their faith their own.

If atheists have kids who are doubting their atheism, they should equally work to address those questions rather than casually brushing them off.

 

5. You DON’T tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

Ironically, given those one-star reviews, my book is all about why parents need to not push a blind faith onto their kids…and how to, instead, help them make their faith their own.

It definitely doesn’t suggest we should effectively or literally force religion upon our kids. No ropes. No yelling. No threats. Not even a one-sided presentation of Christianity.

But the claims will continue to come because too many people don’t stop to think about what it actually means to force religion on kids…and what it doesn’t.

Fortunately, I now have this post to share and help them out.  I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.


Visit Natasha’s Website @ www.ChristianMomThoughts.com 

Rapid Response: Who Created God?

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. What would you say if someone asked, “If you think God created everything, who created God?” Here is a conversational example of how I recently answered this question:

Who Created God

“Well, when you work criminal investigations, you’re always looking for the ultimate cause of any crime. So, in the end that, that person who is the cause of this crime is the suspect you’re trying to identify. So I understand the impulse people have when they ask this question.

But I want to offer this: even as an atheist (I wasn’t a theist until I was 35), all of us are looking for the first ‘un-caused cause’. So if I’m an atheist today who believes in a primordial, quantum vacuum from which our universe came into existence, I would be offering the vacuum as the eternal ‘un-caused cause’. All of us believe in an eternal ‘un-caused cause.’ Theists aren’t the only people who ae arguing for this. The only question is: is the uncaused, first cause of the universe personal or impersonal?

As a Christian, I obviously believe the cause of the universe is personal: God. And as a Christian, I hold a very particular definition of God. He is the un-caused creator of the universe. So, to ask a silly question like, “Who caused the un-caused creator of the Universe” is a bit silly. He is uncaused by definition. And once, again, all of us have the same dilemma. Whether you’re an atheists or a theist, you are looking for the first, un-caused cause of the universe. I would simply argue that, given the nature of our universe (the appearance of design in the universe and in biology, the existence of humans who have minds and free-agency, and the existence of transcendent, objective moral obligations), the best and most reasonable inference for this cause is God.

So, I do think, in the end, the choice is clear. Is the first uncaused, cause of the universe personal or impersonal? If it’s a personal cause, then we’re stuck with a Being very similar to what we see described in the scripture as God. A transcendent, non-spatial, immaterial, a-temporal, intelligent Being who is responsible for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the appearance of design, the existence of mind and free-agency and the source of all transcendent, moral obligations. That’s why I believe Christianity is true, and that why I reject the idea that the un-caused, first cause of the universe is something other than a personal God.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity,Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.


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Atheism and the burden of proof.

By Richard Playford

When someone makes a claim about the world, if they want to convince others, they are required to provide justification for that claim. This is not a contentious or strange idea, but what does this mean for atheism? Is atheism a belief and does it require justification? In this article I will show that atheism is a belief about the world and that it does require a justification in the same way that theism does.

Atheism Burden Proof

When exploring this topic the most important thing to do is to define our terms clearly. Traditionally theism, agnosticism and atheism were seen as the three positions that one could hold towards the existence of God. Consider the claim “God exists.” We have three options that we could take toward this claim. We can endorse it and agree that God exists. We can deny it and say that God does not exist. Or we can neither endorse it nor deny it and claim not to know (or care). These, in theory, are the only three options (although I will come back to this later). The affirmation that God exists is called theism. The denial of God’s existence (the claim that he does not exist) is what is traditionally called atheism. We find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”[1] Not knowing whether God exists is traditionally called agnosticism; again, we find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it”[2]. Not caring whether God exists is traditionally called apatheism.

If we accept these definitions, then it seems clear that both the theist and the atheist have a burden of proof. Someone cannot simply assert that because there is no evidence for something it must therefore not exist. This does not follow because it suggests that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence. This is not true. Pluto was discovered in 1930.[3] Prior to then, there was no hard evidence that it existed. Did this mean that it did not exist? No! If somebody wants to say that something does not exist then they must provide a justification for that. They cannot conclude that simply because none of the arguments or evidences for a proposition fail, that the proposition is therefore false. The atheist philosopher Kai Nielson agrees and says, “[t]o show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false”.[4] This means that, in philosophy, even if all the arguments for a proposition fail, it does not follow that the proposition is false.

One criticism that is often voiced is that proving a negative is impossible; this is not true. I can prove that Santa does not live at the North Pole by going and looking, I can prove that a 30 cm piece of string is not 40 cm by measuring it, and I can show that there are no married bachelors by showing that it is a logically incoherent concept. The same applies for God. If somebody can show that God is an internally inconsistent concept or that it is incompatible with an aspect of the physical world, then this would prove that God does not exist.

Another criticism that is often voiced is that in the case of God an absence of evidence does entail evidence of absence. This criticism is similar to the argument from hiddenness (which is a formal argument against the existence of God to which there are various responses). As such, because this is an actual argument against the existence of God, this criticism does not detract from my argument.

It should be noted that people rarely fit neatly into the categories that I outlined above. Very few atheists claim to know for certain that God does not exist (many theists also would not claim to know for certain that he does). I suspect that it is views like this which lead people to adopt the title “agnostic atheist.” This has been defined in a number of different ways but one definition is “one who does not know for sure if any gods exist or not but who also does not believe in any gods.”[5]The problem with this definition is that it does not give us a complete account of what the person believes. This fails to tell us whether they believe in God’s non-existence (the belief that he does not exist). This is because lacking belief in God is not the same as believing that God does not exist. In general, people who label themselves like this tend to believe that, although we do not know for certain whether God exists, his existence is unlikely. As a result, they must justify the claim that God probably does not exist with a reasonable inductive argument. The lesson, however, is that people must be clear about what they believe and define their terms carefully before entering a conversation, and if they are making a claim about the world, they must justify that claim. We can see that atheism does require justification in the same way that theism does.

 

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[1] Smart, J. J. C., “Atheism and Agnosticism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Available athttp://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/atheism-agnosticism/. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[2] IBID.

[3] NASA, “Pluto: Overview”. Available at:http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Pluto. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[4] Nielsen Kai (1971) Reason and Practice. New York: Harper & Row.

The New Face of Atheism (And It’s Not Dawkins!)

Atheism has a new face. Just for the record, I am not speaking about the “New Atheists,” who burst on the scene after 9/11 and have been the public face of atheism for the past dozen years. The “four horsemen” of atheism—Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett—helped launch and inspire a (then) “new atheist” movement.

But times have changed. If the recent low turnout for the Reason Rally is any indication, this brand of atheism may be fading. The “new atheists” still do exert considerable influence in culture (including Hitchens, who died in 2011), but there is a “new face of atheism” that is becoming much more important today. Rather than a top-down movement such as characteristic of the “new atheism,” this is a bottom-up movement, more like the church.

Characteristics of the New Face of Atheism

While I do not have an official name for this new movement, I will simply refer to it as the “new face of atheism.” There are a few characteristics that seem to set it apart:

1. More balanced approach to the church. The “new atheists” set themselves apart by their vitriol against all forms of religion, and specifically Christianity. Hitchens, for instance, famously said that religion poisons everything. He held no punches and critiqued even the most beloved religious figures, such as Mother Theresa. And Dawkins famously criticized the God of the Old Testament for being “the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”

But the new face of atheism has a different approach. Their goal is not to eradicate any vestige of religion. In fact, at times, some even have positive things to say about the church in general and Christians in particular. While they are certainly critical of religious practices and teachings, they seem more interested in creating secular communities alongside the church than entirely silencing the church (although when it comes to politics, it may be a different matter).

2. Emphasis on community and rituals. The “new atheists” made their mark distinctly through intellectually critiquing religion. Using science, philosophy, theology, history, psychology and more, the “new atheists” aimed to discredit religion and to usher in an entirely secular society. I don’t believe their critiques have been successful. In fact, I respond to their main attacks in my book Is God Just a Human Invention? But the point is that they aimed to use reason to undermine religion.

In contrast, the new face of atheism aims to create secular communities that rival the church. The growth of atheist churches, for instance, is evidence of this emphasis. Many aim to co-opt positive aspects of church, such as community outreach, inspiring messages, fellowship, song singing, and other communal rituals typically associated with religion. The goal is for people to experience the kind of community often found in church (without God, of course), but also to reach more people with a secular message that meets both the heads and hearts of non-believers.

3. Less emphasis on apologetics. Reason was the primary tool of the “new atheists.” They rationally attacked religion and reveled in their intellectual superiority to “ignorant, dangerous religious folks.” Daniel Dennett even suggested atheists should change their name to “Brights.”

In contrast, the new face of atheism does not lead with the intellect. While they do reject the truth of Christianity, and frequently raise objections to the faith, they seem to focus more on the heart than the mind. This is not meant as a critique, but a recognition that they are less interested in debating theology than in simply helping people in the here and now. They are driven more to help people find community and meaning in their present lives than discussing the second premise of the cosmological argument. In fact, some even question the importance and relevance of the big questions of life.

Representatives of the New Face of Atheism

Since it is more of a bottom-up movement, the “new face of atheism” has many more leaders than the “four horsemen” of the “new atheism.” Two stand out to me as good representatives of this movement:

Ryan Bell

Bell is perhaps best known for being the pastor who lived a “Year Without God.” He was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for nineteen years before becoming an atheist. He now heads up an organization committed to helping people de-convert from religion. He blogs, podcasts, counsels, and is aiming to build a safe community for people who have left religion.

This past Saturday, Ryan and I had a public conversation about God and atheism atChurch Everyday. Justin Brierley was the host, and it will air soon on the popular radio show Unbelievable. While much could be said about the event, my point here is to highlight how Ryan brings a new “face” to atheism. He is likeable, smart, kind, gracious, and fun. While he does have some similarity to the “new atheists,” overall he brings an entirely new (and much more appealing) face to atheism today.

Bart Campolo

Bart Campolo was a Christian evangelist who launched Mission Year. Now he is the humanist chaplain at USC. I first heard Bart speak in the mid 90s when I was a student at Biola. He instantly struck me as smart, funny, and deeply committed to advancing the gospel. He has encouraged me multiple times along my journey, and in fact, I volunteered an entire year at the Dream Center, a church in the inner city L.A., because of his prompting.

Rather than creating a secular community that hosts debates, discusses philosophy, and aims to actively eradicate religion, he is developing community for people who don’t believe in God. In fact, when we met last year up at USC, he shared with me how he’s essentially applying many of the principles he learned in the church, and from ministries like Young Life, to the secular world. And it seems he’s having considerable success.

How Should We Respond?

The point of this blog is not to offer suggestions for how Christians ought to respond to the “new face of atheism.” Maybe I will tackle that issue in a future post. For now, the point is to recognize how the secular landscape is changing and to encourage Christians to begin thinking through how we best proceed.

But I do have to make one point: Given that many atheists today are emphasizing community more than reason, it may be tempting to consider apologetics and theology passé. But this would be a colossal mistake. If experiencing community is the primary reason students embrace Christianity, then many will abandon faith when they experience community elsewhere. What will really help a student hang on to their faith is when they believe Christianity is true, and have reasons to back it up. And for that task, apologetics is indispensable.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


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Can Christians claim to have the One, True God?

By Ryan Pauly

You don’t have to spend very much time interacting with atheists on the internet before you hear this objection: “There are almost 5,000 gods being worshiped by humans, but don’t worry… only yours is right.” The picture above was sent to me on Twitter last week in response to my blog about God’s hiddenness. There are other very popular forms of this argument. Richard Dawkins claims that Christians are atheists when it comes to Zeus, Thor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and many others. Dawkins just goes one god further than the Christian. So the claim is either than I’m an atheist when it comes to 4,999 gods or that I’m dumb for claiming to have truth when I reject so many other options.

The reason this argument is so popular on the internet is that it is easy. It fits into a 140 characters for Twitter and can easily be turned into a meme. Here are examples I found from a very quick search on Twitter.there-are-almost-5000-gods-being-worshiped-by-humanity-but-dont-worry-only-yours-is-right

“There have been nearly 3000 Gods so far but only yours actually exists. The others are silly made up nonsense. But not yours. Yours is real.”

“there are thousands of religions practices. thousands of gods worshiped. but don’t worry. yours is the only right one.”

“30,000 religions and 5000 versions of Christianity and only ‘yours’ is the right one-you are a joke.”

“Roughly 4200 religions in the world; and only yours is the right one? You must be a genius and everyone else is dumb to not pick yours.”

This objection also works well because a good response can’t fit on Twitter or a meme (like most good responses or argument), and so it seems like the Christian is left without an answer. If you try to answer on Twitter, you are most likely going to get another short objection. Instead of giving you a short Twitter response,  I will hopefully help you understand this objection. This will help you see that there is a response and that the is just a bad, popular level objection. There’s nothing to worry about for the Christian.

Let’s start by applying the same logic of this objection to other scenarios to see if it even makes sense. The basic idea of this argument is that since different people believe different things, it is unreasonable to think that you are right. If a married couple does their finances and comes to two different conclusions on how much money is in their bank, does that mean they can’t know the truth? No, it means that either both are wrong or one is right and the other is wrong. Disagreement doesn’t lead to the absence of truth. A person can have the truth in a world of contrary beliefs.

The second idea I see with this objection is that Christians are basically atheists because they reject thousands of other gods. Does that follow? Is a married man basically a bachelor because he isn’t married to thousands of other women? To say that I am an atheist when it come to Zeus and Thor is like saying a married man is a bachelor when it comes to women other than his wife. The difference between a bachelor and a married man is the difference between a theist and an atheist. You would never say a married man is a bachelor for every other woman. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say that a Christian is an atheist to every other God.

Another objection against Christianity that can be easily refuted by simply paying close attention to how silly it really is.

Imagine looking at a police lineup and telling the officer that person #4 committed the crime. What would you say if the officer responded by saying, “There are four other possible suspects… but only your guy is the right one-you’re a joke.” I don’t think you would say “Good point officer, I guess we are done here.” If this objection worked, defense attorneys could win every trial by saying “Roughly 7 billion people in the world; and only yours is the right one? You must be a genius and everyone else is dumb to not pick yours.” There’s a reason we don’t see this objection being used with police or in court.

The reason we don’t see these situations in court is that we base the innocence or guilt of a suspect on evidence. We know that not all suspects are the same, and in the same way, not all gods are the same. If there is positive evidence that a certain person committed a crime, then we have good reason to rule out all other possible suspects. We don’t use the possibility of other suspects to say that we can’t know who committed the crime. If that were true, no one would go to jail. If we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one person is guilty, then other possible suspects are innocent. In the same way, I am convinced that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Christian God exists.

The reasonable person makes a conclusion based on the evidence, and this is why it is reasonable to conclude that I do have the truth in a world of different beliefs. There is very good evidence that God exists. I won’t get into that evidence here, but I barely scratched the surface of examining the evidence when I wrote my blog Is Belief in God a Rational Position? These are just three of over a dozen arguments for His existence. A big difference that atheists, who present this objection, fail to recognize is that Thor, Zeus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are all gods inside the universe. The Christian God exists outside the universe and is the creator of all physical things. We are talking about very different categories.

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Why I Love Atheists

Last week I wrote a post Three Reasons I am Not an Atheist. For this post I am going to take a different route: rather than critique atheism as a worldview, I am going to discuss why I love atheists as people. So, I am shifting from talking about the idea of atheism to the people who embrace it.

Why I Love Atheists

I certainly don’t claim to represent all atheists in this post. There are a huge variety of people who consider themselves atheists (in terms of belief systems and demeanor), just as there is in Christianity, Islam, and many other religions. And there are even debates about what constitutes atheism—is it belief that God does not exist, or simply the lack of belief in God? My goal is not to enter into these kinds of debates, but simply to reflect on many atheists I have encountered personally, or through their writings, and what I love about them.

As apologists, we are often quick to criticize atheism as a worldview. But as I point out in A New Kind of Apologist, if we want people to hear our case for Christianity, we need to find common ground with others and also be charitable towards them as people. With that backdrop, here are three reasons why I love atheists:

1. Many atheists care about (what they believe is) truth

There are far more Christians in America than atheists. As a result, it is easy for people who grow up with Christian parents to simply embrace their family beliefs without genuinely considering any alternatives. There is little or no cost (at least in this country) to embracing the beliefs of your parents.

As a college student, I went through a period of significant doubt. In fact, I told my father, without knowing how he would respond, that I wasn’t even sure if I believed Christianity was true. While my father did respond graciously, and I ended up finding good answers to my questions, I remember counting the cost of what it would mean to reject my Christian roots. While thankfully I ended up keeping my faith, I still respect my atheist friends who choose a different path. Many count the cost and choose (what they believe is) truth over comfort. Even though I think atheism is wrong, I still can respect a person who makes a sincere decision based on what they believe to be true and tries to live accordingly.

Sure, I know some atheists who have rejected their Christian roots out of spite or rebellion. But that’s certainly not always the case. My atheist friends who have walked away from their faith remind me how important it is that we follow truth, regardless of the cost. Beliefs matter. And they do have consequences.

2. Atheists have made me think deeply about my own worldview

My worldview has undoubtedly been deeply shaped and influenced by great Christian writers such Aquinas, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards and even modern thinkers such as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and N.T. Wright.

But just as formative for me are atheist writers such as Nietzsche, Russell, and Camus. They have forced me to think deeply about my worldview and to consider why I believe as I do. In fact, some of my motivation to study and learn has come from the challenges they have raised to my faith: Why does God allow evil? Is there life after death? Is my faith a crutch? The more I have studied to find answers to these kinds of questions, the more my faith has grown.

Similarly, I love having conversations with my atheist friends. They tend to see weaknesses and vulnerabilities in my arguments, and force me to clarify and justify what I believe. Sometimes I have a good response, but many times I have to go back and study further to find an answer. But regardless, these kinds of conversations are always beneficial and enjoyable.

3. Atheists are made in the image of God.

As a Christian, I believe every human being—regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, intelligence, athletic prowess, and sexual orientation—bears the imago dei. In other words, human beings have infinite dignity, value, and worth as members of the human race.

Even though atheists don’t believe in God, as a Christian, I still believe they reflect the image of their creator (Gen 1:17). As a result, like all people, they are unbelievably value human beings whom God loves. And so do I.

I am grateful for my atheist friends. Do I disagree with them? Yes. Do I pray for them at times? Certainly. Do I want them to become Christians? Absolutely! But my relationship with them does not depend upon their beliefs. My love for them does not depend on their conversion. Even if they never embrace Christ, I am thankful for their friendship. I love atheists, and if you are reading this as a Christian, I hope you do too.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Why Are Christians So Defensive?

In case you are wondering, this is not a post in which I am going to bash the church. Far from it. I love the church. But I am going to point out a “weakness” that we urgently need to address (see Proverbs 27:6).

How can I claim that Christians are so insecure? For the past decade, I have been role-playing an atheist at camps, conferences, churches, and other Christian events. I have done this in youth groups of ten students and in stadiums up to six thousand people. And I have done my role-play with parents, youth pastors, businessmen, and a variety of other groups from a myriad of denominations. During the presentation, I put on my “atheist glasses,” do my best to make the case for atheism, and then have two volunteers take microphones out into the audience so people can raise questions and challenges. People typically ask questions about morality, the origin of the universe, and evolution. And I simply respond back with the answers many of my atheist friends have given me.

Inevitably, people tend to get defensive, agitated, and quite upset. In fact, after the role-play is over, I often ask the audience to use individual words to describe how they treated me and “hostile” is one of the most common responses. Sure, there are undoubtedly people who are gracious and kind. But, in my experience it’s the exception to encounter a Christian who can engage the “atheist” both thoughtfully and graciously. Even though people know I am merely role-playing, I have had people call me names, yell at me across the room, walk out, and even threaten me—seriously!

This experience has caused me to ask the following question for some time: why do we Christians get so defensive? There can certainly be a variety of issues, but as I write in A New Kind of Apologist, there is one pressing reason we often overlook: Most Christians do not know what they believe and why. As a result, when I push back on their beliefs as an “atheist,” many get defensive.

It is human nature to get defensive when someone challenges us and we’re ill equipped to respond. If we really haven’t thought through how we know the Bible is true, why God allows evil and suffering, and how to reconcile science and faith, then when someone presses us to explain our beliefs, we have two options: admit we don’t know the answer, which takes humility, or get defensive. In reality, many Christians get defensive because they simply don’t have thoughtful answers to these big questions.

I don’t write this blog from a position of higher ground. I have fallen short many times in my interactions with non-Christians. Trust me, this post comes from my own frequent shortcomings. But I have seen firsthand the confidence training in apologetics brings to the church as a whole and students in particular.

Training in apologetics is especially important today because we find ourselves, as a church, increasingly at odds with the wider culture. If you believe the Bible is true, especially on issues related to sexuality, then you may find yourself getting tagged as hateful, intolerant, bigoted, and homophobic. We simply cannot respond with defensiveness. Rather, we must respond truthfully, but with kindness and charity. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).

Sure, some people learn apologetics and become haughty. There’s no question about that! But the problem is not with apologetics per se, but that it is often not coupled with grace. Here’s the bottom line: we Christians often get defensive because we don’t really know why we believe what we believe. If we want to be confident ambassadors of the faith, who can interact with both kindness and substance, we must get training in apologetics.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Islamic Terror, Homosexuality, & the Consequences of Ideas

By Tim Stratton

Sunday morning I awoke to horrific news on my Facebook feed: an Islamic terrorist brutally gunned down over fifty of our fellow human beings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This broke my heart and made me extremely angry! I cannot imagine the sorrow, pain, and anguish the friends and family members of the deceased victims are currently experiencing. This was an objectively evil act – it was wrong!

As soon as I read the headlines and processed the fact that evil has once again reared its ugly head, I told my wife what was going to happen next. Like clockwork, people were going to insist that “religion is the problem,” or that “guns are the problem.” The statements made on social media over the past few hours have validated my prediction. In this article I will examine both of these statements and offer a third option that must be considered if we are to extinguish terror, hate, and evil.

“Religion is the Problem!”

Since 9-11, many atheists have pontificated, “Religion is what’s wrong in the world today.” They conclude that since Muslims were behind the terror attacks on September the 11th, 2001, and Islam is a religion, then religion is to blame for the terror in the world today. This attempt at an argument can be written in the following syllogism:

1- Islam is responsible for the 9-11 terror attacks.
2- Islam is a religion.
3- Therefore, religion is responsible for the 9-11 terror attacks.

This argument fails as it commits the logical fallacy of composition. This error involves an assumption that what is true about one part of something must be applied to all, or other parts of it. In this case, the atheist assumes that since one particular religion affirms terror, then all religions affirm terror.

If one were to allow this argument to pass, then we could jump to all kinds of crazy conclusions. For example, according to several reports I read following the terror attack in Orlando, the terrorist was a registered Democrat. If one allows the above argument to pass, then the following argument would suffice as well:

1- The terrorist responsible for murdering homosexuals in the gay nightclub was a registered Democrat.
2- Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are Democrats.
3- Therefore, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are responsible for the murders of homosexuals in the gay nightclub.

Obviously this is ridiculous and such reasoning is incoherent. Reasonable people will reject such “conclusions.” Thus, a reasonable person will reject the so-called “conclusion” that, “religion is the problem with the world today.” This is explicitly demonstrated when surveying other religions and world views.

Take the religion of Christianity, for example. A necessary condition for one to be a legitimate Christian is that they desire, and strive, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus are clearly contradictory to the teachings of Muhammad and Islam. Sure, the two religions share some overlapping beliefs: Christians and Muslims all agree, for example, that the universe began to exist and was caused and created by an enormously powerful Intelligent Designer, but they begin to part ways soon after. The final teachings from both of these religions are quite different with Muhammad commanding Muslims to kill all infidels (non-Muslims) in the Quran, and Jesus commanding his followers to love all people, from their neighbors (Mark 12:31) to their enemies (Matthew 5:44), in the Bible. Moreover, according to Islam, those in the LGB community are to be executed. According to Jesus, however, although homosexual acts go against God’s plan, the ones committing these homosexual acts are to be loved!

Let me repeat myself: According to the law of Christ found in the New Testament, homosexual acts are sinful, but homosexuals are to be LOVED! Click here for more!

“Guns are the Problem!”

Many others in America today see horrendous headlines of Islamic terror and immediately jump to the hasty conclusion that guns are the real problem. The error with this line of thinking is that it does not take into consideration all of the other means by which evil people can accomplish their evil plans. After all, the Nazis used poisonous gas to kill millions of Jews, the Ku Klux Klan used rope to hang African Americans, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill 168 people, and Islamic terrorists killed thousands of Americans on 9-11 without firing a single bullet.

If one thinks banning guns is going to stop hate crimes, then, to be consistent, they must also strive to ban all gas, rope, fertilizer, and airplanes too. This is obviously ridiculous as well, as the real problem does not lie within the tools that an evil man uses to accomplish his evil desires, but the desires of the evil man. If all guns, rope, fertilizer, and airplanes were banished from the face of the earth, these evil men would continue to find ways to accomplish their hateful plans. This is a much bigger problem.

Ideas are the Problem!

These evil desires typically stem from previously held ideas. The way one thinks directly leads to the way one acts, and the way one believes directly influences the way he behaves. You see, the problem is not all religions, all guns, all rope, all fertilizer, or all airplanes. The problem is ALLbeliefs, thoughts, and ideas that do not correspond to reality.

Ideas have consequences, and ideas that do not correspond to reality have painful consequences. These underlying ideas are referred to as one’s worldview. A worldview is a foundational set of beliefs that ultimately influence all other beliefs built upon this foundation.

Consider the worldview (or idea) of atheism. It is vitally important to understand what consistent atheism logically implies: If God does not exist, then there is nothing objectively good, bad, right, wrong, fair, or evil with anything! Watch this short video to understand exactly why this is true. It logically follows that if naturalistic atheism is true, then there is nothing really wrong with the Islamic terrorist shooting homosexuals at the gay nightclub in Orlando this past weekend. Moreover, if naturalistic atheism is true, this Muslim had no choice in the matter, as the laws of physics and chemistry forced this poor terrorist to believe and behave exactly as he did. It was simply not his fault.

To make matters worse for atheists, history is not on their side. This past century has provided evidence as to the consequences of following atheistic ideas, as the nations governed according to these ideals usually end in suffering and mass human slaughter. The atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and arguably Hitler being influenced by naturalism’s “survival of the fittest,” has caused devastating collisions with the reality of morality; human suffering and death followed on a massive scale.

If naturalistic atheism were true, then there would be nothing really wrong, bad, or evil with any action and there would be no ability to make moral choices. Couple that with the historical fact that communistic governments officially adopting atheism (or being influenced by it) make all murders under the umbrella of “religion” pale in comparison. Why would anyone want to hold to an incoherent worldview like atheism over the ideas of Jesus teaching all people to love all people? Can you imagine a world where everyone loves everyone? That sounds like heaven to me — maybe Jesus was on to something!

So, if you are keeping score, here is a quick recap: In regards to the terrorist attacks at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida this past weekend, here is what each worldview affirms; or rather, here are the consequences that follow from each set of ideas:

1- Consistent Islam: this attack was GOOD as Muhammad’s final commands were to kill the infidels (Take five minutes to understand by clicking here).

2- Consistent Atheism: there was NOTHING objectively WRONG with these attacks. In fact, on naturalistic atheism it is unavoidable. Terrorists are therefore not responsible for their actions.

3- Consistent Christianity: this attack was objectively WRONG and EVIL! According to the law of Christ, all humans are commanded to love all humans (even the ones we disagree with). According to Jesus, we are to love everyone from our neighbors to our enemies. Thus, one who consistently follows the teachings of Jesus will demonstrate love to all people (even the ones he disagrees with)!

Is there a best choice option? Yes there is. The one supported by all of the evidence and the same one commanding us to love!

Bottom line: If you agree that these Islamic terror attacks against homosexuals at the gay nightclub were objectively wrong and evil, then, to be logically consistent, you must reject atheism, Islam, or any other view that disagrees with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you think terror and persecution against the homosexual community is objectively wrong, then you ought to be a Christ follower!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5) and love one another (John 13:34-35),

Tim Stratton


Notes

To learn more about Islamic terror and Jihad, begin by reading this article by Timothy Fox reviewing the book of the former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward.

Original article: http://freethinkingministries.com/islamic-terror-homosexuality-the-consequences-of-ideas/

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True

By Natasha Crain

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless...

A mom left a comment on one of my older posts the other day that said, “It sounds like you are teaching your kids to question the Bible. We should never teach our kids to question the Bible!”

To that I say…Of course we should.

Let’s not get confused, however, by what it means to “question” the Bible. To ask questions about something doesn’t mean to doubt it by default. Neither default acceptance nor default rejection is the response of a critical thinker.

To encourage our kids to question the Bible means to encourage them to examine it fully so they can determine its truth value for themselves.

This is a spiritual process so sorely lacking in most kids’ (and adults’) lives today.

Our kids learn a selection of key Bible stories throughout their childhood, but what do they learn about the Bible–why they should even believe those stories?

Typically, next to nothing.

Yet, parents and church leaders spend years preaching to kids from the Bible, assuming those kids should and will accept it at face value. It takes just a few skeptics to throw darts at that face value before kids make the point of this “atheist pig”:

 

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Don’t expect your kids to care what the Bible says unless you’ve taken the time to help them understand why there’s good reason to believe it’s true.

In Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I wrote 8 chapters to help you do just that. Of course, there are many other possible topics to address on the Bible’s veracity, but I selected these because they are the most pertinent and the most frequently attacked by skeptics.

Here’s an overview of these 8 key questions you should be teaching your kids to ask of the Bible.

 

1. How were the books in the Bible selected?

Skeptics claim: In the first centuries after Jesus, there were many rival versions of Christianity, but the representative writings were suppressed by those in power. Our New Testament books represent the version of Christianity that happened to win over time. The winning books weren’t picked until some 300 years after Jesus’ death, and they won because they found political favor at the time.

Kids need to understand: That there were many early Christian writings, how the early church leaders sifted through those writings over time, and how the books of our Bible today were eventually deemed authoritative.

This is explained in Chapter 25 of my book.

 

2. Why were books left out of the Bible?

Skeptics claim: There are many “gospels” missing from the Bible which give equally valid but completely different views of Jesus than the one we have. If these books had made it into the Bible, Christianity would mean something very different today.

Kids need to understand: Why the mere existence of dozens of early Christian writings that never made it into the Bible says absolutely nothing. The question they need to be able to confidently answer is whether or not any of those writings can legitimately claim spiritual authority by way of connection to Jesus and His apostles.

This is explained in Chapter 26 of my book.

 

3. How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?

Skeptics claim: The gospels were written decades after Jesus lived by anonymous authors based on growing legends and unreliable oral history.

Kids need to understand: Why we can be confident that the gospels are based on reliable, eyewitness testimony.

This is explained in Chapter 27 of my book.

 

4. How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote?

Skeptics claim: The Bible has been copied, edited, copied, edited, copied, edited, etc. so many times since the original authors wrote their content that we have no way of even knowing what the books we have should say. (See the quote on the image at the top of this post from one actor making this claim.)

Kids need to understand: Why thousands of copies of early manuscripts and hundreds of thousands of differences between them actually don’t undermine what we know about Christianity.

This is explained in Chapter 28 of my book.

 

5. Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?

Skeptics claim: The Bible is filled with hundreds of errors and contradictions, clearly demonstrating it’s not the Word of God. (See bibviz.com as one example of this claim.)

Kids need to understand: How to evaluate alleged errors and contradictions (with special consideration of the alleged contradictions in the Gospels).

This is explained in Chapter 29 of my book.

 

6. Does the Bible support slavery?

Skeptics claim: God’s laws about slavery in the Old Testament show that, far from being a perfect moral Being, He actually supported this terrible institution–even sex slavery (see Exodus 21:7-11).

Kids need to understand: The issue of slavery in the Old Testament is very complex and requires an appropriate understanding of biblical context, culture, and history.

This is explained in Chapter 30 of my book.

 

7. Does the Bible support rape?

Skeptics claim: The Bible approves of rape.

Kids need to understand: The meaning of biblical laws on rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-29) and the biblical context for three key passages often used to support skeptics’ claims in this area (treatment of female war captives, treatment of the Midianite virgins, and treatment of the women of Jabesh-gilead).

This is explained in Chapter 31 of my book.

 

8. Does the Bible support human sacrifice?

Skeptics claim: God may explicitly condemn human sacrifice in the Bible, but He violates His own prohibition multiple times.

Kids need to understand: The theological background of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the nature of child sacrifices of kings, Jepthah’s vow, the consecration of firstborn males, and Jesus’ death on the cross.

This is explained in Chapter 32 of my book.

 

So should you teach your kids to ask these and other questions about the Bible? Absolutely. If you don’t, skeptics will. And soon your kids won’t care what the Bible says any more than the “atheist pig”.

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side is available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

For more articles like Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True visit Natasha’s site ChristianMomThoughts.com

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless...

There’s no God? How boring!

I showed my high school students the movie Expelled by Ben Stein, where he claims that intelligent design proponents have lost jobs, lost tenure and had their reputations smeared. One of the memorable scenes of the movie featured William Provine, Cornell University Professor and outspoken atheist, articulating the implications of Darwinism. If Darwinism is true, says Provine, then there is no God, life after death, purpose, objective morality, or free will. According to Provine, they are all illusions fostered on us by our genes and environment.

Provine also criticizes intelligent design for being boring: “Can you imagine anything more boring? The boredom attached to ID is supreme. It is so boring that I can’t even be bothered to think about it for a second. It’s just utterly boring.” He said this with utter contempt for the claims of intelligent design and for the implications that there may be a God.

The more I think about this quote the more I am convinced that Provine has it exactly backwards. Intelligent design is not boring, atheism is! I’m not saying that atheists are boring, for that would be an ad hominem fallacy. I have many atheist friends who are incredibly interesting people. In fact, some are far more thoughtful and engaging than many of my Christian friends. I am not criticizing atheists, but atheism. Atheists are often interesting people, not because of their philosophy, but in spite of it.

So why is atheism boring?

One problem with atheism is that humans are purely physical machines lacking free will (as Provine so clearly articulated). Thus, people are simply cogs in the materialistic universe dragged along by physical, social, and biological forces. Humans are simply puppets of nature acted upon by external forces in the environment rather than free beings that make meaningful decisions.

If naturalism is true and there is no free will, then there can be no real character development in life or in drama since people are helpless victims of their environment. This is why film professor John Caughie says that naturalism is boring when applied to movies (Television Drama: Realism, Modernism, and British Culture, p. 96-97).

Why do we enjoy movies? The simple answer is that we are drawn to characters that choose good over evil, hope over despair, and forgiveness over revenge. Yet if atheism is true, characters are driven entirely by the inexorable physical laws of nature—they don’t make any choices at all. Thus, Luke didn’t really choose to battle Darth Vader and the Dark Side—his genes did it for him. Rocky didn’t really go against the odds to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World—the laws of physics did it for him. How boring!

An example of naturalism in drama is Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. The primary desire of the three sisters is to escape small-town life and move to Moscow. The entirety of the play involves them talking about moving but never actually doing it. They simply cannot escape from social expectations and family customs. What a great depiction of naturalism. Naturalistic films provide no dramatic escape from the environment because people are trapped behind their environment. These kinds of plays or films are frustrating, depressing, and anti-climactic. And yet they portray naturalism accurately. Again, how boring!

Ultimately, the deterministic worldview of atheism fails to capture life as we truly experience it. In her excellent book Saving Leonardo, Nancy Pearcey sums up the problem determinism poses for film:

“A deterministic worldview produces characters that are not true to life. In reality, people do make genuine decisions. Much of the drama of human life stems from wrestling with wrenching moral dilemmas. Though naturalism was an offshoot of realism, we could say its greatest flaw was that is was not realistic enough. We all experience the moment-by-moment reality of making choices. The experience of freedom is attested to in every human culture, in every era of history, and in every part of the globe” (p. 152).

A test for every worldview is if it can describe the world as we actually experience it. If a worldview fails to explain a universal human experience (such as free will) then it is inadequate. Professor Provine may choose to deny the existence of free will, but since he is made in the image of God, his life will betray that conviction.

In Expelled he tells his story of rejecting Christianity because of the compelling evidence for Darwinism. Ironically, one of the reasons he tells this is because he’s trying to persuade people to follow the same course. Yet if people are determined then they can’t choose otherwise. In fact, people can’t choose anything! Provine didn’t really even choose to reject Christianity—his genes did it for him. As sincere as Provine may be, I doubt he really believes this.

Again, my critique is aimed not at atheists but at atheism. Provine strikes me as an eminently interesting person that I would enjoy getting to know. Nevertheless, I just can’t think about it any longer. It’s simply too boring.


Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

For more articles like There’s no God? How boring! visit Sean’s site SeanMcDowell.org

Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa

By Timothy Fox

Welcome to the second installment in my series, Stuff Atheists Say! (Read part 1 here.) This series is dedicated to bad arguments and statements that some atheists (the internet troll type) make to derail a conversation and avoid having to put forth any arguments or evidence of their own. My intention is not to smear every nonbeliever as there are many thoughtful and honest questions that skeptics ask which need to be answered. In fact, there are many atheists who are just as tired as these nonsensical statements as I am! That’s why I want to clear up some of these pointless slogans once and for all. So on to the second one:

Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa

Bad “argument” #2: Believing in God is no different than believing in Santa Claus.
Or maybe you’ve heard it stated: “I don’t need to disprove God any more than I need to disprove the existence of leprechauns.” Or fairies. Or any other type of mythical creature. The point of this statement is to equate God with any other imaginary being that is ridiculous to seriously believe in.

The Santa Delusion

So is believing in God really the same as having an imaginary friend? An invisible sky daddy? Maybe, if believing in a fat man in a red suit who delivers presents in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to every child in the world is the same thing as believing in a God who created the universe from nothing, brought life from non-life, and grounds objective moral values and duties. If so, then yes, they’re exactly the same.

But if believing in God is so ridiculous, you know what’s even more ridiculous? Giving lectures against his existence. Having debates about it. Trolling blogs and internet chatrooms. Writing popular-level books promoting unbelief. Meanwhile, I don’t see anyone penning The Santa Delusion or The Tooth Fairy Is Not Great.

And I guess that the overwhelming majority of humans throughout all of time are as deluded as little children. Because every culture across history has had some kind of religion or believed in a deity of a sort.  We discuss God’s existence in the classroom, at the dinner table, and over a coffee (or beer). From philosophers to scientists, with believers, skeptics, and everyone in-between. Silly humans.

No, Seriously

But let’s take this argument seriously. Is belief in God really no different than belief in Santa? First, how justified are we in believing in Santa Claus? What would it take for someone to actually think that he exists? Evidence. And here the atheist says “Correct! There’s no evidence for either of them! That’s why it’s ridiculous to believe in God or Santa!” But is the evidence for Santa Claus and God really the same? Well, if Santa does exist, we would know what to look for: a fat man in a red suit delivering presents Christmas Eve. But what about God? If God exists, do you know what you would look for? Before stating that there is no evidence for something, make sure you know what kind of evidence there should be if that thing does exist!

For it to be reasonable to believe that Santa Claus exists, he would have to be the best explanation for the existence of Christmas presents. But is there another, better explanation? Perhaps someone else put the presents under the tree, like parents. Maybe the gifts just popped into existence from nothing. Or maybe they’ve been there for all eternity! You can probably see where this is going. How did the universe get here? Did it just pop into existence uncaused, has it always been here, or is it reasonable to believe that something, or someone, caused it to begin to exist? God is the best explanation for all of reality. And even if you disagree, it’s still a legitimate option, is it not?

But maybe Santa exists and he’s just hiding. That’s why he has never been observed, just like God! Again, what are the reasons to believe that Santa exists? Are there any? Because there are very good reasons to believe that God exists, such as the cosmological argument, moral argument, fine-tuning argument, etc. Can you honestly say the same about Santa? Of course not.

Furthermore, what are the consequences if Santa doesn’t exist? Then kids must get their Christmas presents another way, because we know from experience that presents exist (unless you were on the naughty list, I guess). But if there’s no God? Then the universe came into existence uncaused from nothing for no reason. Life came from non-life and consciousness from non-consciousness. There are no objective morals and values. Exactly the same? No. Not a chance.

Conclusion

I hope we can all see how ridiculous it is to equate God with some imaginary or mythical being. It’s not as trivial as who delivers Christmas presents or trades cash for teeth; we’re talking about the First Cause who created and upholds the entire universe. There are good reasons and arguments for God’s existence. So to those who say that belief in God is no different than belief in Santa Claus, please stop. You’re the ones making ridiculous claims, not us.

For another good and thorough treatment of this issue, check out the Reasonable Faith article Is God Imaginary?

 

For More Articles like Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com

What Christian Parents Can Learn from Atheist Churches

By Natasha Crain

There’s a new church movement you may not have heard about, but it’s growing by leaps and bounds. It’s called the Sunday Assembly. It started less than two years ago in England and now has more than 60 congregations around the world. Twenty-five more congregations are expected to launch by early 2015. The Sunday Assembly is growing especially quickly in the United States, where congregations have formed in 17 cities.

At a Sunday Assembly, church members come together to sing songs, hear a speaker and reflect on their lives. Outside of church, they have small groups, book clubs, a choir, peer-to-peer support and a variety of opportunities to volunteer. Their motto is “Live better, help often and wonder more.”

So what’s unique about this rapidly growing church?

Most of the congregants don’t believe in God. It’s a church for atheists.

 

What is an Atheist Church?

The Sunday Assembly was started by two comedians named Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones who liked the idea of a church without God. Pippa is an ex-Christian who found she missed church elements like “community, volunteering, and music,” but didn’t miss God. Sanderson had noticed the joy at Christmas created by caroling and wondered if it was possible to harness those warm feelings and just celebrate the fact we’re alive.

When Evans and Jones launched the Sunday Assembly, they promoted it using the (appropriate) phrase “atheist church.” However, they now avoid the atheist description and promote the Sunday Assembly as a group “celebrating life.” A New York congregation actually broke off from the group earlier this year because they wanted to focus more on celebrating godlessness than celebrating life.

True to this rebranding effort, the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the Sunday Assembly’s website attempts to distance the organization from a strict atheist association. In response to the question, “Is Sunday Assembly exclusively for atheists?” they say, “Absolutely not. We say in the Charter that we don’t do supernatural but we won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do. One of the unique things about Sunday Assembly is that it is radically inclusive–allowing us to celebrate life together, regardless of what we believe in.” They go on in other answers to discourage using their group as a vehicle for presenting atheist philosophy or for telling others that they’re wrong for what they believe.

Irony lurks below the surface of this shallow inclusiveness. The first item on their public charter says, “We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.” Make no mistake: this isn’t just a secular gathering where no claims are being made about God one way or another. The Sunday Assembly is built on explicitly atheist assertions. And people are loving it.

 

A Very Important Lesson for Christian Parents

I’m fascinated by this rise of atheist churches, and I think there is a very important lesson Christian parents can take from it:

We have to make sure our kids are attracted to Jesus and not just the church.

Humans are built for relationships. We desire community; we desire to help others; we desire to live a “good” life and find meaning in what we do–all things that can be found in church. Christians believe that these desires are given to every person by God. That means church is a place that can fill a God-given need for our kids whether they believe in Him or not.

The risk is that they’ll mistake that partial fulfillment for the sum of everything they spiritually need.

Bart Campolo, son of well-known Christian pastor and speaker Tony Campolo, made the news last month because of his deconversion from Christianity. In an interview, he described how as a teenager he was drawn by the sense of community and “the common commitment to love people, promote justice, and transform the world.” He commented, “All the dogma and the death and resurrection of Jesus stuff was not the attraction.”

Church – not Jesus – was the attraction.

How can you know if your kids are attracted to Jesus or just the church? Look at their spiritual development outside of church:

  • Do they show an interest in reading and understanding the Bible, or just an interest in good values and community service?
  • Do they initiate conversations about faith and ask thoughtful questions?
  • Do they demonstrate a desire to discern what God wants for their life?
  • Do they pray? (If you don’t know, ask!)

There are certainly a lot of kids kicking and screaming all the way to church each week. That’s a whole other problem. But let’s be sure to not assume a happy church-goer is also a Jesus-lover. As the Sunday Assembly has shown us, a lot of people are happy to do church without God.

What kind of “relationship” do your kids have with your church? Have you ever considered if it’s a Jesus-centered relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more articles like What Christian Parents Can Learn from Atheist Churches visit Natasha’s website: ChristianMomThoughts.com