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Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

I believe the Bible is the word of God because in it God speaks.  This is not an unfortunate circularity.  At the end of the day nothing could convince me it’s God’s word except that God speaks.  You could tell me it’s great history, it’s logically coherent and displays incredible internal consistency as a library of books over many centuries.  Great, I believe all those things.  But that doesn’t make it God’s word.  The only thing that could authenticate the Bible as God’s word is if God personally speaks through it.  And at that stage I’m essentially saying that it’s God’s word because it’s God’s word.

Or to shift that argument to christology, I believe that Jesus is the Radiance of the Father’s glory because in Him I’ve met the glorious Father.  Yet this Father is met only in the face of the Son.  In other words, I know that Jesus is Lord because I see in Him the kind of Lord that only Jesus reveals.  There is a self-authenticating majesty to Jesus such that I say, along with Lord Byron, “If God’s not like Jesus, He ought to be.”  Jesus is the kind of God that I believe in – the kind of God that Jesus uniquely reveals.  He’s IT.  And I know He’s IT because, well, look at Him!  Jesus is Lord because Jesus is Lord.

At this point you’ll note how inter-related these two circularities are.  And also the integral role of the Spirit in both.  He brings us God’s written word with divine authority, illuminating Christ so that, in Him, we might see and know the Father.

Now “circular arguments” get a bad name.  For one thing it sounds like buying into them will trap you.  Actually, if you find yourself in the right Circle, you’ll finally be free.  The Circle of Father, Son and Spirit doesn’t limit you.  No these ultimate realities (because they really are ultimate) enable you to move out into the world all the wiser for knowing their Lordship.  With the Spirit-breathed word, and the Lens of the Father’s Son… then you can really get somewhere.  From this knowledge you’ll find all sorts of other things illuminated by God’s Light.

But still, people will cry foul.  “You can’t reason in a circle” people will say.  But hang on, we all employ circular reasoning whenever we make claims about ultimate reality.  Didn’t your mum ever justify her pronouncements with “Because I’m the mummy”?

It’s inevitable that your ultimate ground of authentication must authenticate itself, or it isn’t ultimate.

Now this plays out in all sorts of areas.  But think, for instance, of the naturalist assumption that the “natural” realm is best placed to judge any hypothetical “further realm”.  If a “further realm” exists, they say, it must play by the rules of naturalism.  This, of course, radically limits the kinds of realms the naturalist would be willing to admit and means that the gods they consider can only be superbeings within the world.

Now the naturalist cannot establish such a priority via naturalism.  It is, by definition, beyond the ability of the natural sciences to pronounce on the existence of realms beyond their scope.  Yet naturalists assume that the “natural” realm is all there is, was, or ever shall be.

Naturalism, they say, is the best explanation of ultimate reality because other explanations fail naturalistic tests.  Or, to put it most simply, naturalism is true (or our best bet) because naturalism says so.

Now let’s be clear – belief in naturalism is not a groundless leap of faith.  It’s a faith commitment that springs from compelling evidence (true faith always does).  The evidence is this: trusting our own powers of perception and reasoning has produced great success in the natural sciences.  I.e. it works, it explains things, when we move out into the world on its basis things make sense.

But,

1) The Christian does not deny the explanatory power of the naturalistic sciences.  The Christian believes that such sciences have sprung from a broader Christian world-view and rejoice in the fruits of the gospel here.  Christians simply deny that such knowledge is the only or surest knowledge.

In fact,

2) The Christian sees that naturalism is horrifically reductionistic and harmful when seeking to be applied beyond the natural sciences.  As the old saying goes, If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  To treat human personhood and relationships, ethics and aesthetics, to say nothing of a relationship with God, as a mere interplay of matter and energy is to misunderstand these things greatly.  The explanatory power breaks down here in a catastrophic way.  And yet, these things – love, forgiveness, beauty, goodness etc – are the most precious realities in human existence.

In the discussion between Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams the other day, Dawkins said he “believed” we would find naturalistic explanations for consciousness – explanations which we do not now possess.  That is a consistent faith position within his world-view.  Naturalism has produced the goods in many spheres of enquiry – he trusts that consciousness will be one more success story for the natural sciences.

Yet all the while an explanation for personal reality presents itself to Dawkins.  One which does not rule out science but underpins it.  And one which accounts for the priority of the personal which is the most blindingly obvious reality which we encounter moment by moment. Nothing else accounts for it like this accounts for it…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.   (John 1:1-4)

I honestly don’t know why Dawkins – or anyone – can’t see it.  How can there be darkness when the Light of Christ is so dazzlingly obvious?  But then I would say that.  I’m in the grip of the ultimate Circularity!

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“A universe with a god would look very different to a universe without one.” Richard Dawkins.

It’s one of the wisest things Dawkins has ever said. Believers and unbelievers alike should take heed.

Let’s tease out some implications of it.

1) Dawkins clearly has a doctrine of “god” in mind as he makes the statement.  The flying spaghetti monster wouldn’t affect the kind of universe we inhabit.  But Thor might.  Allah in a different way.  And the triune God, different again.  Therefore it’s not a straight binary choice.

2)  I would look different depending on the existence of God or not.  Dawkins seems to imagine two states (a theistic and an atheistic universe) as alternatives lying before him.  And who is the great unmoved mover in this scenario?  Who is the neutral observer, the one enthroned above all worlds?  The scientist!  But no, Dawkins’ thought experiment – if it takes the word “God” with any seriousness – is one in which everything must be re-imagined.  If I am a creature, made by the Father’s Word, intended for life in communion with God, then everything changes for me.

3) I would look differently depending on the existence of God or not.  If I was a creature of the Word, and if the world  is a creature of the same Word, I would look through the lens of His Word.  I would see all things in relationship to Christ the Creator.  That would simply be good science if the Christian God existed.

But here’s something strange…

4) Dawkins ridicules Christian scientists who do actually deliver a different vision of the universe to his own.  Yet how could they do otherwise, if “a universe with a god will look very different”?

Which only makes me think…

5) Dawkins has not entered into his own thought-experiment for even a minute.  Has he really considered the revolution involved in actually reconceiving Self and World and God according to the Christian vision?  Of course not.  To do so would mean repenting of his position as all-seeing Arbiter.  Or in other words:

“Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

 

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Wonderful article by Alastair Roberts on Atheism and Christianity.  Every paragraph’s a winner, how about this to whet your appetite:

The target of much atheist protest is the god that secures all meaning and makes sense of the world, the religion that serves as a crutch and underwrites the social order, the faith that inures one to truth and reality and gives birth to dulling and enslaving illusion. This is the god in whom they don’t believe. They might be surprised to find that Christians stand alongside them in attacking this deity: we don’t believe in that god either.

Read the whole thing here.

And Happy New Year!

 

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The story of Richard Morgan, converted after a Scottish Pastor braved the underbelly of richarddawkins.net…

it was his interest in evolution that led him to follow Richard Dawkins. Upon finding the author’s actual website, Morgan was excited to communicate with scientists and philosophers who could offer more insight into evolution.

But rather than discussing the nature of evolution in the “oasis of clear thinking,” Morgan was horrified to discover in his first forum that more than half of the people devoted their time saying rude things about believers using extremely foul language.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘The Social Network’ but there’s one point where a girl says to the main character ‘Just stay in your dark room and make snide remarks because that’s what the angry do these days.’”

After witnessing the discussions firsthand, the newly minted evolutionist agreed that the Internet was more a place where people could hide behind their anonymity and say rude things as a kind of therapy.
Still searching for answers however, Morgan continued to be a part of the community, drawn particularly to a discussion on David Robertson’s open letter replying to Dawkins’ first chapter of The God Delusion.

Prompted to write a response to each of Dawkins’ chapters in the book, the Scottish pastor eventually compiled all the letters into a book called The Dawkins Letters.

Criticizing the book in the forums, members began to attack the letters until one day Robertson himself appeared in the discussions and began defending the points he made.

“I don’t know how many hours he must have spent just replying very calmly and politely to people who were sending out the most vilest insults and criticisms,” Morgan recalled. “He just kept coming back and occasionally with a few words of Scripture thrown into his general discourse.”

Unable to understand what was wrong with Robertson, Morgan himself posed a question on the discussion boards asking members why the pastor kept coming back and what result he expected. One of the seasoned and experienced posters on the forum commented, “It’s just another Christian attention seeker.”

“Yes, David Robertson was seeking attention but it wasn’t for David Robertson. We all know for whom he was seeking attention,” expressed the now Christian Morgan.

For several days the attacks continued, until one day someone replied that David Robertson was a liar. But Morgan throughout all of the threads had not noticed this and asked where the pastor had lied, bringing him a bout of criticisms as well.

“I was probably too unintelligent to see where he was a liar,” remembered Morgan.

As time went on, he began to see more and more the brutality and harshness of the chats, recalling one shocking post where the site administrator had published an article about an extremist Russian prophet who tried to commit suicide when his prediction for the date of the end of the world failed to come true.

A couple of posters in response to the story regretted that the fallen prophet had failed in his attempt to put an end to his life. Stunned by the level of inhumanity, Morgan wondered how any civilized person could say they wanted to see anybody die. Writing a protestation to some form of humanity in the forums about his shock and disappointment in the members, one respected member on the site simply replied to his post with an LOL– laugh out loud.

It was then that Morgan realized he did not want to be a part of these people. “I’m not condemning all atheists,” he clarified in the interview. “I’m talking about anonymous atheists on internet discussion boards and the messages they express which are extremely negative, puerile, [and] full of hate…”

Coming back to Robertson’s replies to all the “nastiness and unpleasantness,” which Morgan himself was a part of, composing a piece of music just to insult the pastor, Morgan reread the debates and was impressed at several aspects of Robertson’s participation.

First, his persistence and continual presence in the discussions astounded Morgan. Robertson always came back and sometimes got up two hours earlier in the morning to give adequate response time to the criticisms.

Secondly he defended himself in a robust manner while not hesitating to wish everyone well. He wasn’t the meek and mild kind of Christian who said “I love you all and you’re all nice,” but the kind of Christian who stood up for what he believed in.

Printing out over fifty pages of Robertson’s posts, Morgan read through all the posts again and found no lies. What he discovered instead was humility, intelligence, sensitivity, and several references to the Bible.

In his confused state, without God or a community of atheists to turn to, Morgan started to post on The Free Church of Scotland’s forum, which the Scottish pastor was a part of.

Writing to Robertson about how he appreciated his responses and comments, Morgan shared how he couldn’t believe in God. “I’m not an atheist because I want to be an atheist. I’m not a happy atheist. I’m an atheist because I can’t believe in God.”

In response to Morgan’s post, Robertson, the “resident fruitcake” at the Dawkins’ forums, asked him two questions which subsequently changed his life: 1) Why don’t you believe in God? 2) What could make you believe in God?

Dismissing the first question as dumb, Robertson’s initial reaction to the second question was “certainly not proof and evidence.”

At that moment, Morgan’s instinctive response conjured up to his memory, probably from his previous Mormon days, the verse, “We love because he first loved us.” And in that instant, Morgan understood the expression “amazing grace.”

“I was certain without having any rational explanation that God existed, that he loved me without waiting for me to love him, that he loved me unconditionally without waiting for me to deserve it.”

Whole article here.

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Daniel Blanche has some excellent thoughts on the empty chair at the Sheldonian Theatre tonight.

Any temptations to gloat (and I have plenty) surely come from a deep insecurity over the self-evident Lordship of Christ.  An insecurity which philosophical arguments will not assuage but foster.

Go and read Daniel’s blog.

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This lunchtime (1245 in the UK) William Lane Craig will give a lecture entitled “The Evidence for God.”  You can watch it live here.  His other engagements in the UK are listed here.

UPDATE: Apparently the video will be here in the next few days.  In the end I didn’t get to hear more than 5 minutes of it since I was called away.  Another time!

I will be very interested to watch and I know I will learn plenty.

Just for the record I still hold these six convictions regarding what has already happened between God and man.  In my opinion we must not argue as though these things have not happened – because their happening is the Gospel which we claim to stand on:

  1. Through Christ, the Triune God has already revealed Himself unmistakably in every aspect of creation so that humanity is without excuse.  (Everything is evidence!)
  2. Against Christ, humanity has taken knowledge into its own hands and so barred the door against all claims from above.
  3. In view of Christ, God has handed humanity over to its chosen futility, locking the door from His side too.
  4. In Christ, God has entered this prison and manifested His eternal glory in time and space, even in human flesh.  (So focus your seeking there – where He is given).
  5. As Christ, humanity now has a perfect mind with which to comprehend God (and everything else) – one that is not only human but also in God.
  6. Out of Christ, His Spirit has been poured to incorporate us into the Man who knows.

These convictions have implications for how we do apologetics.  Read more here.

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Dave Bish has some good advice here.

And here’s a recent foray I made into the atheosphere.  That’s not an invitation for you to join that particular discussion.  The thread is dead and I’d ask you not to reawaken it.  Join another more recent discussion if you feel like you’ve got a day or two handy! :)

One thing that re-occurred to me is that “law-gospel” is very handy to keep in mind.  In the context where they demand “evidence” for Jesus (and insist on the kind of evidence they’re prepared to accept):

LAW: Jesus is the Truth.  To take Him seriously you either begin again with Him or you reject Him.  What you don’t do is treat Him as a possible player in amongst a cast of other, more certain, truths.  If you did so, you would not be treating Him as He is.  Therefore you would not be seeking Him.  

Put it another way: He is not in the dock, the “evidence” does not stand over Him, and you are not the prosecutor.

That’s the law.  It flattens us and gives us no grounds for hope in ourselves.  But here comes the gospel…

GOSPEL: There is good news!  The Truth has sought us.  He has come into the world explaining Himself.  He became flesh, was witnessed, was handled, was even dissected on full view of the world.  The word written, the Bible, will show you Him at full strength.  This is far more than a scrap of evidence.  This is far more than Him showing up in a laboratory.  He hasn’t just submitted Himself to experimental conditions, the Truth has given His very Self to us.

The cross stands between law and gospel.  It insists that: Here is the living God!  This is where to look and nowhere else.  Jews look for signs, Greeks look for wisdom, we lay a stumbling block in their way – the cross.  That is law.  But if, by faith, the stumbling block becomes the Rock on which they build, suddenly the cross is complete gospel.  There is good news: the Truth is given to us utterly – far more than we ever demanded as naturalists.

What kind of responses does this get?

Well one person on the thread quoted from me and then responded:

[I had said]  If you start with Jesus (and there’s no way to take Him seriously unless you do) then *He* is the Truth.  

[He responded] That’s probably your problem then. No-one here takes him seriously.

If you ask me, our role is presenting Christ such that people see they are accepting or rejecting Jesus and not just a world-view.  We must never give the impression that the evidence is only “very good” or that Jesus is merely “the most logical option”.  If we believe that a person’s fundamental issue is their personal orientation towards Christ Himself then that’s got to be the pivot on which the conversation turns.  We confront people with Christ, it’s His rejection or acceptance that is at stake.  And that ought to be front and centre.

Lots more to say.  But those are just a few thoughts…

 

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Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation tells of his past in evangelical Christianity

I was a “doer of the word and not a hearer only.” I went to a Christian college, majored in Religion/Philosophy, became ordained and served in a pastoral capacity in three California churches. I personally led many people to Jesus Christ, and encouraged many young people to consider full-time Christian service.  (Here)

And here’s his conversion to atheism as told to a journalist here

[Barker] lay on a burlap cot in a church in a Mexican border town where he’d come to give a guest sermon. As he peered out at a splash of stars, Barker had a sudden profound sensation that had nothing to do with intellect, the kind of deeply felt moment more commonly associated with finding God than losing Him. He was, Barker understood, utterly alone here.

“For my whole life there had been this giant eyeball looking at me, this god, this holy spirit, this church history, and this Bible. And not only everything I did but everything I thought was being judged: Was God pleased? I realized that that wasn’t there anymore. It occurred to me, ‘I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I’m thinking right now. There’s no fear of hell, no fear of judgment, I don’t have to be right or wrong, I can just be me.'” It felt as if charges had been dropped for a crime for which he had been falsely accused. It was exhilarating and frightening all at once. “When you’re ready to jump out of an airplane to skydive, you can be terrified but excited at the same time,” he says. “There’s a point where you go, all right, let’s do this.”

It strongly reminded me of John Bunyan’s conversion:

“As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and, methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand, there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8).”

“Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away, so that from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now also went I home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”

In both conversions naturally enough it was their view of God that changed and that changed them.  Both were weighed down under the scrutiny of Heaven.  Both found a joyful liberation in the death of God.  (Of course Barker’s empty heaven does not remove his spiritual masters but multiplies them).

Nonetheless, I think the similarities are very instructive.

Because what did/does Barker need?  More theistic proofs?  These would only have strengthened his notion of a ‘giant eyeball’ in the sky.  And who could blame him if he wants to be free of that?

Yet there are apologetic strategies that drive the Barkers of this world firmly into atheism, not away.

What should we do instead?

Let’s seek to give them what Bunyan got – true freedom through Christ crucified.  It’s the death of all the old gods and the life of the new man, free from the eye-ball in the sky.

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I’m preaching on Ecclesiastes on Sunday so I’ve been listening to some other preachers.  They pretty much all preach Ecclesiastes as the futility of atheism.  And of course when you preach it like that, what’s the solution?  Good old theism.  Yay theism.

And one or two preachers have even suggested that Christian theism gives the most amount of meaning.  So yay Jesus too.  (Although the last preacher I listened to — BIG NAME —  was way too excited about theism to get around to that Jesus nuance.)

Anyway, just thought I’d state something that’s pretty darned obvious but it seems like it needs saying.  The Teacher aint no atheist.  He’s a hard-core theist.  Check it:

Ecclesiastes 1:13; 2:24-26; 3:10-22; 5:1-7, 18-20; 6:1-2; 7:13-14; 18,20; 8:2, 11-17; 9:1,9; 11:5,9; 12:1-14;

Here’s just a sample of what he says:

God has set eternity in the hearts of men…. He’s done it so that men will revere him… Stand in awe of God… God made mankind upright but men have gone in search of many schemes… I know that it will go better with God-fearing men who are reverent before God… God will bring you to judgement… Remember your Creator… Fear God and keep his commandments.

He’s a theist right?  A pretty ardent one.

But what do you expect from a son of David, a king of Jerusalem? (Ecclesiastes 1:1)  Here is a christ – an anointed king.  But, here’s the thing, he’s not the King of Heaven.  He’s a king under heaven (notice how ‘under heaven’ and ‘under the sun’ are parallel 1:3; 3:1).  He’s not the One full of the Spirit without measure, instead he seeks to shepherd the Spirit (or chase the wind, e.g. 1:14) while he must receive his teachings from the true Shepherd (12:11).

The teacher is self-consciously not the Messiah (he’s a very naughty boy!).  He’s not the Christ with a capital C certainly. But he is a christ with a small c.  And so he embarks on a sustained meditation of life in which the king is subject to all the forces that we are.  This christ is also under the sun and therefore under the powers that enslave mankind and even nature itself.  This king, for all his wealth and power and wisdom cannot pierce through the shroud of sin, law, judgement and death.   And so what hope is there?  None!  Not with this king.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  And then we are judged – by the God is who is ever-present in Ecclesiastes.  But ever-present as Judge.  And who knows how we will fare under His judgement.

That’s life under the sun.  Here’s what we can expect if the Teacher is our christ.

But if that’s the problem, what’s the solution?  The glories of theism?  The truth that God knows us and has a wonderful plan for our lives?  The thought that my actions have eternal significance?  The Teacher knows all these things and declares them utterly meaningless.  Our only hope is Christ.  The true Christ.  The Christ from Heaven.  The Christ who conquers sin and law and judgement and death and bursts through into resurrection hope.  That’s the answer to Ecclesiastes’ meaninglessness.

Any other solution is vanity of vanities.

 

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So Kurt Wise has said (and Dawkins quotes it in the God Delusion also)

“if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.”

Well obviously!  If that is “what the Word of God seems to indicate” and the Word of God is, well, the Word of God, what other position could Wise take?

Dawkins would love it if the debate were about differing interpretations of the same agreed sources of evidence.  But that would be a debate that assumed the very issues at stake!  If Dawkins wants to debate people who agree that the scientific method is Lord, let him do so.  But that would be an in-house debate within the scientific community and it wouldn’t make him anywhere near as much money.

The real debate does not concern differing interpretations of the same data.  It’s about what counts as evidence, who says and how can it be verified.

Wise says Jesus is Lord and science is great.  And if there’s ever a conflict, Jesus wins.  Well naturally!  If he didn’t say that he wouldn’t be a Christian.  And if Dawkins can’t grasp that, he hasn’t understood his opponent, nor the nature of the debate in which he’s engaged.

For Dawkins, Science is Lord, end of story.  And in the God Delusion he seeks to prove how very broad minded he is (as opposed to Wise – that disgrace to the human race).  He says that if “all the evidence in the universe” points towards creationism he’d switch sides.

But of course that would be no switch at all.  Even if he believed in six hour creation, it’s the basis on which he formed such beliefs that is decisive.  Dawkins might come to believe in a 6000 year old universe and not have budged an inch on the issue that really matters.  Is Jesus Lord or is the scientific method Lord?

The debate is not a simple weighing of already-agreed evidence.  And if Dawkins can’t understand that he only proves that he’s unqualified to discuss the matter.

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Mom wins!

I’m shocked by his ignorance, his arrogance, his appalling use of power over vulnerable people.  But most of all I’m shocked he aired the film.  Because that woman kicked his ass!

ht Unreasonable Faith

 

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Here Richard Dawkins makes the case for being steeped ‘to some extent’ in the King James Bible.  If we don’t know the KJV we are ‘in some small way barbarian.’  But he ends by saying:

it is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.

Notch it up as another Dickie Dawkins classic.  But before we laugh and point, let’s make sure there aren’t three fingers pointing back.

You see, because he’s talking about the bible the stupidity of his position is obvious.  Of course it’s ridiculous to view the bible as first a cultural resource that religion then hijacks.  Any fool knows that the bible is originally, purposefully and most meaningfully a religious text (or if you don’t like ‘religious’, say ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ or even ‘Christian’).  It is evident (but not to Dawkins) that the essence of the bible is appreciated only when it’s treated according to its true theological nature.  And that to read it through atheistic lenses is the real hijacking.

But Dawkins’ inability to appreciate the bible according to its true nature is only one more example of his inability to appreciate the world according to its true nature.  The whole atheistic project follows exactly the same line.  It says that everything is most ultimately a physical, chemical, biological, historical or cultural artefact, let’s not allow ‘religion’ to hijack it.  But to pretend you are honouring the world by treating it non-theologically is just as ridiculous as pretending to honour the Word by treating it non-theologically.

The only reason we don’t see its foolishness is because we have, to some extent, bought the double-decker atheistic approach.  When it comes to the world around us we pretty much assume along with the atheists that there are brute facts that are perfectly understood in non-theological terms and that we then work with this raw data to make our theological (or atheistical) pronouncements.  And even if we do dare to wear some theological lenses to view the world, we have a slight guilty feeling that maybe we are hijacking a properly non-theological reality.

But no.  You’ve got to begin by treating the Word theologically.  And you’ve got to begin by treating the world theologically.  And it’s best you do so in that order.

It’s those who fail to see the world according to its essentially theological character who hijack it.

 

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Last month the Times’ front page screamed: “God did not create the universe” – reporting on the new book co-authored by Stephen Hawking in which he asserts a spontaneous creation.  What I most enjoyed about the piece was a ringing endorsement from Richard Dawkins.  Among other things he made this revealing comment:

“I know nothing of the details of the physics but I had always assumed the same thing.” (ht)

Isn’t that brilliant?!

Actually that’s how we all reason.  All of us.  All the time.  But it’s hilarious to see it so plainly in Dawkins.

Here’s a guy who claims to be a child of the Enlightenment, he doesn’t know the details, he’s in no way qualified to pass judgement, it’s not even remotely his field, but he’d always assumed something like this must be right because it fits with some other stuff he also believes and is very much committed to… so… it floats his boat and he gives it his full assent (whatever it is, he’s not entirely sure) and, carried away by the necessity of its truth, he wants you to be carried away by it too, that we might all give allegiance to this grand vision (whatever it is, let’s not get too hung up on the details).

But you know what?  That’s how we all “reason”.

And it’s not just inconsistent atheists.  It’s just how human beings work.  Our hearts are captured by a bigger vision and our minds catch up.

Christians tend to hate the Wet, Wet, Wet line “My mind’s made up by the way that I feel” – even as much as the song itself.  Many times I’ve heard preachers denounce such an idea – Our minds aren’t made up by our feelings!  Or at least they shouldn’t be.  Feelings don’t boss us around.  Our minds need to tell our feelings where to get off.

Really?

Now “feelings” are indeed fickle things.  Perhaps even as fickle as thoughts!  So let’s substitute “heart” for feelings.  And let’s also acknowledge that our hearts should not be given free rein.  Something certainly needs to control our hearts.  But that the something is God’s Word.  That’s what shapes the heart.  And the heart shapes the thinking.  (Gen 6:5ff; Prov 4:23; Matt 12:34; Matt 15:19; Heb 4:12).

That feels right to me anyway.  What do you think?  And why?

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Sometimes I’m asked whether we should spend time entering into non-Christian “world-views” to expose their internal inconsistencies.

Sure – if you do it like this.  But then, if you do it like this (and do listen to the song) you’re not seeking to convict them of a logical contradiction but an existential one.  The former contradiction can be solved by conversion to Aristotle.  For the latter, only Jesus saves.

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Skeptic Daniel Florien asks his mainly atheist/agnostic readers what it would take for them to believe.

The first 3 of 87 responses (and counting) are:

“Evidence and an explanation that makes sense”

“Evidence”

“Show himself and fix the world”

One commenter I’ve interacted with before said this:

“For me, god would have to demonstrate how the universe makes more sense with him in it. Something no religious person has ever been able to do.”

I like how that first sentence begins.  I groan when I get to the words “in it”.

Anyway, the whole thing is really fascinating reading.

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One of my favourite ever talks from my favourite preacher – Mike Reeves on how the atheists are right.  From our recent mission.

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On this recent Australian panel show Richard Dawkins was served up a number of Christian politicians on a plate.  And he quite rightly ate them for breakfast.  Of course, given their distinct lack of back-bone, they wouldn’t have been hard to chew.  But you do have to wonder why the key match-ups weren’t scientist versus scientist, or atheist versus Christian – but atheist scientist versus… MP.  Huh?

Anyway both Pete and I found this particular quotation from Dawkins interesting.

I think that the existence of a supreme being – a supernatural supreme being – is a scientific issue. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either there are gods or there are no gods. That is a… supremely important scientific question. If the universe was created by an intelligence, then we are looking at an entirely different kind of scientific theory from if the universe came into existence by natural means. If God or gods had something to do with the creation of life, then we’re looking at a totally different kind of biology…

So I think you can’t just say religion and science have nothing to do with each other. Science can get on and you let people have their own religious – of course you let people believe whatever they like. But you cannot say that science and religion are completely separate because religion makes scientific claims. It certainly makes scientific claims about miracles, as I mentioned before, and you cannot reconcile an authentic approach to science with a belief in miracles or, I suspect, with a belief in supernatural creation. At least the very least you should say is that this is a scientific question.

Here was an oasis of clarity in a desert of dualism.  While other panelists were falling over themselves trying to affirm both evolution and “the one who provided the amino acids in the first place”, Richard refused to compartmentalise either religion or science.  Good.

But if Dawkins is right here – and I think he is – then there are two major mistakes you must avoid.

1) You must avoid tacking on some kind of super-intending god to the science of naturalism. Whatever god of the gaps is left by a scientific method designed to exclude the supernatural is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Christian assumptions mean a very different way of doing science .  There may be great overlap at points but the foundations are very different.  Don’t pretend that Christian assumptions matter in the theology class but not the science class.  They matter as profoundly in theology as they do in science (and everything else!).

2) You must avoid judging creationists by the very same scientific method used for naturalistic enquiry.  If indeed science ‘with God’ would be conducted differently than science on atheistic assumptions then to test the effectiveness of YEC science you’d want to avoid just assuming they were wrong, wouldn’t you?  I mean that wouldn’t be very fair – not very scientific.  Well then, you’re going to have to walk a mile in their shoes rather than simply test them by a scientific method that excludes divine words from the outset.  Instead, if you want to do science ‘with God’ – you’d better allow Him to BE God. ie You’d better allow Him to speak, for that to be your authority and then to move out into the world on the basis of His word. That would be good science wouldn’t it?  If God is God – that would be the only kind of science you could do.

So I think Dawkin’s words need to be heeded here – first by Christians who want to conduct and affirm science on common foundations to naturalists.  But second by Dawkins himself.  If he really believed that science ‘with God’ was entirely different then he wouldn’t be judging YEC science by naturalistic science. But he does this all the time!

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I lost some of the best years of my life last month to an atheist blog.

With that in mind, I was amused at the recent furore over comment moderation at richarddawkins.net.  People are surprised at the vitriol spewed forth under pseudonymous cover in the under-belly of RichardDawkins.net?  A forum devoted to one of the most vituperative fundamentalisms going?  Does this shock anyone?

A couple of weeks ago I commented on a well respected and well-read atheist blog and was sworn at and wished dead in the most imaginatively vicious ways.  Compared to the abuses I and other Christians suffered there, the “rat’s rectum” comparisons that flew between fellow-atheists at Dawkins’ site sound like Pollyanna.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to redeem my experience by reflecting on some things I learnt, and some things I should have:

One reflection on my experience was written during the interchanges: Evangelists and Apologists Note: The six things that have already happened.

Here are some other reflections:

  1. Reason flows from the heart.  These guys raised a banner loud and proud for reason, logic, the scientific method, etc,.   But there was nothing particularly reasoned or scientific about their manner of argument.  They were well read intelligent people (PhD students etc) but much of their commenting consisted in caps locked swear words.  “Logic” was their slogan not their method.
  2. They constantly appealed to a logical high-ground without any thought as to whether they were allowed one – being materialists and all!
  3. Pointing out this inconsistency didn’t seem to get me anywhere (though you never know how non-commenting readers are responding).
  4. Everyone deals in circularities:
    1. I believe the bible is the word of God because in it God speaks
    2. You believe the scientific method is the arbiter of what’s true because it’s proved itself effective when judged by science.
  5. Everyone has ultimate authorities which, by the nature of the case, cannot be authenticated by outside sources – ie the scientific method cannot be tested by the scientific method.  One guy admitted that this self-validation hasn’t happened yet but that one day science would definitely be able to prove the scientific method by the scientific method.  There’s faith for you.  Which leads to…
  6. Everyone is faith based.  We all proceed from assumptions which we take to be true and then move forwards on the basis of them.
  7. I kept getting asked for ‘evidence’.  My responses were in three broad categories, first I’d point to Christ risen from the dead, second I’d simply quote Scriptures.  But probably the most effective thing was to say “everything!  Everything reveals the LORD Jesus to you.”
  8. Therefore evangelism is the invitation to the unbeliever to step inside the world in which Jesus is LORD and look again.  Basically it’s saying: “Let me tell you a story about a triune God, the world He made and the Son who redeems it.  Now look again at the world through the Lens of Jesus.  Now do you see why self-giving love is the greatest thing?  Now do you see why trust and beauty, evil and forgiveness, truth and goodness are real beyond any scientific analysis?  In other words, now you can take seriously the most basic aspects of your human existence and not run against the grain of reality all the time.”
  9. In this sense theology is a science.  It begins with self-authenticating premises and moves out in faith to investigate .  This investigation is shaped by the Object of knowedge.  Since the Object of knowledge is the Speaking God, the method is to hear His Word.  The premises of our enquiry after knowledge (e.g. Jesus is LORD, the bible is true etc) are not falsifiable in the way the materialists demand they be.  But then the scientific premises (e.g. that true knowledge is verified by the scientific method etc) aren’t falsifiable either.  Premises are the light by which we see.  It’s their success in seeing that recommends them.
  10. The failure of “science alone” to see the world was very evident to me.  It didn’t seem particularly evident to them.  That Beethoven’s 9th was a series of compression waves was certain for them.  That it was “beautiful” was a verdict they couldn’t make with anything like the same certainty.
  11. The atheists who commented were very clearly captured by the vision of “the onward march of science”, demolishing ignorance and dispelling superstition.  There was clearly a love for scientific progress that had won their hearts.  Nothing less than a greater love could ever displace this.  All their calls for “evidence, evidence” were simply calls for reality to fit into their paradigm – to serve their greatest love.  They need a new paradigm, or better – a new love.
  12. The call for “evidence, evidence” in the sense that they mean is a desire to be confirmed in their self-imposed naturalistic prison.  What counts as ‘evidence’ for them is only that which can be assessed according to their naturalistic paradigm.  This is simply a refusal from the outset to hear a Voice from above.  Again it is a matter of hard-heartedness, however seriously they wish to be taken intellectually.
  13. My lowest point came in the heat of battle when I fired off a comment justifying my intellectual credibility.  I’m ashamed of what I took pride in at that moment.  I should have borne shame and taken pride in the foolishness of the gospel, allowing Christ to vindicate me.  The cause of the gospel was hindered rather than helped by the assertion of my academic credentials (which weren’t that great anyway!).  This is especially so given what I’ve been arguing above.
  14. Having said all this, I think it was a worth-while exercise.  Many of the commenters were American ‘de-converted’ evangelicals and knew a lot of bible.  The hurt from previous scars was palpable and I hope that a charitable Christian voice might at least temper some of the “all Christians are bigots” tirades that otherwise spiral on in these forums.
  15. On the other hand, some of the commenters were angry Brits and others who seemed to know very little of Christian things.  All they’ve heard has been from other atheists.
  16. And of course there were many more who I’m sure just ‘listened’.  My time at Speaker’s Corner taught me that even as you engage the Muslim apologist in front of you, you’re aiming at the wide-eyed apprentices hanging off his coat-tails.  Who knows how the Lord will use these words?
  17. Turning the other cheek hurts but it’s powerful.  I trust that (#13 and other lapses notwithstanding) perhaps the most useful aspect of the interchange was the attempt to model Christ in the way I commented.
  18. The absolute hatred for Christians is frighteningly palpable.  The hatred that’s there in the comments sections will rise more and more into the public realm, that seems pretty certain to me.  But if we’re surprised and outraged let’s get a grip – no soldier should act all offended and hurt when the enemy actually shoots bullets at them!
  19. Just as Stephen Fry speaks of descending into the “stinking, sliding, scuttling” floor of the internet, engaging in this kind of way can be the faintest taste of what the LORD Jesus did in descending to a world that hates Him.  (It can be a total waste of time too, but I think there is a time and a place for it).  I spent a few hours in an internet forum.  His whole life He lived and loved and spoke and served among a hatred that literally tore Him apart.  He’s the One we proclaim.  His attitude is the attitude we take.  And as we join Him (in big ways and small) in cross-bearing love, we get to know His enduring grace that much more.
  20. There is a time for shaking dust off your feet.  Some need to spend a little longer in the battle.  But probably people like me (who have to be right!) should quit sooner.  :)

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