The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Stephen Hawking, eternal life, and fairy tales

I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
–Nicene Creed

Stephen Hawking, physicist and author of A Brief History of Time, recently had this to say about the notions of heaven and eternal life:

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

How is a Christian to respond to this? Is our belief in eternal life a fairy tale? Have we invented a story about everlasting paradise because we are afraid of the darkness of annihilation?

A good starting place is to recognize that Hawking has never died, and so he really doesn’t know one way or the other whether heaven and eternal life exists. Hawking did not come to his conclusions regarding heaven or everlasting life through observation, experience, or anything resembling the scientific method. He did not run an experiment that demonstrated that humans have no eternal soul. Nor did he derive a mathematical equation that somehow eliminated God.

Of course, similar statements could be said about Christians. We have not come to our conclusions about heaven and eternal life through science. But if science were the only way to know anything, then we really could not adequately address questions such as, “What happens after we die?” We could speculate, which is all that Hawking has done, but we really would not have definitive answers.

As a Christian, my belief in heaven is based on my acceptance of the larger package of the Christian faith. I have dozens of reasons why I think Christianity is true; here are two of what I see as the strongest arguments:

1. Christianity has a good answer for the fundamental question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” I wrote about this last year in my brief post about Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design:

This goes back to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Every effect has a cause. What caused the universe? If the answer is, “the multiverse” or “the laws of physics,” then all the authors [Hawking and Mlodinow] have accomplished is to put the question back one step. What caused the multiverse to exist? Has it existed forever? If so, why and how? Did it cause itself to exist? The same questions need to be asked of the laws of physics, or perhaps of the deeper, underlying laws of the multiverse. What is the origin of these laws?  …

To propose that “God” is the answer to these questions is certainly at least as rational as to propose that the multiverse has existed forever or that it created itself. I would say that the “God option” is in reality the most rational answer, as the first option—the multiverse has existed forever—doesn’t answer the “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question, and the idea of a self-creating multiverse is inherently illogical.

Even if Hawking were correct about M-theory, strings, and the multiverse spawning baby universes, he has not explained where the multiverse or the laws that govern the universe came from.

2. A strong case can be made for the historical truthfulness of the Gospel accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I gave an outline of the Christian case for Christ’s resurrection in my recent post The reality of the resurrection. Something extraordinary happened on that first Easter in 30 or 33 AD, and each attempt to come up with an alternative to the resurrection has serious problems.

If there is a God who created the universe (point #1), and if he raised at least one person from the dead (point #2), then it is by no means a stretch to accept the idea that we, too, can experience eternal life. This life comes through faith in Christ:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 ESV

I have great respect for Stephen Hawking for his professional accomplishments and for his perseverance through great suffering. His ventures into philosophy and theology, on the other hand, fall a bit flat.

Grace and Peace

The Guardian: Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story’

Yahoo News: Stephen Hawking says afterlife is a fairy story

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” — Psalm 14:1 ESV

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 3 Comments

Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins agree with each other, but they are both wrong

Ken Ham is an Evangelical Christian and is perhaps the world’s most prominent anti-evolutionist and advocate of young-Earth creationism.

Richard Dawkins, author of the best-selling book The God Delusion, is perhaps the world’s most prominent proselytizer for atheism.

The two men are worlds apart on a number of important issues, but they seem to be in complete agreement about one thing: The Bible and evolution—and the accompanying belief that Earth is billions are years old—are completely incompatible with each other. Ham writes:

Last month, famous atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Howard Condor on Revelation TV in the UK. Parts of the interview are disappointing regarding how the interviewer made some of his arguments. However, there was one section of the interview that is really worth publicizing.

At one stage, the interviewer asked, “So, was there a defining moment where you made a decision that you didn’t believe in God?”

Richard Dawkins replied, “Yes . . . I suppose, I switched from Christian theism to some sort of deism about the age of fourteen or fifteen. And then switched to atheism about the age of sixteen—fifteen, sixteen.”

Howard Condor then asks, “And was there a particular point, or something you read, or an experience you had that said, ‘Yes this is it, God does not exist’?”

Now note carefully the following statement by Richard Dawkins:

Oh well, by far the most important was understanding evolution. I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they are deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, and I think I realized that about the age of sixteen.

[from Atheist Richard Dawkins: Evangelical Christians Have Really Sort of Got it Right by Ken Ham]

Dawkins is convinced that evolution made the world safe for atheism. Ken Ham is convinced that evolution completely undermines Christianity. They agree with each other on this point, but they are both wrong!

The young-Earth creationist case against biological evolution is based primarily on two Biblical ideas. The first is a weakly-supported interpretation, and the other is simply an over-reading of the text.

  1. The weak interpretation is the idea that there was no animal death before Adam and Eve fell into sin. The truth of the matter is that none of the passages usually cited in support of this position (Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15) actually say anything about animals starting to die as a result of Adam’s sin. They all tie human death to sin, but that is all. To the young-Earth creationists, evolution could not have occurred before Adam because evolution requires death. But if death did occur before Adam (I’ve developed the case for this in my post Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective) then this part of the Biblical argument against biological evolution crumbles.
  2. The second creationist argument against evolution is based on the verses in Genesis 1 where plants and animals are created to reproduce after their “kinds.” The Bible does not define “kinds” for us, but there is no reason to limit this definition to the modern scientific concept of “species.” The Bible does not say that there can be no variation within populations of the kinds, nor does it say that gene frequencies cannot change from generation to generation, or that mutations cannot occur that will lead to new traits. In fact, if there is a limit to biological change within the kinds, the Bible is silent on the matter. We should be silent too, at least as far as our Biblical exegesis goes. In any case, the young-Earth creationists undermine their argument by advocating hyper-rapid speciation after the flood at a rate that would make most evolutionary biologists blush.

I could take this a step further by saying there are statements in Genesis 1 that imply some sort of process over time. Consider the following two verses:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 ESV)

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:20-21 ESV)

In both of these passages, God gives a command that initiates a process: “Let the earth sprout vegetation,” “Let the waters swarm with swarms.” In both of these cases, it does not in any way diminish God’s creative power to use a process rather than a fiat creation from nothing.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Bible actually advocates some sort of biological evolution, but the case for God using processes in creation is certainly at least as strong, if not stronger, than the case for the idea that species cannot change over time.

I am not arguing here whether or not biological evolution is true. I happen to believe it is at least mostly true, but my expertise lies elsewhere (I have had a few undergraduate and graduate courses in paleontology and paleoecology). What I am arguing is that both Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins are wrong on this matter. The Bible doesn’t say anything one way or another about whether biological evolution can occur. Because of this, Richard Dawkins (and atheists in general) cannot use evolution as a basis for rejecting God and Christianity. If they wish to continue to reject Christianity they will have to find some other reason. One can be a scientist and be a thoroughly-convinced Christian. One can also be a Christian and accept an old Earth and biological evolution. An example of this would be the great defender of the faith C.S. Lewis.

Grace and Peace

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 14 Comments

Skepchick

An atheist writer has an entry on her blog today about The GeoChristian (see Skepchick: Genesis and Geology). She obviously has more readers than I do, and she has sent them in droves to click on “Myth” on my Understanding Genesis 1 poll.

Skepchick started her blog entry by saying some nice things about me (she also encourages her readers to not post “mean comments” on my blog, which I appreciate very much):

One of the geoblogs that I have started reading- casually- is a blog called The GeoChristian. The blog is written by a liberal Christian with some science (especially geology) background. In many ways, I admire this blog and the blogger. The author tries to improve the science education of very conservative Christians, including the Young Earthers. This is a noble effort, and I really hope that the blogger is successful. The blogger accepts an old Earth, which I find comforting.

Not everything nice that people say about me is true, and this is no exception. Here are a few clarifications:

  • I am not a liberal Christian (“liberal” meaning one who denies the authority of the Bible and/or core Christian doctrines). I am quite conservative in my theological views, including my view of the Bible.
  • I have a Master of Science degree in geology, which is a bit more than “some science.”

It was good of her to start with nice things (I try to do the same), but obviously as an atheist there are things about The GeoChristian that she doesn’t like.

However, when the author of the GeoChristian blog tries to reconcile events in The Bible with geological science, my blood starts boiling. For instance, I just noticed that the GeoChristian has put up a poll titled Understanding Genesis One. This poll asks “What is your preferred interpretation of Genesis One?” and gives a number of options– including a Young Earth Creationist option (6,000 years) and several options trying to re-interpret the text in The Bible in order to make it compatible with the old age of the Earth.

I’m sorry that I got her blood boiling, but I think that once again she at least somewhat misunderstands what I am getting at on The GeoChristian. I don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to “reconcile events in The Bible with geological science.” I actually spend a lot more time trying to counter the arguments of Christians who stretch science (usually young-Earth creationists) to fit what they think the Bible requires (for example, my Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis series).

My overall approach to questions of science and Scripture is borrowed from Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer, who reminded Christians that “all truth is God’s truth.” As a Christian, I believe that if there is a conflict between the Bible and science, then either we don’t understand the Bible correctly, or we don’t understand science correctly (or both). In the end, if we were to correctly understand both, there would be no conflict. When Biblical scholars propose things like the “analogical days interpretation” or “framework hypothesis” (see the poll questions), they are doing one part of that effort: taking a closer look at Genesis and seeing what it really does say, and weeding out what it doesn’t say.

I do believe that there is an overlap between the Bible and Earth history. On one level, I expect that Noah’s flood, which I believe to be a localized event (click here) to have left some sort of geological record (as Skepchick alludes to at the end of her post). On another level, both the Bible and science give an explanation for the origin of the universe, the Earth, and life. Old-Earth creationists of the day-age variety seek correlations between the days of Genesis 1 and the events of Earth history, and they have come up with some interesting insights. They may be correct, but I’m not placing my money on their harmonizations. Some of the other options on the “Understanding Genesis 1″ poll don’t require  attempts at harmonization between Genesis and geology.

When Christians visit my blog (which normally means about 90% of my readers), my hope is to give them sound Biblical and scientific reasoning in regards to the interface between science and Christian faith. Sometimes this is in regards to questions about origins, such as the age of the Earth or the extent and work of Noah’s flood. I also put a lot of effort into writing about issues surrounding the environment.

When non-Christians visit my blog, my hope and prayer is that they will see that one doesn’t have to commit intellectual suicide in order to be (or become) a Christian. Often these non-Christian visitors have misconceptions about Christianity or the Bible, and I aim to help clear up those misconceptions (some examples: a Bible contradiction, unicorns in the Bible). I am unashamed and unapologetic about my faith in Jesus Christ and my belief that Christianity is true.

Grace and Peace

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , | 18 Comments

The origin of human rights, or “Is napalming babies culturally relative?”

Timothy Keller, in chapter nine of The Reason for God, discusses the origin of human rights. Do humans intrinsically have unalienable rights, or are these rights something that we have arbitrarily come up with? Keller outlines three possible answers to this question, following Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz:

  1. Human rights come from God. God has created us and endowed us with certain unalienable rights.
  2. Human rights are based on “natural law.” People have rights because nature dictates that they should.
  3. Human rights are created by us. It is in the interest of societies to grant people rights.

Dershowitz rules out the first answer, but Keller makes a case for it being the only option that gives us a reliable foundation for human freedom and dignity. The natural world is ruled by violence and predation, and doesn’t seem to be the best place to go looking for fundamental laws that protect the weak of society. To say that human rights are created by us is rather frightening, as rights that are granted by the majority can just as easily be taken away.

After outlining the options, Keller makes a case that “the Biblical account of things… explains our moral sense… better than a secular view.” No one has been able to make a convincing case that humans have “unalienable human rights” apart from those rights originating from a Creator. If we believe that humans do indeed have rights that ought not to be trampled upon, then perhaps this itself is evidence for the existence of God. Keller concludes the section with a plea to follow through on our sense that human rights really do exist, outside of ourselves:

If you believe human rights are a reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise (“There is no God”) leads to a conclusion you know isn’t true (“Napalming babies is culturally relative”) then why not change the premise?

Grace and Peace


P.S. The question of whether or not it should be considered immoral to napalm babies was introduced in the chapter with a quote from Yale law professor Arthur Leff. Leff doesn’t accept the idea that human rights come from God, but he can find no other reliable origin for those rights. Leff writes:

 

As things are now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved… There is such a thing as evil. All together now: Sez Who? God help us.

P.P.S. Keller is not saying that secular people (skeptics, atheists, etc.) advocate immoral things like napalming babies. Quite the contrary, he argues that in general these people know that certain things are right and wrong. Why would they think this way if there were no underlying reason for them to do so?

January 16, 2011 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Ethics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Consider atheism? I don’t think so

The American Humanist Association is launching an ad campaign, urging us all to “Consider Humanism.”

This campaign uses a familiar atheist technique: Focus on the evils done in the name of religion; ignore the evils done by atheists.

The graphics I’ve seen have this format:

  • What some believe — a verse from the Bible or Koran urging some repugnant thing, such as slaughtering, hating, oppressing, and so forth.
  • What humanists think — a quote from some “enlightened” atheist showing how far we’ve come from the barbaric days of the Bible and Koran.

Note that religious people just “believe” something, whereas humanists/atheists “think.”

I am not a Muslim, obviously, so I’ll leave it to Muslims to defend themselves against the humanists.

There is a good, well-thought-out answer—yes, we Christians know how to think—for each of the accusations that the humanist ad campaign levels against Christianity. Consider the following ad:

This one is rather silly. Does any Christian really think that Jesus, in this passage, was telling us to hate anyone? Jesus was clearly using hyperbole, as we are told over and over to love one another, and even to love our enemies. Jesus wants our love for him to be so great that all other loves—including our love for ourselves—pales in comparison.

I’ll take Katharine Hepburn’s word for it, that she believes (that must have been a typo on the humanists’ part) that we should be kind to one another. I have to wonder, however, whether that belief comes from the Anglo-Saxon side of her cultural heritage, or from the Christian side.

Here’s another:

The Bible paints things as they really are. The people of Samaria (the northern ten tribes of Israel) had adopted a religious system (Baal worship) that included ritual prostitution (probably involuntary for many of the prostitutes), human sacrifice, mutilation, and incest. The humanists seem to think that God was being rather harsh in sending judgment on all of this, but most of us can discern that something is horribly wrong in a religious system that encourages ritual sacrifice of children.

Albert Einstein may have been guilty of exactly what he said he opposed. He could not imagine a God who punishes, saying this is “but a reflection of human frailty.” I suppose he would have an easier time imagining a God who didn’t punish sin, but then wouldn’t he just be projecting his own personal or cultural biases on that deity?

It wouldn’t be fair for me to pick out the easiest ads (and I think the first two I mentioned were incredibly easy to answer), so I’ll go for what I think is the most difficult:

I’ll start with the atheist/humanist solution that is proposed, and then get to a Christian response.

First, I applaud those who work towards peace, whether they be humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, or Christian. I am not opposed to international efforts to prevent genocide.

Having said this, I wouldn’t trust atheists (whether they call themselves “atheists” or “humanists”) to run an international organization that would “adjudicate and enforce measures to punish acts of genocide.” The atheist track record in the past century is one of massive genocide (Stalin, Mao, etc.), and it would be easy for them (or any other group) to start favoring one side over the other in a conflict. Human nature has embedded within it characteristics such as greed, fear, and aggression, and too much power in the hands of one group always ends up in disaster. Christianity recognizes this. Most humanists, on the other hand, put too much trust in the ever-elusive perfectibility of the human species.

Genocide is most certainly wrong. I believe that the atheists/humanists ultimately have no absolute reason for saying it is wrong, but I take them at their word that they really do believe (there’s that word again) it is wrong.

Genocide certainly goes against all of the ethical teachings in the New Testament, and most of the ethical teachings of the Old Testament. But what about instances in the Old Testament where God told his people to fight wars, and to wipe out every man, woman, and child? This is a legitimate issue to raise, as mass extermination of humans—the holocaust, and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia—is a great evil.  From a Christian perspective, it is good to keep the following in mind:

  1. God is the maker and ruler of all. He has the absolute right of ownership over all peoples. If he judges an individual or a whole tribe ahead of time, he is within his rights to do so.
  2. The Canaanites were exceedingly wicked: human sacrifice and so forth. God could have judged them by sending a plague or famine, but in this case he used an army.
  3. All are sinners and deserving of God’s judgment. This goes for everyone from Adolf Hitler to Mother Theresa. The judgment on the Canaanites is therefore a brief picture of what we all deserve.
  4. The commands given in the Old Testament for military campaigns were extremely limited in their scope. These commands were for the conquest of Canaan, and never applied elsewhere.
  5. God is just. The same severe penalty given to the Canaanites (destruction) was later mandated for Israelites who followed false Gods (see what I wrote about the judgment on the Israelites in Samaria up above).
  6. Grace was shown to repentant Canaanites, such as Rahab and her family.
  7. We now advance the Kingdom of God through acts of love and proclamation of Christ.

This is an answer that I find satisfactory. Genocide is evil, and there is nothing in the Bible to justify it or even to suggest that it is an acceptable action for us to engage in.

If you are a Christian, do not be duped by the “logic” and “reason” of the atheists in their ad campaign. Their arguments are not as reasonable and logical as they make them out to be.

If you are a humanist/atheist, I urge you to consider Christianity as a better explanation for the world and human nature, and as a source, through Christ, of hope for the future. I am not asking you to throw out reason or logic, but to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.

Grace and Peace

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 33 Comments

Stephen Hawking’s mistake

When Stephen Hawking writes a book, people pay attention. His latest volume, The Grand Design, coauthored by Leonard Mlodinow, has made a media splash because Hawking, who used “god language” in his earlier works, has come to the conclusion that there is no need for any sort of god to explain the origin of the universe.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing new or groundbreaking in this book. Instead, it is a very readable explanation of how the laws of physics—especially quantum mechanics and general relativity, which is the theory of gravitation—can explain how we got here with no need for divine intervention.

Basically, from the reviews I have read (I confess I have not read the book), Hawking argues that our universe, with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is just one of a huge multitude of universes that have been spawned within the larger multiverse, which we cannot see. Each of these baby universes has its own laws of physics; ours just happens to be one that has laws that work well for forming heavier atoms, stars, planets, and life.

Let’s say the basic outline of the author’s story is all true, that there is a larger multiverse that contains or creates baby universes. Think of the Wood between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. Let’s even say that this multiverse really did create the universe we live in. This still doesn’t solve the basic questions that Hawking and Mlodinow are seeking to answer: Why is there something rather than nothing? Is God Necessary?

This goes back to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Every effect has a cause. What caused the universe? If the answer is, “the multiverse” or “the laws of physics,” then all the authors have accomplished is to put the question back one step. What caused the multiverse to exist? Has it existed forever? If so, why and how? Did it cause itself to exist? The same questions need to be asked of the laws of physics, or perhaps of the deeper, underlying laws of the multiverse. What is the origin of these laws?  To go back to the Chronicles of Narnia: Where did the “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time” come from?

To propose that “God” is the answer to these questions is certainly at least as rational as to propose that the multiverse has existed forever or that it created itself. I would say that the “God option” is in reality the most rational answer, as the first option—the multiverse has existed forever—doesn’t answer the “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question, and the idea of a self-creating multiverse is inherently illogical.

The Washington Post review of The Grand Design is here.

Grace and Peace

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Astronomy, Christianity, Origins | , , | 12 Comments

The Reason for God — the open-mindedness of Christians

A common misconception among skeptics is that Christians are narrow-minded and ignorant, and that skeptics and atheists are open-minded “free thinkers.” Perhaps these generalizations are true in some cases, but it was my pleasure Sunday morning to spend an hour with a group of fifteen Christians who certainly don’t fit the narrow-minded stereotype.

Yesterday at my church was the first session of a three-month adult Sunday School class in which we will be going through the book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. The chapters in this excellent book include:

  • There Can’t Be Just One True Religion
  • How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
  • The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice
  • Science Has Disproved Christianity
  • The Knowledge of God
  • The (True) Story of the Cross
  • The Reality of the Resurrection

Many skeptics I have met haven’t investigated both sides of these issues. They “know” that science has disproved Christianity, or that religion is the root of most evil in the world, or that the resurrection didn’t happen. So why bother to dig any deeper? Case closed, and mind closed too.

On the other hand, many Christians, including those in this class I am teaching, have had to face the skepticism of the world towards Christianity. They have themselves asked the tough questions, and come through with their faith intact. Or perhaps for some, they are still asking the tough questions (that’s OK) and still seeking answers. In our discussion, I asked them to come up with a list of objections to Christianity, and they had no problems coming up with a rather comprehensive list. I also had them write down a list of evidences for the validity of Christianity, and they came up with a pretty good list there too.

Too many free-thinking, open-minded skeptics are content with a “Christians are ignorant morons” approach, and wouldn’t be able to come up with a comprehensive list of the reasons to believe.

I had a blast leading the discussion on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to going through the book with this group of people. My objectives are to build up the faith of the believers, and to equip them to give good answers to a world that has been misled into believing that there is something irrational about the Christian faith.

thereasonforgod.com

Grace and Peace

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 16 Comments

Albert Camus — evangelist?

From “Saved by an Atheist” by Rob Moll, who returned to faith in Christ in part through reading The Plague by Albert Camus:

Yet the biggest influence on my spiritual journey was the novels and philosophy of Albert Camus, a French existentialist of the 1940s and ’50s—and an atheist. C. S. Lewis warned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.
——————–
Though atheists may argue that the existence of a supreme being is impossible, their arguments often reveal a belief that God just doesn’t behave as they think he should.
——————–
Camus was right, I knew, and I, too, had plague. I was sick and in need of a Physician. Camus’ willingness to accept the truth that human beings are fallen allowed me to do the same. Camus held a mirror to my face—in a way that no pastor, preacher, or professor had—and I knew I needed salvation.
——————–
Certainly not all atheists lead readers to such Christian conclusions. And just as certainly, not every atheist writer deals as honestly with himself and with God as Camus. But, at their best, atheists show Christians how our teaching or our practice is failing our society.

In The Plague, Camus describes Father Paneloux, a priest who has no real answer to suffering but nevertheless thunders that the plague is God’s judgment on a wicked city. The epidemic is the fault of the people, he says, and it will remain until they repent. But Camus presents the death of a child as a counterargument: a good God would not punish an innocent child with such suffering.

The church’s inability to answer the problem of suffering is still atheists’ most common complaint against God, and it teaches us how we may be setting people up for spiritual disappointment and failure. Maybe the modern church puts too much emphasis on better living through God. Or perhaps we don’t adequately explain that God suffers with us and redeems our suffering without eliminating it. Whatever the cause, atheism remains an attractive worldview for those who have witnessed suffering or been in pain and can’t reconcile the idea of a good and powerful God with the reality of life on earth.
——————–
Atheists may have an arsenal of arguments against God or religion. But at heart, rejection of God seems not to be a purely logical choice against the possibility or desirability of God. Rather, it is often a rejection of God’s people. Atheism’s recent popularity should serve as a warning to us. Apologetics conferences and passionate rebuttals may have their place. Certainly we should be ready with reasons for our faith. But before we begin dueling on blogs and arming ourselves with television talking points, let’s learn to see atheists not as deniers of God, but as wrestlers with him. And let’s remember that their deepest arguments against belief are the people they’re arguing with.

Grace and Peace (from one who also has the plague)

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 1 Comment

Bumper sticker historical revisionism

A car at work has this bumper sticker:

The last time we mixed politics and religion people were burned at the stake

Ummmm… I think it has been over 300 years since anyone was burned at the stake in this country (a very unfortunate event in U.S. history). Since that time, mixing of politics and religion has led to some rather positive historical developments, such as the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement (this person has obviously not read much by Martin Luther King Jr.). We should be thankful that the leaders of these movements did not leave their Christianity at the doorstep when they entered the political realm.

The history of religion, including that of Christianity, has some rather dark pages. I cannot deny that. Atrocities and injustices in the name of Christianity, however, are inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and of the New Testament, and so do not invalidate Christianity, or the involvement of Christians in politics.

This sort of historical revisionism runs rampant in the writings of the “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps a better bumper sticker—one that is a little more accurate in terms of recent history—would be:

The last time we mixed politics and atheism people were sent to the gulag or executed

Grace and Peace

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Politics | , , | 7 Comments

Ongoing conversations — dinosaur eggs, and why I’m a Christian

I’m sort of caught between the young-Earth creationists on one side and the militant Dawkinsites on the other. I love them both: the YECs are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and Jesus loves the atheists, so I do too.

There are a couple of interesting conversations going on on some of my older posts:

  • A conversation about dinosaur eggs under Dinosaur footprints part 3.  Did stressed dinosaurs lay those eggs while swimming around in the flood?
  • A conversation about “How can you be a Christian and a scientist at the same time?” under Darwin’s birthday #2. I am having a dialog with some lengthy comments with an atheist who calls himself  Human Ape. He uses language like “Christians are uneducated morons” on his own blog, but has been mostly respectful in his comments on my blog.

Please feel free to join in.

Grace and Peace

July 8, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Nietzsche Mints

nihilist_mintsFrom ThinkGeek.com: Flavorless Nihilist Mints.

Sigh. Life is without meaning. It is bleak, empty, and anything we assign value to is completely false. We could say, for instance, that these Nihilist Mints symbolize that blankness of meaning, but then that would be a contradiction as we would be saying that Nihilist Mints mean something. They don’t. They are so bleak, they don’t even have flavor. Nihilist Mints are flavorless, just like life. Epic sigh.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Fun | , , | 38 Comments

More atheist quotes on Dawkins and the new atheists

Perhaps Richard Dawkins and the “new atheists” are to atheism as young-Earth creationists are to Christianity. Some atheists find the new atheists to be rather embarrassing.

Here are some quotes from a Marxist—and from what I can tell, atheist—literary critic by the name of Terry Eagleton:

“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

“He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap.”

“We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up.”

“Dawkins and Hitchens are equally theologically illiterate in their view of religion as a failed attempt to explain the world.”

The quotes are from an article in New Humanist: The Magazine for Free Thinkers. My take on someone who calls them self a “free thinker” is that they are in an intellectual ghetto without knowing it. They have ideas that they cannot entertain in their worldview; they have walls constructed around themselves that they cannot even see.

As a theist, it is easy to pick on the “new atheists” with their shallow reasoning, just as Dawkins picks on easy targets. But it is also necessary, as it is the new atheists who write the best-sellers.

HT: Cranach

I’ve quoted from Eagleton before: The new atheists: “primitive opposition to faith and reason”

Grace and Peace, and keep on believing

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics | , | 12 Comments

Atheist summer camp

From Albert Mohler: Richard Dawkins Jumps The Shark.

News out of Great Britain indicates that Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, is setting up a summer camp intended to help children and teenagers adopt atheism. As The Times [London] reports: “Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.”

The camp, based upon an American precursor, is to be financially subsidized by Dawkins. According to media reports, all 24 places at the camp have been taken.

As Lois Rogers of The Times reports:

Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war. There will also be a £10 prize for the child who can disprove the existence of the mythical unicorn.

The last sentence betrays the shallowness of Dawkinsism. The arguments for the existence of God are fundamentally different than the arguments one would use to prove the existence of unicorns. Some would say that Dawkins doesn’t know enough philosophy to see the difference.

Grace and Peace

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics | , | 1 Comment

The new atheists: summary of arguments

Rev. Cwirla, in his review of the Charlotte Allen article on atheism that I linked to in my previous post, summarizes the new atheist (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Myers, et al.) arguments as follows:

1.  The existence of God can’t be proven scientifically, therefore there is no God.

2.  Religious people do bad things, therefore there is no God.

3.  No one has yet to convince me there is a God, therefore there is no God.

4.  The world sucks, therefore there is no God.

5.  Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist, therefore there is no God.

Pretty good summary of the shallowness of modern atheism.

Go to Rev. Cwirla’s Blogosphere for his descriptions of the “Fab Five of pop atheism.”

Grace and Peace

HT: Cranach

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 47 Comments

The new atheists: “primitive opposition to faith and reason”

From the LA Times: Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining, by Charlotte Allen
Subtitle: Superstar atheists are motivated by anger — and boohoo victimhood.

Here are a few quotes:

I can’t stand atheists — but it’s not because they don’t believe in God. It’s because they’re crashing bores.

Other people, most recently the British cultural critic Terry Eagleton in his new book, “Faith, Reason, and Revolution,” take to task such superstar nonbelievers as Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (“The God Delusion”) and political journalist Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”) for indulging in a philosophically primitive opposition of faith and reason that assumes that if science can’t prove something, it doesn’t exist.

————————-

Maybe atheists wouldn’t be so unpopular if they stopped beating the drum until the hide splits on their second-favorite topic: How stupid people are who believe in God. This is a favorite Dawkins theme. In a recent interview with Trina Hoaks, the atheist blogger for the Examiner.com website, Dawkins described religious believers as follows: “They feel uneducated, which they are; often rather stupid, which they are; inferior, which they are; and paranoid about pointy-headed intellectuals from the East Coast looking down on them, which, with some justification, they do.” Thanks, Richard!

————————-

The problem with atheists — and what makes them such excruciating snoozes — is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God’s existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God’s omniscience with free will or God’s goodness with human suffering. Atheists seem to assume that the whole idea of God is a ridiculous absurdity, the “flying spaghetti monster” of atheists’ typically lame jokes. They think that lobbing a few Gaza-style rockets accusing God of failing to create a world more to their liking (“If there’s a God, why aren’t I rich?” “If there’s a God, why didn’t he give me two heads so I could sleep with one head while I get some work done with the other?”) will suffice to knock down the entire edifice of belief.

What primarily seems to motivate atheists isn’t rationalism but anger — anger that the world isn’t perfect, that someone forced them to go to church as children, that the Bible contains apparent contradictions, that human beings can be hypocrites and commit crimes in the name of faith. The vitriol is extraordinary. Hitchens thinks that “religion spoils everything.” Dawkins contends that raising one’s offspring in one’s religion constitutes child abuse. Harris argues that it “may be ethical to kill people” on the basis of their beliefs.

Read the entire editorial here.

Grace and Peace

HT: Cranach

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 3 Comments

Conversations in progress

I’ve had a number of good comments in the past month on the following posts. Feel free to join in.

Dr. Dino still in prison — I consider the teachings of Kent Hovind (“Dr. Dino”) to be anti-apologetics that has no place in our churches and Christian schools. Not everyone agrees.

Augustine and Darwin — Allister McGrath ponders how Augustine would have thought about evolution. Or does McGrath get it all wrong?

Not quite so bright — Some of the “new atheists” like to call themselves “brights,” but I find them less than illuminating.

Grace and Peace

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Not quite so bright — part 2

Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse rips into the best-selling author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins:

“It is not that the atheists are having a field day because of the brilliance and novelty of their thinking. Frankly — and I speak here as a nonbeliever myself, pretty atheistic about Christianity and skeptical about all theological claims — the material being churned out is second rate. And that is a euphemism for “downright awful.”

————————————-

“It is simply that it (and the other works, some of which I have gone after elsewhere) is not very good. For a start, Dawkins is brazen in his ignorance of philosophy and theology (not to mention the history of science).”

————————————-

“Dawkins misunderstands the place of the proofs, but this is nothing to his treatment of the proofs themselves. This is a man truly out of his depth.”

Many read Dawkins’ works with a blind faith that the guy knows what he is talking about. It just isn’t so.

Ruse’s book review is in Isis, December 2007, 98(4), 814-816

I got the quotes from the Isis article from www.arn.org.

Grace and Peace

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | Leave a comment

Not quite so bright

Some of the vocal “new atheists, ” such as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) like to refer to themselves as “Brights.” Not everyone thinks these guys are all that bright, at least when it comes to their arguments against Christianity and theism. Dawkin’s arguments against theism have been criticized as being amateurish and sophomoric, not only by Christians, but even by other atheists. Here are some excerpts from a review of atheist Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. The review was written by Andrew O’Hehir and appears at Solon.com.

Yet their [Dawkins and Hitchens] arguments are fatally undermined by their own unacknowledged dogmas and doctrines, he goes on to say, and they completely fail to understand Christian faith (or any other kind) except in its stupidest and most literal-minded form.

A few years ago, I read an article by a Roman Catholic theologian who wryly observed that the quality of Western atheism had gone steadily downhill since Nietzsche. Eagleton heartily concurs. He freely admits that what Christian doctrine teaches about the universe and the fate of man may not be true, or even plausible. But as he then puts it, “Critics of the most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.”

Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens, Eagleton insists, are playing to the high-minded liberal-humanist prejudices of their elite audience and, in the process, are displaying a shocking ignorance of their supposed subject, one that would be deemed unacceptable in almost any other intellectual forum. Would anyone be permitted to write a book about courtly love in the Middle Ages based on several visits to a Renaissance Faire, or a book about Nazism based on episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes”?

————————————————————

Still, he is incontestably correct about two things: There is a long Judeo-Christian theological tradition that bears no resemblance to the caricature of religious faith found in Ditchkins [Ditchkins = Dawkins + Hitchens], and atheists tend to take the most degraded and superstitious forms of religion as representative.

There is a richness and depth to Christian theology and philosophy that Dawkins et al. haven’t even touched.

HT: Cruchy Con

Grace and Peace

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , , | 18 Comments

Christian to atheist to Christian

“Materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.” — A.N. Wilson, former atheist

Writer A.N. Wilson had a “Damascus Road” conversion to atheism, and then a slow climb back to Christianity.

His conversion back to Christianity was based on:

  • Historical apologetics — the reality of the empty tomb; the perseverance of the apostles in the face of persecution.
  • The lives of Christians — he speaks of Bonhoeffer in the face of Nazi imprisonment, T.S. Eliot, Dostoevsky.
  • Uniquely human attributes — music, love, language.

Here are some quotes from an article in the New Statesman:

This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi’s own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

—————————————————-

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

—————————————————-

[Language, music, and love] convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

And here are some quotes from MailOnline: Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity:

For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.

Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.

Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

—————————————————-

My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.

Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block.  [...]  But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known – not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.

The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.

Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love – whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends – and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.

—————————————————-

Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic. Nor is it irrational. On the contrary, it meets our reason and our hearts together, for it addresses the whole person.

In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it.

Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman Empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.

—————————————————-

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

HT: Cyberbrethren, Crunchy Con

Grace and Peace

P.S. Christianity Today also has reported on A.N. Wilson’s journey.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 1 Comment

The foolishness of our own atheism

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” — Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

I believe that atheism is foolish. I read statements by the prominent “new atheists” like Hitchens and Dawkins and think, “how silly.” Whether their arguments are philosophical, historical, or ethical, I find them to be far from sufficient to explain away the necessity of God. I’m not saying I have an easy answer for each and every argument they bring up, but I’m not too concerned about that at the moment.

What I am more concerned about is the practical atheism that pops up in my own soul. I am a convinced Christian and  I can do a decent job of defending the existence of God, the truthfulness of Scriptures, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. But when I neglect prayer, am I not living on a practical level as if there were no God? When I live in fear—whether it be fear of continuing unemployment or fear of what others think of me—am I not living as if there were no God? When I deliberately choose my own way rather than God’s way, am I not living as if there were no God?

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” — Mark 9:24 (NIV)

Grace and Peace


I have been thinking about this concept of the practical atheism of Christians for some time, and was prompted to write about it by this article in Christianity Today: Where to Find the Real Atheists by Mark Galli.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Ethics | | 7 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 144 other followers