Around the web 9/14/2013

LETS MAKE A DEAL? — A lot of atheists like of Richard Dawkins; many others find him to be an embarrassment (here and here). A lot of Christians like ____________; many others find him to be an embarrassment. Rachel Held Evans suggests that both Christians and atheists stop using silly statements from the other side as representative of that side:

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole. So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

I want (and often achieve) respectful dialog with atheists. The problem is that there are plenty of atheists out there who listen to Richard Dawkins (and end up sounding like comment #8 in my post on the cosmological argument) , just as there are plenty of Christians out there who listen to silly, unbiblical statements from ____________.

A better solution would be to continue to critique the belligerent and often middle-schoolish arguments of some of the “new atheists” but to not lump all atheists in with them.

FORGIVENESS FOR ATHEISTS? — Pope Francis also wants respectful dialog with atheists: Pope Francis tells atheists to ‘obey their conscience.’  What’s missing from the Pope’s statement on forgiveness for atheists? Jesus. That is why I’m a Protestant.

VOYAGER 1 OUT OF SOLAR SYSTEM? — I guess it is hard to say what really defines the edge of the solar system, but NASA scientists think Voyager 1 has finally crossed the line (CNN — Voyager 1 becomes first human-made object to leave solar system). It is past the Kuiper belt (sort of a second asteroid belt out past Neptune), but nowhere near being past the hypothetical Oort cloud.

One of the most amazing things is that we can detect signals from the Voyager probes as they approach 20 billion kilometers away from Earth. Here’s the description of the signal from the NASA/JPL Voyager page:

The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level.

GEO WRESTLING – I missed this when it was posted, but better late than never. J.W. Wartick summarizes a debate between Gregg Davidson (old-Earth Christian geologist) and Andrew Snelling (YEC geologist for Answers in Genesis) — Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth. The debate occurred at the November 2012 meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Snelling is probably the world’s leading YEC geologist, and is better at his geology than most YECs, but he is still trying to fit the square peg of YEC flood geology into the round hole of geological reality. I discussed his arguments for flood geology a few years ago: Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis.

DID THE ASTRO-FROG CROAK? — Probably. CNN’s report on Rocket frog takes a flying leap tells the story.

STEALTHY SKYSCRAPER? — Is building an invisible skyscraper near a busy international airport really a good idea? Read about it at World’s first ‘invisible’ tower.

Grace and Peace

6 thoughts on “Around the web 9/14/2013

  1. Charles Kankelborg

    @geochristian: “What’s missing from the Pope’s statement on forgiveness for atheists? Jesus.”

    Actually, Jesus was missing from the story in the Washington Post, not from the Pope’s letter:
    That’s why I read your blog more often than I read the Washington Post :)

    I’m a protestant too, but not because I think the Pope lacks a Christocentric focus. Francis mentions Jesus 31 times in his short letter to La Repubblica. My perception is that the popes I’ve seen in my own lifetime (John-Paul, Benedict, and Francis) have been interested in Jesus above everything else. I disagree with the Roman church on matters of theology and piety that I find important enough to influence how I live and worship. For that reason I could not be a practicing Catholic, yet I view Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ. I trust that you do too, at least to the extent that we are admonished to “love one another”, and by that be known as disciples of Jesus.


  2. geochristian


    I read the pope’s letter as well, and yes, he did mention Jesus. But as I recall it was more of Jesus as an example or Jesus as a law-giver than Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. Overall I like this pope, though some of his statements, such as this one on atheists, make it sound like it is being a good person that justifies one before God, regardless of whether one has faith in Christ.

    There are things I admire in the Roman Catholic church, such as continuity, rootedness, and a sense of aesthetics, which are lacking in most of Evangelicalism. To dismiss Catholics as non-Christians is to write off three-quarters of church history and close to half of professing Christians in the world, and I cannot do that. To do so would be to fall into an error committed by the Mormons, who claim that the true church completely disappeared shortly after the apostolic age and didn’t reappear until their prophet showed up. I believe that believing RCs are saved by grace alone through faith alone just like any other Christian is. We are saved by faith (imperfect faith) in Christ, not by faith in faith, nor faith in our doctrine of justification.


  3. Charles Kankelborg

    “I believe that believing RCs are saved by grace alone through faith alone just like any other Christian is. We are saved by faith (imperfect faith) in Christ, not by faith in faith, nor faith in our doctrine of justification.”

    I can only say amen to that.

    The sacrificial nature of the atonement is not made explicit in Francis’ letter, though he does indicate that Jesus’ death on the cross is pivotal to his faith. He emphasizes Jesus’ obedience in this act, which is indeed critical to the Catholic way of explaining how Jesus’ sacrifice leads to atonement (see, e.g., If Francis does not really believe that Jesus paid the price for our sins, then he’s made a radical break with historic Catholic theology. I guess we’ll find out.

    The distinctions between Catholic and Protestant understandings of atonement and Justification, while important, are more subtle than the average Christian’s understanding of either. But if I try to pursue this point farther than this, I’ll only manage to reveal what a poor theologian I am. Thanks be to God that imperfect faith, offered in humility, is acceptable to him.

    Back to doing physics I guess :)


  4. geochristian

    My motto back when I taught high school physics was “Physics is Phun,” so have fun.

    I agree there are subtleties in the doctrine of Justification that most of us miss or misunderstand. I think even the best theologians are in a sense poor theologians, but even theologians are saved only by the grace of God. As Martin Luther said on his deathbed, “Wir sind alle Bettler” (“We are all beggars”).


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