Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Do Religious People Have Shaky Foundations?

January 2, 2015

Are you standing on shaky ground if you’re a theist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, an article showed up at Salon.com by John Messerly. In it, the author claims that those who are religious have a shaky foundation for what they believe in and was trying to explain the religious mind. Naturally, I saw no citation of people who would consider themselves religious to ask why we really believe what we believe and think what we think. I have no doubt that many do so for flimsy and superficial reasons. I have spent much time at this blog condemning such a mindset. (You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!) I’ve long said our intellectual foundations need to be strong and we need to wrestle with the big questions of life.

The article starts by pointing to a survey stating that 14% of professional philosophers are theists. However, I do think the data is not really as conclusive. Nearly 2,000 faculty members at various institutions were asked what they thought and less than half of that number actually responded. That means more than half of them did not respond and that’s out of only the number surveyed. What institutions were asked as well?

For instance, let’s suppose that there was a survey sent to the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university. There you’ll find Alvin Plantinga. Do you think you’ll find others like him there who are theists? Absolutely. It’s not a shock that many Christian philosophers might want to teach at Christian seminaries because they want to educate fellow Christians. Were such institutions excluded? If so, could that also not just as much show a bias? Does that mean you should only examine Christian institutions? Absolutely not! Examine all of them.

So right at the start, color me suspicious. I want to see more data.

What about the claim that 7% of the National Academy of Sciences are theists? Rob Bowman in an excellent article answering Victor Stenger nearly a year ago said the following about that:

“Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.”

So again, we have the same sort of problem. If you have a good ol’ boys association, they can choose who gets in and gets out and can conclude that real scientists aren’t theists so don’t accept them. We are regularly told how Christians do this at Seminaries and such where you have to have such and such beliefs to get in the door. Does it seem ludicrous to think other people could do the same thing?

Messerly is certainly right when he says this doesn’t say anything about the truth of theism or atheism, but it could cause believers discomfort. But why? Is this supposed to be something we don’t know? For those of us who are Christians, we expect people today to not accept the Gospel just as has often been the norm. Messerly attributes the disbelief to a rise in modern science as well as claims that the traditional theistic arguments don’t work.

Well both of those need to be shown rather than just asserted.

For instance, if we are told science has disproven theism, then how? When was this done? What branch of science did it? What experiment? Can we point to a conclusive date? Now someone might ask me if science has proven theism. Absolutely not. This is not the realm of science. I happen to agree with Francis Beckwith. Science can provide interesting data and it is useful in many areas, but it is not the final arbiter on the theism debate. The arguments I use for believing in God and establishing His existence do not depend on modern science. Suppose tomorrow an eternal universe is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt,. So what? My arguments are safe. Suppose evolution is shown to be false beyond the shadow of a doubt tomorrow. So what? My arguments are safe.

Science however does make sense in a Christian context. If there’s a rational God behind the world establishing order and acting with purpose, we can expect to find his purpose. This is why so many of the scientists in the Middle Ages and beyond were Christians and never saw a conflict between Christianity and science. The supposed warfare between science and religion has been a myth foisted on us by post-enlightenment thinkers. James Hannam gives an excellent look at this myth here. You can also listen to my interview with him here.

I know a lot of atheist readers are ready to scream “Bias” at this point. If so, because a lot of them like to look at supposed bias instead of looking at the data, then how about Tim O’Neill? How does his bio on his page describe him?

“Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard.”

How about also a book edited by the agnostic Ronald Numbers that deals with many of these bogus claims as well? That would be Galileo Goes To Jail.

Now if Messerly meanwhile wants to say theistic arguments have failed, okay. How about listing them and going through them? How about pointing to references that show where this has happened? Peter Boghossian has done the same thing in his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. On page 28, he says all the arguments have been refuted. Demonstration? None. The endnote he gives points to no works on the topic at all. It’s simply a statement of faith.

Which at this point is all Messerly has given.

So now we get to how to explain religious belief, and right at the get-go there’s a problem here. What is religion exactly? Does Messerly ever define it? Not at all.

So what is it? Is it something that believes in God? Does anyone want to say classical Buddhism which denies a creator is a religion? It is hard to think of something that all religions would have in common, except perhaps ethical practice, which atheists today regularly say they follow. In America, atheists even have 501c3’s for their organizations, just like various religious groups do. Could we consider atheism a religion?

If Messerly wants to say religion is problematic for smart people, it would be smart of him to tell us what exactly religion is.

But alas, it looks like Messerly has already concluded without sufficient evidence that theism is just not held by smart people so let’s treat it like an anomaly and see how it arose. Maybe it arose because people wanted social cohesion!

So let’s get this straight. Atheists that tell us how often it is that people have been killed in the name of religion and how many wars have supposedly been fought in the name of religion want to tell us that people believe in religion because it helped to provide social unity?

Chesterton wrote years ago on how Christianity was blamed for different things. It was blamed for being too pacifist by people and then it was blamed for being too aggressive and hungry for war. It was blamed for people wanting to attribute money and wealth and it was blamed for keeping us in poverty. When Christianity was blamed for both ends, Chesterton started wondering how this was possible. It was looking at Christianity then that got him to come to Christ. He would say he became a Christian based on reading the skeptics of Christianity.

Let’s also look at the three great monotheistic systems.

Judaism came first. Judaism is said to have committed genocide on the Canaanites, (though that can be disputed) and was seen as an anomaly in the Roman world. The only reason it was granted any leeway was because it was an old belief. Christianity comes next. Christians could have cohesion with themselves, but the rest of society saw them as deviant. In fact, Judaism itself saw them that way. If they wanted to create a belief for social cohesion, they went entirely wrong with that one!

And how about Islam? Islam was also deviant at the start. Why was Muhammad rejected at first? What provided the unity? Muhammad went to war and there were great benefits for being a Muslim then. You got wealth and women for instance. Now don’t we think most men would like to have those things? But do we see Islam today really providing the social unity that we see? If you want to say that people of like mind establish unity with one another, sure, but this also happens in atheist churches, which do exist, and we could say it can happen in anti-theistic scientific communities. One does not need a religion for social cohesion.

How about coming up with deities to explain natural causes? What would be good for this is if we have some evidence that this was so instead of a just-so story. (It’s amazing that those who scream for evidence so much seem to think they’re excluded from it.) Why should I think that god was made to fill in the gaps? Why not think that people were theistic at the start? Since we have found so many remnants of ancient practices that were theistic or polytheistic or animistic, shouldn’t we consider that that was the original belief? What about the work of scholars in this area like Win Corduan that also argue that monotheism was the original belief?

But alas, if you are looking for evidence for Messerly’s position, you will be waiting for awhile. It’s just a look at the start that say “The really smart people are the ones that agree with me and they say you’re wrong so now we’ll just study why you believe the way you do.” You kind of get the idea that religious people, again whatever those are, are being treated like lab rats whose strange views must be explained.

Messerly also wants to say that much of what is believed in religious circles is influenced by where we are born. This is true. Of course, many non-religious beliefs are also affected. You are more likely to believe in evolution if you grew up in the modern west than if you grow up an Aborigine in Australia. If you grow up an Eskimo, you are quite likely to believe that whale blubber is extremely healthy for you. If you grow up in a Christian culture, you are more likely to believe ethical statements like “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We could ask is it possible that if you grow up in a society that believes strongly in social conditioning, could not then be socially conditioned to believe that beliefs rise up from social conditioning? How does that belief not refute itself? Note again I do agree you are more likely to believe X if you grow up in a culture that teaches X. That says nothing about whether X is true or not and that applies to non-religious beliefs as well. Why should religious beliefs be treated differently? My same parents who taught me about Jesus also taught me about mathematics and the value of reading and the moral system that I hold to. They taught me the world really exists and that it is not an illusion and that evil is a reality in the world. Should I reject all those other beliefs as well?

We’re also told religion could result from a lack of a good social safety net. Yet how would this follow? It again never occurs to people that religious belief could develop for intellectual reasons. This is especially so since so many of us are screaming out that we believe in God for intellectual reasons. The reply is “Be quiet! That can’t be the answer! We want to find out why you really believe! We’ve already decided it’s not intellectual!” Atheistic presuppositionalism at its finest.

Interestingly, we are also told religious belief is responsible for social dysfunction resulting in homicides, incarcerations, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, STD’s, abortions, etc. Now this is quite amazing. We are told that religion is there for social cohesion and in the same article we are told that it causes social dysfunction. Once again we have the paradox of Chesterton taking place.

The reference cited in the article contains a number of straw men, including the idea that it’s important to point out that atheists can be moral without believing in God. It gets so tiring to see this straw man. I don’t know a single Christian intellectual that has argued that belief in God is necessary to be moral. We have in fact all argued against it and said that this is not the statement. It is being said instead that God provides a necessary foundation for moral truths and this is so whether one believes in Him or not. If God is real and God is necessary for moral truths to be real, then that is so. Those moral truths can still exist and be observed if one does not believe in God. In fact, Romans 2 and other passages like it make it clear that those who do not know God still have the moral law written on their hearts. Knowledge of God is not necessary for the knowledge of moral truths.

But if he wants evidence of what Christians are doing differently, he can see this piece by Brian Stewart.

As for other countries, many of these still have a Christian background. Perhaps the government is not religious, but the government is not the culture. What we need to see is what’s going to happen more and more when the background is removed and how will the country be in comparison to where it was. For saying America is a religious country, why should I really think that? Many pay lip service to Christianity here for instance, but is it really followed? Perhaps we should compare to societies in the past where Christianity was taken seriously and see what their crime rates and such were like.

We’re also told believers in scientific ideas don’t take public opinion polls to see if their beliefs are true. I would like to know though who the religious people are that determine if a religion is true by looking at public opinion polls. If I saw a poll that indicated belief in Scientology was rapidly increasing in America, does that mean I’m jumping on the Scientology bandwagon? Not at all. I need the data. For someone who is stating about not needing polls to defend a belief, why is it that he’s pointing to polls of the NAS and polls of professional philosophers and a poll indicating more people believe in the virgin birth than biological evolution?

We are told science attests to its own truth. It works. Why yes. Yes indeed.

Science works!
That’s a photo of Hiroshima after the bombing. Note that that took place in Japan which the article cited stated had very little Christian influence and Christianity is in the minority and that’s the country we were at war with. Was it a religious war? Hardly. Still, we dropped the bomb and you know what? The bomb worked! It caused the devastation it was meant to. I’m not arguing whether it was the right or wrong decision. I’m just arguing that it worked.

Did “religious people” fly the planes into 9/11. Yes. Atheists could just as easily have done the same. We could just as well say science still works when Mengele performs his twisted experiments on Jews. Science is a tool and it can be used for good or for evil. In the hands of the good, it can do tremendously good things, and this includes good people who are religious. In the hands of the evil, it can do greatly evil things, and this includes non-religious people who are evil.

Note also that for many of us who are religious per se, the claim has never been that we believe in Christianity because it works. The concept doesn’t even make sense. Works for what? Is it meant to make us good people? It does that, but that’s not the purpose. We believe in Christianity because it’s true. Interestingly, Messerly himself in the same paragraph drops this little gem.

“The simplest answer is that people believe what they want to, what they find comforting, not what the evidence supports: In general, people don’t want to know; they want to believe. This best summarizes why people tend to believe.”

Why should Messerly be excluded?

I could argue it could be very comforting to some people to know that there is not a God who is going to judge them one day. It could be comforting to know you don’t have to risk exclusion from intellectual circles for believing in a deity. Because of that then, you can dismiss the claims of evidence (You know, like saying that the arguments are unconvincing without telling why and making claims like science has disproven theism without providing evidence) and go on with your life.

Maybe Messerly wants to believe that there is no higher power and wants to believe he is one of the intellectual elite. Why not?

Let’s suppose Messerly replies saying I believe in God because I want to believe in Him. Okay. That’s false, but let’s suppose it was true. If I give intellectual arguments, how does pointing to insincere motives disprove the argument? The argument works or it doesn’t. Let’s suppose there is an atheist who wants to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle and in doing so, knows he needs to exclude God, so he argues for evolution because he wrongly thinks that if he demonstrates evolution, then he has proven God does not exist.

Would it disprove evolution if any of us said “Well see here now! You do not believe in God because you want to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. Your arguments are invalid because you are believing what you want to believe because of emotional reasons.” Not at all. This is the old weak excuse of bias. The atheist could have all the bias in the world and his argument could still be true.

But people like Messerly like to point to insincere motives because it just blows their mind to think that people could believe on the basis of evidence.

So what else do we have? I think it’s important to quote this next section entirely.

“Why, then, do some highly educated people believe religious claims? First, smart persons are good at defending ideas that they originally believed for non-smart reasons. They want to believe something, say for emotional reasons, and they then become adept at defending those beliefs. No rational person would say there is more evidence for creation science than biological evolution, but the former satisfies some psychological need for many that the latter does not. How else to explain the hubris of the philosopher or theologian who knows little of biology or physics yet denies the findings of those sciences? It is arrogant of those with no scientific credentials and no experience in the field or laboratory, to reject the hard-earned knowledge of the science. Still they do it. (I knew a professional philosopher who doubted both evolution and climate science but believed he could prove that the Christian God must take a Trinitarian form! Surely something emotional had short-circuited his rational faculties.)”

A number of us can come to beliefs for non-smart reasons at the start. Suppose you believe in heliocentrism and your reason is your parents told you so. That would hardly be an intellectual reason, but then you later study astronomy and find more reasons to believe in heliocentrism. That you find later reasons for a belief you held as a child for less than stellar reasons is not a proof that you held the belief falsely.

Second, this also doesn’t explain how many people come to believe in God later on after a search and that is one based on finding evidence. What of people like Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Colson, Francis Collins, and others?

Messerly writes of the hubris of those who know little of biology and physics and yet denies the findings of those sciences. Sure. That’s a problem. Those who don’t know those areas should not argue them. What of the atheist who knows little of history and philosophy and argues Christ-mythicism and says philosophical theistic arguments do not work? Should I accept Richard Dawkins as an authority on history or philosophy? Not at all, yet how many atheists eat up his work on the topic and pass it off as Gospel?

This hubris works both ways. The difference is I’m willing to leave areas of science to those who study science. Would that atheists would return the compliment! Practically every NT scholar and ancient historian out there says it’s certain Jesus existed, yet how many atheists tout out his non-existence regularly on the internet and instead point to those who are seen as the fringe. (If you want to say ID is the fringe, you must be fair and do the same with Christ-mythicism.)

Messerly then points to a professional philosopher who doubts evolution and climate change but is convinced that he can show God must be Trinitarian. Okay. Who is he? What were his reasons for thinking such? Messerly does not tell us. Is it a crime to ask questions of biological evolution? What kind did he doubt? Did he doubt evolution without any guiding hand whatsoever? As for climate change, there are plenty today who do doubt climate change. It’s not written in stone. Meanwhile, perhaps theism is a specialty area of his. Should Messerly not follow his own advice and listen to someone who is a professional in this area? It is quite amusing to hear Messerly argue that one should listen to the professionals and then disregard a professional and claim that there must be some emotional reason. Does he give any evidence for this? Nope. It just must be there.

Could it be Messerly is just believing what he wants to believe instead of really looking at the evidence?

The next reason?

Second, the proclamations of educated believers are not always to be taken at face value. Many don’t believe religious claims but think them useful. They fear that in their absence others will lose a basis for hope, morality or meaning. These educated believers may believe that ordinary folks can’t handle the truth. They may feel it heartless to tell parents of a dying child that their little one doesn’t go to a better place. They may want to give bread to the masses, like Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.”

This must be it! They’re just lying! They don’t believe the claims are true. The claims are just useful! We cannot take their words at face value.

Yes. That’s a great attitude to have. Enter the debate assuming your opponent must be lying about what he believes! He has deep emotional reasons! Okay. Let’s do that.

Messerly has deep emotional reasons for not wanting theism to be true. I do not know what these are, but hey, who needs evidence? Now he can say all he wants to that this is not so, but we cannot take his words at face value! He might present a lot of arguments, but we must realize those can’t be taken at face value because those arguments were made after the fact and are just written to support what he already believes. Truly we must study Messerly and find out what the deep emotional reason he has for not supporting theism is.

Would anyone accept this? Doubtful. Should anyone? Hopefully not. Yet this is exactly what Messerly has done. He has chosen to think that it’s more probable that people like me are lying about what we say and should not be taken at face value.

Gotta love that kind of attitude.

The next reason is control. One does not want to look bad in the face of others.

Because, dude, we all know the totally cool thing in our American society today is to say you’re a Christian! Don’t you know how awesomely we are treated? I mean, look at how respectfully we’re treated on American television and in movies. Look at how we’re proclaimed as the champions of tolerance and reason! Society just so regularly goes out and celebrates Christianity.

I wonder what color the sky is in Messerly’s world because he sure isn’t living in mine.

Moving on….

Third, when sophisticated thinkers claim to be religious, they often have something in mind unlike what the general populace believes. They may be process theologians who argue that god is not omnipotent, contains the world, and changes. They may identify god as an anti-entropic force pervading the universe leading it to higher levels of organization. They may be pantheists, panentheists, or death-of-god theologians. Yet these sophisticated varieties of religious belief bear little resemblance to popular religion. The masses would be astonished to discover how far such beliefs deviate from their theism.”

Once again, the person is not being honest. Now of course, Messerly has not defined what religious is, but perhaps the person is really a process theologian or a pantheist. Of course, these are the “sophisticated” versions of religious belief. (It’s so nice of Messerly to tell us what is and isn’t sophisticated isn’t it?) Messerly just can’t bring himself to say “Some people do believe in a monotheistic God for intellectual reasons.” There HAS to be something else. There just HAS to be.

“But we shouldn’t be deceived. Although there are many educated religious believers, including some philosophers and scientists, religious belief declines with educational attainment, particularly with scientific education. Studies also show that religious belief declines among those with higher IQs. Hawking, Dennett and Dawkins are not outliers, and neither is Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.”

So let’s get this straight. If you go to an institution of higher education where atheism is normally taught, then lo and behold, you become an atheist. This from the same person who said that religion is socially conditioned. Is it not possible that atheism could be conditioned just as much and that by intelligentsia? If you say intelligent people don’t believe in God and then exclude those who do and don’t let them teach at such institutions, what a shock that such institutions produce atheists!

This just in. Catholic Universities have a tendency to produce graduates who believe in God! Seminaries have a tendency to produce graduates that are theists! Shocking! Details at 11!

Instead, we get an appeal to popularity with people with higher IQs. Naturally, these are atheists. Again, what about people like Polkinghorne or Swinburne or McGrath or Collins? Do these people just not count? It’s really easy to make the game work in your favor when you decide what evidence you will include and only mention smart people who don’t believe in God.

“Or consider this anecdotal evidence. Among the intelligentsia it is common and widespread to find individuals who lost childhood religious beliefs as their education in philosophy and the sciences advanced. By contrast, it is almost unheard of to find disbelievers in youth who came to belief as their education progressed. This asymmetry is significant; advancing education is detrimental to religious belief. This suggest another part of the explanation for religious belief—scientific illiteracy.”

Anecdotal evidence. Now if a believer stands up and gives a personal testimony, that’s anecdotal and not accepted, but when an atheist stands up and gives a personal testimony of how he abandoned theism and came to be an atheist, that is not anecdotal and that works. It looks like many atheists just can’t seem to escape a “religious” mindset and want to give a a personal testimony. All Messerly needed after this section was a YouTube clip of “Just as I am” for all ready to deconvert.

And as for scientific illiteracy, yes. We can be sure that Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and John Polkinghorne must simply be scientifically illiterate. Could it be the problem of atheism is that too many atheists are philosophically and historically illiterate? Why assume that science is the supreme arbiter? Has Messerly given any argument for that?

“If we combine reasonable explanations of the origin of religious beliefs and the small amount of belief among the intelligentsia with the problematic nature of beliefs in gods, souls, afterlives or supernatural phenomena generally, we can conclude that (supernatural) religious beliefs are probably false. And we should remember that the burden of proof is not on the disbeliever to demonstrate there are no gods, but on believers to demonstrate that there areBelievers are not justified in affirming their belief on the basis of another’s inability to conclusively refute them, any more than a believer in invisible elephants can command my assent on the basis of my not being able to “disprove” the existence of the aforementioned elephants. If the believer can’t provide evidence for a god’s existence, then I have no reason to believe in gods.”

Of course, we naturally have the natural/supernatural dichotomy, a belief some of us question. Interestingly, the same article that says that these polls do not indicate the truth of a belief system and that scientists don’t go to polls to establish belief, has now used those same polls and said that religious belief is probably false. It’s just so amusing to see this take place.

Naturallythere’s the claim that the burden of proof is on the believer always. Why should this be so? How about this bizarre idea? Anyone who makes a claim should have a burden of backing it. If I make a claim of theism and can’t demonstrate it, that does not prove theism is false, which is the claim that Messerly is making. If he makes the claim of atheism and cannot back it, does that prove theism is true? Nope.

Oh. He might be tempted to say that atheism is not about denying God but rather is a lack of God-belief. Not going to work.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Of course, the burden of proof argument is one too many atheists like to make so they can make the theists do all the work and feel justified at the end of the day since they don’t have to put forward actual arguments. Thankfully, there are atheists who do not accept this, but on the internet, they are too often in the minority. The simple solution is that anyone who makes any claim has the obligation to back that claim.

“In response to the difficulties with providing reasons to believe in things unseen, combined with the various explanations of belief, you might turn to faith. It is easy to believe something without good reasons if you are determined to do so—like the queen in “Alice and Wonderland” who “sometimes … believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” But there are problems with this approach. First, if you defend such beliefs by claiming that you have a right to your opinion, however unsupported by evidence it might be, you are referring to a political or legal right, not an epistemic one. You may have a legal right to say whatever you want, but you have epistemic justification only if there are good reasons and evidence to support your claim. If someone makes a claim without concern for reasons and evidence, we should conclude that they simply don’t care about what’s true. We shouldn’t conclude that their beliefs are true because they are fervently held.”

Of course, one wonders what things unseen are being talked about since many of us believe in things unseen. I believe in triangularity. I have never seen it. I have seen examples of triangularity in triangles, but I have never seen triangularity itself. I have never seen morality or goodness itself. I have seen things that are good and moral, but not goodness and morality. I have never seen numbers. I have never seen existence itself. I have seen things that exist, but never existence. I have also never seen laws of nature. I have seen things acting according to so-called laws of nature, but I have not seen the laws themselves.

Is Messerly a total nominalist?

But yet, Messerly again goes to faith, a favorite canard of skeptics. Does he show any understanding of faith? Nope. He just assumes his definition. Meanwhile, some of us have a counter-definition of faith. Messerly assumes that it is belief without reason or evidence, but this is a nonsense claim. No one can truly believe anything without reason or evidence. It could be poor reason or insufficient evidence or some other combination, but it is still some reason and some evidence.

“Another problem is that fideism—basing one’s beliefs exclusively on faith—makes belief arbitrary, leaving no way to distinguish one religious belief from another. Fideism allows no reason to favor your preferred beliefs or superstitions over others. If I must accept your beliefs without evidence, then you must accept mine, no matter what absurdity I believe in. But is belief without reason and evidence worthy of rational beings? Doesn’t it perpetuate the cycle of superstition and ignorance that has historically enslaved us? I agree with W.K. Clifford. “It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Why? Because your beliefs affect other people, and your false beliefs may harm them.”

Yes. The cycle of superstition and ignorance. It’s so amusing that those who complain about emotional reasons for belief often give their own emotional reasons. Could Messerly point to this time of superstition and ignorance? Will he use the Dark Ages myth dealt with already in the links above?

“The counter to Clifford’s evidentialism has been captured by thinkers like Blaise Pascal, William James, and Miguel de Unamuno. Pascal’s famous dictum expresses: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” William James claimed that reason can’t resolve all issues and so we are sometimes justified believing ideas that work for us. Unamuno searched for answers to existential questions, counseling us to abandon rationalism and embrace faith. Such proposals are probably the best the religious can muster, but if reason can’t resolve our questions then agnosticism, not faith, is required.”

Of course, the people he cites as responding to Clifford first off, have all been dead for decades so he points to no contemporary replies, and in fact, Pascal had been dead long before Clifford was even born. How was Pascal replying to Clifford then? Pascal was hardly anti-evidence either. He did base a lot on a personal experience, but he was also a champion of reasoning and a genius in his time with many inventions including in the area of mathematics. To base all of Pascal’s arguments on one statement of his is frankly dishonest.

Messerly also says these statements are probably the best religious people can muster. Probably the best? Probably? How about going out and actually interviewing people who are “religious” and intellectual and even believe in monotheistic deities, you know, those less sophisticated forms of religion, and see why it is that they believe what they believe? How about reading their works and grappling with their arguments?

But for someone like Messerly, this is not required. Just pull up three different people and assume that represents the whole of theistic defense and then say that’s the best. There is no interaction with an Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig or Richard Swinburne or Edward Feser. Could it be that an anti-religious person like Messerly is just comforting himself with what he wants to believe. For someone who says you should not believe based on insufficient evidence, and he’s totally right in that by the way, it looks like he gathered insufficient evidence to believe what he believes about religious people.

Like too many of the anti-religious, it is foreign to the mind of Messerly to talk to modern scholars in the field who actually hold to theistic belief and ask them why they believe. Of course, if he did, he would just say he couldn’t take what they say at face value anyway so he always has an out.

“Besides, faith without reason doesn’t satisfy most of us, hence our willingness to seek reasons to believe. If those reasons are not convincing, if you conclude that religious beliefs are untrue, then religious answers to life’s questions are worthless. You might comfort yourself by believing that little green dogs in the sky care for you but this is just nonsense, as are any answers attached to such nonsense. Religion may help us in the way that whisky helps a drunk, but we don’t want to go through life drunk. If religious beliefs are just vulgar superstitions, then we are basing our lives on delusions. And who would want to do that?”

If religious answers are untrue, yes. They’re worthless. So it is also with non-religious answers. If they’re not true, they’re worthless. Yet it is those of us who are said to be “religious” who need to comfort ourselves. Could I not just say that Messerly writes a piece like he does because he needs to get social approval from his anti-religious kin and provide comfort and try to convince himself? I could, but I would have insufficient evidence, yet this does not stop Messerly from doing the same kind of thing to his critics.

“Why is all this important? Because human beings need their childhood to end; they need to face life with all its bleakness and beauty, its lust and  its love, its war and its peace. They need to make the world better. No one else will.”

It is strange that Messerly ends this piece talking about things unseen. Has he seen bleakness and beauty? I don’t doubt he’s seen things he calls bleak and things he calls beautiful, but has he seen the things themselves? Does he have a material measurement by which he can measure beauty? Could he take some beauty and put in a jar for me and scientifically study it?

How about lust and love? Why not be consistent and believe like the Churchlands do? There is no love or lust. It’s all just chemical reactions taking place. If Messerly wants to point to an unseen reality called love, perhaps he should give some evidence that it exists, unless he just has faith.

And we need to make the world better? What does that mean? Has he given evidence of this unseen thing called good? As for making the world better, the article by Brian Stewart shows that Christians are doing just that. Many of us who happen to believe in another world treat this world so seriously because it is the creation of God and it is to be treated as a great good that He has provided.

By contrast in atheism, what about what Bertrand Russell said?

“Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

Or someone like Alex Rosenberg who when answering questions in his book says

“Is there a God? No.

What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.

What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.

What is the meaning of life? Ditto.

Why am I here? Just dumb luck.

Does prayer work? Of course not.

Is there a soul? Is it immortal? — Are you kidding?

Is there free will? Not a chance!

What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.

What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no difference between them.

Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.

Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.”

Interesting with those last bits since we were just told about how religion makes those worse and a modern atheist like Rosenberg says “anything goes.”

In conclusion, Messerly is just writing from the position of atheistic presuppositionalism not wanting to actually engage in any arguments and hand wave away that which disagrees with him. It would be nice to see Messerly do some real research asking contemporary minds what they believe and why they do, but we know he will just not take them at face-value. He has reached his conclusion already and who cares what the future data is.

And of course, too many internet atheists will eat it all up.

Perhaps those who are believing what they want to believe could actually be in the other camp.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Question The “Personal Relationship” Paradigm

December 19, 2014

Is it wise to speak about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It happened to me again just today. An atheist on a message board spoke of me and a friend as saying that we think we know everything because we have a “personal relationship” with God. Had this person bothered to find out what my view is, they would have found out I espouse nothing like that. In fact, I have had many problems with the idea of a personal relationship, and if any one needs to know that’s not a recent innovation, just ask my wife.

Now in a sense, of course we all have some sort of relationship with Jesus, but what kind is it? My contention with the personal relationship talk is that it really lowers God in a sense of making Him not the sovereign king of the universe, but really a friend who is mainly there to help us out in our hard times. What happens when help does not come in those hard times? Well a lot of people feel betrayed. Some friend they had! There are several atheists today who apostasized from the faith starting out this way.

The Christian message really is found in passages like Romans 5:1 where we find that we have peace with God. That means the wrath of God no longer abides on us. It means that we are forgiven. It does not say that you have a two-way dialogue going on between God and yourself. I am constantly amazed that we have so many seminars at churches on how to hear the voice of God when the Bible nowhere gives instructions on how to do such a thing. Besides that, we do have a way to hear the voice of God. It’s Scripture. The difference is that one requires work to study and interpret and for too many people, it’s easier to just look for a shortcut.

This also feeds into our own self-serving “It’s all about me”, mentality. We have a local car dealership in Knoxville where the ads at the end tell the person to come down where “It’s all about you.” I cringe every time. If anything, the problem we have in our society is that too many of us do think that it’s all about us. When we start thinking God is telling us ideas, then that’s going to make that even more so.

Now please be clear on this. I am not in any of this saying God cannot speak today. Not at all. I know people who have had such experiences that I think were legitimate experiences. I am saying such experiences should not be seen as normative. They should not be things that we are expecting and they should not be experiences that we think that God is obligated to give to us since He is our friend after all.

When we approach God, we should be aware of His love for us and that he cares for us. Yet at the same time, we should approach Him realizing that He is the king of the universe and we dare not have the pride to approach Him just like anyone else. We are to come to Him on His terms. He is not obligated to come to us on our terms.

It is for reasons like this that I really encourage Christians to not use this kind of language. It is not spoken of in Scripture and I am convinced the concept is not even there. God is our king and Lord and we need to make sure our language always affirms that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christianity on Trial

December 16, 2014

What do I think of Mark Lanier’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christianity on Trial

I wish to thank Mark Lanier for sending me a copy of this IVP book for me to review. My first encounter with Lanier came when I heard him on Unbelievable? and thought he did an excellent job. I figured I would see if I could get Lanier to come on my own program as well, but first I’d want to see if his book was just as good as his appearance.

Overall, I conclude that it was. Lanier’s book is another one of those gateway books that is meant to get you searching and moving in the right direction. Lanier interacts with the opposition for his viewpoints and presents his case in a readable way. It’s not a narrative, but the main sources that he uses in each chapter are stated at the start as the witnesses that he calls forth. Some would agree with his conclusion. Some wouldn’t. All must be examined.

Lanier also starts out each section with a description of life in the law industry. One of the more amusing stories is the story told about Tom Smith. I’ll leave that for the readers to find out on their own, but I was thinking at the end that if this guy did not show up in a book sometime like “America’s Dumbest Criminals” then something would have to be off.

Something I found pleasantly surprising about this book is that unlike many in the area of apologetics, Lanier does not constantly quote works of leading apologists as answers. In fact, he hardly quotes them if he does at all. I do not doubt Lanier has read a lot of them, but for most of his sources, he’s trying to avoid that and just using the reasoning tools me all have to examine cases.

Lanier does cover several topics in this work. The existence of God is one that is covered quite thoroughly. I do wish more had been said about the Bible and the historical Jesus. There is thankfully a chapter on the resurrection, but it would have been good to have seen a prior chapter on the accuracy of the Bible in general and that it has been handed down reliably. I also did not think the chapter on morality answered the question the best, but even when I did not think the answer was the best, the argumentation is still quite interesting.

I would have also liked to have seen more of a bibliography. This would have been a good time for Lanier to have done something J Warner Wallace did in Cold-Case Christianity. I think a future edition could have ended with an appendix on the topics and lists of other “expert witnesses” that could be called forth to make a case.

Still, Lanier is an excellent thinker and I’m pleased to see a sharp trial lawyer using his mind to defend the Christian faith. If you’re looking for that book to get someone started thinking about Christianity, I highly recommend that you give deep consideration to Christianity on Trial.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Passionate Intellect

December 2, 2014

What do I think of Alister McGrath’s book? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Passionate Intellect

First, my thanks to IVP for sending me a copy for review purposes of this book. IVP I have found to be an excellent publishing company and their books consistently meet a high standard of excellence.

The Passionate Intellect is a look at the life of the mind from the viewpoint of Alister McGrath, himself a former atheist heavily interested in the sciences who became a theologian after his conversion to Christianity.

In some ways, I got a lot of good out of the book, but I’m not sure it was the good I was wanting to get. I would describe myself as one who has a passionate intellect. My wife would be more likely to connect to God through art and music and things of that sort. For me, I connect more through apologetics and through study of the historical Jesus.

Something I had been hoping for was a look at how exactly study was to be done with a passionate intellect. What do you do if you do not connect the most through music? After all, for me, one time I like to hear in a church service is “You may be seated.” I want to jump right into the study of Scripture and see what it has to say. This is not intended to disrespect the band at our church. They do a great job much of the time, but I can only stand and hear the songs for so long.

McGrath doesn’t do that as I would have liked. Still, he does bring out the importance of theology. Theology should definitely inform our worship and then in turn our worship will inform our theology. Too often we have worship going on in the church that has no real content to it and ends up focusing on us and our emotional experiences.

McGrath recommends studying the minds of the past and seeing how they deal with different circumstances, such as the problem of suffering. Here we see a contrast between Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. What would these two have thought of each other? Could it be that we can have an idea of what the solution is to suffering but then we suddenly see how difficult it is when the real suffering takes place?

The second part of the book does focus largely on apologetics. Those who are interested in the question of the relationship between science and religion will always find something interesting to read in McGrath. You will find discussions on Darwin as well as looking at what has happened when atheism comes to power. McGrath even has a little bit on suicide bombers and asking if they’re primarily religious or if they instead happen to be more political.

So in conclusion, while I did not get what I was necessarily wanting, I did get something that was helpful and I do agree with McGrath that we need some passionate intellects in the church. Those who would see themselves as having a passionate intellect are encouraged to get this book and see if it helps them on their Christian journey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Titanic Museum

October 13, 2014

Can the Titanic have anything to teach us about Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, my wife and I spent all day in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and the first place we stopped at was the Titanic Museum. We wish to thank our friend Michelle Fahidy, who let us come in for a month designed to apppreciate those in ministry and also provided us with a copy of a book by someone who was speaking there who tells the story of one man on the Titanic and how his faith impacted him. She told us that the man who wrote the book decided to into ministry upon hearing about this story.

When my wife and I came up there, we were each given a boarding pass to represent someone who was on the ship. My wife got Kate Herman, who was supposedly 24 at the time when she got on the ship. (The pass we got said 24 though the online information seems a bit different.) I got Lawrence Beesley, who I got told was 34. That was quite odd for both of us seeing as at the time of writing this, my wife is 24 and I am 34. Even more amusing is that Lawrence was an avid reader who when he heard the ship was going down went back to the cabin to get his books.

Yeah. Sounds like yours truly here.

The museum has several artifacts from the Titanic and you are given a listening device at the start. When you see a number written somewhere, you key it in and you can hear a recorded account concerning what you are seeing. Sometimes, you can hear some added commentary if you push in additional numbers that are given to you during a recording. There are even numbers that can be used for youth.

When you get to the iceberg part, things change drastically. Immediately, the atmosphere is colder to match what happened. You can put your hand in the water which is set at 28 degrees. Why that temperature? Because that’s supposed to be the temperature of the water the night the Titanic hit and sunk. I could hardly bear having my hand in such water for a minute, and I wanted to have it in as long as I could to impress my wife. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have to stay floating in that water.

So what does this have to do with Christianity?

A number of people got on that boat expecting to get to their destination safely. After all, it was unsinkable. A number of ministers were on the boat and as the ship went down, they were urging people to get right with God and giving away their life jackets and seats in the life boats. There were husbands and wives that refused to part at all and if one died, the other died as well. The ship that was supposed to be safe due to being unsinkable was not.

Of course, a lesson we get out of that immediately is pride. 1 John warns us about the pride of life. None of us is promised another day normally and too many of us have the idea that we are too big to fail. We are not. We are all prone to various weaknesses and struggles. Some thought the Titanic was in fact challenging reality by claiming nothing could sink it. Perhaps they were right on the motives of some and perhaps that’s something that led to sinking.

The second point is that since no one is promised another day, the time to do that which we ought to do is today. Today is the day to be a good spouse to your spouse. Today is the day to be a good parent to your children. Today is the day to serve Jesus the way that you’ve always wanted to serve Him. Celebrate every day. You not only know what tomorrow will or will not bring, but you do not know if tomorrow will ever come.

The Titanic Museum if you’re in the area any time is a great place to go to. You will learn plenty about the Titanic and I found it gripping as well thinking about all these people who died on that fateful day. The Titanic museum brings it all home. Let it be a reminder of how suddenly life can be gone. We are but a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow. Let’s make a difference today.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

A Tribute To Gretchen Passantino Coburn

October 3, 2014

Will you run your race so that you finish well? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I believe it was just a couple of days ago that my wife asked me to pray for Gretchen Passantino Coburn, someone highly instrumental with the apologetics ministry of Answers in Action. I was told she was going under for an operation. Of course we prayed, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking “Gretchen is really tough. She’ll be out of this in no time and bouncing right back.”

As an apologist, I make it a point to try to not be wrong.

And this time, I really really hate that I was wrong.

When we got home yesterday, we found out the news. Gretchen had passed away from a massive heart attack. It left a dark cloud hanging over our household for the rest of the evening and that kept going. I don’t think either one of us slept the best last night.

Now I’m not going to be one who says I knew Gretchen very well. I didn’t. Now I wish I had known her well, but alas, I did not. Still, when we did talk, it was always a good and friendly conversation. When I posted something on the Deeper Waters Facebook page, she would sometimes comment, and I always delighted in her comments.

I also liked about Gretchen that she was someone who was real. One memory I have of her that could seem awkward is when her husband came home from a long trip. He told her that he was back from his trip to which she said “See you in the bedroom!” Some of you could think I’m sharing something private. I’m not. This was posted right on Facebook. Everyone could get to see it, but that was something that made it special too. This was a couple with a great love for one another and they weren’t afraid to show it.

It also brought out what I just said. Gretchen was real. She was an apologist who was not afraid to show her fun-loving and joking side. In a private conversation, she even made a joke to me once that my Aspie self had a hard time responding to. She apologized when she found out, but I told her there was no need to. I appreciated her humor. I really liked that about her.

I found Gretchen’s articles that she wrote to be quite helpful at times and fair, even if I didn’t always agree. Gretchen never acted like she was better than anyone else because of her established position in the apologetics world and treated people well who were just starting their journey. That includes people like myself. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I have a habit every night of reading a portion of the Psalms and thinking about it as I try to go to sleep. I normally don’t place much stock in special events like this such as just opening the Bible and finding just the right message for you. Yet as I don’t think that commonly happens, I’m wondering if last night was an exception. I go through the Psalms in order and last night, I was reading Psalm 84 and the next section was verses 5-7.

5: Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

I couldn’t help but think this was a fitting tribute to Gretchen. There is no doubt that Gretchen found her strength in Jesus. Anyone who looked at her knew her heart was on the path to the place of God. What about the valley of Baca? That refers to a place of pain and sorrow. Now I’m not one who thinks this whole world is awful, but it’s not as it should be. It is a place of pain for many of us.

What did Gretchen do? She made that valley less painful for the rest of us. She was the one who made it a place of springs, mainly by sharing her knowledge of Christ and letting the rest of us know that we could rightly place our trust in Jesus. She helped answer the despair of many hearts who wanted to know if Jesus was real or if the whole thing was just a fiction.

And how does it end? Gretchen is not in her resurrected body of course, but I do say she has appeared before her God. One day she will be reunited with a glorified body and we will see Gretchen as she really is, and I do not doubt that it will be far more beautiful than anything we ever saw here on Earth, which should leave us all in wonder. It will be because she will be the best reflection of God that she can possibly be.

Gretchen ran the race well. As I thought about her last night, my honest prayer was to give me the desire and enable me to do the same. It has been said that when each of us was born, we cried while the world rejoiced. We should all live our lives so that when we die, the world will cry and we will rejoice.

Right now, there is reason to rejoice for Gretchen, but we will have the tears on this side. We are not sorry for her. She is not at a loss right now. We are sorry for ourselves who are suffering the loss. A great warrior for Christ has passed on. Gretchen can never be truly replaced of course, but she would be honored to know many are rising up to fill in the spot that she left behind.

Earlier this year also, I had the joy of getting to interview Gretchen on my podcast. That interview can be heard here. Gretchen chose to talk about the beauty of life which meant dealing with the question of abortion, dealing with suffering in the intermediate stage of life. Finally, we talked about end of life issues with questions such as euthanasia. Now Gretchen has seen all the beauty of life and is now in the presence of true beauty, a beauty she could never have imagined.

God bless you Gretchen as He already has. Thank you for your friendship and I look forward to seeing you again someday.

Gretchen

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Plans After 34 Years

September 19, 2014

What is Deeper Waters and why does it matter? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

If you’re on my Facebook page, you probably know by now that today, I celebrate 34 years of life. On such a day as this, I try to look back and see how it is I got where I am, but for the most part, I want to tell you all where I think Deeper Waters is going and why I’m so excited about it and why the ministry that we’re doing here is so special.

First off, a lot of this stuff can be covered in the newsletter. If you’re not getting our monthly newsletter and would like to be a part of it, then please let me know. You can email me at Apologianick@gmail.com and let me know that you want to be a subscriber. If you do this route, please include something in the subject line so I will recognize you. I too get a lot of spam. You can also go to our Facebook group and sign up. While there, please “like” Deeper Waters.

Second, I will be speaking this evening in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. I’m the opening speaker at a conference and the point of my talk will be the importance of Christian apologetics today. I’m quite excited to have this opportunity where my invitation just came out of the blue and to get to be a recognized speaker at an event is an honor.

Third, next Friday, my wife and I both will be speaking at the Freedom Church of God for their “God’s Not Dead” conference. I will be speaking on the historicity of the resurrection. My wife will meanwhile be giving her first ever talk at a conference. She will be speaking on the problem of evil from the perspective of a layman and how the reality of God has helped her overcome evil in her life.

Fourth, I will be speaking the first Sunday of October at Farragut Church of Christ for their adult Sunday School class. I will be doing a lesson I’ve wanted to do for some time where I will be speaking on Christian marriage. I’m convinced that if we want to turn the tide in our country on marriage, we need more than good arguments. We need good marriages and I want to encourage people to celebrate their spouses and their marriages. I thoroughly believe that the world doesn’t honor marriage because the church failed to honor it first.

What else do we have up ahead in the works?

There’s always the Podcast. I am constantly trying to get the best guests on. Next month I will be interviewing James Sire, a classic in apologetics for decades, as well as Graham Veale on his book on the new atheism. I will also interview Matthew Flannagan on a book he’s written with Paul Copan on war in the OT as well as interviewing Marcia Montenegro on Christianity and the New Age Movement. If you like the podcast, then please go to ITunes and leave a positive review. It just thrills me when I go and see new comments. So many of you surprise me by telling me how much you like the show.

Also, Ebooks. We have one on the new atheism in the works and as it stands, I’m also writing one on dealing with internet memes today. It’s going to be a brief look at a topic sometimes followed by other recommended resources that could be used to further understand the topic. Memes being used as arguments instead of just a humorous punch is a great problem today with internet debate.

In the middle of all of this I’m going to be working on my Master’s still so yes, I am a busy busy guy. Not only that, but I’m also leading a men’s group on Sunday nights for our church where we talk about apologetics issues. I also do work for my church in writing out material that is used for our studies so know that your support of Deeper Waters does go to work that I am doing.

Let’s talk about that right quick. Donations. Really, I don’t like doing this part, but it’s something that has to be done. Your donations just thrill me. Each time I get one in it tells me that this is someone who has been impacted by Deeper Waters and wants me to keep going. If you want to donate, you can see the section on the side where it says to help support the work of Deeper Waters Christian Ministries. Now if you click that link that will take you to Risen Jesus. Please consider donating and especially, becoming a monthly donor. If you do make a donation, and I cannot stress this part enough, make sure you email me afterwards at Apologianick@gmail.com and say “I’m X and I just made a donation of Y to your ministry.” I will pass it on to my mother-in-law who runs the finances of RisenJesus, the ministry of Mike Licona, and they will make sure that it goes to me. Your donation that way will also be tax-deductible.

Now some of you might be wondering why I don’t just set myself up as a 501c3 and not go through Risen Jesus. That’s because becoming a 501c3 costs money and right now, we don’t have enough monthly donors to justify that. It will be wonderful when we get to that day, but so far, we are not there yet.

I really hope you all appreciate the work that is done here at Deeper Waters. We are trying to bring the best and your support means everything. If the fruit of this ministry has done you good, why not consider becoming an investor in it? If you cannot do that at that time, then please pray for the ministry and share the material that we have and let other people know.

Be praying for me tonight as I give this important talk! For all who have been friends and supporters to me this far, I cannot thank you enough. I would not be where I am today were it not for you.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do: Part 9

September 10, 2014

We are going to let Allie conclude her series today.

We are at the last part of debunking the arguments in the articlehttp://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C2 .  9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil.

I’m going to go ahead and quote the first paragraph of this part of the article:

“It’s one thing to latch onto the supernatural worldview you were raised in or the one that first triggered for you some radically cool temporal lobe micro-seizure or similar altered state. But then failing to do your homework before using your position of adult American privilege to foist your religion on kindergarteners, or families who live in desperate poverty, or people who just got hit by a natural disaster—in other words people who trust you because you are older or richer or more powerful or have more access to the very information that you have failed to use—now we’re talking about a violation of ethics. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”

Woa now!  Altered state?  That may be how it is for the Word of Faith movement but as for most Christians, it’s not an altered state!  We’re not on drugs!  We’re not high, in fact, we have many lows!  It’s not easy being a Christian!  People think it’s easy to be a Christian but it’s not, and I think that’s part of the reason why so many people leave the faith.  They expect everything to go well and hardly any problems to head their way, but that’s just not the case at all.  We face many obstacles, many obstacles that people who aren’t following Christ don’t face in fact.  Christ never promised life would be easy following him, he instead said it would be harder when following him:

(John 15:18 NLT) “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

Failing to do our homework?  Writer (of the article), I’d say you’ve failed to do much of your homework and have done mostly personal complaints instead of actually researching the other side.  I have both read your sources and defended the Christian side giving Biblical and outside sources.  As for the American privilege, everyone has that.  Living in the US is a privilege, whether you think so or not.  Yes, this country has it’s problems, but what country doesn’t?  One of the greatest privileges of this country that many countries don’t have is the freedom of religion and speech.  Writer, just as you have the freedom to antagonize us, we have the freedom to worship the Living God and tell the truth about him.  In the US, everyone has the opportunity of getting a job and working hard.  Now, in this economy, it is much harder.  But it isn’t easier for a Christian to make money or get a job than it is for someone who isn’t a Christian to do so.  Everyone has an equal chance if they try and work hard.  The problem is the economy has made it so difficult and the government has babied people so much that people are either too hopeless or too lazy to try.  There are people who go on Welfare just so they don’t have to get a job and that’s abusing the system!

We are to help people in poverty and who are hit by distasters.  We are to educate our children, just as much as everyone else.  The problem is, you don’t want us to do it the way we are supposed to do it!  If you knew the truth about something, and you knew it gave people hope, wouldn’t you want to tell it to people?  Then why prevent us from telling this truth to people?  As for education, there are a lot of people who say the US was never a Christian nation.  This is nonsense!  Take a look at this website that discusses the earliest Bibles published in the US (http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/colonial-bibles.html).  Even Congress had produced Bibles for our schools, people in Congress such as George Washington and you know those people who were so anti-religious like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  They all endorsed these Bibles to be published at every home and school in the US!  As for being, older, richer, and more powerful.  I’m almost twenty-four years old, so I’m not old.  My husband and I are broke and without jobs, as well as disabled, so we are not rich, but poor.  I have no power in any sense.  I have a brain injury and only a high school diploma, yet I have done better research than you’ve done.  All you have done is throw empty accusations with little to no facts behind them.  Moving on now.

The next paragraph the writer says is:

“Some reader is bound to say that without God anything goes and so as a nontheist I have no basis for calling anything evil. A short snarky retort has been making its way around the internet: If you can’t tell right from wrong without appealing to an authority or a sacred text, what you lack is not religion but compassion. The long answer, meaning the evidence showing we really can recognize evil and good without gods, is available in neuroscience, sociology, developmental psychology, and in the lives of individual atheists including the Dalai Lama.”

I’ve got one, single, verse to answer that paragraph for you, Romans 2:14 (NLT) says:

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.

So yes, you do know God’s laws like you shouldn’t murder or steal because God wrote that in our hearts.  It has nothing to do with how great we are, but because of how great heis.  Just because you know his laws instinctively doesn’t mean there is no God though.  You can breathe air, but just because you can’t always feel it or see it doesn’t mean there isn’t any air.

The writer concludes by accusing Bible-believing Christians to be trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We’re not trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We don’t want to go back in time!  We want to move ahead in the future as much as you do!  The difference is we have a different path to the future than you do.  Your path leads to more destruction and we’re trying to steer you away from that path!  We see the path you’re heading because some of us have actually gone down that path and know what’s down there.  We hate watching people destroy themselves and God hates it even more than we do!  You are his precious children!

(Ezekiel 18:23 NLT) “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

We have to tell the truth!

(John 8:32 NLT) “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Be set free from your bondage and your destructive paths!

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/30/2014: R. Scott Smith

August 28, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Morality. Most of us do agree that there is such a thing, although a growing number are increasingly saying that they don’t, which is quite frightening. We know that there is a good and there is an evil and we have a good idea about what it is we are to do. This is a phenomenon of reality that needs to be explained. How do we do it? To find out about this, I’m having R. Scott Smith come on the Deeper Waters Podcast. 

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Who is he?

Professor of Ethics & Christian Apologetics in the MA Christian Apologetics program, Biola University (starting my 15th year)

MA, Philosophy of Religion & Ethics, Talbot; PhD, Religion & Social Ethics, USC

Author of 4 books: In Search of Moral Knowledge (IVP, 2014), Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (Ashgate, 2012), Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Crossway, 2005), and Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge (Ashgate, 2003).

Contributor to several books, journals, and other magazines/websites

What we will be talking about is the latest book of his, In Search of Moral Knowledge. 

Smith’s book is a fascinating one that takes you through a tour of ancient philosophy, biblical theology and ethics, the medieval period, and then modern theories, including naturalistic theories, that attempt to give a grounding for the morality that we all seem to share. What theory best accounts for it? In the end, he decides that the Christian worldview is the best worldview for explaining morality.

We will be asking a lot of questions along the way of course. Since the book starts off with looking at the early Greek philosophers, one question that can come to mind is “Why should we care?” After all, if we are Christians, don’t we have the Bible to tell us right from wrong? Why should Christians bother studying the ideas of Plato and Aristotle since this isn’t part of inspired literature? Can it really help us to understand morality?

When it comes to biblical ethics, at this point, it is the atheist who will have a rejoinder. “Yes. Let’s talk about biblical ethics. Let’s talk about slavery and genocide and all of that stuff. Remember, all of this is what shows up in the ‘Good Book.’ Why should I take the Bible as a relevant source on morality when it contains so much that is immoral?”

As we go through the medieval period, we can ask what we have really gained from all of this. Most of us today do still have a good idea of right and wrong. Did the medieval period really contribute in any significant way to what we know about reality? Does it really help us to understand what people like Aquinas thought about morality?

Finally, we will be looking at modern ideas from Christians and non-Christians and seeing how they add up and asking if morality can really be explained in an atheistic worldview? If it can’t be, then why is it that we should think that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for morality?

If you’re interested in the moral argument for God’s existence, then I urge you to please subscribe to the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes and be watching your feed for this latest episode! You won’t want to miss it!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Brush With Death

August 15, 2014

What’s it like to come close to death and can you find hope afterwards? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

Many of you liked what I said about the death of Robin Williams. Today, I’m letting my wife Allie share some of her thoughts from a personal perspective.

 

I’m not sure if this is appropriate timing, but I feel like it might be a good time to share this.  This is my story of my brush with death.

 

Five years ago, I was dealing with some heavy depression.  I’ve always delt with heavy depression, but it reached a peak after a failed relationship with a guy I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.  I felt like the greatest thing I could do for the world…was for me to not be in it anymore.  Besides…who would care?  Who would miss me?  I mean sure, my family would be upset, but surely they’d move on eventually right?  Everyone dies after all…just not by their own hands.  Of course, this is just how I thought.  I thought if I left no one would care or miss me except for my family and they’d only be sad for a little while, but would eventually get over it.  But the thing with suicide that is different from any other kind of death is that the family and friends will wonder, “How could I have missed the signs?  Could I have prevented them from doing this?  Could I have even been the cause of them doing this?”

So I grabbed whatever medicine I could.  I couldn’t grab them all because some of them were with my parents in their bathroom in the bedroom.  I remember chugging all those pills.  It was midnight.  After I took all the medicine, I called the guy and told him what I had done…he hung up on me.  I started writing out a note.  As I was writing it, my vision started become a little blurred and I became dizzy.  Suddenly my dad opens my bedroom door.  He asks me “What are you doing still up?”  It must’ve been between 1:30-2:30am at this point.  I told him I was just up writing something then I’d go to sleep.  I gave him one last look and told him I loved him and gave him a hug…thinking, “This is the last time I’m ever going to see my dad…he doesn’t even suspect a thing.”  He said he loved me too and left my room.  Even as I type this I’m getting teary-eyed.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I had four arms.  I knew this was going to be a long night.  At around 3am, it started getting really bad.  I couldn’t write anymore.  The room was moving.  The floor was moving, the walls were moving.  There were different colors.  I started getting a headache and there was a ringing in my ears.  I had to crawl to my bed.  Finally, I reached my bed.  As I layed flat on my bed, as still as I could, my feet felt like they were being lifted up, yet I could see they were still on my bed.  I turned off the light next to my bed.  My heart was racing faster than it’s ever raced before.  It literally felt like it was going to come right out of my chest!  I started having mild seizures.  My body would suddenly start seizing on its own every now and then, but then it would stop.  I was in a constant sweat, yet I had the chills.  I was cold…yet hot.  I was scared…I had heard that people who end their lives by their own hands go to hell because they didn’t trust God.  I don’t believe this theory today, but at the time, it was a scary thought.  I was praying and asking God to forgive me and asking God to please let me be with Him instead of being in hell.  I also asked God to be with my family and let them know they weren’t to blame for my death.  I had talked to a friend for a few hours until she absolutely had to go.  That’s when I started praying and prayed all night.  Then 8am comes.  I never fell asleep and I had still been praying.  My mom opens the door.  She says, “Allie, where is your brother’s medication?”  My vision wasn’t blurry anymore but I had a hard time focusing on her when I looked at her.  The first thought that came to mind was, “Why am I not dead yet?”  Then the next thought was, “I’ve been caught.”  I told her, “Look in my bathroom.”  She goes in my bathroom and I hear her yell my dad’s name, “Allie tried to kill herself!”  As I type this I feel nauseated, I can still taste the poison I put in my body.  I couldn’t really get out of bed.  My dad had to help me walk.  I couldn’t walk on my own.  The seizing had stopped.  My dad drove me to the hospital.  My mom told me she fainted in the bathroom.  We get to the hospital, and I feel terrible for the poor lady working at the front desk.  As we were talking with her, I just started vomitting.  I vomitted all over her and her nice suit.  My dad just barely missed my vomit.  I’ve been told my eyes were darting all over the place.  I was admitted into the hospital in-patient.  I was poked with needles seemed like every 10-15 minutes day and night for three days straight.  My heart was still racing rapidly.  Every now and then parts of my body would start shaking on their own, like my arm or my hand, or even a single finger, but then it would stop.  My parents would visit often.  They’d bring me Wendy’s since I hated hospital food.  I couldn’t sleep, partially because of the IV that was in my wrist.  Every time I started to doze off the darn thing would start beeping!  I had to drink this weird cranberry juice that had some medicine in it that would make me go to the bathroom and man did it make me go!  Even while I was in the hospital though, I had some crazy hallucinations.  The screen that monitored my heart I thought had games on it.  I thought the bed was moving and I even thought there were camera’s on the bed!  I thought I heard drs whispering about me behind my back.  I thought I had memories of the hospital, even though I had never been there before.  I thought I heard a flute being played.  Then the craziest one was I thought the room I was in was infested with red ants!  Red ants crawling everywhere!  The walls, ceiling, furniture, everywhere!  They’d bunch up in certain places and if I looked up at the ceiling, they’d fall on me!  But if they fell in my mouth, they tasted like paper.  I got so scared, it all seemed so real!  I had to talk to a neurologist and they had to reasure me what I was seeing, hearing, feeling, and even tasting weren’t real.  I heard my dad even cancelled a debate or speaking engagement he had because he wanted to stay with me during that time.  I had to have help going to the bathroom since I was hooked up to an IV and so many other stuff.  I was absolutely miserable.  I was really mad at God too.  I mean, I had no intention on surviving.  I had no intention on ending up in a hospital.  I also knew after doing a stunt like this, I’d end up going to another hospital I feared even more than going to hell – a mental hospital.  I had to go to one years prior for self-mutilation and it was one of the worst experiences I ever had.  Sure enough, a lady came in and spoke with my mom and me and said, “We have a nice hospital your daughter can be transferred at from here.”  I ended up going there afterwards.  As they were getting me off the hospital bed, I still had to have help because I was so weak.  They loaded me into the ambulance and transferred me to what I thought was going to be my worst nightmare – the mental hospital.  I was so exhausted…after having not slept for four days/nights straight.  When I got to the mental hospital, I barely stayed awake until finally I asked, “Can I go to bed?”  They thought it was odd of me asking, but when I told them, they were okay with it.  I finally got my first night of sleep that night.  They came in first thing in the morning and took some blood only one time the whole time I was there.  It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  It wasn’t like the first mental hospital I had been to prior.  The staff was nice and it was kind of comfortable there.  I was in-patient there for four days.  I was then treated out-patient for a couple of weeks.  While I was there, I was still angry with God for allowing me to live, but I tried to make the best of it.  I was so hung over the guy I tried to end my life over, I thought, “If I get better, maybe he’ll take me back!”  I didn’t realize at the time I had only been a guinea pig to him the whole time – he had never given a care about me.  While I was being treated out-patient, I got an e-mail from someone saying, “I heard about you from (family friend) and heard you needed a friend.  I’m Nick Peters.  If you want to talk I’m here.”  I was intrigued to say the least.  So we corresponded back and forth.  I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t the nicest to him.  There were times I was pretty mean to him.  But there were times where he could’ve been really mean back at me, but he wasn’t.  There were times he showed he actually cared about me as a friend.  At one point while we were talking online, I was really quiet about something and got upset (I don’t remember what it was about).  All of a sudden I get this phone call from an unknown number.  I answer it and they’re like, “Are you okay?”  I ask, “Who is this?”

“Nick.”

“How did you get my number?”

“Facebook.”

He was actually worried about me because I got quiet.  I started seeing other things in Nick other than him just being nice to me.  I saw a joy in him about God I wanted to have.  I had drifted a bit away from God and I missed having a close relationship with him.  Instead of being angry with God, I tried to be thankful to him for rescuing me from death and tried to get closer to him again.  I also started developing feelings for Nick.  Eventually those feelings grew into something more and now we’ve been married for 4 years!  

 

God didn’t just save my life from death that day though.  My story is truly a miraculous one.  What I have failed to mention and will mention now is that the doctors thought I was going to need a new liver.  My liver and my vital organs should’ve failed.  All those drugs I took (and I haven’t said which ones I took on purpose – but they were some pretty hefty meds) were in my system for eight hours before anyone found me that morning.  I should’ve had organ failure.  My liver should’ve died…I should’ve died.  God not only saved my life, he protected my liver and my vital organs.  The only damage that was done to me was emotional and I have some brain damage that has a 50% chance of healing.  My story is one of hope, and I hope it gives you hope.  That day God showed me a portion of his power.  God said, “Live!” and I lived!  Today I am thankful to be alive!  God continues to show me his love and grace.  He had compassion on me through this difficult time in my life.  He has blessed me so much.  He is a God filled with compassion.  He is passionate for you!  Give him your burdens, for his burden is light.  He will give you rest.