Posts Tagged ‘Reason Rally’

Reason Rally: Westboro Baptist

March 14, 2012

Wait. I thought they didn’t want Christians. Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Remember how our good friend P.Z. was complaining about Christians showing up at the Reason Rally. Apparently, he wasn’t specific enough. The invitation was sent by Jim Klawon who is the Deputy Vice-President of Administration of the National Atheist Party.

So it’s okay for Christians to attend, provided it’s the Christians that the Reason Rally wants to attend. This is certainly news. Now the next question to ask is why would the Reason Rally want to have a group like Westboro Baptist attend the Reason Rally?

Do you know about Westboro Baptist? That’s the group that shows up at funerals of dead soldiers from wars here in America and pickets them. They’re the ones that march around with the signs that say “God hates fags.” They’re a group led by Fred Phelps and his family.

This is quite an odd happening, but sadly understandable. One would think that those who are presenting themselves as champions of reason would in fact want to celebrate the Christians advocating reason coming to the Reason Rally. They would want to proudly announce to the world “Yes. Ratio Christi is trying to send some evangelicals here to dialogue with us since they’re so sure we’re wrong. Well we’re certainly going to be able to deal with them. We want them to send as many as they can because we want to demonstrate to everyone that we are indeed the champions of reason.”

It’s hard to see this and not think about how Dawkins was invited by a number of groups, Christian and non-Christian, to have a debate with William Lane Craig and refused. It is amazing that while he is too busy to do that, he certainly does have time to debate with O’Reilly.

The most ironic thing about this is that I believe that these two groups have much more in common than they realize. They are just opposite sides of the same coin. Both of them are fully fundamentalist in their approach and both of them are looking to be as outspoken as possible and get noticed by the media for what they do.

The reason I believe that the Westboro group has been invited is to set up a contrast, but that contrast does not work. The Rally might want to paint Westboro as representative of all Christians, but upon what basis? Is it because they call themselves Christians? Would it work if I said Stalin was an atheist and wanted to say then that all atheists were just like Stalin and his atheist followers?

The Rally will already be a major PR disaster and in fact, this is only going to make it worse. Once again, it is my hope that more and more atheists will attend the Rally. I also hope that more Christians will be there to demonstrate what true reason is all about. If atheists want to demonstrate that their side is reasonable, invite the strongest opponents and let that be publicly shown.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: True Reason

March 12, 2012

Is there a response to be brought to the Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Lately, I’ve been presenting my own defenses against the unreason that will take place at the rally. Today, I do not have to do that. Instead, I am going to be writing about a small ebook that has been put together for the purposes of giving a response to those at the Reason Rally.

To be fair, I was not able to do an exhaustive reading of the work. As it stands, my family is in the process of preparing to move and as I’m busy packing boxes and running out and getting supplies to do that and making arrangements and still trying to make time for my wife and my own personal reading, it can be difficult to do this. I did briefly examine the document to see where it was going overall and what I thought.

I was pleased to see first off that a response has been put out and it is a response emphasizing reason. I do agree that the new atheists give the implication that if one is a disbeliever in God, then one is ipso facto automatically reasonable. The reality is I’ve met far too many who are atheists who are in fact quite unreasonable.

I was also pleased to see that several issues were addressed in the work. There were sections that could be found on faith and science as well as sections on the problem of evil, the question of slavery, and the conquest of the Canaanites. Many will be pleased to see that someone of the caliber of Craig in fact has added his work to this volume.

For that, I do commend the authors. I believe this is a fine step forward in the dialogue unlike what we usually see from the new atheist side. The writers have actually taken what the new atheists have said and they have been in dialogue with it, which is different from the way new atheists handle evangelical works.

I would have however liked to have seen more arguments that I think get to the heart of the issue. I do not think it’s always best to argue against the conclusions of the new atheists but rather their methodology. What is their approach to study and research?

Here at Deeper Waters, for instance, I have already received questions about the Bible implying that I interpret it arbitrarily or depend on the Holy Spirit. The Bible is treated like an all-or-nothing game. Either it’s all literal and absurd, or it’s all metaphorical and thus irrelevant.

What would help is to have a section on how to read not just the Bible, but any piece of literature. Why? The way one reads the Bible is really the exact same way. It can only be different by degree due to difference in time, place, culture, and language. This would be akin to learning how to read Plutarch, Aristotle, or Sophocles.

If we could get past the hermeneutical question, I believe that would also deal with many other objections. The first question to ask is if the text really has any meaning. If it does, then what does it take to get to that meaning? Is it hard some times? Yep. That’s why there’s differences of opinion. If one wants truth, one will work at it.

This also comes with the study of historiography. I was pleased to see a chapter on the reliability of the NT, but i do not recall seeing in there a central question. Many new atheists deny even the existence of a historical Jesus. Forget denying the miracles and the resurrection, which while false is more understandable. These believe that the whole story is a myth from start to finish.

Unfortunately, people who study historiography don’t take this seriously. Even Bart Ehrman is coming out with a book this month to argue that Jesus existed, probably because too many atheists have been asking him this question and some have even listed him as a source.

What needs to be done then is to show how history is to be properly done and this not in a way going all for or all against the events known as miracles. An atheist can still be an atheist while being open to miracles. He doesn’t have to have a dogmatic stance against them. Besides, we all know atheists don’t like dogma. Right?

As for the parts on evolution, I more and more think that the argument should not go on whether evolution is true or false, but rather evolution truly does make God superfluous. I was pleased to see that Tom Gilson in the work realizes that evolution and theism could both be true. Indeed, that is the glaring problem of Dawkins’s “The Blind Watchmaker.” I could grant all the evidence for evolution and that would still be a problem.

Thus, we do need to indeed go after the physics in studying what comes next, metaphysics. We need to establish our arguments on metaphysical reasoning. This is actually the version of the Kalam that I do consider the strongest. Many atheists think when I present Kalam that I’m presenting Craig’s formulation of it. Not at all. No offense to Craig. Craig I find to be a great mind and I’m glad he’s on our side, but I do not agree with all of his stances. I think the way it is for him is that you have to depend on the science largely to demonstrate that Kalam. Since I think science is inductive at best, I prefer to rely on the metaphysical which I consider to be deductive.

It is my concern that when we keep it where it is, we are letting the other side set the rules and then they will ask for scientific evidence. One cannot really do that. God is not in the subject matter of science since God by definition is not material. We need to start with the question of if science is the final arbiter of truth. To be fair, this is done in the book. While many atheists deny scientism with their hearts, with their lips they give full credit to it. It is hard to take their denial seriously when they keep asking for scientific evidence for everything.

These concerns do not go against the overall goodness. I also show these concerns to let atheists know something else. We have this great freedom in Christianity. We can think freely and disagree with one another. I can mention what is positive and what is negative without marrying my view to someone else. I don’t even agree with my own ministry partner on everything.

For those who are interested in the book, feel free to go to TrueReason.org and ask about it. A link is included at the bottom.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

http://truereason.org/

Reason Rally: Outrage!

March 10, 2012

Why is it that Unreasonables are so often emotional? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Lately I’ve been dialoguing on several fronts with atheists concerning the Reason Rally and one method of argumentation is to speak of something that angers the atheist in the Bible and then the argument is formed.

Premise: X occurs in the Bible.
Premise: I don’t like X.
Conclusion: God does not exist.

Some might think this is simplistic, but it seems that for many, if you just mention the incident of Elisha and the two bears, well that’s enough. The whole thing can be thrown out the window because of that and we can rest assured that Christianity is not true because the holy book contains something distasteful to us in it.

This gets us into what I wrote about last time. Most atheists do not bother to understand the Bible but only come with a superficial reading and act like that destroys all of it. Note I said most. There are some exceptions that are actually capable of dialoguing on the subject. For most, the story ends with something that is not liked and that is the end of it.

If you agree with them that it is distasteful, well you need to come out of your God belief because you would not condone it at all unless God did it. If you seek to explain the passage in question, well it’s obvious that you really believe that the whole thing is horrid and you’re just trying to justify that tension that you feel in your own mind.

Darned if you do. Darned if you don’t.

There is no concept that this book was written in a different time, place, and culture. There is no idea that if God exists, then we should not really expect Him to be just like us and if He is the Lord of all the universe, He does have that authority to take lives as He is the giver and sustainer of all life and He does not owe anyone their life, or anything else for that matter.

Now I am not going to write out a defense of every single event in the Bible. I have written about many elsewhere and will be glad to pull up anything I have written if need be. I mainly want to counter the basic thrust that I see throughout the whole argument. It is the idea that because something is distasteful or seen as morally evil, then obviously the Bible is not the Word of God.

It’s not really that obvious. It could be many times we do not understand something properly and when that happens, we need to improve our understanding. If we are right, further research will help to elucidate that. If we are wrong, further study will do the same.

Also, it could be for the sake of argument that the Bible is not the Word of God and there is no justification for some of these things. This is not my stance, but it’s a possible stance. So what? There are Christians who do have this view and do believe that there is still enough evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The idea that the Bible must be Inerrant in all that it teaches in order to be true in anything is a fundamentalist idea. It is that for both fundy atheists and fundy Christians. Keep in mind I do hold to Inerrancy, but if Inerrancy is wrong, I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Outrage is just outrage. Being angered about something does not make it wrong. Not liking something does not make it wrong. For that, you actually need to dialogue and seek to understand the situation. Christians in dialogue should realize that if an atheist just wants to rant about something and not dialogue, well that’s how it’s going to be, and while that aspect can’t be changed about them unless they want to, one can usually sit back and explain everything and trust the audience watching sees which side is presenting the more rational presentation.

Yet doesn’t it seem odd that those who claim to rely so much on reason consistently have an appeal to emotion with a conclusion that does not follow?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Do You Know The Bible?

March 8, 2012

Does having read the Bible mean you know the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One step I’ve taken for dialogue with people of other faiths like Muslims or Mormons is to have read their religious works. Thus, I have read the Koran and I have read the BOM, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Book of Abraham. However, that does not mean that I will claim to know these books well, certainly not as well as the adherents of those who treat those books as divine revelation.

In other areas, one can read the plays of Shakespeare, such as Romeo and Juliet, and have a basic understanding of what is going on, but to get a substantial understanding, one really needs to study the culture of Shakespeare and the style of writing he used and the meaning of the words back then.

Richard Dawkins recently made a big deal about how many Christians don’t know their Bibles because they did not know the name of the first gospel in the NT. I agree that that is problematic, but let us suppose someone does know the name of the first gospel in the NT? So what? That does not prove that they know the gospel. That proves they can memorize.

N.T. Wright has issued a challenge in a lecture to encourage people to memorize the book of Ephesians verse by verse. Let us suppose that someone did do that. It does not matter if they are an atheist or a Christian. At the end of the process, even if they can quote the whole book verbatim, does that mean that they know the book?

Again, not really. They can know the words of the book, but that is not the same as knowing the content and what those words all mean. Scholars can spend their lives studying just one book of the Bible and still have much about that book that they do not know.

This, of course, does not mean that a simple message cannot be grasped by reading the book. One can read the book and understand that there is no longer a divide between Jew and Gentile and that our lives ought to be lived knowing that Christ has torn apart this wall of division.

To grasp the simple message is not the same as to grasp the deep message. I could tell you about the Brothers Karamazov since I have read the book, but that does not mean that I could tell you as much as a professor of Russian Literature could tell you about the book.

What many atheists have done is what I’ve done with the BOM and other works. They have read the works and assumed that because they’ve read them, that they thus have an understanding of them. In a sense, you do have an understanding of them, but it is not really a substantial understanding of them. Indeed, many Christians, far too many, lack a substantial understanding of their Bibles.

To really understand the Bible, one needs to study many areas. Just what are these and why do they matter?

First, studying the languages would be very helpful. We do have numerous references on Greek and Hebrew that can help the layman who has not learned them yet (And I freely confess I need to still find a good teacher of these languages for myself), but the most helpful way is to be able to read them yourself.

With knowing the languages, you have to know not only the word, but what the word meant to the author. For instance, we are often told that for the NT, faith meant to believe in something without evidence. The Greek word for faith is “pistis.” Is that what it means? What someone can do, and many have done this for us as well, is to do a word study of the word not just in the New Testament, but in other works. Did Aristotle use it? Did Seneca? Did Plato? Did the Jews at Qumran? Did the Septuagint? How else can we find this word being used?

If we come with our own definitions of what the word means, we are not only misrepresenting the author and making them say what they never meant to say, but we are in fact missing the true message that the author of the work in question wishes to convey.

Second, you need a study of history. In reading the gospels, we read about Pharisees and Sadducees. They do not show up anywhere in the Old Testament. Who were these groups? Did they just come out of nowhere? What was going on in Israel at the time? What was the relation to Rome? Did the Jews coming out of exile have anything to say about what was going on?

Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. What did this mean? Were there other Messianic claimants? How did the idea of the Messiah fit into the history of the Jews? When Jesus made the claim to them, what would they think about him in relation to the presence of Rome at the time?

When Paul is writing his epistles, what is going on? When he says “Jesus is Lord” is he just having an old-fashioned revival service where we just shout “Praise the Lord!” or is he in fact making a direct challenge where he is saying “Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not!”?

Third, you need to know about the landscape at the time. Paul wrote to Philippi, a Roman colony at the time. Does it make a difference when he writes and tells them that their citizenship is in Heaven, especially in light of the fact that all of them would have been citizens of Rome?

Fourth, you need to know about the surrounding culture? What was the big deal about honor in the world of Jesus and the New Testament? When the Old Testament talks about slavery, how did that work in the culture back then? Does it matter that there was not a grocery store just down the street for every one?

What about the Old Testament Law with this? Why would God give a darn about tattoos? Are we supposed to put up railings around our roof? If we say we believe in “Do not murder” but do not believe in “Do not wear mixed fabrics” are we just being arbitrary?

Fifth, you need to study hermeneutics. What is the way the text is to be interpreted? When Jesus tells us that we are to hate our father and mother, is this to be taken literally or not? When the proverbs are read, are these ironclad or just generalities? When Jesus tells about the calamities of Matthew 24, are these to be read literally or not? How are we to understand what the text means?

Sixth, with that text, you need to understand textual criticism. How did we get the Bible that we have today? What role did oral tradition play in it? How was the Old Testament passed down to us? How is it that the New Testament has been passed down to us? Can we really trust that the text was copied accurately?

Seventh, you need to understand post-NT history. What was going on at Nicea? Who were the Early Church Fathers? Has the Reformation shaped our understanding of the culture? Are we reading the Trinity into the Bible or out of the Bible? (For the record, we read it out)

Eighth, you need to study theology. What is the doctrine of God in Christian thinking? Does the Trinity really teach that God is one person and three persons, or is it something really quite different? What does it mean when we say God is omnipotent? If we say God is impassible, what does it mean and does it really make a difference?

Ninth, you must be well-read in what real scholars are saying. Of course, Christians can feel free to read devotional literature. We should be discerning in what we read. There is no doubt good application to much of what the Bible says, but we want to make sure that application is faithful to the text. Devotional material needs to be rooted in scholarly understanding.

When we read a text that is puzzling, we not only wrestle with it ourselves, but we also see what other great minds said about it. Perhaps a Calvinist could be helped by reading what an Arminian like Wesley said about a text. Perhaps a Preterist could be helped by reading what a Dispensationalist like Darby said about the text. We need to be open to reading other thinkers who came before us and interacted with the text. We Christians should not be so arrogant, as I believe Spurgeon said, to believe that we are the only ones the Holy Spirit has ever shared truth with.

The man of the book will be a man of many books. The Bible has a message that is simple in some ways. However, it is also a complex book and one does not fully understand it just by reading on one’s own or getting even a basic understanding in the text through Sunday School or other such means.

Please note also that at this point, I am not even telling anyone to agree with the Bible. You can understand the Bible and still think it is wrong. I would disagree, but it can improve our discussion if we find out that those we dialogue with have really understood the text.

With the Reason Rally coming up, what I expect is simply argument from outrage with new atheists taking passages they do not understand and arguing about them. As it stands, I already in a place I dialogue at have seen arguments concerning Elisha and the two bears, a woefully misunderstood story. Note that saying there is something in the Bible you do not like is not the same as saying it is false. I do not like being told I am a sinner and that my way is not always the best way, but it is there in the Bible and I learn to accept it.

Hopefully, a number of atheists will be willing to do their homework and go get some books by evangelical scholars on studying the text. Atheists have long wanted Christians to study evolution before criticizing it. I agree. I would not be qualified to criticize evolution even if I had read the entirety of the Origin of Species. That would be just a start. I’d need to hunker down and really study the subject matter in much the same way.

Will atheists do the same? I’m skeptical, but we can hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Why Christians Should Accept Science

March 7, 2012

Is there really a war going on? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Reason Rally coming up, one objection Christians can expect to face is that their beliefs are at war with science. Is this really the case? For fundamentalists on both sides, there has long been a battle going on between science and religion. Meanwhile, also on both sides, there have been some in the center hammering out a peace treaty while trying to dodge the bullets that are being shot.

Is there a basis for this antagonism. I think so. We Christians are largely to blame also for not holding to our intellectual grounds. In the past, when the question of evolution came in the Scopes Monkey Trial, the best side was not put forward and it became a question of science vs. religion. Later on, as liberals began entering our Seminaries, rather than stay and fight, we backed away and started our own schools. Unfortunately, that would leave the liberals behind at a prestigious school. With no opposition, it was not a shock which way those schools went.

The case can go back further, though I believe it is dangerous for the atheists to do so. They can try to appeal to Galileo, but I would urge them to not do so. Galileo’s beef with the church was only secondary. He was a believer himself and his biggest warfare was with the philosophy of his day in the secular community. The dangerous parallel with the atheists is that they could be making the same mistake with the ID movement that Christians can be accused of with evolution. Galileo was in the minority going against the majority in the secular world in the area of science. Some might say “But ID does not have facts on their side now!” That could be the case. However, it is definitely the case that Galileo did not have conclusive evidence for his position either.

I in fact contend that both sides are making a mistake. Too many Christians have argued against evolution not on scientific grounds per se, but because they do not like a supposed conclusion, meaning that evolution would obviously mean that there is no God and Jesus did not rise from the dead. Atheists have argued against ID often while stating scientific reasons, but as well for not wanting there to be a designer to the universe. What both sides need to do is in fact encourage the other to do the best work that they can and challenge one another in the scientific community and let iron sharpen iron.

Make no mistake. Everyone in the scientific community should be interested in truth for the sake of truth. I would hope that if ID was true, an atheist scientist would want to know and if so, to back it. I would hope that if evolution was true, a Christian scientist would want to know it and if so, also back it. We are people of truth as Christians, or so we claim, and we should seek truth in all areas, including the scientific ones. In fact, to do otherwise is more of a position of Gnosticism. We do not want to separate the world of matter from the world of Christianity.

In order to be candid here, I will also point out that I am not a scientist. I do not speak as a scientist. If you want to come and argue against the claims of ID, go ahead and do so. I have no desire to engage you as I have no dog in the fight whatsoever. If you want to tell me why evolution is or is not true, go ahead and try, but I have no desire to respond. I have no dog in that fight either.

Which is how I think it should be. Now let us suppose you are a scientist and you say “I study this on a scientific basis and I have serious questions concerning Darwin’s theory.” Then on a scientific basis, bring forth those objections and if the other side can answer them, then they are answered. If they cannot, depending on the severity, it could cripple them seriously or just be a minor bump in the road they need to work through.

For myself as a non-scientist, I will not speak that way. I am just fine discussing metaphysical implications, but not the scientific data itself. Does that mean I have no opinion? Of course I do. We all do. I just do not have an informed opinion and I readily admit that. I often say that I do not want people like Dawkins and Meyers who do not have credentials in philosophy and theology and biblical studies to speak on those areas. I try to live out my conviction as well in that since I do not have the necessary study in science, I will not speak on science as science.

What I am speaking on here is a philosophy of science and how science should be approached which is quite different. Let me state that there are things in science that fascinate me and one such example is space. I understand there is a mountain on Mars twice the size of Everest. I hear that under one of Jupiter’s moons could be an underwater ocean. I have heard of lightning bolts that stretch the length of our galaxy. Reports have come of a distant quasar that in one second gives off enough energy to power Earth’s electric needs for one million years.

Things like this lead me to worship. I stand in awe of the God who created such wonders. This was what drove early Christian scientists. They wanted to see how God had made the universe. They figured that God was rational and He made a world that was rational and we could understand it.

This is not God-of-the-Gaps! This was started in fact because there were gaps and we wanted them filled! Now could it be for the sake of argument that some gaps are filled in by miracle? Maybe. Maybe the origin of life is one such gap. We won’t know until we try and it will not work to just plug in God and hope against hope that no one studies it and finds an answer lest God be out of a job, as if God’s only business was scientific business.

Nor will it work to just say that this does not matter. We are not Gnostic. The material world is part of God’s creation and we should in fact be wanting to find all that we can. All truth is God’s truth. We claim to be people of truth and that is not just “spiritual” truth but also truth about the material world. One thing is clear in Genesis. God said that this world is good and we should agree. Even though it is fallen, it is still good.

What are we to do? Christians who do not have studies in science should not argue science. I have long said that people like Dawkins and Meyers who are not studied in biblical studies, theology, or philosophy, should not speak on those topics. They are studied in science. Let them speak on science. Note however that this does not mean they can speak on the metaphysical or philosophical implications of a scientific discovery. They speak on the finding itself and leave the philosophy and metaphysics to those in those fields.

This is fair entirely after all. If we do not want them speaking where they have no study, then if we have no study in an area, let us not speak as well. However, let us be quick to argue against the god-of-the-gaps idea. Let us make it clear that we want as little gaps in our knowledge as possible. We want to know as much about the universe as we can.

However, we must always oppose scientism wherever it raises its head. By this, I mean the belief that all knowledge is that which is verifiable scientifically. This statement itself is not verifiable scientifically. We must say that we accept scientific truths, but we accept truths in other areas that are not known by the scientific method.

We must also be people who think that while science gives us great and important truths, it does not give us the greatest ones. Science can help connect my computer to yours somehow so you can read my blog. i will not attempt to explain that. When I move and have my game systems hooked up, I have to call someone to do it. I cannot do that kind of thing. Some of you will probably say my terminology about one computer connecting to another is inaccurate with the internet. That’s fine. I don’t claim to be accurate there. My point is just that it can explain why there is some sort of connection, but it cannot explain why you should care about what I say or what knowledge itself is.

When I enjoy intimate time with my wife, science can tell me exactly what is happening in our bodies at the time, but it cannot explain to me why it is we do that, what it means, and if there are any dishonorable practices there. Science can help me when I have a disease to give me a cure, but it cannot tell me why I should seek to free others from disease or why it is my life is really worth living in the first place. Science can help me to send money from a distance to my fellow man in need, (Such as you can do by donating to this blog) but it cannot tell me why I should give a rip about him to begin with. In these cases, science is an aid to the understanding of greater truths that are prior.

Unfortunately, by promoting a warfare, I believe both sides lose. Christians will lose because many great minds that could work wonders in the scientific field for Christ will not go in thinking that they are entering enemy territory. Who knows which one could cure cancer for instance? Atheists will lose because in encouraging the idea that there is a war, many will take their religion much more seriously than science and will be anti-science then. Atheists will end up creating the ideology that they do not want to see.

In reality, the final battle will not be won in the scientific community as it cannot be the final arbiter. Both sides must be open to the truth claims of the other. For we Christians, if evolution is true, we should want to know it and for that reason, should encourage the best research in the evolutionary community. For atheists, if ID is true, they should want to know it and seek to encourage the best research in the ID community. Too often, we can be tempted to look at just a conclusion we do not want to support and assume the means is a threat then. We must instead abandon that and say “We will go with whatever is found to be true.”

Of course, this will be with varying degrees of evidence. No Christian should want to abandon a position on evidence that can rightly be called new and sketchy at the time. No atheist should want to do the same. We should all seek to be people following the evidence where it leads, but we Christians must especially be such since we claim to be people of truth.

We want the atheist community to follow the philosophical and historical arguments. We want them to see philosophy points to God and history shows that Jesus rose and we have evidence. If we are not willing to follow scientific evidence where it leads, why should we expect them to follow philosophical and historical evidence? Let us set the example.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: The Problems With New Atheism

March 6, 2012

Why is the New Atheism not a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Reason Rally is largely a work of the new atheist movement. This has largely taken off after 9/11 with atheists seeking to have an even more prominent role in society. Mind you I have no problem with that. Atheists have as much right as anyone else to seek to change the laws to be in accordance with what they think is best and they have every right to state their views publicly, meet publicly, etc.

The problem is not that they are doing this. In reality, I do not see the new atheists as a problem. Rather, I see them as a blessing in much the same way The Da Vinci Code was. The Da Vinci Code started a conversation and Christians who were interested would better inform themselves about the truths of what it is they believe. I believe the New Atheists have done the same thing. They’ve made the dialogue public.

However, the blessing is not only have they made the dialogue public, but they have not presented a very strong case and one that a series at any church that was led by someone skilled in apologetics could train someone to answer. Due to their being seen as authorities, they are taken far more seriously and leading many atheists to think this is the cream of the crop.

If it is, then the crop has gone very bad. Dawkins, the leading speaker of the new atheism is not qualified in philosophy or theology or biblical studies to speak on any of these matters, but does so anyway. The atheist thinking “The God Delusion” presents sound arguments, walks away thinking, as an example, that the Thomistic arguments are easily dealt with.

That is, until he meets a Thomist who knows those arguments.

At that point, the atheist sadly usually does not see the flaws in the arguments, but instead still holds to them because, well Pope Dawkins has spoken and the case is closed. The reality is Dawkins could go to anyone out there who studies Thomism and be told that his positions are straw men and the arguments he has do not work.

Furthermore, with the high interest in science, we can expect to see more of scientism from the new atheist side. No Christian should be anti-science, but we should all be anti-scientism. We need to realize that there are other forms of finding truth out there and for most of us, the most important truths we know are not scientific in nature.

The benefit for us is this verificationism is easily dealt with. As I have stated earlier, for an atheist like this, science for them is essentially what Scripture is for the Christian. Instead of having Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and quite likely we can expect Meyers to be next in line.

With Dawkins being a leading speaker at this rally, we can expect more of the same. What this will do is just lead to further reinforcement. Just as much as Christians can cloister themselves away from the world at times in isolation to reinforce one another in beliefs that they hold without evidence, atheists can do the same. This is not to say all Christians believe without evidence. I certainly don’t and several others don’t. This is to say that there are several who do. There are several atheists of the Dawkins type who also hold their anti-religious beliefs without evidence.

Thus, not only do I think the Reason Rally is not really a threat, but it will also be a boon to Christians. If atheists want to keep availing themselves of material by the new atheists, we can expect that their side will ultimately suffer. Let us not make the same mistake however of growing lax in our efforts and make sure the sources we have and the ones we choose to have represent us are the best that they can be.

What atheists need to do is in fact distance themselves from meetings like the Reason Rally and to avoid the new atheists. They are better off going to older atheists of the past. Not only that, they need to make sure that they avail themselves of evangelical scholarship so they can be sure they know what their opponents are really arguing.

If atheists want to still go to this rally, please do go ahead. The more I see there, the more hope I will have for the spread of Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Tips for Dialogue

March 5, 2012

Can some help be given for the debates at Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like today’s post to be about helping with the dialogue what will go on at Reason Rally. However, in the interest of fairness, I think the Christians that I know that are able to go are very well equipped and I want to make sure the other side has some information to even things out on how they can have better dialogues.

First, please keep in mind that many of us read books and we prefer books that don’t have the word “Illustrated” on the cover. This also means that you will need to know about the books that we read. It also means that you will need to have more than a google search. In this area, never ever refer to Wikipedia. We know you treat it seriously, but we don’t.

Second, keep in mind that saying dead people coming back to life is absurd doesn’t faze us. That’s something from your worldview, and if there is no God, then we agree that it is absurd. You need to remember that we do not share that worldview and it does no good to say our worldview is wrong because it has things in it that are absurd to your worldview.

Third, avoid using the word faith to refer to believing something without evidence. We know that you believe that this is the definition of faith even though you have no evidence that any biblical writer intended the word faith to mean that. When you use faith and treat is as if we believe things without evidence, it leads us to further be certain of our position that you’re clueless.

Fourth, keep in mind that the scientific method is great for science, but not for everything else, and that verificationism has been a dead movement for a number of decades now. We know you are behind on the times on this, but that is what happens when there is no study done in philosophical matters due to science becoming the way, the truth, and the life.

Fifth, we are well-read with various opinions on matters that are secondary. Do not assume that we all believe in a 6000 year-old Earth or that we all interpret every biblical passage literally or that we all live and die on the words of William Lane Craig. Yes. We know that you treat Pope Dawkins that way, but we do not treat Craig that way. You might be surprised to know that at times, some of us actually disagree with him. We don’t blindly accept someone because they’re a theist, which is different from what we see from the atheist side of blindly accepting someone because they’re an atheist.

Sixth, when it comes to Craig, for those of us who do believe in some of his arguments, just saying “Craig has been refuted” or “Craig is a proven liar” or something like that. That means no more to us than if we come to you and just say “Dawkins has been refuted” without an argument.

Seventh, don’t assume that just because you believe you have proven evolution in a dialogue that every argument for God’s existence becomes irrelevant. Believe it or not, some of us actually have no problem with evolutionary theory and some of us realize that God’s existence is not based on filling a function alone.

Eighth, never say that Jesus never existed. When you do that, we automatically know that you are not worth taking seriously. Believe it or not, many atheists can accept that Jesus existed as a historical person and go on to lead lives that they find entirely consistent with atheism. Ask your doctor if it will work for you.

Ninth, when referring to books, be sure that you have read some of ours. This might sound strange to you, but we actually like to read books by atheists. It would be appreciative if you would read books by Christians. Note we mean intellectual Christians. “Your Best Life Now” doesn’t count.

Tenth, don’t assume that Ray Comfort and Josh McDowell are the peak of Christian apologetics. Some of us actually prefer the older arguments. We want to know if you can deal with Augustinian or Thomistic thought. Sure, we read moderns. But they’re just standing on the shoulders of giants.

Eleventh, as soon as you mention fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, or anything similar, we already know to discount you. Believe it or not, using words like this are not synonymous with actually having an argument. You need to show that any such analogy would work and do so without assuming your worldview.

Twelfth, learn to critically examine your own authorities. Believe it or not, Dawkins can be wrong about some things and he actually is not an authority in philosophy, theology, or biblical studies. Personally, you should seek to move away from Dawkins if you want to have respect as an atheist. Sadly enough, your showing up at the Reason Rally is probably going to be an indication that you’re already too far gone in fundamentalist thinking.

This is a lot, but I do realize that you really need help in these dialogues and I seek to be fair. Following steps like this could lead to you coming to the dialogue with an informed opinion instead of just rants, and we would all appreciate that much more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Fundy Atheist Central

March 3, 2012

Who can we expect to see at Reason Rally? Find out today on Deeper Waters.

P.Z. Meyers complains that evangelicals will be at the Reason Rally. He neglects to mention that fundamentalists will be there. No doubt, there could be some fundamentalist Christians showing up, but what I am speaking about is in fact fundamentalist atheism, a dreaded condition spreading like wildfire, largely in part due to the internet.

Let’s talk about a group of people to show what I’m talking about.

There are people who believe that every word of the Bible should be read literally. The plain sense of the text is always that which is ideal. There is no need to go beyond the text as the Bible must stand on its own and to seek information outside the text is to say the Bible is inadequate. One must simply just believe in the Bible and not ask questions about what the authorities say.

You might think I’m describing fundamentalist Christians. I’m also describing fundamentalist atheists.

“But atheists don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God!” Yes. That’s true, and in that they differ from their Christian counterparts, but in their beliefs, if it is the Word of God, everything else follows. It would be understandable on its own without anyone else and every passage of it should be interpreted literally. Since they cannot understand the Bible on its own and thinks the literal interpretation of several passages doesn’t make sense, then they are sure it is not the Word of God.

What does this mean? It means that there is no reason to do any outside research. Study the textual criticism of how the Biblical text came to be? No need. If the Bible was the Word of God, we would not need this as it would have been preserved perfectly for us.

Study the surrounding culture to seek to understand what the text would mean to its hearers? No need. The Bible if it was the Word of God would have been written for us today. This is, of course, for them further proof that it is not the Word of God, as obviously an ancient book should have contained a hidden code if not an outright message concerning information on modern scientific discoveries and a cure for cancer if it was the Word of God.

Study the original languages of the Bible? No need. If the Bible was the Word of God, it should be just as clear in English. Why should the Bible need all that interpreting after all?

Study any commentaries to see what they say on various verses that are hard to understand? No need. If the Bible was the Word of God, then the Holy Spirit would surely come to every believer and tell them what a text means. This is in fact further proof Christianity cannot be true in the mind of the fundy atheist. If Christians disagree, well obviously it’s not all coming from the Holy Spirit. That clenches it.

Study the theistic arguments? No need. One should not seek to have evidence for a position when it comes to religious matters. We are supposed to be people of faith and faith obviously just means that you believe something without evidence. Unfortunately, fundy atheists say that is the definition of faith even though there is no evidence to back that.

Study ethics? No need. After all, the Bible is supposed to answer every single moral question that we have. In fact, that’s the purpose of it. The Bible was written to teach us all how to be good people and as long as we have that, then there is no need for study.

Study learned scholars on any subject matter relating to religion? No need. After all, the Bible should be clear enough and God should be clear enough. Why do we need to go to the works of men if we are going to be seeking to understand the work of the Lord?

The end result? The Christian is ready to say everything in the Bible is true. The fundy atheist ready to say it is all false, or at least heavily suspect. Of course, the Bible is full of information attesting to the fact that Jesus existed, but we just can’t trust it because it’s religious and has miracles in it. Anyone who is making a case for it being reliable is obviously just someone who’s been indoctrinated and is incapable of thinking for themselves to see the obvious nonsense.

Both cases also have an allegiance without thinking to anything external when it is seen. If Pastor Bob says the Bible says this, well that’s the case. For the atheist, if Pastor Dawkins says X, well that’s also the case. Whatever authority one goes to, if it is one that agrees with one’s own worldview, then that authority is infallible in all matters of faith and practice. No need to question.

Also, there is never any need to read the other side. The other side in both cases is obvious nonsense. Why should I bother educating myself on what some evil evolutionists say? They’re just God-haters trying to suppress the truth. Why should I bother educating myself on what New Testament scholars say? They were just indoctrinated as children and can’t face reality without their crutch and are trying to cover up the obvious holes in the Bible.

The Reason Rally we can expect will be the equivalent of a fundamentalist Christian meeting except for the allegiance that is given. We might even want to discuss if this could possibly be the largest gathering of fundamentalists ever at one place.

Christians need to be prepared and hope that some of them will actually be willing to dialogue and consider educating themselves on some matters. Always difficult with a fundy atheist, but one can always hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Pleased for P.Z.

March 2, 2012

Will P.Z. Myers change his policy after Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

P.Z. Myers isn’t too happy. Who is he? He’s the evolutionary biologist who is the blogger at Pharyngula. Apparently, he’s upset that a number of Christians plan to attend the Reason Rally. The post can be found here. Now he’s made a statement about a personal policy of his that I’d like to comment on.

I’m beginning to feel like my long-standing personal policy of not intruding on their church services needs to be questioned, because man, is this ever arrogant and obnoxious.

First off, a problem with us. One thing that I am sure of is that in a lot of churches, if someone like Meyers showed up, they would not be ready. Where there could be well over 100 Christians, not one of them would be able to give an answer and most of them would say that you just have to have faith.

Ugh. Makes me sick.

If you’re someone new to the faith, maybe I could grant you some leeway, but by and large our churches are failing at this point. We are not educating our members and sometimes I can understand why atheists think they are the champions of reason because there are too many Christians out there who aren’t thinking about their faith. They’re just living in their own world content with just knowing that Jesus loves them.

These churches will be trounced and there will be casualties leading to either new atheists who really don’t think seriously about religion (Several of which you can find on Meyers’s own blog) or else the situation of the Christians in these churches just further retreating into themselves and cutting themselves off from the world.

You will have a hard time getting the gospel to the world the more you retreat inside yourself.

That gets us to another point. Why is it that we have made churches more like isolation chambers. Now I do know we need places to congregate, but these should also be places where unbelievers can expect to have their questions on Christianity answered and where they can think they can go to to get those questions answered instead of having the mindset of “Just let them be.”

In fact, in 1 Cor. 14 Paul talks about how Christians should behave for when unbelievers come in. He is talking about the appearance that we will have before a world that is watching. Why is it that the church is not seen as a beacon of intellectualism? It is because we Christians did abandon intellectual grounds among the laity and much amongst the leadership as well. If we think the new atheist movement is truly lacking in reason, which I think they are, it is because the church lacked it first.

However, as to what Meyers has said, I will say that whatever church I find myself in, and I do not know which that will be since my wife and I will be moving soon, I would be delighted for Meyers to come to my church and to ask the hardest questions that he can think of. In fact, I would actually celebrate that opportunity. I would love to tell all my friends and family that Meyers came to my church today.

It would be ideal if this could happen in any church, but sadly, it wouldn’t. As I said, too many are unprepared and there will be a lot of casualties in the faith in several churches. Whose fault is this? It is not the fault of Christianity. It is not the fault of the new atheists. It is our fault.

Our churches do several great ministries by and large. We are often willing to set up soup kitchens and food pantries for those in need. We will help people with their bills when things get too difficult for them financially. We will help them with alcoholism and working through a divorce and with grief counseling when a loved one dies and we will send missionaries overseas to spread the gospel.

How much is the church investing in apologetics?

If Christianity is not true, then we are doing some nice things, but we are to be pitied for believing a lie.

Yet I am regularly concerned about churches that will spend millions on big buildings and gyms and everything else, but when it comes to supporting the work of the apologists, the ones who are on the front lines defending all the other work that is going on, there is nothing.

That’s why the people at True Reason also need your support. They are out there on the front lines. For my own self, I’m out there as well. This blog is not the only thing I do, but there is a donate button for a reason. It is people like you that keep this going.

Maybe if the church returns to being a force in intellectualism again and regains our apologetic ability, maybe we’ll actually start seeing a turnaround. Many of us complain about the evil we see in our society, but our idea is to sit back and just pray. Prayer is a good thing to do. It is never to be used as an excuse to laziness. I suggest we use Nehemiah 4:9 as an example. When the walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt and the people were in danger, Nehemiah said they prayed and posted a guard. We, the apologists, are the guard. Support us and pray for us as well. Some of you I am sure cannot support financially, and in that case do pray, but also be an encouragement. Those of us on the front lines need it more than you realize.

Be a support today. When Meyers comes to your church, be ready to prevent casualties.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally Reasoning?

March 1, 2012

What great reasoning can we expect to see from Unreasonables at the Reason Rally? Let’s find out on Deeper Waters.

Recently, someone found a link of an article that could indicate what we can expect to see at the Reason Rally. This concerns the camp quest of Richard Dawkins. The link can be found here.

Indeed, stellar reasoning we do find here. That is, if you take stellar to mean “I wonder what planet this reasoning was thought up on.”

Astronomy, critical thinking, philosophy and pseudo-science are covered at Camp Quest.

The first, maybe. However, as for the last three, most of that is material we wish Unreasonables would learn for themselves. Critical thinking does not mean thinking critically of every opinion that disagrees with you and is also religious. Philosophy does not mean finding what can be demonstrated scientifically. pseudo-science does not mean “Anything that has anything in it that is not ‘natural’, whatever that means.

There are some atheists who can do philosophy and critical thinking well of course. They’re also able to actually engage with the ideas of their opponents rather than tossing out sound bites. New atheist types like Meyers, Dawkins, etc. are not included in this group. Forget having to go and study the theistic arguments that have gone on for centuries. Just toss out “Who made God?” or “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” or just claim evolution renders them all moot. After all, who has time to waste on that darn study. Just make sure those darn theists study evolution before they say anything. They surely shouldn’t comment on what they haven’t studied after all.

Moving on we see this:

One of the most popular exercises is the invisible unicorn challenge. The children are told there are two invisible unicorns who live at Camp Quest but that they cannot be seen, heard, felt or smelt, and do not leave a trace. A book about them has been handed down through the ages but it is too precious for anyone to see.

It’s almost as if some people think that theistic arguments do not have to be taken seriously ever since learning the word “fairies.” Never mind that there are differences such as God is a metaphysical necessity in the theistic worldview for the existence of anything whatsoever, or that our book can be seen and read by anyone, or that because of the nature of the entity an argument can be made that is supposed to end in certainty rather than just a possibility. Let’s just go with unicorns.

The children are supposed to disprove the existence of the unicorns for all the adults who claim to be staunch believers in them. What are the rewards?

a £10 note with a picture of Charles Darwin on it signed by Richard Dawkins, or a “godless” $100 bill, printed before 1957 when “In God We Trust” was added to paper currency in the US.

So far, the challenge has been unmet. The camp director, Samantha Stein, wishes to make one thing plain about the challenge:

Stein said that the exercise was not about trying to bash the idea of God – just to make the children think critically and rationally.

For the first part, color me skeptical. For the second part, how does this do it? Perhaps it would help if children were instead taught the laws of logic and were taught how to spot and recognize logical fallacies. Perhaps it would help if they were taught how to use a library and proper research skills. Perhaps they should be told there are other web sites out there for study besides Wikipedia.

Instead, children are taught automatically that being reasonable means being an atheist. My contention is that there are reasonable people on both sides and unreasonable people on both sides. There are some atheists who really do actually engage with the other side and learn their arguments. These are ones who are worthy of respect. Most others instead just toss out sound bites and think that this is sufficient.

They also quickly are seen to be in over their head, but then that invincible ignorance kicks in. This is what is known as the Dunning Effect. Of course, the atheist has to be right because, well, they’re the atheist and they’re the champions of reason and as educated as this Christian might appear to be, we all know really that they’re just insecure and believe blindly because they were scared into doing so or they just want to.

It could never be because they just think the evidence is compelling.

If this is the kind of reasoning we can expect to see at the Reason Rally, then I hope every atheist out there attends it. I am quite thankful for what Dawkins, Meyers, Stenger, Harris, and others have done in further increasing the ignorance of the atheist movement. Let them keep doing so!

In Christ,
Nick Peters