Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brits De-Baptising

More than 100,000 Britons have recently downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith.

The initiative launched by a group called the National Secular Society (NSS) follows atheist campaigns here and elsewhere, including a London bus poster which triggered protests by proclaiming "There's probably* (emphasis mine) no God."

. . .

The bus-side posters that hit London in January sported the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Full Article.

*I'm not sure how comforting I would find the assertion that there is probably no God, but whatever... I find it terribly ironic and hilarious when people say that religion, particularly Christianity, is the opiate of the masses.

As Dinesh D'Souza points out in What's So Great About Christianity, it is atheism and atheists that engage in wishful thinking and self-deception convincing themselves that no God exists. If Christianity, for example, were an opiate, why would the peddlers have included the doctrine of Hell? Or the most rigorous, demanding moral standard of any religion?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Francis Schaeffer's Absolute Limits Bible Believing Christians Cannot Compromise.

In his book The Church Before the Watching World, Francis Schaeffer set forth some limits that orthodox, Bible-believing Christians cannot compromise, and cannot cross. He speaks of two types of concepts: 1) Intrinsic Concepts; and 2) those concepts that are true only after the Fall.

Intrinsic Concepts: things as true before the Fall as after the Fall.
  • God exists and He is free. Christianity does not have a deterministic system. God did not create because He had to. God does not need the creation, the way the creation needs him. God is a personal God, but he had personal relationship and communication on the high order of the Trinity. "The persons of the Trinity loved each other and communicated with each other before the creation of all things. God exists, and He did not need to create." (168)
  • "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelations 4:11)
  • God created out of nothing, and the infinity of the Judeo-Christian, personal God is of such a nature that when He created He did not need to put chance back of Himself.
  • The Persons of the Trinity must be kept distinct. There is true unity and diversity, not behind God but in God. This is ontologically true of the Trinity before the creation of all else.
    "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24). "Let us make man in our own image." (Gen. 1:26)
  • God has a character, and His holiness is part of His character. God's holiness involves moral content. Some thing conform to His nature, and some things do not.
    Of course, this has tremendous ramifications, for the fact that God is holy means something to the individual and it means something to the group. It demands holiness in our personal life and holiness in the church in both life and doctrine. . . . And yet we fall off the opposite cliff if we forget that God is love. (p173).
The Absolute Limits which are true only after the Fall.
    Orthodox Christians believe in the brute fact of the historic, space-time Fall. The historic Fall is not an interpretation; it is a brute fact. There is no room for hermeneutics here, if by hermeneutics we mean explaining away the bruge factness of the Fall. That there was a Fall is not an upper-story statement--that is, it is not in this sense a "theological" or "religious" statement. Rather, it is a historic, space-time, brute fact, propositional statement. (p174).
  • Christ's death and resurrection are historic, space-time brute facts that have already occurred, and the second coming of Christ is a historic, space-time brute fact that will occur in the future. (p174).
  • We must reject the concept of subjectivity with regard to these historical events; but we must also realize that these brute facts are not just theological abstractions or bare propositions. They are to have meaning in our present lives, and they are to be acted upon in our present lives. There is no Christian doctrine that does not have meaning in the existential, moment-by-moment life. (p175)
  • Justification must not be confused with sanctification
  • Justification is once-for-all, and this justification is not to be confused with the moment-by-moment Christian life. Justification is once-for-all, and yet if there are no signs of such a moment-by-moment Christian life, we must question whether or not there has ever been justification. (p176)
  • There is such a thing as absolute right and absolute wrong in systems.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, part 6

This is Part 6 of the apologetic regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ as set forth by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli which I am summarzing here part by part, and lifting large parts of the chapter directly onto here. If I'm inserting my own opinion, or using other sources I will make it clear.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.
Part 5 can be found here.

The Main Argument, con't.

The Trilemma: Lord, Liar or Lunatic?

Perhaps Jesus sincerely thought that he was God, but was mistaken. If Jesus was mistaken about who he was, while he could not be considered "morally" bad because he did not intentionally deceive people, he would be considered "mentally" bad. A lunatic may not be wicked, but he is not more trustworthy than a liar.

Either Jesus believed his own claim to be God or he did not. If he did, he was a lunatic. If he did not, he was a liar. Unless, of course, he was (is) God.

Why could he not be either a liar or a lunatic? Because of his character. There are two things everyone admits about Jesus' character: he was wise and he was good. A lunatic and a liar are the opposite of wise and good.

The "divinity complex" is a recognized form of psychopathology. Its character traits are: egotism, narcissism, inflexibility, dullness, predictability, inability to understand and love others as they really are and creatively relate to others. A person exhibiting the attributes of "divinity complex" are essentially people with the polar opposite personality of Jesus. Jesus had the three attributes every human being needs and wants: wisdom, love, and creativity.

"He wisely and cannily saw into people's hearts, behind their words. He solved insolvable problems. He also gave totally to others, including his very life. Finally, he was the most creative, interesting, unpredictable man who ever lived. No one--believer, unbeliever or agnostic--was ever bored by him. The common verb predicated of those who met Jesus was "thaumazo", "To wonder." Lunatics are not wonderful, but jesus was the most wonderful person in history. If that were lunacy, lunacy would be more desirable than sanity.

If, on the other hand, Jesus was a liar, then he had to have been the most clever, cunning, machiavellian, blasphemously wicked satanic deceiver the world has ever known, successfully seducing billions into giving up their eternal souls into his hands. If orthodox Christianity is a lie, it is by far the biggest and baddest lie ever told, and Jesus is the biggest and baddest liar.

But in every way jesus was morally impeccable. He had all the virtues, both soft and hard, tender and tough. Further, he died for his "lie." What would motivate a selfish, evil liar to do that? We have never known anyone who thought Jesus was a deliberate liar. That would be more biarre than calling Mother Teresa a party animal.
Next, I will finish up the remainder of the Trilemma, and then hopefully soon get to the Quadrilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic or Myth?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Excerpt from "The Church Before the Watching World"

"Liberalism is unfaithfulness, spiritual adultery toward the divine Bridegroom. We are involved, therefore, in a matter of loyalty, loyalty not only to the creeds, but to the Scripture and beyond that to the divine Bridegroom--the infinite-personal divine Bridegroom who is there in an absolute antithesis to His not being there.

We not only believe in the existence of truth, but we have the truth--a truth that has content and can be verbalized (and then can be lived)--a truth we can share with the twentieth-century world. Do you think our contemporaries will take us seriously if we do not practice truth? Do you think for a moment that the really serious-minded twentieth-century young people--our own youth as they go off to universities, who are taught in the fields of sociology, psychology, philosophy, etc., that all is relative--will take us seriously? In an age that does not believe that truth exists, do you reallyu believe they will take seriously that their fathers are speaking truth and believe in truth? Will their fathers have credibility, if they do not practice antithesis in religious matters?"

-Francis Schaeffer, The Church Before the Watching World

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prosperity Theology

I do my best to not judge how others worship God, or the type of Christian Church they attend because as Ravi Zacharias poignantly said "unity of faith doesn't mean uniformity of expression," and ultimately how one worships isn't results-oriented towards pleasing a humanly 3rd party, but rather towards praising God.

However, Prosperity Theology crosses me as distinctly American. Embracing the assumption that God always physically heals or protects trusting, praying believers from tragedies stands in bold contrast to the history of the Christian church marked by martyrdom and sacrifice of its believers.

Not to mention what the Bible teaches:
  • [W]e rejoice that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rm 5:3-5)
  • Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (Jm 1:2-4)
  • The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation; but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a flower of the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities. (Jm 1:9-11).
None of us want to suffer, and C.S. Lewis said along the lines that it is easier to talk about the problem of pain until you have a toothache, however to expect life to be magically easier when one accepts Christ is simply mistaken. True, we ought to be the most joyous people on Earth, but that doesn't mean that we are guaranteed a life of pain-free luxury. Rather, the biggest difference when one accepts Christ's eternal gift is the ability and the strength to view things from a Godly perspective.

Does the Moral Argument Show There Is a God?

An Argument by Paul Copan.

Here's a good rule of thumb about morality: Never believe those who say murder or rape may not really be wrong. Such people haven't looked deeply enough into the basis for moral belief--and just aren't functioning properly. (Usually, when personally threatened with murder or rape, they change their tune!) Color-blind persons need help distinguishing red from green. Similarly, morally malfunctioning persons (those denying basic moral truths) don't need arguments; they need psychological and spiritual help. Like logical laws, moral laws and instincts are basically to well-functioning humans.

As part of God's general self-revelation, all people--unless they ignore or suppress their conscience--can and should have basic moral insight, knowing truths generally available to any morally sensitive person (Rm 2:14-15). We instinctively recognize the wrongness of torturing or murdering the innocent or committing rape. We just know the rightness of virtues (kindness, trustworthiness, unselfishness). A person's failure to recognize these insights reveals something defective; he hasn't looked deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.

Philosophers and theologians past and present have noted the connection between God's existence and objective moral values. A moral argument for God's existence goes like this:
  • If objective moral values exist, then God exists
  • Objective moral values do exist
  • Therefore, God exists
If objective moral values exist, where do they come from? The most plausible answer is God's nature or character. Even many atheists have admitted that objective moral values (which they deny)* don't fit an atheistic world but would serve as evidence for God's existence.

We live in a time when many claim everything is relative, yet ironically they believe they have "rights." But if morality is just the product of evolution, culture, or personal choice, then rights--and moral responsibility--do not truly exist. But if they do, this assumes humans have value in and of themselves as persons, no matter what their culture or science textbooks say. But what, then, is the basis for this value? Could this intrinsic value just emerge from impersonal, mindless, valueless processes over time (naturalism)?

An Eastern philosophical approach to ethics is monism (sometimes called "pantheism"): because everything is one, no ultimate distinction between good and evil exists. This serves to support relativism. A more natural context for ethics is the theistic one, one in which we've been made by a good God to resemble Him in certain important (though limited) ways. The Declaration of Independence correctly notes that we've been endowed by our Creator with "certain inalienable rights." Human dignity isn't just "there." Dignity and rights come from a good God (despite human sinfulness).

Can't atheists be moral? Yes! Like believers, they've been made in the image of God and thus have the ability to recognize right and wrong.

Doesn't God Himself conform to certain moral standards outside Himself? No, God's good character is the very standard; God simply acts and naturally does what is good. Universal moral standards have no basis if God doesn't exist.
*Michael Martin has actually made the argument that objective moral values can and do exist without God. However, he is unable to provide an ontological foundation for said values, and is relegated to such ideas that they "just are" or they are there by supervenience. But supervenience by what? And from what? From a nonmoral source? That's the problem he runs into, and that is the argument he essentially makes.

Martin, however, takes the argument because he understands that without objective moral values, he runs into the problem of morality just becoming a matter of personal preference, and there is no standard other than the individual person.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do We Really Believe God Is There?

"Suppose we awoke tomorrow morning and we opened our Bibles and found two things had been taken out, not as the liberals would take them out, but really out. Suppose God ahd taken them out. the first item missing was the real empowering of the Holy Spirit, and the second item the reality of prayer. Consequently, following the dictates of Scipture, we would begin to love on the basis of this new Bible in which there was nothing about the power of prayer. Let me ask you something: what difference would there be from the way we acted yesterday? Do we really believe God is there? If we do, we live differently."

-Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (p40)

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, part 5

This is Part 5 of the apologetic regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ as set forth by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli which I am summarzing here part by part, and lifting large parts of the chapter directly onto here. If I'm inserting my own opinion, or using other sources I will make it clear.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.

The Main Argument
There are only five possible answers to the question: If Jesus is not God, what is he? The possible answers/alternatives to Christ's divinity are:
  1. Jesus either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.
  2. He could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.
  3. Therefore "Jesus is Lord" (the earliest Christian creed) if he did not lie about who he was, or a bad man (if he did).
This can be and needs to be developed part-by-part.

The Dilemma: Lord or Liar? Aut deus aut homo malus ("Either God or a bad man.")
  1. Jesus was either God (if he did not lie about who he was) or a bad man (if he did).
  2. But Jesus was not a bad man. (Very few will challenge the premise that Jesus was not a bad man.)
  3. Therefore jesus was (is) God.
But what justifies the first preimse, that Jesus was either God or a bad man? Why all or nothing? Answer: Common sense.
Someone who claims to be God and is not, is not a good man but a bad man. Merely a "good man" is one thing Jesus could not possible be.* By claiming to be God he eliminated that possibility. For a liar is not a good man, and one who lies about his essential identity is a liar, and a mere man who claims to be God lies about his essential identity.
*I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but i don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Impartment of Truth: Excerpts from "The Screwtape Letters"

I have gotten a few laughs out of The Screwtape Letters, but it is also a particularly enlightening book. Here are some of the things that have stood out so far:

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

"I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. . . . We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics." -Screwtape

"Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks rounds upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." -Screwtape

"I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realize the break he has made with the first months of his Christian life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn't been doing very well lately." -Screwtape

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, part 4

This is Part 4 of the apologetic regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ as set forth by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli which I am summarzing here part by part, and lifting large parts of the chapter directly onto here. If I'm inserting my own opinion, or using other sources I will make it clear.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.

Why then did anyone believe Jesus' claim to be God?
The simple reason is that Jesus of Nazareth was good, wise, and trustworthy. The same thing can be found in Buddhism. The claims of Buddhism are equally incredible to Christianity. To believe that we are all living in perpetual illusion, our thoughts are false, that you and I and time and space are all illusions, and that everything is in actuality nameless and empty. People have believed this doctrine not because Buddhism seemed likely, or obvious, but rather because Buddha seemed true.

The same principle explains how Christianity expanded from 12 apostles around 30 A.D. to a billion believers today. We believe the astonishing claims of Christ's divinity because we believe Jesus Christ. To deny Christianity, you have to deny Jesus, and his claim to divinity.

The Impossibility of the Alternative
As to the fact that Jesus claimed to be God, perhaps the New Testament texts lie, or perhaps Christianity is a myth. But... this raises more difficult questions.

1. If the Gospels lie, who invented the lie and for what reason? Was it Jesus' apostles? What did they get out of the lie? Martyrdom--hardly an attractive temptation. Don't liars typically have selfish motives?

2. Why did thousands suffer torture and death for a lie? Pascal said "the human heart is very fickle," and particularly the heart of a liar. The enemies of early Christianity simply needed to produce one confession from one of Jesus' disciples that it was all a lie, a hoax. After myriad forms of torture and bribery were attempted, not one disciple or apostle cracked.

3. What force sent Christians to the lions' den with hymns on their lips? What lie is capable of making a man like that? Christianity conquered the world mainly through the force of sanctity and love. Saints, not theologians, converted the world. You cannot fake sanctity.

4. If it wasn't a lie, but a hallucination, or a myth mistaken for a literal truth, who were the fools who believed it? There isn't another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe.
Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millennia had strictly forbidden his chosen people to confuse him with a creature as the pagans did--this Creator-God became a creature, a man--a crucified criminal. Hardly a myth that arises naturally in the Jewish mind!
5. If it wasn't the Jews but the Gentiles who started the myth, where did it come from? Of the 27 books of the New Testament, only two were written by Gentiles.

6. If it were a myth, it could not have been a myth that could have started during the lifetime of those who knew the real Jesus; it would've been publicly refuted by eyewitnesses who knew the facts.
Other religious founders, like Buddha and Muhammad, were indeed "divinized" by later myths, but at least two or three generations (more usually two or three centuries) had to pass before such myths could be believed. But the "myth" of Jesus' divinity goes back to the very earliest times and documents.
7. Why has the "muth" continued to attract the brightest minds in history? If you pit Paul of Tarsus, John the Evangelist, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, John Damascene, Origen, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Boethius, Erigena, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Bonaventura, Scotus, Ockham, Nicholas of Cusa, Cajetan, Luther, Calvin, Kepler, Ignatius Loyola, Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkeley, Copernicus, Newton, Kierkegaard, Newman, Pasteur, Jaspers, Marcel, Galileo, Tolstoy, Chesterton, Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis against Machiavelli, Hobbes, Renan, Freud, Drawin, Marx, La Mettrie, Skinner, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Ayer, and Paine it would hardly be a fair fight.
Aquinas argues that if the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie inhistory and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldy pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth
No one has ever satisfactorily answered the simple question: If Jesus is not God, as Christians say he is, then who is he?
Next--The Main Arguments attempting to explain away what Jesus is/was.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Impartment of Truth

“[I]f Truth is objective, if we live in a world we did not create and cannot change merely by thinking, if the world is not really a dream of our own, then the most destructive belief we could possibly believe would be the denial of this primary fact. It would be like closing your eyes while driving, or blissfully ignoring the doctor’s warnings.”

-C.S. Lewis

“You are free in our time to say that God doesn’t exist. You are free to say he exists and is evil. You are even free to say that God would like to exist if he could. You may talk of God as a mystification or a metaphor, you may boil him down with gallons of long words, or boil him to the rags of metaphysics; and, it is not that nobody punishes you but that nobody protests. But if you speak of God as a real thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one’s conduct, the modern world will stop you somehow if it can. We are long past talking about whether an unbeliever should be punished for being irreverent. It is now thought irreverent to be a believer.”

-G.K. Chesterton

"If the beloved is transformed into an automaton, the lover finds himself alone."

-Jean-Paul Sartre

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, part 3

This is Part 3 of the apologetic regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ as set forth by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli which I am summarzing here part by part, and lifting large parts of the chapter directly onto here. If I'm inserting my own opinion, or using other sources I will make it clear.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.

Some Clues to the Possibility of the Doctrine.
1. C.S. Lewis calls the Incarnation "myth becomes fact." Throughout history are various myths of a god who came down from heaven, some even tell of a god who died and rose for the life of man. Just as the flood story appears in may different traditions and legends, something akin to the Jesus story does too. However, this does not lend credence to the idea that the Jesus story itself is a made up myth, but rather, the more witnesses tell a similar story, the more likely it is to be true. The more foreshadowings for an event, the more likely it is that the event will happen.

2. How does the critic who says the Incarnation is impossible, know so much about God that they know what God can or cannot do, did not do?

If the objection is that the doctrine of the Incarnation claims too much, claims to know too much, the response is that to deny it claims to know much more. Logically, a universal negative proposition is the hardest kind to prove.
3. If God exists, he must be omnipotent, and able to do anything that is possible, anything that is meaningful, and doesn't involve self-contradiction. The Incarnation is not self-contradiction, therefore the Incarnation is possible.

There are several other points, but I'm going to move on to Arguments for Christ's Divinity.

Christ's Trustworthiness
Everyone throughout history agrees that Jesus of Nazareth was a good and wise man, a great and profound teacher. Even nonbelievers such as Ghandi saw him as history's greatest moral teacher. In other words, he is seen by all people as eminently trustworthy. (If you do not see Christ as eminently trustworthy based on the Gospels, you have some other reason for not thinking so--such as skepticism regarding the historical reliability of the Gospels).

If a teacher is trustworthy, he can be trusted particularly when it comes to his own identity. If we do not trust Jesus of Nazareth about his own identity, we cannot say that he is trustworthy.

The size of the gap between what you are and what you think you are is a pretty good index of your insanity. If I believe I am the best writer in America, I am an egotistical fool, but I am not insane. If I believe I am Napoleon, I am probably near the edge. If I believe I am the archangel Gabriel, I am probably well over it. And if I believe I am God? . . . Would you send your children to Sunday school to be taught by a man who thought he was God?
Why then did anyone believe Jesus' claim to be God?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

David's Plea for Mercy

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse with me hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:1-7