Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, March 30, 2007

    Atheists pop heroes examined by Michael Novak

    Saw this over on the Thinking Christian site - I added a hyperlink - great piece of Christian skepticism: is extremely difficult to engage on the same level with Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins. All of them think that religion is so great a menace that they do not have much disposition for dialogue. The battle flags they put into the wind are Voltaire's Ecrasez l'infame! Meanwhile, all three pretend that atheists "question everything" and "submit to relentless, almost tedious, self-criticism." Yet in these books there is not a shred of evidence that their authors have ever had any doubts whatever about the rightness of their own atheism. Self-questioning about their own scholarly indifference to their subject; about the horrific brutalities committed in the name of "scientific atheism" during the 20th century; about the restless and mercurial dissatisfactions in atheist and secular movements during the past hundred years; and about the demographic weaknesses thereof--all such questions are notable by their absence. Moreover, although an atheist zeitgeist dominates university campuses in America, it has not proved persuasive to huge numbers of students, who hold their noses and put up with it. Why does atheism persuade so few? Our authors never ask.


    It was, then, a huge disappointment to me to find that Dennett,
    Harris, and especially Dawkins paid no attention to the actual conversion experiences and narratives of fidelity, which are so common in the prison literature of our time. Moreover, none of them ever put their weak, confused, and unplumbed ideas about God under scrutiny. Their natural habit of mind is anthropomorphic. They tend to think of God as if He were a human being, bound to human limitations. They are almost as literal in their readings of the Bible as the least educated, most literal-minded fundamentalist in Flannery O'Connor's rural Georgia. They regale themselves with finding contradictions and impossibilities in these literal readings of theirs, but the full force of their ridicule depends on misreading the literary form of the Biblical passages at stake, whether they be allegorical, metaphorical, poetic, or resonant with many meanings, for the nourishment of a soul under stress. The Bible almost never pretends to be science, or strictly literal history.

    Most of all what surprised me is that, while all three authors write as if science is the be-all and end-all of rational discourse, these three books of theirs are by no means scientific. On the contrary, they are examples of dialectic--arguments from within one point of view, or horizon, addressed to human beings who share a different point of view. Surely, one of the noblest works of reason is to enter into respectful argument with others, whose vision of reality is dramatically different from one's own, in order that both parties may learn from this exchange, and come to a deeper mutual respect. Our authors engage in dialectic, not science, but they can scarcely be said to do so with respect for those they address.

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    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    The atheist ego

    It is remarkable...

    Just recently, in one of the discussion boards I used to frequent, an atheist lamented about the fact that, to paraphrase the words of Rodney Dangerfield, Christians "just don't give me any respect."

    This follows after the person in question related a fairly normal atheist tale. Grew up in a "religious" home, started investigating on his own at the age of 15, "studied" religion for about 4 years, and then concluded that it was all a load of bunk. Stories like that abound in non-believer circles. They then proceed to try and convince you that God does not exist, based on their years of study.

    Well, I'm sorry if I stand a tad skeptical towards these types of arguments. And if that is construed as a lack of respect, then you ain't gonna get any either.

    Because here are the problems with that type of argument:
    1. Has the person in question examined all the evidence, everywhere? If the person claims that, I will venture that he is slightly mistaken. And if not, then we have to ask why the person wishes to make an absolute claim based on partial evidence? And any starting assumptions need to be shown as necessarily true.
    2. The opinion or conclusions of that person, or any other human, has very little to do with the objective truth of God's existence. Even if everyone, everywhere, at all times believe that God does not exist, He still does.
    3. These types of arguments rely on assumptions that are unprovable from the atheist perspective. On what grounds, for example, would an atheist purport to be feeling insulted about getting no respect? If deterministic chance is the ultimate cause, then no-one can be blamed, and no-one can feel aggrieved. If the standards are social, then where did the social standards come from?
    4. It relies on vicious circularity. A starting assumption of the human need to skeptically investigate "religion" will inevitably lead to atheism, with rare exceptions. The unregenerate cannot find the truth through investigation of any sort.

    So, I'm sorry to say that our atheist friend will not get any respect, because his arguments are unsound. They are firmly grounded in the relativist vagrancies of the human ego.

    In stark contrast stands the witness of God through creation, revelation and grace. In Him we are firmly grounded. However, Christians don't deserve respect in this sense either, only God deserves it. We just give it to the deserving One, and through Him we respect our fellow believers.

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    Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    More than Lyrics by Elton John

    Elton John recently stated that religion produces discrimination, bias, hatred and spite. Referring to his position, he stated “From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it is not really compassionate.”

    Has it ever occurred to you to ask the question, if organized religion is the source and produces all these things (discrimination, bias, hatred, spite, etc.), then where did Elton John get his?

    It never ceases to amaze me, how in either debating or listening to those who oppose the truth, how often they in laying charge to believers commit the very crimes they seek to lay at the feet of believers. It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 2 to unbelievers that “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things…”, (only in the case of homosexuality, both Scripture and natural intuitive knowledge affirm the position of those opposed to homosexuality as not discrimination or bias, but wisdom and truth).

    If this were not enough, one should note the additional hypocrisy, hatred, and hidden agenda when EJ states that he would “ban religion completely”, for while on the surface it appears he speaks openly and outright about his beliefs, what is not stated outright is that by doing so he would seek to deny man the most basic privilege and freedom not only to think for himself but to possess the opportunity and methods of approach to arrive at conclusions for himself. Compare the value systems where Christianity, which upon the principle that the Holy Spirit alone is the Lord of the conscience, UPHOLDS the freedom of each individual (while at the same time supporting government that provides, protects and defends); whereas some unbelievers not only OPPOSE the free expression of believers, but ultimately would SEEK TO TAKE AWAY our freedom to think and worship as we choose.

    Nothing new here, it’s been going on for ages and will continue to go on, but at the same time, it’s important both apologetically and culturally that individuals not be swooned just by EJ’s popularity, but see the issues, and note them for what they are.

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    New Team CS Member - Bob Vigneault

    Hi, folks - I want to introduce the newest member of Team CS, Bob Vigneault.

    Bob is a Moderator (and some say, male model ) for the Puritan Board. He has a couple of cool blogs, a great wit and a heart for the glory of God, as well as being creative, funny and committed to the authority of Scripture and a theistic worldview. A perfect fit!

    For a little more insight take a look at some of his threads over on the PB and his profile there - which also links to his blogs.

    Greetings and welcome to the team, Bob!

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    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Why Atheism cannot be correct - Article

    Alan Roebuck’s latest essay for View from the Right takes the form of an open letter to an atheistic think tank called the Center for Inquiry, proceeded by an introduction.

    Introduction to the ideas in the letter

    Liberalism must be opposed fundamentally, because if you accept, even tacitly, your opponent’s premises, you will eventually be forced to accept his conclusions. And the philosophical foundation of liberalism is atheism, because atheism makes man the supreme being, and means that there are no absolutes.

    But nowadays, most apologists for atheism do not call themselves atheists. They say, “Atheism requires proving a universal negative, which is impossible. So I’m not an atheist. I just think there’s no reason to believe in a God, so I don’t. Call me a naturalist [or infidel, or freethinker, or agnostic.]” (But note that it is not impossible to prove a universal negative; mathematicians do it all the time.)

    More importantly, the atheistic apologist says, “Since my position does not posit the existence of anything, it is the default position. The burden of proof falls on the theist to prove a God exists, and if the proof fails, I am justified in my unbelief.” The atheist then finds what he regards as flaws in each theistic proof, and believes his position is justified.


    Dear Center for Inquiry:

    I have read the statements of principle on your website, and there are some things I can agree with. Postmodern relativistic irrationalism needs to be strongly rebuked by being demonstrated to be false. Furthermore, you are right to decry the widespread ignorance of and even hostility to science.

    But the statements on your website, and your basic position of naturalism (the doctrine that nothing exists but physical entities and their properties), make some fundamental intellectual errors. These errors doom your enterprise, and explain much of the public’s hostility to a scientific establishment that declares itself, erroneously, to be the acme of truth and clear thinking.

    read the full article

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    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Atheist's Atheism Examined

    Make a declaration and it may seem like you have something to say, but just because declarations are made does not mean they are substantive, sufficient, or satisfying. It behooves a person to check them out before forming conclusions and accepting them.

    The following declarations are taken from a section of the American Atheists website entitled "Atheism" with my examination/responses.

    Atheism is a doctrine that states that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.

    I love the phrase “nor can there be”. How do they know? How can they prove this? If man is continuing to find things even in physical nature they did not know before (like the turbulence of the sun in today’s news), how bold a claim to speak authoritatively on that which lies beyond their own experience.

    This being said, and recognizing metaphysical realities, on one level the knowledge of God is beyond the realm of natural man (Rom 8:7); yet on another level, with regeneration and renewed ability, the knowledge of God while spiritual is within the realm of spiritual man. God may be known to man because he wants to be known and therefore reveals himself to man.

    The following definition of Atheism was given to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d (MD, 1963), to remove reverential Bible reading and oral unison recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the public schools.
    “Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man instead of god. An Atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth for all men together to enjoy.

    This asserts either a simple declaration that atheists claim a love for man and not for God (while denying him) or it asserts a false dilemma suggesting that one must either love God or love their fellow man, when the truth is that believers love both God and their fellow man.

    Additionally, it points out the failure of the Atheist mission, for given the continued sin, strife, suffering, misery and death experienced each day here on earth(just read the newspapers) and this has not changed overall even given the increase in knowledge and technology of man, no one is justified in suggesting there is or will be heaven on earth in the present life given the world order and condition. The truth is there will be a new heaven and a new earth, a redeemed and renewed one, but it comes not through the work of man, but through the power of him who is creator and redeemer.

    An Atheist believes that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it.

    While there is truth to the fact that apart from faith one should not expect answer to prayer, at the same time one must ask the question does man have it in himself to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it? While no one denies the responsibilities, opportunities and temporal blessings man enjoys, to suggest that man can subdue life is as far fetched as to suggest that one can determine the future, to handle all that comes one’s way, and even to conquer death, and this is just on the physical level which fails to take into account what it truly means to live according to holiness, etc.

    Seems a major tenet of atheism is to claim for man a sovereignty that he does not possess.

    The truth is that believers only, can enjoy life, not only in the spiritual realm, but even as they come to receive and enjoy the blessings that whatever comes their way will work out for good, and that no matter what they face, though they may fail or fall in their own strength, that ultimately they will gain the victory through another.

    An Atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.

    Is it possible for an atheist to possess a knowledge of himself if he knows not where he comes from, what his purpose is, and that his end leads to and results in a forgotten nothingness? Does this type of thinking lead to a life of fulfillment?

    He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.

    It’s a poor man whose significance is found in his works. (It’s no wonder there’s such a low view of the fetus as well as others in latter stages of life or with health conditions in life by which they cannot contribute as much to society as others.)

    Another false dichotomy in the suggestion that those who look to an afterlife possess no interest or involvement in the present life.

    It’s not a question of wanting disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated; the question is the source and method of accomplishment. Will man, who is born with a sinful nature which includes greed, selfishness, love of earthly possession, power, etc., ever accomplish these things according to the present order? Or, is a power beyond man required to accomplish this and bring it about? Believers rightly hold to the latter.

    He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.

    Another false dichotomy to suggest that non-athiests do not want an ethical way of life.
    What is the standard for atheist ethics? Is there an absolute standard, or is it no more than the standard proclaimed in the past which even with progress and additional knowledge prove no more than a system which flip flops on issues such that they call good evil and evil good?

    He believes that we are our brother's keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”

    Was Cain his brother’s keeper? All seemed good for a time, but when things did not go his way, he tried to set that responsibility aside. God however is the one who upholds this principle regardless of the weaknesses and sinfulness of man.

    Atheism is a failed system, which while denying the future and focusing on the present, is nothing but frustration in the face of failed principles and promises.

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    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Wisdom reveals that everything has a role - there are chairs for our sitting and legs for our stroll.

    And wisdom has shown it’s not a good goal – to confuse the two - to look to legs for our sitting or chairs for our stroll.

    So how foolish for man when by things of this world he attempts to satisfy his soul.

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    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Skepticism concerning the rule and motives of other gods (with a lowercase "g")

    Ever wondered WHY it is so hard for non-believers to convert to Christianity?
    Ever wondered WHY non-believers struggle so much with Christianity and would prefer it to disappear or be destroyed?

    The answer is that idols not only control but demand one's allegience.

    I was reading a chapter last night from Alfred Poirier's book "The Peace Making Pastor" who I believe in addressing idolatrous desires in the lives of believers, also sheds light on the idolatry of unbelievers. He writes:

    "Moreover, this concept of idolatry sheds even more light on the dynamics of our desires. Idols are counterfeit gods. As gods, they direct and rule over us. And we, in turn, worship, fear, serve, love, trust, and obey them. Like God, our idols promise and threaten us. If they get what they want, they promise us happiness. If they do not get what they want, they curse us and threaten death.

    As counterfeit gods, idols are lawgivers. They command us. They shape our affections, direct our decisions, and motivate our behaviour. What we do, we do because we obey the command of our God."

    While God also requires full allegience and service, the difference between worshiping Yahweh (the true God) and the various idols of unbelievers is this: Yahweh's rule is one that includes love and both self denial and sacrifice for his servants. (Isa 44; Mt 20:25-26; Col 3:5-8)

    Consider this: while the "g"ods of unbelievers may not like it, the switch is not only worth it, but the best move that any can make!

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    A True Christian...

    Watch this video all the way to the end...

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    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Medical Quackery and the Christian Skeptic

    Good thread over on the Puritan Board concerning fad cures, herbalism, chiropractic, a Christian Skeptic, we are to examine everything and keep the good - I think it is interesting how otherwise perfectly rational folk can be led into some strange stuff...

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    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    The Prayer and the Past Challenge

    While I've ceased being amazed at how often unbelievers argue against a gospel which is not the true gospel (which displays how great their fear and enmity against God is since they go to the extent of arguing against God through the fabrication and argument against their own strawmen), I'm still not amazed at how many different ways unbelievers will come up with in misunderstanding or misapplying the text of Scripture to try to argue against God.

    For example, John Loftus, in his recent post on "Debunking Christianity" entitled "Can Prayer Change the Past? One More Time" sets a challenge before Christians to "pick any event in the past, announce that they are praying to change it, and then watch what happens." His argument is that if God lies outside of time, but hears the prayers of believers, then God can change the past, events like "the Holocaust, the terrorist 9/11 attacks, or any tragic event reported in the daily newspaper."

    Besides the obvious question of how one would determine that God changed the past (given that the change would then be our past), Loftus' challenge is an example of either poor exegesis or faulty logic when it comes to the Scripture. Does not Loftus understand that God does not change and that the prayers that God honors are those in keeping with his will? In effect, what Loftus seeks to accomplish through his challenge is to put the burden on believers to prove the existence of God by having God answer a believer's prayer which is contrary to his will (something contrary to Scripture). This is no different than the logic used by those who in arguing against freedom of the will in light of predesitination are willing to suppose that God predestines the end but then fail to recognize that God ALSO presdestines the means to that end as well. Or better put, it can be likened to someone challenging another to prove a spouse's love for their mate by presenting evidence (or seeking to show evidence) that is contrary to love.

    Let readers beware, that often what may appear to be fine sounding arguments at first by unbelievers (even those who set themselves up as previous believers or pastors), are easily untangled and found faulty when one takes the whole truth into account. Scripture shows that one of the tactics often used by those who oppose Christ is to try to set forth a half-truth as the whole truth. Those who want to avoid deception and become mature must learn to discern and then they will not fall to those arguments which are falsely set forth as high-minded wisdom and knowledge.

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    Just Say No to Drugs / Atheism

    Richard Pratt, Jr. in his book “Every Thought Captive” rightly makes the irrefutable claim that all unbelievers find themselves in the inescapable dilemma of continually living in the tension of uncertain certainty and certain uncertainty. In other words, any person seeking to claim absolute certainty on any matter, while turning from God and biblical presuppositions which provide both the foundation and confidence of knowledge and truth, while not possessing full and complete knowledge of all things is left to “uncertainty” concerning the very things they claim with absolute or total certainty. At the same time, any person who claims uncertainty, while denying God and those same biblical presuppositions, is left contradicting himself in making certain claims of uncertainty. Pratt shows this problem to be even greater when he explains that “when turning from God, the unbeliever asserts with absolute certainty that the biblical distinction between the Creator and His creature is false, he therefore puts on the mask of absolute certainty. Yet, when turning from God, the unbeliever is left in the position of having no solid ground for knowledge and must therefore wear the mask of total uncertainty. While an unbeliever may wear one or the other mask at different times, beneath the mask he may wear the unbeliever is caught in the unsolvable dilemma of being BOTH absolutely certain AND totally uncertain AT THE SAME TIME.” Any apologist who argues with unbelievers will find this to be true and not only easy to work out but interesting as unbelievers cannot get around this truth given their lack of foundation apart from God for knowing even the things they claim to know and especially to claim any knowledge beyond their own or even the natural human experience especially including the metaphysical.

    This being said, I’d like to take this one step further, for not only is man apart from belief caught in this inescapable tension, but atheism in all its forms, and even moreso as one moves toward strong atheism leads one to participate in a constant battle within oneself to suppress the tension that naturally battles within those who resist the truth. Here’s my point, while God has provided through general revelation enough to leave man without excuse, there is in the unbeliever a nature that seeks to deny and reject the truth so that the life of an unbeliever is a life of constant tension, and one of the greatest kind since it lies and is being fought within them. The only means of avoiding this tension while remaining in unbelief is to try to suppress the truth such that one’s unbelief and resulting practices metaphorically speaking becomes the opium of one’s soul. Hence, the greater the unbelief (i.e. strong atheism) the greater the tension and hence the greater the suppression needed to deal with the tension. This does not suggest that strong atheists cannot experience a measure of peace, but like the physical drug addict, the peace that comes from opiates is a false peace though it may at times not only provide a measure of personal comfort but even be euphoric. One must ask the question: Is this the best for the individual, or is there a solution?”

    The only solution to this conflict is to put one’s faith in Christ and align one’s beliefs with the truth which has been and continues to be revealed. The Scriptures provide understanding of all these matters when it states the following: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”(Prov 1:7) “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31-32) “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps 14:1) “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Rom 8:7) “Great peace have they who love your law…” (Ps 199:165) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)

    Peace, true peace, belongs only to those in whom this conflict and tension is not only dealt with, but who in dealing with it also gain the foundation and knowledge for dealing with all things while living in this age. It is only in possessing a foundation for truth that truth means anything and becomes truly meaningful and beneficial for those who possess it. With this in mind, let the readers be reminded that opiates, while they may serve a purpose for those in pain, are not necessary for those who with life and health.

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