Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, January 09, 2009

    Washington - "So Help Me God" - More Proof Secularists Seek to Oppose the United States Theist Foundation

    The oath is in the news now that California atheist activist Michael Newdow — last seen in the headlines trying to knock "Under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance (full story) — is suing to drive all mention of God out of Barack Obama's inauguration Jan. 20. A U.S. District Court judge will hear the case next week.


    Newdow wants it all halted. His suit — which includes 39 other individuals and groups, such as the American Humanist Association, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Atheist Alliance International and others — wants God out of the oath, and the invocation and benediction eliminated.


    Quotes taken from No proof Washington said 'so help me God' will Obama?

    Regardless of whether proof can be shown as to whether Washington did or did not use the words "so help me God" in his oath, the foundational documents of the U.S. are "theist" not "secular".

    ALL THEISTS, not just Christians, need to take note of this battleline in the sand, for though the distinctions may appear small at the moment, the ramification of following a different course will not be!

    9 comments:

    skeptimal said...

    "though the distinctions may appear small at the moment, the ramification of following a different course will not be!"

    I'm curious. What *would* the negative ramifications be for removing "under god" from the pledge and "So help me god" from swearing in ceremonies? Riots in the streets? Sacrificing virgins? Jehovah falling from the sky into a pool of unbelief?

    swordbearer said...

    Ha! While your humor may provide laughter for some, by it you either display cunning behavior, prove how naive you are, or demonstrate your lack of understanding and/or sober judgment as to the importance of foundations and the dangers and ramifications of denying them in full or chipping away at them piece by piece.

    If this issue mattered no more than you suggest, then why do we witness such a combined and repeated effort at the highest levels (even the United States Supreme Court) to oppose it and change such an established course? Apparently, it's "not" such a small issue for secularists either.

    One could as easily ask, why not remove the "right to life" from our Declaration of Independence or from our public discouse? Or, perhaps, not just remove it, but chip away at it by limiting life to what some have said as it's essential function "to replicate itself"? Would this "removal" have any significant ramifications? One could as easily ask: "What *would* the negative ramifications be for removing it? Murders in the streets? Sacrificing virgins? Darwin being raised up as a god, and those who refuse to bow down and worship him being beaten or killed?"

    Rather than spending time spurting the facetious, perhaps it would behove you more to even spend some time playing a game like Uno Stacko where you can see and experience how important foundations are and the effect that chipping away makes especially at the core. This is seen in other countries, even those where God was once central to life and society, where now even in their dictionaries, words like sin, altar, chapel and disciple (... and hence their associations) are being removed from their dictionaries and ultimately will affect both thinking and behavior. Certainly, foundations have significant effect and the wise recognize this!

    Finally, in addition to the issue of foundations, let it also be noted that the level, object and specifics of oaths themselves matter. While it's true that a president is accountable to the people whom he serves (a weighty matter in itself); at the same time, it's significant that people and nations recognize an accountability higher than man (and greater than man can execute), or otherwise the weight and power of official oaths and vows will be weakened and of no more value than the authority and laws which otherwise apply to the individual (and hence besides providing a ceremonial function and public reminder would be useless)... and the nature and meaning of them could easily be reduced to that which we've come to be familiar with in "campaign promises", something I don't think you or I should be comfortable with or take ultimate rest and comfort in.

    Len Montgomery said...

    As a firm believer in the Christian based foundation our fore-fathers have laid for our country, I spend very little time to ingest the ongoing battle to suppress the Word of God by atheists.

    To understand my position, please consider that an atheist simply has no belief in God, no faith. As a Christian, I recognize this position as I to was once a person of unbelief, all Christians were if we are to believe the scriptures. Even in the midst of the faithful, we find unbelief. In Mark 9:24, the father of the child being attacked by demons says to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."

    Do not struggle against those who have yet to find the Lord as that only strngthens the wall of divide. It is love and prayer that will win the day and their hearts. "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him." (Prov 26:4)

    swordbearer said...

    Len,

    Welcome to the site. Thanks for your response. It's great to see the faith you possess and the testimony you've given of having come from unbelief.

    You're argument is valid, and the Scripture you point out is wise; we just need to also balance that with other passages such as the responsibility we have to "always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have", to render to God the things that are God's, to profess the gospel among the world, to be those like the men of Issachar who understood their times, to advance the kingdom of Christ, to win the lost, to set forth the Lordship and dominion of Christ and to call those in darkness to repentance, etc.

    You're right, there's a time and a place as Paul says in Titus to warn false teachers and after warning them again to have nothing to do with them; yet at the same time, even explaining the truth and responding to the positions of unbelievers on websites such as this can not only be what the Lord uses to lead them to see the error of their ways and turn to Christ, and if not them, then perhaps others even through the very same discussions.

    Again, thanks for stopping by, and hope you'll continue to visit.

    skeptimal said...

    Quite a response, sword, but I'm still not sure what you think would happen. There *was* no pledge until the late 19th century, and "under god" was only added in the 1950's (about the same time the dollar became holy).

    Even when I try to look at things as if I believed in Christianity, I can't make sense of your position. You've made clear that you think society will unravel if the word "god" isn't said every few minutes, but the word "god" is not the foundation of our society. Not only that, but aren't oaths themselves kind of a no-no, like idolatry?

    I can't imagine that any god out there would be honored by the people of the U.S. stamping the word god on our money, chanting it as meaningless liturgy in our ceremonies, or forcing people to lie by making them say something they don't believe.

    swordbearer said...

    Skeptimal: You've made clear that you think society will unravel if the word "god" isn't said every few minutes..."

    Response: Not what I said, though it's true words are powerful and what we say matters.

    Skeptimal: "but the word "god" is not the foundation of our society."

    Response: The word "god" isn't, but the framework not only includes "reference" to Almighty, but is built upon theistic principles which have and will continue to serve our country well when honored.

    Surely, you can't be suggesting the framers of our original documents would have conceived of looking to the supreme court to have all theistic references removed from government and public life.

    Skeptimal: "Not only that, but aren't oaths themselves kind of a no-no, like idolatry?"

    Response: Uh- NO. Does not even God himself take vows in scripture, and are they not frequently taken in officer's vows, weddings, etc.

    Perhaps, this will help:
    Westminster Confession of Faith, ch 22

    Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
    I. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

    II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the New Testament, as well as under the Old, so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.

    III. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.

    IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It can not oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man's own hurt: nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.

    V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

    VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

    VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

    Skeptimal stated: "I can't imagine that any god out there would be honored by the people of the U.S. stamping the word god on our money, chanting it as meaningless liturgy in our ceremonies, or forcing people to lie by making them say something they don't believe.

    Response: Suppose you think he would be more honored by us denying his existence and suggesting man is the arbiter of truth and the ruler of the universe.

    skeptimal said...

    "Surely, you can't be suggesting the framers of our original documents would have conceived of looking to the supreme court to have all theistic references removed from government and public life."

    No, I wouldn't say that. I was just asking what harm it does if the word "god" isn't used in affirmations, on our money, and in the pledge. Our history did not include holy money or religious pledges until the 1950's.

    The answer is that nothing would change if we dropped those references. If gods exist, they'll exist whether or not we sanctify our currency or chant their names. The real reason we do these ridiculous things is to comfort the theists.

    "Suppose you think he would be more honored by us denying his existence and suggesting man is the arbiter of truth and the ruler of the universe."

    That's a false dilemma, because you don't have to choose one extreme or the other. I would actually suggest that our government should neither be stamping religion on everything *nor* acknowledging the non-existence of gods. It isn't government's place to decide these things, but the religious right (which usually doesn't trust government) wants government to endorse religion.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal stated: "...The answer is that nothing would change if we dropped those references."

    Response: Then it shouldn't make any difference to you if we leave them in or take them out.

    skeptimal stated: If gods exist, they'll exist whether or not we sanctify our currency or chant their names. The real reason we do these ridiculous things is to comfort the theists.

    Response: It's not a question of the existence of God of not, but the lawsuit deals with whether or not it's legal to make theist references... something the framers themselves clearly did not shy away from!

    skeptimal stated: "That's a false dilemma, because you don't have to choose one extreme or the other. I would actually suggest that our government should neither be stamping religion on everything *nor* acknowledging the non-existence of gods. It isn't government's place to decide these things, but the religious right (which usually doesn't trust government) wants government to endorse religion.

    Response:
    1. It's not up to you ... but to our country's law which goes back to our original documents. (Seems your coming later than the founders has boxed you in on this one... and not only you but those whose claim in the courts is that such practice is illegal.
    2. God (not man) defines the role of government. If you think man should, then you'll just have to live with what we have because that is what "man" has determined and set forth in our framing documents, thankfully.

    Note: On a human level, man has the freedom to have it either way, but you must not deny that the secular model you suggest (while it may seem "fair" to you) is based on a presupposition which supposes governments have no responsibility before God to acknowledge him and cast their hope upon him.)

    skeptimal said...

    "It's not a question of the existence of God of not, but the lawsuit deals with whether or not it's legal to make theist references... something the framers themselves clearly did not shy away from!"

    It may not have been clear from my posts on this that I think this lawsuit is a poorly chosen battle on Newdow's part. I *don't* think this *voluntary* and relatively vague theistic reference by sworn-in presidents should be illegal. The oath of office is encoded in the constitution without reference to gods, and I await the courage of some future president who will drop the unnecessary phrase.

    "Then it shouldn't make any difference to you if we leave them in or take them out."

    Apparently I have to state the obvious: removing references to gods from the pledge and court oaths on the Bible *would* be more constitutional, but the gods will not notice any difference, and the country will not become an orgy of golden-calf worship.

    "...you must not deny that the secular model you suggest (while it may seem "fair" to you) is based on a presupposition which supposes governments have no responsibility before God to acknowledge him and cast their hope upon him.)"

    And you must not deny that the framers of the constitution, which is the document that undergirds our laws, chose not to include references to gods. The constitution protects the rights of private citizens to acknowledge their superstitions however they wish (outside of government), but it does not require such acknowledgements, however important they may be to the comfort and peace of mind of theists.