In part one of this essay I put forward two great challenges to Christianity that apologetics cannot answer. To illustrate the weight of this matter, consider the fact that not too long ago I wrote an entry called, “Apologetics is the Answer to Everything.” I stand by that post, still. These challenges have more to …
This was posted some time ago elsewhere and I wanted it on this blog for reference sake. Thanks to all who commented and read my last note. It was suggested that I hadn’t yet proposed any solutions to the crisis in the Church. It is true, I hinted at it, and suggested that a study …
I have been involved in apologetics for more than fifteen years, coming in almost literally the moment after Al Gore invented the Internet. The following represents some conclusions I’ve drawn during this time. To be clear, when I say the ‘Five Greatest Challenges to Christianity’ I do not mean it as, ‘here are five great challenges among others.’ What I mean is, THESE. ARE. THE. FIVE. GREATEST. CHALLENGES. I do not suggest that they are all that new. I do propose, however, that apologetics has no answer to them. Is that a surrender by a Christian apologist? Let’s find out.
Tomorrow night, Tuesday Feb 1st, for our next Knights of Contention, we will debate the following proposition: PZ Myers Should be Fired!
His latest incendiary remarks involve dismissing unborn children (he calls them fetuses) as mere ‘meat’ that practical, scientific minded individuals are indifferent to. He also made news for his over the top, foaming at the mouth mockery of the Catholic faith regarding the elements of the eucharist smuggled out by what appeared to be a budding atheist activist. PZ Myer’s frequently visited blog is permeated with crude, rude, crass and sometimes positively fascistic ravings. Oh, and by the way he is professor at the University of Minnesota.
So, the issues to be debated are: Are there limits to academic freedom? Does a person or institution supported by the public dime have an obligation to show a modicum of respect to the public it allegedly serves? Does the public have the right to speak to the values they want their public institutions to transmit- or not? (PZ and his defenders are likely to manifest great hypocrisy on this point and others since they have no problem actively fighting and denouncing proponents of Intelligent Design and Creationism.)
In ACM’s latest literary magazine edition a poem by Therese Eby appeared called ‘Tis but the Ecstasy of Death; Modern Literature and the Question of Belief.
I am not one who typically finds much enjoyment in poems. I have a couple of favorites but it takes a lot to impress me as far as poetry goes. Therese Eby’s poem I thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, it was dark, with a dose of the morbid and macabre in with some blistering observations about the human condition… but maybe that’s why I liked it. 🙂
Below are the opening lines, not quite formatted correctly. Follow this link to read the whole thing.
A Thing with Feathers needs its neck wrung.
Where Poet, Bard and Story Teller see
a Casualty, there is a faith and despair sung.
Evil and Christ are historic events,
and God is a character actor.
PZ Myers continues to descend down the various stages into madness that atheism can lead a person- that is to say, like the religionists he despises, he also believes every lick of what he says he believes. In a recent blog post writing in reaction to an email from a pro-life person, he writes:
“You want to make me back down by trying to inspire revulsion with dead baby pictures? I look at them unflinchingly and see meat. And meat does not frighten me.”
On PZ’s view, we are all meat, whether we are diced and sliced or not. This is what we’re up against. P.S. I’m not talking about ‘science.’
We live in a curious time. Good people who are otherwise sane entertain the notions that Lee and Loughner embraced and acted on. Over against those notions they have some memory of the bloodsport of the 20th century and are keen to avoid it a second go around. What they don’t ask is: “Maybe it isn’t just one particular application of these beliefs that ought to be discredited… maybe the beliefs themselves should be chucked?”
Let us imagine that someone believed that all people with red hair should be killed because they aren’t really people. You talk to him. He’s a perfectly pleasant fellow. Very sane. “So, you aren’t going to actually kill any red haired people or advocate that others do?” you ask him. “Of course not,” he says. That’s a relief, of course. “Why believe it if you won’t carry it out?” you persist. “That would be horrible. I would feel terrible,” he says. “Hmmm,” you might say, “Perhaps the fact that you are deeply uncomfortable with wiping out those with red hair is because even though you say they aren’t people, in fact, you think they are. Why not then dispense with your belief that they aren’t really people?”
Something very much like this is at the root of much thinking among secular humanists. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. If they did, we’d all be in a lot of trouble and they’d probably go a little nuts.
About five years ago I published a collection of essays that is no longer available for purchase. The collection is titled after the essay below. It is not, as far as I know, something I’ve published elsewhere. I was thinking of it recently and decided it should be dusted off. It seems as relevant today as when I first wrote it.
That Which Atheism Becomes
Some might say that I just like to argue. The truth is that I believe that ideas have consequences and some consequences are more severe than others. Arguing, or more precisely, debating, these ideas helps everyone on all sides of a position understand a position better. In theory, if you could of got Bin Laden to sit down to have a nice debate you could of aroused for him some of the critical consequences of his beliefs and demanded that before he acted on them he had a much firmer basis. According to many Muslims, such a basis does not exist. I will leave that issue to them to sort out. But Bin Laden does have this going for him: he takes a belief to its rational conclusion. There are many dangerous beliefs out there that people consider harmless simply because they aren’t taken to their rational conclusion.
A short collection of some of my favorite short stories is now available on Kindle.
The stories are ‘Polite Company,’ a lovely story of rationing gone bad, ‘Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Knowledge’, and ‘Bring on the Brave World’, another lovely story, this one of world domination.
In the nearly 20 years or so of debating with various kinds of non-Christians, I have often encountered a way of thinking that I think is self-evidently flawed, but oddly common nonetheless. What I mean is this: as soon as you press the point, they drop the principle, recognizing it can’t be maintained as tightly as was presented. A moment later, or in another conversation, the principle is re-presented.
The principle is this: that a proposition is true if it explains something. Or, a belief is to be preferred if it explains something. Or, the better belief is the one that explains the most.
At first blush, this principle seems pretty solid. After all, don’t we give weight to an idea, hypothesis, or theory if it provides an explanation for something else? If I come across the body of a clearly murdered person and the evidence points to another person who is known to have hated the victim, wouldn’t we say, “Well, that explains that. He hated him.” ? Well, yes. It does explain it, but it still doesn’t follow that he actually murdered anyone. The time honored tradition for hanging a murder verdict on someone does include motive- but also means and opportunity. Merely having a hypothesis that ‘explains’ the facts does not prove the hypothesis. One must corroborate it. If it cannot be corroborated, it doesn’t follow it isn’t true. We just have to be careful how we weight it. We certainly would not (or ought not) sentence a man to death for it.
As I argued above, all the religions and most of the world’s people deal honestly and seriously with the problem of death, but I should like to point out something truly unique about Christianity: it believes that at a specific place at a particular time in our history, God himself- knowing perfectly well what an offense death was- dealt death itself a death blow. He came to earth in a real place at a real time and interacted with real people that we can know from real history and really died and really rose from the dead and really promised to share that victory with anyone who will really accept the medicine he really offers.
In my view, since death is the common denominator for all of us and the one thing that stands in our way of ultimate and meaningful happiness, it is a proper subject of intensive human scrutiny. If there were hope, real hope, that there is an ultimate answer to death, then it is worth doing everything in your power to find out, and if one finds that hope to be more than plausible, but actual, seize upon it.
Apologetics ministries tend to focus on issues such as God’s existence or the fact of the resurrection or the Bible’s reliability. These are all very important. Indeed, they bear directly on the issues at hand- for if there is no God, it obviously follows that we cannot be made by him in his image. Further, Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection on behalf of a fallen human race is an emphatic testament to how much God himself values each human life. Dispense with these, and there are ripples down the line.
There, however, is where I wish to make the point: there are ripples down the line.
Somewhere I read once that in the 1700s they went after God. In the 1800s, they went after Jesus. In the 1900s, they went after Man. The sequence is logical, rational, and predictable. One would like to think that they can dispense with God without there being practical effect, but the 1900s have shown otherwise.
Richard Dawkins, among many others, have contended that ‘faith’ is believing what you know isn’t true. Less severe, but equally inaccurate, is the view that faith is a thing completely apart from evidence, or even in spite of the evidence. This view isn’t restricted to atheists. Unfortunately, many Christians themselves take that view. It is unfortunate because it is not true, it is not how the Scriptures actually present it, and it takes Christians out of discussions they should be involved in.
The simplest way to put it that would be accurate would be to understand ‘faith’ as including, front and center, the idea of ‘trust.’
Christian faith is not merely the confident belief that certain propositions are true. It isn’t even the confident belief that a God exists. The Scriptures forbid such a narrow understanding: “So you believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” James 2:19
Another passage puts it in better context: “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he awards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Real Christian faith includes and transcends beliefs in propositions and speaks to the trust that we have in God and our reliance on his nature (ie, most prominently, his goodness).
This ministry’s literary journal January edition has been released and is ready for reading online or download. A Kindle edition is also available. A synopsis is below. Go right on ahead to read the whole thing here: http://literaryapologetics.com/ To download the January edition of Literary Apologetics.Mag in the format you prefer, please visit: http://literaryapologetics.com/download-january-2011-edition/204.html ———————————— …