When a Christian apologist invokes ‘revelation’ it is often understood by atheists and skeptics to refer to the “writings of the flawed goat herders of a bygone era that have been shown by modern science to be outdated, outmoded, and absolutely in error. Certainly not the stuff we can think of as ‘divine revelation.’” This …
That’s really what you have going on here… you know, the old “A rose by any other name is still a rose” thing… a boy is still a boy by any other name, and likewise a girl… but you have some people who think that by throwing off definitions you can obliterate, change, or deny the underlying reality. Are there sometimes when definitions can be unhelpful? Sure, I can buy that. But there are limits to that observation. This is secularism: taking an observation into account but jettisoning the limits or notion of limits.
It’s easy to be a skeptic because it is much easier to not believe something as to believe it. Skepticism has no non-arbitrary stopping point. That is, full blooded skepticism will naturally morph into cynicism. There is no objective point where any kind of argument, piece of evidence, or logical deduction must coerce belief. This is a point I raise in this post. Many skeptics construe their skepticism as an act of courage, as though being willing to question everything shows a brave streak that others do not have. To a point, there is courage… and in a way, yes, there is something to that.
However, if it is brave to question everything it is braver still to believe anything. Let me illustrate.
if one applies a higher standard of inquiry against claims that they might deem extraordinary, then claims they find to be ordinary will ordinarily be accepted- without demonstration at all. Here again we see skepticism turned on its head: the skeptic is not skeptical about the things he is prepared already to believe. It is only the things he deems unlikely that he is skeptical about- God alone knows how the skeptic determined something was ‘unlikely.’
It is a fact of human nature, I think, to quickly accept things that one is already prepared to accept. If I am told tomorrow that some Democrat in high office has failed to pay his taxes- again- I will pretty much accept it as a fact because I have become accustomed to Democrats doing such things (eg here, here, here, and here). We should expect nothing less from the people who believe that we should all pay higher taxes; by ‘we all’ it is known they mean us all. I am prepared to believe it as a pretty ordinary claim in the realm of things and therefore will demand very little evidence to support it. So you see, I am not exempting myself from this human tendency.
This ministry hosts a regular online round table discussing matters of substance and controversy. Christians and NonChristians are invited but it is not necessarily an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ debate. Past topics have included matters of controversy only amongst Christians and due to the flexibility of the discussion, topics can change on a dime. UPDATE: With …
This ministry hosts a regular online round table discussing matters of substance and controversy. Christians and NonChristians are invited but it is not necessarily an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ debate. Past topics have included matters of controversy only amongst Christians and due to the flexibility of the discussion, topics can change on a dime. The next …
Tonight, Feb 22nd, at 9:30 p.m. CST we will host our next semi-regular “Knights of Contention” online discussion using voice, video, and chat.
The topic: The 5 Challenges Apologetics Can’t Answer.
Due to the wide scope, this conversation can go anywhere. I have summarized the 5 challenges below with links to each of the 3 parts in which I have detailed them.
To learn more about the “Knights of Contention” click here.
Direct link to the discussion: http://connectpro58388802.na5.acrobat.com/knightcon/
5 Challenges, with summaries
What they all have in common: the belief, or acting as though one believes, that Christianity isn’t actually real. It’s just one’s private faith. No correspondence to reality exists, or is expected. ‘Apologetics’ can’t answer them because they have more to do with attitude or obedience than facts and evidence.
Atheists have a problem. Ok, they have lots of problems. 🙂 But this one is a big one: how to explain morality. Now, for some reason atheists remained confused on some basic aspects of the issue. It is common to hear from their camp something to the effect, “We do not need God to be …
“Richard Dawkins, Antony Flew, and Mother Teresa Go to Heaven…” What sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke is actually the title of a collection of three poignant short stories by author Anthony Horvath. Each story draws from what is publicly known about these three notable persons and places them in the presence of God. Antony Flew famously disputed the existence of such a being, Richard Dawkins- the only one of the three still living- infamously derides the notion, and Mother Teresa wondered at God’s absence- in these three stories they each get a chance to ask their questions and speak their minds. Read this short story, along with two others, on Kindle.
Excerpt from Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven
“You know what sounds like ‘hell’ to me?” Richard asked the accompanying angel, a current of sarcasm carrying the question along.
“I know you’ll tell me,” the angel replied serenely.
“Heaven. Heaven sounds like hell.”
If you were looking for a thread that ties all five of these challenges together, it is this: the general view, even among Christians, that there is no objective reality to the areas under dispute. That is, we are all arguing about our own opinions, nothing more. It’s like sitting around having an argument about one’s favorite flavor of ice cream. As such an argument is roundly seen as absurd (and I would agree). Thus- even within the Church- the highest transgression is presenting your favorite ice cream flavor as the absolute best. Now this, paradoxically, I have said is something that apologetics can treat (after saying in 3 parts that it can’t. 😉 ), but read carefully on how precisely.
This is attitude that everything is just subjective is manifested most clearly and dramatically in regards to the marriage and the family. To help understand why, let me provide some anecdotal illustrations.
For example, no doubt many of my readers will be aware of the argument against those who oppose gay marriage that if these people really cherished marriage, they wouldn’t themselves support divorce or have the same level of divorces as those outside that community. I am not here highlighting the apparent hypocrisy involved. I’m talking about something else. Another illustration will perhaps help: “Why won’t God heal Amputees?” You see the argument now: if there is a God, surely he would want to heal people, including amputees. The same reasoning undergirds the absurd but common perception among atheists that a praying people will be healthier, or that in an experiment where one group is prayed for but the other group that isn’t, the group prayed for should show better health. (C. S. Lewis exposed this type of experiment as deeply flawed- who in good conscience, if they cared for the sick people would abstain from praying for one group just to prove a point?!?!?)
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 …
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.)