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Christian Education and Apologetics

This is under discussion on my forum, here.

My own story is that I went through 12 years of Christian education and went to a Christian university to be a Christian pastor and promptly was reduced to atheism or something very close to it.  When I returned to Christianity it was with a desire to spare other Christians what I went through.  I don’t mean the normal period of inquiry that all people go through as they get older;  I mean the stupid beliefs- even and especially about Christianity and Christian theism- that I thought were perfectly sane.

I run across non-Christians all the time of various sorts that become belligerent when I suggest to them that whatever it is they mean by ‘Christianity’ and ‘theism’ that they are rejecting, it is not remotely close to what the historic Christian church has maintained.  They often say “I went to Sunday school all my life!  I think I know!”  Sometimes they’ve had formal Christian education like I have had, but if you note in my introductory paragraph there, this is not necessarily helpful.  Better than nothing?

That’s hard to say.  I am reading and reviewing Richard Dawkins’s “Delusion” and 95% of his representations of Christianity and Christian theism are not merely false, they are silly and almost make me feel embarrassed for the man.  And consider the success of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”  And let’s not forget the success in the previous century of “The Celestine Prophecy.”  Books like the three that I have mentioned do not become best sellers if there is no market of people, who, like more than one person has said to me regarding “The Da Vinci Code,” “I think there is something to it…”

No, there really isn’t anything to it.  For a society allegedly saturated in Christianity, some of the worst displays of ignorance about Christianity arises among Christians themselves.  In my experience, the most strident atheists were raised in the church.  The largest market for weird and baseless views about Christianity are ‘churched’ Christians.

The old ways of doing Christian education simply must be re-evaluated.  The world has changed.  One thinks that if apologetics formed a larger part of Christian curriculums in the last century there would not be such a dire need for it now.


It is what it is.

One day you receive a letter from an attorney indicating that you are being sued by a foe.  The news is traumatic.  A million thoughts course through your brain.  There a million things to do, but most of them can’t be done until you have more information.  In the meantime, you sit and stew in your new reality and you’re more or less helplessness to change it.

Except it isn’t a new reality.  The course of events leading up to your reception of the letter have been weeks, maybe months in the making.  In point of fact, your reality has been altered at this point for quite awhile.  The difference now is simply that you know of the new reality.  Is it better to have never known at all?  Or, now having known a little, is it better to swallow the bitter cup of knowledge whole?  In either case, you’ll be able to do nothing.  Is it better to have never known at all?

Here is the the unchanging question faced by Man.  It is the tug of conflict between emotions and the mind.   It is contact with the trancendentals, like Joy.  Reduced by material man to nothing more than chemical processes, one’s response to learning of a new reality cannot be changed- the processes occur inevitably, via the laws of nature.  But a man need not have his identity dictated by changes in circumstances.  After all, we are surrounded by ‘new realities’ all the time- things set in motion that we only at that moment become aware of.  What really changed other than your knowledge of it?  And if knowledge of it can by itself affect your being, surely it follows that one can balance that against other things you know- and so be the master of your mind.  To hold onto Joy as it is being snatched away.

That, is in principle, the truth of the matter… but perhaps the severity of the knowledge makes it difficult in practice.  Truly the most important battles occur within our own skulls, long before anyone glimpses the manifestations on our faces and in our actions.  The fact is, some things are the way they are, and there is nothing you can do about it except to take them the way they are.   “It is what it is” does not mean that ‘it’ changes you.  It could- but it doesn’t have to.  It could- if you let it.  It could- if you wanted it to.  It could- if you thought it would be good to be changed by it.  It could, could, could… it is what it is, but you are what you decide to be.


Outright Lies, illiteracy, or just bad scholarship?

If you read my last blog entry, you saw that I went after Dawkins for unquestioningly accepting information he has been handed without investigating to see if the information is legit. One can wonder if his whole worldview is based on information handed to him pre-biased, and one can wonder further whether or not we should trust his judgment. In the course of that post I pointed out that just as we may be skeptical of his use of Judge Jones, we can and should be skeptical of his other material, and I included as an example his citation of Augustine through a source (almost certainly biased)- that is, Freeman.

Now, I have not read Freeman’s book, “The Closing of the Western Mind,”*** so I don’t know if Dawkins even managed to quote Freeman’s quoting of Augustine correctly. We’ll have to hope Dawkins’s scholarship was good enough to represent his own fellows. Here is the quote alleged to Augustine via Freeman:

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”

Well, my curiosity was aroused to see if Dawkins had been willingly hoodwinked again by a source, so I went looking for this reference. Naturally, Dawkins does not cite where Augustine said it, but we can hope Freeman did. I went through three Google search results pages, scanning through one quoting of this same passage after another by skeptics, none of whom gave where Augustine said it (assuring, therefore, that they all got it from Freeman and he’s on their side, so he wouldn’t lead them wrong, right?!?), until finally I found one. One. I pray to God more atheists had the integrity to try to get to the bottom of the source, but I admit I stopped after the one.

Here is Mr. Pine’s page, and here is the quote: Continue reading


Dawkins puts his foot in it

In my review of Dawkins’s book I have already insinuated that before we turn any attention at all to the man’s arrogance, his scholarship should be questioned. That is to say, we ought not consider his views on religion to be credible even in the slightest. An example to illustrate this surfaced that will run out of order for my reviews, so I am going to address it singly.

On page 133 we have Dawkins going after Behe saying, “Another of Behe’s favourite [sic] alleged examples of ‘irreducible complexity’ is the immune system. Let Judge Jones himself take up the story: ‘In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not ‘good enough.”

Even reading this passage the way that Dawkins presents it shows that not all cylinders are firing properly, here, not for Dawkins, nor for the ACLU, for in this passage the claim that ‘science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system’ is clearly distinct from the issue as to whether or not anyone has every talked about it! In other words, even as I read this passage from the ACLU, I detected that the accusation did not match up with what Behe was responding too. Examples like this make me pine for the good ol’ days when we could at least expect that the participants in such deep debates were literate.

Now, the literate reading this will now claim AHA! Guilty of the same thing! Dawkins says that this is Judge Jones but Sntjohnny has chalked it up to the ACLU. Twice! Yes, indeed. Continue reading


Do not do tomorrow what you know is good to do today.

And by ‘good’ I mean in the theological, moral sense.

Over the last five years or so, the sntjohnny household has endured various sorts of troubles that were truly unpleasant.  To keep it in context, I should add that at least very little was ‘tragic.’  That has not been lost on me.  One of the things that has come out of the experience that I am glad to have is a better appreciation of the nature of generosity.  I have always seen generosity as a logical fruit of faith in Christ but I never understood or appreciated the fact that it is a legitimate spiritual gift (see, for example, Romans 8 and 2 Cor 8 ) .

I now understand that the gift of generosity is not mainly about being willing to offer support, but actually getting around to doing it.   In this regards, I certainly know that I lack.  I once had a thank you note ready to send out but by the time I sent it, the person had moved.  The letter was bounced back to me, and even google has prevented me from being able to track the man down.  (Mr. J. Paul, I have a letter for you.  Contact me, please).   In the course of time, I have seen how often people have expressed concern for me and my family and then simply never got around to doing anything.  On the other hand, even people of limited means who had the generosity ‘knack’ acted immediately, with whatever they could at the time.

I find it interesting, in fact, that I have seen more action out of people who are relative strangers than people right around me, sometimes people who saw me every day and counted themselves my friends.  I once received a very sizable check from a man who was not a Christian, who had never met me, who was opposite me on the political spectrum.  In other words, the last person I would have expected to do such a thing.  It was eye-opening.   It is not that people don’t care.  I think, actually, what happens is that everyone thinks that everyone else is doing something:  in fact, when everyone thinks this, it is nobody that actually does it.

It has been eye-opening for me, and it has had this effect on me:  even though I know I lack in this particular gift, I strive to do what I can the moment I think of it the moment I have identified a need.  I just don’t have the ability to sustain my sense of compassion.  It crumbles half the time just because of my lack of organizational abilities.  I bet people will relate to this.  However, there are more of us than there are ‘generous’ people, and so much good is not being done that only we can do.  We’ve got to step it up- especially those of us who are Christians.

This speaks to resource usage, of course, but it also speaks to giving someone a good word, or a needed word.  It can be anything, really.  Doing the right thing, no matter how small, at the right moment, is the best way to fill the world up with right things.  Doing the right thing tomorrow may be beyond the moment.  Maybe not- but if not, then do it if it still remains.

There is so much need in the world.  We can do much good if only we had the energy and alertness to pull it off.  The ‘generous’ among us have it in spades.  The rest of us may not have it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation then to work on it.


Response to Dawkins’s Preface

The reason why I have decided to address this book beginning with the preface is because it is here that I think we can see at a glance just how far off Mr. Dawkins is from credibly speaking to God as a ‘delusion’ or even ‘religion’ in general. There are three minor points and one major point that I wish to make.

Minor Point 1.

Dawkins is evangelistic in his approach. We read this quote: “”I suspect- well, I am sure- that there are lots of people out there who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy in it, don’t believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in its name; people who feel vague yearnings to leave their parent’s religion and wish they could, but just realize that leaving is an option. If you are one of them, this book is for you.”

I think this tells us much about the man. The truth is that you cannot throw a stick in the United States without hitting someone who has left ‘their parent’s religion.’

Despite this reality, Dawkins appears to feel incredibly alone in the world. I think what’s going on here is that Dawkins is uncomfortable, if not outright annoyed, by the fact that despite that legions of people have abandoned mainline Christianity for this alternative or that, the fact is that they haven’t chosen HIS alternative. Books like the “Celestine Prophecy” do not become best sellers within a society where people are too chicken to leave ‘their parent’s religion.’ I submit that this detachment from reality indicates that there is more going on in Dawkins’s mind, and one should be skeptical about his claims.

Major Point 1.

Mr. Dawkins aims to provide an overview of the ten chapters in his book. Chapter 1 is a discussion on religious people that Dawkins can tolerate (1% of the world) and those he can’t (the other 99%). Chapter 2 is presented like this: “Perhaps you feel that agnosticism is a reasonable position, but that atheism is just as dogmatic as religious belief? If so, I hope that Chapter 2 will change your mind, by persuading you that ‘the God hypothesis’ is a scientific hypothesis about the universe, which should be analysed as sceptically as any other.” If you come to agree with this, he asserts that “… you might enjoy Chapter 3 on ‘Arguments for God’s existence’ – the arguments turn out to be spectacularly weak.”

This is our first clue that we are not dealing with a credible perspective. I am not talking about the claim that the ‘God hypothesis’ should be ‘analysed as sceptically as any other.’ I agree with that. The notion that ‘God’ is a ‘scientific hypothesis’ is so off base, one wonders why his editors didn’t correct him. There is a reason why Gould and Collins come to the conclusion that science cannot speak to the question of God. The very definition of God is that he is a transcendental entity, who if anything, determines and sustains the very physical laws that science- allegedly restricted to the empirically verifiable- is constrained to.

In another place, he insists “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.” Pg 50 With such a muddled definition of ‘God’ in play, one wonders what ‘God’ he is talking about here, but the problem is compounded even more by his casually overlooking the need to define exactly what a ‘scientific fact’ is. Given a transcendental entity, direct empirical detection of God is simply not possible, and for most people, ‘direct empirical detection’ is exactly what they think when they hear ‘scientific fact.’ You know… like phenomena like gravity and the speed of light.

If by ‘scientific detection’ you merely mean accessible at some point and place in time by our senses (via our empirical faculties) then not only is this assertion of his true, but it is insignificant. On that basis, everything is science, including history, literature, lust, and ‘Cretaceous extinctions.’ Describing the ‘God Hypothesis’ with that definition requires a watering down of ‘science’ to such triviality that it is no surprise, really, that he does not bother to pause and define ‘science’ for us. I should wish that he had: I think the world’s population would be served well to hear what passes for ‘science’ these days.

Worse, Dawkins does not merely mischaracterize ‘God,’ but he exhibits absolutely no intellectual and scholarly rigor in his description and definition. This is the ‘God Hypothesis,’ according to him: “there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and anything in it, including us.”

When I first read that, I saw the word ‘super-human’ and wondered if he really was suggesting that the entity in question could be some contingent agent, perhaps a super-powerful space alien. The statement seems to speak only to relative intelligence (or so I hoped), but he cinched it himself, by saying, later, “Whether we ever get to know about them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century.” Pg 72.

Yes. Dawkins really does believe that the God defended by arguments by Aquinas which Dawkins will attack in chapter 3 may be qualitatively indistinguishable from Clark Kent. This point is rammed home when he says, “I am not attacking the particular qualities of Yahweh, or Jesus, or Allah, or any other specific god such as Baal, Zeus or Watan.” pg 31. He seriously believes that the ‘Abrahamic God’ defended over thousands of years now is akin to a comic book hero, or Ra, as illustrated in the movie Stargate.

Not only does he blunder along in these lines, but he considers the differences as being unimportant: “Who cares? Life is too short to bother with the distinction between one figment of the imagination and many. Having gestured towards polytheism to cover myself against a charge of neglect, I shall say no more about it. For brevity I shall refer to all deities, whether poly- or monotheistic, as simply ‘God.'” Pg 35

This ‘simply God’ is the very same God that he is going to be attacking in the next seven chapters, specifically taking aim at arguments for the existence of the ‘Abrahamic God.’ This is such a dramatic disconnect from reality, common sense, and even elementary education, it requires an explanation. But we’ll get to it in the last minor point. We need to hammer home the utter deficiency of Dawkins’s scholarship and credibility. Let me do so by comparing Dawkins’s discussion about what he plans on attacking with a much more reasonable and honest example.

I mean, of course, Antony Flew’s “God and Philosophy.” Of course, I disagree with much of what Flew says, but you’ve got to give the man credit, especially when you have a example in view showing how badly the matter could have been handled. In “God and Philosophy” Flew spends pages 1 thru 68 just on a discussion about what is meant by ‘God.’ That’s pretty respectable.

Now, it’s true that chapter two is titled ‘the God Hypothesis’ and runs from pages 31 to 73, but in fact only pages 31 thru 38 speak directly to it, concluding with the view that monotheism is conceptually in the same category as Ra and Zeus- which is ridiculous. Dawkins then invests pages 39 thru 46 to the question of whether or not America has secular roots or not, pages 46 thru 54 on attacking agnosticism, pages 54 thru 60 on Gould and whether or not ‘theism’ is a matter of scientific inquiry, pages 61 thru 66 on ‘The Great Prayer Experiment”, pages 66 thru 69 attacking cowardly evolutionists (seriously), pages 69 thru 73 on parodies of theism and whether or not space aliens could be considered ‘gods.’ Seriously. I kid you not.

It is with this under his belt that Dawkins sees fit to begin chapter 3 with an attack on Christian theism (he goes after the arguments of Christian theists, anyway). More than 300 pages of rebuttal are given to a proposition described and defended in one or two sentences here or there in a span of only about 9 pages. I for one almost can’t believe that no one has called him on this. I think people need to stop handling Mr. Dawkins with kid gloves, because this is getting absurd.

I said that this disconnect from reality requires explanation. Let me do so briefly by illustration.
Minor Point 2.

With such sheer ignorance on display, one wonders how nobody caught it. Of course, it’s obvious- Mr. Dawkins did not run his notions by anybody who ought to have known better. This is understandable, as this would mean running his notions by trained theologians, but he bends over backwards in numerous cases to mock theologians, and well, anyone with religious education. He can’t expose his statements to review by theologians and dismiss their intelligence at the same time, for reasons I don’t need to explain.

When we do get around to hearing about who helped Dawkins, we hear a long list of militant atheists: Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, and Dan Barker, to pull off some more well known names, but the entire list is chock filled with them. These are all people who share his perspective so it is perfectly understandable that even basic distinctions would go missed. You see the same approach in Mr. Shermer’s “Why We Believe What we Believe” where we hear of a litany of skeptical reviewers (Shermer did get one token theist in- Richard Abanes). This is all well and good if you’re trying to establish a pedigree of respectability among like minded people, but it’s not very good when you are specifically trying to dismantle someone else’s propositions. Contrast, for example, Angus Menuge’s “Agents Under Fire” where he pulls in Michael Ruse. At the very least, you know that the position being attacked is really the actual position, and not a strawman.

There is no way any reasonably informed person can conclude that Dawkins is representing questions about God accurately. In my opinion, it is reasonable grounds to distrust everything else he says, as well. At the very least, I can think of hardly any reason at all to fear the arguments in “The God Delusion” and I would actually go so far as to require this book in high school religion classes across the world just so that students can hear what the ‘best’ arguments against their God are.

This leads, finally, to Minor Point 3.

I mentioned earlier that I think that there is something more going on in Dawkins head. It’s evident from ¾ of what he says that he has very little respect for the intelligence of 99% of the world, but I suspect that this troubles him because even he is uncomfortable with how arrogant this view is. That is why he wants people to know that they can leave their ‘parent’s religion.’ But I think that’s what is also behind statements like this, also in the preface:

“But atheists are a lot more numerous, especially among the educated elite, than many realize. This was so even in the nineteenth century, when John Stuart Mill was already able to say: ‘The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion.’ This must be even truer today…”

Dawkins says this as though it is some sort of breakthrough. Christians have been saying this for a generation. I’m glad this is on the table, because I’ve been particularly annoyed at the persistent assertion that “most scientists are actually Christian.” No, they really aren’t. Many are, but most aren’t. (Physicists seem to be more inclined to be theists and Christians than biologists… I wonder why that is…) At any rate, none of the scientists that Dawkins cites are Christians that I know of. The point here from Dawkins is that the elite of the world are actually atheists. The message is clear: “the rest are idiots- don’t you want to be an elite, and not an idiot?”

And this isn’t a strawman of my own, either. For example, this blogger seems to be fairly ecstatic to learn that he is counted among the smart people: http://mycaseagainstgod.blogspot.com/2006/10/with-whom-will-you-side-ill-take.html

I have no doubt that a large swath of our professors are secular humanists of the most profound type. The question is whether or not they are atheists because atheism is really a more tenable view, or if in fact they themselves are victims of the very thing they accuse religious people of perpetuating: indoctrination.

This indoctrination comes with the sweet recognition that people with letters after their names tend to both receive and transmit that indoctrination. The reader should be wary of this sort of argument, and my friends who urged ‘respect’ for Dawkins had better take notice on the pernicious methods and insinuations that Dawkins thrives on.

This has only been the preface. You can well expect that with such a strawman presentation of ‘theism’ at work, “The God Delusion” hardly dignifies a response, and to tell you the truth it annoys me that I have to respond to it. You’d think a lot of people out there with better credentials could have torn Dawkins to pieces a thousand times over the last twenty years. Folks, if you let the bully bully, this is the situation you get.

Soon, reviews on the next chapters.


Intro #2 to my response to Dawkins


This review is of the preface in particular, and as such I would like to make an introductory comment of my own before launching into some thoughts prompted by Dawkins preface.

There is a school of thought among some Christian theologians, evangelists, and apologists, that a man’s atheism in nearly all cases reflects some emotional undercurrent, some real anger with God, etc. I do not have that opinion. I think that there are perfectly understandable intellectual objections that a person can have, and I think that even if there are emotional objections, they are not necessarily invalid.

In the case of Mr. Dawkins, however, I think we need to make an exception. He himself admits to being sexually abused as a child. Here is a quote from one of his own essays:

“Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire. As soon as I could wriggle off his knee, I ran to tell my friends and we had a good laugh, our fellowship enhanced by the shared experience of the same sad pedophile. I do not believe that I, or they, suffered lasting, or even temporary damage from this disagreeable physical abuse of power.”  http://richarddawkins.net/article,118,Religions-Real-Child-Abuse,Richard-Dawkins

You know what, I don’t believe him. Let’s leave aside the issue as to whether or not being molested is far out of the league as being led to believe in hell. Let’s consider the possibility that it was much more of an embarrassment then this lets on, that they didn’t have a good laugh together, that there was no ‘wriggling’ off the knee. Let’s apply a little skepticism here, shall we, and wonder if in fact the real truth is not that Dawkins and his friends had the singular experience of having the only benign example of child molesting in the course of human history, but that in fact this event was far more traumatic then he lets on. Let’s even wonder if perhaps it wasn’t an ‘event,’ but rather a pattern of events- long lasting, and devastating one, can certainly understand why a person would come to be angry with God and with anyone affiliated with God.

It may be that Richard Dawkins is exactly the premier example of an atheist at war with a God whom he insists does not exist, and yet hates anyway. If this is the case, I have deep compassion and sympathy for him. The problem of evil is not grappled with only by atheists. Let me submit to the reader that in the case of Dawkins, his arguments may not be informed by logic, evidence, and reason, but much so from being sexually abused.

That said, I’m going to take him at his word for the course of these reviews. That means assuming that this molestation had little to no impact on him, as he implies. Unfortunately, that means we are going to have to pretend that he really thinks he has logically sound reasons for his views. At least with the sympathy card in play we could understand the phenomena. Without that, we’ll have to stick to his arguments.

If Mr. Dawkins had an experience far deeper than he has let on then I understand and sympathize with his anger. If he hasn’t, my position remains [ad hominem snipped] that he is not much more than a bully. With this behind us, let us proceed.


A response to Dawkins’s Delusion

I have begun responding to Dawkins’s “The God Delusion.”  I have the preface responded to and I am going to be working on a chapter by chapter response.  Here, though, is my introduction to my introduction…


There have been several versions of this document. The reviews of the review have been fiercely critical of anything fiercely critical of Mr. Dawkins, which means that Mr. Dawkins will- again- get away with saying whatever suits his fancy without any Christian telling him in no uncertain terms exactly what he deserves to hear, what he should hear, and what his arguments amount to. Suffice it to say that I don’t like Mr. Dawkins, and that is ok, because he doesn’t like me. The truth is, Mr. Dawkins does not like much of the world, which should give us all pause when we listen to him opine.

I’ll submit just this one example, as reported in http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2005/04/30/dawkins/index_np.html (Salon, not a creationist site) “Yet Dawkins doesn’t shy from controversy, nor does he suffer fools gladly. He recently met a minister who was on the opposite side of a British political debate. When the minister put out his hand, Dawkins kept his hands at his side and said, “You, sir, are an ignorant bigot.””

Of course, he has said and done much worse than that, but this one comes out of a site that no one can charge is biased in my favor. The reader should know that I am exerting extreme self-control in what follows, and even suppressing my own principles in order not to offend readers, and perhaps maybe Mr. Dawkins himself, who, in my opinion, very much should be offended.

These brief comments should serve to make it plain exactly where I stand in regards to this particular man, and his arguments. Thus, he will get respect in this review, though in my view he deserves little, and his arguments even less.


A thought on ‘evidence’ and Christianity…

There is a thread on my forum right now where I discuss whether or not two of the members are in fact the same person.  (Click here to read it).  The conversation has gone just about how I expected it to.  It was dismissed by the interested parties, then as it became evident I was seriously proposing the idea, there was mockery, etc.  When it finally dawned on them that I was actually using their own arguments against theism and the supernatural, one ‘cut and run’ and the other went hostile.

The objection is that the types of arguments and the types of evidences regarding theism and the supernatural are going to be in a class different than any other types of claims.   This is why one person dismissed the thread’s argument and the other went hostile.  To them, it is patently self-evident that supernatural claims are in a completely different class of things.  Thus, it so happens (in their minds) that their logic applies to one class of claims, but through some miracle, does not apply to another class of claims.  (Natural claims versus supernatural claims.  Note the common denominator). Continue reading


Review: Shaun of the Dead

So, yea, ok. Me, a Christian, reviewing the movie “Shaun of the Dead.” I admit its a little odd. Even my personality objects- I don’t like ‘horror’ movies. Or blood and guts movies, either, though I’ll make an exception for military movies like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. But yea. I saw this movie while overseas in England, visiting a friend I knew from the Internet. I knew even then that eventually I’d be writing this. Having now seen it a second time, here is the ‘review.’

One wonders how you could make a more hilarious version of Dawn of the Dead, since it was already funny (though it didn’t mean to be) but they did it. What struck me about this movie, though, is how certain themes percolated up that were so…. well, Christian. What I mean by that is that I believe the best explanation for them is Christianity. Certainly, I do not think atheism, secular humanism, or reductionism can explain them. To explain that, I should talk about some of those themes.

Continue reading


Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui …

You may have arrived here searching out this Latin phrase from my book, Fidelis, the first in my Birth Pangs series.  If not, you might want to consider picking up said books!

“Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui…”Or, in some translations I’ve seen, “Faith supplies what the senses cannot…” But I am no Latin scholar. We get the idea easily enough, though. In the first place, this little sentence implies that there are things that are real that our senses themselves are inadequate to detect. In the second place, the ‘organ’ for making the detection is ‘faith.’

Faith has gotten a bad rap. In part, this is because notions of faith being a belief based without evidence or even in spite of the evidence. This is a pretty distorted view of ‘faith,’ and at least it can be said it is not the Biblical view on faith. God was well aware of our need for evidence- Jesus told his disciples that if they doubted him, they could take into consideration his miracles. The resurrection is a specifically concrete demonstration. God does not request or require faith in him apart from evidence- in fact, he provides it. This particular event, the resurrection, also tells us something of WHY we ought to have faith in God… WHY should we trust him… ?

Simply put, the resurrection was not merely explicit evidence of God’s existence (the resurrection validates Jesus’ claim to be God), but also for his concern about issues that trouble the human race. The problem of pain, the problem of suffering, God’s apparent distancing from the human predicament… reasonable people have struggled with these issues, but the resurrection is evidence that God is not in fact indifferent and even if we don’t know the solutions to them, he has acted. He has taken on death and suffering… and when he says he’ll come again to really finish up the problem, we have reason to believe it.

In this context, then, ‘faith’ can provide answers and understanding that raw sensory data cannot provide. ‘Faith’ is the trust context which helps us decide what kinds of relationships are sound and which are not. For example, I have faith that my chair will not disappear from underneath me. This faith, this trust, is based on the fact that chairs haven’t let me down yet- or at least, not very often- we have a good relationship! Similarly, if I understand that God is aware of the human predicament and has taken at least one concrete step to deal with it, I am able to view the world through that lens- and I may begin to come to understandings and truths that were unknowable while I remained a skeptic, cynical, or unfaithful.

Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui
Let faith supply what the senses cannot.


Book review: “Why Men Hate Going to Church”

Well, not a full review.

I just finished this book and thought it was spot on in a number of areas.  For quite a long time I was a man more or less indifferent to ‘going to church.’  I didn’t have objections to it, but on the other hand I never detected many tangible benefits to it, either, though I believed that others must be getting something out of it.  In the last few years, my attitude has changed.  Now, not only do I pretty much detest ‘church,’ I find it to be destructive in the ways that matter.  I didn’t quite understand why I thought that.  In the last year or so I’ve understood it better, but no sooner have I figured it out, I have learned how many others had already put their finger on it.

David Murrow’s “Why Men Hate Going to Church” does not describe me personally in every respect, but it does in a great many ways.  The argument:  the church has been feminized.  I am inclined to agree.  As Mr. Murrow points out, women can do ‘man’ things comfortably, but it doesn’t work the other way around. A girl can be a ‘tomboy’ and be well thought of.  There is no comparable for boys.  This does not reflect culturalization, it reflects the real nature of men.  Thus, if ‘church’ is girly, most men aren’t going to willing to suck it up and ‘attend.’  They just won’t even go.

I consider myself unique.  Most of the men in Mr. Murrow’s book have no real interest in theology, and philosophy, doctrine, etc.  When confronted with things in ‘church’ that they don’t like they are at a loss to describe it, and since they lack the tools to do so, they are unable to see the distinction between ‘Christianity’ and ‘church.’  Thus, they reject Christianity on the basis of ‘church’ structures.  For my own part, I see that the two can and should be separated.  Thus, I am as disgusted by ‘church’ as many men are, but not with Christianity… and not with Christ.  Still, I think that if men understood their responsibilities under God, they’d see that theology and such really captivated them and moves them.

Mr. Murrow does not draw this distinction as neatly as I would like, but I can see the argument for it.  I agreed with most of what was in this book and found it to be insightful.  Now, if only the mainstream clergy and laity (mostly women in the latter case, and quickly becoming mostly women in the former) will consider it.

Murrow’s site:  www.churchformen.com


Defining ‘Christian’ Propositionally

Under discussion here:  http://www.sntjohnny.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2223

Two quotes to start this off with.  First, from atheist Bertrand Russell, answering a question in an essay by the same title, “Why I am not a Christian”:  “I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian.  The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.  In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant.  You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.  Nowadays it is not quite like that.”

Mr. Russell is about right about this.  It’s sad and a little indicative of things that he chose not to use this definition in his assault, but rather the watered down versions circulating around him.  Worse, he, being an atheist, didn’t have a problem deciding for himself which definition of ‘Christianity’ he was going to shoot down.  In logic circles, we call that setting up a strawman.  Still, he is dead center right on in this quote.  Here comes the next quote. Continue reading


Extreme Make-Over for Christians

Last night I was watching Extreme Make-Over “Home Edition”, the show where they take a needy family and basically give them a new house and sometimes throw in extras.  I was struck (for about the billionth time, I’m afraid) with the failure of the Christian church to handle the needy families in their own neighborhoods.  Here we have a case where an out of town television program comes in and helps people- where were the churches?

Now, it is true that organizations like Habitat for Humanity is strongly supported by churches and Christian organizations.   There certainly are many other examples, too.  I’m the first to point out to my secularist friends that the number of Christian universities, schools, hospitals, and charities, are off the charts (how many “Secular Humanist’s Charitable Hospitals” are you personally aware of?).  The problem with this is a matter of delegation among the church.  Christians, like everyone else, I suppose, delegates to others duties that belong to them personally, or to their own group in particular.

But I think the other part of this particular illustration is that it would be pointed out that “Home Edition” is almost certainly making a big bundle of cash in advertising and sponsorships in order to be able to afford what they do.  And that’s true- but I’m not proposing that we build new houses for needy people, either.  What “Home Edition” does is extreme, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.  There are degrees of ‘help’ less than a new home that are still substantial and the Christian Church has plenty of resources enough to pull them off in a sustainable fashion.
I have a lot I could say about all this, but after all, I have this blog and the one over at www.nakedapologetics.com to talk about it.  For example, this entry here.  So, for now let me submit a passage that for years I struggled with but now understand.  Something for ya’ll to think about:

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  Luke 16:9.  [Context]