What is Faith?

 

“Let all things be done decently and in order” I Corinthians 14:40

 

The above verse was repeated so often by my father that it became a joking family rejoinder to whatever was askew at the moment.

My Dutch grandparents epitomized the verse. Their tiny two-bedroom bungalow in Bellwood, Illinois was immaculate. The bungalow’s smaller yard was well-manicured and well-guarded by a chain link fence against intruders of all kinds including rabbits that munched on Marigolds.

My father, before I was born, left the Dutch Christian Reformed church and what he considered its old-country austerity, an austerity that seemed to be reinforced by his hot-tempered foul-mouthed truck-driving father, who “cleaned up” for the Sunday Morning service.

My Swedish grandparents and my mother belonged to a Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church in the Andersonville area of Chicago were they also lived. Like Dutch immigrants, Swedish immigrants were very concerned about cleanliness and presenting a proper and well-kept image to their neighbors. These two immigrant groups were thrilled to be in the New World. The Old World had become too unyielding to make a decent living.

At one point my parents met (in a decent and orderly fashion, of course) and my father aligned himself for a time with the church my mom attended. They would soon marry and later attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. That is when and where I was born. The word became flesh and was placed in a crib over a Chinese take-out restaurant.

Fast forward to eleven years after my birth and I am sitting in a Bible church hearing the Four Spiritual Laws for the thousandth time, during a Vacation Bible School assembly. I decided then and there that I would ask Jesus into my heart. My friend did so at the same time. We both received a new Bible after we came forward. The New Bible was the draw for me at the time. A kid will take anything that is free, except peas and carrots.

 

Now, why am I telling you this? Everything in life emerges from relationship. Everything!

 

When someone considers God, they view God through a lens of their worldview or weltanschauung. Most, I suspect, view God through the relationship they have or have had with their parents. The parental relationship may be one of ‘happily ever after’ or one of rancor, division and divorce. A child’s view of God may become skewed when only one parent cares for him or her and the other parent is out of the picture most of the time or all of the time.

The person considering God may also have their view of God reinforced by whatever authority is in their lives, whether it be benevolent or malevolent. He or she may further view God as distant or absent or a non-issue. He or she may view God, as I believe most do, as himself or herself projected. Much of what is called social justice today is a projection of “what would Jesus as me do?” And, he or she may view God as “values-adjusted-God” to reflect one’s compromised ‘ethical’ life, as many Christians do.

But, what about God external to all rational thought and emotional bonding? Our limited minds, our limited reasoning can only summon the past to outline what it is we think we know in the present. And then such determination is a matter of interpretation, whether affixed on atheism or on theism. I suggest that relationship is key to knowing what it is you know and to what you don’t know. And yes, not knowing (meekness, teachableness) is a matter of acquiring humility in today’s Post-Enlightenment world. For a Christian worldview, holding rational thought, paradox and mystery in tension is, I believe, essential. Truth-seekers require both left and right brain hemispheres to be put to work. Why?

The Left-brain does not know what it does not know. The right-brain looks at the big picture and sees that there is mystery. It receives the paradox and supplies the left brain with context the Left-brain doesn’t see. The left brain sees detail and seeks certainty to manipulate the world. The right brain sees the big picture and hands off the context to the left brain for processing.

The Enlightenment has pushed thinking including the consideration of God, into the realm of black and white “certainty” and away from paradox and mystery, away from big questions. The media’s constant barrage of images, of ad-hoc fantasy overwhelms the right-brain, hindering its imagining of a cosmos greater than a tweet or 1440 x 2560 pixels.

Truly, the medium is a message evangelist. The perverse rapid-fire images that we view daily in anonymity enjoin us to paganism.

And as reflected, today’s Epicureans say the gods are distant and so I’ll surround myself with friends who will let say what my truth is and I’ll find sensate pleasure to offset any questions or concerns.

The many atheists (they call themselves “atheists”) I have engaged in conversations all at some point demand certainty. They will ask, “How can any rational mind accept that there is a God?” Well, a purely rational mind cannot know that there is a God. The Left-brain hemisphere will always seek certainty and never find it. The Left-brain hemisphere will always see fragmented pieces of data that mean nothing in themselves. The right-brain ‘sees’ the whole picture including what it doesn’t know and is OK with what it doesn’t know. The right-brain intuits that there is more that can be known while the left-brain balks at such ambiguity.

In my debates with atheists I say that I cannot prove that there is a God but that there is a very high probability that there is a God based on the design of Creation and the extreme fine-tuning of the universe. I mention the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity. All four finely adjusted constants make life on earth possible.

I go on to say that we only are aware of 5% of the universe and there is 95% of it that we don’t know about, including dark energy and dark matter.  I ask them that “if they can accept the mystery that light is both a wave and a particle why can’t they accept the mystery of a God beyond their understanding?” They are held in check for a moment. They expected me to “blather on about what the Bible says”.  I go on then to tell them that I have a personal relationship with the Infinite-Personal God that is reinforced by my reading of Scripture and my knowledge of the universe and prayer. (This is experiential knowledge that is at least equal to any atheist experiential knowledge). At this point, the atheist will often resort to calling me names and dismissing me out of hand. Out of these many conversations I have come to see that these same folks reject any notion of a relationship with God. Their worldview blocks all other light. So, I try to present a reasonable doubt for the case an atheist presents to me

 

I didn’t know it at the time but my eleven-year-old acceptance of Jesus would become an intimate relationship with Jesus. The big thrust in those days was to get saved and get your ticket to heaven and be ready to get raptured out of here. Sure, there was mention of Jesus as your personal Savior, but the personal part seemed to be that “Jesus died for you and you better behave before you leave this earth on the day of rejoicing”.

As I recall those days, the rigmarole surrounding being “saved” seemed artificial and trite. I heard the same salvation message week after week after week. I was starving for more than the reduction of the get-saved-and-get-the-hell-out-of-here salvation-gospel into 140 characters. As an eleven-year old the only big-ticket ‘certainty’ I had was the intuition that there was a Creator God who loved me. And, my intuition told me that the Eucharist was where to find the immediate reality of Jesus. After all of the twists and turns and sinful trajectories of my life I found a church where the Eucharist provided me the True Reality I sought.

Years later, I have learned to trust the Lord’s covenant faithfulness, which is the righteousness of (not from) God:

God’s covenant justice comes into operation through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, for the benefit of all who have faith.” Romans 3:22

What is faith then?

I observe God working in my life daily and in the lives of others I pray for. I see and wonder at the intelligent design of the universe as unfolded over 14.8 billion years. Prayer, mediation and contemplation through music, art and literature informs and strengthens my relationship with the Lord. I hear God speaking to me. My worldview, once colored by projections, has become less opaque, less cloudy, as I am led by the Spirit.

You see, faith is an eye-opening relationship in the absence of logical certainty.

 

“I pray that the God of King Jesus our Lord, the father of glory, would give you, in your spirt, the gift of being wise, of seeing things people can’t normally see, because you are coming to know him, and to have the eyes of your inmost self opened to God’s light.” -the Apostle Paul writing to the churches around Ephesus, 1: 17

~~~

My parent’s life verse speaks of relationship, of covenantal faithfulness, of things working out decently and in order in God’s purview:

“We know in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

~~~

Open thou mine eyes

Open thou mine eyes and I shall see, Incline my heart and I shall desire, Order my steps and I shall walk In the ways of thy commandments.

Open thou mine eyes and I shall see, Incline my heart and I shall desire, Order my steps and I shall walk In the ways of thy commandments.

O Lord God, be thou to me a God And beside thee let there be none else, No other, nought else with thee. Vouchsafe to me to worship thee and serve thee According to thy commandments In truth of spirit, In reverence of body, In blessing of lips, In private and in public.

 

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Island 120

Start here…

Hold the Scotch and the Logical Fallacy of Atheism

“One more logical fallacy and we’re done.”

 

This past week I encountered atheists on Twitter.  I noticed one atheist’s snarky scorn of Christians and I responded.

As you’ll see, I engaged him and one other for just a few rounds (please forgive my typos and some bad grammar, I was busy making a living at the same time).  The atheists immediately stop tweeting after dismissing me out of hand:  “One more logical fallacy and we’re done.” Their arguments must have fallen off the edge of the earth, the black hole of unbelief having sucked them away.

The exchange reminded me of a post I put together when Christopher Hitchens’s passed. (This is a long but hopefully informative post.  So, grab some coffee and hold the scotch.)

 

 

 

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

As you will see and hear in the video below, Christopher Hitchens’ (Hitch’s) arguments for atheism (exclusively an argument against theism), after many dead-end asides, were centered on his aversion to having anyone telling anyone what to do.  His followers readily know that over the years Hitch has repeatedly taken umbrage on paper or in one-upmanship debates against totalitarianism and against any authoritarian person or religion having a say in his life or in the lives of others. For the record, William Lane Craig (marker 13:59) noted that Hitch despised and hated religion.

 

Hitch was certainly OK, though, with authoritarian imposition upon others if he felt the cause justified removing other authoritarian figures from the lives of those he thought were oppressed.  He, to the horror of the liberal elitists, aligned himself philosophically with G.W. Bush regarding the Iraq war and the war on terror against radical Islamists.

 

The February 2012 issue of Vanity Fair includes Salman Rushdie’s “In Memoriam”, Christopher Hitchens: 1949-2011.” Rushdie wrote about Hitch’s return to the left:

 

“Paradoxically, it was God who saved Christopher Hitchens from the right. Nobody who detested God as viscerally, intelligently, originally, and comically as C. Hitchens could stay in the pocket of god-bothered American conservatism for long.  When he bared his fangs and went for God’s jugular, just as he had previously fanged Henry Kissinger, Mother Teresa, and Bill Clinton, the resulting book, God is not great, carried Hitch away from the American right and back toward his natural, liberal, ungodly constituency.”

 

As a way of life Hitch sought to stand juxtaposed to the universal rule of law (his own conscience) in an antinomian position while at the same time declaring moral diatribes against religious and political authorities he considered too overarching in their imposition. A true Epicurean in his ways, Hitch also liked to keep his conscience well inebriated and his roving moralist eye ever looking elsewhere – looking outside and not within – denial and pretense being typical liberal traits.

 

With atheistic cowardice and hubris, Hitch attacked Mother Teresa, a little old lady. He apparently wanted to feed his prurient desire to neutralize any authority figure (overt or implied) by trying to bring her down several notches in people’s eyes.  Why? He claimed she was pushing her authoritarian teachings onto the helpless. He accused her of hypocrisy in her dealings (an easy, self-serving claim for an atheist to make against any Christian). He may have felt threatened by her devotion to an unseen God and her ability to make things happen for others and doing so as a little old lady.

 

Why would a grown man verbally attack a helpless woman who indeed went about helping others who themselves were under the totalitarianism of poverty and squalor?  Maybe Hitch thought she wasn’t helpless. Maybe it was a direct attack against God. It certainly was an act of unmatched intelligential cowardice. To be sure Mother Teresa fought the unseen authorities of this world (the “powers of darkness”) by physically helping the outcast, the hungry and the hurting with an agape-powered love and not verbal hubris.

 

Hitch, on the other hand, fought the very public “seen” authorities of this world by aligning rhetorically with causes which he felt were important for him. He should have noted that he and Mother Teresa were fighting the same issue – human suffering at the hands of others (whether a dictator or a false religion) -from two different sides. Yet, he chose to denigrate Mother Teresa. I believe he did this because he felt threatened by her belief in the unseen God.

 

Hitch postures that Christians, especially Christian missionaries like Mother Teresa, are hypocrites who say things they know to be true and good but live disconnected lives apart from such truth – their deeds not matching match their words. This argument (?) against God was replayed in his use the La Rochefoucauld quote “hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue.” Yet, this hypocrisy argument folds in on itself if one were to hold any moral standard at all. Perhaps Hitch, a polymath, saw moral laws as “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” (The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe)

 

Clearly Hitch’s excessive lifestyle (his immoderate drinking, smoking, etc. have been noted elsewhere) made his salacious attacks against God all the more the more forthcoming and lubricious.  His lifestyle had also proved his belief in nihilism – life is nothing if not suffering. So he apparently used a “get it while you can” justification to medicate the blows between verbal jousting contests.

 

His liquid lifestyle also spoke to the fact of Hitch’s drive for “freedom” from any limitation imposed on his person including by his own person – his physiology. He chose against himself again and again.  He did this while throwing the world a bone now and then, choosing willy-nilly causes to deflect away any personal soul-searching which might lead to accountability to any higher authority. (see marker 25: 5, If god does not exist then objective moral standards don’t exist – a self-satisfying argument.)

 

Hitch detested dictatorships of all kinds and he did so while as a potentate of his own world. He would not bend the knee to anyone or to anything.  He would fight, as Salmon Rushdie recalled in the same Vanity Fair article remembering his friend, for anyone who was made to do so.  Hitch’s rebellion was against dictatorial authority of any kind and not just in the political and religious realm.  And he certainly rebelled against authority stated as codified truth – the Bible and the recorded history of the resurrection of Jesus.  His moral relativism, stated above, is characteristic of most atheists (and the “ungodly constituency”) since they affirm that no moral standard exists outside one’s self.

 

In the video Hitch asks the universal question posed to theism:  why would a God who was all powerful and good allow suffering?  My answer:  suffering comes out of created man’s free-will choices in a fallen world. God has allowed it for a time but not forever. Justice will be meted out and suffering will end.

 

He continues his disbelief: “Why would God spend eons of time in creating a world that he could set up in a blink of an eye?” He went on to say that Christians are now co-opting evolution theory in accordance with the Creation argument, evolution being a position long held by atheists.  He “christens” this “tactic” or “style” of argument as “retrospective evidentialism” or as a “second thought.” (marker 37:40)

 

As a Christian theist I see no conflict whatsoever with science and creation.  I believe in theistic evolution-a finely tuned theistic universe, a personal cause of the universe and a theistic objective morality. As scientific evidence becomes available it should be used and not discarded.  Beyond scientific proofs, my own belief in God is vindicated every day because I, a rational human being, know that God exists. I continue to pursue Him actively and I submit to His authority. Hitch, on the other hand, fled from any such authority outside of himself and employed his own existentialist belief system where he felt safe from intrusion.

 

Also in the video, Hitch uses the Creationist argument of a literal seven days to say that we as Christians are basically lunatics to believe such things. Again, I see no conflict with a Creationist’s position of a literal seven days and the theory of relativity which could make thousands of millennia appear as seven literal days. But as I mentioned above, I accept theistic evolution, so the point is mute in my case.

 

Hitch takes another jab at Christian theism by invoking his own god-like view point when questioning why God would do what Christian theists believe He did. He balks at the idea (and I’ll paraphrase): “…the eons of time that God has created-evolved – that all of this fine tuning, mass extinction and randomness is the will of a Creator God (marker 40:21) and that all of this happened so that one very imperfect race of evolved primates might become Christian – all of this was “with us in view” is a curious kind of solipsism, a curious kind of self-centeredness.”

 

Hitch jests that he thought Christians were modest and humble, not self-centered with certain arrogance to the assumption that this “was all about us.” And, “The tremendous wastefulness of it, the tremendous cruelty of it, the tremendous caprice of it, the tremendous tinkering and incompetence of it, never mind, at least we’re here and we can be people of faith.” This projection from one who, with his own free will, spoke from a self-centered and solipsistic core throughout his entire life!

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Creator, was always meant to bypass the wise of this earth: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”” (Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church).   A priori rebellion coded as cleverness is found in the Mitochondrial DNA of man.

 

Apart from Hitch’s free-wheeling self-directed solipsism, there is a bounty of sound arguments for theism and William Lane Craig (WLC) highlights them artfully: “No good argument that atheism is true, there are good arguments that theism is true – not via social questions or ethics (marker 16:00).

 

WLC philosophical arguments in quick notation:

 

Cosmological argument:  things exist, not nothing; the universe began to exist not infinite, not eternal – Big Bang Beginning, ex-nihilo, a cause by an UnCause beyond space and time; David Hillburg – The infinite; there must be a cause of creation. This Being must be uncaused, timeless, space unfathomable & personal and not abstract thought or object; The universe has begun to exist and is not infinite, not eternal (astrophysics concur); Past event are real, there must be Personal creator of the universe, transcendent intelligent mind

 

Teological argument: (marker 20:00) finely tuned universe – mathematically constants (e.g., gravity) not determined by the laws of nature & the arbitrary conditions (entropy, balance between matter and antimatter); any change in these would be the end of life itself (the atomic weak force being altered)

 

Chance?  Odds are incomprehensibly great, life prohibiting universes are more probable

 

It follows logically by Design – intelligent argument, intelligent designer

 

Moral argument (marker 25: 15):  if god does not exist then objective moral standards don’t exist; if God exists then valid and binding; the morality that has emerged proves that god exists – via moral experience; we understand that there are things that are really wrong.

 

 Historical fact (marker 27:40):  The resurrection of Jesus a historical fact not just a belief; tomb discovered empty eyewitnesses; individuals and groups saw Jesus, appearances to believers and unbelievers; the original disciples believed in the resurrection and Jewish religion believed otherwise about when resurrection occurs; Christian die for the truth of the resurrection (marker 30:26)

 

Experiential knowledge:  The experience of God or claim to know that God exists – properly basic beliefs part of a system of beliefs including the belief of an external world; context of physical objects; grounded in our experience of God; God immediate reality

 

Hitch responds (marker 33:16): “arguments the same across religions – belief in God but differences; presuppositionalists (by faith) and the evidentialists a distinction without a difference.”

 

As you will note Hitch’s arguments are all basically dismissive of Christian supporting arguments for belief and are not evidentiary in favor of atheism; note his “rather sweet” dismissal of those who believe – that those of faith should have evidence.  (Hitch once again conveniently dismisses the facts of the resurrection and the improbability of causation by chance.)

 

Hitch: “We argue that is no plausible or convincing reason, certainly no evidential one to believe that there is such an entity…all observable phenomena is explicable (marker 42:00); I don’t believe that following the appropriate rituals…

 

“Even if this deity did exist it doesn’t prove that he cared about us…cared who we had sex with …care whether we lived or died… (marker 42:32)

 

“Miracles suspend the natural order – Christians want it both ways (“promiscuous”) (marker 44:00); The natural order – “It is miraculous without a doubt”

 

“I have to say that I appear as a skeptic, I doubt these things.” (marker 46:16)

 

“The theist says it must be true…” Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”;

 

“Too early in the study of biology…to make these claims.”

 

Hitch, the verbal grappler, was as a sound and fury professional wrestler who was agile at avoiding a real match-up with Truth. But now, the fight has ended, the match is over. All that’s left in the empty corner is Hitch’s book “God is Not Great” and an empty bottle of Scotch.

The Atheist Delusion and the Art of Incomprehensibility

The Moral Mixups of an Angry Atheist

The Moral Mixups of an Angry Atheist

“The “New Atheism” movement was launched as a direct consequence of the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

This is the opening statement of the Prologue from Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir D. Aczel, PH.D.

According to Dr. Aczel, religion and the acts of militancy creating the carnage of the 9-11 attacks are the raison d’etre for the New Atheists and for their haranguing believers in a God:

“New Atheism is combative, aggressive, and belligerent against people of belief. Its proponents hold that religion is evil, and they state this belief loudly and clearly. Whether they are scientists or not, the new atheists frequently employ science as their tool.”

If you have listened to talks or read the books by the New Atheists Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, among others, you might come away with the conclusion that science had disproved a need for God.

Restating Dr. Aczel in a familiar art format, the New Atheists have created a collage of “supporting” scientism. First they used bits and pieces of biology and evolution that were familiar to them. Then, they pasted on clippings of quantum mechanics theories. And now they are using a splatter technique, throwing infinite unknown universes with their infinite probabilities at the canvas to finish their collage.

All together I would call this hodgepodge work of Pop Art “The Atheist Delusion”.

The New Atheist’s debate diatribes, their dysfunctional use of science, their avoidance of archeological findings and their animus towards believers in a God are addressed by Dr. Aczel in his book.

From the Introduction, we read of Dr. Aczel’s authenticated cri de coeur:

“The past few years have seen the rapid growth of the idea that God and Science cannot possibly coexist….The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science.” (emphsis added)

Dr. Aczel knows first-hand the New Atheist’s agenda via debating with them:

“And these New Atheists—Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett”—are bound together under a powerful common purpose, and continually reinforce each other. The problem with the science in the books and lectures of the New Atheists is that it is not pure science—the objective pursuit of knowledge about the universe.” Rather, it is “science” with a purpose” [I call it “scientism,” as do others]: the purpose of disproving the existence of God.” (emphasis added)

~~~

 

Something to think about:

What do the ancient Greek “atomist” philosophers (circa 460-270 BC) like Epicurus and Democritus and the On Origin of the Species author Charles Darwin and the New Atheists have in common?

There are at least three issues that frame the writings and dialog of each subset:

1-All of them had the notion that no Supreme Being would exist that would allow judgment and eternal punishment. For example…

Charles Darwin: “I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as divine revelation”; “The plain language of the [biblical] text seems to show that men who do not believe and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”  -Chapter Eight, “Triumph and the Reversal of Natural Selection”, Darwin: Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

The New Atheists, speaking as gods, posit that no Supreme Being would ever judge mankind or let evil enter our world. (They are OK, though, with an Epicurean “free will” attenuated by evolution and Social Darwinism and with ignoring murderous dictators, genocide, eugenics, abortion, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.-all the “damnable” by-products of atheism and Social Darwinism.)

2-All of them used unscientific analogs and personal anecdotes (feelings) to create their “empirical” disavowal and disapproval of God’s existence. There are too many references to list all of them here.

From Paul Johnson’s biography:

“The trouble with [Darwin’s] Descent [of Man] really starts in chapter 5, “On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilized Times.” It is a mass of generalizations.”

According to historian Paul Johnson, Charles Darwin made statements in The Descent of Man and elsewhere that would be considered highly racist, chauvinistic and speculative today.

“Like Dawkins, Hitchens also uses anecdotes from his own life to illustrate the overwhelming viciousness he sees in all religions:” (Dr. Aczel goes on to quote Hitch’s church memories.)

Feelings and sentimentality do not a scientist make.

The New Atheists, from railing on and on about the Crusades and Catholic Priest child abuse to denigrating Mother Teresa to childhood church memories, hope to poison the well of Living Water that a Samaritan women would drink from.

3- None of the above studied anthropology, metaphysics, archeology and mathematics. Instead, they read the tabloids. They wanted to know what people thought about them. Darwin held off publishing On Origin of the Species due to his concern over public opinion.

For your consideration:

Dr. Aczel states that atheism began with the “Atomist” philosophers. This is not so. Atheism is a post-Christian phenomenon. The Epicureans mentioned above believed in Roman and Greek deities, to be sure, but they felt that those deities where busy off somewhere else and were always angry with mankind anyway. So, they chose to ignore those gods.

One final note about the book:

Dr. Aczel, as his book clearly reinforces, reasons scientifically that there is a God-in the “broadest possible sense.” But, Dr. Aczel makes no claim saying that God is a personal God or, say, as Francis Schaeffer, founder of L’Abri said in his writings and lectures that, “God is Infinite-Personal”. Dr. Aczel’s book, one could say, is purely academic…and scientifically supports Theism.

Amir D. Aczel holds graduate degrees in mathematics. He is also the author of Fermat’s Last Theorem. In Why Science Does Not Disprove God he notes a significant array of distinguished scientists interviewed in the process of writing his book. And, here are the chapter titles to pique your interest:

Prologue: The Birth of the New Atheism

1-The Coevolution of Very Early Science and Religion

2-Why Archaeology Does not Disprove the Bible

3-The Revolt of Science

4-The Triumphs of Science in the Nineteenth Century

5-Einstein, God, and the Big Bang

6-God and the Quantum

7-The “Universe from Nothing” Deception

8-And on the Eighth Day, God Created the Multiverse

9-Mathematics, Probability, and God

10-Catastrophes, Chaos, and the Limits of Human Knowledge

11-Between God and the Anthropic Principle

12-The Limits of Evolution

13-Art, Symbolic Thinking, and the Invisible Boundary

14-Engaging the Infinite

15-Conclusion: Why the “Scientific” Argument for Atheism Fails

 

~~~

Added 9-26-2015:

Below, the Hebrew King David (c. 1040–970 BC) speaks about a morally perverse person, an ungodly person, and one who disregards God and any thought of moral adjudication (see above for the modern folly version by the New Atheists). David is not talking about theoretical atheism. The Apostle Paul later references Psalm 14 in his letter to the Roman church (Chapter 3) when talks about the nature of sin:

“For the choir director: A psalm of David. Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalm 14:1

~~~

Cartoon from: http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-moral-mixups-of-an-angry-atheist-125221/

“Imagine” Juxtaposed

Previous posts attempted to expose the Epicurean influence on modernity: the exclusion of God from the garden of good and evil and replaced with Darwinian materialism under the influence of man-made reasoning: “cogito ergo sum”.

The posts also revealed the inclusion of ‘reasoned’ or ‘rational’ people into the high-horse club of scientism. This exclusive club is governed by those who have the power, perhaps the raison d’état, to control the inputs and outputs of desired ‘truth’. “What is truth?” Pilate asked (when he thought he had the force of the whole Roman empire to define it.)

As I wryly mentioned in my previous posts the above either/or, God/science dichotomy came, at first, philosophically, from what I call Epicurus’ “High-Horse” Mal-ware. This mal-ware has since been downloaded over the centuries into each century’s modern man’s psyche. The devastating effect of the Mal-ware was to disable the AND gate of your truth tables. It was not to be used in queries.

Now, like the historically recorded scene of two thieves each hanging on cross with Jesus hanging between them, I offer a similar juxtaposition of two end results, two disparate “Imagines”.

One “Imagine” is Epicurean, God dismissed, materialistic, nihilistic and personified in the likes of former atheist Christopher Hitchens, materialist Barack Obama and fatalist Beatle John Lennon:

 The other “Imagine” is God-inclusive. Here, God is the nucleus, the epicenter of being and meaning. Here, God and science coexist as Lion and lamb, creation being the sublime work of His hands, His signature found in the molded clay.

God’s Kingdom, now begun on earth, has become a dwelling place for all who see His light and follow it. True reality is made known to His followers by the Holy Spirit. The earthly spectrum of sodium street lights, of tungsten lights, of neon lights, of mercury lights, of halogen lights, of xenon lights, lights all of which enable us to see our way on earth are sourced from the Prism of Eternal Light.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

At His appearance we will then know Him as He knows us. That Eternal Light you see is Love, not short-lived Epicurean fireworks and party favors. 

 

Footnote: The above song by MercyMe was played during my son’s funeral service, about fourteen years ago. Justin was eighteen when the Lord took him home in a freak car accident. The police reported that it was a clear, sunny and dry day in Texas as Justin drove down a frontage road and lost control of the car. No other cars were involved. No drugs or alcohol were involved according to the Police report.

 Justin had recently graduated from high school. The afternoon of his death he was driving back from his girlfriend’s house. We don’t know why this happened. We just know that we will see him again and this is not final. The Joy that only God’s True Love can give replaced the deepest loss I have ever experienced.  Physics caused the physical death. But, Justin lives on.

 Sure there is pain, loss and evil in the world. But God is greater than any of these, if you let Him be God in your life.

Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-Ware v. 2.015

As my last post noted Greece, the home of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, rejected fiscal restraint and austerity in exchange for “Hope is coming” debt finagling.

Epicurus sans hammock

Epicurus sans hammock

 “Syriza” or “Let the Good Times Roll Without Repercussions Party” has won a short-lived victory in Epicurean Greece: “Avoid pain or at least spread it around. Give it to someone else. Let us work a few hours a week and then let us seek our pleasures. Let us surround ourselves with good friends and good drink. Forget the creditors. Those fools believed we would pay them back”. And so it goes in ancient modern Greece.

 Well, back in the day Epicurus had an even bigger dilemma than a fiscal crisis. But it was a problem that he was able to philosophize or finagle away with even bigger denial than today’s Greeks. I am talking about the problem of evil.

 The problem of evil–whether viewed as a man being burned alive or as a Roman crucifixion or as someone stealing cigars from a mini-mart or as one neighbor lying to another neighbor-is in our face daily. This enormous topic can only be glanced at in this post. I will give you a perspective to consider. First, let’s see what Epicurus foisted on his followers from his hammock ‘high horse’.

 From Wikipedia Chapter One, verse two:

Logical problem of evil

The originator of the logical problem of evil has been cited as the Greek philosopher Epicurus and this argument may be schematized as follows:

  1. If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God does not exist.

This perspective of the problem of evil is held by many in the world. It is a perspective which atheism willing points to and one that bothers agnostics. It is a perspective that lends itself to the myopic religion of scientism where everything can only be validated through scientific proofs or, basically, through one’s senses (a more refined Epicurean philosophy). Yet, the above logical problem of evil is self-defeating. It assumes knowledge of good and evil.

One has to ask, how did Epicurus determine good and evil and the truth that defines them? Did he feel their effects via his physical senses? Did he and his friends determine what is good and what is evil via their collective senses? Did Epicurus make up ‘truth’ about good and evil by what his friends let him get away with saying? Or did Epicurus as a proto-Foucault define ‘regimes of truth’ as “the historically specific mechanisms which produce discourses which function as true in particular times and places”? Or, did Epicurus, as President Obama has recently done at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast, use moral equivalency or relativism (in this case, high horse lecturing Christians with historical error) as a basis to decide what is a good and what is a bad by comparison (with God as a rubber stamp). It should be noted that none of these premises and perspectives is based on a perspective outside ones’ self or on an Absolute reference point. At the epicenter of these premises is self-serving man, ergo the likes of the American Humanist Association and their motto: “Good Without God“.

 If you believe as pre-Darwin-pre-Enlightenment-pre-scientism Epicurus believed-that humans are just randomized atoms (as he called them) that “swerved” and collided to form the materialistic world-then how did a rational concept of good and evil enter our gardens of random atoms? Remember, in Epicurus’ worldview god had been expelled from the garden of good and evil.

 This early formulation of the logical problem of evil, as I see it and now describe it, is when the Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware began its download hactivism into the software of our networked psyche creating a down-through-the-centuries botnet. This Mal-ware put God in the “Recycle Bin” and made Him inaccessible. It also redirected our boot up executable file to scientism, making it our default root drive. Social manipulation by amoral hactivists and humanists keeps the botnet going.

 The Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware searches for any thought of God and seeks to delete it from your consciousness. It causes doubt spam and creates a zombie-like effect with regard to outside-your-senses thinking. You are made subservient to a ‘regime of truth’, to those who now have the power to control truth. And, there are many who would desire to do so in this present age. And remember, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” as if Pilate could willy-nilly define truth through his earthly power.

 For the sake of brevity I think you will agree with me that the logical problem of evil comes down to premises and perspectives. You may also agree with me that there is a need to wipe clean the hard drives of our minds of all Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware.

 Here is a proper perspective from Dr. Ron Rhodes regarding the existence of evil:

 …it is impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point which is absolutely good. Otherwise one is like a boat at sea on a cloudy night without a compass (i.e., there would be no way to distinguish north from south without the absolute reference point of the compass needle).

The infinite reference point for distinguishing good from evil can only be found in the person of God, for God alone can exhaust the definition of “absolutely good.” If God does not exist, then there are no moral absolutes by which one has the right to judge something (or someone) as being evil. More specifically, if God does not exist, there is no ultimate basis to judge the crimes of Hitler. Seen in this light, the reality of evil actually requires the existence of God, rather than disproving it.

If Epicurus had read the even more ancient book of Job perhaps he would not have been so clueless and the “High-Horse” Mal-ware would never have been downloaded with its intent on hacking into our truth files.

One more perspective regarding truth, good and evil and moral equivalency:

C.S. Lewis has a few words to say about the matter, too:

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

 “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

 “There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.”

Three Atheists I Listen To

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and an heir of the King and a fellow servant in the Kingdom of God began when I first believed that God existed. What followed was the understanding that God not only existed but that He is an Infinite-Personal God who, though having created the vast universe ex nihilo using the Big Bang and evolution, loves me.

 Beyond my own personal encounters with God through my reason and through the testimony of others, there are the historical facts supporting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is also astounding supporting evidence in nature. God exists.

But there are some who say otherwise: “Atheism exists, this I know, for my reason tells me so.” These would be the angry atheists Richard Dawkins, the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch) and others.

 I have at one time or another heard these atheists give their arguments of disbelief and I have found their words wanting for any real substance. They often come across as superior and snobbish.  And, their arguments are certainly unfettered by the factual account of the resurrection or of the fine tuning of the universe that makes life and thought and argument possible at all. Their anger exists.

 There are three atheists I pay attention to.  I tune in to them because what they often say through words or music reveals the truth about God in a way they may not even realize. The three atheists are Thomas Sowell, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and Frederick Delius

Thomas SowellFirst, Thomas Sowell.  Start at his web page Thomas Sowell. And, here is a short bio from the Townhall.com web page: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/

“…writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing.”

  Sowell is an economist, a common sense economist.  You will get that sense as you read his books and articles.  Of late, I have read The Thomas Sowell Reader (start with this book for short articles addressing current issues both economic and social) and A Conflict of Visions.

  The Thomas Sowell Reader, a compilation of articles and essays written by Thomas Sowell, economist:

 “From an early age, I have been convinced with trying to understand the social problems that abound in any society.  First and foremost, this was an attempt to try to grasp some explanation of the puzzling and disturbing things going on around me.  This was all for my own personal clarification, since I neither had political ambitions nor the political talents required for either elective or appointed office.  But, one having achieved some sense of understanding of particular issues ~ a process that sometimes took years – I wanted to share that understanding with others.  That is the reason for the things that appear in this book.”

 A Conflict of Visions, also written by Thomas Sowell:

 “What are the underlying assumptions behind the very different ideological visions of the world being contested in modern times?  The purpose here will not be to determine which of these visions is more valid but rather to reveal the inherent logic behind each of these sets of views and the ramifications of the assumptions which lead not only to different conclusions on particular issues but also to wholly different meanings to such fundamental words as “justice,” “equality,” and “power.”

 A sample article by Thomas Sowell:  The Fallacy of Redistribution

 519px-TheodoredalrympleRegarding Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and some of his recurring themes from books and articles note the following from his Wikipedia entry.  I confirm these themes having read his book Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass:

 -The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries ~ criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families ~ is the nihilistic, decadent, and/or self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behavior, and the lexicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behavior, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently. (Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass)

-Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience. (‘The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism’, in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 6 (chapter 2).

-Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense. (“Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster”. City Journal. Retrieved 12 July 2009)

-The decline of civilized behavior ~ self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life. (Not with a Bang but a Whimper)

-The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.

deliusLastly, Frederick Delius.  I don’t recall when I first heard his compositions. It may have been in my thirties at a Chicago Symphony concert.  The first piece I remember is the symphonic poem The Song Of Summer.  I was overwhelmed by its simple beauty.

 From The Delius Collection, Vol. 2 CD liner notes:

 “Many have written of Delius’ ‘moods’ or ‘feelings’, views which reflect only the ‘impression’ his music has made on the writers (read music critics).

Such Romantic or rather Impressionistic ~ notions of his art are only concerned with its surface appeal, as if that is all that is valuable in it, and ignore wholly his unique technical and structural mastery.  In such ways, Delius is more of an anti-Romantic, for the sentimentality or self-projection of Romanticism are alien to his music.  Delius hymned Nature, not himself as did Sebelius; such sentimentality as may condemn his art stems from a performing style wherein expressive beauty is stressed at the cost of his music’s intellectual power.” Robert Matthew-Walker

 For starters I would recommend listening to Irmelin Prelude, Song of Summer, A Late Lark, the orchestral interlude A Walk to Paradise Garden from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.

 An avowed atheist, Delius embraced nature for his inspiration.  He also embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy which produced Delius’ loud and unattractive A Mass of Life.

 “A Mass of Life is an attack upon Christian doctrine and the Christian way of life as Nietzsche and Delius saw it. They both wanted to correct what they called the “slave morality” of Christianity.  Their great emphasis was upon the will, not bowing to anyone, and living and dying fearlessly though death be total extinction.

Death, when it came to Delius, was terrible, and within a few months his steadfast wife was dead too.

In speaking about Delius, Eric Fenby (Delius’ composition scribe after Delius became blind) observes, “Given those great natural musical gifts and that nature of his, so full of feeling, and which at its finest inclined to that exalted end of man which is contemplation, there is no knowing to what sublime heights he would have risen had he chosen to look upwards to God instead of downward to man!”  From the Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson, Crossway Books

 What the first two atheists have in common is their ability to speak truth, wisdom and common sense ~ God’s law within each of us – simply. As Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate of physics said, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.”

 Both men, from their lifetime of experiences, have seen reality and tell us that there are values that a man must embrace to be civilized, to be ‘right side up’, so to speak.  They tell us that Man must draw the line somewhere. 

Now, I believe that it is the God of Creation who has created the line ~ the natural law written on our hearts ~ and He has exposed our crossing it. But, He did not leave us on our own, to remake ourselves as Nietzsche’s ideal human, the Übermensch, who would be able to channel passions creatively (but to what end?). He gave us the only way possible, through His Son, to regain our humanity.

 Frederick Delius revealed truth through his music’s contemplative moments of rhapsodic beauty as inspired by God’s creation.

 All three have seen things (even the eventually blind Delius) that others often willfully ignore. They are honest with themselves about what they see and they repeat it back.  And, there is knowledge of reality in their words and works that can only find its genesis in God’s created order and His law written on our hearts.

 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

What’s the Unitarian?

It is little wonder that the well-known ‘angry’ atheist Richard Dawkins wrote the anti-thesim book The God Delusion.  It is easily understandable especially after one reads the interview (excerpted and linked below) between a Unitarian Minister Marilyn Sewell and another anti-theist atheist the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch).

 As evident from the interview, Marilyn Sewell, a minister, is utterly delusional in her understanding of God and Christianity.  And it is blatantly obvious that Hitch has a better understanding of Christianity than this Unitarian minister.

 Apparently from her bio Sewell has studied theology but I contend it is not Biblical theology.  Her questions and remarks as interviewer reveal her embrace of syncretism – a diversity of false beliefs and humanism blended with the truth of Christianity. Unitarian could be another term for syncretism.

 From her eponymous blog we are told that liberal believer and retired minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland Marilyn Sewell is a former teacher and psychotherapist.  She has authored numerous books. Over a period of 17 years Sewell helped grow Portland’s downtown Unitarian congregation into one of the largest in the United States. At this point I must say that the fact that this woman and the Unitarian Church are misleading many is of serious concern to me. I must contend for the truth of Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 It troubles my spirit greatly when people like this liberal Unitarian minister use the name of Jesus Christ to preach “another gospel” and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her message is a mish-mash of new age religion, liberal theology, social justice and cheap grace.  The ultimate message becomes half lie half truth:  “It’s not what you believe but how you live.” Ergo an embrace of diverse beliefs and social justice activism are at the forefront of Unitarian creeds.  As you’ll read, for Sewell just like the Episcopalian minister ghost in C.S. Lewis’, “The Great Divorce” all is metaphor, and therefore, cannot be taken seriously

 The deity of Christ, His death on the cross, His atonement for sins, judgement, heaven and hell, all are dismissed as being metaphorical, as not relevant to present human need and too exclusive a message to preach and teach.   Clearly this is syncretistic thinking and delusional with regard to the truth.  And because of its soft, socially acceptable version of theology the tentacles of Unitarian tenets are quickly creeping into evangelical churches across the nation.

 As a follower of Christ I am posting this information expressly to note the deception hidden in Sewell’s misguided words.  I have no problem talking about this interview in no uncertain terms. From the public record it can be noted that Sewell is a social activist and polemicist as was Hitch. They are/were each able to dish out pious platitudes at will and certainly, as their backgrounds would support, are/were able to hold their own in conversations regarding issues of faith and God.  So here goes.

 The interview took place prior to Christopher Hitchen’s January 5th, 2010 appearance as part of the Literary Arts’ Portland art and lecture series at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  Hitch was political columnist for Vanity Fair, Slate, and other magazines, and known for his frequent contributions on the political TV circuit.  Hitchens’ pointed attacks against all religion has earned him regular debates across the country, often with the very fundamentalist believers his book, “God is Not Great”, attacks. Sewell, the interviewer, though, knows nothing about the fundamentals of Christianity. It would seem that Hitch is in a joust with Jello.

 Here are excerpts from that interview,  linked here

 Marilyn Sewell: In the book you write that, at age nine, you experienced the ignorance of your scripture teacher Mrs. Watts and, then later at 12, your headmaster tried to justify religion as a comfort when facing death. It seems you were an intuitive atheist. But did you ever try religion again?

Christopher Hitchens: I belong to what is a significant minority of human beings: Those who are-as Pascal puts it in his Pensées, his great apology for Christianity-“so made that they cannot believe.” As many as 10 percent of is just never can bring themselves to take religion seriously. And since people often defend religion as natural to humans (which I wouldn’t say it wasn’t, by the way), the corollary holds too: there must be respect for those who simply can’t bring themselves to find meaning in phrases like “the Holy Spirit.”

Well, could it be that some people are “so made” for faith. and you are so made for the intellectual life?

I don’t have whatever it takes to say things like “the grace of God.” All that’s white noise to me, not because I’m an intellectual. For many people, it’s gibberish. Likewise, the idea that the Koran was dictated by an archaic illiterate is a fantasy. As so far the most highly evolved of the primates, we do seem in the majority to have a tendency to worship, and to look for patterns that lead to supernatural conclusions. Whereas, I think that there is no supernatural dimension whatever. The natural world is quite wonderful enough. The more we know about it, the much more wonderful it is than any supernatural proposition.

The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God-as you might as a matter of fact-as, “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish-fulfillment and comes from the humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?”

I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning-at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.

Well, probably not, because I agree with almost everything that you say. But I still consider myself a Christian and a person of faith.

Do you mind if I ask you a question? Faith in what? Faith in the resurrection?

The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.

I hate to say it-we’ve hardly been introduced-but maybe you are simply living on the inheritance of a monstrous fraud that was preached to millions of people as the literal truth-as you put it, “the ground of being.”

Times change and, you know, people’s beliefs change. I don’t believe that you have to be fundamentalist and literalist to be a Christian. You do: You’re something of a fundamentalist, actually.

Well, I’m sorry, fundamentalist simply means those who think that the Bible is a serious book and should be taken seriously.

If you would like for me to talk a little bit about what I believe . . .

Well I would actually.

I don’t know whether or not God exists in the first place, let me just say that. I certainly don’t think that God is an old man in the sky, I don’t believe that God intervenes to give me goodies if I ask for them.

You don’t believe he’s an interventionist of any kind?

I’m kind of an agnostic on that one. God is a mystery to me. I choose to believe because-and this is a very practical thing for me-I seem to live with more integrity when I find myself accountable to something larger than myself. That thing larger than myself, I call God, but it’s a metaphor. That God is an emptiness out of which everything comes. Perhaps I would say ” reality” or “what is” because we’re trying to describe the infinite with language of the finite. My faith is that I put all that I am and all that I have on the line for that which I do not know.

Fine. But I think that’s a slight waste of what could honestly be in your case a very valuable time. I don’t want you to go away with the impression that I’m just a vulgar materialist. I do know that humans are also so made even though we are an evolved species whose closest cousins are chimpanzees. I know it’s not enough for us to eat and so forth. We know how to think. We know how to laugh. We know we’re going to die, which gives us a lot to think about, and we have a need for, what I would call, “the transcendent” or “the numinous” or even “the ecstatic” that comes out in love and music, poetry, and landscape. I wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t respond to things of that sort. But I think the cultural task is to separate those impulses and those needs and desires from the supernatural and, above all, from the superstitious.

Could you talk about these two words that you just used, “transcendent” and “numinous”? Those are two words are favorites of mine.

Well, this would probably be very embarrassing, if you knew me. I can’t compose or play music; I’m not that fortunate. But I can write and I can talk and sometimes when I’m doing either of these things I realize that I’ve written a sentence or uttered a thought that I didn’t absolutely know I had in me… until I saw it on the page or heard myself say it. It was a sense that it wasn’t all done by hand.

A gift?

But, to me, that’s the nearest I’m going to get to being an artist, which is the occupation I’d most like to have and the one, at last, I’m the most denied. But I, think everybody has had the experience at some point when they feel that there’s more to life than just matter. But I think it’s very important to keep that under control and not to hand it over to be exploited by priests and shamans and rabbis and other riffraff.

You know, I think that that might be a religious impulse that you’re talking about there.

Well, it’s absolutely not. It’s a human one. It’s part of the melancholy that we have in which we know that happiness is fleeting, and we know that life is brief, but we know that, nonetheless, life can be savored and that happiness, even of the ecstatic kind, is available to us. But we know that our life is essentially tragic as well. I’m absolutely not for handing over that very important department of our psyche to those who say, “Well, ah. Why didn’t you say so before? God has a plan for you in mind.” I have no time to waste on this planet being told what to do by those who think that God has given them instructions.

You write, “Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and the soul.” You use the word “soul” there as metaphor. What is a soul for you?

It’s what you might call “the x-factor”-I don’t have a satisfactory term for it-it’s what I mean by the element of us that isn’t entirely materialistic: the numinous, the transcendent, the innocence of children (even though we know from Freud that childhood isn’t as innocent as all that), the existence of love (which is, likewise, unquantifiable but that anyone would be a fool who said it wasn’t a powerful force), and so forth. I don’t think the soul is immortal, or at least not immortal in individuals, but it may be immortal as an aspect of the human personality because when I talk about what literature nourishes, it would be silly of me or reductionist to say that it nourishes the brain.

I wouldn’t argue with you about the immortality of the soul. Were I back in a church again, I would love to have you in my church because you’re so eloquent and I believe that some of your impulses-and, excuse me for saying so-are religious in the way I am religious. You may call it something else, but we agree in a lot of our thinking.

I’m touched that you say, as some people have also said to me, that I’ve missed my vocation. But I actually don’t think that I have. I would not be able to be this way if I was wearing robes or claiming authority that was other than human. that’s a distinction that matters to me very much.

You have your role and it’s a valuable one, so thank you for what you give to us.

Well, thank you for asking. It’s very good of you to be my hostess.

[end of interview]

 Note above that after Sewell’s reference to theologian Paul Tillich’s take on God as “an invincible tyrant” and after mentioning Freud’s dismissive take on faith (also well-known to Hitch), she wants to hear from Hitch about Tillich’s concept of God.  Listen closely to Hitch’s response:

I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning-at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.

 Wow!  The money line: “If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.”

 Even Hitch knows that this woman is way off the mark in her ‘theology’.  In this case Hitch doesn’t drop famous names from history like Sewell.  Hitch cuts to the quick with the truth of the Gospel as he knows it.  He quotes from Scripture:  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (I Cor. 15:19). 

 Hitch has known Christianity from standing outside looking in while.  He does not like Christianity’s authority and the abuse of that authority (as I do not).

 Sewell, on the other hand, knows the hodge-podge Unitarian philosophy from inside out.  She knows all of its labyrinthine pathways leading to the utopian fields of humanism, new age philosophy and God is love-ism. The irony:  Unitarian ‘theology’ clearly advocates the contention of atheists that religion is about wish-fulfillment and fear of the unknown.

Here is Marilyn’s take on the conversation from her blog:

“The man is brilliant, but not wise; clever, but not deep; and a fundamentalist, in regard to religion, rejecting any form of liberal Christianity as bogus religion, not to be respected

Hitchens clearly has never studied theology, (This is rich.  See my comments above) and most of the comments he made concerning the Bible, Jesus, salvation, etc., were shockingly naïve (Hitch’s knowledge of Christianity trumped yours, Marilyn).  Where he has something to offer, of course, is his critique of religion and society, and all of the horrors and nonsense done in the name of religion, which I have no argument with.  It’s not exactly news that the Inquisition was a bad thing.  And that Catholic priests shouldn’t abuse altar boys.  And (his particular nemesis) jihadists shouldn’t blow up innocent civilians. 

Hitchens is the ultimate intellectual “bad boy.”  He performs.  He “debates.”  He entertains. All of which he does very well.   But this should not be confused with thoughtful discourse. “(I agree with this last paragraph of Marilyn’s)

 I would certainly argue from the details of the interview that Hitch knows Christianity well enough to be convicted by its message – but he rejects it outright.  Sewell, on the other hand, doesn’t know the truths of Christianity and appears to only embrace the parts of the Gospel that fit with the Unitarian belief in humanism – a theology of a coddling, benevolent and indulgent God who accepts you no matter what.

 Gospel truth convicts people of their sin and their separation from God whereas the tepid mollycoddling theology of Unitarianism destroys lives with its abandonment of truth and its good intentions. And as we all have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or, hell is full of good wishes and desires.  In the end Truth matters.

Are you seeking the truth?

 To find the truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ read the four gospel accounts that record the life and death of Jesus Christ:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These historical eye-witness accounts are not metaphors as liberal theologians (Sewell, Elaine Pagels and others) would have us accept.

 Follow the Truth wherever it leads you and it will eventually lead you to Jesus Christ.  He is The Way, The Truth and the Life. I have been on the road of truth with Jesus for many years now.  I know Him and he knows me. 

 Truth and Love go hand-in-hand or not at all.

Atheism in Retreat

  
William Lane Craig wants to debate atheists ( Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc) in the UK but there are NO takers:
 
*****
God Is Not Dead Yet
How current philosophers argue for his existence.
by William Lane Craig
 

You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.

That generation’s cultural high point came on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine carried a lead story for which the cover was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright red letters: “Is God Dead?” The story described the “death of God” movement, then current in American theology.

But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of God’s demise was premature. For at the same time theologians were writing God’s obituary, a new generation of young philosophers was rediscovering his vitality.

The complete article here:http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/13.22.html?paging=off

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