Try not to enjoy this too much . . .

Read the whole delicious thing: Why atheists can’t get dates.

Schadenfreude warning: This makes some excellent points.

“There aren’t many serious atheists, mostly geeky young men:

By numbers alone, American atheists really aren’t that big of a group. According to a 2012 Pew report, atheists make up only about 2.4 percent of the population. . . .

So your social life might be limited. It gets worse.

Richard Dawkins, one of the keynote speakers, encouraged attendees to “ridicule” people’s faith. Not all atheists take this tone toward faith, but it’s a somewhat common posture, especially among some of atheism’s most vocal advocates, including Dawkins and people like PZ Myers and Bill Maher.

Think about it: They are encouraged to centre out your friends, neighbours, relatives, customers, clients, and guests for ridicule. Soon you might not have a social life at all.

Date? If you need a person in your life who alienates almost anyone who has ever cared about you, seek help. Honestly.

. . .
Based on what we have seen over the years, if you are thinking of getting involved with new atheism, especially if you are a girl, do seek help first.”

All kidding aside, pray for these rebels.  Being miserable in this life and for eternity is something we shouldn’t wish on anyone.  There is hope, joy, freedom and salvation if they will but turn to Jesus.

On Mary

I got a really creepy email from a Catholic guy who I’ve done prison ministry with.  He actually signed off on the email “In Jesus and Mary.”  He was encouraging people to go to a site called Holy Love, which has alleged direct revelations from Mary, other dead people and Jesus.  Indeed.  Here’s a sample from Mary:

Our Lady comes seated on a Throne. She is in white with gold ornaments on Her Mantle. She says: “Praise be to Jesus.”

“Today, you honor Me under the title ‘Mother of God’. I am the Mother of God, but also the Mother of All Humanity. I am the Mother of all who esteem Me and pray to Me. I am also the Mother of all who have abandoned Me. I am the Mother of those who live in error, those far from their salvation and all who promote sin.”

“My Immaculate Heart is the Chamber of Purification where souls can face illumination and conviction in the Truth. Not believing in the Truth does not change the Truth. Conviction of heart is a great grace in any present moment, and must be accepted for conversion of heart to take place.”

“Therefore, as your Mother, I call each soul into My Heart as I tenderly and profoundly call you to realize the Truth of where you stand before God in any given moment.”

Now here is one from Jesus:

“I am your Jesus, born Incarnate.”

“No one can be saved or come into Paradise outside of God’s Divine Will. So it is, through and in this Divine Will, I come to offer the path of Truth which leads you into the Light. If you pursue the Chambers of Our United Hearts, you will live in the Truth and obey My Father’s Commandments. So it is, I offer you a roadmap to Eternal Joy – a Joy beyond all telling.”

“It is easy to disbelieve and thereby discount what I offer, but disbelief does not free you of the responsibility to discover the Truth.”

“Today, you are experiencing much snow in your part of the world. I tell you, some hearts are ‘snowed under’ by error. Holy Love must melt away the error and help them to begin their journey towards the Divine Will. Be the instrument which melts the ice.”

They have hundreds of those.  You can’t take the Bible seriously and believe any of them.  They have Jesus coming to us regularly and telling us to pray the Rosary.  Sure.

CARM has lots of great resources about Catholicism, such as Roman Catholicism, comparing Mary to God.  This is a great list to study thoroughly.  Look how often RCC doctrine is the opposite of what the Bible says.

My challenge for Catholics is to read the Bible for yourself and see how few mentions of Mary there are.  The book of Acts?  One mention, and only to note that she is in the room.  There are zero in the rest of the official recording of the early church history!  Romans?  Zero. 1 Corinthians?  Zero.  And so on, through the rest of the Bible.

We should have the proper view of Mary, which is that she had a unique role and was an obedient servant of God.  But the veneration / worship commanded by the RCC shows how false they are.  I appreciate their pro-life and pro-family views, but their Mary-worship, indulgences, purgatory, justification by works and other heretical views can’t be tolerated.

Also see What does the Bible say about the virgin Mary?

Witnessing to the Witnesses (and others): Some useful tactics

A couple Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the other day and we visited for a while.  What would you think about my approach if you knew that I made the following points?

  • They are in the wrong religion
  • Their religion has characteristics of a cult
  • They are worshiping the wrong Jesus
  • Their New World Bible has some deliberate mistranslations
  • If you really love Jesus you’ll want to ensure you understand his nature properly
  • Hell is real

They must have thought I was a big meanie, right?  Just another one of those jerky know-it-all judgmental Christians.

Nope.  I made all those points quite clearly, yet the way I navigated the conversation resulted in the lead guy telling me in a sincere way at least three times what a nice guy I was (I give a lot of credit to Stand to Reason and Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions for this approach).

Now we all know I’m as friendly as a basket full of puppies (We do know that, right?!), but you usually wouldn’t expect that reaction after I just made all those points about their religion.  So what made the difference?  Things like this:

  • I focused on the Bible, because we both claim that is the word of God.
  • I stuck to a few key points: John 1:1* (which I knew they’d have a ready response to, even though I could counter it), John 1:3** (they weren’t ready for that), the JW rule about them not being allowed to take written materials from me, and that their New World Bible translation has easily identifiable errors.  I continually referred to the real Jesus — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator in Genesis 1 and John 1, the one whose descriptions are used synonymously with those of God in the Old Testament, etc.
  • I told them I appreciated how they cared enough to go out and share what they think is true.
  • I used common foes (Mormonism, Islam) as examples before addressing the JW theological errors.
  • I noted that it doesn’t bother me that they think I’m wrong and that I think they are wrong, so we can have a friendly discussion on where we differ.
  • I realized I had said “JWs” instead of their religion’s full name then sincerely apologized if they found that shortcut offensive.  They didn’t, noting that they use it themselves, but my desire to avoid unnecessary offense seemed to resonate with them.
  • I listened carefully when they made their points.
  • We had some friendly chit-chat interspersed with the theological discussions (one guy was from Italy, so we talked a little about that).
  • It was a hot day (August in Texas!) so I gave them each a bottle of cold water as they left.
  • I gave them one of my “business” cards that has my church information, email address and blog site.  I know they are unlikely to visit, but I smiled and encouraged them to come spy on what the Protestants are up to.

Where these guys end up theologically is between them and God, but I was pleased with the interaction.  It always glorifies God when you speak the truth about him, regardless of how people respond.  And it definitely planted some seeds.  The lead guy was going to take the John 1:3 objections back to one of their experts to try and respond to me.  And my comments on the textual criticism issue seemed stick with them (i.e., that with the thousands of manuscripts we’ve found around the world from different centuries we know that the New World translation has errors).

I admit that I find using these tactics much easier in person than on-line.  But they do work.  I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already.  You can’t control their reactions, but you can speak the truth in love.

——–

*Their Bible ends John 1:1 with “a God” instead of “God.”  (The right version: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

**They haven’t mistranslated John 1:3 (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.), so you can show the logic of how Jesus can’t be a created being.  This can be used with Mormons as well.

“And what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.”

Someone Tweeted this today so I thought I’d rerun it with some bonus features.

_____

The title is from the episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides to stop attending church.

Marge: I can’t believe you’re giving up church, Homer.

Homer: Hey, what’s the big deal about going to some building every Sunday?  I mean, isn’t God everywhere?  And don’t you think that the Almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week? And what if we picked the wrong religion?  Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.

Bart: Testify!

Marge: [Groans]

In one of those odd ways where someone speaks some truth without knowing it, it reminds me of this important passage:

1 Corinthians 15:12–18 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

So the Apostle Paul seems to agree with Homer, at least in one sense: If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are misrepresenting God – and that’s never a good place to be.   And the writers even have Homer realizing that not all religions are the same.  How do you discern which is right?  Look at the facts.

But the evidence points to the fact that He did rise from the dead, and that changes everything.

—–

As I noted in a recent post, Christianity is unique in that it is testable and falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.

There are all sorts of apologetics resources (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

This explains those who reject God.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This sums it up as well:

To defy the Creator’s commands, you must ignore His exclusive right to rule His own creation as He wishes. You have to exalt yourself to a level of imaginary importance that would make Him at least second in command–if you are that generous–and place yourself first in command over the part of His creation you want to control–in this case, yourself. The arrogance of such a feat is astounding…No wonder there is a Hell! — Jim Berg

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like. Repent and believe while you still have time. Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your pride.

Disappointing: “God’s Not Dead” appears to have missed an opportunity

Spoiler alert: Skip this post if you don’t want to know too much about the God’s Not Dead movie

Note: I haven’t seen the movie and probably won’t, but this review seemed pretty thorough and came from a site that would presumably be predisposed to like a production like this.  Go ahead and see it if you like, but either way I encourage you to use it as a springboard to candidly discuss the points of the movie, the gaps and how we could be more effective in sharing the Good News.  My goal with skeptics isn’t to fully address every item in their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites, but to give thorough, meaningful answers to a couple key questions to remove some barriers and then encourage them to read the word of God, which will do the real work.  

And remember that apologetic reasoning isn’t just important for addressing legitimate questions of non-believers as we seek to point them to the truths in the Bible, but also to strengthen the faith of believers.  So it is important to always use good arguments and to consider the counter-arguments.

 —–

When I first heard of God’s Not Dead I thought it might be a good opportunity to present some key apologetic arguments in a movie.  Sounds like the effort may end up being counterproductive.  Apparently they used arguments that weren’t fleshed out very well and that atheists could easily refute.  If Christians new to apologetics try to use the arguments presented by the movie, they will probably fail with the atheists and may end up with less confidence themselves.  Yes, we have been given the truth, but if you love people you won’t send them off with a false sense of confidence and pretend that they can be white-hot apologists in one easy lesson.

There are multiple subplots in the movie which are all introduced in its first few minutes, but not developed immediately, and it seems to take a while before the details emerge allowing the viewer a chance to catch up. However, the main story is that Josh, a college freshman, is taking an Introduction to Philosophy class from an infamously atheistic professor, Dr. Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo who is known for his role on the TV show Hercules, among other roles). The very first class, the professor stands up and gives a short discourse about the virtues and intellectual superiority of atheism. He then gives the class their first assignment. He passes out blank papers, and demands that each student write “God is dead” and sign their names in order to get a passing grade. Josh refuses, so the professor forces him to take an alternate assignment; Josh will be given time in the next three lectures to prove the existence of God. If the students in his class are convinced, he passes the assignment. If not, he fails the semester, and thus his chances at a prestigious law degree.

This “hostile atheist professor” is a pretty common scenario, though usually not in such a heavy-handed way.  I am a big believer in equipping kids to stay strong in their faith when they leave your house.  But you can’t give them superficial or partial arguments.

And you should never expect some sort of immediate and across the board conversion of a group of people even if you make sound arguments.  The Holy Spirit goes where He will. We can honor God by stating the truth about him regardless of whether He has made them spiritually alive and they accept the truth.

I don’t want to be too hard on the movie, because there is only so much you can cram into two hours.  But it sounds like they could have used better arguments and that they made the characters and scenarios a little too extreme.  I would have stuck with things like the cosmological, design and moral arguments.  These are very sound yet also accessible to the average person.  But I would not have missed the opportunity to work in the minimal facts* arguments.  Consider the benefits of that:

  • You would be talking directly about Jesus, not some generic god.
  • You would point to facts that the history professors on that very campus would agree with (e.g., Jesus really lived and died on a Roman cross, that Paul was a convert and wrote extensively about Jesus close to his death, etc.).
  • You would be bursting the myth that we have a blind faith.
  • You would be talking about the crucifixion and why it occurred, and the resurrection and what that meant.

And I definitely wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to highlight Romans 1, which would demonstrate that in the Christian worldview no amount of arguments will work on people who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and that God will judge them based on Christ’s standards, not their’s.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We know why atheists hold their worldview, but all they have to explain our worldview is their beloved Darwinian evolution (however they are defining that this week). And if the manifestation of their theory is the cause of our trust in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, why are they so angry about the outcome?

Whether you see it or not, be sure to be prepared to address the topic when it comes up.  Point them to resources like Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent DesignDarwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design or Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, or to my favorite apologetics blogger, the Wintery Knight.

You can remind people that Christianity is a faith based on real events in history.  We readily concede that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then we are completely wrong about God (1 Corinthians 15).

But we have great reasons that He did rise from the dead, that He is fully God and fully man, that if we repent and believe in him we can be saved from our sins and have his righteousness imputed to us, that He is the only way to salvation, and more!  Point them to the word of God and trust him with the results.  And don’t be surprised if they dislike you even more after you share the truth in love.

———-

*Summary of the “minimal facts” approach: Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others. He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.

None of the alternative theories can be true in light of these facts.  The physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.

It has come to this: The Mormons won’t visit even if I invite them.

Seriously.  It is hard to imagine being less popular.  We’ve often joked that we are on Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness “do not call” lists, because I’m glad to take the time to visit with them when they come to my door.  

But this was different.  Some Mormon neighbors were having a Christmas party and put in a plug for the missionaries they were hosting.  I introduced myself, told them where we lived and said, “We should talk.”  They were excited at the time, but never came by.  Hmmmmmm . . .

These folks are notoriously hard to convert, but if they are going to come to you then you might as well be equipped to offer some brief challenges to them. You never know how God might use your efforts to save someone – especially when one of their pair is usually a junior member who hasn’t been in the cult as long.  Worst-case scenario: You keep them from telling their falsehoods to one of your neighbors.

More importantly, you and your loved ones should know the basics of why these are cults. It is easier to play defense (keeping people out of false religions) than offense (converting them away from false religions).  Far too many people, including some of their members, think they are just different Christian denominations.

My standard approach with Jehovah’s Witnesses is to focus like a friendly pit pull on a couple things: First, their Bible’s mistranslation of John 1:1 (“a God” instead of “God,” as all the ancient manuscripts say). They will try to change the subject but I keep bringing them back in the most polite ways.  With so much evidence regarding what the originals said, why would their Bible get it wrong?

Then I offer them literature, knowing they aren’t allowed to take it. I emphasize how my religion — Christianity — tells me to test everything and hold onto the good, and to test everything in light of scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21, Acts 17:11) . Hopefully it plants a seed that they are in a cult that won’t let them examine alternative views.

With Mormons, I focus on Galatians 1:8-9. I ask if their Gospel is the same as Paul’s. If yes, then the rest of their works are redundant. If no, then I should immediately reject it.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

CARM.org has great information on both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

More stuff

An honest but still inconsistent atheist

Even when atheists try to be candid and concede many of our points, they still have trouble being consistent with their worldview.  Via An atheist explains the real consequences of adopting an atheistic worldview.

Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this. However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice.

We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past. They got us here. That’s it. All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose. Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible.

I’m glad he was candid about his core beliefs. That is useful in exposing atheism. But even when they are trying to be honest they are still inconsistent:

So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one.

But he just got through saying there is no standard and glibly states he is just obeying his DNA. How can he say someone else’s atheism is inferior?

You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all.

Again, there’s that standard implying that more evolution is better than less.

I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may.

Again, why be more truthful if there is no merit in it? And why persuade anyone to do anything if we are all just obeying our DNA anyway?

Here’s why: Because their worldview is foolish rebellion.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

More bad news: You’ll be judged on the standard of Jesus, not by comparing your best traits to your neighbor’s worst traits.  All your deepest, darkest secrets will be brought to light and judged by a holy and perfect God.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.