Theological liberals vs. militant atheists — which do you prefer?

I was watching a theological liberal do his usual false teachings on this thread and noted with amusement how the atheists cheerily agreed with his religious views.  I pointed out that both should be concerned over that.  If they agreed on their favorite sports teams that would be fine.  But if an atheist or someone from another religion agreed with my foundational points about God I’d be very concerned.

Yes, militant atheists can be annoying, but I’ll take twenty of them over a fake Christian any day.  At least the atheists are fulfilling their job descriptions and there is no confusion over roles.  But the fake Christians really confuse the discussions and fuel the atheists’ false assertions that disagreements within Christianity mean that the religion can’t be true.  Their argument fails on many levels, but the actions of the false teachers give them ammunition.  That was a key theme on the link above: “Christianity must be false because Christians disagree.”

Of course, Christianity clearly predicts divisions:

  1. Many warnings of false teachers and many references to the importance of sound doctrine.
  2. The fact that Christians learn more over time — “milk/meat,” growing in knowledge (Philippians 1:9), etc.
  3. God’s guidance about disputable matters in Romans 14 and elsewhere reveals that He knew we’d have disputable matters and gave us guidance in how to handle them.
  4. Some people think they are saved but aren’t (“I never knew you” from Matthew 7, testing your salvation in 1 John, etc.)
  5. We are told not to violate our consciences, so people are right to worship in denominations that align best with their views on non-essential issues.

Based on that, if all Christians agreed on everything then that would be evidence that the Bible’s predictions failed.  The essentials are what divides Christianity from other religions: Jesus deity, his exclusivity, etc.  You can’t take the Bible seriously and miss those, which is another way of highlighting false teachers.  Example: The fake at the thread thought I was wrong to say that Christians must hold the view that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  My point was simply that if the Bible mentions it 100 times then it seems like something Christians should agree with.

Christianity has fought a two-front war from the beginning: Persecutors on the outside and false teachers on the inside.  Things haven’t changed, so we need to be on guard for both.

I think the bigger enemy is inside.

Atheists run from William Lane Craig, but why won’t Craig debate James White?

As much fun as it would be to see William Lane Craig expose the horribly flawed atheistic philosophy of Richard Dawkins, I’d prefer to see Craig debate James White.  It would be a much more balanced debate between two very well prepared, extremely articulate and intelligent Christians.

I’d also like to see Norman Geisler debate White.  I’m part way through The Potter’s Freedom by White, where he defends Reformed theology and critiques Geisler’s Chosen But Free.  I’ve always found White to be exceptionally well researched, and so far his rebuttal of Geisler (whom I have a lot of respect for) is very convincing.

See Atheists on the Run from William Lane Craig.

There are many atheists who refuse to debate William Lane Craig. He is definitely skilled at self-control, remaining on-target, etc. But, I wonder if those who are so excited about Craig’s prowess realize that he has been challenged to debate a number of issues by men with just as much experience as he has in debate, but he has declined?

I have often commented on how useful a debate between myself and Dr. Craig would be on many issues. I have often played portions of Craig’s studies, talks, and debates, and have challenged his statements. I have challenged his evidentialism, and a debate on whether we are called to proclaim the “greater probability of the existence of a god” or to proclaim the certainty of the existence of the God that men know exists would be very useful to our generation. I have challenged his Molinism, even lecturing on the topic at a Reformed Baptist Church right next to the Talbot/Biola campus in Southern California. I do not believe Molinism is at all consistent with biblical truth, and would love to challenge him to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is the same God he describes as having “actuated” this world on the basis of middle knowledge, etc. And, of course, in light of his response to Christopher Hitchens, wherein the only “false” Christian faith he could come up with was not Romanism or any of the fundamentally sub- and anti-Christian movements of our day, but Calvinism, would not the students at Biola/Talbot find a full-orbed series of debates, right there on campus, on the doctrines of grace, to be an exceptionally useful addition to their education?

Dr. Craig is well aware of our desire to engage these subjects. Though we have never met, we know many of the same people, and I have been told, “through channels,” that “Dr. Craig does not debate Christians.” This is the same response you will get from Norman Geisler as well, when the topic comes up as to why he has declined a dozen such challenges over the past decade. I have never been given an explanation of why this is. We are both debaters. We have both debated many of the same people. We have just done so in very different ways, and it would be greatly edifying for the Christian community as a whole to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of those differences. We have both shown that we can debate fairly, fully, and respectfully. So I see absolutely no reason why Dr. Craig will not accept our challenge to engage these topics. We certainly stand ready, and given that the atheists are running for the hills with their hair on fire, it seems Dr. Craig would have plenty of extra time to join us in exploring, via debate, these important apologetic issues.

William Lane Craig scaring off debate opponents

Via Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig Is Ready To Debate, But Finds Few Challengers:

American Evangelical theologian William Lane Craig is ready to debate the rationality of faith during his U.K tour this fall, but it appears that some atheist philosophers are running shy of the challenge.

This month president of the British Humanist Association, Polly Toynbee, pulled out of an agreed debate at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, saying she “hadn’t realized the nature of Mr. Lane Craig’s debating style.”

By “debating style” I think she meant “annihilates bad atheistic philosophy.”  Seriously, did she not realize who he was and how he debated before accepting the original terms?  Could she be more specific about her objections?  Does he yell, swear, make personal attacks, etc.?

Lane Craig, who is a professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif., and author of 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles, is no stranger to the art of debate and has taken on some of the great orators, such as famous atheists Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Harris once described Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”.

Responding to Toynbee’s cancellation, Lane Craig commented: “These folks (atheists) can be very brave when they are alone at the podium and there’s no one there to challenge them. But one of the great things about these debates is that, it allows both sides to be heard on a level playing field, and for the students in the audience to make up their own minds about where they think the truth lies.”

They prefer classroom, media and government monopolies where others can’t have the microphone and/or are afraid to lose grades, funding or careers.

But David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, believes the reason behind the cancellation is much simpler.

“The fact is some people get tired of debating Christians because of the same arguments over and over again. And sometimes it’s a lot like arguing with a wall,” he said.

Hmmmm . . . isn’t that an argument that Craig could have made if he chickened out of a debate?  Would atheists have accepted that excuse?  And that wasn’t Toynbee’s published excuse, so why is he making up one for her?

Others have refused to challenge Lane Craig, too, including Richard Dawkins, one of the Four Horseman of the new Atheist movement, which include Hitchens, Harris and Daniel Dennett.

Dawkins, who has labeled the Roman Catholic Church “evil” and once called the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock,” refused four separate invitations, extended through religious and humanist organizations, to take part in debates with Lane Craig during his fall tour.

The controversy wafted into the British press after fellow atheist and philosophy lecturer, Daniel Came, accused Dawkins of simply being afraid, saying, “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.”

Dawkins responded by saying, “I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion.”

Ouch — even atheists are calling Dawkins a coward!  And again, isn’t Dawkins’ excuse a one-size-fits-all that either side could use?  What is his evidence that Craig’s debates are about selfish promotion and Dawkins’ books and interviews are all about helping mankind?  Dawkins is a professional atheist and a debate with Craig would be exactly what you’d expect someone like him to participate in.

Dawkins’ problem is that he can’t go three sentences without contradicting his worldview, and people like Craig are really good at pointing that out.  Example: Dawkins acts like the (falsely claimed) self-promotion angle would be a bad thing.  But in a Darwinian world, what would be more logical than a drive for self-promotion?  Shouldn’t Dawkins use that as evidence for his position?

Is God a Moral Monster?

Short answer: No.

Medium answer: Listen to the last hour of the February 14, 2011 Stand to Reason Podcast

Long answer: Read Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

Much is made by the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins (see one of his notorious quotes below) about the God of the Bible being immoral.  Aside from the complete lack of grounding for someone like Dawkins to make any complaints about morality, his sound bites fail when examined carefully.  As the saying goes, if you want to ask tough questions, that’s great, but you need to pay attention to the answers and not just plug your ears.

Sadly, you get a lot of wimpy or fake Christians who would rather apologize for God or deny his word rather than doing the tough work of thoroughly understanding the passages.  Christianity may not be their forte’.  Even those who buy the myth about the mean Old Testament God versus the nice New Testament God should note that Jesus had zero issues with anything in the Old Testament.  He was glad to quote the most controversial parts: Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah, Sodom & Gomorrah) and never hinted that He disagreed with any of it.

Here’s a review from Amazon by George P. Wood:

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

In short, God is a “moral monster.”

Paul Copan begs to differ with Dawkins’ evaluation of the Old Testament God, not to mention the similar critiques of other New Atheists–e.g., Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In Is God a Moral Monster? he uses these critiques as “a springboard to clarify and iron out misunderstandings and misrepresentations.” More than that, he essays to defend the justice of God, properly understood and correctly presented.

Copan divides his work into four sections. Part 1 identifies the New Atheists and outlines their critique of God. Part 2 responds to critiques of God’s character that revolve around his desire for the praise of his people, his “jealousy” for their fidelity, and his command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Part 3 tackles what Dawkins calls the Bible’s “ubiquitous weirdness” and those passages he sees as morally monstrous. This section, the book’s longest, deals with kosher laws, criminal punishments, relationships between the sexes, slavery, the killing of the Canaanites particularly, and the so-called “religious roots” of violence generally. Part 4 concludes the book by questioning whether atheism can provide a foundation for morality and by pointing to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

Copan’s response to the New Atheists utilizes the following types of arguments:

First, he situates the Old Testament narratives and laws within the “redemptive movement of Scripture.” As a Christian, Copan reads the Bible as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is an unsullied creation, and the end is Jesus Christ. The historical and legal elements of the Old Testament take place in the middle, falling short of God’s creational ideals and in need of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work. Far from being “God’s timeless wisdom,” Copan argues, much of the Old Testament is “inferior and provisional,” offering “incremental steps toward the ideal.”

Second, Copan situates the Old Testament within its historical context, pointing out how its legal codes are often a measurable improvement on the contemporaneous legal codes of other ancient near eastern societies. Criminal punishments are less severe, relationships between the sexes are fairer to women, slavery is more strictly regulated, and warfare is less savage.

Third, regarding difficult Old Testament narratives, Copan points out that narration does not imply endorsement. Jacob married two women and used their maidservants as concubines, but this does not imply divine endorsement. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter because of a rash vow, but his action did not merit divine approval. Many New Atheist critiques of Old Testament narratives commit what Copan calls “the `is-ought’ fallacy.”

Fourth, regarding difficult Old Testament laws, Copan focuses on their context and their limited application. Take Deuteronomy 20:16-18, for example–where God commanded the Israelites to “utterly destroy…the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.” Copan points out several things worth keeping in mind.

* In issuing this commandment, God uses Israel as an agent of judgment against the Canaanites, whom God is judging for their wickedness.
* In addition to a concern for justice, God’s concern is religious: Unless the Canaanites are destroyed, they will corrupt the monotheistic faith and practice of Israel.
* This commandment, and others like it, has limited application to the initial entry of Israel into the Promised Land. It is not used as justification for Israel’s wars once they are established in the land.
* The commandment is not racially or ethnically motivated, since other passages of Scripture promise a similar judgment to Israel if she is disobedient to God and since Israel itself was a multi-ethnic host.
* The narratives describing the fulfillment of this commandment use “ancient near eastern exaggeration rhetoric,” meaning that the descriptions of total killing are not literally true and would not have been understood to be literally true by Israel or her contemporaries.
* The targeted cities are best understood as military outposts rather than non-combatant urban areas.
* Canaanites could escape divine judgment by joining Israel (as did Rahab and her household).
* Although some verses in Joshua describe the total destruction of the Canaanites after Israel’s entry into the Promised Land, other verses describe their continued presence. So, the Bible’s narrative portrayal of Israel’s “conquest” is itself ambivalent.

I doubt that New Atheists will think of much of this type of argument–focusing on context and limiting application. My guess is that they will still consider the commandment problematic, even contextualized and limited. Fine. But Copan’s point is that they should correctly describe what the narrative describes and understood the limitations of the commandments before they simply condemn them. One of the most irritating aspects of New Atheist critiques is their fundamentalist-like citation of Scripture without bothering to understand its contextual meaning. Copan’s argument helps expose the hermeneutical weaknesses of such New Atheist critiques.

In general, I found Copan’s argument to be persuasive, even probative at points. I think he successfully highlights numerous weaknesses in the New Atheist critique of the Old Testament God. Results may vary for different readers. Nonetheless, I think this is a valuable book for both atheists and Christians alike. It is valuable for atheists because it offers them a nuanced interpretation of difficult Old Testament passages. Rather than constructing straw-man arguments against the Old Testament God based on facile citation of passages plucked out of context, atheists need to argue with the passages as they are interpreted by believers who stand in the mainstream Christian tradition. The book is valuable for Christian readers because it helps them read their Bibles in a Christ-centered way, recognizing the less-than-ideal character of many Old Testament figures and the inferior-and-provisional character of many Old Testament laws.

Roundup

When worldviews collide: Nanny state Government Agencies Want to Reshape the “Obesogenic Environment” – but wait!! — Atheism as a major cause of obesity? So is the cure for government to encourage religion?

Sex & sociology — New study finds that feminism does not empower women in relationships

If he can get to the “business” with just one or two dinners with Martha, why would he commit to 20 dates and “maybe” Mary?

Regnerus told The Daily Caller that in the sexual economy women act almost like a cartel. At one time the price of sex was extremely high, but with the demise of the shotgun wedding, the invention of “the pill” and a population of willing women, the “price” of sex has plummeted.

Video: The most shocking 4-minute abortion debate you will ever see – Oh my.  I have a strong stomach and I could only watch a few seconds.  It has a chilling mix of an abortion clinic advertisement (telling you to bring only “love” – ack!) with video of abortions.  Hey all you pro-legalized abortionists: Your homework assignment is to watch all of it. These procedures are legal because of you.

Biggest Out of Context Pet Peeve: Matthew 18:20 – my biggest peeve is the misuse of Jeremiah 29:11, but I see the point here.

Out of all my pet peeves when it comes to verses taken out of context, Matthew 18:20 ranks at the top.  The verse says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”

Let me tell you what it does not mean.  It does not mean that Jesus is more present or more gracious when a group gathers for prayer. If you believe that, you 1) have never read the passage, and 2) are wrong.

. . .

Jesus is teaching his disciples about church discipline. In the context, verse 20 means that when Jesus’ disciples agree on a matter of church discipline concerning an unrepentant church member, Jesus will be divinely present among them as they seek Christ-like unity and wisdom in making  their decision.

Christopher Hitchens and the Edge of Boredom – interesting analysis of a guy who should have been one of the last people on the planet to ever get bored.  Yet he turned to alcohol because things just weren’t interesting enough.  Too bad he is still rebelling against God.

Think carefully about the situation in Egypt, then ask yourself if you want your government to have more power to regulate or even shut down the Internet.

I couldn’t figure out why the Left wasn’t out in full force blaming the Dearnborn Mosque attack on Sarah Palin and blathering on about civility.  Then I read this and realized why: Would-be Dearborn Mosque attacker anti-Bush felon.

Something tells me that the Left will be oh-so-silent on this one and that they are very sad that he wasn’t a TEA Partier.

 

Roundup

The Detroit News Continues Misinformation Campaign Over Stem Cell Research – great points by Stephen.  The media continually – and presumably deliberately – gets it wrong on stem cells.  Adult stem cell research doesn’t kill innocent human beings, so the many findings from them are attributed to generic “stem cell” research.  That way, the embryonic stem cell research (the kind that destroys human beings in the process) gets a halo effect.  That’s just one of many tricks they use to conflate the two and avoid the hard truths: Adult stem cells have resulted in many great findings without destroying human beings, while embryonic stem cells kill humans and have not had success.

Good points by Ray Comfort about a dying atheist (presumably Christopher Hitchens, but they apply to anyone in that situation) – Christianity doesn’t need “trophy converts.”  We’ve got all we need to share the truth of Jesus.  I hope Hitchens and many others have authentic conversions, but not so we can wave it at atheists as some sort of proof point.  The proof is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Turns out the firebomber of Democrat Russ Carnahan’s office was an ex-campaign worker and not a Republican or (gasp!) a Tea Partier.  The guilty party had a history of harassing Tea Party activists.  Anyone care to speculate if the media attention would have been different had the roles been reversed?

James Cameron, Mega-Climate Creationist, Chickens Out On Debate – yep.  What’s new?

Sponge Bob’s Your Uncle! – One more reason to put those “monkeys are X% similar to humans” stories in perspective.
The news is out: sea sponges share almost 70 percent of human genes.

If people want to debate the morality or effectiveness of the Iraq war I can understand that.  But too often numbers are made up on the fly and the is used as a scapegoat for anything.  If you want facts about what the Iraq war really cost (hint: not $3 trillion), read this.  Obama’s stimulus package cost $100 billion more than the whole war.

Aren’t these also the same folks who tell us how well JFK and LBJ ran the economy back in the roaring ’60s? During the eight years of 1961-69, 46% of all federal spending was on national defense. During President Bush’s eight years, defense spending did not even average 20% of federal outlays. Under JFK/LBJ, defense spending was 8%-9% of GDP. Under Bush, it was about 4%.

A classically poor atheistic argument

PZ Myers, one of the “New Atheists” (just like the old ones except rude and lacking reasoning skills) plays the same tricks that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others do.   Richard Dawkins went on the radio show of Hugh Hewitt, who  Myers considers to be a “far right radio wingnut” and a “ridiculous puffed-up blowhard of very little brain.”  What a charming fellow this Myers chap is!  With winsome, well thought out arguments like that you have to know his scientific facts must be right as well. 

The main point of Myers’ post was to re-hash the classic double-play fallacy used by many atheists.  It hinges on the way they use the argument against miracles as synonymous with the argument against God. 

They pretend to be proving that God doesn’t exist, then they assume it and act shocked — shocked, I say! — that people of faith believe in miracles.  Then they dismiss the believers as idiots (just read as much of Myer’s comment thread as you can stomach) and act as if nothing they say can be believed.  See how Dawkins tries to play the game:

Richard Dawkins: Okay, do you believe Jesus turned water into wine?

Hugh Hewitt: Yes.

RD: You seriously do?

HH: Yes.

RD: You actually think that Jesus got water, and made all those molecules turn into wine?

HH: Yes.

RD: My God.

HH: Yes. My God, actually, not yours. But let me…

RD: I’ve realized the kind of person I’m dealing with now.

Note what Dawkins did: He assumed what he should be proving — namely, that God doesn’t exist.  And he turned it into a personal attack as well.  In addition, he probably lied, because unless he is a complete moron he already knew what Hewitt’s beliefs were.  My guess is that he pretended to just figure it out.

So Dawkins’ fallacies were carefully choreographed to demonize his ideological opponent and to pretend that he’d already proved that there is no God.  And Myers and his gang eat it up as if Dawkins actually accomplished something.  Aren’t they bright!

If they really think that this trick proves anything then they are as foolish as they claim Hewitt and other believers are.  If they know how ridiculous their arguments are yet they use them anyway then that demonstrates their lack of character.

Here’s another clip from the interview where Hewitt exposes more misstatements by Dawkins plus examples of Dawkins’ fear of real debates and more of his misstatements.