Sunday, December 16, 2018

Continuing Dialogue with a YT Atheist

@steve ------ Steve - thanks for the note. Sorry to be a bit slow to reply. Sunday is often a busier day for me than other days of the week. Let's look at some of your comments together.

You apparently regard yourself as a very knowledgeable atheist, and perhaps you are. You regard your arguments as logical, but I regard atheistic reasoning as patently and recklessly  illogical, so I must disagree with that assessment. Trust me when I say I do not fear your "logical arguments." I think you have no conception of how genuinely weak, epistemologically speaking, I find atheistic rhetoric, yours included. That's not meant as an insult, nor am I disputing your basic intelligence - but you are, as they say, backing the wrong horse.

Additionally you completely misread me in regards of having my "preconceived ideas and ideals tested." Friend, I know this will likely come across as false bravado and hutzpah, but you simply lack the ability to genuine challenge my worldview. That's not a slander against you, rather, it is a candid acknowledgment that at this stage of my life, as an old man 45 years in the faith I've pretty much read it all and heard it all from the "no-God" crowd. You are neither novel nor profound, to my view. Don't read that as condescending or mean-spirited, but rather read it for what it is - a confession that I've had exhaustive contact with intelligent unbelievers over a long life and my faith is still very much intact. If I were fearful about my faith, or uncertain, or otherwise tentative in my understanding and experience of God, I would not be here. I am not some 20-something idealist who recently latched on to Christianity in novelty and new-found enthusiasm. I suspect I've written about, talked about, read about the foundational issues relative to the existence of God far more than you, and WAY more than the average YT atheist. Not brag, just fact. If your image of me is something like an uncertain, nail-biting, very persuadable and weak Christian, you may want to move along and find one of those. That is NOT me.

You ask if I have a "logical explanation for God." I do not believe God is known by logic, but that said, I do believe any attempt to establish He does not exist is patently illogical. I do not base my faith on such things, but it's my view that God must exist due to the impossibility of the contrary. A spontaneous ex nihilo, godless, uncreated creation is to me the pinnacle of illogical, misguided  (and emotional) foolishness. It is evidence of much deliberate blindness. Whatever excuse you drum up for not believing in God and His Christ from Scripture and as a Christian, you have NO excuse for pretentious atheism. In that regard, I redirect you to Romans 1. I know you are being serious, and I know you are persuaded of your own rhetoric, but when I read something like this below, I can only shake my head in sadness (or amusement!):

"I am trying to see what makes you tick David, with some strong logical arguments, which as an Atheist I have an unlimited supply of, but as a man of faith, you don’t… After all, you haven’t even got a logical explanation for God, have you"
My dear Steve, you have no "strong arguments" for atheism. In fact, you not only don't have strong arguments, you don't even have weak arguments. I appreciate your bravado and swagger, but in this regard, the proverbial emperor (atheism) "has no clothes." As an atheist you have no basis for understanding life, for establishing or explaining intransient meaning, for genuine purpose, or for morals. Atheism does not give meaning, does not offer explanation for origins, ethics or purpose. It posits the rule and de facto superiority  of chance, meaninglessness and/or nihilism. You have NO arguments for atheism. You just PREFER it because thereby you can live your 70 outside the moral and spiritual constraints of God. But shaking your fist at God, or pretending He does not exist does not change or challenge His reality. You are in a very, very tenuous position Steve. You are, frankly, rushing headlong into judgement while waving a pretentious banner that reads "The Judge of the Universe Does Not Exist, Because I Say So." If I were a betting man, I would not put money on you in convincing God He does not exist when you meet Him in death.

You doubtless see the following as an unanswerable comeback:

"Theist tend to wallow in self-adulation also, as they falsely feel morally superior, they are self-righteous, bigoted, dogmatic, narrow-minded, prejudiced towards anyone that doesn’t share their beliefs and intolerant for the same reason. Not always, but quite often. So, we all have faults, don’t we?
"

First, let's change "theist" to "Christian." I am leery of concerning myself with any defense of vanilla theists. Do Christians feel morally superior? Perhaps some do. But to my view, no Christian sees his salvation rooted in his own moral superiority, but in God's provision in Christ. In some regards, you may objectively be more moral than I. It's possible. But my hope is not in my moral superiority, but in Christ's provision, His atoning death, His saving grace.

Are Christians self-righteous? They can be. It's a sort of universal condition of human fallen nature not totally  obliterated by faith. But a faithful Christian, aware of who he is, and who God is, and what grace is - has no excuse for self-righteousness. Are we bigoted? Well, I'd say no, but again,  I can't account for every human being claiming to be a Christian. I would say nothing in our faith condones bigotry. (Though I would add the proviso that it's become a very popular, and a silly thing, to accuse everyone and everything of bigotry as a sort of the unanswerable charge. By that I mean, if one does not like my moral position on something, he merely cries "bigot." That friend, is just dumb and dishonest.) Are Christians dogmatic? In some regards, and well they ought be. It's not a sin to be dogmatic. It's not unreasonable to be dogmatic. As long as your dogmatism is resting in objective truth.

Are Christians narrow-minded, prejudiced and intolerant? That's not part of the faith, no. But that is not to say that every Christian lives up to the fullest or best expression of his faith, or meets God's responsibility for holy behavior.

Much more could be said, but I am going to send this off as is. Thanks for your continued responses. All the best. May God in Christ become your Light and Life.

Another Note To A YT Atheist

What follows is a part of a reply to a You Tube atheist I have been having a conversation with for a few weeks. I am hoping that there is enough here so that you can gather the context w/o including his comments that are responded to. 
(1) I'm not sure where this is coming from, but it does strike me as a tad melodramatic:  "That is where our outlook parts ways David, as you are afraid, aren't you?" Well, no,  I don't think so. And afraid of what? You? Your non-Christian preference? God? Death? If I know myself at all, I am not afraid of any of those things. You'll have to explain where you imagine my fear lies. Seems sort of cryptic and pseudo-psychological, but I'll wait for your additional explanation.

(2) Preconceived ideas are not necessarily illogical. Nor are they necessarily at odds with "critical thinking." If I have not said so in the past, and I'm not going to go back and check - I find most of the atheistic use of the term "critical thinking" shamelessly self-serving, endlessly bragged on,  and utterly bogus. Atheists tend to wallow in self-adulation in these sorts of ways that I must admit I only find amusing and strange. It's almost as if they find that the expression "critical thinking" and "atheism" are indisputably synonyms. It's kind of a cool deal that one can simply assert by the wave of the rhetorical  hand that  one is a "critical thinker" vis a vis his atheism and those opposed to him are not and cannot be critical thinkers due to a theistic position. In fact, generally, I do not find atheists online to be critical thinkers at all. Opinionated and generally vain? Absolutely. Cocksure and pompous? Virtually every time. Nasty and unreasonable? Not always - but far too frequently to suit me.

To presuppose an atheistic worldview is not is not the infallible and irrefutable center of reason, logic and the ever-loved "critical thinking." The sad thing is, atheists are so often and thoroughly patting themselves on the back in praise of their "critical thinking" that I think they are clueless that critical thinking must be established by the weight and substances of their arguments...not merely awarded to themselves in perpetuity for simply having what may just be a dumb, unexamined position. You think atheism is the "cat's meow" - fine - prove it. Convince me. Don't just stand on a soapbox waving your hands, shouting how glorious, logical and "critically thinking" centered the position is. That sort of endless, gratuitous, pompous self-aggrandizing smugness is utterly unconvincing. I am hoping for better from you. (
3) Next, you wrote this: "So far in our conversations, I have NOT recognized any of those qualities regarding acknowledging my position, or indeed your own, as you have no wriggle room regarding your own beliefs. So, NO you are NOT open-minded David. " Well, let's strive for some fairness here. Am I open-minded relative to the existence of God or the veracity of the Christian faith? No. I am not. I never claimed to be. It would be absurd to be. My prayers do not begin "In the name of open-mindedness Lord, I feel duly required to point out to You that You may not exist. Accept me O Lord, as endlessly open-minded." I maintain the accuracy and truthfulness of my description of open-mindedness in my last post. No one is totally open-minded about EVERYTHING. That would not only be insanity, it would be impossible. Since my understanding of God, relative to His existence - is fixed, I cannot be "open-minded" in regards to atheism. I've never denied that. Any other position on my part would be somewhat schizophrenic. 

(4) You also wrote the following: "(You) feel the need to want to try and reconvert me back into Christianity, the form of which I don’t know, as you have not told me. So, what sort of Christian are you David, a Southern Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, LDS, or none of the previous? There must be as many flavours of Christianity, as there are churches in the USA." I do not consider myself a hyphenated Christian...one is either Christian, or he is not. However, to avoid sounding evasive - I will tell you that I am a Baptist in ecclesiology, a Baptist in regards to baptism, a Calvinist in soteriology. That is at least a bare, partial skeleton. If you want more, I can tell you more at a later post. Now as to "reconverting" you. Steve, first, I have no power to convert you, "re" or otherwise. Clearly, whatever "conversion" you had previously was spurious. To be genuinely converted is the work of the Lord, convincing and convicting you and bringing you to repentance and faith. I can do none of those things. I'm not here head-hunting or trophy seeking. I am just trying to represent the Lord as best I can with my modest abilities. Nothing more. 

(5) You said "I think it must be extremely hard to know which form of Christianity is the one to follow. As the Roman Church is the oldest church and therefore the genesis of Christianity, surely that should be the one to follow, it is also the one with the most members around the world, but it is also the most criminally corrupt, evil institution on the planet." Two brief points. First, Roman Catholicism, in spite of it's claims, is not the oldest church nor the "genesis of Christianity." Roman Catholicism, in it's most ancient of form (being substantially different that today's Roman Catholicism) followed the first church at Jerusalem in Acts by hundreds of years. It's claims to the contrary are false and ridiculous. Second, I don't know if they are the "most criminally corrupt, evil institution on the planet" but they are certainly corrupt and undeniably have done many evil things. I am no fan of the RCC.

(6) I am also no fan of the Church of England. It's origins are anything but spiritual, it's doctrine so milk-toast as to be deliberately non-offensive to everyone. Hardly the stuff of John the Baptist or the hopelessly " irritating" Jesus Christ as he confronted the religious of His day. Finally, I don't think of myself as dumb, mindless or (too) easily led. That said, I am quite content to be led of God, to any degree that I can fairly assert that I am. I far prefer being led of God that led by my ego, false sense of autonomy and conflicting and changing preferences. How about you?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Few Brief Thoughts on Social Media and the Christian

Confession time: I am hardly an expert on social media. Largely, I ignore it, save this blog (if that counts??) and some mostly Christian videos at YouTube. Much of social media tends to be inclined to boorish behavior and pettiness. (At least to my limited observation.) Christians must be responsible to treat those on social media with the same concern, deference, kindness, etc. that they are inclined to do in person. 
It seems common for many to assume almost a different identity on some sorts of social media. But as a Christian, one should strive to be the same person online that they are offline. We all have different roles in life via family, jobs, churches, etc. - but there should only be one of us. The authentic Christian self should be present at every social and private venue. 
It seems, at least to this Senior Citizen, that way too much time and effort is given over to social media concerns. What are you giving up in your life to invest your time this way? It seems that many of the real diehards on social media find it their main, or only platform to express themselves. And that in an environment where there is all too little accountability. Perhaps time with "real" people is in order. Give it a whirl!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

More Correspondence With A YouTube Atheist

You say "Present evidence for your god."  I say - you have all the evidence you need. Grandstanding for evidence is a ploy. You aren't interested in evidence. You aren't seeking evidence. Besides, you have all the evidence you will likely ever receive, or at the very least, you have access to it. What you lack is willingness, not evidence.  You see, no evidence will be enough for you. You will just ratchet up the next request. And worse than that, I have really bad news for you. God's not going to play magician for you. He's not at your beck and call, as if you - the tiny, finite creature  can call the infinite God into account with your disdain and your out-of-control ego. Friend, God is not at your feet  like some 3rd rate showman, eager to please and subject to your dismissal. God has given you life. God has given you a mind. But He is under no obligation to do tricks for you, until you find it in your heart to concede He exists. It is you on the hot seat, not He. It is you in need, not He. It is you that are His creature, not He yours. You imagine yourself on equal footing with God, if He exists, and that it is up to Him to play to your demands, or you aren't interested. Foolish foolish fellow. You are so manifestly mistaken.

In your autonomous vanity, you write: "My worldview is that of science, reason, and logic." Science (order), reason and logic all belong to God and have their origin in Him. As I have already established, you cannot account for order, reason an logic in a godless universe. You cannot account for their origin. The very fact that logic functions is evidence of God and prima facie proof of established order, and of the impossibility of randomness. You want to claim an impossible miracle - that out of nothing, out of a disordered non-creation from nothing, to no end, with no guidance and no underlying intelligence produced order, logic and reason. How is it you do not see the absurdity of such a proposition?
You might as well tell me that logic, reason and order come out of rain gutter after a storm. It's irrational. And yet, amazingly....amusingly.....you think yours the sensible worldview. How exactly, does a universe, fashioned in some "big bang" or whatever the current cosmology of the week favors - create logic? I'd love for you to explain that. Logic is an intellectual construct - it has it's basis in rational thought. God has rational thought. The universe does NOT think. How are you blind to this??

You say, in what I guess is yet another (sigh...) attempt to establish your high IQ and intellectual prowess by urging that my statement of "your worldview is inconsistent and unreasonable, because order CANNOT be the result of chance, randomness and disorder" is, in your words "a straw-man argument -this is not part of my worldview." No friend, it's no strawman argument. Because you will not allow yourself to be pinned down via your meaningless verbal games does not diminish the force of my point. I have not, I am convinced, misrepresented your position. Rather, I have reasonably established the perimeter of your worldview, for in a non-God position your options are very, very limited. And as noted previously, though your sort loves feigned autonomy, you are simply in the same boat as all other atheists. Sorry. I know you love to imagine yourself the greatest mind for a thousand miles, but you have offered nothing new. And in fact, you cannot. Atheism is patently illogical, and it's defenses are predictable and nonsensical. And yes, if held anyway, they do indeed lead to nihilism. (So sorry - you don't get to denounce my every point by yelling "straw-man." "Straw-man" isn't a position, it isn't an argument, it isn't a refutation - it's you running to a two word, meaningless dismissal in the face of arguments and reasonable observations that you cannot counter.)

You wrote: "No, its not. It's your subjective morality against mine and about seven billion other humans." I thought you would understand I alluded to my morality as subjective to make a point. In fact, my morality is NOT subjective. But clearly yours is. My morality is rooted in Christian morality, I claim no originality, and thus, my moral standards cannot be said to be subjective. They are rather, objective, in keeping with passages like the previously mentioned Sermon on the Mount. But yours - well, your morality is whatever it is based on your personal preference and ruminations. It is the very definition of subjective. You may well prefer adultery, homosexuality and theft. Lying may be simply a matter of expedience, w/o underlying ethical issues. You can call up - down, and down -up. And likely do. You alone (you imagine) are the beginning and end of moral wisdom, and nothing external to your personal preferences has any hold on you, or places any behavioral bar on any activity.

But of all your comments, this is an amazing stunner of a concession. It's truly remarkable! I'll quote you:

"What you cannot offer is an objective moral reason for why anything is wrong, because no such reasons exist. You cannot show, for instance, how rape and murder are objectively wrong. Keep in mind, that any morality created by a personal god would be by definition subjective, especially if it is determined emotionally."

I say again, this quote is stunning, and it is remarkably revealing. You have just conceded that no basis for morality exists. I honestly don't think I've ever had an atheist admit to this so openly. Normally, they do everything they can to avoid admitting the obvious. I mean - I've just read this the third time to make sure I have not misunderstood you. But clearly you said, concerning objective moral reasons for wrong - that "no such reasons exist." At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, I say again, I am stunned by this concession. You say I cannot show how rape and murder are objectively wrong, and yet it is only I that can do so! It's you that cannot!  Rape and murder are wrong because God has established it so. But in your (imagined) universe, where God does not exist, moral culpability does not exist. Murder and rape and I suppose every other reprehensible behavior  - like child abuse or embezzlement are only wrong because  we derive that standard by preference and by consensus. So rape is ok, or murder is ok, unless human consensus ( a majority of one) concludes they are unacceptable. But in and of themselves, they are fine. Because, as you see it, moral standards are not objectively true. Remarkable. Truly amazing. And quite frightening. It's the sort of rationale that underlies an Auschwitz.

More needs to be said,  and I will return again later, the Lord allowing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Is the U.S. I Grew Up In History?





The United States that I pledged allegiance to in school in the 50's and 60's, and in whose military I served in during the 70's and 80's may be coming to an end. That United States had borders and laws concerning immigration. That United States did not capitulate to hordes demanding intrinsic "rights" to violate our sovereignty, demand our welfare, fill our hospital emergency rooms and public schools. That United States existed as a safe harbor for it's citizens and for  those who sought to become citizens by lawful means. Now apparently, in the eyes of invading hordes, and their sycophants in the liberal press and culture, illegal entrance into our country is a basic human right. If  the invaders that have moral and intrinsic  legal standing to enter at will - then lawful citizens of this country apparently have no legitimate grounds to stop them, or for that matter, even voice objection. 

America - if you have no borders, you have no country. 


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cosmic Epiphany?

"And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." Genesis 6:6

"And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9

"God is not man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make good?" (Numbers 23:19)

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

My good friend Mike T. got me thinking today. (It's a good thing to be in contact  with brethren who make you think!) Does God ever have a "plan B?" Does He change His mind? Is he subject to human persuasion? Does He have regrets as human beings have regrets? Are things/purposes/actions etc. unknown to Him? Is He learning? Growing? Changing?

Sometimes Christian folk seize verses like Genesis 6:6 as evidence that God can have very human sorts of responses to apparent failed plans. I admit, that verse taken alone might make one think that is possible. But in the totality of Scripture, in a full-orbed understanding of the nature and purposes of God - are such things possible? I think not.

Consider Genesis 4:9 above. Are we to understand the Lord God needed Cain's help to determine Abel's location? Or did the Lord ask a question He already knew the answer to? Obviously. Does the Lord sometimes say things that need to be understood and qualified  under the broader context of his omniscience and omnipotence? Certainly. So, can we assume that God does not "repent" as man repents, or needs to make factual discoveries as men do? That this is an example of anthropomorphism?

What about in salvation? Does the salvation or lack of salvation of any individual ever surprise God? Does the salvation of certain ones (known as "elect" in Scripture) or the lack of salvation in the "goats" create in God some sort of consternation? 

Speaking of salvation...or for that matter, of anything that ever happens...does it occur to God only in time as an observer? And does God have epiphanies? Does He suddenly become aware of something hidden or obscure - thus giving reason for contingency plans and changes of mind?  If no other Scripture mitigated against that possibility, Numbers 23:19 noted above destroys such speculation. 

I have actually somewhat strayed away from the bulk of the content of Mike's post, which was actually about the extent of the atonement. But one thing leads to another, and his blog article prompted me to think about the notion of "God changing."

Now since this is not being submitted for publication, and I am free to ramble, let me conclude with a few thoughts about the atonement issue.

Just like some verses, taken alone and outside the fullest context of Scripture, seem to teach a "repenting God," so some Scriptures seem to teach a universal atonement. Others do not (cf John 10:11; John 10:15; Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 5:25). How is all this reconciled? It  is reconciled in favor of a consistent, God-honoring understanding of the nature of God and His purposes in Christ. A conditional atonement that doesn't atone for all it's recipients is a cheap, meaningless atonement.  A universal salvific love that ends in eternal judgment for most of it's recipients is a  cheap, meaningless love. An election that is nullified by essentially claiming all are elect is an empty, absurd and incoherent choosing. Yet many men seem hellishly concerned to vindicate God by feigning His love, mercy and grace extend to where He does not send such. Let us seek to find reconciliation in seemingly contradictory ideas without forfeiting clear evidences relative to God's sovereignty in all things, including salvation. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

NCIP

As surely as Shirley (yes that was deliberate) Temple has curls - one of the first things a new Christian will hear is that "no church is perfect." And indeed, given the propensity of sin, spiritual apathy and lack of understanding even among those naming Christ; many Christians often find their churches almost as troubled as their schools, families and culture at large.  Over time we are generally braced to expect a heavy dose of failure, slothfulness and apathy among the brethren whom we fellowship with. We start with high ideals, and either reality sobers us up - or in some cases, sours us.

Still.... in spite of our hearing that oft repeated slogan "no church is perfect" (hereafter NCIP) many of us still hope for, or even more naively, genuinely anticipate something approaching perfection in our local church. We expect preaching like Spurgeon and earnestness in the pew rivaling that of William Carey or David Brainerd. Nevertheless, concerning our own spiritual experiences, we have a propensity to wink at or outright ignore the sin that personally plagues us day in and day out....and  when we discover those sitting next to us have foibles as dark or unpleasant as our own we are discouraged and troubled. We expect a lot from our fellowship, and sometimes we  find it seriously wanting. Never mind that even the most cursory introspection reveals we are likely lacking right along with everyone else.

Many of us, weary of the NCIP mantra have stumbled through the Christian life maintaining  hope of finding that ideal church anyway. Then all too predictably we discover  the church we have joined begins to show unpleasant cracks in fellowship, or preaching, evangelism or general  holy ambition.  In other words, we begin to fear that our chosen church is too imperfect. We grow dissatisfied. We begin to imagine a sounder church, a more loving church, a church with higher (or lower!) standards. A church more doctrinal or less doctrinal. A church less worldly, or a church less other-worldly. How about a  church with better amenities? Nicer building? More programs for the kiddos? We become a bit discouraged that an ecclesiastical journey that began full of hope and optimism has morphed into mediocrity and disappointment. It's been drilled into us since our first church experience  that...after all....NCIP, but still we hoped and dreamt - if not for perfection - at least for fulfillment, excitement and some sort of deeper, authentic church-centered Christian experience. NCIP, but why do we find ourselves so often disappointed by our church experiences? 

How often over the last 45 years (since my first adult church experience)  have I seen brethren discouraged as they discover the unavoidable reality that not only NCIP, but that many churches seem way too satisfied with the mundane, pseudo-spirituality and good ol' boy back-slapping and unexamined or unsound spiritual opinions. NCIP becomes the justification for all sorts of mischief. 

In my young Christian life I was desirous to learn and grow, but sometimes found myself hindered by NCIP  sentiments resident in  churches I affiliated with. Rather than being a bit introspective and honest, I found that some pastors and church members found it expedient  to hide behind  NCIP  rather than do the harder work of Bible study, and honest submission to Scriptural standards.  Let's be candid -  NCIP doesn't ever make ecclesiastical waves. I understood, even early on the idea that NCIP, but I had a hard time understanding why that became the explanation of every church failing or misdirection. Or why it was that sub-Biblical mindsets and dubious doctrines were so easily exonerated on that basis. 

In truth NCIP, but do we serve the Kingdom of God well by using that as our axiomatic standard and/or excuse for inactivity, error or other problems? Are we content to shrug our collective shoulders with a constant whimpering assertion that NCIP? Perhaps we would be better served by noting the certain perfection of our Lord, and more self-consciously model ourselves after Him. 

We are imperfect as believers. Thus, our churches -  all of them - are going to be imperfect. This is undeniable truth. However, NCIP should ever serve to exonerate lazy/complacent  pastors or church members. Go make some church a better church with your faithfulness and zeal.