An Area Where Christian Theists and Secularists Can Agree

*(This article is very short but it’s good to find common ground when two world-views are constantly colliding).

Most of what I have studied and written about as it relates to Logical Faith has revolved around the major differences in theism and atheism, Christianity and secularism, and the like. Make no mistake, the differences in Christian theism and secularism are numerous and worth studying. Both world-views make exclusive claims which simply are not compatible. But, that doesn’t mean the opposing world-views have nothing in common.

This article will depart from the usual fare and highlight an area where non-believing secularists and thinking Christians may find agreement. Many secularists and Christians share a common concern about the direction of intellectual thought in the West. A self-proclaimed atheist, Susan Jacoby, writes, “During the past four decades, America’s endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by an ignorant popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic.” (Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), xi-xii).

Clearly this atheist is referring to mindless television programs and tasteless music that serve as mere junk food for the mind and soul. This is the essence of “pop culture.” Thoughtful Christians would have to agree with her assessment.

Take music, for example. In school, you may have been required to take a music appreciation class. You were taught about the complex structure of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s work. Appreciating that kind of music takes concentration, thoughtfulness, and focus. These are reasons we aren’t studying Justin Beiber or Katy Perry in music class. Who needs to study to understand such simplistic and thoughtless noise? This kind of music is specifically designed to cause us to think less. It requires “virtually no intellectual discipline or effort. If anything, [it] strives to avoid making the audience work. It’s intended to be simple, entertaining, and easy to understand, offering immediate gratification…It is designed to bypass the mind and appeal directly to the senses and emotions.” (Colson & Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We L Charles ive (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndall House Publishers, 1999), 466-467. This cited chapter in this book is the inspiration for this article).

Television is similar. It is intended to deliver quick, flashing images that spoon feed us information which requires very little thought and evokes emotional responses. Constantly force feeding our minds with this barrage is actually impairing our mental capacities.

In order to study effectively, there are certain disciplines that require sharpening. Whether you are studying God’s word as a Christian or Nietzsche as a secularist, you will need the ability to concentrate and focus on what you are doing. You need self-discipline, the ability to analyze, and a long attention span. A steady diet of mind numbing pop culture often tastes great and looks attractive but will eventually erode these essentials of a good study life.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul explains that while it’s ok to enjoy some pop-culture fast food every now and then, it may not always be good for you or beneficial. It certainly should not be your main course! In Philippians 4:8 Paul instructs us to fix our minds on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. It is noted that “Paul doesn’t limit that principle to spiritual things; he says if anything is excellent. Paul is telling us to train our tastes to love the higher things—things that challenge our mind, deepen our character, and foster a love of excellence.” (See Colson and Pearcey, 473).

I think it’s reasonable to assume that most secularists would agree with what Paul wrote in this context. We should all desire that the life of the mind be rescued from the shallowness of the pop-culture. If we do this we will sharpen our innermost man and for the Christian this means having a deeper understanding and love for Jesus Christ that will last throughout our eternity. For the secularist, I’m not sure what ultimate purpose they may have in rescuing the life of the mind, but I think we can all agree that a turnaround is needed.

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Train Them Up Right…

Several years ago I was challenged by a skeptic to defend my belief system. I didn’t do a very good job at understanding why I believed the way that I did other than my subjective feelings about it. This encounter inspired a passion in me to put 1 Peter 3:15 into action in my life.

Over a period of time I discovered that to be most effective at defending the faith you must first be willing to question your most sacred beliefs. You must be willing to see your beliefs from the skeptic’s perspective so that you can meet him where he is and then try to persuade him using the evidence available and under the power of the Holy Spirit.

With this in mind, and experience as a guide, I have detected what I believe is a flaw in how we train people, especially our young people, to defend the faith. In this article I am first going to disclose the flaw. I am then going to cite three ways the flaw manifests itself. The three examples I offer happen to be in the field of science which should be no surprise since this area is popular among skeptics. As I discuss each of these I will offer a solution to correct the flaw so that ultimately we will become improved trainers, and most importantly, improved ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus.

The Flaw

The most prominent flaw I see when we try to defend our Christian position is often a failure to understand terms. For example, it may be the case that a pro-life Christian assumes that a pro-abortion individual is in favor of killing babies. But if we stop for a moment and listen to the view of the pro-abortionist, we will likely discover that a person in favor of abortion is just as opposed to killing babies as a pro-life person is. The difference in positions is not whether we should or shouldn’t kill babies. The difference in our positions is determined by when we believe life begins. How then do we begin effective dialogue with a pro-abortionist? When a person says they are pro-choice or pro-abortion ask them, “What do you mean by abortion?” Then ask them how they came to that conclusion. If you do this, not only is the burden of proof on them, you will also come to an understanding of their position instead of talking past them.

When we place more effort into understanding terms we will become more effective in communicating our views and being taken seriously by those who oppose us. There are three scientific areas where skeptics will pound a wedge between themselves and believers. In each of these wedge topics, believers can be left vulnerable if their position is not communicated properly.

Wedge Topic #1: Evolution

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in evolution. Say what? That’s right! But, wait a minute. Hear me out. Remember what we just discussed? We have to define our terms. But before we do that, we need to understand why we should focus on evolution when training people to defend the faith.

Evolution is one of the most popular avenues skeptics use to discredit Christianity. After all, if life simply evolved then we have no need for a Creator. Darwinian evolutionists believe all life is descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes, precluding belief in a Common Designer.
Many Christians will flat out deny any truth to the evolutionary theory. This is why skeptical people who believe in evolution don’t take Christians seriously. They see Christians as anti-science, bronze-age numbskulls. Of course we aren’t those things, but there is truth in some parts of the evolutionary theory.

There are two facets of evolution. There is macro-evolution and there is micro-evolution. Macro-evolution is the portion of the theory that says all life forms have descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes. It describes one species magically changing into brand new species. This form of evolution, due to the near-absence of evidence, is largely faith-based. It’s almost certainly not true and contains many, many problems including the inability to be reproduced in a lab.

Micro-evolution on the other hand, describes the ability of life forms to change or adapt to its conditions. This form of evolution is not only true, but it is verifiable and repeatable. Micro-evolution is what Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands when he was studying finches. He noted that in years with an abundant food supply, the finches beaks were shorter because they presumably did not have to forage as deep for food. In years with short food supplies, the finches beaks could adapt to be longer so they would be more successful finding food to survive. Micro-evolution does not contradict Biblical creation in any way.

As Christians, we should not be denying this type of verifiable “evolution.” This is why the skeptics do not take us seriously. But when we can come to understand our terms, we find that we actually have more common ground than we thought. We are doing a disservice to our children and others when we train them to be completely against evolution. We know a certain form of evolution is true and we should be teaching our kids the difference between good science and bad science. When we do this, we give them a huge advantage when they are trying to find common ground with unbelievers.

(As a side note, I could write pages on the failure of macro-evolution but it is beyond the scope at this time. Comment below or message me if you want to discuss evolution further).

Wedge Topic #2: The Big Bang

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in The Big Bang. That’s right, I do! But, like evolution, you should be asking, “what do you mean by that?” This topic is a little easier to explain. Science has proven beyond all doubt that the universe has a beginning. This is agreed upon by virtually everyone.

When talking with a skeptic, there is absolutely no reason to disagree with him on the main idea regarding Big Bang Cosmology. After all, the science does not indicate what caused the Big Bang, it can only demonstrate what happened after the bang was banged. If you’re arguing the merits of the Big Bang verses the merits of Creation with a skeptic then you may find that you’re more interested in scoring points than you are in leading them to Christ. Now, I’m not saying Christians should believe in those portions of the the Big Bang Theory that have very little evidence. All I’m saying is that both skeptics and believers agree the universe has a beginning. In simple terms, that’s what the Big Bang Theory describes. It’s also what Genesis 1:1 describes. We all believe the universe was “banged” into existence. Christians believe they know who banged it.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be against the Big Bang. When we define it in terms of good science and scripture, we can meet the skeptic where he is and begin fruitful dialogue.

Wedge Topic #3: Age of the Universe

I’m an evangelical Christian and I have no clue how old the universe is. That’s right, no clue. In fact, it is impossible to know the answer to this on this side of Heaven. We were not there at Genesis 1:1. The Bible and science leave room for many assumptions. There are very good assumptions made by young universe people and there are very good assumptions made by old universe people. I don’t have space to dissect them all here. If you want to discuss it more, comment below or message me.

In the end, I believe that remaining dogmatic on this point can be counter productive. If you’re dealing with a skeptic who is scientifically inclined, forcing him to swallow something that seems counter-factual in his mind may permanently turn him away from hearing other evidence about the truth of Christianity. I guarantee you that salvation is not predicated on your belief on the age of the universe. The fact that God actually created the universe, not when he created the universe, is what is important when reaching the lost. I believe Satan uses this point of contention to sow division among all of us and when we entertain it as dogma we are playing into his hands. This is an in-house debate which should rarely, if ever, be discussed among unbelievers. It is not productive and I’ve never known anyone to come to Christ by their belief on the age of the universe.

As for me, I wake up believing in a young universe and I go to bed believing in an old universe. Neither position contradicts the fact that the universe is created.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be dogmatic on this issue. We should expose them to both scenarios and if we want to be intellectually honest, we will admit that we have no idea how old the universe is.

Conclusion

People have doubts. Christians should be prepared to engage the doubters in order to be effective witnesses for the truth about God, Jesus, creation, sin, and redemption. Intellectual honesty about science and Christianity always works in the Christian’s favor. Good science will never contradict God’s word and should be viewed as way to study in awe of God’s creation work. We should release ourselves from old-fashioned dogma and embrace sound scientific discoveries as confirmations of God’s awesome creation. When our children are released into the real world, we should want them to be taken seriously as ambassadors. To enable that we need to teach them how to communicate what they believe effectively and convincingly without coming across as backward, religious fruit cakes. We can teach them the things of the scientific world that line up with God’s word. We should be able to show people that Christianity will never be compromised by science or any other field of study. Let’s give the next generation of Christians the tools necessary to engage an increasingly skeptical world.

Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis is the generation of life from non-living matter. It is an abstact concept because it has never been observed. Not only has it not been observed, apparently, according to Darwinian evolution, it has never been repeated. 

The notion of life coming from non-life is the height of absurdity on the basis of a naturalistic worldview. In fact, life arising from non-life crosses over into the sphere of miracles. By miracles in this instance I’m referring to things that would generally be impossible in a naturalistic world without some kind of supernatural intervention. 

Professor of Biology at Harvard University, George Wald, discussed this very topic in a book entitled, “The Physics and Chemistry of Life.” While speaking about the improbability that life could arise from non-living material he said this: “One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are—as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”

Why would a biology professor from Harvard so easily admit to believing in the “impossible?” By impossible, he is intending to mean something that cannot, under any circumstance, occur under the natural order. Yet life has occurred. To supersede the natural order of things one must believe some kind of miracle has occurred. So Wald easily admits to believing in the impossible which can be interpreted that he believes in some kind of miraculous action. 

Later, Wald offered an explanation to any possible alternatives to spontaneous generation. To this he said, “The only alternative to some form of spontaneous generation is a belief in supernatural creation.”

So he acknowledges that the only alternative to an unproven idea is supernatural creation but yet he denies supernatural creation. 

This is a textbook example of what Bible readers already know:
“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” Romans‬ ‭1:19-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Atheism is a convoluted mesh of contradictions. 

(Most of the information in this post can be found in the book “The Genesis Flood” by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris on pages 234-235).

James Haught and Secular Humanism

The largest newspaper in the state of West Virginia is the Charleston Gazette-Mail, published in the capitol city of Charleston, WV. I have read this newspaper (formerly The Charleston Gazette), along with its former sister publication, The Charleston Daily Mail, for many years. The two newspapers merged in 2015. The reporting in both papers has been sufficient, although some of the reports in the Gazette have a tradition of mingling opinion with what is suppose to be objective reporting. Speaking of opinion, when the two papers merged, the opinion pages were kept separate. This was for good reason I suppose. The Daily Mail has been traditionally center to slight right, politically speaking. The Gazette editorial page has always been a far-left liberal extremist page. I am not at all exaggerating here. You can search the Gazette editorial archives for yourself here.

As of this writing, Dawn Miller is the editorial page editor. For years, the chief editor at the paper has been James Haught. From what I understand, Haught still contributes to this day. It seems that I read somewhere that he works in an emeritus status.

james-haught
James Haught

Now I have read Mr. Haught’s writings and heard him speak from time to time over the years. For being a self-declared enlightened and rational individual, his thinking on some things are seriously flawed. I want to point out two such instances.

One instance came about when I attended a panel discussion at the University of Charleston. The discussion was centered around the thoughts of the panelists as it related to the motto of the United States, “In God We Trust.” There were six panelists. All of the panelists were monotheists except one, Mr. Haught. The discussion can be viewed here. The panelists discussed aspects of the national motto and its relevance. They discussed the so-called separation of church and state.

If you skip ahead to almost fifteen minutes into the panel discussion, you can hear one of Mr. Haught’s primary defenses against using the motto. He says, “Religion is extremely powerful and if you mix it with the power of government you’re going to have massacres and bloodshed….The Germans always had ‘Gott Mit Uns’ on their uniforms, on their money, and on their military equipment…World War One, World War Two. What’s the difference between ‘God With Us’ for the Germans and ‘In God We Trust’ for the Americans. It’s all just the same thing of using government to claim religion.”

It’s easy to see what Mr. Haught is doing here. Just as his editorials have reflected, Mr. Haught is saying that belief in God contributes to and causes massacres and bloodshed. His writings elsewhere suggest that the only remedy for this is to be an enlightened humanist such as himself.

Oxford University professor Alister McGrath, among a large host of others, has debunked the kind of thinking employed by Mr. Haught. In a book entitled, “Beyond Opinion” by Ravi Zacharias, McGrath argues persuasively that “all ideals–divine, transcendent, human or invented–are capable of being abused. Abuse of an ideal does not negate its validity.”

While Mr. Haught likes to point out the atrocities committed in the name of religion (as he does in the panel discussion), Mr. McGrath points out that abandonment of religion is clearly not the solution. In the book, Mr. McGrath says, “Atheism argued that it abolished violence and tyranny by getting rid of what ultimately caused it: faith in God. It was a credible claim in the nineteenth century precisely because atheism had not yet enjoyed the power and influence once exercised by religion. But all that has changed. Atheism’s innocence has now evaporated. In the twentieth century, atheism managed to grasp the power that had hitherto eluded it. But then atheism proved just as fallible, just as corrupt, and just as oppressive as any belief system that had gone before it. Stalin’s death squads were just as murderous as their religious antecedents. Those who dreamed of freedom in the new atheist paradise often found themselves counting trees in Siberia or confined to the Gulag–and they were the lucky ones.”

McGrath continues, “Some of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century were committed by regimes that espoused atheism.” We know that atheist regimes are responsible for upwards of 100 million deaths in the twentieth century. But people who are truly rational will conclude that religion nor atheism itself are responsible for such bloodshed. The real cause for these things is extremism. It may be religious extremism, atheistic extremism, or political extremism. One cannot simply take the abuse of something and call it the rule.

McGrath points out that when a society rejects God, it will invent transcendent alternatives to ground human values. During the French Revolution, this exact thing happened. The French purged God from their society and substituted Liberty as the moral authority. In fact, the pursuit of Liberty served as the justification for violence and extremism in France. For an example, French revolutionist Marie-Jeanne Roland dropped out of favor with the elitists and was brought to the guillotine to face execution on exaggerated charges. As she was about to die she declared, “Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name.” Again, the implication is clear. Extremism exists in all manner of thought and beliefs. All systems are capable of being abused. Asserting belief in God is the cause of massacres and bloodshed is misguided at best and deliberately misleading at worst.

Another instance where Mr. Haught’s thinking is flawed is his disbelief in anything supernatural. On his website he states, “Personally, I’ve waged a long crusade for rational, scientific thinking as an antidote for harmful supernaturalism.” He says that religion is a magical belief. He says there is no actual evidence for a deity! Say what? Apparently, while Mr. Haught is certainly well-read and intelligent, his breadth of knowledge is lacking on this last point. Alas, I do not have time to address that point right now. I want to focus on his disbelief in the supernatural.

We know through the empirical, scientific method that anything that begins to exist has a cause. We have absolutely zero evidence that anything can arise without a cause. The great skeptic, David Hume (one of Mr. Haught’s authorities, I’m sure) said that he “never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” Furthermore, we also know that nothing can cause itself. For something to cause itself it must exist before it exists in order to cause itself to exist, which is absurdity at the highest order. Moreover, modern science has proven once and for all that the universe actually did have a cause.

Now, the universe is made up of all natural things and the universe began to exist. So then, it only stands to reason that since everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and since the universe did begin to exist, and since the universe cannot create itself, the cause of the universe cannot be natural, for nature cannot create itself. The only other option we have to describe the cause of the universe is to say that something outside of nature, something that transcends nature, something super-natural MUST have created the universe. Do you see that? When one follows the logic to its meaningful conclusion, there is no longer any room to doubt the supernatural. It’s illogical to do so.

It is pure poppycock to claim that the supernatural does not exist. The very best scientific evidence we have makes belief in the supernatural a requirement, lest one should live a life of perpetual denial of the facts. I suppose that since the supernatural is undeniable one must choose how they choose to describe it. I cannot think of an adequate word to describe something outside of nature other than……God.

Most Influential Books

I’ve read so many books this far into my life there is no way to count them all. I enjoy so many from several different subject matters. I do highly prefer nonfiction over fiction. Although, one type of book that is an emerging favorite is historical fiction where the author writes a true account but in a story format filling in the blanks with a compelling narrative.

At any rate, I enjoy a variety of books. But I was thinking about singling out a few books that have been influential or have had a lasting impact on my life.  While I have many favorite books, I have compiled a list of my “most influential books.” This list is sure to expand or possibly change over time. It should be noted that the Bible clearly impacts my life more than any other literature in the world. But this list includes influential books aside from the Bible. Also, I’m simply listing the books and their authors. I’m typing this on my iPhone and it’s not conducive to posting summaries at this point. In no particular order:

  1. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek
  2. The Reason For God by Tim Keller
  3. The Man in Black by Johnny Cash
  4. Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
  5. Mere Christianty by C.S. Lewis
  6. Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis

Again, I have many more favorite books,  but these ones I return to often for reference, inspiration, reflection, to provoke thoughtfulness, and for direction. 

Do you have a book that greatly influenced your life?

“Godless” Europeans Believe in Trolls and Elves

The other day I was thumbing through my Wall Street Journal and the following quote was enlarged within this book review article (if the link leads you behind a pay wall just google “wsj the God profusion” to get the free view). The quote said, “Europe’s churches are empty–but don’t take that as a sign of reason’s triumph. More than half of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls.”

I couldn’t skip the article written by Naomi Schaefer Riley and I was thoroughly entertained reading it. I won’t type out the entire article here save for few quotes. I encourage you to read it. But essentially the article is a review of a book entitled, “The Triumph of Faith” by Rodney Stark. The author of the book argues against faulty polling that erroneausly suggests the world is becoming more god-less. When in fact, the world is ever becoming more faith-filled.

He makes the case against the Enlightenment dogma that says reason will triumph over and eventually bury faith and religion, and ultimately God himself. Enlightenment evangelists and apologists are quick to point out that religion and belief in God are for the less educated, ignorant, illiterate, and even country hicks. Surely the more educated urban dwellers would never be led into such silliness, right? But the facts show something quite different. The author of the article correctly points out that “college-educated Americans are more likely to attend religious services than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.” In South America, nearly all of their countries are “now less than 5% secular.” And in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere and the Middle East, religion is growing very rapidly.

The article then touches on something I have never considered before. The book goes into an area detailing how government sponsorship of religion (think the United Kingdom) is actually a “hinderance to the growth of faith. Monopoly destroys competition, and competition causes growth.” I won’t go into much detail on this point for now, but I’ll be considering this idea for a very long time I’m sure.

The article then talks about the famous empty churches of Europe. Generally speaking, the empty church phenomenon is relegated largely to the European continent. But do empty churches point toward a lack of belief in the supernatural? Not according to the facts. In fact, supernatural beliefs in Europe are wildly far reaching and far fetched.

The article states, “In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation; half believe in mental telepathy. More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs.”

Quite comical.

I’m not saying that America will not follow the European trend. With all the immoral filth being trotted about in the name of progressivism, we may well be on our way to teaching our children about little trolls and worshipping boxes of Lucky Charms cereal. Who knows? But despite these primitive folk beliefs in Europe, America and indeed the vast majority of the world, is absolutely not on the fast track toward secular naturalism.

Far, far from it.

A Universe From Nothing

I was researching some information in Lawrence Krauss’s book by the same title as above. His book has probably the dumbest quote I can personally recall in any work of “science” I have ever read. (I place science in quotes only because Krauss’s book is chalk full of philosophy as well). And I still have a literal laugh-out-loud moment every time I read it:

“For surely nothing is every bit as physical as ‘something,’ especially if it is to be defined as the ‘absence of something.'”

What??? That’s absurd on every level. From nothing, nothing comes. As Aristotle once said, “nothing is what rocks dream about.” And this Krauss guy is claiming that nothing is definitely a physical something? Pfft.