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.

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.

“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.

Denominations, Speaking in Tongues, and Atheism

I just read an article posted on Facebook reporting that the Southern Baptist Convention will now permit its missionary members to exercise the Spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. This practice was actually banned by the SBC ten years ago. Click here for the article.

This propelled me to consider the different Christian denominations and the diversity of friends I have who seem to come from all kinds of Christian backgrounds. I’m friends with Baptists, Pentecostalists, Bapticostals, Methodists, Catholics, and others. I even met an Amish guy recently and we had a lengthy conversation about our views of Christianity. That was really fun. He (Clay) was a great guy to talk to. As for me, I consider myself strongly non-denominational for many reasons, but that’s not my point here.

Sometimes an atheist or skeptic will use denominational groups within Christianity as an argument against the truth of Christianity. They will claim that their differences and disagreements are proof that Christianity is some kind of man-made fiction. I think I have a good way to answer this charge by using a sports analogy similar to one used by John Lennox.

I have a four-year-old who is playing his first year in T-ball. I’m an assistant coach on his team. Among the coaches on the team, we all have our own personality and our own ways of teaching the kids. While not changing who we are, we sort of conform to the way the head coach does things and we have been able to really coach these kids to be some really good, young players.

As the season has proceeded we have played several different opponents and each team’s coaches have a different style of coaching and you can see it on the field. Some coaches are very passive and overly nice. Some coaches scream a lot (that wouldn’t be me…or would it?). One team has been coached to pester the other team, distract the batters, be loud, and talk smack. And other teams are absolutely out of control with no order or discipline. I can even detect the early stages of rivalries forming. Some teams just don’t like other teams for some reason or another. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way humanity and sports works. Differences arise.

But aside from all the glaring differences in the makeup of the various teams, we are all doing one thing and it’s the same thing: playing baseball. The Christian church is a lot like this.

As Tim Keller writes about in his book, “The Reason for God,” Christianity has always been able to cross cultures and cross any kind of human personality and still be a message of truth and good news to humanity. So yeah, there are many denominations. But that in no way disproves the truth of Christianity. At worst it may show that Christians make up a broad spectrum of people with different cultural backgrounds and different worship preferences. But at best, it shows how malleable Christianity can be without compromising its message. Christianity is confronted with a wide diversity of people all over the globe. It reaches the ultra-spiritual African tribal people, to the pantheistic Asian people, to the people influenced by the “Enlightenment” of the western European world and in America, and many other cultures.

So remember this when someone tries to say denominational groups prove Christianity false. That’s simply wishful thinking and the charge proves absolutely nothing.

Michael Shermer is Confused

I’m watching a live debate between Frank Turek (a Christian) and Michael Shermer (an atheist). Before the debate, Shermer was peddling (he retweeted it) the photo in this blog post.  

 

The problem is that Shermer thinks this is a good argument against God. Thinking Christians will actually agree with the statement in the photo! Indeed, no one needs religion to be moral or to determine right from wrong. I don’t know of a single person who would argue such a silly position. 

A person can be far away from God and be a good, moral person. 

The difference is that they have no way to ground a standard of morality without stealing it from God. 

An atheist has no way to justify the fact that lying or stealing is actually wrong. On an atheistic worldview, these things are based on social constructs and mere opinions. What if opinions change? 

I’m surprised someone like Shermer would be so shallow in his thinking to not realize this kind of silliness. I have written in more depth on this subject on this website if you want to read more on it. 

Is the Resurrection True?

Is the resurrection of Jesus true and how important is this event to Christianity and all people of the world? 

The bible says this in 1 Corinthians 15: “Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭12-15‬ MSG)
So is the resurrection an actual historic event? The evidence overwhelmingly says yes. But, let’s consider only the evidence that even the most liberal scholars (Bart Ehrman, et al) accept as true. There are 12 historical points compiled by Gary Habermas that liberal and conservative scholars all agree on. 
1. Jesus died by crucifixion. 
2. He was buried in a tomb. 
3. Jesus’ death caused his followers to despair and lose all hope. 
4. A few days after his death, Jesus’ tomb was found empty. 
5. Jesus’ followers had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the resurrected body of Jesus. 
6. His followers, once doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus, began to proclaim his resurrection, even willing to die for their belief. 
7. The resurrection was the center of teaching for the early Christian church. 
8. Public testimony of the resurrection by Jesus’ followers took place in the same city where the public demanded that Jesus be killed. 
9. As a result, the literal overnight adoption of a new set of beliefs occurred.
10. Sunday became the new day to worship, previously unheard of in the Jewish community. 
11. James, Jesus’ brother, was converted to Christianity after he saw the risen Jesus. 
12. Saul of Tarsus was converted to Christianity after he saw the risen Jesus. 
Now those are twelve facts that nearly all historians agree are true. There are many other evidences for Jesus’ resurrection we can gain from the biblical accounts. 
Let’s look at five points to show the resurrection story is not made up. 
1. The first witnesses to the empty tomb were women. In the 1st century, women’s testimony was not considered admissible in a court. If the story was made up, you’d think the storytellers would have made their witnesses men. 
2. In 1st century Jewish culture, it was blasphemy to worship a human. Why would fellow Jews begin to worship a human who had died if they were making it all up?
3. All the apostles and early church leaders died for their beliefs. No one dies for something they know to be a made up story. 
4. In 1 Corinthians, Paul names 14 people who saw the risen Jesus and says over 500 other people also saw him and many of those people are still alive at the time. By saying many are still alive, Paul is telling his audience (the people in Corinth) to go ask those people if they don’t believe him. Wow. 
5. Some will say the disciples stole the body. Why would they steal a body knowing they would die for making up a story of a resurrection? That’s crazy. You only willingly die for something you actually think is true. 
There are so many other evidences for the resurrection. Comment or contact me if you want to discuss it further. 
Christianity hinges on whether Jesus rose from the dead. If he didn’t raise, then why care about what he taught? Even if you have a tough time believing the resurrection you should want it to be true. 
Tim Keller writes the following in his book, The Reason for God: “[Many skeptics] care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference. If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.”
The Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The best place to hear the Word of God is at church. This Easter make the decision to go to church and keep going to church. You may say, “church is full of hypocrites!” You’d be correct. Church isn’t about being perfect. Church isn’t a country club for saints. It’s a hospital for sinners.
See you Sunday. 

Quick thoughts…

On morals: People who believe in Darwinism cannot adequately explain why anyone should obey any kind of moral law. On Darwinism, why shouldn’t the strong prey on the weak to get what they want? If nothing exists beyond this world and beyond this life, why not rape, steal, and kill to get what you want? Why should the powerful stand up for the weak and poor among us? It’s a noble thing to do, but on Darwinism it’s senseless. On Darwinism, there is no ultimate standard, but the Darwinists go on acting like there is. 

On love: Darwinists obviously believe in natural selection and macroevolution. It is widely known that on this view, love is merely a chemical reaction in the brain. It’s a way to describe the devolpment of these chemical reactions in order for us to survive. If a Darwinist is to be consistent in his worldview, he should be ready to say his love for his wife and children are illusions. He should be prepared to tell them that the love isn’t actual; the love is merely a means that helps his own genes survive. That’s it. Nothing more. 

Let’s see some examples of how Darwinists should be living and acting if they truly are consistent. There does exist consistent Darwinian atheists. Their views are alarming, as follows.

On the value of life: There is a Darwinist named James Rachels who you should know about. In his book, Created From Animals, he says that retarded people are nothing more than animals. He says they should be used the way humans use non-human animals—as lab subjects or possibly for food.  Another Darwinist, Peter Singer, thinks parents should be allowed to abort their children after they have been alive outside of the womb for up to 28 days! He also says newborn human babies are of less value than the life of a pig!

The bottom line is that if only material things exist, then horrible behaviors espoused by some Darwinists and some atheists such as baby killing and eating retarded people, really aren’t wrong. They’re simply chemical reactions in the brain. None of these things can be objectively wrong because on a view of natural selection there are no moral laws if our brains are reacting to chemicals. In fact, our governmental laws could not be enforced if the world operated on Darwinism. Raping and murdering would simply be considered unfashionable at most. Fortunately, all rule of law is based on a transcendent moral law, just like the transcendent morality cited in order to convict the Nazi’s at the Nuremberg trials.