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.

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. 

Miracles

In order for a person to believe in Christianity, he must believe in miracles.  The notion of a miracle occurring is a common objection to Christianity by atheists, agnostic people, and skeptics.  I want to offer some ways for a Christian to think about how he would answer a skeptics objection to miracles.

A miracle from God is defined as an act of divinity in which a supernatural effect is produced for the purpose of manifesting God’s kingdom on earth.  Their purpose is to reveal God’s supernatural character.  Now in order to begin to think about miracles, one must already be in a position to at least consider the notion of a created world.  A person who believes in creation believes that God created the universe out of nothing.  He created time and when it would be set into motion and he created the natural things we see all around us.  The simple syllogism goes like this:  Everything that has a beginning has a cause, the universe had a beginning, therefore the universe has a cause and the cause (God) must transcend time and space in order to create it.  When we consider these things from the cosmological argument, it is perfectly rational to conclude that the act of creation is the greatest miracle ever performed.  The skeptic should be willing to concede this point if he can for a moment allow that God is the uncaused first cause.

It’s at this time that we can demonstrate that if the greatest miracle ever performed occurred at creation, then any miracle following is certainly believable.  David Hume famously discounted miracles.  He claimed that natural law is a regular occurrence and miracles are irregular occurrences.  He further claimed that the evidence for the regular is always greater than the evidence for the irregular or rare.  The problem with this is that there are numerous things in our natural world that are not only rare but only happened once.  For example, the beginning of the universe and the origin of life happened only once.  This is a big problem for Hume’s argument.

Why do miracles occur and why are they so sporadic?  In the bible, miracles usually occur as a way for God to reveal himself to man.  Jesus performed miracles in order to prove he was the son of God.  God revealed himself to mankind in the old testament with many miraculous acts.  Miracles are a supernatural way for God to communicate his word to us and are often used to grab our attention.  We cannot answer why miracles are sporadic.  There are periods of hundreds of years in the Bible where no miracles are recorded.  One aspect of miracles is that they are usually rare.  This makes sense, because if miracles happened every day they could possibly be less effective in communicating God’s word.  Again, miracles are attention grabbers.

Of course, nearly everyone open to the evidence for miracles and God have heard of or maybe even experienced their own miracles.  We know they sometimes happen and we know sometimes they don’t (at least in this world!).  God created a good world that rebelled against him and chose evil by free will.  God can use miracles to reconnect to a lost and dying world and reveal his presence.  Although, miracles are not used by God to “fix” a defective creation.  I read an analogy recently that I had never heard before.  It said that the world isn’t a defective machine that needs fixed, but that the relationship between God and creation can be thought of like the relationship between a musician and his instrument.  The musician enjoys time with his guitar and together beautiful things can occur, but every now and then the guitar needs a little tuning.

 

Footnote:  I don’t know how to incorporate citations into the blog.  But I want to acknowledge that most of the information in this blog are from thoughts put forth by Douglas Groothuis, Frank Turek, and Norman Geisler.  I have not added much originality at all but merely unpacked some of the things these men have written.  Check Amazon or your local bookstore for their resources.  They are invaluable to me.