Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

Is it wise to take up every battle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I get asked why I don’t debate evolution. Do I just accept the reigning paradigm and that’s it? It’s a good question and one that deserves an answer.

Let’s start with something. I don’t accept purely naturalistic evolution. That is the idea that there is no God and all that we see came about by chance. I find that position untenable. Fortunately, that is not a scientific position. That is philosophical since science cannot prove or disprove naturalism.

I can also read books written by evolutionists and see criticisms that I think are good criticisms of the theory. However, in light of all of this, I realize that I am a novice in the area and do not know how to debate the topic. I do not understand the terminology that is used and if I was pressed, I could say nothing more on the issues than what I read.

That last part is an exception. If you’re a Christian who reads science and wants to do this, then I have no real problem. I simply ask that you make your argument scientific. It should never be the Bible vs. science. If we do that with our unbelieving friends, then we know which way they will go.

One aspect that brought the problem of this home to me was reading the New Atheists. Just look at the arguments they make against God and Christianity. Now there are informed atheists who can make good arguments. The New Atheists were not those atheists. Those arguments sounded convincing to other atheists who did not study the issues. As someone who does study them, I saw them as embarrassing.

What if I was doing the same?

It was worse that by arguing science I did not understand, I was embarrassing myself. I was also embarrassing Christianity. I was giving the impression that being a Christian would mean that I knew everything and I would believe it even if my opinion was uninformed.

Hence, I came to do some more study. I also decided that my theistic arguments didn’t need to be built on grounds other than science. That’s fine. After all, science is not the final arbiter on if God exists or not or if miracles are true or not. I find the five ways of Aquinas do that for me.

I also have an interpretation of Genesis that doesn’t rely on science as well, which is that of John Walton. I think we in a scientific culture have too often assumed the Bible is speaking science because that is our culture, not realizing that it was not their culture. We need to try to understand the text the way that they would.

Again, I am not saying that you cannot debate evolution. If you are a scientist and can make the case, then by all means go for it. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to go against a reigning paradigm in an area I am ignorant of, much like mythicists go after the reigning paradigm of history in an area they’re ignorant of. If you’re not trained in science, I invite you to join me on that. You don’t have to debate everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Science Delusion

What do I think of Curtis White’s book published by Melville House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

White is really tired of the arrogance of the scientists today. He loves the science, but his big problem is that many times scientists think that they’re doing science when really, they’re not. They will make statements such as Hawking’s that philosophy is dead, then make philosophical statements and not even realize it. Often this is done without a look at all at the great philosophical stances. (Consider how Krauss redefines nothing from the definition understood for some 2,500 years by theologians and philosophers and then blames them for changing the terms.)

One of his favorite examples is when he talks about how scientists say science is beautiful and amazing. White doesn’t argue against this, but what does it even mean? Are these scientific statements? Certainly not. These are statements of a personal opinion that can’t be objectively measured.

I have personally seen this. When I lived in Charlotte, Richard Dawkins came to nearby Queens university and gave a talk on his book The Greatest Show On Earth. His last chapter was all about the beauty of the universe and science. Now I am not denying the beauty of the universe or of science, but I got in line for the Q & A. When I got up, I asked Dawkins about that chapter and asked if he had any metaphysical or scientific basis for beauty.

I suspect most of the audience consisted of atheists at the time who had been throwing softballs and this time, he was flummoxed. He gave an answer that went on various tangents for about three or four minutes and then finally ended with “We don’t really know.” So here we have Dawkins telling an audience about this beauty and he hasn’t really even thought about how this beauty is known.

White also notices that scientists and others regularly use other words without telling about them. It’s just assumed “Well everyone knows what that means.” Consider how Hitchens writes about the life of reason. Sounds good. I mean, we all believe in reason don’t we? Don’t we see atheists having the Reason Rally and the Christmas signs that say “This season, celebrate reason.”? Indeed we do, and yet they never seem to define this word. What exactly is meant by reason? Your guess is as good as mine because it is never stated.

In all of this, White doesn’t want scientists to stop doing science, but he doesn’t want us to lose sight of the humanities. Art and philosophy and other topics are not dead. Scientists have too long put themselves up as the pinnacle of knowledge and others should be silent because “Hey! We’re scientists!” Maybe other fields can pick up some of the scraps, but science is where the real knowledge is.

White’s book is a really good critique of this system of thought and of the scientism of our age. It is a call to not abandon philosophy and art and other fields and to not give pat answers to big questions. Those questions need to be asked even if science is not the answer to them. Perhaps there are some questions that science just can’t answer.

Oh. One more thing. Curtis White is an atheist.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How To Be An Atheist

What do I think of Mitch Stokes’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many atheists have long said it is time to move past religion. We need to be people of reason and evidence. (As if in all the history of religion no one ever thought about those) Once we don’t act so gullible and accept these religious beliefs, we will instead find some beliefs that stand up to scrutiny. We will see science bringing us into a brave new world.

Or will we?

Now to be fair, not all atheists have fallen for the myth of scientism, but a good deal have. They will not fall for the beliefs put out by religious people. (Although speaking historically, they will be gullible with regard to the existence of Jesus and believe the Christ myth theory wholeheartedly quite often) They believe in following the evidence where it leads.

Stokes challenges that and he does that by suggesting the atheists apply their skepticism and standards to the science they love so much. The book is divided into two parts. Those are science and morality. In the first, Stokes looks at claims related to science and asks if it can really deliver the goods that we are often promised it will.

Now no doubt, we owe much good to science, but the problem with scientism is that it says all good is owed to science and only science can tell us the truth. Stokes relies largely on Hume pointing out that by scientific standards, you can’t detect basic ideas like even causality. You do not see cause taking place. You assume some connection that cannot be detected.

For instance, you see a brick fly through a window. You see the brick shattering the window and think that that means that the brick shattered the window. That makes sense, but does it follow? We could point out that Hume said that a stone falling when dropped 1,000 times does not mean that it is going to fall when dropped the next time. The same applies for the brick and the window.

Science can tell us about events that happen and can give us some functional truth, but can we know it’s ultimately true? We could all be brains in a vat after all. In fact, science does not give us ultimate and absolute knowledge as it can be overturned at any time. Sometimes, this is much harder to do as Stokes points out, looking at the work of Kuhn mainly.

In the end, it looks like science doesn’t deliver the good of absolute truth. In the end, the atheist needs to frankly say he doesn’t know Unfortunately, this also means for him that science cannot disprove God. Yes. It could be that new atheists proudly proclaiming the death of God with science are just wrong.

What about morality? Stokes starts off by dealing with the supposed claim that we are saying that atheists cannot be good people. Not at all. What is said is that this goodness is often assumed to be a given in the universe. Yet how can we detect goodness? How can we have a standard of it? Stokes points out that Harris regularly just begs the question in arguing for his theory. I did wish Stokes had quoted Ruse’s review here, but that did not happen.

To get to the point, in the end, Stokes argues that atheism doesn’t really have a coherent theory of morality yet and it will ultimately boil down to nihilism. Therefore, to be a consistent atheist, you will need to be doubtful of knowledge and need to be a moral nihilist.

Or could it be atheists just aren’t really being consistent? Of course, we could say none of us are fully consistent, but we need to ask more if it is the case that our beliefs are not consistent or if we are not consistent with them? There is a world of difference.

Stokes’s book is written on a lay-level, though it could be a little bit deep at times. Still, it does give food for thought and is something worth thinking about. I would like to see one coming out sometime on historical claims as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/15/2015: Andy Bannister

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The new atheists have had their share of responses to them and many times, it’s more of the same, but this Saturday I’m discussing a guest who gave a quite different response. It’s a different one in that the work is hysterical. It’s not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s filled with humor in looking at this topic. This is one book that you actually look forward to having footnotes show up. The footnotes are the best part. The book is The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist and its author is Andy Bannister, who will be my guest. Who is Andy Bannister then?

AndyBannister

And according to his bio:

Dr. Andy Bannister is the Director and Lead Apologist for RZIM Canada. He speaks and teaches regularly throughout Canada, the USA, Europe and the wider world. From churches to universities, business forums to TV and radio, Andy regularly addresses audience of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

With a background in youth ministry before studying theology and philosophy (focussing especially on Islam), Andy was previously based in Oxford, from where he worked with churches and organisations across the denominational spectrum.

Andy holds a PhD in Islamic studies, a topic on which he has taught extensively, especially since 9/11 and the huge interest that was sparked in the subject by the events of that day. He has spoken and taught at universities across Canada, the USA, the UK and further afield on both Islam and philosophy and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology.

Andy is the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an, a groundbreaking and innovative study that reveals many of the ways the Qur’an was first composed. His latest book, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: The Terrible Consequences of Really Bad Arguments) is a humorous engagement with the New Atheism.

When not travelling, speaking, or writing, Andy is a keen hiker, mountain climber and photographer. He lives in Toronto and is married to Astrid and they have two children, Caitriona and Christopher.

This Saturday, we’ll be talking about this book and looking at some of the popular arguments that especially get shared on the internet. We’ll be looking at what these bad arguments are and why they not only don’t work, but we’ll also see why it is that they have such disastrous consequences if they are followed through. I’ll also be interested in discussing why so much humor in a book on such a serious topic.

This is a great book to read and even if you disagree with Bannister, I’m sure you’ll have fun going through the book and if you pick it up an atheist and put it down still an atheist, hopefully you’ll be an atheist who is better informed on what are some arguments to not use. I hope you’ll be joining us for this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast to discuss this great book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: An Atheist Defends Religion

What do I think of Bruce Sheiman’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s hard to know what to think when you see a title of An Atheist Defends Religion. You might think a similar title could be A Jew defends Adolf Hitler or A Christian defends Muslim terrorists. The two seem so antithetical. Why on Earth would an atheist want to defend religion? Isn’t religion the bane of the atheist’s existence? Unfortunately, if we start thinking out that way, we start thinking out wrong. In fact, we are thinking in a fundamentalist way that Sheiman in his book condemns that has created an us vs. them climate. Ironically, as Sheiman argues, this only makes the situation worse for atheism and in turn for science (Which is not to be equated with atheism either) since generally, for most of the public, if they’re asked to choose between religion and science, they’ll go with religion.

Sheiman does not hold back in saying he is an atheist in the book, but he also considers himself an aspiring theist. He does not like the worldview presented by atheism. I do appreciate greatly his honesty at this point. Sheiman wants to follow the evidence where it leads and while he would like to believe in God, he says he just cannot bring himself to do it now. I do not know what is holding him back and that could be another conversation some day to have, but I do know that belief is not a lightswitch that you can just turn off and on. We need to have people believe because they think something is more likely than not to be true.

Sheiman also does not see atheism as a form of intellectual triumphalism. I find this to be an excellent point to make as well. There are intelligent people on both sides, but I find way too often that the atheists I meet have the attitude that if you don’t believe in God, you’re automatically rational. My wife saw yesterday as we were leaving church a billboard for rationalists.org saying that if you don’t believe in God, you’re not alone. Now I have no problem with unbelievers getting together and discussing atheism and agnosticism. I have a problem with that being labeled as rational, as if if you are a theist, you are automatically irrational. This mindset I have come to call presuppositional atheism.

That having been said, if you’re interested in the God debate, you won’t find much in the book. Sheiman is not going to take you through the arguments pro or con and weigh them out. Instead, he’s going to defend religion as a cultural phenomenon. God might not be around in Sheiman’s world to do us good, but the belief in God is doing good. This will come out in ethics, in giving to charity, in the health of people who are religious, and even in the advancement of civilization and science. Atheism does not have this. It is bankrupt as an ideology. It does not inspire like religion does and it has a gloomy picture of the world, despite what many atheists say.

At this point, atheists might want to trot out the evils done in religion, but on location 186, Sheiman has an answer:

“Religion’s misdeeds may make for provocative history, but the everyday good works of billions of people is the real history of religion, one that parallels the growth and prosperity of humankind. There are countless examples of individuals lifting themselves out of personal misery through faith. In the lives of these individuals, God is not a delusion, God is not a spell that must be broken—God is indeed great.”

It’s easy to speak about all the evils brought about by theism if you just ignore all the good things and look at only what you think is evil (And much of that is misunderstood!). The same atheists who often do this tend to ignore the millions killed by atheist leaders such as Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot, all of which must boil down to a coincidence. When atheists want to see the real legacy of theism, they too often want to exclude any possibility that the Dark Ages idea is a myth, Christianity did nothing to bring about civilization, and want to happily ignore that as they drive down the street they can pass so many hospitals with religious terminology in their names. Have theists many times done evil? Absolutely. That is not because theism is evil, though it could be, but because of another belief we all have strong empirical evidence for. Humans are very prone to doing evil.

As we go through, the start is that religion gives some people meaning to life. Sheiman admits this saying he thinks religion is false and therefore he cannot embrace that meaning. He believes science is true, but it lacks that meaning. Science can tell us many fascinating and wonderful things, and then what? We can also learn that all that we have is going to die in the cold death of a universe that neither knows nor cares. As Bertrand Russell said

Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

(A Free Man’s Worship)

The caveat I have at this point, which will be expanded on later, is to say “Could not both stories be true?” As a Christian, I have no problem saying that science gives us loads of factual information about the world. On the other hand, I have no problem saying God has revealed Himself in Scripture, in Christ, in creation, and in morality. I just wish readers to keep this in their mind as we will discuss it later.

Sheiman also argues that religion leads to greater care of humanity. This is not because religious people want a “Get out of Hell free card” or want to earn bonus points with God. We know God would see right through such things after all. We do this because they see the ultimate example in God. This is especially so for Christians like myself who believe in the incarnation and see the way God lived among us. Who after all would be foolish enough to deny the impetus to good living that the life of Jesus has left on this world? (Unfortunately, I know many who would I think be foolish enough to do just that.)

Sheiman considers it a shame that while religion could motivate some people to do evil, that that is emphasized while all the simple small deeds done in the name of religion are ignored. Most of these will in fact go unnoticed because a lot of religious people who do them do not like to claim recognition for their good deeds. I myself have made it a point often to do a kind act for someone when they can’t see it and then to get away as soon as I can before they find out that I did it for them. It’s nice to be praised for something, but you should not do something because you will be praised for it.

Sheiman also argues that religious people give far more and he has the data to back it up. He gives an example of a Methodist bishop asking for $10 donations to help African children facing malaria. They wanted to buy nets to protect them from mosquitoes. Within minutes, $14,000 had been raised. Atheists can argue that they can give just as much, and no doubt they can, but the same incentive and motivation is not there. Sheiman humorously says on page 40 that militant atheists want the benefits of religion without religion, just like wanting the taste of chocolate without wanting to have the calories.

If someone wants to point to science here, Sheiman has no reason to listen to them. Science paints a dismal picture of selfish genes and the survival of the fittest and that we come from a blind evolutionary process that did not see us coming. The thinking of Harris and Dawkins that morality can be derived from science escapes Sheiman. He is not the only one it escapes. In fact, his chief example of this kind of thinking is Peter Singer. Sheiman says in response to Singer that while he likes the idea of treating animals more like humans, he just can’t have the enthusiasm for the idea of treating humans more like animals.

The next chapter is about religion being union with the divine. I do not have much to say here as I do not really have experience with mystical experiences.

Next we move to mental happiness and health. Those who are religious according to Sheiman tend to be healthier. They also tend to have better marriages. Both of these can be seen to fit because religious belief can often be optimistic. (Despite still many of my fellow Christians who I think are pessimists when it comes to prophecy.) Many of us believe the most awesome being of all loves us unconditionally. With our marriages, if we’re Christians, we believe that we have an example in Jesus Christ. Husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and wives love their husbands as the church loves Christ.

Of course, there will be people who struggle in their marriages and who struggle with issues like depression who are theists, but the odds of being one are less if you are a theist. In fact, if you do struggle in these areas, your struggle could be made easier because of your theistic beliefs. You can always have someone to fall back on, namely God. Recently I started reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. He points out that if you enter marriage expecting your spouse to provide what only God can provide, you’re going to have a marriage that suffers. Those who look to God to be their savior instead of their spouse will have happier marriages. Overall, theism will mean a better life with marriage and health.

We next move to religion being a force for progress. In our day and age on the internet, it’s common to see the graph that is meant to indicate the hole left by the “Dark Ages.”

stupidchart

An atheist like Tim O’Neill has thankfully helped to shatter this into a million pieces. Despite what atheists think, science was on the rise in that period. I really do not think the Enlightenment contributed much new to the situation. Do we have any reason to think Christian scientists would have stopped studying creation? In fact, if religion has been a driving force in the world, then that we are here now and got to the point where science was possible should show that religion has not been the impediment it is said to be.

Sheiman also attributes to this the rise in the belief in equality of humanity and the abolition of slavery. The reason these came to be accepted was because of a religious belief in the equality of humanity, including passages like Galatians 3:28. If all mankind is in the image of God, should we not treat each person that we meet as if they were indeed someone who bore the image of God?

The sixth chapter is on fundamentalism and violence, and this is quite an amusing one as I contend there are fundamentalist atheists just as much as there are fundamentalist Christians. When it comes to the violence, Sheiman argues that much of the violence is political in nature rather than religious. It could use religion to push it further, but it could just as easily use, say, belief in evolution to push it further. This would not argue that evolution is false, so why should religion being used to promote violence be seen as an indicator that religious beliefs are false? Those stand or fall on other grounds. As Sheiman says on page 117:

“The militant atheists lament that religion is the foremost source of the world’s violence is contradicted by three realities: Most religious organizations do not foster violence; many nonreligious groups do engage in violence; and many religious moral precepts encourage nonvio lence. Indeed, we can confidently assert that if religion was the sole or primary force behind wars, then secular ideologies should be relatively benign by comparison, which history teaches us has not been the case. Revealingly, in his Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips chronicled a total of 1,763 conflicts throughout history, of which just 123 were categorized as religious. And it is important to note further that over the last century the most brutality has been perpetrated by nonreligious cult figures (Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe—you get the picture). Thus to attribute the impetus behind violence mainly to religious sentiments is a highly simplistic interpretation of history.”

Sheiman also argues that those who are violent and we would think psychotic tend to be some of the most normal people. The difference is they’re just constantly surrounded by like-minded people. Keep in mind the 9/11 terrorists blended in quite successfully with the American culture they were hiding in. Unfortunately, when these people get together, they tend to reinforce each other’s own radical ideas. This is not just the area of religion. Atheists can do the exact same thing. Atheists can even have their own Messiahs, such as a Utopian idea brought about through fascism, or the idea that science is the guiding light that is going to save us all. Consider these statements as well, On page 124 we read:

“Recent research cited by Cass Sunstein, for example, has shown that people with a particular political orientation who join a like-minded group emerge from that group with stronger political leanings than they started with. “In almost every group,” Sunstein writes, “people ended up with more extreme positions …. The result is group polarization, which occurs when like-minded people interact and end up in a more extreme position in line with their original inclinations.” And with the Internet added to the fundamentalist equation, it is now easier than ever for extremists of all types to find their ideological soul mates and reinforce their radical thinking.”

Consider this with one of my favorite groups to show as an example, Jesus mythicists. It’s on the internet that you get this crazy idea being popularized that Jesus never existed and it relies on some of the worst conspiracy theory thinking. I put these people in the same group as 9-11 truthers or anti-vaccination people. Still, internet atheists can get together and applaud themselves as being rational people who see past the smoke and mirrors. Interestingly, these people who are often opposed to Intelligent Design (And I am not advocating that) because it is “on the fringe” do not realize that their belief systems are even more on the fringe. At least with ID, you have a number of PH.D.s in the field who hold to this, though definitely a great minority. In the field of mythicism, you could count them on one hand.

In fact, Sheiman in speaking of these fundamentalists say they’re often just as closed-minded as their counterparts. One difference is that I have met many conservative Christians, like myself, who actually read the other side and seek to understand it. I do not meet many atheists who have done likewise. (Sheiman is obviously an exception.) In fact, one question I usually ask is “When was the last time you read a work of scholarship in this field that disagreed with you?” Usually, I get just crickets and in fact if any such work is recommended, it is discounted immediately because the author has “bias.”

For now, let’s move on to science. I am interested in the philosophy of science and the history of science, but I do not speak about science as science. I could not, for instance, give you an argument that would show you should believe in evolution, nor would I give much of one that would show you shouldn’t. I choose to debate on questions that I know. If I woke up tomorrow and saw a headline that said “SBC all agrees macroevolution is a fact,” I would say “Cool” and move on. If I saw instead “National Academy of Sciences says evolution is proven false,” I would say “Cool” and move on. It doesn’t matter to me. My interpretation of Genesis does not hang on evolution.

In fact, I like the description I heard best of science and religion this way. Science and religion are opposed, much like a thumb and a finger are opposed, so that they can grasp everything between them. Unfortunately, if they are made opponents, atheists will only lower themselves. After all, if you say you cannot be a scientist if you are a religious person, then people will see science as the enemy. Sadly, there are a lot of great minds who are religious and these people will be excluded from the discussion of science and who knows what they could contribute to the field?

I am one of those who thinks science cannot offer the final proof on theism. It cannot prove or disprove theism. Hence, my wondering with what Sheiman says earlier. Could you not believe in both stories? There are many Christian scientists who do. Could not you not say both stories give truth about reality instead of having this idea perhaps unknowingly that the two stories are opposed? Science on its own would tell you that we will die in a cold death, but that’s assuming there is no outside interference. A religious person can believe that if God does not interfere, this will happen. (Note I am not using the term supernatural. I do not use it as I find it inaccurate.)

One response to this could be the one one often finds on the internet of science being either the only way to truth or the best way to truth. Sheiman says that this is scientism and not science, and rightfully so, and that this is just atheism masquerading as science. I agree wholeheartedly and such people do a disservice to science and religion both. It is as indicated earlier a belief in the salvation of science. Such people often treat scientific conclusions the way their Christian counterparts treat the Bible. I often refer to such people as not daring to question the words of prophets Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett, and anyone else who comes along. The new atheists have spoken. The case is closed.

Many atheists look at the world of science and speak of wonder, but for those of us who are religious, science alone does not bring that wonder. It is wonderful what we see, but we consider it all the more wonderful to think about the mind behind this creation. I can drive down the road and think “Wow. God made all of this.” I am amazed at that point. In reality, we are often looking at the same data. It is the belief that we bring to the data that is changing matters.

As we go on looking at this topic, I do see Sheiman talk about the literal interpretation of Scripture. This is a term I do wish many times would just die. The word “literal” has come to be in some ways meaningless. Literal often refers to a hard wooden interpretation of a text instead of a look at the text as the author intended. I happen to agree with John Walton and think that the text should not be read in light of modern scientific understanding when it comes to Genesis 1-3, but should rather be read in light of the way ancient Israelites saw the world around them.

I also disagree with Sheiman that if theism and atheism was a matter of evidence, people would be converted all the time. I think there are many other factors that influence why people believe what they believe. People in cults, for instance, are given a mindset by the cult that affects how they view and interpret evidence, including counter-evidence to their position. We could look at many Christians who get such emotional solace from their beliefs that they really cannot handle anything that goes against them. We could look at atheists who would face a social stigma if they went against their atheism or even some who would not want to abandon atheism because a belief like Christianity has something to say about their sexual lifestyles. We all know people who believe what they believe for less than intellectual reasons. Pascal years ago said that if you take the most astute philosopher and put him on a plank of sufficient size and suspend that plank over a large chasm, watch and see how quickly his emotions overtake his reason.

I did find myself disappointed by Sheiman’s argument of “Who created God?” as a question he often asks. I hold to a Thomistic view which in essence sees this as asking “What created existence?” To ask who created God becomes a question that doesn’t make sense on that since God’s nature is to be.

I also did not find the last chapter convincing with Sheiman’s way on getting the universe we have that seems to have some design without God. I kept wondering in it why this should be the case, but to be fair, I will not claim to understand all the science involved.

If there’s one thing that would definitely improve this book, it would be seeing where the quotes can be found that Sheiman gives. Many times he can give a quote and give just an author who said it without being able to know where the quote can be found. If a book is given, many times a page number is not given. I saw a number of quotes I would like to have been able to look up, but I would not be as easily able to.

Still, this is a fascinating read and one that I wish more atheists would read. We could probably have better debates if we did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Apologetics for the 21st Century

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For all interested, yes, I am going to be continuing my reviews of some Christ-myth literature, both pro and con, but I’m also busy reading several other books now so I plan on reviewing those as I finish them, so I should have plenty to keep me busy. This also includes a comment posted earlier this week by a Robert G. Price. I have it on my Kindle and when I finish the reading I need to do first on there I plan to get started and write a response. For now, let’s move on to Markos’s book.

Markos’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is looking at major names that have been influences in the world of Christian apologetics. The second part is looking at an apologetic case for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of Scripture, as well as looking at questions about the Da Vinci Code, the new atheists, ID, and the conversion of Antony Flew to theism.

The first part of the book is without a doubt the better part. If you’re familiar with apologetics, you’ll still get something out of this, particularly on the parts about C.S. Lewis. If Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, then in Markos’s view, Lewis made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christians.

Not that Lewis was without his influences. Although a whole chapter isn’t on him, J.R.R. Tolkien would be among this group. There is a chapter devoted to Chesterton, who is a man more apologists, and in fact everyone for that matter, should be aware of. Chesterton’s writings are brilliant and some of his fictional works are quite entertaining. I can still recall my former roommate before I got married borrowing my copy of the Complete Father Brown Mysteries and planning to read a little bit before going to sleep one night. He had a bone to pick with me the next morning because he didn’t get to sleep until about 1:45 A.M. or so due to having to finish three of the mysteries.

Part Two will give some good information to people who are learning apologetics, though if you’ve read a lot of literature, you probably won’t find much new here, but that’s okay. Writing has to be done on different levels. While I do prefer the first part, I find Markos’s style here is down-to-earth and easy for all to grasp.

What are some areas I’d improve on?

The first is that I would have liked to have seen some citations. Markos does have a bibliography to be sure and he does recommend books and tell you who some big names are in the field, but that could be improved simply by having notes of some kind so you can see where these arguments that you’re getting come from.

Second, I would have preferred to have references made not to apologists so much as scholars. Some of the apologists cited are scholars in the field. The reason is that too often if you’re in debate and you cite someone and you say they’re an apologist, an atheist will be more prone to dismiss them.

Third, there were some claims that I think are incorrect. For instance, on page 168 we’re told that a whole generation is not enough time for a resurrection myth to form let alone a few years, but this is false. There have been people who have had myths made about them in fact the very moment that they died. This has even happened in the ancient world. What the real claim being referenced is is that there’s not enough time for a myth to totally replace the true account. That one I stand by.

Finally, I think there can be a danger of casting one’s net too wide. I understand wanting to have a comprehensive case, but I think too many apologists think they have to make an argument on history, philosophy, science, and everything else out there. I find it better to be more specialized in fact and rely on other members of the body to make arguments where you’re lacking. For instance, I avoid debating science as science. Evolutionary theory doesn’t matter a bit to me to my interpretation of Genesis or the reality of the resurrection.

I would have liked to have seen more in the first part overall. The first part was for me the most engaging of all. The second part is still a just fine introduction, though if you have read widely already, you will not find much that is new. Still, if you’re someone who is just getting started in learning about a defense of the Christian faith, this would be a fine gateway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Interacting With Street Epistemologists

What’s been my experience so far interacting with Street Epistemologists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by an apologetics group I belong to to describe what has been my experience thus far dealing with street epistemologists. You see, I was thrilled when I heard Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I have reviewed here and interviewed Tom Gilson on here) had decided to come out with a show called the Reason Whisperer where he plans to have live conversations with people of “faith” and get them closer at least to deconversion.

I think this is a Godsend really.

I’ve long been waiting to see if there is something that will wake up the church from its intellectual slumbers and this I hope is it! We’ve had more than enough warnings and yet too many Christians are too caught up in themselves to realize they’re to do the Great Commission.

So I wanted to see what these street epistemologists were made of. Myself and some others with the same interest went to the Facebook page of Peter Boghossian. There we began asking questions and challenging what was said. It’s noteworthy that Boghossian himself never responded to us.

In fact, one post at least was a practical dare on Boghossian’s part when he linked to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said the apologists won’t post on this one. He sure was wrong! More of us posted than ever before!

I’d like to report on how that has kept going and that Boghossian is being answered every day, but alas, I cannot.

Why? Because he banned us all.

Keep in mind, this is the same one who sees a great virtue in “doxastic openness.”

What I did find from the interactions I had is that street epistemologists are woefully unequipped. They read only that which agrees with them. They will buy into any idea if it goes against Christianity. The Earth was believed to be flat? Sure! I’ll believe that! Jesus never existed? Sure! I’ll believe that! Not having the originals of an ancient document is a problem? Sure! I’ll believe that! I still think about the person who recommended I read “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, a book so bad that even the publisher apologized for it.

For street epistemologists also, science is the highest way of knowing anything. Now this is something understandable. If matter is all there is, then the best way to understand the world is to use a process that studies matter specifically. The problem is science can never determine that matter is all that there is any more than it could have determined that all swans were white. Science is an inductive process and while one can be certain of many of the claims, one cannot say they have 100% certainty.

Edward Feser has compared the use of science to a metal detector at the beach. Let’s suppose I was looking for a treasure map I’d heard had been buried at the beach. I go all over the local beach with a metal detector and say “Well I guess the map isn’t here. The detector never pointed it out.” Sure. I found several other objects that had some metal in them, but I never found the treasure map.

You would rightly think this is bizarre. After all, a map is made of paper and while a metal detector does a great job of picking up objects that are metal, it simply will not work with paper. This is not because a metal detector is a terrible product. It is because it is not the right tool for the job.

So it is that in order to determine if matter is all that there is or if there is a God, science is not the tool for the job. Now some might think science can give us some data that we can use, but it cannot be the final arbiter.

Yet for street epistemologists, it seems enough to just say “Science!” and that rules out everything else that’s religious. This would be news to many scientists who are devout Christians and see no disconnect between science and their worldview.

Yet here, the street epistemologists once again have an out. It is why I in fact call them atheistic presuppositionalists. They will simply say that these people are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance. They are compartmentalizing themselves and not seeing that their worldviews contradict.

This would be news to someone like Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, or John Polkinghorne.

As I said, these only read what agrees with them. They will read Bart Ehrman on the Bible, but they will not read Metzger or Wallace in response. They will read Boghossian and follow him entirely, but they will not bother to read his critics. They will read about how people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat, but they will not read James Hannam’s book on the matter, see Thomas Madden’s scholarship there, or even read the atheist Tim O’Neill who disagrees with them.

Street epistemologists will also go with extreme positions. They will tout on and on about how Jesus never existed and only say “Richard Carrier” or “Robert Price” in response. They will not acknowledge that the majority of scholarship, even scholarship that ideologically disagrees with Christianity, says it’s certain that Jesus existed. They do not realize that biblical scholarship is an open field where anyone of any worldview can join and writings go through peer-review.

Interestingly, these same people will go after Christians for not believing in evolution because, wait for it, there’s a consensus that this happened! The consensus of scientists is to be trusted. The consensus of scholars in the NT and ancient history is not to be trusted!

Also, if you do not hold to their view, well you are obviously emotional in nature in some way since you only believe because you want to believe and because of how you feel. It never occurs to some people that there could be intellectual reasons. In fact, it follows the pattern that if they don’t think the reasoning is intelligent, then it is just emotional.

It’s in fact a direct contrast to what is often said in many religious circles. “Well you’re just living in sin and are blinded to the truth.” Now I don’t doubt for some atheists, they don’t want to give up an immoral lifestyle. Also, I don’t doubt that for too many Christians, their only basis for being a Christian is how they feel and an emotional experience. Both of these groups have reached their conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Yet psychoanalyzing is seen as an argument to street epistemologists. If they can say you just believe for emotional reasons, then they can dismiss what you say. Note that it is dismissal. It is not a response.

I consider this a form I see of what I call atheistic hubris. Note please as well that this does not mean all atheists are this way. It just means that there’s a sizable portion of what I call “internet atheists” that are this way. The idea is that if someone is an atheist, then they are rational and intelligent. Therefore, all their thinking is rational and intelligent and all their conclusions are rational and intelligent.

The reality is we must all be constantly watching ourselves and one of the best ways to do this is to read our critics. Our critics will show us our blind spots and if we are wrong, we are to change our minds accordingly with the evidence.

An excellent example of something Boghossian and others constantly get wrong is faith. Boghossian says it is believing without evidence or pretending to know something that you do not know. Now in a modern vocabulary, I don’t doubt this. Too many Christians use faith this way and treat this kind of faith as if it is a virtue. It isn’t.

The question is, when the Bible uses the word faith, does it mean this? The answer is no.

In all of the writings I’ve read by the new atheists speaking this way about faith, not one of them has ever consulted a Greek or NT Lexicon in order to make their case. They have just said that this is what the word means. Oh they’ll sometimes quote Hebrews 11:1, but a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. I have also given my own exegesis of what the passage means here.

Also, I do have another great source on what faith is.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”

As it stands, the most I get told to this is that it is an appeal to authority, which indicates that street epistemologists don’t even understand the appeal to authority. Strange for people who claim to champion logic.

Sadly, they’re just following in the footsteps of Boghossian himself. Boghossian’s techniques will not work for any Christian who is moderately prepared to defend his worldview. It’s a shame that he who teaches so much about doxastic openness is so often incapable of doing what he teaches.

I conclude that if this is what we can expect from street epistemologists, then we really have nothing to be concerned about with them. Street epistemologists are just as unthinkingly repeating what their pastor, in this case Boghossian, says to them, as the fundamentalist Christians that they condemn. They are really two sides of the same coin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: True Reason

What do I think of Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TrueReason

True Reason is being released today as a response to several of the new atheists. Why? Because the new atheists have championed themselves as the heroes of reason and as a result of reason, they’re atheists, and those who are reasonable will also be atheists.

Yet as I have observed, those same atheists making that claim are usually guilty of the greatest crimes against reason. This was best exemplified to me recently when a street epistemologist on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page was asked if she’d read any books on logic and she replied by naming the new atheists that she had read.

This also consists in what I call “The Jesus Allergy” where atheists are afraid to admit anything whatsoever could be true in Scripture or that there could be anything good about religion or that intelligent people can be within their epistemic rights while being Christians. Want to see this best shown? Look at how many atheists are Christ-mythers. Even those who aren’t can often say that a reasonable case can be made that Jesus never existed.

No. No it can’t.

True Reason is meant to expose this. Now to be sure, this is a volume that I think is meant to be an introduction to people who are not familiar with the apologetics world. For those of us who have been in it for years, there won’t be much new here, but there will be a new formatting of it and a new presentation.

The book certainly has its range of excellent authors. William Lane Craig, David Wood, Sean McDowell, David Marshall, Matthew Flannagan, and Tim McGrew, for instance, each have their own say in it. There are also several chapters by people that you might not have heard of, which is fine to me because I think the apologetics community does need to promote from within.

Many of the chapters do cover subjects that I am pleased are being discussed. Slavery in the OT, for instance, is not often addressed in apologetics books. Flannagan’s chapter on the genocides of the OT will be extremely helpful as well. I enjoyed as well Tim McGrew and David Marshall’s chapter on the history of reason in Christianity and I appreciated that Marshall had a chapter devoted entirely to John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.”

There are areas I would like to see some more on for another edition of the book.

I think despite it being absolutely bunk, there needs to be a section on Christ-myth thinking and why historians and scholars view it as a joke. That could be a good focus on Richard Carrier and Robert Price. The Christ-myth idea is I think one of the greatest examples of the lack of reason in the new atheist movement.

I also think that since the new atheists target Christianity, we need a chapter on the central claim, the resurrection. There is one on the reliability of the NT overall, but we need something that is devoted to solely defending the resurrection and answering criticisms of it.

Yet since this one is also engaging several apologists together and some of them being new, I think that gives readers plenty of places to go to and I encourage that. We need to be building up others and it’s excellent to see noted names in the field working with names that haven’t been as well established yet, but are well on their way.

If there is someone out there who is wanting a good case against the new atheists claim to be the bearers of reason, I recommend this one. It will be a good start to demonstrating that the emperor truly has no clothes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/8 2013, Lighting Up Dark Ages Science

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We had hoped to get Mike Licona to join us, but he is with his mother who is in the final stages of brain cancer. We ask for your prayers for her and the rest of our family in this time.

Instead, it looks like our guest is going to be James Hannam. James Hannam is the author of the book “God’s Philosophers”, also known as “The Genesis of Science.” In this book, Hannam takes a look at the period of time known as the Dark Ages where the church led the world and as a result, science and education languished while people dwelt in superstition, until finally came Galileo along to renew an interest in science.

That’s the popular belief, and as is often the case with many such beliefs today, it is entirely false. Hannam goes to great lengths in this book to demonstrate that the Christian church not only encouraged science, but carried it forward so that people like Galileo were just standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.

We will hopefully be talking about people such as Andrew Dickson White who kept going the myth that in this time there was a warfare between science and religion. This could include also discussing how modern disciples of ignorance, such as the new atheists, keep these claims going.

We will find that certainly not everything the medievals believed about science and nature was accurate, but it wasn’t because they were blinded by religion. If anything, it was because they did not have the best information available, yet for what means that they did have to obtain knowledge, they made several excellent observations that we still hold today.

We will be looking at the way Scripture did play a role in this. Did it hinder the learning that took place or did it encourage it? Was it a rule that the Scriptures had to be interpreted “literally” or did the church allow for a variety of ways in which a passage could be translated? Were there any real conflicts going on between science and religion?

Were those who were doing science supported by the church or where they doing their work in isolation? If you had a sickness, could it have actually been better for you to go to your local priest rather than to the actual medical doctor? Were cadavers allowed to be used for the study of the body?

And of course, some time will have to be spent on Galileo. Was he really the victim of persecution from the church trying to put a stop to his science, or was there something more going on?

In the end, I suspect you will be surprised to find that the so-called dark ages were not really dark at all. If anything is actually in the dark today, it is the idea that is spread perpetually by those who wish to paint the time period as a time of great ignorance.

Please join in from 3-5 EST this Saturday to listen to the podcast here

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Ideological bullies

Is all bullying physical? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I blogged on bullying. I had in mind more physical and social bullying than anything else. I appreciate the insights of a commenter on TheologyWeb as well who pointed out most of the advice we give is terrible. For instance, a kid is to go tell an adult? Yeah. That’ll really help the next time the adult isn’t around. No. That will mean the kid gets teased even more.

The best advice I know of to deal with a physical bully is simply that when he throws a punch, you punch right back.

“But aren’t we to turn the other cheek?”

Turning the other cheek refers to receiving a private insult at worst. A slap on the cheek was not really a physical assault, although it involved a physical action. We have no record of Jesus saying “If you get punched in the face, you stand there and just bleed.”

“But Jesus went to the cross and did not resist.”

Jesus was also not dealing with bullies per se but was dealing with the government of the time and He was not seeking to be a revolutionary. Furthermore, Jesus’s own purpose in coming to the Earth was to go to the cross. Why would He go and resist it then? Not only that, there is a difference between standing up and foolhardiness. Peter would be taking on a crowd of about 200 who came to arrest Jesus. The disciples reportedly had two swords.

There is courage, and then there is rash stupidity.

Therefore, I strongly believe in self-defense. If someone goes after my family, I can assure you there will be no cheek turning going on. This is the well-being of my family at stake and I will do what I can to defend it.

What about social bullies? These are bullies who simply give insults and don’t give physical confrontation. They’re the ones who stand on the side and say “You’re ugly! You’re stupid!” and things like that.

Ignore them.

These people often want any reaction that they can get and if you react to them, it is just giving them what they want. Pay them no attention because frankly, they’re not worth it.

Now let’s move on to ideological bullies.

Case in point: Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is the man who at the Reason Rally said to the audience of atheists that when you meet people who are religious, mock them. Ridicule them in public.

With people like this, I say return the favor.

“Whoa. That sounds like a different line than what I’d expect.”

These people are not just insulting you. They are wanting you to apostasize. They want you to be embarrassed because you’re a Christian. Maybe you know enough to see through their shallow reasoning, or lack thereof, but what about others. Do you want this to be the mindset of people who your loved ones will interact with who don’t know apologetics like you do?

In the OT, if you were encouraging someone to apostasize, the penalty was death. Now I’m not saying we do that today since we are no longer a theocracy in that way, but I am saying we ought to take it seriously. Note also that anyone who has read the God Delusion and is somewhat informed knows that Richard Dawkins does not have a clue about what he speaks. I could easily teach high schoolers to deal with Dawkins.

This is the mindset that makes someone like Dawkins even worse. They think they know so much about religion and they don’t. They will say they don’t need to study it because it is not worth studying. Don’t believe that? Just look at the Courtier’s reply, which is an exercise in laziness. It is even mocking the idea that one should study theology and philosophy and history.

And it is an idea I encounter most every day.

“I don’t need to read scholarship! I don’t need to study! I just go by the plain literal sense and the literal sense is nonsense!” (Unfortunately, too many Christians also think they don’t need scholarship and study.)

“Who cares if all NT scholars think Jesus was crucified?” (Would we get the same if we said “Who cares if all biologists think macroevolution is true?”)

“All you have is faith!” (I have yet to see a new atheist show me a definition of “pistis” which is the Greek word for faith, that means to believe without evidence.)

The list goes on. Everyone believe the Earth was flat! We oppose science! There’s no evidence for what you believe! You just have an emotional need! I find it quite amusing when people say it’s because of how I feel or that I think God is talking to me, particularly since being an Aspie, the feeling side of faith is not that strong and I don’t buy into the “God told me” mentality. If anything gets me excited, it’s really reading a good book on history or theology or something of that sort. Learning is exciting.

These people are usually not interested in truth. They don’t care about why you believe what you believe. They care about tearing you down. They want to not only tear you down. They want to tear down any Christians they meet. On the internet, they’re rampant. Always keep this in mind. The person who will go after you will also go after those who are less capable of defending themselves and will delight in getting someone to abandon Christianity.

They are what the Bible calls wolves.

They are the reason a good shepherd carries a rod.

They are the reason a good shepherd uses a rod.

Now to be fair, being confrontational is not something everyone does. I realize that, and I think that’s also good. We need all types in evangelism. Some people are quite good at friendship evangelism. God bless them. We need them. Some people will not respond until you stand up to them, and that is where those of us who confront step in, following right in line with what Jesus does in Matthew 23.

Does that make a confronter a bully?

Let me ask you this. You are the parent of a boy who is about 8 years old, and he comes home one day crying because a 10 year-old bully knocked him to the ground and laughed about it. You are the parent. You tell your son to not stand there and take it. Next time, he is to fight this bully back and not take it.

Your son is standing up for himself.

Is he then a bully?

Change the situation a bit. Your son is ten and is on the playground and sees a little girl of about seven being pushed over by an eight year old boy. Your son goes after and knocks the boy to the ground and gets the girl up.

Is your son being a bully?

In both cases, no. He is defending himself in the first case and defending another in the second.

You are here in defense of the gospel and of your fellow believers. I can already hear the objection of some people.

“Don’t defend your faith. Let God do that.”

My question is always the same. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Someone else might quote that Spurgeon when asked about defending the Bible said he’d rather defend a lion.

This sounds so good and holy, but it is oh so not. Josephus wrote, for instance, that Jews of his day were to die for the Torah if need be. Are we to treat our Scriptures any less sacredly? The Bible if not accurately studied will not defend itself. It is not its own thinking book. If you throw a Bible into a fire, it will burn like any other book. Now of course the Bible has cut to the heart of many people who read it, but for those who despised it, they can often get nothing but more mockery. These people are treating our Scriptures, which we say come from God, with contempt. That means they are mocking our God. God is the one we claim to be the greatest good and yet we think we can say “Go ahead. That’s fine.” Would you settle if someone made mockery about your mother for instance?

For those of us who can defend our faith, let’s remember that on this playground, we have brothers and sisters who can’t. We are their line of defense. We are the ones that they are counting on and if we do not stand up to the opposition, then they will not stop. This happens not just in religion, but also in politics.

Why do so many people get their way who shouldn’t? Because they know they can run ramshackle over anyone else. They know that their opponents are more concerned about how they will be seen in the eyes of the public instead of caring about what’s right and wrong. They know that their opponents don’t want to be seen as “intolerant” or “closed-minded.”

Well yes. I am intolerant and closed-minded in many ways. I do not tolerate good ideas and I am closed-minded to what I think is evil. If you wish to push something on me, my loved ones, or my society that I think is evil overall, it would be wrong of me to not do something just because I’m afraid of how I’ll look to the public.

When bullies are stood up to, after awhile, they back down. They want to look out for #1 because most all bullies are incredibly insecure. They are concerned about their own social status. To give them what they fear is something that they cannot handle. For opponents of Christianity they will either stop or they will just keep embarrassing themselves by showing that they have no good arguments.

“Well don’t you want to win these people over to Jesus?”

No.

“No?”

It’d be nice to win them over some day of course. These people right now don’t care about truth. They care about attacking the flock. I am more concerned about the well-being of the flock than I am about the well-being of wolves.

There are times you stand up to an ideological bully like this and they do back down. They do admit they were in the wrong about something. You know what you learn about that person then?

They really aren’t a bully. Or at least they were and they are willing to change. What happens then? This person gets the red carpet of friendship. After all, there are people out there who honestly have real questions keeping them from Christianity. There are people who really want to know if Jesus rose from the dead and don’t dismiss it. They’re skeptical, and that’s excellent, but they’re not dismissive. These are people who are actually willing to read a scholarly book that disagrees with them. These are people who come to the debate having done their homework. I have people I know who are like this. When I stand up to someone and they back down after that, we often have an excellent dialogue and I am pleased to call them friend.

How do you know which is which? If you don’t know, by all means, be cautious. Again, if this isn’t you, don’t be someone you’re not. For me, I have always enjoyed sarcasm and satire and a finely crafted barb. Often times, my replies to my opponents can be more subtle but still meant to embarrass, because they are being embarrassing and attacking the cause of Christ.

Do you want what you think is moral to be shown in the world around you? Stand up for it and fight the ones opposed to it on ideological grounds. (To go into physical confrontation during an ideological debate is to lose the debate) If you will not stand up for what you believe in, why should anyone else think it’s worth believing in? If you will not stand up for Christ, why should it be that He would stand up for you on the last day?

Friends. We have truth on our side. We can deal with ideological bullies. The question is, will we?

In Christ,

Nick Peters