Book Plunge: Atheist Manifesto Part 2

What more do I have to think of Onfray’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Reading Onfray is a task for anyone who tries. It’s hard to read without thinking that you’re really the temper tantrum of a child who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He will be talking about one thing and then suddenly seemingly jump to something else.

In part 2 of his book he talks about monotheisms. One of the first sections is about down with intelligence! Monotheism hates intelligence!

Remember? The monotheisms that are people of the book? The Christians who are responsible for copying and transmitting the ancient pagan works that we have, the founding of the university, and the rise of science? Yes. Those people. They were obviously haters of intelligence!

For Onfray, if you are a man of reason you will be on guard against magical thinking. I was unaware that just saying something is magical thinking is a refutation of it. Who knew? Some people might have questioned the idea I have of presuppositional atheism that if you’re an atheist, your thinking is automatically rational and if you’re a theist, it’s stupid. Onfray comes incredibly close by saying such statements about magical thinking and reason to saying exactly what I have been saying.

Of course, this comes to us well in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Onfray doesn’t bother to say it’s good and evil. It’s not the tree of the knowledge of science or history or literature. It’s good and evil. In Hebrew thinking, this is a merism. It contrasts two opposite things to say everything between them. What is really at stake here is not knowledge so much as wisdom. It is mankind wanting himself to be the fount of wisdom instead of God.

We also have this part about the three monotheisms. It is the picture I shared last time. We are haters of reason, intelligence, books, and freedom. I say this, by the way, as I sit in my library in my apartment surrounded by my books and if you go outside of this room, you will find books scattered throughout our apartment.

We also hate women, sexuality, pleasure, the feminine, and desires and drives.

I am a married man.

I enjoy being a married man.

I enjoy the benefits of being a married man. I have yet to meet a married man who hates sex and the feminine and the body and such. Of course, such a person could be out there, but I doubt it. I find this especially bizarre to say about Islam since Muhammad had about a dozen wives and his followers could have up to four. Yes. They obviously hated sex and women.

Onfray also tells us that there were numerous apocryphal writings, more than those that are in the New Testament. Indeed. So what happened to them? Eusebius through Constantine is what happened! At this point, it is clear why Onfray doesn’t have notes in his book. Good luck finding this one.

He also tells us that Paul demanded the burning of forbidden books in Acts 19:19, but no such demand exists. From the account, the people themselves decided to do it. Besides, one would think Onfray would support this since these were books about magical spells, likely to ward off demons. Is Onfray upset that these books were lost to us?

Naturally, there is the idea of the hatred of science. The Catholic church impeded scientific research. Again, good luck with this one. There were plenty of scientists doing science in the time and the ones that were persecuted (All two of them!) were not in the Middle Ages.

Onfray also tells us the religions of the book detest women. You know, like how in Genesis man and woman are both equally 100% in the image of God. That kind of thing. Jesus having disciples who were women and openly communicating with them and Paul sending a woman to deliver, which would also entail and answering questions about, his most important letter, the letter to the Romans. For Onfray, we who are monotheists only see women as good for sex and only then when we want to reproduce. As he says “For a monotheist, there can be no more hideous oxymoron than a barren, sterile, woman.”

I wonder what monotheists he is talking to. I have not met any who think this way.

Now while Jews have some statements about women being impure during menstruation and after birth and the Koran has some negative statements, Christianity has not escaped! After all, in 585 there was discussion over a book called Paradoxical Dissertation in Which We Attempt To Prove That Women Are Not Human Creatures. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that I granted that this is all historical and this is a book that a Christian wrote.

This is still ridiculous. One Christian wrote a book one year and it was discussed. Therefore, this represents the opinion of all Christians throughout all time.

Fortunately, at least in dealing with monotheisms, we have a section dealing with arguments for theism and…..oh of course we don’t! Onfray never bothers to deal with what his opponents actually say. That would interrupt the rant.

And next time we look at his work, we will look at obviously the most problematic religion, Christianity. (Funny how that so often works out that way isn’t it?)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sharing Jesus With The Cults

What do I think of Jason Oakes’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jason Oakes has written a good book on helping to understand the cults. The book is divided into a number of sections to help with the process. All of these involve different tactics that one can use in dealing with the cults.

The main group probably focused on is Mormons due to the author’s personal experience with Mormons. Looking at each group will provide a good overview of the group and what they believe. There is also the citation of numerous sources that can help with this and many of them will be from sources more favorable towards the cult than not.

You will also find out about many cults that you had not heard of until reading this. I certainly did, and I do try to keep up. There are also many cults that are still left to explore so let’s not think one book can cover them all. Oakes would agree with that as well and I think would say this book is a gateway book meant to get you looking and have enough information to get started on any one cult.

Oakes also rightly emphasizes the importance of building up the Bible. There are too many people that leave the cults and have no foundation and then become atheists and agnostics. For instance, Mormonism has often said that if the church is not true, then nothing is.

That being said, there are a few criticisms.

For one thing, there can be a number of typos in the book. It’s still for the most part easy to know what the author is trying to say, but it’s still a problem. A good proofread would be a great aid here.

I also do not understand the usage of the KJV. I thought perhaps this could be done since Mormons rely on the KJV, but I’m not sure. I know there are a few places where the KJV is cited that I think are quite spurious. This includes the long ending of Mark and the Johannine Comma.

I also understand wanting the Bible to match with science, but I find it problematic that that has to be YEC. This is also so because I do not know of anyone who by studying the science alone has come to the conclusion that the Earth is young. I am one who does not think the Bible is meant to be read as a science book and if we do so, we can miss the real message.

Still, there is good information here to be found for those who are looking. If you just wanted to get a book that would give you a good overview of many of the cults today and what they believe and questions that you can ask them, this would be a good place to begin. From there, one can go to in-depth works on any number of the cults that one has a particular interest in and a desire to reach.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Mere Science and Christian Faith

What do I think of Greg Cootsona’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am not a scientist, but I am always interested in books about the intersection between science and religion. When IVP sent me this one, it was one I was eager to read. Cootsona’s book is different in some ways. It’s not so much because of content, but because of the approach.

Cootsona writes his book largely with emerging adults in mind, the kind of people we would call millennials. These are young people who have a lot of questions about science and religion. What is the relationship between the two? Is there conflict or dialogue or what?

Cootsona answers these questions and often shows information on the side about conversations that he’s had with young people and little statements that they say. People involved in youth ministry need to be reading something like this. These are the very issues that young people are dealing with and as Cootsona sadly shows at the end, many people walk away because they committed the great sin of asking questions.

Cootsona deals with questions not only about creation and evolution, but also about technology. What are the effects that it’s having on society? There is some good of course, but there is also some bad. Are we having too much screen time? Could we actually bear to put the phones down?

He also spends some time with the new atheists. For the most part, the new atheists aren’t really an issue any more, but the mind set is still there. Dawkins is still seen as being on the side of science and religion is seen as the opposite. This leaves many people wondering if they have to choose between science and religion. It doesn’t help Christians out when we tell young people that they just need to have faith and not bother with their questions.

Some of you might be wondering if in all of this if Cootsona has a high view of Scripture. He does. Cootsona upholds orthodoxy and upholds inerrancy in the book. He presents viewpoints to help people understand the questions such as evolution and the age of the Earth. It’s a snapshot in the book as it were, but in the back he provides resources for further study. Cootsona’s book is meant to be an introduction to the questions. It is not an end-all.

There is also a section on climate change and sexuality. Now I am a skeptic of the idea of climate change. I haven’t invested in the study, but I am skeptical. Still, there is good information to consider here even if I am not convinced. As for sexuality, our changing approach to sexual culture is going to need to be addressed. How do we answer questions about transgenderism and homosexuality? Is Christianity behind the times?

These questions about science and Christianity are entirely relevant today. I get many questions from Christians with doubt today. If there is any topic that seems to come up the most, it is questions about Genesis 1-11. It is amazing how many people contact me and say they’re scared that Christianity might not be true and yet they have no questions about the resurrection. It’s all about Genesis. We need better resources on this.

Youth ministers then should definitely read this book! If you’re not a scientist, that’s okay. It’s written in a style laymen can understand. Parents concerned about teenagers and college-age students should read this book. Young people themselves searching should also read it.

Cootsona has given us a good gateway book to the issue of science and Christianity. He has also sounded a clarion call that we need to be listening to the emerging adults today to know how to better reach them. We can answer all the questions we want to, but if we don’t answer the questions they’re asking, we don’t get them any closer to Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Rationality Rules On The Unmoved Mover

Is the unmoved mover a bad argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been dialoguing with an atheist via text message a local pastor told me about. Last night, we were talking about Aquinas’s argument for the unmoved mover. He wanted to send me a video arguing against it to get my thoughts. He told me the video was by someone who went by “Rationality Rules.” I have noticed that so many people who identify themselves by rationality or reason or logic often honor the idea with their lips, but their heads are far from it. I asked him to send it so I could see it. It can be found here.

Fortunately, it comes with a long description to show many of the main points. I found it amusing that towards the start we have Aquinas and Peter Kreeft both having dunce hats put on their heads. Yes. Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Western civilization should have a dunce cap on. It’s amazing the arrogance that these guys have.

Anyway, RR says he’s not going to deal with Aquinas’s, but Kreeft’s, because, you know, the arguments are basically the same.

No, they’re not.

But hey, apparently it would be too hard to, you know, go and look online and actually read the original argument and actually work to understand it and see what it’s really arguing. Nope. Just go for someone you think is giving the argument. Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher, but here he is also speaking for laymen and not giving the argument in its full sophistication. Unfortunately, I think he also gets it wrong, but let’s see what is said.

Anyway, this is how RR sums up the argument syllogistically.

• Everything that exists is in motion.

• Everything in motion is caused to be in motion by something else.

• Something must’ve existed without a cause.

• We call this first-cause (or unmoved mover) god.

• Therefore, god exists.

This isn’t the argument.

For one thing, we have to ask what is motion. Motion is not just movement, but movement is a type of motion. All movement is motion but not all motion is movement, at least in the physical sense. We know this because Aquinas would talk about movement in angels and angels are not physical. Your atheist friend can say he doesn’t believe in angels. Irrelevant. Aquinas does and Aquinas knows they are not physical so his argument is not limited to the physical.

What is being talked about is potential becoming actuality. Potential is the capacity for change that something has. Actuality is the way that it is. I am sitting right now as I type this. I have the potential to stand, kneel, lie down, jump, etc. If I do any of those, such as stand, then I am actualized my potential to stand and from there, I have the potential again to sit.

This is indeed caused in some respect by another. I do something because I want something outside of myself, which is what would be called The Good. My will is driven towards this. Every one of us desires what we think of as The Good. We can disagree on what we think The Good is, but all of us do want it and when we do something, we are doing it for something we perceive to be a good.

Aquinas is also talking about objects that have no will. A hand moves a stick which moves a rock which moves a leaf. Remove any piece of the chain and the leaf doesn’t move.

So what is the cause of this change? Aquinas says we have to find what it is to avoid an infinite regress. What kind of regress is he talking about? It’s either per accidens or per se. In the former, suppose mine and Allie’s parents both die suddenly. Could we still have children together? Absolutely. All things being equal, there is nothing about our reproduction that is hindered or helped by our parents being alive. That is irrelevant.

Now consider a chain that’s more per se. Each event is dependent on what came before it. Consider a Rube Goldberg machine. That is what it is like. This is the point of Aquinas. This means that everything in the chain is being used as an instrument, but if there are secondary causes, there must be a primary cause. The chain has to find its origin somewhere.

Note that this is also not saying it has to start there chronologically, as the universe being eternal is at this point irrelevant to Aquinas. It’s saying that there must be some great source, such as a gear that all the other gears have to move around and if the big gear stops, the little ones do as well. For Aquinas though, this place where the buck stops must be unmoved itself. If it is not, then it is part of the chain and the chain still needs to be explained.

If we see anything that is in motion, then we need to explain that. That would include the universe because I think it’s quite uncontroversial to say the universe undergoes change. We can all agree to that one. What needs to be at the root is something unchanging in its nature.

RR says the first flaw with this argument is that it does not prove that Christianity is true.

It would not prove that this Unmoved Mover still exists, that it’s a being, that it’s conscious, or that it impregnated a virgin, in order to sacrifice itself to itself so that it could forgive you for your ancestors’ actions… or in other words, it would not prove that Kreeft’s very specific interpretation of the Christianity is true.

This is the common silly objection that so many atheists have. You have not proven that this God is the Christian God, therefore the argument fails. Yes. What a great rejoinder, except the argument was never meant to prove the Christian God. Aquinas knew this. Every defender of the argument knows it. Aquinas could use this argument, but so could the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. So could the Muslim philosopher Avicenna. Put these three in a room together and they will not dispute this argument. They will agree to it. That’s when the disputes start. Who is this mover?

Also, to say that it doesn’t show the mover still exists is just fallacious because once Aquinas establishes God, he goes on to establish things that can be known about God from reason and natural theology and that includes His eternality and immutability among other things. People who argue against the argument like this are just intellectually lazy. Of course, we knew that when we saw the bad representation of the Trinity anyway.

The second fallacy is that of special pleading. Something must have existed without a cause. That’s not the argument though. It’s that something must have existed that is not in motion like everything else is. God is not moved by anything else. He moves all other things. Aquinas does say why as well. Special Pleading fails.

The last two objections deal with the Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately for RR, these are irrelevant. Aquinas’s argument is not about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang Theory could be disproven tomorrow and Aquinas would be unfazed. The universe could be shown to be eternal and Aquinas will still be standing. Aquinas would ask why you’re talking about all this stuff about how the universe came to be when his argument says nothing about that.

In conclusion, it will be good when RR deals with the real argument. If he wants to do so, I suggest for a good understanding he consider something like reading Edward Feser. Feser’s “Aquinas” would be a great introduction for him. As it stands, RR has dealt with a straw man and the dunce cap needs to be removed and put on the head of the rightful owner.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 23

Is there a problem with bad design? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Chapter 23 looks at work done by Jonathan Witt on the idea of bad design. I see this as a defensive work on Witt’s part. It’s not theism going on the offensive, but on the defensive. If theism is true, why do we see instances of what is thought to be bad design?

As a non-scientist and a non-IDist, there is not much for me to respond to. However, one point I do want to address is something Jelbert says about Witt’s work. Jelbert does show that Scripture speaks about creation as the work of God such as in Psalm 139, Genesis 1:31, and Romans 1:20. However, we must remember the Biblical authors are not blind. Yes. Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, but they knew more about child mortality from experience than we do. When a child is born today, it’s generally assumed the mother will survive and that all things being equal, the child will grow up and live a natural life.

Not so for them. Many times a mother would die in childbirth and you would want to have many kids because not all of them would live long lives. The authors are not writing though to give an answer to the problem of evil, but because there is still something grand to them in creation.

Jelbert says that God’s involvement appears to be capricious. Things look to be callous and random. Events happen that do no good and bring no redemption and don’t appear to fulfill a grand plan. They do not show that God is in charge of this drama. Jelbert says Witt will fall on God’s mysteriousness again or some other divine attribute.

Let’s notice something here. Not a single objection here is scientific. It is all theological. It is saying that if the God of the Bible existed or even the God of classical theism, He would not allow this or there is no good reason why He should allow it. How is this known? Where does Jelbert get this theological knowledge?

Something else sad about this is that this is part of the logical problem of evil that even the majority of atheist philosophers will admit has been answered. Alvin Plantinga did it decades ago with a little book called God, Freedom, and Evil. It’s important to note that one does not need to demonstrate the answer to why a certain event happened. One has to show that it is just possible that God has a good reason for allowing it. We don’t have to know what that reason is. Jelbert has the burden of proof here. It’s up to him to show that there is no good reason for this to happen.

Jelbert can call it a cop-out to say God is mysterious or something like that, but why think any of us should know all that God knows? If God is real, He has far more knowledge than we could ever have of why events are happening. Jelbert has simply said that things seem a certain way. He has to demonstrate it or else his argument fails.

Now he could go another route and say that it seems unlikely that a good God would exist and that is something else altogether, but it is no longer the hard case. If he went that route, I would reply with the Thomistic arguments, which are not addressed in the book it looks like, and of course the resurrection of Jesus, which we will get to later. I just have to answer one and it is not a deductive argument. The Thomistic arguments are deductive and thus more powerful.

I walk away from this chapter unconvinced. Jelbert has not demonstrated his theological claims. It’s interesting that in a section purported to be about science, we have more about theology instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 22

Does what’s inside a cell make a case for God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to Glenton Jelbert’s work again to see what he has to say about the inside of the cell. In this chapter, he responds to a young molecular biologist named Bill Wilberforce. Wilberforce seems especially enthralled with something in the cell called Kinesin. As readers know, I, not being a scientist, will not comment on the science, but let’s see what I think of Jelbert’s response.

Jelbert starts by saying he thinks the author is in conflict as he seems to be admiring science but also undermining it. His explanation of why he thinks this is that he says before some tools existed, scientists thought the cell was a blob of protoplasm surrounded by a thin membrane. Jelbert says this is nonsense and scientists have appreciated how complex cells are for a long time.

Unfortunately, Jelbert never tells us when this is. Was there a time when scientists thought what Wilberforce says they did? After all, we have improved microscope technology so was there a time we could not see in the cell that much and that was what we thought? Jelbert gives no indication that Wilberforce is right, but he also doesn’t show that he is. If all Wilberforce has done is make a claim, Jelbert has done the same. There’s not any reason alone to think anyone of them is right.

Jelbert also says that there is no meaningful prediction coming out of Intelligent Design that can be tested. Before this, Jelbert seems to say that the stuff Wilberforce has found was predicted by evolutionary biologists. He gives several places to look, but sadly, he gives no articles himself. I would have liked to have seen him done this.

To get back to ID, I am not convinced this is true. I believe that ID made a prediction about Junk DNA that happened to be right. I say this not as a supporter of ID, but I say it simply as one wanting to be fair with the evidence.

At a later point, Jelbert makes an admission I find troubling. He says, “Rationally, we will always search and go on searching for natural causes for any unknown, preferring to admit that we do not know than to give the non-explanation of an ill-defined supernatural being.”

I find this quite troubling. For one thing, he says that this is rational. Why? Is it a sign of rationality that someone doesn’t believe in the miraculous? Is it a sign of rationality that everything can be explained by materialistic causes?

Second, what about miracles? Sure, Jelbert doesn’t believe in them, but if he saw one in his presence, does that mean he would try to find a natural cause? Suppose it was even the favorite of an amputee growing a limb back. Will Jelbert say it is rational to find a cause?

Third, I find it hard to believe we are talking about an ill-defined being. If we went to the arguments of Classical Theism, Jews, Christians, and Muslims could all use them. This being was not ill-defined but many characteristics of Him were given.

As I wrap this up, I think what Jelbert is missing is this drives many people to theism not because of irreducible complexity, but because of wonder. People see what looks like a little factory in the cell and it leaves them in awe. Thinking it is irreducibly complex does not make them think of a creator so much as just thinking that the thing itself exists and is working towards an end. (This is in fact the classical argument from design.) When atheists argue for something natural and seek to remove God, many people see this as a way to remove the wonder. I am not an expert in the sciences, but many times something I see talked about in the sciences does leave me with a strong sense of wonder that makes me think that God is a brilliant mind behind all of it. Whether He did it through an evolutionary process or not doesn’t matter. Either way God is awesome with His creation.

We will continue later.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/9/2018: Tremper Longman

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Noah’s Ark is often one of the most popular stories of the Bible. It’s one that we grow up hearing. The story seems simple enough. The world is full of evil people. God has had enough. He sends a flood and everyone dies except the good people, Noah and his family. As children, we don’t ask many questions.

Nowadays, we do. Not only are we asking questions, people around us are asking questions. Christians might know this story well, but so do our skeptical friends, and they don’t believe it. After all, they want to talk about the scientific data behind the story. They want to know if the whole world was flooded and how does that mesh with science?

Meanwhile, we realize that Israel was going through their own trials at the time and living in the midst of pagan cultures. These cultures also had flood stories. Maybe Israel just copied them and applied it to YHWH. Maybe it’s all just a myth. How should we approach the story?

To discuss this, we need someone who knows the Old Testament very well. We also need someone who knows the cultures surrounding Israel very well. We also need someone who will be able to tell us if we even need to bother to address the scientific concerns or not. Fortunately, The Lost World of the Flood is with us now. It is by John Walton and Tremper Longman, and the latter will be my guest this Saturday.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Dr. Tremper Longman III (B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University; M.Div. Westminster Theological Seminary; M.Phil. and Ph.D. Yale University) is Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Westmont College.  He has written over 30 books including commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, and Nahum. His most recent books are The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom: A Theological Introduction to Wisdom Literature in Israel and Lost World of the Flood (with John Walton). His books have been translated into seventeen different languages. In addition, as a Hebrew scholar, he is one of the main translators of the popular New Living Translation of the Bible and has served as a consultant on other popular translations of the Bible including the Message, the New Century Version, the Holman Standard Bible, and the Common Bible. He has also edited and contributed to a number of Study Bibles and Bible Dictionaries, most recently the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2013). Tremper and Alice currently reside in Alexandria, VA and  have three sons (Tremper IV, Timothy, Andrew) and four granddaughters (Gabrielle, Mia, Ava, and Emerson).  For exercise, he enjoys playing squash.

I hope you’ll be listening to this interview. We’ll be talking about the book and how we moderns should approach the flood narrative today. I hope it will be of great help to you in your apologetics endeavors. Please go on iTunes also and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Atheism On Trial

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Markos’s book is an interesting read. He writes as a philosopher with a pastor’s heart. He clearly has a great love for many of the literary classics that have been shaping our culture. This work is a look at how many of those from the past dealt with the atheism that we see today. It’s nothing new. It has already been answered every time. There may be some different arguments, but many of them have the same kind of presuppositions.

The pastoral side of the work is that Markos wants to take us beyond just the God of the Philosophers. I do think that the arguments of classical theism that get you to the God of the Philosophers are just fine. I try to establish classical theism before I establish Christian theism. Still, there is something unique about Christian theism.

Markos rightly points out the importance of miracles for a Christian worldview and finds arguments against them wanting. He also has a section on the good, the true, and the beautiful. I find this to be an important distinction to make because too many of us don’t know the point of those ideas. Many people today might not have even heard of that saying.

There are also responses to such things as the problem of pain. This really came about in the Enlightenment time and one of the chief events talked about in Voltaire’s Candide is the earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal that murdered a large number of people. Evil is probably the most understandable argument against theism, but logically, it no longer works. It can still be used as an emotional or existential argument.

If there were some things I would change, one is that Markos decided to not have notes in order to make things friendly for the layman, but instead included a brief summation of each chapter in the back of the book that did include where to find the information. I would have preferred the notes. Notes have not been a problem in books for laymen. Consider the Case books by Lee Strobel for example. They have been filled with notes and yet they are incredibly reader-friendly.

I also notice that Markos really likes his Plato and so he has a lot to say about empiricism. I do not think empiricism was properly defined since I consider myself a classical empiricist in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. I do realize that there are many who are atheists who consider themselves empiricists, but empiricism does not rule out the immaterial realm at all. (Note that I do not say supernatural realm as I don’t use that term.)

Markos also has arguments against evolution. As a Thomist again, I have no problem with evolution and as a non-scientist, I tend to stay out of it. I would not be bothered at all if I found irrefutable proof that evolution is true nor would I if I found the same that it is false. It does not affect my arguments for theism or my understanding of Genesis one iota.

I still do think that this will be an enjoyable read for many people. Atheism has been with us longer than we realize and in every age, it has been refuted. There is nothing new under the sun.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Saving Truth

What do I think of Abdu Murray’s new book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Murray is writing about a situation that I have thought for a long time has plagued the church. It is that we live in a post-truth society. Nowadays, the truth doesn’t even matter. How someone feels about a claim matters or how well it serves an end-game is what matters.

This isn’t the fault of the world alone. The church is also to blame. The church determines truths based on feelings just as much as the world does. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about doing something as you “feel led.”

There’s also the fact that Christians can just as easily spread false information. Last night, I had to deal with a family member who shared a news story that I could tell in less than a minute was false. Going further, I found that the website also held to the idea that 9-11 is an inside job. Yep. Real reliable source there.

I get greatly bothered when I see something like this happen. We have the job of trying to convince people that Jesus rose from the dead, a fact that they cannot check the veracity of immediately, but we will so easily share stories that can be easily seen as fake? Doesn’t that damage our witness of the Gospel?

Murray also writes about our misunderstanding of freedom. We think by freedom that there is a certain something that has no hold on us. That is true to an extent, but it like saying being literate means that you can decipher symbols in an alphabet. Yes, you can, but you need to able to do more. You read so you can learn much more that there is to learn. You read so that you can be a better person.

In the same way, you are free not to pursue whatever you want to do, but you are free so that you can pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. You are free to live for something greater than yourself. Freedom is not about you get to do whatever you want, but you are free to do as you should.

Murray also talks about issues of human dignity, what does it mean to be a human? Do we treat human beings as objects more in this day and age? What about issues of abortion?

Issues of sex and gender are definitely on the stage. Murray begins this chapter with a question a woman asked in an open forum about Christianity and homosexuality. It dominates the landscape in this chapter as Murray keeps thinking about it. Murray deals with the purpose of sexuality and questions relating to transgenderism as well. What does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Murray also deals with questions of science and of pluralism. Both of these are issues that strike our epistemology. Science is seen today as the only way to truth. Pluralism is seen as rude and exclusive.

There are many issues discussed in Murray’s book. Each of them in itself is worthy of a book-length work. Murray’s book is a good look at these topics and often shared from the perspective of an ex-Muslim who had to realize that truth mattered more than anything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Enlightenment Now—Part Two

Do I have further thoughts on Steven Pinker’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I say part two, I don’t mean part two of the book but of the review. Part two really doesn’t have much that is objectionable, although there are a few things. He’s mainly talking about improvements in various areas over the centuries and there’s no reason to object. Some are questionable, such as equality since he throws in the redefinition of marriage and interestingly, leaves out the idea of if a baby in the womb counts as an equal human being.

Also, I question knowledge. No doubt, our knowledge as a whole has increased, but I question many times if people today are more knowledgeable. Keep in mind we’ve recently seen young people today eating tide pods and snorting condoms. Wikipedia is a favorite cite to use for informing oneself as well despite not knowing who wrote it and being able to Google is a substitute for research.

Now if there are problems in part two, I mainly leave that to others who have looked at those areas a lot more. I do not have the information nor do I wish to take all the serious investment in it when there are other things. I do wish to point out that there is no necessary connection established yet to the Enlightenment since Pinker presents ideas like science and reason as coming from them while ignoring that these were going on actively in the Middle Ages as well.

So let’s move on to the final part and objectionable material I’ve found since then.

Pinker talks often about how we can be blinded to one side and mocks conspiracy theories, which is good, but I think he buys into his own. He has a large anti-Trump rant where pretty much anything that is said is included, even making a point about being investigated for Russian collusion. One wonders what he thinks of this section now considering things like tax cuts and peace talks with North Korea.

On page 359, he talks about how we maintain ideas to maintain standing with a group. The example he gives is one must think like this to say that God is three persons and yet one person. One would hope that someone who wants to do great research over history would bother to have done a smidgen on religion and what a Trinitarian means when he says God is a Trinity. Apparently, Pinker did not.

That having been said, there is some truth to the idea about ideas having social standing and this is a mistake I think atheists have made with evolution. It has been made the case that to accept science you must accept evolution and to accept evolution, you must disavow God. It’s not that people are anti-science. It’s just that if told to choose God or evolution, they will choose God. In their minds, they often have more reason to believe in God and less to believe in evolution. As long as atheists (and Christians as well) frame the debate this way, it will always be science vs. religion, which is a shame.

On p. 364, he talks about moral progress saying that before the Enlightenment there was starvation, plagues, superstition, maternal and infant mortality, marauding knight-warlords, sadistic torture executions, slavery, which hunts, genocidal crusades, conquests, and wars of religion. He leaves out there were also hospitals being built, literacy being spread, ancient texts being copied, science being done, etc.

Pinker also doesn’t say much about gas chambers for the holocaust or the slaughter of millions by their own rulers in atheistic regimes. If we are to define the Middle Ages by events that are questionable, why not do the same with post-Enlightenment times? if the Enlightenment is only to be defined by the good that has happened, why not the Middle Ages?

Also, many physical problems were being worked on and the science that has dealt with them is a continuation of the Middle Ages science. It would be like saying cancer is around today because we don’t care about science. We do care, but we just don’t have a universal cure yet.

In talking about science on 393, he says that the traditional causes of belief were faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, hermeneutic parsing of texts, and the glow of subjective certainty. Sadly, there is no citation of people from the Middle Ages showing any of this. It is also true that no doubt these sources get things wrong at times, but so does science. If we claim a belief such as “Murder is wrong” is revelation, does Pinker question that?

There’s also a great irony that this takes place just after talking about the causes of World War I and that it should not be explained in scientific terms. Could it be you might have to go and parse those texts that we have about the war to see what happened? Could it be some questions just aren’t scientific?

Also, in this chapter, Pinker is pointing out science as the greatest accomplishment of man. Is it? It’s a great one, but science is a means towards an end. Do we want to know how the world works just ot know how it works? Or, do we want to us those to bring about human flourishing, something Pinker talks about often. If we do that, why? Do we want our species to flourish because we really like our species? What is special about humanity? These are questions that aren’t answered by science, but in finding the true greatest good, the sunnum bonum, of humanity.

He says on 394 that a scientifically informed person cannot have religious conceptions of meaning and value. His basis for this is that we know more about our origins than religious people did back then based on their writings. There is no attempt to really wrestle with Genesis. There are multiple ways to interpret the text, but the only one Pinker sees is one that denies an Earth that is 4.5 billion years old. Pinker makes no attempt to wrestle with the meaning of the texts.

On p. 397, Pinker tells us that scientists have been responsible for misdeeds throughout history. He proceeds to tell us how that should not be used as a weapon against science. But wait a second, if that’s the case with science, should it not be that way for religion? We judge religion based on what it does wrong, but we judge science based on what it does right? What a wonderful system!

We’ll continue looking further at Pinker’s book next time. I do plan to finish it today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters