Ravi and Atheism

What does it mean for theism when we have the fall of Ravi? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was part of the Mentionables Podcast where we talked about the whole Ravi situation. I wrote yesterday about the victims of Ravi Zacharias. Today, I would like to turn my attention to the arguments atheists are now putting forward about Ravi.

Let’s state this clearly. Ravi has no bearing on if Christianity is true or not. That rests solely on Jesus Christ and if He rose from the dead or not. All we can gather from Ravi is that those who call themselves Christians, and whether they are or not is not my judgment call to make, can be just as fallen as those they are preaching to.

Yet as soon as this happened, many atheists were sharing this as if this was a grand victory. I understand the desire, but keep in mind one way this is not a victory for anyone. There were real victims of what happened. Real people were hurt by Ravi. Let us never lose sight of them.

Many atheists have acted as if all of Christianity is responsible for this. Most of this sadly falls on what happened at RZIM. Even here, we don’t really know about who knew what and what they could have done otherwise. Without knowing the ins and outs of the organization, it’s hard to know what was going on and thus make a judgment call.

Most of us then had no power to do anything whatsoever in this situation. Not to mention there are plenty of Christians in other countries that could have even less to do with the situation. They are not responsible at all.

Now do atheists demonstrate that some Christians are hypocrites. Yes, to which, they don’t go far enough. All Christians are hypocrites. Nay. That’s not going far enough still. All human beings are hypocrites. The only exception would be the human being who has no moral standards whatsoever, and let’s face it, we don’t want to be around him anyway.

Ironically, many atheists when pulling this demonstrate that we all know that Christianity should produce a higher character. It has been said that hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. When Christians fall short, that is supposed to demonstrate something about Christianity.

It doesn’t. It demonstrates something about Christians. It’s odd to imagine a philosophy where you judge the philosophy by how people don’t manage to live up to it. Consider it like abstinence. When people don’t live up to it, it’s considered a failed philosophy. What failed though is the unwillingness of the person to follow it and I know many people who practice abstinence and I definitely did up until marriage.

Now what about other positions? Are Christians and others inconsistent when we make statements about the violence in Islam or the destruction caused by atheists in atheistic societies? The difference here is what is being pointed out is the logical outworking of the position. In Islam, Muhammad himself engaged in the violent behavior and his followers immediately did that and there are passages in the Qur’an that lead to that interpretation.

As for atheism, it can be argued that if there is no God, all is permissible, as Dostoyevsky argued. Some atheists have acknowledged this as well. If this is the case, then why not go ahead and murder millions of your own people? Why not the Gulag? Why not the Killing Fields?

Keep in mind none of this is saying all atheists or Muslims are like this. It is not saying all of them are responsible for the evils in their belief system. Once 9/11 took place, that doesn’t mean every Muslim in America was responsible. One would need to show a certain Muslim knew about what was going on and then they would be responsible.

What Ravi did was horrible and honestly, if our critics are saying something about moral character, we all need to pay attention. However, this doesn’t demonstrate Christianity is false. Also in all of this, whatever our position, let us come together on the fact that the victims still need our support and we should seek to help them however we can.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Another Bad Atheistic Argument

Does the size of the universe prove there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I check writings of atheists often and I got a blog notification this morning of an atheist blog that will remain nameless. I commented once in response to a post here and soon found my comments being moderated while my opponents got to keep going on. Underhanded movements in comments are something that cause me to ignore someone very quickly.

But today, I see a post about proof of atheism. Hey. I gotta see what this stellar argument is. As I expected though, I was gravely disappointed. This argument as not stellar at all, other than that it was about space.

The idea was about how vast the universe is and we can’t explore it all and how many stars there must be out there. Why would a being of omniscience or omnipotence do this? Now that is a good question. I leave it to the more scientifically minded to address it. However, the author made no attempt to answer and just said that we don’t know what brought about the Big Bang, but it sure wasn’t God.

Because, well, reasons I guess.

Now notice this. This argument just points to something we don’t know and assumes right off that there can be no good reason for this. Considering how limited our knowledge of the universe really is, isn’t that a hasty conclusion to make? Why should we think there’s no good reason for it?

Not only that, suppose I have several philosophical arguments for God, like the Thomistic arguments, that are deductive arguments such as the conclusion is reached with certainty from the premises. If so, then those arguments trump an “I don’t know” argument any day of the week. I can just as well say back, “I don’t know either” and still have my strong case for theism.

We’re also often told that religion stops people from answering questions and science goes “Let’s find out!” Well where is that scientific attitude here? Instead, it’s just “I don’t know” and then “It’s not God.”

The argument is also actually theological. “If there is a God, He would not create this way.” Really? How is that known? Where is this data coming about that if a god exists of any kind, He wouldn’t create in such and such a way?

Even if we granted the challenge to monotheism, couldn’t we hypothetically say that perhaps polytheism is instead true and atheism is still false? After all, the world of comic books is a world populated with several planets and universes and such, and yet it is often a world teeming with gods. Of course, I don’t think that is true, but that would still be enough to show atheism still has work to do.

If you’re an atheist, please don’t engage in such lazy thinking. If you want to make a claim about how God would or wouldn’t do something or why He would or wouldn’t, bring some data. Where do you get this knowledge of God and what He is like? Also, it is not effective to say, “I wouldn’t do it this way.” Okay, but I think we can all agree you’re far from omniscient and omnipotent and it’s just ridiculous arrogance to think you can come anywhere close to that.

A lot of self-respecting atheists would not make this kind of argument out there. They’d actually be agreeing with a lot of what I say in this post I suspect. There are bad arguments for theism and bad arguments for atheism. We should make it a point to eliminate both wherever we see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

How Bad Can Atheist Arguments Get?

What are we to make of the “Brights” today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There are some atheists that give Christianity a fair hearing and can give a take. Some of them can look and say “I can understand how from a rational perspective that you can see this as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or the existence of God.” Some of them can admit arguments from the other side need to be wrestled with.

Unfortunately, from what I meet online, these are the exception.

I could sadly say the same for Christians reversed, but the problem is many atheists claim that by being atheists, they are champions of reason and evidence. For them, I often modify the saying of Jesus. These people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

Saturday night I had posted in a debate group in a thread about someone saying something about how Jesus probably wasn’t white. I agree with this. Jesus looked like the average Jew of His day and was most likely more olive-skinned than anything else. Still, for humor, I always post this meme.

So an atheist messages me yesterday morning asking if I had abandoned my faith thinking I had because I had posted this. Like I said, these guys are not experts in reason and evidence. He invited me to check out his website. Now I’m not going to comment on posts about science as science because I know that is not my area. However, I did see a guest post worth mentioning. We’ll go through it piece by piece as a fine example of how NOT to do atheist apologetics. It’s by someone named Jim Dorans, although I wonder why anyone would want to put their name to this.

“Every single attempted logical argument for the existence of the Abrahamic God, without exception, fails on at least one count.”

Well this is first off a very bold claim. Every single one of them fails. Hopefully, we’ll see that evidence. Also, keep in mind arguments from philosophy are not for the Abrahamic God normally, but for a god who is consistent with the Abrahamic God. It could be that God exists and all the Abrahamic faiths are wrong.

“Saint Anselm of Canterbury made the logical error of assuming the need for a perfect being, and worked from that point on. By that reasoning, and working from an unproven assumption, it was very easy to “prove” the existence of God.”

What would be nice to see is some quote from Anselm showing this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. Heck, this guy doesn’t even state what Anselm’s argument is or what it is even called. I do not accept the argument, known as the ontological argument, but this is in no way a refutation of Anselm.

“However, that very same reasoning could be applied by an opponent to prove the existence of Zeus, so that’s another reason why it’s a very weak argument.”

And here we are wrong again. Zeus is a being in a polytheistic system. He is never described as a perfect being. If anything, Zeus is a really big human figure with some special powers. You could compare him to Superman. Zeus is a part of a system that needs to be explained. He is not like the god of the Abrahamic faiths.

“Thomas Aquinas too, committed a similar error by assuming the need for a necessary being, and so, based on that unproven assumption, still managed to make a good argument for the existence of God.

It was very much begging the question, and from that fallacious standpoint, he was able to effectively define God into existence.”

As a Thomist, I just find this laughingly hysterical. Again, there is no quote of Aquinas. There is not even a listing of his arguments. There is nothing to show that the author has even read Aquinas. Aquinas’s arguments are also deductive arguments where if one accepts the premises and can show no fault in the form, the conclusion follows.

Normally, if you are responding to an argument, you lay out what the argument is and then show how the proponent thinks the conclusion follows. You try to be as charitable as possible with it. Then you show why you think the proponent of the argument is wrong.

“Again, using the same flawed reasoning, an opponent could just as easily define Zeus into existence.”

See above.

“The well-worn cosmological argument fails too, but for different reasons. Hugely complex, monstrous, recycled arguments tell us the 9,742 ways that a naturalistic explanation is logically impossible, but those 9,742 ways are then “falsified” by inserting God, because God is exempt from, and unbounded by, the laws of logic.Usually, the main claim revolves around the Bereanistic “it is impossible to cross an infinity”, which is just another way of saying that it is impossible to get to the start of an infinity in the past.”

It depends on what kind of infinity is being crossed. Some Aquinas was open to. He said, for example, in q. 46. article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa that you cannot demonstrate by reason alone that the universe had a beginning. It must be believed on the basis of Scripture. Today, scientists can debate that one back and forth, but Aquinas is not making an argument like that.

Aquinas says an infinity is impossible though if there is dependence on the ongoing activity of what comes prior. Picture my illustration of an eternal statue standing eternally in front of an eternal mirror. How long has the mirror been reflecting the statue? Eternally. Is the image in the mirror still dependent? Yes.

Aquinas uses the example of a stick pushing a rock and a hand moving the stick. Remove the hand or the stick and the rock doesn’t move. That is the kind of infinity Aquinas says is impossible to have. You cannot have a chain of secondary causes without one primary cause.

Note also that Dorans doesn’t say why or why not this is the case. Is it possible to transcend an infinite? Is it possible for the universe to be infinitely old? He doesn’t tell us.

“The claim then implodes on itself by stating that there must have been a First Cause (which therefore must have crossed that infinity in the past).”

Brace yourself for the demonstration.

“This First Cause is claimed to be God, which of course contradicts the principle of cause and effect, by stating that God does not require a cause, because he is er…God. So, we have now invoked the fallacy of special pleading.”

And everyone who has read anything on the cosmological argument howls with laughter at this point. I can do no better than Ed Feser does. Let’s look at what he says about it here.

1. The argument does NOT rest on the premise that “Everything has a cause.”
Lots of people – probably most people who have an opinion on the matter – think that the cosmological argument goes like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause; so God exists.  They then have no trouble at all poking holes in it.  If everything has a cause, then what caused God?  Why assume in the first place that everything has to have a cause?  Why assume the cause is God?  Etc.

Here’s the funny thing, though.  People who attack this argument never tell you where they got it from.  They never quote anyone defending it.  There’s a reason for that.  The reason is that none of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument.  Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Aquinas, not Duns Scotus, not Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne.  And not anyone else either, as far as I know.  (Your Pastor Bob doesn’t count.  I mean no one among prominent philosophers.)  And yet it is constantly presented, not only by popular writers but even by some professional philosophers, as if it were “the” “basic” version of the cosmological argument, and as if every other version were essentially just a variation on it.

Don’t take my word for it.  The atheist Robin Le Poidevin, in his book Arguing for Atheism (which my critic Jason Rosenhouse thinks is pretty hot stuff) begins his critique of the cosmological argument by attacking a variation of the silly argument given above – though he admits that “no-one has defended a cosmological argument of precisely this form”!  So what’s the point of attacking it?  Why not start instead with what some prominent defender of the cosmological argument has actually said?”

Feser is stating what many of us already know. No one is using this argument that Dorans is dealing with. No one. Again, this is not saying anything about Pastor Bob using it. I am referring to anyone academically inclined. Feser goes on.

“And that, I submit, is the reason why the stupid “Everything has a cause” argument – a complete fabrication, an urban legend, something no philosopher has ever defended – perpetually haunts the debate over the cosmological argument.  It gives atheists an easy target, and a way rhetorically to make even their most sophisticated opponents seem silly and not worth bothering with.  It‘s a slimy debating trick, nothing more – a shameless exercise in what I have elsewhere called “meta-sophistry.”  (I make no judgment about whether Le Poidevin’s or Dennett’s sleaziness was deliberate.  But that they should know better is beyond question.)

What defenders of the cosmological argument do say is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that what is contingent has a cause.  These claims are as different from “Everything has a cause” as “Whatever has color is extended” is different from “Everything is extended.”  Defenders of the cosmological argument also provide arguments for these claims about causation.  You may disagree with the claims – though if you think they are falsified by modern physics, you are sorely mistaken – but you cannot justly accuse the defender of the cosmological argument either of saying something manifestly silly or of contradicting himself when he goes on to say that God is uncaused.

This gives us what I regard as “the basic” test for determining whether an atheist is informed and intellectually honest.  If he thinks that the cosmological argument rests on the claim that “everything has a cause,” then he is simply ignorant of the basic facts.  If he persists in asserting that it rests on this claim after being informed otherwise, then he is intellectually dishonest.  And if he is an academic philosopher like Le Poidevin or Dennett who is professionally obligated to know these things and to eschew cheap debating tricks, then… well, you do the math.”

And I fully agree with Feser again. Either Dorans is intellectually dishonest, which I do not want to say due to the principle of charity, or he is just ignorant of basic facts. Still not the height of charity, but ignorance is easier to take care of than outright dishonesty.

“What is even more amusing is that more special pleading is then used to justify the original special pleading, because God is, well, God …

But why God? Why not Zeus?”

And again, this is still not understood. God does not have a beginning and in Thomism at least, His very nature is to exist. He is what it means to be. You might as well ask “What caused existence to come into existence?” It is either something that already existed, which is a problem since its existence needs to be explained if existence had beginning, or it is something that didn’t exist, which means something can come from nothing, which is nonsense.

So here we have a claim that all the arguments fail and yet none of them are even spelled out at all, no writings are cited, and this is from only two philosophers. There are plenty of others. Some arguments I will think work. Some I will not, but the claim from Dorans is that they all fail and yet we haven’t seen them all put to use and what we have seen, it is the response that fails and fails miserably.

Again, if you want to be an atheist, be one. You can do that. However, please do not be one like Dorans and actually do your intellectual homework and read the other side and take them seriously. Christians need to do the same. Don’t present yourself as a champion of reason and evidence though when your very words will betray you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there is any objection normally raised up against theism, it is the problem of evil. How can a good God allow so much evil in the world or any evil even? The argument from my perspective is not the most rational or logical, but it does have a strong emotional appeal. As I write this, our society is on lockdown from fear of a virus and even before this point, atheists were already making memes about God allowing or not doing anything concerning this virus.

In this book, Campbell looks at how different worldviews answer the problem of evil. He deals with naturalism, pantheism, panentheism, and theism itself. Each topic is dealt with the same way. In the end, there is more examination of theism since this is where Campbell lies and he spends more time on defenses of it. In each chapter, he also looks at the best defenders of each position.

Each worldview has to deal with the following questions: Life, human consciousness, the metaphysics of good and evil, and human responsibility. At this, I would have preferred the first two be left out. Let’s suppose we grant the positions of life and consciousness as questions to be set aside for the moment. If we look at just evil itself, how well does each worldview explain it?

Campbell does treat each view fairly and then looks at theism. Here, I would have also liked to have seen more distinction. He focuses naturally on Christian theism, but I was hoping in the book to see a comparison between Islam and Judaism and perhaps even deism as well. Campbell makes the Trinity a necessary part of his defense, so Islam would definitely have some problems, but couldn’t Judaism possibly work still since it would be open to incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity? After all, the first Christians were open to all of these and were Jews.

I was pleased to see the engagement with New Testament scholarship when talking about the Trinity. Campbell looked at some of the best research on this and if you’re not familiar with it, you will gain enough to be basically cognizant of the issues. This is explained in a way that is easy to understand as well.

Campbell also has some questions about classical theism. I really did not find them convincing as a classical theist myself. Still, it is not necessary to Campbell’s book that you embrace his view. I did appreciate his critique of open theism, however.

The final chapter also deals with the defeat of evil and looks at questions such as the nature of Heaven and Hell. While I am not a proponent of conditional immortality, I don’t think many of them would find his arguments in this case tenable. There was some said on Heaven, but I think more needed to be said.

If there was something else I would add, it would be a brief chapter on those who are dealing with suffering right now. What advice does Campbell have for us when we are in the midst of the pain? At that time, the intellectual arguments don’t really help out that much. I realize this book is not meant to be a pastoral book, but that would be something good still to have.

Overall still, this is a very thorough work on the problem of evil and atheists who want to use it as an argument need to deal with it. It’s also a rare book that deals with pantheism and panentheism on the problem of evil as well. Now maybe someone who studies this more will go forward and look at Judaism, deism, and Islam more on evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/19/2019

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

Atheism seems to be everywhere on the internet. Suppose you go on YouTube being your innocent self and you just want to listen to a favorite Christian song. Don’t be surprised if the comments section is full of atheists talking about how much bunk Christianity is.

It’s not just the internet. Today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is often out there wherever a cross can be found on any tombstone trying to get it taken down. Religion is always a hot topic in the news. This is especially the case when social issues and sexual issues team up together.

Yet as critical atheists are of religion so often, how come the directions aren’t reversed. What if someone were to be critical of atheism? What if someone were to look past a lot of the bluster we can see and really examine the case?

My guest has done just that. He is a highly trained philosopher in the field and has recently written an excellent book looking at atheism from both a popular perspective and an academic perspective. He will deal with objections you find on the internet and objections you find in academia. His name is Stephen Parrish, author of Atheism: A Critical Analysis.

So who is he?

He has an A.A. in Liberal Arts from Schoolcraft College, a B.S. in biology and Chemistry from Eastern Michigan University, an A.M.L.S. in library science from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in philosophy from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the same as well. He is currently a philosophy professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.

We’ll be talking about his book and about arguments of atheism on the popular and academic level. It will be an intense interview and a lot of it will be quite deep. I hope you’ll be watching for the next episode. Please be leaving positive reviews of our podcast as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheism: A Critical Analysis

What do I think of Stephen Parrish’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Stephen Parrish has written a book that is highly philosophical, and yet at the same time, highly readable. The book is a look at the idea of atheism. Does it really stand up to scrutiny? He looks at it from a scholarly level and from a popular level both.

At the start, one gets treated to definitions. What is meant by atheism and theism? What is meant by religion and science? What is meant by the term supernatural? These are all terms that we use freely, but very rarely do we stop and ask what they mean. I am one who never uses the term supernatural thinking it is way too vague and when I get a claim such as someone talking about the evils of religion, I ask for a definition of religion.

He also deals with popular objections. Is atheism merely a lack of belief in God? What about the idea that someone is an atheist to many other gods out there. The one who identifies as an atheist just goes one god further. Sure, these are all piddly weak on the surface and the old atheists would have been embarrassed to see such arguments, but they are out there today.

Parrish’s work that presents problem areas mainly for atheism come in three categories and these can be broken down further. The first is the origin of the universe. This is an interesting topic in itself, but I am pleased to see that he goes even further and asks not only how the universe came into being but rather how does it continue in being. It’s not enough to ask why it came in the first place. Knowing how it remains here is something great to ask too.

The second area is the problem of the mind. How is it that the mind works? What is the explanation of consciousness? There are a plethora of different theories out there. Parrish works to explain the flaws in the other theories and gives a case for why theism has better explanatory power.

The last is ethics and morality. There is a subsection here on beauty as well. How is it that we live in a universe where there seem to be principles of good and evil that most people consider objective, binding, and authoritative? Could they all really be subjective?

An atheist reading this could think, “Ah. Those are issues, but surely he should discuss the issue that’s problematic for theists. The problem of evil.” He should and he does. He looks at this and a number of defenses and theodicies and then turns and says that on his argument, the problem of evil is more of a problem for the atheist than the theist.

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t spell these kinds of thoughts out even more. There’s a simple reason for that. You need to go and get the book yourself. I can’t help but think of the quote of C.S. Lewis.

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

A man wishing to remain in his atheism should also realize that this book is a trap as well. While I am far more Thomist than Parrish is in my philosophy, there is far more that I agree with than I would disagree with. Anyone who is a critical atheist needs to get this for a critical analysis of that view.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 1

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

While the book says it’s by Stephany Chase, an interview has been done and Jim Hall is apparently the real author. We’ve dealt with Jim Hall a few times on this blog. We are quite confident he won’t engage back since any time I have challenged him on any point, he has refused to address it.

At any rate, this book is supposed to be 666 things your priest, rabbi, imam, etc. didn’t tell you. Nice to know Hall is expanding his repertoire. In all of this, I will not be able to fully comment on matters relating to Islam, though I might on some with some positions like Mormonism if I think I know enough about the subject matter. I also think it’s important to do that since I don’t want Hall misrepresenting anyone else’s religion any more than I want him misrepresenting mine.

Rather than go through the list of teachers each time, I will simply say a holy man. Hall says there are specific parts they avoid in teaching. First, I don’t doubt this on many points since many of our ministers are really quite shallow and have no wish to educate themselves. Second and more relevant here, there is nothing in the book of mine he can show me to surprise me since I’ve read the whole thing many times.

Hall also says there is no such thing as too much information. True enough, but there is the problem of false information. Hall does not have good information in this. He takes run of the mill atheist tropes and runs with them. Hall’s problem is too little information and too little if any interaction with scholarly sources.

He also says something about cognitive dissonance. This is a favorite atheist trope. It’s like it’s the only psychological condition they know. Of course, Hall has likely never read When Prophecy Fails on the matter, but hey, who needs to? I wonder if it’s cognitive dissonance that keeps him from responding to my reviews.

Hall also says to not take his word for anything. Look it up. I would believe that except as I have said, Hall has refused to respond to my review of his first book and still keeps going. Odd for someone who wants to be checked on and says there’s no such thing as too much information.

Hall also says many Christians try to wiggle out of the Old Testament saying the laws are no longer in effect. He is convinced they are. Is there any wrestling with Pauline teaching on the matter whatsoever? Nope. He has several verses for us, so let’s see.

“Keep his commandments for a thousand generations.”[ 1] – “Keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, always.”[ 2] – “Remember and obey the laws of Moses.”[ 3] – “Every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.”[ 4] – “It is easier for Heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”[ 5] – “One came and said unto him, Jesus, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”[ 6]

Chase, Stephany. Pulling Back The Green Curtain: 666 Things Your Religious Leaders Never Taught You (pp. 4-5). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.

The first one is from Deuteronomy 7. This is a hyperbolic statement about the keeping of the commandments. It is also given to the people who had that covenant made with them. Gentiles are not those people. The second is in Deuteronomy 11 and is much the same. Malachi 4 is the third saying to remember the Law of Moses. Yep. That settles it I guess.

The fourth is from Psalm 119 and says God’s commands are true and endure forever. Note the Hebrew word for forever can refer to forever. It can refer to things lasting forever or a long time or even to something such as great men of old.

The fifth is from Luke 16 saying not one jot or tittle of the law will disappear. Correct. We also say that Jesus fulfilled the law for us. Again, Hall does not interact with any Christian interpretation of the passage.

The sixth Hall says is Luke 19:16, but it isn’t. It isn’t 20:16 or 21:16 or 18:16 either. It is the story of the rich young ruler being told to keep the commandments. Of course, he is! He’s still under the old covenant.

So again, Hall comes up amazingly short because he does not have enough information. Strange that a man who says too much information so much ignores information. Why is this?

Finally, at the end of the introduction, he has the logical problem of evil from Epictetus. Apparently, he’s unaware that Plantinga and others have solved the logical problem of evil. Atheistic philosophers don’t use it. That does not mean that the problem of evil itself has been abandoned, but some forms of it have been. Again, Hall just does not have enough information.

So next time we look at this book, we will start looking at the 666 claims. It will take awhile to go through, but what I have read so far is entirely disappointing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Cost Of Miracles

Who has more at stake on the question of miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Years ago, Chesterton said that a theist believes or disbelieves in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them. This would come as a shock to many unbelievers. A dogma? That’s the area of religion.

To which, Chesterton would also say there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who are knowingly dogmatic, and those who are unknowingly dogmatic, and the latter kind are always more dogmatic. We see this quite often today. It is the ones who are most shouting about tolerance who prove to be the ones least tolerant and don’t accept any arguments against their dogma.

The interesting question about miracles comes when you watch a miracle account being shared on any public forum on social media or such a place. The atheists are always the ones quick to show up to say why the miracle story is false. As a Christian, I tend to maintain some skepticism about miracles, but if there is good enough evidence, I don’t rule it out.

Who has the most to lose at this? It is not myself as a Christian. If a miracle story outside of the resurrection of Jesus is shown to be false, oh well. The resurrection is still true. If it is a true miracle story, then that is just further evidence for theism, but theism is still true even if the miracle claim is false.

We could go a step further. Let’s suppose all miracle stories are false thus far. Let’s suppose that no miracles have ever been done. Does this rule out theism? Not at all. God could have gone a deistic route and created the world and chose to do nothing with it, or God could somehow be co-eternal with the world and just doesn’t care about it. I don’t think either of those are true for a moment, but they are hypotheticals to accept.

But what if just one of these stories is true? Consider something like Craig Keener’s massive two-volume work Miracles. Is every miracle claim in that book a bona fide miracle? Doubtful. Some are better attested than others. In fact, aside from the resurrection of Jesus, it could be that every miracle story is false in there and Christianity and/or theism are still true.

Now, what of the other end? If even one of them does not have a materialistic or naturalistic explanation for what happened, then atheism is in trouble unless one is found. It simply has to be false. The same could hypothetically be said of evolution for some. As a Christian theist, if macroevolution is true, I lose nothing, but for the atheist, as Plantinga has said, evolution is the only game in town.

Watch next time a miracle claim is presented and see how both sides react. While it couldn’t hurt us to be cautious and not believe every claim that comes along, one side has to have it that their position on the claim is absolutely right. One side depends on only one option being the true one.

It’s not ours.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 3

What do I think of Jason Long’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jason Long’s chapter is a very odd chapter to read. Long writes as if every word drips with acidity and animosity towards a faith I took it he once held to. At the same time, it’s loaded with what I call presuppositional atheism.

The chapter is meant to be about how malleable the human mind is. No doubt, it is, but this is something that cuts both ways. The chapter is short on evidence against Christianity and long on diatribe.

At the start, he says that it’s “nothing short of an incomprehensible tragedy that anyone in this age of reason would have to write a book debunking a collection of ridiculous fantasies from an era of rampant superstition.” (p. 65) I really love the whole age of reason. These reasonable atheists must be the ones I see advancing the Jesus myth hypothesis and telling us that boys are really girls and stuff like that. For me, many people today claiming reason are like young teenagers who drive around thinking they’re all that in the family car forgetting their parents own it and provide the gas for it.

He goes on to say that while some ideas from other religions might seem ridiculous to other Christians, most still believe in an omnipotent deity who will torture His underlings if they don’t worship Him. Yes. This is naturally the reigning evangelical view. People like Long seem to have got an education of Christianity when they were eight years old in Sunday School and never grew out of it.

He then tells us that the reasons given for belief are driven not by rational thought and reasoned argumentation, but by psychological factors derived through indoctrination. This is a wonderful way to dismiss everyone, but should we dismiss atheism when it comes from someone in the former Soviet Union due to years of indoctrination in that view? What of Muslims and atheists who become Christians? Are some indoctrinated into Christianity and never think about it? Yep. Same with any worldview.

On 68, Long says we are not comfortable with the notion that we might be wrong. We enjoy being right. We are taught to avoid questioning. I find this interesting since when I encounter atheists, I usually ask them when the last time it was they read an academic work on religion was that disagreed with them. Nine times out of ten I will get no answer indicating they have. Ask me the same question and you’ll get an immediate answer.

Long says that rational skepticism is not as interesting and comforting to people. There’s no doubt some truth to this. However, he then goes on to say that tell people that the book promising them eternal happiness with loved ones when they die is wrong on the talking donkey takes a lot of work. Long seems to have a fixation on a talking donkey throughout this chapter. It is presuppositional atheism.

So what do I mean by this? Let’s assume the whole passage is literal and it means a donkey spoke. If you are an atheist, that would be nonsense because there is no external agent that can do that. However, if someone’s worldview is not like that and they believe in miracles, a talking donkey is not really a problem. It’s a miracle allowed. What you need to show is such miracles are impossible and it has to be beyond “Because atheism is true.” That’s presuppositional atheism if you act that anything that contradicts atheism must be false.

Long also says Christians are not interested in evaluating their beliefs but in comfort. Heck. If I was interested in comfort I would abandon Christianity many times over because sometimes it is extremely uncomfortable. Long tells us if we were genuinely interested in truth, we would analyze our arguments and examine points of skepticism. Done and done. How about internet atheists I meet that don’t do such?

Long also tells us that in Chapter 12, Loftus, whoever he is, will deal with the ideas of Jesus’s false predictions of His return. I anticipate that this chapter will not deal adequately at all with my viewpoint of orthodox Preterism. I also anticipate that Long would have no clue how to respond to such a thing, but that’s only because he’s not really interested in truth.

Long tells us that when we examine Islam, should we ask the Islamic scholar? Why not ask an outsider. In this, he claims that skeptical scholars have no bias whatsoever. This is nonsense. After all, skeptics can have just as much a bias. Look at what Lewontin says in this article.

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

Or Thomas Nagel

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”

No one comes to Jesus neutral because Jesus makes radical claims. So what do we do? We don’t go and assume the skeptics are automatically unbiased. We don’t go and assume that about the Christians either. We read both sides. We see what the best arguments are. We then make a judgment. Why does Long seem to want us to only go to secularists?

Long also asks what good is a Biblical scholar who refuses to consider his point of view may be wrong? I find this interesting because when I read Christian scholarship, they are constantly quoting their opponents and interacting with them. When I read skeptics, they don’t seem to do that. Take Bart Ehrman’s book on Jesus as the Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Throughout the book he never interacts with orthodox Preterism.

Long also quotes William Lane Craig saying that if the testimony of the Holy Spirit conflicts with the evidence, we should go with the testimony. On it’s own, I would disagree with this because I think the idea of the testimony of the Holy Spirit is vague. He also quotes Answers in Genesis saying no evidence can be valid if it conflicts with Scripture. I have a problem with that as well. I am convinced Scripture is not wrong, but if we have a claim, we need to examine it. However, Long says this is the problem with ALL religious apologists regardless of belief. Part-to-whole fallacy is just screaming here.

He also says that apologists will find a resolution to every objection. Indeed. Can the objection be shown to be false? Long says “God wrote it so it must be true—even if it violates common sense and science.” Common sense is a term I always find odd to use. If you need to say it, it’s common sense. If it’s common sense, you don’t need to say it. Common sense more often seems to be “What agrees with my opinion.” As for science, well Long is free to show what he thinks does contradict science.

Long also says the higher your intelligence, the more likely you are to be skeptical. This is quite subjective and the intelligence is usually based on what’s taught in skeptical circles so what a shock that people taught skepticism turn out to be skeptical. Again, none of this gets to the evidence.

Long also says that it is never easy to be honest with yourself about Scripture with a mind-reading God present. Simply thinking God might be wrong is discomforting. If God is monitoring us, this leads to anxiety. Long is apparently pushing his own experience on everyone else. I have no problem with such questions and I think God expects me to examine them. I also don’t hesitate with my emotions with God. If I am upset with Him about something, then I let Him know. He’s a big God. He can take it.

In the end, Long’s chapter is just full of venom towards Christianity that destroys any idea of objectivity. One reads this chapter and just sees a rant. There is a lot of emotion, but very little rational substance.

Kind of like most new atheist books I read.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A New Dawn For Christianity

What do I think of Barry Blood and Rev. Michael MacMillan’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of mine gifted me this book thinking I’d enjoy it. I did last night finish the main story part which I take it to be the contribution by Barry Blood. I have started the application by Macmillan, but I wanted to at least start with the main part now. There are many arguments in there, but most of them are sadly quite outdated.

The story involves two college students named Greg and Lea. Greg is a Christian, though I would say a nominal one, and Lea is a foreigner who is not familiar with Christianity. He takes her home for the holidays to meet his parents and that includes going to church. She asks him questions about Christianity to which he says he’s not a preacher and she says “Sure, but you ought to know to explain it enough to someone.”

Give credit where credit is due. Lea is right here. If someone wants to tell someone about Jesus, they ought to know enough to explain it.

Unfortunately, Greg doesn’t know enough so it’s recommended they go to Professor Tracy at the college. Tracy is glad to teach them about Christianity provided they get other students involved, which they do. Note that Tracy wants to also teach them “factual” information about Christianity.

Tracy teaches the group the difference between popular and academic Christianity. Popular is what is usually heard in churches. Academic is what is taught in colleges and seminaries. However, as we see what Tracy thinks is academic, it will be a wonder how he ever got his job at all with all the misinformation he has.

Tracy has a statement that some people think the age of the Earth can be proved with the Bible, but scientific knowledge has disproven that just as it has disproven that the Earth is flat. I don’t wish to enter into the age of the Earth debate, but I would like to challenge Tracy fo find the educated person in the Middle Ages who believed the Earth was flat. They knew it was a sphere since Aristotle. Anyone who taught otherwise would be the exception and not the rule.

Tracy also talks about the origins of religion. Of course, there will be no mention of the work of people like Andrew Lang or Wilhelm Schmidt. At one point even, Freud’s Future of an Illusion is relied on.

He also says there are stories of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of ancestors to acquire their special skills and knowledge. No source is given for this kind of claim and I suspect it’s from Freud. This is also supposed to be tied into the Eucharist, despite the Eucharist being rooted in a specific Jewish rite known as Passover and Jews condemning cannibalism, but hey, details. Who needs them?

From here, Tracy tells the students that the God of Christianity is just as much a human construct of the imagination as other gods are. Naturally, Tracy does spend time looking at the philosophical arguments for the existence of God and….oh wait. Of course, he doesn’t. Readers wanting to hear about the five ways of Aquinas, the argument from morality, from beauty, the ontological argument, the argument from conscience, Near-Death experiences, the resurrection of Jesus, properly basic theology, intelligent design, etc. will be disappointed. I am not saying I endorse all of these arguments. I don’t. I am saying they should be taken seriously as scholarly arguments.

Tracy also says Christian scholars have known these are constructs for years. Of course, he ignores many leading philosopher scholars who specialize in arguments for the existence of God, such as Feser, Kreeft, Moreland, and others. No no no. Christian scholarship is best represented by Bishop John Shelby Spong, who I don’t have any reason to think is a scholar anyway. The character of Professor Tracy is just redefining Christianity to mean what he thinks it means and then it sounds like there are Christians agreeing with him.

The students go off to investigate in books, but apparently never learned the lesson of reading both sides of an argument and they insist the books are by Christian scholars and not just atheists. Unfortunately, Greg exemplifies many Christians when he says that he was always taught to not question the existence of God or the Bible and that such is a sin. This is indeed an attitude we need to eliminate from modern Christianity.

Sadly, if Greg is unquestioning of one paradigm, Tracy and the others are unquestioning of the other. Apparently, you are not to question Karen Armstrong, Grant Allen, and others.

Greg goes back to talk to his pastor about what he has learned to see what is true. His pastor says it is all true, as will a second pastor he talks to in the book. Apparently, Blood and Macmillan live in a world where pastors really know the truth but aren’t telling it to their flocks. What we have is just a conspiracy theory for atheists.

As we go on we find interaction with Marcus Borg, Jack Good, and Paul Tillich. Naturally in New Testament, you will find zero interaction with N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington III, Craig Evans, Mike Licona, Darrell Bock, Daniel Wallace, or a number of others. Sadly, these students are as unskilled at research as is Professor Tracy.

Tracy also talks about the savior motif, which is the idea that Jesus is a copycat of other religions. Let’s start with Hesus of the druids. Oh wait. That doesn’t work well. What about Mithras? Well, Mithras was born from a rock wearing a cap and carrying a knife and slew a great bull and threw it to the Earth and there’s no record of a resurrection of Mithras let alone him dying. You won’t see any interaction with someone like David Ulansey here. Others like Thulis of Egypt and Indra of Tibet are mentioned. Good luck finding any real scholars who agree with these claims.

The writers Tracy recommends here are Thomas William Doane and Kersey Graves. This would be enough to make Tracy a laughingstock in modern scholarship. Even Richard Carrier, who is certainly no friend to Christianity, says that one should not use Kersey Graves. Tracy also thinks the best comparisons are with Krishna. Perhaps Tracy should do what Mike Licona did and interview a scholar like Edwin Bryant on it.

Naturally, Tracy will talk about Bible contradictions, but why waste time? He tells his students to just go and Google, which of course is the best way to gain historical information. He also says this is hardly what one would expect if the Bible were the literal Word of God! Of course, there’s no explanation of what literal means here and no defense of the idea that the Bible is supposed to be the only book in existence that apparently is meant to be always read in a wooden literal sense.

He also tells us that inerrancy is a new doctrine from Charles Hodge. Not at all. This has always been the position of the church that the Bible is without error. All Tracy would need to do is read a book on the history of inerrancy. I’m not saying inerrancy is true. It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on. I am saying Tracy just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

He also says he would have to defer to Spong who in debating a preacher about the inerrancy of the Bible asked the preacher, “Have you read it?” Well, if Mr. Spong wants to ask me, yes. Yes, I have. I have read it several times.

When Tracy talks about answered prayer, he says that in every case the answer is ambiguous. It could have occurred in more than one way and every time somehow, God fixed it. Seriously though? Every single case? Tracy is simply an amazing man. Apparently, he has gone all over the world and all of time and seen every single claim of an answered prayer. What a marvel this man is!

He also tells us that answered prayers are always coincidences. Keep in mind that this is his claim. It would be fascinating to see him back it. Tracy would have to have knowledge of every prayer said and what happened as a result. Now I have no problem saying coincidence happens sometimes and people do treat prayer in a way such as parking lot prayers. (I prayed for a close spot and it was there the 7th time I drove around the lot!)

He also tells us that there has never been in the history of the world a miracle healing of a case of cancer. Never? Really? This is quite a strong claim. How does Tracy know this? One would hope that there would be interaction with Craig Keener on miracles, but alas, there isn’t. It would be horrible to have both sides interacted with.

Tracy goes back to the New Testament saying Paul made a massive leap in referring to Jesus as the Passover lamb and this has been called the centerpiece of the Christian faith? The centerpiece? Seriously? By who? The centerpiece has been the resurrection of Jesus.

As for a massive leap, well let’s see. It’s generally agreed that Jesus was crucified and He was crucified around the time of Passover. Could it be that this was known historically? Could it be Paul saw the connection there and that it was part of the Jesus tradition that is passed on in 1 Cor. 11?

Tracy also tells us that in all thirteen books attributed to Paul, there is nothing about the teachings of Jesus, unless you ignore passages like 1 Cor. 7 and 11 or 1 Tim. 5. As for other teachings, there wasn’t any need to really. This would be part of the background knowledge in a high context society. Paul is writing incidental letters to answer questions people have about the teaching of Christianity at the time.

Tracy also says the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible and the idea didn’t even show up until the 4th century. Well then, congratulations to Tertullian for mastering time travel and speaking about the Trinity in the third century! What a marvel that was to have accomplished that!

Tracy talks about his own realization of this and how he found out that the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible. Wow. What a shock. One reference he gives is the Catholic Encyclopedia. He’s free to read the account from the Catholic Encyclopedia online all he wants to.

He could have also bothered to interact with the Early High Christology Club which includes scholars like Michael Bird, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, Chris Tilling, and others. Edmund Fortman is quoted with his book Our Triune God, but no page number is given and it is doubtful the authors of this book have ever truly read Fortman.

When someone asks about who decided this stuff, Tracy reminds her that this was the worldview of a people who believed the Earth was flat. First off, they didn’t believe that. Second, let’s suppose that they did. If the only way that they could have known this was through modern scientific knowledge, so what? That means they didn’t know anything about anything because they didn’t know something only a modern person could hypothetically know?

Tracy says there was no substantiation of the doctrine whatsoever. It’s amusing to hear him talk about DNA tests. One wonders what DNA tests one would do to verify the Trinity. Tune in tomorrow when Professor Tracy uses DNA tests to discover the mass of Pluto!

One of the students upon hearing all of this says “Poof, poof, there goes another doctrine out the window!” Yes! Let’s not dare go out and question the professor and research the other side. Mr. Bright here has enough information after one lecture to decide that an entire worldview is wrong and people embracing it have no reason whatsoever.

Fortunately, as one of the students says, the teachings of Jesus remain in place. Why yes. A Jesus who goes out and teaches love and compassion and giving to the poor is certainly prime to be crucified. Those people were such scandals that Rome was greatly threatened by them. If this was the Jesus that existed, He would never be crucified. We would never know anything about Him.

This also assumes that this was all of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus was a revolutionary teaching the Kingdom of God and most of it centered around His own identity. You won’t find talk about the Kingdom from Tracy.

You will find talk about the Second Coming. Here, Tracy appears to think that only modern dispensationalism truly embraces the second coming of Jesus. Apparently, it has not been taught in reputable seminaries for decades. This is a nice escape hatch for Tracy. What is a reputable seminary? One that agrees with him and lo and behold, all seminaries and universities that teach what he teaches are reputable! Those that disagree are not.

He also talks about the afterlife and says that Freud put it best in saying that the afterlife can be dismissed because it’s wish fulfillment. For some, it could be. Atheism could also be wish fulfillment because some people want to avoid the judgment of God. Wish fulfillment could be used to avoid anything. A husband should perhaps despair on Valentine’s Day or his anniversary because he had this idea that he would be getting lucky with his wife, but hey, that’s a wish so such thinking is absurd.

Tracy also says there is no evidence of an afterlife. There is no interaction with arguments from Near-Death experiences and nowhere in the book do you see a look at arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. It’s easy to say there’s no evidence. It’s quite another to demonstrate it.

Tracy also says that there is no purpose to life at all. We each determine our own purpose. Tracy would not want to follow this out. Suppose one of the students was angry about this and decided his purpose in life from then on was to murder professors who taught such claims. This is his purpose. Tracy cannot say it is right or wrong.

Tracy also says we can live a life that will benefit others or in self-indulgence. Well, why shouldn’t I choose the latter? Maybe I want to stay home and play video games all day and not educate myself at all. Why not? The universe neither knows nor cares. I should give to others? Why? It is for their good? So what?

Tracy also says historically religions have been used as a means of control and most of it centered around fear. This would be a way of ignoring the spread of early Christianity. No one would be scared of the message of judgment unless they had reason to believe the threat had meaning. If you come up to me with what is clearly a water pistol and threaten to shoot me if I don’t give you all of my money, don’t expect to get a cent. The threat has no meaning.

Tracy looks at the Gospel of Mark also saying scholars have no idea who wrote it. This is false. I personally did research on this at Emory University getting all the commentaries from the last fifty years on Mark. The majority position is the work can be traced back to Mark. The date generally is around 70 A.D., though I would place it earlier.

In talking about any Gospel, Tracy gives no reason for the dating and says nothing about early attestation both external and internal to the authorship of the text. There are many other works from the ancient world that are anonymous, such as the works of Plutarch, that we are sure who wrote them. Without a methodology, Tracy is just giving us statements of faith.

Tracy also says none of the Gospel is history. Really? Jesus wasn’t even crucified for instance? That’s normally a no-brainer in historical talk about Jesus. Scholars like Ehrman, Crossan, and Ludemann have zero problem with it. There is no interaction with archaeological findings supporting the New Testament at all.

Tracy says that all three Synoptic Gospels were written by people who didn’t know Jesus and never heard Him speak and were written 40-60 years later. If he doesn’t know the authors, how does he know they never met Jesus or heard Him speak? There is no bothering to interact with scholarship like that of Burridge showing they’re Greco-Roman biographies intending to be a historical life of Jesus.

Tracy also says the fasting growing community today is the nones. These are people with no religious affiliation. However, no religious affiliation does not mean no religion. As Bradley Wright shows in his book, the Nones are not necessarily atheists. Many of them attend church regularly, pray, and have a high view of Scripture. They just don’t identify with one particular Christian movement.

Tracy also says orthopraxy comes before orthodoxy. Many people will say in the church you can be a good person and not believe the right things and still go to Hell. That’s because the worst thing you can do is to tell God you don’t need Him. If God has provided a way and you ignore it, that is a dishonor To God. Where did Tracy get this theology anyway that being a good person is enough? How good? What would be the standard?

I am beginning the second part of this book now by the Reverend *cough cough* which focuses on application. I am not expecting it to be any more historically accurate than this part was. With the bad resources Professor Tracy uses, he would not be teaching at any academic institution. It is not because he is an atheist or anything like that. It is because of his poor research methods.

In Christ,
Nick Peters