Reading Disagreeing Material

Do you have guarded reading? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I encounter internet atheists, I usually ask them the same question. When was the last time you read an academic work on the topic that disagrees with you? The overwhelming majority of the time, I get nothing back. I find this fascinating since these people claim to be champions of reason and evidence, but are often only interested in seeing it from their perspective.

Yes. Sadly, too many Christians who argue do the same thing. Still, I do notice that it seems we do it less. I can’t claim to have data for this, but when I see Christians engage with atheists, many of them know the atheist arguments and can in many cases articulate them better.

I’m on pages for debate between Christians and Mormons. What do I notice? Christians seem a lot more familiar with Mormon arguments than the other way around. The same happens with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses I see nowadays don’t even get the Trinity described right, confusing it with modalism, let alone know how to argue against it.

For Muslims, I still remember a day several years ago when I was engaging with a Muslim online and in it I asked him “Have you ever read the New Testament?” He replied, “No. Have you ever read the Qur’an?” I am sure he expected a negative back, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t get it. I had indeed read it. Now, I have read it twice.

When Mormons come to visit me, I can assure them I have read all of their Scriptures and a number of other pro-Mormon writings. When a new Bart Ehrman book comes out, I’m one of the first to get it. I had this last one so quickly that when it came out, some of my professors on campus asked me what I thought of it.

When I read Christian writings arguing for their positions against their opponents, I find they constantly reference primary sources they disagree with. I have written long ago that sadly, atheist writers often don’t do this. Reading through them, I can tell. When you meet atheists espousing Jesus mythicism or saying “If God created everything, who created God?” and treating it like that refutes the cosmological argument, it’s clear that they don’t know the material.

As a Christian, if you do this, the advantage you have is that first off, you know the material that you are going up against. No one can know it exhaustively, but you know it enough to be familiar. A general rule of thumb is that before you argue against a position, you ought to be able to theoretically argue persuasively FOR that position. If you can’t make that case without making it a total joke, you probably don’t know the position at all.

This also increases your humility. Doing this is a way of saying “I could be wrong and I want to know.” If you are of the mindset that you don’t have to read the other side because you already know they’re bunk, odds are the only person being fooled is you.

Third, as a Christian, this can show you flaws in your own positions that you hold. Sometimes, you might change your mind. Other times, you can see a weakness and refine your position. Sometimes, you might find something you agree with in the writing. I can say I have learned from reading the material that I disagree with.

There can be something we can learn from so many other positions. I have said before that Richard Dawkins when writing about theism or philosophy or anything outside of his area has no clue and is just a train wreck. When he writes about science, what you would consider the most ordinary of all is made wondrous and alive and I could read him all day. The best work Dawkins does for science is not when he argues against Christianity. He does great damage to science then. The best work he does is when he just writes about science as science. He doesn’t tie his worldview into it. He just describes it. If he did this more often, he would encourage more people of all worldviews to go into science and study it.

Definitely if you’re an apologist, read what you disagree with. I’m always going through at least one book I disagree with on Kindle. I started a new one just recently, but before that, I had returned to some Islamic hadiths. The learning is always beneficial.

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

 

Book Plunge: Things Atheists Say That Simply Make No Sense

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

I was given this book by a friend when he told me he had an extra copy and I found it intriguing. I was pleased to see in the table of contents that indeed, there was something saying that one dumb thing that is said is that Jesus never existed. Seriously atheist community. If you meet one of your own who is saying this, it’s best to ask him to please be quiet on your behalf.

I would ultimately describe this book as a gateway book. Each chapter is short and thus good for the purpose of small group discussion. You don’t have to read any prior chapter to understand the latter ones. You can just go to whatever you’re dealing with to see what is said.

This is also largely dealing with the new atheists, which is just fine because it’s more likely the lay Christian will also be engaging with your common internet atheist types who will be using new atheist material. The book deals with objections relating to the universe, to God, to Jesus specifically, to morality, etc. There is a final section introducing atheists who became theists. Not all of them became Christians, but they became theists.

So the positives. First off, as I have said, the chapters are short and they do have several references so you can look beyond this book and get more information. Notes are extremely helpful to see and yes, they are footnotes. Prill lets you know where he gets his information from.

I think my favorite chapter was the one on religion leading to war. There is information here that I found quite helpful for this common question. As I said, this is entry-level, but on this question this is an excellent entry.

For some criticisms, I do think that when Josephus is talked about, there is not enough said about the different versions we have of what Josephus said. Your average internet atheist will know about this and it could very well catch a  Christian unaware. This is also important since sadly, this is one of the most common objections I come across. (Again atheists, please clean up your own house. I know there are a lot of you that recognize this claim as nonsense thankfully.)

My biggest criticism though is in a chapter on asking if God is required for objective moral values to exist. If I had a hand in any sort of rewriting of a second edition of the book, this is the chapter I would change the most. As a Thomistic thinker, I was really stunned when I got to one part of this.

Prill asks if the question of if morality could exist if God didn’t and the answer is, perhaps.

Whoa.

This isn’t just about morality anymore. This is dealing with everything else. If it is possible for something to exist if God does not, then this means that ultimately, God is not the grounding of everything that exists. Scripture says about Jesus regularly in the New Testament in places like John 1, 1 Cor 8, Col, 1, and Hebrews 1, that Jesus is the means by which God created everything else and without Him, nothing else would exist. The logical conclusion, one I am sure Prill would deny but unfortunately a statement like this leads to, is that God is not foundational for existence. It would mean that it is not God’s nature to be, but that being is something He possesses.

Definitely fix that in any future entries. After all, if God doesn’t exist, then really nothing else exists at all. There is no ground of being.

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

David Silverman’s Regret

What happens when you defeat your opponent only to unleash something worse? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember the new atheists? For a while, they were all the rage with people talking about them regularly. They made atheism more public than it had been before. While they had declared a war on religion, it was mainly Christianity. After all, Sam Harris began writing The End of Faith when 9/11 took place, and yet most of that was not geared towards Islam but Christianity.

And what is Sam Harris doing today? He’s well-known now for his remark about the 2020 election that he didn’t care if Hunter Biden had the bodies of dead children in his basement. All that mattered was getting Trump. Whatever you think of Trump, Harris’s statement is extremely problematic. He was willing to go with a known lie and sacrifice truth and lie to the public because, well, he knows what is better for them.

Silverman looks at what he saw and is aghast at it. I was recently pointed to an article he wrote on substack.

I cannot quote it entirely seeing as it is behind a paywall. (Remember, I have a Patreon below) However, I do have a friend who quoted a large part of it in sharing it. Basically, it’s about how the new atheism was supposed to destroy religion and thus create a utopia of freethought and rationalism where the days of insane religious ideas was behind us.

It didn’t work out that way.

First off, I am in no way saying the new atheists were really a formidable force. They weren’t. I have several blogs here on that front. However, they were certainly a force rhetorically. They had cute little slogans that seemed sensible, but most people weren’t interested in the unpacking necessarily to show their numerous errors.

Second, I am also sure if he were alive today that Christopher Hitchens would be one against this movement as well. That cannot be known for sure, but I do remember him as being one very interested in American history. When he visited SES for a debate, I was told he was impressed by the seminary and even offered to teach a course on Thomas Jefferson.

Third, and this is really important, I do want to commend Silverman on this. It takes a lot of guts to write a public article and say “I was wrong.” Silverman did that. We should not be attacking him for this. We should be commending him.

Now let’s look at the part that I have to quote.

I failed to consider that the members of my movement could reject skepticism yet label this rejection as skepticism to excuse their actions—and get away with it! I never envisioned that every significant player in the movement (save the fledgling Atheists for Liberty, on which I currently serve as Advisory Board Chair) would abandon our core principles and embrace the political hard Left, forsaking every belief and individual that was even slightly to the Right. I did not anticipate that the movement would leave the movement, become swallowed in Critical Social Justice, and lose its relevance and effectiveness in the process. I did not see it coming.
Man by nature is a religious creature. If you remove something for him to worship, he will find something else. That something could be himself, his own happiness. God is often a restraint in many ways on what a man can do. If a man knows there is a judge that He will stand before someday who has all the omni qualities, that can affect his living. If he knows what he does impacts for eternity, that should definitely affect his living.
While there is often something consistent between Christians and the right, the atheist movement saw it necessarily so. So why jump on the bandwagon to defend the LGBT group? Well, they oppose the Christians so let’s go for it! Anything that opposes Christianity is a friend since Christianity is seen as a great evil that has to be eradicated.
If man becomes the god, ultimately, that will pass to the state and who will become the new rulers? It will be those who consider themselves the elites. (Perhaps the term “brights” comes to mind?) It is a parallel with how the new atheists saw Christianity. After all, their opponents were the ones who were people of faith (Which they did not understand) and the new atheists were the people of reason. Obviously, reason is superior to faith. Right? Obviously then, what should be rejected are the standards the Christians lived with.
Thus, get rid of all of this outdated morality, especially when it comes to sex. Get rid of anything that is said to be “Faith-based” (A term I don’t like anyway.) If the Christians tend to want the people on the right to be our governing leaders, then we will reject that. Whatever we can use to paint Christians as the enemy, it will be done. If your identity is not to be found in Christ, then it will be found in your tribe instead.
So, what has happened since we “killed God”? Not atheist Utopia. We won the booby prize—the religion of wokeism has completely taken over the Left side of politics, splitting both families and the nation itself. Riding on a wave of vapid emotion and a juvenile refusal to apply skepticism, the Woke Left—mostly atheists—have embraced this belief system as though it were the greatest new religion ever. Maybe it is.
Any attempt by man to bring about Utopia on Earth has always failed. Always. My ex-wife was once going through a book about how what was being sought was progress and not perfection. Progress though requires a true goal. If progress is just wherever you are going, then everything is progress. However, if you are going the wrong direction, progress is turning around and going the other way.
Silverman is also right in that this has split families and our nation. The best way to split the nation is really to split the family. The family is the foundation. Remember that meme that was shared years ago before the Supreme Court redefined marriage about what would happen if “same-sex marriage” was allowed?
That bottom one? Yep. Happening now. It didn’t start falling apart when marriage was redefined, but that was a killing blow in many ways. I blame a lot of this going all the way back to the sexual revolution. We unleashed a power that we did not know what it was capable of.
And ironically as a Christian, I think what the chart says would happen didn’t, since two people of the same sex can’t marry each other no matter what the court says.
Could it be the sexual standards of Christianity had a point? Could it be there was a reason abortion was a great evil and reproduction was a great good? Could it be that there was a reason that marriage should be for life for the majority of people and that marriage isn’t about your personal happiness? Could it be there’s a danger that happens when sex is removed from the confines of marriage? Could it be there was a reason marriage was established as between one man and one woman?
The new atheists also saw Christians making their decisions based on emotion alone, something I have spoken against as well here, but made a mistake of thinking themselves immune to that. After all, they were the men of reason. They would not fall to such a thing. Unfortunately, they have. One of the surest signs you will fall for something is that you think you cannot fall for it.
I have said before that I am the man who has avoided pornography throughout my life. So in my dating life, I throw caution to the wind. Right? Wrong. Nowadays, I don’t go up elevators alone with women or ride in cars with them and if on a date, I would never go back to her place or have her come to mine. The moment I think I am above the temptation, I have started my fall.
However, lacking a deity, it allowed wokeism to reside within—and be propagated by—the state. This is why the Left has adopted it. We may have subdued the lion of Christianity, but we failed to eradicate religion; we merely revealed that the lion might have been safeguarding us from the Woke Kraken. This creature is now unshackled, entrenched in our government and education system, and is literally coming for your children.
Pay attention to that first part. Remove the deity, and the deity becomes something within. What is the means of the new evangelism? It is the State. When the Christians disagreed with you, they disagreed. They didn’t try to force their way. When the left disagrees, here comes the power of the State!
Silverman did not eradicate religion as was his goal. He instead just moved it somewhere else. He defeated in his mind what was the greater evil without realizing that that “evil” was keeping something else at bay. Chesterton said years ago that before you remove a fence, you should see why it was put up in the first place.
Christianity did serve to contain man’s great evil and propel him to something greater than himself, and not the state. It still does for many of us. It teaches us that there is a real king named Jesus and we owe our allegiance to Him. It teaches us that there is a real right and there is a real wrong and there is a purpose to our lives here and we are to seek more than just the temporary good.
This idea—that atheists should stop resisting and instead actively promote Christianity, perhaps even joining churches, in an attempt to fortify it so that it may defeat wokeism—is gaining traction. Evan Riggs wrote in the European Conservative: “This is a call for sheer pragmatism… Of the two inescapable religious choices before us, Christianity is undoubtedly the better option.” My friend Peter Boghossian echoed a similar sentiment, tweeting, “Better to believe that a man walked on water than all men can give birth.”
I have been pleased with what I have seen from Boghossian and Lindsay lately on this front, two writers I have critiqued on their work on atheism before. However, a word of caution to the atheist movement. You might just wind up seeing that there is a lot more reason and truth to Christianity than you thought. Be prepared. The king will not be used. Christianity is not a means to an end. We go with Christianity not because it produces the best end result, which it does, but because it is true.
Maybe you should consider that question as well.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 3

What are the battle lines? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 2, (And we won’t always be going one chapter a day) Humphrys starts what he calls the battle lines. He has said that only recently in history have we been allowed to question the existence of God. I cannot help but wonder what history he is reading. These are usually people who don’t understand either the Crusades or the Inquisition, or both. The treatment of Galileo and Bruno (To be fair, we don’t talk about Bruno), also misunderstood, didn’t even happen during the so-called “Dark Ages.”

Yet then he goes and points to the Enlightenment as the dawn of rational debate. Seriously? What was going on between Augustine and Faustus? In the medieval schools of thought, debate was taking place regularly. The rule was even you couldn’t comment on your opponent’s view until you could say it in your own words to his satisfaction. (Would that we had that today!)

Naturally, he also has the line about debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. While in a sense, this is a real question to discuss, it was never one discussed in that period. It was one made up later on to mock the kind of discussions that took place in that period. Mission accomplished, I suppose.

He then writes about figures like William Lane Craig, Richard Dawkins, and Alister McGrath. He notes Alister McGrath as saying he converted to Christianity because it worked. He says that it actually brought purpose and dignity to life. I can accept this provided that by works we don’t mean something like Christianity meets emotional needs since as Lewis once said, if he just wanted to be happy, a bottle of port could do that. If he means it makes sense of the world we live in, that is fine.

Humphrys goes on to say that there is a lot of dogmatism on both sides of the debate, but to call Dawkins non-thinking is a bit below the belt. Of course, it was entirely acceptable to say in the first part that anyone with the mind of an inquisitive child can see through the arguments for the existing of God. No harm in implying that your opponents don’t think that well, but if you say something about the new atheists, well that’s just mean.

Do I think Dawkins is non-thinking? No, but he has a gigantic flaw many atheists have in their approach. When Dawkins writes about science as science it is beautiful. I imagine I could read him for hours as he describes the wonders of especially the animal world. Dawkins is a magnificent writer there.

However, he then takes the mindset that because he understands this, then he is also qualified to speak on theology and philosophy and history. The new atheists seem to assume that anything religious is nonsense and stupid and so they don’t need to study it. Many internet atheists do this today, and when they do, they make embarrassing blunders and cannot see it no matter how many times it gets pointed out to them.

So yes, when it comes to writing on religion, I do consider Dawkins to not really be thinking. There’s no real attempt to engage with the substance matter. If you want to see this, consider what I wrote on the shoddy research of the new atheism.

Humphrys says the approach of someone like Dawkins won’t work on many because they weren’t reasoned into their faith. They were born into it or indoctrinated or had a Damascus Road experience or something like that. It never seems to occur to him that that can happen on atheism as well.

There can be many non-intellectual reasons for being an atheist. They could have had an experience with evil and don’t understand why a good God would allow it, or they could not like the political stance of Christians, or they could even just want to have a free sex life without the idea they are doing something wrong. It is foolish to say that most Christians come to their position emotionally, but atheists don’t have that problem. News flash. Humanity has that problem.

However, when it comes to choosing a belief system, one should take the best proponents of it. Consider their arguments. Just as I as a Christian have to put up with bad arguments and reasons from fellow Christians that can make me cringe, atheists have to do the same. As Michael Ruse has said:

Their [the new atheists] treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.

This is an accurate description. My copy of The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath and his wife had a quote by Ruse on the front along the lines of “Dawkins makes me embarrassed to be an atheist and the McGraths show why.”

The problem with Humphrys when he fails to do this is the hidden implication that if you are a Christian, it is most likely for emotional reasons, but if you are an atheist, well that is most likely for intellectual reasons. He himself does this without dealing with the arguments for theism. As we go along, we will see that that happens consistently. I have not finished it thus far, but so far, I have not seen him dealing with the arguments, just with the arguers.

But we will see more next time.

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

Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 1

What is the challenge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I started this book, Humphrys seemed to write with some kindness. I thought this might be different. It’s confessions of a failed atheist so maybe he would bring forth the best of both sides. As I have gone through this book, and I am still going through it, that is not the case.

The first part before chapter 1 is called the challenge, and it is not one. Right off the bat, we see where Humphrys is coming from.

I’ll tell you what’s easy. Atheism for a start. Anyone with the enquiring mind of a bright child can see that the case made for God by the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – is riddled with holes. Christopher Hitchens rumbled God when he was nine – or so he tells us in his book on atheism, God Is Not Great. His teacher, Mrs Watts, had demonstrated to the class how powerful and generous God was by pointing out that he had made the trees and the grass green – exactly the colour that is most restful to our eyes – instead of something ghastly like purple.

So look people, if you don’t see that the case for monotheism is false, then you don’t even have the enquiring mind of a bright child. Unfortunately, Humphrys here doesn’t tell us what these holes are. Later on, he will produce what he thinks is a great stumper for us. Spoiler alert: It isn’t.

But as for the above, Hitchens goes on to say according to Humphrys that he knew that our eyes had become attuned to nature and not the other way around. If this did turn Hitchens into a fierce opponent of religion, then it more demonstrates childishness on the part of Hitchens. As for me, my answer is perhaps a bit of both. Does it really matter?

Humphrys does say that when it comes to the question of why is there something rather than nothing, this is hard question for atheists. Believers have an easy time. God made it all. Of course, this will get to our stumper later, though some of you can probably see where this is going.

I do not argue for intelligent design, but he says that belief in intelligent design is based on faith, hope, and a large dollop of wishful thinking. Evolution is based on reason and science. Whatever one might think about ID, they do at least present what they consider scientific data, and on some level, it is quite respectable, such as the idea of a Goldilocks zone or the anthropic principle. One could even say God intelligent designed through evolution.

In the very next paragraph, Humphrys tells us about how each cell in our body has a nucleus with two sets of the human genome and each genome contains enough information to fill 5,000 books. That’s something that is meant by ID. Does that mean it’s faith and hope with wishful thinking thrown in?

He also says for a believer, that whatever is happening right now is because God willed it and it is good. This might be for an extreme hyper-Calvinist, but I know several theists and I don’t know anyone who would hold to this. Humphrys doesn’t show us any examples either. We can say that all that God wills is good, but that not all that happens is because God directly wills it.

He talks about arguing with a well-known evangelical and asking if he would abandon belief in God if all his arguments were disproven. He said no. He would always believe in God and if it could be proved, it would not be faith. Assuming this account is accurate, I can also say that that is not at all what is meant by faith.

He then talks about the ferocity of the campaign of the enemies of faith, and with this he has in mind the New Atheists. Are they fierce? Yes, but at the same time I recall a neighbor once who had a little teacup poodle that I could hold in my hand easily and that one would turn fierce many times, and be licking my face the next. We all know of little dogs who think they are big dogs. Fierce? Yes, but that does not mean formidable, and the New Atheists are certainly not formidable.

Daniel Dennett, Lewis Wolpert, A. C. Grayling, Sam Smith, Christopher Hitchens, Michel Onfray. They are the masters of many disciplines – you could paper the walls of an aircraft hangar with their degrees and qualifications – admired and envied throughout academia and journalism for their knowledge and intellect. They argue their case, as you would expect, with skill, wit and passion. But ultimately they fail – at least for me.

Wit and passion can be granted, definitely passion. Skill? Not so much.

He goes on to say that it’s hard to not be impressed by the arguments of the atheists. Logic and science are on their side. Well, there you go! If you disagree with them, you are obviously not on the side of logic and science. Never mind that there are plenty of people on the other side who know logic and science as well.  Humphrys has accepted his conclusion already.

He goes on to say the good thing about science is that it can be proved. This is simply a false statement. Science cannot be proven. It is inductive. Does this mean we doubt it? No. It cannot be proven any more than it can be proven that George Washington was the first president of the United States. You cannot prove that, but there is not enough evidence anywhere near needed to overturn that.

What is science in one generation can be disproven by the next and should always be open to that. Many of the harder truths we know are not from science. I can easily anticipate that many of our beliefs about diet and health and other such matters could be shown to be false. I cannot anticipate that we will ever find evidence that it is okay to rape someone.

He then says the atheist demands proof while the theist turns to mystery. That might work for your average Christian in the pew, but the Christians I interact with in this field would never say that. Humphrys puts his opponents in the worst light and his allies in the best light.

He also says what the New Atheists have done is like a blitzkrieg and compares it to a boxing match where he wants to say at one point “Enough! Your opponent is down! You can stop hitting him!” You can search this blog for where I have reviewed New Atheist literature. It is not a blitzkrieg. It is barely even a spark.

He then describes how belief in God was going down and then the twentieth century was a real test of faith in a God of peace. Why? Yes, he is right that we killed and maimed each other more than ever before, but seems to ignore that perhaps this is because we did abandon that God of peace and He has no obligation to save us from ourselves. This was not a test for theism. This was a test for atheism, and atheism failed.

One final thing he says is that he doesn’t think people are stupid if they believe in God. No. He just says you don’t have the intellect of an enquiring bright child and you aren’t on the side of logic and science. But hey, you’re not stupid. He has already cut off that branch. Excuse me if I question the fruit he says comes from it.

We will continue next time.

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

 

 

 

Why Does Simplicity Matter?

What difference does it make to say that God is simple? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the last post, I explained simplicity and what it meant. I also pointed out this has been a historic position so even if someone disagrees, it should not be disagreed with lightly. There are objections and I will likely get to those next week, but for now, let’s ask what difference does it make. Is this just something that a theologian can stick in their hat for a trivia game or does it have a point?

It’s the latter. Everything about God has a point.

When we look at the early church, they lived in a world where monotheism was not the norm. You had gods in polytheistic gods and normally, these weren’t really gods, but just really powerful beings. Zeus was seen as the king of the gods in Greek and Roman thought, but even he had a beginning and he ran in terror from his wife many times. We could consider them to be like superheroes you would read about in comics today.

None of these are an ultimate explanation. Each of them needs a cause. When we get to Scripture, it’s radically different. Right at the start we read “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” John says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

Did you catch that?

None of these have an origin story for how God came to be. God is just there from the beginning. The Bible in itself is not meant to be an argument for the existence of God. It’s to tell us something different. It has God right from the beginning and it makes no sense to say how He came to be. He never did. Why does the Bible never explain this explicitly? Because it’s not meant to be a philosophy book either.

We can say God says His name is “I AM” which indicates that He has eternal existing, but that is just simply stated. Moses never gets a philosophical treatise on the matter. He’s not supposed to. These are the matters left for us to work out and explore some, which we should. If two lovers love each other, they want to know everything they can about the other. If I love a game or a TV show, I look into it and try to find out more about it. I am reading through the complete Peanuts collection right now and when I see a new character in the strip, in a quest for information, I look up information about that character online.

If you love God, you will want to know more about Him. The Bible is not meant to answer these questions. He’s left them for us to explore.

So what does this matter? It gets us into the very nature of God. If we understand the nature of God better and realize that God is not just a really powerful creature, that definitely helps in dealing with the whole foolish “I just go one god further” objection from atheists. The other gods normally rejected are just superhero gods. None of them are the grounds of reality for the most part. Of course, even if one goes with a God who is fully simple, religions like Islam and Judaism are still in the running. Mormonism, on the contrary, is ruled out.

Also, God is not a combination of things. God is not a being who has goodness and power and love. God is these things. This shouldn’t surprise us as we get a clue in 1 John that says “God is love.” God does not merely have loving qualities as we do. God is love. Note that that cannot be reversed to say “Love is God.” Love does not have the attributes of God. God has the nature of love.

This also means God is totally different from the rest of His creation, which is meant to be. Isaiah was right in the section starting at chapter 40 with the whole challenge to the false gods. When you realize something like this, many new atheist objections, including the classic “Who made God?” fall to the wayside. Note also that many of these objections were being answered before they were even being asked. Skeptics today hardly ask any questions Christians didn’t ask themselves for centuries.

God is not a conglomerate. He is one being. He is not made up of parts. You can’t put attributes together in a metaphysical blender and get God. He is truly unique.

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

Book Plunge: The Rage Against The Light

What do I think of Peter Harris’s book published by Resource Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christopher Hitchens in his own way was probably the most eloquent of the new atheists. While he was certainly an anti-theist, he had no interest in eliminating religion from the world and seemed to enjoy the debate. While he was opposed to religion, he was also respectful to religions and would follow appropriate protocol if he found himself in a house of worship.

Yet he still needs to be answered.

Harris’s book is an attempt to answer the charges of Christopher Hitchens. It is not making a positive case for Christianity per se, though at times it wonders into that, but it seeks to refute a negative case against Christianity and that mainly being from Hitchens. The work enters areas of history and philosophy mainly.

With history, there is an emphasis on political history. Hitchens was a very strong proponent of democracy and an opponent of totalitarianism. I have a suspicion that he would really oppose ill treatment of Christians by political powers and seek to avoid that if he could. In some ways, we might consider him one of the more reasonable new atheists.

Harris’s book is an interesting look at the man as Harris engages with his writings and writings about him, including his own accounts about himself. He doesn’t go too much into his personal history, but perhaps Hitchens himself didn’t do that. He looks at the problem of evil and the historicity of the Bible.

Harris also gets pastoral at times pointing out the experiential difference that Christianity makes in life and the longing for justice and meaning we have. In these areas also, he sometimes engages with other atheists, normally ones that he knew that Hitchens was familiar with.

I do appreciate the look at political history, particularly at Trotsky who Hitchens seemed to have a great love for that Harris is frankly puzzled by. I would have liked to have seen even more here. Hitchens’s book God is Not Great is really looking at so much of history. Perhaps some writer has gone through point by point. If they have, good, and I would like to read it sometime.

I disagree with some areas of philosophy, such as the disparaging Harris has of classical theism. I do not see God as suffering alongside of us. Still, that is not a problem for me as I have my own answers to the problem of evil. I do appreciate how Harris keeps coming back to the resurrection and what a difference the resurrection of Jesus makes.

This book is highly respectful of Hitchens, but since it was written after Hitchens passed we can never know this side of eternity what he thought about it. We can hope for some deathbed conversion on the part of Hitchens, and I know some writers have pushed for that, but we cannot know for now. Still, even though we can’t reach Hitchens, we can reach thoe he has influenced and are capable of being influenced by him.

If you care about the writings of Hitchens, you owe it to yourself to get this one. It is quite thorough and very easy to interact with.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if I was doing the same?

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Science Delusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How To Be An Atheist

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

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

Or will we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

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