Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Chapter 11

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

There were times doing this chapter where I was thinking “They’re almost there. They’re about to get it right.” Then the authors would, as if thinking they might get too close to something actually accurate, would pull back and go for the standard ideology in atheism.

So let’s see what all they have to say.

So, when we read books like Unbelievable? or any book making a persuasive case for a world view, we should necessarily ask to what degree the author or authors is asking us to take on faith the views offered, and we should also ask what kind of faith is being promoted. Are we being asked to accept the claims based on equal evidence, or are we being asked to cover some lack of knowledge by simply having faith?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I don’t really have a problem with this. I also think it applies to this book as well. As you have hopefully seen by now, this book does not make a persuasive case. The best chapters are by Skydive Phil and Ed Atkinson as they seem to actually research what they disagree with to some extent. The others do not.

For Christians, they go on to say:

Here, the idea is that there is some amount of empirical confidence that a Christian can have and the remainder is covered by faith.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I will try to put this in a better light. There are some things that can be known with certainty. These are things that can be known deductively from logical syllogisms that have a sound form and true premises. This definitely includes mathematics. There are some that are believed, but not known with certainty. Some are ridiculous to deny, such as Jesus dying by crucifixion or Abraham Lincoln being assassinated. Still, insofar as you have to believe something you can’t know with certainty, there is faith involved. Faith often entails an element of risk as well. You cannot know the plane will get you there safely, but you have faith it will and normally, that is well-founded.

What they will sometimes dispute is the definition of faith. We are not suggesting that there is an absolute definition of faith on which everyone must agree. But we must come to some consensus on what the bible means by faith when its writers use the word. We might also consider the fact that different writers might have used the word differently in different places.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The latter part is definitely true. We need to know what the Biblical writers mean when they used the word faith. Like I said, I started having hope sometimes that the writers might get it right.

A better way to understand the kind of faith to which James is referring is actionable trust. It is not merely agreeing with a claim. It requires taking some type of action as a result of that agreement. I can’t just say that I believe that the poor should be provided the needs they cannot provide for themselves. But the kind of faith James writes about requires that I not only believe that, but become an active participant in taking care of those needs.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Okay. This is promising. Keep going. Keep realizing faith is not just a belief statement, but also entails acting properly on the knowledge one possesses.

In the same category, inviting someone to our church is not an act of faith. That is no more an act of faith than is inviting someone to your school play. One is hard-pressed to come up with anything the average Christian does on a semi-regular basis that would constitute a genuine demonstration of actionable faith. In a place like the US, taking a strong faith-based position on an important issue is still not an act of faith. The majority of the US population claims to be either Christian or god-believing. Here, you are viewed with suspicion if you don’t have some type of openly faith-based orientation. So stepping out on a stage and saying controversial things in the name of your religious faith is not a risk. In fact, it is the best way to get your crazy idea a serious hearing. It is a good tactic even for people without faith.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I get what they’re saying, but I think going out on a stage and saying Christian beliefs is a risk today. If a famous person says they’re a Christian, they’d better be prepared. Go out in public and say you disagree with the LGBTQ squad and see what happens.

I think if we really want to understand faith as it refers to religious commitment, we have to go to the bible and see what it means there. I will start with the closest thing we can get to a definition of religious faith in the bible: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1 I like the King James Version for this passage because it uses two words that play well with secularists: substance and evidence. We understand substance. That is the stuff of the universe. We understand evidence because that is the proof of a theory. You see, Christianity is substantial. And it has plenty of evidence. But a closer look explodes that notion. The real words to watch in the verse are things hoped for, and things not seen. Your hopes are only as substantive as your faith. And unseen things are backed only by the evidence of faith. It is the confidence that your hopes will be met, and the assurance that invisible things are real.  The Christian hope is entirely in the insubstantial, invisible realm that offers no proof outside of faith. The chapter goes on to call out one example after another of people who showed confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And here it starts to go downhill. The writers don’t bother to look up any lexicons or anything to try to understand the word. I happen to regularly use my article on what faith is due to the common misunderstanding.

When it comes down to it, I believe this is the only definition of faith that matters. It is confidence in the absence of tangible proof.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

If this was the case though, then the writers need to admit everyone is a person of faith. A huge amount of what we believe comes by authority. However, a lack of proof does not mean we don’t have a lot of evidence. Court cases are not settled by which side proves their case but which side best explains the data.

Then the writers go to John 20 and doubting Thomas and say this:

Thomas believed because he saw. But the greater blessing is reserved for those who believe without seeing. Jesus was not fond of evidence. He preferred faith from his followers: the kind that did not involve seeing convincing evidence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

If Jesus was not fond of evidence, why did He do miracles? Why in Acts did He do many proofs? Why did He show Himself to His disciples at all? The writers have created a straw man here. Thomas’s fault was not asking for evidence. It was rejecting the evidence he already had.

They then think they have found a verse from Paul that tells what faith is:

It is blind faith.  Paul says it as a matter of fact: We live by what we believe, not by what we can see. 2 Cor. 5:7

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Paul is not here talking about how we make a case and evaluate evidence. He is saying that when we see ourselves suffering the aches and pains of mortal life and fear death coming, we have trust in Jesus that He will provide for us in death and take us to be with Him. Our eyes may tell us that our end has come, but Jesus tells us it has not.

Note that Paul is also the one who appeals to the Galatians to what they saw with their own eyes. Hardly someone who thinks that across the board you deny what you see. But hey, since when does biblical context matter to these guys?

Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University, defines faith as pretending to know things you don’t know. Christians do not react positively to Boghossian when he defines faith in these terms. It is easy to see why. It combines the worst implications of blind faith with an intent to deceive. At the very least, it implies self-deception. It is both definition and accusation.  Boghossian cuts to the heart of why Christians do not like to be painted with the brush of blind faith. It would actually require Christians to admit to all the things they don’t know, but espouse with the confidence of those who do. To take it a step further, is it not an act of dishonesty to promote a thing as true with more confidence than the evidence permits.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Imagine if I said this. “Christian author XYZ made a convincing case that atheism is just an excuse to engage in sexual immorality. Atheists don’t like to hear this and be painted with this brush. It would require them to admit they don’t have rational reasons for what they believe. To take it a step further, atheists care for indulging their pleasures more than they do for truth.”

Now it could be that some Christian has made that argument out there somewhere. If they do, I disagree. Are there some atheists that mainly hold to atheism to allow them to do what they want? I am sure there are. Are there a lot of Christians that really do have a blind faith? Yep.

Yet the reason I object to Boghossian is a simple one. His claim wasn’t true. Writers like the ones we have here never seem to consider that notion and say Christians react as if it means that it is true. By this standard, if I say the above and an atheist reacts, then I can say “See? That proves it’s right.”

As we get closer to the end, in a statement of irony, the authors say:

We become hardened to our conclusion and lose the ability to give contrary arguments a fair hearing. We become so invested in the belief that it ceases to be a mere true/false proposition. It becomes something more – a part of our identity without which we would no longer know who we are or how to live our lives.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, this matches atheists I meet more than Christians. I have Christian friends who love to read atheist books. When I interact with atheists, the overwhelming majority would rather commit ritual suicide than read a book they disagree with.

There is a war between faith and the forces of reason, evidence, and science. Many Christians want to deny it. They want to be seen as reasonable people with a faith based on evidence and backed by science. But faith is antagonistic with, and even antonymous to those concepts.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And this will be the last point I cover in this chapter, but no. The first Christians were scientists and saw no problem. There is none today. It is doubtful that either of these authors have ever read Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies or Tim O’Neill’s articles or even books such as Newton’s AppleGalileo Goes to Jail, and other such books.

Okay. Looks like there’s one more chapter and then the conclusion. What do we have coming?

Chapter Twelve Choosing to Live in Reality David Johnson

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

…….

Saying this will be awful is not a faith proposition definitely. It’s a knowledge proposition.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 3

What about the cause of the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I will say in his defense that chapters by Skydive Phil tend to be well-researched and better than most other chapters. That’s not saying a lot, but that is something. Unlike many other authors, he does have a copious list of notes for what he says. Seeing as this chapter is largely scientific, as you all should know by now, I will not comment on science as science. However, when we get to philosophical points, I will say something.

So let’s get to one:

When we think of causes though, we always do so in the context of time. We could say all events that have causes have prior moments in time. If the universe had a beginning then there was no prior moment of time and hence we have no right to demand there must be some prior cause. Causality may also be a consequence of the laws of physics and the arrow of time. If we had some state with no space or time, no laws of physics and no arrow of time, are we really in a position to demand there must still be a cause?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Ah, but this is assuming chronological causation. Now I fully grant that there is time in that A causes B. My hands are typing on this keyboard which is causing letters to pop up and my hands typing were caused by my willing them to type. That is all well and good. Could it be possible for something to be eternal and still have a cause?

Yes.

Imagine a mirror that has been standing for all eternity. In front of this mirror stands a man who is also somehow eternal. This man is eternally looking in the mirror unmoving. The man sees his reflection eternally in the mirror.

Is his reflection caused?

Yes, and yet it is eternal.

Hard to fathom and get your head around? Sure, but it doesn’t change reality.

The point is all of this is in the context of the Kalam and Phil deals with the modern version that is about the origin of the universe. The historical version of it is not.

In Q. 46 and article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica, it is asked if the beginning of the universe is an article of faith. This doesn’t mean blind belief. It means if this is something that is taken on authority revealed from God. Now were people like Phil correct, Aquinas would say “Of course not! Our argument shows the universe has a beginning!”

He does not.

On the contrary, The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things “that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, “I believe in one God,” etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”: in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.

Ah! But doesn’t he in his first way assume a beginning?

No. He does not. After all, the ways are built on truths that can be known from reason alone. Therefore, Aquinas’s arguments do not depend on the universe having a beginning. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t nor does it mean that were he here today he would hold the same opinion on if the universe had a beginning. We don’t know what he would say today, but we know what he said then.

Phil goes on to say:

What then caused God? Theists must agree that there is something that doesn’t need a cause. And whilst acausal interpretations of quantum mechanics are still on the table it seems they have the advantage over God because at least we know that quantum mechanics actually exist. The theistic response is that only things that begin to exist need causes. As God didn’t begin to exist then he doesn’t need a cause. An obvious question to ask is how do theists know this? It seems to me like a pure assertion. But what if the universe didn’t begin to exist? Then it wouldn’t need a cause and we will not require God.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

From a Thomistic perspective, we know this because God’s nature is to be. His nature is existence itself. What does it mean to be? Look at God. What does it mean to be limited in being? Look at everything else. Saying “What made God?” is like asking “What created existence?” It is by no means an assertion. The great classical theists gave arguments for it. You might think they were wrong, but it was by no means an assertion.

And as for the final part, I have argued that that is just wrong. Saying the universe is eternal does not mean it doesn’t have a cause. Unless the universe contains within itself the principle of its own existing, in other words, it exists somehow by its own power it needs a cause.

From a Thomistic perspective, since the universe is changing, it is limited in its being, and thus needs a cause. My formulation of Kalam in the style of a syllogism goes like this.

That which has passive potential which is actualized depends on something else for its being.
The universe has passive potential which is actualized.
The universe depends on something else for its being.

Passive potential is capacity for change and being actualized means the bringing about of that change. This doesn’t apply to God since He has no passive potential.

When the steady state theory was popular, theologians appealed to passages that describe God’s continual sustaining of creation to make the bible compatible with that too. So it seems that it is not so hard to find passages in the bible whose meaning can be molded to support whatever narrative suits.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This can be done, unfortunately, but that is not the fault of the Bible, but of modern man. It’s why I reject Concordism. The Bible is not meant to be read as a modern scientific text and Christians and atheists both make this mistake.

As for design arguments:

What about design? Well the problem here is that Justin isn’t just asking us to believe in a designer, but an immaterial one. Whenever we see design by agents we see they are physical, they need external energy to do their design work. We also see that complex creatures capable of design arise after long periods of evolution. We also see that the more complicated a designed object is, the more the number of designers are needed. Think of the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most complex objects on Earth. It wasn’t designed by one person. So if cosmic design is like Earthly design, shouldn’t we presume there are many designers? Design by a single immaterial being that didn’t undergo evolution and doesn’t need any external energy source, doesn’t seem to fit what we know about design at all. Theists merely appeal to the similarities that suit and ignore the ones that don’t.  As an atheist then it seems this type of design is the least plausible of Justin three explanations.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem here is that this is a sort of part to whole fallacy. All designers we see are material designers, therefore all designers are material. That doesn’t follow. It depends on the nature of the designer and again, classical theism argues for a God who is simple since He is not material and has no parts to Him. Were it otherwise, He would need a designer. Whether design arguments work overall, I leave to my friends who are more scientifically inclined.

In a later statement on miracles, Phil says:

If God frequently performs miracles, can we really say  there is so much regularity in the world? We are being asked to believe that God sets up immutable mathematical relationships in the world only to suspend them every time he does a miracle.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

As said in earlier posts on this, not only can we, we have to. If there is no regular order, there is no way to recognize a miracle. Miracles only make sense if there is a regular order where all things being equal, A consistently causes B in C.

There is a whole lot in this chapter I have not replied to because I realize I am not trained in the area to do so. I leave that to the more scientific among you. Next time we look at this book, we’ll discuss morality.

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

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 14

Is ID a cult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s time to wrap up this book. The last and longest chapter is on ID. I am not a fan of ID. I don’t use ID. My arguments are metaphysical, but that doesn’t mean that Mills gets a free pass. A lot of it is still the same kind of stuff.

For 2000 years, Christians of all persuasions—both Catholic and Protestant—believed in the Genesis account of Creation. Even Jews and many non-Christians affirmed the teachings of Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Historically, this verse was universally accepted to mean that God literally created the heavens (i.e., the planets, moons, stars and galaxies) and the Earth at the beginning of time. The truth and meaning of this doctrine were unambiguous and undisputed for twenty centuries.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 214). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

As has been pointed out before, Mills gives no sources on this. I have pointed out Kyle Greenwood’s book Since The Beginning. Mills has never read church history at all and has no idea on the history of the interpretation of the doctrine.

While I certainly applaud ID for moving into the 21st century on the study of astronomy,

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 214). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

This has actually been the historical Christian position. The Roman Catholic Church was heavily invested in astronomical studies at the time of Galileo. Christianity historically has encouraged scientific research.

If, as science tells us, the cosmos is roughly 14 billion years old and Earth is 5 billion years old, then Earth is only about one-third the age of the universe as a whole (generally speaking). By analogy, a football game is 60 minutes of playing time. Two-thirds of that time—or the game’s first 40 minutes—would represent the time the cosmos existed before Earth formed. Would it be fair to claim that a touchdown scored during the game’s fortieth minute—or five minutes before the start of the fourth quarter—was scored “in the beginning” of the game? I don’t think that any reasonable person could truthfully answer yes to this question. Neither can anyone honestly assert that the 14-billion-year-old heavens and a 5-billion-year-old Earth were both created together “in the beginning,” as Genesis 1:1 declares.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 215). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Saying Heaven and Earth is not a way of speaking of them as individual entities, but a Hebrew merism to say that everything was created in the beginning.

While disdainfully blaming “liberals” and “liberal theology” for every imaginable evil, ID leaders hypocritically embrace the core tenet of liberal theology—i.e., the belief that Genesis is not to be taken literally.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 215). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Some YECs might agree, though I hope not all would or even most would, but this is not the case at all. Mills, like all fundamentalists, has a hang-up on literalism.

Since I am apparently copying too much from the book as Kindle has informed me, he does state that IDists are embarrassed about their book since they don’t answer questions on Hell. For one thing, not everyone in the ID movement is a Christian. For a second, depending on what the question is, saying “It’s not for us to judge” is not embarrassment, but humility.

The Anthropic Principle is a supremely egotistical manifestation of human self-centeredness, self-delusion and self-importance gone into orbit. ID’s man-centered universe is hauntingly reminiscent of Christianity’s medieval belief in an Earth-centered universe.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 223). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Except the priniciple didn’t come from them. It came long before the ID movement came about. Also, the Earth-centered universe was not an egotistical belief. It was in the outer realms where God was that one wanted to be.

As for talking about irreducible complexity, Mills says that this would also mean divine complexity. Mills, who seems to know so much about historical interpretations, misses that historically, the church has also held to divine simplicity. It’s only been within fairly recent history that that has been seriously questioned.

He says that IDists have glee pointing out errors in historical sketches of human evolution. He responds saying:

We could of course play the same childish game by pointing out that Thomas Aquinas—13th-century architect of ID’s “First Cause” argument— believed that the eyes of a menstruating woman affected a mirror.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 228-229). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I tried to find where Aquinas says this. I could not. Mills gives no citations again.

Now a lengthy section:

Intelligent Design proponents knew that their original First Cause argument was flawed so they contrived a “patch” in an attempt to salvage the necessity of Jehovah’s existence. They changed their starting premise from “Everything needs a cause” to “Everything that begins to exist needs a cause.” Since God didn’t begin to exist (according to the Bible) and since the universe did begin to exist (according to ID’s total lie about what cosmologists “agree”), ID leaders claim they have delivered scientific proof of God’s existence. There are three transparent blunders with this so-called Kalam argument. First, the argument that God exists and has always existed is a Biblical doctrine. So ID is “proving” God’s eternal existence by constructing an argument that assumes God’s eternal existence based on Scripture. And ID knows that the Bible is true because it’s the Bible. The second problem with the Kalam argument, as we discussed above, is the utterly dishonest claim that “cosmologists agree that the universe arose suddenly out of absolute nothingness.” We can easily see here how one flawed premise quickly requires other flawed and dishonest arguments as supporting props. The third fallacy involves the identity of the god whose existence is allegedly “proven” by the Kalam argument. Why couldn’t the Intelligent Designer be Zeus, or Allah, or Apollo? There is nothing in the Kalam argument that even addresses this question. Yet, without rational explanation, ID worshippers know in their hearts that the intelligent Creator is Jesus’ Father.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 234). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

First off, the Kalam argument opening premise was never changed. Mills is just ignorant of what it was. Second, God’s eternal existing was not assumed based on Scripture but actually argued for by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Finally, the Kalam argument never by itself attempts to show who the first cause was. It is just pointing out that there is one.

It is both meaningless and slippery to feign that “God is beyond time.” What does this cliché actually mean in a scientific context? I don’t know. Before His Creation of our universe, did God have no mental deliberations, no acts of love to bestow upon His heavenly host, no heavenly chores to discharge, no actions or thoughts of any kind? If God did engage in such thoughts or actions prior to His Creation of our universe, then, theoretically, these thoughts and actions could be enumerated or itemized, at least partially. Even though Craig would self-servingly define these pre-Creation activities as “before time” or “beyond time,” couldn’t these prior events be added to a tallied list of God’s other praiseworthy attributes and actions? Wouldn’t this list of God’s pre-Creation activities—however incomplete it may be—show that an infinite regress of specific events is not only possible but indispensable if God is assumed to be infinitely old as Craig believes? In plain English, Craig claims that something can be infinitely old when it suits his purpose, but something can’t be infinitely old when it doesn’t suit his purpose.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 238-239). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s always amusing when someone says they don’t know what X means, and then go on to tell you what they think the position means. Well, Mr. Mills. Let me explain this. God being eternal means that God is not moving on a timeline. There is no such thing as before or after in the actions of God. We see them that way, but that is because we are in the timeline. God is always eternally doing them. The infinite regress doesn’t apply.

Also, Mills includes Hugh Ross in the ID camp. I reached out to Fazale Rana at Reasons to Believe who did tell me that he would not see himself as an “ID lecturer” as Mills says.

While there was more I had highlighted, most of it I have already dealt with. Mills is sadly the person who thinks he is educated when he instead reveals himself to be a fool in all that he says about Christianity. It’s sad atheists read books like this thinking the author knows what he’s talking about.

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

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 9

Can Genesis be reconciled with modern science? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was pleased to go through this chapter and find that Mills regularly interacted with the Christian scholarship holding the opinion he disagreed with. He cited sources regularly, took them seriously and……yeah. We all know that didn’t happen!

So how does Mills start?

The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke then continue the genealogy from David to Jesus, again specifying the age at which each male descendant “begat” the next generation. Since we have a fixed “historical” time period for Jesus’ birth, creationists thereby calculate that the heavens and Earth were created by God in the year 4004 B.C. Earth, therefore, is only 6000 years old by the biblical chronology.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 137). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

No. Earth is 6,000 years old according to Bishop Ussher’s chronology. We’ve learned a lot about biblical genealogies since then, but what does new information have to do with Mills? It would be awful to read the latest and best scholarship on the matter. One wonders what Mills would think if I judged modern science by the beliefs of scientists 300+ years ago. Sure. Like Biblical scholars and historians, they had some things right, but they had some things wrong as well.

Again also, this term comes up of creationists. At some points, Mills would seem to think someone like me is a creationist, but I sure don’t hold to the Earth being 6,000 years old. Not even all YECs hold 6,000 years as some go for 10,000 years.

He also says some creationists say that if the Earth is this young, then evolution is a fraud. On that, they are right, at least in the macro sense. Macroevolution is definitely a fraud then. The problem is what he says after this:

They echo the sentiments of St. Thomas Aquinas, who believed that any discord between science and Scripture was due to errors of science, rather than errors of Scripture.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 137). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Aquinas wrote around 80 books or so in his lifetime. Mills just throws out a claim and gives no reference whatsoever to it.  To be sure also, I asked some other friends who are also Thomists if they could recognize any such reference. We all knew of no place where Aquinas said this and we also agreed he would be hesitant to disagree with Augustine who said:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Timothy 1.7].” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39)

Note this also. There is a reference to that. I don’t pull Mills’s technique of saying “This guy said this. Just trust me on it!” If anyone wants to see what Augustine said, that’s where you go.

One creationist he does interact with is R.L. Wysong. While I don’t agree with Wysong’s claims on the speed of light, granting Mills represents them accurate, a huge thing to grant, I do find it odd that one criticism Mills has is Wysong is a veterinarian. I find this odd because I tried to find Mills’s academic credentials and I couldn’t find any, and yet Mills wants to speak on science, philosophy, history, and Biblical studies, and have us take him seriously.

Moving on, Mills says:

Today, some creationists are abandoning their long-held belief in a 6000-year-old Earth. Why this abrupt reversal of opinion? Were startling new chapters suddenly discovered in the Book of Genesis? Did Moses appear in a miraculous vision, revising his previous chronology, and teaching the geological history of an ancient Earth? No. The change of heart among some creationists is due to the fact that modern scientific research has shown the Genesis chronology to be nothing short of ridiculous.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 142). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Actually, this is false. There had always been discussions on the age of the Earth. It can be granted to Mills that Since the Beginning was not in print when he wrote this book, but the information that Greenwood cites in his work was available. (My copy is back in Tennessee so I am unable to cite the references here.) Mills just assumes that a fundamentalist reading has always been the held reading.

More-liberal-minded creationists, however, strive mightily to disassociate themselves from the conservative Fundamentalists. These non-literalists often refuse to call themselves “creationists,” even though they believe in God as the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the Earth. This non-literalist group believes in an ancient Earth and in macro (large-scale) evolution. They believe that Genesis and modern science may be successfully reconciled. The primary difference between the literalists and the non-literalists is this: The literalists distort science to make it harmonize with Genesis. The non-literalists distort Genesis to make it harmonize with science.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 142-143). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Yet in all of this, Mills has not gone through the text of Genesis. He has not made any attempt to explain how it should be read. All he is saying is “Anyone who doesn’t read it in way X is wrong.” One may disagree with readings of others who do not hold to a YEC position, but one should at least see what they say and how they explain the text.

That is, if one really cares about truth. Mills doesn’t, so not a shock that he doesn’t do this.

Generally speaking, religious-minded individuals know little about science. And science-minded individuals know even less about the Bible. With each camp sadly uninformed about the other, reconciliation seems possible and desirable to both sides. In reality, agreement is possible only by (1) perverting science, as the Fundamentalists do, or by (2) perverting the Book of Genesis, as the non-literalists do.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 143-144). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes, everyone. Science-minded individuals, of whom I am sure Mills will include himself, are uninformed about the Bible, but Mills is the exception! He will tell you what the Bible really means! It would be a delight to see what Mills would say in a debate with someone like John Lennox or Hugh Ross.

1. The non-literalists believe that Earth is much older than 6000 years. To rationalize their belief in an ancient Earth, non-literalists claim that the Genesis genealogies contain “errors of omission.” In other words, the genealogies are only partial lists, overlooking many intermediate generations between Adam and Jesus. When Scripture says, for example, that “Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber,” that really means that Salah lived thirty years and begat Eber’s grandfather or great, great, great, grandfather. When the “missing” generations are added to the chronology, the date of Creation drifts further into the past. To me, such a position is absolutely mind-boggling. How can we believe (A) that Genesis is the Inspired, Perfect, Holy, Infallible Word of God, while simultaneously believing (B) that the Genesis genealogies should be disregarded because they contain “errors of omission”? Was God in a forgetful mood when He “inspired” Genesis? Creationist Henry Clarence Thiessen, suggesting that the Genesis genealogies may be overlooked, writes that “a study of the various [other] biblical genealogies indicates that they are incomplete and contain omissions.”

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 144-145). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

After all, the only way you can do a genealogy is the way modern people do. The genealogies do have omissions in them. That’s not because they’re “errors.” It’s because of the way genealogies were done in the past. As said though, Mills is not interested in this kind of thinking or research.

From this, he gets to saying:

So the non-literalist argument goes like this: We believe that the Genesis genealogies may be unreliable since other biblical genealogies are also unreliable.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 145). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

But we aren’t saying they are unreliable. They are reliable for the purpose for which they were written and the time as well. Mills is imposing a modern standard on the genealogies that is foreign to the text.

When viewed in isolation, the Genesis genealogies themselves posit no miraculous events or supernatural Beings. If we cannot interpret these mundane genealogies literally, then we cannot interpret anything in the Bible literally. These same creationists, however, demand that we interpret literally the existence of God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, the Devil, Angels, Heaven and Hell. All miraculous events portrayed in the Bible are likewise to be interpreted in a strictly literal sense: Jesus literally turned water into wine—literally cast out demons—literally walked on the Sea of Galilee—literally placed a magic curse on a fig tree—literally rose from the dead. Apparently, it’s only the Genesis genealogies that we are supposed to interpret metaphorically.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 147-148). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

But saying the genealogies were done differently is not saying they were metaphorical. No. These were real people in a real time and a real place.

Let us remember that a young Earth was always posited by religious leaders throughout the entire history of Christianity. No medieval priest ever asserted that Genesis described a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth. No ancient church document ever claimed that Adam and Eve lived hundreds of millions of years ago. And no pre-Renaissance missionary ever preached a sermon about “omissions” or “time gaps” in the Genesis genealogies. If creationists now wish to abandon their historical position and acquiesce to an ancient Earth, then I applaud their progress. But it is a farce to maintain that Genesis never really demanded a young Earth since the genealogies were always intended as metaphors.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 148). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Of course, Mills gives no citations for any of this. There is no indication he has looked at church history. There is no mention of creedal statements or anything of the sort. It is just asserted. Also, I contend that no one could tell the age of the Earth from Genesis because that was not the point of Genesis.

Mills then goes on to list other “problems” in the text, such as the existence of unicorns. He lists all the references, but fails to mention that this is just how the KJV translated it. There is no Hebrew word for unicorn. Many translations now speak of it as the auroch instead. What Mills would need to show is that the Hebrew word meant unicorn. This, he does not do.

The same can apply to dragons, which can often refer to a great serpent or a sea monster or even a venomous snake. The word for cockatrice also refers to a serpent. Satyrs most likely refers to hairy goats.

I also find it revealing that, in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond recognition from their original translation in the King James. So not only are the Great Pretenders forsaking long-honored and long-held Christian beliefs, but the Bible itself, under their supervision, appears to be experiencing a quiet, behind-the-scenes, Hollywood makeover as well.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 150). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Because the way the KJV translated it was the way the church for all those years always understood the text.  It would be horrible for Mills to go back and just try to figure out what the original words meant. If you go and look up the words on BlueLetterBible.com, you are doing more research than Mills did.

Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 155). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

On the contrary, I happen to love it when Christians start questioning the church. Meanwhile, go out as a scientist and start questioning climate change or at least humans causing climate change and see what happens to you. Go out and say “Maybe the Intelligent Design crowd has a point” and see what happens to you. Scientists often have their own groups that do not welcome any questioning. (After Covid, we can speak a lot about any scientist who dared say that Covid was made in a lab.)

Mills is fooling himself if he thinks any majority really likes to be questioned.

The fun continues next time as we talk about miracles.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 7

What about evolution? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well we all knew this was coming. Evolution has to show up. There are Christians and atheists both who think it’s either evolution or Christianity. If you prove one, you disprove the other. Both of them see this then as an essential battle.

I disagree with both of them. I don’t have a problem with evolution, but I also don’t argue for it either. I definitely still have some questions, but they’re not hills I’m willing to die on. Yet somehow, I’m sure I’d still be considered a creationist by Mills.

Anyway, after a long description of evolution in history, he does start talking about these people he calls creationists who he has never really defined.

Creationism’s most sacred doctrine is that God created all lifeforms, including man, during a single, brief period known as “Creation Week.” Dinosaurs and human beings walked the earth simultaneously, as did gorillas and trilobites. All animal “kinds” are the same age, give or take a few days.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 118). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, considering that for most of Christian history we had no idea dinosaurs even existed, much like everyone else, it’s hard to see how this is a most sacred doctrine. Also, there’s no interaction with any Christian history to see how it has been interpreted. Granted, a work like Kyle Greenwood’s Since The Beginning was not out yet, but the data was still there had Mills bothered to look for it. Had he done such, he would have found a multitude of ways to interpret the creation account including length. Augustine in his work on a Literal Interpretation of Genesis even said everything was done instantaneously such that the whole week took place in one moment.

When talking about the Cambrian explosion, he tells us it took place 570 million years ago instead of 6,000 like creationism demands. This again is the problem. There are all different kinds of creationists. Some would say the Earth is 6,000 years old. Some might say 10,000. Others would go with the majority scientific opinion and say 4.5 billion years ago. Mills makes no differentiation.

Later, he says:

Creationists, however, view scientific debate and disagreement as signs of weakness. Creationism therefore ridicules open-mindedness and scoffs at the free exchange of ideas so essential to a democratic society and to the scientific method itself. To question one’s own opinion is sinful for the creationist, who is not permitted the luxury of healthy skepticism. All contrary opinion is instantly dismissed as foolishness, because the Lord Thy God has spoken.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 122). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

What’s so amusing to me about this is this is what I find internet atheists doing. I have offered numerous atheists a link to Andrew Loke’s book on the resurrection of Jesus. This book is certainly an excellent scholarly look at the resurrection, but there’s one great reason I offer it. On Kindle, it’s free. 100%. If you have one, you can get it right now. If you want to read Kindle on your computer, you can do that for free as well. Thus, I am essentially saying “Here’s a free book on the topic you can read and discuss.”

How many atheists have taken me up on this offer to date? Zero. If I present any book, it usually just gets pushed aside and ignored. Meanwhile, if someone tells me about such a book, I will usually see if I can get it for cheap on Kindle and barring that, I will go to the library and order it if possible.

I have no problem with healthy skepticism. It’s the atheists I meet who do.

Hundreds of books have detailed at length the now-legendary Miller-Urey experiment performed at the University of Chicago in 1953. As a brief summary: Stanley Miller and Harold Urey found that amino acids—the building blocks of cell proteins—form readily from a mixture of ammonia, methane, water and hydrogen gas, all of which were present in abundance on the primordial Earth. In other words, Miller and Urey discovered that the molecules of life naturally assemble themselves from a few basic, easily available ingredients. The origin of life required only organic molecules, water and, most importantly, millions of years to develop. Moreover, in the late 1990s, scientists discovered that life can occur and thrive in conditions previously thought to be completely inhospitable to biological systems—such as in near-boiling hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, or in poison methane ice.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 123-124). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s my understanding that nowadays, people really question if Miller and Urey had their science right as to if this was what the early Earth was like. Now keep in mind, I am not saying this is a defeater for evolution. It’s just my asking if Mills is really presenting the data accurately?

On a separate branch of the evolutionary tree, Archaeopteryx, part reptile and part bird, is the perfect example of macro-evolution in action. Archaeopteryx was first unearthed in Bavaria in 1860. When paleontologists later realized what they had discovered, creationists became so distraught that they accused the paleontologists of gluing bird feathers on a reptile fossil. After several additional fossils of Archaeopteryx were recovered, creationists refrained from embarrassing themselves again.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 126). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

No cases are cited, but even so, if this was what really happened, can anyone blame skepticism, something Mills just championed? After all, there have been hoaxes done in the world of fossils. Not only that, but Mills ignores that the noted creationist Fred Hoyle was also skeptical of Archaeopteryx and….wait….Fred Hoyle wasn’t a creationist? He was an atheist?

Oh.

Well, he’s not a creationist so he gets a free pass.

Keep in mind, I don’t read in this area so this came up with just a brief web search. Did Mills even bother to do something like that to see if anyone else was skeptical of the find? Apparently not.

Odd after he was just telling us of the virtues of healthy skepticism and all that. I guess that only goes one way. I have a saying for atheists like Mills. They honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

When we get to what he says about the flood story:

The story of Noah’s Ark was adapted by the Hebrews from an earlier Babylonian myth called the Epic of Gilgamesh . In many respects, the Babylonian flood story—which is older than the biblical tale—is virtually identical to the biblical clone, but describes different gods and ark-building characters.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 132). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Sure. They’re the same. Just minor differences like one is polytheistic and one is monotheistic. One has a vessel that could survive a flood and one doesn’t. One has the water flooding the Earth in 6 days and receding in one while the other has 40 days and nights and a much more reasonable time for the waters to recede. One has the hero getting immortality at the end and the other has the hero getting drunk and shamed. One has the gods swarming around a sacrifice for food and the other has the one God making a covenant.

But other than that, they’re totally the same! I mean, they both have a flood! It reminds me of how G.K. Chesterton said you might as well think it’s the same story as the baptism of Jesus by John since both of them involve people going underwater.

But hey, at least Mills has an astute scholarly source for the idea that Christianity borrowed from everyone:

As Robert Ingersoll has noted, “There is nothing new or original in Christianity. Its maxims, miracles and mistakes, its doctrines, sacraments and ceremonies, were all borrowed.”

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 133). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

We are talking top-notch scholarship here, folks.

I realize that, to some, my position may appear extremist. Some readers may think that I’m just as rigid and literal-minded as the creationists—though on the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum. Nonetheless I believe that clarity should be the highest goal of science writing.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 134). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, yes. He is. If Mills believed in clarity, perhaps he should have defined his terms. The irony is thick with this one.

Next time, we’ll see what he has to say about Genesis.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 6

Is there order in the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We move on now to chapter 4. Again, Mills has the problem of not citing any sources. He just makes grand pronouncements about what these people thought without citing any of these people. In the first case, he pictures in ancient Greece a hunter firing an arrow.

Citizens of ancient Greece were quite perplexed by the observed flight of such an arrow. Which god, they wondered, kept the arrow moving toward the target? The bow obviously provided the initial propulsion, but once out of direct, physical contact with the bow, why didn’t the arrow instantly fall to earth? Which god, they pondered, kept the arrow aloft, at least temporarily? Which supernatural Being was responsible for the arrow’s continued forward motion?

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 87-88). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Someone wanting to really show what the Greeks thought would have cited ancient sources. There were more than enough philosophers that could have been mentioned. Nope. Not a one. Mills can’t be bothered to actually document his claim. It was just “God did it” until Newton came along and science finally saved us.

Of course, this relates to “creationism.”

Creationists argue that the regularity and predictability of planetary orbits are evidence of supernatural governance of the universe. In other words, creationists believe, in direct opposition to Newton’s first law, that constancy and regularity of motion are evidence not only of an external force, but of a supernatural external force. I submit to you that this creationist claim—of a miraculous Power guiding the planets—is identical in every sense to the ancient Greek belief in god-propelled arrows or god-assisted plunges to the bottom of a cliff. Let us recall that “regularity or constancy of motion denotes the absence of an external force.” If gods are unnecessary to explain the continued motion of a hunter’s arrow, then the gods are unnecessary to explain the continued motion of celestial objects. If gods are unnecessary to explain the hunter’s downward plunge off a cliff, then they are unnecessary to explain other gravitational fields as well. For, as Isaac Newton discovered, the same gravity that pulls an apple (or a hunter) to the ground is the same gravity that holds the moon and planets in their orbits. There is no difference—except perhaps to those who, for emotional reasons, strive to see miraculous visions and omens in the night sky.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 92). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Call Oz. Someone took their straw man.

First off, saying that planetary order is explained by God does not mean we cannot understand scientifically how He does it. That does not oppose Newton at all. Mills is really arguing against an Islamic understanding where God is the direct cause of everything going on, whereas most Christians have no problem with God using secondary means to bring about order in the universe.

Second, the idea of no God being necessary is really begging the question. How do we know we don’t need a God to establish order and maintain it? Well, we have our universe and we can explain it just fine scientifically. And how do you know God isn’t a reality in this universe? Because we can explain it scientifically.

I contend that the fact that we can explain the universe scientifically actually does show that there is an orderer behind the universe. If the universe is a brute fact that is an accident, why should we expect any order? Why should there be any consistency?

Creationists of Fundamentalist persuasion disagree vehemently that planetary motion is a wholly natural phenomenon. It’s far more intriguing and emotionally inspiring for them to believe in “Divine Watchmakers” than to accept the mundane, mathematical explanations of science. A minority of creationists, however, raise few, if any, objections to the conclusions drawn thus far in this chapter. This minority will readily accept that inertia and gravitation are not supernatural forces, and that routine planetary motion is simply the merging of gravity with inertia. Put another way, a small group of creationists do accept (in this instance, at least) the scientific principle known as Ockham’s Razor, which states that the simplest reasonable explanation is usually the most accurate.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 93). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I know many creationists and I have never met one who would have a problem with this. Of course, Mills doesn’t cite any of them. I still don’t know then who these people are he is arguing against.

Later, Mills talks abotu Kepler:

It is interesting to note here that Kepler was a deeply religious man, striving for years to prove his theory of “Divine Geometry” in which the planets moved in perfect circles around the sun. Finally, Kepler was forced to abandon his theory because the observed motion of the planets contradicted the theory’s predictions. Three hundred years later, “modern” creationism still maintains that the solar system obeys Divine Geometry.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 96-97). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Mills should not study medieval science if he doesn’t want to realize that the majority of scientists were deeply religious men. As for this theory of divine geometry today, again, who are these creationists? Also, the system that was set up of divine geometry was not from the religious originally, but from people like Ptolemy. This was the best theory at the time and it did work in predicting where the planets would be.

Creationism maintains that God created Earth primarily as a home for mankind. For what purpose, then, did God create the other planets and stars? Creationists sometimes respond that God created the heavens to attest His majesty and to provide man with a beautiful night sky. Such an argument—already highly dubious—disintegrates further when we consider that all planets and stars visible to the naked eye are located within our own Milky Way galaxy. Of what benefit to mankind are the other hundred-billion galaxies?

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 98). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem with this kind of thing is that Mills raises the questions, but he never seeks any answers. There are plenty of scientific minds in Christianity that can address this. Mills doesn’t bother. It’s saying “I don’t know, therefore there isn’t a reason.” It’s strange since these are the same people who say science is all about exploring the questions.

He also talks about how some people used Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to show Hawking was arguing for the idea of a divine creator. In great irony, Mills says:

Science illiteracy is so ubiquitous, and religious dogma so firmly ingrained, that legions cannot read a well-written science book without hallucinating the supernatural on every page.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 101-102). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

And many atheists cannot read any data that disagrees with them and are highly illiterate of the views they argue against. (Just off the top of my head, imagine if someone can’t get the first cause argument even right!) Does the public need to learn how to read science books well? Yes, but sadly that’s because the public largely needs to learn how to read ALL books well. Mills does not set a good example in that he speaks on material that anyone who has done reading on the subject can see he is uninformed on.

Finally, in summing up all his data, what does Mills say?

Why do I find these obscure facts so convincing? Because these are the facts that we would expect to observe if the solar system formed naturally.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 102). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

To which I wonder how does anything form naturally from nothing? If something is eternal, how does it continue in existence? It is as if MIlls takes this as a given to be formed naturally. The problem is we don’t have any other universes, at least ones we have access to, that we can do a comparison of, and if theism is true, those universes would also find their existing based on God.

Next time, we will discuss life on Earth.

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

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Obsessed with Blood Part 4

What about original sin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Baker looks at the topic of Original Sin. Well, we’ll see how much he stays on topic. He starts it off with talking about what the sin of Adam and Eve was. His reply? Seeking knowledge.

Well, no.

For one thing, this tree was in the center of the garden, which would make it the most important tree of all. The term good and evil is not meant as knowledge, but more as a merism in Hebrew thought. It meant that they wanted wisdom on their own terms, not on the terms of God. They wanted to be in charge. They wanted to rule the garden on their own.

Seeking knowledge was not the problem. It was how they were seeking it.

He also says he spent years following God’s plan for his life and found it to be a myth. Once again, I have to say I get tired of so many of my fellow evangelicals talking about God’s plan for your life. If God has a personalized individual plan for your life, let me assure you you have already ruined it, as have I. No. I can tell you the real plan God has for your life. It’s easy. His plan is to conform you to the likeness of Christ if you are willing.

Now all historians gather around and prepare for a laugh:

Throughout history, medical science, astronomy, philosophy, sexuality and even art, have all been adversely affected by Christian thinking.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 66). Kindle Edition.

I always refer atheists on this to go to Tim O’Neill and his History for Atheists series. There is so much misinformation in these simple sentences that I can only recommend the great myths series. There is a constant problem ex-Christians have that they go from blindly believing what they believed before to blindly believing whatever else is said on the other side. He can also check out Dominion by Tom Holland.

Contrary to what modern Christians are led to believe, the Bible really does describe the earth as being flat with the sun and moon revolving around it. For centuries, this is a belief the church upheld so vehemently they actually killed blasphemers who thought otherwise. Strangely it is not something they cling to quite so vehemently anymore. The Bible’s support of slavery, which will be discussed in different book; is also a teaching they distance themselves from.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 66-67). Kindle Edition.

The first myth on O’Neill’s page is the flat Earth myth. We will deal with slavery in the other book if it is read, but I can say based on Tom Holland that the reason he opposes slavery is because he has absorbed background Christianity. There is nothing on the basis of atheism that can lead to the idea that slavery is inherently wrong. (I would actually argue that anything is evil or good for that matter.) Naturally, Baker has no citations for any of these claims about Christian history.

Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1590 for going against Bible theology and correctly declared that the earth rotates around the sun – heliocentrism. Galileo also defended heliocentrism and the belief the earth was not as described in the Bible. The Church responded by threatening Galileo with torture and confining him to house arrest until he died.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 67-68). Kindle Edition.

No citations again. No. Bruno was not burned to the stake for heliocentrism but for various heresies and for all the idea of Bruno being a scientist, his scientific works are never cited. One can only wonder why…..

The Galileo affair is not an open and shut case. The church really had no problem with Galileo believing in heliocentrism as long as he treated it as a theory. It didn’t help that he wrote a dialogue depicting the pope as a simpleton. Also, the evidence for his claim was good, but it wasn’t sufficient yet. Again, O’Neill has several articles on Galileo if Baker wanted to peruse them, but I suspect he won’t, despite his claims that he loves seeking knowledge.

Without a doubt, science and culture have all been suppressed due to the ridiculous belief that the Bible is more than just a collection of ancient stories, but the actual inspired word of God.[xxxii]

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 70). Kindle Edition.

Oh look! He has a citation! What great source did he cite?

None. He just referred to 2 Tim. 3:16 on the belief in Scripture being the inspired word of God.

I am not surprised.

We will continue next time.

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

 

Motion in the First Way

Is the first way of Aquinas about scientific motion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So many times, when I encounter atheists on the internet and they want to know why I believe in God, I ask them a simple question. I want to start with the first of the five ways of Thomas Aquinas. I don’t want to know what you think of the argument first. I just want you to tell me what the argument is.

It happened again yesterday with someone making a statement not just about what the first way was, but about all the ways of Aquinas and why they are all wrong. Again, not what I had asked for. It’s really a simple request. First, tell me what the argument is so we can make sure we’re discussing the same argument.

The number of atheists that have met this request so far is zero.

Not only that, but what they think are devastating objections are really the same ones I hear all the time and one of the most popular ones is that this is bad science. We understand motion differently now. So what’s wrong with that?

For a start, let’s look at the argument itself.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Aquinas tells us what motion is in this. It is the reduction of potentiality to actuality. What does that mean? Think of actuality as what is. Think of potentiality as what could be. That what could be is also not necessarily good or bad. I am sitting down right now in actuality. I have the potential to stand up and I could do so. On the other hand, I am alive in actuality right now, and I have the potential to be dead. Let’s hope that’s not any time soon.

So what is motion? Pretty much, any kind of change whatsoever.

“Okay. But the objection still seems valid. Isn’t physical change a kind of change?”

Of course, it is. The problem is that the objection acts as if that is the only kind of change Aquinas has in mind. It is not. Just my mind going from one idea to another is from potentiality to actuality. Let’s take a look at another example. Angels.

At this, an atheist can say “But angels aren’t real!”

Irrelevant question. If we are studying Aquinas’s system, we have to realize that he thought they were real. So what does he say?

Prima Pars. Question 53. Article 2.

On the contrary, If the angel be moved from one place to another, then, when he is in the term “whither,” he is no longer in motion, but is changed. But a process of changing precedes every actual change: consequently he was being moved while existing in some place. But he was not moved so long as he was in the term “whence.” Therefore, he was moved while he was in mid-space: and so it was necessary for him to pass through intervening space.

I answer that, As was observed above in the preceding article, the local motion of an angel can be continuous, and non-continuous. If it be continuous, the angel cannot pass from one extreme to another without passing through the mid-space; because, as is said by the Philosopher (Phys. v, text 22; vi, text 77), “The middle is that into which a thing which is continually moved comes, before arriving at the last into which it is moved”; because the order of first and last in continuous movement, is according to the order of the first and last in magnitude, as he says (Phys. iv, text 99).

The technical stuff doesn’t really matter at this point. What does matter is that Aquinas speaks of motion twice. He speaks of that for angels. In Q. 50 and Article 2, he quotes Dionysus to make his point.

On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv): “The first creatures are understood to be as immaterial as they are incorporeal.”

Thus, motion plays to things that are not physical as well. Laws of science do not change that. We could hypothetically have a world where we were all angels and a group of holy angels and a group of fallen angels got together to discuss ultimate reality and there are somehow atheist fallen angels. The argument would still work.

This is also why science cannot touch this argument at all. As long as you have any change going on, you have the motion that is needed in the argument. Those who jump to science misunderstand the argument greatly.

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

Do We Believe In Magic?

Is our society more involved in magic than we realize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

No. This isn’t really about the New Age movement or about witchcraft. This isn’t about reading Harry Potter or watching Sabrina: The Teenaged Witch. This isn’t really about fantasy as fantasy.

In our day and age, we like to think we are a scientific people. We have abandoned the ways of magic and religion. We only believe in that which can be empirically verified, and by that, we mean scientifically verified, even though the two aren’t identical. All scientific verification is empirical, but the reverse is not so.

If anything, today we see science as a new priesthood. I do not say this to demean science in the sense of the study of the material world. That is wonderful and that needs to continue. What I do demean is the idea that because someone is a scientist, they are qualified to speak on areas outside their expertise. However, there is also the danger that something can supposedly fall under science, but like scandals of bought priesthood in the past, so a scientific person can be bought off as well.

The Covid “pandemic” really brought a lot of this to light. At the time, I was not at all worried about it. It was a virus. It would come and it would go like any other virus. I never got caught up in mask hysteria and when I was required to wear one, I took it off as soon as I could. I never practiced social distancing for the virus. If I was doing it, it was generally just because I don’t like being close to people in general. I am also one of those people who never got a vaccine at all.

And yeah, I’ve never had Covid.

My parents also never got the vaccines and they’re in their 70s. They each got Covid earlier this year and then within a week of each of them getting it, they were both fine. My rule has been to never get caught up in hysteria where everyone is panicking.

Many of us now look back and realize that a lot of mistakes were made. The lockdowns were a mistake. Pulling kids out of school was a mistake. Plenty of people are questioning the vaccines and it used to be a conspiracy theory to say the virus came from a lab in Wuhan. Now it’s pretty much established fact.

A number of us also don’t support climate change hysteria either. When I take any kind of online survey, I can easily answer questions when it comes to environmental claims. It’s not that I don’t care about the planet, but I think that many of our solutions are harmful in the long-term even if we think there are short-term benefits. I would like to see us using nuclear power more and I would like to see the Keystone pipeline open.

As soon as I say any of this, there are people out there getting their proverbial pitchforks ready. After all, I have questioned the reigning dogma. We have seen that people who do go against whatever the reigning dogma is, particularly today on climate change, are quickly castigated and they are the new heretics.

“The difference though is science is evidence-based and religion isn’t!”

Which is entirely a straw man. The evidences are different, but all sides use evidence. Religions tend to use history and philosophy more as well as interpretation of sacred texts and analysis of it by believers and skeptics. Of course, some dogmas can be right, just like in science, and some can be wrong, just like in science.

One area that this comes to an interesting place is in how we use words. Magic is the idea that one can use words to somehow alter reality. Properly, this isn’t always the case. When a minister says “I now pronounce you husband and wife”, he is doing something his words have the power to affect. There are times when this is not the case.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has referred to seeing men’s and women’s bathrooms as segregation. Don’t believe me? Go take a look here. (Warning. This is something unedited so there is language in the video.) It starts around 2:50. Shortly after 4:00, NDT says he sees men and women bathrooms and thinks “Colored and white”.

Go back twenty years, maybe even ten, and this wouldn’t be being questioned at all. Now NDT acts like it’s segregation. Why? It’s the spirit of the age. It’s where the politics lie.

I recently shared this picture on my Facebook.

One of the first replies I got was “Transwomen are women.”

What is this said today but a mantra? Repeat it enough and it will become true?

The next worth talking about is I just asked the question “What is a woman?” and got told that the idea of a woman is a societal construct. To which, I gave the reply that the idea that the meaning of woman is a societal construct is itself a societal construct.

We live in an age where we believe if we declare it to be so, it is. What is it called when someone goes in for a transgender operation? “Gender-affirming care”, when it is really the exact opposite. We have said that we should include couples of the same sex under the label of marriage, but did we stop to ask what marriage is and what it means? Consider also a group like Black Lives Matter. So if you don’t support the group, which is about many many things besides black lives, then you don’t think black lives matter?

This isn’t science. This is magic.

Too many of our leading scientists are also leading the way in this. The basic reality of biology would not have been denied until the political climate rolled around and then all of a sudden, we think we know something that no one else before us in history knew. We live in a society where we want to erase differences between men and women, do economic Russian Roulette and think only our intentions matter, and think that if we say the words, we can change reality. We can’t.

Reality will always win in the end.

For those in the scientific establishment also, this has only hurt them in the long run. There are more and more people unwilling to trust science when we think that there is a political side to it. If anything, we are not a scientific society. We are anti-science.

That doesn’t make us like religion in the past. Religion in the past still tried to tether itself to external reality by basing their conclusions on the idea of a supreme being outside the cosmos that created a rational universe and thus made the universe rational. Now, the basis for how we see reality is not without, but it is within. How someone feels about themselves and society determines reality.

The good news is, this path cannot last long. It will destroy itself.

The bad news, I have no idea how much it will take out with it when it collapses.

Let’s be prepared.

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

Are We Arguing the Demiurge?

Do we miss the point of an evolution debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While I was watching on Facebook an atheist and a Christian debating evolution, I started pondering what was being argued. Both came from a position where this was a dealbreaker. If you disprove evolution, lo and behold, there’s God! If you prove evolution, lo and behold, God is out of a job!

Looking at that, one question comes to mind.

Which God?

For us, is that all God is? Is He just a fill-in-the-gap and if a naturalistic process comes along, then God is done? That’s not really a worthwhile way to see God.

For the atheist, isn’t it the same then? God is just a placeholder until we have something else that can take His place. Again, not worthwhile.

Both sides also treat the material world as a given to some extent. An atheist can say it’s a brute fact and the Christian seems to go along with it. The Christian can say “Yeah, we agree on the Big Bang Theory (Unless they are YEC), but after that, it’s all God.”

I don’t doubt that’s an imperfect representation, but there are similarities.

However, not only is matter treated as a given, it looks like both sides also treat existence itself as a given. The atheist says “The natural world is here and you have to prove a supernatural world.” (I am using terms that they use. For reasons why I don’t use the term “supernatural”, see here.) The Christian seems to too often buy into that and thinks he has to accept the material world as is.

The problem is this isn’t God being argued. This is the demiurge.

If you’re not familiar with that, it comes from Plato where the demiurge is a being invoked in a dialogue of Plato’s called Timaeus. This is a being that does not create matter so much as he just takes it and shapes it and makes what needs to be done. Implicitly if Christians accept this, we are arguing for a lesser god.

From the perspective of Aquinas, we need to go and ask about existence itself. The material world is not a given. It needs to be explained. Existence is not a given. It needs to be explained. If you can take the concept of God and remove it from your theology and still have something that exists, you did not have a true concept of God.

This is not to say you shouldn’t argue for or against evolution. That being said, if you want to argue against, let evolution fall scientifically. If it is bad science, that will happen. The main point is to know what kind of God you are arguing about.

If you are not arguing for the demiurge God, then your opponent has to give an account for everything to change your mind. Everything. He has to explain the universe, morality, numbers, ideas, and even the very fact of existence itself.

That’s quite a tall order.

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