Tag Archives: Opposing Views

A pleasant dialogue with an atheist

A recent visitor asked some common questions. I appreciated his tone and his willingness to concede one of my points from the The “Bronze Age Mythology” fallacy post. Here are his comments and my responses.

LoneWolfArcher, your belief that there is an all-powerful creator who cares about the little details of our lives and your disbelief that we might actually just be here, without being created or having a bigger purpose — THAT is egoism at its finest.

Isn’t the real question whether or not it is true? If my kids felt that my wife and I created them, cared deeply about the details of their lives, sacrificed for them, had their long-term best interests at heart, etc., would they be unjustified in claiming it?

And under atheism, where would be the rationale that egoism is wrong? Wouldn’t that be expected? And where would be the grounding to criticize any behavior as universally wrong?

The core of my atheistic beliefs, and the core of many others, is the lack of any evidence of a creator or god.

Have you studied the cosmological, teleological, moral, etc. arguments for his existence? If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog — http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/ or especially Stand to Reason at http://www.str.org or http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com

Atheists who act well are actually more moral than the religious, since the religious are acting out of doctrine or fear of hell.

I concede that many atheists behave relatively well on human terms. But they have no philosophical grounding for universal morality.

In their nothingness to molecules to life to man view, my conversion from atheism to trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is solely due to Darwinian evolution (or some such thing), so why would they criticize what their worldview created?

Also, in Christianity, we are not acting properly because we think it will gain us entrance into Heaven. No amount of good deeds can undo my countless sins against God. We act differently because God has changed us and out of gratitude for what Jesus did for us. We believe He is God in flesh and that we should see the world as He does and act accordingly.

Atheists acting well are doing it for exactly the right reasons — compassion, empathy, and knowing what is right with having it threatened into us with a big stick (hell etc.).

But on atheism you have no reason to say those are the “right” things.

Speaking of not having to answer for your actions: if you believe in a biblical god, you can be a ten time murderer and as long as you accept Jesus etc. you go to heaven. An atheist who murders no-one and acts charitably all their lives, but doesn’t accept Jesus or whatever nonsense it is, goes to hell. THAT is not having to account for your actions, or in fact, the very opposite. Your god is a sick joke and to dress it as morality is wrong wrong wrong.

Technically, you are right. Grace, by definition, isn’t fair. If you want fairness, you’ll get it. You will be punished in Hell for your sins. That is fair. If you want unfairness, then trust in Jesus and how He paid for your sins on the cross. Was that fair for him to pay the penalty I deserved? Not at all. But I’m eternally grateful for it.

If your god actually exists, then they’re welcome to actually show up and communicate with us. But if they exist and are doing an extremely good impression of not existing by hiding, then they might as well not exist at all at this point.

He did show up. We killed him.

He also reveals himself through the Bible. I highly encourage you to read it carefully, even if it is just so you can be more effective at criticizing us.

Something being right, or not wrong, in a book doesn’t make everything the book claims correct. Lots of stars, yes. Doesn’t prove that the bits about a god are true.

I agree. My claim wasn’t that one true statement makes everything in the book true. It was merely that this was a rather significant claim and one that, in my experience, is completely (and conveniently?) ignored by skeptics. Seems like in fairness they’d want to give some credit for it.

On the flip side, I assume you’d agree that even if a book contained errors that other parts could be true and would have to be evaluated as such. I believe in the inerrancy of the original writings of the Bible, but I don’t need to prove that to share the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection with people. We have plenty of evidence to point to.

The point of this post is spot-on — it’s a good point which I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past. “Bronze-age” does seem like a lazy slur. The fact that it is used doesn’t mean the people who are using it are wrong, either, but yes, it’s lazy.

Thanks, I appreciate that. I don’t like when either side uses cheap sound bites to dismiss the others.

If there was a god defining good and evil, it’s just as arbitrary as man defining it. If there is some notion of good that is higher than a god, then god isn’t defining it. So which is it?

I think you may be referring to something known as the Euthryphro Dilemma (I’m sure I misspelled that!). The answer is that God doesn’t “make” good and He also doesn’t sit under “good” in the sense that He is under authority to some standard. Good is simply part of his essence.

Plus, christians regularly “redefine what is good” themselves, in theory, by overriding god/Jesus in the bible, by (rightly!) ignoring the morally repugnant parts of the bible. So is god actually god or not?

I look at it differently. God is good, all the time. It is part of his essence. In our fallen nature we may misunderstand him, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t good.

There are plenty of morally repugnant things in the Bible, as an overarching theme is that we are fallen sinners in desperate need of a Savior. The Bible records many such acts. But God is perfectly holy and sovereign and just, so He can punish as He sees fit.

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The first rule of holes: When you are in one, stop digging

We will all make bad arguments at some point.  What we do at that stage is very important.  Do we stand corrected, or do we dig in our heels out of pride?  One bad argument can undermine ten good ones, so it is important for us to be correctable.  Not just for our own intellectual honesty, but for our witness as Christians.

As I emphasize when teaching how and why to read Bible verses in context, I have made many mistakes over the years.  When I realized I had misunderstood Philippians 4:13 or Jeremiah 29:11, for example, I had a choice.  I could keep using the wrong interpretations of these verses, or I could change and use the right ones.

An atheism site had a somewhat useful flowchart about rational debating. (Although they conflated debating and discussion — one can be so thoroughly versed on a topic that they can’t reasonable envision something would change his mind and still debate or discuss something).

Interestingly, while they obviously meant this to imply that Christians don’t follow these rules — and I concede that many do not — I have found atheists to break many of these repeatedly. That is especially true on item 2 about moving on to new arguments once you’ve been shown to have used an inaccurate data point. You can refute their arguments in detail and they just move to the next item in their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites. That’s when you know it is pearl holding / dust shaking time.

I also find that they think they don’t need to offer evidence.  They just point to the views of their monopolistic leaders and assume that is adequate.  Science has been wrong for hundreds or even thousands of years at a stretch, so just because their dear leaders insist something is true doesn’t mean the facts support them.

I find this with false or “saved and confused” Christians as well.  For example, no matter how many times you point out how fallacious it is to say, “Jesus never said anything about homosexual behavior / abortion,” they still repeat that tired sound bite, along with many other pro-gay theology arguments.  It is a bad sign when people can’t be corrected.

It is a good thing to change your views when confronted with valid reasons to do so.  People often stereotype Christians as being close minded, but to be a Christian means that at some point in time one had to admit he was completely wrong about God and the universe and then changed his mind.  I wasn’t feeling unpopular enough as a mere Christian, so after years of investigation I switched to Reformed theology.  We won’t debate that on this thread and my switch doesn’t make me right, I just point it out to note that I had every reason to stay on the other side but was ultimately persuaded to change because I kept an open mind.

So don’t let your pride get in the way of rational discussions and defending the faith!  If you get stumped, don’t say something false.  Just say I don’t know, but I’ll find out, then go do some research and get back to the person.  In the mean time, feel free to shift the discussion back to what you do know — namely that Jesus lived, died and rose again and saved your soul — and encourage them to read the Bible.  Then let God’s word do what He promised it would.

High pressure sales tactics or “take it or leave it?”

I’m not saying it is all one or the other, but what do you think the biblical model of sharing the Gospel is more like?

A. High pressure sales tactics
B. Take it or leave it

I submit that it is more like “B.”  Of course we pray for people and earnestly hope for their salvation, but ultimately it is between them and God.  We’re on the Great Commission, not the paid commission.

When Jesus encounters the rich young ruler and tells him what he must do to attain eternal life, the man walks away sadly.  Then Jesus runs and tackles him and preaches to him some more.

Oh, wait, that last part never happened.  The man walked away and we never hear of him again, even though Jesus loved him.

And consider Paul’s journeys.  While he sometimes stayed in the same place for a while, the typical model seemed to be: Preach, get beat up, leave.  Or, at best:

Acts 17: 32-24 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

On the flip side, the book of Hebrews does say three times that:

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,  do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert . . .

So there is nothing wrong with conveying some sense of urgency to the appeal.

But some evangelism models involve pressuring people to decide, and they border on manipulation — or they jump across the border.  As the saying goes, if I can manipulate people into professing belief based on worldly techniques then someone else can talk them out of it.  And Satan is smarter than I am.  False conversions harm the person and the church.

Consider how few of the typical “converts” of revivals stick around:

 In the Assembly of God’s 1990s “Decade of Harvest,” out of the 3.5 million supposedly converted, they showed a net gain of only 5 new attenders for every 100 recorded professions. When one considers all of our supposed converts, including those who refuse to follow Christ in baptism and who never join our churches, our numbers are much the same. Doesn’t anybody see that there is a serious problem here?

I want to point people to the Bible and let the Holy Spirit do the work.  I reflexively work in key themes to spiritual conversations and am glad to unflinchingly affirm doctrines about the authority and accuracy of the Bible, the divinity and exclusivity of Jesus, the existence of Hell, the minimal facts, etc.  But it is all with an aim to get them to read for themselves.  I trust God to do what He promised:

Isaiah 55:10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

I also think that in terms of how the world views the church we come across as much more confident in our views if we just lay them out in a rational way instead of using emotional tricks.  People are bombarded with ads and gimmicks and we shouldn’t be a part of that.  2 Corinthians 4:1-6 explains this well:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

No tricks or high pressure, just sharing the truth in love.  Only God can make spiritually dead people alive.  We just want to be obedient to his model.

Finally, there are the pearl holding / dust shaking teachings of Jesus.  He told us not to press the issue with those who aren’t interested.  We need to be bold but also to trust his timing.

If you have the gift of evangelism, then get out and preach.  If you don’t, then be ready to fulfill your jobs as apologists and ambassadors to share the truth in a winsome way to a world that desperately needs it. Don’t sugarcoat the truth, but don’t feel the need to win every soul you encounter.  You are being obedient to God regardless of whether the person converts or not.  

Said another way, if you are an Arminian then high pressure techniques are counterproductive.  If you are Reformed, then they are unnecessary.

“Frequently raised but weak arguments against Intelligent Design”

I just noticed this over at Uncommon Descent — Frequently raised but weak arguments against Intelligent Design.  It is a great list of responses to the false statements brought by those marching around the Internet with their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites (TM).  Seriously, it is amazing how often you hear those arguments.  Those proposing them have either never really sought responses, not listened to the responses or are happy to repeat lies in spite of the evidence.

I added a link to the site as well.  It will come in very handy, and is required reading for new commenters.

Reminders about the Human-caused Global Warming / Global Climate Change hoax

Significant global warming / global climate change isn’t true, but if it was, it wouldn’t necessarily be bad.

Even if it was true and bad, we don’t have evidence that humans are causing it

Even if it was true and bad and true that humans were causing it, it still doesn’t mean we can make China and the rest of the world change things to make a difference.

Oh, and did I mention the hypocrites like Al Gore living in multiple mansions, flying personal jets, fathering 4 children, etc., who make hundreds of millions off of this scam, all the while telling you not to do those things?

Why does the Leftist skepticism disappear with those who want to give the government a permanent and unlimited blank check to control your lives?

Why do these people exhibit such transparent coveting?  Remember, coveting isn’t just wanting more, it is wanting to have more than others.  Think about all the politicians and profiteers who have so much yet don’t want the poor of the world to improve their lot in life.

Oh, but X% (insert really big number for “X”) of “real” scientists agree about global warming!!  Yes, they say that because they know their careers will be destroyed if they don’t.

From Ann Coulter:

CRU was regularly cited as the leading authority on “global climate analysis” — including by the very news outlets that are burying the current scandal, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. The CRU alone received more than $23 million in taxpayer funds for its work on global warming.

. . .

Most disturbingly, the CRU-affiliated “scientists” were caught red-handed conspiring to kill the careers and reputations of scientists who dissented from the religion of global warming. Indignant that scientific journals were publishing papers skeptical of global warming, the cult members plotted to get editors ousted and the publications discredited.

This video is a great overview of the issue.  Get educated, folks!

Hat tip: Red State

Cults and false religions are more like true Christianity than theological liberalism is

Make no mistake: I view Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons as cults and think that their followers are not saved.  And religions like Islam are false.  But think about how much closer they are to authentic Christianity than theologically liberal “Christians.”

Islam believes that Jesus was born of a virgin.  They say the word of God can’t be corrupted.  Mormons and JW’s will speak very highly of the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible.  They believe that Jesus performed miracles.  All those groups tend to be pro-life and pro-real marriage.  Mormons will tell you that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  And on and on.

Most theologically liberal “Christians” believe none of those things.  They are so far removed from the truth of Christianity that they make cults and false religions look downright orthodox. 

Again, those who die in the belief systems of cults and non-Christian religions will go to Hell.  I am just pointing out how theologically liberal “Christianity” is even farther removed from the truth than they are.  What makes it especially evil is that it pretends to be the real thing.

Run, don’t walk, from theologically liberal “Christians.”

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Also see Opposites.