God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Showing posts with label Atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atheism. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2019

How Naturalism Defeats Science As A Knowledge Discipline

Introduction

One of the core necessities of science is the constancy of the laws that govern this universe. The fact that the laws of physics have the same since the beginning of the universe and will continue until the universe is destroyed allows scientists to not only observe and know what is happening in the moment of their observation, but it allows them to discover what has happened in the past and even make accurate predictions of the behavior of objects and conditions in the future. Some scientists even use the understanding that the laws of physics are constant to make predictions of what we will observe in the past (by observing distant celestial objects), then conduct multiple observations to test their theory. But where do they come up with the idea that the laws of physics are constant in the first place?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Alfie Evans, Humanism, and Christ

Introduction

Those who have followed the Faithful Thinkers blog for a year or more know that I followed the case of Charlie Gard last summer. Gard was born with a rare disease that the medical facility that was treating him was ill-equipped to deal with. He died at the hand of the British courts and doctors because these ill-equipped doctors refused to recognize other possible solutions. Instead of seeking outside help to save the life of a defenseless child, they sought to legally kill him instead. Other nations and medical facilities offered to transport and treat Gard at their expense, but all volunteered help was rejected and condemned by the doctors, and courts were eventually appealed to by the British doctors to order that Gard be left in their knowingly-incapable hands. The courts granted that request much to the horror of the parents and the rest of the civilized world. And now in 2018, it is happening again; this time to a child by the name of Alfie Evans. LifeSiteNews has been following the story carefully, so for the details, please click the link. The suffering that is being endured by Alfie and his parents is unnecessary, gratuitous, and atrocious.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Can You Have Purpose Without God?

Quote from "Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren- "Without a purpose, life is motion without #meaning, activity without direction, and events without #reason. Without a #purpose, #life is trivial, petty, and pointless." #theology #God #anthropology #philosophy #theodicy

Introduction- Atheism and Purpose

One of the more convincing reasons to believe that atheism is false comes from man's desire for life to have purpose. If there is no designer behind the universe, life in general, and our individual lives in particular, have no ultimate purpose, no goal to guide our decisions, no finish line to motivate us to keep running when things get tough. The way that pastor Rick Warren put it in his book "The Purpose-Driven Life" makes it quite clear:
"Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty, and pointless."
If life is truly pointless, then why should anyone want to endure the suffering and pain that life brings? If life is pointless, as atheism necessarily implies, then there is no reason to want to continue to live. This is, quite literally, an unlivable philosophy for life, and if atheism necessarily implies this philosophy, then atheism is not just unlivable, but completely incompatible with living. And if a worldview is incompatible with living, it cannot be true. However, people do continue to live because they believe that their lives do have a purpose, so it follows that atheism is false. The power of this argument against their worldview is recognized by many atheists (they would agree with Warren in his assessment of the need for purpose), and they believe that they have found a way to undermine the soundness of the defeater of their worldview.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Atheism: A Lack of Belief in God

Introduction

I recently had a conversation on Twitter with an atheist. He held a particular view of atheism that made it quite difficult to have a productive conversation. This view has become more popular among internet atheists in the last few years, so I thought it would be worth addressing. 

What is Atheism?

This atheist immediately began our interaction by questioning my understanding of atheism. He claimed that atheism did not make the claim that God does not exist (as is the traditional understanding), rather it is neutral on God's existence; it does not make an ontological claim (if God exists) but rather an epistemological claim (if someone believes that God exists). He rationalized this untraditional understanding by saying that since theism is the belief in God, then atheism is the denial of the belief in God, but it is not necessarily the denial of God's existence. After I asked him a few clarifying questions, he claimed that no one could really "know" that God exists and we are all actually agnostics. He ultimately claimed that atheism is indistinguishable from agnosticism. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath

Introduction

Tonight Bill Nye and Ken Ham squared off on the topic "Is Creation a Viable Model for Origins In The Scientific Era?" Promoters of this debate have been promoting it as the "Debate of the Decade" and I had even heard the term "Scopes 2." Because I am a Christian and I disagree with Ken Ham's position on the age of the universe (I agree with Bill Nye, in that regard, but disagree with his worldview in general), it seems that I would be rooting for both or neither in the debate. Since I find that holding an incorrect view of reality (even within the confines of the correct general worldview) is damaging to defenses of the general worldview, I decided to watch this debate and offer my thoughts.

First, I want to state that I found that both participants were very respectful of one another so, it made the exchange easy to watch in that respect. What makes a debate more difficult to watch depends on the participants' ability to stay on topic and defend their contentions against critique. While I think that for the most part, they did stay on topic, there was a mix regarding their defense of particular parts of their contentions.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God, Billboards, and Missing Subjects

Answers in Genesis- Ken Ham- "To all our atheist friends: Thank God You're Wrong"

Introduction

Last year and earlier this year some atheist groups used the commercial advertising space of billboards to promote their worldview and mock religion. As disappointing as it was to see atheists use rhetoric and ridicule rather than reason and evidence in these spaces, it was not as disappointing as the news that I saw reported this past Monday.

It came to my attention that Christian organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) has decided to respond to the atheists' billboards, in kind. I was hoping to see billboards with succinct versions of the traditional arguments or some scientific evidence or an invitation to discover a world full of meaning, purpose, and reason or just a penetrating question. However, my hopes were dashed when I heard that the text of the billboards would read "To our atheist friends: Thank God You're Wrong." No argument. No evidence. No invitation. No question. I didn't realize that "in kind" meant not just medium, but lack of substance and presence of condescension too.

However, discussing those issues would be rehashing much critique that has been leveled at Answers in Genesis' general strategies and tactics throughout the years by many theologians, pastors, philosophers, scientists, and bloggers (including myself here and here). Today I want to focus on the actual content of these billboards- specifically the text's ambiguity and the implications of the possible interpretations.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Cognitive Dissonance of Evil

The Problem of Evil and Suffering
In defending the truth of the Christian worldview, I often come across atheists who point to the supposed incompatibility of a loving God with the existence of evil and suffering. Many defenders of Christianity will move directly to explain to the atheist that without an eternal, unchanging standard, there is no objective morality, thus there is no objective good or evil. Without objective good or evil, their challenge is groundless. I agree with this answer, but only if the atheist is critiquing the Christian worldview from outside the Christian worldview; they are rather usually pointing to an internal inconsistency- that of a loving God and evil. Christians usually offer two answers to show that evil is, in fact, compatible with a loving God: that God does have purposes for allowing the evil, and man is free is disobey God which results in much evil and suffering. (Many do recognize that the challenge to Christianity has been overcome, but it is still offered in one form or another which does have much emotional and rhetorical power- more on this later.) However, this is only a portion of what our answer should be. We have merely shown that their claim of incompatibility is false, but what about challenges with atheism posed by evil and suffering?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Morality, Knowledge, and X-Men

X-Men Set The Stage
I was watching X-Men: First Class the other day and something stood out that I thought might help in our discussions of morality. The two main characters (Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr) are mutants- humans with special abilities. Charles can read and control minds. Erik can manipulate metal via magnetism. Both of these are very powerful abilities demonstrated throughout the series. In the series, the X-Men series story goes that there is a growing fear of mutants among the normal populace and an effort by some government officials to eliminate them. Ultimately it ends up in a war between normal humans and mutants. However, Erik and Charles end up on opposite sides. Erik (as Magneto) wishes to eliminate the lesser evolved humans (ones without mutations), while Charles (as Professor X) fights to preserve humanity.

But what caught my attention was something very subtle: a miscommunication between Erik and Charles is actually responsible for them being on opposite sides of the war, yet both believing that they are right and the other is wrong.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Dangers of Progress in Atheism

Introduction
Something that has been going through my head recently is the concept of "progress". I especially hear it in the context of politics. Some people believe that if a society allows a certain behavior then "progress" has been made. Or if another behavior is allowed then we have "regressed". We talk about progress all the time regarding projects at work, home, or church. But we also talk about progress in sociological contexts- most commonly with social government, same-sex marriage, and abortion (at least that I have seen). I'm not going to debate the merits of any of these three today; rather, I'd like to challenge the idea that these represent progress.

Evolution
Many of the people who promote these views tend to be atheistic. They do not believe that a God exists. Consequently they also do not believe that life has any ultimate purpose. Natural processes are responsible for getting the universe from the initial Big Bang to where we are today- humans living together in highly organized societies. Evolution is a continual process. Species emerge, mutate, and eventually become extinct. The process continues in a cycle of emergence and mutation as long as reproduction is possible. A species becomes extinct when it mutates too much to be the original or simply dies off. Either way, all species will become extinct.

Initially, this doesn't seem like much of a problem- the process of evolution appears to not really have much to do with progress. I mean people assume that humans have value and the comfort of humans is also valuable. The ultimate purpose of those three ideas above is the comfort of humans (whether that is valid or not, again, I'm not arguing that today). So where is the issue? I'd like to look at three issues with the concept of "progress" in all worldviews founded in naturalism.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Raising Children Without God?- A Logical Christian Response

Introduction
Earlier this week an article made it onto CNN's iReport that has caused quite the furor in the Christian and atheist communities. The piece was originally published as a blog post entitled "Why I Raise My Children Without God." In the post the author explains that she has lied to her kids about what happens when they die and what heaven would be like. She asks why parents should tell their kids things that they don't even believe. She follows that up with seven reasons she believes that teaching children about God is wrong and should not be done.

I want to look at this from both an emotional and logical perspective (in that order). I will respond to all of her complaints and include links to other posts that have more detail. I will conclude by providing Christianity as a viable alternative and how satisfactory answers to those complaints can only be found in Christ.

I urge you to read the post in its entirety before continuing with this post. To prepare yourself to authentically answer the challenges, ask yourself these questions:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Questions That Are Off-Limits- Part 1

I have always been a curious person. I love to ask questions. What things work, how they work, and why they work. Math and the sciences had a great appeal to me in school. I always interacted with the teacher or professor. I was always trying to make connections among different pieces of knowledge that I was being taught. As I got older, if someone told me something, I liked to know how they obtained that knowledge and how it related to other knowledge I already had.

This continues even today. As a result, I've never been one to not challenge someone who I suspected was giving me wrong information. But I don't challenge just for the sake of challenging. I challenge in order to find the correct connections among facts. I challenge so that I may discover the truth.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How and Why The Problem of Evil

Lately two three-letter words have been getting me thinking about the problem of evil. They are simple words that may stand alone in order to ask two unique questions. It seems that when we properly distinguish between these two words, we can see a clear pointer to the truth of Christianity playing out in the lives of every person alive. These two words are "How" and "Why".

How vs. Why and Its Common Confusion
"How" is a question of mechanism. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the physical, cause-and-effect series that led to the result. If someone asks how a house is built, the answer would include all the steps from laying the foundation to the final inspection.

"Why" is a question of purpose. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the reason that the house was built. If someones asks why a house is built, the answer would normally include the fact that it will provide a living space for a family.

I've noticed that quite often, these two very different questions are confused by both questioner and listener. A lot of times when someone wants to know "how" something took place, they will ask "why" it happened. Likewise, if someone wants to know "why" something happened, they will ask "how" it took place. In some cases the listener will understand the question (regardless of the incorrect word being used) and provide the answer appropriate to the question, but there are other times that the listener does not recognize that someone is asking "why" and they answer "how" instead (because they asked "how"). 

Confusion of the questions can have trivial effects or eternal consequences. Since "why" is a question of purpose, in worldviews where ultimate purpose does not exist, a "why" question is irrational to ask about suffering, evil, and even existence. A person who asks "why" assumes that there is a purpose, and they want to know it. But if a worldview that posits no ultimate purpose is true, then the assumptions in the question contradict reality- that is how a "why" question is irrational on, say, atheism, but is perfectly valid (and compelled) if Christianity is true.

Worldview Implications
In atheism, asking why anything happens cannot be answered because "why" is a question of ultimate purpose, but atheism, a priori, has no ultimate purpose. Now, it can answer "how" something happened. A person could go into all the different laws of physics and chain reactions of cause-and-effect that led to the result that the question is being asked about.

Unlike atheism, theism can answer both questions. Theism can answer "how" something took place and "why" it took place. Atheism uses the scientific disciplines to answer a lot of "how" questions (not all, though that is a topic for another post)- that is the limit of science's ability. If we believe that science will answer all our questions, we are wrong. Science cannot answer our "why" questions. Granted science may be able to answer "how" we can ask "why" questions, but it will never answer "why" we ask "why" questions. It may be able to answer "how" we have a sense of purpose, but it will never answer "why" we have a sense of purpose (more on this below). An attempt to answer "how" when the question is "why" is an attempt to explain away what cannot be explained by naturalistic worldviews.

Applying to The Problem of Evil
For a person who assumes that there is a purpose behind a certain happening (something evil tends to the what the question is about), answering "how" is not sufficient. In fact, it is actually a red herring, intentional or not. The person is looking for comfort in the form of assurance that the suffering was not gratuitous and was not useless. Answering "how" when someone is asking "why" can actually make the situation worse for the person- by implying that the answerer either doesn't understand the pain the person is experiencing as they ask the question or that they have no comfort to offer but are trying to hide that fact by avoiding the actual question.

When we apply this distinction between the two types of questions to the problem of evil, we realize that the logical problem of evil is a "how" question. It asks how an all-loving and all-powerful God and evil can co-exist. It has been recognized generally that this question has been answered. But, that does not mean that the emotional problem of evil is answered. They are two very different questions.

The emotional problem of evil is a "why" question. It questions the ultimate purpose of evil and suffering in the world. Now, let's assume for the moment that when someone asks this question that they are assuming that the evil or suffering they are asking about does have a purpose (meaning that they assume theism). The ultimate purpose behind the evil and suffering in the world is difficult to answer, at best, because of the fact that man does not have the mind of God- man does not necessarily know the purposes behind certain things that happen. But we don't have to always appeal to mystery to answer the emotional problem of evil about certain events.

Many of us recognize that events that take place in our lives would not have happened if it were not for other events in our past. Notice that I am looking to the cause-and-effect series. I am asking a "how" question of a recent event to answer the "why" question of an event further in the past. If we can see the good that is taking place now (the event that sparks the "how" question), then we can see the purpose for the suffering that we had to endure in the past (the events that spark the "why" question).

The Scope of Evil Events
Now we have to remember that the emotional problem of evil will never be completely answered. We will not be able to see every good thing that comes from every evil event that takes place. What takes place in our lives does not only affect us; it affects those around us, and what happens to them affects those around them, and so on. The implication here is that we may never know the reason that we had to endure some suffering. We also may never know the reason that someone else had to endure suffering. And interestingly enough, the suffering that we see in the past can be part of the cause-and-effect series that has led to what good we have in our own lives today.

Patience is a Virtue
Notice that in order to answer the "why" question of the emotional problem of evil, we must be patient, and we must be actively looking for the paths that led to what is good in our lives today. It is very rare that we will know the purpose behind an evil event right away. Very few of us like to wait. 

We are very impatient; we want everything, and we want it now. We want to know everything, and we want to know it all now. But as you can see, life bears out this truth: "Those who wait on the Lord, will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31a NASB). When we are patient to see what God brings about in our lives or in the lives of others, the emotional weakness that we suffered from a specific event in the past can be lifted when we see that it was part of God's mechanism for bringing about something good in our lives or someone else's life. By that new recognized connection our strength is renewed, and our trust in God is increased for the next time that something evil takes place in our lives (see my posts "What is Faith?" and "Is Faith Emotional or Logical?").

The Purpose Of The Emotional Problem of Evil
Many people see the emotional problem of evil as a huge challenge to the truth of Christianity. It is, if you wish to interpret it that way. One can certainly think that since they don't or can't know everything (see "Dangers of Requiring Complete Knowledge") that God is evil and unfair to you. However, I believe we must ask another "why" question: "Why must we struggle with the emotional problem of evil?" Notice that I didn't ask "how do we..." (I'll let the naturalists attempt to answer that one). The key to answer this question is above- building trust in God. If people did not, first experience evil and suffering, and second, feel the emotional pain from it, we would not struggle with it ("how" the struggle exists). And without the struggle, we would not recognize our own weakness and powerlessness in our lives to avoid evil and suffering. The suffering in life painfully reminds us that we are not in control until the day we die. Without that recognition, we would not be able to recognize our need for Someone who loves us enough to die so that we can eternally escape evil and suffering. The purpose for the existence of the emotional problem of evil is to bring people to Christ and know Him more intimately (see the recent post "Tornadoes, Flat Tires, and Moore").

Conclusion
Atheism does not have the ability to answer our most painful and real question: "why". If we want such answers, we have to recognize that life is not about us, and at best, we are second to One. And with that humble recognition comes a promise: God's love never fails. Only through Christ can we answer "how" and "why" evil exists and why we must suffer the pain of evil.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pain, Suffering, and Purpose

The Emotional Problem of Evil

This past weekend the On Guard conference was held in Oklahoma, which gave me the opportunity to go. William Lane Craig was speaking on the problem of evil- both the intellectual version and the emotional version. He did an incredible job demonstrating how the intellectual problem has been overcome and that even atheists recognize that. The emotional problem of evil is where he stated that the problem is still quite persuasive.

In my notes on this talk I wrote down three initials. They represents a powerful and popular resource that I wanted to highlight for the apologetic community. I have been dealing with apologetics for several years now, and I cannot remember seeing this resource come up a single time. It seems to be left untapped, yet I'm not certain why.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Creation and the Scientific Method

An Atheist's Argument
A couple years ago I was presented with an argument against theism that appealed to the trustworthiness of the scientific method. It goes like this:

1. The scientific method relies on the constancy of the natural laws for its trustworthiness
2. In order for God to create, He must act in a way that breaks the constancy of the natural laws
3. Therefore, God creating and the trustworthiness of the scientific method are incompatible

The atheist believed that he had me pinned down because I believe that the scientific method is trustworthy. I explained to him the problem with his argument and why I reject his conclusion (I'll explain that later). I haven't really heard this argument presented much lately. But I did come across it again a couple days ago, not from an atheist but a fellow Christian.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Who Created God?

The Question/Challenge
A fairly common question that I hear many atheists raise against any form of theism is "Who created God?". I've noticed that this question often comes around after a theist has presented the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA):

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

Even though the KCA merely concludes that the universe had a cause, the atheist wishes to undermine the theist when they use other arguments (such as the moral argument or teleological argument) to identify the cause as God. The question is designed to show that even God has a cause, and His cause had a cause, which also had a cause, etc. This could go on forever, thus requiring an infinite regress of causes. If, this challenge holds up, then it is a powerful argument against God's existence. So it does warrant a close examination. I have a couple of observations that I wish to bring to light about this challenge.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Fear of Atheism

Introduction
Last week an apologist friend of mine posted a fairly common atheist challenge to a private Facebook group. The specific version is this:
"Why are you so AFRAID of atheism? What is it about thinking you have a big daddy in the sky that you need to believe in that you just can't let go of? Aren't you arguing because REALLY you are AFRAID it is all just a big lie and you know that all your cherished religious beliefs are false?"
This challenge has three individual questions that need to be addressed on their own. Let's look at the first one.

Why are you so AFRAID of atheism?
When I first saw this question I wasn't sure why it was asked. The reason is that it assumes that the theist IS afraid of atheism. Many could put forth reasons for why atheism is nothing to fear. The chief one would be that if God does not exist, then there will be no one to account to after death for the lives we lived. If there is no one to account to, then why not live like you want? Atheism offers a freedom to follow our desires without fear of eternal consequences. As long as we are acting within the confines of the cultural laws, we don't even have to fear consequences while we're alive. Further if we don't like a law, all we have to do is rise against the law, and it will eventually be changed. Cultural relativism rules the day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Hunger Games: Revisited


A few weeks ago I posted a critique of the movie The Hunger Games. It came to my attention that Fred Edwords posted a short piece at the American Humanist Association's website addressing the general evangelical response to the movie. He linked to my original article and broadly addressed my comparison of the society of The Capital to where today's societies are leading. Mr. Edwords had two main points of contention that I feel need to be addressed.

Secular vs. Agnostic Society
The first point of contention that I considered the society in The Hunger Games to be secular and not merely agnostic. Edwords claims that there was no mention of God (which he's correct), thus the society must be concluded to be secular. He implies that that distinction removes the society from critiques of agnosticism. But is there really a distinction between secularism and agnosticism that allows such an escape?

In order for a society to avoid either label of "theistic" or "atheistic", it cannot affirm or deny either. It must simply hold the position that God's existence cannot be known. This position is called "agnosticism". Secularism necessarily entails "agnosticism". Since secularism necessarily entails agnosticism, secularism is subject to critiques of agnosticism by the necessary connection.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunger Games: The Atheist's Utopia Revealed


My Past Week
I've noticed lately that I have a harder and harder time going to see movies purely for the entertainment value of the show. This weekend I went to see one that really made me step back and look at society, not just as portrayed in the movie, but the society of the audience. Last week I had a conversation with a person that was still fresh on my mind, and I finished reading a specific book on the topic. Those allowed my mind to make some interesting connections.

What Conversation?
Last week's conversation was a political/worldview discussion with a friend on Facebook. This person was more concerned that he be allowed to believe whatever he wanted to believe rather than be concerned about the truth of the content of his belief. He stated that he was a moral relativist and that nothing could be considered "right" or "wrong" on his view; he also believed that the government and its official documents (the US Constitution, in this case) is from where people derive "intrinsic" rights. When he asked me moral questions, I asked if he was asking from within his worldview or mine. He told me to just answer the question however best suits me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Are Atheists Redefining "Reason"?

As many are likely aware, in one week, there will be a gathering of atheists in Washington, DC. They have dubbed this the "Reason Rally". The idea is to promote the idea that atheism is more reasonable than religion. However, if you read this blog and other blogs like it (see the sidebar), you are also aware that there are many reasons that people believe Christianity is true, and atheism is not. But are the organizers of this event actually promoting "reason"?


If this rally was going to consist of mainly atheist scientists and philosophers offering their reasons and encouraging Christian peers to critique and engage their reasons, I could understand the title of "Reason Rally". Unfortunately, the organizers are doing no such thing. Instead they have chosen to appeal to improper authorities, resist peer review, and encourage an atmosphere of personal attacks- all pointing toward a deliberate rejection of reason and possibly even an intentional redefinition of the word "reason". This all reminds me of my school days...

Monday, March 12, 2012

True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Reason Rally that will be held later this month in Washington, DC. The primary goal of the rally is to promote how atheism is the only reasonable worldview.

The Christian Apologetics Alliance has put together a book of essays that refute this claim both philosophically and evidentially. Several essays demonstrate how reason is not possible given the truth of naturalism, while several others provide evidence that makes Christianity a reasonable worldview to believe is true. The connection between science and faith, the reliability of the Gospels, and the problem of evil are all addressed in this book. Other topics include the claim that the God of the Old Testament is evil by promoting slavery and commanding the annihilation of nations.

Check out the main page for the book at True Reason and the Amazon page here.

Reviews by:
Christiana Szymanski

Please note that it appears that those organizing the Reason Rally have little intention of having a thoughtful and reasonable discussion with Christians, as evidenced by their invitation of Westboro Baptist Church to the event yet refusal to invite Christian philosophers and scientists- the ones who could carry on a reasonable discussion.