For example, Stalin once stated: “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God … all this talk about God is sheer nonsense.” But Stalin was not content with mere words; he also acted on them. In 1925, he actively encouraged the founding of the League of Militant Atheists, which for over twenty years acted out its slogan, “The Struggle Against Religion is a Struggle for Socialism.” It began with popular campaigns in the media against religion, aiming to persuade citizens that religion was irrational and toxic. But soon things became considerably more violent:
Churches were closed or destroyed, often by dynamiting; priests were imprisoned, exiled or executed. On the eve of the Second World War there were only 6,376 clergy remaining in the Russian Orthodox Church, compared with the pre-revolutionary figure of 66,140. One dreadful day, 17 February 1938, saw the execution of 55 priests. In 1917 there were 39,530 churches in Russia; by 1940, only 950 remained functional.
Similar stories could be told of Pol Pot or Mao Zedong, or numerous other atheistic dictators. When I lived in Europe, I frequently traveled and taught in former communist countries such as Hungary and Romania and heard story after story of the violence that had been endemic before the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.
Andy Banister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or, The dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Oxford, England: Monarch Books, 2015), 23.
The dazzlingly obvious conclusion now arose, in my mind: in the whole history of the universe the laws of Nature have never produced a single event… Up till now I had had a vague idea that the laws of Nature could make things happen. I now saw that this was exactly like thinking that you could increase your income by doing sums about it. The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere.
This may be put in the form that the laws of Nature explain everything except the source of events. But this is rather a formidable exception. The laws, in one sense, cover the whole of reality except–well, except that continuous cataract of real events which makes up the actual universe. They explain everything except what we should ordinarily call “everything.” The only thing they omit is — the whole universe.
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Co., 20014), 73.
…On the other hand, much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed. This is not to say… that every event as reported in the historical books happened exactly as stated.
Smithsonian Institute on the Bible
First Person: “You shouldn’t force your morality on me.”
Second Person: “Why not?”
First Person: “Because I don’t believe in forcing morality.”
Second Person: “If you don’t believe in it, then by all means, don’t do it. Especially don’t force that moral view of yours on me.”
First Person: “You shouldn’t push your morality on me.”
Second Person: “I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that statement. Do you mean I have no right to an opinion?”
First Person: “You have a right to you’re opinion, but you have no right to force it on anyone.”
Second Person: “Is that your opinion?”
First Person: “Yes.”
Second Person: “Then why are you forcing it on me?”
First Person: “But your saying your view is right.”
Second Person: “Am I wrong?”
First Person: “Yes.”
Second Person: “Then your saying only your view is right, which is the very thing you objected to me saying.”
First Person: “You shouldn’t push your morality on me.”
Second Person: “Correct me if I’m misunderstanding you here, but it sounds to me like your telling me I’m wrong.”
First Person: “You are.”
Second Person: “Well, you seem to be saying my personal moral view shouldn’t apply to other people,but that sounds suspiciously like you are applying your moral view to me. Why are you forcing your morality on me?”
Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Planted in Mid-Air (Baker Books; 1998), p. 144-146.
This was a great quote from a book I am currently reading. The quote from Orwell comes from his letter/notes entitled “A Patriot After All: 1940-1941 (The Complete Works of George Orwell, Vol. 12)“:
India-born British author George Orwell (1903-50) was a socialist, inclined toward atheism. The horrors of Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and the two World Wars forced him to face the consequences of the “amputation of the soul.” In his “Notes on the Way,” Orwell wrote that the writers who sawed off the West’s soul included “Gibbon, Voltaire, Rousseau, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, Stendahl, Samuel Butler, Ibsen, Zola, Flaubert, Shaw, Joyce—in one way or another they are all of them destroyers, wreckers, saboteurs.” These “Enlightenment” writers led the West into its present darkness.
In his essay Orwell was reflecting on Malcolm Muggeridge’s book The Thirties, which describes the damage these writers had done to Europe. Muggeridge, then still an atheist, was astute enough to perceive that
we are living in a nightmare precisely because we have tried to set up an earthly paradise. We have believed in “progress.” Trusted to human leadership, rendered unto Caesar the things that are God’s. . . . There is no wisdom except in the fear of God; but no one fears God; therefore there is no wisdom. Man’s history reduces itself to the rise and fall of material civilizations, one Tower of Babel after another . . . downwards into abysses which are horrible to contemplate.
Vishnal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 22-23.
When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality—the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal-infinite God. Christianity is not just a series of truths but Truth—Truth about all of reality. And the holding to that Truth intellectually—and then in some poor way living upon that Truth, the Truth of what is—brings forth not only certain personal results, but also governmental and legal results.
Francis Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume Five (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 425.
Raising one’s self-consciousness [awareness] about worldviews is an essential part of intellectual maturity…. The right eyeglasses can put the world into clearer focus, and the correct worldview can function in much the same way. When someone looks at the world from the perspective of the wrong worldview, the world won’t make much sense to him. Or what he thinks makes sense will, in fact, be wrong in important respects. Putting on the right conceptual scheme, that is, viewing the world through the correct worldview, can have important repercussions for the rest of the person’s understanding of events and ideas…. Instead of thinking of Christianity as a collection of theological bits and pieces to be believed or debated, we should approach our faith as a conceptual system, as a total world-and-life view.
Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 9, 17-18, 19.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” (1796), in Standard English Classics (C.R. Gaton ed.).
- “…yet we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law, for no human being will be justified by the works of the law.” (International Standard Version [ISV])
According to the text in the ISV, Christ’s faith — not ours — does the justifying. It is His focus of attention, not ours, that does the work. (The “onus” then is put in proper perspective.) As an example from one of my favorite verses, Philippians 1:6:
- “I am sure of this, that He who (a) started a good work in you will (b) carry it on to completion until the (c) day of Christ Jesus.”
To be clear:
(a) HE started the Good work [salvation]; (b) HE will carry it out; (c) HE will complete it.
Finally, while nearly everyone asks why God doesn’t stop evil, few people ask why God doesn’t stop pleasure. Stopping pleasure would be an effective way of stopping evil while maintaining human freedom. That’s because no one does evil for evil’s sake. We do evil to get good things. We lie, steal, and kill to get pleasurable good things, such as money, sex, and power. Take away pleasure and the incentive to do evil would vanish. But if God were to stop evil by ending pleasure, would the human race continue? If it did, would anyone like the pleasureless world that remains?
Frank Turek, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 142.
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.
Blaise Pascal (Pensees 10.148)
Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality
Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34 (Walter is an atheist, BTW)
Atheist Daniel Dennett, for example, asserts that consciousness is an illusion. (One wonders if Dennett was conscious when he said that!) His claim is not only superstitious, it’s logically indefensible. In order to detect an illusion, you’d have to be able to see what’s real. Just like you need to wake up to know that a dream is only a dream, Daniel Dennett would need to wake up with some kind of superconsciousness to know that the ordinary consciousness the rest of us mortals have is just an illusion. In other words, he’d have to be someone like God in order to know that.
Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality.
When atheists have to call common sense “an illusion” and make self-defeating assertions to defend atheism, then no one should call the atheistic worldview “reasonable.” Superstitious is much more accurate.
Frank Turek, Stealing from God (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 46-47.
The atheist is simply wrong to assume that religious diversity undermines the truth of religious claims… [T]he fact that you learned your Christianity because you grew up in the Bible Belt [does not] imply anything about whether those beliefs are true or false. The atheist is guilty here of what in logic is called the “genetic fallacy.” The term does not refer to genes; it refers to origins. Think of it this way. If you are raised in New York, you are more likely to believe in Einstein’s theory of relativity than if you are raised in New Guinea. Someone from Oxford, England, is more likely to be an atheist than someone from Oxford, Mississippi. The geographical roots of your beliefs have no bearing on the validity of your beliefs.
Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2009), 38-39.
In the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, added to the paperback version, there is a Q&A section. I do not know who the questioner is, but it is obviously someone affiliated with the editors of the book. Consider this question asked of Ehrman:
Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets Of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?
Note that the wording of the question is not “Do you believe…” but “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy…?” This is a question that presumably came from someone who read the book very carefully. How does Ehrman respond?
The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.
Suffice it to say that viable textual variants that disturb cardinal doctrines found in the NT have not yet been produced.
Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 54-55.
The theory has often been put forward that religion evolved slowly over many millennia, beginning with very primitive ideas and gradually developing into today’s concepts. Wrapped up in this theory, and an important element in the thinking of many atheists, is the idea that monotheism (belief in one God) is a comparatively recent refinement. In the nineteenth century, two anthropologists, Sir Edward Tyler and Sir James Frazer, popularized the notion that the first stage in the evolution of religion was animism (which involved the worship of spirits believed to inhabit natural phenomena), followed later by pantheism (the idea that everything is divine), polytheism (belief in a multitude of distinct and separate deities) and eventually by monotheism.1
However, recent studies in anthropology have turned this scenario on its head and show, for example, that the hundreds of contemporary tribal religions (including many which are animistic) are not primitive in the sense of being original. Writing from long experience in India, and after extended studies of ancient religions, the modern scholar Robert Brow states, The tribes have a memory of a “High God”, who is no longer worshipped because he is not feared. Instead of offering sacrifice to him, they concern themselves with the pressing problems of how to appease the vicious spirits of the jungle.’2 Other research suggests that tribes ‘are not animistic because they have continued unchanged since the dawn of history’ and that The evidence indicates degeneration from a true knowledge of God.’3 After working among primitive tribes for many years, one modern expert says, The animism of today gives us the impression of a religion that carries the marks of a fall,’4 while another bluntly refers to ‘the now discredited evolutionary school of religion’ as being ‘recognized as inadmissible’.5
The evidence of modern archaeology is that religion has not evolved ‘upwards’, but degenerated from monotheism to pantheism and polytheism, then from these to animism and atheism, a finding confirmed by the Scottish academic Andrew Lang in The Making of Religion: ‘Of the existence of a belief in the Supreme Being among primitive tribes there is as good evidence as we possess for any fact in the ethnographic region.’6 In History of Sanskrit Literature, the Oriental expert Max Muller, recognized as the founder of the science of the history of religions, came to the conclusion: ‘There is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda; and even in the invocations of the innumerable gods, the remembrance of a God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds.’7 In The Religion of Ancient Egypt, Sir Flinders Petrie, universally acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Egyptologists, claimed, ‘Wherever we can trace back polytheism to its earliest stages, we find that it results from combinations of monotheism.’8 In Semitic Mythology, the Oxford intellectual Stephen Langdon, one of the greatest experts in his field, said, ‘In my opinion the history of the oldest civilization of man is a rapid decline from monotheism to extreme polytheism and widespread belief in evil spirits. It is in a very true sense the history of the fall of man.’9
These statements make it clear that the scenario suggested by Tyler and Frazer will not fit the facts. There is no convincing evidence for any development in nature religions from animism through polytheism to monotheism. The idea that religion itself is something man invented has proved just as baseless. When the British naturalist Charles Darwin went to Tierra del Fuego in 1833, he believed that he had discovered aborigines with no religion at all. There are atheists today who still lean heavily on this, in spite of the fact that a scholar who went to the region after Darwin, and spent many years learning the language, history and customs of the Fuegians, reported that their idea of God was well developed and that he found ‘no evidence that there was ever a time when he was not known to them’ .10
The same overall picture emerges in studies centred on the traditions of the oldest civilizations known to man: original belief in a ‘High God’, followed by degeneration into polytheism, animism and other corrupt religious notions.
To trace all the currents in the ebb and flow of man’s religious thinking over the centuries is beyond anyone’s ability, but it is possible to track down some of the people whose ideas not only made a marked contemporary impact but still affect the way many people think today on the issue of the existence of God. In this and the next eleven chapters we will make a high-speed pass over the last 2,500 years or so and identify some of the most influential characters and concepts. One point before we begin: animism, pantheism, polytheism (and some of the other `-isms’ we shall touch on as we go along) are usually treated as facets of theism, but for the purpose of this book I want to draw the line elsewhere and to treat them as aspects of atheism, on the grounds that they fail to square with the definition of God proposed in the introduction….
- See especially James George Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890), which examined the development of human thought with reference to magic, religion and science.
- Robert Brow, Religion: Origins and Ideas, Tyndale Press, p.11.
- Johann Warneck, The Living Forces of the Gospel, Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier, p.99.
- Edward G. Newing, ‘Religions of Pre-literary Societies’, in The World’s Religions, Norman Anderson, Inter-Varsity Press, pp.11-12.
- Andrew Lang, The Making of Religion, Longmans & Green, p.18.
- Max Muller, History of Sanskrit Literature, 559.
- Flinders Petrie, The Religion of Ancient Egypt, Constable, p.4.
- Stephen Langdon, Semitic Theology, 5 in Mythology of All Races, Archaeological Institute of America, p.xviii.
- Edward G. Newing, ‘Religions of Pre-literary Societies’, in The World’s Religions, 14.
John Blanchard, Does God Believe In Atheists? 2nd Edition (Darlington England; Carlisle, PA: EP Books, 2011), 25-27, footnotes 640.
Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1996), 113-114.
Determinism is self-stultifying. If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism. But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false.
J. P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 241; Quoting: H.P. Owen, Christian Theism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1984), 118.
Relativists aren’t interested in finding truth but in preserving their own autonomy. This isn’t a logical argument against relativism, of course. I’m just trying to point out that the true(!) basis for relativism is ultimately rooted in its motivation rather than in any good reasons or persuasive arguments.
Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, Dr. William Provine:
- Modern science, i.e., evolution, implies that there is no purpose, gods, or design in nature.
- There are no absolute moral or ethical laws.
- Heredity and environment determine all that man is.
- When we die, we die, and that is all there is.
- Evolution cannot produce a being that is truly free to make choices.
A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be “most” really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. (Adaptation from two sources)
- Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, Facts on File, November 2004
- John Entick, The General History of the Later War, Volume 3, 1763, p. 110.
Old Testament laws regulating slavery are troublesome by modern standards, but in their historical context they provided a degree of social recognition and legal protection to slaves that was advanced for its time (Exodus 21:20-27; Leviticus 25:44-46). We must keep in mind that on occasion it was an alternative to the massacre of enemy populations in wartime and the starvation of the poor during famine.
Dan Vander Lugt, Why Does the Bible Tolerate Slavery? (Via Questions.org)
…So Haidt did a little research into the mind of Sam Harris. He took his book The End of Faith, along with ones by atheists Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, and fed them into a text analysis program that counts “certainty words” such as “always,” “never,” “certainly,” every,” “undeniable.” He did the same with recent popular books by scientists: Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct, Ara Norenzayan’s Big Gods, and his own, The Righteous Mind. Then he added culture war books from the right: Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us From Evil and Ann Coulter’s Treason.
The results are fascinating. Certainty words make up a bit more than 1 percent of the overall content of Haidt and Bering’s books, which are not shy about drawing conclusions, but reflect a degree of scientific modesty. Meanwhile, books by the supposedly fire-breathing right-wing ideologues Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity actually have fewer certainty words than Bering’s. Beck’s is about the same.
The New Atheists, the self-styled servants of reason and adversaries of dogmatism? They had a higher percent of certainty words, with Harris topping them all. Of the words in The End of Faith, 2.24 percent declare or connote certainty. Of those in The Moral Landscape 2.34 percent do so.
R.R. Reno, “The New Fundamentalists,” First Things, May 2014 (Number 243), 6.
… fundamentally, the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premise in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as “God exists,” “I am condemned by God,” “I am reconciled to God,” “Christ lives in me,” and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 43
Pragmatism is unjustified. The most serious internal criticism against pragmatism is that, pragmatically, it doesn’t work. We would have to have infinite knowledge of all possible consequences to each alternative action or philosophy. We can never be sure how things will turn out. Only a theistic God could be an effective pragmatist, and he is not one. One of James’s Harvard colleagues, Josiah Royce, penetrated to the root problem of this pragmatic view of truth when he asked James if he would take the witness stand in court and swear “to tell the expedient, the whole expedient, and nothing but the expedient, so help him future experience.”
Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999), 378.
The study of God and delight in knowing God requires a mode of understanding that transcends simply empirical data gathering, logical deduction, or the dutiful organization of scriptural or traditional texts into a coherent sequence. The Christian study of God intrinsically involves a mode of knowing from the heart that hopes to make the knower “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, KJV, i.e., a knowing grounded in the “sacred writings which have power to make you wise and lead you to salvation,” NEB), to save the soul, to teach the sinner all that is needed to attain saving knowledge of God (Clement of Alex., Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? pp. 591-604; Catherine of Siena, Prayers 7, pp. 58-61; Baxter, PW II, pp. 23-25; Wesley, WJW VIII, pp. 20 ff., 290 ff.).
Faith’s knowing is distinguishable from objective, testable, scientific knowledge, although not necessarily inimical to it. It is a form of knowing that embraces the practical question of how we choose to live in the presence of this Source and End of all (Clement of Alex., Exhort. to the Heathen IX, ANF II, pp. 195-97;Teresa of Avila, CWST, III, pp. 219-22; Calvin, Inst. 1.11-13).
Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, Volume One: The Living God (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2006), 9-10.
Central to any programme which treats Scripture as normative is the delimitation of Scripture. In other words, what is Scripture? The term ‘canon’ (a Greek word meaning ‘rule’ or ‘norm’) came to be used to refer to those Scriptures recognized as authentic by the church. For medieval theologians, `Scripture’ meant ‘those works included in the Vulgate’. The reformers, however, felt able to call this judgement into question. While all the New Testament works were accepted as canonical — Luther’s misgivings concerning four of them gaining little support” — doubts were raised concerning the canonicity of a group of Old Testament works. A comparison of the contents of the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible on the one hand and the Greek and Latin versions (such as the Vulgate) on the other shows that the latter contain a number of books not found in the former. The reformers argued that the only Old Testament writings which could be regarded as belonging to the canon of Scripture were those originally included in the Hebrew Bible.’ A distinction was thus drawn between the ‘Old Testament’ and the `Apocrypha’: the former consisted of books found in the Hebrew Bible, the latter of books found in the Greek and Latin Bibles (such as the Vulgate), but not in the Hebrew Bible. While some reformers allowed that the apocryphal works were edifying reading, there was general agreement that these works Could not be used as the basis of doctrine. Medieval theologians, however, to be followed by the Council of Trent in 1546, defined the `Old Testament’ as `those Old Testament works contained in the Greek and Latin bibles’, thus eliminating any distinction between `Old Testament’ and ‘Apocrypha’.
Alister E. McGrath, Reformational Thought: An Introduction, 3rd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell 1999), 151.
The assurance that God has spoken to them directly through his holy Scriptures gave the Reformers their unique boldness. The formation of that truth theologically was the fundamentally new element in the Reformation. The Reformation battle cry was sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” But sola Scriptura meant more to the Reformers than that God has revealed himself in the propositions of the Bible. The new element was not that the Bible, being given by God, speaks with God’s authority. The Roman Church held to that as well as the Reformers. The new element, as Packer points out,
was the belief, borne in upon the Reformers by their own experience of Bible study, that Scripture can and does interpret itself to the faithful from within—Scripture is its own interpreter, Scriptura sui ipsius interpres, as Luther puts it—so that not only does it not need Popes or Councils to tell us, as from God, what it means; it can actually challenge Papal and conciliar pronouncements, convince them of being ungodly and untrue, and require the faithful to part company with them. . . . As Scripture was the only source from which sinners might gain true knowledge of God and godliness, so Scripture was the only judge of what the church had in each age ventured to say in her Lord’s name.
In Luther’s time the Roman Church had weakened the authority of the Bible by exalting human traditions to the stature of Scripture and by insisting that the teaching of the Bible could be communicated to Christian people only through the mediation of popes, councils and priests. The Reformers restored biblical authority by holding that the living God speaks to his people directly and authoritatively through its pages.
James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVasity Press, 1986), 48-49.
1. Support from Luke 4:6
This viewpoint has been strongly promoted by Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd in his influential book The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Boyd’s views in this book have had a large impact in the United States, especially on younger evangelical voters.
Boyd says that all civil government is “demonic” (p. 21). Boyd’s primary evidence is Satan’s statement to Jesus in Luke 4:
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5-7).
Boyd emphasizes Satan’s claim that all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world “has been delivered to me” and then says that Jesus “doesn’t dispute the Devil’s claim to own them. Apparently, the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan.”
Boyd goes on to say, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments.” This is indeed a thoroughgoing claim!
2. The mistake of depending on Luke 4:6
Greg Boyd is clearly wrong at this point. Jesus tells us how to evaluate Satan’s claims, for he says that Satan “has nothing to do with the truth” because
“there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist the temptation itself, and this he did with the decisive words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve”‘ (Luke 4:8).
In evaluating Boyd’s claim that “the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan,” we have a choice: Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies? The answer is easy: Satan wanted Jesus to believe a lie, and he wants us to believe that same lie, that he is the ruler of earthly governments.
By contrast, there are some very specific verses in the Bible that tell us how we should think of civil governments. These verses do not agree with Satan’s claim in Luke 4:6 or with Boyd’s claim about Satan’s authority over all earthly governments. Rather, these verses where God (not Satan) is speaking portray civil government as a gift from God, something that is subject to God’s rule (not Satan) and used by God for his purposes. Here are some of those passages:
“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17).
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are the ministers of God, attending to this very thing (Rom. 13:1-6).
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:13-14).
At this point it is interesting that both Paul (in Romans) and Peter see civil government as doing the opposite of what Satan does: civil governments are established by God “to punish those who do evil,” but Satan encourages those who do evil! Civil governments are established by God “to praise those who do good,” but Satan discourages and attacks those who do good. In addition, it would not make sense for Peter to say, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every institution in which Satan is the CEO.” Peter would not want Christian citizens to be subject to Satan’s control and direction.
The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his control, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. (Of course, Satan can influence some individuals in government, but he is not in control.) The only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “all government is demonic.”
Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-38.
“If God is ‘dead,’ somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Heffner.”
Malcolm Muggeridge (a British journalist, author, satirist, media personality, soldier-spy and, in his later years, a Catholic convert and writer); from, Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 32.
* One other aspect of objective morality, or moral truths, needs to be explained. Objective right and wrong does not mean than an act is always wrong. It means that in any given situation there is a right and wrong. Many people who believe in objective morality confuse “objective” with “always.” Objective morality means that good and evil really exist and are not matters of individual taste or feeling or preference. Therefore objective morality means that an action is right or wrong for all people but not necessarily in every situation. Very few actions are always wrong. It is usually wrong to lie, for example, but lying to Nazis searching for Jews to murder was not morally wrong—it was the highest form of morality. Therefore, “situational ethics” is not the same thing as moral relativism. Moral relativism means that every individual (or society) decides what is right or wrong. It completely negates objective morality. Situational ethics means what is right or wrong depends on the situation. It in no way negates objective morality. For example, it is the situation that determines when killing is wrong. According to the Bible itself, the situation determines when killing is murder. That is why the Ten Commandments say, “Do not murder” not “Do not kill.” Murder is immoral killing—and it is the situation that determines when killing is moral and when it is immoral and therefore deemed murder. Pacifism is an excellent example of the flawed belief that an action—in this case, killing—is always immoral. Pacifism argues that it is wrong to take a life in every situation. For this reason, it has no basis in Judeo-Christian values, which hold that there is moral killing (self-defense, defending other innocents, taking the life of a murderer) and immoral killing (intentional murder of an innocent individual, wars of aggression, terrorism, etc.).
Dennis Prager, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (New York, NY: Broadside Books, 2012), 349n. (Bold/underlined emphasis added.)
8. God has established both evangelism and the power of government to restrain evil
The problem with Boyd’s view here is that he fails to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of civil government. Of course God has not told us to spread the Gospel of Christ by using the “power of the sword” or the power of government. We spread the Gospel by the proclamation of the Word of God (see Rom. 10:17). But God has told us that we should restrain evil by the power of the sword and by the power of civil government (as in the teaching of Romans 13:1-6, quoted above, p. 37).
If the power of government (such as a policeman) is not present in an emergency, when great harm is being done to another person, then my love for the victim should lead me to use physical force to prevent any further harm from occurring. If I found a criminal attacking my wife or children, I would use all my physical strength and all the physical force at my disposal against him, not to persuade him to trust in Christ as his Savior, but to immediately stop him from harming my wife and children! I would follow the command of Nehemiah, who told the men of Israel, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14; see also Genesis 14:14-16, where Abraham rescued his kinsman Lot who had been taken captive by a raiding army).
Boyd has wrongly taken one of the ways that God restrains evil in this world (changing hearts through the Gospel of Christ) and decided that it is the only way that God restrains evil (thus neglecting the valuable role of civil government). Both means are from God, both are good, and both should be used by Christians.
This is why Boyd misunderstands Jesus’ statement, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). When this verse is rightly understood (see below, p. 82), we see that Jesus is telling individuals not to take revenge for a personal insult or a humiliating slap on the cheek. But this command for individual kindness is not the same as the instructions that the Bible gives to governments, who are to “bear the sword” and be a “terror” to bad conduct and are to carry out “God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:3-4). The verses must be understood rightly in their own contexts. One is talking about individual conduct and personal revenge. The other is talking about the responsibilities of government. We should not confuse the two passages.
9. Could more pacifism have stopped slavery or stopped hitler?
Near the end of his book Boyd responds to the objection that war was necessary to end slavery in the United States (in the Civil War) and to stop Hitler’s campaign to take over the entire world (in World War II). Didn’t the use of military force bring about good in those cases?
Boyd’s response is to say that if Christians had been better pacifists, history would have been different: “Had professing Christians been remotely like Jesus in the first place, there would have been no slavery or war for us to wonder about what would have happened had Christians loved their enemies and turned the other cheek.” With regard to the US Civil War, Boyd says, “A kingdom person should rather wonder what might have happened had more kingdom people been willing to live out the call of the radical kingdom.”
But this is just an elegant way of saying, “If history was different, it would prove my case.” And that is another way of saying, “If the facts were different, they would prove my case.” That is not a valid argument. It is appealing to wishful thinking rather than facts.
Boyd is simply saying that if the world were different, the world would be different. But that proves nothing. History is what it is, and history shows that both the evil of American slavery and the evil of Adolf Hitler were only stopped by the power of superior military force. That is the task that God has assigned to governments when they “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4).
Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 41-43.
“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions”
G. K. Chesterton
“There will be no jarring note in Heaven, no whisper of human merit, no claim of a reward for good intentions—but every crown shall be cast at Jesus’ feet and every voice shall join in the ascription, ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Your name be all the glory of the salvation which You have worked out for us from first to last.’”
C.H. Spurgeon, from a sermon published in March of 1904 entitle “CHRIST’S CROWNING GLORY”
“We therefore make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not he who hath no sin, but he to whom God imputeth not his sin, through faith in Christ. That is why we so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake. Therefore when the law accuseth him and sin terrifieth him, he looketh up to Christ, and when he hath apprehended Him by faith, he hath present with him the conqueror of the law, sin, death, and the devil: and Christ reigneth and ruleth over them, so that they cannot hurt the Christian. So that he hath indeed a great and inestimable treasure, or as St. Paul saith: ‘the unspeakable gift’ (2 Cor. ix. 15), which cannot be magnified enough, for it maketh us the children and heirs of God. This gift may be said to be greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, who is this gift, is greater.”
Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal, 1979), 72.
“…we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6.
“Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness.”
Calvin Coolidge, “Have Faith in Massachusetts,” Massachusetts Senate President Acceptance Speech (Jan. 7, 1914) ~ 30th President of the United States (1923–1929)
“I have never believed in God. Yet, I have to admit that if He does not actually exist, then we can be little more than feverish, selfish little clods of ailments and grievances. And that is hardly enough reason to go on living. Only the existence of God can make anything at all have any meaning at all.”
George Bernard Shaw
“Consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually”
“Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.”
Michael Crichton, Aliens cause Global Warming, 17 January 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology
Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.
The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.
This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.
It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).
Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.
Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.
You’ve got to wonder.
Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.
“The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).”
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah”s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah”s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age.
Often, however, the cause of our doubt isn’t what you might think. It isn’t necessarily the strength of the arguments that rattles us, but the way they resonate with the unbeliever in each of us (what the Bible calls the “old self”). We hear Tokyo Rose’s voice and she seems to make pretty good sense sometimes. Yet more often than not, if we look closely at the atheist’s arguments, we find that there is little substance. Seeing this can change the argument’s frequency and therefore break its spell. Believers often worry that their doubts signify the rapid approach of full-blown unbelief. But as pastor and author Tim Keller puts it,
Faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.
All thoughtful believers—even those whose faith is mature—encounter doubt. Not a single person has had unadulterated faith. In any case, it certainly won’t do to ignore your doubts, and defusing them will only strengthen your faith. To be sure, doubts can be strong enough to become a trial in your life; but like all trials, they’re meant to refine faith, not stifle it.
Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), xvii. (Emphasis added!)
“We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve the interest, which is as dear to us as to them, by advocating the purity of all races, and not one alone. We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race…” ~ Gandhi
G.B. Singh, Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity(New York, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004), 191-193. (see more context)
Paul, who often gets a bad rap for his perceived low view of women, considered at least twelve women coworkers in his ministry.* Paul clearly had a high view of women: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The earliest Christians recited these remarkable, countercultural words as a baptismal confession. Widows, far from being abandoned, were cared for, and older women were given a place of honor. In light of all of this, is it any wonder “the ancient sources and modern historians agree that primary conversion to Christianity was far more prevalent among females than males”?
In recent history, Christians were responsible for the banning of three despicable practices inflicted upon women around the world. Christian missionaries pressured the Chinese government to abolish foot binding in 1912. This practice was done for the sole reason of pleasing men—”it made a woman with her feet bound in an arch walk tiptoe and sway seductively.” In 1829 the English outlawed the Indian practice of suttee, in which widows were burned alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands, because of Christianity’s teaching regarding widows and women. Finally, Western countries influenced by a Christian view of women and sexuality have condemned clitoridectomy (female genital mutilation), a gruesome practice that is still common in Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 230-231.
…During the last quarter century or so, an enormous amount of philosophical analysis has been poured into the problem of evil, with the result that genuine philosophical progress on the age-old question has been made. We may begin our inquiry by making a number of distinctions to help keep our thinking straight. Most broadly speaking, we must distinguish between the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil. The intellectual problem of evil concerns how to give a rational explanation of the coexistence of God and evil. The emotional problem of evil concerns how to comfort those who are suffering and how to dissolve the emotional dislike people have of a God who would permit such evil. The intellectual problem lies in the province of the philosopher; the emotional problem lies in the province of the counselor. It is important to keep this distinction clear because the solution to the intellectual problem is apt to appear dry, uncaring and uncomforting to someone who is going through suffering, whereas the solution to the emotional problem is apt to appear superficial and deficient as an explanation to someone contemplating the question abstractly. Keeping this distinction in mind, let us turn first to the intellectual problem of evil….
3. THE EMOTIONAL PROBLEM OF EVIL
But, of course, when one says [the problem of evil is] “solved” one means “philosophically resolved.” All these mental machinations may be of little comfort to someone who is intensely suffering from some undeserved evil in life. This leads us to the second aspect of the problem mentioned earlier: the emotional problem of evil.
For many people, the problem of evil is not really an intellectual problem: it is an emotional problem. They are hurting inside and perhaps bitter against a God who would permit them or others to suffer so. Never mind that there are philosophical solutions to the problem of evil—they do not care and simply reject a God who allows such suffering as we find in the world. It is interesting that in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, in which the problem of evil is presented so powerfully, this is what the problem really comes down to. Ivan Karamazov never refutes the Christian solution to the problem of evil. Instead, he just refuses to have anything to do with the Christian God. “I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I am wrong,” he declares. His is simply an atheism of rejection.
What can be said to those who are laboring under the emotional problem of evil? In one sense, the most important thing may not be what one says at all. The most important thing may be just to be there as a loving friend and sympathetic listener. But some people may need counsel, and we ourselves may need to deal with this problem when we suffer. Does Christian theism also have the resources to deal with this problem as well?
It certainly does! For it tells us that God is not a distant Creator or impersonal ground of being, but a loving Father who shares our sufferings and hurts with us. Alvin Plantinga has written,
As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, coolly observing the suffering of his creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God’s capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his son’s humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious that we can imagine. So we don’t know why God permits evil; we do know, however, that he was prepared to suffer on our behalf, to accept suffering of which we can form no conception
Christ endured a suffering beyond all understanding: he bore the punishment for the sins of the whole world. None of us can comprehend that suffering. Though he was innocent, he voluntarily underwent incomprehensible suffering for us. Why? Because he loves us so much. How can we reject him who gave up everything for us?
When we comprehend his sacrifice and his love for us, this puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective. For now we see clearly that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil. Filled with sin and morally guilty before God, the question we face is not how God can justify himself to us, but how we can be justified before him.
J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 536-537, 550-551.
Christianity is closely tied to the success of capitalism, as it is the only possible ethic behind such an enterprise. How can such a thing be said? The famed economist/sociologist/historian of our day, Thomas Sowell, speaks to this in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. He whittles down the many economic views into just two categories, the constrained view and the unconstrained view.
The constrained vision is a tragic vision of the human condition. The unconstrained vision is a moral vision of human intentions, which are viewed as ultimately decisive. The unconstrained vision promotes pursuit of the highest ideals and the best solutions. By contrast, the constrained vision sees the best as the enemy of the good— a vain attempt to reach the unattainable being seen as not only futile but often counterproductive, while the same efforts could have produced a more viable and beneficial trade-off. Adam Smith applied this reasoning not only to economics but also to morality and politics: The prudent reformer, according to Smith, will respect “the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people,” and when he cannot establish what is right, “he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong.” His goal is not to create the ideal but to “establish the best that the people can bear.”
Dr. Sowell goes on to point out that while not “all social thinkers fit this schematic dichotomy…. the conflict of visions is no less real because everyone has not chosen sides or irrevocably committed themselves.” Continuing he points out:
Despite necessary caveats, it remains an important and remarkable phenomenon that how human nature is conceived at the outset is highly correlated with the whole conception of knowledge, morality, power, time, rationality, war, freedom, and law which defines a social vision…. The dichotomy between constrained and unconstrained visions is based on whether or not inherent limitations of man are among the key elements included in the vision.
The contribution of the nature of man by the Judeo-Christian ethic is key in this respect. One can almost say, then, that the Christian worldview demands a particular position to be taken in the socio-economic realm.* You can almost liken the constrained view of man in economics and conservatism as the Calvinist position. Pulitzer prize winning political commentator, Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), makes the above point well:
At the core of every moral code there is a picture of human nature, a map of the universe, and a version of history. To human nature (of the sort conceived), in a universe (of the kind imagined), after a history (so understood), the rules of the code apply.
A free market, then, is typically viewed through the lenses of the Christian worldview with its concrete view of the reality of man balanced with love for your neighbor;
 See for instance: R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2000 [originally 1926]); Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003 [originally 1904]); Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York, NY: Random House, 2005); Thomas E. Woods, Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005).
 Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York, NY: basic Books, 2007), 27.
 Ibid., 33, 34.
 Walter lippmann, Public Opinion (New York, NY: Freee Press, 1965), 80.
What properties must such a cause of the universe possess? By the very nature of the case, the cause of space and time must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and nonspatially (at least without the universe). This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since anything that is timeless must also be unchanging, and anything that is changeless must be nonphysical and immaterial (since material things are constantly changing at the molecular and atomic levels). Such an entity must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s razor—the principle which states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity—will shave away any other causes, since only one cause is required to explain the effect. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.
Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent first cause is plausibly personal. Two reasons can be given for this conclusion. First, the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality. The only entities which can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects, like numbers. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number 7, for example, can’t cause anything. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.
Second, this same conclusion is implied by the origin of an effect with a beginning from a beginningless cause. We’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause. By the nature of the case, that cause cannot have either a beginning of its existence or any prior cause. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect also eternal? How can the cause exist without the effect?
There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but freely create the world in time. By exercising his causal power, he brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist? So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.
We may therefore conclude that a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and unimaginably powerful.
William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009), 16-17.
II. GOD THE REDEEMER OF SINNERS
While reiterating the teaching of nature as to the existence and character of the personal Creator and Lord of all, the Scriptures lay their stress upon the grace or the undeserved love of God, as exhibited in his dealings with his sinful and wrath-deserving creatures. So little, however, is the consummate divine attribute of love advanced, in the scriptural revelation, at the expense of the other moral attributes of God, that it is thrown into prominence only upon a background of the strongest assertion and fullest manifestation of its companion attributes, especially of the divine righteousness and holiness, and is exhibited as acting only along with and in entire harmony with them. God is not represented in the Scriptures as forgiving sin because he really cares very little about sin; nor yet because he is so exclusively or predominatingly the God of love, that all other attributes shrink into desuetude in the presence of his illimitable benevolence. He is rather represented as moved to deliver sinful man from his guilt and pollution because he pities the creatures of his hand, immeshed in sin, with an intensity which is born of the vehemence of his holy abhorrence of sin and his righteous determination to visit it with intolerable retribution; and by a mode which brings as complete satisfaction to his infinite justice and holiness as to his unbounded love itself. The biblical presentation of the God of grace includes thus the richest development of all his moral attributes, and the God of the Bible is consequently set forth, in the completeness of that idea, as above everything else the ethical God. And that is as much as to say that there is ascribed to him a moral sense so sensitive and true that it estimates with unfailing accuracy the exact moral character of every person or deed presented for its contemplation, and responds to it with the precisely appropriate degree of satisfaction or reprobation. The infinitude of his love is exhibited to us precisely in that while we were yet sinners he loved us, though with all the force of his infinite nature he reacted against our sin with illimitable abhorrence and indignation. The mystery of grace resides just in the impulse of a sin-hating God to show mercy to such guilty wretches; and the supreme revelation of God as the God of holy love is made in the disclosure of the mode of his procedure in redemption, by which alone he might remain just while justifying the ungodly. For in this procedure there was involved the mighty paradox of the infinitely just Judge himself becoming the sinner’s substitute before his own law and the infinitely blessed God receiving in his own person the penalty of sin.
B.B. Warfield, Selected Short Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970), 71-72.
Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:
Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).
The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p 25
“Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.”
Avicenna, Great Medieval Philosopher
After quoting H.G. Wells and the Time Machine, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Bertrand Russell, and the like, in sections titles: “Meaning of Life,” and “Value of Life — William Lane Craig continues his line of thinking:
Purpose of life
Finally, let’s look at the problem of purpose in life. The only way most people who deny purpose in life live happily is either by making up some purpose — which amounts to self-delusion, as we saw with Sartre — or by not carrying their view to its logical conclusions. The temptation to invest one’s own petty plans and projects with objective significance and thereby to find some purpose to one’s life is almost irresistible.
For example, the outspoken atheist and Nobel Prize—winning physicist Steven Weinberg, at the close of his much-acclaimed book The First Three Minutes, writes,
It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that somehow we were built in from the beginning…. It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.
But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
There’s something strange about Weinberg’s moving description of the human predicament: Tragedy is not a neutral term. It expresses an evaluation of a situation. Weinberg evidently sees a life devoted to scientific pursuits as truly meaningful, and therefore it’s tragic that such a noble pursuit should be extinguished. But why, given atheism, should the pursuit of science be any different from slouching about doing nothing? Since there is no objective purpose to human life, none of our pursuits has any objective significance, however important and dear they may seem to us subjectively. They’re no more significant than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
The Human Predicament
The dilemma of modern man is thus truly terrible. The atheistic worldview is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life. Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose. If we try to live consistently within the atheistic worldview, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy. If instead we manage to live happily, it is only by giving the lie to our worldview.
Confronted with this dilemma, modern man flounders pathetically for some means of escape. In a remarkable address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 1991, Dr. L. D. Rue, confronted with the predicament of modern man, boldly advocated that we deceive ourselves by means of some “Noble Lie” into thinking that we and the universe still have value. According to Rue, “The lesson of the past two centuries is that intellectual and moral relativism is profoundly the case.” He says that the consequence of this realization is that the quest for self-fulfillment and the quest for social coherence fall apart. This is because on the view of relativism the search for self-fulfillment becomes radically privatized: Each person chooses his own set of values and meaning.
So what are we to do? Rue says there is on the one hand “the madhouse option”: We just pursue self-fulfillment regardless of social coherence. On the other hand, there is “the totalitarian option”: The state imposes social coherence at the expense of people’s personal fulfillment. If we’re to avoid these two options, he says, then we have no choice but to embrace some Noble Lie that will inspire us to live beyond selfish interests and so voluntarily achieve social coherence. A Noble Lie “is one that deceives us, tricks us, compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, [and] race.” It is a lie because it tells us that the universe is infused with value (which is a great fiction), because it makes a claim to universal truth (when there is none), and because it tells me not to live for self-interest (which is evidently false). “But without such lies, we cannot live.”
This is the dreadful verdict pronounced over modern man. In order to survive, he must live in self-deception.
William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defensing Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook, 2010), 44-46.
Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.
William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38. (emphasis added)
The Epistemological Commitments
of Philosophical Naturalists
I have delineated the metaphysical commitments of those who deny that the mental is basic to the universe. At the same time atheists like Richard Dawkins are not philosophical skeptics. They hold that there is genuine knowledge, discovered by science. They are scientific realists who believe that science discovers the truth about the way reality is. That is why they object, for example, to religious believers who hold to theism as true and thus broadly informative about the nature of reality, including the natural world. They think science has discovered that evolution is true and creationism is false. They think physicists discover the truth, which means they believe that physicists make correct mathematical inferences. They think we literally add, subtract, multiply, divide, square, and take square roots of numbers.
In a recent paper William Hasker has recommended that the Argument from Reason be presented as a transcendental argument which identifies the necessary presuppositions of the fact of scientific inference and goes from there to draw the implications of these. He writes:
The objection is not merely that naturalism has not yet produced an explanation of rational inference and the like, as though this were a deficiency that could be remedied by another decade or so of scientific research. The problem is that the naturalist is committed to certain assumptions that preclude in principle any explanation of the sort required. The key assumptions are three in number: mechanism (the view that fundamental physical explanations are nonteleological), the causal closure of the physical domain, and the supervenience of the mental on the physical. So long as these assumptions remain, no amount of ingenious computer modeling can possibly fill the explanatory gap. In order to bring out this feature of the situation, I propose that the first two stages of the Argument from Reason are best viewed as a transcendental argument in roughly the Kantian sense: They specify the conditions which are required for experience of a certain sort to be possible — in this case the kind of experience found in the performance of rational inference.
Consider the following list of presuppositions of reason. These presuppositions have transcendental justifications. The justification goes from the fact that at least one person has made a rational inference (such as a mathematical calculation) and establishes that these conditions must obtain if that rational inference has taken place.
1. States of mind have a relation to the world we call intentionality, or aboutness. The intentionality I am referring to is propositional in nature. Our possessing this kind of intentionality means that we are capable of having, entertaining, believing, and desiring states of affairs propositionally described. We recognize the propositional contents of our thoughts.
2. Thoughts and beliefs can be either true or false.
3. Human beings can be in the condition of accepting, rejecting, or suspending belief about propositions.
4. Logical laws exist.
5. Human beings are capable of apprehending logical laws.
6. The state of accepting the truth of a proposition plays a crucial causal role in the production of other beliefs, and the propositional content of mental states is relevant to the playing of this causal role.
7. The apprehension of logical laws plays a causal role in the acceptance of the conclusion of the argument as true.
8. The same individual entertains thoughts of the premises and then draws the conclusion.
9. Our processes of reasoning provide us with a systematically reliable way of understanding the world around us.
Unless all of these statements are true, it is incoherent to argue that one should accept naturalism based on evidence of any kind. Nor would it be possible to accept the claim that one should accept evolution as opposed to creationism because there is so much evidence for evolution. Nor could one argue that one should be supremely confident that use of the scientific method will result in an accurate understanding of reality. Unless all these statements are true, there are no scientists, and no one is using the scientific method.
To see how the transcendental justification works, consider the possibility that reality consists of nothing but a turnip with whipped cream on top. Of course this flies in the face of all the empirical evidence, but we can argue further that if this were so, no one would be able to reason to that conclusion. Given the way this argument is structured, one could not use the Paradigm Case argument to argue that since there has to be a contrast between valid and invalid inference, inference would also have to be possible in the turnip world. No, the fact that we can make such a distinction provides a transcendental basis for believing that we do not live in the turnip world.
Paul Copan and William Lane Craig [Victor Reppert], eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 30-33.
….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.
But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.
If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?
Paul Copan and William Lane Craig [Mark D. Linville], eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.
As Dr. Carl F. H. Henry pointed out: “The Chicago evangelicals, while seeking to overcome the polarization of concern in terms of personal evangelism or social ethics, also transcended the neo-Protestant nullification of the Great Commission.” “The Chicago Declaration did not leap from a vision of social utopia to legislation specifics, but concentrated first on biblical priorities for social change.” “The Chicago evangelicals did not ignore transcendent aspects of God’s Kingdom, nor did they turn the recognition of these elements into a rationalization of a theology of revolutionary violence or of pacifistic neutrality in the face of blatant militarist aggression.” (Cf. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelical Social Concern” Christianity Today, March 1, 1974.) The evangelical social concern is transcendental not merely horizontal.
We must make it clear that the true revolutionaries are different from the frauds who “deal only with surface phenomena. They seek to remove a deep-seated tumor from society by applying a plaster to the surface. The world’s deepest need today is not something that merely dulls the pain, but something that goes deep in order to change the basic unity of society, man himself. Only when men individually have experienced a change and reorientation, can society be redirected in the way it should go. This we cannot accomplish by either violence or legislation” (cf. Reid: op. cit.). Social actions, without a vertical and transcendental relation with God only create horizontal anxieties and perplexities!
Furthermore, the social activists are in fact ignorant of the social issues, they are not experts in the social sciences. They simply demand an immediate change or destruction of the social structures, but provide no blueprint of the new society whatsoever! They can be likened to the fool, as a Chinese story tells, who tried to help the plant grow faster by pulling it higher. Of course such “action” only caused the plant to wither and die. This is exactly what the social radicals are doing now! And the W.C.C. is supporting such a tragic course!
We must challenge them [secular social activists] to discern the difference between the true repentance and “social repentance.” The Bible says: “For the godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret; but worldly grief produces death” (II Cor. 7:10). This was the bitter experiences of many former Russian Marxists, who, after their conversion to Christ came to understand that they had only a sort of “social repentance”—a sense of guilt before the peasant and the proletariat, but not before God. They admitted that “A Russian (Marxist) intellectual as an individual is often a mild and loving creature, but his creed (Marxism) constrains him to hate” (cf. Nicolas Zernov: The Russian Religious Renaissance). “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one…. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10,23). A complete change of a society must come from man himself, for basically man is at enmity with God. All humanistic social, economic and political systems are but “cut flowers,” as Dr. Trueblood put it, even the best are only dim reflections of the Glory of the Kingdom of God. As Benjamin Franklin in his famous address to the Constitutional Convention, said, “Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Without reconciliation with God, there is no reconciliation with man. Social action is not evangelism; political liberation is not salvation. While we shall by all means have deep concern on social issues; nevertheless, social activism shall never be a substitution for the Gospel.
Lit-sen Chang, The True Gospel vs. Social Activism, (booklet. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co: 1976), 9-10.
Teacher: “Welcome, students. This is the first day of class, and so I want to lay down some ground rules. First, since no one person has the truth, you should be open-minded to the opinions of your fellow students. Second… Elizabeth, do you have a question?”
Elizabeth: “Yes I do. If nobody has the truth, isn’t that a good reason for me not to listen to my fellow students? After all, if nobody has the truth, why should I waste my time listening to other people and their opinions? What’s the point? Only if somebody has the truth does it make sense to be open-minded. Don’t you agree?”
Teacher: “No, I don’t. Are you claiming to know the truth? Isn’t that a bit arrogant and dogmatic?”
Elizabeth: “Not at all. Rather I think it’s dogmatic, as well as arrogant, to assert that no single person on earth knows the truth. After all, have you met every single person in the world and quizzed them exhaustively? If not, how can you make such a claim? Also, I believe it is actually the opposite of arrogance to say that I will alter my opinions to fit the truth whenever and wherever I find it. And if I happen to think that I have good reason to believe I do know truth and would like to share it with you, why wouldn’t you listen to me? Why would you automatically discredit my opinion before it is even uttered? I thought we were supposed to listen to everyone’s opinion.”
Teacher: “This should prove to be an interesting semester.”
Another Student: “(blurts out) Ain’t that the truth.” (Students laugh)
Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Planted in Mid-Air (Baker Book House; 1998), p. 74.
A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:
“Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.
That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.”
[side note] You may also be aware that Dawkins stated,
*”What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”
*Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)
• You can’t know anything for sure. Are you sure of that? • You should never judge. Is that your judgment? • There is no certainty. Are you certain of that? • All things are relative. Then that statement is relative, so it is not true, thus all things are not relative. If a statement is relative then it is not binding, so all things cannot be relative. • You can’t know anything. Do you know that? • No one can know anything about God. Do you know that about God? To assert that God is unknowable, is to say a lot about God. • What is true for you is not true for me. Well, what is true for me is that you are wrong. • Logic is just sophistry and isn’t always true. That’s self-refuting because the claimant used logic to attempt to disprove logic. To declare that the law of non-contradiction isn’t true, is to prove that law is true. It has to be true for the assertion to be made. • There are no laws of logic. The attempt to refute the laws of logic requires the employment of the laws of logic. These Laws of Reason are invariant and universal truths. The laws of logic are nonmaterial, invariant, transcendent, atemporal, universal, and necessary. They require God because He is nonmaterial, immutable, transcendent, atemporal, universal in knowledge, and necessary. • The only true knowledge of reality is discovered through the positive sciences. That statement is not true because it is not found in the positive sciences. • We can’t be married to any idea. Are you married to that idea? • Philosophy can add nothing to science. Is that your philosophy for your science? • How to Believe in Nothing and Set Yourself Free (a title of a book). Is that what you believe? • Language is not useful for a definition. Is that your definition in which you employ language? • I can’t believe in anything that I can’t see or feel. Can you see or feel the point of that statement? • There are no wrong needs. I need that to be wrong. • All knowledge begins with experience. Did you experience that? • God is indescribable. Is that your description of God? • All speculations of the reality of absolutes are an illusion. Is that statement an absolute? If it is, it is an illusion, thus it is false. • Everything is just an illusion. Then that statement is an illusion, so it is false, thus all things are not illusions. If people really believed this, they wouldn’t look both ways when crossing the street, but they do, proving they can’t consistently hold this view. They must depend on the Christian worldview. • “Pundits all make over $50,000.00, so they can’t understand anything” (Chris Matthews, wealthy pundit). Chris, do you understand that? • “All knowledge is confined to the realm of experience” (Immanuel Kant). Have you experienced all knowledge? • The whole notion of truth must be scrapped and replaced by the ongoing process of refutation. Then that statement is not true. • Every assertion is false. Then that assertion is false. • No truth is immutable. Then that statement is mutable, so it is not true. • Truth can never be rationally attained but remains an elusive myth and an erroneous pre-commitment. Then that is an elusive myth and is not true. • True knowledge is only that knowledge that can be empirically verified. Can you empirically verify that statement? • “That intelligence, when froze in dogmatic social philosophy generates a vicious cycle of blind oscillation” (John Dewey). Is that statement frozen in dogmatic philosophy? If yes, its blind oscillation, therefore it is false. • Truth is not a boxy, dogmatic thing with hard corners attached by dogmatists. Are you dogmatic about that? • Truth does not consist of words, propositions or assertions that can be communicated by language. Are those words or assertions communicated by language? • Here, we have no rules. Is that your rule? • Lies, lies, everywhere you turn are lies. Is that a lie? • Apart from mathematics, we can know nothing for sure. Is that proposition a mathematical equation? No. Then you are providing in what you say, the very basis to reject what you say. • Commit to the flames any propositions or assertions that do not contain mathematics or facts obtained from observable experiments. Did you test that statement with experiments or does that statement contain mathematics? No. Then commit it to the flames on the basis of its own statement. • We can know nothing about reality. Do you know that about reality? • “The line of demarcation between knowledge and mere opinion is determined by one criterion: falsebility by empirical evidence, by observed phenomena” (Popper). Did you observe that? If not, then that is just mere opinion. • The only thing that is predictable is unpredictability. Do you think that prediction is unpredictable? • Only things that are blue are true. Is that statement blue? • I doubt everything. If you tried to doubt everything, you would be clipping off the rope you’re holding onto, because the notion of doubting, itself, presupposes certainty. • There are no good reasons for holding to the belief in objective knowledge. Is that objective knowledge? • We cannot achieve certainty because it is based on postulates. Are you certain about that postulate? • Nobody’s right. Are you right about that? • Every attempt to fashion an absolute philosophy of truth and right is a delusion. Is that true and right? • All I believe in are the laws of logic. Is that statement one of the laws of logic? • All English sentences consist of four words. This sentence comments on all English sentences, including itself. It fails to meet its own demands, hence it is false. • Seen on display in a store: “I Love You Only” Valentine cards: Now available in multipacks.
…To be forced to believe only one conclusion – that everything in the universe happened by chance – would violate the very objectivity of science itself…. What random process could produce the brains of a man or the system of the human eye?… They [evolutionists] challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?…
Werner von Braun, letter to the California State board of Education, September 14, 1972
—I must post some biography here for the younger kinfolk who do not know who von Braun is—
Von Braun [1912-1977] was born in Wirsitz (now in Poland) and studied at Berlin and in Switzerland at Zurich. In 1930, he joined a group of scientists who were experimenting with rockets, and in 1938 he became technical director of the Peenemunde military rocket establishment. It was in the 1940’s that he and his team produced the V1 (flying bomb) and the V2 rockets. In the last days of the war, von Braun and his staff, not wishing to be captured by the Soviets, surrendered to US forces. Soon afterwards, von Braun began work at the US Army Ordinance Corps testing grounds at White Sands, New Mexico. In 1952 he became technical director of the army’s ballistic-missile program. It was in the 1950’s that he produced rockets for US satellites (the first, Explorer 1, was launched early 1958) and early space flights by astronauts. He held an administrative post at NASA from 1970-1972 as well. We would have never made it to the moon if it were not for von Braun.
It is so obvious that we live in a world in which a fantastic amount of logic, of rational lawfulness, is at work. We are aware of a large number of laws of physics and chemistry and biology which, by their mutual interdependence, make nature work as if it were following a grandiose plan from its earliest beginnings to the farthest reaches of its future destiny. To me, it would be incomprehensible that there should be such a gigantic master plan without a master planner behind it. This master planner is He whom we call the Creator of the Universe . . . One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be a Divine intent behind it all.
Werner von Braun
The guy most credited in getting us to the moon, Werner von Braun: von Braun began work at the US Army Ordinance Corps testing grounds at White Sands, New Mexico. In 1952 he became technical director of the army’s ballistic-missile program. It was in the 1950’s that he produced rockets for US satellites (the first, Explorer 1, was launched early 1958) and early space flights by astronauts. He held an administrative post at NASA from 1970-1972 as well. We would have never made it to the moon if it were not for von Braun.
The first we hear of Aslan in the book is when the four children are in the house of the Beavers, and Susan asks Mrs Beaver about Aslan:
- “Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meet a lion.”
- Mrs Beaver replies, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, their either braver than most or else just silly.”
- Lucy, the youngest child then pipes up, “Then he isn’t safe”.
- But Mr. Beaver comes out with the one line I’m sure we all recognize from the book, “Safe, don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.
Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), 174.
What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.
Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1985), 154.
If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.
J. R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), 114, 115.
Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?
Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?
Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:
The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.
Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.
Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.
Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 37-38.
If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or wilfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible.
Borden P Bowne, Metaphysics: A Study In First Principles (originally published in 1882; London: Sampson Low, Searle & Rivington, 2005), 105.
One of the most intriguing aspects mentioned by Ravi Zacharias of a lecture he attended entitled Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate, given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.” In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”
- Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.
- My summation.
- Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.
The Gospel contains a conception of human life, not a theology. If I light an electric torch at night out of doors I don’t judge its power by looking at the bulb, but by seeing how many objects it lights up. The brightness of a source of light is appreciated by the illumination it projects upon non-luminous objects. The value of a religious or, more generally, a spiritual way of life is appreciated by the amount of illumination thrown upon the things of this world.
Simone Weil, The Just Balance (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 207.
The Christian faith often served as a prelude to political reform. Just as it appeared that the reforming light was about to be extinguished” in early medieval Europe, missionaries from Ulster sailed and transplanted the faith. Democracy’s growth centuries later would come from the soil nourished by the Christian ethos. St. Patrick’s Ulster faith would blossom as much in Switzerland as anywhere else at the time. During the early sixteenth century, that same faith, greatly matured, would both fuel and be charged by Calvinism. Calvinism, in turn, contributed to revolutionizing the politics of England and eventually returned to Irish soil, from which many of the second wave of American settlers sailed. The faith that would transform Western political institutions spread contagiously—not always predictably or systematically, but irrepressibly. As it was recycled from Bangor to Geneva, then back to Donegal, it gathered force again in the massive Ulster Scot migration during the eighteenth century to America—still preserving the improvements of Genevan polity—through Scots-Irish missionaries like Francis Makemie.
David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 37.
Why did he, [Thomas Jefferson], a man more closely associated with French Revolutionary philosophes than with Calvin’s Reformation thought, join with Ben Franklin in recommending an official seal for the United States emblazoned with biblical imagery from the Book of Exodus and encircled by the motto “Rebellion against Tyrants Is Obedience to God”?
That motto, with overt religious overtones, did not have its origin in the New World. The tyrants for New Englanders to overthrow were mainly distant ones, and the upstart revolutionary army eventually disposed of those troops. Considering that George III was not personally ranging around the countryside, arresting or killing dissenters, why, then, would this early American motto commemorate the overthrow of tyrants as a religious duty? That question is all the more important when one notes that the remaining biblical symbolism first proposed by Jefferson alluded to Moses, complete with a depiction of the Red Sea deluging the pursuing British army under the command of Pharaoh George HI. The symbolism was likely Jefferson’s mature reflection on a principle that stemmed from the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s disciples were the ones (Theodore Beza after 1572 in Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland) who taught that it was not only permitted for Christians to oppose a tyrannical regime but also that in some cases it was required. It was merely living out the Golden Rule to do so, they argued. Jefferson apparently concurred that this was the irreducible minimum of good government, placarding “Rebellion to Tyrants Is Obedience to God” as a lasting imprint of the enduring Calvinistic philosophy of government.
The motto that Jefferson borrowed from Knoxian Calvinists was not the only slogan that conveyed Calvin’s political philosophy. Samuel Rutherford (and other Calvinists active in America a full century before the Revolutionary War) advocated another synopsis of politics that was pregnant with meaning. Such influential Calvinist political thinkers like Rutherford and Johannes Althusius (see chapters 4 and 5) argued that one could not give relief if he were not authorized, nor govern if one did not rightly possess the authority to act. In practice that meant governments were circumscribed both in their authority to exact as well as their power to enact. They were prohibited from enacting in areas where they were not authorized, even if animated by good intentions or supported by referendum. Neither could citizens rightly delegate functions to other agencies or governors if God had not assigned those tasks to them. This post-Reformation slogan “One cannot give what he does not possess,” which was applicable in either church or state matters, cast a long shadow over American formulations.25 Certain areas were accordingly off-limits to government, thus frustrating authoritarian impulses. Only a climate that ignores appropriate limitations on governmental scope could imagine the far-ranging intrusions of government we witness in our own day. Earlier Calvinistic pioneers looked for less from, and gave less power to, human governments.
In contrast to Rousseau, Calvinistic political theory did not agree with the progressive idea, which asserted that the people may give themselves to the king as long as they voluntarily do so by social contract. It posited instead that government is limited regardless of the will of the people. Because of Calvin’s view of the nature of man, he viewed government as a divine creation, but one that nevertheless must not assume all prerogatives to itself, even if citizens wished to cede excessive authority to it. Whenever governors presumed authority over private realms, Calvinists and early Americans cried “Tyranny.”
The limitations placed on governors in both Madison’s America and Calvin’s Switzerland share an organic similarity that has been frequently noted by both historians and politicians. John Adams referred to the Swiss republic, which perpetuated many of Calvin’s political legacies, as a model for the American republic. In his 1787 Defense of the Constitution, Adams noted the benefits of a well-regulated militia and advocated the same right to vote on laws and possess arms as the citizens of the Swiss cantons enjoyed. Adams also noted the value of the decentralized cantonal spheres (already operative in the time of Calvin) and the courage of William Tell to resist tyranny. Adams thought these decentralized spheres provided an apt model for the American government in “fix[ing] the sacred rights of man.” American founding fathers George Mason, Patrick Henry, and others lauded the preservation of independence fostered by the Swiss republics, a form of government that would not have endured apart from Calvin’s strong philosophical commitment to limited government. From the earliest settling of America, a full century and a half before the Revolutionary War, Calvinistic thought suffused the political ruminations of the entire colonial period. Readers, of course, are free to accept or reject Calvinistic tenets in whole or in part, but all should benefit from turning over the ancient soil to examine our roots. Once unearthed. these divots reveal that Calvinism had a positive influence in keeping government from expanding too far or from interfering unduly with the private sector.
Numerous political concepts that reflect robust links back to Calvin are also readily apparent in some of the New World’s earliest writings, sermons, and constitutions. Much of America’s heritage grew out of the era that pre-dates 1776. After all, America did not spontaneously generate on a single humid morning in Philadelphia.
David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 8-10.
A. PRIVATE PROPERTY
According to the teachings of the Bible, government should both document and protect the ownership of private property in a nation.
The Bible regularly assumes and reinforces a system in which property belongs to individuals, not to the government or to society as a whole.
We see this implied in the Ten Commandments, for example, because the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal” (Exod. 20:15), assumes that human beings will own property that belongs to them individually and not to other people. I should not steal my neighbor’s ox or donkey because it belongs to my neighbor, not to me and not to anyone else.
The tenth commandment makes this more explicit when it prohibits not just stealing but also desiring to steal what belongs to my neighbor:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exod. 20:17).
The reason I should not “covet” my neighbor’s house or anything else is that these things belong to my neighbor, not to me and not to the community or the nation.
This assumption of private ownership of property, found in this fundamental moral code of the Bible, puts the Bible in direct opposition to the communist system advocated by Karl Marx. Marx said:
The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.
One reason why communism is so incredibly dehumanizing is that when private property is abolished, government controls all economic activity. And when government controls all economic activity, it controls what you can buy, where you will live, and what job you will have (and therefore what job you are allowed to train for, and where you go to school), and how much you will earn. It essentially controls all of life, and human liberty is destroyed. Communism enslaves people and destroys human freedom of choice. The entire nation becomes one huge prison. For this reason, it seems to me that communism is the most dehumanizing economic system ever invented by man.
Other passages of Scripture also support the idea that property should belong to individuals, not to “society” or to the government (except for certain property required for proper government purposes, such as government offices, military bases, and streets and highways). The Bible contains many laws concerning punishments for stealing and appropriate restitution for damage of another person’s farm animals or agricultural fields (for example, see Exod. 21:28-36; 22:1-15; Deut. 22:1-4; 23:24-25). Another commandment guaranteed that property boundaries would be protected: “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess” (Deut. 19:14). To move the landmark was to move the boundaries of the land and thus to steal land that belonged to one’s neighbor (compare Prov. 22:28; 23:10).
Another guarantee of the ownership of private property was the fact that, even if property was sold to someone else, in the Year of Jubilee it had to return to the family that originally owned it:
It shall be a Jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan (Lev. 25:10).
This is why the land could not be sold forever: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev. 25:23).
This last verse emphasizes the fact that private property is never viewed in the Bible as an absolute right, because all that people have is ultimately given to them by God, and people are viewed as God’s “stewards” to manage what he has entrusted to their care.
The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein (Ps. 24:1; compare Ps. 50:10-12; Hag. 2:8).
Yet the fact remains that, under the overall sovereign lordship of God himself, property is regularly said to belong to individuals, not to the government and not to “society” or the nation as a whole.
When Samuel warned the people about the evils that would be imposed upon them by a king, he emphasized the fact that the monarch, with so much government power, would “take” and “take” and “take” from the people and confiscate things for his own use:
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day” (1 Sam. 8:10-18).
This prediction was tragically fulfilled in the story of the theft of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite by Ahab the wicked king and Jezebel, his even more wicked queen (see 1 Kings 21:1-29). The regular tendency of human governments is to seek to take control of more and more of the property of a nation that God intends to be owned and controlled by private individuals.
Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 261-263.
Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.
The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy like a bird in spring.
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York, NY: Touchstone, 1996], 121
Historian Alvin Schmidt points out how the spread of Christianity and Christian influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy (which is still practiced in some Muslim nations today); prohibiting the burning alive of widows in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education of all children in a number of European countries.
During the history of the church, Christians have had a decisive influence in opposing and often abolishing slavery in the Roman Empire, in Ireland, and in most of Europe (though Schmidt frankly notes that a minority of “erring” Christian teachers have supported slavery in various centuries). In England, William Wilberforce, a devout Christian, led the successful effort to abolish the slave trade and then slavery itself throughout the British Empire by 1840.
In the United States, though there were vocal defenders of slavery among Christians in the South, they were vastly outnumbered by the many Christians who were ardent abolitionists, speaking, writing, and agitating constantly for the abolition of slavery in the United States. Schmidt notes that two-thirds of the American abolitionists in the mid-1830s were Christian clergymen, and he gives numerous examples of the strong Christian commitment of several of the most influential of the antislavery crusaders, including Elijah Lovejoy (the first abolitionist martyr), Lyman Beecher, Edward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Charles Finney, Charles T. Torrey, Theodore Weld, William Lloyd Garrison, “and others too numerous to mention.” The American civil rights movement that resulted in the outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination was led by Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian pastor, and supported by many Christian churches and groups.
There was also strong influence from Christian ideas and influential Christians in the formulation of the Magna Carta in England (1215) and of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) in the United States. These are three of the most significant documents in the history of governments on the earth, and all three show the marks of significant Christian influence in the foundational ideas of how governments should function.
Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010], 49-50.
I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
1. It fails to distinguish the reasons for a law from the content of the law
Such “exclude religion” arguments are wrong because marriage is not a religion! When voters define marriage, they are not establishing a religion. In the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the word “religion” refers to the church that people attend and support. “Religion” means being a Baptist or Catholic or Presbyterian or Jew. It does not mean being married. These arguments try to make the word “religion” in the Constitution mean something different from what it has always meant.
These arguments also make the logical mistake of failing to distinguish the reasons for a law from the content of the law. There were religious reasons behind many of our laws, but these laws do not “establish” a religion. All major religions have teachings against stealing, but laws against stealing do not “establish a religion.” All religions have laws against murder, but laws against murder do not “establish a religion.” The campaign to abolish slavery in the United States and England was led by many Christians, based on their religious convictions, but laws abolishing slavery do not “establish a religion.” The campaign to end racial discrimination and segregation was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist pastor, who preached against racial injustice from the Bible. But laws against discrimination and segregation do not “establish a religion.”
If these “exclude religion” arguments succeed in court, they could soon be applied against evangelicals and Catholics who make “religious” arguments against abortion. Majority votes to protect unborn children could then be invalidated by saying these voters are “establishing a religion.” And, by such reasoning, all the votes of religious citizens for almost any issue could be found invalid by court decree! This would be the direct opposite of the kind of country the Founding Fathers established, and the direct opposite of what they meant by “free exercise” of religion in the First Amendment.
Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010], 31.
Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.
Mortimer J. Adler, in Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith, 20-21.
Religious belief should be assessed as a rounded whole rather than taken in stark isolation, Christianity, for example, like other world faiths, is a complex, large-scale system of belief which must be seen as a whole before it is assessed. To break it up into disconnected parts is to mutilate and distort its true character. We can, of course, distinguish certain elements in the Christian faith, but we must still stand back and see it as a complex interaction of these elements. We need to see it as a metaphysical system, as a worldview, that is total in its scope and range
Michael J. Murray and Michael C. Rae, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy
Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.”
The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.”
Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII, pp. 404-405
FOLLOWING SUPERNATURALISM MAKES THE SCIENTIST’S TASK TOO EASY
Here’s the first of Pennock’s arguments against methodological naturalism that I’ll consider:
allowing appeal to supernatural powers in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon the gods for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.
This argument strikes me as unfair. Consider a particular empirical phenomenon, like a chemical reaction, and imagine that scientists are trying to figure out why the reaction happened. Pennock would say that scientists who allow appeal to supernatural powers would have a ready-made answer: God did it. While it may be that that’s the only true explanation that can be given, a good scientist-including a good theistic scientist—would wonder whether there’s more to be said. Even if God were ultimately the cause of the reaction, one would still wonder if the proximate cause is a result of the chemicals that went into the reaction, and a good scientist—even a good theistic scientist—would investigate whether such a naturalistic account could be given.
To drive the point home, an analogy might be helpful. With the advent of quantum mechanics, scientists have become comfortable with indeterministic events. For example, when asked why a particular radioactive atom decayed at the exact time that it did, most physicists would say that there’s no reason it decayed at that particular time; it was just an indeterministic event!’ One could imagine an opponent of indeterminism giving an argument that’s analogous to Pennock’s:
allowing appeal to indeterministic processes in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon chance for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.
It is certainly possible that, for every event that happens, scientists could simply say “that’s the result of an indeterministic chancy process; there’s no further explanation for why the event happened that way.” But this would clearly be doing bad science: just because the option of appealing to indeterminism is there, it doesn’t follow that the option should always be used. The same holds for the option of appealing to supernatural powers.
As further evidence against Pennock, it’s worth pointing out that prominent scientists in the past have appealed to supernatural powers, without using them as a ready-made answer for everything. Newton is a good example of this—he is a devout theist, in addition to being a great scientist, and he thinks that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Pennock falsely implies that this is not the case:
God may have underwritten the active principles that govern the world described in [Newton’s] Principia and the Opticks, but He did not interrupt any of the equations or regularities therein. Johnson and other creationists who want to dismiss methodological naturalism would do well to consult Newton’s own rules of reasoning….
But in fact, Newton does not endorse methodological naturalism. In his Opticks, Newton claims that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Specifically, Newton thinks that, according to his laws of motion, the orbits of planets in our solar system are not stable over long periods of time, and his solution to this problem is to postulate that God occasionally adjusts the motions of the planets so as to ensure the continued stability of their orbits. Here’s a relevant passage from Newton. (It’s not completely obvious that Newton is saying that God will intervene but my interpretation is the standard one.)
God in the Beginning form’d Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles … it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages. For while Comets move in very excentrick Orbs in all manner of Positions, blind Fate could never make all the Planets move one and the same way in Orbs concentrick, some inconsiderable Irregularities excepted, which may have risen from the mutual Actions of Comets and Planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this System wants a Reformation…. [God is] able by his Will to move the Bodies within his boundless uniform Sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe….
A scientist who writes this way does not sound like a scientist who is following methodological naturalism.
It’s worth noting that some contemporaries of Newton took issue with his view of God occasionally intervening in the universe. For example, Leibniz writes:
Sir Isaac Newton and his followers also have a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to them, God Almighty needs to wind up his watch from time to time; otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion.”
Note, though, that Leibniz also thought that God intervened in the world:
I hold that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace.
Later investigation revealed that in fact planetary orbits are more stable than Newton thought, so Newton’s appeal to supernatural powers wasn’t needed. But the key point is that Newton is willing to appeal to supernatural powers, without using the appeal to supernatural powers as a ready-made answer for everything.
Pennock says that “Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview.” Newton’s own approach to physics provides a good counterexample to this—Newton is a leading contributor to the scientific worldview, and yet he does not bind himself by the assumption of uninterruptible natural law.
Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, pp.62-64.
Some people, I believe, account for all things which have come to exist, all things which are coming into existence now, and all things which will do so in the future, by attributing them either to nature, … or chance.
…suppose that after darkness had prevailed from the beginning of time, it similarly happened to ourselves suddenly to behold the light of day, what should we think of the splendour of the heavens? But daily recurrence and habit familiarize our minds with the sight, and we feel no surprise or curiosity as to the reasons for things that we see always; just as if it were the novelty and not rather the importance of phenomena that ought to arouse us to inquire into their causes.
Cicero, Nature of the Gods, Translated by H. Rackam, p. 217.
God is entirely inactive and free from all ties of occupation; he toils not neither does he labour, but he takes delight in his own wisdom and virtue, and knows with absolute certainty that he will always enjoy pleasures at once consummate and everlasting.
Cicero, Nature of the Gods, Translated by H. Rackam, pp. 51-53.
But if the structure of the world in all its parts is such that it could not have been better whether in point of utility or beauty, let us consider whether this is the result of chance, or whether on the contrary the parts of the world are in such a condition that they could not possibly have cohered together if they were not controlled by intelligence and by divine providence. If then the products of nature are better than those of art, and if art produces nothing without reason, nature too cannot be deemed to be without reason. When you see a statue or a painting, you recognize the exercise of art; when you observe from a distance the course of a ship, you do not hesitate to assume that its motion is guided by reason and by art; when you look at a sun-dial or a water-clock, you infer that it tells the time by art and not by chance; how then can it be consistent to suppose that the world, which includes both the works of art in question, the craftsmen who made them, and everything else besides, can be devoid of purpose and of reason? Suppose a traveller to carry into Scythia or Britain the orrery recently constructed by our friend Posidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets that take place in the heavens every twenty-four hours, would any single native doubt that this orrery was the work of a rational being? These thinkers however raise doubts about the world itself from which all things arise and have their being, and debate whether it is the product of chance or necessity of some sort, or of divine reason and intelligence;
Cicero, Nature of the Gods, Translated by H. Rackam, pp. 207-209
Cicero (106–43 BC), used this concept in his book De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) to challenge the evolutionary ideas of the philosophers of his day.
The two main schools of philosophy then were Epicureanism and Stoicism. The Epicureans sought happiness through bodily pleasures and freedom from pain and anxiety. The two chief causes of anxiety were fear of the gods and fear of death, so Epicurus sought to nullify both of these by teaching an evolutionary atomic theory.
He denied that there was any purpose in nature, because everything was composed of particles (atoma: atoms), all falling downwards. He said that these sometimes spontaneously “swerved” to coalesce and form bodies — non-living, living, human, and divine. The gods were made of finer atoms than humankind. They did not create the world or have any control over it, so they were not concerned with human affairs, and there was therefore no need for man to fear them. At death, the soul disintegrated and became non-existent, so there was no need to fear death or the prospect of judgment after death.
Cicero used the Stoic character in his book to refute these ideas with arguments from design, aimed to show that the universe is governed by an intelligent designer. He argued that a conscious purpose was needed to express art (e.g. to make a picture or a statue) and so, because nature was more perfect than art, nature showed purpose also. He reasoned that the movement of a ship was guided by skilled intelligence, and a sundial or water clock told the time by design rather than by chance. He said that even the barbarians of Britain or Scythia could not fail to see that a model which showed the movements of the sun, stars and planets was the product of conscious intelligence.
Cicero continued his challenge to the evolutionism of Epicurus by marvelling that anyone could persuade himself that chance collisions of particles could form anything as beautiful as the world. He said that this was on a par with believing that if the letters of the alphabet were thrown on the ground often enough they would spell out the Annals of Ennius.
And he asked: if chance collisions of particles could make a world, why then cannot they build much less difficult objects, like a colonnade, a temple, a house, or a city?
Russell Grigg, A Brief History of Design
GARY HABERMAS: You very kindly noted that our debates and discussions had influenced your move in the direction of theism. You mentioned that this initial influence contributed in part to your comment that naturalistic efforts have never succeeded in producing “a plausible conjecture as to how any of these complex molecules might have evolved from simple entities.” Then in your recently rewritten introduction to the forthcoming edition of your classic volume God and Philosophy, you say that the original version of that book is now obsolete. You mention a number of trends in theistic argumentation that you find convincing, like big bang cosmology, fine tuning and Intelligent Design arguments. Which arguments for God’s existence did you find most persuasive?
ANTONY FLEW: I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. I’ve never been much impressed by the kalam cosmological argument, and I don’t think it has gotten any stronger recently. However, I think the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.
GARY HABERMAS: So you like arguments such as those that proceed from big bang cosmology and fine tuning arguments?
ANTONY FLEW: Yes.
H. Wayne House, Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues, p. 174.
The Perspective of Liberal Theology
Modern liberal theologians ascribe great importance to the kingdom concept in the teaching of Jesus, while indifferent to the relation of Israel and the church. Influenced by the Enlightenment, with its high view of human nature and its vision of evolutionary social progress, the tradition stresses the present, ethical dimension of the kingdom. It radically depreciates the future, eschatological dimension of the kingdom as the product of first-century, Jewish apocalyptic fervor. The kingdom of God thus represents a new and Christianized social order on earth achieved by human effort and guided by the ethical teachings of Jesus.
A. Ritschl (d. 1889), the father of modern liberal theology, identified the kingdom of God as the human community striving for the common good via benevolent social action. The kingdom represents “the moral unification of the human race, through action prompted by universal love to our neighbor.” Ritschl held that the kingdom must not be equated with the church. The former is an ethical community committed to social action, whereas the latter is a worshiping community organized on a legal basis. Although Jesus was the founder and inspiring force of the kingdom, “the moral perfection of man in the kingdom of God” will be achieved by human action impelled by love. Since the human spirit is destined for God, the entire world is progressing via moral education toward the kingdom. Ritschl’s development of the kingdom theme provided a powerful impetus to the twentieth-century social gospel in America. Walter Rauschenbusch (d. 1918) claimed that the kingdom of God is the quintessential doctrine of Christianity. For him the kingdom is human society Christianized by education and social legislation. The futuristic interpretation of the kingdom, which he claimed obscures the ethical sense, originated from the crude apocalypticism of late Judaism and early Christianity. “The kingdom is not a matter of saving human atoms, but of saving the social-organism. It is not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven.” Rauschenbusch explained the nature of the kingdom as follows (1) The domain of the kingdom is not heaven (the other-worldly Greek outlook) but the earthly social situation (the this-worldly Hebrew outlook), “The faith of the Kingdom of God… is a religion for this earth and for the present life. ” (2) The enlargement of the kingdom occurs via the forces of evolutionary development. “Translate the evolutionary theories into religious faith and you have the doctrine of the kingdom of God.” (3) The task of the kingdom is not saving souls or establishing churches but Christianizing social customs and institutions. (4) Membership in the kingdom is not restricted to a select minority but embraces the whole of humanity. And (5) the goal of the kingdom is the unity of all mankind. Rauschenbusch claimed that often in history the church has been an impediment to the kingdom, in that it diverted energy and resources from this-worldly problems to other-worldly interests. Membership in the kingdom is not restricted to a select minority but embraces the whole of humanity. And
Liberation theology represents a politically radicalized form of the social gospel. Believing that concern for a future kingdom of God in heaven seriously blunts commitment to social problems, liberationists view the kingdom as a present historical reality. Jesus’ message of the kingdom centered on liberation from political, economic, and social oppression. The movement claims that the kingdom of God arrives when the poor and oppressed become liberated human beings. Since God has a special regard for the disenfranchised, they are the unique citizens of the kingdom. Transformation of the world into the kingdom is achieved by struggle against all forms of tyranny, by the social emancipation of the oppressed, and by opposition to the capitalist system. Some liberationists condone violence as a necessary means of introducing the kingdom.
Gustavo Gutierrez warns against adopting a spiritualized view of the kingdom of God. Rather, the kingdom is primarily an interhistorical, social phenomenon: “The coming of the Kingdom and the expectation of the Parousia are necessarily and inevitably historical, temporal, earthly, and material realities.” Gutierrez envisages the kingdom as “a new, just and fraternal society,” indeed, as an earthly utopia. The sign of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God is the elimination of human misery and exploitation. The forging of history toward the kingdom will be achieved chiefly by human efforts. Radical disciples of Jesus will introduce the kingdom via struggles against all forms of oppression, by transformation of unjust social structures, and by the punishment of oppressors of the poor. Dissolving eschatology into history, black theologian James Cone regards the kingdom of God as this-worldly. Cone concurs with Marx that interest in the afterlife diverts attention from the present sufferings of the exploited. “Black Theology is an earthly theology! It is not concerned with the ‘last things’ but with the ‘white thing.’” Cone interprets the kingdom theme vis-a-vis the American situation, as follows: White American society constitutes the oppressive, racist antichrist. But the black Christ conquers the white oppressor and liberates the black community so that the latter may realize its unique black dignity, black unity, and sense of black nationhood. Thus in the process of salvation history, “the kingdom of God is a black happening.” Cone Condones the use of human violence, as a necessary evil, in the realization of these kingdom goals.
Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demerest, Integrative Theology, vol. 3 [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994], 319-321.
2. MYSTICISM. Mysticism is subject to a twofold classification:
a. FALSE MYSTICISM. The theory that divine revelation is not limited to the written Word of God, but that God bestows added truth to souls that are sufficiently quickened by the Spirit of God to receive it. Mystics of this class contend that, by self-effacement and devotion to God. individuals may attain to immediate, direct, and conscious realization of the person and presence of God and thus to all truth in Him. False mysticism includes all those systems which teach identity between God and human life—Pantheism, Theosophy, and Greek philosophy. In it are included practically all the holiness movements of the day; also, Spiritism, Seventh Day Adventism, New Thought, Christian Science, Swedenborgianism, Mormonism, and Millennial Dawnism. The founders and promoters of many of these cults make claim to special revelation from God upon which their system is built. With far less complication with error and untruth a false mysticism is discernible in the beliefs and practices of the Friends or Quakers. In presenting their doctrine of the “inner light,” they say that, having the indwelling Spirit, the individual Christian is in contact with the same One who inspired and gave the Scriptures and that the Spirit is not only able to impart added truth beyond that already given in the Bible, but that He is appointed by Christ to do so according to John 16:12, 13, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” The church generally has believed that this promise is fulfilled in two ways: (a) by the ability given to the men to whom Christ spoke whereby they were able to write the New Testament Scriptures; and (b) by the ministry of the Spirit in teaching the apostles and all in every age who are yielded to Him, the truth now contained in the Bible.
No voice could speak with more authority for the Quakers than Robert Barclay whose Apology was published in 1867. He states: “Moreover, these divine inward revelations, which we make absolutely necessary for the building up of true faith, neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or right and sound reason. Yet from hence it will not follow, that these divine revelations are to be subjected to the examination, either of the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or of the natural reason of man, as to a more noble or certain rule or touchstone: for this divine revelation and inward illumination, is that which is evident and clear of itself” (Barclay’s Apology, pp. 13-14).
In earlier times this form of mysticism was voiced in the teachings of Francis de Sales, Thomas a Kempis, Madam Guyon, Archbishop Fenelon, and Upham. Montanus advanced these conceptions as early as the second century. They were later sustained by Tertullian and became a vital issue among the Reformers. The extreme spiritual mysticism is known as Quietism, which proposes death to self, disregards the attractions of heaven or the pains of hell, and ceases from petitions in prayer or thanksgiving lest self be encouraged. Likewise, those forms of spiritual-life teachings are to be included which impose upon the Christian a duty of self-crucifixion in place of the recognition of the fact that self was crucified with Christ, and that the values of His death are now to be received by faith in that which was accomplished on the cross rather than by any human accomplishment. The Word of God teaches that the spiritual life is wrought by the Spirit in the heart of the yielded believer, and the Spirit is made righteously free to annul the works of the flesh on the ground of the fact that Christ died unto the sin nature, and not on the ground of human achievement in the way of self-effacement or self-crucifixion.
b. TRUE MYSTICISM. True mysticism contends that all believers are indwelt by the Spirit and thus are in a position to be enlightened directly by Him, but that there is one complete revelation given, and that the illuminating work of the Spirit will be confined to the unveiling of the Scriptures to the mind and heart. False mysticism ignores the statement found in Jude 1:3 that there is a faith or system of belief “once delivered unto the saints,” and that when the Spirit is promised to “guide into all truth” ( John 16:13), it is only the truth contained in the Scriptures (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9, 10). There is a unique knowledge of the mysteries or sacred secrets of God accorded to those who are taught by the Spirit of God, but these sacred secrets are already contained in the text of the Bible.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vols. 1 & 2 [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1948], 12-14.
“There are several economic theories to explain the causes of what Christians call temptation and resulting sin. Most of these have been influenced by Marxist views of mankind as essentially economic beings. Struggle between economic classes is as near as Marxism comes to a doctrine of sin. I leave to the department of Apologetics a thorough canvass of the several Marxist, essentially anti-Christian theories. Chief among them is liberation theology. Though it was primarily a movement among post-Vatican II Roman Catholics, students in undergraduate university classes in sociology met much of the same thought many long years ago when the now generally despised Stalin was still darling of many professors and Chairman Mao was soon to appear.”
Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005], 368.
“It is helpful at this point to remember that classical liberal Protestantism is humanistic, and its approaches are primarily man-centered rather than God- centered.’ When a church begins to stray from faithfulness to Christ, this will evident not only in the shift to impure doctrine (which can sometimes be concealed from church members by the use of evasive language) but also in the daily life of the church: its activities, its preaching, its counseling, and even the casual conversations among members will tend to become more and more man-centered and less and less God-centered. There will tend to be a repeated emphasis on the typical kinds of self-help advice given in popular journals and by secular psychologists. There will be a horizontal orientation as opposed to a vertical God-centered orientation, there will be fewer and fewer extended times of prayer and less and less emphasis on the direct application of Scripture to daily situation, but more emphasis on simply being a caring and sensitive person, and on affirming others and acting in love toward them. The conversation and activities of the church will have very little genuine spiritual content—little emphasis on the need for daily prayer for individual concerns and for forgiveness of sins, little emphasis on daily personal reading of Scripture, and little emphasis on moment-by-moment trust in Christ and knowing the reality of his presence in our lives. Where there are admonitions to moral reformation, these will often be viewed as human deficiencies that people can correct by their own discipline and effort, and perhaps encouragement from others, but these moral aspects of life will not primarily be viewed as sin against a holy God, sin which can only effectively be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit working within. When such humanistic emphases become dominant in a church, it has moved far toward the “less-pure” end of the scale in many of the areas listed above, and it is moving in the direction of becoming a false church.”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology , 875-876.
I know the proud flesh wants to serve Christ by striking out new paths. Proud man has a desire to preach new doctrine, to set up a new Church; to be an original thinker, to judge, and consider, and do anything but obey. This is no service to Christ. He that would serve Christ must follow Him; he must be content to tread only in the old footsteps, and go only where Christ has led the way. It is not for you and me to be originals; we must be humble copies of Christ. There must be nothing about our religion of our own inventing; it is for us to lay thought, judgment, and opinion at the feet of Christ, and do what He bids us, simply because He gives the command.
An ardent believer in human depravity and the limitations of the goodness of man, Augustine saw the necessity of government as a restraining mechanism for the good society. Augustine did not expect unbelief to spawn good civil government or liberty:
Sinful man [actually] hates the equality of all men under God and, as though he were God, loves to impose his sovereignty on his fellow men. He hates the peace of God which is just and prefers his own peace which is unjust. However, he is powerless not to love peace of some sort. For, no man’s sin is so unnatural as to wipe out all traces whatsoever of human nature (City of God [New York, NY: Doubleday, 1958], 454).
One can see from these early aphorisms why Calvin thought of himself as Augustinian. The Reformation was, in the main, a return to Augustinianism. The state was remedial, protective, and ‘a corrective device for the restraint of self-centered human beings.’ Augustine saw the state as an institution erected primarily to restrain sin after Eden’s Fall. Human government, for Augustine, had its root in the consequences of that Fall, not in the origin of creation. Viewing the Fall as the font of human governments limited both the successes and defeats that Christians might experience in political matters. Such a view necessarily de-emphasizes the political and restores it to its proper perspective, rendering it as less than all-encompassing. Christians during the fourth century needed the reminder that since government was established after the Fall, it should not be expected to achieve utopian goals. The reformers reemphasized these notions centuries later, as did the American founders as well
David W. Hall, Genevan Reformation and the American Founding [New York, NY: Lexington Books, 2003], 29.
No, the people’s freedom’s are based in the Necessary Being, the first cause, the First Principle. The government can use power to control its subjects, but the people, if there is no God, cannot base their self-worth on anything absolute. Only if they were in control and had use of power could they. However, God does exist, our Founders knew it, and the people have their rights already, the government is only there to secure them. Not the government granting the people their rights. The former – i.e., natural rights and freedoms – government is based on “first principles,” the latter – i.e., power-mongers and tyrants – isn’t.
Papa Giorgio — Me
There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students’ reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them. … The relativity of truth is … a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. … The danger they have been taught to fear is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness — and the relativism that makes it plausible — is the great insight of our times. … The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 25.
Have you ever heard the story of a man who used to go to work at a factory and every day would stop outside a clockmaker’s store to synchronize his watch with the clock outside? At the end of several days the clockmaker stopped him and said, ‘Excuse me, sir, I do have a question for you. I see that every day you stop and adjust your watch with my clock. What kind of work do you do?’ The man said, ‘I’m embarrassed to tell you this; I keep the time at the factory nearby, and I have to ring the bell at four o clock every afternoon when it is time for the people to go home. My watch doesn’t work very well, so I synchronize it with your clock.’ The clockmaker says, ‘I’ve got bad news for you. My clock doesn’t work very well either, so I synchronize it with the bell that I hear from the factory at 4:00 every afternoon.’ If you’ll pardon the grammar, what happens when two wrong watches correct themselves by each other? They will get wronger and wronger all the time. Even a clock that doesn’t work may show you the right time twice a day…but it’s not because it’s keeping time!
Ravi Zacharias, “Address to the United Nations’ Prayer Breakfast.”
…Because so few are thinking, naturally there are found but a few to argue. Prejudice there is in abundance and sentiment too, for these are things born of enthusiasm without the pain of labor. Thinking on the contrary, is a difficult task; it is the hardest work man can do-that is perhaps why so few indulge in it. Thought-saving devices have been invented that rival labor-saving devices in their ingenuity. Fine sounding phrases like ‘Life is bigger than logic,’ or ‘Progress is the spirit of the age,’ go rattling by us like express trains, carrying with them the burden of those who are too lazy to think for themselves. Not even philosophers argue today; they only explain away. At best, both sides may shoot off firecrackers, creating the illusion of conflict, but it is only a sham battle in which there are no casualties; there are plenty of explosions, but never an exploded argument.
In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.
…Machen insisted, it is essential that Christian scholars be alert to the power of an idea before it has reached popular formulation. Scholarly procedure, he said, “s based simply upon a profound belief in the pervasiveness of ideas. What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassionate debate. So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.”
William Lane Craig, Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Chriostian Apologetics, 11-12; and, J. Menchen Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913), 6.
None of us feels the true love of God till we realize how wicked we are. But you can’t teach people that — they have to learn by experience.
…it absurd for the evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.
G. K. Chesterton
The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult, and left untried.
G. K. Chesterton
[For almost 2,300 years, the universe was thought to be static. However, the Bible clearly states that it had a beginning]:
When Albert Einstein developed his general theory of relativity in 1915 and started applying it to the universe as a whole, he was shocked to discover it didn’t allow for a static universe. According to his equations, the universe should either be exploding or imploding. In order to make the universe static, he had to fudge his equations by putting in a factor that would hold the universe steady.
In the 1920′s, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgium astronomer George Lemaitre were able to develop models based on Einstein’s theory. They predicted the universe was expanding. Of course, this meant that if you went backward in time, the universe would go back to a single origin before which it didn’t exist. Astronomer Fred Hoyle derisively called this the Big Bang — and the name stuck!
Starting in the 1920′s, scientists began to find empirical evidence that supported these purely mathematical models. For instance, in 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the light coming to us from distant galaxies appears redder than it should be, and this is a universal feature of galaxies in all parts of the sky. Hubble explained this red shift as being due to the fact that the galaxies are moving away from us. He concluded that the universe is literally flying apart at enormous velocities. Hubble’s astronomical observations were the first empirical confirmation of the predictions by Friedman and Lemaitre.
Then in the 1940′s, George Gamow predicted that if the Big Bang really happened, then the background temperature of the universe should be just a few degrees above absolute zero. He said this would be a relic from a very early stage of the universe. Sure enough, in 1965, two scientists accidentally discovered the universe’s background radiation — and it was only about 3.7 degrees above absolute zero. There’s no explanation for this apart from the fact that it is a vestige of a very early and a very dense state of the universe, which was predicted by the Big Bang model.
The third main piece of the evidence for the Big Bang is the origin of light elements. Heavy elements, like carbon and iron, are synthesized in the interior of stars and then exploded through supernova into space. But the very, very light elements, like deuterium and helium, cannot have been synthesized in the interior of the stars, because you would need an even more powerful furnace to create them. These elements must have been forged in the furnace of the Big Bang itself at temperatures that were billions of degrees. There’s no other explanation.
So predictions about the Big Bang have been consistently verified by the scientific data. Moreover, they have been corroborated by the failure of every attempt to falsify them by alternative models. Unquestionably, the Big Bang model has impressive scientific credentials . . . . Up to this time, it was taken for granted that the universe as a whole was a static, eternally existing object . . . . At the time an agnostic, American astronomer Robert Jastrow was forced to concede that although details may differ, “the essential element in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis is the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy”…. Einstein admitted the idea of the expanding universe “irritates me” (presumably, said one prominent scientist, “because of its theological implications”) –
Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, from the chapter, “The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang,”, 105-106, 112.
The essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy…. The Hubble Law is one of the great discoveries in science; it is one of the main supports of the scientific story of Genesis.
Robert Jastrow ~ American astronomer and physicist. Founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he is the director of the Mount Wilson Institute and Hale Solar Laboratory. He is also the author of Red Giants and White Dwarfs (1967) and God and the Astronomers (2nd ed., 2000).
Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.
Robert Wilson ~ is an American astronomer, 1978 Nobel laureate in physics, who with Arno Allan Penzias discovered in 1964 the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB)…. While working on a new type of antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, they found a source of noise in the atmosphere that they could not explain. After removing all potential sources of noise, including pigeon droppings on the antenna, the noise was finally identified as CMB, which served as important corroboration of the Big Bang theory.
The atheist can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman.
Ray Comfort, God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists: Proof That the Atheist Doesn’t Exist, p. 14.
…the fossil record doesn’t show gradual change, and every paleontologist has known that since Cuvier.
Stephen Jay Gould, “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?” Lecture at Hobart & William Smith Colleges; Feb 14, 1980.
The support which I receive from Germany is my chief ground for hoping that our views will ultimately prevail.
Charles Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 2, p. 270.
Being a lover of freedom, when the [Nazi] revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks… Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.
Albert Einstein–Albert Einstein Time Magazine, December 23, 1940 (page 38); Mackay, J. A. 1939. “The Titanic Twofold Challenge,” New York Times Magazine, May 7, p. 3.
Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.
G. Richard Bozarth, “The Meaning of Evolution,” American Atheist, p. 30, 20 September 1979.
To simulate 10 milliseconds of the complete processing of even a single nerve cell from the retina would require the solution of about 500 simultaneous non-linier differential equations one hundred times and would take at least several minutes of processing time on a Cray super computer. Keeping in mind that there are 10 million or more cells intersecting with each other in complex ways it would take a minimum of a hundred years of Cray time to simulate what takes place in your eye many times every second
John K. Stevens, Byte, April 1988
The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy [New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942], pp. 161-162.
The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [Christians] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana), and the church is liable for the unjustified murder of about (taking the high number here) 300,000-women over about a 300 year period. A blight on Christianity? Certainly. Something wrong? Dismally wrong. A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no evolutionary/naturalistic natural law is being violated in other words (as non-theists reduce everything to natural law — materialism). However, and this is key, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.
A condensing of Gregory Koukl’s, “The Real Murderers: Atheism or Christianity?”
I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.
“Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”
Schaff, Phillip, “The Person of Christ,” American Tract Society, 1913.
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 52-53.
The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshiped, even with multitudinous idols. All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.
Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions, pp. 285-286.
And certainly, there’s no doubt about it, that in the past, and I think also in the present, for many evolutionists, evolution has functioned as something with elements which are, let us say, akin to being a secular religion … And it seems to me very clear that at some very basic level, evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism, namely, that at some level one is going to exclude miracles and these sorts of things come what may.
Michael Ruse, “The New Antievolutionism,” AAAS Symposium, February 13, 1993.
The atheist realizes that there must not only be an acceptance of his right to hold his opinion, but that ultimately his is the job to turn his culture from religion, to eliminate those irrational ideas which have held the human race in intellectual slavery…. The atheist must abandon his defensive positions, take up the cudgels and go forward, rather than into the retreat of apathy.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair annual convention speech in Sacramento, California, C-SPAN, April 10, 1993.
I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…. We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence — imperious, relentless and cruel.
Hitler, hung on the wall at Auschwitz; Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, p. 23.
Is an impersonal Force higher than a person? Is it higher to be something like electricity than to be something like Aristotle?
Peter Kreeft, The Journey: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 95.
If there is no God, all things are permissible.
Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.
Mussolini, Diuturna, pp. 374-77; quoted in, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist, by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.
Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic
Kansan State University immunologist, Scott Todd, correspondence to Nature, 410 , 30 September, 1999.
Note: In these calculations, Yockey generously granted that the raw materials were available in a primeval soup. But in the previous chapter, Yockey showed there was much evidence that a primeval soup never existed, so is an act of faith.
The origin of life by chance in a primeval soup is impossible in probability in the same way that a perpetual machine is in probability. The extremely small probabilities calculated in this chapter are not discouraging to true believers … [however] A practical person must conclude that life didn’t happen by chance.
Hubert P. Yockey, Information Theory and Molecular Biology [Cambridge University Press, UK: 1992] 257.
The quantum vacuum is not nothing. The quantum vacuum is a sea of fluctuating energy, endowed with a rich physical structure, and governed by physical laws. It is no exception to the principle “that whatever begins to exist has a cause.”
William Lane Craig
Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they have increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory
Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, pp. 127-128.
The Races Of Man – At the present time there exists upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent in structure. These are the Ethiopian or Negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the Islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America
A public school textbook, George William Hunter, A Civic Biology Presented in Problems, [The American Book Company: N. Y.; 1914], p. 196
Since women that believe in God are less likely to have abortions, does that mean that natural selection will result in a greater number of believers than non-believers.
(A question asked by a student attending a debate between Dr. William Lane Craig [a theist] and Dr. Massimo Pigliucci [an atheis])
I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.
Mortimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith”, in Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers, 207.
I shall always be convinced that a watch proves a watch-maker, and that a universe proves God.
A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.
Atheism is a disease of the soul before it is an error of the mind.
When a man ceases to believe in God he does not believe in nothing, he believes almost in anything.
G. K. Chesterton
The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.
Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.
“Beware of manufacturing a god of your own: a god who is all mercy but not just, a god who is all love but not holy, a god who has a heaven for everybody but a hell for none, a god who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a god is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible, there is no God at all. Beware of making selections from your Bible to suit your taste. Dare not to say, ‘I believe this verse, for I like it. I refuse that, for I cannot reconcile it with my views.’ Nay! But O man, who art thou that repliest against God? By what right do you talk in this way? Surely it were better to say over EVERY chapter in the word, ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.’ Ah! If men would do this, they would never deny the unquenchable fire.”
J.C. Ryle, from Fire, Fire!
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
“That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.” (Koran, Surah 4:157, Yusuf Ali translation)
“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” (In a letter to John Adams, 4/11/1823)
“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (The father of the Krishna Consciousness Movement—a.k.a. the Hare Krishna Movement)
“‘Christ’ is another way of saying Krsta and Krsta is another way of pronouncing Krishna, the name of God…the general name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose specific name is Krishna. Therefore whether you call God ‘Christ’, ‘Krsta’, or ‘Krishna’, ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead…Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said: namnam akari bahu-dha nija-sarva-saktis. (God has millions of names, and because there is no difference between God’s name and Himself, each one of these names has the same potency as God.)”
Albert Einstein, in an interview by George Sylvester Viereck for The Saturday Evening Post (10/26/29)
“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
The Dalai Lama
“Jesus Christ also lived previous lives,” he said. “So, you see, he reached a high state, either as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened person, through Buddhist practice or something like that. Then, at a certain period, certain era, he appeared as a new master, and then because of circumstances, he taught certain views different from Buddhism, but he also taught the same religious values as I mentioned earlier: Be patient, tolerant, compassionate. This is, you see, the real message in order to become a better human being.” (In an interview with James A. Beverley of CanadianChristianity.com, “Comment: Buddhism’s guru”, 4/16/04.)
“I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.” (In an interview with US Magazine on why he turned away from his Southern Baptist upbringing, “Why Brad Turned Away From Religion”, 10/07/07)
“Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardour of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old.”
Augustine of Hippo
“I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.’”
“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.”
“Oh, but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual? Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than ‘barking mad’.” (In an interview with Ted Haggard as part of a British television documentary entitled “The Root of All Evil”, 2006.)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The unique impression of Jesus upon mankind—whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world—is proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion. Jesus belonged to the race of prophets. He saw with open eyes the mystery of the soul. One man was true to what is in you and me. He, as I think, is the only soul in history who has appreciated the worth of man.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
“It is possible that underneath the holy fable and disguise of Jesus’ life there lies concealed one of the most painful cases of martyrdom of knowledge about love: the martyrdom of the most innocent and desirous heart, never sated by any human love, demanding love, to be love and nothing else, with hardness, with insanity, with terrible eruptions against those who denied him love, the story of a poor fellow, unsated and insatiable in love, who had to invent hell in order to send to it those who did not want to love him—and who finally, having gained knowledge about love, had to invent a god who is all love, all ability to love—who has mercy on human love because it is so utterly wretched and unknowing. Anyone who feels that way, who knows this about love—seeks death.
“But why pursue such painful matter? Assuming one does not have to.” (Beyond Good and Evil, section 269).