(Originally posted October 2011, the 2nd reposting was when Vincent Bugliosi died in June 2015. I am reposting this March of 2022 to update the media in the post.)
I am re-posting this because Vincent Bugliosi just passed away. He was a legend in his field who wrote many good books. But even smart people say DUMB things.
INCORRECTLY DEFINING AGNOSTICISM
I was surprised in listening to Vincent Bugliosi in an interview about his book, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question. Surprised because considering his book on debunking pretty much every JFK conspiracy known to man, I would expect him to realize his fundamental mistake that taints his whole view.
So when I heard Mr. Bugliosi quote Gertrude Stein as part of his definition of agnosticism…..
“There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There’s your answer.”
…. I immediately knew he was a second rate skeptic churning every old cliché over again for a new generation.
PROPERLY DEFINING “SOFT” & “HARD” AGNOSICISM
So here we should define for the layman what an agnostic is and why some say that there are two kinds… one being indistinguishable from an atheist.
✓ Atheism: The belief that there is no God. This is typically the conviction that there is no personal Creator of the universe, and no powerful, incorporeal, perfect being in heaven or anywhere else.
✓ Agnosticism: The state of not-knowing whether there is a God or not. The humble agnostic says that he doesn’t know whether there is a God. The less humble agnostic says that you don’t, either. The least humble agnostic thinks that we can’t ever really know.
Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies (Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1999), 238.
Okay, most philosophy texts and dictionaries will at times make this distinction. Again, that there are two types of agnostics. A soft agnostic says: “I do not know. You may. Therefore I may want to dialogue because you may have information I do not.” A hard agnostic says: “I do not know, and neither can you.”
But what about what Vincent Bugliosi said about the impossibility of knowing?
Does he know this possibility?
Let me show how his position is self refuting, incoherent, and illogical. This comes from my “chapter” via my “book” on Reincarnation vs. the Laws of Logic (references at linked chapter):
….To begin, pantheists claim that God is unknowable because it [God] is above and beyond human logic. In other words, we are told that we cannot intellectually comprehend God because he is beyond all understanding. However, this is nonsensical and self-defeating statement. Why? “Because the very act of claiming that God is beyond logic is a logical statement about God.” Also, to say that we cannot know or comprehend God, as do the agnostics, is to say that we know God. How? I will answer this with a response to agnostic claims by the associate professor of philosophy and government at the University of Texas at Austin:
To say that we cannot know anything about God is to say something about God; it is to say that if there is a God, he is unknowable. But in that case, he is not entirely unknowable, for the agnostic certainly thinks that we can know one thing about him: That nothing else can be known about him. Unfortunately, the position that we can know exactly one thing about God – his unknowability in all respects except this – is equally unsupportable, for why should this one thing be an exception? How could we know that any possible God would be of such a nature that nothing else could be known about him? On what basis could we rule out his knowability in all other respects but this one? The very attempt to justify the claim confutes it, for the agnostic would have to know a great many things about God in order to know he that couldn’t know anything else about him.
Although not the time nor place to explain the law of non-contradiction, for those who do not know, a brief perusal may be warranted. The law of non-contradiction is simply this: “‘A’ cannot be both ‘non-A’ and ‘A’ at the same time.” In the words of Professor J. P. Moreland:
When a statement fails to satisfy itself (i.e., to conform to its own criteria of validity or acceptability), it is self-refuting…. Consider some examples. “I cannot say a word in English” is self-refuting when uttered in English. “I do not exist” is self-refuting, for one must exist to utter it. The claim “there are no truths” is self-refuting. If it is false, then it is false. But is it is true, then it is false as well, for in that case there would be no truths, including the statement itself.
You see, Mr. Bugliosi is denying that you know, which means he REALLY KNOWS… which is self defeating.
You can see in this mock conversation how this woks out:
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)
Do you see? After listening to Bugliosi himself do you understand where he went wrong? If you are a person who thinks like Bugliosi, may I posit that you are just as dogmatic as the most dogmatic atheist.
PragerU Chief of Staff Adrienne Johnson was once a cynical atheist, struggling to find meaning and purpose in ways that left her feeling even more adrift and alone. After hitting rock bottom, she learned that it’s never too late to take responsibility and change your life. Adrienne shares her powerful personal story of how finding faith in God gave her a second chance at life.
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.
A chap in a Facebook group posted a few points in a post, of which I took this point up to respond to.
…My moral values have a simple root…if an action causes harm to another person, that act is immoral. If my inaction causes harm to another person, that inaction is immoral…
I first posted this as a response:
You would have to define and then implement this definition in a way that non-theistic governments would accept (like the many Eastern-block countries of our past for example). Some countries would view the disabled and farmers as harming society, and thus view the moral rout for said society as a whole to rid themselves of these persons/groups. They would say to NOT do so causes harm.
BUT, I didn’t have to really do any heavy lifting… this person did it for me. After reading through the discussion, the same person said this:
…Morality actually derives from human self interest in preserving the group they needed to be part of to survive in a hostile world. It had to be a feature in the lives of the earliest human ancestor species…
To which I replied:
Oh, this comment refutes you OP [original post]. “Morality actually derives from human self interest in preserving the group they needed to be part of to survive in a hostile world.”
So another group’s morality to survive in a hostile world (say, Pol-Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Caesars, etc) are just as “moral” then. Unless you are saying that there is a universal code you are tapping into to compare/contrast, and put on a higher plane? Not only that, but you would need to argue that another person would have to have that same ability…. At least if you are expecting your OP to carry any weight.
Otherwise you are merely here expressing your preference (emoting), like my children telling me they prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla.
Not only that, but the majority group, whether in a country or in the world, would decide this ethos (what it “means” to survive). And thus, to speak out against this consensus (whether is science or in morality) would be immoral.
A couple examples of this ethos at work:
“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 (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.
“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; found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 206.
“What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.” — Richard Dawkins
Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007.
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.
….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, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.
Dawkins spells out the contradiction: “As an academic scientist, I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs.” A Devils Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003), 10-11.
In another place, he admits to the logic of his own determinism (that people cannot be held responsible for their actions), but emotionally he cannot accept this. See the Dawkins interview by Logan Gage, “Who Wrote Richard Dawkins’s New Book?,”Evolution News (website), October 28, 2006:
Manzari: Dr. Dawkins thank you for your comments. The thing I have appreciated most about your comments is your consistency in the things I’ve seen you’ve written. One of the areas that I wanted to ask you about, and the place where I think there is an inconsistency, and I hoped you would clarify, is that in what I’ve read you seem to take a position of a strong determinist who says that what we see around us is the product of physical laws playing themselves out; but on the other hand it would seem that you would do things like taking credit for writing this book and things like that. But it would seem, and this isn’t to be funny, that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today. I would take it that that would be the consistent position but I wanted to know what you thought about that.
Dawkins: The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It’s not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I’ve ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn’t seem to make any sense. Now I don’t actually know what I actually think about that, I haven’t taken up a position about that, it’s not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don’t feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, “Oh well he couldn’t help doing it, he was determined by his molecules.” Maybe we should… I sometimes… Um… You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won’t start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that’s what we all ought to… Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is “Oh they were just determined by their molecules.” It’s stupid to punish them. What we should do is say “This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced.” I can’t bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood. And so again I might take a…
Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?
Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.
Manzari: Thank you.
2 Peter 1:5-8:
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In other words, there is no absolute moral ethic, Dawkins wants to have a consensus of people agreeing what is “right” and “wrong” — he says as much in the audio above. Which means that rape and murder are only taboo… not really wrong.
Secondly, there can be no concept of “ought”
What about human actions? They are of no more value or significance than the actions of any other material thing. Consider rocks rolling down a hill and coming to rest at the bottom. We don’t say that some particular arrangement of the rocks is right and another is wrong. Rocks don’t have a duty to roll in a particular way and land in a particular place. Their movement is just the product of the laws of physics. We don’t say that rocks “ought” to land in a certain pattern and that if they don’t then something needs to be done about it. We don’t strive for a better arrangement or motion of the rocks. In just the same way, there is no standard by which human actions can be judged. We are just another form of matter in motion, like the rocks rolling down the hill.
We tend to think that somewhere “out there” there are standards of behaviour that men ought to follow. But according to Dawkins there is only the “natural, physical world”. Nothing but particles and forces. These things cannot give rise to standards that men have a duty to follow. In fact they cannot even account for the concept of “ought”. There exist only particles of matter obeying the laws of physics. There is no sense in which anything ought to be like this or ought to be like that. There just is whatever there is, and there just happens whatever happens in accordance with the laws of physics.
Men’s actions are therefore merely the result of the laws of physics that govern the behaviour of the particles that make up the chemicals in the cells and fluids of their bodies and thus control how they behave. It is meaningless to say that the result of those physical reactions ought to be this or ought to be that. It is whatever it is. It is meaningless to say that people ought to act in a certain way. It is meaningless to say (to take a contemporary example) that the United States and its allies ought not to have invaded Iraq. The decision to invade was just the outworking of the laws of physics in the bodies of the people who governed those nations. And there is no sense in which the results of that invasion can be judged as good or bad because there are no standards to judge anything by. There are only particles reacting together; no standards, no morals, nothing but matter in motion.
Dawkins finds it very hard to be consistent to this system of belief. He thinks and acts as if there were somewhere, somehow standards that people ought to follow. For example in The God Delusion, referring particularly to the Christian doctrine of atonement, he says that there are “teachings in the New Testament that no good person should support”.(6) And he claims that religion favours an in-group/out-group approach to morality that makes it “a significant force for evil in the world”.(7)
According to Dawkins, then, there are such things as good and evil. We all know what good and evil mean. We know that if no good person should support the doctrine of atonement then we ought not to support that doctrine. We know that if religion is a force for evil then we are better off without religion and that, indeed, we ought to oppose religion. The concepts of good and evil are innate in us. The problem for Dawkins is that good and evil make no sense in his worldview. “There is nothing beyond the natural, physical world.” There are no standards out there that we ought to follow. There is only matter in motion reacting according to the laws of physics. Man is not of a different character to any other material thing. Men’s actions are not of a different type or level to that of rocks rolling down a hill. Rocks are not subject to laws that require them to do good and not evil; nor are men. Every time you hear Dawkins talking about good and evil as if the words actually meant something, it should strike you loud and clear as if he had announced to the world, “I am contradicting myself”.
Please note that I am not saying that Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in good and evil. On the contrary, my point is that he does believe in them but that his worldview renders such standards meaningless.
I was recently in a conversation and was challenged with a long litany of items. This is a common tactic of atheists. Not camping on a single topic and dealing with it well. Rather they have a myriad of points combined that they think are sound, which is why I often choose on from their long screed to show them that in similar fashion when each statement is looked at and dealt with properly you often find straw-men, non-sequiturs, of category mistakes. Here is an example:
You see that is why there are 40,000 denominations approximately. Each interprets the bible differently, never mind all the other religions. Saying the bible is spot on is totally crazy…
I thought I responded to this in the past… but after searching through my Word docs and my sites… I have not in fact posted responses to this challenge. So here I wish to do just that. But first, I want to define myself, and what “I am”
I am broadly a theist, which is a theological system which postulates a transcendent God who is the creator of the universe, an immanent God who sustains it, and a personal God who is able to communicate with and redeem his creation. Christian theism is … monotheistic. I vigorously defend the theistic worldview as well as showing the inequities and the self-refuting nature of the opposing worldviews such as pantheism, panantheism, atheism, and polytheism.
Then I am rightly considered within the Protestantism tradition or movement. Protestantism is considered the second wave of Christianity, that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its name is derived from Protestatio, a statement issued by 5 reforming princes and 14 cities of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Spayer in 1529. The term Protestatio did not imply a mere protest, but a confession. For the early Reformers, Protestantism was not so much a revolution as a revival of the faith and practices of the early church.
The five marks of the Protestant Church may not apply to all churches falling under this rubric, but they express the driving theological convictions of the early Reformers:
The authority of the Scriptures as the definitive guide to faith and practice. They uphold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which means that only traditions and liturgical practices that are consistent with the Scriptures are acceptable;
Justification by faith. For Luther and his associates, justification by faith constituted the capstone of the Christian faith. Whereas the Catholic faith teaches that the grace of God must be supplemented by human merits and sacramental grace, Protestants teach that every believer is justified by faith and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer;
Regenerative power of consecration by baptism and the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper. The latter is accepted not as a sacrifice in which there is transubstantiation of the elements, but as a memorial in which the Lord is present in some form for believers to feed upon;
Priesthood of all believers;
Ministry. Most Protestant denominations accept at least three orders of ministers: bishop (superintendent), pastor, and deacon.
Protestant denominations number in the thousands, and vary widely in structure, theology, and forms of worship. Some denominations are close to Catholic and Orthodox traditions, and others are close to Unitarianism. The eight principle streams of modern Protestantism are Episcopal or Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian (including Calvinist or Reformed), Lutheran, Congregational, Baptist, Holiness, and Pentecostal. Within each of these denominations there are warring liberal and conservative or evangelical factions that sometimes merge and at other times split. Among the most prominent Protestant theologians of the late twentieth century are Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jurgen Moltmann, John R, Stott, Thomas F. Torrance, J. I. Packer, and E. Jungel.
I am then classed even further by my adherence to Evangelicalism. It is one of the main strands of Protestant Christianity. Its distinguishing marks are acceptance of scriptural authority as binding on Christians, personal commitment to Jesus Christ, and adherence to historic Trinitarianism. In almost all countries, Evangelicals are pitted against the liberals, and there are divisions between conservatives and liberals even within Evangelicalism. The Laodicean character of the liberal churches, as contrasted with the earnestness of the Evangelicals, has helped the latter gain an edge in terms of converts and growth.
Evangelicals have been on the forefront of the missionary movement. The Church Missionary Society in England and the British and Foreign Bible Society owe their origins to Evangelicals. In the nineteenth century, Evangelicalism received a boost from the revivalist movements and from the Keswick Convention. With Evangelicalism’s twin focus of world missions and personal consecration, the social gospel (a theological movement in North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries emphasizing social improvement over propagation of the Gospel) has disappeared from its horizon. In the post WWII period, the conservative Evangelicals have spearheaded a revival under the leadership of John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Carl Henry, and others. The crusades of Billy Graham, the Charismatic movement, the impact of Inter-Varsity Fellowship among students, the popularity of theology as an academic discipline, and experiments in new forms of worship and evangelism have contributed to the phenomenal growth of Evangelicalism.
RESPONDING TO CHALLENGE
Now on to the challenge itself, which, the self-definition above will exemplify the main points. When I first cam across the argument myself, it was 33,000 denominations, which “WAR_EAGLE” points out is a fluctuating number in his concise refutation of this number:
This morning, an atheist poster was kind enough to provide us with yet another refutation of the “33,000 denominations” lie and I just thought I’d share it with you here, since he is not able to share that here.
Among The Criticism’s Of The Methodology Used To Arrive At That Ever Fluctuating Number:
These “denominations” are defined in terms of being separate organisations, not necessarily separate beliefs. This is a critical difference, not commonly noted by critics.
The largest component (something like two thirds to three quarters) of these totals are “independent” churches, mostly in Africa. These are not necessarily different in doctrine, but are simply independent organisations.
These estimates include national branches of the same denomination (e.g. the Lutheran Church of Germany and the Lutheran Church of Australia) as separate organisations in the count.
There are many churches among the independent churches which would have effectively the same teachings, just different locations, different leaders, etc.
It is thus incorrect to say that these figures indicate more than 40,000 different beliefs. It is impossible to tell how many differences in belief there would be, and probably impossible even to define. But it would certainly be far less than the 43,000 figure.
Differences In Belief:
The sources suggest Christian denominations can be divided into “6 major ecclesiastico-cultural mega-blocs”: Independents, Protestants, “Marginals”, Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
Wikipedia lists about 40 major divisions, each of whom might have some variation in belief.
The degree of difference in belief is hard to describe. For example, most of these denominations would have similar beliefs about major christian doctrines such as God, creation, Jesus, salvation, Holy Spirit, forgiveness, etc, and the differences would mostly be on less essential matters. How much these differences matter is subjective.
The denominations measured in these two reports are not indicators of separate belief, and quoting them as such is a mis-statement of the data. Due to the large number of independent churches, it is impossible to know how much christian belief varies beyond that defined by the 40 or so groups listed in Wikipedia.
In the above challenge of 40,000 denominations… Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), and other cults are included in the number. Using the same criteria found in the ever-changing large number we see how the criteria works out to an INFLATED NUMBER: Please realize, this includes “Gnostics” (!), Mormons (122 denominations worth!) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (228 denominations)! No Christian church would include them as a “Christian denomination,” unless infected by a form of liberalism that causes a universal viewpoint. That is, all people are going to heaven. This question about denominations comes up often by Mormons. They typically claim they are the one true church… but there are well over 40-factions of Mormonism (“denominations”). How do they themselves distinguish what is true?
Even the Roman Catholic church has 242 “denominations.” (See Dr. White’s presentation near the bottom)
Here is a good concluding remark of a larger response:
Denominations were probably not Christ’s first choice for His church. We recall His prayer that His church would be one (John 17:20-21), and can imagine that He would have preferred for His church to remain fully unified for the cause of Christ. But denominations came to help serve the purpose of God in many important ways:
They helped to divide and scatter the influence of the Gospel to a wider spectrum of people.
They helped to filter out the spread of harmful heresies and false doctrines.
They have unified significant portions of the body of Christ, integrating those congregations of similar views. Even though a denomination may not have an organizational affiliation with all other churches, this does not have to represent disunity any more than a local church who seeks to befriend and support its neighboring congregations. Wise denominational leaders have used their influence to help their flock see the larger family picture of Christianity.
Thank God there will be no denominational divisions in Heaven, only those who have agreed upon their faith in the precious atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
An historical analogy for one of the bullet points above may help. If the world was made up of a “Pangaea” of a country (one country/one world order), it would be impossible to stop a “Hitler” or Mao,” or “Stalin” conquering said world. But because the world is divided into different cultures, languages, and the like… it is near impossible for a tyrant to overthrow the world. (Which is one reason why a “united Europe” is looked upon as a net negative.)
Similarly, as was already pointed out, these many denominations “helped to filter out the spread of harmful heresies and false doctrines.”
CATHOLIC’S CONTINUE MYTH
There are of course NEGATIVE VIEWS of the “many denominations,” but all-in-all, it is not a very good challenge to a thoughtful Christian that the many denominations are somehow evidence that Christianity is not true, is a battle Catholics have lost FOR A WHILE NOW.
Here is an older video with James White (Jan 7, 2009):
Most (not all) Roman Catholic apologists repeat the same falsehood over and over again: that there are 33,000 Protestant denominations due to sola scriptura.
He [Elijah] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,
The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times;
Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times;
An Introduction to the Old Testament;
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament;
Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament;
A Popular Survey of the Old Testament;
New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties;
Hard Sayings of the Bible;
When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.
I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.)
This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story.
I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israel’s history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.
What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. “Biblical Dress” is mentioned pretty well in these few sentences: “The Bible tells how fine linen was wrapped around the head of the High Priest as a turban or mitre — the saniph or kidaris (Exodus 28:39). Ordinary people wore a kerchief over the head, held tight by a cord reminiscent of the Arab headdress commonly worn today, the ‘aggal.”
In public the Jews always wore a turban, for at certain seasons of the year it is dangerous in Palestine to expose the head to the rays of the sun. This turban was of thick material and passed several times around the head. It was somewhat like our handkerchief and was made of linen, or recently of cotton. The patriarch Job and the prophet Isaiah mention the use of the turban as a headdress (Job 29:14, A. R. V. margin; Isa. 3:23, A. R. V.). In place of the turban, the Palestinian Arabs today, for the most part, wear a head veil called “Kaffieh” which hangs down over part of their garment.
— Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (Moody Press, 1953 | PDF)
Take note of the below as well.
I posted multiple images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple cultural accoutrements that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. He wouldn’t have been alone either, in other words, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention. So we know from cultural history the following:
He would have had a head dressing on — some sort of turbin or head-covering;
and he would have had an entourage of men to dissuade any attack or mistreatment of a priest of Israel on a journey.
One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.
Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him ~ as already mentioned, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above ~ as already mentioned.
QUESTION: So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume?
ANSWER: That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald.
Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.
✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties; ✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books); ✔ they were from a violently cultic city; ✔ the crowd was large; ✔ the crowd had already turned violent.
These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.
[May I also add here that there is a bit of “free-will” actions here that could have contributed greatly — although this is still an example of God intervening with nature. I suppose that these mother bears may have minded their own business while keeping their cubs safe. But the ruckus created by this large crowd caused alarm enough in these mother bears to roust their natural instinct to protect their own. That is all. If this crowd had not done the above, everyone could have gone their own way on their respective journeys and “survived.” So while I think God DID intervene, miraculously, the actions natural or Divine were based on the violence of men]
…another conversation I had with Countess that I kept was THIS ONE. This conversation was, however, from 12/2001 that I am only now uploading… (found it buried in my Microsoft Word files. Enjoy:
Responding to a Skeptic
Countess, you mentioned that “we have no way to quantify the power of God, or his ability to disturb the balance of the universe,” to quote you. I find this to be a patently false statement. However, I see it as such not because you meant it to be, but because you are not defining your terms and quantifying your thoughts. I will explain how we can apply attribute to the Necessary Being through logic and nature (I will do so by explaining it to a non-theist). This next section is taken primarily from the book Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe, pp. 62-64, edited Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman. (books referenced with the asterisk, *, are in my home library – which, for those keeping track over the years, is now well over 1,800.)
Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of nothing? Typically, atheists have said the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. If the universe never had a beginning, that means the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. If you subtract all the odd numbers 1, 3, 5, … from all the natural numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, …, how many numbers do you have left? An infinite number. So infinity minus infinity is infinity. But suppose instead you subtract all the numbers greater than 2 – how many are left? Three. So infinity minus infinity is 3! It needs to be understood that in both of these cases we have subtracted identical quantities from identical quantities and come up with self-contradictory answers. In fact, you can get any answer you want from zero to infinity! This shows that infinity is just an idea in one’s mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea” (*David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, edition with an introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam, pp. 139, 141). Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather, the universe at some point must have begun to exist. [Which the theist and deist both believe.]
This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the big bang. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the big bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because, as one goes back in time, he reaches a point at which, in Hoyle’s words, the universe was “shrunk down to nothing at all” (*Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology, p. 658). Thus, what the big bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.
This tends to be very awkward for the atheist, for as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, “A proponent of the big bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the … universe came from nothing and by nothing” (Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence, p. 66). But surely that doesn’t make sense. Out of nothing, nothing comes [law of nature]. In every other context, atheists recognize this fact. The great skeptic David Hume wrote, “But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause” (*David Hume, The Letters of David Hume, p. I:187. I own a more recent compilation than the one quoted here). The contemporary atheist philosopher Kai Nielson gives this illustration: “Suppose you suddenly hear a loud bang… and ask me, ‘What made that bang?’ and I reply, ‘Nothing, it just happened.’ You would not accept that. In fact you would find my reply quite unintelligible” (*Kai Neilson, Reason and Practice, p. 48). But what’s true of the little bang must be true of the big bang as well. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause that brought the universe into being. As the great scientist Sir Arthur Eddington said, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural” (*Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe, p. 124).
We can summarize the argument thus far as follows:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Given the truth of the first two premises, the third necessarily follows.
From the very nature of the case, as the cause of space and time, this supernatural cause must be uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being that created the universe. The being must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes [a necessary being is demanded by science and logic]. It must be timeless and therefore changeless because it created time. Because it created space, it must transcend space as well and therefore be immaterial, not physical.
Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal, for how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect such as the universe? If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without effect. For example, water freezes because the temperature (the cause) is below 0 degrees C. if the temperature were below 0 degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze just a finite time ago. So if the cause is timelessly present, then the effect should be timelessly present as well. the only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Thus, we are brought not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe but to its personal Creator.
Michael Medved had Camille Paglia on his show discussing a new book of hers (“Provocations: Collected Essays“) and an atheist caller called in to express his *rational position on religion. At any rate, a well stated defense of the importance of the Bible by a secular feminist critiquing modern atheism. (For the record, Camille Paglia is an atheist.)
What happens after we die? Does everything just end? Or, is there something that comes after this life? Who hasn’t asked themselves these questions? In this compelling video, Dennis Prager deals with the issue of the afterlife head on.