Thursday, April 30, 2009

It’s your choice

Every once in a while an atheist will complain that God seems to be holding h/her to account for being a sinner when God created h/him to be a sinner.

No person is held responsible by God for having a heredity of sin. What God holds you responsible for is refusing to let Jesus Christ deliver you from the consequences of your sin nature when you know that is precisely what Jesus came to do. John 3:19,20.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Living Time? Or just Doing Time?

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives

Who thinks more - feels the noblest - acts the best.

Life’s but a means unto an end - that end,

Beginning, middle and end to all things is God

Philip James Baily.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How's My Attitude?

Does My Attitude Declare That I Believe That God is Alive?

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, Do Not Worry about your life...”

1st Thessalonians 5:16,17 “Be Joyful Always; pray continually;

1st Peter 5:6,7 - “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast All Your Anxiety On Him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:4 - “Rejoice In The Lord Always. I will say it again: Rejoice! “

Philippians 4:6 - 9 “Do Not Be Anxious About Anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And (if you do this) the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Romans 5:3 - 5 - “. . . we also Rejoice In Our Sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

How will I allow these verses to change my attitude today?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Reason vs. Atheism

The writer of the atheist blog, Whispersessions wrote a long time ago,

"It’s imperative to understand that not all atheists are advocates of reason. We are all born atheists, therefore it is our default state. Many atheists don’t believe in a god because they simply never gave it a thought. They could very well be dishonest, angry people who have no moral code whatsoever. Some are atheists out of rebellion to their family. They may have never given a thought to philosophy or science, let alone ethics and morality. Some are atheists simply because they despise religion. Their “lack of belief” is actually a vicious anti-belief, and when asked about what they do believe, they’ll generally have nothing more to say than how badly they hate someone else’s beliefs. They will tell you that religion is wrong, but they’ll have nothing to say about what is right. They’ll say theism is false, but they will have nothing to say about what is true. To be sure, many atheists’ atheism rests upon nothing at all. They are not advocates of reason. They are advocates of nothing. They are atheist, non-rational, amoral, and anti-reason all at the same time."

Atheists would love to believe that they became “that way” or that they chose that world-view because of logic and reason. I’m sure that for a few, that is indeed what happened. They use logic and reason to uphold their decision to deny the existence of God. However, for those who were once “christians” (and I mean the small c), I think that for many they did not have a belief in God. Instead, they had a belief in a belief regarding God. Most likely they got this belief from their parents; parent who brooked very little latitude in how God operated in the world. What was missing was a belief in God that came about because of an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with God.

Then, God acted in a manner for which their belief did not allow. The rape of a child. The death of their dad. A failed relationship. Questions were raised. Doubts expressed. “How could this be?” was quickly met with anger and stern looks. THAT was not a safe direction to go. What could have and should have been a huge turning toward an exponential increase in strength and character from God Himself, it resulted instead in a turning away from Creator God. So now, in the aftermath of the difficulty, rather than admit that maybe s/he didn’t have God completely figured out, the former christian renounced not just h/her belief in h/her creedal god, s/he renounce h/her belief in God Himself.

Because of my own journey through life, I sometimes use the term, “blessed by tragedy.” I used it only because I and others who have walked through suffering with Jesus know that it is only in suffering that we have the potential to become the people we were meant to be.

If this raises questions, see my March post "Where is God when a little girl gets raped?"

Sadly, when a nominal christian has gone through tragedy, all that is revealed is his belief in his beliefs. God Himself is not revealed, certainly not in a way whereby the relationship becomes real. That is why mature Christians revolt against religious pretensions that pronounce that a loving God would never allow pain and suffering to enter into a good person’s life.

If tragedy, suffering and loss have shaken your creed, remember:

It wasn’t your belief in God that was mistaken

It was you beliefs about God that were mistaken

Because you were mistaken in your beliefs about God

You are mistaken in your conclusion that God doesn’t exist.

Many people are calling themselves atheists simply because they are rebelling against the presentation, an inaccurate presentation of God which was thrust upon them by ignorant and fearful adults. Atheists are absolutely correct when they say, “If to accept a presentation of God means the denial of things we know to be facts, then we are in a better position to say, “I will not accept an explanation of God which makes me call a fact not a fact.”

Sadly, many who call themselves atheists simply don’t understand that:
a) Not everything that we call a fact is a fact, and
b) Pain and suffering do not negate the fact of a loving God. The presence of pain and suffering are absolutely essential to our recognition of a loving God.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Problem with Intellect

Ah dogmatism. What are we going to do with it? Our nature seems to long for dogmatic creedal statements regardless of whether they’re scientific or religious. Examples you say? How about,

“There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God.” Or,

“A loving God would never allow pain and suffering.” Or a long-time favourite,

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Simple. Easy to remember. All of them wrong.

Our nature also longs to dwell in the realm of the intellect. Why? Because the goal of our unredeemed intellect is to avoid our ultimate reality. The reality that drives us lies in the area of morality. That is where we find our true selves, and what we find there isn’t pretty.

Now of course, anyone who challenges the intellect will be met with mockery and derision by atheists. After all, questioning the intellect is holding to account one aspect of the triune god of atheism, with Science, Pride and Intellect making up the whole.

You doubt what I say? If your receptors aren’t already dulled with scar tissue, try listening to your conscience, and I mean really listen to it. You’ll be appalled at what you find. Listening to our conscience isn’t easy to do because our intellect is forever rationalising and making excuses so we can deny, discount or downplay what our conscience is telling us. “Something that feels this right could never be wrong.” Our intellect tries to give us logical reasons for why we do the wrong that we do. The problem with that is, the bedrock of human problems isn’t reasonable, rational or logical. That is why reason and logic will never be able to solve our problems, our hatreds, our bitterness, pettiness and corrupted self-love.
Atheists are infamous for saying:

“I don’t need God in order to be a good person.”

The path of “logic” that follows that belief is:

a) “I don’t need God.”

b) “Therefore I must see myself as a good person.”

The obvious question that comes from the statement, “I don’t need God in order to be a good person,” is, “So why aren’t you a good person? Why don’t you even live up to your own standards of conduct? Why do you judge others by what they do while judging yourself by your intentions?”

I believe that the bedrock, fundamental flaw in human beings is tragic to the core. Our tolerance for the state of our world is empirical proof positive of our skewed sense of morality. Denying that flaw is dangerous to ourselves and to those closest to us. Sadly, the very aspect of ourselves that atheists worship most highly, the intellect, is the part of our corrupt self that tries with all its ability to avoid what is most human about us. The intellect, by denying our true nature, makes us observers of ourselves instead of participants. Intellect in the service of itself, cuts us off from not just others but from ourselves as well. As the saying goes, “The reason we cannot communicate with others is because our lives are so full of contradictions that we can’t even communicate with ourselves.”

Is intellect foul and putrid through and through? Of course not. It’s just that, to be trustworthy and worthwhile, the intellect must be in the service of our conscience, not the other way around. Our intellect needs to submit to objective morality, not create a morality based on the ebb and flow of unregenerate human reason. Reason and intellect can be our guides regarding things as they are, but reason and intellect are totally incapable of explaining why things are the way they are. Only the conscience can give us a hint to the direction where we’ll find the solution to that problem.

The good news is, it doesn’t matter what a person’s moral heredity is, or what tendencies toward evil there are in a person. Because of what Jesus did at the cross for you and for me, we can become all that God says we should be. Our intellect can be brought into the service of self in a manner that is life-giving rather than life-destroying.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

God’s Wrath for Christians? Mmm, Nope


Romans 1:18
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Romans 2:5
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Romans 2:8
But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

While these verses talk about what is in store for those who reject Jesus' salvation, reality is we all deserve God's wrath. We allow a world where children starve to death, Where children live as orphans, Where children are sold into sexual slavery. We allow a world where our tragic, defiled and hopeless inner-self is allowed to rule unchecked as we wage wars both secular and religious. We discriminate and marginalise. We judge and ridicule and mock. To a person we're hypocrites, liars, bigots, cheaters and adulterers. Yet our Creator God has provided a way to not get the eternal destruction that we deserve. Through faith in Jesus the Christ, who is God, there is good news.


Romans 5:9
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We, as Christians do not need to fear that God is angry with us. When we fall away or disobey, He is saddened and longs for us to return to a life of peace which can only come through obedience. His anger is a non-issue for us because He sees us through the ‘lens’ of Jesus. We can relax. We can lean back into His arms and experience the warmth of His enormous love for us. Every single morning we can start the day by putting on the breastplate of God’s approval (righteousness).
For that, we owe Jesus our allegiance, our trust, our obedience.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Which God are we talking about?

I don’t get it. What do atheists mean when they say we can’t describe the God that we believe in?

Aren’t these terms descriptions?

Eternal - Existed before time began and now exists in time but outside of time constraints

Necessary - Creator God had to exist or there would be nothing,

All Powerful - Creator of space, time, matter and the laws of science,

All Knowing - Created the constants and qualities by which the universe functions,

Omnipresent - Not limited by space or time,

Timeless and changeless - Not limited by time

Spirit - He exists outside of and prior to the creator of matter,

Personal - the impersonal cannot create personality

Purposeful - He deliberately created the universe

Intelligent - Only intelligence can create intelligence

Caring - His character makes possible objective morality by which we live

Moral - What He asks of us is for our benefit

Merciful - At His own expense made possible the forgiveness of our sins,

Slow to Anger - He has put up with us from the beginning of human kind,

A friend to the poor,

Full of Grace,


Patient - continues to bless those who hate Him,

Mind / Logos,

Triune: Father, Son and Spirit,

Source of objective morality,





Lord of lords,

King of kings,


Sustainer of the universe.

Independent of His creation,

Perfectly Holy,






Elohim - The strong One, mighty Leader, supreme Deity.

Yahweh - Self-existent, changeless, Provider, Present,

Adonai - Majestic, Master, Owner.

True God,



Supreme Lord.

I’m sure there are more descriptions than this. So what do atheists mean when they say we can’t describe the God in which we believe? What do atheists mean when they ask, "Well which god(s) that we're talking about when you say god created the universe?"?

Well, the fact is, out of all the religions of the world, this God, the Christian God, the God that was just described best describes the Creator of the Universe. Creator God IS the Greatest Conceivable Being.

Atheist Richard Dawkins:

Preaches the atheistic anti-life dogma that works AGAINST natural selection by causing in atheists an aversion to reproducing their genes (out of three marriages Dawkins could only stomach the creation of one child), and/or killing their offspring by the millions every year.

The Barna Research Group found regarding atheism and the morality that those who hold to the world views of atheism or agnosticism in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviours as morally acceptable:

illegal drug use;

excessive drinking;

sexual relationships outside of marriage;


cohabiting with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage;

obscene language;


pornography and obscene sexual behaviour; and

engaging in homosexuality and bisexuality

Given the many diseases associated with sexual promiscuity, the Bible’s prohibition against sex outside of a monogamist, long term marriage is quite arguably one of the many examples where the Bible exhibited knowledge that was ahead of its time.

Dr. Phil Fernandes states the following regarding atheism and moral relativism:
“ Nietzsche preached that a group of "supermen" must arise with the courage to create their own values through their "will to power." Nietzsche rejected the "soft" values of Christianity (brotherly love, turning the other cheek, charity, compassion, etc.); he felt they hindered man's creativity and potential....

Many other atheists agree with Nietzsche concerning moral relativism. British philosopher Bertrand Russel (1872-1970) once wrote, "Outside human desires there is no moral standard."

A. J. Ayer believed that moral commands did not result from any objective standard above man. Instead, Ayer stated that moral commands merely express one's subjective feelings. When one says that murder is wrong, one is merely saying that he or she feels that murder is wrong.

Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existentialist, believed that there is no objective meaning to life. Therefore, according to Sartre, man must create his own values.

There are many different ways that moral relativists attempt to determine what action should be taken. Hedonism is probably the most extreme. It declares that whatever brings the most pleasure is right. In other words, if it feels good, do it.
One's conscience becomes the sole arbiter between right and wrong. Good luck with that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Atheist denominations:

Because I generalise so terribly much, “atheists do this and atheists do that,” I’ve been told that I couldn’t find any two atheists who agree on anything, or something like that. Now that the atheist faith system is starting to splinter off into more and more denominations, I’m starting to think that maybe those who told me this just may be correct.

It seems that those who find the old atheist faith to be a little stuffy, and those who find the new atheist faith too fundamentalist are reacting just like Christians have acted for centuries. They’re spreading out like a web so as to cater to specific aspects of the belief system that appeals to various believers. For example, we now have:

Atheist 1- I don’t like the term atheist so much. It’s become too negative. That’s why I belong to the Humanist society.

A2 - Oh, to me, humanist is too old. The word smells like a basement in an old building. I prefer to call myself a Scientific Materialist.

A3 - I don’t find anything wrong with humanist, except that I think even spiritual people could be humanists. That’s why I make it clear that I’m a Secular Humanist.

A4 - Bah humbug! Call me a good old Sceptic. That’s what I am.

A5 - Well, I think the third atheist is the most correct. But it’s a little too general to just say that I’m a spiritual person. The fact is, while I am an atheist, I’m specifically a Buddhist. Last fall I even had Buddha rays come out my nose on three consecutive days.

A6 - All of you clowns are a bunch of cowards. We’re all atheists and our biggest enemy is religion. If we don’t show the world a unified front of Anti-Theists like me, then how are we ever supposed to nail down definitions for important things like whether we’re people who deny that god exists, or people who are non believers in god? This is crucial to our cause folks. Somebody get me a drink.

A7 - Yes, there’s truth in what all of you are saying. Well, I’m not saying that truth actually exists. It’s just that none of those other atheist denominations really express what’s most important to me and that’s that I and people like me are Free Thinkers. If that’s not the part of us that we define clearly for seekers, then people will just think that we are atheists because our parents were atheists. And even though my parents were atheists, denying god’s existence is my own idea. No really! It is! That’s why it’s important to me to show exactly who I am, a free thinker.

A8 - You see, that’s what I can’t stand about those of us who are atheists. I don’t believe in Creator God, as the Christians do. But I can’t rule out the mysterious either. That’s why I’m a Pantheist. And don’t even start with me about how pantheism goes against all that we know scientifically, at least regarding origins. So does all the rest of our atheist dogma. I like to take a little bit from the free thinkers and that means that I’m free to believe what I want about the universe and damn the scientific evidence. As long as I deny that God exists I can come up with anything else that I want to believe in. Give me back my teddy-bear.

A9 - I’d like to know from the second atheist what’s wrong with old. We Marxists had it right way back when. And I say that if something was true then, it’s still true now. That doesn’t count for religious truth, of course, but it sure is correct for Marxist truth.

A10 - I’m sure all you people mean well, but most of you have taken what seems to me to be positions that are too confrontational. The group that I belong to simply identifies ourselves as Non Theists. We aren’t anything regarding religion or God. We’re just, you know, not theists.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ten Ways to NOT Evangelise

Hemant has a really good post from somebody (she doesn't like people who aren't her friends using her name) on how to keep people from listening to or "hearing" your message about Jesus. It's bang on.

I do find it amusing how atheists are creeped out by knowing that in their hotel room, in THAT closed drawer, lies a Bible. It makes it seem like someone who would look under the bed at night. Other than that it's pretty good.

Who Wrote the Gospels?

So much of one’s interaction with atheists is just mind-numbing. Their repetition of false statements. Their belief in fallacious arguments. Old, old, old propositions, and long refuted atheist suppositions seem to get regurgitated in the atheist community every forty or fifty years. One of the most tiresome comments made by atheists goes something like, “No one knows who wrote the Gospels.” Or they say that the Gospel's are so late dated that they can't be trusted.

I’ve been interacting with a couple atheists, I can’t even tell them apart anymore, but they have used every atheist cliché that’s ever been tried; the one about the Gospel writers included. As everyone knows, atheists are fond of accusing we Christians of living by faith. I think that is supposed to be some sort of insult. Well, if it makes them happy then so be it. It’s true that the righteous shall live by faith. On the other hand, we Christians have an enormous abundance of historical evidence from which we can solidify our faith. We have a solid, solid foundation of evidence-based data upon which to build our journey in Christ Jesus. Atheists are very fond of evidence - usually. The problem is, because atheists begin with the presupposition that God does not exist, whenever they run into evidence that points toward God, the atheist has to pretend to h/herself that the evidence was manufactured and that it therefore is not true.

When it comes to the authors and authority of the Gospels, what these two atheists don’t seem to know is that extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors. The term “Extra-biblical” is important to atheists because if something was written, and it was later included into the Bible, well, they automatically view that document as a lie. So what is this evidence for who wrote the Gospels?

1) The Gospels and Acts are cited by a series of reports, regularly employed to establish authorship of secular works; and when this test is applied to the Gospels, their authenticity is firmly established. This chain of testimony exists from the Epistle of Barnabas (a contemporary of Jesus and His disciples), the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas, all the way to Eusebius. In fact, as has been repeatedly stated, there is better testimony for the authenticity of the New Testament books than for ANY classical work of antiquity.

Sadly, this doesn’t make any difference to atheists because they use a different standard for judging documents of antiquity IF they’ve been included into the New Testament. What is that standard you ask? Well, if any document from that time has been included into the New Testament, um, it's judged to be a lie, a fiction, untrustworthy, tampered with etc. etc. The only criteria for the atheist’s exclusion of the work, is its inclusion into the New Testament.

2) The Scriptures were quoted as authoritative and as one-of-a-kind. Theophilus, the writer against Artmon, Hippolitus, Origen and many others saw them as such.

3) The Scriptures were collected very early into a distinct volume. Ignatius refers to collections known as the Gospel and the Apostles, which is the same that we now call the Gospels and the Epistles. According to Eusebius, Quadratus distributed this same collection to converts during his travels. Irenaeus and Melito refer to the same collection of writings that we call the New Testament.

4) These writings were held in high regard by Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Irenaeus and others refer to them as Scriptures and Divine writings.

5) These same documents were publicly read and taught. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian each wrote about this.

6) Copies, commentaries, and harmonies were written on these books. Noteworthy in this connection is Tatian’s “Diatessaron,” which is a harmony of the four Gospels.
Listen now because this is important.
With the single exception of Clement’s commentary on the Revelation of Peter, NO commentary was ever written during the FIRST THREE HUNDRED YEARS afer Christ on ANY BOOK outside the New Testament.

The Scriptures were accepted as authentic by all heretical groups as well as by orthodox Christians. Examples include the Valentinians, the Carpocratians, and many others.

8) The Gospels and Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, 1 John, and 1 Peter were received without doubt as authentic even by those who doubted the authenticity of other books now in the canon. Origen reports that the four Gospels alone were received without dispute by the “whole Church of God under heaven.”

9) The early opponents of Christianity regarded the Gospels as containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded. Celsus admitted that the Gospels were written by the disciples. Porphyry attacked Christianity as found in the Gospels. The Emperor Julian followed the same procedure.

10) Catalogues of authentic Scriptures were published, which always contained the Gospels and Acts. This is supported by quotes from Origen, Athanasius, Cyril and others.

11) The apocryphal books of the New Testament were NEVER treated with this kind of respect. With a single exception, no apocryphal gospel is ever even quoted by a known author during the first three hundred years after Christ. In fact, there is no evidence that any inauthentic gospel whatever existed in the first century, in which all four Gospels and Acts were written.

The apocryphal gospels:
. were never quoted,
. were not read in Christian assemblies,
. were not collected into a volume,
. were not listed in the catalogues,
. were not noticed by Christianity’s adversaries,
. were not appealed to by heretics and
. were not the subject of commentaries or collations,
but were nearly universally rejected by Christian writers of succeeding ages.

Reality is, the external evidence strongly confirms the authenticity of the Gospels. It can not in any way be denied that the Gospels contain the story that the original apostles proclaimed and for which they laboured, suffered and died. This is regardless of what your local atheist tries to tell you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paul saw a ghost?

I've got a couple little atheists buzzing around, and that's what one of them has told me. Well, he doesn’t exactly say ghost. That would be too concrete. Actually, my one atheist buddy says that Jesus’ appearance to Paul was a “subjective” appearance. And from that experience, he suggests, Paul went on to believe in and make a case that we are all destined for bodily resurrection.

So, what about that? Is a subjective experience a nice balance between a real resurrected body and no resurrection at all? Is a subjective experience the same as no resurrection? The vast majority of historical scholars believe that the tomb was in fact empty on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. How did it get that way? We know that the disciples had no opportunity nor inclination to steal Jesus’ body and Jesus’ enemies had no reason to do so. So what happened?

Because this atheist allows that Paul’s testimony is the most believable, let me work with this for a bit.

Anyone who has been following along for the past few days knows already about Paul’s 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 statement. There Paul gives a list of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances, ending with his own encounter with the resurrected Jesus.

As you read through this, keep in mind that from his experiences with the post resurrection Jesus, Paul develops a theology of God raising us all in bodily form on the day of judgement. He doesn’t say we’ll be raised spiritually but physically, albeit in a new resurrected body LIKE THAT OF JESUS. That’s fairly important to keep in mind since this most progressive of atheists says that Paul only saw an apparition.

Now, to what Paul describes. Remember that the tradition that Paul related comes from early, early on in the Christian movement. All scholars agree to this. In other words, it’s believable to even the most sceptical. In this creed:

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to Peter.
There is nothing about this appearance in the Gospels. However Paul mentions it in this incredibly early tradition stemming probably from the second month after Jesus’ death. From Galatians 1:18 we know that Paul spent about two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem three years after Paul’s Damascus Road experience. Paul would have gotten this account firsthand from Peter. As far as I know, even the most sceptical New Testament critics agree that Peter saw an appearance of Jesus alive from the dead.

As an aside, it’s important to remember that the only reason that the disciples allowed Paul, the Christian killer and torturer to “join the group” was that Paul could prove that he’d spent time with Jesus. How did he prove this? Because Paul knew, and was teaching to anyone who would listen the very same things about the kingdom of God that Jesus had taught His disciples prior to His crucifixion.

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to “the Twelve.”
This is the best-attested resurrection appearance of Jesus. Paul himself had contact with members of this group. We also have independent stories of this appearance from the sources used by Luke in 24:36-42 and by John in 20:19-20. The most interesting feature of these accounts is the physical demonstrations of Jesus’ showing his wounds and eating with the disciples. My personal favourite is when Jesus called to the disciples from the beach after they were coming in from a night of fishing. Jesus has a fire going and some fish broiling and Peter says to John, “It’s the Lord.” He dives in and swims to shore. And then comes my favourite line. “None of us dared ask Him who He was for we knew that it was the Lord.” These were men who were still struggling with the reality of a bodily resurrection. This was NOT a subjective experience. Nor was it a hallucination. Neither experience is shared by a group of people. And second, these demonstrations show that this was the same Jesus who had been crucified. They demonstrate both CORPOREALITY and CONTINUITY of the resurrection body.

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to “five hundred brothers” at the same time.
Again, there is no mention of this in the Gospels. Yet it was part of one of the earliest traditions available. However, Paul himself had personal contact with these people. This is obvious because he knew that some had already died. As New Testament scholar of Cambridge University, C. H. Dodd states, “There can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the 500 are still alive, unless Paul is saying, in effect, “The witnesses are still here if you want to question them.”

This is one of the most attractive things about Christianity for me. It is grounded in history. Facts and places and events can be researched and examined. This is simply not true of other religions. Christianity practically begs to be examined. That is why there is not the slightest chance that Paul would have said this if the event had not occurred and there were no witnesses to back him up. He placed far to much value and the trustworthiness of his testimony to subject it to potential destruction on the basis of giving false witness to the people he was trying to reach for Christ.

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to Jesus’ brother James:
As I’ve mentioned in several posts now, Jesus’ siblings thought He was crazy. Jesus was an embarrassment to the family. The wanted to hide Him away. So ask yourself. What would it take for you to believe that one of your siblings was God? I know that for me, it would take nothing less than an obvious death, an obvious burial and an obvious resurrection from the dead. A “subjective appearance” as my atheist suggests would not in any way be enough for me to volunteer for years of hardship, poverty and ultimately martyrdom. It was no different for Jesus’ siblings. Yet, post resurrection, we find them all part of the new Christian fellowship in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14). The radical change in the character of James is confirmed by Josephus, the Jewish historian who writes that James was killed for his faith by the Sanhedrin. As well, 1 Corinthians 9:5 shows that Jesus’ other brothers had become active in the Church as well.

Again, what would it take for you to make this kind of change. A hallucination? A dream? An apparition? Or would a resurrection have to be proved to you beyond all doubt? I suggest that it was the latter that brought about the dramatic change in the character of the first disciples.

To see his brother crucified would have done nothing but confirm for James and his siblings that their brother Jesus really was a lunatic. The Jewish concept of a Messiah in no way allowed for His death as a criminal. Yet even sceptical New Testament critic Hans Grass admits that the conversion of James is one of the surest proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to “all the apostles”:
This was probably more than the twelve and fewer that the several hundred mentioned earlier. Again, Paul would have gotten this information from the apostle’s personal accounts of their time with Jesus, before and after His crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Paul mentions Jesus appearing to him:“Last of all he appeared to me also.” This event is attested to over and over in Paul’s letters to the Churches he established. This event, like the appearances to the others disciples, forever changed Paul’s and their lives. This was no dreamlike wisp of smoke. Prior to his encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Paul had been a successful rabbi. He was at the height of his craft. Respected in his community, Paul was a man with power. He had everything religion can deliver from a worldly perspective. He hated the Christian movement. He hated it so much that he was willing to torture and kill in his effort to stop it. And then . . .?

Paul became the most powerful missionary Christianity has ever seen. For the sake of Jesus, who appeared to Paul and who taught Paul about the kingdom of God, this man gave up everything this world had to offer in order to preach Christ and Him crucified. Paul was beaten and whipped. He was shipwrecked three times and spent a day and a night in the open ocean. He was imprisoned several times and finally Paul was beheaded in A.D. 64.

Some say that Paul quit killing Christians because of guilt. However, if it was guilt that stopped Paul from killing Christians, then stopping the killing is all that would have happened. There was no need to go over to the other side in such a profound manner unless something profound happened to him. It did. Jesus, in bodily form appeared to Paul and it changed his life forever.

My atheist comrade will now tell me and anyone listening that there is no evidence for any of this. As I’ve said before, if eyewitness accounts are presented to him, this sceptic says eyewitness accounts aren’t reliable. If it’s accounts that are reported from those who heard it from eyewitnesses, then it’s hearsay and hearsay isn’t reliable. Well, like the saying goes, “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.” There’s nothing that can be done about that. However, while what we have won’t be good enough to change the mind of an atheist, it might be good enough for you.

. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Paul and Luke and their sources and is universally acknowledged by critics.

. The appearance to the Twelve is independently attested by Paul, Luke and John and their sources and is again not in dispute, even if many critics are sceptical of the physical demonstrations that attend this appearance.

. The appearance to the women is independently attested by Matthew and John and their sources and enjoys, as well, affirmation by the criterion of embarrassment.

. The appearance to the disciples in Galilee is independently attested by Mark, Matthew, and John and their sources.

. The appearances follow a pattern of Jerusalem > Galilee > Jerusalem, matching the festival pilgrimages of the disciples as they returned to Galilee following the Passover feast of Unleavened Bread and travelled again to Jerusalem two months later for Pentecost.

Personally, I can’t comprehend how anyone could claim that Paul would develop an understanding of bodily resurrection from a hallucination or some wispy subjective experience. On the other hand, if the appearances were physical and bodily in nature, then a psychological proposition is ridiculous.

Paul is emphatic that the appearance that he encountered was physical and not subjective. Paul does NOT teach the immortality of the soul, alone, but the resurrection of the body. Based on his encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Paul makes a point of differentiating between the earthly body which is mortal and the resurrection body which is immortal; the earthly which is dishonourable and the resurrection body with is glorious; the weak and the powerful, the natural and the spiritual.

The word Paul uses for natural means unredeemed or earth oriented. The word he uses for spiritual means a person oriented toward things of the Spirit. All of the New Testament makes a conceptual distinction between an appearance of Jesus and a vision of Jesus.

What’s the difference? A vision, though caused by God, was purely in the mind, while an appearance took place in time and space; it was external to the person seeing the appearance. Stephen had a vision of Jesus. By contrast, all the other appearances were “out there” and external to the people seeing Jesus. The appearances happened in real time and real space. Even Paul’s companions experienced Paul’s encounter with Jesus to varying degrees although it seems that Jesus Himself was hidden from them.

Every resurrection appearance related in the Gospels is a physical, bodily appearance. This is unanimous. If none of the appearances were physical then there is absolutely no explanation for why all the Gospel accounts declare them to have been physical. Why? Because physical, bodily appearances would be foolishness to Gentiles and Jews alike. Neither had any reason to believe in a natural physical resurrection but both, like our atheist here, would be willing to accept an apparition of some sort. Even Docetists did not affirm purely visionary resurrection appearances. Moreover the Gospel accounts do not meet the criteria of an anti-Docetic argument. For example, simply showing the wounds in His hand and side would not be good enough.

As stated in an earlier post, the only grounds for rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus is philosophical / world-view, and not evidence based or historical in nature.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Atheist Answer to the Empty Tomb

Do you remember a while back when, I told you about an atheist who said:

“There are no extra Biblical references to Jesus from antiquity.”

So I showed her a couple dozen extra Biblical references (I didn’t even use all that are available or even necessarily the best / contemporary citations) and her response was,

"There are no extra Biblical references to Jesus from antiquity.”

I’ve found another atheist just like her. I swear it’s not the same person. However it would be hard to believe that the intellect of these two wasn’t formed in the same womb. A few of this person’s comments include,

“The empty tomb is not an historical fact. It exists in a vacuum with no physical evidence.”

“To the best of my knowledge, to date there are no known facts regarding the resurrection of Jesus.”

“Show me a "skilled historical scholar" who believes that it is a fact that "the tomb" was empty and I'll show you a fraud.”

I want to start just a bit prior to the resurrection. Jesus’ predictions about His resurrection are usually denied because His resurrection is denied. The fact is, when Jesus predicted His resurrection even His closest followers didn’t get it because, well, no one rises naturally from the dead. To them, Jesus was talking once more in a parable or an analogy or something incomprehensible. For example:

Mark 8:31-33 - Peter takes Jesus aside an tells Him to not even make such stupid statements in front of the others.

Mark 9:31-32 - Not only didn’t the disciples get what He was talking about, they were afraid to ask what He meant.

John 20:2,13-15 - Even when His empty tomb was discovered, the very first conclusion that the disciples came to, as would have been the same with us, is that someone had stolen Jesus’ body.

Luke 24: 10-12 - When the women said they had seen Jesus alive, the disciples thought they were, well, just stupid women.

John 20:9 - Even when they saw the empty tomb, and even when they saw the empty burial clothes, they, like would be the case with us, just did not get it.

John 20:24-25 - And of course, Thomas, like all rational people said that he simply wouldn’t believe it unless Jesus appeared right in front of him.

Sceptics say, without even a hint of a smile, that the disciples wrote all this embarrassing stuff about themselves in order to, um, what? I’m not sure what the sceptic is thinking. Nevertheless, the principle of embarrassment” is something that historical scholars count as highly authenticating, and so it is.

Now, my atheist friend says, that any scholar - just a minute - how does he put it? Oh yes,

“Show me a "skilled historical scholar" who believes that it is a fact that the tomb was empty and I'll show you a fraud.” A FRAUD?

I think this would come as quite a surprise to those who work in this field. This would be especially surprising to Blank, Blinzler, Bode, Benoit, Brown, Clark, Dunn, von Campenhause, Delorme, Dhanis, Ellis, Gundry, Grundmann, Hengel, , Hooke, Jerimias, Klappert, Ladd, Lane, Lehmann, Leon-Dufour, Lichtenstein, Marshall, Moule, Manek, Martini, Mussner, Nauck, Perry, Robinson, Rengstorff, Ruckstuhl, Schnackenburg, Schenke, Schmitt, Schubert, Schwant, Schweizer, Seidensticker, Stuhlmacher, Trilling, Vogtle, Wielchkens and Kremer. All of these people, secular, atheist and Christian are first rate historical scholars and all of them deem the empty tomb to be historical fact. These forty-five prominent scholars believe that there was an empty tomb and our sceptic calls them frauds for doing so.

So the question is why? Why would the above mentioned scholars plus 65 slightly lessor known scholars on this subject say the empty tomb story is true? Why do only 35 scholars in this field, a 3:1 ratio, doubt the empty tomb? There are 23 points of evidence for the empty tomb. I can’t go into all of them here, but I will touch on a few.

The historical reliability of accounts regarding Jesus’ burial:
If the story of Jesus’ burial is accurate (besides his death at crucifixion, the burial is the most accepted account as historical fact), then the location of Jesus’ tomb was known in Jerusalem by both Christian and Jew, friend and enemy. That means that the tomb must have been empty when the disciples began to preach His resurrection. Why? For many reasons but one obvious reason is that They couldn't have believed in His resurrection if His tomb WASN'T empty.

The Jerusalem Factor:
Jesus was publicly executed in Jerusalem. His resurrection and the empty tomb were first reported by Jesus’ followers right there in Jerusalem. If the body had still been in the tomb Christianity would have not gone anywhere. All the enemies of Christianity would have had to do, is exhume the body and that would have been the end of the story. Not only are Jewish, Roman, and other writings at the time absent of such an attempted hoax, there is total silence from Christianity’s critics who would have been more than happy to spread such a story if it had been at all possible. If the body had been produced from the tomb where Jesus had been buried, rather than a developing Church, the air from such a movement would have been deflated overnight. If the tomb had been not been empty, historians Justin, Terullian, Origen and especially Celsus would have pointed that out. A body of any sort would have been the undoing of Christianity. The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection flourished in the very city where He was murdered. That is a powerful fact of history.

Enemy Attestation:
Rather than point to an occupied tomb, early critics accused Jesus’ disciples of stealing the body. This is historical evidence of the highest quality, since it comes not from the Christians but from the very enemies of the early Christian faith. Confirmation that Jesus' enemies confirmed the empty tomb and claimed it was because the disciples had stolen the body is found in:

. Matthew 28:12-13,

. Justin Martyr, Trypho 108; and

. Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30.

This claim that the disciples stole the body is an indirect admission that the body is missing. If the tomb had been occupied, then the disciples would have been forced to prove that this body was NOT that of Jesus. No such dispute ever seems to have taken place. Again, if Jesus’ burial is historical, then the empty tomb is historical as well. Those who deny the empty tomb, like our sceptic, are also forced to deny the burial as well. Sadly, for this sceptic, the burial is one of the best-established facts of Jesus life.

“Says who?” asks my sceptic. Well >

Jesus’ burial is multiply attested in extremely early, independent sources.
. The account of Jesus’ burial in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea is part of Mark’s source material. This is a very early source.

. Paul in Corinthians 15:3-5 quotes and old Christian tradition that he had received from the earliest disciples. This goes back to the first year and more probably the second month after Jesus’ death. In this oral tradition, that was probably used for teaching, we find that “Christ dies for our sins, AND THAT HE WAS BURIED, and that he was raised on the third day and that He appeared . . .”

1st Cor.15:3-5; Acts 13:28-31 and Mark 15:37 - 16:7 give us amazing correspondence of independent traditions forming convincing evidence that lists the basic events of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. This is evidence from two of the earliest, independent sources in the New Testament for the burial of Jesus in the tomb, and these earliest, independent sources are confirmed by further independent testimony by Joseph found in Matthew and Luke and John. The differences in these accounts suggest that Matthew and Luke had sources other than Mark alone. In all, there are six, independent sources used by the Gospel writers in documenting evidence for the death, burial and empty tomb.

Joseph of Arimathea:
It is very unlikely that early Christians would have invented a story that includes a rich member of the Sanhedrin, the very group that condemned Jesus to death. The Sanhedrin had in fact orchestrated the murder of Jesus. There was an understandable hostility toward this council by the early church. Since Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, “All of whom voted to condemn Jesus,” it would be pretty odd to make him into some kind of a hero by burying Jesus in his tomb if it didn’t really happen.

The Testimony of Women:
If someone had invented a story, and atheists say the whole of the New Testament is a cleverly devised tale, then surely they wouldn’t have added items that actually hurt the credibility of their story. Adding women as witnesses would have done exactly that. Just as, in the minds of atheists today, Christian testimony or even scientific research is worthless, in that time and place, the testimony of women was worthless.

In this case, women aren’t just said to be witnesses. They are said to be the primary witnesses, while male witnesses appear only later. Given the low esteem of women in both Roman and Jewish culture at that time, it would have been suicidal to one’s cause to say that you’ve accepted testimony that is based on the accounts of women - unless it was the only aspect that could be documented because it was true. If this story was invented, why not make men like Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus the discoverers of the tomb and just avoid the woman issue altogether.

“The first day of the week.”
According to Mark, the empty tomb was discovered by the women “on the first day of the week.” Paul, whose creed comes from very early sources says, Jesus was raised “on the third day.” If the empty tomb story was a late legend, it would have certainly been worded in the accepted and widespread third-day motif. Mark’s source, who uses “first day” shows that his source was even earlier than Paul’s and, in the minds of scholars makes it more believable, i.e., the tomb was empty.

William Lane Craig states, “Several words or expressions which are unique in all the New Testament, such as “on the next day,” “The preparation day, "deceiver," "guard," “to make secure,” “to seal,” this expression “chief priests and Pharisees,” is unusual for Matthew and never appears in Mark or Luke. The expression “on the third day” is also not from Matthew; he always uses “after three days,” in general only 35 of Matthew’s 136 words in the empty tomb story are found in Mark’s 138 words. Similarly, only 16 of Luke’s 123 words are found in Mark’s account. Moreover, Matthew and Luke have only a dozen words in common which shows the independence of their sources.

There is no embellishment:
If the empty tomb was made up, one could expect to find a detailed account of the resurrection, a description of Jesus rising out of the grave clothes or even coming out of the tomb. There is nothing of the sort. There is no reflection on Jesus’ triumph over the grave, or over sin and death, no description of fulfilling prophecy.

When Paul says that Jesus was crucified, and that He was raised, an empty tomb is obviously implied.

Oxford University historian William Wand writes, “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favour of the empty tomb and those scholars who reject it ought to recognise that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”

Of course, the empty tomb by itself really proves very little.
. It wouldn’t have convinced the Christian killer Paul. Like us, he would have thought someone stole the body. Paul converted because he believed that he had seen and been taught by the risen Messiah.

. It wouldn’t have convinced the sceptic James. He, like Paul, turned his life around because he believed that Jesus appeared to him, taught him, ate with him and appointed him as a witness to the rest of the world.

. It didn’t seem to lead any of Jesus’ followers, except John to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

In fact, and again like us, Mary Magdalene’s first thought was that the gardener had stolen, or moved Jesus’ body. Peter didn’t believe because of the empty tomb. Thomas certainly didn’t believe that Jesus had risen based on the empty tomb. The empty tomb didn’t convince anyone of anything in particular. So why bring it up, I mean, besides the sceptics ignorant comment? Well -

Combine the empty tomb with post resurrection appearances to hundreds of people, the conversion of Paul, the conversion of James, the multiple group appearance to the disciples, the dramatic change in the disciple’s character and the rapid rise of the Christian Church and the empty tomb becomes part of a powerful, cohesive whole.

Gary Habermas surveyed thirty years of German, French and English critical scholarship relating to Jesus’ resurrection, 1,400 sources in all. No fact is more widely recognized than that early Christian believers had real experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus. Most of these appearances were to groups of people, which rules out hallucinations or subjective experiences.

Listen carefully:
. If the disciples believed they had seen the resurrected Jesus, regardless of whether the experience was subjective, hallucination or otherwise, that means that the resurrection story wasn’t myth making.

. If Jesus’ life story was not myth making, then the facts could and HAVE been traced to the original witnesses.

. If the disciples really believed, regardless of cause, that they really saw the risen Christ, then we can throw out that they stole the body and made up the story.

. That means that the tomb was indeed empty.

Bottom line, if the tomb was empty because Jesus rose from the dead, then God exists and eternal life is also a fact of life.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Atheists claim the Gospels are Fiction

Atheists are forever claiming that the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular is a giant conspiracy, filled to the breaking point with lies, and / or that Jesus was a liar, as were the disciples as was the mysterious writer himself. The New Testament, say atheists, is a colossal fiction.

In response to this, C. S. Lewis says, "Some unknown writer without predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole techniques of modern novelistic realistic narrative writing."

Why does he say that? It is only in the last 400 years that fiction has come to include details and dialogue and reads like an eyewitness account. In Jesus’ time fiction was almost devoid of detail and only included detail to drive plot or character. The type of detail and realism found in the Gospels was NEVER found in ancient fiction like the Iliad or Beowulf. The only reason the writers of the Gospels would have included the details they did was because their accounts are factual.

Friday, April 17, 2009

One religion is the same as the next?

The most respectful atheist I’ve ever encountered, anywhere on the net, left a couple comments in response to yesterday’s post. Because I’m so long winded, I told him that I’d address his comments in the following post.

This gentleman said, “An accident of your birth--being born in a country whose predominant faith is Christianity--is the principle reason you have found Christianity the answer to life's complex questions.”

Well, I think being born in Canada is one reason that I was able to understand Christianity. But even that is not quite right as any atheist who is born in Canada still finds Christianity incomprehensible.

However Christianity being the principle answer to life’s complex questions, if that's true, remains true regardless of where I am born and regardless of what I believe. The same could be said, regarding knowledge of any kind, of someone born in a developed country versus someone born in a third-world country. For example, one could say, “An accident of your birth, being born in a country with advanced biology departments, is the principle reason you understand truths about biology.” That’s true but it doesn’t render the knowledge any less true. I know that’s not exactly what you meant so let me explain further in response to your next comment.

“The same sorts of religious sentiment are felt by Muslims, Hindus, Animists, Pagans ad infinitum. Christianity is far from being in a unique position.”

Well, I’m not sure how I could disagree more strongly. I’m not trying to be rude, but it’s been my experience that people who say that all religions are the same, simply have not looked at all religions. It’s true that all OTHER religions offer an escape from the shackles of individuality and physical embodiment into some kind of transcendent spiritual existence. However, as Vinoth Ramachandra has said,

“Biblical salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in transformation of this world . . . You will not find hope for the world in any of the religious systems or philosophes of humankind, not even in atheism. The Biblical vision is unique. That is why when some say there is salvation in other faiths too, I ask them, “What salvation are you talking about?” No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world - the ordinary world - that the cross and resurrection of Jesus do.”

In my search for a way out of the abysmal hole of naturalism, some of the things that struck me as unique to Christianity and its “fit” for what I was looking for are as follows:

In the Bible the word love is used almost 400 times and about 75% of those times it’s talking about God’s love for us. In the Quran, the word love in not used even once, NOT ONE SINGLE TIME to describe Allah?
. God in the Bible is described as a personal, knowable God who is intensely interested in the joy and the well-being of you the individual. The Quran describes Allah as distant and unknowable.
. The Bible teaches that God loves everyone equally, even enemies and sinners. In fact the whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to make peace with his enemies and to invite them to an eternal home in the presence of God’s Love. The Quran teaches that Allah loves only faithful Muslims. The Quran teaches that Allah hates sinners and infidels. In fact the Quran teaches that Allah hates them so much that faithful Muslims are encouraged to kill infidels “where ever they may be found.”
. The Bible teaches that through Jesus and because of His love we can have assurance of salvation. The Quran teaches that while only Muslims will have salvation, no individual Muslim can know if s/he will be saved. The faithful Muslim can only hope that Allah will find h/her worthy of paradise. In fact the only way for a Muslim to be guaranteed paradise is to die while killing non Muslims.
. Unlike Christianity, there is no Saviour in Islam and no promise of salvation.
. Unlike Christianity, Islam has no means of or basis for forgiveness.
. Perhaps most relevant to our time is the difference between Islam and Christianity regarding the term martyr. In Christianity a martyr is someone who is killed by others for what s/he believes. In Islam a martyr is someone who dies while killing others because they don’t believe what s/he, the Muslim, believes.
. Christianity and Islam, God and Allah are not anything alike.

The biggest difference between Christianity and other religions, and you know this, is Grace. The chasm that Grace creates between Christianity and other religions is literally impossible to cross.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus not only taught about life and relationships and spirituality, He lived what He taught. Buddha, for example is practically the polar opposite to Jesus. Unlike you and I, no charge of hypocrisy could be brought against Jesus. In fact, the only charge that was brought against Jesus, the only charge that got Jesus killed, was His claim that He was and is Creator God. Down through the centuries, the only charge that has gotten Jesus’ followers killed, is their belief that Jesus is Creator God.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “There is nothing that you can do to earn your salvation. There is no behaviour, no ritual, no string of things to say, no number of prayers or hand washing or good deeds that will qualify you for Heaven. Your salvation is by My Grace and by My Grace alone.”

There is no another religion or religious teacher anywhere in the world that has or ever will copy this teaching of Jesus. The concept of salvation by Grace alone is a teaching or concept that is totally foreign to the human mind. There is not a human being on earth that would or even could invent this single most important aspect of Jesus’ teaching. All other faiths and all other religious and philosophical teachers including Richard Dawkins or Oprah Winfrey have been, are today and will remain in the future openly hostile to this singular teaching of Jesus the Christ and the religion that bears His name.

Unlike any other teacher Jesus is rooted in hisory. The facts of His life can be researched and a judgment based on historical facts can be made.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I am God.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I am the Creator of the Universe.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught that He has been alive forever; that He is an eternal being.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I came to earth to let you reject Me, mock Me, ridicule Me, torture Me and ultimately kill Me.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I came to earth with the sole purpose of dying for you. My death is sacrificial in nature. If you place your faith in Me, if you trust Me to forgive your sins, My death will defeat the power that sin has over you, including the consequence of sin which is death.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “No one comes to Heaven except through Me.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “Not only will I rise from the dead, when I return to earth I will also raise from the dead everyone who has ever been born. Some I will bring into eternal paradise. The rest I will send to everlasting punishment.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I have the power and the authority to forgive your sins, free you from guilt and change your character. I can change you from someone who worships yourself to someone who worships Me. It’s not by obeying My words and not by emulating My behaviour that you will be changed. That kind of teaching comes only from earthly teachers. True inner change comes through Me. I’m the One who will inhabit your being and change you from the inside out.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “Whoever gives up everything that this world considers important in order to follow Me, that person will find real life and real living. But whoever remains dependent upon the things that this world considers important and does not follow Me, that person will lose h/his life.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught “You are going to stand before Me and Me alone on Judgement day and I will declare to the universe who is to spend eternity in Heaven with Me.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught that eternal life in Heaven, or salvation is not found by searching and learning and practising. It is not found in austerity or asceticism. Eternal life is found via the gift of faith from Him to us.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught that He would be killed and He prophesied exactly how and by whom He would be killed. Jesus taught that He would rise from the dead, return to Heaven and that one day He would return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught that He and He alone was worthy to not just be followed but to be worshipped.

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, and then lived - “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you, forgive those who sin against you.” Again, Jesus not only taught this, He lived it!

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I didn’t set out to find enlightenment. I came to earth to give you enlightenment.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “The greatest and the most important thing to do in life is to worship Creator God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “Even a little child can understand My teaching well enough to be granted salvation. Neither intelligence nor desire nor education nor graduating from level to level to level in your spiritual journey have nothing at all to do with gaining the forgiveness of your sins.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “I, your teacher, don’t expect you to serve Me. I came so that I could serve you.”

Unlike any other teacher before or after Him, Jesus taught, “To receive enlightenment:
. Don’t withdraw from the world, take hold of my hand and with your eyes wide open enter fully into the world of pain and suffering;
. Don’t empty your mind, instead fill your mind to the brim with the thoughts that My Spirit brings to you.
. Don’t empty yourself of desire, trust Me and then watch Me fulfill your deepest desires and longings;
. Don’t aim for nothingness, trust Me and then watch Me bring you into the most abundant, full and complete life possible;
. You will never find peace and joy and love from within yourself, you will only find those things within a healed and forgiven relationship with Me.

I’m sure there are more singular teachings of Jesus, but the fact is this. Any claim that Jesus’ teachings weren’t original or unique in nature is a claim that has no basis in truth. It’s a claim that should be discarded as less than useless, worse than unreliable.

The Christian teaching regarding “the fall” of human kind, our separation from our Creator because of the fall, our inability to reestablish this relationship and to heal our brokenness on our own, the offer of forgiveness and a healed and forgiven relationship with our Creator made sense to me. It fits. It feels more true than any other philosophy or belief system, including atheism.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Atheist Pointed Me Toward Jesus

Ironic, isn’t it? It was about thirty years ago now. None of my friends were Christians. I thought Christians were idiots. They believed in things that were simply false. Worst of all, Christianity threatened the good things in my life. That I knew for a fact.

Then, one night I was sitting at a party when the woman beside me (even though we worked together I can’t, for the life of me, remember her name), an atheist said, “Is life ever a bag of shit.”

I looked at her kind of like, “Are you nuts? We’re having fun!”

Well, that comment stuck. I couldn’t shake it. The reason I couldn’t shake it is because I knew she was right. Our world is broken, and no amount of logic is going to fix it. “We” are broken, and no amount of wealth or education is going to fix us. No amount of sacrifice or effort or logic or reason can make our fundamentally flawed character right. The reason that logic will never heal us is because a lack of logic is not our problem.

From that night on I looked at my friends, I listened to our conversations, I observed our relationships, I evaluated our goals and what we thought was important, I analysed the things upon which we were building our lives and I realised that my friends were some of the saddest, most pathetic people on the face of the earth.

And DUH! I was one of them.

We were hypocrites to the core. Pretending we were happy when we were terribly dissatisfied, confident when confused, courageous when afraid, friendly when judgmental, kind when cruel, compassionate when self-obsessed. We were seriously damaged and wounded individuals.

The question of course is why. Why is our world broken? Why are we incapable of changing ourselves and our societies? Why do we continue to hurt those we claim to love? Why are we unable to shed our corrupted self-love? Like most people I wanted to know if there was a philosophy, a belief system and way of thinking that explained the why of our damaged world. More importantly, I wanted to know if there was a philosophy or system of belief that provided a workable solution to our sad situation? All systems of thought, it seemed to me, were incomplete, incoherent or incomprehensible; all that is except Christianity. None offered an coherent description of our dilemma. None offered a means of redemption, forgiveness, and change. None, except Christianity, offered a known and knowable Saviour. None except Christianity had a Saviour that was solidly grounded in history. None except Christianity had a beginning that was practically begging the seeker to check out the facts, to look at the historical claims to see if they were true.

Our problem is not what we do. Our problem is who we are and only Christianity identified that problem and provided a solution for that problem.

It still took me about a decade of searching and questioning and weighing the evidence before I turned my life over to Jesus, but I am so very thankful that I did. I am so very thankful for that atheist. She pointed me away from the absurd, contradictory and incoherent life of a naturalist, and toward the most fulfilling, and exciting journey possible. She pointed me toward freedom and Truth. She pointed me toward Jesus.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Atheists still relying on Hume for support

An atheist visitor has attempted to use Hume's argument against miracles to deny the reality of Jesus' resurrection. And he's doing this even though he also rejects Hume's statements on cause and effect and asserts that the universe has existed from eternity or that it caused itself to come into being. He hasn't explained that to me yet. Don't get me started on that one.

Regardless, Hume’s “in principle” argument is today, generally recognised by philosophers to be, in the words of the atheist philosopher of science John Earman, an “abject failure.”

Hume’s maxim is as follows: No testimony . . . is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless this testimony is of such a kind that . . . its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

Hume’s argument actually falls into two more or less independent claims. On the one hand, there is his claim that miracles are by definition utterly improbable; on the other hand there is his claim that no evidence for a purported miracle can serve to overcome its intrinsic improbability. As it turns out, both of these claims are now known to be mistaken.

I’ll take his second claim first - No amount of evidence can serve to establish a miracle.

Probability theorists have asked just how much evidence it takes in order to establish the occurrence of highly improbable events. For a good example of this discussion see S. L. Zabell, “The Probabilistic Analysis of Testimony,” Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference 20 (1988): 327-54.

It is now realised that if one simply weighs the probability of the event against the reliability of the witness to the event, then we WOULD BE LED into denying the occurrence of events which, though highly improbable, we reasonable know to have happened. For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night’s lottery was 2198563, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, perhaps one out of several million, and even if the morning news’ accuracy is known to be 99.99 %, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness’s reliability, so that we should never believe such reports. In order to believe the report, Hume would require us to have enough evidence in favour of the morning new’s reliability to counter-balance the improbability of the winning pick, which is absurd. This means that Hume’s argument could lead us into situations where we would be forced to deny the testimony of the most reliable witnesses because of general considerations. And that goes not only for miraculous events, but, for non-miraculous events as well, as Hume himself admitted with respect to the man in the tropics confronted with travellers’ tales of ice.

Probability theorists saw that what also needs to be considered is “What is the probability that the given testimony would have been given if in fact the event never happened?” One can immediately see the ramifications for the case at hand; How probable is it that the disciples would claim a resurrection took place when no such thing occurred?

Thus, to return to our example, the probability that the morning news would announce the pick as 2198563 if some other number had been chosen is incredibly small, given that the newscasters had no preference for the announced number. On the other hand, the announcement is much more probable if 2198563 were the actual number chosen. This comparative likelihood easily counterbalances the high prior improbability of the event reported.

The realisation on the part of probability theorists that other factors need to be included in the correct calculation of the probability of some event comes to expression in “Bayes’ Theorem.” In the case of miracles, where
M = some miraculous event
E = the specific evidence for that event and
B = our background knowledge apart from the specific evidence, the so-called “odds form” of the Bayes’ Theorem would look like this:
Pr(M/E&B) / Pr(not-M/E&B)
= Pr(M/B) / Pr(not-M/B)
x Pr(E/M&B) / Pr(E/not-M&B)

Given this ratio we can also compute the actual probability of M. If we represent the ratio as A/B then we can compute the probability of M given the total evidence by A/(A+B). So if the ratio is 2/3, then the probability of M given the total evidence is 2(2+3) = 2/5 = .4 or 40%.

Regarding the resurrection of Jesus, which would be a miracle, we’re asking here which best explains the specific evidence that we have, M (a miracle) or not M (no miracle).

The evidence that we have is:
. Jesus death by Crucifixion
. The empty tomb
. The conversion of the sceptic and Church persecutor Paul
. The conversion of the sceptic James
. The dramatic change in character of the disciples
. The explosive beginning of and current presence of the Christian Church

These are facts of history that demand an explanation. M or not M.

Unfortunately, Hume never discusses the second ratio representing the explanatory power of the miracle’s occurring or not occurring. He focuses almost exclusively on Pr(M/B), the intrinsic probability of a miracle, claiming that it is so inevitably low that no amount of evidence can establish a miracle. But that is plainly wrong, since no matter what non-zero value one assigns to the first ratio, the miracle may be very probable on the total evidence if the second ratio is sufficiently large.

A further factor which is neglected by Hume is the remarkable impact of multiple, independent testimony to some event. I’ve given you 23 independent extra Biblical testimonies to the events described above. If two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only .01 x .01 = .0001, or one out of 10,000; the odds of three such witness’s being wrong is .01 x .01 x .01 = .000001, or one out of 1,000,000; and the odds of six such witness’s being mistaken is .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 = .000000000001, or one out of 1,000,000,000,000. In fact, the cumulative power of independent witnesses is such that individually they could be UNRELIABLE (as surely an atheist would claim them to be) more than 50% of the time and yet their testimony combined to make and event of apparently enormous improbability quite probable in light of their testimony. With respect to Jesus’ resurrection, it is difficult to know how independent some of the witness are - though in the case of people like Peter, James, and Paul, independence is well established.

So much for Hume’s in principle argument!

Again, Hume says, “No testimony . . . is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless this testimony is of such a kind that . . . its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

Hume’s way of putting his maxim is rhetorically loaded, however, equivocating on the term “miraculous.” since it is not at all miraculous that human testimony be false. Any miracle, no matter how small, would seem to be more miraculous than the testimony’s being false. Indeed, it would seem purely stupid to suggest that the disciple’s being mistaken would be a greater miracle than Christ’s resurrection! But Hume’s maxim is not really using “miraculous” in the sense of “naturally impossible.” To see this point, suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is more intrinsically probable that Jesus would rise from the dead than that the disciples were either liars or were lied to. In such a case their testimony may, indeed, be sufficient to establish the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, even though Jesus’ resurrection is, technically speaking, much, more miraculous than their testimony’s being false. Of course, Hume argues that a miraculous event will always be more improbable than the falsehood of the testimony in support of it.

But that only goes to underline the point that the real issue here is the probability of the events, NOT their miraculousness. The miraculousness of an event is merely the means by which Hume endeavours to show its improbability. It’s the improbability of miracle claims that Hume is after.

There is a line beloved in the “free thought” subculture that “extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence.” What we now see is that this seemingly commonsensical slogan is, in fact, false as usually understood. In order to establish the occurrence of a highly improbable event, one need not have lots of evidence. The only plausible sense in which the slogan is true is that in order to establish the occurrence of an event which has a very low intrinsic probability, then the evidence would also have to have a very low intrinsic probability, that is, Pr(E/B) would have to be very low. So, to return to our example of the pick in last night’s lottery, it is highly improbable, given our background knowledge of the world, that the morning news would announce just that specific number out of all the numbers that could have been announced. In that Pickwickian sense the evidence for the winning pick is, indeed, extraordinary. But obviously, that isn’t the sense that sceptics have in mind when they say that it take extraordinary evidence to establish the occurrence of an extraordinary event. For that condition is easily met in the Pickwickian sense.

The sceptic can’t reasonably mean that the miraculous events require miraculous evidence, for that would force us to reject any miracle claim, even if wholly natural evidence rendered the miracle more probable than not. What the sceptic seems to be saying by his slogan is that in order to believe rationally in a miraculous event, you must have an enormous amount of evidence. But why think that is the case? “Because a miracle is so improbable,” the sceptic will say. But Bayes’ Theorem shows that rationally believing in a highly improbable event doesn’t require an enormous amount of evidence. What is crucial is that the evidence be far more probable given that the event did occur than given that it did not. Again, how probable is it that the testimony has been given even though the event did not occur? The bottom line is that it doesn’t always take a huge amount of evidence to establish a miracle.

In order to show that no evidence can in principle establish the historicity of a miracle, Hume needs to show that the intrinsic probability of any miracle claim is so low that it can never be overcome. This takes us back to the first part of Hume’s argument, that miracles are by definition utterly improbable. Hume claimed that the uniform experience of mankind supports the laws of nature rather than miracles. Now such an assertion appears at face value to be question-begging.

To say that uniform experience is against miracles is implicitly to assume already that all miracle reports are false. That is to say, as we come to some alleged miracle claim, we do so knowing that all past miracle claims apart from this one have been spurious. Hume seems to be saying Pr(M/B) in terms of frequency. Miracles are utterly improbable because they diverge from mankind’s uniform experience. But the frequency model of probability simply will not work in this context. For trying to construe the probabilities in Bayes’ Theorem as objective frequencies would disqualify many of the theoretical hypotheses of the advanced science. For example, scientists are investing long hours and millions of dollars hoping for an observation of an event of proton decay, though such an event has never been observed. On Hume’s model of probability such research is a waste of time and money, since the event will have a probability of zero. In the case of Pr(M/B) the guidance for assigning probability cannot take the simple minded form of using the frequency of M-type events in past experience; that frequency may be flatly zero (as in proton decay), but it would be unwise to therefore see Pr(M/B)=0.

How we assess the intrinsic probability of M will depend on how M is characterised. Take the resurrection of Jesus, for example. The hypothesis “Jesus rose from the dead” is ambiguous, comprising two radically different hypotheses. One is that “Jesus rose naturally from the dead”; the other is that “Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead,” or that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” The former is agreed on all counts to be outrageously improbable. But the evidence for the laws of nature which renders improbable the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the grave is simply irrelevant to the probability of the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead. Since our interest is in whether Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead, we can assess this hypothesis on its own.

Bottom line, it is evident that there is no “in principle” argument here against miracles. Rather what will be at stake, as the example of Jesus’ resurrection illustrates, is an “in fact” argument that handles a putative miracle claim in its historical context, given the evidence for God’s existence. So the Humean sceptic has failed to show that any possible miracle claim has an insuperable low intrinsic probability. Couple this result with our earlier conclusion that even incredibly low intrinsic probabilities can be outweighed by other factors in Baye’s Theorem and it is evident why contemporary thinkers have come to see Hume’s argument as a failure.

Hume had an excuse for his abject failure because the probability calculus hadn’t yet been developed in his day. But today you no long have any excuse for using such a fallacious reasoning in denying the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Adultery and “stupid” Christianity

I read on, an online confession site, about an atheist who was confessing his anger. The root of his anger, he claimed, was Christianity with its “stupid” teachings. What particularly irked this person was Jesus’ teaching on lust, or more specifically adultery. “If anyone has looked at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” being ignorant of how human beings function, the confessor described such a statement as being, among other things, “Unhuman.”

My first thought was, how can someone who sounds so dumb get it so right? Not looking at women with lust, and seeing them instead as human beings with value and worth far beyond their exterior is indeed “Unhuman.” In fact it’s supernatural. It is a supernatural gift, from God, given to those who believe in Jesus as trust Him for their daily walk. Based on simple observation of the men in our society, it’s easy to see that WITHOUT the Holy Spirit to guide them, many if not most men see women, real or fantasised as little more than a repository for they ejaculation. That is what’s considered normal by the writer of this post. And it’s not just him. In our society pornography is “normal” and accepted. Look at any magazine rack as you’re waiting in line at the grocery store and you’ll see that because sex has been removed from the context of a faithful relationship, all that is left for people to focus on is technique.

For men, fantasy relationships are often preferred over real ones. As C. S. Lewis said, “When these men say that they “want” a woman, a woman is exactly what they don’t want.” They are completely unable to relate to women in a real manner. A fantasy is as much as they can emotionally handle. What’s worse is that many women are willing to debase themselves in all manner of ways, simply in a desperate attempt to gain attention from men. And that too is NORMAL human behaviour because left to our original state, we use others and allow others to use us. We demean and destroy the true character and worth of other human beings, particularly women, for no other reason than to feed our lust.

Yes, this person was right-on about the teachings of Jesus coming from another dimension, a dimension of love, caring and respect - a dimension where those who are created in the very image of God are deemed to be worth more, far more than their external appeal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You’re Invited!

I wrote a bit ago about how, even according to the Bible, we who are Christians really don’t amount to much, at least according to the world’s standards. It was the same with the first disciples.

If you were a male living in Jesus’ time, you would attend religious instruction until the age of 13. At that time, the best and the brightest would be chosen from among your peers to continue with their studies under the tutelage of a rabbi. The rest of us would go and find work wherever we could, be it a carpenter or a fisherman or day labourer or selling oneself as a slave / servant, or selling out to the Romans to collect taxes for them.

That’s who Jesus chose to be among His closest confidants. The losers. The dropouts. The manual labourers. Those who really weren’t going to amount to much in the eyes of the worldly wise.

Jesus said, “I haven’t come to save those who already think they’re righteous. I’ve come to save those who know they are lost.”

This is something that atheists simply cannot stand. Atheists are some of the most judgemental people on the face of the earth. They look down on and judge as having less value those who lack education or intelligence. That's sad but it should be expected. Atheists have nothing outside of themselves from which to draw their value, worth and sense of security.

So be glad! Rejoice! Jesus has chosen you to be part of His family.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why Would Jesus Do That?

Something I find interesting is that Jesus, post resurrection decided to keep and display the wounds in His hands, feet and side.

Some I find interesting is that Jesus, returning to judge the inhabitants of the earth has chosen to keep and display the wounds in His hands, feet and side.

To those who have accepted His salvation, the wounds of His crucifixion will proclaim, "Look what I did for you."

To those who have rejected His salvation, the wounds of His crucifixion will proclaim, "Look what you did to me."

God's Love

“I was suffering from splitting headache; each sound hurt me like a blow. I discovered the poem Called “Love” by George Herbert, which I learnt by heart. Often, at the culminating point of a violent headache, I made myself say it over, concentrating all my attention upon it and cling with all my soul to the tenderness it enshrines. I used to think I was merely reciting it as a beautiful poem, but without my knowing it the recitation had the virtue of a prayer. It was during one of these recitations that Christ himself came down and took possession of me. In my arguments about the insolubility of the problem of God, I had never foreseen the possibility of that, of a real contact, person to person, here below, between a human and God.”
Simone Weil, “Waiting for God”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

For God so Loved the World

If you take away the cross you don’t have a God of love.

“The essence of sin is putting ourselves in place of God. The essence of salvation is God putting himself in place of us.”
John Stott.

Atheist Indoctrination at its Worst

Being Easter and all, it’s time for atheists to once again parade their lies and misinformation for the willing and eager ignorant to absorb. I met up with, I think it was a mother, on an Australian anti-religion blog. Here, she and her atheist friends were expressing their “outrage” that if their children wished to opt out of religious instruction, they had to clean up the environment around the schoolyard. I guess the environment is on its own in Australia. At any rate her child must have elected to stay in one of these classes and it’s his and his mother’s comments that drew my attention.

In fact, I wish to comment on a particularly egregious example of what I think borders on child abuse. In this example, which she proudly displayed for all the world to see, this atheist brags how her “precocious” child rudely, obnoxiously and condescendingly challenged a religious instructor at school. Why would he do this? Does he speak this way with all his instructors? Of course not. The only reason for the child’s disgusting behaviour appears to be that he had been trained to devalue, degrade and distrust people who hold religious beliefs, regardless of their level of education. This child who can only have been indoctrinated at home with misinformation, boldly asked his Christian teacher what it’s like to believe something that is simply copied from earlier myth. The child was referring to the “resurrection” of Osiris and says that the myth of Jesus’ resurrection is a counterfeit of this earlier legend. The parent, the author of this blog is actually proud of what’s been done to this child’s mind.

So what’s wrong with what this parent has taught the child? Well, I’m going to assume that any reader already knows the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This may not be the case with Osiris. In all probability, any atheist who makes similar statements is simply repeating what s/he has heard on YouTube or similar source material i.e., Christianity has copied earlier resurrected god stories.

First of all, the ancient Egyptian cult of Osiris is the ONLY account of a god who regained life after death that predates Christianity. All others, that have anything minutely resembling Jesus’ resurrection postdate the beginning of Christianity by a minimum of 150 years.

Second, the story of Osiris relates how Osiris is chopped into fourteen pieces by his brother and is scattered throughout Egypt. Isis went around Egypt, collected the chopped up body parts and put Osiris back together with all but one piece. The Zombified thirteen piece Osiris then descends to rule the underworld.

And that, according to atheists, is the story which Christianity carefully copied. This is the information that this atheist parent passed on to the son so that he could proudly and arrogantly challenge his teacher. What this atheist parent doesn’t know, or doesn’t care to know is the fact that she didn’t become a bigot because she misinterpreted the facts of the story. She misinterpreted the facts because she’s already a bigot.

For what it’s worth, when I posted this corrective information about Osiris on her blog, my comment was deleted. After all, how can atheist bigotry survive if truth is allowed to leak out.

Fourth, virtually all aspects of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are nowhere near similar to events described in ancient myths. For example:

- Attis and Adonis were killed by a wild boar. The story of Adonis didn't arrive until AD 400.

- Osiris was torn to pieces by Typhon-Seth

- Dionysus-Zagreus was torn apart by the Titans

- Aesculapius was struck by lightning

- Vacchus, Herculies rode to heaven on the horse Pegasus

- Ariadne is now a star

- Not one of these examples contains even the hint of a resurrection. This is especially true of Osiris. Why? The Egyptians had no concept of bodily resurrection. All of these myths are repetitive, symbolic respresentations of the death and rebirth of vegetation. These are not historical figures, and none of their deaths were intended to provide salvation.

- In ancient romance literature, the hero was always saved at the last moment to make for a happy ending.

- Even “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours” is roundly condemned by atheist scholars as undependable fiction. That is, it’s condemned by all but those on the lunatic fringe of which this parent may very well be a member.

- Finally, the cult of Isis did not even exist in the part of Palestine in which Christianity had its beginning. It existed in Egypt. Therefore the idea that it was copied is foolishness.

Again, all other god myths that resemble the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in any way, didn’t even make their appearance until at least 150 years after the beginning of Christianity. Well, at least this blogger’s little darling will be trained in atheist bigotry from an experienced teacher, his own parent.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I saw an atheist running . . .

I saw an atheist running down the street this morning. This is how it happened. I was sitting in my chair around 8:30am. Kids were coming down the street on their way to school. One girl, about 12-years-old got to the end of her driveway when something caught her attention. She turned back towards the house as fast as she could. Obviously she didn’t quite make it to the door in time because out of the house, off the driveway and down the street raced her little atheist. She tried to catch him but the little atheist came burning around the corner with a big grin on his face, his tongue hanging out, his ears high and alert and he was barking as loudly as he could, “I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!”

Typical of all atheists, this little bugger never gave a thought to:
Who is it that really takes care of me?
Who keeps me warm?
Who keeps me safe?
Who gives me food?
He actually believed - I can do this all on my own!!!

Whether he likes it or not, within a few days this little atheist will know the difference between good and not good.

The following individual best describes today’s modern atheist:

S/He is a lonely, intrepid figure, deprived of cosmic hope, abandoned to h/his own wits, navigating h/her way through the heavens, pitting h/herself against the unknown, refusing to accept the tyrannical sovereignty of God, rebelling against the divine decree, and determined to build out of h/his own resources a rival empire devoted to happiness in the here and now.

This of course is Milton’s description of satan in “Paradise Lost.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Most Christians are Poor and Uneducated

That’s the claim of many atheists. Now, if atheists were completely honest, they would need to qualify their comments and say that their claim is correct for only the Western Hemisphere and Western Europe. On the other hand, seeking complete honesty from a jacked up atheist may be asking too much. You see, in East Asia the pattern is directly opposite to what we observe at home. In developing East Asia, the higher one's education and the higher one's income the more likely they are to become Christians. But, let's spot the atheist a couple points. In fact, to make this post relevant, I'm going to say the atheists are absolutely correct.

That being the case, the question is, Why? Why are the majority of we Christians (at least in Europe and the Western Hemisphere poorer than most and less educated than most? Is it because we’re Christians that we become poor and don’t get an education, or do we become Christians because we’re already poor and uneducated? I remember talking to my mother-in-law about Christianity once and she turned up her nose and said with contempt, “But they’re usually so poor and unattractive.”

In an exchange with, I think Alistair McGrath, Richard Dawkins voiced his dismay and confusion over the fact that disaster and tragedy actually increases the faith of Christians. While that is perfectly understandable to we who know on an intimate level the love of Creator God, to atheists this makes no sense whatsoever.

Actually, that’s one of the drawbacks of we who blog. Atheist or Christian, none of us are poor and few of us lack an education. While I only have a Graduate degree, from a financial perspective we are firmly in the upper middle class. I suspect that many if not most of those who blog would say the same. It’s easy for us to say, “Look at me! I’m happy and it’s my atheist world-view / Jesus that made me this way. In reality, there would be something terribly wrong if we who have so very much WEREN’T satisfied or if we didn't profess contentment with life. Being poor however is something altogether different. Poverty is where the rubber meets the road. Poverty is where one’s philosophy has a chance to prove itself. Old age or chronic illness would be other areas but for now, poverty is what I’m writing about.

So, again, why would those in dire straights be more likely to accept the reality of Jesus? After all, atheists relentlessly preach that hardship and suffering are proof positive that God doesn’t exist. If that’s the case, you’d think that most poor people would reject the concept of God. So I wonder, if you interviewed street people, Christians and atheists, would you still find roughly an equal percentage who claimed satisfaction and hope as we’re able to do with wealthy atheists and Christians? Does the difference in numbers suggest that being poor as well as being an atheist just doesn’t cut it? Or is there another reason why the majority of poor and uneducated flock to Jesus?

Jesus made a couple interesting statements in this regard. In the first statement, Jesus was talking to an educated and I presume well to do Pharisee. Jesus was explaining to him that he shouldn’t be surprised that prostitutes and others on the fringes of society were streaming into the kingdom of God. The reason? Because those who are looked down on and avoided by the majority are under no illusions that anything in this life holds the key to happiness. We who are Christians, poor or wealthy have been granted the insight and wisdom to see that looks, relationships, power, education or money are nothing but fluff that comes and goes with the blink of an eye. They are nothing upon which to base our confidence, worth or security.

In regard to the “Why”, Jesus’ second comment is more telling than the first. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to save those who believe they are righteous. I came to save those who know they are lost.” It’s so much easier to see the hopelessness of our philosophy when our hands aren’t full of treats and goodies that this life provides. That’s just a fact of life.