Archive for June, 2008

22
Jun
08

Worthwhile or Futile?

Why does the atheist (in his own words) believe God does not exist?

Professor Dawkins presents his reasoning in his book The God Delusion, which I am currently reading. I understand, however, (according to a couple of my readers) that this work may not render the agnostic position very well. I should’ve known. Dawkins himself is an athiest, and the purpose of the book (addressed particularly to agnostics) is to convince his readers that God does not exist and that it is okay to be a full-blown atheist.

I know it is impossible for anyone to PROVE the existence or non-existence of God. Both the Christian and the atheist must proceed in FAITH. No matter if you believe God exists or you believe he does not exists…BOTH opposing views are held in faith.

Only one can be right.

The agnostic might say it doesn’t matter. But for the atheist and the Christian it DOES matter. Dawkins wouldn’t write 374 pages on the non-existence of God unless it mattered to him (even if he does think it is ridiculous). And his colleague Alister McGrath wouldn’t write his works if he was indifferent on the subject.

It doesn’t matter who is right. This is about what is true. I want to believe the TRUTH. Who doesn’t? If I were convinced that what I believe is a lie, than certainly I would change my mind. Wouldn’t you?

I am curious about what agnostics believe (or don’t believe), but I understand they are essentially indifferent about whether or not God exists. Assuming the atheist cares enough about the subject to define his opinion about God, I am more interested in what he has to say than what the agnostic might offer. At least to the atheist I know the subject matters. And on that we both agree.

22
Jun
08

Our Foundation

In reading his book, The God Delusion, I learn that Richard Dawkins assumes the Christian Religion was founded by Paul.

I know that there are some people out there who say the same, suggesting that Paul’s religion is different from a small Jerusalem sect who followed Jesus. The Jerusalem sect posed a threat to Rome and therefore Paul, supposedly a Roman official, served to destroy them. While the Jerusalem sect essentially died off, Paul’s church movement grew to become the foundation of the church we know today.

There are A LOT of questions attached to this claim…

Paul persecuted the church. It doesn’t matter whether you believe his motive was to protect the Jewish Law or to protect the State. Pharisee or Roman official, he breathed murderous threats against Christ’s church.

Why then would Paul later start a religion which glorifies Christ’s Name?

If that small Jerusalem sect which belonged to Christ really was so insignificant that it ceased to exist within the first century, was it really a threat to any authority–State or Jewish Law?

Shouldn’t the name of Jesus Christ their founder also have evaporated with them into forgotten history?

Shouldn’t we now be called the Pauline church? Or the church of Rome? (oh wait that was Peters’, church…)

How come (for the love of Pete) nobody swears by Paul’s name?

Paul is a convert. He persecuted the church. And then he joined (not founded) the church. God had appointed him to preach God’s Name to the Jews and the Gentiles. If Paul founded his own religion then he made it all up. And if he made it all up would he go to prison three times and eventually give his life for it?

The Church wasn’t founded by Paul, nor even by Peter the rock. The Church is built on Jesus Christ. God established the church, way back in Genesis in the Garden of Eden. The Old Testament continually points to Christ. The rituals and prophesies are fulfilled in him. Even to this day, our faith rests on his Resurrection, not on the letters of Paul.

This is not a man-made faith. The apostles are eye-witnesses to the risen Christ. No human would start a religion on something so bogus. (who in their right mind would follow it?) Nor would the apostles hold on to the lie even unto cruel death. Peter was crucified upside down for his faith!

Roman guards were stationed at Christ’s tomb to make sure nobody would steal the body and say Jesus rose from the dead. They were first-hand witnesses to the empty tomb. The chief priests, however, paid them to lie about what they actually saw. Of course their false-witness would testify to their failure to protect the tomb successfully, and the governor would not like that! Their lies would mean severe punishment! So it is a good thing the chief priests also promised to satisfy the governor in order to protect the guards from such punishment. Their combined efforts were futile.

If there was ever a time to stop such a ridiculous “rumor” of Christ’s resurrection, it certainly was then. Yet even as completely unbelievable as the resurrection is, it spread like wildfire! And it cannot be stopped. Why? Because it isn’t man-made. Even the Sanhendrin understood this much in Acts 5:38-39.

I honestly think it takes more faith to believe that the Resurrection is a made-up story (a very ridiculous made-up story at that) and as such could not be stopped! No legend or tabloid has ever thrived like the story of the Resurrection. And to believe the disciples or apostles would fabricate such a story, even attempt to steal the body in order to fulfill the prophecy, and then die for what they know to be a lie. That’s actually more unbelievable than the Resurrection!

People who claim that this religion is man-made or a hoax, have an awful lot of explaining to do.

22
Jun
08

Disappointed with Dawkins

As I read Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion, I can only say so far that I am not impressed with the book. Overall, he writes in a very arrogant almost angry style which seems to ring a “defensive” tone. (I am not the only one to observe this in his writing.) If he is certain about what he believes, why is he so anxious? And why does he refuse discussion with Christians on the subject of God? Does he feel threatened? Is he annoyed with Christians? Does he even know what really aggravates him? It begs my curiosity…

Chapter two of his book is particularly messy. It does not speak much to his trustworthiness as a writer…

  1. He presents speculation as fact. He states historically that Paul founded Christianity (37). Unless you think Paul founded the church in order to persecute it, like the English hunter who introduced the rabbit in America so that he may hunt them, this is really a stretch. Even “hunting logic” in this case is absurd. I’ll give more attention to this in a separate post.
  2. His reasoning is inconsistent. He talks about how ridiculous faith in God is, and equates it to faith in an orbiting china teapot in space or a spaghetti monster–non-sense about which nobody would waste their time. It is ironic, then, that he considered it at least worthy enough to devote countless hours and 374 pages to such non-sense. (Although the subject is not quite worthy enough of dialogue with Believers.)
  3. He builds a flimsy argument. He speaks about the religion of our Nation’s founding fathers. What does that have to do with the objective of his book? I don’t base my faith on what somebody else believes (or doesn’t believe). Why does Dawkins care so much about their religion? It doesn’t make sense.

 

  • I thought the inclusion of the Great Prayer Experiment was somewhat interesting (and disgusting), but I don’t understand its relevance. The experiment is supposed to test whether or not prayer has any effect on the recovery of surgery patients. (If the purpose of prayer is to get what we wish for, like we found a leprochan or something, then maybe I’d ask for a pot of gold.) Obviously the experiment failed. There are a million things wrong with the experiment. I am curious, however, why Dawkins chose to include it. Does he draw on the failed result to say that God does not exist? Dawkins is at least intelligent enough to recognize how ridiculous this experiment is. So does he include it as evidence to Christian stupidity? (I won’t argue with that one, there are plenty of dumb Christians out there. Maybe that is the reason Dawkins is so angry. He hates stupidity–but then he hates more than just Christians.) Though I still don’t see how human fault proves God’s non-existence…it only proves we’re human.

Forgive me for being too critical. I realize I am not far in the book and it isn’t fair to judge it so early. I have to remember I am reading an atheist’s view of God. Of course we approach the subject of God’s existence from two separate extremes. For this reason, he and I will take for granted that which the other denies. It is no surprise then that I am disappointed with his research.

I actually am ahead in the book and it DOES get better. But I was determined, however, to make at least some sense of my thoughts on chapter two before I begin to write my thoughts on the following chapters (not sure I succeeded).

12
Jun
08

King James

Recently I have been hearing more and more comments on the use of various Bible versions other than the King James Version. For some, nothing will do but the King James version. They think that the other versions lose meaning in the different word choices. One claimed that the word replacements of other versions are not synonymous with the expression in the KJV and therefore the other versions will lead to heresy, and for this we will be judged. (We all know Jesus spoke King James English. And Paul wrote his Letters in King James English. Too bad for the non-English-speaking peoples, their Bible is full of heresies. Maybe instead of translating the Bible into other languages we should be teaching everyone the English language so they can be saved.) This is bull shit!

Seriously folks!

I understand there are English versions which are paraphrases of the Word and should not be regarded as authoritative Scripture. And I know there are some English versions which were written to accommodate political or religious propaganda. But there are multiple sound English versions, and certainly in numerous world languages too. The King James Version is not THEE Word of God.

Though human hands have scribed the original manuscripts and human hands have copied them and translated them and made copies of copies of copies to be passed on and copied again…God has faithfully preserved his Word through all the generations and through all the different translations into different languages. So that even now, after so many copies and translations, the Bible remains as effective today as when it was first written, to instruct and train us in the way of salvation. We don’t have the original autographs anymore, and we certainly gain understanding if we study Biblical Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin languages. But God’s Word is not without authority even in our own native and cultural tongues.

11
Jun
08

Judgment and Mercy

I think it is interesting that Professor Dawkins, at the start of chapter two of his book The God Delusion, makes a distinction between the God of the Old Testament, and the “gentle Jesus” of the New. A lot of Christians try to do the same thing, as if God had a change in character or something. Have these people seriously read either Testament? God’s love and mercy is remarkably evident in the Old Testament, just as his wrath and judgment are clear in the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same. God didn’t “change.” That’s absurd. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

It is no surprise that many people (including many Christians) are disturbed by the passages that speak of God’s judgment and wrath. Dawkins seems to be one of them although he denies the existence of God in the first place. If we don’t deny the existence of God, we might (as some do) attempt to remove these texts from the Bible, making excuses as to why those particular passages are irrelevant for our day, or even perhaps non-canonical. A shameful attempt to construct a religion where there is no right or wrong way to eternal life–EVERYBODY goes to heaven. To be consistent, judgment and accountability go out the window.

What, then, do we do with our conscience? You can’t simply dispose of it. Don’t we have to explain why we (some apparently more than others) each have one? (And how come humans are the ONLY species with a conscience?) If we have a conscience then we are accountable. And if there is accountability then there is judgment.

And who is the more loving parent? The one who disciplines their child when they do wrong or the one who lets their child have their way every time?

I realize it is easy to presume that the judgment described in the Bible is too severe and not fitting for the offenses. (Why are we never happy with justice unless it is practiced in our favor?) Seems funny that we should put ourselves in the judgment seat–self-righteous and proud we are. If we’d only recognize our own depravity… We might see the riches of God’s mercy and grace.

God will show mercy on whom he shows mercy. Is that any different from what we require of ourselves? D. James Kennedy makes the point that if we have ever given to a beggar, then we have chosen to show mercy to a particular person in need. The benefactor gives of his own money to some in need, while not to others. None to whom he gives (or does not give) has any right to his gift. It is his money, he can give to whom he desires. Though the act of mercy is according to his own choosing, the benefactor is nonetheless esteemed a generous man. Nobody says, “HOW DARE that benefactor not give his money to EVERY beggar in need in the world!” Why do we insist that God should show mercy (not to some, according to his will and pleasure), but to ALL! Why do we think HE is obliged to US–any or all of us? If God’s mercy is somehow warranted by our right, IS IT STILL MERCY?

At any rate, whether or not we “like” the God of the Bible or understand his ways, our judgment does not make any difference on the fact of his existence.

I really don’t know where Dawkins is going with this entire chapter. His points are really disconnected and have little or nothing to do with his objective.

Even so, I have still ANOTHER thought brewing from this chapter…

And THEN I will focus on chapter three, finally.

07
Jun
08

Murder She Wrote

If you had walked into our house a couple weeks ago, you might’ve thought our living room was a murder scene. Our playful great dane broke her claw in my husband‘s bare foot. (You’d think we’d learn by now to wear SHOES!!) It hurt him more than it hurt the dog. The good news is the claw did not remain lodged in my husband’s foot. It dangled from the animal’s paw. This is disgusting I know. I didn’t have the guts to take the clippers and snip it off. I made my husband do that. The break was above the vain and blood was all over the carpet. Our dog kept running around playfully like nothing happened. We got her to settle down, washed her paw and confined her in the kitchen until the bleeding stopped. Thanks to Oxi-Clean I was able to clean up all the blood on the carpet without any problem.

Don’t worry, the dog is okay and her claw will grow back. My husband is okay too. He left to play another show with his band as planned. The band’s guitarist suggested drilling a whole in the claw and wearing it as a necklace. I think I’ll send it to my cousin instead and tell her it’s a shark’s tooth. 😉

04
Jun
08

Knowledge of God

One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is that he requires intellectual stimulation. And in that drive he inspires me to read more and challenges me to be critical of what I hear/believe and helps me to grow in my thinking/learning. He reads a lot. I struggle to keep up, but recently he and I have decided to read together the two-volume set of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. This will keep us busy a long time. (admittedly, I have to read his chapters twice before I really absorb what he’s saying.)

John Calvin is the man! I can’t help but share his brilliance with you…

Calvin claims that our knowledge of God and our knowledge of self are so closely related that it is difficult (if possible) to separate them…each seems to preface the other. It is sort of a “chicken or the egg” puzzle.

Here is the exchange: 1.) “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” and 2.) “Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.”

We fail to acknowledge the holiness and sovereignty of God unless we first begin to understand our own depravity. Calvin reminds us that it is our falleness that better reveals the fortune of God’s grace and mercy. (If we had remained upright and never disobeyed God from the beginning, would we know His mercy? ) Recognizing our deficiency, we are motivated to find what we are missing in order to remedy our need. That search takes us beyond ourselves. “…knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him (37).”

Conversly, we cannot understand our miserable state unless we first behold and contemplate him who is perfect and holy. Unless we first acknowledge an all-sufficient and transcendent entity, how do we begin to understand our own deficiency? By what measure do we esteem ourselves? By what measure do we make any judgment?

For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy–this pride is innate in all of us–unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us (37).

As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods (38).

Looking beyond our physical world we may begin to comprehend a greater truth. Somewhat like the sphere that enters Flatland. In a two-dimensional plane, the inhabitants of Flatland perceive a visiting sphere as a mere circle. Failing to recognize a superior dimension, circle is the logical (though false) assumption.




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