Tag Archives: atheism

Why Study the Skeptics?

Personal Discipleship Week 3 Class Presentation

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Have you ever been blindsided by a hostile comment about your faith? For whatever reasons, someone has a chip on their shoulder about Christians. Maybe you weren’t even talking about anything spiritual, and they let go a pejorative that hits you like ice water in the face. If they’re angry and intelligent, you might hear a diatribe that is well articulated and seems to challenge your Christian worldview in a really disturbing way.

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, welcome to the real world. Skepticism is nothing new.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11,12 (NKJV)

Being on the receiving end of mocking and ridicule is bad enough, but how do you respond to the underlying challenge?

Personal discipleship is more than a process—it’s a lane to drive in when your faith is challenged. One of the (many) reasons that ice water in the face feels so cold is that we are poorly prepared to graciously address the underlying objections. Not just poorly prepared in terms of having a pithy response, but poorly prepared to engage in a manner that is gentle and respectful. Bobby Conway says the purpose of apologetics is to remove barriers to the Christian faith. Apologetics is not about winning arguments. Got it. But we have little chance of presenting Christ in a favorable light if we don’t know where people are coming from—emotionally and intellectually.

Dr. Norman Geisler

Dr. Norman Geisler

Dr. Norman Geisler gave an interview to Apologetics315 in which he made some statements that get at the heart of the matter. Geisler is a prolific author, systematic theologian, philosopher, and professor. He has founded two evangelical seminaries and was the chief architect behind the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. He is a standard-bearer for conservative Christian doctrine.

“I learned a lot from all skeptics. I tell my students that I spend most of my time studying and teaching what I don’t believe, namely the history of philosophy, and I’m writing a book on it now, The History of Philosophy From a Christian Point of View. You have to have a knowledge of what’s going on, that’s the bread and butter, that’s the standing on the shoulders of giants. As someone said, ‘You can learn more from the error of a great mind than you can the truths of a small mind.’ Because, the error of a great mind is a significant error, and you learn a lot from significant errors. Furthermore, I would encourage reading atheists because when I see the fallacies, the flimsy grounds upon which they base their belief, it encourages me in my own faith. So, I don’t read Streams in the Desert, or Daily Bread for devotion, I read atheists. Because they’re encouraging Nietzsche, and Freud, and Fromm, and Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer, and all the great atheists. Because as I read them, I strengthen my own faith, I see how to answer the fallacies in their writings, and I’m able to do what the Bible tells me—to destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God and bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”

So why study the skeptics? To encourage and strengthen your own faith, so that you can destroy arguments and proud obstacles to the knowledge and love of God. And always with gentleness and respect.


Unwinding with Alvin Plantinga

“Be merciful to those who doubt;”
Jude 22 (NIV84)

Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga speaking to students and faculty at Baylor University on April 26th, 2012 (photo credit: Chris Derrett).

Have you ever heard a presentation of the Gospel that goes something like this: “Hell is hot, death is certain, Jesus saves, turn or burn”? This is the Ripley’s (Believe It or Not) version of the Gospel. While this presentation may work—if only pragmatically—on a theological level, it’s a complete mess on a personal, relational level. It falls so short of the mark. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who hear the message of Jesus Christ just this way.

I came across a common theme in atheists’ objections to Christianity three times last week—specifically that Christians are misguided. You know: the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales and legends, a loving god wouldn’t allow evil and suffering, there is no god, hell is an invention, science disproves Christianity, and so forth. (If you’re not running into these objections might you be playing it a little too safe in sharing your faith?) One atheist posted a rant in which the sophomoric level of his uninformed statements exposed his unwillingness to think rationally about theism and Christianity. They also pointed to a long line of Believe-It-or-Not presentations that left negative impressions. (His argument denying the plausibility of God was solely based upon his personal conviction that there can be no such thing as hell.) Who ‘shared’ their faith with him, and how? Too much truth and not enough grace? Continue reading


Examples and Warnings

  • These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
    1 Corinthians 10:11 (NIV84)
Kisses

Essential Tools

Melinda Penner has a poignant observation on the Stand to Reason blog this morning, about a recent post by Rachael Slick—the daughter of apologist Matt Slick, the founder of CARM.

CARM is one of the sites I use frequently in my devotional research. I value their work, and respect their opinions. Sometimes they make me uneasy, but that’s Veracity—we don’t have to accept everything someone thinks, or their style, to benefit from their example or teaching. We’re about sharing resources, not telling people what to think.

Rachael Slick’s post, describing her upbringing and journey into atheism, is undoubtedly heartbreaking for her parents. As Melinda Penner notes, the post is one-sided. That it garnered over 2,300 comments in two days on the atheist channel of Patheos.com demonstrates the voracity of atheist sentiments in our culture. (If we accept the Great Commission and are laboring only in fields full of Christians, here’s a wake-up call.)

Melinda’s observation is that there is no Gospel in Rachael Slick’s story. How anyone can learn 800 Bible verses and all the apologetic doctrine she describes without getting the Gospel is…(I don’t have an adequate adjective).

Dick Woodward has a lot to say about examples and warnings in the Bible. A few months ago, Dick and I were talking about Matthew 23 and the Law of God. Dick made the point that, “The Law of God must always be run through the Love of God.”

I couldn’t help thinking about those words as I read Rachael Slick’s story. I’m not judging Matt Slick and the way he raised his family. I will take this example and apply it to the relationships in my life, particularly where I have a tendency to make a point or press an agenda without stopping to love the other person first. One more time for my own edification—I will try to do better at loving the other person first.

The Apostle John quoted Jesus, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV84). The Apostle Paul put it even more strongly, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself though love” (Galatians 5:6b, NIV84).

Thank you Rachael Slick for the example and warning—not about how you or your dad might have messed up, but about how less important an agenda is compared to a heart.


Who Created God?

Who created God?  Good question. Atheists fall on their backside thinking this one through.  It’s all in how deeply we can think—specifically being able to think outside the box of our own worldly experiences.  Here…if you’re still wondering, I’ll save you a headache the next time someone asks you—God is transcendent.

Here’s a short video by Oxford mathematician and Christian apologist John Lennox that shows why you might not want to mess with someone who’s wise—particularly when he is wearing a grin.

John Lennox is a delightful, gentlemanly, brilliant and crafty defender of the faith.  He gives atheists fits with his use of logic and his calm, unflappable, charitable demeanor.   In 1962 he attended the last lectures of C.S. Lewis, to whom he is now sometimes compared.  Dr. Lennox can hold his own, and give as good as he gets. Continue reading


Unreasonable Doubt

Felix Barthe (1796-1863), Minister of Justice and Deputy by Honore Daumier, 1833

Some people will not allow themselves to be convinced by evidence. I touched upon this topic recently in a post entitled Judge for Yourself, that illustrates the need to explore the standard of proof we each demand, the need to check our biases, and our ability to weigh evidence.

Lee Strobel took the approach that he was willing to follow the evidence for a Creator whether it led him to an uncomfortable conclusion or not.  Unfortunately, many atheists lack this kind of integrity.

Ironically, there are scientists who investigate the facts behind the Big Bang, the DNA molecule, the fine tuning of the universe, cellular machines, and many other physical phenomena and draw the conclusion that the data clearly indicates intelligent design. Yet some of them can’t call the designer ‘God’.  Really?

However…before we throw any rocks at scientists for not having the integrity to counter their professional biases, shouldn’t we revisit our own biases—professional and otherwise?

As Ken Petzinger points out, how we approach theism determines a lot about our lives, and how we interact with the world. Here’s a thought-provoking, on-topic article entitled Unreasonable Doubt, that Mary Petzinger wanted to share. The article (by Jim Spiegel writing in  Christianity Today, January 2011) calls intractable skepticism into the light of day.  The byline reads “The reasons for unbelief are more complex than many atheists let on.” To read the article, click here.

Enjoy!

HT: Mary Petzinger


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