Saturday, April 12, 2008

Christians defend their faith against the New Atheists

The Evangelical Philosophical Society is a collection of the greatest minds in Christianity today.

How do leading Christian apologists , such as Paul Copan, defend Christianity against the charge that the God of the Old Testament is a moral monster?

Paul Copan defends against Dennett, Harris and Dawkins

In this amazing article, one of the leading Christian philosophers in the world writes such things as 'What then of the children? Death would be a mercy, as they would be ushered into the presence of God and spared the corrupting influences of a morally decadent culture.'

Paul Copan also writes 'Despite the objections by Moses' siblings, Yahweh resoundingly approves of Moses' marriage to a black woman, highlighting his approval by turning Miriam's skin white!'

If this is some of the best scholarly articles that Christian philosophers can produce, is there any wonder that so many people are reading books by atheists nowadays and finding much to agre with in what they write?


Blogger mikespeir said...

In a footnote on page 20, he says, "...a more plausible interpretation [for Deuteronomy 25:11-12] comes from Jerome T. Walsh. He makes an excellent case for depilation...." The argument, apparently, is that it wasn't the woman's hand that was to be cut off, but only her pubic hair.

In the first place, it's hard to imagine what kind of punishment that would be. (Although, if I had the work of Walsh I could at least examine his speculations, I'm sure.)

But I've examined a number of versions, translations, and editions of the OT. Not a single one makes the case for pubic shaving. That's strange, in that I know they don't Shanghai people to be Bible translators. They don't go down to the local temp agency to see if they can find somebody who's heard of Hebrew. No, they select the best experts on the language they can get hold of. Why, then, doesn't a single version of the OT speak of shaving the pubis rather than cutting off the hand?

It's enough to make one suspicious of these people's motives.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Brother Paul said...

Hi Steven,

I think in the Old Testament, because of the "hardness of their hearts", God allowed many things. However, in the New Testament, we see a God of Love and Mercy, who through his son Jesus, showed us an even better way. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. A hard thing for many to do, but, as a child of God, we are encouraged to attain to these heights. After all, even evil people love their own.

I would encourage everyone, to read, and learn about the one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism, and the complete truth you have been looking for.

Are you really saved? Can you afford to be wrong???

Blessings to all,

Brother Paul

7:41 PM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

brother paul,

You're making the mistake so common to believers who come onto sites like this, namely, that we haven't looked into your beliefs already. Myself, I was a Christian from age 14 to 48. I absorbed the Bible like a sponge. I taught it for years. Now, whether I was ever a True Christian according to your definition is something I won't argue about. But--as most others here--I am certainly familiar with the teachings.

As long as we're suggesting sites to look at, allow me to throw this one at you:

You seem to think Pascal's Wager is a convincing piece of reasoning. Maybe looking at a few of the articles there will change your mind.

3:54 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

This reminds me of an interview I heard with Julia Sweeney from some Christians that you can download here:

They have several interesting interviews. The two with Sam Harris are great. The two hosts make for an interesting pair. One is a guy named Rick Davis who sounds to me like a guy that really is interested in considering both sides of the issues. The other is Lael Arrington. She typically comments with standard Christian apologetics boilerplate and gives no indication that she's really thinking through things. I think this annoys Davis, and this creates tension from him that Arrington seems oblivious to.

So anyway Sweeney is talking about some horrors of the Bible and Lael says "Don't you think that maybe this is kind of a demonstration of God's justice?" And Julia responds I think with the incredulity that is due to such a question and says "You mean when God is burning children? I think your question really doesn't make much sense to me." It's pretty good stuff.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

"The Evangelical Philosophical Society is a collection of the greatest minds in Christianity today. "??

Sorry: they might be amongst the greatest minds evangelicalism can muster, though I'd question that too. But the greatest minds in Christianity? Far from it.

Christianity is not Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is not Christianity. Please don't lump us all together.

Thank you.

5:20 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

Pilgrim, I doubt there's even any conscious attempt to lump all Christians together. Those of us who spend time in debate know all too well that two people calling themselves Christians can be so different that one can be lead to wonder how they can be members of the same religion.

On the other hand, imagine what it would be like to have to define what kind of Christian we mean every time we make a post. Why, we'd spend whole paragraphs on that before even launching into our point! In this particular instance, you can suppose that the kind of Christian presented in the article itself is the kind being addressed.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

Thanks Mike - but that's the problem isn't it? No that "there's no conscious attempt to lump all Christians together" but that there's no conscious attempt to distinguish between us: people blather on about Christians this, Christians that — like Steven responding to my review of the Dawkins Delusion: "What a vindictive, savage, petty god Christians worship and praise!"

Let's get real here: some Christians may well read the Bible as per Steven's attempted caricature, paying no attention to historical, literary or cultural context, ignoring the many different levels at which texts need to be read; but that sort of generalisation makes as much sense as his birdbook biologist waxing eloquent about birds' diets when s/he's only read the chapter on chaffinches.

And it's not as difficult as you make out, is it? If you're having a bash at evangelicals, say evangelicals; if you want to take liberals or catholics or conservatives to task for whatever reason, it's not exactly difficult to spell it out. This post isn't "Christians defend their faith..." — it's "Evangelicals defend their faith..."

No need for great long defining paragraphs at all.

As for us being "members of the same religion" — frankly, we're not. On facebook I describe myself as a Christian Atheist: I distance myself utterly from the monster deity that some Christians have dreamt into existence, and from the various other gods who live in the cracks between the paving slabs (have you ever read Terry Pratchett's Small Gods? Brilliant!). My faith has nothing to do with religion, with all it's rules and petty regulations: my faith has to do with a person — Jesus of Nazareth, rule-breaker and rebel against religious authority.

But hey - I expect you've heard all this before: as you say, you were a Christian from 14 - 48. Curious to know what happened there, if you're of a mind to tell...

Happy daze, y'all!

1:02 PM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

Did you read Copan's article, Pilgrim? Wouldn't it stand to reason that it's Christians like Copan who are the subject of this thread?

"And it's not as difficult as you make out, is it? If you're having a bash at evangelicals, say evangelicals; if you want to take liberals or catholics or conservatives to task for whatever reason, it's not exactly difficult to spell it out. This post isn't "Christians defend their faith..." — it's "Evangelicals defend their faith..."

Even those terms are way too broad. Evangelicals are all over the board on so many things. Many Catholics accept evolution; many do not. I've argued at length with Catholics who don't accept the authority of the Pope. There are some Fundamentalists who say you must speak in tongues to be saved. Others say tongues is of the Devil. Some insist anything by the KJV is a deception. Others don't see it that way. There are Evangelical annihilationists, others who believe in a post-tribulation Rapture, and still others who say post-tribulationism is a lie from the pit of Hell. And on and on and on.

Do you know what's common to most of them? "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship." Well, of course, it is a religion. It conforms to the definition of the word, so that's what it is. (I will say that some, no longer able to deny that, are starting to claim it's a religion in addition to a relationship.)

"Let's get real here: some Christians may well read the Bible as per Steven's attempted caricature, paying no attention to historical, literary or cultural context, ignoring the many different levels at which texts need to be read; but that sort of generalisation makes as much sense as his birdbook biologist waxing eloquent about birds' diets when s/he's only read the chapter on chaffinches."

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals insist they are taking things like literary and cultural context into consideration. Such interpretive measures, they will tell you, lead to their way of thinking.

I'm not going to argue any of these points. I'll let Christians hash them out between themselves. But I know this from experience, both from within and without the Faith: all make a claim to a degree of superiority. Even when they admit there are real Christians who disagree with their views, they nevertheless, whether blatantly or by insinuation, let it be known that they have a higher, better, more reasonable take on things.

As to my own story, well, that's not. It's not that I'm reluctant to share. I've done so many places. I just know the invitaion is usually extended to give opportunity to pick apart my former faith so as to demonstrate, at least privately, that I wasn't a Real Christian. I don't know. Maybe it makes some believers feel better: "Whew! He didn't believe like I do. Not much chance I'll become an atheist!" (No, I'm not suggesting that's your motive. How would I know?) Besides, this has run long enough already.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

I clicked through to it but couldn't be bothered to read it at length: I find any attempt to justify these 'texts of terror' morally repulsive. Far better to acknowledge that we are dealing with early spin doctoring, theological interpretations of history, not history itself, as the ancient writers themselves attempted to justify what they were dealing with. Why compound their error by making the same mistake over again? The biblical writers could sure teach today's journalists a thing or two about spin!

And why compound the problem yourself by saying, "I'll let Christians hash them out between themselves."? Unless, of course, that's your way of implying that you "have a higher, better, more reasonable take on things" — no, if you, or anyone else, want to take people to task for the way they read the Bible or other sacred literature, you've already committed yourself to interpreting it one way or another.

Anyway, as I said before, you've no doubt heard it all before. I'm not into arguing for argument's sake. Just as you have no way of knowing my motive, I have no way of knowing yours; but for the record, I'm not interested in picking apart your former faith, though I do find it curious that you (apparently: my apologies if I'm misreading you) and others like Steven want to pick apart the faith of those who still hold on to it in one form or another.

Yes, it's true that Christianity has been and still is in many times and places presented or caricatured as a religion. I think Spencer Burke gets it about right when he says,

"Maybe the greatest gift the Christian religion can offer the world right now is to remove itself from the battle for God. Perhaps it's time to release the claim to universal privilege it grants itself as the only "true religion". I realise that this may sound mad to some people, but I trust that others will be excited by the prospect of encountering the message of Jesus without the baggage of brand Christianity."

(p.48, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity).

I still maintain that anyone who's fundy-bashing should say so rather than pretend they're addressing some sort of group consensus where no such consensus exists... but I guess, like you no doubt find in many of your discussions, I'm simply bashing my head against a brick wall. C'est la vie: thanks again for your responses...

1:07 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

'And why compound the problem yourself by saying, "I'll let Christians hash them out between themselves."?'

Not being a Christian, it's not for me to argue what a Christian should or shouldn't believe. Personally, I don't see cause to believe any of the Christian metaphysic--of whatever brand of Christian.

BTW, the world would be a better place if more Christians adopted the apparent sentiment of this Heretic's Guide to Eternity you quote. It probably won't happen any time soon.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

Absolutely; and sadly...

BTW, I wasn't referring to what Christians believe: I was referring to biblical interpretation.

Mostly I don't give two hoots about what people believe: it's how people behave that counts, and that reveals the truth about what they believe...

4:50 AM  
Blogger Brother Paul said...

Dear Friends,

The problem and the solution that Jesus left the World was the empty tomb.

The Romans would have run his dead body through the streets on the third day.

The Chief Priests would have done the same thing.

If his followers had buried the body they would not have gone out and given their lives for a liar.

The only solution is that Jesus is the Son of God and was raised from death.

Blessings to all,

Brother Paul

7:04 PM  
Blogger Pilgrim said...

Brother Paul, it takes more than an empty tomb to solve the world's problems: it takes a crucified God... and I suspect that until we, that crucified God's followers, are prepared to share his shame and indignity... until we learn to tread the path of humility and self-sacrifice that he trod... until we learn to accept the insults and scorn — which, quite frankly, the church, with all its misguided power-plays and political manoeuvrings, deserves — we will never experience the liberation the empty tomb speaks of...

11:00 PM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

"The Romans would have run his dead body through the streets on the third day."

Not likely, Bother Paul. The Romans wouldn't have been threatened in the least by this legend. They wouldn't have cared enough. And, of course, even that is provided any such thing as Jesus crucification ever happened.

"The Chief Priests would have done the same thing."

They absolutely would not have. In the first place, the Jews had a tradition that a body was not legally identifiable after three days being dead. (See here: )

In any case, after 50 days plus (things wouldn't have come to a head until at least Pentecost) the body really wouldn't have been recognizable, especially in that climate.

Furthermore, by Numbers 19:11-13 even touching a corpse made one unclean for seven days, with purification rituals needing to take place on the third and sevent day. I can't see the nasty-nice Pharisees and Sadducees having anything to do with any scheme to haul a body around town in a cart.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Brother Paul said...

Dear Mikespeir and Pilgrim,

I think you are thinking " I just don't know "? I can understand that.
The answer is not " I'll believe it when I see it, but, rather, " I'll see it when I believe it".

You know the Devil knows the Bible very well. He has had alot of time to study it. We know that he is the author of division. Is there any wonder that there is religion in this world?

Do we really believe that God, the author of Peace, wrote a Book that can't be understood? I don't think so. So, man has either added to the Word, or taken away from it which accounts for all of this religious division. After all Bible stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. B..I..B..L..E.

Lucifer thought he could be like God. The first sin? It bothered him that God was infinitely more intelligent than he was. I think it bothers many people that live on earth. Down here you may not be as smart as your Father, you may be as smart as your Father, you may be smarter than your Father. But in Heaven your Father is always going to be smarter than you, his child. I think that bothers some men and women. They have a hard time living with that, and so they create their own theories and interpretations.

There is a God: To those who believe there is a God, but are unable to give reasons why they so believe, and those who believe there is no God because they have never been given reasons to believe otherwise.

The controversy over whether or not there is a God has been around for some time. However, I believe a person can intelligently resolve this question by logically considering the available facts.

To lessen the possibility of misunderstanding terms used in this study, it sould be noted that by the term "God" it is meant: that invisible being who created all matter. By the term "universe", the physical universe is intended, and all reference to "time" is confined to the duration of the physical universe. By the term "facts", theories are in no way intended since they are unproven and any conclusion based on them could not be relied on.

Is there a God; an invisible creator? An obvious fact a person can consider is the existence of the physical universe. Where did it come from? What is its origin? From what did matter have its beginning? A person may think of many answers to these questions, but all of them can be placed under four alternatives: 1. The universe created itself; 2. It evolved into existence; 3. It has always existed; 4. It was created.

If the universe was created, there would, of necessity, have to be a Creator. Hence, to prove there is a God requires proving the universe was created. If there is a Creator who created the physical universe, the other three alternatives would be false.

1. Did the Uiverse Create itself? In order to do so, it would have had to exist before it existed. Otherwise, it could not create itself. But notice: for a thing to exist before it existed requires that it exist, and at the same time, not exist. That of course, is impossible. A thing is either existing or not existing. This alternative must therefore, be eliminated.

2. Did Matter Evolve into existence? From what could it have evolved? Nothing? Something cannot evolve from nothing. There would have had to been something from which it evolved. Then it could be asked, where did that something come from? This question brings a person back to the four alternatives previously mentioned; of which, two have now been eliminated.

3. Has the Physical Universe always existed? If so, it has no starting point and time backwards would be endless. Keeping these things in mind consider tghe fact that the universe is "running down". For example: the sun is "burning" itself up and elements are deteriorating, such as uranium, which first disintegrates into radium and then into lead. In fact, the whole universe is proceeding from order to disorder (a principle taught in the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

How long would it take for this "running down" of things to complete itself ( for the sun to "burn" itself up and etc.)? Remember, if the universe has always existed, there would be an endless amount of time backwards. Therefore, a person could count back in time farther than the amount of time required, regardless of how long that might be. If for example, it would take ten million years for the sun to "burn" up, a person could count back ten million and one years. In other words, had the universe always existed, the sun would have already "burned" up, all uranium would now be just lead, and etc. The very fact these things still exist and the universe is not in complete disorder proves, as far as the physical universe is concerned, there is not an endless amound of time backwards. Hence, the material universe has not always existed.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics also teaches that the total amound of energy always has a tendencey to become less available for useful work. The First Law of Thermodynamics teaches that the total amount of energy remains unchanged. Hence, as useful energy is used up, none is being created to take its place. Had the universe always existed, all the energy available for useful work would have already been used up.

Furthermore, astronomers tell us the universe is expanding from its center to a limit. Had it always existed, it would have already reached its limit. Besides this, if the universe has no starting point, it woul not have had a center from which to start expanding.

Obviously, there was a starting point: a point of creation. Since creation demands a creator, one must conclude there is a Creator; a God. Also, since no matter existed before it existed, the Creator is not matter but rather, invisible.

Since there is a God, shouldn't one investigate the Bible to determine whether or not it is the word of the Creator?

Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. The Word is the Truth. There is a one true church in the Word. Religion comes from man...not God. Just because there are counterfit money out there doesn't stop us from using money. Just because there is religion out there shouldn't stop us from searching for the true church.

Blessings always,

Brother Paul

8:16 PM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

"I'll see it when I believe it"

Ever been approached by a con man, Brother Paul? That's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from one.

Now, I'm not calling you a con man. Goodness knows I spent too many years believing--and teaching--the same things you do. I know it's possible to sincerely believe those things.

But if there's any way you can, I'd like you to step outside your faith for a moment and have a hard, critical look at the advice you gave me, quoted above. Is there any other area of your life (aside from your religion) where you would take that advice yourself? Would you if doing so meant you had to turn your life upside down to accord with the implications?

"Did the Uiverse Create itself?"

Did God create himself? No matter how you might try to squeeze away from it, that's just as valid a question as the one you asked. The truth is, we don't know how the universe came to be. And when a believer insists he does know, he's not saying he has demonstrable facts as his disposal. (Although that's the inference he'd like you to make.) What he's doing is asserting that he has a high degree of confidence in what he believes. But upon close scrutiny that confidence is exposed as being founded upon vapor. Personally, I think it's more than a little presumptious to place exclamation points where question marks properly belong. No, it's not nearly as satisfying; but it is honest.

"Did Matter Evolve into existence? From what could it have evolved? Nothing? Something cannot evolve from nothing."

But it might evolve from something that appears to you and me to be nothing. Look into Quantum Fluctuation here:

"Has the Physical Universe always existed? If so, it has no starting point and time backwards would be endless. Keeping these things in mind consider tghe fact that the universe is "running down"."

What do you mean by "universe"? All that we could possibly see or all that hypothetically exists? Those aren't necessarily one and the same thing. Even if our own universe ultimately inflates to a state of maximum entropy (and by no means is it established that this will happen), it doesn't mean that others aren't being born and thriving all the while.

If you're interested, here are various sites to visit:

As to the rest, there's no need to preach to me, Brother Paul. I'm telling you the truth when I say I believed like you do for many years. I taught the same things. I am intimately familiar with your calims. If I found them credible, I'd still be a Christian.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Brother Paul said...

Hello Mike,

I've learned to let go, because letting go isn't winning and it isn't losing. It is having an open mind and confidence in the future. Letting go is acceptance that all things work out for those who love the Lord.

It's not blocking memories, or thinking sad thoughts and it doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness. It's not giving up, or giving in, and it's not about defeat. Letting go is letting Him take full control, being thankful for experiences that made us laugh, cry, and closer to Him.

He opens the door, and clears a path. We can't lose. But, it all involves FAITH, and that is something I cannot help you with. That is a personal choice. I will keep you in my prayers.

In Christ,

Brother Paul

6:08 PM  

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